Saturday, December 31, 2011

Lets Evolve in the New Year...

Another New Years day is upon us...and while it will hopefully be full of good friends, good football, and celebration of life...hopefully it will also launch some real New Years resolutions that will improve our outlooks.

I had another theme prepared for this blog...but last minute have decided a more IMPORTANT message is preferable and succinct. I wrote a whole spiel on "being positive and not focusing on the negative all around us" to keep us going in forward motion. Now I think a better message is the following:

The UNhappiness in the world is primarily about people NOT evolving from their primordial roots and being manipulated to imitate previous generation`s UNhappiness or bitterness about the past...which keeps them from moving forward. Most of our inability to function anywhere near full capacity is based on living daily with the recorded "tapes" in our minds of people and institutions telling us who we are or what can or cannot do. Until we can throw off the yokes of mental slavery of our past experiences, we will not excel, evolve or be free to reach our potentials.

Here is to a happier, more evolved New Year :)

Friday, December 23, 2011

Panama Invasion

December 20th is a somber date in Panama`s modern history. Only 22 years ago this month the USA invaded this small country of around 3 Million people in order to take out its dictatorial leader, one Manuel Noriega.

While many may say that Panama of today is totally different and has "boomed" since its "liberation" from dictatorial leadership...I have to question the "totally different" claim. After almost 7 years living here, while I see billions of dollars of new skyscrapers going up everywhere on the skyline...I am not convinced there is much change in the Panamanian people or culture over all. Sure, there are currently more jobs and a higher standard (cost) of living for many people here...but I am not seeing much of the sense of "liberation" in the words and attitudes of my host country.

As is a common theme in my global blogs, I question many of the assumptions and media hyped manipulations of what is and isn't going on here as well as the rest of the world. While many of us who are somewhat educated or come from a more wealthy perspective may find Panama to be a nice calm place to settle in for either retirement or investment, there is a sick underside to what is going on in this country that should be examined in balance to the superficial buildings and gigantic projects such as the Canal expansion and the Metro. The GNP and employment statistics look wonderful for such a small county of still less than 4 Million people. The new "Cinta Costera" boulevard around the bay and the new island being built before our eyes off Punta Pacifica makes this place appear to be the new "Dubai" of the western hemisphere.

Yet, as I read the local papers, listen to the news and talk to Panamanians I am trying to make friends with...I find that among the regular working or poor classes in Panama...they are not in the loop or benefiting much in the long run from these past two decades of "change". If anything, their cost of living is rising significantly compared to their wage base...and with the recently passed TLC trade agreement with the USA and Colombia, many of their agricultural products may end up competing poorly against the higher production and lower prices of the trading partner's goods. If that happens, the locals will be getting less profit on their products, and paying higher prices in the local markets for those same goods. There is no such thing as true "free trade" in today`s markets...and Panama has little or no manufacturing of products outside of agricultural. Most other products (cars, materials, tvs, computers, etc...) are imported and higher priced than they are in the USA or other global markets. This surely does not help the average Panamanian get ahead in this scenario of modern day Panama.

So...what was accomplished on those dark days of December 1989? Pictures and videos speak much louder than words on what took place. The justifications of why are what I think much more complicated...and unfortunately has little to do with the Panamanian people. There are a number of books out there to read perspective by, and I must admit I have been more busy learning and living in Panama in the first person than pursuing many of those third person written accounts or interpretations. I have been reading more from the faces, words, memories and attitudes of typical Panamanians I have met over these years.

While no one I have met admires or wants a return of the likes of Manuel Noriega in leadership, there are many who still prefer his comradeship to that of the oligarchy and political powers of today. Corruption is STILL hugely rampant in this business and in politics. There is no independent judiciary to speak of, so justice is based on who you know and how they like or don`t like you as a local or a foreigner. Supreme Justices are appointed by the President, so that makes justice a very political exercise. Having protection because of WHO you know is comforting for those within those circles, but lets face the fact that a majority of the population are helpless and at the systems mercy if all they know is WHAT their rights SHOULD be. I don`t know what the USA expected to happen post invasion on this front...but from what I have seen...and observed/read about in other places like Iraq, Nicaragua, etc...the results of our invasions and global "policing" are pathetic in comparison to the price in lives and dollars we have paid.

We typical, everyday Americans have no clue what and why our government does these things. We wake up one morning...such as it was in December our leader telling us we have ALREADY invaded a foreign land. No warning, no DECLARATION of war, not invited by any internal leadership group. Immediately we Americans get on our flag waving, Bible toting bandwagons in support of what our government has decided...without our participation or voice. I truly hope after this past decade of demise in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan that we are finally learning our lesson. Our military actions are NOT appreciated. The collateral damage of our actions are NOT acceptable. We the people can no longer afford to blindly agree to the machinations of our flawed leaders, political or military. We truly should become the moral, righteous nation we claim to be...even a Christian nation if that is what you want (see my recent blog on that topic).

Poetry in life continues to rear its sometimes ugly head. I cant claim to know why the various country leaders got together to bring Noriega back to Panama just before the anniversary of that unfortunate invasion this month. What politics are in play for passing this Noriega "hot potato" back and forth in the international justice arena for over 22 years? We (Americans and Panamanians) paid a huge price to "take him into custody", and now nobody wants this ugly bundle of human tragedy and waste.

For me the question always is...why does my country spend the money and lives on taking out some of these tyrants in the "bring them to justice"? What happened with justice for the hundreds and possibly thousands of innocent Panamanians who were killed during that short invasion and assault? Why is the guy we were after still alive almost into his 80s, while so many young, poor and middle class Panamanians are forever lost to their families and hopeful futures? Millions of dollars have been spent in international courts and tribunals and sustaining this one pitiful life in jail...for justice...while no one seems to care about the justice of all those Panamanians seen in the video above. How does this make sense to anyone?

These issues are not very comfortable for typical Americans to discuss or rationalize. We dont want to face the facts of our own barbarianism in world affairs. We don`t want to face the hypocrisy of our hidden agendas and power brokering ways that do not particularly defend the rights of all men and women equally. Yes, we have done many noble things in the two World Wars of this century. Our country has spent considerable money and resources on famine relief and rebuilding countries we have helped tear down through the ravages of war. The question we should ask ourselves is WHY do we continue this cycle of tearing down and building up again...and in most cases getting no respect or appreciation for it? I think we have to face the music that much of the world looks at Americans in a very different light than we see ourselves. We might want to start considering that it IS important how the world views us from a standpoint of trust and stability. Most Americans back home that I talk to have very little concern about how foreign countries view us. As long as WE feel good about ourselves...that seems to be the only thing that matters. Yet, I would argue that in the new globalized world we live in with huge reliance on interconnected economies and ruling international institutions...our reputation and true morality is more required than ever before in protection of our OWN interests and sustaining our future in the US of A.

Most of you will not understand the lyrics to Ruben Blades song above. Most of you will not connect with the images of the charred out buildings and bodies on the ground if you have not been in Panama City and met these people face to face. I will tell you though...that we continue to live with the fallout of this action. We Americans living or working in Panama are the face of those who invaded. The few locals who are "happy" about our invasion are those who profited or took power from the vacuum we produced when we left a short time later. A majority of people here RESENT the fact of our invasion...even if they are also happy that Noriega is gone. Their question justifiably is...why did we have to kill so many innocent people to do so? Why could we not have just paid someone to take him out individually? Why could we not have worked behind the scenes politically and otherwise to replace him or get at him? We may never understand the answers to those questions...but I have never identified with the USA policy of non-assassination of despot leaders in the world or in-clandestine operations...yet we readily defend our carpet bombing, strafing skills and expensive Drone planes firing on indiscriminate targets. Something is hugely askew with our perspectives on morality.

As we Americans enjoy our holidays and contemplate a New Year, I hope we spend some time thinking about the motivations and results of our actions as a country...and hopefully commit to a more peaceful, patient, and yes...Christian...approach to our problems and conflicts throughout the world.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Panama, France and "laissez-faire"

Recent political news in Panama features conflicts between President Martinelli of Panama and France`s leader President Sarkozy. It seems that just after Martinelli`s visit to France to review among other things the terms and conditions for the release of former dictator Noriega for return to Panama custody...Sarkozy chose the following week to claim that Panama is not cooperating with them on collecting taxes from their countrymen or corporations in Panama. I guess the meetings in France did not create good karma for whatever reasons. Now Panama authorities are retaliating by cancelling business and finance deals with French sources on some of the major projects going on in Panama.

Regardless of France`claims, I as a foreigner living in Panama can attest to the fact that Panama and its banks have made it much more difficult to open accounts and do business as foreign entities in this small Latin country. It strikes me as somewhat disingenuous of France to make this claim based on what I have seen first hand of the changes and increased taxation taking place in Panama.

What might be more interesting on this front has been the many comments and reactions I have read internationally to this charge. It is quite obvious that France, the USA, Great Britain, and many other Western countries have found themselves in more desperate hard times than they are willing to admit. There is no doubt that there is significant cash flow LEAVING these high tax countries. Of course, the real issue is that it is not foreign money leaving these former economic powerhouses...but significant domestic funds are leaving for better opportunities and lower taxation as well. While it is no shock that these countries are trying to stop that exodus of is still arguably immoral and illegal for these governments to do so. What they are in fact admitting is that they have allowed their systems to become upside down in debt and social entitlement to the point where their governance is unsustainable. It is much easier to blame a country of less than 4 Million inhabitants for your troubles than to accept blame and take REAL measures to give your constituents real incentives to stay the course behind your leadership economically and otherwise.

While few of us really understand the powers that function behind these superpower trading blocks, there is no doubt that Centralized global funds are running scared. There are huge discrepancies between the economies of many of these main political and governmental partners. They have truly grown "too big to manage" versus "too big to fail". The "Superpowers" of current western persuasion are trying to unite in their efforts to stop the bleeding of funds leaving their losing propositions for more upside elsewhere in the developing world. If people`s votes in these supposed democracies vote against investment and for highly taxing retained profits...the money will find a way to go elsewhere. And yes, you can see a lot of it in the Panama construction boom and rise in domestic and international financing here.

Outside of losing military protections in the canal zone, I find it hard to identify motivators for Panama to work WITH the USA and other superpowers in sustaining their high tax systems. Cant any of these players just admit that "globalization" is here to stay and that tomorrows winners will be those countries who offer the best incentives and lifestyles for living, working and investing within those few countries? Must the world continue to bear the saber rattling and cries of "fowl play" from governments that have been upside down economically for decades now? Must countries like Germany, Switzerland and even Asian countries like China, Taiwan and Singapore continue to bail out the former empirical powers of the West?

Western Civilization has overall lost its edge on managing productivity and profits. They continue to fail in legislating moralities and redistribution of wealth. Technology and globalization has now irrevocably taken away any monopolistic opportunities for superpowers to hog resources or control global money flows. Even the recent unconstitutional taxes that the USA has passed will ultimately fail to rescue their sinking ideology. Only continued market competition between regions and states will keep a real score on who wins the global competition on profits and upward mobility. I would argue that Latin America is getting set to realize significant, sustainable growth primarily because they are now more independent of the superpowers to do so. The USA has lost its insider relationship with these countries...primarily because it has been so preoccupied with fighting terrorism. Unfortunately, they have gotten so caught up in the fighting that they have forgotten it takes money and productivity to create and sustain the machinations of warfare. It is a losing proposition I am afraid. Just look at the lack of fanfare over the USA`s complete pull out of Iraq. Where are all the bands and flag-wavers on this one?

So, this brings us back to little Panama. While all of this global hoopla has been going on over terrorism and EURO meltdowns...Panama and other countries in this region have been growing fast and furious. Banks are full of cash, and unemployment rates are next to nothing....and now the likes of Sarkozy and USA voices come out of the woodwork crying about their loss of revenues and investment to these little Banana Republics.

While all is not perfect in Panama...and I fear they are living and investing in the same track as the USA did historically with big debt against irrational income expectations and is little wonder Panama and other democracies in this region are garnering such huge upticks in economic growth and production. France and other Western powers should simply focus more on encouraging their citizens and domestic companies to become more productive and competitive. Quit making it so easy for the Panamas of the world to pick your pockets of prosperity. After all, "laissez-faire" is a French word and concept...meaning an environment "in which transactions between private parties are free from state intervention, including restrictive regulations, taxes, tariffs and enforced monopolies...and literally means "let do", but it broadly implies "let it be", or "leave it alone."

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Litmus Test of Faith

Another Sunday is here...and as has been the case for a couple decades now...I will not be going to church. Does that mean I have no interest or concern for things "spiritual" a matter of fact I do. But I have discovered in life that walking into a church or synagogue doesn't make you a Christian or Jew any more than walking into a garage makes you a car.

I have had a few interesting discussions this week with friends who remain a bit more on the fundamental side of Christianity than I have evolved to. While I have less and less interest in discussing or arguing over "beliefs" or theologies that are somewhat mystical or esoteric...I continue to be interested in what people believe in and why...and then cross check those things with my own current understanding. Understanding what and why people believe helps one better predict their actions and determine potentials within a relationship. When it comes to my own sense about people of faith...I have come up with a "Litmus test" that works for me anyway in determining respect for someone`s faith or religion. For me, the effectiveness of faith depends on what ACTIONS or BEHAVIORS result from those beliefs as to whether I can agree with them or not.

I believe there is "good" faith and "bad" faith. Since my religious heritage is Christian, I tend to revert to many Biblical sayings and teachings even if I have strayed a bit from fundamental zealotry over that book...or collection of books I should say. There is a New Testament scripture that says "faith without works is dead"...and in another part it says "by their fruits your will know them" (referring in context to professing versus real believers). It doesnt take us long in this world to find someone who chirps a lot about their faith or their religious traditions...but their actions or lack of integrity does not match up to their claims.

We live in a world full of "faith". We each live daily exercising faith in something or someone. We make plans for the future assuming we will be in good enough health or without disaster to fulfill those plans. We get on airplanes where most of us have no clear understanding of aerodynamics...but we have "faith" in the knowledge and expertise of pilots and airplane builders that this bird will carry us to our next destination. We have faith in financial institutions full of strangers that we trust to guard whatever level of worldly wealth we have earned or acquired. Perhaps there are much better examples than these...but for the sake of argument lets agree we do a lot of things based on 3rd hand or non scientific understanding of how it will work.

As has been a frequent theme in my blogs...I believe true religion or faith should be a UNITER, not a divider, of men and races. I believe that 80% of what the main world religions teach in their churches and books are compatible for the most part. Man made religions spring up over slivers of disagreement over interpretations of what someone said over 2000 years ago. If a reasonable person steps back and analyzes the reasons for various divisions between all the major religions of the may quickly discover frivolity and vitriol in the origins of many of these divisive religions. Most religions or denominations have sprung up over personality contests or false comparisons of who is more like the originator of that religion.

For me, truth is truth, wherever it is whatever book it is found. I think there are truths in the Bible, the Quran, the Talmud...and even the Book of Mormon or Scientology`s new slant on things. Heck, I found truths written in Jimmy Carters interview in Playboy magazine back in the late 70s. The problem comes in most religions when someone or some group claims "exclusivity" over truth or ownership of "God". How presumptive of any person to claim by divine revelation or personal hallucination that they heard a "new" truth about the Supreme Being and everyone should follow them. This for me is the first "oh oh" moment when listening to someone talk about God or their faith.

I think the Christian Bible which I am most familiar with has relevant instruction about this issue:

For as the heavens are exalted above the earth, so are my ways exalted above your ways, and my thoughts above your thoughts (Isaiah 55:9)

To whom, then, will you compare God? What image will you compare him to? (Isaiah 40:18)

I have been found by those who did not seek me; I have shown myself to those who did not ask for me. (Romans 10:20)

I could go on and on quoting...but let it suffice to say that Gods message to man through ALL the major religions is..."I am God, you are not". You cannot understand nor bring me down to your level. That's why I AM the "Supreme Being". Why are you constantly trying to bring me down to your level of nature and understanding?

It is unfortunate that throughout the history of mankind on earth, we have been fighting and killing each other over our particular religions claims on "God". We continue to do that now, even in the US of A which, while founded on Judeo Christian ethics of freedom and personal sovereignty and responsibility, most Americans have now sacrificed those ideals for securing religious and patriotic ideals for themselves over reasonable and right thinking for all. Instead of PEOPLE helping PEOPLE, we have subjugated ourselves to governments to take care of our futures and act for us. We have aligned our faiths in many instances with a temporary and impure flag of government and state. This mixture of faith and politics has watered down both matters to a level where no one can clearly see right from wrong, either by faith or by principle. We have relegated reasoning and resolution of conflicts to governments and courts which do not necessarily function based on "good faith" principles.

For both people of faith and those of political passion...I suggest we return to the causes of "good" faith that people of all races and religions can agree least a majority. I think anyone of "good faith" will approve of what I deem the core doctrine of "good" religion, whether you believe in the divinity of Jesus or not. Of course, you`ll notice it mentions nothing of following "rules" or going to church. It primarily focuses on what good faith DOES...

Marks of the True Christian
Romans 12:9-21

Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord." To the contrary, "if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head." Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

If America wants to truly be a "Christian" is time for her to take this previous passage to heart...and action. Same goes for Jews, Muslims, Hindus, etc... This to me is the secret to having peace in our time...and the litmus test of true Faith.

Why the Average American Investor will always get "shafted"....

--These guys...Paulson and Bernake...are the biggest manipulators and culprits in the manipulation of markets that were supposedly regulated and "free"--

This article about how the US Secretary of the Treasury Paulson gave hedge funds advance word of the government bailout of Fannie Mae is just the latest of many instances where government and SEC insiders get a huge advantage in the American markets over the average American investor. The people MAKING the rules are continually BREAKING them...without reproof.

I continue to believe that investors in the American markets will never get a fair shake while the market manipulators or their lackies are running the SEC and Wall Street. The "old boys club" continues to be alive and well as it always has been. A very small fraction of inside traders get caught or convicted. It is only the middle level or small time players who get taken to the cleaners when someone accuses them...while the guys at the top like Paulson always have a finger to point elsewhere or run under the cover of the most expensive lawyers Wall Street can afford...which are the "best".

I was a licensed investment broker in the mid 1980s and have seen this stuff from up close and personal. It sickened me then, and it sickens me now. These machinations are a big part of the reason I got out of the broker racket. Unless you are part of the inside track machine, you might want to reconsider the idea of investing in direct stocks.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Coming to terms with "Altruism"...

In the past few years, I have found myself involved in a couple projects that I call "altruistic". Probably the best example is having visited the Embera Indians in Panama, met a Peace Corp worker, and thereafter provided a mini Computer Lab to a village that has no running water or electricity. I have some mixed feelings about the whole situation, but the involvement was reticent of decades past when I was involved with troubled youth in America and medical missions in Mexico while in my 20s. I spent probably a total of 5 years of this short life with the motivation of helping others or "saving souls". I still have no idea what the lasting "results" are of those years and dollars spent.

On the other hand...the lessons I learned during those altruistic years...all the people and cultures I experience even while making no money...helped me learn things about life and people you would never learn at Harvard. My understanding of the human condition by both reading and experiencing so many different facets of humanity tremendously affect the person I am today.

After all my reading and youthful conditioning...I still can`t relate totally to Gandhi, Mother Teresa...or even Jesus. While they all in their own ways confronted many realities of humanity and the "meaning of life"...I´m not sure any of them would know what to do with the world we live in today.

Gandhi for me was a replication of Jesus but for the Hindu and Indian races who were so subjugated during his times by white British rule in both India and in South Africa. Like in most religious movements...these movements were born out of reaction to subjugation, suffering and tyranny of one race or nation over another. While some would say "God" is to blame for creating this inhumane nonsense, others seem to think "God" is the answer. Interesting, huh? I have come to think we humans only have OURSELVES to blame for accepting social injustices, wherever and for whoever they are experienced.

To be true to her own cause, Mother Theresa had to practically leave the Catholic church. It is interesting to note that Mother Teresa, the ultimate altruist of our age, had long bouts of doubt regarding her faith and original intents of her "mission". She is quoted as writing...
Where is my faith? Even deep down ... there is nothing but emptiness and darkness ... If there be God—please forgive me. When I try to raise my thoughts to Heaven, there is such convicting emptiness that those very thoughts return like sharp knives and hurt my very soul ... How painful is this unknown pain—I have no Faith. Repulsed, empty, no faith, no love, no zeal, ... What do I labor for? If there be no God, there can be no soul. If there be no soul then, Jesus, You also are not true.

Some of Jesus own reported final words when dying on the cross were "My God my God...why have you forsaken me?" I can`t help but wonder if in that final moment of dying, Jesus himself seriously doubted the meaning of all the good deeds he had done "for his Father".

When a person performs altruistic acts, it is almost impossible to know the true intent or motivation behind those actions. Is it purely out of "love" or caring, or is the action based on guilt for having more than the person you are helping? Do we help others in order to "be a good person" which makes US feel better...or do we do it "under orders from God" in order to have a "reward in heaven"? How many altruistic persons are truly able to look deep inside to REALLY know the purpose of their altruistic act?

Many people view "selfishness" as the opposite of altruism. Most religions preach that selfishness is immoral or evil. While I grew up on that religious track, I was very challenged by Ayn Rand`s book "The Virtue of Selfishness" which defined selfishness and her reaction to the word`s wrong meaning with the following...

(I define Selfishness as)..."concern with one's own interests. The equation of selfishness with evil, Rand said, has caused "the arrested moral development of mankind" and needs to be rejected.

I have seen much generosity in my life...both towards myself and towards others. I have at times been altruistic...and at other times selfish. Having studied communications and "words" to a significant extent, I always find it interesting to hear people discuss their altruistic activities or actions. I have often heard people say "I am happiest when I am giving to others", or "It made me feel so good to give or help "so and so"...". Doesn`t sound very "sacrificial" to me.

In addition, I have seen extravagant boasting about "giving". You only have to spend 5 minutes on most Evangelical TV programs in America to hear the rantings of extreme "givers" who boast how much money they sent to such and such mission...or how they received "ten fold" in return for whatever they had given to that program or church. Whenever I have observed this, I have been reminded of the words of Jesus when he was quoted as saying

Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven. So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you. (Matthew 6:1-4)

I think I have evolved to a realistic viewpoint on giving and least for me. It is probably a unique blend of my religious upbringing tied to some original views on what it means to be a "Humanitarian". I tend not to give money to institutions or third parties to distribute to someone else. I have grown to be very distrusting of most such institutions...from NGO types like the "Red Cross", "March of Dimes", UNICEF and religious organizations such as "World Vision" and the various TV "ministries". Most that I have seen...some from way too up close...have involved a high percentage of administration and overhead to where the actual "mission" receives a small percentage of the money given. Many of these organizations also put demands or qualifiers in order for the poor or victims to get help. They have to attend certain meetings, certain churches or perhaps sign up to back certain political movements in order to receive the handout. I`m just not seeing the results from this form of "altruism".

Now lets think a couple minutes about familial "altruism". After all, this is probably where the most "charity" is exchanged within humanity. Fortunes tend to be built and based on multi-generational exchanges within certain cultures and families. By "luck" or destiny, some of us were born into families of wealth and education. Most upper-class families I have observed tend to be substantially about preserving or making more of their estate for future generations. An interesting footnote along this line might be that some of the greatest fortunes ever made were by individuals who came from poverty or underprivileged backgrounds. I think it is rare that this happens, but when it does, it comes from motivations where the individual has nothing to lose and everything to gain to take great risks...that sometimes turn into great rewards. On the other hand, some of the greatest fortunes LOST have been at the hands of those who never made a dime of their own. The game of life seems to often be played in the arena of who will make the fortune and how many family members will it take to spend or waste it all. This seems to be a never ending cycle in history that speaks to character differences between the acheivers and the "users".

There is no doubt in my mind that it is better to teach a person to fish than to give them fish. Same with is better to help someone "make their own" than to give them unlimited amounts to spend or more likely "waste". It has been my observation that we humans don`t respect money we have not made ourselves. Human nature I guess. Herein lies my fundamental difference with traditional "socialism" or communism. Redistribution of wealth is rarely respected by those on the receiving end. While there are obvious cases of societal members who deserve or need our altruism and support...that number is not nearly as high as today's hoards clamoring for those handouts.

For me the best model for both giving and receiving of altruistic acts is a mixture of my Judeo Christian roots and the more humanist manifestos I have been undoubtedly influenced by. I think "to whom much is given, much is required". I believe this goes for the "receiver" as well as the source. I think "sharing" is meant to be passed on. Any rational person knows we can`t take material wealth with us after we die. Therefore, money and "things" are only meaningful as a form of combustible life-force while we are living. It primarily serves as a "measure" of our productivity and influence in our short lives. Our legacy beyond this life often hinges on what we did with what we had and what we left behind or built with it. Some "star" producers can blow millions on cocaine and fast toys like planes, boats and cars. Other producers are like the "millionaire next door" who hardly ever spends a dime and never flaunts what they possess. I think both extremes can be quite unhealthy in this life. People shouldn`t feel guilty about spending and enjoying what they have earned...but some should obviously feel guilty about what they have wasted in self destructive ways while leaving in their wakes millions of people who would have better used their luck and fortune.

So, in summary, I think there is virtue in Selfishness...and there is virtue in Altruism. It all comes down to motivations and purpose. For me there is no great pride in inherited wealth. Sure, it is okay to be proud of your family and previous generations who HOPEFULLY gained their wealth honestly and with integrity. Unfortunately history has shown that many great fortunes are built via dishonesty, stealing, slavery or other terrible human habits. There is no great pride in stealing...unless I guess that is your only profession or talent.

The most interesting and respectable individuals of wealth I have known were those who "made their own". These people tend to be of great character, hard workers, disciplined and self sacrificing. The luckiest people I have known are the hardest working ones. These people also tend to be the most responsible "givers" in that they expect the receiver to respect what it took to make the money or goods being charitably given. To that extent they might be called "selfish" givers because of their expectations...but I think that is a healthy form of "selfishness". there virtue in selfishness? Probably. Is there virtue in Altruism? Sometimes. Depends on your both cases.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Ephebophilia, Paraphilia or Pedophilia at Penn State

Collegiate sports has been rocked recently with an evolving scandal regarding Ephebophilia activity by a long term coach at Penn State University. It seems that a number of victims have now come forward to indict one Jerry Sanduskey, their former defensive coach...who is now defending himself against his accusers. The report that another staff member observed him in the showers with a young boy years ago doesn't seem to phase his claims of innocence. Of course, anyone with experience with Pedophiles or "Paraphilias" knows this is part of their psyche. They can never acknowledge the power or control of their addiction. Many of them are married with children...which is usually more about covering up their true nature than for any real drive towards women and family.

First, lets clarify the differences between Pedophilia and other Paraphilias per Wikipedia...
In research environments, specific terms are used for chronophilias: for instance, ephebophilia refers to the sexual preference for mid-to-late adolescents, hebephilia refers to the sexual preference for earlier pubescent individuals, and pedophilia refers to the sexual preference for prepubescent children. However, the term pedophilia is commonly, but incorrectly, used to refer to any sexual interest in minors below the legal age of consent, regardless of their level of physical, mental, or psychological development. Acting upon ephebophilic preference is illegal when the adolescent is below the legal age of consent.

The nature of where these "philias" come from are up for debate. Up until 1973, homosexuality was deemed an illegal sexual deviation. Obviously most fundamental religions denounce it as deviant and sinful sexual behavior. While I have no first hand understanding or experience in homosexuality...I have learned that there are many adult "homosexuals" who function quite well in society and based on the frequency of those leaning that way, I tend to say "live and let live" in people`s private sex lives. On the other hand, when it comes to children and minors as sexual is time to draw the line. I have had enough first hand experience to know the devastation experienced by victims of these Paraphilias. I fear that these conditions are much more pervasive than most of us can imagine...and to that end we must all make ourselves aware and help minor children or family members avoid the potentially devastating experience of being a victim to adult predators.

Until recent years, I think most people unfortunately ducked their heads in the sand on these issues. Sex and sexual deviations have traditionally been "hush hush" as topics of conversation in traditional society. It has always struck me as ironic that while a majority of people are uncomfortable in a serious conversation about their sex-lives or preferences, these same people can be the quickest or most entertained when it comes to sexual humor. Perhaps we cover up our sexual insecurities by making fun of that which is most core to our being as humans and part of the animal kingdom.

Admittedly, I am not a professional psychologist...or sexologist...who specializes in these things. Yet, being a rational and "worldly" guy, I think I have some pretty solid guesses on causes and effects of sexuality and some of its deviations. I have two core theories...some of which was gained by reading on the subject...and some others...well, by experience...

1)Sex can be casual, or sex can be relationship based. These are the same actions based on different drives or needs. Some people are comfortable limiting their sex lives to long term relationships...while others thrive on variety and short term liaisons. I will leave the morality issue of all that to others for judgement...but I think both applications are common and not necessarily damaging unless there are unhealthy motivations behind the actions. Most people are passive and some are aggressive regarding their sexuality. I suppose some people have bigger "sex drives" than others...but I also think repression and guilt are associated with many people who have little sexual outlet. Consensual sex between any two adults is their own business.

2) The cause and effect of sexual repression and guilt will often lead to deviant behaviors such as we see in Hebephilia and other paraphilias. Many people who I have read about or talked to on this subject have come from some seriously "Victorian" cultures or families. Many were rejected sexually by "normal" sexual prospects or had general inferiority among members of their own sex in competing for the opposite sex. With homosexuality, I think there is something to genetic tendencies in this regard while others may be won over to the practice over time and peer pressure integration. Its not a simple "black/white" issue in my mind...and I think the paraphiliacs are in the same boat. Some act on their tendencies and others don`t...but I think there is a much larger percentage of our population who have these tendencies than anyone is willing to admit.

If that is the case, I think we are just seeing the "tip of the iceberg" when it comes to this Penn State case. While this one case is probably being way overblown and over-reacted to by the IS about time society took a realistic view and stance on protecting the young victims of these crimes. To a degree, much of our society is as guilty as the whole coaching staff who supposedly "looked the other way" when they found out about these reported actions by their fellow coach. I have personally seen "up-close and personal" the denial and ignorance of the average person and the legal authorities on this issue. It is definitely time we do something about the pervasive ugliness of this problem and not only prosecute perpetrators...but get them help to deal with their serious illness while also educating children on how to defend themselves against potential aggression.

I think we don`t talk to kids about this because we want to "protect their innocence" on the subject...and in many cases we don`t want to acknowledge their own sexual awakenings at earlier and earlier stages of their childhoods. But, the cat is out of the bag...and it is my belief that it is better to risk a conversation ahead of time than take responsibility for something happening to a child that you could have avoided.

Here are some suggested guidelines I have read about towards having this conversation with minors... (some taken from this helpful article on the subject...)

First, you should be suspicious of someone who seems overly interested in your kids, especially if they're always angling to be alone with them. Unfortunately, this can go overboard to where parents don´t allow their kids to have any meaningful relationships or physical contact with adults. Our culture now seems quite paranoid about hugging, touching or kissing on the most casual basis...and even among family members. The hard part of parenting a child will be knowing what is inappropriate while allowing the child to experience family intimacy...and eventually sexual intimacy...without a stigma or guilt feelings. After all, guilt and repression in my observation leads to other forms of sexual deviation and lack of normalcy.

Tell your kids to never get close to a car if someone stops and asks for directions, lest they be snatched.

Make sure you know what your kids are doing on the computer. Tell them never to meet privately with anyone they have met online and never to give out personal information, like where they live.

Children should also know what to do if they get lost. It's helpful to give them a prepaid calling card to use if this happens: They should memorize their phone number and address. Tell them to call the police if they can't find you or reach you on the phone, and never to accept a ride or wait alone with an adult they don't know. If you're coming to fetch them, tell them to wait in a store or restaurant -- someplace where there are plenty of people around.

The relationship with your child is paramount to having them trust you. If they trust you to tell you even "bad things", it is more likely you will know about anything untoward happening to your child. I think it important to tell your kids at an early age that strangers, even other "kids", should never touch their genitals. Hopefully this is done in such a way as to make the child feel comfortable with their genitalia while being protective of themselves at the same time. There are many books and articles written on this subject for helpful suggestions.

Finally, what to do if these actions are observed or suspected... Obviously the staff at Penn State did NOT react appropriately. Pedo or Hebephilia when observed or reported by a minor should never go unreported. Police and various medical and psychological practices are available in most countries to deal with this crime. Knowing and not reporting is part of the crime. It is not going to be pleasant...and one wants to be quite sure of the charges before making them...but if there is little doubt about what has happened, it needs to be reported and dealt with immediately.

Remember, pedophilia and other psycho-sexual addictions are not curable. There can be treatment and/or incarceration, but a person who is mentally sick in this way will not change and cannot be allowed alone time with minors.

Here are some linked public sources of support and help on this subject:

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Thoughts on "Inequality"

Recent world publications have been profuse on the theme of fighting "inequality" between the rich and poor of the world. There is no doubt in my mind that the differences between rich and poor are far greater than they were just 30 years ago. The reasons for that are too multiple and complex to go into for this simple blog...but lets just accept it as our current assumption in global economics up for discussion.

As I have been reading a bit lately concerning the United Nations and its sub agencies on this issue, it seems quite obvious that they see bigger government programs and World Bank type intrusions to be the quick answer to this obvious problem. The biggest problem I have with this is that they primarily work with domestic governments who are actually primary players in perpetuating this reality of disparity between the haves and have nots. Most leftist leaning governments have destroyed regular enterprise by taking them over and trying to redistribute the goods to their massive supporters of poor, uneducated voters while keeping the best for their "own".

I have spent my adult decades trying to better understand global economics as it relates to the poor and uneducated. I have purposely traveled and exposed myself to some of the worst neighborhoods and ghettos...from the USA to Mexico to many of the rest of Central and South American countries. One thing has been uniform in all of those countries, including my own. No matter whether markets or currencies go up or down...the poor and disenfranchised live pretty much the same reality. Even if they get more assistance from public or non profit funding somehow, the distance between them and wealth remains the same.

It is quite interesting to observe the past few years the number of governmental overthrows...especially in some Middle East Arab states. While there are varying causes for these the bottom of most is the inequality of distribution within their country or system. Rulers, especially from third world countries, seem to all read the same book about how to "rape and pillage" their own country for self and live like royalty while "in office". It continues to amaze me how long the huddled masses put up with this obvious hording for personal or family gains in their various countries for decade after decade. In most cases this has gone on so long, it would be challenging to take over and know what assets are where within many particular governments.

It seems quite clear to me that there is an insidious and conscious cooperation between various nation states to support so many of these ruling tyrants. Between the United Nations, and the various sub organizations such as the "Group of 77", UNESCO, the "G20" group of nations...and even tack on the block trading zones of NAFTA, the European Union (currently "dis" union), and various summit groups all over the see on a huge scale the inter-operable network of states and their global organizations working to "organize" and arguably manipulate a world order that are not necessarily based on the majority of people`s better interests.

Lets face it, there is POWER in leading the huddled masses...whether as a benevolent dictator, or a barbaric totalitarian. When so many states have controlled so many global industries and resources for so is hard to wrest away the control buttons and codes from those few global leaders who control them. Spoils go to the "victors", and this last century of two World Wars and various global "conflicts" between nations has led to some pretty dire consequences for those nations or regions that "did not win".

The carving up of the world between the "Allies" of post WW2 divided nations and cultures into unnatural and inhumane borders between families and religions. From there quickly went up the walls between East and West, North and South. The rush was on for statist domination of the world as the USA continued to expand on its role as the global "policeman" and superpower...while Russia and China moved in kind to protect their "interests" and share of global assets and resources. In my early years, the leaders of note were Nixon, Nikita Khrushchev (a man named "Stalin" preceded him), and the worlds largest population was lead by Mao Zedong and after him by Chiang Kai-shek. Beyond the superpowers we saw the rise of revolutionaries such as Fidel Castro, Saddam Hussein, the Shah of Iran, Gaddafi in Libya and various mini kingdoms on the continent of Africa. At the macro level, you had three "Super Powers" using 3rd world countries as battlegrounds for their economic, cultural and geographical controls of resources...whether it be people, oil, water or other advantages pursued. Of course, the arms race that resulted from this global competition has turned into the major population control tool. One can imagine these leaders agreeing behind the scenes saying who, what, and where can be bombed or allowed to enter Civil War in order to have less poor mouths to feed down the road.

Again, this scenario is so huge and multifaceted, we can`t begin to adequately analyze it in a simple blog. The main point I am trying to illustrate is that "inequality" is a largely "institutionalized" reality of global powers and dictatorial regimes who control the worlds resources...and DISTRIBUTION of those resources. If those powers REALLY wanted to get together to help the poor and uneducated catch up a bit on their own advantaged families and royalties...they could. The poor are not "institutionally" stupid. They are just without money or position to change the structure of distribution and spend significant portions of their measly incomes supporting those powers that be in the form of "taxes".

Changes are quickly taking place I believe in today`s world. Some of these changes are good and welcomed. The advancement of technology via cellphones, computers and the internet has allowed the global masses to have almost equal access to information and communication that used to be reserved only for the states, military and global corporations. Self education is more readily available through these modern tools for those who really want to pursue it. Enough of the poor and disenfranchised are doing so to make a difference in political and economic waves of today. We will soon see mobile money and other transaction options allow the majority of people who have no bank accounts or credit become major factors in their region`s economic reality and GNP.

Inequality in today's world will not remain dormant or accepted. The question now will be to what ends and legal processes the newly educated and connected poor will go to claim their equal access to the worlds assets and resources? The "natives" are getting more restless than ever before...and with today's global economic meltdown, I predict there will be more significant exchanges of fortune than in any other time in recent history. There will be economic wars, cultural wars, and yes, outright wars between powers to gain advantage over the next reshaping of the worlds borders. There will be more governments toppled before this new parity is in place...and less "centralization" or isolation between countries and peoples...primarily because islands are no longer profitable or sustainable.

Yes ladies and gentlemen, a new "world order" is coming...and while it is too early to say whether it will be better than the old one...lets hope that it is...because the old one cannot endure. There is a current vacuum of true leadership...and this fact alone could more quickly contribute to the rise of individuals within the world to hopefully foster more inter-connectedness around the globe and a more even distribution of opportunity. I think the new equality will center around some form of new globalized agreements...connected to more localized community and cultural governments. The model of city and state versus "country of origin" will make a lot more sense going forward in governing and protecting the "rights of the people". The pyramid of power has been upside down too long...and I personally welcome more activism and controls from the family and local community on DOWN to the "Federal" level of controls. We can start by simply re reading and reinforcing the Constitution of the USA which first presented this concept in ways that are still malleable and practical.

Here`s to earned equalities...protected by international laws.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

On the Rich Serving the Poor...

Since my last post on "Prosperity Doctrines", I have had a number of updated thoughts on money and the contemporary culture we live in.

It seems obvious to me that the current world economic system has created a global version of "class warfare". We have the "Occupy Wall Street" demonstrators demonstrating in many major cities of the USA currently. We have syndicates and labor unions demonstrating in the streets of North America and Europe against government cutbacks or limitation of powers because of economic realities that don`t allow for the entitlements and securities that these groups have grown to count on. We also have broken government coffers in Europe, such as Greece and Italy, who now have the masses in the street demonstrating against austerity measures forced upon the whole country by their creditors throughout the European Union.

It is quite understandable to me that the poor masses would be angry at their leadership for squandering their GNP and on top of that billions of borrowed funds to sustain an unsustainable socialist model. I´m sure there is also considerable corruption and misappropriation of state funds by the systematic leaders of those countries...and the poor and working class are mad as hell. Yet to me the problem always comes down to...we all get the governments we deserve when we hide our heads in the sand or blindly accept whatever filters down to us common people from the institutions we either elected or willfully submitted to with our tax dollars.

Lack of wealth is not because there is none, but because a majority have not EARNED any. In many cases this is not the fault of the masses as they have historically been lied to and gone along with false promises based on false pretenses...which is usually about the powerful holding on to offices they don`t really deserve. Many of these leaders have skewed the systems so bad with high tax and inflation to where there is little incentive for anyone to get creative and try and make things better. Instead they have been told that if they just "tow the line" and support the government, they will somehow be magically taken care of in their old age and or infirmities. This to me is like your child telling you to give them all your money now and they promise to take care of you when you are old and can`t work anymore. This never works...hasn't in the history of governments or ruling systems, and isn't working any better in the US of A.

As often happens during hard economic times, revolutionary figures and voices arise to try and manipulate the times to their wants and needs. In major revolutions and wartime, morality gives way to passion and anger. The masses are overcome by a sense of injustice and then begin to repeat some of the immoralities that were previously used against them. Blind revenge and anger overcomes rationality and reason.

There is no time for due process of law in lawless regimes. For sure there is no money for justice on behalf of the poor or disenfranchised. It usually comes to a point where masses have to physically revolt and sacrifice lives and livelihoods in order to reestablish order and justice within their borders. We are currently seeing this in many Arab countries whose poor have for so long lived at the end of the bread and information line. One would be foolish to think these events could not happen in Western first world countries. The masses are definitely restless in this day and age...for good reasons.

I think the best answer for the majority of humanity is to be uniting their voices and actions more in order to reestablish values and wealth systems...starting from the ground up. A new economic order has to start with individuals in localities who are willing to stand up for themselves against tyrannical leadership, whether that be a dictator or a whole statist institution. While everyone likes to hope this can be done peacefully and over time through due process of laws...most people don´t have the patience...or the freedom within a pursue these changes peacefully. When the world is so marked with governments willing to use the defense systems and armaments of the people against these same people...there is usually only a bloody and violent alternative. We have unfortunately seen it many times this past century, and we don`t seem to have learned much from these conflicts and keep heading back down that same path of cause and affect. Some people make huge profits from war and conflict...but the majority lose big time.

Most countries in the world are run by the moneyed elite. Even in the USA, probably still the best current system of government and justice the world has as an example, the leadership has evolved into a two party money-fest where the prize of leadership and controls goes to those with the most money. Elections are bought and sold through this system every couple of years. There are really no realistic financial controls on the election process that allows a leader without wealth to successfully run for office. This creates a corrupt system of "good ole boys" and entitlements of privilege that are definitely not resembling of "justice for all". In today`s system, justice is bought and paid for in way too many cases. The poor and uneducated do NOT get the same level of representation in our courts of law...and it is little wonder that a majority of our governmental leaders are lawyers who constantly study how to interpret and use their own advantages and interpretations.

So, now in response we have the revolt of the poor and middle classes, not only in America, but throughout the world. Is this any big surprise? Not if you have a basic understanding of world...and American...history. Inequality and false justice are fueling the fires of revolution and discontent. Many strings are being pulled in political and economic circles that lead to wars and "cleaning the slate" of injustice and inequality. Unfortunately, in my view many of those "strings" are being pulled by some immoral and hideous manipulators who can and will gain from upheaval in the worlds economic and political makeup. There are some powerful forces BETTING on the demise of free trade and true democracy. Hitler started his rise to power with the poor and working class who were disenfranchised from the bad ending of WW1, and we would be foolish to think another similar type of leader cannot arise in today`s scenario, maybe within our own country.

When the masses start believing that they are entitled to instant resources and power...there will be revolution. When the masses start believing they are entitled to jobs and equal pay for unequal work or ability...there will be revolution. When governments start reneging on their promises to their citizens based on heavy taxation or regulations that supposedly were going to bring security and peace to those masses...there WILL be revolution.

I personally see little hope of staving off major global revolutions. You can see in the recent bloody coups of taking out Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi in Libya what extremes tyrants will go to in order to hold on to power. I believe this same power sickness exists in many of America`s governmental leadership...and they will not go away quietly either.

The only hope to avert this revolution in my opinion is a new attitude of the rich and entitled. While it is not moral to "steal"...even from a rich is also not moral to "hoard" or place a blind eye on the plight of those less fortunate. There has to be a measure and movement of wealthy, educated persons and companies in our world to reach out and bring up the poor masses behind them. There are many RESPONSIBLE ways this can be implemented in the world.

True community in the purest sense of the word says "charity begins at home". The biggest problem with wealth distribution is that the walls continually go up between the haves and have nots. The poor must ask themselves what they have done to cause the wealthy to be afraid and separate themselves from them in community. The wealthy on the other hand need to examine the reasons why they have become afraid of the poor and those less fortunate. Tax deductible contributions are nice...but they have obviously not solved the problems of unequal opportunity and access to justice. I believe it is in rich people`s best interests to help those less fortunate more often and more directly. In my observation, governments and church institutions filter aid and support through so many hands and bureaucracies that very small percentages of that which was given to the cause actually gets directly in the hands or coffers of those who need it the most.

If more individuals just worked more to help their own family members who have fallen on hard times or have developed health problems..."society" would have less pressure to fill the gap for the downtrodden. If local or regional organizations had more resources devoted to their own needy populations, there would be less pressure at federal levels to qualify and filter help to those local needy. This was the system in the 1700s and 1800s...what has changed in the capabilities of individuals and families to take care of their own? Whole societies in our contemporary world continue to live this way, but it seems some of the richest and most advanced countries have lost their way on developing citizens who are self sustaining members of society. Western Civilization is falling under the weight of its demanding, overly entitled masses. This is exactly how our enemies want to take us down...under the weight of our own misappropriation of resources and manpower.

For me, the answer is...compassionate wealth with protection of ownership. Those that have must continue to INVEST in those that don`t. Blind giving in the street is not the way to get people off the street. Government programs in upside down pyramid schemes do not get enough resources to the bloodletting. I believe it will take more privatization of programs to turn things around at all quickly. It will take each one of us who are blessed or successful to one by one help one or a few around us to reach our levels of success. The poor will get nowhere tearing down the rich and successful...but the rich will get nowhere ignoring the need and devastation around them. Devastation and conflict will soon creep into their lives also if not addressed.

As stated in previous blogs, I was brought up believing that "to whom much is given, much is required". Hoarding and false pride based on riches is in my opinion not very fulfilling. Helping others in need when we have extra has for me been some of my most fulfilling moments.

One of my favorite songs of John Lennon and the Beatles is "Imagine". I continue to believe his vision of world peace and connectedness in this song is one of the best "hymns" to that effort.

Imagine there's no Heaven
It's easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today

Imagine there's no countries
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace

You may say that I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will be as one

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world

You may say that I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will live as one

(Yep...I`m a dreamer...)

Saturday, October 22, 2011

The Problem of Prosperity Doctrine...

I have recently read and replied to some Facebook posts in my network regarding so called "prosperity doctrine" within Christianity. It basically is about the idea that God somehow wants all "believers" to be prosperous and rich. It is a fundamentalist religious approach similar to "The Power of Positive Thinking" as written in the early 1950s by Norman Vincent Peale. Somehow in the latest doctrine, just "believing" is enough...very little "thinking" or "doing" seems to be needed.

At an earlier age than most, I read "Power of Positive Thinking", and I do think it has continued to impact the core of my being in sometimes invisible ways. Yet, I have to take exception to the "pray and grow rich" mentality that unfortunately seems to source itself from our materialistic, hedonistic, consumerist mentality in the USA.

America has truly been blessed the past 200 years or so...though I think that "blessing" has been largely based on hard work and right thinking when it comes to individual rights and free enterprise. Unfortunately, in just the last 60 years or so, we have moved from that model to one where either government or God has to take care of us...because we are somehow powerless to take care of ourselves financially. I don`t know for sure if this mentality originated in government or religion, but I would suggest that the two institutions now play quite nice together in growing dependent, weak and despondent followers to support their programs. Of course, I am over generalizing...but I still think a majority of supporters of these institutions participate based on need more than pure belief, reason or passion.

While there are many directions one could go philosophically on this subject, let me focus on what I have observed the most in my life...and that I think impacts a large number of my friend and family, some of whom follow my blogs. What I am writing is not with the intent of hurting or tearing down...but to challenge and hopefully lead to the real truth behind some wrongful reasonings.

Though it has oft times been tremendously confusing, I have been a lifelong reader of religious doctrines and apologetics. Most of my exposure has been to Christian traditions since my Grandfather-father figure was a fundamentalist, evangelical minister. I have been trying to catch up in the last couple decades with comparative understanding of other religions such as Judaism and Islam...primarily because so much of our future acculturation will depend on all these religions understanding each other and "getting along". Obviously it is not an easy task.

I have been discussing with many of my "home folks" of Christian persuasion the true meaning of being a "Christian". I am reluctant to call myself one anymore primarily because it means so many different things to different people. Just in America alone, last I knew there were 108 different denominations called "Baptist", and even in the mainline churches such as Presbyterian, Lutheran, Congregational, etc...there have been so many divisions and schisms in the past century that I think it would be hard to pinpoint a pure commonality for those religious labels as well.

Most Christians I know would probably fundamentally define a "Christian" as "one who follows Christ". That is the most basic definition I can think of for the word anyways. But then, the problem comes with defining who Christ or will be.

Since we still have not seen the "second coming" that fundamentalist Christians believe in...the main thing Christians have as a guide to following Christ are his teachings and examples as revealed in the Bible. Now, since most of those writings were written almost 2000 years ago to a very different culture, day and age...many have taken it upon themselves to modernize or reinterpret many things that were standard to Jesus` teachings and related to the Jewish and other Mediterranean cultures. We now have some very different ways of viewing and doing things than the original "Christian" church did. This does not necessarily create problems for me personally as I think this should be expected in a belief system...evolution, progress, enlightenment...whatever you want to call it. Yet, I get continually challenged or piqued by modern day "fundamentalists" who pick and choose what parts of the old they want to keep, and what part of the original teachings they want to ignore.

I think most Christian churches have become too caught up in traditions, pomp and circumstances that my perception of "Jesus" would have no interest or time for. I think he primarily lived for the poor masses, came from an impoverished, occupied land of Israel...and exclaimed himself to be the Jewish Messiah that all religious Jews were looking for to deliver them. Yet...he had a very different idea from them of what "deliverance" was all about. Even in Jesus time, religion and government were constantly dancing together to try and control the masses...and in modern day politics we see this still playing out quite effectively.

All of this preamble to setup the main point of discussion. Religion...and politics...has become all about the money. Most religious programs in churches or on TV spend significant time on "fundraising" or taking offerings. Most of this money goes to support the "program" of superstructures, church salaries, travel costs for groups going to other countries to "evangelize" other nations or cultures...and hopefully some is left over for the local poor and hungry though from what I have seen that is probably less than 10-15% of the annual budget of most local churches.

Like big government with the upside down pyramid of entitlements and dependencies...I think most Christian churches have drank the same Koolaid of big programs, edifice complexes, media spending and other "marketing" campaigns as political governments have developed into. Church for many now is about "clean entertainment" and self gratification...uplifting self to being "close to MY God" if God can be reduced to our pitiful levels of existence. What happened to the great MAJESTY of a God to be FEARED? In this case I think the Jews have a more realistic view of who or what God is really all about.

But back to the "Christian" does being prosperous fit into a majority of Jesus` teachings that you SAY you believe in? Here are a few examples...not MY words...

"If anyone will be my disciple, let him take up his cross and follow me"

“Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” ...Matthew 8:20

Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it....Matthew 10:38,39

“Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”...Matthew 19:23,24

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also...Matthew 6:19-21

Ecclesiastes 5:10
Whoever loves money never has enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income. This too is meaningless.

1 Timothy 6:10
For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs

OK...much more could be quoted or said...but I think the point is...there is very little Biblical content tied to a "prosperity doctrine". I also think every modern day Christian should read Dietrich Bonhoeffer`s "The Cost of Discipleship" before taking a stance on this issue. He lost his life at 39 years of age standing up to Hitler`s Nazi regime for his faith...which was not a very prosperous thing to do.

I now tend to quote more worldly sayings to support my personal viewpoint on the subject...such as:

You cant take it with you...

He who dies with the most friends, not the most toys...wins...

Some of the most miserable people I have known have been the richest I have known...

It is the LOVE of money, not money itself, that is the root of all evil.

Money cannot buy class or character...

Own your money, dont let money own you.

The rule is not to talk about money with people who have much more or much less than you

When money speaks, the truth remains silent

And just about my favorite..."Prosperity is a way of living and thinking, and not just money or things. Poverty is a way of living and thinking, and not just a lack of money or things.
- Eric Butterworth

Friday, October 7, 2011

Steve Jobs and "Greatness"

Most every educated person in the world by now knows that Steve Jobs, Founder of Apple Computers, Pixar, and various other companies passed away this week at the all too early age of 56. Most of us are in awe of what Steve Jobs accomplished in his relatively short time on earth. Most of us have no clue what his life was really like or what it took to get where he did in this life.

In an exchange with some friends today regarding Mr. Jobs over an article that was basically saying we all have the potential of success such as Steve Jobs had, I wrote the following:

”I think too much emphasis is put on simple “belief” and “positive thinking” type of messaging. The words that I think caused Steve Jobs successes are VISION and ACTION ( or “WORK”). Many people have great visions of grandeur but no work ethic. Many others are hard, dutiful workers, but are working someone else’s vision or plan. Many people want to think that just by believing hard enough or having a plan or vision is enough. Most people don’t reach their goals or vision…because they don’t work hard enough. In some cases their vision is unrealistic to their capabilities. In most cases they have no vision at all.

Much emphasis is and will be made of Mr. Jobs “vision”, but most will not focus on the hard work and SACRIFICES he made to accomplish his vision. Nothing is easy and nothing is for free in this life. Yes, life is harder for some more than others either because of lack of inheritances, baggage (emotional or otherwise), and just plain “all men are NOT created equal”. But, with hard work and vision we all can reach our own levels of potential…and that is what I strive for personally.”

Another thought I had yesterday when reading Steve Jobs obituary in the NY Times was…”what about these other people who died this week”? Here are SOME of the people who were on the “same page” as Steve…

Derrick Bell, Law Professor and Rights Advocate, Dies at 80

Rev. Fred L. Shuttlesworth, an Elder Statesman for Civil Rights, Dies at 89

Sarkis G. Soghanalian, an Arms Dealer Who Aided U.S. Intelligence, Dies at 82

Bert Jansch, an Influential Folk Guitarist, Is Dead at 67

A.C. Nielsen Jr., Who Built Ratings Firm, Dies at 92

David Mitchell, Broadway Set Designer, Dies at 79

Marv Tarplin, Motown Guitarist and Songwriter, Dies at 70

Ralph M. Steinman, a Nobel Recipient for Research on Immunology, Dies at 68

Everett Ellin Dies at 82; Helped Computerize Art Catalogs

Peter Gent, Football Novelist, Dies at 69

Michael J. Drake, Planetary Scientist, Dies at 65

Mike Heimerdinger, 58, Who Helped to Coach Super Bowl Winners, Is Dead

Joseph Carmichael Jr., a Carrier Hero, Dies at 96

Lee Davenport Dies at 95; Developed Battlefront Radar

My thinking was…which of these people of note that died this week was the “greatest” human being? How would you measure such a thing? By how much money they made (to me that seems to be the number one qualification in modern society)? How many lives they “saved” by what they devoted themselves to? By how many obstacles they had to overcome to reach their final epitaph?

“Greatness” in my opinion is not about money or fame. Greatness is about being a quality human being to all other human beings. Greatness is about having grace and character…about having a balance between expectations of people…and forgiving them. Greatness is about what you do for others that no one knows about. Greatness is about the “motivation” behind your actions. Greatness is about honesty, integrity, values and discipline. Hopefully we all have had someone “great” in our lives…who spurred us towards the positive side of ourselves. Someone who “practiced as they preached” and yet embraced their humanity with all its flaws and imperfections.

Life to me has simply become a challenge of OVERCOMING. We spend our lives overcoming people and obstacles that get in the way of our vision(s). Sometimes it is simply overcoming bad thinking or that "tape recorder" in our heads from our childhood telling us we aren`t good enough or won`t amount to anything. From what I know of Steve Jobs, he overcame MANY obstacles to get to the level he did…yet I have a feeling he would have given every last cent he had to overcome the last obstacle to his future.

The other people on the obit list this week are known but less famous than Steve. This may seem morbid to some, but I read the obituaries once or twice per week. I read them from the standpoint of seeking inspiration. I find the obits to be the best summaries, at least in the eyes of society, of what a person accomplished and what their journey was about. I take encouragement from the inspirational things I read about them, but usually I am also reminded that in every life comes tragedy and trials. People get rich and go broke every day. Some people marry, some get divorced…every day. Some are born and some die…every day. The motivation I take from these obits is that the clock ticks the same for everyone, and no one knows how much time they have to accomplish their vision. So, let’s get on with it…LIVING...and writing our own future obituaries.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Government regulations killing the USA economy

There are probably hundreds of illustrations we could make about ways in which USA federal regulations are killing productivity and production in North America. Yet I think this article read today double underscores some of the lunacy going on within the last 40+ years of our government.

This article features Harold Hamm, his company being one of the most productive oil and gas producers in the USA currently, and it hits so many issues right on the head. His overall view is that America could be energy self-sufficient within 10 years if the same money that is spent on unknown technologies and less regulations were put into drilling the vast oil and gas reserves in Americas mainland. He also claims that the jobs and revenue that would be produced from freeing up the industry to meet its potential would pay off the trillions of national debt in short order. BUT, it seems that the powers that be in Washington are totally focused on new “green energy” sources and undeniably sustaining our “wonderful” relationship with the Saudis and others who gain so many billions from our oil consumption habits.

Now, before you get confused if you have read my other blogs about being pro renewable energy sources…I have not changed my mind about that. The reality is that we are 15-20 years minimum from many people`s estimation who are more informed than me from developing the technology needed to replace fossil fuels. In the meantime we continue to fork over billions of dollars to Arab countries and and the likes of Venezuela, who has all but declared war against American interests, to sustain our unquenchable thirst for oil and gas to keep our engines running…and I´m not just talking about cars and airplanes. Mr. Hamm`s opinion that I tend to believe is that we COULD be oil self-sufficient in just a few years if the federal regulators allowed them to explore and extract the vast resources we already have.

I`m sure many of us including myself are concerned about balance in all these things. I am pro environment though I probably don’t go to the extent of “hugging trees” to make a political statement. I think our government SHOULD have a role in protecting nature and the environment, yet it is unrealistic that we should think that every bird or tree in the country could be protected from development, including developing our own energy. Here are just a few brief clips of Mr. Hamm’s observations of federal mismanagement of the issue:

Mr. Hamm was invited to the White House for a "giving summit" with wealthy Americans who have pledged to donate at least half their wealth to charity. (He's given tens of millions of dollars already to schools like Oklahoma State and for diabetes research.) "Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, they were all there," he recalls.
When it was Mr. Hamm's turn to talk briefly with President Obama, "I told him of the revolution in the oil and gas industry and how we have the capacity to produce enough oil to enable America to replace OPEC. I wanted to make sure he knew about this." The president's reaction? "He turned to me and said, 'Oil and gas will be important for the next few years. But we need to go on to green and alternative energy. [Energy] Secretary [Steven] Chu has assured me that within five years, we can have a battery developed that will make a car with the equivalent of 130 miles per gallon.'" Mr. Hamm holds his head in his hands and says, "Even if you believed that, why would you want to stop oil and gas development? It was pretty disappointing."

Washington keeps "sticking a regulatory boot at our necks and then turns around and asks: 'Why aren't you creating more jobs,'" he says. He roils at the Interior Department delays of months and sometimes years to get permits for drilling. "These delays kill projects," he says.

A few months ago the Obama Justice Department brought charges against Continental and six other oil companies in North Dakota for causing the death of 28 migratory birds, in violation of the Migratory Bird Act. Continental's crime was killing one bird "the size of a sparrow" in its oil pits. The charges carry criminal penalties of up to six months in jail. "It's not even a rare bird. There're jillions of them," he explains. He says that "people in North Dakota are really outraged by these legal actions," which he views as "completely discriminatory" because the feds have rarely if ever prosecuted the Obama administration's beloved wind industry, which kills hundreds of thousands of birds each year.

It's hard to disagree with Mr. Hamm's assessment that Barack Obama has the energy story in America wrong. The government floods green energy—a niche market that supplies 2.5% of our energy needs—with billions of dollars of subsidies a year. "Wind isn't commercially feasible with natural gas prices below $6 per thousand cubic feet, notes Mr. Hamm. Right now its price is below $4. This may explain the administration's hostility to the fossil-fuel renaissance.

Mr. Hamm calculates that if Washington would allow more drilling permits for oil and natural gas on federal lands and federal waters, "I truly believe the federal government could over time raise $18 trillion in royalties." That's more than the U.S. national debt, I say. He smiles.

Another example of our government`s mismanagement of their regulatory spending and role in energy was the widely publicized failure of a California company, Solyndra, which after receiving $535 million in federal loan guarantees built a $733 million dollar plant which has now been closed and shuttered after just opening in January. Its construction featured “robots that whistled Disney tunes, spa-like showers with liquid-crystal displays of the water temperature, and glass-walled conference rooms. "The new building is like the Taj Mahal," John Pierce, a San Jose resident who worked as a facilities manager at Solyndra, said. All of this was constructed during a time when… “about 11.4 percent, or 950,801 square feet, of industrial space was vacant” in the Fremont, CA area. Another nice use of the taxpayers money wouldn`t you say?

The bottom line for me in all this is that America has many available solutions to jobs, clean energy, domestically produced gas and oil and even significantly higher tax revenues…IF we can keep the federal government from over regulating, micro managing and gouging the domestic energy producers in deference to foreign interests. The government should NOT be backing loans with your and my money to benefit one private business entity over another. This power was never granted in the US Constitution. It also seems very clear to me that the government is significantly in the way of economic recovery. Let’s remember that most jobs created by government are paid for by the taxpayer. Jobs created by enterprise and private business generates huge revenues for the government…and SUPPORTS the taxpayer.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Whats wrong with Ron Paul?

Ron Paul continues to run a strong 2nd place in most polls…and first place in straw polls…in the race to become the Republican nominee for President next year. Yet, as in this article today regarding the New Hampshire primaries…even Sarah Palin who is NOT running gets more mention from the press than Ron Paul.

Let’s examine for a minute why this might be. Yes, Dr. Paul is the oldest candidate running at 76 years of age and his is the only revolutionary message of all these politicians from either side of the proverbial aisle. Yet, I think there are other more sinister reasons he does not get the traditional coverage and respect of the media that all politicians tend to count on.

Could it be that the media moguls who control the networks along with their political pawns are purposely black balling Ron Paul’s message? I could understand it if they are since Congressman Paul is the only one prescribing the distasteful medicines and about faces to rescue the economy and save the dollar from the machinations of the Federal Reserve. He is the only one advocating taking big money out of the political election process and bringing powers back to ALL “the people”. He also is advocating pulling back our troops and government from illegal foreign actions that were never authorized by the US constitution. This could create some enormous news vacuums as war and conflict abroad tends to sell more newspapers or TV viewing well as make more money for the huge industrial complex manufacturing weapons.

For me Ron Paul is the only sane voice in the pack of Republican candidates…or Democratic for that matter. The rest seem to be content falling back on the typical “God and country” empty metaphors and more big government to solve every American`s problem. I have yet to hear a reasonable position on taxation against the deficit and social programs that are going broke. How can you REDUCE taxes when you owe everyone in the world. Then again, how can you INCREASE taxes on those you owe the debt to? After all, almost 60% of the Federal debt is owed to the American people…19% alone of those trillions is owed to the Social Security fund which it would seem the repayment would rescue its insolvency. But…none of these politicians besides Ron Paul is talking about these realities.

So, do Americans really want another Hollywood type character as the head of our country? Will good looks and “image” really solve our huge problems and deficits? I think it is time for some strong medicine…and while I may not agree with 100% of Mr. Paul’s views…it comes much closer with him than any of the other candidates in the running. With or without the media support, I hope Ron Paul and his followers continue diligently on the path of leading our country out of the political and economic morass we now find ourselves in.

(Extra Ron Pauls wikipedia bio and compare his experience and qualifications with any of the other Republicans running. Then I challenge everyone to vote on the issues...not the "image" of these slick politicians.)