Monday, December 31, 2012

Golf and the New Year

I am passing time this New Year reacquainting myself with the game of golf.  Often termed by those who play it as the “greatest game”  invented by mankind…I have new respect for the various aspects of the game.  The only downside is the time commitment it takes to play or practice effectively.  Yet, there are so many lessons to be learned from golf…I think it is a key sport that every person should have the opportunity to learn.  I also was thinking how so many aspects of golf apply to living successfully in general…so for this year, I strive to apply these aspects of golf as my “New Years” resolutions:

Fundamentals and preparation:  You cannot play this sport well without preparation and knowing the fundamental skills of the game.  People who succeed in life are usually well prepared (educated) and continue practicing the fundamentals of what has made them successful in the past, copying the attributes of those who have succeeded before them.

Discipline: It takes discipline both mentally and physically to play golf well.  Having the discipline to repetitively do the things that repeatedly bring positive results is what makes the difference between those who are successful and those who are not.

Accuracy: Before hitting a ball, you have to know what your target is…in this case a small hole in the ground.  It is best to know what obstacles lie between you and the hole and how far away it is so you plan your strategy and know which club to use.  Your choices along these lines will determine how accurately and quickly you reach your goal in the fewest amount of strokes (effort) possible.

Mental concentration: The beautiful thing about golf is that it’s not always the best physical specimens that win…but is more about mind over matter.  If you don’t have clear mental concentration and control over your body and emotions, the ball will not go where you want it to.  Mind controls matter more than vice versa.

Physical shape: The above being said, being in good physical shape does help improve distance and accuracy.  Today’s field of professional golfers are paying more attention to their physical conditioning because guys like Tiger Woods and others came into the sport able to drive a ball almost 400 yards.  The physical conditioning is important in performing at your maximum potential and for sure to enjoy the fruits of your labors with more vigor.

Imagination & overcoming obstacles: Without imagination, pursuit of life and well-being will be difficult.  Daily life brings various obstacles and distractions across our path.  Being able to see beyond the obstacle and adjusting your swing to the difficulties life brings is paramount to living successfully.

Spirit of camaraderie and competition: Finally…one of the most rewarding parts of the game is the friendly competition and observing others struggling the same as yourself to reach their goals.  Life should be lived in friendly competition and mutual encouragement. It is much more fun to make a good shot in front of friends than to only enjoy your accomplishment alone.  I am rich in lifelong comradeship and fellowship.

Whether it is playing golf, pursuing business or living in thriving relationships…may we all be successful “golfers”  in achieving our desires in 2013.


Sunday, December 23, 2012

USA recovery checklist...

Instead of just criticizing and rebuking all the senseless politicos that run the USA and most countries of the world as I usually do...I end this year with a simple (and yes, oversimplified) checklist of what should be done to recover the positive values our country used to have.  
First and foremost...just because you are the Federal Government doesn't mean you can operate without a sane budget.  We must have responsible financial people in government who know how to balance a budget and reverse the deficit spending and take away the blank checkbook these politicos see to think they have. That also means the government cannot make commitments or entitlements it cannot fund.
Part of re-balancing the budget should include reduced global military spending and refocus those military budgets on more cost effective defensive technologies and weapons.  With Satellites and drones in our arsenal now, we don't really need thousands of boots on the ground in scores of different countries...unnecessarily putting soldiers in harms way with costs that are wasteful and ineffectual. If our armed forces support a foreign state, that foreign state should have to pay the tab for those resources, not the American people.
Put more of the federal budget into Research and Development of new businesses, technologies and industrial production. Instead of bailout moneys to failing corporations and banks, a federal government should simply incentivize private enterprise to domestically compete more effectively in the global marketplace and provide more jobs for the massive underemployed populations of our country.  Small, competitive business is the key to this, not slow moving, elephant sized mega corporations. The government should NOT be the fastest growing enterprise in the country. Reduction and streamlining should be the mantra of the day. Free and open markets need to be re-enforced by government...not controls and more regulations. 
Governments cannot mandate or legislate morality. Morality comes from the core of the society...its families and local institutions such as schools...and yes even churches for those who need them to control their darker sides. Quit prohibitions such as the war on drugs...and reapply those funds and efforts to education, trade schools and medical/psychological care for addicts and substance abusers. The substances are only symptoms of the problem...not the problem. It is a false sense of order when order is based on laws and punishments. People have the potential to regulate their own behaviors in a society of true values, mutual responsibility and education. 
Social securities of all forms should be paid and settled at the local level with gaps working  their way up to the national level.  Instead we have created an inverted pyramid where 500+ federal legislators are responsible for all the welfare and problems of the whole country.  You have to break this up to where local communities and each state has more responsibility...and handle the social needs and economic gaps in their communities.  Washington DC has obviously shown its inability to handle the welfare state we have become.
The USA needs to become the most competitive tax country for doing business.  This means DECREASING versus INCREASING taxes on productive businesses and corporations. This also means EQUALLY taxing all industries and businesses.  The USA tax code is hideous and full of exceptions and reductions for special interests and cronies of politicos in Washington.  We need simplification of taxation and incentives to hire American workers...not more regulation and costs put on the back of business leaders.  You are killing the cow in order to get more milk!
We need reductions of Federal powers and turn their focus to simply protecting our borders and foreign interests of our citizens...the federal budget could probably be reduced in half...and most of these congresspeople can be part time, voluntary positions for SUCCESSFUL Americans who don't need to be paid to serve their country in leadership.  No lifetime entitlements or extraordinary POWERS for legislators.  No "Cadillac"  healthcare plans that their constituents can't also qualify for. This will bring the great leaders of our country forward, and send the cockroaches of cronyism scurrying back to the holes they came out of. 
There you have it:

  • Balance the federal budget
  • Reduce external military spending in the world
  • Spend more on R&D for business and technology leadership in the world
  • Stop trying to legislate morality...especially that which is based on religion
  • Social programs should run from the local government level, not vice versa
  • Become more tax competitive in the world
  • Reduce Federal powers by keeping more leaders local and more in touch with their constituents instead of serving big money interests in DC

Sure...these points are simplified macros...but they are doable. The current government leaders of the USA cannot begin to turn things around in our country until they agree on the fundamentals.  With no fundamentals agreed upon, all the complicated detailed solutions they discuss and argue about have no chance of providing a long or permanent solution.

So...there you have 2013 wish list of changes I would like to see if the USA government is to have any chance of recovery. Only by agreeing on the fundamentals for recovery do we have a chance for restoring peace, love and prosperity to a country of people who have lost their way towards liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Prohibition is profitable

I have been writing this in my mind bit by bit for years now. It has become very evident to me that based on the ¨war on drugs¨, increasing excise and VAT taxes on drugs, alcohol and tobacco... and the increasing incidences of money laundering...PROHIBITION IS PROFITABLE!

It is obviously difficult to prove any large system of collusion or clandestine collaboration behind modern day prohibition, yet it is hard NOT to think that so many of our institutions are in cahoots in the continued proliferation of programs designed to make drinking, drug use and smoking illegal or hyper controlled.

It is a given that my Libertarian life philosophy (not political as you might note) runs against the grain of today's commonly accepted practices of religious and state sponsored programming that condemns or vilifies the huge populations in our societies that choose to drink, smoke or use recreational drugs. I am in no way suggesting that it is preferable to use or abuse any substances so readily available in natures world. Yet, I think it prudent for us to admit that for THOUSANDS of years, mankind has enjoyed and been fascinated by the in-gestation of various substances that might bring momentary physiological and/or psychological changes to our existence that sometimes produces pleasant affects for the living. It is also my observation that many millions of the world`s inhabitants use such substances for pleasure or for social enhancement without totally obliterating the rest of their daily pursuits. Those of us who appreciate freedom and individual pursuit of happiness should support every human`s right to make their own choices on consumption of substances as long as they are not impinging on the rights of another human NOT to consume or have their life affected by those that do so.

The COST of the drug war on humanity is greater and more devastating than any of the costly wars being fought in Syria, Afghanistan and various Arab states. Here are a few stats to mull over on the COSTS of the ill advised "drug war". Just a few to highlight are:

Amount spent annually in the U.S. on the war on drugs: More than $51,000,000,000
Number of people arrested in 2011 in the U.S. on nonviolent drug charges: 1.53 million
In 2007, the cost of illicit drug use totaled more than $193 billion. Direct and indirect costs attributable to illicit drug use are estimated in three principal areas: crime, health, and productivity.
Crime includes three components: criminal justice system costs ($56,373,254,000), crime victim costs ($1,455,555,000), and other crime costs ($3,547,885,000). These subtotal $61,376,694,000.
Health includes five components: specialty treatment costs ($3,723,338,000), hospital and emergency department costs for non-homicide cases ($5,684,248,000), hospital and emergency department costs for homicide cases ($12,938,000), insurance administration costs ($544,000), and other health costs ($1,995,164,000). These subtotal $11,416,232,000.
Productivity includes seven components: labor participation costs ($49,237,777,000), specialty treatment costs for services provided at the state level ($2,828,207,000), specialty treatment costs for services provided at the federal level ($44,830,000), hospitalization costs ($287,260,000), incarceration costs ($48,121,949,000), premature mortality costs (nonhomicide: $16,005,008,000), and premature mortality costs (homicide: $3,778,973,000). These subtotal $120,304,004,000.
Taken together, these costs total $193,096,930,000, with the majority share attributable to lost productivity.
These costs above don't begin to touch the cost of destroyed lives who because of criminalization and felony convictions cannot get an education, job or find acceptance in society.  If you run the millions of incarcerated numbers above by the amount of welfare they must rely on upon reentering society...I'm sure those numbers would be staggering. I'm still looking for valid data on that front.

So...WHO profits from all these trillions spent or lost to the "drug war"...and why might they have selfish interests to maintain the devastating status quo? Well, lets see...lawyers and court systems gaining over $61 Billions per year in spoils of the "war".  Healthcare industry gaining over $11 Billion. And how about the $51 Billion that flow through the federal government coffers to "fight the war".  Where is this money going?  Who profits from that?  If you think about it clearly for just a couple should understand why the institutions of the USA are so anxious to promote this war and pass more and more laws.

While I will not take space here to count the various cases in the world, please accept the fact that various governments and militaries of the world have been in COLLUSION with the illegal trafficking of marijuana, cocaine, heroin and other "illicit" drugs. Do you think these government and military entities want to go without the budgets and profits that this "war" brings in?  Sure, billions are confiscated each year in various global locations in the "fight", but where do those billions go?  Do they burn up the cash, homes, cars, jewelry, bank accounts and other valuables confiscated from the illegal traders?  Of course not!  They go into various government coffers to "continue the good fight".

The "drug war" of today is the biggest "smoke and mirrors" issue in global politics.  There is no justice in the current laws and prohibitions! All we have done is take money OUT of the hands of users and sellers...and put them in institutional coffers world produce more guns and arms to control the world with...or continue lining the pockets of drug lords and cartels. There is no justice in these statistics produced by former President Jimmy Carter who while being a socially conservative religious leader has spoken out against the fallacy of "drug wars"...
  • The Global Commission on Drug Policy reported that between 1998 and 2008, global use of opiates increased 34.5 percent, cocaine 27 percent, and cannabis 8.5 percent.
  • Carter said when he left the presidential office in 1980, 500,000 people were incarcerated in America.  At the end of 2009, the number jumped to 2.3 million.  If the number of people on probation and parole are included, the figure totals 7.2 million people, or more than 3 percent of all US adults.
  • In 2011, 50.8 percent of Federal inmates are incarcerated for drug offenses.  This compares to just 4.2 percent for robbery, 2.7 percent for homicide/assault/kidnapping, and 4.7 percent for sex offenses.
  • Since the mid-1990s, violent crimes (murder, rape and sexual assault, robbery, and assault) and burglary have steadily declined.  What has skyrocketed is arrests for drug offenses.
While I am sure there are many justifications projected behind this institutional "war on drugs" that I am not aware of or even imagined yet...I don't need more proof or statistics than we have already stated to assure me that prohibition and drug wars are hurting the masses to the benefit of the institutions that manipulate them.  As former President Carter himself concluded and I agree with...
1. Decriminalize the possession of less than one ounce of marijuana and add a full program to treat addicts.
2. Remove mandatory minimum sentencing and “three strikes you’re out” laws.
3. Don’t rely on controlling drug imports from foreign countries.  It doesn't work and is responsible for “a terrible escalation in drug-related violence, corruption and gross violations of human rights in a growing number of Latin American countries.”
4.  Experiment with legal regulation of drugs and thus take away the power of organized crime.
The 18 states in the USA who have legalized medical uses of Marijuana are starting in the right direction on this topic. It is time to take this issue out of the control of federal governments and organized crime.  This dance is only benefiting a huge cost to the majority masses who either enjoy recreational drug use or don't really care about the issue.  Lets stop funding this unconstitutional and costly "war" that only organized crime and institutional governments are profiting from. This war can only be won by educating the masses, bringing values back to the home and family, giving people more productive things to do with their time and money than using drugs (such as perhaps a good job on the line making these substances?), and not victimizing or criminalizing users in the privacy of their own homes.  By decriminalizing drug use, we will bring millions of currently disenfranchised citizens back to more productive and inclusive citizenship. By decriminalizing drug use, we will have much more money for productive activities such as education, counseling, treatment centers instead of prisons...and just a basic advanced humanitarian approach to helping and supporting those who are addicts.

These decades of criminalization have not worked.  Let give peace and tolerance a chance to sort out this issue in our society.  Organized crime and Big Brother have had long enough to profit from the "war". Lets now take them out of the game and let markets and regulation of product quality and production determine the price and distribution of these substances.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Iraq thanks us...

In case you missed it, here is an article featuring the latest "thank you"  from our "friends" in Iraq. You know...the people we liberated from that tyrant Saddam Hussein at a cost of  "about $1.9 trillion...or $6,300 per U.S. citizen". Oh...and don't forget the cost of almost 5000 American lives.  Almost twice as many people as died on 9/11 in New York.

Now our Iraqi friends are one of the sole suppliers and supporters of the Syrian butcher President Bashar al-Assad. Are you still feeling good about our USA government's invasion of Iraq to get rid of "terrorists"?  Thanks Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Obama...

As every week and month unfolds more of the demise of American international foreign policy and despise and abhorrent reaction grows deeper and more sure against my home country's government. They continue to spend our tax dollars and invest many future generations of our children's economic futures for the sake of these sick wars and interventions.  I truly believe 50-60 years from now history will find these governmental leaders and decisions to be the most ill advised and ludicrous examples of leadership in the history of the USA. 

An even sadder revelation is realizing that Iraq is working WITH Iran to support the oppressive government of Syria. What a sad outcome based on our national arrogance and irrational egos that continue to determine the fate of our country and economy in the face of these real facts and results.  This is the same game these Arab states have been playing against various USA administrations for decades now. When is enough enough?  When will someone in our country stand up against our government's wasted efforts and lack of understanding in the Middle East?

You are welcome Iraq. Enjoy your new found "freedom".  Excuse me while I go to the restroom to vomit in disgust.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Nice Guys Finish Last

The morning after the USA election and it looks like Obama at the helm for another 4 years. What does this tell us?

As mentioned in previous blogs this season, I have been openly critical of Mitt Romney and the Republicans not being able to muster more intellectual positions from which to take down a President I perceive as weak and inexperienced.  Yet, for all the hyperbole, dodging positions and outright falsehoods in this race, I think it primarily comes down to one thing. ¨Nice guys finish last¨.

During the 3 Presidential debates, Romney started out so strong...really throwing Obama and the Dems for a loop with his aggressive but rational style, not letting up on the incumbent president for a minute. In the second debate, Obama used some of the same medicine in defense towards Romney, and finally in the 3rd debate he had Romney agreeing with just about every decision he had made the past four years. To me this was cowardice and bad strategy for the challenger. I had the feeling he was surrounded by advisers who were overly calculating and risk averse. Romney of course had come out with some significant guffaws during the campaign...but finishing up the campaign trying to be the ¨nicest guy¨ in the room truly backfired in my opinion. Most of us were looking for fire and passion behind real answers and truth. Instead we got someone trying to be the next ¨Reagan¨...and that just doesn't work anymore.

You see this play out constantly in every day life. In all arenas of competition, it takes warrior style effort and passion to win.  In football, tennis, golf...most every sport demands total devotion and concentration on WINNING. There is no other acceptable outcome but to WIN.

I never felt that passion from Romney.  I think he is truly a nice guy.  He obviously has a nice big family and a supportive wife. He is RICH, which means he has won at some levels of the competition.  Yet, I don`t think he had the fire or passion sufficient to defeat Obama and the socialist agenda of the Democratic party. He did not galvanize the average American to get behind his leadership.

I also think we have seen the death of the religious right controlling American politics.  Personally I welcome this. I think average Americans have tired of combining appeals in religion and politics. It does not take a political position to decide what faith one believes in...and obviously people of ¨faith¨ do not necessarily make better political leaders.  Just look at Jimmy Carter and George Bush.  Both men of evangelical persuasions...yet in my book two of the weakest presidents of my lifetime.  Nice guys even...well, at least Jimmy Carter is.

Nice guy Romney unfortunately no longer serves as the ¨poster image¨ of what an American, or American president, is. America in just a few short decades has homogenized its racial and cultural heritage to finally include men and women of all colors and religions. WASPish Americans can no longer assume their power or control over the American democratic process. Hispanics and Independents have now registered their displeasure with that status-quo that assumes a white anglo saxon protestant is the defacto elite of America. Even in the back-doors of power...that to me being the bankers and billionaires that pull the politicians strings...multi-ethnicity is in...the white-man in the white hat is out. The system is now more controlled by immigrant bankers and global corporate industrialists such as George Soros and Rupert Murdock. These are not religious or principled men of distinction.  They are ruthless warriors with REAL money.

Today´s America no longer has tolerance of extremists or fundamentalists such as the religious right`s Pat Robertson or even Muslim extremists such as Louis Farrakan.  Today`s generation of independent Americans are looking for real solutions not based on old school slogan-ism or drinking Koolaid at the political trough of either main party. The world at large is tired of waiting for ¨trickle down¨ economics.  There are no more excuses for the richest nation on earth NOT to have some form of healthcare that covers all.  Obamacare may not be perfect...but obviously enough people want it so they reelect its author. If anything, Obama may have been very shrewd to tie his name to such legislation...since a majority of Americans are under or non insured.

And should we be surprised that a supposed darling of Wall Street like Mitt Romney should be rejected in his bid to lead the Federal government? It was Obama who rightly or wrongly bailed out all the big boys of Wall Street in 2008. It was Obama who amazingly has continued many of the Bush era policies of ¨fighting the war on terror¨, extending and even adding provisions to the unconstitutional ¨Patriot Act¨, and allowing the FED a free hand to keep the currency printing press going without limits. It seems to me Obama became an unintended Republican in many of his actions. I even heard a news commentator call him more of a ¨moderate Republican than a Progessive Democrat¨ yesterday. Wow.

And of course, very few mainstream Americans were attracted to the image and honest medicine of my last remaining political hero, Congressman Ron Paul. I truly believe that if Romney had been able to swallow his pride, shun the moneyed brokers behind him of the super conservative set, and had taken on more of the truthful change that Ron Paul stood for...he would have won the election.  But now we will never know.

What will be interesting to observe the next four years is how President Obama handles his power and his party.  Will he create a legacy of real leadership, do away with his tendency to try and please everyone, and really take his power seriously?  Does he truly have the people skills to work through the huge divides of Congress and the American people themselves to turn the economy around while still covering all his socialist agenda positions? I personally think he is going to have to ¨walk on water¨ in order to achieve that. For American´s sake, I hope he does.

Unfortunately, I tend to think we are going to have 4 more years of BIG government, increased regulations, government mandated redistribution via taxation...and less influence of the ¨white guys¨.  Nice guys finish last...and while I don't think the ultra conservatives in business or the Republican party are really nice guys...I think you will now see some real ugliness raise its head in this divided nation. The next civil war will not be between North and South, Black and White.  It is going to be the ¨Elite¨ against the growing masses of lower and middle class Americans...and nobody is going to be ¨nice¨ anymore. Atlas we come.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Back to Center...

Even more than usual, this election cycle in the USA has been a battle of extremes...mostly extreme right and extreme left...conservative versus progressive.  The good thing is that I think many of us have had to re evaluate our positions and compare our  ideas with the elite extremists of all persuasions that seem to run the USA government and medias.

Part of growth and evolution of the human mind is about being open minded and willing to re evaluate our opinions based on new information or observations. While it is obviously hard to take seriously someone who changes their minds often...I have grown to respect those who over a decade or more have evolved into different modes of thinking.  Unfortunately this is rare in this life.  Most people, especially those over 50, are very unlikely to change their mind or beliefs that they have blindly or knowingly maintained all of their lives for no real reason at all.  To me, for man to evolve in a more positive direction, one must always be willing to reexamine the evidence and nature of his thoughts and beliefs, compare those thoughts with facts and reality...and then act upon what he knows without apology or question.

Election seasons are always a good time to compare our positions against the onslaught of hyper opinions and ¨spin-meisters¨.  I have found this season to be unusually brutish and devoid of real content when it comes to examining the positions each candidate represents.  Just within my limited network of friends and family, I have found it saddening to see many attacks from left and right that have been simply personal, without truth or rationale behind them. The more extreme someone is right or left, it seems the more blatant and hateful the attacks are. Some of these attacks come from otherwise nice, religious oriented folks who seem to oversimplify the myriad of issues we need to know about before making informed choices of who we vote for as leader for the next four years.

Many people in my network this season have found that while I have many fundamental opinions about how I perceive the has been hard to peg me with a particular label. This makes many uncomfortable. When it comes to politics and religion, I think I have found what I term a middle ground position between all extremes of institutional parties and religions. I have come to think that Rodney King had a point so many years ago...¨can`t we all just get along¨ regardless of our race, creed or political persuasion?

It would appear the answer is NO. This current political race has brought to the surface once again our nation´s ¨Achilles heel¨ of racism and class division.  The elites that HAVE do not want to share with those who don't ..and those who don´t have want to legislate their ¨unfair¨ share with government led redistribution.  Most affiliations and institutional beliefs are dictated by what side of the proverbial tracks somebody came from.  While that is understandable, it still doesn't bode well for the idea of human evolution in a positive direction, and basically relegates everyone to the ¨box¨ they grew up in.

A fundamental principle that I still believe is that ¨to whom much is given, much is required¨.  While that can be interpreted in many ways, for me it fundamentally means that if you grow up in wealth or have the good fortune of making end up being responsible for what you do with that good fortune. If we allow it to be heard, I believe every human has an inner voice that says ¨share in a responsible way with those in your path who need a lift up¨.  It is a version of the ¨Golden Rule¨ that is either innate or learned along the way in life.

In my 50+ years I have changed a lot from the ¨box¨ I grew up in.  One could say, the acorn somehow fell far from the tree.  Who I am, the way I think, how I feel, my passions and pursuits... haven't really changed that much. But, WHAT I think and believe has changed immensely based on lifelong reasoning, experience and basic trial and error. I have come to the position that Shakespeare was right when he said ¨to thine own self be true¨.  This is the core of integrity and truth. This to me is the ultimate meaning of life.  Its more about the journey than it is ¨arriving¨.  While I have not yet arrived, I am much closer to understanding what this life is about than I did in my teens or twenties. I guess that is progress...

All of this to say, I think overall I am arriving to a centrist position on most of today`s battles of thought or reasoning.  I don`t believe socialism works...but I believe to be humane we must have a heart for helping those less fortunate than ourselves.  While I tend to believe in Capitalism as the best way to manage economics, I don´t believe we can have Capitalism without some level of social responsibility for the truly poor, needy or handicapped.  For the richest nation on earth to not have a safety net of basic care and concern for the poor and needy is unconscionable.  But then again, if the poor and needy are not willing to lift a finger for their own plight...that has to be taken into account as well.  Everyone needs to be accountable to the other. If you help me, I am accountable to you for what I did with your help...and vice verse.

I think the world`s institutions have proven that a united approach to the world`s conflicts is very unlikely. It is down to the ¨power of one¨ to change and influence our world for better or for worse. I have always thought that the problem of world poverty and hunger is not about ¨supply¨ but about ¨distribution¨.  At the core of the distribution issue are nation states who roadblock that distribution based on greed and coveting of the leading families and governments of those nation states. There is inherent institutional corruption at the core of the world order of things. There is very little truth and justice in how world agreements are arrived at.

I learned long ago that the world at large really doesn't want to change or ¨be saved¨ by my particular agenda or understanding, and there is increasing mistrust of the worlds institutions. We don´t trust people of other races, religions or political parties.  Most people find it hard to arrive at central, common ground when it comes to politics or beliefs.  That is why we have such a divided government...which reflects the divided country we come from.

I do believe the best American trait that I have believed in from growing up in America is that of independence and sovereignty over our own lives.  Traditionally Americans have believed at the core that they are free to pursue life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness without interference from governments or religions. Unfortunately, many of us are now abdicating our liberty for going along with the ¨new order¨ of things.  Our media and education systems continue to dilute the independent American spirit. To me, neither party in power in the USA is running on this kind of American ideal, and yet a majority of Americans don´t seem to care about those ideals anymore either, and that is reflected in the voting booths.

I do think the independent centrists will determine the American election next week. Many of us will vote our consciences with smaller third parties.  Others will decide they want to have a 50/50 chance of siding with a likely ¨winner¨.  Personally, I think we lose with either main party candidate and platform right now.  Neither leading candidate has a unifying agenda.  I guess we will have to wait another four years to hopefully see a more centrist, moderate leader for the world`s most powerful and influential nation.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Is Panama an Illusion?

(This is the second blog of a series written about "Living in Panama". Please refer also to "Is Panama Safe?",  "Pros and Cons of Living in Panama",  and "Further Notes on Panama Living")

What is the real story on Panama?  Does anyone really know whats going on here?

I have been in the middle of some interesting discussions today on the local Panama political issues.  Having been woken up at 7:45AM last Saturday morning by screaming protesters on megaphones shouting slogans in Punta Pacifica…I have been forced to read and face some of Panama`s political realities today, like the current political uprisings in Colon.  In 8 years of living here I have always sensed this cultural and political undercurrent that does not support the kind of modern face we have  revolutionizing the skyline of Panama City. Let’s face it, Panama is still a country in its infancy of a little more than 100 years since its breakaway from Colombia.  Even that breakaway was brokered more by foreign powers like the USA than by a local sovereign decision, revolt or ¨Declaration of Independence¨.

Panama is an interesting place no doubt…a small sample country of multiculturalism and racism.  It is a mirror in a small way of the issues confronting our whole world. A large majority are poor, uneducated and backward compared to first world countries.  Except primarily for the singular effect of the Panama Canal…these hundred years have not really brought development of a cohesive, singular culture or country.  Instead, it is a small country made up of small groups of a vast variety…from the indigenous native Indians such as the Cuna, Embera,  Ngäbe-Buglé and others from pre-Colombian times, to the Spanish families spanning back to when Panama was part of the Spanish empire for 300 years (1538–1821). Then, on top of that you have the variety of West Indians, Caribbean and Asian migrants who were encouraged to come build the Panama Canal at the turn of the 20th Century, making this country a very diverse and unique country at the hub of Latin America.  That diversity alone accounts for a lack of cohesion and unity among all those calling themselves ¨Panamanian¨.

One could argue that the REAL Panama is only just beginning, and like any newborn country or person…a sense of identity and solidarity with the rest of the world is difficult to define.  We have in the past decade seen a huge modernization of Panama City from a structural and development standpoint.  We are currently in the middle of the biggest canal expansion in the world since the canal opened in 1914.  Yet, underneath all the changes and Billions of dollars of investment in the country, there lies some fundamental lack of definition of what it means to be ¨Panamanian¨.  To some, Panamanians are defined by the post Bolivarian revolt for independence from Colombia which is celebrated on November 3 each year.  For others, their family roots are in the migration for building the canal.  For still others, they claim their identity to Panama as ¨Zonians¨,  having been born and raised in the Canal Zone which had a completely different set of laws and culture from the rest of Panama…primarily based on North American influence and European origins.  In this short history of an independent nation, one can question whether the vast majority here have ever been truly free and independent…meaning having equal access to markets, the rule of law and freedoms of expression most usually associated with the USA system of constitutional rights.

Recent history reveals three key eras of leadership and control of Panamanian governments.  From 1903 until 1968, Panama was a constitutional democracy dominated by a commercially oriented oligarchy which came to be controlled by mostly Spanish and Jewish families who owned most of the businesses and money flow outside of the USA government and canal resources. During the 1950s, the Panamanian military began to challenge the oligarchy's political hegemony and Panama became more of a military junta run by Omar Torrijos as a revolutionary of ¨the people¨, and later continued by Manuel Noriega after Torrijo`s mysterious death in an airplane crash. The most recent era began with the 1989 USA invasion which was prompted by a number of USA interests to back the restoration of democracy from the hands of the militarist Noriega regime. One would now argue that the oligarchies are back in control of big business and this reflects many back door deals to gain advantage of the investment interests in Panama.  After all, Panama is STILL the largest financial center in Latin America in terms of volumes of dollars and numbers of banks and financial institutions domiciled here...which to me is about the only explanation for current development levels.

So, how is it that with all this modernity…we still have constant social unrest?  We have socialist or communistic labor and student groups demonstrating and blocking the streets at will.  We have Indigenous people blocking the only highway connecting the city with the Interior as the only way they can think of to protect their Comarca private lands and water sources from mining, hydro dams and other commercial interests in the interior.  Now we have the ¨Coloneses¨ up in arms over privatization of public properties in the largest duty free zone in the hemisphere. While some would say you have similar scenarios throughout Latin America, I see Panama as being quite small to be so full of such dissension and political unrest.

While the army was deactivated after the 1989 invasion,  the current militarization of the police force based on justifications of the ¨drug war¨ or even potential guerrilla infiltration from the Darien border with Colombia has one wondering if we are not reaching new levels of a military buildup in this small country.  The dance between the President, the legislature, the courts and the police have one´s head spinning in the press on a daily basis. Some days it is hard to know who is in control of this country whose population is smaller than Greater Chicago.  For me, it doesn't take much to turn a small country like this into a broiling hotbox of contention and violence.

There is no doubt we are seeing increasing instances of crime in Panama.  Along with that come increasing police training and activation.  Every couple years we see massive police and security checks on most main roads in Panama.  Maybe a page they learned from Colombia of the past 20 years or so?  And now this week we see a new level of conflict over the Free Zone property rights in Colon.  With reports of 48 people arrested, several injuries and one dead child of 9 years of age…it reminds one that peace and tranquility is but an illusion, even here in small, beautiful Panama.

The distance between the haves and have nots has definitely increased during my past 8 years here. Cost of living in my personal experience is up 30-40% depending on what lifestyle you maintain here.  That is roughly 8% per year…and much higher than government indicators want you to believe. Believe me, the locals pay levels have not gone up at those percentages.  Yes, unemployment is lower than it used to be, but cost of living is higher.  The poorer populations are being pushed OUT of the city with rising real estate prices and transportation costs…yet most of the jobs are IN the city.  Commuting to Panama right now is every commuters nightmare.  Many of us are now choosing to work from home offices instead of trying to commute to an office.  Transportation is gridlocked most days, and the Panamanian aggression and law breaking behind the wheel is at an all time high.  

Average costs of new condos in Panama are around $2000 per Meter, yet rental prices do not support those prices if you are looking for real income. Who is going to buy all these myriad of developments STILL going up in the middle of the other dark, uninhabited towers?  Does somebody know something I don´t about coming hoards of tourists or businesses to Panama?  Where are they going to find the trained workers to fill all these offices they are building across the street from me? I personally don’t see it…and I like to think I get around. Billions have been spent on infrastructure…but educational spending as percentage of government expenditure is at the bottom of the barrel regionally according to these statistics. This fact will grow to be one of the most limiting factors in Panama´s future development potential.

So, what happens if the people or the industries don’t come as planned to Panama?  What happens if the American dollar is devalued against other currencies ( I have already seen the Colombian peso rise over 35% in value over the dollar the past 4 years)?  What will happen if a more Leftist leader comes to power in Panama and leads a Venezuelan style ¨Bolivian¨ revolt against the oligarchy or the perceived or real imperialism of the USA and other foreign powers over Panama? What happens if to meet its new gorging debt obligations, Panama is forced to levy new taxes and austerity measures on the people who can least afford to pay those debts?  We have already seen huge tax increases in Panama the past 5 years…from VAT to corporate to excise taxes on ¨luxury items¨.  At what point do we start seeing a reverse emigration of moneyed people and industries going to other countries in the region because of these combined causes?  I already know a number of foreigners and businesses who have reversed their decisions to domicile in Panama based on many of these issues.

I have been discussing some of today’s issues at a distance with people who I am convinced would rather see Panama and Panama City pull back from the modern city it is becoming.  There are many new voices of socialism and redistribution in Panama media and politics.  I sense a fire brewing…and I don´t see current leaders doing anything to douse those fires of insurrection and violent revolt.  Killing a 9 year old in Colon doesn't help…and militarism alone is not a medium or long term solution to the problem.  Yet, there seems to be no one capable right now to lead the wide range of interests in Panama in a unified direction.  If you watch the local news each day…and worse yet watch the Government Assembly in action on the local cable network…you will begin to realize how divergent and conflicted the interests are in Panama.  As throughout much of the developing world,  people are in a ¨gimme gimme¨ mode towards their governments.  They vote for whoever offers the most temporary support, or ¨candy¨ as I call it.  No one votes for reality or tough policies of correcting debt or corruption.  No one seems too excited about constitutional rights to due process of law. Only if you have enough money can you get access to due process…and that’s not just in Panama.

¨The People¨…in Panama and elsewhere…are insecure and angry.  If the powers that be do not take heed and salve some of their issues and wounds, there will soon be a ¨Latin spring¨ that could make the Arab one look like milk toast.  When that happens…I want to be somewhere else.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Go For It...

I have gotten to the point where I don´t like to watch a lot of professional sporting events on TV. It has become very obvious to me that today`s overly paid and highly exalted sports stars in many arenas are starting to cop out on their play.  

You see this the most in NFL know...the quarterback runs and slides to the ground before he gets hit...often 1/2 yard short of a first down or touchdown.  But you also see it in other sports such as soccer, basketball, and baseball.  In soccer you see guys miss a key shot or header, then gets tapped by an opposing player who supposedly causes him to fall to the ground, writhing around like a spider in a hot frying pan...looking to draw a penalty and all too often getting the desired results from sympathetic referees.  Today's replay cameras seem to have no effect on what these players do even though they know the next day the evidence of their play acting is so damning.  In basketball and baseball we see more and more guys not jumping into the crowds to rescue errant balls or make a play.  It is as if to say...I am paid too much for too little time to take a chance ending my career by going for that ball.  For me, I miss the old guys like Johnny Unitas, Bart Starr and various other old style quarterbacks who used to do everything they could to reach a first down or touchdown.  Players back then were allowed to play with half as many rules and less padding.  Most of the older players never made more than a couple million dollars their whole careers but always played to win.  Many of today´s players make 10-20 Million per YEAR...and still wont take a risk.

In business...and life in general...I see this phenomenon playing out too often. People are not willing to ¨go for it¨ when it comes to reaching their goals or dreams.  It is much easier to take the safe by all the rules and fit in to all the stereotypes of the society around us. I believe a majority of people I meet now are living lives of ¨quiet desperation¨...working in jobs or professions they in relationship to people they don't love, like or respect.  Others live in total solitude because they have been hurt in previous relationships and are not willing to risk ¨getting hurt again¨. For most people it seems more important to play politics and be a ¨team player¨ in corporate settings versus standing out or standing ON principles.

While the masses tend to shun individuality...they still elevate the few characters who are willing to live on the edge, take huge risks and live through tremendous highs and lows in this life. The masses are not willing to live or replicate the actions or attitudes of these few, but they sure love to talk about them and revel in their spectator-ship of these people who are truly ¨going for it¨.

I have been reading the newest biography of Steve Jobs, founder of Apple Computers, who died last year. Here is a guy who while obviously intelligent was one of the most erratic, unpredictable and often despised personalities of the Computer age. Steve had all kinds of hangups and psycho baggage from being an orphan and growing up in the tumultuous late 60s and 70s of anti establishmentarianism (see...I´m not afraid to make up a new word).  Yet, for all his weaknesses and lack of social graces, this guy pushed and focused on what HE wanted to do and create.  He allowed his brilliant mind and strengths to overcome his perceived doubts and weaknesses.  In his 57 short years he lived and tried more things...from lifestyles to religions to businesses...than a hundred other people might combined in that time-frame   He was willing to ¨break the rules¨ and live originally...and he despised other people who didn't.  He didn't care whether people liked or hated long as HIS goals were achieved.

While I am not alluding that Steve Jobs as a person should be our role model of human behavior...I do think his devotion and passion for what he set out to accomplish SHOULD be one of the most inspiring models of our generation.  He wasn't always right...but he was right more than he was wrong.  He failed at a number of things, but he succeeded in two or three key goals that made him who he was and brought all the security financially he needed in this life.  Yet...he was never really about the ¨money¨.  He was about the hunt or pursuit of his dreams. He was about pushing boundaries further and further outside of his and others comfort zones.  In these instances, it started with vision, proceeded with total devotion, and usually ended up with  unprecedented success. Even in his last dying months...he continued to try and paint things his way...even for a future that he would not share.

I don´t want to be Steve Jobs, but I do want to emulate his dedication to independent pursuits of ambition and dreams.  I do want to emulate his ability to bring others along behind him in his pursuit of excellence. And yes, I do want to emulate his ability to disregard institutional limitations and mass critique.  I think that was central to his ability to produce as much as he did in the same amount of years I have already lived.

So...I now am GOING FOR IT in my business pursuits like never before.  I am GOING FOR IT in playing new music that I have never played before and it is about what I like more than about what others like.  I am GOING FOR IT in challenging others around me to think and do more than they currently are or think they can do.  Most of us are operating at less than half our potentials.  This should be unacceptable to us the second we recognize we are doing that. matter what age you are, how much money you have or haven't not make excuses for not living your dreams.  Quit playing it safe.  Dont be afraid to fail or get hurt. As my old coach used to say...¨no pain, no gain¨. It is never too late to start...and I would rather die trying than to never try at all and live out the rest of my life in the quiet misery of mediocrity.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Obama Reality Check...

I had a whole other blog 90% written after the first Presidential debate between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. It was meant to balance the ¨reality¨ blog I wrote about Romney a few weeks back. My how the pendulum swings in today´s media driven political world.

Instead of the previous plethora of confrontational views on Obama politics...I have decided it is simpler and more meaningful to focus on one quote from his last ¨State of the Union¨ address in January...

¨We can either settle for a country where a shrinking number of people do really well while a growing number of Americans barely get by, or we can restore an economy where everyone gets a fair shot, and everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same set of rules.¨

I was reminded of this statement from this interesting article in ¨The Economist¨, and for me this embodies the impracticality of Obama´s ideas and the Democratic platform of this day and age.

The main issue I take with this core statement is...WHO IS MAKING THE RULES? My answer would be that the ¨rules¨ are being made by politicians who are primarily funded by BIG business.  That goes for both sides of the political aisle in the USA.  So...while you have these statements continually coming from all these governmental lying lips about ¨fairness¨ and ¨equality¨...don´t you believe them for one minute.  They are almost all for whatever preserves the status quo for THEM...and by THEM I mean career politicos and the financial people that support them.  Without funds...these politicos would be POWERLESS.  So one first has to ask...who is funding their ideologies?  Who pays for the private jets Nancy Pelosi and other Congressmen commute to their homes on?  Who pays for the entitlements and PRIVATE benefits package a Congressperson gets once elected that is much better than the plans they legislate for the rest of us?  How have so many of these lifetime politicians become millionaires with huge accounts on and offshore...but are trying to take out of OUR reach as regular citizens? These people making the rules are NOT Robin Hoods or Mother Theresas. They just try to convince you that they are...

Obama and the Dems have successfully hyped this seasons campaign into a divisive campaign of class warfare and rich versus the poor.  Both sides seem bent on twisting and hyping data, running fast with ¨facts¨, flip-flopping on and distorting views of all kinds. But to focus on what I perceive as Obama and the Democrat´s delusions of reality, lets examine the rest of his statement above.

I agree that in today´s America there is a ¨shrinking number of people who do really well¨.  During his four years at the helm, unemployment has seen scant improvement, macro business factors and markets have been falsely supported by huge Wall Street bailouts by Obama´s Federal Reserve team, and many moneyed individuals and companies have fled America in record numbers. In order to stem the tide of fleeing moneys from our bankrupt system, instead of providing more investment incentives, lowering regulations and providing tax incentives for business to come to the USA...they have instead added new exit taxes for Americans while giving tax incentives to FOREIGNERS who come TO America. To me that obviously points to the increasingly unfair trade and incentive practices that the American government has practiced against its own citizens for decades now.  Foreign held companies have had tremendous advantages over USA domestic companies because foreigners have not paid the same taxes whether it be corporate or personal taxes on their dividends and capital gains. In many industries, American companies have been subject to more strict regulations and taxation than the next door competitor who just happens to be foreign.

While the Dems constantly deride companies that move OUT of the USA taking jobs with them, they do not give honest shrift to the real reasons in many cases. Its not so much about cost of labor in the USA though that is an obvious issue. In many cases the main reason is the non-competitive tax structure in the USA compared to many other legal jurisdictions in the world. To compete across the globe, companies have to maintain competitive profits. If they are paying governments more than double what a main competitor is in another jurisdiction...they will soon be out of business...and jobs will continue to disintegrate.

It seems now that the USA big government approach by both of the main parties is about taxing and fleecing successful businesses. This is primarily because they have already spent most Americans individual tax obligations many times over in just 4 years. The cycle is madly becoming like a socialist or even communist model of redistribution. Recent governments from both main parties have successfully pilfered the USA economy to the point where it will implode...and their irresponsible reaction is to legislate MORE taxes, print MORE money...and then claim it is for the growing poor. It would be like a bankrupt business raising more money saying they are going to buy more equipment or pay down their debt...then turning around and giving themselves bonuses and raises until that money is gone too. Only governments...and churches in some cases...can get away with these actions. For anyone else it would be fraud and conspiracy.

As for giving every American a ¨fair shot¨ at a new competitive economy and growth...if you really believed that Mr. President, you would have given those trillions of Federal Reserve loans to every small business owner or know, the people who employ a majority of Americans?  That money COULD have gone directly into small business ventures that create jobs more quickly and effectively. Instead you gave the bailouts to your banker buddies, failed corporate behemoths and failed government entities such as FANNIE MAE and FREDDIE MAC. Don´t start with that fair and even distribution BS.  Your record is dismal on that one.

Finally...the idea of everyone playing by the same set of rules is another pipe dream in today`s America. Justice in America is based on what you can afford to pay to pursue it.  There are so many games being played through ¨minority business¨ acts and the tax code, no one can keep up with all the shenanigans. When people can make more money on unemployment than they can on minimum wages after taxes, the system is a total failure. As the Economist article states it...

 Why should people who prefer leisure to income face lower tax rates? Why should parents and homeowners get tax breaks single renters don't get? Why should young black men get longer sentences than young white women who commit the same crimes? Why should some industries get subsidies unavailable to others? In every case, they shouldn't...
Mr Obama argues it's unfair when foreign governments subsidize their manufacturers. On the other hand, he seems to think subsidizing American manufacturing is not only not unfair in the same way, but is somehow required by fairness.
My main problem with this President...and most in recent that their actions speak so loudly, I don´t hear a word they say.  America needs a tough leader, willing to dole out tough medicine and tell the truth to ALL the American people.  Sure, you can possibly win an election, like Hugo Chavez just did in Venezuela, catering to the majority of the poor which your government programs have helped grow into increasingly dependent followers with false expectations of government handouts. But in this universe of ¨cause and effect¨, you can´t promise people something you don´t have...and our constitution does not grant you the power to take from others in order to give to your voters.  Your followers need to learn how to fish...not just how to consume them. The days of $30 an hour union jobs for pushing a broom are over as well. If Americans think that is coming back any time soon, you had better put on your reality glasses.

Whether you want to admit it or not, the answer IS in private sector companies, jobs and competitive tax rates for ALL...not higher numbers of government jobs. The answer is in educating people to make something for themselves versus just offering more unemployment payouts and soup lines. I do still think that competition and private opportunity drives healthcare and medical improvements and the possibility of curing Cancer and other diseases that plague us better than ^Obamacare¨. I`m not sure who God is...but you are not him Mr. President.  So please... give freedom, competition and free enterprise a chance. The whole world will be glad you least over time.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Romney Reality Check...

The current election battle for the USA presidency is taking on the normal cycle of smoke and mirrors on the major issues. Both political parties are taking a ¨class warfare¨ approach to this election and neither major party seems to be catering to the independent or centrist voters. It seems to be about catering to extreme positions…and so far I think the incumbent President is being far more effective in tarnishing the message of the Republican challenger, Mitt Romney, than vice versa. During this whole political season,

Mr. Romney has had the challenge of winning over the extreme Conservative Republicans and religious right to his cause. In his past Gubernatorial and business roles he has in my opinion tried policies and decisions that were Centrist in theme and application to reasonable success. Overall I think people see him as a competent ¨nice guy¨, but not much of a hardball hitter when up at the plate. This is going to have to improve if he wants any reasonable chance at occupying the White House.

The key realities Romney has to overcome are:

- He only paid at a 14% income tax rate last year. Now, this is more than many other wealthy USA citizens, but far less than us average ¨Joes¨ paid as a percentage. When you have guys like Warren Buffett stumping for the Dems saying the rich should pay higher percentages than the poor…this does not help Romney win the class war battle. Winning the Republican conservative support will win him contributions, but not votes. Let’s face it, a majority of the voters are working and lower class. Romney`s vision for American has to connect with them also, or he is just wasting millions of dollars in this election campaign that could be better spent. 

- His religion…while religion in my opinion has no real reason to be discussed in the political arena from a rational viewpoint, it has unfortunately become a major lightening rod of how Americans judge and vote for their candidate. Obama has a huge advantage here. Romney is a Mormon deacon…a religion with only 5.7 million members in the USA and deemed by many mainstream Christian institutions as little more than a cult. Obama has attempted to identify himself with various Christian denominations while also advocating strong support for Muslim immigrants. Lets see…247 million call themselves ¨Christian¨ and VP Joe Biden is the first Catholic VP in the USA. There is thought to be over 3 million Muslims in the USA now. Since some see Obama as a ¨closet¨ Muslim based on his history and ancestry…you can be assured he will get the Islamists behind him as well. From a religious standpoint, Obama has the numbers on his side from all different stripes even as the arguably most Liberal president in the history of the USA. That is quite a feat

Ø The press...Obama has the traditional support of the Liberal press. He has gotten almost a free pass on the lack of economic performance these past almost 4 years…and we are still losing billions per year in losing propositions of wars in Afghanistan, Pakistan and many other conflicts we are not able to overcome…but you hear next to nothing from the press on these important issues. Instead they are all focused on Romney´s religion, wealth and every little statement that underlines his lack of identification with the common man. Let’s face it, Romney does not have the Reagan charisma, and while Obama´s performance brings back memories of Jimmy Carter`s lack of powerful leadership and image…he is a much better image and communicator to the masses than Carter was by far.  
Ø And finally…the Latinos and other minorities that make up a majority of the USA population. Over 52 million Latinos live in the United States. But despite their large numbers, they face persistent barriers to health care. One-quarter of Latinos live in poverty and nearly one-third lack health insurance. As a result, they suffer disproportionate health problems – and while many or illegal and unable to vote, a growing number of Hispanics are becoming part of the USA democratic process. Most of them for various reasons are turning to Democratic policies for their survival. Romney`s quips about not being worried about the ¨47% of non taxpayers¨ or that those without health insurance can ¨simply go to an emergency room¨ are grossly inadequate viewpoints and shows how out of touch he is with America´s reality.

While many Republican hopefuls around me are cautiously optimistic about Romney´s chances, I just don´t see it presently. I think his only chance of getting elected will be to somehow out debate and outshine President Obama in the 3 debates coming up. Being a betting man…I would not bet on that. And even if he becomes our next President, I don’t see him running on solid issues or plans that will turn my country around. It is about the economy stupid…and ¨trust me¨ is not enough of a plan to win the vote. These are scary times to live in politically speaking…and otherwise.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Voting ones conscience...

The Republican and Democratic conventions for the 2012 Presidential election are over. While I have little interest in these outdated, bombastic displays of party is about the only chance one gets to see THEIR version of what the party is standing for...or not...this time around.

For the past two or more decades I have found myself voting for small independent party candidates...usually of the Libertarian persuasion. I miss my freedoms. It is getting harder and harder for me to find appreciable difference between the two main party platforms in the USA. At the highest level...these politicians are all about bigger government, more power and false promises and pretenses abound. I am one American who has had enough of this and would like to believe it is not too late to fall back into a more rational ¨Jeffersonian¨ approach to government. I read somewhere recently though I haven't verified or run the numbers that our national debt now comes out to over $800,000 per citizen. Of course, a growing percentage of people living in America are NOT I assume this number doesn't include everyone you see in the streets there. Whatever the real number is, it is obviously insurmountable for our citizens to begin to pay off this debt our auspicious leaders have gotten us into over the past 60 or so years...and growing exponentially. None of these major party candidates seem to have any real plan for paying this off. The cuts they are recommending...that no one seems too excited about the same as flicking a flea off the hide of an elephant. Any simple mathematician will tell you that these numbers based on our economic output are insurmountable. The USA for all intents and purposes is BANKRUPT...yet nobody dares declare it so.

It is very evident why no one in governments worldwide face the truth about these debts. Most foreign governments are counting on the USA to continue our role as global ¨policeman¨ and caretaker. All you have to do is look at the imbalances of contributions to most global project funds or the United Nations and you see this historical assumption that somehow the USA has an inexhaustible level of wealth to spread out across the rest of the world. Most Americans have gone down this road willingly from a sense of national ego to support all these wars and in-clandestine funds. We have been arming so many despot governments throughout the world who promise to bring the peace or support OUR causes, but almost always end up using our guns against their own people or train them back on Americans at some point. Our Department of National Defense has truly become a department of aggressive OFFENCE. This has to stop. We can`t afford it and we don´t need it.

So...some people say...I am proposing an isolationist agenda for my country...and I am WASTING my vote when I vote for anything other than Republican or Democrat. I strongly disagree with those assertions. I am simply suggesting we revolutionize the way we interact with other countries of the world. Instead of trying to outperform the rest of the world in arms production or beating everyone to Mars...we should be totally focused on retooling our country and population for ECONOMIC warfare. We should become the most aggressive and polished country for promoting goods and services that no one else least on our scale. Our country still has riches we are not tapping. We have oil reserves bigger than the Saudis, and yet we keep buying THEIR oil at hugely inflated prices determined by a consortium of our enemies. We have allowed our government backed by big oil money to convince us we have no other choice...and they use any little excuse like a two day Hurricane we had a couple weeks ago to inflate the gasoline prices ANOTHER 18 cents overnight. And we Americans just keep coming back accepting all this drivel.

The reason I restate these issues is because NO ONE ELSE in these party elections are talking about these issues. They want the conversation to be about religion, abortion, or whether a President smokes and what he smokes. These people are not discussing or coming up with ideas for the major issues...and the electorate continues to just go along with the BS. Meanwhile, less and less of the American public are involved in the political process because it is so manipulated and they don't believe in it anymore. It has gotten to where the political comedians cover the issues better than the candidates or regular news agencies do. They seem to be the only ones allowed to really speak the truth.

The only hope I have for our system is that one day average Americans will rise up and start voting their CONSCIENCE. When we start voting for leaders instead of party liners...when we start voting based on our pocketbooks instead of lifestyles of the rich and famous...when we start studying for ourselves the real issues and having an opinion on them...THAT is when our country might have a chance to turn things around. I just fear that it may be too late. The horses are out of the corral...and very few of us are out chasing them down or trying to bring order to the situation. It does seem quite easier to escape and look at this as ¨every man for himself¨. At the end of the day, we each need to listen to our own consciences...while we still have one that hasn't been drowned out by the hype and misdirection of today´s media manipulated by insincere politicos.

I challenge everyone to do their own thinking and research before voting this November. The life and freedom you save...may be your own.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Morality doesn't come from Religion

I have always struggled with the concept I grew up with that morality is based on religious belief. Simple life experience should reveal to us that some of the most immoral acts in history have been based on ¨religion¨ and common belief systems. Humans, with our pack mentality of consciousness, have for centuries carried on about morality based on the "Ten Commandments" or some other ancient traditional text, yet we continue even within the context of religious programming to NOT act accordingly.

This video to me represents one of the greatest quotes of noted Biologist, scientist and atheist apologist, Richard Dawkins. It is far from my intent to make this guy some hero opposite the cause of religion. The importance of this man is his rational and educated approach to answering the hard questions that religions love to gloss over.

Many people in the world claim a religion based on their understanding that their religion is the core to their morality and existence...that somehow without the rules and regulations of a religion or sect humans are lost and damned forever and ever. I no longer espouse this sentiment...primarily because I have known too many secularists and atheists who are some of the most moral people I have known. This alone proves to me that religious belief does not equate to a corner on morality...and I can point to a few million cases of global believers to prove my point. Religion is generally a method of guilt tripping the average human into conforming to behavior that they somehow may not find natural or logical. I on the other hand think that morality is natural AND logical.

For me it comes down to a case of genetic code. It just seems that people, whether religious or not, are somewhat coded by genetics to act in certain ways. Some are naturally more rational and orderly than others...inside and outside of religious orders. I have known thieves and addicts both inside and outside of churches. I have known gluttonous people both in and out of church walls. No one has a corner on these moral dilemmas. The problem comes when you claim that you do.

The source of morality does not necessarily come from ancient texts...but from the heart and mind of every human with rational and reasonable thought. Morality comes in all colors, sexes and political persuasions. Morality sticks out in ANY crowd...because it is rare in most any crowd. It really comes from PERSONAL PRINCIPLES that we each decide and act on. It is not something claimed or performed verbally. It is not ¨tradition¨ or a dogma. Morality is an option at the core fiber of every persons being. We decide each day whether we are going to do right or wrong according to our own consciences. Even the Christian Bible defines ¨sin¨ as ¨knowing what is right and not doing it¨. You don't have to be a believer to be moral or know right from wrong. You just engage your power and right to BE so.

The core beauty in Dawkins later discourse in the video above summarizes best what I am thinking here.

Can we not design our society which has the sort of morality we want to live in?... We don't believe in slavery anymore, we believe in the equality if women, we believe in being gentle and kind to animals...these are all things which are entirely recent. They have very little basis in Biblical or Koranic scripture. They are things that have developed over historical time, through a consensus of reasoning, sober discussion, argument, legal theory, political and moral philosophy...We have grown out of (religion) because of secular, moral philosophy and rational discussion.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

To Live and Die for Religion...

The world is quickly changing from being one that is divided by race and one that is divided by religious beliefs. Everywhere we turn we see international wars and civil conflicts over religious fervor and fundamentalism. The Arabs...primarily Muslim...want to take out the Jews. The Christians want to protect the Jews and the homeland of their religious heritage...and yet many of them also want to convert the Jews to the Christian Messiah. Meanwhile, it is all very confusing to the secularists, humanists and liberals who live among all these religious factions. What will the end of this be?

Western and Eastern Civilizations have been largely formed based on religious divides. Western Civilization is primarily marked by the religious heritage of Christianity while eastern has most of its roots in Islam. Asia is overall a whole other ballgame...and somewhat caught in the crossfire between these perspectives. As modernization, education and globalization has arisen so quickly in the last century, it should be no surprise that these ancient traditions and fundamental belief systems have been called into question by so many. It should also be no surprise that the fundamentalists of all persuasions are hunkering down in their foxholes of dogmatic delight...fighting to their last breath to defend that which in many ways is indefensible in light of reason and enlightenment.

What many people don't realize is that the three main religions; Judaism, Christianity and Islam, are all based on ¨Abrahamic roots¨ and share more in common than all the other religions throughout the world...since all three are monotheistic. All other religions tend to be differentiated by being pantheistic. ¨Pantheism is the view that everything is part of an all-encompassing immanent God...not a personal one.¨ Apart from these religious persuasions, the balance of the world are basically secularists or humanists who don't have much time or interest in contemplating the existence of God.

While I have found friendly, agreeable and reasonably bright people among all these religions...I have to admit that the longer I live and learn, the more I lean towards embracing secularism. It just makes more sense and contains more reality from my life experiences. I know, it is difficult for the average believer to give up their fundamental leap of faith to explain the mysteries of life...but if you take out that which you cannot prove from most of these religions...they end up basically being interesting stories of mythological proportions. Not something worth fighting...or worse yet dying...for.

Yet, the reality is...much of the world IS fighting and dying for their belief systems. I could quite understand wars and conflicts over usurping of borders or against tyrannous leaders and governments who try to overrun the general masses, but to fight someone just because they believe in a different god or have a different ¨world view´ than you seems quite the vacuous reason for going to battle.

Everywhere we turn, we read and hear the calls to battle. In most cases it is a battle for the mind...a battle to define what life is all about and what it means. More and more shallow heads are hearing voices and killing ¨infideles¨ or performing ¨honor killings¨ of friends or family members in their fundamentalist communities who don´t tow the line of fundamentalism. If they don´t literally kill them, they cut them off socially and create more divisions and disillusionment with life in general. As we have discussed before, hypocrisies abound with continued aggression and lack of rights towards women and children in the name of Allah or Christ. Women are still forced into marriages they don´t want while men of their faith can have multiple wives or partners. Minor children are forced into early marriages to much older men...all in the name of their ¨god¨. Religious politicos try and rationalize why women who are raped should not seek abortion or have that choice. Only men and courts do in most jurisdictions. It is truly a perverse religious world to live in.

Even Statism is turning into a religion worldwide where flags and constitutions are brandied about in another form of blind faith and adherence. If someone attacks ¨our¨ land or ¨our¨ country, we blindly react to it as a personal transgression without asking if somehow the attack was in response to our own government´s aggression or faults. Somehow we need to maintain balance of perspective if there would be any chance for global peace. A balanced global view and being slow to war would be the first step towards achieving this as individuals.

Religion and Statism are strange bedfellows...but together they seem to have billions of people subjected to the will of a few manipulative leaders. The worlds masses are growing faster than the dissemination of education and rationality. The programming in churches and schools are more often than not tainted with fabrications and half truths...designed to manipulate young minds into carrying on century old feuds and fables. Few people question their institutions...their President or their priest. The few that do usually do it very quietly or not at all...unwilling to stand up for the truth or knowledge they have gained that the masses have not. Fear of truth (by those that hear it) is what kills the messenger(s).

I grew up in a fundamental family religion that taught me I should be prepared to sacrifice and even die for my religion. It is ironic that I now find it more painful and isolating to stand for NO religion. I am in no mood to live or die for a religion based on what I have experienced and observed. I am not into fear and guilt manipulation. Yet, I believe in coming years many people will die standing AGAINST religion. States and religions are growing hand in hand to keep individualism and freedom from overrunning their influence. Most people will not have the backbone to speak up for reason and sanity in this religion infested world. Those that do will often be spat upon, rediculed, ostracized, and yes...even killed...for not going along and ¨drinking the Koolaid¨.