Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Privacy rights...

I received the following content from the Sovereign Society today and decided to pass this important perspective on via my blog. These are things you may not know--and may not want to hear. In my opinion they are fundamental to our personal and national freedoms based on constitutional rights...

Let’s start with a freedom quiz:

Did You Know …

1) The U.S. government uses your travel records to create a “risk assessment” profile, to decide if you’re a security risk and whether you’ll be allowed to travel?

2) The government can access your prescription drug records under their “Prescription Drug Monitoring Program”?

3) President George W. Bush’s wiretapping and communications surveillance has not gone away, but been expanded under President Obama?

4) The Patriot Act is unconstitutional and allows government agents to secretly access any financial information about you they want?

5) The FBI and the U.S. military admitted to obtaining information on thousands of U.S. citizens without the search warrants that the Fourth Amendment requires?

Even More Snoop Power, Coming Soon

The Obama Justice Department is trying to convince federal courts to extend warrantless surveillance powers beyond even what the Patriot Act provides.

The government now wants free access to ALL private e-mail and Internet browsing records and pending legislation in Congress may do exactly that.

Including those who are not suspected of any wrongdoing! And without any warrants, or judicial supervision of any kind!


Libertarian columnist Glenn Greenwald writes, “It is unsurprising that the 9/11 attack fostered a massive expansion of America’s already sprawling Surveillance State. But what is far less understandable, is that this growth shows no signs of abating even as we approach almost a full decade of emotional and temporal distance from that event…Simply put, there is no surveillance power too intrusive or unaccountable for our political class provided the word ‘terrorism’ is invoked to justify those powers.”

Americans, of all people in the world, should be ashamed of themselves if they are willing to stand by and watch their hard-won freedoms diminish … or disappear.

'What Do I Have to Hide?'

This question infuriates me.

It’s bad enough when the government asks, but worse when free people ask themselves.
I’ll answer for both.

The government, wanting surveillance of your finances and every other aspect of your life, reasons: “If you aren't doing anything wrong, what do you have to hide?”

Here’s your answer – to the government, your friends who don’t value their own privacy and any other askers:

Privacy is an inherent human right. It is a requirement for maintaining the human condition with dignity and respect.

Why do humans clothe their bodies? Why do we live in houses? Is not privacy central to just about every aspect of our lives?

Do you share your finances with everyone you meet? Do you spill every secret thought that goes through your mind to the next stranger who walks by?

So isn’t privacy a very intimate part of who we are?

And if we wanted our e-mails read by anyone other than the person to whom we’ve written them, wouldn’t we instead blog or “tweet” them to the world?

Personal Freedom vs. Government Control

The real choices are personal freedom and liberty versus government control of our lives and our fortunes.

Tyranny -- whether it arises under threat of terrorist attack, alleged solutions to banking problems or under any other form of scrutiny -- is still tyranny.

Liberty requires security plus privacy.

Widespread surveillance, whether by police or nosy bureaucrats, is the very definition of a police state.

It is up to us to champion our privacy. Personal and financial, even (and especially) when we have nothing to hide.

The Government Already Has All the Authority it Needs to Fight Real Crime

The truth is that government really doesn’t need these enormous policing powers.

Under the U.S. Constitution and laws, government already has authority to investigate and prosecute anyone it has probable cause to believe has committed, or is planning to commit, a crime.

It also has authority for surveillance of anyone it has probable cause to believe represents a foreign power or is a spy. Even if the person is not suspected of any crime.

And honestly, these ever-expanding police powers that destroy our liberty and privacy likely won’t increase our safety. Yet, they’ve destroyed our constitutional rights.

When I was 15-years-old, I swore my first oath to support and defend the United States Constitution when I served as a young page in the House of Representatives. And I took that same oath to uphold the Constitution as a member of Congress (a Republican and a conservative).

Every congressman and senator currently serving has also “sworn their allegiance.”

Knowing this oath, how can we explain Congress’ continuing support of unconstitutional laws? Laws like the Patriot Act destroy guarantees against unreasonable search and seizure.

My answer: fear. It's not justified fear of "terrorism" -- but cowardly fear of politicians not getting re-elected. Politics rules, and to hell with the U.S. Constitution!

Faithfully yours,

Robert E. Bauman JD
Former Congressman from Texas

A couple famous quotes in closing...

“Those who desire to give up freedom in order to gain security will not have, nor do they deserve, either one.”--Benjamin Franklin

“The cost of freedom is always high, but Americans have always paid it. And one path we shall never choose, and that is the path of surrender, or submission.”--John F. Kennedy

"Nations grown corrupt
Love bondage more than liberty;
Bondage with ease than strenuous liberty."
~John Milton

"Liberty has never come from the government. Liberty has always come from the subjects of it. The history of liberty is a history of resistance." ~Woodrow Wilson

"I believe there are more instances of the abridgment of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments of those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations." ~James Madison, speech, Virginia Convention, 1788

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Driving your own bus...

One of my fundamental beliefs in life is “cause and effect”. I believe our lives, circumstances and conditions of the times are all based on “causes and effects” of thoughts and actions passed down in some cases for millenniums. The main difference…and for me a proof of God as a higher power…is the ability of man to reason and change based on that reason. How is it that our species in the chain of the animal kingdom came to have such power and enlightenment compared to the other living creators of this world? Was it all really chance…or is there a source and purpose to everything that happens in time and space? Of course, there are no really simple answers to these questions unless you just choose to accept a simpleton’s outlook on the subject and don’t want to do the hard life’s work of thinking and sorting things out from YOUR perspective and experiences. In my view, a mind is a terrible thing to waste…but many of us do…on a daily basis. I do some days…and abhor it.

What seems to be some of the biggest perplexities for our existence is sorting out “good and bad”, “right and wrong”. Most of the world’s religions and a huge percentage of the world’s literature is focused on explaining and instructing us what “right and wrong” is. I embrace the idea that we should read as much history as possible…as long as it is verifiable…to get instruction on the cause and effect of right and wrong decisions. I don’t think life has to be as complicated as we humans try to make it. I think two plus two equals four now…just as much as it did thousands of years ago. Once a human mind understands those core mathematics I think he is able to deduce logically most any issue or decision needed in his daily life. Of course as life goes on the equations become more complicated. We have many more choices to make…and we start understanding the gravity of our choices.

In some cases people get frozen in fear and intimidation to make decisions for themselves…because they start understanding the gravity of making the wrong ones. And somehow most humans eventually learn to “pass the buck” and not make any decisions for themselves, preferring the “safer” route of letting their families, religions or governments make most of their determinations in life for them. Instead of questioning, doubting or making bold changes, most humans simply fold under the pressure of the majority…living for the “greater good”, whatever that means. These people will never solve the puzzle of life or get where they want to…because their math is faulty and they refuse to go back and analyze or fix where they went wrong in the equation. I personally was not a good math student…but life has revealed to me that you can’t move forward sometimes until you backtrack and take note of where you went wrong…and learn from it.

Now that I have lived over half of a century…which really is insignificant in the light of time and space of this world…I feel I have a small glimpse of cause and effect and its effect on our continual evolution. I have been lucky to be born in a place and time where I was taught and encouraged to read and think. I was encouraged to be adventurous and try new things. Compared to most people, I have probably become an addict to adventure and change. Time will tell whether that was a good or bad thing…but for the moment let’s call it “good”. Even us simpletons (compared to many intellects I have read or observed, I feel like a simpleton) have our, as Gomer Pyle would put it…, ”Shazaam” moments. You know…those moments when a thought or experience totally jolts you into a new awareness or changes your direction in life?

One of those fundamental “Shazaam” moments in my thinking is realizing the freedom we each have to choose that which is “good”. I’m not talking about some “subjective” good, or some innocuous, flighty fantasy or bland utopia. I’m talking about objective cause and effect choices we make every day at most every moment with every person we intersect with. The “power of one” I often write about is that choice to be positive or negative. To be confirming or critical. To notice the beauty or the ugly. To notice difference or commonality.

We have this inverse or maybe even perverse way of thinking where we live for distinction and independence, fame and fortune…and yet most of our thinking and actions are about “fitting in” or “being accepted by others”. We have the need for individuality, yet we also have a craving for acceptance and love from others. I actually see these dichotomies as the “poetry in motion” of life. How do I find the balance of pleasing myself and pleasing others?

I actually think this cause and effect is most evident in parental relationships with your own families. On one hand, you want to have a lot in common…and see shared values…among those you live with. You want your kids to have the same advantages or MORE than you had. You want them to be a “chip off the old block”…yet, you also want to see and support distinction. You want to take pride that your kid or your friend is the BEST at something…yet you also want them to understand or participate in what is meaningful to YOU. I think the hardest thing to do in life is learn to let go and accept difference with those you love the most. Or to accept distance from someone you USED to be very close with. These are the human tragedies that we all grow up experiencing…and reliving constantly through our movies and soap operas. It is this constant conflict between intimacy and loneliness. Desiring to be attached to something or someone…and the next minute wishing you could have some time alone and just focus on YOU. Life is full of these conflicts and choices…some of our choosing and some that simply confront us whether we want them there or not.

As I consider my friends and family who have influence in my life and then try to understand at a higher level the relationship between God and Man…I think there are some interesting parallels to contemplate. Much of my imagination about who I am and what I think comes from those I grew up with in my formative years. I can no more cut that out of “me” than I can cut off some part of my body that I may or may not necessarily appreciate. Even in my limited knowledge of genetics and evolution, it seems obvious to me that cause and effect of where we live, with whom and what activities we choose determine much of our physical and mental makeup. If we eat to access without adequate balancing physical activity, we are going to get fat. If we obsess about any particular person, religion, sport or activity…our identities, minds and conversations are going to have limited breadth or appeal to the broad range of the human race or our own personal growth in understanding. It’s hard to find that balance between “specialization” and “generalization”…but who we are and who we become are all about the decisions we make in that balancing equation.

Wow…how do I sum up all of these thoughts? Basically what I am trying to say here is that the power we have in life to grow and evolve is dependent on our choices. We can choose that which makes us independent or dependent. We can choose to believe what we want to believe…whether it agrees with our human reasoning and those around us…or not. If we see ourselves as simply a “cog in the wheel”, that is probably what we will be. If we see ourselves in the driver’s seat of life, we will probably do the driving. If we are content to ride along…we will just be a passenger…and have no responsibility for where we end up. Not everybody can drive and not everybody can ride…and I am growing to think that is OK. It has to be ok…because that is the way it is based on “cause and effect”. Not everybody has learned to “drive their own bus”.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Its the climb...

(version en espanol... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gzWW7O4AzzY )

OK...don't laugh at me, but I stumbled upon this Miley Cyrus video today and LOVED the song. While I might prefer hearing Sting or maybe Beyonces voices on it...a good song is a good song. The lyrics were the best thing...

That dream I am dreaming
But there's a voice inside my head saying
"You'll never reach it"

Every step I'm taking
Every move I make feels
Lost with no direction
My faith is shaking

But I gotta keep trying
Gotta keep my head held high

There's always gonna be another mountain
I'm always gonna wanna make it move
Always gonna be a uphill battle
Sometimes I'm gonna have to lose

Ain't about how fast I get there
Ain't about what's waiting on the other side
It's the climb

The struggles I'm facing
The chances I'm taking
Sometimes might knock me down
But no, I'm not breaking

I may not know it
But these are the moments that
I'm gonna remember most, yeah
Just gotta keep going

And I, I got to be strong
Just keep pushing on

'Cause there's always gonna be another mountain
I'm always gonna wanna make it move
Always gonna be a uphill battle
Sometimes I'm gonna have to lose

Ain't about how fast I get there
Ain't about what's waiting on the other side
It's the climb, yeah!

There's always gonna be another mountain
I'm always gonna wanna make it move
Always gonna be an uphill battle
Somebody's gonna have to lose

Ain't about how fast I get there
Ain't about what's waiting on the other side
It's the climb, yeah!

Keep on moving, keep climbing
Keep the faith, baby
It's all about, it's all about the climb
Keep the faith, keep your faith

This song is written by someone who understands some of my personal philosophical criteria. Life is full of conflicts, highs and lows, good luck mixed with bad luck, and running into a mixture of good and bad people. Often times it seems just as we were going to "arrive" in life to some fulfilled dream or destination, something happens to take us down a few steps. Many of us never find total contentedness or satisfaction in our accomplishments or experiences. The more we have, the more we want. The more we achieve, the more we want to achieve.

This past couple of years has been very tough on many of us. Many friends and family members have lost jobs, lost their houses to financial devastation, or lost loved ones more permanently. A song like this one represents to me the motivation and meaning in overcoming our obstacles and pain. No matter our age or position in life...we each have options on how we are going to view or react to life's circumstances.

I have been fortunate in my life to have many examples of people close to me who exemplify overcoming heartache and disappointment...or financial ruin...and finding a way to rise/climb above the pain and disappointment to live even better, more meaningful lives. It seems to me the first challenge is having a vision or goal. I get concerned when I ask people what their goals or objectives are and I see that "deer in the headlights" look in their eyes.

The key to living life to the fullest in my experience is keeping your focus on your dreams and ambitions and an open mind. Problems or hardships should be looked at as challenges or signs to go a different direction. If there is no new direction evident, we just have to find a way to climb over those obstacles. If we think and do hard enough...we will find a way. And the joy will be..."the climb".

Monday, August 16, 2010

The Latest Religious Wars

There is a significant conflict brewing over the establishment of a Mosque near the site of the former "World Trade Towers" taken out by terrorism in 2001. There is spin on both sides of this equation. There are extreme views that America is a "Christian" nation though I have yet to see any writing in the constitution...or more importantly, actions over our nations history...that support that designation. I had always thought America was established by people and groups who were escaping state sponsored religion in favor of freedom to worship God as they individually saw fit.

It also seems insensitive on the part of the estimated 7 million Muslims in America to desire a Mosque at that location. Perhaps their motive is to establish the fact that they too lost many followers in that terrorist act and share in mourning. Perhaps their motive is to underline their constitutional rights to peacefully practice their religion as US citizens equal to any other American. I don't know their motivations...and not sure any commentators I have read or heard on this issue do either. Yet, the beauty of my country used to be at least in theory that all religions and cultures rights were protected, even those in the minority. We have not always practiced that...but it was the ideal our country was built on.

I may be naive, but I don't see religious or political war over these isms to be the answer. I don't see American style Christianity as the nations religion, and I don't think the original Christian would have fought Communism and Jihadists with military solutions or drawing geographic borders. The origins of Christianity was community building through peaceful means and messaging tied to ideas and actions based on faith that were not exclusive or "membership" oriented. Yes, there was a call for decision on which "teacher" was to be followed, but it was not about religious institutions or campaigns as we know them today.

I think the fears or symbolism of Mosques at ground zero are taking away from the main issue or conversation. Its interesting that even the Jewish mayor Bloomberg is supportive of that project. While in principle there should be no government or religion supported building at ground zero, I believe that America's commercialism and constitution will continue to water down extremism on all sides of the religious equation. Build a Christian or Jewish church next to the Mosque...and let people decide which they want to identify with or completely ignore. Better yet, why not a "mall" of religious locations representing all the main religions of America? If they have the money to buy that property...anyone should be able to do whatever they want with it as long as it is not against the Constitutional rights of the rest of society. It won't make much difference in the next 100 years of the human condition. People will continue to use "God" and religious symbols to bolster their rationalizations on life and liberty. Meanwhile, secularization will continue to dominate the masses even if their underpinnings are religious in nature.

Life in reality is more about Maslovs heirarchy of needs than what it says in the Bible or the Quran. My hope is that in time the true message of the founder of Christianity will be realized and that the brotherhood of man will finally begin its reconciliation one to the other. Religion overall has had a dismal performance record on this.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The battle of "Good" and "Evil"

I grew up being taught that life in this world is underpinned by an invisible spiritual battle between forces of good and evil...God and the Devil...or even the lower and higher natures within each of us. My experience in life has taken me to a little different understanding of this issue...

The battle of good and evil carries on at many different levels. I'm not sure the forces are so "invisible" as many religions portend. I think most of the battle is for the MIND...the intellect. We humans are still trying to overcome MILLENNIUMS of manipulation and dark thinking. For me, bad/evil spirits and forces come from bad/evil thinking and manipulation. It usually is manipulation by the rich of the poor, the rulers over the governed, or simply the educated over the non. All of these backgrounds go together at some level to create good and evil, dark and light, freedom or oppression, right versus wrong. "As a man so thinketh in his heart...so is he". Unfortunately most people have multi-generations of wrong thinking in their backgrounds and in their hearts. That can best change when we are young. After age 40 or 50...you aren't going to change much of anyone's way of thinking...or believing. We are positive or negative, bitter or sweet, hopeful or fatalistic...usually based on our genetic and environmental backgrounds/upbringing. From that understanding we need to view and understand our differences and those opposed to our views. It also helps us understand why negotiations between leaders older than 50 years old will rarely create much change or flexibility in viewpoints or position. Wars and religions are perpetuated by these extreme traditions of finding difference instead of commonality. We need to shed these layers of history and "cultural" (mis)understandings before we can truly embrace and welcome everyone into the brotherhood of man.