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.

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.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Trusting in Hypocrites

The hardest and longest lesson in life is learning how not to believe in hypocritical leaders. Unfortunately that turns into a life of significant mistrust and questioning most everything that is passed down the pike.

So much of our lives are taken up with trying to figure out our positions on life's institutions...governments, religions, non-profits, NGOS...everyone seems to have hidden agendas in this world. Until we can sort it all out...if ever...we are better off being very scrutinous and paranoid about what we see and hear from media and power mongers tied to these institutions.

In light of many of my past blogs on similar subject matter, I think I should make a clarification on my take on the institution of religion in case I have not been clear before. There is a difference between ¨faith¨ and ¨religion¨. I believe every person operates in their life based on some form of faith. We believe certain things to be true not because we know exactly how or why they are...but by our experience and limited understanding of life's mysteries, we make certain fundamental decisions of what we think based on ¨feeling¨ or sentiments beyond pure reason. Some things are beyond our reasoning we all make certain fundamental judgments about what we think or feel about that which we don´t understand. This form of faith is not bad and is fundamental to our human long as we don´t lose our objectivity.

In the case of other people, we tend to relate to them based on our attraction, commonality and/or past experience with them. The longer we know them and observe their consistency or lack thereof, the more we trust or believe in them...or NOT. At the same time we realize that people are not static and are subject to change. Change can be good or bad. In some cases people make choices that make them better or more valuable humans. In the case of many the opposite is unfortunately a reality. Corruption, destitution, anxiety, happens in life where people change unfortunately for the worse. Often times it is power that corrupts...and when that happens...well, ¨power corrupts absolutely¨.

Religion is primarily a way in which to institutionalize faith and/or an attempt to make our individual faiths conform to some centralized, socially acceptable way to think or feel about the unknowns in life. It is deemed heretical within religion to think or believe independently about most anything.

Fundamentally, I now see religion as one of the greatest manipulative forces in life to deceive and control the masses...and I reject being part of anything that divides and segregates mankind based on groupings of blind faith objectives. Religion is basically formed from the extreme sense of which humans strive to have power and dominion over other large masses of people, even within families, by sheer insistence that THEY are connected to the TRUE God. This is a heady claim.

Institutions devise dogmas and perform delusive acts of rewriting histories or worse yet fabricating emotional and ¨spiritual¨ manipulation through which we bring up children or poor, weak minded people to follow rituals and rites that have no real basis on reason to support them. This is not real ¨faith¨. This is outright deceit and delusion. It is amazing how anxious we humans are to believe what we WANT to believe when all around us is scientific and rational truths that contradict the dogma. Religions are blind...but we don`t want to see. It is too sad, and for most programmed humans impossible, to reconsider their false presuppositions. I know...I have been down that painful road.

The same manipulations and false reasoning are behind nationalism and patriotism. Just like faith...there is nothing inherently wrong with being proud about ones heritage, race or traditions. But, when that pride leads to exclusivity and delusion based on one race or nationality being superior over the other...then the ego of nationality, just like religion, has led to over-sizing the truth and creating all kinds of aberrational thinking about what it means to be part of any particular race or nationality.

We just completed the 2012 Olympics in London...and while it was exciting to see all the pomp and circumstance and the greatest talents of each country competing against each other in so many sports...there was also for me an ugly side to these competitions. The extreme nationalism and fervor over flags and patriotic hymns for me continue to support a false sense of pride in a majority of governments and institutions that seek to destroy or take credit for the very individualized efforts and talents these athletes have achieved. Countries or religions should not be given the credit for these superhuman feats. Individual accomplishment should...the human spirit if you will. constantly see these brainwashed yet talented performers kissing their crosses, crossing themselves to the heavens, and/or running around arenas draped in the flags of their countries. The more I understand the power of statism over our globe, the more I abhor these manifestations of statist pride.

I know...most of you probably feel it is quite OK to have national pride and to celebrate ethnicity. We all have strong attachments to our roots. Again, just like faith, I have no fundamental difference with that core value. The problem buying into the institutional aspect of this hook line and sinker...we end up carrying a lot of ugly filth and hypocrisy along with us. We aren't even conscious of it.

Very few individuals in history of the Olympics have stood up against their enslaving governments and tyrannical leaders. Lets face it, a majority of these competitors are NOT free individuals. They are limited by their passports and nationalities on where they can travel, who they can associate with and what they can think or least publicly. If you think Russians and the Chinese are free to come and go as they please, you are sadly mistaken. Only the rich and privileged are allowed that luxury. And how about those poor Cubans, Venezuelans or Arab state competitors? Do you think they have a choice about which flag they will carry or which God they will worship? How can we be proud and happy with these realities for these people? Yes, it is amazing what they do in the name of their god and country...but do we really need that association with god and country to appreciate the significance?

The world is increasingly based on the existence of ¨smoke and mirrors¨. There is very little absolute truth behind how people live. Life´s meaning and lifestyles are determined by media, institutions and cultural machinations that tell people how they will think, eat and live. Even money itself is an illusion. What is REAL money? What is it worth? Who is determining its value? Markets? Think again. Most all of us are living as slaves to institutional-ism. Very few of us ever reach a point of having enough ¨money¨ or knowledge to live truly free and individually. The chains of our minds are jerked around every 2 minutes by media, TV, radio, internet, billboards and magazines that ALL lie to us every moment of every day about what is real or truly significant.

We are trusting in hypocrites all of our lives...and becoming just like them. In general none of us are truly free...and we don´t even care. We have given up pursuit of self and settled for fitting in. We have traded in our dreams for the yoke of complacency and pleasure. We refuse to stand up and be counted for in any real way on what we think and believe. We avoid conflict at all cost...even when it costs us our freedom and sovereignty as a person.

I have come to the point where I don´t believe the world deserves freedom. We are not willing to pay the cost. We are not willing to take care of ourselves. We want socialism and absolute controls over all of life`s risks. We trust in the social welfare systems of our governments more than in ourselves. We are much more comfortable trusting in the Hypocrites to take care of us. We deserve what we get...which is NOTHING.

(...a late footnote. I cant help but mention the tremendous hypocrisy happening currently in the Julian Assange Wikileaks case. While he may not be the most likable, purely motivated guy on the planet, these Western governments pursuing prosecutions of him without trial or due process based on his outing government communications FULL of proof for these hypocracies of which we speak is obviously tainted with injustice and fabrications against him. And then in turn today, the USA government has the audacity to speak out against Putin and Russia for prosecuting some girl rockers for speaking out against the Russian government? Is this not obvious hypocrisy of the first degree? )

Monday, August 6, 2012

Just another face of evil...

One more blatant slap in the face today from the news about this white supremacist sicko who fatally shot 6 people in a Sikh Temple in Wisconsin. At least the authorities this time took out the perpetrator with a dose of his own medicine. I`m sure many institutions will once again be calling for banning guns and all other sorts of useless legal reactions to this hideous crime. My answer to that would be...I thought we outlawed racism and bigotry in America a long time ago, yet millions are still living in that frame of mind.

It seems to me it is about time the human race got down to some serious reprogramming about origins of evil and understanding racism. Most rational, educated people are going to understand and embrace difference and diversity in how various customs and cultures develop over thousands of years. Our melting pot culture of the last 120 years SHOULD understand and accept the rainbow of color and perspectives by now. Yet somehow, illiterate crazy people are coming up in relatively educated countries like ours who have no perspective or rational sense about the world at large. From crib to grave, these types of people stay in their pea-brained, embryonic state of infantile dysfunction where life is ¨all about me and my ego needs¨ versus having any understanding of other people or historic cultures. The sense of insecurity and outright hate for people different than ourselves is totally irrational and unacceptable in any civilization...even the Western one. The USA needs some serious introspection about what it is that spawns so many racially divided, non-inclusive mentalities whereby ¨white people¨...or people of ANY particular shade or color...would think they have supremacy over another race or creed. Are we not tired of this routine yet? It is quite obvious to me we have hardly evolved as humans since the founding of our once great country.

I would like to think that this sicko face of evil is an aberration from normality. Yet, as I go about my daily life, I am amazed by how many racial jokes and intolerant statements I hear about various races or religions. Even though I have fortunately grown away from organized religion, I still have to understand and accept the fact that a large majority of humans are religious by nature and upbringing. Since we are capable of so much thinking and rationalization...we have to come up with beliefs that answer the unanswerable, even if there is little substance to our beliefs. I am convinced we do this primarily because our egos do not allow us to live comfortably with ¨I don´t know¨. And then, when OTHER people come up with more rational, scientific ways of looking at big picture is just too threatening and defeating to admit we may be wrong. The reaction is HYPER dogmatism and escaping reality into circles of hate and fear such as this madman probably came from.

I think racism and religion are closely connected. People that hold racist views often hold religious ones as well. Most of the major religions are built around race and culture...and are divided by race and culture as well. This is not a criticism...just a fact.

In Judaism, you have two main traditions, Sephardi and Ashkenazi. These traditions are basically divided down racial lines.

In Christianity you have various divisions that are bred in different racial concepts. Most churches are made up of white, black, Hispanic or Asian segregated churches. Even in the melting pot which is the USA, you see very few truly integrated churches. If they believe in the same God, the same Jesus...why the racial divide? People of faith really need to do some introspection on this one in my opinion. The silence and hypocrisy is deafening to many unbelievers.

With Islam, the Sunni make up a large majority of the followers while the Shia are from a different cultural background for the most part.

I bring this up because I believe that whatever doesn't unite us divides us. My background is plenty full of the things that divide us...and religion is one of the BIGGEST dividers. I don´t believe God is behind this kind of division...and if he were I am not sure I could go along with him in good conscience. (please take this as intended...tongue in cheek)

I am still trying to figure out where this institutionalized evil comes from. The roots are long and deep apparently.

I am not saying it is abnormal to want to be with people of your own race or culture. In fact...what I am saying is that it IS normal and should be expected behavior. Yet...what I DON`T accept as normal is this seemingly vast acceptance of racism and mentality that everyone else is inferior to ¨us¨. Where does this attitude and pressure come from that somehow ¨our race¨ has to be superior or preferred over others? Where does the societal attitude come from that looks down on interracial couples and their children? Where does the narcism and ego come from that has us continually comparing ourselves with other races? The stereotypes are huge...and they lie.

I have lived long enough to see some poor people justify their poverty and make it out to be preferable over being rich...EVIL. I have lived long enough to see rich people guilt tripped about their riches to the extent where they gave all they had to some government or church who would protect them or promised them ¨eternal life¨...EVIL. I have lived long enough to see governments funded by the people turn their courts and armies against the freewill and sovereignty of those who gave them office...EVIL. I now live a life of quiet desperation pondering the question ¨how shall we then live¨?

I guess I will have to be content to be contrarily minded and dispel evil with my traditional songs of the 70s such as ¨Puff the Magic Dragon¨, ¨We Shall Overcome¨, ¨If I had a Hammer¨ and ¨I`d Like To Teach The World To Sing¨. I am real tired of these ugly white supremacist types being the ¨poster people¨ for my country.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Gun Controls

With this hideous mass killing in Colorado of innocent attendees at a movie theatre...once again the press is making a field day of this tragedy. Somehow, when these mass shootings in the USA happen, many in the press start heaping the blame on guns. I would like to simply start by pointing out, guns are programmed or shot by...willful human beings. Guns are not the culprit...people are.

How is it in our human condition that in this day and age we have come to the point where we cannot confront our own insane behavior or mental conditions...and continue to take out our wrath on inanimate objects? If you carry this logic very far, you start questioning the legality of knives or even basic tools that are used in construction and everyday living. Hell, you might as well start outlawing all the bad foods that people eat that kill more people every year than guns. Since it seems so impossible for the average human to learn and use these things the right way, this mentality says we really should have bigger government to control our access to guns, knives, basic saws, screwdrivers and hammers we use in everyday life. After all...people die everyday from irresponsible use of all these objects.

If you question that, just think of all the loose nuts and bolts of faulty auto parts that have caused thousands of deaths in collapsed construction or auto accidents. I think we should outlaw the use of those tools that have been so irresponsibly used in construction. Also...robots. Robots...programmed by people...have caused systematic failure in certain assembly line goods that have led to hundreds of accidents and deaths. Gas systems have been faultily constructed so that they caused leaks that kill hundreds of people worldwide in recent years. We should outlaw those terrible robots...and the tools that made them...for the great anguish and pain they have caused the human race. I know you are thinking I am sounding ridiculous now...but how different is this than the mentality of the article referred to above?

From a legal argument...lets focus on this from another angle. One of the most common bumper stickers I have seen on this subject over decades has been ¨if we outlaw guns...only outlaws will have them¨. I personally find significant reason to this sentiment. Laws are passed usually to protect the law abiding. People who don´t care about law usually don`t care what the law says or means. Do we REALLY think outlawing guns will keep bad people from getting them? Come on...get real. ¨ Illegal¨ drugs have been illegal for decades...yet any of us can find these drugs on any major American city street-corner in 5 minutes...if we know the right neighborhood to look in. How is that working for us...apart from making the prison industry one of the fastest growing industries in the USA?

I know some other people in the USA who think that only police and military people...tied to the government...should be allowed to have guns. Hmmm...I guess the historic wars including the USA´s own civil war of the 1800s and War of Independence were meaningless in guaranteeing freedoms and independence of all Americans to have equal rights...including the right to self defense and to bear arms in defense of liberty and justice? Or...are we suddenly so irresponsible and careless that having a gun means we are going to kill someone or have to use it against another person? I would argue that a vast majority of guns are NEVER used...and when they are it is on paper targets or occasional game hunting excursions.

Finally, as crass as some of my Liberal friends will find this statement...I truly think guns in a society as crazy as the USA is a solid deterrent for what happened this week in Aurora Colorado. If I was caught in such a hellaceous cross you think I would hesitate to use a firearm in defense of myself or others in that theater? Not on your life. The perpetrator would deserve no mercy...nor get any.

And excuse me for saying...but I find it very hypocritical of any American to question the legal rights of owning and using firearms in self defense within our country, while supporting our troops use of guns in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan or as we did historically here in Panama against foreign ¨enemies of State¨. We took the lives of thousands of innocent bystanders and citizens of these other countries. How are guns somehow more ¨moral¨ in those instances?

The morality of ¨firearms¨ to me is a very neutral topic. Like so many ¨things¨ in is how these things are USED that determines their morality. Therefore, it is the intent and mentality behind them that is moral or immoral...not the object itself.

Am I saying I love guns or the idea of having to carry one? Absolutely not. My feeling about guns are about the same as a car or shovel in the garage. I can kill someone with either one of those possessions. That doesn`t mean shovels or cars are moral or immoral. Lets get our thinking caps on straight.

And finally, I DO think it is important to teach people how to use guns responsibly. I thankfully grew up in an age where hunting and guns were normal everyday realities. My Dad taught me how to fire one at about 10 or 11 years old...and my favorite memories with him were hunting trips in Northern Michigan's woods where I learned many arts of ¨survival¨. A friend and I used to take our rifles or shotguns to school in our cars back in the early 70s to go hunting right after school...sometimes with our Biology teacher. I imagine those days are forever gone. It is sad when guns are now so demonized when the demons are basically a few bad humans in our midst.

So, do I want to return to the days of the wild wild west not so long ago where everyone carried guns for self protection since there were no police around in those places? No...I am happy to let public servants like my nephew and a niece who are police officers carry the load on that front. Yet...I also believe all free citizens in a society should have the right to bear guaranteed in the USA constitution...even if from time to time they are used for hideous crimes or for taking out aggression. When those people come along...I for sure want my own firepower. And morally, I will not hesitate to sad as that reality may be. To me that is more moral than being a helpless, unprepared victim.