Monday, December 30, 2013

The Warrior within Us: Learning to Fight and Choose Our Battles

This holiday I have been reading Steven Pressfield’s “The Warrior Ethos”. It has caused me to reflect on my own experiences with conflict and how we each deal with it differently. A majority of people in the world are quite passive in the way they live out their lives. Most go along with the cultures, religions and traditions they grew up in.  Very few are able to step out of their “roots”, learn to take risks or follow up on their whims for adventure.

As a student of history, it has been obvious to me that the “movers and shakers” of the world have generally been “warriors”.  These are people who are willing to lead or fight for change that they want…both for themselves personally and in order to effectively change a world they find unsatisfactory. From the early Viking explorers to Alexander the Great to American expansionism in the “New World”, it takes a culture or attitude of being a warrior to move peoples and cultures to change. To a large degree, the warrior ethos is what drives evolution and “survival of the fittest”.

While military people and their codes of honor tend to drive the warrior spirit in our cultures…I think most anyone who is successful or a “self-made” person has called upon an innate spirit of warrior mentality to get where they are. Life is a constant battle to impose self over the many powers and influences who strive to minimize individualism.  Change is the enemy of Statism and institutions.  It is individual minds, ambitions and actions that initiate change, therefore the constant pressures of these institutions to compel individuals to compromise and/or conform is understandable.

Warriors tend to band with other warriors…or find themselves in direct conflict with other warriors.  We see the manipulation of masses by “warriors” who want to enlist the power of the weak to reach their own ambitions. There are very few “benevolent” leaders or warriors though it might be a higher calling to be desired. Yet, most of us warriors are quite self-absorbed on how we apply that warrior spirit within us.

Wonder if you are a warrior…or not? I think there are a few basic questions to ask yourself.

· Do you like to lead or prefer to follow?
· Are you independent or a “team” player? (Do you like individual or team sports?)
· Do you blame others… or yourself… for shortcomings or failures?
· Do you have personal pride in your accomplishments or do you tend to give others the credit?
· Do you live with more pride… or guilt?
· Do you have more questions or answers about your future goals and ambitions?

I think there are successful and unsuccessful warriors. Successful warriors tend to have good causes that the masses will embrace and follow.  They always battle for a reason…not just spoiling for a fight.  They choose their battles carefully…aligning their emotions to their reasoning minds.  Bravado itself may win a battle, but hardly ever wins a war.  A successful warrior uses brain more than brawn…and understands his limits when it comes to resources or preparedness for a fight.  He will wait until the odds are in his favor.

Unsuccessful warriors tend to overestimate their own strength or underestimate the opposition. They are controlled by emotions, bravado and a certain amount of narcissism. They live battle to battle instead of having long term strategies or objectives.  They focus on the “trees instead of the forests”. Often times there is no purpose to their conflict beyond the drive to “win at all cost”.  It is ego before reason.  These negative principles are the foundation of all failed empires or poor leadership.

I think it is healthy to develop positive warrior archetypes within our families and cultures.  We often do so through athletic competition and development.  It is important for humans to develop their physical capabilities, coordination and confidence.  It is part of “natural selection”.  Normal people appreciate perfection and accomplishment and tend to despise weakness and fear.  Weakness and fear are not the code of survival or being a warrior.

Being a warrior is not only physical. Mental preparedness and education are equally or more important to developing a successful warrior ethos.  Steven Hawkins is a modern day example of exemplifying a warrior spirit mentally while being a quadriplegic bound in a wheelchair.  He has not shied away from taking contrary views about religion, science and culture while not being able to physically fight for his ideals and beliefs.  There are also too many examples of perfect physical specimens of humanity who seem to have no intelligence or mental prowess. Those who are lucky enough to combine the two often fall into lazy habits of taking their advantage for granted and do not retain their competitive edge in life because “things have come too easy for them”.  Complacency and too much success too soon can become the enemy of a successful warrior.

Ultimately, the successful warrior is able to apply lessons in battle to all areas of their life. It is interesting to observe how some military warriors leave the battlefield in “defeat” or at least not clear cut victory…and then live out that defeat in all other areas of their lives. Some warriors have come back from the battlefield missing limbs and still find ways to fight and win in all future phases of their lives.  Others come back never having been wounded, but mentally retain a defeatist or fatalistic view of their future lives.  I have seen many of these former soldiers living homeless and penniless in American streets.  It is to me the saddest example of warriors who have lost a cause to battle for. They tend to escape to various substances instead of determining to turn their failures into victories.  It is a given that this is a very hard thing to do…take failure in stride and not count on others to lift us to a level of self-acceptance or dominance.

I think most people have some level of “warrior ethos” within them.  Unfortunately, most have not been encouraged to “fight” for who and what they wanted to become.  It is easier to let others or circumstances dictate our lot in life to us.  Some of us believe in mysticism and “luck” when it comes to our conditions in life.  Others of us believe in “cause and effect” ruling the day.

While I have never fought in the military or for a “patriotic” cause…I believe I have fought my whole life for having freedom of information, choice, integrity, and yes…paying the price or taking the credit for my failures and victories.  No one wins ALL the time.  Very few wars have been fought where one side won every battle.  The key is knowing your objectives…and realistic odds of reaching them. If we stay true to the realistic, surviving instincts within us…we can then use our warrior spirit to push ourselves forward to win the war that is our life…and take our losses in stride.

For me, “Semper Fi” begins with self before it can extend to other warriors. 

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Wisdom from Ray...

I continue to believe in the power and meaning of words. Reading and writing of course are our closest sources to those powers...but spoken words at the right time and place have a way of changing lives...often without the speaker being conscious of the effect their words had on the listener.

I have been fortunate in my life to be around many well spoken and thinking people.  I haven't always come out agreeing with everything some of my mentors have said or believed...but I have always thought that if someone's actions back up their words...well, that is the basis for personal integrity.

I woke up this morning remembering a "pep talk" from one of my early mentors in life, Ray Clendenan. Ray passed a couple years ago, but his daughter, Connie, continues to be a lifelong friend and their family has spent decades working with troubled teens and orphans through a valuable concept called "Teen Ranch". I have no idea how many thousands of young lives they have positively impacted with a sense of family, direction and guidance where original families or parents were incompetent or unable to provide for their offspring.

Ray was helping promote one of my traveling bands in the late 70s...and he was great for solving complicated problems with simple and solid reasoning...wisdom.  Our young band of minstrels were just starting a year long tour and already discovering the conflicts that arise when 8+ people live together on the road for long periods of time.  He observed some of these conflicts early in our tour and since I was managing this band of people, most of whom were older than me, he quietly gave me and the band some basic advise and philosophy that has periodically guided me all these decades.

Ray said (paraphrased)...
The world we live in is a beautiful place.  It feeds us, inspires us, gives us a constant diet of awe at the power of nature. Yet, as we traverse this world we constantly run into problems.  Most of those problems are caused by other people.  If it weren't for people in our way, bugging us or contradicting us...our lives would be much easier. 
Sometimes its the people closest to us who cause the most trouble or hurt us the most. If we want to succeed in this world...we have to learn how to handle people in our lives.  We have to learn how to confront without being aggressive.  We need to learn to forgive even when people don't ask for forgiveness.  If we don't do those things, people will always be causing us problems and controlling our lives and emotions. We will always be REacting to people instead of controlling our own actions. 
Yep, people are a problem...but over time I have found that a soft answer turns away anger in another person. Over time love overcomes hate. Carrying resentment against people that have hurt us just builds walls and fills our lives with negativity.  The best way to overcome our problems is to love these people that cause us problems every day.  If we love and care about them, they will soon be less problematical. People respond to whatever energy you send their way.  If you are critical and resentful, they will tend to be critical and resentful back. If you accept differences as just being the way things are and that we don't need to agree on everything in order to care or get along...these problem people will become less of a problem. 
We all are different from each other...but one of our core choices everyday in this world is whether we are going to reject each other, or reach out to each other.  The more we reach out, the less we feel alone and the more we realize how much we all have in common.  I have found that it is very few times that you reach out to help or affirm someone that they won't respond in like manner.  When we start looking at problems as opportunities to grow, reach out and understand our differences...that is when we start overcoming our problems. Our problems are based on our own limitations to reach out and affirm versus being critical and combative.  So, make your problems out to be opportunities to embrace and overcome the obstacles. If you do that, people become less of a problem...and more of an asset in your life. 

Obviously I am paraphrasing heavily from my own memory and interpretation of Ray's words so long ago...but I have often smiled at the memory of Ray's pep talk regarding "People are a problem"...and some of my greatest satisfactions in life have been when I have succeeded in making a problem into a friend, customer or confidant. The "problem" has usually started with me.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Government Pyramids

With the current debacle of "Obamacare" and many other BIG government programs that sap our country's economic and cultural it time to get real about what I call "government pyramids".

It seems in this "Neo-liberal" political era, most of our western "democracies" are going the way of socialism and extreme controls and regulations on just about everything.  The masses world over have for decades been ceding their personal rights and self sustenance in exchange for "security" and protectionism...often under the guise of "God and Country". Most people would now rather be kept within the borders of police states where there are no risks or cost for personal failure and if anything bad happens they can just sue someone else or get free handouts from "the government".

As I have quoted many times in my writings...our founding fathers of the constitution believed that "those who would give up their rights and freedom in exchange for security and protection deserve neither". Thomas Jefferson and others of that revolutionary era knew then the direction democracy can go if unchecked against the individual rights and sovereignty each citizen should have. We are now living at the tail end of that cycle where our empire is crashing and we individuals who value personal sovereignty are forced to live as rejects and recluses within or without our own country. They say it is dangerous to express our opinions on these matters of state...but I am one of many who have come to a point in life where we can no longer accept being victims of "government pyramids" or keep our mouths shut.

As most people know, a pyramid in financial matters is an organized approach to finance a business or sell products where the "first in" get huge commissions and benefits for getting others to buy and also sell the service or product of the day. These types of programs are usually based on highly inflated priced items or services that are "new" and or revolutionary...but often hard to buy directly in the marketplace. Usually one can only buy this product or service through this defined network of "associates" or agents who redistribute to everyone in their circle huge benefits and commissions for doing so. Towards the end of the "pyramid scheme", the last people in get the lowest amount of benefit and are usually left holding the bag of empty promises and bounced checks.

Modern day governments usually have many laws "protecting" their citizens from these pyramid schemes...but unfortunately what most people don't realize is that these governments themselves are some of the biggest pyramid programs in the world. The USA has the biggest government pyramid going...and the latest nationalized healthcare program is just the latest in a line of many. Unfortunately, this one could be the straw that broke the camels back.

Here are a few brief descriptions of government pyramids that are breaking our economy:

Healthcare Pyramid
As we gave already mentioned briefly, a large percentage of Americans are not embracing the new Government healthcare plan. Perhaps one of the first problems is calling the plan "Obamacare" which quite honestly gives way too much credit to our current president for the currently approved plan by Congress for covering ALL Americans.

While the intent to provide care for all Americans is an honorable idea, the problem is this plan has been falsely represented at all levels of government and overruns any chance for market driven innovation or competition on the healthcare marketplace. Many tried and true plans are being obliterated for SOME Americans in order for the government to provide SOME level of coverage for ALL.

To put American's huge medical and pharmaceutical demands on the back of a bloated, wasteful federal government seems an obvious recipe for disaster. This pyramid approach funnels too much money and controls through the sifter of big government budgets and bureaucracy. If anything, our healthcare system needs LESS bureaucracy and regulation. We need a plan that gives individuals more choices and more freedoms to provide or decide on their own healthcare.We need government incentives for living healthy lifestyles...not reward for continuing slothfulness. The coming wave of baby-boomers leaving the workplace and entering their years of more dependency on doctors, hospitals and drugs is going to overwhelm all the coffers of medicaid, medicare and private insurance plans. It is understandable that insurance companies are having to raise their rates in order to meet these demands. The federal government should be focusing on fixing the broken programs they already have and expanding them to the TRULY needy. Yet, the government now comes along claiming they are going to meet the nations healthcare demands with cheaper plans yet increased benefits...for rich and poor alike. This is just unrealistic.The mandatory participation clauses are particularly disturbing when Congress gives themselves exemptions to maintain their own government "Cadillac" healthcare plan which Congresspeople don't pay for...taxpayers do. This hypocrisy and poor leadership example must end along with this pyramid structure of financing.

Social Security Pyramid
If anything instructs us on the future of the government healthcare pyramid, you only have to look as far as the Social Security system. Social Security in the USA started back in 1935, primarily as a way to force American workers to save for their retirement. Being at the tail end of the country's worst depression ever, it seemed an easy sell to promise workers that their retirement would be secure by putting these funds away where they could not access them. Unfortunately, the government sponsors of this pyramid for decades these various "trusts" were raided by our government to cover various deficits and war debts over decades, leaving empty government securities in place of the cash we Americans all put in those "trusts".

Now the fundamental problems are that our currency has no basis of value that it had back in the gold standard days...and inflation and deficit spending have totally obliterated the estimates and numbers run back then on what it would take to ensure this trust for retirement. That very simply means that the buying power of your social security in future decades will probably be 25-50% less than what you thought it would be. For these reasons for 40 years I have not believed I will get what was promised for all my SS contributions. Either the funds will be denied me...or they will not be at a livable value in true currency.  The younger you currently are, the more screwed you are going to be from this pyramid. Yet, you are legally forced to contribute.  Terrible governance.

Military Pyramid
Ever since the end of World War II, the USA military industrial complex as grown exponentially, If you read the historian William Manchester or biographies of wartime Presidents such as the two Roosevelts,  Woodrow Wilson, Truman and Eisenhower, you can easily follow the government's mentality regarding the early decades of militarism in the USA this past century.  From the Potsdam conference at the end of WW2 until today we see the rationalization and justification in the eyes of our politicians for unlimited spending in most decades since. The rationalization has been that we don't want to see a World War 3, especially in this atomic age (which we started). Therefore most of us have gone along with our government's strategy that to contain the expansionist, tyrannic powers of Russia, China and others, we must control the world through continued empirical might backed by our military. Unfortunately, the consequence of our thirst for global controls has cost us a huge percentage of our country's GNP to where there's not enough tax revenues left to take care of our veterans, widows and orphans...let alone the rest of our booming population that don't seem to be able to get off the public dole.

Wikipedia has a pretty good summary of military spending at this link, so I won't repeat much data here. But just in general terms, our military pyramid spends almost 20% of the total federal budget...PLUS receives 50-60% of Congress' "discretionary budget. That ladies and gentlemen means in general terms that 30-35% of your tax dollars are spent by the military and Department of Defense (DOD) just to maintain our military commitments in over 160 different countries around the globe. This at a time when our country is basically bankrupt and we are LOSING or stalemated in every war we have entered since World War II!  This is a big price to pay for feeling "secure" and dominant in the world arena. I also don't think these numbers include all the collateral healthcare problems and loss of domestic production we pay for maintaining the current strategy of global domination. What would it mean to produce greener energy, more technology and biogenetic research for healthcare in place of all the bombs, missiles and soldiers outfits we have to produce each year?  For defense we could do much more with technology strategies and space oriented systems for more modernization versus foot soldiers, bombs and ammunition for hand to hand combat if we changed and limited the DOD budgets.

I don't go along with pure isolationism and total withdrawal from the international military arena...but we must soon come to our senses that we can no longer afford as a country or peoples to be majority funders and providers of troops and armaments all around the world. The Chinese and other contrary political systems are laughing at us all the way to the bank with the bonds they hold against our currency that goes to defend ALL THE WORLD. It is time to cut back, end this pyramid structure of funding, and get realistic about what it truly means to defend the "interests of the USA" versus maintaining power and influence outside our borders. We are NOT succeeding on this mission...and at great cost.

Federal Reserve System
The FED is the financial pyramid that operates separate from the federal government as the "Central banking" system of the USA. It was created back at the end of 1913 to basically control some market driven financial panics early in the century and was the government's way to try and smooth out the natural ebb and flow of free market currencies, inflation and to control to a certain extent consumerism. Most of the leadership of this organization is appointed by the President of the USA, and the Board of Governors is voted in by the primary national banks. All profits after bank interests are paid are sent annually to the US treasury.

The basic function of the FED has been to bail out or take over failing banks and attempt to keep stability in the US banking system. While not an actual part of the government, the FED has the power to control interest rates, print and distribute currency and be the watch dog over banking laws and policies including defending the value of US currency.

While the original ramifications and goals of this agency were understandable in the is another example of a government system that was setup to take care of an temporary emergency...and then uses this emergency to establish itself as the defacto controller of all things financial in our huge country. Since the establishment of this agency we have experienced many gyrations and false evaluations of our national economy.  All kinds of new debit has been established...and that debt has been covered temporarily by simply printing more worthless currency (with no commodity value), creating new debt paper programs that mask the true nature of the national debt via "credit swaps" and various inter-government currency agreements. Through this FED pyramid of monetary controls, our government has been spending and borrowing from this banking system without checks, balances or remorse since its founding.

Many leaders who look at this realistically, such as Representative Ron Paul, have been calling for more accounting and basically limiting or abolishing this "pyramid" so that we can return to more natural market driven economies and growth.  To assume that bankers or government politicians know better how to push or control markets than true business leaders is a huge mistake. What we need in place is a TRUE independent Central bank and a return to the fundamentals of market driven versus politician driven economies and money supply.

Welfare Pyramid
All of the aforementioned "government pyramids" are in one way or another responsible for the "Welfare" pyramid.  Welfare economics once again began in the USA during real times of TEMPORARY need in our country, but the more the government gave the needy...the more needy they became. This is now the major arm of government that provides "redistribution" from the producers to the non producers and has totally turned ethics and morals of economic survival upside down in our country.

I have no problem with having government funds used for disasters and taking care of the truly needy, sick, handicapped and veterans of war and their families. Unfortunately, government has always been the most IN-efficient way to cover local needs and disasters.

While the welfare state approach was originally intended to promote economic and social WELL being of its has actually simply encouraged citizens to rely on the government to take care of them financially, socially and medically. With all the promises made during elections, our politicians have turned those promises of redistribution and Neo Liberal "rights" into a mega pyramid of redistribution.  Millions of non incentivized  citizens are now conditioned to live off the welfare and backs of other citizens versus work and push for their own individual sufficiency. It is just easier to live off the pyramid than push for personal success.

Unfortunately, this is also bankrupting the country.
In 2002, welfare payments were 35% of total GDP in the USA. "In 2002, total U.S. social welfare expenditure constitutes roughly 35% of GDP, with purely public expenditure constituting 21%, publicly supported but privately provided welfare services constituting 10% of GDP and purely private services constituting 4% of GDP. This compared to France and Sweden whose welfare spending ranges from 30% to 35% of GDP.The Great Recession made a large impact on welfare spending. In a 2011 article, Forbes reported, "The best estimate of the cost of the 185 federal means tested welfare programs for 2010 for the federal government alone is nearly $700 billion, up a third since 2008, according to the Heritage Foundation. Counting state spending, total welfare spending for 2010 reached nearly $900 billion, up nearly one-fourth since 2008 (24.3%)". The previous decade had seen a 60% decrease in the number of people receiving welfare benefits, beginning with the passage of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act, but spending did not decrease proportionally during that time period.
As we continue on this road of pyramidal, deficit spending, we are fostering generations of dependent, helpless Americans who are becoming less competitive in the world, and clueless at home on how to survive, get and keep a job, or create their own products and services for future prosperity.

We need a paradigm shift on the role and funding of government programs. Instead of our government taking money into a pyramidal scheme of taxing and budgeting...building in layers and layers of administrative and macro management personnel and costs...we need to reverse that pyramid to where the "providers" and the truly dependent are more directly responsible to each other.

The following are my macro suggestions on obliterating each of these government pyramid schemes:

Healthcare: I believe we simply need to improve the systems and "safety nets" we already have.  Medicaid and Medicare have already shown the good and bad of government fostered and administered healthcare. To now bring in a whole new pyramid scheme of government controls on healthcare providers, users and costs is just to magnify and repeat the same cycle of insanity.  While the problem and answer is not simple, in general I believe it is better for government to support PRIVATE healthcare enterprise and let markets do the job of controlling pricing and choices of healthcare.  Before you start another healthcare system, fix the ones you have...or get rid of whats not working by replacement....not adding on more of the same. We cannot afford all those programs. There is just no money in the system for this. Who will be the first effective politician to lead us that direction?

Social Security: We need to restore integrity and true math to the Social Security system. People should be able to manage their own tax free retirement funds. This would keep the government from raiding those funds to cover their spending addiction...and the FED must stop printing worthless currency that immediately deflates the value of our future cash incomes. Future inflation is the greatest enemy of this outdated pyramid scheme. It is time for the government to repay those debts and be real with the people on the true future projections of THEIR money. This is not an "entitlement" from the government. It is a DEBT to those who paid in.  As people live longer but not producing...these promises to the people must be kept. Unfortunately, a government doesn't seem to have the same pressures as people or businesses in declaring bankruptcy or paying their debts.

Military: We need to pull back from the expensive strategy of "boots on the ground" in over 160 countries militarily. More focus and investment should be on technology development which will allow us to maintain surveillance worldwide but without the expense of expensive human resources spread throughout the globe. The USA needs to cut back on its "police state" attitudes both at home and abroad. We don't need it and we can't afford it. Bring our troops home to help with the domestic rebuilding or our own infrastructure and economies. These troops can be safer and much more productive at home.  Our military should be used for DEFENSE only...not interventionist and usually unwelcome invasions on foreign soils. Highly hypocritical of a "Christian" democracy.

Federal Reserve: We need to return to MARKET driven fundamentals for adjusting economic factors in our country. For politicos to think they are smarter and better than the markets to determine interest rates or who gets financial bailouts is simply stupid and naive. We need business leaders and true economists not politically motivated to work together for improving monetary policies that promote growth, access to financing to all who DESERVE it and not try to micro manage economic indicators for political purposes. There also needs to be more transparency to the electorate on what the true status is of our economy and where and to whom our banking system is catering to. We either have to replace this organization...or significantly reorganize and clip its wings of unmitigated power and control of our money.

Welfare Pyramid: It is time to reduce American's dependency on the "welfare state".  As a larger percentage of our population becomes government dependent financially, this leads to the worst of political corruption in the world where the voters support any politico who will GIVE them the most.  We need more Americans to "ask what they can do for their country" versus "what their country can do for them".  Yes, government should be there to guarantee rights and provide services they were elected to provide...but not one of. our country's founders envisioned the constitution supported the idea of Federal Government as the great agent of redistribution.  People who want to eat and have a roof over their heads need to WORK and be productive. Those who get handouts have to do something in return if at all able. People on welfare in my opinion should not be able to vote, because they will always vote for more "welfare" at no cost to themselves. If the state pays money to people, the people should provide some service to the state. Only the truly handicapped, disabled or aged should get a free pass on being a productive human supporting their own survival.  Socialism and increased welfare will never build a sustainable, strong nation of independent citizens.  The more united we Americans are in demanding justice and equality for all without catering to leeches and ner do wells...the sooner we will once again become the strongest economy and state in the world.

If we simply get rid of all these government pyramids that are totally unsustainable as well as terrible strategy and policy...we will be able to reduce the size of government by up to 50%.  Imagine what could happen in time if half of our taxes were returned to us to do something more productive than the government does with that money?  Imagine if we had enough money to take care of our own dependents in our families and communities directly versus filtering support to them through a money guzzling machine of Federal Government. Believe me, people would be much more responsible and accountable for the support they would get. What ever happened to personal pride and integrity in America where to take a dime of public support was deemed shameful and only as a FINAL option? Imagine the change that will happen when we all have more discretionary money for opening businesses, getting educations, traveling and enjoying the fruits of OUR labors. We truly can break these chains of Federalist dependence. These changes will not happen if we continue contributing to and living off all these government pyramid schemes.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

If you've never've never lived

This video is a great reminder that we should not measure ourselves or our aspirations by the limitations of others around us. The greatest challenge in life is to discover WHO you are, WHAT you want to do, and know WHY you are doing it. If we go through life accepting the limitations that our friends, families and institutions place on us... we will just continue living lives of "quiet desperation".

The greatest barrier to our personal success and happiness is the fear of failure. Our society does not treat "failures" very kindly, and everyone knows there is always someone better than us at just about anything we can think of doing. Its not about being BETTER than others. It is about being the best WE can be. That is all life demands of us...and life has a way of rewarding us for doing this.

In my mind, all the violence, addictions, senseless killings and general apathy of the human race can be traced to the inability or lack of support for pursuing our dreams. Many people never even get to the dream stage...let alone fulfilling them. They are too busy just up to the expectations of others or putting food in their mouths and roofs over their heads.

So far, I have been a lucky man...but have failed many times. What's your excuse?

Thursday, October 3, 2013


In the last couple decades, we have often heard on USA media the term "neoliberal" or "neoliberalism" used to describe certain politicians or policies being promoted in our government. I'm not convinced too many people really understand the meaning of the term...but I do think the reality of the concept affects our lives to the extent that a few paragraphs of commentary seem justified.

I think Wikipedia does a good job on explaining the origins and concept of the I won't repeat all that here. What I will summarize for you if you don't want to take the time for cross reference is the following:

  • "To be "neoliberal" means that a modern economic policy with State intervention is required"
  • "Neoliberalism ... isn't always ideologically neoliberal"
  • Economic neoliberalism is the most common form of neoliberalism, and is what is usually meant when a system is described as neoliberal. The best known proponent of economic neoliberalism is Milton Friedman.
  • Friedman was a "monetarist"...believing that an economy was best "controlled" through money SUPPLY. While initially opposed to the formation of the Federal Reserve, he eventually supported its use to prove some of his theories.

My focus for this topic are the real effects this approach to economics has caused in not only my country, but the world at large. I truly believe that the underlying causality of our global conflicts right now are based on conflicts caused by these economic policies and theories. Many of you will also be surprised when you hear my answer/opinion as to what changes should be made in reaction to the cause and effect of "neoliberalism".

The USA government is basically "bankrupt" and on a controlled "shut down" for lack of budget and funding this week. While this is serious and affects millions of lives in the USA and beyond, it should come as no surprise that this could happen. For me it is a direct "cause and effect" of neoliberal idealism that somehow a government or state cannot run out of money or be totally bankrupt.  Yet, this year we are seeing countries like Greece and Cyprus go upside down and their banking systems closed for long periods of time.  We see USA cities like Detroit and soon to be many others whose consumption has totally overwhelmed their resources.  The main problem is their voodoo economics and liberal theories on money supply are catching up to them.  There really is no such thing as "too big to fail" anymore.

The fundamental flaw of neo-liberalism for me is the idea that the role of government or "state" should be controlling economies and money supplies. It is a much purer concept to let individual people decide what forms of currency or exchange they prefer for services or goods...a "market" model if you will. During these days of irreversible "globalization", the state model of controlling or dictating currency and economic valuations is totally unrealistic. The USA is getting away with it FOR THE MOMENT because our currency is still accepted as the "de facto" currency of exchange in the world. Yet, I would argue those days are numbered based on our national debt and who holds the notes against our debt. When the day of a global or replacement currency will see the USA dollar fall significantly against many other currencies in the world. This will cause a major market restart and adjustments of global proportions...and yes, it will be the ruin of many programs and businesses built on the huge bubble of financial debt and corruption. I believe this day is coming in my lifetime or the next 15-20 years. The sooner it comes, the less devastation and time period required for rebuilding on a more solid economic foundation.

In this day of popular uprisings from the "Arab spring" to Brazil and other emerging market countries whose populations are up in arms...we are starting to see the FORCED adjustment of many states to respond to the demands of the masses. Neoliberal policies have for too long allowed governments to manipulate and milk their economies and money supplies to falsely hold up their fractured models of financial management to the demands of society. It has become quite apparent that these failed global leaders of state have no better clue than the pure markets themselves on how to regulate or manage their economies. Instead of sound policies and real world accounting...most government institutions have resorted to manipulation and legislation to control that which they cannot control...that being "supply and demand" that has historically controlled real world economics. Instead of a model of competition in the world where you have "winners and losers", these governments purport a model where if you just let them control all the money and economics...they will somehow guarantee that EVERYONE comes out a winner! Of course, we have seen the fallacy and results of these dangerous promises throughout history. Yet, voters world-wide have put their economic futures in the hands of rich politicos, lawyers and judges...most of whom have never produced anything financial in their lives outside of hourly billing fees. They have no ideas about building business; engineering, marketing, sales or true accounting. They only know how to tax and spend...for THEIR control primarily. This has to end if we want to stave off the global economic devastation that is coming as a result of these actions.

Many pundits from the conservative or Republican side in the USA are calling for a return to Reagan era economic policies...yet few realize this was a continuation of the landslide towards government controlled money supply and markets. That era was built on cronyism and the combined "corporate elite"/government partnerships that turned into voodoo economics. Sure, the markets went up wildly for a while...but there was nothing pure or "capitalist" about those economic times. Since then, when you add George H and George W Bush's handling of economics and national debt ratios...there can be no Republican bragging about balanced budgets or market driven economies. Democratic President Bill Clinton may well have been the only President since Eisenhower to balance a budget in office. And these are the types of people you want to put your financial future in the hands of?

So...what other choices do we have? What makes better sense? We definitely need to make some major changes and step back from the abyss of economic devastation our current leaders have us facing. For me it surprisingly comes back to some fundamental principles I learned in my "religious" upbringing. While I don't much believe in mysticism of the gods anymore...I do think there is significant value in core Judeo-Christian ethics when it comes to guiding human reasoning on money and business. There are reasons that Jews and other fundamentalists of Biblical persuasion have often been successful in building and sustaining least until it is "plundered" by enemies of such sound ethical management. 

Here are a few Biblical principles that I believe the world should return to in order to establish sound fiscal policies and a rebuilding of global wealth and well-being:

  • Maintain individual sovereignty over property and private domain:  Governmental rights to tax private property or to exercise "eminent domain" is a claim to deity over the people. (1 Samuel 8:10-18, 1 Kings 21, Ezekiel 46:18)
  • The Biblical method of attaining dominion in this world is through diligent LABOR. Power flows to those who WORK and SERVE, not those who steal and thrive. (Proverbs 10:2-4, 12:1.24, and 13:4,11)
  • The law of EXCHANGE is lies or deceit regarding your product or service. The golden rule of "do unto others as you would have them do to you" dictates fair trade and honest valuation of exchanges...whether that be in goods or in currencies. No "winners" and "losers". No coercion. Just fair play. (Leviticus 19:35-37)
  • a commodity and is supposed to represent HARD ASSET values.  Otherwise, it is meaningless in the long run as a measurement of wealth. When governments are the sole suppliers and regulators of currencies, they act as counterfeiters of the money system. Inflation is against Biblical principles. Inflating currency is theft. (Proverbs 11:1,  Micah 6:10-12, Amos 8:4-6)
  • Biblical charity never subsidizes irresponsibility. We are to take care of the truly needy in our societies...but we are not required to reward slothfulness. Even recipients of charity must perform some work or charity of their own. (1 Timothy 5:10, II Thessalonians 3:10)
  • Charity is to be administered locally and personally...not through third party "brokers" or governmental agencies. This is another form of "corruption" where governments control the poor (and their votes) through distribution of handouts.  A major ethical flaw in governing. (The bulk of Old Testament tithing was administered by the giver...not a church or government "fund". Numbers 18:24-28, Deuteronomy 12:10-13)
  • Debt and lending was never for more than a seven year period. Collateral of some kind was usually expected. Loans were never given to people who already had their own resources. After the loan expired, all debt was forgiven...but probably no new loans were forthcoming. We need to as much as possible eliminate debt in the system. (Deuteronomy 15, Exodus 22:26-27)
Slavery has always been part of religious systems, usually based on traditions and lineages of wealth or poverty. It was more of an economic based slavery than on race or skin color. Biblical laws provided motivation and ways in which poor slaves could drive themselves OUT of slavery. Unfortunately, one could argue that most of today's global population is now living under "slavery" to their nation/states and are paying the price for their "relative security" away from "risky" free market enterprise.

Absolute economic controls are an impossibility without totalitarianism. You cannot have constant wages, prices and employment without some form of totalitarian government in place. We are now seeing this neoliberal assault through our governments in an attempt to legislate morality and redistribution of wealth. The last government to come close to truly executing stable prices, wages and employment was...Hitler's rule over Germany. "You are trying to control people's wages and prices - peoples work. If you do that you must control people's lives. And no country can do that part way"...Herman Goering, Hitler's economic planner.

Unfortunately, only 70 years since that last great war over totalitarianism...the masses of today's world have forgotten the price and the pain of living free. The powers that be have successfully scared us into compliance of their legislated moralities and justification for their power. This last restart of statist power brokering began at the "Potsdam Conference" of the superpowers at the end of World War 2. Since then, most of us now live in "police states" where our every move and financial transaction can be monitored. measured and taxed. Most Western governments have talked us into income taxes and property taxes where our combined tax rates are anywhere from 50%-90% of our productive incomes. We are deemed to be "good citizens" if we comply and go along with this tyrannous practice of redistribution and paying our government leaders to "protect us".

Of course, these taxes are not enough to support the "demand" or "need" in addition our governments are printing inflated currency like there is no tomorrow to stave off the true accounting and avoid the "cause and effect" of these neoliberal policies on money and economics. They are also constantly propagating wars so as to justify their huge expenditures from the public "dole" on armaments and prisons. The "drug" wars we have often written about are a perfect way for governments to grab illicit gains from users and "drug runners" alike. Billions of dollars in cash, homes, cars and other goods are absconded each year worldwide based on these nefarious morality laws...while they continue to back the pharmaceutical production of "legal" barbiturates and narcotics that kill or attract more addicts year after year. All of this with the allure of providing a safety net for the common man to live peacefully and "freely".

It is going to be a very painful, long process to get back to traditional, ethical, realistic living. I do think in time technology will provide many answers to these issues. distribute TRUE information and reason to the masses outside of the statist media controls on information all governments try to administer. From there I am betting technology will lead the way for revolutionizing our monetary systems. We HAVE to get these governments and "Federal Reserves" out of the business of money supplying and manipulation of economies. We must give sound business and accounting principles a chance to revive. We must return to small business, free enterprise and locally organized ways to help the truly needy. We must educate the masses that there is no true freedom without economic freedom. To enslave us all with income or property taxes of over half our lifetime production is insane and irrational. To tax or take away our estates from being passed on to our children and our children's children...just because you cannot balance a simple government budget and must insist on deficit not constitutional in the USA nor justifiable anywhere.

I don't think we need "God" to solve these problems...but I do think some traditional "godly" ethics are urgently required. Obviously "neoliberalism" in government is not providing a sustainable answer.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Conditional Democracy

We live in an era of public outcries against the majority rule of the people. We have the recent overthrow of the Egyptian President less than a year after his election by the majority of voters in that country...albeit a slim majority. We have a lot of negative pressure on the USA President in his first year of office after re-election. He can't seem to please anyone with his lack of consistency and leadership on the major issues of the day...from Syria to Egypt to domestic taxation and healthcare.

The globe is increasingly caught up in the turmoil of national versus individual sovereignty. Strong and free individuals want small government that works for THEM.  Unfortunately, the weaker masses fall prey to big government programs and promises where they are lead to believe their "nation" will take care of them if they work for/support the national government.  At the same time the world has few examples of objective governments who truly serve all the people. It doesn't take much education to realize that in the last 60 years...basically one lifetime, mine...governments worldwide consume more and more of their constituents GDP than ever before in the history of Western Civilization.

In order to stave off the truth and reality of big government mismanagement of the wealth they do not produce...governments like the USA develop various organizations and middle layers full of additional false hopes and promises that grow for decades until the ugly reality of their ineffectiveness hits the world (and markets) like a hardball to the groin. It is easy to see this in organizations like the "(non) United Nations", the SEC, the Federal Reserve...and many others who manipulate and cover-up the realities of our global problems. Using political, monetary and military force, most big governments of today are about controlling and consolidating power over its constituents/citizens. When you start connecting the dots of the money flow between and inside these "governmental agencies", you start smelling the stench of decades of governmental corruption, filth and the buried corpses of truth and righteousness. The costs of our "false democracy" are directly related to both the USA national debt and the average personal indebtedness of every American. We have built a democracy based on consumerism and false images.  We allow the major media companies to fill our minds with mundane or hyped jingoisms about what to think or believe instead of providing us true analysis and in-depth coverage of the real issues. Most of the people we listen to in our media are lying as fast as their lips can flap in the breeze. Some of these people, national and media leaders alike, are so delusional that they now sincerely believe their own false hype.

Of course, "we the people" are the ones primarily to blame. Those of us who live in "free" countries have continued voting in the people who sustain and continue the deceit. Most Americans now have no clue what their national constitution or "Declaration of Independence" says or means. We want the false medicine our government sends our way.  We want free money without earning it.  We want no risk but all the reward.  We don't want to face our own failures or irresponsible behaviors.  We believe our governments owe us a bailout...just like they gave their big money buddies on Wall Street and the failing industrial complexes. We believe the government should take care of us when we are old and decrepit. We have lost our soul and core values of taking care of our own within our families and communities and replaced it with "institutional-ism".  We have voted in support of the upside-down pyramid that will eventually crush our lives with the weight of the global turmoil and violence this false thinking has caused.

I'm sorry, this blog has turned very negative and painful...but thus is the status of our nation and world we live in. We have had so many decades of bad, misdirected leadership that I question there is any leader or group of leaders who can pull us back from the cliffs of self destruction. Who can bring reason and lead us to real CHANGE?  We don't need change of "beliefs"...we need change in ACTIONS.  The forces that be are pushing the masses with the momentum of contemporary thought and tradition that hasn't worked for decades and isn't about to start working now.  Our supposed constitutional rights are being stripped daily by courts and congresses who have obviously drank the big government "Koolaid" of absolute power and corruption. Who can stand up against this tide of majority thinking?

Unfortunately, I believe we are approaching the time when the only way to be truly free will be having the wherewithal to escape the countries and homelands we have loved that have been taken over by these evil systems of government. Just as has happened historically in places like Cuba, Russia, India, much of Arabia and more recently in Venezuela and Syria...many of the rich and educated tend to escape first before the doors of opportunity or freedom are closed, locking them in forever.  Unfortunately, it appears to me that America is on the same path as these other countries though on a bigger scale, and a majority of Americans are just too ingrown and placated to see it coming.

America's day of reckoning is coming...perhaps sooner than anyone realizes. The prisons are already being built. The domestic armaments are already being put in place.  The laws forbidding you to expatriate your money outside of the USA are already being put in place.  You will soon be a prisoner in your own country. When the dollar falls, you will not be able to afford to live elsewhere anyways...and you never have been very interested in what is going on outside your country and you just don't care. And maybe you will like your new program of "socialistic democracy". If the bubble of your existence allows you to eat and watch all the television, sports and "reality shows" you can during your waking hours without having to work or invest or worry about the future...hey, most of you will be very happy with this new life and form of democracy. As long as you don't rock the boat, you will be permitted to vote.  Of course you may not have too many options as far as candidates or parties are concerned...but no big deal.  You never liked the stress of trying to figure all that out anyways.

Democracy with conditions...its all coming your way.  Don't worry, be happy.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Racism and Justice

This blog starts with a recent email exchange with a friend regarding the recent Trayvon Martin murder case in Florida in which George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watchman, was found innocent...
Hola Ed
I have followed this case and trial as I feel strongly about the issues. I have not followed every minute of the trial but much of it and I followed the defense closing argument and the prosecution rebuttal.
Firstly I totally agree on your points concerning trial by media. It is utterly disgusting and totally contrary to justice. In the UK system trials are sub judice and there are very strict restrictions on the information that may be released. It is a far better system.
The trial was utterly amazing as it was both a travesty and a triumph of of US justice!
The travesty was that (1) Zimmerman was ever charged - this was a disgusting political prosecution nay persecution (2) the Prosecution presented their case effectively but seeking to cast (by innuendo and racial prejudice) Zimmerman as a vile, angry racist who set out to murder this kid , without a scrap of credible evidence, with some very questionable evidence and with little regard for the law.
The triumph was that (1) the defense team were utterly superb in conducting the defense professionally, skillfully and ethically in the face of Prosecution obstruction and a very unsympathetic / antipathetic judge focusing strictly on the law and the evidence (2) the jury of six women had the balls and brains to make their decision on the basis of the law, the evidence and the court's instructions. Frankly I was surprised but it was a triumph for US justice and the defense's presentation was totally worth watching - it should be a case study.
The prosecution were a disgrace as were the white liberal media not to mention that disgusting nigger Al Sharpton - sorry but he is exactly what that term represents, not by his color but by his behavior.
The jury found him not guilty which is what they were asked to do - the prosecution did not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Z did not shoot Martin in self defense.
As far as I a concerned every shred of credible evidence supported Z's account which was definitely self defense.
More later.
Kindest regards

Thanks ____. Without having studied or observed this process as much as we did the OJ trial almost 20 years ago, the Zimmerman trial seems like almost a reverse outcome at least from a distance. This trial, where the press has taken it, has been about race baiting and justifying racial stereotypes.  The liberals obviously wanted the "white man" hanged while the conservatives were hopeful of a justified action against this kid who apparently looked and acted like the stereotypical ghetto "nigger" who needs to be watched and corrected in the neighborhood. In this case, the liberals did not get what they sought. At the same time, I don't view it as a win for "conservatives" either. I think it was as close to balanced justice as our system can get. I don't think either side will ever know all the details or circumstances leading to that horrific incident and loss of life. It might be enlightening to consider what the case would have been like if Trayvon had won the fight and killed Zimmerman instead. Would it have been murder, or self defense?

In OJs case, it was very apparent to most of us that OJ was the perpetrator of his estranged wife's and her boyfriend's murders by an overwhelming combination of actions and behaviors on his part. Yet...the liberal system didn't want one of their black icons to be guilty of such a heinous crime and wanted to paint his prosecution as racist and bigoted. I really thought the prosecution in that case were terrible compared to the high priced, slick defense that OJ Simpson had. In that case the murderer got off because of bad "lawyering" and tainted evidence...and the liberals celebrated this result as "justice for the black man".  I was gratified that the civil suits filed against Simpson later brought a guilty verdict. Years later he was finally prosecuted and now in jail for his felonious actions with firearms in Las Vegas as the "thug" he became, or maybe always was. 

All of this has underscored to me how perilous the USA legal system has become.  If you are on the "wrong" side of today's political system, you can easily be convicted of a crime you did not commit.,,or vice can get away with murder. For this reason the past two decades I would have felt insecure about American justice...UNLESS I was a wealthy, connected person...which I never was.  At least in Latin America, it would cost me less to get my way with a court than it does in the USA.

These cases underline to me the travesty of racism from all sides of the equation. I have many black friends and I have listened up close and personal to many of their experiences with racism in the USA and elsewhere. I have always looked at all people equally as humans and deserving of respect and equal rights no matter what color, sex or age group.  At the same time...and probably as a price white culture continues to pay for sponsoring "slavery"... reverse racism is now taking place where "minorities" want to assume special rights and privileges...almost as a form of repatriation...for centuries of poor treatment. One can understand the resentment, but it is totally unrealistic to expect repatriation or remuneration for the sins of our fathers. It is time for a restart of everyone's attitudes and expectations. We must demand equal rights and justice for all going forward...and forgiveness and forgetting of those past racist mindsets. This reverse racism of Jesse Jackson, Al "not so sharp" Sharpton and others needs to be corrected and admonished.  Why the media even covers these hypocrites and hooligans is beyond me. I guess its just another example of liberalism and sensationalism run wild.

Now, today we have ANOTHER case in the Bronx of New York where two police officers, one white/one black, shot and killed a 14 year old "gang banger" who was running down the street shooting at a rival gang member. While this is another terrible tragedy for a poor black family, the situation is once again being trumped up as some sort of white conspiracy or police brutality. I'm sorry, but anyone of whatever race who is running down the street firing a gun at someone else SHOULD face equal treatment.  Guns are no respecters of persons whether by age, sex or race. I would hate to be a police officer in this day and age where you have pressure to treat people differently depending on race. I don't agree with poor treatment of "minorities", but I don't think "special" treatment is required either.

This is a tough subject to cover...especially as a "white person".  I hope I don't offend anyone with my viewpoints...but as you know from my previous blogs, I don't shy away from conflict or my own reasoning.  At the same time, I welcome all perspectives as long as they are rational and respectful. Racism and justice are still struggling to come to terms with each other. I truly hope justice continues to rule the day.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Tyranny and Currencies

This article today regarding Syria's under siege President Assad declaring all other currency illegal accept the Syrian "lira" newly underscores the need for global controls and a global currency as a defense against nationalistic despotism and tyranny over whole economies.

As I have been repeatedly discussing these past few years in this blog, the world's biggest problem from the governance side is the manipulation and controls of economies by shadow governments and organizations whose only business is trying to control or isolate their populations from free trade and traditional economic systems.  This is the first "trick" that historic dictators have used to "control" their people and countries.  If they can control the economy and flow of monies, they figure they have a better chance controlling their followers and of course buying the weapons they need to defend...their power.

Of course, the big elephant in the room is that simply "declaring" a fiat currency to be worth something doesn't necessarily make it so.  The only argument that explains the continued domination of the US dollar in its value and use as a global currency has been the historic strength of our economy and consumerism. With the decades of bad foreign policy, global conflicts and non-deterred levels of debt, our country is facing the fastest economic decline of any power in recent history apart from those who lost the last century's world wars. Until there is revolutionary change in the USA regarding governance of our economy, I am not bullish on the American dollar in the long run.  Sure, recent months have shown new highs in the stock exchanges and strengthening of the dollar against many other currencies, but unfortunately to me this has not been based on any significant long term changes or reasoning.  Emotions and media manipulations are more in control than true economic indicators.

There is a reason the USA government, IRS and FED are all clamping down and passing laws limiting foreign investment and flight of capital. If people are truly free to "vote" with their capital, the USA economy and dollar would be in much worse shape than it already is.  With Obama's new taxes and protectionist principles against foreign investment or repatriation of wealth...he has perpetuated at mega speed the American hypocrisy along with decades of previous politicians who have supported big government/big tax solutions to the never ending imbalance between the haves and have nots. The non government institution of the Federal Reserve continues its monopoly of power and influence over the money system. Someday, this house of cards will fall.  In my opinion, the sooner the better.  It will be painful whenever it happens, but even more so in the future when our philosophical "enemies" are stronger and can take more advantage of such a debacle.

Even small countries like Panama would be devastated by a real market correction of the US dollar. Since its currency called the "balboa" has been pegged to the dollar since 1904, a devaluation of the dollar would immediately almost halve the value of all real estate and other investments in the country against other global currencies.  In essence, this would make much of the rest of the world "off limits" economically to Panamanians, even within the Latin American region.  While some have claimed that Panama could and would immediately peg its currency to another one or float their own...I would have to question what the value of that would be?  You would still have to START at the point value of the US dollar or equivalent value.  Changing currency would not change the growing national debt of Panama. It would not change the adjusted value of any of the new real estate, hotels, airports or industry currently in development. It would only make it a GREAT deal for foreigners to come here for vacation or investment.  Everything would be "half off" against other stronger currencies.  I know my view is opposite what current developers and governments are suggesting for the future of Panama...but I would not count out my future projection.

How do we fight against this tyranny and currency manipulation?  The elites of most nations love being at the controls of these things, so don't count on them to support any change of the status quo.  The struggling masses are too busy surviving and poor to get an education or face these forces that are keeping them in place.  The masses continue to support any leader or government who gives them free survival...albeit at the expense of their liberty. This leaves it to the middle class.  Unfortunately this does not bode well for the USA with its shrinking middle class. I go along with USA Sociologists William Thompson and Joseph Hickey who estimate an income range of roughly $35,000 to $75,000 for the lower middle class and $100,000 or more for the upper middle class. If you go to China or other emerging countries...the middle class income would be about half of that amount but would buy a similar level of lifestyle in those countries.

Today's global revolution against tyranny is being driven by these middle class minorities who have sufficient education, access to technology and income to stand up against their elitist rulers and are more connected to the majorities who live in poverty. In progressive states, people have the chance to rise from poverty to the middle class.  In socialist/communist states this likelihood was historically reduced. It is a sad day to me when there is more upside for economic growth in countries like China and India which have a quickly rising middle class...while the USA middle class is being squeezed out of existence. If this continues, believe me, revolution is coming to the USA just like it has in Egypt, the current Brazil uprisings, India, Indonesia and elsewhere.  It is a sad day when American citizens are as manipulated and isolated as Chinese citizens have been for centuries.

The biggest fear these tyrannic nation-states have is a global currency. The "supposedly" legal reactions internationally to digital currencies like "BitCoin" is just one example of the panic and knee jerk reaction the Western nation states have when their controlled and empty fiat currencies are threatened. For now, these few control the coffers and currencies of the world, primarily only because the masses continue to accept these currencies as payment.  I predict the day is coming sooner than later when the masses will rebel against empty currency controls.  Technology will provide a way for "global patriots" to trade values outside of these false currencies being forced upon us.  Even if we have to go back to "barter", we are better off economically than allowing ourselves to be controlled by falsely valued "fiat currencies". Storing up empty paper in debt ridden banks will not secure ones future prosperity. Why do you think so much "smart money" is currently being converted to commodities or "buildings" by those who can afford to do so?

Government valuations of markets and currencies will always be hyped and with no basis outside of "mandated" valuation by the few in power.  The masses must someday realize this is totally dependent on THEIR cooperation in accepting it. In reaction, there have been more local or private "currencies" established in the last decade throughout the world. As the middle and working classes become more and more dissatisfied with the governance of their economies, we will see a move towards the "denationalization" of money and a move towards one global digital currency.  This is one of the reasons I have moved my personal career in a direction associated with digital payment systems.

Future vision?  Well, if I had my "druthers" and could rule the world, I would mandate a global governing body over currency and economic trade.  All economic conflicts, embargoes and imperialist actions would have to be taken before this body.  Obviously enough superpowers of the world would have to be behind it if only to support by force if necessary the agreements it mandates. There would have to be a very clear global constitution of rights and freedoms extended to ALL "gods children". Nation states could still exist somewhat for local governance issues, but when it comes to armed warfare and money values...these would all have to fall under control of the "global community".  As long as certain despots have nuclear buttons to fall back on, there can be very little security of constitutional enforcement or hope for world peace.  We can no longer count on nuclear "containment". This global body would have to take control and, better yet, methodically destroy and outlaw ALL nuclear weapons. (Of course this is another BIG subject to be taken up on another blog, but is part of what would be required to support global economic governance).

Money would all be "digital" and based on unified digit value throughout the world. If someone wanted to issue their own local currency for private reasons or "closed loop" trade...there should be no law against it, but on an international basis there would be one currency and one value for that currency. A glass of water might cost more in the desert than it does in the "Great Lakes", but the currency paying for it would be the same. Payment would not be with paper or plastic cards tied to dicey banks of a certain jurisdiction, but via digital mobile payments or "digital wallets" that could even be embedded in your watch or belt buckle. The new global banking system would guarantee these payments. This digital, global currency is the only way you can clean up the "dirty money" syndrome current governments love to hype.  Every transaction would have a traceable source tied to the identities of the individuals or corporations making the payment. At the same time, ideally the global system would support the individuals rights to sovereignty and privacy of his/her personal information and holdings. This would simplify the whole banking and "dirty money" wars much of the world is now fighting a losing battle on. This to me is the only viable solution to taking tyranny and controls out of our global economic systems and restoring balance and fairness in our international monetary exchange.

How would all this be paid for? Very simply, all financial transactions would be charged a .05% (one half of one percent) transaction fee.  This would be plenty of money to fund this global governance forever...and the nation-state hyped taxes and fees would disappear and be illegal within the global arena.  This would leave a LOT more money in the hands of those who made it to continue the evolution of growing economies and solving the many problems of mankind.  Currency should be one of the EASY fixes.

Of course, this will never happen while our current despot leaders are in place and accepted by we, the people.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Distant Neighbors

(This might be considered a continuation of a related blog from last year, "Is Panama Safe". Also, part 2. 3 and 4 of this series are "Is Panama an Illusion?"  and "Further Notes on Panama Living"  and "Pros and Cons of Living in Panama" )

This posting could be deemed a continuation of our series on "Living in Panama"...but this discussion I want to take to a higher, more generalized level in discussing cultural differences a "westerner" will encounter living most anywhere in the Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) region.

The series on living in Panama has provoked the most emails and followup questions of any of my blog posts or subjects. Many of the questions come down to the curiosity (mostly by USA and Canadian readers) of what is it REALLY like to live in Latin America as an expat.  Having lived in 3 different LAC countries over 14 years and traveled to many others...there are some general similarities shared by every LAC country.

When I first moved to Mexico back in 1991, the most helpful book I read to help me understand what I was facing culturally was "Distant Neighbors, a Portrait of the Mexicans" which is the classic book that is still relevant in explaining the many cultural and political differences between North America and Mexico. While the book is Mexico-centric, I have found that most of the core observations hold true for all the LAC countries I have visited if in varying degrees. Panama's cultural idiosyncrasies line up similarly to the tenets of the book as a "distant neighbor" of Westernized countries like Canada and the USA.

While one would think that after 100+ years of sharing the Panama Canal zone and basically having the USA sponsor the existence of Panama as a separate state from Colombia in 1903 when the USA "paid off" the Colombia government to recognize Panama as a separate nation without revolution or bloodshed, the two countries and cultures would share more in common.  While there is perhaps more use and understanding of English in Panama than other Central and South American countries due to this past history, I don't see any more connectivity of the true Panama culture to our "western ways" than you will find in Mexico or elsewhere.  There are obviously many Panamanians who got Americanized by working for the Canal Zone in the many decades that the USA owned and controlled it, but many of those Panamanians now live in the USA or stay in the "zonian" community.  Many get so Americanized, they are no longer comfortable living in their home country.

For the sake of a short blog I will probably overgeneralize many things here. The culture in Panama, like most Latin cultures, is stratified by class distinctions.  This small country of less than 4 million citizens is controlled by a few rich families, commonly called the "oligarchy", who control a major portion of the country's politics, justice system, banks and economic systems overall.  Most of these families are of Spanish, Jewish or more "European" ethnicity, and if you don't have them as partners somehow in business here, you are not going to compete on a level playing field in domestic business. They say "if you want to make a million dollars in Panama, bring two".

Almost half the population lives at poverty or "extreme" poverty levels. The difference between haves and have nots is growing in extreme just in the past 8 years I have lived here.  Gas prices are up, food and liquor prices are almost double what they were when I moved here...and yet the wage base in Panama has not kept up for the average Panamanian at all. I sincerely don't understand how they live on their wages. The city and interior areas are heavily stratified by rich and poor neighborhoods. The poorer areas are typically going to be problematic and unsafe for tourists and wealthier citizens to travel in. (Of course this is true in most major USA cities as well). Based on the increased cost of living and continued trafficking of drugs and black market products, we are seeing significant increases in crime...especially in certain neighborhoods, and also at interior beach resort areas where the most tourists or seasonal residents reside.  Security is being beefed up in many areas and you need to be comfortable with "army looking" police running around with sub machine guns if you want to live here.

In addition to outright home invasions and petty crime, there are other forms of "subtle" thievery. Prices for products and services are often two price for locals and another for tourists and non residents.  Many of the public golf courses are 25-30% cheaper for residents.  Taxis typically charge double for non-Spanish speaking tourists than they do the locals. For a decade there has been talk of going to a meter type system, but there has been much resistance to this "honest system" for obvious reasons.  They would either have to increase the costs to the average Panamanian, or reduce the price to the foreigners. These things just don't change quickly in these cultures.

Many regular Panamanians are resentful of the much heralded "pensionado residency" program that gives foreign retired residents significant discounts on food, entertainment, airline tickets and hotel rooms.  While this program has obviously been the reason many foreigners have retired here, I personally am not convinced it is a good thing long term for this culture.  Service is terrible overall...and when business owners and service personnel are forced to give huge discounts to often dis respectful foreigners compared to fellow citizens...there is no impetus to improve these service levels. They perceive North American visitors here to all be wealthy, yet cheap. They find it hard to understand why we argue about extra charges in a bar bill, an included 10% tip, or arguing between a $2 or $3 taxi ride while we stay in $200 per night hotel rooms. I have seen many instances of reverse discrimination against foreigners because of these cultural differences or perceptions.

When you enter the country at the international airport...there are often twice as many immigration people attending the shorter line of "Resident arrivals" than are handling the much longer "foreign" immigration line. Many local restaurants or bars will give preferred service to locals over foreigners...sometimes subconsciously I am convinced.  Many servers are afraid to attend foreigners because they are not able to communicate or understand tourists who don't speak Spanish.  I have often observed a server brighten up with me when I speak to them in decent Spanish, because when most look at my Caucasian countenance here, they assume I don't speak Spanish and will be difficult to deal with.  With good reason, since most North Americans come here with little or no Spanish...and often demonstrate an "attitude" when the locals cannot understand their orders or requests in English. This creates an aura of uneasiness between locals and foreigners in many instances. Don't believe some of the hype you will see from Panama tourism promoters who say there is little language barrier here.  Its just not true.

One of the positives that I like about the Latin culture is the importance of family and how they care for the elderly. Where in Western society we tend to isolate the elderly into homes or institutions, you will rarely see that here. The family cares directly for their elderly either in the home where they have always lived, or their children take them in to live with them. You see fewer barriers between generations here because of those traditions. You often see grandparents arm in arm with teenagers here...a site not often seen in the USA anymore. People hug and kiss with family and friends...and even upon first introductions, men and women greet with a light kiss to the cheek.  Cold, halfhearted handshakes here are deemed unfriendly or closed. People here are more physical than verbal about their affections. Sometimes when I go back to the USA now, I forget about this difference and people stiffen up if I hug them or kiss a lady on the cheek. Too bad really.

The most fundamental difference culturally is that Latins "work to live" versus "live to work". Compared to many of us Westerners in first world countries...these people do not live or define themselves by their jobs or careers.  Yes, positions and layers of management are formal and important in the workplace with stronger lines of delineation or respect shown between various management levels.  Yet, at almost all levels, these people are all about putting in their time so they can get home to family or meet up with friends. They are not as likely to "take their job home with them"...whether that means actual paperwork or carrying the stress of work into their home. It is refreshing that people don't define themselves so much by their jobs as much as we do in North America.  Sure, there are definite lines in society based on wealth and race...but it is not so much about what you do.

Finally, on the political front, there tend to be many more parties running for various offices in Latin America. Election cycles can be quite entertaining and very different than in North America. In Panama, the President is elected for a 5 year term.  They cannot run for consecutive terms by constitutional decree...though the current President made some attempts to change that without success. People change political parties like they change underwear it seems...and there is very little loyalty anywhere when it comes to politics.  While politics is corrupt worldwide right is even more so in Latin America.  The party in power makes as much money for themselves off the public dole as they can during their 5 year stay.  The last few months of an administration, like we are coming into now, very little gets done because most people realize the next administration is likely to UNDO as many things as legally possible when they come into power. All of this means to me that it is hard to count on long term contracts or consistent economic management in most of these countries. So much is manipulated and if you do not have political connections or protection, your business can be totally torn asunder by local competitors.  Even though they claim the Justice system is independent of the Executive or Presidency...I just don't see that as true.  The judges are all appointed by the are all the notaries and many other legal positions in the country. These appointments are not "lifetime" like they are in the USA. This gives the "politico" a lot more legal controls in Panama and can totally determine the outcome of justice in very subjective ways.

It makes a big difference in how you will get on in Panama depending on if you are retiring and wealthy, versus if you are trying to do business and make money as a foreigner.  It is much easier being retired and independently wealthy living in Latin America where your funds will go further and/or more easily influence the outcome of things.  If you are trying to MAKE your money here, it is a much bigger challenge. It is not for the faint of heart or misinformed.  If you think you can build your business for say $500,000, you had better bring double or triple that. Paying for access or covering the longer time to make relationships and accomplish your goals in this culture will require that extra funding.

Most simply put, Latin America and Panama are great places to spend your living...but not for MAKING it if you don't have the Latin language and culture within you.  If you come here with your eyes wide open, you have a chance.  If you come ignorant or closed will have NO chance of making it here.

Make no mistake, overall the Latinos are very friendly and warm people...including the Panamanians. Yet, in Panama it will be very unlikely that you will be invited any time soon to their home and shown that kind of hospitality. In some cases they may feel self conscious about having less or living differently than you do. People are generally more private and closed with their private lives than westerners are. I have learned not to be offended by that. It is just the price we pay for being "distant neighbors".

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Martyrs, Pundits and Whistleblowers

This seems to be an era of a new kind of "patriot"...that being the individualist who questions or exposes the fascism and cover-ups of their own government.  Some people are calling these people traitors while others are calling them heroes.  I think it is hard to say which it is until we can know the true motivations and circumstances these individuals have acted upon.

There are basically two big cases being the ongoing incarceration and delayed trial of one Private Bradley Manning for his role in the Wikileaks "scandal", and the most recent case of the NSA whistle-blower, 29 year old Edward Snowden.  Unfortunately most of the general public's perspective on these events are going to be determined by media coverage...and it is very difficult to trust today's media with fair and balanced coverage from either perspective...the government's or the accused. Lets suffice it to say most of us will never have a complete picture of the issues from either side.  At the same time, I think we can think about and debate the general issues these circumstances bring to light.

Lets start country's "traitor" is another country's "hero".  In modern nationalism, which we have been thinking and writing a lot about lately, it is obvious the worlds larger battlefield is primarily about ideologies of best forms of government and how much control a particular religion, race or political party should have over defined nations with borders. I have lived long enough to remember growing up with the most basic definition of the "free world"...meaning democratically controlled governments...versus the captive world of communists or socialist countries run by dictators or worse. In that era, most Western citizens were so proud to be "free" and able to vote their leaders in and out of their lives. Capitalism and democracy were THE cause of liberty and justice for all.  Just a few decades later, there are no black and white systems of capitalism or constitutional democracy.  Today's nation/states are quickly reverting to protectionist, individualistic countries who not only spy on each other, but spy on their own citizens en masse.

While globalism is about "pluralism" of nation states...much of the world's current conflicts are about sectarianism, racism and religious divides. For all our education and increased access via technology to communication and information...we remain very naive and uninformed about these differences of ideologies. Out of fear and ignorance, movements propagate the same inane and centuries old conflicts of false ideals and beliefs. Apparently the truths of science are too real or conflicting to be digested by the masses.  The contradictions to these fundamentalist factions are drowned out by simple chants and flag waving exercises which in many regimes is bringing out the guns and water canons...and causing new prisons to be built everywhere to house all "dissidents" and "traitors" found within their jurisdictions. It is my observation that the international institutions such as the United Nations and other blocks of countries united in ideology have been dismal failures at bringing about world unification or even distribution of goods and services. Individual freedom is still a misnomer in most countries of the world.  People are NOT free to come and go as they please...even in their own countries. And now in the USA you have  growing number of malcontents who are challenging big government and the corporate elite that supports them when it comes to our undeclared global wars and conflicts.  Patriots are starting to demand accountability for the economy and injustices within our own borders. In many areas the land of "immigrants" is becoming the land of "intolerance" of diversity.

Lets look at the agencies who are in charge of the USA's "homeland security".  The FBI was founded to be focused on protecting domestic territory from criminals and outsiders within our borders.  The CIA was put together to handle foreign covert activities to protect our country outside our borders.  Now we have FBI operators all over the world (that we pay for as citizens) and the CIA is spying on American citizens inside the USA.  The biggest "criminals" these organizations seem to be going after are not Al Qaeda operatives or Muslim extremists within our country...but young WASPish citizens in the military and government services who are "blowing the whistle" on so many in-clandestine and secretive government activities...most of which in my opinion deserve to be public knowledge. It seems these organizations have learned a lot of their operational approaches from the Gestapo and KGB of old.

A very sinister case has come to light in recent days...the mysterious death of a well known and highly respected journalist, Michael Hastings, who only hours after emailing friends and colleagues that he was on to a big story and would be "under the radar" for a while, was killed in a high speed car crash into a tree. His body was quickly cremated against the wishes of his family.  They have not been allowed to do an independent investigation of the Mercedes in which he crashed.  All of this intrigue was performed by our California LAPD.  There is enough public scrutiny on this that I think more will come out in the wash on this affair eventually...but it surely calls into question the rights and safety of Americans in their own country to know and report what is going on in within domestic governments.  Between this and the treatment of the Edward Snowden whistle-blowing affair, our USA government is making the Russians and Chinese look like the "good guys"  when it comes to human rights and due process of law.

Where will all this end? Will enough of the sleepy American masses wake up and force their government leaders to come clean and change their tyrannous activities and attitudes?  Will the "uprising for liberty" supposedly supported by the USA government in so many parts of the middle east and beyond come to the homeland of the "free and the brave"?  Will our huddled masses continue to be manipulated and herded into attitudes of complacency or blind support of runaway governmental powers...much like the Germans under the Hitler spell early in the last century?  In my opinion, the longer American citizens take to correct these things, the bloodier and more difficult restoring constitutional governance is going to be.

Fortunately for the lovers of freedom and independence, technology is still able to allow us access to truth and data that reveals the ugliness of clandestine government behaviors. For all the money and controls exercised by governments, there are enough smart people who protect our sovereign access to information and communications with each other.  How long this will be the case depends on how long we tolerate runaway governance to do what they like versus honoring OUR wishes.

I just had a childhood memory from when my grandfather was trying to teach me to type on his old IBM typewriter when I was probably 7 or 8 years old.  He had me type a then common line 100 or more times which said "now is the time for good men to come to the aid of the country".  This was used in typing classes because it filled exactly one line of 70 characters. It now has new meaning for me. I believe it is now or never for "good men" to take back control of their countries, the runaway economies, the inflationary practices of printing more empty currencies to cover their multitudes of sins and voodoo accounting over decades. This will be a time for martyrs, pundits and whistle-blowers to step forward, risking everything just like the forefathers of our country, to stand against tyranny, despotism and unchecked imbalances of power.