Tag Archives: USA

A Proposal – Gun Legislation

Greetings Representative Polis,
 

A few associates and I are having a gun conversation; as the entire nation is at this time.  I think there are some valid ideas the might be flushed out in policy creation. The content of this letter is a longer read, so I would like to start with a summary of the main thoughts-

  • Take the Big Government argument out of the equation and provide a competing lobby to the NRA.
  • Set some standards and requirements in gun ownership,
  • Identify ways to have peers take the keys away from the “drunk drivers” (mentally unfit),
  • Include a base cost lf gun ownership and incrementally increase the Expense Vs. Risk equation.

An obvious comparison of guns to other objects of danger often arises, and I think automobile analogies are best in this conversation, where it is a dangerous object causing many deaths each year. Additionally it is a good comparator because as a nation we have constructive conversations about auto policy and public duty in an atmosphere largely devoid of partisan positioning, as opposed to any discussion of guns.

I also think it is fair to complain that it is not the object that kills but the operator, and that mental fitness is the core element of responsible operation of either guns or vehicles.

The debate is most certainly about mental health, the cause is not the gun, but it is also about population density and in a sense… opportunity. We live in a world that is so connected virtually and so disconnected emotionally/physically. One example of school tragedies in China is a fine example of a similar terror, certainly effective horror in that school children are defenseless against insanity… but the analogy stops there as this could not happen in a movie theatre.  After 911 I think our entire nation is willing to jump on top of one man with a knife to save the rest. In any case, what we have a nation of Monday morning DB’s and those with guns saying the equivalent of “I wish that happened to me” (see http://www.jokebuddha.com/joke/Southern_Justice).

So let’s not be so black and white and hyperbolic in our argument- we don’t need to say yes/no to guns.  Management however is not easy- mental health is not clear, it is not even really understood, more over it requires continuous contact and feedback to monitor.  When associated with potential mass violence it is simply not feasible given the number of guns and owners… mental health is not as discrete and manageable as objects with serial numbers and manufacturing dates.

There is an expense our society is paying by allowing a virtually unregulated gun trade and it should not be paid by all of the citizens of the country; it should not be paid in the terms of unaccountability to those who loose loved ones; it should not be paid at the stress and expense of our protection officers. We have evidence that the weapons industry is not self regulating, that the nation has disparate systems undermined by a myriad of policy, enforcement, and funding… obstructions and it is time to make some cohesion in the way we manage all of these issues.

The 2nd amendment is an argument that comes up. There is always interpretation and how that interpretation is set depends upon the conditions and time for which you live. Our forefathers created a document with as much divine influence as they could muster.  In a contentious argumentative environment they came up with a work to be admired 200+ years later (Not Bad!). How could they conceive that neighbors would not physically talk to each other? How could they conceive that the publicly available musket could be modified to fire 1000 rounds a minute of armor piercing, projectile tumbling/flesh exploding- bullets?

2nd amendment- Well regulated militias: If a group of enthusiasts want to get together, practice defense against tyrants and blow stuff-up ROCK-ON! Can I come for a weekend?

·         How else can we get people to understand and respect the equipment they are using but by having a group of serious and experienced people inculcate a proper weapons mystique to the newbie’s (insert respect + favorite child hunting story here!  But lets not confuse this with the need to take an AR-15 deer hunting this weapon is not designed to preserve the maximum edible flesh). Socialization is a critical aspect of developing moral bearings in life and it is a powerful on the ground perspective when individuals are getting out of line.

·         The public at large is not well regulated sets of militias!

·         There needs to be a PR effort that gets individuals to recognize that no militia group is going to resist the tyranny of the government in any practical way that does not include defection of the army or support of a foreign power (ex. Egypt, Libya Vs. Syria). . The system of militias cannot be allowed to support armed subversive groups of HATE!. Not prejudism, secession, anti-tax (Whiskey Rebellion), wacko Waco Texas stuff. Sure that is impossible to prevent stuff like that from starting, just like it is impossible for people with strong opinions from building coalitions in churches and mosques, but there may be a need to “disband” such a militia (ex. in Michigan). Also there are environmental and safety concerns which need to be addressed- what is done on private property (blowing up tanks of fuel etc.) causes damage to the water air and wildlife, which others enjoy. We are one nation under god and as such we have a duty to all citizens.

-2nd amendment- Keep and Bare arms: To Keep- means to own. I keep my car in a garage; I keep my family heirloom diamond in bank safety deposit box. Keep does not mean that a citizen must have to have immediate access to a weapon capable of “taking-out” multiple targets at distance.

o       Also, I really don’t care about the definition or type of weapon if, we are managing “opportunity” for damage in the right way. There is nothing in the text that says citizens do not need to have licenses for different types of ammunition or “Arms”… we restrict explosives based on such a system we could do the same with ammunition. There is nothing in the text that says weapons cannot be securely stored in a way that would prevent you from access when in an unfit frame of mind. i.e. at your militia headquarters or gun range.  I contrary to many “Old West” stories many municipalities required cowboys to check their guns at the edge of town. Rural environments need secure storage as well maybe not a gun bank but building up a cache is not really protecting stock from coyotes and wolves.

·         To Bare- To use in a functional way, to use against a threat or enemy- Join a militia as noted above! This does not mean that a citizen has the right to bare arms at any and all times to keep said “Arms” under their pillow. In the army are your weapons with you in the barracks? Weapons must be secure and accounted for at all times!

In general there is a now and then aspect to any policy, some ideas discussed:

  1. Insurance on each gun- insuring that the weapon would not be used in ways that endanger the public. This pays punitive damage claims and weapon related legal fees minimum deductible 1,000- gun owners still need to have some responsibility in the bad judgment game.(Some might call this a tax regulated through private industry- but at least there is a clear service provided)
    1. It prices risk considering potential damage against experience security of and access to guns- go ahead, get a concealed weapons permit, own an AR-15 or something bigger. (more guns more expense, more public risk, more expense, no insurance no gun)
    2. Such a requirement provides not only a motivation for a duty of care but;
    3. funds for restitution and improved psych services, and
    4. includes lapses in insurance such and/or loss of weapon in such cases there is a funding mechanism for collection. (perhaps another private industry opportunity, or reward for guns that go missing, reducing the number available to criminals).
    5. This also solves the technical issues of registration and database maintenance, (Again something that all citizens need not pay, but a duty on those who take pleasure in gun ownership).

The government is not in the micro factor risk analysis game, and it should not be their duty.

  1. Reduced home storage of weapons socially encourage local militias gun clubs and ranges to get into the security and warehousing business.  Set limits on the types and number of weapons, amount of ammo allowed in unsecured areas.  Some weapons are only allowed to be kept and used in designated areas (race cars are not allowed on the streets, racing fuel is dispensed in restricted areas or to authorized users). (this idea is probably the most problematic but when tied to insurance cost of home storage it might be plausible)
    1. I don’t trust all citizens’ mental states, at all times, so those weapons and ammunition do not need to be immediately accessible.
    2. Militias, Ranges and Gun Clubs can get into the business of Gun Banking. A nongovernment set of eyes to appraise mental state of owners, hopefully in a personal and friendship level of connection
  2. Attendance in gun events… not lame safety demonstrations… Live fire hands on use of weapons with colleagues and professionals, building comradery, appreciation, professionalism and a sharing of best management practices. You are required to attend a number of gun events per year

So summary repeated-

  1. Take the Big Government argument out of the equation and provide a competing lobby to the NRA.
  2. Set some standards and requirements in gun ownership, identify ways to have peers take the keys away from the “drunk drivers” (mentally unfit)
  3. Include a base cost lf gun ownership and incrementally increase the expense Vs. risk equation.

Gun collection is a cool hobby but it carries and much heavier responsibility than stamp collecting this has not been priced into the market. Personally I think insurance is the ruin of our nation but it is a mechanism which can induce logical regulation of behavior without more police.

In closing, the nation has disparate systems undermined by a myriad of policy, enforcement, and funding obstructions and it is time to make some cohesion in the way we manage all of these issues.  We need you to put forward ideas that take tangents away from the vitriolic cannons repeated by entrenched constituents.  It is time to set a clear strategy rather than tactical solutions.

It is time to disarm the anger consuming our national conversation (guns, taxes, religion) and feel safe having a discussion about the issues facing our people.

At home I can set the tone and tenor of a chat but I look to you in creating a similar environment where we can make the best policy for all and our future as a nation.

With respect,

AM

Captain America Gun

America the Violent

America is a violent country.

Murders, killings, loss of life, manslaughter, homicide.  The words we have to describe the extinguishing of life seem as numerous in our culture as the Inuit have words to describe snow.  That another murder will occur today in our largest cities is as sure and expected as the sun is to rise in the east.  

Murder in the USA is not simply common but it is also celebrated.  This is painfully and horribly obvious in the movies, television shows music and just about every other media venue available today which the population of the USA happily and greedily consume without moderation.  Many will point out that these macabre art forms are not real, they are just for pleasure!

Then one will turn on Fox news at the start of a war and feel a rush of exhilaration as their entertainment and blood lust cross over into reality.  Greedy eyes scan the screen for an updated and real time body count which as it mounts, 100, 120, 150 almost becomes similar to sexual arousal as the faintest glint of morality gives way to our innate and violent animal urges which evolution has not had long enough to shed.  

Evolution has given us however, a larger brain which we use to try and process, try to explain and reason out these primal thoughts.  When a murder has taken place we almost always have a need, a great desire to know why.  There simply must be a logical reason: insanity, the righting of a wrong, uncontrollable anger, terrorist, protecting freedom.  One reason that we will simply not allow any room for is simply that the urge to kill was necessary for millions of years in our evolution.  As I read history it seems the furthest we can go back to some sort of civilization is only 10 thousand years or so where one can reasonably expect people began to realize that murder is not a good thing.

Ten thousand years is a very short time in terms of the evolution of mankind.  The amount of time is even shorter when a rule was made “Thou Shalt Not Kill,” that seem to spread rather quickly (2000 years) as humankind forced their particular religious brand among the people through the extremely effective method known as war and a persuasion where the only other option was death.  

However, many cultures have matured and after many orgies of great destruction have, for the moment, pacified their blood lust.  The United States is not among these.

As our culture is awash in violence there are periodic outbursts which seem to be a culmination, an apex which like an exploding volcano releasing a bit of pressure.  We are shocked by the tragic results, reflect a little then go back to the status-quo.

This is quite unfortunate but what is truly shocking to me is that we are unable to use our brains and logic to correct this.  Changing an entire culture is not something that can be done just by making a new rule.  

Instead, it is like the alcoholic that must enter an AA program and take specific steps to rid himself of the affliction.  

Step 1:  Admit you have a problem

In the USA we cannot get to step one.  Admitting we have a violent culture is not something that has entered our collective consciousness.

Why?

Because it has been drilled into our brains that America is the best.  Admitting that we have a culture of violence is not compatible with the view we have of ourselves.  America is the protector of freedom, it is the country that wins the most Olympic gold medals, America invented the car, the airplane, the computer and just about every good thing that has been invented since America was founded!  

In fact, if America was a man, then it is obvious that second to “Uncle Sam” America would be represented as, well, Captain America!  When a culture has an image of themselves as the “doer of right” there is no room for a problem.  If there is a problem then just like the alcoholic it must be hidden away, or there must be an explanation.  

“I drink so much because you make me this way!”  

I have not come to this conclusion simply on a whim or by daydreaming.  It is presented to me on a daily basis by that grand sociological experiment known as Facebook.  This is the medium where once taboo subjects, those issues which usually call for a bit of decorum are now laid bare like an overweight Brit sunbathing on a beach in Spain.  It is simply shocking yet as the pasty Brits continue to flock to Spain, so do people in my network post their naked and untempered opinions.  

On a continual basis something occurs in our society which gets everyone very worked up and people take to the social networks.  If I were to take all of these posts personally then in the past week I have been:

1. Threatened with an unfriending if I did not agree or dissented 
2. Pleaded with to “simply understand” that their opinion is correct
3. Told that I am flat out wrong

These were not directed at me personally but instead were just random posts.  I do not use social media as a soundboard to persuade or threaten my friends.  To me, this is best left to those who allow their emotions and animalistic selves to overtake their rational, thinking side.  

Now, as is characteristic of this blog and where I do let emotion and my opinions rush forth, let me dive completely in.  

The USA has just had the absolute worst incident of violence it has ever had.  Adults are killed all the time in our culture, it is expected.  But children at school at their desks is the worst thing I can possibly imagine.  There can be no worse example and for the first time in a long time I am so severely affected that I cannot and do not want to read the news about this.  I think about them, I think about their souls and where they are now in the afterlife.  I think about their parents and how I do not think I could bare it.  I think that if something like this happened to my child I just might prefer to shoot myself.  I am not afraid of death but I am afraid of the pain these parents are experiencing.  I cannot dwell on this too much or it will drag me down so low it will take a while to come back out of it.  

Instead, let me tell you how disgusted I am with the reactions we have had in our culture.  On the social networks this has been said in various ways but can be summed up and accurately represented by this.

I am sad but…….

What came after the “but” was a selfish proclamation, a gauntlet thrown down (to all their friends!) that no situation, no matter how utterly unthinkable would affect their ability to own something.  

That something is a gun.  The blood was not yet dry from murdered small children and here we have half of the population defending their right to own an item that’s singular purpose is to kill or at least severely wound.

Thinking of this triggers another innate human reaction deep in my gut.  The reaction is in the face of something so terribly incomprehensible and sad I chuckle at such blatant idiocy.

I can think of no situation better suited for those who enjoy possessing firearms to keep their mouth shut.  

But no no, this is America where an individuals right to do whatever the fuck they want trumps everything else.  There is no “we” in the USA anymore, it is simply “I.”  It might do well to take “We the people” out of the constitution!  It should be replaced by “I the individual!”  

Hell, now that I think about it “We the people” sounds so Communist!!!!  There you go Fox News, I just gave you a GREAT argument for your stupid viewership.  

Even if one does not like the idea of getting rid of guns completely, then perhaps a rule could be set down that if one is able to kill X number of humans in Y seconds then it could possibly not be a great thing to have on the market?  

You see, if you have an urge to kill then you should really use a knife.  Using a knife takes COMMITMENT!!  You have to get up close and personal with the victim and really DIG INTO IT!   

With a gun murder is so impersonal.  You can just close your eyes and squeeze the trigger.  It takes absolutely no effort and you don’t even need to get your hands dirty.  

I’ve heard people say that criminals don’t follow laws so banning guns wouldn’t work.  We also have so many guns laying around already so what would a ban really do?  

Again, we go back to my argument about the alcoholic.  There is no one simple solution, no pill America can pop to simply make things better.  However, limiting the amount of alcohol might be a good first step!  Or if we need to step down slowly how about just having him drink beer and stopping sales of the 50 proof?  

Or hell, how about slapping a 5000% tax on the 50 proof?  

But no, America cannot take the first step.  America doesn’t want to take any steps at all!  Those that scream about their right to own guns, and all types of guns offer no solutions.  At least the anti-gun folks want to do something.  

As for my personal opinion, I’m not against hand gun ownership.  I am against assault rifle ownership.  In our society we are having too many instances of mass shootings by one individual.  I am against guns that can kill X number of people in Y minutes.  I think there should be a limit or at least a very very large tax.  

Finally and to reiterate, I am shocked by how uncivil our society has become.  For the record more people in my social network did not comment about gun rights after this tragedy.  It was mostly the Fox news viewers and they remain in a perpetual state of rage no matter the circumstances.  

As Romney said, 47% of the population can be written off for the Republicans.  Well, 100% of the Fox News viewership can be written off as they are not intelligent, thinking people.  

Right now the society of the USA needs to take a concrete step in the right direction.  I do not know what steps those are but I would hate to see this society fall further than it already has.  

 

 

 

 

pilgrimsindians

The Truth about Thanksgiving

Truth about Thanksgiving

America always has the best holidays.  They are of a different nature when compared to European holidays in terms of the level of enthusiasm, participation and excitement.  America is like the young child, bursting with anticipation for their fêtes while Europe would be the slow lumbering adult who smiles with muted amusement and in no particular rush towards their holidays.

The one thing about America however is due to its youthfulness it has been able to recreate each holiday according to its will without much regard to the actual origins and in most cases turning a complete blind eye to actual fact.  

Such is the case with the holiday we celebrate today.  We call it Thanksgiving and for most it is the time to eat turkey, watch football and take long naps.  If you ask most Americans about the origin they will tell you the story about the “Pilgrims” who are these people in top hats and buckle shoes who were helped by the Indians (Native Americans) when they didn’t have enough to eat.  

They will remember from their childhood drawing pictures of smiling pilgrims and Indians sharing a table and being good friends.  Unfortunately, this couldn’t be farther from the truth by the simple fact that as I look around I do not see one Indian anywhere but I do see a lot of non Indians.  In fact, the world has spun around the sun so many times since the first Thanksgiving that I actually see many many Indians from Indian but *not a single* Native American.  

As this blog enjoys pointing out truths that have either been forgotten or are just completely ignored, I’d like to share an excerpt from a very good, historically accurate book.  Enjoy.  

Book: The Hidden History of Massachusetts
Author: Tingba Apidta
Link:  Amazon.com

The Real Thanksgiving

Much of America’s understanding of the early relationship between the Indian and the European is conveyed through the story of Thanksgiving. Proclaimed a holiday in 1863 by Abraham Lincoln, this fairy tale of a feast was allowed to exist in the American imagination pretty much untouched until 1970, the 350th anniversary of the landing of the Pilgrims. That is when Frank B. James, president of the Federated Eastern Indian League, prepared a speech for a Plymouth banquet that exposed the Pilgrims for having committed, among other crimes, the robbery of the graves of the Wampanoags. He wrote:

“We welcomed you, the white man, with open arms, little knowing that it was the beginning of the end; that before 50 years were to pass, the Wampanoag would no longer be a free people.”

But white Massachusetts officials told him he could not deliver such a speech and offered to write him another. Instead, James declined to speak, and on Thanksgiving Day hundreds of Indians from around the country came to protest. It was the first National Day of Mourning, a day to mark the losses Native Americans suffered as the early settlers prospered. This true story of “Thanksgiving” is what whites did not want Mr. James to tell.

What Really Happened in Plymouth in 1621?

According to a single-paragraph account in the writings of one Pilgrim, a harvest feast did take place in Plymouth in 1621, probably in mid-October, but the Indians who attended were not even invited. Though it later became known as “Thanksgiving,” the Pilgrims never called it that. And amidst the imagery of a picnic of interracial harmony is some of the most terrifying bloodshed in New World history.

The Pilgrim crop had failed miserably that year, but the agricultural expertise of the Indians had produced twenty acres of corn, without which the Pilgrims would have surely perished. The Indians often brought food to the Pilgrims, who came from England ridiculously unprepared to survive and hence relied almost exclusively on handouts from the overly generous Indians-thus making the Pilgrims the western hemisphere’s first class of welfare recipients. The Pilgrims invited the Indian sachem Massasoit to their feast, and it was Massasoit, engaging in the tribal tradition of equal sharing, who then invited ninety or more of his Indian brothers and sisters-to the annoyance of the 50 or so ungrateful Europeans. No turkey, cranberry sauce or pumpkin pie was served; they likely ate duck or geese and the venison from the 5 deer brought by Massasoit. In fact, most, if notall, of the food was most likely brought and prepared by the Indians, whose 10,000-year familiarity with the cuisine of the region had kept the whites alive up to that point.

The Pilgrims wore no black hats or buckled shoes-these were the silly inventions of artists hundreds of years since that time. These lower-class Englishmen wore brightly colored clothing, with one of their church leaders recording among his possessions “1 paire of greene drawers.” Contrary to the fabricated lore of storytellers generations since, no Pilgrims prayed at the meal, and the supposed good cheer and fellowship must have dissipated quickly once the Pilgrims brandished their weaponry in a primitive display of intimidation. What’s more, the Pilgrims consumed a good deal of home brew. In fact, each Pilgrim drank at least a half gallon of beer a day, which they preferred even to water. This daily inebriation led their governor, William Bradford, to comment on his people’s “notorious sin,” which included their “drunkenness and uncleanliness” and rampant “sodomy”…

The Pilgrims of Plymouth, The Original Scalpers

Contrary to popular mythology the Pilgrims were no friends to the local Indians. They were engaged in a ruthless war of extermination against their hosts, even as they falsely posed as friends. Just days before the alleged Thanksgiving love-fest, a company of Pilgrims led by Myles Standish actively sought to chop off the head of a local chief. They deliberately caused a rivalry between two friendly Indians, pitting one against the other in an attempt to obtain “better intelligence and make them both more diligent.” An 11-foot-high wall was erected around the entire settlement for the purpose of keeping the Indians out.

Any Indian who came within the vicinity of the Pilgrim settlement was subject to robbery, enslavement, or even murder. The Pilgrims further advertised their evil intentions and white racial hostility, when they mounted five cannons on a hill around their settlement, constructed a platform for artillery, and then organized their soldiers into four companies-all in preparation for the military destruction of their friends the Indians.

Pilgrim Myles Standish eventually got his bloody prize. He went to the Indians, pretended to be a trader, then beheaded an Indian man named Wituwamat. He brought the head to Plymouth, where it was displayed on a wooden spike for many years, according to Gary B. Nash, “as a symbol of white power.” Standish had the Indian man’s young brother hanged from the rafters for good measure. From that time on, the whites were known to the Indians of Massachusetts by the name “Wotowquenange,” which in their tongue meant cutthroats and stabbers.

Who Were the “Savages”?

The myth of the fierce, ruthless Indian savage lusting after the blood of innocent Europeans must be vigorously dispelled at this point. In actuality, the historical record shows that the very opposite was true.

Once the European settlements stabilized, the whites turned on their hosts in a brutal way. The once amicable relationship was breeched again and again by the whites, who lusted over the riches of Indian land. A combination of the Pilgrims’ demonization of the Indians, the concocted mythology of Eurocentric historians, and standard Hollywood propaganda has served to paint the gentle Indian as a tomahawk-swinging savage endlessly on the warpath, lusting for the blood of the God-fearing whites.

But the Pilgrims’ own testimony obliterates that fallacy. The Indians engaged each other in military contests from time to time, but the causes of “war,” the methods, and the resulting damage differed profoundly from the European variety:

o Indian “wars” were largely symbolic and were about honor, not about territory or extermination.

o “Wars” were fought as domestic correction for a specific act and were ended when correction was achieved. Such action might better be described as internal policing. The conquest or destruction of whole territories was a European concept.

o Indian “wars” were often engaged in by family groups, not by whole tribal groups, and would involve only the family members.

o A lengthy negotiation was engaged in between the aggrieved parties before escalation to physical confrontation would be sanctioned. Surprise attacks were unknown to the Indians.

o It was regarded as evidence of bravery for a man to go into “battle” carrying no weapon that would do any harm at a distance-not even bows and arrows. The bravest act in war in some Indian cultures was to touch their adversary and escape before he could do physical harm.

o The targeting of non-combatants like women, children, and the elderly was never contemplated. Indians expressed shock and repugnance when the Europeans told, and then showed, them that they considered women and children fair game in their style of warfare.

o A major Indian “war” might end with less than a dozen casualties on both sides. Often, when the arrows had been expended the “war” would be halted. The European practice of wiping out whole nations in bloody massacres was incomprehensible to the Indian.

According to one scholar, “The most notable feature of Indian warfare was its relative innocuity.” European observers of Indian wars often expressed surprise at how little harm they actually inflicted. “Their wars are far less bloody and devouring than the cruel wars of Europe,” commented settler Roger Williams in 1643. Even Puritan warmonger and professional soldier Capt. John Mason scoffed at Indian warfare: “[Their] feeble manner…did hardly deserve the name of fighting.” Fellow warmonger John Underhill spoke of the Narragansetts, after having spent a day “burning and spoiling” their country: “no Indians would come near us, but run from us, as the deer from the dogs.” He concluded that the Indians might fight seven years and not kill seven men. Their fighting style, he wrote, “is more for pastime, than to conquer and subdue enemies.”

All this describes a people for whom war is a deeply regrettable last resort. An agrarian people, the American Indians had devised a civilization that provided dozens of options all designed to avoid conflict–the very opposite of Europeans, for whom all-out war, a ferocious bloodlust, and systematic genocide are their apparent life force. Thomas Jefferson–who himself advocated the physical extermination of the American Indian–said of Europe, “They [Europeans] are nations of eternal war. All their energies are expended in the destruction of labor, property and lives of their people.”

Puritan Holocaust

By the mid 1630s, a new group of 700 even holier Europeans calling themselves Puritans had arrived on 11 ships and settled in Boston-which only served to accelerate the brutality against the Indians.

In one incident around 1637, a force of whites trapped some seven hundred Pequot Indians, mostly women, children, and the elderly, near the mouth of the Mystic River. Englishman John Mason attacked the Indian camp with “fire, sword, blunderbuss, and tomahawk.” Only a handful escaped and few prisoners were taken-to the apparent delight of the Europeans:

To see them frying in the fire, and the streams of their blood quenching the same, and the stench was horrible; but the victory seemed a sweet sacrifice, and they gave praise thereof to God.

This event marked the first actual Thanksgiving. In just 10 years 12,000 whites had invaded New England, and as their numbers grew they pressed for all-out extermination of the Indian. Euro-diseases had reduced the population of the Massachusett nation from over 24,000 to less than 750; meanwhile, the number of European settlers in Massachusetts rose to more than 20,000 by 1646.

By 1675, the Massachusetts Englishmen were in a full-scale war with the great Indian chief of the Wampanoags, Metacomet. Renamed “King Philip” by the white man, Metacomet watched the steady erosion of the lifestyle and culture of his people as European-imposed laws and values engulfed them.

In 1671, the white man had ordered Metacomet to come to Plymouth to enforce upon him a new treaty, which included the humiliating rule that he could no longer sell his own land without prior approval from whites. They also demanded that he turn in his community’s firearms. Marked for extermination by the merciless power of a distant king and his ruthless subjects, Metacomet retaliated in 1675 with raids on several isolated frontier towns. Eventually, the Indians attacked 52 of the 90 New England towns, destroying 13 of them. The Englishmen ultimately regrouped, and after much bloodletting defeated the great Indian nation, just half a century after their arrival on Massachusetts soil. Historian Douglas Edward Leach describes the bitter end:

The ruthless executions, the cruel sentences…were all aimed at the same goal-unchallengeable white supremacy in southern New England. That the program succeeded is convincingly demonstrated by the almost complete docility of the local native ever since.

When Captain Benjamin Church tracked down and murdered Metacomet in 1676, his body was quartered and parts were “left for the wolves.” The great Indian chief’s hands were cut off and sent to Boston and his head went to Plymouth, where it was set upon a pole on the real first “day of public Thanksgiving for the beginning of revenge upon the enemy.” Metacomet’s nine-year-old son was destined for execution because, the whites reasoned, the offspring of the devil must pay for the sins of their father. The child was instead shipped to the Caribbean to spend his life in slavery.

As the Holocaust continued, several official Thanksgiving Days were proclaimed. Governor Joseph Dudley declared in 1704 a “General Thanksgiving”-not in celebration of the brotherhood of man-but for [God’s] infinite Goodness to extend His Favors…In defeating and disappointing… the Expeditions of the Enemy [Indians] against us, And the good Success given us against them, by delivering so many of them into our hands…

Just two years later one could reap a ££50 reward in Massachusetts for the scalp of an Indian-demonstrating that the practice of scalping was a European tradition. According to one scholar, “Hunting redskins became…a popular sport in New England, especially since prisoners were worth good money…”

References in The Hidden History of Massachusetts: A Guide for Black Folks ©© DR. TINGBA APIDTA, ; ISBN 0-9714462-0-2

 

 

Heavy Thoughts

It is Saturday night, I have had a productive day and am now treating myself to a few glasses of wine.  

You know what happens when I do that.  The thoughts flood into my head and I feel like writing.  As usual, please forgive me if this post does not flow properly, the paragraphs are incongruent and I come to absolutely no point at all. 

In my previous post I feel that I really shot down the conservatives and was a bit mean.  I don’t mean to be mean.  

*Language sidebar:  Isn’t it funny how in English one can use “mean” in two different ways in the same sentence?

I’m being completely honest about this and rest assured it is no snide, backhanded liberal trick either.  The reason my heart has softened is I saw a woman today at a Thomas the Train event,,, yes the Thomas that kids like (I have a little boy) and she was wearing a “support your Union” shirt with an American flag and an eagle on it.  

Now this shirt in itself might be a little confusing politically since liberals are usually identified with the Unions and conservatives like to wave flags, show the eagle and take pride in America’s military ability.  

But for the sake of argument, let us say she is a conservative because, well, the shirt had a flag and eagle on it and I just feel that is something conservatives would wear.

And you know what?  I like Conservatives.  

*Warning:  I am going to severely generalize and stereotype here.  

I happen to live in San Francisco and sometimes I feel that Liberals can be self righteous, self-important, snooty, and just downright off putting.  

It is the Conservatives that wear shirts with American flags and eagles and I kind of like that.  These are also the same people that over decorate their houses at Christmas (and every other holiday) and are just down to earth people.  They have no qualms about planting  a big American flag on their front lawn, taking their kids to a Thomas the Train event and doing something as uniquely American as going bowling.  

I like all of those things too!  

So here I find myself painting a very wonderful picture of Conservatives and I wonder to myself when it was that idiots like Limbaugh, Palin, Beck, Bachmann and the rest of the nincompoop squad hijacked the Conservative camp.  

See what I’m doing here?  I’m actually convincing myself that I actually like Conservatives when the fact of the matter is that I DO actually like Conservatives on many many many points!!!!  I’m just over stereotyping I guess.  

So what can I do in this situation?  Perhaps I can just call the politicians and media on both sides of the ideological isle Sons of Bitches for poisoning the well and making us hate each other.  

Now let’s switch gears and talk about the American soldiers.  

As a person who has lived in many different countries I’ve seen a lot of things.  My last foreign country I lived in was Vietnam and I don’t think I have to tell you that one will not like war very much after understanding what happened there.  It will soften all hearts.  

So let me just say this.  In America we keep talking about “protecting freedoms” which is a very good phrase to justify attacking other countries no matter the actual reason.  

The soldiers on the other hand, my heart really goes out to them.  We as a country really do not understand the sacrifice these men and women go through.  

Only on occasion do we see the flag draped coffins in some picture only to forget it 5 minutes later as we go about our daily lives.  That coffin was a consciousness, a human, a living being snuffed out.  For every one that comes back in a box our hearts should all completely break.  

Those where men and women who were trying to do the right thing, protect the country, get ahead in life.  No matter the reason they joined the armed forces, I’m certain that the majority what to do good or at least get ahead in the best way the know how and was available to them.  For all my “liberal” ramblings I will always have a place in my heart for those young people.  (On both sides)

It is their leaders that I want to chastise and have done so many times in this blog.  

But now, let us add a twist.  

What are we not seeing?  Do any of us weep for the foreigners killed when we deploy our soldiers overseas?  Do we really understand the death and destruction?  Do we cry for the family just wiped out by a drone’s missile?  Did we even know the family existed?   

How many missiles were launched today?  How many beings snuffed out?  And we cheer when we see this in the news?  How can we call ourselves human beings?  How can we cheer death and destruction and simply chalk it up under “protecting freedom?”  

How can we be one of the most educated nations on earth yet accept the death of so many under a simple slogan?

And we think ourselves more informed than those in the “oppressed” countries?  We simply say “We are protecting our freedoms!” When next to nobody knows what the hell that means.  

I think this is a good time to quit this post.  

Moral of the story:  I think conservatives make more trustworthy neighbors.  I’d rather talk about international stuff with liberals though.  

 

Heathcare – A Global Citizen Perspective

In honor of the Supreme Court decision today I thought a quick post was necessary.

As you readers know I rarely fall into the same old boring talking points of the right or the left but try my best to give you something unique, something from a global traveler perspective.  Well, I’m pleased to let you know I won’t fail you with this post.

Healthcare?

I tell you the truth I had never really thought about it.  I was a young healthy adult and planned to stay that way.

After I graduated college and was out on my own I first went to Japan.  I didn’t think about  healthcare in Japan.  The only time I had to go to the doctor was when it was required to work out in the gym at Waseda University.

Yep, you heard me right, I had to go get a health check before I could work out in the weight room at Waseda.  So, I made my appointment and went to the doctor.  He told me I was healthy, I got my note and was able to workout in the gym.  I don’t even remember how I payed for it.

Actually, I think I was required to go to the doctor one more time in Japan although I forget for what.  Good news is I had already been paying into their national healthcare so I just got to see the doctor and leave.  Again, I didn’t think anything about healthcare.

After Japan I went to live in Vietnam.  As half of America knows Vietnam is Communist.  Did I think about healthcare in a communist country?

Nope.

If I was going to think about healthcare, this would probably have been the best place in the world to think about it!  You see, there isn’t much to do in Saigon except go to the bar and, um, other things.  If you’re a local you’ll hop on your motorbike after the bar and drive home.

Do you see the problem here?

Yes, sometimes people drink to much and crash.  Back in 2004 helmets were not yet required in Saigon and the expat community lost about 1 or 2 members a year to heads hitting the pavement.  For those that did survive they got air lifted to Thailand at the cost of about $40,000 dollars because Vietnam really does not have the ability to deal with such head trauma.

I don’t mean to get into the extremes here, I just wanted to point out that if I were to ever have healthcare, I probably would have wanted it in Vietnam.  I did not.

So what did I do?  Well, I just payed upfront because it really wasn’t that expensive.  Every expatriate is going to have to visit the doctor sometime or another due to various issues.  One of those issues is diarrhea that does not stop.  If you spend any amount of time in Vietnam you’re going to get some strange bugs in your intestines and they do not just go away.  So you have to go to your doctor and pick up a dose of your best friend Cipro.

I met my doctor through a mutual Vietnamese friend.  The doctors name was Mark, but our Vietnamese friend always called him “Mark Doctor.”  So, from then on he was Mark Doctor to me.

I would just call Mark Doctor up and say “Hey Mark Doctor, I got the shits!”  I’d go down and see Mark Doctor who would write me up a prescription for Cipro, I payed about $20 and off I went on my merry way.  Other times you will get strange fevers and rashes.  I’m not sure what I had one time but it totally knocked me on my ass.  Again, what did I do?  “Hey Mark Doctor, I FEEL like shit!”  I popped down to see Mark Doctor and he fixed me up with a nice prescription for another $20.

I think those were the only times I saw the doctor in Vietnam for medical issues.

Sooooooooooo, I then come back to the United States and healthcare seems to be the most important issue in a century.  Having access to healthcare almost seemed even more important than having food or shelter!  The overriding thought seemed to be that if you do not have healthcare YOU WILL DIE!

I really couldn’t understand why everyone was making such a big deal about it.  I think it had something to do with politicians and the political shows getting everyone all worked up.

Well, I quickly found out what the fuss was about when I went for a routine teeth cleaning.  The first thing they asked me was if I had insurance.  I said no and I swear the receptionist looked as though the world was going to end.  I realized this and told her I would just pay out of pocket, all I needed was a simple cleaning.  The receptionist made me feel like some kind of leper and I knew then, I was an outsider, an outsider due to no insurance!

I started to get my cleaning and before I knew it the dentist was telling me about all the special services they provide such as whitening and other various cosmetic treatments.

Hell Doctor, I didn’t ask for a sales pitch, I just wanted to get my teeth cleaned!

I declined and we wrapped up the cleaning.  I payed about $120 and was quite shocked about how expensive the USA is.  It was at this point that I started to think a little about healthcare.

With my first job I was given some healthcare cards, a bunch of reading materials and e-mails about three times a week telling me that something or other with my healthcare plan had changed.

I exaggerate you not, these e-mails came at least once, if not three times a week telling me to review my plan and the changes that had been made.  I thought that these must be some lawyer tinkering with this word or that and so out of hundreds of “updates” that I believe I had received, I looked at a total of none of them.

Then Obama comes around and gets elected.  The healthcare debate REALLY heats up then!

****** Warning***** About to get into the good stuff*************

Now we have the Right bitching and moaning while the Left is celebrating.  Everyone is talking costs, constitutionality, individual rights and other things.  For me though I just see the following.

A rather large portion of Americas are fat and unhealthy.  Just take a quick look at the CDC statistics.  Why?  Well, we have a culture whose main reason for existence is to make money.  Sell the people more food, sell them more drugs to combat the obesity, sell them more insurance to cover the costs when they need to go see the doctor for being unhealthy.

‘Unhealthyness’ is a bonanza for many many industries who have a vested interest in keeping people unhealthy.

So they go to the doctors and if the doctors do not do everything perfectly then there are the lawyers who also make money on people being unhealthy and the doctors making mistakes.  Now we have litigation which also drive up premiums because the doctors now have to run many many unnecessary tests just to cover themselves from being sued.

In fact, the number of doctors running their own practice has been severely decreasing!  Now they much join a big consortium such as Kaiser just so they can practice and not losing everything to lawsuits!

So why are costs increasing?  Is it Obama and Socialism?

No, it is America has a LOT of unhealthy people AND this culture is programmed to believe something is always wrong with them but then this can be fixed by purchasing something.

Something is wrong with you, you better go see a doctor and you better get some drugs to fix your problem.  Don’t have a problem?  Come’on, I’m sure there is something not quite right that the latest pretty little pill can fix!

America is sick alright.

Now we have Obama trying to provide insurance for everyone, but the other half have been convinced to vote against something that is probably in their best interest!

I really hate it when they throw out the word “socialist” so readily.  These people have no idea what socialism actually is!  I mean they certainly haven’t lived in a socialist country and most likely have never been out of the United States!  So how would they know what Socialism is?  I’ll tell you how.  They watched Fox News and Fox told them so.  They also told them that Socialism is bad.

As for me, I really don’t want to think anymore about healthcare.  If there was a big problem we are fortunate enough that we could always pop back to Japan and be taken care of.

Wait, that was my old thinking.  The Supreme Court just ruled that we can indeed have something close to national healthcare!  Wow.

The people against this really baffle me.  Let me get quickly and succinctly to my point.  I have a choice of nations in which to live and can fit into many of them easily.

Here in the USA you must do the following

1. Pay taxes which already include Medicare / Medicate which is kind of like healthcare
2. Go to war if required.
3. Serve at Court if summoned

We have to do these three basic things but when the government wants to offer something that actually benefits us (healthcare) people get upset?

It is at this point that international people would say that Americans are stupid.  Well friends, I’m happy to inform you that it is only half of them that are stupid.  The other half has it right.

Half advocate war, pollution, racism, outsourcing of jobs.

The other half advocate the opposite.

And yes, this is very simplistic.  I still like Ron Paul for his anti-war stance.  I just can’t stand the Republicans who are just so…………….  off putting!

To wrap it all up, I’m very glad the Supreme Court did good today.

And to put it in perspective, many people have a choice of which passports to hold.  If you were given the choice would you not take a look at the advantages of citizenship in each country?

If Republicans had their way you would have the ‘advantage’ of

1. Going to war
2. Breathing plenty of pollution
3. Not being gay as they don’t like them
4. Having your papers checked daily
5. Praying to Jesus because as everyone knows, Jesus didn’t like immigrants (or gays) and only performed miracles on those with a good healthcare plan
6. Not being assured of healthcare, because only those that know how to make profits are worth anything to them.

But luckily, the Republicans lost today.

As Ice Cube says, “It Was a Good Day.”

Asian-American-theme-month

Asian Invasion!

Asians have taken over today’s news cycle!

Asians Top Immigration Class – WSJ

Apparently some report came out that says Asians are the number one class of immigrants at the moment.  Every single news source has jumped on this and although I really do not have time for a long post, I just wanted to record my thoughts on the matter and will get straight to my points without being too wordy.

First let us contrast the opening paragraph of two different news sources.

1.  Wall Street Journal
- Asians are the fastest-growing, most educated and highest-earning population in the U.S., according to a new report that paints the majority-immigrant group as a boon to an economy that has come to rely increasingly on skilled workers. 

My subconscious is telling me that Asians are positive for the economy!

2. Fox News
For the first time, the influx of Asians moving to the U.S. has surpassed that of Hispanics, reflecting a slowdown in illegal immigration while American employers increase their demand for high-skilled workers.

My subconscious is telling me, HEY ARE THESE ASIANS ILLEGALS?  You know what two words the Tea Party heard in this paragraph?  Yep, the ones in bold.

Notice how the Wall Street Journal reflected on the positive while Fox News true to form managed to put the word illegals and possibly something negative in that opening paragraph?  Very sneaky of our friends at the ‘fair and balanced’ news organization.

Maybe it is just me, but for some reason I have the nagging suspicion that those so adamantly against “Illegal Immigration” are actually against immigrants overall.

I try to talk myself out of it but the thought just latches on to me and refuses to let go.

So, I try to prove myself wrong as I am sure there will be many positive comments on the FB Wall Street Journal page right???

First, let me post the comments (from Asians) that made me laugh.

–  I guess I’m not living up to my potential
–  What about East Indians?? or are they all in the hospitals?
–  I am Asian, I need to get back to study now
– This is now a scientifically proven fact that eating rice can help your income rise faster and higher.

Unfortunately, in every comment section ever opened to the public there is a 95% chance that the comments will become infinitely more stupid until critical mass is hit and the stupidity cannot be stopped.  I mean, it always works in that direction, as I have never seen a comment section become infinitely more intelligent,,,, not ever.  It must be a law of physics; once stupidity is set in motion, it cannot be stopped.

It is similar to throwing a stone in the lake.  All you need is one really stupid comment and it will ripple and ripple and ripple through the entire thread.  Sigh…

It was no different with the WSJ comment section.  Let’s get to a few that REALLY MADE ME LAUGH in a sad sort of way.

Mr. X – Many asians, ie Chinese, Indians, Koreans, are people of self control, and so, accomplishment. If it were my choice, I would welcome them and slam the door on most of our immigrant groups.

– Thank you Mr. X for your infinite wisdom and understanding of the Chinese, Indians and Koreans.  Interesting choice though as I would have said the Japanese have the most self control but they weren’t even mentioned!

I would challenge him to name the other “immigrant” groups to which he would like to “slam the door.”  I bet you he is referring to Mexicans as those “others” and that he got his idea of Asians from the movie Karate Kid or something.  Just my thought.

But as I said, it only takes one stupid comment to start the chain reaction of idiocy.  There were plenty of responses but the following is my favorite.

Ms. Y:  Koreans=self control?  Try again! You haven’t seen an asian at the sketchy casinos at Lake Tahoe? Barona? Vegas?  Have you heard of Tiger Mom?  Please. Self control is for other people. You act like Asians are perfect. Asians got lucky that influential people cared enough about them to push priorities in the right places (wisdom, elders, face, etc.).

Believe it or not I am heading to Lake Tahoe this weekend and am going to keep my eye out for “an asian at the sketchy casinos.”  Only problem is I am not sure which casinos would be considered “sketchy” in Tahoe.  Tahoe is actually very small/clean and I don’t think I would consider any of them “sketchy.”  Maybe I’ll ask Siri to recommend a sketchy casino while I’m there and should I indeed find myself in one I sure as hell am going to look for “an  asian.”

But seriously, I’m impressed that this person even knows how to use a computer. (It should be taken away)

Asians got lucky that influential people cared enough about them to push priorities in the right places (wisdom, elders, face, etc.).

Who the hell are the ‘influential’ people she is talking about here?  Mao perhaps?  Confucius?  I would really like to know who these grand influencers of The Asian people are!  Also, I have absolutely no idea what she means by “face.”  I can’t even make a joke or be sarcastic about it, I simply have no idea what she means!

Ahhhh, it is just too silly and a waste of time to pick out stupid comments and poke fun.

I guess I was just interested that every single news source picked up this story and I knew that the undercurrent (Tea Party, Republicans) of racism since Obama was elected would certainly flare up at such a report.

It is going to be more difficult to focus on “illegal immigration” aka Mexicans when Asians are the new threat to AMURICA!

Besides, it was also just announced that Marco Rubio is being considered by Romney for Vice President!  Well doesn’t that beat all!!!  How can the Tea Party continue to unleash venom against ‘them latinos’ when their own party is considering one for a top post?  Yes yes, the problem of illegal immigration is mostly Mexican but let us not forget Elian Gonzales so quickly people!  How can we know for certain that Marco Rubio wasn’t born in CUBA???    I DEMAND to see his birth certificate!

Alright, I’ve gone off the rails.  I need to get back on track, just like Amurica.

Given the nature of this report I find it alarming that Asians are taking over the country.

Somethin’ just must be done.

 

 

 

Internet Overload plus random thoughts

A very heavy workday has ended and now I have a few minutes before I go into the evening routine.  Usually this time would be reserved for playing World of Warcraft but thankfully I think that addiction is starting to wane.  

Or, it could be that I’ve created a nice little space for myself in front of the window, assembled an Ikea desk and put a laptop on it.  So even though I’ve had no wine and do not feel especially compelled to write I’ve sat down at my desk and begun this aimless post.  

Since I’ve put “internet” in the title I should probably write a bit about that.  I wonder how many people feel a bit overloaded by all the media we are consuming on a daily basis.  I find myself checking the news on my iphone about 20 times a day and finding the same stories from different news sites.  It’s not that I even enjoy it anymore, it has become a habit, almost an addiction.  So, I open up Facebook and the problem is I’ve added all these news sites to my FB feed and I see the same stories yet again!  

I do enjoy keeping up with my 500+ friends and seeing their photos but even then, I’m getting overloaded with media.  It’s not the photos so much but the constant random complaints, quotes, meltdowns, advice, sales pitches, invites to places where I don’t live anymore and yes, news stories YET AGAIN!!   

I suspect that others may feel this way too.  It seems that in the beginning of FB we had a lot of fun reconnecting with old faces from the past and it was a party.  Now, more than half of my FB friends no longer post and it’s only the hardcore posters that are either sharing some random advice or posting something off the wall like “I hate men who don’t want anything to do with their children!”   

When people post things like this I want to be a voyeur and know what happened that brought out this random proclamation.   But, no, I’m never satisfied even if I do check the comments over and over again.  

So, I close Facebook and like one who engages in pleasure too much, it simply is not as much fun as it once was.

So what do I do?  Well, I look for more entertainment sources which probably means back to the news again.  I realize I’m going in a vicious circle, turn off my Iphone and stare at the wall.  

However, my brain is telling me I should be reading or be entertained in some way.  So I turn the electronics back on again.  I’m addicted and I cannot stop.  I don’t want to read the news anymore, I don’t care what states Romney won, hell, I don’t even want to go kill the Horde in WOW either!  I think this is what is called “hitting rock bottom” in other addictions.  

Further, I feel as though I’m behind the curve on technology.  There are too many new websites, too many causes, too many things the media wants us to pay attention to.  I feel like a whore, pimped out over and over again so the media and technology can ravage my brain.  Even though I think I have had enough, I pimp myself out again to digest even more of the noise.  

And what is my solution to this?  Well, to engage in more technology which is exactly what I’m doing.  On one hand I feel worn out but on the other I feel as though I haven’t had enough and can conquer technology again!!  

So, I bought a server and am waiting for it to arrive.  This site is hosted by GoDaddy and they felt the need to charge $160 for the next two years which is insane!!!!  Therefore, I thought I would give hosting my own website a try with my very own server.  I’m a bit nervous because I haven’t done it before and it is technically not allowed under my ISP’s contract but the forums tell me if I keep the bandwith low they will never notice.  I also realized that my personal e-mails are also hosted by Godaddy and I’m going to have to figure out how to run an e-mail program on my new server.  I’m a bit nervous but also excited because I sure as shit am not giving Godaddy $160.  

I’ve also become quite a sloth with this blog.  I set it up fairly quickly but have thought I could break my news and WOW addiction my devoting my energies to something more useful, namely, this blog.  It does well enough in terms of views for very little effort but to become a decent sized blog I’ll have to put in effort.  I think that with this new view of my back patio, I’ll have enough motivation to give it a shot.  

But then again, I wonder about the readers, namely you people.  The opinions I write here mostly resonate only with other international people and those that do have an open mind, or what some would call “free-thinkers.”  Unfortunately, I don’t think there are enough out there, especially here in the USA where we are portrayed as either Liberals or Conservatives.  Perhaps there are more than I realize but probably not enough to become a really big blog.  

Maybe I’m just overthinking it and there are people out there that are interested in other cultures, languages, history and politics that do not fall into the tunnel vision of both the Right and the Left.  

I don’t know, I’ll give it a shot to make a better blog and get more involved with this vast space called the internet.  

Or maybe it is just one last hurrah before I OD on the net and go become a hermit in the woods.  Sure, I might be tempted to take my Iphone but I can be fairly certain that AT&T won’t provide coverage there.  

Here is where I will end this post.  I’ll go walk into the living room and try to resist the temptation to pick up my Ipad.  

Help me.  

 

Past Meets the Present – Infinite City

I’m currently reading a book called “Infinite City – A San Francisco Atlas” 

When most people hear the word “Atlas” they think of boring school subjects and perhaps don’t bother to lift the cover.  For me however, I opened the cover and this book has kept me spellbound.  

As any reader of this blog knows, I enjoy language, culture, history, politics and general discovery.  As it happens, these things often come all at once.  My mind is able to paint a fuller picture of the things which surround me by combining my knowledge of language, my travels to places not yet explored (by me), interest in history and reading of current events.  

I am reminded of this quote by Thomas Paine ““The mind once enlightened cannot again become dark.”   Once that spark of curiosity has been ignited it turns into a conflagration consuming as much knowledge as it possibly can.  

The “Infinite City” has definitely poured much fuel on the fire.  

The first thing I really like about this book is how it talks about “Ghosts.”  These ghosts are the past, the forgotten that have been built over yet have contributed so much and define the character of the city.  

Every neighborhood in San Francisco is full of these ghosts.  Most people cannot see them, they are disconnected from the past by that veil which grows thicker with each passing year.  

As I mentioned I have great interest in many things and from my world travels and experiences I actively seek out these ghosts.  Sometimes, I know they are there but really have no understanding of the history until I have found the right book and have done my studies.  Only then, do they really come alive.  

I will not go into the details of these ghosts in this post but instead will just give you a few examples of what I think about when walking through San Francisco.  

1. Japan Town – I see the Japanese being boarded onto buses for concentration camps courtesy of the US Government.  I see a shell of a place that once was a thriving Japanese community now being bought up by Koreans.  

2. The Fillmore – A heart of African American culture where many famous Jazz musicians once played.  This was gutted by redevelopment.  I also think of how it is named after the US President Millard Fillmore

3.  The Embarcadero – In Spanish, a “Barca” is a boat, thus the “Embarcadero” is the place where you board the boats.  

Now, take these examples and multiply them by a million and that is how I have come to see this city.  Much of my knowledge comes directly from the book I have mentioned.  

Now, how can we understand the present without understanding the past?  

The fact is, we really cannot.  Reading this book I can make greater sense of what is happening politically right now.  The 99% vs. the 1% has happened all before.  

Very few people would remember the United Fruit Company.  It was the UFC that coined the term “Banana Republic” as they controlled many third world nations.  This was the behemoth that exploited the poor in the third world countries and put people out of work in the US.  In early 1995 the exploitation was expanded by NAFTA to not only include fruit, but also anything possible of being manufactured that really put a lot of people in the US out of work.  

I believe it just took a decade or so for the process to lubricate properly, the US citizens to realize that their jobs are disappearing and should they have a job it is stagnant.  Meanwhile, the executives of these international companies are making a killing.  

The crisis did not start with Wall Street, they are only the profiteers of a system designed to make American citizens much poorer while trumpeting the horn of “efficiency and progress.”  

A great point the author makes in this book is in regards to shipping containers.  Yes, those large bulky containers they put on ships to transport goods.  These are directly responsible for the exploitation of cheap labor from other countries and the declining industrial jobs in the USA.  The “working man” started to lose power long before NAFTA, long before Wall Street and Finance went into overdrive.  

These containers were responsible for the loss of industrial jobs in SF and the USA as a whole.  An interesting fact she makes is that SF could not receive these containers do to limited space thus they went to Oakland and later Seattle and LA where space was available.  

She talks about the transition of SF going from human labor to the industrial and technological economy.  My favorite parts are here.  

“The truth is that we’re drowning in busywork, nonproductive work, everything from “creative” bankingand insurance bureaucracies to the pointless shuffling of data and the manufacturing of products designed to be obsolescent almost immediately – and I would argue that a great deal of what we’re doing shoudl just stop.  

The modernization and progress that gave this soul-destroying process a certain inevitability did indeed affect the whole country, and even most of the world.  It was not invented in the Bay Area, but San Francisco was one of its earliest epicenters…….  As this process unfolded, the white working class lost its identity as workers, mostly fled the cities, sent the kids to college, and took full advantage (by going into massive debt) of the wealth that US militarism and multinational business poured into U.S. coffers.” 

Now look at our current environment.  We have the Republicans who are the defenders of these multinational robber barons and the Democrats who try to put a few curbs on them but are basically in league as well.  

We can never turn back the clock but I think it is about time we take another look at the meaning of “progress.”  In the current Capitalistic climate, “progress” means making the profits ever higher no matter what the expense, no matter who is hurt financially.  Make more money so you can buy more stuff is the meaning of “progress” in the USA.  

Thankfully, the tide is turning ever so slightly.  People (in California) at least are more apt to purchase locally, at least where foodstuffs are concerned.  Some people are questioning the need to buy ever more goods and giving a thought to at least saving some money.  

But, it is all a dream, I highly doubt that the tide can be turned and that people will look away from greed and the desire to purchase more things.  On one side you have the business people that employ armies of marketers to make people want to buy, to make them feel they do not have enough.  On the other, you have a handful of thoughtful people who realize they are being suckered and would like to opt out of the system.  These people are the ones who shop at the local farmers markets and do not fall for every single sales pitch thrown at them on a day to day basis.  

To sum up the current climate in the USA, I’d like to take a line from the failed presidential contender Herman Cain.  “It’s you’re own fault if you’re not rich.”  It seems that in the USA  becoming wealthy is the whole purpose of being, the purpose of life, at least in the Republican party.  

But, I digress, as I’ve gone off on a tangent again.  I guess my point is that I find it so enlightening to uncover a book like “Infinite City” and realize that these class struggles have been fought way before the current crisis.  It is fun to be able to look past all the sound bites from the politicians and realize that we’ve been here all before.  

I guess if I were to strive for a point which sums it all up, in the USA we have an electorate who is incredibly ignorant of the past and believe all these issues just started as soon as a Hannity or a Limbaugh opened their mouths.  

My advice, is to become interested in the past, to look for those ghosts.  Only then, can we really understand where we are and where we are going.  

Until we can do that, a “Banana Republic” will remain a clothing store and the world would have begun in 1990.  

 

Half a second in the Empire

This post is devoted to a snapshot of my week in the Empire called America.  I say a snapshot because these are the things that have stuck out in my mind this past week.  

How I would love to read the same type of post from a citizen of Rome.  Just one little snippet of what life was like back then and what a relatively normal citizen thought about. Well, I write this post for the future inhabitants of planet Earth.  May this post survive 1000 years so they may see what a certain international citizen is currently thinking about on 1.1.2012.  

1. The Right

I sometimes like to turn on AM radio and listen to the Right screech.  I never really know who is screeching since I do not pay that much attention unless they are a major radio personality.  This week I turned on an AM station in the 600s in San Francisco. 

There are two personalities on this station and one became upset that the listeners became concerned he was not supporting a certain few Republican candidates enough.  His position was that he “didn’t give a crap” about who he was hurting or not.  He clarified later that he was talking politically but I cannot help but conclude that he meant people in general.  He became all excited and told his own listeners “F*ya.”  His colleague was quite shocked and asked him to tone it down.  This only made him more excited and he continued to rant and rave.  It was at this point that the producer chimed in and informed him that he really should not tell his own customers to “F*off.”  

So, it has come to this.  The radio personalities on the right become so angry and excited that they tell their own customers to F*off.”  

What can I tell you, future inhabitants, other than we are currently living in a circus culture.  On the Right, the purpose is to be so outraged, so angry and it must be continued every single day.  The theme is daily outrage and anger. 

People that run radio shows like this, it is their duty to be upset every single day and they can never deviate from this.  Their popularity is based on rage and this rage must be continued.  It creates an expectation and to continue and please their listeners they can never cede once single inch to the other side.  

I then tuned in again to Sean Hannity and was very surprised that he had a well known liberal on his show.  No need to go into details but the liberal made a very good point that Obama had walked in to a mess.  Hannity did not cede an inch but did treat the caller with respect.  I could not help but wonder what Hannity in all his experience thinks personally.  Of course he cannot say so as his popularity is not derived from the truth but instead on  the simple narrative of Obama hate.  

Even if Obama had done great things: Implemented healthcare, got out of Iraq, eliminated Osama, contained Iran, the radio personalities on the right simply cannot give him any credit.  To do so would weaken their own livelihoods.  

2. The Grouping of the population

Just like the Japanese, Americans also like to be associated with groups.  It becomes part of their character.  If it were the NFL, some like the Packers, some like the Broncos.  Some are Republicans, some are Democrats.  Just as with their NFL affiliation, no matter what good the other side does it can never be credited if one belongs to the other side.  It has become as simple as that.  

I like the Broncos ergo, the Packers suck.  

I am a Republican ergo, the Democrats suck.  

Intelligent people transcend such silly boundaries but it has infected the political culture as well.  There is no concern about the well being of the nation so long as the other side is in control.  It has in effect, become a zero sum game.  If one side does well, it diminishes the other in the minds of most citizens.  

3. We are Rome. 

The citizenry is concerned with entertainment.  If you turn on the TV the citizens are wondering who sung the best, who danced the best, who got the bachelor and yes who won the NH primary.  Politics in this country has become the equivalent of a puppet show.  On the Right, war has also become entertainment.  

In the past, such as with WW11 war was something that the entire nation was involved in and was necessary.  Now, it is which country we can dominate today and which humans a drone has destroyed today.  

The citizens have no idea what it would be like to be fearful of a drone attack by a foreign land.  Americans have come to seen it as normal to have their own drones attacking other human beings.  Can you imagine what it would be like to have drones from China circling overhead in the USA?  

The point is that Americans have come to see domination as simply a fact of life.  America dominates other countries and it can never be the other way.  A drone attack barely makes the headlines anymore.  Yet should the reverse be true you can bet that it would never leave the headlines and the psychology would forever be changed.  

Just like the Romans who became accustomed to being the dominate force, always on a war footing so have the Americans become.  Yet, one day the barbarians came and took over Rome and the citizens were not prepared.  

American remains a great country and has done much so much better than most great superpowers in history.  My point with this post is that there are internal forces pulling America this way and that.  To remain great, we really should have debates on our interventions in other countries and just how much we should seek to dominate the world.  

The only politician to raise such issues is Ron Paul yet he is derided by his own party and told to “go back to the mother ship.”  

As we can see in the Republican primary, the candidates are pandering to their base and advocating war!  

Therefore, I can only conclude that a majority of Republicans wish for war, they wish for death, so long as it occurs in a country far away and no sacrifice is necessary.  

They tune in for a moment to advocate death and then return to their armchairs so they can watch the latest program to see who sings and/or dances the best.  

America has become Rome.   It is an entertainment culture.  There is no room for philosophy, there is no room for an honest discussion.  It has become one for entertainment and entertainment for all.  

I for one am very disheartened by the state of the Nation and although this country has done better than most in a historical regard I cannot help but wonder if it will burn itself out quickly.  

Will the USA sputter and die over hundreds of years just as Rome or will it find the strength within itself to persevere and become strong again.  To the Right that means electing a Republican overlord to advocate war, suppress the world and create a free for all for the citizens.  To the left it also means suppressing the world yet taking care of those that have not succeeded.  There are very few who advocate a non-interventionist stance except for Ron Paul.  

In this democracy you have to pander to the base, and the base is busy watching a stupid T.V, program.  

Welcome to America. 

Welcome to the USA – Now buy something

I first used this quote in my post MBA Students – A Scourge.  It was meant to convey to my readers exactly how I felt after returning to the USA after 5 years in Asia.  

It seemed that everywhere I turned, there was a solicitation, a sales pitch trying to separate me from my money.  Credit card offers, long term financing, product sales, warranties, rebates, so on and so on.  

Well, it seems that my feeling was correct.  The USA had gotten out of control in terms of all this buy, buy, buy, spend, spend, spend and it all came crashing down.  Now we sit in a recession and all eyes are on the economy.  

However, I’m getting the feeling that it is no longer simply a BUY THIS message, but instead the sales pitches have become much more mischievous.  These days, the sales pitch has turned into a “Let us help you,” message.  At first glance, one would think that the companies are doing it out of the kindness of their hearts.  But, being a sales person myself, I know better. 

Why write about this now you ask?  Well, there are a couple of reasons.  The first is that I’ve been in sales (in America) for five years now and have learned many of the tricks.  The second is that I have an enormous addiction to Netflix documentaries which continually confirm my suspicions.  

Now, if you’ve read the news at any time in the past year you’ve heard about legislation from Washington, you’ve winced at the horror stories from the banks and perhaps this has left you enraged.  

What I’d like to offer in this post is not a diatribe, nor will it be anything to upset you further.  I also won’t be going into all the complex details.  

Instead, I’d like to offer it as a bit of friendly advice.  

1.  It is all a game.

I just got done watching Frontline specials on credit cards, Debit Cards, banks and so on.  There has recently been so much anger over the tactics of credit card companies and the banks.  I’d like to offer just a few observations.  

Both Banks and Customers are to blame.  

It would seem that you have to chose one side or the other, when in reality both are at fault.  The banks are at fault for preying on the uninformed, uneducated, or simply put, people that have other things to do with their time then trying to figure out all the tricks the bank/credit card is trying to play.  The consumers are at fault for spending too much money that isn’t theirs.  

The banks have sales people just like any other company that sells stuff.  These sales people earn commissions and thus it is in their interest to sell even if it is not to the benefit of the buyer.  There are no points for empathy, or justice, or doing what is right.  As I’ve mentioned before, in the USA the system is built on profits going up, not down, nor sideways.  For people to stay employed, the profits have to continually go up.  

Therefore, the pressure is enormous on the sales people no matter what they sell, nor if it is in the consumers best interest.  The common thought in business schools is the free market works just like a well oiled machine in that the market will determine what services are needed and if they are not, they will not be around long.  

Yet, the pressure to sell has become so intense that this equation is now lopsided.  Since profits must continually go up, it is up to marketing, sales and overall management how to convince people to purchase what they are selling.  Remember, “they want to help you.”  ;)

As for the consumer, many of them are “institutionalized” and will buy into a service or product regardless of need, if the sales person can convince them to do so.  

Let’s look at credit cards as an example.  

At first blush, the credit card companies are not doing anything wrong.  They offer a service, with full disclosure to the terms and people take them up on it.  Then people spend too much money that is not theirs and cry to Washington that they were fooled.  

Let’s say for example that Washington hears their cries and bans credit cards.  Well, the market would still be there and the lending would take a different form.  

What form could it take?

Well, the mob or any criminal gang for that matter could take over the business.  They work kind of like credit card companies.  The credit card companies will break your wallet with 250% interest on short term loans if you do not pay, and the mob may simply break your legs.  

But it doesn’t have to be the mob.  There are the Payday lenders who charge 450% interest on short term loans which is almost as bad as broken legs.  Yet people still go to them.  I swear when I see people walk into those places I really just want to stop them!  

But instead of the mob or payday loans, let’s look at credit cards with a real life example.  ME!  

I’m educated, have been all over the place AND am a sales person.  But I have to tell you, I probably wouldn’t have payed any attention without my experience in other countries.  Coming back to the USA was like learning all over again and I asked questions instead of just accepting what was presented.  Even then, all the financial offerings are extremely confusing.  But here is what I’ve figured out so far. 

I use a cash back card from American Express.  I funnel every single purchase possible through that card.  Then I pay it off every month.  By doing this I can have them pay me to the tune of $1,000 a year.  

As I told you, it is a game,,, and I am winning.  

But even though I’m winning, the rules continually change and I have to keep on top of them.  American Express did change the game and now offer two very similar cards, a “Cash Back,” and a “Cash Back Preferred.”  Add to that, they did away with the old structure for new card holders but I’m grandfathered in with the old program.  

The main difference is Cash Back doesn’t have a yearly fee but may pay back less until you spend over $6,000.  The preferred card has a $75 yearly fee but will pay more upfront.  Add to the complexity, the purchases fall into different categories, each payback amount being different from .5% – 6%.  This means I have to figure out the following:

a.) Which purchases fall into which bucket
b.) How much I spend each month and keep a tally
c.) Understand which percentages fall into which categories and which apply to both cards. 

Seems like a lot of work!  I did sit down and did my research but was unsure of the outcome as it would involve a lot of math and at least a day of digging up records and calculations.  So, even though I’m all those things I said I was, these things are damn confusing since the rules keep changing.  

At the end of the day, I’m not too concerned about it because Amex still pays me a lot of money and from all the websites that do analyze credit cards it seems like I have one of the best.  

So, to win the game, I did say yes to the salesperson (after doing my research), I understand it is not my money, and the worst thing in the world to me is a fee.  

Now let’s look at banks.

The first rule is to hate any and all fees.  Never ever let them charge you one!  

Recently there was a proposal to start charging $5 a month if you use your debit card.  There was a huge uproar and the banks backed down.  But for me, I don’t give a rat’s ass about the debit card.  In fact, I may even side with the banks on this one.  Debit cards are a convenience for the consumer.  Back in the 80s there were no debit cards and we often payed with cash!  In fact, I am used to paying in cash since I lived in Japan and Vietnam.  

Besides people, you should funnel all your purchases through one major credit card that pays you cash back anyway, so who cares about debit cards!  You shouldn’t be using them at all!  

To sum up my thoughts on this, let’s look at the chain of power here and who really has it.  It is my contention that YOU do.  

The Government – The government makes laws to try and protect the consumer since their constituents are upset now.

Banks – The banks are smarter than the government and will find ways around these laws and employ other tactics to separate you from your money.

Consumer – THE BOSS!  The consumer should be smarter than the banks and find ways around all of their fees and not pay them one damned cent.  Besides, I just showed you how to do it with your credit card.  Make the banks/credit card companies pay you!  

The problem here?  Well, many people don’t think about what is going on with their money AND SPEND TOO MUCH!  

Again, why do they do this?  Well, I think it is because many are “institutionalized,” or simply put, have grown up in a culture that makes them believe money is free and they should buy everything they set their eyes on.  

They go into Mr. Big Bad Bank, and meet Miss Slick Salesperson who tells them money is free, they walk out all starry eyed and go straight to Nordstroms so they can buy things the society tells them they should have.   

Now, I understand that many have fallen on hard times.  I understand this.  But what also must be understood is that easy access to money doesn’t make it YOUR money and nobody would lend it to you unless they made a profit off it.  Profits mean getting back more than was lent out which means you have to pay more than you borrowed.  

Bad, bad bad.  

Just think about what Grandma would say to all this.  What if you could sit down with (preferably a depression era Grandma) Granny and explain how the credit card works.  First of all, could you explain it and if you did you might just convince yourself to pay off the balance every month.  If one couldn’t do this, then maybe Granny simply wouldn’t understand why anyone would borrow, say, $40, if in the end, they ended up paying $140 for the privilege?  

So, yea, I think I’ve come full circle with all this financial stuff.  At first, I was uncomfortable with the hyper-consumer culture that America had become.  After the economy crashed, I became angry at the banks and Wall Street that made it happen.  Then I was angry with both at the same time.  

Then I got over it and realized the following two things.

1. Consumers – Live in very affluent country, spend too much and want the government to help them.  After living in Vietnam I don’t have so much sympathy anymore.  Hell, we don’t have to go to Vietnam, we could go back to our own ancestors who came here with nothing and didn’t rely on the government or credit cards.  

2. Banks and Corporations.  – Greedy bastards all of them.  They make the most of their money by preying on the uninformed.  But what is a bank or a corporation?  They are made up of consumers themselves, of people who are also trying to earn a living and thus must always sell more of what people really don’t need.  If they do really well, then maybe they would get to be an executive and make millions!  

Now, take a debt ridden consumer and tell them they can be a corporate executive and make millions if they wish but it will be at the expense of the “uninformed” people.  I ask you, what percentage of people in this money crazed culture would say no?  

On one hand, you can have millions if not hundreds of millions of dollars and on the other hand, your sense of social justice, of fairness.  Be reminded however, that you’re only one executive in one company and if you went for the “fairness” side you’re really not going to change the system, would hurt profits thereby putting people in your company out of work and at the end of the day the only thing you accomplished was losing your own job.  

Interesting how things work isn’t it?  

Greed, selfishness and the unwillingness to help others.  It didn’t work out so well for the Roman empire and I wonder how long it will be until it breaks this current Empire.