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

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.  

 

 

Thoughts of the week

I think too much. 

This is not a left handed compliment to myself.  Actually, I wonder if left handed compliment is the right word to use here.  I cannot find the right word or phrase where the speaker seems to be criticizing himself yet it is really a compliment.  

See what I mean, I think too much.  

So, as I lay in bed this morning taking the usual 15 minutes before I actually get out of bed, the thinking began again.  I cannot remember all the topics I went over in my head but the ones that stuck will be covered in this blog post.  

I asked myself, why am I thinking so much, can I just think about nothing for a few minutes?  It didn’t work.  I wonder if this is due to the massive amount of information we “internet people” receive on a daily basis.  For me, I have already scanned the major news articles, checked FB and planned out the day before I get out of bed.  I tell you the tablet is a great great invention but perhaps it is adding to this problem of thinking too much.  

So, what did I think about this morning that inspired me to write this blog post?  Let’s go in order. 

1.  TMC debuts “All-American Muslim reality tv show 

- At first blush, I am glad to see that through the popular medium of the American Reality TV show that Muslims will eventually be going mainstream in the USA.  This was bound to happen sooner or later given the increasing population of Muslims and what better way to do it than through the ubiquitous “boob tube” that so many Americans are glued to on a nightly basis.  Further, as this will be a trend, it is good to see it move along from the boisterous, angry reactions that often accompany any major change in society.  

The first part of the article reads:

Shadia Amen has plenty of piercings, a few on her left eyebrow and 20 on her ears. She says her hair changes color monthly, “anywhere from pink to blue-black to black to whatever tickles my fancy.”  

And tattoos cover 40 percent of her body, including one that depicts “the rock star sign with the hand” shaped like the devil’s horns. Despite that, the 31-year-old Dearborn woman — who calls herself a hillbilly at heart — is a proud Muslim.

From these opening paragraphs Americans should understand that many American Muslims are just as delinquent as any other major American religion!  See my American comrades, she has a “rock-star hand tattoo,” she can’t be all that bad!  :)  

I guess this is a tactic which shows the complete opposite of what is generally believed and thus tries to change opinions.  Americans tend to think that all Muslim women are oppressed but have never heard of one with crazy hair color AND a tattoo!  

But again, the change in society is happening and the sooner we move off all the angry denunciations of everything Muslim the better in my opinion.  Time to start being inclusionary.  

2.  So the Republicans are going to attack Iran 

This the actual title from The Jerusalem Post.  The journalist states that he did not learn much from the Republican debate and neither did I since I didn’t watch it.  

Is this any big surprise?  The Republicans have been on war footing for the past 20 years and even though the USA is already engaged in two of them they would like to engage in a third.  It does not matter that they hound Obama for prolonging the debt of the USA and that the levels are the worst they have ever been.  It does not matter that the reason the USA is in debt is due to financing these wars.  If there is another war to be started, let’s all just hop on board that train if they believe the electorate will like it!  

Taking a step back and looking at this from a 35,000 ft view, and revisiting themes such as American being an Empire, is this not what Empires do?  I’m not offering any opinion either way here I just want to point out that America is indeed an empire and I just wish the citizenry would accept that.  

Instead, the refrain is “Protecting Freedoms.”  People in the USA want to be free ergo, the USA must go attack other countries.  As I’ve mentioned before, this “Protecting Freedoms” is so surface, so trite, so……. non-thinking.  Why can it not be called out as it is?  

a.  America is an Empire and protects its interests regardless of the complexity of this idea called “justice,” or considering what is “fair.”  When did “fairness” ever play a role in politics, geo-politics or diplomacy?  As far as I can tell, the game is take what you can when you can.  From history we know that other nations play by these rules so why should America be any different now?  

b.  America has various influences and the strongest win.  The Israeli lobby just happens to be extremely powerful in America and thus America will now do what Israel wants.  

- Again, I’m not passing any judgement what so ever, just pointing out the glaring truth.  

3.  Prayer in American society

This is a pretty big topic but I just want to narrow it down quite a bit.  This thought occurred to me when I saw various sports teams saying a prayer before their games on Saturday.  I also saw it after the running back knelt down after scoring a touchdown.  

My first thought was about how Americans would feel should a sports team from a Muslim country do the same.  Would the first thought not be one of fear, of condemnation, of exulting the values of a secular American society?  However I describe these reactions I think it is safe to say that this would make an average American uncomfortable.  

Yet the Americans do the exact same thing but are blind to the hypocrisy.  

Secondly, I really wonder about the requests in these prayers.  Perhaps it is because I’ve been watching “Into the Universe with Stephen Hawking.” 

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LByqX0JkS3E[/youtube]

I am completely astounded by these big ideas and the absolute awesomeness  of the universe.  By watching these films I am made aware of the extreme limits of my own brain and how much I do not understand.  Mr. Hawking always does a great job of explaining these mind bending theories to the lay person and it always leaves me in a state of wonder. 

So here I am, pondering the nature of the universe as fervently as my small brain can, like a blender running at 30000 rpms.  Then I see the sports teams praying and I have to ask, in the immensity of the universe and all that a supernatural being would be capable of are they asking the following?

“Please let us win this game.”  

I have to say this puts me at a loss.  Out of all the grandness of the universe, the mystery the ultimate question of “Why am I here,” and “Is there a purpose,” and “Why do I exist,” the players are simply asking to win a game?  

Going back to the beginning of this post with the Muslim reality TV show this statement also confuses me.

Amen-Fawaz, 28, also stopped wearing the hijab around age 18. But this year, she started donning it again to become closer to God.

Would this awesome supernatural being who may or may not be present in our universe (perhaps in others, maybe he forgot about us?) really care if these life forms called humans wear something on their head or not?  (This goes for pretty much all Orthodox religions mind you).  

Going further, there are a myriad of rituals, such as genital mutilation, sacred water, specific garments, sacrifices both real (killing things) and symbolic such as Communion.  Would the divine really care about all of these things or are they rituals that our species have just made up?  

I guess I’m just having a disconnect with my thoughts on the extreme immensity and wonder in the universe verses all the seemingly superficial rituals we perform here on our planet.  Stephen Hawking has explained to me how we arrived on this planet almost to the beginning of everything.  I say “almost” because I’m still waiting on what existed before the big bang.  I would also like to know the following.

1.  Do other universes exist? 
2. What is the absolute nature of reality.
3.  What existed before our universe, do these “spheres” of reality continually get bigger, one encompassing the other and if so does it go on for infinity?
4.  Does the divine exist and if so are they still here in this reality or did they move on?  
5.  Why do there appear to be ghosts or supernatural phenomena but we cannot explain it.
6.  Is there an afterlife?  

Now, if it were me and I was made to pray before the big game (since I do not want to be the only one who does not participate) I would be asking the above, not simply, please let us win the game.  

As I warned you in the beginning, I think too much.  Should there be any doubt about a self compliment here, I realize I comprehend very little and that everything I think I know may be wrong.  

Ok, enough with these issues.  As I have planned out my day I have to get back to figuring out why my Windows XP can no longer see my data D: drive.  I’ve tinkered enough with recovery, deleting various registry keys and messing with DOS.  It appears I’ll have to actually take the drive out and take it to the computer store.  This is the third time in my life I could not fix something by myself and I have to tell you, this is a serious matter!  Good news is I have it backed up but did so 4 months ago, so it is not that recent.  

Or perhaps I could just pray for it to work again.  If God is answering the players requests to win the big game, then I am certain my prayer to make the D: drive work again will take precedence.   

 

 

 

 

 

Quick Update

Hi Everyone!

Sorry for the delay in posting, especially since there have been so many things going on in the news lately.  Life has been busy with much travel, new job, young child and various social engagements where young children come to my place, throw things on the floor and make lots of noise.  LOL  (All good fun though)  

Just wanted to throw out a few thoughts, insights from the past few weeks.  

1.  Life

I was sitting on a hotel patio in Cabo San Lucas a few weeks ago to watch the sunrise.  It had just begun when a gnat began hitting me in the face.  As I swatted at this creature I began to pay less attention to the sunrise.  

Then I had a quite profound insight that you only get during these moments.  

Simply being alive is a wonderful, glorious thing.  In each of our lives we will have problems, minor distractions.  If we pay too much attention to these small distractions we will miss the entire point and purpose of being alive.  We should be happy, we should enjoy this existence and if we pay attention to the immense beauty of simply being alive then our short life will be a successful one, even if small problems come along once in a while.  

2.  Occupy Wallstreet

I am very much enjoying all these protests and the attention they are receiving.  I think it is a natural outcome of the many injustices that have come to many populations recently.  I think the overriding issue is that business and the single minded pursuit of higher profits is unsustainable.  The current corporate model is simply to drive those profits higher and higher which in theory is not inherently a “bad” thing.  However, when business has bought the Democratic process (Citizens United) and the motivation to simply sell more has overtaken what is good for the individual, consumer, community through deceptive sales tactics then things need to change.  

I am in sales and understand very clearly that we are simply to sell more regardless of the sale being in the best interest of the consumer or not.  Not every consumer can understand all the complexity and is able to make the best decision.  Further, the industries become too powerful, even more so than governments (buying governments – Citizens United) and are able to trap consumers into paying more than they should.  

Examples

1.  Telecoms – Why do we need to pay $150 for a basic family plan?  More competition would be better but we are left with only a few choices who have unspoken agreements to drive the cost very high.  We need a cell phone in this age and thus must shell out major cash to have one.  

2. Mortgages – People trust that the institution is looking out for their best interest.  The sales people at these institutions know that they are rewarded on the amount of sales instead of the quality of the sales.  

3.  Credit Cards – How many offers have you received in the past week?  Why is the standard setting on paying the minimum amount?  Yes, people should have individual responsibility with less government control but these companies know quite well that the many, who pay way too much in interest should be informed that their situation is not a desirable one.  The individual companies should take some responsibility here.  Not everyone is capable of making good decisions.  

Finally, when corporations have bought the government, are gouging their customers AND STILL ALMOST FAIL anyway due to reckless risk AND ARE BAILED OUT by the same people they are gouging (tax payers) there should be some give and take!  

But this has not happened.  They simply took the bailouts, continued to gouge customers even more and have not contributed back to the community which saved them.  

In short, there is no accountability in these corporations that have now been deemed “People.”  Corporations are not people, as a regular person with human emotions might show a bit of gratefulness, a bit of gratitude for being saved from bankruptcy.  

The government tried to throw in some regulations (especially in the banking arena) but this only caused them to find ways to keep their pre-recession profit levels incredibly high at the expense of consumers.  Couple that with massive bonuses for their CEOs who caused the mess in the first place, well, this has caused the masses stomach to completely turn.  

It is time for a bit of protest in my opinion.  Things do need to change but whether or not a few protests can stop this relentless drive for higher profits at all costs remains to be seen.  Money and profit has been King since the 1980’s in the USA and it may be hard to return to a more equal society where more emphasis is put on the betterment of the community rather than a few people becoming obscenely wealthy.  

Obama Jobs Speech

It’s 4:30am.  Last night I had some wine and was in bed by 9:30pm.  Whenever I drink wine at night it makes me wake up extremely early.  Must be the sugar. 

Since I cannot sleep any longer I decided to fire up the computer and maybe do a few battlegrounds in World of Warcraft.  Yes, I started playing again hence the lack of posts on this blog from me.  I take a quick look at my Google news reader in the sidebar and see the article “The irrelevancy of the Obama presidency” by The Washington Post. 

At first I just filed this under more Obama hatred from the Right.  But for whatever reason I decided to click on it before I clicked on the World of Warcraft Launcher.  The article starts by stating which Republicans laughed at the President during his speech.  

1.) “You should pass this jobs plan right away!” Obama exhorted. Sens. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) chuckled.

2.) “Warren Buffet pays a lower tax rate than his secretary — an outrage he has asked us to fix,” Obama went on. Widespread laughter broke out on the GOP side of the aisle.

3.) “This isn’t political grandstanding,” Obama said. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) guffawed.

4.) “This isn’t class warfare,” Obama said. More hysterics on the right.

5.) “We’ve identified over 500 [regulatory] reforms which will save billions of dollars,” the president claimed. Majority leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) giggled.

What occurred to me while reading this is how adolescent the US political scene has become.  

Now, most pundits will either attack the President in a mocking way or attack the Right for behaving like incorrigible teenagers.  However, I believe that both sides are missing the point.  That point being, our political system no longer functions as it should and for my part has lost all respect.  

Politicians are those that the people entrust to find solutions to problems.  I believe most people expect them to be a serious bunch who should not only BE leaders but act like leaders as well.  These are people that set policy for the entire nation!  For me, it doesn’t matter if the President is Republican or Democrat, I would expect both sides of the isle to at least afford the Office of the President of the United States the respect it deserves even if they completely disagree with what is being said.  

Perhaps I expect things to return to the way they used to be in my short 34 years of existence.  When the political leaders gather, especially in difficult times, there should be a high level of decorum and propriety. 

What happened last night was much more like a high school classroom where unruly students simply laugh at proposed solutions because they are too juvenile and immature to participate seriously in anything.  The best way for them to show their indignation is to laugh because they really have no fix, no way to resolve the problem.  Instead of responding in an appropriate fashion and challenging in a thoughtful way, they simply disrespect the teacher.  

Republican leaders, having forced Obama to postpone the speech because of the GOP debate, decided they wouldn’t dignify the event by offering a formal, televised “response.” 

This does two things.  The first is to show the rest of their classmates how they hold the teacher in such low regard.  The second is to show their classmates how little they care for the classroom in general.  

And what happens to such students?  Well, in the past they used to get sent to the Dean of Students for a good beating.  These days they are allowed to run rampant like feral dogs which is proven by many public school systems in their rankings compared to other nations.  

Now, this nonsense has spread to the political scene.  

The message last night was about jobs.  Now, you do not have to agree one iota with what the President was saying if you choose.  But the truth of the matter is the President was elected to lead and in terrible economic times like this the President is required to do something or at least being perceived as doing something.  Sure, many of us probably believe at this point there is not much he can really do.  But being the leader of the nation, every leader must try to find a fix when times are bad.  

Again, most Republicans will vehemently disagree with what was said.  But what was their solution when this crisis began?  If you’ve forgotten let me remind you.  

“Here is 100 dollars.  Things are fine.  Go shopping.” – President Bush

If I were to lower my response to the GOP to their juvenile level, I would point out they are not entitled to laugh when their response to the most severe economic crisis since the Great Depression was to go shopping.  That gives you no street cred what so ever.  You can only laugh if you find yourselves too cool to even care about the institution at all.  In fact, it would be even cooler if you didn’t even show up at all and simply hung out on the corner and smoked cigarettes.   

In fact, that is almost exactly happened.

Almost all Republicans ignored the call of some within their ranks to boycott the speech.

Seems like a missed opportunity to me.  That would have definitely shown the nation just how little you care for the welfare of the nation.  It’s like the kid that wants to be bad, but doesn’t have the balls to play hooky because mommy would be called.  

Now, I don’t want this to be a Democrat vs. Republican thing.  As I mentioned that is not the point.  The point, like my example of misbehaving students is that the respect for The Office of President should be maintained at all costs, Republican or Democrat it does not matter.  The Office of President is the face of the USA, like the man personally or not.  By laughing at it they laugh at the USA and weaken the nation.  It just so happens that it is the Republican side this time who is behaving like idiots and should be expelled.