Sunday, December 25, 2011

A Christmas reflection on a spiritual path...

Another Christmas.  Alone, this time, and thus an opportunity to reflect on just what Christmas means to me, and how that meaning has changed over the years.  Well, more than an opportunity; more like a mandate, as when you experience Christmas alone there are no distractions with which to busy your mind and your body that speed you through this time that is usually so loaded with activities and preparation that, when over, leaves you ready for the proverbial "long winter's nap."

I was raised in a very fundamentalist evangelical church.  I didn't know that at the time; there was no awareness any gradation or intensity to the religious experience. Nor was there any sense that religion and God were not synonymous.  All that I knew was that there was a sense of warmth and love that permeated the entire season and that that sense included all those around, friends, acquaintances and the whole community.  Even in times of stress and uncertainty, Christmas seemed to transcend all and bring everyone together in an affirmation that regardless of the current challenges, all would be and was well.

Christmas is the one element of my childhood that I wish I could revisit and recreate in my life even now.

Youth doesn't leave us all at once; it is a gradual disappearing act that goes largely unnoticed in the excitement of the new experiences of growing up.  But it does disappear, even if unnoticed.  And those new experiences, for me, included questioning the Faith in which I was raised.  Kids have questions.  While we can be put off with non- and partial answers, our brains are not quieted and questions inadequately answered lead to diminished trust and belief.  Much of the time this reduced belief is based on the false premises that our parents and elders know all and are simply refusing to reveal that truth to us; only much later in life do we realize that they weren't holding out on us; they didn't have the answers either.  After all, it takes more than a little maturity to understand the difference between "faith" and "wishful thinking"; many adults still cannot tell the difference.

So, over the years I became what I only much, much later came to identify as an agnostic; I believed there was a God, but could not reconcile the various beliefs between the different religions in the world, all of which seem to declare supreme exclusive knowledge of the "Truth.".  At the time, this awareness was lost in the main activity of "putting on" Christmas for my family and my children...the desire to reproduce for them the same sort of warm, fuzzy, loving and inclusive feeling that Christmas' past had provided me so long ago.  My personal joy had largely disappeared in the process of trying to recreate that special feeling for the kids.  When it was over I looked for nothing so much as the opportunity for that proverbial "long winter's nap."

But this period was still surrounded by the "spirit" of Christmas.  It permeated the town, the community, the schools and even the Town Hall.  Christmas was a unifier, and it provided a spirit of togetherness and dependence on and desire for a certain guidance from above as well as the the expectation that such guidance would be forthcoming if we only took the time to listen for it.  I understood that my separation, even in part, from this experience was of my own doing, and I accepted that separation as what I perceived as a part of being "an adult."  Time, of course, allowed be to much later discover that I was totally wrong on that count.

Today's life in America has changed so much.  Religion...and the Christian religions in particular...have become unwelcome presences in official circles.  Official America has become an acolyte of Secularism; Man has replaced God as the guiding element in life.  Apparently the absurdity of such boot-strap reasoning is lost on all except me...but I am now old and my opinions are now deemed worthless.  But I look with wonder and sadness at those growing up and now in power with no sense of guidance other than that of other men with no more wisdom that that which those in power already possess...and they know how inadequate and uncertain their own point of view; how, indeed, can they even suspect that any other human has anything more?  How do today's leaders survive such burdens in the absence of knowing that there is available the guidance of a higher power?  No wonder they fail so miserably so much of the time.

As we grow up, some of us put God-like wisdom in the person of our fathers...or mothers, or priests...and know we have grown up when those dependable rocks in our lives pass away and suddenly those younger that we are coming up to us with the same questions that we once asked our elders...and those asking the questions look at us with that same trusting sense of expectation of wisdom that we once put on our elders.  That is the moment of truth, and the moment (for me) that I blessed being imbued with a sense of the availability of guidance from God.

Well, I certainly have no absolute answers.  But I do have a certain comfort level for the present at least.  I know that...again, at least for now (who knows what I will be led to be aware of in the future) matter little what errors we make in terms of mankind.  God prevails, even as mankind chooses to suffer the consequences of bad decisions.  Those consequences do, in fact, lead to learning...although each new generation apparently has to re-learn the same lessons.  That is a shame, but not necessarily a bad thing.

I have come to terms with the fact: that the only absolute answers are those that seem to come to me directly from God; that all men of God may be presumed to mean well, but are fallible and their declarations and commands and judgement should be checked through individual prayer while remembering that all utterances of any man (or woman) are just that...human...and may not be assumed to be commands from God until confirmed in our souls by the almighty.  I leave it to each individual to determine what form that confirmation takes. I, for one, take the utterances of Priests, Ministers, Imams and all other self-proclaimed representatives of religions, both organized and not, as statements worthy of noting but lacking any inherent sense of imperative or command...another human being's statement of "truth" is neither greater nor less than my own.

Age brings upon us a certain sense of quiet acceptance of ignorance and in comfort in knowing that the more you know (or think that you know) only makes you aware how much you do not and cannot know, leading to a willingness to accept the undeniable fact that the universe came into being long before our lives started and will continue long after it ceases and that we can take comfort in the fact that maybe we should often take our hands off the wheel, that maybe there is someone already at the wheel who knows more and can direct our lives more efficiently...and definitely more lovingly.

Christmas has become a time to be quiet and listen.  And often the silence becomes a silent approbation of the fact that I am doing my best to not get in the way, not be too prideful, not be too "full of myself."  Such quiet is reassuring and feels like the spiritual caress of a loving parent seeing my essence while ignoring my foibles.

I wish the same for each and every one.  Merry Christmas

Thursday, December 15, 2011

One main reason that todays schools fail miserably...

I cannot remember not being able to read.  My mother told me that I could read before I was two, but I take that claim on faith...and it doesn't matter.  But, without an age reference, I can recall my mother insisting that I learn the alphabet and learn to sound out words.  And then she insisted that I learn the definition of every new word.  As I got a bit better, she taught me how to look up the definitions in a dictionary that I always had handy when I was reading.  I was taught how to read using phonetics, although I only learned this later.

Reading was my key to the world.  I could pick up a book and travel all around the world.  I could even travel to the stars and in time.  It was not just was entertainment.  If I had a book, I was King; I was the master of my own mental destiny.

Reading was power.  Reading was the vehicle for success and for achievement of my goals, regardless of how I define that at any given moment.

If I didn't fully grasp what a teacher had attempted to teach me in class, I could read the textbook and think it through again...or go to the library and look for additional information...and, in a sense, become my own "extra help" provider.  When I got older, I could get a book to tell me how to fix my beat-up used car, could get a book that would tell me how to properly fix a household appliance, repair a hole in the wall, or even take down or put one up.  Reading has always been the key.  Without it, I would be no better off than an uneducated person in what we call a third-world country.

All of this is merely a premise to my main point:  our schools are failing to educate kids today, and the primary reason is a failure to teach them to read.  Yet these blameless illiterates are graduated from High School, many go to college and the illiteracy is indulged and they get higher degrees.  Why?  You will have to decide that...I cannot know the hearts, souls and minds of those who caused and now continue to enable this failure to qualify our children for success.  But it is undeniable that this had gone on for so long that it is not possible that this is is done with full knowledge of the results...failure.  Our children are not equiped to be self-reliant, to achieve on their own, to learn for themselves.  They are doomed to be dependent on Television, DVDs, CDs, and real life in person direction by others, and thereafter on the ability to remember what they were told.  There is no way they can do independent research, checking or learning...they lack the tools.

In the middle of the last century the schools for reasons unfathomable to me moved away from the phonetic teaching of language to an approach called "whole word" reading which, as close as I can understand, depends on memorization of whole words, and filling in unknown word meaning by using the context of the sentence or paragraph in which it other words, guess.  No dictionary skills, no sounding out the word, no study of the origin of the word in another language that might give you a better grasp of what was meant by the word.  And certainly no test or requirement that you ever learn that unknown word or its real life meaning.

And we wonder why even come college graduates are illiterate.

Yet, our educational system and our governmental powers never question this failure.  All they do is claim that we must throw more money at the problem.  Not only doesn't it help, most cannot even do the math to evaluate how much money per student we are wasting by such illogical action.  They cannot do basic math either...without a calculator.  But that another problem for another discussion.  Just one has asked why Johnny or Carol cannot read.

Isn't it time that we demand that Educators and those that fund and rule them answer that question?

And for those of  you who would like to read more on the subject from someone with some logical thought on the subject, I recommend the following link:

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Smartest person I have ever known...

I have a University degree.  I have a Doctorate.  I have known many people with multiple degrees, as well as people who successfully ran large companies.  I have also known those in the Academic World, studying, ad nauseam, the intricacies of various parts of our world, both physical and mental.  I have also spoken to those who were homeless, those who begged on the street and at traffic lights.  Each and every one of those people taught me something that I had not known before speaking with them.  Everyone we meet has the potential to teach us something if we take the time to listen without pre-judging.  Yet they each pale in the mental presence of the smartest person I have ever met or known:  my father.

My father was born in Norway.  His father died in a mining accident when he was very young, leaving his mother and sister in very dire financial circumstances.  He had to quite school after the 6th grade in order to help earn money so the family would not starve.  That experience formed his attitude about life forever.  He had suffered poverty.  He grew into a man who was generous to a fault, yet very, very aware that one needs to be frugal and consider that you never looked at any opportunity with an eye to "what can I make?" but rather to first ask, "what can I lose?", followed by "Can  afford to lose it?".  Only then would he evaluate the possible gain.  When recessions hit, he saw them earlier than most around him and by the time it was obvious to all, he had explained that our family was going to have to do with less, that we were going to keep as much in savings as possible, cutting costs and doing everything possible to be ready if everything "went south."

My father came to this country in 1921, not speaking the language.  He could not tell anyone that he was trained as an electrician.  The saw that he was from Norway and assumed that he was a carpenter and offered him a job laying hardwood floors.  He worked hard, learned well, grew to be a foreman in the firm, stayed employed, albeit at a lower wage, through the depression.  He quickly agreed to take lower pay, understanding that some pay was better than no pay at all.  Again, the experience underscored and intensified his belief that he had to take responsibility for watching out for his own economic security.  He started his own business in the suburbs of New York City (actually, at that time it was "the country", before people started living outside the city and was mostly farmland), and always lived within his means...and trained me to do the same.

I have survived pretty well over the years...mostly by applying the rules of life taught to me by my father.  I did this when I was young out of knee-jerk training, even as I thought my father was behind the times.  But as I grew older and saw the wisdom of being self-reliant wherever possible, I began consciously considering "what would Dad have said about this" whenever making decisions for me or for my family.  The only time I have ever been disappointed was whenever I failed to follow that remembered quiet voice in my mind.

Thank you, Dad.  You prove, as do so many who came to this country with real life experience rather than letters after your name, that being smart is not formal is application of the practical experiences in our lives, using them...even the make the future better.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Do any of us really care anymore?

The curse of retirement has resulted in the time to read, study and ponder on many things, one of which unfortunately turns out to be government and politics.  A friend recently responded to one of my multiple paragraph musings with the observation that these matter have been the subject of thought by untold numbers of individuals over the ages and he stated that he would leave further exploration of the various matters to the "deep thinkers."  He is probably right.  Life was much easier when I knew less.  I could decide matters on what usually ended up being a "black" or "white" basis; grays were minimal and my attitudes tended toward the absolute.

The more I read and study, the less certain I am about the propriety of any action, or belief.  If unchecked, I can reach a state of decision-paralysis because of the now-apparent multiple repercussions of a particular action.

But...I have to discuss, write, and debate with others even though I am fully aware that none of these activities will actually solve, correct, or even answer any of the questions of the day...even the simple ones.  I will do all this because...and I admit to a level of narcissism makes me feel better, more alive, more engaged with life.  At my age I am no longer able to sweat out my frustrations and stress, so I have to "think" and "express" them out.  Fortunately there are some of my friends and acquaintances who find this behavior on my part either entertaining or enabling (I am not sure which, and I don't much care since they put up with far) so I am not yet an exile or a mountain-top hermit in a cave.  Perhaps that will come later.

Meanwhile I wonder if any of us really care anymore...and whether or not we should!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Motivations and Assumptions

I woke up this morning and had a flash thought about the people that surround me and their motivations and assumptions.  While I was working, I was usually in a group that had the same scope of concerns; they had different jobs and different responsibilities, but we were all concerned with earning a buck, getting ahead, and taking care of our families.  We all were in the American system of earning our way along and, if asked, I would have said that I was primarily concerned with meeting my responsibilities to God, myself, my family and my country; that is how I was raised, and I had no reason to either question or change that attitude.

Discussions of anything other than business were entertainment and a way to get away from business concerns for a bit.  There wasn't enough time to be concerned about more than your financial situation, your family and, usually, your kids behavior.  I was aware that there were people out there who were spending that same kind of time and exerting the same kind of intensity on politics and developing groups for a variety of purposes, but didn't spend a lot...if any...time thinking about their motivations and challenges or even the choices they were making.  I was, of necessity, compartmentalized; I don't multi-task well.  I do "bookmark' very well; I can stop on one item and move immediately to another need, then return at full speed to the first task without missing a beat.  I always envied how most women I know can seem to do 5 things is amazing.

But...I digress.  What struck me this morning was that every person in public office, whether elected or appointed, and every person seeking such a position believes in doing good...especially those who successfully get elected or appointed.  Really!  I do not question their dedication to doing good things. come (I asked myself) that I am so disgusted with the performance...the actions...of those paragons of virtue that hold positions of high public trust (well, maybe not so high at the current time...but you get my point!)?

My mental response was..."they believe they have some special insight and/or gift that gives themselves a special vision of 1)what will improve the lives of others and the world, and 2)a special ability to make their first belief become reality."  That is the motivation.  It is honest.  It is almost devoutly held, and extremely sincere.  There is no question in my mind about that.  And yet...these people continue to infuriate me with their assumptions of truth, honesty and goals that do not merely not align with mine...but actually interfere with mine.  My can that be?  They are righteously motivated; so am I.  Yet we are on opposite sides of the spectrum.  Why?

My reasoning suggests that it is all about two major areas.

The first is definitions.  I define terms a certain way.  Words have clear meaning in my mind, emotions and even in my soul.  I can not always predict when something is "good" or "bad", but as a Supreme Court Justice once wrote when discussing pornography, "I cannot define it, but I know it when I see or read it."  And so it is with me...and I would bet it is the same with most of you.  And over the years I have discovered that those with whom I disagree define things differently;  "good", "bad", "right", "wrong", "freedom", "privacy", "morality", "immorality", among many others, have different definitions for those with whom I disagree than what I mean when I use them.  Heck, in some cases they don't even have some of those words in their dictionaries...there is no acceptance of even the concept.  Most of them believe in power as a good thing and which is appropriately used to control others, as well as to defend themselves.  I totally disagree, but at least it is an honest disagreement.

What it makes clear to me is that I totally oppose the definitions that my disagreeable co-inhabitants of the town, county, state, country and world hold...but that doesn't make them bad people.  I totally believe that their goals and beliefs are bad, but the people themselves aren't...unless they pose an immediate threat to me, my family or our collective freedom.

But we all have to deal with this state of affairs.  It is annoying that we don't have unity of purpose, means and process by acclimation...but that is life.  We deal with it.  And my view keeps me from being a "hater" and tends, with a few exceptions, to keep me focused on discussing  issues rather than insulting individuals or groups.

Remember that I earlier mentioned that there were two major areas leading to the contrariness that we endure?

The second one is a bit shall I describe it..."Buddhist" or "Freudian" in nature:  focusing on solving perceived problems in the world around us provides a welcome excuse to neither admit nor work on remedial work on our own selves and our own lives.  It is much easier to focus on and to see solutions for things around us that we see as "wrong" or that "need improvement."  I can help my friends solve their problems, both personal and work-related, quite well; I have an objective ability when dealing with others and others' life decisions that I find particularly difficult, if not impossible, to employ when looking at my own life, my own decisions, and my own experiences.  It is hard work.  It is distasteful...even nasty. I don't want to go there.  I especially don't want to go there publicly....and by that I include my spouse or family.  It is too sensitive an area to deal with in the first place without the "help" of others.  Frankly, I was unable to do this until I had been alone for several years and run out of other people on which to blame the events that were solely of my own creation. is tough.  And it is made more avoidable by a life style in the United States that keeps most of us among people and besieged by ongoing multiple demands for our time, our judgment, and our actions.  No excuse has to be made for not thinking about our existential being and motivations...there isn't time.  Until you are retired...and then only we get to recognize, much less choose to look within and focus on our responsibility to ourselves for ourselves.

I do not think it is unrelated that so many of those who are and have been in public office have increasingly been revealed to have some fairly serious personal issues.  We live longer these days...even with the stress.  We can only hide from ourselves for so long.  And when we can't hide any longer, it becomes increasingly hard to hide ourselves from others.  And so, many of these people self-destruct in some way.  Oh, it isn't always something "wrong" or "immoral".  Sometimes it is just an embarrassment or what is euphemistically called "burnout."

My point is...that people who start believing in their "specialness"(yeah...a created word, but it works for me) should be required to...or at least questioned at length about...their inner journey; they should be required to publish the progress of their inner search for personal truth and existence.  This would provide two very desirable results: first, it would take a long time to travel that inner road and negotiate all the twists and turns, thereby delaying the time spent by any individual in working to control and guide others; and, secondly, the reading of such a record would be invaluable to us in selecting those with whom we were about to place public trust.

At least that is the best that I can come up with today.  Maybe I will reverse myself tomorrow.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Changing Definitions just confuse me...and I get no response when I ask...

I have written before...and will not repeat it here...about the changing definitions of such things as "Right", "Progressive", "Fascist", etc., and whether they are "good" or "bad." But I was surprised these last few days by a chance foray into just what "Liberalism" meant...and how long it had meant what I (and, apparently, it's advocates)understand it to be (basically,being in alignment with Barack Obama, progressivism, Occupy Wall Street, and the Democratic National Committee).

But...back in the days of the Revolution the attitude was a bit different: American patriots rallied around the cause of “No taxation without representation,” there was fear of centralized governments that ruled with great authority, and a great desire for the relationship that people have with their government to forever change to one of the people holding their government in check. American liberals then, the most famous of which are known as the Founding Fathers, supported limiting the power of government as much as possible. They believed that government power would naturally and inevitably corrupt and needed checks at every turn. They did not subscribe to the view that empowering the government with more and more power would lead to a better society. They stood against such expansions as they already knew what happened when the government’s size and scope was beyond control. That is why the Constitution was designed the way it was, pitting each branch of government against the other, so that no one branch would grow powerful beyond control. I forget where I got the quote, but Economics Professor Don Boudreaux said, "Experience and reason recommended to liberalism’s founders (that) restraining the power of government might not be sufficient to ensure harmony and widespread wealth, but it is certainly necessary.”

Try running that by some of your Liberal friends and watch their minds self-destruct...if they even acknowledge these very real facts from the past. So...what happened between then and now? Just consider that Ludwig Heinrich Edler Von Misis, a noted Austrian-American economist, philosopher, and classical liberal who had a significant influence on the modern Libertarian movement and the Austrian School and who lived from 1881 to 1973, wrote, "Imagine a world order in which liberalism is supreme . . . there is private property in the means of production. The working of the market is not hampered by government interference. There are no trade barriers; men can live and work where they want.” Clearly if he were alive today, he would be declared a Libertarian, not a Liberal. Again...what happened and How...and Why? 

I, for one, have no idea. I wonder if today's Liberals do...or care. 

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Be Careful What You Wish For...

I have spent most of my life yearning for the time to reflect, the opportunity to really think things through and have the luxury to really consider all the ramifications of a particular matter and come to the best possible decision or position of which I was capable.  This was true in business and in my personal life; it was also true, but not as noticed by me, about my political views.  Always there was an element of limited time in which to have to decide, to act, to commit and the effects of those positions were inevitably long lasting and far others as well as myself.

So...upon retirement, I felt that I had been the recipient of the Holy Grail.  Finally I had the gift of time with the opportunity to really think things through.  I had the opportunity to research and discuss and ponder until I was happy with the result.  I had the closest thing to Heaven on earth.

Well, be careful what you wish for, because God has a very wry sense of humor.

As I was growing up I often heard the admonition that "the more you learn, the more you realize your ignorance."  That is absolutely correct, because the simpler your decision the easier it is to make.  The more you learn, the more the number of details and elements that require evaluation, grading and the decision, the position, the action becomes more nuanced and the call becomes so close as to leave you totally cognizant of the lack of certainty of whatever choice or statement.

The strange incongruity is that I have absolutely no problem any longer with personal decisions.  It is only decisions that involve obligations to or for other people and for discussions, beliefs and declarations on political policy decisions that my life has become much more painful as the time available for research and thought has increased.

Personal decisions used to be a problem for me.  I would get a "gut" feeling on something, then spend hours, days, weeks, months and sometimes even years trying to get my brain to agree with my gut.  More often than not, they never agreed...and my education moved me to go with my intellect.  For me, that was wrong.  I have come to save much time and live what is almost a stress-free life by remaining aware of the "gut" feeling that I get when exposed to any proposal, proposition, opportunity or the like.  First, it saves time because I can decide almost instantaneously: if my gut says, "Ahhh...I don't know about that", I don't do whatever it is that come up; if my gut says, "Yeah!...I like that", I then engage my mind to see what needs to be done to make whatever it is actually happen.  99.9% of the time that has resulted in optimum happiness for me...and for others.  I have no idea how or why it works.  For me, I am content that it is God's way of speaking to me and giving guidance...providing I wish to listen.  But whatever the source, it works for I accept the guidance with thanks and appreciation.

I love discussing current and political events with people.  I totally enjoy debating various sides of many things at all levels of government; if I feel that my "side" is winning a debate, I am known for jumping to argue the other side of the question so to do all I can to challenge positions and attempt to identify "truth."   And there is great satisfaction in working on volunteer projects with others and discussion how to define and best achieve the desired goals.  It is there that I find myself disadvantaged by having too much time and too much counter-intuitive as that sounds...because of the instinct to want even more information and try to make the perfect decision or choice.  I move from a "muddy" picture of the situation to clarity and then the details become so numerous that the picture reverts to being "muddy."  Time spent.  Time wasted.

Business life understands this danger, because to be successful it sets time limits ahead of perfection...the concept is always to do the best you can by "x" date.  Whatever you have by then goes into production.  Otherwise you would never get anything to market.  Make improvements for the next version, but get something out there to sell and for people to use...while avoiding the claim of perfection.

So I have come up with self-imposed time limits for various areas of consideration, and then mentally assigned them the equivalent of version numbers (you 1.1, followed by 1.2 or even, if a great improvement is developed, 2.1).  That way, I have the absolute, unassailable, guaranteed truth for ever and ever...for now; tomorrow, or next week or even next year, I may revisit the situation because of discussions with other, my own experiences or world events which will result in a brand new version...which, of course will also be the absolute, unassailable, guaranteed truth for ever and ever (with no recollection of a previous inconsistent position).

Saturday, October 29, 2011

So...the European Union is now financially sound, right?

Well, how wonderful. The European Union high brass apparently, they say, solved the restructuring of the Greek debt situation this past week. So everything is just hunky-dory, right? I mean, the stock market went up almost 3% on Thursday and everyone was singing the praises of a done deal. That has to be good news, right? Well...sort of, but there are a couple of unfortunate realities that no one seems to be considering. I wonder how the world markets and economies will react when those realities suddenly dawn after the hangover of the one averted crisis passes. "What are you talking about?" you ask.

May I suggest that the whole idea of referring to a "Greek" problem is both inaccurate and misdirecting. Remember the original discussion of the challenges to the EU...remember the reference to the "PIGS" countries; Portugal, Italy, Greece, and Spain. No matter how you cut it, Greece is only one of four bad situations presumably "solved," and I would point out that with the ongoing rioting in Greece, even that matter is still open as many in Europe still see Greece defaulting on its obligations...this latest maneuver has only put it off, sort of the equivalent of Congresses actions in America in "kicking the can down the road." But...back to the larger problem. The ECB (European Common Bank) has now set, with political approval, a precedent on allowing a member country to cancel part of its contractual financial debt. That means, of course, that all other members of the EU are eligible for the same treatment, does it not? Do you really think that political winds will be able to say "no" in the face of a beginning "yes" to removing at least a portion of the consequences for poor administration and planning?

So, may I suggest you take a closer, more jaundiced view of the situation in Portugal. How many of you are aware that the Public and Private debt in Portugal will reach 360% of that nation'g GDP (Gross Domestic Production) next year? Anyone? I know that until recently I sure did not know. Remember, we in America are nowhere close to that and we are at least aware (or giving lip service) to the problem. The cost cutting necessary in Portugal to try to deal, at least partially, with this problem is throwing them into a national recession that, in turn, will harm business outlook in the entire EU. And they are not out of the woods by any means.

The financial fiaco in the PIGS countries have resulted in their inter-european trade situation relative to Germany (a country which has governed it's finances splendidly) decrease by 30%, and there is a limit beyond which Germany will not (and cannot, politically) go to bail out other countries. After all, why should they put their citizens at financial risk for the profligacy of citizens in other countries? A boost in the EFSF(the European bailout fund) from 440 billion euros to 1 trillion euros ... or supposed to create an economic firewall, but the success of that is questionable. And there is a secondary concern for those of us in the United States, since if Europe goes into a broad recession, the United States will also suffer the consequences. The rise of free trade agreements has made all companies global and if Europe gets a financial cold, we will start sneezing too...and we are already feeling poorly, financially.

One solution to the European crisis would be to print more money. The trouble with that "solution" is that rampant inflation would result. Of course, that kind of printing of money is unlikely to happen because Germany would never allow it as the result would be to weaken it's financial position, which they have been very vigilant in protecting and fostering. There is a limit to how far they will go in supporting the less than intelligent or financially viable foibles of their EU brethren.

We in America have no such compunctions, of course. We continue, under the auspices and quiet encouragement of the current administration, to watch our Fed and associated agencies blithely print money (which the EU cannot do without specific authorization from the member nations) without a declared plan or explanation...and more especially, accountability of those making the decisions.

So, lest any of you be surprised, the economic challenges in Europe are far from over. They are just beginning. The government safety nets are only delays that prolong the harm and period of recovery, put into place as a political act by those in power to project an image that they are "doing" something. The desired inference is that those acts are helpful; they are not. They amount to peeling off a bandage a millimeter at a time instead of just yanking it off; years and perhaps decades of financial woe, instead of 2 to three years of recession or even depression. The laws of physics and the laws of finance are similarly immutable; excesses and violations of those laws must correct...all governments can do is to drag them out, or allow them to equalize. We, the people, err in allowing governments to sell us the proposition that they can change those laws. They can't. We prove our stupidity by allowing them to even finish a promise that is contrary.

Remember, the United States contributes to the European Bank. We contribute to the bailouts...and we share in the losses they incur. We are already borrowing money to finance the defense of a large portion of the free world. Why? I have no idea...except perhaps for vanity, the Devil's favorite sin. Tighten those seat belts, my friends, the rough ride is just beginning...

Friday, October 7, 2011

"Dreams" one key to Mr. Obama's performance...

Did you ever interact with someone who seemed the most kind, caring and considerate person while also impressing you with his intelligence and perspective, only to find another side to that person...leaving you disillusioned, disbelieving, and hurt?  That is how I feel about our current President.  It isn't the first time, and I could claim an excuse this time because I have never personally met Mr. Obama...

He is much like an actor on film or stage, having learned his lines and very good at presenting the image...and falling into the trap of confusing the role with his own existence.  And also like an actor, he is very much concerned with his image and protecting it.   He can act kind, caring, knowing and accept all kinds of turmoil around him, as long as it doesn't criticize him or harm what he sees as his image...which is extraordinarily high.

Well, this is true of a lot of Presidents.  But what is interesting is how Mr. Obama's perception of what his image...and therefor himself...really is, and how he came to that perception.

As an example, President Johnson had a very high opinion of himself and his perception was that he was a good administrator, a good wielder of power, and a good judge of well as one born to tell others what to do.  He set about proving all of those things by working and developing those skills.  By the time he became President, most of those visions of himself had been proven through "doing" those very things.  So...his image, his perception, his concept of himself was grounded in reality.  True, it wasn't perfect...nothing ever is...but reality and his version of it were roughly parallel.  And many other President could be cited, but I won't waste the time here.

President Obama is different.  He clearly sees himself as a visionary.  Even his book, "Dreams of my Father", is based on dreams...on a vision...only occasionally rooted in reality and almost never on accomplishments.  It is the stuff dreams are, and should, be made of and totally desirable and acceptable.  But I would suggest that a person growing up with dreams to become an airline pilot would not be hired to actually perform in that capacity by any airline without proving through accomplishments and ability that real ability and training supported the appointment to a position with so much at stake.  Dreams just aren't enough.

Mr. Obama has proven accomplishments in one area only...campaigning.  He is seasoned at it and very good at it...even though he is still developing the skill.  It is his best and highest skill.  A couple of years in State Government and as a junior Senator don't really qualify anyone for the office of President.  His education seems absolutely wonderful...except no one seems to know how he performed or what courses he took and how he did, other than to pass.

Yet Mr. Obama clearly has an image of himself that is high, positive, and exalted.  All of this is desirable as a means of motivation to strive to achieve and learn and press on toward fulfilling that image in reality.  But the dream, the aspiration, is not enough to achieve.  It is a starting point only, not a qualification.  Yet our country has chosen to honor Mr. Obama with election to the highest post in the land on the basis of a dream and the quality of campaigning.

By so doing, we have encouraged and condoned Mr. Obama's dream as reality.  Can we fault him for accepting the coronation?  I cannot.  But that doesn't mean that he is a good President or a good administrator or a qualified leader.  And, like many a young person immersed in and believing their dreams, he feels criticism of him or his policies are direct affronts to his person, to his image, and he reacts emotionally and badly.  See him when confronted, he deflects blame (if unavoidable) to others and otherwise denies any failure or culpability.  Always.  It is NEVER his fault.  He shows this so clearly in his posture and in his facial expression that it is sometimes embarrassing to watch.

The good news is that it is there to observe and note.  The bad news is that so many in the media and in his party are so tied to his success or failure that they cannot acknowledge his inability to perform without damaging their own image or threaten their own jobs.

Dreams.  Such a good and indispensable element with which to start.  But so incredibly inadequate as a basis for performance!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

An Admittion

I admit to a habit.  I sit at my keyboard 2 or 2 1/2 hours a day.  Usually it is practice, but several days a week I volunteer at Senior Centers her in Santa Fe where I play an old 6 ft. grand.   it allows me to remember the joy or playing on a real piano.  I sold my 5 ft. grand when I moved here.  I love my keyboard.  I can hear the sound of up to 124 instruments on it. set it to do percussionkl, and it has the keyboard feel of a piano. isn't the same.  However, I can sit a my keyboard or at a piano for many hours and never come away tired.  I come away energized.

I suffer from depression.  I always have.  I didn't know that until late in life, and I was given medication.  It took away my depression.  It also took away my joy.  I decided to deal with it myself and gave up the medication.  It was difficult.  It is still difficult.  I am dealing with it now ... and it will go on for the next two or four weeks.  But...I will survive.  I always will.  And it is music that will save me.

Music for me is a substitution for words and for is a substitute for what others use as an expression of their feelings...hidden from most.   I can remain real, ... yet remain hidden and private from most.  Hopefuly, it all remains subtle...

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Today's America leaves me exhausted

I had to stop writing blogs for awhile.  Focusing on the idiocy of the political and the educational world in particular left me depressed and drained.  There are real problems.  None of them are incapable of being solved.  But no one wants to eliminate them unless they can garner some personal or ideological gain...and under no circumstances do they want to "fix" anything if it involves diminishing in any combination their power or wealth.

Today I read that the SAT scores hit a new low this past year.  And the first comment by the testers was that no one should worry because it was due to more "students" (whatever that means these days) were taking the test than ever before and to the increased "diversity" of the pool taking the test.  Huh?  Right...and it don't rain in Indianapolis in the summertime.

Our Government is to blame for this idiocy.  The entire Federal Government, including Congress, every President, and the Supreme Court.  Because it all goes back to an unwillingness (or inability) to accurately evaluate and then design a way to correct the results of racial prejudice.

Rather than recognize that the in-equality of the past needed to be corrected substantively, the Government forces determined instead to institute the appearance of equality, rather than make it a fact.

For the most part, life has least it used to.  It was results that counted, not excuses.  If you failed a test, you flunked.  If you did that enough, you got "left back a grade" and some actually left school at the earliest permissible age because they just didn't want to study...or couldn't.  Schools were for learning.  So were Colleges and Universities.  Your performance got you entrance and progress and a degree.  The degree meant vouched for your achievement.

But, instead of focusing on the opportunity for all to learn and thus achieve according to that achievement, the Government dictated that minorities were now to be granted entrance, and degrees because of their minority status rather than their competitive achievement.  The decision was to make the world look as if all was well and, in fact, guarantee that minorities would have the appearance of success whether it was earned...or not.

This has had enormous consequences to our nation...well, actually, no longer a nation but a country.  Because the damage is multifaceted.  First, minorities have not been helped by the program.  Everyone, including the minorities, knows that the "achievements" are bogus...or at the very least, are suspect...regardless of the piece of paper.  The same goes for hiring, due to Federal requirements that once again throw out achievement in favor of appearances.  If people want all to strive for knowledge and achievement, you must make the opportunity equal...but you must require the equal achievement of learning and ability on an equal basis as well.  To act as the Government has done is to subtly (well, maybe not so much) suggest that minorities actually cannot least not on an equal basis.  How totally insulting, demeaning...and stupid.

But that is only the start of the damage.  All who have grown up in this atmosphere of selective granting of artificial status see that it ISN'T achievement that is rewarded...and hard work and study is not the key to a better life.  They have watched as consequences of non-performance or under-performance have been either eliminated or lowered.  So...they demand the same.  And, in the prevailing sense of "equality" they have been granted the same "pass" to avoid being left back in school, or denied admission to college, or denied their diploma just because they didn't do the work.

Students today will, it appears, not have to learn how to write cursive because, I am told, they all use computers or "text" or some such.  I have no idea what they will do if the power fails, or someone sets of a neutron bomb that takes out all the cell towers and crashes the power grid.  I suppose it will inspire a whole new set of cave paintings.  And I refuse to even consider how they will sign their names to any legal documents...I suppose there wont be any need for them, as no one will be held to whatever "thought" was a binding agreement.

Young people coming out of school at any level today already can't add or subtract without a calculator or some sort.  If a scanner breakes in a store, the clerks cannot tell you what to pay if you are buying more than two items...and if the scanner malfunctions, have no concept from the illogic of the inaccurate total that it is, in fact, inaccurate.  No wonder people find it hard to get jobs...they think their piece of paper means something while they are functionally both illiterate and untrainable except for the most mundane of tasks.  Yet they insist on benefits, pay, and treatment as "entitled."

So of course the SAT scores are down.  Why bother to work to learn all those things that get you higher scores; they don't matter.  These poor disillusioned souls have been led, trained and indoctrinated to expect that achievement not only doesn't isn't even to be considered.

The Government, the Educational (so-called) community, and all forms of authority have determined that thou shall not say "no" to anyone...even parents are prevented from requiring and enforcing their own children's upbringing.

No wonder the United States is populated in this century by narcissists.  It is how they have been raised.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Why do we need to only elect a Politician as President?

First of all, for anyone who bothers to read my ramblings, I apologize for not posting for awhile.  The politics has been so overwhelmingly catastrophic that I just couldn't make myself start commenting on anything without feeling intense sorrow for the America that once was. with all sad things...nothing changes and one has to get up and start putting one foot in front of the other and trust that there is something worthwhile somewhere down the path...

I was listening to Herman Cain the other day.  He is a man who started with very little and made a success of himself and his business and seemingly helped a lot of people find work along the way while not being a crook, or a liar.  And he cares enough about America to run for public office...the Presidency, to be precise.  Now that might be the only obvious error in judgement that he has least of which I am familiar.

But...then I am besieged by multiple comments by all of the "talking heads" in the media saying that he lacks political experience and thus cannot be elected.

Why?  As he said months ago, when questioned about his lack of political experience, how has electing those with political experience been working out for us so far?  How well have we been served by electing those practiced in the art of deception and feigning sincere concern for the electorate while pursuing the aggrandizement of power and protecting their own jobs?  How well have the "governmentalists" (all those in public office who believe that government should be a major factor in defining and solving the challenges presented to the citizenry...without any proof of agreement of the populace with this premise.) done in such a simple thing as openly admitting that (mostly) previous office holders have promised free lunches of various types that just didn't, and don't, exist and the bill is now due...that the government is now going to have to change the benefits for the future and cut back on current "free" lunches because we have run out of money?  Neither the President nor Congress can even make that simple admission...they are liars by genetic disposition.

But that doesn't answer why no one in the media and very few among the public consider Mr. Cain a legitimate and worthy candidate.  Again...why?

Sadly, I suspect that it is because we, as a people, have become comfortable with the lies our politicians tell us...we want to believe in a fairyland where all things are possible and no one ever gets the bill.  We want to believe in a substitute "Big Daddy" who will take care of us, even as we refuse to remember the times when our original parent said "NO" or we suffered the consequence of some forbidden act or decision...indeed, we all have very convenient and selective memories.  Apparently, we want to be conned.  We are happy with it...and narcissistically only slightly discomforted by the thought that our children or grandchildren will have the fruits of our self-indulgence.  

Devout Christians believe that Christ died for our sins.  Apparently the people of today's America believe that their children and grandchildren should do the same.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

My Kingdom for a (real) Candidate...

Call me disillusioned.  Call me disappointed.  And...probably, call me an idiot for wishing for the impossible.

The elapse of time reveals "stuff" that books and articles almost never share. One of those is that both what are called "Left" and "Right" ideologies started out very close together at the beginning of the last century and have been moving farther to the left with every passing year. It was, among other motivations, the recognition of this that was behind Bill Buckley's efforts to enable the formation of a real Conservative movement in this country.

Unfortunately, that movement (as do all political parties) sees the solution in how government is run, and ignores (or discounts) the inherent dangers of government itself to the individual freedom. In a sense, all current political ideologies are "Progressive" in nature because they see the government as the "proper" vehicle for solving problems of a country's citizens. The only difference is that those to the far left see the government as the solution to ALL problems, seeking to eliminate personal consequences for any acts, while those less left (I shudder to suggest that they are really "right") see some problems as still being the personal responsibility of citizens.It would be nice to see even one candidate who said that he (or she) recognized the government as being the enemy of personal freedom and responsibility and was running, not to IMPROVE government but, to be a place holder to prevent further incursion of personal liberty by government and, if at all possible, to make it less able and less efficient at controlling individual initiative; that the only reason for government at all was twofold: to keep other countries from filling the void, and to enable an effective national defense (arguably, that would include securing all of our border...including the one with Mexico). Won't happen...but if it did, I would move if necessary to be able to vote for that person.

None of the governmentalists (as I call them) recognize, value or make of the highest priority the protection of the freedom of the individual, coupled with the resulting self-reliance and responsibility (which actually includes  enduring the consequences of bad decisions as well as the rewards of good ones) and the corresponding requirement of Government to stick to the one reasonable activity of protecting our borders.

Ronald Reagan was the only President in my lifetime that seemed to recognize the danger of Government...yet he was unable to accomplish more than slow the tide of growth and power, while attempting to protect individual freedom, initiative and responsibility, of the Federal Government. It will take more than just finding the right will require finding a new Congress. Sadly...that will probably never happen.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

The Argument is NOT about Entitlement Reduction...

Only in America is lying encouraged and actually protected by the Law of the Land...especially in politics.  I have spent the better part of a month trying to analyze the arguments about what is falsely called "Entitlement" reform.  Such a misnomer...everyone who has worked at all has had part of their pay confiscated to "fund" both Social Security and Medicare, but the politicians for some reason want to call paying back what we have paid for an "Entitlement."  But that is a subject for still another day's discussion...or thought...or whatever...

Today I want to write out my understanding of the argument regarding Medicare.  The so-called Republican plan is pretty easy to get.  Ryan has written out his plan and taken whatever heat or praise that the facts of the plan elicit.  It acknowledges that right now, payments taken in return for a promise to pay in the future are, in fact, a fraud and a crime...since the funds knowingly will not be available to provide the promised benefits in the future.  So he proposes keeping the promises for those for whom it is too late to do anything themselves to cover for the fraud of the government.  But, he openly changes the Medicare system to 1) bring it closer to the people by moving control away from Washington, D.C., and into the individual states, and 2) bringing it even more in tune with the people by making the amounts available to the individual available to that individual so that he or she may chose who or what supplier of Medical Coverage should bet their coverage.

But...and there is no suggestion that this is NOT true...the amount of money will not increase and there will be a possibility of financial burden that falls on individuals.  Those who can afford it will pay toward Doctor's visits and will contribute toward services costs.

Here is the curious fact, though.  The so-called Democrat solution has exactly the same least as far as reducing the dollar value of benefits is concerned.  Yes, indeed.  Sure, I know you haven't seen any video of any Democrat pushing "granny" over a cliff...but everybody is sure going off of a cliff...sometime.

The only question...and the only difference between the ideological left and when and who will be blamed.  It is NOT a question of IF.

Here are the facts as I read and hear them:
1)  Both sides actually agree that nothing will change for all current citizens and current recipients who are 55 years of age or older;
2) The Ryan plan puts funding policy directly into the hands of the individual state and individual funding decisions on provider and coverage selection directly into the hands of the individual who has paid into the system.  He relies on competitive free-market competition to keep those premiums as low as possible and the benefits as inclusive as possible, but that is not controlled by government edict, but by the laws of supply and demand, which will presumably be intensified by eliminating the state laws limiting cross-state competition in the area of Health Insurance;
3) The Democrat plan (as explained by everyone who has spoken with any apparent intelligence and honesty on the subject, and as verified as much as possible by my reading of the Obamacare bill) is, of course, put into effect by Obamacare is claims to reduce costs.  Actually, it doesn't...but, again, that particular element is for another discussion.  What is important, and what Democrat spokesmen will NEVER admit, is that it also reduces benefits over time.  Yep... somebody is going off the cliff.  But no Democrat will ever have his or her direct fingerprints on the wheelchair.  Why?  Because they blame it on someone ... anyone...everyone...else.

"How can that be?" you ask.  Simple.  Obamacare over time required cost controls which effect payments to providers.  And they set up bureaucratic committees that will determine what is "proper" treatment that will be, "paid for" reimbursement.  It also reduces over time the amount paid to Doctors and Hospitals for specific types of care and treatment.  Note, that they still argue that these payments...even as reduced...will be the "right" amount to ensure that the patient gets total care with now additional payment by them.

What does this mean?  It means that as the payments that you were told were going to provide you with medical care get too small for Doctors and Hospitals to make a living and pay off their own huge debts, they will chose to not accept patients who are on Medicare.  And Insurance Companies who you have paid for ancillary services to avoid any additional payments for gaps in coverage will adjust their coverages to match that which the government has dictated.

The result is that the Democrat plan will also have some people...maybe people who are not yet as old as granny...pushed off of the proverbial coverage cliff.  The only difference is that Obamacare will blame the Insurance companies, the doctors and the hospitals and claim innocence of any contributory involvement.

This is very attractive to all politicians for whom results are not nearly as important as avoidance of blame.  It is also attractive to a lot of voters who embrace the concept of victim-hood and also value the concept of taking a chance of failure if that failure will ultimately be able to be blamed on someone else.

The Ryan plan acknowledge that there is no certainty of total coverage, but insures that the value that you pay into the program will come back to you...and attempts to put into individuals' hands the power to maximize the economic power that those funds represent. does put the responsibility of using those funds in an intelligent way on the States and the Individual.  That means that you have the power of achieving great success or abysmal failure.  Amazing concept, isn't it: Freedom of Choice is NOT Freedom from Consequences...good, ...or bad.  But there is a certain rush of excitement there...or is it the breath of FREEDOM.  You decide.

(Oh...and for you non-believers...currently, your Medicare premiums over the years total about $57,000 while the medical benefits that you use total in excess of $158,000.  In a few years those numbers will be near or above $80,000 and $230,000 respectively.  Medicare IS broke...and you need to accept that.)

Friday, May 6, 2011

California could become our Greece

It is both entertaining and hopeful to focus on the now open Presidential Political Season. We will, of course, tire of it in time and whine about just getting it over with, but for now it is a chance for renewed hope and optimism...for some of us,at least. But there is an ugly threat on the horizon that threatens to make the storms in the South seem minor by comparison and that we have been "helped" to ignore by both the media and the politicians: the failure of California to take any steps to solve their insolvency.

If we are not careful, California will become to America what Greece is about to become to the European Union...a death knell and cause of economic catastrophe...we won't have to wait for the deficit bills to overwhelm us, California's failure will kick us over the cliff way earlier than that.

We all should follow what is happening in and with Greece if we want to see our own future. The European Union (EU) has rules against bailouts and debt restructuring, but that is apparently going to happen shortly. They (the EU) have already done this with Portugal...against their own rules. What does this mean? Well, Germany has indicated that they, if the process continues, will abandon the EU. Whether that happens or not (and the odds are that the German Electorate will demand it), the value of the Euro will plummet. 

Consider then our own beautiful state of California...

Known by some as "the land of fruits and nuts", they do not have a balanced budget. They have no (realistic) plan to balance their budget, and, if they were a public company, would no be rated as a penny stock with no value whatsoever. Yet they continue on unafraid and promising a continuation of the "free" lunch...oh, excuse me..."free" everything.

Guess who they will ultimately expect to pay for it? Yep You and Me! The rest of the United States. And we do not have the money to do it even if we decided it was right. But the worst thing (for California) is that we don't think it is the right thing to do. But...will Obama and the Congress declare that "California is TOO BIG TO FAIL." Where have we heard that one before.

Just think...a political decision that would accelerate our financial demise. Think it won't happen under President Obama? Really? What are you smoking...because I want some! And if you thing this can turn out well for the United States of America, just keep following the developments in the EU and Greece (and the other PIGS [Portugal, Ireland, Greece, Spain]).

It is absolutely as important to us as is the Presidential campaign.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Happy Easter!...Thoughts and Ruminations...

It has been a long, long time since I was a "practicing" I guess for most people that would make me a CINO in current acronym parlance (Christian in name only).  I am not sure if that is factual, but perceptually I cannot disagree with that moniker.  I was raised in a fundamentalist Christian home, but the idealism of what was taught clashed with the apparent hypocrisy of how people actually lived their lives resulted in disillusionment. The resulting search and study of most of the known religions of the world for "the Truth"  revealed scads of pretenders to that throne, not all of them religious.  But there was one constant theme: do what we say and your life will be better, either here or in the hereafter.  And Islam was downright threatening with it's instruction to convert or kill non-believers; there was no element of invitation or choice there.

This "obedience" thing was and is a non-starter for me.  My mother named me for the eighth disciple of Jesus...Thomas...often known as "Doubting Thomas."  I have no idea what moved my mother to that choice, but I have no question that it was accurate...and I have been both blessed and cursed with that attitude most of my life.  Now I just embrace it as a characteristic like having blue eyes or black hair...neither good nor bad, but a fact.

But, returning to the point, this obedience thing usually involves money, and doing as I am told.  It also involves not questioning either the ultimate destination of that money or the purpose behind the least not beyond getting generalities, like "helping the poor or deserving" or "to insure your being blessed by God" or the infamous "we know better than you" which occurs most often in political ideologies and is uttered by those in or vying for public office.

So I have turned my back on all organizations, both religious and secular, because when man gets involved in any group activity it inevitably becomes most concerned with controlling others for the benefit of the leadership, ultimately abandoning all but lip service to it's original reason for creation.

What does this have to do with Easter?  Well, it gets back to the instincts within us that exist without indoctrination, training or learning; it involves that "gut" feeling that we all experience when coming across something or someone for the very first time.  When that happens, I always get one of two feelings: either a "wow, that is great", or a "Whoa...I don't like that much."  Of course, we then spend  hours...or days, weeks or years...trying to get our brains to agree, or trying to convince our gut that it was wrong.  But the end result most of the time is that if we follow our gut, we turn out OK.  To me, that is God (or whatever higher power of any kind that you are comfortable with) trying to guide us.

And this morning, my gut turned my attention to the part of the scripture that dealt with God knocking on the door and waiting to be invited in.  And the part of offering...but not ordering... needing to be invited, resonated within me.  It was not obedience to commands as much as it was an offer to reveal choices from which I would have to select that was was that I   was also free to not "answer" the door.

That "aha moment" was, for me, the granting of the ultimate personal freedom simultaneously with the offer of knowledge and guidance beyond the scope of personal experience. No strings attached. No contract. No hypocrisy...well, except for my own.

I learned a lot of things during my search for the "truth" and I have been blessed with much because of it...but in terms of what I thought I was specifically looking for, I did waste a lot of effort and time.  For me only (I am sharing, not proselytizing) the answer was within me, and the only requirement was that I stop and both "listen" and "feel" instead of being so "busy".

One final note on organizations. People should band together to accomplish certain things...but their "organizations" should disband once the initial need is achieved.  If a secondary "need" is seen, form a new not continue the old one.  Keeping "standing" anything...committees, governments, religions...leads to power struggles and loss of individual freedoms that have little or nothing to do with the original purpose.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Slavery...are we slaves?

Slavery is a simple concept...I thought.  The definitions are rather clear and seem easy to understand.  Merriam-Webster says that a slave is one held in servitude as the chattel of another or that is completely subservient to a dominating influence.  All that seems clear enough.

Can one be a slave if not owned by another?  And, can you be a slave if you are not aware that you are one,i.e., either born or have become accustomed to being controlled by others or another?  That is, is self-awareness of the condition a requisite for the classification.  Apparently not, from the definitions...but more on that a bit later.   Also...if you voluntarily give power over yourself to another, but then decide you wish to rescind it and find that you cannot, does that result in a condition of slavery.

These questions came about because of an article I read recently that suggested that living in America had become an existance subject to a "plantation mentality."  The idea that we looked on the government much as slaves in the south had looked on their plantation farmer owners.  Seemed ludicrous on it's face, but....

It is undeniable that slavery has existed in the world since recorded history began.  Every one of the societies throughout the ages has employed the concept of slavery:  the Romans, the Greeks, the Aztecs, the Muslims...all of them.  But our history books suggest that WE are different. "Really?"...and, if so, "Why"?

In ancient times, slavery often had nothing to do with "ownership."  True, the Romans and Greeks did transfer title, but neither the Aztecs nor African tribes have any formal title for their just was a result of losing a battle or war.  Losers became the slaves and winners became the owners or "masters."  America codified ownership, with formal documentation...until they were emancipated. But...why did America and most of the western world do away with slavery. Did it really disappear? Or did it just morph into another form under a different name?

After all, how could a system that has existed for so many years suddenly become anathema to the human race?  If it were a gradual thing, one could argue that it was a developing "something": perhaps moral awareness, perhaps a religious revelation, but whatever it was, it would logically be something that mankind came to over an extended period...but this apparent  elimination of slavery has come upon us suddenly in less than a century, eliminating a pattern of behavior that has been consistent and constant for ages.  Why now...and how?

I do not think it has disappeared at all.  I think that it exists all around us and that in fact, we may all be not only complicit in its preservation but be slaves ourselves.

Remember the second side of the Merriam-Webster definition...",,,completely subservient to a dominating influence."?  Let us try out some comparisons of the usual vision of slavery side-by-side with living in America today:

What happens when you disobey the orders of your slave master?  Punishment of various degrees, depending on how severe and how many previous transgressions, right?
What happens when you disobey the orders of the government?  Not much different, I would suggest.

You may argue that you get a jury trial.  Sometimes...but not as often as you think.  Most transgressions against government are punished by taking your "stuff," usually in the form of money but sometimes they just take you property...especially if they want it and you think you own it.  How, indeed, is it different?

You say "...but my elected officials made the decisions, and I agreed by electing them."  Oh, really?  Was that your intention...or is that just a mantra that the government throws back at you to explain that it is really either your fault or that you agreed to allow this control and this "taking" of your stuff or your freedom?  Isn't the "election" thing something that you have been indoctrinated into believing actually protects your freedoms"  I mean, how many of your freedoms have disappeared in your lifetime without your specific approval?  Remember that unfortunate "property rights" thing that has been taken?  How about wiretaps without a judicial warrant?  How about the right to have the implements necessary to defend yourself?  Think about it.  How has that "our elections protect our freedoms" mantra been working...other than to lower your blood pressure?

Some people that lived centuries ago made an agreement to be governed by others.  We were born into it and raised to see it as a good thing...something to cherish and not to question. Did we choose it?  Did YOU choose it?  If we are really created with unalienable rights from God, why does the government have such absolute control over our lives?  Why does not every generation have to pass again, ab initio, and approve, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights?  Why are we encouraged to suffer indignities that our founding fathers saw fit to revolt against?  Sort of a loss of logic here, it seems.

Is there some fear on the part of those in power that some or all of the provisions might be seen by the majority of "citizens" as objectionable and the results as being enslaving?  You think?

Slavery is alive an well throughout the world.  In fact it is more extensive than ever before in human history.  And it is a natural existence, as proven by the history of the has always been and it will always be, albeit defined differently for the exigencies of the moment.  Today, most of the "Slave Masters" have simply morphed into "Elected Officials" and "Government Representatives."  They have refined themselves into a multi-headed hydra that cannot be clearly identified, and thus not ever truly defeated or removed, so the slavery continues.

Those who are poor cannot chose to remove the power that feeds them, while those who's earned wealth is taken by the government are too few to be able to fight the taking.  It is the perfect form of slavery where, for the sake of narcissistic ego, the enslaved cannot even countenance the idea that they are, indeed, slaves in fact if not in name.  And so it is.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Ideology: The Yellow Brick nowhere

ALL proponents of government in any form are voluntarily deluding themselves. Each suggests that their ideology "serves the people' best. Nonsense. Once formed, government serves itself only. At a superficial level, there is no doubt in my mind that Conservative governing principles serve the individual best, but only at an unacceptable price.

Individual Freedom alone is responsible for individual success. Absent a personal benefit, of what purpose is taking what one person earns to care for another that has NOT earned enough? It is one thing to chose to do that, but another to be MADE to do anyone.

When you take from "doers" to give to "non-doers" you begin the process of destroying incentive for anyone to do anything...because it is inherently unfair and unjust. Leftists, by whatever name they use to fly under the radar today, believe that some should contribute to those who do not produce. They cowardly wish to accomplish their idea of good deeds with other people's money. Those on the Right chose to act to protect individual rights (so they say) but they charge their own form of vigorish to protect that. In both cases, government serves it's own end: the accumulation and preservation of power over others.

The Founding Fathers recognized this in the Preamble. And it is becoming time to take those words to heart again and recognize that our own government has become exactly what the English Government was at the time of our first Revolution.

Stop fighting over what form of governmental plantation you want to preserve, and recognize that we need to re-establish the concept of individual personal freedom and self-reliance that government, by it's very nature, steals and destroys.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Sacrifice and Greed

I read comments from Politicians about the "need for common sacrifice" to get through our economic challenge.  There would be no problem with a request for common sacrifice if it were 1) equally shared by all, and 2) followed an elimination of the causes that led to the need for sacrifice. However, that is not true here. It is the government itself that has caused our problems, and it has not corrected it's policies or actions. Our "representatives" (boy, is that a joke. Certainly it is a one word oxymoron) are still serving their own, instead of the country's, well-being. And the sacrifice is defined by this President as continuing to spend money we DO NOT HAVE.

Everything we do as a country today is done on BORROWED funds. Is Libya important enough to us that we should borrow the money from China to do what we are doing? Because that is exactly what we are doing. Is the Department of Education doing enough for you, your country and your children that you are breaking your kids' piggybanks to get the money to fund them? Because, figuratively and perhaps realistically, that is what you are doing when you allow our government to continue to spend more and more money on departments and programs that have not accomplished demonstrable success for years and always whine that they just need MORE money...yet never produce results.

Greed? The Government, Politicians, and public sector unions set the standard. If they could hold themselves to the same level of behavior as the much-denigrated "rich" there would be an improvement.

As I was growing up, my father told me one day that when deciding on whether to try to do something, or invest in something, most people ask the wrong question: they ask "what can I make?" He told me that the question is fine, but it has to be prefaced with two other questions first: 1) "What can I lose?", and 2) "Can I afford to lose it?" Only, said he, if you can define the answer to the first question and say "yes" to the second, should you even bother to ask the last question.

Why does it appear that these simple rules are never followed by our Politicians and our government...on ANYTHING? And why do we not demand that they do so? Do we all have a Death Wish? I am starting to think so. After all, we do not have any money. We borrow it all. We do not have the money to pay all that we owe today if our creditors were to ask for their money.

Is Libya important enough to us that we borrow the money for the no-fly zone from China? Really? Because that is what we are doing. How about the same question with regard to our membership in the U.N.? Foreign Aid? Payments to the Afghan and Pakistani governments? Troops in Europe? The President's trip to South America (really, hasn't he ever heard of tele-conferencing?)?

It would be questionable enough if we actually HAD the money...but we DON'T.

I can't do this sort of thing as an individual or as a business without having concrete answers to these questions FIRST. Why does the government get a free ride?

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Why are we interfering in a Civil War?

After all these years American Foreign Policy in the Middle East still resembles the early years of American business expansion into the world that earned us the name, "Ugly American" because of our assumption that everyone thought like us and would make decisions the same way plus have the same values and goals. How utterly stupid that was. American business learned...and prospered. American Foreign Policy is still seemingly unaware that not all the world wants to be like us.

Consider if Obama had been in power in England (or France, or Spain) during our Civil War.  How would we have felt if he come out with the command, "Lincoln must go" and set about organizing the other European Countries to bread the Northern blockade of Southern ports?  Sounds decidedly inappropriate when looked at from that point of view, doesn't it?  And where was this purposeful resolve when people took to the streets in Iran? Bahrain? Syria?

The inconsistencies are bad enough...and this article discusses them well. But there is more to be concerned about...and that is the nature of the Middle East itself. Up until now the countries have been run by heads of state with their own interests, and often at odds with one another. The President's actions are opening that up to a change that most certainly harbor more danger for the United States.

Not one American pundit, in or out of Government (much less the President) has considered that multiple secular leaders with self-interest at heart is much less a threat to the United States interests than a Middle East unified in a religious/political sect that sees Western Values (read, "American") as evil and to be overcome and destroyed. Many of the rebels in Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Syria and Bahrain are Shi'ites and operate with the same attitudes and goals of those in Iran. And we are now the tools of their attempt to gain unified power.

It is bad enough to be wrong...but to be stupidly wrong is both an embarrassment and a horror.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Japan...would WE be prepared?

No.  Not a hard answer, is it?  But most people I speak to talk about the government being broke,...or stretched too thin.  This all may be true, but the primary reason we are not, and never again will be, prepared is that we have lost the sense of self-reliance and self-preparedness that our parents (well, at least MY parents) had. They never stopped drilling into me the idea that no one else's lifestyle needed to afford your own. Keep up with the Jones'? They didn't understand the term and when I explained it, they just laughed and labeled it insanity. You lived within your own budget; you put aside money for "rainy" days; you make decisions and then lived with the "blame someone else" mentality was allowed. I remember once I got into trouble...not for doing anything wrong, but because I was hanging around with some "friends" who, indeed, had done something wrong. I got a suspension out of it and complained. My father said it was my fault..."you are known by the company you keep and if you want to be highly thought of, don't hang around with them...there are consequences for bad choices, so don't complain to me" 

Today, Americans are wrapped up in "blaming someone else" and expecting the government (or "someone") to bail them out of trouble. They don't even TRY to prepare for "rainy" days...they are too busy keeping up with the Jones'. Smoke and mirrors and the illusion that there are no consequences. Stupidity is the norm for the day throughout America.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Still another comment on America's Educational system...

While I have known plenty of teachers in my life who were dedicated to their students and their futures, the majority of teachers chose that line of work because when in college the idea of a 9 or 10 month work year with summers off plus a guaranteed job after 3 years (tenure) seemed like a safe and desirable alternative to working for a full year with two weeks off and the prospect of having to prove yourself every day or get fired.

All of these people found that it was harder than it appeared: you had to use your summers to get advanced training and degrees; the hours were often 12 in length because of the need to grade papers and prepare lesson plans. It didn't turn out to be the utopia that it seemed in the callow days of their youth. And many did not have that drive to be educators...but now they were locked into the job. to improve pay? Unionize. To a professional, that was the wrong way to go; better to start a professional society and mandate performance that would lead to competition for better pay. But remember that most teachers were disillusioned with no concept of "professionalism"; they just wanted more money to pay for the unexpected working conditions. Logical, really. But this failure to see teaching as a profession has led our educational system into the morass which exists today.

 Get rid of tenure and cut the power of unions and demand that there be some evaluation of dedication to TEACHING for someone to get into and REMAIN in the PROFESSION.

Monday, February 28, 2011

A "tax" to promote real Christmas Trees?

I just finished reading an article where the promotional arm of the Christmas Tree providers of America think they need a 15 cent tax on each Christmas Tree sold to raise money to promote the purchase of REAL Christmas trees. Seems like the sale of real trees is way down and the only way they think they can offset or reverse this trend is to get the government to set up this tax, which would fund the promotional effort. Really!

Want more Christmas Tree sales? Put "Christmas" back into what has become the "holiday" season. As the Secularists succeed in their agenda to do away with "Christ" and "Christmas" as celebrated (well, as USED to be celebrated) in the United States, fewer and fewer people are "into" the holiday except as a way of getting free stuff. Years ago, the week before Christmas was a time of family activity: going out and looking for just the right tree, setting it up, taking a full evening together to decorate it with all those reminders of people and years gone by...a time for reverence and remembrance. It was "magic." And for the majority of Americans, it is gone. Now many don't even bother with trees, much less lights. No more "family" time, no more reverence, nothing...just give me the gift...or gifts, ...or money...and then back to the ipod, internet, or ... to work. A tax to promote Christmas Trees???? Don't make me laugh.