2015


Economics and Government and Politics and Social Issues13 Oct 2015 07:14 pm

Wealth is not so much about how much money and assets you have but rather how much money and assets you have in comparison to others. In essence, wealth is about how big of a piece of the pie you possess.

The recent money printing mania of central banks has deeply distorted our concept of wealth. Over the last decade or so the size of the pie (money pool) has quintupled yet the majority of people’s wages and assets have stagnated or have grown at a moderate pace.

What this means is that if you’re personal wealth hasn’t ballooned by 500% over the last decade your relative wealth has decreased. If your savings have stayed pretty much the same it means that you are 1/5 as wealthy as you were a decade ago. Actually if one figures in the rise in inflation of food, energy, medical care and other necessities your wealth has plummeted even if your numerical wealth has doubled or even tripled.

Economic data suggests that as many as 20% of US citizens were experiencing expanding relative wealth in the early 80’s. Those treading water or enjoying a larger share of the pie fell to under 10% within a decade. The next decade saw the percentage of people’s wealth increasing drop to 5% and then down to 2%. Since the last financial crisis in 2008, the percentage of people enjoying a boost in relative wealth has gone from the infamous “one percent” to a fraction approaching 1/10 of one percent.

So even in the glory days of the middle class well over 50% of US citizens were experiencing a decline in relative wealth. Yet, due to advances in medicine and technology statistics supported the idea that the US and European middle class were experiencing a rise in their quality of life.

The standard of living and quality of life of a sizable percentage of people can actually rise even while their relative wealth declines. This can occur due to substantial improvements in technology and medicine along with the empire sharing the spoils with its citizens. The US shared the wealth it obtained through global dominance with its allies and citizens. Consumer based capitalism rewarded its citizens and foreign backers and participants with increased access to its riches, even as the percentage of wealth continued to shift into fewer and fewer hands.

Yet, over the last couple of decades and especially since the last financial crisis the tendency for the US government and financial elite to share the bounty is on the decline. A consumer based society needed a sizable portion of the populace to participate as consumers and producers of goods and services and also to function as soldiers to insure the continued expansion of global domination (both militarily and economically).

Recent economic events and technological advances have now lessened the need for a sizable portion of US citizens to be consumers, producers and soldiers. Our vaunted consumer based society is now being replaced by a financial instrument economy. Please read my previous post http://guidoworld.com/blog/the-post-indu… to gain a better understanding of the logistics of this new economy and how it frees the financial elite from its dependency on US citizens for its continued progress and success.

The US’s position as the reigning superpower is dependent on its retaining its financial and military domination. Any set back in its relative wealth is a threat to its privileged and dominating position. The US cannot just maintain its wealth to insure its dominance, but it must continue to increase its market share and piece of the global economic pie. Any drop in the percentage of global wealth it experiences results in a loss of global dominance. Wherever money and asset ownership exists, the US “cannot afford” not to participate and be a leader.

In order to remain the dominant superpower our government and its patrons must do everything in their power to maximize profits. One does not maximize profits through just tolerating and taxing lucrative illegal or immoral practices and markets. In order to maximize profits it is logically necessary to not only participate and establish a presence in economic boons such as black market trade, but to establish and maintain a commanding position. Likewise, one does not remain the dominant economic superpower by refusing to participate in the largest and most lucrative industries and marketplaces due to ethics and morals.

When one’s goal is an ever increasing state of wealth through maximizing profits and increasing market share it becomes imperative that you maintain access to “free markets” and that you dominate all lucrative marketplaces available. The bulk of our military actions make sense when viewed from this perspective. We go to war, use economic sanctions and intervene in the political world of other nations (regime change) all in an effort to gain access to potentially lucrative resources and markets or to establish a dominant position in an industry.

So while we trumpeted our defense of democracy and values such as freedom, in reality our privileged position was acquired and is maintained by the expanding acquisition and ownership of assets, resources and money. Britain in its heyday did not shy away from admitting that it went to war with China over the free trade of opium as well as other producing promising great profits.

Modern empires have used piracy, bullying, intimidation, manipulation and deception in order to acquire and maintain the monopolization of assets and resources. Nations which refused to participate were demonized, punished and often vanquished, whatever it took to increase market share and profits. The US has not deviated from this game plan, even if they try to hide this reality. When US leaders speak of taking aggressive actions against other nations to protect US interests, stakes and way of life it is far more accurate than when they say they are defending freedom and democracy. Unless, of course, they are referring to the freedom of gaining access and control of the assets and resources of others and that when they say democracy they mean capitalism (as our way of life).

We have generally opposed anyone who refused to participate in our exploitive profit based global economy or who wished to share the wealth with its citizenry. We labeled and demonized anyone behaving in this way as being a communist, socialist, terrorist, or as an evil and destructive zealot. A nation who nationalized its oil or attempted to use its resources to benefit its citizens while isolating itself from the US was sure to be invaded, attacked, have its government removed or have their assets frozen and be saddled with economic sanctions.

In general there are two basic national or cultural camps which resist or refuse to participate in “our (capitalistic) way of life” or prevent us from gaining access to their assets and resources. One camp would include any society promoting an egalitarianism such as socialists and communists. The second camp would be those who object to capitalism because of core values such as conservative religions and social activists. Most major religions have basic tenets which promote charity, succor and support to the less fortunate and are generally intolerant of exploitive and selfish economic practices. The very same practices which are often viewed as being inherent in the capitalistic free market system. A subset of these two camps would include entities such as human rights organizations, workers unions, and ecological watchdogs.

Luckily for the US many communists nations went the route of totalitarianism or were able to be guided in that direction which validated our aggressive actions as well as our claims of their being evil and our intentions as being noble. Yet, the social benefits of revolutionaries of the people such as Castro, Chavez and Gaddafi had to be ignored and vilified. Statistics which show great strides made in health care, education, access to technology, quality of life and quality of life are ignored, denied or described as meaningless is comparison to the suffering supposedly caused by these “evil tyrants”. Likewise the leaders of passive resistance and their themes of charity and non exploitation were undermined and labeled terrorists by our government (at least internally). This list would include Mandela, Gandhi, Dr. Martin Luther King as well as many prominent women’s rights and peace advocates.

We have forced our way into every marketplace and resource. Where ever money is made we are there, and we must gain monetary control. We can’t let our morals, ideals and principles be our undoing. While we may deny it, more and more people accept the fact that we go to war to maintain our economic leadership in oil, natural gas and other vital and profitable areas regarding energy. Yet, how long would we stay the economic superpower if our morality and principles prevented us from the billions of dollars available through the selling of munitions, illegal arms and weapons of mass destruction.

Communist nations are by definition opposed to profit based capitalism. So, when a nation becomes communistic or socialistic they no longer conduct themselves in a manner befitting global trade maximizing profit. The US reacts to this non participation aggressively and will go to war, support a coup or try to assassinate leaders who are deemed responsible for this unacceptable economic stance.

Yet, China is currently an example of how even a communist nation can be acceptable to us as long as they keep the channels of commerce open and allow us to exploit their riches in an expanding fashion. Tensions arise whenever China makes a policy decision which jeopardizes are financial role or shows any signs of hoarding their wealth or resources.

During its heyday Britain could not pass on the opportunity to dominate the opium trade. Its status as reigning empire necessitated its gaining access and control of the opium trade. When China successfully intervened and squashed the drug trade and addiction rate in its country, Britain felt it war worthy to reestablish the opium trade.

Just as Britain went to war for opium, the reasons behind our wars and military interventions are economic in origin. As mentioned above, our position as global superpower is dependent on not only maintaining but increasing our market share and piece of the global economic pie. Wherever a sizable market exists we must not only participate in it, but be an increasingly major player.

Vietnam and the surrounding area was known as the “golden triangle” and was responsible for much of the global production of heroin and other illegal “recreational” drugs. When the communists took over the flow of drugs began to slow down, and moral and health concerns became more important than economic ones. The US war in Vietnam succeeded in reestablishing the global drug trade. So, from a strictly economic standpoint the war in Vietnam was a success.

It is fascinating to note that the two longest wars for the US, that being Vietnam and Afghanistan are both illegal drug havens. Over 90% of poppy production evaporated when the Taliban took over and gained control of the land. As soon as the US got involved the poppy production not only returned but went to record levels. The charts of US military presence in Afghanistan and poppy production appear to be the same. Whenever our presence increases so does poppy production and global heroin trade, and when we leave or lose territory to the Taliban the production is curtailed.

While both Vietnam and Afghanistan could just be coincidences it does seem unlikely. We are a capitalistic society that values money, wealth and power over everything else. It is only logical that our policies and behaviors would correspond to this paramount concern. If we didn’t act in this manner than what other explanation is there for how we successfully maintain and increase our economic position. Someone is making the billions of dollars available through illegal drugs, munitions, armaments, pharmaceuticals, tobacco, gambling, prostitution, human slave trade, ecologically destructive practices, etc. and if the US government and its corporate sponsors aren’t leading the way then how do we remain the world economic power?

One only need to look at how we have exploited Central America and “banana republics” to get a picture of how important it is to the US to become and stay dominant in every market place and economic space. I saw an article recently that went through every war the US has participated in since its inception. As it turns out we have been involved in a military conflict or war in over 93% of the time we have been a nation. We have initiated the vast majority of these wars and conflicts.

The above statistic clears demonstrates that the US is more than willing to go to war to “protect our interests”, or to provide us access to and control of global assets. Yet, war is not the only means by which the US accomplishes these goals. Another fruitful means has been through the installation of trading agreements and international pacts of commerce. Agreements such as NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) have been very effective in terms of protecting the rights of major corporations and industries such as banking, pharmaceutical, insurance and oil while expanding their access to foreign markets and assets.

Another tool has been to provide monies in loans and aid to foreign nations in exchange for establishing a military presence and gaining access to industries. Oftentimes the debt on the substantial loans given to nations become unserviceable resulting in our government and corporations gaining ownership of assets in exchange for forgiveness of debt. Many of the US’s most dominant positions have been forged through this method. The US gains ownership of foreign land, oil, coffee, plantations, gold, diamonds and many other lucrative markets via the exchange of assets for debt. Recently the EU took ownership of many of Greece’s assets and land in this same way of debt forgiveness.

While the practice of overwhelming a nation with debt could be just financial incompetence by bodies such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank its frequency and obvious benefits to the goal of maximizing profits suggest otherwise. As early as 2002 I started to become concerned that the methods of confiscating assets through the creation of unserviceable debt had become a domestic issue with the US middle class being the target audience. The quick growth in credit card, mortgage and student debt of the average US citizen was becoming large and conspicuous. Loans were being given out at an alarming rate, and from my seat a good portion seemed unserviceable or very vulnerable to an economic downturn (such as the housing bubble).

Please click on the following link to read my thoughts on this perspective which I published in August of 2008 http://guidoworld.com/blog/the-debt-endg…. This concern of mine has only grown and been validated through the passage of time. It only makes sense that the US government and its benefactors need for increased wealth and market share would finally demand their being predatory and confiscate what little wealth remains in the hands of its citizens. This blog along with the previous link above regarding the post industrial financial economy present a rather succinct outline of what might be in store for the US middle class, as well as the middle class in most post industrial societies.

The EU’s growing practice of negative interest rates and buy ins, as well as increased discussion regarding the need to construct a cashless society fit well into this unsavory vision of the immanent future (demise?) of the middle class. While the situation is far from hopeless one can’t solve a problem that one doesn’t recognize.

While writing this I agonized on how to present the above information in a manner which wouldn’t quickly be rejected by those on the right or the left, or thought of as just being a paranoid rant and over reactionary. Yet, I doubt if that is possible. I hope that those of you have shown the openness to read this to its conclusion have found the logic sound and the topic provocative.

United in Compassion

Jim Guido

Economics and Government and Politics and Social Issues16 Jul 2015 02:22 pm

While greed and deception are accepted as practical business skills needed when one’s goal is to maximize profits, the majority of the populace feels that corporations and governments minimize these practices when it comes to advocating for the welfare of their citizens. There are those that understand that the profit of the few often comes at the expense of the many. Such individuals reach the logical conclusion that decisions made by governments are almost always based on pragmatic financial outcomes and seldom honor any ideals or concerns such as democracy, freedom or the quality of life of the masses. Those who do not expect the financial and political elite to sacrifice personal and national monetary wealth for the benefits of the general populace are generally considered cynical at best and more routinely labeled conspiracists.

Yet, the ability of the US to maintain its position of economic superiority would be difficult to accomplish if it spread the wealth around or had noble principles guide its actions. In order to remain the wealthiest and most prosperous nation on earth, they must make money wherever and however it is made.

The European Union, like all relatively sovereign entities, is struggling to keep from being entirely swallowed up by the US, or losing ground against the remaining competitors and major players in world finance.

Please read the link below for it is a rare and real look into the inner workings of international finance. It is a rather transparent peek behind the curtain of economic policy and its priorities. It shows how often the bullies of power force the vanquished into looking like the bad guys or to take credit for a heinous or unpopular position.

The attitude of the text and the annotated comments of the ex Greek finance minister depict a mandatory consensus, in which the people calling the shots demand those being bullied to agree to take full responsibility for the very actions they are opposed to implementing. Any mention of their concerns or the fact that they are not really the people implementing the harsh and unpopular measures would be considered a violation of the agreement and cause for additional and hasher measures to be taken. If the Greek government wants to be part of the European Union they must not only implement policies and measures which not only increase their debt problems and worsen unemployment and poverty, but they must speak and act as if it were their idea.

I am amazed at the level of care that the leaders of the European Union (namely Germany) put into the words they chose which artfully misrepresent their selfish and malevolent intentions. The only people who benefit from these measures are the creditors of the debt. The majority of which should not have purchased bonds since they were aware that the debt could never be paid off. The world would be quite a different place if our leaders put as much care and attention into working on our behalf, rather than trying to figure out ways to deceive and placate us.

In the modern world of politics consensus is acquired through those in power stubbornly dictating the terms forcing all others to quietly acquiesce or become an accomplice to their exploitative and inhumane policies and behavior.
A system that tolerates, encourages and at times even glorifies mechanisms of deceit and exploitation will always perform better and defeat systems that are fair, equitable and humane.

A person could always win the race when they are able to cheat and disable their competitors. A runner allowed to get a head start, take short cuts and have accomplices kick and grab the other runners could easily claim superiority. With this in mind it is easy to understand how a profit at all costs system of capitalism is able to “outperform” all other social systems.

 http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2015-07-15…

Those who most benefit from the predatory system of competition and profit have convinced people that no other system would cultivate and utilize technology and the creative energies of man, despite the fact that there is ample evidence to the contrary. We do know that this system creates economic imbalances, is dependent on waste, and is rather blind to any long term variable producing harm. As we mentioned earlier, when one’s primary goal and concern is maximizing profit all other concerns take a back seat.

Documents which are designed to benefit the few by extricating the remaining wealth of the many are being written and made into law quite frequently. Excusing debt by taking over ownership of assets is the very definition of loan sharking, and has been a staple of greedy governments, individuals and institutions for centuries. The most admirable moments of human history have been when the masses have demanded that the quality of life and the standard of living for the many takes precedent over the greed and self-agrandizement of the few.

Jim Guido

Economics and Government and Politics and Social Issues15 Jul 2015 06:34 pm

The US continues to be the poster child for a profit based health care system. In such a system a person’s health takes a back seat to concerns regarding the bottom line. In fact, a healthy client often limits the ability for vested parties such as doctors, hospitals and insurance and pharmaceutical companies from making a profit. While “wellness” visits do generate a bit of income, the real money in a profit based system is made in the following ways:

Tests
Surgeries and procedures
Hospital Stays and emergency room visits
Prescriptions and medicines

Since the US is the most profit based health care system in the world, it is not surprising that we also lead the world in all four of the above services and interventions. Many tests, surgeries and procedures, hospital stays and medications are over used and misused. So while many people’s lives are prolonged and their quality of life improved by US medical care, these interventions are also a leading cause of death in the US.

Unnecessary tests and surgeries can often result in complications, harms and even death. Prescription medications and procedures are notorious for having deleterious and serious “side effects” which occur with a frequency superior to its resulting in a cure.

Doctors run tests on many ostensibly healthy patients in order to be “proactive” and possibly catch a serious disease such as cancer which has yet to manifest itself. Yet, many of the most popular tests used are often ineffective in their goal, while in some cases causing problems which would not have occurred otherwise.

The US profit based health care system is excellent for those who have serious and life threatening conditions, but can be extremely harmful to those who are generally healthy. A healthy patient who only goes to the doctor when ill, or for a physical every year or two is a drain on the profits of our health care system.

The health care system has a vested interest in making sure that tests and patient interviews reveal potential reasons for some lucrative or frequently reoccurring intervention to be administered. The pharmaceutical industry has made it near impossible for a citizen of the US to go through their lives without the need to take medications on a frequent basis.

The result of this obsession with making health care as profitable as possible is that Americans are the most medicated and over diagnosed populace. They have longer and more frequent hospital stays where exposure to drug resistant germs can result in serious illness and/or death. They are also badgered and bullied by an increasingly predatory health care system and threatened to be dropped by insurance providers if they resist to subject themselves to often unnecessary and potentially harmful tests and procedures whose sole goal is to detect the need for more tests or the ostensible existence of a serious illness such as cancer needing immediate and expensive attention.

The US health care system deserves a great deal of admiration for their ability to save those in the most dire of situations. Many grateful people owe their life and quality of life to their doctors and the modern technology it employs. Yet, many other people’s lives have been destroyed or prematurely terminated due to the health care system’s zealousness to generate substantial profits.

Statistics do not support the US health care systems boasts of being the best in the world. Other nations provide excellent health care at a fraction of the cost, and do not have any where near as many problems with drug resistant germs, life threatening side effects, and sizable portions of the populace incapable of receiving services. Our profit based health care system continues to plummet in its global standing in a number of important areas.

While the US probably leads the world in inaccurately representing its global standing in the realm of health care, its actual standing is falling preceptively on almost a yearly basis. The latest stats I’ve seen now ranks the US thirty-seventh in the world in terms of life expectancy and does not fare any better in terms of statistics geared to calculate quality of life from a health perspective.

Jim Guido

Philosophy and Psychology20 May 2015 10:55 am

The better people can predict and understand their surroundings the more likely their continued survival. This fact underlies our age old desire to answer the question why and propels our interest in science, religion and philosophy or any other inquiry increasing our knowledge of ourselves, others and nature. Our desire to survive and have a good life underpins our inclination to make sense of things and create societies providing justice, freedom and protection.

Humankind has spent a great deal of time and energy searching for ways to mentally and emotionally cope with and understand death, suffering, disease and physical harm. People have theorized many reasons why people die or endure great suffering and misfortune. In myth, religion and mysticism we find many roots of misfortune. Sometimes it was a form of punishment due to the breaking of a law, taboo or divine interdiction. At other times misfortune came to one due to a curse placed on oneself or one’s ancestors, or as a result of magic. At other times it was attributed to a stain or contamination that has occurred, often without one’s direct knowledge. Vestiges of such ancient explanations remain in modern times in theories and beliefs regarding of sin, karma and the existence of evil.

While death is hard to accept under any circumstance it was and is particularly difficult to deal with when it pertains to the young and innocent. Humankind has always struggled to explain and justify the death or disability of a young child or infant. Death may be inevitable, but suffering and misfortune do not happen to everyone, and man has often had a hard time justifying why bad things happen to good people.

The great majority of misfortune and suffering was observed to be beyond the powers of human control and intervention. Therefore, it was common to hand over the reasons and causes of death and calamity to beings with powers which greatly superseded the capabilities of humans.

People all over the globe formed belief systems on how best to protect oneself from the ill will of higher powers. Aligning oneself with, winning the favor of, appeasing, placating, or even sometimes fooling the powers or gods became the general means of insuring oneself a favorable fate and averting suffering and misfortune. Some cultures focused on making sacrifices to the gods, others on learning the ways of power and controlling them through magic and sorcery, others focused on the benefits of revering and begging the mercy of the powerful spirits.

While humankind as a whole was not able to completely overcome the capriciousness of ill fortune, individuals and sometimes entire tribes could engage in activities and rituals which brought them good fortune or averted suffering or “unnecessary” harm. Religion and spirituality are full of legends, stories, allegories and myths which describe events and strategies of heroes, gods and common people who have found the means of averting danger and soliciting good fortune.

The gods of greek and roman mythology shared many of the same traits and emotions as the humans that worshipped them. The apparent capriciousness and irrationality of fate was made understandable when controlled by beings that lusted, had pride, were vain and had a need to be revered and adored. The human quality of the gods, while making them less reliable and consistent, made it possible for the faithful to find ways to win their favor or have them intervene on their behalf. So, the myths of roman and greek gods both explained why fate was often so cruel and filled with suffering, and at the same time offered a means by which people could improve their lot in life through worship, heroes, and rites and rituals.

In monotheistic religions or those that focused on a sole creator the supreme power seldom retained any weaknesses, fallibilities or human personality traits. The creator God was all powerful, perfect and good. Many of the creation gods were also promised eternal life and salvation for all of the faithful that lived a good life. In this way the injustices of fate were often made tolerable by the fact that eternal life awaited those who remained devoted and faithful to God and his wishes. While prayer could occasionally result in divine intervention, even ill fortune and injustice suffered in this life would be rectified in the here after.

While an all good and perfect God may be both worthy of worship and the title of divinity, there are numerous drawbacks for the faithful. If God is perfect and all good, than anything wrong in the world in due to our fallible and sinful nature. A perfect god is incapable of capricious, petty or malicious behavior. Any perception on our part of injustice is either born of our ignorance or as just recompense for some offense we have committed.

If god is perfect, then so is his creation, and since we are the only creature bestowed with a free will, than all sin and fault is ours and ours alone. When God and his creation are perfect and good then the irony of having a free will is that the only way we can express our individuality is through doing something un-godlike and imperfect (sinful). If we put everything that we did, think and feel that differed from a perfect god into a bag, its contents would only consist of error, sin, stupidity, vanity and all other forms of imperfection and non-goodness. So, while we are told that we are made in God’s image, our entire individuality is expressed in the negative, in sin and in evil.

Belief systems involving a perfect God usually include a story of the fall of man in which evil entered the world and the idyllic relationship between God and man was severed. Often this severed relationship is when evil entered the world, and permanently stained all generations of man with this original sin.

I’m not saying that the above is explicitly stated by all religions and belief systems involving a perfect God. Yet, the conclusions reached are the logical ramifications and implications inherent in a perfect God of which I am not the first to recognize or state. In fact, the belief that man’s nature is basically sinful and base has often been expressed by prophets, sages, saints and holy men throughout the world as reason and need for us to obey and praise God as well explaining why we should never question him/her.

When accepting the existence if a perfect god there are only two answers to the question, “why do babies die?” One answer is that it is a mystery that far surpasses our feeble and imperfect understanding. The second answer is that it is our fault that babies die due to our natures and that all suffering and evil entered into the world through our thoughts, actions and feelings.

Our belief in a perfect god comes with a price to our own sense of worth and value. A child who is told by their parent that they are sinful and evil and that they have nothing to offer but obedience seldom ends up being a healthy, loving and productive adult. So how does our sinful view of ourselves induced by our revering a perfect god impact the way we live and feel about ourselves and our ability to solve social problems and live in harmony with others?

If we have a free will it should be viewed and exercised in a way in which we can be happy with ourselves and harmonious with our contemporaries and with nature. Our choice shouldn’t be between arrogant pride and self-degradation, or between conceit and subservience. Admitting that we are limited and fallible does not mean that we are incompetent or toxic, but only that we are vulnerable and are capable of making things worse as well as making things better.

Jim Guido

Philosophy and Psychology and Social Issues15 May 2015 06:35 pm

When putting together a list of the greatest inventions of humankind, the wheel is always near the top. The wheel is considered to be one the most versatile and important tools used in a host of settings. Along with the lever, the wheel is best known for its ability to assist us in getting work done. A fraction of the amount of work and effort is involved by wheeling things around as opposed to lifting and carrying. Almost every form of human transport whether it be used for work, commerce or battle involves machines utilizing the wheel. The wheel has deserved the title of being the most essential and basic tool in human labor and in our ability to do work, efficiently, safely and quickly.

While the wheel is the quintessential symbol of work, the ball is the most familiar and ubiquitous tool of play. We humans never tire of kicking, throwing, batting, dribbling, striking, hitting, paddling, spinning and rolling balls. Many games and sports involve contacting the ball directly while others hit the ball with an utensil specifically designed for the game or activity. While balls and spheres can be used for work as well as play, they are generally associated with play.

One could make a case for the ball being just as useful as the wheel, and just as prevalent in the lives of every person. Yet, the fact that the ball is equated with play as in “having a ball” or “take me out to the ball game”, and the wheel with work as in “have your shoulder to the wheel” makes the wheel seem more important. Our society has a tendency to glorify and value work while belittling play as being trite and superficial.

Yet, when one looks at the fight for survival in the animal kingdom play is just as important as work. Each predator and prey spends the bulk of their childhood learning their basic survival skill set through play. Human children too spend the bulk of their developmental years learning the basic skills of being human through play. Play dominates learning, growing and development in humans and animals. Play also is at the center of bonding and relationship building in all societies be they human or animal.

The typical ball is a sphere, a complete three-dimensional globe measuring 360 degrees. If you were to strip away a good portion of a ball leaving a narrow tread you would be left with a ball. In essence a wheel is just a mutilated ball with a relatively narrow tread. While a ball is able to go in any direction with complete ease, the wheel can only go backward and forward and needs specific steering mechanism to alter its course.

A wheel is linear and predictable and, therefore, ideal for work and repetitive tasks. A ball is omnidirectional and spontaneous and perfect for play and inventiveness. Our culture’s bias favoring work while viewing play as trivial or something one outgrows is what prevents the ball from being viewed as an important invention or human accomplishment. I for one think that work is overrated and that play is truly an essential ingredient in the quality of life and human fulfillment.

So stop being a fifth wheel, and start having a ball.

Government and Politics07 Jan 2015 02:03 pm

To Protect and To Serve is the motto of the LAPD which has been adopted by many police departments throughout the US. It’s popularity is due to the fact that it succinctly states the goal, purpose and ideal of law enforcement officers. Wikipedia states the following version, “A police force is a constituted body of persons empowered by the state to enforce the law, protect property, and limit civil disorder”.

The power given to the police is generally to assist in their ability to protect the public from personal harm and loss of one’s possessions by criminal means. The police are given weapons and jurisdictions to make sure we are protected as are our civil rights by aiding their ability to enforce the law.

Yet, recent events call into question if the role and purpose of the police has been forgotten, lost or completely altered. Lately the ideas of serving their bosses and enforcing the law have gone through some pretty startling changes.

The recent confrontations between the public and police officers has centered around the feeling that some police officers at times use their power to abuse, kill and terrorize citizens. Statistics regarding race and economic status strongly suggest that there are those in our society who are not only profiled, but actually targeted by law enforcement. Likewise, the escalating numbers of those in the US imprisoned seems to suggest that our legal system is highly motivated to fill jail cells. The rise of for profit prisons which need, get subsidized and assisted in maintaining a 90% occupancy rate seems to testify to an economic and political need to arrest and convict a steady stream of citizens.

Corruption is a part of almost any body or workers or professionals. Almost every professional body, company and agency has means of finding and punishing internal corruption and malfeasance. Public ire often escalates when frequent reports of abuse and malfeasance regarding the behavior of a professional group surface and are not accompanied by substantial punishment, reform or convictions. This has been the case whether the perpetrators have been clergy, politicians, bankers, physicians, lawyers, teachers or police officers. The recent lack of some very high profile cases even being brought to trial let alone resulting in a conviction has made a growing percentage of the populace highly suspicious if not all out angry at the lack of “justice” or an effort to even admit a problem exists.

History has shown that power often corrupts, and that those in power often abuse their power.  Yet, the staunch blanket defense of the integrity of all police officers by their supervisors, watchdog groups and public officials flies in the face of reason and people’s general experience.

Recently our leaders have become intolerant and unappreciative of people of conscience and “whistle blowers” treating them as terrorists and enemies of the state rather than as courageous heroes or even well intentioned caring people. Our leaders repeatedly labeling police officers as heroes and patriots who put their lives on the line each and every day while true in many cases, seems to deny the reality of the relationship between power and corruption and the need for law enforcement law enforcement.

The increased militarization of our police force, through swat teams, free military hardware such as tanks, and high tech weaponry seems to call for more scrutiny and management not blanket immunity and protection. Stories routinely reported about the increased arming of governmental and quasi governmental agencies pepper our newspapers. Everything from the FBI, to homeland security and NGO’s, to bankers and the federal reserve are arming themselves with weapons and survival kits through government aid and taxpayer monies.

The recent staged reactions by the police detail assigned to NY mayor de Blasio to publicly and privately turn their backs on him when he speaks or passes by shows how far we have strayed from the motto “to protect and to serve”.

The mayor,  who as their boss is ultimately the person in charge of hiring and firing, is neither being protected nor served by his employees in blue. This is apparently due to “some of his remarks” construed by the functional leaders of the police department as “siding” with the public in their “unjustified” criticism of the police. Not only are these actions suggesting that the police are beyond corruption, conviction (the law) and improvement, but also beyond being questioned or criticized. This us versus them mentality is dangerous for people with power and weapons to have, and is a bad omen for all citizens who want justice to be based on anything other than might makes right.

The recent decision by the Supreme Court that states that the “Police Can Violate The 4th Amendment If They Are Ignorant Of The Law” just further tilts the playing field away from the rights and protections of citizens and towards the infliction of power on its own terms. In essence the decision means that law enforcement personnel can enforce their definition of law with no consequence as long as they profess ignorance of the law. The 4th amendment is not that difficult to understand and how knowledge of this amendment couldn’t be made a prerequisite to becoming a law enforcement officer is beyond defense. How can we trust our police to enforce the law, if they are not expected to know the laws they are enforcing?

It appears that many of those assigned by society to serve and protect are turning their backs on more than the mayor of NYC.

I truly believe that their are plenty of heroes in law enforcement, I just wish more of them had the courage to step forward and expose the corruption, practices and bad seed which are making a sham of the praise worthy ideals of to protect and to serve.

Jim Guido