Archive for the 'Uncategorized' Category

25
Feb
11

Disclosure About This Blog

To the adoring fans that follow this blog like the passages from the good Book according to John, the last few posts have been of questionable quality for a particular reason: I was practicing for the essay portion of the FSOT, which I took two weeks ago. This was for but a short time only and I will be returning to the normal, thoroughly thought-out entries of yesteryear.

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17
Feb
11

Alice in America

Dear America, GO ON A ROAD TRIP! An undeniable piece of Americana. It’s an incredibly beneficial to both mind and body. A variety of unkowns, the essence of adventure, await the brash traveler who decides to break free from a routine to become witness to the glory of this mother/fatherland. After being dragged through the rigours of  getting lost, finding yourself in intolerable conditions, and dealing with unfriendly (or, perhaps, too friendly) characters along the way, you could wind up being a much cooler person than you were before beginning the trip.

I am personally planning for a trip of my own. Midway through April, I will be folding up the kick stand of a touring bicycle and pedaling roughly 3,600 miles of asphalt. This is something I have been waiting to do since approximately August, when I started having fantasies of taking a wrong turn on my way to work, down a road I didn’t recognize, and continuing to travel without a particular destination. After a year of working in a relatively stuffy environment not particularly supportive of my breed of man, I quit my job a few weeks ago and have since lived day to day as I see fit. I regularly entertain my desires around a loosely built schedule of goals and appointments. But, for the most part, I am training for trip of a lifetime.

I am sure there will be a variety of uknown obstacles for which I will encounter. There will be times when I get lost or tired and perhaps even injured. There may be times when I become inconsolably lonely and cry like I’ve been stood up at my own prom. But, this will be the desireable essence of the Great Undertaking, this wonder of what  I cannot control and do not know.

Stay tuned for my supplementary blog to this adventure, staring in April.

Bicycle Across America

My bicycle of choice?

31
Jan
11

Foreign Aid

Foreign aid benefits both the United States and is helpful to those who receive it. Though the foreign aid being provided may not be as helpful as most people would expect or intend, it still has the potential to be much more positive if administered more effectively. Also, it continues to be a an excellent form of diplomacy as it helps to maintain or improve the country’s image on the world stage while setting a positive example of global responsibility for the rest of the world to follow. Lastly, by continuing in help the world, the United States helps its own people as well by improving conditions in countries that could evolve into potential markets for American private business. Through this economic development, at-risk countries move away from being potential breeding grounds for terrorists.

The foreign aid that the United States has provided, and continues to provide, helps those in need but does retain the potential to be ever more effective. Though the question of whether the people of the recipient countries actually receive the aid has been speculated, it is doubtful to think that the aid has not reached at least some if not the majority of the intended people. In this sense, it is indeed helpful. However, using the same reasoning, it seems likely that a portion of aid from the US does not make it to its intended recipients or, perhaps, may not benefit its recipients meaningfully. This may be due to a variety of factors, including improper logistics, corruption, negligence, etc. Even without having knowledge of the historical or current effectiveness of US foreign aid, it is doubtful to think that it is disseminated perfectly and therefore, could probably benefit from continued scrutiny in order to determine how to make it more meaningful to those in need. Though already helpful, foreign aid can continue to become more effective in the future.

In addition to the obvious effect of alleviating poverty, the distribution of aid by the United States  conveys a positive image of itself to other nations around the world.  This is an effective form of diplomacy as it can make allies out of beneficiaries. Within those countries, the aid may also foster an environment that is more receptive to United States’ interests. The governments are happy because, ideally, aid will create stability by creating a sense of faith among the people in their leaders. The people are happy because they are more easily able to meet their basic needs. By providing this positive example to the people and nations of the world, it sets a precedence for which other major or emerging countries may strive to follow because it is effective diplomacy and they would contrast negatively with the United States were they not to give aid despite their global economic standing.

From an economic perspective, US foreign aid is useful because it potentially allows the country to reap profitable benefits. Through the use of aid, the US government may gain preferred access to the beneficiary country’s natural resources. Private companies from  the US may be allowed opportunities to further the development of any mineral and/or oil industries that may exist. The distribution of aid can also contribute to the overall stability of an environment, allowing for a country to focus its efforts on furthering economic development. If the country is stable, it allows for private outside companies, including ones from the United States, to take advantage of any industrial or trade opportunities that may exist. As an externality, through this fostering of stability and economic development, the ability of violent or fanatic organizations to impose their own forms of government or propagate terrorists is diminished.

The foreign aid provided by the  United States is helpful to the people who receive it. Aside from fulfilling an obligation to help those who are poorer, it also can also have positive diplomatic and economic effects for both the United States and recipients of the aid. Lastly, despite any possible inefficiencies that exist in its application or distribution, it should not be stopped as it is still beneficial to those in need. Efforts should continued to be made to increase the effectiveness of US foreign aid.

Foreign Aid

Good acts promote further good acts

23
Jan
11

Diplomacy’s Toolbox – Communication

Aggressive Countries

Aggressiveness

Dealing with belligerence is common to people, states, and nations the world over. There are a variety of philosophies and techniques for managing the disagreeable behavior of others. Necessary to all effective strategies is the exchange of information. Without proper communication, problems are prolonged and worsened. As such, the US should maintain the option for open talks with belligerent organizations and terrorist organizations as means to solving issues because it offers the greatest possibility of coming to a peaceful solution before resorting to more destructive means. However, the use of open talks should be used selectively so as not to injure the respect of the US on the world stage. It must also be willing to take strong disciplinary economic and military action in order to deter adverse behavior and encourage other actors to take advantage of the open US invitation for solution-oriented talks prior to initiating any destructive means.

Directs talks are the most effective means for solving a problem between two parties and should always be a part the US approach to international confrontations. The option of a peaceful method of resolution is especially appropriate when dealing with amorphous modern-day terrorist organizations and aggressive states that show the willingness to create large numbers of military and civilian casualties in order to achieve their goals. Seeking to understand the details of an aggressor’s wants and desires are invaluable in determining the next steps that must be taken in order to come to an answer. Though that answer may have the potential to be peaceful or aggressive, it will be an answer none-the-less in the determination of the necessary course of action.

Direct communication as a nonviolent means of achieving a nation’s goals is not without its restrictions in its application. There are times in which the use of open dialogue could more likely prove useless or counterproductive to US foreign interest. Examples include situations in which the demands of a decentralized terrorist organization are already well known and are not worth placating. Such demands as the forfeiting of strategic military bases abroad or the destruction of the US are not reasonable. In such instances, alternative means of abating the adverse behavior of the other party must be sought.  The same is appropriate for organizations of reputations that are considered dishonorable and command little respect by which association would be belittling to the United States. The maintenance of reputation is an important consideration for any nation because it works as a deterrent to future aggressive behavior from other parties. That is why the US should only hold formal talks with aggressors that are of equal or similar standing so as to maintain the effectiveness of their reputation as a deterrent. Other talks should be held either informally or away from the public eye.

For the same purpose of maintaining reputation, military and economic capabilities should also be maintained as options for dealing with outside aggression. By regularly demonstrating a willingness to use harsh methods to discourage the continuation of aggressive behavior, a nation can theoretically prevent similar situations that would have occurred had they not had a consistent track record of deterrent behavior. This idea can be demonstrated through common knowledge of how systems of award and punishment work on an individual basis. By consistently enforcing state and federal laws through the use of the police force and judicial system, the United states prevents a great deal of would-be crimes by creating a well known track record of punishing perpetrators. This is technique should be even be adhered to by smaller nations, even if their capabilities for responding in such a manger are minute, because it may still provide a small degree of deterrence.

In conclusion, the use of communication should always be the preferred method of the United States to bring a conflict to a peaceful resolution. However, it should be used strategically so as to maintain the reputation of the nation for the purposes of deterring the future aggressive behavior of other nations and organizations. To compliment this, the US must always be willing to use economic and military action for situations in which peaceful communication does not work. This will also help to deter future aggression. An preference for solving conflicts through peaceful and effective communication must permeate those portions of the US government that deal in international affairs so that it is honestly and, thus, effectively, pursued as the preferred means of ending conflict.



14
Mar
10

Universal Healthcare: Don’t Screw Yourself America!

The founding fathers created the United States government as a representative democracy because they believed that the general public was not educated enough to make informed political decisions. Judging from the outcome of the special senatorial election in Massachusetts, I am convinced they were wholly right. However, they were wrong if they assumed that the educated representatives would solve that problem.

This specific election is the most prime example I can think of in which the art of marketing has aptly exhibited the power of corporate America over the opinions of American citizens who don’t make the effort furnish their own opinions. Though I cannot claim to understand the formulation of every American voter’s opinion, I am making the case that most people are, for the most part, disengaged from the critical thinking process when it comes to politics. I’m formulating this view from my own personal standpoint based on my experiences and knowledge of studies done on the matter.

The most glaring of recent example of mass media opinion replication is, indeed, the special senate election between Brown, Coakely, and some other poor bastard. Due to the general understanding that the fate of the pending national healthcare bill hung in the balance, the race became more of a question of whether the American people were for or against such legislation. The answer to that questions should have been a resounding, “YES! Give us a nationalized healthcare option!” To my understanding, through an economic perspective, this truly would have been a victory for the common American man. With such a passing of the bill, it may have saved America more than the government would spend to install it such a system.

Firstly, overall health insurance premiums would fall as demand for private health insurance fell, saving money.

Secondly, national health care would save money by reducing the number of emergency room visits each year by uninsured people, who accounted for nearly 24 million of the nations 120 million such visits in 2006 alone. If even $4 worth of service was given to each of those persons, that would account for nearly a billion dollars in expenses that the hospital itself would have absorb. With the preventative care provided by a nationalized plan, its plausible that a great deal of those visits could have been prevented with regular visits to the doctor.

Thirdly, thousands of jobs created. Money spent by the government directly entering the pockets of everyday Americans working to maintain the health care system.

Lastly, the money expended by the tax payer would be relatively low for the service being produced. While the middle and lower economic classes would have a more moderate portion of the costs to share, big business and wealthy individuals would have a higher tax percentage, creating a more-fair distribution of the nation’s wealth from the top, down. I use the word fair because, according to the US Census Bureau, the nation’s average middle class income has hardly risen since 1982 (around $8,000) while the upper class incomes continue to rise exponentially higher and faster, even with inflation included in the calculation. This makes sense, as skilled and educated workers come “a dime by the dozen” nowadays and demand for such qualified labor has decreased. The health care would be a good way of evening this economic divide. Overall, universal health care makes sense from a partially theoretical point of view.

It is with these considerations that I judge the voting public to be composed of mostly passive minds regurgitating the opinions of the media or a few individuals. How else could the majority of people take a shotgun and blow their own foot off in such a manner by voting against their OWN interests and, rather, FOR the interests of corporate America, a.k.a not the little guy? I have a scathing suspicion it has to do with the plasticity of the average man’s intellect. The average man tends not to give a shit about formulating his own opinion. Instead, the average man is content with having outside forces do his thinking for him. He has a very general view of the world, consisting of his values, insecurities, and shallow understandings, and looks for information sources that fit this general mold. No critical analysis or deep thinking goes beyond this stage. He has his adopted opinions and his flimsy, unsubstantiated arguments. He won’t change his mind.

A relatively recent statistical study may exemplify the lack of plasticity in the minds of politically-minded people. In 2004, the Pew Research Center published a report (http://people-press.org/report/215/news-audiences-increasingly-politicized) based on a survey of 3,000 voting individuals nationwide in regards to their political affiliation and their news sources. Please reference the link to see that the majority of viewers of biased news sources consist of like-minded individuals whose ideas and desirable outcomes are being reinforced by the biased sources they seek out. There seems to be no desire to digest ideas contrary to their own beliefs, only for affirmation. There doesn’t seem to be a serious application of logic. People are fine with their stagnant selves.

The good majority of the people I have encountered who can furnish a political opinion, regardless of political preference and/or affiliation, have furnished them without proper grounds, lacking both logic and evidence to ultimately justify those opinions. In such cases, one may pull out the trump card: “Well, this is my opinion”. Yes, this is true. It is just your opinion … an unintelligent, unsubstantiated opinion. This disengaged mentality is quite common. Aside from the perception that most people tend to abort the thinking process rather than analyze and digest incoming information, it seems that most people can’t detect opinionated, biased news sources while, at the same time, not caring to detect such a thing, just as long as the news coincides with and reinforces their own already held beliefs.

In the end, I believe that national healthcare could work if implemented correctly as a public option and not a mandate. It seems that it would put more money back in the hands of American people while taking away the already grotesque influence corporations have over our government.

19
Jan
10

A Badass Educational Institution

It is sometimes my personal wish that I could implement a nationwide program to socialize all citizens of a certain age for a small duration of time. As is often the seed of tyrannical rule, my desire with such a goal would be to imbue the US population with an education that the schooling system does not provide. While current mandatory schooling aims to teach people how to think effectively, my fantasy institution would seek to give them other tools which the other doesn’t stress. Such imparted tools would fall in the realm of mind, body, and soul.

The inspiration for such a school has come from my general impression that people are lacking in a great deal of knowledge, understanding, and power to operate closer to their potential. In other words, I feel most people are severely under-equipped to handle their way society.

For illustrative purposes, imagine a country full of nothing but citizens possessed with an unquenchable desire to become the best people they can be, ready to take advantage of all opportunities that come their way and the knowledge to do so. Overall economic output and efficiency would rise. Government costs on welfare for the homeless, poor and sick would decrease as people would be making wiser financial and health decisions. However, stress may rise as well as amorality in dealings with others for the sake of personal gain. This may be counteracted if people in general were more ready to deal with stress and more empathetic towards their fellow man. Such an understanding could be approached in my fantasy school!

In one year, I feel I could endow American citizens with a common, mandatory and practical education.

Classes would consist of a variety of sorely overlooked topics such as finance, horticulture, martial arts, spiritual well being, field medicine, and automotive repair. These classes are important, as many people are, for instance, unaware of how to financially navigate themselves through life or how to take basic care of an automobile. While not in class, there would be no television or access to mindless websites, simply literature and constructive endeavors, such as music and physical activities. During meal times, people would be educated on the importance of eating healthily. Responsibilities would be shared by all so as to maintain a sense of common worth and empathy.

At the end, these people will have change from flabby maggots of mind and body into exemplary human beings with the confidence and energy to actually go out and make something of themselves and their environment besides sitting on the frigg’n couch all day.

There would be no way to opt out, no private institutions existent in order to avoid this. It will never be tried though, unfortunately. However, at its most hopeful, it could have the potential to create a more capable, healthy, and productive population more capable of identifying with each other because of such an intense share experience.

16
Nov
09

Stupid Political Talk Show Hosts Teach A Wise Lesson

Wisdom trumps knowledge!

Once again, my car ride has provided a juicy thought to chew on …

I’ve been fortunate enough to listen to political commentary on the radio during my recent commutes to and from my current place of employment. Their banter is geared towards goals similar to those of many bloggers (and news, for that matter) of current day: content that is controversial, determinedly biased, and sensational. This has been obvious since my earliest days of listening to such foul crap. For an aspiring member of the intelligentsia such as myself, it has served as nothing more than fodder, representative of my common enemy, ignorance, for my mental digestion. But it wasn’t until recently that I was able to derive real wisdom from a show.

It was 96.9 FM talk, with an overly opinionated host who was spitting judgments late at night in regards to the horrible shooting that occurred at the Fort Hood military base. He was quick to suck the cocks of his ignorant listeners by reaffirming their own opinions time and time again. One such opinion included his belief that Islam should be a red flag for danger due to its apparent prevalence in terrorism and that sensitivity training in the army is unnecessary because hurt feelings shouldn’t be the army’s concern. Three obvious logical points on this matter:

1. Terrorism is an ambiguous term that has grown in scope, capable of including quite a few people guilty of a violent or terrorist act. See this Princeton definition of terrorism: (http://wordnetweb.princeton.edu/perl/webwn?s=terrorism). Once recognized, this definition includes many people of non-Islamic faiths.

2. Islam should be a red flag, but not because of Islam itself but because of a commonality it shares with most terrorist acts:  the hurt feelings of society’s marginalized. I mean, really, aren’t the sources of most violent acts due to somebody being sensitive and getting their feelings stepped on? Those who aren’t accepted into ‘the group’ can often have built-up frustrations and pain, leading them to abandon loyalty to the majority of their society. They may seek a cause to give them pride or meaning.

3. To denounce sensitivity as a necessary component of the U.S. Army is to be a hypocrite by spitting in the face of respect. General respect is something that every soldier should practice as the Army is an instrument of peace and respect is at its roots. It doesn’t take an exorbitant amount of energy to simply be respectful to comrades and colleagues.

And the overall lesson that has been so graciously forced through the disgustingly degenerate behavior of media personalities is that experience and knowledge count for little in terms of real solutions without polished LOGIC and REASON. I’m less than half the age of many opinionists (with less than a fraction of their experience and knowledge) and I’m still confident that I’ve better judgments than they. With this in mind, the best way to have a respectable opinion on such matters as politics, international affairs, or society, is to prime your reasoning and logic by THOROUGHLY digesting material which challenges one in such a manner.