Monthly Archives: March 2012

I’m in Japan for the week

Hello loyal readers. I am literally writing this post on my phone in the airport awaiting to depart to Japan. Since I’ll be in another country and away from my computer I probably will not posting any articles for the next week. Expect a lot of cultural analysis and of course photos coming soon! In the mean time have a great week!

Obamacare

I have my own thoughts and views about Obamacare, but to be honest the whole thing is so complicated that I can barely get a handle on it.  I’m not sure how it will effect me, my mother, or anyone else for that matter.  I even consider myself above average when it comes to keeping up with stuff like this so I’m almost positive that most other people are relying on their perspective conservative or liberal media outlets to make up their minds for them.

Since I basically hate mainstream media and find they are ALWAYS pushing an agenda I’ve decided to post a variety of links both for and against Obamacare, it’s legality, and it’s basic effectiveness.  I’m going to read over these myself and hopefully in the near future I can give some sort of semi-educated summary and theory on the topic. I’m definitely late to the party on this one…

My Initial Thoughts
Being both fiscally conservative and naturally distrusting of the Government it is terribly hard for me to accept that Obamacare is right for the country at the present moment. The US is already taxed as high as any country in the world so I find it unfair that the country would either have to go into further debt to pay for Universal Healthcare or that the tax payers would have to shell out more money. Either seems wrong to me.

The nation is 15 trillion in debt and counting – I’m not sure that we are ready to take on the biggest social program in history. Furthermore, I’m not sure that the healthcare package is written in such a way that it will actually be beneficial to society. Do we really need more of our life controlled by this government? I tend to think not.

I want healthcare for all, but I’m not sure this is the right time or the right people to give it to us. I’ll give a more informed opinion later. For now, enjoy the links.

Against Obamacare:
Obamacare and the National Budget
50 Dangers from Obamacare
What we can learn from Romneycare
Obamacare Both Unnecessary And Improper
Ron Paul on Obamacare

For Obamacare:
Defense of Obamacare
Conservative Defense of Obamacare

Note: After doing a Google search about a dozen times, it seemed almost impossible to find articles in support of Obamacare from a technical angle. Maybe the way I was searching was not effective. Most “supporting” articles for Obamacare were one liners like “healthcare is a human right, why take it away?” These type articles seemed unhelpful and often ill informed so I didn’t post the links. I would be very interested to hear any defense of Obamacare and why people think it works – especially over the long run. I would be happy to add the links to any good articles.

Oneness Without Religion

I work in an environment where almost everyone has at least a Masters degree.  I say that to point out that I work with fairly educated and one may even go as far as to say “smart” people.  That’s why I find the variety of opinions and beliefs among this tiny cross section of accountants and business consultants so interesting.  It seems, for a variety of subjects, education has made us no less intelligent nor any more in-step on a variety of topics. 

For example, one woman I work with is Hindu.  She is very intelligent and thoughtful; however, she is also deeply religious.  We have on several occasions had discussions about religion (more an academic inquiry than anyone trying to convince each other who’s right or wrong) and I find Hinduism as illogical and fascinating as almost any other religion. 

I think that’s why I find it ironic that a logical women (she’s a tax accountant) with a higher level degree from a prestigious University has never found it illogical to have any spiritual belief.  Upon our conversation I was also surprised just how little she knew about Christianity, Islam, and Judaism. 

Sometimes I forget that not everyone carries with them a fascination of religion like I do. (I was a business major in college I nearly double majored in religion.  I have also written about and studied religion independently.)  In any case, Hinduism is a polytheistic religion – and each “sect” of Hinduism carries a certain and differing amount of praise for each God.  We both found the difference in monotheistic versus polytheistic religions fascinating – she even pointed out that the belief in one God seemed very strange.  In a mostly Christian society I found that thought interesting and unique. 

I have had conversations with people of all backgrounds and education levels from a variety of religions and it never ceases to amaze me how people can be perfectly happy with their beliefs while ignoring or rejecting the plethora of differing ideologies all simultaneously claiming with certainty their religious validity and accuracy.  For me, it bothers me deeply that two perfectly rational, educated, and presumably smart people can come to two different and often opposing views on religious truths.  Almost always determined by geography and what your family taught you as “truth”.  Maybe this is the largest and most compelling reason I find atheism so easy to accept. 

Once you start seeing religion as a big picture rather than how you “feel” about a belief all of the contradictions begin to surface.  Maybe that’s why there is a patter that emerges: often the more “educated” a person becomes regarding religion – the less “religious” they usually become.  Some say that the academic study of religion is evil – I think it’s more likely that academia simply draws a logical conclusion from the evidence. 

Religion is Beautiful, Natural, and Dangerous

No one can deny that what you believe is largely determined by what you are taught to believe.  Yet people will often fight and die for a God or Prophet that someone else doesn’t even understand to exist.  I’ve always found this tragically interesting. 

On the other hand – most “great” religious teachers (Jesus, Gandhi, Buddha, etc.) practiced and taught absolute peace, moderation, and understanding.  Almost everyone can agree that those are very admirable traits.  So I can not say that religion itself is evil, it’s not.  Rather the interpretation (or misinterpretation) of a religious belief to make it fit someone’s personal agenda is where the problems begin.  Belief and religion are certainly powerful tools – which can also be dangerous.

I can sympathize with believers.  I used to be one.  There is some sense of belonging when you are a member of a religious organization that is hard to find elsewhere.  When you are surrounded by a room full of people who are literally ready to weep for a common belief in an unseen entity there is a feeling of “oneness” that is truly special. 

This feeling isn’t unique to religion though.  I’ve felt the same way other times too.  When the wrestling team I was on in high school made it to the state tourmament – we all felt almost transcendent – we felt oneness with each other.   Sometimes when I am having a discussion with my best friend and we come to identical conclusions we feel a deep connection.  I think that is the key.  Religion provides a deep and needed natural desire to become one with other people.  That is beautiful.

Oneness without Religion – with Humanity

The biggest disadvantage of religion that I see is that the same force that brings us together also serves to divide us.  That same understanding that causes some people to weep and feel the deepest emotion of love and togetherness causes others to murder each other. 

I wonder if we can find that in simple humanity.  The desire to help and love our neighbor because they are a member of the human race and because we can empathize with their human experience.  I think this is possible. 

The more I learn and understand that everyone has such a variety of human experience I begin to realize that, that very variety is what makes our experience so similar.  Which makes me feel a part of it all – connected, but without the need for a religious doctrine.

“Recognize that the very molecules that make up your body, the atoms that construct the molecules, are traceable to the crucibles that were once the centers of high mass stars that exploded their chemically rich guts into the galaxy, enriching pristine gas clouds with the chemistry of life. So that we are all connected to each other biologically, to the earth chemically and to the rest of the universe atomically. That’s kinda cool! That makes me smile and I actually feel quite large at the end of that. It’s not that we are better than the universe, we are part of the universe. We are in the universe and the universe is in us.  ― Neil deGrasse Tyson”

Why Such Media Slant in the Trayvon Martin Case?

This is a good starting point to clear up a few misconseptions regarding this case.

Reading articles on a few of the most popular media outlets it would seem like an innocent, baby faced, young teen, was viciously shot down in cold blood by a racist white supremeist who didn’t like blacks in his all white neighborhood. None of those “facts” are truth though – so why all the media distortions?

The neighborhood in question is in fact mostly non-white (51%), Zimmerman (the shooter) is hispanic/multiracial (not white), Trayvon is a 6ft 2inch man (not a baby faced boy), and Zimmerman was found with grass stains on his back and cuts on his head (indicating a struggle).  Why are those fact ignored and other mis-informations propogated?

Yes, this was a tragedy.  No matter how you slice it – a young man being killed and another man possibly facing charges for murder is a mess.  The reporting has been horrible though – at best biased and at worse the reporting has served to boost ratings and divide the country along racial lines.  What’s the end game?

When I take a quick look on a few of the “Top Articles” on CNN I immediatlely notice the agenda.

The first article reads “CNN poll: Majority call for arrest in Trayvon Martin shooting”. My first thought is “Why does what a few ill-informed CNN readers think matter anyways?”  Why is this top news?  Of course most CNN readers think this – had I soley relied on CNN articles I would be saying the same thing!

Don’t beleive me? Here are the last five articles on CCN regarding this case:

“Calls for justice rage on a month after Trayvon Martin’s killing”
“Monday: Trayvon Martin outrage, was this a hate crime?”
“Rallies, ‘scream-outs’ planned coast to coast in support of Trayvon Martin “
“Congregations pay tribute to Trayvon “
“Rev. Jesse Jackson, Sr. on Trayvon Marting shooting: “Justice denied is humiliating” “

This one is the first line of the most recent article from ABC:

The attorney counseling George Zimmerman, who shot unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin as he was walking home from the store with a bag of Skittles…

This is the image the media pushes us:

Image from ABC news

A more thorogh investigation points to Trayvon not being quite so inncocent:

Image the media ignores.

Is the Media biased? Yes.

The truth is that no one has all the facts of this case, period. Not many of us really knew Trayvon nor Zimmerman. We can’t be character witnesses or speculate on their motives. We have no idea what happened.  Except for possible witnesses no one can even comment on how the whole incident occured. The case is ongoing yet people – especially the ratings whores writing for the media – are there to speculate. This is a pure effort to sway public opinion – one based largely on a case made to look like a hate crime. I can’t help but ask myself why. Why the slant?

I feel for the families involved. It’s sad that this happened. Terrible. We shouldn’t let this be a point of division for us though, but rather one we can all agree on. Lets treat eachother better.

For the media – stop pushing an agenda, please.

5 Days Until Japan

Hello out there my friends. I leave for Japan in 5 days in which time I will be taking a brief hiatus from the blog. I’m sure I will have MANY great pictures of the trip to share with you at that point. I also have a few more post coming your way until then. In the mean time…

I need you help!
Has anyone ever been to Japan? I need suggestions of things to do, you know, insider knowledge! If you have any suggestions let me know in the comments!

Is there something going on in the Military

I found these two stories very interesting.

1. A soldier’s deadly march to massacre in Kandahar
2. Marines told to disarm before Panetta Speach

Let me highlight a few of the portions of the stories that I found interesting – begging the question: is there something going on in the Military?

Regarding the soldier who supposedly murdered 16 Afghan civilians:

“Though U.S. commanders insisted this was the work of a rogue soldier, some residents believed it to be more calculated. They said more than one soldier was involved.”

Regarding Panetta’s speech in response to the incident:

Soldiers were ordered to disarm before listening to Panetta’s speech – which is unheard of.

The request, relayed by Sgt. Maj. Brandon Hall, was unusual because it’s not customary to disarm for a defense secretary visit, but the Marines did as they were told. About two dozen unarmed Afghan soldiers also were in attendance.

Panetta arrived in Afghanistan Wednesday for a two-day visit amid heightened tensions after an American soldier allegedly killed 16 Afghan civilians in their homes Sunday.

The order to disarm came from Maj. Gen. Mark Gurganus, who commands troops in Helmand province.

Asked about the move, Hall told the New York Times’ Elisabeth Bumiller: “Somebody got itchy, that’s all I’ve got to say. Somebody got itchy; we just adjust.”

A few questions:

1. Why are Afghan civilians disputing the facts of the story about a single soldier killing 16 Afghans?
2. Why were soldiers “itchy” to the point of being disarmed when Panetta was there to do his speech?
3. What is going on in Afghanistan in the military?

I think it’s important to remember that these are two carefully written articles on CNN – not an alternative media source.  What are the writers trying to tell us?  There HAS to be more to it than what is written here.

There are also several other media sources that have noted similar cases of “military factions” that disagree with the establishment possibly planning to disobey orders coming down from the executive branch.  There have also been several high profile military personnel that have been killed recently possibly in relation to these “factions”.  Is this conspiracy or is there something more to it?

I’m not convinced either way, but I do find that the way these articles are written makes them worth taking a second look at.  Has anyone else noticed this?

Mankind is Flawed

The other night over beers my closest friend revealed a secret to me.  He has been cheeating on his wife for the last few months. 

I know it was especially tough for him to tell me because of how we have defined our relationship.  We hold eachother accountable.  We both have the same libertarian-ish attitudes toward life.  When I mess up he lets me know it, when he does something dumb I return the favor. 

Constantly we talk about being men of integrity, men who would set a good example for society, and men who would try our best to be pillars for our family and the community – especially since we didn’t have that type of example for ourselves growing up.  We have discussed, specifically, the value of being faithful to our family and wives – all the while he agreed whole-heartedly.  Yet I find out he was being a hypocrite. 

Obviously the situation is much more complicated than that.  Their marriage was far from perfect, but there is no excuse for his behavior.  There were other options.  Worse still – he has two children. 

He asked me for advice and I told him to quit the whole thing “cold turkey”.  I was disappointed, but haven’t ridiculed him for his actions.  There is no need to – he knows exactly where I stand.  We had a long talk about ways to improve his relationship – which he has implemented over the last few weeks.  It seems like things between them are on the right path.

The worst thing, for me, about this whole situation isn’t what he did.  It’s that his folly really brings to the forefront the flawed nature of men.  If he can mistep – my closest companion – then there is no question that anyone can.  We hold eachother to the highest standard, period.  So now it doesn’t surprise me when I hear of a President, a celebrity, or any other man in a position of power who does the same thing. 

People make mistakes – should that define them?  No.  If people make the same mistake over and over again – that’s insanity by definition.  I still hold my friend to the highest standard possible, but honestly it will be a while before I can learn to trust and count on him as much as I did before.  I’m not perfect, not even close, but the whole situation is an interesting insight into people in general.

Humans are such comlex and flawed creatures.

One Opportunity Lost and Another Gained, I guess

Something I never talk about is that I almost went pro as a MMA fighter when I was in college.  Honestly, I don’t really like to bring it up because there are a lot of ideas attached to someone being a fighter. Most of them ideas that I’d rather not have associated with me.

In any case, I trained with a coach and gym that is known around the Southeast for being authentic and tough.  I was 6 – 0 as an amateur, had a background in wrestling, Muay Thai, and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.  I was even offered an opportunity to fight in the Governor’s Cup in Russia – which was considered a big opportunity at the time.

Long story short - I hurt my knee. I down-played the severity of the injurt, of course.  I told myself that it was just a strain and I would bounce back.  Eventually I had to cancel the upcoming fight.  I limped around for about a month without seeing the doctor because I was also uninsured.  Looking back on the whole thing I was taking a big risk doing a sport like that with no insurance (duh!), but at the time I had never in my life had insurance so I had no choice but to never let it hold me back. (I guess that’s another story.)

About a year and a half later after I started my career, gave up fighting, and had health insurance for the first time in my life - I went to the doctor after I re-strained my knee (again) playing flag football.  The doctor informed me that I had tore my ACL and meniscus.  Without surgery and a lengthy rehabilitation process I would never be 100% again.  The whole situation was a lot more serious than I thought.

I haven’t forced myself to have the surgery yet either. I hate the idea of spending a year in recovery before I’m back to normal. It would be at least three months before I could even exercise.  The doctor also explained the process is very painful – great. Right now I’m “rehabilitated” and can run and lift weights normally.  I’ve even ran a marathon recently.  So it’s tough to talk myself into getting the surgery – it feels like moving backwards.

The real tragedy isn’t the knee injury though. I can handle that.  Rather my biggest problem is hearing about a few of the guys I used to train with who are now going pro and doing pretty well.  I used to beat up (in the friendliest way possible) those same guys at practice every day.  I could be on TV right now, who knows.  

From a young age I thought I was going to be a pro athlete.  When the “usual” sports didn’t work out and I excelled in high school wrestling MMA seemed like a natural fit. It was.

Now I can’t even watch the sport on TV because I kind of feel like “that should be me.”  Almost like I missed an opportunity.  It’s just kind of hard – like seeing an old girlfriend with another guy or something.  I know its for the best.  I would probably end up brain dead with Parkinson’s Disease or worse.

My interests have changed, but that disire in the pit of my stomach to do something “great” is still there.  It feels like nothing can replace that feeling I’ve felt 100 times after training so hard and then getting a win.  I mean its hard to describe training for 6 weeks, running miles, taking hits, losing weight, not drinking when your friends are out having fun, hitting pads for 2 hours then going home to study – literally blood sweat and tears – then winning.  Fighting is pure. Not many things are. I like that.

Today I heard a guy from my former gym is fighting in Madison Square Garden in a month or so.  I started fighting before him and at the time when I was still training I was the one teaching him – so I might of  had the same opportunity if circumstances been different.   I’m happy, very happy, but I can’t help but feel those old stirring feeling every time I realize I can’t do that stuff anymore.  Kind of sad, but with the realization its all for the best.

Now I have to find something that can put out those flames in my stomach – I wonder sometimes if that’s something only a fighter former fighter can relate to.