Archive for April, 2008

“You’re Welcome”: Accepting a “Thank You” Gracefully

Monday, April 28th, 2008

It is rare that I hear the appropriate “You’re Welcome” as a response to a “Thank You.” Usually, the response is a return “Thank You”. Why is it we can’t accept such a simple acknowledgement?

A “Thank You” is usually stated when a person wants to acknowledge a kindness, service or something else that the person deems of value. It is a polite and usually sincere response for receiving this value.

Not responding “you’re welcome” is not to acknowledge this person’s politeness and sincerity and actually off-putting a best and insulting at worse. To respond with a “Thank You” is to insinuate that the value received is bigger or more important than the value given. It’s one-upmanship. Although it may be true, this response nevertheless fails to acknowledge the other’s feelings. A “you’re welcome” followed with a “and thank you for …..” would be more appropriate.

So, practice responding “you’re welcome” to a “thank you” and accept the other person’s acknowledgement. It is not only appropriate but also the right think to do.

Is survival possible without me loving me?

Thursday, April 24th, 2008

Our very survival requires that we love our own self as we are! We must be able to look in the mirror and say “I love me just the way I am” and mean it wholeheartedly. This is very hard to do because most of us want to change some things about us. Nevertheless, without doing this change is unlikely and our very survival as ourselves is not possible. Also, it is impossible to love someone or something else with unconditionally loving oneself first. It may be closeness, caring, infatuation, and the like but it is not love.

Once you love you the way you are, your self acceptance that is part of this love will attract others. The world will look more beautiful and the intimacy, i.e., being present as ones true self that is vital for survival will occur more often.

It takes practice looking in the mirror and into your own eyes and saying “I love me the way I am?” But with practice comes love. And, with love will come survival. There is no other way.

Loving unconditionally our significants others will reveal themselves to themselves. Everything deserves to be loved as is and to conditionally love is not to love at all. Parenting without unconditional love is incomplete and does not serve our children well. Closeness is not enough.

Love Unconditionally. First, yourself, then others and then the world. It will transform you.

Is it time for an American Union (AU)?

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2008

The USA works well because of the national governmental structure over all the states. The European Union is slowly replicating this model with continue success. Yet, is the USA at its limits? Should an American Union involving the West Hemispheric countries be considered?

There are regions of the the USA that are more tied to Canada or Mexico than to other states. These states develop their own offices in these countries to foster these ties. But, transnational multi-party programs and coordination of efforts would be greatly facilitated by a transnational organization like an American Union.

Rather than putting up walls that will only benefit the builders of the wall and do nothing to stem illegal activities, an organization for cooperation should be established between the USA and Mexico. Once established other nations could be added.

Paying Taxes is a Privilege But Misuse of Tax Revenues is Abuse of Power

Friday, April 18th, 2008

Taxes are the price we pay for the privilege of living in the US and getting governmental sponsored infrastructure, security, safety nets, etc. Yet, the waste of our tax revenues by our Executive & Legislative branches of government is a abuse of power.

It looks like our government is either “tax and spend” or “tax cut and spend.” The “tax cut and spend” administrations have lead to massive increases in national debt and marked increases between the have and have-nots creating a super wealthy elite in this country. Ironically, these super wealthy not only pay less taxes proportionately from tax cuts they also get significantly greater portions of the governmental spending. In turn, these super wealthy are the representatives in our Congress and/or fund their elections.

Cutting governmental spending is a must. Yet, entitlements are a major part and thought to be sacrosanct. But, they are not. There is massive waste in our entitlement programs, i.e., Social Security and Medicare.

As mentioned (in a previous post), many have depleted their contributions to the Social Security Pension fund and are now receiving payments as welfare. A means test must be established for those who have depleted funds to see if they merit welfare. A significant portion of them will not qualify for welfare and the savings from this alone would be in the tens of billions of dollars.

Next, Medicare pays for care that should not be provided. At the end of life, there is a lot of care that CAN be provided but SHOULD not be because it has minimal to no benefit to the quality or quantity of life. Cynically, providers of this futile care benefit significantly while their patients don’t. It is estimated that 50% of the Medicare budget is spent in the last six months of life. Stopping this futile care would save several hundred billion dollars. Medicare is already embarking on a program not to pay for avoidable medical events. A program to stop paying for futile care would provide significantly greater saving.

Next, waste in government contracts is rampant. There is always a hefty premium for government business. The government must past laws mandating that business cannot charge the government any more than they charge any other customers. They have done this in health care with some success. Eliminating the government business premium costs should save hundreds of billions.

Finally, even though earmarks are a tiny piece of the total budget they have to bel eliminated. Favoritism, nepotism, cronyisms, etc are the basis of these earmarks and have no place in someone who represents their districts, states, and nation. It is reprehensible how these earmarks favor the few at the expense of the many. This is got to stop. Yet, those who give money get money. And money wields power.

Stop the abuse of power and demand that our branches of government be fiscally responsible.

Saving Social Security: SS Pension vs. SS Welfare

Thursday, April 17th, 2008

Many believe that Social Security (SS) is a pension fund when in reality it is both a Pension and Welfare fund.

The reason Social Security is a pension fund is because workers contribute to the fund in return for getting returns after retirement. The expectations are payments with interest.

Unfortunately, the cost of living and SS Payments have long ago depleted many individual’s contributions plus interests. Therefore, continued SS payments are unfunded by the recipients and instead funded by current worker’s contributions making these payments charity or welfare.

Few would argue that workers should be paid their SS Pension payments (SSP). Yet, once these personal pension funds run out, continued payments should have some sort of means test for receiving continue payment as SS welfare (SSW). Welfare should not be provided those who do not merit it.

Finally, while a person is alive they should be allowed to contribute their SSP to the reduction of the national debt or back to SS program for SSW payments. These contributions would be allowed to be deducted as charity.

Paying Taxes is a Privilege And the Simple Tax Plan

Wednesday, April 16th, 2008

Paying taxes is the price we for the privilege of living in the USA. Tax revenues pay for infrastructure, security, safety nets, and countless other resources from which citizens generate income and/or benefit. We should proudly pay our fair taxes for using these resources that are among the best in the world. Thus, every entity should pay taxes proportional to the degree of use of the country’s resources. This seems the only fair way to tax.

Value added taxes is the fairest way to assess use of national resources but Americans have not seen their way to this system like many other countries. Instead, Americans use a progressive income tax schedules for individual as a surrogate for proportional use of the countries resources. It is reasonable to posit that more income means that more resources were utilized to generate it.

Avoiding paying one’s fair taxes is Un-American since one is not paying for the resources used to generate their income. Also, tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations means some pay proportionately less for the resources consumed to generate their income. A Flat Tax is basically unfair since it taxes someone who makes $10,000 a year the same rate a someone who makes $1 million a year. There was definitely a big disproportionate use of resources to generate these incomes. The Bible has a parable about proportional alms-giving.

So, is there something between a value added tax and the current incomprehensible morass of tax laws. The answer is yes. It is the Simple Tax Plan(STP)

The STP would have only four tax rates: 10%, 15%, 20% and 25%. The plan is simple because tax deductions would be limited to Charity/Political/Church Contributions (capped at 25% of income) and Property Taxes and Mortgage Interest (capped at $100,000). With STP, the tax form would be one page and the expense of tax preparation would be slashed. Governmental costs for collecting taxes would also be slashed.

Corporate taxes would also be simplified thus making more than the 50% of the corporations that don’t pay taxes pay. Their deductions would be limited to Federal Tax payments and Health Care costs.

In conclusion, a value added tax is the best and fairest way to tax for the use of national resources. Barring this the proposed Simple Tax Plan would improve on the current systems.

Immigration: Intolerance is Intolerance regardless of the Law

Wednesday, April 16th, 2008

The Law and Order Americans want all “illegal immigrants” deported because they broke the law and also oppose changing the law to make these immigrants legal. It is obvious that the law is not the issue since it can be changed. Intolerance of immigrants is the issue. To cite the law to cover up for intolerance that includes racism and bigotry is cowardly.

One of the universal fears of people is fear of strangers and the need for community. Outsiders, especially different looking and speaking immigrants, are strangers and are feared. If these illegal immigrants were English-speaking and American-looking, illegal immigrants would be a non-issue. This is intolerance at its worse.

Illegal immigrants are vital contributors to the US economy. The are productive in jobs that legal immigrants and Americans won’t do and they are consumers of American products. They are net contributors to our economy rather than unworthy moochers as commonly thought. To deport illegal immigrants would cripple our economy. Illegal immigrants are the fastest growing group in the USA. Without them, America’s future work force would be severely decreased.

So, the solution to illegal immigration is not deportation that is a logistical impossibility. Instead, the solution is the legal integration of these immigrants into the social fabric they are already a big part of. To oppose this is to reveal intolerance of the worst kind.

Controlling Ones Weight Through Lifestyle Changes

Monday, April 14th, 2008

Diet is a four letter word and they don’t work and never will. Diets makes the body feel deprived. Therefore given the chance the body restores what it has lost and then some just to prepare for possible future deprivation. This is the basis of the yo-yo plus weight loss and gains seen with diets and what makes obesity an epidemic.

So, what works? What works is lifestyle modification without extreme deprivation. First, increase you physical activity. Walk the dog for at least thirty minutes daily. Take the stairs several times daily. Get up from the desk and walk around the office perimeter several times daily. Park the car at the far end of the parking lot. Physical activity must be part of the school day. Anything that increases exercise should be sought.

Next, avoid all foods made with flour, potatoes or sugar, i.e., starches. No breads, pastas, breakfast cereals, french fries, etc. At most one portion of one of these peer day would be acceptable. You can have any amount of meats and vegetables except starches. This recommendation has a physiologic basis.

The body cannot burn fat when its blood insulin levels are increased. Food and snacks with starches greatly increase insulin levels and prevent fat burning. So, even with caloric restriction, a starchy snack or meal will increase insulin and fats are blocked as calories for energy. Needing calories, the body will use proteins such muscles for energy. This is what causes the wash out feeling of diets that include starches.

In summary, increase activity significantly and avoid starches. This combination is a solid start to the lifestyle changes needed for a better life at a better weight.

Personal Identifiers and Common Misunderstandings

Friday, April 11th, 2008

Terms like African-American, Black, Latino, HIspanic, American and the like are commonly used and almost universally misunderstood. The issues actually boil down to several elements that include geographic, country, racial, language and cultural origins. Delineating these separately leads to a greater understanding of personal identifiers. Importantly, personal identifiers that segregate are frequently less nebulous and more accurate than societal designations that tend to aggregate. Using personal identifiers correctly is less likely to insult others and to make one look insensitive or ignorant.

First, geographic origins is used predominately by African-Americans and Asians. African-Americans use this term since they are decedents of freed American slaves and do no know their African countries of origin. Europeans, Asians, etc. are from a country from that continents and are only occasionally used as personal identifiers. Of note, the North American continent contains Canada, the United States and Mexico. Therefore, Canadians and Mexicans are North Americans or “Americans” also.

Next, is the country of origin. When the country of origin is known then it is used such as Kenyan-American, Italian-American, Mexican-American, Cuban-American, Jamaican, etc.

Third, is race. Traditionally, there have been several human races although these designations have come into dispute. These are usually noted as “Black”, “Asian”, “Native”, “White” or Caucasian or mixed.

Finally, there is culture and language of origin. These usually are Latino for someone from the Western Hemisphere whose language is Latin based (Spanish, Portuguese or French) and Hispanics are people from this Hemisphere whose language is Spanish.

Personal identifiers are usually combinations of these items and some have common usage. For example, technically “African-American” would include white South Africans who have recently settled in North American. Instead the are South African-American since their country of origin is known. If it were not other for personal and political gain, Obama would probably identify himself as Kenyan-American. As noted, African-American is reserved for decedents of freed American slaves.

Latinos are from North (i.e., Mexico), Central and South Americas and many Caribbean Islands where the languages spoken are Latin based. As noted, these languages include Spanish, Portuguese and French.

Hispanics are from all Spanish speaking countries in North American (Mexico), Central and South America and Caribbean Islands. It excludes Brazil where Portuguese is spoken and the French speaking Caribbean Islands.

Next is cultural origins. There are to many cultures to note. These include indigenous and identifiable peoples in most countries.

Lets examine some examples. The Chinese-Cuban minority are decedent from Chinese who immigrated to Cuba in the mid-nineteenth century. They are Caribbean, Latino, Hispanic and Asian. Those who immigrated to the US after Fidel Castro’s takeover are Chinese-Cuban-Americans.

There are many Caribbean, Latino, Hispanic Blacks from the Caribbean and South America. Many Jamaicans, Dominican Republican and Brazilians have these identifiers.

Immigrants from Brazil will be South American, Latino (NOT Hispanic), Brazilian-American and then Black, Asian, Native, White or mixed.

An immigrant from Mexico is North American, Latino, Hispanic, Mexican-American and most likely White, Native or mixed. Then there are first, second, and so on generation.

Assimilation of immigrants in the US is the rule but rarely complete. There are always cultural vestiges albeit language is usually not one of them after the first generation. Those who identify themselves usually use accurate terms are noted above.

White Americans frequently misuse terms by calling all Blacks “African-Americans” even if recent immigrants, all immigrants from South of the US border Latino or Hispanic although not totally accurate. Many of them use Hispanic to be synonymous with Mexican-American which mis-identifies those from Central and South American countries. Rather than being “politically correct” they are showing cultural, geographic and racial insensitivity or just plain ignorance.

The best practice is to ask someone what their origins are. They will almost always respond with the terms they like to use for themselves.

The US Needs to Give Muslims and China Respect to Get Respect

Thursday, April 10th, 2008

Nothing irks anymore more than being told what to do by someone who believes they are holier than thou and doesn’t do what they are preaching. So it is with the US and its diplomatic advice (“preaching”) to Muslims and China. The US government and its people must give respect to get respect. They must also give them the time and economic help required for the desired changes.

Historically, sovereignty has been an issue for the Muslims and Chinese and their countries. Starting back with the Crusades and recurring again with the recent US support of authoritarian governments in Islamic countries, Muslims believe they have not been respected. In fact, two of the three Bush’s “Axis of Evil”, i.e., Iraq and Iran were Islamic countries. This and the unilateral “preemptive war” doctrine and subsequent debacle in Iraq have solidified the Muslims’ distrust of West intentions. In spite of this Muslims respect the US for its self-determination, democracy, civil rights and voting record among other things. They just don’t understand why the US won’t let the Muslims have the same in their countries. (see)

In the last century, China had imposed foreign concessions in their country. Many countries except for the US had whole areas or even cities in China under foreign rule. It was only recently that Hong Kong transferred from foreign to Chinese control. The Chinese believe they have the same territorial rights over Tibet and the island of Taiwan. Thus, outside interference regarding human rights, Tibet, etc. is seen as foreign intrusion into internal matters. These intrusions bring back the memories of foreign intrusions and concessions. China will NOT ever let this happen again. If China changes it will be by its own choice. And, it is obvious that with economic development China is changing rapidly and for the better. It just requires time before all what the West desires to become addressable.

Honor and self-respect (“face”) are critical to Muslims and Chinese and its maintenance should be crucial to the US if it is to influence them. Without respect for them they will not come to the table and, if forced to come to the table, they will no listen nor heed. So, what is the US and Western countries to do? Just stand by?

The answer is relatively simple. Encourage and support the economic development of these countries. As history has shown, economic development leads to the time and luxury of dealing with issues not related to daily existence, i.e., enlightenment. Enlightened citizens start to question the status quo. The US civil rights and women’s movements coincided with the consolidation of the middle classes almost two hundred years after the US Independence. The same will occur in Islamic Republics and China once they are comfortable with their independence and economic development. In fact, China is well on its way to economic development with it associated increasing freedoms, personal property, etc. but it needs time to work out on its own its human rights and other internal issues.

The US needs to remember that lynchings were still occurring up until the recent pass. The West must be patient and be ready to work behind the scenes and respect this peoples and countries sovereignty. Public chastisement of Muslims or China does not advance the West’s causes and in fact, it may impede progress by giving credence to extremist views.

The US and Western Countries can do worlds of good by noting displeasure with the human rights and other issues in these countries and still attend to business as usual with as much economic support as possible. Finally, the last thing the West should do is boycott the Beijing Olympics opening. This is disrespectful and would in the long run be a setback to the West’s efforts. Beijing knows the West displeasure. A boycott would just add insult to injury. The West’s presence even while expressing displeasure would go a long way to show respect while maintaining differences.