Sunday, February 16, 2014

Values and American Leaders

In recent years, we've all watched politicians constantly talking about values during their campaigns. But when they talk about values, they tend to quickly focus on topics like abortion, gay marriage, guns - and most recently, the evils of trying to provide healthcare to all Americans.  Get real!

Let's talk about real values like honesty, compassion, respect, courage, caring for others, ...  Those are the important universal values we should be pursuing and talking about. Listening to many of these politicians and business leaders, you can see right through the fake imagery they are trying to project as they fight to retain power, position, and wealth. That's what they really value - for themselves.

When we talk about values, it should not be about glorifying the pursuit of money and power for self serving reasons. We all know that power and money can be used to accomplish much good for many people. It's those leaders who lose sight of that and use it for selfish purposes that we need to challenge.

For example, why do business leaders who took the country to the brink of financial disaster get to keep their positions, receive bonuses, pay no penalties, and never even apologise to the millions of citizens they hurt?

Why do we let polticians get away with shutting down the government and taking us to the brink of financial disaster - basically not doing their job - and get away without paying any penalty, without apologising to the people of this country they are supposed to represent?

Why do radio and TV talk show hosts who spew hateful remarks and sow discontent get so much air time? And why do we soak up their drivel? In many other countries they would not be allowed on the air.

Why do whistleblowers who expose corruption in the public and private sectors get villified by the government and corporate leaders?  Have you noticed that many of the radio an TV talk show hosts jump on the bandwagon along with those officials and organizations whose corrupt practices have been exposed.

We need to publically stand up and challenge those who think these evil practices are acceptable.

To further illustrate my point, I recently picked up an issue of Time magazine. The main topics covered in the issue included:

  • A move to create a federal law protecting wonen's access to abortions, regardless of state laws
  • A story on the relatively low turnout to date by uninsured Americans to purchase coverage under the Affordable Care Act
  • Comments about Governor Christie's apology for his staff causing the traffic jam on the bridge between NY and New Jersey
  • The conflict in S. Sudan related to control over revenues related to the flow of oil out of that country
  • A story related to how the Catholic Church hierarchy dealt with known pedophile priests
  • A news story on the chemical spill into the rivers of West Virginia and the lack of oversight by the government
  • Coverage of Detroit's bankruptcy and cutting workers pension to pay off corporate creditors
  • Mississippi state 'for-profit' prisons finding new ways to ensure the ails remain full and the companies running them remain profitable
  • News about both the government and the private sector collecting masive amounts of private data on citizens behaviour for various purposes
  • A major story on citizens unable to find out how and why hospitals are charging them outrageous fees for treatment

There were other news stories covering the ongoing efforts by big corporations in their fight to restrict the power of unions, the upcoming run by Hillary Clinton for the Presidency and the big donors lining up on either side, the legalization and taxation of the marijuana industry, and more.

Look at the list of stories and what do you see. Battles to gain or retain power, increase the wealth of some at the expense of many, ... Who is on what side of the issues? Who is battling for the rights and needs of all our citizens, e.g. Pensions, healthcare for all, fairness, equality, justice.

Think carefully about the issues and the values of the people on each side? Too often leaders in the public and private sector push the 'hot button' issues, run slick ads and slogans, and divert you from the truth about their real values and interests. If you get led astray by those leaders who put their self serving interests in gaining noteriety, personal power and wealth ahead of the people, America will unfortunately suffer tremendously over the long term.

Again, for those of us who believe in God and universal principles like love, justice, righteousness - and that's the vast majority of us - we must publically stand up and challenge those leaders who are obsessed with power and wealth and have become the cause of so much evil in this world.

So, having said all that, what else do we all need to do to keep America strong? What tangible things can we do to keep our government, economic system, and way of life safe from those who are currently putting it at risk? We must do better.


Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Redefining Our Purpose as Civilization Keeps Evolving

Think Type 1 Civilization
 
Let's take a quick stroll through history. Civilizations have generally advanced when radically new ways of communicating and sharing ideas have emerged. One of the first major advances occurred when mankind learned to speak. People started to gather togther and socialize around the campfire. Tribes began to emerge and form. Civilization on Earth was born.

This was followed many centuries later by the next major advancement, the creation of the written word. This in turn led to the start of commerce and the creation of the first nation-states, e.g. Egypt, Greece, China. Over the next many centuries, ships and roads allowed commerce to spread and written ideas to be communicated and shared with others across great distances. Civilization continued to slowly but steadily advance.

Jump forward a thousand years through the Dark Ages to the 1400's and the invention of the printing press. Knowledge and ideas were able to be shared on a much wider scale than ever before. The Bible and many other great works were suddenly available to more than just the select few. The pace of innovation and change around the world began to slowly pick up speed. Kingdoms started falling and the Protestant Reformation radically disrupted civilization and the status quo.

Then came the 1800's and the invention of the steam engine and the telegraph. Steamboats and steam powered trains allowed ideas, information, and goods to be shared faster. The telegraph allowed communication to really speed up. These inventions set the stage for the transition from the Agricultural Age to the Industrial Age of the 20th century.


The first half of the 1900's saw the invention and mass production of cars, airplanes, electricity, telephones, the radio, and television. The pace of innovation accelerated and all aspects of our civilization were disrupted as new ideas, inventions, information and knowledge were shared as never before. The stage was set for the transition into the Information Age of the 21st century and globalization.

Computers, digital telecommunications, software, fiber optics, satellites, robotics, the Internet, nanotechnology and so much more are all contributing to the quantum leap forward we are now in the process of taking together, sharing information and knowledge on a global scale. Innovation and the rate of change continues to increase with each passing day.

Today, someone can come up with a new idea, share it with millions on the Internet, and see the idea rapidly transformed into action and reality within days or weeks. Something that took decades if not centuries to ocurr can now happen almost overnight. Talk about a dramatic change of pace! But you ain't seen nothing yet.

Are we prepared for where this is taking us all? Probably not. Are we ready for the death of nation states? For every human having the ability to access all the world's knowlege? Having the capability to replace body organs and living for many hundreds of years, tapping into unlimited sources of energy, colonizing other planets in our solar system, and...

We are on the threshold of moving from a Type 0 civilization to a Type I civilization. (see http://www.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kardashev_scale  )
A Type 0 civilization extracts its energy, information, raw-materials from crude organic-based sources (i.e. food/wood/fossil fuel/books/oral tradition); pressures via natural disaster, natural selection, and societal collapse creates extreme risk of extinction; it's capable of orbital spaceflight; societies that fail to improve social, environmental and medical understanding concurrently with other advancements, frequently accelerated their own extinction.
A Type I civilization extracts its energy, information, and raw-materials from fusion power, hydrogen, and other "high-density" renewable-resources; is capable of interplanetary spaceflight, interplanetary communication, megascale engineering, and interplanetary colonization, medical and technological singularity, planetary engineering, world government and trade, and stellar system-scale influence; but are still vulnerable to possible extinction
A Type II civilization extracts fusion energy, information, and raw-materials from multiple solar systems; it is capable of evolutionary intervention, interstellar travel, interstellar communication, stellar engineering, and star cluster-scale influence; the resulting proliferation and diversification would theoretically negate the probability of extinction.
A Type III civilization extracts fusion energy, information, and raw-materials from all possible star-clusters; it's capable of intergalactic travel via wormholes and intergalactic communication, galactic engineering and galaxy-scale influence.
A Type IV civilization extracts energy, information, and raw-materials from all possible galaxies; it's effectively immortal and omnipotent with universal-scale influence, possessing the ability of theoretical time travel and instantaneous matter-energy transformation and teleportation, moving entire asteroid belts and stars, creating alternate timelines, ...
We are facing the need to revisit and redefine our purpose as humans and the world we live in as we continue to transition into a more advanced Type 1 civilization during the remainder of the 21st century.

What are some of the basic questions we need to be asking ourselves right now? Think about this and share your constructive ideas with us.

* Check out this video by Michio Kaku: The Birth-Pangs of a Planetary Civilization 

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Musings on America at the start of the New Year - 2014

The past decade was a wild ride.  At the end of the Bush administration, we found ourselves engaged in two wars and were facing a massive meltdown of our economy. We all knew whoever became President was going to have quite a job on their hands. We also knew it was going to take years to 'fix' things and get us out of the deep hole we had dug for ourselves as a country.

Six years into President Obama's administration we are finally climbing out of the hole and things are looking up. The President has presided over the long and painful recovery from the massive financial crisis he inherited, now referred to as "The Great Recession".  The economy is back on track, unemployment is down below 7%, and the trillion dollar deficits that were run up to pay the bills that had come due from the war years and the collapse of the financial sector have been dramatically cut and are back under control.

The war in Iraq is over and our troops are entering the final phase of withdrawal from Afghanistan. Despite the urging by political 'war hawks' that wanted to get our country more actively involved in Libya, Syria, and Iran – the President has successfully managed to walk through  these mine fields and keep us out of another costly war. His reputation has been tarnished, but he has handled these major international challenges fairly well.

In the meantime, the President has overseen our country's move towards energy independence, pursuing a balanced approach that allowed for more drilling for oil and natural gas, while also encouraging the growth of alternative energy industries, e.g. wind, solar.  The country also is in the process of implementing the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also derisively labeled Obamacare by his opponents.  This is a uniquely American version of universal health care – a market-based universal health insurance program for all citizens.

The President has also pushed forward with a number of other significant initiatives that will bear fruit over the coming decade. These include the Open Government and Open Data initiatives that are giving rise to many new 'Big Data' and Data Analytics companies. The Health Information Technology (HITech) Act is going to have a major impact on health care delivery and patient care across the U.S. as the country makes an unprecedented investment in health IT solutions, e.g. Electronic Health Record (EHR) systems and Health Information Exchange (HIE) networks.

Despite the many hysterical and ridiculous claims by many of the President's critics, his administration did not take away our guns. He did not move to enslave white people. He did not destroy the free market or capitalism. Despite continued claims that he is not an American, that he was born in Kenya, is a believer in Islam, …  Reasonable and sane people know he is in fact an American, was born in the state of Hawaii, and is a practicing Christian – and has been shown to have great family values.

Despite the supportive tone of this blog, the President deserves some criticism for a number of major shortcomings or failures.  Like many, I disagree with his policies allowing the National Security Administration (NSA) to have almost unlimited authority to collect data on the activities of all U.S. citizens. I think our country's policy of using of drones to kill people in whatever countries we choose is extremely unwise and will come back to haunt us. We still don't have Immigration Reform and many changes to our education system are needed to lower costs and improve our country's ability to compete in the 21st century.

But when it's all said and done, this President and his administration has been good for the country.  We know the Tea Party activists and many citizens across the South will never stop speaking out opposing him and his policies no matter what – and that's alright – that's America. 

My hope – and the hope of most American – is that our next elected President will continue to build on the foundation that has been laid. Both Congress and the next President need to work better together to further strengthen and unify this country as we continue to complete the transition from the 'Industrial Age' of the 20th century to the 'Information Age' of the 21st century.