Sunday, August 29, 2010

Facebook Therapy

I am like millions of other individuals guilty of spending a lot of time and energy on Social Networking Sites (SNS) such as Facebook and Twitter. As I upload pictures, and enter my status today I became keenly aware that these social networking sites are more than meets the eye of the status update.

The evolution of SNS has given the fast-paced global society a way to plug-in and feel connected to family that are down the street or scattered around the globe, to busy friends, friends of friends, and to new relationships that share common interests.

Multiple studies have been done and many more are in the works on the effects of SNS in our society. Despite dire predictions from naysayers who warned that spending too much time online would be damaging to real-life relationships, the opposite appears to be true. Many researchers agree that for the most part, being part of a social network is good for you. For example, a recent study in Scientific American Mind finds that social support and social networking offer benefits, from additional resilience to greater life satisfaction to reducing the risk of health problems. Other studies in the past two years have found that feeling like a part of a larger group helps in stroke recovery and memory retention and boosts overall well-being.

In my earlier life, I studied to be a psychologist and I distinctly remember Gestalt therapy (GT), which focuses on the individual’s experience in the present moment, the environmental and social contexts of a person's life, and the self-regulating adjustments people make as a result of their overall situation. Reflecting on this, I see that it fits the actions taken on the SNS. SNS sites allow the individual to provide a “status update” which is the present moment in the Gestalt therapy, allowing one to express whatever is happening to them at the time, releasing both positive and negative thoughts. Feedback from readers provide a way for the individual to monitor, gage, and reflect on their status update, and sometimes adjust, self-regulating adjustment in GT, and learn from the feedback.

Social networking sites offer "three degrees of influence" — that is, your friend’s friend's friend, most likely someone you don't even know — who may indirectly influence your actions and emotions. For example, when a friend starts exercising more, you may examine your own exercise regimen and decided that you need to start exercising more. When you share your new status update that you’ve joined a gym you may also be influencing others to do the same. You either change your behavior or you transmit information about the behavior to others, who may change their behavior.

Another aspect of SNS is the fact that it has ushered in a new kind of extroversion, in which people who might be shy or uneasy in traditional social settings can express themselves online. People seemed to feel less threatened to state exactly what is on their mind as a general status update, than they would if they were in a real-time face to face encounter. This is one of the areas that those opposed to SNS have a problem. In one sense it is allowing the person to express themselves freely, but at the same time it is weakening the real-time relationship skills required for building intimate relationships.

With everything considered, I believe that SNS is a positive influence on society. Interestingly, it develop in a time in our lives where we most need to connect to one another. Uncertainties on a global level, separation of family and friends, and the highest level of anxiety that has ever existed, are eased by being able to connect and share our lives with those that we care about. Each person has the freedom and right to communicate, or not. Best of all you can “unplug” or not respond if you don’t like it.

More reading on the subject:

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Burqa Banning and Society Rights

The controversy of wearing a burqa, a head-to-toe covering worn exclusively by women, designed to conceal the entire body, including the face, has become a subject of contention worldwide. I was recently engaged in an electronic string of opinions on the subject, where anger, dismay, and alarm were revealed in each contributor’s electronic voice. The various opinions made me look deeper within and weigh how I feel, and to also research the current status, beliefs, and laws on wearing a burqa.

My initial knee-jerk reaction to the tweets that I read was that a woman in the United States has the right to wear whatever they choose. If a woman chooses to wear a hijab, the traditional covering of the hair and neck worn by Muslim women, or a burqa, a full body-covering, due to religious and cultural traditions, then let them do it. Upon further research and learning about both sides of the argument, my thoughts on the matter have changed.

The burqa is primarily worn by women in Pakistan, India and Afghanistan. Under the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, all women--including foreign visitors--were required to wear burqas. Today, it is no longer a necessity but still the preferred choice of many women, who wear the burqa as a safety measure given their country's volatile political regime.

Many people and entire countries say and believe that the burqa is not a religious driven act, and therefore it should be banned from use in public places. It is a moot point as to where or why the burqa is being used by some Muslim woman; the point is that it is and has been a tradition for centuries. While the burqa is often associated with the Islamic faith, its history actually predates Islam by thousands of years. The earliest known instance of women veiling their faces is found in the Assyrian empire, which dates back to 5000 BC.

The problem in the banning of the burqas is that it is infringing on the traditions and beliefs of Middle Eastern peoples centuries old values and mores. Many woman in the Middle East, still choose to wear the burqa when going out in public to protect themselves from being targets of political unjust doings.

We all know that banning and denigrating a cultural tradition simply divides communities and engenders anger and resentment in a way that is not constructive toward building a multicultural society. Yet, in the post 9/11 era, it is a difficult stance to allow people to be hidden by a full body-covering outside of the Middle Eastern countries where the custom is embraced. Security issues are elevated worldwide now, and many European countries are banning wearing burqas. Belgium was the first European country to ban wearing burqas. France recently banned the burqas and face-veils in public. Germany, Britain, and Spain are also following the lead of France in prohibiting burqas in public.

In the United States, the custom of woman wearing the burqa in public is protected by the first Amendment. Recent stories have surfaced where women have tried to get a driver’s license photo with their face covered by the burqa and were denied. Repercussions regarding these isolated incidents have caused law-suites on the basis of religious rights being restricted.

Unfortunately, it may be true that most woman wearing burqas are doing so due to tradition or religious belief, however, it allows for those that mean to do harm to have a perfect cover-up to hide their identify and more. For governments, to modify existing laws such as driver license policy stating that the full-face picture is the requirement, to allowing the face to be completely covered, doesn’t make sense nor is it logical in the present global reality. Banks also have had to rewrite policies so that a person can easily be identified while doing business in the establishment.

A society is built on the mores and values derived from the established practices of a society rather than its written laws. They consist of shared understandings about the kinds of behavior likely to evoke approval, disapproval, toleration or sanction, within particular contexts.

Each country has its own set of mores and values. When I traveled to Italy and visited St. Peter’s Basilica, in Rome, I witnessed a woman being turned-away from entering the church because she had a mini-skirt on that was more than 5” above the knee. A dress code is established for entering the church, and those that want to visit must adhere to the rules if they wish to enter. In the Middle East it would not be unacceptable to wear a bikini bathing suit in public.

In summary, we must honor and respect the cultural rules of the country that we are visiting or choosing to setup our permanent residence.  In total respect of those that wish to continue wearing a burqa, realize that in the United States, there are laws and policies that everyone that lives here must abide by.  Since it is, and has been the custom to show full-face photo for driver's license in the majority of states, then one must abide by the rule.  Some states have accommodated the burqa wearing woman by taking the photo in private with another woman present. If this is not acceptable, then a driver's license should not be permitted. 

Further reading on U.S. burqa policies by state:

Friday, July 16, 2010

EX-Im and the Downfall of America Integrity

Until recently, I had never heard of the US Export-Import Bank (EX-Im Bank). My interest in this bank developed when I was verifying some recent accusations regarding Obama lending Brazil 2-billion dollars for the purpose of offshore deep-well oil drilling.

Looking into EX-Im’s recent activities, I realized it has had the ability to manipulate capitalism since its very creation by FDR in the 30’s, and has been used extensively by all presidents since then for this purpose. I felt so naïve after reading how powerful this export credit agency is, and it is a part of the Executive branch of Congress! My guess is that the majority of Americans don’t know anything about this credit agency and what a powerful role it has in determining national and global effects on the financial and economic sectors, and what products/services will benefit from their loan approvals. I should mention that many countries have their own Export/Import bank used for similar purposes.

In simple terms, the basics and fundamental role of the bank is to lend countries low-interest money so that they can purchase US products, producing jobs and revenue through exportation of materials and services. OK we can all get behind this concept. However, the criticism over the years is that they have allegedly favored special interests by subsidizing corporations such as Boeing and Enron. In 1996 the bank provided $120 million loan to the China National Nuclear Power Corporation.

Reading about these recent special interests that were provided internally by our government is very disturbing to me. In 1996, our president Clinton, whom I always believed was against building up nuclear power, evidently was OK with the China nuclear transaction. In addition, Enron who is the biggest thief of all time was subsidized by our executive branch.

Further investigation of Ex_Im bank revealed that approximately $243 million in fraudulent loans to companies doing business with Mexico, including companies with no verifiable address and to individuals who were known associates of Sinaloa and Jujarez drug trafficking cartels. This fact confirmed a documentary that I saw years ago, which I thought at the time had a slanted view of drug trafficking being supported and generated by our internal government. It’s hard to swallow such truths! Ugly, truly ugly.

The recent allocations of Obama lending 2.1 billion to Brazil for the purpose of deep-well oil drilling are true. The loan was already approved back in 2009, and US business will be launched in supplying piping, technology, oil rigs, etcetera, for assisting in Brazil’s oil exploration. But I thought that Obama was against fossil-fuel projects? His campaign specifically stated that we had to look toward alternative natural, green energy! I’m feeling more naïve now than ever before.

In February 2009, the Ex-Im Bank settled a 7-year long legal proceeding brought by Friends of the Earth, other non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and various American cities. The plaintiffs claimed that the Ex-Im Bank and the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) provided financial assistance to oil and other fossil fuel projects without first evaluating the projects' global warming impacts.

Evidently, in the settlement agreement, Ex-Im agreed to evaluate future carbon dioxide emissions prior to lending for these specific types of projects. Liars! Since their agreement they lent 2.1 billion to Brazil.

Let it be known right now, I’m no longer affiliated with any political party! What a farce!

Further reading:

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Silent Alliances Destroying Our Country!

Have you wondered why the entire mortgage lending industry has conspired to ignore struggling home owners needs?  I have!

There has been so much media hype about programs that were developed by Obama’s Administration, such as HAMP (Home Affordable Modification Program,) that are not being offered to the majority of home owners that have applied. Also, there is ample evidence that the current HAMP and other modification guidelines are being interpreted differently by each bank, reflected in many places including the scenarios described by the 20,000+ members of the community. Additional evidence can be found in hundreds if not thousands of complaints and requests for assistance sent by struggling homeowners to their Senators and Congressmen across the country, as well as the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and other agencies that have been instituted to regulate these banks. So what is really going on?

Let’s just take a look at one bank closely, such as One West, former IndyMac. They have stated to many homeowners that they are not participating in any of Obama’s modification plans. Now how can they legally not participate in or offer the HAMP program to struggling homeowners?

Upon further investigation, I found out that the major investors in One West Bank are the billionaires George Soros and Michael Dell, who purchased the failed bank for 13.9 billion! You know Dell of course from Dell computers, but who the heck is George Soros? Try the founder of! It gets more interesting now. Evidently, good old George many claim is the sole reason Barack Obama made it to the Presidency! OK, I can get behind that.

Umm, let’s see. The Feds sold IndyMac to One West Bank (Soros and Dell) for 50c on the dollar of the assets they were holding [your mortgage] and then backed them for 70% of any thing they might loose. Freddie and Fannie only insured at the 40% level. So now One West can foreclose on mortgages that they paid 50c on the dollar for and still make 70% on it if they sell the home for 1/2 of what your mortgage was! Comprendé?

Why would One West Bank, or any bank for that matter, want to help to keep you in your home when they can make a 70% profit if you foreclose? Furthermore, it seems crystal clear why Obama has turned his back on the mortgage lending industry.  

Hmm, seems to be silent alliances here!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Truly Celebrate the 4th of July!

OK America, we have been through so much this past decade. In spite of 9/11, the economy, oil spill, immigration controversy, Iraq, Afghanistan, corruption in big business, etcetera., etcetera., etcetera., we should still remember and celebrate our founding fathers that worked so hard to provide the beautiful country that we live in.

I watched a documentary this morning on the building of America. I forgot how tough and hard our forefathers worked to make a life here in the United States. The industrial revolution, the Erie Canal built by hand, and the cotton gin, long forgotten in our history are the backbone of who we are and where we have come from. These people had vision, fortitude, and dedication to improve their lives as well as the lives of others.

I believe that we Americans still have it in us to care, work hard, and make a difference for our families and future generations. Unfortunately, the distractions of a world troubled by war, angst by greed, and worry about environmental pollution, has robbed many of us of the realization that we still have a decent life here in America compared with the rest of the world.

When you are celebrating with your family and friends today, concentrate on all of the good things that we have here in America. Give thanks that we still have options and opportunities to make a life, even thought it is currently difficult, if we choose too!

Happy 4th of July!

Friday, July 2, 2010

Gulf Oil Spill May be Killing Cures for Cancer and Malaria!

So do the Sara Palins of the world still think that global warming and pollutants aren't ruining our planet and  jeopardizing our life?  Today it was revealed by researchers that the Gulf spill could wipe out a potential cure for malaria and treatments for cancer and other diseases by killing off marine organisms that are the basis of experimental drugs.

Evidently, the Gulf of Mexico and Florida are two main resources for sponges, sea worms, and other invertebrates that live in the oil slicks path.  This is the core ocean area that researchers use for specimens in research and development for cures.

A number of modern drug treatments are based on compounds produced by marine organisms. Many of these organisms live in small, unique locales. Once killed off by something like the oil spill, their potential research contributions could be lost to medical science forever! 
One of the most promising treatments threatened by the spill is a possible cure for malaria. Molecular biologists and drug discovery experts are testing compounds taken from sponges collected off the coast of Florida and other waters in the path of the spill, and the testing and research performed thus far has been successful.

The tragedy here is that the basis for these cures is only found in the Gulf or the waters around the Florida peninsula—exactly where the crude is spewing, and spreading, in the millions of gallons. 

Hey "Drill baby, drill" people, how is BP going to pay for that?    

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

What happened to President Kennedy’s Physical Fitness Program?

The Trust for America's Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation put out a new report today stating that obesity rates have increased by 28%. It also indicated that 84% of parents felt that their children were at a healthy weight! There are many reasons beyond health problems that contribute to an obese nation: technology, lack of exercise, less time, more stress, less vacations, and an abundance of uncertainty are just a few. In addition, many of the public schools have cut physical fitness programs due to lack of federal and state funding.

We’ve become a physically inactive society, where the only exercise that we get is clicking on a keyboard or the remote control of our TV sets! Think about it, when we go to the supermarket, movies, or shopping, we try desperately to get the closest parking spot to the entrance! Our children don’t get any exercise either. They sit around the house talking on the phone, texting, watching television, or playing computer games, instead of playing outdoors.

During the 60’s when I was in elementary school, President Kennedy took over a federal physical fitness program that was started and failed by Eisenhower, and he reorganized a new council to oversee and market a new physical fitness program for all Americans. During 1961-1962 school years, the president developed a physical fitness pilot project for the schools. A core group of almost a quarter of a million schoolchildren took part in the Council-sponsored pilot projects in six states. The physical fitness program was structured into the daily curriculum of school study.

I was fortunate to be a part of this pilot project. I was in the 6th grade when this program was implemented. I remember feeling pride that I was part of a program that our president designed and was paying close attention to. We were trained to be athletic by running, doing sit-ups, climbing ropes (those were hard), doing push-ups, and strengthening our muscles by doing multiple stretches for all muscle groups.

At the end of the pilot project year, we took a physical fitness test and half again as many students passed a physical fitness test as had a year earlier. Furthermore, there was a general improvement of physical education programs around the country. Students that passed the test were given a badge that had an eagle emblem and the words, “Presidential Physical Fitness Award.” For those of us that received this emblem, we had such pride in being part of the project and being physical fit. It also set a foundation on how to live healthy for our future.

I say bring back the president’s council on physical fitness! Let children have pride being part of something larger than their Wii box, or 40” television sets!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Elena Kagen, You Go Girl!

It will be hard to corner Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagen, because she is one of the few public officials of ANY party who has literally a perfect and blameless record! In fact she has NO record!

Despite this fact, GOP senators accused her of blocking the Pentagon’s recruiters’ access to Harvard Law School career services offices when she held the position as Dean. Come on fellas, since when has the Pentagon not been able to accomplish any of its missions?

In response to this accusation, Kagen stated that she acted because of the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, which bars openly gay men and women from servicing, was a violation of the university’s anti-discrimination rules. Kagen suggested an alternative for military recruitment through the veterans’ office on campus. She also pointed out that “military recruiting went up that year not down,” when Pentagon’s representatives worked through the veterans office.

It’s comical to hear statements such as Democrat, Sen. Herb Kohl of Wisconsin, “We have less evidence about what sort of judge you will be than on any nominee in recent memory. Your judicial philosophy is almost invisible to us.”

“There will be 59 Democrats [voting for her] and you can count on at least a few Republicans,” says Sen. Orrin Hatch (R) of Utah, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. “Unless she stumbles badly and makes some terrible mistakes, the odds are she will be confirmed.”

Kagen is the first woman to serve as solicitor general and the first women dean of Harvard Law School; she has drawn positive comment from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.



Of 111 justices since 1789:

• 53 was the average age at appointment

• 36 served in the military

• 11 had no children

• 6 never married

• 4 were divorced

• 3 did not have a private law practice

• 39 were not judges before appointment

• 39 were Episcopalian

• *18 attended and 14 graduated from Harvard Law School

• 26 were from judicial families

• 41 had fathers who held public office

• 39 grew up in urban or small-city settings

• 40 grew up on family farms, family plantations, or rural settings

• 31 grew up in small to

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Eulogy for the Gulf Ocean

Not surprisingly, the Federal Judge that overturned Obama’s offshore drilling moratorium owns stock in the offshore oil industry including TransOcean! TransOcean is the owner of the oil well in the gulf that is spewing oil and presently on fire again!

When I first read that Judge Feldman overturned the moratorium, my first thoughts were that he must have investments in TransOcean, and therefore, he didn’t want to lose any more money. Why else would an intelligent and rational man want to start drilling immediately again, as oil spewed into the sea?  Now, a few days later after his overturn, I read that that Judge Feldman owns stock in TransOcean and five other major oil companies that are directly or indirectly involved in the offshore drilling business.

Further reading revealed that 58% of federal trial judges in oil-affected states have a stake in the oil industry. The entire situation is a catch-22. The billion dollar oil companies rule and write their own ticket in these areas, and the entire world for that matter, because they have free reign and full support of federal judges and politicians that have a vested interest in oil.

One of the comments that I recently read stated, “This kind of justice and climate must have led to the fall of the Roman Empire. The difference today is that we face a global cancerous epidemic of greed and we’re out of touch with Mother Nature”!

How much proof do these large corporations and opposing politicians need before they agree that we are killing our planet? The oil slick that is now present on Florida’s shores will continue to travel to other coastal communities, killing hundreds, perhaps thousands of fish, mammal, birds and entire ecosystems. Scientist state that there may be irreversible damage, and if we don’t do something immediately there will be no turning back.

I consider myself to be an optimist, but I’m having a hard-time visualizing a multi-billion dollar industry, halting to save the planet. Many of the environmental organizations such as Greenpeace, The Climate Project, and International Network for Sustainable Energy (INFORSE), feel that this is the right time for us to layout our plan on alternative safe energy. All of the images on television of oil coated beaches and wildlife, should help to forge forward with our case already proven: pollutants are killing our oceans and skies.

It is ludicrous to continue relying on fossil fuel, and turn our backs and let these companies continue to drill like nothing has ever happened. Presently, BP is scouting out Alaska for a deep-well drilling project, that will drill down two miles vertically, and then 8 miles horizontally. Evidently, this area is an oil goldmine. This drilling is supposed to start in September.

I understand that the situation with the oil-spill is complicated in that many of the jobs in the gulf rely on this business for income. This industry is all that these people know. This is there livelihood. However, it is clear that some alternative income and jobs along these areas are needed to help in the transition to a clean energy solution.

Even if our president steps up to the plate, and mandates that we are no longer allowing deep-water drilling, and that we are moving forward with a plan for alternative energy; he would have to have global support, and at this point I find it difficult to visualize this type of a miracle.

Climate Project:

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Music Genius or Divine Intervention

Last night I attended the STING concert at the Hollywood Bowl.  It was by far one of the best music performances that I have had the pleasure and opportunity to witness. There was no opening or closing acts, only STING along with the accompaniment of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra performed.  Beautiful!

His music engulfed me and carried me to a another plane where spirit, emotion, nostalgia, love, romance, and delight live and breath for all of humanity. This is why we go to concerts. It’s a form of meditation and a transcendental experience, where thought and knowledge are not necessary to have all of our senses totally engaged!

There are many musicians that have no formal training, and yet they were driven to teach themselves to play an instrument due to a calling from somewhere deep within to make music. It’s almost as if the unknown piece, song, melody, and chords, contacts the person requesting to be born, and will not stop requesting until it's creation!

During an interview with STING, a reporter asked, “Where do the melodies and metaphor’s come from”? STING replied, “I don’t really know where they come from. A melody is always a gift from somewhere else. You just have to learn to be grateful and pray that you will be blessed again some other time."

Of course you can say this for any creative expression or endeavor. When a painting, music, story, or dance wants to be born, it will totally take over the person until it is in full-bloom. Is it truly genius or is it divine intervention?  In my opinion it’s both!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Bill Maher Live "I'm Turned-Off"

I've been a big fan of the HBO series, "Bill Maher Live" for the past year.  I've gotten behind the majority of his political rhetoric on daily current events because somehow, I felt that the POV (point-of-view) was coming from him, and that he was in some way helping different causes and getting people motivated to do something other than complain!

I have to report that I'm disappointed and turned-off now, because last Thursday I decided to go to the CBS studios to see the rehearsal of the Bill Maher Live show, and last night I watched the live broadcast which of course contained some of the material that he did at the rehearsal. 

As I watched the final broadcast of the season last night, for the first time I saw someone very different from the Bill Maher image that I thought I knew.  I saw a man that was an artist in presenting Liberal political views, outlandish and crude statements, along with his "New Rules," as it is: a mathematical formula produced by Hollywood. 

When Bill repeated some material from the rehearsal monologue in the live broadcast as if it never rolled-off his lips before, I just saw the whole show in a different light.  For sure, I saw an artist, but one that is so mathematically programmed, smooth, and convincing, and it turned-me off!

His big guests last night were Queen Noor and Oliver Stone.  When interviewing each of them individually, what I may have overlooked prior to the rehearsal show, I clearly saw last night.  A man that insulted his guests and really showed little respect.  He constantly interrupted Oliver Stone and in my opinion he was really out-of-line with Queen Noor.

Unfortunately, I don't think that I will see the Bill Maher Live show the way I saw it before.  Now I see a pawn that is used by big business, politicians, and the Hollywood money moguls, used for mental masturbation in a ploy to control the masses by providing hot-button topics that will get the viewers at home heated, allowing them to "get-off" pent-up anger, fear, and emotion. 

The control mechanism that I see is deliberate response rhetoric, and we the public are like Pavlovian subjects, predictable and therefore, controlled.  Perhaps by letting off-steam by yelling and cursing at the TV set, we don't feel it necessary to take action and go out in the world as a group to stand-up to the things that are upsetting us. 

Bill will be off the air until September, so I have some time to ponder about what I'm saying here, and I'll probably tune-in then, to see if perhaps I can wear my rose-colored glasses again!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Lakers Playoff Games 2010!

I love watching the basketball playoff games every year!  Generally speaking, I'm not one who enjoys following or watching sports, however, I make an exception for the playoff games, especially when the Lakers are playing!

This season, the Lakers are playing against the Boston Celtics, and both teams have excellent strategies and plays.  It is very exciting to watch excellence and perfection in the works.  Each year I'm always amazed at the individual and team focus that is occurring each second that they are on the court. 

I'm learning that basketball is kind of like the game of chess.  Each move is predetermined and calculated, however, the thing that makes basketball so exciting is that these strategies are made in less than a second, determining where every player in the game is, distance, guards, basket, play setup, etc.  Genius! 

After each game the losing team uses their loss to put together a better strategy for the following game.  Each game seems to become more intense and focused, and in the case of the Lakers and Celtics they're neck in neck in the point spread!  Truly exciting to watch!

When the playoffs are over, I don't follow any team, including my wonderful Lakers.  Yes, I know, I'm a playoff adrenalin junkie, skimming only the cream from basketball, and leaving when they're not in the limelight.