What’s Real?

We humans draw an arbitrary line between the literal and the figurative.

Reality

Figuratively living in two worlds is something most people can wrap their minds around. Literally living in two worlds is quite another matter. While the former seems plausible, the latter does not. It’s appears to be a paradoxical statement.

Yet life is paradox personified.

This week Rabbi Daniel Lapin, author, public speaker and head of the American Alliance of Jews and Christians, posited that we no longer live in “one nation, under God, indivisible…” He observed that we are, in fact, a nation divided. The dividing line, Rabbi Lapin continued, is between those who are grounded in the Constitution with certainty in the undeniable part which Judeo-Christian values played in the founding of this nation, and those whose faith is solely in statism with the resulting belief that the Constitution is a relic from a bygone era that needs to be updated or ignored altogether.  While Rabbi Lapin presented his view as a literal reality, one could argue that it can also be seen as a figurative attempt to identify the cause and effect of the conflicts and challenges we as a nation are currently experiencing. So is Rabbi Lapin’s division figurative or literal?

I have personally experienced this dilemma most of my life. As a trained lawyer, I experience, rationally and logically, a fact-based world. However, as a natural Intuitive, I experience another reality that is just as “real” and just as manifest in my life. Until recently, I kept them separate because of both my inability to coalesce the two combined with society’s propensity to characterize one as fact and the other as fiction.

Those days are over.

The nation is divided and we are living in two worlds. Whether you use the words “literal” or “figurative” matters not. What matters is that you can choose to live in whichever “world” you want and your choice will determine your reality. How does this work? Let’s take the example of a divided nation.

If you think the Constitution is the founding and indispensable basis for the United States, and that its principles are inviolate, then you will draw to you and feel a kinship with like-minded people. You and these people combined create a world (a/k/a/ a reality) that is a manifestation of what you think. You may be small or large in number; but, the world you create will none-the-less be one in which this belief prevails and becomes the factual basis for your external reality.

If, however, you believe that statism is the answer, and the larger the government the better the result, those who proceed with this thinking will follow the same process as those who do not but with an opposite end result. Like-minded people will be drawn together to create a reality based upon what has been put into that particular belief system.

Until the recent past, the commonly marketed meme was that wherever the greater numbers coalesced is where, and what, the reality was based upon. If more people believed in statism than the Constitution and God, then the nation’s governance would be the product of statist principles.  It was a forgone conclusion.

The problem with this conclusion is that a close examination of history proves it false.  Jesus, Gandhi, Joan of Arc, Martin Luther King…these were individuals with certainty of mind and passion of heart who, at first aligned with a few others, created realities that defied the commonly held meme of their time.

It’s not about the numbers. It’s about certainty and passion. Look at the successes of ISIS, Trump or Bernie Sanders. Without making a judgment here on the any of those, they are present day examples of the power of creation founded and grounded in certainty and passion.

So it turns out, literal and figurative are relative terms. Perhaps it is even more accurate to say they are irrelevant terms.

What is relevant is what type of world, what reality, do you choose to live in? How focused are you on that which you seek to create? How emotionally engaged are you to that creation? Stop worrying about whom else agrees or sees it your way. Care not about the numbers. Care less about how “realistic” your view is to others or the odds of it becoming a reality.

The odds against Creation were astronomical (no pun intended). But a force emerged with singularity of focus and no concept of anything other than its intention.

Now it’s your turn.

 

Carole

Is There Such As Thing As Universal Law?

Twenty two suicides a day.

universal law

These are the amount of U.S. military personnel we are losing to suicide each day. “6,500 former military personnel killed themselves in 2012. More veterans succumbed to suicide than were killed in Iraq. In 2012, 177 active-duty soldiers committed suicide, conversely 176 soldiers were killed in combat. In other words, more soldiers committed suicide compared to being killed in action.”

I am a Marine who served in combat.  Naturally, I feel an affinity with my brethren. It pains me that both Republican and Democrat  politicians are quick to send our men into action but quicker to forget about them once they return.  The Veterans Administration has been a disaster for decades.  Shockingly little is done to care for returning Veterans.  When we finally forced a turn over that at the highest post in the V.A., Administrator, not a single person was fired. Nor was a single person fired following the disclosure that there existed at several VA hospitals, dual sets of treatment lists – one fraudulent – showing timely treatment at various V.A. hospitals across the country when in fact many vets had died from grossly  delayed or non-existent treatment in violation of the V.A.’s own guidelines.

There are a few organizations out there trying to ill the void left by the V.A. One of them is The Wounded Warrior Project . A few years ago, I volunteered and worked one of their charity events. The experience left me with such overwhelming sadness that I vowed to myself never to return.  Seeing those young men, many of them severely and permanently disfigured, left me with such sorrow that I knew I could not help them. The last thing they needed was my pity. The Wounded Warriors Project does great work for our Veterans; but, after talking to some of their health professionals, even they acknowledged there Is a limit to what they can do in terms of recovery and reintroduction back into a “normal life.” Some of these men have seen such horrors and suffered such tragedies that these healthcare professionals cannot fix what has been broken inside of them. My service, combined with extensive reading on the subject,  has made me well aware of the scars left by war that participants live with for the remainder of their lives.

Any sane person instinctively knows that the trauma of war mars the lives of all involved. Such an awareness is akin to a Universal Law. But I would argue there are other universal laws that exist as well. Look at nature and how the change in seasons affects the planting, availability and consuming of food. Failing to align with or violating the cycles of life can cause us real damage in ways seen and unseen.

Take something as basic as sleep. Our body naturally produces Melatonin, a hormone that  regulates the sleep and wake cycle. For about a year, I used to work the “graveyard” shift for my bank. I was exhausted that whole year! I simply couldn’t get to sleep during daytime hours. When there is natural light outside, our bodies do not produce Melatonin. Consequently, despite the fact that I was exhausted, I could not sleep during daylight hours.

So, even when consciously making a decision to sleep…we must fall into harmony with Universal Law.

Now we are living through a time when we are being told that there no absolutes. Everything is pliable and malleable. Even in the case of sexual identity, we are told no Universal truth exists. The only truism is the one we “identify with.” So, if a man thinks he is a woman and wants to identify as such, so be it. That is “his” truth.

How is it then that on matters such as war, nature, and sleep we can acknowledge and see Universal Laws in action yet in the realm of sexual identity, we can’t?

The Progressive Left argues, successfully I might add, that its really up to us how we choose to subjectively proceed when it comes to a male/female self-identification. But on a biological level, the blueprint of our identity is defined scientifically, and objectively, by our chromosomes.  Males are comprised of the XX chromosome and females of the XY chromosome. So, on a genetic level, the biology of who we are is defined and fixed in the blueprint of our design. Think of it this way. I could take a 30-year old, beaten-down Kia automobile and replace the exterior with a brand new Mercedes without doing anything to the engine.  So, while the outside might appear to be a brand new Mercedes, the “heart” of the car, the thing that keeps it alive and moving, is still a Kia. Such is the case with gender identity. You can’t change the essential and biologically composition that defines you. Well you can make medical alternations and even transition the “exterior” but the chromosomal blueprint remains what it was at creation.

The latest push to redefine our sexuality has been going on since the 1960’s when the sexual liberation movement was born. Establishing sexual identity as subjectively defined is just the latest ideation of this movement. The Left’s goal has always been about removing the constraints and morality from sex. It argues that once those restraints are removed people and society at large will benefit.  We will all be more  free of the stresses and strains that accompany sexual “repression” and dogmatic thinking. We will be happier. Unfortunately, people who have the most amount if sex, such as those in the pornography industry, are known to have higher rates of suicide and drug problems than the public at large. The numbers are so high that YouTube has a vast amount of videos by porn stars who have killed themselves either by suicide or drug overdose. Having sex with lots of people is not good for mind, body or soul. When you treat sex as a solely physical act, separated from an emotional and moral component, there are repercussions.

From sex to sexual identity the Left, now with the imprimatur of the Federal government thanks to the Obama Administration,  is trying to push the notion that these are all decisions made on an individual basis…untethered from any Universal truth.

This is the problem of the Progressive Left – it is continually trying to shape and reshape inherent, natural and Universal laws that are the foundation of a balanced and thriving ecosystem of which we humans, male and female, are an integral part.

 

Steve

sleeclark@gmail.com

 

 The Real End Game of Gender Identity Politics

It’s not about gender. It’s about person property rights.

Gender Identity

What’s all the hullabaloo about gender identity? When 3% of the population has a legitimate gender identity issue, why is the Federal Government involved in regulating the other 97% through Presidential edicts such as the one President Obama just enacted? The answer lies not in the short run but in the end game.

Think about it. Our sex is determined biologically at the time of conception, or creation, by the presence of certain chromosomal configurations. You’re either male or female. That “selection” is made by nature or God, depending upon your belief system.  Yet, what the most recent political encroachment does is take away that biological selection, that natural selection if you will, by overriding it and saying you can now choose again, based upon your particular preference at any given moment and for any given reason. What’s more, everyone else has to recognize and accommodate your latest selection.

If someone, or some entity such as government, can take away by edict something as fundamental as your biological composition, imagine how much easier it will be for them to next take away your private property.

Personal property rights and freedom of religion were the two motivations for the founding of this country. This was going to be a place where individuals could create prosperity through their own efforts and retain the benefits of their creation and the profit of their efforts. The Declaration of Independence sets forth this principle at its outset with the words, “We hold these truths to be self-evident; that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these rights are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” Pursuit of happiness was the ability to pursue what you wanted to do and to retain the efforts of your labor. They were throwing off the yoke of feudalism whereby your labor benefited not you but rather your Lord or King.

Progressivism, the American form of Socialism (aptly described as “10 minutes before Communism”), has as its end game the seizure of personal property and its ownership and regulation by a select few, cleverly mis-characterized as “The State.” But the taking of personal property rights from citizens whose history is antithetical to that concept is a slow and incremental process. Progressives know this, and beginning in the later 19th century, with President Woodrow Wilson, they began the long, slow march to do just that.

We are now at a revelatory moment in that process.

If you can be convinced, or intimidated by way of political correctness, to relinquish a biological sexual reality for the benefit of the greater good, by allowing the State to tell you that you must relinquish your privacy for the greater good, then Progressives are well on the way down the road of forcing you to give up your rights to private property for the greater good, as well.

The process by which government is already doing this is called eminent domain. This is a government taking of private property for public use. Such taking is supposed to be for a significant purpose with just compensation. However, in reality it turns out, it can be the taking of an elderly woman’s home to install a parking lot for a casino.

This is the real danger of a Trump Presidency. Donald Trump may call himself a Conservative but, like the “wolf in sheep’s clothing” that is the logo of the Socialist Fabian Society, Trump is a Progressive in Conservative clothing. No Conservative favors any form of eminent domain. It runs antithetical to the Constitution and our very existence as Americans. Make no mistake, I’m not advocating for the alternative. Hillary Clinton is a self-described “early 20th century Progressive.” She is no better or worse than Trump.

This isn’t about either candidate. This is about the cancer of Progressives in both parties and the unmasking of gender identity politics. It’s just the next giant step down the road to Communism by way of Socialism where the end result is the end of private property rights.

So no thanks anyway, Target. Or whoever else thinks that you can tell me what is biologically male and what is biologically female. And no thanks, Trump, or any other Progressive, who comes hunting for my God-given natural rights by way of gender identity politics.

I’m a woman as determined by my DNA. I may not have built that but I sure as heck built my business and what flows from what I build is my property by Divine right.

Carole

Whose Responsible for the Opioid Epidemic?

My experiences with drug reactions and drug addiction began in my mid-20’s.

Addiction

Growing up, I was a closeted emotional wreck. I say this because I had developed a great act which, to others, masked the fact that inside my own skin I was depressed, confused and felt very much as if I didn’t belong anywhere despite popularity at school, good grades and an intact family.  Married at 23 and divorced at 24, I was no longer able to hide the depression.  A physician put me on the anti-depressant Triavil.  Not long after, I tried to commit suicide and came dangerously close to succeeding.

Fast forward to my mid-30s when I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia. At the time, it was not the commonly diagnosed disease it is today. In fact, I saw 21 medical specialists before the Arthritis-Lupus Clinic at Hahnemann Hospital in Philadelphia got it right. It was, and I believe still is, considered to be a partially sleep-disorder related illness. At that time, the treatment was believed to be Amitriptyline (also known as Triavil). While at a dosage of 90mg or more the drug acts as an anti-depressant, at a considerably lower dose it does not; however, it does, at the low dose, induce crucial non-REM sleep, the restful transition sleep that many with Fibromyalgia seem to lack.

My tolerance for the Amitriptyline increased over time until I was approaching that 90mg ceiling. So, my treating physician prescribed Valium to accompany it. I quickly built up a tolerance to it and that dose was increased as well.

In a matter of no time I was addicted to it.

Without belaboring all the details, I’ll just say that when I realized I was addicted, I phoned a local hospital that had a drug detox unit and spoke with the head floor nurse. She told me I had two choices.  I could admit myself to the unit immediately or go cold turkey at home; but, if I chose the latter I had to have someone with me around the clock for seven days. She said either way, withdrawal was going to be hell.

And so it was.

Family and friends took turns staying with me for the next week. I was alternately hyper, depressed, suicidal and lacked any appetite. In fact, I had to force feed tiny amounts of food and water. It’s an experience never to be repeated or forgotten.

Recently, Senator Rob Portman (R-Ohio) has come forward with legislation to combat the national epidemic of addiction to prescription painkillers and heroin, known as opioids. Portman’s bill, known as the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA), passed in the Senate by a vote of 94 to 1 in March and was followed this past week with several related bills to also address the epidemic.

But, as with so much of what ails us as a nation, legislation isn’t going to fix the problem because 1) the pharmaceutical companies have too much skin in the game and to many lobbyists; 2) Obamacare has so destroyed the ability of doctors to take the time needed to effectively diagnose and treat illness and, 3) we have become a culture of the quick fix, instant gratification and impatience with all things that require time and effort.

I may have tried to commit suicide without the anti-depressants prescribed for me at age 23 but I’ll never know that for certain. What I do know is that there exists an undisputed body of medical research concluding that, in certain people, anti-depressants (and particularly following cessation of the medication) increase suicidal ideation.

As for the subsequent addiction to Valium in my 30’s as a result of treatment for Fibromyalgia, it cured me forever of a willingness to take any pain medication for almost any reason. I can say that with certainty because I have had surgery since and refused all pain meds post-op to the horror of my physician. Yes, I suffered through rather than risk addiction to the too easily prescribed Tordol, Hydrocodone, Percocet, Tramadol. I am neither brave nor stupid. I simply never want to go through hell again. So, I chose two days of excruciating, post-op pain to even the possibility that a pain killer might be addicting.

What I learned from both of these experiences has served me well ever since.

First, following the attempted suicide, I embarked upon a life of inner reflection and personal responsibility. I decided nothing was worth living a lie and if I lived the life I wanted, rather than the life I internalized was expected of me, at least I could like myself for my authenticity.

Second, I threw off the diagnosis of Fibromyalgia. Well, not initially. I still said I had it but I treated it as a “lifestyle” illness. If I ate healthfully, exercised the correct amount, noticed what types of emotional, mental and physical stress in my life precipitated an “attack,” I could use my lifestyle to contain, or even eliminate the illness. For years now, I no longer think or speak of “having Fibromyalgia” nor have I had any symptoms.

While we may not be able do anything about the power of the pharmaceutical companies and their power over the FDA, or change the catastrophic effects of Obamacare on the quality of healthcare, what each of us can do is take responsibility for whether we are living a life of authenticity or deceit of self; whether or not we choose the quick fix over less expedient but safer alternatives and, perhaps most importantly, whether we are willing to acknowledge that much of what ails us is related to the pace at which we live and the choices that we make in trying fit into a culture that, in its present state, may have very little to contribute to our physical, emotional or mental well being.

 

Carole

What I Could Have Told Gloria Vanderbilt

I’ll never have to do what Anderson Cooper has done.

SecretsCooper has just written what is sure to be a best-selling memoir, of sorts, titled “The Rainbow Comes and Goes.” It is a book based upon emails he recently exchanged with his 92 year old mother, heiress Gloria Vanderbilt, and is a highly personal look into the truths, both shared and concealed, between parent and child.

I have not read the book, but watched Cooper interviewed at length on its evolution.  He said that at age 11, having lost his father to alcoholism, and later his brother to suicide, he was determined not to have things left unsaid between his aging mother and himself. And so began the email exchanges that became the book.

I profoundly identify with Cooper’s motivation. I came from a loving family that none-the-less lived in both denial and secrecy.  It is the primary reason that I raised my daughter, against my ex-husband’s opposition, by being as appropriately open and honest as possible with her at every stage of her emotional development. Not only don’t I believe in secrets, I believe that truth and full disclosure empower an individual and are the necessary basis for intimacy in relationships. To deny someone the facts, and the truth of them, is to impair their ability to successfully traverse their own life. Too many  who have been so impaired never make it and those who do often do so at their peril.

Admittedly, there is danger and vulnerability in “laying it all out on the table.” We are all complicit in our own mistakes and errors of judgment. For me, or anyone for that matter, to be honest and take responsibility for the choices or behaviors we’ve participated in, and with hindsight may regret, takes courage. It’s not easy to accept our own humanness and shortcomings; but, my choice was to give my daughter a way to accept her own…by owning up to mine.

There is a lesson here for the greater good as well.

Governments which believe that the people they govern are either too stupid or too inept to control their own lives are, inevitably, governments that end in tyranny. It is why our Founders left England and a tyrannical King to pledge their “lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor” to establish self-governance and the least amount of centralized power possible.

We have come a long way since that intention and, for the past 100 years, have moved further and further away from its premise. The Federal Register began in 1938. It catalogues regulations by the Federal government which directly impact and intrude upon our daily lives.  As of 2013, the Register was comprised of 1.43 million pages!

The current overreach by the Federal government is undeniable. But so is its belief that we are stupid.  One of the architects of Obamacare, MIT Professor Jonathan Gruber, publicly admitted that the Administration believed we were “too stupid to understand” the bill. More recently, former Obama Administration National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes publicly admitted that the Administration willingly and knowingly lied about the facts surrounding the Iran deal in order to pass it.

There is very little difference between the damage done by a parent or parents who think the truth will be too much for their child and a government that believes the same about its citizens. The truth is always the road to freedom and empowerment. It may be a rocky road and a difficult one to traverse but it will be its own reward. The alternative is to blindly wander in circles making stilted choices based upon misinformation. Our nation is starving for truth and so it wanders blindly in circles seeking any indiscriminate port in the raging storm.

I am happy for Anderson Cooper and his mother, Gloria Vanderbilt. They have met in honesty and both been set free as a result. I am also happy to know that when my time comes, there will be nothing left unsaid between my daughter and me. At every opportunity, I will have respected her enough to have given her the two most effective means of living life we humans possess: Love and Truth.

I only hope our country finds its equivalent path.

Carole

 

The Biosphere and Minimum Wage

In the mid 1990’s scientists tried to create a self-sustaining, sealed environment that would produce all necessary food, oxygen and nutrients to sustain life.

Biosphere_2

The project was called Biosphere and massive amounts of time, energy and financial resources went into the project in an effort to succeed. The Biosphere was set up to house a fully enclosed and balanced system of animals, plants, water, minerals, chemicals and other life-sustaining items.

While bold in scope, the project ended in failure.  Mainly because keeping the system in balance could not be achieved. There was always something interfering with the ecological balance. Ants and cockroaches ran wild because there were not enough predators to eat them. Some vines grew wild thereby killing off other plants. There was too much nitrogen in the air, not enough oxygen, and the water became polluted.

The scientists worked tirelessly to get the ecology back into alignment; but, in the end, they realized the enclosed Biosphere could never support life..human or otherwise. Two of the scientist, Cohen and Tilman, concluded “No one yet knows how to engineer systems that provide humans with the life supporting systems that natural ecosystems produce.”

The U.S economy is like an ecological system wherein various commercial entities (organisms) around the globe compete and work to produce goods and services (plants, water systems and fauna) to bring to the marketplace (a balanced biosphere). Price changes are signals that are transmitted throughout the system. Entities react to those signals, adapting and adjusting to maintain or re-establish economic balance and then evolve.

Price of gas too high? Car companies build smaller cars to compensate. Price of sugar too high? Consumers will use more honey in their diet as a sweetener. These signals are continually sent out within the global system whereby humans react and adjust their behavior accordingly. Both humans and markets are way too complex to understand and regulate with certainty.

Yet, we have politicians trying to do it none-the-less.

For example, in California, if I have a job that needs to get done and would like to pay someone $6.00 an hour to do that job…I can’t. The law does not allow me to pay an amount below the minimum wage. Even if I find somebody who chooses to work at that rate, and who  desperately needs the money, the job must go undone.  Despite the fact that both parties are willing to meet at this price, the government will not allow the transaction to occur.

If, then  I am forced by law to pay a higher wage for that same job to be done, I will have to pass the additional cost on to the consumer who will ultimately buy my finished product. However, consumers of my finished product have a ceiling of how much they will pay. If my price exceeds that ceiling, my product goes unsold. The inevitable end result of that is my company goes out of business.

Overall, small jobs get left undone and businesses close. People move away from the geographic region in search of jobs and better quality of life after properties values drop. Just like the ecosystem where the wild vines grew and killed all the helpful plants, regulations, laws and taxes have the same net effect…strangling and cutting off otherwise healthy business environments. And “minimum wage” jobs? They are the first to go when employers are forced to pay a wage that is  harmful to their business. All that discussion about a minimum wage not being a “living wage” is a canard. Only 2.5% of all minimum wage earners are over age 21.  It isn’t meant to be a living wage. Its meant to be a starter wage for teens and unskilled workers to enter the workforce and move on to an education or skilled job.

In the Biosphere experiment, the scientist came to the conclusion that it was virtually impossible to regulate an ecosystem. It was too complex. But our politicians, in their hubris and ignorance, think they can control the economy by way of laws and regulations. They tend to look at markets as inputs and outputs rather than complex adaptive systems which, when left alone, will find their own balance.

This artificial intrusion by government has lead to disastrous consequences:

  • In 1998, as a result if the Asian Crisis and failure of Long Term Capital Management, the Federal Reserve slashed rates and saw a gush of money flow into the technology sector only to see it crash and burn in 2000.
  • In 2001, after the Twin Tower bombings and subsequent military actions decimated the economy, the Federal Reserve slashed rates yet again. This money promptly moved into Real Estate causing the financial meltdown of 2008.
  • In 2008, the banking sector crashed and the U.S. government slashed rates again then went on  a massive spending spree to jump-start the economy. We are still waiting to see the full consequences of those decisions; but, I predict the next crisis will be one of the largest ever recorded in history. Perhaps the bursting of the student loan or auto loan bubbles.

The intrusions have left us all worse off than we started.

Take a look at healthcare. Unhappy with the state of  healthcare, President Obama embarked on a plan to nationalize all health care because he knew better then everybody else what was needed.

President Obama is a lawyer by training and a community activist by job experience.  Yet with no formal qualifications whatsoever in the medical space, he decided to impose a healthcare plan that affects 300 million people. Once he saw the infeasability and likely real-time effects of his plan, he and his minions approached media outlets with knowingly false and misleading statements about the plan to deceive the American populace into supporting it.

Where is healthcare as a result? Its where the Biosphere is. It is a failed system that is, itself, on financial life-support!

Democrat leaders (especially Progressive Democrat leaders) believe they know what is best for everyone in every situation and stop at nothing to ram these untruths down our throats. Democrat ideologues and sycophants could care less whether they are lied to as long as “their party wins.” There is no search for meaning. There is no search for truth. The game is all about power, even if the implementation of that power does more harm than good. The economy, like an ecology, is a complex adaptive system wired to self-regulate if only specific political humans, cloaked in the garb of Democrats, stay out of the way.

Did you know that the Progressive Democrat Party in the U.S. was born from the Fabian Socialist Party in Europe who’s mascot and symbol was…wait for it…a wolf in sheep’s clothing. You can’t make this stuff up!

fabianHumanity is a dynamic system not a machine to be manipulated by constraints and levers. We are so complex and unpredictable and that it is virtually impossible to map our behavior; so, let us be free.

Personally,  I favor liberty, opportunity and free markets. We need to start looking for talented people who do the same and are willing to take us where we want to go…not where they think we belong.

Steve & Carole

sleeclark@gmail.com

Wandering in the Saudi Desert

We met in the desert of Saudi Arabia.

desert

I had not seen him in two years and, too be perfectly blunt, I thought I would never see him again.

He had been in my class in the Marine Corps called T.B.S (The Basic School), the school all Marine Officers must attend to learn everything you need to know about being a Marine Corps Officer.

Although the course only lasts 6 months, it feels like an eternity. The school’s curriculum is the equivalent in intensity of getting a four year bachelors degree. The days are long, the nights are longer and many days are spent in the field.

Lt. Wahleed and Lt. Khalil (fictitious names) were Officers in the Saudi military and were here as exchange soldiers/students in my platoon. In addition, they were in in my squad which had only 11 members. So in theory, we were supposed to spend every moment together during training, working together and helping each other pass the course. That intention never materialized because both of them did as little as possible.

Lt. Wahleed learned very quickly that he was only going to be evaluated with minimal supervision and, so, he did practically nothing for six months. He knew he was too important of a person in developing a relationship between our countries such that he would never be held accountable. Lazy to begin with, each day he did the least amount of work possible.

Our rooms were on the same floor and he was given a suite to share with his Saudi colleague. The rest of us slept four to a room and always had to keep it clean. The Saudi suite was always dirty and set up like a makeshift tent. In the middle of the room sat a huge Arabian rug where the two Officers would lounge on the floor all day drinking tea and smoking cigarettes.

Every day we had a morning formation and every day these two Officers were nowhere to be found. We had to scramble around to find them and every day they seemed to find a new evasive hiding place. They would disappear for hours on end, and generally made our lives very difficult in relation to our Commanders. My squad and I were continually harangued for not giving “the proper guidance” to our Saudi guests.

During field events, it wasn’t unusual for the Saudi Officers to leave the field at night to go rest in their rooms, taking their rifles with them. On one particular occasion, the whole company got locked down because Lt. Wahleed had forgotten where he left his rifle (we found it in his car).  Since I was in charge of him that day, I had a particularly nasty “ass chewing” from my Platoon Commander. Luckily, for everybody involved, the situation was resolved, however; losing any weapon in the Marine Corps usually results in a court martial and/or prison time. Not so for the Saudi soldiers.

After this incident, Lt. Wahleed was a hated man. All of the Marine Officers treated he and his cohort with outright disgust and disdain. I just made it a point to stay as far away from these two guys lest I get in trouble again. I was not mean to them. I simply treated them with indifference. The Battalion Commander, sensing the massive problem on his hands, had to plead with our company to treat these two Saudi Officers with something resembling respect and honor.  They were “our allies” with whom we might have to work if a Middle East war ever broke out.”  I had to suspend all belief when the C.O said that because I knew I would never see these clowns again once the course was over.

Well, as its said, “truth is stranger than fiction.”

A few months after I graduated The Basic School, Iraq invaded Kuwait and the Saudi’s pressed the U.S government to intervene. Sure enough, within a few months I was on a flight to Saudi Arabia with my unit to prepare for the coming battle to liberate Kuwait.

Saudi Arabia, at least the part I saw, is just sand…an “ocean” full of sand. No landmarks, hills or water; just sand. I spent months training and living there. One day, I was summoned by my Company Commander to go to a meeting with the Saudi’s with whom we would be working.

We boarded the Humvee and traveled for hours to get to our destination. Driving across the desert with a map and a compass, we navigated to a predetermined point on a map. That we found the place at all was nothing short of a miracle. Yet. in the middle of the desert, there at our meeting place was a huge tent and nothing else as far as the eye could see.

Lt. Wahleed was in charge of the meeting!  There in the tent, just as I remembered him back in The Basic School, he was sitting on a huge Arabian rug drinking tea and smoking cigarettes! Now, however, her was surrounded by other Saudi officers. Upon seeing me, he reacted as if I were his long lost brother! Given that I had treated him, back then, with only a modicum of decency, I thought his greeting odd at best. But I came to believe that in his mind, because I had treated him humanely, he was going out his way to help me and my unit.

Wahleed gave us everything we asked for and more. It meant a lot to all involved because, at that time, we had no idea what the Iraqi’s had planned or how long before the conflict would end.  So, any help from the Saudi’s was welcome and well received. In the end, I was even given high praise by my Battalion Commander for my efforts.

Life is strange.

We plan, we prepare and we give our best for a favorable outcome and still fate turns on us. Many times it is the human connection, and the helping hand of others, that makes all the difference in the world.

Wahleed sure brought that lesson home.

Steve

sleeclark@gmail.com

 

 

 

Self Selection by Algorithm

Algorithms rule the web but also the information you see.

Feedback

Every click you make, every article you read is monitored, tracked and analyzed.  As you select your preferences, the media companies and their algorithms take note. Given that the web’s media values are all based on page views and click-through rates, it’s vital that they keep you coming back to their sites.

You means all of us.

In order to keep you coming back and engaged in the site, media companies send you articles and posts that the algorithms indicate you like. Websites test and re-test headlines while writing and re-writing articles to maximize user engagement. Their business is not news. Its engagement on the site. Thinking this through, its easy to see the problem. If we only select articles and viewpoints that we like, it reinforces the world view that we already have.

I read a lot. I know that I don’t know much. It’s the reader’s dilemma; the more I read, the more I realize how little I know. Because of this, I always try and read books outside my area of expertise. But online,  my selections are tracked and the findings determine what is made available to me going forward. The articles I might have an interest in, or that challenge my beliefs, are not shown to be because the algorithms don’t think I will click on them.

Because of this, peoples’ world views get narrowed and reinforced by what they see. These hardened world views make it more difficult for people see the other side of the story. Look at how divided our country has become on so many issues. There seems to be no middle ground anywhere. Just mention the name “Trump,” and where you stand on his candidacy, and its enough to terminate a friendship.

Look at the following issues and you will see how polarizing some them have become:

  • Global Warming
  • Health Care
  • Abortion
  • Role of Government

If you are a climate change skeptic (i.e a “climate denier”) there are calls to treat you the same way holocaust deniers are treated…with contempt and rebuke! For most, the debate is over and the issue is where you stand on the topic.

When the Center for Medical Progress posed as buyers of aborted fetuses and documented their conversations with  Planned Parenthood, Federal Prosecutors rushed to prosecute the people who had made the videotapes not the people actually committing the crimes. The erroneous position seems to be that abortion is a right and, therefore, there is no way that people engaged in the procedure could be guilty of any crime.

At the heart of these issues is an inability to see the other person’s point of view. In days past, these issues were discussed and debated.  Even as recently as the 1960’s, one of the Left’s mantras on free speech was “I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.”

The death that followed was that of the mantra and what it represented: free speech…which actually IS a right.

With the advance of political correctness, there are many things one is no longer allowed to say.  Add to that media stories that are scrubbed and served up to your liking, people can become self righteous and closed-minded regarding their beliefs.

It gets worse. Facebook, in many ways a media company, has been known to edit out Conservative view points so that their customers can’t even get the full depth and breadth of a news story

In my own professional life, doing consulting on Search Engine Optimization strategies, I have had many clients tell me that they don’t see the value in S.E.O. because their site always appears at the top of Google. For example I had a client who would type in “divorce lawyer” every day on his browser and was always happy to see that his website was at the top of the list. He would click on his web site and, from where he stood, he thought all web site searches resulted as did his. I had to explain to him that because he types in that term every day, and clicks on his site every day, the search engines are displaying the results of what they think he wants to see. In essence, his feedback loop was continually getting reinforced even though his site wasn’t even ranking at any significant level.

For many, as with my former client, its and eye-opening experience to see how much information is actually deliberately  pre-selected for us to view. In essence, our choices are being made for us which continued to reinforce our reality.These “results” become the reality for that each user; but.. they have no veracity in the real world.

This self-selection process is only increasing and accelerating. I feel it will lead people to even narrower viewpoints that already exist. In this regard, as in others, technology is isolating us while limiting our scope of knowledge and impeding the enrichment our lives.

The self selection process is an ailment from which we all suffer and for which we are all susceptible. Maybe a healthy dose of skepticism toward everything we see and read, plus a willingness to engage in ideas foreign to us, would go along way to making us less isolated and a less antagonistic society.

I speak Spanish fluently. As a result, I often process information in Spanish, which has words for which English has no easy or singular translation. Therefore, the language differential causes me to stretch my own mind to put the disparate words on equal footing. This process is healthy for my cognitive mind but also enriches me as an individual.

If someone or something did that thinking for me, and pre-selected what I thought the translations should be… oh right!!…that’s the definition of Artificial Intelligence… the mission Google and others in social media are racing to perfect.

Welcome to the latest virtual reality show…”America Got Algorithm.”

Steve

sleeclark@gmail.com

 

A Nation in Mourning

Loss and letting go are two of the most difficult experiences we as humans ever have to face.

Grief

Every religion has its way of dealing with death. In my religion, Judaism, burial must be within 24 hours of death followed by a seven-day mourning period called “shiva” during which time all routine life comes to a halt and the focus is upon grieving, honoring the life of the deceased while emotionally and physically supporting the immediate person or persons who have sustained the loss.

But death can come to ideas and systems as well as people. When it does, the experience of loss under those circumstances can be just as real and just as traumatizing. In fact, there are losses that transcend the immediate parameters of their local occurrence and spread outward to impact our collective consciousness. Examples in my lifetime were the assassinations of President John F. Kennedy and John Lennon as well as the tragic death of Princess Diana. Those losses went beyond the deaths of the individuals to profoundly impact out psyches and our culture nationally and, in the case of Diana, globally. Most recently, the sudden death of Prince seems to have had such an impact upon a certain generational segment of the population. Each of these sparked a kind of collective mourning for the loss of what the life represented on a grander and more profound level.

Since Tuesday, I have been in mourning for my country. I do not believe I have been alone although I’m not certain how many people have actually identified what they are feeling as the grief that comes from loss. I’m not speaking of the voting losses of Senator Ted Cruz in Indiana and his subsequent suspension of his Presidential bid, but rather that grander and more profound loss that his withdrawal represents.

Elizabeth Kubler-Ross was a Swiss-American scientist and the groundbreaking researcher in the field of death and dying.  In her seminal work, On Death and Dying, she identified the five stages of grief resulting from loss. They are: 1) denial and isolation; 2) anger; 3) bargaining; 4) depression; 5) acceptance. I believe these stages are what the citizens of this nation have been passing through, each of us now in one of those five stages, relative to what the country once was and what it has become.

For the past 100 years Socialism, disguised as Progressivism, has been encroaching upon and eating away at our government, our industry and our way of life. As per Kubler-Ross’s Stage 1, we denied this truth and tried to isolate ourselves from it as well as the warning bells that some such as President Dwight Eisenhower, economist Frederick Hayek and author Ayn Rand were ringing. Over the past decade, as the dire effects of Progressivism began to overtake our everyday lives and make everyday existence an uphill battle we became angry. Stage 2.  Most recently, in Stage 3, many are trying to bargain their way around the inevitable loss. This is the Donald Trump phenomenon. It’s the “Let’s Make A Deal” illusion that we can avoid the inevitable by avoiding the reality… hiding behind the illusion of re-negotiating the loss or even negotiating a better deal that will undo the loss.

Many of us, since Tuesday, have been in Stage 4. I was there until this morning and, as I write, still feel the vestiges of it. I was depressed and sitting “shiva”… grieving for the loss of the principles and values that made my nation the greatest experiment in human freedom and creativity to ever grace this planet. I know I’ve not been alone because others have told me of their depression as well and many have posted similar feelings on Facebook and other social media.

But Kubler-Ross gives us the inevitable next step in the healing process if we intend to move on. Stage 5. Acceptance.  It’s not acceptance of the depression, its acceptance of the fact that life goes on and only those willing to go through the stages with open eyes and courage come through the loss with the renewed spirit necessary to return to a full and meaningful life.

Judaism also teaches me that the way you honor a loved one, or anyone who has died, is to take the best of their character and live it yourself. That’s how you keep them alive and honor their soul. I suggest we do the same for the Republic.

Let those of us who have moved beyond denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance, take the best of what this nation was before the powers of Progressivism began to crucify it and resurrect that vision of a nation devoid of  the heavy handed thuggery of a corrupt centralized government. Let us remember, praise and re-create a nation that stands for each and every individual’s God given right to pursue life, liberty and happiness as they so choose.

Carole

What To Do Post Cruz?

I don’t believe in giving up.

Not only was I raised to exercise perseverance, its my nature. I was born in July and if you know anything about astrology, we “Cancerian Moon Children” whose symbol is The Crab, grab on to things with our claws… never contemplating letting go. It’s both a blessing and a curse.

crab 2

I don’t know what people expected back in 2008 when they (not I) voted for Hope and Change. I’m not sure they did either. Yes, the country wanted change; but few people stopped to ask themselves, “Change to what?” The exception to that unconscious non-awareness was Barack Obama. He defined change then and since as “transformation” and, in the absence of our own, we got his.

The thing about transformation is that, generally speaking, it’s a change from something familiar and recognizable to something unfamiliar and virtually unrecognizable. So when he said we were “five days away from fundamentally transforming the United States of America” his intention was that he was five days away from any longer operating as a nation been built upon the vision of the Founding Fathers, the intention of individual liberty and the parameters of the Constitution but, instead, operating as a shamelessly flaunted oligarchy within the parameters of the failed paradigm of Socialism. Well, the transformation is complete and the two seemingly remaining choices are both cut from that same cloth.

So what is this crab still holding on to?

It’s my vision of an end game where the deliberate Progressive concentration of power that our Republic has been  transformed into turns upon itself like a bad immune system until there’s nothing left but the carnage of what it was intended to be, so battered and maimed that it wastes away, devoid of sufficient energy to reconstitute itself. In the meantime, those of us who know a dinosaur when we see it, proceed as if that self-immolating process is the side show, not the main event.

The main event is having certainty that light always banishes darkness, that doubt and worry exist only in the absence of faith and trust, that fear is a tool used to enslave and that authenticity comes not from being a follower of crowds but from listening to the voice within.

You have lots more choices than the lesser of two evils. You can use the computer in your head called brain to access the wisdom of the ages and reach out to the world, with certainty, with a vision that is uniquely yours; you can use the high speed engine in your chest called heart to spread love and in so doing banish fear; you can refuse to go off the cliff with the herd but instead go where and how your inner guidance directs you as the autonomous, free-willed creature you are designed to be. You can proceed with authenticity to where your own principles lead you.

I’m an optimist at heart. I actually think there are a few moves yet remaining in this Primary season and the outcome is not necessarily a done deal (no pun intended, Donald). But I’m not allowing myself to get lost in the process and I’m certainly not allowing what may be a sinking ship to take me down. If you want to waste your precious time telling yourself and others that you will vote for either Hillary or Trump, and why, it matters not. Here’s the revelation: That’s the side show.

What you do now and how you do it is the main event. Proceed with joy, reject doubt, banish fear and be the Light.

Now there’s a Party platform I can get behind.

Carole