I got out of paying any consequence. Did you?

Organised crime

Big Banks Pay $5.6 Billion, Plead Guilty to Felonies…

The headline of a news story from NPR

The big banks have been found guilty and are paying big fines, but what can we do? As customers of their 401k’s, retirement accounts, and investment accounts? What can we do, as voters, to change their ‘too big to fail’ abuse of power to protect ourselves?

Something, surely?

Although these fines are about currency manipulation, which I know nothing about, we did bail them out for investing in risky mortgage bonds and crashing the market in 2008. Yet this bailout seems like nothing to me. Has anyone else felt their life change dramatically, or even at all, after we “paid” to banks billions of dollars to bail them out?

Not me. I got out of paying any consequence. It was as if nothing happened. We paid them, they paid us back, with interest, and everyone keeps going, almost as if the banks did not nearly cripple the nation and the world with their carelessness.

The banks nourish us

We need them to keep our economy going and paychecks flowing. And they know it. And although they’re cautious after the crash, and although they’re paying fines, still there has been no personal cost. There were people who lost their jobs in the banks that failed, but the executives and managers and other workers of most of the banks have kept their jobs. Have they even seen a dip in their incomes and bonuses?

This matters because the deterrent to wrongdoing is about paying a personal cost. But apparently the majority has not, from Wall Street to us here on Main Street, there has been no significant cost.

But there will be a cost. I wonder when it will come…? On our children…grand children? It will come, sooner or later. And it will probably be sudden, like the last market crash. And it will probably be harsh, especially on the middle class.

Neil Gaiman: “I hope you’ll make mistakes.”

NEIL-GAIMAN_510x380

Neil Gaiman

“Sometimes the way to do what you hope to do will be clear cut, and sometimes it will be almost impossible to decide whether or not you are doing the correct thing, because you’ll have to balance your goals and hopes with feeding yourself, paying debts, finding work, settling for what you can get.

“Something that worked for me was imagining that where I wanted to be – an author, primarily of fiction, making good books, making good comics and supporting myself through my words – was a mountain. A distant mountain. My goal.”

“And I knew that as long as I kept walking towards the mountain I would be all right. And when I truly was not sure what to do, I could stop, and think about whether it was taking me towards or away from the mountain.”

The best way to spend your time

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Time. It’s what I spend every day like I’ve got nothing to lose.

Been ejected at celestial heights from that plane of birth, a babe without a parachute, just like all of us. Slowly falling, or maybe quickly, depending on how much stuff you’re entertaining in your head.

The ground looks so distant, but certain to meet us when the time comes.

So what’s the best way to spend your time?

How would I know?
You’ve got to figure that out yourself.

Federal court rules that the USDA violated federal law by withholding documents and hiding financial conflicts of interest

USDA cheese

You might be thinking, “Of course government advisors are influenced by money, because that’s our culture“.

But regardless, this should make you rethink the importance of conventional ideology, the belief about what constitutes a natural healthy human diet. Animal flesh and dairy….are they really necessary? Or do they just taste good?

Question “common sense”, because common sense changes as our knowledge base changes.

Sources:
http://www.pcrm.org/media/good-medicine/2001/winter/pcrm-wins-usda-lawsuit
http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php/USDA_Dietary_Guidelines

Google’s good intentions

Google NSA

Use other search engines besides Google. Bing, yahoo, whatever.

Why should we do this?
Because google is concentrating more and more power, in a profoundly life-impacting way. They are building a monopoly over information collection and control. I’m not talking conspiracy to take over the world. I’m just saying, spread the power around. Even the most well-intention individuals and organizations will abuse their power at some point if there is no check over them.

“I’d rather die of passion than die of boredom.”

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The din of the cafes was growing with the setting sun as he walked the cobblestone streets of Auvers-sur-Oise. He came around the corner and saw the boys as he always did while returning home. The boys were always quarreling over something, distraught, and he always took time to engage them, and soon they’d be distracted by whatever joke he made. Today they were fidgeting over something which he could not see.

When the boys separated he was astonished to see that one was holding a small pistol.  “Be careful there,” he stepped forward, hands outstretched, “that is a dangerous toy you have.” He grasped the gun, but the boy did not let go, so the man pulled at it. He did not expect the sound of the firearm exploding and felt confused at the sting in his chest. Still holding the gun at his side, he looked down blankly and realized that the bullet had gone into him. The boys’ stared in surprise, which quickly became fear and they disappeared down the stone street.

Instead of pain, the man felt a curious, focused energy. He walked slow and calm until he found the doctor’s residence. The doctor had returned from his day of house calls and immediately examined him. “I cannot get to it,” he said finally, after they sat in a quiet room with only a clock ticking in the corner. He put a bandage over the wound with expert care, sealing it and the man’s fate. “It will be fine,” he told the man.

“I’m not worried anymore,” the man answered and sighed.

“What happened?” the doctor asked .

The man looked at him warmly “A mistake. I didn’t know what was happening. But I’m feeling better already.”

“Did you do this yourself?” the doctor asked.

The man did not answer, but laid his head back, and gazed out the window. “We don’t know what we do sometimes. I put my heart and soul into my work, and I have lost my mind in the process.”

The doctor glanced at him with narrowed eyes, eyes that knew how to judge the body, but not the mind. Yet even his professional judgment would not help the sepsis taking root in the man’s chest, the infection that would overtake the man’s health, and in a few hours his life.

Vincent Willem van Gogh.

Born: March 30, 1853, Zundert, Netherlands

Happy Birthday, Vincent.

Why legislate a solution when you can educate the solution?

Money in politics

Government policy, although influenced by outside interests, comes from legislators, after all is said and done. The legislators are the creators.

And legislators come from candidates, and candidates come from the Democrat or Republican parties (almost exclusively).

If we want government policy to change, voting outside these two parties is one powerful variable we can change to accomplish this. Let’s start simple before we go to complex solutions like campaign finance reform, which diminishes the decision-making and civic awareness of the voter and emboldens an already entrenched Two Party Monopoly.

We can see how effective campaign finance reform has been, or, how ineffective. But the power of our vote in electing who we want is almost unstoppable.
The only thing that could stop it?
Our own ignorance.

Using campaign finance reform to legislate voter intelligence and awareness is almost impossible.

But educating awareness?
That’s highly doable.

Educate, before you legislate.

Why do you give money to beggars?

BeggarBot2008s

As I got into my car, I saw him make his way towards me. He bent down and looked through my passenger side door to get my attention.

“Hey man..”

“What’s up?” I said. I saw that he held a can of light beer.

“Can you help me out? The old lady kicked me out, man. I need to warm up.”

I saw his coat was nicely made, with a polyester shell, and the rest of his clothes were clean and unworn. I’d met many beggars, but this one was the most well-kept yet.

“So you’re drinking,” I said.

“Hey, what else am I going to do? I’m not feeling too good.” Then his voice became proud. “Look man, I’m a professional. I’m in the trades. Look..” He fished around in his pocket and produced a card, for a local trade group,

“I understand,” I said. And then I gave him some unsolicited advice. “You gotta do what you want…but that means taking care of yourself first. Get your shit together.”

“Yea,” he leaned in through the window, resting on his arm. I could tell I had an audience, so I went on.

“Society has it backwards…they want everyone to be helpful, giving, but first you’ve got to help yourself, give everything you can to you, get as good as you can be, get your thing going.”

His face was receptive. I warmed up. “I know drinking is fun. It can get too fun…I’ve been there. But  it distracts you from facing your life.”

“Yea.” his eyes became energized with some realization. “Tell it.”

I had been going on for a while. “I’ve got to head out, man,” I told him.

His face changed, “Maaaan,” he said, distraught.  “You’re not going to give me anything?!” He was incredulous.

“I just did,” I replied.

He whined, and I said, “I can’t help you. I just told you. All I have is change anyway.”

I opened the compartment between the seats and scooped out a handful of quarters and dimes and put it into his hand, like a pacifier.

I know I hadn’t changed him. Changing personality is almost impossible. But maybe I changed his behavior. A little. It didn’t matter too much. At least I felt better that this time I took some time to say something, provide something of value, instead of carelessly giving a dollar and walking away.

I think most sane beggars don’t need money. They need passion, and direction, and friends. They need new batteries.

The Pope only wants to help

VATICAN-POPE-AUDIENCE The Pope gave his blessing to campaign finance reform. But does the Pope know about campaign finance? Campaign finance is an issue created by the two-party system culture, a culture which perpetuates the notion that their system is the one and only institution of electoral government. Any attempts to help us vote for “clean” candidates within this system, although good-intentioned, only serve to disempower and dumb-down an American populace that desperately needs to become more aware of the issues and, more importantly, how much power it truly holds to vote outside of this system. The influence of the two parties plants the fear in people that they should not “throw their vote away” on candidates outside of the ones compromised within the Democratic/Republican oligarchy. The obvious truth is that we do have the freedom to vote for candidates outside the two-party system. Our power needs to be exercised… through what we buy, where we bank, how we help our own communities, and WHO WE VOTE FOR, which is still the biggest factor that determines who gets elected, regardless of how much money comes from special interests.

Live. Die. Repeat? Well, actually, not true.

28676_Quad+date.indd

I finished watching Edge of Tomorrow, and I was confused. After riding high on a well-written plot that moved quickly and stayed logically consistent, it broke its own rules.

A good story sets expectations from the beginning as to what kind of story it’s going to be. This is a comedy, there will be silliness. This is action, there will be many shots fired and few people hit. This is sci-fi, it will show you an alternate reality. But all of them establish some frame of belief, a code of law, the laws of this particular story.

Art comes in different flavors, some strongly themed and some light stuff, because we all need to have some candy and indulge ourselves. So it’s important to observe art on this sliding scale.

With Edge of Tomorrow, I came away disappointed, but I take as much responsibility for this as the creators.  My expectations were set a bit higher than a sci-fi action flick, and that is thanks to the acting ability of Cruise and Blunt.

But ironically, my disappointment came from the power of the plot, a plot which marched forward with clear premise. Cruise’s character, Cage, relives the same day, again and again, after he dies, and his purpose is to find the Omega to destroy it and save the earth. Then, in the last scene, the foundation of the premise was broken, causing structural failure of the story.

This movie was sweet, airy cotton candy from the start, weakly themed and with no meaningful lesson learned by the characters. But I believe that films with more depth have a responsibility to the consumer to stay focused. Otherwise, the piece becomes self-indulgent, the writers and directors not showing up fully, and, in fact, disrespecting their own story. And just as important, disrespecting the consumers’ time.

Luckily, the internal contradiction of the Edge of Tomorrow came at the end where it didn’t confuse the rest of the movie, but being at the end, it deflates the feeling of awe at Cage’s success, and so diminishing its levity.

He saved the world! Ehhh, is that all he did? Ah, well, that was entertaining.

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