Friday, November 8, 2013

The bitter truth of food.

Yeah I know, I usually blog about socio economic issues or about personal philosophies. So talking about food, on the face of it, would seem to be a bit of a stretch.

I suppose the underlying "theme" as it were with my writings has been an expressed desire to figure things out for myself. To understand the truth of things. To get underneath biases and determine whether or not the things I believe track with the reality around me. In this sense, talking about food seems as appropriate to my incessant desire to think as anything else I've said or written about.

I just finished reading through an article about healthy seeming foods, that aren't terribly healthy. With the exception of one food listed (tuna) all of the others listed were cited as unhealthy not because of what they initially were, but rather what they became as food companies and marketers altered them.

Tuna was the exception to this trend because of the link between seafood and mercury uptake in the body, for those that are curious.

Every other commonly held "healthy thing" had simply become unhealthy in context, because of the desire to market them. And it always came down to three particular things added, in an effort to make them more palatable.

Ever had muesli for breakfast? And I mean real muesli, long before you could easily find it on a supermarket shelf. Though not an unpleasant's rabbit food. Trust me, I've tasted rabbit food, and it's quite similar. In a palatability contest Froot Loops wins hands down, which is probably why Froot Loops sell better, even to this day.

But in this day and age you can walk into any grocery store and find "natural" and "organic" cereals to eat of all types. And the sad truth is that most of them are no more healthy in any context, than any other cereal grain breakfasty food you'd choose.


Remember the three things I mentioned above. They are the culprit. Salt, sugar, and fat. We evolved to crave sugar and fat in our diet, because they are rich sources of energy. They are also rarified sources of energy if you don't have that thing that we do have....a civilization. Salt is also important because of how it alters our pallet to either mask or enhance flavors. Soft drink manufacturers use salt in soft drinks to mask overt sweetness to modify a drinks flavor profile (and it also helps make us thirsty too).

This triumvirate of additives goes way beyond merely foods that are labeled as "healthy" in our conscience though.

In the last 40 years or so we have transformed at a fundamental level how food works in modern societies. More often than not today food is made somewhere else, by someone else, to be consumed later (often a lot later) by us. This trend led to more or less the utter removal of fiber from the modern western diet. Fiber content interferes with successful long term freezing and storage methods and reduces shelf life.

This reality ironically helped fuel the problems with modern fiber rich alternative foods. How? Because one of the easy ways to not only make these foods more palatable, but to increase their shelf life is with added sugars, salt, and fat.

The uptake of sugar in the modern diet is especially pernicious. In the late 1970's we began this (now scientifically proven to be mistaken) trend towards low fat diets. And when you reduce fat in foods that would otherwise have fat, you make it fundamentally less palatable. Sugars, HFCS, and corn syrup solids in our foods have risen dramatically as a result, to regain that palatability. And the arguments between "natural" sugars and High Fructose Corn Syrup are non starters either chemically or endocrinologically. HFCS isn't bad because it's worse than table sugar. It's bad because it's cheap, and thus ubiquitous. And ask anyone who understands hepatic (liver) metabolism, and they'll tell you a high sugar diet is a high fat diet. And as sugar intake has skyrocketed, so has obesity, Type 2 diabetes, and metabolic syndrome.

It was with irony I noted that in the article I read about these so called healthy foods, the solution was strikingly simple. Make your own, and don't add sugar, salt, and fat.

Even if you don't have the time (or the inclination) for all of that, at least realize that sugar, fat, and salt intake are important to be mindful of. Not just because lowering them in your diet is good, but because relying on them (and thus your tastebuds) to inform your brain what is good, isn't a terribly great idea.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Sorry Brian. :)

(Rather than make my friend Brian Howard suffer through this reply to a topic on Facebook, I decided to post it here.)

The only real issue I had with the "meme" was that it was little more than a distortion of the nature of the problem, factually specious, and unnecessarily my point of view.

I tend to agree that raising the minimum wage will do little to help workers make any material gains in this economy. Our economic problems are deeply structural and not easily reversed. Because of this *merely* changing wage structures will do little but create artificial inflation in the short term, because a great deal of our economies wealth is walled off from the influence of consumption.

Low wages that force Americans into government assistance are a reality. A reality that in some way shape or form touches close to half the U.S. Population. When you do the math it is quite scary. Add up AFDC/TANF, SNAP, WIC, Housing Assistance, etc.... (and I leave off Medicare and Social Security deliberately because they are paid for by an entirely different tax system than income tax) about half of American families receive some sort of government assistance.

This isn't a few Americans living off the teat of the rest of's a lot more than a few. If a simple program like Food Stamps were to just "go away", I can confidently say that many grocery chains would go belly up.....mine included. In most of our operating markets it accounts for more than 25% of our business. It was less than 5% in the 80's.

How we ended up here is becoming clearer by the day to most economists, regardless of political affiliation. We've had a 30-40 year long experiment in supply-side economic theory in play, and it's clearly been a failure. And yet as a generation we have bought into the philosophy and the mindset behind it, much of which is based on false assumptions. It will likely take as long of a concerted effort in another direction in economic philosophy (like the previous 40 years of mostly Keynesian policy...that actually worked) to right the ship.

False assumptions? Here are a few.

Capitalists create jobs. This is the entire pivot upon which supply side theory is based, and it just isn't true. As a person who has worked in the corporate world for 30 years, I can say confidently that hiring is always a last resort, and not a first. Jobs are created by consumer demand, and entrepreneurs  who leverage that demand. It is a synergy and not a cause/effect relationship. Without consumers buying things, an economy cannot exist. And wealthy consumers? They are usually a drag on an economy at large for a myriad of reasons. A wealthy consumer who makes 10 times more than you or I is not buying 10 times more food, or cars, or tshirts, or (insert name of banal things here). Wealth becomes an abstraction of power, and in the case of an economy not a particularly useful one.

Progressive taxation is bad. Little historical fact. All taxation in history has been progressive, mainly because it makes the most sense in real economic terms. One immutable fact here is that if you tax a wealthy person far more than a poor one....the wealthy person does not become poor. It doesn't seem intuitively fair, and perhaps this is why most people easily buy into flat-tax arguments. But this is little more than a distortion leading to confirmation bias by those who aren't wealthy. And the problem isn't necessarily wealthy people. The number of American's who possess wealth levels 20 times or more of the national average hasn't changed that much as a percentage of the population. What has changed is the amount of wealth they possess relative to everyone else. We have an income distribution curve in this country similar to puppet dictatorships. And though we don't have citizens suffering to the degree that those in puppet dictatorships do, we do have an income distribution that creates an economy nearly impossible to maintain.

Social Security and Medicare are a huge drag on the government. Partially true, but not in the way most people naively assume. Most people assume these two entitlements are paid for with income taxes. THEY ARE NOT. They are paid for under the Payroll Tax, a tax which vanishes to ZERO PERCENT on income above $110,000. Raising the tax cap (which has been done numerous times) returns these programs to solvency. So this "problem" is really just an issue used to gain political leverage and not a real problem in any true sense. Granted there are financial games played with the Social Security Trust Fund (a tactic introduced by the CBO during the Nixon Administration), but these are done primarily to hide costs....primarily over the last 40 years the costs of war. The biggest drain on income tax? The Military, which eats more than half of every tax dollar.

The definition of unskilled labor. I simply challenge anyone working in a white collar job to take a break and work in a supposedly unskilled position...and then tell me no skills are required. The truth of the matter is most people work either in small business or large corporate enterprise, and this honestly hasn't changed all that much in the last 75 years. And most of those people were "unskilled" by the modern definition. Automation, new systems, technology have increased productivity drastically this is true. But almost all the financial gains reaped from this have gone to the top and not to the workforce. Whether this seems totally fair to you, or not, does nothing to solve the real market economy problem this has created. Ironically this leads to a near perfect storm guaranteeing the expansion of government assistance to fill in the gaps, which manifests the very enemy of conservative economics. Perhaps the underlying tenets are wrong?!??!??

I could go on and on. The real gist of my position is this. We are on the tail end of a failed experiment in economic theory, and every so slowly eyes are opening to this reality. The very nature of "what's wrong" pivots on whether or not you see this as evident.

Answers are usually easy. It's asking the right question that matters.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Conspiracies. Modern media requires modern methods...

It seems like more and more of my daily news feed on social networks is taken up by conspiracy laden posts. Given the current economic and political climate, I suppose I can understand the appeal.

A post about government taking "big brother" too far....or a post about some evil corporation tainting our existence...such things feed into the sense many of us have that things aren't "right". And there are PLENTY of things that aren't right. Some of them glaringly obvious, but only if you take the time to investigate claims.


We live in a time that is in many ways quite disturbing, but equally fascinating. We have a media environment largely dominated by corporate news outlets. But we also have more people engaged in communication and the dissemination of knowledge than ever before.

We have horrendously vertically aligned communities online where you can easily surround yourself with people who will either agree with you....or perhaps more insidiously convince you to agree with them.

The most vicarious of nonsense story can easily go viral, and be believed en-masse by many thousands, and yet be sitting in the same web browser one could use a tiny bit of effort to easily debunk.

People confuse authority truth and knowledge to their detriment. In order to navigate the modern stream of information one must embrace a few basic tenets to survive and grow.


I made this first tip big because it is vitally IMPORTANT. Case in point, I consider myself a relatively liberal person when it comes to social philosophy and leaning towards libertarian ideals when it comes to fiscal and constitutional matters. So when I see something posted by the largest Libertarian group on Facebook I'm probably going to check it out. What I'm not going to do, even if I self-identify as a person with Libertarian ideals, is take anything they post at their word. I tend to try to fact check things, especially if the claims made are extraordinary ones.

And I don't do this because I mistrust the intentions of others, so it isn't some cynical ploy. I do it to fight against my own confirmation biases...and reveal those of others.

Most importantly, it is shockingly easy to do if you have at least a few firing neurons. It's not hard...AT ALL!

In today's particular example, a couple of minutes worth of digging showed a post by a Facebook group with half a million followers was made up nonsense written originally by a certifiable wacko. Groups large and small can make mistakes true, but large ones influence large groups of people.....perhaps into believing things that aren't remotely true.

This is bad....and insidious...

2). Do your own investigative reporting. 

We have an interesting dynamic at play in modern least for the lazy. And I don't mean this as a slight either. We've all for generations expected our news and media outlets to at least present the news in a reasonably balanced fashion, but this isn't really the case anymore.

  • Fox News. Hates anything about democrats or the government.....unless its the military of course.
  • MSNBC. Hates anything about republicans....skeptical of the government....unless its entitlements of course.
  • CNN. Tries to dumb down the news too far, almost to the point it's not even news anymore.
  • Linear articles that narrowly align with a given worldview or ideology (one that may or may not actually track with reality).
It goes down hill from here....

What doesn't go downhill however is the absolute plethora of real information online. But there is so much of it that simple and parochial ideas of knowledge and truth aren't going to just fall into your lap like you've (probably falsely) believed they should....because you thought they always had.

Those days (if they ever truly existed) are over. 

There is a benefit to this process as well. You discover so many of the "gloom and doom" stories you tend to have hammered into your face daily on social media are complete bullshit. It doesn't mean everything is 100% peachy....but you can at least comfort yourself with the fact that "conspiracy" isn't required to explain all the bad things that seem to happen. 

Plain old human nature, shortsightedness, insularity, and a hefty dose of ego and greed usually suffice. Those sorts of things are solvable whether there are real conspiracies or not, so it makes the whole idea of focusing on conspiracy stand out as the true waste of time that it is.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Partisan Dysfunction - Why Are We Here?

Even if you're not the sort that pays much attention to politics (given the nature of politics in recent years this would perhaps be understandable) you'd have to have been living under a rock to have missed our most recent debacle of dysfunction.

House Republicans recently held the entire nation hostage over their dislike for the Affordable Care Act, more aptly known as "ObamaCare". Having failed to defeat it via democratic means, having failed to defeat it via the Supreme Court, they decided to try defeating it through tyranny. And though the effort failed miserably, it is certainly not cause for celebration.

Regardless of where you personally stand on the ACA, or our current President for that matter, the fact that such an event occurred shines an unflattering light on the systemic problems in our electoral process.

There are many who would agree with me that this country desperately needs campaign finance reform. And the problem isn't voters, rather it's the process that vets those who we are even allowed to vote for. In the last election cycle less than 150,000 individuals comprised over 90% of *ALL* campaign monies spent by all sides of the political process, whether they be Democrat, Republican, or Independant. Just on the presidential election alone this was over $2 Billion Dollars. And though it is true that the Obama Campaign did a better job at grassroots money raising, when combined with all spending by dems and republicans that 90% still stands.

We have in essence ceded our democracy to the wealthy and elite, because *THEY* get to decide who gets to run for office, because it is primarily from them that the money flows. And *THIS FACT* is what has driven our entire countries slide towards.....Conservatism. Clearly conservative extremism, such as witnessed a few weeks ago would have been impossible 40 years ago.

So how did the extreme right gain so much power? It is because we don't really have a progressive left anymore. Granted, Nancy Pelosi is a nut (as are many of her ilk), but she's not a progressive lefty by any stretch of the imagination, despite Republicans attempts to paint her into that corner. Rather, our entire politics has shifted, drastically in my view, to the right regardless of party.

How did this happen?

Much of this begins in the late 1960's and the changes that occurred in the Democratic leadership during that time frame. While perhaps it is an oversimplification, it can be said that it culminated with George McGovern's utter dismissal of Labor. And though the influence of Labor was beginning to decline (and in some senses rightly so, due to abject Labor Union corruption) McGovern's move with the Democratic Party is really what began the long slide towards dismantling the Democratic Party's liberal base of power.

Now, elections still need to be held and candidates still have to raise money to run for office. So after the collapse of labor, the dems still had their hands out, like any good politicians would. And who came in to fill the void? The wealthy and elite, i.e. the ones who already controlled much of Republican finance.

This became evident to me during the Reagan Administration, when we began this wholesale experiment in Trickle Down economic theory. Prior to Reagan, much of our countries economic politics revolved around Keynesian theory, a fact we generally owe to the Roosevelt Administration which led to many decades of skyrocketing growth in both GDP and middle class incomes and standard of living. And yes, during this era the wealthy were taxed at progressive rates far far higher than they are today.

What fails to bubble to the surface for the wealthy who were still wealthy in this that they were still far wealthier than the average American in spite of this fact.

It doesn't take a genius to see that 30 years worth of conservative economic ideology has destroyed the middle class, at least so long as you either pay attention to the numbers or happen to be an average non-wealthy American. So why don't things change? Why can't we right this ship? Why?

It's primarily because of my earlier statements. The 150,000 elites that run our electoral process aren't suffering. They've done well. In some cases obscenely well. Obscene because their gains in wealth and power came with a real cost, that being the well being of an entire country.

Monday, September 23, 2013

The Wealth Challenge!

Are you stupendously wealthy? Do you want to add real intrinsic value to that wealth, without needing to consult a financial advisor? It's really easy. All you have to do is give a large portion of it away, not to charity either!! And I'm going to try to convince you why this is such a compelling and excellent idea, so bear with me.

This thought process for me began when I read in the paper the other day that the most recent Powerball Jackpot winner was in South Carolina. It did kind of suck for me personally that it was some guy in Lexington and not me, but it was certainly a good day for him.

If that person had taken the lump sum distribution, after taxes he would have had $123 Million Dollars, a rather princely sum.

I began to think to myself "Self, what would I do with $123 Million Dollars?"

One of the first thoughts that floated to the top was the idea of getting 50 Cashier's Checks for $1 Million Dollars and giving those to 50 people I know. I mean why not right? Even after that gesture of generosity I'd have $73 Million Dollars free and clear!!

Given that this would be roughly 1800 times my current net worth, I think I'd be doing ok.

When you stop and think about it there are only a few real classifications of wealth.

  • Poor. These are the 49 Million Americans who rely on Food Stamps to feed their families. 
  • Making Ends Meet. This is where I fit. I don't need government assistance to survive, but I am living largely paycheck to paycheck.
  • Middle Class. These are people who have enough left over to save a little.
  • Affluent. These are people who have quite a bit more left to save, and at this level of wealth you see people making personal lifestyle investments (luxury car, vacation time share, etc)
  • Wealthy. Anyone with a net worth over $1 Million Dollars. If you qualify for this distinction, you are wealthy compared to the overwhelming majority of Americans.
  • RICH AS FUCK!!!!® This is a special classification that requires more explanation.

Imagine yourself as an individual who just turned 20 with $100 Million Dollars net worth or greater. Now, imagine that you could turn that net worth into liquid assets. COLD HARD CASH. Now lets imagine a game where you are limited to spending no more than $500,000 of your cold hard cash on any given thing. You cannot donate to charity either. Think of this as a modern reboot of the movie "Brewster's Millions."

It doesn't take too much pondering to realize you'd have to be the most colossally irresponsible person in the world to go broke before you reached your 80th Birthday.

At this level of wealth, wealth itself begins to lose its meaning. And, as you move further up the wealth ladder, this trend continues.

Look at Bill Gates. At an estimated net worth (at this moment) of around $72 Billion Dollars, he's had to establish a charitable foundation to deal with this specific problem. The William F. Gates Foundation was established to allow him, and other participants such as Warren Buffet, an avenue to do something meaningful with their wealth.

But it goes beyond merely adding meaning to wealth. This is essentially a structured effort to get rid of wealth, not only in a meaningful way, but in a practical sense. It's difficult to figure out WHAT THE FUCK to do with such an obscene level of wealth. At this level, wealth is little more than an abstraction on a spreadsheet, similar to George Carlin's idea of the "Bigger Dick Theory Of Foreign Policy" except applied to economics.

And the problem here is a much greater issue than merely avarice. When you note that the Fortune 500 comprises wealth greater than the GDP of entire countries (like Russia), and contrast this with how we've let Detroit descend into the kind of town Mad Max wouldn't want to visit, you begin to realize that we've lost the ability to understand what wealth even is.

So here's my plan. At the moment in America there are roughly 29,000 Individuals with a net worth greater than $100 Million Dollars. Nearly 600 of these people have net worth greater than $1 Billion Dollars. Doing some quite conservative napkin math gives me a great idea.

Have all 29,000 of these RICH AS FUCK!!!!® people give away 1/3rd of their net worth in $1 Million dollar increments to non-wealthy people. No need for complex and expensive tax attorneys. No charities at all. No need to even liquidate your assets. Just give it away in the form it's already in. Let the beneficiaries figure out what to do with it.

I feel that many amazing and positive things would happen, but I can guarantee with 100% certainly that two things would happen, and they are the most important facts to consider.

1). You'd create around 2.1 Million new Millionaires in this economy. Let the absurdity of that number jiggle around in your skull.
2). Everyone who gave? Would still be RICH AS FUCK!!!!®  

Other things that would happen?

1). Incalculable billions would be SPENT INTO THE ECONOMY. I can guarantee you that 2.1 Million random out of the blue new millionaires have some bills to pay, and they'd be paid off like a motherfucker!!

2). Real investment would occur. New homes. New cars. Helping that wacky cousin with his new business idea. An Ivy League education for your kids, etc...

3). Charitable contributions would increase.Drastically. Why? Because people who have a real sense of what money *IS* would have disposable worth.

4). You could guarantee millions less on government programs.

5). You could guarantee millions more real jobs.

What would not happen?

1). There'd be no need for new taxes. Real people spending real money have better things to do with their time than dodge taxes.
2). No need for new regulation.
3). No need for angst ridden new political parties who really like tea.

But *ONLY* if such a thing could actually happen. And it can't....and won't.

We have an obscene amount of wealth in our country in essence held hostage by social, cultural, political, and economic ideologies. Forty years worth of bad ideas got us here. Until we can drastically change the zeitgeist, no amount of anything is going to make a significant improvement in how things currently are.

p.s. If any RICH AS FUCK!!!!® individuals come across this blog and disagree with me, don't waste time trying to debate me. If you fail to see the brilliance here, you obviously have some overarching reason to believe you "deserve" to be so obscenely wealthy. In actuality you're just a greedy self righteous prick! :)

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The Unreality Of The Surveillance State

I noted sadly today the loss of Groklaw. The legal news blog, which has been a popular standby of the legal community for the better part of ten years, is shutting its doors as of today.

The blogs owner Pamela Jones said in a rather impassioned statement today "But I really know, after all my research and some serious thinking things through, that I can't stay online personally without losing my humanness, now that I know that ensuring privacy online is impossible."


I've always had a strong sense of our utter lack of privacy online, at least in the parochial sense most of us seem to think of. But I've been online far longer than the average person, having gotten my first dialup "shell" account 25 years ago.

Everything you say or do online can, in theory, be captured stored and analyzed till the cows come home. Given the nature of modern IP networks this is even more pervasive than we realize too. Much in the way of voice traffic from "traditional communications" such as cellphones and landlines ends up being sent as VOIP information over existing internet infrastructure by backbone service providers. So your voice call on Verizon or AT&T can at some point end up as internet traffic, at least some of the time based on the needs of carrier networks and their peering arrangements.

It is the theoretical nature of this reality though that has always given me a reasonable level of comfort. It has always been quite clear that the sheer volume of data traveling over IP networks makes actual surveillance quite difficult.

However, given enough technical resources, such individualized surveillance is indeed possible and has been for some time. Edward Snowden's revelations of the length and scope of these capabilities, while an employee for NSA contractor Booz-Allen-Hamilton, makes it clear that this is so.

The capacity and sophistication of these resources is ALWAYS going up as the cost of them goes down. This truth is a mere function of how technology works. So it is safe to assume that we are nearing (or perhaps have already reached) a point where anyone can be easily and perhaps more disturbingly AUTOMATICALLY profiled and targeted for surveillance.

Thinking about this gives me more than a little pause personally. Looking back over the course of my online existence I can think of a myriad of things that would, at least in theory, have me on some government analysts radar. These are just a handful of them...

  • I have in the past, and occasionally continue to, communicate with individuals outside the U.S.
  • I have blogged and been formally published writing about privacy and surveillance.
  • I have privately consulted on and directly rendered forensics analysis of computers and networks.
  • I have written scathing op/ed's on the state of copyright and IP law.
  • I have interviewed and championed the cause of one person, who in the past was involved in the largest copyright infringement case in history up to that point.
  • I have used encryption, proxies, IP blocklists, and all sorts of other methods to communicate online.

According to the surveillance guidelines and justifications outlined in the now public PRISM program, I have ticked several of the boxes necessary for *ALL* of my internet traffic to be scrutinized automatically by the NSA, without even the need of a FISA order. Whether this is actually occuring or not, I cannot say for certain.

But I have little evidence to the contrary telling me that I should doubt this is happening.

What does this mean? What does this mean for me personally?

I am not by nature a person given to paranoia. I know at least one person who has taken these realities to heart to such an extreme, that they are now attempting to live entirely "off the grid", outside of all systems including simple and pedantic ones we take for granted daily. As a result this persons life has now utterly imploded.

Me? I still have bills to pay and people that rely on me, so I'm not interested in taking any extreme precautions. Moreso, I'm not interested in taking any precautions at all.

Pamela Jones in her impassioned exit post on Groklaw implied that she felt her very humanity was as stake. Indeed we have countless lessons throughout history that a surveillance state does have a chilling effect on ones humanity. But, in a connected society such as ours, the double edged sword that is the internet is really too important an aspect of our human connectedness now to shy away from.

It's a pandora's box to be sure, but one we must dive into and accept the realities of lest it become the master of us all.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Need vs Want. An important distinction...

This little blog rant all started with a playful post on a social network of the following question earlier today.

"Here's a fun idea! Finding someone to date is finding someone to reliably and safely have sex with. True or False? Discuss!!"

Though the obvious answer is True (every bit of sociology and psychology I've ever studied seems to confirm this irrefutably) boy did this question shake the tree LOL.

But that was the point. I wanted to see what sort of justifications people would have to claim it was a false statement. More specifically women seemed to take issue with it, but I'm of a mind (from a lifetime of experience, coupled with having been raised by a considerably smart psychology degree wielding mother) that women so innately buy into double standards about their own sexuality, that many of them can easily fail to grasp the truth of this. And I think it is rather sad and unnecessary.

I like coming at ideas and thoughts from various directions. Though at times this can confuse (and also annoy) people, I feel that it is for me a valuable tool to deconstruct my thoughts.

The more difficult a thought idea or concept is, the more resources you should allocate towards it. Makes sense right? But as is the case with most things in life answers are often pretty easy. The real trick is asking the right questions.

Most people would say that, as a for instance, quantum mechanics is difficult. And perhaps in a sense this is true, but only in a sense. One of the "gatekeepers" of the physical sciences is that nasty thing many people find extremely hard to grasp, Calculus. But calculus can be mastered by nearly anyone, given enough time and resources. So I'd say the things we often call "difficult" are really just resource intensive and not actually difficult at all.

The biggest difficulty we face as human beings is really ourselves, and by extension each other. Almost anyone can set aside their emotions (except perhaps frustration) and learn calculus, or molecular biology regardless of their IQ, because at their core these are not emotional pursuits. At all.

The most important pursuit in human existence, is the pursuit of self awareness. And again by extension this must include others, as almost nothing of our existence can be experienced properly alone.

Our emotions, our instincts, indeed our very survival encompasses this pursuit. One of the keys to self discovery that I have found that works for me is this very process of intellectual deconstruction that I pursue. And I've found that making the effort, the truly difficult effort, to understand ones basic needs, ones basic primal instincts is a critical key to self discovery and perhaps even enlightenment.

We as human beings are dominated by our needs, our basic needs. And every esoteric, esthetic, intellectual, or noble pursuit we believe we engage in...ultimately stems from these primal needs. Given that these needs are not always predictable, or perhaps even rational, it is imperative to grasp their significance. Otherwise we run the risk of becoming a slave to them.

Air. We all need air to breathe in order to live. This is such a basic need that we don't even discuss it....until we are deprived of the privilege. And when this happens our primal instincts for survival take over...utterly so. The same goes for water....for lesser degrees for shelter and comfort.

We should look at one of our more taboo laden needs in the same manner. The need for intimacy. I use the word intimacy as opposed to merely sex, because sex is merely a part of human intimacy.

Take any animal, and deprive it of contact with others of it's species (including ourselves) and several reliable things will happen. First, that animal will become clinically depressed. This is true whether we're talking Cocker Spaniels or humans. Secondly, and this is where the taboo's leak in, that animal will begin to sexually pleasure itself.

Conversely you shelter animals together, and they will naturally seek one another out..even if it is just for physical contact as simple as a touch.

Why do we hug our children? Because not only does it make us feel good, it makes them feel good. It is intrinsic to our nature to need the company of others, and it isn't just is quite tangible and real.

To think otherwise puts a fundamental need at odds with reality...with it's very purpose.

As we humans exist in organized societies we have often crafted "rules" about these basic needs of ours, and usually for sensible reasons. In a collective tribal species such as our own, order has it's place. But there are problems with leaning on cultural and social conventions too hard. Big ones in this day and age.

Just imagine if you will, the role of the average woman in human culture over the last 100,000 years that we can reliably say humans have lived in organized societies. That role was largely unchanged for, lets say about 99,900 years.

For the math challenged that means you, if you are a woman, are living in a very special time in human history. One fundamentally different for you than 99.9% of it has been for your gender.

Please take a moment to pause and bask in the amazing truth of that statement...

And {sticking to heterosexuality for the sake of simplicity here} consider that both men and women are fundamentally having to come to grips with this near about-face in human behaviors and expectations.

The very nature of gender itself, and it's role in society and our existence, is being redefined as we speak. This means our needs are having to come to terms with these changes too.

And if you are wrapping those needs, those intrinsic and primal needs, within the scope of what dusty wisdom from dusty books written thousands of years ago had to say on the subject, you are going to reliably fail at achieving your place in this world, and happiness within it. FAIL! It's so obvious when you really look at it outside of your "training" by the world.

Needs, when acted on with poor information, almost always end up with bad results. We all need to eat don't we? But look at western culture today. Runaway obesity and metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes in children, and even gout has become commonplace. Our modern diet, based on old (and bad) evidence and reliably killing us. But we don't question it all that much, because eating is a fundamental need. Fundamental needs can become deadly and bad for you, both physically and psychologically if you fail to understand them.

Understanding needs, really grasping their purpose and their place, transitions them into wants. And wanting is more within our sphere of intellectual grasp I feel.

If we can begin to see the logic of this with something as fundamental to our existence as our food, our very physical health....why can't we do the same things with our needs for intimacy?

Monday, May 13, 2013


It seems as we go through life we pick up all sorts of "hints" and shorthand. Little cultural nods so to speak, that help us know seemingly at a glance what we are dealing with.

At work I'm the guy in a white dress shirt and tie, so everyone knows I'm in charge because everyone else at work dresses differently. A couple comes in my store dressed very formally on a Sunday afternoon. They've been to church. The polite and formalized discourse we have with acquaintances or people we have to deal with but don't know. Please and thank you and all that...etc

We pick up other sorts of shorthand too. We tend to be tribal in our thinking. It's a trait actually endemic to our species, so we tend to notice in-group and out-group characteristics. People that talk differently or look differently we tend to be more cautious around, and vice versa.

The thing to keep in mind is that many of these social hints we rely on make us feel certain ways, and as such we should never fully put our trust in them. To do so is to potentially make the mistake of valuing and devaluing people based on things that do not matter.

Someone recently asked me about race, insofar as it relates to dating and relationships. Now, apart from the fact that race, at least in the context it is usually presented, is a myth it is also not a personal choice. The woman that asked me this didn't get to choose to be of african descent. That choice was made by her parents. Likewise the english, french, dutch, german, cherokee, pirate, manatee, goat (I only include manatee and goat because of the pirate know pirates, they'll screw anything) ancestry I possess in my genetic structure was a series of choices made by all sorts of ancestors. And most of them are dead. :P

Value people for their choices and for the positive efforts they make. Do this simple thing and you'll find more value around you than you can shake a stick at.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

In answer to a question....

Someone I was having a discussion with earlier today asked me why I work in a Grocery store? Why am I not teaching...or in politics?

A few years ago I had dinner with a nice young lady who worked in city government, and she had asked me more or less the same question. I wrote her a lengthy reply (on an older blog) that I will repost below.


At this stage in our nations history I represent one of the most unelectable types of people imaginable. Or at least that is how it seems. And a quick glance at our history would show how arbitrary this exclusionary process is.

I am...

- Not college educated. I dropped out to foster a career in retail which offered promises of a better income and lifestyle immediately to me. Growing up relatively poor this appealed to me at such a young age, and yet it's a decision I've regretted since. Still, we've had non scholars involved with every aspect of our nation including some of the very framers of our Constitution and a few of our Presidents. Now? Prestigious university (and the implied money needed) is often mandatory

- An atheist. Though I dislike the word (given that people believe it means something when it means very little to anyone who grasps english) it is how I am classified. I find myself in good company however, given that many great men behind our own Constitution were also of a similar philosophy. Thomas Payne would be saddened by the unelectable nature of someone like me.

- Ardently committed to the separation of Church and State. There are many on the political right (and apologists on the political left) who have big problems with this. And yet the Constitution itself was decried at the time of its creation by many as being entirely too unreligious. Any glance at a history book with a keen eye to the european theocracies of the day would remind one why this was both a necessary and correct decision. Then...and now. Religious freedom is in essence freedom of thought, and though I consider organized religion personally to be a dead train-wreck of a philosophy, I would rather everyone have the right to believe as they deem fit than have the current pseudo-conservative judeo-christian ideological mandate that currently is all but indoctrinated into our modern government. 

- Ardently committed to a morality based on the evaluation of the well being and suffering of individuals, instead of one based on taboo's, idolatry, and sexism. One easy example of where we've gone horribly wrong. We teach sex in schools by telling teenagers with raging hormones not to have it, and imply that there is some modern moral evil in contraception despite the fact we've had it for thousands of years. Ever wonder if there's a causal connection between this and the fact that the United States has higher teen pregnancy  HPV (and thus cervical cancer), AIDS, and abortion rates (in some cases by orders of magnitude) than all other modern economies (and higher than many countries we still incorrectly deem as 3rd world)? Does it take genius to see this is the horrific outcome of one of our many idiotic social taboos? No.

...Some additional personal details to round out my entire unelectable argument...

- I'm divorced. You've either got to have that proper "mom-wife" figure behind you (as a male being elected), or the proper uber-achiever wife. I have neither of those. I have an extremely off-balance ex-wife however, but that's a story for another day. Not only are these "negatives" pointlessly judgemental of me they are equally (and offensively) judgemental of what a spousal relationship is, of females in general, and me for making the choice to not remarry in a huge hurry. But I did mention how the process has devolved into one of "celebrity", so this shouldn't be a surprise perhaps. 

- I am not financially well off or economically successful. When people encounter me, they often find my wit and intellect to be a bit of a surprise considering I'm fairly poor (in only the economic sense however). People tend to equate success with such things.  Still I consider myself quite enriched by the fact I came through four corporate downsizes (since 1996) with three separate companies, a divorce that occurred during a period of long unemployment, and the accrual of quite a bit of debt. These things taught me, if nothing else, the uselessness of socio-economic status when it comes to being happy, living a good and moral life, and grasping what it is to live well. Still, not living within the necessary socio-economic circles to even begin playing in the political arena is a near insurmountable barrier. Both a grossly unfair one, and an entirely unnecessary one as well.

Monday, April 1, 2013

The Nature Of Love

I suppose given that I've been single for pretty much the entirety of the last eight months, this is a topic that has weighed on my mind to a significant degree. I've also during this time seen a relationship with one of my children go from bad, to worse, to nearly nonexistent. All the while having a relationship with my other child become all the stronger for (or in spite of) this.

So it appears to be time to blog about the nature of love, as I see it.

I am of a mind that entirely too many people bifurcate their approach to this. Perhaps this is to make sense of it in some greater context, but I can't see doing this anymore myself.

At seeming odds? The concepts of romantic "love" as opposed to every other kind of "love". I suppose it is down to individual interpretation exactly what that label means. As I strive, perhaps inexpertly, for self awareness and intellectual honesty, I've come to decide on my own definitions.

Love. Love to me is a connection, a social bond. Conceptually it defines your willingness to set aside your own feelings, or comfort, or what have you for someone else's sake. It is a state of being that is mired deeply within ones feelings, and yet sits atop a foundation of reason and critical awareness. One of the most basic ways to define how this works is to understand reciprocal altruism. When looked at through the sterile lens of social anthropology or even game theory, people often make the mistake of assuming that having a genuine and rational awareness of how our deepest social bonds function somehow cheapens or demeans them. The matter is compounded with recent work in cognitive neurology which is beginning to show structurally within our brains how different and yet interconnected love and lust are.

Such people are too proud of themselves in my view. :P

We now have a greater structural awareness of how love works in the brain, and unfortunately not all the news is good LOL. What we generally call love, especially as it relates to significant others and offspring, is not dissimilar to addiction. In fact many of the biochemical mechanisms involved in reinforcing such "love" parallel cognitive neurological studies of methamphetamine addicts. Brain region to brain region.

This does make some intuitive sense, and certainly many psychologists would agree here as well. Near obsessive attention and affection given to ones children is not necessarily "harmful" in any sense. But couple that with equivalent attention given to an adult you are also "addicted to" doesn't always work out now does it? I can say from personal experience I've encountered quite a few women who were single mothers who, although doing a masterful job of raising and protecting their children, were also so socially maladjusted as to be impossible to cope with...even as friends.

It is entirely possible for love to be "positive" and still not be particularly healthy, at least in the broader sense.

Lust at its most fundamental  is a very primitive impulse. And as many decades of study show, it plays a far more convoluted role in human behavior than many of us realize. It isn't just for baby making, far from it.

The lust to love transition, that all of us go through and have gone through, actually follows a similar pattern neurologically to our other types of love, the only significant difference is its tendency to lead to a greater parallel of neurological activity when compared to drug addiction.

As human beings, a fundamentally social species, we need social *and* physical contact with our fellow humans to survive. Not just to live well, but to actually survive. This is true among most mammals, and especially so among our fellow primates. But it is by far the most true among humans. Humans are arguably the most social and sexual creatures on the planet.

Our social conventions in regards to sex and procreation over the last 100,000 years or so remained fairly consistent up until about a century ago. Males basically ran everything, and women and their collective progeny operated within a framework largely designed by our evolution. Though much of society still thinks things work this way, they really don't anymore. And a century, perhaps isn't enough of a timeframe to really dethrone the remaining 99.9% of our collective experience.

It is perhaps because of all of this (and realizing the truth of it) I have decided to put my own sexuality within it's own separate domain, if for no other reason than to take it off the table of what my ideas about love are.

As I said earlier I love all sorts of people. One of my best friends, Brian. I'd take a bullet for him. Help him with anything he needed at the drop of a hat if it was something I could do. He knows this. And I know he'd do precisely the same thing for me. He's the kind of guy I can tell literally anything. And I'd have to say I love Brian. This in no way diminishes or conflicts with the fact that I'm not in the slightest attracted to his hairy ass (and besides his wife Ari would probably object vehemently).

I love my children, my mother, my brother, and a small host of friends. Genuinely love. And many of them are women, with genuine 100% Lady Parts®.

And (thankfully perhaps for the viewing audience, as it'd be a bit creepy) I'm not banging any of them!

Lust only really becomes complicated because of how primitive it is. Attraction and "chemistry" (which to me is merely a phrase people use to make that primitive shit sound better..oh the hubris of humans) occur. They are "events", not "decisions", and there is nothing you can do about them whatsoever except decide to succumb to them or not.

Lust then becomes a two stage process.

1). A choice to act upon that lust..and that choice *can* be a conscious, if not entirely rational one.
2). Finding a partner willing to return the favor.

We tend to expect more of lust, but this is a mistake in my view. Lust merely is what it is. And it is NECESSARY. But it's just part of a physiological process that puts you on the path towards something more meaningful. It is not the path in and of itself. At all.

I think this distinction is where most people screw this up.


Sunday, March 17, 2013

America's Real Problem

Yay, time for another rant (as I sit here eating a gigantic salad no less). :)

I felt like I left a lot unsaid in my last blog post. Indeed I think I meandered a bit, at least from the posts headline. At the end I alluded to following up on such topics as income inequity and ideological divides in our culture. And I will get to those. But in getting to those I feel like I need to make a larger claim. A claim that is likely to draw some critical ire. But so be it.

America's Real Problem is the title. How does one define this in a mere statement, like I'm about to do? I think it's easier than you would think, though most people would be reluctant to couch the problem the way I'm going to. And I'll back up my claim as best I can, so bear with me, before you unfriend me. :)

America's real problem?

America is no longer the greatest country on earth.

There. I said it. Perhaps it once was, but it is DEFINITELY NO LONGER THE CASE. The reason why it is such a profound problem, with so many devolving complexites? I believe firmly it is precisely because so many people....still think we are the greatest country in the world. Delusion and hubris are not a good basis upon which to solve anything.

Some bullet points...

  • Income distribution as a function of the population (GDP). We rank neck and neck with UGANDA??? Really???? Uganda. That bastion of....not very nice placeness....hmm.... (1)
  • Infant mortality rate. We rank 51st. 51st!!!!!!! Not first, 51st!! (2)
  • CEO Compensation has increased by a factor of 9 since 1970, despite it remaining steady for the prior 40 years. Not 9% people...A factor of 9....900% (3)
  • Minimum wage has basically not risen against inflation since the 1950's, and there are three times as many citizens on the minimum wage as a function of the population as a whole. All the while static expenses (food, housing, education, fuel) have risen dramatically (4)
  • We spend more on our Military than do the next 13 big spenders....COMBINED. And this doesn't take into account discretionary or V.A. spending, money spent via the NSA, the CIA and other covert operations spending (black budget), or the amount of the national debt we have to pay down because of the financing of past wars. Do that math and we spent more than the next 26. (5)
  • In 2011, roughly 49% of all households (and this includes retirees who are receiving their SSI *benefit*, which is not an "entitlement") received funds of some kind (Welfare, EBT, WIC, AFDC, Housing assistance, Earned Income Credit) from the U.S. Government. Consider the tragedy that this is perhaps necessary, stave off...heaven collapse?!?(6)
I could go on and on trying to make my points here, and backing them up with reasonable source data to at least give the impression I'm not pulling my opinion out of the ether, but I trust my basic point is made.

America excels at pretty much nothing anymore except blowing things up. We're really good at saber rattling. Everything else? Is a train wreck. AN UTTER AND EGREGIOUS TRAIN WRECK.

Until we collectively STOP PRETENDING OTHERWISE, all that is really going to take place is the gerrymandering of our ideas and ideals by the few who are reaping the benefits of all of this. 

Guns? Gay marriage? really??!?!??!?!? These are the divisive issues of our day?



Friday, March 15, 2013

The Nature Of Violence

I know I have blogged several times about the gun debate, so apologies if I am beating a dead horse at this point. But as I continue to exercise my brain on this topic the more confused and incensed I become at how polar opposite and equally wrongheaded both sides of the political spectrum have become over the issue, at least to my way of thinking.

As is usually the case with me, I like to get my thoughts out in the open. I do this primarily because it helps me keep my logical and ethical "filing cabinet" organized, but I also enjoy it when (occasionally) people respond with ideas that give me pause and make me think harder.

So with these ideas in mind lets dive in. :)

The tragedy of the Newtown massacre has collimated the overall political zeitgeist on the nature of violence. Or has it?

The drivel spewing out of both sides of the political spectrum here in America, at least insofar as I've seen, have had almost nothing substantive to say about the nature of violence. What we have seen is political talking points, that when taken by themselves (and grossly out of context) appear to be valid points.

- More than half of all gun deaths in the U.S. are suicides
- Gun involvement in domestic violence
- Accidental deaths of children
- Who needs an assault weapon?
- High rates of gun violence in inner cities

It doesn't take much in the way of research (or intellectual honesty) to come up with compelling counters to these types of points either.

- Suicide rates in the U.S. are lower than most of the rest of the world. A rest of the world with far less guns.
- Domestic violence incidents per capita are lower here than in most of the rest of the world. 
- Infant and child mortality rates are much higher in most of the world (though not as low as most of europe)
- What is an assault weapon? The definition is murky and relates to aspects of a firearm that have nothing substantive to do with its lethality in any way whatsoever.
- Inner city violence has a clear correlation with poverty and not per-capita gun ownership. 
- Gun violence is almost always statistically lower in cities where per-capita gun ownership is higher. But, this coorelates with income more strongly than gun ownership itself.

Granted, anyone who reads this who *IS* dedicated to some semblance of intellectual honesty can also see that *merely* making counter arguments is not enough. But the point I am trying to make is a deeper one than "guns are good" or "guns are bad".

That point being, that NONE of the debate seems to be focusing on violence at all. Not on the psychology of violence, the politics of violence, or the economics of violence. The proliferation of guns in America is a topic worthy of it's own blog (indeed of it's own encyclopedia), but I think we can at least grasp that the gun pointed at a fellow citizen, and not one pointed at a paper target, or a deer, is at the heart of the matter here. And thus we are really talking about violence and its nature.

A lot of people, most of them young children, died needlessly in Newtown at the hands of a maniac. People are assaulted and often killed in needless displays of gun violence every day. Suicides, drive-by's, domestic violence, mob turf wars. For us to be a country that incarcerates more of it's citizens per-capita than any country in the world, you would assume we had this licked by now. And it is abundantly clear that we do not.


I see the two sides of the political spectrum being equally naive about this topic. On the one hand you have those on the left who think that guns should be eliminated, that only law enforcement should have them, and that all of our violence problems will vanish. On the right you see abject fear and distrust of the government and its motives, and a fear that giving any ground on gun rights equates to the slippery slope of a police-state.

The left argument is horrendously flawed for quite a number of reasons. First, and perhaps most importantly, most of the argument stems from a near absolute paranoid denial of what a gun is, and what it isn't. I am still horrified by that now rather famous picture floating around the internet of Senator Feinstein brandishing an AK47 (and a fully automatic one which is already illegal) with her finger in the trigger guard. Such a gesture on a gun range will get you removed from said gun range for being both dangerous and stupid. This is basic gun safety 101. The first lesson you learn....assuming you have any credible expertise with one. I tend to discount the opinions of people who have no expertise upon which to base their opinions.

Those who believe only law enforcement should possess lethal weapons have a poor understanding of the nature of violence period, and a poor understanding of what law enforcement is legally obligated to do for the citizenry. The realities of violent attacks are that they are almost always without warning and occur quickly. Even those who say things like "if the worst weapon a person could have is a knife" are being stupid. Having studied martial arts and self defense for quite a number of years, I can tell you that the sobering reality is that almost nothing you can do weaponless will give you an edge of any kind on a knife wielding attacker. An attacker wielding a knife is not going to be kind enough to allow you to set up your favorite disarming technique. That's not to say that defense training is useless. But the only reliable way to defend ones life in such a situation is to shoot that person at range. Once that attacker is in range, someone is going to experience massive and perhaps fatal blood loss. That crazy shit Steven Seagal can do? Remember you are watching a movie.

And lets not forget that countless appellate court rulings and even a few rulings at the "big bench" have made it abundantly clear that law enforcement is under no legal obligation to protect you. NONE. 

Most on the left who have these pie-in-the-sky views about violence and prefer to "let the government do its job and protect us" are likely just people well off enough and lucky enough to have not experienced a significant amount of violence in their lives. Moreso, given that most people regardless of belief or political affiliation are not violent, I imagine that more than a little perception bias is at play here.


Those on the right squawk the 2nd Amendment. And if you read that amendment carefully it is clear WHY the amendment exists.

"A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed." 

What the statement says, both clearly and eloquently, is that governments have a vested interest in having a standing army, and regardless of this the rights of the people to arm themselves cannot be taken away. 

The comma is not an unambiguous pause, as some claim. And one need go no further than the personal writings of Thomas Jefferson or Alexander Hamilton or (insert name of founding father here) to realize that the amendment was written specifically to establish that the government absolutely cannot deny citizens the right to defend themselves or their liberties. And as with any freedom, there is a price to be paid.

Still, we are a couple of centuries and change removed from the drafting of this amendment. Drafted during a time when there were basically four weapons qualified as "arms". A musket, a pistol, a blunderbuss, and.....a canon! Clearly today we have far more advanced weapons technology. 

Insofar as the "right of the people" is concerned, again one need only look at writings of some of our founders to find plenty of evidence that even revolutionary wacko's like Thomas Jefferson (who sadly would be an unelectable man in our modern climate) considered those rights only tantamount for those who were law abiding and decent. Even Justice Antonin Scalia (who is about as left leaning as I am a koala) found that constitutionally the right wasn't an open ended one. 

Do I have the right to defend my home from invasion with my 15 round semi-auto pistol? The Supreme Court says I do. Do I have the right to own an RPG so I can reliably take out an attacker's armored vehicle before he gets to my house? The Supreme Court seems to think that having the ability to level a building is not covered by the 2nd Amendment. I tend to agree with this reasonable distinction. 

Those on the right also squawk about the slippery slope of tighter regulation leading to national gun registries. And perhaps this is a real concern, but I think not given the nature of things. 

On the one hand you have history lessons. One of the main reasons why the Nazi's (for instance) were able to so cleanly conquer Poland with next to no resistance movement forming during the entire war, was because Poland required gun registration. The Nazi's knew this and deliberately went after such records immediately after capturing Warsaw, and then proceeded to surgically disarm the citizenry. 

On the other hand you have the nature of information in the modern world. I have blogged about this topic before, and about how parochial ideas of anonymity and privacy simply do not exist anymore (and about how this isn't quite the bad thing it seems to sound like).  Suffice to say it is not rocket science, given modern data mining technology, for such information to already be easily available to law enforcement or the government without changing any laws. Indeed given the rise in social media and the internet in general, really effective work can be done with a PC and google for cryin out loud.  In other words, this slippery slope is a relatively non existent one. That genie is and has been out of the bottle for some time already. 


I suppose at the end of the day I'm most deeply trouble by the polarized nature of the discussion, and the sobering reality that NONE OF IT is focusing on the actual problems we should care about. Violence and human suffering are the most important of social concerns. But none of the discussion is about any of the real root causes of these problems.  I will try to blog about THOSE in another post...



etc..... And to paraphrase an oft quoted line "Guns don't proliferate violence, Humans proliferate violence"

We *can* do better, but only if we honestly examine why we aren't.

Friday, January 18, 2013

The Gun Debate - Wrongheaded thinking on both sides

It often takes unfortunate (and rare and overly publicized) events to crystallize a controversial topic in the American collective conscience. This is primarily because most people spend their days earning a paycheck and living their lives, as opposed to caring in the slightest about things which do not directly effect them. It's a human trait to be this way.

We can be thankful that we live in relatively non violent times. Though this is not the impression many people have, perhaps due to that very lack of exposure coupled with sensory overload on the topic, it is nonetheless statistically true. As human beings we tend to focus on what we feel, and thus on what we think we know because of that. As anyone who has been through a divorce can tell you, this is a bad way to evaluate the merits of either things or people.

The ownership of firearms is a long standing and strong tradition in America. It is also one guaranteed by The Constitution. Gun ownership is an integral part of being able to exercise ones liberty, even for those who would never own one.

America has one of the highest homicide rates in the western world, at about 10,000 gun related homicides per year. The overwhelming majority of these homicides, according to the FBI, are committed by people who for one reason or another (clinically demonstrated mental instability, felons, and people subverting existing gun law) should have never had a gun in the first place. Why is this so?

Part of this is a sheer numbers equation. There are nearly 300,000,000 guns in the U.S. in private hands. Just as countries who have lower amounts of cars per capita than we do have less in the way of automobile accidents, the same is true of other nations where there are less guns.

It is interesting to note that though we have a high homicide rate, we have a MUCH MUCH lower rate of violent crime overall than most countries that ban or limit gun ownership.

In Australia for instance a woman is 4 times as likely to be raped as in America. You are nearly 5 times more likely to be physically assaulted in Ireland than America. These two are some of the more extreme examples, but in general violent crime is higher, and oftentimes significantly higher in countries where gun ownership is either difficult or prohibited.

The explanation as to why this is so should be obvious, but if it isn't I will spell it out for you. Human beings are often violent. And more to the point roughly 97% of those incarcerated for violent offences throughout the world (the percentages vary slightly) are men.

Men are often violent. It is in our biology to have a greater propensity for violence than females, and in our psychology collectively as a species to be in denial of this fact. A person simply with the willingness to *be* violent has an advantage over....ALL OF US. Someone who is physically stronger than you and willing to be violent can do as he pleases, and can more readily do as he pleases knowing full well the liklihood of you being able to defend yourself is nonexistent.

In other words a certain level of violence is endemic to our species and to think otherwise is just plain naive. Living in our safe little worlds where (thankfully) few of us actually experience violence in no way makes this not true.

I've had enough practical experience in the world to know how precisely true this is personally, and from both sides of the situation. I have been physically assaulted, robbed at gunpoint multiple times, and on more than one occasion been forced to defend my life. I have also had to use my understanding of human nature to bully and coerce people unwilling to behave civilly with not only the threat of violence, but actual violence to defend myself, my property, as well as employees and loved ones.

I've seen many people, in situations where I've had to "take charge" of a caustic situation, cower and panic. Not because they are weak people, but rather because they've had the privilege of enjoying a relatively violence free life and simply have no practical experience with understanding how to cope.

Not knowing something does NOT make one an expert on any subject. And this seems to largely be the case with those who think it's a realistic idea to somehow remove a quarter of a billion guns from the country.

We see colorful interpretations of language used to describe things in this debate as well.

Assault weapon for instance.

What exactly does this mean? The definition is so arbitrary as to be meaningless in any practical sense. The proposals to limit gun magazine capacity, as if this would have any appreciable effect, amuse me the most. Take a peek at this, and realize magazines with only six rounds in them are as deadly as ones with 16.

The skill required to do what is shown in the above video is an easily acquired skill. I can reload a semi automatic pistol nearly as fast, and unlike the presenter above I don't shoot guns every day.

The sad reality that most people are not facing here is this. Anyone with the motivation to maim and kill many people will always be easily capable of doing so. The fact that, from a legal standpoint, schools are considered "gun free zones" in no way makes schools free from gun violence. Violence is ILLEGAL, and no amount of laws passed anywhere will make it less illegal...or less tragic. Had schools not been legislated into becoming gun free zones, perhaps someone on campus might have been able to down an attacker.

It is no small surprise that all major shootings that have occurred successfully in America have taken place in precisely those places where guns are not allowed. As long as guns are available in America (and they always will be unless the country collectively develops the nerve to pass a Constitutional Amendment to the contrary) we have to accept the reasons WHY they are available.

The real crux of the argument is not guns. It is who is allowed to get them, and who gets to decide. The BATF (Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms) is not even allowed to enforce existing law, due to political maneuvering by a misguided NRA to minimalize and restrict the governments say so in these two areas. The BATF's own statistics show that around 97% of all guns that hit the street illegally come from less than 1% of licensed gun dealers. You'd think the BATF would be able to put a stop to this, but they can't. Their hands are tied by existing law that doesn't allow them to do obvious things. Things like a federal registry. Things like inventory level reporting. The BATF isn't allowed to audit gun dealers but once a year. What is worse, due to the BATF being so understaffed as well as their being a ridiculous amount of licensed dealers in the U.S., the real story here is that the BATF on average only gets to these audits about once every 17 years. There are over 51,000 gun stores in the U.S., more than there are grocery stores. Even weirder, there are around 129,000 licensed dealers. So where are these roughly 80,000 "dealers" selling guns? Out of their homes, trunks, and gun shows. There is no such thing as a "gun show loophole", but consider the BATF's inability to police and audit 129,000 dealers with 2500 employees. Legitimate brick and mortar dealers do background checks religiously. And background checks are seamless and quick. My last one took all of 20 minutes. But the current situation basically turns it into an honor system, and as such it is the "hole in the dike" that is feeding inexpensive guns to criminals who do not have to resort to a black market.

In other words, why is it easier to get a FFL license than it is to sell alcohol in most states. It's easier to get an FFL license than it is to get a drivers license in many states. Does this make sense?

Technology has made this a more complex problem than our founders could have ever envisioned nearly two and a half centuries ago. Should we ban "assault weapons"? Perhaps, but only if we can come up with a reasonable argument for this. I honestly do not think a reasonable argument exists, beyond banning automatic weapons.....which have been banned for 80 years already and are not a problem. We do keep citizens from owning tanks and RPG's, but such devices are clearly not for defending an individuals liberties. No building has ever abridged your freedoms, so there's no need for the capacity to destroy one. Keep me from owning a gun? Only if you plan on taking it from my cold dead hands, unless I have been deemed mentally incompetent or been classed as a felon.

We have the mechanisms in place ALREADY to limit the proliferation of guns illegally. What we lack is the political will to do so.