Monday, March 30, 2009

What Would Jack Shephard Do?

In a previous post, I described a weird phenomenon that seemed to be occurring. Looking into the situation further, I recently came across all of this:

The Search for the 11:11 Angels

Urantia Foundation

Urantia Book Online

Now, I am not saying that I subscribe to this philosophy...yet. However, it has to be more than coincidence that something presumably insignificant – for example, seeing a repeated number on a clock – led me to it without any prior knowledge of it. Being a man of science (anthropology), two things stand out for me about Urantia:

1) The combination of faith and science, i.e. a creator God and biological evolution.
2) That Creationists, who believe the Earth is only around 10,000 years old and modern man walked with dinosaurs, criticize it for its alleged profane, cult-like "inanities" and inaccuracies.

Even though I am an agnostic opposed to organized religion, I try to keep an open mind about one's faith. Describing myself as spiritually inclined (after all I’m not an atheist), I believe in the rights of an individual to worship as they please. With that in mind, perhaps on a subconscious level I simply have been seeking something that relates and reaffirms my own ideas about our existence, purpose, etc., and sought it out. As such, it is very conceivable that on that same level I have been controlling the aforementioned phenomenon with nothing more to it. Yet, on the other hand, maybe there is some real entity – whether a celestial messenger or a higher-evolved "alien" life form – trying to make contact and communicate that knowledge.

Yes, it sounds crazy, but I'm really beginning to increasingly believe that it is beyond coincidence. Perhaps that is the point? To believe? (After all, Locke wished Jack had believed...)

©2009 Steve Sagarra

Friday, March 27, 2009

The Dark Ages: The Sequel

When I was in education school, I was told by one professor that I might not be able to teach World War Two as part of the curriculum, or at least certain topics like the Holocaust, due to the sensitive nature of certain subjects. At the time, I was flabbergasted that such a notion could be true. Though she herself admitted it was wrong, it would appear she was nonetheless correct if this article is any indication of the future of history education:

Exit Winston Churchill, Enter Twitter

With proposed curriculum changes like this, there could be more than just an hour of darkness after Saturday's "Earth Hour." How does one even contemplate the change from studying the likes of Shakespeare and the Second World War to blogs and social networking trends? Just what the world needs - more self-absorbed dumb people spreading their "knowledge" in real-time without knowing the facts.

Weirdly, there just might be a bright light on the horizon...from the educational system of the United States, no less:

Bill to Reform Teaching of American History and Civics Introduced in the Senate

Guess only time will tell if we learn the lesson. And hopefully, before the mistakes of the past are repeated.

©2009 Steve Sagarra

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Pass the Buck, Hold the Bonus

How is the economic recovery plan working for you? Did you get your bonus? No, of course not. Such an extravagance would be absurd during these troubled economic times. That is, unless you are an employee – at the executive level, no less – of one of the companies that have received taxpayer bailout money. Whoever did not see that happening probably should apply for a position on the Obama economic team – the same one that blindly forced a bailout plan upon the American taxpayer, paid for with their money, without any oversight in place. Next time, how about sending the American taxpayers the check, and let the ones who got us into the mess foot the bill?

Speaking of the Obama Administration…has there been one in more disarray during its first months in office? For one, Cabinet nominees – including Bill Richardson and Tom Daschle – have dropped as much, and as rapidly, as Wall Street. And due to the uproar across the nation over the bailout plan, there are already calls for the Treasury Secretary, Tim Geithner, to resign. Meanwhile, three key Cabinet-level positions – Secretary of Commerce, Secretary of Health & Human Services and U.S. Trade Representative – have yet to be filled. Guess they are trying to find a Democrat who paid their taxes.

Forget the economic crisis, though. From the start, the new administration has had, in general, an incoherency among its team in setting policy that would give whiplash to a schizophrenic. Not everyone seems to be on the same page.

Even more, President Obama likes to point out inheriting a one trillion dollar deficit, vowing to cut it in half by 2013. However, by the time the bailout plan has run its course, the reality is that he will face an almost THREE trillion dollar deficit (and counting, presumably). Last time I was in a math class, which was a long time ago, 1 + 2 \ ½ =1.5. The only thing cut will be the next administration’s ability to reverse the failed economic policies of its predecessor – while inheriting a trillion dollar plus deficit, if not more, because of Democrats’ current spending plans. There will be no taxpayer money to spend, no executive bonuses to recoup. Only economic catastrophe.

From the President on down, the inexperience – touted as an asset by Democrats and a liability by Republicans during the Presidential campaign – is showing, if not telling. And were only two months into it.

©2009 Steve Sagarra

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Maybe Billy Mays Can Mighty Mend It

By no means am I a billionaire, nor do I pretend to know how to become one. In fact, the only thing remotely similar to myself and a billionaire is "air" – and even that is speculative. However, I think billionaire Warren Buffet, of Berkshire Hathaway Inc., needs to keep quiet for a while. Why? First, he practically single-handedly facilitated the sale of St. Louis-based Anheuser-Busch to InBev by selling his stock in the former, primarily because he thought the takeover would fail. He later recanted by saying he thought it was a mistake to sell…simply because he lost money on the deal by selling a majority of stock too early. Cue the smallest of solemn violins…

Then yesterday, Buffet’s pessimistic remarks that the economy “has fallen off a cliff” sent Wall Street plummeting faster than an airplane with no wings (for reference, see Superman Returns). Contrastingly, Citigroup, receiver of multiple government bailout funds, today reported profits for the first time since 2007. What happened? Wall Street soared on the news. Of course, any positive banking news is good at this point. However, the promising upswing does little to offset the reality that Citigroup and the general banking sector are still in deep caca. Instead, financial analysts would rather see a “shift in sentiment” for a sustained rally.

Wait...sentiment? As in attitude, feelings? Are you saying Wall Street bases achievement on having a few Dr. Phil moments?!!

The worst was when Alan Greenspan was head of the Federal Reserve. When Alan spoke, the economy listened and acted a Catholic mass. Up and down, up and down. The economy seemingly hinged on his every word. The question is does it seem secure that the economy can swing on the words of a few? It is scary that the likes of Greenspan and Buffet could send the economy over the cliff – even after it has fallen off – simply by yawning. - You Are Not Warren Buffett

©2009 Steve Sagarra

Thursday, March 5, 2009

The Winds At Dawn

In 1978, President Sardar Mohammad Daoud Khan, the founder of the modern republic of Afghanistan, and his family were assassinated and buried in an unmarked grave during a communist coup. Daoud, a progressive yet repressive leader hardly representative of democratic government, had wrested control of the country only five years earlier in a coup against his own cousin, King Mohammad Zahir Shah; ironically, it was Zahir who introduced democratic reforms during his reign, including free elections and universal suffrage. Sadly, the assassination of Daoud precipitated thirty years of conflict – beginning with the Soviet Union’s invasion the year after – that still endures. Yet, thanks to the U.S.-led overthrow of the Taliban government in 2001, the current democratically elected government under President Hamid Karzai is preparing to put to rest its past by reinterring the former president with a state funeral – a stark reminder of what was lost and what has been regained.

A world away, Venezuelans have seemingly embraced despotism – no less through democratic means. In a referendum vote, President Hugo Chavez secured a slim victory in removing term limits for all public officials, essentially paving the way for him and his political cronies to stay in power for decades and further their socialist agenda. Much like his friend Fidel Castro, the former “president” of Cuba, President Chavez is anything but, and should call himself what he is – a dictator. Only dictators seek to maintain their power for as long as possible, while presidents seek to lead until such time when it is time for them to step down. Castro and Chavez are to George Washington or Abraham Lincoln what an apple is to an orange – not alike at all, except for both being fruits.

There is the belief that such things do not, and cannot, occur in the United States. The U.S. was founded on democratic principles, and Americans have always elected their leaders. Yet, four out of 44 presidents have been assassinated, each time calling into question our self-touted civil character. Meanwhile, a myriad of crises – the Great Depression being the prime example, no less under the longest-serving U.S. president – have put the country on the brink of radical reform. With the largest economic stimulus in its history and calls for nationalization of major corporate entities, the prospect of a socialist agenda imperiously thrust upon Americans is at hand under the Obama Administration; however, unlike Darth Chavez, President Obama has, at most, only two terms in which to do it. All the while, we face daily threats that seek an inglorious end to our national sovereignty and outright existence.

Perhaps stemming from the Soviet-era occupation, a certain affinity for the Afghan people has always existed in the United States. After all, only John Rambo could go to Kabul. Seemingly, Afghanis have been waging battle against oppression and control of their country for decades, from the Soviets to the Taliban. They continue that fight still today alongside U.S.-led forces, understanding what is at stake for their future.

On the other front, the opposite seems true of Iraq. That is not a disparaging observation, simply a matter of perspective. The Iraqis have known only oppression and occupation over the same period as the Afghan people, with no understanding of freedom and self-government. There is a good reason for that fact:  Saddam Hussein ruthlessly stamped out such ideas by slaughtering the people who voiced them.

In the judgment of many, that was the problem from the beginning. Taking for granted our own circumstances, Americans inherently believe that everyone wants what we want. There is, of course, nothing wrong with that thinking. We thought what had occurred in Afghanistan – the overthrow of the Taliban and establishment of an elective government almost over night – could happen in Iraq. When Saddam Hussein was overthrown, we thought the Iraqis at the same time would embrace democratic ideals just as the Afghanis had upon the removal of the Taliban regime. It did not happen for one simple reason:  the socio-political culture and history of Iraq, and our misunderstanding of it. Think of it in terms of a fiery, caged animal versus a timid, abused one – we failed to realize that the Afghanis have been zealously fighting for it for decades while the Iraqis have not. Just because one breaks the bonds of oppression does not mean the enlightenment of freedom will replace it.

At the same time, the defeatist attitude that has crept into the fight against the enemies of democracy and freedom – particularly from those nations that have both – is unfathomable. Regrettably, the United States is not immune. Like the Iraqis, Americans, or at least half of the polled electorate, have no idea, have forgotten or just do not care for what it is we fight, lulled by media coverage and Washington rhetoric that stymies our efforts and portrays an unwinnable situation. The worst possible course is idly to abide the forces that seek to destroy our ideals, particularly when on the cusp of triumph over them. In the end, that thinking that will lead to our undoing and, ultimately, our own self-destruction; Igor Panarin, dean of the School for Future Diplomats in the Russian Foreign Ministry, predicted before a group at the Diplomatic Academy that the collapse will occur in 2010. The only question is will we act like a caged animal who fights back or an abused one who never gets the chance?  

©2009 Steve Sagarra