Friday, August 29, 2008


The Democratic convention’s star-studded crowning of Obama at the elaborate altar in Denver provided America with another sampling from a polished orator, presenting no surprises. Before CNN and MSNBC had time to recover from their swooning, McCain sent a long hard throw to the plate in the form of Gov. Sarah Palin. Palin’s first address on the world stage was surprisingly effective, and her delivery resonated with a genuine energy that both McCain and Obama should envy. Her address also towered over Biden’s uncomfortable delivery of words sounding too much like someone else’s voice.

For some reason when Palin says “challenge the status quo to serve the common good,” you get the sense that she actually means it. The Democratic leadership has already decried Palin’s lack of experience with the insult, “John McCain put the former mayor of a town of 9,000 with zero foreign policy experience a heartbeat away from the presidency.” That is probably not the best place to begin the attack. Of the foursome lined up for the run to the White House, Palin is the only one who can claim any Chief Executive experience. In her case it is of both a company and a State. Having enriched the Alaska coffers after taking on the oil companies provides her some coin with middle America as it struggles with escalating oil prices and cost of living. Palin took on both Democrats and Republicans with ethics legislation against corruption. Her reputation as a reformer fighting cronyism almost makes her an unlikely new member of the Republican Party leadership given its Congressional track record of the past decade.

While Obama, the new countenance of the Democratic Party, chose a Washington insider as his running mate, McCain’s pick of Palin serves up a surprising potential new face for the Republicans. It is a maverick decision, and evidently not one expected by the Republican guard and financial backers. McCain’s new V.P. running mate is an invitation to some of the women who supported Hillary Clinton but whose patronage was shaken when she was sidestepped for V.P. by Obama. Her anti-abortion stance will make such attraction difficult.

This unexpected pick of Palin presents some insight into McCain’s decision making, and changes the national political landscape. In one move, McCain adds distance between himself and the Bush/Cheney administration, and puts some substance on his version of change. The politically unbalanced media onslaught has already started against Palin, nevertheless this decision by McCain will stimulate new dialogue on the road to the Oval Office, and will certainly impose fresh perspectives from and on the Republican Party front. Her presence will invigorate the McCain campaign with new energy, while at the same time reminding Democrats that their new leader ignored almost half of them by not selecting Hillary Clinton as his own V.P.

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Tuesday, August 26, 2008


The purpose of these Pacific Gate Post articles is to stimulate thinking, challenge and entertain. Hopefully, such intent is occasionally achieved. On many fronts, touching politics, religion, and culture through the pen may occasionally arouse emotions beyond rational thought, or invite reactions instigated by agenda. The August 22, 2008 article hereunder, seeks to explore the notion and result of guns in society. Comments and emails in response indicate that the subject of guns may stimulate passions perhaps more than religion or politics. The comments not containing extreme personal attacks or inappropriate content were posted. Some further thoughts on the article’s perspective are appropriate, given the importance of the subject.

Guns and cannons enabled a revolution, and created a Confederation that was then morphed into a Federation. The rights protected, conscientiously reserved the right of citizens to bear arms, thereby safeguarding against the possibility that citizens might once again find themselves under an oppressive or unjust government. It is understandable that at some level the original intention be shielded from corruption or impaired in any form.

The Declaration of Independence and the Framers of The Constitution when forming the Federation could never have envisioned the overwhelming weaponry currently under federal government administration, and available to the Commander In Chief. The tools of revolution that succeeded against the Royal army in the 18th. century, were similar to those of the routed oppressor. The Federal government today has weapons, including nuclear, that would readily squash any uprising, regardless of artillery, and a suggested maintenance of arms for such intended purpose is disingenuous. The checks and balances in the structure of the government safeguard against an authoritarian regime. If the structure breaks down, guns wouldn’t bring a potential dictator under control if he has his finger on the button.

It is not reasonable that broad access be granted solely because frontier reality of 250 years ago required it or made it feasible. FEASIBILITY is a critical point here, not the love or hatred of guns. Is it feasible that society would today be capable of protecting itself from would be oppressors on its own soil using guns?

Having grown up with guns, and having belonged to a gun club with a state of the art shooting range, provided me an appreciation for handguns and rifles. Those years provided some insight into the extreme power provided an individual holding a gun. The omnipotent energy of an exploding .44 Magnum or .454 Cassull cartridge discharging out of a chamber at almost 2000 feet per second, or the monstrous power of a .500 S&W Magnum, are undeniable. They are indisputably dangerous, and manufactured for only one purpose - maiming one’s target is not it. Even the most common caliber, the .22 endows its owner with cogent superiority over the neighborhood. None of these guns will ever be used in a successful revolution on American soil.

Unfortunately, when it comes to accessibility of guns strictly for self protection, it becomes very difficult to have half measures. Under the current laws, North American society will continue to find itself subjugated to a proliferation of guns, particularly guns in the wrong hands. Either everyone in society is allowed to own one, or no one is. The current situation is a dangerous partial acceptance, and criminals ready, willing and able to kill, will continue to have ready access in greater and greater numbers, as population numbers continue to increase.

Having healthy debates on serious topics is encouraging. Resolutions require an effort to understand both sides of an argument, as well as creative and clear thinking void of anger. The passionate responses on this topic, suggest that a solution may be highly difficult to achieve, but not impossible. In the meantime, thoughtful comments are welcome. Reason usually finds workable solutions.

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Friday, August 22, 2008


This week found the gun industry crossing a threshold, which may signal a new momentum for living dangerously in America. Harrold Independent School District in Texas plans to arm its staff and teachers with guns. A Rubicon is being crossed that may signal a collapse of any likelihood that guns will come under any effective control for many years to come. From Miami to Vancouver, violence on all North American city streets is real. Two millennia have passed since Caesar uttered the famous line, “Alea iacta est,” (the die is cast) as he crossed the Rubicon River into Italy. The threshold crossing was a declaration of war. There would be no return for Caesar from that fateful decision in January of 49BC. There may now be no restitution for ascendancy of common sense over the creed of the gun.

Guns in the hands of educators sets an extreme example in the minds of children eager to learn from their supposed scholarly and erudite teachers. Now students will know there is a gun in each classroom.

The debate over James Madison’s Bill of Rights rages on without help from the current Bush/Cheney controlled Supreme Court which struck down Washington D.C.’s ban on private handgun ownership this week. The city had rightly reasoned and acted on its objective to reduce the out of control gun violence, deciding that handguns should be kept unloaded and disassembled. Not an extreme measure, but a precautionary measure nonetheless. The Supreme Court decided that the Second Amendment not only grants rights to militias to have guns, but it also grants that right to individuals.

Gun manufacturers have done a masterful job of influencing Congress, and affecting perceptions through a broad swath of the population to the point where being against private gun ownership is perceived as being unpatriotic. Most cleverly, gun makers have denounced any and all responsibility for the use of guns, and have distanced themselves very cleverly from the slaughter that is occurring on the streets. They effectively advertise the overwhelming firepower of the gun and its ability to kill, but secret themselves behind the chant of millions of believers who trill in unison and confidence, “guns don’t kill, people do.” Of course, fists, baseball bats and knives were centuries go surpassed by the gun in efficiency for proficient killing, and the modern small weapon is a beautiful example of technological potency in the art of surprise. Particularly when the surprise is that in an instant, you’re dead. No chance of defense or aegis.

The reality on the streets is that North Americans no longer feel safe in any of their cities. Between the impact of illicit drugs and readily applied extreme force, citizens are less concerned with their own government attacking them, if they ever really were, and more concerned with being attacked in their own neighborhoods. A whole society lives in fear. Madison and the First United States Congress never envisaged the social, political and economic realities of this century.

While the Bill of Rights’ eminent intentions and ambitions must be retained, its dictates related to guns require fresh perspectives. It is a government’s principal and foremost responsibility to protect its citizens. All other capacities imbued in its existence and obligations are secondary.

Guns in the hands of teachers is final proof that society not only does not feel safe, it no longer is. The government is failing its citizens. The crossing of this Rubicon is momentous evidence that the government should seriously revisit the right to bear arms, which was originally intended for militia and protection of citizenry in a military context. It also provided citizens some comfort against an potentially oppressive government, as well as provided for the purpose of killing game. Given the caliber of weapons now readily available on the market today compared to a slow to load musket, that right and its present connotation, results in murder and mayhem across the whole landscape, yet would provide no comfort against a despotic government armed with a nuclear arsenal. Most of all it results in widely felt fear.

The world, its population levels and its technologies have changed. In the framework of modern society, bearing arms no longer serves a legitimate purpose of protecting society. A gun in every home, or in the hands of every citizen, is tantamount to anarchy, and is no longer a symbol of Free Men.

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Monday, August 18, 2008


In the cacophony of political analysis, a student of history with a military background brings an extraordinarily insightful perspective on America’s character and position on the global stage. Andrew Bacevich delivers with uncommon perspicuity, a reflection of America that both unsettles and invigorates his audience. In a recent interview with Bill Moyers, Bacevich’s presentation reached a level of perfection and fluidity worth more than a ticket of admission. Bacevich delivered what can only be described as a tour de force.

At the core of Bacevich’s arguments resides the theme that arrogance is blinding. An overly ego driven society believes in its own invincibility, which prevents it from recognizing realities to its detriment. It is also his argument that national and international policies are a reflection of each individual’s desires, and both Vietnam and Iraq are logical consequences of imperial power and authority. He asserts that America should put its own house in order, and that such should take precedence over dealing with external problems. Although one may rightly dispute some of Bacevich’s contentions, his overall thesis is well founded.

America can be grateful and proud that from within its ranks, comes a clarity and profundity brought to the fore in the form of Andrew Bacevich. It is not so much that the ideas are new, since in many ways we find concepts advanced by others decades ago including some from the polarizing William A. Williams, however, the importance of Bacevich stepping up on the current American consciousness is his delivery and credibility. His analysis has probably been most significantly affected by his experience in Vietnam, and more recently with the loss of his son in Iraq. Such a life-changing event no doubt deepened Bacevich’s perceptions of the world and shaped his penetrating analysis of American national and international policies.

Bacevich’s observation that Congress has no answers to the nation’s current economic difficulties, although evident, are most disturbing. This underlines the lack of leadership and direction, but also emphasizes the necessity for each individual to take action that will in turn be reflected in policies enacted by lawmakers. America should examine whether it is a democratic republic, or an empire. The two are mutually exclusive, and we have fresh evidence of the fact. At a time when there is a dearth of philosopher kings, the likes of Andrew Bacevich, and his tenets and sentiments deserve more than an occasional eavesdropping, they merit our attention.

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Friday, August 15, 2008


The culminating event of the primaries will be the upcoming Democratic Convention. Hillary Clinton has evidently taken the upper hand on all fronts in her negotiations with Obama and the Democratic Party. It is now obvious that she came at them hard, heavy and authoritatively. They all caved. What does that say about the decision the Party is about to make? Who exhibits the capacities America desperately requires in its new leader?

We are being subjected to strange whining in the media that the Clintons’ have a need for attention and power, and that the Clintons’ upcoming presentations at the Democratic Convention are nothing more than Hillary and Bill’s egocentric final gasps on the political stage. We are told that the Clintons being given national exposure through use of the podium in Denver, is taking away attention from Obama, and is detrimental to the party. The blame-the-Clintons game is well under way.

We can be swayed by the media and discern this as an annoying last kick at the can by the Clintons, or we can perceive it as an additional window providing insight into two critical players vying for position on the final ticket to the White House. We should also recognize it for what it is, a distinctly adroit maneuver on Hillary’s part, sending notice that she isn’t anyone’s wallflower and remains a proficient force to be contended with on the American political landscape.

Obama could have avoided this very threatening affront to his leadership and capacities, if he had placed Hillary Clinton on the ticket as his Vice President. With Hillary in such position, he would have been in effective control. Why he hasn’t closed that deal is perplexing.

Obama’s political chops may have been earned on the streets of Chicago, but negotiating on the world stage requires an uncommon strength, and will, that goes beyond anything learned. The finer elements are inherent. Pressure tests the mettle. It is therefore to the voters’ advantage that Obama didn’t sweep into victory with an overwhelming number of delegates. All voters are being treated to a display of skills and command of the battlefield that is politics. This will furnish all Americans a finer measure of the candidates, with which to make more educated decisions come the Presidential elections.

It is also inescapable that the Democratic race is not yet determined, nor is an upcoming Democratic White House a foregone conclusion.

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Monday, August 11, 2008


Bill Gates has discovered a newfound passion, enriching the world poor through Creative Capitalism. Loosely translated, if you follow where he is placing capital, Gate’s definition of Creative Capitalism is the financing of the entrepreneurial spirit in corners of the globe that garnered little attention from the rest of the world’s population. There are other intentions to this sweeping endeavor, nevertheless it may be an indication that somewhere along his path Bill Gates has discovered new and compelling insight and wisdom. It has now been a generation since the days when visionary Gary Kildall claimed that his CP/M operating system had formed the basis of IBM’s first PC operating system (PC-DOS / MS-DOS), and technological history took a major turn.

In January of this year, the Gates foundation announced a $47 million grant to TechnoServe, principally financing a coffee growing project in Tanzania that will strengthen and organize its farmers. TechnoServe promotes the expansion of business opportunities at the grassroots level in numerous African and Latin American countries, and has been around since the late sixties. This commendable effort deserves all the funding it can get, and is evidently in line with Gates’ objective of earning a return on investment while helping people who have been left out of the economic loop.

The challenge is daunting. Such is human nature that individuals will do the self-serving thing eighty percent of the time. Capitalism matches human nature rather well, even to its self-serving first tendencies. Being an executive in a corporation provides further incentive and rationalization for implementing actions that are selfish and egocentric. The profit motive is all that need be quoted for rationalization, and doing the right thing right goes out the window. Microsoft history provides ample examples of such behavior, even to the extent of having provoked government regulatory attention. The market system nevertheless provides a vast platform onto which the new incarnation of Bill Gates can promote his version of benevolence.

While Gates has faith in technological advances to heal the pain of world poverty, the long-term answer really lies in shifting human consciousness, and on the capitalist front, broadly affecting behavior at the corporate level. As he continues to promote progress, Bill Gates should adjust his challenge to include such paradigm shift in consciousness over the longer time horizon. Gates long ago proved he was a master at effective PR. There is no reason why altruism cannot also be part and parcel of the corporate self-interest, gradually transplanting its darker elements of exploitation, or at the very least encouraging doing the right thing right.

Doing the right thing right isn’t always more difficult. It is very often, however, less expedient, and most often less profitable. The necessary factor is that of affecting perception at the top of the corporate food chain. Gates understands that process well. We should all wish him the best in such endeavor.

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Thursday, August 7, 2008


The galloping increases in crude oil prices have, particularly over the past year, provided many countries and their autocratic anti-democratic governments, newfound wealth with which to extend their self-serving primarily totalitarian lifespans. A deep reversal in prices, will push to the surface the blemishes and mismanagement that such countries have been subjected to.

Russia is a typical example of an economy whose despotic government has been buoyed by the anomalous increases in oil and gas prices. Vast cash reserves created by this transfer of wealth have availed Putin and his court financial resources to erect and refurbish only those elements of the national infrastructure necessary for sustained retention of his command over Russia. For the most part the abuse has been evident and overwhelmingly narcissistic. Billions of dollars have been concentrated into very few hands and anyone in disagreement or voicing discontent is either jailed or killed. The result is a Russia that now sheepishly accepts, even supports having a “strong man” at its helm, while the concept of security is only just a concept, and making more than a bare living requires being connected for protection.

In Saudi Arabia the continuing concentration of wealth and its accelerated growth, has only meant jumbo private jets and floating palaces exemplifying luxuries beyond the norms of comprehension. Building a sustainable society, with the advanced education and capacity to become industrious in the building of enterprises, is not part of any grand plan. Such would bring about some taste of freedom of thought and governance, and would upheave the extreme concentration of power and wealth.

Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez has taken personal control of his oil industry which will extend his term in office into lifetime employment, and agglomeration of wealth. Venezuelans feel “trapped,” and well they should as they slide toward an impoverished population. Chavez is reading from the Fidel Castro script for self preservation, but his script replaced tobacco leaves and sugar cane with oil. Castro did not run a communist country, he ran a Castro-enriching dictatorship. Chavez is on the same track. He has centralized control, and has used his new financial clout to fund radical groups in his neighboring countries. The Chavez ego is a growing threat to Latin American stability.

In other countries across the Middle East from Sudan to Kuwait, the recent rise in wealth from petroleum sales have hidden the frailty of their rulers and have compensated for their failures, and lack of positive intent toward the well-being of their populations. Most of these countries are also being negatively impacted by inflation. Spending, particularly rampant spending, has a tendency to gain a life of its own, and as oil prices continue their fall, totalitarian regimes will find that the cracks in their foundations are magnified in a world where the communications and internet make isolationism difficult.

Oppression and suppression of thought and being, incites populations to demand change, even rush the gates. Extreme wealth in the hands of very few while the vast majority barely subsist, creates pressures on a society that only brute strength and an army can squash. The welcome decline in oil prices will deliver many advantages to productive countries, and will administer some extremely negative consequences for some autocratic governments.

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Tuesday, August 5, 2008


A combined dynamic of forces has advanced oil prices to historically high levels for a period of time that all consumers have been impacted, enough to make some very serious decisions. Oil and gas hit all taxpayers hard on all fronts. Forbidding prices at the pump were not the only new reality. Food prices escalated accordingly, as did manufactured goods, regardless of where they were made. 2008 offered a threshold into energy consciousness. Consumers stepped through.

It is said that it takes somewhere between 21 and 28 days to change a habit, or to develop a new one. When the amount spent on filling our tanks, calculated as a percentage of our average incomes, rose into the teens, it arrested everyone’s attention. The price of oil has remained well over $120 per barrel for long enough to have impacted habits, and more importantly to have affected consciousness. Although price increase rates were extreme, price descents will come at a much slower rate as oil companies process the more expensive inventories through their distribution systems.

Oil consumption in the U.S. is apparently down 900,000 barrels per day. That’s a good start. Even if we see crude prices dropping to below $100 levels, the impact on the population is likely to be permanent. Between fill-ups at the pump, and checking-account-shattering purchases for the family’s groceries, we have all been subjected to “alternatives” by the media. As we budget our purchases of food, we’ll also become more conscious of what will sustain us nutritionally.

Most critical to our long-term economic and ecological health, we have been thinking about alternatives in our overall consumption of all goods, and a majority of us have begun implementing changes in our daily and weekly routines. The longer such changes persist, the greater the likelihood that our collective behavior will shift permanently. This shock to our system and newfound awareness, launched by the oil infrastructure, will have enduring impact that our grandchildren and great-grandchildren will be grateful for. ...And so will our environment.

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