Category Archives: Miscellaneous

Occupy Wall Street, Banking, War: A Silly Question

War and banking seem to be two big concerns these days. I have a silly question to ask meant to get people thinking about connections between the two, and perhaps provide more direction to the “generally dissatisfied movement” of today (I think it’s more than Occupy Wall Street).

I’ll offer a personal opinion on war, a personal opinion on economics, then bring it together.

war

I might be going out on a limb on this one, but I think it’s fishy that we always have a reason to go to war. I say this because we, as a country (USA), in our two-hundred and thirty-five or so year history, have never had a period of peace. We have been at war since our inception. This might refresh your memory: Timeline of United States Military Operations (Wikipedia, will open in a new window). Again, we have always been at war. We are always at war. We are never at peace.

Not surprisingly, the Pentagon spends a lot of money. In fact, the Pentagon spends more on war than all fifty states spend on health, education, welfare, and safety combined (Business Insider, “15 Facts About Military Spending that will Blow your Mind,” interesting, will open in new window). We spent about $700 billion in 2010 alone. To give you an idea of how we stack up against our neighbors here on this planet:

The Biggest 'n Baddest Countries--All money spent on war: who spends what % of it?

To make sure you get that right, the USA spends 43% of the world’s military expenditures, and its next biggest competitor is China, who spends 7.3% of the total world military expenditures. We, at #1, spend about $700 billion, they, at #2, spend about $115 billion. Big difference.

Okay–so we’re always at war and we spend a lot on it. Something, somewhere is wrong. Well, I suppose one could say that we are the police of the world and we are doing good but there are a lot of problems with that, more than I’m equipped to speak on. If you’ve never heard of the USA having conflicts abroad, the World Policy Institute published this report (will open in a new window) that presents data on how the USA seems to continuously sell arms to political regimes and in many cases profit off of the war by selling arms to both sides of the same conflict. Consider that the USA used to have great relations with both Hussein and Bin Laden before we launched wars to capture them so that we could end what is continuing.

My guess is that what is going on with this USA-monster-military-always-everywhere thing is what has gone on since the beginning of civilizations, and is purposeful: the attempt of a group to gain power. I know, it sounds crazy. But this is a personal view of mine on war. For war to be what it is to the USA, someone, somewhere must be gaining power and making money.

Next I’ll share with you a person view of mine on economics. First, I must give a little background. Let’s start by asking “where do we get all that money from?”

Money and Banking

Our war is funded by debt. No? You must have not heard about our little spending problem. It looks like after we add up the income and expenses we miss the mark by about one and a half trillion dollars…every year. We owe fourteen trillion dollars, so no, we do not have money for war. It is financed by debt.

This is not strange. Throughout our history, we have taken on more debt in times of war–the citizens of the country won’t squabble over debt when it’s debt used to go to war.

Why can we take on so much debt? We need to have a little background on how banking in our country works. It’s actually surprising how many well-educated people I know in this country who don’t know how the Federal Reserve works or what it does. It is important to understand it before we get to my main point.

The Federal Reserve was created in 1913 to help prevent market crashes. They decided the best way to do this was to give the Federal Reserve the power to control the value of the US Dollar. They also decided that the Federal Reserve should loan our money to us and be a private entity that cannot be audited–that is right: we cannot perform a financial audit on the private organization that lends the US people their own currency. They gave the Federal Reserve the power to control the value of the US dollar by allowing it to control the supply of the dollars in the world market by adjusting the interest rates at which it would loan these dollars to banks and by setting the required amount of capital a bank must have to cover its debts. If this is all confusing, perhaps I could try to give a better description in another post, but for now, all you need to know is that a private bank lends dollars to the US people and it controls the value of those dollars.

Next, the US Dollar is the reserve currency at the World Bank. That means the US dollar is the most official currency on Earth, holla. But why is a piece of paper the most official thing on the planet?

We arrive at my simple point, sorta. It’s regarding the gold standard. US bills used to look like this:

Notice it says "payable in gold coins"

The problem with this is we wanted to create more money, and we didn’t have enough gold to back it, so we had to just make the paper itself the instrument of value. We can print a lot more paper than we can create gold. Alchemy isn’t a popular major these days.

If you’re lost, it’s okay, I jumped around. Start from here: We used to have our dollars backed by gold. In fact, in Article I Section 10 of the original constitution, those founding father guys required us to never “make any Thing but gold and silver Coin a Tender in Payment of Debts.” Why could they have wanted this? Well, let’s look at today. If our dollar has replaced gold, and we give a private institution (the Federal Reserve) the freedom to print it, that means we’ve given someone the freedom to print gold.

Our ability to print gold is closely linked to our ability to keep taking on debt. Credit card companies won’t loan you money past a certain point, but if you had a gold machine and could churn gold out of thin air, you would certainly get your credit limit raised.

I personally we believe that our dollar should be backed up by some naturally occurring resource so that the government cannot create money out of thin air to spend on things (such as war). That is a personal view of mine on economics.

okay, so what?

So all of that for a stupid, simple little question designed just to make people think:

Do you think we would drop as many bombs as we drop, fire as many bullets as we fire, and fly as many drones as we fly if they all had big chunks of gold in them?

I say “no,” and the more purposeful part of the post, a thought to all Occupy Wall Street people, and people generally dissatisfied with the state of things:

I suggest looking towards our mysterious Federal Reserve and it’s ability to create money out of thin air. We get caught up with GOP vs. Democrats, liberal vs. conservative, Fox vs. MSNBC, but this deserves our unity and attention. We could not go to war without debt, and the Federal Reserve profits off our debt as they loan us our US dollars at interest. Does that strike you? It strikes me. That is a pretty big conflict of interest. We can’t even audit the Federal Reserve–it is a private institution!!

Think about how large of a role debt has played in everything: the subprime mortgage crises happened because people could not repay their debt. The average American is in $8,000 in credit card debt. Our nation is in $14 trillion of debt. Every dollar represents the dollar plus interest owed to the Federal Reserve. All of that debt carries interest, and we might at least ask to whom is it owed. Unfortunately we have no idea who is behind the Federal Reserve.

I don’t have answers regarding how everything is played out down to Wall Street, political agendas, etc., but it seems to me this Federal Reserve and the mechanism used to create “money” out of thin air is a much more massive problem than anything we normally consider. Unfunded liabilities of over $100 trillion dollars? What does that even mean (US Debt Clock , will open in new window)?! There is something wrong with the system. I salute the dissatisfaction and movements generated by them.

__

I may be one of very few who believe that Tea Party-ers and Occupiers of Wall Street actually are mad about the same thing. I might go as far as believing that they are intentionally set against each other because they certainly spend more energy hating and trying to disprove the other than they do trying to be realistic about the root of the problems they agree upon. Same spirit, different news channel. Does anyone have interest or suggestions regarding unifying all of the dissatisfied parties of the country?

 

Of all the enemies to public liberty war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded because it comprises and develops the germ of every other. War is the parent of armies; from these proceed debts and taxes … known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few.… No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.

James Madison, Political Observations, 1795

To Women, from a Guy, Re: Bodies

I’ve noticed a change has occurred in the portrayal of beauty of women in the media. Basically it has gone from natural to really skinny–so skinny that I don’t think it is healthy. I know at some point there was a big public stink about anorexic models but looking at pics from fashion shows and advertisements, I see nothing has changed.

The fact that this is out there represents a problem, and I say that only because these models are not healthy yet they are models (noun, a standard or example for imitation or comparison):

I don’t know if those were popular models or not, but I know this one is:

Zoe

Now Zoe is a very lovely model, and she’s been in movies and all. She beautiful, but we must admit she certainly is on the skinny side of the spectrum. What I mean by that is that her weight is well below that of the average woman (not just obese americans).

I don’t know where this change occurred. But let me point out two fly superstars who are nothing less because they are not super low weight:

Ms. Rose

Mz. Beats (are they still together?)

These are two lovely women who seem a bit more ordinary in their build (obviously they still have fantastic bodies) and in their diets.

I would just like to say, as a guy, to all women, that I don’t subscribe to that super skinny ideal of beauty. In fact, more than a full figure, I appreciate a healthy body. I think it’s sexy when I see a desire and willingness to work towards a healthy and durable body, from inside out. I don’t think it’s men who have pushed this “skinny thing.” It must be some much bigger, sicker, marketing trend that makes women self-conscious and people write books about.

Since I have this blog, I just wanted to publicly tell all my fellow humans that happen to be female:

Don’t buy into this image at the cost of your health. I don’t really find it attractive…just be healthy, be you. I like dates to restaurants where I can stuff my face with my girl. If you love your natural body, I bet I will too, and I bet it will look and feel better than what you see on TV.

Update: In fact, if Amber Rose or Alicia Keys obtained their body by vomiting after meals, or something bad for their health, that would be a turn off to me personally. It’s more than the physical appearance.

Guys, if you feel the same way, let a woman know that you don’t buy into it either. Some girls are really suffering because of it, and that’s less booty walking around. It’s a damn shame.

The Best Ring Tone Profile for Focus

I. NEED. TO. CHECK. THIS.

Time for some self-honesty: Twitter, Facebook, Blackberry Messenger,What’sApp Messenger, text messages, e-mail, G-chat mobile, Skype mobile, and the mobile browser.  I suffer phone addiction. I could pass a two-hour bus ride quickly just using my phone. I couldn’t focus or spend quality time with people for long periods of time without checking my phone, and I ended up e-chatting way more than I needed to.

My friend Olgui made a suggestion. She is a designer and works with her hands, which means being “in the zone” is very important for her, as that’s when her creativity flows. She explained to me her ringtone profile:

  • All phone calls ring loudly.
  • No other notification makes a noise or even vibrates.

That’s it! The reason I love this is because anyone who needs to get in contact with you immediately can–they can always call. At the end of the day, if it’s a text message, it cannot be of utmost importance–why let it get in the way of your passion?

I’ve extended my attention span 10-30 minutes, I don’t miss out on things, I’m still accessible in case of emergencies, and I’m better at doing whatever I want to do. Also, I don’t get distracted by vibrations and notifications while I’m spending quality time with friends or family (whereas before I would go to the bathroom, or try to position myself in certain ways so I could sneak a peek at my phone…all taking my attention away from the person before me). The improvement in quality time with friends is more than worth it and I invite you to give it a try. It ultimately will help to make you more present in the current moment.

 

 

6 Reasons To Get Up And Go (To Another Country)

World Map“Traveling” can mean different things to different people. Let’s break it down:

A “vacation”, to me, is when you go somewhere for mental relaxation and physical enjoyment. Go to a beach, read a book, and pass out in the sun after too many exotic mixed drinks. “Touring” might be what you do when you want to go somewhere and to see the place or do a particular activity. You set up your hotels, transportation, and trips before you get there because you already know what you want to get out of your stay there. “Traveling” or “exploring” might be the name for a trip that has a set duration, but is done without planning out the details in advance–that part is left for exploration and open-mindedness. You’ll figure it out when you get there. The last option is what I would call “getting up and going.” I could probably find a better term for it, but this is buying a one-way ticket without a plan to return (it’s also what I did 7 months ago). Maybe you will come back (most likely), maybe you won’t. It’s an amazing privilege as it requires a unique set of life circumstances that involve financial freedom and lack of major responsibilities (namely children), and most of all, an open mind. These last two types of travel are not popular but are very different from the first two. They can change your life dramatically.

I’ve spent the past seven months abroad in a similar sort of travel journey. It took me about eight months to get myself into the mindset where I was ready to get up and leave without a plan to return. It took a lot, and probably not what you think–it was actually a new-found fascination with science that ended up making me question things enough to reach the point where I was ready to get up and leave. I have no regrets, and I’m going to share some of the best reasons I’ve found to get up and go.

So let’s go: Continue reading

The Rest of Your Life

Foggy Path

How far ahead can you really see?

Ask your favorite mentor or role model “Back when you were my age, did you think you would be living here, doing what you’re doing, married to the person you’re with?” I bet you a Facebook share they say “no.”

It doesn’t seem to make much sense focusing energy past step two in the plan. Two big reasons:

  1. It’s hard to predict what opportunities will open up once you reach the next step. And then to predict what will open up after that is impossible. So why waste the mental energy?
  2. Focusing on step 8 while you’re on step 1 makes tunnel vision more likely. So why waste the mental energy?

Making decisions based on plans 20 years from now is operating on the assumption that you know everything that will take place from now until then. Things that are beyond prediction tend to pop up and change the entire course. You could meet someone tomorrow that convinces you to change everything you’re about–that would mean you learned some really great stuff. Don’t you want to be open to that?

“What do you want to do with the rest of your life?” starts to feel very irrelevant. I can share with you what I’m working on now and other than that, I want to be open to a possibility far greater than I can currently imagine. Otherwise, I’m capped.

The Best Law America Could Pass

Warren Buffett

“I could end the deficit in 5 minutes. You just pass a law that says that anytime there is a deficit of more than 3% of GDP all sitting members of congress are ineligible for reelection.” -Warren Buffett

We might have problems with American government, but we must remember that we elect our leaders. This means the debt/deficit problem is the responsibility of the people (us).  We owe it to ourselves and the world to not be indifferent to government affairs. I’ve stepped back from following politics for many reasons but I saw this quote and it struck me as a serious option to keep the American government responsible because it would force them to balance a budget just like every person, business, charity, organization and animal must do–this means they couldn’t keep passing the problem on to the next generation while making it worse. So I decided to act. Continue reading

Gratitude, Assumptions, and The Negativity Purge

Your mindset determines what is possible for you. It is like the gatekeeper for your mental vision–a customer and a safety inspector walking into a store will see very different things. Similarly, investors see opportunity in market crashes and people who have conviction that they will be successful see everything as a hurdle not as a dead-end.

More generally, our mindset greatly affects our state of being. Today I was lucky enough to have someone very close to me point out a negative lens through which I was viewing the entire country of Trinidad & Tobago (where I currently live). This blocked me off from finding joy in many parts of the country as I had the negative lens on at all times. Becoming aware of the lens and then freeing myself of it was such a relief that I wanted to write about three aspects of mindsets: gratitude, assumptions and positivity. Continue reading

How to Strengthen your Visualization Muscle

This past week, I fooled around with some arts and crafts. I hadn’t thought about it before, but I now see that doing art (like drawing, painting, sculpture, etc.) can actually be an amazing way to work a very, very important part of your brain: the part that enables you to visualize and adapt. I wrote about visualization before (Visualizing Success), but I’d like to go over it again AND share how art is a great way to work those critical parts of your brain.

First, why should anyone care about visualization? Continue reading

Stop Dreading Mondays: The Million Dollar Illusion

Sunday is the day before Monday. An awful lot of people dread this fact. In school we had weekends two or three breaks until the three-month summer oasis. Later on it became just the weekends and  two weeks of paid vacation. I would like to refer to the concept behind Monday dreading as the work-play dualism:

You consider what you do from 9AM-5PM Monday through Friday “work,” and then everything else is then considered “play.” It is easy to fall into a good-bad way of seeing these two parts of your day: the part you have to wake up for and then the part you can’t wait to get to (and there never seems to be enough of).

You can get an idea of how much this dualism has permeated your thinking by paying attention to how greatly you think having USD $100 million in your bank will enable you to be content in life. Continue reading

Intro: The Purpose (Start Here)

*Welcome! My name is Jared Surnamer I am currently 23 living in Trinidad and Tobago. I was born and raised in the USA and moved here to start a long term travel plan as well as get my personal finances together.

I find the purpose of the writer of any written expression to be very important information for the reader, so let me make my purpose for this blog very clear: Continue reading