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Can Muslims actually Assimilate ? Vol 64

If you remember when Bill Cosby was funny, you must be a Boomer !

When you look at the news today, one has to wonder if Muslims can assimilate out of their conservative religion, and into a liberal society. Killings in Canada, the Paris Charlie Hebdo massacre, lone wolf attacks in the US, and the full EU on terrorist alert could give one the impression that the answer has to be a resounding no.

Any analysis of the Quran would confirm that it would be improbable, if not impossible, for a good Muslim to assimilate in the West. For example, socially, his allegiance to Allah forbids him from making friends outside of his religion. We are infidels, unbelievers. While we all know that many religions, including Christians, live throughout the Middle East, I am sure that some type of friendship must occur. Otherwise, neighbour would be killing neighbour every day. Bigots can point to the “no go” zones in many EU countries, and the concentration of Muslims in certain neighbourhoods in our cities, but is this really different than what happened to the Irish many years ago, or other waves of immigrants. I think not. I hope not.

Politically, Muslims are supposed to submit to the mullahs, who can speak of the destruction of Israel and the United States, the Great Satan. Thankfully, most of the Muslim leaders in the West seen to understand that, since their religion is not under attack, is even greatly respected, their message has to be one of personal belief, of understanding the Quran does not preach violence. Yes, radicalization of their young is occurring, but I choose to believe that this type of acting out happens in all cultures, and that we are all guilty of producing malcontents.

It is instructive to note that a few lone wolves, using radical slogans from ISIL or other groups, have our whole society questioning our freedoms. Unbelievable. In the USA alone, we kill each other with guns thousands of time a year, yes hundreds of times more than the lone wolves have killed. Yet we get in a sweat about a few maladjusted nutbar fanatics. We can’t control the gang events in Chicago, so why try to control a few hundred kids in the whole country ? Let it go …

Remember, ISIL, among other groups, needs to recruit to stay alive and grow. If they were that popular in the region, they would have no problem filling their quote of future body bags, but they can’t, so they need to recruit from afar. Imagine if we just ignored them, treated their situations like we treat a drunk driver incident ? A quick news flash, a shaming ritual perhaps, then nothing. But I digress.

Religiously, scripturally, and intellectually, my fictional Muslim must follow the teachings of the Quran. So, he can not accept any system based on the bible, like our laws and legal process, and our various constitutions. He must follow the five Pillars of Islam, as no other religion is accepted by his Prophet except Islam. This sounds pretty ironclad.

Philosophically, Islam and the Quran seem to disallow any freedom of religion or expression. Democracy then can not co-exist with Islamic faith. I guess allowing everyone a vote would be outlawed, and might explain why most of the Muslim countries in the Middle East are governed by dictators or autocratic families. It make you wonder how Indonesia escaped the fate of their Muslim brother and sisters.

The point is that many Muslims are assimilating to the West. It takes some time to adjust to a life of freedom, usually a generation or two, the same as the other immigrants took, whether they were Polish, Irish, or Chinese, just to name a few. They start out in tribal neighbourhoods which have their houses of worship, social areas where their language is accepted, where they can get the food of their homeland, and where they can get jobs, a start in a new life. Sound familiar ?

Its not a surprise that a few of their young have trouble fitting in. Their Boomer parents fled a bad place, and it must be terrible to see one of their main reasons for going through the risks and expense of emigrating, a better life for their kids, wasted when they become radicalized.

So, why leave all you know ? Because of the trump card that beats all the theoretical reasons mentioned above, economics. Yes, money, that great magnet. Its as old as Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. The Muslim world is an ecological disaster, with no water, no more cultivatable land, and no hope. Pray all you want, but any wealth is owned by a few families, and they are not about to give it up. The result is no common good, even if the Quran calls for it. No ownership of problems, no ruling class doing the right stuff for their citizens. Just the daily hammering home of religion, used to keep society in their place. Just look at Iraq, Syria, or Gaza ! Why would you stay if you had any chance to leave ?

So, I believe that Muslims can assimilate, just like my Irish grandfather did. Yes, we can try to make it easier on them and any future immigrants, by incorporating the lessons our forefathers learned, and in most cases I believe we are. I also strongly believe that people who leave a negative place seeking a positive, better life for themselves and their families are just the right kind of people we should welcome with open arms. While perfection is something to always be striving for, lets not let a few bad apples tar the whole barrel ! After all, its not where you came from, its who you become that counts on this moral and mortal coil.

Next on Boomers – WTF ! , investing lessons for Boomers, cause we need them ?

Is Religion the Missing Answer to Everything ? Vol 63

If your wife has ever given you a round tuit, you must be a Boomer !

Today, religion is a dying motivation. The Pope, Muslim clerics, and all the other modern day moral communicators lament the loss of religious thinking in our growing secular world. Are they right ?

Being a Boomer, I have been exposed to religion, in all its forms and evolutions, for a lifetime. I have seen older people grapple with the meaning of life, and lean on religion as an answer, even when they do not know the questions. I have seen the church as a money making machine, an organization with bad marketing trying to keep their real estate holdings intact with dwindling parishioners to fund their expenses. I have seen the church accused of wide spread sexual molestation, doing their best to hide the facts and downplay the human damage. I have read about the way the Church dealt with various native communities, using residential schools to destroy the native way of life. Canada just had a Reconciliation committee that tried to heal the past injustices, and the stories of the Father’s brutality brings one to tears. We have all seen genocide in the name of religion, a blasphemy we are all guilty of.

All in all, I have spurned religion, thinking of it as a failed business shamefully using morality as the drawing card, a path to salvation story reminiscent of the man behind the curtain that Dorothy unveiled. Fine, screw the organization, I can still be a moral person, right ?

Morality however, is hard to define. Do I believe in a higher power, an intelligent designer, or rely on science to explain things that seem impossible, like eyesight ? How do I treat my fellow man, and to what standard ? Turning the other cheek, what are the rules for this, and are they universal ? Do I believe in reincarnation as somehow giving me a reason to help the next generation, to be good for goodness sake ?

These questions can get complicated, but they are the right questions to be asking. Personally, how you answer them is an individual story, and if I base some of my answers on faith and you get yours out of an old book, then fine. As long as we arrive at close to the right answer, how you got there should be irrelevant to me.

I look at Muslims fighting each other, and realize that most religions have gone through the same reconciliation struggle – remember the Orange and the Greens ?. We can not help their process, although we would like to find a way to stop or limit the conflict. By the way, I do not include ISIL in this category. Their leadership are gangsters, killing and kidnapping everyone, irregardless of religious affiliation. Seeing Sunni and Shi’ite alike gang up on them is actually one of the few positive signs now coming out of that part of the world today.

So, I spurn religion for morality. I am proud to say that I am a moral person, and I raised my kids with these morals, while allowing them some leeway to question my beliefs. For example, I am for capital punishment in some cases, and against gay marriage, while my kids believe in the opposite positions. Ok, maybe I am a social dinosaur, but I am comfortable with my beliefs.

Along then comes an article by Yuval Levin, called Taking the Long Way ( Disciplines of the soul are the basis of a Liberal society ). His argument, and I probably will not do it justice, is that our society today takes the short view of what is needed to improve itself. We get caught up in short term thinking, which usually gets translated into discussions about liberal versus conservative dogma, fighting over the use of government as the basic tool to improve our ourselves. For example, Liberals want more government so we can be free of restrictions, and thus they use regulations to restrict individual choice for the betterment of society as a whole. Environmental laws are a great example of this. Conservatives want freedom as well, but believe that less regulation un-encumbers individuals. Thus we have the short term political ebb and flow we are all used to today.

Levin’s point is that we are missing the point. Society should be looking at the soul, and how we love and feed our wellbeing in the long term. Sure, we need some government, but we seem focused on short-term issues, like helping unwed mothers, rather than the long view of why they would up in that position ( my example, not Levin’s ). His point is that it is the lack of religion, specifically the lack of a soul-forming institution, that is really missing today. This soul forming has always occurred in the best institution for its emancipation, that being religious institutions.

Yes, we can agree that religion had its uses down through the ages, and I can believe that Levin only has the best aspects of religion at heart when he makes this argument. So, to compromise, lets agree that we both want our morality, our soul, to be a work in progress. To quote him, ” this is no easy task, as not everyone has the good fortune to of a flourishing family, or the opportunity of rewarding work, or a liberal education, or a humbling faith, let along all of these at once”. To put most of these within reach of the people should be the reason for government.

An interesting argument, clouded with religious overtones I am very uncomfortable with. Perhaps other religions see life this way, and consider our short term capitalistic society as lost, or misguided. A good subject for another time.

For now, I think Levin would agree that we need less partisanship, we need to be more civil with each other, holding our leaders to account when they try to demonize people. Lets build a society where everyone, rich or poor, immigrant or native, black or white, all have equal opportunity to the things that are soul enriching.

Next on Boomers – WTF ! , how to invest in this day and age ?

Is Charlie Hebdo a Boomer ? Vol 62

If Beyonce is still 2nd to Whitney Houston, you must be a Boomer !

Writing a Blog on Boomers, I do try to deal with some of the political, economic, and cultural issues of the day. Its the context of today, the world view that we Boomers use as a frame to lead our lives, to guide us in making decisions, in deciding what to do next. Medical advances point to a long healthy life, while pension worries inject financial realism that we will outlive our wealth. In between these signposts, the great question is do we watch, or get involved ? A continuum for sure, bouncing us from side to side like a clock pendulum, sometimes daily.

The Paris attack on the offices of the magazine Charlie Hebdo is a perfect example of this pendulum swinging between our urge to passively cocoon on one hand, and our angry reaction to nuke the bastards.

Over the holidays, like many Boomers, we enjoyed many celebration’s. Before Christmas, my whole family got together and did a pot luck, somehow sitting 25 diverse people around the table. The ages ranged from 19 to 59, meat eaters to vegans, boyfriends and girlfriends, brothers and wives, all enjoying themselves. At one point, I looked around the table and noticed that only one person was not white. An amazing view when you consider that we live in a community of many clans and faiths. My reaction was to notice that my family has a long way to go to be Charlie Hebdo.

The next morning, my immediate family had our own celebration at home, between hangovers and omelettes . A nice simple gathering, before we all left to see other family in other cities.

At my in-laws later that week, we had 2 large dinners with shifting invitees, culminating in an off-site gathering that my father-in-law pays for, numbering 30 people. All in all, it was a great time, with little bad news to muddle the story lines. Boring, but with the snow and cold, a cocooning filled with jokes and calories. We also saw old friends, staying in touch with all the old stories.

Idealistic, a perfect time to enjoy family, get caught up on events, and re-connect, a rare event in our otherwise scattered and on-line world.

Of course, the pendulum swung back, and gunmen broke our calm with the killings in Paris, and the continued police actions today in Belgium. The speed by which our world can go from peaceful to chaotic continues to amaze me. In our 7/24 connected world, I suppose this argues for the Boomer cocoon, saving ourselves from events we can not control, so why view them ? A powerful argument, that lets us tune out, lowers the powerlessness feeling, and lets us watch Netflix all day. After all, the chances of you being in the wrong place at the wrong time is lower than the chances of a traffic accident, so relax !

After all, isn’t this the message the Charlie Hebdo survivors are telling us ? We are bigger than a few misguided Muslims, they can not dictate policy or censor free speech, don’t let them win ! True enough. But then why do I feel the need to bomb ISIL back to the stone age ?

I am a long term optimist for our species. We will eventually intermingle socially and economically, allowing religion as a sidebar to our organizational hierarchy, a moral bridge we all need to assist in judging our journey in becoming a better race. ISIL is a stone on the road of progress, and we tried to kick it off the path, only to stub our toe on a rock that, like a glacier, was mostly buried. Do we spend the resources to stop, dug out the rock, fill in the whole, and move on, or do we just accept the fact that some stones will impede our path forward, and like a rock that become sand under the never ending movement of water, ISIL will soon become irrelevant to our journey.

If ISIL’s plan was to seek redemption, they will soon fade from out TV screens, as other items race for our attention. I am sure that they did not believe that attacking a second rate cartoon magazine that most of the world had never heard of, let alone most French even read, now sells millions of copies worldwide. Is this what they really wanted ? Whether you believe that seeing Mohammad portrayed satirically is proper or not, and I personally do not, all ISIL has done is shown that the cartoon to greater than the gun ! This has always been so, but ISIL did not get the rallying cry they wanted.

So, we do need to stay involved, not allowing a small radical group to cower our positive direction. When even Hassan Nasrallah, the Shi’ite Hezbollah leader speaks out on the issue and condemns ISIL, well, isn’t that a true sign that ISIL messed up !

All in all, the point is that Charlie Hebdo, a group of unknown second rate cartoonists are fighting the good fight, and they died trying to keep us from the cocoon. They have earned our respect as they continue to try to keep us engaged in denouncing the things that inhibit our progress. Hopefully next Christmas, I will see more diversity around my dinner table, and they will be part of the reason.

Next on Boomers – WTF ! , whither the liberal or conservative soul ?

Thank God for the CIA Vol 61

If you remember who Deep Throat was, you must be a Boomer !

Torture vexes me, for a lot of reasons. Moral, legal, fundamental, caloric, political, on almost all fronts I could use to talk about torture, it vexes me. Context. Its a grown-up word. Its a Boomer word. Its a dangerous word, used to explain or justify almost anything. As a Boomer, I have used context many time with my children, and friends, especially to extricate myself from a moral argument. After all you can’t call your kids stupid !

So, with the latest Democratically controlled US Senate Intelligence Committee report on the use and results of the CIA’s torture’s techniques and “actionable intelligence”, we are faced with the context of dealing with the ugly side of war. Yes, it is a great thing that a democracy can deal with its ugly side in public. I love that our allies hide behind our unburdening of our quilt, like a confessional, like it frees us from the consequences, like the Hague will never come calling, because look, we admit our guilt, but after all, we are better that the bad guys !

Politically, when did we lose our balls ? Did I miss the great sucking sound of our testicles being sucked back into our body politic. Torture is what we do to our intractable enemies, those fucks who don’t get it, who hide behind their mommies skirts, who feign ignorance then pull an AK47 or plant IED’s, who kill friendlies. Those guys, who use social media to sell their message with beheadings. They should consider themselves lucky. Personally, I would just send them to a super max prison, and promise a pardon to whomever got us “actionable intelligence” first. Lets use real experts to extract information, if you ask me !

Yes, does torture work is a whole question in itself. As Boomers who have seen every cop show ever made, we know torture works, otherwise, there is no way they could fit a crime investigation into an hour, allowing for commercials. Seriously, we believe in people wanting to preserve their life. Nothing is worth giving up a lifetime of prison for a crime. Its a fabric of our socialization that love of life trumpets all. Its why the current discussion on euthanasia is so unsettling. How can they not understand the value of life ? Waterboarding, rectal replenishment, testicular shock, or god knows whatever else Dick Cheney was good at, it would easily convince me to give up whatever ! Perhaps we should take into consideration that the types of people who would know the operational details for the 911 bombings, zealots all, would be willing to give their lives for the cause. Unlike you or me. Torture is a known, a willing end if captured. Legally, is this the reason we never saw them, the Guantanamo detainees, in court ? Someone who agrees they are guilty, who would love the media storm their testimony would produce, sacrificing everything for a chance to sell their cause globally ?

Calorically, we must acknowledge that we treat our food better than we treat our political adversaries. Would you rather be an ISIL fighter in Iraq, or a chicken in America ? Both have a short life expectancy. Both are used for a purpose outside their control. Both live in a war zone, and both expect a short life expectancy. I wonder if a chicken is reminded of the virgins he will get upon death ? My vegan daughter, when informed that the upcoming family Christmas dinner menu included chicken, salmon, and beef, wondered how we could have possibly missed pork, was reminded that the beans dish had bacon. Her disgust was apparent when she asked me if we could kill any other animals in the name of Jesus ? Context again. So, this Christmas season, lets remember how we raise our food, in cages, with needles, force feedings, genetically modified.
To eat is to fundamentally understand the hell we put our food thru.

Religiously, we homo sapiens have always tortured. Religious convocations, the Spanish Inquisitions, the Crusades, lets agree on the past, and work to narrow its future use.

Morally, we want our society to progress, to improve, to treat our citizens better, to strive for a world in which we all reach our potential, whether you are a rich world male, or a poor girl from Africa. How we do this is the presumptive struggle of today. The outliers who want us to take a backward step, to delay our overall progress, to wallow in the mire, they need re-education. Yes, this path is a dream, but those wanting to change the path need to be talked to, to have their vision changed. Violence is always going to be a form of negotiation, but it should only be allowed of the aims are relevant. Destroying things just because, well, like a serial killer, sometimes we need to use the same techniques we use with our food stock, and eliminate the sick, for the betterment of the overall herd. Society speaks, and as long as you had a hearing, you must live with the consequences.

To some, I must sound like a death penalty apologist. Not completely true. While I agree with using the death penalty in certain circumstances, lets agree that sometimes citizens prove their unworthiness of life. Better for those souls to start over than endure a life of hell on earth. Who is being more moral, I ask you ?

In the end, what must not forgotten is that the CIA has one major goal – to keep regional wars, which they can try to stop, from becoming world wars. To this end, we can argue with their methods, but in any context, the result has been perfect, so far.

Next on Boomers – WTF ! , nudging, part 2 ?

Racism: Its Obama’s Time ! Vol 60

If your easy chair gets harder to get out of every day, you must be a Boomer !

Having been away on a weeks vacation to our nearest communist neighbour, Cuba, I missed out on a lot of articles concerning how the planet was descending into complete chaos. Catching up on my emails, I see articles about ISIL destroying the Middle East, with Iran is playing hardball on the nuclear talks. Putin and Russia have instigated a new global nuclear threat by cancelling some treaties and moving ( or talking about moving ) atom bombs closer to their neighbours. The EU can’t get their economic house in order, fiddling while Britain talks about leaving the euro zone. Closer to home, Congress and the President talk about going nuclear over immigration, the streets are filled with racial demonstrations, and sexual assault is even destroying the reputations of institutions and individuals. I will never be able to look at Bill Cosby in the same way again !

So, are we accelerating down the path into Armageddon ? I completely disagree. Perhaps it was my week away from our 7/24/60/60 seconds media world, but things look pretty good, considering.

Yes, Putin is an ass, Iran a headache, Israel just wrong, China is slowing, and the EU a mess. Thankfully, a lower oil price will solve many of those issues, not right away, but soon enough. As humans, it is in our nature to conflict, and these are really small by comparison with what happened last century. So, the lesson ?

First, seeing Cuba close up was a real reminder that the young today, thanks to that all persuasive media, see what everyone else has, and they want it. The young in Iran, China, Ukraine, Mexico, and India realize that the world of their fathers is holding them back. Wait till Africa wakes up to the pleasures of consumption, and the world will change.

One side note here. There was a great article, which I can’t find or I would name the authors, concerning how the rest of the world can not have the same consumption the west has enjoyed for decades. There is just not enough food, iron ore, copper – the list is endless – to support all that need, irregardless of the effects of pollution. China is a living example. However, technology will deliver a better way going forward, and they will not duplicate the same wasteful path. The article’s conclusion concerned the search for the developing world to try to duplicate the West’s success, and while I agree with the logic, I disagree that the developing world needs to stop. They do not need to duplicate our expensive education system to get educated, or become as obese, or do the amount of drugs/alcohol our culture enjoys. My bet is that they will be smarter.

Secondly, one of my favourite axioms is that you get the human rights you can afford. A few generations ago, we could afford to expand the right to women to be educated, and thus to vote, after abolishing slavery in all its forms. Today, we are seeing the struggle for full equality, in race and sex, gather steam. This is a sign that we, as a society, have the energy and time to ponder these questions, and work on some solutions. This space could not have occurred or been allowed to occur, during the cold war. It is a sign of relative peace in our society, almost a milestone moment we should be celebrating.

Now, being an upper middle class white Boomer, I have some fear that the racial and sexual rights discussions are going to be painful. I like the way society treats me, and I worry that I am being blamed for my part in designing the current structure. So, as long as everyone acknowledges that we did a good job getting to this point in our culture to allow this next phase to play out, great. Blame me, and I will have some resistance !

Which leads to Obama. While I accept that he has to tread lightly, as he is the President of all the people, he is now perfectly situated to speak out on racial issues, and offer some solutions. He is not facing an election, he has the pulpit, his chances of getting anything else done with a Republican Congress is minimal, so why not let this be his legacy ? C’mon man, start a conversation, pull people together, frame the appropriate context for the discussion to occur in. Pull us out of Ferguson, New York, and the NFL, and into a national debate.

By the way, Blacks talk about how, unlike whites, they have to “have the police talk” with their kids. They make it sound like they are forced to educate their kids differently than whites or Latinos. That is dead wrong. I also had the police talk with my two daughters – always be respectful, say sir as they are the authority, obey their commands – if you disagree, we will let the lawyers work it out later. Don’t cover your face, hide your hands, or carry a fake gun ! Lose the emotion, they are just doing their jobs, which I pay them to do.

Obama needs to start listing solutions, as he is perfectly situated to explain them. Free birth control for teenagers to stop the poverty cycle, amnesty for minor drug offences to get people out of our prisons, diversity and training for our police, amending our legal sentencing procedures, all are controversial, but let’s start somewhere.

Imagine ISIL’s troops watching us have an open, frank, honest, civil discussion on our society’s issues ? It would have more of an impact than any cluster bomb.

Next on Boomers – WTF ! , why do love torture ?

faster FASter FASTER Vol 59

If you and your friends are still having the Beatles vs Rolling Stones argument, you must be Boomers !

Its really hard today to fathom a way forward, to plan for the future, to figure out what to do next, what with all the data available. All kinds of Social Media, new mobile services, news looking like entertainment, entertainment that looks like news, scams, hacks, lies, hook-ups, crowd starters, crowd pleasing, plenty of fish, You Tube cat tricks, where is it all heading ? I say data, because unless you can parse thru the noise and see the information, you are just overloaded. How anyone can see or plan for the future is a challenge for sure !

There was a great article in the NY Time magazine, by Adam Davidson, called Welcome to the Failure Age. Please find it and give it a study. Essentially, it talks to our risk taking over the ages. From Mesopotamia, risk was something to be avoided. Taking a risk, like planting an unknown crop, could spell famine for you and your family.

Kinda makes you wonder about the first person who decided to suck a cows teat ! What kind of conversation would that have been like ? Yeah, I dare you to, ah, I don’t know, go tackle that large animal, and suck its tit ! What, are you scared ?

Over time, we mitigated risk by having lots of kids, and as we learned to cook – meaning we could keep protein longer and safer – so we had more calories to share. We could feed more kids, and kids were an insurance policy against all the risks in our lives, from wolves, to snakes, to mother nature.

We were hunter gathers because we followed the animal migration, because being close to food mitigated risk. We became farmers because crops lowered our risk of surviving the hunt, so we allowed carbohydrates into our lives. Wheat and corn we learned from the natives, increasing our chances of survival. Overall, we were risk adverse.

The article has a great section on the color purple, and why it was once so expensive that it was only affordable by Royalty. A young chemist, because his family was rich he had leisure time, who could afford to spend time experimenting, found a dye process that was far cheaper than the old way, so the colour purple became available to the masses.

Another great story is the hoe, an agricultural instrument we all have in our garages. Its probably 2,000 years old, but still in use today. Amazing, considering smart phones usually last just 2 years before they are junked. You have to read the article to get the point.

Risk taking really took off in the industrial revolution when, counter to the best attempts of the Luddites, society started to have extra time and money as successful machines helped increase income, and spare time. This success begat more success, but also allowed for constant failure, as the age of innovation started. No one could trust that yesterday would become tomorrow. It was a scary time for most. Agriculture advancements meant that less people were needed to tend the fields to feed the masses. Think of the feudal system. Second and third sons could risk being sent out to govern the Empire, as they were not needed at home, Empire then increased the overall wealth of the society by bringing back riches from the various conquered lands. Spices, lumber, precious stones, gold, all the result of excess people, due to risk takers.

So, today we embark on the 3rd Technology Age, the advancement of computers. Like the last two, there will be economic upheaval, the roadkill of companies that failed to see the changes, and new endeavours rising out of nowhere. Facebook ! Where will all the steelworkers or aluminum workers go when graphite becomes of universal use ? Just like the farmers in China today, they are going to go where the jobs are, and learn to adjust.

One point of all this change was that society had to adapt, and adapt quickly. As the article mention’s, the path to innovation is littered with failure. New ways of dealing with the high rate of change had to be found, like social programs and family assistance. To protect the new inventions, laws were invented. Contract law, patents, the commercial court system, all were needed because of risk takers. Based on the technology of today, what new laws are needed ? Perhaps we should start with protection our privacy, more training for displaced workers, and some way to limit the government intrusion into our personal lives

The second point is the speed in which this “failure to innovation to failure” loop is occurring is increasing. Its scary. I get that. Many jobs available today did not exist a generation ago. Its why you should not think that retraining is a bad thing – its the only thing. I graduated in 1977, and its humbling to ponder my current cachet of knowledge. I doubt I could fix almost anything in my house if it broke. Also, remember that you already learn something new every time you buy a phone, or coffee maker, or a car.

To think you, as a Boomer, can wallow in your thin knowledge that you are safe on your couch, that your pension is safe, that you can retire forever, is folly. We must work to keep the concrete out of our brains, just like we work to keep the hardening out of our arteries. It’s a scary time, this feeling of understanding less and less of life. Just think of our parents, and what they have seen, take heart, and venture out.

Next on Boomers – WTF !, what’s your credo ?

Hillary will not run ! Vol 58

If the child of your middle years is actually a small dog, you must be a Boomer !

Watching the US mid-term election cycle, Boomers should take away a few lessons on the future, lessons that will have an impact on your planning – you are planning, right ! Seeing most of the geographic US of A turn Republican red was amazing. It seemed to me that the only patches of Democratic blue were in the cities. I understand that population wise, most of our people now live in cities – its a western phenomenon that allows for the citizens to get more services more efficiently, find more jobs, get better educated, and find mates easily.

But it was not only the Senate races that were affected. Congress, State Governors, down to local county leaders were overwhelmingly Conservative winners. Don’t forget, Canada is also conservative, the UK is in a conservative coalition, and the EU is seeing the rise of right wing voters. Why ?

First, this was a repudiation of Obama, on many levels. The US is now a 50%/50% country, and will remain one until 2016. When one side gets their way for a while, the other side gets their turn. Stable changes in power is a mainstay of our democracy, something the Middle East has to learn. Liberalism has run amok for 6 years, with no improvements in the race wars, a soft foreign policy, and Obamacare, a new huge social program that continues the intrusive nature of big brother into our everyday lives. Yeah, we voted for a Black man, but he fails to inspire us, or fix things like immigration. Lesson learned.

As a backgrounder, people get the rights they can afford. In past times, we did not have the wealth to afford things like women’s rights, gay benefits, the ability to sue anyone or everyone, or universal health care. You just have to look around the world to see other clans struggling with citizens wanting more, and not having the wealth to provide these benefits. In this light, one could look at Obamacare as the latest afforded benefit. That said, its time to stop with the handouts, and earn some more wealth, before attempting to spend money we do not have. In past blogs, I have equated this process to having a speeding train, an economic train, that when it has sufficient speed, can take on new passengers, or baggage. This weight slows down the economy, I mean the train, and spending must stop to allow the train to gather more steam, to create more wealth. We are in the passenger full / slowdown phase, and are struggling to gather steam again. An economic cycle, perhaps too simplified.

Second, this spells the end of Hillary’s chances. She will look at the political environment, and see that she has no chance of winning on a progressive ticket, and will see that becoming a centrist will not sufficiently separate her from the next Republican candidate. Taking her age and health into consideration, she will not run – if she does run, she will lose.

Third, how long will the US treat Latino’s like new age slaves ?All of the workers need to be on an equal footing, with equal rights and protections. Using all those illegal immigrants, needing them to perform jobs that otherwise would go undone, and not acting on their status will hurt the Democrats. Latino’s are conservative by nature, and when, not if, the Republican’s get their immigration act together, or at least act to take this issue out of the next election, they will win enough votes to dominate the election.

How long will the Blacks keep giving their votes to the Democrats and get only hand-outs in return ? Remember the Romney 47% comment ? It came out as an insult, but the remark hit home. Again, like the Latino’s, many Blacks will realize that their lot in life has not appreciated much as they allowed themselves to be thought of as victims being helped up by progressives. Many will look for an alternative.

How many more social changes, after gay marriage, will be allowed to occur ? None. Liberals will continue their lifelong mission to find more victims and figure out programs to fix them. They can’t help it, it’s in their DNA. We can all guess at the next big benefit – my guess involves the climate – but whatever it is, it is a decade away. We are headed into a retrenchment period, a time of reflection, a consolidation, a Republican era.

The main reason the USA is a beacon to humanity is that it rewards risk takers. Most of society on the planet punishs risk takers as going against tradition. There is an order to things, and the elites don’t like giving up their share of the economic pie. The US, the last part of the planet to be ravaged by man, was set up to reward people who risked everything, starting with their lives as they endured the ocean voyage to emigrate. The continent has so many riches, that the pie keeps getting bigger, allowing for the ebb and flow of creative destruction. Democrats naturally want to take some of these riches and build social safety nets, emulating Europe, lowering the reward portion of the risk equation – go ahead and try, and if you win we will tax your endeavours, and if you lose, we will cushion your fall. This mantra goes against the main credo of the country, and will cause Democrats to lose. Lesson learned ?

So, your future planning scenarios should include lower taxes, stable government, less hand-outs or fixed benefits, and a focus on you owning your own future prosperity.

Next on Boomers – WTF !, what’s your credo ?

Don’t trust Your Gut ! Vol 57

If the only reason you bought an e-reader was to adjust the font, you must be a Boomer !

Being a Boomer, we struggle with our current passage in life, constantly questioning where we are, where we are supposed to be, and how to bridge the gap. My blog deals with this chasm, suggesting that doing nothing, just staring at the gap, is just wrong. Much better to do anything that do nothing. Why ? I know its hard to try something new. There is your ego, your comfy couch, your wonky knees, your thin wallet, and your growing gut in the way. Just think of the next 30 years you will probably live, and all that time that needs filling.

I have suggested doing what interests you, not as a long term thing, but as a way of trying something outside your comfort zone. Not a big thing, but something. Baby steps. I have commented that failing fast, trying a new thing for a while full blast, and if it does not feel right, giving it up fast, and moving onto something else. Since all us Boomers are different, I use the word something, because the range of choices is limitless. Education, music, volunteerism, travel, writing, full-time, part-time, helping out a friend with their business, trying out a new hobby or sport, looking after aging parents, ect …

Unlike our old mantra to our kids that “once you start something, you must finish it, or you are a quitter”, this is a different phase of life, and the old mantra does not apply. Really, what I am suggesting is the same mantra with a new finish line. Unlike the sociological aspects of learning to overcome adversity ( don’t quit ! ), we already know the lesson. So, the new lesson becomes how to start something and not feel like you have to become an expert, or win a medal, or play at Carnegie Hall before you can stop. No way. This is not a lesson, this is discovery. Trying something new is good for the soul, and thus its the act of trying that is the lesson, not the finishing. Besides, starting out trying to learn the saxophone may lead to taking lessons, to working in a music store, to helping out a band, which might lead to … who knows ?

Whatever you do, don’t just trust your gut to make decisions. An interesting book, Enlightenment 2.0, by Joseph Heath, a philosophy professor, points to trusting logic, and not your gut, to make your future choices. Essentially, your gut is instinctive, and reacts to a familiar set of stimulations, which feel reasonable but are not. To name of few, as mentioned in the book, our intuitive minds are optimistic, self-serving, short-sighted, terrified of loss, and prone to confirm our own prejudices or suspicions – we see what we want to see. The best example I can think of to view this phenomena is in the stock market. The majority of traders are undisciplined, buy high and sell low, buy on tips, and blame others for their losses. Sound familiar ? These are the reasons why there is soooo much money in mutual funds and ETF’s.

My personal favourite part is the conservative versus liberal arguments, or as stated in the book, tradition versus reason. As far as I can figure out, and I may need some clarification on this, tradition, the way it was, is the conservative view of life, and bespeaks to our tamed past. Yes, we are evolving, but at the correct speed, not too slow where we are endangered as a species, but not too fast where we rush headlong down the wrong path. Conservatism ensures a safe passage, a safe but evolving evolution. Almost an animalistic instinctive view of the future.

Reason, or liberalism, is much more rapid, accepting of new ideas, leapfrogging current convention no matter the consequences. In the book reason needs ways to counteract tradition, and so it builds social scaffolding outside the human brain. Language allows us to communicate with each other and resolve disputes, governments mitigate our tribal and personal vengeance instincts, and schools add layers of socialization onto our brutal personalities.

While you can believe in either side, the point of the book is that it is easier today to be instinctive, and not logical. Essentially our environment is very effective at finding ways to increase the manipulation or exploitation of our senses. Advertising, money in politics, social media, all trying to find the best ways to pander to our intuitions, our gut instincts. Buy today, don’t wait, it’s a once a year sale, its new and improved, the price is going up tomorrow, don’t be the last one in your neighbourhood to get one, the other candidate hates women … you get the picture ! How can reason argue with all that stimulation.

Perhaps this explains the climate change wars. Science and reason talk to us changing the planet, in harmful ways. Just look at Beijing and the smog, and think of London, England and its coal tar. Look at the soil erosion that favours tornadoes in the mid US. Fresh water, well that problem is becoming unfixable. We must do something now, or it will only get worse ! It is interesting that Environmentalists have been unsuccessful in using the scare media to change our behaviour – its been reason all the way.

Tradition, on the other hand, talks to the fact that we have always used the planet, so why stop now ? The planet is here for us to use. The fact that Miami is drowning is not nature’s fault, its that people want to live next to the water. Really, is New Orleans an ecological disaster, or just a lot of dumb people trying to live below sea level ? Coal is needed to warm us, and cook our meals. Water is needed to grow our food, and fishing feeds us. Yes there will be damage, but its always been there, will always be there, so get used to it, its the price of progress.

So, the point is to make a plan for the future, while trying to ignore your gut.

Next on Boomers – WTF !, what’s your credo ?

Thanks ISIS ! Vol 56

If you have a library card, you must be a Boomer !

ISIS remains in the news, and for that we should be very thankful.

First, its election season in the US, and ISIS has kept a lot of the political news way down the media cycle. I know some states are inundated with ads as big money tried to buy some elections, but there does not seem to be the usual outcry against this, or the attack ads, or reproductive rights, or civil liberties being threatened. The Republicans will control the Senate, after many years, and really stick it to Obama. Any hope of getting tax reform, immigration reform, an Iranian nuclear deal, or a Palestinian solution seems lost, but there has not been an outcry about these important issues. Thanks ISIS !

Next, the quagmire that is the Middle East seems to be getting clearer, as many tribes and governments work, slowly, to fight ISIS. Many Muslim states are joining the coalition against these marauders. We may even see Shiite and Sunni tribes realize that they have something in common, at least in Iraq. ISIS is essentially an organized crime family, allowing all types of people to join. I understand that they are Sunni at the core, but they are recruiting from all over. Remember, ISIS is assassinating Sunni tribesmen if they fought against them. Many reports out of Iraq and Syria tell of Sunni towns resisting ISIS, and once ISIS takes the area, they kill everyone who resisted them, regardless of their faith, and publish pictures of the slaughter, to terrorize other towns that might resist. That does not sound like a religious jihad to me !

Interestingly, no one is talking about the Muslim Street lately, You remember, all of our actions were disturbing the regular people in the Middle East, the Street. It was an acronym for public opinion that was used by many commentators to signal whether our actions were being well received. Mostly, the Street hates the West, wanted the West to leave the area, and blamed all the bad stuff on us. Civilian causalities, refugee treatment, and no future were all blamed on the West. If only we would leave ! Well, how is that working for you now ? From Gaza and the Palestinian struggle, to Pakistan and the Taliban, to Libya and the clan wars, the Street got what they wanted, and now have to be silent as they can no longer blame someone else besides themselves for their predicament. Thanks ISIS !

Speaking of the Palestinians, they may have received some international recognition and funding, but Gaza was bombed back to the stone age. It will take generations to rebuild and recover. Even Egypt is blowing up homes and buildings near their border, to inhibit tunnelling and smuggling. Jerusalem is slowly being built over by Jewish settlements, and the current peace initiative is dead. We even have the US and Israeli governments calling each other names, dropping any pretence that there will be consequences if Israel continues on its current path. Yes, Bibi thinks he has cover for treatment of his enemies, but he is wrong. He is over-reaching. He is missing out on a perfect time to reconcile the Jewish state with its neighbours, and take the whole issue off the table. Someone else will realize this soon, and replace Bibi and his blind ambition. Thanks ISIS.

One must also be thankful that Obama was able to piece together a coalition of countries, both Christian and Muslim, to fight these Sunni gangsters. Not since Bush I has anyone else pulled this type of multi-national force together. This coalition even has Canada sending 3 jets to join the fight. I suppose the Ukrainian government is looking on grudgingly, and they would love for NATO or the UN to come to their rescue.

Speaking of worldwide recruitment, ISIS is getting its fighters from everywhere. There has been a Western worry about radicalized citizens causing damage at home, like the Canadians just saw with two solders being killed, and Parliament under attack. Now, with all these crazies going to the Middle East, they are outing themselves. Like a strip of flypaper attracting pests, ISIS is putting all the crazies in one place. Perfect for target practice, eh ? Now all that the intelligence agencies have to do is watch returnees, rather than worry about home grown cells causing trouble. Thanks ISIS !

Lastly, we must deal with the Shiite and Sunni reality on the ground, and recognize that it is the Shiite populated areas that are in turmoil. Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, all are Shiite led governments that are failing their peoples. There is no way Iran can take their focus off their own backyard, and they really need the Western sanctions lifted, so they can help their comrades. All in all, a better chance of us getting a good nuclear deal from the Ayatollah. So, thanks ISIS !

I suppose that ISIS could turn its teeth on our western freedoms, striking in our countries, but we need to resist any attempt to get involved in the fray. If anyone tells you that we need to fight in the middle east, remind them of Iraq, and ask them if more proof is needed to stay out, especially now that we do not need the oil !

Contrary to the above, I am a long term optimist when it comes to the Middle East. Their peoples will get their act together, although it will take a while.

Next on Boomers – WTF !, why you should not trust your gut ?

A future Vision – Absentia Cured ! Vol 55

If you remember that the first power juicer was from Jack Lalanne, you must be a Boomer !

A thought !

As someone who pontificates on the future, and the Boomers place in it, one must think in terms of what might happen, in case it does happen – to look at the future as an extension of today!

To be a Boomer today is to view many possible outcomes, to decide on their relevancy, and potentially work to improve that outcome. I say potentially, because many Boomers seem to have a pessimistic view of the future. Money is tight, their kids are assholes who will not look after them, their parent are spending their inheritance, the boss is trying to screw me, no one likes me, you get the picture. Really, why live ? Just put a gun in your mouth and …

As a Boomer, I sometimes try to picture my parents at my age, and wonder what they worried about ? Unfortunately, being 59 with both parent deceased, I have no fountain of knowledge to ask. Hopefully you do ! Remember, your parents are probably the only living people who will tell you the truth – at least a version of the truth you will accept.

If you have the opportunity to ask them some questions, here are a few I recommend !

First, is menopause the death of sex ? Is a recovery possible, and how is that done ? If the word “message” is somehow involved, fine, but what about the word “blowjob” ! Is Ashley Madison the answer ? Gray divorce rates are increasing, but I perceive that this phenomenon is more due to Boomers being richer today, than they were a generation or 2 ago. It was hard then to divvy up the family farm, whereas today assets are more liquid. Really, is there some other pleasure or habit that takes the place of sex, or is your husband just becoming a boarder in your house ? What keeps the sharing and the closeness alive ? What is the secret to surviving this phase ?

If you love sugar in booze form, what stops, or inhibits, the weight gain ? Street drunks can be skinny people, so do they just not eat ? And don’t throw that “all things in moderation” phrase at me, cause our generation does nothing in moderations, unless its listening to our parents ! Or is the booze to forget the fat gain ?

The ancillary option to becoming fat is to exercise. We will live longer, look better, push most of the brain diseases into the future, and increase our daily happiness with all those released hormones naturally flooding our body. So, since most of this stuff has been known since Jack Lalanne’s time , why did you not do it ? What stopped you, our parents, from being smart about exercise ?

What’s the best way to maintain the right testosterone levels ? I am not saying that a little estrogen is a bad thing, but in no way should my wife have more than me !

I know my wife’s friend is just being friendly, and not coming on the me, but how do I know for sure ? Maybe she is as frustrated with her mate as I am, and what’s wrong with a little release among friends ?

The grass is always greener on the other side is a phrase that is rarely true, so why do people still use it ? I understand that this cliché has a limited purpose, essentially to be used as a positive influencer to counteract a negative situation, but it is mostly false. Having an affair may make you feel good for a while, but the consequences are mostly bad, and in today’s social media world, easier to be found out. Is the truism really that it only looks greener to us now, a temporal thing as another justification, in a long line of justifications we Boomers use as excuses?

One line of thought is that our parents are secretly happy. They never expected to live this long, so every day is a bonus. They are getting pensions they did not earn, but somehow convinced us that they were justified, so we continue to fund their lifestyles. Astute readers will notice that there were no financial questions for our parents. That’s because they don’t care where the money comes from, they are just happy that it does. If we were to ask, I bet the answers would be brief, and contain the words “work harder, and save more”. Thanks dad, never mind.

Why can’t we think like our parents, and just take it easy ? Consider a recent article that talks to the cure for absentia. Two scientists have discovered a way to re-create the disease in a Petri dish, using stem cells to mimic brain cells, to introduce the disease, and watch the results. Amazingly, although not a cure, they were able to see the disease grow, in front of their eyes, without having to do the whole process of grow mice, infect them, wait, dissect, and assume a theory, a time consuming endeavour. At worst, researchers can now study potential cure drugs in a matter of months, rather than years. A “game changer”, some commentators said !

The point is, what if modern medicine finds cures for the scary life sapping diseases, like absentia, MS, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and learns to control most cancers ? Suddenly, you are looking at a lifespan of 100 years. So, with 30 more functional years to live, don’t you now have some unanswered questions ?

Next on Boomers – WTF !, a big thanks to ISIS !