Vote To Have A Say

Voting 2
People vote to get representation in political office for what they believe or want.



– Gun Rights

– Abortion Rights

– Civil Rights

– Social Entitlements

– International Engagement

– Strong Defense

– Low Taxes 

– Etc. Etc. Etc.



But now, cities like Los Angeles that are looking to boost voter turnout want to offer cash prizes



The cash prize “might include a prize as high as $50,000.”



Nice (not!)–head to the polls like you do to buy a Powerball ticket. 



Votes, like love, is not something that should be bought.



For those fortunate enough to live in a free country, voting is a special right where everyone can have a say and influence the world around them. 



Instead of focusing on handing out rides or money to go and vote, maybe instead we should create awareness of what a great opportunity it is to live in a  democracy and be able to chart our own course rather than live like so many around the globe under the rule of dictators and tyrants.



Voting is a great privilege for those who care to stand up and make a difference by going to the polls, voting is not an ATM machine. 😉



(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Big Bike, Little Bell

This photo that I took stuck in my mind for Independence Day tomorrow.

We are a great nation of 50 states founded in freedom, ruled by democracy, and driven by human rights for everyone.

Yet in many ways, we have been squandering our national strengths:

– Spending it forward (living as a nation in debt) and creating yet another bubble economy driven by low interest rates (hence another Dow record today of over 17000) with still the lowest workforce participation in over 36 years and 92 million Americans not working!

– Stretching our military muscle in over 10 years of hapless wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and now we are war weary and in proverbial retreat across the Middle East, in Crimea and eastern Ukraine, and with Iran and North Korea).

– Partisan politics freezing our government with the Executive Branch saying they will go it alone on everything from immigration reform to fixing highways and Congress threatening to sue for various claims of abuse of power.

Like this Photo, this country is in danger of becoming a big bicycle with a lot of potential to move things forward, but with a very small bell barely audible with anything of significance to our citizens at home, let alone everyone else in the world.

We have the ability to continue our path of greatness in building our country’s economy, military, and social systems, as well as steering the world toward peace, prosperity, and freedom. However, to do this, we must be able to ring the bell of Independence loudly, with leadership, confidence, and a determination for genuine progress for a union greater than ever before.

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

10 Keys To Influencing And Selling Anything

Brilliant video by Kendra Eash for McSweeney’s Internet Tendency.

It is made entirely with stock footage from Dissolve.

What is amazing is how with some great video, nice background music, and a soothing confidant voiceover–we can sell, or be sold on, just about anything.

The 10 Keys to influencing and selling anything, including B.S.:

1. Vague words that show progress (innovation, hope, motherhod, and apple pie–I’ll have some of that)
2. Beautiful footage and sounds (who wouldn’t want to be there type?)
3. High-technology and science (we can solve the world’s problems and make money, yippee)
4. Research and development (we’re investing in the future and you should invest in us)
5. Global and U.S. (we’re beyond borders, but still “made in…”, headquartered, or otherwise a U.S. entity)
6. Environmentally conscious (clean water, breathable, air, lush forests, who can argue with that?)
7. High-speed (movers and shakers, we don’t stand still, join us or be left behind)
8. Attractive people (this is for real human beings, human kind, we care about you!)
9. Diversity and equality (we love and help everyone–including you and your family)
10. Inspiring (we’re thinking big and bringing positive change–buy from us, support our cause)

Throw/superimpose any company, product, country, person, or cause on this video–and poof, you’ve got an awesome brand–whether you deserve it or not!

This is how we’re manipulated one brand at a time, hundreds of brands a day. 😉

Fair Trade Principles Are Cool

Fair Trade Principles Are Cool

So I was up in Harpers Ferry and discovered this cool boutique store called Tenfold.

The store carries a collection of creative “fair trade,” eco-friendly products from around the world.

They had a cool variety of clothing and accessories–that was different and special.

We all found something there to come back with and had to choose what we liked best.

I ended up getting a couple of handmade ties from a company called Global Mamas in Ghana and the girls got some skirts (and necklaces) made by Unique Batik in Thailand.

I liked the quality and design of the merchandise.

But more than that, I was truly impressed by the principles these companies adhere to under fair trade:

– Alleviate poverty and social injustice
– Support open, fair, and respectful relationships between producers and customers
– Develop producers’ skills, and foster access to markets, application of best practices, and independence,
– Promote economic justice by improving living standards, health, education, and the distribution of power
– Pay promptly and fairly
– Support safe working conditions
– Protect children’s rights
– Cultivate sustainable practices
– Respect cultural diversity

Note: Fair trade is not to be confused with free trade–the later being where government does not interfere with imports or exports by applying tariffs, subsidies, or quotas.

Truly, if we give people a chance to be productive under fair trade working conditions, they can make the world a little better one product at a time. 😉

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Factory Floor Servitude

Factory Floor Servitude

As a kid, I was all too familiar with factory settings–my dad worked in one.

Dad is an incredibly persistent hard worker who went to the factory every day–tuna sandwich in tow–worked hard and was the voice of reason in advancing the business–and worked his way up to manage the place. My dad is a modern-day success story!

He worked in everything figuring out how to design products, make them, sell them, and ensure the business stayed afloat. A lot of people depended on him in the factory to keep production humming, put bread on their tables, and most importantly to be treated fairly and like human beings.

My dad never became arrogant as he advanced himself, he always believed that we only have what the Almighty above grants to us.

What a contrast between the way my dad managed a factory and the decrepit working conditions that led to the factory collapse two weeks ago in Bangladesh that has now left at least 1,038 dead.

The collapse has raised ethical questions again about the horrific working conditions in factories overseas–where low wages and hazardous conditions is the rule–low wages lead to growing outsourcing and hence, a $18 billion garment industry in Bangladesh that has tripled in size between 2005 and 2010 and is expected to triple again by 2020.

The average monthly pay in 2009–$47!

By 2010, Bangladesh had 5,000 garment factories–2nd only to China.

Now most of the factories are gone from the U.S. moving overseas to the cheapest providers, with jobs in manufacturing decreasing almost in half from nearly 20 million in the U.S. in 1979 to less than 12 million in 2010.

Bloomberg BusinessWeek (9 May 2010) chronicles the ten years of stagnant wages and horrible working conditions there–verbal abuse, sexual abuse, physical punishment and humiliations for not meeting quotas (like having to forcibly stand on tables for hours and undress in front of workers), rare bathroom breaks to filthy and overflowing toilets, and much more.

When the Savar building developed cracks on April 23, one man begged his wife not to go to work the next day, but when she called in and asked for the day off, she was told she would be docked a whole months salary if she didn’t show up–she went to work and the building collapsed on April 24–leaving her buried under the rubble. Eventually, when the rescuers could not free her, they chopped off her legs!

Cheap labor means cheap goods–that’s a draw for us getting more branded goods for less. In a large sense, our insatiable demand fuels the cruel, servile conditions overseas.

This is also a broken market, where people sell their labor just to provide subsistence living for their families, while big corporations increase profits, investors smile all the way to the bank, and we get our boatloads of stuff cheap, cheap, cheap.

There is nothing wrong with making money or saving money–it’s an incentive-based system, but the only measure of success is not money.

We need global standards of ethical conduct in the labor market, and this should be part of every organization’s financial reporting, disclosure, and audit requirements.

People and organizations should not just be penalized for cooking the books or insider-trading, but for how they treat their people.

Those organizations and leaders that balance making money with treating people decently have a leg up on those that don’t–not that they will necessarily do better in the marketplace (maybe they won’t), but that they make their money with their integrity intact and that’s something money cannot buy. 😉

(Source Photo: here with attribution to Ronn “Blue” Aldaman)

Walking In All Shoes

Until_you_walk_in_my_shoes

Thinking about life and death and the concept of reincarnation.

While I have heard the belief of some that reincarnation is the ultimate justice machine–if you treat others well, you come back well off, while if you treat them badly, you come back in their situation.

So the classic example, would be if you have the opportunity to give charity, and do so, genoreously, then you are rewarded in a next life with riches, but if you are miserly, then you come back poor–to learn the lessons of charitable giving.

However, I wonder if this concept goes even much further.

Does our journey ultimately takes us not just to occupy some positions if life, but rather to every role and status, illustrative of all peoples–so that we learn from the eyes of everyone.

The world  is round and the number of perspectives around it are as varied as the people, races, cultures, and nations they come from.

As the saying goes, “don’t judge me until you walk a mile in my shoes,” perhaps we are indeed given the opportunity to walk in a large representative sample of those.

When the see the world not from where we sit today in life, but from where others are perched, we can get a whole new perspective on issues and ideas–we can learn true empathy, caring, respect, and justice.

Almost like having G-d’s vantage point, we can learn to see the world from a multi-cultural perspective, where each person, tribe, and nation is infinitely valuable–where each holds the key to a perspective and lesson that we must all learn before our journey comes to a conclusion.

Live life and learn well–there is much to see, hear, and experience, and no one has all the answers or is all righteous–like a large mosaic, we all have a piece. 😉

(Source Photo: here with attribution to Fernando Stankuns)

When Aliens Come Calling

Alien

This is an out-of-this-world topic that I don’t think I have written about before…ALIENS–no seriously!

MSNBC ran an interview with Seth Shostak, the chairman of the International Academy of Astronautics’ SETI Permanent Study Group (27 June 2012).

SETI is the well-known orgnaization that conducts the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence–they employ 150 scientists, educators and support staff, and their projects have been sponsored by NASA, Department of Energy, U.S. Geological Survey, and many technology companies like HP, Sun, and more.

At SETI, they monitor radio transmissions and telescope observations for signals that “cannot be ascribed to noise.”

According to Shostak, he believes that we will detect alien signals by between 2025 and 2030, although he acknowledges that searching for alien life in the cosmos in like looking for a needle in a haystack, and it “never occurs when you expect them.”

However with advances in technology (specifically computer processing), we will get closer to be able to monitor “all-sky, all the time, all frequencies,” rather than searching a specific star system, for a specific time, at specific frequencies.

The really interesting question posed though is what happens if we actually detect an alien signal?

Apparently, most of the planning, according to Shostak is for the initial protocols for alerting everyone and even then “it takes something on the order of five days” to assess whether it is real or not.

The big concern is that “nobody is in charge” for handling such a global…no, intergalactic event.

And, he says “I don’t think there’s any large-scale effort to prepare humanity.”

Maybe, it’s that we don’t believe or want to believe that this eventuality will ever really occur.

Perhaps, it’s too frightening to think of ourselves as the native Americans being invaded by colonials with superior technology and firepower.

Yet according to a National Geographic survey, more than a third (36%) of people surveyed think aliens exist. And how many more people are afraid to admit it?

Aliens could be a good thing–coming here benevolently to share with us or they could act alien and try to take from us. From our own Earthly experiences, it seems the latter is far more likely.

We have a lot of fingers and weapons pointed at each other all time, I wonder whether we need to spend more time and effort thinking, planning, and preparing for something much more scary and threatening than each other.

(Source Photo: here with attribution to Chris at Oblong Pictures)

War —> Peace

War_to_peace

I like this clever poster from the United Nations, published in March 2009 by their Department of Public Information, on “Translating War to Peace” with a dove carrying the letter “A” from the word war to the word peace.

If only peace was as simple as moving around a single letter.

Usually, it not the single letter that is painful, but when it becomes many letters and these letters form words of hate, bigotry, intolerance, and injustice that is indeed painful and where war does not translate to peace, but where war become unfortunately inevitable.

As individuals and a nation, I believe peace is what we all hope and pray for and that this comes from a spirit of brotherhood and unity around the world.

Although there are many prayers for peace, I am reminded of one specific beautiful prayer In Judaism, that we sing called “Oseh Shalem”

“May he who makes peace in high places, make peace for all of us and all Israel, and let us say Amen.”

I love singing this and humming the tune for this prayer–it is like a deep calling that resonates.

I noticed online that the United Nations “cancelled as a sales item” this poster for peace (and it’s also gone from Amazon), and it should make us all wonder where did that peace go and when will it return?

A genuine peace–more than a single letter and a secure and lasting peace of many letters.

(All Opinions my own)

Technology Anonymous

Technology_addiction

Alcoholics Anonymous is famous for their program to help people attain and maintain sobriety.

With the latest addiction being everything technology, there is now a movement toward “technology detox” or the AA equivalent, Technology Anonymous.

I remember reading months ago about people so addicted to the Internet and online video games that they literally had to be institutionalized to get them to eat, sleep, and return to some sort of normal life again.

Apparently, technology taken to the extreme can be no less an addiction than smoking, drinking, of fooling around.

And there is even a Facebook page for Internet and Technology Addiction Anonymous (ITAA).

I’ve recently even heard of challenges for people to turn off their technology for even 24 hours; apparently this is a tough thing even for just that one day–wonder if you can do it?

The Wall Street Journal (5 July 2011) reported on someone who “signed up for a special [vacation] package called “digital detox,” [that] promised a 15% discount if you agree to leave your digital devices behind or surrender them at check in.”

The message is clear that people “need a push to take a break from their screens.”

Here are brief some statistics from the WSJ on technology addiction even while on vacation:

79% expect to remain connected for all or some of the time on their next vacation.

68% (up from 58% in 2010) say they will check email while on vacation–daily or more frequently–for work.

33% admitted to hiding from friends and family to check email on vacation.

– Also, 33% check email on vacation while engaged in fast-paced activities such as skiing, biking, and horseback riding.

For people routinely checking email as many as 50-100 times a day, going on vacation and leaving technology behind can be a real shock to our social computing systems. Should I even mention the possibility of not logging unto Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Flikr, etc. I see people convulsing and going into withdrawal just at the thought.

So what is this technology addiction we are all on? There’s no nicotine or alcohol or testosterone involved (except in some extreme video games, maybe).

Incredibly, for many technology is the first thing we check in the morning and last before we close our eyes at night.

It even lays on the night table right next to us–our spouse on one side and our smartphone on the other. Which do you cuddle with more?

It’s scary–technology is an addiction that is not physical, but rather emotional.

It is the thrill of who is calling, emailing, texting, friending, or following us and what opportunities will it bring.

Like Vegas or a lottery ticket…technology holds for us the possibility of love, friendships, sexual encounters, new job opportunities, fame, fortune, travel, and so on.

There is no limit, because technology is global and unbridled and so is our ambition, desires, hopes, and even some greed.

(Source Photo: here)

Undersea Internet Cables-See Them for Yourself

Gregs_cable_map

I’ve always been interested in maps, geography, and geospatial information systems (GIS). 

Coming across Greg’s Cable Map–I thought this is sort of idiosyncratic, but fascinating too. 
This is an interactive map of our global undersea telecommunications infrastructure.
If you ever wondered how you were able to connect with someone anywhere in the world in split seconds (satellites aside–since we all don’t have immediate access to that), here it is.
How it works: Either you can search the list of cables of the right, click on any one of interest and it highlights it on the map for you or vice versa click on a telecommunications link on the map and it bring up in the right-hand column the points of the cable landings and reference to more information . 
Another cool feature, is the ability to display the telecommunications infrastructure from before, during, or since any period of time–so you can get a historical perspective of what the Internet for example looked like or didn’t look like only ten or fifteen years ago. Can anyone say carrier pigeon?  🙂
There is also the ability to click on the bottom of the map on the check boxes for either or both the active or future cable links to see where we are now (“as-is”) and where we are going (“to-be”) in terms of Internet connectivity. 
Next time you read in the newspaper about a large-scale Internet outage like the multiple ones that occurred when undersea cables were cut in the Mediterranean in 2008 causing outages from the Mideast to India, you can look it up here and see for yourself how “the foot bones connected to the ankle bone.”  
Enjoy and have a good weekend!