Monthly Archives: November 2016

Plans for a Completely Different Life!

Have you ever thought about your current lifestyle and mentally compared it to a completely different approach?

Example, let`s say you currently live in New England, in a suburb of Boston.  You work every day downtown and spend your weekends four wheeling, hunting and fishing in the mountains of New Hampshire where you have a cottage.  In late winter you take an all-inclusive vacation for a week in the Dominican Republic.  That gives you a picture of the current, now the change.

You sell everything, the house in the suburbs, the cottage in the mountains, the four wheelers, the truck you pull them with, quit the job and use your retirement savings to rent an apartment in the city centre of a small city along the Mediterranean coast of Spain.  You don’t work regularly but rather explore the wine country of Spain and often travel to most of western Europe by train to sight see and learn about ancient cultures.

What do you think? Quite a change?  These are the type of life changes that people don’t often think of.  When I listen to people talk of retirement, they mostly think of not working but having enough retirement income to continue to live the exact same life that they are now.  Getting up every day to have the free time to relax and enjoy life where they have always lived and honestly that does sound great.  On the other hand, there are options and really no reason to not consider them if you are looking for a different experience.

The World Awaits.

Sometimes our junk mail is not always junk.  A few weeks back, I received an email in my gmail account that looked interesting.  It was for a website where you can research where in the entire world you might choose to live if you want.  The website allows you to choose a number of options that would fit your lifestyle such as your monthly income, the crime and pollution rates of places you might live, and then allows you to search the world for places that fit your criteria.

The link to the website is HERE – give it a try and let you imagination run free.  It is fun just to look!  How about Brunei? Or maybe Bern ?  Or maybe Prague is more your style?  Maybe you like South America more, so try Santiago.

I think you can see how this is fun to do and encourages you to open your mind to the possibilities.

Give it a try and let your mind roam if not roaming yourself.

 

 

Elections and Freedom

Freedom – What does it really mean and what is it worth to you?

Democracy was invented long ago in ancient Greece and it certainly was not perfect as it automatically excluded half of the population from participation because they were female or slaves.  All that being said, most of the world thinks of democracy as a pretty good approach to freedom for citizens but as in all things, not everyone agrees.

The header picture is of a piece of the skyline of the largest city in a country that most of the world considers a beacon of freedom in the world.  Toronto has become a legitimate “big” city with a population of over 6 million in the greater Toronto area.  I arrived yesterday and was able to take a train from Toronto’s Pearson International Airport to Union Station – real big city stuff, finally!  Toronto has 20% of the population of the entire country of Canada which might be a little unusual for many world countries but urbanization has impacted Canada as it has the world over.

Freedom in Canada

As I walked around in Toronto last night, passing in front of another failed Trump business, I got to thinking about what Canadians take for granted, their freedom.  I found it interesting that in the last two weeks, Donald J. Trump has had this business go into bankruptcy (one of many of his businesses that have done so) and also be elected to the position of President of the United States.  It was a weird thing to think about.  But as I was walking around in Toronto, seeing how young the population is here I realized that Mr. Trump would not have a chance of getting elected here – these young people value their freedom too much to vote for a man like Mr. Trump – are American cities different?

Freedom in Canada might not be viewed in the same way by Americans.  When Americans speak of freedom, they often think of amendments to their constitution like the first amendment (which we have in Canada without an amendment) related to freedom of speech, and their second amendment, the right to bear arms.  To them, the ability to carry guns is a sign of their freedom, but in Canada there are definitely restrictions on guns – does that hurt the freedom of Canadians?

Canada has a document called the Charter of Rights and Freedoms that clearly spells out what the government of Canada considers to be freedom for Canadians.  In the document, we find paragraph 15 (1) which states:  “Every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination and, in particular, without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability.”  I thought about this paragraph as I walked around Toronto, a true multicultural city.  All of the people in Toronto, and in Canada for that matter, have this protection under the law in their country.  Does this protection exist now in the United States?  From the rhetoric in the election campaign from the candidate that won the election, I would have to say that freedom for many Americans no longer exists within their own country!

Freedom from Violence

As I walk around Toronto, I am comforted by the fact that I feel free as a result of knowing that no one on the street can legally be carrying a gun, unlike in the US.  I do not have to worry about someone pulling a gun to protect themselves and therefore shooting me as collateral damage.  In Canada we don’t think that the ability to carry guns around in an urban environment adds to our freedom but that it actually takes away our freedom to feel safe.  We don’t want to carry guns in urban environments and therefore we don’t allow it.

In rural areas there may be a need to carry a weapon to protect yourself from wolves or a bear and in those situations many Canadians choose to arm themselves, just in case, but not against fellow citizens.

I would argue that freedom from violence from guns adds significantly to freedom in our cities and many Americans which whom I study during courses tell me that they feel very safe in Canadian cities.  An added benefit to Canadians is the fact that police in urban environments do not have to expect a gun in every situation and therefore do not often shoot people in self- defense or imagined self- defence.

Freedom from Poverty

I will admit that it is not perfect, but in Canada we have social systems that are designed to protect those in our society who may be having a difficult time financially and as a rule the systems work quite well.  First of all, everyone has the right to health care – income makes no difference.  A homeless person in Canada has the same access t health care as a millionaire (with the exceptions of dental and vision care and certain services that can be purchased like MRIs, etc.).  I am not trying to argue details here, just the fact that the homeless person can walk into the hospital and receive the same health care as anyone.  This does not happen in the United States and therefore Americans are less free as a result.  I find that sad that the richest country in the world does not care enough about their poor people to provide that freedom.

Poverty is not a nice thing, no matter where you live, but Canada provides more protection from poverty and the effects of poverty than the US does.

Freedom from Terrorist Attack

Now, don’t get me wrong here, there are crazy people everywhere and more to the point, there are crazy religious people everywhere.  My argument here is that Canada is much more free from the threat of terrorist attack than the US because normally we don’t make it a habit of arriving in other countries to use our military to “protect” Canadian interests.  Canadians have long believed that we should just leave other people alone to live the life they want to rather than trying to change them.  There are exceptions to that, like when we participated in Afghanistan following the 911 attack of innocents in New York.  We do however resist campaigns like the “weapons -of -mass -destruction bullshit that Bush’s team dreamed up in 2003.

This approach to minding our own business generally results in people believing, rightly, that if they leave us alone to live as we want to, that we will leave them alone – it is a system that works.

All of this improves Canadian freedom from Terrorist attack – the US, not so much.

Freedom as Wealth

I personally think that freedom adds significantly to our wealth.  If I lived in the US, I might actually be considered a Libertarian because I believe we should only put laws in place to improve the freedom of our citizens.  I want to get up in the morning, go to work, and not be burdened by laws that do not improve my freedom.  I do, however, like laws that improve my freedom, such as the law that forces the idiot wanting to drive a car while texting to put away either the phone or the car.  Driving safely improves my freedom.  Knowing that the person driving beside me cannot legally have a gun in the glove box improves my freedom by reducing the threat of violence.  Knowing that my government is not in a foreign country trying to force Canadian values down the throat of people reduces the threat of terrorist attack in my country – I like that freedom.

Trump’s Freedom Grab in America

Like much of the world, we Canadians have watched the US Presidential election campaign there Mr. Trump, a failed businessman and morally bankrupt person in general has promised to reduce the freedom of Americans in many ways, such as making Hispanic feel threatened every day throughout the country, making Black Americans even more afraid of police (and justifiably so), making Muslim Americans afraid for their lives, etc – I could go on and on here, but Trump has received enough free media.  In my view, Donald J. Trump has made a huge freedom grab from Americans for his own benefit and America and the world are much poorer for it.  Americans can look to Canada for true freedom to see what they might strive for.

Summary – Canadian Freedom; it is worth a lot.

I feel that the freedom that Canadians enjoy as a result of the good behavior of our government in the world community is a very valuable commodity and I am proud to be a Canadian as a result.  We do a lot of things right in Canada and as a result increase the wealth of our citizens, me included.  We tend to: mind our own business;  take care of poorer people; provide health care for everyone; help the threatened in the world, such as Syrians who have had their lives destroyed by failed-foreign policy of other countries; provide safe urban environments where people can feel free of the threat of gun violence;  not over-burden our children with public debt to pay for the government’s whims today and just generally try not to mess up the lives of our citizens.  I am proud to be a Canadian and disappointed in our American neighbours (yes, spelled with a “u”).

 

 

 

 

Election Day – We Need New Ways of Getting Information

Well folks, I didn’t really think I would write about the US Presidential election but the past year and a half have been so crazy that I got to the point that I just could not ignore it any longer.

I’ve really not been ignoring the process (who could in a CNN world) but I have not felt the need to comment until recently.  It seems to me that the direction the campaign has taken has created the need for people the world over to wake up and have a look at what is going on.

The Real Start of the Information Age

Back in 2008, just one year and change from the release of the iPhone, Barack Obama used the internet as a very effective tool in his quest for the White House.  The internet approach allowed Mr. Obama to raise huge (later to become yuge) amounts of money from millions of small donors across the country.  Beyond this use, the internet was not yet really seen as news as most people still watched television or read newspapers to educate themselves about what was happening in the world.  Things have changed drastically since 2008.

Apple has recently released the iPhone 7 and the information age is upon us.  The ability to find “information” has been delivered into the hands of all reasonably intelligent people around the world.  Along with the availability of information comes the other side of this ability, the possibility of creating digital media and sharing it globally – this is powerful.  As an example, through the power of the internet, I can write something like I am currently doing and publish it globally at the touch of a button.  I admit that my followers are not numerous, however I have the ability to spread information with almost no resources invested – I am just sitting in my living room and writing – it is that simple.

The power I have just described has now become a big player in many things and has arrived in a big way in the US election campaign.  The ability to share information freely by nearly anyone allows information sharing that has a specifically designed purpose, and often a nefarious purpose, to be done easily and daily – it is the dream of propaganda artists.  We has always suspected that advertising tries to sneak up on us and cause us to buy things that we really don’t need.  This fear is now everywhere – allowing nearly anyone to sneak up on us and deliver information directly to us that will cause us to change our behavior.

Firstly

There are many ways that this power has been used in the US election campaign and in a world where most people do not really use their own judgment about things it is even more powerful.  Take, for example, Donald Trump’s assertion that Mexicans are pouring into the US and are criminals as well as people “who will take your job”.  The actual statistics on this exact situation are the opposite.  The flow of Mexican people from the US back to Mexico is now greater than the number of Mexican people coming to the US.  Also, the rate of crime perpetrated by Mexican illegal immigrants in the US is much lower than the crime rate in the US in general.  These real statistics prove that illegal immigration, although something that should be improved upon, is not really a big concern for Americans.  Trump has used his made-up stats however to create fear in Americans of people who look like they may be from Mexico.  Trump has no fear, he lives in an ivory tower and meets no one who is not hand selected.  His goal however is simply to use that fear to get people to vote for him for a job that he cannot do, simply because he wants to say that he has the biggest job in the world.  Another example of the stories that Trump invents for his purpose is his characterization of inner cities as terrible places that have no hope but for him to fix them.  Of course Trump has never been to what he calls the “inner cities” but that makes no difference to him.  The Trump campaign knows that over 80% of the US population is white and if he can stir up a mistrust of Black folks in White folks he might get more votes.  His thinking is this simple and cynical – he could not care less about the impact as long as it might increase his vote.

Secondly

Once we realize that the power exists to create whatever information we like and share it globally for whatever purpose we might have the creation of information starts to happen in earnest.  I have included an example here to show you.  In this case, teenagers in a tiny village in an Eastern European country who have no interest whatsoever in US politics create fake information for sharing on Facebook because they know it will be shared widely and they can make money from the clicks.  It sounds outrageous but it makes perfect sense – they want to make money, they can easily this way and therefore they do.  This also works for the Trump campaign because they have no concern about what is said as long as it harms the Democrats and increases Trump’s chance of winning.

Thirdly

This brings me to the third piece of this massaging of information that I see in this campaign.  We have all known for years that certain news organizations may favour one political party over another as this often shows itself in the editorial pages.  This, I believe, is perfectly ok for those of us who realize that the editorial pages are the right place for opinion, that way leaving the news reporting as simply that – the news with bias.

During this campaign, part of the misinformation being spread, mostly by the Trump campaign, is that the news media is corrupt at best and part of the “system corruption controlled by the Clinton’s” at worst.  According to the Trump campaign, you should never get your information from the “main-stream media” as they are all controlled by the “system” and are all out to defeat Trump (the only person who can save the US from the corrupt “world order”).  In this way, the Trump campaign encourages people to seek out alternative sources of information that are measured for value as good if they support Trump or are critical of Clinton.  There is no concern about whether the information is true or not – that does not matter to the campaign.

Where do we go from here?

This election will be over in three days and in all likelihood Clinton will win but where does that leave us going forward?  By the time the 2020 US Presidential election comes around the value of creating false information will have been realized and very-much improved.  In 2016 we have crazy websites (like Breitbart News and Eagle Rising) that produce National-Enquirer type information that can quite easily be identified as false by reasonably intelligent people but by 2020 there will be sites that create sophisticated, designed information for nefarious purposes that will be difficult to differentiate from real news.  We are going to need more sophisticated ways of sorting out the bad potatoes if we are going to be assured of good information.

I don’t know where the ability to sort the false information from the good information will come from however I am reminded once again of the importance of professional reporters who seek out real news, often at great expense to themselves.  Often news reporters lose their lives trying to get good information for us in a propaganda world.

I know that going forward I will be much more careful of where I get my information and I hope that all of you will do the same.  We cannot leave control of the world we live in to the intellectually lazy and the charlatans.