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Lean to the Left – Business-Friendly Barack

| Opinion | May 9, 2015

For those of you who think President Obama and the Democrats do nothing but keep business and industry down, it’s just not true. Looking back at the Democratic Party Platform, you can see declarations in support of small and larger businesses with such features as tax credits and energy incentives to cut overall operating costs.

That brings to the fore the double standard you on the Right enjoy; you have no trouble taking government money for your businesses. We want to end “corporate welfare,” by the way. We want to wean millionaire business owners from government “milk,” while you want to take literal milk out of the mouths of the poor.

Since I brought up millionaires, I still can’t – for the life of me – understand the Right’s objection to tacking on a little more income tax on the mega-rich (which they won’t notice, by the way). You love to complain about lack of money – it’s an easy fix, in my book.

Back to President Barack Obama’s support of business. He came to the aid of the auto industry and it has paid off. In an article in the Wall Street Journal in February entitled “January U.S. Auto Sales Held Strong,” authors Christina Rogers and John D. Stoll called auto sales a “winning streak.”

They cited a rise in January sales of 14 percent, with half of sales in high priced pickups and sport-utility vehicles. Sales of light trucks and

SUVs grew 19.3 percent, according to Autodata Corp.

Don’t worry, Republicans. You can still rejoice that your collective tether is indeed holding us back from meeting the President’s goal for cleaner, greener manufacturing in the auto business. That’s real progress. C’mon – you could still get to your gas-guzzling, pollution-causing private jets in your electric cars.

Hitting the Bumps on the Low Road

| Opinion | May 8, 2015

by Robert Patrick Lewis

Perhaps some of the most difficult tasks in life are the ones which seem the simplest, and are usually the most important. The two that I’d like to talk about here have impacted my life significantly in all aspects, from my military career to business and life in general.

I’m speaking of the (fitting as it may be in this context) biblical ideas of “walking a mile in another man’s shoes” and “taking the high road.”

The first seems absurdly simple, and goes along with many other life lessons: don’t jump to conclusions. Don’t judge a book by its cover.
We say this to people all the time, and while I have tried to live this way my entire life, being empathetic and trying to see things from another perspective, the time it was most important was in Special Forces.

What most people don’t truly understand about Special Forces is that we are guerilla fighters, soldiers who give the government plausible deniability for involvement in the affairs of nation building or overthrowing governments or groups we don’t particularly like.

In order to do this, we are selected for a unique and keen ability to adapt and assimilate to any culture we are in. For instance, if you are invited to a meeting with an Afghan warlord, show the bottoms of your feet when you sit, refuse his tea and eat bread with the wrong hand, you will be a mission failure.

As my mission profile and the current state of the world took me to the Middle East and Africa on many occasions, I spent quite a bit of time assimilating into, getting to know, eating, living and breathing the Muslim culture. As I will say for many parts of my life, I met some of the best human beings during my time there, and I met some of the worst.

Green Berets take the idea of “walking a mile in another man’s shoes” quite literally. In the Middle East we would grow our beards long and bushy like the village elders, wear turbans and dishdashas to fit in, try as hard as we could to speak the local dialect and, yes, use the “Turkish toilets” (holes in the ground).

We did it to survive and keep the ability to sneak within the enemy’s ranks undetected, and it paid off much more than it didn’t.

The skill set that comes along with rapid assimilation, empathy, and cultural sensitivity doesn’t fade quickly, and I imagine will be with me until the day that I die. A great Special Forces saying to segue us into the next part of this discussion is that “perception is reality,” and is very applicable to what is currently going on.

Quite recently in Garland, Texas there was a shooting at an event that is, in my mind, about as far down the low road as one could imagine. Most people’s viewpoints on the events are split by their perception of what happened, and of course what media outlet they get it from, but I’d like to drill down a bit deeper than you’ll get from most of the for-profit news bytes out there.
The shooting took place at a competition for drawings of the prophet Mohammed, of the Islamic faith. If you don’t understand the significance of this, I’ll just say that Muslims believe a depiction of Mohammed is utter blasphemy, and this is coming from a religious culture who doesn’t take blasphemy as lightly as we do, constantly taking the Lord’s name in vain, even on public television.

Depending on what side of the fence you reside, you can see this event, and the subsequent shootings, in several ways. And, of course, the way you perceive it is most likely what you believe, and your reality.

The event itself was heralded as a representation of the First Amendment, the right to freedom of speech. Understood. The fact that an organization would invoke that right to desecrate and blaspheme another’s religion is quite disgusting to me.

The fact they would go so far down the low road, and to do so in retaliation for disgraceful Muslims who do the same by burning American flags or Bibles does not make it any better.

Every child is taught in school (and Sunday school) the righteousness of “taking the high road” or “turning the other cheek,” and this, my friends, is not how you do that.

The group who organized the event was doing so in such blissful ignorance of the reality of what they did that I cannot believe they didn’t fully expect this outcome. It reminds me of a child who taunts his little sister with the “I’m not touching you, I’m not touching you” and then runs to the parent crying when he gets smacked in the face for being a jerk.

It is within their First Amendment rights to do so, but that does not make it the right thing to do, especially if you pretend to do so in the name of Christianity (a faith which preaches a loving God and “turn the other cheek” mentality), or America (the melting pot of the world).

By the same token, the Muslims, or Jihadis, or whatever you want to call them, are also not accurate representations of their faith. Islam is also a faith which teaches non-violence and peace in most walks of its followers. But, just as we Christians have sects who handle poisonous snakes and molest little boys, Muslims have their share of crazy people who claim Jihad and preach violence.

A small number of morons and jerks don’t represent the entire faith, on either spectrum.

At the end of the day, I’m glad that a few morons on both sides have been wiped off the face of the earth, and hopefully we all learned something from their stupidity.

Don’t try to out-crazy a crazy person; an eye for an eye is about as far from the high road as you can get, and any person who uses religion to preach hate or violence is as hypocritical as they can be.
Robert Patrick Lewis was a Green Beret OIF/OEF combat veteran with 10th SFG(A), is an award winning author of “The Pact” and “Love Me When I’m Gone: the true story of life, love and loss for a Green Beret in post-9/11 war” and the host of “The Green Beret MBA” and “Center Mass with Rob and Silent J” programs on Vets on Media. In addition to its own editorials, Vets on Media publishes diverse opinions from outside writers.

Canyon Country Resident Objects to Comments about SCV’s East Side

| Opinion | May 7, 2015

by Alan Ferdman

Have you ever wondered what the City of Santa Clarita really thinks about the east side of town?

My wife and I brought our young family to the Santa Clarita Valley many years ago. It was a different place and a different time. North Oaks was a new community with construction going on all around us. Highway 14 was not yet connected and we drove here on Sierra Highway, which was one lane in each direction. We didn’t have to lock our doors or worry about an open garage, and when our children would tell us, “We’re going to the school to play,” we responded with, “Be home by dark,” and we never had to worry. We looked out for each other, you knew almost all of your neighbors and you felt secure and safe.

As time went on, we found ourselves participating in many activities with our neighbors. Our boys were in Little League, my wife played fast-pitch softball and I played slow-pitch with the guys. When the City of Santa Clarita was formed, our new city took over Newhall Park, which had our area’s largest lighted playing field, followed by Santa Clarita Park in Saugus and North Oaks Park in Canyon Country. We thought we were pretty fortunate, because the west side of our valley had no lighted diamonds at all. So, when I read “Part 4” of “Developing The East Side” in The Signal newspaper I was quite surprised by the comments made by our city representative. In fact, I was so disturbed by the tone of what was said, I sent the following e-mail to our mayor.

Mayor McLean:

I was out of town this weekend and returned Sunday evening to pick up and read “Developing the East Side Part 4” in the Saturday signal. While the article discussed many challenges faced on the East Side and identified numerous enhancements provided by the City of Santa Clarita since incorporation, it included comments by City of Santa Clarita spokesperson Gail Morgan I found less than proper.

Ms. Morgan was quoted as saying, when the city was formed there were only “one or two dilapidated parks” on the East Side. I would like to remind you, at the time of city incorporation, North Oaks Park, in the center of Canyon Country, provided 50% of the city’s public pool availability. In addition, with its joint use agreement with our local school district, North Oaks provided public activity five days a week for residents of the entire city.  This continued until the City of Santa Clarita chose to withdraw most of those activities and allowed the school system to withdraw from the joint use agreement.

Ms. Morgan goes on to discuss the first city park planned on the East Side. She stated the new Canyon Country Park was going to be the latest and greatest including all the bells and whistles. But when city invited Canyon Country residents to a public meeting on the project they learned “really, what people wanted here was a swing”. During that time, I was serving as the chair of the Santa Clarita Adult Softball committee.  We were asking for Canyon Country Park to include another lighted Softball Diamond. Our proposal was rejected, because as we were told, the park footprint was too small, did not have enough parking and would not support adult sports.  Since then, numerous residents have been calling for Canyon Country park to include better lighting to curb loitering and illegal activities during the evening in that facility.

Lastly, I recall attending the city sponsored public meetings on Todd Longshore Park, held in the North Oaks Park Community Room.  While residents were asking for Todd Longshore to be constructed as an active park, per the original planned use when the land was provided by the developer, we were told by city representatives, they didn’t care what we wanted, they were going to tell us what we were going to get.

In short, I am dismayed by the attitude of some city representatives. While the city of Santa Clarita has provided many projects which have greatly benefited  Canyon Country, it is improper for the city of Santa Clarita to blame the residents and not accept responsibility for the way things are today.

Ms. Morgan’s comments were beyond the pale and East Side residents deserve an apology.

#SignOffSunday

| Opinion | May 1, 2015

By Hannah Curran

People keep talking about this from all different perspectives, and I think it’s a major underlying issue, specifically for my generation. You probably know what it is.
You wake up to it every day. It’s your best friend and your worst enemy. It helps you discover all the best things about yourself, and then it elbows you in the gut and curb-stomps your head into the sidewalk (maybe you should have been looking up to see there was a light post in front of you instead of scrolling through Facebook). Too late. Your teeth already made you look 80 percent more British than they did 30 seconds ago. And you have the Internet to thank for it.
The Internet is great, yada yada yada, it’s fast, easy to access, and it can teach you a million and one ways to be better in bed.
I also just described a hooker.
Newsflash: Like a hooker, the Internet isn’t free. You have to pay something in the end for such an instantly gratifying experience. But, it’s not always money you’re paying, though I’m sure there are plenty of frequent online shoppers begging to differ right now. What it takes, 100 percent of the time, no matter what you’re using it for, is YOUR TIME. And, in this day and age, TIME IS EVERYTHING. The Internet knows this. The longer you spend online, the more products you’re being exposed to. The more nonsense research you’re inclined to do. The more time you’re wasting, freeing up the competition for that 14-year-old girl sitting in her living room, who’s now making a fortune because you subscribed to her new YouTube channel.
And in all that time, you’ve accomplished nothing. So, hear me now: For those with your average, humble lifestyle, the Internet is really, really, REALLY evil. You know what the last depressed person who went to see a therapist was told? Get OFF the INTERNET!
When was the last time you took one of those “Which word sums up your life?” quizzes and got something like “ingenuity” or “honesty” or “truth” as your answer? Wait … let’s step back. You’re looking to a 10-question Internet quiz to tell you the kind of life you have? What kind of BIPOLAR CYBERWORLD are we living in?
Don’t get me wrong. I, too, am guilty of having waves of immeasurable boredom lead me to do really dumb things, and believe me – I take those quizzes just like everyone else does. But, every time I do, I can’t help but think, “Why the hell did I just waste the last hour of my life taking a buzzfeed quiz called ‘Are You A Psychopath?’ and then proceed to research psychopathy when the literal definition of a psychopath is someone who is incapable of empathy and self reflection?! COME ON HANNAH. Just taking that test proves you aren’t.”
Then I call myself a dingbat and write a rant for the local paper on why we need an Internet guillotine.
The Internet is basically like taking everything you’ve ever wanted (but probably should avoid) and shoving it in your face without actually giving you the chance to physically react with it. You can’t touch it, you can’t hug it, you can’t love it, you can’t slap it, and you can’t tell it to f*ck off. And it can’t do anything back to you either. (though it slaps way more than it loves).
Psychologists say that repressing emotion contributes to, if not causes, death threats such as obesity, cardiovascular disease, and even cancer. Why is this relevant, you ask?
The inability for words on a screen to “read” its audience’s non-verbal response cues to its content completely removes the potential for it to “filter” itself accordingly. It just keeps going. And going. An Energizer bunny of doom. And you keep reading and digesting every single word, even the things you don’t want to know. And you can’t negate it. You can’t argue with it or say, “You’re wrong” or “I don’t agree.” There’s nobody to disagree with. Not to mention, even if it could argue with you, it wouldn’t, because it doesn’t care if it’s right or wrong, it just wants to make you believe it so it can control you. Is it just me, or does this weirdly parallel what being emotionally abused feels like?
The Internet is exposing the most horrific truths (more often non-truths) about life without ever considering the “right way” to approach it. We learn from computers, but unfortunately we are not the same. We learn through imitation, mimicking what we perceive in order to better survive as a species – in order to communicate and meet our needs and the needs of others.
But, we are killing each other with our imitations of machines. We are bullsh*tting ourselves into thinking that we can actually be as emotionless and direct and knowledgeable as the computer screens we read from, and the sad part is, we are so much more beautiful than that. We are designed to feel and to express our ideas and to tell stories of real, concrete life experience. We do this to spread wisdom and understanding to each other and better equip one another, but, we’re giving all that up to be “plugged in.” It’s a sad reality.
Those who have experienced emotional abuse know there is always a reason to stay. If it were easy to escape being plugged in 24/7, we would be long gone by now. We stay for the family and the news and to maintain our cyber-status, but is it worth it? Is it not just an excuse to detach ourselves? Would we not be better off just remembering to call those people we care about to hear a voice relaying true experiences and thoughts instead of just “liking” their quiz result that says they are “generous and intuitive”?
I’ve never been convinced the Internet is healthy, and I keep seeing more and more people being trapped within its warped reality. Life is vulnerable and confusing enough, and maybe if we all just signed off one day a week we could see a difference. Maybe if we did it together we wouldn’t feel as left out as when we try to break the habit alone.
Anyone interested in creating a new trend, join me for #SignOffSunday and we’ll power down together.
There was a study released recently explaining that drug addiction in mice proved to only be possible when they were kept in unloving, isolating environments. When the mice were housed in community cages with fellow mice to run around and play with, they only tried their drugged water once. Then they avoided it.
Few environments are as unloving and isolating as the Internet. Maybe if we had a supportive community of people driven to live in reality instead of indulging in the cyber-world just one day a week, we’ll be one step closer to realizing that we don’t need it to thrive.
So, remember to #SignOffSunday this weekend, and do something that makes a difference. For you, and for the world. If we all spent one day being productive instead of sitting in front of a screen, the results would be magnanimous.

Lean to the Left – Why Prisoners Need Good Healthcare

| Opinion | May 1, 2015

While the Right likes to talk about how undeserving different segments of society are, those of us compassionate lefties have to keep up the fight. Sometimes it’s the poor that they pick on (“Get a job!”) or the disabled (“drains on society”), but one of their favorites has to be the prison population.
For starters, those on the Right think prison is the solution to every threat, misbehavior or, at times, ignorance that people demonstrate. (“Just pack ‘em in! That’ll show ‘em!”)
Then begin discussing prisoners’ rights and – watch out! – those on the Right come unglued. Despite that uncomfortable possibility, let’s look at healthcare for those who are incarcerated.
Legally, we have to provide adequate healthcare, because it’s a violation of the eighth amendment to withhold such, according to a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1976. The justices ruled that it constituted “cruel and unusual punishment” to act in “deliberate indifference” to their medical needs.

Though citizens outside the walls of prison have the luxury of making choices regarding insurance and payment for medical services (how much, to whom, etc.), prisoners have no such rights. Prisoners can’t provide themselves with medical care, so we must be sure that they are receiving the medical attention they need.
There’s another good reason, and this one applies to undocumented residents as well. If you were one of the right-wing bimbos who voted against providing healthcare to illegal immigrants, you’d best listen up. I mean, if you don’t mind your grandkid getting TB or better yet – here’s something you people on the Right always seem to relate to – how about the expense of taking care of children of illegals born with defects because they didn’t have prenatal care? The same applies to the prison population, the majority of which will return to society. Do you want them moving into the neighborhood with diseases or a clean bill of health?
So, if we agree we want prisoners healthy, and therefore must provide for them … is it fair to deprive the rest of us that level of support? Look out – this may set up a good argument in support of universal healthcare.

Fed Up:The Entrepreneur’s Dilemma

| Opinion | April 30, 2015

Each of my close friends has heard me state numerous times that I don’t believe in coincidence, but rather believe that life has a way of putting up signs to let you know if you’re on the right (or wrong) path.
In that respect, I’ll say an unusual set of subtle events happened in my life over the past few weeks, with my day yesterday seeming to be a culmination of indicators that I was moving in the right direction.
During a strategic decision making class I took last year, my professor posed the statement: “the job of an entrepreneur is to find a demand that exists in the world that is not met, and find a way to fill that demand.” This got my brain spinning the next day, and while I can’t reveal the idea I had (it’s for an industry disrupting business that still needs a few things in place before going public), I can say that it’s a big one.
As I was trying to come up with a business plan and model around the idea, I saw a message on Facebook just a few weeks later that The Green Beret Foundation was looking for former Special Forces soldiers or their families with business ideas for a business incubator they were putting together.
Coincidence? Nope, I don’t believe in that.
I’ve been working since connecting with the GBF on putting together a senior management team and it seems everything is falling into place. As my normal nerdy self, I’ve also been listening to and reading a lot of business and entrepreneurial books, reading motivational quotes from successful entrepreneurs, absorbing everything I can to prepare me for the road ahead.
As I don’t believe in coincidence, let’s just say I found it … interesting, the things which I came across yesterday. In a course I’m currently taking on startups, venture capital and the sustainable economy, I learned of a new corporate structure (much like the LLC, S-corp or C-corp) that was designed specifically for corporations whose purpose and values are to do good for the world, either socially or environmentally.
I’ve been kicking the idea of forming as a Benefit corporation (or B-corp) for the past week, and yesterday I began reading “Start with Why” by Simon Sinek and watched the documentary “Fed Up” after dinner.
Scrolling through my Facebook page during a break from working on my business plan that afternoon, I saw a short video on success stories of people who didn’t quit. It featured those names I’ve become very familiar with because of their resilience, which was the main factor leading to success:
Michael Jordan, cut from his high school basketball team
Walt Disney, fired from a newspaper and living in poverty
Dr. Seuss, rejected by over 200 publishers
Albert Einstein, told by his elementary teachers he was too stupid to learn
And, of course, Steve Jobs, publicly fired in a very unceremonious manner from the very company he started.
Steve Jobs is one of my favorite success stories in business, so while reading “Start with Why” I found it interesting that Steve didn’t start Apple to revolutionize the computing industry or change the way we get music; it was a way for him to have the wherewithal to change the world.
When I watched “Fed Up,” my mind was spinning from the revelation that Apple, possibly the most innovative, revolutionary company of our lifetime, was started with the goal of social entrepreneurship. The documentary goes through the obesity crisis, but shows the side of it that the news and most politicians won’t talk about: the food industry. It talks about labeling, the sugar lobby, the corn lobby, how our schools have food not fit for animals and marketing designed to target children.
I feel my greatest job on this earth wasn’t to be a Green Beret, nor to be an entrepreneur, but to be a proud father, and watching “Fed Up” made me rather upset. To understand there are politicians, lobbyists and companies out there who would knowingly put our children’s lives in danger by force feeding them foods that cause obesity, diabetes and numerous other health epidemics, and lie about it, is preposterous; but the lobbyists and politicians who lie about it for a paycheck or campaign contribution are even worse.
Those who are supposed to be telling us about these atrocities are accessories, because as long as we have a for-profit media, these same lobbyists and politicians can use the media to discredit anyone who stands against them.
Remember the woman who sued McDonald’s for spilling hot coffee? Did you know that McDonald’s and its lobbyists paid for the smear campaign against her to make her a laughing stock? She had third-degree burns all over her thighs and genitals as a result of the coffee mistakenly being superheated by the McDonald’s staff.
As a free market capitalist, I thought that as long as crony capitalism is legal, and they can bribe politicians to vote for sugar not to be represented on food labels under “percentage of daily allowance” or to force feed our kids junk food in schools, this crisis will never be changed via politics.
When Steve Jobs said, “I want to put a ding in the universe,” he wasn’t just talking about the iPod, he was talking about making a better world for our children, and he saw his business as a way to do so.
Inspired by these experiences, I created “core company values” for my company. I encourage other business owners to think about what they stand for. At the end of the day, your company can have all of the money in the world, but if you haven’t done anything to make the world a better place, what have you really accomplished?
Core Company Values
Do good, first.
Innovate or evaporate.
Quality over price or quantity.
The process can always be better.
Always choose the hard right over the easy wrong.
This planet is the only one we’ve got, and we need to respect it as such.
It is our duty to make the world a better place in which children grow up.
The veteran community is our greatest asset, and deserves to be treated as such.
Every child should spend more time outside in the sun than inside playing video games.
Above all, live every day as if it’s your last and be thankful for every one you get.
Robert Patrick Lewis was a Green Beret OIF/OEF combat veteran with 10th SFG(A), is an award winning author of “The Pact” and “Love Me When I’m Gone: the true story of life, love and loss for a Green Beret in post-9/11 war” and the host of “The Green Beret MBA” and “Center Mass with Rob and Silent J” programs on Vets on Media. In addition to its own editorials, Vets on Media publishes diverse opinions from outside writers.

The Uncommonly Unifying Common Core

| Opinion | April 25, 2015

I really like NPR (National Public Radio).

I know, some of you on the Right just stopped reading.

A great resource, in case you care, is a blog on the NPR.org site where the “nprED team” can school you on different topics.

Today I thought I’d touch on Common Core Standards in schools. Though the school year is winding down, there’s no time like the present to see what the kids are doing 30 hours a week.

First of all, what is it?

Common Core is an effort to set unified expectations for what students in kindergarten through 12th grade should know and be able to do in preparation for college and the workforce. It’s an effort to unify the country, educationally. Right now, the Common Core standards cover two areas: math and English language arts (writing and reading). For those of you reactionaries who want things back like the “good ol’ days,” remember “reading, writing and ‘rithmetic”?

Anyway, a group of governors, chief state school officers and education experts from 48 states developed the new curriculum. To date, 44 states and the District of Columbia have formally adopted the new standards. Currently (spring of 2015), most of the states will test students who have been taught according to the new standards.

While the Right thinks it was written by a group of Satan-worshippers who got together to “take over the minds of our children,” they can really just blame people like Bill and Melinda Gates.

The Gates’ foundation joined forces with the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, along with a group of governors and business leaders who wanted to improve the country’s academic standards, beginning in 1996. You can read about Achieve, their non-profit group, at Achieve.org.

In 2009, Achieve partnered with the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers to begin developing the standards. They were initially released in 2010, and most states began the process of adopting them that year.

Go straight to the source and read about it yourself at Corestandards.org.

Drunk on Debt: A Greek Tragedy (and a lesson for America)

| Opinion | April 24, 2015

If you pay attention to anything outside of TMZ or other fluff “news” channels, you’ve most likely heard that Greece is in the midst of another financial crisis, and one that many of us saw coming as soon as the anti-bailout Syriza party began running on a platform of cancelling the austerity measures put in place to save Greece.

If you’re not up to speed on what’s going on, I’ll use this article as a quick summary to catch you up on how this happened in the first place, what’s going on now, and why this may be a terrifying glimpse into the future for the U.S. economy.

While the Greek financial crisis (or Greek Depression) came to light in 2010, it has been on the Greek horizon for a very long time. Greece operated with budget surpluses from 1960-1973, but has run at a budget deficit ever since (sound familiar?). Greece was the fastest growing economy in the Eurozone from 2000-2007 at a rate of 4.2 percent, but did so by bringing on an alarming amount of debt (operating at a deficit greater than 3% of GDP per year…sound familiar?).

Greece has long been a country with governmental and bureaucratic positions being highly coveted, not because of a sense of patriotism, but rather because governmental jobs paid the highest salaries with the most vacation time in the Greek economy (sound familiar?). This inflated government was a large part of the crisis, and was one of the main points required to change for the IMF and Eurozone to provide a bailout to Greece.

So, we know that Greece was operating at high deficit levels for a long time, but what was the straw that broke the camel’s back?

I’m not sure who you idolize, but in my book, Mark Cuban is one of my favorite human beings on the planet for his insight, drive and determination. I recently saw an interview in which he was asked, “What piece of advice would you give a younger version of yourself if you had the chance?” The Cubes’ answer was to stay away from credit cards, and while a governmental deficit is different than your personal credit card, it’s much the same on the macro level.

And, with the evolution of credit and debt, most of the world’s currencies have gone away from a currency backed by anything tangible (we used to be on the gold standard) and instead now utilize a fiat currency. The important difference between a gold standard and fiat currency here is that fiat is based solely on the full faith and credit of the nation printing that currency. (There is a difference between “money” and “currency,” but that’s for a different article.)
So, when word leaked in 2009 that Greece had extremely high debt levels, many structural weaknesses within its economy, and allegedly had issues repaying its debt obligations, the credit agencies began to question the very faith that gave Greece any value or ability to take on more debt.

The Greek government debt was downgraded below junk status (remember the downgrading fiasco here in the U.S. a few years ago?), which scared away almost all private investors who had been keeping that country afloat by purchasing its debts (in the form of government bonds).

This put the already weak Greek economy into a freefall, causing the Eurozone to form the Troika, a conglomeration of the European Central Bank, Eurozone countries (Germany, most notably) and the International Monetary Fund) to put together a bailout package.

The Troika outlined three main requirements for Greece to receive a bailout:
Implementation of austerity measures, to restore the fiscal balance.
Privatization of government assets worth €50bn by the end of 2015, to keep the debt pile sustainable.
Implementation of outlined structural reforms, to improve competitiveness and growth prospects.

It’s interesting to note that every one of these requirements essentially calls for the reduction of government and a move to private enterprise.

You see, bureaucrats will tell you that government is the panacea of all and will save you, but that is only to save their own necks and to job security. In the US., the media falls lock step in place with whatever a Leftist administration tells them to say (much like Greece), and leaves our people grossly misinformed.

But, the people with money, the investors, the lifeblood of capitalism and credit, don’t pay attention to the fluff or misinforming media; they know the truth, and don’t buy into the lies. They understand that government is the most inefficient organization ever created by man, which is why the Left is so fervently anti-business.

Greece agreed to the measures outlined above, and the people used to an entitlement system rioted and were understandably angry in realizing their government had done as much as it could to wreck their country. Things seemed to settle down for a bit in the last few years, with the country is working its way back out of the hole.

And then, last year it came time for elections (sound familiar?). The people rejected the government’s candidate for president (they use a parliamentary voting system), and so another vote was held in January of this year (2015).

The Syriza party ran on a platform of anti-bailout and anti-austerity measures, and of course won on promises to bring the Greek people back to the land of milk and honey without having to work for it or pay off their debts.

This scared the Troika and world’s investors, as the first action of the Syriza party in office was to claim the prior bailout agreements were cancelled, asking for new rounds of negotiations.

And now, it seems, Greece is on the precipice once again. The money people want nothing to do with a people wanting to vote themselves into prosperity, or a government deceitful enough to promise it to them (sound familiar?).

At the current time, there are talks going on in very small circles in closed rooms as well as public forums about whether to kick Greece completely out of the Eurozone, and what consequences that would have for the system in general.

But for us, here in the United States, it paints a very bleak picture of what could come.

We like to sit in our ivory tower and think that because we are American we are immune to the ills that would topple other countries, but the path we are currently on is very much the same as the path Greece was on; we just have more people willing to continue extending us debt, for now.

An election season is brewing in our country again, and it is almost time to make the decision to continue “kicking the debt can down the road,” as Greece chose to, or to grow up and realize the peril our country has been put in.

Mark Cuban isn’t a politician, but rather a very wise money man who has done extremely well in his career. I would advise more of you to listen to him rather than the talking heads on Fox or MSNBC for wise advice. If a man that has made as much of an empire as he has says staying away from credit is the most important advice he could give, maybe we should all listen.

Jaso vs. Doug – A Differing Opinion

| Opinion | April 23, 2015

Camera Cops

Not long ago, our City Council voted 3 to 2 to eliminate cameras at busy local intersections. That brings up two simple questions: (a) what the hell? And (b) again, what the hell?

Expanding on question “a,” why eliminate a safety device? Why not get rid of light signals altogether? And seat belts and condoms, while you’re at it? Let’s just turn Awesometown into Take-Your-Chances Town.

How do the three “winners” on City Council sleep at night? For every fatal accident that occurs at those intersections, won’t they wonder if they might have prevented deaths by maintaining cameras to discourage the bold running of red lights?

As for question “b,” if right is right, how is it possible that leadership can only be 60 percent right, at best? That’s very close to a coin flip! We pay five salaries for a virtual coin flip? At least a dictatorship is 100 percent right.

Peace,
Jaso

Lean to the Left, Opportunity Knocks for Cubans

| Opinion | April 16, 2015

Now that Cuba has been removed from the list of state sponsors of terrorism by the Obama administration, the two leaders – President Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro – have added teeth to the vow to normalize relations between our two countries. The announcement came just days after a meeting between the Presidents at a summit in Panama.

A White House statement said that “the Government of Cuba has not provided any support for international terrorism during the preceding six-month period” and that Cuba’s government has “provided assurances that it will not support acts of international terrorism in the future.”

Some of the changes involved in the new policies include easing travel and remittance policies; expanding commercial sales and exports; and easing imports, including of tobacco products and alcohol. The U.S. will expand Cubans’ access to the Internet and telecommunications also.

There’s still time for Congress to consider the decision before it takes effect. I wonder if Republican Candidates for President Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) will consider that option.

Sen. Cruz wasn’t happy about the meeting, to begin with. A few days ago, Cruz tweeted: “President Obama is leaving the Cuban people imprisoned in the past.”

Cruz seems to have a crystal ball too. He predicted: “We have no assurance that the Castros will take real action to improve the lives of their impoverished and oppressed citizens. Meanwhile, American dollars will flow exclusively into the Castros’ pockets while the Cuban people continue to suffer.”
How could you possibly know that, Ted?!

And Sen. Rubio seems to think he knows the mind of President Obama. Does it “take one to know one,” Marco?

“It’s ridiculous,” Rubio said. “I don’t see how they can rationalize taking them off the list, other than the President’s desire to achieve a legacy issue that he’s the one that opened up Cuba and changed 50 years of policy.”

Cuba has been on the list of state sponsors of terrorism since 1982 because of “efforts to promote armed revolution by organizations that used terrorism.” Cuba has always objected to its place on the list.

If the two Republican gentlemen need reassurance about the decision by President Obama to normalize relations with Cuba, we can refer to a White House statement to the Associated Press: “Concerns over a wide range of Cuba’s policies and actions fall outside the criteria that is relevant to whether to rescind Cuba’s designation as a state sponsor of terrorism.”

National Public Radio (NPR) interviewed President Obama recently and he said he hoped it would benefit the Cuban people over the long term.

“I think there’s a real opportunity here, and we are going to continue to make — move forward on it,” Obama said. “Our hope is to be in a position where we can open an embassy there — that we can start having more regular contacts and consultations around a whole host of issues, some of which we have interests in common.”

The biggest difference between our current President and our Presidential hopefuls on the Right is his calm, patient approach. “There are areas where there are serious differences, and you know, I don’t expect immediate transformation in the Cuban-American relationship overnight,” he said. “But I do see the possibility — a great hunger within Cuba — to begin a change — a process that ultimately, I think, can lead to more freedom and more opportunity.”

And as for accusations that the President is grandstanding, creating a public legacy…you don’t think the two aforementioned right-wing senators are attempting to do so?

The Nanny State is Now an Exact Definition

| Opinion | April 16, 2015

Growing up in Kingwood, Texas, a suburb of Houston nicknamed “the livable forest,” some of my fondest childhood memories consist of waking up in the morning during summer vacation, eating breakfast with the family and hopping on my bike to meet up with my friends to play in the woods all day.

As a child in a military family and raised in a very conservative community, most of those days were filled exploring, playing GI Joe, paintball or building forts. We’d play all day, moving deeper into unexplored (by us) trees and woodlands, usually in camouflage, and have about as much fun as kids could have. Sometimes we’d head home for lunch, and sometimes we wouldn’t return until the sun was setting.

It was honest, good childhood fun, and something that I am afraid my kids may never have if this country continues on its current trajectory.

Because of the 24-hour news cycle and the media mantra of “if it bleeds, it leads,” most people in this country would tell you that the rate of violent crimes, kidnappings and other reasons to be terrified for your kids is up. Did you know that they’re actually down from previous decades?

That doesn’t matter to the nanny state; it’s in the government’s best interest to have you scared and believing you need more big government, police driving down your street in tanks and body armor (but still say you don’t need a gun!), and a way to explain lifetime politicians whose job security depends on an ever-increasing governmental overreach.

The insanity has grown to the point where two children were taken into police custody last Sunday in Silver Spring, Maryland because they were walking three blocks to the park to play by themselves and then walk home alone. I feel that bears repeating: two children were taken into police custody and held at the station until midnight (on a school night) because their parents trusted the kids, their community, and acted on that trust.

I could see there being an issue if these were my kids, who at their current ages of 2 and 4 wouldn’t quite have the responsibility yet to be trusted to such a task on their own, even if it was only three blocks from the family home. But, the children in question were 10 and 6, which paints a bit of a different picture. By 10 years old I was going to summer camp every summer and competing in national Odyssey of the Mind and state-level swimming competitions. But, the nanny state says these kids can’t be trusted to walk three blocks and play at the park?

It seems the nanny state and Leftist-controlled media are dead set on doing everything to destroy our kids’ future that they can. First, it was “kicking the can down the road” and sending our country into a death spiral of debt by borrowing to pay ever-increasing entitlements. Then, it was convincing them that anyone with a different opinion is a bully, moving to common core and making our educational system the laughing stock of the world. And now, they are even taking away their right to just play and be kids.

So, just remember this story the next time someone from the Left tries to tell you that he/she is “for children and families.” If the kids who just got locked up for playing at a playground could vote, I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t be for Hillary or the nanny state.

Robert Patrick Lewis was a Green Beret OIF/OEF combat veteran with 10th SFG(A), is an award winning author of “The Pact” and “Love Me When I’m Gone: the true story of life, love and loss for a Green Beret in post-9/11 war” and the host of “The Green Beret MBA” and “Center Mass with Rob and Silent J” programs on Vets on Media.

Increase Your Productivity in This Age of Distraction

| Opinion | April 10, 2015

Sherie wrote in to ask me how she could be more productive in her business. I have come to be considered an expert about this topic in recent years, so let’s dive right in.

Life as an entrepreneur or small business owner can be hectic. With days filled serving clients, creating relevant content, putting together products and services to sell, meetings to attend, social media interactions, and the like, you may be tempted to take time away from your work on a regular basis simply to get away from it all. My first year working as an online entrepreneur drove me to escape through television, movies, and other activities so that I could have some time to breathe and not have to think about business.

Soon I realized that this was the incorrect approach to what I wanted to achieve. Here I was, trying to build an online empire and all I could think of was how to get away from it. Instead, I shifted my thinking so that the last thing in the world I wanted to do was to escape the world I was creating. In my mind I compared it to Kobe Bryant wanting to go on vacation so he wouldn’t have to think about basketball or Bill Gates dreaming of visiting a deserted island where there would be no Internet. Ludicrous, right? After I thought about it in this way I began to look for opportunities to stay involved with my business every day by being consciously present, performing the tasks and activities that I enjoyed.

Within a week I noticed a significant increase in my productivity. I had begun delegating and outsourcing the tedious parts of my business, while focusing intently on the tasks and activities that I both enjoyed and was good at doing. At the end of the week I realized that the only things I needed to be doing to build my business were writing, creating products and courses, teaching and making presentations online and at live events, and working directly with my clients. This was about 20 percent of my business and I began doing these things 100 percent of the time.

My income skyrocketed during the next 30 days and I have never looked back. I had discovered the keys to productivity and everything changed. I then applied this to my personal life and it improved as well. You can increase your productivity, your satisfaction with your personal life, and anything else you seek to improve. This is exactly what I am recommending as you begin this journey:
Make a list of everything that needs to be done in your business, no matter how trivial and no matter who is doing it at the present time.
Sort through these tasks and activities, choosing the ones that only you can do.
Delegate or outsource everything else. There are people who can accomplish these tasks faster and better than you can.
Apply the 80/20 Rule – spend at least 80 percent of your time each day working on the 20 percent of your business in which you are an expert.

You may also want to share these ideas and concepts with the other people in your business and personal life. When productivity expands and continues to grow, relationships are able to flourish. Explain that if they spend time on tasks they are not good at or do not enjoy they are depriving those who can do it more efficiently and effectively the opportunity to do so. That just makes sense.

Instead of looking for distractions in your life, explore the activities that are related to your life and business that you can expand upon. For everything you do, ask yourself if this is moving you closer to your goals or further away. The answer may surprise you, or at least will make you think.

Productivity can change everything in your life, from your interpersonal relationships to your bottom line. Take action now and let me know what results you experience.

Connie Ragen Green lives in Saugus and has been working exclusively on the Internet since 2006. Her eleventh book, Write. Publish. Prosper. – How to Write Prolifically, Publish Globally, and Prosper Eternally, was recently released by Hunter’s Moon Publishing and is available on Amazon and at Barnes & Noble. Find out more by visiting http://HugeProfitsTinyList.com and download an audio recording for 2015 at http://NewRulesforOnlineMarketing.com. Questions? Email Connie at crgreencrgreen@yahoo.com and be sure to put Home Business Question in the subject line. Your question and answer will be included in a future article.

Lean to the Left

| Opinion | April 9, 2015

It’s time for a new car. You can buy a brand new one that’s pretty much free … as long as the Right doesn’t try to strike down government rebates.

How would you like to stop buying gas? I know you Right-wingers don’t care about reducing your carbon footprint. Did you know it’s actually possible to drive a car and emit zero greenhouse gases?

Charge Across Town is a non-profit organization with a mission to bring electric cars to the public’s awareness. (Visit Chargeacrosstown.com.)

Electric vehicles are demonized by the Right (except techies who want a Tesla), so there’s a constant barrier to getting the word out about electric cars. But, I know how to speak to you Conservatives: make it about the money.

There’s a federal tax credit of $7,500 if you purchase an electric car. And more! You also get a “Clean Vehicle rebate” of $2,500 from the State of California. And one more thing! You also get HOV (High Occupancy Vehicle) lane access (you get to drive in the carpool lane).

Okay, you Right-wingers – you’ll have to support sustaining that government money.

Here are some more incentives. You may find it surprising how affordable these vehicles are.

And look at the money you save on gas, because it’s much cheaper to charge your car at home by simply plugging it in.

The Chevy Spark electric car has an MSRP of $26,000! And that’s BEFORE the $10,000 tax credit/rebate. The Ford Fusion has an MSRP of $37,000. They call the Nissan Leaf a “free car” because the price is so low and you save on gas, etc. You can lease one for around $199 a month and you get HOV access.

If luxury cars are “your thing,” BMW has the i3. It is an all electric car getting more than 80 miles to a charge. It’s very light and is designed to run on electricity, but also has a gas extender so it can go an extra 50 miles on gas if the charge runs out.

Plus, fossil fuels are way more expensive than you think. There’s the price you pay at the pump, of course. But that doesn’t even include the costs associated with the pollution caused by the gas.

Costa Rica (yes – the whole country) went 100% renewable this year and saw energy prices drop by 12 percent.

You don’t have to buy a $70,000 Tesla to get in the game! At least promise me you’ll look into it. Visit Chargeacrosstown.com and read the blog Greenbiz.com.

The Left’s Monopoly on Free Speech and Bullying

| Opinion | April 9, 2015

“Everyone should have the right to voice their opinions … unless we don’t agree with those opinions.”
-The Left
In lieu of addressing the current insanity sweeping the nation into a frenzy over a new (old) law in Indiana, I remember a funny story a friend here in Los Angeles told me recently.

Her son came home from school one day and told her that he was being bullied by someone in his class. As a concerned mom, she sat him down at the table, already planning angry phone calls and parent-teacher meetings, as she asked her son to recount every detail of what happened.

When she realized her son had been taught by the ultra-Leftist Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) that anyone who disagrees with you is a bully, she couldn’t help but hold her head in shame and disgust. Yes, a boy in her son’s class held a different opinion and, using the ideology of the Left, was, therefore, a bully.

Yet it’s funny how that same ideology applies to anyone who disagrees with them, but they can’t seem to be held to the same standard.

There are many examples of the Left and their subsequent media lapdogs following this insane methodology in both free speech and bullying, made evident in everything from Christians trying to express their beliefs in a personal manner before football games to a small pizza shop in Indiana.

As far as freedom of speech and the First Amendment are concerned, the Left is extremely vocal about their ideal that all people should have the right to express their own opinions; but, as soon as someone does so whose opinions the Left doesn’t agree with, they gang up and attack like sharks smelling blood in the water.

Case in point: I’m sure everyone has heard about Memories Pizza, the small, family-owned pizza parlor in Indiana that became the center of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA).

But do you know why it became the center of attention?

A point that has been kept relatively low on the headlines fueling this controversy is that Memories Pizza never actually turned away any gay couple or refused to cater any gay wedding.

Interesting.

This entire controversy erupted from a reporter (with questionable motives to begin with) asking a hypothetical question of the restaurant owners.

To spell it out, a reporter asked the Memories Pizza owners to utilize their First Amendment rights and express their opinions … and when those opinions differed from the anti-Christian animosity of the Left, they proceeded to do what the Left does best: they became the same bullies they pretend to fight.

The attack dogs of the Left took to Twitter, email, and phone calls, constantly harassing Kevin and Crystal O’Connor (the owners of Memories) to the point where the business was temporarily shut down, and Crystal was afraid to leave her apartment.

If that isn’t bullying, I don’t know what is. A terrifying double standard has emerged in this country, and in the social media/reality TV age of “the loudest and most atrocious wins,” the idea that the Left can spew whatever hate they want towards Christians, but call any Christian or Conservative themed messaging “hate speech,” is terrifying.

It shows this country going down a path of no return, of putting politics ahead of values, and political correctness ahead of integrity.

Thankfully, while the Left has the loudest mouths, it seems the conservatives still have the deepest hearts. Because of the GoFundMe campaign to help Memories Pizza reopen, they have raised over $842,000 in donations and have fired the pizza oven back up.

And, in a show of classiness, the O’Connors have decided to share their new fortune with disabled children, a women’s help group, firefighters, police trusts and Christian churches.

The moral of the story, and one that my parents (of course, conservative) have always taught me: stand by your morals, and don’t allow anyone to force you to change them.

And as the old joke goes, “If two people in a relationship agree all the time, one of them isn’t needed.” Just because someone doesn’t agree with you, that doesn’t make him or her a bully.

If they take to social media en masse to lambast and harass you for having different opinions, however, that’s a different story.

Robert Patrick Lewis was a Green Beret OIF/OEF combat veteran with 10th SFG(A), is an award winning author of “The Pact” and “Love Me When I’m Gone: the true story of life, love and loss for a Green Beret in post-9/11 war” and the host of “The Green Beret MBA” and “Center Mass with Rob and Silent J” programs on Vets on Media.

Lean to the Left – Chain Reaction: What he said about what they said about who in the Hoosier state cares

| Opinion | April 3, 2015

The two sides to the recent Indiana Religious Freedom Restoration Act debate are clear. The Right is rejoicing that Christian-owned businesses can refuse to serve the LGBT community (and anyone else), now that they have a law to hide behind. The Left argues that it moves away from inclusiveness, tolerance and offers legal discrimination. But, more fun than the fight, at times, is what’s going on in the bleachers.

One of my favorite right-wing writings was that of Pat Buchanan, who published an article on Freedom’s Back, a web page/newsletter that takes right-wing rhetoric to an obnoxious level. Mr. Buchanan was a Presidential advisor and ran for the nomination himself more than once.

In his article entitled “Stand Up for Indiana,” he reacted to the reaction to the recent events in Indiana. He started by – as Conservatives ALWAYS do – looking back at the “good ol’ days.” He talked about how “public lives were to reflect moral beliefs” and how Christians who owned hotels and motels would not rent rooms to unmarried couples. The good old days? People constantly casting judgment on others for things that are none of their business?!

I loved some of Buchanan’s questions in his column, such as: “But should they have the power to punish people for acting on their religious beliefs?”

Do you know how many times that argument has been used to defend mean-spirited, dare I say, evil actions? (Think slavery.)

It’s no wonder that people from IT royalty to actors and athletes are shouting from the rooftops in protest. I love the Tweets (like from future President Hillary Clinton). Better still (and a great way to comprehend just how unpopular this crazy edict is), go to Reddit.com. These are some clever writers. They’ve brought up the vagueness of the language, such as the term “religious belief,” and insisted it would be impossible to enforce. One comment said, “What if my ‘religious belief’ was to smoke PCP then go baby stomping at the local preschool?”

That might be strong imagery, but the point is well taken.

When the Left Attacks (Indiana)

| Opinion | April 2, 2015

If you’ve ever wondered what the dangers of a completely Left-leaning media establishment would be, the current fiasco with Indiana should be a case in point. The Left, its media talking heads and IQ-short, but loud, celebrities are shouting from the rooftops to stop all business with Indiana and its (as they say) foul state of bigotry.

But, have you heard any of these talking heads mention the 21 other states that already have the same law on their books? Nope.

Derrick Gordon, the first openly gay basketball player in men’s Division 1 basketball, even tweeted this week on his (misguided) view, asking if the people of Indiana would be able to discriminate against him between play in the Final Four held there.

I don’t know, Derrick, you played in Dallas last year, and Texas already has that law on the books. You didn’t seem to have any problems with it then.
Unfortunately, it’s easy to see (to anyone willing to look) why this is such a big issue now, for Indiana, but didn’t create anywhere near this level of national uproar when the other 21 states who have this law on the books put it to a vote.

It meets the current agenda of the administration and its subservient lap dog media. And, even more unfortunately, millions of Americans are following along without ever taking a second to think for themselves and ask, “Why now?”

That being said, I’m not taking the position of being for or against the law. I am coming out against government intervention in the private sector, and trying to highlight the fact that many of our fellow Americans are allowing themselves to be worked up into a frenzy over a law that was passed in almost half of our states already, because it fits someone else’s agenda to make it an issue now.

I’ve never had any qualms of being extremely vocal about my positions as a Conservative Libertarian, as most of my fellow Special Operations veterans are. We don’t believe the government has any right to step in and tell a private enterprise what to do: that’s the job of the free market.

And the free market is doing its job quite well, but again in a very partisan fashion. Many companies and organizations have come out and said they will withdraw all business and conventions from Indiana in response to this public outcry.

But again, it just fits their agenda: if they were to stop doing business with the 21 other states who have the same law on their books, it would do serious harm to their operations. Just as we’ve seen, time and time again, someone has to be a scapegoat when the Left has an agenda, and unfortunately that scapegoat is Indiana for the time being.

The Left loves to shout that everyone should have their right to their own opinions, as long as their opinions agree fully with what the Left believes. But if you differ from their opinions, or in this case just differ when they don’t have anything else to complain about at the time, they will attack, and not many of their followers will take the time to do their own research.

Cruzing into the 2016 Elections: What Has the Establishment So Afraid?

| Opinion | March 26, 2015

Just in case you were hidden under a rock yesterday, Texas Senator Ted Cruz officially threw his hat into a run for presidency in the 2016 election.  He announced his run initially on Twitter (a nod to the younger generations) and followed it up with a speech at, of course, Liberty University.

So, what is it that has the establishments on both sides of the aisle so worked up about Cruz running for President?

Firstly, unlike the Jeb Bushes, Chris Christies and Hillary Clintons of the world who are expected to run (and you know how I feel about Hillary), he actually inspires and excites people.

As he is running on the Republican ticket, you’d think that the GOP would be excited to have two potential candidates for the upcoming election who get the youth as excited as Ted Cruz and Rand Paul, especially after blowing the 2012 race by not putting Dr. Ron Paul on the ticket, though he proved the only candidate with the full backing of moderate and conservative youth.

So, he’s conservative: check. He stands his ground (if you remember it was Cruz who filibustered 21 hours against Obamacare, which eventually led to the government shutdown): check. He’s from Texas (extra points): check. So, if he meets all of the requirements of a conservative politician, why is the conservative establishment so afraid of him?

To begin with, Senator Cruz stands his ground on the true Republican values, which are a shade different than the ones you see portrayed by Republican candidates today. He is fiscally conservative, which scares the greedy politicians who have become quite accustomed to the bribes (oh, sorry — I meant campaign contributions) that come from lobbyists and special interests.

Besides repealing Obamacare, he wants to abolish the IRS and simplify the tax code (which appeals to Libertarians, but not so much the NeoCons and RINOs, who no longer believe small government is part of the cornerstone conservative agenda), secure the U.S.-Mexico border, protect religious freedoms, eliminate common core, protect American citizens’ right to privacy (another nod to Libertarians), and actually stands with Israel for more than just press photos.

Being hailed by many (including a former professor at Harvard … funny that Obama’s Harvard records are sealed, but Cruz’s aren’t) as one of the smartest men in politics, those against him are already lining up to try and find dirt to discredit his presidential run. Unfortunately, in our sad state of political affairs today, this usually means he’s on to something, to have the establishment so scared of what he can do.

The largest argument being put forth already is the question of his citizenship and ability to run for President. Because Cruz was born in Canada to a Cuban father and American mother (his mother was born in Delaware), most scholars have faith that under the understanding of the naturalization clause in the Constitution, he should be fully recognized as a viable candidate and be fully able to take the position of President of the United State of America, should he win the position.

I am interested to see how this unfolds in the next few weeks. If the Democrats target him in questioning his ability to run due to being born in Canada (he held both citizenships until renouncing his Canadian rights in 2013), they run the risk of re-igniting the “birther movement” against Obama.

If members of the GOP attack him for his citizenship, they run the greater risk of not having an understanding of the Constitution, the most important document to the Conservative ideology. If they don’t attack him for his citizenship, they also stand to discredit those who attacked Obama for his legitimacy to run based on location of birth and parents’ nationalities.

While I’m not going to endorse any candidate this early, I will say that I’m happy to have a candidate in the race who’s a true conservative, from Texas, who stands by his values and is willing to call out members of his own party when they go against its true ideals.

And, while this scares the establishment who worry he may try to take the campaign back to the true ideals of conservatism, it makes me actually excited to watch the debates.

Lean to the Left – Another Round with the Prime Minister

| Opinion | March 20, 2015

by Sylvia Turner
Most Republicans would probably agree that Benjamin Netanyahu’s reelection as Israel’s prime minister is a win for their side. It’s true.

“He’s the strong kind of leader we wish we had,” they say.

You may call it “strong” instead of “abrasive” or “inflexible,” if you’d like.

He’s proven how inflexible he is by the fact he opposes any nuclear negotiations with Iran. You Republicans can stand there with him on that.

Then there is his lack of willingness to participate in talks with the Palestinians. Nope. Instead, he’s all for expanding Jewish settlements in the West Bank. Could it be that no progress between the Palestinians and Israel is completely Prime Minister Netanyahu’s fault?

He’s on a very unpopular side, anyway. His relationship with President Obama isn’t very healthy. How will he get along with Hillary?

And he’s always communicated a readiness for military action by Israel – with or without support from others, such as the United States. Well, at least he has the Right to support him.

Lean to the Left – Mental Illness Unchecked

| Opinion | March 13, 2015

We see them every day, if we’re looking. They are walking the streets, staking a spot under freeway off-ramps and in the Santa Clara River wash. It is our homeless population.
It is a crisis, and one that affects the lives of innocents – those who, by no fault of their own, find themselves without the means to find adequate housing.

If your thoughts are turning to the great job Santa Clarita is doing by providing programs for our homeless population, you’re right, in part. But one of the SCV’s most notable assistance programs is the Santa Clarita Shelter provided by Bridge to Home, and the shelter is scheduled to close on Sunday. The funds are only available to keep the facility open from November 25-March 15 each year, providing emergency shelter to a maximum of 60 single men or women, along with showers, beds and three meals.

But, whatever you do, don’t ask Republicans for extra money.

Look at the party’s biggest hero: President Ronald Reagan.

Everyone knows that when Ronald Reagan was the Governor of California he passed a law that eliminated involuntary hospitalization for a range of mental illnesses. This put more than half of mental patients on the streets.

As President, he put a stop to funding federal community mental health centers. This meant that more mental patients hit the streets.

Thanks, Republicans. It got a big thumbs up from people who care about the government’s bottom line, but you must realize we are still paying. It increases crime, and we still end up (very poorly) providing for them somehow. Ironically, the Right Wing, all who want to tighten the budget, don’t realize this decision was not free.

So, every time you hear about a shooting, a crisis on campus, or a problem caused by the homeless population – like their death from exposure – sing “Hail to the Chief.”

But, wait – there’s more irony. The venerable Ronald Reagan, who left them without government support, allowing them to be free of accountability, was shot by a man now in a psych ward. In addition, he spent the last couple of decades of his life suffering from a mental illness himself. Ironic and sad.

The Good, the Bad and Hillary Clinton

| Opinion | March 12, 2015

One of the bullet points which stands out the most on my resume pertains to my being picked to provide tactical medical care for Vice President Dick Cheney during his visit to Kabul, Afghanistan in early 2008. Not that it was all that eventful (we did intercept several would-be suicide bombers strapped down with chest explosives), but that opportunity provided me the chance to spend some time with various secret service agents over the several days we spent on the mission.

This was after Obama and Hillary had been furiously campaigning against each other, and the agents had some very choice words for the two candidates. They didn’t hold back much in their description of Hillary being a lying, two-faced and disingenuous person once the cameras and microphones were turned off.

I’ve kept that in the back of my mind every time I’ve seen or heard Hillary or news of Hillary, and with the vast number of scandals that have plagued her recently, her “it’s not my fault” and “blame it on someone else” responses don’t surprise me in the least bit. And while I’m no big fan of Hillary (isn’t it obvious yet?), I do have to say I’m quite surprised her PR people are allowing her to get away with trying to shift blame every single time something like this surfaces. I guess the days of President Truman having a “The buck stops here” sign on his desk are long gone from politics in the USA.

But, aside from proving that she’s a spineless coward who can’t own up to her own mistakes, there is a whole new level of understanding Hillary that is beginning to be seen by Americans who are witnessing her failed attempts to dodge scandal after scandal by playing the blame game: that not only is she spineless and two-faced, but that she’s also downright incompetent. While Benghazi and emails may be the scandals most fresh in your brain, there is a long list of scandals that have been following Hillary throughout her career. Take a second to search “Hillary Clinton scandals” online and you’ll find links to numerous scandals, some very loosely tied “conspiracy theories,” but many directly tied to Hillary.

As a career politician with eyes on the most powerful political seat in the world, I hope that everyone who would dare wear a Hillary 2016 button understands that someone whose response is, “What does it matter?” during the Benghazi hearings and who can’t figure out the most basic security fundamentals of using secret-cleared email accounts for state department communications has no place being in the White House (or politics in general).

So, while the Hillary PR campaign has stiff-armed any attempts to have her admit responsibility, they’ve also succeeded in showing her to be someone who is grossly incompetent and has no place on a voting ticket. But, I’m sure she’ll be there anyway in 2016, so please remember: she may smile on camera and tell you she’ll be there to answer the call when it comes, but when the cameras and microphones are turned off, it’s actions that matter most, not just lip service.

Lean to the Left

| Opinion | February 27, 2015

by Sylia Turner
I hate to bring this column backwards to an issue I thought was LONG dead, but unfortunately, we have to revisit the “is Obama a Muslim” question yet again. Yup, I got it in an email again this week. Actually, backwards is the direction Conservatives feel most comfortable with, so I’m sure they won’t mind.
President Obama is not a Muslim. President Obama has never been a practicing Muslim.

It’s both scary and sad that we have to return again and again to the issue of his religion. It honestly makes me wonder if Republicans are mean, conniving, mentally ill, or just plain dumb.

It’s clear they are at least self-righteous. Who has to defend, over and over, the validity of their faith? Only someone who falls under the judgmental accusations of another, who claims the accused’s behavior fails to match the accuser’s definition of a Christian. What happened to “…no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand” (John 10:28)?

Okay, here we go again. The argument should end with President Obama’s statement in his book, “Audacity of Hope”: “What was intellectual and what was emotional joined, and the belief in the redemptive power of Jesus Christ, that he died for our sins, that through him we could achieve eternal life.”

The End.

Or it should be, but we have to address some of the relentless (and ignorant) accusations that the President has wasted his time fending off. First of all, his name: Barack Hussein Obama. He was named for his father. Next?

His mother and father were an agnostic and an atheist, respectively, at the end of their lives. Does everyone (or even most people) have religious beliefs that look just like the faith of their parents? Of course not.

While President Obama went to a Muslim school for a few years as a child in Indonesia, he also went to Catholic school there for years. Is anyone accusing him of being a Catholic? That’s funny—no one has.

Think about it. Who would accuse someone of being a member of a religion simply because their parents enrolled them in school somewhere?

I love what Dick Staub said in an article he wrote for the Huffington Post in 2010 (Yes, that’s how long this argument has been raging): “Praying to saints in Catholic school didn’t make Obama Catholic; praying with friends inside a mosque didn’t make him a Muslim, either.”

Don’t stop reading, Republicans, just because I quoted the Huffington Post. Let’s take a look at an article in Christianity Today, where Obama told Sara Pulliam and Ted Olsen, “I believe in the redemptive death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.”

When he was sworn in, Barack Obama had his hand on the Holy Bible—NOT the Quran.

Barack Obama was baptized in 1988 at the Trinity United Church of Christ. Now, go ahead and throw stones if your church is perfect.

That’s what I thought.

Don’t worry, he’s aware of your emails making false claims. I like what else he said in that Christianity Today interview: “I have never practiced Islam. I am respectful of the religion, but it’s not my own.”

I don’t know what more you people want than the adult profession of faith Barack Obama has made claiming he is a Christian. I just don’t get what you’re still hung up on.

That he befriends or meets with Muslims? Take a look at Jesus.

Rising Taxes, Eroding Middle Class…Look, the Oscars!

| Opinion | February 27, 2015

by Robert Patrick Lewis
As much of the country was feverishly anticipating or watching the Oscars last night, I was doing what I normally do—reading up on the news and world events before my Sunday radio show.

While it’s not the best source for news, I was perusing Yahoo news to see if anything had come up in the half day since I had last checked. I scrolled through one, two, two-and-a-half pages of “who’s wearing what on the red carpet” and other Hollywood fluff pieces, when I finally came to some real news.

The news itself didn’t surprise me, and the fact that it was hidden two-and-a-half pages back on the news feed didn’t surprise me either; that’s where I’d hide it if the President (who my media outlet had feverishly supported) was now openly going back on all of his campaign (and even post-campaign) promises.

Also not surprisingly, now that the Oscars are over I can find news on the Yahoo feed about “father’s pregnancy trial,” still plenty of red carpet news, but not the article that caught my attention last night.

I guess once the misdirection of the Oscars is gone, Yahoo doesn’t have the journalistic integrity to keep it up there for people to find.

The article was a piece written on Obama’s plan to increase your investment taxes. Yup. The same entitlement-loving, “Obamacare won’t cost the taxpayers anything,” “free cake for everyone” President wants to raise taxes on your investments.

Namely, your retirement.

Forget that you’ve worked your entire life, pinching pennies and contributing to your 401(k), IRA or other retirement plan. If you haven’t figured it out yet, you don’t matter to Obama in the least bit.

It’s been a common theme throughout his presidency that the hardworking, honest, salt-of-the-earth (conservative) Americans whose blood, sweat and tears this country was founded on are seen as nothing more than a plague to King Obama.

The only people who matter to him are 20-somethings who lounge around all day in pajamas and pose for his website, academics who have never known anything outside of an institution, and people who have never worked a day in their lives, but have survived off the system since the day they were born … also known as lifelong voting Democrats.

As the joke goes, “How do you know Obama is lying? His lips are moving.” One of my favorite economic principles is the “no free lunch principle,” meaning you can’t have something for nothing, no matter what it is.

Obama has been promising a free lunch to his most fervent supporters, and as with every great society which has written its own death letter, they fall right into line and vote the party line for Democrats, who grow increasingly more and more liberal as they budget more and more entitlements for non-producers or taxpayers on the backs of hardworking Americans.

If you already have or already are cashing out your retirement or taking social security benefits, consider yourself lucky. It’s a scary thing to be semi-intelligent and see through the smokescreen, as I know that none of the things I’m currently paying for will be around for my children, or for me, when it’s our time.

But hey, at least we have the Oscars.

And the Smart Money Says…

| Opinion | February 19, 2015

by Robert Patrick Lewis

While most people know me from my former job as a Green Beret and current role as an author and media personality, my “day job,” that I actually quite enjoy, is that of an investment adviser. I spent most of last year studying for and attaining every financial license I could get my hands on, and use my position to do what I love most about that job: to teach people about their money.

While I need to first state that anything I say here can’t be taken as personal advice and needs to be followed up with your own financial professional, I would like to use a recent experience with a client of mine to highlight something that I see in the vast majority of clients I meet: a basic lack of understanding of their own money and how it works.

But, I completely understand. I’m flying to San Jose on Wednesday to see this client who, for all intents and purposes, has done everything right in his financial life. He bought a small condo 20 years ago located just 10 minutes away from where Google decided to build its headquarters, which consequently led to his property quintupling in value. He kept his expenses very low, and in retirement his pension and VA disability will well exceed his living expenses. He took full advantage of his employer’s 401(k) match and didn’t put in a penny more than they matched, knowing it was essentially throwing money away.

But he still doesn’t have any clue about the fundamentals of how money and investments work. Thankfully, he is the father of a good friend of mine, and when he told his son that he spoke with an adviser from a large commercial financial company and didn’t get a good feeling, he was directed to me.

I completely understand his situation because, in all honesty, finances can be downright confusing. I’m lucky that I’m a complete nerd for this stuff and love studying how the same amount of money, invested in 10 different vehicles and investments, will have 10 wildly different outcomes.

It’s up to investment advisers and financial professionals like me to guide you to the appropriate investments for your suitability, time window, amount to invest and financial goals. But, unfortunately, not all advisers are created equal. As my friend’s father found, while most of the advertisements you find in magazines and on television are for big name brokerages or financial entities that are household names, there are some issues with choosing those companies to be your trusted advisers.

First, many of these companies employ what are called “captive agents,” meaning they are only allowed to sell financial products and investments directly from their company. While that may not sound too bad to the average investor, you need to think about financial companies like car manufacturers or your favorite local restaurant. Sure, they may make one great sports car model or your favorite pasta dish, but more often than not, each entity has one particular thing it is best at, and the rest are average.

Unfortunately, they aren’t usually too quick to share this information with you, and a commissioned agent would rather send you to a product that brings you into his/her company (but isn’t exactly right for you), rather than tell you to take a portion of your portfolio down the road to another company. A distinct advantage with independent advisers and agents is that they can create a portfolio for you using any number of companies, ensuring that each vehicle is through a company who supplies the best for your unique situation.

I use this example to stress the importance of educating yourself. I’ve heard countless stories of people getting sub-par advice from the random adviser at a major brokerage who just happened to answer the call that day.
(I heard one just yesterday from a friend whose mom died last week and is litigating a major financial firm for overcharging her, and for choosing extremely risky investments for the 80-year-old woman, who then lost around $300,000 from 2008 – 2010).

Educate yourself about your money, where it is, and how it works. I cannot dole out individual advice here, as each person and his/her portfolio is truly unique, but I am working on a book that will offer education on what different investments are, and who they are best for (aimed, of course, at teaching my brother and sister military veterans).

Once you’ve educated yourself (listen to financial podcasts, read a few books…NOT by Suze Orman), find a local financial professional who will give you some face time and actually explain which portfolio they think is right for you – and most importantly, why they think that portfolio is right for you.

They say money can’t buy happiness, but a lack of it sure can put a damper on your day. Invested properly, it doesn’t take very much, put away every month over a long period of time and in the right places, to retire wealthy. You just have to be dedicated to saving and investing, and take the time to educate yourself and find a trustworthy financial professional who will care for your portfolio as if it was his/her own.

 

 

American Sniper Movie Review

| Opinion | February 12, 2015

by Robert Patrick Lewis

I couldn’t be more proud at all the accomplishments that veterans and, especially, members of the SOF (Special Operations Forces) community, have made during the past decade, both in and out of uniform. I’ve seen various spats between other vets working their way towards success in the public eye for books, movies, websites, podcasts, etc., and I can’t help but hang my head in shame a bit every time I see that.

As my former Green Beret brother, close friend and 18D course classmate Klint Janulis (who now has a reality show on the BBC and is working towards his Ph.D. at Oxford) loves to say, “a rising tide lifts all ships,” in respect to those of us who have formed alliances outside of our time in uniform to help each other with our pet projects.

I am part of a group called “The Military Media Mafia,” comprised of book publishers, magazine publishers, and a radio network. The work is of veterans, by veterans, and for, well, anybody who loves veterans and wants to hear what we have to say.

I do everything I can to support other veteran projects. As such, I found myself with a little free time one day last week, so my girlfriend and I decided to take ourselves to see “American Sniper.”

Before I get started, I have to admit that I have not read the book, and as a veteran author, I know that makes me a bad person! But, I should say, I’ve just finished writing my own (“The Pact,” available next week through Tactical 16 Publishing) and try to stay away from reading other military works while writing my own, so as not to subconsciously plagiarize in any way, shape or form.

With that out of the way … I loved this movie. There are people who complain about the fact that the book was written by two ghostwriters, which took it a few steps away from Chris Kyle’s own words, and the screenplay was then written by another non-veteran Hollywood type, taking it another step away from reality. But, all in all, this movie captured things that no other war movie on the OIF/OEF (Operation Iraqi Freedom/Operation Enduring Freedom) conflicts ever have.

There are only two movies I’ve seen on our engagements in Iraq and Afghanistan which have done those conflicts the justice of reality, and those films are “Restrepo” (an amazing documentary I suggest everyone see), and now, “American Sniper.”

I loved “Restrepo” because it showed the reality of war fighters in Afghanistan and the real face of war that visiting politicians, generals, celebrities on USO tours and journalists who hide behind the Green Zone hardly ever see.

Living in the dirt, daily firefights/mortar/rocket attacks, living on whatever food you can scrounge and a shower every month or so. That was my Afghanistan, and while many who spent their time in Kabul, Bagram or Helmand never lived that, I know my (Green Beret) brothers and I sure did.

“American Sniper” showed another side of war that “Restrepo” touched on, but took it to a whole new level. Academics have pondered the causes and effects of PTSD since the Vietnam War, and while the books “On Killing” and “On Combat” by Lt. Col. Dave Grossman (must-reads for anyone who loves and wants to understand a combat veteran) were the first to address this in an academic sense, American Sniper was the first I’ve seen to truly address it in the public eye.

This movie portrayed the following in such great and vivid detail that I found myself shedding tears throughout the movie; thankfully, we were all alone in the Town Center theatre at the matinee showing, and thankfully, Natalie knows me well enough that she didn’t have to ask why. They weren’t particularly sad parts of the movie, but several that were glaringly familiar to my life and experiences in war and at home.
Being in Special Operations, both the SEAL teams that Kyle was a part of and Operational Detachments-Alpha (ODA’s) that I was a part of, we have the privilege of going after extremely High Value Targets (HVT’s) while we are at war. A thing that separates us from other units is that we don’t just go get the bad guys; we study them, learn their patterns, the bad things they’ve done, and get inside of their heads.
In doing so, we see the darkest depths of the human soul, and levels of depravity no man should ever have to know exists in the world. Kyle was criticized in the public eye from many fronts by calling the Iraqi’s “savages” multiple times, but those of us who have been in that community and on those missions know exactly what he was talking about.

Sometimes we get the bad guys, and for us it’s a happy ending. We find, target, locate and kill or capture people that do despicable things to other human beings, and the world is a safer place.

Other times, however, we spend all of that time preparing to get the bad guys, and as “American Sniper” showcases his hunt for “the butcher” on his first tour, we return home without the satisfaction of introducing them to a prison cell or their maker.

The toll this takes on your psyche is difficult to describe, and as a parent it keeps you awake at night, knowing that your tour ended before you could get this evil human being, that he’s still out there, and that there is a chance, albeit a small one, that evil could come here to our shores and harm our families and countrymen.

Another aspect of war that is excellently showcased in this movie was that of the time between deployments. Kyle and I were both members of the “four deployments” club, and while his were all in Iraq, mine were hopping back and forth between Iraq and Afghanistan, so at least I had the pleasure of changes in scenery!

A part of multiple deployments that is difficult to describe and even harder to understand is the feeling that you don’t “belong” home.  It defies all logic, but makes perfect sense to us combat veterans.

We know we’ll be miserable back in Iraq or Afghanistan, that the food is horrible, we’ll rarely eat, sleep or shower, and only get to talk to our loved ones via satellite phone or shoddy internet connection occasionally. But despite all of those truths, we know that our place is there. We know that we are the “sheepdogs,” and that it is our place in life to protect those who need our protection. As the Green Beret motto goes, “De Oppresso Liber: To Free the Oppressed.”

Although it is amazing to be back home, in the comfort of our beds, hopefully wrapped in the arms of loved ones, there is an emptiness in our souls, knowing that other Americans are in harm’s way and we are sitting comfortably at home.

Veterans are respected by our country for our selfless service, but it is that very same selflessness that keeps us awake at night, feeling guilty for allowing ourselves a break from the horrors of war.

I don’t want to give too much of the movie away, but I felt that with all of the other people in the country weighing in, veterans or not, I had to give my two cents. This movie was extremely gratifying from an entertainment perspective, and extremely honest from a Special Forces combat veteran perspective.

I highly suggest that everyone see it, especially those of you who know and/or love a combat veteran. There are certain things they just can’t tell you, not because of security clearances, but because of our own walls, barriers, and unwillingness to bring our knowledge of the darkest depths of human depravity back to our own shores.

Go see this movie, enjoy it for the entertainment, but learn something about the veterans around you, what they’ve gone through, what they’re dealing with, and why sometimes they just need a little time to themselves after coming home.

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