Monday, August 15, 2011

What Happens in the Middle East Stays in the Middle East: Facebook Revolution in America?

In the last year we've seen a number of Arab governments taken to their knees by popular uprisings demanding change. Painfully high unemployment, rising costs for goods and housing and abuses of government power and corruption just got to be too much for these populations, so they let their collective voice be heard. Now in each of these countries there is much hard work yet to be done to right the ship, but no one can deny the courage, unity and determination of the people. As an American, I'm envious of their united effort, as an Arab, I am quite proud.
  One of the more intriguing elements in each of these is the role Facebook and Twitter has played in organizing massive demonstrations. In fact, some were calling them Facebook and Twitter revolutions. Literally hundreds of thousands of people in Arab countries organized via Facebook and brought dictators down.
  And so, I wondered, could Americans find the common beliefs among them and coordinate government protests on such a massive scale that literally could change our country's history forever? Could we have our own Facebook or Twitter revolution? Hmmm...
  Now I'm not talking about complete government overhaul, like in these countries. I'm just looking to get corporations and special interests out of our government and put some term limits in place to get rid of these career politicians. I figure a couple of amendments to our constitution would do it. The U.S., even with our difficulties, is still the land of opportunity and is still a great country, but we do have some work to do to eliminate corporate and special interests influence on our government. If done, these changes would have dramatically positive effects on our government's ability to govern with the will of Americans in mind. 
As I thought about the possibility of a Facebook revolution in the U.S., I became a little skeptical. Americans seem a little more distracted than our friends in Tunisia or Egypt, for example. We play Farmville, they farm. We play Mafia Wars, they survive wars. When I think about how things got rolling in Egypt, I'm pretty sure you didn't see a post like this:

"That's it! Mubarak has poked us for the very last time! We must take to the streets, call all of your friends in from Mafia Wars!! This will be no pillow fight!! It's time!!"

Or a post like this:

"Mubarak has abused Egypt. He has used our government dollars as a personal piggy bank, he has run our country into the ground. He is a brutal dictator with no conscience. I think it is time to make our voices heard. If you agree that our voices should be heard and we should remove this evil dictator please re-post. I realize that there are only a few of my friends that are true lovers of Egypt and WILL re-post this. 97% of you will not, but I know who the true Egyptians are."

We seem to like to express our revolution in a much more passive way (to be nice). Our type of revolution has really boiled down to venting on the Internet and blaming the guy next door, or the guy of a different religion, or the guy with no money, or the guy with a lot of money, or the Mexican guy, or the black guy, or the white guy, or the now very popular Arab guy for our troubles.
Maybe we should spend a little more time focusing on our name "The UNITED States of America". Hello!!! United?? Our friends in the political parties have us convinced that the enemy lives next door or just down the street. We've also been convinced that there is but one fate for this enemy and that is defeat. Well, I'm sorry, I don't believe in that kind of America. I believe that the enemy is not down the street. Down the street, I have friends that have different perspectives. For me, that's okay.
What's interesting is that this is exactly how we see each other when catastrophic events occur. When Americans are dealing with devastation from hurricanes, tornadoes, fires and other catastrophic events, we don't care if you're a Tea partier, a donkey or an elephant or simply a partier, we all work together. It's a shame that it requires tragedy for us to act as one. It seems like we should be better than this. 
I guess there is one good thing about a dictator. Given that there has only been one guy in charge for a long time, it is easier for the majority of people to coalesce with common ideas in mind, even if they are limited to getting that pig out of office. And it's much harder to get people passionate about amendments.
Now I realize that many of us will still dwell in Cafe World, but I remain hopeful that someday Americans will be United as Americans for the common good of the people. Until then, thank you for allowing me to share a few Words with Friends.


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Thursday, August 11, 2011

Alternative Economy: Let the sun shine in

Okay, I will start by telling you that I came up with this plan over coffee. So part of me was likely still trying to wake up. But I believe there is potential here. Also, I welcome all criticism or feedback.
So here's the idea. I propose job creation by the hundreds of thousands while increasing energy independence through solar power and geothermal heating and cooling systems in the U.S. How? Well here it is. Offer homeowners an extremely low interest loan (2% or lower) for the purpose of purchase and installation of a solar power or geothermal system for their home. To make it even more affordable, the loan could be rolled into a cost friendly home refinance. This way the monthly cost of electricity for these homeowners would be under $100 unless their energy use required more. But the good news is that homeowners would largely be insulated from the relentless increases in energy charges from the Dominion Powers (Virginia) of the country because they'll be paying a fixed mortgage type payment for their solar energy.
In many cases a home solar power system or geothermal system would cost $20-25k (Solarcity). Given this figure the U.S. Govt could offer $20 billion a year to homeowners in these low interest loans, resulting in the ability to cover a million homes a year in solar power systems.
This would require literally hundreds of thousands of people to be hired for the production, sales, and installation of these solar panels. Further, the debt, would be in the hands of private citizens and not the U.S. Govt. One stipulation is that all panels purchased with these loans must be U.S. made (the same kind of thing other countries do to create domestic jobs). With this stipulation, you get the jobs.
Further, the energy produced, would offset or eliminate electric bills in many cases leaving a net gain monthly for many homeowners, thereby increasing cash-flow, and increasing the value of their home all in one fell swoop. The resulting cash-flow increase would likely be reinserted into the economy by these consumers or banked. I'd take either result, but would prefer a combination of both.
So with this plan, millions of people go back to work, we kick start alternative energy, we put lots of money back into the economy, and private citizens (not the govt) carry the burden of the loans.
Also, if you're adventurous enough to buy an electric car, you might even be able to stop buying gas at some point.
Now if you want to really get crazy, at 200 billion dollars a year, you cover 10 million homes and could effectively cover over 50% of U.S. homes in 4 years.
Admittedly, this will not eliminate the need for the power companies, nor is it a long term solution, but it is an intermediate step that should be taken to move our country forward.
This is my proposal. Let the bashing begin.

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Sunday, August 7, 2011

Racial and Religious Tolerance

I don't like that people use the word "tolerance" when saying that one group of people can get along nicely with another group that is different. It's often said in such a way that you would think the first group should receive some kind of award for being "tolerant". You might hear it this way, "Our community has always shown great tolerance for people of other cultures." Really? Tolerant? The very use of this word is extremely arrogant for the first group and should be insulting for the other groups that are "different" or being "tolerated".
The very definition of tolerate should make this a little clearer:
Tolerate 1 : to endure or resist the action of (as a drug or food) without serious side effects or discomfort : exhibit physiological tolerance for 2 a : to allow to be or to be done without prohibition, hindrance, or contradiction b : to put up with; "learn to tolerate one another"
I think it's time we spoke differently about differences. To show tolerance is "to endure", "to allow", or "to put up with". Well thanks alot!
In other words, the above statement really says this, "Our community has always been able to endure other cultures..." or "Our community has always "put up with" other cultures"
"Other" cultures are what make this country great. Maybe it's parsing words, or maybe it's not. I just think that words matter and this particular one as it relates to people of other cultures and religions has always bothered me. However I will remain tolerant of those who use it...

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