Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Stimulus, Bailouts and Feeding the Sharks

This article was originally published at americanchronicle.com on Feb. 21st, 2009

Recently I´ve been hearing stories in the news of congressmen and senators complaining about the salaries and bonuses of certain CEOs in certain businesses. Now, I´m no fan of high paid CEOs and I doubt very much that any of them actually deserve to be rewarded with the obscene amounts they get paid. In fact, with the performances of so many companies down and judging from the fact that many of the companies they´re talking about should have gone bankrupt, these people hardly deserve to be paid at all. I have the feeling that none of them would be truly hurting if they were to lose their jobs. I think that such statements from these congress critters are diversionary tactics. I don´t blame the CEOs one bit for rewarding themselves; I blame those in congress who gave them the chance to do so.

I liken this situation to a fishing boat tossing chum overboard and then blaming the sharks for eating it. You can´t throw billions of dollars at banking institutions and the like and expect the CEOs to leave those funds untouched. They're not going to let all that fresh green ink just slowly settle to the bottom of the fiscal ocean without first getting their fill. Of course they´re going to gorge themselves. That´s what CEOs do. It´s simply in their nature. If you don´t want the sharks to eat the chum, then don´t dump it in the ocean in the first place.

A few months ago, when congress first began considering bailout bills, they received thousands of letters from their constituents asking them to vote against such bills. I remember some congress critters complaining about the flood of emails they were getting urging them to vote against such bills. They reportedly received so many emails that many congressional offices temporarily closed down their email services so they wouldn´t have to be aware of the clamor. I remember one congressman claiming he had received emails at the ratio of 300 to 1 against the bailout bill. I remember Nancy Pelosi coming out and saying her constituents were uninformed and that´s why they were so against the bill. It was reminiscent of a queen declaring her subjects ignorant as to matters of state and ignoring their cries for an end to injustice.

I can hardly believe someone like Queen Pelosi was re-elected to office after showing so publicly her disdain for the common folk of her district, and yet there she is still firmly in control. It makes one wonder about the validity of the electoral process we as a nation seem to take so much pride in. In fact, before the election of 2008 it was reported that congress had an approval rating of only twelve percent or so and yet something in the neighborhood of eighty four percent of incumbents were re-elected to their posts.

This was a congress dominated by Democrats who were put in power in 2006 to bring about change and stymie the administration of Mr. Bush. The people didn´t like his policies and they didn´t like the Republicans supporting him, so they thought a protest vote and a change of the party in control of the legislative branch would be enough to pressure the administration into stopping the war, bringing home the troops, and controlling the hemorrhaging of green ink that was occurring as a result of such bad policies. This didn´t happen. Why? Perhaps most congress critters simply don´t care what the commoners think, they care about what their major contributors think.

The Democrats kept approving military spending in Iraq and Afghanistan rather than cutting our losses and forcing the administration to bring the troops home. The Republicans didn´t help as they supported W´s administration without question, despite their losses in 2006. It was business as usual. Despite warnings, congress allowed hundreds of billions and maybe trillions of dollars to disappear into the black hole of empire. The corporate friends and associates of those in power, the sharks, continued to circle Washington DC in a feeding frenzy and gorge themselves on emergency funds courtesy of the American taxpayer.

Then the credit bubble burst. Mr. Bush´s administration requested help from congress for the banking industry. Did congress tell him no? Did they chastise him for his mismanagement? Did they indict him for criminal behavior? Did they attempt to impeach him for high crimes and misdemeanors? No. Two years earlier they had taken impeachment off the table, most likely because an indictment of him would have highlighted their complicity in his crimes.

At first congress showed their displeasure by rejecting a four page bailout package which held up the appearance that they were catching on and cared about their constituency, but a little while later they passed an even more massive bailout package, at least a hundred times bigger than the original. This package was laden with pork for their districts, giving the sharks even more to gorge upon.

Did this action cause the masses to stand up and demand accountability? Did the common man stage mass protests to pressure these "public servants" to repeal their folly? No. The congress critters of this nation, shaken as they were, somehow managed to dodge the political bullet. Many of them deflected blame by claiming they had been tricked by threats of civil unrest, violence and mayhem in the streets, and the implementation of martial law if they refused to pass the bailout. Apparently many of their constituents believed their claims and forgave them for their naïve actions since so many were re-elected. For those exercising power and control over others, it was business as usual.

So more sharks came to congress. We listened to auto manufacturers begging for help. We heard their claims of job losses and bankruptcies and economic catastrophe if billions of taxpayer dollars were not infused into their companies. "Throw us more chum!" they seemed to be demanding. And our congress critters, myopic as they are, could only find fault with the fact that the CEOs had used private jets to fly to Washington DC. They couldn´t find fault in their own actions of stirring up the fiscal waters with the bank bailout in the first place. They couldn´t even realize that at least when the auto manufacturers used private jets they created jobs for the maintenance workers, pilots, airport personnel, etc. with those jets.

Last election cycle brought with it more propaganda, flag waving, and promises that were made to be broken. The new administration is set up to take credit for anything good that happens in the economy and to blame anything bad that happens on the previous administration. It´s a vicious cycle that´s been played out again and again over the decades. It´s business as usual for congress. No one ever admits to being at fault. Government keeps growing and there´s always someone else to blame. The buck hasn´t stopped being passed around since the Truman administration.

Now at last the money has come to the little fish. A stimulus package was passed last week despite major opposition to it. It was passed despite the fact that it was so big no one could possibly know everything it entails. It was passed despite the fact that no congress critter could have possibly read the whole bill. Again congress decided to ignore the wishes of many of their constituents and threw more chum into the financial ocean, this time hoping the sharks have had their fill and the little fish will be able to gorge. There´s a bit of a problem when the little fish go after the chum, however. There are still sharks in the water. Sharks have a tendency to gobble up the little fish along with the chum.

I don´t blame the CEOs for looking out for themselves. I blame the congress for throwing the chum in the water. More than that, I blame those who keep voting for incumbents despite the fact that they have proven they couldn´t care less about their constituents. I blame all those who still believe there´s a difference between Democrats and Republicans when it´s been shown they are all big government statists who for the most part only take care of their big money contributors. They will continue to feed the sharks until they are held accountable for their activities, and it is up to the common folk of this nation to hold them accountable.

The Dark Side of the Law of Attraction

This article was originally published at americanchronicle.com on Feb. 19th, 2009

Many people might find it hard to fathom that the Law of Attraction has a dark side. It seems such a fine, positive, happy law that it seems impossible that something could actually be dangerous about it. And yet, in my mind, there is a growing shadow, a creeping suspicion that somewhere in the universe an evil presence is wringing its hands in glee and anticipation as more and more people subscribe to this notion that everything that happens in this world can be controlled by mere thought and that the thought process is what attracts good and bad events into one´s life. Perhaps this evil presence somehow feeds on the notions it creates, perhaps it enjoys polarizing people, or perhaps it´s simply trying to prevent those who can engage in critical thinking from doing so. I really don´t know. I can just sense this presence lurking, waiting for its chance to pounce on the unsuspecting and maximize the chaos and mayhem it plans on unleashing upon the universe. I shudder just thinking about it.

"Why should this be?" I might lay awake at night and ask myself. "What could possibly be so dangerous about a quirky little quasi-religious new age belief?"

Well, if you will indulge me, the answers might become quite clear. You see, and as many of you who regularly read my column probably know, I am an author of fiction novels. But I don´t write your everyday true to life fiction, I specialize in the horror, fantasy and science fiction genres. Should this law prove itself out, I may be in a world of hurt. You see, my imagination runs wild and sometimes the evilest and most terrifying of imagery races through my head and begs to be set to paper. If any of this ever creeps into the material world we now inhabit, well, I´d hate to think that I had a hand in bringing it upon us. I don´t wish to be responsible for the world´s first zombie attack.

But wait, perhaps there is good news. Perhaps the positive action of my putting to words these images for the purpose of entertaining the masses has counteracted this vile plague that was set to spring forth into the world and it will not come to pass. At least, not through me. What a relief. I do, however, still harbor a frightening thought. What if there´s someone with an imagination like mine, only he doesn´t have the wordsmithing talent I have. He may not be able to channel his thoughts into such positive activities and then we´re all in trouble. Vile creatures will spring forth from this person´s head and then we´re all done for. Oh, the humanity! This evil presence I feel has only to find this person and infect him or her and that will be it for mankind.

Or, now that I think about, perhaps this shadow I sense is far more subtle. After all, haven´t some science fiction writers already developed such stories? Star Wars comes to mind. Darth Vader killed a couple of dudes in that movie merely by thinking them to death. He and Luke Skywalker battled not only physically, but psychically as well, testing each other´s wills and the other´s ability to control "The Force," George Lucus´ scifi version of the "Law of Attraction." In his movie, there were all sorts of minor heroes who were affected by The Force, some who lived and some who died, but only Luke and Darth had truly mastered the art of using the Law of Att.., err, I mean "The Force."

In that movie it was all about control. So it is also, one might argue, with the Law of Attraction. For, if this "law" is a universal truth as its proponents believe, then it follows that since we all wield influence over each other, and yet at the same time we all control our destiny by focusing our thought, then at some point divergent viewpoints are going to be seeking conflicting outcomes and it only makes sense to me that he who has better mastered and learned how to manipulate this law will come out on top. Will it be Luke, or Darth?

Let´s pause for a moment to consider reality. In the real world, certain people most definitely wield power and influence over all our lives, even though they may not know us personally. These people are known as politicians. They are called presidents, prime ministers, senators, congressmen, etc. at higher levels and mayors, community leaders, state representatives, bureaucrats, etc. at lower levels. A reasonable question for those who adhere to this Law of Attraction might be, "Did these people attain their power by using the Law of Attraction?" If so, a good follow up question might be "Did they do so knowingly or unwittingly?" Finally one might ask "Are they using this power for their own advantage or to help give each and every individual the best chance of obtaining wealth and bettering their own lives?" In other words, is he using this power for good, or for evil?

The last question is a tricky one. In many cases it might seem like these politicians are trying to do good, they are trying to think positive and attract prosperity for all, but in reality they are only attracting more control and power for themselves and more dependency on government for everyone else. In this way, the political class is able to essentially create many people´s reality while the common man is prevented from becoming independent and self reliant.

This is the dark side of the Law of Attraction and the evil it can produce, and it appears to be winning at the moment. The world seems to be spiraling toward a future where there will be only government owned enterprises and its bureaucratic hierarchy and government approved and licensed monopolies. This over bloated creation we call government is regulating and restricting the free market out of existence and innovation and competition into the realm of criminal activity. This they do under the guise of good intentions, bail outs and stimulus packages.

But what if the Law of Attraction isn´t so powerful and all encompassing? What if these people aren´t always able to envision and bring a world into existence where they command all and the common folk are grateful for what they receive and give praise to the political classes for their "help" and "guidance?" Perhaps it´s not the envisioning at all that brings these things into being and makes these people so powerful. Perhaps it´s a directed effort on their part. After all, they make and pass the laws that dictate to you and to me how we should live our lives and conduct our business. Judging from the quality of the laws coming out of Washington DC lately, that doesn´t take too much thought or effort on their part. And we as a society just accept these dictates without question and abide by these laws no matter how bad, no matter how poorly written, no matter how ill considered.

Perhaps it´s time we exercise a little bit of directed effort on our part. Perhaps it´s time for the common folk of this country to stop thinking wistfully that those in power will help solve problems they´ve created with bigger government. It´s long past time for the common man to begin directing his efforts toward solving these problems himself. To accomplish this, those in power need to be directed to step out of the way. To accomplish this, the monstrosity known as centralized federal government needs to shrink, to cut its spending, and to release its grip on the mechanisms of power that led us to this point in the first place. Individuals should direct their efforts toward helping those in power realize this.

It is up to each and every individual as to the method by which he expends effort toward this goal. Some methods will prove more effective than others. One thing is certain, being apathetic and doing nothing except hoping for change and wishing for better times will accomplish nothing. Voting for one corrupt official over another corrupt official, or for some propagandistic, nebulous ideal which is never precisely defined will change only the guard. Volunteering for a corrupt organization will only help to prop up and maintain the illusion of legitimacy behind the corruption.

The time has come for the common man to show his dissatisfaction of the establishment by directing his efforts toward that goal. Show your dissatisfaction by being civilly disobedient, or support someone who has decided to stand up to the establishment. Start finding people not guilty for breaking laws that have no real victim. Demand that lawmakers read and understand the laws they pass. Discuss these things among your friends and take a contrary, individualist stance when one of them praises collectivist thought or policies. Let the people in government know that it is no longer ok for them to ignore our voices and our grievances. Get angry. Do something.

If it takes positive thinking to motivate you to take action, fine, think those positive thoughts and attract positive things to you. If it takes negative thinking for you to take action, that is also fine, then do so. The point is, take some form of action. Stand up and be counted. Let them know how you feel, for if you don´t then no one will do so for you.

If, however, you wish to just do nothing, to remain apathetic and to only release positive thoughts into the universe and hope that things change, then the dark side has already won.

Here is a list of a few organizations that can help you peacefully do something. There are others if you care to seek them out:

The Free State Project
Ron Paul´s Campaign for Liberty

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

It´s no Secret, the Theory of Directed Effort

Recently I was involved in a discussion about what has become known as "The Law of Attraction." It became rather heated. It seems to me that some proponents of this "law" have a tendency to become rather fervent in its defense when its premises are questioned. As so often happens during a verbal interaction, the discussion took directions I never wanted it to go in and logical arguments gave way to emotional examples and anecdotal evidence. Of course, anecdotal evidence presented contrary to "The Law of Attraction" was quickly spun about to fit into the paradigm created by those who worship at the altar of this would be "law."

Before I go on I wish to make something clear. I have quite a few beliefs which some others might consider strange. I am very interested in mysticism and I enjoy studying the occult and the practices of witchcraft. I´ve been known to practice the art of interpreting an astrological chart. I´ve taken part in pagan rituals and prayer. I enjoy meditation. Basically I am open to all kinds of ancient spiritual beliefs and curious as to their origins and their inner workings.

If it becomes obvious that I am no expert on this "Law of Attraction," and if my understanding is incorrect, keep in mind that I am basing these thoughts and opinions on statements made by adherents to this belief system during a heated debate. If I make a statement that seems like misinformation or is not what the belief system is about, then perhaps the adherents to this system are mis-educated or misguided in their beliefs.

So one might ask why someone like myself who so likes to dabble in unorthodox spirituality would be adverse to "The Law of Attraction." Let me say first of all that there are many facets of this "law" that I do agree with, but there are many claims certain adherents make that I find disturbing. Secondly, the semantics involved are highly questionable. Calling something a "law" implies that it is something operating all the time on everyone, such as the law of gravity, and that it is absolute truth. In the realm of spirituality and the metaphysical, I personally find it hard to accept any concept that claims to be the absolute truth simply because there is so much about this realm we do not know or understand.

Let´s take for example the basic tenet behind "The Law of Attraction," that we all attract everything that ever happens to us in our lives, good or bad, simply by thinking about it. In essence, in my opinion, it states that things happen on account of wishful thinking or because of unguarded thought. It seems to me that this doesn´t take into account all the other forces that are interacting with each and every one of us in this physical realm. It takes power away from all the other factors, natural or manmade, and gives it to you. In essence, you become God, or at the very least godlike. The question then becomes, do you have complete control of your thoughts, or are they willy-nilly and you´re going around causing mayhem with the unregulated thoughts swirling about in your head. Perhaps that´s oversimplified, but it´s my understanding of how this "law" works.

Now these adherents might complain upon hearing this that it is simply not true, that there are certain laws of physics one must operate within the parameters of. They will admit in part that there are certain facets of reality that can´t be overcome, and then in the same breath they will make a statement such as you are in complete control of your reality one hundred percent of the time. They will then create an anecdotal argument such as a man envisioning himself in flight can´t simply take off and fly, yet he can create a flying machine. Never mind that men have envisioned themselves taking flight for millennia and that it has only been recently that technology has been able to bring us to a point in time where making such dreams reality was possible. Never mind all those men who may have died or been severally injured in attempts to take flight in poorly designed flying machines. Don´t bring up such anecdotal evidence to these believers. These adherents would argue that those men simply did not envision their goals correctly, or that they must have at some point or another envisioned themselves falling, or some such thing. They will spin any observation in an effort to make their paradigm unchallengeable.

One of the fellows I was debating followed up an anecdotal example with the statement that the universe always answers "yes" to any thought one may envision. He further went on to explain that if you are focused on something like wanting money, for example, than the universe will make certain that you continue to want money or some such nonsense. Now if you want to believe that´s true, it´s okay with me, but I find it quite presumptuous that anyone would claim to know first off that the universe has a consciousness and secondly that he knows how it thinks and how it will react. It is also a little troubling to think that the universe´s consciousness can´t tell the difference between the literal wording of a thought and the true meaning one is attempting to convey. Most humans could, why does the universe have such problems? Is the universe thought dyslexic? Personally, I don´t know if the universe has a consciousness, but if it does I´m sure it would answer requests yes, no or maybe like any other conscious entity. It might even depend on how it was feeling on the day you asked it.

There was a news story I read long ago of a man who was riding his bike in Colorado on a bright sunny day when he was suddenly struck down by lightning. The nearest storm was ten miles away when this happened. While it is true that the lightning was attracted to him for some unknown reason, I doubt very much it was because he was thinking about being hit by lightning. Unfortunately he died, so we can´t say for sure, but even if he was I would guess that there was a more scientific explanation to the event. I certainly don´t think he wished it upon himself and I don´t believe he was in control of the circumstances. He simply had wanted to go on a bike ride on a nice sunny day, was enjoying himself and then was suddenly struck down.

These adherents might say he had thought about getting hit by lightning in the past, or perhaps he was focused on it, but that wouldn´t explain all the people who go through their entire lives without getting hit by lightning, the vast majority of us. Most of us have likely thought about getting hit by lightning and even focused on it at some time. I know I have. Usually when this happens I make every effort to get off the golf course as soon as possible. The likelihood that I will get hit by lightning is slightly higher than the average person´s because I play golf, but not so much higher that I will curtail that activity. So, if I live to be 150 and don´t ever get hit by lightning, how does the law of attraction explain that? I´m not certain it can.

But enough about my misgivings with this "law." I can sum them up by saying I don´t like absolutes. I didn´t like them when President Bush would use them (as in you´re either with us, or you´re with the terrorists) and I don´t like them when they´re ensconced in spiritual dogma that can be neither proven nor disproven. But there are certain aspects about "The Law of Attraction" which I find intriguing and I´d like to examine them a little closer.

I think people are quick to believe that the universe works in this fashion because quite often it seems that we do attract things into our lives by our thoughts. Often times when one thinks positive thoughts positive things happen and when one thinks negative thoughts negative things happen. We used to call this the power of positive thinking. But the reasons for this likely vary, and it isn´t necessarily always true. There are billions of people in the world and billions of experiences and still the possible explanations and variations are not exhausted. In my experience there have been times when I´ve had a positive attitude and negative outcomes have occurred and visa-versa. Likewise, there have been times when I´ve envisioned positive outcomes that haven´t come to pass and visa-versa. Still, many people hold a firm belief that this attraction thing is the secret to their success. There are times when I believe there might be a little something to this attraction thing, and I believe I know why.

I like to think of it as a theory, since I don´t believe in spiritual absolutes which some would call laws. I call it the Theory of Directed Effort. I theorize that if one wants to achieve something in his life then one has to make an effort to do so. He can´t just sit about wishing it to be so and expect it to happen. Furthermore, if one thinks positively about the outcome of his efforts, it becomes easier for one to expend the energy to make the effort. It is definitely easier for me to sit and make the effort to write a book if I believe it´s going to be a best seller and make me lots of money than it would be if I were to think it was going to suck and no one was going to publish it, let alone buy it, so there is value in positive thinking. I would imagine this is true in many cases, but I would also imagine that it´s not the thinking that makes the project a success so much as the effort that goes into it.

These are but two of the variables that go into any venture, however. Talent is another factor that will help decide whether one is a success or not. If one is talented at something, it is also easier to direct one´s effort into a project which utilizes said talent. If one is not talented or unskilled but still interested in accomplishing some goal, than one might want to direct his efforts into honing said talents or skills before attempting to achieve said goal. Another factor is the reality of the circumstances one finds himself surrounded by. Is the timing right? Does the necessary technology exist? Is the world ready for your project? These are factors one does not have control over and should one find that something is simply not right or some critical component is missing, perhaps one would be better off directing his effort to another area.

When everything comes together one has a tendency to be successful. That doesn´t mean, however, that one has attracted success via one´s thoughts. In fact, the other day I was asked to fix my ex´s computer. I went to her house and looked at it, but something quite strange was wrong and I was very confounded. I was ready to give up and felt I´d have to restore the operating system, something I didn´t want to do because it would mean she´d likely lose all her data. I decided that I would try a little trick I knew not because I thought it would work, in fact I believed it wouldn´t work, but it wouldn´t take long and I thought "what the hey." To my surprise it worked and the computer was fixed. I was successful not because I envisioned a successful outcome, or because I asked the universe to give me an idea to help me with my task, but because I directed an effort toward finding a solution and it happened to work. All the thinking and envisioning in the world would have done nothing if I didn´t direct my effort properly. And should one of those adherents twist that around and suggest that I somehow did envision or think of a positive outcome, that tells me that now they believe they know my mind better than I do.

Truth be told, I believe that life is a mix of free will and fate. I believe that it is a mix of effort and circumstance. I believe it is a mix of luck and doing the best you can if dealt a bad hand. I don´t believe there is one all encompassing secret that will lead to success. Trying to maintain a positive attitude will likely make things more pleasant for you as you go through life, but I don´t think it will guarantee you will be a success, though it may make that outcome more likely. On the other side of the coin I don´t believe that one´s failures are always one´s own fault. Though negative thinking may contribute, sometimes more and sometimes less, I think there are other forces working in this world that one cannot always control. It seems to me that there are grains of truth to all dogma, and some people like to try to fit the whole universe inside one of those little grains. I prefer to explore possibilities, keep an open mind, and collect as many of those grains as I can.

Mr. Obama´s Magical Oratorical Stimulus

This article was originally published at americanchronicle.com on Feb. 7th, 2009

A couple of days ago, Mr. Obama addressed his fellow Democrats. He gave a speech which some in the media characterized as partisan and derisive to the Republicans who have opposed his stimulus plan all along. I have to admit, Mr. Obama is a good public speaker. Most politicians are. It´s tough to obtain high office as an elected official if you´re not. I listened to some of Mr. Obama´s speech and I must say that he said a number of things that I agree with him about. There is a problem, however. Like most politicians, Mr. Obama has become very adept at the art of doublespeak. He says one thing while meaning the complete opposite. Since those in the mainstream media who sleep with the politicos and depend on them for their jobs are loathe to point this out, it becomes necessary for an outsider to state what should be obvious and challenge conventional wisdom.

In his speech the president claimed that Americans are not looking for Democratic or Republican solutions, they are looking for American solutions. While I do not claim to speak for all Americans, I agree wholeheartedly with the spirit of that statement. It was eloquently stated and sounds very patriotic and politically correct. Its purpose, in my humble opinion, was to try to make it sound like Republicans who are against the stimulus package that is being proposed are somehow un-American. But perhaps we should take a closer look at this statement and try to convince our president that he should follow through on it and propose some new policies and strategies to make it so.

A legitimate question would be "What exactly is an American solution?" Well, the nation of The United States of America was predicated in part on the premise that free individuals know best how to conduct their own business. Hence the Bill of Rights was included in the Constitution as an attempt, some would say a failed attempt, to limit the size and scope of our federal government and keep them out of our relationships be they private or business. So, in my humble opinion, an American solution would be one that honors those principles by allowing American citizens to exercise their inherent rights and their innovativeness without fear that these rights will be violated by government agents because they´ve failed to follow some draconian restriction or regulation. An American solution would be one that allows Americans to take personal responsibility for their own wealth creation and financial success.

On the other hand, one might ask "What is not an American solution?" Well, I certainly do not believe that wealth redistribution schemes are. I don´t believe for a moment that giving money to people who didn´t earn it is in any way uniquely American. In fact, it sounds to me like it is decidedly European. Worse still, when coupled with the fact that our government has already in effect nationalized the banks and some of the largest businesses operating in our country, it sounds like something right out of the old Soviet Union. While these programs may have good intentions and may be charitable, and while being charitable is a quality a great many Americans possess, forcing one to be charitable by stealing their money through taxation is not truly charity at all. In fact I´ve heard that Americans have historically been one of the most generous and charitable of people of all time. Perhaps President Obama and the Democrats don´t believe this to be true.

Mr. Obama went on in his speech to claim that the American people voted for him and the Democrat majority in congress because they wanted change, they were tired of the status quo. I agree, to an extent. I believe the American people do want change, but not the kind of change Mr. Obama proposes. I don´t believe the American people want their country more socialized. I don´t believe the American people want to be told by the government how they should and shouldn´t behave, how they should and shouldn´t go about their business. I don´t believe the American people want to be brainwashed by government propaganda and politicians who offer nothing but empty rhetoric and tired, old socialistic programs that have failed so miserably in other countries. That is not the change Americans seek. Unfortunately, most Americans were only exposed to Mr. Obama´s or Mr. McCain´s point of view during last year´s presidential campaign and felt those were the only choices they had. Unfortunately, because of media bias and the complete societal saturation of the political duopoly, most Americans didn´t realize that both former candidates were nothing more than different facets of the same status quo.

I, for one, didn´t vote for you, Mr. Obama. I voted for no Democrat. I voted for no Republican, with the exception of Ron Paul, and I voted for him not because of his party, but because he has consistently demonstrated that he is a man of principle who votes in accordance to those principles and honors his oath to the constitution. I can make that claim about very few politicians, if any, besides him. Otherwise, when it comes to congress, I voted for third party candidates because I am sick and tired of the corruption and the nepotism and the flowery rhetoric spewing out of Washington DC that never translates into the changes I want to see. Where is my representation, Mr. Obama? I don´t know about everyone else, but I am tired of constantly being ignored. In my opinion, Mr. Obama, you are the status quo.

So, Mr. Obama, did it ever occur to you that maybe these Republicans, and some of the Democrats who voted with them, voted against your "stimulus" bill because they were pressured to do so by their constituents and not because they were being partisan? Did it ever occur to you that maybe they were trying to represent the wishes of the majority of the people in their districts or their state? I doubt it. I doubt it because you never once listened to my pleas or my opinions when you were my senator from my state supposedly representing me. You ignored me and anyone else who may have agreed with me and consistently voted contrary to my principles. I ask again, where is my representation? Perhaps I wasn´t in the majority at times, and perhaps I was at other times. It´s difficult to say. But don´t I deserve some form of representation? Don´t all those who agree with my point of view? Don´t these shared opinions merit some consideration? I don´t believe you think they do.

Mr. Obama then went on in his speech to claim that the old ideas instituted by the Republicans haven´t worked. He claimed that tax cuts alone have not worked. He claimed that it is time for new ideas to be tried. I agree. Let´s try some new ideas, Mr. Obama. Tax cuts alone will not work. Tax cuts coupled with slashing government spending just might. Or how about totally eliminating at least the income tax and ridding this nation of the blight upon it known as the IRS. This might not be a new idea, but it certainly is one that has not been tried, at least since the creation of the IRS.

Bringing our occupation forces home from wherever they are stationed and stopping the administration of an empire we can no longer afford combined with tax cuts is another idea that might work. Again, this is perhaps not the newest idea, but one that was never implemented. How about eliminating some of the unnecessary departments of the federal government, departments the federal government was never supposed to have jurisdiction over anyway? Remember, the Republicans were put into power because they promised smaller, more efficient government and instead grew it. They also did not listen to their constituents and you have not even promised smaller government. Let´s give these ideas a shot and see if they work, or are your words just empty rhetoric and you´re really not willing to give new ideas (ideas which have never been tried) a chance?

Hey, here´s another idea that´s never been tried, let´s try abolishing the Fed. It´s been around since 1913 and has proved itself to be a dreadful failure. It was supposedly created to prevent the current financial mess and to stabilize the boom and bust cycles, which some claim are only created because of government interference in the free market, a school of thought I happen to agree with. In any case, the Federal Reserve certainly has not done what it claimed to be able to do upon its conception. In the ninety six years since it was created we´ve had the boom of the twenties, the great depression, the war years, the boom of the fifties and sixties, the stagnation of the seventies, the market crash of ´87, the boom of the nineties and the current looming depression. That´s not a very good track record. I´d say the Federal Reserve had its chances and failed. It´s time to give something else a try.

Mr. Obama´s oratory re-initiated not only the debate about the stimulus package, but the debate about congressional bipartisanship. He has magically bullied the Republicans with his well crafted words in a speech designed to frighten them into ignoring the people they´re supposed to represent. It´s like the bail out package all over again, the one that is already so questionable and has already cost us too much of our future earnings. These politicians have ignored people who share similar opinions to mine time and again, and they continue to ignore us. Mr. Obama is no different than the rest of them, and though he claims he is about change, so far he seems able to only present ideas that will lead to bigger, more controlling and intrusive government. Perhaps he should try the opposite of what he´s been doing, decentralize, and allow the people of this great nation to prove they can provide for their selves.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Government Propagandists and Tax Cheats

I heard an interesting bit of propaganda the other day. According to CBS news, an IRS survey showed that ninety percent of Americans feel it´s wrong to cheat on their income taxes. Ninety percent! That´s a huge percentage. This got me to thinking, "Who are these people?" Certainly if ninety percent of the people believe this, I should know one of them. And yet nearly everyone I know cheats or has cheated on their taxes in some form or another. In fact, the laws regarding taxes are so onerous and so numerous one would think it would be impossible to not cheat on your taxes. People are probably cheating on their taxes and don´t even know it. I had to wonder how this question was phrased or what kind of survey taking trickery or chicanery was used to get such overwhelmingly pro tax numbers from a populace who is decidedly anti-tax.

So I ask again, who are these people? Who did the people taking this survey ask? Did they ask the waiters and waitresses, the bartenders, the hairstylists, the taxi drivers, the pizza delivery people of the world? I´m certain that those who mainly make a living off tips report each and every penny they earn in tips to the IRS. Did they ask the tradesmen, the carpenters, the roofers, the plumbers, the electricians? I´ll bet they´ve reported all the money they´ve received from every side job they´ve done for friends, family and acquaintances where they were paid in cash. Did they ask the small businessmen of the country? I doubt very much that any of these people would ever fudge a little on their office expenses. Someone like that would never claim a personal computer for their children or a new car for themselves as a business expense. Did they ask salespeople? I wouldn´t think any of those people would ever claim anything on their taxes that wasn´t an actual allowable deduction. After all, when it comes to taxes, isn´t everyone suddenly just the most honest person in the world? Ninety percent seem to think so.

More likely this poll was given only to those who work for the IRS. Or perhaps it was given only to those who benefit from taxes, those who receive more than they pay. Perhaps it was given only to the very old who were indoctrinated into believing that not reporting all wages earned and paying taxes on them was the same as stealing. I did hear on the same radio broadcast that an overwhelming number of people also believed that paying taxes is one´s civic duty. Now that´s indoctrination. A group of people calling themselves government has convinced all these people not only that it´s ok for government to extort their hard earned money from them, the money they´ve received by being a productive member of society, but they´ve also convinced them it´s their duty to do so! Amazing.

Perhaps I´m wrong. Perhaps ninety percent of the populace really does believe that it is wrong for people to cheat on their taxes. Or perhaps ninety percent believe that it´s wrong for other people to cheat on their taxes. Perhaps these people are simply trying to express their perception that only the very wealthy can cheat on their taxes, or that corporations seem to get more tax breaks and deductions than the average citizen. Perhaps a better question would have been, "Would you pay taxes if it was strictly voluntary and you didn´t have to worry about being punished or penalized for not paying?" Be honest now. Perhaps an honest poll question like this would show how people feel about the true worth of the services government provides. Perhaps a question like this, if answered by average, honest people in an honest manner, would show how Americans truly feel about exercising one´s "civic duty" in the form of paying taxes. If the IRS survey is accurate and the average American feels this way, they should have no problem making taxes voluntary.

There is one thing for certain, most people try to keep as much money as they can. Most people take whatever deductions they are entitled to take. And when the tax return adds up to more than they´ve actually paid into their withholding, as per the earned income credit, I doubt very much that anyone´s going to actually give the extra money back to the IRS. No one wants to pay taxes.

Historically, taxes have always been abhorrent to the American people. The Revolutionary War was fought in part because of taxes. Income taxes were particularly egregious and specifically prohibited by the constitution. Our founding fathers realized just how abusive such a tax could become and how much power it would give those who administered it. It took a constitutional amendment, the 16th amendment, passed under questionable circumstances, to allow the government to "legally" level such a tax against its citizenry. Doing so allowed for the establishment of a central bank (a privately owned, quasi-governmental organization) and the unchecked growth of centralized government. It basically made it legal for the government to do what would be illegal for any other organization to attempt. The tax cheats aren´t the individuals that should be scrutinized, but the system itself which is the real criminal enterprise.

Now the federal government wants to saddle the common folk of this country and their progeny with a huge debt. We are the ones who will end up paying for their ill considered bail outs and "stimulus" packages. Our children and grandchildren and beyond are the ones who will suffer as their wages are garnished by an ever growing, ever more entrenched, ever more tyrannical bureaucracy. If we are to release our progeny from this burden, then we need to relentlessly demand smaller government and more responsibilities for ourselves. We need to make the government listen to our grievances and answer them, something they have refused to do in the past.

Government agencies want you to believe that the people of this country are docile. They want you to believe that the people accept their fate and are willingly paying huge chunks of their paychecks for less than stellar government services. The more people that can see through this charade, the better. The more people that speak out against it, the louder the shouts on Capital Hill, the better off we´ll all be. When the politicians finally realize that we are serious about getting them out of our lives and living as free men, then perhaps they will abandon their quest for ultimate power over all our lives and let us go about our business utilizing the freedom and liberty the founders of this country meant for us to have. At that point we will be able to grow wealth for ourselves and stop giving away the wealth we´ve earned to an elitist political class.

The Futility of Hope (or Hoping For Change)

This article was originally published at americanchronicle.com on Feb. 2nd, 2009

"Be the change that you want to see in the world."
Mohandas Ghandi

I was discussing recent events with my mom the other day and she told me not to worry about my unemployment situation, that 2009 was going to be a year of "change." Now, I love my mother dearly, but the problems with that statement are just too numerous to count. The word change and the concept of change are so nebulous, so ambiguous, that every English speaking individual in this world likely carries with him a different interpretation of the word. When these words were uttered by my mom, however, one thing became instantly obvious to me. She had fallen for the propagandistic rhetoric of last season´s political campaigns like so many other Americans.

So, why shouldn´t I worry about change? Change can be good or bad and I do worry when I lose my job and have to start depending on the state for my income, especially when that income is half or what I´m used to. That does not seem to me to be good change. Now had I been offered a higher paying position or had I been given a raise, that would have been change I could live with. Anyway, I do my best to try not to worry and to have faith that everything happens for the best, but it can be difficult at times. Sometimes it just seems natural to worry, especially when there´s little else that can be done. I hope and pray that despite the economy something comes along and someone wants to hire me to do something. I hope to get a callback from one of the applications I have filled out.

But I digress. It is easy to think of such things after a conversation has taken place. At the time I was speaking to my mother, I said something like "Everything´s always changing. That´s the nature of the world. Change is the one constant." Something like that. That´s how I am. During a conversation, I don´t always give full weight and credence to the meaning and purpose behind the statement the other has made. I tend to focus on some word or aspect of that statement instead and take the conversation in a direction the other never meant it to go. It is a tendency I think I share with many other people. In any case, the whole "change" thing has bothered me for a long time now because of its amorphous nature and the fact that change is inevitable no matter what is happening or who is in office. Change is something that, unless it is clearly defined, can be extremely uplifting, or horrifyingly catastrophic.

So my mother went on and said something like "That´s not what I meant. This time it´s going to be different. It´s going to get better." Or something like that. Now, I realize my mother was just being hopeful. I understand that she just wanted to help relieve my worry and doubt as to my situation. I also understand that she desires to see the world in a better place where abundance is prevalent. I do too. Most everyone does. But at the same time one has to take stock of the current reality. Things look pretty bleak. The economy´s tanking, the nation´s indebtedness is unfathomable, and the police state seems to grow more intrusive and ominous with each passing day. The only change I see happening is more people growing more dependent on government handouts and less dependent on their selves. It´s a tough cycle to break free of.

So I told my mother something like "It sounds to me like you´ve been listening to the political hype everyone´s been spouting lately."

Now my mom is getting up there in years. She grew up during the depression. She is a member of what some people might call "the greatest generation." She, and my father, have been through a lot in their lifetimes as have many of their contemporaries. But, despite that, they are perhaps also the most indoctrinated generation. They never really learned to question authority as should be done, perhaps because outside fascist and dictatorial threats were so great and so real that it seemed obedience to the state was the only course of action that could keep the wolves from the door, so to speak. Perhaps this helped blind them to the threats they had already allowed into the home.

She answered me by referencing our current president. She pointed out to me that he was already changing things for the better, that he was planning on closing down the prison at Guantanamo Bay and that he was planning on pulling the troops out of Iraq. While I admitted that these things were steps toward the right direction, I explained to her that Barack Obama was a politician and therefore very good at obfuscating his real agenda and making himself look and sound good to the average person who only pays attention to the surface and doesn´t care to look beneath the glimmering waves. I neglected to tell her that the mainstream media, where she gets most of her information from, hasn´t really done its job in terms of exposing breaches of public trust for decades.

I pointed out that, for instance, in his recent interview with George Stephanopoulos he claims he will make certain that our military will not engage in torture, but he did not specify that he would order the CIA to stop torturing suspects. Torture is, after all, mostly the purview of the CIA and not the military. I also pointed out that while Mr. Obama plans on drawing down the troops in Iraq, he also plans on moving those troops into Afghanistan. Furthermore, he plans on keeping troops in Iraq as a permanent occupation force, I´ve heard as many as 40,000. He´s also expressed a willingness to go into Pakistan if he feels it´s necessary, and he hasn´t been too specific on what constitutes "necessary." He seems to wish to continue to build an ever bigger empire and ever bigger government.

I wanted to go on and tell my mom that Mr. Obama´s proposed economic changes and social engineering programs were steps in the wrong direction. I wanted to explain to her that the nation was already very deep in debt and going deeper into debt was no way to improve the economy. We would do better as a nation to start cutting expenditures. We would do better if the government would shrink and allow free and open markets to operate on honest footing. We would do better if competition was allowed to exist where government monopolies have taken over and to allow people to choose which services they want to pay for rather than being forced to pay in the form of taxes for government services they won´t necessarily use. I wanted to say these things, but I never got the chance.

"Szandor, stop," my mother said. "I don´t want to hear it. I want to think that things are going to change for the better."

So, the truth came out. My mother wasn´t interested in reality. Reality was a little rough around the edges and she wants to hope that the edges will soon be smoothed out. She wants to hope that this one man, this new "leader" of ours, is more than just a good orator and has some knowledge of how to fix the economy, some magic bullet that will make everything about our financial system, our foreign entanglements and the infringement on our civil liberties right again. I´d like to hope so too. It would make life so much easier for all of us if suddenly government was to stop being so intrusive and start staying out of our way. I just honestly don´t think that´s going to happen. I don´t think Mr. Obama´s policy changes that he plans on instituting have any substance. I hope I´m wrong, but that´s only hope.

I think most of us have high hopes for the current administration, especially considering the blatant abuses of power the past administration engaged in. But hope is a funny thing, it is different for many people. Some people hope for a market recovery. Some people hope for more federal aid. Others hope for further bailouts. Still others, like me, hope for the establishment of freedom in this nation and an end to the restrictive environments created by federal regulation in both the business world and in the private lives of the citizenry. But hope in and of itself is futile. While you are standing by idly hoping for a particular outcome, there is a good chance someone is actively seeking to enact legislation contrary to your hopes. Hope all you want, there´s a better chance those taking action will get the outcome they want.

The time to sit back like couch potato school children watching their favorite cartoons has ended. Merely hoping for the type of change you want to see occur will do nothing to create that change. Action is required. The form that action takes is up to the individual. Protest. Write blogs. Boycott products that support things you disagree with. Film cops abusing their power. Join groups that agree with your point of view. Do something to get involved. Let your voice be heard in some fashion. Let those in power know you expect them to enact the change you want, that you are going to see to it they keep their word and that their campaign rhetoric was not just empty promises. That is how one becomes the change. Your silence is the complicity those in power seek, for with it they do as they please and often dash your hopes in the process.

Monday, February 2, 2009

The Folly of the Illinois Air Team Part 2: Creating Economic Stress Through Government

This article was originally published on Jan. 25th, 2009 at americanchronicle.com

I am not a rich man. Those of you who read my column likely know this. It seems I have struggled my entire adult life to make ends meet. Although I have always worked hard and have always been able to hold down a job and do it well, it seems I´ve never been able to get ahead. I haven´t lived a bad life. I´ve always been able to provide for my family and we´ve lived an average middle class existence, but I built a pile of debt and I just never seemed to be able to climb out of it. I´ve been behind most of my adult life. Something always seemed to happen to demand more of my money when things started to turn around. I guess I was in actuality living beyond my means and just couldn´t figure it out, often being blinded by what I thought my kids needed or my family wanted.

There were, however, certain things I had to do without. A new car was one of them. I would buy used and keep what I had running for as long as I could. Since I had a big family, I quite often felt I needed a minivan. These were a little more expensive so what I bought usually had a few more miles on them then I would have liked and I still had to borrow to afford them.

Years ago, when I was first starting out and my family wasn´t so big, I could fix my own cars. Even as recently as the early 90s I was able to do many repairs on my cars and keep costs down. This is no longer so true. Due to the restrictive environment the United States federal government has put on automobile manufacturers in this country, there are several gadgets and devices on vehicles these days which must be operating to make the car "legal" and I have no idea what all of them are or how to fix them should they fail, so if they do go bad I am more or less forced to take it to a repair shop.

So it was a while back when I got pulled over by the police one night. I knew why I was being pulled over, but I wasn´t going to tell the officer that when he asked me. My plates had expired. Paying $85.00 for a new yearly sticker simply had not been in my budget. I figured I´d see how long I could go without paying. I had made it six months. I told the officer I had no idea why he had pulled me over and he informed me my plates had expired. He asked for proof of insurance and all I had was my old insurance card which had also expired a couple of months back. He wrote me a warning for the plates and told me to take care of that. He also wrote me a ticket for driving without insurance which I had to go to court on and show proof to the judge that I had insurance.

The court date on the ticket was set for two weeks from the night of the stop. I would have to take a day off work to go to court. Fortunately, I had a sick day left, so I wouldn´t lose a day´s pay. Since the courthouse wasn´t far from a Department of Motor Vehicles facility, I decided I would take care of the insurance ticket and then go get my plates renewed.

Getting proof of insurance was no problem, just a bit of a pain. I had to call my insurance agent and have him email me a copy, then snail mail me one just in case. The emailed copy worked just fine and I received the snail mail copy in plenty of time before I had to go to court. I went into court, showed the document to the prosecutor when my name was called, and the case was dropped. No blood, no foul. It was the other part that proved to be difficult.

I walked into the DMV expecting no problems. I had my checkbook ready and was quite willing to pay the $85.00 to renew my license rather than take the chance of having my driving rights violated. They say driving is a "privilege" in the state of Illinois, but I say we all have the right to travel and in these modern times driving is essential, but that´s a matter for another day. As I handed the nice lady at the DMV my check and expected to get a sticker for my license plate in return, I found out that there was a problem. She handed me back my check and told me she could not accept it because my vehicle had not passed the emissions test. I hadn´t even taken it to get its emissions tested as I had no idea it was due for such a test. I was speechless. The lady gave me a ten day temporary pass and told me to get my emissions tested and come back.

And so the journey began. Being that I live on the edge of nowhere the nearest testing station was miles away. In fact, had I lived about two miles more to the west, I would not have been required to have my vehicle tested at all. But, anyway, my hopes of being able to rest and relax for the rest of the day were dashed. A nice day where I had called in sick to work was going to be thrown away running around for the state. I heaved a sigh and headed back to my vehicle, hoping to get the whole thing over with as soon as possible.

When I got to the testing station, I was the only one there. I was taken care of immediately. I thought this was going to be a breeze. They hooked my car up to their computer and started the test. It only took a couple of minutes. My car failed. The man sent me to the front office with a code to decipher what was wrong with my vehicle. Now I was starting to get upset. This was going to take quite a while longer than I thought it would. In fact, I now realized this was going to be far more than a one day project.

The man in the front office had a code that told me exactly what sensor was bad. He gave me a list of local dealers that could check out my car and tell me whether it needed a new sensor or whether something else was wrong. Naturally, the test itself was going to cost money. Depending on what was wrong the fix was going to cost even more. This was money I simply did not have. I asked the man what happens to those people who have bad credit and don´t have the money and simply can´t afford to take care of these problems. He had no answers for me. I began to contemplate my options.

I´ll make a long story short. The car I was driving had 120,000 miles on it. I was planning on getting a new used car soon anyway. I decided to take it to a dealer to see what was available. As it was, the dealer had a 2004 Hyundai Santa Fe with 35,000 miles on it for $10,000 which was a pretty good deal. Gas was running about four dollars a gallon when this happened. I asked the dealer to see what he could do for me.

This is what happened next. My credit was so bad that I would have had to pay an exorbitant interest rate to get a loan and the payments would have been more than I could handle. But, I had the option of getting a cosigner for the loan and bringing the payment way down. This is what I did. In addition, the dealer let me know he couldn´t give me enough for a trade in on my old car to cover what I owed on the loan. It was worth less than I owed. He suggested I call the bank and voluntarily turn it over to them. My credit would take a hit, but it was already so bad (it was below 500) that this would hardly affect it any more. He told me to then just walk away from the loan, and that that´s what many homeowners were doing. I felt I had little choice, so I took his advice.

So, because of an $85.00 licensing fee, I ended up with another car and the bank ended up taking a loss. This whole matter revolves around the government´s tendency to be run by control freaks. It revolves around government´s desire to micromanage every aspect of our lives. It happened because the government makes laws, however well intentioned, that have no victims and creates criminals out of people who have harmed no one and damaged no property. It also insulates those who work for the government from taking responsibility for the harm they may do to an individual when enforcing these laws. And to top things off, these laws harm the poorest of our society, those who can least afford to pay the price.

I´m not proud of what I did, but I feel I had little choice. The old car I had was running fine and I probably would have kept it quite a bit longer if the state hadn´t gotten involved. To begin with, if the state didn´t require a renewal of plates once a year and instead only charged when the plate was transferred to a new vehicle, I wouldn´t have had to worry about a thing. If they hadn´t passed laws requiring auto manufacturers to adhere to their strict regulations, then cars would likely be cheaper now and consumer demand and competition would likely have made them more environmentally friendly and efficient. My car was likely operating within the polluting requirements set down by the state, yet the state even regulated how such requirements were to be monitored which also set the events into motion. If they simply took measurements and had let the manufacturers worry about any new anti pollution devices, even that small change might have meant that I would still be driving my old vehicle, the bank would still be receiving payments from me, and I wouldn´t have had to go through the hassles I went through.

All this makes me wonder how many people have been driven homeless because of the state. If I hadn´t been so lucky to have family to help me out, would I have ended up on the street? What if I had decided not to go along with the program and driven my car without a new sticker and without it being approved by the Illinois Air Team, those bureaucrats who check to make sure cars conform to their pollution standards? Would I have eventually been pulled over and arrested, my car impounded? Would I have been thrown in jail? Would I have lost my job, my livelihood, perhaps simply because I didn´t have the means to conform? Would I have lost my home, perhaps my family, because there was no one willing or able to help me? These are certainly possible scenarios if the law is taken to its logical conclusion. One can even wonder if there is a homeless person out there with such a tale to tell.

These victimless laws only serve to put financial stress on everyone, but especially on those already the most financially stressed. The state doesn´t care. The state is a thoughtless, emotionless entity that just grinds away at the life and fortunes of individuals. Sometimes I think that those operating the apparatus of the state don´t really care all that much about the money, after all the money isn´t theirs. They only seem to care that the state is obeyed, that their power is maintained, no matter how unfair the law and no matter the circumstances revolving around the individual in violation of said law. The state is only interested in increasing its power over the collective.

We as a society, as a nation, and as a collection of states, should begin to take more seriously the founding documents of those who founded this nation and fought a war to break from the tyranny of a monarchy. We would do well to ponder the spirit of those documents and the words written upon them. For far too long lawyers and politicians have twisted, perverted and interpreted those words to afford themselves, their friends and their contributors more power and advantage over those who would compete with them in a free market. The government of this country, of these great United States of America, was never meant to create such onerous regulations, and neither were the governments of the separate states. The founders instead intended our government to be quite limited in scope. It was meant to protect the freedoms and liberties of the individual, pure and simple. Today, it has become a monstrosity that is the main driving force behind the disrespect for and violations of civil liberties that we experience everyday.

It is about time we as a society started demanding such victimless laws be repealed. It is about time we started demanding of our government that it scale back. It is about time we started demanding government to get out and stay out of our personal lives and let us take personal responsibility for ourselves. It is, after all, we who should own our own lives, not the government. Until and unless this happens, the government will continue to grow until it reaches such proportions that it can no longer support its own weight, at which time it may collapse with such a resounding crash that the universe itself takes note. Such is the fate of all self aggrandizing entities, however well intentioned.