Freedom’s Last Ring
James E. Smith
From a Newsweek story on MSNBC:
“Security will require another type of sacrifice of freedoms. In the NEWSWEEK Poll, voters say they are willing to give up privacy in air travel, but they are more skeptical of other measures, such as surveillance of e-mail and phone conversations. By a 62-32 percent margin, they reject “special surveillance” of Arab-Americans. Yet even before last week’s attacks, the Senate intelligence committee had voted extra funds for Internet surveillance and “profiling” measures, and agitation for more is sure to mount.” (Emphasis Mine)
“Governments need enemies to justify their existence.” — Edward Abbey: The Monkey Wrench Gang
“Those who trade liberty for security will soon have neither.”– Benjamin Franklin
The most devastating effect (“impact” for those of you dedicated to the dumbing down of America) of this tragedy will be that the government will use this as an excuse to remove the last vestige of privacy and freedom from America. You may expect continual surveillance of personal movement. All travel, especially air travel, between regions or even states will be regulated and tracked. There will be a day when passports and permits will be required for internal movement in the US. “Ve must see your papers”
Before the fall of the Soviet Union, I stated that, in terms of freedom, they were becoming more like us and we more like them. Someday we would meet in the middle and cross. I did not expect it to be this soon.
The really terrible part about this is that it is unnecessary. It is all the result of our insatiable appetite for oil. Consider what we have spent to guarantee the constant flow of “black gold”. How much to support or suborn various countries in the region? How many lives have been sacrificed for this? How many more dollars/lives will we spend?
What if we had expended the same effort in resources and time to find and develop a substitute for oil as a fuel to move cars, boats and planes? There are many other demands for petroleum, of course. Almost everything we use, from paint to plastics is based in part on oil. Even so, by eliminating it as a fuel, the demand would be so much less that people would not have to die to ensure the supply.
Sure, the oil barons in this country and others would suffer. Many might have to trade their Mercedes for Buicks and their Lears for Cessnas. For one, that’s a sacrifice I would be willing to make. How about you, Mr. President?
The Bible Set Me Free
Blame it on my parents. They always told me to “think for yourself”. I doubt they ever considered what would happen if I really did that.
Now, I suspect what they meant was, “Think what we tell you but do it in your own words.” Too late. When I was 13, I began to question everything and soon the total absurdity of religion became apparent.
Because I have been “encouraged” (forced) to read the bible several times, it was easy for me to see the contradictions in the book, what christians professed to believe, and how they really lived.
When I refused to go with them to their church, they said they would “Make me go.”
I asked them, “How are you going to make me? How will forcing me to attend church change my mind?” Already, their attitude was starting to harden me against everything else they would tell me.
Their next idea was to have their minister talk to me. I told them it was a waste of everyone’s time. They persisted and had him come to the house to “Talk some sense into me.” (as if they ever works for anyone) After about 15 minutes of him quoting the bible to me and me pointing out that he was either wrong in his quotes or showing him how it said something else in another place, he became very angry and told me I was going to hell. I suspect it was because I knew the bible better than he did and was, at age 13, able to prove how ridiculous his arguments were.
I told him, “If there is a Hell I’ll see you there. Save me a nice place, OK?” He said I was an impertinent, disrespectful child. By then, I was angry myself and for the first time, I told a christian that he was a hypocrite, a liar, and a fool. My parents insisted that I apologize. I refused and left the room to a lot of yelling and threats.
For the next four years, I heard about this at least once a week. So the night I graduated high school, I left my parent’s home and didn’t see them again for well over a year. By then, with the credits I had accumulated in high school and summer school, I had completed a couple of years of college. Fortunately, I was able to pay for this myself. I was entering the army and wanted to try to make peace with them, but had to listen to the same old recriminations and arguments again.
The next time I saw them was two years later when I was getting married. After several years of an on-again, off-again relationship they finally agreed to just not discuss it any more. I’d like to say that worked, but subtle hints slowly became outright condemnation. Then I took a job transfer from Ohio to Arizona, so family meetings were rare enough to become occasions for something other than contention.
I do have to say that I appreciate the other things they did for me, like encouraging my education and equipping me with the work ethic and attitudes I needed to survive and thrive at that early age. In those areas, they were excellent parents and I am grateful for those things.
What did I learn? Even your family can turn against you if you refuse to share in their illusions. There are times, if you are to become your own person, you must stand firm in what you know to be true.
The following is an excerpt from my book, Fit For Free Forever. You can obtain a .PDF file, pre-formatted for printing or reading on-line by contacting me at Slrman@zoho.com for only $4.95 USD.
The Cruel Truth About Fat
It may not be what you want to hear, but you need to learn this. By the time you are 3 or 4 years old, your body has developed all of the fat cells it will ever have. Partly, this is due to genetics and partly to how you are fed when very young. Fat babies and children may have weight problems all of their lives. There can also be other effects such as early onset of puberty*. Fat cells can grow larger or smaller, but they are always there. They may not become evident until after age 40, but are like a little fat bomb ticking away.
* Journal Pediatric, Feb 2007
So is there nothing you can do if you have a lot of fat cells? Are you doomed to be overweight no matter what you do? Fortunately, the answer is a resounding NO! Weight loss is a very simple mathematical problem. If you take in more calories than you burn, you will gain weight. Your body is programmed to store the excess as fat against a possible famine. For most of us, that famine never arrives before heart disease, diabetes, strokes, and organ failure kill us.
One of the unfortunate facts about fat is that we tend to put it on in certain areas first. But when we take it off, it comes off more or less evenly over the entire body. That’s why it seems to be “first on, last off.” That’s also why “spot reducing” is a fraud.
If you consume fewer calories than you use, your body is again programmed to make up the difference by converting your fats to fuel and burning that. You can see that this is not complicated. Eat less, move more, and everything gets better. Eat more, move less, you die sooner and need a larger coffin. That may sound harsh, but would you rather have facts or fantasies? Very few people have “glandular problems” other than salivary glands. If someone has a true medical condition making them overweight, they should be under close medical care in the first place.
Speaking of that, the usual disclaimers apply here about starting any exercise program. Consult a physician to be certain you have no heart or other condition that would prevent you from performing mild exercise for 20 minutes a day. Because many people are put on similar programs after heart attacks and strokes; very few will not be able to do this. In fact, the main reason for not doing anything is many people simply don’t care enough to be bothered. Excuses are easier than effort.
Below, along with my own thoughts are citations from medical studies that confirm what I will be telling you, so this is not the ravings of just one “fitness nut”.
Diets Do Not Work
Read the topic header several times. Diets do not work. None of them work, ever. There is one simple reason. Do you want to live on watercress and toothpicks the rest of your life? Me neither, so forget about whatever diet plan you were contemplating. You may lose weight, often dramatically. But when you return to your normal eating habits, and you will, the weight comes back. The following articles confirm that diets can even be counter-productive and dangerous to your health.
Many Dieters ‘Finish Up Heavier’ *
Dieting is unlikely to lead to long-term weight loss and may put a person’s health at risk, a study says.
US researchers found people typically lose between 5% and 10% of their weight during the first six months of a diet.
But the review of 31 previous studies, by the University of California, said within five years, up to two-thirds put more weight on than they had lost.
Losing and gaining weight is linked to heart disease and stroke, the American Psychologist journal reported.
“Keeping weight off is a life-long challenge.” Dr Ian Campbell, of Weight Concern
Lead researcher Traci Mann said: “We found that the majority of people regained all the weight, plus more.”
“Diets do not lead to sustained weight loss or health benefits for the majority of people. We concluded most of them would have been better off not going on the diet at all.”
“Their weight would have been pretty much the same, and their bodies would not suffer the wear and tear of losing weight and gaining it all back.”
And she added some diet studies relied on participants to report their weight rather than having it measured by an impartial source while others had low follow-up rates which made their results unrepresentative.
She said this might make diets seem more effective than they really were as those who gained weight might be less likely to take part in the follow-ups. In one study, 50% of dieters weighed more than 4.99kg (11 lbs) over their starting weight five years after the diet. The study did not name any diets in particular, but looked at a broad spectrum of approaches.
Professor Mann said in her opinion eating in moderation was a good idea for everybody as was regular exercise.
Dr Ian Campbell, medical director of Weight Concern, said too many people approached dieting as a short-term measure.
“Keeping weight off is a life-long challenge. It is just like heart disease or mental health problems, if you stop taking your medicine you can get worse.”
“People who are overweight often don’t have a balanced lifestyle and after losing weight too many stop keeping active or eating healthily.”
* http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/6540493.stm 10 Apr 2007
Published: April 11, 2007 at 1:11 AM
By JULIA WATSON UPI Food Writer
WASHINGTON, April 11, 2007 (UPI) — How many of us who are overweight or just looking to fit into some favorite clothes have endured a miserable diet only to find, several months later, that we are heavier than we were when we began?
Inside of five years, two-thirds of dieters will gain back more weight than they had carried when they started dieting, a University of California review of 31 studies found. The diets initially worked: In the first six months of a long-term regimen, the average person will generally lose somewhere between 5 percent and 10 percent of his or her weight.
But such yo-yo dieting can do damage to your health, experts say. The study in American Psychologist has linked this behavior to heart disease and stroke, brought on by the stress dieting this way can cause to the body.
In one of the studies the researchers reviewed, half of the dieters had put back more than 11 pounds on top of their original pre-diet weight five years after completing a regimen.
It just confirms further the best way to keep a good weight is to eat moderate amounts of fresh foods, avoiding processed and ready meals as much as possible and exercise regularly. But that seems to be our least favorite advice.
No particular diets are mentioned in the research. But you may remember the “grapefruit diet,” when people believed eating the citrus fruit before meals would somehow burn up your fat.
Another study published this week reveals the serious benefit of grapefruit and other fruits and vegetables high in vitamin C may be nullified by fat in the stomach.
Vitamin C, an antioxidant, is valuable for good general health. But it is also thought to have an effect in preventing stomach cancer.
The nitrate in our saliva and our diet may be responsible for activating gastric cancer. Apparently, Vitamin C (also known as ascorbic acid) can render benign the cancer-causing compounds that are produced when food and saliva get churned up with stomach acid.
Not, however, if there is a lot of fat in the stomach, researchers at the University of Glasgow said.
People regularly eating fatty meals not only gain weight, but they are having an effect upon the environment inside their stomachs.
Again, the message is, eat plenty of fruits and vegetables — the prime source for vitamin C — exercise well and keep off fatty foods.
Exercise Alone Does Not Work!
Another sad fact is that no amount of exercise by itself will make you lose weight. If you spend hours a day exercising, you will become more fit. But you will not lose weight if you continue to consume more calories than you burn. So you must adjust your eating habits to match your activity level. If you burn 10,000 calories a day, but eat 12,000 calories, you will continue to gain weight. It’s that easy, it doesn’t even require long division, does it? Fortunately, this plan shows you how to make this adjustment, easily and painlessly without resorting to special foods or trick diets.
So What Can I Do?
The solution is to change how much you eat. This is not to say that healthy eating habits should be ignored. But remember what was said before. “Eat less, move more, and everything gets better.” So how do you do this? Very easily; simply by outsmarting your food. A truism among entertainers for centuries has been “Always leave them wanting more.” Apply this same principle to eating. It is not necessary or desirable to eat until you are satiated. Start by taking a little less food on your plate than you normally would. If you finish your meal thinking “I could stand to have a little more,” you’re on the right track. With time, you will become used to the smaller amount and you can reduce your intake a little more. Gradually, you will be eating the proper amount for yourself.
Eating Less, Little Exercise Can Work*
BIRMINGHAM, Ala., May. 11 (UPI) — University of Alabama researchers found reducing calories is an effective way to keep weight off, especially if it is difficult to find time to exercise.
In the study, published in the May issue of Obesity, the researchers report that 80 percent of EatRight participants — a University of Alabama at Birmingham program to lose weight — maintain their weight loss after two years. Most do it primarily by sticking to a low-calorie, low-energy-density diet, according to Tiffany Cox, program coordinator for the EatRight follow-up study.
Researchers followed 89 former EatRight participants for two years. The 80 percent who had successfully maintained their weight loss consumed fewer calories than those who gained weight and tended to eat a diet consisting of low-energy-density foods, such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains. A low-energy-density diet means an individual can eat more yet take in fewer calories than with high-energy-density foods, according to Cox.
“This calorie control led to successful weight maintenance despite the fact that these individuals did not meet recommended exercise levels,” Dr. Jamy Ard, director of EatRight Weight Management Services, said in a statement.
Make no exceptions to this. No, “It’s the holidays” or “just this once”. People that urge you to eat extra food are not helping. A polite but firm, “No thank you,” is all that is needed. If someone is so rude as to actually place food on your plate without your permission, you are entitled to throw it on the floor. In their face is justified, but that could result in assault charges.
Taking this approach means you can eat some of everything you like. This doesn’t mean that you should exist on steaks and cakes. A rational, healthy diet includes fresh fruits and vegetables in a greater proportion than meats. The human body has a digestive system more like that of the omnivorous pig than that of the great apes or other members of the primate family. None of these are strict vegetarians in any case. It is a fact that they do not eat very much meat because they are not equipped to get it. Humans evolved in much the same manner but have been more successful as hunters. Even so, most people did not eat as much meat, especially red meat, as the average person does today. Fish and poultry were a much more common item because they were easier to obtain. If you had to catch and kill your own food, would you rather tackle a cow or a carp?
Vegetarians often do very well but they are careful to include proper items in their diet to ensure that they receive all the nutrition they need. This obviously works for some but requires more thought, effort, and trouble than most people want to expend. Nor do most care to give up a nice steak or pork chop now and then. You don’t have to do that; just don’t make them the center of every meal. Far less self-discipline is required to think “I won’t eat this right now,” than to decide, “I’ll never eat this again.” It also makes the steak that much better when you do have one, even if it is a small one.
This has been said in many diet plans, but it is so important it’s worth repeating here. You are eating less, so eat more slowly, take smaller bites, chew thoroughly, and enjoy what you eat. Isn’t that better than living on grapefruit the rest of your life? Be happy, eat well, and love it. Most people can live with that, so can you.
Cut back on sugars. Diet sodas are really very good and, after you drink them for a short time; sugared drinks do not taste right. Similarly, diabetic (non- or low-sugared) foods are nearly indistinguishable from other cakes, candies, and desserts. Remember, refined sugar is simply empty calories that do your body no good at all. Forget about the “quick energy” hype. Your body cannot use refined sugar but must convert it to natural sugars. It first must become fat. Is this what you want?
But I Get Hungry!
Hunger is a natural reaction of your body to signal an empty stomach. That doesn’t mean the signal has to be obeyed immediately. Think of it like this. It’s a sign of success. If you feel a little bit hungry between meals, it means your plan of eating less is working. You can quiet that signal by drinking some water or juice. Many people do not drink enough water in a day anyway, so here’s a chance to fill two gaps at the same time.
Another great natural snack is a few seedless grapes. A few means six, not sixty. Those are quick, delicious, and no trouble to prepare. In hot weather, you can freeze them to make a cool snack. It’s almost like grape sherbet without the mixing and mess.
Cheating on your eating plan with snacks is easy and comforting to do. As long as food is in the reward category for you, cutting back will be very difficult. It is also guaranteed to cause your plan to fail. Be honest with yourself. Think about everything you want to eat and consider whether it is helping or hurting your plan.
A complete fitness and eating plan is available in my book Fit for Free Forever of which this is a small part. You can obtain a .PDF file, pre-formatted for printing or reading on-line by contacting me at Slrman@zoho.com for only $4.95 USD.
Guns or No Guns
“When a government fears the constituency, its first action is to disarm them. When faced with this action, the constituency’s duty is to arm itself even further.”
This has probably the most pointless discussion people can have. The issue is so emotional that no one is going to be moved from their beliefs by anything anyone else says.
The main thing that I have noticed is that the people who are known to me to be the most knowledgeable on the subject have been very quiet. I suspect that is because, if they are carrying weapons, they do not wish to advertise the fact. If they are not, they don’t need to shout about that, either.
With all the considerable rhetoric I’ve seen, I have yet to read one simple truth. Owning a firearm is a responsibility that demands you become, and stay, proficient. To do this requires more time, effort, and money than most people, even gun owners, are willing to invest. Even then, no amount of proficiency will prepare you to take a life when face-to-face with the situation. Winning target matches is not preparation for defending your life. Paper targets and clay pigeons do not shoot back.
I spent many years as a martial arts instructor and saw several instances where tournament champions were assaulted and, in one case killed, by people not fit to shine their shoes. Why? Perhaps on that day and time, the assailant was luckier. More likely, because the martial artist was not mentally prepared to take the instant and brutal action necessary to survive. That decision has to be made long before the need arises and most people never give it serious consideration.
If you think you need a firearm for protection, then be prepared to invest what it takes to be ready if you need it. Also be prepared for the financial, legal, and emotional burden of using it. In fact, these can apply even if you never use it. If you’re not ready for that, do not have a firearm no matter where you stand on the question.
Both pro and anti-gun people make good arguments for their respective sides. In the end, the decision has to be a personal one and no one can or should make it for you, either way. The issue of defending yourself and your family is something each of us has to consider whether we ever leave our home or not. Whether you use a firearm, flare gun, or baseball bat, you must still be prepared to perform a harsh and often fatal act to another human being. It’s a lot more difficult than you can imagine. It isn’t like movies, where you waste the bad guy and move on without another thought.
Ask any police officer who’s been there, you think about it for a long time afterward. Anyone that says you don’t either doesn’t know anything about the subject or is a very sorry excuse for a human being.
As far as gun ownership, perhaps it too easy for unqualified people to own a firearm? After all, you have to have a license and proof of at least minimal competency to drive a car, fly a plane, and in some areas, operate a boat. Why shouldn’t you have to show that you understand the care and maintenance of firearms and safety issues involved and are able to take all the correct actions. This would include an understanding of self-defense ordinances in your area as well as any laws concerning when and where you may or may not be armed.
Then you would be issued a license to own a firearm. Having the license would not be evidence that you did own a gun, but were qualified to do so. This would be the same as having a driver’s or pilot’s license would not prove you owned a car or plane, but that you could if you chose.
Naturally, none of this would keep guns away from criminals, no law can do that. Perhaps that’s one of the reasons they are criminals? Here in Brazil, for example, it is almost impossible for private citizens to legally possess a firearm. Yet, criminals frequently have more firepower than the police. In a country where private guns are very rare, criminals seem to be able to get all they want. That seems to be the case in most countries with restrictive gun laws. So much for “gun control.”
Is It Important If Jesus Existed?
There is not much evidence to support the actual existence of the biblical Jesus. Does it really matter? Which is more important, the message of peace, tolerance, and love or the physical presence of an individual person who may or may not have actually existed?
The message of Jesus, as most would believe, is to “Love thy neighbor as thyself”, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” In modern language, treat people fairly, honestly, and without prejudice or intolerance. That’s pretty simple and good advice. True, it’s not always so easy to do, but, acting in our own best interests, it is a good way to live. Cheating people, taking advantage of them, or otherwise hurting someone unnecessarily will ultimately not be good for ourselves. So, whether Jesus actually existed is not nearly as important as following the very good, true advice attributed to him.
Consider this. What if there were no record of say, Thomas Jefferson, until 40 or 50 years after his death? Then, there were suddenly one, then several people writing about things he said or did. Would modern day people doubt his actual existence and believe he was a fable like Paul Bunyan or Pecos Bill?
In the case of the historical Jesus, there is not one contemporary record of his existence. The Romans, who otherwise kept very good records, never mentioned a figure who was supposed to be socially, politically, and spiritually so significant. Not until the Gospel of Mark, written from 40 to over 100 years after the supposed crucifixion, is there any mention of Jesus. If we look at the fables of Horus, Attis, and Mithra, we see amazing similarities. Born in low circumstances on December 25, 12 followers, executed at an early age, son of a god, resurrected, the list goes on. It would appear that the early church, in need of a powerful central figure, “borrowed” from earlier myths to create a rallying point for their religion.
As stated by Dr. Bart Ehrman, Professor of religious studies at the University of North Caroline, Chapel Hill, NC said, “In the entire first Christian century, Jesus is not mentioned by a single Greek or Roman scholar, politician, philosopher, or poet. His name never appears in a single inscription, and it is never found in a single piece of private correspondence. Zero! Zip references!”
Again, what does it matter? The important thing is the message. Be good to each other, help the less fortunate, do not discriminate because someone is not like you. Be like the Good Samaritan and act kindly to all. Are those things more valuable if they were spoken by an actual person or lessons a group of people agreed were important? Being able to assemble these things into a coherent collection of quotations from one person makes them easier to understand and practice. Maybe that’s what the founders of the religion had in mind?
Where Is God?
We can demonstrate that no god exists. Certainly not in the Jewish/Christian/Islamic omnipotent father-figure image. Notice the contradictions in observed reality with the image of the loving god that is aware of “every sparrow that falls” and “numbers the hairs of your head”. Clearly, no such deity exists and there is no divine intervention in either a positive or negative sense. If there were, at any moment the 27,000 children around the world dying of malnutrition and starvation be permitted? Would evil be permitted to exist? Would people benefit from evil deeds and good deeds go unrewarded?
For that matter, it can be mathematically demonstrated that prayers are not answered, either. Unless you consider a success rate of .01% to be “answered”. That’s far below even the rate of random chance. Even the behavior of religious groups when confronted with practical matters demonstrates that they do not believe in the “power of prayer” either. If they did, they would simply pray to god to provide their churches with all that was needed instead of extorting money from their members. If they don’t trust that, they must not have much faith in their “god” either.
A Flat-Rate Tax
I am in favor of a flat-rate system of taxation, a system that applies fairly and equally to all, regardless of income. I include corporations and churches in this system as, in some aspects, they are legally regarded as individuals.
The tax rate might be as low as ten or fifteen percent, whatever is needed to finance the government. There would be no deductions, exemptions, or exceptions. This also means no tax credits for any reason. By removing even the possibility of loopholes, all persons would pay their fair share. Who would mind paying if they knew everyone else was paying, too?
There are groups who oppose such a plan. Obviously, anyone making money from the present tax system is opposed to change. The Internal Revenue Service, for example, could be almost eliminated. Tax returns would be needed only for the self-employed and those having income other than wages and salary, such as tips or gambling income. All others might send in a simple affidavit stating that they had no unreported income. The IRS would have little to do, and could be reduced to a fraction of its present size and budget.
Employers would deduct and pay the flat-rate tax as they now do under the present system. Because the percentage would be the same for everyone, it would be far simpler to do. (No W-2 forms for openers).
High-income persons with tax shelters form another group opposed to tax reform. Many of these people and corporations pay little or no tax year after year. Because this group finances many political campaigns, they exert influence far out of proportion to their numbers. Because many politicians are in this category, it is unlikely that they will bite the hands that feed them, or vote away their own favored tax situation. With these groups and the IRS opposed to any real changes in the tax structure, I see little hope of reform, but it is nice to dream.