Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Living Free From The Inner Man - Guest Post from Richard Rosen

Living free from the burdens and entrapments of things material is the outward expression of the inner man living free. What does it mean to live free inwardly? Daily walking in alignment with your Spirit. (Religion terms it guardian angel or divine spirit.) Each of us has a connection to a personal guiding spirit that enables us to perceive  what’s right. 

For a practical way to do determine what choice to make, try this:

Ask yourself, does the decision bring about the greatest good, contain the utmost beauty, and reflect the highest truth? It is not required to find each of these three elements. If genuine truth is present, then will beauty and goodness be there. And so it is with each.

What to do when what you perceive contradicts what others say, convention dictates, or government mandates?

Rules are not sacred. Rules are made for men; men are not made for rules. Do not live by man-made conventions and laws simply because they are in place. There are times when they need to be altered. Have the courage and wisdom to ignore, circumvent, and even violate rules, regulations and laws. Be sure to apply wisdom in making the decision. Count the cost; there may be risk involved. Calculate and quantify and be prepared for what may result.

We at times straightjacket ourselves in rigid regulation. Here’s an example:

I agreed to cover the early hour of the work day for my colleague. On Tuesdays, our house is cleaned and Eve and I would often take early breakfast together before work. Eve confirmed breakfast one Tuesday, but I said that I couldn't make it because we were running late and I would be late to the office to cover the timeslot of my associate. She felt bad and I felt bad. On the way to work I reflected, "What if I were not there for a half-hour? What is the downside? Other than a call or two that would go to voicemail, not much." I had not thought it through.

The determination to be at work at the appointed time trumped a signal to my spirit that I should at least examine my standard practice of being reliable. Reliability, an obvious virtue, when rigid and unyielding, becomes an idol. And so it is with all things. Allow your Spirit to tap you on the shoulder and say, “Not today. Let’s depart from that which is expected and habit.”

In all things, motive and intent is the guide. Would God––or your innermost conviction––be proud of your reasons? Every rule of man, every convention, every tradition––including religious ones––are man-made, not sacred. They can be altered. Be sure the reason for so doing aligns with what is good, true, and beautiful. When you live in alignment with your spirit, there is liberty. You are indeed living free.

About Richard Rosen:

Richard Rosen and his wife, Eve, reside on the east coast of Florida. I met Richard through his brother, Art Gliner, a friend and colleague for about 30 years. Richard has been a loyal follower of my blog for several years. For most of his life, Richard has had a spiritual focus. What are the issues of life? Why are we here? He discovered that God exists in 1971, thus began a focused and determined effort to know Him as his spiritual Father. The bottom line for him has been the practical application of spiritual realities. What good is truth if it remains unlived?

For many years, Richard focused exclusively on things spiritual - to the neglect of the political, economic and social aspect of society. He realized 
a well balanced and poised personality understands and knows how to effectively live in the natural world. With that insight, things changed and he became conversant and skilled in finance, political & social systems, and world events.

Richard and Eve have enjoyed a happy, successful marriage for many years. They counsel others in the areas of spirituality, relationships, finances and health. He believes that sharing one's life and doing good flows from a mature soul. You also might be interested in Richard's latest book, Paperback - Living Spiritually in a Practical World: How to attune yourself to divine guidance or the Kindle Version - Living Spiritually in a Practical World: How to attune yourself to divine guidance  

Richard can be contacted through me either by commenting on this post or emailing me at ed at edhelvey dot com.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Tolerating Unforeseen Events and Circumstances

How do you tolerate those unforeseen events and circumstances that invade everyone's life at some point or other? Does the frustration turn you into a raving maniac? Do you take it out on someone else? Do you pull your hair out, pace the floor like a caged animal or complain incessantly? How much can you tolerate before you reach your breaking point and your pressure valve goes off?

Those are all questions I'm dealing with right now. Well, except for the one about pulling my hair out. That's not a possibility for me these days. It's 21 days and counting since My McVansion and I limped to the engine hospital and I admitted the patient (and 23 days since My McVansion had a heart "engine" attack).

Okay, so I'm personifying a pile of metal, rubber, plastic and fabric. But, it's both my home and my transportation (read that as freedom). While I don't fall in love with "things," I think it's fair to say that we all develop a degree of attachment to those things that provide us with freedom and comfort.

What's Up, Doc?

To use Bugs Bunny's famous line when addressing Elmer Fudd, what the heck is up? Yes! I've asked myself the questions, "Why me?" and "Why, out of all the thousands of engines that have gone through this "engine hospital" does mine have to be the one with "complications?" Of course, these are rhetorical questions. I'm sure everyone has had at least one occasion to pose similar questions. We know there are no answers for them. Call it the luck of the draw, the roll of the dice, bad karma, or anything else you choose to. It doesn't change anything.

Sure, I call the engine doctor and ask the question, "What's up, Doc?" I, I visit the patient regularly, too, after all, the patient is both my home and my freedom (transportation). Much of the "stuff" of my life is in My McVansion even though I pulled out the stuff I needed to have to function when I'm not in my home on wheels.

The response is that the patient's heart (engine) is restored and in everyway except for one, the patient is operating at its prime. The problem is . . . the one thing that is not. And, worse yet, the doctor has done everything he seems to know how to do. Additionally, I've had all kinds of valid, logical and rational suggestions by others who are familiar with the workings of an automotive heart and have passed them on to the doctor. But, there is still no solution.


I don't know about you. If this were maybe seven or eight years ago or more, I probably would be reacting very differently. By now I would have totally lost my cool. I'd be acting out some of the questions I posed at the opening of this article (except for the hair pulling one). I'd be running up and down the people working on the engine. But . . . I'm not

So, let me weigh the Pros and Cons of toleration or the lack there of.

Pros Of Being Tolerant

First, let me pre-qualify my reasons for being tolerant. The biggest one is that I happen to be staying at my son's small abode in the suburbs of Los Angeles. I have no motel expenses. I'd probably have to stay in one of those "Rooms by the Week" grungy motels somewhere near the engine rebuilder. That alone would be a major stressor. Second, I'm not in any particular hurry to get anywhere in particular, although there are places I'd like to be traveling to. Third, I'm just shy of 70 years old and I've been through all kinds of challenging events and circumstances. Shit Happens. Now, to move on . . .

1. I have a comfortable, clean, friendly, quiet place to stay
2. I'm enjoying spending some quality time with my son, something we haven't had an opportunity to do in over a decade.
3. It's sunny, blue skies and warm here as opposed to nasty winter weather.
4. The owner of the engine rebuilding business is pleasant, knowledgeable, collaborative and communicative.
5. I have the use of my son's wheels when he's at work only a mile and a half from his place.
6. I have lots of time to myself and I enjoy extended times of solitude.
7. I have all kinds of projects to work on including writing articles for the blog, doing some upgrading and facelifting on the blog, editing thousands of digital photos in my photo files, working on any of several ebooks I'm working on and reading numerous books in my Kindle files. I'm also catching up on emails and if I'm really bored, I can catch up on TV shows by viewing them on line.

That's a lot of Pros right there.

Cons Of Being Intolerant

All the same conditions as noted above remain constant, so . . .

1. I could stress myself out and impact my health negatively.
2. I could make myself a pain in my son's posterior and cause a riff between us (ugh).
3. I could break down the collaboration and communication with the engine shop owner that could negatively impact our working relationship and ultimately impact my wallet negatively.
4. I could get nothing productive done because I'm not only a pain in everyone else's ass, but I'm a pain in may own ass.
5. I could negatively impact my friendships by being a constant whiner, complainer and bellyacher, especially those people who care enough and have the knowledge about vehicles and engines to share with me.

Well, I think that's enough. I can see no clear advantage to being intolerant.

It Is What It Is!

So, here's the bottom line. Yes! I definitely would rather be rolling down the road and meeting up with various people I'm looking forward to seeing. That in no way implies that I'm not enjoying time with my son. However, my son is a mid 30's adult with a responsible position and his own very active life. We are also friends, which not every parent can say about their offspring. But, we each have separate lives and interests at our respective ages. So, too much of a good thing is, well . . . too much. I will have other opportunities to visit with him while I'll be here on the west coast. We may reach a point at some time where enough is enough for now. We're not there, yet.

The situation is one of those best described as, "it is what it is." Being intolerant isn't going to necessarily make it resolve any faster. Sure, I have places to go, people to see and other things to do, but all in due time. The world, especially mine, is not going to come to an end (nor will I let it) because of some circumstances that are currently out of my immediate control.

I'm actually enjoying getting some things done that I've kept putting on the back burner for way too long. Being tolerant of the circumstances is actually opening opportunities for me to get to things I've been putting off.

I could go on and on. But, there is a point. Ultimately, everything will resolve and I'll be "on the road again," as old Willie Nelson sings so well.

Are you tolerant or intolerant during situations like mine? How do you handle these real life situations? Do you just see the lemons or do you see the opportunity to make some tasty, tangy lemonade? Is you life so tightly wound that the least thing out of the ordinary or your plan causes your spring to become unsprung? Think about it and let me know

Thursday, January 1, 2015

January 1, 2015 - The First Day of the Rest of Your Life

My very best wishes for a

Happy, Healthy, Abundant
Free Living

It is New Years Day 2015 as I compose this article. It's a great time to reevaluate your life and plans for the future. I don't make New Years resolutions. I find that they are useless for me. But, if you go back to my December 29, 2012 article title, "How Do You Eat An Elephant?"  you can read or reread about the "elephants" in our lives.

There is a lot going on in our world. While I'm very optimistic about my personal life and lifestyle, I don't hold that same optimistic outlook toward most of our society (mainly the U.S., but even that of other countries around the world). If you have questions about your own future then, perhaps, now is a good time to consider adopting, modifying or expanding a living free philosophy for yourself and your partner/spouse and family.

The "12 Steps for Living Free" that I introduced a little over three years ago and revised in the spring of 2012 is a great place to start. This is a simple, yet comprehensive plan to make important and lasting changes to your life and philosophy of living that will provide a leg up on most of the negativity in our society and world. It offers a path to gaining personal freedom or expanding your personal freedom while most others are experiencing loss of personal liberties and freedoms.

The 12 Steps for Living Free

All of the 12 Step Plan is available on the main "Living Free in an Unfree World blog site home page. You can look for the list of pages beginning with "Home," followed by "About Ed" with the "12 Step Program" next in line.

But, I'll make it easier for you. Below, I've provided links to the "Introduction to the 12 Step Program" along with links to each of the 12 Steps.

12 Steps for Living Free - Introduction

Step #1 - Dreams and Realizations

Step #2 Self-discovery

Step #11 Spirituality

Step #12 Creating Your Life List

I hope you'll take the time to go to each of the steps and read through them. The beginning of a new year is a perfect time to create a new plan and path for your life. While I'm an optimist about my own life, I also am very pragmatic. I have less days in my future than the days in my past. I have no idea how much time I have left on this miraculous gift we call life. I dare say, you are in the same place since all our life journeys have the same ultimate destination.

But, let me suggest you go one step further than simply reading the steps. Once you've read them, go back and step by step follow the instructions and then apply and implement each step. By 2016 you'll be living a new life and experience freedom and happiness you never thought you were capable experiencing. This is not a religious or positive thinking approach to life. It's simply a pragmatic way of achieving a lifestyle of personal freedom.

Once again, I wish you a happy, healthy and abundant 2015.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Is the Beginning of the End in Sight?

I'm composing this post while sitting in My McVansion parked in the Deming, New Mexico Walmart Supercenter parking lot. I'll be spending the night here and heading into Arizona tomorrow morning heading for the Quartzite area by the end of the day. My ultimate destination for this leg of the trek is Clovis, California to spend the holidays with my son, his mother (my former wife - the original family unit will be together for this holiday for the first time in about 25 years) and some of my outlaws (my former in-laws). I'm expecting to arrive in Clovis by early evening on Tuesday, December 23rd or mid day on Wednesday, December 24th.

As I've been traveling across the United States and the North American continent, as always, I have been meeting all kinds of interesting people, seeing all kinds of interesting places and terrains and observing Americana. For those who are familiar with me and this blog, you know that My McVansion is my personally customized tiny house on wheels and I prefer to travel on the Blue Highways to observe and experience what is left of the U.S. that existed before the interstate highway system was established and built out.

You also know that I'm sort of a digital, techy nomad. That means I have lots of electronics onboard. I usually have at least two GPS systems operating. I have my smart phone which is Bluetooth enabled with a speaker phone. I also installed a Sirius satellite radio receiver to eliminate the problem of listening to local or regional radio stations and running out of their signal coverage area.

Getting Serious With Sirius

The nice thing about Sirius satellite radio is that most of the programming has no or limited commercials. Also, I can select specific channels I elected to have on my receiver to match my specific tastes. So, I have all the cable news channels, old time radio, classical music, classic to contemporary country music, music from the 40's, 50's 60's and 70's (others, too, if I want to listen to them), public radio, political talk, well you get the idea. The service I chose only costs me $8.00/month and worth every cent.

So, as I cross the country I have constant entertainment. I also have constant news and information in numerous forms. This is the serious side of Sirius. In today's connected world (I'm also connected to the Internet almost constantly wherever I go, wirelessly) we get information and breaking news virtually as it happens. I am an information nut. I like keeping up on what's happening in our country and our world. So, though I may be in some remote location, with that little satellite antenna, I'm always connected to the outside world. This has its pros and cons. The pros are obvious, knowing what's happening constantly. The cons are actually, the same thing. There is so much going on that it can stress a person out, in this case, that person is me.

That's why I have the other channels to provide diversions. For example, as I'm composing this post I'm listening to classic country music. Many of the artists have passed away. This is the music I recall listening to in my pre-adolescent days, my teenage years and my 20's and 30's. There is something soothing and anchoring about this kind of music. The same is true for music from the 40's through 70's and old time radio shows.

Is The Beginning Of The End In Sight?

How many times have people asked this question over the centuries and millennia? I'm sure the ancient Greeks, Romans, Persians and other societies have asked the same question. Am I talking about the end of the world? Possibly! With our exponentially advancing technology, we are able to track asteroids and comets better than ever and we're now realizing that some of them are coming fairly close to our little rock floating around in space. We know this planet, the moon and the other planets in our solar system have been struck by these objects numerous times each. One such strike is the reason dinosaurs and other forms of life no longer exist on this planet.

Yes! This is a real possibility. But, I believe there is something far more dangerous and menacing to the survival of life on this planet than being struck by some wayward heavenly body. That menace is human beings. The human has certain traits that have caused the rise and fall of societies and civilizations throughout history. Most humans are benign. They seek only to enjoy, at some reasonable level, the limited time each will inhabit this planet. Like many people, during my earlier years, I sought to make some giant impact on society and leave behind a legacy that would be my immortality.

For most of my life I believed this required me to be financially successful (wealthy), powerful and famous. After all, look at Charlemagne, Leonardo Da Vinci, Beethoven, Alexander Graham Bell, Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg to mention a few. And let's not forget the drafters of the Magna Carta and the Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution. All of these people and those who collaborated in creating documents that changed the lives of hundreds of millions of people have impacted the world and, generally, have created their own legacy and immortality. Virtually all of them became financially successful, powerful and famous.

But, in the grand scheme of things, there are many others who will make significant impacts on all facets of life as we know it, yet, will come and go from this Earth and eventually just disappear. But, most of us will simply live, do what we have to in order to provide food, shelter, clothing and some minimal luxuries. When we pass, we'll be gone from mind not long after our bodies have returned to the dust they came from. I know, that's a rather cynical way of looking at life, but if you are honest with yourself, you know this to be true. The reality is that we only exist to be and perpetuate the species. Contributing to whatever society you belong to is expected only because we are social animals.

I simply call it "being." The purpose of life is simply being in the moment and enjoying the time we have on Earth. Once one can accept that and simplify life, shedding all the complexities societies and governments have impressed (and oppressed) upon us, happiness is easy to find and enjoy. In many ways, especially due to advances in all forms of technology like communications, transportation, medicine, environment, etc. our lives can be better than ever before.

However, this all comes with a cost. The cost is complicated lives, increased materialism that can enslave, addictions of various kinds, bigger and bigger government resulting in more and more laws, ordinances, codes, regulations, rules, etc. with the larger impact of loss of freedom and liberty. And this is where I see the beginning of the end.

I follow a blog titled "The Serenity Game" written by a woman in her mid 50's from Texas. She is, what I term, a rational thinker, something I have been accused of being, by other rational thinkers, of course. She goes by the name of Trinity Rivers. Real name or nom de plume, I know not. I just enjoy her diversity of thoughts and ideas. She sees the world through a woman's lens that is often interestingly different than mine, but she often broadens my perspective. Too many of us view the world with tunnel vision. A little jog from a different point of view is good for everyone.

In her post today, titled "Something Wicked This Way Comes," Trinity made some interesting points that resonated with me. One thing that resonated was, "Every day the news casters gleefully share the latest disaster, murder, insanely unwise new legislation, etc. Then the talking heads analyze it 8 ways from Sunday. But, in the end I’m expected to believe that everything is not only just peachy keen finer than fine, but getting better every day."

Okay, I have to admit, being an information and news junkie, I can really relate to her thought. Today, I have heard too much information about the two New York City police officers assassinated in cold blood by a man I can only consider a crazed maniac. He used a gun he obtained by questionable means. He first shot his girlfriend in Baltimore then drove to New York and murdered the two police officers. Then when almost apprehended by the police, he turned the gun on himself and (thankfully) saved the taxpayers a fortune in the cost of an ongoing investigation, incarceration, trial, etc. The story is going in all directions. The NY Mayor, a controversial figure already, was snubbed by the entire police force. There have been several press conferences. And, of course, the Rev. Al Sharpton's name was brought into the issue. The anti-gun activists will be on this like flies on . . . you know what I mean.

Trinity's thought came home for me when I read it as related to this latest news issue that will be drawn out for who knows how long. Oh, I know, until the next sensationalism breaking news occurs. Don't worry, that will be pretty soon. It always is.

She goes on to say, "If I beg to disagree I am labeled as paranoid, a nervous Nelly, glum, a wannabe prepper nut, depressed, or a glass half empty kind of person. And this labeling even comes from other people who are feeling the same feelings, and talking about it all the damned time. Talk is cheap and so they just want to whine about latest news sound bite. However, they do not want to really get down and dirty and talk about what might be coming. Forget doing anything about it."

I definitely relate to these thoughts. There are only a limited number of people who want to "get down and dirty" and want to really talk about the REAL issues and where these things are leading. Most people just accept losing our freedoms and liberties in exchange for a false sense of security. Only people who value and love true freedom and have the ability to be free, rational thinkers. If you're reading this blog, I have a feeling you are one of those free, (hopefully) rational thinkers. But, you need to engage in open and honest discussions about these issues since they all relate to the beginning of the end.

"All civilizations rise and fall. It usually doesn’t happen overnight. Most start a slow slide to oblivion rather than the fall of Pompeii where the mountain belched and destroyed every living thing in less than a day. Here in the U.S. our rights as private citizens are taking that slow slide to oblivion. The scary part is that much of this legislation chips away at our right and more important our DUTY to be self-reliant."

You nailed it, Trinity. It's not that I'm anti-American or would ever want to see our society fall. But, this is the history of the world. There is not one country in the world that hasn't risen and fallen, typically numerous times. The U.S. is a very young society. However, our own history is checkered. We may be (or believe we are) the wealthiest and most powerful country in the world. But, we really didn't become a super power, as such, until about 73 years ago. Our economy exists on a huge defense/war machine and a material consumerism economy. The problem is, as we improve technology in the workplace and find cheaper ways to manufacture offshore, we can't keep sustaining either jobs or salaries.

Ultimately, at some point, consumerism will begin to falter and so will our economy. With a national debt approaching $18 trillion, there is the possibility that the country will eventually default and we'll find ourselves in situations like several countries in Europe and even tiny Iceland. Is it the beginning of the end?

One final thought from Trinity, "Did you know that in some states it is illegal to collect rain water? How disturbing is that? The rationale behind this is that rain falling out of the sky is public property. Therefore if we collect it we are “hoarding” the rain water. Well the earth can be considered public property also. Does this mean that I can’t own my home and the ground it stands on? Am I hoarding my little piece of the earth?"

Indeed, Trinity, this is all disturbing. And, as you pointed out, our "supposed" elected representatives have created their own form of aristocracy at our (the taxpayers') expense. I have often half-heartedly joked that one of these days we'll all be wearing meters that will measure the consumption of oxygen we consume and carbon dioxide we expel and we'll be charged or taxed for it. The reality is that the "little piece of earth" you spoke of doesn't belong to you now. It belongs to the government and they have the right to take it from you, by law, under a number of circumstances.

There are places in Maryland where land owners are taxed for any rainwater or snow melt that comes off their land and flows into the Potomac River or any other creeks or rivers (even 100 or more miles away) that ultimately flow into the Chesapeake Bay. The water running off their land is bringing sediment, fertilizer, etc. into the bay and that is taxable. But, you can't stop that water from flowing either since that's against the law without a specific permit. Damned if you do. Damned if you don't.

When will the "end" be? I don't know the answer to that. But, I do know that the beginning of the end began upon the signing of the U.S. Constitution and is progressing exponentially faster today than ever before in our history. Our grandchildren and great grandchildren may only read of the freedom and liberty we once had, limited as it was, in history books, IF the government allows that history to be in those books in the future.

Any thoughts on any of this? I'd love to hear from you free thinkers. By the way, you can check out Trinity Rivers' blog by clicking on the title of the blog in the context above. Thanks for the inspiration Trinity. 

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Benefits or Entitlements

Benefits and entitlements, are they one and the same or are they different breeds of animals? There seems to be a trend for those in the bureaucracy of federal (and even state) government toward calling anything they pay out to citizens as entitlements. Now, I'm not sure. Is it because I'm becoming a crotchety old man (NOT)? Or, is it because those in the elected offices, their high ranking appointees and the massive legion of high level bureaucrats are using governmentspeak or doublespeak to get us to believe something that isn't true.

Would this be the first time the government has attempted (and often succeeded) in duping the "flock?" I think not. That is a huge topic for another time. However, as humans, we are basically pack animals. Although, it's probably more accurate to say we're like flock or herd animals. Watch cattle in the pasture sometime. When it's milking time they all line up one behind the other and follow the leader right into the milk barn. A new word becomes the "in" word to use in the pop culture - cool, dude, awesome, right on, righteous, bro, etc. All of a sudden, it slips into our vocabulary and pretty soon we're all using it.

So, if the government keeps using the word "entitlements" when referring to any payouts to citizens that have qualified to receive earned benefite payments, will we all eventually begin to accept that word for everything? I guess we could call it the "Word Game," only this game is controlled by government doublespeak.

Now, I, for one, have a pretty good idea of the difference between a benefit and an entitlement and I don't much like the definitions being crossed over and made fuzzy.


When it comes to certain payments made to individual citizens by the government, I go with this dictionary definition: " a payment or service provided for under an annuity, pension plan, or insurance policy" from the Merriam-Webster Dictionary. In other words, the individual invested or paid into some kind of fund by contractual arrangement with the long term benefit being some kind of payment after meeting the investment requirements of the contract. In the case of the government, I'm referring, more specifically, to such programs as Social Security and Medicare.

Most U.S. citizens have had to invest (involuntarily, I might add) into the Social Security Trust Fund and Medicare year after year at a combined rate of 15.3% of the total income. I know many will say that the employee only pays half that amount and the employer pays the other half. But, let's be realistic. The employer could pay you the other half and you'd pay the full 15.3% just as self-employed individuals do or to put it another way, if the employer was not required to pay the 7.65% the government would dock your paycheck for it. This is yet, another way of distracting you from reality and the truth.

The bottom line is that just about everyone working on the books for any business or as a self-employed individual will pay a combined 15.3% of which 12.4% goes to the Social Security Trust Fund until (at the current ceiling) your annual salary reaches $113,700.00. Next year that increases to $117,000.00. The balance of 2.9% goes to the Medicare fund and there is no salary ceiling for the Medicare deducted from your salary.

The point? You and I have invested (paid) into these accounts, involuntarily (we had no choice under the law). There is the implied contract that when you reach a certain age (typically defined as the "age of retirement) you will begin drawing a "benefit" from your Social Security account based on how much you contributed to your account over your lifetime.

You'll also be eligible to take advantage of the Medicare health benefit Part A that covers hospitals, nursing homes, hospice and such. Optionally, you may pay a nominal monthly premium to the government to receive Part B benefits that cover doctors, tests and a myriad of other medical necessities. In other words, Medicare is a form of health insurance policy that you've partially prepaid and continue to pay into.

This is no different than you investing your funds in a 401K, IRA or other qualified pension fund. You receive a lifetime benefit based on how much you invested. And the Medicare insurance is similar to an employer or a private healthcare insurance policy from a private insurer. You have invested in and are due to receive the benefits you "contracted" for based on the terms of the contracts.


So, now, let's look at entitlements. The Merriam-Webster definition that comes closest to government entitlement programs is: "a type of financial help provided by the government for members of a particular group." In other words the recipients of this government help have not invested in the programs that provide these various forms of help. This is different than those receiving Social Security and Medicare benefits, for which they involuntarily contributed throughout their working lifetime.

So, these funds come from funding provided by other citizens who have part of their tax money given to people who haven't been able to or just didn't contribute to the programs. I'm sorry! But, I see a significant difference between a plan someone has invested in, earned and is now receiving the "benefit" of that lifelong investment and an "entitlement," where someone is benefiting from the system and from everyone else's productivity, but hasn't contributed into the system themselves.


So, I vehemently object to my Social Security check and my Medicare insurance being lumped in with social entitlement programs in order to make me and others receiving our "benefits" feel guilty. After a lifetime of contributions, we're NOT "takers" living off the public. And that, in my opinion is what our elected officials, their high ranking appointees and so on are attempting to do with their government doublespeak.

The reality is that the government has plundered the trust funds for these two benefits (and others). They were not just bad stewards of "OUR" money; they essentially have turned it into a new form of Ponzi Scheme. It makes Madoff's scheme look like he was a novice.

Our Social Security checks aren't coming from the compounded earnings of our "invested" contributions of 40 or more years. Our Social Security is coming from the pockets of our children's and grandchildren's generation. But, we're supposed to feel guilty because the government has bumfuzzled the public. They are trying to blame us for their incompetence and disregard for the law.

The Point?

The point is simple. We deserve the benefits we invested in and earned, period! Our children and grandchildren shouldn't have to pay for our benefits, they should be investing in their own benefits. But, like all Ponzi Schemes, someday this is going to come crashing down and lots of people are going to be hurt by it. Governments are, by nature, fiscally irresponsible because they aren't spending their own money. They don't have any money. They're spending our money. If they need more, they blame the public, take things away and raise taxes or create new taxes so it doesn't look like they're raising taxes. It's simply a shell game and we . . . are the marks.

Don't get me wrong. I don't mind helping other people out. I believe we live in a great country where we do care about those who are less fortunate. But, I don't believe, other than in a few specific instances, that we should be taking care of people for all or most of their lives. Everyone can do something to contribute to society. I truly care about those who are in unfortunate situations. Unfortunately, some people in our society have not only allowed themselves to fall into these situations, but planned to take advantage of the system. Call it gaming the system if you will.

We are a very generous country. And, interestingly, those who seem to have less than others are often the most generous and charitable. I know some very wealthy philanthropists, many who give away sizeable amounts of money anonymously every year. But, too many of those we know are extremely wealthy work closely with their tax accountants to gain the maximum, personal, financial advantage for their charitable contributions. In other words, they want to be "rewarded" for being charitable.

Private Help Organizations

There are also numerous organizations, faith-based and secular, that provide all kinds of programs to help those who have fallen on hard times. The Mormon Church, for example, has their own form of welfare program within the church. I don't believe they call it welfare, though. They help their people regain their footing and climb back up again and be productive members of both the church and society as a whole. The Salvation Army is another such organization. There are also "pay it forward" programs. Someone is helped with the expectation they will reach out, once back on their own feet, to help one or more others in a time of need.

Certainly, we have people who have become disabled in one manner or another. This is a very unfortunate circumstance, especially if the person is relatively young. It's even harder if they have a young family. Unfortunately, there are some people who get into the disability roles by gaming the system and live off the public dole for the rest of their lives. Meanwhile, others get assistance from the disability programs and learn new skills or find other ways to help themselves regain some degree of productivity, self-esteem and dignity.

There, But For The Grace Of God, Go I!

Hey! For all I know, I may be "entitled" to some of these entitlement programs. I guess I could even play the system, if I were of a mind to. To be honest, I don't consider it playing the system, but I do take advantage of senior discounts when they are offered and I certainly paid my one time fee for my lifetime national park pass. I see these as small "rewards" for having contributed to society for most of a lifetime. I don't consider them entitlements.

I haven't looked, therefore I've not taken advantage of any "entitlement" programs I may be eligible for. Some people may say I'm foolish. If I'm eligible, I should go for it. Frankly, I don't need it right now. I hope I never will. But, if I do, I'll do it grudgingly. I'd rather see others who truly need help, more than I do, have the advantage of getting it.

What does and will continue to irk me to no end, is government employees getting ridiculously large bonuses for just doing their jobs. There are some who say that governments are the largest and most costly forms of welfare and public dole there are. If these people want bonuses they should join the private sector where they have to earn their bonuses. Those hundreds of millions of dollars of bonus money could go a long way to bolstering the money taken from the Social Security and Medicare accounts. They could also go toward helping more people (not for a lifetime, however) who are in greater need of a little helping hand getting back on their feet than the government employees in their nice secure jobs with comfortable pensions awaiting them at retirement.

Remember! It's important! Do NOT listen and buy into all the politicians, their lackeys, the talking head media types and others who continue to call our BENEFITS entitlements. Yes! We are entitled to them, but that's because we EARNED them. The only place there should be guilt is in Congress, the White House and the media who keep buying into the semantics game and acting like the government's mouthpiece.     

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Business as Usual - Elections 2014

Flickr Photo - Creative Commons License 2011 - Kevan 

Well, thank goodness (actually, there is no goodness) the 2014 mid-term elections are over. It reached a point where I'd find myself retching every time another political ad came on or I'd see it in print. I hung up on robo calls - (thankfully, I got few). For everyone reading this who still believes government is or can be good, well just keep your Shirley Temple, Good Ship Lollipop mentality.

Government is not good - in any form! It never has been and never will be. It is, unfortunately, necessary. It's necessary because most humans (notice I didn't make that all inclusive) have the basic drives and abilities to survive individually. But, put a group of them together and they act like a pack, herd, gaggle, flock (choose your word) and ultimately an alpha human will emerge and control the rights of the rest of the group. Oh, and by the way, I'm already sick of the 2016 election campaign and it hasn't even officially begun, yet.

It's been one week as of today, Wednesday, November 12, 2014, since most of the results of the 2014 mid-term elections were officially announced. The party of the largest land mammal in the world scored, what has been termed as and with much gloating, a "sweeping victory" over the party of the stubborn beasts of burden. In Brett Butler's immortal words, "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn." Or to quote a more contemporary individual of questionable celebrity status (and not a fictional character), "What difference – at this point, what difference does it make?" Thanks for that, Hillary Clinton. You're right, it doesn't.

Where I Stand

So, let me get this straight for everyone. I am not a Democrat. I am not a Republican. I am not a liberal or conservative. I'm not a Libertarian (though I often sound like I am). I am a member of a party with only one member. It has a long name. It's the Radical Rational Living Free Commonsense Freedom Loving Independent Party. As I said, it only has one member, ME!

I seek no political office. I accept, mostly grudgingly, the often insane and even obscene laws of the land - federal, state, county, city, community and neighborhood. They are too voluminous for anyone to deal with. Of course, the vast majority of which are never enforced unless it is for the political expediency of some sociopathic politician's personal interests (or those supporting him or her).

Actually, I did my best, spending over 60 years of my life, attempting to live up to the letter of the law as I was conditioned to do by my parents, church, school, college, the military and over 57 years as an entrepreneur (beginning at age 12). I attempted to be a model citizen. This included serving my country voluntarily and not dodging the draft during an unpopular war. Hmm! Is there such a thing as a popular war? And what I learned, after all this time and voting for people I thought (unwittingly) would represent my interests, is that little ever changes other than a few faces and names. Otherwise, it's Business as Usual.

Everyday, since last Wednesday, my email box is filled with the gleeful conservative Republicans spitting their victorious vitriol at the liberal Democrats. And, of course, the liberal Democrats are sputtering back, "You'll be sorry! These Republicans will screw you (just as we've been doing, but didn't want you to know it).

Heck! I have no psychic powers, but I can predict the future. In one to three election cycles, the conservative Republicans will screw up enough - AGAIN - (just as the liberal Democrats have been doing) for the pendulum to swing back to the Democratic side. Wow! How can I know that? Simple, I looked back into the history of the U.S. government. Business as Usual.

Is Anarchy Evil?

I guess, if anything, I'm an apolitical, benevolent anarchist. Oh, my God! Did he say anarchist? Yep! I did. I said it. But, while anarchists are typically viewed as evil and malevolent, they don't have to be. The traditional dictionaries usually retain older, traditional and sometimes archaic definitions for words. But, as with everything in our world, words evolve and can have modified or new meanings such as this one I cite from the "Urban Dictionary:"

"Anarchists are people who want to live under their own authority. Political authority is what they are against, and some will go to extreme measures. Anarchists are extremely peaceful, but when time comes to take action they go right ahead. They are anti-consumeristic and often times grow their own food. Anarchism these days is often found in youth, particularly people around the punk rock scene. Anarchists are not people who make bombs etc. This is where the title for the "anarchist" cookbook went wrong."

The italicized, underlined and bolded words are my emphasis to make sure the context is not compromised. Also, I find with age comes wisdom and with wisdom comes changes in thinking and philosophies.

It's not just youth who are rebellious. Actually, we were all rebellious when we were young. We all seemed to have times when we thought we knew it all and the "establishment" was a bunch of fuddy-duddies and didn't understand us. During my youthful years there was a name for the young people who really pushed the envelope, they were called "Hippies." Most hippies grew up and eventually bought into the prevailing, mainstream, societal model. A small number never did.

While I had my own rebellious attitudes during my youthful years, I was never a hippie. I had my secret desires to live free and unencumbered by the ever increasing burdens of dealing with an uptight society full of laws, codes, regulations, rules, ordinances, etc. However, I was probably a bit more like the fictional character, Alex Keaton from the popular 80's sitcom, "Family Ties." Alex was portrayed by Michael J. Fox. The show was the launching pad for his acting career.

I said I always attempted to be a "model citizen," but to be honest, the very nature of the entrepreneurial spirit is one of a certain non-conformity and rebelliousness. I did my best to stay within the law, but I was ever bending, testing and pushing the envelope.

Eventually, I realized that the box was getting smaller. The government was getting larger and I, like the vast majority of the population, probably 95% to 97%, was just a pawn in the real U.S. version of the "Game of Thrones."

Business As Usual

So, here we are. The 2014 mid-term election cycle is over. The sword of power passes from the one dynasty back to the other dynasty. Will there be changes? Of course! That's the purpose of the entire game.

We still have a sociopathic, arrogant, deceitful, ineffective, classless individual in the executive office with his own self-serving agendas. We have a Congress that is now controlled by the other dynasty. They will attempt to undermine the executive. Meanwhile the executive will do everything he can to stalemate the Congress and continue to portray them as "the problem." The executive will continue to play games with our enemies and throw anyone under the bus from his administration to assure that he is always beguiling. After all, it's his legacy as the greatest Pretender in Chief that is most important to him.

I wouldn't hold your breath for the economy to dramatically improve. I'd be concerned that the terrorism threat in the U.S. will likely escalate. More scandals will be added to the already existing scandals that have yet to be resolved to the satisfaction of the minions according to virtually every poll. And we may all reach the point of dry heaves long before the November 2016 election. The mainstream media will keep plying us with propaganda. Yep! I'd call that Business as Usual.

As for me? Well, I guess, I'm reverting in many ways to just being an old "hippie." I've figured out that I'm tired of playing "THE Game." I just want to live out however many years I have left staying as under the radar and off the grid as I choose to and enjoying the freedoms, I have left. Hopefully, those aren't ripped from me by more new laws designed to control and keep a finger on my location, life and thoughts.

As for you? Refer back to Rhett Butler's quote. I don't care where you stand or what you believe politically, religiously, ethnically, racially, nationally, financially, environmentally or in any other way. You have the right to whatever it is. Just DO NOT even attempt to tell me what or how I should believe or you're treading on quicksand. I am a Free Thinker and plan to remain that way until I die (and thereafter if there is a thereafter).

My only political aspirations are as the current sole member of my Radical Rational Living Free Commonsense Freedom Loving Independent Party. By the way, it is open enrollment for anyone wanting to join my Party (and party is the operative word, because that's what we'll do - we'll party). 

Thursday, October 30, 2014

BEWARE - SCAM ALERT! Mystery Shopper Scam Using Social Media

Many people seek opportunities to generate extra revenue. There are, of course, more ways to approach this then there is room in this post to mention them all. A lot of the readers of this blog are "location independent" (full-time) or at least part-time "travelers. So, you are usually looking for portable, mobile or, in someway, location independent opportunities.

So, here's the deal. There are at least as many scams and possibly more as there are legitimate opportunities. The challenge is often that the scam or con is so well crafted that even the smartest of us can be duped. I fell into the trap just one time, probably 20 or 25 years ago when I had a very active audio recording business in full swing. I needed to upgrade to some new technology and decided instead of actually biting the bullet and buying the equipment outright, as I normally had, I would try equipment leasing. I applied to a legitimate leasing company I found in one of the industry journals and was turned down. But, they referred me to a company in Dallas, Texas they said would be more likely to handle a deal like mine.

Well, the second company was a one man operation who designed his con so well that he had the legitimate companies referring to him. I bit. Everything seemed pretty much on the up and up until a certain point. then I became a bit uneasy. I should have stopped and backed out. My intuition was saying Run Away from this deal. But, I didn't. I sent the requested $800 for the first and last payments on the lease along with the signed paperwork. That was the last time I saw my $800.00 and I never saw the equipment. I had been in business about 25 or so years at that point. I'd seen many "so-called" once in a lifetime opportunities come and go without getting caught. But, this time, I didn't trust my intuition and I learned the hard way. When it looks too good to be true, it usually almost always is."

Mystery Shopping

Mystery Shopping is a legitimate business and income opportunity. It is used by just about every retail industry and category there is. Even the largest retailers like Walmart, Target, Lowes; restaurants like McDonalds, Applebees, Pizza Hut; motel/hotels like Holiday Inn, Best Western, Hilton: supermarkets, pharmacies, clothing stores, you name it and they are probably using or have used mystery shoppers at some time.

I won't go into the details of mystery shopping. That's not the focus of this article. What I will tell you is that there is at least one and more than likely many cons and scams going on currently using the mystery shopping field as their vehicle. In the case of the leasing scam I was caught by, it was done domestically from Texas and the guy was caught. He used the UPS or Fedex to deliver his paperwork. However, he would occasionally use the U.S. Postal Service and that was how he was caught, convicted of fraud and other charges and sent to prison.

These new schemers are located around the world. They use email and a variety of social media to find their targets. They communicate via text messaging and email. They create a subterfuge by using different text numbers to send from and receive messages back from the mark. The same with email. They have often stolen the identity of legitimate people and businesses to add credibility to the con. The bottom line, if you were to do a cursory due diligence you might very well deduce that this is a real person, a real business and a real opportunity. That's when you may get hooked.

The LinkedIn Connection

I have a very large LinkedIn Network, the business social media network with 300 million plus members. I am one of the first one million members, so I've been around LinkedIn a long time. A friend forwarded me a solicitation for mystery shoppers through LinkedIn. Now, I'll be honest, it's kind of a warped hobby for me to discover these scams. From the beginning I was skeptical (and rightfully so, I must say). I forwarded the requested information and almost before I could blink my eyes I received a reply saying I had been accepted and my first assignment would be coming soon.

Now, here's where it gets interesting. The man's name is John M. Hendrick. His company is Retail Active. Yes! There is a John M. Hedrick (probably a number of them in the world). Yes! There is a company in the mystery shopping business that goes by the name of Retail Active. But, the plot thickens.

First, Mr. Hendrick didn't seem to have a real command of the British English or American English written language. It wasn't bad, but there were some very obvious things that anyone with a good solid basis in these two versions of English would notice. That's why knowing your native language reasonably well is important.

Second, Mr. Hendrick sent me a text and an email saying my first assignment was going to be with the Western Union services offered at most Walmart stores and Walmart of my choice. So, he selected two, very well established and credible businesses to mystery shop.

Third, he notified me I'd be receiving a check (didn't indicate how I'd receive it) made out to me for $2,950.76, which I did, through my mail forwarder in South Dakota. It took about a week and a half to receive it during which time I received numerous texts and at least one email from Hendrick asking if I received the check and had I deposited it, yet. The first $400.00 dollars of that money was my payment for the mystery shop I was going to perform. The balance of the funds I was supposed to wire me via Western Union to three different people a three addresses.

Anatomy Of A Scam

Now, think about this. I have received no formal terms or conditions. I've received no agreement or contract of any kind. But, Mr. Hendricks trusts me enough knowing virtually nothing about me to send me almost $3,000.00 and expects I'll follow his orders and send this money to people I don't know. I'll be honest, no legitimate mystery shopping company operates this way and I knew it because I've done some mystery shopping in the past. I can also tell you that $400 as payment for an assignment like this is pretty bogus, too.

So, I knew from the get-go that I was dealing with some slick con operator in the Ukraine, Russian, China, perhaps somewhere in Africa and even South America. So, I have no terms and conditions. I have no contract or agreement. I have a check made out to me in my hands for $2,950.76. The check is drawn on PNC Bank, a branch in Princeton, New Jersey. The check is a business check issued by Berlitz International, Inc. (Notice, every organization in this scam is a legit business, credible and high profile.)

I called the PNC branch which actually existed and spoke to someone there who confirmed the check had their correct routing number on it, but it was a fraudulent check. I called the Princeton office of Berlitz International and although the check had the correct street name on it, it was the wrong street number, probably close to a mile or so from where the actual office was. They also indicated they were aware of these checks and their were not worth the paper they were written on. Additionally, that office didn't issue checks. Berlitz checks were issued out of an operations center at a different location.

I then emailed Active Retail, which I had discerned were located in the England and, as I was aware from their Web site, only operated in England doing mystery shopping assignments. And, of course, they had never heard of anyone going by the name John M. Hendrick. I have only received one additional text from John M. Hendrick wanting me to respond and tell him if had deposited the check as I was instructed and made the wire transfers. Of course, I'm sitting here looking at this useless piece of wall paper. By now, I suspect that Mr. Hendrick, or whoever he really is, has figured out that I'm onto his scam and don't plan to follow through.

I've also filed a claim with LinkedIn with all the details, so they can watch for him. I've heard that he's also appeared on Facebook, though I don't have first hand knowledge of that allegation.

There's A Sucker Born Every Minute

These people are becoming very sophisticated. People have been falling for the Nigerian Letter scam for years. I believe I read somewhere that someone in the U.S. Treasury almost fell for it and cost the taxpayers a pile of money (as if they don't squander enough already). For whatever the reason, people's greed and gullibility, I guess, they still believe there is a "free lunch" out there for them somewhere.

I don't go down this road playing games with a scam artist very often, only when it tickles my fantasy or I think I may learn something that will help others avoid it. And, don't believe that you're too smart to be scammed and defrauded. AT&T Mobility, my cell and wireless Internet provider, is being sued by the Federal Trade Commission for selling unlimited full-speed Internet connections to some 3.5 million customers, then throttling back the speed to slow speed Internet approximately 2/3 the way through a month of service.

Think about it. If they just throttle back an average of 20% of a month's service every month on 3.5 million customers paying and let's just use $60.00/month, how much would that be? It would amount to $12.00/month of service not delivered as contracted or $42 million/month AT&T has received. In my book that is fraud and theft. How many of us may be part of that 3.5 million customers?

Mystery Shopping is a legitimate enterprise. It's a valuable service for the retailers, the managers, the shareholders, the employees and the consumers. It's also a great way for those of us to add a little extra revenue to our bank accounts. And, it is an especially interesting opportunity for those of us who are location independent travelers. Just be careful. Do your due diligence and protect yourself. And, believe that any legitimate mystery shopping service is going to do their due diligence checking you out before allowing you to represent them.

If IT looks too good to be true, IT almost always is.