Category Archives: Uncategorized

SPECIAL UPDATE: Could restricting who owns guns actually preserve 2nd Amendment rights?

The biggest push from gun control advocates comes in the form of comprehensive background checks.

Gun rights advocates say universal background checks would be ineffective and might represent the first step toward registration and complete disarmament.

Captain Mark Kelly, a gun owner and according to his words, a supporter of 2nd Amendment rights, is one of the advocates of tightening background checks. His wife, Gabrielle Giffords, is the Congresswoman shot in a mass murder spree. In this interview, Kelly says this is not really a 2nd Amendment issue.

Capt Mark Kelly

Well- is it?

Nearly 75% of NRA members say they’d support universal background checks.

Could restricting who owns firearms actually preserve the right of law abiding people to keep and bear arms?

Should this be a 2nd Amendment issue at all and if so- why do gun control advocates avoid the 2nd Amendment debate?

What are your thoughts?


Nothing from nothing equals nothing . . . if Billy Preston could see the Facebook debacle coming, why couldn’t you?

Come on people . . . IPOs have and always will be the equivalent of fool’s gold! Never, ever invest in a just launched IPO . . . wait a few months or longer and then do your homework after the purported hype. I mean did you not read the article predicting that Facebook would not be around in 5 years (remember MySpace?).

Or to put it another way, those who invested in Facebook got exactly what they paid for . . . hype over substance.

Let’s move this discussion beyond the anecdotal reference of a Facebook and see what history tells us relative to whether or not IPOs are a good investment.

Based on one analysis by Professor Jay Ritter from the University of Florida, it would appear that the combination of a shell-shocked Wall Street, venture capitalist greed for a high valuation and the inclination of investors to overlook solid financial performance in favor of market hype would appear to be a recipe for disaster.

The Wall Street Factor?

According to Ritter, “Until the institutional trading desks on Wall Street crawl out of their bomb shelters and begin to entertain the idea of moving their field of vision beyond the latest financial disaster that has shaken their traditional foundations, the IPO market will limp along slowly.”

While Silicon Valley VC’s are quick to shrug off the Facebook controversy – and why wouldn’t they because they are the one’s who make a great deal of money from the IPO being issued as opposed to its performance afterwards, I am not certain that either Wall Street or the investor market has a high tolerance for unsubstantiated evaluations.

This is especially true given the current economic crisis and the growing cynicism tied to what Wall Street guru Natalie Pace referred to as crony capitalism.

Can you say Groupon . . .

Venture Capitalists and the Gekko Factor

Before we look to hang the Silicon Valley VC’s from the nearest yardarm I think that it is important to understand the inherent risks they face in making an investment in an enterprise.

Back in the late 90s when yours truly sold his software company for $12 million, our VC-oriented lawyer provided me with a sobering statistic.

As it turns out, out of every 10 companies in which a VC invests, 7 fail in that they lose their money, 2 deliver some return which at best is usually a break-even proposition, while just 1 – that’s right just 1, actually pays a positive return.

It is through these numbers that the needed understanding about IPOs (including the reason why one should not touch them with a ten foot pole) is gained.  The latter is especially true when dealing with high tech offerings in which there is no discernible revenue stream.

The truth of the matter is simply this, when an IPO is issued you have the overwhelming imperative of a VC’s need to capitalize on the 1 opportunity in 10 to make back the money lost on the other 9.  Add into the equation uniformed investor greed and you have the makings for a disaster . . . or in this instance Facebook.

Within the above context, it is not the VC’s who are at fault.  Although improprieties such as the ones being bandied about regarding the Facebook offering in which information regarding diminished revenue streams was made available to a select few insiders, do factor into the equation.

Honestly I believe that it is the uninformed public trying to cash in a on a quick payday who are truly at fault.  This is particularly true when people who have no business investing in the markets do so.

You only have to look at the dot.com boom and subsequent bust for hard lessons learned that it now appears everyone has forgotten.

I can still vividly recall seeing individuals who worked at the company’s loading dock rabidly scanning their computers to check up on the latest get rich quick high tech darling.  I was at once reminded of the rows of slot machines at the local casino with players hunched over the one-armed bandits in greedy anticipation of jackpots that rarely materialized.

Of course who could blame them for wanting to get in on the action as  tens of thousands of dollars were being made daily.  However, when you bet money in a volatile market that you cannot afford to lose, your actions border on being irresponsible rather than opportunistic.

. . . we earrrrn it!

Manufacturing Value as Opposed to Earning Value

I love the old Smith Barney commercial with John Houseman who in his distinguished voice proclaims “we make money the old fashioned way . . . we earrrrrn it!”

It seems that in today’s world of self-proclaimed entitlement the concept of actually earning money or accumulating wealth is foreign to many people.

Think I am being a little judgmental or harsh here?  Perhaps, but here is the thing; If investors really did their homework, they would soon discover that “nothing from nothing equals nothing” (thank you Billy Preston).  When you have companies such as Facebook and Groupon entering the market with low revenues and high valuations, warning lights should immediately go off.

After all, would a bank loan someone money to buy a house if they had little or no income coming in?  Okay, that’s a loaded question and a discussion for another day, but you get my point.  The share price of IPOs issued under these circumstances are based on nothing more than unbridled optimism and greed.

Unfortunately, and as long as the public is willing to drink the smoke and mirrors valuation Kool-Aid, they are going to get what they deserve . . .

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Diluting American Values: Why the U.S. will be an Islamic State in 10 years

“A few years ago, an inter-faith group of 10,000 people met at the Vatican in Rome. The group included the Pope, the Dalai Lama and Muslim Imam W. D. Mohammed. An outspoken Hindu woman was quoted as saying, It was refreshing to note that the idea that all religions have universal truths, and are merely different paths to the same goal was accepted as a given from the outset by all delegates without a single dissenting voice.”

As I read the above recounting of the inter-faith conference, I was immediately reminded of an interview I did last August with the respective heads of the Jewish Defence League of Canada, the Canadian Hindu Advocacy and the Christian Heritage Party (Is Valley Park Middle School Canada’s Ground Zero Mosque?).

The subject for discussion was the controversy surrounding a Toronto district’s decision to allow 300 Muslim students to worship in the school’s cafeteria during school hours.

While the issue of school prayer in and of itself makes for an interesting and polarizing discussion, it was the subtle undertones that many may have missed that were the most disconcerting.

. . . many quasi-religious groups to unite around a mixture of religious teachings and then brand honest Christian believers as bigots for clinging to salvation in Christ alone.

The undertones to which I am referring were two-fold in that in their ongoing efforts to avoid dissension amongst themselves (re avoid offending those of different faiths), the three leaders on the panel admitted that they were caught by surprise by the school district’s decision.

In an effort to get ahead of the controversy they made observations along the lines that Muslim prayer and in particular the Islamic leanings behind it was not really a question of religious freedom but one based on a political imperative.  Specifically, the Muslim services are part of a much bigger agenda to proselytize Canada and the United States.  This reasoned the panel, is the real threat!

If the “threat” as they called it is political in nature and is real, which I will explain why it may very well be the case in a few moments, then the leaders’ apathetic acquiescence to a syncretism doctrine is what has opened the door to said threat.

Like banning Christmas trees or sending students home for wearing t-shirts proclaiming their faith in the name of a false tolerance for other religions, we have diluted our own values.  In the process, we have become vulnerable to those who do not have to deal with such division or duplicity of belief.

Now the question of course is how, in an age when school prayer is frowned upon, did those who are of a Muslim faith gain approval to hold worship services on school property during the lunch hour?

Again the esteemed panel reasoned that there is a political element to this story that circumvented the long-standing, carefully structured “understanding” between them.  Overlooking the fact that their inter-faith dealings are about as useful as the crew of the Titantic arguing who is at fault for hitting the iceberg while the ship sinks into oblivion, they point to the power of Islamic money as the driving force behind the district’s decision to allow school prayer.  In this light they may be on to something.

In my series Islamic Fundamentalism: The Pending Storm, I delve deeply into the increasing global influence of the Islamic Financial Platform in which both New York and London are battling to become the the global financial center for tapping into the wealth of Muslim investors.

An objective that should be noted, is shared by venerable American corporations such as General Electric.

General Electric, who openly acknowledged that they “want to become a regular sukuk issuer over time,” having already issued a $500 million bond as part of an overall $8 billion strategy, expressed their hope that “other Western players would follow their lead and issue sukuks.”

In short, and if you follow the money, you have to ask yourself this question . . . can our politicians be influenced by the financial industry?  If the answer is yes, then Muslim prayer in school could be a logical consequence . . . and perhaps just the beginning.

The reasoning for this is quite simple.  The financial markets and for the most part politicians are agnostic in terms of their achieving their objectives.

With the former greed, pure and simple, is the driving force, while politicians are motivated by those that can lead them to the pinnacle of power re get them elected.  If you agree with this simple premise, then it is not a stretch to realize that those who possess the power to influence are likely going to be the one’s who are heard and accommodated.

If you question the above statement, research Operation Ajax and the fall of the democratically elected Mossadegh government in Iran.  You will discover that a “We the People” democracy takes a back seat to financial interests.

This of course brings us back full circle to the see no evil, speak no evil and hear no evil vanilla panel, whose quest not to offend has diluted our own religious convictions under the facade of universal truth and tolerance.

It is this mindset that has made us vulnerable to the shifting realities of global economic influence.

So what is the answer?

Stop trying to appease one another and hold steadfast to your beliefs and position in society and the world around you.  For Christians who believe that Jesus Christ is the only way to heaven say so proudly and without hesitation – no apologies necessary.  And for goodness sakes put up a Christmas Tree and wish people Merry Christmas.  If some are offended, too bad because tolerance is supposed to be a two-way street.

The same should also go for the other religions, as the primary objective of one’s beliefs should not be one of compromise so as to avoid offence.  This is a lukewarm doctrine that serves no one’s best interests!

Are we teaching our children appeasement under the guise of being tolerant?

As for the schools, give equal access to all students to practice their faith on school grounds.  If a Christian or Jewish group of students want to hold lunch time services then let them.  If fights ensue deal with it!  Don’t run away from it by pretending your tolerant when all you are is just cowardly.

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Does the pharmaceutical industry influence doctor diagnosis of mental illness? (Part 1 of 2)

As I have come to read more and more about you and of course spend some time on your blog I find that you have an edge that enables you to provide a different take on mental illness Natalie.

One thing that stands out and on which I would like to get your feedback centers on the reference to 1 in 4 people living with mental illness.

Specifically I have been covering the pharmaceutical industry extensively over the past few years in both articles and on my radio show.

One post that stands out referenced the fact that in 2006 close to $7 billion (which represented the single largest expenditure through Medicaid that year) in anti-psychotic drugs was prescribed to patients – many of whom were children between the ages of 3 and 17 years old.

Here is the question . . . it is clear that between the above statistics and the significant amount of off-label marketing done by pharmaceutical companies that it is in their interest for people to be diagnosed with an illness.

Does this mean that the 1 in 4 finding is potentially skewed to reflect pharmaceutical industry interest as opposed to reflecting an actual situation.

After all, doctors and their prescribing practice is likely influenced by big pharma.

What do you think?

By the way, here is the link to the above referenced article titled “Antipsychotic Prescriptions . . . for Children: Is the Medicaid Story Today’s Version of Go Ask Alice? (UPDATE for 2011)

The following is a question that I posted to Natalie Jeanne Champagne’s blog Healthy Place: Recovering From Mental Illness in which she states “If one in four people, at some point in their lives, live with mental illness we are in large company. Albeit probably not happy company, but company nonetheless.”

What prompted my query was a comment made by Andy Behrman during a recent interview when he suggested that the pharmaceutical industry’s focus is on driving sales as opposed to treating people with an illness. For those who may not be familiar with Behrman, he is the author of the book Electroboy; A Memoir of Mania that is slated to become a major motion picture in 2013.

A few days after the show, I came across an article that indicated that a study was championing Seroquel – a powerful anti-psychotic drug used to treat Bipolar Disorder, as a cure for the fear of public speaking and social phobia.

The study, which was the result of a collaborative effort between the University of Minnesota and AstraZeneca (who is the drug’s creator), clearly sets off a number of alarms. Similar to the sentiment expressed by the Ruth Stafford Peale axiom of finding a need and filling it, the company appears to be creating a need or illness and filling it . . . with a prescription of Seroquel.

There are a number of serious questions this raises besides the obvious ones regarding a cash grab.

For example, what impact do this broadening of the drug’s use have on doctor diagnosis of mental illness? Even more interesting is how does this affect treatment and recovery of people who actually suffer from a mental illness within the framework or context of traditional diagnosis?

Think about this last point for a moment . . . if mental illness becomes normalized in terms of encompassing more of the populace, then are we not redefining the boundaries for what is in fact good mental health – and the responsibilities this implies?

As a result, does the at times defiant outcry from those suffering from (or claiming to) suffer from a mental illness, that they are not alone because many people are part of the struggle, provide a platform of justification that hinders as opposes to helping the treatment process. After all, some may reason that if half the people I know are on Seroquel or for that matter any other anti-psychotic drug, maybe I am not really as ill as I think I am.

The danger of course is that those who truly do deal with a mental illness are often times in denial and less likely to stay on a prescribed medication, while those who use the drugs as an escape are likely to become regular paying customers.

In Part 2 of this series I will examine these as well as the other possible implications of an industry whose apparent main objective is not to cure but to perpetually treat.

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Who gains the most from the Kony 2012 video? You might be surprised . . .

I am an American missionary who currently lives in Uganda and has lived here 14 years. This thing with Kony is really about money. In the 20+ years that Kony was killing thousands there was no intervention by an outside country. Yet it was happening. The minute there was oil found here, then the British sent people over to “assist”.

I have to say that the more circumstances or situations change, the more they remain the same in that the imperatives of foreign policy are often driven by oligarchical interests and political expediency that has little to do with the day-to-day lives of a country’s citizens.

For those in the drivers seat of public influence this reality often times means framing situations in such a fashion as to make it a “do it your way, my way proposition” to which they can then say we had to respond because public outcry demand that we do so.

Of course this has become an increasingly difficult task from say 1952 when the Eisenhower Administration, which according to many heralded “the brave new world of CIA-led coups and assassinations, overthrew the democratically elected government of Mohammad Mossadegh in Iran under the auspices of protecting America and Americans from the growing threat of global Communism.  Can you imagine the U.S. trying to overthrow a democratic government, let alone do so openly, in today’s better informed and less trusting world?

In reality, and as indicated in my last Kony 2012 post, the real reason for the coup was the fact that Mossadegh was going to nationalize Iran’s oil fields and in the process increase the country’s interest in its own national resource from the paltry 17% it previously held.  At the time, the lion’s share of the profits from Iranian crude went to the company we now know as British Petroleum.

While some will suggest that this was a fair arrangement given that it was the colonizing British who turned Iran’s vast natural resources into black gold, which by the way is a good discussion for another day, it is the individual whom the U.S. supported that raises the most troubling questions.  I am talking about the Shah of Iran who was a despot leader whose vicious private police force SAVIK tortured and killed countless Iranians in the name of his maintaining a stranglehold of absolute power.

I contend, and I doubt that there would be many who would disagree, that the Shah’s years in power through U.S. intervention and support led directly to the 1979 Iranian Revolution and ultimately to the 9/11 terrorist attack.

Here is the thing, if the U.S. could overthrow a democratic government headed by a popular leader who championed freedom and human rights, and place into power a known thug under the banner of the people’s ruler, all for the sake of protecting Western oil interests then how easy would it be to vilify a Kony who as the missionary indicated had been operating unencumbered for 20 plus years and who I might add has not been in Uganda according to some reports for some time.

And this as they say is the rub . . .

One can reasonably argue that had oil not been discovered in Uganda it is likely that the closest we would have come to hearing of a Kony of any kind is the Hawaiian coffee.

While there is no doubt that what was and is still happening in Uganda is terrible, there are many other places in the world that warrant equal if not greater attention.

Take for example the global problem of human trafficking which is according to studies “second only to drug trafficking as the most profitable illegal industry in the world,” generating revenue that is estimated to be between $5 and $9 billion annually.

How about closer to home where it is estimated that 1 in 3 women experience some form of abuse, with the statistics for child abuse are no less shocking.

What this tells me is that from a mass audience perspective, it is far easier to grasp the concept of a single evil person and rally our time and energy around bringing someone to justice, even though the crimes while heinous are just the tip of the proverbial iceberg on the global stage.

Even more troubling is the fact that villains like the Shah of Iran, Saddam Hussein, Manuel Noriega and the like are somehow made less of a threat and less odoriferous when they are on the right side of Western interests.  Once they have served their purpose the image switch can be, as history shows, easily turned to reveal them as the deplorable creatures they are.  However, no one remembers to ask why they were supported by Western interests int he first place!

This is where the problems with the Kony 2012 video come into play, simply because the sense of urgency it created is artificial in relation to the length of time the problem has existed, the extent of the problem in relation to other serious issues and the motivation behind it being championed.

In each of these key areas, it is sad to say that we and in particular our emotions are being played for less than honorable intentions.

Click to read 1st Post in this series . . .

In the next installment we will examine what would be a reasonable response to the Kony situation, that will take into account the level and timing of the action to be taken, and the framework in which the response should be both managed and measured in terms of effectiveness.

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So where was the Westboro Gang at Whitney Houston’s funeral?

“What I do disagree with is that she has 2 blocks cleared so the family can grieve in peace, but anti war protesters can yell and scream 50 yards away at a fallen soldiers funeral. If you can clear out 2 blocks for a funeral for 1 singer you can clear out 2 blocks for all the men and women who have given their lives for our countries freedom.”

Comment regarding the father of a soldier killed in action burning the flag of New Jersey in protest over that State’s decision to lower the flag to half mast in honor of Whitney Houston

I guess the Westboro crazies as I call them have enough common sense to avoid poking the eye of public sentiment when doing so would really rile up the masses.  The sad part is what this says about our society and the values that some hold near and dear to their hearts.

On the one hand, you have the families of fallen heroes who have made the ultimate sacrifice for their country being subjected to the acerbic rantings of a deranged religious cult holding placards with the words “Pray For More Dead Soldiers” and “God Killed Your Sons.”

On the other hand, and no disrespect towards Whitney Houston and her family, but you have someone who was battling a number of personal demons including addiction – subject matter I might add for which the Westboro folks have even more colorful placard terms, and nary a negative sign in sight.  I guess the day of Ms. Houston’s funeral must have been some kind of a holiday for cults.

Putting aside the fact that this discrepancy in practice illustrates beyond any reasonable doubt the absolute absurdity and contradictory silliness of Phelps and the fringe element that is the Westboro movement, I cannot help but wonder why Houston’s life and sad passing took on greater importance than those of the sons and daughters, fathers and mothers and brothers and sisters who died serving an even higher purpose.

Come on Oprah (referring to the TV icon’s impromptu video about people coming together while Whitney was alive), isn’t it time we all came together as a nation to embrace the multitude of the real heroes in real life?

“Just remember this, Mr. Potter, that this rabble you’re talking about . . . they do most of the working and paying and living and dying in this community.

Well, it is too much to have them work and pay and live and die in a couple of decent rooms and a bath?”

The above comment by George Bailey in the holiday classic It’s A Wonderful Life speaks to this very sentiment, because it is “the rabble” or everyday citizen who does the working and the paying and the living and the dying.  And it is the soldiers who make a conscientious choice to serve the needs of their country and in the process secure the freedom that enables a Whitney Houston to ascend the heights of fame who make the biggest, collective contribution.  Are they who have fallen, and their families, any less worthy of mourning in both dignity and peace?

Yet here you have it, an admittedly blessed and wonderful talent such as Ms. Houston being given the respect of a two-block radius perimeter of privacy, while the families of everyday soldiers must be subjected to hearing the venomous spewings of a selective and duplicitous self-serving cult who are afforded this twisted ability under the right to free speech banner.  The free speech I might add, won by the lives of the very soldiers towards whom the Westboro odoriferous barbs are directed.

While I personally would not burn a flag I can, given the above, understand why this Michigan father would.

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While it seems morally wrong to artificially alter what nature freely provides, is terminator or suicide seed technology getting a bum rap?

John, the kind of control you’re attempting is not possible.  If there’s one thing the history of evolution has taught us, it’s that life will not be contained.  Life breaks free.  It expands to new territories.  It crashes through barriers.  Painfully, maybe even . . . dangerously, but and . . . well, there it is . . . I’m simply saying that life – – finds a way.

Dr. Ian Malcolm from Jurassic Park

One would like to think that no matter how we may try to master the elements of nature, in the end and like Icarus flying too close to the sun our efforts will ultimately see us crash to the earth in a self-destructive heap of greed and arrogance.

For those who oppose the propagation of Genetic use restriction technology (GURT) more commonly known as terminator or suicide technology, the anecdotally visual prose of mankind’s purported avarice resulting in a fall is as much hoped for as it is expected.

My problem in filtering the unbridled and impassioned ranting of the voices representing socially conscientious outrage and the almost calculated psychopathic efficiency of the faceless corporate drones espousing a better life through biotechnology, to reach some sort of a reasonable consensus is at times daunting.

On the one hand, corporate avarice as demonstrated by the recent shenanigans of the pharmaceutical industry wantonly breaking the law with the heavy fines being levied for off-label marketing considered little more than a cost – and a low cost at that, of doing business, doesn’t do much to build confidence in American conglomerate morality.

Conversely, the claims of the ties between childhood vaccinations and autism in which a much heralded report supporting a purported link was ultimately exposed as a biased misrepresentation of the data, means that accusations of a big brother conspiracy take on more of an air of an Oliver Stone thriller than a legitimate contention.

This left versus right, Republican versus Democrat, suit versus bell bottom schism is of course nothing new.  In fact one might think of each side as being a traveling show in their own right in which searching for connecting points of conflict is the real mandate.  The irony of course, and as demonstrated by the recent Occupy Wall Street movement in which many of those doing the occupying were actually the ones realizing financial gains through the very system against which they were railing (check your 401K if you don’t believe me), and you will discover that the real paradox is that in many ways both factions are quite similar.

Let’s face it with an accusatory cacophony of self-serving rhetoric there are credibility gaps to be found on both sides of the debate.

For example, I recently watched a special on Monsanto in which the company’s GMO Bt cotton seeds had reportedly created a suicide economy in India by forcing poor farmers to borrow their way into an abyss of incomeless debt leading them to ultimately commit suicide.  This purported link was challenged by statistics which seemed to indicate that although high, suicide rates actually dropped after the introduction of the offending cotton seed.  So what is the answer?  Is this another vaccination – autism claim exposed or, have the numbers been fudged in an effort to diffuse what is a highly combustible situation?

Sadly, and at a gut level I personally am cynical about any corporation seeking to artificially harness the wonder of nature’s reproductive capabilities under a banner of altruistic endeavor.  Come on, we have all come to see that there are more Gordon Gekkos in the business world than there are Horatio Alger protagonists.

This being said, and outside of the two camps in which respective positions are firmly entrenched, what are we the everyday citizen to think as we grapple with job losses and tighter personal budgets and kids going to college and making ends meet, health care and retirement.  What is our contextual point of understanding and what practical versus philosophical impact does this issue have on our everyday lives?

So far beyond the volleys of flaming angst directed one at the other, neither side as of this date has presented  a compelling case to shake the general public out of our complacent awareness that something may or may not be remiss.

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