Sunday, August 28, 2011

Is paying Taxes Patriotic?

The other day at the lunch table somebody was making fun of Vice-President Joe Biden for saying that paying taxes was patriotic. [1] This sparked one of our famous lunch time debates, I agreed with Biden, I think that paying taxes is a patriotic act. There was a this guy at the table a big Ron Paul Fan Boy [RPFB] his head almost exploded when I said that paying taxes is patriotic.

So, I am going to go a bit deeper into whether paying more taxes is patriotic or not.

First, I'd like to begin by stating explicitly what I did NOT say:

1. I didn't say, and I don't believe that everyone has to pay more taxes. I think that people should pay in their proportion to their ability to pay.

2. I didn't say that the more patriotic you are, the more taxes you pay, or that the less taxes you pay, the less patriotic you are.

3. I do not agree with blindly giving more money to the government.

What I did say is that I think that paying taxes is a patriotic act, just like voting, volunteering, or serving in the military.

So later, my friend the RPFB asked: if paying taxes is patriotic, then was Obama being un-patriotic when he increased the budget deficit?

My first reaction to this was to question the intention of RPFB, why ask such a dumb question? but then, I remembered that a long time ago there was a greek philosopher who went around asking questions like that, and he made a lot of people angry as well, his name: Socrates.

Now, I am not saying by any means our RPFB is in the same league as Socrates, but I think his question addresses deeper concepts and deserves an answer.

Well, first we have to understand what does it mean to be patriotic, right? I looked it up[2] and Patriotism means devotion to a country. So it means being dedicated, devoted, loyal.

Now, I'd would like to point out my personal opinion when it comes to loyalty and patriotism, I think it's OK to love one's country, and it's ok to serve. But one must be wary of those who invoke patriotism, and loyalty in oder to ask you to do something, you may or may not want to be taken advantage of.

Take your patriotic person Joe, he's a patriot, he loves his country, he wants the US to win the war on terrorism, he enlists in the Marines, he goes to Afghanistan, he dies in the war, was he patriotic? A lot of people will agree that he was a fine fellow, a patriotic, brave young man that deserves the highest honor you can give a person by making the ultimate sacrifice for the nation. Now, what about the leaders who decided to send him to war, are they patriotic for making him die?

Now, Suppose we have two Generals, Gen A and Gen. B. we have General A on the ground, and he makes a blunder during a battle that costs his Divisions to get decimated, thousands of troops die as a consequence of his decisions. Is he more patriotic or less patriotic than General B, who planned out a clear strategy to win without heavy losses in human life?
I think you'd agree that General B is no less or no more Patriotic than General A. Although willing to fight and die for the US maybe considered patriotic, sending marines to their death is not necessarily a patriotic act in itself.

I see paying taxes to a lesser extent the same as willingness to die. Just like we need patriot Joes to defend the country, we need taxpayer's dollars to run the country. The difference is that paying taxes is a not a voluntary act, also, paying taxes may not get you killed by an IED.

Is willingness to give more money patriotic? Yes. Does that mean that a policy where you ask for more taxes is a more patriotic policy? Hell no. Well, it depends on the details, but as a general statement, not necessarily so.

Now, back to the Obama question. is he not being patriotic? Maybe, maybe not, his sense of patriotism is a value, a sentiment, just like Generals A and B, they may both be patriotic but one made a mistake and one didn't. Is General A less patriotic if he didn't win the war? Or because he failed at his task?

Suppose, that Obama made a huge mistake with the deficit thing (I don't know if he did or not, both Republicans with Bush and the Democrats with Obama doubled the budget deficit, why? I don't know, there must have been some kind of a good reason for doing so, I just can't comprehend it) does that make him less patriotic? Nope, I don't think so, unless he did it purposely to harm the country, nope I don't think so.

So in conclusion, willing to make sacrifices is a patriotic sentiment. Asking people to make sacrifices not necessarily. Causing people to make sacrifices because of a mistake, not necessarily related to patriotism.

That is all.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

I hate my last post

But I am leaving it there, I hate it because it makes it sound as if I know how to deal with people, like I am better than anyone else at doing that. I don't like it because to me it comes across as preachy and I am better than thou, etc, etc. And the look for the best bit sounds corny and cliche.

I'll be honest, I do strive for that, I do try to use a positive filter to figure out what others actually care about, and to try to see what's good about the other person. I do that to overcome my natural tendency to notice the opposite. It's too easy for me to find faults in others, it's easy for me not to care about what others do, and in a sense, that's the way we all are, it's the natural state of things. However, I like to be conscious and tuned to what's going on around me. Not because I am paranoid or not satisfied with myself, it's just that it's one more way to better myself, I know that my social skills could be better, so I try to work on them.

I do think that when you only notice the bad things about people and when all you do is point out other people's shortcomings, it makes you a more miserable person, not because others would want to be around you (although that's also true) but because on the inside you'll always have bitterness. I think that life is way too short to concentrate in all the crappy things, for what? Is good to live with your eyes, ears and mind open. To perceive everything and not live in self-denial, but concentrating on the negative makes you ...unhappy.

I felt like I needed to clarify that.


Saturday, August 20, 2011

The Secret to dealing with others

"Hell is other people" -Jean Paul Satre

It's simple, other people are just like you!...except when they are not. You see, people can appear complicated, unpredictable, irrational, sometimes moody, cruel, and sometimes, just plain assholes. But guess what, it's all your fault. Yeah, it's your fault you're mad and frustrated, because nobody but you can really determine how you will react to other people. You see, you can't control what others will do, but you can control how you react to what other people do.

When I said that other people are just like you, I meant that everyone is just worried about their life, their problems, their issues, their hobbies, their habits, their friends, their family....just. like. you. What does that mean? They are not noticing that thing you care about, because they are too busy caring about their own business.

(Wow, this posts is starting to sound like a Self Help, Dr. Phil kind of thing....I am sorry, that's really not my style)

Let me shift gears a bit, change the tone, and finally get to the point.

There's this trick I've been trying to do that works wonders when dealing with others. It does not create miracles, but it makes a huge difference when applied correctly.

Put yourself in the other person's shoes.

You've probably heard it before, it's cliche even. However, it works, when you think about it, it only makes sense when trying to communicate you must think of the message, the receiver, transmitter, and the context. If you don't understand why your boss is a bit flustered when he replied to your email, or why your kid is in a bad mood, or why your wife is mad because you didn't take out the trash, then, you are not paying attention. That can cost you.

But I've added a little twist to that rule, I've noticed something about the people I admire the most, they never complain about others. I notices that real leaders always bring out the best in people. So it brings me to my second rule:

Look for the best in people.

That one is easy to say, hard to do, if you are like me, it's easier to notice other people's defects than your own defects, it's much easier to know your own virtues than to see other people's.

You se, everyone is good at something, everyone has something that they care about. Looking for the good instead of the bad puts me in a better frame of mind, I get less annoyed with people, when I try to see things from their point of view, assuming the best.

Now, I know how this may sound, it may sound too optimistic, too naive to assume the best in people. But it's a better way to live, you have to know how to not get hurt by others, but if you are paying attention you'll never have a problem.

If you know me at all, you'll notice that my social skills could be better, but compared to how it used to be, I have improved a lot, I am naturally self-conscious, and I was raised to mistrust the whole world outside your own family.

Anyway, I have to cut this short, gotta go take Anthony to get a haircut...he starts school Monday.


Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Leadership the Marine Corps Way

Note: I was thinking about this as I was getting ready to go to work, instead of putting it off for later, I decided to write this all down now before completely forgetting about it. I noticed that when I get an idea for a blog post, it's never the same if I write it a day or two later than when I write "when it comes to me" Anyway.

The other day I was going trough my stuff looking for an old book, when I stumbled across my old notebook from the War, in it, I found minutia that's completely irrelevant now, checklists, packing lists, contact numbers for my guys, plans for raids an other combat ops. But one thing that got my attention was what I wrote on the first page right after the cover:

It's Titled "Principles of Leadership"

As you may or may not know, I had some sort of transformation as far as the way I look at the world and life in general, what it comes down to is that I must be one of those true to the core bleeding heart liberals down underneath, not because I can't pull a trigger, that's pure non sense, I am still a marine, and always will be, I know what I can do, and I know what I did out there, but one thing that nobody can stop me from doing is noticing the level of injustice in this world. That changed things for me, the truth is, there are people who go trough life feeling immense suffering, some of it their own doing, but not all, the thing that got to me was seeing children in the mess, the only fault of their own was not having the common sense to be born in a country like ours. How could they have been so dumb? oh that's right, you can't choose that. So seeing the whole spectrum of suffering made me change the way I see everything, a paradigm shift, so to speak. If you know me, you know what I think about religion, politics and that whole mess.

However, someone asked me, if I still buy into the whole "Honor Stuff" from the marines, for some reason, the question got to me, the answer is yes, I do, why wouldn't I? but the way it was asked rubbed me the wrong way or something, I don't think it was ill-intentioned, and the person that asked does not know me personally. So it's ok, I forgive any actual or imagined transgression. It's no big deal, really. But I do want to list out the thing that will never change, and I want to point out what I think it's the best thing about the Marine Infantry. Their training philosophy, which I am grateful for, and the reason why they say you are always a marine, because the values they teach can stay with you forever.

The Marines invests in their people

Besides the obvious physical conditioning and outstanding rifle marksmanship, the most important measure of a marine in the grunts, is his character. They of course do not phrase it that way, they like to call it "leadership". What it means, is that every marine is responsible for his own character development. Every month there is an evaluation done by his supervisor in which all the leadership traits are individually scored, but the thing is, leadership is built in the culture.

I just want to point out that the page in my journal represent my take away from my time in the infantry. This guidebook applies to everyone. So I thought I'd share it here. **edit: Just realized that this comes from an Army manual, but the marine corps version is pretty much the same**


(a) Technically and tactically proficient, can accomplish all task to standards
(b) Posses professional character traits, Courage, Candor, Competence and Integrity


(a) Four major factors of leadership and how they affect each other. The led, the leader, the situation and communications.
(b) yourself and seek self-improvement. Strengths and weakness of your character, knowledge and skills. Continually develop your strengths and work on overcoming your weakness.
(c) your soldiers and lookout for their well being, train them for the rigors of combat, take care of them.


(a) Seek responsibility and take responsibility for your actions
(b) Make sound and timely decisions
(c) Set the example
(d) Keep your people informed
(e) Develop a sense of responsibility
(f) Ensure the task is understood, supervised and accomplished
(g) Build the team
(h) employ your unit in accordance with its capabilities

The point is that these skills are transferable to all aspects of life. It's up to the individual to work on these though, some people go trough 4 years in the grunts without "getting it" but, it is part of the environment. Something that I strive for. It comes from the there. For that, I am thankful. I am proud of the Marine Corps and the Army as well, for that reason. The work ethic they posses is unparalleled.

That is all.