Archive for October, 2011

Fair Air Fare?

Excuse my logic but who hasn’t heard a friend or colleague exclaim “Next we’ll have to pay for the air we breathe!”  Is this as far fetched as it seems?

A friend of mine claims that he heard of some politician actually floating the idea of charging people for the oxygen they consume at individualized rates based on each person’s body weight.  As we have often heard, the United States in particular has a problem with obesity amongst the general population so we would quite literally be paying through the nose.

I looked up this concept on Google and Yahoo Search.  There is a smattering of posts by the general public addressing this idea.  There is no mention of the politician my friend referred to.  I would suggest then that we are in no imminent danger of having to pay for our oxygen.

However, there has been discussion on a major radio show about the inverse of this pay for oxygen gibberish.  I recall listening to a talk show host (it was either Michael Savage or Michael Smerconish) last year conjecture how in its mad dash to slow  CO2 emissions into the atmosphere, various world governments could one day outlaw the simple human act of exhaling.

So in the worst case scenario we would pay for the oxygen we breathe and then it would be illegal to exhale.  Talk about a conundrum?  I think back to when Bill Clinton uttered his now famous expression “I didn’t inhale.”  Pretty soon we could find all of ourselves saying the same thing.

With all of the above in mind, I herewith list other things that we take for granted which the fatalists probably believe we could one day absurdly be charged for.

Sunlight.  I don’t know the mechanics of how our exposure rates could be measured, but if there’s a way to make money off the Sun some enterprising government or corporation will do it.

Rain.  Aren’t most people already charged for the water they use?  So is this idea far off?

Noise.  Yes, we could be charged for the noise we make.  For years extremist environmentalists have complained about noise pollution.  Charging us for any sounds we make either purposefully or accidentally would be the defining moment for these zealots.

Happiness.  Misery loves company so the saying goes.  If our world were to be taken over by a really miserable dictatorial individual, happiness could come with a price.

Now all of this may sound like Orwellian thought for the 21st Century but consider this. We now have people charging other people for the right to own a star in outer space.  We are told like it or not we have to wear seat belts.  The government will sometimes step in and mandate chemotherapy for a child against the parents’ wishes.  In China, a large percentage of families are allowed to have one child only. 

Getting back to the original point of this blog, namely the possibility that one day we could be charged for the oxygen we breathe.  Yes it could happen, but if you’ll pardon the pun, “Don’t hold your breath.”


Copyright 2011; Greg S.    









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Money and Power – Dollars and Sense

Excuse my logic but I am not crazy about that old adage “money is power.”  I do think that money can produce power, but I don’t think that power is as absolute as some other types of power referred to later. Having money may give someone a modicum of power but the magnitude of that power is sometimes far overstated.

I think money power can be broken down into at least four categories (and probably even more for those who are extremely analytical).  Those categories are Good Money Power, Bad Money Power, Money Power Gone Awry and Money With No Power.  We will briefly examine each of these.

People such as the late Andrew Carnegie and more recently the late New York Society Fashion Mogul Milton Petrie are two shining examples of Philanthropic giants.  In more recent times, Musician and Promoter Bob Geldof, and Microsoft’s Bill Gates also stand out as extremely giving money men. These men are examples of how money can be harnessed into Good Power.  In the late 1800s and early 1900s, Carnegie poured huge sums of money into libraries, schools and universities in theU.S.,U.K.andCanada.  For his part, Petrie donated much of his wealth to many universities and cultural institutions and also set up lifelong trust funds of $20,000 per year to people such as Marla Hanson, the model who had her face slashed and New York Police Officer Steven McDonald who was shot and paralyzed in the line of duty.  Petrie also set up such funds for two widows of slain New York City Detectives killed in action.  Mr. Geldof networked a wide array of big name recording artists and used his own capital to organize the star-studded musical group Band Aid preceding his hugely successful fundraising concerts Live Aid and later Live 8 which gave hope to starving peoples in Africa and elsewhere.  As for Bill Gates well, his generosity in terms of dollars given is practically off the charts.

As for Bad Money Power I do not wish to castigate specific individuals by naming names.  However, I will point out several anonymous examples of what I feel is Bad Money Power.  I know of someone who travels in circles of the affluent and there are two different remarks my acquaintance told me of that were made by people with money.

The first remark came from a multimillionaire who said “If you’re not worth at least $20 million you’re nobody.” Okay. I guess this man thinks that 99.9 percent of the human race is comprised of nobodies.

My acquaintance also related a story about a different man, also wealthy who was confronted by a person advocating that the rich should make greater efforts to spread some of their wealth amongst the poor.  This man reportedly stated quite emphatically “There are rich people and there are poor people. It has always been that way and will always stay that way.”

PerhapsIndonesia’s late President Suharto,Egypt’s deposed leader Mubarak and now Gaddafi, the pariah ofLibyaall felt that way. By now it has become clear that their vast fortunes were no match for the will of the people. 

Which brings us to Money Power Gone Awry.  In recent years we have seen time and time again where grotesquely large sums of money were thrown at a problem with no positive net results.  When George Bush Sr. was president he allocated extraordinary sums of money to his self-proclaimed war on drugs.  The drug problem in this country ebbed slightly for a time but in the long run it spiked dramatically.  More recently, our country has poured hundreds of billions into wars inIraqandAfghanistanand yet both countries continue to be in a state of turmoil. 

So all of this considered, is money really power?  As the above shows, Money can display positive, negative or misguided power. 

Some money has the power and some doesn't


That leaves us with Money that has no power.

Consider that there are remote places on our very planet where money won’t get you anything. In some tribal-controlled regions in Africa, South America or the far reaches of the Sahara Desert, all the money in the world wouldn’t necessarily keep you safe from violent cultures. In fact, an open show of opulence on a rich person’s part could get them killed in these places. 

Many years ago, I was planning to take a cruise down the Amazon River with my then business partner.  The travel agency running the tour told us his secret for successful trading with Amazonian people.  He didn’t tell us to bring a big sack of money.  He told us to bring several cartons of Marlboro Cigarettes and some pairs of Levis Jeans.  He said the natives in the Amazon jungle would give us practically anything we wanted of theirs in exchange for those two commodities.

I also submit to you that the possession of great amounts of money may actually reduce an individual’s power.  Sometimes great wealth weakens amongst other things, an individual’s moral fiber, self control and judgmental powers. My parents once knew a multi-millionaire who came to their Halloween masquerade party.  People were playing the popular Halloween game “bobbing for apples,” the idea of which is to bend your head down into a barrel full of water and grab as many apples out of the barrel as you can using only your mouth. No hands allowed. This rich guy when he thought no one was looking started grabbing the apples with his hands. Unknown to him he was being videotaped at the time.  It became a standing joke in our family that this is how this man got their wealth, namely through ignominious means.

I believe really great power can’t be quantified in the way money can be.  I believe it can take many forms.  There have been documented cases of people seeing a child pinned under a car and lifting the vehicle off the child with their bare hands. Likewise, who hasn’t heard of someone being given six months to live only to confound the experts and live for ten years?   So is money really power? Yes it is. But I wouldn’t trust my life to it.


Copyright 2011; Greg S.

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