Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness

Our Declaration of Independence says it. Our morality implies it. Everyone is entitled to Life, Liberty and The Pursuit of Happiness. We have fought battles near and far to uphold it. We have had numerous discussions about its meaning but dare I say, they really are self evident.

America wanted to get itself out from under monarchs, despots and tyranny. We wanted a system that would just do the basics. The last thing they wanted was a new form of domination. You can argue the above philosophically but that was the situation. They also could not have dreamed of a world as complex as ours. Fair enough?

Okay Life says you can’t go running around killing people. It is from the fact you are entitled to that life that the other two rights flow. It is the starting point.

Liberty means two things to me. First is you should be able to roam the country without constraints. No one should own you. No slavery. We really blew it here. It also means you should be able to think whatever you want. The government and others should not be able to coerce you into doing, saying or thinking anything.

Lastly is the Pursuit of Happiness. Define your own idea of heaven. But it does not mean you are assured of its achievement. You can strive for it but there are no guarantees. If you want to sit on your butt that is okay too.

Now all these things feed into a social contract. It is an agreement between government and the people saying you give me this and I will give up my right to do that. Money, airports, courts etc. Still simple enough.

Now it gets dicey. Enter conservatives, liberals and independents alike.

How much government is enough? How much is too much. We really have changed the original plan.

As a result of the depression in the thirties, we saw the entry of the government as the savior of last resort…the safety net. WPA, Social Security et al were envisioned to be the stopgap of total devastation. One for all and all for one.

Ditto Medicare and Medicaid in the sixties. Well meaning but really dangerous because now your pursuit of happiness was getting a boost from an outside source. And it became an opiate for political pushers.

The insidious nature of this conversation is that it slowly creates an underlying philosophy….you owe me. No matter how badly I screw up. No matter what I do to my finances. If I fail in school. If I badly abuse my body. You owe me. Heal me. No repercussions. Just do it. Ergo, “Entitlement”

But it goes further. If you were making $150,000 a year and you lose your job you think you are owed a $150,000 job. If you moved up to a 4000 square foot house, you wouldn’t think of sizing down to save money or avoid foreclosure. Somehow you would think you were being screwed.

The word entitlement goes far beyond Social Security and Medicare. As a country we have marketed unrealistic expectations. We advertise and entice. The American Dream. And then we rebel or cry ignorance when it results in disaster.

For every right we have there is a responsibility. If we really want to be free, we have to realize the risk it entails. If we want life, it also means you have to take care of your life. Pursue happiness but no one should think they are assured success.

Incredibly, we don’t think suffering is a part of life. Daddy Warbucks of all sorts will bail me out whether it is my house, my body or my soul. Maybe we are too soft. Maybe we are brats. Maybe we have never had it real bad. We will.

We have a fabulous country. I am not espousing we undue so much of the good we have created. I abhor the huge divisions between classes. I hate to see poverty. But we have changed the plan in principle and thrust and it will bankrupt us.

Part of the contract says I will give you X and you give me Y. No more No less. We all expect more and more. Rich and poor both have to understand what’s happening. There has got to be a lot of give on both sides. Liberals don’t despair. Conservatives don’t get smug. All are responsible….especially me.

As Always

Ted The Great



Say Amen….

Some of you may remember Don Imus’s famous Discount House of Worship for the Church of the Gooey Death in Del Rio, Texas. Playing the Rev. Billy Sol Harkus, he would verbalize several spiritual exhortations and then there was a rousing “Amen” from the church chorus. I have heard those same responses this week from the Nile to the halls of Congress.
The nothing short of titanic results in Egypt are at one time glorious and tragic. The ability of the people to topple a thirty year old regime in 18 days is nothing short of miraculous. They did it without violence. Cell phones replaced IED’s and rocket propelled grenades. A bad day for Al Queda.
At the same time it showed us and other nations for what we are. Manipulators for our own advantage. Mubarak was no worse and probably no better than the Shah of Iran. We kiss this guy’s butt because he helps us. We look the other way when human rights are trampled. All’s fair in love and war. A bad day for diplomats.


I hate hypocrites. I know some of you will say it is a necessary evil but I can’t agree. I saw first hand the idiot act in propping up puppets in Viet Nam. A Swift Boat friend sent me pictures of how the people of Viet Nam are suffering today. The Navy base and surroundings where we parked our patrol boats 40 years ago, now sport high rises and a beachside resort. 55,000 servicemen gave their lives to fight that arch enemy of democracy?
Once again I think what is going on is fabulous. Neither the CIA nor KGB intervened. They didn’t have a clue. Says something for all the billions spent on intelligence and foreign aid. I am not mad. I am bewildered.


Senator Rand Paul was on the TV tonight and I have to admit he made a hell of a lot of sense. The was a young newsman from the Middle East and he gave one of the most erudite and concise analyses of the uprisings in Egypt and Iran that I have heard to date. Both are out of the mainstream.

I taped all the panel news shows from Sunday. I had MOHS surgery today on my poor Irish mug, so I came home and watched them all in a blitz. They all spoke of Egypt but the close-ups now centered on the US budgetary process or lack thereof.

Republicans, Democrats, the Budget Director, all to a man would not address the Entitlement predicament. Boehnner said we had to educate the people first. Like the Prego commercial, the budget man said “It’s in there!” The Prez said tonight that we all had to get together. Yadda.Yadda

Sen. Paul eloquently pointed out that even if we took out the entire amount of discretionary spending in the budget we would still not balance the budget for this year. Everybody is cutting the 16% apart. Not the third rails. Everyone say Amen…

I am beyond encouraged because all of the party hacks are really beginning to look stupid. Rep. Paul Ryan is now the reigning genius on the budget and I think he is getting it. Not only intellectually but air time as well.

OK, it is a stretch, but do any of you feel a little like the populist crowd in Cairo? Years and years of politicos as well as diplomats are being called to task. Sure Obama’s State Department is in disarray but I think Foggy Bottom has been an apt moniker  for a long time. No further comment on Congress.

I will admit I had another blog ready for tomorrow but my intense research in the news world today put me over the top. Yes, I saw the light. Yes, I have been baptized. Yes, I am saved. No, I have not been drinking.

I still have to rant and rave about our financial problems. We have to cut spending. Sorry gang but we have to raise taxes. We have to cut into Medicare. We have to replace our infrastructure. Polls say the public knows we have to cut but they can’t agree where. I disagree.

I think we all know the facts down deep in our heart. I think we all know the party is over. We have got to take some pretty tough medicine. You know we will not be displaced. Just discomforted. Denial is not a river in Egypt.

Compare that minor hurt to those felt in Teheran, Cairo, or Khartoum. In the long run, say “Amen” brothers and sisters…..and let’s get on with it.

As Always;

Ted The Great



Since the 70’s there have been 100 attempted overthrows of totalitarian regimes. 85 have succeeded.


Leonardo DaVinci

Leonardo DaVinci was probably one of the greatest minds to come down the pike. I really don’t care for the word genius but I think it is apt. Maybe a better way to put it is that I think we all have great minds. He just knew how to use his a lot better than most.
I have talked before about a book by Michael Gelb, “How to Think Like Leonardo”. I will admit to plagiarism beforehand. I highly recommend it and will make a feeble attempt to describe a few of the “Principles of Thought” that make up DaVinci‘s genius.
Leonardo was a guy that ran full bore all the time. He was constantly thinking, questioning and absorbing. He would look at problems or disputes from three entirely different angles, often spending days or weeks on each side.
He developed detailed drawings many centuries ago of helicopters and submarines. He was at the same time a procrastinator and perfectionist which actually aren’t mutually exclusive. He was in great physical shape and a vegan. Trust me. I am not going that far.
Some Principles



Curiositae is his unending pursuit of how things work. He would look at both science and nature to see what made them tick. He never took anybody’s word on anything. It wasn’t arrogance but a real desire to internalize something once it was understood. Some things he could never figure out. That didn’t matter. The fun was in the pursuit.

Sensazione is the desire to use all the senses. This heightened awareness actually got his and should get our minds ticking. I listen to classical music when I write. In repacking my bags, I have repainted my office. I love the smell of flowers, garlic. Many times in the summer I like to see how many different shades of green there are in the landscape. Right now, unfortunately it is all white.

They took a group of students who had to learn a complex procedure. It took place over a month. They split in to two groups. One was in a modern classroom with neutral colors and adequate but bland lighting.

The others were in a class painted vibrant colors. There were flowers and classical music. There were textures and carpeting. I don’t have to tell you the results. Not only did the latter learn more quickly but had a retention rate that far surpassed the “ordinary” group. Maybe that’s where we should spend our money on education

Sfumato is the last one of the seven I will mention. It is really thinking at its utmost. It takes a problem without an obvious solution. Paradoxes, enigmas and ambiguities are the bedrock of this way of thinking. You treasure their complexity and rejoice in even a small piece of solving.

He would cringe at our current form of education. He would argue that there are no right answers to tests. Not to be a pain in the ass but to say that if we accept everything as fact, there will never be creativity or a totally unique way of looking at things.

This all really begs the question of heightened consciousness. Being aware of where we are in time and of those around you. We can view ourselves as part of a world or one of several billion pieces of random drift. Call it living life to its fullest. Not spending any day on automatic. Realizing that time and life is indeed precious.

To me these are really cool thoughts. If I am aware of my world, I can’t in any sense of good conscience be bad to you. I have got to realize that I have to take care of my surroundings. I can’t be self absorbed. There is an innate beauty in every person and thing around us. I think in our hectic world we are really losing that.

As I travel I have made a habit over the years of asking in Starbucks and restaurants how many people say please and thank you. The results have been notoriously bad. The worst was in of all places, Vail. It is not just a demonstration of courtesy but recognizing that there is another human being on the end of your “gimmee a latte !”.

It really takes a step towards religion. Do unto others. Realize how lucky we are. In this highly scientific world we tend towards narcissism. We can fabricate body parts. We can create life in a test tube. All in the name of science. I think that is dangerous ground. We get to the point of believing we are God no matter who your god is. I ain’t going there.

I guess you can probably figure out why I like Leonardo so much. It really has inspired me to “ponder”. He forces me to think….to be alive.

It is a dangerous thing to espouse my theories for fear of proselytizing. I hope I am not doing so. I am just telling you each time a little more about me. I just hope it gets you to think. Just writing to all of you gets me pumped. Thank you so much for that.

As always

Ted The Great


The U.S. ranks #1 in the world in obesity, teen birth rate and personal spending as percentage of GDP….. USA!USA!USA!

We spend 4.08% of GDP on defense. Russia..3.74%, Korea…2.58% , China..1.98%, Germany…1.35%, Japan…0.97%

The Devil Made Me Do It!

This last week we had the report from the committee analyzing the financial collapse of the last two years. This was right on the heels of the deficit reduction committee. Even though these two bipartisan groups met for several months, they could not reach a unanimous conclusion.

 I don’t know if it is really impossible to reach accord or if it is our penchant as Americans to blame the other guy. Don’t fess up. I had no idea. My fault? No way.

 We are not good at taking medicine. We love the good times. We tend to get lost in our own egos. We want to be individuals, but when things go sour we are all screaming for help.

I have been involved in real estate for a long time. When I was selling I looked at everything as a business transaction. I really tried hard to never fall in love with a piece of real estate. It tends, like romance of all sorts, to cloud the mind.

Recently I have been privy to two disasters on this front. One is a fellow that at one time was wealthy. He got hit from all angles. He had a large inventory of properties and unfortunately the liquidation is not finished. But he has faced the music, priced things to sell and is moving on to try to rebuild his life. A brave man.

 On the other hand is a fellow who is a victim at least in his own eyes. Woulda’s, coulda’s, shoulda’s abound. He has not faced the music. He has not made a payment in over three years. He is wallowing in self pity. A sad and tragic man.

 That’s okay. Bankers are blaiming appraisers. Wall Street is blaming the rating agancies. Buyers are blaiming the mortgage brokers. Congress. The Fed. Obama.No one is to blame. All innocent bystanders.
 In many ways it is a microcosm of our society. We are in a fix. No two ways about it. Whether our best days are in front of us or behind us remains to be seen. But regardless, WE are the ones that got us here.
 We have built an economy that is 75% based on the consumption of goods. We have built big houses, bought lots of furniture and have to have the latest fashions and electronic gadgets. We want a new car every two or three years. We want our kids to go to the best schools. We have failed to save.
But it goes even further. We shop at Wal Mart and Costco. Not downtown. We buy Chinese.Japanese.Korean. The cheaper the better and all the more we are able to buy.I have two brothers in law who are union men and good ones. But they don’t really have an answer when I ask why over all these years they didn’t buy American and how many union jobs would have been saved?

We smoke. We drink. We do drugs. We overeat. And then we come to our medical systems to heal us. Didn’t you know that’s my right? You owe me! I want you to do every possible thing you can regardless of the cost.

I am continually confronted with the realization that everything good or bad in my life is the result of a decision I  have made. No one forced me to do anything. If it turned out right I can take credit. If it turned out wrong I have no one else to blame.

I also feel the world owes me nothing. Sure I want good medical care but I feel there are limits. Yes, I would like a roof over my head, but it does not have to be a mansion.

And here comes the real kicker. Nothing is guaranteed. If my way of life and status in the world has to change, so be it. Will it be fun? Maybe in a crazy and uncertain way, yes.

My trip to Hawaii gave me a totally different outlook. We stayed at a condo on the ocean. Next door was the Four Seasons. Probably at two to three times the price. Was the view of the ocean any different? Go next door and a drink was $15. Go a quarter of a mile the other way and Happy Hour had Mai Tais for $5.

The moral is simple. Life is what you make it. Let’s get away from our penchant for bigger, better, faster. It is not a matter of “settling” for less but rather really appreciating what the hell we really have and how good we have it..

No matter what, it is what you and I have done to the world. Not what the world has done to us. The devil didn’t make me do it. It was all me.

As always

Ted The Great

Factoid: The highest mountains in Hawaii are about 12,000 feet. If you realize they they have been created from the floor of the ocean over 13,000 feet below the surface, the mountains are actually higher than Mt. Everest. Moreover all the flora on the islands was brought to the volcanic rock by seeds in the beaks of birds that travelled over 2500 miles from the nearest land mass. Now is that evolution or creation?