Archive for June, 2013

Welcome To The Brotherhood Of Iron

June 5, 2013

When I was a young man I served in what was considered an “elite” unit.  I still remember the first time I got to wear my jump boots and my beret with my dress greens and see all the people in a room – or for that matter all the people in an auditorium – take notice.  And while we trained long and hard to the extent that my four years in the Army seemed more like eight simply due to the long hours we spent in the field, that feeling of pride, of knowing that I was something special in a way that everybody could identify, never went away.  If nothing else, we constantly were going to new Army schools and receiving new badges, we constantly deployed and added ribbons to our so-called fruit salad bars (the display of all the ribbons worn on the left chest of a dress uniform).  We simply constantly added to the pride that we all first felt when we put on our uniforms for the first time.

When a soldier puts away his uniform for the last time, he has to say goodbye to that direct experience of pride.  You still remember and feel the pride, but you don’t get to wear it anymore.  And, of course, when you don’t get to wear it any more, the only person in that room or that auditorium who knows what you’ve accomplished is you.  Which of course can still be satisfying, but it just isn’t nearly as fun.

All that said as my setup, it turns out that even though I’m not wearing a beret and dress greens replete with all my badges and ribbons, well, I still get to enjoy that feeling of “standing out.”

I don’t have a uniform that I can put on and take off; what I’ve got instead is a bunch of muscle.  Muscle that also stands out and sets me apart in a way that anyone can identify.

And just like the uniform that used to give me so much pride to wear, I don’t have pride just because of what I look like; I have pride because what I look like represents a lot of hours of hard, grueling work from which came strength.

A couple of weeks ago, I was at the kitchen counter at my church getting a cup of coffee, and a strikingly pretty young girl who was a member of the Hispanic congregation came up to me and said, “Are you a bodybuilder?”

Well, that question always discombobulates me.  Because, no, I don’t think of myself as a “bodybuilder.”  A bodybuilder is somebody who shaves off all their body hair, puts on a speedo, rubs on a bunch of oil and flexes onstage in competitions with other bodybuilders.  I’ve never done that and I’ve never wanted to do that.  Me, I’m a weight lifter, not a bodybuilder.  But, well, then again, I usually do a “bodybuilding” weight lifting routine, although I also do quite a bit of powerlifting stuff, and so I guess I’m kind of a bodybuilder…

Well, this pretty young girl bailed me out of fumbling to answer what had been intended as a very simple question.  And she said something I will probably never forget: “I saw you walking by and you looked like a super hero.”

That’s right.  A super hero.

Let me tell you why those words meant so much to me.  Two things.

The first thing you should know is that, as the years passed me by following my career as a soldier, I allowed my body to basically go to pot.  Eight months ago, before I finally decided to do something about it, I weighed in at over 300 pounds.  And I am now over sixty pounds lighter – even as I’ve put on quite a bit of muscle.

Now, sixty pounds in eight months is right in the range of the 1-2 pounds of weight loss per week that is considered optimum (overall, I’ve lost nearly two pounds a week, on average).  But for anybody who has ever tried to lose a lot of weight, I don’t have to tell you what a struggle it is, how hard you have to work to succeed, how many battles you have to win against your out-of-whack desires and most of all how frustratingly – even agonizingly – slow it feels to lose weight over a long period.  I’ve had an awful lot of compliments about how well I’ve done and how much better I look now, but that “super hero” line took the prize as the one that I will most treasure.

I’ve come so far in reclaiming myself and attaining some difficult-to-win goals.  And in that sense, all appearances aside, I AM a super hero, aren’t I?

It sure feels nice to be one again.

The second thing about that comment from that young girl is that it underscores why I started lifting weights in the first place when I was a kid.

I didn’t grow up in the computery-world of smart phones and apps; when we had our family vacations, my brother and I loaded up on comic books.  You know, the Marvel and DC kind, the kind that are replete with “super heroes.”

I wonder if there was ever a boy who read a comic book who never had it occur to him that he would very much like to look like the comic book super heroes they were looking at.

What sealed it for me was when my older brother – who was already lifting weights himself – got me turned on to the Robert E. Howard Conan the Barbarian character.  Believe me, Arnold Schwarzenegger doesn’t even come CLOSE to holding a candle to the incredible warrior that comes to life in the short stories of Howard.  Howard wrote so vividly and so viscerally and so visually that you could SEE Conan in your mind’s eye.  And I wanted to bring out my inner “Conan.”

And the only way I knew how to do that was to follow my big brother – which of course I’d already done so many times in the past – and start lifting weights.

I was already a big strong kid, and it didn’t take those weights very long to start leaving their mark.  The muscles came out just in time for the coach of my high school football team to notice them.  And those muscles made me one of the best players on the team.  Thanks to Conan the Barbarian.

I really got into lifting after I got out of the Army.  I seriously injured a knee during my service, and fell back into weight lifting during my rehab.

As I got big and strong, and then bigger and stronger, one of the things that I observed was the fact that those muscles gave me presence.  I couldn’t help but notice that people noticed, much the same way they had noticed when I was wearing my jump boots and beret with my dress greens.  A fair number of times I was in night clubs back then and women would come up to me and say, “Everyone in here is looking at you!”

I became used to that attention, such that it kind of went into the background as a common experience.

Which was why, as I first started to get away from weight lifting, and then as I began to put on the wrong kind of weight, I hardly noticed that I wasn’t getting quite so noticed.  And then one day it was gone entirely.

Eight months ago, when I decided that it was time for me to start loving myself enough to start taking care of myself, I didn’t start out thinking about reclaiming my former glory.  But it didn’t take long as I started dieting that I realized that I had to have some kind of vision of what I wanted to become.  When you need to lose sixty pounds and beyond, you aren’t just going to lose weight; you are going to TRANSFORM.  And as that realization came, I knew that I could never be content merely becoming smaller and thinner.  Because I’ve always had that drive to stand out.  And because when I closed my eyes and tried to visualize the ideal “me,” that “me” was always muscular and powerful.  It took me about three weeks to decide that I needed to join a gym and get to work transforming myself from what I was into what I wanted to become.

I never dreamed any of the muscles that I’d fought so hard for only to allow to vanish would ever come back.  But it turns out that there truly is something called “muscle memory.”  As I started hitting the weights for the first time in years, my body remembered the experience and started working overtime to rebuild.

Weight lifting is probably not for most people.  It is hard, grueling, even excruciating work.  You’ve got to want something bad enough to force yourself to the limits of your strength and endurance.  And then do it over and over and over again.  When you lift weights, you literally tear your muscle fibers apart and force them to keep growing so they can survive the next torture session you are going to put yourself through.  Every day is ass-kicking day, and it doesn’t matter if you’re the biggest, strongest, baddest dude there; because you are going to be kicking your own ass.

It takes a form of courage to go through workout after workout, day after day, week after week and month after month to keep pushing yourself past your previous limits.

I’ve had it all, and I’ve lost it all.  Now I want it back, I’m willing to work hard to get it back, and I will never take it for granted again when I get it back.

It’s a fascinating thing: I can’t say I enjoy lifting weights.  For example, I’ve got a case of tendonitis in my right elbow.  And so I know that when I do those five heavy sets of standing curls that it is going to HURT.  Oh, I could take three or four months off and get over that annoying pain – but don’t hold your breath waiting for me to do that.  Sometimes I take a little longer to hit that next set because I’ve simply got to screw on the courage to do it.  And even in the other lifts that don’t bother that nasty tendonitis, nothing is easy: in the brotherhood of iron we push our bodies to the point of failure and then past that point, and that kind of failure comes only with pain after an awful lot of exertion.

That’s the thing that makes weight lifting and bodybuilding a “brotherhood.”  Every guy in there who keeps coming back for more knows what every other guy has to put himself through.  In between our own sets we can watch our brothers struggling through their own.  And there’s a respect for one another that comes as a result.

Now, I call it a “brotherhood,” but there are some women in that group, too.

There are some real beautiful women in my gym who push themselves real hard to get in shape and to improve that shape.  The women are working toward a different goal, but they’re hitting a lot of the same exercises that hurt the most in their programs.  But it’s mostly us guys who are doing that hard pushing.  I’d say the hard-core lifters are at about a 15-1 male-to-female ratio.  Women are most certainly welcome – please don’t ever think for a nanosecond that guys don’t enjoy watching an attractive woman work out!  But until a lot more of them show up, the gym is a “brotherhood.”

Unfortunately, many women continue to believe the rather silly notion that if they lift weights, they’ll put on a whole bunch of muscle.  The thing is, if putting on muscle were really that easy, don’t you think that all the guys – who have on average at least 20 TIMES the muscle-building testosterone hormone that women have – would all be walking around with giant muscles?  Sadly, these women – along with not giving the men the credit for the muscles they had to work so hard to earn – are undermining their own abilities to transform and shape themselves by denying themselves the incredibly powerful tool of weight lifting.

There are women who work out hard several days a week in my gym.  And these women are just absolutely gorgeous.  Believe me, NOBODY confuses them for men.

But let us talk a little bit more about a gym as a “brotherhood.”

I can’t speak of every gym in the world, but in my gym, there are a lot of hand shakes and even more “fist bumps.”  Many of us tend to train on the same schedules.  We therefore see each other for a couple hours a day several times a week, we obviously have many of the same interests, we encourage each other and we start growing rather fond of each other.

Those of us who keep coming in and working hard have something else in common that unites us: we each of us have that sense of soul-deep vision as to what we ideally look like – and we’re each working to make that vision of ourselves a reality.  No matter how hard it is or how long it takes.  We’re the kind of people who are willing to fight to make what we dream about happen.  That’s where the “Brotherhood of Iron” part comes in: we’ve each got to lift a lot of iron and we each need iron resolve in order to keep doing it.

Every man and woman has his or her own ideal self-image.  Some guys just want to be big and powerful and they frankly don’t care whether they’re blocky-looking or don’t have “abs.”  Other guys – and I’m in this group – want to build the muscle and eliminate the body fat.  But there are a LOT of other potential ways to go, aren’t there?  Runners and cyclists and swimmers all have a very different idea as to what they ought to look like, for instance.  And that’s the way it ought to be.  We each have our own bodies and we each have our own ideals and our own goals.  What’s important is what we are willing to do to make those ideals and goals happen in the real world.

That’s the ultimate question: the dream or vision you’ve got – just what are you willing to endure to make it come true?

At this point I’ve probably got about twenty pounds more to lose – while working hard to keep the muscle I’ve got if not build more of it – in order to reach my own vision.  Twenty pounds is a daunting challenge.  But then again, I’ve already been there and done that three times as I’ve lost that sixty pounds, haven’t I?

What I love about my gym is that I’m in the right place, and in the company of the right people, to help me get where I want to be.

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Update, July 21: As of today, I’ve lost 71 pounds in 10 months (and 7 pounds since I wrote this). And I have done it through a combination of nutrition/diet changes and an exercise level whereby an overloaded draft horse would look at me and say, “Well, at least I’m not THAT poor bastard!” I like exercise and I have made that work in my favor. But at the core of my program has been the fact that I literally envisioned and SAW what I wanted to become, and then I began to use weight training to help me accomplish my goals and make my vision a reality.

I’m getting there, and you can do the same. But it won’t happen until you make up your mind and truly resolve to MAKE it happen.

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Obamanomics Has Been Terrible For Poor – But The Rich Have Done GREAT Under His Despicable Policies

June 3, 2013

And I heard a voice from among the four living beings say, “A loaf of wheat bread or three loaves of barley will cost a day’s pay. And don’t waste the olive oil and wine.” — Revelation 6:6

According to Democrats, it is the Republicans who only care about the rich.  And of course it is Republican policies that are disastrous for the poor and the middle class.

Of course, Democrats are liars without shame, without honor, without integrity and without decency.  So you can pretty much roundfile their bullcrap.  The facts prove the exact OPPOSITE.

What you find is that, after five years of Obama, we’ve gained less than half the wealth that was lost since 2007 (after Democrats blew up the economy and demagogued their sabotage).  And what you find is of that 45% of wealth that was regained (let’s just forget the 55% of the wealth that Obama lost for America), fully two-thirds of it was recouped by the stock market.  And what you find is that 80% of the stock market is owned by one-percenters.

Obama and his godawful Obamanomics crushed the poor into tiny bits of meat and spoon-fed that meat to über-rich like George Soros and Warren Buffet.

Average U.S. household has regained just 45% of wealth lost during recession, St. Louis Fed analysis finds
The Associated Press
Published: 31 May 2013 01:22 AM
Updated: 31 May 2013 01:22 AM

WASHINGTON — American households have rebuilt less than half of the wealth lost during the recession, leaving them without the spending power to fuel a robust economic recovery, according to a new analysis from the Federal Reserve.

From the peak of the boom to the bottom of the bust, households watched $16 trillion in wealth disappear amid sinking stock prices and the rubble of the real estate market. Since then, Americans have been able to recapture only 45 percent of that amount on average, after adjusting for inflation and population growth, according to the St. Louis Fed report, released Thursday.

A separate Federal Reserve report in March calculated that Americans as a whole had regained 91 percent of their losses.

Household wealth plunged $16 trillion from the third quarter of 2007 through the first quarter of 2009. By the final three months of 2012, American households as a group had regained $14.7 trillion.

Yet once those figures are adjusted for inflation and averaged across the U.S. population, the picture doesn’t look so bright: The average household has recovered only 45 percent of its wealth, the St. Louis Fed concluded. That suggests that consumer spending could remain modest as many Americans try to rebuild their wealth by saving more and paying off debts.

The number of U.S. households grew by 3.8 million to 115 million from the third quarter of 2007 through the final three months of last year, the report said.

As a result, the rebound in wealth has been spread across more people, reducing the average for each household.

In addition, though inflation has averaged just 2 percent over the past five years, it has eroded some of the purchasing power of Americans’ regained wealth.

The report showed most of the improvement was due to stock market gains, which primarily benefit wealthy families. That means the recovery for other households has been even weaker

“A conclusion that the financial damage of the crisis and recession largely has been repaired is not justified,” the report stated.

Fragile households

The study is part of a growing body of research on the role of household wealth — or its lack — in amplifying the impact of the recession and slowing the recovery. Traditionally, economists and policymakers have focused on the effects of employment and income. But the report from the St. Louis Fed argued that swings in household balance sheets — which include home values, stock prices, savings and debt — were critical in determining which families weathered the financial storm and which got swept away.

The report found that the most fragile households were less educated, relatively young, black or Hispanic, or some combination of those characteristics. Those families tended to have low savings combined with high debt and accrued much of their wealth through housing.

How those households respond to the changes in wealth is a critical component of the recovery. Top officials, including Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke, have pointed to the rebound in real estate and the soaring stock market as evidence of the success of the central bank’s policies.

The Fed is spending $85 billion a month to lower long-term interest rates and stimulate the economy. It has also kept short-term interest rates near zero. That has helped push stock markets to record highs, while home prices have jumped by the most in seven years. Consumer confidence is at its highest point since February 2008. Officials hope those factors will eventually result in more consumer spending power.

“I think we’re at an inflection point,” said Beth Ann Bovino, senior economist at Standard & Poor’s. “We’re seeing things turn around. And that’s where the optimism comes in among households.”

The fear factor

But research by noted economists Karl Case, John Quigley and Robert Shiller found the households were more powerfully affected by declines in wealth than increases.

An unexpected 1 percent drop in housing prices caused a permanent 0.1 percent decrease in spending, that study found.

But a similar 1 percent rise in housing prices boosted consumer spending by only 0.03 percent.

“Rising wealth is gratifying, but the loss of wealth is terrifying,” said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moodys.com. “Households spend somewhat more freely as their nest eggs grow, but they slash their spending when their nest eggs shrink.”

William Emmons, chief economist at the St. Louis Fed’s new Center for Household Financial Stability, said that many of the most vulnerable households began to treat credit as another form of income during the boom. After the bust, they were forced to dramatically rethink their finances, resulting in more cautious spending.

Emmons said many families have not experienced any recovery — or are even still losing wealth. Young Americans, those with few skills or the unemployed may not have been able to rebuild any wealth.

Emmons noted that although the number of foreclosures has dropped significantly, it is still more than double the pre-crisis amount.

Meanwhile, he estimated that recent gains in the stock market mean the recovery of wealth is nearly complete for white and Asian households and older Americans.

Wealth accumulation affects not only families’ current financial status but also their prospects. The St. Louis Fed report points to studies that connect savings to the likelihood of attending and completing college and to economic mobility.

The average household had a net worth of $539,500 at the end of last year, according to a separate paper the St. Louis Fed released Thursday. That was up from $469,900 in the first quarter of 2009 but sharply below the peak of $641,000 in the first quarter of 2007.

The Washington Post, The Associated Press

The overwhelming evidence of history reveals that every single time America has suffered a serious recession, it has exploded out of it at a rate that equaled the descent into said recession.  The difference now is that Barack Obama has been undermining and outright destroying the American economy and the entire American way of life.

Economically, Obama has been THE WORST PRESIDENT EVER.

And so what has happened?  Obama has actually INCREASED the gulf between the rich and the poor, increased the gulf between blacks and whites and basically has made life harder and more difficult with fewer opportunities for all the very groups of people that Obama falsely promised he cared about and would help.

Democrats are dishonest.  They are liars.  They say one thing and then they do the exact opposite time and time again.  They don’t give a flying DAMN about the poor or the middle class; they want more government power.  They want to be able to decide – I’ll use the word “dictate” – who wins and who loses, who gets rewarded and who gets punished, who gets taxed and who gets exemptions, who gets a free ride and who pays out the wazoo, and even who lives and who dies as the same biased Obama IRS that targeted and punished conservative political and religious groups will begin doing the same thing as they sharpen their knives to cut into their role in the ObamaCare holocaust.

You can’t borrow and spend your way out of bankruptcy.  You just can’t.  You can’t keep printing money when you’re broke and never find yourself standing on the cliff that just fell away leaving you standing with your feet firmly planted in midair.  You just can’t.  You can’t allow the Democrats to keep parasitically taxing the producers to redistribute wealth to the slackers in exchange for their vote and not see a radical decline in America.  You just can’t.

Friday will be an interesting day.  That is the day that the job numbers come out for the month of May.  Here’s what’s funny: if we have a good report and hear that the job market is opening up, the stock market will plunge.  Why?  Because the rich people who populate the stock market want to keep sucking on the Obama tit of endless Federal Reserve “stimulus” via quantitative easing, QE1, QE2, QE3, Operation Twist and now QE Forever.  The Fed has indicated that if the economy is performing better that they will begin to look to get out of the massive purchase of American debt (where we literally create more money by adding zeroes to the Fed computers).  That candy is ONLY available to the rich, and the poor be damned as their small fixed incomes become worth less and less as the mega-poor interest rates creates severe devaluation of the dollars they are desperately trying to save.  As for the big businesses and the mega-rich who invest in those businesses, they want to continue receiving Obama’s “stimulus” in the form of super-low interest loans (that none of the rest of us can ever hope to get) that will allow them to keep making more and more and more money.

It’s right out of the economy that the Book of Revelation talks about.  And it’s OBAMA’s economy.