Archives For In The News

Things happening in the world today

2014-04-23_08-57-37The silencer buying frenzy is the second wave of gun-related purchases in the last two years. After the Newtown massacre, gun owners feared that a weapons ban would be enacted and rushed to buy assault rifles. Now that last year’s push for universal background checks has failed, gun owners have a lot of guns on their hands, and are outfitting them with gadgets including silencers, flashlights, laser scopes, stocks, pistol grips and rail systems.

via Gun Silencers Are Suddenly Selling Like Hot Cakes | TIME.com.

Now you can kill your neighbor without anyone hearing you. We can’t seem to get enough accessories for all our guns. Only in America.  How sad is all this stuff???

WASHINGTON (AP) — A sense of belonging to the middle class occupies a cherished place in America. It conjures images of self-sufficient people with stable jobs and pleasant homes working toward prosperity.

Yet nearly five years after the Great Recession ended, more people are coming to the painful realization that they’re no longer part of it.

They are former professionals now stocking shelves at grocery stores, retirees struggling with rising costs and people working part-time jobs but desperate for full-time pay. Such setbacks have emerged in economic statistics for several years. Now they’re affecting how Americans think of themselves.

SOURCE: More Americans see middle class status slipping – Yahoo Finance.

Looking back on my life I can see now that I had it pretty good compared to many around today. I managed to work for one employer for thirty years and then retire with a fixed pension as well as a 401K. That along with Social Security has allowed me to live without much financial worries. Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t live a life of constant vacations or $100 meals. My life is pretty frugal and that is the way I want it.

I personally know one friend who was, like me, an IT (information technology) guy. He had a good paying job that is until he was laid off after 15 years of service. He went from there to managing a computer system for a small not-for-profit until that job also disappeared. He now works in a gas station as a “manager” at less than a third of his previous income.  I’m sure he no longer considers himself middle class. Given that he has no pension or much ability to save he will likely have to work his entire life.

Living today is much more of a struggle than it was in my working days. Of course a big part of that is because of all the wealth is now concentrated at the very top of the income ladder. Most people have gone a decade or more without any pay raises. Many now struggle with two and sometimes even three jobs to pay the bills.

As I mentioned in a recent post I believe that the time is coming where the “common man” will take back the power from the wealthy elite. When that happens I pray that calm and sensible minds are somehow able to restore the middle class that has evaporated without a lot of turmoil.

We must face the fact that our country will soon be driven by a much more diverse population. Those who presently control the masses with their rhetorical spin will lose their control. Hopefully, like many of our previous transitions, this will occur in a gradual manner. But with the American Dream so quickly disappearing that time will likely be sooner than many of our current leaders could ever anticipate.

Here are five tech products we predict will go the way of the dodo in the next half-decade.

SOURCE:  5 Tech Products That Will Be Dead in 5 Years | TIME.com.

DVD diskIt is amazing how quickly things, especially electronic things, change in today’s world. I can remember all the fury about moving to digital transmissions for television signals. There were many opponents to it when it was happening. But, as is the case for much of this type of progress now that it has happened we wonder why we waited so long. I am convinced that eventually the same thing will happen with Obamacare. We will look back on it and wonder why it took so long to make healthcare a right rather than a privilege. But that is for another post. So, let’s get on to the topic at hand.

For those of you who won’t be clicking on the source article here is the list of the five products:

 1.  Blu-ray/DVD players
2.  Stand-alone in-car GPS units
3.  Dial-up Internet
4.  Low-end digital cameras
5.  Car keys

DVD Players — It is amazing to me just how quickly video stores have come and gone from the landscape. I can remember waiting anxiously for a Blu-ray player to become affordable. It seemed like just yesterday. Even our little town had two video stores. One a franchise and another one a local. Two years ago they were both closed down.

I must admit that I only recently started using streaming video as a source for my television entertainment.  The primary reason for that is up until that time I didn’t have an Internet connection capable of transmitting at the required speeds. Since I can now get up to about 3.0 mps and have a Rogu unit I can now watch what I want when I want.

Stand-Alone In-car GPS –  When we bought our new HHR car in 2008 it came equipped with OnStar which is a dedicated GPS service.  Even though the monthly service was somewhat expensive we quickly signed up.  But now that almost every smartphone and tablet have GPS capabilities the OnStar service is now limited to emergency response only.

Dial-up Internet — Yes, Internet service of 20 mps or greater is available in most major cities but for almost 40% of us who live in the hinterland it is still for the most part primarily dial-up. Hopefully that will change in the future but without some guiding regulations it will be slow in happening. So this is the one on the list that I have doubts about

Low-end Digital Cameras — I think maybe I am a snob here but I consider anything other than a SLR camera a low end camera.  Those times that I have had to rely on my iPhone camera I have been totally disappointed.

Car Keys — This is another one that surprised me. Many new car no longer have a physical key to start the engine. But when I think about it, it doesn’t really make any sense to use a key anymore given that there is just so much electronics in cars now.

Things change quickly don’t they? At least it seems so for us old-timers. I don’t want to admit that I am now one of them but….

 

It’s known as one of the most exclusive places on earth, the home of the rich and spectacularly rich.  Orange County, Calif.’s, reputation only grew when the TV crews started rolling in several years ago. But “The Real Housewives of Orange County” and the teens of “Laguna Beach” failed to mention a major piece of the O.C. drama. The county is also among the top 10 in the U.S. for childhood food insecurity….

Along with the yacht clubs and average home prices of nearly $2 million in some spots, Orange County also has more than 150,000 children who don’t know where their next meal is coming from.

Paul Leon is the president of the Illumination Foundation, a group that helps struggling families find housing and stability. — Orange County is basically the tale of two cities. We have the area that we’re standing in right now, which is Newport Beach, is the richest thing in the nation. And then 17 miles away, we have one of the most densely populated and poorest cities in the nation.

Among the poor are thousands of low-income workers who support the county’s luxury economy. Before Leon’s foundation intervened, kids in the Tina Pacific neighborhood of Anaheim often skipped meals.

SOURCE: In wealthy Orange County, a campaign to waste less to help feed hungry kids | PBS NewsHour | Jan. 24, 2014 | PBS.

While Orange County, California is perhaps at the top of the list when it comes to income inequality it is by no means unique in that area. If nothing is done in this area eventually there will be a citizen uprising that might very well shake the foundations of our democracy.  Yes, the spin machines have done a good job up till now in convincing enough people that they to can find the “good life” if only they work hard enough. But, given the continuing drain of wealth to the top  even that rhetoric will eventually lose enough believers.

It seems ironic that the people in Orange county who own those $2 million dollar home won’t pay a living wage to those who keep up those mansions. It is not as if they can’t afford it, they simply choose not to do so.

Enrollment in the food stamp program has increased by 70 percent since 2008, to 47.8 million people as of December 2012. The biggest factor driving the increase is the stagnating job market and a rising poverty rate. This means that a staggering 15 percent of the US population receives food stamp benefits, nearly double the rate of 1975. Even military families use of food stamps has increased from $26 million in 2006 to $103 million last year.

A Tale of Two Cities seems to be the motto of our country in the 21st century. The rich get richer and the poor by their absence at the voting booth let them.

 

 

 

2014-03-12_11-46-18“I have grave concerns that the CIA’s search may well have violated the separation-of-powers principles embodied in the United States Constitution, including the speech-and-debate clause,” Feinstein said. “Besides the constitutional implications, the CIA search may also have violated the Fourth Amendment, the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act,” as well as an Executive Order barring the CIA from conducting domestic surveillance, she said.

SOURCE: Top Lawmaker Accuses CIA of Illegally Snooping on Senate | TIME.com.

Our constitution is assuredly the best country incorporation document in the world. The framers had an astounding amount of foresight when the generated it. But I believe that it would not have survived all these years if the first ten amendments had not been quickly added. The first ten amendments are called the Bill of Rights for a reason. They restrict the power of government from unnecessary and especially unwarranted intrusion it to its’ citizens lives.  This Bill of Rights has always been considered sacrosanct but the problem on interpretation is sometimes in question.

According to Thomas Jefferson’s and James Madison’s writings of the time the first amendment’s original intent was to prevent the government from establishing a State religion. This protection has grown to a two-way bridge since that time. The second amendment was to insure that  militias could be easily formed by citizen soldiers to protect the security of the State.  Of course this concept is now archaic in nature. That duty has now been incorporated into the National Guard which doesn’t require their members to supply their own weapons. The second amendment has been morphed into somehow saying that the right to own guns is its main intent.

One amendment that has stood the test of time virtually unchanged is the fourth amendment. That is at least up until now.  The right against unreasonable search and seizures without probably cause is now being attacked at its most basic level. The above article show that the body responsible for reigning in possible abuses to the fourth amendment is now being undermined by those who they are supposed to regulate!  This is the perfect example of “the fox guarding the hen-house” so to speak.

I know that fear drives much of what we do as a nation now. We are so obsessed with the possibility of another 911 that many of us are willing to throw out the Bill of Rights in the process. When George Orwell in 1948 wrote the book 1984 many were horrified at that possible future Big Brother State.  But it seems that much of that scenario has become reality thirty years later than Mr. Orwell predicted.

When I was a young man I read 1984 along with a couple of other books of the same genre as part of class reading assignments. Those included Animal Farm and Brave New World. I wonder if those books are even on the radar screen for today’s youth? If not I think they should be. When we quit defending our rights as cited in the Bill of Rights they will naturally be threatened.  When the inner workings of the body that is supposed to enforce our rights is infiltrated we should all be up in arms.

2014-03-25_08-23-25Legislation signed by Gov. Mike Pence makes Indiana the first state to step back from the standards that establish proficiency targets in math and reading…..

But the national education standards have been the focus of vocal criticism from conservative grassroots groups, who believe Common Core amounts to a government takeover of education. Critics have said Indiana’s new standards are strikingly similar to the Common Core framework and the new legislation is little more than a change in name rather than substance, the Associated Press reports.

SOURCE: Indiana Drops Common Core Education Standards | TIME.com.

For those of you who might not know I am a Hoosier. I was born here and spent most of my life here. Indiana is one of those rare States outside of the South and Prairie States that has always been solidly Republican. They overwhelmingly control both houses of State legislature and have a party machine hand-picked Republican governor.  We are not a big State but still much larger than many other red States. We have a population of about 6.5 million which makes us number sixteen of the fifty States.

One thing I have come to understand about Indiana, and most of the other red States for that matter, is that if a Democrat supports something then it must be wrong and avoided at all costs. Governor Pence is constantly reminding me of this fact. So, when he came out with “his” plan for education it is not surprising that he first of all trashed the national one. It is also not surprising that he basically claimed the same standards as his own. Now it is a Republican plan and not from those nasty Democrats. This is somewhat typical of politics today and that is why I now for the most part stay away from it.

Is it better for each State to have its own strategy for educating its youth or is a national strategy better?  I want to drop back again to the Indiana model to explain my answer to this question.  I’m not sure how the rest of the country does it but in Indiana each school system is funded by local property taxes. As a result Hamilton County which is one of the richest counties in the nation and of course the richest in the State has a high school campus that rivals most colleges. They have multiple olympic size swimming pools, a gigantic dramatic arts auditorium and computers in every room. By contrast my county, which is the third poorest in the State has absolutely nothing compared to Hamilton.  This disparity of course also show up in the percentage of those who go on to college.

When you step back and look at it, it seems obvious that segregation is the result of this type of funding. It is not race segregation as in the past but economic segregation and I believe it is just as dangerous as the one we faced in the 1980s.

Since I am running out of space I will give you a quick answer to the overall question. A common universal strategy is the only answer if we are to compete with the rest of the world in the 21st century and beyond.  To leave it up to the States will most assuredly result in a nation wide segregation once again. Can we really afford to have that happen?

2014-03-27_14-59-31We all know that yelling “FIRE!!” in a theater is against the law and can cause a lot of harm. We are told even as children not to do that sort of thing.  Another area of this type are those that try to incite a riot by prodding and encouraging violence. That one isn’t quite as well published as the first.

The school yard bully gets a lot of attention these days. We, at least most of us, have little tolerance for him. But another type of threat that is perhaps just as bad is the instigator. You might know him by other names like provocateur, agitator. This is the guy who tries to get two people or groups who disagree on something to attack each other verbally or physically. He wants to see blood.

As I have mentioned before I am by my very nature a very non-violent person. I have only physically attacked one person in my life and that was when I was about six years old.  I think I gave my opponent a black eye but I am not sure. I can’t even remember what we fought over but I do remember the kid who instigated our brawl. I soon made up with my friend but never had much to do with the guy who caused us to fight.

Now to the core of this post. There are people out there that make millions of dollars as professional instigators. They try their best to incite a virtual riot. They egg people on to keep them on the edge of their emotions. They purposefully pit one group of people against another. The most visible of this type of bully is Rush Limbaugh and the Fox and MSNBC news channels.

These folks make millions of dollars every year screaming about the opposing party. They spend hours trying to dig up anything they can find to raise our ire. Sadly there are millions of people who have one of these outlets on throughout the day. They are thoroughly brainwashed with a very partisan message of their agitators. No, I don’t think brainwashed is too strong a word for this tactic.

I will admit that I was once at least to a small degree one of those folks who would tune them in. I got my daily dose of how those in a particular political party are nothing but hateful idiots who are set on destroying our freedoms.  When I finally reached “critical mass” on politics and decided to give it up almost entirely I did not realize the emotions these instigators caused me.

Now that I am limiting my exposure of politics to a brief morning glance at somewhat neutral websites and the PBS Newshour I have come to know a much more peaceful and satisfying lifestyle. Now don’t get me wrong here. I realize that there are folks in the political realm who have very different worldviews than I do. I will continue to oppose their tactics but without the vitriolity that comes along with these news sources.

 

2014-03-20_09-06-16Tesla’s campaign to sell its electric cars directly to consumers shifted into high gear this week as state lawmakers debated Tesla-related bills while powerful auto lobbyists braced for a fight. In New York, a measure designed to ban Tesla from opening new stores passed a key hurdle, while in Arizona, lawmakers pushed a bill to make it easier for Tesla to sell its cars without establishing a dealer network.

The escalating conflict underscores Tesla’s role as a disruptive force in the U.S. auto industry, not only because the company’s cars don’t use gasoline engines, but also because Tesla is trying to upend the dealership-franchise model that has underpinned the automobile industry for decades. That model — and laws protecting it — emerged in the 1930s as a way for automakers to build a national sales and service force and help foster local economic growth.

SOURCE: Tesla’s War With the States Shifts Into Overdrive | TIME.com.

I have mixed feelings about the above topic.  This is kind of like a David/Goliath type thing. The little dealership guys are being squeezed out by the big corporations the same way as WalMart is squeezing out local retailers.  But size is a relative thing. Yeah Telsa is probably bigger then most auto dealerships but it is very small compared to its other automotive competitors. It is also pretty easy to see that those who own local or regional auto dealerships are usually much wealthier than the rest of us.  It is not uncommon to see mufti-millionaires auto dealer owners.  So David/Goliath is a relative thing.

Realtors are also in this type of corundum. When I sold my house in New Jersey it never actually went on the market. My realtor happened to have someone waiting for my type of house. When we closed on the house the realtor received a check from me for almost $18,000 for two hours work or so.  The only ones who even come close to that hourly wage are big time surgeons and some CEOs  :)

The other example in my part of the country is in liquor distributorships. If you can land one you are assured a big annual paycheck. They are given out mostly as a political favor by State level politicians.

I don’t know but it seems like these sort of things need fixing. We should be able to buy direct and bargain with others for what are currently set as “standard” fees. Wages for most of us haven’t changed much in the last decade or more so the little guy needs all the help he can get in today’s world even as a consumer.

 

Thank Heavens…..

April 10, 2014 — Leave a comment

2014-04-10_08-57-11

 

Thank heavens that he couldn’t find a gun…..

2014-04-09_18-54-55After spending $43 million on residential renovations, German bishop Monsignor Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst was suspended. On Wednesday, Pope Francis accepted the bishop’s resignation….

Francis has called on his priests and bishops to be models of sobriety in a church that “is poor and is for the poor.”

SOURCE:  Why Pope Francis accepted the ‘Bishop of Bling’ resignation – CSMonitor.com.

I continue to be amazed by the words and actions of Pope Francis. He seems to be very serious in making the church into the vision of its founder.  The source article is about how he “accepted” the resignation of a German Bishop who was lavishly spending money of his residence including a $20,000 bath tub!  That item seemed to be the breaking point even for the bishop’s flock, if bishops in fact have flocks.

From this and other posts about the Pope, it seems he is really shaking up things in Vatican City as well as throughout the world. His comment that the church “is poor and is for the poor” is almost earth shaking in it simplicity and its fundamental turn from its past. One of the things I seem to criticize the most about religious institutions is how much they spend on lavish cathedrals and such. That seems to be very contradicted by Jesus and even the early Christian community. Stating that the church should be poor is radical concept indeed for those folks in Rome. I hope some of it sticks into their mental attitudes. I don’t think God really cares whether we take communion in a fancy silver goblet or a simple clay one.

I wonder what all those cardinals are now thinking that voted to make Pope Francis their pope? Are they saying “we have created a monster” or are they saying “it’s about time”. I hope it is the latter….