Archives For Cultures

86 percent of strident conservatives think the poor ‘have it easy’ Illustrating the deep divide between GOP versus Democratic support for policies most benefiting the poor, a new Pew survey finds that a whopping 86 percent of steadfast conservatives think the poor “have it easy.” Similarly, business-minded Republicans 77 percent and young Republican-leaning adults 81 percent feel the same way.

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That sentiment underpins Republican arguments that programs like food stamps and unemployment benefits should be cut because they disincentivize work. And indeed, the same survey finds that at least eight in 10 Republicans from all three aforementioned demographic subgroups agree with the argument that government aid to the needy “does more harm than good.”

SOURCE: 86 percent of strident conservatives think the poor ‘have it easy’ – The Week.

This kind of information never ceases to astound me. I sadly think this mentality is due to ignorance rather than all these folk having a hardened hearts. The poor “gaming the system” is all that they have been exposed to. I am a firm believer that until you put a face on something it continues to be an abstract thing. Very few of this group has likely come face-to-face with anyone who is poor. If these folks want to see how “easy” it is maybe they ought to try and live on $1200 a month or less.

I really don’t know how large the “strident conservative” population is but I suspect it is something in the neighborhood of 20% of the overall population and of course most of those in that group are ardent Fox News viewers. That fact goes a long ways in telling us why they have the beliefs that the poor have it too easy.

I know one strident conservative who basically parroted the above beliefs but then went on to say that his sister was on welfare and Medicaid. He says she is an exception to all those others in those programs. She needs the help and all the rest are just gaming the system.  I wonder how many in this polls have similar experiences?

Many say that religion and politics don’t mix but this is one of those areas that I thoroughly mix them. Jesus made it abundantly clear that we are to be our brother’s keeper. We are to literally give him the shirt off our backs if he needs it.  Being a follower of Jesus I therefore align with helping those less fortunate in life than myself. I don’t see how I could do otherwise.

I know there are those, especially in the above group, who say it is the church’s job to help the poor not governments. While I don’t necessarily disagree with that I know it is not even a remote possibility. I am very aware that most churches spend more than 90% of their income taking care of the church/clubhouse and keeping their congregations comfortable. Even if they managed to reverse that ratio they would be quickly overwhelmed by the needs.

I think of my government as doing the people’s business.  That is the things that we as individual citizens can’t do for ourselves.  Taking care of those who struggle in our society is part of that business. I pray that my strident conservative friends some day come to realize this fact.

widescreen lcd monitorA TV-streaming device. All this talk about canceling your cable is great — if you still have a way to watch TV on your TV. Thankfully, there are now several options for streaming devices that bring services like Netflix and Hulu to your living room TV. Apple TV, Roku and Amazon Fire are all options to check out. Each requires a one-time initial investment, usually between $50 and $100. According to the research company NPD Group, cable bills might reach $123 a month by next year. With prices for Netflix and Hulu Plus hovering around $8 each, getting one of these devices could add up to thousands of dollars in savings in just a few years.

SOURCE: 8 purchases that can save you hundreds or thousands of dollars – Yahoo Finance.

Well over half of us pay sometimes over $100 per month on cable or satellite TV. In the not too distant future, meaning in the next ten years or so, network tv will be no more.  It will be À la carte when it comes to our media viewing. I admit that I am one of those who pays dearly for satellite TV.  It comes with hundreds of channel of which I watch only a literal handful.  My big peeve is that over half of the satellite company’s media expenses comes from buy sports programs. I literally watch zero from that venue.

I am ready to ditch this expense viewing option but get too much resistance from my better half. She insists on having DVR full of the shows she watches. I can’t seem to convince her that Roku, which we have on both our sets will give her what she has now. She is just not a big believer in change and just says “it is fine the way it is”.  So, I guess we will wait until the DVR remote, like the old VHS machine, is wrenched from her hands before we dump it.

2014-01-31_08-57-01First, Google cracked the code on Internet search. Then the company used its search platform to build the world’s largest online advertising business. Now, the Silicon Valley icon is turning its attention toward streamlining its business to focus on next-generation hardware and services, particularly in the mobile space. Judging by Google’s latest earnings report, the company’s core business remains robust, as the Cupertino, Calif.-based cash machine posted strong sales and profit growth on Thursday, sending its stock price surging more than 4% in after-hours trading to an all-time high for the second consecutive quarter.

SOURCE:  Google Is Making Itself a Lot Leaner and Meaner | TIME.com.

I don’t know how many of my readers realize just how earth-shaking the search platform that Google developed was. Before that time it took sometimes hours to find some of the most basic info on the Internet.  Let’s take a quick look at what Wiki says:

Google was founded by Larry Page and Sergey Brin while they were Ph.D. students at Stanford University. Together they own about 16 percent of its shares. They incorporated Google as a privately held company on September 4, 1998. An initial public offering followed on August 19, 2004. Its mission statement from the outset was “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful”, and its unofficial slogan was “Don’t be evil”. In 2006 Google moved to headquarters in Mountain View, California, nicknamed the Googleplex.

Simply speaking Page and Brin made the internet what it is today. Never mind that Al Gore invented it ( :) ), they changed it from a complex military network into an everyday appliance.  For that reason I am an avid fan. Even if I don’t use their browser or some of the other tools they make available. The above article is about how they have grown in the last ten years and where they might be going in the next ten. Will they go the way of Apple or the way of Microsoft?  That is a basic question that needs to be answered and I’m sure they are very aware of that difference.

Most of us old guys, especially the techies among us, know that Microsoft and Apple  happened at about the same time. Microsoft developed a user interface that totally dwarfed the FORTRAN language that was used to program the IBM mainframes. When I was in college desktop computers were still just a dream. Even in college I realized that computers would be a big part of the future so I took a couple of classes to build an initial foundation.  I spent hours writing up a very foreign code and then typing it out on punch cards which were used to put the code in the mainframe very early the next morning. Of course there was always that one card of out hundreds that I misspelled something and therefore the whole lot was rejected.

Thanks to Google, and yes Microsoft and Apple, the initial experiences of new users are vastly different from my own.

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2014-01-19_16-32-28I was never terribly good at Calculus in college. I managed to get through three semesters of it was a grade of C+ or better but I never really understood its basic foundation. If it is not calculus, the equation above is very calculus like. So, why am I even showing it here? It is called the Drake equation after its creator, Frank Drake. He was one of the founder of the SETI organization. For those of you who don’t know that is the “Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence”. The big question is are we alone in the universe.

This equation is basically a mathematically determined equation of the possibility of life on another planet. The purpose of the post is not to go through this equation in detail, that would be incredibly boring, but to concentrate on the last element. L is the amount to time that a civilization releases detectable signals in space.  You might think that like for us, would be staring in the 1930s and continuing from that point on. But in reality while the starting point is fairly discrete the ending point is not.

As we, as a world, have progressed and gained advanced technology we have also advanced the likelihood that we will eventually destroy ourselves in the process. The more advanced you become the more likely you will cause your own demise.  We still have thousands of ICBMs with multiple nuclear weapons pointed at each other. About all it would take to end our world is if just a couple of them were to be launched. Armageddon would surely follow.

The more advanced a world becomes the more means it has to destroy itself. That is a sobering thought.  Why do we continue to keep these weapons of self-destruction aimed at each other when the usefulness, if there ever was any, has long passed?

Then of course there are all the rogue nations that are trying to obtain their own nuclear weapons…

I wonder how long we will continue to send out detectable signals into space? How long is “our” L…..

brainYou are hardly alone if you believe that humanity is divided into two great camps: the left-brain and the right-brain thinkers – those who are logical and analytical versus those who are intuitive and creative. For years, an industry of books, tests and videos has flourished on this concept. It seems to be natural law.

Except, it isn’t.

SOURCE: There is No Left Brain/Right Brain Divide | TIME.com.

I think this story is missing the point when it comes to right brain vs. left brain.  It is not so important to whether the differences are in the left/right or the top/bottom but that they do indeed exist.  Many times in my life I really wish I was more creative than I am.  But it seems I am stuck with the analytical prowess over creativity.  That allowed me to become a pretty proficient information tech guy who designed and wrote several “specialized-killer-aps”.  But I just can’t seem to come up with a really creative header for this blog.  Even after hours of attempt. :)

There is no doubt in my mind that a degree creativity is something more ingrained than learned.  Some of us are just much more creative than others.   Now don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that I am without creativity.  I understand that starting and maintaining this blog requires creativity. I pride myself in being able to look at things from a different view than most. After I left the corporate world I spent seven years designing and fabricating cabinets and furniture for some pretty discerning customers. I know that is my creative side coming out but I sure wish I had more of it. Then again, maybe I am just a creative hog and can’t ever get enough of it.  I seem to always want more! ;)

Getting back to the source story, being a scientist I understand the need to be precise in our understanding but I kind of think the left/right brain thing is more conceptual than physiological in nature. We all hear the stories about how the brain is able to re-wire itself after some traumatic injury.

There is much to be still learned about the function of the brain. I believe we are on the cleft of some pretty outstanding discoveries in this area.

A Direct Connection…

January 21, 2014

Amazon spokesperson Mary Osako, meanwhile, told Businessweek that “our employees have made it clear that they prefer a direct connection with Amazon.”

“This direct connection is the most effective way to understand and respond to the wants and needs of our employees. Amazon’s culture and business model are based on rapid innovation, flexibility and open lines of direct communication between managers and associates.”

SOURCE: Amazon Workers Vote Against Forming Union | TIME.com.

Lets face it unions today have a pretty bad reputation with many of us. In the past they have tended to make an enemy of the people who hire their workers.  It was always an adversarial arrangement.  Whatever the company wants the union is against. With that reputation it is hard to form unions today. I know I just finished a post recently about a paradigm shift needed to solve the unemployment/education problems in our country but this is another one that will require a similar shift. I hope Amazon is doing just that.

Unions of the past just have to move beyond and adversarial relationship with employers if they hope to have a place in the 21st century. Likewise employers must do what is needed to rekindle the loyalty that many mid-twentieth century companies had. They must once again start treating their workers as assets instead of liabilities.

I admit up front that I have only a limited exposure to the employee side of Amazon but from what I can glean they try to treat their workers with respect and they do pay more than the prevailing wages along with attractive benefits. Jeff Bezos is one of the few present CEOs who seem to look mainly to the long-term future when mapping out his company’s strategies.

Here is a quote from an article about Amazon along with some info about salaries.

Amazon PayThe company deserves praise for heavily investing in its business and hiring full-time workers at a time when many other firms are playing it safe. Even an extremely healthy economy is going to include jobs that don’t pay very well. But the fact that President Obama has chosen an Amazon fulfillment center as the backdrop for a speech on how to bring back strong, middle-class jobs illustrates the difficult position the government finds itself in as it tries to encourage a more robust recovery.
SOURCE: Amazon’s Hiring Spree Shows Difficulties for American Middle Class | TIME.com

I certainly hope that Amazon is serious that its culture and business model are based on rapid innovation, flexibility and open lines of direct communication between managers and associates.” To be competitive in the coming years will demand a loyal workforce who is willing to adapt to changes as needed. It will require companies to treat their employees with respect and as valuable member of a united team. If unions can adapt to this new paradigm then they will have a place in future society.  If not they will, as the current trends indicate, simply go the way of the dinosaur.

RespectThe No. 2 Democrat in the Senate, Sen. Dick Durbin, says that a House Republican leader told off President Barack Obama during a negotiation meeting, and that they are so disrespectful it’s practically impossible to have a conversation with them.

“In a ‘negotiation’ meeting with the president, one GOP House Leader told the president: ‘I cannot even stand to look at you,’” Durbin wrote in a post on his Facebook page over the weekend.

Calling a government shutdown strategy from Republicans “disastrous,” Durbin did not specify which leader made the comment, what the context was or how the president responded.

“What are the chances of an honest conversation with someone who has just said something so disrespectful?” Durbin wrote.

SOURCE:  Dick Durbin: GOP leader told President Obama ‘I cannot even stand to look at you’ – Tal Kopan – POLITICO.com.

It looks like our country has now devolved into gutter politics. That is where an opponent is treated with utter hate and anger. It used to be that when other politicians were addressing the president they did so with respect for the office.  That is the reason that presidents are usually address as “Mr. President” instead of their name.  We might not particularly like the person in the office but we treated him with respect.  To hear this sort of thing happening is a direct insult to our very institution of democracy.

When someone says that they can’t even stand to look at you, how would you respond? As for me my first inclination would be to shout a profanity back at them. But I hope I would be controlled enough simply to walk away from the vitriolity.  I don’t know which GOP leader said the words but I can imagine who it was.  How can anything approaching a respectable conversation occur when it start with those words?

President Obama always seems to be pretty cool under fire so I’m sure he didn’t respond like-for-like as I probably would have. When he came into office in 2009 he seemed to almost bend over backwards to get a conversation going with the Republicans but after so many failed attempts he finally wised up and quit compromising when nothing was returned. Since as a result of gerrymandering it is unlikely that Democrats will get control of the House so I expect this sort of ugly politics will continue throughout this second term.

I just wonder how much could actually been accomplished in improving ACA and reducing our deficits if both sides learned to treat each other with R-E-S-P-E-C-T   as an old song used to say.

Never in my life has one of our political parties devolved into such a sorry state…..

Uninsured Rates

It is a fact that when you look at Texas and Florida they are first in many areas. They are the execution capitals of the world. They do the most to inhibit the vote. They are two of the most radically conservative States.  But, now I learn that they  also have the highest uninsured rates in the country.

It seems that Texas and Florida just don’t like poor people very much. They have the highest uninsured rates and they are determined to remain so by not producing a Statewide exchange.  That fact does not really surprise me at all as they are so adamantly against anything that is associated with Democrats.  The folks who they choose to run their states live up to the phrase “biting off your nose to spite your face”. After the massive plant explosion recently in Texas I know they don’t do much to protect their citizens in any regard. Even though these State are supposedly the heart of the bible belt the “least of these” seem to mean nothing to them.

I really want to believe that the folks in these two States are caring and loving individuals but from what I can glean from recent events that just doesn’t seem to be the case. I hate writing off entire groups of people. I would love to hear some stories about how these folks live up to the title of being a caring  and compassionate with those outside their immediate families.

Cruise HelmsIn a sane world, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz would also be on the political ropes, in his case, for cheering the late Jesse Helms of North Carolina, an unreconstructed bigot who devoted his life to the defense of white supremacy and the advancement of far-right politics. Instead, Cruz—who in many ways is the ideological successor to Helms—will lose nothing, and continue to act as the avatar for forces that will destroy the Republican Party if they aren’t stopped.

First, the details. Yesterday, Cruz delivered a foreign policy address at the conservative Heritage Foundation for the Jesse Helms Lecture Series. (That this even exists is fitting for an organization that—until this year—employed a scientific racist to write a report on why Congress should reject comprehensive immigration reform, and in particular, an easier to path to residency and citizenship for low-income Latino workers.)

Cruz’s speech began with a little trivia about his political history: His first campaign donation—at ten years old—was to Helms. He continued with a declaration: “We need 100 more Jesse Helms in the U.S. Senate.”

SOURCE:  The Crazy Ted Cruz-Jesse Helms Connection – The Daily Beast.

The Heritage Foundation I must admit that I know little to nothing about it other than it is an extreme right political organization. But I do know some about Jesse Helms and those like him.  Yes, Jesse might have been the first great obstructionist but that is not how he went down in history. As the quote above said he  was one of the final unreconstructed bigots who undoubtably was a member of the KKK and most other racists organizations. He bullied anyone who crossed him with vitriol racists comments.

Even in the 1970s when I was beginning to become politically savvy Helms and Strom Thurmond were the faces of the segregationist South. They boldly proclaimed that the Civil Rights Act had to be repealed in order for us to maintain States rights which was a buzz word in those days) and for the country to return to its roots. Mr. Thurmond later repented of his views during those years but Mr. Helms went to his death with nothing but hatred for many minority citizens of this country.

It totally amazes me that anyone would bring him up as some sort of hero today but that is absolutely what the Heritage Foundation and Senator Ted Cruz are doing. When I originally read this report all I could do was shake my head in total disbelief.  They say that racism has not disappeared from our society; it has simply moved below the surface. I pray that is not so but can imagine it to be. And sometimes as in this case not very much below the surface.

Is this the brand of Republicanism that so many of my conservative friends espouse? Are they really willing to put Jesse Helms as the face of their standards, principles, and beliefs?

PollutionBeijing’s heavy pollution concerns parents

Smog can cut off sunlight to Beijing for days. At the International School of Beijing, parents want routine air quality measurements, and the school has built a $5 million dome to enclose a playground and filter the air. Seth Doane reports.

via Beijing’s heavy pollution concerns parents – CBS News Video.

One of the major prices China is having to pay for their sudden industrial dominance is pollution. Since there is a much bigger priority on economics than there is on environment the big industrial areas of the country are becoming very polluted. I know there are those in the U.S. that will be screaming about this but wasn’t that also true for our own economic development?

In the early 1900s going to almost mid-century our major cities like Pittsburgh, Gary Indiana, and the like were enveloped in giant pollution clouds. When the automobile became dominant that list also included cities like Los Angeles. We, like China now, were choking on our own dirt. So, it can be hard to righteously wag a finger at China for doing the same thing that got us to our prosperity today.

The major difference this time is that China’s pollution will pile on our own to cause what someday could be the tipping point for our planet.  Last night I watched an episode from “The Wonders of Life” narrated by Brian Cox who is a physicist and professor of a large British college. The episode was called the “Thin Blue Line” and was about how fragile our atmosphere actually is. It was a very eye-opening show that explained how other planets in our solar system have much different, and much more deadly, environments than ours and that the difference is not that great between them and us.  I would highly recommend this series to anyone who wants to learn more about the world we live in. Brian is quite a young man (if you believe 45 year olds are young men) :)

I am one of those who will not condemn China for wanting to prosper as we have. They are simply looking for a better way of life for their people much like, as I previously mentioned, we did a century ago. But that is another post…