Archives For Cultures

In a half-dozen nations, tyrants who once ruled by fear and repression have been toppled, unleashing centuries-old sectarian rivalries and bloody struggles for power. Syria’s horrific civil war is spilling into Lebanon and threatening Jordan and Turkey, while Iraq has effectively devolved into three nations — one Shiite, one Sunni, one Kurdish. In the chaos, a particularly malignant form of radical Sunni Islam, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, has seized large swaths of territory in Syria and Iraq….

Why is that rivalry raging now?
It has fueled conflict and repression since the dawn of Islam in the 7th century, but was ignited into a bonfire in 2003. That’s when the U.S. overthrew the Sunni-dominated regime of Saddam Hussein in Iraq. Hussein had long brutally suppressed Iraq’s Shiite majority, and his fall turned that power dynamic on its head. The new Shiite-dominated government of Nouri al-Maliki marginalized Iraq’s Sunnis, denying them any real voice in the new national government.

SOURCE: The grand Shiite-Sunni struggle.

I recently read an article about how Islam needs its own Reformation. The Christian Reformation began with Martin Luther posted ninety-five complaints against the might Roman Catholic Church over 500 years ago. Up until then there were only a handful of dominant Christian churches around and RC was the major one. They told you what to believe, how much money they wanted, and where you go after you die. A lowly monk just didn’t buy that and visibly told them so.  That started the flames rolling and the many different belief systems sprouting out that differed with the Roman Catholic church.

Today I am told that we have over 14,000 different versions of Christ’s church each saying they are the ones who have it right. We went from a handful to thousands because of the Reformation. Isn’t that what is currently happening with Islam. Isn’t ISIS just another version of Islam that has sprouted off the Muslim root? In some ways we don’t need an Islamic Reformation but instead an Islamic consolidation. We need some overall authority to reign in all this centuries old fighting among the Sunnis, Shiites, Kurds, and all the other out there.

As the article above says some think the we the U.S. is responsible for much of the latest fighting in Islam. Before we invaded Iraq its leader kept an iron grip on the various Muslim sects.  Since that overthrow the Middle East has exploded into one religious sect fighting another and hating all the other versions of spirituality.

We don’t need a Muslim Reformation, but just the opposite. While that is happening it would be nice is somehow we managed to get all the 14,000+ Christian sects to agree to some core beliefs but that seems almost as impossible as the former. At least we are not fighting and killing each other as our Muslim brothers are doing..

Fashion is Out….

April 16, 2015

High Heels 1This is no longer a trend – it is now a lifestyle that is too comfortable, for consumers of all ages, for it to go away anytime soon,” he said.

Millennials’ tendency to rent instead of buy is also turning the retail industry upside down.

SOURCE: Rebellious millennials are turning into a huge problem for retailers – Yahoo Finance.

It appears from the above article that millennials (19 -35 years olds) are turning away from “fashion” and its annual almost dictated changes. They are giving up the high heels, yes especially the seven-inch ones, for more comfortable athletic shoes.  They insist on not be dictated to as to what they wear or own.  And to that I say “Good for you”.

I have read elsewhere that the suit and tie standards are dropping rather dramatically across the business world. Marketing is a very powerful force in any capitalistic society. What will happen when most of us become immune to their dictates?

 

I know there are many of U.S. citizens who have never known a time when our military spending did not dwarf everything else in our discretionary spending budgets. We just seem to be a nation that wants to be policemen of the world. We want to put our noses into every conflict we can find.  It doesn’t matter that in places like Iraq and Afghanistan they have been having the same battles for hundreds and sometimes thousands of years. We just can’t seem to find a conflict that we think we stay out of or can’t solve with our military might.

Only those of us over the age of forty have ever know a time when our military budgets haven’t dominated everything else. But in reality the vast majority of our over-blown war spending can be attributed to just two presidents, George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan.  here is a little more about this. Check on the source to see the entire article.

2015-03-25_14-59-11

Total U.S. defense spending (in inflation-adjusted dollars) has increased so much over the past decade that it has reached levels not seen since World War II, when the United States had 12 million people under arms and waged wars on three continents. Moreover, the U.S. share of global military expenditures has jumped from about one-third to about one-half in this same period….

The ballooning defense budget played a significant role in turning the budget surplus projected a decade ago into a massive deficit that forces the U.S. government to borrow 43 cents of every dollar it spends. As the nation attempts to bring this massive deficit—which chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Michael Mullen calls the greatest threat to our security—under control, leaders from both parties recognize that these unprecedented levels of defense expenditures cannot be maintained.

The question currently facing Congress and President Barack Obama—how much to spend on defense in times of large deficits or in the final years of a war—is not new. Presidents Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton had to identify reasonable levels of defense expenditures as the United States transitioned from war spending to peacetime budgets, while President Ronald Reagan needed to control defense spending in the face of rising deficits. Presidents Dwight Eisenhower and George H.W. Bush confronted both scenarios at once, like President Obama today.

SOURCE:  A Historical Perspective on Defense Budgets | Center for American Progress.

Given that historically we can and have reduced our military spending. It just takes a different point of view to make that happen. I don’t think that the GOP’s combination of inert fear of others and the bravado of getting the bad guys will go away anytime soon but historically we can almost count on that eventually happening again.  The big question as to when, is all about when  we as voters finally realize that we fear way too much and we can’t solve thousand-year old tribal battles on the other side of the world with our million dollar plus smart bombs and drones. It is very possible to drastically reduce our military spending with little or no difference to our security. It just takes more voters at the polls who realize that possibility.

2015-04-03_08-24-43I am ashamed of the State of my birth and where I have lived most of my life. But, this isn’t the first time. Indiana for most of my life has been a very conservative red State who embarrasses me on a regular basis.  The Republicans now have total power and they are wielding it. The latest “religious freedom” law is just one example. It sounds like we are now going to have placards placed on business doors saying which potential customers are not allowed to enter their business.  It reminds me kind of like my youth when I saw signs saying “No Negroes” when we traveled in the south. That embarrassed me even at that young age but at least I could say that didn’t happen in “my” State.

I don’t know how big Salesforce company it but once again Indiana is pushing people out by their actions.

Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff said Wednesday that he is helping employees who are uncomfortable with Indiana’s controversial religious freedom law to transfer out of the state….

“I just got an email on the way to studio from another employee who said, ‘look I don’t feel comfortable living in this state anymore, you have to move me out,’ and I gave him a $50,000 relocation package and said, ‘great, you’re clear to go.’ “

SOURCE:Salesforce CEO: We’re helping employees move out of Indiana – Yahoo Finance.

Eli Lilly which practically owns Indianapolis is also stating concerns. I don’t know if Governor Pense and his GOP congress will get the message or not. They just might change the law but that doesn’t mean they will change their attitudes towards those who are different from them.

Maybe I need to consider if I am going to spend my final years in the State of my birth. I know my leaving would not make much of a difference but it might symbolically mean something to me….

2015-03-10_10-32-14Sen. Rand Paul slammed former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush for hypocrisy on marijuana in an interview Wednesday with Yahoo Global News Anchor Katie Couric. Responding to recent revelations that Gov. Bush smoked pot during his teen years at Phillips Academy, Paul pointed out the flaws in Bush’s opposition to medical marijuana in his home state.

Sen. Paul, who has hinted about his own wild college days, was quick to clarify that he did not fault Bush for having “made mistakes growing up.” Instead, he took issue with Bush’s inconsistent views on the drug. “If you’ve got MS in Florida, Jeb Bush voted to put you in jail if you go down to a local store or a local drugstore and get medical marijuana … and yet he was doing it for recreational purposes.”

To Paul, it was Bush’s privileged upbringing that spared him the harsh penalties many Floridians still face when they entangle with marijuana. “It was a different standard for him,” the presidential hopeful explained, “because he was from a wealthy family, going to a very wealthy school, and he got off scot-free.”

SOURCE: Rand Paul calls out Jeb Bush on marijuana – Yahoo News.

I must admit that this is one of those times where Rand Paul’s words ring true to me.  But I must always remember that his underlying priority is to basically shut down government and to remove the nation’s safety net and move us to  laissez-faire capitalism or “Everyone for Themselves”.

Now that I have my libertarian rant over lets look at the particulars above. Almost all of our opinions are at least a partial result of our experiences in life.  I guess I, unlike Mr. Ryan and Mr. Bush, wasn’t “hip” in my youth as I never tried marijuana during those years or since.

What I want to concentrate on in this post is the words I bolded in the quote above. It is becoming more and more obvious that it is a very different standard of justice for wealthy families than it is for the rest of us and particularly those of us of color. All these recent reports of police shooting of unarmed black young men and the hugely disproportionate number of minorities in our prison system have brought that fact to light. Now if we can just manage to accept that fact and to do what we are famous for as a country and that is to address these inequalities head on.  Given that money is power in our society there will never be true equality of justice but we should at least try to level the playing field as much as possible.

I will finish this post with a change of heart I have had over the last couple of years. We need to do a lot less jailing of people who primarily only harm themselves with their actions and a big part of that group is marijuana users. If they are not threat to society then we need to seek other means of enforcing our version of morality on them.  Enough said….

Spin, Spin, Spin…

March 17, 2015

2015-03-03_08-42-13Remember when George W. Bush sold himself as a “compassionate conservative”? Of course you do. Now, his brother Jeb is using a similar formulation, describing himself as an “inclusive conservative.” The difference may seem trivial at first, but the Bushes are no fools when it comes to winning elections. And this difference tells us something about the changing perception of the parties, as well as the changing priorities of left and right….

A recent Pew survey found that 60 percent of respondents said the Democratic Party “cares about the middle class.” Forty-three percent of respondents said the same of Republicans, a 17-point gap.

But the same Pew survey found that 59 percent of respondents said that Democrats are “tolerant and open to all groups of people,” and only 35 percent said the same of Republicans, a 29-point gap….

This is the latest sign that culture war issues continue to move to the front of our politics, while economic issues take a back seat. Fifteen years ago, the Republican problem was that it seemed to have nothing tangible to offer the poor, blacks, or others on the margin of society. For Jeb, the problem with conservative conservatism is that it is exclusive. Conservatism is for the married, white, Christian, suburban, and exurban.

SOURCE: How Jeb Bush is tweaking his brother’s brand of ‘compassionate conservatism’.

I would love to see a poll on how many people today believe that brother George lived out is self-proclaimed label “compassionate conservative” while he was in office.  I suspect that only hard-core Republicans would answer yes.  Maybe I am skeptical here, it wouldn’t be the first time, but I kind of think that this self-labeling stuff is nothing but spin. These guys, and I am talking about all politicians here, think that they can describe themselves as anything they want and maybe it will get them a few more votes for those very naive voters out there.

Having said all that I do kind of wish that it had been Jeb who ran the country for eight years instead of his brother.  George was just not my kind of guy. Too much swagger, too much bravado, too unread, too fixated on sports…  Jeb just seems to be a mellower type guy who would make decisions based on his intellect instead of alway his guts.  This article goes on to say the Hillary just doesn’t wear the “compassionate” label too well either. Her demands for six-figure payments for her speeches maybe show her core values too prominently for me.

But the name of the game in today’s politics is spin, spin, spin.  You don’t have to know what you are saying as long as you say it with authority. That seems to be the mantra for all those yahoos inside the beltway.  They put on masks for each group they want support from. I don’t know if Mitt Romney really believed his 47% rhetoric but it was good spin for the group he was then talking to.  The problem is that video cameras are now everywhere. There are thousands in every major city street corners and in almost everyone’s pocket now. You just can’t get away with spinning to one group without everyone knowing it.

My dream for 2016 is that there is neither a Bush nor a Clinton on either ticket…