RJ's Corner

I Am A Jon Stewart Fan… After The Fact…

He nailed the insane reason we still need to talk about climate change

Burn Noticed StewartYes, 99.9% of the scientific literature shows that climate change is real and worsened by the things we do every day, like driving cars and burning fossil fuels. Yet political representatives who continue to deny that very real science continue to serve on government science committees. 

In September of last year, Stewart nailed Representative Larry Bucshon (R-Indiana) for saying the science on climate change “still isn’t clear.” …

“If scientists could be bought,” said Stewart, “these companies would have already made it rain in nerd town.”

He pinpointed exactly why health care just can’t work as a free market

Steven Brill Daily Show Obamacare

Last January, Stewart had guest Steven Brill, author of Time’s in-depth health care analysis“Bitter Pill,” on the show to talk about Obamacare.

He told the story of a cancer patient who was recently forced to pay $13,700 up front for a drug transfusion which was only part of a much bigger $83,000 payment. Yet the transfusion, says Brill, cost the pharmaceutical company just $300.

Brill said the reason health care will never work as a free market is simple: “The cost has shifted to the taxpayers — which I think is a good thing. But it’s outrageous that we haven’t done anything to control those costs.”

Then, Stewart brilliantly came back at Brill with a common conservative argument: If we simply create a free market for health care where patients can pick-and-choose their coverage, it will result competition and, therefore, better options.

Here’s Brill’s response: “Everyone says, ‘Well it’s a marketplace.’ That guy [the cancer patient] has no choice in buying that drug. His doctor told him, ‘This will save your life. You don’t take it, you’re gonna die.'”

Doesn’t sound like a marketplace.

Source: 3 epic moments where Jon Stewart nails the most pressing global issues of our time – Yahoo Finance.

I know this is a big quote above and leaves little of my self-imposed 500 word post limit for my take but it does kind of speak for itself so maybe my 200 words is more than enough. Jon Stewart is an off-the-wall guy who says what we all would want to say if we had his audience. Well, almost all of us. Some of my more conservative friends probably hate him as they sadly do so many others…

Cruel and Unusual….

2015-08-08_07-54-19(CENTENNIAL, Colo.)—Colorado theater shooter James Holmes will be sentenced to life in prison without parole after a jury failed to agree Friday on whether he should get the death penalty for his murderous attack on a packed movie premiere.

Source: Jury Sentences Aurora Movie Theater Shooter to Life in Prison | TIME.

QE BannerThe Colorado theatre incident seems like a long ago memory now that so many others have happened. But it is nice to see that James Holmes finally was held accountable for his deeds. I know there are probably a lot of you who say he should have been killed but I leave that up to God. It is not for us to decide.  I am pro-life in all its forms.

I am also one who believes that we should all be held accountable for our actions. I’m sure that mental illness played a part in what this guy did but according to the findings he knew what he was doing was wrong so he bears the responsibility of being accountable.  He figuratively will never see the light of day outside his prison cell. “Figuratively” leads on to the next topic of discussion here.

Our justice system says we cannot treat people in a “cruel and unusual” manner but I kind of think that should be measured against the circumstances. Is it cruel and unusual for a person who thoughtlessly killed dozens of people to be totally isolated from others around him?  I can understand all those death penalty advocates wanting him to suffer as his victims suffered but doesn’t death end all suffering? Life in prison without any contact with others and without modern conveniences seems an appropriate way to make a person suffer.

This post is out of character for me I guess but it is how I feel about  this topic….

Fashion is Out….

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?

Will Our Gushing Military Spending Ever End?

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.

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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.

I Am Ashamed Of My Native State…

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….

And Justice For All – Marijuana…

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…

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…

Despite the Loud Minority…

2015-02-05_08-24-50Despite a loud minority, most of the U.S. has moved on. Last year, seven states accounted for 80 percent of all executions. And it is even more evident when you look at counties. More than half of death penalty convictions originate in 2 percent of the counties in the U.S. More and more Christians are troubled that 85 percent of executions take place in the Bible Belt. A 2014 poll showed that millennial Christians are overwhelmingly against the death penalty, and only 5 percent of Americans think Jesus would favor it….. It feels like we have death-fatigue. Perhaps it is no surprise that alongside constant stories of death from Paris and Nigeria to Ferguson and NY, there is a surge of opposition to the death penalty in the U.S. It just feels strange to protest another ISIS beheading and then watch another botched execution in the U.S  Revolution is in the air — and the revolution is about how life matters. Let’s say no to death —  from ISIS to Texas. SOURCE:  Checking Pulse on the Death Penalty | Shane Claiborne | Red Letter Christians.

It never fails to amaze me that so much that I think is wrong with our country is because of small minorities. Democracy is supposed to be about majority rule, or at least a form of it. How can we let 2 percent of the counties in the U.S. hand out over 50 percent of our execution orders. I am even more ashamed that 85 percent of execution are in the so-called Christian Bible Belt, that is primarily the southern states.  This seems totally without any sense when only 5 percent of us think that Jesus would favor executions. Aren’t we Christians supposed to look to Jesus on how to be in our lives?

It is heartening to see though that Christian millennials are overwhelmingly against the death penalty. That says that soon, maybe within a generation, this execution trend will finally end. It seems strange that the United State is in an alliance with China, and the Middle East in allowing the state to execute its citizens. Everyone else in the world has abolished it.  Being pro-life is about being for life and against human generated death in all it forms.

Small minorities that are primarily due to the very low population northern desert states along with their bible belt co-conspirators are responsible for holding up all forms of gun control. It seems they would rather see a “Newton” occur weekly rather than giving up their guns in any way shape or form.

But as Shane Claiborne says in his article above we should all rejoice that the death penalty is perhaps in its last stages. I can only pray that everyone who calls themselves Christian take up the Bible once in a while and concentrate on the words of Jesus found in it. He brought us the new covenant from God and showed us how to implement it by his personal life practices. When we listen to those words we can in no way be anything but pro-life in all regards and that certainly includes murders caused by our love of guns and the death penalty.

America doesn’t trust its experts anymore

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It’s healthy to question expertise, but we need actual experts. The brilliance of the Fox News motto, “We report, you decide,” is that it encourages our vanity that we can know as much as anyone else, we can be experts, given a stream of carefully curated facts and opinion. MSNBC, which has a similar business/editorial model, is stuck with the less-empowering “Lean Forward.” There are a number of ways forward for expertise in America. We can become increasingly mistrustful of scientists, doctors, professors, bureaucrats, bankers, and other experts in their fields; or we can find a better way to filter out the would-be experts spreading misinformation; or we can continue disregarding all experts who don’t confirm what we already believe. Perhaps we’ll all suffer because we didn’t heed our experts, or perhaps our experts will win back our trust. SOURCE:  America doesn’t trust its experts anymore – The Week.

Experts are someone who has spent sometimes years studying a particular part of life. They have looked at it from many different angles and views. They have studied the background information that made this topic what it is.  There are also experts who bring us the goods and services that we so need in a modern society and some that we don’t need but insist on having. I spent thirty years becoming an expert in my field and would like to think that I contributed to society by my contributions.

But there are some who absolutely refuse to recognize expertise, especially in the areas that they think they know better. My wife, bless her soul, is one of those people who refuses to accept any validity to statistics. She thinks none of it is valid. Unfortunately there are those, who are usually Fox News viewers, who think their opinions are worth as much or more than those who have spent much time studying the subject.  There are just too many of us who think we know it all but in reality have much of it simply wrong.  We seem to cling to our prejudices instead of knowledge in too many areas of life. We need trust experts to help us understand things they we don’t have the time to spend to study them ourselves.  But then again there are some areas that where we need to rigorously question even the experts.

I find it unfathomable how many people think our military is the most trusted institution in America.  I kind of think this poll represented one portion of our population more than others. Trust in our institutions has been constantly decreasing for several decades in America and one of those institutions that is falling out of favor is organized religion. Forty years ago more than two-thirds of us had a total trust in it. Now that number has decreased by more than a third. Less than half of us have much trust in organized religion and that is tragic. A big part of that lack of trust is likely due to the political allegiances of so many in those institutions cling to.

 

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We just don’t seem to be able to know who to trust anymore??

Going After the Money…. We Can’t..

Made in China - inscription on Red Rubber Stamp.In this age of electronic banking the way to shut down any organization is to go after their access to money. It looks like that is just what is currently happening with North Korea at least to an extent.

“We need to step up and target those financial institutions in Asia and beyond that are supporting the brutal and dangerous North Korean regime.” When challenged by Royce about “a number of small banks” still doing business with North Korea and the need to choke off the country’s access to hard currency, Glaser replied: “That’s exactly what we are trying to do.” Royce said he hoped a bipartisan bill he sponsored that would label North Korea “a primary money laundering concern” would be passed by the Senate this year…. The country’s main economic ties are with China and, according U.S. government reports, its tiny economy has supported itself with money-making scams ranging from counterfeiting $100 bills to illicit arms and drug sales. SOURCE:  U.S. takes aim at North Korea’s remaining financial links – Yahoo News.

Being a simple guy I just can’t understand how we can give China so much power over our day-to-day lives when they support those who would love to see us annihilated from this earth. I don’t know about you but it seems everything I buy almost anywhere today comes with a “Made in China” tag. It is about time we started putting conditions on transferring our wealth to that country. Millions of good paying jobs have disappeared to be resurrected in mainland China at pennies on the dollar and the primary purpose is to provide more profits for their most often times very rich stockholders..

I know doing something about this problem will be a hard-sell for the Republicans in congress. They simply believe that what our corporations do to make their profits is their own business and the government should stay out of it. And again if Obama comes out for it they will naturally be adamantly against it whatever it is. I think this same thing would be happening no matter who the Democrat was that occupies the Oval Office. Its pure politics and it is getting uglier by the minute. But I am getting off topic here.

How can we allow China to help North Korea with their illegal schemes and not suffer any consequences?  Of course part of that reason, maybe the biggest part, is that we are already so deeply dependent on China that we simply can’t afford to confront them. If they for whatever reason decided to stop sending us the products they now make our economy would likely collapse. How did we get into this type of arrangement is of course because of greed. When a bigger profit can be made using Chinese labor at pennies per hour as opposed to dollars per hour for home-grown labor greed will go off-shore every time. But I kind of think that even those who made these decisions to move their production to China are surprised at the speed at which the total transformation occurred. They all seemed to rush there without really considering the consequences.  But then again greed has never been much of a forward-looking thing…

America’s broken promise

2014-11-16_08-44-26All that lovely wealth isn’t trickling down. The country’s median income hit a high of $56,080 in 1999, went into slow decline, dropped to $53,644 after the 2008 economic meltdown — and five years later, was lower still, at $52,100. Raises remain tiny. Many newly created jobs pay a pittance. For tens of millions of people, the economic recovery is an illusion. The voters are right: Wage stagnation — and the resulting erosion of the middle class — is this country’s biggest problem. When hard work no longer produces upward mobility for workers who lack elite skills, America’s implicit promise is broken. At National Review, conservative Maggie Gallagher complains that “for more than a decade Americans have been losing ground financially, and the GOP has yet to address the issue.” In The Washington Post, liberal Harold Meyerson grouses that “the Democrats have had precious little to say about how to re-create…widely shared prosperity.” Perhaps that’s because the standard liberal and conservative nostrums (Tax the rich! Eliminate regulations!) won’t address the fundamental problem: Globalization and technology have devalued both labor and workers, and made companies more ruthlessly competitive. Here’s a scary thought: Neither party is offering a remedy because there isn’t one. SOURCE:  America’s broken promise – The Week.

The two hundred words above from my friends over at the Week seem to cut to the bone as the primary reason so many people are upset about how this country is proceeding.  The guy/gal who gets up every morning and puts in an eight to ten hour day working for someone else is falling further and further behind. So many people have seen their paychecks and any benefits they might have had go down for the last fifteen years while all those “rich cats” continue to rake in vulgar profits on their unearned income.  There seems to be a fundamental breakdown in our society.

As the article states this is a problem that can’t seem to be addressed by the old methods even if the GOP allowed them to happen. Democrats can’t throw enough money at this problem to make it go away and the Republican’s trickle down obviously after fifteen years is not got to happen. I will admit that globalization has a lot to do with this dilemma. So much of the rest of the world is in much worse shape economically than we are. It will be years, probably generations, before that is balanced. The old solutions just don’t work anymore.

New approaches to strengthening the large middle segment of wage earners is drastically needed. The problem is neither party in Washington seems capable of any degree of new thought. They are too busy blaming each other to find new pathways to overall prosperity. Somethings got to give sooner or later.

For all the problems that the middle have those on the margins of our society have it worse. The unemployment rate for them is astronomical. The safety net continues to erode so little or no help is seen on the horizon. Somethings got to give and I am afraid that when it does it will have some serious consequences for all of us.

Mandating Morality Part 1- Prohibition

Nothing so needs reforming as other people’s habits.  Fanatics will never learn that, though it is written in letters of gold across the sky. It is prohibition that makes things precious.  Mark Twain

 

I have recently come across several sources of what I consider mandating morality. That is trying to force your version of morality on others. Our personal view of morality can come from one person, usually a parent or other authority figure, telling us what we are to believe about this or that. It can come form one group who think they have it right and others need to get it. It can even come from countries that force their citizens to a certain version of morality. Many times it comes from various religious beliefs.

As the quote above from Mark Twain says if you prohibit someone from doing something it just makes that thing seem more desirable to them. Tell a kid he can’t have something and that is usually the first thing he tries to get. Mandating morality often times has the opposite effect than what was intended.

Let’s look at a morality that was mandated in the U.S. almost a century ago

2014-08-24_10-38-18Prohibition was intended to improve, even to ennoble, the lives of all Americans, to protect individuals, families, and society at large from the devastating effects of alcohol abuse. Prohibition turned law-abiding citizens into criminals, made a mockery of the justice system, caused illicit drinking to seem glamorous and fun…But the enshrining of a faith-driven moral code in the Constitution paradoxically caused millions of Americans to rethink their definition of morality. Thugs became celebrities, responsible authority was rendered impotent. Social mores in place for a century were obliterated. Especially among the young, and most especially among young women, liquor consumption rocketed, propelling the rest of the culture with it: skirts shortened. Music heated up. America’s Sweetheart morphed into The Vamp.

SOURCE:  Prohibition: About the Series | PBS.

There were many who were convinced that alcohol was the root of all evil. It was the most immoral part of our society. After ten years of trying to push that morality on the country they finally managed to accomplish it with the  18th amendment to the constitution. When that amendment became law many smaller communities who were the most enthusiastic supporters actually closed their local jails! They were convinced that they would no longer be needed.

Of course what banning alcohol actually did was to drive it underground and put it in the hands of very immoral men like Al Capone. It took almost twenty years to finally convince the majority of citizens that outlawing alcohol actually increased crime and its over use.

Yes, I acknowledge that some, due to a genetic makeup, are destroyed by an addiction to alcohol but for the vast majority it is simply a way to get together with others and forget about the drudgery of life for a few hours.  Alcohol is very much ingrained in to the social fabric of life.

86% of strident conservatives think the poor ‘have it easy’

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.  2014-06-28_08-48-57 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.

Giving Up Cable/Satellite….

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.

Google Is Making Itself a Lot Leaner and Meaner..

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.

Before We Destroy Ourselves….

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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…..

There is No Left Brain/Right Brain Divide..

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…

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.

Pope attacks mega-salaries and wealth gap…

2013-12-12_09-12-42VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – Pope Francis said in the first peace message of his pontificate that huge salaries and bonuses are symptoms of an economy based on greed and inequality and called again for nations to narrow the wealth gap. In his message for the Roman Catholic Church’s World Day of Peace, marked around the world on January 1, he also called for sharing of wealth and for nations to shrink the gap between rich and poor, more of whom are getting only “crumbs”.

“The grave financial and economic crises of the present time … have pushed man to seek satisfaction, happiness and security in consumption and earnings out of all proportion to the principles of a sound economy” he said. “The succession of economic crises should lead to a timely rethinking of our models of economic development and to a change in lifestyles,” he said….

Since his election in March as the first non-European pope in 1,300 years, the Argentinian has several times condemned the “idolatry of money” and said it was a depressing sign of the times that a homeless person dying of exposure on the street was no longer news but a slight fall in the stock market is.

SOURCE:  Pope attacks mega-salaries and wealth gap in peace message – Yahoo News.

I was pleasantly surprised to see that Time Magazine had chosen Pope Francis as its person of the year.  I dreaded the idea that Senator Cruz, who was in the top ten list might be chosen! Time has a way of  sometimes wanting to shock its readers with their unpredictability.  I am glad that saner minds ruled this year.

Anyway, getting back to the story and quote above, I was truly inspired by his words about the wealth gap. He does indeed seem to be a Pope for the people and not just an administrator as the previous pope was often cited to be. The wealth gap, in the whole world not just the U.S., is becoming so extreme as to threaten our very humanity.  With the increase in riches by a very small minority also comes the increase in power to perpetuate  the suppression of the majority.

Pope Francis gets it and is not afraid to let the world know what he thinks. Narrowing the wealth gap as the pope suggests means taking the power back to the people and away from the privileged few. That is no small task!  One great thing about this country is that our elected officials who make up most of the rules are still elected by the majority of its citizens. Now, if only we could get the ignorant, or at least misinformed, voters to realize that fact things might change in our country and the world.

Here is to you Pope Francis. Keep your voice loud and clear in this area and all the fellow Catholics in your clan take to heart your words and actually try to put them in action. Wouldn’t the world then be a better place??

When Will It End???

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When will we ever learn????

In case you have lost track, he is the LAX shooter. Considering there have been a couple more in the news in the last day or so I guess this is old news… How sad is that???

‘I cannot even stand to look at you’

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…..

Being Poor In Texas or Florida…..

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.

About The Heritage Foundation…

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?

Beijing’s heavy pollution concerns parents

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.

Source: 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…

The Fox In Charge of the Hen House…

Less than a week after the Supreme Court watered down the 1965 Voting Rights Act, a handful of states seemed poised to roll back the protections afforded to minorities by the 48-year-old law.

Two hours after the decision, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott announced that a 2011 voter-ID law that federal courts found disproportionately burdened poor and minority voters would go into effect “immediately.” New redistricting maps, Abbott says, could swiftly follow.

Source:  States Eye Voting Obstacles in Wake of High-Court Ruling | TIME.com.

I am not really much of a Supreme Court watcher anymore but from what I know this court probably ranks in the bottom three for me. The five who almost always side with each other seem intent on molding their own version of America.  Clarence Thomas who should never have been even nominated for that  life-time position is reported to be the least informed judge in the history of the high court. My conservative friends are constantly screaming about “activist” judges who instead of enforcing the laws want to make their own. Clarence Thomas and those five fit that mold perfectly.

The Civil Rights Act that is now about fifty years old needs some modification. In my mind there needs to be some sort of sitting council that is always looking at possible voting suppression. Perhaps the most critical foundation of this country is our right to vote and have that vote effect change when it is needed.

I was a regular visitor to the deep south during my working years between 1970 and 2000. During those early years I as totally embarrassed by the blatant racism I encountered there.  Mel who was one of the “good old boys” sat in the company cafeteria spouting off jokes about their problems with the negroes. I substituted a much more polite word than he actually used. Everyone wanted to sit at Mel’s table to get their daily dose.  Over the years this sort of thing has disappeared under the surface but I still believe that it is very prominent with many in that area of the country.

So when I see all the gerrymandering to put all the minorities in “their own” districts so as to lessen their effect it still troubles me. When I saw predominately African-American voting districts have to stand in eight-hour long lines to cast their votes it greatly troubles me. The fact that the Texas Attorney General didn’t even wait a day to pronounce how he would immediately put stumbling blocks in the way of certain people voting.  Racism may not be as visible as it was when I started out visiting the deep south as a young engineer but it is still there lingering just below the surface and that troubles me deeply.

Training Your Workers…..

skilledST. PAUL, Minn. – We previously reported that one thing holding back the economic recovery is there just aren’t enough skilled workers. But some companies have decided if they can’t find qualified employees, they’ll just create them — as we found out in St. Paul, Minnesota….

Tuition is $4,000, but the coalition provides scholarships. Later this month, the first class will graduate 18 students.  How does that compare to building a successful business? “It’s bigger,” said Guarino. “It’s bigger. It’s more important.”  For companies needing highly-skilled workers, it is a way to do good while ensuring they do well.

Source:  Minn. companies are “building” new workers from scratch – CBS News.

In my day it was common practice to bring in fresh recruits and train them for the job you needed filled. I don’t know when that fell out of favor but it is nice to see it coming back at least in a small degree. Sometimes all we need to be successful is a little help. I have proudly proclaimed more than once on this blog that I worked my way through college. I worked up to forty or more hours per week along with taking almost a full course load. It was tiring but I was young and didn’t quite realize that. I probably averaged four hours sleep or less most nights. But, given the cost of most college educations today I’m not sure what I did is even possible anymore.

Getting back to the point of this post, sometimes all we need is a little help along the way. A little boost here, some encouraging words there, or maybe a few bucks to bring it all together. I am a firm believer that the best moral values in this country belong to us Midwesterners. We seem to have more empathy and less narcissism than most other regions of the country. We don’t, for the most part, strut around telling everyone how great we are. Instead we just put our nose to the wheel to make things happen. It is nice to see that this program of helping develop skilled workers is from a Minnesota company.

Sometimes it is necessary to look back in order to figure out how to go forward. This maybe is one of those times. If you can’t go out in the market to get the necessary skilled workers you just create them yourself.  I know there will be those who are afraid that once they put all the effort to make a skilled worker that they might end up going somewhere else, even a competitor.  But my Midwestern values say that many will be loyal to those who helped them get where they are.  Loyalty is another of those “old-fashioned” values that disappeared during the Reagan years but who says it can’t be resurrected again if some company or group takes the first step of valuing its workforce.

Being Down On Yourself….

CritisizeExcessive self-criticism tends to backfire, because it leads us to focus on our so-called failures instead of the “small ways that we could have improved,” says psychologist Tamar E. Chansky, PhD, author of Freeing Yourself From Anxiety. And over the long term, studies show, self trash-talk is associated with higher stress levels and even depression.

Source:  9 Ways to Silence Your Inner Critic – ABC News.

Being down on yourself is just a normal state for some and an occasional state for others. This seems especially true for  certain varieties of Christians who believe that all human beings are just worthless pieces of snot but then declare that God loves us anyway. It is hard to have a positive attitude about almost anything when that philosophy drives your life. As the article above says self criticism is a good thing to a certain degree. It allows us to change things in our lives when they are detrimental to our overall health or attitude.

I must admit that even though I long ago gave up the “worthless piece of snot” Christian beliefs, I still get down on myself more frequently than is probably healthy. But I don’t think I am unusual in that regard. I think that is a common human affliction. One of the worst problems with getting down on yourself is that it often leads to getting down on everyone else and seeing the world as a very dark place.  There seem to be many in that mode lately. In some ways that is perhaps one of the root problems we have in our currently disjointed world right now. We just can’t seem to see any goodness in ourselves or in others.

Upon reviewing the list in this article of ways to silence your inner critic  I think the first and the last ones are the most helpful.  The first one is to try to narrow it down when you are self-critical. Find out what specifically you don’t like about yourself and go about trying to change that smaller issue.  Don’t dump your criticism all over yourself like a heavy wet blanket.  The last one is to those perfectionists among us of which I am certainly not one but my wife is.  Seeking to be perfect is an unattainable goal in life. Perfection is so destructive. One of my favorite Sci-Fi movies is Tron- The Legacy. I have it on my DVR list and watch parts of it at least weekly.  In it the creator of a digital world commissioned a digital clone of himself to create a perfect world. Of course what resulted was chaos since perfection is unknowable.

I need to look at this list again in a few days to see if any other parts of it can stick on me.

The Knowledge Economy….

In a Washington Post Op-Ed piece Wednesday, co-founder Mr. Zuckerberg wrote that today’s “economy is based primarily on knowledge and ideas – resources that are renewable…. In a knowledge economy, the most important resources are talented people.”

Beyond helping to nudge the current debate, according to a statement released on Wednesday, the group’s goal is to “organize and engage the tech community in the issues where we can contribute to the national debate, on issues of vital importance to America’s ability to compete in the global knowledge economy.”…

The country does not have enough skilled workers to fill industry’s needs, he says, and it sorely needs a more sensible approach to keeping America competitive. “Silicon Valley can play an important role in getting that message out,” he says, “because small individuals or companies cannot get that message out, but a company like Apple or Microsoft can be heard.”

Source: Immigration reform: Can Mark Zuckerberg and friends deliver? – CSMonitor.com.

Although my quote above doesn’t indicate it, the article above is primarily about how Silicon Valley has come out in the immigration debates. They indicate that there are simply not enough of our youth that have the desire, or maybe opportunity, to get an advanced education to fill the needs of a “Knowledge Economy”. So, if the U.S. is to remain competitive we need to allow those who are willing to do the hard work necessary to come to our country.

I also read all the statistics that show that a large percentage of our youth are not buying into the costs of a college education. They see so many college graduates on the unemployment lines to believe in the mantra of the knowledge economy.  I must admit that my college education put me solidly into the middle class  where I had never been before. I watched my father struggle throughout his life to make a living; often a back-breaking living. He sold chain saws, he drove a milk truck, he packed thousands of sand molds and poured white-hot metal in them.  He was fortunate to finally get a big time factory job during his later years that allowed him to retire on a little more than his social security payments. I watched my father struggle through life.

I have been thinking quite a bit about the history of America and how we are unique in so many ways. We are an independent people who like to make our own ways. We, even those born from milkmen, stubbornly ask why we can’t have life a little easier than our fathers. We seemed to have ambition where many others don’t. I am searching to find just what has made America great in the past in order to try to understand how we might gain back that edge that we seem to be losing.

I simply can’t take Mr. Zuckerberg’s stand that the answer to our national malaise is to allow more of the ambitious from other countries to come here to fill out our “knowledge economy” roster. Are our youth who will be the leaders of tomorrow not stepping up to the task or are we just making the path too difficult? Those thoughts are on my mind lately. I am earnestly looking for the soul of America.  More about that later….

Hitting the Nail on the Head….

Jim Wallis

But, virtually every night, I would also feel from those who came, along with that hunger, a very deep cynicism about social change even being possible. And when it came to Washington or Wall Street, the cynicism was overwhelming. Virtually no one trusts either our political system or marketplace to be fair, honest, moral, or even open to doing the right thing. Most Americans seem to believe that the primary institutions of our public life completely lack integrity. And sadly, that cynicism, for many, even extends to their churches or other religious institutions, which they don’t regard as playing an independent leadership role for the common good that could hold other institutions accountable.

Excerpt from the weekly email from Jim Wallis (6/20/13)

I have been emotionally down in the dumps for several weeks now. So, when I read the quote above from Jim Wallis on his “Hearts & Minds” theme they hit me directly in the face.  I couldn’t think of a clearer way to describe what I am feeling right now.

I have a deep hunger for the common good and social change in our seemingly quickly degrading world.  My cynicism is indeed overwhelming sometimes.  It just doesn’t seem worth a pittance to continue to do anything to effect any change. It just seems a waste of time. I have lost faith in Washington, Wall Street and yes, even some versions Christ’s church to some degree. All seem to have abandoned anything resembling the common good or even common sense.

Does that mean I have given up on life?  Hell NO!!  I have just given up on affecting any change via our current institutions. I need to step back and look seriously about how I, on a personal level, can put a glimmer of socially conscious light in myself and maybe even those who might read my words.  I need to get back to my roots, to a simpler time to make sense of the world today.  It is not about Washington, Wall Street, or even the institutional church. It is more about how I treat my fellow-man and what I do with the gifts the Lord has given me.   All that stuff in Washington and Wall Street is as Will Rogers says is applesauce. That is it is nonsense.  I hope to never lose sight of that  fact……

The Me Generation….

Time Mag Cover

The incidence of narcissistic personality disorder is nearly three times as high for people in their 20s as for the generation that’s now 65 or older, according to the National Institutes of Health; 58% more college students scored higher on a narcissism scale in 2009 than in 1982. Millennials got so many participation trophies growing up that a recent study showed that 40% believe they should be promoted every two years, regardless of performance

They are fame-obsessed: three times as many middle school girls want to grow up to be a personal assistant to a famous person as want to be a Senator, according to a 2007 survey; four times as many would pick the assistant job over CEO of a major corporation.

They’re so convinced of their own greatness that the National Study of Youth and Religion found the guiding morality of 60% of millennials in any situation is that they’ll just be able to feel what’s right.

Their development is stunted: more people ages 18 to 29 live with their parents than with a spouse, according to the 2012 Clark University Poll of Emerging Adults. And they are lazy. In 1992, the nonprofit Families and Work Institute reported that 80% of people under 23 wanted to one day have a job with greater responsibility; 10 years later, only 60% did.

Source: The Me Generation – TIME.

The first thing I want to talk about here is that you can’t put everyone in the same box. I’m sure there are millions of kids born since the 1980s that don’t fit the description above. I have met several of them who come to volunteer at the soup kitchen where I spend two days a week. That being said I don’t doubt that millennials are more about themselves than previous generations.

It seems every generation has some common general characteristics that label them. My generation, which was the first wave of baby boomers were labeled by the protest marches of the 60’s along with its recreational drug use.  While I was in college in the 60s and saw both the marches and the drugs I did not participate in either activity. So, I do sometimes get edgy when someone labels me such.

The current crop of young people are actually the first to grow up totally enveloped in a social network world. While I understand the value of instant communications I think that we as a society have put too much priority on things like FaceBook, Twitter, and such. What is the big socially redeeming value of spending so much time with what I for the most part consider frivolous things?

But for me one of the most damaging aspects of the Me Generation is their sense of entitlement.  I think that this generation overvalue themselves more so than most. They have received awards in most competitions regardless of their actual level of participation and therefore some seem to have a lack of respect for the hard work required to actually accomplish something.   In their childhood everyone got an award so no one would feel unimportant. Now before you start flaming me I totally realize that this description does not fit all or maybe not even most of the kids in this pre-defined box.  But I do believe that they need to come to the realization, sooner rather than later,  that they are not as indispensable as many think they are.

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