RJ's Corner

Perhaps They Never Will..


I have to put out a quick post here following Pope Francis’ speech before our congress. To me it was very inspiring but obviously there were those there that simply refused to listen to anything he said. Instead they sat stoically on their hands while those around them frequently stood and applauded.

This reminded me of the last words in the final verse of one of my favorite songs which is entitled “Vincent” by Don McClean. It goes like this…

They would not listen,

They are not listening still

Perhaps they never will

I just cannot believe that the current GOP leadership really represent all those who claim allegiance to that party.  Are all those millions who make up the GOP base so close minded that they will not even consider listening to anything that might threaten their current views?  I certain hope not.  The Bible calls that “hardened hearts”.  Perhaps its time to look elsewhere for your leaders?

Putting a Face On It….


It is heartwarming to see that the tragic picture above has spurred so many of the European nations into further action. Many, especially Germany, have opened their borders to thousands fleeing war and famine in Syria and neighboring places. One image seems to have ignited a fire of response. Thank the Lord.

As I have learned “Putting a face on a problem” is the first step in spurring action to solve it. I have long been an advocate for the homeless and financially challenged but until I spent 11 years volunteering in a local soup kitchen/ homeless shelter it was not brought home to me the seriousness and tragedy of those who are homeless or financially challenged. Putting a face on it by serving all those who came for daily meals made it very real to me.  I am glad to see the picture above ignited support for those like this dead infant just trying to find some safe place to live.

It seems that our news media have loosened their standards significantly in the last couple of decades. It used to be that they “reported” the news instead of making it as they do today.  Until Fox News came along they very conscientiously tried to remain neutral in how they reported events. But one principle that still remains is that they don’t show graphic pictures of tragic events especially those involving children.

I wonder if we saw the aftermath of the Newton tragedy in graphic pictures if that would have spurred us into actions to keep guns out of the hands of unstable people. Unfortunately there are way too many troubled people even, or maybe especially, among the gun advocates themselves.  I think we are tragically the only nation on earth that has more guns than citizens. Would seeing all those bloody bullet ridden bodies of the kids at Newton Elementary have changed our attitudes towards guns?  I realize that there will always be a certain percentage of our citizens who will fight for their guns no matter the consequences .  It doesn’t matter to them; they must have total and easy access to any weapons they choose.  But how about the rest of us, the vast majority who are ready to attack this problem, when will we finally be spurred into action?  We need to see more pictures like the one above to make that happen.  Until you put a face on a problem it just doesn’t seem real to many of us.  Lets show some of the graphic consequences of this love affair with weapons of destruction.

Question Everything…

Humanity & Artificial Intelligence…

I am with this post starting a series of posts about robotic machines and humanity. This is a pretty serious topic of which I have some knowledge of at least the beginning of this paradigm shift. This post is what Amazon says about the book entitled Machines of Loving Grace: The Quest for Common Ground Between Humans and Robots. In this series I will be talking on both sides of the topic and also giving you a little bio of my life in its formative years.

2015-09-05_11-50-49As robots are increasingly integrated into modern society—on the battlefield and the road, in business, education, and health—Pulitzer-Prize-winning New York Times science writer John Markoff searches for an answer to one of the most important questions of our age: will these machines help us, or will they replace us?

In the past decade alone, Google introduced us to driverless cars, Apple debuted a personal assistant that we keep in our pockets, and an Internet of Things connected the smaller tasks of everyday life to the farthest reaches of the internet. There is little doubt that robots are now an integral part of society, and cheap sensors and powerful computers will ensure that, in the coming years, these robots will soon act on their own. This new era offers the promise of immense computing power, but it also reframes a question first raised more than half a century ago, at the birth of the intelligent machine: Will we control these systems, or will they control us?

In Machines of Loving Grace, New York Times reporter John Markoff, the first reporter to cover the World Wide Web, offers a sweeping history of the complicated and evolving relationship between humans and computers. Over the recent years, the pace of technological change has accelerated dramatically, reintroducing this difficult ethical quandary with newer and far weightier consequences. As Markoff chronicles the history of automation, from the birth of the artificial intelligence and intelligence augmentation communities in the 1950s, to the modern day brain trusts at Google and Apple in Silicon Valley, and on to the expanding tech corridor between Boston and New York, he traces the different ways developers have addressed this fundamental problem and urges them to carefully consider the consequences of their work.

We are on the verge of a technological revolution, Markoff argues, and robots will profoundly transform the way our lives are organized. Developers must now draw a bright line between what is human and what is machine, or risk upsetting the delicate balance between them.

Source: Machines of Loving Grace: The Quest for Common Ground Between Humans and Robots, John Markoff – Amazon.com

Next time I will be going back to my college years to when I worked summers in a local machine shop doing jobs that I am sure have now been replaced by robots. I will also tackle some of the philosophical questions about the trend of robots in the workplace….

Question Everything….

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.


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…


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