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…

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


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.



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….


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.


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