Archives For Getting Serious

I Can’t Do It For Them….

November 10, 2014

2014-11-06_09-28-42This is going to be an extremely soul-searching post for me. It has been a week since the GOP route in the mid-term elections and I have been thinking about my philosophical and political leanings. Two things seem now apparent to me that were not so just a few short months ago.

The first epiphany  is that I am not so much a Democrat as I am anti-Republican. There is just too much weight amongst the current Republican party in favor of the elite and so little for the average guy and almost nothing for the guy down on his luck. In my mind too many who currently represent the party believe in the mantra “I’ve got mine so screw you”. They seem to think that if you can’t do what they did then it is your own fault. Too many, like Mr. Ryan of Wisconsin, just have no empathy for others..

The Republican brand is quite simply tainted too much for me. I call myself a social progressive and a fiscal conservative. If only the Republican party would stick to their strengths of being a watchdog of the purse and get away from trying to enforce, or you could say mandate, various versions of 19th century morals on the rest of us. By the same token if only the Democratic party would get over the idea that throwing money at any situation will solve it.

The second epiphany is that I have come to understand that “I can’t do it for them”. That is I can’t help people who won’t help themselves. The majority of those who bothered to get out and vote recently were old and white like me. The young, the disenfranchised, the guy working one or maybe minimum wage job stayed home. He/she didn’t see it worth their time to make an effort to vote for the change makers.

I am probably a typical “bleeding heart liberal” in that most of the change I would like to see in this country would not affect me very much:

I want to see everyone have healthcare while I currently have very good coverage via Medicare and an affordable supplemental policy.

I want to see everyone who works full-time be paid a living wage while I am fortunate enough to have Social Security, a good pension from thirty years with the same company, and a savings account beyond most my age.

I want to see a strong safety net under those who might fall on hard times. I want to see that their families don’t get severely punished for something they had no control over while I, at least in my adult life, have never needed a safety net.

I just overflow with empathy for others where it seems most in this country are more into the survival of the fittest mode. Maybe empathy is a condition I need to overcome, I don’t know. I’m sure that many that I advocate for think they are helpless in changing things. They just can’t seem to realize that in the end their vote  has as much weight as the billionaires who they presently allow to control the money.

Maybe it is time for me to get off my empathy horse and not worry about all this stuff so much. I simply don’t know the answer to that right now. I imagine I have about one more decade on this earth. Maybe I should spend it differently than I have been up till now?

But I’m just a simple guy so what do I know….

 

What A Croc….

October 18, 2014

2014-10-10_15-06-20

 

I grabbed this picture off one of my friends Facebook pages. It made me LOL. ;)

I am somewhat new to Crocs, that is the shoes shown above. I just personally discovered them for myself this year. They are very practical for around the homestead in the warm weather months. I like to take strolls through my kingdom in the early morning after I have browsed the Internet and maybe penned a few posts for my blogs. When I do that there seems to be an ever present dew that thoroughly soaks my shoes. With crocs that is not a problem. When I am working in the garden and gotten mud on my shoes it is no problem, just take them off and hose them down.

I love my new found crocs….

2014-08-24_10-27-11Islamic Sharia law was fairly dormant in the Indonesian province of Aceh until a massive earthquake and tsunami struck in 2004, killing more than 130,000. But as residents rebuild, Sharia officers have strengthened their grip, threatening rights of religious minorities and women….

There are two groups that are actually threatened by this formalization of the Sharia. The first group is religious minorities. More than 20 churches are closed down in Aceh over the last two years. They also banned 14 Islamic religious sects, like the Ahmadiyya, the Shia. We didn’t expect that.

The second victim is women. There are various, strange regulations being produced, for instance, banning women from straddling motorcycles. In some areas, women cannot wear pants to go to work or to go to school, which means that it will restrict their mobilities. Ultimately, it will affect their economic rights. Ultimately, it will affect their education.

SOURCE:  Indonesian province turns up Sharia law after devastating tsunami.

The picture above is of women riding around in the back of a pick-up truck looking for people who are not following strict Sharia law. Maybe they are not at the mandatory five-times-a-day prayer, maybe they don’t have sleeves long enough. Maybe they are unescorted young people. Some are chastised, some are caned and some get much worse treatment..

Islamic Sharia law is a combination of religious and government mandated morality. I believe that is the most dangerous kind. To put absolute power of life and death into one particular religious leader is in itself immoral in my mind. But of course that is Islamic Sharia law it very common in the Middle East where we have far too many of our young men and women in the military today.

Should morality be a mandated thing? Should we be told how to act and what to do in matters that only, at least for the most part, affect our personal lives? That question is currently be actively discussed in this country about our current marijuana laws. Two States have decided that the answer is NO. Several others are leaning in that direction. We currently have hundreds of thousand of our citizens in prison on marijuana charges. They are overwhelming our prison system.  Before you jump to any conclusions about my personal actions I will tell you that I have never tried marijuana and I don’t intend to even if it is declared legal.

Yes I’m sure that marijuana use, like alcohol, is an addiction to some but to most it seems to be just a way to relax. If we legalized marijuana and even some other narcotics we would virtually eliminate all the dark criminal organization that are reeking huge profits from its underground use. As learned from Colorado we would also get a robust tax revenue. It seems like a win-win scenario.

Mandating morality just doesn’t seem to work in any world society. Sooner or later, depending on how iron-fisted it is it will be thrown out.  I will purposely leaving the door open here for your thoughts if you care to give them and maybe we can have a lively discussion about this topic.

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.

Hope vs Cynicism…

July 14, 2014

2014-07-09_08-34-43WASHINGTON AP — To hear President Barack Obama describe it, there’s a creeping case of cynicism setting in across the country, leading Americans to suspect that not only is Washington broken, it’s beyond fixing.

If that line of thinking continues, it could become a self-fulfilling prophecy with dire long-term ramifications, Obama says. If compromise-minded Americans get so frustrated they just tune out, lawmakers will feel even less pressure to work together for the good of the country.

SOURCE: How ‘hope’ became Obama’s fight against cynicism – Yahoo News.

Hope vs cynicism? Of course everyone wants to be on the hope side of that choice. But in order to be there we must be able to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Yes, someday I “hope” we get over all this extreme partisan bickering and get back to a healthy dose of compromise. I really hope that but I am very doubtful that will happen until we run off the cliff so to speak.

I dread the possibility of a totally Republican controlled government. To me that would mean abandonment of almost everything I hold dear. All brother’s keeper issue would be flushed down the toilet. We would likely become a nation intolerant of any religion except Christianity. The rich would get even richer while the poor were left to the scraps of the table.

No, I don’t see a lot of hope on America’s horizon. I have maybe another decade on this earth and I “am” hoping that we can hold it together for at least that long so I don’t have to see the consequences of going down the tube. It won’t be pretty. But I still hold out hope that we can, like we have done several times in the past, get to the edge of the cliff and then manage to step back instead of forward.  We have had a good run of luck in that regard but as always luck, however you want to define it,  eventually runs out.

I am holding out hope that someone will come along to lead us to a better way. I am now convinced that the black intellectual person currently in office is despite his hopeful rhetoric is unable to do that. Maybe there were just too many prejudices in his baggage to ever make that possible? Hillary is part of the problem in this area due to her own baggage. If she is elected the Republican establishment will likely get even more stubbornly in opposition than it is now, if that is even possible.

Just give me a slight glimmer on the horizon and I will try to grab onto some form of hope. Just give me a glimmer….. please…..

2014-06-26_11-57-11This is going to be one of my soapbox posts so be warned.

Iraq is back in the news now with the latest insurgence. It seems the Shiite Muslims just don’t want to go down without a fight and the Sunni Muslims who now have most of the power don’t want to give their rivals any breathing room. Civil war is the logical conclusion where one religious group is battling another. History has certainly seen a lot of these type of wars.

Let’s flash back to the year 2000 when Saddam Hussein had iron fist control of the country. There was relative peace at least if you were a Shiite and for the most part Sunni. The dictator did now allow the drug trade or Al Qaeda into the country that his enemy often Afghanistan promoted.  There was a general peace among the populace and IEDs were unheard of. Yes, it appears to be true that Hussein did kill about 3,000 of his citizens over some perceived control things.  He insisted that he have ALL the power in the country and for the most part he did.

Then comes 2003 when President Bush decided that the leader of Iraq was developing nuclear weapons and was responsible for much of the current Al Qaeda movement.  It turns out that both of these things were grossly false but we invaded anyway. As a consequence over 150,000 Iraqi citizens have been killed and many more maimed.  Now that we have left, a religious civil war is in the process. By any standards we have made life much more miserable for the vast majority of people of that country.

Another devastating fact of that war is that we have lost about 4,500  of our kids  and seriously maimed another 32,000. No, it was not as lethal as Vietnam which was the war of my generation but still too many kids’ lives were extinguished in a totally unnecessary manner.  A famous saying that I will paraphrase is that we wonder why when we continue to do the same thing over and over again we don’t get a different result. Why can’t the leaders of one generation learn from those who went before them?

It is likely that no matter how many years we continue to throw our kids lives and our wealth into that country the final result will be the same.  Sectarian violence will rule out and Iraq will likely split into two or more religious theocracies.  In the end it comes down to which version of God you want to follow. I don’t think that is what God intended us to do when he created the universe…. Shame on us for allowing it to happen….

 

I often wonder why I turned out to be such a social justice advocate. Was I born that way or was it due to some early childhood experiences? I am certain that growing up in a single parent household at the lower end of the economic ladder was a significant part of it. But I don’t think that was the driving factor. Like so many have said before, we might have been poor but I really didn’t know it until later.

Many of my early heroes in the literary sphere wrote about ordinary people struggling with daily life. John Steinbeck and Charles Dickens were two of them. They showed me that people struggling through life was a common thing. They let me know that my feelings about life were not unique to me as I had imagined. Was my attraction to those authors and their books on social justice a chicken or egg sort of thing?

As I have mentioned before I spent the first couple of decades of my life in the Catholic church. During that time I learned that being compassionate to those less fortunate was what God expected of me. I think these experiences helped make me the social justice advocate that I am.  But I do think it was more than that. While I am not currently associated with any particular faith system I am attuned to Quakerism in many respects, especially their thoughts that there is the light of God in absolutely all of us. I like to think that an important part of that light in me pushes me into social justice issues. Why am I so serious about social justice when others who had similar experiences are not?

I admit that I find it hard to understand those who seem to have little empathy for others. Those “pull yourself up by your bootstraps or die in the gutter” folks are very foreign to me. I’m sure at some level they have feelings for others but…  I have little in common with those who want to “lock them up and throw away the key” people. It is not that I don’t believe in all of us being responsible for our actions, I do believe that but I am more firmly entrenched in the second chances option.

Being a  follower of Jesus Christ or at least being a Christian I know means thousands of different things to different people but to me the only real message of Christ was to love God and to love each other. All the other messages that people find inside the words in the Bible are very secondary to me.

I end many of my posts with the words “but I’m just a simple guy so what do I know?”  That is just my way of saying what Will Rogers said about all he know is what he reads in the newspaper. I don’t have some inside knowledge about anything I post about here.  One thing I want to make sure that you understand is that there is a world of difference between being a simple guy and being simpleminded. One of the biggest insults someone could call me is simpleminded.

The dictionary says simpleminded is:

lacking mental capacity and subtlety

syn: dim-witted, simple

This definition is OK as far as it goes but to me simpleminded really mean having a lazy mind and in my mind that is the biggest problem for humanity.  It is the root cause of most of the problems of the world. Simple minded people don’t take the time to study something but instead just parrot what their favorite talking head tells them. Sometimes it is something that they have grown up with but never taken the time to see it is really true. Lazy minds drive me crazy.

I am a simple guy in that I am just not attuned to the big luxuries in life. I tasted caviar once and hated it. I can’t see driving a $50,000 car when a $15,000 one will get me from A to B just as well.  I can’t see spending $200 on a restaurant bill when most of it goes down the toilet the next day.

I am just not a high brow type of guy. Never have been; never will be. One of the ugliest things to me is a smirk. One of our recent president was very good at that and maybe that is the primary reason I celebrated his last day in the White House.  Smirking is where a person gives you the impression that he is superior to you. I totally believes that God loves the homeless guy as much as the CEO who gets millions of dollars in bonuses each year. He loves those 50,000 little kids in foreign countries who died last week of malnutrition just as much as any kid in the U.S.

I admit that I probably have more empathy than some people. I cry regularly when I see one human being showing compassion for another. Even though I am not a Catholic I swell up with emotions when I read many of the words of the most recent Catholic Pope.

I am a simple guy with a simple purpose in life. I don’t want to be famous or stinking rich. In many ways those things cause more pain than not. I thank the Lord that I have enough to eat and a healthcare plan that I can finally count on. I thank the Lord for having something as simple as good drinking water when so many other in the world don’t.

But I’m just a simple guy so what do I know….

A Paradigm Shift…..

January 15, 2014

Paradigm shiftI think I first happened upon the words paradigm shift sometime in the 1980s. Here are some of the words that Wikipedia use to describe it:

The term “paradigm shift” has found uses in other contexts, representing the notion of a major change in a certain thought-pattern — a radical change in personal beliefs, complex systems or organizations, replacing the former way of thinking or organizing with a radically different way of thinking or organizing.

Paradigm shift don’t happen very often in this world. In fact they are quite rare. Lets face it change is very hard for many of us to face and to basically throw out most of what we currently do or believe about things is near impossible!

For those of us who embrace change, paradigm shifts when they happen are generally considered good things. I don’t know if I have ever revealed that I am an avid fan of the movie “Tron- The Legacy”. I have watched the movie dozens of times and have accumulated several quotes from it. One of my favorite is:

Chaos. Good news

It seems that we at a nation mainly embrace change when it is forced on us by chaos.  Paradigm shifts only occur with the wheels are about to fall off.  There are at least two fundamental problems in our country that will require a paradigm shift and they are very intermingled with each other

Unemployment/Education

It will take a paradigm shift in American mentality to change the current trends in the unemployment rate. Too many of us are stuck in the 1960s mode where good middle class jobs were readily available to anyone. You could get out of high school, or for that matter not even finish it, and then go to a local automotive factory to get a good paying job.  It was usually a mind numbing assembly line job but it did pay good wages. Today those jobs have either been turned over to robots or exported to countries paying less than a dollar an hour in wages. They are just no longer available and will never be again.

In order to join the middle class now requires an educated work force. Someone who knows their way around the digital world and I am not talking about video games. It requires that we think in different more innovative ways than we have in the past.

Education is one of those things that still is for the most part maintained at the local level.  We all seem to think that the problem with education is what other schools have; ours is fine.  In order to change the way our kids are educated we need to come to the realization that most of them are not exceptional.

“All of a sudden, their child isn’t as brilliant as they thought the were.”

– Arne Duncan, U.S. Education Secretary, criticizing “white suburb moms” for balking at the stringent Common Core standards designed to improve education in 45 states — Time Magazine November 2, 2013 

It will take a paradigm shift to finally get our unemployment situation in hand. Until that happens we will continue to struggle with those who cannot find anything but a minimum wage job…

New Years Eve2013 will soon be another year that was… It’s time to sit back and reflect some on how this year developed and to look a little to what next year might be.

Personally

This was a year that looked pretty much like the last handful or so. Nothing spectacular but also nothing devestating. Fortunately, except for some pretty serious  (read expensive) dental work there were no significant health issues.

We didn’t get many opportunities to travel this year. I can only hope that 2014 is better in that regard.

I celebrate that, with a couple of projects, I managed to stay stimulated this year. I need constant stimulation. :)

I celebrate that my blogs did better this year than last as far as readership is concerned but nothing great.

As A Country

This year ended much better than it started. The wing nuts in the Tea Party are finally being reigned in at least to a degree. They continue to rant and rave but now with less news coverage. Their constant complaining without providing any possible solutions seems to be finally costing them the power. I never really understood how those yahoos even managed to grab what they have.  I know there are a lot of people out there that are like-minded but to me they simply want the advantages of a democratic government without paying for it.

We managed to get through the year without invading any other countries or putting thousands more of our kids at risk for political purposes. We are finally getting out of the two wars of Mr. Bush but not soon or completely enough for me.

As A World

Syria and Iran are still the troublemakers but at least they are “acting” like they want to get along.  That in itself is progress. Korea, well that is a different matter….

Where We Might Be Headed in 2014?

I don’t have a crystal ball or anything but it is kind of fun to predict the “Good, the Bad, and the Ugly” about the coming year. Take this as a grain of salt because that is really all it is worth.  :)

The Good

Due to it being an election year I don’t see the politicians in Washington getting us into much trouble.

Obamacare is coming along nicely and will end the year with many more actually supporting it.

The Bad

Unemployment will likely not drop much this year. Due to the lack of fit between the jobs, at least above minimum wage, and the skill levels not much will change for some time to come.

The Ugly

Racism and bigotry will continue to be a strong part of life and politics. An African-American president is just too much for some to handle. They will continue to do everything possible to bring him down.

Immigration reform along with several other needed advances will continue to be stifled based on fear instead of opportunity.

Our military/industrial complex will continue to gobble up an ever increasing share of our resources with almost 100% approval by our congress.