RJ's Corner

Virginia shooting proves Americans aren’t numb to tragedy..

2015-08-28_07-41-21For decades, members of the news media have struggled to determine whether a gruesome photograph or video crosses the line from newsworthy to something so disturbing that it is potentially harmful.

Source: Virginia shooting proves Americans aren’t numb to tragedy — we just have a higher tolerance for it – Yahoo News

QE BannerSadly we seem to get a weekly dose of tragedy of gun violence in this country.   The stats show that we kill each other with our guns more than terrorists kill others in the world.  Are guns the sole cause of al this?  Of course not but in the vast majority of cases they, due to their easy availability,  are the means to accomplish the end.  Yes, I’m sure that most of these shooters have some sort of mental disorder that spurns them to their acts of violence. But then again one persons mental disorder is another person’s way of life.  I don’t think, for instance, that anyone in the KKK or similar groups are without some sort of mental disorder.  But this is not what the post is about.

The short clip above shows that while we may be immune to all the violence we have some sort of standard about displaying it on our media.  I don’t know but I kind of think we should show it all. Until we see personally the gruesomeness of gun violence it does not come fully home to us. Being a history buff I know that the Civil War pictures of battlefield death helped shorten that bloody conflict. The shock of seeing thousands of bodies strewn on a farm field brought the war home to the citizens living rooms. We need to get that same shock in this battle against gun violence.

During the Reagan years it become quite the thing for States to shut down their mental health institutions. It was a way to save money and to reduce the “government that is the problem” syndrome that many had and still have.  As a result there are now thousands, probably millions, of people with severe mental disabilities homeless on our streets or languishing with their problems  huddled in their homes.  I have personally known one guy who was convinced that the “bad guys” were right outside his house trying to get in. To counter that he had a loaded gun in every room of his house and many more in a cabinet (unlocked) in his basement.  He was paranoid about someone attacking him.  The sad thing about it was that he was briefly married to my sister and had my young nephew in the house.  We need to make it easier for families to bring mentally unstable members for treatment.

The gruesomeness of gun violence will never become reality until we are exposed to the aftereffects. Let’s put all the gory pictures out there. Lets finish this post with a very thought provoking figure from Steve Breen.

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Like a Death Wish… I Can Only Hope….

2015-08-20_08-13-55Last week, Jeb Bush told an audience in California, “It is strength, and will, and clarity of purpose that make all the difference.” This is the Tinker Bell school of foreign policy that has spread over most of the Republican presidential field. Clap if you believe in a stable Middle East where Syria is rid of ISIS, Al Nusra, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and any Iranian influence. Clap if you believe Iraq will be safe for religious minorities and free of undue Iranian influence, too…..

As an electoral strategy, it is absolutely nuts that Republicans would preemptively tell the American people, “Elect me and I’ll put American troops back on the ground in Iraq.” And then add, “And Syria, too, and with allies TBD, and final victors TBD.” This seems like a 2016 death wish. Not just for Republican electoral ambitions, but for American troops, American prestige, and American power.

SOURCE: The GOP presidential field’s dangerous fantasy on Iraq and Syria.

QE BannerI want to do a “what if” here.

  • What if America’s energy was totally devoid of fossil fuels?
  • What if we have grown into other means instead of the 100+ year old technology?
  • Would that make a difference in our opinions of the Middle Eastern part of the world?
  • Would we be so concerned that one muslim group was trying to take control over another muslim group?

I pretty sure the answer to these questions would be that these conflicts would not even be on our radar screen.  One religious sect trying to dominate another is nothing new in the world. It has been happening constantly since the age of Constantine when a Roman King assured the dominance of one particular brand of Christianity over the myriad of others that were present at the time. It has been going on since Muslims and Christians were fighting each other for  two hundred years. It has been going on since the Inquisition, the Protestant/Catholic battles in Northern Ireland.

Let’s face it we as humanity just have little patience for versions of God different from our own.  The Middle East is just the latest battles to be fought in a long history of battles. I am convinced that if we had not become involved by invading Iraq and getting ourselves so entwined in this matter that terrorism would not be so prevalent in our world today.

Maybe instead of putting trillions of bucks into our world’s latest religious battles we should be putting them into developing twenty-first century  energy resources. I’m sure with all the money and young lives we have wasted in this futile attempt we could dust off our sandals and leave that part of the world to their own demise..

We don’t need to be the policemen of the world…

Use of Deadly Force….

But the chief said he ultimately decided Miller’s mistakes required his firing. While he said he had “serious concerns” about Miller’s use of deadly force, Johnson said it would be up to a grand jury to decide whether Miller’s actions were criminal.

Source: Police Chief Fires Officer Who Shot and Killed Unarmed Texas Football Player | TIME.

I’m not going to talk much about the story cited above but instead I will be talking about the “Use of Deadly Force”.  For the most part this is probably an American thing. I’m sure that we are number one in the world of unarmed citizens being killed by police.  Our obsession with guns in American culture also contributes greatly to this phenomenon.  Besides the loss life, which is tragic, the loss respect and even down right fear of a policeman is very worrisome.

2015-07-31_07-04-42To me, but what do I know, the basic problem seems to be that one of the endemic characteristics of some who join police forces is a power trip. They want to be the top alpha dog who is feared for their power.  They have the gun and can most often, at least in the past, can use it against you whenever they “feel threatened” which seems to be often for far too many.

I need to stop here and say as loudly as I can that no not all policemen fit this description.  I’m sure the vast majority of them are loving and caring folks who do indeed want to “protect and serve”. If I believe some of the stories I hear very few of them use their deadly weapons in their careers.  I personally know one retired police officer who is the kindest and gentlest person I know.

The problem  is that we seem to do a very miserable job of culling out those extreme alpha males from the ranks of the wanna-be police officers.  And when they do join the forces they are fiercely protected even when they misuse their power and kill innocent people.  The “thin blue line” that says we protect one of our own at all costs is a mistake.  One indication of this is the total disdain that most officers apparently have for their internal affairs divisions. Why, if you believe all the cop shows out there, are those who police the police so despised? If they hate those who police them then why should they be surprised that so many of us don’t hold them in respect?

 

 

 

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….

And It Begins…A China Power Play….

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In quick succession, the U.K., France, Italy, and Germany all agreed to become founding shareholders of the AIIB, a sign that they are eager to cozy up to Beijing and its $4 trillion in foreign reserves. Once upon a time, “the world was said to bow down before the mighty dollar. These days, even many of America’s closest allies have renminbi signs in their eyes.” This is an impressive “soft-power victory for China,” said the editors at Bloomberg View, and “Washington largely has itself to blame.” The U.S. has long called on China to take more of a role in international financial institutions, “without making room for it to do so.” Congress has repeatedly “blocked efforts to dilute U.S. dominance of the World Bank” or give China more influence at the IMF, where Beijing’s voting share is just 4 percent versus Washington’s 17 percent. Republicans have also shot down President Obama’s attempts to increase U.S. funding for the World Bank and IMF, said Charles Kenny at Bloomberg, leaving those institutions “undersize compared with the demands they face.” But if the Obama administration can’t persuade the GOP to put up the cash needed to underwrite development projects that will save lives and foster global growth, “it should at the very least get out of the way of other countries willing and able to lead.”

SOURCE:  China’s latest power play comes at the expense of America.

Everyone needs to learn that actions have consequences, even countries and that is what is beginning to happen to the U.S. For all of this millennium we have increasingly turned over our industrial production to China because of their lower labor costs. Too many people just focused on getting things a little cheaper and failed to look at the bigger picture.  Now, the consequences of these actions are starting to manifest themselves.

Of course we know that those actions have resulted in a severe reduction in the middle class of America. Due to constantly lower wages being earned by so many American families we have come to depend on getting our “stuff” cheaper. The second consequence is that China now has trillions of our dollars in their banks and that is resulting in them taking over the financial matters of the world. We have always been a debtor nation but never so much to just one country. Our past actions this millennium have consequences and I’m not really sure that is a bad thing.

Yes, it is fearful to see a country that is driven by a very different mentality gaining more power. Lets face it, communism is a very scary matter to capitalist nations. But if this current consequence results in our country to step back and look at what is going on with us lately maybe good will come from it. We need to realize that our very dysfunctional government is doing us grievous harm. We are ignoring things that need to be fixed because we refuse to get along together. We spend soooo much more on our military than anyone else in the world and that is draining our economy and making enemies throughout the world. We will learn that one country with less than 5% of the world’s population and, and really shouldn’t, be the policemen of the world. It is time to share that responsibility.

Maybe good things will come from us no longer being “The” political and economic power in the world….

A little humility is a good thing….

Going Out Of Business Sale….

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I must admit that I do quite a bit of my shopping now on Amazon. I go to the mall on maybe a monthly basis but that is more for the exercise than for shopping.  But then again most of the shops in our college town mall are clothing stores and since my total repertoire in that area can be fitted in a two foot space in my closet there is really not much there for me.

Things are changing for all us consumers. Netflix is causing a big shift in the video market, Apple tunes and such have taken over their area and Amazon is attacking the brick-and-morter approach to sales. Things are changing lately. Even the stalwart McDonald’s seems to be going out of favor, or maybe the better word is flavor. Yeah, things are changing but isn’t that the norm?

I know that distresses many of us especially those of the conservative bent who don’t see progress as well, progress.  But looking at it from a social-economic standpoint with all this chance it is getting harder to find employment when all you have is a high school education or less.  We need to do something to get our future generations prepared for these changes…. and we need to do it soon…

It's All A Game….

2015-03-02_20-40-42I have been blogging for about eight months now over at InSearchOfAmerica. It is quite different from this one in that it is dedicated to looking at all the great things about this country that I have discovered throughout my many years. Over there I talk about what is right about America. I continue to be amazed by how great this country is in so many ways. I am now in the process of putting in somewhat detailed travelogues documenting my many trips around this great country. It is fun posting there even if my visit count is only 10% of here.

I love America and wouldn’t have wanted to be born anywhere else.  I love America but it is not perfect and that is more or less a major theme for RJsCorner. It is about trying to get a better understanding of things we do and don’t do. I know I often get somewhat critical of America when it comes to not doing things we should be doing and not learning lessons from the rest of the world where they get it right.  I have been in a hyper-reflection mode in these thoughts for most of the current year.

I have come to the conclusion lately that one of our major problems in why we can progress in some areas is that life has just become too much of a game for us. It is about winning and as Vince Lombardi said we rationalize that is the only thing that matters.  I am afraid that we are throwing the moral high ground of our founding fathers out the window in favor of winning at all costs. It’s all a game to many of us and that mentality has throughly soaked into way too many of us in the country.

If you believe in any of the hype put out by all the lawyer/police shows that permeate our airways, lawyers don’t really care that much about “justice for all”. It is about winning and that means beating the other side at all costs. So those who chose to be Republican fixate on beating those who chose to be Democrats. We rationalize that since we are the good guys they must be the bad guys. Common good is not much of a player when it comes to lawyers it seems and since the majority of our government representatives are lawyers that has polluted the entire system.  It’s all about the game…

When a leader of the opposition party does something we must do everything to defeat that idea no matter what it is or who it affects. It’s all about the game.  We as a society are just to fixated on us vs. them and the word “compromise” has as a result become a dirty word to be avoided at all costs. No one likes ties. Everything is black/white, win/lose, good guy/bad guy; there is no middle ground. It’s all “about the game…

Is it even possible to reverse this trend in order to accomplish some levels of forward progress? I simply don’t know the answer to that question right now. Maybe just recognizing the problem is, well, half the problem. There is just too much spite and hate going through the country right now. It seems to have almost snuffed out any common bonds we might have had in the past.  It greatly saddens me to see this happening. It’s all a game to too many of us. Win at all costs; beat the other guy. NO COMPROMISE!!  It’s all a game.  When will we ever come to realize that fact?

Evangelicals and the NRA

Religion LogoI think everyone knows that a significant part of the NRA are evangelical Christians. To me that association seems to be a Jekyll/Hide thing. How can you be so irrationally in favor of all guns without ANY restrictions and the resulting violence that it brings and be a follower of Jesus who was anything but a violent man?  It is hard for me to fathom that association but I have to accept that it is there.

SlipperyOne thing that Evangelicals and NRA members hold very much in common is the idea of the “slippery slope”. It is very much engrained into the basic culture of both those groups.

The slippery slope for the NRA is that “if we allow any control/regulation of guns then we will slide into a total restriction of them and then the “State” will come in and take them away from us so as to make us powerless in resisting their demands.  In my mind this is a very dark view of our country. To think that they fear our government who does the people’s business so much that they are willing to accept any number of Newton tragedies  rather than allow any regulations on how and to who guns are sold.

The evangelical slippery slope goes something like this.  If any part of the Bible is not considered absolutely true and without the possibility of error then that will cause us to fall down a slippery slope that makes all of the Bible questionable and therefore it becomes a worthless document.  I personally went through an extensive round of discussions with a clergyman who espoused this idea. He simply would not begin to accept the idea that since the Bible was written by men it was therefore open to error. He simply refused to believe that with all the scientific evidence of the history of the earth that is was more than 6,000 years old.  To him and many like him if the Bible is not 100% true then it is worthless.

The slippery slope is very much a black/white thing. There is no grey area in that concept for its believers. Either you are for guns without any restrictions whatsoever or you are for the total ban of guns. Either the Bible is absolutely true and without any possibility of error or it is a worthless document.

Black/White, Either/Or, No Middle Ground.

But I do celebrate the fact that most who call themselves Christians realize that things are not that simple. There are grey areas of the Bible like there are in all other things of human creations.  To most Christians including me the Bible is a very cherished document but we recognize that it was written by men and therefore some in it is likely just stories/myth, some of it is allegory and meant to relay a message and some of it is likely very man-made. Yes it was inspired by God but was not tossed down from heaven by him.

The slippery slope is a dangerous concept for our society and for our spiritual beliefs….

Six Lessons to Learn in U.S. Christianity….

We spent the last two posts reviewing an article entitled “The Six Worst Things About American Christianity” from  href=”http://redletterchristians.com/”>RedLetterChristians by Steven Mattson. Now that I have had a few days to digest these words I want to turn the article’s six points around to imagine them as lessons we U.S. Christians should learn. Here they are:

1) We must realize that no one has an exclusive connection with God  —  Much of what we know about early Christianity is the result of  a scribe writing down Christian stories that had been passed down from generation to generation for hundreds of years and even those original manuscripts have been lost to us. What we have now are copies of copies. Men throughout the ages have been penning their interpretations of what those original messages might have been.  This almost infinite list of opinions spreads from King Constantine and his council and Augustine in the fourth century to Luther and the other reformers in the 16th century all the way down to thousands of theologians at work today.

We must realize that none of these various man-made beliefs about God are without error. They might have been inspired by God but they were without question, even to the literalist, penned by men. The best thing that could happen to U.S. Christianity is that we would finally quit our “us” vs. “them” mentality of the various opinions of Christianity. We need to go back to kindergarten and learn to play nice with others. We need a little less bravado and a lot more humility.

2) We must not confuse our dedications to Jesus’ teachings and our political affiliations. – Neither U.S. political party at its roots are Christian. They are both mainly power based organizations currently just wanting to force their worldviews on each other. The early Christians were very aware that God’s kingdom is not of this world. We need to re-learn those lessons. Don’t allow your Christianity to be hijacked for political purposes.

3) Christianity is counter-cultural — Christianity is not like the latest fad that is determined by our current cultural trends. We in the U.S. mostly live in very shallow lifestyles. The teachings of Jesus are often very counter to what we endear in this country.

4) We don’t hold a “special” status with God — We in the U.S. have got to get it out of our minds that somehow God loves us more than he does others. God has agape love for all of his creation and by definition that is an infinite amount for each of us. How can some of us have more than an infinite amount of God’s love?  We may be at least currently biggest military and industrial force in the world and therefore have more than our say in what goes on in the world but that does NOT infer special status with God.

5) Remember, we Christians are meant to “march to the beat of a different drummer”.  — Jesus clearly told us again and again “don’t cling to your stuff”.  We in the U.S. are totally obsessed with consumerism. That is clearly not where Jesus wants us to be.

6) There is no such thing as a “power-hungry” Christian. — Jesus told us to have a servant mentality, not a master; that is very different from the U.S. culture teaches us. For us Christians it should never be about control or influence but instead about loving and caring.

<<<Originally Posted on June 3, 2013 by me at RedLetterLiving.net>>>

Kingdom of Hate…

American diplomats pay lip service to human rights while tens of billions of dollars in arms are shipped to the Kingdom of Hate, where you can be executed for ‘sorcery’ or tweeting about Islam….

2015-01-21_18-59-43Intolerance is Saudi Arabia’s greatest export. The country’s highest religious authority called to burn down all churches in Arabia. Saudi textbooks call Jews the decendents of “apes and pigs.” Christians are forbidden from wearing crosses, building churches or bringing in Bibles.

How does the world react? Total surrender and utter appeasement. Diplomats pay lip service to human rights while tens of billions of dollars in arms are shipped to the Kingdom of Hate. The King is lavished with praise.

The Saudi government, meanwhile, could not get more condescending. They lie through their teeth, confident that no one will lift a finger against them. The Saudi ambassador to the UN, Walid al Muallami, told hundreds of students at New York University that his country had no repression at all and is a “land of opporutnity” for everyone. Sure, as long as you’re not gay, a woman, secular, Christian, Jewish, Shiite, liberal, dissident, atheist or a democrat.

No Saudi diplomat should be able to leave his embassy without being confronted with Badawy’s name.

One of the main excuses for supporting Saudi Arabia is that they are needed to combat Iran. Relying on one hate-mongering, xenophobic tyranny to combat another is a very bad bet. Iran is undoubtedly one of the most dangerous regimes on Earth and the free world must apply enourmous pressure against it, but backing Saudi Arabia is not the answer. Iran can be undermined without relying on the Kingdom of Hate.

SOURCE: Our Ally Saudi Arabia Beheaded 10 People This Month – The Daily Beast.

David Keyes, who is the executive director of Advancing Human Rights is the author of this article says things that many are afraid to say. Of course we all know how Saudi Arabia gets a free pass from so many of their obnoxious human rights abuses. It is the plain and simple fact that they are the number one producer of oil in the world. If they were to suddenly turn off the spigot as they most certainly can, there would be turmoil in  much of the world.

I would highly suggest to anyone who is not up on this topic to read the entire article by clicking on the source above. There surely must come a time when we will no longer send billions of dollars of our military equipment to a government who would like nothing more than to see us go down in flames.

It is sad to see all the damage that our dependence on fossil fuels does to our world. That technology has been around for over a hundred years now. It is time to replace it and let the Saudis keep all their oil.

I Can't Do It For Them….

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….

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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….

Mandating Morality Part 2 – Sharia Law…

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.

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.

Hope vs Cynicism…

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…..

The Thing About Iraq….

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….

 

Being A Social Justice Advocate…

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.

Simple Guy vs. Simpleminded….

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…..

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…

Reflections on Another Year….

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.

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