Archives For Spouting Off

Things that I have an opinion on; and I have a lot of those :)

You Have To Use Them…

June 30, 2014

2014-06-23_16-39-48I heard a comment recently that has stuck to me. It went like this

You can’t just say you have rights, you have to use them to prove you have them”

I know of so many people who scream about the first amendment right to free speech but then villainize those who speak out against things that they don’t agree with. It seems, at least from their standpoint, that freedom of speech is a one-way street going only the way they go.

Some of the most vitriol comments I get on this blog is for saying things that others don’t agree with and since I am for the most part a contrarian I often go against the popular trends of the times. It just seems that someone has to do that to keep us from getting into a complacent attitude about things or to think that our way is the only way.

Freedom of speech and for that matter to protest and redress Grievances is something that has to be practiced to be real. We can’t simply put them on a shelf and admire them for their virtue. If they aren’t used they will eventually become worthless.

The ACLU often comes to the defense of those we don’t agree with. For that reason that letter combination is often treated with disdain. It is only through their practices that our freedoms are maintained and even advanced. If you don’t use them you lose them as the saying goes.

 

 

The Great Regulator…

June 18, 2014

Who would ever have guess that the title of the “Great Regulator” would be a Republican! That seems totally impossible in today’s world! But that is indeed the case. A hundred years ago Teddy Roosevelt was just that person. He was also called the “Trust Buster” as he took down many of the extremely wealthy of his day. He was also the one who put very high inheritance taxes on those in the 1% of his day.  Here is a little about that from Wikipedia:

Roosevelt responded to public anger over the abuses in the food packing industry by pushing Congress to pass the Meat Inspection Act of 1906 and The Pure Food and Drug Act. The Meat Inspection Act of 1906 banned misleading labels and preservatives that contained harmful chemicals. The Pure Food and Drug Act banned food and drugs that are impure or falsely labeled from being made, sold, and shipped. Roosevelt was also served as honorary president of the school health organization American School Hygiene Association from 1907 to 1908, and in 1909 he convened the first White House Conference on the Care of Dependent Children.

During the Panic of 1907 nearly all agreed that a more flexible system to ensure liquidity was needed – the Republicans sought a response to the money supply by the bankers whereas the Democrats sought government control; Roosevelt was unsure but leaned towards the Republican view while continuing to denounce corporate corruption. Nonetheless, in 1910, Roosevelt commented on “enormously wealthy and economically powerful men” and suggested “a graduated inheritance tax on big fortunes… increasing rapidly in amount with the size of the estate.”

Roosevelt was inclined to extend the regulatory reach of his office. In a moment of frustration, House Speaker Joseph Gurney Cannon commented on Roosevelt’s desire for executive branch control in domestic policy-making: “That fellow at the other end of the avenue wants everything from the birth of Christ to the death of the devil.” Biographer Brands states that, “Even his friends occasionally wondered whether there wasn’t any custom or practice too minor for him to try to regulate, update or otherwise improve.”  In fact, Roosevelt’s willingness to exercise his power included attempted rule changes in the game of football; at the Naval Academy, he sought to force retention of martial arts classes and to revise disciplinary rules. He even ordered changes made in the minting of a coin whose design he disliked, and ordered the Government Printing Office to adopt simplified spellings for a core list of 300 words according to reformers on the Simplified Spelling Board. He was forced to rescind the latter after substantial ridicule from the press and a resolution of protest from the House.

It seems almost impossible to believe that the great regulator’s party would morph into what is it today. I’m sure if Teddy were around now he would be viciously labeled as a socialist liberal by the Republican establishment.  What happened between then and now to cause this very radical shift in philosophy with the GOP? I kind of believe that it happened because the ultra-rich have pretty much bought that party.  They get the best of the best to keep the spin machine running so they can fool those too lazy to realize just who the owner is now.

We desperately need another person like Teddy to do his thing once again. But this time, unless something very drastically happens, the person will not likely be from the GOP.

Those Words…

June 10, 2014

2014-05-24_10-22-02We ask all Republicans to come together to defeat extremist Hollywood liberal Allison Lundergan Grimes this fall.”

SOURCE: Conservative Groups Spin a Loss in Kentucky Senate Primary – ABC News.

I see where Mitch McConnell escaped the attempted siege of the Senate Minority leader recently. The words above are part of his victory speech. Even though this quote is about politics, this post is not in that vein but instead about the loaded words some choose to use in their rhetoric.

With some people you can tell right up front what their worldview is all about with just a few words from their lips. They telegraph their underlying message with those chosen words.

Extremist Hollywood Liberal — These are three very deliberately chosen words. They indicate those “outsiders” who come in to tell us what we must do.They are “bleeding hearts” who should mind their own business and leave us alone about caring for anyone besides our immediate family.

It is kind of ironic one of the things that is admired about America the most comes from Hollywood. The other 95% of humanity outside our country can’t get enough of our Hollywood output. But to those who use the words above Hollywood is nothing to be admired but instead to be scorned.

Let me tell you something about Negroes – This one came up recently in a quote about our president. As Mr. Obama said you don’t need to hear any more from this person to know what he is going to say.

State’s Rights — State’s rights was a very common term used by Southerners during the Civil Rights period of the 1960s but continues to be used today. It basically meant let us handle our negroes as we please. Leave us alone when we make sure certain parts of our population are denied their “rights” (including access to health care). Leave us alone when we want to segregate those less than desirable people among us to the outside our midst.

Real Christian — A real Christian is someone who believes the same things as I do. Being a Christian is about being against anyone who does not totally agree with my values including my right to keep guns, and my desire to get rid of all those Muslims and Jews. You will most likely find the folks who use these words spending time under a sheet watching flaming crosses and screaming at each other about all “those” people who are invading “their” country.

Real American — Of course a real American means not any of those foreigner who are invading our country. It also means not those who espouse equal rights or all or those so spend so much time on so-called justice issue.

Deaf and Dumb — Of course this is one of my personal favorites.  It is among many other quotes that try to marginalize people who are different from them. If the deaf can’t understand what I am saying then they must be dumb.

All of us have to be careful when we hear any of these or similar type words.

 

 

2014-05-23_08-34-04  2014-05-23_08-34-36

What’s at stake, after all, is citizens’ representation in Congress. Partisan gerrymandering undermines the whole notion of a representative government. For proof, just look toward the lopsided seat distribution in the current Congress.

SOURCE:  What 60 years of political gerrymandering looks like – The Washington Post.

I don’t know if gerrymandering was a foregone conclusion when our democracy was formed. Everyone wants to take advantage of all possible means in order to win. I can imagine that in the 1950s someone with a pile of voting records and a map tried to figure out how to gain an advantage. Because the chore was almost overwhelming using the existing tools not much was able to be accomplished.

Fast forward to the computer age and gerrymandering has become an art form. Computer models are able to track almost every vote by location and draw thousands of different maps to take advantage of every single vote. Thus we see voting districts morph into what is shown above.  One of the secrets to being able to accomplish this jigsaw task is that one political party must have the power to accomplish this re-districting after it is configured and to maintain that status over a number of years.

The American obsession of winning at all costs almost dictates that these sort of things happen. To the winner goes the spoils and the spoils in our political processes amount to trillions of dollars. I have a dream that some year, probably in the very distant future, saner minds will finally prevail in this and so many other areas. When we can finally concentrate the common good and get away from the extreme partisanship of today then we might be able to accomplish things that benefit us all instead of a small segment of our society. I have a dream but unfortunately that is probably all it will ever be.

SharingThis is going to be one of those totally off-the-wall unrealistic posts that pops off the top of my head. But it sure would be great if somehow, anyhow it could be accomplished. So here goes.

We all know that profits are the total 100% driver for American businesses for the last thirty years or so.  Ever since the MBA’s took over during the Reagan years profits are the god of business.  Of course directly linked to profits are CEO’s pay. I believe that other things besides global competition have contributed to the income inequality now in this world.

When I started out in the corporate world employees were considered assets to the company. A well-trained, well-educated workforce was the driving factor between a struggling company and one that thrived.  Because of this belief, and the fact that worker’s unions were part of the mix, a strong middle class developed in the U.S.  Everyone could afford what they were making and they were very loyal to the brand their company produced. In that respect those were indeed the good old days…

But, let’s get back to my off-the-wall dream.  Now that profits are the sole mantra for American capitalism, let’s just accept that fact as future reality but with a twist. It seems that almost all companies want to hire their workers at minimum wage. The money they used to pay in livable salaries is now directed towards profits.  Here goes my fix, so get ready!  What if companies were required to share their profits between their workers and their owners?  It could go something like this.

Go ahead and reduce all workers pay to minimum wage but require half of last years’ profits to be distributed the next year to supplement that wage.  According to some calculations that would raise the median income of workers almost 50%. Wouldn’t that be something.  Finally the workers would actually get some of the benefit from their labors.

But of course the devil is in the details. In order for this to happen the owners, those who hold the company stocks, would have to get by with half their usual dividends. While they are doing that they could also reign in the CEO and upper management pay to  something that is not as absurd as it currently is. What is he likelihood of stock owners agreeing? Well, probably very close to zero. After all, they spend millions, and hide millions more away in foreign bank accounts,  to get out of paying their fair share of taxes. Why would they give up some dividends for the greater good?  I kind of got an idea about that too. ;)  Since many of these owners were true believers in Reagan’s trickle down from the 1980s maybe we can convince them that lowering their dividends will actually raise  them.  Wouldn’t that be a win-win for everyone!!

OK, now it is time to get back to the world as it actually exists, not how I sometimes see it inside my head. But, it is kind of nice to dream that we could ever get back to the good old days where employees were actually appreciated.

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

Conformity…..

March 4, 2014

Conformity is kind of a dirty word for me. I think of myself as anything but a conformist. A big part of conformity is accepting what you are told without questions. That makes good soldiers but I don’t think it makes good citizens.  Here are a couple of quotes from one of my heroes on this topic.

2014-02-20_10-29-37To raise new questions, new possibilities, to regard old problems from a new angle, requires creative imagination and marks real advance in science.

The important thing is not to stop questioning.

– Albert Einstein

When we quit questioning we allow others to tell us what to think and do. We become sheep following the latest demigods, the latest social and consumer trends.

Some parts of our lives demand more conformity than others. One of those areas is our religious beliefs. For the most part almost all religious organizations demand that we strictly tow the line. They demand homogeneous compliance. One of the versions of religion that I most admire for their dedication are the Amish. But they are also demand the highest level of conformity. You are told you must totally submit to the authority of your elders with no questions asked. You are not to stand out from the crowd.  If you don’t follow these rules you are often shunned by the community.

To me the opposite of creativity is conformity so that is why it is a dirty word to me. Creativity is how we have advanced in almost every area of life in the last 2,000+ years. It took a brave Belgium doctor hundreds of years ago to question if going from one patient to another without washing your hands was actually doing more harm than good. It would take decades of being chastised for his “radical” beliefs before physicians would finally scrub up between surgeries.  Let’s face it, if conformity were the only possibility we would very likely still be living in Middle-Age conditions.

We in the United States pride ourselves in being a unique nation but in reality we at least in recent history are for the most part just bowing to conformity. We allow talking heads, especially those at Fox News and MSNBC to tell us what to think and do. It seems for far too many people if Rush says it then “ditto”.  We jump from one social and economic trend to another without really thinking of the consequences.  Aren’t we really for the most part just a bunch of conformists? Yes, thank heavens, there have always been few of us who are not afraid to stand out from the crowd. They are the ones who are always asking questions and as a result moving us forward.  But I am afraid that given our current stands on educational conformity we might even lose that in future generations.  If our kids don’t conform to our current standards then they are likely to be given a prescription of Ritalin to force them to stay in line. From my study of biographies of Einstein I’m sure he would have been one of those chosen for a dose of that drug if he were growing up today.

How sad is that??

Everyone Is A Liar……

February 28, 2014

Let’s face it, everyone is a liar to one degree or another. Lying is so prevalent in our society that we are assumed to be a liar until we prove ourselves honest and even that proof has a limited time span. We all have serious scars from being lied to.

We lie to ourselves — We say we did the best that we could when we really never even put up much of an effort. We invent stories in our distant past so that our lives sound more interesting.  Sometimes we lie to people to make them feel better. Sometimes we lie to ourselves for the same reason. We convince ourselves that everything is fine when our personal world is falling apart. We lie to ourselves on a daily basis.

We lie to get ahead — We pad our work resumes to make it look like we have accomplished more than we did. We lie to take credit for something that someone else did. We lie to inflate our egos and to advance to that next level job.

We lie to those we love — We lie to our spouse because we don’t think they can handle the real truth. We tell many “white” lies because it is easier than confronting the truth and we don’t want to hurt our loved ones feelings.

In fact lying is a necessity of life.  If we told the truth in many circumstances we would probably be without friends. I think I am more truthful than many in this regard. Some people call me blunt. Some call me rude. Now don’t get me wrong, I lie just like everyone else but it seems that I often let the truth slip out of my mouth without thinking of the consequences.  Sometime I just don’t take the time to see where a lie is more tactful than the truth.

But, lying is not just on a personal level. Here are some words from Jane McCrath about the The Ten Biggest Lies in history

Supposedly, the truth can set you free. But for many, deceit holds the key to money, fame, revenge or power, and these prove all too tempting. In history, this has often resulted in elaborate hoaxes, perjuries, and forgeries that had enormous ripple effects.

There are our personal, some might say “little” lies and then there are those that have grievously harmed or world. This article counts down what the author deemed the ten biggest lies in history. The number one liar was without a doubt Hitler.

Like never before, anti-Semitism was manifested in a sweeping national policy known as “the Final Solution,” which sought to eliminate Jews from the face of the Earth.

To accomplish this, Adolf Hitler and his minister of propaganda, Joseph Goebbels, launched a massive campaign to convince the German people that the Jews were their enemies. Having taken over the press, they spread lies blaming Jews for all of Germany’s problems, including the loss of World War I. One outrageous lie dating back to the Middle Ages claimed that Jews engaged in the ritual killings of Christian children and used their blood in the unleavened bread eaten at Passover.

Using Jews as the scapegoat, Hitler and his cronies orchestrated what they called “the big lie.” This theory states that no matter how big the lie is (or more precisely, because it’s so big), people will believe it if you repeat it enough. Everyone tells small lies, Hitler reasoned, but few have the guts to tell colossal lies. Because a big lie is so unlikely, people will come to accept it.

Getting back on a personal level, we all discover the truth about the truth and that is that oftentimes the truth hurts and lying is just easier.

America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed them ourselves.  —Abraham Lincoln

2014-01-08_15-27-01Losing our freedoms because we destroyed them ourselves is something that I worry about. Of course when Lincoln made this quote there was no such thing as the NSA, Internet, cell phones but each of these are the things that may just destroy our freedoms.

Sometimes I think I am the only one to be worried about this. The NSA’s ability to tap into all our telephone, text, and Internet information seems like a “perfect storm” just waiting to happen. It has even been reported by some pretty reputable sources that they can get inside all our smart phone apps to see what we store there.

I know 1984 has come and gone without the dire predictions by George Orwell’s book by that name. But given the thirty years since then it does seem more like Orwell’s world now. So many of us seem to have a blasé attitude toward what we once viewed as sacrosanct rights. Of course much of that has to do with fear overriding our feelings of freedom. We fear terrorism more than cherish our “God-given” rights.  Given the latest revelations from Mr. Snowdon’s document releases Big Brother is very much around us and into our daily lives.

Of course, this is not the first time that fear has trumped freedoms, especially the right to privacy, in this country. In fact we have a long history of that happening. The one that comes to mind first is the FBI during the 1960s.  J. Edger had files on many of the people who questioned his authority including Martin Luther King and the Kennedy clan including the president himself.

And then their were all the sedition acts throughout our history starting very early on with the Alien and Sedition Acts signed into law by John Adams. That one basically said that anyone who wrote “malicious” things about the president or congress  could be sent to jail for up to two years! Can you imagine the number of journalists who would be in our prison system today if that were still enforced? :)

One of my favorite presidents even signed one known as the Sedition Act of 1918 for “any statement criticizing the Government of the United States”.  Another was the Smith Act of 1940. Like today most of these acts were implemented during times when fear was rampant.

Getting back to the quote above, Lincoln once again proves that his wisdom is for the ages. When we lose our constitutional freedoms it will not be from a terrorist but because we destroyed them ourselves.

I’m pretty sure that this post will end up before the eyes of someone in the NSA but given my concerns of an over bloated military I don’t imagine it is the first of my posts to go there. But remember my NSA friends I’m just an ordinary old shrinking retired guy who likes to question things that others seem to take for granted so don’t come knocking at me door.

Many conservative Evangelicals who trust leaders like Franklin Graham to shepherd them faithfully in the Good News of Jesus have been swept away in the unfortunate movement to transform them from being the “People of Good News” to, quite literally, the “People of FOX News.” Franklin seems to have fallen prey to the power and platform of the Tea Party/Religious Right and has begun manipulating his father’s honorable name and ministry to promote a political agenda. This was never more clearly demonstrated than at Billy Graham’s 95th birthday celebration last week. Take a look at this photo from the event:

2013-11-12_16-45-08

Pictured here are just some of the notable guests at the celebration, including Donald Trump, Sarah Palin, Rupert Murdoch, and Greta VanSustern. (This list could also be known as the Tea Party Power Players Also Note: Glenn Beck is not pictured here but was also in attendance) This picture makes my stomach churn. It’s hard to imagine that Billy Graham would ever want to host such a gathering of these extreme republican high-ballers. It s obvious that there’s more going on behind this picture.

SOURCE:  From “Good News” to FOX News: How Franklin Graham Is Using His Aging Father | Brandan Robertson | Red Letter Christians.

I have read several books by Billy Graham and have watched a few of his crusades throughout the world.  He was a religious advisor to several presidents both Republican and Democrat. His ministry was about Jesus and Jesus alone.  It totally shocks me to see what his son Franklin has done to Billy’s ministry.  He seems to parade his senile and very aged father around to promote his political agenda. That is something that his father absolutely would never have permitted when he was of sound mind and body.

I know that by converting his father’s organization over to an extreme right political agenda probably brings in more money from the radicals like Murdock, Trump, and all the Fox News ranting heads but what are the consequences?  I pray that someday Franklin is held accountable for totally tainting his father’s lifelong ministry for more power, money,  and political gain for himself. How tragically sad is that??????

ProsperityHousing is coming back. Banks are lending again. Energy is booming. A prominent Democrat argues that the U.S. economy is finally coming back to life

SOURCE: Is the U.S. Economy Coming Back to Life? – TIME.

Everything is great again in the USA!  The stock markets are booming. Banks are as profitable as ever and are now lending again. All the economic indicators are rising.  These are joyful words for us liberals and dreaded ones for conservatives during a Democrat administration.

Everything is great except for the fact that almost all of this prosperity is flowing into the hands of the top few percent in our country but thankfully it is also flowing into our pension funds. Most are in dire need of help. So, it is sort of true that a rising tide lifts all boats; it is just that most of us have leaky row-boats instead of mega-yachts.

Income and wages for most of us are still below 2007 levels and averages are below the 1970s level. Unemployment is still too high. The middle class continues to shrink. Will this condition ever resolve itself? I don’t think that will happen anytime soon.  It will likely take a decade or more for us to stabilize into a new norm for the average family.

  • All of us will have to get it through our thick heads that the good paying low skilled factory jobs are gone.
  • All of us will have to understand that a middle class job of the future will require more than a high school education. Stopping at high school almost assures you of a lifetime of hamburger flipping or other minimum wage job.
  • We will have to come back to a political sphere where the good of the nation takes precedence over a political party.
  • We will have to understand that in the world markets, requiring  U.S. corporations to pay for employee health insurance when the rest of the world depends on government to do that stifles job creation in this county.
  • We will have to understand that in order to raise our job skill levels higher education should not put our young people into massive debt when so many other countries provide free or at least heavily subsidized educational expenses. We have to realize that higher education should be a right to all instead of a privilege to a few.
  • We will have to realize that being in the middle class is not an entitlement but something to be obtained through diligent effort.
  • We have to understand that some things in life take years of putting aside a few dollars to afford. Instant gratification is just not sustainable for most of us. It puts us in a debt spiral that is almost impossible to escape.
  • We will have to understand that life is not always fair and that sometimes it even craps on us.

Everything is great again in the USA except……..