RJ's Corner

Low Info Voter…

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I pulled this picture off of one of the many articles about how Donald Trump is number one in the polls for the GOP candidate.  But Donald Trump is not the topic of this post. Instead it is about a phrase that David Brooks has used a few times on the PBS Newshour. He calls many if not most of the Trump supporters “low information voters”. I thought that was a very descriptive and I imagine an accurate term.

QE BannerJust who  might be described as a Low-Info voter?

I don’t know why but I picked this guy above as be typical of that category. I did a little playing with the photo in order to give him emphasis.  Now don’t get me wrong, I have no idea who this person is but I am choosing to make him the poster child for that category.

Low info voters are:

  • guys (for the most part) that don’t like paying any form of taxes
  • angry at most everything in and about their lives
  • haven’t picked up a book or newspaper in ages
  • listens to Fox News as his primary, and probably only, source of information
  • has a low self-esteem and even lower view of most people
  • is just pissed off at most things in the world

I don’t know, maybe I have it all wrong here but since this is my blog I can say whatever I want.  The trouble with this whole concept is that I am afraid that the legions of low-info voters is growing by leaps and bounds. Politics has become so nasty lately that only the strongest among us, of which I am not one, tries to stay informed about all the candidates.

I’m afraid that the saying that we only have choices between bad and worse in our election process these days is becoming true. No one of a noble mind and heart dares to get into that arena now days. No one seems to have the stomach for it.  If we believe the pundits come next year we will have either another Bush or another Clinton in the White House!  Why can’t we get some who we really think can do the job to even put his/her name on a ballot??

Question everything….

The Great Rocky Mountains..

Rocky Mtns

Its been a while since I used my painter app on one of my photos. The app has many different style options but I kind of like this one..

Fear # 4 – Social Security Will Disappear

2015-08-15_07-53-36Only 20 percent of Americans believe there will be enough money left when it’s time for them to retire. To fix the problem, some people believe Social Security should allow means testing, where benefits are based on a person’s income. Others think the tax should be raised, the retirement age should be raised or the benefits should be cut down.

Though there’s disagreement over how, Social Security is a program that almost everyone agrees needs to be fixed before the well starts to run dry. So as Social Security turns 80, when it comes to the future of the biggest and oldest benefits program in the United States, at least after watching this video you can say, “Now I get it.”

Source: Social Security explained.

QE BannerI frequently accuse the Republican party of being the party of “fear”. They seem to depend on it for their existence.

  • be afraid they will take away your guns
  • be afraid of those people coming across our borders
  • be afraid of those trying to take our morals away from us
  • be afraid of this, be afraid of that

But in reality the Democrats do their share of fear mongering. Maybe the biggest fear, at least for those seeing their elder years on the horizon is that Social Security will not be there for them!

The Republican answer to this problem is similar to many other problems.  “Lets get rid of it… you can save for yourself…” Yeah, right!!  That tactic seemed to work pretty well for defined pension plans. They are no longer around today. We are supposed to take care of ourselves instead of having the government do it for us.  The problem is most of us don’t really know how to do that and have done a terrible job of it in the past. Many are predicting a near catastrophic condition in about ten years where those who “managed their own accounts” find out what a miserable job they have done.

Social Security is, and will continue to be the safety net of retirement income. It is the baseline to keep our seniors out of poverty. Even if nothing is done, and I’m sure something will be done, they say it can continue to pay out 75% or more into the distant future. Don’t let the fear mongers lead you to believe otherwise. Until we deem it acceptable to allow people to die in the gutters, and I certainly hope that day never comes, there will be a safety net keeping all of us out of dire poverty.  We claim to be a Christian nation and I hope we continue in at least a minimal way to act like one…

 

Even Junkyards…

La Fruto CO

Even junkyards look fantastic with the mountains in the background. Welcome to La Fruto….

The Disparity of Benefits… And a Possible Solution…

2015-08-14_09-13-12SEATTLE — Microsoft said on Wednesday that it would offer new parents an additional eight weeks of paid time off from their jobs at the company, in a significant boost to its parental leave benefits.

Microsoft’s changes to its policy came a day after Netflix, the online video service, said it would allow new mothers and fathers who are employees to take as much paid time off as they need during the first year after the birth or adoption of a child. The more generous policies are a way to hold onto employees, particularly the highly skilled technical workers who are in extremely high demand in the booming tech industry.

Source: Following Netflix, Microsoft Sweetens Parental Leave Benefits – The New York Times.

I know that companies that value their employees and recognize their worth generally give them benefits in order to keep them with the company. They typically allocated a certain percentage of their profits into this arena. Profits are the main, some say only, priority for many so they sparingly deal out benefits.

The problem with the current method of allocating benefits is that they are often only applicable to certain employees. For those who are beyond child-bearing years and those who choose something other than a married lifestyle the above benefits mean nothing to them.   It is kind of like those of us who are childless having to pay such a high percentage of our property taxes to send other kids through public education. We see no personal value to where all our dollars go.

There seems to be a great disparity of who gets benefits.  The solution to this problem is too obvious. Why not offer a cafeteria type choice of what benefits you receive? Give every employee a certain percentage of their income to the benefits pool and let them decide where to allocate the money.   Those who are childless might spend it on additional vacation time. For those with school age children they might take shorter hours in order to pick up their kids from school. For others something different.  Let the employee decide which benefits they want.

Companies, at least when I was working, made a big point of “empowering” employees to make their own decisions. That is the excuse, and I do mean excuse, they use to forcing their them off fixed benefit pensions and putting all the risk of financial planning on them even though most are totally unprepared for that task.

Being a Radical… The Best of the Best…

 

This is the first post in a new category called “My Best of the Best List”. Over my life I have always been an avid read. I’m sure I have read thousands of books on many different topic. I have also traveled to all fifty States and to Canada and Mexico mainly with history in mind.

So, with this post I am starting my recommended reading/visiting list for your perusal.

MyScans168I thought I would start out with perhaps the one book that mostly influenced by current views of Christianity and those who claim to follow Jesus. I want to warn you up front that Shane is a radical. He actually takes the words of Jesus found in the Christian Bible to heart and lives them on a daily basis. More radically he wants to shock us into doing the same.

I have included here the back page of this book to give you an idea of how devoted he is in living out his life by the messages of Jesus.  If you are ready for a new view of being a Christian who practices what he preaches pick up a copy of this book. If you are not totally locked into your current views this book may change your life.   It is in the top ten of all the books I have ever read.

RJC - Best of the best Banner

 

MyScans169

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?

 

 

 

One thing that spreads across the U.S. landscape are distressed rural buildings.  Now that corporations pretty much have taken over the old small farm buildings have been abandoned. I have more than 800 photos to help document them before they are all gone.

ISOA Banner

Forgive and Forget…

EggsIt’s amazing how our pets can so easily forgive and forget.  If only we humans could learn that lesson from them.  While I was talking to my wife recently, Dexter our cat proceeded to attack my right foot. He does this on occasion but this time it was annoying and I kicked him off. He took off like a rocket then stopped to give me a glaring look before going into hiding.  An hour later while we were sitting on the deck getting our usual dose of the morning sun he came back and everything was forgiven. Our pets just don’t hold grudges.

When my wife and I get into arguments, maybe I should call them “differences of opinion”, she has the habit of bringing up things  that happened decades ago. I don’t think she has ever forgotten anything that she thinks I have done wrong and she seems to think I do almost everything wrong. :)

Sometimes I pull out my t-shirt that has the following saying on it just to remember that this characteristic is probably a female thing and not just my wife.

Man wrong T-Sshirt

Why do we humans hang on to so much negative thoughts? Why can’t we just forgive and then forget?

That is a question that takes a wiser guy than me to answer….

 

 

 

Indoctrination and God…

2015-08-11_08-49-14WENDY THOMAS RUSSELL:  I did a survey of 1,000 nonreligious parents to find out exactly that. And the top reason cited was, people weren’t sure how to talk about religion without indoctrinating their kids into what they believed themselves. That was a hard line.

The other one was interacting with religious family members and keeping the peace in families. When you’re raising a child who is in a secular household, how do you bridge the gap between the older generations who may be more rigidly religious?

JEFFREY BROWN: This word indoctrinating is an important one, because it comes up time and time again here. What’s the difference between indoctrinating and guiding children, right?

WENDY THOMAS RUSSELL: Right.

Indoctrination, I see, as almost the antithesis of critical thinking. Of course it’s fine to guide your children, but I see indoctrination as sort of this middle ground between full-on brainwashing and guidance. it’s stronger than — it’s stronger than just merely guidance.

I see indoctrination as telling children that there is only one way to believe, and that all other ways and people who believe all other things are less worthy of our respect, less intelligent, less moral. It’s that — that’s the crucial issue, because I think that, when you do that, you set up your child to be bigoted against those who don’t believe the way that you do. You know, we are — it’s not a black-and-white world

Source: The secular parent’s guide to teaching kids about faith.

Although not important to the purposes of this post, the interview above is about a book Wendy Thomas Russell wrote about how to discuss the topic of God with your children.  I know for the very religious fundamentalists among us the idea that we indoctrinate or brainwash our kids into believing what we believe is tantamount to heresy. But to the secular or even those of us who are spiritual but not particularly religious it seems to be a viable statement.

As mentioned several times on this blog I did a very serious ten year study over at RedLetterLiving on the topic of beliefs and religion. During that time I learned just how diverse the beliefs in God are. There are currently over 35,000 different versions of Christianity and each one believes they are the ones who have it right.  From personal experiences I learned this truth the hard way in being told I didn’t tow the line close enough and informed I was no longer welcomed.

“Telling children that there is only one way to believe, and that all other ways and people who believe all other things are less worthy of our respect, less intelligent, less moral” as the article mentions is the primary reason there is so much violence in the world today.  90% of the violence in the hotbed Middle East is muslims fighting each other. The other ten percent is their hate for the U.S.

I am very much a follower of Jesus Christ but not so much what his church, or any religion for that matter, has become.  If we ever want to see peace come to this earth we have got to get over thinking that when it comes to God our way is the only way. We Christians just need stop saying our particular brand of religion is the only “true” one.

Clean Out a Corner of Your Mind..

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Our minds are just too filled with things that don’t matter much. All that stuff is stifling creativity.

Unskilled Labor..

A little over a hundred years ago the world was in a paradigm shift away from farming to manufacturing. This was a very disruptive thing for many who were living during those times. Cars were replacing the horse and buggy which had been the primary mode of transportation for more than a century. Automation of farm implements resulted in much less labor needed to produce the same goods. Things were changing and changing quickly.

2015-08-13_09-03-20Fifty years ago cars were made by thousands of workers lined up each doing a small part of the assembly. It was mind numbing work but paid well.  Paychecks were determined and made out by thousands of workers in row after row of desks doing a very small part of the overall task. 

2015-08-13_09-05-46Today those assembly line jobs are being done by robots and the paperwork is accomplished by a bank of computers controlled by a handful of technicians. The jobs are now in fields that require more training and imagination than anytime in the past. Like the last few paradigm shifts this one will also require as the definition of paradigm suggests some radical changes in the workforce. 

Does automation create a permanent lower class society who will always be poor??

 That is the basic question for our times. Will there now be a class of people who are always poor. Yes, but the percentage of workers in that category is what is at stake. Flipping hamburgers and many other service jobs will never, and have never, been a high paying occupation. It was meant as a starting place or as the first rung of the ladder upward. Teenagers and recent immigrants started there.  Automation will be an ongoing thing for many years to come. That is a given. To “move on” requires a more knowledgable worker than ever before. 

Are we currently up to that task?  The answer is NO…

An educated workforce requires, well, education. That is a very simple matter but obtaining that education is not so simple. The cost of education is now beyond what many can deal with. Much of the rest of the world has moved to publicly financed education beyond the fundamental twelve years of schooling. We in the U.S. are stuck in the past in that regard.  Education in general just does not have the importance that it does in other parts of the world. 

Even the quality of the currently publicly funded education varies widely from one geographic area to another. Since education remains a local thing areas of affluence have a much higher quality educational facilities and staff than does the typical rural communities. Since there is no national process driving education this disparity will likely continue unabated.

In order to move into the new paradigm will require a basic change in thinking of how we train the workers of today and tomorrow.  It’s as simple as that. 

Ten Headed Monster???

Ten Headed Monster

This is kind of an eerie picture but in reality it was once a thing of great beauty. As the cycle of life typically goes it was once a beautiful flower in my wife’s garden

Something For Nothing…

2015-08-12_18-19-20But since Piotrowski describes property taxes as “unethical, unchristian-like” and a form of “financial slavery,” he decided to make a statement.

“Since I’m being forced to pay for something against my own will, I’m paying in pennies,” he told The Philadelphia Inquirer.

SOURCE: This man collected 50,000 pennies to make a statement about paying his property taxes – Yahoo Finance.

QE BannerI don’t know about you but these sort of stories get on my nerves but kind of like a train wreck I just can’t seem to look away. This guy claims paying taxes is “unethical, unchristian-like and a form of financial slavery”. Oh come on…. Paying taxes is a very necessary part of living in a democracy. Who does this guy think builds our bridges, maintains our police and fireman forces, and a myriad of other services we come to expect? Those things don’t come free and I’m sure this guy’s eyes glaze over when someone tries to explain that to him.

Its bad enough that he is ignorant enough to think paying his share of taxes is unethical and financial slavery but he had to add his religious leanings too. Yeah I know there are a lot of conservative, especially evangelical, Christians out there that don’t want to be forced to pay for things like helping the needy, infirm, or mentally challenged. Jesus Christ made it very clear that we are to be our brother’s keeper and since  religious organization do remotely begin to meet that need we should happily support our government do so in our place. But again, I’m sure this guy’s eyes also glaze over when that is explained to him.

I kind of put this guy in the same league of all those millionaires who have off-shore accounts to hide their money so they don’t have to pay their share of taxes. Both are shameful.  Before you say I am painting with too broad a brush here I will say that fortunately this guy does not represent the majority, or even a slight minority of Christians  with this behavior the same as that rich guy doesn’t represent everyone who has more money than they know what to do with… I kind of hope this yahoo got a hernia from lifting his 50,000 pennies :)

Tattooed Horse

Found this tattooed horse in downtown Louisville a few years ago. It was around Kentucky Derby time.

Creative Horse

 

The Blue Jays of Life…

Birds at FeederSeeing all the blue jays hoarding the feeder just now got me to thinking about life. It doesn’t take much to get me to thinking these days. :)

About Life BannerWe feed over half a ton of sunflower seed annually in our backyard feeders. There is a big variety of birds that come and go. Cardinals are one of my favorites probably because of their bright color. I just seem to like bright colors at this time in my life. My “inferno orange” Chevy Sonic is a testimony to that.  Anyway, getting back on topic, at least once a day a large number of blue jays show up. When they come they drive all the others currently frequenting the feeder away. They take over the neighborhood. My wife tells me they do it with a lot of noise too.

Now to the “about life” portion of this post. I always like to see connections from one part of life to another and seeing those birds brought to mind the “blue jays of life”.  That is those people who move into a neighborhood and proceed to play their music too loud, leave their grass un-mowed, and generally be an annoyance in one form or another to everyone else. There is almost always one of those families in every neighborhood. In my younger years some of my neighbors probably considered me to be one.

To finish off this post I want to tell you that the picture here was taken in February. I was too lazy to drag out my camera this time so I pulled a pic from my archives.   So, no we don’t have snow in August in Indiana. :)

 

What could be more creative than a shadow box of eggs.  I found this on at the Des Moines History Museum a few years ago.

Eggs

Cord-Cutting Gets Ugly: U.S. Pay-TV Sector Drops 566,000 Customers in Q2

2015-08-09_07-58-34Cord-cutting headaches for pay TV have now progressed beyond just a dull, throbbing pain.

Cable, satellite and telco TV companies suffered their worst-ever quarterly subscriber declines for the three months ended June 30, collectively shedding more than half a million accounts — an accelerating erosion that’s put new pressure on operators and media companies exposed in the pay-TV biz.

Source: Cord-Cutting Gets Ugly: U.S. Pay-TV Sector Drops 566,000 Customers in Q2.

QE BannerLater in this article one of the TV execs say that the customer should be the focus of this trend and not the corporate plan or such. Maybe they would like my opinion but I kind of doubt that they will get it.  I’m sure I am not alone in my feelings about Pay-TV.

If these guys want to save their jobs they need to understand that they should not be the ones who determine how they package their channels.  I shamefully admit that I pay more than $125 per month for Direct TV.  But since the average bill is over $100 I guess I am not the only fool who originally bought into the $29.95 mantra they advertise.  With that $100+ comes about 400 channels of which “sports” channels make up at least 100 of them. Another 50 or so are probably infomercials. I wonder if anyone actually watches those.

My wife is into several channels that I don’t watch and I am into some, like my car shows, that she doesn’t watch. And 80% of the offered list neither of us ever watch. Sports in any form is just something that we don’t view. They say that over half the pay-tv providers content expenses are for the sports shows.

Getting back to what this customer, and I’m sure there are many others like me, wants is an ala carte method of picking what I want to pay for. I’m sure I could cut my bill in half with a pick-and-choose method. But I guess that is maybe one of the reasons they don’t offer it. They would lose revenue. But what is worse a customer who spends half as much or a customer who leaves them entirely?

Corporations just don’t seem to give the customer the attention they used to in the good old days. I know you have been waiting for this old guy to mention the good old days. Actually I don’t do that often but to some degree it is true.

Finishing up this post with a different thought, it seems strange that AT&T would buy DirecTV this past week if their revenue is falling so drastically. But, as in the past, AT&T often does things that confuse me and I worked for them my entire corporate life. They threw away the cellphone business in the 80’s because it didn’t have growth potential! Then, of course, they panicked when it did and played catch-up for years.  But that was the old AT&T before the break-up so I shouldn’t put that on the current leadership I guess….

Question everything..

 

New Mexico continues to fascinate me.  It is so different from where I have lived the rest of my life.  These pics were primarily taken in northern New Mexico (Santa Fe and north) and southern Colorado. I am convinced that I will live there some day…

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….

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