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A Quick Note

I have been doing daily posts over at my new blog InSearchOfAmerica for about a month now and I think I have finally settled on what fits best there for me. I originally got the idea over a year ago and have had a few false starts since them. The current format fits me very well. It is primarily about pictures with a twitter length comment.

As the posts progress the mosaic that the site is building will become a picture of what I have seen in my search for America.  It you feel like it give it a look….

Writing My Material….

August 14, 2014

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An important part of my daily read is the Will Rogers Facebook page as shown above. It, along with the half-dozen books about him on my bookshelf give me a lifetime of material for this blog at RJsCorner.

Will inspires me for his wit, wisdom, and humor. But maybe even more so for his endurance as he put out thousands of  “posts” of his day.

Will inspires me with his method of delivery.  One of his most famous quotes is “All I know is what I read in the newspaper” and then he would proceed to put his spin on the story. The vast majority of my posts start out as a quote from what I read around the Internet. I then expand on it with my own interpretation.

Will inspires me with his calm patience. I get attacked on occasion for what I say.  I, like him, try to keep the attitude of “I never met a man I didn’t like” and deal with those upset yahoos with calmness and a sense of humor. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.

Will inspired me with his writing style. Kind of laid back and nothing too formal. My header above has one of my favorite quotes from him.  I try to do the best I can and don’t take life too serious. Even that gets me in trouble once in a while as people just take what I say here too serious when I mean it to be tongue-in-cheek.

Will inspires me….

 

 

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This congress, like the last one is known as the “Do Nothing Congress”. But I guess it is hard to get anything done when one party is against everything except shutting down government and leaving this country totally to the greedy capitalists. It looks like those yahoos are going to go on another long vacation without passing any highway funding bills. *

We are the joke of the world when it comes to our infrastructure. Like so many other things the rest of the first world countries spend what is needed to keep their roads and such pothole free and up to date. I have even heard stories that some German companies refuse to put another factory in our country until they see us get serious about bringing up our standards in this area.

Our congressmen spend less time in their job than any other profession I can think of except maybe teachers :)  But at least teacher to a certain degree get the job done. The politicians seem to just manage to scream and diss each other and anyone else who disagrees with them. What a joke…..

* UPDATE

It isn’t often that an individual, company or government gets everything wrong simultaneously, but members of Congress, clinging fiercely to ideology, expediency and cynicism, are regularly doing just that. There can be no better illustration than the pathetically ignorant and immoral “solution” fashioned last week to forestall the pending insolvency of the Highway Trust Fund.

No thinking person — Democrat, Republican or Unicorn — can possibly believe that encouraging companies to further shortchange already inadequately financed pension plans is a sensible approach to funding highway construction. Nevertheless, that’s what Congress just did, before rushing off to an ill-deserved vacation.

SOURCE: Highway funding bill illustrates everything wrong with Congress | Dallas Morning News.

2014-08-03_11-10-40But the problem is we have structured our economy in this sort of death spirally way, where huge profitable organizations like Wal-Mart pay poverty wages to a million workers, and then taxpayers make up the difference in social services programs like food stamps and Medicaid and rent assistance, and so on and so forth.  It’s as morally repugnant as it is economically inefficient.

It’s a fact that Wal-Mart earned $27 billion in profit last year. They could afford to pay their bottom million workers $10,000 more a year, raise all of those people out of poverty, save tax payers billions of dollars, and still earn $17 billion in profit, right.

It’s simply nuts that we have allowed this to happen. And the only way you can change things is to raise the minimum wage. Certainly the people that run Wal-Mart will not do this on their own.  The idea that businesses will go out of business if they pay workers more is just not true, even though I understand the sort of visceral fear that some of them feel about this change.

SOURCE: Why capitalism has nothing to do with supply and demand | Making Sen$e | PBS NewsHour.

These quotes above drive home what I believe is a very basic reason our economy is still in the state that it is. We just give too much power to the most avid capitalists among us. In other words we give too much power to those few who control most of our nation’s wealth. I am a firm believer in the idea that government’s role in a democratic/capitalist society is to reign in the greed that naturally comes with capitalism.

Unions used to have some control over this wage vs established wealth issue but that is just no longer the case. As is typical of these sort of thing unions themselves became too powerful and as a result too self-focused and corrupt to continue to hold the influence they once had. Unfortunately there was nothing there to replace the void left by the extinction of unions so it is necessary for our government to step in. But even that is another tragic failure in this very disjointed country.

With the almost total breakdown of the ability to govern, especially at the national level, this dichotomy between wages and wealth has gone unabated for a couple of decades now. Our economy is almost totally based on consumer spending but if consumers are stripped of any sense of discretionary income it seems like that is a natural spiral that we will not escape from. The richest among us just don’t eat out 10,000 times a month to replace those who can no longer afford such luxury.

We depend on our government to reign in the excess of our capitalist system and that is just not happening in today’s world.

Kids and Restaurants…..

August 11, 2014

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Is the message on this sign outside Old Fisherman’s Grotto, a Monterey, California restaurant, clear enough for you? ….

”Cue the controversy.

Since the local news covered the policy on Tuesday, it’s made headlines, prompted debate on social media, and produced a slew of new mostly negative reviews on Yelp. Most take aim at owner Chris Sake, with comments including “Good luck catering only to couples and groups of childless hipsters,” “Don’t go here unless you want to support Mr. Scrooge,” and “The sign is really low-class. Shame on you people.” Calls and emails to Sake and Old Fisherman’s Grotto were not returned.

A few were positive: “KUDOS to this place!! Finally a place where we can eat in peace,” and “More restaurants need to follow their lead on the children policy.”

SOURCE: Should Crying Babies Be Forbidden at Restaurants?.

A “No Kids” restaurant is an interesting idea. Now that I am deaf all the crying and gibbering doesn’t bother me but I only have to look at the faces of many other guests to know that I am pretty much alone with that immunity. It is only when the kids whose parents seem to have no control over them bump in to my table and as a result I get something spilled on me (yes, it has actually happened) that I am now annoyed. Wouldn’t it be nice to not have to face that annoyance while spending hard-earned dollars eating out?

But actually I put the fault of all of this on the parents more than the kids.  Let’s face it kids will be kids and that is how it should be. But they must be taught that like they will learn later in life their freedom to run and scream has some restrictions. Not being a parent I’m sure I don’t realize just how hard that lesson is to teach a kid. For some reason when we lived for four years in New Jersey this problem was significantly less severe.  Don’t know why?

Now don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that families with uncontrollable kids don’t have a right to eat out. What I am saying is that those of us who don’t have or have already completed that task of raising kids have a right to have a peaceful meal out once in a while. Now that most restaurants are smoke free maybe set aside a “no kids” section of their establishments.

Yes, ministry can be brutal. One of the most sobering statistics I found in my research is that for every twenty pastors who enter the ministry only one will retire from ministry.

I had no idea how many pastors struggled with depression and frustration regarding their ministry roles. You write that 80 percent of pastors (and 84 percent of their spouses) are discouraged in their ministry roles, that 40 percent say they have seriously considered leaving the pastorate in the past three months, and that 70 percent say they don’t have a single close friend. Those are some really astounding and sobering numbers. And yet, this reality is so rarely talked about—in church, at conferences, in books. Why do you think that is, and why is it important that we change that? Why must we talk about failure, (or the sense of failure), among ministers?

SOURCE:  Pastors and the “F-Word”: A Conversation with J.R. Briggs.

I think there are a lot of pastors out there that would love to tell their parishioners the truth but are afraid of the consequences.  Many churches and denominations directly hire and pay their pastors. For the most part they expect the pastor to preach what they currently believe to be truth.  They aren’t looking for someone to come in and teach them a “new truth”.

The more I studied theology in the past twenty years the more I realized that there are vast differences between one Christian denomination and another. And within those denominations are churches that are even more scattered across the theological landscape.  Getting back to the topic of pastors, they risk their jobs by studying outside their groups theology. If they say the wrong things they may very well be shown the door.

When I was a member of a Missouri Synod Lutheran Church I became a pretty close friend of the pastor. Being that I did not restrict my studies to only Lutheran practices I read very widely. One of the books that deeply influenced me was Shane Claiborne’s The Irresistible Revolution. This book spent a lot of time looking at the words of Jesus and his messages to us. I was so impressed by the book to buy a copy for the pastor. I gave it to him and was anxiously awaiting his thoughts. A couple of weeks later I asked him about the book and he made a snide comment about the author and would not go into further explanation. After a while it became obvious to me that he did not bother to read more than a short snippet. I simply couldn’t understand how he couldn’t have been influenced by the messages in the book.

What I learned from this encounter is that many clergy simply will not go outside their hierarchy when it come to their studies. They simply will not read things that might disagree with their current practices. I guess the reason for that is because they fear for their jobs.  It is certainly depressing to see the statistics above. Pastors should be free to give us a dose of their wisdom without fear for their jobs.

This is a sad part of current day Christianity…

NYC – The Wrap…

August 9, 2014

I have spent the last several Saturdays giving you a pictorial report of our visit to NYC.  This is finally the last post and is made up of some of my favorite pictures not included in earlier posts.

As usual click on any picture to bring up a larger gallery view.

 

Many of us are too busy or distracted to sustain a life of compassionate engagement. We live lives of hurry, worry and striving, finding little satisfaction in our manic work and recreational activities. Instead of being free to create beauty, nurture relationships and seek the greater good, many of us feel stuck in lives dictated by the need to pay bills or maintain a certain often consumptive standard of living. We can’t have it all—the prevailing level of consumption, a life of deeper meaning and relationships and global equity and sustainability. To realize these good dreams we must adjust our values and practices and seek creative solutions.

Few things in life shape us more than our choices about how we earn, spend, save and invest. Most of us will spend a third of our lives at income-producing jobs. How we choose to manage those earnings largely determines whether we are free to serve the greater good. Yet, rarely have religious communities, in particular, done well at addressing money and work as areas for discipleship—other than the occasional sermon about giving. Perhaps we unconsciously tend to separate money and work from the center of our spiritual lives, making an artificial and unhelpful distinction between what is spiritual and what is temporal, and thereby less important.

SOURCE: 3 Beliefs that Change How We Perceive the American Dream | Mark Scandrette | Red Letter Christians.

By far the biggest advantage I have found in my retirement years is that I now have as much time as I want for compassionate engagement. This third of my life is very fulfilling indeed. We Americans are just too obsessed with financial success. As the quote above says we find little satisfaction in things that we know should be more important in our lives. Our obsession for more and more drives us to idiotic  self-centered extremes.

Yeah, we need to pay the bills but are we really spending our money on things that really matter? Are we just too prone to the suggestions of advertisers who convince us to spend so much to bleach out our teeth to an absurdly unnatural color? Do we spend too much time coveting what our neighbor has instead of trying to find what is more important to our lives? How we spend our money says a lot about us as people.  All of us should stop on a regular basis and take an inventory of what we are doing with our lives.

Consumption must not take the place of things that should have a deeper meaning in our lives. All we Christians, and for that matter most other religions, tell us to take care of each other. That is what is important. The greater good should outweigh our frivolous desires in life. Our churches should be there to help guide us through this moral entanglement but too many of them, at least according to Mr. Scandrette, are themselves caught in the financial morass. It just may be time to stop and take stock on our lives both spiritual and temporal….

2014-08-04_09-16-05WASHINGTON AP — The United States declared Sunday it is “appalled” by Israel’s “disgraceful” attack on a United Nations school sheltering some 3,000 displaced people in southern Gaza.

Related Stories US ‘appalled’ by ‘disgraceful’ UN school shelling Associated Press US ‘appalled’ by latest UN school shelling in Gaza

In language that was rare in its directness and severity, the U.S. denounced the attack earlier Sunday, which killed 10 people. The statement released by the U.S. State Department noted that the school had been designated a protected location.

SOURCE:  US calls Israeli attack on UN school ‘disgraceful’ – Yahoo News.

This is the second and last day on this subject or me. I will keep this one short and to the point.

It is nice to finally hear that the U.S. at least at some level is saying “enough is enough” to the Israeli bombing in Gaza. They have now killed over 1,900 mostly citizens in Gaza. The Israelis call it a war but by most standards it would be called a slaughter.

The U.S. was very quick to condemn Russia in the  Ukraine because they might be supplying some of the rebels with weapons. They then followed up  this condemnation with some severe sanction proposals.  I hope to hear a like-minded thing for Israel. At least we could limit the number of new bombs and missiles we send to them to replenish their arsenal. If Israel won’t listen to reason maybe they will listen to us taking their weapons away?

 

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Aug. 5, 1861: Needing cash to finance the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln signed the Revenue Act — imposing the first federal income tax. Lincoln and Congress agreed that all incomes over $800 would be taxed at a 3 percent rate. Lincoln knew that taxes would be unpopular. But he recognized that America needed to pay for its wars.

SOURCE: Today in history: The federal income tax is born – The Week.

“The Week” which I believe is British in origin is becoming a daily read for me. Here is a quick quote from them.

The federal income tax is born…