2014-09-24_08-07-27The name Rockefeller is deeply synonymous with turning oil into gold. Familial patriarch John D. Rockefeller founded Standard Oil in 1870 and bought up most of the oil refineries in the United States, eventually controlling over 90 percent of the American oil business. “Competition,” he said, “is a sin.”

That empire, in inflation-adjusted terms, made him the richest man in history with a fortune estimated at $336 billion in 2010 dollars. The Standard Oil monopoly, meanwhile, was broken up and evolved into the global oil brands Exxon-Mobil, Amoco, and Chevron.

But the times they are a-changin’, and you don’t need to be a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.

Rockefeller’s descendants — who still control a cool $860 million through the family philanthropy, the Rockefeller Brothers fund — are dumping the endowment’s investments in the oil business and reinvesting at least a portion of that wealth into renewable energy….

As I wrote last December, renewable energy and particularly solar are on a very steep price trend downward thanks to a continued spurt of technological innovations that have reduced the cost of manufacturing. If the trend of falling prices continues for another 10 years, solar-generated electricity in the U.S. will descend to a point where it’s competitive with coal and nuclear — by 2020, or even 2015 for the sunniest parts of America. And if the trend continues for the next 20 years, solar costs will be half that of the price of coal today.

SOURCE: Why the Rockefellers are betting on renewable energy – The Week.

I guess many think that John D. Rockefeller is turning over in his grave to see what is left of his hard-earned money being taken out of fossil fuel stocks. As usual I take a different view of that. John D. was a guy who saw opportunities and had a way of taking advantage of them. Now don’t get me wrong, I certainly believe that he could have used a HUGE dose of empathy along the way and his contributions to America, like Henry Ford’s would have been much greater than they were. But he was a guy who know an opportunity when it knocked.

Would John D still be into oil if he were alive today? I kind of doubt it. He would probably see that fossil fuels have pretty much run their course. Being driven almost totally by the profit motive I doubt he would lay much merit of the “damaging the earth” parts but… Of course it is only speculation as that is all any of us can do, but I kind of believe he  would be in renewable resources as the next “great” thing to make a profit from.

So, unlike many others I think John D is saying “It’s about time you guys who are controlling my wealth made some changes. He was all about changes wasn’t he?

2014-08-26_17-21-49This is going to be one of those posts that jerks at my soul.

I remember hearing the title phrase pretty frequently when I was growing up. It usually meant that the speaker was surprised at what I had done and usually disapproved of it.

Today it seems so many people are doing things, abominable things, in the name of God. Almost every war in my lifetime has been in the name of God. So much hatred is spewed in his name. If God is really paying attention to all of us puny human beings I wonder if he is also say the same thing. “What are you doing in my name???”

They say that Mother Teresa often had doubts about the existence of God. Here is a quote from her about that from Wikipedia

“Where is my faith? Even deep down there is nothing but emptiness and darkness. If there be God—please forgive me. When I try to raise my thoughts to Heaven, there is such convicting emptiness that those very thoughts return like sharp knives and hurt my very soul. How painful is this unknown pain—I have no Faith. Repulsed, empty, no faith, no love, no zeal, What do I labor for? If there be no God, there can be no soul. If there be no soul then, Jesus, You also are not true.”

I am certainly no Mother Teresa but I too have doubts on occasion whether God is really there and involved in our personal lives as they say he is. At times he seems very remote to me. With all this evil going on in the name of God why doesn’t he set us straight and tell us to quit killing each other in his name?  Why does he allow so many radically different beliefs about him to even exist? If there is a God it seems he would put a stop to all this idiotic garbage!

To try to resolve my conflict I spent thousands of hours over a ten-year period studying theological things. I approached the study with a somewhat open mind given the religious baggage I carried into it.  One thing I gleaned from this journey is just how close-minded most are when it come to beliefs. Once we latch onto their favorite religious system we tend to shut down any openness to anything else. Most will never study or give any credence to another possibility. We, for the most part, are convinced that we have it right and everyone else is just plain wrong. This fact is true of every religious brand out there.  Christianity alone has over 40,000 different versions of faith!  Who can figure it out?

There have been millions savagely killed in the name of God. Realizing this fact has caused me periods of depression. I found that the only way I could effectively deal with that was to simply walk away from the conflicting views.  I know that I am no one but I have concluded  that we are all seeking the same God and that eventually all of us will be reconciled with the true image of God. Due to our stubbornness, it won’t likely happen in this life for many, perhaps most, of us but I believe it will happen. If God truly loves us all, and I believe he does, he will eventually bring everyone back to him. This belief changes my view of many things including fortifying the belief that we are ALL God’s children and are meant to love each other as He taught us. It is sad that we can’t seem to do just that….

 

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I have always had a fascination for burning bushes so I have four of them in my yard.  And it is that time of year for them to “burn”.

Don’t Wonder Why….

October 3, 2014

Don’t wonder why some people go crazy, wonder why all of us don’t.

Ok, that is my observation for today. Yeah, some people go over the edge when life overloads them but don’t we all get overloaded one time or another. I know I do. I see things that just don’t make any sense no matter how you look at them:

Violence - The amount of violence in our society simply astounds me! I know Americans are on the whole more aggressive than most other countries but we seem to be unique in expressing that aggression in violent ways. American football is an obsession for many and it is by far the most violent sanctioned sport on this plant. The most popular video games feature someone with a weapon killing the “bad” guys”

Guns - We have a love of guns and weapons of destruction far above almost everyone else in the world. I think we have more guns that people. The primary purpose for guns is to kill something or someone.

War - I don’t think I can even recall all the wars we have been involved with in my lifetime. It seems if we don’t have someone to go to war with we go out and generate some.  We spend more on our military than all the rest of the world combined. How insane is that!!

Narcissism – Narcissism is spending your life concentrating almost totally on yourself. Selfies are an indication of that condition. I try to be an ardent follower of Jesus Christ and when he tells me the two most important things in life are to love God and the love each other. Narcissism is the exact opposite of that.

Greed - The dark side of capitalism is greed. It is endemic to our way of doing business. The rich get richer and the poor get poorer and for many that is the way it is supposed to be.

Corruption – Corruption invades too much in our society. It seems that daily there is yet another politician, religious figurehead, or business man who is exposed for corruption.

Incompetence – There are just too many people who think they can make the big bucks with this or that scheme and sadly many do. They would rather cheat and scheme than put in an honest days work. Someone recently, I think it was Steve Jobs, say it that it takes 10,000 trys to become an expert at something. Too many are just not willing to put in the effort. And then there are the current crop of politicians. Too much incompetence among those folks.

Why do we have to face all these stupid things day after day? It’s enough to make anyone crazy. Don’t wonder why some people go crazy, wonder why all of us don’t….

Violating Natural Rights…

October 2, 2014

Whenever there are in any country uncultivated lands and unemployed poor, it is clear that the laws of property have been so far extended as to violate natural right. The earth is given as a common stock for man to labor and live on. . . . The small landowners are the most precious part of the State.

Thomas Jefferson Letter, 28 Oct. 1785, to politician (later president) James Madison

These words above are very indicative of the overall philosophy of Thomas Jefferson.  He believed in power to the people and that includes all of us.  To have an unemployed poor is a failure of a country’s society and government.  Everyone should be given a chance to a fair equitable labor.

Power to the People

That should be the American mantra. To allow that power to be usurped by the monied elite goes against everything our founders had in mind.

Thirteen years after the Sept. 11 terror attacks, this was supposed to be a season of relief, with Iraq managing on its own and most U.S. troops finally ending their combat duty in Afghanistan. Instead, Americans are bracing for another upsurge of military engagement in a region where one war blurs into another. Across the world, a generation has now grown up amid this continuous conflict, and there’s no end in sight. AP

SOURCE:  No end in sight for America’s Mideast war duties.

I hadn’t really thought about it much as 13 years seems a small part of my life but most of the kids in our elementary and high schools have never known a time when we were not at war at the other end of the world. The September 11 attacks by a handful of ideologues was a very tragic event but I kind of think its effects have been way beyond the original event. We, as a country just seem to be totally fixated on the idea that it must never happen again.  To that end we go all over the world to find anyone who wishes us ill will.

There is no end in sight for our involvement in the Middle East and that saddens me greatly.  That part of the world has been in a war mode for more than a millennia and will likely remain so for many many more years. It is just unrealistic to think that somehow we can change the dynamic towards peace with our military might.  In reality our meddling in their affairs has probably done more harm than good.

The policemen of the world should answer to a multinational body who doesn’t have the baggage that we do. If only the UN were capable of doing the task. If only we would allow them to even try. But there are just too many in this country with too big of egos to allow that possibility to even have a chance.  Sadly, we will likely remain in the “policemen” mode until it finally breaks us financially.  We, five percent of the world’s population foot over half the bill for maintaining order, or at least our version of it. By any account that is just not a sustainable condition and will sooner or later, like the Roman Empire cause our downfall.

 

Buying a Thousand Pillows…

September 30, 2014

Two colorful pillows over whiteYeah. So it is true that rich people can spend more money than middle class people, but there’s this upper limit on what we can spend. I drive a very nice car, but it’s only one car. I don’t own a thousand, even though I earn a thousand times the median wage. I have a few jackets, not a few thousand. My family can afford to go out to eat more than most American families, but not more than three times a day. We can’t go out 3,000 times a day.

So if you concentrate wealth in the hands of a very few people, you break down this feedback loop between customers and businesses. My family, among other businesses, owns a pillow company, and the pillow business is tough because fewer and fewer people can afford to buy pillows. Again, I may earn a thousand times the median wage, but I don’t sleep on a thousand pillows.

You need everyone to be able to afford a pillow every year in order to have a successful pillow business, and concentrating wealth at the top essentially creates a death spiral of falling demand.

 

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

To me it just seems common sense that if you want an economy to thrive you put money in the hands of people who will spend it. Putting it in the hands of those who will simply stash it away with an already absurd bank account does nothing for the good of the country or its citizens.

Trickle down is still the mantra of many in the GOP, especially Mr. Ryan. If they get their way all social services would cease to exist and everyone would be left to themselves. Ayn Rand, who is Mr. Ryan’s hero, believed that altruism, that is caring for humanity, is a weakness and not a strength and it needs to be driven out of any truly successful society. That mentality seems to permeate those who are at the very conservative margins of our country now days.

It seems there are basically two distinctively different types of people in the U.S. There are those who love and care about everyone at least on some level and this  includes people they don’t know. Then sadly there are those who care seemingly only care about themselves and maybe their immediate families. Everyone else is to be feared on some level or simply of no or little consequence to them.

Trickle down does not nor has it ever worked. Raising the minimum wage and giving workers their fair share of the rewards benefits everyone, even those who believe in trickle down.

Freestyle School….

September 29, 2014

2014-09-15_11-36-46As the new school year approaches, teachers have come to expect that many of their students will have forgotten some of what they learned earlier. It’s called summer learning loss, and some teachers believe it’s inevitable. Are they right?…

The traditional educator’s remedy for summer learning loss is more of the same, more hours and more days of classes and, of course, summer school.  What if schools enlisted family members as partners to help teach the children? But suppose there is another solution.  That’s what’s happening here at Russell Byers Charter School in Philadelphia. For five weeks this summer, Sarah Pisano helps 6- and 7-year-olds get better at reading.

SOURCE: Turning parents into teachers to fight the ‘summer slide’.

A recent episode on the PBS NewsHour got me to thinking about summer vacation. It is a known fact that students in the U.S. spend less than half the year in classrooms whereas other developed nations spend much more time than that. The reason we have not kept up with increasing our school hours and days is partly because of the resistance from teacher’s unions and partly because we don’t want to spend the extra tax dollars to make it happen.

Summer vacation was born in the early 19th century when most of America was agriculturally based. The family needed all hand available to plant, tend, and harvest the crops during the growing season.  Fast forward to today and that reason for summer school is totally archaic but the tradition of a three-month vacation in summer continues.

One solution to prevent us from falling further behind the rest of the world in the primary education of our youths is to simply extend the current school year beyond its current boundaries. But what are the alternatives? One was mentioned in this report and shown above.  But I kind of got a different approach to it. What if we made the summer session of school freestyle?

By freestyle I mean what if it were used to broaden education or at least help students overcome barriers? What if it emphasized the arts rather than the three “R”s? I think it is generally recognized that creativity will be a driving force that will keep our country a front-runner in the future. But by drowning out creative thinking and concentration only on the mechanics will we be able to keep up our lead in this area?

Just a thought….

Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blind-folded fear.

–Thomas Jefferson’s Letter, 10 Aug. 1787

I am going to combine my usual Sunday post on things inspiring/spiritual with my usual Thursday quotes. Thomas Jefferson, like most of the founding fathers was a Deist. That is he believed in a God who was in control of the universe but not so much into our daily lives. His quote above is very contrary to many religious communities today.

Questioning the existence of God is a no-no to many.  They say you must believe everything in their religious documents and question nothing. If you do dare to question you may quickly be deemed a heretic. I know because I have some personal experience in this matter.

But I very much believe in the quote above. If there is a God, and I certainly do believe that there is, then he must approve of the homage of reason. He does not fear our questions or certainly doesn’t condemn us to utter agony if we dare to ask them. I simply don’t believe that God wants us to be in a blind-folded fear of him. He told us to love him and that is just not possible if we think that he holds a hammer over our head just waiting for us to say the wrong words, believe the wrong things, or ask the wrong questions…

I thoroughly denounce the idea that God expects us to check our “God-given” intelligence at the door on Sunday mornings and to believe things that go against any level of reason….

Home Away From Home…

September 27, 2014

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We have a few very old maple trees on our property. The one shown here is pretty well hollowed out and that is where our cat Dexter likes to spend time. He climbs trees like a professional. This hole is about 15 feet off the ground which is no problem for him.

Several times a year someone will stop and give us a quote to take down the tree but I always so “its time has not come yet”. I am old and not so pretty anymore but I don’t want someone to “take me down” so I treat this old maple with the same respect. :)