2015-03-25_14-59-11Total U.S. defense spending (in inflation-adjusted dollars) has increased so much over the past decade that it has reached levels not seen since World War II, when the United States had 12 million people under arms and waged wars on three continents. Moreover, the U.S. share of global military expenditures has jumped from about one-third to about one-half in this same period. Some of this growth can be attributed to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but the baseline or regular defense budget has also increased significantly. It has grown in real terms for an unprecedented 13 straight years, and it is now $100 billion above what the nation spent on average during the Cold War. The fiscal year 2012 budget request of $553 billion is approximately the same level as Ronald Reagan’s FY 1986 budget.

As a result of this “gusher” of defense spending—to quote former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates—Pentagon leaders have not been forced to make the hard choices between competing programs as they traditionally have. And the ballooning defense budget played a significant role in turning the budget surplus projected a decade ago into a massive deficit that forces the U.S. government to borrow 43 cents of every dollar it spends. As the nation attempts to bring this massive deficit—which chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Michael Mullen calls the greatest threat to our security—under control, leaders from both parties recognize that these unprecedented levels of defense expenditures cannot be maintained.

The question currently facing Congress and President Barack Obama—how much to spend on defense in times of large deficits or in the final years of a war—is not new. Presidents Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton had to identify reasonable levels of defense expenditures as the United States transitioned from war spending to peacetime budgets, while President Ronald Reagan needed to control defense spending in the face of rising deficits. Presidents Dwight Eisenhower and George H.W. Bush confronted both scenarios at once, like President Obama today.

SOURCE: A Historical Perspective on Defense Budgets | Center for American Progress.

In looking at the chart above it is obvious that two American presidents are primarily responsible for most of our outrageous military spending. I don’t think I have to tell you which ones those are. Sadly, for the most part those increases in spending were matters of choice. Yes, the Iron Curtain was up for one president but it had been up long before he came into office.  Yes, a rag-tag bunch of fanatics managed to kill three thousand of our citizens with some box cutters but in the world scheme of things  more people than that have died daily in the world from lack of food and drinking water. If we had just gone after the rogues instead of invading nations that had nothing to do with the tragedy our military expenses would never have risen to such mammoth levels.

Can we continue to spend such levels in these times of rising deficits? Aren’t the deficits causing us more harm than the enemies we are supposedly facing. Fear just seem to be the primary driver of our nation today. We have long forgotten one of our most meaningful American quotes “All we have to fear is fear itself”. We need to just get over this paranoid fear that has come to grip us so  forcefully…

Religious Diversity…

April 12, 2015

I am bringing over a series of posts for my Sunday entries from my now inactive blog over at RedLetterLiving. This is the fifth of a six-part series from about a year ago about the importance of the Bible in my spiritual life. After a ten-year study I finally understand what millions of other have discovered before me…. It’s about Jesus, not the Bible…

What About The Bible… ? (Chapter 5)

Cell PhoneI used to mourn the fact that there are almost 40,000 different versions of Christianity around today. But, in reality maybe I should celebrate that statistic. At least it shows that we are all trying to find the heart of God. But the problem with this is that we end up picking the type of God we want. I don’t think that is really how God wants it to be but it seems that is the way it is for most of us. Some choose to try to discover God on our own. Some take the lazy way of just latching onto a version that is close enough to their reality or maybe they choose the “easiest” God that doesn’t interfere with their current lifestyle.  Some take it to a deeper and more personal journey.

Diversity seems to be the best we can do right now. For whatever reason God has chosen not to make his presence unquestionably known to us. But it sure would be nice to get a signal from him as to who among us has it at least a little right.  He doesn’t have to turn off the sun as he supposedly did in the Old Testament. How about just sending a text message to every cell phone in the world all at the same time? That sure would be helpful in knowing what he wants us to do on this earth.

Yeah, I know there are some out there that are screaming “JUST READ THE BIBLE!!!” But what version of the Bible do I read? Do I read about the God who demands constant blood sacrifices. Do I read about the God who allows, some say even commanded, genocide?   Do I read about the God who told us to pick up snakes as proof that we are true believers? Or do I believe the God of Love as personified in my interpretation of the Bible. Just reading the Bible is what got us in all these 40,000 versions in the first place so forgive me if I don’t think that is a real answer.

What it means to be a Christian is presently an open book with thousands of different paths.  It seems the best we can do is to passionately search for God on a very personal level and live out our lives with that  personal epiphany if we do find it. I personally choose to pick those words of Jesus about being our brother’s keeper and about loving God and loving each other as his message to me.  To me all the other stuff around today is just smoke and mirrors that just blur my vision of him.

Others may choose a vengeful god who is looking for any reason to condemn us to hell. Others may choose a god who asks them to just say the right words and then get a fire insurance policy to redeem when they eventually die. Other may choose the god of infinite rules and regulations. But for me, I choose the God of Love….

But it sure would be nice to get a text message from God himself letting me know if I kinda got it at least a little right…..

Clinton-Bush Fatique

April 10, 2015

2015-03-10_08-45-45

Have you ever felt as if a mysterious black cloud of despair was rising from the great depths of the universe? That it was cresting over the horizons of your life, blotting out all sunlight as it closes in and paralyzes you in fear? And maybe you felt that this slow-motion tsunami of dread was a deserved punishment for you personally, and humanity in general. And you realized, as I have, that this unstoppable, groaning wave was a natural outgrowth of your own moral torpor — the listlessness you had demonstrated over and over again, allowing injustices, petty cruelties, and incompetence to extend their reign over everything you loved, until finally it crashed on you, plunging you into a darkness beyond the reach of light, hope, and redemption….

The inevitable Bush-Clinton presidential campaign is gathering itself along the horizon. It will be a boring, substance-less grind that turns on just which candidate’s operation can direct slightly more of the public’s disgust over the worst parts of the last two decades at the other candidate.

SOURCE:  Why a Clinton-Bush presidential race fills me with nothing but despair.

I remember a time, way back thirty years ago before President Reagan when there was not Clinton or Bush on the national scene. But for the last almost twenty years those two families seem to have dominated the news and as a result I have severe Clinton-Bush Fatigue. I am simply totally exhausted with all the vitriol ranting that has taken place in our country since these two families have been battling for the supreme Monarchy of the USA.  About two-hundred and fifty years ago we went to war to rid ourselves of a monarch and as far as I am concerned I don’t want to return to that state.

There is so much baggage surrounding these names that if they are nominated by the parties it will surely be the most dirty mud-slinging presidential election in our history. To me it would come down to which would cause the least harm to our country and right now that is probably a close call. Our country needs to get away from all this hatred surrounding us lately and Bush and Clinton are the source for much of it.  Surely the two parties can at least give us voters an alternative to these two but given that money pretty much controls all of our political processes now who becomes the candidates will probably be a done deal before we have our say.

Sadly because we have made running for public office such a rancid experience I’m not sure that any really qualified candidate can make it anymore or even want to make it for that matter. We are just stuck with the ones we get (sigh)… I hope not…

2015-03-10_08-53-13   2015-03-10_13-12-34

The Age of Disbelief

April 9, 2015

My wife is one of those people who if something doesn’t sound logical it must not be true. For example she absolutely refuses to believe in statistics of any form. I on the other hand have a very scientific nature. I am always trying to look at things for different angles. That is a basic difference between us and a very basic difference between many of us in the U.S.  It is nothing new.. Below is an excerpt from an article from National Geographic about this phenomenon.

2015-03-21_13-57-06The world crackles with real and imaginary hazards, and distinguishing the former from the latter isn’t easy. Should we be afraid that the Ebola virus, which is spread only by direct contact with bodily fluids, will mutate into an airborne superplague? The scientific consensus says that’s extremely unlikely: No virus has ever been observed to completely change its mode of transmission in humans, and there’s zero evidence that the latest strain of Ebola is any different. But type “airborne Ebola” into an Internet search engine, and you’ll enter a dystopia where this virus has almost supernatural powers, including the power to kill us all.

In this bewildering world we have to decide what to believe and how to act on that. In principle that’s what science is for. “Science is not a body of facts,” says geophysicist Marcia McNutt, who once headed the U.S. Geological Survey and is now editor of Science,the prestigious journal. “Science is a method for deciding whether what we choose to believe has a basis in the laws of nature or not.” But that method doesn’t come naturally to most of us. And so we run into trouble, again and again….

The trouble goes way back, of course. The scientific method leads us to truths that are less than self-evident, often mind-blowing, and sometimes hard to swallow. In the early 17th century, when Galileo claimed that the Earth spins on its axis and orbits the sun, he wasn’t just rejecting church doctrine. He was asking people to believe something that defied common sense—because it sure looks like the sun’s going around the Earth, and you can’t feel the Earth spinning. Galileo was put on trial and forced to recant.

SOURCE: Why Do Many Reasonable People Doubt Science? – National Geographic Magazine.

Accepting things that don’t seem logical is difficult for many of us. Who would have believed even twenty years ago that we could put the entire Christian Bible on something smaller than the head of a pin? But that is commonly accepted fact, even though not really understood, today. I am a very techie type person but the things I have seen in my lifetime even astounds me.  Being a scientist I thoroughly appreciate scientific method as being a process and not a body of facts. It is a way to get at the truth and not the truth itself.

There are many around today that doubt almost everything about science but have no problem using the things that science has provided them. I believe a big part of this doubt come from those who cling to a literal interpretations of the religious documents. Much of what they see in those documents has been discounted by science. That is a direct threat to them so they stubbornly refuse to believe anything science shows.

Another big problem for many is that they don’t take the time to learn much of the “scientific discovery” they see is just our 24 hour media outlets trying to find something to report.  They find a small article income obscure place that come to an outrageous conclusion and then report it as fact. It takes work to determine what is valid science and what is bogus. Neither the news media nor many of us bother to discern the difference.

An Audience of One….

April 8, 2015

2015-03-25_16-49-25Those of us who blog have many tools at our disposal to see just how many people are reading what we write. Those statistics are always lurking on the edges of the page we use to generate our daily posts. They seem to be whispering “look at me”. How can we not do push the buttons?

There are also hundreds of books out there telling you what you need to do to increase your post visits. They tell you to blog about niches where others don’t and you will be toward the top of the search engine listing in that category. They tell you how to add tags and such to increase your site’s chances of being found. I admit that I do pay some, probably too much,  attention to these things. After all we all want to know that someone is taking the time to read what we write. For those so inclined there is a lot of emphasis about getting your post counts up so you can make more money via advertisements on your site.

It all comes down to why we blog.

Do we do it for money?

Do we do it for fame?

Do we do it to get a point across?

Do we do it for fun?

Do we do it for ourselves?

I believe I do blog to a degree for the last three reasons.  I want to convince as many as possible that looking at things from different angles will allow us to make better choices.  For that reason I do become somewhat discouraged when some posts that I think is awesome in that regard gets less views than one I simply jotted down in a minute. Sometimes I just fall in love with my own words a little too much.

But I also blog just because I like to play around with “words”. Saying things just the “right” way is a challenge to me and I enjoy when I think I get it just right. So in that regard I do it for myself and post count shouldn’t matter…

2015-03-25_16-21-53I admit that I do get discouraged when only a few visit my page on a given day. That is especially true when I see some of the blogs I visit have many times more viewers than I do.

But then I look at all this from a different angle. Thomas Jefferson was perhaps our most prolific founding father. His library was the foundation for our current library in congress. He spent his post-presidency years reading, studying, and writing. I have several books on my bookshelf behind me and on my Kindle reader to attest to the fact that he wrote thousands of letters and personal journals that were never read by more than a handful of people during his life.  Was he discouraged that more people did not read what he wrote? I don’t think so.  He wrote because he had to, it was just part of his nature.  I like to think I do the same thing so I have to get over my sometimes obsession with post views and to appreciate the fact that, unlike Jefferson, I always have more than an audience of one…

I know there are many of U.S. citizens who have never known a time when our military spending did not dwarf everything else in our discretionary spending budgets. We just seem to be a nation that wants to be policemen of the world. We want to put our noses into every conflict we can find.  It doesn’t matter that in places like Iraq and Afghanistan they have been having the same battles for hundreds and sometimes thousands of years. We just can’t seem to find a conflict that we think we stay out of or can’t solve with our military might.

Only those of us over the age of forty have ever know a time when our military budgets haven’t dominated everything else. But in reality the vast majority of our over-blown war spending can be attributed to just two presidents, George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan.  here is a little more about this. Check on the source to see the entire article.

2015-03-25_14-59-11

Total U.S. defense spending (in inflation-adjusted dollars) has increased so much over the past decade that it has reached levels not seen since World War II, when the United States had 12 million people under arms and waged wars on three continents. Moreover, the U.S. share of global military expenditures has jumped from about one-third to about one-half in this same period….

The ballooning defense budget played a significant role in turning the budget surplus projected a decade ago into a massive deficit that forces the U.S. government to borrow 43 cents of every dollar it spends. As the nation attempts to bring this massive deficit—which chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Michael Mullen calls the greatest threat to our security—under control, leaders from both parties recognize that these unprecedented levels of defense expenditures cannot be maintained.

The question currently facing Congress and President Barack Obama—how much to spend on defense in times of large deficits or in the final years of a war—is not new. Presidents Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton had to identify reasonable levels of defense expenditures as the United States transitioned from war spending to peacetime budgets, while President Ronald Reagan needed to control defense spending in the face of rising deficits. Presidents Dwight Eisenhower and George H.W. Bush confronted both scenarios at once, like President Obama today.

SOURCE:  A Historical Perspective on Defense Budgets | Center for American Progress.

Given that historically we can and have reduced our military spending. It just takes a different point of view to make that happen. I don’t think that the GOP’s combination of inert fear of others and the bravado of getting the bad guys will go away anytime soon but historically we can almost count on that eventually happening again.  The big question as to when, is all about when  we as voters finally realize that we fear way too much and we can’t solve thousand-year old tribal battles on the other side of the world with our million dollar plus smart bombs and drones. It is very possible to drastically reduce our military spending with little or no difference to our security. It just takes more voters at the polls who realize that possibility.