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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…

America Stands Alone…

August 6, 2014

2014-08-03_10-52-27I just finished watching a Shields/Brooks segment of the PBS Newshour where Mark Shields made the statement that “America stands alone in its unflinching support of the current actions of Israel. He mentioned that almost all of the EU countries and other developed nations are condemning the atrocities that are being put upon the Palestinian people. Even though I have for the most part boycotted this area of life, his statement got me to thinking about it. So, here goes. As they say fools rush in where…

The latest toll is something like 60 Israeli soldiers killed and over 1900 Palestinians, mostly civilians, killed!  It seems that whenever and Israeli soldier is killed they think they must kill 50 people in revenge. With this almost indiscriminate bombing I can certainly understand why there is so much hatred of Israel in that part of the world. The Isrealis seem to have almost no sense of “collateral damage”. They seem to deem it totally acceptable to bomb schools full of children and U.N. facilities because another very crude “rocket” was launched from that general area.

Now don’t get me wrong, I do not have any sympathy for Hamas who has been inciting much of this violence. They are a very small minority thug organization who if they had the power that Isreal has would be doing worse to their enemy. To hold all the people in Gaza accountable for Hamas’ actions is kind of like us nuking Atlanta because the KKK bombed a government building somewhere.

2014-08-05_08-26-47This whole debacle seems very much like a “David vs Goliath” but this time it is a Jewish Goliath. The response to a crude missile being fired into Israel they destroy yet another Gaza neighborhood, women children and all. I recently saw a report that Israel is asking the U.S. to ship them an emergency supply of bombs and missiles as they are quickly running out with their current vendetta. At least a “cease fire” might actually come if they do run out of bombs and laser guided missiles.  The U.S. currently give them about $3 billion a year of our military hardware. What are the limits to where we as a country say enough is enough with the disproportionate killing in the Middle East?

Why are so many of our politicians, including the current president, sitting back and saying nothing? Why do we continue to send them our bombs to kill so many innocents along with a few bad guys?  Is there nothing they can do that we will find unconscionable? Yes, I agree that they have a right to exist but there are limits to what they need to do to convince themselves that they feel safe.

Enough said. I will get off my soapbox now and try ignore such things for as long as I can before chiming in again.

 

2014-07-11_07-59-24Apparently, the new iPhone 6 will incorporate a more advanced vibration motor that could offer better tactile feedback to users, depending on the app they’re using or the area they tap on the screen.

SOURCE:  Secret iPhone 6 feature uncovered? – Yahoo News.

I have had my iPhone 4 for about three years now and am for the most part very pleased with its operation.  But one areas that needs improvement for me is the vibrate mode. Since I am deaf I rely exclusively on vibrate to let me know when text messages come in. The current vibrate mode is rather weak and sometimes hard to detect especially when my mind is on other things.

While the ring mode has dozens of options, the vibrate mode is limited to two short bursts only. So, I was pleased to hear of this new secret feature. Yeah, I am one of those guys waiting for iPhone 6 to do an upgrade. I guess there are millions of us out there. I know Apple phones are more expensive than some of the competitor but given its overall features it is well worth the price.

A Political Quiz…

August 4, 2014

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This is an interesting quiz that is said to melt down politics to its essentials. They say over 22 million people have taken the quiz.  I showed it above with my answers tagged. Can you guess where I ended up in the spectrum.  Liberal you say??  You betcha…..

To take the quiz yourself just click on the image above…

I want to bring over a slightly edited archive post from one of my other blogs at RedLetterLiving.net for this Sunday’s post. It is from March 13.
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I’m not sure who brought up the concept but it is about how churches are actually more like clubhouses than anything else. They are buildings that are built almost exclusively for their members comfort. Yes that comfort does bring in some to hear the message but that seems to be very secondary at best.

I had a recent round of comments on this topic and it stirred up some heated words. It seems that calling a church a country club strikes the nerve of many Christians.  I think the ounce of truth in it is the reason.  Everyone wants to think that their church is somehow different from the others. They want to think that  what they give in weekly donations is for the greater good of God. But, facts simply don’t bear that belief out.  The majority of what they give stays within the church’s hierarchy.

When I was giving regularly to the small church I once belonged to I never deemed that the money I gave actually went to God’s work here or earth.  Being a regular member on the church board I realized that 99+% of what I gave ended up paying the mortgage, utilities and the pastor’s salary.  Did I feel guilty about that? No, not really. I know that this small church was struggling, and still struggles after almost ten years, to keep the doors open.  There is nothing wrong with needing a clubhouse.

But what is wrong is when we fail to recognize the fact that we are really not doing much in the community besides holding down a property.  We try to rationalize that giving a few families a turkey and canned goods during the Thanksgiving/Christmas holidays somehow meets our community obligations.  Being a church is supposed to be about showing God’s blessing throughout our communities. It is supposed to be about others and not ourselves.  When we finally acknowledge that fact and diligently plan on making  community support happen is when we turn the corner from clubhouse to church.  Sadly too many small churches fail to ever reach that point in their congregation’s life.

I am often accused of painting with too broad a brush in these types of posts so I want to  recognize that there are many churches out there that are very much valuable contributors to their communities. They run soup kitchens and food banks in the areas.  They open their doors on cold and windy nights for those who are homeless. In other words they act like they are followers of Jesus Christ. I celebrate every one of those churches.  But at the same time even those churches must be constantly tracking their allocations of funds.  It is impossible to give too much to your community instead of yourself.

Everyone needs a clubhouse that you can go to weekly. Where everyone know your name as the old Cheers TV show used to say. That is a valuable part of Christian fellowship but we must constantly remind ourselves that is supposed to be very much secondary to being our brother’s keeper and helping God’s kingdom come to earth as it is in heaven.

NYC – 911 Memorial….

August 2, 2014

We spent a morning during our recent visit to NYC at the 911 Memorial. The original estimated cost of the facility was about $1 trillion but was eventually cut to $500 million. Like the Vietnam memorial the reflecting pools with all the names are soberly impressive. The new towers themselves are nice but not nearly as big as the WTC was.

Except for the ticketing area the museum is totally below ground and it is BIG. It takes several hours to just manage the path through it. I heard that it was designed by committee and since they couldn’t decide on what to put in they put everything. The cost is $24 per ticket which is pretty pricey. We were there two weeks after it opened so it was crowded. Don’t try to just show up if you want to see the museum. Get on line and buy an advanced ticket or you will likely wait for hours.

 

Sometimes It Takes….

August 1, 2014

Sometimes it takes a huge loss to remind you what you care about the most. Many of us, probably most, go about the humdrum of our daily lives without even realizing what is, or at least should be, important to us. We are just too used to trudging through the work week and looking to the weekend for some relief.  And then comes that event that changes everything and shocks us back to show us what is important.

In my college years I made up a placard with the words “Remember the future comes but a day at a time.” Those words were intended to remind me what I was striving so hard to accomplish. I was working a forty day week while attending college full-time. It was a struggle that sometimes just drained me. With the help of those words I managed to survive those years.

It was only later that I realized that these words had a two-sided message. Too many of us, me included, spend too much time dreaming of the future and too little time living in the present. We simply let life get away from us. Time goes by with little accomplished, at least little of what we deem important. And then comes that earth-shaking event….

Sometimes you find yourself becoming stronger as a result. Wiser better able to tackle the next big thing that comes along. You are jolted out of your complacency. You put your life back into perspective of what is important and move on from there.  Sometimes but not always.  Sometimes we fall further into a trap and it swallows us.

There are many people who live the rest of their lives with the trauma of that one huge event. Many in my generation continue to live with the trauma of Vietnam. They can’t shake those years of almost fifty years ago.  I’m sure that the current generation has their share of kids traumatized by this century’s wars. PTSD just won’t let go of them. They will continue to see the Iraq tree and basically ignore all the other trees in their forest.  We need to do whatever we can to help them find their way back into the world. Too many lives are wasted because of our needless wars.

Sometimes you have a huge shock in your life make you change for the better. When I went deaf more than twenty-five years ago I was sure that it was pretty much the end of my world as I knew it.  I thank God for the supporting wife and work colleagues who helped me through those very rough years.  In reality I firmly came to really understand how much the love of my life cared for me. In my work life with the support of others I moved from circuit design to software development It was then that I found out that is where I should have been my whole work life. I was just surviving before but I flourished in my new occupation.

Don’t let yourself or anyone you know get swallowed up by a huge loss…..

 

2014-03-02_16-18-10“Party Politics is the most narrow minded occupation in the World.” – Will Rogers, 29 March 1925

It is sad to say that this is probably more true today than even in Will’s Day.  But then again the Republicans in Will’s day were fighting just as hard against Social Security and the WPA as they fight today against immigration, helping the poor and healthcare for all. So maybe nothing has really changed.  Progress comes agonizingly slow when them GOPers have their fingers in the stew… Maybe not much faster with the Democrats but at least they do something…

I laughed out loud. Couldn’t help it; I had just overheard Mr. Newport Beach say something about how Obamacare is an unmitigated disaster despite how, of course, it’s not, and if America were to somehow actually develop a health care system similar to, say, Canada’s, that would be the end of America for certain; we’d never recover from such a devastating blow. Or something. And then came the [president is the] “worst thing to ever happen” quip, and I couldn’t hold back

They didn’t hear me, of course; the orgasmic thrum of their perfect lives drowned out my chuckle, and as I turned and looked at this beautifully entitled, happy crew from my vantage point only a few feet away but a million light years in perspective, we all shared one of the most spectacular, envied locales in the world and all of us sipped superb regional grape and not a single one of us suffered the slightest personal, social or economic indignity, every first-world need instantly met, every crab cake perfectly formed, the sunshine as flawless as Jesus on toast and no lines at the restroom and lots of free parking for his Lexus SUV…..

Even so, I desperately wanted to ask Mr. Newport Beach what his stock portfolio looked like a mere six or seven years ago, when Bush & Co. ravaged the country and led us into one of the deepest, most brutal social and economic pits in modern history. Did he lose half his net worth? More? Was he worried he couldn’t feed his family or pay his mortgage? Did he lose his house? His job? Did he blame Bush? Clinton? Islam? The gays?

And by the way, how does he like the recovery so far? Which of his three perfect, multimillion-dollar homes was he on his way to, right now?

I also wanted to know, when Bush/Cheney lied to the world, openly violated the tragedy of 9/11 and invaded Iraq, killing tens of thousands, was he furious? What about now, when even Fox News is calling out Cheney and declaring Iraq invasion a colossal mistake, a lie from which we’re still unable to extricate ourselves?

SOURCE:  The Best Worst President Ever | Mark Morford.

Mark Morford has become an instant hero of mine. This post says almost exactly how I feel about those rich guys who are so much against making healthcare a right instead of a privilege for all America’s citizens. I agree exactly with his amazement of calling our current president the worst ever while he is benefiting from all the massive recovery, at least for those who own a lot of stocks, that has occurred under this president.

I agree completely that it totally confuses me how this rich guy can completely ignore the disastrous condition that the previous president left the country in after eight years in office and how he put us in a $trillion+ off the books wars that the current president had to dig his way out of.  Compared to his predecessor the current president deserves  top three status in the presidential list.  How can this rich jerk even swallow the vitriol words that spews from his mouth.

But then I have to step back and recognize that this rich guy probably doesn’t represent most in his financial category. Or at least I hope he doesn’t? The hypocrisy of this rich guys words strike me as being one of the root causes for the trouble this country still has.  Thanks Mark for getting the words just right…..

Bitter Rivals….

July 29, 2014

2014-07-20_09-28-10Apple and IBM are teaming up to bring iPhones and iPads to business customers, the two companies said in a surprise announcement Tuesday. In a wide-ranging partnership, the two tech giants that were bitter rivals for decades will create a suite of apps and services aimed at enterprise clients….

“For the first time ever we’re putting IBM’s renowned big data analytics at iOS users’ fingertips, which opens up a large market opportunity for Apple,” Apple CEO Tim Cook said in a statement.

2014-07-20_09-28-39“We are delighted to be teaming with Apple, whose innovations have transformed our lives in ways we take for granted, but can’t imagine living without,” IBM CEO Ginni Rometty offered. “Our alliance will bring the same kind of transformation to the way people work, industries operate and companies perform.”

SOURCE:  Apple Partners With Former Rival IBM to Target Enterprise Customers | TIME.

IBM and Apple doing business together???  Go figure… Next thing we know the Israelis will be getting along with their neighbors!  Wouldn’t that be something to see. But then again when money is involved things seem to get worked out sooner. That is, money coming in, not going out…

Apple has always been considered the computer of choice with the creative crowd and IBM amongst the bean counters. I know the iPhones and iPads have been making their way into the business world folks. They just can’t pass up the leap in quality over Apple’s competitors and finally the IT departments are beginning to slack up on the adamant resistance to anything Apple.

Maybe what it took was for Apple to move beyond its first generation of bosses. Now that Tim Cook is at the wheel instead of Jobs the rivalry has been tamped down a hair and that is good for all of us.