2014-06-05_08-34-22“These three gangs were not sophisticated drug-trafficking organizations,” said Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance in announcing the two indictments. “Far from it, they were young people protecting their territories from imaginary threats and avenging the murders of fellow gang members and loved ones.”

Investigators from Vance’s office worked with gang squad detectives and Department of Correction officials to review more than 1 million Facebook pages, tens of thousands of phone calls from the Rikers Island jail complex and hundreds of hours of video footage in preparing the case, Vance said.

Surveillance video, taken from cameras in the buildings’ elevators, hallways and grounds, were a major benefit to investigators, Bratton said. But not all public housing developments have video. Nearly 60 percent of the city’s public housing buildings don’t have a single camera installed — including one in Brooklyn where two small children were stabbed Sunday, one fatally.

“We embrace it, we need it,” Bratton said of crime-fighting technology such as camera systems. “There’s not a case I get briefed on in my crime briefings or my counterterrorism briefings each morning that doesn’t have some significant technology component to it.”

SOURCE:  103 suspected gang members charged in NYC case – Yahoo News.

Being from a small rural town I can’t understand how this type of gang violence can be tolerated in our major cities. I know it was on months ago but just watched part of the series from CNN entitled “Chicagoland”. It was about downsizing the Chicago’s school districts to align with the current population. The biggest argument against closing schools was that students would then have to cross other gang neighborhoods to get to schools. They say if the kids have to travel more than two blocks that they will likely be beaten or killed by rival gangs!

One of the TV shows I watch on a regular basis is “Person of Interest”. It is a show about the “machine” which supposedly links all cameras in our country together and looks for potential terrorists. I doubt that such a machine exists yet but I’m sure some are dreaming of that ultimate incorporation of our technology.

It looks like Chicago could learn a few lessons from NYC. Chicago has been in the news the last few years as being the murder capital of the country and the primary cause of that is gang violence. Gangs are nothing more that thugs who want to be big fish in little ponds. Because much of inner-city life is one of desperation they want to have control over at least a small segment of it. Chicago needs a “mini-machine” to record all the violence that occurs in its neighborhoods and then take those who cause it to court. Get rid of the thugs and maybe the neighborhoods would become peaceful once again.

But I am just a simple guy so what do I know…..

 

This is part 3 of my series based on a post by Stephen Mattson on the seven misconceptions of Christianity.

 It’s Always Fun and Happy

Christianity can be full of joy, but it can also be really hard.

Following Christ demands sacrifice. It involves giving, helping, volunteering and participating in difficult work. The main tenant of loving others is hardly ever easy, and the Christian life is often filled with trials, pain, suffering, heartbreak and struggles—often requiring large amounts of grace, forgiveness, patience and energy.

It’s not easy, comfortable or effortless—it’s incredibly demanding. But in the end, it’s worth it.

I think the biggest damage done to Christ’s church are those who make it a “something for nothing” religion.  They say  the only reason for Jesus to come to earth was to die for our sins so that if we say we believe the “right” things we will get to heaven after we die.  To many, I pray most, of us Christians that couldn’t be further from the truth. Jesus left us a wealth of knowledge as to how he expects us to act as is followers.  If only his death was what it was all about then why didn’t he simply jump from his birth to his crucifixion? Why all the words/instructions in between?

As Stephen says following Christ demands sacrifice. We are all to be our brother’s keeper. We are all to love God and to love each other. Jesus demands it by his words and actions.  To disregard those messages is in my mind to disregard Christ himself!

Although I am not an official member of a meeting I am a Quaker at heart because I believe they look at Jesus’ instructions for what they are. They generally shun creeds and such but live their faith and that is  the important to me.  I am faithfully attempting but often failing to live my life as Jesus taught me. I am trying  to do my part in bringing his kingdom to earth as he intends. I know that some of my Quaker brethren will disagree with my statement that the Quaker faith embodies SPICE. That is Simplicity, Peace, Integrity, Community, Equality but in my mind those words do a very good job of stating the basis for their actions . These five things drive me in my life. I try to live them out as much as I am humanly possible.

Getting even a slight resemblance of heaven on earth takes a lot of effort but that is what we have been instructed to do. Christianity is NOT always fun and happy. It is a lot of work but when we manage to accomplish even a small part it is very fun and happy indeed.

Pleasant Hill….

June 21, 2014

One of the most peaceful places I have found on this earth is at Pleasant Hill Shaker Village near Lexington KY. It is a recreated village from the 1800s.  One of the concepts I have adopted from my Quaker friends is the idea of “centering down”. That is to clear your mind of all the clutter of daily activity in order to listen for the messages of our creator.  I find Pleasant Hill an outstanding place to do just that.  I don’t mind the idea of melding the best of two religions together to come closer to God. Pleasant Hill is peaceful beyond description. I have spent several days staying at one of the rooms in the village just taking in the ambiance.

If you are ever in the central Kentucky area stop by for a visit. You will remember your time there for the rest of your life.

(As usual click on any of the images below to get a bigger picture)

 

This is the next segment in my series of yin/yang and how that relates to American culture.  These initial posts are for the most part the positive aspects of our culture. It is appropriate that I start here so that you can understand that later I am not attacking our culture so much as showing were we could improve even more. This post is about our almost unique sense of equality. Here is a quote to get us started:

Puzzle Pieces: Justice Concept.In the American workplace, most people make their own coffee and clean up their own desks. The person who takes the last cup from the pot refills it. This act may seem trivial, but behind it lies a philosophy of equality. In Asia, people who serve and people who are served belong to different classes. Customers treat servers with no respect, as if they belong to a lower class. They often use a commanding tone of voice and even yell at servers if the service is not satisfactory. In the United States, waiters and store clerks regard themselves as equals with their customers; they exchange jokes and pleasantries with customers. Secretaries do not feel that they have to meet the personal needs of their bosses and are not afraid to voice their opinions. In Asia, people are often treated differently based on family background, occupation, the school one attended, and geographic origin. Asians are always interested in their status in relation to others. In Confucian tradition, there are the rulers and the ruled. Confucianism saw all human relations in the light of vertical relationships: upper classes always wielded authority, and lower classes always obeyed authority .

SOURCE: Kim, Eun Y. (2001-07-05). Yin and Yang of American Culture: A Paradox. Intercultural Press Inc. Kindle Edition.

The concept of equality, even if it is not played out to a full degree, is one of the basic assets that makes America the great society that it is. Our vision of equality is much different from most of Asia and even of the parts of Europe that have monarchical roots. I had never thought of it before but we, for the most part, treat our secretaries and those who work for us as equals. We don’t lord it over them as is common in much of the rest of the world.

A big part of this equality is that we as a nation have never been exposed to a caste system that a monarchy necessitates. When you have a mandated selected few who are to be treated as royalty you must have a population of those who deem it their place to serve those selected few.  They must know their place in society and willingly submit to being a servant. That concept is very foreign to our American mentality. At least for most of us.

China, India, and much of the rest of the world still languishes in a belief of a fixed part of their population are meant to be servants and it is not possible for them to advance beyond that state. As mentioned above much of China and India see all human relationships as vertical with the upper class always wielding the power. I’m sure there are some of you who are thinking “isn’t that what is currently happening with us now?” I certainly agree that  the shadows of a caste system are developing in our society due to our wealth continuing to migrate to only a small minority. But I kind of think that this phenomenon will play out in the not too distant future. We Americans will just refuse to accept a permanent place at the bottom rungs of the ladder.

widescreen lcd monitorA TV-streaming device. All this talk about canceling your cable is great — if you still have a way to watch TV on your TV. Thankfully, there are now several options for streaming devices that bring services like Netflix and Hulu to your living room TV. Apple TV, Roku and Amazon Fire are all options to check out. Each requires a one-time initial investment, usually between $50 and $100. According to the research company NPD Group, cable bills might reach $123 a month by next year. With prices for Netflix and Hulu Plus hovering around $8 each, getting one of these devices could add up to thousands of dollars in savings in just a few years.

SOURCE: 8 purchases that can save you hundreds or thousands of dollars – Yahoo Finance.

Well over half of us pay sometimes over $100 per month on cable or satellite TV. In the not too distant future, meaning in the next ten years or so, network tv will be no more.  It will be À la carte when it comes to our media viewing. I admit that I am one of those who pays dearly for satellite TV.  It comes with hundreds of channel of which I watch only a literal handful.  My big peeve is that over half of the satellite company’s media expenses comes from buy sports programs. I literally watch zero from that venue.

I am ready to ditch this expense viewing option but get too much resistance from my better half. She insists on having DVR full of the shows she watches. I can’t seem to convince her that Roku, which we have on both our sets will give her what she has now. She is just not a big believer in change and just says “it is fine the way it is”.  So, I guess we will wait until the DVR remote, like the old VHS machine, is wrenched from her hands before we dump it.

The Great Regulator…

June 18, 2014

Who would ever have guess that the title of the “Great Regulator” would be a Republican! That seems totally impossible in today’s world! But that is indeed the case. A hundred years ago Teddy Roosevelt was just that person. He was also called the “Trust Buster” as he took down many of the extremely wealthy of his day. He was also the one who put very high inheritance taxes on those in the 1% of his day.  Here is a little about that from Wikipedia:

Roosevelt responded to public anger over the abuses in the food packing industry by pushing Congress to pass the Meat Inspection Act of 1906 and The Pure Food and Drug Act. The Meat Inspection Act of 1906 banned misleading labels and preservatives that contained harmful chemicals. The Pure Food and Drug Act banned food and drugs that are impure or falsely labeled from being made, sold, and shipped. Roosevelt was also served as honorary president of the school health organization American School Hygiene Association from 1907 to 1908, and in 1909 he convened the first White House Conference on the Care of Dependent Children.

During the Panic of 1907 nearly all agreed that a more flexible system to ensure liquidity was needed – the Republicans sought a response to the money supply by the bankers whereas the Democrats sought government control; Roosevelt was unsure but leaned towards the Republican view while continuing to denounce corporate corruption. Nonetheless, in 1910, Roosevelt commented on “enormously wealthy and economically powerful men” and suggested “a graduated inheritance tax on big fortunes… increasing rapidly in amount with the size of the estate.”

Roosevelt was inclined to extend the regulatory reach of his office. In a moment of frustration, House Speaker Joseph Gurney Cannon commented on Roosevelt’s desire for executive branch control in domestic policy-making: “That fellow at the other end of the avenue wants everything from the birth of Christ to the death of the devil.” Biographer Brands states that, “Even his friends occasionally wondered whether there wasn’t any custom or practice too minor for him to try to regulate, update or otherwise improve.”  In fact, Roosevelt’s willingness to exercise his power included attempted rule changes in the game of football; at the Naval Academy, he sought to force retention of martial arts classes and to revise disciplinary rules. He even ordered changes made in the minting of a coin whose design he disliked, and ordered the Government Printing Office to adopt simplified spellings for a core list of 300 words according to reformers on the Simplified Spelling Board. He was forced to rescind the latter after substantial ridicule from the press and a resolution of protest from the House.

It seems almost impossible to believe that the great regulator’s party would morph into what is it today. I’m sure if Teddy were around now he would be viciously labeled as a socialist liberal by the Republican establishment.  What happened between then and now to cause this very radical shift in philosophy with the GOP? I kind of believe that it happened because the ultra-rich have pretty much bought that party.  They get the best of the best to keep the spin machine running so they can fool those too lazy to realize just who the owner is now.

We desperately need another person like Teddy to do his thing once again. But this time, unless something very drastically happens, the person will not likely be from the GOP.

Injured Warriors….

June 17, 2014

2014-05-28_08-12-06

 

It has happened throughout humanity’s history. When our country/tribe feels threatened by one thing or another and we go to war many of our young men rush to enlist.They see adventures in war. They think it will turn back the boredom of their daily lives. I don’t think there has been a teenager in existence that doesn’t feel a lack of stimulation during those years. They all have some grandiose vision of having a uniform and fighting the bad guys.  The teenage years are vexing to most of us.  Our brains are not fully formed so we often have an incomplete vision of life.

Our young men, and now our young women, rush to war. They don’t seem to contemplate the reasons for the war. They don’t know the trauma of taking another life. All they see is the glamor and maybe to some degree a sense of duty.  “My country needs me”.

The realities of war do not sink in until they are knee deep in it. Isaac Sims found out that war is something other than glamor. It is death and many dead bodies. I recently watched an American Experience episode entitled Death and the Civil War. It showed the realities of those times.  Over 750,000 were killed and many times that  amount seriously wounded, and that was with a total U.S. population of only 30 million.

I will admit up front that I have no experiences with the military establishments of today. All I know I learned from stories. But I have heard that many generals just don’t take PTSD seriously. They see it as just the weaklings who can’t stomach the realities of war. To them real men just do their duty and disregard what they see.

 

No one should have to see what this young Isaac Sims did!

2014-05-28_08-05-59Tea Party cruises to wins in Texas Republican primary runoffs

Texas Republicans aligned with Tea Party darling Ted Cruz were projected to win primary runoffs on Tuesday for two of the state’s most powerful posts,

SOURCE: Tea Party cruises to wins in Texas Republican primary runoffs – Yahoo News.

What makes Texas so different from the rest of the U.S.? They seem to be off the edge in so much of what they do.

Maybe its the water? They have lots of two foot deep reservoirs built by a Democrat LBJ while he was in Washington. Maybe they have a one-of-a-kind fungus that affects the brain.

Maybe it is all that dust and sage brush? – I have been to Texas several times. A few of those trips were by car and I can say Texas is mostly parched land and sagebrush. Maybe something about that affects people?

Maybe it is those longhorn cattle? – You just don’t see those cows anywhere else.

I just don’t know what makes people who live there as strange as they are.  When the company I was working for shut down the Indianapolis facilities I moved to New Jersey for four years to finish out my pension.  My best friend of a couple of decades moved to Texas. But something happened to him and his wife. We kept in touch for a few years but their strange behavior caused us to go our separate ways.  We visited them once but they were just not the same people they were. Another glaring thing was that the house they lived in, although recently new construction, was falling apart. There were cracks in the walls, molding coming loose, paint peeling and the strange thing was they didn’t even seem to notice?

Ted Cruz seems to be the darling of so many of those folks. I just can’t understand that! What is it about Texas?

I can’t help but think that if you’d stayed a little longer, we might have avoided the Crusades. Or the Great Schism. Or that time we used the Bible to justify slavery and invoked “Manifest Destiny” to slaughter women and children. We’ve made a mess of things, Jesus, often in your name. We could use a little micromanaging.

SOURCE:From the Lectionary: An Open Letter to Jesus on this Whole Ascension Business.

The words above are from an open-letter that Rachel Held Evans posted to Jesus. I never thought of it but she is right; we could have used some more instructions than he gave us. A few more rules drilled into our dense brains certainly would have prevented a  lot of misunderstandings brought about by our interpretations.  As  a matter of fact we humans have pretty much messed up most of Jesus’ instructions of how to live our lives haven’t we? How do we set that course straight?? And don’t say we are sinners so we shouldn’t even try!  That is the ultimate cop-out…

Saturday @ NYC..

June 14, 2014

This was taken from our hotel room on Friday night here at a hotel on Times Square. Can’t imagine what tonight will be like. Walked too much today but have more tomorrow. We will tour the 911 Memorial and museum along with Central Park.  Getting too old for this stuff but figured this is our last change…