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One thing I like about my lifetime study of American history is that as Solomon said “there is nothing new under the sun”. Almost everything happening today has some corollary in the past. The John Kennedy quotes from more than fifty years ago could have just as easily been made today. It is hard for me to imagine that Kennedy was born almost a century ago.  As standards go he was a very young president much like our current one. I, like so many of my generation, will always remember him as a young man cut down in his prime.  We can only imagine what he could have accomplished if he had not been killed by an assassin’s bullet.

The concept of linking the help for the poor to saving the rich is very enlightening. I simply can’t understand how the rich cannot understand that by suppressing wages and jobs they are actually eliminating customers for the products that fuel their wealth. A consumer society such as we are depends on people being able to buy the goods and services they themselves provide. This was perhaps first recognized by Henry Ford and that brought about the middle class property that we all now dream so much about. I think the very existence of the middle class that resulted in our economy thriving was a direct result of Mr. Ford’s actions and the middle class will not prosper until the next version of Henry comes along.

The second quote is very applicable to the fact that the GOP has voted more than fifty times to take away affordable healthcare to more than ten million of our citizens without anything to replace it. It is very obvious to most of us that one of our political  parties is known as the party of no alternatives, finding fault with everything, gloom, and wanting influence without responsibility.  When will they ever learn that these practices have no place in a compassionate democratic society.

Enough said…. Thanks John for teaching us even more than fifty years after your death…

 

 

There are those, too many in my mind, that are adamant in taking away affordable healthcare to 10 million of our citizens. Without offering any viable alternative they insist that those ten million go back into the uninsured pile whose only access to healthcare is an emergency room and a band-aid. It is widely acknowledged that when the ACA was written it was NOT the framers intent to give subsidies to some areas of the country and not others.  The Framers themselves have loudly come out with those facts.

So why is this challenge even in front of the Supreme Court? The answer seems to be pure politics.

That the challengers’ argument is terrible doesn’t mean that it won’t succeed — motivated reasoning, particularly in an increasingly partisan court, is a powerful thing. There are four certain votes to uphold the subsidies on federal exchanges and three certain votes not to. So it all comes down to Justice Kennedy and Chief Justice John Roberts.

SOURCE: The sphinx, the hack, and the swing vote: Key takeaways from the Supreme Court’s big ObamaCare case.

It is truly sad, almost catastrophic, to see so much politics being played out in the Supreme Court. The primary role the Supreme Court in our system of government is to look into the intent of the framers of our constitution and our individual laws to make sure that it is applied correctly. Having a court where eight out of ten of the justices have made up their mind totally based on politics  “is” not what the framers intended.

We are known throughout the world as a “nation of lawyers”. We sue each other  by orders of magnitude more than anyone else in the world. Our congressional branch of government contains more lawyers than all other professions combined. Let’s face it lawyers have pretty much taken over our country. :)

ambulance chaserOnce upon a time there was a term for some lawyers called “ambulance chasers”. These were guys to followed ambulances to scenes of accidents so they could get one party to sue another over the accident. These types of guys were looked down on even among lawyers in general.  Fast forward to today and now  this group seems to be the dominate group in that profession. Just turn on the TV any day to see ad after ad from lawyers for “getting big bucks without any work” through lawsuits.  These guys are kind of like the Tea Party in that they seem to overshadow all the really hard-working honest lawyers around. I kind of think that is also what has happened to the Supreme Court, they are filled up with too many ambulance chasers instead of wise sages that our founding fathers envisioned.

Lets face it there are just too many lawyers in our nation who don’t have enough productive things to do. Maybe it is time to declare the Supreme Court unconstitutional and then disband it and start all over again….  I think our founding fathers would be smiling as a result…

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If Fox New is famous for anything it is about putting themselves in the center of the news. It seems that this behavior is getting one of its stars Mr. O’Reilly in hot water recently. He is getting caught with too many personal embellishments lately. When Brian Williams did that recently he got a six-month non-paid vacation, but I’m sure Mr. O’Reilly won’t even get a slap on his wrist. After all if Fox News were to put him on forced hiatus they would probably have to do the same with almost their entire staff.

But that is not the saddest part of this story. Instead it is about how so many people seem to blindly accept newscasters being at the center of everything on Fox and MSNBC. It just seems to me that the regular viewers of those shows are too lazy to think for themselves so they let their favorite flavor political talking head guide them around by their nose. Shame on any of us for doing that!

2015-02-13_09-55-29We’re still pretending that we’re inventing a brain when all we’ve come up with is a giant mash-up of real brains. We don’t yet understand how brains work, so we can’t build one.

We bolded that last sentence because it pretty much explains the predicament for AI. Until we more fundamentally understand that which we’re trying to clone, everything else is an impressive attempt up Everest that never totally summits.

This jibes with a sentiment that renowned author and cognitive scientist Douglas Hofstadter posed earlier this year. He calls current prominent pursuits in the artificial intelligence arena “vacuous”

[IBM’s “Jeopardy!”-winning supercomputer] Watson is basically a text search algorithm connected to a database just like Google search. It doesn’t understand what it’s reading. In fact, “read” is the wrong word. It’s not reading anything because it’s not comprehending anything. Watson is finding text without having a clue as to what the text means. In that sense, there’s no intelligence there. It’s clever, it’s impressive, but it’s absolutely vacuous.

We’ve got a ways to go before machines are truly smart.

SOURCE: Why We Can’t Yet Build True Artificial Intelligence, Explained In One Sentence – Yahoo Finance.

I seem to come across a lot of talk lately about how machines will eventually rule the world and the humans will become obsolete. Having lived a big part of my life in the software development area maybe I understand a little more than most how this worry is very much unfounded. We have nothing to worry about for probably centuries. We simply can’t simulate something we really don’t even understand in the first place. Plainly speaking artificial intelligence is not even yet on technology’s radar screen.

When I first become interested in computer things back in the 1970s I purchased a TRS-80 personal computer and spent hours of my free time learning to program it. It costs a whopping $500 (that’s about $3,000 in today’s dollar). It had 16 kbytes of Ram and a 85k floppy disk (today’s computers have about a million times more memory and storage). But even this gargantuan increase is still not even close to what the human mind is capable of doing.

Even when the hardware finally comes in the neighborhood of our minds we still have to write the programs to simulate our mental processes. That is something we still don’t begin to understand.  We got a long way to go before we have to be concerned with machines becoming smarter than their inventors if that is even possible….

 

 

Fifty Years From Now…

March 9, 2015

2015-03-07_11-49-09Recently someone requested that I be his new “friend” on Facebook. I’m not sure I even know him but I think he is a sibling of one of my high school classmates. One thing that Facebook is good at is to give you a long lists of  “friends of your friends” to entice to add more. I guess they get more revenue that way but I don’t know for sure.  Anyway I went ahead and accepted the request and within a day or two that person’s Facebook page appeared on my screen. The first post was him passing along someone else’s post. It was a comic book type spread that ended up with a not very gracious picture of the president and calling him a “shit head”.

I quickly, maybe too quickly, commented that I wonder if he called the first president of color a shit head was intentional or Freudian? That started a fairly long discussion with a my new friend and some of his friends. My new friend says he just thought it was funny and didn’t hate anyone but some of his other “friends” came on with vitriol attacks of the president screaming YES he is a shit head.

I bring up this conversation for a secondary reason and that is about the legacy people are leaving with their Facebook pages and many other Internet sources. Do they realize that what they post will be readily available to their grandkids, great grandkids, and great great grandkids? Do they realize that their words are permanently etched for others to see?

Being a retired Information Technology guy I know that Google, or whatever replaces it fifty years from now, will be thousands of times more powerful than it is today. All my new friends’ heirs, or anyone else for that manner will have to do is Google his name and they will find that he personally condoned a verbal personal attack of a president of his country. Does my new friend realize that everything he pens on the Internet today will form a legacy of just who he is for posterity.

I’m sure my new “friend” is a decent enough fellow who I would probably like in person if I ever got to know him in person. But this first encounter has soured me to even making that a possibility. I don’t know, maybe he just watches too much Fox News and therefore thinks it is ok to casually trash another person’s character because it is funny? Fox News certainly makes billion of bucks doing just that everyday.  Now I am not saying here that it is not ok to disagree with someone’s actions, especially our public figures. I do my share of that but I try never attack someone’s character with cheap, malicious, and especially racist words. If I ever do I hope someone will quickly call me to task like I called my new friend to task.

I turned off the “Follow” feature of Facebook for my new “friend” so I guess I will never really know him. I just hope he becomes more sensitive to others and be more careful what he does on his Facebook page.

damaged goodsIn some way or another we are all damaged goods. Yes, we have been enhanced by some life experiences but we are also tainted by others. Whether we will personally admit it or not we all have dark sides. We all have things in our past that we would do differently if we had the chance. In other words we have all had experiences that affected how we look at life.

Too many of my Christian brothers use this fact as a reason to do nothing. The clergy in their pulpits constantly remind them that they are nothing but miserable sinners and God expects nothing from them in their totally rancid condition. They take those words to believe that if they are damaged then all their actions are also damaged. They take the words of the Apostle Paul in a different direction than he, and especially Jesus intended. They use this logic as an excuse for doing nothing to promote God’s love in this world. They throw up their hands and say they can’t do anything to please God so why even try. In fact they believe it really doesn’t matter as he has already reserved a place for them in heaven.

Instead of taking the words of Paul as an excuse to do nothing I cling to the words of Jesus’ brother James when he told us that faith without works is a dead and therefore a worthless faith.  There are just too many that make Christianity a “do nothing” religion. They think if they say the right words they can then sit back and do nothing. They cling to a faith that is very shallow.  They need to come to understand that faith is to be lived everyday of our lives. It is not to be put on a mantle somewhere just to be dusted off and casually view at on an occasional Sunday morning.

The reason Christ wants us to see ourselves as damaged goods is so that we will have compassion on absolutely everyone who we come into contact with. He wants us to love each other unconditionally as he loves us.  He wants us to disregard the smell of that homeless person and treat him with compassion.  He is just damaged in ways other than we are. He wants us to forgive that person who has done us wrong, perhaps even grievous wrong. He wants us to get it out of our mind that we need to kill those who we see as more  damaged than we are.

Being damaged goods is not an excuse to do nothing, instead it is a reason to try to do better and better each day. To become more Christ-like. That is what is expected of us who call ourselves Christians.