RJ's Corner

Federalized Healthcare…

If you pay attention to such things it becomes very apparent that depending on where you live and how much income you have, and when you need it, primary healthcare varies widely across our nation.  The example below is specifically about worker’s compensation but is endemic across the healthcare spectrum.

2015-03-06_10-22-00JUDY WOODRUFF: Howard Berkes, why are so many states moving to cut workers’ comp?

HOWARD BERKES: Well, there are a couple of things that have occurred.

One is, medical costs have increased so dramatically over the years. But the other thing is, we have had a couple of recessions in the last 15 years, and states are competing with each other fiercely for business, and one of the things that businesses complain about all the time is the cost of workers’ compensation insurance premiums….

 As businesses complain about these costs, they go to lawmakers in state — in state capitals around the country and say, this is one thing you can do to help us compete with the next state. And, of course, each state is dropping costs, is lowering costs, so there’s this competition to be lower than the next state….

And this [differences between States] is really apparent when you talk about catastrophic injuries like arm amputations. So we looked at — we visited with two workers, for example, both living near the Alabama-Georgia border. On the Alabama side of the border, the worker who lost his arm in an industrial accident looked like he would get maybe about $48,000 maximum in his lifetime as compensation for his injury in weekly payments and in compensation for the loss of his arm.

But just across the border in Georgia, the worker there who had a nearly identical injury and an arm amputation, nearly identical age at the time of his injury, he will get somewhere in the neighborhood of $700,000 more over the course of his lifetime.

SOURCE:  Why workers’ comp isn’t working for many who need it.

A big part of this overall healthcare problem is due to economic fluctuations over time.  Because most State must balance their budgets it becomes necessary to reduce spending during recessions and given the current environment they seldom get raised back to adequate levels during the years of prosperity.  If people just got healthier during recessions than they are during prosperous years it wouldn’t make any difference but that simply is not the case. So, things like Medicaid, worker’s comp and such get reduced because of budget restraints.  Of course the same thing applies for education. The first thing that often gets cut are education budgets and that is utter stupidity, but that is another story.

The obvious solution that most of the rest of the world has already learned is to federalize healthcare. If the federal government needs more income to meet the people’s needs during hard times they can simply print more money.  No, that isn’t a long-term solution but it is an effective stop-gap in order to provide a consistent level of healthcare to all our citizens and at reduced levels of expenditure. The rest of the industrialized world spends about 8% of GDP for healthcare while the U.S. spends 18% and they have higher satisfaction level to boot. Some day we will get over our extreme stubbornness in this area and federalize our healthcare like everyone else has already done.

The Right Combinations are Creative…

Sonic in Creative FrameSometimes being creative is simply finding that right combination of things. That was the case with the above picture. At the center is a photo I took of my weeks old Chevy Sonic during our Colorado vacation. When I saw the rock cropping that were almost the same color as my sassy Sonic I had to immediately stop and take a picture of her. It would be a couple of years later before I found the frame to do the picture justice. I think it is a perfect creative combination.  It proudly hangs on my wall beside my desk.

One of my favorite things to do is to go to events with reenactors. They bring the history to life. This and the next few posts will be from the Indiana History Fest in 2002. It was the last one that they did. I guess the funding dried up as is so typical of our times.

I Am Ashamed Of My Native State…

2015-04-03_08-24-43I am ashamed of the State of my birth and where I have lived most of my life. But, this isn’t the first time. Indiana for most of my life has been a very conservative red State who embarrasses me on a regular basis.  The Republicans now have total power and they are wielding it. The latest “religious freedom” law is just one example. It sounds like we are now going to have placards placed on business doors saying which potential customers are not allowed to enter their business.  It reminds me kind of like my youth when I saw signs saying “No Negroes” when we traveled in the south. That embarrassed me even at that young age but at least I could say that didn’t happen in “my” State.

I don’t know how big Salesforce company it but once again Indiana is pushing people out by their actions.

Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff said Wednesday that he is helping employees who are uncomfortable with Indiana’s controversial religious freedom law to transfer out of the state….

“I just got an email on the way to studio from another employee who said, ‘look I don’t feel comfortable living in this state anymore, you have to move me out,’ and I gave him a $50,000 relocation package and said, ‘great, you’re clear to go.’ “

SOURCE:Salesforce CEO: We’re helping employees move out of Indiana – Yahoo Finance.

Eli Lilly which practically owns Indianapolis is also stating concerns. I don’t know if Governor Pense and his GOP congress will get the message or not. They just might change the law but that doesn’t mean they will change their attitudes towards those who are different from them.

Maybe I need to consider if I am going to spend my final years in the State of my birth. I know my leaving would not make much of a difference but it might symbolically mean something to me….

We All Need A Creative Boost Once In A While…

Creative PhotographerI admit that I struggle with my creativity from time to time. Sometimes it comes in quick spirts  and sometimes I hit long dry spells. I, like most of you I imagine need a creative boost once in a while. To accomplish that I have numerous books on the shelves behind me and in my Kindle to give me some encouragement. The Creative Photographer by Catherine Anderson is one I frequently pull off the bookshelf. It isn’t about the technical aspects of photography but totally focuses on the creative side.

MyScans154I find it fascinating that Catherine started out as a lawyer before she found her creative side.  If you are into photography as I am I highly recommend picking up a copy of this small book. It just might get you moving again. She just might give you a different way to look at what you photograph…

(I have received no compensation from anyone for this endorsement)

Christmas Light Art…

Festival of Lights - Peoria IL 2008Every city seems to have them but the most impressive display of Christmas light art I have ever found is in the Peoria Illinois “Festival of Art”. The creativity found there is awesome!  There are literally hundreds of different mammoth size display. The one shown above is a whale with Jonas’ boat inside.  It is probably 100 feet long.  If you live in the Midwest and need something to get you into the Christmas spirit plan a visit to Peoria this December.

And It Begins…A China Power Play….

2015-03-29_09-31-18

In quick succession, the U.K., France, Italy, and Germany all agreed to become founding shareholders of the AIIB, a sign that they are eager to cozy up to Beijing and its $4 trillion in foreign reserves. Once upon a time, “the world was said to bow down before the mighty dollar. These days, even many of America’s closest allies have renminbi signs in their eyes.” This is an impressive “soft-power victory for China,” said the editors at Bloomberg View, and “Washington largely has itself to blame.” The U.S. has long called on China to take more of a role in international financial institutions, “without making room for it to do so.” Congress has repeatedly “blocked efforts to dilute U.S. dominance of the World Bank” or give China more influence at the IMF, where Beijing’s voting share is just 4 percent versus Washington’s 17 percent. Republicans have also shot down President Obama’s attempts to increase U.S. funding for the World Bank and IMF, said Charles Kenny at Bloomberg, leaving those institutions “undersize compared with the demands they face.” But if the Obama administration can’t persuade the GOP to put up the cash needed to underwrite development projects that will save lives and foster global growth, “it should at the very least get out of the way of other countries willing and able to lead.”

SOURCE:  China’s latest power play comes at the expense of America.

Everyone needs to learn that actions have consequences, even countries and that is what is beginning to happen to the U.S. For all of this millennium we have increasingly turned over our industrial production to China because of their lower labor costs. Too many people just focused on getting things a little cheaper and failed to look at the bigger picture.  Now, the consequences of these actions are starting to manifest themselves.

Of course we know that those actions have resulted in a severe reduction in the middle class of America. Due to constantly lower wages being earned by so many American families we have come to depend on getting our “stuff” cheaper. The second consequence is that China now has trillions of our dollars in their banks and that is resulting in them taking over the financial matters of the world. We have always been a debtor nation but never so much to just one country. Our past actions this millennium have consequences and I’m not really sure that is a bad thing.

Yes, it is fearful to see a country that is driven by a very different mentality gaining more power. Lets face it, communism is a very scary matter to capitalist nations. But if this current consequence results in our country to step back and look at what is going on with us lately maybe good will come from it. We need to realize that our very dysfunctional government is doing us grievous harm. We are ignoring things that need to be fixed because we refuse to get along together. We spend soooo much more on our military than anyone else in the world and that is draining our economy and making enemies throughout the world. We will learn that one country with less than 5% of the world’s population and, and really shouldn’t, be the policemen of the world. It is time to share that responsibility.

Maybe good things will come from us no longer being “The” political and economic power in the world….

A little humility is a good thing….

I Think, Therefore I Am…

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In the 17th century, the French philosopher René Descartes came up with the “explanation for it all”: I think, therefore I am. Descartes is considered the Father of Modern Day philosophy but being a relative novice in this area I kind of put that label on Plato or Socrates. Philosophy is something that I have always been peripherally interested in but never delved much into.  I have to put that on my bucket list I guess. I bet very few people have it there. :)  But this is not the real topic of this post. It is more about the phrase than the inventor.

Two things that I have always gushed with in my life is dreaming and thinking. I never seem to be capable of just shutting down my brain in those two areas. During my ten-year study of things theological I became fascinated with the Quaker religion. They just seem to have it for the most right among all the religious sects I studied. A big part of their church services is “centering down”. That is sitting quietly opening your mind to private messages from God. This proved to be very difficult for me but I do on occasion accomplish it. But for the most part I can’t quit thinking about things of life.

I can’t imagine what it would be like for someone who would get all their news of the world from one cable media source and to take all the propraganda  by that channel as truth. It boggles my mind that there are millions of such people in the U.S. They don’t look for alternatives to what they are told. They simply don’t think that thinking for themselves is of any value I guess. By the same token I can’t imagine going through life without dreaming of other possibilities. To be dreaming that things can be better than they are now or have been in the past is simply something I am constantly doing.

So, I very much align with my own personal definition of “I think, therefore I am”.  I don’t know if I am really weird about this or just one of the few who will admit that I am constantly thinking and dreaming.  If I weren’t doing that I would question if I am really living? A  big part of the thinking and dreaming show up on this blog and I hope some at least get a little insight into life from my words. I always try to be respectful of everyone I come across and I hope that shows up here also. But a big part of my thinking is how we can improve the human condition of man. I have no illusions of grandeur. I don’t expect to be able to do more than very minutely nudge anyone from their set of beliefs but I hope I at least get some to think outside of the boxes they have built around themselves.  Maybe I think about too much stuff that really doesn’t matter to many but that is who I am.

I think, therefore I am…..

Virginia City, NV – I have been to many “old west” towns in my day but Virginia City Nevada is perhaps the most unusual. It is primarily a tourist town but that doesn’t take away from its authenticity.  They take great pains to keep the exterior of the town true to its heritage.

My Alter Ego

AlterEgoQE BannerThis post is kind of like an April Fools joke on myself.

I think all of us have to one degree or another an alter ego.  That is a second self who is distinctively different from who we presently are day-to-day. Many of my personal journal posts are to my alter ego “Joe”.  He is my younger much more timid and less sure self. It took me many years to move out of that mode and to a degree I am still sometimes stuck there.

Before I go any further lets look at the “official” definition of alter ego.

Alter ego

An alter ego is a second self, which is believed to be distinct from a person’s normal or original personality. A person who has an alter ego is said to lead a double life. Cicero was the first to coin the term as part of his philosophical construct in 1st century Rome, but he described it as “a second self, a trusted friend”.

Joe grew up in a single parent household with a stoic father. Mirrors were not his favorite thing. He thought he had a weak chin and just didn’t like looking at himself. He would never look into a mirror and imagine who he might become. He was for the most part never encouraged to do anything. He was never shown much affection and therefore was very reluctant to show any himself. Joe was one of those guys who always slipped into the background of life too shy to admit that he had an opinion on things let alone actually tell anyone what he might be thinking.  Joe was always a dreamer but never had much ambition. He was always doubtful that he was as good as most of those around him. Joe never had a mentor who might have been able to drag him outside of himself. Even though he was the first in his extended family to go to college he, like his father, never had much faith in himself.

If you haven’t guessed by now the J in RJ is for Joe and yes he is my alter ego. It took years for RJ to final come to the surface and leave Joe behind in the shadows. In some ways many of my posts are to Joe as to try to encourage him understand that he is a contributor to the world around him. He is unique and matters in life.  I feel deeply for all those young kids around today who might be stuck in the “Joe” mode. I wish I could be there for each  and every one of them.

Something About Domes…

Milwaukee State Capital DomeI don’t think I am the only one but I am one who is fascinated by capital dome art. Almost every State capital has a dome on its top. This one came from the Capital of Wisconsin in Madison.  I wonder how many hours were spent by someone in a  Micheal Angelo position painting these guys. One of my long-term projects over at InSearchOfAmerica is to do a catalog of all the capitals we have visited.

Weighing Nuclear Option…

2015-03-16_09-11-08“We were ready to do it”

Russian President Vladimir Putin said he considered putting the country’s vast nuclear arsenal on alert to prevent outside agents from stopping the Kremlin’s forced annexation of the Crimea peninsula from Ukraine last year.

Putin’s admission was aired during a prerecorded documentary called Homeward Bound, which was broadcast on a state-backed television network Sunday in the run-up to the first anniversary of Crimea’s annexation later this week.

SOURCE: Vladimir Putin Admits to Weighing Nuclear Option During Crimea Conflict | TIME.

During our 30+ years of the Cold War and the nuclear standoff with the USSR a strategy was developed by the west called MAD. It stood for “Mutually Assured Destruction”. It went something like this. If the USSR bombs us with a nuclear weapon we will send off our entire nuclear arsenal on them and that will basically ensure that both countries, and probably the rest of the world, would be totally destroyed. The USSR then said we will do the same to you.  I’m sure that was constantly on the minds of both country’s leaders during those times.

Why do we constantly fear another country, rogue or not getting a nuclear weapon? The sixty year old technology is pretty much known to all the world’s scientists now. It is just a matter of getting the materials together to build one. We need a different deterrent to stop the spread of nuclear weapons than just trade embargoes and such. We need TAD, “Totally Assured Destruction”. That is the statement signed by all, or almost all, countries that says that if you use a nuclear weapon on another country the rest of the world will do whatever it takes to insure that your country is totally destroyed. No “if”, “ands” or “buts”. Your country is toast.

Can you image a hundred war machines immediately charging into Iran for example because they used a nuclear bomb on Israel. Would they really want to use a bomb under those circumstances? Of course part of this new tactic would require that the rest of the world start carrying their share of military might and that the US trim down our totally dominate war machine.  But wouldn’t that be a win-win scenario for everyone.

Let’s enact TAD and stop all these political games of one-upmanship that goes around a country buying aluminum cylinders..  Stop the current stupidity and come out plainly with “You use a nuclear bomb and your country will cease to exist”.

Occam’s Razor is a widely known theory that in its most basic form is “Keep things simple!“. That should apply here. We have prevented possible aggression with NATO in the past. Now it is time for TAD

Enough said….

To The Redwood ForestsAccording to the info found near the base of this beauty the redwood forests of California would be pretty much just some stumps if we had left it to the industrialists. Thank heavens people fought that from happening. Woody Guthrie was right that “This land” is from the Red Wood forests to the Gulf Stream waters.

On The Backs Of The Poor….

2015-03-16_08-52-01WASHINGTON (AP) — Republicans now in charge of Congress offer their budget blueprint this week with the pledge to balance the nation’s budget within a decade and rein in major programs such as food stamps and Medicare. More pressing for many Republicans, however, is easing automatic budget cuts set to slam the military.

SOURCE:GOP to offer budget blueprint with Medicare, food stamp cuts – Yahoo Finance.

It is not accident that the GOP wants to take money away from helping  the poor and give it to our already super extravagant military budgets to the tune of exactly $50 billion on each budget. But that is just the first step in the process. The overall goal as the article mentions is to eliminate Medicaid and food stamps entirely from the federal budget and turn it over to the states. Can Medicare be very far behind??

As a stop gap measure the GOP wants to just throw a given lump sum of some undetermined value to the states and then walk away.  The problem with that strategy is that all the States must balance their budget but that is rightly not a requirement for the federal budget. Sending it to the States would mean that in times of downturns helping the poor would have to take a big hit. It is not as if suddenly just working two minimum wage jobs would meet a poor family’s needs during hard times.

Will all those senior citizens who vote exclusively GOP tolerate this happening? If their purse is robbed will they look for other political approaches? I kind of think they finally will. Yes, we have to do something about balancing our federal budgets but doing it on the backs of the poor and with no pain in the military budgets is NOT the way to do it.  We, 5% of the world’s population, spend more than the rest of the world combined on our war-machine.

If we just quit trying to be the policemen of the world and pared our military budgets to be on parity with everyone else our overall budgets would quickly balance. We don’t need to be hip deep in all regional conflicts in the world.  That practice just makes too many enemies who then want to do us harm. We need to step back and tell our world neighbors to take care of their own backyards and we will do the same.

PLEASE DON’T BALANCE OUR BUDGETS ON THE BACKS OF THE POOR.

From My Youth…

Colorado Vac - Rod w/Dick FitchThis is a digital reproduction of a picture I took almost forty years ago. I had a lot of energy in my youth and it took it all to hike up to the 12,000 feet level on top the Rocky Mountains in Colorado to the campsite. It was well worth the trip just to take this picture and include it in my life’s memories. And the view of the night sky was awesome, I have never seen it so full before or after.

How Did The Bible Get So Filled….

I am bringing over a series of posts for my Sunday entries from my now inactive blog over at RedLetterLiving. This is the third 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…

How Did The Bible Get So Filled…

How did the Bible get so filled with things that have nothing to do with the messages of Jesus? That is one of many questions I have pondered over the last decade.  I want to study more about King Constantine and how the Bible was put together under his watchful eye.2014-02-13_11-37-06 Here is the crux of what I know now.

Constantine was a king during the age where the Roman empire’s power was dwindling. He was losing his grip over his kingdom. Some say that is why he grabbed on to the idea of making Christianity a mandated state religion. I know he was not baptized until soon before his death so that puts his sincerity at question. Was he just covering his bases? There is very little historical text now available that pre-dates the first compiled Bible so we really can’t be sure just what is not in Constantine’s Bible or what was added. These types of questions need to be understood in order to put the Bible in its proper sphere of influence. Was it written by God or redacted to meet the needs of the most powerful world government of the time?

2014-02-13_11-39-37I personally take the Jeffersonian stand of Christianity to at least one degree or another. That is Thomas Jefferson’s belief that Paul took the simple message of Jesus and made it complicated. I’m sure he was well-meaning but given his background it was inevitable that he would add rule after rule on being a Christian.  After all he was educated and trained by the Pharisees of his time and if nothing else they were absolutely about rules. Upon serious reading of Paul’s many letter it is surprising how little his teaching overlap with any of Jesus’ word or messages.  In fact he seemed to know very little about Jesus other than his brief personal experience on the road to Damascus.

We know that the documents, particularly the gospel accounts, that eventually made up the first Bible were generally not written until at least forty years after the events took place.  Before that all the biblical stories were likely passed down as was very typical of the time via an oral tradition.  We also know that except for Paul, who was not one of those who sat at Jesus’ feet,  most of the other leaders of the early church were very likely illiterate.  This necessitated that someone else would take their stories and put them into literary form.  For the most part we still don’t know who those scribes or the authors actually were. Under these types of conditions it is very likely that myths and fables were included in the written text.  Thomas Jefferson believed that is how most of the miracles of Jesus were established. It was just overzealous people adding a little bit to enhance a point. Those who study other historical sources know this is a very common thing of human nature.  George Washington was almost a god in early America and many myths were generated  and recorded about him. The most familiar is probably about chopping down a cherry tree.

In closing I am not saying that the Bible is without value simply because human foibles are contained in its text but it is important to understand that possibility when trying to put this document into the proper perspective in today’s church.  The messages of Jesus that are contained within these various writings, even though they were very likely tarnished by human actions,  are what is paramount to our following Jesus.  The Bible itself is just a means to convey those inherent messages.

Peoria…

Peoria Skyline

Peoria Illinois is a small city in the Midwest where I spent a long weekend a few Decembers ago. They have a December event called “The Festival of Lights”. It is well worth the visit.

Festival of Lights - Peoria IL 2008   Festival of Lights - Peoria IL 2008   Festival of Lights - Peoria IL 2008

Washington HeadquartersI have lost track of exactly where this house was located but I’m pretty sure it was around Gettysburg PA. According to the mural found at the site as shown here is was the command headquarters for George Washington at some time during the Revolutionary War. So I’m sure Washington did sleep here :)

Ouray Colorado – The Rocky Mountains

Colorado Rocky Mtns 2I am gathering some pretty impressive apps for making MyMindsEye pictures. Here is the Rocky Mountains near Ouray Colorado just as I imagined it would look like…

And Justice For All – Marijuana…

2015-03-10_10-32-14Sen. Rand Paul slammed former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush for hypocrisy on marijuana in an interview Wednesday with Yahoo Global News Anchor Katie Couric. Responding to recent revelations that Gov. Bush smoked pot during his teen years at Phillips Academy, Paul pointed out the flaws in Bush’s opposition to medical marijuana in his home state.

Sen. Paul, who has hinted about his own wild college days, was quick to clarify that he did not fault Bush for having “made mistakes growing up.” Instead, he took issue with Bush’s inconsistent views on the drug. “If you’ve got MS in Florida, Jeb Bush voted to put you in jail if you go down to a local store or a local drugstore and get medical marijuana … and yet he was doing it for recreational purposes.”

To Paul, it was Bush’s privileged upbringing that spared him the harsh penalties many Floridians still face when they entangle with marijuana. “It was a different standard for him,” the presidential hopeful explained, “because he was from a wealthy family, going to a very wealthy school, and he got off scot-free.”

SOURCE: Rand Paul calls out Jeb Bush on marijuana – Yahoo News.

I must admit that this is one of those times where Rand Paul’s words ring true to me.  But I must always remember that his underlying priority is to basically shut down government and to remove the nation’s safety net and move us to  laissez-faire capitalism or “Everyone for Themselves”.

Now that I have my libertarian rant over lets look at the particulars above. Almost all of our opinions are at least a partial result of our experiences in life.  I guess I, unlike Mr. Ryan and Mr. Bush, wasn’t “hip” in my youth as I never tried marijuana during those years or since.

What I want to concentrate on in this post is the words I bolded in the quote above. It is becoming more and more obvious that it is a very different standard of justice for wealthy families than it is for the rest of us and particularly those of us of color. All these recent reports of police shooting of unarmed black young men and the hugely disproportionate number of minorities in our prison system have brought that fact to light. Now if we can just manage to accept that fact and to do what we are famous for as a country and that is to address these inequalities head on.  Given that money is power in our society there will never be true equality of justice but we should at least try to level the playing field as much as possible.

I will finish this post with a change of heart I have had over the last couple of years. We need to do a lot less jailing of people who primarily only harm themselves with their actions and a big part of that group is marijuana users. If they are not threat to society then we need to seek other means of enforcing our version of morality on them.  Enough said….

Child Sex Abuse in the Church, Again….

Banner God Religion PoliticsAs the years go by I am convinced that the most abused thing in this world is the name of God. Everyday it seems that there is another person, group, religious sect that take God’s name in vain. The story below is about Jehovah’s Witnesses sect hiding, even from their own congregations, the child abusers among them.  Here are some of the words from the PBS Newshour report on this subject.  If you want to see the entire interview click on the source below:

2015-02-17_10-53-21Believers are taught to renounce secular society because it’s controlled by Satan, and not to socialize too much with outsiders. But charges of sexual abuse have brought this insular community under greater scrutiny. And now, in this San Francisco courtroom, the first child abuse case against the Jehovah’s Witnesses to go to trial is under way….

The case hinges on letters from Jehovah’s Witness leaders to the heads of local congregations. For almost 20 years, they have ordered them to send reports like this one for every known child abuser, to hide these cases from their congregations, and not to cooperate with law enforcement or the courts, unless instructed to….

They have refused judges’ orders to turn over these abuse reports, so no one knows how many cases like Conti’s are out there….

SOURCE:  Did leaders of Jehovah’s Witnesses cover up child sex abuse?.

I must admit that I know very little about the Jehovah’s Witnesses other than the fact they often do door-to-door solicitation to get new members. I was not aware that they think the world outside their organization is controlled by Satan and that they alone are the only true followers of God.  For that reason they keep pretty much to themselves. They are for the most part probably told what to believe and what to do in almost every life circumstances. They simply do what their leaders tell them to do. But then again this same thing to one degree or another can be said for many other organizations who espouse to have all the answers about God.

There are so many today that mourn the shrinking number of those who claim to be religious. But who can blame the young person, both outside and even within these religious sects for having doubts. Just look around the world today and it is easy to see that most of the wars and killings are done in the name of God, all thousand versions of him!  How can that not be a turn-off for people beginning their life’s spiritual journey?

One of the best things about our country’s constitution and one of the worst things is the right to believe spiritually what you want to believe. It is definitely a double-edged blade. Yes, it does keep us from persecuting others who have different beliefs from us but it also allows the very groups that are being protected to strike out against everyone else. It protects us from the abusers but also protects the abusers.

There are so many different versions of God around today it would seem almost impossible for a young person not to be turned off by the totally different views of God. I have my own personal beliefs about God but I am not going to try to force those beliefs on you.  If only all religious institutions would agree to coexist with each other the world would be a much better place…

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The Flatiron Building in NYC is one of the most unique buildings around and is very much part of the heart of America. This picture was taken last year while I was sitting on the upper level of a Greylines tour bus on a tour of NYC architecture. It is a nice way to see much without all the walking. :)

From Wikipedia:

2015-03-18_08-26-39The Flatiron Building, originally the Fuller Building, is located at 175 Fifth Avenue in the borough of Manhattan, New York City, and is considered to be a groundbreaking skyscraper. Upon completion in 1902, it was one of the tallest buildings in the city and one of only two skyscrapers north of 14th Street – the other being the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company Tower, one block east. The building sits on a triangular island-block formed by Fifth Avenue, Broadway and East 22nd Street, with 23rd Street grazing the triangle’s northern (uptown) peak. As with numerous other wedge-shaped buildings, the name “Flatiron” derives from its resemblance to a cast-iron clothes iron.

The building, which has been called “[o]ne of the world’s most iconic skyscrapers, and a quintessential symbol of New York City”

Walking The Plank…

2015-03-06_08-02-31

 

I dread to think about how our totally politicized Supreme Court is going to rule on the latest attack on affordable healthcare for almost ten million of us.  Will they essentially make those folks walk the plank as Steve Sack shows in this editorial cartoon. It is widely known that most of the yahoos on the court vote primarily on their political alignment. The law and original intent just doesn’t seem to mean much to them.

 

Military SpendingI also see where the Republicans have recently come out with their budget proposals for the coming year. Take a look at that very little orange slice of the current budget pie to the right. That shows our current food stamp allocations. It seems that tiny slice is where they want to do the severest cuts. Part of their budget is to increase the dark blue area even more! They don’t think it is big enough yet.  Please tell me how anyone can actually believe that they are serious about their budget proposal when they take the elephant in the room off the table for cuts???

Why does it seem that we are living in an upside-down world right now???

 

Antiquity…

img179_edited-1I love taking sixty year old black and white thumb print size photos and restoring to a  much larger larger size.  That is what I did with this one of my wife (right) and her two siblings in the early 1950s.  She was quite a looker even at this young age.

Water wheels such as this one found in Waterford Maryland were very much a part of America. They were the power that ignited the industrial revolution and are still around in the form of electrical generation such as the Hoover Dam and Niagara Falls. Of course the water wheel in this picture is no longer functional but I image it was very active in its day…

Paul or Plato – Part II…

This is a continuation of the post about two distinctive worldveiws so prevalent in our society today. Let me say up front that even with violating my self imposed 500 word limit on posts this will only very lightly touch on the matter of good or evil. Lets pull a couple of quotes from yesterday’s post to concentrate on here.

Still, the distinction is real and important — and its implications touch on areas of our cultural life far beyond criminal justice. It helps to explain, for example, the very different ways that Platonic liberals and Pauline conservatives approach sex — with the former willing to trust in the power of rational sex education to help shape behavior, and the latter much more concerned about their children succumbing to sinful temptation no matter how many rational arguments they’re exposed to. 

SOURCE:  The real fault line in the culture war isn’t race or sex. It’s sin..

Different world views depending on whether you are a Platonic liberal or a Pauline conservative is an interesting concept.  I don’t necessarily agree with the liberal/conservative tags added but be that as it may. I will acknowledge that most people can probably be classified as one or the other of these groups. And then there are people like me, and I hope many others, who might look at it from a different angle.

As I always like to point out this issue is not black/white, Plato/Paul but instead shades of both. As the quote from yesterday said it is too simplistic that one view holds people as good and the other as people are evil because they are always sinful.  Let’s look at Paul and his teaching first.

In order to understand the words of Paul so dominant in the Christian bible you must look at his life’s experiences to see how his philosophy was shaped. Paul was first and foremost a Jewish scholar. He was all about rules. Rules on how to live, what to eat, how to pray, rules about everything. These rules are to keep you from sinning. Paul’s education and everything about him was jewish. When he saw his vision on the road to Damascus it made him realize that he had part of  it wrong. But only part. Since he was a very educated man he wrote much about his new-found faith but intertwined it with his jewish beliefs of rules and sin. I am one of those who align with Thomas Jefferson’s thoughts that Paul took the simple messages of Jesus and made them complicated.

Plato on the other hand generally believed in the goodness of man. He believed that this innate goodness came from our creator and was deeply embedded in us. He was more about shedding off faulty traditions than about rules. Plato was a very complicated guy but for this discussion his idea of innatism is at the center.  Innatism is a philosophical doctrine that holds that the mind is born with ideas/knowledge, and that therefore the mind is not a ‘blank slate’ at birth and that knowledge is generally about wanting to become one with your creator. Therefore he, unlike Paul,concluded that man is at his foundation good as it comes from God who is good.

Plato or Paul?  To me these are two different interpretations of how to live our lives. I personally gather some insight from both but probably align more with Plato. As my Quaker friends say I believe that “there is the light of God in all of us” and that light was given to us by our creator. But I also recognize that temptations are always there. So am I a Platonic liberal or a Pauline conservative?  I am a shade of grey somewhere in between.

Paul or Plato??

This is going to be one of those very philosophical posts so fasten your seatbelt.

It is this idea of a fundamentally sinful humanity that inspires the harsh, punitive sentences of our criminal justice system — including capital punishment. It also provokes visions of merciless suffering in hell after death. We deserve severe punishment because we are free agents who knowingly choose to do what we ourselves know to be wrong. On the far side of a chasm stands a very different idea of humanity — one elaborated by Socrates and other characters in several Platonic dialogues. It holds that virtue is knowledge and vice is ignorance. Plato’s dialogues may have presented the fullest and most radical exploration of this view, but versions of it animated various strands of Enlightenment thought, and to this day it continues to influence the way many liberals and progressives approach questions of criminal justice and related areas of public policy.  When someone commits a crime, do your instincts tell you to blame the perpetrator’s upbringing, background, education? Do you think that the best form of punishment would involve rehabilitation? Then you are, at bottom, a Platonist who rejects the idea of sinful depravity. On the other hand, do you tend to blame the perpetrator’s actions on a malicious will and presume that, however worthwhile an education might be, it will never eliminate the possibility of evil, because evil is chosen despite knowing what is good and right? And do you therefore think that the best form of punishment is one that imposes suffering for the sake of retribution and deterrence, hopefully to help scare this and other potential criminals away from making similarly bad choices? Then you are, at bottom, a Pauline believer in the reality of sin. This either/or way of presenting the two views is overly simplistic. Plato was well aware that teaching virtue can be a challenge (and may often be impossible), just as believers in sin typically think that moral education is extremely important in shaping and strengthening a person’s conscience.  Still, the distinction is real and important — and its implications touch on areas of our cultural life far beyond criminal justice. It helps to explain, for example, the very different ways that Platonic liberals and Pauline conservatives approach sex — with the former willing to trust in the power of rational sex education to help shape behavior, and the latter much more concerned about their children succumbing to sinful temptation no matter how many rational arguments they’re exposed to.  What’s clear is that, if you’re interested in exploring our cultural conflicts at the highest levels, you could do worse than pondering Plato and Paul.

SOURCE:  The real fault line in the culture war isn’t race or sex. It’s sin..

The quote in red is just what I am going to attempt to do in tomorrow’s post.

I Recognize It But…

Twain Historic SiteNot all things creative are visual. Some are simple unsaid words and thoughts. Like most kids I read Huckleberry Finn at an early age. It was not one of my favorite books, I was more into Steinbeck and London at the time. But when we visited Mark Twain’s home in Hannibal Missouri I discovered that his legacy goes way beyond his most popular books.  I have come to very much appreciate his words above…

I Read The Bible And Everything Became….

RJ:

I am bringing over a series of posts for my Sunday entries from my now inactive blog over at RedLetterLiving. This is the second of a six-part series from 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 all about Jesus, not the Bible…

Originally posted on Red Letter Living:

FuzzyWhat About The Bible… ? (Chapter 2)

I know that from all the rhetoric about this topic you are expecting the next word in the title to be “Clear” but actually for me it is “Fuzzy”. I don’t know how many times in my life I have heard the phrase “just study the bible for the answer to your problems. When a child dies from a fall in the bathtub the Christian answer to our total devastation is to “read the Bible”. It is as if we can just randomly open a page and then the tragedy in our life becomes clear.

Lets face it the Bible is simply not the homogeneous document that many want you to believe. When we realize that it is a collection of documents by for the most part unknown authors, who were recording events as they saw them or a story told to them. …

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