Using Drugs….

February 1, 2013

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Source:  Whitney Houston’s mom ‘angry’ the star died alone – TODAY Entertainment.

HoustonThe Grammy-winning singer was found dead, face down in her bathtub, at the Beverly Hills Hilton on Feb. 11, 2012, the night before the Grammy Awards. The final coroner’s report listed the cause of death as accidental drowning and “effects of atherosclerotic heart disease and cocaine use.” The document also indicated that Houston had cocaine, marijuana, Xanax, Benadryl and muscle relaxants in her system when she passed away.

I know Whitney Houston’s death is old news but when I started to putting down some thoughts on drug use in the U.S. she came to mind. Of course I never heard her voice but I did see a couple of movies that she starred in. She was generally thought of as the “girl next door”. That is she was very approachable and down to earth.  I was surprised to learn that the autopsy report showed she was filled with many drugs the night she died. Another young talented life destroyed by drugs. Continue Reading…

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FlashFor those of you who don’t know what Adobe Flash is it is an add-on to your web browser that allows you to view all the videos around now. But, it also is used to make many of those flashy things that distract you from reading content. Those just bug me to no end! Maybe being deaf I am more sensitive to that flashing than most people are?  To remove this pain I have purposely chosen to do without Flash.  I can tell you my web viewing life is simpler now. I used to have a large post-pad handy to cover up all those flashing ads; that did a pretty good job but it was cumbersome. Continue Reading…

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Source: Republican Re-Branding: The ‘Happy Party’? – ABC News.

Smile“We want to build a massive party that’s exciting, that smiles, has a good message across America, and that’s what you’re going to see,” Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus told reporters at a news conference on Friday shortly after he was re-elected to another two year term.

Sharon Day, a GOP activist from Florida who serves as co-chair of the RNC, put the party’s new approach even more bluntly: “I will talk to a head of lettuce if I can get them to vote Republican.”

I am glad to see that the leaders in the Republican party finally “get it”. The catch-phrase “as rare as a Republican with a smile” is funny but I really want them to succeed as a party. We need a two party system in this country. Without it tyranny is the likely result. So, when I read this article about all the things that the GOP is doing to change its image it made me well, smile.

But, I hope they realize that change is not just all talk, there has to be some substance to it also. It is interesting  how they seem to be listening to Newt again when he told them they need to be a “happy” party. Yes, I agree with him that depressed persistence doesn’t work at all but surface changes only are not the answer either.

In order for me to once again start voting Republican once in a while:

  • They need to show me that the are moving away from balancing the budget on the backs of the poor.
  • They need to convince me that they are willing to take a big chunk of the deficit from the DoD budgets.
  • They need to show me that they agree that we don’t need to be the policemen of the world.
  • They need to show me that they are also concerned about the ever increasing violence in our society. Their answer can’t simply be to “lock up the bad guys”; they must be willing to tackle the underlying problems.
  • They need to show me that they are not against almost everything except unlimited access to guns and shutting down government.
  • They need to show me that they are serious about tackling climate change, immigration, and real healthcare reform.
  • They need to take a pledge that they will “never say never” again.

I don’t want to be talked at as if I am a head of lettuce. Treat me with respect and as someone with some intelligence and I just might believe in this new GOP. Most importantly of all they need to show me that I can trust them to keep their words about the above and their “new” party is not just all talk. A big part of this reconfiguration will be to reign in the their tea party members. They can’t let that small radical group run roughshod over them anymore.

If they can get back to the party of Nixon or even Reagan I would almost be satisfied that they are serious about being a party of the people instead of only big business and rich donors.

Source: Thomas Edison hologram chats at Detroit Auto Show – CBS News.

electric carPast met present at the auto show Monday when a holographic image of Thomas Edison was used to promote vehicles from electric truck and van maker VIA Motors.

Bob Lutz, the retired General Motors executive who led development of the Chevy Volt, took to the stage at the North American International Auto Show to listen as a hologram of a person portraying the inventor gave advice about the potential for electric vehicles.

“Thank you very much, Mr. Edison, and I assure you we will not let you down,” Lutz told the image.

Thomas Edison is another one of my heroes. I was a weird kid in that I didn’t have any sports heroes, except for briefly Duke Snider from the Brooklyn Dodgers, my heroes were inventors, writers, and such.  I think I read a book about Edison before I was in double digits of life. His inventiveness fascinated me even at that early age. I think he is one of the reasons I became an engineer.

But even Tom had a dark side. When his previous assistant Telsa came out with the idea of AC voltage to challenge Edison’s DC voltage, Edison went about in some pretty unscrupulous ways to discredit him. Unlike Edison Telsa, even though he won the AC/DC battle died penniless.

Maybe if Edison had put all that animosity that he had for Telsa toward working on an improved motor for cars, our country might look much different from what it does today. If the electric car had won the Steam/Electric/Combustion engine battle  we would not be on the verge of destroying our world with CO2. We would not have sacrificed so many of our young people to maintain our addiction to foreign oil.

It is always interesting to think about alternative histories if “this” happened instead of “that”.  Maybe someday Edison at least post-humusly will finally win the battle for powering automobiles. It is time we replaced the one-hundred year old technology of the internal combustion engine. I think Mr. Edison and Mr. Westinghouse would be proud if we replaced it with a much more efficient electric motor.

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Source: http://rjscorner.net/2012/02/27/where-are-you-john-sherman-when-we-need-you/

PrintIt seems literally impossible for another Republican to take charge of these types of matters (controlling fraud and abuse). Most of those folks are just too beholding to big business to ever try to reign them in. So, currently that leaves the Democratic party to take up the mantel. I don’t see that as much of a possibility either. Where all this “too big to fail” will end I just don’t know.

I don’t find myself quoting myself very often but when I re-read this post from almost a year ago about how Republicans have been the party of big business in Will Rogers day and are even more so today it got me to thinking.  Republicans seem to believe in the innate goodness of our corporations. I don’t know how else you can explain their deregulation fever of the last three decades.

When Ronald Reagan came into office the first thing he did besides firing everyone who belonged to the Air Traffic Controllers Union was to finish up removing almost all regulations from the savings and loan industry. Here is what Wikipedia says about that:

The deregulation of S&Ls in 1980 gave them many of the capabilities of banks, without the same regulations as banks. Savings and loan associations could choose to be under either a state or a federal charter. Immediately after deregulation of the federally chartered thrifts, state-chartered thrifts rushed to become federally chartered, because of the advantages associated with a federal charter. In response, states such as California and Texas changed their regulations to be similar to federal regulations.

Of course we also know that within ten years the S&L industry almost disintegrated with fraud and abuse and it cost us taxpayers billions to bail them out. But that would not be the last time our friends in government showed their belief in the innate goodness of business. Soon after we recovered from the S&L fiasco they went about  you guessed it, de-regulating the entire banking sector. Again within a short period of time the banks “too big to fail” cost us about a trillion dollars to clean up their abuse of the mortgage business. After these two meltdowns the Democrats put back a few of the necessary regulation via Dodd/Frank bill  but the Republicans fought it tooth and nail. That I just don’t understand. Why do that seem to be totally ignore history, even recent history?

How can these guys in Washington continue to put their total faith in the innate goodness of an unbridled business sector. Profits are approaching all time highs while wages have remained stagnant for the last three decades! Given that fact, how else can you explain how they never seem to see a regulation that they don’t want to eliminate. It seems like they would eventually learn that capitalism depends on brisk and stringent regulations to contain the innate greed, not goodness,  that is built into the system.

Before my conservative friends attack me here I want to declare that I believe capitalism is the best system in the world but it only works when it is adequately regulated.  To my friends that think I am too critical at times I am really questioning the idea of almost total de-regulation mantra of Republicans. Do they really believe that regulations have no place in our business world? I would really like to know? Their two failed attempts at de-regulating our financial sector seem to say something. Or is that just me?

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Source: Why Pentagon won’t say how it would cut $55 billion starting Jan. 1 – CSMonitor.com.

BudgetsOne reason is because the Pentagon would then have to show its cards, some argue. That is, it would have to tell Congress how it would reallocate funds from its lesser priorities to its higher priorities, says Todd Harrison, senior fellow for defense budget studies at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA), warned back in August.

“Once you show people there are higher- and lower-priority items in your budget, then the lower-priority items become the target, and they’re likely to get cut no matter what,” he says. Mr. Harrison is one who suggests that the Pentagon “would be wise to start planning.”….

Now that we are finally winding down Mr. Bush’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan I hope the budgeters in congress take a serious look at our defense spending. The Department of Defense is the only department that has more than doubled during the last twelve years.  I pray that President Obama will also live up to his pledge to begin stepping back from being policemen of the world. I am hoping that he will have the guts to take on the industrial/military establishment and put then into a peace time mode from a financial standpoint. That alone would go a long way to balancing our budgets.

During the later parts of my employment in the corporate world I was required to set up budgets on an annual basis. Part of the process of allocating the money was I was forced to give priorities to where my group would spend the dollars allocated to us.  How the Department of Defense can get everything they want year after year is dumbfounding to me. What is even more dumbfounding is that they also frequently get money for projects they don’t even want.

I have no problems making sure that the boys and girls who make up the bulk of our military forces get a living wage but even there I hear that many are living below the poverty level! Much of the money seems to be spent on things related to  cold war strategies.

I mourn the fact that so many in the GOP are more willing to put cuts on seniors and the poor rather than to reign back some of these unknown military expenses.  Lets start these forthcoming budget talks by requiring the DOD to actually tell us where they spend all the money we throw at them. But, then again I doubt if they could even do that. Are we still buying $10,000 toilet seats. I wouldn’t be surprised.

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

How Little Money…..

January 29, 2013
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It’s surprising how little money we can get along on. – March 9, 1933  Will Rogers

From the date above it is obvious that Will penned these words during the height of the Great Depression. Many people during that period learned Will’s lesson first hand.  Will was kind of like the Kennedy’s of his time.  He made his fortune via the Ziegfeld Follies, his books, movies and daily newspaper posts.  He was a rich guy but had an overwhelming empathy for those who struggle through life.  I think if Will were alive today he would be one of the most avid bloggers around. I am trying to do that for him but of course I am having only a very meager success compared to him. (Here I am getting the infamous “big-head” so I have to get back to the topic of the day. ;)

What I mostly know about the Great Depression comes from stories from my father.  During that period which basically lasted for about fifteen years the unemployment rate hovered 15% and reached a high of 25% in 1933. That is several times worse than what it is today. The long-term average over the last century or so is 5%. The Great Depression, like now, saw many people being under-employed as well as un-employed. The majority of people just did not have enough money to live like they did before the Hoover years. Many were struggling to stave off hunger.

But even today it is surprising how little money we actually need to “get along on”. I know that when I retired more than twelve years ago my living expenses went down significantly.  One reason was that we moved from a high expense State of New Jersey back to the Midwest. Of course our expenses are now higher than what they started out to be primarily because of healthcare costs. But I also realize that I pay a pretty good sum for things I don’t really need to “get along on”.  There is the satellite TV bill, the DSL connection, a couple of cell phones and an IPad that gobble up  quite a bit of money.  I also have more than my share of electronics in the house. We have two cars even though I fully realize that we could get by with one if we had to.

When I was a kid we almost never ate out in a restaurant.  There was basically nothing known as “fast food” until years later; I know the kids today can’t imagine it but there were no McDonalds on every corner! I am certainly happy I am doing pretty well enough financially to afford all the stuff I spend on but I have to always realize much of what I spend on is not necessities.

My dad and my grandfather had it tough going through the depression so I need to always realize I and most of us around today have it better then they did. If I really had to get down to it I”m sure I too would be surprised how little money I can get along on….

Source: Behind Inaugural Speeches, Meaningful Words | History & Archaeology | Smithsonian Magazine.

Wordle is an application that takes text from any source and enlarges words that appear more frequently. Conversely, words that are smaller appear less frequently. Small words, like the or of, are not included in the Wordles above. (www.wordle.net)

Wordle is a new word for me. I suspect it will be commonly used in the not too distant future.  When I came across this article in the Smithsonian Magazine – electronic edition it got my immediate attention. The article basically covers nineteen inaugural address ranging from Washington to Obama’s second address. It is interesting to go through the list to see the differences.

Here is the wordle for President Obama’s recent inaugural address:

Wordle - Obama 2nd Inauguration

I must admit that the Smithsonian Magazine is currently one of my favorite reads. They always cover things that others frequently don’t. If you get a change take a look at them. You might just learn a thing or two :)

A Sign Of The Times….

January 28, 2013

Banner -Off The TopFarmHouse 2002 001

When we moved into our 1925 farmhouse almost 13 years ago there was not much of its original charm left. The previous owner had pretty much stripped it out and did a pretty poor job of even that. Fortunately the porches around two sides of the house were still intact. It looked like there had been about three additions added since the house was originally built. The biggest addition, and probably the last one before our ownership, was obviously built by what is known in the trade as a hack. There were numerous areas around the perimeter that had no foundation or crawl space dug. We discovered the last area when we replaced the deck at the rear of the house last year. There was a twelve-foot area that was totally supported by a couple of twelve-foot 2×6 with nothing but mud under them. Obviously much of the remodels were done without any official inspection. That is one of the potential problems with buying older houses especially in small towns.

But to continue my basic message here there were a couple of bedrooms that seemed a part of the original house. One of the most notable things about these rooms was the size of the closets. Each one had a door that was about eighteen inches wide and a total inside width of no more than two feet. When the house was originally built this we more than enough room for the occupant’s clothes. In those days most typically had about two changes of clothes and a “Sunday go to meeting” suit.

Fast forward to today and it now takes a room about the size of these old bedrooms just to contain our clothes. I am a fan of the TV series “Little People, Big World”. The family in that series are definitely not “neat freaks”. They usually have many piles of unclean clothes lying around each teenager’s room. But in the background there is also an eight foot wide closet also filled with clothes. I kind of think this is the norm for most families.  Each kid probably had forty to fifty changes of clothes!

We talk about how rough we have it now days but as usual everything is relative. The original owners of our farmhouse were by no means poor. They owned most of the land down our road. But in their wildest dreams they would never have imagined having the amount of clothes that we do today.

One of my favorite words the last few years is “Simplify”. I am trying to shed much of the material things in life. In some areas I’m doing a pretty good job but in others not so good.  I have managed to shrink my possession of clothes down to what I could stuff in about a four foot width. Gone are all the suits I once wore. Gone are many of the “business casual” shirts and pants. I now have about a dozen shirts for summer and another dozen for winter. The pants are down to about eight pairs.  Simplifying my life seems to be enabling me to look at the larger issues. I don’t know why that is important to me but it just is…..

Assault Weapons…

January 27, 2013

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Yesterday, Senator Dianne Feinstein introduced legislation (S. 150) that offers a big step toward reducing gun violence in this country. Senator Feinstein’s bill, which already has 17 cosponsors, would renew and expand the ban on military style assault weapons. Despite the mass slayings of children in schools, moviegoers in theaters and students on college campuses, and the daily gun violence that plagues communities across our country, some lawmakers from both major political parties are expressing opposition.

Please urge your senators today to cosponsor this legislation and work for final passage quickly. If your senators have already cosponsored the bill, then please thank them.

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From my Quaker Friends at FCNL…