I Wish I Could Invite Them All In

Getting another round of snow here in Indiana right now. Way too much for me but my wife loves it.  When these storms happen it seems the cardinals go into a panic mode.  I wish I could invite them all inside to stay warm… but then there would be the bird dropping and my cat would probably have a heart attack.

Click on either image to see a larger version

Jan 25 2018 SnowJan 25 2018 Snow-2

Politics As A Cure for Spiritual and Social Loneliness?

Most of us can probably cite at least a couple of reasons for the conditions we find ourselves in today. Some blame the Internet, some religious exclusivity, or maybe religious politicization. Others say it is just plain self-centeredness. I don’t suspect that many put loneliness as part of the mix but maybe it is deeper than we realize.

2018-01-08_18-18-38.pngWhen politics is used as a cure for spiritual and social loneliness, it’s harder to win people over with policy or philosophical arguments. Everything is shaped on a deeper level, through the parables, fables and myths that our most fundamental groups use to define themselves…

Trump’s supporters follow him because he gets his facts wrong, but he gets his myths right. He tells the morality tale that works for them.

It should be said that people on the left and on the right who try to use politics to find their moral meaning are turning politics into an idol. Idolatry is what happens when people give ultimate allegiance to something that should be serving only an intermediate purpose, whether it is money, technology, alcohol, success or politics.

Source:  https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/30/opinion/when-politics-becomes-your-idol.htm

I can certainly see some truth in the words above.  It is now a well-known fact that the rural areas of the nation are where most of the Trump voters came from. Many in that area are more isolated than their urban neighbors. Most likely, they are also less educated but maybe that is another story.  Does that make them lonely, it could, especially among us senior citizens.

I have never understood why senior citizens would vote Republican when one of their fundamental goals is to make drastic reductions to Social Security and Medicare? They see services for the elderly as dreaded “entitlements” that need to be eliminated. For seniors to be Republicans is like cutting off your nose to spite your face.  It is widely known that one of Mr. Trump’s primary support groups are people over 65. I think I have some experience with that group.

There are many seniors, including me to some extent, who are isolated from the mainstream.  We spend the majority of our time by ourselves. Some choose, like the current Oval Office occupant, to spend many hours a day in front of the TV. For the most part, they only know the world through cable news networks or probably just one of those networks. Since politics is the major source in their lives they take the topic on as a friend that they no longer have.

I can remember my grandma in the 1950s being obsessed with TV wrestling.  She never missed her wrestling show and would shout and scream at the bad guys on the flickering black and white tube.  No matter how much we tried to convince here that TV wrestling was fake she simply would not believe it. I think the same thing kinda holds for many who are supporting Mr. Trump today.  There are many seniors who have pledged allegiance to him no matter what he may do. That totally misguided faith puts a stain on all of us over 65.

Politics has a place in everyone’s life but it should only be for intermediate purposes and not as an idol onto itself.

The Church Is Not a Democracy….

We in the U.S. know that one of the primary foundations of our democracy is freedom of speech. That is being able to say something different from our leaders and not suffer serious consequences. In my opinion, this is what has allowed our country to remain so strong over the centuries. Many times criticisms lead to change and though we might not realize it at that time that is good for us. It makes us better; it makes us stronger. Without freedom of speech, I doubt our country would even exist today.

Anyone who has studied church history knows that it is not a democracy but instead has for most of its history a very vertical-oriented top-heavy organization. When the leadership of the church said something everyone was expected to quickly get in line with no questions asked.

Dissension, or some might say freedom of speech, is simply not allowed.   In the past, anyone who even hinted at a disagreement was quickly handled.  In the first few centuries of the church, many were proclaimed to be a heretic, which basically meant they didn’t agree with the leadership in some way or another. It usually followed that all of their writings, if they existed, were burned so their words would not pollute the church.  And some were burned along with their books.

Thank heavens at least in the last few centuries heretics are not so severely handled but that does not mean that they are now ignored. Many think only of the Catholic church when they think of the power structures. No Catholic, especially the cardinals and bishops would go against anything that the Pope proclaims.  But this situation also occurs amongst the Protestant denominations as well. Plainly speaking the leadership is to be obeyed.

If you even hint that you don’t agree with all the various creeds and statements can cause you to be disciplined or even thrown out. I know personally of a Lutheran minister who was brought back from an overseas mission and stripped of his sermon rights because he dared to join in prayer with other Christian groups, and years later I like him was shown the door due because I didn’t tow the line on how old the earth is among other things.

Many just can’t accept any questioning of their proclaimed doctrine. They claim that it would stain their institutional purity. About the only denomination that I am aware of that doesn’t do this are the Quakers. But since they are adamantly opposed to creeds, in general, that seems natural to them.

Sadly, there is simply no such thing as freedom of speech inside most church doors…

The Trump Administration to Restaurants: Take the Tips!

Snippet Banner

This post is something you will never hear on Fox News as it would likely disturb his base.

2017-12-23_08-31-47Most Americans assume that when they leave a tip for waiters and bartenders, those workers pocket the money. That could become wishful thinking under a Trump administration proposal that would give restaurants and other businesses complete control over the tips earned by their employees…

Not to worry, says the Labor Department, which argues, oddly and unconvincingly, that workers will be better off no matter how owners spend the money. Enlarging dining rooms, reducing menu prices or offering paid time off should be seen as “potential benefits to employees and the economy over all.” …

The Trump administration appears to be rushing this rule through — it has offered the public just 30 days to comment on it

Source:  The Trump Administration to Restaurants: Take the Tips! – The New York Times

I am going to have to stay up on the progress of this new Trump law.  When it passes I will start giving my tip in cash instead of putting them on a credit card along with the bill. Stick it to the working stiff seems to be the mantra of the ruling party once again.  When will all those who put them in office finally learn??

Beautiful Imperfection

Not everything beautiful is perfect. Somes imperfection in itself is beautiful. Such is the case with this flower I photographed in a Rockford Illinois at the Nicholas Conservatory.

Beautiful Imperfection.jpg

 

West Virginia, Mountain Mama..

I want to do an extended post on some of the States I have visited in order to get to know them better. I will start this project out with the State I really know very little about and that is West Virginia.  I have been through it a few couple of times but have never spent much time there.  My initial source of information about WV is from the old John Denver song, thus the title of the post. Here are some of the lyrics from that song:

Almost heaven, West Virginia, Blue Ridge Mountains, Shenandoah River.
Life is old there, older than the trees, younger than the mountains, blowing like a breeze.
Country roads, take me home to the place I belong. 
West Virginia, mountain mamma, take me home, country roads. 
WV is a picturesque State that seems to have been left in time from another age. My first thoughts of the State have always been coal mines and company towns where backward-educated people allowed coal mine owners to use them as slave labor in a very unhealthy environment.  I’m sure the folks living there disagree with my vision, I wouldn’t expect it otherwise.
Here are some of what I learned about the State in my recent studies:
2018-01-01_10-21-14.png
  • The biggest city in the State is less than 51,000 inhabitants. That is very small compared to all the States surrounding it.
  • Family income is about $43,000 and is the 48th State for personal income. The national median income is $59,000.
  • WV is one of the few States that has been consistently losing population for some time now.  One reason is low birthrates. The other is a constant youth migration to other areas.
  • The State is 95% white which makes it one of the least diverse in the nation.
  • 50% of its citizens are Evangelicals which of course accounts for the wide margin of the Trump victory there.
  • Less than 20% of the population has a college degree. It is the least educated State in the country.
  • The State, according to a CNBC study ranks at the bottom as being the worst State for business. There are practically no major businesses besides coal companies. The number one employer is Walmart and coal miners make up only about 2% of the total households.

These are the factual things I learned. I am sorry that it is not more encouraging. There just doesn’t seem to be much going for the State. I always thought that Alabama and Mississippi were at the bottom of most of these statistics, so it surprised me to see WV there in too many cases.

Despite all these things, West Virginia is indeed a beautiful State. The Shenandoah Valley, which is mainly in Virginia, is one of the most beautiful areas in the eastern US. That accounts for tourism being one of the biggest attractions.  Maybe West Virginia needs to go back to the John Denver song and concentrate on their beauty to bring higher paying jobs to the region?  I want to end this post on a positive level by saying that the West Virginia State Museum located in the State capital complex is one of the best I have ever visited. 

Here are some pictures I took there and in the countryside.

 

 

 

 

Fed up with Democrats and Republicans?

The stampede is starting?  Do you hear it? There are more and more daily saying “Enough is enough”.  Yet another poll shows that we all, no matter what political real estate we hold on to, are getting fed up with partisan gridlock.

new poll by the Public Policy Institute of California says 59 percent of Democrats, 62 percent of Republicans and 72 percent of independents — and, overall, 64 percent of likely voters — agreed with the statement that Americas two main parties “do such a poor job that a third major party is needed.”

Source: Fed up with Democrats and Republicans? Heres a third option. – Chicago Tribune

I just don’t know if the current two political parties will ever be able to get along again. There is so much spite and incivility being tossed back and forth across the aisle, too much baggage to let loose of. It’s more like the Hatfields and the McCoys now. It seems the only answer is to look elsewhere for those who will look out for us in the political world.

2018-01-05_08-43-41.pngI have discovered that there is an option brewing and is gaining steam on a daily basis.  It used to be called the “Centrist Project” but now is morphing into “Unite America”. If you are one of those who is looking for an alternative you might want to consider them. Will their coming to power happen overnight? It will likely take some time but then again the current Republican party was formed and won the Oval Office within five years so it might just happen sooner than you think especially in today’s accelerated world.  But it will take a groundswell to happen and that means many of us have to get on board.

Sometimes political parties simply outlive their usefulness. Sometimes they morph into something completely different from their roots.  I can see both of those reasons in both political parties today. Which one will go by the wayside along with the Whigs and Do-Nothings is hard to predict but I kinda think it will be the one that allowed the hijacking of their party to happen and then foolishly jumped on board with the idiot who stole their party away from them in the first place. That very scenario seems insane and those are folks who I have lost all confidence in. They have shown me time and again that for them it is politics over principles. Citizens be damned…

If you are like me and fed up with politicians the way they are now, then click on the Unite America logo above to learn more about this emerging organization. Better yet, send them a donation to help them get started.  I already have…

Appalacian Folk Art

When I visited the Museum of Appalachia in Norris Tennessee this last fall I was totally unprepared for the fullness of the experience. I came away with a much-expanded understanding of what it might have been like to live in such an isolated area. The way the museum personalized every display which made me almost think that I knew the people themselves who made the things seen.

Sometimes I forget that creativity will flourish wherever it is found. With nothing more than a piece of wood and a whittling knife, true pieces of art were created. Here are a few of them:

As usual, click on any picture to see a larger slideshow view

 

Our Shrinking Voice…

One of the sad things about the current US leadership is that much of the world seems to be looking elsewhere for its moral and ethical purpose and why shouldn’t it when most of our citizens are doing the same thing. One of the prime things that the Oval Office occupant wants to do, besides undoing EVERYTHING his predecessor accomplished, is to keep “foreigners” from invading America.  Will there come a day when no one will even think about wanting to come to America?  These are the questions for today’s post.

Maybe I am being naive but I kind of think that a big majority of Americans don’t like or agree with so much of what the current Oval Office occupant says or does. They are tired and disgusted with all his snipping, ranting, and lying on a daily basis.  To them, this is not the way the leader of the USA should act. In fact, it is downright humiliating. If I believe the world famous Irish oddsmakers he has less than a 50% chance of surviving his whole four years in office. With that belief, I have high hopes that America will once again be great, maybe sooner than later.

On a recent episode of Fareed Zakaria, there was mentioned that much of the world no longer takes what we say as being of any value.  We are the shrinking voice where the rest of the world is simply tuning us out. At first thought, this is pretty humiliating but maybe on second thought, Mr. Trump is doing us a favor with his simplistic thinking? Here is my reasoning behind that.

2018-01-08_16-16-59.pngI have long said they we should not be the policemen of the world. We should let regional characters solve their own problems. Syria is seldom on the minds of most of us in this part of the world.  I’m not even sure I could find it on a world globe? Why do we think we have to solve their problems? North Korea would probably not even exist if we hadn’t become involved seventy years ago.  It would be like the reunified Vietnam today if we had lost that war instead of it being a 70-year-old stalemate.

Contrary to Mr. Trump’s genius we need to stay connected to the rest of the world but we do not need to try to dictate what they do.  We do not need to build impenetrable walls to keep everyone out. We should not be isolationist but instead good neighbors in the world community and participants in solving world issues like global warming and international trade. Is it even necessary for one or two “world powers” to exist? I think not.

Call me an optimist if you want because I think we can gain back our creditability when we get our country out of the hands of this megalomaniac. I see the light at the end of the tunnel and that is what gets me from day-to-day in our world now. Maybe someday Mr. Trump will even be considered a visionary in showing us that one country doesn’t need to dominate the world as a superpower, even if that isn’t his intent.

 

Slavery..

Banner ISOA   I ran across a rather startling picture at the Andrew Johnson Historic site in northern Tennessee this year.  Before I talk about that, I was thoroughly amazed at how Johnson’s hometown managed to spin the story of him to make him appear to be a heroic figure which is very contrary to most public opinion.

I guess I have not come across too many photos showing how intrinsic slavery was to the southern States.   This picture, according to the legend below it, was taken in Atlanta in 1864 just after the Emancipation Proclamation.  The “Auction & Negro Sales” store was in the same row with all the storefronts.  Sadly selling human beings was just the way it was in those days.

Slavery Auction - Atlanta.jpg

If you want to see more details click on the picture for a larger view.

About Martin Luther..

There is yet another 480-page book about Martin Luther just released. As the article from the quote below states, he is the most written about a person in the Christian realm with the exception of Jesus.  For the most part, Luther is presented as a savior of 16th century Christianity. This book, from what I can tell from the reviews, follows that guideline with a few exceptions. As usual, I have come to see it from a different view.

Those who oppose him are always ill-willed, unreasonable, “oddly stubborn” or burdened by “painfully cloudy theology.” Moreover, according to Metaxas [the book author], the dissolution of Christendom into different competing churches could have been “eminently avoidable” if everyone had been good-hearted and smart enough to agree with Luther. Little is said about Luther’s noxious tirades against Jews, save to dismiss them as “one of the most bizarre episodes of Luther’s life,”

Source: Slaying the Dragon of the Dark Ages – The New York Times

I will again admit here that I was a lazy Luthern for 25 years and got a full dose of Luther’s history, at least as Lutheran chose to proclaim it. For the most part, very little was mentioned about his tirades and viciousness for others who disagreed with him.  I had to learn about that from personal studies.

I take a pretty different view of the results of Luther’s actions than many I suppose. As I see it now, he is primarily responsible for the fracture of Christianity into it 35,000+ parts it is today.  He was simply a very insecure Catholic monk who had little self-esteem, so when he discovered that one sentence from Paul about faith and works he latched onto it as being the core of the Christian message. Fast forward five hundred years and the same logic has been used thousands of times to totally fracture the Christian brand.  I know Luther didn’t start out wanting to fracture the church but that is what resulted like it or not.

Luther’s tirades and short temper along with a stubborn and arrogant Pope caused a split that never healed. I, as a former Catholic, sat through many Lutheran Bible study classes where the participants were dissing Catholics in almost all areas. And now we have the Evangelicals who seem to be intent on a complete fracture of Jesus’ church! They are turning it into a political organization with hate for most who are different from them.

So, I am just not one to celebrate the 500th anniversary of Luther. After years of study, I have finally come to realize that he was more the cause of the coming destruction than he was a cure.  I know these are radical words to many Protestants and particularly Evangelicals but when has that kept me from saying what’s on my mind.

 

Rekindled By A Spark

CandleAt times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.   —  Albert Schweitzer

I must admit that in some ways I am not a very creative person. I have often times in my life needed a spark from another person to get me headed down a path.  So, I certainly appreciated the quote above from Albert Schweitzer.  I have deep gratitude for those who have lighted the flame within me.

I am a passionate person who often wears his emotions on his sleeve. I have causes that I now firmly believe in. Most of those causes were not originally part of my being but instead were planted there by words from someone wiser than myself. In that light, I thank the Lord for exposing me to all the virtual mentors I have had in my life.
One of my biggest life regrets is that I lived a big part of it without much purpose. I, like many others I imagine, just lived from day-to-day without many goals or life directions. I also spent too much of my life not realizing the gifts God had given me. I wonder what I could have achieved if I had come to those two realizations earlier?

One of my most fervent prayers is for the teachers in this world. I pray that they will do everything necessary to kindle a spark in their students to get them started down the path of life with a purpose. I know in today’s world of teaching that task is deemed secondary at most but it seems primary to me.

Facebook reminded me of this post I wrote here on RJsCorner five years ago today. I am reviving it as the thoughts still move me…

Neon Lights…

There is just something about neon lights that still attracts us after so many years.  I found this one at the Studebaker Museum in South Bend Indiana recently.

 Neon Lights 2.jpg

Click on the photo to see a larger version

Another 10 Lies From a Trump Interview

To me, the most disgraceful thing about the current Oval Office occupant is his constant lying and exaggerations.  I’m not sure how much of it is just plain ignorance, but even ignorance is no excuse. From the quote below he managed to rattle off ten lies in less than 10 minutes. Maybe that is a record but I kind of doubt it. I wonder what the total lie count is for the year just ended? Probably in the thousands..

2017-12-31_11-42-47.pngPresident Trump, in an impromptu interview on Thursday with The New York Times, rattled off at least 10 false or misleading claims about …

  • He inaccurately said the claims against Paul Manafort occurred “many years ago before I ever heard of him.”
  • He misrepresented what a senator has said about the Russia investigation.
  • He falsely claimed the Democrats “made the Russian story up as a hoax, as a ruse, as an excuse for losing an election.”
  • He claimed to have “saved coal,” contrary to trends reported by the government.
  • He overstated his influence on the special Senate election in Alabama.
  • He gave a premature estimate of the cost of the wars in the Middle East.
  • He falsely claimed to have “essentially gutted and ended Obamacare.”
  • With no evidence, he accused other countries of sending their “worst people” through the diversity visa lottery.
  • He exaggerated the trade deficit with other countries
  • He exaggerated the number of followers he has on social media

Source:10 Falsehoods From Trump’s Interview With The Times – The New York Times

Maybe I should forgive him for this horrible trait? He has lived a totally privileged life that has been centered exclusively around himself. I think his father was much like him so maybe it is inherited?

But one thing I am certain of is that the blame for him occupying that cherished real estate is the ignorance of the voters who put him there and the laziness of the ones who didn’t bother to vote at all. I hear leaks from his once buddy Steve Bannon that while he was campaigning he didn’t want, nor expect to be elected and was shocked as much as anyone else at the voter ignorance that put him there.

I find it somewhat relieving that we managed the first year of him and am hoping that this year will be his last and in 2020 we will have learned our lessons never to allow this to happen again.

Wild Turkey

2018-01-02_11-10-08.pngWe have a lot of wild turkeys running around our area but that is not what this post is going to be about.  Instead, it is about a Kentucky Bourbon manufacturer that I visited a few years ago while staying in downtown Louisville for a long weekend.  Wild Turkey brand bourbon is famous for being one of the strongest whiskeys around. Most are 80 proof while Wild Turkey is  101 proof!

I must admit that I am a bourbon drinker. I don’t partake of it very often but a Manhattan is my favorite cocktail. In my youth, it was an Old Fashioned but as I got older I graduated to the stronger stuff.  I’m pretty sure a large part of my genealogy is British/Scottish but I just can’t stand their version of whiskey.  I’d rather drink a bottle of Listerine than a bottle of Scotch. But I am getting a little off track here so back to the story at hand.

The Wild Turkey distillery is located in a pretty rural area of Kentucky. If it weren’t for GPS I probably would never have found the place. Once we got there the first thing I noticed was all the warehouses with small windows that housed the aging barrels of whiskey. That’s a lot of liquid corn if you ask me.  I can’t say that the distillery is high tech to any degree.  I imagine they are doing things pretty much the way they have for a hundred years.  I’m sure some of the buildings are at least that old.

One of the most ironic things about Kentucky bourbon is that you can’t buy it in many places in Kentucky. The reason for that “dry counties”, that is places where alcohol sales are prohibited. I did manage to buy a specially labeled bottle while I was there but even though it has been about 8 years since that time the bottle remains unopened!  I guess I am just letting it age a little more before I partake of it.  But given all the extremely cold weather we are having in Indiana now I just may break the label soon. 🙂

Another irony is that they say the first law enacted in Kentucky was making horse racing illegal.  Go figure!!!

I have been rambling on enough in this post.  It’s time for some pictures. As usual click on any pic to go to a larger slideshow view.