My Feathered Friends

For this Artsy Saturday post, I want to show you a cherished picture of some of my feathered friends. Redheaded woodpeckers are certainly a colorful part of that family.  I wonder why nature gave them their colors.  It probably has something to do with attracting the opposite sex. Even human women seem to go for flashy guys.

Woodpeckers.jpg

Car Guys Are Like Women…

I have been in the weeds so to speak with my posts here on RJsCorner so I thought I would put out a car post today.  I want to move from the weeds of politics to the green pastures of vintage cars.

I know this post title is going to get a lot of attention from my more macho car guy friends. I suspect that they are saying “yeah if I drove around in a pink Cadillac!!” But what I am really talking about is how many car guys fall for the latest trends even if they are totally impractical. They are like women who insist on plucking down the big bucks on a pair of seven inch high heels.  These women know that there is nothing healthy or practical about those shoes but since they are told that anyone who is attuned to fashion “must” wear them.  Yeah, car guys are like women in that regard.

2017-11-09_11-24-38.pngNow, let’s get down in the dirty on this post. The car guy who insists that they have to have a car “down in the weeds” is not my kind of car guy.  Down in the weeds means the car sits about an inch off the ground, has enormously large tires and absurdly monster engine.  None of these things makes a car more beautiful or practical.

2017-11-09_11-23-48.pngDoing this stuff is kind of like putting a 300 hp engine on a skateboard as far as I am concerned.  I am a car guy in that I do love the styling of many of the cars I grew up with in the 1960s.  When Lynn Eikenberry who I admired from afar in my college years came back to campus with a 1967 Chevy Chevelle I fell in love with both her and her car.  But of course, she never knew that. Yeah, I love the looks of some of the cars of my youth but I fully realize that compared to those today those cars were rolling deathtraps.  My idea of a perfect vintage car is one that has a body from the 1960s and a chassis from today.

If I had my choice I would put an electric engine in a 1957 Chevy pickup. I know that is the opposite of what goes on today but since my view of the world is often quite different than others, that fact doesn’t bother me at all 🙂 Paying thousands of bucks to put a car in the weeds just doesn’t make any sense to me at all.

Permanent Tax Cuts For The Rich, Temporary Cuts For The Rest Of Us..

Don’t be fooled by all the GOP rhetoric about their proposed tax plan. Study its effect on you before jumping on board. And even more importantly look at what effect it will have on your children.  Of course, we also have to understand that the GOP is primarily a party that gives the most to their rich donors. They are the ones who will primarily benefit from this current plan.  Since the “trickle down” theory they have constantly used in the past has never come to actually happen why should we expect it to happen this time. Too much of the increased income just end up in off-shore accounts.

Here is a little information to consider from my friends at the New York Times:

2017-11-13_11-35-07.pngFirst is the poster child family Paul Ryan keeps talking about, a family with two children making $59,000 a year. In the first year of the Cut Cut Cut Act, such a family would indeed receive a tax cut. But this cut comes from several special tax credits that are basically loss leaders to help sell the plan; they all either expire in later years or will get eroded by inflation. By 2027, with the plan fully phased in, that exemplary family would actually be facing a significant tax increase relative to current law.

Second, consider someone who is much further up the scale, but still works for a living. In the movie “Wall Street,” Gordon Gekko sneers at “a $400,000-a-year working Wall Street stiff flying first class and being comfortable.” What would happen to that guy? Well, I’ve done some back-of-the envelope calculations: If you ignore deductions, he’d end up paying a few hundred dollars less in taxes. But once you take lost deductions into account, especially reduced deductions for state and local taxes, he almost certainly ends up facing a tax hike, not a cut.

Source: Trump and Ryan Versus the Little People – The New York Times

This tax cut is another example of how the GOP has moved from their roots.  They used to be the party of fiscal responsibility.  They used to hate deficits and scream about how their opponents will put debt on their kids and grandkids for some immediate person relief now.  I always admired them for that.  But they openly admit that their current plan will raise the federal debt by trillions of bucks.

Now I see that they have also put in a provision to cut off all funding for people who can’t afford healthcare.  They are bound and determined to keep people from getting the healthcare they need. I just don’t understand their rationale for these cruel actions? Mr. Ryan, who is the chief antagonist of this tax plan doesn’t seem to think it is necessary to explain so that tells me something very basic about his character.

From the above quote, we discover that the things they put in it for the middle class will expire within ten years while all the cuts for the rich are permanent! Watch out for what you hear from either party. That is especially true in the next year where one has all the power.

 

It’s Hard Looking Beyond Self Preservation Nowadays..

The political news just gets raunchier and raunchier now that we have a “liar-in-chief” in the Oval Office. The president used to be an image that we could give our children for their inspirations. Now we need to shield them from the current occupant’s disrespectful rantings and constant lies.  My tolerance for these intolerable defects continues to erode as each day passes.

I used to be a hog for news. I watched multiple sources on a daily basis. Now, the only thing I can seem to stomach is the PBS Newshour and since it is recorded and watched the next morning about half of it is watched in the fast-forward mode. I did see a recent segment where and a GOP consultant made the comment that Mr. Trump is not the problem when it comes to civility and such but only a reflection of our times. He insinuated that all of this hateful rhetoric and actions are now endemic in our society. It is the new norm! I totally reject that idea. Saner minds will once again rule this country.

But I do admit that when things get as dark as they are many of us go into the self-preservation mode which of course means primarily looking out for ourselves and things that personally affect us. That is not a mode to be in for an extended period of time but sometimes it is necessary to maintain our sanity. I know I personally don’t give much of a hoot on what happens in the rest of the world right now.  As long as I have my social security and Medicare I will be satiated for now.  If those are threatened, and they just might be in the months and years ahead, I will spring like a cornered cat to defend my way of life. Sadly, I am in the self-survival mode right now.  I can’t see anything good coming from the narcissist in the Oval Office so I am just praying that he doesn’t do too much permanent damage before saner minds control our world.

This is a sad state to be in my final years but that is as it is.  I can only hope and pray for brighter tomorrows….

 

 

Making Government Accountable

It was at least a little comforting to see how the limited elections worked out last week. You might call it a slight silver lining in the very dark cloud presently hanging over America.  We can only hope to see the same thing on a much larger scale a year from now.

But, as far as I am concerned both parties have a lot to be blamed for these times.  They have learned from each other that total obstruction pays dividends in the “next” election. It would go a long way toward solving many of our current problems if the people finally get disgusted with the current office holders and vote them out.  Is this current gridlock mode really the answer to making the government once again accountable to the people? Of course the answer is a big NO.

I think it’s time to make some wholesale changes to our electoral processes. Both parties seem to have lost their founding principles but still have their own way of trying to keep their base in line. Here is a quote about that:

By and large, the two parties have very different performance routines they employ to build and sustain their voting coalitions. The GOP will tell you that the Democrats are a bunch of godless socialists who want to quash all individual initiative. Democrats will assure you that the GOP is a party of oligarchic theocrats who want to give all your money to the rich and make you go to church….

Source: Learn American History to Make Government Accountable | National Review

We need to send an unequivocal message and the way to do that is to not give our vote to either party until they put their house in order. It’s time for more of us to vote for the independent candidate. Nothing will change until we give the current two parties a message that they cannot ignore.

Even voting independent in the short term has an almost immediate effect. If we just had a half dozen senators who were not beholden to either party they could drive an agenda for the common good since they would control who gets the majority vote.  Now if only there are enough forward looking voters out there to do their part.  I realize that my State of Indiana is VERY red so I don’t hold out much hope for an independent running here but I do plan on financially supporting independent candidates wherever I can find them next year.

Let’s not throw in the towel simply because times are difficult right now. Instead let’s work to change things. Yes, there will always be those narrow minded voters who are driven by fear and hate but we the majority can keep them on the sidelines if only we have the will.

A Little More Cheery…

I decided to let my creative juices flow a little more lately and attacked my blog header to make it a little more cheery. I know most of you guys probably don’t even notice the header but I don’t think you can avoid this one. 🙂  There is enough in the world today that is simply awful dreary. We need to let the sun shine more in our lives. This is a meager attempt to do a little of that.

The main themes for my blog are “Question Everything” and my “InSearchOfAmerica” project.  I am adding another theme to that list and it is about complaining.  It seems that everyone, me included, has a myriad of things to complain about in this world today.  Lord knows with the narcissist in the Oval Office our complaints in many areas are certainly justified. Additionally, for decades now the quality of life continues going down instead of up for many of us. We have a right to complain about that but what good does just complaining do?

2017-11-11_09-24-18.pngComplaining without doing something about it is just having a pity party or just plain whining.  The upper right side of the header has the same message just in a different way.  Complaining is not a conversation after all.  So if you insists on complaining then you also need to start doing something constructive about your complaints. Offer solutions instead of just whining. No one likes whiners.

Looking at this from a higher level, one of the worst things you can do with your life is to live it in negativity. Until you find something to be enthusiastic about, your life often lacks purpose. Maybe you need to turn off your TV and look around you for things to be thankful for. Just don’t dwell on the negative too frequently.

Of course I need to take my own advice in this area and I am trying to do just that.  I have a lot to be thankful for. But ignoring the problems around me is not the answer either.  Facing them head on with a personal action plan no matter how meager is much better than just whining about them.  That is one of my new mantras in life. I seem to have many of those don’t I?  I guess you could call this new resolve an early New Year’s resolution but since those are most often forgotten I don’t want to do that. I’ll just call it a new perspective… how about that?

About Atonement..

One of the current foundations of the Christianity is the atonement. Generally that is thought to be Jesus taking the wrath of God for us with his substitutional crucifixion in order to appease God wrath toward man’s sinfulness.  I, like many others I’m sure, thought that atonement was a foundational issue with Jesus and the early church.  In reality it was post-Constantine theologians who gave us the doctrine of original sin and the blood atonement, the belief that Jesus came to earth solely for the purpose of dying for our sins, was a doctrine not fully developed in the church until the tenth century.  It was almost upsetting to me to learn this fact since so many of my inherited beliefs hinged on it.

We all like to think that the things we are told to believe about Jesus  were actually established by him.  In reality the idea of atonement was not settled until centuries after his death. Yes, Jesus mentioned here and there about dying for us but I don’t now believe it was ever a central theme. Even the concept of man’s innate sinfulness is still a matter for disagreements.  Are we born bad and must be saved, as some assert, or are we born good, as others maintain, but have forgotten where we came from, where we are going, and to whom we belong? Was the death of Jesus on the cross necessary for the salvation of the world or was he here for other, or maybe additional. purposes?

Many think that if we disregard sacrificial atonement then we must throw Christianity out the window as Jesus’ death meant nothing.  To those the idea of universal salvation is pure heresy. But to others, like Philip Gulley it meant no such thing.  They believe that while it was unnecessary for God to come in the form of Jesus to kill himself, Jesus’ time on earth was to among other things to teach us how to live and how to love. While that purpose is very encompassing he also physically conquered death by his resurrection. That is no small thing!

Sacrificial atonement is something that I have always had trouble understanding. Why would God need to take on another form and kill himself to satisfy is own wrath?  Robin Meyers in his book entitled “The Underground Church” stated:

It is no coincidence that it took as long for the idea of the blood atonement to be fully formed as it took for Christians artists to begin to show us an image of the corpse of Jesus hanging on a cross.

No dead Jesus for a thousand years. This is not to say that the suffering of Jesus is unimportant; indeed it bears witness to the depth of his capacity to Love

It is not widely acknowledged in many Christian churches just how unresolved the issue of atonement is. It continues to be widely discussed even today.

Creativity In Tin.

The tinsmiths of our early years were certainly a creative bunch. They fabricated many of the utensils we needed to live everyday life. Here are some pictures of one such shop found in the Nauvoo Village in northern Illinois.

Tin Smiths

Tin Smiths-2

Small Town America

Abandoned Small Towns-2.jpgMy InSearchOfAmerica project takes me through literally thousands of small towns that once had a population a few hundred or less, and the vast majority of them are basically hollow shells of what they once were.  We have to face the fact that “small town America” is a thing of the past. It was a 20th century phenomenon that simply outlived its time.

When most of us worked on the farm it took a substantial local infrastructure to maintain our lives. We needed a place to buy and repair our farm implements, to buy our groceries, fill up our tanks, and get our haircuts.  Of course small towns were the answer. Now that only a small fraction still work in agriculture that infrastructure is settling in the dustbin of the ages.  No amount of “Make America Great Again” will bring it back.

It often gets depressing to go through so many basically abandoned towns where nothing is there but a post office and a few homes. If I let these abandoned towns get to me I falsely come to believe that America is in decline but in reality the scenario has just changed. Unfortunately too many people are left in places where prosperity is no longer possible.  The Malaise caused by this condition is perhaps one of the primary reasons of our current political condition.

Abandoned Small Towns-4Being a US history nut, the one thing I have come to realize is that the road ahead is often much different than the roads already traveled. Things change and if we don’t change with them then we face a bleak future of longing for a past that never really existed instead of embracing a future of possibilities. It is up to each of us to do what is necessary to stay current in the world so that we can still believe that anything is possible.

What to do about small town America is perhaps the question for our times. Do we just continue to subsidize those who have chosen not to move to other opportunities? Do we accept the fact that poverty is an endemic part of our historic landscape?  I am a social progressive for the most part but I think that sometimes we need to force people to do what they should have done in the first place.  If you want to live in an isolated area by all means do so but don’t think its others responsibility to help you to try to maintain a past lifestyle.

Abandoned Small Towns-3Small town America is for the most part a thing of the past…. Once we accept that idea we can move on to solving problems due to the migration from rural to urban areas.

 

Your Vote Counts, But…

I am an ultra-advocate to the rights and privileges of voting.  If you don’t vote then you should have no say in what your representatives do in Washington.  Sadly, we are one of the lowest participatory democracies in the world.  Less than half of those eligible to vote in any election usually choose to do so.  When that happens we allow a small minority to choose our elected officials.  That is certainly what happened in 2016.

An unlikely coalition of estranged fringe groups eerily chose our president. For the most part the uninformed masses coalesced into an unchallenged voting block. Will this continue going forward? Will the “Pitchforks at the Palace” be the norm in the future? I guess only time will tell. But I kinda think that eventually saner minds will prevail once again.

2017-11-05_10-12-50.pngBut let me get to the point of this post now. Those of us who spend hours studying the candidates to determine who we will vote for  seem to think that somehow our vote is more important than the guy who blindly voted for someone who simply says what he wants to hear. Does our informed vote count more than that guy’s?  Of course the answer is no.  Every vote counts the same no matter how wisely or ignorantly it was cast.  That is the foundation of a democracy.  But does it have to be?

If you get “F”s on your tests in your school you fail the grade and have to take it again.  At least in theory that is. Ha.  If you don’t pass your driver’s test you don’t get a license to drive. So, how come you have a right to vote no matter how miserably you would fail a basic citizenship test? Isn’t voting for someone to run of our country more important than that?

If I follow this logic to another extremely important area of life I could claim that you have to pass a parenting course before you can have children.  There are just too many kids brought into this world by people who have absolutely no idea of what it takes to raise a child.

Your vote counts, but……

Madison Indiana

In Search Of America — My InSearchOfAmerica has taken me to Madison Indiana on several occasions.  The most recent trip was in August of 2016 when I snapped the following gallery of pictures.  With so many small towns  that are dead or dying  it is nice to see some flourishing. Madison Indiana is on the Ohio River and once gained its livelihood from barge traffic.

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

I think I need to explain all the hog butts in one of these pictures.  I got to town a couple of days after a major event based around pork BBQ.  They were gathering up all the decorated plastic pigs that adorned the main street for that event.

Lost Dreams..

It is important to take stock in all the good things we have had. But it is also worthwhile to recognize the opportunities we might have missed. In the past I have told many stories about how, after very humble beginnings, I have had a pretty privileged life.  This post is about the things I might have missed. So, here is that story.

The bible says something about not worrying about tomorrow or the past, but just live in today. Those always seemed like wise words to me but being I question everything they also sometimes seem like stifling words. Maybe worrying about tomorrow is not a good thing but not dreaming of it is something else.

Me at the age of 18.jpgI must admit that while I claim to be a dreamer, much of my life wasn’t as fully engaged in that mode as I would have liked. I too often kinda let things just happen instead of chasing me dreams. That is a sad commentary for a 70+ year old to have to make but it is as it is.

I knew from a very young age that I loved to read books, especially the non-fiction type where I learned to admire others and make them heroes in my life.  I knew I loved to think and rethink stories. Even as a pre-teen I wrote many stories but they like  Simon & Garfunkel’s Sounds of Silence they were songs written but voices never heard, my stories had a readership of one.

I knew I was passionate about the written word but never really let it be part of my dreams. Instead I let others tell me what to pursue in life.  My dad wanted to be an engineer so I decided to be one for him.  I never allowed myself to dream of anything else or maybe I just didn’t have a clue.

My middle years were driven by my occupation. Engineering is not about dreaming but instead about equations, proofs and fact. Dreams had little to do with it.  I lived my middle years just concentrating on today. What was the job at hand? I simply didn’t allow myself to look for other possibilities. The draw of a constant paycheck  kept me in place. So, for the most part I had unfulfilled dreams.

Now as I look back on my life, I regret not dreaming enough and not especially not acting on the ones I had.  I look at my life and realize that it could have been quite different if I had allowed my dreams even a small level of realization. I know that the fault of this is totally my own. No one pushed those dreams from my head.

All this is not to say that I had an unhappy life. Except for my pre-college years I never wanted material things that I couldn’t have. I have a wife who I probably don’t deserve and some valuable friends along the way. It is just that my life could have been better if I had had the courage to dream a little more.

 

China And The US.. A Perfect Storm..

To get started, let’s look at how Wikipedia  defines “a perfect storm”:

A “perfect storm” is an expression that describes an event where a rare combination of circumstances will aggravate a situation drastically.

I think the idea of a perfect storm is where we likely are in world events today.  China is aching to take over as “the” world leader while at the same time the current US administration is shrinking into a protectionist mode and recklessly abandoning its responsibilities in that regard. We are headed for a perfect storm and much sooner than many might anticipate.

Let’s look at some of the circumstances that is making this change of leadership possible:

2017-10-23_11-07-47.pngIf you have had your head in the sand as far as China is concerned you need to look at it in the light of today.  They are spending way more than the US when it comes to infrastructure. Their hydroelectric projects alone dwarf anything that we are doing.  Their GDP growth makes our’s seem miniscule. In fact the coming year will see China’s GDP exceed ours and the trend is ever increasing after that. It is expected that China’s GDP will be double ours within four years.

China is pushing big time to be the world leader in electric cars, solar and wind power. They realize that is the future of our energy needs. Building the world’s largest hydroelectric dam was the beginning of this movement to a limitless clean energy source. Since things are moving at such a rapid pace in these technologies I fret to see the damage that the current federal administration will do in the 38 months they have left in office.  I just hope that America’s private enterprise at  least makes a meager attempt to keep up with China in this area.  If they don’t we could be in serious trouble in the coming decades and maybe centuries.

In summary, maybe our time as world leaders has appropriately come to an end.   Rome had their day, England had theirs, so maybe it is time for the mantel to pass. If China is to take over that role I hope the their leaders are up to the task. Obviously ours have not been lately.

The Bible As A History Book..

I think I have let it be known that I view the Bible as a history book of the early period of Christianity. As such maybe it needs to be updated from time to time? New chapters need to be written and old ones modified to more accurately reflect information found.

The Bible was put together about 400 years after the death of Jesus. It was primarily assembled under the oversight of a Roman Emperor who intended to use it as a guide for his kingdom. It contained several of the ancient documents found at the time but by no means all of them. Some of the ancient documents just didn’t seem to align with what the emperor wanted. There was and continues to be today questions about the authorship of many of the established documents. It is now generally accepted that many of the people given credit for the authorship of the various documents didn’t really write them but instead they were written by the people who were inspired by those early Christians. Anyone who cares to look at the bible with critical analysis techniques sees these inconsistencies.  There is nothing wrong with that as they, as with any human endeavour, are not perfect.

There are some who seem to believe that after the Bible was assembled God no longer had anything to say to us.  My Quaker friends totally reject this idea and so do I. God teaches me new things on a daily basis it seems. The Bible was only the beginning of that wisdom transfer.

Wouldn’t it have been interesting if every four hundred year a biblical council such as the one in fifth century were to have been convened to add additional documents and maybe correct some things in previous versions? I guess in a way that is what Roman Catholics say is the Pope’s job.  He keeps God’s word relevant for the times. I personally doubt that this can be accomplished via a single human being. even with a massive hierarchy.

The biggest change to the church came from the Protestant Reformation five hundred years ago.  Since that time we have gone from a handful of Christian organizations to literally tens of thousands.  Every time a church body has any serious conflict their answer it is to split into another version of Christianity and then claim they are the only ones who have it right. Another major problem I perceive with the  Protestant variety is that they tend to fixate on rules set down by Paul instead of the stories and lessons of Jesus.  Let’s just face it head on, the church Jesus founded morphed into something that even he would not recognize. But that is another post…

 

Simplicity..

I thought I would make this post the epitome of simplicity.  What 19th or early 20th century home could live without a 25 lb can of lard.  If 25 lbs is not enough how about an 80 lb can? It goes really good on crackers I hear. I just love taking pictures of old time containers, these were found in Madison Indiana a few years ago.

Food ContainersFood Containers-2Food Containers-3