I Don’t Have Adobe Flash….

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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. Read more

It Is Not Just “All Talk”….

 

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

SmileWe 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.

Thomas Edison hologram chats at Detroit Auto Show…

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.

Republicans and Innate Goodness….

Source: https://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?

Why Pentagon won’t say how it would cut $55 billion

 

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…..

 

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….

Wordle….. Behind The Speeches….

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….

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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…

FCNL Logo 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…

Leaving Some Things Unsaid….

FranklinRemember not only to say the right thing in the right place, but far more difficult still, to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment. ~ Ben Franklin

I have read several books about Ben Franklin. He is certainly a fascinating character  but he is generally not one of my favorite founding fathers. He led a pretty pretentious life and was probably one of the original “dirty old men” 😉  But his words above do inspire me. More importantly they help me keep my mouth shut on occasion. On this blog, and in life in general, I seek just the right words to say something, especially something I am passionate about. I often look to say the right thing in the right place.

But in the spur of the moment I often say things that are maybe best left unsaid. Given what I have read about Franklin, he also didn’t do a very good job of taking his own advice. I admit that one of my worst traits is to speak before I think. Maybe that is why I love blogging so much. It allows me to temper my words before they become public and believe it or not most of my posts are tempered.

It seems that many in public life also need to learn this lesson of leaving some things unsaid. I just watched a little of the grilling of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton  before a Senate committee about the embassy attack of last September that resulted in four deaths.  I was amazed how well she kept her cool during the vitriol words  from Senators McCain and Paul. Criticism is one thing that has its place but when it is done for primarily political  or self-seeking purposes it degrades the speaker.

And then of course there are the marital spats that all of us have from time to time. (I’m not the only one who has them am I?).  In the heat of the moment we often say some pretty cruel things to our spouses that should never have left our lips.  We all need to learn to let somethings remain unsaid especially with those we love.

Thanks Ben for these inspiring words…..

No Other Gods Before Me……..

Sojourners1 Children should bury their parents; parents should not have to bury their kids. Pastors should conduct funerals for the elderly, not for children killed by gun violence. When the proper order of things keeps getting turned around, something is wrong. The ongoing epidemic of shootings – whether in an elementary school or on city streets – shows something in our society has gone terribly amiss.

The problems are obvious, which makes the lack of action by our leaders morally unconscionable. Politicians have refused to enact common-sense gun laws that prevent dangerous people from getting weapons to kill large numbers of people, because they fear the power and influence of the National Rifle Association. When the NRA receives millions of dollars in funding from gun manufacturers, their interest is protecting profits even at the cost of innocent life. 

This is not a debate about the Second Amendment. It is about the idolatry of guns – the worship of weapons of mass murder.

Quote DividerThe Above message is from my friends at Sojourners

My Favorite Vacation Place…

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Mesa Verde 2Yet another picture of my favorite vacation place and that is Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado. You get good exercise hiking to the many ruins and when you get there it has a definite spiritual quality. I enjoy just sitting at the ruins and taking it all in.

Why the US military is fighting with the NRA…

via Gun control: Why the US military is fighting with the NRA – CSMonitor.com.

US military commanders are trying to cope with an epidemic of suicides within the armed forces.  Officials say they are frustrated by a recent law, backed by the NRA, that makes it difficult to talk to soldiers about personally owned firearms.

The NRA typically comes out in the full attack mode anytime they come across someone who disagrees with the total unfettered right of people to have as many and any type of weapon they might desire.  It is quite amazing that the NRA is picking a fight with the largest holder of guns in the world and that is our military establishment.

There is a rash of suicides in the armed forces now and they want  to be sure that soldiers that show signs of killing themselves do not have ready access to a gun. I just don’t understand why those supposedly five million people who are members of the NRA are not complaining about the leaders of that organization?  I certainly don’t think all five million of them are nut cases who have multiple stashes of weapons and ammunitions.  If they are, as some suppose, mostly people who just enjoy hunting and killing animals as recreation why would they be supporting such radicals as their leaders.

Another thing I can’t understand is why the NRA has so much supposed power. Their total membership make up about  1.5% of the population? Why are so many afraid of them. I imagine that Michael Bloomberg alone has more money than these guys ever dream of having so where does their might come from?

A Call for a New Social Covenant

Jim WallisI got another of those wrenching emails from my friend Jim Wallis over at Sojourners. He sends out a weekly email entitled “Hearts & Minds”.  Here is part of the content:

In the past 20 years, the world has witnessed the death of social contracts. We have seen a massive breakdown in trust between citizens, their economies, and their governments. In our own country, we can point to years of data painting a bleak picture of the confidence Americans have in any of our traditional institutions.

Former assumptions and shared notions about fairness, agreements, reciprocity, mutual benefits, social values, and expected futures have all but disappeared. The collapse of financial systems and the resulting economic crisis not only have caused instability, insecurity, and human pain; they have also generated a growing disbelief and fundamental distrust in the way things operate and how decisions are made. 

Sometimes we just don’t see the forest for the trees so to speak. So, when I saw the words above I was almost shocked with their simplicity. Could it really be that simple that we have just lost trust in each other to do what we think is right?

In our country one group doesn’t trust the other to not give away the country to those who are gaming the system. In return that group does not trust the other to not jerk the safety net out from senior citizens and the helpless.  As a result of the mutual distrust we have lost almost any sense of shared values. We no longer trust our government and almost everything else  for that matter. This lack of trust is not only a U.S. thing, it is a world-wide problem.

Is it even possible to restore a lost trust?  The final paragraph in this email maybe points us to a way to finding solutions:

Lack of trust is bad for politics, bad for business, and bad for overall public morale. It undermines people’s sense of participation in society as well as their feelings of social responsibility, and makes them feel isolated and alone—more worried about survival than interested in solidarity. Because the “contract” was broken, a sense of “covenant” is now needed, fused with a sense of moral values and commitments. And the process of formulating new social covenants could be an important part of finding solutions. 

To me a covenant is more than just a signed agreement between two parties as its definition implies. It is more along the lines of the biblical covenant between God and us that he will never forsake us.  The email is mainly about the World Economic Forum now taking place in Davos, Switzerland. The forum is looking to the future and asking “what now?”  It is  kicking off a year-long global conversation about a new “social covenant” between citizens, governments, and businesses. I will be watching for news about it.

I’m not much of a believer in forums, committees, and such actually accomplishing anything of the magnitude needed to address this issue but maybe a single spark from the forum could just kick off a world-wide event. We can only pray that it be so….

Jefferson And The Gospels….

This is a continuation of our study of Thomas Jefferson to discount the belief that he intended the United States to be a Christian nation. He started out and spent much of his life as a deist. That is he believed in the presence of God in the world but did not proclaim it as a Christian presence. Later in life after he was president he undertook a serious study of the Christian Bible and other religious documents.

He took this study to the point of making his own version of the New Testament. Many are confused by the Jefferson Bible. They wonder why he as a faithful Christian would even attempt to redo such a holy document. Below is part of the explanation why he did this:

JeffersonThe whole history of these books [the Gospels] is so defective and doubtful that it seems vain to attempt minute enquiry into it: and such tricks have been played with their text, and with the texts of other books relating to them, that we have a right, from that cause, to entertain much doubt what parts of them are genuine. In the New Testament there is internal evidence that parts of it have proceeded from an extraordinary man; and that other parts are of the fabric of very inferior minds. It is as easy to separate those parts, as to pick out diamonds from dunghills.  —Thomas Jefferson, letter to John Adams, January 24, 1814.

Jefferson was a person who took things seriously when he decided to get involved in something. He spent many months studying Scriptures and current church doctrine before he came to the above conclusions.  It is no small statement to say that his words above go very counter to many versions of current day Christianity. But it turns out that two hundred years later there is a large and growing group of Christians called Emergents that are coming to much the same conclusion that he did.

The emergent movement, like Jefferson, proclaims that scriptures are very valuable part of Christianity but are not God breathed or without man’s fingerprints.  These words above are very typical of Jefferson, he did not parse words when it come to disagreements with man-made beliefs or institutions.

Jefferson sincerely embraced the “diamond” parts bible as being truly inspiring writing by extraordinary men but as he said other parts were “dung”.