Tiny Houses…

One of my favorite type shows on TV lately is about tiny houses. That is home less than 400 square feet. It seems that tiny houses are becoming a strong national trend and I can certainly understand why on several levels. They are simply more attuned to 21st century living than the current monoliths that most of us at least in the U.S. live in. Let’s start out with some words from Wikipedia:

The tiny house movement (also known as the “small house movement” is a description for the architectural and social movement that advocates living simply in small homes. There is currently no set definition of what constitutes a tiny house; however, a residential structure under 500 square feet is generally accepted to be a tiny home.

2016-12-09_20-30-11.pngIn the United States the average size of new single family homes grew from 1,780 square feet in 1978 to 2,479 square feet in 2007, and to 2,662 square feet  in 2013, despite a decrease in the size of the average family. Reasons for this include increased material wealth and prestige.

The small house movement is a return to houses of less than 1,000 square feet…

Sarah Susanka has been credited with starting the recent countermovement toward smaller houses when she published The Not So Big House (1997).  Earlier pioneers include Lloyd Kahn, author of Shelter (1973) and Lester Walker, author of Tiny Houses (1987). Henry David Thoreau and the publication of his book Walden is also quoted as early inspiration.

Source: Tiny house movement – Wikipedia

Even with the near zero interest rates of today the average house in the U.S. costs in excess of $250,000 and that is a large chunk of most people’s income. When the utilities needed to support these structures is taken into account along with taxes and insurance they cause a major burden for most families.

Click on the image to see a more readable version

I was forty years of age before I bought my first house. Back then you needed at least 10% down before you could qualify for a double digit mortgage so that kept many of out the housing market for years. I was also a bachelor and having a mortgage just didn’t appeal to me. To the right is a graphic that helps explain why the movement is gaining so much traction. But I kind of think it makes sense on even more levels. It has been widely stated that the average person will change jobs seven times during his working live. Since job markets move pretty frequently from one part of the country to another it makes no sense to buy a house and then take a 7%+ hit along with closing costs when you need to sell it. Having a portable small house allows for more easy movement to where the jobs are.

I have this strong feeling that we, especially in the U.S., are now much too addicted to our “stuff”. We never have enough.  One of the most successful small businesses now are the personal storage facilities found in almost every community in the country. Even our 2,000+ square foot houses are not big enough to hold all our stuff.  We need to get over that feeling and living in a 200 square foot house would go a long way toward that happening.

I wish I could move into one but my wife has too much stuff that she is not willing to part with. 🙂

VACANCY — Looking For a Leader of the Free World..

For the last 70 years or so the job of “Leader of the Free World” was automatically bestowed on the person occupying the Oval Office. That just doesn’t seem to be possible this time around. The person in that room is simply too erratic in his nature to assume that mantle even though I am sure HE thinks it is a worthy of that title. Yes, we in the U.S. somehow elected him but he was not the choice of the rest of the world.

The world leader needs to be someone who doesn’t fixate on pettiness of such things as how many people came to his swearing in ceremony. The leader of the free world is a person who tells you the truth when he speaks and doesn’t state beliefs that have absolutely no basis in fact such as illegal votes by the millions against him.  He is aware that even his off-the-cuff remarks can cost lives. He is a person of believability and trustworthiness. Who in the world can take up that mantle now? Certainly not the person in the Oval Office…..


The Danger of a Dominant Identity aka Labels

David Brooks is perhaps my favorite news columnist. He just has a way of understanding  the heart of the matter. I don’t usually miss a Friday PBS Newshour show where he and Mark Shields discuss the week. In order to make sure I see all his articles I just started an e-subcription to the New York Times.  Here is what he says about dominant identity:

We’re even seeing a wave of voluntary reductionism. People feel besieged, or they’re intellectually lazy, so they reduce themselves to one category. Being an evangelical used to mean practicing a certain form of faith. But “evangelical” has gone from being an adjective to a noun, a simplistic tribal identity that commands Republican affiliation….

The only way out of this mess is to continually remind ourselves that each human is a conglomeration of identities: ethnic, racial, professional, geographic, religious and so on. Even each identity itself is not one thing but a tradition of debate about the meaning of that identity. Furthermore, the dignity of each person is not found in the racial or ethnic category that each has inherited, but in the moral commitments that each individual has chosen and lived out. Getting out of this mess also means accepting the limits of social science. The judgments of actual voters are better captured in the narratives of journalism and historical analysis than in the brutalizing correlations of big data…

But there has to be a rejection of single-identity thinking and a continual embrace of the reality that each of us is a mansion with many rooms.

Source: The Danger of a Dominant Identity – The New York Times

I have to admit up front that the word Evangelical is a very negative one for me.  It means only caring about one issue and abandoning everything that Christianity really means to me.  Being an Evangelical, like the word liberal, was once a noble label to wear proudly but it has now come to mean a completely different thing.

I am a person of many labels. I could probably fill up the rest of my 500 word limit on this post with them. Yes my labels are primarily things I am passionate about; I will simply not be defined by any one of them alone.  But as David Brooks says above too many have done just that and almost hang their total being on one label.  Are they just intellectually lazy as he suggests?  I kind of think so.

When we fix labels to people it is just easier to put them on one particular cubby hole and disregard the rest of the person.

  • If you are deaf you must therefore be dumb. I run across this one quite frequently.
  • If you are a liberal you must be a Communist or at least a Socialist.
  • If you are a Christian you must be anti-science.
  • If you voted for Trump are either a narrow minded Evangelical or a card carrying member of the KKK and bent on the destruction of our country.

Labels allow us to put each other into very small boxes that are easier to despise and hate. To identify with a dominant identity is to belittle ourselves. It takes work to step back and see the total person. The intellectually lazy will never make the effort. But I hold out hope that most of us can see beyond the labels people attach to us.

I am a dreamer in that, and many other regards I guess….

Part 8 – How Did We Get Here — History Lessons – The KKK

One part of what is happening today is reminiscent of the 1920s when rural America was feeling threatened by the movement from farm to city brought on by the Industrial Revolution happening around the world. One of the groups many rural people clung to for relief was the reinvented KKK. Here is a story about that:

In its second incarnation, the Klan moved beyond just targeting blacks, and broadened its message of hate to include Catholics, Jews and foreigners. The Klan promoted fundamentalism and devout patriotism along with advocating white supremacy. They blasted bootleggers, motion pictures and espoused a return to “clean” living. Appealing to folks uncomfortable with the shifting nature of America from a rural agricultural society to an urban industrial nation, the Klan attacked the elite, urbanites and intellectuals.

2016-12-20_09-30-01.pngTheir message struck a cord, and membership in the Klan ballooned in the 1920s. By the middle of the decade, estimates for national membership in this secret organization ranged from three million to as high as eight million Klansmen. And membership was not limited to the poor and uneducated on society’s fringes. Mainstream, middle-class Americans donned the white robes of the Klan too. …

In the 1920s, the Klan moved in many states to dominate local and state politics. The Klan devised a strategy called the “decade,” in which every member of the Klan was responsible for recruiting ten people to vote for Klan candidates in elections. In 1924 the Klan succeeded in engineering the elections of officials from coast to coast, including the mayors of Portland, Maine, and Portland, Oregon. In some states, such as Colorado and Indiana, they placed enough Klansmen in positions of power to effectively control the state government.

Source: The Ku Klux Klan in the 1920s . Fatal Flood . WGBH American Experience | PBS

The KKK almost totally dominated my very rural State of Indiana during those years. While the stock markets were increasing daily the hinterland was just not part of that prosperity. The KKK promised that they would make America a White Christian Nation again.  They would do w2016-12-20_09-33-06.pnghatever they could to maintain the past in face of a  overtaking future.  Although they never had a national ticket the KKK thrived at State levels. They controlled the governor’s office and most of the legislature in Indiana.

Even when I was a young lad in the 1960s the KKK still had a presence in my small Indiana town. I can remember seeing crosses burning west of town during their meetings.  When a black couple moved into the town their house burned down within a week. They left and for the duration of my time in that town no other minority dared to try to take up residence.

It was not until I left for college that I found out that the rest of the world was much more diverse than my small town. I have seen where in the last year the KKK has tripled its membership and they proudly boost of their contribution in the latest election. I don’t think, or maybe I should say pray, that their membership will never reach the point it was one hundred years ago. If we get to that point then maybe we deserve to go down in ashes.



About Fascism…

Some are calling the coming years as being about fascism. The world seems to be so obsessed with fear in one form or another to cause it to turn to fascism. The Trump election is a significant sign in that direction. So, for this post I decided to tackle just was fascism is about and to look its past for possible indication to the future.

Lets start of with what Wikipedia says about it:

Fascism opposes liberalism, Marxism and anarchism and is usually placed on the far-right within the traditional left–right spectrum. …

Fascists believe that liberal democracy is obsolete, and they regard the complete mobilization of society under a totalitarian one-party state as necessary to prepare a nation for armed conflict and to respond effectively to economic difficulties.   Such a state is led by a strong leader—such as a dictator and a martial government composed of the members of the governing fascist party—to forge national unity and maintain a stable and orderly society Fascism rejects assertions that violence is automatically negative in nature, and views political violence, war, and imperialism as means that can achieve national rejuvenation.  Fascists advocate a mixed economy, with the principal goal of achieving autarky (economic independence) through protectionist and interventionist economic policies. …

2016-12-10_09-18-45.pngRobert Paxton says that fascism is “a form of political behavior marked by obsessive preoccupation with community decline, humiliation, or victimhood and by compensatory cults of unity, energy, and purity, in which a mass-based party of committed nationalist militants, working in uneasy but effective collaboration with traditional elites, abandons democratic liberties and pursues with redemptive violence and without ethical or legal restraints goals of internal cleansing and external expansion.”…

In Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany, both Mussolini and Hitler pursued territorial expansionist and interventionist foreign policy agendas from the 1930s through the 1940s culminating in World War II.

Source: Fascism – Wikipedia

The above quotes are just pieces from the article to start our conversation.  I “bolded” the topics I want to discuss.

Fascism is a one-party government led by a dictator who has almost supreme control. He is almost thought to be the savior of the world by the fascists.  Fascism is primarily about an obsessive preoccupation with community decline. Doesn’t that sound an awfully like the rhetoric coming from the Trump camp during the campaign. “Make America Great Again” insinuates that we have lost our ability to do what is right and need a strong leader to put us back on the right track. Read more

The Death Watch For Another Brick and Mortar Establishment…

About this time last century quickly finding the horse and buggy business evaporating.  They had been left behind when the automobile was invented a couple of decades before.  At about the same time a startup called Sears Roebuck and Company was taking business away from many local mom and pop stores. Is Sears and their similar competitors facing extinction here in the beginnings of the 21st century?

Quick: Name a reason to shop at Sears.If you’re struggling to identify one, you’re not alone; even the company’s web team can’t figure it out. On Thursday, the company’s virtual storefront featured home appliances, a pool table, exercise equipment, watches, men’s jeans and a snow blower. A photo advertising a women’s knit sweater was positioned next to a WeedWacker…

Sears Holdings, which owns Sears and Kmart, reported on Thursday a loss of $748 million for the three months ending on Oct. 29. This is the company’s 20th consecutive quarterly loss, and worse than the $454 million loss the company posted in the same period last year….

This leaves Sears President and CEO Edward Lampert, the billionaire hedge funder and Ayn Rand devotee, with gaping holes in his leadership team as he continues his Sisyphean task of rescuing Sears from irrelevance. While predictions of the Sears collapse have been heard for years, the numbers are starting to show that the company is running out of options.

Source: Sears death watch update: Is it time to prepare an obit for our least-essential department store? – Salon.com

Read more

Our Times – The Cities vs Hinterland

OurTimes Banner.png

One of the major splits in the current American society is between the cities and the rural areas. This is obvious when you look at the latest election map. There are vast geographical areas of red with blue concentrations spread out around the country. Obviously the blue dots are concentrated around the cities and large towns while the red is mainly sparsely populated areas.

I am not really sure what the “red” folks hope to achieve with their selection of an extreme narcissist billionaire as president? Maybe it has something to do with one of the below categories?

Abandoned small towns — I have literally traveled thousands of mile on local and State highways in this country.  For the most part they are littered with thousands of abandoned small towns. They were once enclaves for the people of the surrounding area but as the farming populations naturally decreased they lost their purpose. All that remains in many of them is a local post office. Read more

About Life Long Learning 

If you were an employee on Henry Ford’s assembly line in Detroit in the 1920s, you received a high degree of training and preparation before you ever set foot in the factory. You learned what your role was, and were given all the tools you needed to accomplish your job from Day One. From then on, your role never changed—you did your part to move a product forward along the assembly line, from the day you began until the day you retired, 40 or 50 years later.

Since those days, the business world has transformed — everything that can be automated has been automated. The fourth industrial revolution is upon us, with the forces of AI, robotics, and 3D printing disrupting the status quo and pushing outdated processes into oblivion. The Ford factory workers’ jobs have largely been turned over to machines.

But the workforce training process hasn’t kept up with the pace of change.

The education that the workforce received was designed in the previous industrial age: front-loaded for first 20 years, and expected to apply to their jobs for the next 40 to 50 years. Today, we are in the knowledge economy, and there is new knowledge we are required to learn and apply daily. How can we future-proof our workforces to help them prepare for the rapid pace of business transformation?

Source: In a knowledge economy corporate learning is necessary to survive | TechCrunch

Like many things in the world today our education system needs a major overhaul. To assume that education stops after the first twenty years or so just doesn’t jive with our now ever-changing world. Education is still in the mode aligned with getting a good “factory” job out of high school and then settling down into a comfortable middle class life.  That philosophy might have worked fifty years ago but not now. Read more

In the Name of Jesus, Stop Executions

I am thoroughly pro-life in all its forms.  Yes, abortion kills a living being but so does war and executions. Pro-life means believing in the sanctity of life before and after birth. Jesus made that pretty clear in his teachings and I intend to follow him in that and most all other regards.

Some folks will argue that the death penalty is necessary for the most heinous crimes, the “worst of the worst.” But it is increasingly clear that when it comes to executions in America, we are not killing the worst of the worst. We are killing the poorest of the poor. One of the best determinants of who gets executed is not the atrocity of the crime, but the resources of the defendant. As renowned death penalty lawyer Bryan Stevenson has said, “Far too often, you are better off being rich and guilty, than poor and innocent.”….

Geography often determines who dies. Texas is the death state, accounting for roughly half of all executions. This year six of the 15 executions in the U.S. were in Texas, and every remaining execution of 2016 is in this one state…

It blows my mind and breaks my heart that we continue to trust our very imperfect government with the ultimate and irreversible power of life and death. It is time to end the death penalty in America. In the name of Jeff Wood. And in th2016-08-20_06-47-21e name of another executed man … named Jesus.


Source: In the Name of Jesus, Stop Executions – Red Letter Christians

It is amazing to me that one State is responsibly for half the executions in this country.  What is it about Texas that makes it the execution capital of the world? Why are they so intent on vengeance, even wrongfully pointed vengeance? There must be something significantly different about the people in that region of the country than the rest of us. Anyone who has read many of my posts know I don’t have much respect for the State of Texas. For being such a bible-thumping State they just don’t seem to care about people, especially people different from them.

Geography,  race, and wealth,  have much more to do with who dies by execution than the type of crime committed. Thanks again Shane for helping me remember that….


Why America’s good fortune won’t last

All we seem to hear lately is how the bottom rung of the employment ladder is stuck at dreadfully low conditions. Part of that of course is the low minimum wage level. Historically, mainly due to GOP gridlock, it has not been increased nearly enough to keep up with the times.

But it is nice to see that significant gains have taken place in recent years.

The 2015 Census data on income and poverty is out — and for the first time since the Great Recession, it’s unambiguously great news.

Median household income was up 5.2 percent compared to 2014 — the largest one-year gain since 1967 at least. Income gains were strong up and down the income ladder, with the biggest percentage gains coming from the bottom income brackets. Poverty fell by 1.3 percentage points….

Second, this huge gain in median income is actually the first statistically significant increase since the recession struck — and despite its size, did not recover the lost ground since 2007. Median household income is still down 4.6 percent from 2007, and 5.2 percent from the all-time 2000 peak.

Source: Why America’s good fortune won’t last

While this report is good news, we still haven’t recovered from the meltdown that  was caused by poor regulation during the Bush administration and the way the GOP still stalling budgeting enough to fully carry out Dodd-Frank there will likely be another meltdown in the not too distant future.

I am going to make a “47%” comment here that might not be acceptable to some but I kind of think that many “trapped” in low wages are there because of their unwillingness to take personal responsibility for their circumstances.  The unemployment rate is now at historically low levels. The median income is rising but still there are those who are not benefitting from these statistics.

Yes, the employment opportunities are different than they were when I joined the job market some fifty years ago. For whatever reasons we have allowed large corporations to shed their pension plans, kill labor unions, and even the idea of a full-time employment.  I worked for thirty years at the same company while it is said that those entering the job market today will change jobs seven times during their working lives.

When a business is making something that is no longer in demand they often recover by retooling for a more modern version. It seems that is what job seekers need to do also. Retool by doing what is necessary to get skills that are in demand. One of the hindrances to doing that is the high cost of education right now. In order to get a good job you need a good education. In order to get a good education you need a lot of money.  Kind of a catch-22.

That is where government should step in. There is no reason why schooling has to be as expensive as it is today anymore than why healthcare needs to be so expensive.  Many European, and especially Scandinavian countries, provide free education and healthcare for all it’s citizens. That seems like a no-brainer to me but stubbornly we in the U.S. refuse to follow their example.