The Golden Rule – The Capitalist Version…

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Banner Ed CartoonsI think this editorial cartoon by Mike Lukovich says it better than I ever could.  The monied interests just have too much power in our national affairs.  That could be easily reversed if only ALL of us would simple vote.  How severe does the income inequality need to get before some of us realize that basic fact?

Under pressure from the right, House Speaker Boehner quits

who believe he was too willing to compromise with President Barack Obama and too frequently relied on Democratic votes to pass crucial legislation.

Source: Under pressure from the right, House Speaker Boehner quits | Reuters

I am very apprehensive about what is going to happen now that John Boehner is throwing in the towel in the House. I always viewed him as a good guy stuck in an impossible job.  Who replaces him will be critical to the nature of our country.

It is amazing to me how the three or four dozen GOP representative on the radical fringes of that party seem to be able to pull the rest of them in their direction! As Mark Shields said recently on a PBS Newshour broadcast these guys primary goal is to shut down government entirely. They see compromise as a dirty word. They see anyone who does not totally agree with them as the enemy. Everything is VERY black/white to them.  Why can’t the GOP control this group of government haters?

In some ways I would like to see Mr. Boehner replaced by one of them. That would give the potential voters in this country a good look at the politics of the Tea Party fringe. Then in twelve months or so when national elections are done they could be very quickly swept out of office and replaced by someone who knows the purpose of government. I say “potential voters” above because there are just so many in this country who fail to understand the power that they have.  I think we have the lowest election participation levels of any democracy in the world today.

There will be some trying times ahead. I hope we can survive them…

Goodbye John and thanks for trying and also getting the pope to America.

Pope Francis and Consumerism…

In Francis’ encyclical Laudato Sí, he took aim at the West’s “extreme and selective consumerism” and “throwaway culture,” arguing that the developed world’s voracious appetites are a bigger threat to the planet than population growth. Blaming overpopulation in poorer parts of the world, he writes, “is an attempt to legitimize the present model of distribution, where a minority believes that it has the right to consume in a way which can never be universalized, since the planet could not even contain the waste products of such consumption.”…

If Pope Francis is working at least partly on faith, surely the same is true of boosters of supply-side economics. Conservatives can believe that the laissez-faire policies pursued by George W. Bush didn’t directly lead to the 2008 economic crash, or that the tax changes pushed by Reagan aren’t a primary cause of the growing chasm of disparity between the rich and the poor — they can believe that Reaganomics works. But plenty of real economists would find that faith naïve and misguided.

You can disagree with the pope on economics or the environment or any host of issues — again, plenty of people do, including Catholics of all political persuasions. But it’s a little rich for the high priests of Voodoo Economics to be calling the Vicar of Christ an economic charlatan with nothing important to say.

Source: Why Pope Francis is at least as qualified to pontificate on economics as U.S. conservatives

I will soon be ending my “Pope Francis” posts and return to the normal day-to-day world so I want to put some closing thoughts into this post.  I am shockingly surprised just how aligned I am with the messages of Pope Francis during his visit to the U.S.  One of the advantages of being retired is that I was able to watch much of his activity in real-time.

I’m not sure that there was a single issue he brought up that I didn’t whole heartedly agree with.  This guy just seems to speak to my heart. I definitely have my differences with the church he leads but maybe even those will mostly diminish as he re-shapes Catholicism.

One of the sad things I see about Pope Francis is that he was not made pope long ago.  It seems like Pope Benedict was just wasted time.  Pope Francis is 78 years old and his physical movement show it.  I don’t know how long he will remain on this earth but I hope he has a long life.  The Church, and by that I mean all of Christianity, needs him and his teachings.

What I most fear, or maybe expect is a better word, is that the attention,his words and actions have brought forward will quickly subside and we, and the church, will go back to the way we were.

Goodbye ATT/Yahoo News…

I’m not paranoid so I don’t think they are targeting me personally but I am once again very annoyed by my news feed of choice for the last year or so.Thumbnail

Let me give you a little background before I wade into this topic. I have discovered that I am without any doubt a morning person. I just don’t seem to be able to conjure up anything in a creative nature after lunch. For that reason a part of my usual morning routine is to browse the news from  the past day. I do this so that I stay informed with what is happening and also so I can create some ideas on what I want to blog about in the coming week. I have some special news sites such as  Time, The Week, and PBS Newshour that I read by but I depend on broader news feeds for most of what is happening.

That newsfeed for the past year or so has been Yahoo News but over the past months it is just too annoying to read any more.  Maybe because I am deaf I may be more sensitive than others for distractions in my peripheral vision. It seems that whenever there is a self-starting video anywhere on the list of news articles on my screen I can’t concentrate on what I am trying to read.  These self-starting videos have become to common on Yahoo News that I looked elsewhere for my morning reads.

I spent an hour or so trying to find if my current browser, or any browser for that matter, had the capability of stopping the annoyance but was unable to come up with anything. Months ago I shut down Adobe Flash as it is reported to be the source for many of the malware that prowls the Internet but it also created these self-starting annoyances. Shutting down Flash stopped the videos to some extent but not it seems they come from somewhere else.  Since there seem to be no viable way to stop this I looked elsewhere.

I am now over to Google News and have yet to come across this problem.  It is nice to be able to concentrate on what I am reading again. Google news provides you with a list of areas that you want to see. That is kind of nice but it may be preventing me from seeing something that I don’t have on the list but need to.

Anyway goodbye Yahoo news and hello every morning to my new friend Google News.

The public shaming of America’s CEOs

2015-09-13_11-55-33This shame game just might rein in CEO pay where previous attempts have failed, said Gretchen Morgenson at The New York Times. Once the pay gap is boiled down to an “easily graspable and often decidedly shocking number,” employees and consumers might actually protest, and red-faced corporate boards will be forced to act. As soon as the outlandish ratios begin coming out, we’ll hear from “corporate apologists” that CEOs earn their megamillions, because they deliver impressive returns just like “star baseball players or movie stars,” said Robert Reich at Huffington Post. “Baloney.” The stock market has surged so much over the past three decades, and corporate tax rates have become so generous, that a CEO could have “played online solitaire” all day long and still watched the company’s share price soar

Source: The public shaming of America’s CEOs.

The rhetoric behind CEO pay has become so inflamed that I doubt it is possible to shame them into getting less pay as suggested above.  The basic problem is that these guys think they actually deserve the millions handed over to them.  Most of their egos are so large that they think they are the saviors of their industries.

Carly Fiorina who is currently running for president is a good example of that.  Before she left AT&T for her brief stay at HP she made a decision to move the business unit that I had worked in for almost thirty years.  She decided to put it in a joint-venture with a foreign company.  To us on the inside it became totally obvious that this merger was a huge mistake. The cultural clash that resulted basically brought down the unit and it was sold to a Chinese manufacturer for pennies on the dollar within two years of Carly’s great insight.

She then went on to likewise almost destroy HP. Her decision to buy another computer manufacturer was flawed from the very beginning and most everyone knew it from the get-go. But like a true huckster she manages to find a statistic here or there to seemingly say she made wise decisions.  With the CEO label attached to her name Carly now thinks she can run the country better than anyone else. The tragic thing about it is that some actually fall for her hype.  Her golden parachute was more than $40 million so she has plenty of money to spend on her grandiose scheme to become the leader of the free world.

The basic problem with the entire corporate leadership structure in this country it that it is almost entirely managed by a very small group. They are all, for the most part, CEOs themselves and serve on each others boards. The old saying “you scratch my back and I will scratch yours” is the current mantra for corporate America today.

Since most stock today is now in the hands of mutual funds companies who themselves are made up of lavishly provided corporate heads it is almost impossible for any small group of investors to effect a change in this structure. Somethings got to change to reign in CEO pay and parachutes, I just don’t know that it is…

I am that not so smart wise guy in this area…

Democratic Socialism….

In Denmark, Sanders said, health care is a right, and college education is free. “Sounds like a very terrible form of government,” he said sarcastically.

 In Finland, Sanders said, the public education system is the strongest in the world. There’s a strong child care system. Wages are generally higher than in the United States. And retirement programs are strong. “Now is all that stuff free? No,” Sanders said. “They pay more in taxes. … And the wealthy there pay a lot more in taxes.” But at the end of the day, Sanders said, Americans should ask themselves what it would be like to have a country where the elderly don’t have to worry about how to pay for prescription drugs, where all parents have access to high-quality child care, and where they know their children can go to college, regardless of their income.

Sanders acknowledged the Scandinavian countries he cited “are no utopias.” But he asked his audience to compare how secure people are there compared to here.

“We’ve got an economy that basically says everybody is out there on their own,” he said. “And if you don’t make it, well that’s tough luck. You don’t have any health insurance and you get sick, good luck to you. … You’re a bright kid and you come from a family that doesn’t have any money. Tough luck, you’re not going to go to college.”

Source: What Bernie Sanders means by ‘democratic socialism.’ (You still have your choice of pajamas.) – The Washington Post

It is obvious from recent poll data that Bernie Sanders message is getting a lot of play.  I am one of those who sees his dream as my dream.  But I’m sure he will take mammoth heat from Trump Republicans if he were ever to get the nomination. The GOP has screamed “SOCIALIST” so often and loud it has almost become a vulgar word to all those low info voters out there.  All they hear from the entire words above is  “They pay more in taxes”.

I am a pragmatist so  I would love to see the U.S. learn some of the lessons from the rest of the world.  Bernie’s words ring true to me and I dream, maybe a fool’s dream, that he somehow can get the nomination.  BUT… But if he did would anything really change.  Obama had progressive dreams too but managed to do very little with them. Yeah, he got a watered down version of universal healthcare but that is about it. There was just too much anti-this anti-that opposition from the GOP to accomplish much without some paradigm shift in this country.

The only way to accomplish Bernie’s (and my) dream is a wholesale change in congress and that can only be accomplished when the majority of the Republican party finally reigns in, or maybe more appropriately knocks down, its radical fringe segment.  I really want to believe that most in the GOP are hard-working people who are not totally self-centered and do care about their neighbors. I want to believe that most who pledge allegiance to the GOP don’t align with the hateful views of the screamers in their party.  But until this silent majority finally takes back control of their party nothing can change with Bernie as president or anyone else.   We are coming to a tipping point in the country and it is up to the GOP to decide whether we finally go over the edge.

The Mark Of The Shepherd…

the mark of the shepherd is you have got the smell of the sheep.

You have to go out and not only teach, but listen to the people of God. And he said, my ideal of a pastor was a priest I knew who knew who the name of every dog in the slum….

What he has done, I think, is he has transformed the Catholic attitude towards the world. He’s calling us to the margins and to the marginalized. And that is, of course, the oldest Christian message…

It is his identification with the poor that most differentiates Pope Francis. His remarks on inequality and the excesses of modern capitalism have been forceful, and he has attacked supply-side economics, policies that call for tax cuts for the rich, as a near-sacrilegious heresy.

Source: How a low-profile priest transformed into Pope Francis

 While I agree with everything above I especially love the first quote. It describes perfectly the difference between just saying words and actually acting out your beliefs.  Pope Francis is the epitome of being a humanitarian and demonstrates that fact through words and especially his actions. It will be interesting to hear in the coming days whether his words stuck to any of the politicians in Washington.  On this account I am pretty skeptical.  If dozens of young school kids being blown away by freely available guns did nothing to promote any gun legislation I doubt that this pious man’s words will have much of a lasting effect but I would love to be proven wrong.

Wouldn’t it be gigantic to see that the common good as the pope described it take hold in our national processes.

  • We need to quit using federal funds to abort life before birth as well as to end existing life via execution or street level violence.
  • We need to reign in capitalism so that  it allows families at all levels of the economy to thrive.
  • We need to FINALLY get a hold of allowing guns in the hands of those who would do so much harm .
  • We need to make sure that even the poor have an opportunity to become rich, even very rich, but NEVER very very rich. When too much is allowed to accumulate in the hands of a few humanity can never prosper or even survive for long. We need to finally understand that basic principle.
  • We need to treat the least of these  as we want to be treated.
  • We need to get out of our pews, synagogs and mosques and put messages of God engraved in our hearts into action.
  • We need to do whatever is necessary to stop killing each other over ideologies that really won’t make much difference. We need to quit sending our young men and women to war as a first choice.

Will any of these things have even a chance of happening?  I pray that they will but dread that they won’t. Thank you Pope Francis for putting all of these topics front and center in our lives if even only for a day or two.

Even In Small Town America…

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Pope Francis recently spoke out about “unbridled capitalism”. A good example of that is the unregulated sales of guns in this country. Even my small town of 2,000 now has a gun shop where anyone can buy just about any weapon they choose.  Capitalism is the best economic system in the world but when it is unfettered from any moral requirements it is perhaps among the worst…

Two Very Different Views Of Being Christian…

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee said President Barack Obama “pretends to be” Christian

“I’m less concerned about what faith the person has. I’m more concerned about the authenticity of their faith and how that plays out in their politics … I’m also concerned about a guy that believes he’s a Christian and pretends to be and then says he is, but then does things that makes it very difficult for people to practice their Christian faith,” Huckabee said. “I’m disappointed if someone says, ‘I’m a Christian,’ but you invite the pope into your home and then you invite a whole bunch of people who are at odds with the Catholic Church policy. I think there’s something very unseemly about that,” he added.

Source: Mike Huckabee: Obama pretends to be a Christian – CNNPolitics.com

I find it tragically ironic that the story above comes from a person who was a minister of a Christian denomination. The bible says more than a thing or two about judging others but this previous minister seems to have skipped that lesson in his bible. Are Mr. Huckabee’s words typical of all Baptists in this country? I just don’t know…

No man has a right to judge what is in another’s heart and to do just that is a fatal affront to God who does. If this were the story of the week I would likely be depressed once again on the narrowness of Christian beliefs.  But thank heavens that it is not the only story. Pope Francis has lightened my heart in religious matters. He is truly living out the words of Jesus.  Mr. Huckabee on the other hand just wants to secure his following in the bitter, angry, and anti-everything base of his party. I guess his words will get him a few more votes there but I am hoping that elsewhere people will come to understand the character of this particular politician….