Tuesday, April 15, 2014

We are sending aid to Russia. REALLY?

Okay, we are going to give Ukraine a billion dollars of support, loans I suspect.  But, its like loaning my brother some money - we are never going to see that money again.  Of course, Russia raised the price of natural gas to Ukraine by 80%. And Ukraine already owes Russia a couple of billion.  Of course, others are putting together aid packages.  Germany offered to send them natural gas, but not too much since a third of their supply comes from Russia.

So in effect, we are sending our money to Russia via Ukraine.  So, how is that supposed to punish Russia?  It's very unclear how we can do anything.  How disturbing is that to our national psychic?  We are the country that put a man on the moon, won World War II (almost buy ourselves if you ignore Russia's victory over Germany inside of Russia), won in Korea, backed off Russia in Cuba, didn't lose in Vietnam, wasted time and resources in three wars in the Middle East, etc.  For a few more years we still have the biggest economy in the world that at least keeps 65% of its work force employed and we are used to being top dog.  Of course, are we a top dog with a fatal weakness.

Of course, we still have the most powerful military in the world.  But, everyone has learned that our fatal flaw is that we do not take territory and we have a short attention span.  A group like the Taliban can defeat us by simply retreating before our superior force, fighting just enough to recruit the disenfranchised and religious zealots in the world to fight against the evil hedons from America, and then just wait until we leave.  We have no answer against them, time is simply on their side.  We are unable or unwilling to go after them where they live, which at the moment is Pakistan.  Like the Koreans and Vietnamese, they have learned that they just have to retreat across a safe-line in the sand.
When they need to lick their wounds, they retreat across the line.  When they want to fight, they come across it.  It is an untenable position that we take as Americans, but luckily, we have no memory of history and refuse to recognize our fatal flaw.

So, when will the reality sink in.  We can do nothing for Ukraine unless we are willing to have a major conflict with Russia ... where we hope neither side pulls out their nuclear weapons.  As a country, we are not willing to loss large numbers of people in a war.  Casualties in recent wars total in a year the number of soldiers we used to lose in a week in Vietnam, a day in the civil war.  We simply have no stomach for it.

We have fatal flaws.  We can not win against an opponent like the Taliban given our restraints on ourselves and our lack of a stomach for our own deaths.  And yet, we continue to pound our chests and act indignant to Russia.  We ignore the fact that our impact disappears before our last soldier leaves the shore.  It is lucky we have a short memory as we squander our resources on our latest venture.  And even luckier for us, we are so impotent in the current crisis that we are unlikely to find a way to spend large sums of money like we did in the Middle East wars (trillions).

Monday, April 07, 2014

Who Do You Trust More? Our Government? The Rich?

We have loads of challenges in this country including:

  • Unemployment / low utilization of our work force
  • Declining performance of our students, especially in math and science,
  • An ancient immigration policy,
  • Super pacs and lobbyists running our government,
  • Government spending out of hand, see immediately above,
  • A idiotic War on Drugs program,
  • Discrimination against those that are different (not the majority)
  • Wealth Inequality 
It is hard to find the silver lining in any of these challenges.  But, let's look at the last issue, "Wealth Inequality".   All bad.  Not really.  Look at this Ted Talk on the Gates Foundation. 

The two big contributors are Bill Gates and Warren Buffet, two of the richest people in the world.  It is Bill and Melinda Gates goal to give away 95% of their wealth.  Warren Buffet has already given away 80% of his wealth to the Gates Foundation and with intentions of giving away more.  Warren said he trusts Bill and Melinda to manage the money as good or better than he could manage it.

The Gates Foundation is attacking world health and poverty, polio, education, and dozens of other problems.  Its spending on world health is the same order of magnitude as the United Nations.  It attacks issues like contraception (despite Melinda being a Catholic) that governments can not seem to act on because of religious politics. They try innovative education approaches since they are not bound by the assembly line approach to education that is the status quo in America.  

Do you know what Project Loon is?

Larry Page the owner of Google  has incredible aspirations to help the world.  Their goal is to make information available to everyone in the world.  Simple things like helping the farmer in arid Africa to predict the weather and know when to plant his crop each year or how to deal with an infestation of bugs.  Information that we take for granted.  Information that is reshaping the world.   He wants to bring the Internet to the entire world, see the incredible Lune Project.  He wants to put balloons in lower space orbiting the planet to beam down the internet to the entire world.  Yep, billions of dollars out of  Google's pockets; and yes he is serious.

And, look at Harry Stein, looking to double the output of corn per acre to help feed the world and reduce world hunger (plus make himself some money).  Look at George Mitchell philanthropist and the inventor of fracking.  Fracking will have more impact on job creation in America than all the government programs across this national put together.  How? Low cost natural gas is making America the place to start new industrial plants with good jobs and salaries requiring lots of supporting economic activity (separate blog coming soon).  Compare that to Europe that doesn't allow fracking for the most part and see how that has lead to economic bondage to Russia

And, of course, we need to mention Moore's Law, Apple, Google and the techies that are revolutionizing communications with the cell phone, tablets, and devices yet to be imagined.

The list goes on and on. So who got the ball moving.  Quoting from Gates Foundation:
  Gates is famous for asking other billionaires to commit to giving away half their fortunes, reportedly inspired by Melinda’s reading The Power of Half by Kevin Salwen and his 14-year old daughter Hannah in 2010, about selling their home, giving half the proceeds to charity, and buying one half the size for their family.  Bill and Melinda have committed to giving 95% of their fortune to charity over time; that is an astounding measure of generosity.

Now lets look at Lawrence Lessig pushing for Campaign Finance Reform via walks across America.    I don't know if he can pull it off, but Congress alone is not going to tackle this problem, they are too caught up with their number one job, raising money to get elected. 

It is not our inherently corrupt government that is effectively addressing our problems as a nation. Surprisingly, a lot of the problems are being attacked by the richest among us ... those that are the benefactors of the wealth inequality that exists in this country.  The Gates hope to persuade many rich people to give half of their wealth back to society to make a difference.  Warren Buffett was the first convert.  Hopefully more will follow, all starting from the example of Kevin Salwen and his 14 year-old daughter Hannah.

So, could historians look back and say this was the decade the U.S. government became completely ineffective and the rich people took over, mostly for good?

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Malaysian Airline: Is the FAA Stupid? Is it Senile??

A flight recorder, the big black box, is in place so when something goes wrong on a plane, we have some data to analyze and figure out what happened.  It's not just to have more accurate history but to make improvements that reduce the chance of another crash, hijacking, etc.

Okay, listen FAA (Federal Aviation Administration & the equivalent from other countries).  Pilots sometimes are part of the problem.  Why would you give them access to the flight recorders and the ability to turn them off.  That is just plain, unabashedly STUPID.

Second, why would you only record data to a box that may end up five miles deep at the bottom of the ocean.  Have you heard of the Internet?  Apparently FAA is not too smart, but couldn't they hire someone to set up a system to broadcast a signal from the plane to the Internet.  I'm not any smarter than the FAA in this matter, but I would bet Google could figure it out, after all some planes have in-flight Internet so it can't be all that complicated.

And third, does anyone really believe that turning on a cell phone jeopardizes the safety of the plane. How stupid do you think we are? If its true don't tell the terrorists. Really?  How many phone calls could have been made clandestinely and otherwise by the passengers on the Malaysian airliner if it was routine to use cell phones on a plane?  If it was normal to use a phone on the plane, do you think someone would have noticed when all the calls stopped.  How about all those text messages and Twitters that would have stopped coming out of the plane.  Or how many could have gotten through to tell us what was going on? Why don't we set up the Internet on the plane and only allow it to be disabled with the consent of the control tower and the pilot?

Reviewing.  The FAA is stupid.  Flight recorders should not be able to be shut down by the pilot. Automatic on, automatic off, pilot not required. When the FAA gets this message we will move on to lesson two.  We will go slow and work with the FAA.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Do We Believe in Democracy?

Crimea's referendum, even if not conducted perfectly, probably represents the majority since 95% of those that turned out, voted to become part of Russia.   The world, including the U.S., has completely denounced the referendum saying it was illegal.  Russia and Crimea, of course, disagree.  It's funny how we don't care what the will of the people is when it disagrees with what we want ... we being our politicians.  The American people, I am quite sure, don't give a damn.

So, let's face it, the people of Crimea for the most part want to be part of Russia.  Should they be supported in making such a decision over their own lives?  I guess not from what I hear. 

So, they are going to put Sanctions on Russia.  Russia is trembling. The U.S. and Europe are talking tough.  Guess what, Russia supplies much of the energy for Europe, natural gas and oil.  So, guess how that is going to go in the end.  My guess, Russia is not going to sweat the small stuff.  The U.S. still has the illusion that we are in charge of the world, but guess what, our clout is not what it used to be. No one gives a shit what we the people want.  Not other countries, not our politicians.  And some countries have even figured out that our government seldom speaks for even the simple majority of us Americans.  Sad.

Crimea's Case for Leaving Ukraine is strong.  Ukraine is a crabby place to live.  It is corrupt, it is run by about 10 “oligarchs”.  It is a place where we there are the "have's" and the "have nots".  Kind of like America and China.  Who would have thought it, China and America with the same income distribution.  Those nasty communists absorbing all the wealth from the poor workers. Not like our great system (was).  And yet in our minds we think we are better.  Sad.

Putin is even getting praise for his stand against gays from our Tea Party.  That says so much I don't even know where to start.  Putin believes he is right, everyone else is wrong. No negotiations, no compromise.  The Tea Party thinks like Putin, no?  Sad.

So, why can Putin do what he wants.  Like a drug dealer, he controls the Candy.  He can get the young ladies to sell their bodies to get just one more taste of Candy.  The Candy of course is energy, natural gas and oil.  Europe, like America, is addicted.  We just have different dealers.  Europe's pimp is Putin. 

It is so sad that we can't see ourselves through the eyes of Putin.  We are like an old prostitute that no one even notices anymore standing there on her corner. 

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Ukraine and the Broken Eagle

Ukraine and Russia, okay its messed up.  But, why is it any of America's business?  America sounds more like a squawking chicken than a Golden Eagle.  

Crimea: do the people there want to be part of Russia? or Ukraine?  Neither side are really pushing for a referendum so I don't think anyone really cares what these people want. 

Can the Golden Eagle really do anything except squawk.  Do you think Europe which gets much of its oil and natural gas from Russia are going to impose sanctions.  Let's see we can freeze and walk or we can let Russia have Crimea.  Duh?  And the U.S. which doesn't buy oil and natural gas from Russia anyway, is not going to buy any?  

Is Russia playing by our rules or even International Rules? Nope, but how about the rule all is fair in Love and War?  Okay, its military action is not okay and its withholding oil and gas to get its way is not like us, we simply invade a country, i.e.,  Iraq (where up to a million civilians died with our help, but who cares).  And, it is not fair that they stop selling oil and natural gas to get their way.  Who would do something like that?  Who was that country that cut off trade with Cuba for 50 years to punish their people? (We showed them.)

Okay, back to my original point: Why is it our business?  Nobody is getting massacred like in Syria.  No one is under country arrest like in Palestine.  If Crimea is attached to Russia or the Ukraine, job creation in America will still be dreadful.  Europe should care more but they have sold their souls to Russia for energy.  Ukraine should care but they are  broke, leaderless, and without any clear sense of direction.  Crimea is ethnically divided and abusing minorities no doubt, so they don't deserve a lot of sympathy.

So the American Golden Eagle sounds like a toothless rooster squawking at a Russian fox that is eating his chickens. 

Thursday, February 27, 2014

The IRS God ... Guilty until Proven Innocent

There are two areas where our rights of innocent until proven guilty and a trial in front of our peers are not honored in this country:  in dealings with  1) the IRS Gods, and 2) the Drug Gods. Today, we speak of the IRS Gods.

Early in 2012 I filed my withholding taxes for the 3rd and 4th quarter for my small business, Metallurgical Viability, Inc.  I sent about $20K along with Form 944.  Unfortunately, I was supposed to use Form 941.  My bad.  Of course they took my money.  Then late summer, 2012, they tell me I have not paid my taxes for 2011.  After many letters, and several calls, I got them to realize they had my money.  I thought good.  Wrong.  I still had not sent them Form 941.  I eventually understood they wanted Form 941 and sent it in late summer 2012. 

The following is a little guess work on my part since I have never received any letters back from IRS in response to a dozen plus letters.  When I call, they tell me to send a letter with the details.

Okay.  When do they count getting my money.  You guessed it, when they received the Form 941.  Originally they fined me about $7K.  Then I wrote more letters and now it is $4K.  I found that out when I received a notice, below, that they were placing a lien against my MV property.  Of course, I have written more letters and requested a hearing.  But, the hearing is only to stop the lien, not to get any explanation of why I am being fined.

So, my conclusion is that I am being fined $4K for using the wrong form -- of course, not confirmed by IRS.  They are big on the stick, short on the explanations. Apparently, the IRS Gods do not have to explain anything to anyone. 



Monday, February 24, 2014

Political Righteousness

So, someone is telling me I need to believe these old books that says there is one god, name Allah, and if I don’t, I am not going to heaven.  Further, I have lost all spiritual good.
And, they think they are right, they are righteous about it.
"Salvation" in Islam refers to the eventual entrance to heaven. The word does not cover the possible entry to hellfire, or the different levels of hellfire and heaven. Islam teaches that people who die disbelieving in the God do not receive salvation. It also teaches that non-Muslims who die believing in the God but disbelieving in his message (Islam), are left to His will. Those who die believing in the “One God” and his message “Islam” receive salvation.[23] Narrated Anas that Muhammad said,
Islam teaches that all righteous Christians, Jews, Sabaeans before the coming of Muhammad will enter Heaven but those who appeared after Muhammad must accept Islam.[24]
"If anyone desires a religion other than Islam (submission to Allah), never will it be accepted of him; and in the Hereafter He will be in the ranks of those who have lost (all spiritual good)."
— Quran, sura 3 (Al Imran), ayat 85

Democrats believe among other things that 
  • we should invest in education, social services, infrastructure, and 
  • give immigrants in this country a path to citizenship. 
  • They believe in taxing the rich more to pay for this agenda. 
  • They are concerned with wealth inequality in this nation.  
  • They prefer negotiating instead of using the military to impose our views on the world.
  • But they believe in increasing military spending
Republicans believe we must
  • balance the budget by making cuts in education, social services and
  • require immigrants to go back to their country and get at the back of the line.
  • believe in a strong military and imposing our values around the world.
  • they don't believe in taxing more including the rich.  
  • They believe in increasing military spending.

  • Neither Republicans or Democrats are willing to touch social security, medicare or the military to balance the budget.  Of course, the budget can not really be balanced without touching these programs.
  • Neither is willing to make fundamental changes in the way we are taxed. 
  • Neither believe in ending the war on drugs, or decriminalizing pot.
  • Neither believe in bringing by our troops from the 50 odd countries that they are stationed in.
  • Neither believe in outlawing PAC's controlled by the wealthy.
  • Neither believe in doing away with the IRS, replacing the income tax with the carbon tax or national sales tax or flat tax, etc.
  • Neither believe in encouraging a third party, or making it fair for a third party.
  • Neither believe in Congress having the same retirement (social security) or medical plan as the people they represent.
  • Neither believe in working with the other.

Both republicans and democrats are righteous about their views.  Their way is right and those that do not believe in their point of view are wrong.  They spend a lot of time pointing out the wrongs (sins) of the other side.
They say insanity if doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. So, we keeping voting for democrats or republicans and expecting a real change. So are we insane?
Plan B: Gary Johnson versus status quo with the Democrats or Republicans. Or, do you have another Plan B?

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Cutting the Poor out of Higher Education, Who Loses?

Cutting the Poor Out of Higher Education, Who Loses?, 2/22/14

My dad made $100 per week from about 1951 to 1968 being a automobile mechanic (Son of an Automobile Mechanic).  It was very good pay in 1951, it was below poverty level in 1968.  And yet, in 1967 my dad was able to pay college tuition for me for my first semester at the Texas Western College, now UTEP.  It cost the family nearly two weeks of his salary.  In contrast, my oldest daughter has about $100, 000 in school loans and is in a field that pays about half of what I earned in my early years as an engineer adjusted for inflation.  And, I can assure you it cost more than two weeks of an engineer’s salary for much of her education. (She did have the Hope Scholarship in SC that gives free college education to anyone maintaining a B average in high school.)
Our nation now has about a trillion dollars in school loan debt, or a little more debt than Apple Inc. has cash, mostly in foreign country banks - but that is another blog.  Students rightly are starting to push back against this debt and considering not getting an education or delaying it.  To bad for them you say.  Yes, but too bad for us too.

Our nation is facing a huge shortage of engineers, scientists, and other highly skilled workers as our place as the leading economic power in the world plumets downward.  We may still be in place where we can respond effectively, but we obviously lack the will.
It is simply about priorities and delayed gratification (investing in our future). What expenditures are we willing to cut to be able to invest in our nations future. The answer is apparently nothing.  We are not willing to touch social security, medicare, military, stupid drug laws that fill our prisons, or anything else.  Our prognosis is simple: continue our decline into a third world status.  At some point, like Rome, we will not even be able to support our mighty army that attempts to force its view of right and wrong upon the world. Ironically,  our military failures, the harbinger of our social failures, are beginning in the same geographic region that destroyed the mighty Roman army.  

Plan B: Gary Johnson versus status quo with the Democrats or Republicans. Or do you have another Plan B?

Friday, February 21, 2014

$10.10 / hr Will Cause Job Loses. Really?

Let's take stock.  60% of the available work force is employed.  The improvement in the unemployment numbers are primarily from people giving up looking for work and only a little from our sluggish jobless recovery. Mission control, we have a problem: NO JOBS.

So now a proposal comes along to raise the minimum wage. Reaction, oh my god, look at all the jobs we will destroy by giving the poorest in this economy a raise.  When the President of Leman Brothers, Richard Fuld, Jr., crashed his company but he pocketed a half billion dollar bonus, did anyone point out that a) some jobs have been lost by management's blunders and b) that a lot of lower end people could have been hired with a modest decrease in Fry's salary/bonus.  Mission control, we have another problem: INCOME INEQUALITY. (see Four Shocking Examples of American Inequality, if you haven't noticed.)

Some people blame the lack of jobs on public policy and not technology and others blame it on technology: More Jobs for Machines not People. Guess what, it could be both since a lot of jobs are missing.

Public policy problems with job creation:
1) Management getting huge salaries ...
2) Congress / government in general, who are supposed to protect the public's interest, is chosen and elected via PAC funding, which is primarily controlled by the wealthy,
3) Unions decline and the laws being stacked against them for organizing workers, and
4) Little support from government or our culture in promoting social responsibility with regard to the hiring and training of new workers, and
5) Trade agreements where level playing fields with regard to worker safety (Walmart Bangladesh), environmental standards, and worker rights were not included and/or enforced.
6) Providing childcare for single parents.

Technology drivers for less workers:
1) better communications
2) robots etc.
3) better utilization of factors of production

Impact of Raising the Minimum Wage
1) A small step forward in reducing wealth inequality since million people would be lifted (barely) above the poverty line. 
2) An unknown effect on the number of jobs since

  • Competitors in the service industry are equally impacted.
  • Service industry can pass costs of labor increases into products/services.
  • Service industry is not significantly impacted by foreign competition.

3) COB forcasts the the loss of half million jobs.

  • What is the impact of a minimum wage (or living wage even better) if it is restricted to the service industry?
  • Does this decrease the percentage of people employed from 60% to 59%?
  • What is the relative impact of a higher minimum wage on job creation compared to improved public policy on job creation?
  • How does a service industry lose jobs to foreign competition?
  • How do we compare in minimum wage to the rest of the world?

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Duke Energy CFA Spill and Income Inequality, 2/20/14

Duke Energy will past the cost of Coal Fly Ash Spill on to Customers, not Shareholders.   Coal Fly Ash (CFA) is a waste generated from combusting coal.  The waste is often slurried with water and pumped into large settling ponds.  One would think that negligence in maintaining such ponds would be a criminal offense, or at least a civil crime.  When BP spilled oil in the Gulf their shareholders lost billions (I was one of them, I lost thousands) as their share value plummeted.  There is some justice there. Billions of dollars will probably be spent on this clean-up.  

But, Duke Energy is a public utility and as such their profits are set by agreement.  Add up all the costs and then set the cost of electricity to cover the costs and guarantee them their agreed profit.  A CFA just becomes a cost.  And in most states, competition between power companies is not encouraged, so all is good for Duke.  Who would set such rules.  Politicians that are supported by PAC’s that get donations from Duke et al.  Is the public best served, probably not.  

When we talk about wealth inequality in America, we like to assume the brilliant, deserving people made it to the top of the pyramid, the bums sunk to the bottom.  That may have been true at the dawn of the American experiment, but for now that is the huge exception not the rule.  The rules are set up to maintain the wealth inequality ( Four Shocking Examples of American Inequality), and they are by no means fair.  In the example above, the Company, the Shareholders win, the customers (mostly poor and middle class Americans, what’s left of them) lose.  It is a form of wealth distribution from the poor to the rich.  There are thousands of rules set up to the benefit the rich at the expense of the poor.  That’s one of the themes of this blog is to point out that the world ain’t fair, the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, thems the rules, baby. 

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Adult Relationships, 2/18/14

I believe consenting adults should be free to have relationships of their choice with other consenting adults including gays, straights, polyamory, polyfidelity, swingers, polygamy, or whatever.  I also believe we should have the freedom to marry whoever we want, two or more. I don’t have any complicated arguments, I just believe in freedom to live one’s life by your own rules;  you know, land of the FREE stuff.   I’m agnostic so I don’t have many religious rules except those I make up for myself like kindness, being my brother’s keeper, honesty, transparency with friends, courage, and a few others.  Yea, I know the Bible is pretty down on all this freedom, but that is for you to rationalize and follow if you chose … I chose to believe in freedom for myself and others.

I also don’t mind interracial relationships, or those that want to be transgender, or have a sex change.  More power to them.  I hope they enjoy their life and that whatever changes or relationships they have enhance their happiness.  Enjoy.

I also believe in honesty and transparency in my own relationship.  I have not always been that way, but I am glad I finally made it.  If I am attracted to another woman, or have a sweet interaction with one of god’s lovely creatures, I rush home to tell my lady.  There are a few other women that I love, and my wife knows all about it.  No secrets.  Same with her.  Yea, we have some fear reactions from time to time, but we both own our fears (or try to) and don’t blame the other.  We are explorers in life and don’t have a rigid script except to be honest and transparent with each other.  I anticipate being with my lady until I die, but are both here only as long as it works for both of us … that we stay in-love.  And, we both recognize that we are human and capable of loving others. 

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Hopeful about Obamacare and America, 2/13/14

Hopeful about Obamacare and America, 2/13/14

I am thankful that people with pre-existing conditions can get medical insurance.  Thank you for caring America.   I would be one of those people, but I married into healthcare since my lady was a professor.  My daughter is one of those people.  Thanks again for caring, America. 

I am very grateful that Obamacare changed the rules that allows one’s children to stay on the parent’s policy until 26.  My daughter, Olesia, would either not be alive, or I would be bankrupt at this point in time, or perhaps, we could have gotten her on Medicaid if we lived in the right state?  She takes one medicine, Abilify that costs over $1 K a month, plus about 13 other medicines at last count.  She has been to ER, hospitals, doctors, etc. more in the last couple of years that I have probably been in my lifetime, although I am starting to catch-up as stress wears me down.  Admittedly, some of her poor health has been her own fault.  She tried cigarettes for two years - yes not smart for someone that has asthma.  And, she lived for too long in an apartment that we suspect has mold. 

The apartment flooded often because the landlord has a washing machine which requires the hose to be stuck out the window, otherwise it flooded her apartment.  You can guess how that worked out with four young adults using the machines.  Her lung problems became very severe during her year stay in this apartment. 

In a year, Olesia will be allowed to buy health insurance (yea, probably with my help) under Obamacare even with pre-existing conditions -- assuming we are successful dealing with the mold issue.  Or perhaps, if she marries, her husband’s company may offer some insurance, or not.   Her fate would be much less certain without Obamacare - thank you America for caring.

As an agnostic, I really do believe I am my brother’s keeper.  This belief is not widely held in America where our wealth inequality is now equal to China’s with theirs improving while ours continues to decline.  Obamacare is a very small step in the direction of less wealth inequality in America.  A more generous minimum wage or living wage would also be in the direction of less wealth inequality in America, but that is not going to happen in conservative / religious America where both taxing the wealthy and extending unemployment benefits is unpopular.  Our actions say we like our wealth inequality in America, in China their actions say the opposite. I’m sure Fox News is about to have a breaking news story on this conundrum of conservative politics.

Of course, Obamacare needs improvement.  In States where Medicaid has not been extended if you make less than $11K per year, like my brother in Texas, then you are screwed.  ER is your only health option, and then only if you pledge to make payments on your $1K per day bill in ER.   My brother had a blood clot in his leg, ER gave him a prescription to get shots for $500.  They said he needed them or he would probably die.  I guess that is a new way of not taking care of people even in the ER.  I used to be proud to be a Texan.  So, again we say with our actions the poor don’t deserve help even when their life is on the line.

I look at Obamacare and think it is first step toward us being a kinder America. Then I look at the Republicans in the House passing bills to repeal it like 50 times knowing the Senate would not go along.  I guess that is why they get the big bucks, pensions, good health plans, etc.  Who would have thought that passing a bill over and over was a way to earn your salary. It is not that I think the democrats are saints and reached out to the republicans in trying to craft something that would work well - they didn’t, it was just power politics.  Perhaps democrats need to look at our much Clinton got down when the Republicans controlled congress.

But, I digress. I just want to be a part of a country like I witnessed in Australia where the greater majority thought of themselves as their brother’s keeper.  How to pull that off effectively admittedly is a challenge, but the road we are going down which increasingly is screw-you, we-are-sure-you-deserve-where-you-are-attitude doesn’t cut it for me.The Cherokee blood in me believes I need to walk a mile in someone else’s moccasins before I judge them.  What I stole from Christianity, that I am my brother’s keeper,  says thanks for those Americans that believe all humans deserve basic medical care and then provided a mechanism in Obamacare to put some actions behind the the words.

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Son of an Automobile Mechanic

Son of an Automobile Mechanic, 12/3/13

I see much of the world through my father’s eyes.  I see some of the Japanese invasion of the Philippines and feel the pain of leaving others behind in fleeing the island.  I feel the prejudice he felt of being a half-breed; I suspect I still feel some of the sorrow of the Trail of Tears.  I feel his hope in growing up in America where tomorrow looked better than today.  I feel his commitment to education when he would hold up his hands, gnarled and permanently greasy, and then point to his head and say “make your living with this, not these” while holding up his hands again a little closer to your face where you could smell the grease.  

My strongest identity in life has always been, “I am the Son of an Automobile Mechanic”.  When I showed up with a billionaire in Monte Carlo without the proper attire to a five star restaurant, my social class was obvious.  All those management meetings where I sided with the employees (not often enough in retrospect), that was my identity crying out for fairness.  When I point out Congress taking care of themselves and giving the crumbs to the common man, that is my identity demanding justice.  

I have modified my identity, mostly through education, but even my dad would understand that.  I’m agnostic with a simple moral code that demands honesty, kindness, and courage.  I have joined with a partner that embraces diversity and cherishes personal freedom such as: the right to be gay, or to form relationship of your own design with one or more other persons, or to be a hermit for that matter.  But, I carry on the family traditions of working hard, being my brother’s keeper, and the desire to be a better person tomorrow.

I am a son of an automobile mechanic. 

Monday, November 04, 2013

Rafael and Ted Cruz Are Not Evidence Based Humans

Rafael Cruz: LGBT rights and evolution are communist brainwashing lies to kill God

By David Edwards
Monday, November 4, 2013 15:00 EST
Rafael Cruz speaks at a men's prayer breakfast in Texas (Vimeo)
Rafael Cruz, the father of tea party-backed Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), has warned Americans that equal rights for LGBT people and the theory of evolution are essentially communist lies that are being used by the American government to destroy the family and control the population.
In a June presentation to the Dean Bible Ministries Men’s Prayer Breakfast, Cruz encouraged attendees to become part of the political process.
“You know, communism or socialism, whatever you want to call it, what is happening in this country is not different than what happened in Cuba,” he explained. “It is about government control of your lives. You got to realize how Marxist, how socialism works… When you hear all these things about homosexual marriage, this has nothing to do with homosexual rights. Did you know that?”
“The whole objective is the destruction of the traditional family, it has nothing to do with homosexuals, they could care less about homosexuals, they want to destroy the family,” Cruz added.
The Republican senator’s father went on to say that marriage equality was “just like evolution.”
“I’ve met so many Christians that tell me, ‘Evolution is a scientific fact.’ Baloney!” he exclaimed. “I am a scientist, there is nothing scientific about evolution. But you know something, Karl Marx said it, ‘I can use the teachings of Darwin to promote communism.’ Why? Because communism, or call it socialism if you think communism is too hard a word, necessitates for government to be your god and for government to be your god they need to destroy the concept of God.”
“That’s why communism and evolution go hand and hand. Evolution is one of the strongest tools of Marxism because if they can convince you that you came from a monkey, it’s much easier to convince you that God does not exist,” Cruz insisted.

Really? Is god so weak?

Where does one start with someone that has knowledge from a century ago.  We expect such in countries like Iraq, or the poorest parts of South America or Africa.  But, how does someone in America avoid the knowledge that is readily available on the Internet ... admittedly, a lot of it is faulty, but it is not that hard to sort out what the smartest and most educated believe and why they believe it, i.e., the evidence for their beliefs.

To dismiss something because it is called a theory, i.e., the theory of evolution is to completely misunderstand the basis of a scientific theory.  A theory embodies, or attempts to embody all the evidence on a given subject in a consistent story.  Atomic theory lead to the atomic bomb that blew up two cities in Japan and to nuclear power plants that furnish about a third of the electricity in America. Theories can be pretty powerful, no?
I know the way humans have been raised, especially in America, it is hard to believe that two of the great apes, Chimpanzees and Bonobos have less than 2% genetic difference with a human.  They are more than 98% the same as humans.  From Wikepedia:

Similarity to humans[edit]

Bonobos are capable of passing the mirror-recognition test for self-awareness,[56] as are all great apes. They communicate primarily through vocal means, although the meanings of their vocalizations are not currently known. However, most humans do understand their facial expressions[18]and some of their natural hand gestures, such as their invitation to play. Two bonobos at the Great Ape Trust, Kanzi and Panbanisha, have been taught how to communicate using a keyboard labeled with lexigrams (geometric symbols) and they can respond to spoken sentences. Kanzi's vocabulary consists of more than 500 English words[57] and he has comprehension of around 3,000 spoken English words.[58] Kanzi is also known for learning by observing people trying to teach his mother; Kanzi started doing the tasks that his mother was taught just by watching, some of which his mother had failed to learn. Some, such as philosopher and bioethicist Peter Singer, argue that these results qualify them for "rights to survival and life" — rights that humans theoretically accord to all persons. (See great ape personhood.) 

An argument commonly posed is that there are missing links between these two great apes and humans.  Bonobos will soon be extinct becoming another species to disappear leaving gaps in evolution between the species that survive and us humans. Of course, fossil remains of pre-humans are somehow dismissed as qualifying as evidence. Admittedly, I am not an expert on evolution but the information to become an expert is there for anyone to examine.  Short of that, one can do like I do and trust fellow human scientists who have studied it all their lives and accept them at their word.  An alternative is to believe tens of thousands of scientists over half a dozen generations have conspired to deceive us for some common cause, per Rafael Cruz and perhaps Ted Cruz. 

So, why do we care what the Tea-Party fanatics think? Because fanatics always lead the majority away from common sense solutions to our social(e.g., gay rights, racial, marriage, etc.) and technical problems (e.g., stem cell research, robots, shorter work weeks, etc.) and slow adoption of needed reforms by believing people are inherently evil, especially the ones that do not agree with them.  And in believing humans are inherently evil, they distort our nation's response to those that are weak, needy, and in need of our help for whatever reason.  

For example, those that believe man is inherently evil blame those on welfare for not working when the more serious problem of anemic job creation is destroying the middle class.   They cut food stamps when more people than ever in my life time are starving and homeless in this country.  They push against gun control and even counting dead bodies in this country and let the children involved in mass shootings pay the price.  They don't recognize the leading cause of violence is violence, instead it is evil people responding inappropriately when they have their friends killed. 

In short, people that take fanatical stands like Cruz are not evidence based people.  They are self-righteous people that believe they are the chosen people who own the truth.  They are very dangerous people in our society.  They are very similar to the religious fanatics in the Middle east.   

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I hope to be a writer when I grow up. Idealist. Hopeful. Often sad. Kind and honest, or I try to be. Hopeful that the world will evolve to a more honest reality.