Who Am I?

Weekend Update 08-25-2012

Posted: August 25th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Weekend Update | Comments Off on Weekend Update 08-25-2012

Too many of our media outlets lack any integrity whatsoever. Unfortunately, people reading or watching them assume they are still practicing modern journalism ethically.

Of course, if you don’t really understand mathematics, which it seems is true of far too many Americans today, I suppose it’s easy to be deceived by statements like Romney’s.

Mr. Ryan isn’t a serious man — he just plays one on TV. That’s a great line and perfectly accurate. Ryan is an empty suit who, for some bizarre reason, many people want to treat as some sort of credible, intelligent policy wonk. He’s not. He’s a flim-flam man. And anyone who can do basic arithmetic ought to be able to see that for themselves.

Another look at the GOP health care plan for America. (Mostly, it boils down to if you aren’t rich, as far as they are concerned you can go die.)

Of course, it’s been obvious that the GOP doesn’t want an electorate capable of critical thought, since such an electorate could see through their lies. The con man needs a mark. But it is interesting to see them enshrine that educational “goal” in their party platform here in Texas.

Understanding the ACA Medicare “cuts”. The real problem is that we have one party that does the normal political exaggeration and slanting, but within those parameters largely still speaks the truth while the other party simply blatantly lies. And the lies are often being presented to people as if they were simply a different opinion rather than a blatant falsehood.

If there’s anyone out there who still takes Niall Ferguson seriously, you should check this out. Of course, I guess people really don’t grasp that there are different kinds of wrong. Niall is deliberately misrepresenting facts in order to mislead people. Unfortunately, that’s become the norm in the GOP today.

And this represents an accurate portrayal of the actual math in Ryan’s plan. If those are the results you actually want to see happen in America, then fine, vote for him. But it’s despicable to have destructive goals like that and then try to mislead people that you are proposing something different. At least in this instance, the USCCB wasn’t fooled — not that Ryan gives a flip what his Bishops have to say. So much for being a devout Catholic.

The Romney-Ryan Economic Plan.


Weekend Update 08-18-2012

Posted: August 18th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Weekend Update | Comments Off on Weekend Update 08-18-2012

The Ryan Choice. Good post by Robert Reich. Yep, Paul Ryan embodies the full evil of the modern right-wing social darwinism. Odd that people who largely reject evolution embrace that ideological perversion of the theory.

I like the terms coined in this post. YOYO (You’re On Your Own) economics vs. WITT (We’re In This Together) economics. It does indeed form a stark difference. I would also call Paul Ryan’s approach the “I’ve got mine; screw you” attitude. I also want to take a moment to note that the USCCB has sharply rebuked Ryan (one of their own), though not by name, for his budget — the budget resolution the House passed. I’ve been critical of the USCCB in the past for often appearing to pick from a select few issues for their public statements and actions while ignoring others that seem equally contrary (at least to my eyes) to Catholic doctrine and practice. I remain disturbed that they still have not (at least that I can find) issued a public statement denouncing Texas’ recent execution of a man with an IQ of 61.

Paul Ryan’s love of Rage Against the Machine is amusing, because he is the embodiment of the machine that our music has been raging against for two decades.Tom Morello speaks. “Don’t mistake me, I clearly see that Ryan has a whole lotta “rage” in him: A rage against women, a rage against immigrants, a rage against workers, a rage against gays, a rage against the poor, a rage against the environment. Basically the only thing he’s not raging against is the privileged elite he’s groveling in front of for campaign contributions.”

Whose plan destroys Medicare? Frankly, if you need to read the post to answer that question, you either aren’t paying attention (and you really should since this will have major implications for you and for everyone you love) or you’re an idiot. I can’t think of a nice way to say it. I’ve been told I don’t suffer fools easily, but things have reached the point where I’m not even inclined to try.

Essentially, the health care “policy” of Romney, Ryan, and the GOP in general looks like this. In what fantasy universe does anyone consider these social darwinists “pro-life”? Their policy proposals are specifically designed to kill people — the ones like Ken they consider “undeserving”. Maybe we need to return to Christian emperors. At least some of them accomplished a lot of good. If we’ve degenerated to the point where there is any credible chance that RomneyRyan could be elected, then we’ve proven what all the naysayers at the founding of our country right. Mob rule doesn’t work, in part, because mobs can’t think coherently.

Yes, even assuming he’s telling the truth instead of blatantly lying, Romney’s alleged 13% effective federal tax rate is shameful. Of course, he’s running on Ryan’s plan to effectively reduce his tax rate to near 0%. Self-interest? (And not the enlightened sort.)


Weekend Update 08-11-2012

Posted: August 11th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Weekend Update | Comments Off on Weekend Update 08-11-2012

Luck vs. Skill. Indeed. I’ve often written how cognizant so much of my success has been the result of societal support when I most needed it and then simply on luck. Yes, I had the intelligence, skill, and drive to take advantage of those fortunate opportunities when they came my way, but I didn’t somehow create them and the dice could have gone many different ways. Most teen parents don’t end up where I have. I was extremely lucky.

“In the hands of Christ, bread always becomes His body: all things become what they truly are.” Fr. Stephen knocks another one out of the park.

Richard Beck take a good look at the theology of Dark Knight Rises. Well worth a read.

At one point in Hope Springs Tommy Lee Jones’ character expresses his fear of first telling Meryl Streep’s character he loved her. He thought that would send her running. She could have had anyone she wanted. Why would she want him? I think that’s something many men experience. I always thought my wife was out of my league and never have understood why she chose me and stuck with me through some pretty awful times. I’m not sure she’s ever really understood why I told her Dirty Dancing and, in particular She’s Like the Wind, captured my feelings. I still sometimes think I’m a fool to believe I have anything she needs. I see who I am in the mirror. And I had so much pain when she met me. Almost a quarter of a decade later, though, and she still believes in me. She see something different when she looks at me than I see when I look at myself. I don’t know where I would be today if I hadn’t met her, but I’m certain it would be a much darker place.

She’s Like the Wind


Weekend Update 08-04-2012

Posted: August 4th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Weekend Update | Comments Off on Weekend Update 08-04-2012

I’ve spent the past week working at our data center in Martinsburg, WV, so slim pickings this weekend.

For those who somehow believe America is “post-racist”: Black wedding rejected at a white church.

One Night in Paris. Depeche Mode. Exciter Tour (2001). The first concert to which I took my wife was a Depeche Mode concert. She didn’t understand why people were making an ‘X’ sign at us. (They were asking if I dealt ecstasy and the answer was no.) This was back in the 80s and OMD opened for them. At roughly 19:00 in the video is ‘Walking in my Shoes’. Long-time readers might recall the meaning that song holds for me. Also? Martin on electric and acoustic guitars the whole night; nary a synthesizer in sight. Anyway, enjoy!

Walking In My Shoes

Weekend Update 07-28-2012

Posted: July 28th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Weekend Update | Comments Off on Weekend Update 07-28-2012

This column by Christina Romer on containing health care costs is a good one. The ACA is a good first step, saving an estimated trillion dollars in its first ten years just on the federal budget side, but it’s only the first step. With per capita health care costs more than double those of any other industrialized nation, many more steps are required. We certainly need more than the GOP “plan” (though that descriptor probably goes too far) to simply reduce government expenditures and nothing else — essentially shifting even more of the spiraling costs of our out of control system onto employers and individuals. That will simply have the effect of impoverishing our nation and throwing an increasing number of those who are sick or injured under the metaphorical bus.

America is a violent country. Like Krugman, I’m impressed by how much we’ve improved. I lived in the Montrose area inside the loop in Houston in the 70s during the peak in that graph. During that time, there were rapes on either side of us and a man shot and killed in the street less than a block away. As a preteen and young teen I learned to fend off street propositions for sex. They happened in broad daylight sometimes shouted from cars in the street as I waited at a bus stop. The Saturday Evening Post had a cover story with a stylized photo of a biker gang declaring, “There’s a New Gang in Town!” The patches on the “gang” were HPD (Houston Police Department). It really was that bad. We still have more violence than any of the other industrialized nations, but we have improved so much that I’m not sure it’s possible for those younger than me to really grasp how bad it was at the peak in that graph — especially if you lived in an urban area. We still have lot to do, of course. Both mass shootings like the recent one in Colorado and individual acts of violence like the murder of my friend’s son on vacation remain far too common. But things are not getting ever worse as some want to portray the situation. Rather they’ve been improving for a long time now.

This is an interesting little election year issue quiz. Not particularly surprising to me, but I “side with” President Obama on most of the issues that I ranked important to me among the questions. Back in my twenties Ron Paul would have ranked a whole lot higher, but I’ve changed a lot since those days.

This analogy to loaded dice when it comes to the effects of climate change is a good one. We’re experiencing the consequences of climate change now. The real question is what it will take to smash the blinders of denial or general apathy that many have?

Five Obamacare Myths. Not that it will matter to those determined to believe blatant lies. But still.

Celiac Central’s archived webinars. How did I not know about these?

Anyone who’s interested in it has probably already watched Rob Bell’s most recent video — Rediscovering Wonder. But if you’ve somehow missed it, here it is.

If you are an America who wants to restore our rightful place as the laughingstock of the world …


Weekend Update 07-21-2012

Posted: July 21st, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Weekend Update | Comments Off on Weekend Update 07-21-2012

The personal in Romney’s case frames the larger picture. Maybe that will break through the delusion many have that Romney (and the GOP in general) won’t do what they have actually proposed doing and for some of which they have even already voted.

Who exactly is dividing America?

Let’s try to stick to the real world when we talk about Medicaid. Amen. I’m sick of everyone from the media to ordinary people letting the GOP get away with blatant lies. I used to joke that you could tell that a politician was lying when his lips were moving — but it was a joke. The modern GOP has made that reality. And they get away with it. Not only that, they get away with it to the point that when the policy proposals they have actually made and the things for which they have actually voted are accurately portrayed to GOP voters, those voters believe the people they support don’t support any such thing. We’re living in Wonderland now. As a teen parent, Medicaid was the only reason we survived. Metaphorically, but also literally. When my infant daughter had pneumonia it was Medicaid that ensured she had the care she needed to live. So pardon me while I sneer at the “pro-life” stance of (mostly) white conservative evangelicals who have never been in a position where they actually needed Medicaid.

The problem is that the prosperity of America’s big businesses has become disconnected from well-being of most American citizens.

Pathos of the Plutocrat. Quoting The Rich Boy no less.

Jay Smooth at Ill Doctrine on Mitt Romney’s Blackest Week Yet.

 


Weekend Update 07-14-2012

Posted: July 14th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Weekend Update | Comments Off on Weekend Update 07-14-2012

The drag on our economy caused by public sector job loss, primarily at the state and local level, has been and continues to be enormous. The math isn’t even very difficult and the underlying concepts are not particularly complicated. Unfortunately, we’re in a situation where far too much of our population and the politicians they elect are choosing to see a fantasy world through ideological lenses rather than anything that even vaguely correlates with reality. Nor is it a matter of intelligence. As far as I can tell, intelligence hardly even seems to be a factor. And right now I don’t see any clear path out of delusion for our country.

Robert Reich on the Libor scandal(s). I can’t figure out why so many Americans not only put up with this, but actively and vigorously support the politicians who actively encourage this sort of behavior and fight against any regulation that attempts to prevent it. Do GOP voters suffer from some bizarre form of Stockholm Syndrome? There has to be some way to explain otherwise utterly irrational behavior.

Just as GW was and remains the merest fraction of a man that his father is, the same can be said of Mitt and George.

Big lies about taxes. And how many Americans are stupid enough to believe them? And yes. Stupid. No more mincing words. If the shoe fits…

Who’s Very Important? Sigh. Of course there aren’t enough of them to actually elect anyone. I still find it bizarre that they can get so many people who already have been harmed and will be hurt even worse by their desired policies to vote for their candidates. Of course, it seems like a lot of people simply don’t believe the candidate for whom they are voting or plan to vote will actually do the things that candidate has promised to do

Texas absolutely last in the nation in health care quality. Also here. Of course, I can’t imagine that’s surprising to anyone who has actually lived here. Still. I was born in Louisiana. I lived in Mississippi for a short while as a child. I went to high school (and had my first daughter and marriage) in Arkansas in the poorest county in the Ozarks. By comparison Texas is rich. There’s no reason things have to be even worse here. The good citizens of our state choose to gamble their lives that they can get away with this situation and it might not touch those they love. Of course, they are all honorable men. Our governor, the illustrious Rick Perry, is absolutely committed to keeping us dead last in the country when it comes to health care. He demonstrates his commitment in various ways.

Waiting for health care. Watch the video. I’ve lived at all segments of our society over the course of my life — from the poorest of the poor to where I surprisingly find myself today. If you are one of the loud voices complaining about the way health care reform “infringes on your freedom” or similar nonsense, then you are the oppressor. You are the slaver. You are the abuser. You’re the bad guy in this story. If you have a different image of yourself, you’re out of touch with reality. If you claim the name of Christ, I wouldn’t want to be in your shoes when you face him.

Josh, the singer, was one of the teens always around our house and part of the teen “garage band” we hosted. Now? He’s amazing. I remember when he tried to play chicken with a car in front of our house … I took him to the emergency room. One of a zillion stories. It’s hard for me to connect the teen in those memories to this man.

Regressive vs. Progressive.


Weekend Update 07-07-2012

Posted: July 7th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Weekend Update | Comments Off on Weekend Update 07-07-2012

Let’s start with this week’s most exciting news! My son, the physics major, texted me about the impending Higgs boson discovery announcement before I saw it anywhere else. This article includes the tidbit about Stephen Hawking losing a $100 bet as a result. Well, okay. Perhaps it’s less exciting to those who have not found quantum physics and mathematics fascinating practically their whole lives. But it really is a big deal. Why? Well, here’s a really good, brief lay summary with an analogy that most of us can grasp from Fermilab.

 

Mitt Romney and the New Gilded Age. Robert Reich an the absurd point we’ve reached.

Fr. Orthoduck “rants” about the impact of neglecting our infrastructure for the past thirty years and the widespread denial and delusion preventing us from making any progress today. Well worth reading.

Parents already know or should know that all the peer-reviewed and substantiated science shows that “normal” corporal punishment of children (spanking) can have long-term negative effects. And yet they live in denial, even asserting among many religious groups that “god” (whatever god it is they worship) demands that parents hit their children. However, it’s hardly limited to religious groups. Rather 90% of Americans, religious or not, still spank their kids today. Sometimes it seems hopeless.

While actually proving any linkage between individual weather events and overall climate is much more difficult than many people appreciate, the increase in extreme heat-related weather events is consistent with the predictions of climate science.

I like this post primarily because it again exposes the very bad metaphor comparing a country to a business. Among other things, no company (other than perhaps Amway) sells 80% of its products and/or services to its own employees. Bad metaphors lead to bad conclusions and worse actions. Krugman makes essentially the same point in his column.

Robert Reich on patriotism. Read it. ‘Nuff said.

Cringely on IT class warfare. Good stuff. And it’s true. IT is creative knowledge-based work. I have a friend who says he isn’t paid for what he does; he’s paid for what he knows. (Of course, from that knowledge you accomplish a lot. But it’s the knowledge and the ability to apply it that’s key.) This quote caught my eye. “Toward the top end of IT the value of individual contributors becomes extreme. There are many IT organizations where certain critical functions are dependent on a single worker. These are complex or arcane tasks being done by unique individuals.” If this isn’t an area where you work, that can be hard to understand. It’s also not necessarily a highly paid or broadly recognized individual. Right now, in my organization of a 100,000 people over more than 700 sites, there are key aspects of our infrastructure that depend on me for all practical purposes. It’s been that way in different arenas for the past couple of decades, but most people don’t know who I am and I’m not unusually compensated. I like it that way. If you get to a certain depth with a given type of problem or issue, you’ll end up being directed to me. And I’ll make things work (or tell you why what you think you want isn’t possible and help you find an alternative approach). There are a handful of other people like me in other areas and by and large we either know each other or we know who to ask to find each other. It’s just the way things are.


Weekend Update 06-30-2012

Posted: June 30th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Weekend Update | Comments Off on Weekend Update 06-30-2012

Evangelism and the Ego. I was particularly struck by this quote of Elder Paisios toward the end. “Often we see a person and we say a couple spiritual words to him and he converts. 
Later we say, “Ah, I saved someone.” I believe that the person who has the disposition and goodness 
within him, if he doesn’t convert from what we say, would convert from the sight of a bear or a fox or from anything else. Let 
us beware of false evangelization.

The Great Abdication. Looking more and more like 1931.

The destructive, ideological push for austerity. Sometimes I feel as though my reaction is that of the professor in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, “What do they teach in schools these days?” I know, of course, that as human beings we do not actually tend to act or react from any sort of logical assessment. And I’ve seen the studies confirming that truth. We tend toward rationalization not rationality. We buttress our beliefs about the way things should be, about ourselves, and about those we love and those we hate by finding “facts” that support that framework and discarding those that don’t. But it still shocks me that so many people can cling to ideas that have been so utterly and thoroughly discredited by cold, hard facts. I’m not talking about the ideologues who continue to promote the ideas. They have considerable, if short-sighted and ill-advised, self-interest driving their ideology. I’m talking about the people who continue to elect those who blatantly express goals and ideas that are societally destructive, utterly irrational, and against even the self-interest of the overwhelming majority of those electing them. I know we all tend to be bound by delusion, but it’s still amazing to me how deeply that runs through our nature, especially within the dynamics of the group. The last quote in this post captures how utterly absurd this has all become. “Moon landing was real. Evolution exists. Tax cuts lose revenue. The research has shown this a thousand times. Enough already.” Of course, in the US nearly half the population does not “believe” in evolution, so clearly we as a people believe reality is contingent on our belief.

Turns out Robert Reich was a better prognosticator than me. And his post-decision post was also interesting. I really didn’t think the good of the Court or our country would rise above ideology for Roberts, but apparently I was wrong. Given that roughly 80% of Republicans support keeping kids on parents’ plans up to age 26 and the prohibition against denial of coverage for pre-existing conditions, I don’t think anything will ever remove those provisions. And those were the two provisions that most directly affect my two younger kids who both inherited celiac disease from me. So I can breathe a sigh of relief. Roberts concern, even if just for the way history would view his court, has saved my kids from the worst our country’s “Christian” conservatives would have wished on them. More than ever, I question my association with that label. If I hadn’t met Christ, I would run from it. I do agree with Gandhi, though. Boy, do I agree with him.

Krugman’s column is also worth reading.

And I wholeheartedly agree that the ACA doesn’t go far enough. But it’s so much better than than the alternative that I’ll take it as a first step.


Weekend Update 06-23-2012

Posted: June 23rd, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Weekend Update | Comments Off on Weekend Update 06-23-2012

The Communion of the Saints in Prayer. Wow. That’s really all I can say. I am sensitive to anachronisms, but I’ve found that when I try to describe them to many people, they don’t understand what I mean. Thinking of a post by Frank Viola that a friend recently tweeted, I will note that perhaps, when facing a choice between the word ‘faith’ and the word ‘baptism’ perhaps the NT writers were not using them interchangeably, but actually knew what each meant and selected the word they wanted. I know that would be a radical idea for many Protestants. But I would suggest that an anachronistic reading of Scripture is probably not the best idea.

The dirty dozen and the clean fifteen of produce when it comes to pesticide levels. Good information to have when shopping.

IPv6, whois database, tracking criminals, and getting search warrants. This is the among the best reasoned responses to flap over the recent concern about IPv6 expressed by the FBI.

I still clearly remember seeing this version of the video for Relax by Frankie Goes to Hollywood projected on a screen at the Bonham Exchange in San Antonio. That was, I believe, in 1988 — four years after the video had apparently been released. I know it’s hard for people younger than me to imagine a time when things weren’t at the tip of your fingers. Out of curiosity, I googled the Bonham Exchange and they are apparently still open. Go figure! I looked at the pictures in the tour and it’s still recognizably the same club. We had a couple of wild Halloweens there. In one of them my (now) wife got decked out in a version of my (then) look. That was a fun night. I remember the “gypsy” fortune teller, the haunted house in the basement, and of course the dancing. Somewhere along the way since then I guess I got old. But I really wouldn’t mind being the old guy out on the dance floor at the Bonham! Sigh.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2K-Vpsfq5-c