100 Days

I saw a post from a former pastor of mine.  I consider him a friend and mentor – at least, I considered him one.  It’s a confusing thing.  I still love and respect him, admire much of his character and have nothing but the deepest appreciation for the things he has taught me over the years.  But, I feel conflicted, too.  Our ideologies are not the same, and though I have faith in God, I would no longer characterize myself as a fundamentalist Christian in any form.  Over the past few years my friend has become increasingly more vocal in political and religious matters, something I will certainly never criticize, however it has highlighted the rift that is between us when I compare what we think and believe.  He is unabashedly both conservative Right and conservative Christian,  even when those two viewpoints are in direct contention.  More recently, he has taken to bashing both the Left and the Islamic religion, often conflating the two in order to make a skewed point.  Given his background as both an IBM engineer and a teacher of Philosophy, I have no doubt he understands faulty logic- but he no longer pays heed to that in service of rhetoric.  This depresses me.  There was a time when he measured the character of a person by when they were willing to keep their mouth shut.  Have we moved so far past civil discourse that even good men step over the line to protect what they see as their way of life?  Is the perceived threat to Christianity, whether it is by political, social or religious agenda so great that we must forget our principles?

I hope not.

Running for the Republicans

So yesterday I posited the idea of running for the Democrats as a non-Democrat, and not in the Bernie Sanders kind of why.  I can’t say I’d do the same for the Republicans, at least not at this time.  The first reason is that the Democratic party has, at least locally, accepted the notion that they are a party in disarray.  They know this.  Second, I can get behind a lot of their social programs without accepting their economic ones.  The Republican party?  Yeah, not so much, and it might be because I came from them originally.  I’ve found I disagree with many of their social stances, and I’m opposed to their attempts to push the Christian religion as the basis for our government and policy decisions.  On paper, I agree with many of their stated goals, at least as far as limited government and fiscal spending go, but in reality I have found that they have no desire to actually abide by those ideals.  It’s not a sales thing, or a presentation of the platform, it’s that in many ways, they are actively working against their stated principles.  To me that’s a longer row to hoe.  I also think that, as a party, they are still unaware of just how broken they are – Even as they laud their victories in the last election, they fail to see that many of those victories were on the back of Trump’s platform, which ironically, was similar to President Obama’s.  Change.  The people aren’t happy with the status quo and they’re looking for options.

I don’t think politics will ever change, but it could be an interesting political landscape in the next few years.

And your new Democratic candidate is… Not a Democrat

Dear God, help us!

Heh.  Still between that article, and another one I read but cannot find, the Montana Democrats are in need of a few good candidates.  Perhaps I should throw my hat into the ring as the kind of candidate they need.  You see, I’m not a Democrat.  I’m not a Republican any more, either.  The Democrats have a tough go of it here in Montana – their social platform actually benefits a lot of the state, but they have no concept on how to market it.  On the economic side, well, Democrats suck.  We might identify, economically, as a state/nation of have nots, but even though the idea of sticking it to the man is appealing to many, even more of us want to be well off.  Sure those guys oppressing us are rich, but we wanna be rich too.  Taxing the rich isn’t something a lot of Montanan’s get behind, I think because many people identify wealth with hard work.  And while that isn’t as accurate as it used to be, we’re not really ready to throw that association out, not around here.  And truthfully, we shouldn’t.  Whether Democrats like it or not, the wealthy already foot the bill for the majority of our expenses- taxing them more just because we feel they can afford it is not a policy we should ever agree to.

So that’s where I come in.  Let’s get back to the basics of streamlining our government.  Less at the Federal level, more at the State.  Let’s invest in our infrastructure – our people, and we’ll sell it as good for business, good for the environment and good for the profits of everyone.  Well, almost everyone.  🙂  Let’s move from the extremes of both parties and find some ground that actually lets us accomplish some work in our country.

137 Days

If you had a bucket list, a list of things that had to get done, changes that needed to be made, and you gave yourself a time limit.  Could you get them done?  Or, in committing to get them done, would you know what you wanted to do?  Can you imagine change, accomplishment?  What could you do in X days, in X months?  By tomorrow?  How would you limit yourself?  Would you allow yourself to fail?  to succeed?

I have a time limit, self-imposed, nothing medical… 137 days, 3.5 months to my next birthday.  What’s on my list?

A take on the healthcare plan

Economix had a fun tear down of the current plan put forth by the President and the GOP to replace the current ACA.  The author’s politics run counter to Trump’s and the far right, but he does a pretty good job of keeping it real from an economic standpoint.  He also points out that one of the big issues of repealing the ACA is how much of it was based on Republican ideas.  If you’re protesting your own ideas, your alternative options tend be even more limited and extreme.

One of the things he briefly touches on, but doesn’t really address, is that success is sometimes measured by how we failed less than previously.  Specifically I am speaking about the rise of costs and premiums, which continued to rise at rapid rates during the ACA, with many traditionally conservative states seeing the largest increases.  The success is that some of the increases were less than the increases seeing prior to the ACA.  That kind of measuring for success works in the short term, but if you’re measuring against a flood, either do something different or build a boat…
Another thing the author glosses over is the use of subsidies.  Although he points out that the Feds will subsidize the premium for the States, which he uses as an argument for why some states should have adopted the ACA, he ignores their premise for why they might have rejected it in the first place – It doesn’t matter whether the Federal government or the State government subsidizes the premium, it’s still a redistribution of wealth.  If you’re opposing the ACA, or any similar plan, because of your opposition to Taxation, any argument involving subsidies is going to fall flat.

Take the analysis for what it is, a visual breakdown of the shortcomings of the current and proposed plans, as well as a bit of insight as to why things might not be working as they could.  It’s a fun read and he lists his references, so if you disagree with a particular point, you can at least see what he based his argument on.

No Longer Economically Viable

There was this Michael Douglas movie back in the early 90’s- Falling Down, where an out of work defense worker spirals downward after he is let go by his company.  In their words, his skill set and position were no longer economically viable for the company to continue employing him.  In the 20 years since that film was made, in one variation or another, this has become an increasingly heard line.  Computers, AI, automation, efficiency, downsizing, up sizing, globalization – whatever the term, the reality for many is that their job is longer there, and probably won’t be in any human form as this trend continues.  As we continue to innovate and upgrade our technological capabilities, we have been able to downgrade our workforce.  We can do more with less, a lot less, and in many cases, those less no longer have to be human.  What happens when even many of our skilled trades no longer need to be staffed by a human agent?  What happens to our workforce, our population, our economy?  Corporations don’t have to pay robots and networks, and the increase in profits that they realize from the improved efficiency and lower labor costs will eventually be overtaken by the reality that their customer base is no longer employed.  Sure, as science, technology and society progress, there will be new vocations, new disciplines that will employ some people, but that come close to employing our growing population?  I don’t think so.  I think we will need to answer these questions, and sooner rather than later.  At a time when the United States cannot even bring itself to admit that their government and economy are anything but pure democracy and capitalism will now need to answer questions that make such things passe’ in comparison.  I am still young enough that, one way or another, I may live to see the answer to the question as completely relevant…

Big Mouth Strikes Again | Peggster

Source: Big Mouth Strikes Again | Peggster

 

I was just thinking about how different childhood is in the last 100 years and lo, this shows up in my feed.  For those who dwell on the ages old chicken and egg conundrum, I submit to you an alternative to consider… That of the of riddle and the blog post.

Moving along now, I come back to where I was. I do not think the vast majority of children living in 1st world countries have an analog for what their lives would have been like prior to the 1900’s.  I am certain their parents do not, judging by all the comments regarding childhood and where this or that doomed generation is heading.  I am no historian, but I do think that the way our lives are now, is basically unprecedented.  I don’t know of another point in history when our fight for basic survival has ever been less.  That got me to thinking what impact that has on our children.  In a word, they are allowed to be children, and for a much longer period of time than ever before.  Children aren’t learning a trade as they begin their double digits, they aren’t helping on the farms like they did before.  They are allowed to pursue extra-curricular activities, alternative educations, experience society at a more leisurely pace.  Not to say that there aren’t downsides.  The rise of the ultra competitive parent has children as young as two in preparatory schools, being exposed to additional languages, maths, etc in an effort to give them an edge when it comes to getting into college.  The effects of that approach are relatively unknown in the West, but if you look to Japan you can get a good idea of how that turns out…

Where this is going, I do not know, but I am cautiously optimistic.

To each their own…decision.

I happened to be reading this article when my oldest son looked over my shoulder and started reading along with me.  This lead to a conversation of sorts with him, which I rather enjoyed.

At first my son was actively against the shop owners.  He said he would have sued the owners, too.  Not because of any particular leaning so much as he views all discrimination as wrong.  I explored his thinking on that for a bit and I was satisfied with where he was coming from, but then I told him how things might have been different in Montana.  I shared with him how, in lot of states, the right to refuse service to anyone is available to business owners.  I also shared with him how customers have the same right not to go to a particular business.  They can complain to others about it, too, which usually works out better that just suing somebody.  It was fun to discuss the various alternatives.

We spoke on a lot of different topics related to the situation and the fun thing for me was watching him consider other viewpoints than his own.  He didn’t dismiss things out of hand, he spent time thinking about where the shop owners were coming from and why.  He considered other ways to handle the conflict and what some of the results were.  At the end of the day he held to his own opinion, for his own reasons, but he thought about things!  It was a great father/son moment, but it also made me laugh and think about how often I can’t have that kind of conversation with an adult…

They’re just thinking of the children…

http://news.msn.com/us/in-calif-district-students-facebook-posts-are-closely-watched

What’s the best way to trial a service designed to monitor what people are saying and thinking outside of a particular environment?  Why, disguise it as a means to protect children, of course!

The firm referenced in the article is providing a valuable service by snooping on what America’s children are writing and saying in social media circles outside of their educational environment.  They argue that they are more accurate because the information is eventually interpreted by a human being vs. a computer.  Supposedly this allows them to eliminate false positives due to better understanding of contextual scenarios.  Of course, it also allows them to monitor, evaluate and effectively regulate speech outside of school, which apparently has been assumed to be a right they, and by extension, the schools that employ them, already possess.

The company is already showcasing some of their alleged success stories.  Once their concept has been proved in its existing setting, it is not a difficult leap to bring it to corporate america.  After all, who else has such a vested interest in monitoring the loyalty of its’ employees and their treatment of their corporate brand.  This is not new in the working world, as corporations are becoming ever more aggressive in the monitoring of the employee’s actions online, especially outside of the work environment.  This is a first, as far as I know, in which this particular brand of broad monitoring has been offered as a service in and of itself.  This will be an advantage for companies looking to keep their IT and HR departments focused on other projects and so should have little barrier.  I can see it being a defacto option for staffing agencies within 5 years.

I have other thoughts brewing about this, but they need time to steep.

Letting the past go

When I was a teenager it was a common practice to assume that nobody ever changed.  What I mean by this is, if somebody had stated an opinion on something a year ago, it was common knowledge that they still felt that way today.  Growth, evolution of thought and philosophy was not a big part of our world then.  I find that interesting because the crowd I ran with contained some very bright people.  Very flawed, each fighting our own demons, but bloody bright.

As time marched on, I personally was forced to move beyond my past.  I had to learn to let go of anger, of the depression that had gripped me since I was a kid.  In order to find some semblance of life, I had to change a lot of who I was on the inside.  Part of that change led me to an acceptance of change in others, to an understanding that they didn’t have to hold to the same beliefs for years or decades.  Mistakes are made, lessons are learned and people can grab on to new ideas and let go of those that are holding them back.  This concept in action didn’t really stand out to me, it was just a reflection of my own internal struggles to accept who I was.  I counted it as a normal part of life; a benefit of maturity, perhaps.  I think I was wrong…

For much of my life, I have observed that my country is deeply obsessed with the past.  You see that in politics, film, literature, the press and people themselves.  Terms such as “Golden Age”, “Gilded Age”, “Classic”, “Retro”,”Timeless” and “Back in the day” all refer to events far removed from the present.  But even more, they are substantive terms, words with weight to them, as if, somehow, what they represent should in some way be more valuable and significant than recent events.

Our politics demands that we review every spoken word and action of our representatives, yea even unto birth.  Should we find discrepancies that indicate change from a decade or two ago, their entire works are often challenged.  A flexible, intelligent mind is portrayed as weak and unable to hold conviction.  Our current authors are constantly held to a higher standard set forth by those long dead.  Great literary works cast a palpable shadow of today’s author, rendering them less than their talents deserve, especially if they have achieved commercial success.  Many of our actors face type cast roles, forever defined by their first crowning achievement.  More so, they find themselves unable to comment on serious public matters without facing considerable backlash from the public- ironic considering they often act as the face of American gravitas,  highlighting in their works that which is important to us internally.

Our nation is a nation of rebels, dissidents and failures- and of opportunists.  We came to a new country, forsake all that we knew, in order to reinvent ourselves and lift ourselves beyond our pasts.  We achieved that, as a people and as a nation, by freeing ourselves from our pasts, of learning from history, letting it guide us as we made decisions, but we refused to let our history define our future.  My how times have changed….