Archive | December, 2014

A Dose of Reality

31 Dec

This just in! According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention Influenza levels in the U.S. have hit “epidemic” levels and are continuing to rise! So much for the Ebola frenzy and media scare from earlier this year even though Fox News still has their Ebola map and timeline updating live on their website with 19,570 cases worldwide. However, They even have an influenza outbreak map up now for the United States…it’s basically just a map of the U.S. colored completely red…because the flu, unlike Ebola, is everywhere! And can affect anywhere from 5 to 20% of the total U.S. population…annually!

Already this year the proportion of deaths reported in 122 American cities from flu and pneumonia so far has surpassed the typical level for late December at 6.8 percent which is the “epidemic threshold” set by the federal health agency. That means that 6.8% of all those who have the flu are dying from the flu…that’s some very sobering info when you consider that 3 people with Ebola had Americans running for cover and politicians calling for quarantines worldwide. On average, there are about 36,000 flu deaths per year in the United States alone!

The CDC has also warned that the H3N2 strain that’s circulating is linked to flu that’s more severe than usual, with already 10 times more cases this year than usual…and Health officials are also recommending people who catch the flu to ask their doctor for an antiviral, such as Tamiflu. But even antivirals can pose a risk for side effects according to the FDA.
So what to do? Well, for one, be careful out there! Stop worrying about sensational media driven diseases and worry about very real, unglamorous, and not very TV sexy diseases like the flu, which are with us everyday and everywhere and always have been. And take care of yourself and be mindful of others around you. Wash your hands, cough into your sleeves and stay home when you are feeling sick…and perhaps most importantly…when it comes to your health just remember to get real…and stay that way!

Share and Share Alike

30 Dec

Tis the season of holidays and celebrations and New Years…and religion. Which means a visit from the local religious affiliates and their spokespersons. They all seem like very nice people but their visit, no matter how brief, always ends with the handing over of the pamphlet…and that’s where they always lose me.

This year’s pamphlet went something like this:

It is true; most people are pretty good. However, contrary to popular opinion, not all good people go to heaven. In fact, you do not have to be a bad person to go to hell. Another interesting fact found in the Bible is that you are not really as good as you think you are.

Last year’s went like this:

What you MISS by being a Christian: HELL! (but see above)

Nothing says Holiday cheer and good will to all like a visit from your local Christian organization. That’s for sure! But don’t despair because the pamphlet lists the three things one must do in order to get into heaven…

1. Be genuinely sorry for your sin. (You are a sinner so don’t try to deny it)

2. Believe that Jesus died for you.

3. Ask Jesus to save you and take you to Heaven when you die. (I guess you shouldn’t forget to add the “when you die” part or else you’ll go right away?)

Anyway, it’s that simple! So simple that you’d think that after 2,000 years and change Jesus would have an overall approval rating greater than 31%, but he doesn’t, for only 31% of the world’s people consider themselves Christian. President Obama has an approval rating over 40% after 6 years…and nobody even likes him!…so go figure.

So according to my pamphlets, 69% of the world’s population is going straight to hell, plus all of those Christians who don’t subscribe to this rather orthodox interpretation of Christianity. And that’s why I don’t believe in any religion’s god because I think that god could do a lot better than reaching only 31% of everyone in over 2000 years. Heck, he should be able to do it in an instant… don’t you think?

It seems to me that most everyone on this planet always wants to feel exclusive and special about their beliefs. Somehow when something is available to everyone, and for nothing, it simply loses all of its value. Maybe that’s why we can’t get everyone on the same page when it comes to taking care of our planet. So Who, I wonder, do we think is taking care of Heaven…if there is such a place? Yes, I was a no good sinner down on Earth, and I helped wreck the place…but I said I believed and asked to be saved and now the after livin’ is easy and Jesus does all the heavy lifting.

But why isn’t Heaven for everybody and must only the like minded apply? I suppose that’s what makes Heaven so special, it’s exclusivity. Hell, on Earth anyone can get in! We are a greedy lot and it is hard to share the things we possess but you would think that after all of the pain, suffering and strife we go through together here on Earth we’d all just agree to share in an afterlife of peace and rest.

God knows, What would be so wrong with that?

Good Will To All

24 Dec

I recently read an excellent interview of Chris Rock in New York Magazine, by Frank Rich, and in the interview Mr. Rock made a very interesting observation that I had not heard before nor considered. Here’s what he had to say: (and I condense his comments a little)

“Here’s the thing. When we talk about race relations in America or racial progress, it’s all nonsense…To say that black people have made progress would be to say that they deserve what happened to them before. So, to say Obama is progress is saying that he’s the first black person that is qualified to be president. That’s not black progress. That’s white progress. There’s been black people qualified to be president for hundreds of years…The advantage that my children have is that my children are encountering the nicest white people that America has ever produced. Let’s hope America keeps producing nicer white people.”

And I agree…not to say that there have never been any nice white people. Of course there have. But it is safe to say that we white folks started it and we’re going to need to be a whole lot nicer if we want this country to end up with the “Good Christian” outcome that we think America and all Americans deserve…at least that’s the way I see it.

Merry Christmas! And on Earth, peace, good will to all!

Because what possible alternative could make any better sense than that?

The Rich Get! Everyone Else is on Their Own.

22 Dec

The 1.1 trillion dollar budget legislation approved by Congress and signed this week by the President, included a provision that is supposed to prevent an implosion of multi-employer pension plans. Those in favor of this provision claim that it is better to preserve some pension benefits for workers rather than letting plans collapse… especially because the multi-employer fund is “supposed to” run out of money within 10 years. And If the multi-employer system were to collapse, pensioners would  be left with no benefits. But the multi-employer plans are insured by the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC), the federally sponsored agency that insures private sector pensions. So what’s the problem?

Remember when all of those banks were about to go under because of their predatory lending scams and derivative packaging frauds and phoney bond rating swindles? And the federal agency that insures their money put it all back to the tune of trillions and trillions of dollars at tax payer expense? And then the bankers and wall street execs gave themselves million dollar bonuses for all of their good (dishonest) work?

So why can’t these at risk pension plans receive a giant infusion of money from that same federal government to save them and bail them out to keep their pensioners getting their full hard earned pensions…just like when all of those banks and bankers were bailed out? Because according to the plan as set forth in this bill, the maximum cuts permitted under the law for retired union workers are pretty drastic. For a retiree with 25 years of service and a $25,000 annual benefit, the maximum annual cut permitted under the law is… $13,200! That’s more than half of what is already a fairly meager amount, especially when you compare it to a millionaire’s bonus money.

Imagine being a middle aged man receiving a 2 million dollar bonus annually and having it cut by 1 million? You still get a million dollar bonus…and it’s a bonus! Now imagine being 70 years old and living on 25K per year and then being told you’ll have to live on 13,500 dollars! And did you know that this recent budget legislation, besides cutting these multi-employer pension benefits, includes the loosening of regulations that will make it easier for those same U.S. banks to lose all of their (our) money again?…If and whenever they please that is.

So, if the rich keep getting richer, and those who run our government are rich and are backed by the even richer, then what future is there for the honest working men and women of this country and their other hard earned retirement plans like public sector pensions, Social Security and Medicare?

According to financial experts full pension benefits shouldn’t be considered a sure thing anymore and everyone should have a Plan B…like saving your money to “make sure you have something to rely on in the future”. That’s if you work for a living of course, and have money laying around that isn’t sunk into an underwater mortgage or inflated college tuition or predatory credit card debt at up to 20% interest. If you do you can save it for the future…at .1% interest… from the big banks.

And what do you suppose is the super rich’s plan B when times get tough?

Thanks to Congress That’s an easy one… Just steal all the money again!

Big Government?

15 Dec

When any government strives to bring healthcare to all of it’s citizens, even the poorest among us, who have trouble affording coverage that is meant to exclude them in the first place…I consider that good government. Even if it perhaps oversteps its traditional bounds in an effort to level the playing field for everyone, as equitably as possible. That is government of the people and for the people and I do not mind paying extra taxes, if that is what it takes to help fellow citizens.

But when a government pays 80 million dollars to two men for their ideas on torture which include putting a prisoners lunch in a blender and pureeing it so as to shove it up his ass with a feeding tube (were these guys in middle school at the time?) Then I consider that as a perfect example of government too big and going way way too far.

80 Million dollars? For Torture consultants? Really? And Congressmen get bent out of shape when someone tries to buy organic food with food stamps?!

Of course spending 40 million dollars to write up a report about it is incredibly asinine also. Wasn’t anybody on the payroll writing this stuff down when they were paying those two adolescents 80 million in the first place?

This is the kind of irresponsible waste that needs to be eliminated from government…not basic food, medicine, healthcare and housing for its citizens.

We Don’t Know Jack!

13 Dec

Torturing is easy for Jack Bauer because he is always right and he always represents the forces of good as opposed to the forces of evil, even when he is on his own. And his conscience never bothers him because he always gets the information he is seeking from his tortured victim…and even when he has the wrong person! He’s just intuitive that way. You gotta love that Jack!

But in the real world torturing is a little more complicated. I, for instance, would be happy to tell you everything I know under the threat of torture. You wouldn’t have to hurt me because I know exactly where you are going and I don’t want to go there because, well, torturing hurts! A lot! Who doesn’t know that? The trouble is that you, the torturer, may not believe me! Especially if it is too easy so…you’ll just have to keep it up for a while won’t you? Just to make sure.

The trouble with torture, or even conversation for that matter, is how do I know that what you tell me on a tortured Monday is the truth when on a tortured Wednesday you tell me something different…and then on a torturing Friday, you change your story again?

It’s just like with witches isn’t it? You can tie them up and toss them in the lake and wait for them to float to the surface (because their bones are hollow…everyone knows that!) but then they just sink to the bottom like everyone else! So maybe, you think, they aren’t witches after all…but then again…maybe they’re just tricking you because witches can do witchcraft so anything is possible! So let’s give them a few minutes to see if they float to the surface…or hours, or days or whatever. Who knows if we were right or wrong but I say good riddance anyway because it wasn’t like we were going to have them over for cake and coffee…ever… because they were outcasts in the first place now weren’t they?

It’s like when an unarmed inner city guy gets shot by a police officer. The officers are just protecting themselves and doing their duty and besides they are all sworn to uphold the law and why in god’s name should we suspect that they ever had any intent to do wrong? Besides who were those inner city guys anyway? Neighbors? Friends? More likely they were lowlifes who had done some bad things before and It’s not like we were having them over for a barbecue next week or anything, right?

And so it is the same with torturing terrorists? They’re terrorists for goodness sake! At least we think they are. And they don’t even believe in God! At least not the correct one, right? And even if we may be wrong and we torture the wrong guy(s) how are we…or you…ever really gonna know for sure? Just like those witches. You can go ahead and swim to the bottom of the lake for all I care and see if they’re still down there or not… but as for me? Just like Jack, I’m satisfied and I say good riddance to bad rubbish! Besides, who are the good guys here and who are the evil doers? You and me, or those witches, lowlifes and terrorists?

And that’s the point now isn’t it?!

What If?

13 Dec

What if that guy who jumped over the fence at the White House, eluded the Secret Service and made it all the way into the lobby, had done so when the President and his family were there and then had found his way up to the residence and then been shot dead by the President who was defending his family from the madman?

How long do you think it would have been before the Republican Congress had investigated, indicted and impeached President Obama and then sued him for the murder of an American citizen?

Or perhaps they would have hailed our president as the model home owner defending his family, 2nd Amendment rights, and the American way?

Which do you think it would have been?

Through a Glass Darkly

7 Dec

When it comes to guns and gun laws in the United States of America, things have gotten completely out of hand…case in point:

Responding with his partner to a 911 call about a man pointing a gun at people in a park in Cleveland, Ohio, (Ohio is a traditional open-carry state) Police officer Timothy Loehmann arrived at the scene where he immediately exited his police car and shot 12-year old Tamir Rice.

The open-carry of firearms by those who legally possess the firearm is a legal activity in Ohio with or without a license. Tamir had been playing with an Airsoft replica of a semi-automatic weapon, that, according to the police report, was missing its orange safety cap, which signals that it is fake…but Ohio is an open carry state where the open carrying of firearms is legal.

Tamir died the following day.

Officer Loehmann said that he had no choice but to shoot the child, who he mistook as a 20 year old, because he was pointing his gun.

But, Ohio is a traditional open-carry state where the open carry of firearms is legal. So if you can carry a gun legally out in the open and without a license then is pointing it in any particular direction illegal? And why would a police officer shoot at someone who is carrying a gun since it is perfectly legal for a citizen to carry it in Ohio…and without a license. What law was young Tamir breaking anyway? Even if the orange cap to his fake gun was missing?

And how do you instruct children in the dangers of gun carrying and pointing…when it is perfectly legal for everyone in Ohio to do it? And without a license!? 31 states allow the open carry of firearms without a license or permit.

The only explanation is that while legal, the practice is not common in urban areas, and often results in police responding. Of course urban areas are also areas in which you are more likely to find urban folks of varying colors. Could it be that a white person with a gun is obviously protecting his neighborhood while a person of color with a gun is obviously terrifying his neighborhood? That couldn’t be construed as racist in any way could it?

Guns DO kill people.

Outlaw guns and only outlaws will have guns?

When we Allow “Open Carry”  how can we tell who the outlaws are?

Simply by the color of their skin I suppose?

(Here is a link to the video of the tragic shooting) http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-nation/wp/2014/11/26/officials-release-video-names-in-fatal-police-shooting-of-12-year-old-cleveland-boy/

Into the Valley of the Shadow of Death

5 Dec

policemilitary

A while ago I wrote about the tragic shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO. At that time I predicted that the police officer would be found not guilty at trial and that the town would then soon be set aflame. It was an easy prediction only because we have seen this scenario played out again and again (and since) here in the United States. I did expect a trial however, and was a bit surprised that no indictment of the officer was handed down and that this seems to be a new trend. Why have the state pay for an expensive state trial when…the outcome is well, let’s be honest, never really in doubt?

But It seems to me that by streamlining the judicial process and doing away with the semblance of “blind justice” when it comes to holding police officers accountable for their actions, is a wrong step in the arrogant direction. And especially when the testimony put forth by Officer Wilson before the grand jury and then publicly proclaimed by the would-be prosecutor to be the indisputably corroborated Truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, seems to be so embarrassingly… black and white if you will, as in good vs. evil, Eloi vs. Morlock, and El Toro vs. the bull fighter,…

For goodness sakes were there no shades of gray to this tragic incident? According to officer Wilson’s testimony when he sees the teenager in the road he is nothing but friendly and politely asks Michael Brown to move to the sidewalk. Michael Brown is immediately angry, rude and aggressive and swears at the officer. Then when officer Wilson tries to exit his police car Mr Brown inexplicably shoves him back in and quickly begins punching and beating him so severely and with such force that officer Wilson says that he, a trained adult police officer, feels like a child in the hands of an 18 year old black teenager who he likens to “Hulk Hogan”.

Officer Wilson then realizes that he is one punch away from unconsciousness and then possibly being shot to death with his own gun… so he quickly pulls out his gun, hears Michael Brown call him “too much of a fucking pussy to shoot me.” (daring for his own death?) and then manages to fire a shot which wounds Mr. Brown in the thumb, sending the “demonic” teenager running away.

Now the story could have ended here with the officer driving away in his vehicle, calling in for help and then soon after apprehending the fleeing and wounded Mr. Brown…for where oh where was Mr. Brown going to go? But officer Wilson, who had been but one punch from death, ( and a severe concussion?) decides that it is his duty to pull himself together and run after Mr. Brown with his gun now drawn so as to heroically stop the crazed teenager from wreaking havoc on the unsuspecting citizenry, all of whom are now in danger as far as officer Wilson is concerned.

And then, for some strange and bizarre reason, the wounded Mr. Brown, who has lost one of his flip flops in the escape, decides that running away is not for him either (He would rather brazenly run into the valley of death?) and so he turns to face the policeman and then grunts, makes the most intense and aggressive face officer Wilson has ever seen, hops, to begin his run, puts his right hand in his waistband as though he is going for a gun, balls his left hand up into a fist  and then charges directly for the officer and his pointed weapon.

After 2 shots to the chest that puncture his lungs and break ribs, 2 to the arm and one shot that enters above Mr Brown’s right eye and exits through his chin, Mr. Brown is still charging and in fact lowers his head as if to ram officer Wilson and win the day, but a final shot enters the top of the teenager’s skull and he falls dead to the ground.

If this story were a screenplay I would ask for a re-write on the grounds that it was so shamelessly stereotypical… Wouldn’t you? It reads more like a big white game hunter on safari then it does a confrontation between 2 human beings. But that was officer Wilson’s story as presented to the grand jury and both the testimony and autopsy and other eye witness accounts can be found on-line so you don’t have to believe my paraphrased synopsis or anyone elses for that matter. You can simply look over the evidence yourself.

Which begs the question: Why not go to trial with such a polarizing and public case, especially in light of all of the other recent and similar incidents where an African American citizen (one a 12 year old child in Cleveland!) (another strangled to death on the streets of NYC) was killed by a police officer? Statistically police kill more whites than blacks, In absolute terms. However, there are more than five times more whites than blacks in America. So, When comparing death rates, blacks are about three times more likely than whites to die in a confrontation with police. So wouldn’t it make sense to at least look a little more closely into these police confrontations where extreme force is used?

Unless we show some self restraint and serious introspection in such grave matters as these, Where is our humility? Our humanity? Our humbleness or sense of decency as a society headed?

Officer Wilson has since resigned from his position as a police officer but I predict that eventually he will resurface as a consultant to a law enforcement agency or spokesperson for a gun advocacy group or the NRA. Maybe he’ll even join the public speaking circuit alongside the likes of Sarah Palin or Ted Nugent..and at a much higher salary that he ever enjoyed as a public servant. In terms of life time earnings, This could in fact be the best thing that ever happened to him. Who knows? But the chances of a positive outcome for Michael Brown’s family and the other families of such tragedies? Not so much.

So would asking for an in depth public trial, inquiry, investigation, probe, examination, review, analysis, exploration, or hearing really be such an insult to law enforcement or the publicly elected government that oversees them? Really? If we are satisfied or appeased with this outcome then shame on all of us.

Oh Come All Ye Faithful

1 Dec

Well, it turns out that Black Friday wasn’t so black this year! That’s because Blackened Thursday has been eating into its sales. Which leaves the door open for Charcoal Saturday (the Saturday before Christmas) to take the shopping sales championship this year. Wow! This could be the year of the big upset. Black Friday hasn’t lost the sales championship since…who can remember?

It seems as though we now have more days dedicated to frenzied shopping each year than we have religions, let alone religious holidays. Which begs the question what is it that we truly believe in? The concrete, tangible, material dollar that we toil and trouble for almost every day of our lives or the ephemeral, abstract, yet faithful belief in a deity?

And why do we seem to tie the two to one another so…religiously? I wonder if religions calculated the amount of time they devote to raising money compared to the amount of time they devote to the worship of God, what the score would be?

In 2013, approximately 141 million U.S. consumers shopped during Black Friday, spending a total of $57.4 billion. According to Forbes, All told, Americans spend upwards of 1 trillion dollars each year shopping for stuff other than necessities. In 2013 we spent 7.4 billion dollars on Halloween alone (another religious holiday in origin)

However in 2013 Americans did give over 335 billion dollars to charity… That’s about 6 Black Fridays of spending or one third of what we spend on buying other things. Well, if we can’t take it with us. We might as well have faith in what all that money can buy while we’re here…I suppose?

So Happy Holidays! And God bless us, everyone.

mvschulze

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