Ambidextrous Thoughts

This site is intended to offer research and commentary on current events covering a wide scope of topics. Over and over again, I see social media offering quick access to the latest news or trend, but often with very little thought or fact-checking put into it, which lends itself to misleading half-truths. The intent here is not to take a political side, but to discuss the differences expressed by many who use social media as their source of news and information. My aim is to look at both extremes of a topic, and try to find a way to come together. I welcome input and suggestions on subjects that you’d like to know more about. Some conversations may have a political theme, but I hope to discuss issues that affect our everyday life, whether it be what kind of education our children are really getting, why are medication prices spiraling out of control, are unions a help or a hindrance to our workers today, or what “entitlement” really means. Bookmark this spot and see how we do as we try to make a fair place to open discussions on the subjects that interest you most. By – JRBecker


Posted by on Nov 9, 2017 | 0 comments



Over the last few weeks, much has been talked about regarding sexual harassment. There’s a popular movement on social media that uses hashtag “me too” #metoo by those that have experienced some form of sexual harassment in their lifetimes. A number of actresses and other prominent women have come forward to offer their experiences publicly, as well as thousands of other women in all walks of life.

In 1980 the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) defined sexual harassment as unwanted sexual advances or lewd comments or behavior that created an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working environment. It was also defined as a form of discrimination where employment or advancement decisions were based on a person’s physical assets or appearance over performance.

Prior to the ‘80s, it was often accepted that men would whistle, make suggestive remarks, and occasionally touch someone in what we might call an inappropriate way – including kissing, or resting his hand on the extreme lower back. Most people have never included rape as an accepted behavior, but even that definition began changing in the second half of the 20th century. In the 1970s marital rape became recognized, and by 1993, all states had some form of law against it. Date rape is another area that has been controversial. By today’s definition, date rape can occur at any time in a relationship from the first date to between two people who have been intimate physically and consensually in the past, but one party no longer wants to have that relationship.

Groping – always considered crude and disrespectful – became even more frowned upon, considered unwanted sexual intimacy. (Groping can be defined in more than one way, from the innocent groping in the dark to find something or someone, or groping for words, but also to clutching or grabbing a person in ways considered personal or sexual such as on the breasts, buttocks or genitelia, even through clothing.) Most other suggestive behaviors like flirtatious remarks, off-color jokes and so forth were still tolerated into the ’90s.

At the end of the 20th century, things changed. Making a “pass” at a person was no longer accepted. Where a cat whistle was once considered a compliment to a woman, by the late ’90s it became obscene. Any kind of physical contact, especially at work, became taboo. It was a confusing time for both men and women. Some women were offended by a smile or a genuine compliment while others didn’t mind hearing an off-color joke. Men who were used to joking around with women in a flirtatious way suddenly found themselves being accused of harassment.

Which of these could be considered sexual harassment in 2017?

Both, or neither, depending on the circumstances. The question is not whether the behavior is appropriate, but whether it is sexual harassment. In the first picture, could he be helping her to a chair because she felt ill, or asking her out on a date? In the second picture, could she be congratulating him on a job well done? Or could she be taking advantage of a situation where she knew he would have to respond in a friendly manner?

Some people are naturally more affectionate than others. We’ve had to learn to withhold hugs, touching someone’s arm, or giving a pat on the back. I was a bartender for a good part of my younger years. I wasn’t easily offended, didn’t mind the flirty behavior, and knew how to tell someone to keep their hands to themselves. In my life, I have had moments where I felt someone was out of bounds, say, by holding too close or making pelvic thrusts on the dance floor. These were not, to me, emotionally traumatic, but rather examples of aggravating and tasteless behavior. Almost always, a woman knows the difference between an attempted rape and a crude overture. Back in the ‘70s, a man I knew slightly offered me a ride home because my car wouldn’t start after work one evening. When we pulled into my driveway he reached for me and by the way he did it, I knew exactly what his intentions were, though we had never so much as held hands or kissed. I was able to fight him off, but others are not always that lucky. I was momentarily frightened, but again, it hasn’t affected my life in any other way. Another person might have reacted much differently, though. (He was not an employee where I worked, so I couldn’t report him, and it might not have done much good back then, anyway.)

From the male perspective, my husband loves language jokes, which include double entendres (words or phrases that can have both an innocent and a sexually charged meaning), puns, and other word play that can sometimes be mistaken for a come-on. He would never touch a woman offensively, but was once called to HR because of a complaint filed against him for sexual harassment at a company function. I was with him at a tailgate party hosted by his company. Foam “noodles” were handed out to wave at the game. Nearing game time, a group of us began talking together while walking towards the stadium. Everyone was laughing and kidding around and at some point my husband reached forward and tapped one of the women on the head with the foam noodle and said something like “there, I banged you.” It was in response to some joke someone had made. Since I was right there, I can tell you that my husband was simply being playful, and not interested in furthering a relationship. But that’s what landed him in HR and had him taking a class about sexual harassment in the workplace. Unfortunately, that went on his work record.

It took some time for us to change our natural habits so as not to offend anyone. We still joke with one another, but not so much with our friends, and definitely not with co-workers.

Sensitivity really can’t be measured. When we’re hurt physically, we sometimes refer to a high or low “threshold of pain.” Doctors sometimes refer to a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being extreme pain. With mental or emotional sensitivity, it’s not that simple. No one wants to be objectified, man or woman. Each of us want to be considered for our own worth and abilities. Some of this stems from the equality movement; equal pay and equal opportunities for all. But it’s also just a human reaction to people who don’t show respect and seem to feel entitled to acting on their basest instincts without regard to our feelings.

All reported claims of sexual harassment must be looked at seriously. Not only is it the law, but some forms of harassment turn into rape, whether it’s Bill Cosby, accused of plying women with drugs, or “casting couch” directors with their powers to give or withhold a job. Furthermore, some people, both men and women, truly suffer emotional distress from the unwanted familiarity, even if it doesn’t result in rape. Often, victims of sexual harassment carry some measure of guilt, thinking it must have been something they said or did to cause the other person to think approaching them in such a manner would be acceptable.

Sometimes people make accusations out of jealousy or retaliation. Rejection can lead an admirer to want to punish the person who turned them down for a more involved relationship. This can become a stalking situation, which is also a form of sexual harassment, and should be reported as soon as one realizes they are being stalked. This form of harassment is considered criminal and can often lead to more dangerous behaviors. Both men and women have been stalkers.

An easier way of getting quick revenge for rejection is to accuse one’s “love interest” of some kind of sexual overture. False accusations of rape have put more than one innocent person in jail. With less serious accusations, harm is still done. The falsely accused person could lose their job or career. Families can be affected, including causing divorce and financial loss through defense expense.

Emotions can cause the appearance of sexual harassment, yet upon further inspection, the accuser may realize that whatever happened was not intended to be sexual in nature. In this case, the complainant may not have lied, but may have simply misread the situation. This is where a good arbiter can aid in reaching the truth of the matter.

So are there “15 minutes of famers” out there who take advantage of opportunities to lay claim to things that simply didn’t happen? Sure there are! There are people who take advantage of an opportunity. It’s extremely rare, but something that investigators and attorneys look at when there are several complaints against one person – especially if that person is famous or wealthy. In some opinions, this kind of opportunistic accusation is a reverse form of sexual harassment. . Proving it is difficult. The defendant is trying to prove something did not happen. A negative is the hardest thing to prove! Also, something can seem to be sexual harassment, and actually be an accident, a misunderstanding, or some form of unprofessional conduct that is not truly sexual in nature.

A person who knowingly makes false accusations can be tried in a court of law for slander or for defamation. According to to be found guilty of this crime (which can be either a civil or criminal case, depending on the circumstances) three things must be proven. For ordinary citizens those are (1) proving the statement is false, (2) proving it caused harm, and (3) the complaint was made without adequate research into the truthfulness of the statement. For a celebrity or public official, it must additionally be proven that the accusation was made with actual malice.

An excellent and in-depth article by a university complaints investigator regarding the various degrees of sexual harassment, and/or the assessment of interpretation and intent of the complainant can be found at .

The majority of people under 40 in the 21st Century know the boundaries. But the boundaries have changed over the years. What was accepted even 20 or 30 years ago is no longer tolerated. Laws vary from state to state on Statute of Limitation for rape cases, but what about sexual harassment? According to , there are work limitations as short as 180 days.

It is important for people to feel that they can come forward with complaints of sexual harassment, but it’s also important to take into consideration what was the standard norm during the time the alleged harassment occurred. To claim whatever harassment occurring now is due to it being accepted in the past does not excuse it today. However, to besmirch someone’s reputation by referencing something from decades ago that was considered a minor or non-flagrant action at the time of occurrence is reverse harassment, as well, unless the behavior is still ongoing. Withholding complaints over fears of losing one’s job is certainly understandable. However, if it is happening to you, it is probably happening to someone else, as well. That’s something to consider while you determine your course of action. But to suddenly claim harassment 20 years after you left your job, without knowing for sure that it ever occurred to anyone else or is an ongoing issue, might be opening yourself up to a defamation or slander lawsuit. The other unfortunate outcome is ruining a person’s life when they have already accepted the new norm and now realize that their unwanted attentions are out of line, and have changed their attitudes and behavior.

By all means, if you have been sexually harassed, molested, or raped, you should report it! If you aren’t sure what to call it, or whether it is actually something wrong, seek the advice of a counselor, an HR professional, a doctor, or if you’re in school, talk to your parents, the school nurse or counselor, or a trusted teacher. You can also call the police and express the fears you have, explaining you aren’t sure if it’s something that needs to be reported. They have experts that can talk with you. If you know or suspect that someone is intent on harming you or stalking you, report it immediately. If you are a male, you are susceptible to the same treatment, so if you have a problem, handle it through the proper channels; don’t try to “man-up.”

There are crisis hotlines in most cities and towns. There is a national sexual assault line as well. That number is 1-800-656-4573 (1-899-656-HOPE). You don’t need to have actually been raped to call. There are also rape centers you can go to in many areas, that will help you deal with the multitude of feelings and concerns you have. Don’t hesitate to call for help! – End

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Posted by on Oct 3, 2017 | 1 comment



By Bob Schneider

I own a gun and the NRA doesn’t represent me Glock, Pixabay Images

I own a gun. I own a Glock G30S, and I own it for personal protection. I receive many threats because I’m frank in stating my political opinions. Some say I’m more than frank. They would characterize me as harsh and abrasive.

Whether my style is frank, or harsh, I’ve collected my fair share of haters. Some have threatened me with harm. Are they just keyboard warriors shoot off their mouths? I don’t know if they are or not. I do know they give every appearance of being unbalanced mentally and I’m not taking any risks.

Before anyone says, “Bob has rediscovered his GOP,” save your breath. I’m a proud gun-toting Democrat. If the threats didn’t exist, would I own a gun? I might. Target shooting is a lot of fun. I doubt I would be shooting targets with a .45 caliber handgun. I would go with something smaller. God willing, I hope I never have to use it. I hope the threats I get are just keyboard warriors full of themselves.

How big is the gun industry in the USA?

According to NBC News, in 2015, the latest year we have industry figures for, the gun business earned 16.6 billion dollars. Of that number, 13.5 billion went to gun manufacturers. Gun stores and the ammunition business earned 3.1 billion dollars. That is big business.

In 2013, 10,847,792 pistols, shotguns, and rifles were built in the USA. Of those weapons built, only 4% were exported. That means 10.4 million of those firearms stayed in the USA. Pew Research estimates there are 270 to 310 million firearms in The United States. That is nearly one firearm for every person in the country. The figures represent legal gun sales in the USA. There is no way to track the illegal street sales.

The Pew research found a minority of people own all those guns. Collecting guns is a popular hobby in the USA. Sport shooting is also popular as is hunting. Not one Democratic proposal on gun control will affect any of those activities by law-abiding citizens.

I don’t need the NRA to protect my 2nd Amendment rights and neither do you

The National Rifle Association used to be a wonderful organization. Their focus used to be gun safety. They still offer gun safety courses. That is no longer their primary focus. The NRA of today are shills for gun manufacturers and have little to do with protecting the rights of gun owners. The great irony is that through fear and propaganda, the NRA has convinced gun owners to pay for the lobbying for gun manufacturers.

The NRA is one of the biggest, and best propaganda organizations on the planet. Anytime a common-sense gun law is discussed, the NRA starts the fear mongering. How many remember Actor Charlton Heston’s performance at an NRA gathering when he uttered the words, “My cold, dead fingers,” to the delight of the audience? There was a standing ovation.

The NRA is fond of fairy tales. The NRA loves to tell their membership the Democrats want to ban guns. It is a flat-out lie. I looked at their Twitter feed the day of the Las Vegas shooting. They went silent but in reading early tweets, they are still harping on President Obama taking guns away. Not a single gun ban was proposed, or a gun taken away by President Obama during his two terms. Deeper background checks and closing any loopholes in checking who is buying guns is not “banning” guns. That’s being smart.

Outlawing the kits people can buy to make a semi-automatic rifle like the AR-15 fully automatic is not banning guns. That is being smart. Selling machine guns to civilians is illegal as it should be. Making the sales of kits to convert rifles into machine guns should also be illegal. Will it stop the practice? Maybe, maybe not. I do know it will slow it down.

The same goes for silencers. Silencers have one purpose and that is to try and muffle the sound of a shooter so they won’t be detected. If the NRA tries to sell the idea it is to protect the hearing of the shooters then they should get out of the gun racket and go into comedy writing.

supreme The people who protect your rights as a gun owner work in the building in the picture. The Second Amendment to the US Constitution exists and by that fact alone, our guns will not be banned. Chicago and Washington, DC banned all guns a few years back. In the DC case, The District of Columbia vs Heller, and MacDonald vs Chicago, the US Supreme Court struck down the laws banning guns. It is the law of the land and unless there is a new Amendment to the Constitution nullifying the 2nd Amendment, that is not changing.

What the NRA does is dangerous for America. They aren’t protecting Second Amendment rights. They stop common sense gun laws that will protect us. The NRA likes to say all we are doing is inconveniencing legal gun owners. As a legal gun owner, just let me say, feel free to inconvenience me. It is for the greater public good.

What the NRA is right about

Gun owners are fond of saying we don’t do enough about the poor mental health in America. Know what, they’re right. We do need to do more for those afflicted with severe mental health issues. One thing we can do for them is to help them, and ourselves, by making sure people who are psychotic can’t buy a firearm. The NRA opposes this idea. If someone has epilepsy they can’t have a driver’s license. I don’t see a major lobbying organization holding meetings saying, “Pry my car keys from my cold, dead fingers.”

The gun control isn’t a debate; it’s a shouting match

Have you noticed there never seems to be the right time to discuss gun control in the USA? The NRA accuses the left of dancing on the graves of the dead. The left accuses the NRA and gun owners of putting people in their graves. Neither case is entirely accurate. The NRA does block laws that may save lives. The left is correct about that. I emphasize “may” because there are no guarantees. The NRA didn’t pull the trigger in any of the shooting sprees in recent years. They argue new laws would not have made the outcome any different. That is an assumption they are making that is subject to debate.

I’m tired of reading the words “Prayers for the victims” on social media. I want a safer America. I don’t want to ban guns but I sure want us to use some sense about who gets them and who doesn’t.

The NRA is abusing the Second Amendment, and gun owners are being used as their patsies. If the NRA wants to really be useful, host a summit between the two sides of the debate and instead of shouting at each other, figure out what we can do to head off the next tragedy.

I realize the NRA will only advocate for the gun and ammunition manufacturers. That is what they do. As representatives of a large business sector, their voice should be heard too. It shouldn’t be the only voice.


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Posted by on Oct 1, 2017 | 2 comments



I saw this comment online recently and decided to talk with my daughter, who worked in special needs education for a time. Through her insight, it occurred to me that I should post this on my blog.




I can’t fairly evaluate or comment directly about the events that took place with these two children. I don’t have enough information. Special needs kids do not have a one-size-fits-all solution.

Let’s look at some possibilities with the first incident; the exclusion of an autistic child from participating in a school trip. How old was the child? Was he taking a special needs class, and being integrated into the mainstream school population? [More about this later.] Did they even have a special needs class at that school? Was there anyone at the school trained in supervising autistic children on outings? Was at least one of his parents able to go along? As explained to me, autistic children are particularly sensitive to lights and sounds. Something most of us take for granted could send an autistic child into a panic where he could lash out, or run, or simply withdraw inside himself. It could be the bleat of a goat at the zoo, or a loud bang from the assembly line at a manufacturing plant. Would there be flashing colored lights at exhibits? These questions need to be asked, answered and evaluated based on the level of his autism, his general aptitude, and past behavior. Remember that there is a safety factor here. The safety of the other students, and also his own safety could be in jeopardy.

Let’s look at student number two, a Down’s syndrome child; removed from a dance class when she wasn’t able to keep up with the other students. Some of the first set of questions still apply. What was her age? Was she being integrated into the mainstream, or was she a full-time student on the regular agenda? Down’s syndrome children are known to be some of the kindest, most loving kids you can ever meet. They often do well in a regular, age appropriate classroom setting. That doesn’t mean they’re up to all the challenges that other students their age can cope with. Some studies show that children with Down’s syndrome require more practice with motor movements, whether in dance, exercise, or sports, and may have a learning delay due to physical ability with the central nervous system. Were her needs such that other students were being held back in a way that could impact their learning and performance? Possibly she should be moved into a less advanced dance class, where she could learn at a slower pace.

There are a number of other children that fall into the category of special needs. Kids with Asperger’s ( a variation of autism), ADHD (attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder), ADD (Attention deficit disorder), vision impairment including dyslexia, hearing impairment, Tourette syndrome and multiple other conditions can fall into the category of special needs. Each of these children need to be placed where they can benefit most from the experience with the least disruption to the mainstream students’ learning processes. Many of these students recognize that they aren’t like the other students, but they still want and need friends and social activities. Go to this site to see famous celebrities who have battled dyslexia and other learning disorders.

In larger communities, most public schools have classrooms with teachers and teaching assistants who are trained in working with special needs kids. As these kids develop, each at their own pace, most schools try to integrate them into standard classrooms, which works to the benefit of both the individual child and the other students in the school. Let me explain. When children are separated because of a condition, the other students consider them “different” and therefore not as sociably desirable. Meanwhile, the child from the special needs class begins to feel left out, unwanted, and so on. By moving the students with disabilities or learning problems into some of the standardized classrooms, they become “less weird” to the other children, and often assimilate quite well into the new structure. Of course, some children will adapt easier than others, but overall, it’s been proven that as abilities develop, integration benefits the child and stimulates learning. That said, sometimes events arise where special considerations must be made. Each case is going to be different, but the main thing is to maintain the safety of all children at all times. Sometimes a child can only be moved into one or two classes. For instance, some children with autism can actually do advanced math, while still not ready to try out social skills in the gymnasium. Conversely, a child suffering with ADHD might well benefit from a good workout in the gym.

Unfortunately, all schools do not have the facilities to separate the students, especially in smaller communities. Surprisingly, Down’s syndrome children can often do quite well in generalized study. Many others can too, but some children end up being home-schooled or even sent to a school specific to their needs, such as a school for the deaf and blind. Often, these schools provide boarding during the school year, since the kids come from several towns.

So the important thing here is to realize that each child will have different abilities and needs. I’m not just talking about special needs kids. If you think back to your childhood days, you’ll probably remember a kid or two that got teased a lot because they were smart, and another who was teased for being “dumb.” Maybe one of them was you. This idea of integrating the special needs students into as much standardized education as they can handle can actually help solve some of the teasing from happening as the students learn that even kids you thought were less capable can indeed learn and be funny and interesting and smart in their own ways.

Next time you get a chance, take a look at your child’s school. Find out what classes are offered for special needs students. If there are none, ask why not. Talk to your kids and find out if they know any special needs kids, and ask how they interact together. Explain to your children how all people have problems… some are just more obvious than others.

Of course all kids want to be included in outings and fun activities. Many times that’s possible and encouraged. Just remember that there are other students, too. Everyone’s safety must come first. Without knowing the special circumstances of the individual child, forming an opinion and making a judgement call can cause more stress and more harm than good. And if “winning” is the only goal, then yes, these children are being left behind. But remember that in a competition, tryouts leave out everyone who isn’t qualified to be on the team. Possibly pointing this out to special needs children would help them understand the difference between competition and general play. Also, show film/video of special Olympic events, to encourage their efforts.

And finally, parents must rise to the challenge too, of teaching their own children – whether special needs or not – that getting to know people that are different than they are can be a wonderful and inspiring experience. If there are special needs kids in your child’s class, encourage them to include that person in on things like birthday parties, or games, or just joining them for lunch. — END

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Posted by on Sep 7, 2017 | 0 comments



In a world where we can now speak out instantaneously about the latest news, it might be wise to consider a few things before posting.

I try to write my blog posts in an informative and unbiased way. Sometimes that’s harder to do than I anticipate. But I believe by pointing fingers and playing the blame game, we accomplish little and antagonize a lot. My goal is to try to reach out to the general public and offer useful, thought-provoking material that anyone can relate to. Sometimes I’m providing factual information, and sometimes I’m attempting to look at issues in a more philosophical manner, Today I want to do a little of both.

On a daily basis, we see cartoons, hear jokes, or read articles that are disparaging, derogatory or distasteful. Most of these are directed at political figures or groups, or at sports or entertainment celebrities. But some are against ordinary groups of people, like ‘all republicans’ or ‘all democrats’ or in the worst cases, against an ordinary individual. On occasion, the joke or cartoon is not meant to hurt anyone, but is a thoughtless depiction derived of a dark sense of humor. When aimed at an individual, it becomes a type of bullying and/or discrimination. This is the kind of stuff that we read about, where a teenager commits suicide after being shamed or humiliated online or at school. What started out as a bad joke can turn into an insulting, hurtful continuum of degrading ridicule, leading to utter despair by the targeted person.

Kids are generally not mean spirited and cruel by nature. Most of the time this is learned behavior – sometimes by the way they’re treated, and sometimes by watching the behavior of others around them. At times, they get swept up by their peers and join in tormenting others in order to be accepted by a desired social circle. However, more often than not, they learn this type of disrespect from their home environment, whether it be from parents, siblings, or other relatives. For more insight into what might lead to bullying behavior in your child, leads to a site that offers a more in-depth explanation of how a child can become a bully, even when they aren’t actually being exposed to direct bullying tactics. One quote from this article jumped out at me because, as a parent, I know this to be true: “Just because a child might not always “listen” to our requests and instructions doesn’t mean they aren’t intently listening to our views of other kids, parents, teachers, neighbors, and so on.”

I would like to focus on the ways in which we unintentionally – or intentionally – bully and disrespect other people in our daily interactions. At work there is usually a code of behavior that’s implemented in the work environment. Human Resource Departments spend large quantities of their time arbitrating disputes and harassment claims between employees. Granted, some companies are better at doing this than others. At least there are rules.

But how do we interact with others in our “free time” or social activities? When approaching an opinion other than our own, do we let fly with the first thought that comes to mind, or do we consider the effectiveness of our words? There is a well-known saying, “Better to be silent and thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt.” Of course, we’ve all said something at times that we wish we could take back. Anger generates an even more favorable climate for regrettable moments. Perhaps politics is the most conducive element for destructive thoughts, words and behavior. For one thing, we all think we’re right when it comes to politics. Of course that’s not possible, but who wants to go first and say, ‘maybe I was wrong’? Who’s going to even think it?

What’s shocking, though, is the amount of vitriol we see in social media. I often wonder, do these people talk this way to everyone, or is it the anonymity of the Internet that removes their inhibitions? I’m not going to give you any pictorial examples of the things I see posted on Face Book, Twitter, or other social media sites because if I did, most likely my site would be shut down for pornographic or inflammatory content. The verbal abuse is bad enough.

I’m not speaking of trolls, or paid antagonists, or juvenile personalities that jump onto their parent’s accounts. I’m talking about supposedly reasonable adults, maybe even relatives or people you know, that curse and insult not only a targeted politician like Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton, but belittle anyone who supports them, or anyone who questions a political stance. Hillary Clinton used a poor choice of words when she called Trump supporters “a basket of deplorables.” I believe she was referring to the KKK which had endorsed Trump for president, or possibly the White Nationalists/Supremists who also backed him. Unfortunately, she unwittingly encompassed all Trump supporters with her statement. It sets up an atmosphere where it’s okay to use labels like repuklicans or demoRats. I suppose these names are considered to be clever. To me, the users seem ignorant. It’s as if they don’t have enough grasp of the English language to describe their thoughts and feelings, so they resort to name-calling of the basest sort.

Most people have also seen the vicious cartoons about the Obamas, either dressed in Muslim garb, or depicted as apes, and the one of Trump tweeting while on the toilet, or in an inappropriate embrace with Vladimir Putin. There are even pictures of a naked Trump statue that someone wasted their talents on. What kind of mentality finds this humorous? It’s true that the shock of seeing some of these elicits a reflexive or embarrassed laugh, but if this is a sign of a person’s true sense of humor, I don’t think I’d want to go see a comedy with them. In any event, I personally find these pictures offensive. I might agree with the sentiment, but I think less of the person who addresses it in this manner.

My parents brought me up to understand that hurting someone’s feelings is cruel. To attack their weaknesses or physical differences was shameful. To call someone fat, or ugly, or stupid, etc. shows that you are insensitive to others’ feelings. Furthermore, I can’t think of a single instance where this name-calling helped a situation. The same goes for cursing. I know all the words and what they mean, (and I’ve even used some in a fit of anger.) I know what STFU means, too, and GTFO. Google them, if you don’t. I was also taught that cursing shows a lack in vocabulary. That’s not necessarily always the case, though. Frustration often lends itself to cursing, but it’s still not a good way to communicate.

The question here is why are we arguing with people that we disagree with by going down to a level of hate-filled obnoxious commentary? When someone tells you to STFU, does their point of view even matter to you anymore? So if you talk to them that way, is there any reason to wonder why they don’t get your point? And the hate is so penetrating. In group discussions, I have seen people type that they no longer speak to members of their own family because of a political stance. They say they will never even knowingly talk to someone from the other political party. Why? How can you learn if you cut yourself off from understanding a different perspective? No one says you have to agree, but wouldn’t it be better if you consider their side, even if only to give yourself a better way to argue once you understand where their thoughts come from?

Here are some random comments I’ve seen on group postings and article comments. They come from both liberal and conservative sites and you would be wrong if you tried to guess:

  • A**hole
  • Drug addict
  • You are a nitwit (unable to determine who)
  • —shut places down so the Chinese and Russians can’t dump their trashy kids there…
  • F’ing morons
  • Facebook, please … add a puke emoticom
  • Godzilla outshines Moo-shelle
  • I can understand why leftist women are so angry. All you have to do is look at them, if you know what I mean.
  • Who cares if it wipes out Mexico? LOL (re: Hurricane Katia)
  • You pray and God preys

I’m going to throw two other points in here. One is criticism of a person’s religion (unless, of course, the subject is religion to begin with). The other is making false statements. These are two methods of arguing that are cheap shots and have no place in social discourse. False statements not only detract from your argument, but if believed can lead to serious mistakes and sometimes physical harm to other people – not to mention terrible election outcomes from time to time.

The best way to critique an article is by presenting facts and where you obtained them. Sometimes that might be personal experience, which is fine. Just use acceptable language and aim for good spelling and punctuation.

When replying to a meme, remember that lots of people you don’t know might be affected by what you say. You don’t have to sound like an English professor, and you may certainly offer criticism. That’s part of what makes these sites like Twitter, Instagram and Face Book so popular. Just be kind, or express your frustration or anger in a non-combative way. If you would be offended should someone say something similar to you, don’t say what you were about to say. – END

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Posted by on Aug 4, 2017 | 0 comments



NOTE: For readers’ convenience, definitions of some terms used in this article can be found by scrolling to the end, with links to follow as needed.

In this first quarter of the twenty-first century, we as a nation are facing threats in various forms and from several directions.

From outside, we’re involved in on-going wars throughout the Middle East, with Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan, ISIS insurgents in Iraq and Syria where, in Syria they become part of the Syrian civil war, to the continuing conflicts between Israel and Palestine. We have the ever-growing threat as North Korea fires off ICBMs, each time redefining the limits of their ability to strike at other countries, including the United States. Russia is pushing the borders of surrounding sovereign states, while dancing a fandango with our politically illiterate new president.

From inside our political parties are foundering, unable to connect within their own membership let alone work to reach agreements or compromises with those on the opposing side. Several of our leaders are fomenting the division deliberately, for reasons no one can determine. The oligarchs are running wild, gaining more and more wealth from the wallets of the middle and lower class citizens, some of whom are hanging on by their cracked and broken fingernails.

At first glance, our nation seems to be handling all this pretty well. The stock market is relatively stable with signs of an economic upswing in certain areas. Unemployment numbers are under 5%, although that may be an artificial reflection since many people have run out of unemployment benefits and are no longer included in the unemployed formula, and many others are employed only part time.

A second look tells us that we have major divisions in our population, with many issues coming back into play that had, a few years ago, appeared to be waning as our culture diversifies. We have an increase in hate crimes, aimed frequently at religious groups, but also directed at people of color, be it black or brown skin or some other feature that singles out a racial difference. There is a newer racism developed out of fear that is focused on immigrants from other parts of the world, and lesser understood cultures from the Middle East. Additionally, police relations with ordinary citizens are nearing a new low, and it goes both ways. Police have been ambushed or gunned down during traffic stops. Citizens have also been killed in horrific incidents of mistaken identity and hasty reactions. This is not rampant throughout America, but it is happening often enough that both sides are very jumpy and anxious when forced to interact. Add into this mix that many people are now completely stressed out about losing healthcare or their civil rights, or having their families torn apart through new regulations regarding deportation or immigration in general. On second thought, maybe our nation isn’t handling things so well after all. And maybe our Government is the biggest reason for this discontent.

First let’s ask, how does our president connect to all this? Donald Trump is a self-admitted opportunist and member of the capitalistic society. His books boast of his ability to manipulate investments and persuade people of influence and wealth to join in his business ventures. He brags about refusing to pay for contracted work, and hiring employees through the H-1B program that brings temporary workers from other countries here to work for lower wages. Politically speaking, for many years he was a registered Democrat but switched to the Republican Party in order to run for the presidency. He won the 2016 election through the Electoral College vote, but lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton by over 3 million votes. It became apparent, even during the campaign, that Mr. Trump was arrogant, frequently deceitful, and bigoted, with a penchant for insulting people who dared to challenge him in any way. He promoted divisive behavior, bordering on suggested violence between his supporters and his critics. Early into his presidency, the majority of critics considered him an Oligarch while many people began to speculate that he wanted a Kleptocracy. That is to say, he was viewed as a wealthy, controlling personality, and that he saw the presidency as a way to increase his power and increase his business assets for himself and his immediate family. Before too long, it also became apparent that he thought himself above the law, and intended to rule, rather than lead the country. Mr. Trump seems to hold some strange fascination with various *strong men* in general, such as President Duterte of the Philippines, or Chinese President Xi Jinping. He has a particular interest in Russian President Vladimir Putin, and refuses to even acknowledge the interference of Russia in our 2016 election process, that every one of our security departments agree happened. As disturbing as all that is, his theories on governing are more frightening.

His idea has been to treat the government like one of his business entities. For example, when his Muslim Ban was stopped by the judicial system he railed at the courts, insisting that it was within his right alone as president to decide who entered this country. He thinks of himself as the ultimate decision maker, and it came as a hard lesson to him to find out that our democracy has checks and balances to prevent that very thing from happening. Our Constitution, along with the Bill of Rights, lays out clearly that we are a government of the people, by the people and for the people. There is no King or Emperor. He has mentioned on several occasions that the Constitution is outdated and needs to be redone. His style became that of a dictator or despot as he demanded loyalty from other government officials, and fired the ones that didn’t comply. (Government officials swear a loyalty to the Constitution of the United States. They are not required to be “loyal” to a person or group.) He continually refers to the media as “fake news” and regularly ignores questions they ask. Mr. Trump doesn’t seem satisfied with being president. He appears to want to reign over the United States of America.

For the sake of comparison, here is a short list of Dictators/Tyrants that have become the heads of countries: Hitler, Mussolini, Franco, Lenin, Stalin, Khrushchev, Gorbachev, Brezhnev, Putin, Bolivar, Noriega, Ortega, Hugo Chavez, Fidel and Raul Castro, Gaddafi, Arafat, Mubarak, Bashar al-Assad, Saddam Hussein, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Kim il Sung, Kim Jong-un, Mao Zedong, and the list goes on.

What defines them as Dictators? Dictators rule through authoritarianism, discouraging or disallowing freedom of the press, speech, and other rights we recognize in a democracy.

  • Although some countries may have limited access to television entertainment, any news is offered up through state media only. Freedom of speech is also limited, especially anything negative or questioning about the leader.
  • Firm loyalty is a requirement, and any display of disloyalty can result in severe consequences up to and including imprisonment or death.
  • Education is for the wealthy only, with most other children getting a rudimentary education until they become old enough to go to work. (That age varies from nation to nation.)
  • Rights are basically meaningless under a dictatorship. Wages are what the government says they are. A worker stays until he is sent home and does the work he/she is told to do, whether it fits a certain job description or not.
  • Only the wealthy can file a law suit, and then only in a limited way. If charged with a crime, there may or may not be a trial.
  • Some dictators allow elections, but it’s hardly a choice when there is only one candidate.
  • Woman are usually second rate citizens at best. More likely, they are treated like possessions or chattel.
  • Religion may or may not factor into a dictatorship. North Korea does not recognize any religion other than the worship of Kim il Sung. Last year in Russia, Putin signed a law that allowed speaking of religion only in churches. Although Russia recognizes many religions and claims “freedom of religion” it is clear that the government controls how and where it is practiced. ISIS, of course claims to be Islamic, but it is their own brand, not the true religion of Muslims around the world.
  • An interesting note about our Constitution: It was written and signed by men of several religious denominations, but the majority of those involved were secular (non-religious). Freedom of religion meant the freedom from religion, as well. The separation of church and state was paramount to them, as they had come out from under the rule of the Church of England and did not want a religious marker on the new world.

As pertains to our country today, Mr. Trump promised great changes and a better system than we already had. As it turns out, most of the changes he’s been enacting are not the sorts of changes that we the people want, and so far they haven’t made America any greater.

Actual Losses, so far:

  • Loss of International respect
  • Loss of leadership position in Paris agreement
  • Loss of leadership in the G20 summit meeting
  • Cuts to public school funding
  • Gutting of the EPA
  • Severe cuts to the State Department
  • Unreasonable Deportations resulting in the heart-breaking separation of families
  • Cuts in Visas to workers for farmers and laborers for the trades
  • State Department refusal to accept funding for protecting us from Internet interference from ISIS and Russia (Think about that!)
  • Rollbacks on Obama Regulations (Some of these being challenged in court)
    • Offshore Oil Drilling Limitations
    • Clean Power Plan
    • BLM restrictions on drilling on public lands, national parks
    • Clean Water regulations for streams and rivers including Office of Surface Mining Stream Restrictions Act
    • Complete cut of financial aid to Meals on Wheels
    • Cuts to funding for school meals
    • Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces rule
    • Transgenders no longer allowed to serve militarily (as yet unenforced)
    • Right to Privacy – Public posting of voting and other personal data
    • Reactivation of the Keystone and Dakota Access pipelines construction

Potential Losses:

  • Freedom of the Press (At least one member of the press has already been arrested, with several being temporarily detained at various events. The press has also been ejected at times from public political events)
  • Freedom of Assembly and Speech (Limiting protests and rallies. **Congress is also trying to pass a bill that would criminalize boycotting or speaking critically of Israel.)
  • Freedom of Religion (separation of church and state)
  • Less restriction on police brutality
  • The Right to Vote – You read that right. Mike Huckabee is currently asking congress to repeal the 17th amendment and allow governors to appoint Senators.
  • Even more voter suppression through gerrymandering and limited access in certain districts
  • Loss of healthcare to the most vulnerable (Seniors, Children, Disabled and the poor)
  • Extreme Medicaid Cuts
  • Cuts or privatization of Social Security and Medicare
  • U.S. tax dollars spent building a wall between the U.S. and Mexico
  • Banning of specific cultures, religions and nationalities
  • Rollback of Dodd-Frank Act (Banking regulations, which, among other things, helps prevent poor lending and mortgage management, limits trading allowed by financial institutions, and requires proper ratings for valuations of business ventures.)
  • Loss of Net Neutrality (large corporations like Verizon would “buy” parts of the Internet, then slow speeds or block entire portions of the web unless we pay a usage fee (above the Internet access fees we already pay)

The United States government affects us personally when it attacks health care or taxation and the like, but it also affects communities as a whole. We may not always recognize our place of residence as a community, but it almost always is. Even though farms and ranches are spread out, it’s still a rural, or farming community. Our cities are often divided into smaller hubs which are mixes of residential communities and industrial or mercantile communities.

Communities – In addition to continental divisions of East Coast, West Coast, Southern, and Midwestern, etc., the United States consists of sub-cultures and communities such as Urban, Rural, Suburban, Metropolitan, and Universities plus Religion Based and Ethnic communities. We have large Amish populations in the states surrounding the Great Lakes and the upper Midwest who generally live in their own separate communities. New York has several Jewish communities, while the South is largely populated by Baptists. In Metropolitan areas you may find large Chinese / Vietnamese / Korean communities offering goods and foods from their respective cultures. New York City is famous for having European ethnic groups, as well as Italians, Mexicans and Puerto Ricans. Generally, the further west you travel the more likely you are to see less definition and more of a “melting pot” effect, although plenty of areas still have a majority of people of a certain ethnicity, such as Swedish or German or Russian, etc.

We also have economic sectors, like the “Rust Belt” which stretches from Minnesota around the Great Lakes and into New York. This was an area once recognized for its industrialization; manufacturing of cars, trucks, trailers, steel, and other industrial products. The name Rust Belt refers to the deterioration of the manufacturing businesses that either became outdated, or moved to areas that could provide cheaper labor, including overseas. Entire swaths of communities and neighborhoods fade into poverty as regulations are removed or programs are cut.

As we become more and more dependent on automation and technical advances, we see the casualties in our jobs market. Obvious things that once were profitable ventures, but are no longer viable include: Wagon Trains, Stage Coaches, Telegraphs, Horses for travel, Speakeasies, Bi-planes, Steam Boats, Crank Telephones, Analog or Landline Phones, Coal & Oil Heating, Manual Assembly Lines, Hand-Made Textiles, Steno Pools, Gas Station Attendants, to name just a few. These things are no longer manufactured, produced or used in the volumes they once were, and so require fewer, if any, operators and workers. (There is a mule rider that delivers mail to the bottom of the Grand Canyon, so some jobs hang on longer than others.)

Other changes are bound to follow. Here is a sampling of jobs headed for obsolescence:

  • Auto mechanics
  • Newspaper production staff
  • Department store clerks/staff
  • Bank tellers
  • Furniture craftsmen
  • Tailors
  • Cab/Uber drivers
  • Many in the service industries, like waiters and waitresses or travel agents.
  • Family run farms and dairies are also taking a hit as large corporate entities take over with automated equipment and less need for manual labor.

The government, and specific candidates in particular, might make promises to shore up these businesses just like Mr. Trump did regarding coal mines, but the truth is, no one – not even the government – can force people or businesses to buy goods and products that no longer fill a need. In order to aid workers displaced by a shift in product demand, education and retraining are tools the government (both federal and local) can use to assimilate people into the modern marketplace, but so far that’s being scoffed at by the Republican Congress.

Normally, I try not to influence anyone’s decisions, but prefer to give all the angles and let everyone figure out what works best for them. In this case, though, I’m going to suggest that what we’ve done so far is taking us in the wrong direction. In fact, it’s taking us in the worst possible direction. We need to turn this bus around. Shake hands with your Republican or Democrat neighbor and say, “how can we work together to get ourselves out of this mess?”

Start by picking your battles. Stop competing with your potential allies. In the past, left and right have worked together and they can do it again. Write/text/email your congressmen, whether they are liberal or conservative, and tell them what you want, what you expect! Call them, too. Talk to your neighbors and co-workers, especially if they have different views than you do. Ask questions, but be sure to listen to the answers. I heard a great question the other day; are you listening to respond, or are you listening to understand? Think about that. I’m not suggesting you have to accept their way of thinking, but that you try to understand it from their point of view. Share your point of view but don’t push and don’t expect agreement. Just share. Then look for something that you can agree on – maybe something as simple as working together to get all of your neighbors or all of your work members to register to vote! Maybe there’s someone up for election that you both like… or even that you both think is doing a lousy job. Try combining your efforts to effect a change in that one seat!

And pay attention! Read a bit more, listen to a non-partisan news broadcast. DON’T assume everything you read on Face Book is legit! Research! If it doesn’t sound right, or sounds too good to be true, that’s probably the case. Don’t just wish for change, work for change.

Make your efforts count. Insults and name-calling will NOT help your cause. Bullying isn’t funny. Being rude isn’t funny. Take a deep breath and calm down before you respond with anger. If you can make a real, non-offensive joke, it can ease tensions. If that isn’t your thing then just speak honestly.

I will tell you this: In my opinion, the Tea Party is the worst thing that ever happened to our political system. They have fractured it in almost unrepairable ways. They want NO government except for things like telling us what religion to belong to, and getting us to tithe to them. (They need to try living in Yemen for a while. No government there. How’s that working out?) Secondly, the Republican Party as a whole has stopped representing the people. Now that the Supreme Court has decided that corporations are people, the GOP only represents corporations, and then only the ones who put serious money in their pockets. Yes, Democrats take money, too. It takes money to win elections, sadly. But you can look at where people are getting their money and determine where their votes are going to go. If they are getting money from Unions and Police and Firemen, they are usually going to be helping the needy, the middle class and small business. If they get money from big pharma, or the Koch brothers, or Wall Street they are probably going to support corporate wishes over the middle class. Wealth does not trickle down. That’s never worked and never will, so don’t buy it. Tax cuts do not encourage hiring. (It might work if the hiring was done first, in order to get the tax cuts.) Sure, there are good Republicans out there. I know several. Unfortunately, they aren’t running for office. One last thing… the Republicans want to tear down the Affordable Care Act (let it implode) and then start from scratch. Tell me something. If your roof started leaking, would you tear down your house and rebuild from the bottom up? Or would you fix the roof, and the ceilings too if necessary, and consider it a job well-done?

So again, pay attention, ask questions, share and listen. Don’t think that we can’t lose our rights, because we can! Apathy and complacency are two of the surest ways to lose them. Get involved! Work together! And remember:



Democracy: A: a government by the people; especially: ruled of the majority. B: a government in which the supreme power is vested in [given to] the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation usually involving periodically held free elections.

Capitalism: an economic system characterized by private or corporate ownership of capital goods [rather than the government] and, by investments that are determined by private decision, and by prices, production, and the distribution of goods that are determined mainly by competition in a free market.

Kleptocracy: government by those who seek chiefly status and personal gain at the expense of the governed. [Klepto is a prefix taken from the Greek, meaning to steal.]

Opportunist: the art, policy or practice of taking advantage of opportunities or circumstances often with little regard for the principles or consequences.

Oligarchy: A. a government by the few. [Usually the wealthiest] B. a government in which a small group exercises control for corrupt and selfish purposes. C. an organization under oligarchic control.

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Posted by on Jun 30, 2017 | 0 comments



The Declaration of Independence proclaimed separation from the King of England and contained the following statement: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. – July 4, 1776

The Constitution was ratified over a period of years, but implemented in 1789. The Constitution begins with “We the People…” signifying that our government is to be a government of the people, by the people, and for the people. The first three articles addressed the separation of powers, establishing the Executive branch, the Legislative branch and the Judicial branch which includes the Supreme Court.

The Bill of Rights was ratified in 1791 and contained the first 10 amendments to the Constitution. Seventeen additional amendments have been added over the last 226 years.

Each amendment is important, but today I want to concentrate on the First amendment. It reads:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

This statement addresses two basic elements of our democracy, with the second one being broken into 4 parts:

1. The first element is the freedom of religion. In simple terms, it says that the government shall have no say in accepting or denying any religion, and cannot deny the rights of the people to choose their own religion and means of worship. It also does not declare any religion to be the dominate religion of America. Nor does it require that a citizen must adhere to any religion at all.

2. The second element is the freedom of speech in all its forms. To break this down to the simplest terms, consider a town square, or a large park with a raised platform, tree stump, etc. in it. (No doubt, one could stand on the ground, but then people might not be able to see as well.)

  • Any person can climb up on that platform and speak his mind about any number of things. (Freedom of speech)
  • People may freely gather around to listen, if they want to, and discuss. (Freedom of peaceable assembly)
  • Any reporter may stand there and take notes or even ask questions, of the speaker or of the audience, and may then write or present his findings or interpretation to the public. (Freedom of the press)
  • If the speaker, or any of his listeners decide that there is a problem that needs to be addressed, they can go to the government agency in charge of that particular faction and ask for an explanation and/or change of policy. (Freedom to petition the government)

While these rights are guaranteed in our constitution, there are some other rules of law that need to be considered. The following are legal exceptions to the freedoms listed above:

Slander: The utterance of false charges or misrepresentations which defame and damage another’s reputation. A false and defamatory oral statement about a person.

Defamation: The act of communicating false statements about a person that injure the reputation of that person.

Libel: A written or oral defamatory or representation that conveys an unjustly unfavorable impression. A statement or representation published without just cause and tending to expose another to public contempt.

Notice the key words: false / misrepresentations / unjustly / without just cause. In other words, whatever is being said needs to have some facts to back it up, and cannot be used just to demean another person or entity. This not only holds true for the speaker, but for the press, as well. Libel deals, in particular, with written or published statements that are false.

Ever hear the expression, “give him an inch and he’ll take a mile”? It refers to people who take unreasonable advantage of some privilege, kindness or other allowance bestowed on them. Let’s say you loan someone a dollar. In a day or two, they return, asking to borrow another dollar, and promising to pay back both dollars later. In other words, they are abusing the kindness you showed them. Sometimes, that’s how people are with ‘rights’ as well. Just because we have a right to do something doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. And even though the constitution gives us the right of free speech, it doesn’t mean a person has the right to say things that will incite a riot or a violent or destructive act.

In today’s world, we have all manner of speech and press. We have bill boards, murals, banners, signs, bumper stickers, newspapers, radio, television, the Internet, mail and even our phones. Some expressions of free speech are hanging on to that definition by a thread… things like sculptures, paintings, sketches, tattoos, and even clothing. Jokes are even considered freedom of speech. There has always been, and probably will always be, arguments over where freedom of speech or expression leaves off and becomes indecency. Indecency is described as morally offensive, especially in a sexual way; also, morally wrong and evil. An extreme example; exposing one’s genitals randomly to the public is not freedom of expression.

Cursing, insulting, degrading, and name-calling are not necessarily against the law, however, in some circumstances they can be. In any event, they will never resolve any issues at all, and only tend to inflame the situation. Verbal bullying usually includes one or more l of those behaviors. With young people, cyber-bullying has driven more than one student to commit suicide. Young people are often insecure, not sure where they fit. Bullying drives them into despair and depression. There have been conversations on how to control this kind of thing without infringing on everyone’s right to free speech. So far, no solution has been reached.

The arguments about freedoms are not particularly partisan arguments, but more a general disagreement about degrees. One group may feel that freedom of speech is being abused when speakers are invited to a closed event, such as a graduation, and that speaker talks against the very ideals and values the school advocates. This happened in May at Notre Dame. But other people at that event felt the speaker should be heard, precisely because of freedom of speech rights. Another situation might be during a protest. Most people agree that protesting is part of the democratic process and signs and messages shouldn’t be censored. But the degree of incendiary shouts and slogans becomes a problem. As in most large groups, a small percentage of participants will usually get carried away and step beyond the proverbial line. Sometimes it’s verbal, where frustrations boil over and words become hate-filled or racially charged. Is there a place where the right to free speech should not include the right to ridicule and belittle others? Or should freedom of speech extend into dangerous behaviors like setting bonfires, or throwing objects at each other? If I say, “we must fight for this cause!” does that mean to literally fight, with fists or weapons? Should a crush of protestors charge into a school or business, disregarding the safety of people inside? For that matter, should protesting be our first method of resistance or complaint?

On one hand, we don’t want to over-regulate, as each situation differs from the next. We shouldn’t ban all protests because one protest became a riot. But on the other hand, we also can’t condone riots and looting, property damage and vandalism. Where do we draw the line between the rights of freedom and the human rights of safety for property and self? I would love to hear the thoughts, ideas, or concerns of my readers on this!

The last concern I want to address is freedom of religion. This is a tough topic, because many of us look at religion as a moral standard. There are groups and cults who claim religion, but are not about religion in the accepted definition. A religion is a cultural belief system that is intended to lead its followers in a defined lifestyle, and generally adheres to some form of worship for some form of God. It is possible to be religious without belonging to a religion – that is, to have a belief in a Superior Being and follow the tenents of Biblical law, such as the 10 commandments or the golden rule.

As in most things in life, there are degrees of religious belief and behavior. The range is wide, from non-believers (atheists) to skeptics (agnostics), from devout to zealots. And there are around 5,000 religions (or more accurately, religious sects) to choose from, world-wide. Currently, many Americans want to identify as a Christian nation. But the truth is, there are a variety of Christian denominations, and they don’t always see eye to eye, either. Overall, the United States has approximately 50 active religions. A recent ABC poll found that 13% of Americans claim no religion. 83% claim Christianity, including Catholics, Protestants (of whom, 19% are non-affiliated with a particular denomination), Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses. 4% stated other, including Judaism, Muslim, Hindu and Buddhism. However, this is an ever-changing dynamic. For more than 200 years we’ve been able to live together on this continent and accept each other. Each era brought some bias regarding one religion or another, but for the most part, we’ve adapted.

The current concern is about Muslims or the religion of Islam. This has arisen from the fear of terrorism and the attack on America in 2001 from terrorists claiming to embrace “radical Islam.” However, terrorism is not a religious tenent. We have had so-called Christian wars as well, but they, too, had little or nothing to do with religion. Wars are about money, property, greed and power. Our constitution gives complete freedom of religion. That includes Muslims. The worry over “Sharia Law”, which is taught in the Qu’ran, is much like laws in our Christian Bible from the Old Testament, where it says “an eye for an eye”, and that it is okay to kill your neighbor if he looks at your wife. You were also supposed to take your wife to a priest if she was pregnant and you suspected she had cheated on you. He would have her drink poison, and if it killed her and her baby, it was determined that she had indeed cheated. If, however, she and the baby survived, it indicated that she had remained faithful. The point here is that Sharia law is only a part of the Islamic teachings, and many Muslims no longer follow Sharia law to a point of killings or physical harm. If they do, they are subject to the laws of our government in the same way as you would be if someone poked your eye out and you went back and poked his eye out for revenge. Certainly, the individual states are struggling with how to set up laws that are fair to Americans while allowing as much religious freedom as possible. In the future, it may become necessary to make a federal law, or even an amendment to the constitution to address Sharia law while adhering to our constitutional right to freedom of religion. It is important to note that terrorism of any kind, for any reason, is not tolerated in the United States of America.

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Posted by on May 26, 2017 | 0 comments



The question: Do our current leaders and candidates for either political party understand the lifestyles and needs of the citizens of America today?

Keep in mind the old saying: You can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time – John Lydgate (poet)

First, there are the party line voters who will only vote for their party-of-choice candidates. With Republicans, this is because their party represents their values regarding a number of things, but primarily concerns over limited taxation, smaller, less restrictive government, religious/family values, second amendment (gun) rights, and anti-abortion stances. With Democrats, it’s because they value individual rights and freedoms, progressive actions to aid those less fortunate, climate and ecological concerns, and separation of church and state. Most of the people in the party line voting groups see no acceptable alternative path to the protection of their values and beliefs than the offerings of their party. Unless the candidates check the boxes of these talking points, party liners rarely consider anyone else.

This article is about the other voters who will look at the candidates and decide how to vote on an individual basis. I don’t want to single out Donald Trump here. These descriptions also fit supporters of Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Ronald Reagan, Bush I and Bush II, etc. I start with Mr. Trump because he currently bears the title of President.

Here’s the deal with Donald Trump. He’s not in touch with the American people; he’s in touch with a segment of the American people… or possibly two segments. Let me make this clear: Everyone who supported Donald Trump is not bad, evil, racist, unschooled, or otherwise lacking in character. . Although Mr. Trump had no political experience whatsoever, his promises excited the people most hurt by the Recession and slow recovery because he promised JOBS and a WALL to keep the immigrants out.

Unfortunately, he’s in touch with the bigots, haters, white supremacists and conspiracy theorists because he recognizes them and plays to them. That doesn’t necessarily mean he adheres to their beliefs, or that he’s being honest with them. He tells them what they want to hear because they are the easiest groups to rally. They will generally get behind anyone who appears to support their cause(s). Most of the people in this culture group have been raised since babies to believe the things they stand for today. You’re not likely to be able to change their minds; they must look for someone who agrees with (or appears to agree with) what they see as the ultimate truth.

There’s a second group that are not necessarily biased or hateful, but are more susceptible to a type of conditioning, or brainwashing. They have legitimate gripes with the system as it affects them today, and they WANT to believe there is a simple solution, if only someone can come up with it. These are the people with the moral fiber to recognize Mr. Trump’s flaws, but still they excuse him, or ignore what they see because they want something –anything- different, that promises to make their lives better. Not coincidentally, these are often the same people who get caught up in pyramid schemes and fall for phone scams, and in worse cases, get involved with cults. (Remember Jonestown? Over 900 people “drank the kool-aid.”) To understand Mr. Trump’s strategy, you don’t need to take my word for it. You can read his book, ‘The Art of the Deal’. He explains in detail how he works his investors to get what he wants.

Psychiatrists and psychologists say that there are also certain personalities that, once they have reached a conclusion about something, are beyond stubborn. They may think things over and analyze it to the best of their ability, but when they feel they have determined the correct answer, no amount of cajoling or persuasive argument will change their minds, including pictures, video, audio statements, or being present as events unfold. Instead, they make excuses for what they saw/heard. One explanation of this phenomena is called the Dunning-Kruger effect which is discussed in the magazine, Psychology Today. . Basically, the premise is that some people are not able to consciously realize whether they are good at something or not. (In this case, reasoning.) They feel they have done their best, and that justifies whatever conclusion they reach. The next natural step is to conclude that other arguments are wrong.

Bernie Sanders had a grip on a large portion of the democratic voters as well as independents, but he was most beloved by college students and millennials in general. His main pitch was free college for everyone, and reduced payments or forgiven debt for college tuition of graduates. He also espoused single-payer medical insurance for all, and pronounced himself a “social democrat”. (Single payer insurance would be like Medicare – everyone having the same coverage, as it would be financed by a tax like Medicare.) He was in touch with the “flower children” of the 21st century. He was also critical of Wall Street, although his thoughts on that were a bit shaky. He wanted to break up the big banks, deemed “too big to fail” but didn’t really have a plan to do that.

Foreign policy was not his strong suit. Being of Jewish faith, he was current on issues involving Palestine and Israel, but less involved with the rest of the middle-east, or China, or foreign trade with anyone. He promised to pull out of the TPP agreement, but was not alone on that issue, as Mr. Trump and Hillary Clinton also agreed to abandon the TPP.

Mr. Sanders ran on the democratic ticket, but has been an independent in his career with the Senate. His passion and sincerity drew large, enthusiastic crowds. He was the opposite of Trump as the other candidate for change. There have been allegations to the effect that the Democratic National Committee undermined his campaign because they preferred Hillary Clinton. Eventually, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, head of the DNC, was forced to resign as a result of emails leaked that showed intent on the part of the DNC to smear Bernie Sanders’ name. In the end, Hillary Clinton won the Democratic Primary with 16.8 million votes to 13.2 million votes for Bernie Sanders. Many people thought Sanders would have beaten Trump, and that debate still goes on today.


Hillary Clinton had strong support from the establishment democrats. Ironically, this may have been her biggest downfall. A lot of people blamed the establishment for the lack of accomplishments to help the little guy. It was well-known that congress had been largely ineffective for a decade or more. But instead of cleaning house there (pardon the pun), they looked to the presidential candidates for the answer.

She also had two other major hurdles to overcome. For years the Clinton name had been dogged by conspiracy theories. There were questions regarding her involvement with the Whitewater scandal, involving real estate and banking dealings with the Clintons back in the 1990s. The Clintons were never prosecuted, but others were. Some felt that justice was never served. Then there were those who went further than insinuating the Clintons may have paid off people to “take the fall.” Getting away with murder became a literal accusation as unfounded conspiracy theories erupted that people who crossed the Clintons wound up dead. Other theories through the years would constitute a full article by themselves. Suffice to say, the Clinton Haters worked overtime. She was also investigated 9 times regarding the horrible terrorist attack against the U.S. staff in Benghazi. Nothing was ever found that indicated Secretary of State Clinton was at fault. Then there was the “email scandal.” This is where she had a private email server installed at her residence that she used to conduct state department business on. Actually, when she installed it, there was no regulation not to do so. Her intent was to avoid hacks into the government servers by foreign countries, which were already happening. The investigation into that was ongoing throughout her whole campaign, with no prosecutable evidence found.

Her other big problem was her inability to connect with the average citizen. Hillary labored for children’s causes, but couldn’t seem to attract the college-aged crowds or the working poor. Her demeanor was more business-like, and constituents didn’t warm to her easily. She tried town halls and meetings with some success, but the media only followed a few, and then latched onto the blustery Trump, so the impact of her attempts to reach out to everyday people got lost in the race for television ratings. The middle class felt abandoned, and struggled with the dilemma, Trump vs. Clinton. Neither seemed satisfactory to them, and many either opted for third parties, or ended up not voting at all. Although they may have liked President Obama, and Clinton promised to carry on his legacy, they didn’t trust her to do that.

Third party candidates did not have a clear enough message, or strong enough platforms to sway many voters. For the most part, their voter turnouts were in the single digits, but taking away from the other candidates.

All candidates had to address the need for more jobs. The subject swirled around the ideas that trade was the cause of job losses, or that immigrants had stolen all the jobs, or that large companies have moved their bases of production to countries like Thailand, China, Mexico, Indonesia and India because the labor there is much cheaper.

No one can argue that last fact. There is, however, a humanitarian aspect to consider. A few companies have berated the low pay and long hours, not to mention lack of child labor laws in foreign countries, as being inhumane and have refused to go in that direction.

It remains to be seen how much the immigration policies affect jobs. A few years ago, when there was a crack-down on migrant workers in the south, farmers ended up losing large amounts of their crops because with the workers carted off, no one else would do the hard work of harvesting the fruits and vegetables, and other commodities (cotton, tobacco, and so on) raised by the farmers. This will be retested now, as the deportation of immigrants has ramped up again, under Trump.

Trade is a much trickier issue: It reaches into the category of economics, and there are arguments galore, on the benefits of tariffs, taxes, penalties and so forth that come up when trade is discussed. This is one of the most contentious topics our politicians have to face. Something that looks good on paper may not work in practice. Our trading partners throughout the world are invaluable in many ways, including sales we make to them, as well as jobs provided in the United States when they do manufacturing here.

It’s important to note here that the president does not control any of these factors. He or she may negotiate deals with foreign countries, but those deals still have to be approved by the House of Representatives and the Senate. The president cannot pass laws on his own. He can only make certain changes, via Executive Orders, to existing laws. The president can have some influence over the congress, and can present bills for review that may then be considered adopted, but he alone cannot make a new law or repeal an existing law. THIS is where the voters generally go wrong. When they are unhappy with jobs, the economy, civil rights, or any number of things, they should be listening to their Senators’ and Representatives’ positions. Voters should ask questions – lots of questions!

More often than not, it is these members of congress who are not in touch with ordinary Americans. Some of them are not even forthright with the information they give their constituents. But even the ones who are honestly trying to give fair representation frequently have a skewed vision regarding the lives of the people they represent. They live a different lifestyle, and run in different circles. They aren’t out and about in the neighborhoods of the average working man or woman and their families. They make enough money that they don’t have to worry about getting good child-care while they work. If they are unfortunate enough to have someone in their family with a chronic condition such as asthma or diabetes, they have good insurance, paid for in large part by our tax dollars. They live in nice neighborhoods that don’t have high crime rates, and their children go to the best school districts, or to private schools. None of these things, in themselves, are bad. The problem comes as our representatives forget that we don’t all live like that. We can’t all live like that. Most middle-class and lower working-class people are teachers, nurses, technicians, truck drivers, construction workers, store clerks, waiters or waitresses, sales reps, or run a small business.

The national average wage in the United States in 2015 was $48,098.63. That amounts to $924.97 a week, before taxes. Taxes vary a great deal, especially state taxes, but a fair average for the middle class is currently at around 20%, so that means their take-home averages around $740 a week. That works out to around $3206 a month. Sounds okay, right? Well, let’s use round conservative numbers and see: $1400 rent or mortgage, $700 health insurance, $500 utilities, and that leaves $600 for:

  • food
  • clothes and shoes
  • medical co-pays
  • medical expenses not covered by insurance (glasses, braces, etc.)
  • car payments/repairs
  • car insurance and tags
  • gasoline
  • renters/homeowner’s insurance
  • child care
  • school supplies
  • haircuts
  • birthday and holiday gifts

We haven’t even touched upon household repairs, like a new hot water heater, or roof repair or a broken window. What if you need to hire an attorney for some reason, or make an emergency trip because of an illness or death in the family? And vacation – forget that! Savings – not likely! Hopefully no one in the family gets a terrible disease requiring medication in the thousands of dollars.

Now, consider that since we used an average, some people make more and are better off, but the majority make less and are worse off. We say that because to get an average, you also factor in the wealthy. If you factored out the wealthy, the national average would drop significantly. The costs wouldn’t drop. Just the wages.

This is what our representatives in Washington don’t see. Even our state legislatures don’t always see it. How can we get their attention? By not being complacent. Make our voices heard at town halls, write letters to the editor of our newspapers, write our reps and senators, and most of all – vote them out if they don’t do their jobs!

Invite candidates to a mixed venue of voters with liberal and conservative needs. See if they can find compromise. Social media is also a good outlet as long as we remember to fact-check the articles we read, and do not post anything that is doubtful or known to be incorrect. That just does more harm because people learn not to trust us.

I think the answer to the original question is “No, our current leaders and candidates for either political party do not understand the lifestyles and needs of the citizens of America today.”

What do you think?

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Posted by on Apr 28, 2017 | 0 comments



(Junior/Senior year)

As adults, we don’t know how to fit political information into our schedules. If we haven’t gained political education before we graduate, we aren’t likely to for several more years. We glance at the news to catch the weather, or a sports score, but seldom do we sit down to watch the entire broadcast. Even worse, we spend less time listening to our political figures when they speak at a State of the State, or State of the Union Address, for instance. Even people who say they get their news online often read only the headline and a paragraph or two. Practically speaking, we elect our leaders and our representatives based on a picture, a few sentences we’ve randomly heard them speak, and a well-written biographical paragraph by a paid marketer. Some voters watch for the political ads and decide by what they see there, not realizing that these are nothing but mini-commercials by marketing strategists, selling you their product. Rarely do we think to look up an incumbent’s voting record or find out what their previous jobs were and what their business reputation was. The truth is, unless we take courses in college related to the political arena, most of us know very little about our government and how it operates. Once we leave high school, our lives become a whole new world of responsibilities with a job, and/or college classes. Many marry and begin families which brings in a whole new dimension of responsibility. We now have bills to pay, and of course we want a social life. We need a car, or a place to live… and on and on. High school prepares us for this new world with information that helps us make good choices, but does it prepare us to improve our lives and our worlds through the power of the vote?

Just about everyone knows who the president of the country is, even if they didn’t vote. However, it’s surprising how many don’t even know who the vice president is, let alone who their senators and congressional representatives are. Even locally, 20-somethings to 40-somethings often don’t know who is representing them in their state legislature, or who the governor is, or the mayor of their own city, let alone their council members. This is somewhat understandable, given that many families have both parents working, or are single-parent households. With children, there are doctor appointments, babysitters to schedule, laundry, meals, constant housecleaning, and general bill-paying. Then comes school registrations, parent-teacher meetings, sports, holiday shows, birthday parties and other parent-child activities… all while working a full-time job and trying to have some family time. Whew!

So the last year or two of high school (before all that starts) is the best time to teach some life skills that can lead to a better future for the student as he/she becomes an adult. First, we need to acknowledge that History is not the same as Civics, and a class in Government is completely different than either one.

HISTORY is mostly about the names of Kings, Queens, Presidents, Prime Ministers, Tribal Chiefs, Sheiks, Dictators and a few famous U. S. patriots and the dates of their birth, death, and times in power. It also focuses on wars and specific battles throughout the years.

CIVICS class is centered around the rights of citizens, mainly in the United States, and sometimes broken down to the state level. The Constitution is usually a part of this curriculum. Some voter information is usually included. It is an important course but it doesn’t teach much about how the government functions.

GOVERNMENT class is the study of how governments run, particularly in the United States. Besides learning about pacts and treaties and how they come to be, this course takes into account how the three branches of our federal government work (and the checks and balances this provides), and describes how policies and laws are made. Ideally, there is some overlap between government class and civics class, but one does not take the place of the other.

Today, civics classes are required as early as 7th grade. I don’t know about you, but I can’t remember a single class I had when I was 12. Boys were discovering girls, and girls were discovering that boys were noticing them. Sports were being introduced on a competitive level. I remember that elective classes were added to the curriculum, and most of us chose something that seemed like fun; possibly shop or home economics (back in those days), or music, art, or typing.

The civics classes in school today are usually half-credit classes, paired with some kind of local government class. While this is better than nothing, the message is sent that the workings of government really aren’t very important to the average citizen. The amount of time allotted doesn’t allow for the setting up of a mock government and studying the variety of issues our three main branches face. How can we expect our next generation to be inspired to become involved if they don’t even know how it works? How can they know how to vote if they don’t even know that senators and representatives can write and submit bills, but both the house and the senate must approve them and the president must sign them before they become law? (Yes, the president has a veto power which allows him to keep a bill from becoming law, but the veto can be overwritten if it goes back to congress and passes both the senate and house of representatives by 2/3 majority in each.) Instead, we believe a president can actually change the law at will, without understanding that he can only do that with the help of congress. In fact, most presidential candidates don’t even know the full extent of their limitations until they begin receiving briefings. (Many people also confuse Executive Orders with Laws. Executive Orders can only pertain to laws that are currently in existence.)

And then of course, any new laws (or orders) have to be legal. That is, laws cannot be made that go against the Constitution. Our judicial system is set up to prevent that from happening. There are legal ways to circumvent that, such as adding a constitutional amendment – something that is very difficult and requires a great deal of work in order to reach an agreement which will win the necessary backing of the individual states. First a proposal must be developed and must pass both branches of congress by 2/3 majority of each branch. Then the bill must be sent to the states where their legislatures must agree, by simple majority, to the amendment. Three quarters of all states must approve of the amendment. The president cannot veto any step of this process. ***For more on amendments, see the end of this article.

Did you know all this? More importantly, did you know all this the first dozen or so times that you voted?

Shouldn’t our future voters and leaders know that federal judges are appointed for life – not only the Supreme Court? Shouldn’t our newest voters understand that there is a hierarchy to the court system?

Shouldn’t our schools teach that even the executive branch of the government must meet the standards of the Constitution, and that our congress and judicial systems may be called on to determine if any new law or regulation is constitutional? Wouldn’t all this stick in their minds more, the closer they got to voting age?

Isn’t it up to us to talk to our state legislators, boards of education, and our school districts to try to encourage more involvement for our students so they can go into the world armed with the best information they can get? Wouldn’t we have a better world if the youngest adults were as informed as we’ve become after raising our families and then finally finding the time to actually learn about the amazing way our forefathers set up our democracy?

While researching data, I found that most requirement information is only current through 2013, so some states may have modified their requirements in either direction during the last 4 years. At this website, I noticed some states had actually dropped government from their requirements. Reference for graduation requirements Info:

According to the referenced website, only 4 states and the District of Columbia show a full credit required for U.S. Government – Idaho, Iowa, Maryland, and Nevada.

Fifteen others show Government at a full credit, but mixed with other subjects such as history or civics.

Nine states show no Government requirement at all – Arkansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Nebraska, North Carolina, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Wyoming.

The other 22 states require only ½ credit, sometimes mixed in with other subjects such as local government or history, and of these, some offer the classes as early as 7th grade.

In early 2017, several states reviewed and have changed, or are considering changing requirements for graduation. You can look up your local Board of Education to find requirements and other graduation information. If you would like to see the next generation graduate as a better informed and more aware group of young adults, you can begin with your local school board. Let them know what you want!

**** A final consideration might be to require that all students pass a citizenship test prior to graduation. Why do we expect new U.S. citizens to know more about how our government works than the young people that have gone to school here their entire lives?

There are currently many petitions and proposals circulating for a 28th amendment. A few are:

  • Citizens United (campaign funding)
  • Time limits on congressional and senate votes for appointed positions such as the Supreme Court.
  • Social Security and healthcare as a right.
  • Term limits for members of the House and Senate.
  • More recently, limitations and requirements pertaining directly to the president, such as release of tax forms, medical records, and divestiture of business conflicts are being discussed.
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Posted by on Apr 1, 2017 | 0 comments



The other evening I happened to run into a cousin of mine as I was cruising through some memes on Face Book. The meme we connected on questioned how the current congress is so willing to follow Christian beliefs by banning abortion and even birth control, but wants to eliminate help with healthcare for pregnant women or pediatric care for their children. The question; where is the help for the poor and needy, as the Christian bible promotes.

That is not what this article is about. But that topic sparked a good conversation and we found ourselves looking at a pretty interesting blend of left and right thinking.

Obviously, we have some social problems in the United States, and both liberals and conservatives recognize them. We have too many people on unemployment, on welfare, and receiving other services because they can’t find work, or work that pays enough to live on. We have recently come through a pretty steep recession, and there are some people who still haven’t been able to reestablish themselves in the work force. But we are too ready to lump everyone in the same category… if you are receiving assistance, you must be lazy, scamming the system, or addicted to something. Somehow, reducing the assistance programs and Medicaid – which is the medical safety net for lower income citizens – will force these people to go out and get jobs? Pretend you are somehow cast into one of these following situations.

Here are just a few reasons people are homeless, and/or can’t get jobs.

  • To rent an apartment, you need a reference from your last residence. If your home was foreclosed on, you won’t have a reference. You must pass a credit check. You must also have a job, or provable income.
  • To get a job, you must have a residence and a phone. Living in a car, or even a camper is not considered a residence. Neither is crashing on your friends’ couches… and P.O. Boxes won’t cut it. Many jobs also require a decent credit score. (Contrary to current belief, some people don’t have phones, either.)
  • Some people have health problems that prevent them from working. These can swing from debilitating diseases like Cancer, Multiple Sclerosis, Muscular Dystrophy, Cerebral Palsy, Heart Failure… to things that require money or insurance to fix, such as bad teeth, body odor issues not related to cleanliness, poor eyesight, loss of hearing, back injuries, etc.
  • Other problems that hinder finding jobs include transportation (buses don’t run everywhere), child care needs, lack of proper attire, and, of course, experience or education. The restaurant looking for a cook isn’t interested in how good of a mechanic you are. Even having a great resume can be a hindrance if you’re looking beneath your experience level. Call centers won’t hire you if you used to manage a call center, unless they’re looking for a manager, because they assume you will leave as soon as you get something better. (Probably true, but you see the problem.)

So let’s assume you get some assistance, and you solve the above problems for the moment. How do you find a job? Well, on the computer, of course. Oh wait, you don’t have one? Well, there is the library, but you will need an email address to even get a response. If you have a working phone, you can try to use that to check the Boards for help wanted, and you can add that needed email address (some are free). But what if there just aren’t any jobs that you’re qualified to do in your town. In many areas, assistance is available only for a limited time, and you must be looking for work. When the time is up – as little as one year in some places – you just stop getting aid.

This is where my cousin had some good ideas. Jobs could be created for people in these situations, and some of them might even end up helping others in that problem list above. Let me explain. Jobs could be created for people who are desperately seeking work. I’m going to make a list of jobs that almost anyone could do, and that don’t require a lot of training. Many of them are jobs currently being done by volunteers, but if local governments could fund some projects, people could be paid for jobs and climb out of their homelessness and poverty. In the long run, it would be cheaper than welfare and other assistance programs. It could even provide experience for potentially permanent jobs and careers.

  • Many retired people own homes but can’t keep up their yards, or can’t afford repairs to keep the home safe and weatherproof. If they could call a community service and ask for yardwork or minor home repairs, someone could be assigned to go do that job and bring back a signed approval when the work was completed – at no cost to the elderly.
  • This same service could send hospital helpers out to read to patients, to help feed them, and to work in volunteer positions in the hospital – giving directions, looking up patient rooms, connecting incoming calls, shuttling visitors to and from their cars, and the like – at no cost to the hospital.
  • Those who are handy in the trades could be “hired” to build Tiny Homes. Old mobile home parks could be converted into places for the Tiny Homes. (See example pictures below. This is NOT a promotional article. ) People working in the program but not having a home could apply to rent one of these living spaces at a discounted rate, and now they have an address! These homes would remain the property of the city/parish/county, etc., and could possibly be a tax write-off for the agency.

C:\Users\JulieB\Documents\Writing-Blogs and Articles\Pictures\th.jpg C:\Users\JulieB\Documents\Writing-Blogs and Articles\Pictures\th[5].jpg

  • Child care centers could be set up near business districts and staffed by parents who have their own children to care for, but who could easily help care for others, too, until they finished a GED program, or a college class, or found an opening for their preferred type of work, or retired people needing to add a bit of additional income to their budget could help feed and rock infants, and prepare lunches for the little ones – at no cost to the working parents.
  • Even minor street and sidewalk repairs or park maintenance could be done in smaller communities that don’t have regular maintenance contracts.
  • Workers could repair school playground equipment, fix or build desks, and keep the school grounds clean.
  • Shelters and soup kitchens often utilize volunteers, but this is also work that job-seekers could do to earn enough money to buy a phone, get a used car, and purchase some new shoes and clothing.

Of course, for most of these jobs, a background check would be needed. Tools might have to be provided, and if the job involved a team, transportation might be required. Sometimes, a person might need special insurance, if they had to drive, for instance. In the scheme of things, though, the developmental benefits received by everyone would far outweigh the costs incurred in setting up and running such a community service. Another huge benefit; it has been proven that job-seekers will be hired sooner if they are already working.

Meanwhile, some of the work could count towards new glasses, or a hearing aid, or dental work…things to help people present well for interviews. These needs might have to be provided prior to working, but could be placed on a “balance forward” jobs projection.

Of course, standard assistance programs will continue for those physically unable to work, such as the elderly and the very ill or injured. But some retired people, and even some who are sick or disabled might be able to do some work from home, such as computer data entry, or web design, or maybe just selling things on E-Bay for others in the work program.

Finally, how do we finance and maintain such a program? Well, we could make it a component of the assistance program that everyone who is healthy enough must either be attending classes for a GED, or must work a certain amount of hours per week unless going on verifiable job interviews. Instead of “collecting” welfare checks, they would receive their check for working – not to be lower than the normal welfare check after taxes. (Pay could go higher for additional hours, or supervisory work, but no lower.) In other words, the budgeted monies for welfare would be used as incentive. This work could be put on a resume, and would be eligible for a tax return for their reported income. Besides gaining income and experience, they gain pride in their work and a sense of worth that they will never attain by getting a welfare check.

Does this solve every problem? Of course not. What is does it provide a starting point for helping people learn to help themselves. For instance, if someone dropped out of school, getting a GED is going to be a minimal requirement, and should be part of this program. Also, there would have to be a minimum amount of hours worked per week… perhaps 30? Minimum wage would not apply, as this would be a temporary program designed to motivate welfare-dependent families to get back on track. This is not designed to be a full-time permanent job, but rather a way to get off assistance programs and develop skills that might lead to a new way of thinking, and even a new vocation. Do you think your local city council or mayor might be interested in something like this? What about your county supervisors?

Let’s hear your thoughts!

More information on tiny homes:

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Posted by on Mar 10, 2017 | 1 comment




Let me ask one question: Have you ever met someone – at work, at a party, or by some other connection and found you were really enjoying this new person? Maybe they had a sense of humor that you appreciated. Maybe they were well-versed on a subject that interested you. Possibly you had common interests such as sports, cars, music, movies, hobbies, etc. Or you may have just seen them doing something kind for someone else and it touched your heart. So it looks like you have a new, friendly relationship and then WHAM! Politics!  Did they just say they liked Obama, Clinton, Sanders…or Trump, Rubio, Cruz…? It’s like fingernails on a chalkboard. Suddenly, you see them in a different light… not your kind of person at all! Hmmm, what a shame. I wonder how it is that all those positives things you saw a few minutes earlier no long have any value.

Sadly, this is how things seem to go these days. Politics has always been a tricky subject, often avoided in order to keep the peace. But this year in particular, it’s not only influencing first opinions, and snap judgements about others in general, but it’s breaking up long-standing friendships and even families in some cases.

I’m not going to discuss the parties, or the issues, or any particular politician. Instead, I think we need to take a look at what our values are, and why we let our political leanings influence the rest of our lives, especially our relationships.

First, let’s look at the basic definitions for the following categories we like to use to label ourselves.


Believing that government should be active in supporting social or political change; not opposed to new ideas or ways of behaving that are not traditional or widely accepted. Also: broad-minded, not bound by authoritarianism, orthodoxy, or traditional forms. Sometimes referred to as Progressive.


Tending or disposed to maintain existing views; marked by moderation or caution; tending to favor established ideas, conditions or institutions. Sometimes referred to as Traditionalist.

I have to include Centrist, as you will see, because Centrists overlap Liberals and Conservatives. Remember, we’re going to discuss categories, not parties.


A person whose political views are not extreme; a person whose beliefs fall between those of liberals and conservatives. Sometimes referred to as Moderate.

There are a number of other categories, such as Libertarian, Green, Constitutional, and Independent, as well as combinations of all of these, and several other limited groups often linked with religious organizations. For the sake of this conversation, I’ll stick to the three I’ve defined, as they represent the majority of citizens in the United States. (However, the number of Independents are increasing, politically, and may soon join the parties eligible for debates and primaries.)

It seems in today’s world we are defining our relationships by how they vote, who they support, and what causes they defend. Although this might be a good thing to consider as we look at the overall picture presented by a person, does a certain political view really reflect the substance of anyone? In fact, might we be missing an opportunity to expand our own thoughts and views – or is that what we’re afraid of?

Psychologists tell us that it’s normal to develop opinions, and once formed, it’s common to avoid discussions or information that might rebut what we’ve come to believe. This is not to say we should do this, but only that it’s common. On the contrary, it’s much healthier to consider other opinions on a regular basis. For one thing, situations change. Something that was true at one time might not be true at a later date. Example: For decades it was common knowledge that cars should have oil changes around every 3000 miles. In the last few years however, due to new technology, the current recommendation is somewhere between 5000 and 10,000 miles.

Also, over time, something understood as fact can be invalidated. The best example I can think of to illustrate that point is, for centuries the world was considered to be flat. People assumed that if one sailed to the edge, they would fall off. Magellan set off one day to try to find a route to the East Indies. Although he died in the Philippines, his expedition continued, and the circumnavigation was completed by Juan Sebastian Elcono and 17 other original crew members. We now know the world is round. We also now know that Magellan did not truly discover that the world was round, but his crewman, Elcono, did. And this is another example of how “truth” changes – misinformation. (I was taught in school that Magellan was the first person to sail around the world.)

In the world of politics, many issues change by degrees:

  • Common-law marriages are recognized in some states, but not in others. Of those that do, the requirements vary from 3 to 10 years of cohabitation.
  • The Federal government still has marijuana on its list of illegal drugs, yet several states now allow medicinal use of marijuana, and some, such as Alaska and Colorado, allow for recreational use as well.
  • Twenty-eight states have tried, or use, a 3-strikes program for repeat criminals, beginning in 1952 (Texas). In the 1990s, other states joined in, as well as the Federal government.

The third strike mandates a much longer sentence, up to and including life. Many of these laws have since been modified to allow courts some latitude for circumstances, and do not include traffic tickets or other misdemeanors, while juveniles are generally exempt. Most states now use the law mainly for violent criminals. Some people find this cruel and unusual punishment, but others think habitual criminals need to be permanently locked up. By varying degrees, the statistics show some programs are more successful than others, with the most current findings showing that these programs work best when combined with education and counseling.

These are just a very few examples of political issues that have degrees of use, and supply plenty of fodder for debate.

This chart shows the overlap seen in a wide variety of topics that often arise in political discussions. There is a trend to be found, based on polling questions derived from a variety of news articles and exit polls from before the November 8th election until the inauguration on January 20, 2017.

Blue = Liberal     Purple = Centrist     Red = Conservative

You can see where the issues overlap to some degree. In other words, there are some conservatives who believe in reasonable gun control, with some liberals embracing the pro-life position, etc.

Centrists do not necessarily agree on all these topics, but generally there is a generous amount of carry-over from both sides with centrists/moderates. Remember, we aren’t talking about politicians, just about us; the general population.

The point here is to look at how things often overlap and flow into groups considered “the other side.” There is a blending, if you will, of thoughts, ideas and feelings towards these and many other issues. This is how democracy is intended to work. The majority is supposed to rule, and this is what we vote for when we elect our representatives. Tempers flare, (and rightfully so) when we see that our representation is lacking. As new information comes to light, representatives need to take stock of what their constituents really want.

We can help by writing, emailing, or calling the offices of our Senators and House Representatives. We can even contact our state legislature to enlist their help. We can be clear and concise, stating what we oppose and what we support. It’s recommended to leave a name and zip code. What we need to avoid is yelling, name calling and general rudeness. In a town hall setting, chanting may show enthusiasm, but will rarely have the effect you want. If you must do a chant, keep it clean and short. (“Do your job” was rather inspiring last week.)

So back to friends, family…and also consider the people online that we interact with, too. Maybe on Face Book, or maybe in a comments section after an article, whatever the occasion, make your point, but remember that ALL CAPS is considered yelling. Name-calling is juvenile, and insulting someone will never, ever be helpful. When referring to “Obumer” or “Drumf” (Trump’s actual ancestral name, but used as a slur) it comes across as childish, and is completely inappropriate. Remember too, rarely is one side ever 100% correct. It’s never a bad idea to verify information, whether you’re receiving it or passing it on. With your family or friends, refrain from derogatory remarks such as, “Man, how can you be so stupid?” or “I thought you were smarter than that.” And keep to the subject… never let a political discussion deteriorate into an all out rant about each other’s flaws.

Think about it this way; if you are arguing with your spouse or your friend, or your co-worker and they call you a name, are you likely to consider what they’re saying? I know I’m not. A friend of mine once mentioned that he’d had a spat with his wife. I asked what happened and he said, “I don’t even remember what the argument was about. I just remember that she called me a bastard and it really stung.”

Don’t let anger and frustration control an exchange of ideas. Try remembering things you really do like about this person, and change the subject if there is no true exchange of information or thoughtful opinion, or if negative speech creeps in. The best discussion you can have is between two or more people with differing ideas who are all willing to consider the other points of view. Most of all remember, our thoughts or beliefs may not overlap in all areas, but if given a chance, they will almost always overlap in some area, and to some degree!

Other information regarding the 3-strikes laws was found at:

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