Will Gun Control Stop School Shootings?

Posted on October 2, 2015. Filed under: Gun Control, Society | Tags: , |

In the wake of Thursday’s mass murder at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon, we have to start asking hard questions. Gun control advocates immediately knee jerk and say we have to pass tighter gun control laws. Pro-gun advocates immediately knee jerk and say that gun control is not the answer, neither of which address the issue of the hatred in the heart of the individual who feels compelled to kill.

In this particular instance, the individual in question was one of those males who apparently felt the need to take revenge on society, because they couldn’t get laid.

Seriously. (more…)

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Oregon’s Death with Dignity

Posted on October 9, 2014. Filed under: Society | Tags: , |


The one thing that every human has in common.

Some people want to live life to the fullest, enjoying everything life has to offer.

Some want to travel and see the world.

Some want to live as long as they possibly can.

Some see life as a burden.

And some see life as hopelessness, suffering and pain.

When it comes to life, the political views held by both sides tend to be filled with contradictions and hypocrisy.

For example, those with religious views consider themselves “pro-life”, believing that every life is precious, and abortion and suicide are abominations. However, many of these same people support the death penalty, and the killing and bombing of their/our enemies.

Those to the left, who support “pro-choice” positions generally have no issues with murdering unborn babies, but are against capital punishment and going to war, but they support “Death with Dignity”.

My point is that even though both sides support a given position in one arena, they hold the opposite view in another arena.

I used to be a pro-choice person, until I started to see and meet more and more young women who used abortion as a form of birth control. While I understand that it is their body and ultimately their choice, I view it as completely wrong and abhorrent that they choose to abort a “clump of tissue” because they did something dumb.( I hold this view because the mother is given the choice, but the innocent child has none. On the other hand, someone who has made a conscious choice to commit murder is not innocent like an unborn child)

These same people who espouse “choice” are the same ones who tell me that I should not be able to drink 128 ounces of Coke a day if I choose to do so, or eat the supersized Big Mac meal at McDonald’s. Instead, I need to be informed as to how many calories that Big Mac has. If it is a woman’s right to choose whether or not she carries a baby to term, then it should be my right to choose what I put in my body, be it junk food, fast food, sugar, alcohol, nicotine, THC or whatever.  By the same stretch, I should not be required to wear a seat belt if I don’t want to, nor wear a helmet while riding a motorcycle. But society acts as if I should not be able to do such things, because they aren’t good for me.

The right likes to rail against the “nanny state” that tells us what we should and shouldn’t do.

Then they turn around and speak out in favor of their version of the “nanny state”.

There is a meme floating around Facebook, that came from a 29 year old who was diagnosed with a brain tumor. She had an essay published on CNN, and it has sparked a bit of controversy. For example, blogger Matt Walsh has said There is Nothing Brave About Suicide. First off, I have no idea who Matt Walsh is. Of course, he probably has no idea who Tony Shields is, either.

Mr. Walsh sees himself as a professional truthsayer (his words). Truth and fact are funny things. In most cases, they depend upon the point of view of the speaker, and often change over time. Recall that at one time, the earth was the center of the universe. That was a fact, but it was not the truth. To some in the Islamic community, the earth is flat. That is their fact, but it is not the truth. Truth never changes, even if we do not realize that our truth is fallacy.

But Walsh’s response is not necessarily to the essay, but to comments made on Facebook when people had said that she was very brave.

The mistake that Walsh is making is that people are not necessarily saying she’s brave for dying under the care of a doctor, but that she is being brave in the calm with which she is dealing with her circumstances.

It’s time to use Mr. Walsh’s own words:

…You might find that rather rude of me, but I find it thoughtless, reckless, and disturbing that so many people are running around calling her ‘brave’ and ‘dignified’ for choosing to poison herself.

I want her to live longer, whereas the rest of society seems to agree that her life has no meaning and there would be no purpose in her living it. Worse still, when we call it ‘dignified’ and ‘courageous’ to kill yourself because of a cancer diagnosis, we are directly attacking people who get cancer and don’t kill themselves.

You think I’m exaggerating? Well what other possible conclusion can be drawn? If it is ‘dying with dignity’ to take a pill and slip away rather than to fight the cancer until it kills you, then, by extension, it must be undignified to forgo the pill and fight the cancer until it kills you. Are we really prepared to see things in that way?

There are so many problems with our cultural suicide worship. So many problems with euthanasia and the way the practice perverts the medical establishment and confuses the public conscience. So many, many problems. This doesn’t even scratch the surface, but it’s the best I can do. 

What Walsh is saying is that she would be braver to stick it out and fight the losing battle in pain and agony, suffering every last moment of her life until her death.

When our pets get terminally ill or injured, we often put them down so they will not have to suffer, and we will not have to suffer along with them.

Why should we, as adults, not have the same choice for ourselves? This woman does not want to suffer until she dies. She does not want her family to suffer any more than they have to.

Suddenly, that’s suicide worship?

As an aside, I do agree with Walsh that I am mystified as to why she felt the need to go public about her situation and decision. I imagine that some Death with Dignity group heard about her decision and decided to approach her, and possibly pay her to make all of this public.

Let’s assume for a second that she didn’t have terminal cancer, and that she chose to commit suicide. Maybe she would have felt her circumstances were hopeless, far beyond hope. Should that mean that she, or anyone else, should not be allowed to end their lives. I’m not advocating that people should be allowed to launch themselves off of bridges onto cars passing below.

In the end, I am the master of my own destiny. If that destiny includes me ending my life early, that’s my choice to make. Not anyone else’s.

Since when is it our place to judge another’s choices?

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The Human Herd (Facebook Isn’t Spying on You (Yet))

Posted on August 12, 2014. Filed under: Society | Tags: , , |

Humans are the most advanced primate on the planet, but alas, we apparently aren’t the smartest.

We like to create music and art, and our ever precious technological devices to keep us connected, even on the go.

Our less evolved cousins prefer to sit around and fling poo.

Okay, we do that too. It’s called the internet. The internet has expanded the roaming distance of the herd exponentially. We have gone from living in the same cities/towns to living across country. With the internet, we are now connected to people all over the world.

We also use it to anonymously say things that we wouldn’t ordinarily say in public.The internet has brought out our inner asshole, and the poo flinging begins.

When one member of the herd smells smoke, the entire herd flees the fire. No questions asked. No one bothers to find out if someone simply built a fire to stay warm or eat.

Enter Facebook.

The latest thing roaming the internet is an article from the Puffington Host discussing “The Insidiousness of Facebook Messenger’s Android Mobile App Permissions“. It is making the rounds on Facebook in light of Facebook wanting to move people to its new Messenger service.

Before I say anything else, I need to say this. It’s the Puffington Host, folks. Take anything it says with a grain of salt. If you follow the link provided above, the article has been updated, and there is a note at the top that more or less says they were wrong. I guess it is the internet equivalent of saying “other than that, the story was accurate.”.

People are nervous on the heels of the government spying scandals, and for good reason. But it is causing people to see bogeymen around every corner and in every shadow.

What is it about these terms of service that has everyone bent out of shape?

When you install the app, you are informed that the app will need permission to access certain features on the phone, and the phone itself. At no point are you informed why. If you go to the applications manager and actually look at the permissions for both the Facebook mobile app and the messenger service, you see this:

  • directly call phone numbers (this may cost you money)
  • read phone status and identity
  • read your text messages (SMS or MMS)
  • take pictures and videos
  • record audio
  • approximate/precise location
  • modify your contacts
  • read call log
  • read your contacts
  • write call log
  • change network connectivity
  • connect and disconnect from wi-fi
  • download files without notification

The same permissions are in force for the Messenger service.

On the surface, it looks pretty insidious, especially after the revelations about Facebook’s experiments on news feed posts and human emotion.

But humans are reactionary creatures, and don’t want to be bothered with actually researching stuff.

I have seen claims that the Los Angeles Times reported that these companies had been recruited by the government to spy on us since the NSA had been caught.

But there are a few questions that people aren’t asking, and some are obvious.

Why does this only affect Android phones, and not Apple phones?

Look at the HP article again. The headline says it all.

Facebook Messenger’s Android Mobile App Permissions (emphasis mine).

According to Facebook, it is because Android’s permissions are more stringent than Apple’s. Read their response here: Why is the Messenger app requesting permission to access features on my Android phone or tablet?

Why does it need access to your camera? So you can upload pictures and videos.

The same goes for audio recordings. It’s all so you can upload audio. I’ve actually used Messenger to send audio messages to my wife. It’s a cool, convenient feature that allows you to send a message when you don’t have time to type.

Why does it need access to your phone/contacts? So your contacts can be synced with your Facebook page. (For the record, I don’t allow the syncing of my contacts list on Facebook. At all. Yes, you can control this.)

Why can Facebook crank call the White House from your phone? Actually, it can’t. It’s to allow you to call a contact straight from Messenger.

I’m not defending Facebook. There are things about it that piss me off, but in the course of researching this, i discovered one thing that made me research this further.

Your mobile banking app uses the same permissions.

What’s preventing them from crank calling the White House, or better yet, The Kremiln?

It isn’t Facebook that people need to fear. It’s the Huffington Post.

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Another Shooting in the West

Posted on June 10, 2014. Filed under: Society | Tags: , , |

Another day, another shooting.

It seems that shootings here in the west have hit a sudden uptick.

A spoiled Hollywood brat went on a killing spree because he couldn’t get laid. He murdered half of his victims with a knife, the rest with a gun.

A couple ambushed a couple of cops in Las Vegas, killing them both, and a man who was carrying concealed because he didn’t know the second perp was behind him.

A shooting up in Seattle just because the guy wanted to see people die, and admired people who perpetrated other mass shootings.

And now, in Troutdale, Oregon (just east of Portland) at Reynolds high School, a shooting that left one student dead, as well as the gunman, and a teacher injured. The suspect has not been identified yet, so we do not know if this is another student or not.

Immediately, the left starts jumping up and down that we need more gun control. The right responds with the need to arm teachers and staff.

I am not convinced that arming teachers and staff is a wise idea.

Reynolds High School has police that work there. Again, the left’s response is that there was an armed cop there, and that did not prevent someone from getting killed.

That’s true. It did not prevent the perp from murdering one student and injuring a teacher. The point of having an armed presence there is not to prevent these things, but to hopefully limit the casualties while First Responders get to the scene.

The irony is that another student was arrested on the way out for having a gun on him. The police have said that this was unrelated to the shooter, but what are the odds of two people, completely unrelated, bring a weapon to the school.

The other alternative is more mental health access. The guy in California who went on his spree had seen mental health professionals, as had the shooter in Aurora, Colorado who shot up the movie theater.  Jared Loughner, the man who shot Gabby Giffords in Arizona (and killed a few others) had not, but was later diagnosed with schizophrenia.

Let’s look at the possible solutions:

  1. Make guns harder to purchase
  2. More access to mental health care
  3. Arm teachers and administrators
  4. Get rid of violent video games (despite the fact that the games are rated0
  5. Get rid of violent tv/movies/music
  6. Stop the news coverage

None of these solutions go to the heart of the issue, especially the last one. I doubt that the thought of making the 6:00 news ever enters the equation. Maybe rarely.

The people who decide to go on shooting or murder sprees are disturbed.

Has the increased efficiency of guns made it easier to kill? Murder is as old as humanity itself.

Lizzie Borden (allegedly) murdered her parents with an axe back in the 1800s.

There was an axe murder in Villisca, Indiana back in 1912 with 8 victims.

Jeffrey Dahmer, anyone?

Really, what’s the difference between a mass murderer and a serial killer? Serial killers are more ritualistic, but they still kill a large number of people.

Just as there are good people in this world, there are evil people as well. Anyone who has the desire to murder is obviously disturbed.

What is causing so many people to want to kill others?

Have we ruled out the drugs we pop like candy, that are constantly bombarding us through television, radio and print media? After all, we are warned that they could cause death, the sudden urge to gamble, shooting flames out your ass, the sudden urge to see Charlie Chaplin movies, or even depression.

We are warned that anti-depressant drugs may not have the intended effect on kids and teens, that they may become depressed and suicidal.

Could it be that in at least some of these cases, that subjects may become homicidal?

How many of these people were on some sort of anti-depressant? I realize that not all of them were, but I am sure that many of them were.

Why do people murder? Sometimes it is just as simple as a heat of the moment thing, a crime of passion. Some are folks who are mentally unstable, and “just want to see people die”.  Some have an intended target, someone who has wronged them in some way, either deliberately or perceived.

Will better access to mental health facilities stop this?

It used to be that people who were a danger to society were locked away. We don’t do that today, because it is politically incorrect.

But it isn’t just those with mental illness. Sometimes, people just have their breaking points.

In schools, administrators like to talk ab out ending bullying, but do nothing about it. Often, if it is reported, it is ignored, or the reporting student is told to either mind their own business, or just deal with it. If they fight back against the bully, they are the ones that get in trouble, not the bully.

Eventually, the victim may break and go on a shooting spree. Note that I said “may”. Not all of us who are/were bullied break. I’ve dealt with bullies in my lifetime. There were times when I felt like I wanted to hurt them as badly as I could. But as the situation cooled down after it was over, even though I was still hurt and angry, I knew that what I wanted to do was not the answer.

Most of these people who go on these sprees don’t intend to leave it alive. Some are committing suicide by cop. Some take their own lives.

Some are out to get one or more people who have hurt them. Some go to malls or theaters in order to kill random, anonymous people, a way, I think, to lash out at a society that has hurt them in some way; a society that was unfair to them.

Since there are myriad causes for mass shootings, school shootings, what is the solution? Take guns away from everyone?

Will that really stop people bent on killing? Will it stop criminals from getting guns?

Is the solution to this issue making all of us defenseless?

We can take steps to hopefully prevent as many of these incidents as we can, but will we ever find a solution?

The only way that we will ever get a true handle on this is to study the problem. Don’t have knee jerk reactions like “we must ban guns!” or ‘we must ban video games!”. I mean really study the problem instead of closing the case and leaving it there.

Do the perpetrators have a history of mental illness? Are they on some sort of drug that is supposed to keep them happy, or even one that is supposed to treat ADHD?

In my line of work, the only way to get to the root cause of an issue is to study the data. Collect as much of it as we can, and take a look at what it is telling us.

So far, I think we are long on reactions, and short on data and solutions.

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More on the great GMO debate

Posted on June 2, 2014. Filed under: Science, Society | Tags: , |

People have a tendency to criticize what they don’t understand.

Take Common Core, for instance. There is a lot of talk on the internet about how Common Core math is destroying our children, and making them mentally feeble.

The problem is that Common Core is merely a set of standards. What should be receiving the criticism is the agreed upon methodology for teaching our students.

The State of Indiana was applauded for being the first state to abandon Common Core. What wasn’t reported was that the governor of Indiana proposed his own set of standards; pretty much Common Core, only with his name on it.

When I went to school, that was called plagiarism.

Genetically Modified Organisms, or GMOs are under fire. Opponents of GMOs like to point out that other countries are banning GMOs, so the US should follow suit. Two counties in southern Oregon have recently passed ordinances effectively banning GMOs. Why? Because the organic farmers are afraid the GMO crops will cross pollinate and change their GMO crops into GMOs. In my opinion, it is an effort by the organic farmers to drive out the competition, pure and simple.

And the people, being fearful and not knowing any better, follow like sheep and vote themselves increased prices at the grocery store, just like the people of Portland vote themselves tax increases.

My mother used to say when I was younger “if all your friends jumped off a cliff, would you do it too?”

I’m only going to say this once.

There is no credible evidence that GMOs are harmful to humans, just as there is no credible evidence that the marijuana super-plant known as hemp cures cancer.

Or can be used to build buildings.

The studies floating around the internet are either bogus, or they are based on bad science. GMOs are not harmful to humans. We’ve been eating GMOs for hundreds of years, whether or not the hippie crowd wants to believe it or not. Even their beloved vegetables have been GMOs, long before Monsanto came along.

Those who are against GMOs also happen to be the ones that believe that climate change is real and man-made. On the one hand, they applaud science for sounding the alarm that our planet is warming up, while the other is decrying it as creating Frankenstein’s monster.

Over the last couple of weeks, I have been pondering, and I began to wonder about them.

I’m not afraid to eat them. I honestly doubt that I am in any danger from them. I’ve been reading for awhile that bees are dying by the thousands. We had a case here in Oregon where some worker at a Target sprayed a bunch of trees in the parking lot while they were flowering and attracting bees. The bees began dying due to the pesticide by the hundreds.

Bees are important to our food chain. There is no doubt about it. But if you do an internet search, you find all sorts of opinions that GMOs are killing the bees. No hard evidence or data to back it up, only anecdotes.

I’m sure that our use of pesticides is having an impact on the bee population, but the dirty little secret that the anti-GMO crowd doesn’t want you to know is that organic farmers use far more pesticides than GMO farmers do. They have to.

I think what scares people is that the Monsanto seeds are called “Roundup Ready”, after the weed control spray of the same name. People assume, incorrectly, that this means that Monsanto has altered the genes of these plants to make them resistant to insects.

The funny thing is that Roundup isn’t a pesticide, it’s an herbicide. Oh, sure, it will kill insects, but according to MIT, who I find much more credible than some random whack job website, the term Roundup Ready means that the crop is resistant to Roundup, so that farmers can use Roundup on their crops to control weeds without fear of killing the crop.

So who is misleading whom?

(This website presents both sides of the debate)

To be sure, there are issues with the Roundup Ready seeds that Monsanto produces, but none are related to human consumption.  For example, Monsanto’s seeds are sterile, meaning that they can be used to grow a single crop, and then new seeds must be purchased. They are collectively known as terminator seeds.

As the crop is Roundup resistant, over time, the weeds become resistant to it as well. As the above link points out, Monsanto themselves have funded a study that bears this out.

The final problem is cross-contamination. Monsanto has sued farmers whose crops have become cross contaminated.

This is the dark side of Monsanto. If you cannot prove that a given farmer has intentionally cross contaminated his crop, you should not be able to sue them just because nature has taken its course.

Generally, crops are modified genetically to change the size and numbers produced, as well as sweetness (or flavor). It would seem that GMOs were created to help with the world hunger problem, especially during a time of “climate change”, but anti-GMO groups are working overtime to block it.

Amazingly enough, I think Hollywood has spread some of this fear, through the movie Jurassic Park, and how scientists substituted the DNA of a frog that reproduced asexually to fill the gaps of DNA code that existed in the strands that they had in their possession.

But we are talking about corn, not dinosaurs. I definitely do not advocate trying to clone dinosaurs in a lab.

I have a relative who has said before that “if an insect won’t eat it, I probably shouldn’t either.”

Here’s the problem with that line of thought. There are some crops that have been modified to be less appealing to insects, not kill them. While I am not a genetic engineer, it seems to me that you can’t alter the DNA of a plant to make it produce its own internal pesticide. So, all the worries about consuming pesticides in your veggies could be a big ado about nothing, because as far as I can tell, it does not exist.

Are GMOs killing the bee population?

Probably not, but increased use of more powerful pesticides probably is.

And it is the organic farmers who use more of that than GMO farmers.

But why let facts get in the way of a good protest?

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Who Creates the Jobs?

Posted on May 5, 2014. Filed under: Miscellaneous, Society | Tags: , |









I saw this cartoon over the weekend, and it cracks me up how the left sees job creation. According to this, it is the workers who create jobs. The left panel depicts CEOs of large corporations as job destroyers, while the middle panel depicts smaller business owners as people who create jobs only when the middle class, the workers, have enough money to create demand.

It’s true that many large corporations have moved the bulk of their operations overseas. Labor costs are always a concern for any company, as are taxes. The left likes to rage about how these evil corporations are keeping income overseas so they don’t have to pay taxes on it. Is that a failure of the corporations, or of government policy and law? The fact is, government policy has been encouraging corporations to move out of this country. Mexico and Canada have benefited far more than America has from NAFTA.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m sure businesses lobbied for all of this, after all, the job of a CEO is to look after the best interests of the business, to do what is best for business. If labor costs and taxes are cheaper overseas, then it should not surprise anyone when business looks overseas to solve its problems.

Let’s focus on the third panel. Business owners hire workers when “middle class consumers have enough money to spend which creates demand”. While true to a degree, it is also misleading. Where, exactly, does the middle class consumer get enough money? They have to have a job (most of us anyway) that pays them enough to be able to have enough money to create “demand”. In other words, someone had to create a job for this middle class wage earner to have in order to have enough money to spend on their demand.

If the product is really good, it will create demand for it, like the iPhone for instance. As demand goes up, more jobs will be created. Even by the evil corporations.

To suggest that the middle class consumer is the only source of demand is disingenuous. Companies demand products from other companies.

For example, my wife and I have what I call a micro business. We create a product that we sell at the local farmers markets. We were discovered by another company, and we now supply them with our product, which they in turn use on their product, and sell it to other businesses for them to sell in turn. The ingredients that we use we get from yet another company.We create demand, albeit small, from Company A, and in turn, we take what we created and sell to Company B, as well as our customers at the markets.

We have no employees, other than ourselves.

Which is the other misconception that the above cartoon shows.

People do not start businesses with the intention of creating new jobs. That’s a side effect of having a great product to sell.

That’s what creates the demand. Great products. Those companies that do not create great products don’t survive for long. Those companies that do create great products grow, and eventually they turn into corporations. *shudder*. As they grow, they hire people to work for them to produce this product. Every major corporation out there started as a small business at some point. Every business has a cycle, and sometimes they go through growth spurts where they hire lots of people, and sometimes they go through a period of time where business contracts, and they let people go.

There is nothing evil about it. Companies are formed because of someone’s desire to make more money. Corporations have shareholders who put money into buying shares of the company in order to make more money, be it from dividends, or the value of their shares increasing. It’s all about the desire to make more money, the desire to maybe get rich, if their product is good enough. It’s about the desire to retire young and be able to spend their time in a more leisurely way.

One final note.

Far be it for me to use my blog to shamelessly promote my business. For those who are interested or curious as to what my wife and i do on the side, visit


It’s not a chicken and egg thing.


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Gentrification Fears Forces Grocery Store Chain to Abandon Project

Posted on March 10, 2014. Filed under: Society | Tags: , |

Last month in Portland, Oregon where I live, a west coast grocery chain called Trader Joe’s decided to pull the plug on a project that would have placed one of their stores in the northeastern area of the city. This area, along with North Portland, have historically been where the black community is located.

Before I go any further, I need to clarify one thing. I use the term blacks as opposed to African-American. Many, many eons ago, I went through basic training with a man who, at the time that the term African-American was just coming into vogue, got very upset if anyone referred to him as such. He kept insisting that he was not African, but West Indian. So, I use the term blacks instead.

The lot in question is a two acre piece of property that has sat empty for a long, long time.

The Portland African American Leadership Forum sent a letter to city officials stating that they would “remain opposed to any development in north/northeast Portland that does not primarily benefit the Black community.”

It’s true that Trader Joe’s is not a cheap place to go grocery shopping. It is an upscale market targeting higher income patrons. I’ve shopped there only once and was not impressed with either the prices or what was on the shelves, so I choose not to shop there.

The community leaders in the area express a concern that opening a Trader Joe’s would “increase the desirability of the neighborhood for non-oppressed populations.”

In other words, gentrification.

There are those who believe that allowing a business that is owned by whites to be opened in an area that is predominantly black, the local government is trying to drive blacks out of the area.

I don’t believe this to be true. I believe that a business owner looks at an area and studies it to see if they can make money.

The last statement from the community leaders disturbs me, though. Non-oppressed populations. For a city that prides itself on it’s “diversification”, blacks, or at least their leaders, still play themselves as victims.

I live in a predominantly white neighborhood, but there are still a lot of Latino.Hispanics and Asians in my neighborhood. There are a few blacks who live around here, too.

Imagine for a moment, that the white community where I live banded together because a black man wanted to open a business. Say we went to the newspapers and city council and demanded that we only wanted businesses that primarily benefit the white community. What would you think of me and those statements?

You would be completely justified in your thoughts.

Gentrification is the new word for segregation. Not segregation that is enforced by law, but voluntary segregation. In other words, the black community wants their areas to stay black They want businesses that are owned by blacks (I am not opposed to blacks owning businesses. If people want to make money and open a business, it doesn’t matter to me what color their skin is, they should knock themselves out and go for it.). They seem to want property values to remain where they are, and no one come in to improve the neighborhood. In other words, they do not want diversification.

Community activists claim that improving a a black neighborhood forces poor minorities out of that neighborhood.

It’s a claim that benefits only the activists, not the community at large.

According to a study by Lance Freeman, an assistant professor of urban planning at Columbia University, this could very well be untrue.

So, if gentrification is a boon like this professor claims it may be, why are activists in the black community so resistant to it?

The only reason I can think of is that they want to segregate themselves from the rest of the community.

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You Deserve a Break Today, Unless You Buy a Gift Card

Posted on September 28, 2013. Filed under: Society | Tags: , |


McDonalds (Photo credit: Sean MacEntee)

I normally don’t post on the weekend, but something so weird happened today, that I just had to share. First, a little back story.

My wife is from Arkansas. She moved here to Oregon to be with me, but her family still lives in Arkansas. Earlier this year, we received news that her mother is battling a life threatening illness. She is on a limited income, and my wife likes to send her little gift packages to cheer her up and help with the groceries (she mails her a Walmart card so she can do some shopping). Recently her mom mentioned that there was an item at McDonald’s that she had fallen in love with, so my wife decided to send her a McD’s gift card so she could get her treat.

After swinging through Walmart to get a gift card there, we drove to McDonald’s to pick up a one there. We pull up to the drive thru, where my wife orders an iced tea, and when the girl on the other end asked if there was anything else, we ordered a $30 gift card.


A long, awkward silence.

After what seemed like an eternity, the girl comes back and said “we only offer gift cards in$5, $25, and $50 values”.

Since cars were starting to back up behind us, we said that $25 was fine.

That’s when the fun began.

When we pulled up to the window to pay, my wife, as she was counting out the cash, leaned over from her passenger seat, and asked, “couldn’t you have just done a $25 and a $5 card?”

The girl at the window, I’ll call her Blondie, stopped, and she suddenly had a look on her face that you could tell that her brain had just short circuited. She tried to speak, stammered a bit, then looked at the girl standing next to her (I’ll call her Brunette).

Brunette said something to Blondie that I didn’t catch, and Blondie stepped away from the window.

Brunette said she could give us two cards totalling $30 in value, if that’s what we wanted. My wife said that yes, she would like that, and we handed the money over.

After asking what kind of card we wanted, she began to load the card. She had to program the amount in, and we saw her try several cards, and heard her say that the second card wouldn’t load. At this point, the cars behind us had placed their orders, and were lining up behind us. We were still at the first window trying to pay, mind you.

Calling for whom I’m assuming was the assistant manager (I’ll call her AM), Brunette was getting desperate. In the meantime, Blondie was standing behind, taking orders, but that short circuited look of constipation had never left her face.

Brunette tried a couple more cards, none of them loading before AM, wasting little time in making a command decision, called over to Manager. Manager walked over, got the story, and took the card that had been loaded and started to program, then he suddenly stopped, turned to Brunette and asked her why she hadn’t just programmed $30 on a single card, then asked us, “would you like this on a single card,” which was what we had asked for in the beginning.

Of course, Brunette started to say something, and Manager shushed her.

“I’m trying to hear the customer.”

“Yes, that we be great!” my wife replied.

So, Manager took the card, an loaded $30 on it, telling the two girls that they had to press “load”.

We got my wife her card and left, laughing as we drove off.

The reason I’m telling this story is because these are the people who feel they “deserve” more than minimum wage. I’m not disparaging Brunette, because she was being helpful, if not successful, but folks like Einstein who couldn’t handle basic math without her brain getting overtaxed. She never lost that look on her face the entire time. I run into these people all the time, no matter what fast food joint I go to.

While she doesn’t deserve a “living wage” now, I see her going far up the McDonald’s management chain.

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American Exceptionalism: What Is It?

Posted on September 16, 2013. Filed under: History, Society, World Affairs | Tags: |

English: American Flag blowing in the wind

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A recent comment on my post about Putin and his mocking of “American Exceptionalism” gave me cause to think.

What is American Exceptionalism, exactly?

Is it the belief that American is the greatest nation on earth, that we are better than everyone else?

There are those who have called “American Exceptionalism” a myth, and honestly, I would expect nothing less from the Huffington Post. But if you read the column that I linked to, he isn’t talking about American Exceptionalism at all, but American Exceptionism, and the actions of our government do not necessarily mean that it has the support of the people. Current events in Syria are proof of that. Vietnam was proof of that.

Since the Second World War, this nation has been getting involved more and more in the business of sovereign nations. For the most part we have done most of the heavy lifting, while China and the former Soviet Union just sent equipment, and in a few cases, particularly in Korea, troops.

But getting involved in other nation’s business does not make us exceptional. The government taking an attitude of “good enough for me, but not for thee” does not make us exceptional.

It is the people who make us exceptional.

But the author of the HuffPo piece seems stuck on the 20th Century, thinking that is where the concept came from.

It didn’t.

The Washington Post has a pretty good write up about American Exceptionalism, but while I think it scratched the surface, it did not go far enough. It doesn’t go far enough, because like the Huffington Post piece, it assumes that the government is what makes us exceptional.

It isn’t.

Like I said, the Washington Post scratches the surface, but doesn’t look any deeper.

[American Exceptionalism]  “can be described in five words: liberty, egalitarianism, individualism, populism, and laissez faire.”

Those are the words of political sociologist Seymour Martin Lipset, which the Post quotes, then moves on to Exceptionalism as a government function, ignoring what he said.

The concept of American Exceptionalism has been around a long time.

The concept originated, believe it or not, by a French political thinker; Alexis de Tocqueville in the 1840’s. The term has since been hijacked, like most other things, by politicians.

Most Americans think that the US is the greatest nation on earth, warts and all.

That’s what makes us exceptional, in part. We were the first nation to break away from a major power and form our own government. We were the first to decide that we were not beholden to the government, that government is supposed to be beholden to us. The idea that government does not grant us rights, but is supposed to protect those rights. The notion that all men are created equal, but do not mistake that to mean that we all remain equal. Your life is what you make of it, not what the government makes of it. Have we had our struggles with that concept? Certainly, but we have worked towards correcting that problem.

We believe that we all have the same rights. That does not mean that those rights do not get trampled from time to time, but we all have them. So far in this century, the government has done more to take away our rights than at any other time in history. When we talk about taking our country back, we do not mean that we want to take it from the blacks, or the Hispanics, or the Asians. It means that we want to take it back from the government.

This country works best when government gets out of the way, not when it gets in the way, over taxing and over regulating us, passing silly laws, or laws that unduly burden the citizenry.

This country has a long history of heroism and individualism, and it is that individualism that makes us great. Look to the two world wars for examples of that individualism, the airborne troops scattered over Normandy, Sergeant Alvin York in the First World War, who fought the Germans despite being a conscientious objector. Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin who went to the moon and back. The pioneers who moved west.

For all of our faults, and those who would tell us otherwise, this nation above all is still the freest in the world. More people try to make their way to this country than any other country.

Our exceptionalism does not spring from government, just as our rights do not.

If you believe that the idea of American Exceptionalism is the idea that we feel we are better than everyone else, then you really don’t know what American Exceptionalism is, or what it is all about.

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Should We Release Prisoners to Fund Education?

Posted on September 11, 2013. Filed under: Government, Society | Tags: , , |


(Photo credit: Sideonecincy)

There is a faction of people in the State of Oregon who believe that too many “non-violent” drug offenders are locked away in our prisons. The problem is that this simply isn’t true.

The problem is that in the State of Oregon, less than 1/2 of 1% (0.005% for you mathematicians out there) are imprisoned for drug related offenses. That’s right, out of 14,000 inmates in Oregon’s prisons, only 70 at the most are incarcerated for drug offenses, and they were convicted for possession of substantial quantities of illegal drugs such as cocaine, ecstasy, heroin, marijuana, and methamphetamine, according to the Oregon Criminal Justice Commission (CJC).

Even Politifact says this is true.

There is a propaganda campaign floating around out there that has convinced people that up to 50% of the prison population is incarcerated for drug related offenses. The State statistics tell a very different story.

I don’t know who is behind all of these “prison/industrial complex stories”, but they come up with whoppers, such as “Crime is dropping DESPITE our prisons filling up”. Did they ever stop to think that crime is dropping BECAUSE the prisons are filling up?

Oregon has laws that have made pot legal, as long as you have a “Medical Marijuana” card to help ease your glaucoma that you have at the tender age of 19. While I don’t buy into all the propaganda about how hemp can be used as construction materials to create steel girders that will hold up a 120 story building, I think pot is about as dangerous as alcohol. If you want to partake in your down time, then fine. Partake away. Just don’t get on the road or come to work under the influence.

Those who believe that 50% of our prison population are incarcerated on drug related offenses also believe that if we just release the prisoners and funnel that money to education, our children will be better off.

Only, they won’t.

The current Governor, Governor Retread, AKA Kitzhaber, has unveiled a new propaganda campaign aimed at dismantling the prison system.

I would say that keeping people who break the law in prison is just as important as educating our children, but the governor doesn’t see it that way.

Oregon spends roughly somewhere between $12,000 and $14,000/student/year on education, and yet it continues to get worse. The City of Portland (foolishly) voted themselves a new $35/year “arts” tax to keep the arts in school. Really, is art a fundamental thing we need to teach kids in school? Is it more important that reading, writing, math and science?

Of course, now that they voted themselves yet another tax, the City Council is looking to change it.

Education is Freedom. Knowledge is power.

But it isn’t.

As long as the government controls the education system, then our children are taught only what the government wants them to know, because the government is in charge of the curriculum. For example, look at this “Common Core” system that has been introduced. Getting the correct answer is not what’s important, but how you arrived at that answer is. It confuses my 11 year old nephew. While the method is important, it is secondary to the correct answer. Can you image telling an astronaut in space that he won’t be able to get back because, while the methodology was right, the answer, the calculations were wrong.

Don’t get me wrong. Homeschooling is every bit as idiotic as government controlled education. What makes you so certain that your non-training is better than the training a teacher has undergone? Sure, you can help your child to read, to write and maybe do sums, but when it starts getting into science and algebra/calculus, most of us are overmatched.

Funding education is not so simple as robbing Peter to pay Paul, which is what funneling money from the prison system to education is. Most of the wasteful spending is on administration. Being a government bureaucracy lends itself easily to waste. Does every district need a superintendent? Can we consolidate some of the districts and reduce the number of superintendents and administrative officials in favor of teachers? Oh, and don’t get me started about the teacher’s unions who protect the poor teachers. They are out there. I’ve had them when I was in school.

Kitzhaber’s campaign is centralized around the idea that crime has declined, so we can reduce spending on prisons and reduce sentences.

Wrong, Jackass.

Crime has declined, as I said, because the prison populations are growing larger, not in spite of it, and reducing sentences and releasing prisoners early will only cause crime to start to increase again.

But Kitzhaber was an idiot during his first two terms, why would anyone expect anything different on his third go-round?

What are we to do?

Since the colleges are charging exorbitant amounts for tuition, reduce some of their funding. Pay cuts for the legislature. Pay cut for the governor (that’ll never happen). Stop giving welfare to illegals. I wonder how much money that would save the budget? Bust the public employee’s unions, and pay the workers what they are worth, instead of on a contract basis.

Government can’t cut programs once they are instituted, it just isn’t in their nature. Bureaucracy bloats itself, because that’s the nature of the beast, and it is the bureaucrat who looks out for his own interests rather than the interests of the state and the people.


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