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Tis the Season

Yard-SignsWith the elections nearly upon us, some neighbors have decorated their yards with political signs showing their support for one candidate or another. One neighbor has nearly a dozen different signs encircling her yard. Some people consider them ugly distractions. Others don’t notice they exist. But in my mind, it raises the question: “What is the purpose of putting political signs in your yard?

How many citizens select their candidates on Election Day on the basis of the number of yard signs they’ve seen in the neighborhood? My knee jerk answer is “zero”. If this is how democracy works, maybe there’s a better system.

But the more I think about it, the more I’m inclined to believe they do have an impact.

In some arenas, it is said that any publicity is good publicity. When I went to work for Chevron forty years ago, I was told that if I wanted to move up, I needed to get my name in front of the big guns. They’d soon forget how they got to know my name, but they’d remember my name. I discovered there was more than an element of truth to the saying. I have to wonder how many people are ready to mark their ballots and amidst the flood of names and issues rolling over in their minds, they’re confused about which candidate has most earned their favor. The subconscious mind takes over, remembers the yard sign and inadvertently checks that box. Mission accomplished. Continue reading

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Corruption – It Couldn’t Happen Here

San Miguel de Allende (73 of 1220)“There’s too much corruption” said the cab driver. “It’s everywhere. People like me don’t stand a chance.”

We conversed in Spanish as Lalo wound his way through the narrow streets of San Miguel de Allende in the mountains of Central Mexico. Between heavy traffic and an excess of tourist for the holiday weekend, it was apparent we’d have plenty of time for our discussion of the life of a small business person in this beautiful city.

A cab driver in this and other cities in the area rents the cab. He has to put his own gas in the car, wash it and do the minor maintenance. The company takes care of any major repairs. Depending upon the demand for cabs on any given day, Lalo might or might not clear enough to pay the company. It’s in his last hours of work that he gets enough business to feed himself and his family. Lalo works twelve hours per day, six days per week.

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The Tea Party’s Assault on the 1st Amendment

You really have to love these guys. Well, maybe that’s pushing it a bit. But you have to admit, if they weren’t so inept and dangerous to our nation’s wellbeing, members of the Tea Party would be fun to watch – sort of like a kid with a feather and honey. They’re drawing a lot of attention to themselves with some pretty nonsensical and destructive behavior. The problem is they’re dragging more rational, clear thinking people into the maelstrom they’re creating. Blinded by their anger and deafened by their din, they rail against one cause after another.

The latest bit of pure insanity involves the issue of “net neutrality”. Unfortunately, most Americans don’t fully comprehend the significance of the issue and many don’t care because they believe the issue doesn’t impact them directly. Believe me, it does. It is one of the biggest issues facing our nation today. It threatens to undermine our entire concept of freedom.

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On the Death of Newspapers

“Stop the presses!”  That used to be the call of the 1930’s vintage reporter as he’d run into headquarters with the big, breaking news story.  When portrayed in the movies, it was exciting, thrilling, suspenseful, and dramatic.

Now we’re hearing it again and again.  But this time, it emotes a different feeling.  “Stop the presses” means “We’re shutting down forever.  We’re out of business.”  It’s a sad time.  America was built on the First Amendment Right of a free press. Newspapers were the heart and soul of that freedom.

Some of the most iconic images in American history are of past newspaper headlines.  Who doesn’t remember seeing President Harry Truman triumphantly displaying a copy of The Chicago Daily Tribune with a headline of “Dewey Defeats Truman”?  How about the New York Times headline that read, “Men Walk on the Moon”.  Ever see “War! Oahu Bombed by Japanese Planes”?  More recently it was “U.S. Attacked.  Hijacked Jets Destroy Twin Towers.”

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On the Death of God

Famed 19th century existential philosopher Freidrich Wilhelm Nietzsche proclaimed “God is dead.”  To this day that statement can cause a bit of a stir in some circles.  But if you analyze the data from a recent study performed at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut, Nietzsche may have seen it coming.  Belief in what has been the traditional Christian image of a “personal” God is on the wane in this country.

The study was published this month by Professors Barry A. Kosmin and Ariela Keysar.  It presents the results and analysis of three exhaustive surveys, one performed in 1990, one in 2000 and the third in 2008.  By studying American beliefs in each of the three years, the study illustrates significant trends in American belief systems over the past two decades.  Here are some observations you may find interesting.

Since 1990, the proportion of the American adult population identifying itself as “Christian” has fallen by roughly 15% nationwide.  Those experiencing the sharpest losses have been the mainstream Protestant churches such as the Methodists, Episcopalians, Lutherans, and Presbyterians.  Their fraction of the population has fallen by more than 30% since 1990.

Of those still believing in the Christian faiths, 34% identify themselves as “born again” or evangelical.

Atheists, agnostics and other non-believers have more than doubled their fractions in the population.  In some parts of the country like the Pacific Northwest and the Northeast, non-believers amount to about one in four members of the population.

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The God Card

Jokers are wild.  Every kid that’s ever played poker understands the concept of a “wild card”.  Its purpose is to connect things that make absolutely no sense and by the intervention of a mechanism invented and proclaimed by the game player “declare” that the result is logical.  For example, the ace, king, queen, jack and ten of the same suit constitutes the most powerful hand in the game – a royal flush.  It is extremely rare, so rare in fact that very few people have ever actually seen a real one.  However, in a game where deuces are declared wild, someone can lay down the ace, king, jack and ten of hearts and insert the deuce of clubs in the middle and claim it to be a “royal flush”.

The wild card makes no sense.  It doesn’t even look right.  But by the simple act of saying so, it can be anything you want it to be and can fill in the blanks to make your previously useless hand powerful and “logical”.  You win by caveat.

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Democracy, Gays and The Constitution

Pasqual has been a good friend for many years.  My wife likes to tell people Pasqual was the “best man” at our wedding, a claim I earnestly deny.  “If he was the best man, why’d you marry me?”  Sometimes she’s hard-pressed to come up with an answer, but our next anniversary will be fifty years.  That’s twenty five for her and twenty five for me.

The friendship I’ve had with Pasqual all these years has not been built on a foundation of shared political beliefs; quite the opposite.  My opinions are generally formed only after I have researched the issue at hand, sometimes exhaustively.  On the other hand, Pasqual tends to adopt his political views more at the emotional level.  Research only clouds matters.  If it’s good enough for Rush Limbaugh, it’s good enough for Pasqual.  Don’t confuse him with the facts.  When it comes to political and social issues, he’s got a heart of gold, but a head of stone.

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