Friday, June 27, 2014


Over the past 160 years the speed of communication and its impact has increased exponentially.  In 1854, it would take weeks for news of an event happening in New York City to reach the west coast of America.  By the end of the civil war we had reduced that time to hours with the aid of a telegraph, but it was still measured in a significant number days for the average citizen since it had to be published in the newspaper and distributed.

Now we know about a school shooting in Spokane almost as quickly as the local police, and we can follow the details of this hostage situation, or terror event while it occurs. We have reached a point in technology where the time for rational thought and reflection has been eliminated and pure emotional response becomes the norm.

One hundred years, or even 50 years ago, it was the role of the editor to determine what was worthy of being classified as news and how to structure the story to hopefully support a logical understanding.  Today we see that the communication industry no longer serves that purpose and is principally focused on volume, (i.e. filling available time), and perhaps supporting some political agenda.

So it now falls to us to make the choices once made for us.  We have to absorb the vast amount of information, and somehow make sense of it to reach a logical conclusion.  The question is, can we or do we allow others to make those choices as they have historically done?  Since we are all receiving the same information at the same time, do we really think the talking heads on the media outlets hold the same insights we’ve always assumed?

As you watch the news, understand you are the adult, not the media.  Make good choices in your approach to understanding.

Saturday, June 21, 2014


There is an ebb and flow to all things.  As we look out with our natural myopic vision we sometimes forget that.  Once the world became the interconnected organism it is today the surge and recession has become so fast that many of us have lost our ability to anchor ourselves against the tides.  We have become so focused on the now that we forget the past or fail to understand the future.
So many, in an effort to look forward, seek change with the best of intentions, but fail to understand the nature of that change.  Likewise, there are those who fear that tidal surge and seek to return to the past.  I don’t know how we reconcile these two approaches, for the past is gone, and the future is not yet.  Those who would change everything and those who would change nothing gain increasing voice over those who would evolve slowly.  
We have reached a point where debate and discussion can no longer be tolerated and for each side the outcome is catastrophic.  I sit here in a kind of bemused neutral position, wishing everyone would talk a deep breath and just stop watching ABCNNBCBS, MSNBC and Fox for just a while and focus on themselves and their own needs.
Because we elect and reelect our representatives at such a large percentage it amazes me when we say they are doing a bad job… That means either we are liars or we are stupid, or maybe both.  

One of the early strengths of this country was most of the power was held within the states and the issues the states dealt with were important to a small region of the country.  As we have given more and more power to a centralized Federal Government we have given away that right of regional self-determination.  I think it is important to remember that at the time of the Constitution and formation of the United States, the majority view was that State government should have domination over the lives of their citizens.   This was made obvious with first attempt at self-government, the Confederation of States, and is also supported in the Federalist papers when James Madison wrote:

To the People of the State of New York:
HAVING shown that no one of the powers transferred to the federal government is unnecessary or improper, the next question to be considered is, whether the whole mass of them will be dangerous to the portion of authority left in the several States.”[1]
The fear of the people, who had just struggled to overthrow the autocratic self-centered, rule of the English, was that creation of a strong central government would create an environment to allow those problems to reemerge.
As we now move to give our Federal government increasing power, I am afraid we see the emergence of those abuses our forefathers so feared.  Where hubris and self-importance are valued beyond the qualities of honesty and integrity.
I am also reminded of a time long ago when a great society vested all its power and authority in an emperor, who spent the great wealth of the nation on monuments to his gods….  Are we so different?

Sunday, June 15, 2014


Things are fragile in this world of ours
They bend or break as if afraid
I wonder why these things unbraid
Why do we build stuff like this today?

Why, oh why, do we shatter this way?

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Carrying the Narrative

Sometimes I can only shake my head at the political parties, and those who follow the dogma of one party or another.  The lesson today comes from our Representative of the 1st Congressional District here in Florida who was on MSNBC, I assume to talk about the VA scandal.  In the course of his interview he was asked about climate change.  In listening to his response he provides the standard answers that the science is unsettled, and that it is foolish to believe man can appreciably affect the way the climate is changing.  He had me, up until he threw in the dinosaurs.  Of course, those who want to inflame the issue abbreviate his response to the GOP rep does not believe humans affect climate change, which is not exactly what Representative Miller said.
Such is the way we now talk about things, or rather not talk about things.  We take sound bites and wave them around to make whatever point we want to.  Neil deGrasse Tyson, the Carl Sagan of today’s generation, has weighed in on this whole debate now putting his stamp of approval on the science of Global Warming/Cooling/Climate Change.
So let’s talk about this as if it were in fact settled science, the world is getting warmer, the ice caps are receding and the ocean will rise and flood vast areas in the littoral regions.  What should we do scientists?  What must we do to stop this warming of our planet, and in fact return us to some prior condition?  In fact, can someone tell me what the ideal global condition is?
The climate has changed over the course of the 5 billion or so years we have had an earth, we have been there for only about 200,000 years or so but have grown to become the dominant species for now.  As we approach 7,200,000,000,000 humans I think it is fair to say we have an increasing affect on the earth.  What I don’t understand is how, with a net gain of one person every 13 seconds, and most of those coming in the underdeveloped countries, how the developed countries will come to some consensus that will magically stop the creation of greenhouse gases that seem to be the cause celeb for all this warming.
Coming from my vacation in Ireland I learned they have a European Union mandate to generate 15% renewable energy so they’ve built a lot of wind turbines, but at the same time it is perfectly clear that 90% of the countries rural homes are still heated with peat. I’m not seeing a net reduction with that strategy, but they can certainly feel good looking at the wind turbines making power, as they travel around in their motorcars fueled by petrol, and burn their turf in the fireplace.
How about China and India, with a population that accounts for roughly 30% of the world’s population?  Are they getting in front of this effort and moving to politically acceptable energy sources?  I don't think so, but what do you hear about their failures?
So lets talk about us, or really US.  In the eyes of the Climate Change advocates, because we are not universally on board with the forecasts -- we are the evil polluters of the world, causing all our glaciers to melt away.  For those who recommend we amend our ways what would you have us do?  What policies should we implement to save the world?
For example, should we stop all oil production?  Obviously that is not an option for we would have airliners and ships sitting idle and our vacations would all be within walking distance of home.  But, how about setting efficiency standards? What a great idea, if we double the required MPG for our cars can anyone tell me the cost of the new standard, and more importantly can anyone tell me what the net reduction in Global Warming/Cooling/Climate Change will be (assuming there isn’t something else like a volcano’s eruption the model missed)?  It would seem both those metrics should be understood before we go willy-nilly legislating (or in the case of our current President, decreeing) a change to an industry.
Maybe we can mandate all vehicles be electrical and then all we would have to worry about is how to make enough electricity without the carbon based fuels, and what to do with the toxic metals that make up the batteries.

I wonder how we reconcile the apparent insatiable need for more energy to produce the disposable devices the world economy seems to be building to, and not at the same time create environmental conflict?  Perhaps if the ardent doomsayers would come up with ways to reduce energy demands, rather than just push for the abandonment of carbon-based fuels we could have a serious discussion.  But that is a foolish dream for it is so much easier to demonize those who disagree with you.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

A Few Thoughts on Ireland

We’ve just returned from a very nice vacation to the Emerald Isle.  We circumnavigated the island, with stops in Dublin, Cork, Killarney, Clare-Galway, Donegal, Belfast (UK), and back to Dublin in the ten days we were there.  We saw wonderful sights, made new friends, and had fantastic weather.  Ireland truly offers an interesting contrast to our homeland.  For that reason, I feel compelled to put my thoughts down before they wander off into the dark recesses of my memory.
First, as a small nation of about 4 million, it has an incredibly rich heritage, and perhaps because we are tourists that is what is most presented to us, but time after time we were reminded that before the potato famine of 1845 to 1852 they were a nation of 9 million.  In the following 160 years they’ve not been able to replace that loss.  While the information is presented, the unasked and unanswered question is why?  What I take away from this is Ireland has become a nation of little opportunity and emigration has become the accepted path for those young adults seeking a better life for themselves and their family.
The European Union is essential to the survival of Ireland as a nation.  The roads, motorways, and much of the new housing seem to come from the EU in the form of grants and subsidies.  Our tour guide noted that Ireland was hard hit when the economic bubble burst in 2008 and the EU provided them with financing to meet government needs, with an expectation of payback by 2016.  The Conservative government had elected to repay the loans by implementing an austerity budget and not increasing corporate taxes.  This places the burden directly on the people and would, hopefully, encourage new industry to come to Ireland because of its lower tax rate.  Intellectually I can understand this, but looking at the flight of young people and the unemployment rates in the country I am not sure this is anything more than tax protection for corporations and banks.
After six years it appears the people have decided on a change based the governments approach.  The thing that stuck me was the policies that individuals took issue with are things we here in the US take for granted.  For example, the government proposed levying a fee on water use, and implementing property taxes.  The day we arrived was Election Day in Ireland and as a result of these changes the Liberal and Nationalistic parties of the Republic appear likely to assume majority roles in Parliament.
Finally, a few thoughts on “The Troubles.”  As we toured Belfast we were reminded of the peace process brokered by the Clinton Administration and George Mitchell.  It appears, on the surface, to be working and the city is now open and full of an emerging vitality.  But, and this is a big BUT, the underlying causes for the repression and terrorism that was Belfast from the 1960’s through 1998 are still there, lurking just below the surface.  There are walls filled with the calls for freedom of IRA members held responsible for deaths, and other walls filled with art depicting both the IRA and the Ulster Defense Association dressed in their balaclava’s threatening with their assault weapons aimed, and seeking “justice” for their supporters.

As long as the minority Catholic supporters of the Republic and majority Protestant Loyalists continue to exist and thrive within the community I would expect that Belfast is at risk of a new outbreak should something spark the tinderbox.  This is not unlike what we have in America within many of our inner cities, and may just be an unfortunate and natural by-product of high unemployment and social stratification, what I do see as different is a political system working to avoid that situation, while here in America we seem to ignore the potential until it occurs.
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