Oh, and while we are on the subject of Nazis…

Just to be clear, this is eugenics:  https://www.cbsnews.com/news/down-syndrome-iceland/

Nazis, you know the ones everyone hates, they also loved eugenics.  Killing the unfit for the betterment of the species is applied Darwinism at its finest.

What has mankind become?

Plissken 2016

IMAG1199_1I bought this shirt several months ago because I love Escape from New York and John Carpenter and Kurt Russell, but especially the character of Snake Plissken.  At first, I thought that it was clever, if not fitting for what I was seeing develop.  Now, I am convinced that this is our only option:

Everyone should write in Snake Plissken as your choice for President of the United States of America.  I’m not kidding.  I hope that you guys will share this far and wide, across the internet.

You see, I am now convinced that given our most likely choice between a blowhard bag of excrement and an unethical, lying bag of excrement (both of which are inextricably tied to the very things which most jeopardize our republic), that the only sane choice is to send a strong message to our leaders.

We are tired of your mismanagement of our country.  We are tired of the free ride that you take on our backs.  We are tired of the way the system is rigged.  We are sick of the media circus that drives revenue and distorts issues.  We have decided that George Carlin was right regarding the American political system.  We are sick of your lies.  We are sick of your crap.  We are done.

Please share this and please remember to vote in November.  Vote for Snake.

Seriously?!

I would like to give you folks a little barometer on where our society is, as a whole.  We have a mobile home for rent, so I am fielding calls from potential tenants.  Here’s part of the last call:

Lady Caller: Do you rent to sex offenders?

Me: Ma’am, this home is within seventy-five feet of elementary school property.  North Carolina law states that a registered sex offender can not live within one thousand feet of school property.

Lady Caller: So you don’t rent to sex offenders?

Me: Ma’am, state law prohibits sex offender residence within one thousand feet of school property.  Seventy-five percent of our properties fall within that parameter.

Lady Caller: Yeah, but is that the only reason you don’t rent to sex offenders?

Me: Ma’am state law is what it is…I don’t have to go beyond that.

Lady Caller: (Hangs up)

That, folks, is the bait and switch that every landlord and/or law enforcement officer must deal with on a daily basis.  A person fishing for the basis for a discrimination suit while I’m trying the protect the interests of the community.

There are so many kids in our biggest mobile home park that it empties a bus when they drop-off in the afternoon.  Would you put a sex offender in the middle of a community like that?  I bet your answer is no.  However, if you were to flatly state that you don’t rent to sex offenders, then you would find yourself open to a lawsuit.

This is the tightrope that we have to walk.  The fine line that exists between protecting the community and getting sued.  Fun stuff.

Honestly, if it weren’t for these two people, I would give up on trying to help society.

transfer - 1Just to bring everyone up to speed, I’ve spent the last couple of months dealing with the death of my father and helping to get my mother straightened away on being able to live as independently as she would like.  All this while trying to get caught up on all of my projects, raising a family, and trying to get ahead at work so that I could really enjoy the vacation which we just took.  (Incidentally, talking about one’s vacation after-the-fact on the old interwebs keeps people from knowing that one’s house is vacant for nine days…a fact which seems to escape some of you people…seriously, take note.)  All of this with an apparently freshly herniated disc just above my spinal fusion.  Fun stuff.

Taking care of the things that really matter did a great job of limiting my time on the internet and provided me with the “Cliff’s Notes versions” of all the issues that were being bandied about in all forms of traditional and social media.  To be completely honest, I thought that what was getting through the time crunch filter was bad enough, but I spent a little time perusing the web this week and I have never wanted to sell everything that I own and move out West or adopt a nomadic existence than I have over the last several days.  What I have been seeing is enough to make me just worry about my own family and let the world continue to burn, but then I thought that through and I don’t want to leave my kids to survive in a world which resembles a Mad Max film, so I’m going to give this one more shot.  Hopefully you guys will share this around and maybe we can get some healthy conversation going.

I would like to restate for what seems like millionth time that we, the general population, are being guided/coaxed/manipulated by the media in all of its forms and by giant corporations and by our respective governments to do the following:

  1. Buy things.  The movie Fight Club got that single thing right.
  2. Be at each other’s throats so that we don’t rebel against governmental systems that are exploiting us, while failing to provide adequate services or respect our basic or constitutional rights.  If we are busy fighting each other, then we can’t unite effectively against a common enemy.
  3. Buy more things.  I sense a theme.
  4. And finally, be calm, placated, productive citizens…all to the benefit of corporations and government.

If you want a quick primer, please go read George Orwell’s 1984 and then watch the news cycle for twenty-four hours.  Then it is okay to go hide in bed and pull the covers up over your head.  Trust me, you will want to do that very badly.

I know that I’ve got a lot of ground to cover, so I’m not going to attempt to do an overview or even an outline.  Today, I am going to start with one simple fact: When we are watching the news or looking at the internet or reading a newspaper we are talking about other human beings.  I can not state that more simply or seriously enough.  We are talking about the lives of other human beings.  If we can’t take that seriously than we are beyond all hope.

I am going to give you a list and everyone that reads it is going to agree and disagree with some of the people and groups listed, but I want everyone to take a deep breath and really think about what I am trying to do.  I don’t want my two children growing up in the world that is left by the next great war or having to be a part of that war.

  • When we talk about refugees, we are talking about human lives.
  • When we talk about aborted babies, we are talking about human lives.
  • When we talk about illegal aliens, we are talking about human lives.
  • When we talk about executed law enforcement officers, we are talking about human lives.
  • When we are conducting drone strikes in Syria, we are talking about human lives.
  • When we read about Christians being beheaded in by Islamic State, we are talking about human lives.
  • When we talk about suicide statistics, we are talking about human lives.
  • When we talk about drug reactions, we are talking about human lives.
  • When we talk about war in the Middle East, we are talking about human lives.
  • When we talk about floods and earthquakes and storms, we are talking about human lives.
  • When we are talking about domestic violence and human trafficking and orphans, we talking about human lives.

Humans lives means other human beings just like my kids.

Just like your kids.

Just like your nieces and nephews.

Just like your parents and grandparents.

Just like your friends and family.

Just like the people who look like you.

Just like the people with whom you attend church or synagogue or mosque.

Just like your friends from the bar.

Just like the people with whom you tailgate at the big games.

Just like your work associates.

Just like you.

What you think about the Pope’s latest speech or how he delivered or who he delivered it to does not matter.  The same thing goes for the President of the United States.  Your trendy hashtag does not matter.  Your political views and affiliations do not matter.  What you think about the Clerk of Court in Kentucky does not matter.  None of these things really matter until we start respecting and valuing human lives…and I mean that in a for real, get your hands dirty, get off of your couch, get-involved kind of way.

Hashtags don’t help people.  Tweets don’t help people.  People getting active and loving other people in a real, hands-on way helps people.

We need to turn off the filters and throw away the selfy-sticks and forget about whether or not we need the need an Apple Watch or McDonald’s product or Starbuck’s coffee.  We have got monumentally serious human crises all over the globe and those have always led to two things when left unaddressed for significant periods of time: Revolution and War.

You may have read this post and think that I’m all “conspiracy theory” or “gloom-and-doom,” but I suffer from only one problem:  I read history books.  I paid attention in every history class that I ever took and we are fools if we don’t start paying closer attention to the things that we do.  If we don’t make change, it is history who will be the judge.

America 2.0: Rise of the Machines

There was a time when I consumed a lot of science fiction, which was composed of equal parts of books, comics, and movies.  I spent untold hours plowing through the material, and as a result, I developed a great appreciation for the genre.  Science fiction has a rich history, even though it is largely a product of mankind’s fears as a result of industrialization and later, the advent of the atomic age.  Truly, a great deal of science fiction is born out of man’s apprehensions about the inventions that he has wrought upon this earth.  However, the most amazing thing about the genre is how right many of these works have proven to be in modern America.

I suppose that the easiest place to start is with Orwell.  His vision of the future in 1984 doesn’t seem so fantastic in light of the Edward Snowden revelations.  When Snowden leaked information about the NSA spying on American citizens and collecting colossal amounts of data, there were a lot of “tinfoil hat” types who felt supremely vindicated.  After all, you aren’t really paranoid if the government is actually listening to everything that you are saying, are you?  If one stops to consider the government intrusion alongside the fact that almost all electronic devices are now sold with a camera which faces the consumer, an omni-directional microphone, and an ability to connect with internet and share everything that has been recorded; Orwell easily comes out looking more like a prophet than an artist.

This brings me to my main point.  I think that if we look at the Terminator series, along with the Matrix series, that we will see some cautionary tales that we would do well to embrace.  Although I don’t feel like we will be running from robots disguised in human flesh or finding ourselves plugged into a giant human electrical farm any time in the near future, I do feel like I am seeing elements of both franchises come true on a daily basis.

In the Terminator series, mankind was almost driven to extinction at the hand of the machines.  Thankfully, that doesn’t seem to be happening, but we are seeing technology emerging that makes the idea of unmanned machinery oppressing humankind sound a little less crazy.  When we first saw the unmanned Hunter-Killer Drones in Terminator, we thought that it was the technology of the future.  Now, we are seeing unmanned drones being used by the military to conduct operations and eliminate targets around the globe.  With that in mind, it isn’t too much of a stretch to point out that with the right combination of GPS, satellite imagery, and artificial intelligence,  a computer in Utah could easily have the ability to wipe out human beings at any location on the planet.  Scary.

Next, we have the Matrix series, with mankind being subjugated and pacified by machines that use them as a power source.  While mankind is certainly still the primary power consumer on this planet and most would argue that the machines are serving us, I would ask this twofold question:  Are the machines really serving us or have we abdicated our lives to them?

Think about how we’ve structured our lives.  How many of us have a television running every morning while we are getting ready and during meals with our families?  How many of us are slaves to our phones; unable to even have a meal in a restaurant without slavishly staring at the screen of our devices?  Are we really free or are we slaves to the machines that we have built?

Look around.  Are you reading this while looking at your phone instead of your spouse?  When is that last time that you ate with your family without a screened device present?  When is that last time that you went a whole day without watching your television?  When is the last time that you went a whole day without your phone?  When was the last time that you took the time to call and actually speak with someone instead of shooting the a text message?

Let’s face it.  The machines have risen.

 

The Venerable Ford E350 15 Passenger Van…and the idiots who have ruined its reputation.

CaptureThis is a typical Ford E350 15-Passenger Van.  There are somewhere around a quadrillion of these things on the road.  I’m not sure of how many zeroes that is, but I’m sure that it is a lot and I’m pretty sure that is an accurate number.

You might be asking yourself: Why are there so many of these vans on the road?  The answer is simple.  These things are an engineering marvel!  They are built like tanks, out-handle and out-perform similar offerings from other manufacturers, and they last forever if they are properly maintained.  I can vouch for this because I by my estimation, I have drive somewhere around 500,000 miles in these vans.

Another interesting fact about the E350 platform is that the vast majority of ambulances in the United States are built on this platform.  In fact, all they do to the chassis to make it ambulance-ready is change the rear axle to dual wheels.  The E350 is simply one of the most amazing and reliable vehicles ever built.

Now, here is the central question:  Why am I singing the praises of this vehicle?  Am I a paid endorser?  No, I just wanted to do a little bit to help clear the name of this much maligned vehicle.

You must realize that this van has taken a beating in the press over the last decade because of school and camp related accidents where students were badly injured or killed.  The press loves  to blame the vehicle, saying that it is a poor design and that the chassis wasn’t designed to handle that kind of weight or weight distribution.

I’m here to tell you that those accusations are simply inaccurate.  The E350 chassis is built just like the F350 and is capable of payloads that make it carry just as much weight as if it were towing the largest of travel trailers.  These vans could carry 15 passengers made of lead and they would still ride and handle well.  Well, that is unless one thing happens….an idiot gets behind the wheel.

Oh yes, it is now time to get the facts straight.  Idiot drivers are to blame for these wrecks; not the E350.  You must realize, there is this simple equation that comes into effect when you take an object and give it speed:  Mass x Velocity = Momentum.  Most people seem to like to ignore physics, but trust me…Physics is the law.  Physics doesn’t pull you over and write you a ticket for a violation.  No sir, Physics skips right to the judgment and sentencing phase when you screw up.  Physics is the real world equivalent of Judge Dredd.

The fact is that an E350 is a huge passenger platform that drives as easily as a typical SUV and so people get behind the wheel and forget that they have 14 other lives in the vehicle with them.  The problem is that drivers of these vans need to take that responsibility very seriously and many of them don’t.  When that happens, you get what I witnessed this morning on the way to work.

Three camp vans passed me that were obviously on the way to the airport to do what is known in the business as an “airport run” to drop off last program’s students and pick up the students for the next one.  The problem being that those vans passed me at all.  I was running somewhere in the neighborhood of 74 miles per hour when those vans passed me like I was standing still.  If any of those vans had a blow out in one of the front tires, the result would have been tragic; if it were either of the front two, it would have been a multiple vehicle catastrophe.

There was little more that two car lengths between each van and they were running around 85 miles per hour.  I’m sure that if they wrecked that the news media would brand it “another 15 passenger van accident”, when what the really ought to do is let everyone know that it was merely physics passing judgment on criminal driving decisions.

Nice job, America! (not really)

Let me get this straight, because I don’t know much about the sports.  In fact, it is the only reason that I have to take several turns to win a game of Trivial Pursuit.  Here is my attempt to outline what I think that I’ve just witnessed:

  1. Donald Sterling, the owner of an NBA team, is suddenly branded the biggest jerk in America because some trollop releases recorded audio of him making some very racist comments.
    1. Apparently, being a racist is what it takes to make him a real villain.
      1. Never mind that he has an extensive history of dastardly business dealings that involve preying on the less fortunate.
      2. Ignore that he is a proven adulterer, hence the aforementioned trollop.
    2. Please also disregard that he as done some things in the past which help him self-identify as an opportunistic, selfish, racist.
  2. The NBA bans this dude, so the team’s control reverts to his wife (who is probably quite sick of the trollop situation).
  3. Lots of racially sensitive, exceedingly wealthy people rush to make offers to buy the team because we certainly can’t have something like this tarnishing the image of the NBA.
  4. Steve Ballmer whips out $2,000,000,000 from his money clip (count the zeros…that is 2 billion) and buys this team for $1,988,000,000 more than Sterling paid for it in the 1980’s.
  5. Donald Sterling and his family get to laugh all the way to the bank and the only real consequences are that the trollop probably won’t be getting anymore Bentleys from Donald (Daddy Warbucks) Sterling.

Amazing.  The NBA is so worried about its bottom line that it brokers a deal which leaves Sterling better off financially, in the end.  Where can I sign up for a golden parachute like that?

Time to check the facts…

I’ve quit watching most mainstream “news” media and I get most of my news straight from a news feed and a podcast that deconstructs media coverage.  I’ve found it very liberating and I want you to know why that is important.

I watch a lot of people arguing on Facebook and in general about the current state of “whatever”, the politics of “I couldn’t care less”, and economics of “some grossly misreported system”.  Here is what I have to say to all of you people that allow yourself to be either whipped into a frenzy or placated by the mainstream media:  A lot of your facts are wrong because you are being lied to or manipulated.

This should matter to you people because even the smartest and most wise person in the world will make the wrong decisions when he or she has the wrong facts.  That is all.

Can somebody please explain to me what Adult Protective Service’s job really is?

I am absolutely livid.  I went and checked the mail this afternoon and had a nice, cordial note from Adult Protective Services letting me know that the lady that I contacted them about is not eligible for their services.  Really?  Not eligible?

Let me tell everyone a little something about this lady.  She is one of our tenants and she is an eighty-six year old widow who lives by herself in a mobile home.  In the past, she has been super independent and steady as a rock.  She even cleans up at our biggest mobile home park’s mailboxes, for which we reduce her rent.  She hand trims her walkway and is always painting her home, but lately things have changed.

Unfortunately, this wonderful lady had her grandson take $600 out of her checking account last month, which caused her to bounce enough checks to accrue $350 in bounced check charges.  She bounced 3 checks to us in the last month; so many that we now take all of her checks to her bank and verify funds before we try to deposit them so that she won’t get charged anything.  The main problem, though, is not that she is having trouble paying the rent.

In the last 3 weeks, she has bounced several checks, had her power disconnected, and we’ve had several instances where people have picked her up walking on the side of the road in extremely cold temperatures.  She is very confused at times and shows signs of rapidly progressing dementia.  Her grandson is supposed to be helping her, but he never comes around except when he needs to bum some money.  If it weren’t for a couple of concerned neighbors, she would have no one.

She desperately needs help with her finances and the entire situation, so  I called Adult Protective Services no less than 8 times over the last 3 weeks.  My greatest fear is what will happen to her over the winter if the neighbors and I were to lose track of her.  I can’t even imagine what would happen if she took off in the snow.  Also, we can only help so much with her finances before it becomes a conflict of interest and a legal issue.

They sent somebody out and decided that although they have programs where they send people to help elderly folks with their finances that this lady didn’t qualify.  She’s losing track of time and money and can’t even keep conversations straight for 5 minutes.  She even had a neighbor drop her off at a local grocery, only to disappear before he could get back to pick her up.  She still doesn’t know how she got home that day, by the way.  All this, and she doesn’t qualify?

So, my question is this:  Can anybody tell me what Adult Protective Services does do?  Because I’m quite sure that it isn’t helping elderly people with dementia before they become another tragic story of how we neglect our elderly.

…and this, folks, is why you should discipline your children and expect others to do the same.

I was thinking about giving up on blogging.  With an infant, a four-year-old, and two parents who need a lot of my assistance around their house, I have found time to be at somewhat of a premium.  I was just going to kill the website, save myself a little money in web hosting, and let this whole thing ride off into the sunset.

That was until I got the following responses to an email that I sent last week:

Screenshot 11:14:13 3:17 PM

I know what you’re thinking.

I used to be a youth minister and this must be from one of my former students who is in college and making some bad decisions.  I must have written an email trying to address some bad behavior or poor choices on the part of someone in their late teens or early twenties and this is their response.

Well, you could think that…and you would be wrong.

These were the responses from a man in his forties who just ran for an elected position in city government for our town.  We had a few personal exchanges in the past, regarding a pertinent local issue and so I had his personal email address.  I could explain further about our interaction or relationship, but that might give away his identity and I honestly believe that the main point is about something much bigger than the specifics that led to the email exchange.

Now, in the spirit of full disclosure on my part, I must admit that I was tough on this guy.  He had said and done some things that were generating a lot of hurt and animosity; so much so that some of it ended up on Youtube…and in the local paper…and on the local television news.  He was reflecting badly on part of my community, he was saying very hurtful things to and about peaceful, decent people in the public forum, and I felt that his attitude was detrimental to our whole city.  I had sat back and watched all of his behavior that I could stand and I had the avenue, so I took the opportunity to punch his ticket.  It needed to be done and I was in the position to do it.  Like I said in the subject line of the email, I was trying to create a teachable moment.

Anyway, here is the crux of the issue:  I sent a private email to an adult male which expressed my concerns and the responses that I got were what I would have expected to get from a fourteen or fifteen year-old teenager with a bad attitude.  This guy is old enough to and has run for public office.  He is old enough to buy alcohol and firearms.  He is married and has kids.  He is all these things and he hits me with “whatever” and “I’m not even reading this” as his response?

That is insane.

If he had come back with a reasoned response, explaining his behavior or apologizing, I could have respected him.  If he had blasted me with anger and misinformation (which is his usual tactic in the public forum), I could have at least understood.  Any of that I could have comprehended, but not this.  This is not even truthful, as I was contacted by the head of a community discussion group because his wife was questioning my involvement the very next day.  Oh, he read it, alright.  He just couldn’t maturely address the issues and that is where the trouble lies.

As a nation, we have completely disregarded adequately disciplining our children and it is already coming back to bite us.  Just to be clear, when I say “as a nation”, I mean everyone.  I mean white, black, brown, plaid, liberal, conservative, Christian, Jew, Muslim, gay, straight, vegetarian, omnivore, educated, uneducated, rich, poor…I don’t care, you name it.  We have all dropped the ball.  Admittedly, some of us have botched it more than others, but we are all a long way from the days when I knew that if I got in trouble at someone’s house or at school that I not only had to answer for it there…I had Hell to pay when I got home.

This guy is just another product of a system where not only are we not going to discipline our kids, no one else is going to be allowed to, either.  His attitude can only have developed and survived to his current age in a system where he has been allowed to walk out on every argument or disciplinary action and he is not alone.  I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I heard the phrase “no one else is going to discipline my child” in the last ten years of youth ministry.  That mindset has become pervasive and it is toxic.

It is essential that all of us learn to respect the rules of not only the greater community, but also those of other individuals and families.  My kids need to learn that the rules at your house are just important as the rules at mine and I definitely expect your kids to live by my rules while they are at my house.  This is what it truly means for a village to raise a child.  It is not some easy platitude, but rather an ethic and a value that forces examination of values and principles.

The problem comes when we try to shirk the responsibility of knowing the parents of the kids with whom our kids associate.  We get nervous that our kids will be subject to some set of rules that we don’t know, approve of, or trust.  The only solution to that is to get to know our fellow parents, to engage in dialogue, to actually be a community.

I strongly believe that how we treat people in our daily lives finds its foundation in how we were raised.  I can’t help but believe that the fact that I got a juvenile response from a forty-something man is firmly rooted in the lack of discipline that this man received from permissive parents.  Maybe if his parents had bothered to teach him to respect the rules of others, then I wouldn’t have had to write my email.  I only know that if I had ever given someone a “whatever” or an “I’m not going to read this” when I was growing up that the consequences would have been firm and lasting.

Discipline breeds respect.  Permissiveness breeds contempt.