Archive for May 31, 2013

Auto-Drive Life

The DMV can change my life!  They’re devising rules for self-driving cars.  It will probably mean some sort of training or test, then a sticker on our driver’s license authorizing a person to be a passenger in such a car.  The technology already has safety-features built into it, and there will be more.  For example, a sophisticated computer monitors speed and proximity to other vehicles, and it can react to sudden dangers, like an elephant falling from the pick-up in front of us.  (They’re worried that a computer might not react as quickly as a human, but consider all the drunk drivers, brand-new drivers, and ones who should have given up their licenses years ago for a variety of reasons.)  Also, the computer would not talk on a cell phone, eat McDonald’s, apply make-up, squeeze a zit, let Fluffy ride on its lap, or turn around to break up a fight between Suzie and Johnny…it would just drive.

All this sounds good to me.  But let’s not stop there.  After all, living life is just as dangerous as driving a car.  Training, a license, safety-features, no negative distractions—why not?  Give me a self-driving life, please!

Low Rider

Thoughtful Thursday: Blessed Humanity


Here’s a short, powerful lesson in humanity:

“Blessed is the servant who loves his brother as much when he is sick and useless as when he is well and can be of service to him. And blessed is he who loves his brother as well when he is afar off as when he is by his side, and who would say nothing behind his back he might not, in love, say before his face.”  (St. Francis of Assisi)

[He not only SAID it–he LIVED it!]


Too Much Sex for Facebook?


Not really sex because sexual abuse is about power, not sex.  Facebook has been skittish about such matters as breast-feeding and mastectomies, not allowing pictures about them.  On the other hand, posts, pictures, and jokes about sexual abuse and rape have been just fine.  That has changed—not due to a newly grown corporate conscience but to women’s groups who knew how to fight this use of violence against women as entertainment.  They went to Facebook‘s advertisers and complained.  Advertisers put on the pressure, and now Facebook has enacted a new policy.  That is, if you choose to post something that is cruel or insensitive, you must honestly identify who you are.  This ensures your free speech while filtering out such “witticisms” as the picture (I won’t describe it) with the caption “This is why Indian girls get raped.”

Putting on my cynic’s hat, though, I can see a bunch of ways around this.  For example, most of us know someone who signed up under a false name, and Facebook isn’t wise to it.  Friends know who those people are—the friends that he plays to in his posts.  No problem, then, giving his “true” identity and posting all the garbage he wants.

But this IS a step in the right direction.  I’ll go online, find the Facebook posting about this, and punch “Like,” just to let the corporation know we’re out here watching them.



Let’s Bank that $260 Billion!


An amount equal to ONE-HALF the GDP is held untaxed overseas by rich Americans.

The Tax Justice Network estimated that between $21 and $32 trillion is hidden offshore, untaxed. With Americans making up 40% of the world’s Ultra High Net Worth Individuals, that’s $8 to $12 trillion in U.S. money stashed in far-off hiding places.

Based on a historical stock market return of 6%, up to $750 billion of income is lost to the U.S. every year, resulting in a tax loss of about $260 billion.*

With that $260 billion a year, we could work toward balanced budgets while still funding programs that protect our poor and vulnerable citizens.  If it’s taxable income, why isn’t it going into our federal bank account?


*Paul Buchheit, in Common Dreams


Let’s Create a Fitting Memorial


On this day, I pause to remember the men and women who died fighting America’s wars, including all those “wars,” “police actions,” “peace-keeping missions,” or whatever.  Their goal was to liberate different parts of the world from tyrants and regimes that treated people like insignificant, disposable, unworthy, non-humans.  This was their contribution to upholding the dignity of man and working toward peace.

A fitting memorial to these people would be to carry on their mission. Not by running off to a far-away land and fighting, but by living our daily lives as though those around us and those foreign to us both near and far, those with different skin colors, religions, socio-economic status–everyone–were human beings made in the image of God.  Such a peaceful, tolerant attitude must start with us individually, in our homes, schools, and workplaces and spread to our cities, states, nation, and, ultimately, the world.  Maybe such a global attitude will prevent tyrants and hate-groups from getting a foothold.

I know this is idealistic, but so were all those who died fighting our battles.  Carrying on their idealism is an appropriate way to honor them.  Even if we succeed only in making a more peaceful, tolerant piece of the world in our own lives, that, too, is a fit memorial to them.  Today is an excellent day to begin!



Dream Tour through Disgraceland

You probably know that we people with disabilities are granted the privilege of going to the head of the line at places like Disney.  Actually, it’s a practical matter.  We clutter up the line with, say, our wheelchair, plus, we need extra help getting onto the rides.  Sometimes our chair won’t fit through the regular door so they take us to a wider entrance.  Yes, it seems nice for us, although most of us prefer not to be singled out for obvious special treatment.  However, it’s also convenient for the park.

So Florida’s Dream Tours hired disabled persons as guides, meaning they could get up to six people moved to the head of the line with them.  It cost the customer only $130 an hour, or $1,040 for 8 hours (cheaper than Disney’s VIP guides, at $310-$380 per hour).

I wonder what it cost the kids who were ushered in this way: increased sense of entitlement, negative perception of people with disabilities, lessons in cheating, a feeling of being better than others…attitudes that prepare them for what kind of adulthood?

As for the guides, what were they thinking, allowing themselves to be used in this way!  Not to mention the black mark against the rest of us disabled people.

Bad press caused Dream Tours to stop this practice–without even an apology.  I think it’s far too late.  They’ve already lost their way in Disgraceland.



Thoughtful Thursday: Blow Everybody Up

[The attacks in London and here in America brought this quote to mind.]

“The brotherhood of man is evoked by particular men according to their circumstances. But it seldom extends to all men. In the name of our freedom and our brotherhood we are prepared to blow up the other half of mankind and to be blown up in our turn.”  —  Dorothy Day



Gay Boy Scouts

If a Scout didn’t acknowledge that he’s gay, whether or not he’s sexually active, how would the leaders or troop know his orientation?  If he’s just as honorable as other troop members, doing what is his best for God and country, obeying the Scout Law as best he can (he and the others ARE human and ARE kids with limitations)?  If he strives to help others, keep himself physically strong, mentally awake, and, within the limits other young Scouts have (background, socio-economic factors, family life experiences), morally straight?

It’s probably this last one that Scout leadership feels a gay boy can’t comply with.  If so, then any Scout–homosexual or heterosexual—who is having sexual urgings should be banned, or all should be admitted until they show they can’t abide by the Scout Oath and Law.

Why is it impossible for a gay youngster to be Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty, Brave, Clean, and Reverent (the Scout law)?  Certainly, generations of closeted gay Scouts have passed the test.

Is Scout leadership afraid that a gay boy will seduce others or have their gay-ness rub off onto others?  If so, they don’t trust the heterosexual Scouts to be adhering to the Oath and Law.  Those Scout-failures, then, should be kicked out.

Or maybe the fear is that a gay Scout might organize a sex-orgy at a Jamboree?




For Dog-Lovers & Other Humans

Why did God make dogs?  This video explains it.  If you’re a true dog-lover, you’ll find yourself smiling and agreeing, then reaching over to give your dog an extra loving pat.  And maybe thinking, is there a lesson in there about how humans should treat each other?  See “God Made a Dog.”

Dog 1

[Thanks to Jim Knudsen for sending me this video-link.]

OK If Lobbyists Write Our Laws?

Interest groups are writing our laws.  It surprised me to learn that a Capitol Tracking study of CA bills introduced during the 2011-12 session found that 27% were written by interest groups.  Lawmakers simply added their names to them, and thy’re not required to acknowledge who actually wrote the bill. The bills that the governor signed into law during that time–60% were sponsored by interest groups and 30% by legislators.  That means that lobbyists–non-elected individuals–are essentially making our laws.

In defense of our elected officials, term limits ensures that most are new to the job.  It takes much of their terms of office to learn a little about a lot of issues and a lot about a few issues.  Then they’re out of a job and new people take over.  They have to depend on someone, then, to advise them.  That’s the lobbyist’s task, and we can only hope that our best interest is being put forward along with whatever it is that the lobbyist is promoting.

Are you happy with the laws being proposed and passed?  In January,Senator David Vitter (R-LA) introduced a Constitutional amendment to impose term limits on Congress.   If you think that all Californians are getting fair treatment and protections under our system, support Vitter’s proposal.  If not, let your discomfort with the idea be known to your Congress-member right now.