Thursday, September 15, 2016

Do black patent shoes really reflect up ?

The book shown above was published by the late John .R. Powers in 1975. It was subsequently adapted into a Broadway musical and a screenplay. The book is a hilarious tale about growing up in the Catholic faith, and Powers drew heavily from his own experience growing up as a Catholic in Chicago in the 1950’s. The book is the 2nd novel that he published. The first was “The Last Catholic in America”, and was part of what became known as “the Eddie Ryan trilogy. The 1977 novel titled “The Unoriginal Sinner and the Ice Cream God” rounded out the trilogy.

I graduated from a Catholic grade school and a Catholic high school, as did my sister. In addition, she also graduated from a Catholic all girl’s college. Naturally, the books written by Mr. Powers brought back a lot of memories, most of them fond. Even today, I still get regular mailings from my high school, even though I graduated from there more than 50 years ago.

The REASON that I get those mailings has a lot less to do with my alma mater’s affection for me than it does for its need to raise cash for scholarships. I have no idea what my parents paid for my tuition, but I’m fairly certain it was less than $500 a year. Truth be told, it was actually a very good education, since a high percentage of the students who attended there were in college prep classes.

Today, the tuition for grades 9-12 at what is now known as Hill-Murray (the boy’s and girl’s schools merged about 10 years after I graduated) is a jaw-dropping $13,245, which is more than COLLEGE tuition at the public universities in the state of Arizona. In total, donations from various businesses and individuals have helped to create a scholarship fund of $1.34 million. Although the current tuition level sounds high, it is actually very comparable to other private schools around the country.

Some of my current “hot buttons” (concern for the environment and issues of social justice) are the result of seeds that were sown at Mary T. Hill high school.

Somewhere along the line, I followed the path of many folks who grew up Catholic, and simply stopped considering myself to be a Catholic. For a variety of reasons, nearly HALF of the people in this country who were raised in the Catholic faith no longer practice that faith. In part, that’s a reflection of our society in general. Although 70.6% of the American population still consider themselves to be Christian, all of the “mainline” religions have seen a decline. Between 2007 and 2014, the percentage of Americans who consider themselves to be Catholic declined from 23.9% to 20.8%. The only religious group that grew in that time period was “unaffiliated”, which rose from 16.1% of the population to 22.8%.

Although our Founding Fathers were very firm about separating church and state, there are numerous nods to religion in our society, including adding “under God” to the pledge of allegiance in 1954. In 1956, “in God we trust” was adopted as our official national motto, replacing the unofficial motto of “E pluribus Unum. In recent years, a number of cities have added “in God we trust” to their police cars, which very few people got excited about. However, the Detroit suburb of Hamtramck is the first Muslim majority city in America. If they decided to add “Allah be praised” to THEIR police cars, it would take roughly a nanosecond for the right wing conservatives in our country to go ballistic. Bill O’Reilly would probably go into immediate cardiac arrest, and the rest of the FOC crew would spend HOURS debating the impropriety of the act.

Inevitably, of course, religion has crept into our politics. As a result, people who have no business at all holding office get elected due to the fact that “they are good Christians”. Representative Louis Gohmert is the prime example of this phenomenon, but Minnesota has Michelle Bachman, and Arizona has Sylvia Allen.

In the 2008 election cycle, I was initially supportive of the candidates from both parties, but as soon as John McCain selected Sara Palin as his running mate, it became obvious that I needed to vote for Barack Obama.

In 2012, the choice was easier due to the fact that (1) the Obama administration had made significant progress in correcting the mess left by George W. Bush and (2) the Republican Party has gradually been destroyed by the Tea Party and other right wing factions, which has caused it to become a political party that neither Ronald Reagan or Dwight Eisenhower would recognize.

For 2016, the decision is a slam dunk.

Donald Trump does not have the knowledge, the experience, or the temperament to lead our country. On top of that, he is a failed businessman (as evidenced by his 4 bankruptcies) , a prolific adulterer, and a pathological liar. Studies by a variety of fact checking organizations have found that he tells the truth less than 30% of the time.

Hillary Clinton is not the charismatic figure exemplified by Barack Obama, Ronald Reagan, or John F. Kennedy. What she IS, though, is one of the MOST QUALIFIED Presidential candidate that we have ever had, a fact that was brought home while I worked my way through her 2014 book titled “Hard Choices”, which chronicles her work while she was Secretary of State. It’s very clear that the work of a diplomat is very delicate work. In addition to his other faults, Trump’s temperament would actually be a GRAVE DANGER for our country, since he would make it more difficult for our diplomatic corps to keep all of us safe.

Hillary has been the victim of 25 years of “witch hunts” by the opposing party. Although the farcical Benghazi “investigations” have finally come to an end, there are STILL people who bring up her emails, and Matt Lauer is the most recent example of that stupidity. If any commentator brought up the topic at any of th Presidential debates (the first is scheduled for September 26th) I’d like to see him shot on the spot, which obviously is not going to happen.

I try to keep an open mind on a variety of topics, which is why I read articles from both progressive and conservative sources. Over a period of years, I have discovered that conservative sources have gotten less reliable, in large part due to the success of FOX “news” and the rise of conservative radio talk show personalities like Rush Limbaugh and Alex Jones.

I saw an article recently that professed the belief that you couldn’t be a good Catholic and a Democrat, an idea that is clearly preposterous. You may or may not agree with all of the ideas contained in the 2016 Democratic platform (which IS a very progressive platform), but it wouldn’t take you more than a few minutes of reading the 2016 Republican platform to reach the conclusion that the Party has clearly lost its mind. Although it IS possible that the orange menace could get elected, Nate Silver and other pollsters have all concluded that it’s not likely to happen. As a matter of fact, it’s now quite likely that Trump will continue to pull down the rest of the Republican Party, and cause the Senate to return to the control of “the adults in the room” (the Democrats). Although gerrymandering by state legislatures mean that it is unlikely that the Republicans will lose the House, it’s a dead certainty that they are going to lose some seats in that chamber.

I have no idea what political party John Powers belonged to, nor do I care. What he DID add to our society is the idea that some of our long held beliefs should occasionally be discarded, or at least examined a little more closely. On occasion, even some of my trusted progressive news sources don’t always get the facts right. By the same token, there are STILL a lot of people who think that it makes sense to vote for the Republican Party, even though (to a very large degree) no longer makes sense to do so.

To be honest, I’ve only read the first two books in the “Eddie Ryan trilogy”, but I’m pretty sure that “the unoriginal sinner and the ice cream God” is going to find its way into my hands in the near future.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

canning jars and missiles

When I was in the insurance industry, part of my territory was the state of Indiana. As a result, I wound up providing insurance for Ball Manufacturing Company, which all of us are familiar with, even if your mother didn’t use their jars for her canning.

The company started business in Buffalo, New York, when the Ball brothers purchased a company called the Wooden Jacket Can Company. In 1884, the brothers started to manufacture glass canning jars, and a few years late, moved their operations to Muncie, Indiana.

The company expanded into other product lines during the Great Depression, but took their greatest departure from their roots in 1956, when the management team started an aerospace division. Its first product was a pointing control for missiles.

Since defense weapons have a higher profit margin than glass charges, the company sold its canning business to a subsidiary in 1993. The company moved its headquarters to Broomfield, Colorado in 1998, Although the company continues to sell products to the aerospace industry, it also makes a variety of plastic and metal food storage products.

Although Ike warned us about the “military-industrial” complex in the 1950’s, the defense industry is still a HUGE industry. According to the Stockholm International Peace Institute, worldwide weapons sales in 2013 were $402 billion. The top 10 companies (Ball is not one of them) had sales of over $200 billion, or slightly more than half. 6 of the 10 largest companies are located in the United States of America. The top 2 companies, Boeing and Lockheed, sell a combined total of $75 billion a year.

We all know people who seem to think that having more guns in our society somehow makes us all safer, which is the recent that the Texas legislature recently passed a law to all students to carry weapons on campus. In response, numerous students decided to open carry dildos to demonstrate how still the new law is.

Since Joe McCarthy scared the bejeezus out of all us in the 1950’s, we all know that the Doomsday Clock is. It is now the closest it’s been to midnight at any point in the last 30 years. Fittingly, climate change is now one of the factors that affext the setting, and we just finished the hottest year on record, which proves that global warming IS real.

We’d all like to see an increase in the manufacture of canning jars, and a decrease in the production of weapons, but I don’t think that that’s going to happen anytime in our lifetime.