Sunday, July 17, 2011

Judgement Day is Coming?

So I have been thinking about the old quote from the Bible: "Judge not, lest ye be judged." I was thinking recently that perhaps people, particularly Christians, have a bad application of this passage. It is followed with the statement (and I am paraphrasing here) that whatever standard you judge people by, you will be judged with. Then it goes into the whole mote in the eye thing, etcetera.
Now Christians have, as far as I know, pretty much taught from time immemorial that this means that even Christians will be judged by God, and that they will be judged with the same standards by which they judge others, so they should not be judgmental. I, however, think that there is a different interpretation and application of this. I believe that there is a good chance that it is not only God who will be doing the judging, but society.
Admittedly, I haven't been to church in a very long time, and it is unlikely that I will return any time soon. I have a problem with churches that change their message to get more people (and money) in the door. I also have a problem with churches that preach holiness to a standard that leaves people with emotional issues. Finally, I have problems with Christians who judge people, yet not only have huge moral flaws, but those moral flaws are on display for the world to see. You know the type I am talking about, an hour on Sunday makes up for the other 167 hours that week.
So I spread this word to all who read this blog: judgement day is coming ... and it is sooner than you think, and it is not going to be who you think it is doing the judging. It is me, and it is today. It is your neighbor, and it is tomorrow. It is your boss, and it is the next time you tell an off-color joke at the office. I don't really count myself as one of the faithful these days. I am not sure what I believe, but I do believe that the words spoken at the end of the movie Angels and Demons are true. "Religion is flawed, because man is flawed."
Perhaps as I live my life, I will decide what I believe, but in the mean time, I believe this. That my life has a purpose. I am a teacher, my purpose is to educate children. If a child has the ability to read, comprehend and reason, they will be able to decide for themselves what they believe. And if they learn to write as well, perhaps they will be able to share that belief in a meaningful way that will enrich the lives of others.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Crime and lack of punishment

OK, so one would think that this would be a post about Casey Anthony. Nope, not even close. But while I am on the subject, the prosecution had a circumstantial case, and not one bit of evidence they had pointed at Casey Anthony. The only thing they had was her partying while her child was missing. So in essence, she was on trial for not acting like a grieving mother. 'Nuff said.

No, today I am going to talk about a wilding incident here in my hometown of Milwaukee. On July 3, after the downtown fireworks, a large group of African-American youths went on a spree of violence and mischief. They raided a gas station/convenience store, clearing it out of snacks. they also attacked and savagely beat several people and robbed them. Although I may be called racist for mentioning it, all of the reports in the news indicated that their victims were all white. In one instance, the victim recalls one of the assailants saying something to the effect of 'white girl sure does bleed alot.'

Now, I have to say, that from all evidence, these appear to be racially motivated crimes. That being said, these thugs NEED to be caught and punished. They need to understand that crime has consequences. Heck, they need to understand that ALL actions have consequences. Wisconsin has just passed a concealed carry law, and once law-abiding citizens are allowed to carry, what happens when one of these incidents occurs, and a law-abiding citizen with a gun, fearing for their safety, shoots and/or kills one of these kids?

Right now, there is no outcry from community leaders about stopping the violence, but you can be sure that if one of the thugs is killed by a person legally carrying a concealed weapon, there will be hell to pay. What is the cause of this behavior? More than that, what is the victimology? I think in the end, I think the core problem is that we as a society are too lenient about crime, and because of this, noone fears the consequences of their actions ... because there are none.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Like dogs with frisbees(TM)

So this week, I was in Washington DC with a group of teachers for professional development. One of the things that I found to be troublesome was the fact that the teachers in our group were constantly complaining about and bad-mouthing our governor, Scott Walker to anyone who would listen.

I had to listen to an entire week of Scott Walker cuts school funding, Scott Walker is cutting our pay, Scott Walker hates public schools, Scott Walker is an enemy of the common man ... on and on and on. I could not believe how much they were obsessing about him.

I think one of the most important things is that Scott Walker understands something very important. He understands that the ratio of tax PAYERS to tax CONSUMERS needs to be rebalanced if our state is to prosper in any way shape or form. Our current ratio is askew, and he has undertaken the herculean task of fixing it, and for that he gets lost constant vitriol and hatred.

I feel sorry for the governor for the way people talk about him, and I am proud of him for standing up, taking a stand and withstanding the assault against him. Lastly, I feel that my colleagues, rather than complain about the governor, should come up with their own solutions. We are a participatory republic, which means that the people have a voice beyond e election. We can suggest and recommend courses of action to our elected officials. But, just because WE mY want something, it doesn't mean we will get it. There are plenty of other tax paying citizens out there who have a voice too...

8^) Jim
- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Of Politicians and Airplanes

So this afternoon I am on an Airtran Airways flight from Milwaukee to Washington, DC. As we were boarding, we noticed a couple of Wisconsin Capitol Police officers at the end of the jetway. I was traveling with a group of teachers to a week-long study event with the Bill of Rights Institute, and remarked to a member of the group about the officers. Several members of our group stated that they hoped the governor wasn't on our flight.
I asked the flight attendant who was greeting passengers at the door of the aircraft about them, and she responded that the flight had a VIP on board. I looked towards the back of them plane, and who was there, five rows behind me, but our governor, Scott Walker (flying coach, not business or first class).
Now governor Walker has very few friends in public education thanks to his austerity measures, requiring all public employees to pay into their retirement and pay towards their health care. This is necessary, because the state is in the midst of a financial crisis which includes huge deficits and out of control spending.
He also is seeking to blunt the political power of the public employee unions by limiting their collective bargaining privileges, eliminating the requirement to be a part of the union, and no longer allowing union dues to be deducted from paychecks, requiring the union instead to collect the dues on their own. Unions are pretty big in Wisconsin, largely due to our long history of Wisconsin politics being strongly influenced by the Socialist Party.
As a public employee, I understand the angst felt by my colleagues about the loss of the union clout. They had been told repeatedly that the unions were the only things that stood between freedom and virtual slavery for workers. The leader of the largest state worker's union even referred to the governor as a plantation slave master.
I feel sorry for the governor. He wants to save the state from it's socialist roots, and create a dynamic, vibrant state with a business climate that will allow for growth that will sustain the people of Wisconsin for years to come.
I tip my hat to Governor Walker. First for being willing to make the tough decisions, and take the anger and venom of the public classes. Secondly, for practicing what he preaches. How often do you see a state's governor flying coach?

8^) Jim
- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:33,000 feet up

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Does Glenn Beck Really Matter?

I will admit, there was something alluring about Glenn Beck when he burst onto the national scene. Part of it was the fact that he shredded the mainstream media like and F-5 tornado in a trailer park. Part of it was his unapologetic religious nature. Part of it was his ability to see connections that would otherwise escape notice. But then, he got stale. Not stale like bread left out overnight, but rather the kind of stale that comes with a steady diet of the same thing over and over again. The kind of stale that says "toss some meat into the mac 'n cheese tonight ma ... come on, live a little!" Glenn became two things that will doom anyone in media. He became formulaic, and apocalyptic.
He became formulaic in that no matter what the issue was, there would be three things in his radio/TV programs. First there would be analysis of it. Then there would be some joking around by his radio sidekicks. Then on TV, Glenn would do his teacher routine on the chalkboard. He constantly used the radio and TV programs to push exclusive content on his website. Occasionally he would drop a topic and move on so abruptly that I started to wonder if he was straying into territory where there might have been exclusive online content that he didn't want to divulge for free.
Worst of all, he became apocalyptic. Everything was the end of the world, that God just HAD to judge America for this that or the other thing. The moral depravity of the nation had eliminated out most favored nation status with the almighty and now we were going to have to pay for it. We were hanging on by a thread over the pits of hell and someone was greasing the rope between our fingers. Other talk show hosts, even invented a term for when they were in a fit of pessimism, they were feeling "beckish," they would say.
His radio show was shedding listeners faster than Facebook is shedding subscribers, and his TV show was losing sponsors even faster. It is pretty sad when the ad space on a cable TV network starts to become dominated by internal ad buys instead of actual bill-paying sponsors. What does this mean for poor, beleaguered Glenn Beck? It means that this is the perfect time to see if people will PAY to see him do the exact same bit that people used to watch for free.
Beck's show was consistently one of the top-rated shows on the Fox News Channel, but if he truly believes that all of those viewers will follow him to GBTV, his subscriber-based web enterprise, I fear the Beck will have another mystery to sketch out on his chalkboard.
I tuned in the first time when Beck first came to Fox News Channel. I watched sporadically for a while. I turned him off for the last time during the whole 'I'm going blind' drama. I don't knock the fact that he genuinely has health issues. I know many people who do. What got me was seeing him talking about his vision issues, and then blowing it off an segueing into a discussion of Democratic Party political dirty tricks saying something along the lines of 'I don't know why I am going blind, but there is one thing I do know, the democrats will do anything to win an election.' Grab the remote, point and click. Buhbye Glenn Beck. Hope all of your other business ventures can feed your family, because GBTV will never provide you with the comfortable life that you have become accustomed to with the nice fat Fox paychecks.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Modern liberalism is a lie ...

So I have had this idea floating around in my head, and I think it is time to post this. Modern liberalism is NOT liberal. Let me explain...

Liberalism has a long and distinguished history. Throughout most of history, liberalism was the impulse to take power away from the government, and give the people greater self-determination. Liberals were the ones who stormed the Bastille in France. It was liberals who gave King James the heave-ho in England and offered the throne to William and Mary. It was liberals who drafter the Magna Charta and convinced King John to put pen to paper and sign it. It was liberals who drove the Spanish out of Latin America and won the independence of a large part of this hemisphere. Liberals penned a list of reasons for breaking away from England and declared the American colonies to be free and independent states. All of these things had one thing in common. They were movements away from a strong central government. They were movements towards a government that was closer to, empowered by, and answerable to the people. In short, historically, liberals believed in the individual and the ability of an individual to exert a positive influence on society and government.

So why, you may ask, does modern liberalism NOT fulfill the historical definition of liberalism that I just expounded upon? Consider the causes of modern "liberalism." They want to limit carbon emissions to clean up the planet. Sure, it is a lofty goal; one that I even support. But it is HOW they want to go about doing it that creates the problems. They want to do it by limiting people's choices. Many liberal favor heavily taxing (or even outlawing) vehicles that do not meet a minimum standard of fuel efficiency and pollution controls. Many liberals support artificially raising the price of gasoline to a level where people will abandon their cars and take mass transit. They want to remove our individualism, and instead replace it with a mindless group mentality. don't blaze your own path, take this pre-programmed route to your destination along with all the other drones. Liberalism? I think not.

Modern "liberalism" embraces the cause of social justice. Social justice is the new euphemism for the old term minority rights. Basically the idea is this. find some group that has an ax to grind with the society as a whole, and help them grind it. It is retroactively making up for past affronts to a group because of their race, religion, national origin or sexual orientation. They want these groups to receive justice for things that happened to them in the past. of course, in many cases, that justice comes at a cost to society, not to the individuals who dispensed the injustices for which the atonement is being made. Consider the whole idea of affirmative action or reparations for slavery. My ancestors did not own slaves in this country. My grandparents emigrated to the United States in the years after World War I. There was no slavery in the United States at that time. I and my family are innocent in this affair. BUT, if the modern "liberals" who want to see reparations made had their way, tax money taken from me would go to pay for someone else's crimes. I do not share in the guilt, but I would certainly be punished. Now you might argue that my family was here for many of the the years of racism and segregation, but once again, I demand proof that somehow I am guilty if I am going to pay the cost of making something right. You may say, it is a societal thing and I am a part of the guilty society. I would say since when do we punish someone for the actions of their neighbor? And if that is the standard we want to apply, why don't we apply it in situations where there is a shooting in the inner city, there are multiple bystanders within easy viewing of the event, yet somehow, not a single person saw anything? Here in Milwaukee, we had a shooting a few years ago in the middle of a busy street festival. It happened with about 100 people around at the time, but there were no witnesses? I find that hard to believe.

Modern "liberals" embrace the idea of collectivism. Collective bargaining through forced unionization, collective risk through national health care, and collective misery through eroding the financial security of our nation through poor fiscal and monetary policy. Once again, historical liberalism would remove the shackles and limits from the individual and allow them to pursue their fortunes, thus enriching others (and society) in the process.

modern liberalism is a lie. It is collectivism, statism and socialism. Nothing more, nothing less.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Been a while ...

I have been on a hiatus of sorts from posting to this blog. A lot has happened in Wisconsin since my last post. Heck, a lot has happened nationally since my last post. The one thing I am thinking is worth mentioning is the fact that while the nation seems to be growing more and more conservative, the media is trying very hard to ignore and hide this fact.

Why would the media want to do that? Well, that has to do with why the country seems to be growing more and more conservative. I believe that the country is growing more conservative as a reaction against the very obvious far-left tilt of the Obama administration. The American people see how hard-left his policies are, and they don't want that much government interference in their lives. Thus, they push back against it, and move in the direction of greater liberty, in other words, towards conservatism.

Conservatives believe in the greatest amount of liberty for the greatest number of people. Sadly, that liberty is a threat to governmental control over the finer points of life, so liberals try to pretend that it is conservatives, not liberals, who want to limit the liberty that we the people have.

I can only hope that one day, the people wake up and see this.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Living Conservative In A Liberal World (Part 14): Step Down off that Fence!

Last night, the Republicans in the Wisconsin State Senate made a stunning and bold move that is sure to draw criticism and concern from all quarters. They acted on a bill that would strip most public employees unions of the power to bargain for anything other than salary. While this may seem like an extreme measure, I think it would be interactive to understand how our state got to this point.

FULL DISCLOSURE TIME: I am a public employee. This bill affects me. Everything I say here is not what is reported to me, or things that I have heard, they are things that I have seen and experienced.

The benefits that we receive as public employees are very generous. We receive a pension at the end of our service which is based on our earnings in our last three years of service. Many teachers, in the final few years of service, take on extra classes and summer school in order to boost their salaries for those years in order to raise the amount they will receive during retirement. I pay nothing for my pension.

Our health insurance is top notch. I have access to doctors and specialists whenever I need them. Pre-existing conditions are covered and there is little that is not covered. And, to add insult to injury, we have a choice. Our district, because of our contract, provides us with TWO health plans to choose from. Both are great plans, they are often referred to as "Cadillac health plans" and if you are using the car analogy, that is not too far off. Actually it would be more like a high-end Camry and a low-end Lexus. They are the same basic car, just with different special features.

We pay nothing for either of these at the moment. For the first time, our new contract requires us to pay a small (very small, 1% of our salary) amount towards our health insurance. This amounts to (for me) about $30 every two weeks. This payment starts in August 2011, and I for one believe that it is Long overdue.

We have protections that make it difficult to terminate a teacher who may be incompetent or incapable of continuing teaching. Imagine a teacher who has a stroke which affects their cognitive abilities. As long as they can make a case that their diminished cognitive functions do not affect their teaching duties, they cannot be involuntarily dismissed. The entire process for dismissing a teacher takes longer than the district is willing to spend time on.

Now here is the really bad part. Most school districts in the state use an insurance company called WEA Trust. WEA Trust is an insurance and financial services company that is owned by WEAC, the state teacher's union. The health insurance rates at the union-owned insurance company are between ten and fifteen percent higher than the private insurance company used by my district.

The public employee unions support Democratic Party candidates almost exclusively with the union dues collected from it's members. Besides requiring larger contributions for pensions and healthcare, it makes union membership optional, and for those who wish to remain members of the union, the state and local government units are no longer allowed to automatically deduct union dues from paychecks, but rather the employee must make a choice of will to write a check to the union for their dues.

So, what, in the final analysis, is the impact of this law? It severs the incestuous link between public employees' unions and the Democratic Party in Wisconsin. It makes the Democratic Party compete on a level playing field with the Republican Party by having to get their money based on a person making a choice to support them, either directly or through the unions. In short, it advances democracy, not destroy it.

It also makes people choose which side of the fence they are on. It makes mushy Republicans either put up or shut up. After this vote, we will know who is truly a conservative, and who is a RINO. I think that this is equally important as the rest.

8^) Jim
- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Friday, February 18, 2011

Living Conservative in a Liberal World (part 13): I Can't Believe it Has Come To This!

I became a teacher to help kids. Period. I didn't want to do it because of summers off. I am in favor of year 'round schools. I didn't do it for the benefits, and I am grateful for them. I did it for the kids.

I am at home right now. I am at home because over 600 of my colleagues have called in sick out of protest over our Governor's budget repair bill which severely restricts the bargaining rights of public employee unions. It also puts in place a definite employee share to pension plans (right now I pay nothing ... Zero, zilch, nada) and to pay a percentage of the premium for my health plan (at the moment, I pay nothing, but I have to give credit to my union in that they had taken a baby step towards helping that situation in negotiating a 1% salary giveback to help pay for our benefits).

Now, my district is closed, many teachers are on their way to the state capitol to protest, and I am at home instead of where I should be: at school teaching my students.

I sat down last night and posted something overtly political on Facebook ... something I had never done before. I don't hide who I am: my political status on Facebook is "conservative, but not the scary kind." However, I see Facebook as a place for fun, not politics. Sadly, politics has invaded my Facebook. I am sure my rather strongly worded comment caught people off guard, but I am just that disgusted by this.

I have the greatest students I could ever hope to have. Even the ones who are more challenging are students with a bright future and they deserve better than they are getting from us at the moment.

So today, I sit at home, I write my blog and I wish that things were different.

8^) Jim
- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Some Illuminating Thoughts About Part 12

So I re-read part 12 of "Living Conservative in a Liberal World" and realized that some people out there might be wondering, what the heck does this have to do with being conservative or liberal? How does this post fit the theme I had proposed the first time I wrote a post under that title? It has to do with the conduct of the parents.

Conservatives believe strongly in self-reliance. They believe in taking care of themselves and their families. However, along with self-reliance comes self-control. Conservatives believe in the idea that one's actions and behaviors should, as much as possible, be appropriate and above reproach.

I have often watched people in the world be disrespectful of others. In an audience, the disrespectful person is carrying on a conversation during a performance, diminishing the enjoyment of the people around them who are trying to watch the performance. Then, when you dare to try to correct the poor behavior, they act as if somehow, by demanding appropriate audience behavior from them, you have offended them to the core of their very being.

This is the liberal/conservative issue here. Sadly, the problem is not isolated only to liberals. More and more conservatives have joined the cult of rudeness. In this time where people are begging for civility in public discourse, perhaps we could add a little less rudeness to the message.

8^) Jim
- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Living Conservative in a Liberal World (Part 12): Now That's Entertainment

As I write this, I am watching a group of kindergardeners of Chinese descent perform in a school pageant of sorts. It is a Chinese New Year party put on by a Chinese Cultural Organization. I don't understand a word of it. I am simply the technical support. As the stage manager for my school, any time another school uses our stage, I have to be present to run the systems and provide technical support.

As I watch the performances, I am reminded of certain universal facts:

- there is always one kid who is up on stage mugging for the crowd. It is always cute.

- the kid who sings loudest is invariably the one closest to the microphone. It, also, is always cute.

- teenage girls will become shy and coquettish on stage. Teenage boys turn into blushing wrecks incapable of intelligible speech when paired with one of these coquettish girls. The interactions between them are cute.

- a five year old singing a song in her tiny five-year-old voice will melt the heart of the most stoney-souled person. Need I mention the cuteness?

- parents at a school production are some of the rudest spectators in the world. There is no cuteness to behold here.

- Chinese paper lantern decorations are beautiful.

- listening to parents talking to each other when the kid on the stage is not theirs, making it hard to hear the kid up on stage, drives me absolutely up a tree.

- children of Chinese descent are some of the most polite children I have ever encountered. Their politeness is cute.

- I swear, that guy over there looks like Kim Jong Il. Scary, not cute.

- this has been a great experience for me, and I am thankful I had a chance to witness this.

- hearing Frere Jacques sung in Chinese causes a bit of language dissonance on the part of the monolingual. Oh, by the way, it is cute.

- there are Chinese words that sound like the "F" word.

- the Chinese language has a lot of hard accented syllables in it. As a language it is about as subtle as a machine gun.

- a microphone that suddenly stops working in the middle of a performance is enough to make me want to pull out what little hair I have left.

- children make adults smile far more than they make us frown. I think they are God's Way of bringing more joy into the world, and I am thankful for them, even though I have none of my own.

8^) Jim
- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Saturday, February 12, 2011

On being a blogger ...

I find myself sometimes envying those other bloggers. You know the ones. The ones who get mentioned on talk radio, the ones whose blogs get mentioned in magazines, the ones whose blogs pay their bills.

But then I wonder, what would my life be like if I were one of those bloggers? I would probably be working harder on my blog. I would be reading more. So far, so good, right? I would have to be more on top of the news. What makes or breaks a blogger is being the first to mention or analyze an important news story. Well, if I were one of those bloggers, the mentions on the wider media would cause other media types (think the MSM), to notice me. If I were to happen to have a bad relationship that ends poorly, it would become something that would be used to discredit me.

I like my little blog. Sure, I could monetize it and put the effort into it to promote it and try to push myself to be on the leading edge of the news. To be honest, I don't think I could handle the strain. Maybe once, but now ... no, not so much.

Monday, February 7, 2011

The Superbowl Halftime Show

Superbowl XVL had everything a superbowl should have. Superb athleticism, plays that make you ooh and ahh, errors and mistakes that make you stomp your feet, and a finish that made you jump off the sofa. What it lacked was a decent halftime show.

The Black Eyed Peas. Seriously? Puh-lease! OK, they are hip and trendy, but their performance was ... well, weird.

First off: the costumes. What the heck were they wearing? It looked like they found the rejects from Tron: Legacy at a thrift shop. And that helmet was wearing ... is he losing his hair and going plastic?

Second off: Fergie's microphone. There is a now-unemployed sound tech who forgot to turn it on. She is the best part of the group, both in looks (insert plastic joke here), and vocal ability, but even she sounded flat and hollow. Maybe they were out late partying with Ben Rothlisberger?

Third off: guest stars. Slash was ... well, showing his age. He stood still as a manequin while Fergie absolutely butchered one of the greatest songs ever. Oh, and by the way Fergie ... you are NOT Axl. Don't even try to copy his vocal stylings, it won't work. And Usher? Ummmm, Fergie, it is usually good manners to let a guest vocalist sing their own song.

Fourth off: new lyrics? Since when was "Where is the Love" a song to President Obama? The opening lyric was changed to a politically charged “In America we need to get things straight / Obama, let’s get these kids educated / Create jobs so the country stays stimulated.” Yeah, I get it, you think that President Obama is the salvation of America, but obviously you didn't hear his comment before the Chamber of Commerce where he said that corporate profits "have to be shared by American workers," not twenty-four hours after the interview with Bill O'Reilley airs in which he flat out denies being a socialist.

In the final analysis, the superbowl halftime show was about the only thing that could make me forget about the absolutely horrid botch-job Christina Aguilera did on the National Anthem.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

After years of crying "no fair" Apple becomes the bully

Lets talk monopolies for a moment. There are two ways something becomes a monopoly. The first is through unfair business practices. The second is through offering a product noone else offers (or competitor's offerings do not satisfy consumer demand). Take Mac OS vs. Windows, for example. Consumers want computers. They want choices, and they want the content and software that they had on say, their Dell, to work when they upgraded to a Gateway (think before the internet and cloud computing).

On the one hand, Microsoft offered Microsoft Windows, which despite it's quirks, functioned nearly flawlessly on pretty much every machine out there. Why? Because they were all COMPATIBLE. on the other hand, Apple has the Apple OS, which works on ... well, an Apple computer. That's it. You couldn't install windows on a Mac, and you couldn't install Mac OS on a computer that was not built by Apple. Which one gives you the most value (read compatibility) for you money? Windows wins, hands down.

Now Apple uses Intel processors in their computers. You can now put windows on a Mac. However, you still can't install Apple's OS on any computer not manufactured by Apple. As a matter of fact, Apples End User License Agreement (your permission to use the software when you buy it) expressly forbids installing OS X on a computer not built by Apple. Now THIS is a strongarm, anticompetitive tactic if ever I had seen one. However, it only affects a very small proportion of computer users, so noone is crying foul.

HOWEVER, Apple is now turning into a content bully with the iPad. Apple is seeking to restrict all content purchases that do not go through their App Store. An app will not be able to be used to purchase digital content independently of the App Store. Apple recently told newspapers that they could not allow print subscribers to access a free iPad edition, but instead had to offer the iPad edition separately from the print subscription so that Apple would get their 30% commission for selling the content. Apple also rejected the Sony eReader app, because the app would allow readers to purchase ebooks from Sony without going through the Apple App Store, thus cheating Apple out of their 30% commission.

I bought a first edition Kindle. I loved the Kindle, and was quite torn between upgrading to the Kindle 3 or buying an iPad and getting the Kindle app. I finally decided on the latter instead of the former. I like the versatility of the iPad, and I get plenty of use out of it, but a large part of the function of iPad for me is its usefulness as an ereader.

Now at this point, I have to make a couple statements about Apple products. I own the following Apple products: iPhone 4, iPad, Mac Mini (generation 1, bought used). I bought the iPhone because I thought it was cool. I was already an AT&T subscriber, so that wasn't a big thing for me. I bought the mini because I wanted the ability to cut my own ringtones and have them compatible with the iPhone, and the easiest way to do that is with Apple's Garage Band. Sure there are other ways, but they all involve using various (and sometimes expensive) third party software, and importing into iTunes, and ... well, you get the idea. The iPad I bought out of the desire to upgrade my first generation Kindle.

I spent years hating Apple. I adamantly refused, for many years, to buy their products. Now that I owned a few, I was slowly starting to soften that stance. Apple makes great products. I like their products. I still hate their corporate culture and attitude. The corporate attitude of Apple is that THEY should control your consumer experience when you purchase one of their products. They think that since they make the best product (in their minds at least), they can charge what they want, and people will pay it because they want the best, and if you don't like paying the price or allowing them to control what you do with a piece of technology they sold to you, then you don't have to buy their product. The slavish devotion they inspire in people is more reminiscent of a cult instead of a company.

Amazon's Kindle app allows you to search Kindle books from within the App, but when you want to buy the book, it takes you out of the Kindle app, and launches Safari and takes you to the product page where you can complete your purchase with a few taps, then return to your Kindle app and start reading. Alternatively, you can go to your PC and make the purchase, and then read the book on your iPad. If Apple restricts the first method of buying a book, I will switch to the second method of buying a book. I refuse to have Apple control my purchasing experience, and I suspect that a good many other consumers will feel the same way. This is why I prefer the Kindle app to Apple's iBooks app. If Apple tries to restrict the second method of putting Kindle content on my iPad, I will just buy a new Kindle, and Apple can be assured that my iPad purchases will stop at the first generation. I will also join in any class action lawsuits that may arise from Apple's noncompetitive practices for which I may be a member of the class.

I don't like bullies. I was slowly overcoming a long-term hatred for Apple and was willing to give them a chance. Don't blow it Apple! You are the ugly stepsister I was finally starting to like...

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Living Conservative in a Liberal World (Part 11): A Tale of Two Malls

So yesterday I was typing this entry on my iPad, and then a drifting pinky tapped the screen in a wrong spot and I lost the post. The postr was about two shopping malls in the Milwaukee area. Mayfair Mall, which is actually in a suburb of Milwaukee within a half mile of the border, and Grand Avenue Mall, which is downtown.

The Grand Avenue Mall is in decline. Back when it was in its prime, it was a wonderful mall, and was busy. Then over time, the mall started to decline. A friend of mine walked through the mall on a break form work, and the mall is about half empty, and the nationally recognized stores have left, and all that is left is local vendors with temporary occupancy permits selling hip-hop wear. She said she was almost embarassed to see store after store hawking sweats with "baby phat" plastered across the @ss.

Mayfair is at the height of its popularity. I have never been in that mall and not seen people walking from store to store. The stores are an eccectic mix of natinally recgonized names (Aeropostale, Hot Topic, Banana republic, Payless, three Starbucks locations - one in Macy's at one end of the mall, one in Barnes and Noble at the other end, and a standalone Starbucks halfway inbetween), and a few local stores selling everything from cheesy faux Egyptian home decor to Wisconsin-themed sweatshirts and cow-print aprons.

Milwaukee has been home to three malls that have died a slow, painful death. All of them shared certain characteristics that led to their decline. Each of them was in an upper middle class area that slowly declined as more and more rental and low-income properties moved into the area. The clientele of the mall shifted to a less affluent demoographic and the higher-end stores started to lose business. The middle class and upper-middle class shoppers changed their shopping routines and bypassed those malls so as not to have their peaceful shopping experience disturbed by people who do not share their values, sensibilities, morals or expectations of public behavior. Some would add skin color to that list, but I believe that bad behavior is bad behavior no matter what color your skin is.

Everyone would profit from understandign something that was understood by Benjamin Franklin: "I never doubted, for instance, in the existence of the Deity; that he made the world and govern'd it by his Providence; that the most acceptable service of God was the doing good to man; that our souls are immortal; and that all crime will be punished, and virtues rewarded, either here or hereafter."

An event at Mayfair Mall a few weeks ago illustrates what kills malls. On Sunday, January 2, 2011, several large groups of teens engaged in acts of vandalism and disorderly conduct at the mall. During the event, which included thousands of dollars woth of damage to store's property and merchandise, an attempted armed robbery in the parking lot and a gunshot in the parking lot. Police were called, arrests were made and ticket were issued for disorderly onduct and retail theft. Apparently, the "flash-mob" was planned in advance and posted on facebook as an event.

Now an event like this doesn't automatically mean that a mall will die. What is important to the public perception of the mall, which then leads to the possible death of the mall, is the response of the mall to an incident. Mayfair Mall responded in a manner that I feel is appropriate, but perhaps a little minimalist. The mall had already had a Parental Guidance Required policy which required all minors to be accompanied by an adult on Fridays and Saturdays after 3pm. In the wake of the incident, the policy was expanded to include Sundays.

What was truly anemic was the response of the police. There were between two and three hundred people involved in the incident, but only "several" arrests. What really should have happened was massive arrests should have been made, and every last person should have had the book thrown at them ... the only question is: would they be able to read it?

Monday, January 17, 2011

Living Conservative in a Liberal World (Part 10): Religious Liberalism

I remember the old admonition, "you will get along fine as long as you don't bring up religion or politics.". Well, since this is a political blog, I have already honked off half of the people out there, so I figured I would go for the whole enchilada and get the rest of them mad at me by talking about religion. And if you are one of the religious liberals mentioned in the title, stop reading here if you don't want your beliefs questioned.

My mother is in a nursing home recording hospice care as I write this. Yesterday, a pastor whom my sister is acquainted with stopped by to minister to her. I was there for the moment and I am profoundly glad that I was. He spoke words of comfort to her which really helped me in this time of stress. I haven't been to church in a while, and haven't actually belonged to a church in years.

His ministration is not the topic of this post, but rather, his ministration reminded me of a conversation I had with my best friend Mike some time ago about a topic that bugs me. That topic is religious liberalism. There are a lot of well-meaning Christians out there who are religious, but liberal.

In discussing the topic, I think Mike best identified the problem. The problem is that too many churches are out of balance. In order to be a balanced church, the church must believe and preach the whole of scripture. Many churches preach a feel-good gospel: 'God loves you and wants you to be happy, so you should have a wonderful relationship with him.' The problem is, half of the message is missing. That missing message is the fact that on our own, people are a spiritual mess, separated from God by our propensity to sin.

The unbalanced churches preach that Jesus came and we should be happy and joyful because of that, but they totally miss the fact that is is us, you, me, the person on the street, WE are the reason he came and was nailed to a cross in the first place. Why? Because we disobey God's commandments.

As a matter of fact, those unbalanced churches totally ignore preaching about God's commandments and man's sinful nature and the struggle we must live in order to live a good and holy life as a child of God. They reject the idea that some things are identified as sins by God, and they strive to preach a message that is welcoming to everyone, no matter who they are.

People in these churches, because they are not taught that moral absolutes exist tend to be politically liberal. They embrace everyone because they are supposed to be vessels of God's love. They want to show everyone love because Jesus showed everyone love. They forget that Jesus preached judgement and repentance as well as love. Love is only one-third of the message, and like the three branches of government, each of the three parts is equally important, therefore balance is important. Only when you are in balance can you truly walk straight.

8^) Jim
- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Living Conservative in a Liberal World (part 9): Thank You for Not Smoking

So I have a little hang up about something and I have decided to say something about it. I have a problem with people smoking.

One of the first principles of conservatism is basic human freedom. People should be free to smoke, or not smoke, as their personal desire happens to be. As a conservative, I am politically opposed to smoking bans that are enacted by state and local governments.

What bothers me though, is the severe lack of politeness and etiquette of many smokers. I have friends who smoke. I will hang out with them while they are standing outside smoking, and most of my friends are understanding that I don't smoke and would prefer to not inhale their used carcinogens. They always stand downwind, and exhale their smoke to the side so that it is blowing away from me. Kudos to you my friends!

The ones who bother me are the ones who don't even try to be polite about it. They stand upwind, they exhale their smoke directly at me (not in a malicious way, they just don't respect my right to remain as smoke free as possible).

I make it a point to not frequent locales which are smoky. My state recently enacted a statewide smoking ban, and while I am enjoying the fact that I am breathing clearer air than I did before the ban, I am against it. I simply cannot support a law passed by the state simply under the auspices of "we will protect you from yourselves, and everyone around you a, by prohibiting X." I am actually appreciating that I can attend more after-work functions with my colleagues because the most common locations of these gatherings is now forced, by a state mandate, to be smoke free. However, I honestly don't believe that they should be forced to do this. If the facility is smoke-filled to the point that it bothers me, I can simply vote with my feet and leave. I am as free to not smoke as people should be to smoke.

That being said, I do not believe that the taxpayers should pay to treat smoking-related illnesses. Medicare and Medicaid dollars should be used only to alleviate the pain of these diseases, and not attempt to cure them. Every person who exercises their right to smoke does so in the full awareness of the health risks involved, and thereby assumes the liability and responsibility for the negative consequences.

I am leery of government power, especially when it is used to limit the freedom and choices of the people. Perhaps a less intrusive government would be smaller, cheaper and more efficient, and all of those people who get paid from tax money will, instead of being tax consumers, become tax PAYERS.

8^) Jim
- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Living Conservative in a Liberal World (Part 8): 21st Century Civil Rights

My generation ran it's civil rights race, and with a few exceptions, managed to clear all of the hurdles placed before us. The civil rights issue we had to deal with was racism. When I was young, I remember racism being rampant. Neighbors would congregate and talk about African Americans in unflattering terms. It didn't help that we were living in public housing at the time, and racists in the neighborhood had little fear about antagonizing their neighbors of color. When we left the projects, and we moved into a modest apartment, I remember mom and her friends evaluating wether a neighborhood was "too dark" to move in to.

Was mom a racist? Not really. She didn't HATE African-Americans (which I believe is the requirement to be considered a racist). She was what I would call civil-rights challenged. She didn't have any African-American friends, therefore she did not understand African-Americans, and like many people of narrow horizons and minds, she didn't want to expose herself or her children to things she did not understand or appreciate. In other words, she did not have the needed knowledge to overcome the stereotypes she learned from society.

My generation was the last generation born during the civil rights era, and therefore it was left to us, thrust together by the courts to learn to get along. And guess what? We did! The numbers of interracial marriages and biracial children are on the rise ... a testament to the fact that we figured it out.

So what is the great civil rights issue of the 21st century? Homophobia. I see it every day, and it is an issue that simmers under the surface of every public and private organization in America. It is in our schools, universities, workplaces, professional sports teams churches and the military.

Homophobia, as an issue will also be tougher than racism to deal with. At least with racism, there was no explicit biblical statements for racists to hang their hat on. The Bible directly condemns homosexuality, which then places homophobia in a different class altogether than racism. Sure, there are those who claim that the mark of Cain was black skin, but the Bible doesn't say that. However the Bible does say that for a man to have sex with a man is an "abomination" (Lev 20:13). So now, instead of being just a legal and political issue, Homophobia has a religious and moral dimension which cannot be ignored.

Rather than address the religious and moral issues around homosexuality, however, I will limit myself to the social and political issues, because that is the focus of this blog. I will leave it to the philosophers and theologians to have the other argument. Sure there are those who cling to the second part of that verse in Leviticus and say that homosexuals should be put to death, and there are plenty of examples of personal attacks on homosexuals, enough to fill an entire blog, much less a single post.

So the first task: defining what it is we are against. Sure, we can say that we are against homophobia, but the definition of homophobia would be fear of homosexuals, not hatred of homosexuals. We need to establish that there is nothing wrong with fear. Fear is a natural response to the different. The task is to either better define the word, or replace it with a better term.

Now regardless of wether you believe homosexuality is a sin or not, you have to admit that there has to be some national consensus as to the status of same-sex couples in the United States. Non-married heterosexual couples have some standing before the law. You can sue for palimony, with varying degrees of success at the end of a long-term live-in relationship. And if there are children involved, the legal status of the relationship becomes all the more definite.

So what should we do with same-sex couples in America? Put them in a rocket and fire it at the moon and pretend they never existed? Or better yet, how about we simply acknowledge that these relationships exist. Create a civil union law, and allow people to register their civil unions, and allow for the dissolution of civil unions under the divorce laws. Civil Unions would allow the same hospital, and legal rights as a marriage, so obviously, a dissolution process would be necessary. And, to avoid the stigmatization of same-sex couples, all unions of heterosexual couples not performed by an ordained member of the clergy (read: judge/justice of the peace) would also be classified as a civil union. Reserve the word marriage for a ceremony that takes place in a church, and leave the rest be. John Barrowman, the very talented British actor who just happens to be gay says he doesn't want a "marriage" from a belief system that "hates" him (read the article and interview here, if you like).

Surely this will not destroy the human race, although it does stand to make divorce lawyers richer with the infusion of a whole new marketplace of civil union dissolutions ...

Monday, January 10, 2011

Living Conservative in a Liberal World (Part 7): A Little Civility Please!

There is a local talk radio host who thinks that conservatives are wusses. We hold ourselves to a high ethical standard, and when liberals constantly take advantage of our high ethical standards and reap a political benefit, it is because we weren't willing to get down into the trenches and get dirty fighting back. He said that conservatives will never truly have political power until we are willing to play out of the same relaxed rule book as liberals, employing the same dirty tricks and taking advantage of every chink in their armor the way they do to conservatives.

Consider how the left set out to absolutely destroy Sarah Palin. They attacked her character, the character of her family (especially Bristol, with good reason), her intelligence and her ethics. When none of that worked, they attacked her for her clothes.

Now I am not a huge Sarah fan as readers of this blog may know. I don't have anything against her really, I just don't think she is the end-all be-all that some people believe she is. That being said however, I have a problem with people who can't leave well enough alone.

Recently, comedienne Kathy Griffin declared that her new target for the new year would be Willow Palin (read the article here if you like). She said that after having gone after Sarah, Todd and Bristol it is "Willow's year to go down" and that she wants "to offend a whole new Palin."

Can anyone say overkill? Why go after a 16 year old because you hate the politics of her mother? For that matter, what sane, rational person hates someone so much that they feel the need to attack their family? I mean, seriously, this isn't the mafia here. It is politics! And a couple years ago, when she "dated" Levi Johnston ... what was that all about? How hateful do you have to be in order to want to hurt the daughter of the person you hate by appearing in public with, and then vehemently denying you are dating, the father of that daughter's child?

I am not saying that only liberals have a problem with civility. It was conservatives after all, specifically Jerry Fallwell and his Moral Majority who fired the first shot in this war of incivility when they made politics a battle not of competing ideologies, but a battle between good and evil. I remember how riled up some conservatives got during this time in our political history. Nothing gets the blood of a religious person boiling like the belief that someone is acting against God.

So I make a plea here. Civility. Is it too much to ask for? Is it too much to ask that conservatives and liberals alike say "enough is enough, lets get back to the real issues here and stop this over the top incivility?"

Sadly, it may be.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Sometimes being forgetful pays off

I admit it ... I tend to be forgetful. I really do. I forget birthdays (that reminds me, mom's birthday is coming up), I forget to visit mom (I really, really need to do that tomorrow), I forget to return phone calls, emails and ... well, you get the idea.

So during the summer, I forgot to send in my registration renewal for my car. I kept meaning to do it, and I kept forgetting. Eventually, I ended up getting pulled over and issued a $175 citation. I put the citation in the visor of the car. I planned to send in a check for the fine, but I kept forgetting, kept forgetting ...

So finally, I realized that I needed to go into the courthouse and make the appearance since I ran out of time to mail it in. I got up early, drove down to the next county where I got pulled over, and made my appearance. I showed them my renewed registration, and they dismissed the ticket. Sweet!

Now, I am not saying that we should all go around forgetting things. I mean, honestly, I am sure that I should have remembered, but in the end it worked out ... this time. Next time, I might not be so lucky, so perhaps I should make sure that there is no next time.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

A Super Dude!

In Lynnwood, Washington, Phoenix Jones is on patrol. He has his eyes open for evil, and he is prepared to fight it. Only Phoenix Jones is not a cop, he is a real-life "superhero." He and some friends have formed a group called the "Rain City Superhero crimefighting movement."

He doesn't have any extraordinary powers other than his courage and willingness to put himself in harm's way for his fellow citizens.

His most recent exploit was chasing away a would-be car thief, caught in the act of breaking in to a car. You can read about the story and see the video here.

In our society, we have a serious lack of herores, super or otherwise. Celebrities and atheletes eschew the positions as role models that their successes thrust upon them, living lives that seem more to be cautionary tales rather than as people that parents would want their children to emulate. Sadly it takes a guy dressed up like a comic book character to make us realize there are still hereoes among us. We just can't see them, because they blend in with the rest of us.

The police officer who keeps us safe, the fire fighter who rescues people with no regard for their own safety, the doctor who saves lives of strangers. They are all heroes in my book, and now we can add Phoenix Jones.