Monthly Archives: September 2014

The Billionaires Club

A study of the world’s 2,325 billionaires developed a composite of the typical billionaire.

  • He is male, 63, and married.
  • He’s worth $3 billion.
  • He loves sports, and likes to attend high-profile sporting events.
  • He made most of his money on Wall Street during his 40s and 50s.
  • He keeps 20% of his money in cash, and 5% in real estate.
  • He owns 4 homes, each worth about $20 million.
  • Over his lifetime, he’ll give $100 million to charity–a third of it to educational institutions. That’s about 3% of their wealth. When you factor in billionaires like Gates and Buffet who give away a great deal of their wealth, it’s clear that many billionaires give very, very little away.

These billionaires control 4% of the world’s wealth.

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US Military Personnel Object to FoxNews Comments

A number of persons serving in the military wrote an open letter to FoxNews, addressed specifically to Eric Bolling and Greg Gutfield. Last week, the two pundits on “The Five” made sexist comments about Mariam Al Mansouri, a female major in the United Arab Emirates Air Force who led an attack on ISIS. Here is that letter. I highlighted a couple sections.

Dear Mr. Bolling and Mr. Gutfeld,

We are veterans of the United States armed forces, and we are writing to inform you that your remarks about United Arab Emirates Air Force Major Mariam Al Mansouri were unwarranted, offensive, and fundamentally opposed to what the military taught us to stand for.

First, foremost, and most obvious to everyone other than yourselves, your remarks were immensely inappropriate. Your co-host Kimberly Guilfoyle was so right to call attention to an inspiring story of a woman shattering glass ceilings in a society where doing so is immeasurably difficult. We never heard an answer to her question: why did you feel so compelled to “ruin her thing?”

As it turns out, women have been flying combat aircraft since before either of you were born. Over 1,000 Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs) flew during World War II. Seeing as U.S. Army Air Forces Commander “Hap” Arnold said “Now in 1944, it is on the record that women can fly as well as men,” we can probably guess he thought their parking was adequate. The WASP legacy reaches into the present day; on 9/11, then Lt. Heather “Lucky” Penney scrambled her F-16. Completely unarmed, she was ready to lay down her own life to prevent further devastating attacks on American soil.

Thus the skill of women as fighter pilots is well established. And before you jump to the standby excuse that you were “just making a joke” or “having a laugh,” let the men amongst our number preemptively respond: You are not funny. You are not clever. And you are not excused. Perhaps the phrase “boys will be boys”—inevitably uttered wherever misogyny is present—is relevant. Men would never insult and demean a fellow servicemember; boys think saying the word ‘boobs’ is funny.

The less obvious implication of your remarks, however, is that by offending an ally and cheapening her contribution, you are actively hurting the mission. We need to send a clear message that anyone, male or female, who will stand up to ISIS and get the job done is worthy of our respect and gratitude.

We issue an apology on your behalf to Major Al Mansouri knowing that anything your producers force you to say will be contrived and insincere. Major, we’re sincerely sorry for the rudeness; clearly, these boys don’t take your service seriously, but we and the rest of the American public do.

Very Respectfully,

Michael Breen, U.S. Army
Shawn VanDiver, U.S. Navy
Kristen Rouse, U.S. National Guard
Andrea Marr, U.S. Navy
Kristen Kavanaugh, U.S. Navy
Richard Wheeler, U.S. Army
Leo Cruz, U.S. Navy
Aryanna Hunter, U.S. Army
Geoff Orazem U.S. Marine Corps
Scott Cheney-Peters, U.S. Navy
Jonathan Murray, U.S. Marine Corps
Timothy Kudo, U.S. Marine Corps
Welton Chang, U.S. Army
Michael Smith, U.S. Army
Gordon Griffin, U.S. Marine Corps
Kelsey Campbell, U.S. Air Force
Matt Runyon, U.S. Army
Richard Weir, U.S. Marine Corps
Scott Holcomb, U.S. Army
Jon Gensler, U.S. Army
Erik Brine, U.S. Air Froce
Rob Miller, U.S. Marine Corps
Josh Weinberg, U.S. Army
John Wagner, U.S. Air Force
Terron Sims II, U.S. Army
Sonia Fernandez, U.S. Marine Corps
Dan Hartnett, U.S. Army
Dan Futrell, U.S. Army
John Margolick, U.S. Marine Corps
Daniel Savage, U.S. Army
Matt Pelak, U.S. Army,
LaRue Robinson, U.S. Army
Anthony Woods, U.S Army
Margot Beausey, U.S. Navy
Dustin Cathcart, U.S. Army
Kayla Williams, U.S. Army
Dan Espinal, U.S. Army
Jonathan Hopkins, U.S. Army
Tony Johnson, U.S. Navy
Andy Moore, U.S. Army
Kevin Johnson, U.S. Army
Brett Hunt, U.S. Army
Russell Galeti, U.S. Army
Gail Harris, U.S. Navy
Katelyn Geary van Dam, U.S. Marine Corps
Mick Crnkovich, U.S. Army
Jonathan Freeman, U.S. Army
Chris Finan, U.S. Air Force
Robert Mishev, U.S. Air Force
Matt Zeller, U.S. Army
William Allen, U.S. Marine Corps
Sharmistha Mohpatra, U.S. Army
Adam Tiffen, U.S. Army
Alex Cornell du Houx, U.S. Navy
Jason Cain, U.S. Army
Rob Bracknell, U.S. Marine Corps
Karen Courington, U.S. Air Force
Justin Graf, U.S. Army
Lach Litwer, U.S. Army
Andrew Borene, U.S. Marine Corps

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Five Mentalities Christian Leaders Should Avoid

Ed Stetzer, a Southern Baptist, wrote on about five mentalities pastors should avoid. I found them worth passing along.

1. Elitist Mentality: Your church is the only one you know doing things the right way.

I’ve seen this plenty. I find it very annoying.

2. Theologically Superior: You won’t read authors from outside of your own theological stream.

United Brethren, as a breath of fresh air in the religious spectrum, don’t insist that only we have everything figured out.

3. Exclusionary Attitude: You refuse to partner with other local churches on community initiatives.

My local church does a great job here.

4. Narcissistic: You are more worried about what people think of your church than what they think of your family.

A couple examples come to mind–big name ministers (uh, Oral Roberts?) and more common fare. Not true of my own pastor, thankfully, who strikes me as a really good dad. And it certainly wasn’t true of my dad.

5. Overly Competitive: You consider the church down the street your competition.

This one is widespread–too close to human nature, I guess. When a nearby church is going great, and you’re struggling, it’s natural to feel a sense of competition.

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NRA: The Crazies in Charge


Getting better. At 100 yards, put 30 of 30 in a six-inch circle, with my .223. Now, if I can just squeeze everything within the 4-inch circle.

Very frequently when I go to a gun range, I meet people my age who, like me, are new to shooting within the last few years. Maybe (like me) they shot guns when they were younger, but got away from it. Maybe (like me) they finally have the discretionary income to pursue this hobby.

Anyway, I enjoy getting acquainted. A lot of good people. A few worrisome types now and then, but not the rule.

I would love to see a national gun organization that focuses on gun training, safety, shooting, and general responsibility. The NRA does some good things, but I refuse to join as long as Wayne LaPierre and other extremists are in charge. Their agenda isn’t gun responsibility, but gun proliferation. They oppose every common sense idea regarding gun safety, they sow paranoia and fear, and they scare people about the government swooping in to take away their guns, even as gun laws are increasingly relaxed in state after state. And they use dues to buy off scores of Congressmen. I simply won’t support that.

I’ve taken excellent gun safety classes from NRA instructors. But I won’t join. Not with the crazies in charge.

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FoxNews Disrespects Women in Uniform

I was shocked yesterday by Eric Bolling’s sexist statement on FoxNews‘s “The Five” about the United Arab Emirates fighter pilot, a woman, who led a raid on ISIS. After claiming to have so much respect for people who put their lives in danger for us, he proceeded to totally disrespect this woman–who, in addition to being a highly trained pilot, is also somewhat of a trailblazer in the Arab world. Greg Gutfield added to it with his trademark flippancy.

This goes beyond political correctness. It’s hypocrisy and blatant disrespect of women in uniform. Today Bolling gave a really lame apology. He apologized to his wife for the statement, and he apologized to viewers. Missing was an apology to this UAE pilot. And nothing from Gutfield (who is always extremely self-pleased with his own cleverness).

I don’t put a lot of stock in “The Five.” Bob Beckel and Dana Perino are good and fair, with resumes that go beyond FoxNews. But the others basically use the show to reinforce their anti-Obama bona fides, seeking Roger Ailes’ approval so he’ll keep them on the payroll. I guess Bolling’s statement shouldn’t be too surprising. This, after all, is the “news” network that loves putting women (usually blondes) in very short, tight dresses atop stools with cameras pointed at them.

However, in a personal bit of hypocrisy, I usually end up listening to “The Five” on the way home from work. My other choices are Ed Schultz on MSNBC, a gargantuan blowhard; the fingernails-on-blackboard Wolf Blitzer on CNN; and the ridiculous Dan Le Betard show on ESPN. “The Five” is simply the least objectionable option.

UPDATE Sept 26
I did some checking. Turns out Eric Bolling has a lot of experience with apologizing.

In 2011 Bolling, on a Fox business show, he apologized for racist comments he directed at Obama. Referring to a state visit by the President of Gabon and by rapper Common, Bolling commented, “What’s with all the hoods in the hizzy?”

In 2011, he tweeted an apology for a statement on The Five in which he said President Obama had been a drug dealer. The same comment was also made on Hannity’s show.

In 2011, he said on The Five: “”America was certainly safe between 2000 and 2008. I don’t remember any terrorist attacks on American soil during that period of time.” He later apologized for that.

In September 2012, Bolling said Obama “answers to the Quran first and to the Constitution second.” To which co-host Bob Beckel slammed his fist on the table and said, “”That’s just an outrageous statement. Even for you, that’s an outrageous statement.” Bolling sort of backtracked on the statement later in the show.

In 2011, he apologized for saying on-air that “The Obama-allied Center for American Progress” released a report blaming Islamophobia in America on “a small group of Jews and Israel supporters in America.” Actually, he got his information from a right-wing blog.

In May 2011, he proclaimed on Fox Business’s “Follow the Money” show that he was a birther. “There is a legitimate question as to whether or not the president of the United States is allowed to be president of the United States.” He was convinced the birth certificate had been Photoshopped. Never apologized for that. I don’t know if he’s still a birther.

In short: Eric Bolling is not somebody to take seriously. Though he comes across as a fairly nice guy.

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One Million Hours, and Still Burning


Back in the 1980s, I read “On the Road with Charles Kuralt,” a delightful, folksy book with short chapters. One chapter told about a lightbulb which had been burning almost continuously since 1901 at a firestation in Livermore, Calif.

I just came across an article about the bulb. It is STILL burning. The bulb was made by the Shelby Electric Company. General Electric bought out Shelby and discontinued their lightbulb. Kind of like how oil and car companies buy out the patents for fuel-efficient technologies, and bury those patents.

cb6 copyToday, the average lightbulb lasts 1000-2000 hours. LED bulbs last up to 50,000 hours. The Shelby lightbulb has been burning for nearly 1 million hours. It has achieved celebrity status. It’s called the Centennial Light, and has its own continuous Bulbcam.

Back in the early days of lightbulbs, companies bragged about the longevity of their bulbs. But in 1924, General Electric and other companies formed the Phoebus Cartel, under the pretense of standardizing lightbulbs. Actually, their goal was “planned obsolescence.” They limited the life expectancy of bulbs to 1000 hours (GE had achieved 1200 hours decades before), and fined companies that exceeded that. They also halted additional research on lightbulbs.

Capitalism, or shall I say greed, at work.

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Slim Pickings

I read an article by a journalist who has spent lots of time with the various rebel groups in Syria. He said every group he has encountered is happy about 9/11. So basically our strategy is, let’s arm and support the rebel group that is LEAST jubilant about the murder of 3000 Americans.

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ISIS vs. ISIL. And What is the Levant?


Is it ISIS or ISIL? And what exactly is the Levant? Obviously, this evil group isn’t going away for a while, so we might as well try to understand the name.

I did a Google search on “ISIS vs. ISIL,” and gobs of articles turned up. The best one was on But I’ll try to sum up what I learned.

levantmapWhether we use ISIS or ISIL, we’re using a translation of what the group actually calls itself. Remember, not everyone in the world speaks American. Their actual name in arabic is “Al-Dawla Al-Islamiya fi al-Iraq wa al-Sham.” That’s quite a mouthful. It roughly translates as “The Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham.” The “al-Sham” part is where “Levant” comes from. And it can mean several things.

The Levant CAN refer to all the territory from the Mediterranean Sea to Iran–Palestine, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, parts of Turkey and Egypt, and even more territory in the Arabian Peninsula. However, “Levant” can also refer just to Syria, or even only to the area around Damascus. Some Arab scholars say the way ISIS (or ISIL) uses the term, that’s what they mean–The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.

However, others (perhaps the Obama administration, but it’s unsure) use “Levant” in the broader sense because they say that is the group’s aspiration–to establish an Islamic state covering all of those countries.

And that completes today’s lesson.

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The NFL: 1 in 40


In any given year, 1 in 40 NFL players is arrested for something more significant than a traffic violation, according to the NY Times (32 teams x 53 players each). None of the persons I’ve worked with during my 35-year career have been arrested. Do 1 of 40 persons in your workplace get arrested every year?

Since 2000, there have been 713 such arrests among NFL players, a 2.53% rate. Interestingly, the NY Times says that’s below the national average for men in that age range.  The current 2014 is shaping up to have the lowest number of arrests on record.

Of those 713 arrests:

  • 202 – driving under the influence.
  • 88 – assault and battery (which is their job description).
  • 85 – domestic violence.
  • 82 – drugs.

The teams with the most arrests, in order: Minnesota (44), Cincinnati (43), and Denver (40). At the bottom were St. Louis, Houston, and Arizona, all with just 11 player arrests.

The perceived Bad Boys of the NFL are the Ravens and Raiders. But the Ravens are right at the league average of 22 arrests, and the Raiders are a bit below it with 19 arrests.

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Songs that Tell a Story

I love the song “The Ghost of Vicksburg,” by the Stone Coyotes. It’s a great story-telling song for Civil War buffs. While listening to it this weekend, I mused about other songs that tell a story–famous songs. Here are my ten favorite (only one per performer):

  • “Cats in the Cradle,” by Harry Chapin.
  • “A Boy Named Sue,” by Johnny Cash.
  • “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald,” by Gordon Lightfoot.
  • “The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia,” by Vicki Lawrence.
  • “The 8th of November,” by Big & Rich.
  • “The Devil Went Down to Georgia,” by Charlie Daniels.
  • “Bad, Bad, Leroy Brown,” by Jim Croce.
  • “One Tin Soldier,” by the Original Caste.
  • “Smoke on the Water,” by Deep Purple.
  • “Mississippi Squirrel Revival,” by Ray Stevens.
  • “Billy Don’t be a Hero,” by Paper Lace.
  • “Convoy,” by CW McCall.

Okay, I’ve got to add a second song by Paper Lace, “The Night Chicago Died.” I heard that one a lot during my formative teen years in the 1970s. Along with over half of the other songs in the list–Harry Chapin, Jim Croce, Deep Purple, Original Caste, CW McCall, Gordon Lightfoot, and Vicki Lawrence. Amazing how songs from your high school years stay with you.

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