Worst Case

My new Durango displays my tire pressure. With the cold, my tires were under-inflated. The on-board computer told me to add a few pounds of pressure, so I did. But air hoses are not an exact science. Now, say the computer, I’m a couple pounds over. I’m not sure a couple pounds really matters. Nevertheless, I asked Google if over-inflating tires is a bad thing.

A couple persons gave “the worst that can happen” answers–uneven tire wear, a blow-out. Then someone gave this answer: “The worst that can happen: you die taking others with you.”

Okay, I’ll let out some air.

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Let the World Know

BusinessWeek has a fascinating article about the organization Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctos Without Borders). It says the organization was begun by doctors who served with the Red Cross in Nigeria during the Biafran war. Those doctors wanted to speak out about what they considered to be genocide, but the Red Cross wouldn’t let them. So they started their own organization which would make it a core value to speak out in such situation.

The article says, “If MSF members encountered violations of human rights, they were not, as the [Red Cross] encouraged in Nigeria in 1970, to exercise ‘discretion.’ They were to raise hell and make sure the world knew about it.”

I love that!

Kaci Hickox, the nurse who was quarantined after returning from Sierra Leone, where she treated Ebola patients, worked with Doctors Without Borders. Considering the ruckus she raised, sounds like she was a perfect fit.

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Rosetta vs. the Dallas Cowboys

Landing the Rosetta spacecraft on a speeding comet is a pretty extraordinary thing. Rosetta has been traveling for 10 years. Who figures this stuff out, getting Rosetta and the comet in the same place at the same time?

Rosetta cost $1.4 billion. The website Vox points out that that is less than half of what was spent on the midterm election. It’s just a little bit more than the cost of the Dallas Cowboys stadium.

India sent a craft on a 10-month, 420 million mile journey, which put it in orbit around Mars. The cost: $750 million. By comparison, the movie “Gravity” cost $100 million.

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The Shamefulness of Voter Suppression

I continue to be outraged at the ways Republicans try to prevent Democrats from voting. It’s called voter suppression, and it’s normally aimed at poor people and ethnic minorities. I find it totally shameful. And un-American. I cannot possibly champion democracy while also trying to prevent people from voting. The two don’t go together.

Now, I don’t have a problem with voter IDs. Though instances of voter fraud are extremely rare, the idea is valid. But Republicans have taken voter suppression way beyond that. A wide range of tactics are being used in local and state elections to make it more difficult for poor people and minorities to vote.

Here are some of the tactics being used.

  • Eliminate early voting days. Minorities use early voting far more extensively than other people.
  • Reduce the number of polling places in areas with large minority communities. One Florida county, heavy with minorities, eliminated half of the poliing places.
  • Redistrict to push all of a community’s minorities into a small number of districts to dilute their voting power.
  • Divide minority districts so that minorities now find themselves grouped into districts where their votes will be outnumbered by the majority population.
  • Limit the number of places and hours where you can get a voter ID.
  • Move polling places for urban districts to suburban locations.
  • Eliminate Sunday voting (a day when African Americans vote heavily).
  • Eliminate weekend early voting altogether (days when working class people are more likely to be off work).
  • Cut back on early morning and evening voting hours (to favor professional workers over working class workers).
  • Eliminate same-day registration.
  • Eliminate absentee voting.
  • In Dade County, Florida, where voting lines in minority districts were extremely long, voters weren’t allowed to use restrooms.
  • Purge suspected felons from voting rolls. They then show up to vote, and are told them aren’t registered. In Florida, this has happened to thousands of voters. In 2000, about 50,000 persons were told they would be dropped from the rolls unless they proved their innocence. Florida has also wrongfully purged persons for being non-citizens (including a World War 2 vet).
  • The Republican legislature in Wisconsin eliminated early voting on nights and weekends.
  • In some states, in order to get a voter ID, people must provide a residential address.
  • In Republican dominated Arizona, voter registration cards and other materials were distributed with the correct date on the English language version, and a date two days later (after the election) on the Spanish language version.
  • Place unreasonable requirements on nonprofit organizations that conduct voter registration drives. (Like the League of Women Voters.)
  • Until 2008, over half of Floridians used early voting, a disproportionate number being minorities. Florida reduced early voting from 14 days to 8 days. Ohio went further, reducing early voting from 35 days to 11 days. Both states eliminated voting on the Sunday before the election; black churches have historically mobilized members to vote on that day.
  • Georgia reduced early voting from 45 to 21 days. Wisconsin cut out 16 days, West Virginia 5 days.
  • Require a photo ID, and that it be gotten from the DMV…and then reduce DMV hours leading up to the election.
  • Put voting locations for poor people in areas where they must pay for parking.
  • To cut down on young voters, who tend to vote Democratic, several states no longer allow student IDs from state universities to be used as voter ID.
  • An estimated 25% of African American’s don’t have a current government-issued photo ID.
  • Deny voting rights to ex-felons who complete their sentences. There are 5.3 million Americans, disproportionately minorities, who are former felons.
  • Require a birth certificate as proof of citizenship, and then make it difficult to get a birth certificate. Cut the hours of agencies that give out birth certificates, and also require a fee to obtain a copy of your birth certificate.
  • Disallow a birth certificate if the person spells their name differently than on the birth certificate.
  • Require a photo ID to get a birth certificate…and require a birth certificate to get a photo ID.
  • Wisconsin, Tennessee, and Texas closed DMV branch offices.
  • In the weeks leading up to an election, cut the hours of agencies that issue photo IDs.
  • Eliminating early voting increases the size of lines on election day, which makes it more difficult for working class people to take the time needed to vote.

Those are just some of the tactics Republicans are using. They DO NOT want certain people to vote. Like I said–totally shameless, and un-American.

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The Naysayers of Doom

I accidentally listened to Wolf Blitzer on the way home from work tonight. At one point, as a teaser before a break, he said something like, “Our allies have joined the fight again ISIS. But is it too late?”

And I thought, “Why couldn’t he have just said, ‘Our allies have joined the fight again ISIS. Hooray! Isn’t that good news!'”

Why can’t we pause to celebrate good news, instead of immediately looking for the downside? Is naysaying really necessary?

I imagined how Wolf Blitzer, and other cable news anchors, would have treated other major stories.

“The allies have landed at Normandy. But have we walked into Hitler’s trap? We’ll talk to our experts…after the break.”

“Smallpox has been eradicated from the earth. We’ll examine the plight of scientists who are now out of work.”

“The Cold War has come to an end. Bad news for spy novelists like John Le Carre. Can the book industry survive?”

“George Washington defeats the British at Yorktown. But do we really think we can govern ourselves? We’ll talk to several experts who say we’ll regret this.”

“Jesus has ascended to heaven. What is he running away from? We’ll ask our roundtable.”

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Myths About Taking Care of Your Car

I’m a real dunce when it comes to cars. I don’t know how they work. If a problem occurs, I can pop the hood and look at the engine with interest, but it might as well be a Star Trek warp drive. I don’t know what I’m looking for. In fact, it’ll probably take me 10 minutes to figure out how to pop the hood.

My brother, Stewart Dennie, got all the mechanical genes. My wife, Pam Dennie, is far more mechanical than I am. So this article about car-care myths was helpful to me.

I remember when I got a Toyota Corolla back in 1989 and took it in for its annual tune-up. The service guy (a friend) told me, “All you’ll ever need to do with a Toyota is occasionally replace the dome light.” That was my introduction to the tune-up myth. This article takes it much furthers.

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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 ChristianityToday.com 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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