27 February 2014

The Desperate State of the Religious Right

While Freedom marches forward, let us never forget those who have fought so long and hard to deny those freedoms to us all. The Religious Right has been in the forefront opposing equality for the LGBT community for many years. They have consistently demonized all LGBT people as evil and degenerate without any consideration of their actions. As the attacks have continued through the years, the majority of Americans have come to realize that while they might not agree with homosexuality on a personal level, to side with those who seek to deny rights to other citizens is the true evil and degenerate position.

As the pendulum of public opinion has swung away from RWNJ, their influence has waned. This is something that they cannot stand because their phony “morality” and fake “family values” are tools that they use to keep their sheep in line. Without a majority of people following these con games, RWNJ influence declines. This is good news, but the aspect that we must keep in mind is that RWNJ have shifted their attacks to the local and state level. Sadly, most people don’t seem to care about the local struggles of someone else. Tip O’Neill once famously said that “all politics are local” and he was right. Only by awareness can we keep up the struggle to remove the RWNJ lunatics from our political life and banish them to the ash heap of history.

The recent attempt to pass a law enshrining discrimination that was finally vetoed in Arizona is a good attempt at how desperate RWNJ have become. They now want to disguise their hate-filled agenda as “religious freedom”. The sad part is the RWNJ base approves of these desperate attempts to divide us. There will always be sheep that want to follow shysters so there will always be a fringe of RWNJ lunatics out there. Our job as citizens, regardless of our physical location, is to maintain the struggle to insure that EVERYONE has their basic rights guaranteed and respected. Attempting to codify discrimination is NOT an American value that we should ever work to advance.

25 February 2014

A Pleasant Surprise

Today is one of those days that seemingly was doomed from the start. Here it is, the 25th of February, and the DC area is getting snow once again. The weather guessers say we won't get much, but these are the same weather guessers that said whatever we got would not even reach the ground. About an hour or so later, their words are empty. I am keeping my eyes on the roads. If the snow starts to accumulate on the road surface, it might be time to start canceling meetings and making plans to head home. I do not want to fight the panic-stricken DC motorist, and they are everywhere when there is snow falling.

I spent the day running between locations for various meetings, including one with the CEO of the company. I am happy to say that I was selected as Employee of the Quarter so I am very glad that I made it to that particular meeting!

Home now and ready for what I hope will ve a great night of sleep, There is a forecast for more snow in the morning, but we will cross that bridge when we get there.

24 February 2014

Can We Go Home Again?

I was talking to a Twitter friend on Monday night who happens to live near the small town where I grew up. She lamented the lack off opportunities in the area and the lack of culture as some of the reasons that she wants out of there. I completely sympathize and understand what she is talking about. It leads me to think about the old adage that "You Can't Go Home Again".

I grew up in a small town in Western Kentucky, on the banks of the Ohio River. Growing up, I thought it was the best place in the world because my field of comparison was so limited. As I entered high school, thoughts of my future began to stretch the ties that bound me to my hometown. I wanted to go to college, that was also a dream of my parents. They had always tried to instill in me a Love of Life and everyone in it. I was taught to grow and explore the world and to reach my own conclusions about it. My parents had the misfortune of not being from a family that could count the generations of dead in the local cemeteries since my Dad had arrived there as part of his job with the railroad. Therefore, we were always "outsiders" to some degree. That depended on the people making the judgement and as I grew older, I came to realize that those judgements were based on how much control it allowed them to have over those that they judged. My parents were both fiercely independent, and transferred that on to me. This made us apparently rather destined to remain outsiders in that small town.

I went to the University of Kentucky in Lexington after high school and my eyes were opened to the bigger world. Lexington might seem like something of a backwater town, but by Kentucky standards, it is downright liberal! I determined while I was in college that I was not going back to my hometown for any length of time. I decided that my future existed in places that I had not even dreamed of visiting at that time. I joined the Navy and saw parts of the world that most of my high school classmates could only dream of. I lived all over the US during those years and my horizons never ceased to expand with each new day.

I left the Navy when my Mom became very ill. She died within a few weeks and since my Dad had died while I was in high school, I knew that my ties with my hometown were irrevocably broken. The last time I visited there was in 2001, a few months after I had settled affairs and sold the house and the other necessary things. I had to take a break and get away from the atmosphere in order to breathe again. About 6 months later, I returned to my hometown with my partner, who had also been there at the end with my Mom, and I found that the people I had grown up with were nothing like that now. I realize that I have changed more than they have, but the friendships were no longer there. The only people from my class that I can relate to are the others who managed to escape the small-town trap.

I still have some extended family there in my hometown, but we aren't close at all anymore. I am seen as the Black Sheep because I am Gay and I have been all over the world and I am happy with my life. Apparently, these are the things that I should never have succeeded at, and that means that my very existence has to be erased rather than allow me to remain a part of the place at all. Initially, this was something painful to me. Then I remembered something that my Dad had told me years ago. "We are all outsiders here" he said, "And that makes us dangerous to these people. They cannot understand us, and that means that they cannot control us. Remember that and never let them take it away from you." My Dad was a wise man.

I live and learn every day, the pain at being almost excluded from my hometown faded rapidly. It was only the conversation with my Twitter friend that brought all this up in my mind right now. I understand how she feels about leaving, but I encouraged her to do so because I also understood the awful certainties if she chose to stay.

I do envy those who have somewhat happier backgrounds, but mine is what it is, and not the bad background of a dysfunctional family. Mine comes from the smallness and intolerance of those I grew up with and also the triumph that I feel for never giving in to the lowered expectations that they still live by.

I know that in my personal case, I Can't Go Home Again.

February 24

Today has been a day that I want to forget for so many reasons. I took today off from work in order to take Hal in for one of his eye appointments. I do this whenever it is required, and that is not the problem.

We left here approximately 90 minutes prior to his appointment only to find that the Capital Beltway was completely jammed between here and where we needed to go. Naturally, we were late for Hal's appointment although he had called from his cell phone to let them know about the traffic problems we encountered. They told Hal that it was not a big deal. I got Hal to the doctor approximately 15 minutes late for his appointment and left him at the office while I went to fill the Beetle with gas since it was running low.

I had just replaced the gas pump when my cell phone rang and it was Hal
He told me that the office staff would NOT let him see the doctor without a referral! These were the same ducking idiots that had spoken with him numerous times about this very appointment, including rescheduling it at least twice prior to today. The idea that they never thought to ask Hal to bring a referral is ridiculous!

Hal was pissed, and I was furious although I never went into the office myself. The American health care system is full of these stupid rules and is administered by people graciously described as FUCKING IDIOTS! Hal eventually got a call from the doctor herself asking why he had not been present for his appointment. Hal informed her that he had SIGNED IN at the office this morning before her staff pulled their ridiculous BULLSHIT.

So, the office staff is not only INCOMPETENT, they are also FUCKING LIATS as well. I would have been arrested if I had been the one treated that way, but I will let Hal handle things in his own way.

23 February 2014

Euromaidan

The situation in the Ukraine has changed dramatically in the last 24 hours. President Yanukovich was removed by the Ukrainian Parliament, although he insists that this is nothing more than an illegal coup. His whereabouts are unknown at this time, but I fully expect to see him surface in Moscow in the very near future.

The protests in Kiev were the key to these latest developments. The protests, which have been going on for months, were initially peaceful and only recently turned violent. Apparently the images of the police and State Security forces assaulting the protesters were what tipped the balance of power and caused the downfall of Yanukovich.

Yulia Tymoshenko was the President of the Ukraine who was forced out by Yanikovich. She was then removed from public life, a la the Soviet style. She remained a very popular figure and that fact probably saved her life. The protesters demanded her return to political life in the country, and that too has been accomplished.

The important thing now is to see how Russia reacts to this development. The Euromaidan movement successfully stopped a development deal that would have brought Ukraine back into a semi-satellite status with Russia. The people want more freedom and closer ties to Western Europe.

22 February 2014

February 22 and more Financial Advice

After the lengthy blog post I submitted yesterday, I realized that I had not completed the story and advice about how I have worked my way almost completely out of debt. There are several key facts that I did not include in my last post. I do not want these to go unwritten.

Always make your monthly payments via United States Postal Service Money Orders. This step will prove to the creditors that you mean business. Under no conditions should a creditor ever have access to your bank account. While people will say that an automatic deduction taken by the creditor each month is a convenient way to pay your bill, you have also given the creditor far too much information in the process. If you already have done this, close the account and open another preferably at another back or credit union altogether.

Every month for the last 5+ years, I have withdrawn money from my savings account and then taken that cash to the nearest Post Office that provides Money Orders. I always pay cash for these money order, that usually runs just over a dollar for each money order.

I always send the money order to the creditor via REGISTERED MAIL. This is another protection for you. I make copies of the envelope, the Registered Mail receipts and the paperwork and of course the actual money order. This provides me with an easily accessible record of these payments and the means to initiate tracking of any that the creditor claims have not arrived. This does run approximately $5-6 dollar for each item, but it is money well spent. A USPS Money Order is a different type of animal for making payments. Any tampering with this constitutes a FELONY and the USPS will prosecute those responsible.

I suffered in the past from creditors and collections companies calling to harass me. CHANGE YOUR NUMBER immediately. Only notification IN WRITING is valid from these leeches, yet they never seem to follow through as long as they are receiving payments from you each month. Standing up to these vampires was rewarding and allowed me to vent at the same time.

I learned to NEVER allow creditors access to my bank/credit union or other information. As long as you are paying them in accordance with agreements or minimum payments, they cannot do anything other than threaten you. Don't be afraid to stand up for your rights in this process. And as I said earlier, it is easier to change your number than deal with the hassle.

21 February 2014

February 20 and Financial Advice

As this week winds down, I am relaxing here at home. While the weather was warmer today, I will still be very glad to see the end of this winter! I try to focus on the good things that are happening to Hal and myself rather than spend too much time focusing on the weather, since we cannot control that anyway.

One area that I am very pleased with is my finances. I will have one of the big bills paid off before July of this year and that will be such a huge relief to me and my budget. The past 5+ years have been brutal at times for me as I struggled to make my monthly settlement payments to creditors. There were times when the choice literally come down to food or payments. I cut back on food in order to not fall behind on the payments. I swore to myself that I will never let that happen to me again!

Now I can look at my budget and see extra money that I instantly put into my savings every 2 weeks. As the balance increases, I am assured that when Hal and I move later this year that the expense will be manageable, even if I have to take on most of the cost myself and let Hal pay me back later. It has been many years since I felt the luxury of having money set aside for a particular purpose other than paying bills. I also have learned to resist the temptation to go out and spend extra money that I now have because I know that will just delay getting out from under the debt and probably incurring new debts that I don't need.

I cannot say with 100% certainty that I will never be in debt again, but I will do everything in my power to avoid things getting out of control as they did in the past. I am already planning which expenses need to be addressed in what priority as the summer finally arrives. My savings balance will grow even more quickly as I put the money that was going to service my debts into savings and keep building that balance up. As it grows, necessary expenses can then be covered using that money that is being specifically saved for that purpose, I have learned to live with less, and I will not forget that lesson in the future.

Friends have asked me how I managed to be on the verge of having massive debts paid off. The first discipline is to calculate how much one can pay each month on a debt in addition to whatever minimum payment has been set. As painful as it sounds, you need to pay approximately 3x the minimum amount due each month to really see a reduction in your debt. Not everyone can immediately manage that amount, but I was always able to find a way to at least double the minimum payment most months, if not every month. As I learned to live on less I was then able to increase those monthly payments.

A really important is to not let up when you begin to see progress. Once you have found the amount that you can pay, you should only increase it, never reduce it just because the balance is going down and the minimum goes down with it. This is a trick that credit card companies play on consumers to keep them in as much debt as possible. I recently read that a $6000 balance on a credit card that is supported by only the minimum monthly payments will actually cost you approximately $30,000 to pay off at that pace, and it will take many years to get there.

One method I used to determine a good amount to pay was to check each monthly statement and see how much the interest charge was. I ignored the minimum payment portion of the bill. If you can double or triple the amount of the interest that you pay each month, you will truly begin to see the balance begin to shrink. The key is to keep paying at that level as the interest charge finally begins to shrink as your balance decreases.

It also goes without saying that you should never use a card that you are paying down on except for an emergency when there is no other option available to you. This can happen due to car expenses, or even worse, an illness. Just try to avoid using the card except in those conditions.

If you have reached agreements with creditors through the courts, ALWAYS pay those monthly bills. Obviously you run the risk of big trouble if you fall behind there. The advantage of these payments is that you realistically should only pay the amount for the specified time. This at least gives you a set amount to budget for each month. In a way that does make it easier to maintain your process and also allows you to find the extra money for the credit cards.

I did not intend to get off on such a tangent, but I know how difficult this can be. If my advice helps even one person, then I am very happy to have written about it.

20 February 2014

February 20

I am finishing off a very busy day by waiting for my Chiropractic appointment at 6:30 pm. Today was busier than most Thursdays because it has been a short week for me. Naturally, I could not keep the panicked wolves at bay any longer as they fretted over a week with a holiday thrown in.

It is now 9 pm and I have just finished a lite dinner. I will be heading to bed in a few minutes and am definitely ready for Friday.

19 February 2014

Struggles for Freedom

I am always amazed at the casual carelessness with which most Americans respond to the loss of Freedom in the pursuit of so-called Security. I am in awe of the people in the Ukraine who are refusing to allow their country to fall back into the Russian sphere of influence. One has to wonder what type of tragedy would provoke Americans to put down their remote controls en masse and take to the streets to defend this country from those who would harm it.

Sadly, we have a group that is all too ready to resort to violence to get their way, but these are the repressive and reactionary RWNJ (Right Wing Nut Jobs) who cannot accept the fact of a Black President after 5 years and a successful re-election. These people are the ones that the rest of us need to maintain a constant watch on, because our freedom is at stake if these people ever achieve power. They are in the process of destroying the Republican Party, which thought it could harness the insane rage for temporary benefit. The Republican Party has learned, however, that these RWNJ lunatics are not interested in any type of compromise. Their goals are to disenfranchise any and all who disagree with them on any subject. The Republican Party has gotten burned by playing with these pyromaniacs.

Having said that, Americans are too enthralled with celebrity info-porn to care that much. Americans have a disturbing habit of thinking that things like political extremism cannot happen here. Sadly, that is not the case. The same people who believe that nonsense are the first ones to complain that they don't have time to be involved with politics, or they find politics distasteful. These are also poor excuses for non-involvement. Being fed sweet and tasty morsels of info-porn are not substitutes for being properly informed about what is going on around us.

Looking at the Ukraine, I wonder what it would take for Americans to wake up and realize that Freedom is Never Free. Freedom demands eternal vigilance.

18 February 2014

February 18

Today has been a rather relaxing one. I got a wonderful full-body massage from Hal this morning before we went out to spend some time together on a beautiful day. We came home late in the afternoon and had not spent any money at all! I am relaxing and will be watching the UK vs Ole Miss game tonight at 7 pm before going to bed and then finally heading back to the office in the morning. I have really benefited from this day off. I need to do this more often as the weather warms up.

I already know what my next big project at work is going to be and I am looking forward to getting started with it. It will give me another opportunity to prove my value and to gain some experience. I will try to let everyone know more as things develop.

17 February 2014

President's Day

It is great to have today off from work. It is difficult to break the habits that I have fallen into as the result of my job, however. I managed to force myself to sleep in an extra 3 hours and get out of bed at 0800 this morning. I feel like the day has already passed me by since I am normally at work by 0630 in the morning. Hal is still on his normal Monday schedule and even though we are trying to get out together, he is currently taking a nap. Very frustrating, but nothing to get really upset about.

When we do get out, we will probably look at some apartments and do some shopping. There are a few items that we really need around the apartment. Speaking of apartments we will be moving probably in July of this year. We are looking at some in the area that feature indoor parking at a reasonable price. That is very rare in this area and something that we probably cannot afford to pass up. It is time for a change, we both agree with that. High-rise living has been fun, but it is time to move on especially if there is a deal to be had.

I am also taking tomorrow off work. I don't like to walk in and find everyone in a panic about having a holiday and the resulting mad dash to cram 5 days work into only 4 days. Life is too short as it is, no sense worrying about things like that when I can avoid it altogether.

Hal and I will get out today when we are both ready. I am taking the time to write and relax. I have avoided the news this morning. I don't see any point in getting caught up in things right now. I want this time for us, the world will still be there when I am ready to rejoin it.

As I compose the last part of this blog post at nearly 9 pm, a recap is in order. Hal and I did go out today. We visited the apartment that we liked and the decision is official. We won't be able to apply for a few more months because of the uncertainty of availability when we will need the place, but by May things should be in place for us to do that. After that we made a trip to Costco and picked up the things that we need around here and then wandered through Potomac Mills for a few hours. That enabled me to meet my 10k steps for the day and we walked out without spending any more money.

A quick dinner on the way home and then some time just talking and being together, along with The Stooges has closed out the day. Apparently, we are in for a little more snow this evening, but since I am off work tomorrow I really don't care!

16 February 2014

My Political Philosophy

As I am in my 50th year on this planet I find that my political philosophy has remained relatively unchanged. I am a Liberal, my parents were Liberals, and I still adhere to the Liberal way of thinking about the world and the people in it.

Through the years I dabbled in Conservative thinking, but found that it was not right (pardon the pun) for me. Some Conservative friends have tried using their reasoning on me, but I counter with the limits that affect their ways of thinking. The fact that I have experimented with other philosophies in my life and found them wanting assures me that I have made the correct choice. Inclusion of various points of view and questioning authority have always shown me the real path to enlightenment is a Liberal one.

The Conservative way of thinking is just too limited for me. When a Conservative reaches a point, they cannot progress past it without tremendous effort to break out of their own thought process. While I agree that this is always a difficult thing to do, Conservatives seem more than willing to spend even more time and effort to block off debate instead of more closely examining their own opinions. Their reliance on religious dogma to justify a point is also something that I cannot accept on a personal level. I am an Atheist because I fail to see the common good in following the tenets laid down by those who benefit by haqving everyone follow those tenets without question.

I am glad to believe what I believe, be willing to change if facts prove it is necessary without the strict interpretation or ideology getting in my way. I am happy, and I hope that everyone else will be as well, provided that their definition of happiness doesn't involve the suffering or persecution of others.

February 16

I have to admit that I just didn't feel like writing yesterday. I was so upset and disgusted by the proceedings with the Dunn Trial in Florida that I couldn't have written anything comprehensible anyway. I am still in shock at the way Florida once again manages to NOT deliver justice to the family of a Black child who was gunned down by a White man!

Many years ago, I was stationed in Mayport while I was in the Navy. For those of you not aware with the area, Mayport is right along the coast to the east of Jacksonville. At any rate, I always felt at the time that Jacksonville was nothing more than a glorified truck stop with a Navy base nearby. The actions of the jurors proved me correct. I fail to see how someone can be convicted on counts of attempted murder in the case of those potential victims who escaped, but yet cannot be convicted of murder for the person that they killed!

I need to stop because it will just get me worked up again. I hope that the people in Florida and other states with these ridiculous SYG laws will elect officials who will rescind them as soon as possible. I cannot help but believe that the only reason Dunn was convicted of attempted murder was the witnesses that he missed when he opened fire. If he had killed them all, I believe that the idiot jury would have let him walk away a la Zimmerman.

14 February 2014

Valentine's Day

I am behind the 8-ball already this morning. Due to busy times at work, and to bead weather, I still have to get a Valentine's Day card and gift for Hal. Not the situation I want to be in right now, I can assure you. To make matters worse, I was given a nice stainless steel bracelet by Hal before I left home this morning. I had to get out of the frozen and snow-covered parking lot to make it to a doctor's appointment early this morning before heading on to work. The best that I can do is to get a card for Hal at lunchtime and to take him to dinner this evening to try and save face.

13 February 2014

UAW VW and TN


The lengths to which RWNJ will go to shove their hatred of everything they disagree with down everyone's throats is truly disgusting. Since when does a United States Senator have nothing better to do than interfere in the right of companies and employees to collectively bargain?


U.S. senator drops bombshell during VW plant union vote

CHATTANOOGA, Tennessee Thu Feb 13, 2014 12:33am EST
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The company logo of Volkswagen's Audi AG premium unit is pictured on the hub caps of a car during the annual news conference in Ingolstadt March 11, 2008. REUTERS/Michael Dalder
The company logo of Volkswagen's Audi AG premium unit is pictured on the hub caps of a car during the annual news conference in Ingolstadt March 11, 2008.
CREDIT: REUTERS/MICHAEL DALDER





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(Reuters) - U.S. Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee said on Wednesday he has been "assured" that if workers at the Volkswagen AG plant in his hometown of Chattanooga reject United Auto Worker representation, the company will reward the plant with a new product to build.
Corker's bombshell, which runs counter to public statements by Volkswagen, was dropped on the first of a three-day secret ballot election of blue-collar workers at the Chattanooga plant whether to allow the UAW to represent them.
Corker has long been an opponent of the union which he says hurts economic and job growth in Tennessee, a charge that UAW officials say is untrue.
"I've had conversations today and based on those am assured that should the workers vote against the UAW, Volkswagen will announce in the coming weeks that it will manufacture its new mid-size SUV here in Chattanooga," said Corker, without saying with whom he had the conversations.
In the past few weeks, Volkswagen officials have made several statements that the vote will have no bearing on whether the SUV will be made at the Chattanooga plant or at a plant in Puebla, Mexico.
National Labor Relations Board expert Kenneth G. Dau-Schmidt, who is professor of labor at the University of Indiana-Bloomington, said Corker was trying to intimidate workers into voting against the union.
"I'm really kind of shocked at Corker's statement," said Dau-Schmidt. "It's so inconsistent with what VW has been saying and VW's labor relations policy in general."
The Indiana professor also said Corker's comments "would be grounds to set the election aside and have to run it all over again at a later date" because it could be ruled to be interfering to the point that it is against federal labor law.
A spokeswoman for Corker did not respond when asked whether the senator also meant that a vote for the UAW would mean that the plant would not get the new product, which could create an estimated 1,500 new jobs.
Volkswagen officials did not return calls and emails for comment on Corker's statement.
Mike Burton of Southern Momentum, an anti-UAW group of plant workers, said Corker's statement makes sense.
"We are in a battle with Mexico on where this new product goes," said Burton, "and it stands to reason that the union will add costs. We need to keep costs down to fight for that new product."
Another labor expert, Harley Shaiken of the University of California-Berkeley, said, "The senator's comments amount to economic intimidation that undermines the whole nature of union representation elections."
Shaiken often advises UAW officials.
"If the senator's statement doesn't violate the letter of the law, it certainly violates the spirit of the law," Shaiken said.
UAW REACTION
Gary Casteel, UAW regional director for a 12-state area that includes Tennessee, said on Wednesday night, "Corker's statement is in direct contradiction to Volkswagen's statements.
"They have specifically said that this vote will have no bearing on the decision of where to place the new product."
In the past, Casteel has said that Volkswagen's Chattanooga plant, opened in 2011, needs a second product to survive. It has built the compact Passat sedan since it opened.
The plant has about 1,550 Volkswagen workers eligible to vote in the election, which is supervised by the National Labor Relations Board.
Pro- and anti-UAW workers said they were not sure if snowy weather will affect turnout for the vote, which ends on Friday when the plant does not produce cars.
On Wednesday - day one of the vote - the night shift was canceled after only one car was produced because snow prevented workers reaching the plant, said two VW employees who wished to remain anonymous.
A source familiar with the plans of the Volkswagen supervisory board which makes decisions on product placement said that the board has not yet made a decision on the issue, and that it will take it up in a meeting on February 22.
Corker on Tuesday returned from Washington to hold a Tuesday press conference at his downtown Chattanooga senate office in order to speak against the UAW in time for the worker vote at the plant.
(Reporting by Bernie Woodall; Editing by Christopher Cushing)
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