Category Archives: Perspectives

History, belief systems and more

More on Political Polarization

More on Political Polarization

This message is written just prior to knowing the results of the 2018 mid-term election and will be posted a few months afterward. My hope was that we could vote for the individual and not along party lines. The two party-system along with the encouragement to vote a straight “party” ticket lies at the base of many of our problems.

The emphasis on the extremes in both parties by the media tends to exacerbate this issue. The fact is that the majority of representatives in both parties have views much closer to the political center. If you are a registered Democrat and your party has voted an extremist as their candidate please considerate the more moderate Republican candidate. The reverse goes for a registered Republican (in my opinion). If both candidates are extremists or support extreme agendas then consider voting Libertarian.

If we would elect candidates that have more moderate views and express an interest in working with all of their counterparts (regardless of party affiliation) for effective legislation then there is a chance we can make progress on the most important issues facing our country.

The really important issues that will determine if America has a chance to “Be Great Again” have been the subject of numerous prior postings to my blog. These are tough issues, but ones which moderate representatives should be able to enact effective legislation. The budget deficit, our massive unfunded liabilities, our broken healthcare system and funding for Social Security should top that list. What we do not need is more special interest legislation or legislation that support a particular political agenda. While topics like immigration are important, they pale in comparison to the financial ruin we are facing if we do not face up to the big money issues.

There are massive amounts of “fake” news items out there. Unfortunately, when we encounter a message which tends to support our established political view we tend to accept it blindly and even pass it along to friends without checking out the validity of the claimed “news” item. There are several facts check sites which are valuable is checking the veracity of an alarming news claim. Among then is Snopes. While using this source solely is not always the best method it is generally reliable. It is a valid starting point for researching “truth”. Conversely, if you see news that appears fake to you because it is averse to your current viewpoint consider using the same sources to determine its invalidity.

Perception tends to rule the day, regardless of the truth or the facts. What we “believe” to be true is merely perception and often not fact.

Observations while traveling in Europe

Observations while traveling in Europe

Traveling can be a beneficial learning experience. Not all countries provide services or solve problems using the same methods. Following are some observations:

In all of the cities and towns that we visited there was a substantial use of bicycles for common transportation. Also, the prevalence of electric power assisted bikes is increasing.

In the downtown sector of one town the public transport was with Electric buses.

Historic downtowns remain busy & vital with retail businesses on the ground floor and accommodation on the levels above. In some cases, restaurants are located in what used to the back yards between buildings with access via alley ways.

There is extensive use of round-abouts and traffic circles rather than stop signs and traffic signals.

Petrol & Propane gas hybrid cars and trucks are a popular cost containment option. Gas is very expensive usually costing double the cost in the US.

In one hotel’s bathroom the bathroom door served double duty. It could be used for bathroom access as well as to close off the area occupied by the commode!

One hotel had a self-service kiosk for guest check in & key room key issuing.

Trains coverage is extensive. They are reliable, fast, inexpensive and comfortable. The one we rode on was electric powered.

Rest areas were no more than 10 miles apart on the motorways.

When there was a traffic slow down or backup on the motorway the cars in the right-hand lane would move onto the shoulder, but keep moving slowly. The cars in the left-hand lane would all move to the extreme left side of that lane. This a allowed a center access lane for police & emergency vehicles if needed.

Not all of the EU countries have been granted the right to adopt the EU currency. There are economic conditions that must be met. In these countries the EU is still accepted by most shops but the US$ is not.

Taxes are always including in the selling price (not added on) and tipping is either included in the price or optional.

Two Americans in Europe

Two Americans in Europe

At the time of composing this Jeanette & I are on a river cruise on the Danube. So far, we have visited Budapest, Bratislava & Vienna (Wien), all capitals of their respective countries. Broadening education is always a bi-product of travel. All of the countries we have visited are members of the EU. All three are quite small, both in area and population.

Hungary has about 8 million folks with just under 2 million residing in Budapest. Slovakia has about 5.5 million with about ½ million in Bratislava & Austria has about 8 ½ million with just under 2 million in Wein.

Hungary is about the size of Indiana, Slovakia is about the size of Mississippi & Austria is about the size of Maine.

Not all members of the EU are using the Euro. One prior member (the UK) chose to retain their currency, while others were not authorized to use the Euro because their economies were considered too weak.  Hungary still uses the Florent, but almost all retailers accept the Euro. The official currency of both Slovakia & Austria is the Euro.

On a recent trip to Iceland our auto rental agent shared her view of US citizens. It was not that of the “ugly, loud American”, but that of naiveite. The more I travel the more that comment rings true.

America emerged from WW II as a superpower primarily because of a vibrant and growing economy. We were envied and admired by the rest of the world. We were considered to be number one in production (& productivity), technology, individual freedoms & standard of living. Many of us still believe that is true, but that is only a “belief” and not in touch with the facts. Unfortunately, we have been in a status decline for the past several decades. Our slide resembles the slide experienced by the UK that started over a 100 years ago. The UK was “the” superpower for several hundred years expanding their influence into America, Africa, India & Australasia (among others). Like many dominant countries & city states before them they eventually maxed out their influence and the decline commenced.

The US is still in the early stages of declining influence. The dollar, once the fall back currency for the entire world, is no longer accepted in most of Europe. If a country does not officially use the Euro, they always accept it as medium of exchange. While English is still the official 2nd language in most of Europe it is sobering to remember that is not ours and has its roots in the Germanic languages.

We have found most people here to be friendly and respectful, but not that interested in or concerned about goings on in the US. We do not seem to be the focus of their attention. The histories of these countries go back thousands of years. Borders have changed numerous times and all of have experienced numerous political systems.

stay tuned for more on this