Pat’s Chat - 02.01.15

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Three thousand years ago God asked Job if he could do what God is doing every day.  Like when God is taking care of things in His great universe, what does He have to do to “bind the sweet influences of Pleiades” (Job 38:31).  This constellation is held together as a unit, an astronomical fact that no one on earth knew at the time, unless God told them.  In Job 38:4, Job asks “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?  Tell Me, if you have understanding.  Who determined its measurements?  Surely you know ... Can you bind the cluster of Pleiades?  Or loose the belt of Orion?“  Most of chapter 38 of Job is God talking about His universe and His care for all His creation.  Science today tells us that while most of the constellations are drifting gradually through space in different directions, and even changing their shape because of motions about which we know very little.  Pleiades, however, is at least 250 blazing suns in a cluster, all traveling together in a common direction, sharing in a common motion and drifting through space together.  When you look up at night sometime, you are viewing a sermon that is pointing out the Creator of the universe, the only One Who is able to “bind the sweet influences of Pleiades” and keep them together through unimaginable ages as they sweep on in silence toward some common goal, or around some great center.  And some people say they believe it just happened by chance.  If you would like to read more about these kinds of things, go to and enjoy many amazing facts.  I got these ideas from my devotional book that is helping me to read the Bible through in a year, Walking Through The Bible with H.M.S. Richards, page 37.

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Pat’s Birthday at 88 Restaurant

I have been very, very touched by all the “Happy Birthday” greetings I have gotten since yesterday was my eighty-first birthday.  Facebook provided the bulk of them, but I also got so many beautiful, funny or sentimental cards and other gifts, I have been taken out to eat by Libby Ferrell, Mary Ellen Davidson, and Joan Danner so we could also celebrate Mary Cesaro’s birthday which is the day before mine.  I had lunch with Mary Ann, my sister, on Sabbath after church.  She and I also went to visit our Aunt Jean (Haymond) at Serenity Care that afternoon and got to visit with her roommate for awhile, too.  Myrtle Mae (Brown) Morris, her roommate, was in Burnsville High School when I was there.  That night Jerry Koon joined Mary Ann, Sheri-Lyn Sapp, Robin, (my daughter) and me at the 88 Restaurant.  We had a great time.

Sad news is that Louise Heater of Roanoke died at home on January 23. It is such a loss to her family, and her friends, and all who knew her.  Our church with the wonderful help of some of the Ben Dale Baptist Church members, prepared a dinner for friends and family after the funeral.
Also, I attended the viewing of Kenneth Romel, of Weston, son of Sheila Romel, who worked at Sharpe Hospital when I was there.  That is so heart-breaking especially since my own sons are near his age of 59! I just cannot imagine the pain of it.

If we were to add a Kindergarten to Brushy Fork Christian School, would any of you be interested?  If so, please call 304.472.0962 and leave a message.  Someone will get in touch with you.
A few years ago my daughter, Robin Bucklew, who then lived in KCMO while I still lived in West Virginia, wrote this poem for me.  Almost every year after that, she gave me the poem again, including this year when I reached 81!  I love it and I think you will see why:

My Mother, My Best Friend
      by Robin Bucklew

My mother is my best friend.
I tell her everything.
She makes the sad stuff better
With tender mothering.

If the world seems like a crazy place,
Her voice is like a charm.
She makes the world make sense again,
And I feel like going on.

If we just talk of daily things—
Where we’ve been or what we’ve done—
She makes my life have meaning.
Her laugh makes it all more fun.

If one of us does a silly thing—
A mistake or something forgotten—
We laugh so hard at our own mishaps
That I’m almost glad things went rotten!

Although we live in different states,
Our closeness will never fail.
We spend lots of money on phone calls
And send millions of notes on e-mail.

She wants to know every little thing.
My whole life matters to her.
No one else cares for me like that.
Her love is my greatest treasure.

I hope she gives me this again in a birthday card next year.

Thank you,

Pat Ridpath


Ron Paul: The Failed ‘Yemen Model’

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Last September President Obama cited his drone program in Yemen as a successful model of U.S. anti-terrorism strategy. He said that he would employ the Yemen model in his effort to “degrade and ultimately destroy” ISIS in Iraq and Syria.
But just a week ago, the government in Yemen fell to a ##### militia movement thought to be friendly to Iran. The U.S. embassy in Yemen’s capitol was forced to evacuate personnel and shut down operations.
If Yemen is any kind of model, it is a model of how badly U.S. interventionism has failed.
In 2011 the U.S. turned against Yemen’s long-time dictator, Saleh, and supported a coup that resulted in another, even more U.S.-friendly leader taking over in a “color revolution.” The new leader, Hadi, took over in 2012 and soon became a strong supporter of the U.S. drone program in his country against al-Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula.
But last week Hadi was forced to flee from office in the coup. The media reports that the U.S. has lost some of its intelligence capability in Yemen, which is making it more difficult to continue the drone strikes. Nevertheless, the White House said last week that its drone program would continue as before, despite the disintegration of the Yemeni government.
And the drone strikes have continued. Last Monday, in the first U.S. strike after the coup, a 12 year old boy was killed in what is sickeningly called “collateral damage.” Two alleged “al-Qaeda militants” were also killed. On Saturday yet another drone strike killed three more suspected militants.
The U.S. government has killed at least dozens of civilian non-combatants in Yemen, but even those it counts as “militants” may actually be civilians. That is because the Obama administration counts any military-aged male in the area around a drone attack as a combatant.
It was al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula that claimed responsibility for the brutal shooting at an anti-religious magazine in Paris last month. At least one of the accused shooters cited his anger over U.S. policy in the Middle East as a motivation for him to attack.
Does anyone wonder why, after 14 years of drone strikes killing more than 800 al-Qaeda militants, it seems there are still so many of them? As a Slate Magazine article this week asked, “what if the drones themselves are part of the problem?” That is an excellent question and one that goes to the heart of U.S. anti-terrorist strategy. What if it is U.S. interventionism in general and drone strikes in particular that are motivating so many people to join anti-U.S. militant movements? What if it is interventionist and militarist western foreign policy that is motivating people to shoot up magazines and seek to bring terrorism back to the countries they see as aggressors?
That is the question that the interventionists fear most. If blowback is real, if they do not hate us because we are so rich and free but because of what our governments are doing to them, then U.S. interventionism is making us less safe and less free.
The disintegration of Yemen is directly related to U.S. drone policy. The disintegration of Libya is directly related to U.S. military intervention. The chaos and killing in Syria is directly related to U.S. support for regime change. Is there not a pattern here?
The lesson from Yemen is not to stay the course that has failed so miserably. It is to end a failed foreign policy that is killing civilians, creating radicals, and making us less safe.

G-Comm™: The One Huge Problem That Free Community College Will Do Nothing to Fix

President Barack Obama’s plan to make two years of community college free has many education policy observers buzzing. Good news regarding the accessibility of higher education is hard to come by.

The plan would save millions of students close to $4,000 a year and help keep college costs down across the board. It would give community colleges a more serious competitive edge over exploitative and unreliable for-profit schools that prey on those who are most desperate for cheap education. And on principle, it would strengthen the promise of democracy by encouraging the development of more informed citizens. These are all good things.

But there’s one common misconception about expanding the accessibility of education that should be done away with: the idea that more education will guarantee full employment for a class of previously unemployable people. The deeper problem with joblessness today isn’t that there aren’t enough skilled workers — it’s that there aren’t enough jobs.

The myth of the skills gap: There is the popular narrative that greater access to education provides a clear path to employment. On an individual level, it makes sense: A skilled worker has more options in the job market than an unskilled one. But skilled workers tend to compete against each other in the same sector, and so it is not only their skills that matter, but the demand for someone with their skill set.

If you break down the workforce by industry, the evidence suggests that the labor market isn’t suffering from a cancerous skills gap but a shortage of jobs for people who possess industry-specific skills. This 2014 chart from the Economic Policy Institute shows that, in every industry measured, there were fewer job openings than unemployed people within those industries, often by a great margin:  

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“If today’s labor market woes were the result of skills shortages or mismatches, we would expect to see some sectors where there are more unemployed workers than job openings and others where there are more job openings than unemployed workers,“ the Economic Policy Institute’s Elise Gould wrote. “What we find, however, is that there are more unemployed workers than jobs openings across the board.“

The idea of skills gap is a zombie idea, kept alive by executives and influentials who misguidedly assume education is a silver bullet.

As economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman has argued, a number of reliable studies have demonstrated that a shortage of skilled workers doesn’t explain unemployment. Consider that wages are largely stagnant for skilled workers — if there was higher demand for such workers, they’d be able to demand and lock down higher pay. Job growth since the recession has been heavily fueled by a surge in low-wage, unskilled jobs.

Krugman deems the idea of a skills gap a zombie idea in today’s economics, one kept alive by executives and Silicon Valley entrepreneurs who think prescribing more education can be a silver bullet for any question of social mobility or economic welfare. But even in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) labor markets, the evidence contradicts the common lament that there aren’t enough qualified workers for a 21st century economy.

More access to higher education from measures such as Obama’s community college plan would not solve unemployment as much as it would reshape what it means to be unemployed, by increasing competition for the scarcity of job openings within a specific sector.

The initiative to make community college free is laudable, and if it becomes a reality in the coming years — which is highly unlikely while the Republicans control Congress — it will be good for all Americans. But it’s important to not overstate the benefits of higher education, and to assume that joblessness is something that can be solved if all people just spent more time in school. There are a host of other obstacles to full employment.

~~  Zeeshan Aleem ~~

The Stars of Ground Hog Day

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Ground Hog Day is all about an overgrown ground squirrel surviving winter. As a hibernating mammal, it gets its own special day to celebrate the triumph of spring over winter just as the contemporaneous Candlemas Day celebrates the triumph of light over darkness.

February 2nd is about halfway between the winter solstice and the spring equinox. The day is noticeably longer than it was on the solstice. Likewise, Candlemas Day, a European tradition, is the day when a year’s supply of candles is blessed. Hence light over darkness.

It may not seem like a big deal today when the flick of a switch gives us all the light we need, but before electricity, the halfway point through winter was worth a celebration. Longer days and a new growing season became realizable promises.

In Europe, the custom was to predict the arrival of spring by watching for a hedgehog’s shadow on Feb. 2nd. Since North America has no hedgehogs, early Americans adopted the ground hog as a substitute harbinger, apparently unaware that most are still hibernating in early February. What I’ve never understood is why bright sunshine means six more weeks of winter, and clouds mean an early spring.

Of course, the ground hog’s ability to forecast the arrival of spring is hogwash. But ground hogs themselves are worth celebrating, if only for their contributions to soil health. Their droppings are natural fertilizers, and their burrowing activities loosen and aerate soils.

Upon emerging from their dens, ground hogs have survived a long winter’s sleep. They are gaunt and hungry. For three months their body temperature has plummeted to 40 degrees Fahrenheit, and their heart rate has dropped to four beats per minute.

Now it’s back to life; the race is on to eat, grow and accumulate the body fat needed to survive next winter’s hibernation. If it’s green, ground hogs eat it — grass, alfalfa, clover, beans, peas, corn and apples. For eight to nine months, they are eating machines. They forage furiously, taking just one break almost immediately to search for a mate. Breeding right after hibernation gives the next generation of ground hogs the time needed to grow to adult size.

After a 32-day pregnancy, females give birth to four or five naked, helpless pups. This occurs in March or early April. About four weeks later, the pups leave the den and begin feeding near the burrow’s entrance. Weaning occurs about two weeks later, and at eight weeks of age, the pups are independent. It’s now up to them to get fat enough to survive the long winter sleep.

Juveniles take longer than adults to prepare for hibernation because they “start from scratch.” Most adult ground hogs head to their dens by mid-November. It takes young ground hogs well into November and sometimes December to accumulate the fat needed to survive hibernation. So if you see a ground hog after Thanksgiving, it’s probably a juvenile.

The ground hog’s rush to reproduce is mandated by the calendar.

That’s why I always feel badly when I see a road-killed ground hog. If it’s March, I know they’ve just made it through a long hard winter. Surprisingly, not all ground hogs survive hibernation. If they sleep just a few days too long, they starve. And if they didn’t properly seal the entrances to their burrow, they may succumb to hungry weasels.

A road-killed ground hog in October is equally disturbing. It almost won the race to winter, but never reached the finish line. Its genes will not make it to the next year’s generation.

Death by vehicle is just one of many threats ground hogs face while above ground. Young pups are easy prey for red-tailed hawks. Mink, foxes, dogs, coyotes and target shooters also kill their fair share of ground hogs.

Fortunately, ground hogs are common, and they reproduce rapidly, so they’re difficult to eliminate. But in early spring and late fall, I always breathe just a little sigh of relief when I see an adult ground hog standing upright in a hay field.

~~  Dr. Scott Shalaway - 2222 Fish Ridge Road, Cameron, WV 26033 ~~

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