Green Homes

When you have the opportunity to build a custom home in the Southwest where you may expect 300+ sunny days, there is no excuse for not making it green–so we did. We wanted low water usage, low heating/cooling energy use and minimal power use otherwise. So here is what we included:

  • Passive solar design–large glazing along a wide south-facing front
  • Concrete floors for thermal mass (also saves on costlier low VOC floor coverings) Continue reading
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Debtor’s Prisons Still Exist in 21st Century America

PBS NewsHour will air a segment tonight featuring our fight against modern-day debtors’ prisons. Please tune in to see SPLC Deputy Legal Director David Dinielli discuss the all too common yet unconstitutional practice of putting poor people behind bars for their inability to pay fines for minor offenses.The U.S. Supreme Court found this practice to be unconstitutional many years ago, yet it persists.

Watch SPLC on PBS NewsHour
Saturday, April 12
Check local airtimes, 
  or watch online

Without funds to pay fines, minor incidents can mean jail image

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First Amendment Political Money

The Supremes are at it again, albeit 5-4 along political lines. Spending money on political campaigns is free speech they say, which cannot be constrained (in meaningful ways) by acts of Congress. I cannot say I disagree with the right of free speech, but I wonder at the wisdom of this decision that piles onto the already pernicious effects of the Citizens United case from a few years ago–which allowed the creation of unlimited funding of campaign advertising by Super PACs.  I must confess I have not read either decision, so I cannot say whether they considered what I would call the “megaphone effect.” Let me explain in the context of the Westboro Baptist Church case, in which the Supreme Court essentially said that the very obnoxious protests outside funeral homes by the church could not be prohibited, despite the emotional distress suffered by funeral goers. Did the court say such protests could be limited by precluding megaphones or sound systems so loud that they penetrated the funeral wall homes? Most of the protest, if I recall correctly, came in the form of signs. If the court did not opine on such, perhaps it was not present, but let’s examine that in the political campaign context. Continue reading

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Is It Time to Repeal the Second Amendment?

Got your attention? Not happening any time soon. Wayne LaPierre, et al will take care of that. But that was a facetious title. No, this is really about the Ft. Hood shooting. We could all probably write the script for the news: Hand wringing, video of police cars and ambulances, news conferences by applicable authorities and most of all, discussions with analysts or “experts” on what went wrong and what might be done to prevent such incidents in the future. Most of the “solutions” that have been tried are impractical or ineffective. There is really only one, that doesn’t get discussed on air, the web or in print. Continue reading

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Is a Roth Conversion Right for You?

Have you considered or are you wondering about the merits—pros and cons of converting some of your 401 K (or other retirement accounts from which this is permissible–403 b or 457) traditional IRA assets into a Roth IRA? Traditional retirement accounts are based on accumulating earnings on investing pre-tax income you while you are working. The Roth, on the other hand, accumulates earnings on investments from earnings you have already paid taxes on. Surprise—the IRS and you have an understanding—pay me now or pay me later; either way, the tax man gets his due. When you take money out of the traditional account, you pay tax not only on the (tax-deferred) income you invested, but the earnings on those funds as well. With the Roth, on the other hand, not only do you not pay tax on what you invested (because you already paid them), you pay no tax on the earnings either. Continue reading

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God Hates Fred Phelps

Just kidding, if there is a God, he doesn’t hate anybody. Crazy coot Phelps insisted that “God hates fags,” of course. The founder of Westboro Baptist Church, a tiny congregation not genuinely affiliated with any Baptist synod and consisting almost entirely of relatives by blood or marriage, relished the notion of being the most hated man in America. All due to his and his fellow congregation members picketing an protesting at funerals of soldiers claiming they died as God’s punishment for America harboring LGBT members. There are those who might celebrate his death, envisioning his torment in hell for his actions. I am not one of them. I can only pity the man the karma he has created for himself. I have no knowledge of whether he ever slandered the Lotus Sutra, ensuring a place in the Hell of Incessant Suffering. Nonetheless, for his unending cruelty, his inhumanity, his karma guarantees a lifetime of suffering when next he occupies mortal flesh.

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Joomla and WordPress–Two Different Cultures

For the adventurous (and frugal), the draw of using open-source (free) software to create  websites or blogs is hard to resist. I have created two websites and a blog using Joomla and WordPress, respectively. They are very different. The first is predominantly a content management system (CMS); that means it is used to create and distribute articles to the world via the web. Articles is used loosely here, to include photo galleries, videos, static pages such as “About Us,” contact information, landing pages, etc. It is somewhat complicated, but there are good tutorials (also free). Most importantly, there are saintly persons creating great karma who moderate or contribute to forums–which are nicely categorized and searchable–who respond quickly to requests for help; often within a couple hours. On the other hand, in order to meet special needs, “Extensions” may be required to be downloaded/uploaded/installed. Some are “components,” some are “modules,” some are “plugins” and some are a combination of two or more. Some that work fine are free, but some of the more sophisticated will cost something. Continue reading

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