Archives For October 2011
One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”
“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”
I see from my statistics that the following post is one of my most popular. So I thought I would bring it back for another round. Nothing has changed since I wrote it in January.
That is a question that has been on my mind the last few days. I have lived for more than six decades on this earth so I have been exposed to probably millions of different situations but what is the saddest? The list initially was quite large but the more I have thought about it the more it shrinks. I think I am finally down the one thing and that is lazy minds. I know, on first thought, that seems a strange answer. After all there are things like world hunger, hatred, prejudice, homelessness, constant wars, and many other things that seem more serious. But the more I have thought about it the more I am convinced that all of the above mentioned things are a result of lazy minds.
Our ability to think is perhaps the most significant thing that God gave us to separate us from everything else in this world. Being able to analyze our circumstance and then make knowledgeable decisions and then changes is something only man can do. God gave us our intellect so we could develop it and use it to further his kingdom on earth. When we lay back and refuse to use our God given intellect I believe we are sinning against God at a most basic level. Lazy minds are not limited to any particular ethnic group, economic scale, or spiritual sphere. It is endemic across the entire spectrum of human condition.
Lazy minds allow us to just sit back and take on our parent’s prejudges as our own. If our parents didn’t like Jews or Blacks or Hispanic or whatever then we it is likely don’t like them either. If only we exercised our minds and found that all these prejudges are without any merit or reasoning whatsoever we could more easily purge them from reality.
Lazy minds allow others around us to control how we perceive almost everything in this world.It is just easier to have someone to show us one way of thinking and not even consider that there are other possibilities. It allows politician to tell us what to believe, marketers to tell us what to buy. It allows others to tell us what to believe about almost all aspects of life including our spiritual one.
Finally lazy minds prevent us from solving many of the otherwise solvable problems in the world. We have the technical ability to eradicate most of today’s problems if only we got off our butts and did something about it. World hunger is definitely something that is fixable. The main thing that prevents us from doing that is we have not figured out how to interact with each other or how to choose leaders who could do that as our representatives. We allow our leaders to tell us what to think, who are enemies and friends are and almost everything else about our living in this world. We let them separate us into clans that they say must battle each other.
Lazy minds prevent us from knowing who God really is and what he expects of us. We allow others to tell us their truth about God instead of discovering it ourselves. We allow others to selectively point us to the particular words in the Bible that “they” deem the most important instead of studying all the words ourselves. We allow others to tell us who to avoid or even hate instead of following God’s command to love one another, even our enemies.
We allow one generation after another to try and take the easy way through this world. Why study when we can be world class athletes? All of us in one degree or another refuse to exercise our minds to even a small percentage of their capacity. It is just too easy to let others think for us. That is the saddest thing in the world to me.
I love a dog, he does nothing for political reasons. -
Will Rogers – December 3, 1933
It never ceases to amaze me just how much of a sage Will Rogers was! I know Will was always surrounded by dogs in his life. I also know that I have been surrounded by dogs much of my life. Especially since my marriage of twenty six years ago. I think there is a TV show entitled “Its Me or the Dog” or something like that. If my wife were to have to make that choice I think it would be the dog instead of me But as usual I am getting off track here.
One thing that makes me a dog lover is their unconditional love of their owners. I don’t like being the center of attention when it comes to most issues but I can’t avoid being the center of attention of my dog Beulah’s life. She is my constant companion; where I go she most often goes with me. To Beulah it doesn’t matter that I am deaf. She has ways to communicate with me that don’t depend on my hearing. The way she wags her tail, the way she uses her nose to nudge me works just fine. It doesn’t matter them I am a shrinking senior citizen who seems to lose a little more mobility as the days go on; as long as I am able to provide her with the required one or two daily walks she is happy.
But one of the things that I appreciate most, especially in today’s world is that Beulah does nothing for political reasons. It seems like everyone has a political agenda now days. Beulah could care less about such things. Her main concerns are our daily walks to the mail box (I am getting nudged now about that so will have to end this post soon), her afternoon naps where I join her on my/her couch when I can, and of course her evening meal. Politics are as far from her mind as the man in the moon. Thank you Beulah for taking me out of that world. Now it is on to the mailbox with Beulah tugging me all the way.
There is some very interesting stuff going on with the Wall Street Rallies lately. The latest theme of these rallies are “We are the 99%”. This draws from the fact that currently 1% of the U.S. population controls about 50% of the total wealth in the country. Due to the high umemployment at a time with correspondingly high bonuses for the super rich (1%) the people are finally starting to realize that something is wrong with the current way our capitalist system is operating.
This 1% number rivals even the medieval serfdom times in the Middle Ages! And given the exodus of middle class jobs and high unemployment the serf mentality seems to also be taking hold. Getting back to the interesting thing as mentioned in the beginning of this post, it seems some of the 1%, or at least those near the 1% are joining the 99%. To the right is a picture of one of those individuals. I’m sure there are many in the “real” 1% who are screaming that “Those are just the spoiled rich kids who don’t appreciate the power that was given to them….” In some ways that is probably true but since a good percentage of the 1% got to where they are by the elimination of the inheritance taxes deemed “death taxes” by the spinners hired by the 1%.
To many in the 1% their wealth is I suspect kind of secondary to them. The accumulation of the money and power is what they are actually addicted to. The money itself doesn’t mean as much as the power. I read somewhere recently about how stressful J.P. Rockefeller II life was due to the pressures of inheriting such tremendous wealth. I’m sure those who are without a job in today’s world and are having trouble putting food on the table or the keeping the bankers from foreclosing on their homes don’t have much simpethy for the “poor stressed rich people”
I certainly celebrate the 1% who are standing with the 99% to put more power to the people. When this condition reached its peak in the 1700s in Europe it resulted in the French Revolution. That was certainly a bloody one for the 1%. I certainly hope that doesn’t happen again but we do need to fix this total inequality before it does.
So, here is to you 1%ers who have a conscience.
But what do I know….
Here is a quote from Jim Wallis over at Sojourners that will be the foundation for this post.
Since the Occupy Wall Street movement began, the talk about inequality has been greater than I can remember it being for a very long time. This has been the elephant in the room in our discussions about the economy that nobody wanted to say out loud. In the last hundred years, there have been two peak periods of great inequality in American society—just before the Great Depression, and in 2008, right before our current Great Recession. And in the mysterious and secret global transactions between investment bankers and hedge fund traders, the profits continue to grow.
From 1973 to 1985, the financial sector peaked at 16 percent of domestic corporate profits. In the 1990s it reached postwar period highs by going between 21 and 30 percent. But this decade it hit 41 percent. These profits weren’t from products, and weren’t always from finding the best use for capital, but from money-making more money for a new class of super-rich financial traders. And now, when their risk taking, greed, and selfishness created a mess for so many others, we bailed them out and left everyone else to suffer in the economic wilderness of unemployment, home foreclosures, pension losses, deep middle-class insecurity, and rising poverty rates.
It is indeed encouraging to me also to see the amount of attention that financial inequality is getting in the U.S. today. Almost everyone who is knowledgeable on the topic admits that the conditions in the financial sector currently pretty well mirror what they were prior to the Great Depression of the 1930′s As the quote above mentions this sector of the economy is not about enriching lives in general or making products and services that are beneficial to the general population. It is about making money with money. Hedge funds for example are nothing more than gambling on what direction the stock market will likely go. They produce no benefits to any one outside the person trying to game the system.
President Bush bailed out these guys just before leaving office and it seems that, as Jim pointed out above, it left everyone else to suffer unemployment, housing foreclosures, pension loses and the resulting very deep middle-class insecurity. Some are now pointing out these times as being the “Post Hope America”. Given the bitterness found throughout much of our world today there might be, but I hope not, a reality to that phrase. Will the Wall Street protests accomplish any good toward these ends? Who knows. But like most root level protests they must stay active for several months if not years before they are deemed serious by those yahoos in Washington. The only thing that might result in a quicker recognition is a wholesale change in the people in congress. But that will even be over a year before it can happen!
But what do I know.
Christ, in sending the [people] to the scriptures, sent them, not merely to read them, but carefully to search and ponder them. And did he not say, “Read the scriptures,” but “Search the scriptures.” … Their meaning is not expressed superficially or set forth in their literal sense, but, like a treasure, lies buried at a great depth. And those who seek for hidden things will not be able to find the object of the search if they do not seek carefully and painstakingly.
- St. John Chrysostom
Homily 41 (John 5:39-47), A.D. 390
John Chrysostom (c. 347–407), Archbishop of Constantinople, was an important Early Church Father. He is known for his eloquence in preaching and public speaking, his denunciation of abuse of authority by both ecclesiastical and political leaders, the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, and his ascetic sensibilities.
The above title is something that many people espouse to live by. But in my opinion you can’t just go with the flow in your retirement life. At least not the way I perceive it or at least not in the beginning. Going with the flow is allowing things to happen without much outside intervention. When we enter your retirement life each of us needs to have some plan on what we are going to do and what we hope to accomplish. Without that plan going with the flow could mean getting up every morning, watching TV all day and then going back bed at night. It could mean being a full-time couch potato! This type of flow is indeed hapless and very easy to get trapped into.
For most of us retirement from a full day job is the first time in our adult lives that we are free to choose just about everything that revolves around our life. Of course if you are married those decisions have to be passed by your better half. When we enter our retirement years most of us have no set commitments or tasks that burdened us during our full-time employment years. We can choose what we want to do and when we want to do it. For some of us this is a very exhilarating time, for others it might prove to be pure agony. There is nothing wrong with going into retirement without this plan fully in place but you can’t let time slip by and “go with the flow” for too long.
In reality your initial plan usually ends up being only a starting point and many time doesn’t resemble what you finally end up doing but that is OK. Personally there is only one or two of the items from my initial list still on my life plan. Some have been modified in some details and others proved to simply be something that I really was not interested in. Experimenting with what you want to be in your retirement years is actually one of the most stimulating and exciting things that will probably happen to you.
So, don’t just go with the flow when you enter your retirement years. Try to determine who you want to be and then set out a plan for accomplishing that vision. Maybe who you want to be is quite a bit different from who you presently are; maybe the two are the same. But don’t pass up on the opportunity to make changes in your life now that you are free of many of the day-to-day burdens that hampered you prior to this time.
I am now in my eleventh year of retirement from my corporate job. This time is the most exciting, fulfilling, and enjoyable times of my life. They can be for you too with just a little planning…..
I just visited the blog of one of my Conservative friends. Like so many others he claims he is an independent but everything on his blog has a VERY right leaning slant. My friend is currently ranting about the Wall Street protests. He claims they are a vast conspiracy with a collective mentality. That is someone other than them is telling them everything to do and say. They have no mind of their own or they wouldn’t be protesting against these things. He evidently has spent hours and hours studying the dialog and transcripts of each the Republican presidential debates and goes into them in long drawn out details on his daily blog.
My Conservative friend’s life seems to be centered around everything political. There seems to be little left for anything else in his life. He even mentions that he should “get a life” but jokingly admits he can’t help himself or so he says. The underlying purposes for this fixation seems to be that my friend just can’t stand the idea of anyone getting something they haven’t worked for or haven’t earned. I find this to be a rather frequent case for many with his political leanings. It seems they would rather see fifty families starve rather than allow one person to game the system. What a sad perspective to live life with. The ironic thing is that between the lines it sounds like my friend is on some sort of disability and is probably receiving some monetary payments in that regard. I’m sure he believes that he is one of the few who actually deserve it.
I have several other Conservative friends who more or less mirror this particular friend’s attitude and behavior and even quite the same rhetoric. I regrettably admit that I know some people who I am pretty sure are gaming the system. That is they are receiving unemployment benefits without really looking for a job. They are probably receiving food stamps as well. But I also know many many others who definitely need a hand up in their current situations. It greatly saddens me to see so much need in the world around me.
But what saddens me the most is that there are people who call themselves evangelical Christians who also strictly align to my Conservative friend’s agenda. I as a follower of Jesus Christ read his words almost daily and what I read has nothing to do with keeping people from getting something they don’t deserve or have not worked for. In sentence after sentence of what I read I actually see the opposite: “Do for the least of these or I will not know you”, ”Give someone who asks the shirt off your back”, “blessed are the poor”….
My Conservative friend really does need to take the words seriously to “GET A LIFE”. Being constantly fixated on “what’s mine is mine and keep your hands off it” is a very say and detrimental way to live. I worry about my Conservative friend from time to time. He is going to give himself a heart attack with all the dark feelings he constantly carries around inside him. He really does need to get a life outside his very negative feelings.
But what do I know…..
I have spent pretty much the last sixty five years of my life with the left side of my brain controlling what I do and what I think. I was an engineer for thirty of those years and that meant I spent hours logically going about analyzing the task at hand and then solving it. The last part of those years were spent writing software applications for other engineers to use. Yeah, some of that work involved creating thinking but for the most part logic controlled what I did.
I am also a planner at heart. I have records that can tell me what I did almost everyday for the last forty years! That list started out with weekly 3×5 cards and later with computer generated lists. I plan everything including what to do on vacations and what to do every day while not on vacation. It sometimes drives my wife crazy but I am a list maker, that is who I am..
With all this in mind the right side of my brain has been screaming lately! It has been telling me that it wants to contribute more to my life experiences. It keeps interrupting my logical thoughts and list making lately. My right brain sees that most of my days are now behind me and I haven’t used much of its capabilities. It is screaming for attention. It wants to control more of my actions. My left brain is a stubborn thing; it doesn’t want to lose control of anything. Control is order and order is what lefty is about.
In order to make the screaming subside some I have decided to let “righty” as I now call him have some days where he is in control. We are never too old to do something different in our lives. So,I am starting to delve into the artistic side of my nature. The first topic at hand will be an artistic journal. I know the journal part I have been doing most of my life and is a “lefty” thing but making it an artistic endeavor is something very new to me. I have discovered that artistic journaling has many names: artistic journals, decorated journals, art journals, and visual journals but it basically means allowing your creativity to take control of how you see and record things.
But this all come down to making a journal other than simply a written account of things. When I was younger I enjoyed drawing things. I spent hours doing that and I become somewhat adept at it; that is at least for a twelve year old. For some reason I put that aside and never took it up again. My photography side occasionally let righty be in charge but never to the extent that he wanted. So, here I am ready to give righty a free reign on a portion of my life. It will be very interesting to see what he comes up with. In the coming weeks I may give you some of the results of this in “artsy” posts. Who knows I might even become good at this but at the very least I want to have a lot of fun doing it.
Let’s subtitle this post to “When Buying American Meant Something”.
There are some rather disturbing things about the source article above. It seems very strange that a U.S. supplier would lose out to the China competitor for the glass used in the new Freedom Tower at the World Trade Center site! If there is anything that should be American made it would be at that site! Yet the business went out of country, although through several intermediary U.S. companies, because PPG Industries could not afford to pay the corresponding Chinese salaries to its American workers.
Maybe even more shock is the Martin Luther King memorial in Washington. Here is a quote from the article:
I was shocked to learn the 30-foot-tall statue of our leading civil rights icon was by a Chinese sculptor, out of Chinese granite, and carved in China. Couldn’t we find an African-American sculptor to carve King’s image out of American granite, with the work being done in the U.S.?
One of the things that we Hoosiers in Indiana pride ourselves on is providing much of the limestone used in the buildings and monuments in Washington DC. I know any of the companies in my neighborhood in southwestern part of the State would have been proud to provide the stone for the monument to MLK. Why did they find it necessary to go to China for the artist and the material for this monument?
I’m just a normal guy but there is something very disturbing about the amount of our products, and now I learn monuments, that are being made in China. Will there come a day where our relations with China fall into a troubled area. We seem to get into troubles/wars so often lately surely one with China is in the future. When that happens and China is making almost everything we use in our daily lives what will happen? Something not good I am sure…..
I am certainly one who likes to buy my (fill in the blank) a little cheaper; it makes my fixed income stretch a little longer but aren’t we in the U.S. allowed to have anything reserved exclusively for its businesses and citizens? We don’t want an America ‘made in China’.
But what do I know…..
Now that I am finally a Medicare beneficiary I want to take a look back at the trip to get here. I will also be looking at how we do our healthcare relative to the rest of the industrial world. Let’s begin this journey.
I have learned from experience that healthcare needs definitely increase as you get older. I joke that I think my warranty expired when I turned sixty. I am sure that I have been to the doctor more in the last five years than I had for the previous sixty combined. When I started out my adult life my healthcare was basically free to me. That is the “large telecommunications company” I worked for picked up the tab for my insurance. At that stage of my life health insurance was not very important to me. I think I went for a twelve-year stretch where I didn’t even see a doctor except for maybe a dentist or two. At that time the cost to the company was not that great so even if I had to use a medical facility I would not have been required to pay anything for it.
Then beginning in the 1980s (it seems like so many things started happening in the 80′s??) that healthcare costs started to rise and I was required to pay a small co-pay when I went to a doctor. About that time I had some ear surgery but it did not affect my wallet much. Finally in the early 1990s things started heating up in this area. I started having to pay for a portion of my healthcare insurance. My share was somewhere in the range of $30/month and increased to about $40/month by the end of the decade.
When I was downsized and retired in 2000 my pension plan required that I pay $40/month toward my insurance. At this point things started escalating. From 2000 until I went on Medicare recently my portion of the cost rose about 25% per year throughout the period. That is it went from $40/month to almost $500/month during the decade. Finally with Medicare in force my overall healthcare insurance is less than half what I paid this year. I’m sure that at least until we drastically change your healthcare system my costs for healthcare will continue to increase but not nearly as rapidly as I was paying with private insurance.
That brings me to the whole concept of employer based health insurance. The U.S. is about the only country in the world that puts this burden on employers. Almost all of our foreign competitors are free of this burden. Could that be one of the reasons that we can no longer seem to compete in the world’s markets? One of the solutions employers have used to solve this problem is to quit providing insurance to their employees. But, this leads to even more serious consequences of their being two distinct classes of people; those who can afford healthcare and those who can’t. That is healthcare is now considered a privilege instead of a right of citizenship as it is in much of the rest of the world. Some of this is ameliorated by the healthcare bill of last year but since the Republicans are dead set on taking away even those gains I don’t have much hope for any other advances in this area. That is until we bring some common sense and compassion back into our politics.
We have to find our way out of this mess someday. Dare we emulate the successful strategy of our foreign friends who are not subjected to these ever escalating rates?
The title to this post came from one of the organizers of the Wall Street protests that are taking place across the country. More power to the people baby!! It basically infers that we ordinary people who take risks with our assets (money) have to pay the consequences of when we make the wrong decisions. But the capitalists, meaning those large Wall Street firms, can take big risks and if they are wrong the government will bail them out with our tax money as they are “too big to fail”!
These protests are probably the result of our stagnant economy for the last dozen years or so. The average person has actually seen his wages decrease by 3% in that time while the CEOs and big Wall Street firms have seen huge bonuses year after year. Something is definitely wrong with that scenario and many common people are finally starting to “get it”. When Mr. Bush followed by Mr. Obama decided that all those investment houses and big banks needed to be bailed out it cost us ordinary tax payers billions of dollars. After almost three years the overall result seems to be that the big shots have simply gone back to their old ways (giant risks and giant bonuses for themselves). They are also for the most part hording the money we gave them and not producing the intended jobs that they were to provide.
Being a child of the 60′s it is nice to see young, and not so young, finally getting involved in this process. The only time things like this actually change is when the masses get passionate about it. We would likely have still had massive forces in Vietnam today if my generation had not forced the issue. The same is true for our times. Maybe next time when they Wall Street types get into trouble due to risky schemes our government will have the nerve to actually let them fail. Looking back on it I don’t see the consequences of that being any worse than what is happening today. We have a larger number of people who are unemployed today than we did at the height of the Great Depression of the 1930s.
People are just getting fed up with the constantly disappearing middle class jobs. They are fed up with watching those jobs be exported for the sake of the “global economy”. They are tired of seeing what little money they can put aside earning practically zero percent saving rate. We are just about the only country in the world that does not do something to preserve the financial well being of our citizens. We are about the only country in the world that puts the healthcare burden on our employers instead of having our government take on that task. People are fed up with all this stuff. I hope more and more of us get on board with the Wall Street protests that are happening. Until we do our government will not likely take us or this matter seriously.
Another great quote from these rallies is “Disgust is a massive political force when it finds its way to move” . That is what seems to be happening today. So here is to all you brave souls who are attending these rallies around the country. Rock on Baby, Rock on…..
I have to go back to my hero Will Rogers for answers to many of life’s problems. Given that we are in the middle of the primary season for president and the congressional stuff will be starting soon this seems like an answer to more than one problem. But I guess I should also include the following
Once a man has held public office he is no longer good for any honest work - Will Rogers
When a person is elected to a public office he becomes obsessed with holding on to it as long as possible. That was not the way the founders intended it to work. People were to serve a term of two and then return to their normal activities.
So, let’s tax everyone looking to get elected for some office. They end up spending millions and millions of dollars on TV ads and such so why not a little tax to go along with it.
But What do I know.