Archives For February 2013

As Our Newspapers Make It…

February 28, 2013
Banner - Will Rogers
newspaperI hope we never live to see the day when a thing is as bad as some of our newspapers make it. – 19 July 1934  — Will Rogers

In Will’s day newspapers were pretty much the only place to get a glimpse of the daily news. Except for a few monthlies, magazines had not come into common use. Of course the Internet and cable news networks were fifty or more years in the future. Will Rogers had two very famous quotes in his day “I never met a man I didn’t like” and “All I know is what I read in the newspaper”.

Fast forward to today and newspaper, at least the print variety, are going the way of the horse and buggy. Even the news magazines have come and pretty much gone. But what is here now is 24/7 cable news and thousands, if not millions, of different Internet news sources. Many people just feel overwhelmed by all this information available so as to tune out all but those who seem to agree with their current worldview.

Even though we have in-your-face news now it seems that many just don’t have the time to even glimpse at it, let alone attempt to absorb it. I think part of the problem is that things have just changed so much in the last fifty years relating to living. The typical family of years ago was the dad who had a good secure eight-hour a day job earning a living wage and the mom who stayed at home to nurture the kids. Zoom forward to today and most families, even if they are two parent households, which most aren’t, are often holding down three or more low wage jobs between them just to put a roof over their heads and food on the table. When you work 12 – 15 hours a day there is just not much time to for anything else.

Getting back to the topic of Will’s quote above, cable news and many Internet sources thrive on creating conflict and controversy where it doesn’t really exist. They seem to be like the kid in the school yard who was always prodding his classmate into fighting each other. I am one who takes the quote above with some seriousness.  What we see as urgent today is never as bad as those guys make it to be and that includes the sequester that everyone seems to be dreading now.

Banner -Off The Top
Schizophrenia—an impairment in social cognition which is associated with paranoia and  social isolation.

Paranoia, which is a major symptom of schizophrenia, is a mental condition in which the person often loses touch with reality.  Here is some of what Wikipedia says about this condition:

Paranoia is a thought process believed to be heavily influenced by anxiety or fear, often to the point of irrationality and delusion. Paranoid thinking typically includes persecutory beliefs, or beliefs of conspiracy concerning a perceived threat towards oneself. (e.g. “Everyone is out to get me.”) Making false accusations and the general distrust of others also frequently accompany paranoia. For example, an incident most people would view as an accident or coincidence, a paranoid person might believe was intentional.

I don’t know about you but if someone were to give me this description without a name I would say this clearly describes the people who are currently attempting to hi-jack the Republican party. Before I go any further I want to make it clear that I am not saying that everyone who wears the Republican mantel are paranoid schizophrenics.  In fact I am sure the vast majority who wear that label are not. But I am also sure that many of those who are attempting a hostile take-over that party are indeed paranoid about many things.

I just finished watch a town hall meeting that John McCain had recently in Arizona and some of the questions and speeches made there were down right disturbing! People were calling him all kinds of nasty names. They were wagging their fingers at him (that seems to be a signature of the tea party folks) and telling him he was dead wrong about immigration. Their solution it seems was to basically gun down anyone who is an “illegal alien” on the Arizona streets if they refused to self-deport.  Many of their words started with “Those people” and ended with some paranoid action.  I was surprised how Mr. McCain maintained his composure. When one person in the group stated that “all we have to do is take away their welfare checks and all those illegals will go back to where they came from!”, Mr. McCain correctly pointed out that the vast majority of undocumented are not on welfare. Then he made the statement, “you are entitled to your own opinions but you are not entitled to your own facts”. Nice comeback John.

I’m sure that many in the GOP are as frightened of these new players in their party as are the rest of us. But those now lamenting moderate Republicans must remember that they are the ones who created this Frankenstein. They unleashed him in order to try to win some seats in the 2011 house.  I wish they had thought it through before cuddling up to the Tea Party radicals.

So, what are the options for the majority who make up the GOP? There are really only two; 1) Abandon it, 2) Reform it. Obviously the easiest is just to abandon it and call yourself and independent. That is what so many of the 18 – 29 year olds did in the 2012 election. They left in droves. Reforming it will take a lot more effort. It is just very hard to put the genie back in the bottle.

I will finish of with saying that yes the Democrats also have a radical fringe in their party. The difference is that the Democratics generally keep their crazies locked away in a rubber room somewhere in the far back of the house where as the Republicans gave their radicals the key to the front door….

Taking It From Somebody….

February 27, 2013

Banner - Will Rogers

The difference between our rich and poor grows greater every year. Our distribution of wealth is getting more uneven all the time. . . . A man can make a million over night and he is on every page in the morning. But it never tells you who give up the million he got. You can’t get money without taking it from somebody. – 1 June 1930  Will Rogers

WealthAs Will points out here the difference between the rich and the poor has always been greater than many of us would like to see but I really don’t think in Will’s day it was even remotely as wide a gap as it is today.   The latest statistics show that there is about $58 trillion of wealth in the U.S.  But as the chart to the right shows 80% of the population  controls only 7% of the wealth. That is about $10,000 per person for 80% of us. The top 1% average $7,000,000/person.

But as Will further points out that there is just so much wealth that can be owned. There has been a twenty fold increase in billionaire in the last twenty years.  In order for the money to come to them it had to come from someone else. Of course we all know where it came from. It came for the wages and benefits of the 80% that have actually decreased over that same period of time.

I’m not a financial wizard but it really doesn’t seem like rocket science to me to understand that if we want to grow our GDP we must have citizens who have the money to buy additional goods and services. The 1% can only buy so many jets and yachts. :)   In fact most of their increased wealth is likely just sitting in off-shore accounts accumulating interest.  When the elite among us insist on stagnating wages there are no additional resources to grow our economy. It is a Catch-22 and that I can understand so why can’t the big shot economists in the gOp figure it out?

Banner -Off The Top

DinasaursWhen any organization becomes totally dysfunctional it is time for a major shakeup. I am becoming more and more convinced that the only way we are ever going to reduce the gridlock we find in Washington is to remove the current leadership and hopefully replace them with some who are not as battle scarred and vindictive as the current ones. The current leaders are just too more consumed with battling their rivals than of governing for the good of the country. They have lost all perspective of life outside that contaminated city.

For my Republican friends who would never conceive of voting for a Democrat I plead you to find someone in your party who can challenge the leaders in your primaries. That way you don’t have to touch the dreaded “d” word at the polls.  Both Mr. Reid and McConnell are like long toothed dinosaurs. They seem to have nothing but contempt for each other and are willing to sacrifice the good of the country to get back at each other.  It used to be that seniority in the Senate was about wisdom but I personally see little wisdom in either of these two men right now.

It is not much better in the House of Representatives. Mr. Boenher just isn’t  able to control the radical right wing of his party.  He seems to be more afraid of them than he is of the Democrats. Mrs. Pelosi is a lightening rod for the conservatives in the desert west and the south in our country.  Being from San Francisco is probably a big part of that ingrained prejudice. I do think that both of these leaders are of noble spirit but they are just too toxic for our times.

Until we can resolve the underlying contempt of and for the current leaders it will be hard to accomplish much for our country. There are many current issues that can be resolved if only we did a little house cleaning in Washington.  Closing tax loopholes is one of them.  They all complain that the current tax code is 10,000 pages long but what they don’t say is that over 9,000 of those pages are exclusions/loop hole for one favored interest or another. Why can’t they at least agree to eliminate those give-aways?  I know that much of this toxicity is not confined to the beltway but that is a most appropriate place to start.

Voting long time politicians out of office is not an easy thing so I have my doubts that it can really be accomplished.  But something has to be done or our country may soon be in deeper jeopardy than it already is and something we just may not be able to recover from.

But I’m just a simple guy so what do I know……

Only Seven Murders….

February 26, 2013

Banner -In The News

Source: No guns at home, so Japanese shoot ‘em up in Guam – Itineraries on NBCNews.com.

Because guns are so hard to find, gun-related crime is extremely rare. They were used in only seven murders in Japan — a nation of about 130 million people — in 2011, the most recent year for official statistics. In the U.S., with 315 million people, there are more than 11,000 gun-related killings annually.  The Japanese are proud of their low crime rate and generally support tough gun-control policies.

Given the propensity to violence in this country I can’t even imagine a country of 130 million only having seven murders in a year! I suspect there will be that many in Chicago within the next two days.  How does Japan keep violence down to such a miniscule level?  Part of it I’m sure is their culture. Even though Japan was one of the countries that started the last world war they basically have a very non-violent society now. They generally show great respect for each other, especially their elders. They are just not the type to have a lot of bravado  as we in the U.S. seem to overflow with.

But there is also another major reason for such a low murder rate and that is guns are almost impossible to obtain in their society.  The NRA is constantly harping that if the bad guys didn’t have guns they would learn to kill with other weapons but Japan seems to prove them wrong.  I don’t think that Japan is devoid of bad guys. Human greed which spurns so much lawlessness is probably just as endemic in their country as it is in most others. When a gun makes killing so painless (at least for the one doing the shooting) it makes murder just too easy and a spur of the moment thing.

Too bad we can’t learn even the simplest lessons from our neighbors in other countries. If we could take the best ideas of each country and incorporate them here…. Instead we stubbornly insist that we alone are the only ones that can get anything right. How naive is that??

 

Unemployment Rate by Education Level

In 1992, the BLS began tracking unemployment rates by education level. Highlighted below are the unemployment rates for the following four groups…. All groups consist of individuals 25 years old or higher.

Education Level Achieved September 2012 Month/Month
(Points)
Year/Year
(Points)
Less than
High School
11.3% -0.7 -2.6
High School Grad
No College
8.7% -0.1 -0.9
Some College
or Associate Degree
6.5% -0.1 -1.9
Bachelor’s Degree
or Higher
4.1% 0.0 -0.1

It is no secret that the lower the education level the higher the unemployment rate. We are told that employers are out looking for people to fill their jobs and there are just not enough qualified applicants. When I grew up in the 1950s and 60s a young man could graduate from high school and if he had the connections could get a job in one of the auto factories in the area. It was a good paying middle class job. But then came robotics and foreign competition.

I’m not saying that robotic or competition are a bad thing. In fact I think it is just a normal progression through the industrial age.  A hundred and fifty years ago a young boy with no education could plan on making some pretty good money by signing on to a moving cattle from Texas to Kansas City.  Those jobs like the factory jobs of my generation naturally disappeared with the advent of the railroad.  It is just a matter of progress that the good paying jobs of one generation are not the good paying ones of the next.

The fact that to get a good middle class job in today’s world takes something beyond a high school education is just to be expected. But, a basic problem is that our education system just hasn’t kept up with the demand for more intelligent workers as evidenced by the above numbers.  This fact really shouldn’t surprise anyone. Our kids generally are just not getting the education needed for today’s jobs.

So, how do we as a country change the culture of our education system to meet the demands of the 21st century? I have never been involved in this field other than as a student but I have been exposed to some of its participants.  From the teachers I have met personally it seems that the majority of them are pretty naive in the ways of today’s businesses. For the most part they are arts majors fresh out of college. Most spend their entire careers inside the educational system. If we hope to continue to compete for the middle class jobs of the world we will need to entice those who have a working knowledge of the jobs available today and a big part of that is math, science and especially computer savvy teachers.  We need teacher at the high school level who have experiences outside the educational system. I don’t think that is happening to any degree right now. At least not in my local school district.

I know many teachers read this blog and I am not trying to put you down in any way. From your comments I know how difficult a job it is to be a teacher in today’s world.  I know that a big part of the problem is in the home of the students. But we must face facts that our kids are generally not equipped for the middle class jobs of today.

Being Against…

February 25, 2013

Banner - Will Rogers

againstIf I was a President and wanted something I would claim I didn’t want it. For Congress has not given any President anything he wanted in the last 10 years. Be against anything and then he is sure to get it. – 5 May 1923  — Will Rogers

I can’t understand why each president seems to have to learn this lesson on their own. But, I think President Obama finally gets it.  If he wants something to happen the best thing he can do is to remain quiet about it. Mr. Boehner is constantly harping that the president is not involved enough in the legislative process but what I think he really means is that he wants to know what the president is for so he and all the other sheep in the GOP led house can line up against it.

I imagine it is hard sometimes to put together a list of what you are against. Especially for those House Republicans. They just get lazy on occasion and don’t want to do the work to make up their own “against” list. That is when they insist that President Obama do it for them. A perfect example of that is the immigration reform plan leaked by the White House. It was certain to be “DEAD ON ARRIVAL” before it even left the White House door.

I am waiting for Mr. Obama to evolve into the next phase of Will’s strategy. I expect that soon he will come out with a list of things he is against. If he is good at it the conservatives will want to get everything on that list into law as soon as possible. But the secret is to make sure that Mr. Boehner and company are convinced that he really is against them.  Mr. Obama is a pretty smart guy so I pray that he get good at this game so we the people might be able to get something good from the 113th congress.  But in reality I kind of doubt anything productive will come from that bunch….

But, I’m just a simple guy so what do I know……

More Than Skin Deep???….

February 25, 2013

Kick MeSource: First Thoughts: Obama’s two speeches in one – First Read.

Did he broaden the party’s reach? But here’s a separate question we have: Did Rubio broaden his party’s reach? While he’s younger than Mitt Romney and has a more relatable life story, Rubio’s speech was almost a rehash of almost everything we heard from Romney and the GOP in 2012. He accused Obama of believing that the free enterprise system is the source of America’s problems (when the president praised it in his State of the Union); he said that Obama wants to grow the size of the government; and he attacked the health-care law.

All of those messages had hundreds of millions of dollars behind them in the 2012 presidential election, and Republicans got just 47% of the vote in the presidential election. There is no doubt that Rubio is a GOP politician with a bright future and plenty of personal appeal. But it also seemed like Rubio was preaching to the Republican choir rather than broadening the party’s reach. It’s a speech that is being very well received among conservatives, but was it a persuasion speech?

Rebranding seems the name of the game in the gOp. At least on the surface that is a valid observation but is it really more than skin deep? Mr. Rubio is supposed to be the ordained future leader of the party so when he had a chance to rebrand the Republican party how well did he do that job? To me he just sounded like more of the same obstructionism. He needs to get out of his church and away from the choir once in a while to even begin to convince me he is a different brand than so many others in his party. But the question is does he have the guts to do that?

P.S…. It didn’t sink into me that the title and the picture in this post were more related than I thought.  The “KICK ME” is definitely more than skin deep. :)

Buy American

February 24, 2013
Banner - Aside 2
JeffersonI HAVE come to a resolution myself, as I hope every good citizen will, never again to purchase any article of foreign manufacture which can be had of American make, be the difference of price what it may.  —  Jefferson, Thomas 

Who would have thought that the “Buy American” theme started so many years ago with Thomas Jefferson.  If only we had learned this lesson from him.

Removing Obstacles…..

February 24, 2013
Banner -Inspiration
The abundant life does not come to those who have had a lot of obstacles removed from their path by others. It develops from within and is rooted in strong mental and moral fiber.  — William Mather Lewis

All of us want to have an abundant life. That is we want our life to be full and meaningful. We want to make at least a slight difference because we were here. I believe that the quote above is at the root of making that possible.  Although I am not a parent I’m sure that all parents out there want their children to have an abundant life. But as the quote insinuates it does not come from having all the obstacles removed from our paths.

Obstacles and corresponding adversity is what builds character. When you are given life with the proverbial “silver spoon” you develop a very shallow sense of reality. Many of the upper echelons of our society like to chant about the “entitlements” that our country provides to those on the other end of the economic scale. They claim that giving someone something they haven’t earned just drives them to expect more. There is certainly some validity in that argument but what they seem blind to is that many of the elite are doing the same thing with their children. When they remove all the obstacles from their children’s path they are leading them into an “entitlement” mentality.  We can look back at history to see how this played out in the royal families of Europe. History shows us that many of the “entitled” kings had lost all sense of reality of how their subjects lived.

Most of the great people in society grew up with adversity and obstacles in their paths. It is what made them strong. We should not deny our children or future generations by removing all their obstacles in life.