Archives For In The News

Things happening in the world today

2014-11-16_08-44-26All that lovely wealth isn’t trickling down. The country’s median income hit a high of $56,080 in 1999, went into slow decline, dropped to $53,644 after the 2008 economic meltdown — and five years later, was lower still, at $52,100. Raises remain tiny. Many newly created jobs pay a pittance. For tens of millions of people, the economic recovery is an illusion.

The voters are right: Wage stagnation — and the resulting erosion of the middle class — is this country’s biggest problem. When hard work no longer produces upward mobility for workers who lack elite skills, America’s implicit promise is broken. At National Review, conservative Maggie Gallagher complains that “for more than a decade Americans have been losing ground financially, and the GOP has yet to address the issue.” In The Washington Post, liberal Harold Meyerson grouses that “the Democrats have had precious little to say about how to re-create…widely shared prosperity.” Perhaps that’s because the standard liberal and conservative nostrums (Tax the rich! Eliminate regulations!) won’t address the fundamental problem: Globalization and technology have devalued both labor and workers, and made companies more ruthlessly competitive. Here’s a scary thought: Neither party is offering a remedy because there isn’t one.

SOURCE:  America’s broken promise – The Week.

The two hundred words above from my friends over at the Week seem to cut to the bone as the primary reason so many people are upset about how this country is proceeding.  The guy/gal who gets up every morning and puts in an eight to ten hour day working for someone else is falling further and further behind. So many people have seen their paychecks and any benefits they might have had go down for the last fifteen years while all those “rich cats” continue to rake in vulgar profits on their unearned income.  There seems to be a fundamental breakdown in our society.

As the article states this is a problem that can’t seem to be addressed by the old methods even if the GOP allowed them to happen. Democrats can’t throw enough money at this problem to make it go away and the Republican’s trickle down obviously after fifteen years is not got to happen. I will admit that globalization has a lot to do with this dilemma. So much of the rest of the world is in much worse shape economically than we are. It will be years, probably generations, before that is balanced. The old solutions just don’t work anymore.

New approaches to strengthening the large middle segment of wage earners is drastically needed. The problem is neither party in Washington seems capable of any degree of new thought. They are too busy blaming each other to find new pathways to overall prosperity. Somethings got to give sooner or later.

For all the problems that the middle have those on the margins of our society have it worse. The unemployment rate for them is astronomical. The safety net continues to erode so little or no help is seen on the horizon. Somethings got to give and I am afraid that when it does it will have some serious consequences for all of us.

Bush vs. Clinton in 2032…

December 18, 2014 — 4 Comments

This was not a banner year for youth voter participation. To be fair, off-year elections never are, but this year’s mere 12 percent participation rate of voters under 30 is about more than midterm ennui. Rather, it’s part of a larger trend of millennial disenchantment with the Washington establishment in both major parties — a trend that is primed to kick into high gear if we have a Bush vs. Clinton contest in 2016.

Bush vs. Clinton really is the perfect way to make us hate politics even more. At a gut level it feels aristocratic and distinctly un-American. At a policy level, picking between the previous decade’s leftovers isn’t much of a choice. And at a practical level I can’t help but think that my time will be better spent outside the voting booth than in it, pulling a lever for more of the same. Like much of my generation, I’d rather “take problems on in real time and fix them” — which isn’t exactly the government’s forte.

Or I suppose I could take the long view and start studying up for 2032. I’m sure George P. Bush and Chelsea Clinton will run a very competitive race.

SOURCE:  Bush vs. Clinton in 2016 is the perfect way to make millennials hate politics even more – The Week.

I have been a diligent voter since 1968. I don’t think I have ever missed even a mid-term election. I used to stay up late into the evening watching the political conventions. I wasn’t sure if I was a Republican or a Democrat so I watched both versions. But the last fifteen years or so, and especially the last decade, has almost completely soured me on anything political. So, I can see where my millennial friends have never shown much interest in voting.

But is this trend of the next generation of voters shunning the political process deadly to our democratic process? Only one in eight of them voted this past election and probably a similar number of African-Americans did the same. When a majority of citizens don’t think enough of the process to even vote they are leaving their fate to a small minority who do. Unfortunately that small minority is often those who thing government has no function in our society especially in the social realm. They, for the most part just want to keep their wealth to themselves. They are often the “I’ve got mine so screw you” block of electorate.

Getting to the specifics of the article above, even I suffer from “Bush vs Clinton” fatigue and since those are the two families that have dominated our politics for their entire lives I can see where millennials are too. But since the political process has become so putrid it does take a certain type of person to even consider the possibility of getting into politics. Not many even have the stomach to vote let alone run for office.

I fear for our country when I see the trend of so many giving up any connection to our political processes. Someone has to do the people’s business. I am just not a big believer in aristocracy or anarchy…..

 

Основные RGBU.S. stocks fell sharply on Friday, leaving the benchmark S&P 500 with its worst weekly performance since May 2012, as investors pulled back from the markets in response to oil’s free-fall and more weak data out of China.

SOURCE: Oil slump leads Wall Street to worst week in 2-1/2 years – Yahoo Finance.

I am by no means an economist who espouses to understand all this stock market stuff but it seems to me that whatever is good for the common guy economists think is bad for the stock market. Declining oil prices will put billions of bucks back into the average guys wallet and that means she can spend it on other things for the family. Things such as paying off the mortgage, going out to eat a little more frequently, buying some much-needed new clothes or even a new water heater. How can that be bad for our economy?

I guess the stock market logic is that with lower oil company profits comes less dividends into the rich guys pockets and of course we all know that the rich guys are the job creators don’t we ;)  therefore people will have to be laid off because of lower oil prices… Now I’m not saying this form of logic makes any sense and I’m sure it comes from the same folks who time after time say raising the minimum wage will result in millions of jobs being lost and of course we all know that never happens.

Maybe a declining stock market is a good thing. I have been thinking that it is rising too rapidly lately for its own good. Maybe falling stock prices at least in this incidence is a way to take it out of the rich guy’s pocket and put it in the working guy’s pocket. Lord knows he need a break as he has not had a raise in decades now. If the companies won’t give him his share of the profits  maybe he can get it from falling commodity costs.

The second reason for these recent stock drops was cited to be the slowing increase in the Chinese economy. They are now only projected to grow twice as fast as we are.  Again how is that a bad thing? It means that a few more of us here in the U.S. might see our jobs stay here a little longer instead of being farmed out to China. I don’t know, I am just an average old guy  I guess but these two things seem to be good things to me. But then again what do I know….

Now before you start sending me comments trying to set me straight I want to let you know that much  of this post is tongue-in-cheek. Much but not all…. The average guy needs a break wherever he can get it   :)

2014-10-27_07-59-54

I remember the details of the Vietnam war still today. While my hearing impairment kept me out of it I did lose several good friends to that totally unnecessary war.  One thing I remember is the daily body counts from the DOD of Viet Kong killed. It was acknowledged later that these numbers were grossly over counted.  It seems that the military establishment thought they could get unlimited funds if they show us that the “enemy” was much stronger than it really was. I think that mentality still reigns today inside that pentagon shaped monolith in Washington DC.

The news today is almost 24/7 about ISIS, that is the extreme muslim group determined to reek jihad on the rest of the world. It is impossible to really say outside the DOD spin just how many belong to that group but their hatred of things non-muslim is very obvious indeed. The almost daily beheadings that happen now are meant to strike terror among us and they seem to accomplish that task.  But how much do we need to do to eradicate ISIS?

I’m sure that behind the scenes the Pentagon is asking for trillions of more dollars in their budgets in order to take on these hate-mongers. I am certainly not a military strategist but it seems pretty simple to me. Cut off their source of funding and they will evaporate. Cut off their source of supplies and they will become a toothless old lion. I am afraid that Mr. Obama will eventually give in to those who want us to send in our troops to take them out. If he does he will likely get us into another endless war….

What we should be doing is to find the people or countries that are giving them the missile launchers and retaliate against them. Almost all banking today , including ISIS funding happens electronically so drying up their bank accounts is very doable. We don’t need to get down in the mud with the ISIS gutter mongers, we just need to cut off their sources and they will go away.

I kind of think the same thing is going on with all these terrorist’s groups lately. In my gut, for what that is worth which is nothing, I kind of suspect that ISIS is a pretty small and in terms of power pretty inconsequential. We don’t need trillions of buck to eliminate their effect today. When I read the above “speed read” from my friends at The Week the first thing that I thought of is that we should be spending our resources against those who are funding ISIS instead of its ragtag members.

Canadian flagBrunt’s message, essentially, was “What is wrong with you people?”

“Many of us Canadians are confused by the US midterm elections,” he began, before running down a list of accomplishments he credited to the president, including falling unemployment, gas prices, and interest rates, along with a record high dollar, stock market, and corporate profits.

He lists similar triumphs on the foreign-policy front.

“America is leading the world once again and respected internationally — in sharp contrast to the Bush years. Obama brought soldiers home from Iraq and killed Osama bin Laden.”

“So, Americans vote for the party that got you into the mess that Obama just dug you out of? This defies reason,” Brunt writes. “When you are done with Obama, could you send him our way?”

The letter has brought some on the liberal left – many of whom have long been disillusioned with Obama, and many of whom seem to have disappeared during the midterm election and its aftermath – out of the woodwork….

“We love him,” writes Macleans in an article headed “Canada’s love affair with Barack Obama.” “The broad-band smile, the Lincolnesque bearing, the sense of the man as an avatar of multiculturalism—it all makes Barack Obama the perfect US president in the eyes of Canadians.”

Heck, there’s even a Facebook page for “Canadians for Obama.”

SOURCE:   After midterm sweep, Canadian asks: ‘What were you thinking, America?’ – Yahoo News.

I love the perspective that our Canadian friends give us about our politics and for that matter most other areas of our life. They just see past all the games to the core of any topic.  We Americans just never seem to be satisfied with our current circumstances. There is always something to complain about. Our politics drastically shifts from one extreme to another.

It also amazes me that after just six years we have forgotten what this young black president has accomplished during his time in office. We could be in very different circumstances if things had worked out differently.  We could be like we were in the 1930s with our financial institutions in shambles and the average guy struggling to just put food on the table. How quickly we forget how differently things were just six short years ago.

Yeah many of us haven’t seen a raise in decades while the 1% continue to rake in bigger and bigger increases in their wealth. Yeah we are still mired down in the mud with our approach to foreign policy. Too many of our kids have died as a result of very narrow thinking. But things could have been much worse if the likes of Mr. Cheney were still in power.

We Americans are just never satisfied with our current circumstances no matter what they are. Whereas our Canadian friends seem to be the very definition of stability. They have their political problems too but they just seem to keep them in a more normal perspective than we ever have. For most of us our glass may be just half full but it is a lot better than is was just six short years ago. Even though it it too late to do anything about it, thank you guys for helping us understand how good we have it even when we don’t realize it ourselves…..

2014-12-02_08-27-55During a recent interview, the former supermodel broke down while talking about how the alleged rape has affected her.

“I’m strong, and I’m gonna stand on my own two feet, and I’m going to tell my side of the story,” the 59-year-old told CNN. “It’s not going to end here.”

SOURCE:  Watch Janice Dickinson Tearfully Discuss Her Sexual Assault Allegation Against Bill Cosby | TIME.

It certainly saddens me to see such a comic icon’s image tarnished. I know and thoroughly believe in the concept “innocent until proven guilty” but I can also understand how the powerful among us can get away with things  that we common folks simply can’t. It seems there is so much smoke around the Cosby issue for it to be totally false. I can certainly see where a teenage girl would be reluctant to say anything about a famous person abusing her as so many are now accusing him of doing. I hope these things are not true but it is hard to ignore the magnitude of the accusations.

This brings back similar issue from years ago. When Anita Hill, who was and still is a respected college professor  came out with accusations against the then Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas.  Her accusations of sexual harassment were summarily ignored. People didn’t want to hear about an important person nominated for a lifetime position on the highest court in the land having a dark side. Sadly for all of us  Mr. Thomas was approved and now sits on the Supreme Court as by far the least active member ever of that court. He is simply occupying a seat on the very conservative side of the spectrum and nothing more.  With or without the harassment issue it was a tragic mistake to allow him to take up a valuable seat on that august body for decades to come.

It is hard to accept that anyone who we might look up to has a dark side but in reality all of us to one degree or another have one. I don’t know if Mr. Cosby will ever admit to any of these past acts? Being a famous celebrity almost always comes with an inflated ego who thinks he has privileges where others don’t.  It is extremely difficult for anyone to bring up accusations against someone famous, especially when hard evidence is not immediately available.

Beam Me Up Scottie….

December 3, 2014

2014-11-26_09-08-20Ferguson has been dominating the news lately. Especially after the grand jury decisions. This post is not going to be about that except to say that needlessly taking another life is as tragic as all those lives lost previous to that young man. I thoroughly support a police officers right to defend himself and that is what the grand jury decided.  The way to defend himself is the matter of this post.

The point is that there should be a logical alternative to using lethal force against someone who you feel threatened by. That is especially true for our police officers who keep us safe. Reaching for a lethal weapon should be the last alternative, not the first one.

It seems that since the first episode of Star Trek was shown more than forty years ago we have come pretty far toward actually implementing many of the technological advances dreamed up in the series.  No, we haven’t got a teleporter yet, that’s the one I am waiting for, but we have accomplished much in other technological advances. One thing that is totally doable today but is being held back by an obsession is the phaser. You know the one that Kirk almost always said to set on stun.

Since we seem to have appointed ourselves as the policemen of the world we should be inventing new technology toward doing that job right. Why do we need to kill someone who may be threatening physical abuse on us? Whey is it necessary to take a life in order to preserve our own? I kind of think the total reason for it comes from our obsession with guns. If we found killing another person was as tragic as surely God does we would leave our weapons on stun and only use the kill setting for imminent death situations.

No police officer, or anyone else for that matter should have to decide within a split second to take another life when there are logical alternatives available. If we were able to disable someone attacking us without extinguishing another living soul I”m sure most of us would take that option. A taser is a good starting point but is just not that accurate and must be used close up. How about a laser guided wireless taser? We can laser guide our bombs so why not a temporary disabling beam?  I know the NRA would fight it as taking away our constitutional right to a “real” gun but isn’t it about time we told them where to stuff all their opinions. We have needlessly killed enough young men, especially it seems those of color….

Beam me up Scottie, or at least put our weapons on stun…..

 

2014-10-30_08-32-58AT&T has completed upgrading its fiber-network in Austin, Texas, to 1-gigabit-per-second broadband speeds, the carrier said Monday.The Dallas-based company, which started the Austin upgrade in August, has been working to increase the speed of its U-Verse with GigaPower fiber network from 300 megabits-per-second to 1Gbps. AT&T is racing to bring faster Internet to customers before its competitors.

SOURCE:  AT&T finishes rollout of 1Gbps connection in Austin – CNET.

I am one of the fortunate ones along my road in that I am within the 1.5 mile distance from the AT&T central office. I can get my Internet connection at 0.003 Gbps. That is 300 times slower than folks in Austin get.  To put that in perspective what takes them one second to get takes me 5 minutes. Sadly those north of me are limited to 0.0002 Gbps.So when I run across these types of announcements I often say “SHAME ON YOU”.

We all know that in the 21st century information is power. Those with it have opportunity; those without it have almost none and of course the Internet and access to it is fundamental to the 21st century information age.  Why are those of us in less populated areas denied access to the Internet speeds that our urban neighbors take for granted? Of course the answer is profits.

I look out my front door and see a couple of two-inch diameter cables strewn between two poles across my front yard. In some places along my road these cables sag to just a few feet above the ground. They have not been improved in many decades. The picture above shows that both of those cables could be replaced by a single small fiber-optic line but to do that would require an investment that currently goes to the owners as profit.

Looking at the history of utilities in rural America I see where this is nothing new. It wasn’t until the 1930s that electricity or telephone was widely available to the farmers who provide the rest of us with food.  The New Deal of the 1930s would finally help remedy that situation via the REMC. Here is a little about that from my friends at Wikipedia:

Many such cooperatives exist in the rural United States, and were created by the New Deal to bring electric power and telephone service to rural areas, when the nearest investor-owned utility would not provide service, believing there would be insufficient revenue to justify the capital expenditures required. Many electric cooperatives have banded together to form their own wholesale power cooperatives, often called G&Ts for generation and transmission, to supply their member-owners with electricity.

If we had a functional government in place, instead of the gridlock that is there, maybe this issue could be resolved like it was then. I guess I should be grateful for my 0.003 Gbps Internet connection even though my city neighbors had connections three hundred times faster. At least my snail like speeds are several times faster than all my neighbors north of me.  It is about time for AT&T to spend a little money and put all of us on a fiber-optic system so that we all have a more or less level playing field for the future.  I thought that was the FCC’s mandate but if it is it is being totally ignored. Shame on AT&T for not having done so already…. And shame on the FCC for not having forced them to do it already….

Common Sense…..

November 14, 2014

2014-07-25_08-48-31Call them the invisible rich. How do they do it? Sure, money like that sometimes comes from an inheritance or another fortuitous break, but more likely it’s the result of diligence, smart choices and, well, deferred gratification.

SOURCE: Wealth-building secrets of the millionaire next door – Yahoo Finance.

Wealth-building secrets of the millionaire next door

It seems like there are thousands of articles and books lately to tell you how to become rich. But do any of them actually have anything unique to say? I am not going to go into the details about the above article other than to give you the topic titles.

* They Don’t Spend Beyond Their Means

* They Educate Themselves

* They Pick the Right Field

* They Save (and Invest) Early

* They Don’t Swing for the Fences

* They Keep Themselves Covered

* They’re Wise About Windfalls

* They Hang Onto Their Cars (and Houses)

* They Avoid Debt

To this old Midwestern boy all these things just seem like common sense. Sure some like picking the right field are more luck than anything, but most are achievable by most of us if we just stick to it.  I really don’t know what keeping myself covered has to do with anything but I figure I must have done a good job at it since I am pretty well covered today. :)

Never had a windfall except for the new fishing reel I got as a young boy from my grandfathers estate. Now I am not a millionaire but I think I do have enough to keep me going for the final years of my life. But to me the point of life is not financial wealth building (easy for someone to say who has enough) but more along the lines of morality building and trying to treat the other guy with respect whether he deserves it or not.

But given the statistics lately it seems that most just can’t seem to live by the standards above. Maybe they should be teaching more about that in our school systems? I don’t know about wealth-building but I think I have done a pretty fair job of paying forward for all the good fortune I have had in my life. I might have had it tough in some regards, losing my mother in early life and losing hearing at mid-life was no joyride, but I had it a lot easier than many folks I came across in life….

 

A Dreamer Or A Fighter…..

November 12, 2014

2014-10-29_08-38-29I still vividly remember the election season of 2008. It was the year that I for the first time in a long time held out hope for a change in our political system. George Bush’s reign over the country was finally ending but the wars he put us in were still going full bore and still greatly affect us even today. He left the new guy with a total mess in our financial system. The worst mess in fifty years. I had confidence that this new-on-the-scene young guy could give us back our social conscience that George stripped away from us. I contributed frequently to his campaign and was totally overjoyed when he won the presidency even carrying my State of Indiana!!

I knew the GOP opposition to anything that seems progressive would come full force against this new president but I dreamed that he like FDR and several other democratic presidents before him would stand his ground and eventually win some hard-fought gains for our country and especially for those on the economic margins. I dreamed things would be better ahead of us as a country…

Things started out pretty well when this new administration went full bore to give us a universal healthcare system that much of the rest of the world had already realized. Of course there was drastic opposition to this plan as there is for anything of a progressive nature from the expected quarters. But I dreamed that our new leader would fight the fight… and eventually win…

Looking back, of course that is always easier than looking forward, I have come to realize that this first time president of color who reeked of dreams and hope was just not up to the challenge of the fights necessary to accomplish them. His fighter to dreamer ratio was just not up the job ahead.  In today’s world it takes a gargantuan fight to accomplish anything worth doing. A fight he, looking back, seemed incapable of doing. Yeah, he did get a very watered down version of universal healthcare that no one really likes, some because it went too far and for some because it didn’t go nearly far enough. I am part of the later group.

I have learned my lesson. In the coming presidential seasons I am looking for the fighter not the dreamer.  While dreamers are absolutely necessary they are just not the political leaders we need right now.  We need someone with a strong backbone and the tools necessary to push or maybe even ram change down the oppositions throat. We need a fighter who has a base level of dreamer within her/him and can back it up with some strong actions. The problem seems to be that those qualities are totally lacking in so many currently in the inner circles of politics.

This election cycle I am looking for a fighter not a dreamer to lead our country forward …..