Archives For In The News

Things happening in the world today

Thirteen years after the Sept. 11 terror attacks, this was supposed to be a season of relief, with Iraq managing on its own and most U.S. troops finally ending their combat duty in Afghanistan. Instead, Americans are bracing for another upsurge of military engagement in a region where one war blurs into another. Across the world, a generation has now grown up amid this continuous conflict, and there’s no end in sight. AP

SOURCE:  No end in sight for America’s Mideast war duties.

I hadn’t really thought about it much as 13 years seems a small part of my life but most of the kids in our elementary and high schools have never known a time when we were not at war at the other end of the world. The September 11 attacks by a handful of ideologues was a very tragic event but I kind of think its effects have been way beyond the original event. We, as a country just seem to be totally fixated on the idea that it must never happen again.  To that end we go all over the world to find anyone who wishes us ill will.

There is no end in sight for our involvement in the Middle East and that saddens me greatly.  That part of the world has been in a war mode for more than a millennia and will likely remain so for many many more years. It is just unrealistic to think that somehow we can change the dynamic towards peace with our military might.  In reality our meddling in their affairs has probably done more harm than good.

The policemen of the world should answer to a multinational body who doesn’t have the baggage that we do. If only the UN were capable of doing the task. If only we would allow them to even try. But there are just too many in this country with too big of egos to allow that possibility to even have a chance.  Sadly, we will likely remain in the “policemen” mode until it finally breaks us financially.  We, five percent of the world’s population foot over half the bill for maintaining order, or at least our version of it. By any account that is just not a sustainable condition and will sooner or later, like the Roman Empire cause our downfall.

 

Buying a Thousand Pillows…

September 30, 2014 — 1 Comment

Two colorful pillows over whiteYeah. So it is true that rich people can spend more money than middle class people, but there’s this upper limit on what we can spend. I drive a very nice car, but it’s only one car. I don’t own a thousand, even though I earn a thousand times the median wage. I have a few jackets, not a few thousand. My family can afford to go out to eat more than most American families, but not more than three times a day. We can’t go out 3,000 times a day.

So if you concentrate wealth in the hands of a very few people, you break down this feedback loop between customers and businesses. My family, among other businesses, owns a pillow company, and the pillow business is tough because fewer and fewer people can afford to buy pillows. Again, I may earn a thousand times the median wage, but I don’t sleep on a thousand pillows.

You need everyone to be able to afford a pillow every year in order to have a successful pillow business, and concentrating wealth at the top essentially creates a death spiral of falling demand.

 

SOURCE: Why capitalism has nothing to do with supply and demand | Making Sen$e | PBS NewsHour.

To me it just seems common sense that if you want an economy to thrive you put money in the hands of people who will spend it. Putting it in the hands of those who will simply stash it away with an already absurd bank account does nothing for the good of the country or its citizens.

Trickle down is still the mantra of many in the GOP, especially Mr. Ryan. If they get their way all social services would cease to exist and everyone would be left to themselves. Ayn Rand, who is Mr. Ryan’s hero, believed that altruism, that is caring for humanity, is a weakness and not a strength and it needs to be driven out of any truly successful society. That mentality seems to permeate those who are at the very conservative margins of our country now days.

It seems there are basically two distinctively different types of people in the U.S. There are those who love and care about everyone at least on some level and this  includes people they don’t know. Then sadly there are those who care seemingly only care about themselves and maybe their immediate families. Everyone else is to be feared on some level or simply of no or little consequence to them.

Trickle down does not nor has it ever worked. Raising the minimum wage and giving workers their fair share of the rewards benefits everyone, even those who believe in trickle down.

Freestyle School….

September 29, 2014 — 3 Comments

2014-09-15_11-36-46As the new school year approaches, teachers have come to expect that many of their students will have forgotten some of what they learned earlier. It’s called summer learning loss, and some teachers believe it’s inevitable. Are they right?…

The traditional educator’s remedy for summer learning loss is more of the same, more hours and more days of classes and, of course, summer school.  What if schools enlisted family members as partners to help teach the children? But suppose there is another solution.  That’s what’s happening here at Russell Byers Charter School in Philadelphia. For five weeks this summer, Sarah Pisano helps 6- and 7-year-olds get better at reading.

SOURCE: Turning parents into teachers to fight the ‘summer slide’.

A recent episode on the PBS NewsHour got me to thinking about summer vacation. It is a known fact that students in the U.S. spend less than half the year in classrooms whereas other developed nations spend much more time than that. The reason we have not kept up with increasing our school hours and days is partly because of the resistance from teacher’s unions and partly because we don’t want to spend the extra tax dollars to make it happen.

Summer vacation was born in the early 19th century when most of America was agriculturally based. The family needed all hand available to plant, tend, and harvest the crops during the growing season.  Fast forward to today and that reason for summer school is totally archaic but the tradition of a three-month vacation in summer continues.

One solution to prevent us from falling further behind the rest of the world in the primary education of our youths is to simply extend the current school year beyond its current boundaries. But what are the alternatives? One was mentioned in this report and shown above.  But I kind of got a different approach to it. What if we made the summer session of school freestyle?

By freestyle I mean what if it were used to broaden education or at least help students overcome barriers? What if it emphasized the arts rather than the three “R”s? I think it is generally recognized that creativity will be a driving force that will keep our country a front-runner in the future. But by drowning out creative thinking and concentration only on the mechanics will we be able to keep up our lead in this area?

Just a thought….

7 Out Of 10….

September 23, 2014 — 2 Comments

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Nearly all of 2014’s best-paying jobs require an advanced degree, according to a new ranking from the job portal Careercast.com. Seven of the 10 most lucrative positions are in the health-care industry.

SOURCE: The 10 best-paying jobs of 2014 – Yahoo Finance.

It is interesting to see that seven of the ten highest paying jobs are in our unsustainable healthcare sector. I doubt that this relation is coincidental. Note that the numbers above are the average. Many make much more than this. We seem to always knock the lawyers but they are pretty far down on the list. The guy dispensing your prescriptions at your local pharmacy like makes more than the guy who might one day defend you in court.

 

Why???

September 17, 2014

2014-09-15_20-26-03I have a question for my Republican friends.

Yes, that sounds like the setup for a smackdown, but though the question is pointed, it is also in earnest. I’d seriously like to know:

If Republican fiscal policies really are the key to prosperity, if the GOP formula of low taxes and little regulation really does unleash economic growth, then why has the country fared better under Democratic presidents than Republican ones and why are red states the poorest states in the country?…

Yet, every election season the party nevertheless makes those claims. It will surely do so again this fall. So it seems fair to ask: Where are the numbers that support the assertion? Why is Texas only middling in terms of per capita income? Why is Mississippi not a roaring engine of economic growth? How are liberal Connecticut and Massachusetts doing so well?…

It seems to suggest Republican claims are, at best, overblown. If that’s not the case, I’d appreciate it if some Republican would explain why. Otherwise, I have another earnest, but pointed question for my Democratic friends:

How in the world do they get away with this?

 

SOURCE:  If GOP is right, why are red states so far behind? – Leonard Pitts – Newsday.

Why is probably my favorite word in the English language. Everyone should use it many times a day. If we don’t questions things in our lives then we leave the door open for others to determine how we live.

Why do we let others, particularly the politicians, say almost anything they want without questions? The above example is a biggie for me. If the Republican mantra of low taxes, no regulation, and small or maybe no government at all is the answer then why are so many of the red States so poor. With their iron-fisted control of their State governments why are so many “liberal” States so much better off then the red ones?

Theoretically it is possible to replace over 85% of our representative in congress in the coming months. So, if as the polls suggest, we are all so disgusted with those folks why will we return the vast majority of them to a job that they seem utterly unqualified for?

Are we just too lazy to take the necessary actions to turn our totally dysfunctional government around?  What we have to do is really not that difficult; just a couple of button pushes in early November. Out with the old and in with the new. The new couldn’t be any worse so why not give it a try?  Why??

One final question I have is why is my home State of Indiana a red one when all our surrounding neighbors are so blue? For the life of me I can’t figure that one out. :)

 

Is It Worth It???

September 10, 2014

2014-09-04_09-31-04If it were challenged by Russia, how important is Estonia’s sovereignty to you? Would you kill and die for it? Send your children to do so? Would you risk the nuclear annihilation of your civilization? Is your gratitude for use of Estonia’s airspace during the war on terror that great?

SOURCE: Don’t save Ukraine – The Week.

The publication “The Week” is becoming a favorite of mine. It is from a British organization so it lends a different viewpoint than most traditional U.S. sources.  It seems to have the same contrarian philosophy as me. When we take away all the spin of being the “policemen of the world” is preventing part of a country’s population from splitting off into a different allegiance worth billions of our dollars and more importantly thousands of American kids lives? That should be the first question we ask ourselves whenever we get involved in yet another conflict on the other side of the world.  I know my answer to that question and I suspect you know yours without hesitation.

Apple Innovations…

September 9, 2014

2014-09-01_09-28-00The new iPhone will make mobile payment easier by including a near-field communication chip for the first time, the person said. That advancement along with Touch ID, a fingerprint recognition reader that debuted on the most recent iPhone, will allow consumers to securely pay for items in a store with the touch of a finger….

“Love it or hate, Apple drives a lot of standards in the industry,” Bajarin said in an interview. “They are the mover in these markets. When they do something, the industry seems to follow.”

SOURCE: Apple Said to Team With Visa, MasterCard on IPhone Wallet – Yahoo Finance.

Today being the day for the “big” announcements from Apple almost necessitates that it also be the subject of this post.

A couple of years ago I downsized the wallet I used to have from a one inch behemoth that bulged from my back pocket to something less than a half-inch and the size of half a dollar bill and I found out I don’t miss all that other stuff I used to needlessly haul around. I have been waiting to move to the next stage and that is to chuck the whole wallet. It looks like with the latest Apple innovation I might be able to do that sooner rather than later. Of course soon is a relative term when it comes to our electronic gadgets.

Over the years I have seen quite a bit of miniaturization in the world around me. The doctor’s office, of which I seem to spend more and more time lately, has finally  gone totally digital. The dozen or so ten foot high by twenty-foot wide racks of patient records now reside on laptops carried around by the nurses. The doctors for the most part still stubbornly resist having to use “those things” so they relegate that responsibility to them.

I used to get about ten different paper magazines a month in order to keep up on what is happening in the world and to follow the hobbies that interested me.  I am now down to one weekly magazine. Everything else is on-line. Let’s face it the digital world saves trees and since trees give us our oxygen that is a good thing. :)

Our world is becoming smaller each year and it is about time to chuck the old wallet of the 19th and 20th century for a digital one. I am still using a three-year old iPhone but will upgrade to the iPhone 6 after the hoopla dies down. When that happens I will move as much as possible to digital transactions. Thanks Apple for giving us 21st century solutions to our daily challenges. I certainly look forward to your announcements this afternoon.

 

The “It” Factor…

September 8, 2014

2014-09-01_09-41-00Now, the fact that we call It “It” implies that this certain something is a little squishy and difficult to define. You just know It when you see It. Still, there are some obvious components. Good looks certainly help. So does confidence. Gravitas, swagger — both help you have It. And it’s often very important to be cool — whatever that is. Competence and the notion that you’re a winner who can get things done? Now that’s It.

JFK had It. Reagan had It. Clinton had It. So did George W. Bush. And Obama — well, let’s just say he was once heralded as “the biggest celebrity in the world.”…

Think of the last several presidential elections — Obama over Romney, Obama over McCain, Bush over Kerry, Bush over Gore, Clinton over Dole, Clinton over Bush, Bush over Dukakis, and so on. The candidate who has more of It always wins. So my fellow conservatives, I urge you: We’ve gotta find a candidate who has It. Because we’ll need It in 2016.

SOURCE:  The elusive ‘It factor’ in presidential politics – The Week.

I will admit that this article didn’t immediately catch my attention because it is from a well-know conservative blogger but the picture and the title pulled me in. Yeah, I am like everyone else in that I primarily read those I agree with. As to be expected I don’t agree with everything in this article but the overall premise is certainly true.  In the last thirty years or so we only elect people who we think have “it”. Some end up having “it” and some just don’t in the end measure up.

One of those characteristics mentioned above is almost the exclusive domain of Republicans and that is swagger. I suspect if John Wayne were alive today he, like the fellow actor of his time, would almost be a shoo-in for president given that he is the epitome of swagger.  But what these guys have in swagger they totally lack in cool. JFK certainly had cool but I’m not too sure the other Dems had it to any degree.

Getting back to the real purpose of this post, I’m just not sure why we insist that our presidents have “it”. Why don’t we pick the one most qualified to be in the Oval Office instead? As mentioned to a degree in the article some of our most effective presidents have been those who definitely didn’t have “it”. Look at LBJ, he was anything but cool but he got a lot of things done including Medicare, and Civil Rights. Look at FDR, he didn’t have any cool, swagger or much else on the list but he got things done.

We just don’t seem to be able to look beyond “cool” for our presidential choices lately. But at least one saving grace is that the country seems to survive almost anyone being in the highest office in the land. As proof of that look at Reagan and baby Bush….. :)

No More Whoppers For Me…

September 3, 2014

2014-08-26_08-36-25Burger King’s plan to scurry across the Canadian border to avoid U.S. taxes could be seen as the corporate equivalent of flipping President Barack Obama the bird….

“My sense is this is Burger King trying to dodge paying its taxes. I don’t know that I’d attribute it to their making a move like this to directly challenge Obama,” Frank Clemente, executive director of the nonprofit Americans for Tax Fairness, told The Huffington Post. “I can’t say what’s on the company’s mind here, whether they’re trying to beat the clock on this and do something before Congress passes legislation or do something before Obama signs an executive order.”

SOURCE:  Burger King Dares Obama To Stop It From Fleeing To Canada.

It irks me to see U.S. corporations declare bigger than ever profits and then shirk their tax responsibilities by moving out of the country.  As far as I am concerned Burger King might just as well move all their stores to as I will not be frequenting any of them in the future.  They can send me all the coupons they want but they will go immediately to the trash can.

Burger King is also known for paying no more than minimum wage to most of their store employees.  In my small town that results in huge turnover and low customer service. I’m sure the executive officers are well paid and like most others have figured a way to get their lavish bonuses year after year.

Goodbye Whooper…… We overthrew one king I guess we can do the same to this one…

Please Run Ted…….

August 27, 2014

2014-08-08_08-34-15To all appearances, Cruz is riding his fight with the Republican establishment into the 2016 race for President. He has established himself as the hardest of the hard-liners on Obamacare and on immigration. His likely rivals Marco Rubio and Rand Paul agree with Cruz on the health-care law though neither invested as much as Cruz in the fight; on immigration, Rubio joined with McCain in the Gang of Eight, and Rand Paul has at least hinted at a softer line on the issue.

SOURCE:  Ted Cruz, Immigration, and the 2016 Presidential Campaign.

It would be a dream come true if Mr. Cruz did get the 2016 presidential Republican nomination.  Yes, I know he is the darling child of perhaps 20% of the population but to the other 80% including some Republicans he is toxic. He is an extreme narcissist who deems himself the savior of the world. Kind of like Goldwater did in my early voting days. His ego seems to have no bounds.

If by some fluke he managed to kidnap the Republican nomination for president that would without any doubt secure the demise of the Republican party and therefore open up our country to just maybe a more sane political system. Yeah, the same thing would result if we managed to get rid of the Democrats but they seem just too disorganized to make that happen.

Ted Cruz is a primary example of what is wrong with this country today. Too many people, me probably included, think they know more than they do. They think they are perfect and have all the answers.

I will leave here with a short quote from a recently reacquired hero Alfred E. Neuman. I couldn’t possibly say it better….

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