Archives For Spouting Off

Things that I have an opinion on; and I have a lot of those :)

SharingThis is going to be one of those totally off-the-wall unrealistic posts that pops off the top of my head. But it sure would be great if somehow, anyhow it could be accomplished. So here goes.

We all know that profits are the total 100% driver for American businesses for the last thirty years or so.  Ever since the MBA’s took over during the Reagan years profits are the god of business.  Of course directly linked to profits are CEO’s pay. I believe that other things besides global competition have contributed to the income inequality now in this world.

When I started out in the corporate world employees were considered assets to the company. A well-trained, well-educated workforce was the driving factor between a struggling company and one that thrived.  Because of this belief, and the fact that worker’s unions were part of the mix, a strong middle class developed in the U.S.  Everyone could afford what they were making and they were very loyal to the brand their company produced. In that respect those were indeed the good old days…

But, let’s get back to my off-the-wall dream.  Now that profits are the sole mantra for American capitalism, let’s just accept that fact as future reality but with a twist. It seems that almost all companies want to hire their workers at minimum wage. The money they used to pay in livable salaries is now directed towards profits.  Here goes my fix, so get ready!  What if companies were required to share their profits between their workers and their owners?  It could go something like this.

Go ahead and reduce all workers pay to minimum wage but require half of last years’ profits to be distributed the next year to supplement that wage.  According to some calculations that would raise the median income of workers almost 50%. Wouldn’t that be something.  Finally the workers would actually get some of the benefit from their labors.

But of course the devil is in the details. In order for this to happen the owners, those who hold the company stocks, would have to get by with half their usual dividends. While they are doing that they could also reign in the CEO and upper management pay to  something that is not as absurd as it currently is. What is he likelihood of stock owners agreeing? Well, probably very close to zero. After all, they spend millions, and hide millions more away in foreign bank accounts,  to get out of paying their fair share of taxes. Why would they give up some dividends for the greater good?  I kind of got an idea about that too. ;)  Since many of these owners were true believers in Reagan’s trickle down from the 1980s maybe we can convince them that lowering their dividends will actually raise  them.  Wouldn’t that be a win-win for everyone!!

OK, now it is time to get back to the world as it actually exists, not how I sometimes see it inside my head. But, it is kind of nice to dream that we could ever get back to the good old days where employees were actually appreciated.

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

Conformity…..

March 4, 2014

Conformity is kind of a dirty word for me. I think of myself as anything but a conformist. A big part of conformity is accepting what you are told without questions. That makes good soldiers but I don’t think it makes good citizens.  Here are a couple of quotes from one of my heroes on this topic.

2014-02-20_10-29-37To raise new questions, new possibilities, to regard old problems from a new angle, requires creative imagination and marks real advance in science.

The important thing is not to stop questioning.

– Albert Einstein

When we quit questioning we allow others to tell us what to think and do. We become sheep following the latest demigods, the latest social and consumer trends.

Some parts of our lives demand more conformity than others. One of those areas is our religious beliefs. For the most part almost all religious organizations demand that we strictly tow the line. They demand homogeneous compliance. One of the versions of religion that I most admire for their dedication are the Amish. But they are also demand the highest level of conformity. You are told you must totally submit to the authority of your elders with no questions asked. You are not to stand out from the crowd.  If you don’t follow these rules you are often shunned by the community.

To me the opposite of creativity is conformity so that is why it is a dirty word to me. Creativity is how we have advanced in almost every area of life in the last 2,000+ years. It took a brave Belgium doctor hundreds of years ago to question if going from one patient to another without washing your hands was actually doing more harm than good. It would take decades of being chastised for his “radical” beliefs before physicians would finally scrub up between surgeries.  Let’s face it, if conformity were the only possibility we would very likely still be living in Middle-Age conditions.

We in the United States pride ourselves in being a unique nation but in reality we at least in recent history are for the most part just bowing to conformity. We allow talking heads, especially those at Fox News and MSNBC to tell us what to think and do. It seems for far too many people if Rush says it then “ditto”.  We jump from one social and economic trend to another without really thinking of the consequences.  Aren’t we really for the most part just a bunch of conformists? Yes, thank heavens, there have always been few of us who are not afraid to stand out from the crowd. They are the ones who are always asking questions and as a result moving us forward.  But I am afraid that given our current stands on educational conformity we might even lose that in future generations.  If our kids don’t conform to our current standards then they are likely to be given a prescription of Ritalin to force them to stay in line. From my study of biographies of Einstein I’m sure he would have been one of those chosen for a dose of that drug if he were growing up today.

How sad is that??

Everyone Is A Liar……

February 28, 2014

Let’s face it, everyone is a liar to one degree or another. Lying is so prevalent in our society that we are assumed to be a liar until we prove ourselves honest and even that proof has a limited time span. We all have serious scars from being lied to.

We lie to ourselves — We say we did the best that we could when we really never even put up much of an effort. We invent stories in our distant past so that our lives sound more interesting.  Sometimes we lie to people to make them feel better. Sometimes we lie to ourselves for the same reason. We convince ourselves that everything is fine when our personal world is falling apart. We lie to ourselves on a daily basis.

We lie to get ahead — We pad our work resumes to make it look like we have accomplished more than we did. We lie to take credit for something that someone else did. We lie to inflate our egos and to advance to that next level job.

We lie to those we love — We lie to our spouse because we don’t think they can handle the real truth. We tell many “white” lies because it is easier than confronting the truth and we don’t want to hurt our loved ones feelings.

In fact lying is a necessity of life.  If we told the truth in many circumstances we would probably be without friends. I think I am more truthful than many in this regard. Some people call me blunt. Some call me rude. Now don’t get me wrong, I lie just like everyone else but it seems that I often let the truth slip out of my mouth without thinking of the consequences.  Sometime I just don’t take the time to see where a lie is more tactful than the truth.

But, lying is not just on a personal level. Here are some words from Jane McCrath about the The Ten Biggest Lies in history

Supposedly, the truth can set you free. But for many, deceit holds the key to money, fame, revenge or power, and these prove all too tempting. In history, this has often resulted in elaborate hoaxes, perjuries, and forgeries that had enormous ripple effects.

There are our personal, some might say “little” lies and then there are those that have grievously harmed or world. This article counts down what the author deemed the ten biggest lies in history. The number one liar was without a doubt Hitler.

Like never before, anti-Semitism was manifested in a sweeping national policy known as “the Final Solution,” which sought to eliminate Jews from the face of the Earth.

To accomplish this, Adolf Hitler and his minister of propaganda, Joseph Goebbels, launched a massive campaign to convince the German people that the Jews were their enemies. Having taken over the press, they spread lies blaming Jews for all of Germany’s problems, including the loss of World War I. One outrageous lie dating back to the Middle Ages claimed that Jews engaged in the ritual killings of Christian children and used their blood in the unleavened bread eaten at Passover.

Using Jews as the scapegoat, Hitler and his cronies orchestrated what they called “the big lie.” This theory states that no matter how big the lie is (or more precisely, because it’s so big), people will believe it if you repeat it enough. Everyone tells small lies, Hitler reasoned, but few have the guts to tell colossal lies. Because a big lie is so unlikely, people will come to accept it.

Getting back on a personal level, we all discover the truth about the truth and that is that oftentimes the truth hurts and lying is just easier.

America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed them ourselves.  —Abraham Lincoln

2014-01-08_15-27-01Losing our freedoms because we destroyed them ourselves is something that I worry about. Of course when Lincoln made this quote there was no such thing as the NSA, Internet, cell phones but each of these are the things that may just destroy our freedoms.

Sometimes I think I am the only one to be worried about this. The NSA’s ability to tap into all our telephone, text, and Internet information seems like a “perfect storm” just waiting to happen. It has even been reported by some pretty reputable sources that they can get inside all our smart phone apps to see what we store there.

I know 1984 has come and gone without the dire predictions by George Orwell’s book by that name. But given the thirty years since then it does seem more like Orwell’s world now. So many of us seem to have a blasé attitude toward what we once viewed as sacrosanct rights. Of course much of that has to do with fear overriding our feelings of freedom. We fear terrorism more than cherish our “God-given” rights.  Given the latest revelations from Mr. Snowdon’s document releases Big Brother is very much around us and into our daily lives.

Of course, this is not the first time that fear has trumped freedoms, especially the right to privacy, in this country. In fact we have a long history of that happening. The one that comes to mind first is the FBI during the 1960s.  J. Edger had files on many of the people who questioned his authority including Martin Luther King and the Kennedy clan including the president himself.

And then their were all the sedition acts throughout our history starting very early on with the Alien and Sedition Acts signed into law by John Adams. That one basically said that anyone who wrote “malicious” things about the president or congress  could be sent to jail for up to two years! Can you imagine the number of journalists who would be in our prison system today if that were still enforced? :)

One of my favorite presidents even signed one known as the Sedition Act of 1918 for “any statement criticizing the Government of the United States”.  Another was the Smith Act of 1940. Like today most of these acts were implemented during times when fear was rampant.

Getting back to the quote above, Lincoln once again proves that his wisdom is for the ages. When we lose our constitutional freedoms it will not be from a terrorist but because we destroyed them ourselves.

I’m pretty sure that this post will end up before the eyes of someone in the NSA but given my concerns of an over bloated military I don’t imagine it is the first of my posts to go there. But remember my NSA friends I’m just an ordinary old shrinking retired guy who likes to question things that others seem to take for granted so don’t come knocking at me door.

Many conservative Evangelicals who trust leaders like Franklin Graham to shepherd them faithfully in the Good News of Jesus have been swept away in the unfortunate movement to transform them from being the “People of Good News” to, quite literally, the “People of FOX News.” Franklin seems to have fallen prey to the power and platform of the Tea Party/Religious Right and has begun manipulating his father’s honorable name and ministry to promote a political agenda. This was never more clearly demonstrated than at Billy Graham’s 95th birthday celebration last week. Take a look at this photo from the event:

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Pictured here are just some of the notable guests at the celebration, including Donald Trump, Sarah Palin, Rupert Murdoch, and Greta VanSustern. (This list could also be known as the Tea Party Power Players Also Note: Glenn Beck is not pictured here but was also in attendance) This picture makes my stomach churn. It’s hard to imagine that Billy Graham would ever want to host such a gathering of these extreme republican high-ballers. It s obvious that there’s more going on behind this picture.

SOURCE:  From “Good News” to FOX News: How Franklin Graham Is Using His Aging Father | Brandan Robertson | Red Letter Christians.

I have read several books by Billy Graham and have watched a few of his crusades throughout the world.  He was a religious advisor to several presidents both Republican and Democrat. His ministry was about Jesus and Jesus alone.  It totally shocks me to see what his son Franklin has done to Billy’s ministry.  He seems to parade his senile and very aged father around to promote his political agenda. That is something that his father absolutely would never have permitted when he was of sound mind and body.

I know that by converting his father’s organization over to an extreme right political agenda probably brings in more money from the radicals like Murdock, Trump, and all the Fox News ranting heads but what are the consequences?  I pray that someday Franklin is held accountable for totally tainting his father’s lifelong ministry for more power, money,  and political gain for himself. How tragically sad is that??????

ProsperityHousing is coming back. Banks are lending again. Energy is booming. A prominent Democrat argues that the U.S. economy is finally coming back to life

SOURCE: Is the U.S. Economy Coming Back to Life? – TIME.

Everything is great again in the USA!  The stock markets are booming. Banks are as profitable as ever and are now lending again. All the economic indicators are rising.  These are joyful words for us liberals and dreaded ones for conservatives during a Democrat administration.

Everything is great except for the fact that almost all of this prosperity is flowing into the hands of the top few percent in our country but thankfully it is also flowing into our pension funds. Most are in dire need of help. So, it is sort of true that a rising tide lifts all boats; it is just that most of us have leaky row-boats instead of mega-yachts.

Income and wages for most of us are still below 2007 levels and averages are below the 1970s level. Unemployment is still too high. The middle class continues to shrink. Will this condition ever resolve itself? I don’t think that will happen anytime soon.  It will likely take a decade or more for us to stabilize into a new norm for the average family.

  • All of us will have to get it through our thick heads that the good paying low skilled factory jobs are gone.
  • All of us will have to understand that a middle class job of the future will require more than a high school education. Stopping at high school almost assures you of a lifetime of hamburger flipping or other minimum wage job.
  • We will have to come back to a political sphere where the good of the nation takes precedence over a political party.
  • We will have to understand that in the world markets, requiring  U.S. corporations to pay for employee health insurance when the rest of the world depends on government to do that stifles job creation in this county.
  • We will have to understand that in order to raise our job skill levels higher education should not put our young people into massive debt when so many other countries provide free or at least heavily subsidized educational expenses. We have to realize that higher education should be a right to all instead of a privilege to a few.
  • We will have to realize that being in the middle class is not an entitlement but something to be obtained through diligent effort.
  • We have to understand that some things in life take years of putting aside a few dollars to afford. Instant gratification is just not sustainable for most of us. It puts us in a debt spiral that is almost impossible to escape.
  • We will have to understand that life is not always fair and that sometimes it even craps on us.

Everything is great again in the USA except……..

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The title of this post is a quote from a not very famous person but it has some deep meaning for me. Actually it is something I wrote in my personal journal about a year ago. :)  I often times like to look back to what I wrote about the previous year just to compare to where I am now. Last year I was just getting over some rather troubled times. I often wonder if I am living my life as fully and fruitfully as I desire. The feeling of a lack of personal accomplishment often drives me to various levels of depression but don’t we all have that to one degree or another. We do all have that don’t we?

One of my daily reads is a fellow blogger. That blog is centered on a somewhat narrow theme of having a good retirement.  It seems that he and most of his readers just seem to want to race away from is the term “boredom”. It is almost as if they don’t want to admit that they have ever had a boring moment in their retirement lives. But for myself, I am just not a person who will, knowingly  or unknowingly, deny feelings that I have.  I get bored I admit it. In fact I get bored on a weekly if not daily basis.  It is something that I am constantly battling against.

Getting back on point what I basically discovered last year was that the times when I am the most bored is when I get these depressed feelings. When I don’t have other things on my mind my infinitesimally  small effect on the universe rises to the surface. Maybe because I leave no heirs on this earth to get it right where I didn’t, is one of the reasons for this moodiness.  When I am gone my genes will go to the grave with me. There will be no second chance to get it right through my offsprings.

Yeah I admit I am a sometimes a troubled dude but least I don’t have voices telling me that I am a failure. One of my favorite movies was called “A Beautiful Mind” starring Russel Crowe. It was about a brilliant Princeton professor who was bi-polar. If  I heard voices as he did I would definitely seek professional help. Sometimes my off-the-top thoughts that I post here even slightly startle me but not in what I believe is in an unhealthy way. I hope to leave at least a very small scratch on this world after I am gone and it troubles me that someone in the future will use a little of life’s spit polish to remove even that.

I think these thoughts are actually nudges from God at one level or another to keep me focused on his mission for me. That is constantly in my thoughts. In that regard I treat these nudges as a good thing. I stave off boredom wherever possible by engaging in new and stimulating  and creative things on a regular basis. To fail to do so is just, well, boring…

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kidsThose are astronomical numbers. I’m floored,” said Dr. William Graf, a pediatric neurologist in New Haven and a professor at the Yale School of Medicine. He added, “Mild symptoms are being diagnosed so readily, which goes well beyond the disorder and beyond the zone of ambiguity to pure enhancement of children who are otherwise healthy.”

And even more teenagers are likely to be prescribed medication in the near future because the American Psychological Association plans to change the definition of A.D.H.D. to allow more people to receive the diagnosis and treatment. A.D.H.D. is described by most experts as resulting from abnormal chemical levels in the brain that impair a person’s impulse control and attention skills.

Source: More Diagnoses of Hyperactivity Causing Concern – NYTimes.com.

The whole idea of medicating kids who are a little different is very disturbing to me but it seems like this is becoming more and more common. I am sure that if I were born fifty years later than I was I would be one of those drugged kids sliding through life.  Are we really medicating out a large degree of creativity in this next generation?  I really fear that is the case.

I’m sure severe cases of A.D.H.D. are about chemical imbalances in the brain but like many things today that diagnosis seems very much abused. I hope that it is not the teachers who are promoting this new pattern.  Maybe they are just tired of that over rambunctious kid in their class who disturbs the normal class flow. Just who is behind this dramatic increase in drugging our kids?

I am very aware that through numerous media the drug companies are trying to increase their sales by having patients go to their doctors asking for certain drugs. I know that I am currently on five different medication to deal with various health issues I now have.  Am I being drugged more for a beneficial effect or to increase a drug companies profits.  One pill I take that is still under patent protection costs more than the other four combined.

Viagra is one of those cases of obvious abuse in my mind and no I don’t take that one. :)  It supposedly produced to help older men maintain a satisfying sexual life but has since morphed into a drug to be used by every male who is seeking and enhanced sexual thrill. I’m sure that Bob Dole is no longer the typical user of Viagra.

Getting back to the original thoughts on this post are we drugging creativity out of our kids in order to obtain increased conformity in our society. That is the fear I have…..

Common Good Sojourners

We’ve lost something as a nation when we can no longer look at one another as people, as Americans, and — for people of faith  — as brothers and sisters.  Differing opinions have become worst enemies and political parties have devolved into nothing more than petty games of blame….

It is not about Right and Left — or merely about partisan politics — but rather about the quality of our life together. It’s about moving beyond the political ideologies that have both polarized and paralyzed us, by regaining a moral compass for both our public and personal lives — and reclaiming an ancient, yet urgent and timely idea: the common good.

Source: On God’s Side: For the Common Good – Jim Wallis | God’s Politics Blog | Sojourners.

I always look forward to the weekly emails from Jim Wallis about our times. The words above from his March 29 emailing which I believe strike at the heart of our current problems. They seem to be the core cause and solution to our problems today. We are no longer able to view those who differ in their political views as Americans like us.  Our politics has devolved into nothing but a petty game of blame. I don’t know exactly how this happened but I kind of have an idea of some of its causes.

Rush Limbaugh came on the national political scene in 1988. His rhetoric shocked many of us as blatant bigotry and hatefulness.  He is plain a simply a school yard bully on the national scene. But it seems bigotry and hatred sells as his most recent contract was for $400 million for an eight year period. That money has spurned hundreds of look-alikes over the years.  I simply can’t understand how Mr. Limbaugh became a major spokesman for the GOP.  I can’t understand how so many who call themselves conservatives are so fearful of denouncing his rhetoric? He has been married four times; seems to have no family values, and shows a putrid disrespect for almost everyone. Is that really the face that conservatives want to be identified with?  I think not but they seem still listen to him in great numbers and “ditto” almost anything that spews out of his vulgar mouth.

Fox New came on the national scene in 1996. It is very obvious that Rupert Murdoch who owns this media is very much in the same mindset as Mr. Limbaugh. MSNBC came into existence in 1996, some say as a response to Fox News but in a much smaller framework.  These three things I think are the major contributors to the reason we can no longer look at one another as fellow Americans but instead now as the enemy.  I like to call these contributors the “Limburger Affect”. It put a putrid stink on all our political processes!

I pray that something can happen to allow us to get back to looking at the quality of life in both our personal and public lives. If only we can get back and “reclaim an ancient, yet urgent and timely idea: the common good.

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Source: TV icon Dick Van Dyke: ‘I don’t get the comedies today’ – TODAY Entertainment.

funny“It seems to me that relationships are what’s missing. I think back to ‘All in the Family,’ when you knew what those relationships were and the comedy that came out of that. Today it’s just one line after another, and they seem to try to cover too much in the way of story in a short time. Then I think they signal when they’re trying to be funny, and the minute I catch someone trying to be funny, then I won’t laugh.”

I am not one to frequently look back at the “good old days”. But when it comes to comedy TV shows I, like Dick Van Dyke above, just don’t get most comedies today.  I think he is right about relationships are what is missing. I don’t know who to lay the blame on for this. There are a number of possible reasons.

  • Facebook/etc where one line jokes are the norm — Facebook and Twitter are the current social media and they basically only lend themselves to short messages. It seems like most comedies in TV are just a string of tweets strung together
  • Kids short attention span — I know kids today need to be constantly entertained. At least that is the message I get from so many of the retired teachers that visit my site. Short attention spans necessitate short jokes I guess.
  • Poor writers — Could it be that the writers of today just don’t have the skills and life experiences of those of yesteryear? I know spelling and grammar are almost out the window now with number one above.  Maybe the ability to tell funny stories is going with it?
  • It’s just what the  younger audience wants. — Maybe a string of one-line jokes spread out over a half hour (actually 17 minutes) is just what the kids want now days.  We all know that the 17-25 year olds are the target groups for most TV shows.
  • Middle is good, many are not — I do like the comedy “The Middle”. It has the one liners but at least it carries through with a story line. But give me a Newhart any day.
  • Even the one with Betty White  is short of relationships — Betty White’s new show entitled ” Hot in Cleveland” is really no exception to the one-line strings. They really struggle to put in a theme every week.
  • When did the constant sexual message become funny? – I have been searching around the cable companies for new shows and am somewhat surprised to see so many with a strong sexual theme.  It almost embarrasses me to watch some of them. They are just gross to me, but what do I know.

I don’t know, maybe I am just becoming one of those old fogies that complains about everything. We all need something to laugh about and most of us used get that relief from comedies on TV.  If anyone can suggest some good ones please let me know.  I sure could use some…