Wanting An Education

July 10, 2014

FootballIn the old days boys wanted an education. They even had reading, writing, and arithmetic, instead of football. Up to then boys had gone there for their heads and not their shoulders — Will Rogers August 26,1928

In the old days must have been before 1928! I would have figured it to be later than that but maybe what we have been doing since that time is to hone it to perfection.  I have seen so many articles around today about how boys just don’t do school very well. By school I mean as Will indicated reading, writing, and arithmetic.  It now seems that girls make up the majority of our kids going to college. I guess the boys, especially those of color,  think they can make their millions off whatever their favorite sport is. They just don’t seem to be interesting in putting in the work necessary to learn anything else. That seems to be a very sad reality of today’s world doesn’t it?

Anyone who has read this blog much knows that I am not a sports fan in any regard. I often say that maybe sports among several other things helps build character when we are children but once we grow up it should be illegal to pay an adult for any sporting activity. That would definitely take the irrational dream away for many of our young boys. Given that in the future women will very likely become the primary bread winners in almost all households I wonder how those testosterone driven guys will handle that?

Come on all you parents out there. Take your boys out of one or two the their scheduled sports activities and use that time to make them study a little more…..

86 percent of strident conservatives think the poor ‘have it easy’ Illustrating the deep divide between GOP versus Democratic support for policies most benefiting the poor, a new Pew survey finds that a whopping 86 percent of steadfast conservatives think the poor “have it easy.” Similarly, business-minded Republicans 77 percent and young Republican-leaning adults 81 percent feel the same way.

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That sentiment underpins Republican arguments that programs like food stamps and unemployment benefits should be cut because they disincentivize work. And indeed, the same survey finds that at least eight in 10 Republicans from all three aforementioned demographic subgroups agree with the argument that government aid to the needy “does more harm than good.”

SOURCE: 86 percent of strident conservatives think the poor ‘have it easy’ – The Week.

This kind of information never ceases to astound me. I sadly think this mentality is due to ignorance rather than all these folk having a hardened hearts. The poor “gaming the system” is all that they have been exposed to. I am a firm believer that until you put a face on something it continues to be an abstract thing. Very few of this group has likely come face-to-face with anyone who is poor. If these folks want to see how “easy” it is maybe they ought to try and live on $1200 a month or less.

I really don’t know how large the “strident conservative” population is but I suspect it is something in the neighborhood of 20% of the overall population and of course most of those in that group are ardent Fox News viewers. That fact goes a long ways in telling us why they have the beliefs that the poor have it too easy.

I know one strident conservative who basically parroted the above beliefs but then went on to say that his sister was on welfare and Medicaid. He says she is an exception to all those others in those programs. She needs the help and all the rest are just gaming the system.  I wonder how many in this polls have similar experiences?

Many say that religion and politics don’t mix but this is one of those areas that I thoroughly mix them. Jesus made it abundantly clear that we are to be our brother’s keeper. We are to literally give him the shirt off our backs if he needs it.  Being a follower of Jesus I therefore align with helping those less fortunate in life than myself. I don’t see how I could do otherwise.

I know there are those, especially in the above group, who say it is the church’s job to help the poor not governments. While I don’t necessarily disagree with that I know it is not even a remote possibility. I am very aware that most churches spend more than 90% of their income taking care of the church/clubhouse and keeping their congregations comfortable. Even if they managed to reverse that ratio they would be quickly overwhelmed by the needs.

I think of my government as doing the people’s business.  That is the things that we as individual citizens can’t do for ourselves.  Taking care of those who struggle in our society is part of that business. I pray that my strident conservative friends some day come to realize this fact.

2014-06-29_08-08-44Consider this headline from a recent survey of retirees: “Many Regret Decision to Take Social Security Early.”

Sounds ominous, right? Well, the problem is that the title isn’t entirely supported by the survey’s actual results, which found that only 38% of respondents “say they wish they would have waited” longer before taking benefits. According to this, in other words, somewhere along the lines of 62% of respondents, or a large majority, evidently don’t regret the decision.And why should you?

As Motley Fool contributor John Maxfield explains in the following video, the Social Security Administration has designed the benefit formula to pay the same amount of total benefits over the life of a typical person irrespective of when they elect to take them. Additionally, as John goes on to discuss, taking benefits sooner rather than later can facilitate an earlier retirement, which allows retirees to escape the physical and psychological wear and tear associated with many jobs.

SOURCE: Social Security: Why You Shouldn’t Regret Taking Benefits at 62.

The source of this article is “Motley Fool”. I readily admit that they are on my daily read list. They, like me, have a somewhat contrarian philosophy. Maybe that is what draws me to them.  I don’t know why the topic of the article isn’t talked about much. Since I know that many of my readers are approaching or are in retirement, I thought I would talk about this again.

The fact is if you have a relatively normal or shorter life line in your genealogy then it makes good sense to take Social Security early. As the article mentions SSA has a formula that basically gives you the same overall amount independent of when you take it. I think the calculated age at death is currently 78. If you die before this age you will come out ahead if you take social security early. If you live longer than you may come out ahead if you wait.

The other thing that even this source article doesn’t mention is that if you take it early and  are able to invest the money profitably you will bank even more. Now I know in the age of almost zero percent bond rates and very fluctuating markets investing anything for a substantial profit takes work and some risk but even a small return will allow you to come out ahead.

In my case I look at the family tree and I see parents, grand parents, and great grand parents dying before the 78 year mark so I took it early and like usual I am not looking back on that decision.  I am among those 62% who don’t regret that early decision. It allowed me to bank about an additional $75,000 that is still growing today six years later.  If I live to be an old ornery fool of ninety I  would have been better to wait but at  ninety I probably won’t even be able to appreciate that fact. :)

Driving Me Nuts…..

July 7, 2014

2014-06-28_08-23-07“Republicans are mad at me for taking these actions. They’re not doing anything and then they’re mad at me for doing something. I’m not sure which of the things I’ve done they find most offensive, but they’ve decided they’re going to sue me for doing my job,” Obama said in his speech at picturesque Lake Harriet….

Obama likes to joke that he is like a bear breaking out of his cage. On Friday, he said Republican inaction “drives you nuts … and it drives me nuts.”

“Sometimes I’m supposed to be, you know, politic about how I say things, but I’m finding lately that I just want to say what’s on my mind,” he said.

Other presidents have actively invoked executive actions. During his first four years in office, Obama signed 147 such orders. In comparison, George W. Bush signed 173, Bill Clinton enacted 200 and Ronald Reagan ordered 213 in their first terms.

SOURCE: Obama blasts House Republicans over lawsuit threat – Yahoo News.

After my recent vacation I am feeling more stress free than I have for a while so I thought I would do a more political post here. Yeah, I am aware that President Obama’s ratings are below 50% and in fact I am one of those who are just not impressed with his actions.  To me he just seems to be too timid, or maybe a better word is intellectual, when it come to his actions. We need a ball-buster like LBJ in the Oval Office instead of an intellectual to do battle with all those Republicans who are totally frozen by their various fears.

Congress won’t do anything to help us attack our 21st century problems and now they want to also prevent the president from doing anything. I certainly can relate to his comment in that it drives me nuts.  As he said, he just needs to say what is on his mind and maybe more importantly act upon it. I think Mr. Obama is a good guy who has a compassionate heart for all of us who are struggling but…

I can’t understand how those GOP in Congress can say things that are so easily disproven by the facts.  I guess they don’t think that anyone bothers to research what they say. I am sure that is true for many of the Fox News viewers but I hope the other 90% of us who don’t watch that vitriol news channel take the time to know what is real and what is pure hype. Of the four previous presidents Mr. Obama has used his executive authority less than all of them. The problem is not too much but too little action.  To me the problem is that the president needs to grow a pair and get on with the business of the country. Unfortunately he just seems unable to do that….

This is part of the continuing series about the misconceptions of Christianity by Stephen Mattson.

Christianity Causes Prosperity

Some treat Christianity as a cash cow, a way to become “blessed,” “rich” and “successful.” But this was never Jesus’ intention.

Becoming a Christian doesn’t guarantee financial, relational, physical, intellectual, emotional or professional gain.

Many have used the allure of “being blessed” and “getting rich” as a way to manipulate and motivate people into following Christ, but in reality faithfully loving God demands giving of yourself—and your possessions.

If you’re looking for peace, prosperity, success, fame, fortune and personal glory—Christianity isn’t for you.

I must admit that the “Prosperity Gospel” totally turns me off.  It is a gross misrepresentation of what it means to be a Christian. Joel Osteen just has it wrong as far as I am concerned. But of course in some ways he is right in that his version of being a Christian has made him exceedingly wealthy at least in monetary term.

We must look at the early Christians to see the purest forms of being a follower of Jesus meant. Whether we Americans want to admit it or not the early Christians, that is those before Constantine hijacked Christianity in order to shore up his kingdom, were much more communistic than capitalistic. When they joined a group of followers of Jesus they typically gave all their wealth to the leaders of the group to be used for everyone.

Now I am not denying that being a follower of Jesus has its rewards, but they are more emotional and spiritual than anything to do with monetary gain. I kind of disagree with Stephan’s last sentence in that I have found great peace in being a follower; that is a big reward to me. But I do agree with the rest of the items on his list. Personal glory is a very entrancing thing for all of us. We want others to know what we do, at least the good parts, and to give us our share of glory. Christ tells us that seeking glory is not a Christian trait.

Being a follower of Jesus means to love God and to love each other. He made it very clear that those are the primary structures for our faith. Everything else is very secondary at best and much of what we seem to deem important in Christianity today did not even show up on Jesus’ radar.  Joel Osteen’s wealth is certainly toward the top of that very unimportant list.

NYC… People…

July 5, 2014

This is a continuation from last Saturday of my recent visit to New York City.  As I previously mentioned the reason for the trip was to fulfill a bucket list item for my wife.  This Post is about the people..

Here is a little about what Wikipedia says about the city:

New York County is the most densely populated county in the United States, more dense than any individual American city.It is one of the most densely populated areas in the world, with a Census-estimated 2013 population of 1,626,159  living in a land area of 22.96 square miles

For an old Hoosier farm boy that is a lot of people and I think I rubbed elbows with most of them while I was there. :)  I think most of them there were in Time Square on the Saturday night we were there. Everywhere you go there are crowds of people. That is except for the Museum for the City of New York. There weren’t more than a hundred or so in that entire building.  I guess New Yorker aren’t very interested in their history (ha).

One thing I learned from the trip is that I, at least now, have a low tolerance for crowded places. Another thing I learned is that there is no such rule about keeping right as you walk down a sidewalk. It seems to be every person for themselves.

Enough of this talk, let’s get some picture of the people I encountered on our visit.  As usual click on any picture to bring up the expanded gallery:

 

 

2014-07-04_09-49-37“I love America more than any other country in the world and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually.”  – James Baldwin

I am so encouraged to read in my Bible that there have always been people of God who have chosen to be prophetic over being patriotic. I am part of a tradition that has always had prophets to speak out against the evils of war, injustice, and poverty. Although I love this country, if I have to choose, I would rather be a prophet than a patriot. I refuse to let my love of God be overshadowed by a sentimental, uncritical love of country.

The thing that many people misunderstand about prophets is this: they critique the country not because they hate it, but because they love it and want it to be better. Even though Jeremiah prophesied the destruction of Jerusalem, he wept bitterly over the city when it happened just read Lamentations. Prophets are not afraid to call their nation out so that it can become even greater. That is true patriotism. It means loving your country enough to want it to be better and live more faithfully to the ideals it claims to believe.

SOURCE:  Prophet or Patriot | Shawn Casselberry | Red Letter Christians.

These words spoken by Shawn Casselberry over at Red Letter Christians almost totally reflect my feelings about this issue. I love this country and celebrate the fourth of July just as adamantly as anyone else but I keep my love of country in perspective with the rest of my life. First comes my God, then family followed by humanity and then finally country.

I have often been labeled unpatriotic on this blog and other places because of some of my criticisms of my country. But as James Baldwin and Shawn above say I criticize it because I want it to be better….

Happy Fourth of July Everyone

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This is a continuation of my Friday posts about the book “Yin/Yang and American Culture” by Kim Eun. It is a book well worth reading about the differences between American and much of the rest of the world. This post is about American Women…

“There are two kinds of women in the world: American women and women.” This is a joke among Asian men doing business internationally. American women have been liberated and empowered to such a degree that they belong in a category all their own among the women of the world. Compared with their counterparts in other countries, American women have accomplished a great deal in career advancement. Even European nations that maintain progressive, family oriented programs lag far behind the United States in providing equal employment opportunities to women. In Japan, Germany, and other European and Asian countries, women face serious obstacles to achieving workplace equality. They are expected to assist men and are given lower wages, less stable employment, and fewer opportunities for advancement.

Furthermore, in Confucian tradition, women could not interrupt men’s conversations or speak loudly or be aggressive. Women were told, “If a hen cries, the family will disintegrate.” Many Asian women still do not assert their rights at home or at work. Asian men tend to resent assertive women, and Asian women are afraid of offending their men. Many Japanese women still speak in a higher-than-natural pitch (for social acceptance), especially in formal settings, on the phone, or when dealing with customers. Supposedly, Japanese men are attracted to high-pitched voices ; they perceive women with lower voices as too aggressive or unfeminine.

Kim, Eun Y. (2001-07-05). Yin and Yang of American Culture: A Paradox (Kindle Locations 751-754). Intercultural Press Inc. Kindle Edition.

I consider equality of condition and opportunity to be by far the greatest American tradition and am proud that women have come so far in our society during my lifetime. Those of us who are over sixty remember when American women’s place was generally in the home. She had little opportunities outside of that environment. The shortage of men to do factory work during World War II showed women that they could do almost anything they desired. Once they discovered that they didn’t look back.

The subservient attitudes of and toward women in much the rest of the world saddens me. Asian cultures are beginning to break down barriers but not fast enough.  And then there are the Muslim countries who treat women worse than slaves. Burkas should go the way of slave chains in this world. To treat such a significant portion of any population that way is shameful to me. I know traditions are hard to break in some cultures but break they eventually must. I hope that the American model will eventually incite changes in the rest of the world. We definitely have something to teach so many others in that regard.

It makes me proud to see that the rest of the world sees our accomplishments in this area.

 

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I snagged the above graphic from one of my favorite Facebook pages over at RoadTrip Nation.

I was guilty of doing what Francis Collins said above.  I let others tell me what I should love….

One of the troubles with this saying is to understand what you love at that early age which is most often easier said than done….

Common People….

July 3, 2014

2014-06-28_11-29-19Nobody wants to be called Common People, especially common people.” – Will Rogers, 21 June 1925

Ain’t that the truth Will, even in the 21st century. It is always surprising at how many people claim themselves to be middle-class versus those who really are. According to Wikipedia most researchers put the middle class in two categories:

Upper Middle Class – Those are folks who earn an annual income of between $75,000 and somewhere between $100,000 and $200,000 depending on the study. These folks are typically highly-educated (often with graduate degrees), most commonly salaried, professionals and middle management with large work autonomy

Lower Middle Class – This population earns between $35,000 and $70,000 and are semi-professionals and craftsmen with a roughly average standard of living. Most have some college education and are white-collar.

Working Class – These folks make between $20,000 and $35,000 and make up about 30% of the population. They are mostly clerical and most blue-collar workers whose work is highly routinized. Standard of living varies depending on number of income earners, but is commonly just adequate. High school education.

The two middle class categories make up around 50% of the population. The working class make up another 30%. But when you ask individuals if they are middle-class almost all of the above categories say “yes”. There are even some who make up to $500,000 think they are middle class.

No one wants to be common….