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

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

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….

Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blind-folded fear.

–Thomas Jefferson’s Letter, 10 Aug. 1787

I am going to combine my usual Sunday post on things inspiring/spiritual with my usual Thursday quotes. Thomas Jefferson, like most of the founding fathers was a Deist. That is he believed in a God who was in control of the universe but not so much into our daily lives. His quote above is very contrary to many religious communities today.

Questioning the existence of God is a no-no to many.  They say you must believe everything in their religious documents and question nothing. If you do dare to question you may quickly be deemed a heretic. I know because I have some personal experience in this matter.

But I very much believe in the quote above. If there is a God, and I certainly do believe that there is, then he must approve of the homage of reason. He does not fear our questions or certainly doesn’t condemn us to utter agony if we dare to ask them. I simply don’t believe that God wants us to be in a blind-folded fear of him. He told us to love him and that is just not possible if we think that he holds a hammer over our head just waiting for us to say the wrong words, believe the wrong things, or ask the wrong questions…

I thoroughly denounce the idea that God expects us to check our “God-given” intelligence at the door on Sunday mornings and to believe things that go against any level of reason….

Home Away From Home…

September 27, 2014

2012 12843

We have a few very old maple trees on our property. The one shown here is pretty well hollowed out and that is where our cat Dexter likes to spend time. He climbs trees like a professional. This hole is about 15 feet off the ground which is no problem for him.

Several times a year someone will stop and give us a quote to take down the tree but I always so “its time has not come yet”. I am old and not so pretty anymore but I don’t want someone to “take me down” so I treat this old maple with the same respect. :)

Falling By The Wayside…

September 26, 2014

2014-08-31_10-13-04It seems that many of my blog friends are falling by the wayside lately. They are slowly disappearing from cyberspace. I used to read a dozen or so blog posts every day, now I read less than a handful. Some who seem to have maybe a thousand followers or more are calling it quits. I wonder what is happening? Many of these past blogging friends say it is just time to move on to other things. Some I imagine expected to make spending money from their writing and that just didn’t happen to any degree. Some maybe had grandiose thoughts of being recognized as the great writer all us blogger hold in the back of our minds and that didn’t happen either.

Here I am approaching 2,000 posts and five years blogging here at RJsCorner and while I admit I have thought on several occasions of just giving it up I always back away from idea.  I have discontinued several other blogs that I have had because their time had come so to speak. The one that meant the most to me was RedLetterLiving. It was about living the commands of Jesus Christ instead of just believing  a set of man-made beliefs. I do keep it up but seldom post there anymore. I started that blog as I have for most others with a question seeking an answer. After five years I finally at least to a degree found the answers I was looking for. It then seems redundant to continue posting on that topic.

So, what makes RJsCorner different from the others?  One answer to that is in its diversity. It is not about one particular topic but instead is more like a “public” journal of my life and thoughts.  That concept allows me to cover a wide variety of topics. But,  In order to maintain variety I do have a general topic category for each day of the week.

The writings of Will Rogers, which inspires me on several different levels, continues to be a significant part of what I post here and will probably continue to be so.  Will was such a prolific writer that he left thousands of sources of inspiration for me to glean. RJsCorner continues to use the technique of his invention. That is to use something that I have read as a beginning point. One of Will’s most famous quotes is “All I know is what I read in the newspapers”. Another quote is “I never met a man I didn’t like”. In that regard I try not to be mean-spirited to anyone or any topic that I write about. For the most part, except maybe for the idiotic politics of today, I usually manage to keep Will’s quote in mind.

Finally, I never seem to run out of blog material.  My draft queue, which are snippets clipped from various sources is constantly more than one hundred deep. Some of these ideas mature, some might say fester, for several weeks before the right words come together for a post. I don’t think I will ever run out of material. The world is just too interesting….

Banking Establishments…

September 25, 2014

2014-09-13_09-50-19I sincerely believe . . . that banking establishments are more dangerous than standing armies, and that the principle of spending money to be paid by posterity, under the name of funding, is but swindling futurity on a large scale.

Thomas Jefferson in a letter 12 June 1815

Anyone that has studied Jefferson to any degree knows that he was an agrarian. That is he believed in power to the people, particularly the farmers who were the majority of the population in his day. He seemed to have a standing feud with Hamilton about this topic.

I, like Jefferson, believe that almost all the power in a society should reside with the citizens but unfortunately in today’s world our financial institutions and the 1% of the population that control them seem to have kidnapped a large share of power. Another famous quote from Jefferson was that a democracy depends on an informed electorate. If only people were to realize that with their votes they have the capability to radically transform this condition. If, as the polls indicate, the vast majority of us believe that our present government is totally dysfunctional we could sweep out 85% of them within the next two months. Wouldn’t that send a message to those gridlocked groups who say they represent us. If only our actions backed up our words things would change and change quickly.

To Face The Future…

September 24, 2014

The future is a scary place for many of us. We primarily see things that are out to get us and hurt us. We cling to the past as the good old days. The thing about that is that the past was simply not the good old days as we remember them. We seem to have an abject fear of letting our children out of our view for fear that they will be abducted. But the fact it that these are safer times in that regard than they were twenty, thirty, or even forty years ago.

We as a country seem to have an abject fear of any radical rag-tag group that does something utterly stupid on the other side of the world. We spend trillions of bucks to take them out but all that really does is to spurn yet another group’s ire for our intrusion into their lives.We can’t seem to realize the possibility that if we just leave them alone they will leave us alone.

Sometimes to face the future you must let go of the past. You have to throw all the old baggage out the window and dream of other possibilities. Dreading the future is certainly one option we have but I believe a better one is to dream of a future where we actually love each other as God commanded us to do in almost all religions.

Old wounds can drag you down and keep you where you don’t really want to be. A good example of this are the traumatized war veterans of sadly each generation. For my generation it was Vietnam. For more recent ones it is Iraq and Afghanistan. Trauma does terrible things to all of us but for some it is totally devastating. Those unfortunate souls are lost in the past with no dreams or expectations for the future.

Health tragedies hold others in their grips. It could be an accident that claimed a limb or maybe the deaths that resulted from the accident. It could be a major health event that caused six-figure medical bills that seem totally inescapable.

The future can be a scary place but sometimes the past is even scarier. The pessimists of the world many times live in a very dreary world, much of their own making. Optimism allows us to see a better place in front of us. Don’t ever allow life to drain that away from you. Always cling to that optimist thread no matter how thin it might be…

 

7 Out Of 10….

September 23, 2014

2014-08-14_07-54-54

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.

 

I Can’t Get No….

September 22, 2014

2014-09-15_10-57-03I know the Rolling Stones song goes “I can’t get no satisfaction” but for purposes of this post I am going to change it a little. I have been fully retired for about eight years now and was semi-retired for six before that. One of the things that I have found the most difficult to keep a handle on in these retirement years is stimulation. In other words for it “I can’t get no stimulation.” and without stimulation my life sometimes seems to just be spinning in place.

In the corporate world of the 1990s it was always about doing more with less. We saw our fellow employees being laid off and their duties dumped on us to do as well as our own duties.  There was certainly no lack of stimulation during the final decade of my work life. But when that door was abruptly closed in the Spring of 2000 I found myself in a very different mode.

Stimulation in our senior years is pretty much left for us to find. Regrettably some get their stimulation just from the struggle of day-to-day life trying to live on a fixed income when food and healthcare costs increase substantially every year. Some have on-going serious health problems that plague them in the senior years that push out almost everything else. But for those of us who have managed to save enough meet their needs and have relatively good health (of course that is a very subjective thing) we need to find things that stimulate us.

It is very easy in our senior years to get stuck in a rut and to give over to a couch potato syndrome instead of finding stimulating things to do with our time. It is easy to just sit back and suck up oxygen and very little else. We must struggle to keep life stimulating. That is especially true for those of us who have very sedentary spouses. We need to find something that stimulates us that is separate from those close to us. For some that means maintaining a “man cave” where we are do our things. For some it means fishing or camping in a Walden style.

Without stimulation life is hardly worth living. Without stimulation depression can get a massive grip on our lives. Don’t ever fall into the mantra as I do sometimes that I “can’t” get no stimulation. It is not a good place to be….