RJ's Corner

"Who Are You To Tell Me How To Live??"

2014-12-04_10-28-12The above title seems very American in its character. We Americans, me included, just don’t like others telling us what to do or especially what to think. To some extent we are all rebel rousers in that regard. Some take this to an extreme by there “don’t confuse me with the facts”. We just don’t like being told what to do.

Prohibitionist tried to mandate what we do. We let a small handful of extremists convince us that drinking beer and such was the root cause of all our problems. If only we kept people from drinking we could shut down our jails and send our policemen home as all crime was related to alcohol.

Many religions try to tell us how to live and I believe that is the primary cause for the continuing decline of religion in this country. Some insist that we are all just miserable sinners who can’t do anything right. That alone raises the ire of so many of us. America is the land of opportunity and to be told we are incapable of doing anything right just grates on us.

The similarity between Prohibition and our current drug laws is striking. We incarcerate more of our citizens than any other nation and many if not most of those imprisonments are drug related. What was once legal in now considered a crime. Coke was named such because it once had a small dosage of cocaine in it to make us happier.  Ironically we as a nation, especially the more conservative ones among us, want to tell you how your are to live.

Is it really necessary to lock someone up for years at a time for doing something that primarily affects only them? If someone wants to get high on this drug or that is that reason enough to deny them their freedom? I know this is a radical stand but it seems to at least be partially playing out in our current discussions of the legalization of marijuana. How much money could we save if we legalized all drugs? If you want to destroy your life that should be your option.

Now let me step back a little on this issue. I am not advocating eliminating all responsibility of the consequences of drug use. If you steal to get your drugs you will be prosecuted. If you harm others directly or indirectly you will be prosecuted. This is kind of like the gun issue although I suspect most people advocating guns have the opposite view on this issue. You have a right to a gun even if it means that your young son ends up killing himself with it. You have a right to abuse your body if you want to.

Who is the government to tell me how to live my life?

I need to end this post with a personal declaration. I have never tried any currently illegal drug myself. I did smoke cigarettes for thirty years and hope that the past 25 years without them have cancelled their health effects. I have a beer now and then but do so responsibly.

Smithsonian Institute, Washington DC

The plane that Wilber and Orval Wright used to push us into the 20th century is located in the Smithsonian along with many other historical items. This institution is preserving the artifacts that make up the heart of America. If you are even in the area you must brave the horrendous traffic to visit the Smithsonian.

Oil slump leads Wall Street to worst week in 2-1/2 years..

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   :)

Upper Peninsula Michigan

The upper peninsula of Michigan doesn’t have many people but it does have a grand entrance via the Mackinac bridge. I have been over it several time. This picture was taken by the outside walls showing as shadows from the fort that used to guard the straight.

Contemplating Life….

2014-12-11_11-44-07The coming season is a very important one for my Asian friends. Many travel great distances to be with family. Many also take this season as a time to contemplate their life and its purpose. They ask searching questions of themselves to be sure they are living their life as they want to instead of just letting it happen. Many change jobs and occupations during this season.

I kind of wish I had  learned that lesson from them. I kind of wish I done likewise during my years on this earth. Instead I, like many Americans, just seem to let life happen to me instead of doing more to direct it as I intended. Too many of us treat life as something that happens at special times and not as an overall journey.  At some point it is too late to realize that life is a journey and not a destination. But, in reality it is never too late.

I can look back on my life and see where there were opportunities to have a more targeted existence. I could have chosen different paths that would probably have resulted in a much more satisfying life than I accomplished by just letting it happen.

It is never to late to learn new things and that is what I am doing now. I am treating this holiday season as a season of contemplation. As a season to question what I am doing and what I want to do in the coming year.  I intuitively know that some of the things I have been doing for a long time should come to an end and be replaced by other things. Instead of just letting things happen I am making an effort to direct my remaining years with a greater purpose.

But one of the things I know I will be doing is writing. That is an addiction I can never totally appease nor do I want to. I will continue to contemplate life via written words both personally and corporate. I know I am no great public speaker so I take writing as my way of maybe effecting change in things.  I am following a long list of my heroes who have done likewise. Thomas Jefferson was perhaps the most avid writer in my hero list. He left a huge legacy of written text. He was never much of an orator, in fact he like me didn’t get much pleasure from that communication mode. Teddy Roosevelt was another obsessive writer. He kept journals throughout his life starting at the age of nine.

Some of the changes I am contemplating are driven by health issues. My body, as most people my age, is wearing out. I am now living some of the consequences of abusing it in earlier life. I need to recognize that fact and deal with it in a rational manner instead of trying to deny it.

Another reason for changes is that I can certainly see the end of the tunnel so to speak and my bucket list is still somewhat full. So, I have to ask myself an age-old question. “if not now, when??”

Alaska

It has always seemed strange to me that Alaska became a State. I know we bought it from the Russian some time ago but it just seems so remote to the other States and has very few people. There are only about 700,000 in the State and of those 120,000 are natives. Alaska pays in all a negative State tax, that is they get money form the State for just living there. I imagine the Coast Guard presence, which is immense in the State, costs much more than they even pay in federal taxes.

America’s Religion…

2014-12-13_16-14-42People say that professional sports fuel what is worst in us. Our greed, our impatience, our willingness to ruin our bodies for the sake of fame. Our glorification of the worst human impulses, our blindness to the crimes these athletes sometimes commit…. It’s been said that sports are America’s religion and that this idolatry is our downfall. SOURCE: These Royals Make You Believe in God | Angela Denker | Red Letter Christians.

I suspect that there are many more who will be sitting around their TV sets this Sunday afternoon watching  a football game than there are sitting in a church pew.  And even those in the pews most often rush home to join the former. Yes, we in America seem to be totally addicted to our sports.

I know that sports is supposed to build character in our young people but that can be accomplished in other far less destructive ways.  I believe sports does more to pollute the educational environment than any good it might accomplish.  I admit that, except with myself,  I am not a very competitive person and never have been. I have never seen a need to defeat any opponent in my life. In fact I believe that this attitude which is so predominate in most sports is a net negative on our society and even the world. It creates a totally unneeded caste system in our high schools that make some believe they have to stand out in other, often more destructive, ways just to get any attention. The high school and even the college jock dominates social life there even in my day. They are given special recognition  and privileges that are way above their overall contributions to the world around them. The level of “us vs them” created by most sports carries on throughout our lives.

We see it in our formal religious institutions. Just look at Israel, Iran, Iraq, or most of the Middle East countries to see how this “us vs. them” affects all our lives. We no longer seem to tolerate anyone believing something different from us. Too often religious leaders, contrary to the basic teaching of their religions, are the ones who incite these feelings. Jihad drives too many to fanatical views of life and spiritually but it is by no means the only destructive religious doctrine of our times. Jesus told us to love each other he didn’t put any public affiliations as part of that command.

In order to live together and love each other we must be tolerant of views that are different from our own. We need to throw away the “us vs them” mentality and realize that we are all in this together. While sports may not be the major contributing factor it is probably the starting point for many of these associations.  A little, well actually a lot, less emphasis on sports would help us return to celebrating our American diversity and the fact that we, as Rodney King, said so many years ago, just need to get along.

Cherokee, NC – Native Americans

Most of us know far too little about the original people of our nation. We too quickly brushed them aside to take over their land. We called it “Manifest Destiny”, they called it robbing their land and heritage.  The Museum of Cherokee Indian does a good job of helping us remember and even celebrate our native ancestors..

Eating Out…

Old time NJ Resturant-1

I can remember the first business trip I took to the NYC area in 1970. We had dinner at the famous Bahrs Restaurant. It was a lavish place that looked out on a bay of the ocean. Being from the Midwest I was astonished by the seafood available on the menu. Of course since then the nation is now filled with franchise fast food restaurants to gobble up so much of the eating-out dollar. I still go to Bahrs when I am in the area…

Kansas prairie, KS

The picture above is perhaps the most iconic in my portfolio when I think of Kansas. This part of the country used to be called the “Great American Desert” as there were no trees and only wild grasses grew. But then the McCormick plow was invented to uproot up all that century old sod. Now its known as the wheat basket….

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