Artsy….

April 27, 2013

Artsy

 

June 1989 –  This is a picture of a long time friend taken at the Indy Zoo. Of course it has been “artified” by me. I am trying to get into this type of thing again.

The Golden Rule….

April 26, 2013

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A new golden rule   BY CHUCK JAFFE, MARKETWATCH

It has long been a rule of thumb that typical investors should have 5-10% of their portfolios in gold. But watching gold’s swoon on Monday had to make you wonder: Really?

Source: Online Trading, ETFs, Mutual Funds, IRAs & Retirement – Fidelity.

Leave it up to the financial gurus to pollute the golden rule with things about money. I really got a kick out of this one. It seems Mr. Jaffe has a very short term memory. Yeah the price of gold dropped significantly on Monday but year over year it is still much higher than it was ten years ago. It is up about 300% while the stock market has gained a whopping 15% over the same period.

But of course Mr. Jaffe makes his fortune convincing you to buy and sell stocks so I certainly understand his motivation for these words.

Finally Some Sanity???

April 26, 2013

In his first major policy speech Wednesday, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel signaled he will be taking a hard look at the way the Pentagon spends its money and at whether the US military needs quite so many officers….

That’s because too often the weapons systems that Pentagon officials buy “are vastly more expensive and technologically risky than what was promised or budgeted for.” And the hard truth is that the most pressing problems the world faces “do not necessarily lend themselves to being resolved by conventional military strength,” he said.

“Indeed the most destructive and horrific attack ever on the United States came not from fleets of ships, bombers, and armored divisions, but from 19 fanatical men wielding box cutters and one-way plane tickets.”

Source: Hagel invokes Eisenhower as he signals era of austerity at Pentagon (+video) – CSMonitor.com.

Maybe we will finally get at least a small dose of sanity in our Defense Department spending. For way too long this department of the federal government has been given carte blanche to spend whatever they want. There has literally been no accounting for the spending; even the department itself has no idea where the money goes!  This would not be so sad if it were not for the fact that the DOD amounts to half of our discretionary spending in this country. Far far more than any other country in the world.  Here we are reducing many social services while continuing to expand our spending on weapons systems that have long lost their usefulness.

I pray that secretary Hagel can get a little sanity back into this process. It was taking the two wars started by the Bush administration “off-the-books” that started the latest massive slide in our deficits.  We are spending millions, perhaps billions on drones (no body knows), while continuing to buy multimillion dollar planes that serve little purpose other than to enrich a particular representative’s electoral district. A fellow blogger friend who lives in Arizona mentions an aircraft graveyard there that contains thousands of mothballed planes. Maybe it is time to pull a few of them out and drop the billions being spent for new ones.

We could easily drop the defense department budgets in half and still maintain a military superiority fifty times greater than any other country. Lets get back to spending our tax dollars on our crumbling infrastructure and on our people instead of unneeded bombs and weapons of destruction. Lets finally bring some sanity back into this process….

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

Too Much Celebration….

April 25, 2013

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Staying away from the news feeds today. Too much celebration of the Bush years.  I am just not ready for that yet.  Too many young lives lost and too many retirement pensions ruined during those years. Maybe when I am old and senile I can look upon them differently…..

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Under construction. Maintenance area.I had to discover a passion for retirement because I had worked all my life at something that I was not passionate about. I understood that in order to discover a passion I had to understand who I am. Figuring out who I am was not complicated, but it required time and effort. It took a lot of mental work, the hardest kind of work. It took a lot of experimenting and trial and error, the scariest kind of work. But almost anyone can do it. You don’t have to be a monk, priest, philosopher or psychologist. You don’t have to have a college degree.

source:  Satisfying Retirement: Discover Your Passion: Know Who You Are.

The above quote comes from a fellow blogger Bob Lowery over at Satisfying Retirement a few days ago.  It was a guest quote from Boyd Lemon. I was very surprised that it didn’t get the usual number of comments for that site. Several things in the post struck me as almost profound in their wisdom. Particularly the quote above.  Sometimes I write a post that I think has at least at some level a profound message only to see that it gets a minimum of views. I don’t understand why?

As I have faced lately, I have finally come to admit that I was probably in the wrong profession throughout my corporate years.  I blame the indecision to admit that early on and do something about it at least in part to a lack of guidance counseling in my high school years. I went to a very small high school in the 1960s so I understand the lack of guidance. I hope that is not the case today but I fear that it is.

One of the most profound responsibilities that a parent has is to help their child learn their ingrained passions and talents early in life. If appropriate counseling is not available in the school system then it should be sought elsewhere. When a person is passionate about what they are doing they are much more likely to make a difference in this world and isn’t that what most of us end up wanting? To make a difference.

But of course I realize that most teenagers think they know it all and would probably resist this type of guidance. Forming young minds is probably the most noble of all professions and guiding them to listen and learn about their compassion is one of the most critical things that you can do for a person.

It is not that I didn’t have a fulfilling life in the occupation I ended up in but instead it is more of a road not taken type of thing. I will always wonder if I had recognized earlier on what I felt strongly about if it would have been even more fulfilling?

Thanks Bob for doing the guest post that got me to thinking about this….

Loss of Life….

April 24, 2013

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I try not to post about the events like the Boston bombing until more of the facts are known but there is one related thing that always bothers me about such events. While I along with most mourn the four lives lost in this tragic event I wonder why we don’t also mourn the 150 or so lives also lost that day and every day to violence around our obsession with guns? I wonder why don’t we also mourn the 3,000 or so lives lost each day to hunger? Were those four lives more precious than the 150 or the 3,000 to our Maker?

Why don’t we mourn all senseless loss of life?? Why can’t the innocent person who was gunned down by a drive-by shooter or killed by a drunk driver be recognized with the same mournful eulogies at the four victims from last week’s bombing.

It is likely we will end up allocating a few billion more dollars to try to prevent the next distraught teenager from setting off another bomb. Most likely those who are suggesting this increased spending will propose getting the funding by cutting social/entitlement programs. How sad is that?  Where is our compassion for those thousands who are killed every week in our country because, even though they is totally solvable, we lack the will to prevent them from happening?

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Every month, 14 million people now get a disability check from the government.

The federal government spends more money each year on cash payments for disabled former workers than it spends on food stamps and welfare combined. [...]

[And] story of these programs — who goes on them, and why, and what happens after that — is, to a large extent, the story of the U.S. economy. It’s the story not only of an aging workforce, but also of a hidden, increasingly expensive safety net.

Source: Has disability become a ‘de facto welfare program’? – In Plain Sight.

I hate these kinds of reports. Even if they are based on facts they usually sensationalize the stories with a very slanted viewpoint.  I certainly agree that we should go after those who game the SSI system with an adamant zeal. They should be caught and punished for gaming the system.

But the problem is that these stories are fodder for those who want to deny benefits where they are actually needed. In other words they want to throw out the baby with the bath water.

Not surprising there were over seven-hundred comments attached to the article from which the quote above came. Most were screamer who talked about lazy people scamming the system. Many were very vitriol in their words. I usually intentionally avoid the comments now as they are almost always an extreme view by those who hate people who are not like them.  But one did shine through. Here it is:

I am a registered nurse and I collect SSID. I was severly injured, and flown away in the helicopter to the ICU where I used to work and put on a ventilator with my head smashed in and multiple fractures. Now I am no longer able to work so I get to collect my social security early. I hear this alot about welfare moochers. It makes me feel bad about living on money I actually paid into the system. Please don’t think this is always about welfare moochers like some kind of knee jerk response.

All this being said I’m not sure that SSI, or disability payments for things like disabled kids should even be in the Social Security system? It seems to dilute the original purpose of the fund and give fodder to those who, like Congressman Ryan and that conservative bunch, as reasons to “privatize” (read eliminate) it.

 

Prosperity…

April 23, 2013
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“There is nothing that sets a nation back as far in civilization as prosperity.” – Will Rogers, 2 April 1933

Yeah Will, prosperity does seem to bring out the animal in many of us. Just look at the Robber Barons of the early 20th century for evidence of that.  Heck, you don’t even have to look that far back, just look at the 1%ers now who will do just about anything to maintain their wealth.  Prosperity brings out the best in a few but the worst in others.

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Pope1I spent my first fourteen years in the Catholic church but really haven’t kept up with the details except for an occasional theology study.  I know the picture here is a once in an era event. It has been centuries since a pope has resigned from office. The first thought that came to mind when I saw the picture here is that of two very old men embracing each other. I wish the new Pope Francis a successful reign, or whatever his term is called, no matter how many years it is. He was a Jesuit and I know they embraced simplicity and empathy as their worldview. I hope he carries out that theme in his time at the head of the Catholic church.

I think almost everyone knows that the Catholic church is one of the biggest bureaucracies in the world. If they were a corporation they would definitely be in the top ten or maybe even number one.  They have accumulated vast wealth beyond most comprehension. I also know that their structure is very vertical in nature.  That is the Pope/CEO has the ultimate authority and can veto almost anything that he wants.

I don’t know whether the Pope is like a monarch who is more of a ceremonial thing or like a CEO?  I am thinking maybe a little of both. But I do know that the previous pope has had a rough time of it while he was in office and can understand why he would want to resign and let someone else take over.  I’m sure he is exhausted from all the battles the church has faced during his reign.

I am surprised that the cardinals chose a South American as their next leader. Admittedly South America and Africa are where the most potential growth comes from. But those two continents are also known for bucking the edicts of Rome on occasion.  They just don’t always align with papal authority. Now that one of their own is in charge that may change but probably not.

Ending this post I really wonder just what went on in selecting the new pope. Rome as usual tries to keep this sort of thing hidden. Maybe that is to make it seem more mysterious or spiritual. I don’t know.  I know that most of my years in the church were spent hearing Latin; I didn’t really  know why that was either.  I guess I am just too American in that I want things to happen in the light of day and not behind closed doors or behind hunched shoulders.

I enjoyed all the cartoons about speculation of what went one in the pope selection process.  The funniest one was that the first cardinal to make a basket from half court was the new pope. :)  I don’t hate the pope as I think many of my Protestants brothers and sisters are taught so I wish him well in his duties whatever they are.  I don’t want to insult my Catholic friends here but I really don’t think Pope Francis has any different of the track to God than any of the rest of us.  God is just not into hierarchy stuff as the Roman Catholic church is. He is, to continue the basketball theme,  more one-on-one.

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Ryan2“The Ryan budget kicks 12 to 13 million people off of nutrition assistance, cuts off pathways to opportunity, slashes job training and education, and makes draconian cuts to Medicare, which serves a majority of the disabled and the elderly,” said Boteach. “That’s how House Republicans have outlined their priorities.”

Among those who voted for Ryan’s budget: Rep. Hal Rogers (R-Ky.), the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, whose district has a roughly 28 percent poverty rate and 38 percent child poverty rate; Rep. Rodney Alexander (R-La.), whose district has a roughly 26 percent poverty rate and 37 percent child poverty rate; Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.), whose district has a roughly 17 percent poverty rate and 25 percent child poverty rate; Rep. Ted Yoho (R-Fla.), whose district has a roughly 16 percent poverty rate and 19 percent child poverty rate; and Rep. Tom Rooney (R-Fla.), whose district has a roughly 16 percent poverty rate and a 26 percent child poverty rate.

Source:  ‘Missing In Action': Congress Ignores America’s Poverty Crisis.

I am a strong believer in our representative form of government. It is what has made us strong over the centuries. But the recent problem has been that many who go to Washington as our representative end up clinging to a party line rather than doing what is best for those they represent. To me it is shameful to see so many of the strongest backers of the GOP/Ryan budget coming from areas that have the highest rates of poverty.

It is a hard fact for me to face but the reality is that poverty in this country just doesn’t have much of a priority when it comes to our government processes. The poor simply don’t have the political power or lobbies that many other things have. Because of the power brokers in the country our military establishments drain so much of the resources away from programs to help the least of these. It seems if they have a choice of making another $50 million war plane or helping 100,000 rise above the poverty level they always choose the former.  I know the Republican party is trying desperately to re-brand themselves in to something that shows they have compassion but given the latest Ryan budget their actions simply don’t live up to their re-framed rhetoric.

One of the easiest ways to help the poor in this country is to raise the minimum wage. It has not even come close to keeping up with inflation in the last 30 years. Of course raising the minimum wage has some very fierce advocates among the GOP. They, like they always have throughout my 60+ years on the earth vehemently claim that raising the wage will result in millions of jobs lost.  To me that ancient rhetoric has been disproved so many times in the past as to have lost all credibility but there are still millions of conservatives around today that  parrot those words.

Lets be clear that the majority of the 46 million who are now living in poverty work, do not lie back and expect life to be given to them. Most are working at  minimum wage jobs, often time more than one.  If the Republican party is really serious about taking on the mantel of being “compassionate conservatives” as Mr. Bush futilely tried to label himself so many years ago they need to recognize that until the minimum wage is raised to something at least remotely resembling what it should be poverty will continue to have a strangle hold on millions of households in this country.

We are almost reaching a third world status when it comes to the number of our citizens living in poverty. Shame on us!!!