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Thursday, December 29, 2011

My First Ever Predictions


I will make my first ever predictions because I don't like to look back, so I don't like the year in review, and since I'm getting along in years, resolutions don't mean that much to me because I'm pretty much "what you see is what you get." I'll probably suck at this, being it's my first time but I remember a blogger at the VA posting about 14 predictions and 13 turned out to be wrong, so the bar is set pretty low...:-)

1. Our VA forum will have a large turnover of posters, and they will set a different agenda.
2. The health care "individual mandate" will stand by a 5-4 Supreme Court decision.
3. The Supreme Court will approve the San Antonio Federal court redistricting plan.
4. Several states will lose their immigration enforcement laws.
5. Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin will get recalled.
6. Iran will be met with minimum force of the United States Navy and Air Force causing them to lose the game of chicken as they react to stronger sanctions because they are unwilling give up their desire to acquire a nuclear weapon.
7. Senator John Kerry will replace Hillary Clinton as secretary of state and Governor Deval Patrick of Massachusetts will nominate himself as senator, fulfilling John Kerry's seat.
8. Elizabeth Warren will beat Scott Brown in the Massachusetts Senate race and will become a powerful voice for the Democratic Party.
9...Mitt Romney will win the Iowa Caucus, New Hampshire primary and make a stronger showing than expected in South Carolina propelling him to the GOP nomination, and he will pick New Jersey's Governor Chris Christie to be his running mate.
10...Edith Ann will get her 100,000 hit, no later than early August of 2012...Outstanding!
11...A long-time blogger will get booted in late October.
12. Eagle Ford Shale will have to shut down due to EPA findings.
13. President Barack Obama will lose the popular vote but win the important electoral vote in becoming our nation's 45th president.
14. The GOP will retain the house by a thread and fall shy of taking the Senate by one.
15. The GOP establishment will regain control of its own party, but John Boehner will lose his speaker post to Eric Cantor. The Tea Party will gradually fade away.
16. Ron Paul will run as a third-party candidate and the GOP will blame him for their loss. Rand Paul's ambitions will be curtailed because of the actions of his father.
17. Our economy is already showing some signs of recovery and unemployment will drop to 7.5% by November of 2012.
18. Raising the debt ceiling will not be as difficult this time next year.
19. Both parties will accept most of the proposals of Bowels-Simpson and in turn Moody will restore our AAA credit rating.
20. The hostility will start to come down, consumer confidence will rise, and in late 2012, we will begin to see signs of progress.

Others: The Help will win best picture, Meryl Streep best actress for Iron Lady and Brad Pitt best actor, Money Ball…Dallas Cowboys will beat NY Giants for the East title win first playoff game but lose the second as Felix Jones goes out with injury…The Houston Texans will lose first playoff game if they stick with T.J. Yates.

This is just a list of my 20 predictions and is not by any means a prophecy, so feel free to disagree and add some of your own or ask how I came to my conclusion.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

We live in a BS world


After watching a movie called “Margin Call" with Kevin Spacey, reading some comments at the VA and watching political shows and reading today's wonderful article titled "Why we need better nonsensical talk “by Tom Purcell, I’m convinced that we live in a BS world. I don't see us improving our situation until we go back to calling “a spade a spade."

We are still at a stage where we have decided that “parenting" and ridding the teachers union are the answers to our education problem. That's BS, they may be the major components but real problem solving has to be a work around the perceived problems and not just continue to throw up our arms and quit. I think the answer is revising the outdated system we are using but this is just a small example; I won't dwell into the details at this time.

The movie “Margin Call" wasn't what I expected because the theme was more like the movie " 12 angry men" because it was about a Wall Street firm, its managers and employees, and it all took place at the firm's location. It was about Wall Street recruiting the brightest people and turning them into used car salesmen, selling worthless securities with a passion and using money to ease their conscience. Those of us who are in the market cheered them on but when we found out that their actions caused a financial meltdown, we wanted to crucify them. It went onto show that a Wall Street firm or a corporation does not have the soul or a conscience. After one of their analysts showed them a computer model analysis where their junk assets had run its course; they decided to pass the junk off to their competitors, creating a free fall liquidation of many firms. The firms paid their top employee's lucrative bonuses before liquidation. Then came the taxpayer lending them funds at 1% interest; they in turn charged 3% interest pocketing a 2 percent gain; yet, we applauded them for paying back their taxpayer loans. That's the BS society we live in; as long as they paid us back, we forgave them for the financial meltdown causing millions to be unemployed, mortgages going under water and a further mistrust of our Financial System. We still don't have regulations in place to prevent another financial crisis and not one CEO went to jail because in our BS society, what they did was legal.

I agree with Tom Purcell's assessment" We want to be lied to in America. Whereas the truth can be painful, costly and time -consuming, we're suckers for a skillfully told yarn, and it puts us at ease and helps us sleep better at night.” Do we honestly care what a policeman does to arrest a suspect at 3:00AM? Have we explored the difference between preventing voter fraud and voter suppression? Do we seriously expect to solve our racial problems without exploring the past? This past weekend, the words of my unrealistic niece could have been an example of the point Tom Purcell was trying to make. We were having a discussion about the unemployment rate and how difficult it was for those that became accustomed to making over $80,000 a year and then having to face a layoff. She said that they could work three jobs instead of staying at home collecting unemployment and being picky about their job offers. First, the laid-off people would have to face mortgage and vehicle payments larger than the wages they would get from those three jobs; that's if they were available. And that's just a start. The county city and local businesses would have to deal with $800,000 of revenue if a mere 10 people were laid off. The people making $80,000 bought products that people working at Burger King could never afford. That's the type of BS country we live in; simple answers for complex problems. You could make a full circle and we would get back to reason parents may not have time to help their children with their home work.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Recalling a Christmas past


After the family left our house Christmas Eve, my wife and I put on some oldie's music and started to reminisce about Christmas past. My wife finally realized what my mother went through because our guests didn't leave until 2:00 A.M. and my wife had to get up at 7:00 A.M. to start the turkey. Christmas Day, she kept repeating, “I’m going to take a long nap when everyone leaves." Our last guest left at 6:30 P.M., so much for planning. It's only once a year, and if we had to do it over, we would still complain but we would do it all in a heartbeat. There are a lot of families without their loved ones this year.

With the music of the Temptations in the background, we started reminiscing about our Christmas trip to El Paso. I remember asking my friends at work about the best route, but it started a mini war with one side favoring Victoria to Del Rio to Ft Stockton and straight through to El Paso and the other side said, " Victoria to San Antonio take Interstate 10 and 900 miles later you'll be in El Paso." We selected the latter, but that was the easy part. I'd check my tires (four different Brands and one was a retread) hoses, radiator, and changed the oil and my wife did the packing and bought the food and supplies for the journey. As we were approaching Thomaston, my wife asked if I had locked the back door and turned off the coffee pot, as if I remembered or was going back to check, I gave her the standard, “yes." I can't remember where we had our fill up but we remembered asking the children if they needed to go to the bathroom because we didn't know what was ahead, two of them did but our middle child didn't have to go until we were 30 miles up to the road, so she got their first outdoor experience; we didn't have that problem on the way back.

We were in pretty good shape until we got to Ft Stockton where some white stuff started falling from the sky onto the roadway. My wife started getting excited and started waking up the kids to tell them that it was snowing but then again, she wasn't driving. It wasn't so bad until we got several miles outside of Ft Stockton, and we noticed that an 18 wheeler in front of us was the only other vehicle headed toward El Paso. The 18 wheeler was driving way too slow for me, so I remember getting over in my left hand lane to pass him because I recall saying, "why was that amateur driver driving so slow." After all, I was in my thirties, had a good job, and knew it all. My wife reminded me that we would only two on the road, but I put on my left-turn signal in an attempt to pass the truck, but as I did our car started to swerve and almost did a 180°, so I instantly realized that we were going to follow the red lights of that 18 wheeler all the way to El Paso, if possible. The driver probably got a good laugh of seeing another rookie traveler driving in his first snow.

When we eventually got to about 15 miles from El Paso, my wife said," I can take it from here." Gee thanks, the snow had stopped, and she drove the freeway to her house as if she never left home. Along the way, she sounded like a tour guide as she was describing all the sites to our children. When we arrived at our destination, everyone asked the usual question of "how was your trip?" This was one time when the reply led to a story. I never thought that I would ever hear the end of hearing my wife tell the story of my adventure into the snow covered left lane. Then came all the experts assuring everyone that they would not have done that. It was then when I remembered why I was never so happy to see the sign that read "You are now leaving El Paso."

Life's cycle will catch up with all of us one day or another. I remember when all of us at the table would smile and acknowledge when my stepfather would always say “I hate to leave good company but I'm going to take a nap." My wife and I felt like taking a nap the other day, but we're still looking forward to next year's Christmas.You'll get to that time when memories are better than gifts because they live forever.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Too Much Government?

The All American Debate

Yesterday, I watched an informative debate between Paul Ryan, Barney Frank, George Will and Robert Reich. ABC News' "This Week with Christiane Amanpour" and the Miller Center at the University of Virginia are partnering for "The Great American Debates," a series of debates on the key issues of the 2012 presidential campaign. This is going to be a series of events, which will last six weeks. Yesterday's debate was about “Too Much Government" and the panel consisted of two liberals and two conservatives and none on the panel and could be considered a moderate. I think this type of programming is great, but we will have to see in how well it does. I apologize for sounding like a skeptic, but I don't think the American public wants to be informed. They just want to stay in their ideological corners.

Republican Congressman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin led off the discussion by saying that conservatives want smaller government, less regulation, less taxation allowing entrepreneurs to succeed in contrast to the Democrats who want more government in our lives. Barney Frank, a Democrat from Massachusetts disputed the assertion. He said that we all want smaller government but what is too small or too large. This went on back and forth until President Clinton's former labor Secretary, Robert Reich, said that both parties want effective government, the size can be debated. If the government is too large, then corruption and incompetence will likely follow. If the government is too small, regulations will be ignored, and corruption and incidents will be widespread. Barney Frank brought out the old adage” conservatives want government out of the boardroom but into the bedroom" to which Paul Ryan answered" We just want to retain American values." Barney Frank is a brilliant, comical man with a short temper. He practically dominated the debate. He became a star in the Clinton impeachment hearings. Mr. Frank asked George Will why he was against decriminalizing marijuana. George Will said that he was still studying the consequences of decriminalization. Barney Frank replied “This issue has been out there for decades; you're 65 years old; what's taking you so long?"

The role of government is a favorite subject of mine because I saw the same conservatives' rail against health care, yet that's the first thing that we set up when we go overseas to occupy a country. The liberals who railed against President George W. Bush for his unconstitutional practices of circumventing our civil liberties are allowing this president to do the same when they allowed Congress to pass a law saying that the president of United States can declare a United States citizens an enemy combatant and sentence them to lifetime confinement without a trial. The leaders conveniently attached the amendment to the defense appropriation bill. What legislator would want to be in a political ad for being against funding for the troops? Senator Chris Coons of Delaware said that another amendment could be taken up later, extracting the words that allow the president so much power. We've all heard that before. It's like a temporary sales tax that never goes away. I'm all for increasing the safety of American citizens but not at the risk of taking away Americans civil liberties. For example, if I donated some funds to a nonprofit group which in turn funded a terrorist group; I would be in jeopardy of spending the rest of my life in Guantanamo Bay. Is that farfetched?

I think that we know what the free market will do if it goes unfettered, and it's going to take a decade or so to develop the trust in government it once had. I don't believe anyone thinks welfare is supposed to be a way of life but unfortunately for some, it will be. I don't want to wage war against the wealthy, but I do want them to step up and pay their fair share in proportion to their taxable income. In the words of Elizabeth Warren,(D-MA) "we are proud of the wealthy corporations, but they should also step up and pay a little more for the roads the taxpayer builds, repairs and the public education that the taxpayer provides their employees." Is at a liberal position or is it a position of fairness?

We have an enormous debt and deficit so it is obvious our government is too big, but now we have a debate on picking what goes and what remains. The counterarguments are usually opinions without sufficient data to back up their claims.

What's the solution? I don't really know, but I think I know a good starting place. I think that we need to take away all party labels at the local level. It doesn't matter if a Republican or Democrat sees to it that ditches and roads are maintained. In a city, this size the ideologues have already summed up their candidates ,as to whether they are conservative or liberal, but we don't have to contaminate the rest of the voting pool. It doesn't matter how one feels on abortion at the local level or that some think only conservative Republicans know how to take care the purse strings. That could be interpreted several ways, one being they would give up progress for a $1.25 cut in their property tax. Yes, we want prudent individuals but that comes from within ,not party ideology. Let’s leave partisan politics at the national level, because if we control it at the local and state level, it might become less polarized by the time they get to Washington.Come on now,if this political junkie (25 hours of political shows a week) thinks we are getting too political;it's time to do something....:-)

A little off topic but the lack of traffic at Vic Ad worries me because it's the place where I became interested in on- line journal discussions. A poster said many have turned to Facebook; I tend to agree but I'm not a member, so that’s just a guess. The people at VA say that this is a seasonal lull, perhaps, but I can't remember it lasting so long. There has only been seven comments since 7:00AM and it's now 2:45PM If this trend continues I believe the remaining old timers will not come back because there is no one to discuss a subject with....That leaves me with some options that I may not like because I don't know how lively the discussions can be on Facebook ,even thou my whole family loves Facebook and they have assured me that I won't be disappointed. Personal blogs are easier and because I don't have to take the extra step to make sure that my words are not misconstrued. I've heard that person information can go viral in a matter of seconds.I don't want that.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

The Post Office Model


I was listening to several great discussions which I have been accustomed to, every since MSNBC's Chris Hayes became a host of "Up with Chris." One of today's topics was about the problems of the United States Post office. As they were discussing this topic it became apparent to me that there was a life lesson in that subject.

I will continue to say that our country needs a reboot because we're not keeping up with the current trend. It's what happened to our post office. The post office was mandated in the constitution but until recently the taxpayers subsidized it. In 1982 it became a semi-independent federal agency, mandated to be revenue-neutral.It's the only business that does not cost the taxpayer but it's ruled by them. They haven't been taking taxpayer's money to operate the business and continued to show a profit until about 2006. There were four reasons for this: (a) the demand for postal mail started decreasing and continues that trend today(b) the post office has not shown any innovation to keep up with today's habits(c) they could not compete with their competitors in overnight packaging(d) congressional regulations. Even though the post office doesn't take taxpayer money it still needs congressional approval to raise postal rates or close failing post offices. The most damaging blow on the post office came from a government oversight committee created to protect the taxpayers and the postal employees. According to the report if one were to extract the pension benefits and health care costs the post office would have made a profit, but it's still on a course to fail. The government audits found that the post office did not have enough money set aside to pay for the rising cost of pensions and health care and rather than come up with a workable solution; they added those costs onto an agency that was already headed off the cliff. You take away that government mandate, and the post office would have had a manageable debt.

When the post office closings were posted on our forum for discussion; posters commented that they didn’t need Saturday mail, and if they closed down entirely, it would be alright with them. I think that's a problem we have; too many people have a “I’ve got mine" mindset with individualism being the goal. The post office delivers to our rural areas, and it's the cheapest way to deliver the elderly their drugs. It was suggested that the post office should entertain other ways to bring revenue because the demand for postal mail will continue to drop. Perhaps they could cash checks or collect payments for the utility companies. Their own proposal to lay off 120,000 people will add to our increasingly high unemployment, and will add to our welfare and unemployment compensation rolls. It's a tough problem to solve because if the post office were to increase rates it probably would quicken their demise. I've always thought that the price of a postage stamp was relatively cheap compared to the service. Someone said that postal mail will always be with us because some documents need a signature, but that's not necessarily so. About a month ago Adobe (creators of a PDF) sent me a free offer(3 uses) an application called " Echo Sign" whereby the person could sign a document, scan it to their email in PDF format and instantly the requester would have a legally signed document.

We're like the post office because it should be obvious that we can't solve today's problem with yesterday's solutions. The recent report that just came out should be an eye opener, because the report stated that we've never had people unemployed for so long and more people today are considered poorer than in any other time since the Great Depression. That has not fazed our lawmakers. That report in itself should be telling us that we shouldn't be entertaining tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy. We shouldn't be making knee-jerk decisions just because we have a weak economy. For example, it's been brought up that the Keystone XL pipeline should be pushed through because of the possible 20,000 jobs. The environmental concerns and the States' rights of Nebraska should not hinder this project. Have the proponents of this project ever considered that OPEC might saturate the market with cheap oil causing Keystone to lay off half of those employees? What would another environmental disaster do to future projects? We will continue to make bad decisions if we don't consider the view points of others. There's nothing in the rules that say we can't stop in the middle of the stream and change directions if things aren't going according to plan. We don't need finger pointing at each junction.

People across the nation want to replace the entire Congress and replace them with plumbers, mechanics, and shop keepers. We don't live in the 18th Century; we need to correct the system and then hold our representatives accountable. Since we think it's OK for a corporation to be treated like an individual or that Congress can legally use their office to get insider information and profit on it; then we are getting exactly what we ask for. For example, government mandates bankrupted the post office by making them fund future liabilities and the same thing would happen if the private sector had to fund future liabilities. All you have to do is look at the recent bankruptcies where companies asked the courts to get  them out of their unfunded pension liabilities. The private and public sector should have affordable pensions and health care but future liabilities should be properly funded and mandated. I not one that will say "the markets will always self correct" when I've seen mountains of evidence contrary to that theory. We are like children sometimes; we have to be nudged in the right direction. Texting while driving comes to mind; are the guilty going to quit on their own?Some libertarians say that is just another freedom that the government is taking away.  I say when you're freedom jeopardizes the safety of others, it's time to sit down and talk .

Some principles still stand, and they should like " nothing is really free, hard work is rewarded,there's no sure thing and everyone has an agenda." A lot of us were raised with a negative reinforcement approach; we continued that method with our off spring but that was wrong. I believe if  we really think about it,we would realize that we are living in a hybrid nation and we run into many problems when we try to make it something it’s not. Whenever we try to overreach we will always get push-back. For example I think most of us are against abortion but some try for 100% compliance ,then they get instant push-back. It’s the same way for environmental, economic, welfare or other controversial issues.

I bet a lot of you will go away saying " See,I told you government intervention is always the problem." That's not it at all;government has a role but in this case it was too late to apply their approach (although the right one) without considering the consequences of their actions.

Friday, December 16, 2011

The final GOP debate of the year


Fox News hosted the final GOP debate of this year; thank goodness. As expected last night's debate was more the same with a twist. The bottom tier candidates had their final chance before the Iowa Caucus, but I didn't see any of them hit Newt Gingrich with a knockout punch. I was surprised to hear Michelle Bachmann state with certainty that last week's Politifact agreed with her that Newt Gingrich took $1.6 million from Freddie Mac at the height of the housing crisis. Ms. Bachmann said, "Well, after the debates that we had last week, Politifact came out and said " everything I said was true." Well, she was mentioned in Politifact, but she received two " Pants on fire" one was for last night's comment and the other one was from last week's comment when she said that Mitt Romney installed socialized medicine in Massachusetts. I don't know why they do that, do they get caught up in a moment or is it intentional hoping no one will check? I think it's the latter because she used that line a couple of times. If she was trying to rattle Newt Gingrich, she did, but she lost even more credibility by lying. Michelle Bachmann did not learn the lesson from Christine O'Donnell, if you have to remind people that you're a legitimate candidate; you're really not.

Have we stooped that low in today's politics where we give points to Rick Perry for not stuttering and stammering or falling off the stage? What was that Tim Tebow comparison about? A pundit this morning said, "Mitt Romney's look of amazement said it all. He must've been thinking to himself saying," What's Perry babbling about now and what's he doing on this stage." You know our Governor Rick Perry never mentioned the Hezbollah and the jihad threat in South America. Was he keeping it a secret or is he exaggerating the tidbits he's hearing? Mr. Perry said he would have retrieved the spy drone in Iran, or he would have destroyed it but he didn't get into the details. Once an instrument is used to spy on another country it is seized, the likelihood of getting it back is impossible. How would you to negotiate that? I think the Obama Administration is in contact with China and Russia about trying to get them to talk Iran into releasing the drone. Anyway, it served as a talking point and a reason to call the president weak. Ask al Qaeda if the president is weak!

I was surprised Mitt Romney didn't attack Newt Gingrich; I guess his negative campaign ads in Iowa have been enough because Newt is dropping in the polls. Rick Santorum tried to hit Mitt Romney for not overturning a state Supreme Court ruling and allowing gay marriage in Massachusetts. I'm not going to pretend that I know all the details, but Mitt did say that the Massachusetts legislation at that time was controlled by the Democrats. I can’t imagine Mitt winning that argument.

Newt Gingrich survived last night because his accusers didn't come prepared with rock solid evidence. I was surprised to hear Newt say that Government Sponsored Enterprises (GSE) did some good things in front of a conservative crowd. That crowd would boo Fannie and Freddie but would applaud defense contractors. They feed from the same trough. Newt did say something alarming last night, he said he would advise the Congress to revise the 14th amendment to redefine personhood. The new definition would say that life begins at conception. Yeah, I see that passing.

Ron Paul got the usual browbeating from his fellow conservatives for his foreign policy views. Whether he's a non-interventionist or an isolationist is just a matter of distinction, but they mean the same because he doesn't want America to be involved in other nation’s squabbles; even if it's in our own self-interest. Ron Paul's Ayn Rand laissez-faire economic policies are to the right of his party (America for that matter) and his foreign policy is to the left of his chosen party. He's a libertarian running as a Republican. I agreed with him when he took on Michelle Bachmann because she subscribes to the attack now and sort the facts out later. I'm sure Ron Paul upset the conservatives when he said" some of the Supreme Court judges are good, and some are bad." The answer for that Republican crowd should have been "I love  Scalia, Thomas, Roberts and Alito." That's the reason he won't win the Republican nomination. Even though he is consistent, he keeps reminding them how different he is.

I wasn't surprised but political newcomers got a good look at selfishness and greed within the Republican Party. Several of the candidates would like nine conservative judges, but they don't like activist judges. Can someone explain the difference? I call them dictatorial judges unless someone thinks that only conservatives reside in our nation. I wouldn't want nine liberal judges because that's not representative. Liberals don’t have all the answers, and neither do conservatives. Michelle Bachmann threatens to eliminate the whole 9th district but one of the commentators reminded her that would set off a chain of events for the liberals to eliminate a conservative district when they got the chance. There is that sense of nobility as if conservatives are the rightful heirs to the throne; locally, statewide, and nationally.

Jon Huntsman said something last night that the amateur economist should hear. When asked how he would approach China about manipulating their currency he said," China is a variety of things; it's about Burma; it's about their support in dealing with Iran; it's about hacking; it's about human rights and not just about adding a tariff where they would respond with one of their own. It's a complicated 40 year relationship." The conservatives don't like his talk of breaking up the big banks because it conflicts with their “repealing Dodd-Frank."

Finally there is Rick Santorum, who’s using Iowa  as his home base to run on mostly social issues, protecting Israel and taking a military stand against Iran. Those views have gotten him 2% in the polls, and he will exit in another month and then will endorse Newt Gingrich.He’s  hoping to serve in some capacity in a Gingrich administration which will never materialize.

That's how I saw it; did anyone see it differently?

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Are we getting smarter or dumber?


Every year around the holidays we sit around the kitchen table and compare yesteryear to today. My daughter, who's an elementary schoolteacher, doesn't think the children of today are as smart as those of her era. I think that she's basing her opinion on what she sees and not on a scientific study. She might just be seeing something where the fault lies with the curriculum and not the students themselves. Several years ago, I showed my daughter an article that showed the lesson plans of a one-room school where all grades were taught at the same time. The year was in the late 1800s where the students were routinely taught algebra and calculus. We both looked that the problems and admitted that we probably couldn't pass the tests they did.

College dropouts like Mark Zuckerberg, Michael Dell, Steve Jobs, and Bob Gates will continue to amaze me, and I will always wonder how much further they might have gone if they completed their education. There is a legitimate argument that it a decree does not always equate to intelligence. I do believe good study habits, intelligence, and work ethics are in a way inherited. The four people I mentioned did not grow up in poverty or to a family that didn't believe in education.

I happen to think I'm smarter today than I was years ago because I'm more inquisitive. I'm not a genius, but I’m more willing to self educate myself than I was several years ago. I used to study for the test, and then I would forget about the subject until a needed it again. I took that same mindset to the workplace and became complacent. It wasn't until we started to computerize everything when I decided I needed to change if I was going keep my job. My fellow old timers were fighting the new system tooth and nail, but I saw the younger workers taking to it and loving it. I saw where computers could make things easier for me and my work mates. I decided to study the system and got to where I could work with the programmers to make the computers work for our specific needs since they were  originally set up to monitor basic operations. Was that a form of intelligence or a lazy person wanting to make things easier?

I have seen teenagers’ text message at 100 miles an hour and believe me that takes brainpower. I'm guessing you could put that same person at McDonald's, and they would have trouble giving you correct change. I've seen people my age who knew practically everything about their job, but the outside world was a puzzle to them. I've also seen where prisoners have created an elaborate scheme to code their messages and have created a business model that rival our Fortune 500. It that a quest for survival or a form of intelligence?I've always thought that intelligence was based on how quickly a person could grasp what was taught to them. I changed my mind when I started learning how some intelligent tests were based on familiarity with a subject rather than the ability to grasp. I remember reading about some employment and advancement  tests that were unfair to some minorities because they were unfamiliar with the environment that the questions were based on.

I've read stories where the military had to rewrite their manuals (dumb it down) because the new recruits were having a hard time learning how to use the sophisticated weaponry. Is that the fault of the recruits or our education system?

This morning I heard that the reason for our lack of intelligence today is that our children are being analyzed as being hyperactive rather than being diagnosed as being a normal boy who occasionally goes overboard The boy is then given Ritalin, which is then replaced with another drug as he progresses through his teen-age years. The author also said that the strong male role model is not like it once was. I don't agree or disagree with that synopsis because I can't relate to it. Fortunately, my children were not under medication, but we would not have looked for subnormal behavior patterns because we didn't know what to look for. In my day the norm was, "if was good enough for me then you'll get the same type of parenting." It's funny how being grandparents change our mind when it comes to our grandchildren.

I won't watch "Are you smarter than a fifth grader" because I don't want to know.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The 2012 election is about the role of government


The other night my wife asked me about what all the political commotion was about, so I thought about it for a minute, then I said “it’s all about the role of government." There's one side that wants smaller government, no matter what the circumstances. The other side thinks that government has a role to play. I went on to explain what certain buzzwords meant such as crony capitalism, government intervention, socialism, capitalism, and how they relate to the role of government in our lives.

My wife is not political at all but even an uninterested party knows about the unrest in our country. Her conservative friends are political but she tells me that she just nods and smiles and waits for the proper time to change the subject. I told her that’s a good way to keep good friends but it won't not help her in the upcoming election. I went on to tell her that the next president will probably appoint two replacement Supreme Court judges because we have a couple of judges who are getting along in age and are having health issues. I've told her that Roe vs. Wade will be in serious jeopardy if a couple of conservative judges are appointed.

The role of government whether it be the local, state, or federal is being taken to task and if one supports a position contrary to their belief, they're called a socialist. The definition of socialism is an "economic system based on state ownership of capital." We don't have that in this country unless you want to say Social Security, Medicare, and VA Care are all forms of socialism. I don't think that's where the country is; that's a view taken by extreme right wing conservatives/libertarians.
I see conservative/ libertarian outburst every day when our city gets involved in projects that they think should be left exclusively to the private sector. On one hand, I think that if the projects are kept at arms- link between the city and investors; then its okay. They should also be transparent, legal, and aboveboard. I have yet to see evidence of any wrongdoing in the sale of the pump house. From what I've read it was a win- win for both parties. Sure, it invites suspicion and those deals should be limited if possible. For instance, if no other interested buyer comes forward what’s the city supposed to do? I've seen the pencil pushers make their case using only one side of the ledger. The private sector and the government will not always make the right decision but people hold the government more accountable because they think their mistakes will always raise taxes. They think because they are taxpayers, they have a controlling interest in what the government can do. Technically that's correct but realistically the decisions are left up to the elected officials. Then there are those where the city can do no right, they will complain about construction in front of their business establishment, excessive spending, crony capitalism, and everything else under the sun. I think some are City Council wannabes but they know they can't get elected, so they gripe excessively. It's a good thing that those positions are not permanent but it doesn't help matters if only 17% of the registered voters show up to vote.

I don't keep up with state or local government affairs very much but I do keep up with the federal government. This year we will get a choice; if you want to continue cutting taxes for the wealthy, cutting spending without investing, and believe propping up the corporations will lead us to prosperity then the Republican Party will do that for you. If you want to leave massive cuts until after we start recovering and concentrate on more on innovation, infrastructure repair, and protecting the entitlements but realizing they need reform, then the democrats are your choice.

That's how I see the role of government in this year's election.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Just another Saturday rant


I usually adapt to change, unless it's my recliner, which, by the way sat in the same place for 25 years. Our new VA forum is pretty simple to navigate and easy on the eyes but I got accustomed to the blogs on my left side, recent comments on my right side, and a click at the bottom to get all the comments. It may be a fluke or a figment of my imagination, but I don't think we have that many people posting since the change.

I'd like to take this opportunity to get things off my mind because keeping it bottled up will not help my blood pressure. I have a different opinion than most folks have on the safety net, single payer Universal Health Care, race relations, student loans, green energy, the environment and the separation of church and state. I don't expect to ever engage in a worthwhile discussion because; both parties have to know how their opponents came to their conclusions. For example, I know why people don't like the government to provide Health Care for all, and it's not because they're not compassionate. We're taught all our lives to be self-sufficient and, that it's not fair to reward complacency. I agree wholeheartedly, but these are not normal times. The cost of health insurance has been going up for decades and there are many factors such as gouging by the insurance companies, expensive procedures, poor health choices, and fraud and abuse. We tend to find one scapegoat, and that's where the problem lies. My answer is "Medicare for all" but if the opposition has a better plan, then lay all the cards on the table for a thorough investigation. The opposition will tell me that it's socialism without hearing my side of the story. I think it would alleviate the burdens on our companies to provide health care, and it would be cheaper in the long run because of preventive care features.

I continue to see misconceptions about race. One poster simply stated that " we are not black and white; we are all Americans" well, That line always gets a standing ovation but the next day, we fall back into the same trap because, as Atty. General Holder said, " We are a nation of cowards" on matters of race, with most Americans avoiding candid discussions of racial issues." The continued uses of racial arguments are treated like they are in football; it's usually the last guy who throws a punch who gets penalized for using it. All we ever have is closed mind discussions. If we're going to talk about affirmative action, it's only proper to start with the reason we implemented it in the first place and work through it until we get where we are today. Sometimes you have to use trickery to get your point across. A poster (game05) cleverly used a sickle and hammer avatar to make his point the other day, proving that the confederate flag can be a divisive issue. It worked because a couple of posters called it ironic because they didn't know that they had been had. Finally is the Walter Williams (black conservative journalist) issue. A lot of social conservatives love Walter Williams because he tells them that it's OK to criticize a black man and not be racial, and that's true but Mr. Williams has made a lot of money by only criticizing minorities and not giving more context in his examples. He is a master in half-truths. In today's Advocate, Walter Williams must have used over a 1000 words to explain why it's not right to make people purchase insurance. I wonder if he thought the same thing when the conservative Heritage Foundation came up with the concept. It's always been a conservative view that everyone should pay something. I have many black friends, but I don't know any of them that like Walter Williams because they see him for what he is.

I've met many Christian fundamentalist like Gary White, who speaks the “holier than thou" not knowing that they are turning off the very people they are trying to reach. They take it to the political arena where they turn off even more people. Gary is saying that President Obama is trying to spread a homosexual agenda but all he's doing is sending out his surrogates to say that they will not tolerate genocide. Gary needs to read about the Ugandan mission to execute all homosexuals.

I am a proud environmentalist, but that doesn't mean I want to tie myself around the tree to prevent the building of a mall or reject every fossil-fuel project. I just want all environmental concerns to be listened to and environmental safeguards implemented. Conservatives are concerned about leaving our grandchildren all our debt, but they should be equally concerned about leaving them a clean planet to live on. At least, we can temporarily print money to lessen the effects, but we can't do that with greenhouse emissions. I have yet to hear and what exact regulations are holding up production. Demonizing the EPA without specific charges is unacceptable.

Well, I guess it's time to end my Saturday rant and go read a book or watch a little television and get ready for tonight's ABC GOP debate.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Do we have to settle for ambiguity?


Is there really a double standard or is that an excuse for an unfavorable ruling? I hear people crying foul because it's a double standard a lot these days, it's right up there with hypocrite and half- truths. In some cases they are right because of the time span between the two incidents; other times some people will use a ruling from 20 years ago to try and prove a double standard. It's the same way with the word hypocrite and half-truths or lies of omission.

Several years ago, our boss decided he was going crack down on sleeping in the workplace but he didn't want to be accused of favoritism by looking the other way when key employees violated what he was now going to enforce. He knew he would be called a hypocrite because he used to sleep on the job, it may have been an infrequent 15 minute cat nap but he knew he would be called a hypocrite. He called a few of us old timers in to get our input but he knew we would tell the others and if he could convince us he was doing the right thing; it would soften the blow when he presented it to the rest the group. We suggested that he should insert the words “from this day forward" to mean that we have all been guilty in the past but it will no longer be tolerated. He answered the 'hypocrite" label by saying he was now in a position of authority and in charge of everyone's safety. He ended by saying that violations would be treated on a case -by- case basis but they would be all treated as “sleeping on the job." All we ever wanted was “fairness"- for example would you punish a brand new father the same way you would a frequent violator?

I'm sure we've all seen posters get a post deleted and then immediately cry “double standard" but it may have been a different moderator, double standard, or that some people are on the short lease. A lot of us have been called a hypocrite from time to time because we're not allowed to evolve in their black and white world. I admit, I've changed my mind on several issues. I've been accused of writing half truths because I don't always include the views of the opposition but am I really required to do that, if I think they are irrelevant? They're more than welcome to include their view in a rebuttal. I don't think I can ever be accused of “lies of omission" because I assume my detractors know that I'm not trying to deceive.

One of my pet peeves is when a person tells a commentator an obvious lie or exaggeration and then calmly admits the lie (only after being called on it) and continues spouting more lies and exaggerations. We are no longer held accountable for not telling the truth; it's becoming an accepted practice. The media will use half-truths and lies of omission to keep from calling a person a liar. Where are the Edward R. Murrow, Walter Cronkites and Tim Russerts?

I don't know why I'm such a stickler for the truth; it might be because my stepfather would punish me  more for the lie than for what I actually did. That's the way I raised my children; I always told them that if I'm going to be in your corner, I need to know that you're telling the truth. They remember me saying" do you really think I'm that stupid." I won't be satisfied until O.J. Simpson admits he killed Nicole and Ron Goldman. I know he killed them but he never admitted it and he was acquitted. I would like to know if we needed a tax abatement to land the Caterpillar contract. I would like to know the actual reasons we invaded Iraq. I would like to know if there really was a crashed alien spacecraft at Roswell, NM. I know I will be stuck with ambiguity because that's just the way it is.

Monday, December 5, 2011

We Need a Forum Fact Checker


Our forum is taking on the look of a shoot from the hip, anything goes, forum bent on revenge. There are some that hate the  "delete" button the moderator uses to take control of the forum.They would love a free -for-all format.  They can't understand that our reporters have feelings, and they are now fighting back instead of being used as a pin cushion. As I said before, the Advocate can exclusively feature conservative journalists, and I wouldn't whine at all and because I have other sources. A good example of that was performed by a poster I don’t even like, rollingstone, when he pointed out line by line, section by section of the United States Constitution of how secession, slavery, and Nullification were all unconstitutional but Gafftop has yet to respond. Few posters ever own up to their mistakes.

Think about it,it's only the so-called conservatives complaining about the content of the newspaper but that's because they are used to filtered media. I don't think the Advocate has a left or right wing bias and I think they go the extra mile to stay that way. That's just my opinion. 

In a post to BigJ, I stated, “I don't think Gheni is being picked on, but her topics are... Gheni will be a good reporter one day, but the Victoria forum readers are generally in their fifties or older. It's that crowd that she is not appealing to and ones that don't like in -your- face controversial subjects. That might work in Houston, but it won't work with demographics of Victoria" but then I read GetSmart's opinion blog, and I can see where a lot of people need some lessons on race relations. They are seriously lacking basic understanding. You cannot gripe about perceived inequalities of today without knowing how we got there in the first place. You just can't put Bull Connor and his fire hoses and the discriminatory poll tax in a well-hidden corner and expect to gripe about affirmative action. If it wasn't for the groups made up of minorities, would we be talking about voter's rights or the voter ID card? I was in my late teens and we still had separate drinking fountains and segregated schools. Can you believe that we are in the 21st Century, and a church is voting on whether to accept interracial couples? The Elks Club et al, nepotism, and other means were accepted practices of advancement under the guise of networking. The ignorant call, some devoted months to honor the achievements of Hispanics and blacks racism saying if there was a dedicated month for Caucasians minorities would squawk. That's where the problem lies, in the first place and that just an opinion without basis and the minorities grew up without any knowledge of their ancestor's accomplishments because the emphasis wasn't there. I don’t think Hispanics or blacks called for the special months and I don’t think they would mind if they were eliminated.I believe  it was woofwoof  who posted complaining about the black month and wanting equal time for the white race. That would take a lot of months, since they are about 125 ethnicities in the white race. When I  posted an article featuring a Czech Month, he never responded. I believed if more people apologized when they were wrong or admitted their error, it would go a long way in self-policing. The United States inaugurated the first black president on January 20, 2009, and we don't have currently have a black senator. GetSmart and his small crowd would lose their “victim" case in front of an impartial jury who had access to the facts.

Right now, we are rehashing a war that was ended 146 years ago. I happen to think that in the talks between the southern states and their counterparts, the topic of slavery was very much at the forefront. Whether the majority of the southern soldiers owned any slaves or had an opinion on it doesn't matter to me. I am only interested in the written documents.

The confederate flag was not only used by the KKK because It's currently being used by other racist groups The racist groups are hijacking that flag, but they know they are inflaming their targets. I saw where David Duke was arrested and deported from Germany the other day, in the backdrop was a confederate flag. The same people who denounce American Muslims for not being more vocal about radical Islamic terrorist are not doing the same when it comes to American terrorist hijacking the confederate flag.It's all about perception.

In the six years, that I have been part of the online forum, I have stayed away from racial issues because the issue is too sensitive, and my words may be taking out a context. Like several posters, I have an extensive comment history report and that in that report; I would challenge any one to find anything that could be defined as being racist. I'm rethinking my former stance because I can't just sit idly by while ignorant people are trying to rewrite history to promote their agenda. There's not a lot I can do. I can only offer  my opinion but when combined with others; we can take the sting out of the self-serving hypotheticals that are substituting for fact.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Our forum is showing some signs of life


The VA forum is starting to show some signs of life. It's a good sign for political junkies like me but as always, a lot of people don't like controversy. I wish there was a way to combine everyone's interest, sort of of like a cafeteria forum. Every time, I want to write a nonpolitical blog, someone will post a political blog, and I feel compelled to retaliate. I know that sounds like a bad excuse but our forum was political when I joined, and it will still be political when I leave. I do like a change of pace now and then instead of the recycled themes. I think politics will be at the forefront for another 366 days.

Did I miss the boat and land in the Twilight Zone? I've could've sworn Christians used to preach tolerance, loving our fellow man, taking care of the poor, and being good stewards of the earth. It seems like in the last few years Christians have become political and less caring about getting along or promoting good works. I'm sure it's still being done but some on our forum are causing some posters to challenge their" holier than thou" attitude. I had to stop Gary White before I posted something that I would be sorry for. He was taking me down to a road where he would try to make me admit that Bill Clinton was not a moral man. I've had that discussion with others, and as I've told them, “I don't need you to define morals for me." I wouldn't be wrong for thinking that leaving clean air and clean water for the next generation is moral or morals could be defined as seeing to it that as many people as possible have health care insurance." It's not only about what Gary thinks is moral. I think it's immoral for Gary to provoke others into arguments. He could start with factual posts. It’s impossible to have a dialogue with a fundamentalist because they are in a zone it cannot be penetrated.

I just had to listen to my kids and do most of my shopping online, but they didn't tell me about all the emails I would be getting from Amazon and ITunes etc. I know it's just a little program script but it's still creepy when I log into Amazon and get a message “you might be interested in this since you just bought that." There's always a catch and nothing is free but air and water but of not so sure of the latter. It wouldn't be so bad if they just went to my computer, but I have to delete them on my iPad and iPhone. The alarm on my phone is constantly going off telling me I have another email. Fortunately, I can put that in the off position. I know people there are without jobs, and I'm complaining about a simple nuisance.

Does anyone know how the forum will change (other than what has been displayed) after the first of the year? I hope it's not too difficult because I'm pretty comfortable the way he is but it was a pretty impressive background. Every time, I decide to go to an Advocate meeting. Something gets in the way but most of time I just forget. That's a burden of retirement sometimes; you just get comfortable with a routine. I guess I could set up alarms on my gadgets to remind me. I would like to add some new features to my personal blog, but I haven't seen any out there.

I'm going to try and leave this blog open for a day or two and just update it because it's hard keeping up with two blogs.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Blogging Can Be An Exhausting Hobby


The last blog I submitted to the VA forum took about three days of reading, watching, and listening and another couple day and hours to complete.  I can't believe that I used up about 15 yellow pages just to complete my draft.  After all that, I condensed it so much, I'm afraid I left out a lot of important points I was trying to make.  Why do I do it?  I guess it's because after consuming all that information, I want some place where I can release it, for lack of a better word.

I think Legion was right; I miss the give and take I had at my old work place and I'm just trying to replicate that by writing multiple blogs. Back then, I had an outlet to release the worthless information, I was consuming.  My wife got a little more interested in world affairs and politics and her ears still perk up every time a politician mentions Social Security but she still more interested on who will be kicked off " Dancing with the Stars." If a candidate promised to restore her soaps, they would get her vote. I forgot to check for her " Yellow Dog Democrat" card when I married her.  Just when I think she's liberal; she disappoints...:-)

I did a lot of catching up this morning, since I didn't get my morning's paper. Poor miserable Gary White, he will never get it.  I saw the same ol' battles fought by the same people about socialist Democrats and worthless poor people.  Today's argument over the confederate flag license plate issue has some new posters but the message is the same.  That's one good thing about writing a personal blog; it's a place you can get all that nonsense out of your system.  It looks like Gheni is getting a lot of flack for her stories and blog.  Victoria is a tough crowd.

I couldn't believe my ears when my older sister(75 years old) told me that she and her husband were taking computer classes.  After my nephew passed away, they didn't want to sell his computer nor let it gather dust.  They said they were going to get on Facebook, so now I'm the lone holdout.  I can imagine what the computer instructors are going through because after Christmas, I'm going to have to teach my wife how to use the tablet computer that I'm buying her.

I'll end this blog because I'm exhausted after all the work I put in that last blog. I can't even imagine what a journalist goes through to write their daily column. I heard a columnist say that she wrote 200 blogs a month. Now, that's exhausting!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

The World Changes


I finally got to finish three parts (5 1/2 I hour) PBS documentary by Ken Burns titled “Prohibition." The documentary was an eye-opener. It made me realize as to how we have not changed a bit, all we do is change the characters. For example, remember all the hoopla about Muslims erecting a mosque at Ground Zero and Republican legislators changing the name of French fries to freedom fries. According to the documentary during WWI, the name for German sourdough bread was changed to freedom bread, and people were killing German dachshund dogs, and one man was hanged because he was overheard speaking German to his neighbor. That was our initial world war, and we overreacted and 9/11 was the first time our mainland had been attacked and we did the same .The 2008 Financial Crash was the first financial crisis since the 1929 Great Depression, yet we still don't have regulations in place to prevent "Too Big to Fail."

Ron Paul would've felt at home in the 20th century because the 18th amendment banning the use of alcohol (Prohibition) for public recreational purposes was considered the most liberty destroying legislation of our lifetime. Police chiefs across the nation reluctantly stated that over 40% of their forces were involved in the illegal sale of alcohol. It was legal to brew a small amount of alcohol for personal consumption, or for a doctor to prescribe rum and whiskey for medicinal purposes but those exemptions led the honest shopkeeper and the small-time doctor yielding to the temptation of making a lot of bootlegger money. The documentary was more about life lessons, than it was about the illegal consumption or the selling of alcoholic beverages. The people of that time over consumed alcohol which led to domestic abuse, poverty, medical problems, but it was a classic case for the reason we cannot legislate morality.

I would like to think that we're much more intelligent these days but we may not be. Democratic presidential nominee, Al Smith, lost his election to Herbert Hoover because he was a Catholic running on an anti-prohibition ticket. The KKK printed thousands of hate pamphlets that predicted the Pope would occupy the White House, openly burned crosses and marched in anti-Smith rallies. The Klan publication, Fellowship Forum, showed a Cabinet meeting with the Pope and a dozen fat priests sitting happily around the table, with Smith, in bellboy livery, serving them liquor. No Klan tale, however, surpassed the story that the Holland Tunnel secretly connected to the Vatican! The Republican Party never admonished the tactics. I can see the similarities without the openness, in the Mitt Romney campaign. It's funny because Al Smith's opponents would have liquor at all their strategy meetings.

Today, one of our biggest problems is income inequality, but we cannot get a handle on it until we know its cause. I'm convinced that this started in the Reagan era when they started implementing tax policies to favor the rich. During the past 30 years, the gap between the wealthy and the middle class is as large as it has ever been. Income inequality was one of the causes for the 1929 Great Depression where wealth accumulated at the top and never trickles down, so when the stock market crashed there was no one left to revive the economy. The scapegoats of that time were the poor farmers, and today we have a 9.0 unemployment rate, yet people are chastising the poor for not working.

I've seen where some posters are just parroting what they hear from the single source articles they read every day, or they try to incorporate their pet peeves into every argument. Let's take this “taxing the rich" argument. That's just a diversion that emphasizes the point by saying that if we confiscated all their assets, and we still wouldn't have enough money to balance the budget. That's not the point at all. For argument's sake, let's skip the reasons, of how we got in this predicament for right now but let's concentrate on how we will get out.

We need a plan to start reducing the debt and deficit just when we start showing signs of recovery because you can't do both at the same time. We can immediately cut out the wasteful spending but eliminating programs creates layoffs (consumers) who just might go on the public dole. We still have to invest in education, research and development, infrastructure and innovation. Revenues will have to be part of the mix even though some right-wing partisans are starting to say that a balanced approach is just a liberal socialist talking point. You don't have to be a mathematician to know that if you don't cut defense spending or tax the top 2%, the cuts will all come on the backs of the poor, the elderly, and education. We will never reduce the debt to zero in our lifetime, and the best we can do is to start seeing a downward trend in the foreseeable future. All the talk about reducing capital gains rates and reducing the corporate rates to zero are just smoke and mirrors because, once the economy starts to revive, the unemployment rate will go down, as well as deficit reduction as the tax revenues increase. We can restructure our income tax code later when cooler heads prevail. We're treating this economy like we reacted to 9/11 because it's not a situation that we are accustomed to. We don't need a reactionary economic policy.

There's not a day that goes by where we don't read about some elaborate plan to fix our economy in our local newspaper and public forum. It's as if it's a sure-fire fix without giving thought to history or established economic theories. Some posts their proposals multiple times, as if the more you see them, the likelihood they will take hold. The posters want a flat tax because they don't know or care about the income inequality we're suffering from. Some favor "austerity only" not recognizing that it will do more harm than good and one would have to look no further than to our European trading partners as proof. They talk about a "strong dollar" but fail to grasp that even though that is desirable in the future, it would leave our goods on the shelf right now. Think about it, Dillard’s, Macy’s, Tiffany, and Neiman Marcus don't have Black Friday sales but Walmart, Target and Best Buy do.

 In the meantime you can't place all the blame on the Federal government and allow the multinational corporations to go untouched.  We have a DEMAND problem right now, of which the government can't do anything about. On of our biggest trader (Europe) is having a financial crisis of their own. Once consumers start spending, some of our jobs will come back but we still don't have a lot of manufacturing jobs that usually gets an economy up and going like Germany did. We have a service based economy. I hope some of these little tidbits will help you understand some of the problems we are having,you might disagree,so feel free to share where I might be wrong. It's the only way we all learn together,so we don't have to keep repeating the myths of the past.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Festive Season


I'm going to stick with my self- imposed pattern of not posting controversial comments or blogs during the holidays. I'll probably use this time to catch up on my reading and doing other things to keep myself occupied during the festive season. It's going to take some will power because I'm itching to write a blog about last night's interesting debate.

As most of you know my only living sister lost her son recently, so my thoughts are with her and her family. Thoughts keep going through my mind on how best to wish her a Happy Thanksgiving without dredging up old wounds. I'm sure they will be sad, so there's probably not an appropriate time to make that call. Perhaps I should wait for her to call me but will that be selfish of me? This is just another one of life's problems where the answer is not in a handbook.

I don't know where the respect for the holidays became a natural part of my life. Perhaps it was that lecture I used to get from my parents about being nice to my irritating cousins. I remember the holidays being some of the best days to work because there was the double time and 1/2 pay, the supervisors and the annoying paper pushers were off, and we always had a table full of goodies to munch on. We also had limited duties but working with happy coworkers was the icing on the cake. When I built up enough seniority, I didn't see much of that because I would save my vacation and take off the whole month of December and the first week of January.

Perhaps I'm just getting older, and I want the world to slow down but it seems to me that this year went by extra fast. I know part of that is because I'm on Medicare, so my doctor thinks that I need to get tested for this and that, so he can eliminate some ailments that I don't have, but the symptoms may be similar to something else. There seems to be a machine or a specialist for all those tests. I know if I were paying cash, my doctor would have used his first assumption. It's not his fault because, if I was ever misdiagnosed, the board would've asked for the reasons I was not tested for this and that. It's a vicious circle, of which we don't have a clear answer for.

Happy Thanksgiving All

Monday, November 21, 2011

Pepper Spraying Students


Saturday morning I sat there horrified watching a  campus police officer casually pepper spraying a group of University of California Davis students, as if they were cockroaches. I looked at the area in the back of the armed policemen and didn't notice any threat that they were under. The two officers have been put on administrative leave but is this what it's come down to? I know policemen have to enforce" trespassing and civil disobedience" laws but there's also human decency. I think the students were prepared to be arrested and there was cause but military-grade pepper spray should not be used at a distant less than 6 feet. As you can see in the picture, the officer used it at point- blank range.What's next,rubber bullets,tasers, or high pressure fire hoses?

The  Campus police chief, Annette Spicuzza, immediately took up for the officers saying that the students have surrounded the officers from their support. She should know in this era of smart phones and small camcorders, evidence, to the contrary, will be produced. She might have taken the word of her trusted officers buts he should've put up a wall of silence before damaging her credibility on the truth.I know they are campus police but first responders of any sort should know better. I know pepper spray does not have long lasting effects but these are our children,grandchildren or our friends children. We don't need another Kent State.

I've kept up with the protesters across the nation, and I've come to the conclusion that they are a community onto itself. A community will have its misfits and as well as any other community. The Occupy Wall Street group in New York is not coordinating their efforts with Oakland, California. It's not to be compared with the tea party and because these protesters seem to be younger, unemployed, and unsure about their prospects. I also see a worried Wall Street because they see a large movement that will not go away. For now, the protesters are a leaderless group without a formed agenda. Several conservatives think of them as the old left wing, liberal, hippies they used to put down in the sixties.

I don't know the answers, on one hand, peaceful demonstrations in public Parks should not be met with batons, pepper spray, or police brutality. On the other hand, the protesters should not impede businesses, and if they don't want to respect trespassing laws, then they must except to be arrested and charged. That all sounds easy until the adrenaline starts flowing, causing people to lose their tempers. A retired police lieutenant from Philadelphia was recently arrested in New York. He told his fellow officers not to be a pawn for the corporations; yet, he understood that policemen cannot back away or retreat. He also said that the white shirts" police supervisors" are not supposed to be making arrests, they are supposed to be supervising or else the street officers don't have anyone to turn to for appropriate restraining methods.

I heard where 18 mayors were trying to coordinate their efforts in dealing with protesters. Really! Do they call the other mayors when they deal with a local domestic hostage situation? I think the mayor's just wanted to be on the same public opinion page.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Are people ruder these days?


The other day I noticed a young lady, I assume in her early thirties, sitting outside of a business establishment, crying and yelling into her cell phone. It could've been anything, but I wondered if she just didn't have a cell phone, she might have taken a break from her problems. I was reminded of that young lady while I was reading a Reader's Digest waiting for my turn to take my yearly routine eye test. I was reading an article by Rory Evans titled "Where are Our Manners"and decided it might be a good subject to blog about.

The author said that these days we demand a faster broadband, so we just can't tolerate slow people. We expect that clerk to be as fast and effective as Google. If we see a driver in front of us hesitating a little bit, we just assume they're texting. It cans be so innocent, for example, I should've been grateful that on my 66th birth date last week, my grandsons came to see me, but I was distracted every 10 minutes or so, when they glanced down at their cell phone scrolling through their messages. I saw a little of that last night at my departed friend's services. I'm sorry,I may be old fashion but I  think they were being rude, even thou to them it’s business as usual. According to Emily Post about 75% of American adults believe mobile manners are getting worse. Except for those that have no frill cell phones, people are being programmed to think that every message they get is of vital importance.

The article death with anonymity on the Internet stating, "We should post comments using our real names or with the idea we are." I know I do that; I wouldn't post a comment that I wouldn't, using my full identity. It's not saying that we shouldn't react, but we don't have to make it WWW III. If we're getting into daily skirmishes, then were' re part of the problem because it takes two to tango It's just my opinion, but I think our forum is improving because we don't have as many trolls as we used to. We might be in the eye of the storm, but I've noticed a lot more civility. We don't have the closeness we once had, but we've had a high turnover of posters unless it's the same people using different name. I have also noticed that some regulars don't post as often as they used to. One regular told me that we're just recycling the subjects, so it's become boring. That's true to an extent because I remember when I started, we were commenting on the news of the day.

The nastiness of politics is nothing new but these days the outrageous comments are part of the breaking news on CNN. An intelligent roundtable discussion of today's problems will get poor ratings; whereas three people shouting at one another will guarantee you, two million viewers a night. People are starting to think that the whole world is reality TV. It comes, close sometimes. I can't believe a national politician would stand up and say," We need a leader, not a reader" and that the crowd behind him would stand up and applause that line. When did facts, history and knowledge take a backseat to folksy?

Everyone thinks bad manners are what other people have; we will never find a cure for the arrogant, so all were left with is acknowledging our own shortcomings.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Grandma’s turkey dressing


Last Wednesday my wife and I got up early for the annual trip to pick up turkey dressing ,that's almost as good as my mom used to make it. We went to Luby's in Sugarland. I know some of you are thinking, turkey dressing is pretty easy to make but for some strange reason, my mother might have put some exotic ingredient in her dressing to make us say," that's not how grandma use to make it." I once heard some Dr. Phil- like person, say that “it's not that mother's food was any better; it's just what we got used to.” Whatever, if we want to get all philosophical about it, it might've been the holidays, family that blended together and played on our minds. Perhaps in our own way, we're trying to bring back a part of yesteryear that will inevitably take a different direction.

My mother was into multitasking way before the computer age. She would wake up at some ungodly hour to warm up her gas oven. It got where she had to light the pilot with a strike anywhere match. My stepfather would have to wake up with her because he carried the title of “assistant chef," whose job was to make the coffee, clean the vegetables, get down roaster and place the turkey inside. Then he would be on standby, just in case she needed him to go to Dicks for that last minute item. My family knew if we got to my mother's house by 8:00AM she would have fresh tortillas, eggs, potato round fries, mashed beans, and chili piquin salsa ready. It was amazing because no one ever knocked at the front door because everyone knew grandma would be in the kitchen preparing breakfast and dinner at the same time every Thanksgiving and Christmas Day. My mother used to have a long cord attached to her land line but we finally switched her to a cordless. Her cordless came in handy because she didn't have stray too far from the oven when she took that important call from one of the family members that wasn't going to make it that year, but they wanted to wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving. It's funny because it was only the men folk who ate the breakfasts, and then we would go out to the front porch and greet the family members as they made their way inside.

We didn't have a television show-like Thanksgiving because my mother's house was too small. About eight of us sat at the main dining table, three more sat at the kitchen table, the children were scattered around the living room, and some took their plates to the front and back yard to eat. The latecomers found open places as people finished their meals. I can't remember my step dad or mother ever sitting at the table with us because they were busy serving everyone, making more tea, or answering the grand children's questions. At the end of the meal, we made our long one-hour goodbyes and promised our distant relatives that we would see each other more often but that never happened. We could always tell when it was nearing 2:30 PM because just about everyone wanted to get home to watch the 3:00PM Dallas Cowboy game.My mother caught on very quickly, although she wasn't a sports fan she knew football was part of Thanksgiving.  She once told me that she was pooped by 3:00PM and she needed her rest anyway.   My mother didn't have a television set, and she sent it through the grapevine, that she didn't want any alcohol at the meals. She said she didn't  want a drunk messing up the happy events. If you spent the holidays at my mother's house, it was because you wanted to because good company and good food was all that was on the menu.

I was shocked this morning when I noticed a man I'd met at a seminar died; he was only 58 years old. My good friend's name is Roy. L. Pickens, who was a supervisor at Dow Chemical. Roy always had a smile on his face, and every time we met, we couldn't simply have a one a two minute greeting, our conversation invariably lasted 30 minutes or more. It's funny because he was just an acquaintance who grew into being a good friend. I will miss him and may he rest in peace. It was my pleasure to call him my friend.

Monday, November 14, 2011

A tarnished Penn State


I still can't get over the fact that in 28 year old graduate student, who is well over 6 foot and weighs over 200 pounds, would not have jumped in that shower to stop the raping of a young child.  Mike McQuary allowed former Penn state coach Jerry Sandusky to continue abusing the boy.  All McQuary could think of was calling his father and then coach Paterno.  What a pathetic individual.

You will ever get me to believe that the other coaches did not know anything about this incident.  Locker room gossip spreads just as rapid as work place gossip.  Questions should have been asked and answered when Jerry Sandusky retired at age 55, for personal reasons.  Successful assistant coaches don't retire; they go on to be head coaches.  I wonder if Joe Paterno would have given his fellow coaches a heads up, when they inquired about Sandusky.  After all, when Coach Paterno reported the incident to his boss, all he did was take away Sandusky's keys to the athletic room.  No one picked up the phone to call the police or at least the Second Mile charity to make them aware of the incident.  Coach Sandusky received a $150,000 lump-sum payment at retirement and still gets almost $60,000 a year. Jerry Sandusky is free on a $100,000 unsecured bail by a judge who was a volunteer at the Second Mile charity.

I guess it would've done any good to call the Second Mile charity because when its president, Jack Raykovitz, was told about the incident, he never contacted the police either.   Penn State athletic Director Tim Curley told Mr. Raykovitz that an employee of Penn State was uncomfortable about seeing Sandusky in the locker room shower with a boy but an internal investigation revealed no wrongdoing.

This long overdue investigation should at minimum provide the names of all the people in positions of authority that had knowledge of Sandusky's wrongdoing.  Every one of  those people should be fired immediately for covering up a hideous crime.  Until then, the university shouldn't even talk of a bowl game, even though it might hurt the players who had nothing to do with this scandal.

I can see the similarity between the catholic church priest scandal and Penn State because it was all about protecting the institution at all cost.  The hierarchy put their stamp of approval on decisions made by their subordinates.  I don't buy the " could've have known" excuse because a leader that comes through the ranks, knows what happens at the ground level.  They could start by calling in all the people in positions of authority and tell them that cover-ups will not be tolerated.  They can follow through by publishing their memorandum.

I remember when the local firefighters had their little scandal and many posters said" Boys will be boys." That's where it all starts, as our parents used to tell us " give them little rope and they'll hang themselves." A spouse wrote that we should appreciate the work and sacrifice our public servants put in.  We do, but horseplay of a sexual nature, muddies the water on what will be tolerated and what action calls for discipline.  If we tolerate it, we get people like Herman Cain, who will laugh and threaten their accusers.

On another subject, I got a glimpse of the new Victoria Advocate on line forum. It looks professional and colorful. I logged in  7:00 this morning, so it was a little confusing as most things are when they're first presented.  I hope they don't jam all the blogs together because the tests,ads, and the Advocate blogs will not allow a blog much viewing time.  I'm not going to write a blog that only stays up 2 hours.  I'm sure they're working through all the kinks and everything will be fine.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Our education system stinks


As I was watching, Freed Zakaria's CNN’s special on education, I couldn't believe that all the things we emphasize are not necessarily true. We’ve always talked about increasing the number of hours our school-age children needed but we are decreasing hours because of the cost. The special showed where South Korean parents take education very seriously and they pass that onto their offspring. The South Korean child attends school from 8:00 AM to 4:00 PM, and they take their lunch at a study cubicle. After school lets out, the students attend a night class that specializes in advancement studies, they then go, home and study even more. This has led to a high suicide rate among the teens. South Korea has cracked down on the night schools because there was one on every corner. South Korea has now tried to inject more fun time for the students. On the other side of the pond, Finnish students did not adapt the Asian model, yet they always score near the top on the international tests. They start their school a year later than most countries, emphasize creative work, and shun tests. It didn't take long in the program, to see what was common between the two models of achievement. They both had great teachers, for instance, every teacher in Finland has a master's degree, and the turnover rate is very low. The teachers have a quarterly competency test not only on subject material but also on presentation. A child yawning in the back row is not learning.

We all know that American's education is on the decline, yet we just throw money at it, and never do anything about the causes. We don't have any answers for the high 25% dropout rate. Our college graduation rate has been flat lined and while other countries focus on math and science, our interests are in sports exercise and leisure studies.

We no longer have a kick- the- can down a road option, because our labor force is too expensive and educated for today's marketplace. Bill Gross, the head of Pimco, the world's largest bond fund said,” Either we will raise our educational level are the markets will lower our wages."

What's the solution? It's like a diet. We have to work hard at it, because as Thomas Edison said," genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration." Malcolm Gladwell found that behind a natural-born talent lay lots of practice- and by his calculations, about 10,000 hours of practice. Our schoolchildren spend less time in school than their peers abroad. They have a shorter school day and a shorter school year. South Korean children spent almost two years more in school than Americans at the end of high school. We just dropped to 26% in the world ranking and falling away behind Germany, Finland, the Netherlands, Denmark, Canada and Singapore. I don't think it takes a genius to know that we are in catch up mode, so less education is not the answer. We know that the common denominator is good teachers; we must pay them accordingly. We should also evaluate them on a periodic basis and weed out the bad teachers. That’s pretty fundamental but almost impossible, unless we come to some type of agreement with the teachers unions.

Last year, Los Altos, California decided to use the Khan Academy videos and software in their classrooms. This is a revolutionary model that might change the way or children are taught. In the old way, a teacher would lecture and the student would take notes, but this method wastes a lot of time. Under this new system, the student watches the videos at home and solves the problems in class. I saw where the gifted students would go around the classroom helping other students. The teacher, using her iPad, could see if the student was having problems in real time, allowing her to do one- on- one teaching. The software will not allow the student to go onto the next subject without answering each question correctly. This might be a new concept of great placement. Instead of passing each student by an age limit, we could pass them by their specialized achievements.

I wish that I had the expertise to understand what's wrong with our failing schools. Then, I wouldn't have to take someone's ideas and say, “let’s try that." This issue will be solved by those who know the pros and cons of any proposal. I'm not that person that can say that proposal was tried in 1985 and failed and give the reasons why. I do know what we've been doing for three decades is wrong, and we have the stats to prove it.

Monday, November 7, 2011

If you have to pack to jog,is it worth it?


I've always wondered what these gun aficionados would consider off-limits for carrying a loaded weapon. There are laws in place that will allow people to carry guns to their church meetings, a bar, or a statehouse. They're pretty well set if they want to pack 24/7. I think the workplace is the only place they can't carry, but I'm sure some Republican Texas lawmaker, is working on it, as we speak.

My condolences to 21-year old jogger who recently became a victim of rape while she was jogging. The place is well lit up and has been freshly mowed, but that might have been after the fact. A lot of posters changed the topic of the thread to their favorite subject, guns. The young lady was hit in back of her head, not knowing any details. I'm only guessing, but she might not have been able to reach for it. At that point, you would have a rapist owning a loaded gun. People can't say that she shouldn't have been out that late at night by herself but putting that aside, if a person's got to pack a gun; do they really need to jog? I used to ride my bike in that area, but if I see a bunch of paranoid people caring guns, I won't go there anymore. The bike and walk trail is located in a residential area where a stray bullet might hit an unintended person. A loaded gun might accidentally discharge falling out of a runner's pocket. I've seen joggers stop picking up their iPods. I don't feel safer around amateurs with loaded guns. The amateurs might be able to hit the bull's eye on every shot but when the adrenaline starts pumping and there're in a situation they're not used to; anything can happen.

Now I don't have a problem with people owning as many guns as a law allows, but I don't want to live in a society where it's commonplace to see people armed. As I used to tell my coworkers; you are not the only one that has a gun. Why don't we use some common sense, instead of trying to prove how macho we are or our knowledge of guns? If you want to protect your home, that's fine, but don't try to persuade others, of how they are at fault because they choose not to own or carry a gun.
I think it's reasonable to make the trail off-limits late at night, perhaps form a volunteer safety patrol, or consider fencing in the area.

Well, I’ve gotten that off my mind; I'll just mark it off my bucket list.

It looks like I'll be entertained with news of a forth woman accusing Herman Cain of sexual harassment. This time there is a name and details attached to it. Her name is Sharon Bialek and her lawyer is, you guessed it, Gloria Allred. Herman Cain has dropped nine points in his approval rating since the incidents, but he's still on top, running one and two with Mitt Romney. It's hard to believe the conservatives hate the mainstream media so much, that they will cheer him on because they don't believe the accusations.

"If Mississippians vote to pass an unprecedented initiative on Tuesday that would declare a fertilized egg a legal person under the state Constitution, nobody -- including the authors of the initiative -- knows exactly how that law would be interpreted and enforced. But legal and medical experts are concerned that the "personhood" amendment could spur a litany of expensive court battles, bogus lawsuits and moral and political conundrums beyond the scope of women's choice. "

How crazy will man get in 2012?