Archive for the ‘Indulgent Commentary’ Category

The election season is upon us again, or perhaps it has never left us but is just starting to reach its crescendo again. In our local communities there are elections for the mayor and the school board superintendent.  At a state level it may be your state representatives or the governor itself.  On a national level it may be for positions in Congress or more importantly for the Presidency of the United States.

It seems to be one big election that never ends.  Nothing really changes.   There is always an incumbent and the challenger. Both are making campaign promises that they can’t accomplish, or campaign promises that they will not have the sole authority to achieve. Hello! Yes we have a president, but we also have Congress. There’s no dictatorship here. No man is an island.

It is also that time of year when the political signs appear throughout our neighborhood landscapes. There’s a lot of blue with a smathering of red. It’s that time of year when your neighbors publicly announce who they are voting for. Sometimes it feels like there is a contest for how many signs political parties can put on an advantageous corner. At one particular corner, close to where I live, I counted twenty-eight signs. Unfortunately, I couldn’t tell you what any one of them said because all I could see is this plethora of blue. I ask what is the sense of this? Do these candidates think that if I notice their sign it will impact how I vote? All they really are doing is polluting the scenery, which is ruining one of my favorite pastimes as I drive to and from work.

Are they presenting the signs to remind me of their names? How could I not know their names? Their names are being discussed on every news broadcast show. Their names are in the headlines of the newspapers. Their names are included in the jokes of comedians and in political cartoons. I would be hiding under a rock if I didn’t know their names. And if I am hiding under a rock, I probably won’t be voting anyway. And if I am a voter, these signs are just an insult to my intelligence.

Soon we will see the backbiting commercials brought to you by [insert any candidate name]. I just can’t seem to get away from all of this rubbish. It has invaded my second most favorite past time, which is watching a little TV in the evening. Who really watches these commercials? If I am not a voter I probably don’t care and take these commercials as an opportunity to take a bio-break. If I am a voter from the same political party I might watch the ad, but what good is that? The candidate already has my vote. If I am a voter from the opposing party it is unlikely there is nothing you can say in a one minute commercial that is going to cause me to change my mind. In fact, seeing these commercials over and over just irritates me. For me the answer is Tivo. With Tivo I am not forced to sit through these ads. With one touch of a button on my remote and I zip past the commercials and settle back into the show I am watching. Thank goodness for Tivo. Love it!

So, I have a little advice for the candidates for the upcoming elections.  Forget the signs.  Forget the commercials.  Forget the orchestrated debates.  Quit wasting your time and my time.  Save your money.  Donate it to an organization helping children, who will be the voters of tomorrow.  And instead, just talk to the people.  No games.  No conniving.  Just straight talk.  Tell the people what you can do for them, and I do mean you and only you.  Let’s get real.  And quit treating the voters as if they were idiots.

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Greed is bad!

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines the word greed as “a selfish and excessive desire for more of something (as money) than is needed.”  Most of the major religions in this world indicate greed is bad and will lead to no good.  For example, the following are some Bible passages that reference greed:

Prov. 11:6 – “the treacherous are caught by their own greed”

Lk. 12:15 – “be on guard against every form of greed; life is not in possessions”

Proverbs 15:37 He that is greedy of gain troubleth his own house; but he that hateth gifts shall live.  

(Phillipians 2:3)“Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.”

The following are references to greed that can be found in the Koran:

“Let not those who hoard up that which God has bestowed on them of His bounty think that it is good for them – nay, it will be worse for them. The things that they hoard shall be tied to their necks like a collar on the day of Resurrection. And to God belongs the heritage of the heavens and the earth, and God is Aware of everything you do.” (The Holy Qur’an, 3:180)

“God does not love such as are proud and boastful, who hoard their wealth and encourage greed in others, and hide that which God has bestowed on them of His bounty – for disbelievers We prepare a shameful doom – nor those who spend their wealth to impress men, but who do not believe in God nor in the Last Day.” (The Holy Qur’an, 4:36-38)

In  Buddhism greed is one of the Three Poisons that lead to evil (akusala) and that bind us to suffering (dukkha). It also is one of the Five Hindrances to enlightenment.

In the ancient Hindu epic “The Mahabharata,” Bhishma, son of the holy river Ganges and one of Hinduism’s great yogis, delivers Hinduism’s great treatise on greed, naming it for the faithful as the matrix out of which all other evil arises

Bhishma said: ‘Hear, O King, what the foundation is of sin. Covetousness alone is a great destroyer of merit and goodness. From covetousness proceeds sin. It is from this source that sin and irreligiousness flow, together with great misery. This covetousness is the spring also of all the cunning and hypocrisy in the world. It is covetousness that makes men sin….'”
Greed in Society
I read an interesting article written by Luc Reid called “How Do You Fix Greed:   American Society Is Built For Greed” which says that greed is comprised of at least five parts, which include:
  1. The roots of greed are emotional ones. People want to feel safe, loved, valued, validated, and respected. In different ways, money promises all of those things, even though it often doesn’t deliver.
  2. We have a culture where greed is not only OK, but encouraged.
  3. The effects of how we use money are hidden.
  4. Most of the organizations that handle money in our society are set up to maximize profit.
  5. Laws and regulations about taxation, corporations, and commerce in some cases make greed the law.
This is probably why it is so hard to eliminate greed from our society.  It has become embedded in people’s day to day lives, into our laws, and into the people who govern our country.  Pick up any newspaper on any day and there will be at least one article that describes a circumstance where greed played a major role.  The sad thing about this is that the whole topic of greed is not talked about.  It is hidden.  Is this because people themselves are scared of being judged?  Or is the motivation if it is not discussed then it can continue?
Most recently we have seen some reactions to greed and it is a reaction of anger.  This reaction may have developed as the economy became worse.  It is mentioned in the Newsweek article  “The Greater Greed”:
That anger ebbs and flows along with economic cycles, says Robert Brent Toplin, a history professor at the University of North Carolina in Wilmington. “In our culture, we are not that concerned about greed; it’s not usually on our radar screens.” When the economy turns sour, when there is the perception that people who are accumulating great sums are doing it dishonestly or at the expense of many who are suffering, “then we get angry,” he says.
Blatant Greed
Greed can affect society in different ways.  With blatant greed it is obvious what the impact is.  A person, or group of people, take advantage of people, which in the end gives them wealth.  A good example is Bernie Madoff who stole $50 billion dollars from his clients.
Sending our jobs overseas
Greed can also come in the form of actions from companies.  Examples of this are many these days.  Big corporations are continuously laying off workers and sending those jobs to other countries.  According to the International Association of Outsourcing Professionals (IAOP) the top companies in the world that are out sourcing work include companies such as: IBM,Hewlett-Packard, EDS,  Citigroup, and General Electric.  Outsourcing has become a dirty word to our American workers.  Jobs are being shifted to other countries by corporations in order to cut costs.  These include manufacturing jobs, software development, customer service, and administrative jobs.  The countries that receive the outsourcing opportunities include the countries India, China, Philippines, and Mexico.  Take a look at auto manufacturing.  Thanks to NAFTA American auto makers have outsourced many jobs to Mexico.  Meanwhile Americans have invested millions of dollars of tax money to keep these companies operating.
Empty campaign slogans
What happened to the days of “Buy American,”  which was a slogan touted by Walmart or GM.  Also what about the following campaign promises?
Rick Santorum:  “Fighting to make America America again”
Rick Perry:  “Getting America Working Again” or “Made in America”
Mitt Romney:  “Keep America American”
Woodrow Wilson:  “America First”
Michael Dukakis:  “Good jobs at good wages”
Walter Mondale:   “Jobs, Peace, Opportunity”
Bob Dole: “Buy American”
Barrack Obama:  “Made In USA”
Presidential candidates or presidents can say these pledges or slogan all day long.  We all acknowledge it is a problem.  The key is how are we going to change it.  If greed is so embedded in our society, how can we eliminate these activities.  Changing laws?  Adding laws?  Providing tax benefits?  Enforcing tax penalties?  I am not sure what the answer is. All I do know is that it is going to take more than a slogan to fix this problem.
Avoiding taxation
Another type of “greed activity” is this off-shoring of assets or tax shelters.  Big corporations have the ability to reduce their taxes by shifting their assets off shore.  Can a regular mainstream American do the same to reduce their taxes? No.  It just doesn’t seem to be right.
Greed’s impact on decision making

Another question about greed that comes to mind is does greed affect decision making.  Obviously the answer is yes, but what about decision making of countries themselves.  Do you think countries will jump to action to help another country that has no monetizable assets?  Did this happen in Darfur?  Did it happen in Ruwanda or Sierra Leone?  Is it happening in Somalia?  What about our own New Orleans?  What are critical factors that encourage counties to join the action?  Available oil?  What else?

Greed and government officials

Greed also seems to be at the heart of government.  We hear stories of counties where government officials steal millions of dollars from the government.  This happens all over the world and not just in countries like Nigeria, Afghanistan, or Pakistan.  It happens in the United States to, but may be obtained in different form such as kick backs to pet projects.  What about the power of lobbyists?  Take a look at the farm subsidy programs.  How can these “mega farms” get money from the taxes that we pay to subsidize their companies?  This is not what subsidies was meant for.  Do I have the opportunity to get a subsidy to keep my household operating?  It’s time for these things to be changed.

It appears that greed tremendously affects our lawmakers.  How about passing laws to limit lobbyists, or penalizing a government official from having a financial connection to a company associated with lobbyists?  How about setting some term limits so that government officials can’t embed themselves in political office where they continue to siphon off kick-backs, becoming too cozy, and forgetting their purpose and forgetting the people they are supposed to represent?

Conclusion

I don’t have the answers, but I think greed is something we need to start working on.  Even the littlest child is taught to share and that greed is bad.  So what happens to us.  This all changes as people enter into adult life.  My goal is to just get a discussion going.  We know what the problem is.  Now we need to define the solutions.  It is also a good idea that we think about this as we cast our votes for elected officials.

Recently I saw commercial advertising Oprah’s show Master Class where Ted Turner tells stories of how his principles of honor, integrity and hard work have shaped his achievements.  The show is scheduled for January 29th.  In this advertisement a couple of the quotes from Turner caught my attention, including his statement, “You really want to be careful when you’re dealing with billions and billions of dollars.”  Later in the commercial it quotes him as saying, I lost my job and was divorced from Jane Fonda.  “I just gritted my teeth and said I’m going to come out of this,” which is his reference to his empire that had crumbled, which is most likely the biggest failure in business history.

Ted Turner is known as an American media mogul and philanthropist.  He was the founder of the cable news network CNN, which was the first dedicated 24 hour news channel.   He was the largest private landowner in the United States until John C. Malone surpassed him in 2011.  Turner has also been known to say some controversial things which has caused a stir around him, such as he advocated for American to only have two children, which sounds a little bit like the communist country China.  He also joked about banning men from public office: “Men should be barred from public office for 100 years in every part of the world… The men have had millions of years where we’ve been running things. We’ve screwed it up hopelessly. Let’s give it to the women.”  Now thinking about it, this may not be such a bad idea.  Turner’s empire continued to grow until things turned bad for Time Warner.  At the time Turner owned the majority of the shares of Time Warner’s stocks and it is rumored that he lost $7 billion when the stocks crashed.

The commercial is praising Turner’s come back and his contributions to various charities.  It was also said that he lost 80% of his assets in the Time Warner debacle.  This started me thinking about why Oprah and others were applauding his accomplishments. I don’t find his accomplishments that amazing.  First of all, he lost $7 billion dollars, which is nothing to be proud about.  So, is he being honored for his accomplishment of landing back on his feet?  Probably so.  But then I thought, is that really an accomplishment.  He said he had lost a job.  He was Ted Turner!  How hard was it going to be for him to get a new job.  He was close to the richest people of the world.  He had access to pretty much anyone he wanted.

Instead, I find the average American much more amazing because they don’t have access to the money, the people and the opportunities that Ted Turner has. Turner says, You really want to be careful when you’re dealing with billions and billions of dollars.” Well how would you like to deal with only $42,000, which is the average yearly salary in America.  It is those people who really have a talent for using their money appropriately and surviving in this country.  What if he was laid off like many of us America’s?  A real marvel is trying to live on $363 a week, which is the most amount of money that one can get from unemployment.  That is a real accomplishment. How would he like to have to make decision like whether to buy groceries or to pay the utility bill?  He said he lost 80% of his wealth.  That still left him with almost $1.8 billion dollar!.  I wish I had an opportunity to suffer with only $1.8 billion dollars.  A loss 80% of $7  billion is nothing compared to losing 80% of $42,000.

I was just thinking.  Sometimes you have to put things in perspective and come down to reality with the rest of us.

I don’t mean to totally slam Ted Turner or Oprah Winfrey.  In fact Turner’s 11 rules to live by are pretty good:

1. I promise to care for planet earth and all living things thereon, especially my fellow human beings
2. I promise to treat all persons everywhere with dignity, respect and friendliness
3. I promise to have no more than one or two children
4. I promise to use my best efforts to help save what is left of our natural world in its undisturbed state and to restore degraded areas
5. I promise to use as little of our non-renewable resources as possible
6. I promise to minimize my use of toxic chemicals, pesticides and other poisons and to encourage others to do the same
7. I promise to contribute to those less fortunate, to help them become self-sufficient and enjoy the benefits of a decent life including clean air, and water, adequate food, health care, housing, education and individual rights
8. I reject the use of force, in particular military force, and I support United Nations arbitration of international disputes
9. I support doing everything we can to reduce the dangers from nuclear biological or chemical weapons and ultimately the elimination of all weapons of mass destruction
10. I support the United Nations and its efforts to improve the conditions of the planet

11. I support clean renewable energy and a rapid move to eliminate carbon emissions

Yesterday I read a really interesting story about diabetes and insulin. The article Miracle on Bloor Street was commemorating the current day because it marked the 90th anniversary for the first day that insulin was used to treat a human with diabetes. On Jan. 11, 1922 a 14 year old boy named Leonard took insulin and after some adjustments to the medication it was successful in a couple of weeks after the 11th.   Prior to this diabetes was a death sentence and was managed by limiting the diet. I mean really, really limiting the diet to about 400 calories a day.  The average life expectancy was 11 months.  An example of this diet is the Allen Starvation Diet.

This story was very uplifting, but something at the end of the article caught my attention.  It said:

Insulin cost $1,400 to discover at the University of Toronto Medical School in 1922 and through the extraordinary efforts of the Eli Lilly and Company, became available to people around the world just two years later. Insulin is today the most widely prescribed drug in medical science.

The reason I bring this topic up is that pharmaceutical companies claim that drugs are expensive because they have to make up for the research costs. If the creation of insulin cost only $1,400 in research funds, then why in the hell is my son’s insulin $135 a bottle?

The same is true about blood glucose testing strips. I believe my son’s strips cost about $35 for 50, which last about a week. The price for 50 strips can range from $20 to $75.  Meanwhile the whole world is panicking because diabetes is and epidemic. An epidemic means increased sales of the strips.  The testing strips have been in use since the 1970s. Do you think the pharmaceutical companies have pad off their research costs by now?

This topic got me to thinking. What about over the counter drugs? Tylenol and Advil cost about $5 to $10, depending on the kind. These two drugs are probably the most used drugs in the world. If there is such huge demand the cost should be minimal.

Now I do understand that some drugs have to be more costly, especially if the population using them is small, or at least smaller, but this isn’t true for diabetes  I think at one point my son was taking a epilepsy medication which was over $500 for a month supply.  I also realize that there are production costs, and new types of insulin are being created.  Even still the insulin costs don’t seem to be right, and I smell a rat somewhere. Oh no! That’s not a rat. That’s greed! Greed at whose cost?  Maybe I am missing something hear.  I truly appreciate the research that is being done to improve conditions for a person with diabetes, but I thought all of commerce was driven by supply and demand.

This whole situation is about as ridiculous as how gas prices fluctuate. If there is some crisis in some oil producing country, the price for barrels of oil go up. In fact they go up for all oil companies. Then in synchronized management the very next day the gas prices go up at every single gas station. The gas that is being sold on that day is not from the oil with the increased price. Also, practically every year right before winter there is always a news story that due to shortages the cost for heating is going to go up.  Also, watch the prices of gas preceding a holiday. Hm-mm, what this comes down to s GREED!

I am really sick of getting screwed over by big corporations. Do they really think we are that stupid. No, these big corporations count on the fact that Americans are very complacent, caught up in their own daily lives. The whole world could be falling apart (which seems to be happening more and more these day4) and I wonder how long it would take America to wake up, take notice, and more importantly actually take action.

I apologize for this tirade, but I had to get this off my chest, and perhaps wake up more people about the greed of these corporations.  I say fight the greed.

Jim Erskine wrote and illustrated an article called 20 Great Reasons You Homeschoool.  In this blog I took his 20 reasons and wrote about how I relate to the reason.  So, this a personal experience with my son, who have newly started homeschooling.

11.  Vacations can be called “extended field trips” . . .

As a child I went on a couple big family vacations to San Diego. In San Diego we saw everything including the zoo, Sea World, the missions, an aquarium, went sea creature hunting on the shores, saw Palmer telescope, went grunyan fishing, and visited Mexico to name a few. Now this was in the early 70’s. What a wonderful educational opportunity. I learned more in that three weeks than I ever could have learned in over a year at school. I think family vacation are the best field trips. Lucky for me at the time my school recognized it too. I am not sure if the same would happen today.

Today we even use small trips as an educational experience. One day as we drove I explained all of the highway signs and what they meant and the markings on the road. Yes, it was a basic drivers education class. Sometimes when we drive I ask my son to read every sign he sees and then I can pick a word and ask him to spell it. What a great way to practice spelling.

All of this is real life education and you don’t even know you are learning when you are doing it. So here’s to field trips.

12.  You get to read more books than you ever realized existed . . .

I love this one. I happen to have a degree in literature. Nothing burns my butt more than the “banned books” list. There are no banned books in my house. If you read and teach them in their historical context, what is the issue? This censorship is bullshit and should be against the law. Literature is a part of our history. Are we going to put the statue of David in a closet because the nudity offends someone. IF YOU DON’T READ IT!

So in our home school my son is going to read Huckleberry Finn, along with all of the other banned books! What a great teaching lesson about the hang-ups of our current day.
13.  The latest fads usually never make it to your house . . .

I am really lucky. My son hasn’t caught onto this fad thing. Perhaps it is because he is a boy and it may be less prevalent. Instead, my son has, from little on, been encouraged to be who he wants to be. In first grade he sported a mohawk. Lately he is in a big afro. I am happy that he dares to be himself, which I think is much healthier. I guess he gets it from. I was born a hippy and will always be a hippy.

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14.  You don’t have to worry about what your kids learned in school today . . .

It is really scary not knowing what information your child is being exposed to every day in a public school. While my son was in public school I constantly asked questions about what they were learning. Sometimes teachers would make some major misassumptions. Martin Luther King day was always an emotional time for my son and I think it was related how the school presented the information from their “white-sterile-centric” perspective. Our school was predominantly populates with white children. My son is not and his “roots” are directly from Africa and are not a part of the Black American lineage as it relates to slavery or civil rights. We had a teacher who assumed my son was a Black American and was using him in her lesson plans for MLK. I was furious. The lesson she was trying to teach was good, but her assumption that my son was African American was just plain ignorant! I don’t think she will make that mistake again.

Now, with home schooling I don’t have to play the detective sleuth. I know what my son is being exposed to in his education and I know how information is being presented to him.

15.  You don’t have to raise your hand to go to the bathroom . . .

Not only do you have to raise your hand, you have to face the fact that the teach may tell you to wait and go between your classes.  Worse yet, you have to carry around a hall pass.  Going to the bathroom is a natural life process, but my son w

as so concerned about the process of asking for permission to go to the bathroom that he just didn’t go.  He made sure he didn’t drink anything all day.  Then ending result was frequent urinary tract infection.  Bathrooms also provide a means of privacy.  When a child has Tourette Syndrome sometimes they need to go to a private place so they can try to get their tics under control.  With my son anxiety came hand in hand with his Tourette Syndrome.  In school he was already embarrassed by his tics, but also has to draw attention to himself when he asked for mission to go to a private place.

Now at home, this is no longer a worry.  You go to the bathroom when you want to go to the bathroom.

16.  You can wear pajamas to class and not be kicked out . . .

There is nothing better than doing your school work in your pajamas.  Pure relaxation.  You can do your work in your bed snuggled up with a warm blanket.

In fact you don’t have to worry about any of your clothing.  You can wear a hat.  You can wear a tank top.  You can wear a bandana.  We don’t have to worry about gang wear.

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17.  Chores may be called “home Ec. Projects” . . .

Why not?  One of the most important thing you can give a child is some basic life skills, which may include loading and unloading the dishwasher, taking out the garbage,  picking up your clothes, helping fold the laundry, and basic cooking.  If he doesn’t learn this from you, how does he learn it.  In our home school we are including chores in our lessons but we are also adding other basics, which include things we do every day such as banking and grocery shopping.

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18. There’s always time to bake cookies . . .

Not only is there time to bake cookies, but there is also time to take a break and eat a few.  Sometimes taking a break is a good thing.  What if you didn’t sleep well the night before?  You would be tired the next day.  Does the school take things like this into consideration?  Do they recognize that sometimes you are having a bad day.  With my son we had some days where his tics were really bad and went on for 3 or more hours in the night.  The school expected him to come to school and learn in this state.  A child must be in a state where they are able to learn.  If you are tired, or having a round of tics, you can’t learn.  No more worries.  Breaks are common in our home school.

19.  Learning becomes contagious . . .

In our short time of home schooling we have found out that learning is contagious.  There is excitement that everywhere we turn is a learning opportunity.  In addition, we can plan the lessons around interests.  Recently my son showed some interest in photography.  Guess what our science lessons are now.  Photography!  This way of learning is practical and the child can make the connection between what he is learning and what happens in real life.  As a result of this learning is fun.

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20.  Your family is right where they ought to be … home!

What more can I say about this?  The whole family is engage in the process.  We are having fun doing it.  We don’t have to worry about outsiders that can cause negative things to happen.  We are in control.  We can teach our son what he is going to need to be a responsible citizen in this country.  He will get the basics, but perhaps there will be less emphasis on the things like the French and Indian War.

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Drawings from “20 Great Reason You Homeschool” http://www.homeschoolnetcast.com/home/2011/11/21/20-great-reasons-you-homeschool.html  Written and Illustrated by Jim Erskine