Monday, November 8, 2010

Went to the Dr this morning

I went to see our family Dr this morning. I actually had an appointment for tomorrow but my mind has been working on me and currently has the best of my condition. I am very concerned about the state of my bowels. This Dr is a good one, a GP or here in the South a Family Practitioner. He takes time with you. Turns out he has much the same problem as I, and I have an appointment with a GI Dr but not for about six weeks. Whew, that is a long time to have the bowel problem I have. However he did tell me that he takes six fiber pills a day and that seems to work pretty well for him. After quite a detailed discussion he does not feel that there is much concern for some growth or scar tissue, or even an adhesion. But, he does recommend I see the GI guy.

I came home and have taken the recommended dose of Fleet Sodium Phosphate laxative to clean out for a colonoscopy. My stomach is rumbling and I'm hoping to have some relief soon. It has been 12 days. However, I feel better talking with the Doc as he just felt my problem is one of a combination of fiber and bowel training. So I guess we shall see what happens.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

I'm scared!

I think I write too many posts with the idea that my daughters will read them and I don't want to appear human, Dad's aren't human, they are towers of strength and fix things. However, I didn't write this blog to be syrupy positive and strong, but to reflect the events in my life that may have some interest to my loved ones and whoever else may come across these writing. So here goes.

I'm scared. When I had the bowel resection almost four years ago I was mostly numb. The colonoscopy said I needed surgery. I didn't fret, I was just like an automaton, going along not reflecting or thinking about it too much. The polyp turned out to be cancerous, but caught so early the Dr's all said, "you're cured." Recovery was just that, putting one foot in front of the other waiting for time to pass and my body to heal itself, which it did. However, there has always been a problem. I do not go to the bathroom easily.

I had pretty much resolved my self to a life of having strain & pain when I had a BM. However, I found relief and had an hour of pain but 23 hours of ease. I had resolved it to be an acceptable trade. However, as time has gone on the pain & strain has gotten worse. It culminated about five weeks ago to almost constant pain and bloating with small periods of relief. I didn't do anything. I could not make sense of the events but was hoping something would pass or it would get better.

Now after several episodes I think the restriction has become more pronounced. I had a "bug" hit me about a week and a half ago and in the process I took a strong laxative that literally cleaned me out. The result was after the bug passed I had 3-5 days of almost euphoric ease. I had energy, the old optimism was in force, I was alive and vital. But, I wasn't going to the bathroom, it was just stacking up in my body. I have tried 4 doses of laxatives in the past week without success. I get painful cramping, a sick feeling, and no relief.

Why am I scared. Because I think the problem is mechanical, not an illness. I think there has always been a restriction but for some reason it is worse. I'm scared because I feel like I'm going to have to under go a battery of tests including a CT and that time energy and fear will be spent on trying to find out what is going on. I don't really believe it is a return of cancer. I just had a colonoscopy ten months ago and the report was all clear. However the Dr. at VA that did the test had the personality of a slug. He didn't even acknowledge me when he came into the OR to do the procedure. He certainly brought me out long enough to point out that there was still some fecal material in the colon and that I hadn't cleaned out really well. He was an ass. But that didn't mean he didn't do his job and the report was OK. Could it be scar tissue building up? I suppose. Maybe it is a slight kink. Regardless it is going to cost me time, energy and worry until it gets resolved and that has me angry, frustrated and afraid all at the same time.

My wife is able to set aside worries and do something to focus her mind elsewhere. Me, I've got to obsess about it, I have to speculate, wonder and analyze. It is my nature about all things, I wonder, I try to learn, I speculate and I analyze. It has been one of my most powerful characteristics in my work life, but it is one of my terrible faults in my personal life. So here I sit, scared, worried and frustrated of what I see looming as a significant problem. However, I also know that I carry that analysis to the extreme and what has seemed to be insurmountable issues have been quite insignificant when reality is determined. I hope that is the case this time.

Monday, October 25, 2010

A week to go

A week from tomorrow, mid-term elections will be over. Today on NPR one panelist referred to this mid-term election as possibly setting the political tone for the next decade. Heck, I thought when Obama was elected the political tone was set for the next decade. Politics, so maddening, so confusing, yet so right.

Fact is, if the Republican's take the House they can't repeal the healthcare bill. They can underfund parts of it, but once the American people realize that the whole bills is so interrelated that you won't be able to change part of the bill without effecting a lot of the bill it will continue on.

Fact is, all of the politicians operate on raising our fear level. Regan asked the American public to think whether or not they were better off four years ago than they are today. My answer is no. I have my home paid for, I spend far less than I make, I've husbanded our resources and my home is renovated and looks good. I don't have cancer, and my heart is ticking along well, so yes, thank you for asking, I am better off than I was four years ago. So are my kids. So is my ex-wife. So are a lot of people I know.

I wish the electorate would rise up and say to Congress you must term limit yourselves. You should not be career politicians who put personal gain over public welfare. So throw the bums out. Elect the Republicans and watch our ever present political process grind down their rough, and ready edges.

Then you know what, in four years we'll ask again, are you better off today than you were four years ago? Know what, I'll bet the answer is yes.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

A Strange Thought

I sincerely believe that man's inability to deal with the unknown led him to create a God. Which man then worshiped as the granter of all good things and blamed for all the bad things. Wars were fought under the auspices of God, races were slaughtered in the name of God. Nowhere have we any proof that the "right" God won. We have stories, but in all of the years of war, slaughter, and genocide has any final verdict been rendered? No, the battles still rage.

What if there really was a God? What if that God had a universal philosophy that all living things were created equal and no one species was any better than any other species? Logic would then say that the species of the world live in harmony and balance with each other, only one species has not. What if all living creatures were following natural rules of evolution. Where then is heaven?

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Always two sides

A good friend sent me a slide show with a beautiful rendition of "Don't Cry for Me Argentina" as the background. It purported to trace a parallel between the U.S. and Argentina of the past century. Argentina according to the information was second to the U.S. in economy around 1900. They had railroads, industrial development, and a robust economy Then came the progressive/socialist politicians who instituted government run health-care, stimulus packages and appealed to the masses. Thus the disintegration of Argentina and the argument that the U.S. is on a similar track.

I don't say hogwash. However, what concerns me is that the other side of the story is ignored. Yes there was industrial development similar to the U.S. but there was abuse of the workforce, there was no pass through of the riches the industrial and agricultural captains gained. Just as in the U.S.

Are we so naive to think that a group of workers got together and said, lets fork over two hours of our wages every month to a group of people to represent out interests with the owners, and let's call that organization a union. No, people who did not kowtow to the owner's wishes could be black listed, never to work in that community again. They could be summarily fired at a whim without recourse. This country's legal system is built on the right to have your side of the story heard and a judgment rendered. I do not like unions because the nature of the union's philosophy leads to mediocrity. But, unions did not spring up from some satisfied worker wishing to bond together, they arose because of the abuse the owners perpetrated to satisfy their own lust for power and greed for material reward.

A story is told of George Pullman who had built a company town for his workers. Due to a recession in the 1890's the Pullman Palace Car Company was forced to lay off workers, some of whom lived in the company town. When rent came due workers told the company they had no income and could not pay the rent. Pullman was supposed to have replied, well, my bills continue even with the economic downturn, so you must still pay the rent.

I believe in an individual rights. I believe we have the responsibility to take care of ourselves and our families. I do not ask for help from anyone, if possible. But I also believe in being fair and just. Many captains of industry were not, their riches were gained off the sweat of the workers and without care or consideration. Henry Ford did not increase the pay of his workers to $5.00 a day when the average was $1.00 per day out of some sense of humanitarian fairness, but so his workers could afford to buy his cars.

What we seem to have a difficult time accomplishing is a balance. Perhaps it is the the nature of our kind that a balance will never be struck because of the basic competitive nature of mankind. But it should ebb and flow without violent swings, and that is what this country is all about. ;

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Ft. Hood suicides

An article on the CNN website today discussed four military suicides last week at Ft. Hood, TX. This apparently brings the number of suicides to fourteen this year plus the shootings of military personnel by a radical Major. One of the suicides was apparently a murder-suicide, one an army private and the last a Master Sergant who had been injured during a tour in the mid-East. I cannot help but wonder if some of the reason isn't the fact that their participation in the military operation has no practical or realizable outcome. I am amazed that American parents continue to let their sons and daugthers participate in a military action that has no measure of success. It isn't like we are going to beat and destroy an evil. We are trying to establish a democracy in a region that does not tolerate democracy very well. So meaningless participation in a military action that has no satisfactory outcome other than political could make a person despondent. Especially one severely injured.

Monday, August 30, 2010

What do you do?

Our dog, Lily, appears to be dying. She has stopped eating, she drinks very little water and hardly has the strength to stand let alone walk. Yet she went outside and tinkled, then actually had a small BM, and then stood for minutes. I finally carried her back to the porch and she was able to walk in. She is now lying near the water dish, but I think she just doesn't have the energy to go any further.

She cannot talk to me. I now recognize that when she tries to move her back legs she wants to move so I pick her up so she can stand. Earlier this afternoon we sat on the floor near one another. I stroked her head softly, I rubbed her ears and fondled her neck. I whispered to her that we loved her, she was a good dog, and if she had to go it was OK. Over and over I whispered that phrase. At one point she turned her head toward me and gazed deep into my eyes and held that gaze for sometime. It was not a hurt gaze, or a scared gaze, it was and understanding gaze. I tried to tell Terry at lunch, but I couldn't get it out. I can write about it, but I can't tell my wife yet. I breakdown and can't talk. Pets should not be so lovable. It breaks your heart.

But I shall continue to talk to her, to stroke her head, to offer food, to stand her if she wants to stand and carry her back from her trip outdoors. Whatever she needs I'll provide if I can understand her want. She does not appear to be in pain. She does not appear to be very uncomfortable, no wheezing, no coughing, no labored breaths. She actually seems quite tranquil. I keep hoping that I will take her a food offering and she'll take it. I keep hoping she will take a long drink of water. I keep hoping she will be OK. She is only one and a half years old, she has rabbits to chase, squirrels to chase, and a sister to be played with. I don't think she will get to do that, and that is profoundly sad.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

A long reading project is done!

I have felt for some time I wanted to know more about the founding of our country. I've read some history books from that period and read articles that have provided information on the times. However, about two and a half years ago I took on the task of reading the Federalist Papers. Mostly written by Hamilton, Madison and Jay I looked forward to being enlightened concerning the intent our founders had in creating the constitution of our country. The Federalist Papers are a series of articles published in the New York papers explaining the intent of the authors of the constitution as there was a widespread debate raging in the country over the upcoming election of ratify the constitution.

It was tough reading. The English language of the day does not read easily, the sentence structure is confusing, and there far more references the the latter or the preceding that left me having to try and go back and see which was which. The Federalist Papers are a wonderful sleep aid. I tried to read a letter in one sitting, sometimes that was too much. I am done, just finished a week or so ago. I feel a sense of triumph in having stuck with it. I feel a sense of disappointment in that I don't feel much more knowledgeable than I did before. I also feel relief in that I no longer have to pick that book out of a sense of task, but to reread upon occasion for understanding.

I think now I shall look for a text that helps me understand the writings and the context in which they were written.

What did I learn?

The men who wrote the constitution were a strong group. Their values and opinions were diverse and ran deep. The founding fathers were astute when it came to politics, human behavior and very aware of systems of government in place in other parts of the world. I think they had a strong sense of evolution of issues and left parts of the constitution vague for that very purpose. Succeeding generations would interpret and make their own sense of things.

I do not think these men were states rights folks and wanted a necessarily small federal government, but I think that had an idea of what they could propose and successfully pass the electorate at the time. I think they showed profound wisdom when they argued that the federal government needed to be responsible for making treaties, enforcing treaties, providing for the common defense and had to right to raise funds to provide for the services provided.

I found their reasoning for using trial by jury in most cases to be most profound. Juries are to provide a check on the corruption of the judges, and the judges are a check on the corruption of the jury. They men understood human nature and our tendency to always act in our own best interests.

I intend to go back and study further. I want first hand knowledge that I have developed instead of assholes interpreting the constitution for me. I am glad that I am done. I do have a sense of accomplishment even though I don't feel a great sense of knowledge, but at least I know where to look.

Saturday, June 26, 2010


I get so tired of politics. Yet, I learned years ago that politics results from allocating resources. There is never enough, the needs of a group, community, city, state and finally the country are so great that resources are always allocated. Anytime you allocate resources you end up vying for your share. Therefore, political maneuvering results trying to gain your share or greater of the resources you want.

What are these resources? Everything. Electrical power, water, land, money, food, air, transportation. Everything we use or want is a resource to be expended. Health care, insurance, automobiles, fuel sources, and housing are all wants that require the use of resources to fill the need.

So, I guess politics will always be a factor to be reckoned with. I hope to reduce my dependency on politics. In a few years when I retire Terry and I hope to work our land more efficiently to yield more food crops that reduce our dependency on store bought supplies. There are a lot of things to consider, storage, what types of crops to grow, and improving our care of our crops far beyond what we do now. The problem is we are growing old. The energy and stamina that once was present is diminished and interest wanes over time. Yet year after year Terry revitalizes our flower beds and we have a nice display of flowers, shrubs and plant variety that is pleasing to the eye. Perhaps without the requirement to leave the homestead daily to go to work we shall have more time to expend on our land without over taxing our own personal resources.

I look forward to the challenge.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Swearing politicians

An article in Time talked about how politicians are caught using some type of swear word and how they try to control their use of the language. I say good for them. I know Joe Biden is a democrat. I do enjoy hearing him speak though. Not speeches on topics but when he spoke at Ted Kennedy's funeral it was warm, witty, personal and you knew how much he thought of Ted and the rest of the Kennedys. It seems to me that there are two types of swearing: 1. that which is meant to outrage, offend, or just gross us out; and 2. that which adds to, embellishes or helps make a strong point.

I swear. My daughters have been known to utter a word or two. I think when we smack our thumb with a hammer one of the best natural pain relievers is a string of foul obscenities and curse words that tend to pull some pain from the body and dissipate it into the atmosphere.

There is an emphasis to "hell no" that does not exist in a simple no. There is a point of emphasis that is expanded when one says, "what the fuck is that?" Among comrades there can be a warmth expressed that goes beyond just the words when I might say, "well you old bastard, you did good!" There is an intimacy to that kind of statement that others may not achieve. There may be some one on the fringe of the conversation who say to themselves, "I will have arrived when he calls me an old bastard."

Now I have some relatives who tend to use cursing and obscenities for shock value. That is a misuse of the the art of cursing. That is ignorance of language that allows for that kind of expression. It also is ignorance of being able to express themselves in a fashion that could be done better without shocking the pants off some little old ladies who overhear such and outburst.

Swear for effect, not out of ignorance or inability to convey your meaning in a more acceptable fashion. As for politicians swearing, I think it provides a sense of reality that otherwise would not exist. It gives us a measure of the person's passion. So I hope they continue to embellish their style with a few well chosen words. Damn right!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

An Odd Day

I did not feel to chipper last week. I had some digestive track problems that actually made me feel ill. I got past that by Wednesday morning last, but my back was sore because of the work I had done the week before. It was on the mend though.

Then comes Friday. I woke up about 1:30 AM perspiring. That is unusual for me. I got up, used the bathroom and came back to bed. All of a sudden my heart was beating irregularly. It felt like an A-fib episode which I find completely aggravating. I don't feel threatened other than if it persists it means a trip to the hospital to get straightened out, and if it persists long enough it means I may have to take blood thinners the rest of my life. So tension runs high if I have an episode.

I kept feeling my pulse and could get no regular beat. I did feel the telltale flutter or pressure under my breast bone. However, I did not feel fatigued, out of breath, or weak which are also common symptoms of and A-fib attack. So I got up and monitored the condition. I took an extra rythmole pill as the cardiologist had suggested. All of a sudden my heart rate zoomed up to 120 bpm. That is unusual for me. I take so much medication that slows my heart down that 90 is high for me. The other thing that happened was the fluttering in my chest stopped. However, upon checking my pulse I still seemed to have an irregular rate, but now it was fast. I got up to 130 bpm.

The night passed and as day broke, my heart was going too fast and it was difficult to get steady pulse, but I actually felt pretty good. I could not feel the high pulse rate. So I decided to go to work. The day passed but my heart rate stayed elevated until about 4 PM when it seemed to drop some. Then the fluttery sensation seemed to come back, but more like pvcs instead of A-fib. I could detect the telltale "skip" in the heart beat indicative of pvcs. So I wasn't worried, pvcs don't kill you.

When I got home a little after five I did feel tired from the long day. I checked my bp and it was good, 139/85 but the pulse was 128. As long as my BP didn't go up too high I felt things were OK. I lay on the bed after dinner and rested. About 7 PM I noticed a nice strong heart rhythm and the pulse rate had dropped to 62. BP was good, in fact is was 111/72. So I chalked up the day to a different day and still feel fine as of the writing of this blog some 20 hours later.

Ain't life a hoot?

Monday, May 24, 2010

Oh Rand

What has Rand Paul stirred up? Actually not much. There are many people who hold varying degrees of Mr. Paul's philosophy. I have a friend who told me that he believes that if a group of people wanted to live in a community where it was OK to shoot one another if offended they could. Wow! He was serious. He followed up with the question: "Who would want to live in such a place?" Almost as a way of excusing his extremism. If the federal government takes the right to regulate citizen's behavior then as an article written by Tamar Jacoby for CNN says then could the government regulate what men might wear in public. Could we outlaw mustaches? It comes to a matter of degree doesn't it?

One of Ms. Jacoby"s strongest arguments is that the Civil Rights Act of 1875, yes Victoria, there was a Civil Rights Act in 1875, was ignored by citizens of the United States. The law banned discrimination "in public places such as inns, and public conveyances on land and water." To me that is a fatal argument to those that would propose no government interference. I suppose one could say, the government should not interfere in private matters. To some degree that is already true. I do not have to open my house to anyone of any race, gender, creed or religious affiliation. That is not what government is about though.

What we are really talking about here is human behavior. If we had designated an area where killing of your fellow man was legal, that you could live their as long as you could survive without penalty there would be people who would attempt the lifestyle. How would you handle the situation where late in the evening a disgruntled spouse drove his/her spouse into that area, murdered him/her and then left the area to return to their lives without any penalty because of where the killing took place. I guess then the local government would have to place restrictions on who could become a citizen of such an area. Now a government entity is regulating my behavior.

What makes the Federal government's regulation so abhorrent that people would believe a state, county or community could do any better. How do I know when I travel across this grand country the laws that are in effect in the various areas. I guess posting a listing of the local laws outside of town would be a good way, then I can stop at the state, county, or city limits and determine whether or not I wanted to enter the area.

You can see that these Libertarian arguments end up short. They are very similar to Free Market arguments in economics. Yet, the idea that people would resist socially repressive actions just isn't borne out in reality. We deem pornography as being socially offensive yet porn sites get the greatest number of "hits" of any website on the system. We find the news that "sells" tends to portray the dark side of human nature. Look at the so called "reality" shows on TV. Often they show human behavior at its worst. Bad Boy, Bad Boy.

Collectively we say how could a person beat of child or a spouse, yet we are riveted by the images. Some of our most popular sports rely on mayhem for their main attraction, the NFL, NHL, rodeos, and the infamous sport of wrassling and no holds barred fighting. I find it hard to believe that we would be so self-regulating that we could tolerate a wide open society.

So, while Rand Paul's statement about the Civil Rights Act of 1964 are extreme, what about the fact that to discriminate is just wrong. What about the fact that abusing one's spouse, child or pet is just wrong. Allowing companies to have unfettered access to capital and pay their employees millions of dollars in bonus when their actions damn near put the economy under is wrong. Allowing some people to refuse to buy insurance, yet use my money when they have an emergency is just plain wrong.

It isn't wrong to wish for Utopia. Wouldn't it be nice. Too often though, people who dream such thought don't think of what happens when the people living in Utopia don't behave in a Utopian manner.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Devastating Impact

A volcano has begun to erupt in Iceland. The name is incomprehensible. I'll just refer to it as Iceland Volcano No. 1. It is creating an ash plume that is being distributed over northern Europe by winds that tend to blow from West to East in the northern hemisphere. This morning I watched a short video on CNN about the volcano. The last time this volcano erupted in 1820 it erupted for two years. Of course commercial flight had not been invented then. But now, what impact will this plume have on northern Europe. So far over 17,000 flights have been canceled. What about the trade conferences, the normal business conducted in the area, and air freight delivery. Just think if your travel plans became restricted to ferries and trains. What if that lasted two years? It will be interesting to see how adaptable the social structure is, and what adaptation will take place. I have no doubt that the situation will be overcome, but I have a hard time visualizing how. I suspect it will have more to do with the technology of communication than it will with the adaptation of travel means. We shall see.

Lying nearby Volcano No 1 is another volcano that through history has erupted about every 70 years. It has now been 90 years since it last erupted. It is felt to be a more powerful volcano than No. 1. What does this portend for our friends in Europe?

Monday, April 5, 2010

A Little Log Cabin in Arkansas

The title of this posting tends to be the title of a newsletter I publish to our family once a week. It also reflects the life style my wife and I enjoy in our real log cabin in the Arkansas woods. Living on 10 acres and a log cabin requires a great deal of time. I'm not sure everyone would be cut out for this life, but it seems to suit Terry and I. The place is not a show place. It has a couple of expired lawn mowers sitting by the garage. The garage is just that, an ugly building with some cheap siding but it houses a treasure chest of tools and the all important "stuff." Rooms in the house are under repair. I have hopes of remodeling the bathroom and making it into a pleasant room that reflects our taste which tends to old and rustic.

I did not know about log homes when I bought this place back in November 1988. I did not have the time nor the money to keep the place up properly and now mentally kick myself for not doing more. Regardless it is what it is. I invested about $16,000 last fall having rotten logs replaced and the surface blasted back to a base log look. Now with the work of our daughter Tracy's boyfriend we are coating the place with 2 coats of stain and one of a clear coat. We've applied the first coat of stain, yesterday, April 4, 2010. It looks good. The color is called Warm Honey and it does look like that. The logs have a soft yellow appearance but with the underlying log grain and patina it looks wonderful.

We are going to try to apply the second coat of stain this week and the clear coat by week's end. Providing Zeb, the painter, can hold out. I find myself becoming so interested in how the place is going to turn out I can hardly wait. In the meantime we sit in a home where all of the windows are covered with plastic and can't see outside other than to know it is either daylight or dark.

I tried to do the work myself. Saturday afternoon, with the help of Sam, our grandson, I attempted to stain the place. First of all I discovered I did not have the work thought out very well. The paint sprayer I bought does an excellent job and puts out a tremendous volume, but you actually spend more time moving ladders than you do spraying. Towards the end of the day I was fatigued and trying too hard. That is a dangerous combination for me. I seem to lose the ability to exercise care and end up stumbling around like a bull in a china shop.

I fell off a ladder. I was not using the ladder as I should have. I had the ladder, "Little Giant," in an A frame position and was working from the side. I lost my balance and started to fall back. Unable to find anything to catch myself I eventually got past the point of return and the ladder kicked out from under me. Down I went, perhaps four feet. I landed on some stones we have for decoration in a flower bed. Worse, I struck my head against a log end. From the look of the wound it was a sharp corner. I was stunned and lay there for several minutes. Blood ran everywhere. Finally Sam found some paper towels and I was able to get up. The wound bled profusely. Fortunately it was about 4 pm and Terry came home from work for dinner. She was able to clean up the area some and the bleeding lessened. However, it oozed blood most of the night. She dressed the wound when she came home at 9 pm, but I was so sore. My back hurt, my side, my legs all where I had made contact with wood, stone and earth. I was really afraid I would have trouble getting out of bed the next morning.

Well I got out of bed Sunday morning. The Aleeve had done its work, fairly well. I was stiff but not as sore as the night before. As the morning progressed I got a little looser and even began entertaining thoughts of mounting the ladders again. However, my lovely wife intervened. She called our daughter Tracy and asked if Zeb could come over and help. They did, and it was wonderful. Zeb paints cars for a living and is an excellent worker. He painted, I moved ladders for him, replenished the sprayer, picked up trash, taped windows, etc. He did the bulk of the physical work, but I was with him every step of the way. We finished coat one by about 4 pm Sunday afternoon.

In the meantime Terry prepared a wonderful turkey dinner feast with homemade cornbread/bread dressing with pecans. Wonderful gravy, and green beans completed the meal. A homemade strawberry cake with philly cheese frosting for dessert gave the feeling of old time work groups. The men work outside, the women in. Terry worked hard, just as hard as any of the rest of us. So the day came together, people came together and a task was accomplished. From the depths of aches and pains and frankly some despair Saturday afternoon to a fun filled dinner, tired bodies and a job well done.

Terry had an enjoyable visit with granddaughter Kimberly about sewing and the evening ended well. Bed and Aleeve were especially luxurious. It hurts to turn over and I am experiencing some balance issues when I get up from a prone position. It will pass and hopefully things will be back to normal with a big job accomplished. So ends the first coat.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Final Four

I have long loved the excitement and enthusiasm that the NCAA basketball tournament brings. For a few week much of the country is focused on the Thursday/Saturday - Friday/Sunday games. 65 teams start the journey that ends with one standing as National Champion for Division I men's basketball. At the same time the woman's tournament is being played. While the woman are not as spectacularly athletic as the men they play a great level of ball. I enjoy the woman's tournament because being shorter they play a brand of ball that is more reminiscent of the ball played in my era. No spectacular dunks, or "in your face" shot blocking, but excellent fast breaks, great three point shooting and tough no nonsense defense.

This is a time of year that everyone has a bracket and office pools become intense topics of conversation in the break room. It is as though we collectively take a break from the tedium and issues of life and even the President takes his hand at bracket selection on national TV.

What I really enjoy is the frantic pace of the tournament. In the first round there are sixteen games play in various parts of the country in a day. Sixteen teams go home victors, sixteen teams go home with the taste of defeat, yet they participated. Some stellar programs are laid low, some small colleges become heroic. It seems that everyone pulls for the underdog except when our favorite team is involved. The Friday round of sixteen games repeats Thursday's interest. Then come the round of 32 and there is intense interest in who will make the "Sweet Sixteen." The story grows around who will be the "Cinderella" team and how far will they go.

As the tournament progresses you get to see the variety of styles of coaching. The maddening, methodical pace of the Wisconsin Badgers, Bo Ryan's magic at work. The powerful, athletic powerhouse of Kentucky or Kansas is on display. Cornell, not an athletic scholarship on the team, but a smooth successful year for the "Big Red." Kansas gets knocked of in the Sweet Sixteen by a courageous and talented Northern Iowa team and expectations and hopes of young men lie dashed while other young men get to battle another day. Everyone has a chance. That is, I guess why I like March Madness. Everyone has a chance. In the end, a great team usually emerges victorious, but for a month in March we lose our distrust of society, we become involved in speculation with strangers and talk about common issues that will have no bearing on the direction of our lives. But just tell that to the players at Kansas, Kansas St., Kentucky and Syracuse who went home early humiliated at their lowly defeat when the expectations were so high.

It is a reassuring, fun, fascinating process our country goes through once a year. All made possible by the athletic prowess of a bunch of 18 - 22 year old young men trying.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

College, who needs college?

Not everyone. In a recent Time article it was stated that roughly 40% of people who enter college do not get a degree within six years. Over 25% work in positions their degree does not support. In 2007 most people do not work in jobs that require a college degree. 50% of the people who enter college do not finish. Yet, thousands of parents and students go into debt to obtain a degree that may be of little or no use. I read one financial analysis that said the real estate debt problem we've recently been battling is just the tip of the iceberg. Credit card debt and student loan debt are even larger, and have the potential of being just as big a problem.

So why go to college. One argument is that college educated people earn more on average than non-college education people. However, recent studies are starting to say that people who go to college have a higher level of intelligence and that may be the factor that improves earning potential, not the fact that you have a degree.

I am a firm believer that manufacturing is one of the fundamental creators of wealth. There are those who argue that the service sector creates wealth and to the degree that a person is exchanging their personal effort and knowledge to provide a service such as a auto repair technician, or a plumber I agree. However, the bulk of the service sector such as insurance is simply a redistribution of money based on statistical data and doesn't create wealth except for those executives with bloated pay checks. The hospitality industry doesn't create wealth, except in the local economy by furnishing jobs, but I consume a sub and its value in terms of use in simply nutritional. I would also say that software creators could create wealth in the performance of their programs, but I would also argue that the design, development and production of software is manufacturing, just not the traditional type we think of.

In our area I see industrial firms who came to the south because of cheaper wages now having to battle the same issues industry does nationwide. The diminishing number of technically qualified technicians. College degrees are not necessarily needed for these jobs. It is becoming a real problem. How then can we build back our manufacturing base, and compete with off shore industry when we can't fix something when it breaks.

The answer is in parents becoming more involved in, in tune with, and willing to consider that little Johnny doesn't need to go to college to earn a good income. Two-year colleges offer the best alternative though many two-year colleges view them selves as an important link in the transfer process. That is providing cheap, home bound basic education, then the student transfers to a four-year institution to specialize. We still need to emphasize what is truly needed by our society, trained technical personnel. Amen.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Did President Bush commit murder?

I was listening to the Diane Rehm show on NPR yesterday on my way to work. The moderator made a statement that in a recent book Carl Rove, a Bush confidant, made a statement concerning the Iraq war. The statement was to the effect that had they known there were no WMD in Iraq they would've never gone to war. One of the panelists said when he read that he wanted to vomit.

Rove apparently made that statement during a debate. In addition, Bush recently said that he regretted the intelligence inaccuracy most of all and did not know if he would've made the same decision to go to war had he known the truth. Yet in 2005 Bush stated that even if he had known there was no WMD it would not have altered his decision.

As of this morning checking a Washington Post data base there have been 5372 fatalities associated with the Iraq war. In my mind, Bush's decision now qualifies him as a "mass murderer." Are we arrogant enough to believe that we should've gone to war to install democracy in a region that has no desire for democracy? Are we arrogant enough to go to war because women appear to be chattel property as opposed to being equal, in a society that does not recognize gender equality. Just what did American families sacrifice their most precious assets for? What justification can now be made that makes sense of 5372 deaths. For the life of me I cannot think of one argument.

It is bad enough that human history is filled with tyrants, kings, emperors, and other methods of governance who sacrificed human life for personal gain or empire building. Our country was supposed to be a different experiment. We can easily justify the loss of life for the Revolutionary War, it is what created the opportunity for the grand experiment. We can understand the War of 1812, we will be free. We can defend the Civil War, it was to keep the country united at all costs. We started going a little astray in WWI, however there was a period of time where a number of military conflicts we participated in were to help some ally, or to protect U.S. interests in various parts of the world. WWII was the "righteous war. There are few that would defend the madness of Hitler and say the war wasn't justified. Even Korea was to prevent the spread of a system abhorrent to our way of life. Then comes Vietnam. It was insanity. The first Iraq war was to shove a madman back into his box, but wasn't out to recreate the governmental system in Iraq. Then comes the latest involvement in Iraq. It is insanity. The American public was mislead by our leaders who used bad intelligence to send 5372 of our finest to their deaths.

At least in Afghanistan we are not trying to impose democracy or right a social belief system that has been in place for thousands of years. At least we are saying to the Taliban participate, quit trying to subjugate. Even so, I think we make an attempt, then get the hell our and render their poppy fields infertile forever.

A life removed by war is opportunity removed forever. It is a person who won't get to walk in the woods and view the beauty of nature. It is a person who will not know the joy of watching their children grow up, likewise participate in the heartbreak of behavior gone wrong. It is a person who won't have the opportunity to participate and contribute. Life is gone forever. Memory does not build, experience ceases. There must be an overwhelming reason to place for flower of youth in harm's way.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Republican Part Agenda

A little over a year President Obama was inaugurated and the Republican party was in its grave. Now the polls are saying the citizens of our country are dissatisfied with government and think it's broken. No shit! It has been broken ever since Newt Gingrich proposed the Republican Contract with America in the early 90's. The macho position taken by the conservative Republican members of the party is like the adage to the younger boxer about the enter the ring, "Don't lead with you chin."

In addition, the Republican's embraced the so-called Religious Right to help get elected in the 90's. That was a mistake. The party that once stood for individual rights and anti-interference on the part of government came to espouse legislating so called Traditional American Values. Who in the hell put them in the position of deciding that Traditional American Values are acceptable. So now they support anti-gay legislation, anti-abortion legislation, and the incursion into my individual rights that defies my understanding. Let's build a fence around our country to keep out immigrants. Immigrants who, by the way, take the lowest paying jobs that Americans don't want to earn their way and have a work ethic that I wish many Americans exhibited. Labor unions want to protect a bloated union system that is bankrupting companies like General Motors, and threatening many state governments who have promised unwieldy pension programs that aren't even funded. Oh yes, and then lets puff out our chest and declare many countries to be against the American way of life and create massive defense systems to blow the world up instead of trying to resolve our difference by reaching out. Believe it or not there are some pretty moderate Arab countries, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and others I cannot think of.

Seems to me we need to take a look at solving the problems instead of treating the symptoms.

So what should the Republican stance be?
  1. Don't be so "hawkish." Drawing a line in the sand has never resolved a problem but has resulted in a gun fight. I support Obama in this regard about reaching out to other nations to begin a dialogue on how to resolve our difference. There may be some exceptions to my statement, namely North Korea. That country, in my mind, is a paranoid, unstable country its population so indoctrinated that perhaps it is like a cancer and should just be eradicated.
  2. Enter into a positive dialogue with the Democrats to resolve the Health Care issue. Left alone it will simply get worse. Polarized political decisions will lead us to ruin or to some politically expedient decision that won't resolve the problem. Why hasn't Congress resolved the problem of cutting payments to Dr.'s under Medicare permanently instead of band-aiding year after year.
  3. While I support smaller government and more restrictive spending we didn't get sick overnight, we are not going to get well overnight. I would like to see Republican's adopt a more realistic program of reducing government spending and its impact on my personal life. Our economic well being and functioning of our economy is so complicated you cannot do any one thing without impacting some other part of the economy. If we are going to limit spending then let's make sure everyone gets whacked, including Defense.
  4. Dump the Religious Right. It became obvious in the Bush administration that attempts to push the Religious Right's issues was a token effort. In the meantime schisms have been created that are not in accordance with our country's founding philosophy, "equal treatment under the law," "separation of church and state," and "Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness." There may be enough dissatisfaction with government that well thought out strategy will entice those disgruntled folks into the Republican fold.
  5. I do believe there are three areas that the federal government needs to take a lead in, Health Care with a single payer system, the regulation of our financial institutions, the defense of our country. I also think a larger transition to people being self-supporting in their retirement years is proper, however I do not want to be abandoned as I am going to rely on social security for the majority of my retirement income. I do wish there I better understood the investment vehicles in my younger years and maybe I would not find myself in the position of reliance I am in now.
I have more specific thoughts, but they wouldn't work. I am not naive to think my ideas by themselves will find acceptance by all. So I don't put forth specifics as there are better minds than mine to address the problem.

I do believe that Congress should be term limited. I do have some specific ideas there. The members of the House should be allowed no more than three two-year terms. The Senate should be limited to one six-year term. They should be well compensated, pay them a million dollars a year for their services. Let's attract the brightest and the best. Once they are no longer a member of Congress for whatever reason they may not work for, nor lobby for any organization that derives revenue from government contracts or seeks to influence legislation on behalf of organizations that derive income from government contracts.

I have some friends who would like to see citizen direct vote on issues. Using our communication technology we would vote in place of our Congressmen through the internet. It sounds Utopian to me. The founders of our country feared minority rule and the tyranny of the majority. They sought means to moderate extreme philosophies from controlling the country. The only way direct vote would work is if the initiation of legislation were controlled and voting while based on a simple majority rule would not take effect until 65% of the eligible electorate had voted on a proposition. Then it might work.

These are thoughts I've had on our recent political upheaval. They make sense to me, but perhaps not to many others.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

I Wish

We are such a fragmented body politic in this country that we are subjected to minority rule. What ever minority at the time makes the most noise seems to rule. It seems to me that the party in power, democratic, and the party of loyal dissent, republican are so at odds that they seem to take delight in simply negating the power of the other party without regard to the will of the citizens. I wish the voters of the U.S. would somehow come together and take back control of our country. I think it is important that the two parties work together to fashion legislation that reflects the will of the citizens instead of the will of the representatives.

I know that there are republicans who say they are representing the will of the people by blocking issues from coming up in Congress. Someone explain to me how the "super majority" of 60 votes is representative of the will of the people. It in fact drives minority rule to the extreme. One senator can command payoffs by withholding his vote. If the filibuster is a tactic in the Senate, then I think they should actually have to filibuster, the old fashioned way. Senators take the floor, hold the floor, through the night, through the day until finally one side has to negotiate a position as the business of the Senate is simply not going to happen until the issue is resolved. The way the filibuster rule works now, it has just added a layer obstruction to the work of the Senate. At least under the old method nothing got done as long as senators held the floor. Now, they just have a vote and go on to obstruct other important work.

Vote them all out, vote for term limits, don't allow an elected official to become a lobbyist until five years have past from his end of term, and tell them to get on with the business of the country.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Continuation of spiritual thoughts

I have just finished blogging about our Yellow Labs on my blog Wags N Tales. Seeing that it is a quiet snowy day in Arkansas, the music is fine, and the thought process seems to be rather inventive I guess I'll continue my thoughts here.

The snow we are getting today has enough moisture in it to stick to branches, but it is not what I call a real wet snow. The outside world is a canvas that holds a miraculous painting in detail so great a human hand could not fashion the picture. These kind of days get me wondering about our existence and purpose.

There are many in our world who would walk through the scene on our landscape and view it as negative. My wife is grousing about snow, spring is just around the corner and here we face the difficulty in getting around due to snow. I see enjoyment. We'll get around, we will find food to eat. We will stay warm in our homes, and rest secure that our world will remain comfortable. There are many in this world who will not experience that sense of security and freedom from hunger. The Bible teaches "the poor shall always be with us."

I tend to view life as good. I tend to view life's experiences as good. Some do not. Some are overwhelmed with grief at the poverty and illness and tyranny that seems to exist. I do not like it, however, I don't feel guilty about this thought but often I'm left with "that's life." It may seem like an oversimplification, but then life is not complicated. In a very real sense, we are born, we live, we pass on. It is a pretty simple process.

Our behavior tends to complicate life. Our behavior at times seems to be beyond our control. Genetic markers make certain women susceptible to breast cancer. There are certain genetics make ups that predispose a person to mental illness like schizophrenia. People are commonly seduced by power and alter their behavior in view of the power they possess. A man I know who was a lawyer in our town ran for state political office. He started in state legislature as a man with ideals and working on behalf of the people who elected him. He ended up in jail for trying to subvert state law and line his own pockets. I don't believe he started out a crook, but he ended up that way.

I think that throughout life we are presented choices. How we choose can complicate our life and drive it into behaviors we had never contemplated. On the other hand we have the remarkable ability to learn from our behaviors and choose to change our life style. Those that do possess a remarkable insight and strength. Some fall victim to their behaviors and values and say they cannot change. It isn't that we cannot change, it is that we choose not to. So then, what makes us so unique? It is our minds ability to be influenced by our surroundings, our up bringing, our own observations of life unfolding, our own interpretation of life's events. Those are unique.

I do not think that God chose us to be unique among the creatures we reside with on this planet earth. I think it evolved. To a certain degree all creatures have the ability to learn, and we see most of them exhibiting a thought process. Much of the behavior of creatures on this earth is learned. Dogs are not programed to fend for themselves even though they descend from wolves. We know that domesticated dogs turned loose in the countryside can starve to death if some human doesn't care for them. Yet other dogs born in natural settings and left to develop hunting and survival skills will fend for themselves and live in spite of the lack of human intervention. That tells me that genetic programing of species can be altered. So whatever set of circumstances existed a million years ago when some forebear of ours stood up right and walked for the first time the behavior was learned. So it goes.

It would be a mistake to say then that all behavior normal and abnormal is learned from external events. Pain can alter our behavior, we walk with a limp. Psychological pain can alter our behavior. The chemistry in our body can alter our behavior, so it is too simple to say everything is learned. Some behavior is in response to some set of stimuli. In the broad spectrum though most of what we does is learned and influenced by some choosing mechanism.

Life is neither good nor evil. It just is. Our interpretation, our choices, and our ability to alter our surroundings make for opportunity. The more we become interactive with the whole world, the more we are exposed to, the greater the pattern of choices. We find many helping others once they realize choices. We find our selves coming to the aid of others in the world in need because we choose to. Our behavior is always the product of a decision, even if that decision is influenced by abnormalities or events beyond our control, out behavior is the product of a decision. Let us hope for the future sake of mankind that we make good decisions.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Dreary Days

The weather in Paragould is overcast, cool and wet. Oh, so wet. We had between 8 & 12 inches of snow a week ago. I was icy and difficult to get around as we do not have the snow removal equipment in this area that other areas of the country have. I had to laugh at an article in the local paper describing how thrilled the county was to have purchased two used fertilizer spreaders at a local FHA auction in January. They would be put to good use spreading sand on the roads and intersections. Sand! Heck we spread sand on the roads when I was a kid, what happened to salt? Well wouldn't you know it they did not have a vibratory device to keep the sand sinking down to the outflow so it would spread. As a result when the equipment was brought into play during the recent snow storm a man had to walk along side the spreader hitting the sides with a shovel to get the sand to settle to the bottom of the spreader. Ain't technology wonderful.

The dogs go out and play and come back dirty, wet and want in the house. We use towels to dry them as best we can. The dogs are now used to it and patiently stand in line to get toweled off before entering the house. I wonder what the neighbors think? Molly and Lily dry quickly and their coats are so rich that the dirt sheds rapidly and in an hour they are nice and white. Of course the couch is taking a beating, but what the hell.

The weekend is upon us. It is supposed to be cool and overcast all weekend. Perhaps this is a weekend to get into the trailer and go through the old files I have of our past history and sort and toss. I have our financial records back to 1987 when I moved to Arkansas. I'll create a three-ring binder that holds our W-2's and tax records, but pitch everything else. Might be kind of nice, turn on a basketball game, make some coffee and take care of a nagging chore.

Such is the rhythm of our days right now. Not much to do but stay warm, stay dry and tackle the chores that won't come to mind in May.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

So much to bitch about!

I listen to NPR radio when I drive to and from work. Usually I end up listening to part of the news and some talk show material before I get to work, then All Things Considered on the way home. I get frustrated. There is so much discussion about what we should be doing to correct the ills in our society you forget how much is right.

I listened to a program about how the Prison Guard Union in California grew from a small group to one of the strongest, most well funded unions in the state. As a result they lobby hard for increased sentences, "Strike Three" sentences and anything they can to do maintain or increase the prison population in California. They lobby hard against the legalization of drugs. Why? So they can keep their union membership up and fully employed. Seems like the wrong kind of motivation to me.

Another program talked about how Bail Bondsmen lobby against ROR time for petty crimes. How they charge a fee and if a criminal skips they don't pay the full amount of the bond to the justice system. Seems awfully unfair and unscrupulous to me.

Today economists speculated on what the U.S. has to do to recovery from its financial crisis.

But, I can travel to Tennessee if I want to and don't need anyone's permission. I can write just about anything I want to on this blog and don't have to ask anyone's permission. I can own a firearm, I can drive across this country without fearing police interference. I can vote and even though it may not count for much I have confidence that it will be counted. I can write the government and criticize the leaders, and I can attend a city council meeting if I want. I can participate in the running of this country and my views may not be in the majority but they get represented. While I do not like what I have to go through for healthcare my needs are addressed.

Everyonce and a while it is good to sit back and reflect on just what our forefathers created. It is up to us to insure that creation stays in place untarnished and still able to respond to the needs of its citizens.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

History Revisited

Someone once said, "If we do not learn from history we are bound to repeat it." I am getting close to the end of a book titled "The March of Folly" by Barbara Tuchman. In the book she traces three periods in history and how countries or governmental agencies continued to act with folly in the face of what appears to be evidence to the contrary. I found the first section of her book to be of little interest, it seemed her point was made early and why read on. However when you get to the section about Europe in the Middle Ages it becomes interesting.

Tuchman covers a period of time from 1470 to early 1500's. It seemed that the Catholic Church had a number of Popes who were more secular than spiritual. Lavish spending, mistresses, debauchery and the building of grand edifices seemed to characterize the period. During that time there developed a lot of pressure from other religious persons decrying the immorality of the church hierarchy. It eventually lead to the rebellion of Martin Luther and the break away religious sects many that exist to this day. The selling of dispensations to the wealthy to fund the Popes lavish styles and building of grand cathedrals was common place. Bishops positions were sold to royalty. In the face of growing and active resistance to the use of church assets for individual aggrandizement Pope after Pope seemed locked in to the course without consideration of how change would fundamentally alter the face of religion in the Western Hemisphere

The next period she writes about is Vietnam. Now this period I have some knowledge of. I was in the army from 1967 to 1971 during the growth of civil unrest in the United States. Once again it appears we did not learn the lessons of history. In the face of the French experience of frustration and inability to control the country we simply picked up where they left of and had no further success than they. I found the book infuriatingly accurate and I've not heard anyone in years say anything good about Vietnam. We required a whole generation of men to go and fight in a war we could not win. They did not return from Vietnam in honor but were spate on by their countrymen. It is a period of shame, government deceit, a president getting caught in political expediency and not being able to extricate himself from the war that was pulling him down.

What about today. We are in Afghanistan. The reason, the threat of terror against our citizens. Russia expended considerable assets trying to break the war lords of Afghanistan and ended up fighting a war similar to Vietnam. It became a heavy economic toll and unpopular among their citizenry. Oh, we are using a little different argument. We don't intend to take the country over, we just want to develop a democracy with a stable government that will handle the terrorists for us. Ain't gonna happen.

We ended up in Iraq due to the arrogance of our leaders and their bellicose beliefs that we are entitled to control the rest of the world. That has been thrown in our face and as a country we are despised in other parts of the world for our arrogance and belief that we are owed. I do not support the war in Afghanistan. The billions we are pouring in to the loss of American servicemen could better be spent on developing technology that prevents terrorists from entering our country and killing our citizens. Either that or just destroy the country, make it inhabitable for 10,000 years and don't worry about a home for terrorists in that place. History has shown that you shouldn't be where you are not wanted. We on the other hand, take the position that we will help you develop a democracy in an country that has no history of it, nor do I know of any movement or agitation by the people to develop a democracy. But no, let's have it the American way.

Bush started us on another road of folly, Obama is going to perpetuate it. Unless he does what he said at the end of a year and that is give a serious reevaluation to the effectiveness of our effort. In the meantime there will be American mothers and fathers lamenting the death of a loved one in a country that doesn't want their presence. Afghanistan is lead by men who have a history of corruption and self-service. We are mired again in a war we should not be in.

When will we ever learn?

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Lessons of Mistakes

Perhaps it is the internet with its tremendous capability of communicating information widely in an instance. I frequently received emails that purport to provide a huge number of facts about the background of President Obama. Almost all that I have seen have concerned Obama's roots in Islam, his ties to socialism, to radical political figures, to extreme religious views, to extreme everything. It is disgusting. I have never seen a public figure appear to raise such antagonistic fervor as Obama.

I received an email from a friend with a huge listing of supposed facts that show Obama to be all of the above. One fact even mentioned something about the anti-Christ. I currently live in the South and I start to wonder if what I am seeing is due to the racial bias that exists in the South. However, the friend who sent me the email is from the north and I have no idea where the email originated from.

I scanned the email and immediately became incensed with the language of the writer. It is apparent that the sentences were calculated to create a hostile reaction to Mr. Obama. It is also apparent that the so called "facts" were statements taken out of context, were statements made on supposition with no accredited references, and some were just obvious fabrications.

One statement told of Mrs. Obama's Senior Thesis at Princeton being restricted and not given out to the press. The way the sentence was written made one think there were things in the article that would support the idea that the Obama's are not what they present themselves to be. It turns out to be true, the thesis was restricted - by Princeton. The Obama campaign made a copy of the thesis available to the press. After that action Princeton opened up access. The few remarks I read from the thesis show a very smart, intellectually astute woman writing about how white institutions like Princeton alter the ideals of black students. No shit!

Any public official is open to vilification. They are sitting ducks. Take a course on Central American politics like I did you might become a radical subversive. Take a course on the great religions of the world and you might become sympathetic to Islam or Buddha. Go to a school that has a course on the Qur'an and you become a terrorist.

What President Obama appears to have done is responded to growing up like a kid. He appears to have thoughtfully studied many subjects to learn. His values are no more rooted in extremism than mine.

The people that write the trash I've seen come in my emails are stupid. They are narrow minded bigots who are intellectually dysfunctional. They lack the imagination of a slug. They are probably control freaks who are challenged by diversity and the open discussion that intelligence can create. The people who pass along this information as factual fall into the same category as the people I mentioned above. Imbeciles all!

Friday, January 8, 2010

Can Time be right?

Yesterday I took my wife to a dental appointment. While sitting in the waiting room I started going through some Time magazines catching up on items of interest. Now, because I'm in a waiting room I usually do not read articles closely as I don't like getting caught having to put down a magazine before I finished the article. So I may be guilty of not completely understanding the article I read.

The article concerned 401(k)'s and seemed to be saying that as an investment device they are not performing as intended. In addition the author(s) seemed to be saying that 401(k)'s were never meant to be a replacement for defined pension plans or to replace social security. In fact the article went on to suggest that the government should develop a system that pays a pension to every citizen at some predetermined age.

I guess we are seeing a flock of authors who seem to feel that U.S. citizens are entitled to retirement funds regardless of their contribution. It also purports 401(k)'s are not providing people with enough value because they are tied to market conditions and of course those have dropped severely in the last year.

Hmmm! I went through the initial start up of 401's and I do not ever recall anyone coming out and saying that these funds were meant to add to pension plans or were a replacement for pension plans. The article is correct to say that companies started using the funds originally set aside for pensions to fund operations. That is true. However, if 401(k)'s were meant as added perks for executives then don't you think the government would not have required the funds be available to all employees instead of a select few in the upper echelons. In addition, upper management was limited on how much they could contribute because of the tax deferment clause, and that there had to be some average savings rate across the board for all employees. I find it hard to imagine how an employee thought they weren't getting something they didn't have before. If the company did not have a pension plan covering all employees, and some didn't how could those employees not view a 401(k) as a retirement program. Where the view that there was a benefit to the plan was viewed was in the possibility of companies matching the employees contribution, then you are getting free money. Even then wouldn't the average "Joe" in the work place think they had a retirement fund.?

What I really object to is the author(s) trying to create the idea that the average citizen is due a retirement program. We aren't due anything in this country except life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. We aren't guaranteed happiness, only the pursuit of it. I have maintained for some time that the government should regulate banking, medical coverage, and defense of our welfare. Beyond that, we should be free to pursue whatever economic return we can manage and if we can't build a nest egg then at least a social safety net should provide a floor, but it shouldn't allow me to travel to Europe.

I may have misunderstood the article, but I found it confusing and creating the thought of let "big daddy" take care of me. I'll take care of myself, thank you.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Tough to live with

I enjoy the holiday season. I particularly like the college bowl games. I'm sure I spend too much time watching them, but besides the game I like the stories we learn concerning players. There are always some issues that cause controversy, both on and off the field. There are also lessons to be learned that instruct us on how people have to live their lives.

Yesterday was "stinker" day. Most of the bowl games I've watched have been well played, highly contested, and some real spectacular plays. However there are always a few games that you wonder why the teams are there and what their purpose is? Yesterday was such a day. The University of South Carolina, coached by Steve Spurrier stunk up the field against UConn. However, during the season one of UConn's players was killed, number 6. When the Connecticut team entered the field of play one of the players was carrying the dead teammates jersey and it was prominently displayed for all to see. A fitting tribute to a fallen comrade. When the game was over and UConn had won the jersey was carried around the field in front of the cheering fans as a final tribute. Warriors all and well played. On the other hand USC stunk the field up. They showed none of the strength and skill they had displayed on the few occasions I watched them play during the season.

Then we get to Oklahoma State and Old Miss. Gad, neither team wanted to win. Right at the very end the defense for Old Miss scored a go ahead touchdown and then the team came back with another score making the game 21 - 7 Old Miss. But that happened right at the end of the game and until then both teams were ineffective, incompetent, and boring. It wasn't a tough, hard fought defensive battle. It was lackadaisical. Later in life the men who played in that game won't have much to relive. The Old Miss alum will be able to say they didn't play well, but they played well enough to win. I don't know what the OSU guys will recall. However, it was a day they collectively stunk up the field.

Arkansas and Eastern Carolina University could it get worse. The one significant situation concerns the ECU field goal kicker. Twice in regulation he had the opportunity to put the Pirates ahead with a field goal, he kicked wide left, then shanked it wide right. He had plenty of leg, just the wrong direction. Then the game goes into overtime. ECU losses the coin toss and Arkansas elects defense, which is the proper call in college overtime. ECU struggles, but comes up short. Finally on 4th down ECU tries another field goal. Surely if the kicker was wide left, then wide right he should've figured out the proper direction, but no, the ball is wide right. Arkansas makes their attempt, and finally kick a 37 yard field goal in overtime to win the game.

Just think of the FG kicker for ECU, and what he has to live with. He was a senior so there will be no chances to redeem himself. He will carry that thought of three missed field goals throughout life. While it should not greatly effect him, after all it is only a game, it will. At reunions, at gatherings, and late in the night when he should be sleeping the thought of how he let his team down will enter his mind. I hope he has the maturity to deal with it and not let it become an important factor in his life. After all, next year I won't recall that Arkansas beat East Carolina, it will fade from some of the fans memories. Hopefully all will have the maturity to treat it for what it was, a bad few moments in time that only decided a game, that's all a game.

So ended the "stink day." There'll be others.