August 28, 2014
Labor Day in the United States is a holiday celebrated on the first Monday in September. It is a celebration of the American labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of their country.
As with so many national holidays, we like having the day off, but we often forget about what the day is all about. I have to wonder how many people wish they had a good job to take off from on Monday. Or how many have to go to their part-time jobs because that is all they were able to find. And when you have a part-time job, you almost always have to go in when you are told. That is because those employers know they have you by the nape of the neck and you can be easily replaced. There are an awful lot of people out there who need a job who can be fitted into the slot.
And that is the real shame of celebrating Labor Day the past few years. There is not a lot to celebrate. Unions are looked at as the enemy of business instead of a way for workers to be able to band together and work towards having a good work environment and a living wage. It is true that the pendulum swung in the unions favor for many years to the detriment of business. But now it has gone the other way as the rallying cry is for business to make every last penny for the benefit of its stockholders or owners and to hell with the employees. This is a generalization I know, but look at where we are. Relatively speaking, many families aren’t bringing the same amount of income into the home as they were able to do twenty years ago. The unemployment figures given to us every week do not reflect the underemployed and those who have given up looking for a job. Unemployed youth and those over 50 have a hard time finding anything.
I don’t know who we are trying to fool anymore. It seems all of the speeches about creating jobs are just that: talk. We will hear all about jobs and strengthening the middle class as we get near November elections. It will all be forgotten the day after elections as the power brokers in Washington manuever to be on top. President Obama seems so perplexed by international events that I do not think he has paid a lot of attention to the homefront lately.
Employees, unions, and management have to work together to keep the balance in our economic system. And that balance is necessary to give our country a solid foundation to do anything well. That has always been true in our history and I see no reason why that will change in the future. It comes down to a common sense approach to planning for the future by everyone involved – and not driven by immediate gratification or downright greed. Unfortunately, our recent track record of being motivated by cool-headed planning for the future has not been great.
The government is going to be greatly distracted for the next several months as it deals with the Mideast, Russia, elections, etc. Haven’t we seen this movie before? Let’s hope as we limp along to the end of the year that some things actually get accomplished that will set the nation on a positive course. It would be nice if more people can actually enjoy and celebrate Labor Day next year for what it is.
Essays on government, education, family life, etc. that helps put issues and solutions in perspective with thoughtfulness, not extremism. You know, like the majority of Americans really want! Go to The Book Corner.
August 27, 2014
According to the latest reports, the House of Representatives will spend at least $350,000 on lawyers to sue President Obama . The House Committee on Administration announced on Monday that it has retained the law firm Baker-Hostetler and appointed attorney David Rivkin to lead the House's lawsuit against President Obama, which Republicans approved on a party-line vote last month. According to a copy of the contract posted on the committee's website, the House (i.e. John Q. Taxpayer) will pay a rate of $500 an hour with a "firm cap" of $350,000 for the lawsuit.
Remember, as outlined by Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), the House plans to accuse Obama of exceeding his constitutional authority by delaying the employer mandate in his healthcare law without permission from Congress. Rivkin had argued that House Republicans had a case against Obama, and G.O.P. leaders relied on his legal theory in deciding to pursue a largely unprecedented lawsuit.
I have so many issues with this procedure that I do not even know where to start.
First, let us begin with laziness and not doing their job…and I am talking about Congress here. Do not get me wrong, I believe that President Obama has consistently gone above the proper guidelines of the Constitution with his “executive orders”. He has hit the Affordable Care Act with more adjustments on his say-so than a piñata getting whacked at a children’s party.
But two wrongs never ever make a right. The precedent you want to stop is a President doing things beyond his authority, not bringing lawsuits into the national legislature scene. So many problems we have in America are directly related to our lawsuit happy culture. Do we really want to propagate that as a way of doing business on the national stage? Because the one thing our Republican and Democratic morons, I mean leaders, seem to forget is that sooner or later the shoe is going to be on the other foot. Democrats are not going to want a Republican president changing laws willy-nilly, and Republicans will be up in arms the first time the Democrats sue one of their leaders. What is the end result of this? Nothing getting done – or business as normal as we have been accustomed to for the last several years.
There are enough Constitutional pieces to put into play if you really do not think the President is doing his job. Impeachment is the biggie. Critics argue that impeachment is not doable because of the current Democratic make-up of the Senate. Well, boo-hoo! You cannot bypass the Constitution just because it is convenient! What galls me is that the ones who usually lead with a Constitutional argument are the first ones who want to leapfrog the document.
The chairwoman of the Administration Committee, Rep. Candice Miller (R-Mich.), said in a statement accompanying the release of the contract that the lawsuit was about holding the President "accountable." Well, Ms. Miller, if you cannot play the impeachment card, accountability is decided at every election. President Obama is done being elected (Thank the Lord), but there is a big national election this year. If you are so sure of your case, then bring it to the people. Let us decide if we go with your argument or not. Hiring more bloody lawyers in Washington is like adding to the national debt.
Speaking of which, I am not happy my tax dollars are going to pay for suing the President, even if I am not crazy about him. And if you believe that it is only going to cost $350,000 for this idiotic political ploy, then you probably also believe that President Obama is conducting intelligence briefings on the golf course.
Let Congress pass around the hat (since they are not doing much else in Washington) and have members contribute out of their own pockets for the lawsuit. Nothing can come from deep pocket political donors or from any “special fund” Congress may have – because that just got there from tax money. I will bet you anything that if the politicians had to spend their own bucks, this lawsuit would just fritter away. After all, these people cannot govern, and the only thing that frightens them more than the actions of the opposition, is if they actually have to take a stand for something and be prepared to back it with their own resources.
August 26, 2014
There is a rhythm to the year that is ingrained in many of us from childhood. For those of us who grew up with a conventional school year, it seems that we follow the same pattern in life and business. We mentally throttle back a little between Thanksgiving and New Years as we take a breather at the end of the year. Summer is more of the same with vacation, or at least some days off here and there. You take one final breath as you go through the Labor Day weekend knowing you jump back into life with both feet on the Tuesday after. Even if you work full tilt during the entire summer, the beginning of September is like a renewed kick as you come into the final stretch of a marathon.
Then we have Washington DC. Congress has been on recess forever and President Obama seems to be counting down the days until he can write his memoirs and rake in the bucks on the speaking circuit. This has been a volatile summer both home and abroad. Major problems in the Mideast and the Ukraine scream out for some type of effort from the United States. As war weary as we are…and I certainly am…I cannot help but wonder about the future of our world. You have a thug in charge of the Soviet Union who loves flexing his muscles (shirtless or not) and a very, very grave danger in the evolution of ISIS.
So what can we expect from the President and Congress as they hit the ground running next Tuesday? Nothing!
First, President Obama. Even for him, the lack of decisiveness on the various domestic and international issues is appalling. I did not vote for him either time, but it is so disappointing that he never seems to have gotten the hang of being President. We went through so much “hope and change” and apologizing to the world for our actions, that we are not only seen as being impotent, but that is kind of the country’s level of morale. We are not. We are a mighty nation. It would just help if we started acting like it.
Of course, that impotence impression is easy to sustain when you look at Congress. You know the nice thing about their 5-week break? Not only did they accomplish the same amount of work as if they were in session, but we did not have to listen to as much stupid rhetoric as when they are all in town together. Their focus over the remaining four months of the year will be, first, the November elections. Then it will be the posturing for power, depending on the results of the election. Throw in lawsuits against the President, partisan grandstanding, and a contest to see who can say the most outrageous things and you pretty have the rest of 2014 mapped out.
To other nations, America must look like a bickering family reunion. Meanwhile, we have so many problems that it would take up several columns just listing them. I hope Americans will not only take the elections seriously, but to let the candidates know that we are tired of their crap. I know the extreme left and right think that supporting their party right or wrong is the way to go. Stop fooling yourself. In almost anything, the dangerous and the idiots are on the extremes. Look carefully at who represents you without a vision clouded by party. Then figure out if voting for that man or woman is going to further our impotence, or if we can finally move forward and deal with our issues instead of avoiding them.
August 25, 2014
I am sure you saw the story last week of a high school senior in Tennessee says she was given an in-school suspension for saying "bless you" to a classmate who had sneezed. Kendra Turner, a student at Dyer County High School, told WMC-TV that when her teacher told her she had broken a class rule against invoking religious terms, she complained.
“She said that we’re not going to have godly speaking in her class," Turner said, "and that’s when I said we have a constitutional right. ... It’s all right to defend God and it’s our constitutional right, because we have a freedom of religion and freedom of speech."
Local pastor Becky Winegardner said this was not the first time Turner's teacher had clashed with students over religion. “There were several students that were talking about this particular faculty member there that was very demeaning to them in regard to their faith,” Winegardner told WMC. “This was something that had come up previously in the last few weeks just since the beginning of school, and I shared with all of those students what their rights were.”
I think there are enough problems in education that show priorities are all over the place. We are sending high school graduates to colleges where the first classes a kid is required to take are remedial math and writing classes. This is because kids did not adequately learn the basics during their first 12 years of school. Forget all the other classes a kid can take, if you come out of high school and cannot do reading, writing, and arithmetic – we are in big trouble.
I have seen this first hand. I will not write a college student’s paper, but I will edit them. You cannot believe the garbled English I receive that I have to make sense of. I edited a book for someone with a Masters, and I could not believe how bad it was written. As for math skills, I have had this happen so many times with a young person at a cash register. Say you buy something and it costs you $6.28. The kid sees the $10 bill in your hand and puts that into the register and it shows him or her you get $3.72 in change. But if you quickly pull out 28 cents and hand it to the person, the look on their face is as if you asked them to solve a calculus equation. They cannot figure out that they just have to give you back four one-dollar bills.
What really gets me is the keeping of God out of education. I am not even getting into prayer in school. The fact is that religion is an overwhelming shaper of where the world is today. How can you ignore it? It is a part of life and needs to be understood as much as math and science. I am sure, though, if a teacher was an atheist that it would be perfectly ok for that teacher to share those beliefs with kids.
You cannot expect a child or young person to go to school in the United States and expect them to leave their beliefs outside the door. Some schools and teachers seem so intent on working on a “white bread” mentality, that the entire idea of education is lost. By that, I mean they want every student to be exactly like every other student. Education is more than an assembly line of thoughts. The richness of education is having various people of different backgrounds coming together and sharing their ideas and impressions of what is being taught. It is really disconcerting how some public schools go so far in squashing individual thought and beliefs. Not to mention the kids come out inadequately prepared for life.
I will be writing more about education in the next couple of weeks as school is starting up all over the country. There is a real problem in the USA. We keep throwing tons of money to “improve” education and we seem to keep getting further behind. I think it is time to stop having a “national” cure for a local responsibility. States cannot even get consistency throughout their school districts. Maybe we need to listen to the teachers, students, and parents about what is missing in education, and let the so-called “experts” and school union leaders sit in detention where they cannot cause more trouble.
August 22, 2014
You know how in the movie, The Hunger Games, society is split up into the poor and downtrodden who live throughout the country in contained districts, and the rich who live in the main city. The city dwellers are the ones who get a kick out of the competition of the young people from the districts trying to kill each other. Pretty terrific family entertainment, isn’t it?
Not to be melodramatic here, but are you really paying attention to how our country is slowly being divided? The stock market is booming and the general population is struggling. One reason is that average American consumers, who account for the vast majority of the spending in the economy, are still strapped.
The reason average American consumers are hurting, meanwhile, is that America's companies and company owners — the small group of Americans who own and control America's corporations — are hogging a record percentage of the country's wealth for themselves.
In the past 5 years, American corporations have boosted their profits and share prices by cutting costs (firing people) and buying back stock. As a result, unemployment remains high. Remember, as I said yesterday, the “official” unemployment numbers, which are trumpeted each week, are a very small part of the story. Wage growth for Americans who are lucky enough to be working has been pathetic — the slowest since World War II.
Meanwhile, America's corporations and their owners have never had it better. Corporate profits just hit another all-time high, both in absolute dollars and as a percent of the economy. And U.S. stocks are at record highs.
So why the paradox? If corporations and shareholders are doing so well, why is the economy so crappy? The answer is that one company's wages are another company's revenues. Americans save almost nothing, so every dollar we earn in wages gets spent on products and services (including, in some cases, those of the companies we work for.). The less American companies pay their workers, the less American consumers have to spend. The less American consumers have to spend, the slower the economy grows.
As I also said yesterday, I am totally a capitalist. However, there is no “law of capitalism” that says that companies have to pay their employees as little as possible. There is no law of capitalism that says companies have to maximize short-term profits. That is just a story that America's owners made up to justify taking as much of the company's wealth as possible for themselves.
Here is where the Common Sense element comes in. That is because, ironically, this short-term greed on the part of America's owners is likely reducing their long-term wealth. Companies cannot grow profits by cutting costs forever, because their profits cannot grow higher than their revenues. At some point, revenue growth needs to accelerate. But that won't happen until companies start sharing more of the wealth they create with the folks who create it — their employees.
America used to be very good at having a long-term vision. The Founding Fathers tried their best to put together a document to guide the country into infinity. President Lincoln waged a war to keep the country together because he believed it was best for the future of both the North and South. Eisenhower started the Interstate road system, knowing it would take years to be completed. President Kennedy gave a decade-long challenge to put a man on the moon.
Now we have both corporate execs and politicians not able to look past the next fiscal report or election. Companies are making more per dollar of sales than they ever have before. Some people are still blaming economic weakness on "too much regulation" and "too many taxes." That's BS. Maybe little companies are being smothered by regulation and taxes, but big ones certainly are not. What they are suffering from is a myopic obsession with short-term profits at the expense of long-term value creation.
To further add fuel to the greed fire, the Supreme Court has recently knocked down almost all restrictions to the amount of money that people and companies can donate towards elections. Why does this matter? Because it will be much easier for the ones with the money to support (or buy, if you prefer) politicians who will continue to safeguard the corporation’s methods of operation.
I am not saying it is time to teach your daughter how to shoot a bow and arrow, but it is time to stop fooling ourselves. The proof is in the numbers: record stock market – most of America lagging behind. You know the old saying: “It has to get worse before it gets better.” There is no guarantee of that. It may just keep getting worse.
August 21, 2014
We got our weekly unemployment news today, and it said that the number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits fell more than expected last week, pointing to a sustained improvement in labor market conditions.
I really want to know what those “conditions” are. Because while politicians and business leaders hurt themselves as they try to pat their own backs, there is far more to these reports than numbers and percentages of jobs. Rarely does anyone in the same breath mention the darkness behind those numbers. There has been a disconcerting mix of information—aside from the much-cited decline in labor force participation—that shows the jobs market is far from full health. Part-time jobs continue to grow almost as quickly as full-time positions, the average duration of unemployment is still about eight months and, perhaps most disturbingly, post-recession job creation remains skewed toward lower-wage positions.
At the same time, you hear about companies complaining about the lack of skilled workers to fill needed positions. Workers, the story goes, simply do not have the educational background or professional training for the kinds of jobs that exist in today’s knowledge economy. The argument certainly feels like it makes sense – things have changed an awful lot in the past decade, and it could be that older workers simply do not have the necessary skills for employment today.
The funny thing is, much of the skills gap debate is total BS on the part of business. A paper by Peter Cappelli, a professor at the Wharton School’s Center for Human Resources, reports that there is little hard evidence to support the theory. He notes that when it comes to workers’ skills, the most pervasive problem in the U.S. right now is that many individuals are working jobs for which they are overqualified.
He suggests that what is really driving the discussion about worker skills is a combination of employers seeking to hold down payroll costs by keeping wages as low as possible – and a longer-term effort to transfer responsibility for training workers from employers themselves to the taxpayer.
“The evidence driving the complaints about skills does not necessarily appear where labor market experts might expect to see it, such as in rising wages,” Cappelli writes. “Instead, it comes directly from employers – typically from surveys – who report difficulties hiring the kind of workers they need. The assertions explaining their reported difficulties center on the idea that the academic achievement of high school [graduates] is inadequate or that there are not enough college graduates in practical fields like computer science and engineering. The recommendations from these reports include increased immigration and use of foreign workers, as well as efforts to shape the majors that college students choose.”
Cappelli notes a disinclination among employers to train existing workers; he says they look instead to hire individuals who already possess a specific skill set. In many cases, he finds, the business community is pushing the public sector to provide the sort of training that workers used to receive through apprentice programs, professional development programs, and other on-the-job training.
Take a look at the big picture about what companies and corporations are trying to do. Many of these same companies fight tooth-and-nail against any kind of government intervention or regulation in their business. They make use of every possible loophole in the United States tax code to pay the bare minimum of taxes possible. I pay more in taxes than some major companies do. (And if you looked at my tax returns, you would realize just how pathetic that is!)
On the other hand, they try to push job training off onto all sizes of government and schools. Now, there are companies who will work hand-in-hand with a community college or tech school in developing courses that will help the company. These forward thinkers even supply money, personnel, and expertise to make it happen, but they are few and far between. By pleading it is someone else’s problem, the company saves a big chunk from its training budget, which of course is moved to the profit side of the ledger.
You know what is going to save our country? Getting rid of this “it is every man (or corporation) for himself” mentality. I am a firm capitalist so do not even misconstrue my words that I am promoting socialism or something like that. As long as the majority of companies twist every last cent out of their operations to their stockholders, who in turn fund the politicians that allow the status quo to continue, the real economy of the nation is going to continue to stagnate. The problem is that it will only be when we get to crisis mode, where too many Americans are scraping by and looking to the government for help, that changes will be made.
Oh, I’m sorry – we are there. OK, I have no clue what the hell is going to happen next!
August 20, 2014
I read an article yesterday that frightened me. It discussed how the Republican National Committee at their recent summer meeting in Chicago condemned the new outline for Advance Placement (AP) classes in US History. The resolution they passed said that the outline, or framework, for the classes "reflects a radically revisionist view of American history that emphasizes negative aspects." The RNC calls the framework, which is to be implemented for some 500,000 AP history students this fall, "biased and inaccurate." Wartime experiences, such as the internment of Japanese Americans and the decision to drop the atomic bomb raised questions about American values. The RNC calls for Congress to de-fund the College Board, an independent body, until the course material can be "rewritten...to accurately reflect U.S. history without a political bias."
This brings to my mind a valuable question: Who the hell made them the thought police? (I would have used a word stronger than “hell”, but my Mom reads my column.) I resent any of our two major political parties deciding what goes into schools, especially if they are worried about a “political bias.” Everything the Republicans and Democrats do these days is accomplished by looking through their own political bias viewfinders. To then come out and say they are against something that is skewed in a political biased way, only means it is against the bias they believe in!
Ok, we are going to do a couple of quick and dirty history lessons right now. First of all, the history of the United States is political. The country is a political animal. It was not handed down from father to son. It did not go from king to king. (This was how most of world history worked for the preceding three thousand years.) The USA was created by a bunch of guys in a hot room in Philadelphia. The entire process was fraught with arguing and politics…and we have never been absent from that atmosphere since.
Next lesson: parts of our history were ugly. Wars, slavery, rebellion, scandals – let’s face it, the history of the United States would make a fascinating television series. We had it all. Some of our country’s history is utterly fascinating when you read about it. I happen to love history and I shake my head in wonder at the sterilized crap we used to get in grammar school and even high school. You know the old saying about “those who do not know history are doomed to repeat it?” Maybe America keeps tripping over itself because too many leaders do not know their history. They have an image that John Wayne won every war we were in. I love John Wayne movies, but they often had me looking into the battles he portrayed to see what was fact and what was fiction.
I think the average governmental leader would be hard pressed to beat a 6th grader in history questions. I come to this conclusion by the inaccurate facts and conclusions politicians from both sides of the aisle spew as if they were giving the Sermon on the Mount. Our country has a rich history whether it be the good, the bad, or the ugly. The important thing is that citizens should know what happened in America to help them understand where we are today. Too often, supposed historical facts are used to illustrate a point. Whether they are real facts or not usually do not matter, until someone takes the time to research them. This always leads to more confusion.
Like or not, every single decision and law that occurred over the past 238 years had politics playing a part in it. As a country, we have a damn good track record in that time. Many great things happened to make us have such a strong country today. However, we also had many decisions that look really bad with 20/20 hindsight. That is what history is for: so that the future can learn from the past.
This now brings me to my final point. There are two aspects the RNC is leaving out of their resolution: the teachers and the students. Remember, these are classes taught in high school at a college level and usually for college credit. The majority of the teachers are going to be of a high caliber who want to cover all aspects of history. You need to trust them to take the recommended framework of the AP classes and to color it in with the rich texture needed to bring history alive to the students. Do teachers have a bias when instructing their students? Of course, but it has been that way since Socrates taught Plato, so get over it.
Finally, there are the students. AP classes are only for the most accomplished students in high school. The odds are a bit more in their favor that most of them will strive to be successful in whatever field they tackle, and these young men and women will be our next leaders. Let them learn all aspects of our history. Then pray they can figure out how to lead and nurture our country forward better than the current bunch of our politically blinded drones.
August 19, 2014
The news media has continuous coverage of social unrest, protests, and near riots. We are used to this type of thing from some city in the Mideast where the national pastime seems to be fighting and violence. This time it is from the heartland of our own country in Ferguson, Missouri.
Last night, the National Guard arrived in Ferguson but kept its distance from the streets where protesters clashed again with police, as clouds of tear gas and smoke hung over the St. Louis suburb where Michael Brown was fatally shot by a police officer. Protesters filled the streets after nightfall Monday, and officers trying to enforce tighter restrictions at times used bullhorns to order them to disperse. Police deployed noisemakers and armored vehicles to push demonstrators back. Officers fired tear gas and flash grenades.
Unfortunately, it is going to take a while to investigate what happened in the shooting of Michael Brown. We can hope and pray that calmer heads prevail in Ferguson to quiet everyone down. The sad truth is that evil people and rabble-rousers use events like this to incite more ill will and violent actions that end up escalating everything.
If you dig below the surface of these happenings, I think you find two sad truths.
The first is that the problems of race are still alive and thriving in this country. This is not the first incident where the actions of a white guy and a black guy have been the ignition point for protests and even violence. I grew up outside of Trenton, NJ and I remember some of the fear and concern of the race riots of the late 60’s. Things were happening only a few miles away from where we lived and I had an uncle who worked with the police in trying to keep a lid on things. Of course, at the age of 9, I was mostly mad that we could only go Trick-or-Treating for Halloween in the afternoon because there was a curfew in the area.
Forty-five years later, a lot has improved with racial equality, but a lot has stayed the same. Remember the War on Poverty? I think we lost that one. I would love to know the number of federal and state programs that have come and gone in the past fifty years. They were supposed to help people with education and to help raise folks up out of the bottom rung of the economic ladder. Like all government programs, you had people who took advantage of them in a positive way and utilized them in the manner they were intended. However, these same programs also enabled many others to sustain their level of poverty and became a way of life instead of a stepping-stone.
This leads into the other miserable truth. I think it highlights how poverty is growing quickly on the outskirts of America's cities, as suburbs have become home to a majority of the nation's poor. Elizabeth Kneebone, a fellow at the Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program in Washington, said in a report concerning this topic that, "We've passed the tipping point and there are now more poor people in the suburbs than the cities. In those communities, we see things like poorer health outcomes, failing schools and higher crime rates."
There is a growing, dangerous anger in America. Race is evidently still an issue. Economic disparity is becoming a stronger problem also. Throw in things like immigration resentment, the all or nothing mentality of some politicians, our infrastructure crumbling around us, and finding out a used car salesman has a stronger poll rating than our government leaders, and you are slowly gathering the materials for an explosion.
I do not know how much longer lip service from our leaders is going to work. People are getting weary of it all. This month we have a shooting that brings race issues to the forefront. Next month, it may be a group of people who are sick and tired of not finding jobs with a livable salary. Like it or not, America is reaching a new high of the haves and have-nots. Until the 500-pound gorilla in the room is addressed, the fuse keeps burning down to the powder keg.
August 18, 2014
A funny thing happened in Ferguson, Missouri last week where protestors have been speaking out after a black, unarmed teen was shot by a white police officer a week earlier. It is going to take a while for the smoke to clear off the investigation so we know what happened with the shooting. That is an important story. The aftermath is just as important as police deal with the protestors. Keeping order in a community after something like this is a delicate situation. America allows peaceful protesting, and the police are there to ensure a peaceful demonstration. The problems start when either side oversteps the limit of the law.
Last Wednesday night, a St. Louis County police line demanded that a crowd of protesters turn off their cameras. Minutes earlier, the police had ordered what appeared to be a peaceful crowd to disperse, firing smoke grenades and rubber bullets. I do not know if the situation called for the tactics they used. I was not there and am not going to debate that. However, the police had no right to tell people to turn their cameras off.
As a U.S. citizen, you have the right to record the police in the course of their public duties. The police do not have a right to stop you as long as you are not interfering with their work. They also do not have a right to confiscate your phone or camera, or delete its contents, just because you were recording them. Despite some state laws that make it illegal to record others without their consent, federal courts have held consistently that citizens have a First Amendment right to record the police as they perform their official duties in public. Besides, those same cameras may capture somebody doing something bad against the police themselves.
I guess I marvel at how people, depending on their philosophy or political leanings, are selective with what Constitutional freedoms they support. This extends all the way up to the top levels of government. You hear of people who are for freedom of speech and think that it is fine, until you bring religion into the conversation. Some folks against any gun control may think it is perfectly ok that someone accused of a crime should not have any rights. Here we have a case where some think the government has too much control, but think police should exercise more authority than they have.
Freedom is sacred. If you do not think so, go to a country where the government curtails freedom. There are a slew of them out there. The police are no different from any other profession. Many members of law enforcement are great. Then there are others who you would not want to have as a school crossing guard. But there is a great irony, and danger, if you start letting a police force pick and choose which of our freedoms they enforce, and which ones they want to ignore for their convenience.
When I first saw this story, I could not help but think of this poem penned by Martin Niemöller, a prominent German anti-Nazi theologian and Lutheran pastor:
In Germany, they came first for the Communists, and I did not speak up because I was not a Communist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak up because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak up because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Catholics, and I did not speak up because I was a Protestant.
Then they came for me, and by that time no one was left to speak up.
We are at a dangerous juncture in our nation’s history in so many ways. We have to honor all of our freedoms. We have a system in place to modify anything allowed by our Constitution. Let’s use it and remember our freedoms are not arbitrary. As the poem reminds us, radical change usually does not happen overnight, but rather by the slow erosion of people’s freedoms until everything is gone and nobody is left to defend them.
August 15, 2014
Why does the Republican Party put up with blowhards to be the trumpet blowers for them? Am I the only Republican willing to speak out? Maybe because I do not drink their Kool-Aid, and honestly feel that if the liberal side of the aisle gave them more money, they would be shilling for them. Today’s case in point is Rush Limbaugh.
You probably heard this week’s instance of Rush putting his mouth in gear before his brain…again. In talking about Robin Williams’ death, Rush seemed to think he knows why Robin Williams died -- and it's because unhappiness is an attitude of the political left.
The leftist attitude is "one of pessimism and darkness, sadness -- they're never happy, are they?" Limbaugh said on Tuesday's broadcast of his radio show. "They're always angry about something. No matter what they get, they're always angry. "He had it all but he had nothing. Made everybody else laugh, but was miserable inside," Limbaugh said. "I mean, it fits a certain picture or a certain image that the left has. Talk about low expectations and general unhappiness and so forth."
Then on Wednesday, Limbaugh tried to backpedal. I do not know how you back away from something you said, even if it was blatantly idiotic and hurtful. He said that he never said Williams killed himself because of his political views, and that his comments were "misquoted, purposely taken out of context" by the liberal media.
The only thing taken out of context is Limbaugh being treated as if he knows what he is talking about. I call my column here “Common Sense.” Rush should call his show “Ignorance Is Bliss.” I hate to tell Rush and his listeners, but everything in life is not right or left. To look at everything in life with a political bent means you really need to get out of the house (or radio booth) and experience life. Of course, Rush is paid really big bucks for all of the lemmings who listen to him and buy the products he pedals. I am fair on this. I feel the same way about Chris Matthews, Rachel Maddow, and Ed Schulz from the other side of the fence. They pander to their followers, sometimes being blind to the fact that they could actually do something good.
If pretend pundits like Limbaugh and his ilk want to do something to help the party they front, then they should stop preaching to the choir and work on convincing independent thinkers that they offer serious arguments for their cause. As it stands now, Rush is as welcome to mainstream America as the Kardashians to a Mensa meeting.
Rush could have used this terrible event to bring attention to the problems people face who deal with mental health issues. He does have a lot of listeners and could have performed a great public service. Depression is real and affects many people. Robin Williams was a talent, and to take his death and make it into a half-assed lament against liberals was unconscionable.
The opposite of Rush Limbaugh has been Robin Williams’ family who has been nothing but class throughout this miserable week. Here is a statement Mr. William’s widow, Susan Schneider, released yesterday:
Robin’s sobriety was intact and he was brave as he struggled with his own battles of depression, anxiety as well as early stages of Parkinson’s disease, which he was not yet ready to share publicly. It is our hope in the wake of Robin’s tragic passing that others will find the strength to seek the care and support they need to treat whatever battles they are facing so they may feel less afraid.
Basic human respect and dignity seem in short supply today. It does not help when the whining mouthpieces of various causes or parties seem to think they can blurt out anything, and everybody should be ok with it. Remember, for everyone who follows a certain blowhard, they are turning off at least an equal amount of people, if not more, who are trying to make up their mind on who is real and who is BS.
August 14, 2014
I read an excellent article by Gene Marks from Inc. magazine today. He pinpointed four of the reasons people are hiring less people and for less money. These are the facts that most business leaders, politicians, and news stories seem to avoid. The emphasis seems to be on total numbers and percentages of people who are employed. Rarely, is there much talk about all of the underlying problems that still exist, and continue to thrive.
The four reasons Mr. Marks listed are:
I have no dispute with Mr. Mark’s list at all. Where I do have an issue is that this is such a list of the obvious. At least it is very obvious to most Americans whether you are running a small business, struggling to get by, or looking for a job. It seems to be lost on the corporate world and our government. Just look at how they have done nothing to improve the situation.
First, the corporate world. I believe capitalism is the way to go and always have. However, we now have capitalism on steroids. By that I mean, maximizing profits is the number one goal of companies. God forbid if stockholders are not presented with every last cent in their dividend report. Profits are fine, but not at the expense of everything else. By that, I do not think companies should go out and create jobs they do not need or not take advantage of technology, but they need to start looking at how they pay workers. If you do not share a little of the profits with those that make it possible, then you are just being unfair. In addition, you are doing absolutely nothing to help strengthen the very country that enabled the company to thrive in the first place. That is the truth and that is something that needs to change – even just a little.
I have talked a lot about what goes on in Washington…or more accurately, what does not go on. We have leaders who major in the minors. I have never seen more people consistently turn away from dealing with hard decisions than President Obama and Congress. I am calling both Democrats and Republican to tasks here. While they argue about philosophy and take turns blocking each other, many Americans are either falling behind where they used to be, or are struggling just to stay even. This gets lost when our cowardly leaders are more concerned about figuring out legislature procedures to get around each other than they are in solving problems.
It is way past time passing the blame around by those who can make a difference. The United States is a nation – that should be the ultimate team. A great team is successful only when everyone does their job and everyone trusts the other members to do theirs. Right now, it seems too convenient for the corporate world and the government to blissfully say, “Not my problem. I tried.” Well, it is a problem for all of us, and if we all fall down, then so does the country. That is the reality.
August 13, 2014
The horrible story of Robin Williams taking his own life does illustrate the very real problems of mental illness in our country. If there was ever a medical condition that is misunderstood…and feared…it is mental illness. Some people only think of it in its extreme state where a person has completely lost touch with reality. This image is enforced by every movie or television show that takes place in a mental hospital where folks are walking around zombie-like doing very peculiar things. Yes, people can get like that, but very often it is something that can affect anyone you come in contact with during the day – and you do not even realize they are struggling with it.
Mental illness is not rare, not just something that happens to other families, in other neighborhoods. There is a great range in the type and severity of mental problems. Often people with mental illness can function and make valuable contributions. President Abraham Lincoln struggled with depression, and is esteemed as one of the great U.S. presidents. Look at all the joy and laughs Robin Williams gave us over the years. Then in one sad moment, he was not able to cope with his depression anymore.
Mental health is how we think about life or issues, how we feel about ourselves and others, and how we act in handling change, stress and other things that happen to us. With good mental health, you feel good about yourself, feel relaxed with other people, and handle tasks and problems easily. Taking good care of your mental health is just as important as taking good care of your body. If you had a broken bone, you would go to a doctor. If you have a mental health problem, you should seek treatment. I love it when somebody is really struggling with something like depression and he is told that “all you need is a good kick in the ass.” Not exactly helpful, is it?
If you or someone you know suspects having mental health issues, there are some things to keep in mind. Some mental health problems, such as mild depression or anxiety, can be relieved with support, self-help, and proper care. However, if problems or symptoms persist, a person should consult with their primary doctor or a qualified mental health professional.
Mental illness is not anyone's fault, any more than heart disease or diabetes is a person's fault. According to the Surgeon General's report: "Mental disorders are health conditions that are characterized by alterations in thinking, mood, or behavior (or some combination thereof), associated with distress and/ or impaired functioning." It is also not a condition that people choose to have or not have. Mental illnesses are not results of willful, petulant behavior. No one should have to feel ashamed of this condition any more than any other medical condition.
Most people suffering from even the most severe of mental illnesses are in touch with reality more often than they are not. Many people quietly bear the symptoms of mental illness without ever showing signs of their illness to others, and most people with mental illness live productive, active lives. No one should delay getting treatment for a mental health problem that is not getting better, just as one would not wait to take care of a medical condition that needed treatment. Some people worry that others will avoid them if they seek treatment for their mental illness. Early treatment can produce better results. Seeking appropriate help is a sign of strength not weakness.
We have to take care of our mental health just as we do our bodies. Here are just a few tips and ideas that you should practice just as much as you should be exercising and watching what you eat:
•Take care of yourself.
•Get plenty of rest, eat right, exercise and see a doctor regularly. Keep your mind active and exercised through learning new things, reading and interacting with others regularly.
•Know when to reach out for help.
•Ask for help when life seems overwhelming or difficult. This is a quality of a mentally healthy person. Identify someone you would go to for help in the future.
•Practice stress management strategies.
•Identify what soothes and comforts you. Learn relaxation techniques and interact with supportive friends and family members.
•Spend time with at least one friend with whom you can confide.
•Obtain social support, care and concern from others. Love is an energizing and growth-producing force that is beneficial to your mental and physical health.
•Nurture your soul.
•Take time for spiritual practice, prayerful reflection, meditation or serene solitude. This can really help you cope with life's challenges. It's also important to learn how to forget the hurts, forgive the wrongs and let go of elements of your past.
•Participate in a regular activity that's fun, relaxing or creative.
•Take time to play, laugh and participate in creative activities. These can enhance your ability to enjoy life and maintain a playful attitude.
•Identify and celebrate your successes.
•Acknowledge and affirm your successes. It's beneficial to name (or even list) the positive elements and people in your life.
August 12, 2014
There are three deaths of entertainers in my life that replicated the empty feeling inside of me that occurs when a loved one dies: John Belushi, Johnny Carson, and now, Robin Williams. For me, I was in awe of the particular talents of all three in making me laugh. Their styles were unique to them, and I know I tried to emulate them at times.
John Belushi was brilliant, wild and who knows how much more joy his enormous talent would have brought the world if he did not cut his life so short with drugs. I was a teenager who could not wait for Saturday Night Live when it came onto the air, and who hurt from laughing when I saw Animal House for the first time while attending Rutgers. He was a comedian and actor of my generation and it was a punch in the gut when I heard he died.
I grew up with Johnny Carson. I was never a kid who slept much and I would often watch him on my little black-and-white Sears TV in my room at night. (Yes, kids, color did not always exist!) I would have the earphone stuck in my head and very often my face stuffed in the pillow since I laughed so hard that I was afraid my parents would hear me. After all, I had to get up early to go to school in the morning and should be sleeping. Johnny was apparently incredibly private and shy, but on The Tonight Show he made the country feel ok, no matter how bad your day was.
And now, Robin Williams. I have never seen anyone who could go on a comic rift for 10 minutes and have you crying from the laughter and the pain in your side. It was like a stream of consciousness coming out of him…a very funny stream. I never saw him in person but like many, I saw many concerts and performances on TV. In a world where “genius” is overused – he was one. The funny thing is I never really watched Mork & Mindy that much. I think it was seeing him on shows like The Tonight Show that got me interested in him and trying not to miss any of his performances.
You know, the line between comedy and tragedy is a razor’s edge and Robin Williams walked that line. He gave incredibly strong dramatic performances in the wide variety of movies he did. Whether manic or dramatic, he inserted humanity into his performances. That is a rare gift that we only seem to appreciate when someone is gone.
For a man who was hounded by depression, he did a lot to help others out of bad moods. I heard today that Steven Spielberg used to call Robin up as he was filming Schindler’s List and asked him to, “Make me laugh.” Laughter is often the best medicine. We should not take for granted humor and the ones who bring it into our lives whether it be a comedian like Robin Williams or your Aunt Jill who is hysterical at family parties.
As I found out listening to the news this morning, there is a connection with these three performers. Williams went cold turkey off drugs when his friend Belushi died from a drug overdose. On Carson’s next-to-last show, the only two guests he had on were Bette Midler and Robin Williams. Many times, we pooh-pooh the supposed value performers have. And for many of them who think they are so much better than everyone else and act like spoiled kids, they do not deserve any kudos. There are others, however, who want to share their gifts, want to stretch their craft, and in doing so, make a positive impact on others. Robin Williams was one of these. I do not know if any of us will ever understand the demon of depression that gripped him, but I pray that he is in a place of peace and laughter.
August 11, 2014
It is funny how you can get a wakeup call when you are not expecting it. I was going to write this column in a certain way that would have been filled with such satire and barbs that the reader would be captivated by my wit. Then I found myself listening Sunday morning to a podcast of Joel Osteen’s message for the week titled “Love One Another.” To top it off, in church a few hours later, we said prayers that pretty much covered the same theme. I realize that how I was going to write my column would have been in the same manner as the things I am going to talk about right now. Sometimes God is subtle and scratches lightly at the door to get your attention. Every now and then, he hits you with a baseball bat. Yesterday morning, he knocked me for at least a double.
You see, my column on Friday was about the ongoing troubles in Iraq and about President Obama coming on TV the night before and making the case we were stepping in for humanitarian reasons. He pointed out that certain groups of people were going to be exterminated by ISIS, the terrorism army that is trying to take over the country over there. I said I liked what he said and it was the first time in ages I could support him on something. Well…I received this on a social media outlet about what I wrote:
Thank you...thank you to all you stupid liberal progressive politically correct 'cultural marxist' bastard anti-Christian media mouthpieces and civilian knuckleheads....how do you like your world now ?
I call for a Holy Crusade...NOW !! ....First we exterminate Islam and then we weed out any f@#kin liberal in the world we can find and incarcerate them. I've had enough of the bullshit.
When I wrote back and pointed out that I was a Republican and conservative, and asked if he was directing that to me or people in general, I got this response:
If I was directing this at you I would say so. So you're confused. Sucks to be you then...I can drag your ass to ISIS and then you can ask them to spare your life and see what they'll do...smut coming out of my mouth...you're a real shmuck man.
This is where Joel Osteen comes in. His message was about how it is not our job as Christians to judge. As much as that is one of our unfortunate human nature characteristics, he is so right. I do not know what this guy has been through, how much he really understands what is going on, what influences are around him, etc.
This stuff is exactly what I wrote about back in mid-July concerning social media. This hate…this feeling like you can say anything to anybody because you are hiding behind your keyboard or smartphone has to stop. It is becoming epidemic in America and it has replaced thoughtful debate with shouting and ignorance mounted on a pedestal. Yes, this nonsense here was directed at me, but it is a nano-percentage of how much of it goes on all over social media each and every day. This whole tsunami of negativity is then carried over to the conventional news media and plays out in the halls of government everywhere – from the White House to Congress to the local town council meeting.
I love a good debate – but one where reason and logic is brought into the mix. This feeling that because “I think something, then it must be the truth” is a cancer. Let’s look at one small piece of the message I received concerning my column. First of all, I did not write Friday’s piece from a political viewpoint. It really came from a Christian viewpoint. The person who wrote me accused me of being anti-Christian and that we should exterminate all the Muslims. Anybody else see anything wrong with this statement? First of all, please show me any quote where Jesus says we should go out and wipe out an entire group of people. If you are going to say something is anti-Christian, then you had better have a good idea of what Christianity is about.
That becomes the crux of many problems we have in this country. We have people arguing they are better Christians than other Christians, but they are looking at it from their own rationale, not necessarily the facts or doctrine. The Republicans are going through that with other Republicans and the dissention is making progress difficult. The differences between Democrats and Republicans are so bad that our government has not done a heck of a lot in the past six years.
We are at the point that if President Obama ran over to a burning car to pull a child out, many people would be upset the car didn’t blow up and take him out. That is how bad things are right now.
One thing I have learned from the Bible that seems applicable here is that change needs to take place within each individual person. And until people realize that hating and beating down on others because of differences in politics, religion, or whatever, we will continue sliding backwards into distrust. Individuals make up a group. Negative and mean individuals are going to multiply the force of their beliefs. By the same token, if people work together to reach compromises to move forward, then we will.
It is a choice. What is yours?
August 8, 2014
U.S. President Barack Obama said Thursday that he has authorized "targeted airstrikes" in Iraq to protect American personnel and help Iraqi forces. "We do whatever is necessary to protect our people," Obama said. "We support our allies when they're in danger."
A key concern for U.S. officials: dozens of American consular staff and military advisers working with the Iraqi military in Irbil, the largest city in Iraq's Kurdish region. There is also the case where rapid developments on the ground, where a humanitarian crisis is emerging with minority groups facing possible slaughter by Sunni Muslim extremists from the Islamic State, formerly known as ISIS, have set the stage for an increasingly dire situation.
Thousands of families from the Yazidi minority are trapped in the mountains, a senior administration officials said. They have been without food, water or medical care after fleeing the rampaging Islamist fighters. Dozens of children have died of thirst in the intense summer heat. In addition, throngs of other refugees, many of them Iraqi Christians, are on the run -- their largest city, Qaraqosh, now occupied by fighters who gave them an ultimatum, "Convert to Islam or die."
These ISIS fighters, armed with armored vehicles and other military hardware taken from Iraqi forces in a lightning sweep through the north earlier this year, have overrun Iraq's largest Christian town and nearby villages. This is a terrorist group on steroids – a fairly well-organized Army that has systematically overrun most of the country.
I would hate to see the United States pulled full tilt back into Iraq. However, I think President Obama is doing the right thing at this moment. We have to protect our people that we still have in the country. He correctly said last night that it is part of his job description as Commander-in-Chief. And where possible, the United States should not turn a blind eye to genocide and mass execution. No, we cannot be the world’s policeman, but we still need to stand for something.
I am constantly appalled by how these terrorists twist and pervert their religion. Another statement President Obama mentioned last night is how the United States can exert its influence through diplomacy. One of the components of diplomacy is that the conversation is between rational parties. ISIS and too many of these other Muslim factions may be rational in their own minds, but not in any recognizable manner to most people. Since they are so intent on violence and killing, I guess that is the only kind of diplomacy that they understand. One of the things that has surprised me over the years is how much one Muslim sect can hate another Muslim sect that they want to destroy them!
I do not know what the end result will be with Iraq, but many people are going to die before it is all over. I have not said this in a long time on any topic, but I think President Obama is making the best decision possible right now. Let’s pray and hope our folks are safe and the military does their job casualty free.
August 7, 2014
The original title of this column was going to be “Michele Bachmann Is an Idiot.” A whole separate column should be about how people like her and Sarah Palin have turned themselves into cartoons of the Republican Party. Why? Because of the utterly stupid and ignorant things that come out of their mouths. They may pander to the extremes of the Republican Party, but it makes others in the party cringe. And those outside the party laugh in derision and the party’s credibility is further hurt.
What brought this on was Dr. Stephen Hawking’s recent statement that the black holes he famously described do not actually exist. This had Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minnesota) saying that this shows “the danger inherent in listening to scientists.” Rep. Bachmann unleashed a blistering attack on Dr. Hawking, who earlier referred to his mistake on black holes as his “biggest blunder.”
“Actually, Dr. Hawking, our biggest blunder as a society was ever listening to people like you,” said Rep. Bachmann. “If black holes don’t exist, then other things you scientists have been trying to foist on us probably don’t either, like climate change and evolution.”
Rep. Bachmann added that all the students who were forced to learn about black holes in college should now sue Dr. Hawking for a full refund. “Fortunately for me, I did not take any science classes in college,” she said.
Bachmann’s anti-Hawking comments seemed to be gaining traction on Capitol Hill, as seen from the statement by Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), Chairman of the House Science Committee, who said, “Going forward, members of the House Science Committee will do our best to avoid listening to scientists.” Now that I look at that last sentence I realize how utterly asinine it is. The “Science” Committee should not listen to scientists?! Then I guess the Intelligence Committee should not bother looking at things the CIA, NSA, etc. have to report on.
I call this an arrogance of ignorance. To be fair, scientists, doctors, lawyers, and anyone who believes they know more than anyone else, do feel they are god-like. It is a curse of human behavior. A little dose of humility and common sense is enough for most people to pull back and realize they are a horse’s ass. To make a blanket statement like Ms. Bachmann’s is the height of witlessness.
Science is not infallible. They have shown that over the decades. A theory may be proven as fact only to be found wrong years later. Science is all about figuring out how things work in this world. It has brought about great discoveries that have made our world advance in many areas. Our growth in knowledge has exploded exponentially as the years have gone on. Knowledge in every field has brought about improvements in life.
Of course, the other side of the coin is that science has led to many discoveries that can destroy the world many times over. This has also been going on forever. When man manufactured the first bow-and-arrow, he discovered it made hunting easier. He also discovered that it was a good way to shoot the guy from the next village he didn’t like! How man uses new knowledge has always been a hit-or-miss problem through the centuries.
Today, it is fairly easy to find any scientist or expert to prove your point…whatever it is. Take any subject in science or on the national stage: global warming, economics, medicine, etc. You can Google “for and against points” on any topic and have scads of opposing views to filter through. The ignorant lashes on to everything that proves their point of view, and discounts the rest. It takes a little work and a lot of thought to intelligently come to a conclusion.
Statements like Ms. Bachmann’s show no intelligent thought. Scientists are not perfect, and like every other profession, you have good and bad scientists. Personally, I love the scientists who, as they get more and more into their discipline, decide there has to be a God because they realize that there is an intelligence behind everything. In my belief, God created man with an intelligence to delve into the secrets of the world and He wants us to use it.
What Michele Bachmann is saying is, “Since Dr. Hawking said he was wrong, then all scientists are wrong, and we should thus disregard all science.” I could then say, “What Rep. Bachmann said is blatantly stupid, so all politicians must be stupid, and thus we should disregard all politicians.” Hmmmmmm.
August 6, 2014
The other week we saw two liberal news sites, ThinkProgress and Crooks and Liars, obliged to correct false stories claiming Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minnesota) called for "Americanization facilities" for undocumented migrants at the border. They based their story on a site called KCTV7 News that features clearly absurd stories on its home page. For example, one KCTV7 news story was called, "Feds Spend $2.2 Million to Study Why Lesbians Are Obese." (I am surprised FoxNews did not jump on that one!)
In its retraction, Crooks and Liars argued that Bachmann's outspoken conservatism made the entire article plausible.
Therein lays the problem. To me, these two media outlets are obscure and not exactly where millions of Americans get their news. However, how many times have we seen the mainstream news media jump on a story and curve it around to their point of view? For all of the problems in our country, the news media is ready to throw kerosene on any type of potential fire. Somewhere in the last 30 years, the media decided it was much more important to be the news instead of just reporting it.
This phenomenon goes beyond TV news and the leading newspapers and news-gathering agencies. If the news media is kerosene, then social media is napalm. I go back and forth between laughing aloud to shaking my head in horror at what I read in the various social media outlets. I often see people post their views on the government on Facebook and pray that they are not imparting their hateful, bigoted views on their children. If they are, things are only going to get worse as the years go on. Twitter seems to have turned into a bitching board for anything under the sun.
I know what is happening in our world is nothing new. I am sure that when Moses brought the 10 Commandments down off the mountain, somebody was chiseling out a rebuttal into another stone. American newspapers took sides during the Revolution and have not stopped since then. Many times, the newspapers took the lid off any hidden agenda going on in government. The Watergate coverage defined a generation, and has influenced reporting ever since.
These days, we still have great reporters who dig into facts, do their research, and confirm things before bringing it to the light of day. Sometimes, though, it seems like they are in the minority. We seem to be flooded with “personalities” who sit on their butt, and pontificate off of the top of their head as long as they are catering to their audience. (Many times, it seems to come out of the afore mentioned butt!) This becomes a problem when people mistake these comments and opinions for facts. This is the fuel that leads to more ignorance and hate and distrust.
I love that we have freedom of speech in the United States. It clearly separates us from the other two giants of the world: Russia and China. I do have two wishes though. One is that Americans on the extreme left and right stop drinking the Kool-Aid put out by their accepted media outlets. It is poison and eroding their ability to do any clear thinking. The only way we can get back to something close to center is if people realize they are being duped and drift away from the shock newsmakers and their ilk. This is America, which means if those right and left wing news channels lose viewers and their ratings go down, they will have to change their game. I won’t hold my breath here, but I truly believe they are a big part of the vocal divide forming in our country.
The second thing I hope for is that Americans can drift towards some sense of respect and courtesy for each other. It is great to have a different point of view. Express it in an intelligent and thoughtful way. Hate breeds hate. Some things I see in social media between the right and the left remind me of the talk between the North and the South during the Civil War. As long as both the news media and everyday people continue fanning the flames of hate, we are not going to get back on track. Then whom do we blame?
August 5, 2014
A couple of weeks ago the federal Labor Department released figures on how the states have done with creating jobs since the Great Recession ended in June 2009. Over that five-year period, some states have positively blossomed. Number one was North Dakota who took advantage of the oil and gas-drilling boom in their state and created nearly 98,000 jobs over the past five years, a 27 percent increase. New Mexico anchored the other end of the spectrum, and was the only state that had actually lost jobs since the recession ended. Only two ticks above New Mexico was New Jersey. Number 48 was the Garden State who had a grand 1.4 percent increase in the number of jobs in the past five years.
It is a shame that the statistics confirm what I have seen in the situation of friends and acquaintances. I know too many people in New Jersey who are looking for work and constantly run into a closed door. Some are young, and prospective employers make them feel like they are lucky being offered a job at minimum wage or slightly above. Benefits are non-existent, and if you can stick with the long hours and working conditions, you may be eligible for a 25-cent raise in six months.
Then there are incredibly talented people who tend to be over 50 who feel like they were left stranded on a desert island to die. In our new world order of squeezing every last penny out of a company, people over 50 are looked at like they have leprosy. Some businesses understand the value that experience, integrity, and a solid work ethic can bring their company, but many take the attitude that they can do better with getting someone who is younger and probably cheaper. Indeed, I know one gal who was let go from her job despite a good work record, and two weeks later someone half her age and half her salary was brought in to replace her.
New Jersey has been the butt of jokes for years. I remember reading letters from officers and soldiers in the Revolutionary War and they were making jokes about New Jersey then! When I did a great deal of traveling and said I was from New Jersey, people would say, “Oh, you are run by the Sopranos.” I sort of had to agree.
Why agree? Because look at the TV show The Sopranos. The part of the plot that dealt with crime basically came down to Tony Soprano and his associates protecting their interests. Let’s face it, that sums up New Jersey politics in a nut shell. At different times, I have been privy to the inner workings of both parties in different sections of the state. Usually, the main concern was the politicians keeping their power and exerting their influence to having their people elected. Whether this translated to them doing anything for the people of the state is debatable. The biggest example of this I remember is someone passing out flyers for Corzine in the Corzine – Christie election of 2009. My friend, who is a staunch Republican, tried to engage the person in a debate on why Corzine should be re-elected. The guy said, “I don’t know. Our union boss told us who to vote for and to pass these flyers out in the neighborhood.” No wonder elections tend to be disappointing.
In this regard, New Jersey is a small indication of how government seems to work on the federal level. It is all about keeping power, but does not necessarily have anything to do with using it to good effect. Look at our Governor Christie. He came down hard on many things in the running of the state government because abuses ran rampant for too many years. The state budget had been balanced using smoke and mirrors by both his Republican and Democrat predecessors. He made a great deal of headway in cleaning up some of the mess, often bringing the state Democrats into the decision-making. He talked bluntly, which was kind of refreshing in our world of double-talk politicians. He certainly began having presidential aspirations. Somewhere along the way, though, he lost his focus because the job of the state government was only half done.
I am not even going to touch the “Bridgegate” fiasco here. I am a fiscal conservative and applaud when any part of our government tries to bring costs under control. Unfortunately, when politicians are so intent on cutting, they forget that the other part of being fiscally sound is to bring in more income. I do not mean raising taxes, but to create an environment where people have good jobs, make decent money, and then spend that money. How much money has New Jersey lost in sales tax and income tax revenues because people do not have a good income? It is simple math.
The state government certainly does not make it attractive for companies to build or relocate here. We have a high cost of living, I believe property taxes are still the highest in the nation, and the statistics prove the state is barely breaking even with jobs from five years ago. As on a national level, the quality of those jobs is debatable. Replacing a $25/hour job with those at a new fast-food joint does not even out. The state has a lot to offer in geography, education, and good workers, but few companies seem enticed by the bait. This keeps an endless circle going of government services increasing in costs, and the base from which to pay for them getting smaller.
I look at New Jersey as a microcosm of the United States. A government is worthless if it does not work on behalf of its people. Those people fund the government. That was always the concept of our country, and it is a good one. The government of New Jersey seems to exist to keep the government going, and not necessarily the rest of the state. This is not sustainable and until some common sense prevails and our leaders work on real solutions to make the economic environment better for all people, the situation will only get worse.
August 4, 2014
It has been nice to hear from some people asking why I have not written much lately. Part of the reason is that my brain needed a mental break, and I had some projects with deadlines I needed to complete. I admit the biggest reason is I found myself wanting to write about the same stuff I have spoken out against before. This is not a lack of imagination on my part. It is the fact nothing has really improved in the United States thanks to our President and Congress. Many things have actually slid backwards.
Look at Congress. They are setting out on a five-week vacation. I am not sure from what. Did they accomplish anything this summer? Well, the House voted to sue the President of the United States. We still have massive problems with unemployment, infrastructure, a border crisis, and scads of other domestic and international problems and all they could muster enough votes for is to sue President Obama. I have spoken out how Obama plays willy-nilly with the law, but I am not happy about the time and taxpayer money that is going to enrich a bunch of lawyers that, at best, are going to further distract the public from the fact that Washington is doing nothing. On the other hand, I think the public is actually seeing through these theatrical tactics for what they are – a waste of time and money.
What about the Senate? The “most exclusive club in America” has the credibility of a Kardashian TV show. The biggest news out of them recently is how Ted Cruz invited some Congressmen over for pizza which in turn scuttled the House’s attempts of actually passing something to deal with the illegal immigration situation. Granted, it was nothing long-term but it would provide a first aid solution to a problem that is getting worse and worse. I apologize to my friends and readers in Texas, but Ted Cruz is fast becoming a menace to anything getting done in Washington. Not only does he pretend he has nothing to do with acting as a provocateur, but as is so typical of Republicans these days, he is better at being a barrier to legislation instead of having any concrete ideas of what we should be doing.
As for President Obama, we should just let his administration RIP(rest-in-peace). It is over. Many Americans do not take him seriously as the leader of the country, and his status with foreign governments is not much better. He seems like a man in a fog as he tries to navigate problems in the Ukraine/Russia and the Middle East. One thing about Americans, we tend to see the light when it is too late. I loved the poll that came out last week that if the 2012 election were held today, Mitt Romney would win. Nothing like closing the corral gate after the horses bolted. If nothing else, our leadership situation proves that if you keep voting for style over substance, you will not end up with much.
I hope and pray that the American people take that lesson out of the past year or two (or five). As we get into an important election this November with many people already looking ahead to the presidential election of 2016, we have to do a better job at electing our leaders and representatives. If we keep choosing these egotistical sound bites who have no regard for what the average American is facing in order to survive, then we will continue to get what we deserve. If you want to continue believing that maintaining pure party philosophy is more important than governing the country, then continue being a lemming and follow these pretenders of leadership down the yellow brick road. Because like Oz, Washington DC has become a town built on a fake image with no real foundation.
July 16, 2014
I have embraced social media for business purposes to the extent of my knowledge. I say that because it seems to change every day. What was hot yesterday is ancient history today. Facebook – once the territory of the young – now is most popular with an older demographic. I know I am behind the curve with what social media to use to market my business, books, and this column; but I only have so much time in the day and I cannot afford someone to monitor that aspect of my business.
However, I am on it enough that I begin to wonder about people. We seem to live in a society that is now more connected than ever, but becoming ever more isolated on a personal level. I have observed that there are different categories of folks on social media. You have the ones who use it purely for business – there is very little personal insight they put out there if it has nothing to do with their company. Then you have the ones who like to have fun with it. They post now and then and it is along the lines of showing what they are doing on vacation or they like to put up funny sayings or videos. Then you have the ones that I am beginning to feel sorry for – the terrible narcissists.
At the core of extreme narcissism is egotistical preoccupation with self, personal preferences, aspirations, needs, success, and how he/she is perceived by others. Social media has taken this and allowed people to do a lot more than admire themselves in the mirror all day. The majority of what they post in social media tends to be along the lines of “look how great I am” or “don’t you wish you lived here” or “this is how much money I spent on this thing,” or “my day was so bad,” etc. They supplement these posts with an abundance of selfies, constant references to themselves and not anyone else, and the stretching of truth so that anyone who really knows them know they are full of it! Social media has turned into a way for folks to pat themselves on the back so they do not hurt themselves.
I cannot help but think this is unhealthy for an individual. I believe the majority of us have self-esteem issues to some degree, and there are many positive ways of working on whatever bothers us. I just do not think that always saying “look at me” is the best way to deal with it. I am a big believer that we have to give ourselves positive affirmations: “I am talented,” I am good at my job,” I am a good Mom,” etc. – just not constantly in public. For one thing, you are boring the crap out of the people you are trying to communicate all of this stuff to, and they now think of you in a less favorable light than they did before.
This column may just be my rant about people I see on social media who I do not have the courage to directly tell them, “Do you know how much of an ass you look like!” This is also my real feeling that we are getting so disconnected from each other. Half of the problems in our country and our world are that anyone can put anything on Twitter or Facebook and it is taken as fact. I do not think it is a coincidence that the philosophical divide we have in this country gained fuel with the advent of social media. It is now so easy to find people that share the same opinion that you now have a collective group who cannot look at another side of the argument.
There are many people who would rather use their smartphones to text or email someone rather than use it to make a phone call. God forbid if you get that personal with someone!
July 9, 2014
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way…Charles Dickens – Tale of Two Cities
I have not read this novel since college. That was so long ago that I actually held a book in my hands and went page-by-page instead of using an electronic device. Anyway, it certainly sums up the atmosphere that has spread across this great country of ours. Just as the opening lines of the book express great extremes, that is where we seem to be as a country. Life can be so technologically advanced that our computers and communication devices make the original Star Trek equipment seem dated. On the other hand, there is great pessimism and fear about where we are heading as a nation.
Nowhere is this difference more evident than in the financial disparity of our country. Donnie Deutsch on MSNBC put it succinctly on MSNBC’s Morning Joe the other day when he said that America is really two economies and we have to stop treating it as one. I couldn’t agree more since I have expressed this view so much in the past two years. We have the Wall Street economy (the wealthy) and the Main Street economy (everyone else). At one time, these two streets intersected. A booming stock market used to mean companies in the USA were expanding and adding jobs. What was good for corporate America, was good for the country.
It is a different world now. More than ever before, we now have an international economy. A company may still expand, but now it can easily do in another part of the world where it is cheaper. The driving business of any company is to make money. That is capitalism. Now we have capitalism on steroids where the appetite of the shareholders for more profits is insatiable. Any CEO, whose company is in danger of not meeting or exceeding expectations for the company, fears being kicked to the curb. (It does not matter that he or she is usually given a severance package that enables them to buy their own island or small country).
By the way, while this is going on in the highest corporate arena, income has gone down for the average American. Many of the new jobs that are being celebrated by the media are part-time or below subsistence level.
My question is: do American corporations have a responsibility to the country they grew and thrived in? If you take Mitt Romney’s argument that corporations are people, shouldn’t they have the same love and sense of responsibility to the USA as we do? You would think, but that is obviously not the case.
I love what a friend of mine started doing. Marc LeVine of ICA Social Media is a marketing professional who started a “Corporate Hall of Shame”. His philosophy, which I applaud, is that “if you are not a socially responsible and good business neighbor, you do not deserve to thrive in America.” One of the first companies he showcased was T-Mobile who “earned a windfall in recent years from third-party merchants offering bogus text message subscriptions for things like flirting tips, horoscopes and celebrity gossip. Those charges frequently weren't authorized by customers. The charges were allegedly concealed on customers' monthly bills.”
Another was Walgreens, “the largest drugstore chain in the United States with more than 8,700 drugstores spread across the nation, who is on the verge of moving its corporate headquarters to Switzerland as part of a merger with Alliance Boots, the European drugstore chain. Even if it becomes a Swiss corporation, Walgreen will remain your Main Street druggist. It just won't pay nearly as much in U.S. taxes.”
This is the garbage that goes on in our capitalist environment today. You know, at one time, American leaders took on the rich and powerful. Now they take on their donations and are happy with saying that is how capitalism works. The foundation of America is not her companies…it is her people. It is never a good plan to erode the foundation of anything. I know sweeping changes are not going to happen overnight. At this point, I would be happy if the government, business world, and news media would acknowledge that this reality is a really big problem. That would be the first step to figuring out what we need to do.
July 8, 2014
Over the 4th of July weekend, I attended a minor league baseball game on Saturday night. If you have never gone to one, I highly recommended it. Many times, they are more fun than going to an over-priced Major League ballgame with over-priced players.
They had fireworks after the game and to kick them off, the stadium played a piece by the late comedian Red Skelton on our Pledge of Allegiance. I remembered seeing this on television when I was a kid, and it struck me then how powerful it was. Furthermore, I thought about this recitation on the Fourth of July and filed away in my brain to look it up on the internet for a future column. Well, I don’t believe in coincidences, so the future is now. Enjoy and share:
As a schoolboy, one of Red Skelton's teachers explained the words and meaning of the Pledge of Allegiance to his class. Skelton later wrote down, and eventually recorded, his recollection of this lecture. It is followed by an observation of his own.
I - - Me; an individual; a committee of one.
Pledge - - Dedicate all of my worldly goods to give without self-pity.
Allegiance - - My love and my devotion.
To the Flag - - Our standard; Old Glory ; a symbol of Freedom; wherever she waves there is respect, because your loyalty has given her a dignity that shouts, Freedom is everybody's job.
United - - That means that we have all come together.
States - - Individual communities that have united into forty-eight great states. Forty-eight individual communities with pride and dignity and purpose. All divided with imaginary boundaries, yet united to a common purpose, and that is love for country.
And to the Republic - - Republic--a state in which sovereign power is invested in representatives chosen by the people to govern. And government is the people; and it's from the people to the leaders, not from the leaders to the people.
For which it stands
One Nation - - One Nation--meaning, so blessed by God.
Indivisible - - Incapable of being divided.
With Liberty - - Which is Freedom; the right of power to live one's own life, without threats, fear, or some sort of retaliation.
And Justice - - The principle, or qualities, of dealing fairly with others.
For All - - For All--which means, boys and girls, it's as much your country as it is mine.
Since I was a small boy, two states have been added to our country, and two words have been added to the Pledge of Allegiance: Under God. Wouldn't it be a pity if someone said that is a prayer, and that would be eliminated from schools, too?
You can see the actual video on YouTube. Maybe it is time to re-emphasize what the Pledge really means to young and old alike. For politicians too...it is not just a photo-op!
July 3, 2014
If our paper tiger leaders of 2014 made up our Founding Fathers, we would be watching cricket and drinking tea on the Fourth of July. Think about it for a minute. If you read any in-depth historical treatment of the gentlemen who gathered in Philadelphia 238 years ago, it was a huge clash of wills and political philosophy before this gathering of the original colonies voted to break away from Great Britain. It is an entertaining musical, but I always thought the play and movie 1776 did a great job in bringing to life the various debates and problems of that era. History books in school give about three paragraphs to our birth as a nation, and it was not the slam-dunk that many made it out to be.
Many differences of opinion had to be balanced in order to get the Declaration of Independence written and approved. Originally, half the delegates did not even want to break away from Great Britain. Remember, in all of recorded history to that point, a colony did not just break away from the mother country without its permission. Some delegates could not conceive the notion of doing away with slavery and this was a big sticking point. That issue was shelved for another 85 years and had to be decided with another bloody war.
Here is how July 4, 1776 would have gone if today’s politicians were in charge:
The arguments and debates to get our country formed were neither clean nor easy. There were plenty of personal egos and self-interest involved in Philly in 1776. Somehow, the delegates of the Continental Congress managed to cobble together a Declaration of Independence and stood together against the mightiest European empire of the day. They came to realize that there was strength in coming together and that they had to act as a single entity for the common good. It took a hell of a lot of arguing and compromise to thumb their nose at Great Britain, but they did and the results were more than they could have ever dreamed.
There is a lot of romanticizing of the Founding Fathers. However, they all had the faults and issues as every person has. They managed to work together though. After the dust cleared from all the debate, they acted on what was good for the country. That is the historical lesson for the President and Congress today. Our country formed on the basis that nobody got their way on every point. That Continental Congress seemed to believe the goals of the nation were more important than individual philosophy. Everybody got a little, and everybody lost a little. They figured things out like grown-ups. 2014 Washington should take a tip from that.
July 2, 2014
I have been thinking about writing on this topic for a while. Originally, I was going to write how movies used to be made from great works of literature and now Hollywood studios use comic books. I have been a big reader and movie buff all of my life and realize that talking on that subject would be a bit pretentious. After all, I really enjoy seeing movies like Iron Man, The Avengers, and the X-Men. Besides, I have read some great “literature” and struggled to get through the book. I have also sat through Citizen Kane twice and just do not get all the accolades heaped on this movie, so who am I to judge.
I then reflected that the history of film in America is a window into each era of the 20th and 21st century. Many movies were crafted in their time to reflect America and to provide escapism from the problems of the day. If you ever watch the movies of the 30’s, many dramas and comedies take place in the upper crust of society. There were also lavish musicals that took folks’ mind off their troubles. Many people were suffering from the depression and did not mind living vicariously with the wealthy. War movies in the 40’s championed the American cause and the 50’s and 60’s had cold war themes. Also, movies in the 60’s and then the 70’s showcased a cynicism that was creeping into society. Granted, these are sweeping generalities that I am listing here, but you get the idea.
While there a variety of movies out there today, the ones that get the most attention are the “tent-pole” films. These are movies that hold up (as is the function of a tent pole) and balance out the financial performance of a movie studio. They are also expected to support the sale of ancillary tie-in merchandise. A lot of these are the comic book, science fiction, or fantasy franchises (Marvel Universe, Star Wars, Harry Potter, Hunger Games, etc.) There are a few lessons we can extract by looking at these movies that is an accurate reflection of where our country is today.
First, Hollywood is a business and like the rest of corporate America, wants to make lots of money. They will still do small, plot-driven movies, but most of the money is sunk into large-scale projects that will result in big profits. I believe if you take all the money spent on huge movie projects in one year, Hollywood would be in the top 50 of countries in terms of economic power. I think the studios accurately reflect corporate America. The goal is to keep the stockholders happy. I notice a big trend in the last couple of years of financial reporting that discusses the success or failure of movies in terms of the impact they have on a shareholders earnings – forget Oscar nominations. It gives studios the incentive to have tunnel vision on the products they produce and they are quite happy in developing cookie-cutter films that they know will have an audience just waiting for them. It is no wonder that truly innovative stories and productions have migrated over to the world of cable television and outlets like Netflix. Movie studios are in a play-it-safe mode and rarely take a chance on an unproven project.
Second, I think the success of these movies do show a shallowness in many of us. This comes in two forms. One is that movies have always reflected a venue of escapism. We want to shut the world out for two hours in a darkened theatre (or on our sofa) and just enjoy ourselves. There is nothing wrong with that. We all need a break, and probably more than we actually take. However, I think we are getting into a state in America where many people are losing the ability to handle anything that takes deep thinking. Young people grow up with video games, unlimited TV, Facebook, Twitter, etc. and have trouble concentrating or focusing on anything of any substance. Reading anything longer than 140 characters is a struggle for many. I back this up with studies in school showing students struggle with basic skills that we actually took for granted a generation ago – like reading and writing. I often talk here about how reporting on government is broken down in the media to sound bites and philosophical slogans, and too many people do not take the time to figure out what is going on.
I think the big movies bring in their audience for many reasons: action, adventure, attractive stars, and special effects that were unheard of a short time ago. I also think people like the idea of rooting for the hero or heroes of these big scale flicks. Let’s face it: in real life we are lacking any big name hero for people to look up to. We have many heroes in the military, emergency services, churches, our own families, etc. – but there has not been anyone on the national stage in quite a while. There is something that inspires us when we see people overcoming the odds and forging ahead to victory – usually for the common good. Nature abhors a vacuum and many of us have to retreat to the movies to find what we yearn for in real life. Without a real hero or leader in our country, we have to settle for one in a costume or from another galaxy.
July 1, 2014
If you look at what you need government for on a very local level, it is to fix the roads and pick up the garbage. As you work your way up the ladder of an ever-expanding government, the very basic needs are the same on the national scene: fix the roads, reduce garbage to create a national environment to promote economic opportunity for all, and defend the country.
Right now in 2014, our national leaders manage the last part (though it is probably being done with a lot of wasteful spending) but cannot manage doing the first two if their lives depended on it. In practicality, keeping our roads and bridges in shape has a big bearing on the nation’s economic environment.
The truth is that America's roads are running out of money
That is because the Highway Trust Fund, which provides transportation funding to every U.S. state, is at risk of running out of money in August, creating a fiscal cliff for the nation's transportation sector. If the fund is not replenished, states ranging from Vermont to Nebraska will be hit hard, and likely forced to put off road construction and repair projects.
So how did the fund end up in such a crisis? The problem is that the fund is not receiving enough money through gasoline taxes, thanks to more fuel-efficient cars and a dip in how much Americans drive. That has led to a 6 percent decline in gasoline consumption since 2007. Given that it is an election year, the White House and congressional Republicans and Democrats have precluded a tax hike on gasoline in fear of alienating voters. A bipartisan proposal had called for raising federal gasoline and diesel taxes by 12 cents.
On top of hurting construction jobs, the lack of funding will also reduce the overall safety of the nation's roads, said David Goldberg, the communications director for Transportation for America, an advocacy group. "We're falling seriously behind in investing in our infrastructure," Goldberg said. "We are behind just about every other developed nation. We used to lead the world. It does seem like earlier generations built this stuff for us, and we take it as a gift from heaven. We haven't been willing ourselves to invest what we need."
Two things here anger me. One is that I am getting tired and ashamed as an American to find out that we continually are falling behind other nations in basic services. Two weeks ago, I wrote how we are not in the top 10 of health care in the world despite all that is spent in that sector. And here we are spiraling downward with a basic need of today’s world where many of our roads, bridges, airports, and transportation facilities are decidedly below par.
The other thing I am sick about is how election years have become an excuse for not doing anything. American history is populated with politicians who wrestled with major problems and led from the front. Now we have a bunch of representatives with the backbones of jellyfish who seem to think they are in some ancient Greek temple where people argue philosophy. I really believe they have missed the boat on what they are supposed to be doing in Washington. We drive on roads that have more divots in them than a public golf course and cross bridges that are just marginally safer than crossing Niagara Falls on a tight rope. If you land in some of our major airports, you would think you landed in Bulgaria instead of a major metropolitan area of the United States.
I am a fiscal conservative and we spend money in this country on some very questionable things. However, there is a time where you have to stop being penny-wise and dollar-foolish. If we cannot get the government to act responsibly on a very basic need in America, how can we trust them on anything else? I am not downplaying political philosophy or how a person feels in the liberal-conservative spectrum, but it is way past time that we as Americans need to get our head out of our collective asses and realize that we too have to discern between the practical and the ideal. We need to lead the way on telling our representatives what they need to start doing, because they are incapable of doing anything on their own.
June 30, 2014
Every four years we go through the World Cup syndrome. The world has gone soccer mad, and there are countless stories about the USA team’s progress in the tournament and how interest in soccer will now zoom in America after the World Cup is over.
I am not Ann Coulter. I am not using her argument that a growing interest in the sport is a sign of America's "moral decay." (She is really out there sometimes.) Soccer is a legitimate sport. My four kids played it in the local recreation league when they were kids, and my oldest son stuck with it all the way through high school and got to play on a state championship team in his senior year. Their games were fun to go to.
Perhaps that is one of the problems I am having. This could be a game that is a lot more interesting to attend in person. I rarely watch baseball on TV, but it is enjoyable to go to a game – even going to minor league games. Watching soccer on TV is akin to watching Astroturf grow. It gets a little exciting when the action gets near the goal, but that happens for 5 – 10 minutes of the entire game. And can someone explain to me how they keep time in soccer? This must be the only game that has a clock that does not really matter. I understand a match is at least 90 minutes, but then it goes on until a ref decides, “OK, we have had enough – game over.”
Now that the tournament has reached its next stage, I do not understand how you let players run around for 90 minutes and then, after it ends in a tie, you decide the game by a shoot-out. If these games are so damn important, why don’t they just go into overtime until someone wins? Shouldn’t a game be decided by who is the best team rather than by a lucky kick or a fortunate save?
I love sports. I do try to watch a soccer game when the USA is playing. If there was a Tiddly-Wink World Cup, I would be watching and rooting for the American team. It is like the Olympics every four years. International competition is fun to watch and even a casual sports fan is pulling for the home team. Nevertheless, a bunch of us were talking at a graduation party the other week and the general consensus of soccer is that it is boring.
It is funny, but this is another subject where we seem to be asked to jump on the bandwagon with everyone else (in this case, it means the rest of the world.) As I mentioned earlier, whenever we go through the World Cup, there are countless stories in the media about how interest in soccer will skyrocket in America and it will become our national sport like in other countries. So what if that does not happen? Why is there such a clamor in almost every aspect of life where we are made to feel like a sinner if we do not agree with the majority? Major league soccer is growing in America. Great, wonderful…but that does not mean it has to be America’s number one sport because others think it should.
Hey, I hope America wins the whole thing and shuts up the international soccer snobs. That would be on par with the USA hockey team beating the Soviet Union team in the 1980 Olympics. That was a great event, but did not cause a nation-wide interest in the National Hockey League. I respect soccer and its fans. They should do the same for those of us who do not think soccer is God’s gift to the sporting world.