Gravitas… What the heck is Gravitas?

30 03 2008

Gravitas One entry found.

Main Entry: grav·i·tas

Pronunciation: \ˈgra-və-ˌtäs, –ˌtas\

Function: noun

Etymology: Latin

Date: 1869

: high seriousness (as in a person’s bearing or in the treatment of a subject)

From the merriam-webster.com on-line dictionary

 

Gravitas… It’s a term that gets bandied around a lot nowadays, so I thought I’d might need to define it for some folks out there.

 

The world has filled now with politispeak…. Words meant to convey an added sense of seriousness or relevance to what the speaker, usually a politician or one of their surrogates, has to say on a particular subject. Mostly used to speaking in terms of circles or just puffing out so much hot air, a politician’s currency is in getting out the “message” to their constituents. But there usually is more method in their doing so than just keeping us informed. There is ALWAYS the agenda of a coming election, or an upcoming vote, or some project to line up support for. And that more than often means getting up in front of an audience and making the case for something or other.  To accomplish that, they must give the maximum amount of weight to their words.

 

It started as a descriptive term for what they felt there message was: highly serious. Sure it could be bullfrogs or nuclear submarines, what they had to say on the subject was of grave national concern, and we’d best pay attention. They were, after all, doing OUR work, and reflecting our view was most important now weren’t they. Sure they were. There was a good bit of gravitas in what they had to say.

 

The term seemed impressively important… and by inference it made their words important too. Hang a moniker like that on anything and it must add some value. Even if it was mostly a mind game…, but like most mind games, others pick them up and play with them, too. They discovered that they could use the term and make what they say seem all the more relevant by association. It wasn’t, after all, what they often said, but how they said it.

 

It isn’t anything new, hanging big bold words onto what it is we have to say. I’m sure we all know of many terms used over the years for just such occasions. Gravitas is no different… Hegemony comes to mind.

 

Convoluted words or phrases, often redundant dualities, juxtaposed together, and meant to work upon our psyche to confuse knowledge with truth. A truth that is more bureaucratic gobbledygook than constructive instruction about issues at hand. And it seems that from time immemorial politicians have spoke over our heads in order to say a lot while telling us nothing.

 

As John Loe points out in his article “On Good Writing” October 23, 2006, much is said to tell us more about a subject than it really might be, or grandiose flowery terms are used to make something something when in fact it is nothing that isn’t something that we are already know that is what it only is, such as “thermal therapy unit” (an ice bag) or a “disposable mucus recovery unit”, [is]also known as a box of Kleenex.”. And  “ground-mounted confirmatory route markers.”  are only in reality  “road signs.”

 

Also in that article he quotes Martha Nussbaum telling us that kind of ‘prose’: “bullies the reader into granting that, since one cannot figure out what is going on, there must be something significant going on.”

 

He goes on to relate Joyce Kilmer’s non-poem which says – “Poems are made by fools like me/But only God can make a tree.” But Loe points out that today that poem might well read “Versified and rhythmic non-prose verbal arrangements are fashioned by people of alternative intelligence such as myself, but only the divine entity, should he or she actually exist, can create a solar-shielding park structure from low-rise indigenous vegetative material.”

 

But every day is a new day, and it’s silly season again. Just as everything old becomes new again, we’ll soon see some other word or words come into popularity. It’s all just meant to make us feel that they might know what it is they’re talking about, that’s all. Even if often they don’t have a clue.

 

-Al

 

 

 

 





The self serving self service of self servers…,

27 03 2008

…or, can a reporter report on reporters reporting?

It should go without saying, reporters try to accurately portray the news in an unbiased and all aboveboard, all encompassing, viewpoint. Covering news from a vantage point un-obscured by personal views on issues. And most all of them will tell you they do. But, to be honest, they can’t really say that. Your asking the impossible.

To view the reporter, or “journalist” as they tend to liked to be called (even if they’ve never kept a journal in their lives), as someone you can count on to present the news un-encumbered by personal input, is asking someone to forget everything the know, discard everything they discover, tune out all they hear, and just be a parrot. It’s impossible, for in essence, these people are drawn into the profession by a strong sense of valuing the truth. And truth can’t be pushed aside when one attempts to report on the “facts”. How he feels, what he has heard, and what he learns, very much shapes the concept of the truth as he or she sees it. And then he calls it as he sees it. And how he sees it, and how you see it, can be entirely two truths. Truth is in the eye of the beholder. Which is the foundation of “Bias”.

Why a liberal bias? Why is there the consent charge of the media being bias against conservatives? Why are most stories angled from the liberal side to show a biased view of things which are ordinary or as they should be, or somehow being manipulated by “conservative” points of view? Why? Easy. Because liberals view the out of the ordinary as ordinary, and the ordinary as subject to change.

Most people that get into the profession are what you might call ‘explorers’. The tend to want to look at things, study them. Not accept things as how they are, or, as they should be. They see change as a fundamental function of all things. Accepting nothing as “as is” but, as it can, or could, be. ‘Should be’, isn’t even in the equation. Liberal itself means open to change. They love the whirlwind of an everchanging environment. And telling about that change is, well, the job. Liberalism is almost a prerequisite for reporters. And, that too, is why most reporters with ‘conservative’ leanings tend to specialize in ‘areas’. Politics, religion, economics, the law. Mostly mainstream formats with straightforward viewpoints.

Conservatives tend to view things as ‘mainstream’ or regular, or ‘extra-ordinary’ or irregular. Different views, other than the traditional, are typically seen as incorrect, or at least suspect. ‘As is’ is considered right until a change, or new, is proven necessary or correct. And to a conservative, it takes more than mass appeal to prove that a new way is the right way.

History is the commodity of the conservative. They hold it close. Savor it. Honor it. Something to bank on. But to a liberal, history is just a tool, or stepping stone, for change. Conservatives view the liberal openness to change as leaving oneself vulnerable to catastrophe. Conservatives trust what they know. Liberals hope for the best. Reporters like to tell a story. What better story than change. With a little hope on the side for good measure. History in the making. Reporters like to think of themselves as writers of history. They are.

Reporters also like to think of themselves as public servants in a way. As if the press is a forth branch of government. The forth estate. But a forth branch unencumbered by the restriction of the checks and balances applied against the latter three. Demanding the interaction and open access to the rest of government while proclaiming the constitutional given rights necessary to act as a public watchdog. Hovering over and keeping watch for the protection of the public. A public that demands the right to know. A public that demands the truth. An unbiased truth. But does this forth estate deliver? For the most part.

The duty of this watchdog is to discover and report ‘the news’. But what is ‘the news’? By its very nature news is things that change. And what is the duty of congress? Change the status quo. What is the duty of the administration? Enforce that change. What is the duty of the courts? Ensure the legality of that change. So what do we get from the press? Told about that change. And what’s the nature of liberalism? Change. So, what’s a reporters job? Tell us about what’s changed. And if a reporter likes his job he would be more prone to like change. A liberal bias. So why deny it? It’s self serving to be liberal if you’re a journalist.

One of the sad things about news, and incidentally one of the reasons why the news is often viewed as bias, is the view that only the extraordinary is to be considered newsworthy. Something done right, on time, or as planned, isn’t viewed as newsworthy by those powers that be.  Don’t think so? Ask Dr. Bob Arnot.

The Dr. Bob story is a perfect example of the conflict between expectations and change and what is viewed by the press as newsworthy. Arnot, a reporter for, I believe, NBC at the time, was covering the war in Iraq. He issued several reports on schools being built, electrical plants opening, water flowing, and just a lot of positive thing happening over there. Soldiers succeeding in there mission. As I remember very few of his stories were aired, he was called home, his contract not renewed. Why, it was explained by the powers that be, was that he wasn’t covering ‘newsworthy’ events. See, it was further explained, those things which he reported were things that were as they should be. They were things that our soldiers were expected to accomplish. They were expected to build schools, fix the electricity, get the water flowing. And things that are as they should be aren’t considered newsworthy. Therefore, Dr. Bob wasn’t doing his job. We sent our boys (and girls) over there to do good things. That’s their job. The press doesn’t feel that soldiers doing their job is newsworthy. The story is the things that go wrong. So, that’s mostly what you hear. The stuff that’s going or went  wrong. As too, why some view the reporting as biased. It’s the explosion, the mayhem, the catastrophe. That’s the news.

But reporters don’t visualize themselves as anything more than reporters reporting on the things that they feel are reportable, or newsworthy. It can come out of the blue to them that they are considered biased. They see bias as purposed, or with intent. They don’t intend to be one sided in their reporting. It’s a natural byproduct of the profession. So reporters not reporting on good things , while it seems one-sided to someone that expects to hear ‘the good news’, isn’t something that most journalist can see as a valid issue. It’s only when the news might be manipulated does it even begin to register. So when a reporter hears the term bias applied to them, they naturally think of it as akin to being called a liar. They think their honesty is being questioned, when that often isn’t the case at all. They view bias in terms of Dan Rather type issues and the extent of “proof” as it relates to how a story is “reported”. Say a reporter only files stories about one side of a story; take farferumpers for instance. If a reporter only files stories about how farferumpers are bad for your health and harm the environment and exploit’s the third world, but never files stories about how many jobs farferumpers have created and how many hospitals the farferumpers association has built and how farferumpers alone have brought thousands out of poverty, one might see that reporter as biased against farferumpers. Even though that reporter hasn’t filed the first false report on farferumpers. That reporter might hold the view that farferumpers are supposed to create jobs and relieve poverty and of course the farferumpers association would certainly be expected to build hospitals. That farferumpers might just be bad would be unexpected, or different. That un-expectation would be, in the reporters mind, newsworthy.  After all, he hasn’t manipulated the story in any way, has he? Or, has he?

The press in general is felt to be biased against President Bush. Why? The perception of negative reporting. See, the economy is doing great, so you only hear about the few negatives and a whole lot of bad that “might” happen with a “what if”. You hear about a few of the good things that exceeded prediction or expectation, but mostly its reporting about a “looming catastrophe” just waiting to befall us. The President is supposed to increase jobs, stabilize markets, cause economic growth. Non stories. Our soldiers have done wonderful things. Our security here at home has been greatly increased. That’s expected, both non stories. You only hear about the odd catastrophe, or the protest. Both out of the ordinary. So that’s what the general public hears. The negative, the out of the ordinary, the odd catastrophe. The public perception can only come from the information it receives. The public is presented with a general message of negatives concerning President Bush. The press gives us the impression of bias against Bush. Even though the vast majority of those thing we expected this President to do and accomplish have been done, you don’t hear about it. It’s a non story.

There’s an old saying- There’s two sides to every story. Often the perception of bias comes from the weight which side is given in a story. Equality, or inequality. Reporters tend to see change as good, so they naturally lean towards that change, even if that change is bad. That’s why the general public is baffled by some of the reporting that might not be seen as for the public good. Even some that comes across as anti-American. To the journalist it’s viewed as just another story about something unusual, or different. It serves their self interest to give weight to the difference, or change. But when they are criticized for reporting those things, and they themselves become the story, they become defensive. It comes across as having bias. Reporters don’t like reporting on other reporters bias’s. It’s too much like looking in a mirror.   

Al

(reprint)





What might have been…

26 03 2008

  Have you stopped to think what the world would look like if we hadn’t gone into Iraq? Well, let’s take a look at what Iraq and it leader, Saddam Hussein, were up to at the time, because if you want to see the future you need to look at the past.1 – First and foremost, I would guess, should be the Weapons of Mass Destruction issue.  After all, its IS one of the main reasons we went after them in the first place. We knew after the end of the first Gulf War that Iraq possessed and used WMD’s. They openly used those weapons against the Kurds, Shiite’s and others  of those that rose up against it. WE and the world (through the UN) insisted that it disarm and dispose of its WMD’s. We took the possession of WMD’s by Iraq very seriously as they had shown that they had no qualms using those weapons against its enemy’s, as they had used them against Iran in the previous war with them.

    Various pressures and sanctions were placed on Iraq by the Clinton administration in order to get them to stop producing and do away with its stockpile of WMD’s. Finally, after much wrangling with the issue, Iraq agreed to stop its WMD program also dispose of the weapons it already possessed. A UN Inspection Team was formed and sent into Iraq to monitor its progress. This team, while able to observe, inspect and document the dismantling of most of its program, and the destruction of many of the weapons known to exist, was unable to say with any amount of certainty that Iraq had stopped its program 100%, and many of those weapons  known to exist went unaccounted for. Iraq stalled, misdirected, and outright refused access to many of the documents and facilities that the inspection team wanted to see. Iraq chalked many of the missing weapons up to  there destruction not being documented. The monitors where forced to watch as truckloads of whatever were removed from depots and storage facilities before they were allowed in, often to find only empty buildings. The weapons Inspectors felt that Saddam was trying to pull a fast one. Even up until the point of their being withdrawn the UN Inspection Team felt that with more time Weapons of Mass Destruction WOULD and COULD be found.

     One of the key issues about Iraq and WMD’s was their continuing ability to construct them. The leadership and scientists that had worked on those programs were still in place and new weapons could have easily been manufactured. Had we not gone into Iraq, Saddam could have easily expelled the inspectors (as he had in the past) and restarted production unencumbered. And with the terrorist community craving weapons of this type, its perhaps a market that Hussein, with his known support for them, could not have resisted.

     After we invaded many of the scientists that worked on WMD’s were found to have the base ingredients for those weapons stored away at their own homes. These scientist, still loyal to Saddam, could have easily destroyed those elements, but instead chose to keep and conceal them, and one can only speculate as to why and what future purpose.

     It should be noted here that approximately 500 of those missing WMD’s for which the inspection teams searched (those known to exist prior and for which no documentation existed) have been found in Iraq.

     It should also be noted that while Hussien did declare the he had no WMD’s he kept indicating through innuendo and actions that he did possess them. Both the past administration as well as the present were equally adamant in their belief that Iraq still possessed WMD’s. In fact no Western government took issue with the thought that WMD’s existed in Iraq, only the amount of time to be allowed for the search for them.

2 – Second would be Saddam Hussiens outspoken support of terrorist around the world. He gave moral support to the Palestinian Suicide Bombers and monetary support to the families of those bombers. Saddam continued saber rattling and threatening his neighbors. He tried to rally support to become the leader of the Arab world and he openly advocated the overthrow of several of the moderate Governments in that region.  He proved during the First Gulf War that he had no problem attacking a fellow Arab country as he launched several missiles against Saudi Arabia. He also launched missiles against Israel with the hopes that Israel would   retaliate and draw the anti-Israeli states into the conflict against us.

     While Saddam Hussien did not like Osama Bin Ladan and al Quada, nor their form of Islamic fundamentalism, he did make overtures to them in an offer to explore how he may support them. Bin Ladan and al Quada did not support Hussien and rebuffed his overtures, only setting up a few training facilities in Iraq. However, some of the medical facilities in Baghdad are thought to have been used by wounded al Quada fighters from Afghanistan, and this most certainly would have required his approval.

3 – Saddam brutally invaded his neighbor Kuwait in a land grab to gain its oil wealth. Saddam viewed the United States and the west as weak and did not think we would dare retaliate. He thinks of himself as a great strategist, and brilliant leader worthy of a place of leadership in the world politic.

4 – After the First Gulf War, beaten as they were, Saddam proclaimed that Iraq was victorious in its war with the coalition led by us. He would often direct surface to air missiles be fired at aircraft patrolling the no fly zones set up to protect the Kurds in the north and coalition interests and Shiites in the south of Iraq. He also plotted and attempted to have ex-President Bush assassinated  on a trip to the Middle East.

5 – Saddam Hussien rose to power through shrewdness and murder. In his early years he studied and admired Adolph Hitler. He earned his political strips working as a killer and terrorist. After (on the same day) he took power he had virtually any and all of the people that might turn against him killed. He maintained power through a secret police he had formed and a cold blooded iron grip on the population. He placed family and personal friends into positions of power in Iraq and ruled it absolutely as a dictator. He advocated the use of torture and killing in controlling the Iraqi population. He placed his children into positions of power that even included their murdering of those they disliked. One is even said to have had Iraqi Olympic Athletes tortured and killed for their performance. One of them killed his best friend just for fun, its reported. After our invasion torture chambers and rooms designed and used to rape women where found. Saddam showed no favor even to his own family as he had  some of his own children’s spouses killed. The mass killing of his own countrymen was ordered by him. Even young children were not spared in retaliation to those he though opposed him. Mass graves of Iraqi civilians have been found all over Iraq.

     Upon his overthrow, hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of Iraqis rejoiced in the streets and took retribution against Saddam’s Palaces and government institutions in reaction to thier repressed hatred of him. Looting and destroying in an unexpected and shocking outpouring of pent up rage against him and his government.

6 – Animosity , rivalry, and outright hatred between the various sect of Muslims has been brewing in the region for years. Though out the area Shiites, Sunnis, and other  sects have been  vying  for dominance, and a rise in fundamentalism, Wahabbi, and Shuria Islamic ideas has been clashing with the more traditional Islamic leadership and governments in the region. The rise of the Talaban in Afghanistan  along with the growth of al Quada and its radical fundamentalism was a growing threat, not only to the west, but to the stability of the region as a whole. In Iraq, this rivalry had been held somewhat in check by gunpoint, with the minority Sunni allowed to dominate the other sects.  Iran, dominated by Shiites, was a destabilizing force, which while the Shiite population was initially celebratory of our liberation of the, used its considerable influence to turn many against us. Much of the sectarian violence has been stirred by outside influences that are taking advantage of the immaturity of the government there. While overwhelming support for our over-throw of Hussein was shown in the beginning, old and new rivalries vie for control and payback for wrongs both perceived and real. Our attempts at maintaining civil control has been construed by those that opposed us as proof of an attempted domination of the country by us. Al Quada has sought to use the instability there in there terror campaign against the west, bringing many of there fighters to the region, opening another front on our war against them. Nationalistic and sectarian pride has been used by those that wish to control or dominate different regions or parts of the area, or those that seek to create an anti-western atmosphere there.

Strengthening  the new bipartisan government and training a adequate military and police force has been  chosen as the best way to return the country to normalcy and allow democracy to function in the country. An successful democracy with the active participation by the different sects in the region will do much to counter the anti-western views held by many of the Muslims of the region and help bring about better and more normal relations with the west. 

Now, let’s explore what might have been, had we not gone into Iraq.

Sure it’s all speculation, but the continued support for terrorists by Saddam Hussein could also most assuredly be guaranteed. Nothing has happened that would have changed Saddam’s views toward Israel, the United States, and the west. It’s highly probable that Iraq would have become another safe haven for known terrorist groups such as al Quada and the Talaban. Saddam had approached them before, and a safe, protected, training ground and a place for some R&R might not have been so easily rebuffed as the Afghanistan expedition went foreword. Iraq still had business relations with Russia, France, and Germany, and with the Oil for Peace fiasco continuing, Saddam most probably would have kept the resources to fund terrorism around the world.

     Hussien may have seen an opportunity to become aggressive toward Iran or Kuwait again. If not with full intention to invade, just as an aggravation to us as we fight the war against terrorism.

Hussien would have certainly continued using his bully pulpit in rallying uprisings against the moderate Governments of the Middle East.

     Hussien would have certainly continued his support for terrorist activity in Israel, possibly using the latest Israeli/ Lebanon /Hezbollah conflict as pretext to attack Israel hoping to start a war in the whole of the region.

     The front for the fight on terrorism would not be confined to a very few limited geographic areas, but spread throughout the capitals and cities of Europe and America.

     Libya would most probably not have renounced terrorism, given up its WMD program, and approached us to regain normalcy in government relations.

     Above all else, almost certainly Iraq would have started production of WMD’s again. He still had all of his scientist and family in place that had run the program beforehand. He would have been hard pressed resisting his cousins call to at least produce on a limited, covert basis. And an almost certainty, too, would have been the placement of those weapons into the hands of terrorist to attack Israel and, most probably, us here at home. And their use somewhere on the battlefield would, too, almost be guaranteed.

      The anti-western and anti-American sentiment in the region would have continued, with fundamentalism and radicalism spreading unchecked, without any chance of spreading  democracy in the region.

         Almost guaranteed too, Saddam would still be terrorizing his own people. Raping, torturing, and killing those that opposed him, and adding to those 300,000+ in mass graves we found there.

     Bottom line on Iraq is this: Whether he possessed WMD’s at the time of the invasion or not, he had the capability and expertise to easily construct them. Would or could the world trust him not to use them himself, or supply them to terrorist to use against us? We know Saddam wanted to be THE main player on the world stage. We chose not to trust him.

Al

(reprint)





Jeremiah Wright…wrong.

25 03 2008

  “No one should start a ministry with lynching, no one should end their ministry with lynching, …The lynching was national news. The RNN, the Roman News Network, was reporting it and NPR, National Publican Radio had it on the radio. The Jerusalem Post and the Palestine Times all wanted exclusives, they searched out the young ministers, showed up unannounced at their houses, tried to talk with their families, called up their friends, wanted to get a quote on how do you feel about the lynching?” …So now we see that criticism directed towards a minister, who’s own congregant Barrack Obama described as ‘Racially Divisive’, is being defined as a “lynching”. What kind of imagery are we talking about here? We saw what happened in Jena, La. when the black community was confronted with THAT sad reflection of the past… is THIS comment directed at pushing that same kind of hot-button response? Or is it a sad reflection of how such imagery is just something that can be turned on and off at will… more symbolic than actually an affront? Or, perhaps, is it a statement that cheapens those terrible acts of the past… comparing criticism with the taking of a life? But something keeps coming to mind here… some old saying….something about “If you can’t take the heat, stay out of the kitchen.”            

The congregation, describing itself as “unashamedly black and unapologetically Christian.” At least so reads a plaque behind the front desk.   …and it is proof of its unashamedly racist attitude. One could only imagine the firestorm that would rise against a nationally prominent church that displayed a sign saying “unashamedly white…”. -What happened to inclusiveness of Christianity? He didn’t die on the cross for ‘your’ church, or ‘your’ people, no matter who ‘you’ are. It was for ‘you’ AND me that he gave up his life. So WE, all of us, could live.

‘”Dr. Wright represents the best among us … An attack on this man of God is an attack on all those of the cloth who believe in the social Gospel of liberation. And I will not stand for it,” he wrote.’ – Dr. Wright doesn’t represent any social Gospel of liberation… only the gospel of man’s vanity… no turn the other cheek, …no humility, …nothing of God’s own image here. Just hate and lust, for power, for place, and for Earthly reward.

‘Moss issued several pleas to congregants to donate to what he called the “Resurrection Fund,” stressing that during this time of battle, money is needed to defend the church. He offered no additional specifics about the fund, telling churchgoers he didn’t want to get into it because Trinity is streaming the service live on the Web and the services are available for purchase on DVD’ –   But defend the church from what? No need to defend the church if it is of God. The words of hate are man’s words… the words of Jeremiah Wright. They aren’t the Church’s words. God’s Church is a place of peace and reconciliation…not hate. For if hatred was in the heart of God, today…Easter Sunday, the day God gave his greatest gift to his people… ALL people, would not exist. Today shows that hatred has no place in his house. God loves even those that hung His Son upon the cross so much that thru His death, even they, could know life. “Forgive them Father, for they know not what they do…”

Al





FYI – Minimum Wage Increase

24 03 2008

They’re talking about increasing the minimum wage to $7.25 in two years. That’s an increase of over 40%. While nobody doubts that the minimum wage should be a fair wage and at the very least keep up with inflation, we need to remember that it also drives inflation. A 40% increase in the minimum wage would also mean an similar increase in prices. As an example, if your paying $1.29 for a loaf of bread now, that price would go up to approximately $1.82. As prices increase to match wage increases, minimum wage earners, as they always have, find themselves financially no better off (just paying more in taxes). However, people with fixed incomes, such as pensioners, find themselves shortchanged as cost of living increases, where available, seldom keep pace with true inflation. Also, employment levels are negatively impacted while the economy equalizes itself between higher labor costs as less demand due to higher prices. Negatively effected, too, are those that sell in export markets. Foreign made goods would, however, be less expensive. In the end, the poor will stay just as poor as they were before. And those depending on that monthly check all that much poorer (as a 40% increase there will be highly unlikely).

Projected costs @ 40% increase: $2.99 orange juice – $4.19, $19.99 shirt – $27.9    $49.99 toaster oven – $69.99,  $100.00 bag of groceries – $140.00,  $500.00 TV- $700. 1999.00 fridge – $2,798.60, $22,500.00 car – $31,500.00, $165,000. house – $231,000.  2.65 million dollar Ferrari – $3,710,000.00,   a  25 million dollar Hollywood mansion now becomes 35 million. (But remember, if you can afford it now you should be able to afford it then because your wages will go up too. Only the numbers change.)

Perhaps the fairest way to raise the minimum wage would be to automatically tie it to increases in the actual cost of living. Say the wage is $5.15 (as it is), and last years inflation rate was 6%. Then the rate should go up to $5.46. An since wage increases drive inflation as a correction you would have to discount that 6% from any increase to the cost of living the next year. So if inflation the next year was 10% you take away the 6% from it and increase the wage to $5.68 per hour (true cost of living increase). If the cost of living doesn’t go up, are for some reason were to fall, the wage would stay the same. Raising the wage in this way would avoid the shock to the economy that the increases have caused  in the past. It wouldn’t so negatively effect the elderly, fixed income groups either. Extraordinary short term spikes to the economy (such as during wartime, or a embargo such as happened during the nineteen seventies) could be held in check by limited freezes to the automatic increases. And, too, we wouldn’t have to revisit this issue each and every election time.

See, really, costs are based on the X factor. If a company wants to make a profit of X, then whatever the costs are, prices or employees will be adjusted to the level that will allow the company to make X. For the most part supply and demand are factors used in figuring production levels, not prices.

Al

(reprint)





Whatever happened to going to hell.

24 03 2008

Nobody fears going to hell anymore.When I came along, (and the older I get, the more I see why people call the past ‘the good old days’) we were taught right from wrong. At home. At school. At Sunday school. And not only right from wrong, but the fear of Hell. Hellfire and brimstone. “Boy, you keep that up and yer going to Hell for sure!” 

Good over Evil was a very real fight. Law and order. Nice or nasty. It was cut and dried. No excuses. Morality was black and white. Sadly, now days, even that has become  politically incorrect. Morality is now a long gray curve. Open to individual interpretation. Even the golden rule has lost its luster. 

Sometime between my elementary school years and now we slowly decided that we had no right to enforce long held beliefs on our fellow man. We took prayer out of our schools. We took paddles out of our teachers hands. We saddled our police with so many different constraints that its now hands off, or arrest. A stern warning from a cop used to set a situation straight. Now it might just get the policeman sued. Ask a teacher to discipline a student? They’ll be dealing with an irate parent and their lawyer! We built this country spreading law and order and the “fear of God” from coast to coast. We tamed the wild west with Churches and school marms. Didn’t spare the rod, or leather strap. Right was demonstrated, wrong punished. And good triumphed over evil. Now, its don’t ask don’t tell. If it doesn’t effect me, or, I’m not responsible for what others do. It’s none of my concern. It’s a personal choice, and they’re the ones that’ll have to live with it. We didn’t want to get involved. So involved we weren’t.  

Drugs have spread through this country like wildfire. We all know someone who does them. Or sells them. But do we do anything about it? No, none of our business. How many of us turn our backs when we see someone else doing something illegal, like shoplifting for instance. How many of us have no qualms about driving over the speed limit? Or running that yellow light, maybe even a little into the red. Little things add up. We are undergoing constant inoculation to being able to separate what’s right and what’s not. We can’t see a clear line anymore. And for some reason, we no longer think we have the right. 

Heinous crimes have always been committed. But, we accepted as fact that there were good people and bad people. We could better understand back then why someone would or could commit such crimes. It was there upbringing, or family life, or lack of. They were the ones that weren’t taught any better. Or they were clearly mentally ill. You could pin a cause on it. Now we seem to see more and more of the “heinous” types of crime. And we just can’t understand why? “Oh, but he was such a nice man.” or “he was quite and kept to himself. I’d never expected…” But there is an explanation, bad as we hate to admit it. Evil exists. And there is a lack of fear of consequences. 

But you shouldn’t talk about evil. Society tell us now that there is no such thing, only personal levels of right and wrong and a collective judgment of legalities. If it causes harm or oppression, that is wrong. If it harms no one, or at least no one other than whoever is doing whatever, it’s a personal choice. If it make you feel good, or empowers you as a group, or just becomes popular, its right. Morals have nothing to do with society now, for who can be the judge of right and wrong. There is no accepted ‘higher power’ now. An no consequence of an individuals actions if it is deemed harmless. Don’t offend. Don’t step on anyone’s toes. Don’t judge my actions or question my beliefs. And if it feels good, do it. All things are either ‘personal choice’ or a reaction to ‘oppressions’ or things that ‘happened’ in the past. The first is none of your business. The second, ‘they’ are the real reason for it, not ‘me’. Either way, I’m not really to blame.   

A man walked into a school. He allowed himself to be a victim of his life experience and empowered himself to act out a fantasy. He allowed evil to win out in his life. Evil took control. He didn’t want anything other than to destroy good and innocence. It wasn’t glory or sex or control over another. He knew he wouldn’t even survive the day. Somehow he had no concern for the aftermath of his action. Certainly no concern for an afterlife. No fear of Hell. He had a grand plan to commit a heinous act, the rape or molestation and murder of a bunch of little girls. Something almost unspeakable. But in his mind it all ended with a bullet in his brain. His biggest fear wasn’t death, but not being allowed to die. The acts he planned became secondary to death when the police arrived. He was more scared of being caught and what would happen to him here on earth than anything that might come after death. Evil, pure evil. Perhaps that’s why he chose his victims as he did. Young Amish girls. Symbolic of pure innocence. 

It’s been called the victimization of America. The grand excuse. We are all victims of something so the responsibility of our acts can’t entirely rest on our own shoulders. Nope, we’ve got to have an excuse. Someone else to share the blame. Alcoholism, child abuse, being molested as a youth. All real good excuses. Rarely the reason, for everyone has a past chock full of experiences. In my own mind I can assign my being sick in the forth grade, or not making the team, or just not being any good playing the piano as an excuse for my actions. But excuses are all they are. We’ve all experienced tragedy of some form or fashion. The death of a parent, or puppy. We’ve had best friends move away, or failed a test, or took the blame for something we didn’t do. We are all victims. Yes, we’re the victim generation. You’d think the right to an excuse was in the Bill of Rights. And if we keep on as we are, it just might get there. 

When I was young and did wrong, say at school, I may have gotten paddled by the teacher that caught me doing whatever it was I did. I’d get sent on to the principal. After sitting and sweating for a while outside his office I’d get called in and “take my licks” literally. When I got home mom would surly have heard. I’d have to walk that walk out to the hedge around the backyard and get mom a switch. And it had better be a good switch, heaven forbid the walk back if not. And if I tried to blame what I did on another, I’d just be tattling and trying to put my responsibility off on someone else. If they did wrong, I’d be told, they would get their own punishment. As guess what? I wouldn’t do whatever it was I did again. I learned right from wrong. I learned that there were consequences to my actions. I learned that what I did was my responsibility and not someone else’s. 

I had another huge benefit when I grew up. I went to Church. Not only Church, but Sunday school. Church was more, I’d say, expected, back then. Almost everyone went to one church or another. It was the rare exception that didn’t. And there we were taught the meaning behind good and evil. We were taught about Heaven and Hell. And yes we had the fear of God put in us. We were taught the Lord’s prayer and the Ten commandments and about the Golden Rule. But that’s not politically correct now. It infringes on others rights. Fewer and fewer attend Church now. But there IS something to be said for learning the Lords Prayer and forgiving trespasses against us. There’s something to be said for learning the Ten Commandments and how it’s wrong to kill, steal, and lust, and that its right to respect our parents. And that if we would only remember to do unto others as we’d have them do unto us, the world would be such a better place. And that Hell is a very real place, and you don’t want to go there.                    

Al 

(reprint) 





Situational Unawareness

24 03 2008

Somewhere along the line some people seem to have forgotten that the problem isn’t with immigrants coming to America, but with the illegal immigrants that are streaming across our borders. We need the foreign influx of alien workers. They want the work, we’ve got the jobs. Amnesty isn’t the answer. Neither is citizenship.

Contrary to popular belief, these people aren’t coming here taking the jobs that would otherwise go to the American citizen. They’re here filling those jobs that employers have had a hard time filling. They are taking those low paying, unglamorous, physically demanding, entry level positions that otherwise go unfilled. And yes, employers around the country will tell you, they have the jobs available, but they have trouble filling them. They’re jobs that nobody really wants. Nobody except them, because those jobs are so much better then what they left behind.  We just need them to come legally. As temporary documented workers. Then maybe they can take what they learn and earn and go back and fix what and where they left. But if they continue to come as they are we’ll soon run out of those jobs they seek.

I guess you could count it as a sign of our blessing, that they look to us. That they come here to our great country. Our economy is strong and growing. Even with all the fussing and discontent that you read daily our present administration has created perhaps the strongest economy that this country has ever known. Joblessness is at an all time record low. Almost a full percentage point below what is considered full employment. So demand for low skilled, cheap labor is at an all time high. In fact, so many jobs are going unfulfilled that its holding growth back in some industries. Now that’s irony for you, things so good that its bad. And with our super economy we’ve found ourselves with a whole new set of problems, a lot of which stem from what I like to call – situation unawareness.

For years we struggled with employment situations that fluctuated between high unemployment and  relatively low unemployment. We always had a job market that had a fair amount of Americans seeking employment at the lower, entry level positions and we tried to provide and protect those jobs. That need always kept wages on the low/stable side, and in good times provided for rapid wage growth as workers became experienced and moved up the employment ladder. We viewed foreigners coming here as taking “our” jobs. And in some instances they were. There were only so many entry level positions available, and in a weak economy only the worst jobs, such a  farm laborer and unskilled construction work, went unfilled by an eager American workforce. But as the economy “globalized”,  the job market changed, which has caused areas of the country to see great change in the types and skill level of available jobs. Certain areas have suffered as jobs went oversees and  market vacuums occurred. People have had to relocate or retrain to obtain work. But at the same time many unskilled, entry level jobs went unfilled.

We may moan and groan about jobs going overseas, but  that’s what we’ve been asking for all the time. We moaned and groaned about foreign aid and all our tax dollars going overseas, asking why those countries didn’t create jobs and provide for there own. Now they are. We wanted them to become producers and better themselves and they have. We got what we asked for. We are consumers as well as producers after all. And they can’t buy our products unless they’re making money to spend.  That is, unless you want to go back to just sending them the money for nothing like before.

Those jobs that are going overseas are good, honest, upfront jobs. We’ve always opposed all those “sweatshops” that we were always hearing about. We didn’t like seeing  women and children  working long hours for low wages, and we threatened boycotts against companies that sold their products and such.  We held our heads high and thought that we were doing them and the world a favor opposing them. But we were situationally unaware that the alternative was no job at all. Women and children starving. And yes we’ve seen those pictures too. Kids crawling around a garbage dump looking for scraps to eat. Scraps to sell. Scraps to put together a home out of. Remember those ads “for just a few cents a day…” Those overseas jobs we moan and groan about now are helping to replace those sweatshops we so despise . And those jobs are allowing those people to fix their own problems. They give dignity to people that desperately desire it. Giving them a reason to stay home. And that is a good thing.

People still flock here because this is where its at. They come because of that light of Miss Liberties, shining out still unto the would. America is still the greatest place on Earth, even though we may moan and groan. America means hope for to vast numbers of people around the world. And we’ll always need someone to pick that pea, plant that tree, or dig that hole. And that’s a good thing, too.

Al

(reprint)