Thursday, August 29, 2013

Words: The Meaning Or Interpretation

There seems to be no end to learning how to be "politically correct".  Now we must be careful to use the term bi-racial.  In the world in which I live, there just are not that many pure black people.  Most African Americans appear bi-racial.  Yet, "pissy" as it makes me feel to have to readjust again at age 75, I definitely feel a good deal of pressure to make the change.  I must exert the effort to refer to all lighter skinned dark people as bi-racial.  Certainly our President deserves the maximum level of respect we can offer.  Then, who wouldn't want to please someone that looks like and/or seems as nice as Lenny Kravitz.

Mr. Kravitz made a short, but significant, statement on a talk show recently.  He quoted a conversation he had with his mother concerning his heritage.  As best as I can paraphrase, she told him that he was half black and half white, not more one than the other.  But she told him that the world would see him as only one race, the one dictated by the color of his skin. 

Let's begin with a review of some of the appropriate terms.  When I became aware of racial differences, dark skinned people were called negroes.  One elegant authority figure in my life --
from the south -- pronounced it negra.  She meant no disrespect.  Then we were expected to switch to black.  At some point it was common to hear Afro-American, though some people both deny this and take offence.  Then we switched to African American, even though many of the dark-skinned people came from islands not related to Africa.  Now we are to say bi-racial where appropriate, which is about all the time. 

I'm reminded of all the changes required by Native Americans.  I wonder why I see that as somewhat irritating, as well.  The few drops of American Indian blood flowing in my veins by this generation must not be enough to spark my ire.  Neither did I get upset when a new acquaintance asked about my ancestry.  He couldn't wait to tell me my Irish ancestors floated across the ocean on their own scum. Yes, we were both supposedly adults.

Now, let's look at the word negro.  Webster's Spanish-English Dictionary defined negro and negra as an adjective that means black; dark, negro.  Okay, it describes the color of one's skin.  You should see the white boys that live across the street from me.  They mow lawns for a living every summer.  Their skin color changes to almost pure black.  What do you think may have caused humans in hot, sunny climates to have dark skin?  Generation after generation of exposure to the sun?  Another adaptation to an environment?  I actually heard a television show in the fifties proposing just such a theory.  I suggest you all be proud, not ashamed, of your skin color.  White people certainly spend a lot of time on beaches trying to achieve a darker look.

Personally, I like the Existential philosophy about "labels".  Words are just words.  The problem is how we interpret the words.  If we are super-sensitive to everything, words will hurt us worse.  I know about super-sensitive people.  I tend to be one myself.  I also know to keep it reined in constantly.  If I run around with a chip on my shoulder all the time, someone is liable to knock it off.

And now for the grand finale!  Genetic studies seem to indicate that the most recent common ancestor of all humans was African. See DNA by James D. Watson.  Think of all the progress made since that great American dreamed that we would judge his children by their character, not their skin color.  Then be proud and love yourselves.  I suspect that will be the time when words become just words.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Roll Up Your Sleeves

This evening on the local news, Congressman Emanuel Cleaver was working with local charities who are trying to deal with Sequestration. 

One lady, trying to help unwed mothers, said that when Sequestration began in March, her charity lost six beds.  That's six beds where teenage mothers could be sleeping.  That's six or more babies that would be getting a good hand up (or we might say out) into this world. 

It's hard to understand the true goals of conservative politicians these days.  On the one hand they encourage -- actually want to control by new laws -- pregnant women to carry their babies to full term.  On the other hand, they don't want to pay anything to help see that they are able to do so. 

Let's hope when these congressmen get through vacationing this summer, that they will get back to the drawing board.  Let's hope they roll up their sleeves and work out some useable plans that will trim waste without abandoning good sense.

Some days these people remind me of a family that heeds the recommendation of some rich financial guru and cuts up all their credit cards.  They plunk every dollar they get their hands on paying off their debts. Then when their children get sick, they have no way to pay a doctor or buy medicine.  Where's the good sense in austerity for the sake of austerity?  People need to think about what they are doing.  And we need to tell our congressmen that we expect them to do the jobs we sent them there to do, not drive the country into the ground with ridiculous cuts.

And, may the good Lord grant that they will quit playing politics with our country's future.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

The Shadiest Ones Around

I was going to quit working as a School Psychologist in a particular district.  I didn't know if I'd find another school psychology job in the same state and was in a dilemma about what to do with my retirement funds.  So, I asked the Almighty.  I sensed I received an answer, but it was so unusual I found it hard to believe it really came from above.  "Should I take out my retirement funds when the required year of waiting is up, or should I leave them invested?"  The answer I discerned was that I had might as well take them out because the fund would be bankrupt in about three years.  I shared the information with the psychologist next to me.  He believed the only way that would happen would be if the whole country went bankrupt.

At the end of the year, I had decided to move to another state, so took out my funds.  I was gone about nine months at which time I missed family and friends so much I returned.  I had hardly gotten back before my bank and several others owned by the same group went "belly up".  My own funds, far less than $100,000, were protected, so my checking account barely felt the changeover.  However, the same group owned the banks where the retirement on my current job, as well as the retirement accounts for the teacher retirement funds, were both stashed.

The corporation that handled the bankruptcy procedures issued me several shares of stock, some common and some preferred, on the current account.  That made the mess look a whole lot better, right?  Except that a few months down the road, they offered me $15 to $16 for all of them.  Non negotiable.  Accept the offer or eat the loss.  Later, the same company -- handling the teachers' fund by now -- paid me $19 from the general slush fund.  This was more than I had been offered for a retirement account on an active job.

The reason given for the demise of the banks and my funds was bad real estate investments.  When I mentioned this to a relative, he said that it was more than bad investments -- fraud was involved.  Since I was working two jobs at the time, I didn't hear more about it.

Years down the line, I went to work for a catalog order company.  About two years into the job, rumors began that we would be offered an IRA or 401K plan.  The finalized plan offered to match 25 per cent of what we invested.

There were a lot of bitter feelings held by long-term employees at this workplace.  The owner apparently thought it was acceptable, if not downright cute, to be a shady individual.  At one time he had business cards printed with "The Shadiest Man In Town" under his name.  His employees found this extremely offensive.

When the business got into financial difficulty, he began passing some bad paychecks each payday.  He avoided dealing with annual raises by circulating notices that in lieu of raises, he would be paying fifty per cent matching on our retirement accounts.

At the same time he was passing bad paychecks, he was paying his wife $15,000 per week for running a spinoff company.  They were separated and divorcing.  He was buying an ocean worthy yacht for himself and a house for her.  Yep, he was preparing to file for bankruptcy.

When we received our quarterly report on our retirement funds that October, my personal deposit showed only the amount of funds I had paid into it.  Worse, those funds had been divided between the column of my investment and the column the employer had supposedly invested.  I told colleagues to check their reports.  I called the insurance company.  They were clueless.  In effect, they had been asleep at the wheel and not even noticed he had failed to send his matching.  He had not even notified them he had increased the proposed amount of the matching.  Why should he?  He hadn't intended to turn it over anyway.  A check had been drawn in the correct amount, but he had refused to deliver it.

The company president, fearful for her own culpability, consulted a lawyer.  She was told to tell the owner to turn over the funds or she would quit.  He turned them over.  We got our correct amount and it was deposited in the correct columns.  Those who were not fully vested would not be losing any of their own money.

Within the month, the owners had made the decision to close the company.  Remember the spinoff company?  In a sudden change of behavior, those employees were offered medical insurance.  When an illness circulated through the building, grateful employees consulted doctors.  You guessed it!  The shadiest man in town hadn't been submitting the health insurance premiums either.

This kind of behavior is as rampant as a viral infection.  You've heard of Enron.  You know about Maadoff.  Recently a city filed for bankruptcy leaving the retirement of public servants in jeopardy.  There have been a lot of other such situations over many, many years.  It can happen in small or large settings.  The amoral custodians of people's futures think nothing of stealing their funds.  And now that element of people appears to be influencing the insurance programs (Social Security and Medicare) of millions of retirees.  Somebody with good morals needs to see these individuals are not allowed to continue to behave in this manner.  Perhaps they need to learn that being sly and cunning is not the same as being intelligent.  They also could benefit from learning that criminal behavior is criminal, not cute.

It's time for us as voters to look more carefully at the moral fiber of the individuals we elect.  Graft and cronyism are supposed to be things of the past.  We need to make sure they stay in the past.  And our media hawks should not permit it.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Dissension In The Ranks

Somewhere in the throes of earning my credits in psychology, we studied different ways people relate to others.  Some have such strong will to please (a driver) that they keep trying to accommodate all sides.  Others have strong internal controls and are considered self-motivated.

Can you imagine what it would be like to be a leader in this day and age?  A President with a need to please would definitely be left out in the cold.  How would he or she figure out decisions?  The conservatives today operate from the far, far right and liberals are criticized for being too far left.  Whatever happened to moderation?  Just as in the case of Mitt Romney, a moderate has to change his colors to get the nomination of a conservative party.  A too liberal Democratic party would have to be appeased as well.

Most grownups have known for years that one has to have a really stiff spine to be a leader in this country.  How would someone cope today with world expectations that our country should step in and fight their wars for them? At the same time that we are being called to assist, demonstrators in the streets of the Middle East are telling Americans that they hate us.  Mothers and Grandmothers are crying out for our children's lives and limbs and minds to be spared.  Congress is dealing with gut wrenching deficits which could be eased a lot by having far fewer wars and obligations to other countries.  On top of that, terrorists are fighting a type of war we are only beginning to understand.  This is a war which is unlikely to be won by troop surges and tanks.  Thumbs up to drone usage, however. 

Enter military man after military man telling television audiences what we should be doing in Iraq, Iran, Israel, Syria, on and on and on.  Don't they teach military militants the steps that President Harry Truman took when faced with a similar situation?  Such steps are available today, are they not?

And then there are the Congressional dissidents -- the hawks -- who want to cut all spending except their own incomes plus benefits and military buildup.  Smart move, Mr. President, sending a couple of those dissidents over there to scope out the situation.  Smart move!

I, once again, refer to Ron Paul's debate statement that our country cannot police the whole world.  If other countries are going to start internal conflicts, they need to be prepared to fight the battles themselves.  We are too tired, too broke, too in need of healing.  And besides, when the battle is done, we are going to have to coexist with whatever side wins.

To politicians and military personnel alike, I say, it would seem to be a Martha Stewart Good Thing if you would coalesce behind your Commander-in-Chief and present a somewhat united front to the world.  No wonder terrorists keep sniping at us here and there.  The dissidence is showing as a sign of weakness to the world.

No President, or Congressman, or individual can please everyone and some of us need to stop trying to do so.

One thing I will say about President George W. Bush, is that one hundred per cent wrong though he may have been, he did know how to make a decision and stick to it.  He didn't let anyone, not even the United Nations, throw him off course.

And while I have brought up the topic of our debt and other countries, perhaps we could take a temporary hiatus from pouring our limited funds into foreign coffers.  Just do the math.  It would take X number of years to eliminate our debt by asking other countries to get along without our help while we step back from the brink of bankruptcy.  Couldn't hurt to give it some thought.  It would also give the powers behind the scene something to do besides being disruptive.  Your call.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Chicken-Fried Attitudes

"Right now Americans want a kind of chicken-fried, good-old-boy fascist government that's safe for business and the wealthy and dangerous to women and children . . .".  Garth Frederickson, brother of Mongo, characters in Dream of a Falling Angel by George C. Chesbro, copyright, 1996.

When stated this way, what a scary thought!  But, leaving out the word fascist, it isn't all that unlike what we have today.  Our conservative congressmen are behaving like members of a good-old-boy cult.

Chicken-fried is somewhat descriptive of the southern influence.  That's sure alive, well and going strong, isn't it?

Fascist, I believe is probably too harsh.  Granted, we have an element of militants who behave like fascists, but the bulk of the country does not.  Does it?

The powers that be are trying to make a nation that's safe for business and the wealthy, and if we had a Republican Senate and Administration in addition to a Republican House of Representatives, the lower 99 per cent of us would already be toast.  We're certainly too close to the burning coils now.

You have heard the cries of wrath from women over the way Congress is treating their needs.  And, of course, there are continual threats to cut funding for children's education as well as the trend for them to send the schooling of our flocks back down to the less competent at local levels.

We've made more progress on racism than on respect for women.  I'd like to, with no disrespect meant to our current President, point out that the American public, from votes in the primaries, showed themselves more willing to support an African American male for President than, God forbid, a woman of any race.

Then, the very likeable little Pope Francis, in his eighty minute meet with the press, accepted homosexual priests and church members into the church fold by inquiring who was he to judge.  But when questioned about women in the priesthood, said no, the church had spoken.  Well, most of us thought the church had spoken about homosexuality, also, but he changed that in a heartbeat.

So, as stated, it seems ladies and gentlemen, that we have "come a long way baby" on racism and homosexuality.  But we still have tall mountains to climb concerning women and their children.  I wonder if some day we might have an African American woman president.  That would be the day, wouldn't it?