Category Archives: Philosophy

Thank You, Jesus

I always try to be grateful for all of the blessings that I and my family enjoy. A few months ago, a visiting priest took it to the next level. After his homily about the three scriptural readings, he told everybody to stand up.

“Okay everybody, say ‘Thank you, Jesus,'” he instructed. Which, of course, was followed by a mass muttering from the congregation.

“”Let’s try that again,” he challenged, “Thank you, Jesus!” This time, since people had a better idea as to what to expect, the response was louder and more in synch.

“You know,” he continued, “saying that only takes about a second and a half to two seconds. I know, because I timed it. I keep a stopwatch by my chair for timing commercials, and I decided to time that. One and a half to two seconds.”

Since then, I have found myself thanking Jesus on a fairly regular basis and it seems natural. I am thankful for all my blessings.

However, the other day I thought about a few more things. Blessings are the antithesis of sin, but there are some common traits. For example, with sin, we speak of sins of commission (I stole that candy bar) and sins of omission (I didn’t treat that homeless person with respect).

I believe the same is true of blessings. There are blessings of commission (Thank you God for letting me pass that Trigonometry test), but there are also blessings of omission. We won’t know about these in this life–if ever. There are disasters we never faced and never knew that we almost faced them. There are temptations we would have succumbed to, but we were kept from being aware of them. There are diseases and heartbreak that we never had to face. God shields us from many things and we don’t even realize it.

Thank you, Jesus.

The Good Old Days

When we speak about the good old days, many times we have a beautifully airbrushed (that was Photoshop’s precursor) view of things. Mom baked cookies and Dad was at work all day and read the newspaper in the evening. Life was wonderful, at least in our memories.

There might be a grain of truth to that memory. In my childhood, we got the newspaper in the evening. My parents watched the 6:00 PM news (15 minutes national and 15 minutes local, interrupted by commercials). Some of it was fairly shocking, such as the body counts of US Soldiers in Vietnam, right before the basketball scores. However, no matter how painful, it was over quickly.

Today, we have the news all day long–24/7/365. It’s no more horrible, but it’s in your face, all the time.

IN

YOUR

FACE

ALL

THE

TIME.

I know the song says that “these are the good old days,” but that was written before cable news came along.

I’m trying to ration myself to a modicum of news. And just to be a prick, I’m eliminating all the commercials.

Accouintinks, Worse Than Eckonomix

I know I’ve quoted this old saying before, but it bears repeating:

  • If marketing runs a company, it will go bankrupt, but emerge from Chapter 11 and become profitable.
  • If accounting runs a company, it will remain solvent until the last stick of furniture is sold and the doors locked.

We currently are reaping the benefits of accounting-driven management. Actually we’re not reaping the benefits, as much as we’re feeling the pain.

Since about 2010, American businesses have been cheaping out. I’d bet we’ve all seen at least one of the following:

  • Moving manufacturing from one third-world country to another to save five cents per hundred thousand products. (Trivia fact – Did you know that American companies once had manufacturing facilities in America and these employed American workers?)
  • Maintaining low wages since the workers don’t have other obvious choices.
  • Laying workers off when business slows down.
  • Keeping the minimum wage at the absolute minimum.
  • Fighting the formation of labor unions.
  • Coming up with bold new buzzwords to recycle the same old pap. For example, Kanban was a Japanese practice to offset lack of capital and limited space. In theory, the pieces-parts needed to build a practice arrive just as they are needed. Today we call this the Global Supply Chain.

So where are we today after saving all that money? American workers are finding better jobs or better paying jobs and not returning to their old employer. Whether the minimum wage has been changed by Congress, the economics law of “what the market will bear” has affected it. The offshore manufacturing is inexpensive for a reason. Perhaps the location is prone to devastating storms like typhoons. Perhaps it relies on dirt roads that turn to mud in certain seasons. In any case, the products have not made it here, and may not for a while.

And then there’s that wondrous Global Supply Chain. Ships get bottlenecked due to the Evergiven and the Maersk Emerald getting stuck in the Suez Canal. Many ships are anchored offshore waiting for a location to offload their cargo. Container ships are great, except that you cannot unload them except where the equipment is available–which means major ports.

And the accountants responsible for this? They took their bonus checks and put them in secret bank accounts in the Caymans or South Dakota. They don’t care that the one toy your child wants will be bobbing around until March.

And last, but by far not least, as President Biden pointed out today, the supply chain is now in private hands. The US Post Office, which was once a major player, is now Louis DeJoy’s private and personal Monopoly game. Guess what? We lost.

Eckonomix

I do not own a working crystal ball. As far as I can tell, no one else does either. This includes economists—maybe especially economists.

In the absence of crystal balls, the belief is that if someone puts enough complicated equations and graphs on a PowerPoint presentation, whatever they say must be correct.

Therefore, to declare my bona fides, here is a complicated equation:

Text

Description automatically generated with medium confidence

I’m more than a little skeptical of the science art craft trade of economics. When I was in college, economics was a required course for my bachelor’s degree. Later—about ten years later—when I was studying for my master’s degree it was also required. I found that what I had learned before was of no use because many of the theories from my undergraduate days had changed 180 degrees.

If you do a web search for statistics about the accuracy of economic forecasts, don’t expect too much. Most of the sources are not current, many dating back decades. However, no source comes out and claims that economists predict the future with great accuracy. Instead, the general gist among the experts is that economic forecasts are not very accurate.

Why?

First, let’s give the economists a break. Any prediction about the future is a guess. In the very best of cases, it is an educated guess. Even with computers, it’s a guess. However, people place great credence on such expert guesses. For example, in September 2021, jobs increased by 194,000. Apparently, this was only about 75 percent of the growth guessed, so news readers were wringing their hands in anguish.

[A moment for a brief aside. Newsreaders all wear makeup so they look good on television. There are very high intensity studio lights, so the newsreaders sweat. During commercials they use rolls of toilet paper as blotters. Are you putting too much trust in someone who blots their face with Charmin?]

From what I’ve heard, the 194,000 new jobs were 75 percent of the economists’ guesses.

Three thoughts:

  1. We added jobs to the economy. Adding jobs is good.
  2. As I wrote earlier, after every plague, pandemic, or other event that suddenly reduces the number of workers, the gap between the wealthy and the middle classes narrows just a bit. This has been the case, time after time, for centuries. Workers can be choosier as to which job to take—and historically, this has held true even without government unemployment benefits.
  3. IF, and I emphasize IF the number of jobs was ~75 percent of the experts guesses, that fits closely to the Pareto curve, which states that it takes 20 percent of the resources to accomplish 80 percent of the results. It then takes 80 percent of the resources to achieve the final 20 percent of the results.

All things considered, the current job growth indicates that we’re headed in the right direction, and based on history, we are most likely to see some adjustment in the pay of the middle class.

So, if you’re among the uber elite—you may have to wait an extra month or two to purchase your fourth 500-foot custom-built yacht.

Sorry about that.

Through Rain and Sleet, We Cheap Out

The Fiscal Times. com

It’s rare to see a politician of any type—from the local dogcatcher to the Grand Imperial Poobah of Lacksandistan—be honest about anything.

  • They claim to be a faithful spouse. Sure, except for the occasional one-night stands.
  • They claim to be religiously pure. Sure, except for the occasional one-night stands.
  • They claim to be – – – never mind, you get the picture.

But there is one political figure who has promised and delivered—US Postmaster General Louis Dejoy. Dejoy’s education is in accounting and he is a CPA. Naturally, with that background, his experience is in working for a logistics company. This is much like having a degree in music and being the head of solid organ transplants at a major teaching hospital.

[If you need a moment to think about that, go ahead.]

His first employer was bought out. Oddly, he ended up as chief executive officer for the buyer. It’s a common affliction with accountants.

His main skill, though, was raising money for the Republican party, which had NOTHING to do with his appointment to the post first occupied by Benjamin Franklin. NOTHING!

Good old Louis promised to slow down the mail service and increase prices. He’s halfway there. My mail used to arrive at about 1:00 PM. Now it arrives at about 7:30 PM and half of the mail I send with the correct address and correct postage is returned 30 days or more after I mail it.

The price increases come next. MY advice? Buy a ton of “Forever” stamps as quickly as you can.

A Place, A Long Time Ago

Once upon a time, on a continent in the Northern Hemisphere between Europe and Asia was a strange and wonderful country. It didn’t start out as a country, but instead had been colonized by many of the powerful nations of Europe—Spain, Portugal, France, Holland, and Great Britain. The ownership of these colonies changed hands. Sometimes this was by virtue of sale or trade, but frequently by war. The winners gradually forced everyone else to adopt their language and customs. This is far more effective than it sounds. Someone who doesn’t speak the preferred language will have a difficult time conducting business as simple as purchasing food or a place to live.

The continent was called “North America”—a name devoid of any imagination or interest.

The original occupants of the continent were deemed a nuisance.  Some were eliminated by biological warfare, being given blankets that carried diseases such as smallpox. Some were outright slaughtered while others were repeatedly forced off their land. Their children were not permitted to practice their traditional ceremonies or dress as their parents had.

Based on the infighting and removal of indigenous people, you might expect that this continent was very small but it was, in fact, large. It covers over 16 percent of Earth’s land mass and has four time zones. With one ocean to the east and another to the west, it enjoyed some degree of protection from invasion.

The continent was rich in resources and its people did well financially, although in the process they nearly destroyed the land. However, the opportunity for material success attracted peoples from all over the world. For a few years, the people on the continent claimed to be a melting pot of people from all cultures, but this was not universally practiced. At various times, Italians, Irish, Chinese, and Hispanics, were seen as undesirables and shunned. Africans (who were brought in as slaves) were marginalized longer than any other group.

Becoming accepted by the rest of the population was not easy. The people of a nearby island called Puerto Rico were viewed as outsiders, even though they were actually citizens of the largest nation on the North American continent.

Over time, there were various efforts to make the people more homogenous. Homogenization is the process used in the dairy industry to keep the cream from rising to the top. In the same way that it makes most of the milk similar (average) it often does the same with people.

One of the most effective methods was through social media. In fact, it may have been too successful. Via the internet, people were taught how they should look, how they should talk, and what they should think. Given that so much social media content was filtered or Photo Shopped, no real person could ever measure up to the images they saw. Internet influencers were able to take things a step further—now, everybody perceived themselves as below average, including those driven to suicide.

Various other practices ultimately homogenized the population until there were virtually no differences from one person to another. Conversations devolved until it died out since everybody thought the same. People from the other nations found the people so boring that no one wanted to have anything to do with them.

There may still be people in North America. Nobody knows, nobody cares, and nobody is interested in finding out.

Fly By?

Russian fighters, bombers intercepted off Alaska for 2nd ...

It used to be an occasional event, but now it’s more common.

Russian bomber escorted by US Fighters
Chinese aircraft fly within Taiwan Air Defense Identification Zone.

No big deal, right?

Well yes and no.

The pilots involved tend to be very professional in dealing with each other, at least in most cases. Of course, there are always a few pilots–from any country–who watched Top Gun a few too many times and act flamboyantly (Hey, what pilot DOESN’T imagine themselves as Tom (or Theresa) Cruise?

In any case, their bosses may have different intentions.

If I’m a leader of your enemy country and I want to know how you’d react to an attack, here’s what I’d do. I’d fly a little too close, by accident (of course) to see which of your defenses lit up. Oops! Sorry! My pilots would be instructed to smile and wave before they flew off.

No harm, no foul, right?

What? Sorry, I need to finish dictating my notes before I land back home.

Dasvidaniya! or 再见, as the case may be.

Q & A?

The story can now be told, although I’m absolutely certain you will not believe a single word of it.

It all started innocently enough at a pizza joint—pizza parlor makes it sound like the pizza died, so we’ll call it a pizza joint. I won’t reveal actual names, so let’s just say it was “Al”, “Bob”, “Charlie”, and me. When I walked in, Charlie was already sitting at our regular table nursing a beer. I could tell he’d been there a while sine there were almost no bubbles in the beer and the glass did not show any condensation.

“What’s new, Charlie?” I asked.

“Nothing. Absolutely nothing and I’m bored out of my mind!”

“Sometimes boredom is good,” I offered. “In most cases of boredom, there is very little bloodshed.” Charlie just grunted. He looked up and I turned to see Bob and Al coming in the door. The usual insincere pleasantries were exchanged, and they ordered a pitcher of beer while I ordered a glass of merlot. I had discovered long ago that by ordering wine, it was easier to figure out the tab at the end of the night without paying for everyone else’s drinks. For some reason, at the end of the meal and a couple of pitchers of beer, brains do get confused.

We decided to order a Chicago style deep dish pizza. I knew that even with the four of us, there would be enough leftover to take to work for lunch tomorrow.

“When was the last time you really had fun?” asked Al. “I mean really, really fun?” We all looked at one another. We all had our share of pleasant memories, but real fun was somewhat more difficult. Bob snapped his fingers.

“Back in high school when we convinced everybody that there was an exchange student in our grade. No one ever saw him, but his homework was turned in on time and at least a B+ grade. We even managed to get an extra copy of tests and slide them into the stack. People talked about how smart he was and some even claimed to be good friends who spent a lot of time with him.”

“My best friend in high school was the guy that wasn’t there,” I added. “People can sure be gullible.”

“Especially,” Bob interjected, “if you package it right.” Everybody laughed.

“I wonder,” I began, “In this world of computers, with surveillance cameras everywhere, if we could do that again.” I immediately regretted it when I saw their facial expressions.

“Are you kidding?” asked Charlie. “With social media where nobody has to give their real name, I believe we could do it.”

“What kind of outrageous fables could we convince people were true?” Al asked, excitedly. Bob leaned in and gestured for the rest of us to do so conspiratorially.

“I hear, and it’s just a rumor, but I hear that they sell children from the basement of this very pizza place,” Bob whispered.

“There’s just one problem,” I whispered back, “There’s no basement here.”

“Even better,” added Charlie. “If anyone goes looking for a basement, they won’t find it. How much more proof do you need to convince people that there is a conspiracy?”

Al jumped in, “But who are we going to say is providing us with all this information?”

“Well, they would never use their real name—no one on the internet does. But it can’t just be anonymous,” Bob replied.

“What about a single letter?”

“Like what?”

“Who was that guy on Star Trek?” I asked. “The one who caused all the mischief?”

“Mister Mxyzptlk?” Charlie ventured.

“No, he was in Superman comics. Star Trek had ‘Q’. Q was his name, the name of each creature like him, and Q referred to all of them together.”

“A conspiracy that has ties to Star Trek,” Bob said. “I like it. But what would those who followed our internet persona call themselves? The ‘Q Fanclub’ is lame. Really lame.”

“Well,” Al offered, “Q is mysterious, but his followers would want to be anonymous.”

“Q Anonymous?” I challenged. “That sounds like some 12 step program held in a church basement.”

“Why not ‘Q-Anon’?” Charlie said. We all just looked at one another. We knew it was perfect.

Charlie’s wife walked in and came over to us with a puzzled expression.

“Okay, guys, you’re up to something. What is it?”

“Oh, nothing,” Charlie replied.

“We’re just going to take . . . .” Bob started to say.

“Save the world,” I corrected him. “Save the world.”

THE Interview

I found myself in a large waiting room – the kind you used to see at train stations. Every chair was filled and people were chatting with those seated around them. Not knowing what else to do, I sat and tried to listen in on some of the conversations. I found it was easy to do so and was surprised with how clearly I could differentiate one conversation from another. Although I did not move, it was like I could let my hearing move around on its own. I tried to find the more interesting conversations to listening in on.

One man in a tailored suit was lecturing his neighbor, who paid rapt attention.

“I always made my quarterly sales quotas so I would get my bonus. Of course some of the sales were smoke and mirrors and others would fall through a few days after the end of the quarter. Whatever it took, though, I got my bonus!”

“Didn’t your boss mind?” his neighbor asked.

“Of course not,” the first replied. “That way he got his bonus too. In fact . . . .”

I decided to search around for another conversation that was more interesting.

“I slept with every pretty girl from high school on. In fact some of the girls I’ve slept with most recently are actually still in high school.”

“Did you ever get married?”

“Are you kidding, I had six wives–all with ironclad prenuptial agreements and another dozen or so who thought we were married, but we actually weren’t.”

I started to listen in on another group.

“All-in-all,” said a female voice, “I collected about a dozen engagement rings, six or seven expensive cars, and my best catch was Bobby. Actually, I couldn’t stand him, but that wasn’t a real problem. I pulled out all my tricks on the wedding night. When I woke up, he was even colder than normal but had an enormous smile on his face. I, on the other hand had a sixteen bedroom mansion, a villa in Italy, two Mercedez, a Porche, and a couple of Mazzaratis. Oh, and then there was that multi-million dollar life insurance policy naming me as sole beneficiary.

“At the funeral, the heavy black veil was not so much for mourning as it was to keep my expression hidden. However, my hysterical sobbing was Oscar material!”

I switched my hearing again and listened to politicians explain how they had acquired power and then how they had used it.

I heard religious fanatics explain how churches, as tax-free organizations were the only way to go.

It was hard to listen to them.

I did not envy them. Financially I was reasonably well off. I could meet my bills, had a decent home for the wife and I and could help the kids out a little if they hit a financial bump. My wife and I contributed to charities, although we had to throttle that back when I retired.

But, the people here were the true 0.1% at the top. I tried to turn my thoughts inward. Had I pissed away my opportunities in the past? Had I done wrong by my family? A million doubts ran through my brain.

Just then, I heard my name called. I looked around and saw that one of a number of door was open and an old man was standing there. I mean really old. I mean Keith Richards looked like a teenager in comparison. He waved me over. As I walked up to him, he gestured for me to sit in a chair. Instead of sitting behind the desk, he sat on a chair that faced mine with nothing between us.

“Uh, Sir,” I began, “If this is a job interview, I can save you a lot of time. I’ve heard the others in the waiting room, and they are all the picture of success. I’m just a regular guy.”

He repeated, “Regular guy” under his breath as he made a note on a pad of paper. He looked at me. I didn’t know what to say.

“So tell me about yourself,” he encouraged.

“Not much to say,” I replied. “I try to do what is expected of me. I try to be honest. I try to do right by my family. When I screw up, I feel terrible and if I can apologize, I do.”

“You’re right,” he replied, “that’s not much to say.”

I was devastated. I looked down at my hands folded in my lap. A few moments later, a door at the other end of the room opened.

“Hey, Pete, is he ready?” came a voice from the open door.

“He’ll be there momentarily.” He stood up, pointed to the door and patted my shoulder with his other hand. I couldn’t tell what if it was conciliatory or encouraging. He said, “You’ve done well.” I had no idea what that really meant.

I walked through the door, wherein an even older man sat in a chair set several feet above the floor. There was no place for me to sit.

“So Pete gave you an endorsement,” he began, “But, I’d like to hear you tell me about yourself in your own words.”

I prattled on for what seemed like an eternity. He listened patiently. I remembering telling him everything from my kindergarten crush to my various jobs and hobbies. I told him about all the people in my life whom I loved. When I stopped speaking, I felt embarrassed for blathering on in such an unprofessional way and started to apologize, but he held up a hand.

“You’ve done well, good and faithful servant.” He came down the steps to my level and put his arms around me, “Enter into the joy of your Master.”

The Cynic’s Report

Every day, pollsters, futurists, and the occasional charlatan present us with scientifically developed results (with a margin of error of + or – 4 percent) as to what the next election/weather event/profitable investment will be. The results seem to be about as accurate as flipping a coin, but they follow up with all kinds of explanations as to why their predictions were really correct even though they did not match reality.

Is it my imagination that many, if not most, conspiracy promoters just happen to have something to sell?

If computerized appliances are so smart, why can’t they submit their own warranty registration online?

How much news would their be on the internet if they could no longer publish endless stories about celebrities, reality television shows, or advertisements based on something you said that the computer, Alexa, or Siri overheard?

What if every Facebook subscriber began writing scathing, blatantly false, but nevertheless titillating stories about Mark Zuckerberg on a daily basis?

The Will of the One

Sometimes I have a hard time writing a blog, even when I know that it’s important to write. Today is one such day.

Our first president, George Washington declined to be monarch. Instead, when the revolutionary war was over, he did not merely resign. Instead, he rode to Congress and returned the actual letter of his commissioning.

“Having now finished the work assigned me, I retire from the great theatre of Action; and bidding an Affectionate farewell to this August body under whose orders I have so long acted, I here offer my Commission, and take my leave of all the employments of public life.”

King George III of Great Britain could not believe that anyone would so easily give up so much power so easily. When told by the American artist Benjamin West that Washington was going to resign, King George III of England said “If he does that, he will be the greatest man in the world.”

This country once had great men. Now, not so much. That is why this blog is so difficult.

First, the old saying is true—a house divided against itself cannot stand. America has had differences of opinions in the past, but nowhere near the intensity and longevity of hatred that we’ve been seeing for the last few years. In my youth, if I had acted the way many of our senior elected officials act, I would have been punished—not sent to the time out chair. In fact, after the punishment, I would not have been interested in sitting anywhere. We are already divided and tearing through the final threads.

Many of our so-called leaders would gladly see the country torn apart and are willing to help in its destruction. Donald trump is quoted today as saying that the nation will only last three more years. I hope to God he’s wrong, but I’m not optimistic.

We live in a constitutional democratic republic. Unfortunately, those we elect see themselves not as the nation’s stewards but the nations gods. A democratic republic is meant to represent the will of the people, not the will of a person, yet it seems that is what it has become. One person—Mitch McConnell—was able to stonewall Merick Garland’s nomination to the Supreme Court for the better part of a year.

Trump named three Justices—the one held up by McConnell during Obama’s presidency, one during Trump’s presidency, and Amy Coney Barret, whose nomination McConnell rushed through the Congress TWO WEEKS before the 2020 presidential election. With such unethical and immoral tactics, it’s very difficult to see the Supreme Court as anything other than a group of political hacks, no matter what Associate Justice Barret says.

Republican Senator Josh Hawley is planning on halting any nominees to the Defense Department or the Department of State. Why does one person—ONE PERSON—and a nobody at that, have so much power?

When did our government change from the will of the people or the consent of the governed to what it has become?

After today’s blog it may be a while before I blog again.

Go, Pareto, Go!

Samuel Clemens (aka Mark Twain) is credited with saying “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.” Someone else (we don’t know who) said, “Figures don’t lie, but liars figure.”

However, sometimes statistics and figures are useful.

Wilfried Pareto came up with the 80/20 rule which is not so much a rule as an observation, but it’s very handy. For example, you can get 80 percent of the work done with 20 percent effort. To accomplish the other 20 percent of the work, it will take 80 percent effort.

Think of painting the rooms inside of your house as 80 percent and not too difficult (20 percent effort). As you’re cleaning up afterward, your spouse decides that you also need to paint the ceilings, trim, doors, and inside the closets. That’s going to require 4 times as much effort as painting the walls.

The most practical restating of the Pareto Rule is that the enemy of good is better.

Another area in which the Pareto rule works is spam—in fact I believe it proves the rule. Eighty percent of my emails are spam. Before the improvement to the telephone system, 80 percent of my phone calls were spam. Thanks to the governments new “Shaken and Stirred” anti-spam law, today only 80 percent of my calls are spam.

When I go to the mailbox, 80 percent of my mail is junk mail—the very first form of spam (not counting SPAM® itself). Somewhat less than 20 percent is actual mail. I describe it that way because under the fine leadership of Postmaster General DeJoy, about half of the greeting cards that I send out, properly addressed with proper postage, reappear in my mailbox 30 to 60 days later.

THANKS AS ALWAYS TO WIKIPEDIA, WHICH IS WHERE I TURN WHEN I NEED MY MEMORY REFRESHED. PLEASE CHECK OUT THEIR SITE AND IF YOU HAVEN’T ALREADY, MAKE A DONATION, NO MATTER HOW SMALL. THANKS.

Patently Medicine

Ladies and Gentlemen!  May I have your attention, please. Please look right here at the back of the Medicine Wagon. May I introduce myself? I am Professor Randall, and I am here to show you some remarkable potions and elixirs to solve whatever problems you are facing.

I know what some of you are thinking! You’re thinking that my products are just like the vaccines that the government wants to give you for free. No, sirree—why would any government give anything away for free? You know they’re up to something! Don’t be fooled!

Do their free vaccines work? Who knows! Most people who get the government vaccine don’t get COVID so there’s no way to tell.

On the other hand, my friends, when you find yourself gasping for breath, you’ll be able to see our miracle elixirs at work. Traditionally, we’ve always advertised “One for a man—two for a horse,” but with COVID, we recommend that men get treated every bit as well as horses.

And don’t forget the side benefits of our products. You drink a bottle to cure COVID and I guarantee that you will deworm yourself at the same time.

And since I like you, I’m going to sell these, today only, for half the regular price. Just line up over here and have your cash or credit card ready.

Social Security

I read an article today projecting that Social Security will run out of money in only a few short years. Of course, I’ve been reading the same dire predictions since I was in grade school and after hearing the same scary story for 50 or 60 years, it begins to lose its dramatic impact.

What will we do? What will we do?

Maybe we could start by analyzing how Social Security works. Much of it is simple. Working people have money deducted from their paychecks while they’re earning a wage or a salary. Overall, Social Security tax is 12.4%. For those who work for a company, it is split so that the employee pays 6.2 percent and the employer pays 6.2 percent. This money goes into a fund to be used to pay retirees in the future.

Since Social Security tax is based on a percentage, people who earn more money pay more into the fund. Some, like doctors and plumbers make more money because of their education or skill set, so it’s in our national self-interest to encourage people to earn more. Public education, especially community and traditional colleges is one way to position workers to earn more.

Currently, there are a few bugs in the system. Minimum hourly wage today is $7.25 in most cases, so a minimum wage earner contributes $1,869.92 per year into the Social Security fund. In 1945, just after the Second World War, there were 41.9 workers paying into Social Security for every retiree receiving Social Security benefits. Today, it is less than 3 workers paying into Social Security for every retiree receiving benefits. Since there is no isolated, protected portion of the federal budget for social security, most of the cash has been replaced by IOUs from Congress. The system only works if there’s more money going into the fund than coming out of the fund.

A few years ago, one attempt to fix this a tiny bit was to raise the traditional retirement age from 65 to 67 in stages. It wasn’t nearly enough.

Since Social Security taxes are based on earnings, if the minimum hourly wage were raised to $10.00 per hour, each worker would contribute $2,579.20 per year, an increase of $709.28. There is a lot of opposition to raising the minimum wage for a variety of reasons of varying validity. However, as a follow on to the COVID-19 pandemic, many people are rethinking their employment choices. When COVID removes 660,000 people through death and debilitates a significant number of others, the remaining workers have more options available to them. This has been true for thousands of years after every plague or pandemic.

If fewer people return to minimum wage jobs because there are fewer (living) people available, does this help Social Security? Obviously not.

What is needed is to draw additional people into the workforce, especially people who are willing to accept lower level jobs. The question is, how to find them. The most logical approach, of course, is to screen those who want to move into America or other developed countries, pick the best, let them in, put them to work, and if they earn it, make them citizens.

It may not be the preferred political plan, but unless someone comes up with a better way to pay more into Social Security than is paid out, it may require, at the least, serious consideration.

The COVID-19 Numbers

Some people have expressed their fears about the COVID-19 vaccine. Here are the most accurate numbers I can find. They are as of 23 August and I am using them to compare two binary issues – life or death. Life and death are mutually exclusive and universally exhaustive. Unlike Schrodinger’s cat, since the outcomes have already been observed, only one of the two choices can exist.

All numbers refer to the United States.

Number of people vaccinated for COVID-19:
Those receiving at least one dose – 204,435,968
Those receiving two doses – 173,520,211

Number of people who died after receiving the COVID-19 Vaccine – 6,968.

Number of people who have died from COVID-19 – 655,415.

“So you gotta ask yourself, Do I feel lucky? Well, do you?”

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Get Real

The COVID vaccine works. Wearing a mask works. There are no computer chips being implanted.

Does anyone really believe that a computer chip can be implanted via 23 gauge needle? THAT would be at least as difficult as getting a camel to pass through the eye of a needle. The chips they use for pets are about the size of a grain of rice, require a huge needle, more of a trochar, actually, and cannot be read remotely. Veterinarians place the receiver in contact with the skin immediately above the chip, which is why there are standard locations (usually between the shoulder blades) for chip placement.

These things are facts, but for some reason, people are compelled to not only deny these facts but convince others.

Sir Isaac Newton taught that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Before COVID vaccines were available, insurance companies frequently forgave co-pays and deductibles. Then the vaccines arrived and were administered for free.

The equal and opposite reaction? Some hospitals (if they can even find room for a COVID patient) will fully charge if that person was medically eligible but chose not to take the vaccine. Even if you are only responsible for co-pays and/or deductibles, the cost will be crippling to many.

Yes, it’s your choice whether or not to wear a mask, and yes it’s your choice whether or not to get vaccinated. However, if your choice leads to significant medical expenses, you get the bill.

Incidentally, dying does not necessarily release you from the financial responsibility.

Scary Headline

This morning in the Virginian-Pilot the headline on the top of the right column read “President: Bigger threats than Taliban“. It sat in the back of my mind, stirring around for a while, then slapped me to get my attention.

What is the primary purpose of the United States Department of Defense?

It is to protect the United States and its people.

Before the Second World War, the United States was more or less isolationist. World War I and the concurrent Spanish Influenza had taken a significant toll, followed by the Great Depression. We no longer wanted to be involved in Europe’s problems. We had the pleasure of being isolationist because we felt isolated by an ocean to the east and an ocean to the west. After the First World War, we were digging our way out of the Depression and just wanted to be left alone.

December 7, 1941 changed that. By 1945, we had become a world superpower and ignoring international conflicts was no longer an option.

We haven’t been involved in a declared war since, although our “police actions”, “peacekeeping operations”, etc. have resulted in our military fighting and dying in such places as Korea, Vietnam, Belarus, Kuwait, Iraq, and Afghanistan (among others).

The US Military has spent 20 years in Southwest Asia fighting a counterinsurgency war–this after spending much of the 1960s and 1970s fighting a similar war in Southeast Asia.

Future wars will be totally different from what we have experienced or expect. Whether the next war takes place next year or in the next century, it will be unlike anything we’ve imagined.

In the future, soldiers primary specialty may be dealing with cyber attacks to protect our electric grid or water supply rather than being a rifleman. Given the cyberattacks we’ve already encountered, it’s likely. When Jesus said that the meek shall inherit the earth, maybe He was hinting that it will be the geeks who save it.

As sad as I am about the outcome in Afghanistan, the Afghans are not our first priority. Our first priority is to defend our homeland and our people. We need our troops to be trained, equipped, and positioned to do so.

Parenting and International Relations

I’m a parent. All of my children are adults.

Some people say that everything they needed to know, they learned in kindergarten. Not so much for me – I guess I’m a slow learner.

With my kids, I was involved in their schooling, their sports, their music, and their–well, whatever–for many years. When they moved away for the first, second or whatever time, I thought my responsibilities were over. And they truly were, whether I admitted it or not.

However, we parents still worry about our kids as they head off to college, rent their first apartment, get their first utility bills, enlist in the military, get married, change jobs and…and…and. In spite of an overwhelming desire to scream, “DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA AS TO WHAT YOU’RE DOING?” we keep our comments to ourselves, but wait silently for them to ask for our advice (which they rightly expect to ignore, just as we did with our parents).

Generation after generation, against all odds, tends to turn out pretty-not-too-bad. There are some examples of incredible success, some examples of abject (even criminal) failure, and a whole lot of people who turn out as well as you and me. (Or should that be ‘you and I’? Never mind.)

When my children left, I had an overwhelming desire to figure out a way unscrew the top of my skull and pour my hard earned experience into their heads. I couldn’t. Even worse, they were all the better for it because they had to decide what was important to them. They had to grow into the adult they were meant to be, not who I thought they should be.

Afghanistan is in a similar situation. I’m not claiming that Afghanistan is America’s child, but we have invested in them and the hope for their future. I’m sure Great Britain felt the same about America in the 1770’s, but we ignored them and found our own way (with occasional successes). We did not wish to be a Britain, even with all it had to offer.We wanted to be us.

I don’t know what the future holds for the Afghans, but I sincerely hope they find their way to who they wish to be.

Afghan Heartbreak

Yes, it breaks my heart to see what is happening in Afghanistan, but we all need to remember certain facts.

The initial reason for going into Afghanistan was to disrupt Al Qaeda training camps after 9/11. We knew bin Laden was in Afghanistan and he was training fighters.

Initially there were special forces, followed by ISAF–the International Security Assistance Force, led by NATO. Incidentally, The only time Article 5 of the NATO charter requiring mutual assistance for a NATO member under attack has been invoked was when the US was attacked on September 11, 2001. That’s why NATO was involved.

About 2003, we began sending various training teams to Afghanistan. US Military Embedded Training Teams to teach the Afghan National Army and the Afghan National Police how to be militarily effective. Provincial Reconstruction Teams to teach civilian governments their responsibilities to their citizens. The teams of US military were shoulder to shoulder with the Afghans, whether at a forward operating base, or working to rebuild (or more commonly, build) infrastructure.

After 20 years, the Afghans have been trained. They have appropriate weapons and equipment, which they have been taught how to use. They had fought alongside ISAF members. They have everything they need to take care of themselves. Afghanistan is a sovereign nation as they frequently reminded us.

But, when the Taliban attacked, the Afghan military deserted their posts, reportedly without a fight. Their President, Ashraf Ghani, quickly scooted out of the country. His message to his countrymen was the equivalent of, “Sucks to be you.” It was the Afghan government and the Afghan military’s job to protect their people. We did their job for them for 20 years. As sad as the outcome is, how long were we supposed to take care of them? 30 years? 40 years? Forever?

In the meantime, the “Real Congress Members of Washington, DC” are in front of the cameras, raising their voices in righteous indignation. This includes the 84 senators (out of 100) who NEVER served in the military and the 356 representatives (out of 430) who NEVER served.

That also breaks my heart.

Thanks for a Different Kind of Crazy

A cyclist rides past a stensil of a gull about to swoop down onto a carton of chips, the subject of a graffiti artwork bearing the hallmarks of street artist Banksy on a wall in Lowestoft on the East Coast of England on August 8, 2021.

The whole world is nuts. It has always been crazy, but the current generation has put a fine point on insanity. People who once would have been restrained in a straitjacket and carted off to a “special” hospital are instead in Congress–either elected or breaking down the doors in order to find the gift shop. Incidentally, some of those who were elected to Congress are not nearly as well behaved as the insurrectionists. The only gift shop they can find is the one in the cloakrooms where they meet lobbyists.

Amid all this destructive craziness, there is another type of craziness that is calming and soothing. The perpetrator, alas, is not American–at least as far as we know. Like the mysterious characters like the Shadow or the Phantom of years ago, he/she/they lurk in the shadows. Like Mandrake the Magician they create diversions and when no one is looking, then sneak in and do their worst. I call it their worst, because, it is so far out of sync with most people.

But it is a wonderful worst. I’m speaking, of course, of Banksy, who is currently on a self-proclaimed spraycation. subjecting people to artistic commentary. Many people enjoy it. Others do not possess the mental capacity to understand it on any level.

THAT is art.

Even Banksy Is Working From Home & Now His Bathroom Is ...