The death of the work place

Prior to Mr. Henry Ford, I do believe that the work place was part of a person’s life that was more enjoyable. Although many of the jobs were dirty and difficult, they provided a sense of accomplishment and often times the responsibility to complete, in a satisfactory and rewarding way, some particular, essential task. Since men made up a majority of the workplace until World War II, women worked hard keeping the homefront in order and raising the kids. Both partners worked hard, long hours and they gained some satisfaction for a particular job being well done. The war came and women were needed to build machines of destruction while the men gave their lives in the war effort. The combination of Henry Ford’s factories, the war, lawyers and the acceleration of the industrial and technological revolution was the perfect storm in terms of changing the work place. Ford’s automotive factories attempted to turn humans into robots; the war created an environment that people accepted this work place as the norm, lawyers began creating a hierarchy of legalese; the industrial revolution offered a rosy world of the future and technology dreamed of a world of untold riches and leisure. As I write this, parts of it sound tempting and maybe good but as in most everything, the proof is in the details.

So, lets look at the modern workplace. The first and most damaging is the binder of rules that usually accompany a new job. There are some jobs where the employee could be fired for being minutes late! In many cases there are rules in these documents that contradict other rules. Gone is the word ‘common sense’ and discussion of the issue, we simply have to find the rule in the book and take the appropriate stated action. More important than a rule book, is the loss of responsibility. No one is responsible. Every decision must be passed up the chain of command to some chap sitting in an office who may have no idea what is actually going on at the job site. This is because no one will make decisions due to fear of being sued or fired. A good boss gives his or her employees the power to make decisions and once they are made, backs them up. If the employee makes repeated bad decisions and talking with them has no effect on their decision process, fire them or move them to a job more suited to their talents. We have become so scared of being sued. Almost every decision made at any level must ask the question, ‘ARE WE GOING TO BE SUED?’. When some moron orders HOT coffee and spills it on himself while driving a car and sues the vendor for making the coffee too hot, AND WINS!, I feel confident in my assessment that we have lost our way. I once met a European who asked me why there were so many guard rails on the roads? He said there are far fewer side rails in his country. His feeling was that if people did not have the sense to drive reasonably on the road, they should not be driving. There is no arguing that making things safer is a good idea, but at what point do we say enough is enough. There must be a point when the cost of sanctifying every possible stupid thing people can do will simply not be cost effective.

Sorry, I got off topic, but it is related in a way. We cannot make rules that guarantee everyone’s safety all the time! We cannot have workplaces that work perfectly all the time. We cannot make rules that cover every possible situation. The world, and more importantly, we, are not perfect in any way. We make mistakes and sometimes bad stuff happens. If you believe that you can create a world where bad stuff never happens, good luck with that! In fact, it is the chances that make life interesting! Its the chaos in the universe that keeps us from falling asleep. Just imagine a perfect world if you can. I’m pretty sure it would be quite boring!

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Crooked lines

I know it’s just lines on a road. The new road work done in our community to widen and create pull-offs to help avoid accidents is a blessing. I have one problem with this project. After working on this stretch of road for over a year and creating a new road addition which is quite impressive, they hired a challenged person to paint the road lines.

This is looking east bound

I have to admit my mind has enjoyed creating images of a man driving the paint truck down the road in a haphazard fashion. Just picture the machine weaving in and out as it placed the paint on the road. Now, I realize there may be some rhyme or reason to this application of crooked lines on the road, but it has escaped me for the time being.

This is looking west bound

Of course you know that I would not write about this unless I saw some larger, deeper meaning in the crooked road of life. Pun intended. So, why are the lines crooked? What was going through the worker’s mind when he was placing these lines on the road?

If you have talked to anyone who is involved in the hiring of people in today’s world they will quickly tell you that it is VERY HARD to find hard working, competent people to fill the jobs. I assume the same is true for the line painting company. I will not discuss the possible reasons for this chaotic application of paint to the road but I will tell you the thoughts in my mind are numerous.. I do not remember in my life, road lines as crooked as these. I know it is a stretch, but these lines are a very small sign of our times. Its only a matter of time until the roads are built crooked as well, and then you won’t laugh at me…and then the buildings, and then who knows what else. Maybe we will elect a carny to be president…

Memorial Day

Today is a very sad day for me. It saddens me to think of the countless men and women who have died in war during the history of my country. It digs at my heart when I see veterans of war disfigured, or crippled or mentally and socially destroyed from PTSD. Even today there was a report that the rate of cancer in soldiers from our recent wars is skyrocketing. How many families have had the misfortune of learning that a father, mother, brother, sister or any relative has been killed in one of our many conflicts?

Very few of us realize that our country has been at war almost 222 years out of it’s 239 years of existence. That means we have enjoyed less than 20 years of peace! Our country began with a fight against the indigenous Native American population. Our country’s quest for expansion led to the death of nearly 160 million Native Americans! To date we have lost over 1 million soldiers in war!

Yellow is the time we were not engaged in war

The question, “WHY?”, begs to be asked. I am afraid the answer is not for God and country, but GREED! Could any of us fathom how much profit is made due to military involvement? I am sure the number is staggering! Behind the politics and patriotism is what is referred to as THE WAR MACHINE which flourishes during times of conflict. During war almost everybody is employed, making bombs, airplanes, war ships and creating new technologies to destroy the enemy. During war the rich become richer.

Several years ago I drove a tour bus in a procession through the Arlington cemetery. As I drove through the 642 acres of countless tombstones, the tears rolled down my cheek as I contemplated the death and misery associated with all those stones. It’s time to stop the killing! It’s time to lay down our weapons. It’s time to listen to what Jesus told us, live in peace.

Thoughts about cursing

Have you ever spent time wondering about the nature of human cussing? I’m sitting here eating lunch at McDonald’s and for reasons unbeknownst to me, I started thinking about cussing. Not that I had an urge to cuss or anything like that, but I’m just wondering why we do it. I hear people of all ages cussing all the time, and of course I let one slip occasionally, after all, I am a people. Folks like to distinguish between certain words like darn and dam and various other words but I think the act of cussing is much deeper than that. I constantly hear people using words like freaking and we all know it’s just a couple of letters away from the real cuss word. So, to cuss is not so much about others perception of you, but more about what in our brains makes us want to use words that might offend other people. If the highly religious Rev. Bill says darn, everyone in the congregation gasps in surprise, but if a raunchy comedian says a whole string of expleted-deleted words we are not phased and hardly notice the language used. If Rev. Bill says darn and feels like he said a bad word, in his mind he is cussing. Nowadays it is not unusual to hear a five year old with no idea of what they are even saying, yelling out the f word with virtually no response from the parent. No doubt the words used in cussing evolve and we continually search for words that truly express our anger or frustration or to just get someone’s attention. I remember when the word “shit” or “dam” were never used on TV, those days passed many years ago. On regular network TV the cussing vocabulary has expanded greatly and there are ways to imply that you are using other unacceptable words. HBO has literally no restrictions on language and is the place to go if you would like to expand your cussing vocabulary.

To pull this together, I think we may be the only creatures on the planet that do cuss. Think about it, when your cat sticks it’s foot in a mouse trap, it just screams out. Maybe that is cat cussing..

Why is our Gross Domestic Product (GDP) so good?

Economics is not my strong suit but something seems wrong with this latest quarterly report from the Feds about our GDP. So many events over the last year have occurred which should have lowered the GDP, but it is higher than expected. Here is a chart of the past 20 years GDP in the United States.

You can clearly see the recessions in the data and a general slowing of our economy since 2008. It has stayed somewhere between 1.5% and 2.5%. The recently announced number of 3.1% is an improvement.
However, about half the gain reflected two factors not expected to last — a big jump in stockpiling by businesses and a sharp contraction in the trade deficit. Both of these issues could be related to Trump’s tax policies and removing corporate controls. Below is an explanation of what GDP is:

  • GNP (Gross National Product) measures the output of a country’s residents, regardless of the location of the actual underlying economic activity.
  • Income from overseas investments by a country’s residents counts in GNP, but foreign investment within a country’s borders does not. This is in contrast to GDP which measures economic output and income based on the location rather than nationality.
  • GNP and GDP can have different values, and a large difference between a country’s GNP and GDP can suggest a great deal of integration into the global economy.

This all seems a little complicated to me but it may reflect a growth in the industrial complex and an increase in military spending. In case you forgot, our illustrious leader just gave the military a very large increase. They are already the most expensive military by a factor approaching 10, and corporate America just got a huge tax break. Is it possible that the GDP might be artificially increased by the large amount of money that has been given to the military complex and big business? Just saying…

I would love to hear ideas on this so that I could become better informed on this issue.

Why do we eat?

Ok, lets get rid of the obvious answer to this question. We eat to maintain our bodies, allowing us to grow and exist in the world. The more scientific answer is, we need energy to function.

Now lets think about the less obvious answers. Everyone knows that Americans, and actually most people in developed countries, are getting fatter. We Americans seem to be leading the way in this problem. In fact, here in my home state of West Virginia, we are one of the fattest places to live in the country, which means we are one of the more porky places to live on the planet!

Getting fat is a function of eating. In other words, eating too much or overly caloric meals causes us to get fat. So knowing this, why do we overeat? I have been told that some animals will eat themselves to death! I am wondering if that includes humans? Recently I was talking to one of my former students who is now a nurse, and she said it is routine to see at least one person a week at the hospital who weighs in at 600+ pounds, and there have been patients who weigh as much as 800 lbs!! Why would a person allow themselves to get that large?

Enough questions, let try and find some answers. Why do we eat too much? I think most of the time I eat because it is enjoyable, especially when it is a cream filled chocolate doughnut or a hamburger with all the toppings bulging out the sides. So tell me this doesn’t make you salivate, a tray of hot lightly salted french fries and a bottle of Heinz ketchup just waiting to be your friend. So tell me you are not salivating right now! I will bet your stomach is telling you to head for the kitchen stat!

I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to do that to you, but if you think the people who make this delicious stuff will apologize for making you want to devour more food, don’t hold your breath. Lets face the facts, we are a decadent society with way too much calorie rich food available to us. And much of the food that tastes really good is cheaper. Contrast this with the fact that a large portion of our people who do not have enough food, should I say nutritious food, are starving in a new and different way. Like most of us they would rather eat a chocolate, cream filled doughnut which does very little good for the nutritionally starved body. Don’t give me that stuff that you would rather have an apple, that is just the cerebral part of your brain attempting to overrule the survival part of your brain. The doughnut may provide you quick energy for your escape from a wild animal but…it will also make you fatter, which in the long term, will make your escape less likely.

Who do we blame for this dilemma? Is it us, the consumer’s fault for eating so terribly? Is it the manufacturer’s fault for making such delicious bad foods so that they can increase their profits? Is it society’s fault for not educating its population on proper nutritional lifestyles? Is it the demise of the family and the traditional family meal? Is it Micky D’s and all the other fast food vendors? Is it the scientist’s fault for not yet having a consistent answer on what is the best way to eat? Is it the medical profession’s fault for not being more insistent on their patients eating properly? Has government dropped the ball in enacting legislation mandating food be more healthy? Should TV only show healthy nutritional advertisements? The answer is oh so clear to me. Everyone is at fault! We are all in this together! The advent of a modern industrialized world has left us all grasping for answers to so many questions. The simple truth is, our society cannot afford to get fatter. The medical cost of this fat epidemic is going to bankrupt this economy! I am all for the introduction of a single-payer health plan but in order for this to work, we are all going to have stop our visits to Dunkin Doughnuts. Writing this has made me terribly hungry, I have to go find something to eat. You all have a good day.

Razzle Dazzle

Sometimes I think of stuff that may seem a little off beat and I think this may be one of those times, but here goes. Most of us have been conned at least once in our lives. Like many life experiences we pack it away in our memories so as to try and avoid putting ourselves in a similar situation. I also believe that some individuals are more easily conned than others partly due to their upbringing or maybe even their genetic makeup.

Do you think it is possible to con a country, or at least a large portion? It has happened repeatedly throughout history. Populations have been told things that they know are not true, yet, because of the messenger’s ability to produce a gold coin from out of nowhere, they believe what he says without reservations. I do believe that deep in their souls they know they have been conned but who is ready to admit publicly that they drank the koolaid?

A good carny always creates distractions with one hand while they do their “magic” with the other. If someone pulls a coin from out of your ear, you can bet his other hand is attempting to distract your eyes to watch it rather than the magic hand. You have probably already figured out where I am going with this train of thought so I might as well get there.

As you probably know, a boat load of stuff has come out about Trump recently from the special prosecutor. Most of it is wrapped in hype and legalese so as to keep us less informed, less informed yet interested. Make sure you read that last sentence carefully. One of the statements I heard from the talking heads that really interested me and brought me to write this article was when Trump made this statement after Mueller was appointed to be special prosecutor, “Oh my God. This is terrible. This is the end of my Presidency. I’m f#@ked”. This is the carny letting his guard down for a short moment and allowing us to briefly see the real person behind the scam. This is the carny exposing the fact that he is a scam artist and his act may be open to public viewing.

As to whether Trump is impeached or not, it is hard to say with all the corruption that exists in our government. But one thing is certain if you care to look, the carney is exposed and his act is no longer relevant. He has tried to pull the coin out of our ear too many times and we are learning to watch the other hand. I believe that many of us have taken the stance that Trump is crazy. This is a very comfortable place to hang out and it helps us explain his many political gyrations, but his above statement scares me even more. Yes he is crazy, crazy like a fox would be more accurate. We best keep our eyes on both hands as this drama unfolds.

The Redbuds

Often times in early spring

I travel down these mountain roads

The smell of spring consumes my being

The greening trees make spirits soar

A certain road I often travel

Not far from my home, I’ll take you there

A few short days come every year

As the universe unveils its care

The road is clear, the sun is bright

You must go there to see this sight

Up ahead , I see its splendor

The redbuds sing a song of vigor

A feeling wakes inside me strong 

The streams are flowing, the snow is gone

The bright fuschia of the flowers

Reaches deep and grabs my soul

I do believe in my heart

There are few sights that compare

The horns have sounded, the drums have played

The birth of spring is on its way.

Taxes are a pain in the …neck…or, who’s in charge?

Just like many of you I have procrastinated until now to do that laborious task we all dread…taxes! I had several choices to make; buy a program for around $40 to $100 that, despite answering several thousand tedious and useless questions, makes doing my taxes relatively easy, or I could find a program on-line and pay money to allow me to do my taxes on their site (after which you always end up paying more than you expected) or, pay someone a sizeable chunk of money to take all these papers and forms and magically figure it out for me.

I want to ask a very fundamental question. Why am I paying money to someone or for something, so that I can give money (pay taxes) to the government? Am I the only one who sees the craziness in this? I heard on the news the other day that our country is one of a very few countries with such a convoluted tax system. Most citizens of developed countries are able to do their taxes in a short period of time. The IRS has all this information in its computers already! They could push a proverbial button and tell you what you owe or what is owed to you in a millisecond!

Now, here comes the real insanity of this issue! Recently some silly congressperson proposed a law that required the IRS to provide free on-line access to a program to do your taxes. Now any sane person would think this would be a great idea, right? So why can’t the proponents of this bill get it passed? I will tell you why: money! Yes, money! Our government is up for grabs by the highest bidder. There is a multi-million dollar business surrounding tax preparation and these folks, in a self preservation mode, send millions of dollars to our elected officials so they will vote the way they want them to. In other words, our elected officials think they work for corporations and lobbyists! I have some very important information for our elected officials, THEY WORK FOR ME! THEY WORK FOR YOU! WE ELECTED THEM AND WE PAY THEIR SALARY! WE ARE THEIR BOSSES! Whether it be health insurance, tax reform or any government decision, we are the executives in their organization! We the people are the ones who enjoy their decisions or suffer from them. When we vote every couple of years we need to get these damn leaches out of government! This is not a democratic or republican issue, it is an “us and them” issue. Us being the 99% who make up this country and them, the extremely wealthy 1%. If my information is correct, this free tax preparation program is being opposed by BOTH PARTIES! Can you believe that? Believe it! All of them are in the pockets of big business!

Here is the answer to our problem. Do not vote for any politician who is not funded by private contributions. No corporate contributions allowed. I would write more but I need to finish my taxes…