Saturday, December 24, 2011

An Oldie but a Goodie

Some rules kids won't learn in school
Text By Charles J. Sykes

Printed in San Diego Union Tribune
September 19, 1996

Unfortunately, there are some things that children should be learning in school, but don't. Not all of them have to do with academics. As a modest back-to-school offering, here are some basic rules that may not have found their way into the standard curriculum.

Rule No. 1: Life is not fair. Get used to it. The average teenager uses the phrase, "It's not fair" 8.6 times a day. You got it from your parents, who said it so often you decided they must be the most idealistic generation ever. When they started hearing it from their own kids, they realized Rule No. 1.

Rule No. 2: The real world won't care as much about your self-esteem as much as your school does. It'll expect you to accomplish something before you feel good about yourself. This may come as a shock. Usually, when inflated self-esteem meets reality, kids complain it's not fair. (See Rule No. 1)

Rule No. 3: Sorry, you won't make $40,000 a year right out of high school.  And you won't be a vice president or have a car phone either. You may even have to wear a uniform that doesn't have a Gap label.

Rule No. 4: If you think your teacher is tough, wait 'til you get a boss. He doesn't have tenure, so he tends to be a bit edgier. When you screw up, he's not going to ask you how you feel about it.

Rule No. 5: Flipping burgers is not beneath your dignity. Your grand-parents had a different word of burger flipping. They called it opportunity. They weren't embarrassed making minimum wage either. They would have been embarrassed to sit around talking about Kurt Cobain all weekend.

Rule No. 6: It's not your parents' fault. If you screw up, you are responsible. This is the flip side of "It's my life," and "You're not the boss of me," and other eloquent proclamations of your generation. When you turn 18, it's on your dime. Don't whine about it, or you'll sound like a baby boomer.

Rule No. 7: Before you were born your parents weren't as boring as they are now. They got that way paying your bills, cleaning up your room and listening to you tell them how idealistic you are. And by the way, before you save the rain forest from the blood-sucking parasites of your parents' generation, try delousing the closet in your bedroom.

Rule No. 8: Your school may have done away with winners and losers. Life hasn't. In some schools, they'll give you as many times as you want to get the right answer. Failing grades have been abolished and class valedictorians scrapped, lest anyone's feelings be hurt. Effort is as important as results. This, of course, bears not the slightest resemblance to anything in real life. (See Rule No. 1, Rule No. 2 and Rule No. 4)

Rule No. 9: Life is not divided into semesters, and you don't get summers off. Not even Easter break. They expect you to show up every day. For eight hours. And you don't get a new life every 10 weeks. It just goes on and on. While we're at it, very few jobs are interesting in fostering your self-expression or helping you find yourself. Fewer still lead to self-realization. (See Rule No. 1 and Rule No. 2.)

Rule No. 10: Television is not real life. Your life is not a sitcom. Your problems will not all be solved in 30 minutes, minus time for commercials. In real life, people actually have to leave the coffee shop to go to jobs. Your friends will not be as perky or pliable as Jennifer Aniston.

Rule No. 11: Be nice to nerds. You may end up working for them. We all could.

Rule No. 12: Smoking does not make you look cool. It makes you look moronic. Next time you're out cruising, watch an 11-year-old with a butt in his mouth. That's what you look like to anyone over 20. Ditto for "expressing yourself" with purple hair and/or pierced body parts.

Rule No. 13: You are not immortal. (See Rule No. 12.) If you are under the impression that living fast, dying young and leaving a beautiful corpse is romantic, you obviously haven't seen one of your peers at room temperature lately.

Rule No. 14: Enjoy this while you can. Sure parents are a pain, school's a bother, and life is depressing. But someday you'll realize how wonderful it was to be a kid. Maybe you should start now.

You're welcome.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Too Big Bills

And once again we're seeing another debacle in Congress, where pretty much everybody agrees on the basic idea of a bill, but they're fighting over details and amendments that are mostly irrelevant to the supposed core purpose of the bill.  Maybe we should change the rules. Too many legislative bills turn into monsters, with thousands of pages, most of which have little or nothing to do with the supposed purpose of the bill. Maybe bills should be limited to 100 8½ x 11 pages of double-spaced 10-point Arial with 1 inch margins.  The exact number of pages may be arguable, but how about the basic concept?
What do you think?

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Practical Solutions, Not Ideology

I'm liking the Modern Whig Party more and more. Here's a fairly simple explanation of what they stand for from one of their blogs:
Imagine changing your spark plugs every time you had a problem with your car. This may work if you had an issue with your engine BUT would changing your spark plugs fix a blown tire or a brake problem? When we use ideologies, we believe that there is only one solution to a problem. This line of thinking does not work for fixing your car and it also does not work for fixing America. Modern cars are very complex and need modern thinking to repair them. Whigs solve problems by finding the best solutions. That solution maybe to change the “spark plugs” or it maybe to “change the tires”. When a “car” is broken we must have the right solutions to fix that “car”. This requires a new line of thinking which is free-flowing and able to adapt to new problems. Whigs use modern thinking to solve modern problems. Modern solutions for modern problems.
Now, that's a far cry from either the Democrats or the Republicans, with their one-size-fits-all-as-long-as-it-conforms-to-our-ideology solutions.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

When Did the GOP Lose Touch With Reality?

One of the better pieces I've seen lately. Some excerpts:
Some of the smartest and most sophisticated people I know—canny investors, erudite authors—sincerely and passionately believe that President Barack Obama has gone far beyond conventional American liberalism and is willfully and relentlessly driving the United States down the road to socialism. No counterevidence will dissuade them from this belief: not record-high corporate profits, not almost 500,000 job losses in the public sector, not the lowest tax rates since the Truman administration. It is not easy to fit this belief alongside the equally strongly held belief that the president is a pitiful, bumbling amateur, dazed and overwhelmed by a job too big for him—and yet that is done too.

For the past three years, the media have praised the enthusiasm and energy the tea party has brought to the GOP. Yet it’s telling that that movement has failed time and again to produce even a remotely credible candidate for president. Sarah Palin, Donald Trump, Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich: The list of tea-party candidates reads like the early history of the U.S. space program, a series of humiliating fizzles and explosions that never achieved liftoff. A political movement that never took governing seriously was exploited by a succession of political entrepreneurs uninterested in governing—but all too interested in merchandising. Much as viewers tune in to American Idol to laugh at the inept, borderline dysfunctional early auditions, these tea-party champions provide a ghoulish type of news entertainment each time they reveal that they know nothing about public affairs and have never attempted to learn.

Backed by their own wing of the book-publishing industry and supported by think tanks that increasingly function as public-relations agencies, conservatives have built a whole alternative knowledge system, with its own facts, its own history, its own laws of economics. Outside this alternative reality, the United States is a country dominated by a strong Christian religiosity. Within it, Christians are a persecuted minority. Outside the system, President Obama—whatever his policy ­errors—is a figure of imposing intellect and dignity. Within the system, he’s a pitiful nothing, unable to speak without a teleprompter, an affirmative-action ­phony doomed to inevitable defeat. Outside the system, social scientists worry that the U.S. is hardening into one of the most rigid class societies in the Western world, in which the children of the poor have less chance of escape than in France, Germany, or even England. Inside the system, the U.S. remains (to borrow the words of Senator Marco Rubio) “the only place in the world where it doesn’t matter who your parents were or where you came from.”

We can debate when the slide began. But what seems beyond argument is that the U.S. political system becomes more polarized and more dysfunctional every cycle, at greater and greater human cost. The next Republican president will surely find himself or herself at least as stymied by this dysfunction as President Obama, as will the people the political system supposedly serves, who must feel they have been subjected to a psychological experiment gone horribly wrong, pressing the red button in 2004 and getting a zap, pressing blue in 2008 for another zap, and now agonizing whether there is any choice that won’t zap them again in 2012.
Of course, the Democrats are almost as bad.

Sunday, November 13, 2011


Got this from a friend who stayed in Germany after his enlistment:
"...on the flight back to Germany, next to me was an army sergeant who had just finished his 2nd tour in Afghanistan. His ideas about the "War"? Well, he said he wasn´t there for the USA or to protect freedom, he was there because he was a soldier. He also said most men like him over there knew that back home they had little or no chance to get a job. Over there his "job" was to be as good a soldier as he could be, to help his men and his unit so that as few as possible got killed. Most of the men over there had about the same kind of thoughts as he has, they know that only 10% of the American people know where Afghanistan is on the map, and that when they leave it will be less than 3 years before it is just like it was before the US went in."
Your thoughts?

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

White House Petitions

The White House website has just added a new feature they call We the People:
Welcome to We the People on This tool provides you with a new way to petition the Obama Administration to take action on a range of important issues facing our country. If a petition gets enough support, White House staff will review it, ensure it’s sent to the appropriate policy experts, and issue an official response.
I've created three petitions, none of which will show up publicly until it receives 150 'signatures'. You have to register at before you can create or sign any petitions. There are about 190 that have met the 150 signature threshold.

My three are: take a rational approach to illegal immigration (which is a little terse due to their 800 character limit), only allow contributions to the campaigns of candidates that one can vote for and push for a Constitutional Amendment that states that information about an individual belongs to that individual.

If you like one, please register at and sign it.

Edit: The first two petitions have now expired.

Edit: All three petitions have now expired. I would still encourage you to go and look over the petitions that are already there, though the responses I've received on some of those I voted for have not been encouraging.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Taxes and Income

Here's an interesting opinion that I generally agree with. What's your opinion?
There are a few concerns I have that I don't generally see addressed in tax and revenue discussions. I'm going to address one of those concerns here.

One is that not all income is the same. I'm not referring to source, but to amount. IMHO there are three categories.

Category 1 is a minimum figure for an economic unit (household typically) at which all money, used as efficiently as possible, will be completely used up for necessities. I mean real necessities, e.g. - bulk rice for food and the cheapest apartment available. If there is less income than this amount, then the required sustenance has to be obtained through government or charitable intervention. Such intervention alwasy costs more money overall than if the individual(s) had simply been paid enough in the first place. This income should never be taxed, because ultimately it is more expensive to reduce it than otherwise.

Category 2 income is discretionary in that it exceeds the minimum and may be used for whatever purpose the individual conceives of, including better housing or food, education, savings for retirement, health care, travel, etc. A great deal of American income fits into this second category, but the margins have been getting slimmer for most of us. Such income might be reasonably taxed at a flat or a progressive rate, although our current straits suggest at least a short-term progressive structure to pay off the debt.

Category 3 income is income of such magnitude that it exerts significant political and economic influence on other people's lives and upon our political processes. Such income confers control over the lives of thousands of employees, may own and tie up vast resources, buy 24/7 lobbying efforts in its own furtherance, fund campaigns and candidacies, and purchase media companies with a view to controlling the political message. Such fortunes and the incomes they generate can be passed on from generation to generation without being earned (a significant percentage of American billionaires inherited it), and were nearly inconceivable in the US of 1788. I do believe that in fact many people who did not partake of it's benefit had to labor to enable the ultimate possessor to acquire a fortune of that size. In addition to their labor, the system of government, national infrastucture, and abundance of resources of the USA made it possible for such an accumulation. A tax code that slows such accumulation at the upper end and mitigates the continuance of such a vast concentration of wealth through multiple generations doesn't need to impose genuine economic hardship on the possessor. There is a natural human acquisitiveness however that does not like being thwarted, even when it is not in the interest of the nation and society at large.

I maintain here that it makes as much sense to use the 2d Amendment to justify private ownership of WMDs as it does to allow the abuse of our nations's enormous economic freedom to concentrate the economic power of the entire nation into the hands of a tiny fraction of its citizens. This is the road to enslavement.

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