Higher Education And The American Dream

What is your favorite subject to ponder? A recent movie, right and wrong, family, or is it something else? I love to think. I at times can be a Walter Mitty, especially when I am in a dispute with someone. If he says this then I will counter with that, or if I win this then I will climb that. Many what ifs play through my mind at times. Am I happy, or am I sad, it really depends on my perspective on things.

Take the American dream. I have written in previous blogs that I still believe in the American dream, but today I was thinking about what exactly is the American dream? Is it a white house with a picket fence? I have heard it described as such. Some would say that it is every increasing wealth. I am not too sure if buy that one.

James Truslow Adams wrote the book “The Epic of America,” which is where he coined the phrase and defined it as “not a dream of motor cars and high wages merely, but a dream of social order in which each man and each woman shall be able to attain to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable, and be recognized by others, for what they are, regardless of the fortuitous circumstances of birth or position.” Hmm, I like this definition. I like living in a place where I can rise as high as I am capable of accomplishing, regardless of whether I was born in the inner city or on a farm.

The Stanford Graduate School of Education is completing a three-year study where they have asked native born and immigrant youth what they think of the American dream. William Damon described two responses in particular. A native-born student reaffirmed the position posited above. “I think the American dream is that people can be who they are. Like freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of action and stuff.” An immigrant student from India answered in a similar fashion, “he was proud to say that I’m from that heritage and culture, but I’m proud of my American culture as well.” The American dream to this young man from India was to “find a good job, make a good living, and uphold your duties to your country in all ways possible.”

The American dream is alive and well. However, the only way it will be reinforced is through hard work. I was very troubled by an article this morning in the paper. The title, “We Pretend to Teach, They Pretend to Learn,” tells you what this article is about. It attempted to be an expose of a state of higher education that is in trouble. I would dismiss this article if it weren’t for the fact that I have seen this phenomenon occur. “Students arrive woefully academically unprepared; students study little, party much and lack any semblance of internalized discipline; pride in work is supplanted by expediency; and the whole enterprise is treated as a system to be gamed in which plagiarism and cheating abound.” Although these are huge generalities, there are elements of truth, and there are exceptions.

I also agree with Geoffry Collier when he states there are two attitudes that are causing these problems. “Social preoccupations trump the academic part of residential education, which occupies precious little of the student’s time or emotions.” I must admit this is true. I have seen students give minimal effort, expecting high grades. They just didn’t have the time to complete the work at a high quality level because they were too busy playing video games.

As serious as this is I think reason two is even more important. It reflects the pragmatic nature of our society. The “student’s view of education is strictly instrumental and credentialist. They regard the entire enterprise as a series of hoops they must jump through to obtain their 120 credits, which they blindly view as an automatic licensure for adulthood and a good job, an increasingly problematic belief.”

On our side, the Professors, we play along, according to Collier, because we have a good racket going. The Professors are doing their research, which is more important than teaching. Also, they want to be popular with the students, or they will get snow shoved into their cars. Collier then argues that everyone associated with the system is “incentivized to maintain low standards.” I really disagree with his statements about faculty.

I don’t know how it is at other institutions, but where I teach we have committed individuals who want students to learn. We work hard to create lesson plans that are interesting, and we work with students on a personal level to ensure they see the value of learning. This is not to say that there are not students at our college who see the system as a series of ridiculous hoops they must jump through. I know several students that refuse to attempt to study a viewpoint different than their own. This leads to a certain level of narrow mindedness that I think will hold them back in their future careers.

My point is that there is a connection of the American dream with education. Not the anemic system that Collier describes but a vibrant personal system where students and faculty attempt to grapple with the weightier issues of life. This is what a liberal arts education can give a student.

I work side by side with faculty that strongly believe this is our goal. They are not just presenting PowerPoint slides at breakneck speed, ask if the student is getting it, and then move on. No, these faculty members are taking the time to engage and encourage students to learn. We recognize that when a student learns how to learn, the American dream will become a reality.

Now I am off to Honduras. See you in a week.

And that is my thought for the day!


Stop Demonizing The Free Market

I am convinced that part of our problem in this modern era is we don’t believe in free speech anymore. In fact, I heard someone on NPR state the other day that people who are on the side of Robertson from Duck Dynasty do not understand the first amendment. So here is the text from the Bill of Rights:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances”

I am not too sure why someone would say that Robertson does not have the right to define sin based on a historical understanding of scripture unless there is a double standard when it comes to free speech. I think there is a very subtle change that is occurring in our country where we are willing to throw out the past without any thought of long-term implications. Take for example our current demonization of the free market.

Many of us have read the November Manifesto from Pope Francis. Many are interpreting his words as anti-capitalism, when they are anything but. They are words that are challenging us to take responsibility for our actions. They are words that attack unbridled greed and lack of concern for the poor. They are words that attack consumerism and the loss of human care. They are not words meant to undermine one economic system and replace it with another.

Therefore, the Pope’s words should not be use as a part of the movement in this country to deconstruct any historical meaning associated with the positive affects of economic growth. And they should not be use as an attempt to justify the growing dependence on large government rather than self-sufficiency.

This process of deconstruction is creating emporiophobia, the fear of markets, and as Paul Rubin stated this morning that this is not a good thing “given the overwhelming evidence that such institutions provide the greatest wealth, health and happiness for humankind.” These words are from Rubin’s excellent article discussing how to roll back the demonization of free markets.

Without any thought of the long-term implications of our actions we elect politicians who want to create more and more regulations reducing the ability of our companies to compete against companies in other countries. And we elect local politicians who are anti-market, such as the New York City mayor. I am not saying we are not free to elect certain officials, and I think it is important that we have elected officials that reflect the views of the people, but I am saying that we need to think through the implications of replacing a free market system with one based in a strong centralized government, I won’t use the dreaded word Socialism.

However, I do agree that because of the choices of a few, the large majority of honest business people are being negatively impacted. So maybe Joe Kennedy was right. Maybe it is more important to be thought of as good, rather than be good? No, that is not true I don’t buy it! But what is true is what the free market is, versus what we think it is.

The free market involves the choice the make a transaction. If I want to purchase something I need, I am free to go to the theoretical palm tree and make a choice based on the best deal I can get. There are many sellers at the palm tree who want to sell me what I want to buy. They are competing for my choice, but whom I choose to buy from then cooperates with me to complete the sale. The competitors that win my business have out competed the others to win my business. The free market is not just about competition it is also about cooperation.

However, we can apply this to the workforce too. Rubin states, “Similarly, we might say the poor person has been out competed in the market. Or we might say the poor person cannot successfully cooperate with others because he lacks valuable skills and little to sell.” We can take this statement in two directions. If I am a pro-market dogmatist then I am going to argue that this is not my problem. If I do something to help this person that cannot compete due to the lack of skills then I am being penalized. I am penalized because I am being forced to provide a high minimum wage, even thought the person does not have the skills I need to do a job. I am losing money because this person cannot compete.

However, another perspective may be a bit more reasonable, which is to create mechanisms for the poor person to gain the skills needed to compete in the workforce market. So I as a business owner then cooperates with the people to create a stronger work force, which will help me compete with other business owners, which leads to a cooperate process of the purchasers of my product can and will purchase my product, thus completing the transaction.

The word that we are throwing around at the college where I teach is Flourish. The process of creating cooperative mechanisms between business and the community will create a win-win solution for both the poor and business, in other words creating an environment where people are flourishing. Business will have a stronger workforce, leading to higher wages for the poor, and the poor will be able to cooperate in the market by purchasing more items they need. Sounds pretty good to me.

So people, don’t jump on the bandwagon because some famous person thinks this or that. Look at the facts. Don’t throw out the old and replace with the new, because sometimes the new just isn’t as good as the old. Sometimes the old is just stronger and more effective.

And that is my thought for the day!

Unbridled Corporatism, Rent-Seeking, Cronyism, And Jesus

I just finished “Killing Kennedy” by Bill O’Reilly and found it a very good book. One of my presents yesterday from Jennie and Gracie was a Time Magazine solely focused on the time from Kennedy’s run for President, through his days in office, and ending at his assassination. The O’Reilly account was a good look at one side of the enigma of JFK, while the Time narrative was an excellent look at the more public side of Kennedy.

Kennedy was, and is, many things to all of us! O’Reilly seems to be focused on his philandering. In fact, O’Reilly notes that LBJ was as big a philanderer as Kennedy, just most discreet. I know that LBJ was a womanizer because a golfing partner of mine was part of his Secret Service detail and he told me LBJ liked the ladies.

Time Magazine, during the first chapter, focused on what it felt was important for us to know; that Kennedy was meticulous about his image. Joe Kennedy, JFK’s father, was a Capitalist and a pragmatist. He told his children that the most important thing was not if they were a good person, but if people thought they were a good person. For the Kennedy clan image was everything, which was what Joe told them was important.

To most of us though, we saw a forty year old man who was the hope of a nation. We saw in Kennedy what could be. Our nation was embroiled in a Cold War with the Soviet Union. I was very young when Kennedy was elected, but I do remember our exercises of climbing under our desks in case of Nuclear Attacks. As if getting under our desks would make any difference if a Hydrogen bomb dropped. Many families built bomb shelters in their basements.

Economically things were tight. My Dad had a good job, and my mom was a stay at home mother. We did not have a lot, but I do remember we had what we needed. I had a paper route, which provided me with spending money. And I even bought some of my own clothes.

Our country was embattled on all fronts with civil rights. Women were seen as second-class citizens, and we were all confronted on the news with racial inequality. Gloria Steinem published her work “A Bunny’s Tale.” It exposed the exploitation by the Playboy club of its bunny’s. Promising the young girls $200-$300 per week, but nickel and diming them each week to keep their pay at a minimum. Basically, according to Gloria Steinem defining the sexual revolution in male terms only. Her work fell in line with Betty Friedan and other women’s leaders of the time fighting for equality.

While Martin Luther King Jr. was mesmerizing the nation by “Having A Dream,” we were confronted with the hateful actions of George Wallace keeping blacks from enrolling in college, and others killing leaders in the civil rights movement. And who can forget the picture of the young man and the German Shepherd dog barking at him.

The 60’s were turbulent times, but JFK gave us hope. He was a man who was loved by many and hated by so many more. So much so that a young man bought a $21 rifle and shot at him from a book depository window in Dallas, Texas. Killing the hopes of many people.

Here we are today. The political situation is atrocious; our politicians are almost incapable of making collaborative decisions. Our economy seems to be recovering, but it is tenuous at best. Large multinational corporations are pushing their weight around to get the best deals from local governments because they know they have the jobs. The middle class, that usually caries the burden of paying most of the taxes, is under attack and shrinking. Unbridled corporatism is becoming more of an issue today as big box stores destroy the small businesses that used to be supported by consumers. Airlines are merging to gain economies of scale, creating large barriers to entry into the market. Now we buy our goods and services from a few large entities.

These large corporate entities have become rent-seekers. Rent-seeking involves the process of trying to increase one’s share of value without creating value. By lobbying, or other political manipulations, large corporations are creating oligopolies where the few large entities eliminate the ability of small practitioners to compete. This does not mean that these large entities cannot compete, they can, but the ability of these large entities to control input costs through political means and supplier pressures, eliminate the small to medium enterprise from holding its own against the large corporation.

Through the process of rent-seeking these few large corporations create partnerships with political leaders through gift giving, etc. This process then leads to cronyism. The political pie is distributed to the few oligarchs they play golf with.

The large-scaled corporatism, enhanced via rent-seeking, and fueled by the power brokers in a cronyistic fashion has led to a consumptive environment of excess. 70% of our Gross Domestic Product is based in consumption. We spend, and to spend we need to work, and because we like to spend a lot we have to work a lot, and the spiral is in place. All fed by the marketing we are confronted with all around us.

The question is in this time of craziness who is the light in this darkness? Who stands out as a leader in this time of consumptive excess? Who is the leader who can lead us back to sanity, and encouraging us to care for our fellow human being? That person is whose birth we celebrate today. Jesus began with humble beginnings. There was no room for him in the Holiday Inn. He tells us there is a more simple way to live than needing a Mercedes Benz. We can get off this Nautilus Treadmill of consumptive craziness fueled by Starbucks Coffee and other large corporate entities telling us that we won’t be happy without the latest Microsoft Xbox. I want you to know I am using my MacBook Pro to write this, while researching with my IPad.

Today is Christmas. It is the day we celebrate the birth of a savior. JFK was an imperfect man, but he stood out as a light to a crazy time. He was killed, and he is still in his grave. But there was another light who stood out during the 60’s, and He is still shining out to us. The man Jesus Christ was killed, but He rose from the dead. He is the light we need to turn to today in this time of greed. May we all see how the simplicity of the little child Jesus is the path we need to seek. Merry Christmas!

And that is my thought for the day!

There Is A Better Way Of Doing Business

They call this the Holiday season. For years I struggled during this time. I had remarried after a difficult divorce, and my children were not around anymore. My new wife had children, and Christmas was now with a new family. It was tough, but I  have adapted and now Christmas seems to be much better. The question in my mind what is Christmas? Is it a time where consumption overwhelms us? It appears that we have gone back to our ways of over spending. It was reported this morning that we have spent more than earned once again. Good for the economy? Maybe in the short term, but maintaining too much debt is not a good thing.

Is Christmas just about family getting together? This seems to be a better endeavor than buying gifts. I love getting together with the family.

Or is it about the birth of a baby and hope? During the Roman Empire the holiday on the shortest day of the year was Saturnalia. The Romans would get drunk and give gifts to each other. Does that sound familiar? This is much like our modern expression of Christmas.

However, Christmas represents the gospel story. Jesus was born in stable, lived, and then died on the cross as a propitiation for our sin. This is what Christmas is all about, but it also represents how old values are sometimes the best values. This is just as true in business.

I saw a book in Barnes and Noble yesterday and bought its E-book equivalent. I didn’t want to carry such a heavy book on the airplane Friday when I go to Honduras. The title of the book is “The Great Deformation.” David Stockman explores how Capitalism has been corrupted in America to become more like Italian cronyism. Stockman argues that through TARP, “Free markets and prosperity are deeply imperiled because the state and its central banking branch has failed miserably due to overreaching, overloading, and outside capture. They have become the tools of a vicious form of crony capitalism and money politics and are in the thrall to a statist policy.”

I am not too sure it is that bad, but the one thing I do know is how we practice business is different today than it was fifty years ago. Wall street is now a “reckless, dangerous, and greed-driven casino,” always on the trail of rent-seeking, looking for what it can gain without giving back to society. This is problematic, but it did get me to thinking if there is anyone who does business the good-old way? I immediately thought about an Amish merchant I met in Intercourse, Pennsylvania. So how do Amish do business? Are they all farmers, or are they entrepreneurs?

On May 4, 2010 CNN ran a report that discussed Amish entrepreneurs. The headline for the article was “Why Amish Businesses Don’t Fail.” Amish businesses have a 95% success rate at staying open at least five years. This is an incredible number, especially when the success rate for others are around 50%. Why are the Amish more successful, and what can we learn from them?

The Amish work incredibly hard. Remember when I discussed the Puritan work ethic. They embody that ethic and view industriousness as a call of God. They also believe in cooperation. Their culture is one that they come around each other to help. They know how important relationships are when doing business. But, they also stick to what they know. They know quilting, handmade, traditional, and rustic goods and make them well. Therefore visitors will come into their communities to buy their products, thus infusing their communities with cash from the outside. This is good for their sub-economy.

However, they also run their businesses God’s way. CNN reports, “The Almighty has been a good business coach for Miller, a 40 year-old father of six. He started his company 15 years ago and now has two separate entities: Four Corners Furniture a retail furniture-making operation open to the public, and Miller Bedroom wholesale, which sells directly to distributors.” Miller has an eighth grad education, common for the Amish, but knows how to work hard and be honest.

The Amish are selective in what type of business they will start. They will never create a business that is morally questionable. “Don’t hold your breath waiting for an Amish-owned casino, liquor store, or debt-collection service.” They stay true to there convictions, drawn their own lines, and don’t cross them, which is how they can maintain their strong business values.

So what could modern business learn from the Amish? First there is the lesson of hard work. There is something cathartic about working hard. You feel good when you accomplish something. Second, in association to what this blog is about, good business mean good relationships. The Amish know how to accomplish things in community. Third, honesty is always the best policy. Treat your customers well and give them a good product or service at a good price and you will be successful. And lastly, know what you can do, how you can do it, and what your values are. Once you have determined those things, then don’t violate them. Be true to yourself.

Not bad lessons to think about during this Christmas season. Merry Christmas all!

And that is my thought for the day!


Income Equality And Growth

When thinking about what is the best economically for our country; my initial thoughts always gravitate towards growth. This does not mean we eliminate taxes, we need appropriate social safety nets, road, security, etc., but it does mean that we structure our fiscal and tax systems to support healthy economic growth. There is an incredible amount of data that supports the power of economic development.

Robert Grady argued in his article this morning that the interpretation of census data that proposes an explosion of income inequality is wrong. He cites another research paper, The Miss-measure of Inequality, to say that people who have proposed a growing inequality use a “census bureau definition of money income that excludes taxes, transfer payments, like Medicaid, Medicare, nutrition assistance, the Earned Income Tax Credit, and even costly employee benefits such as health insurance.” He believes they are not telling the full story. He believes the authors of this paper, Lee Ohanian and Kip Hagopian, actually argue that income inequality has actually decreased if you take into consideration the effects of taxes and transfer payments. “Inequality declined 1.8% during the 16 year period of 1993 to 2009.”

The Congressional Budget Office  (CBO) seems to support this with its 2011 report that from 1979 to 2007, “family income, including benefits, on average experienced a 62% gain above inflation.” Also, the U.S. Treasury has found that there was upward mobility in the decades of 1987-1996 and 1996-2005. “For example, roughly half of those in the bottom income quintile in 1996 had move to a higher quintile by 2005.” This is a very interesting argument, and it makes me think we can say anything we want with data; I have read that the data means the exact opposite.

The point of Robert O’Grady’s article is this. In times of economic growth, all families experience improved economic results, and in downturns they loose. Well duh! O’Grady states, “In periods of growth, such as the 1980’s and 1990’s, the vast majority of Americans gained, and have an opportunity to gain. In periods of slow growth, such as the past four and ½ years since the recession officially ended, poor people and the middle class are hurt the most, and opportunity is curbed.” This really seems to make sense to me.

After all of the above words what do we know? What is the aha moment! Well, regardless of whether you believe income inequality is or is not an issue, economic growth provides opportunities for all. Therefore, we should be concerned about the possibility going into a decade long slump, or what the Japanese called “the lost decade.” Some attribute the slump to an aging workforce that had become complacent. And other associated data is used to show that entrepreneurs are mainly younger people with “a fire in their belly.” If this is the case then we should be giving our young the skills to start and run small businesses.

Economic stagnation happens as a result of many things. There is obviously the inability of entrepreneurs to acquire the needed funds to start their businesses; or could it be the lack of new ideas that leads to an absence of the necessary innovation that Schumpteter call a creative destructive force?  Or could it be a missing entrepreneurial skill in our youth? Has our youth become too complacent, having things given to them by their parents? Is the young man in Texas, who blames Affluenza as his cause for driving drunk, representative of our youth or is he an outlier?

Edward Lazear, James Laing, and Jackie Wang analyzed a recent report from the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) survey that indicates that strong entrepreneurship is correlated with a younger population. This survey resulted from collecting data in 65 different countries, and demonstrates “that young societies tend to generate more new businesses than older societies.”

If this is the case, and we need economic growth to improve our societal standard of living, then it seems to me that we need to provide our youth with the business acumen needed to start and run successful businesses. With the hanging on of baby-boomer managers, the opportunities for young people to manage organizations are reduced, therefore, many future entrepreneurs who would have worked for a large company and then left to go out in the cruel world and start their own company now do not have the ability to develop those skills.

Therefore, it is up to the colleges to provide those opportunities. It is my belief that liberal arts colleges are the best place to provide this training. First, in a liberal arts setting, students are given the opportunity to develop the technical skills required to create innovative new endeavors. Second, in a liberal arts environment students will receive a broad based liberal education; this does not mean a leftist indoctrination, but an education that provides students the ability to think about freedom and democracy and how to create a thriving society. This includes critical thinking and communication skills needed for a thriving populace. Third, when a student studies entrepreneurial skills there is a huge need to connect those skills with skills developed while studying the humanities.

Humanities, such as History, Philosophy, and Literature, helps a student to see the world in a broader sense. In other words, making money is not all there is. Obviously one needs to make a living and provide for their family, but as part of a larger family the humanities display how we interact with our neighbors. Studying the technical skills of entrepreneurship within the settings of the humanities creates a well-rounded person that can do well and do good!

I think economic growth is where the solutions lie, but never forget our responsibility to our neighbor.

And that is my thought for the day!




The Guillotines Are Closer!

I have to admit, I am fascinated with the Russian leader Vladimir Putin. His latest action to free members of a punk rock band with a provocative name and a former Oligarch is classic. He is thumbing his nose at the world, especially the other world leaders who he sees as weak, and doing things his way.

Putin in a show of power warned Russian tycoons in 2000 that their wealth would be safe if they did not meddle in politics. One of those oligarchs did not listen and proceeded to support civic organizations opposed to Putin. Mr. Khodorkovsky, the oligarch, told Putin in 2003 that if “the goal was to drive him from the country or to put me in jail, they’d better put me in jail.” His boldness was admirable, but a few days later he was in jail. He spent ten years in jail, and is now, as of yesterday, out of the country. The oligarch who thought he was powerful found out who really had the power in Russia.

What Putin did is nothing new. The tension between those who have power and those who the power is applied too is as old as the history of mankind. Power brokers collect power, over use the power, and then the people rise up and remove the person in power. Eventually the new person in power becomes like the old leader, and on and on it goes.

Peggy Noonan this morning, in her wonderfully articulate op ed, made several poignant statements. The title of the WSJ opinion editorial is “The Most Memorable Words of 2013.”  She then provided some of her own opinions about some of the more interesting faux pas made over the last year. “If you like your health-care plan, you can keep it.” We’ve all seen this one discussed ad nauseam. There are other variations of this like keeping one’s doctor that she found appealing. On the more positive side, Delta airlines said that even though cell phone use is now allowed on airplanes during a flight, it won’t allow customers to use their phones any time during the flight. I think that is fantastic. I do not want to sit on a four-hour flight listening to the person next to me discussing their sex life with their significant other.

But the best comment made in 2013, according to Noonan (and I agree with her) is one that maybe none of us heard prior to this moment. A billionaire in New York made this comment. “I hate it when the market goes up. Every time I hear the stock market went up I know the guillotines are coming closer.” That comment is almost on the same level as Marie Antoinette’s “let them eat cake.”

The billionaire who made this comment is a self-made man, and has a lot of money in the market. According to Noonan, he is “a thinker on politics.” He is also someone who is concerned with the “growing distance between the economically successful and those who have not or cannot begin to climb.” Noonan then emphasizes the billionaire’s point, “The division has become too extreme, too dramatic, and static.” I would agree! I think the key word is static, or stationary, unchanging. Anyone, wealthy or not, should be concerned with this.

Why is the Indian government so upset with the strip-searching of one of their diplomats? It’s because they don’t understand our legal system. Anyone who is arrested is subject to the same process. It doesn’t matter whether you are rich or poor, booking procedures are the same. The outcome may not be the same, too dependent on wealth and power, but if one does something to enter the “system,” they are processed the same.

The economic system in our country is becoming too bimodal, and this bimodality will “tear the country apart and give rise to policies that are bitter and punishing, not helpful and broadening.” Noonan finishes her article with some comments that got me thinking. The wealthy are concerned about the economic situation around them. Noonan stated, “And though they give away hundreds of millions of dollars to charities, schools, and scholarships, they don’t know what can be done to turn the overall economic picture around.” There is still globalization and technology improvements that ensure the way work is done in this country will stay changed. “Technology will continue to give jobs to the educated, and the ever-evolving mischief of men and markets won’t change.”

So what can the wealthy do? How much of what they give away go to charities that are not as effective as they could be, or are designed to keep people in their poverty? Maybe, instead of giving to some of the charities they have always given to, maybe they create new charities that will prepare the have not’s to participate within the new economy? Maybe we need to figure out what the skills needed in this new environment are and create a national training system that will help people develop the skills they need to work in this new environment. Do you remember what the number one reason was for people not getting hired are a company? It was the inability to pass a drug test!

I think we have the resources to be able to turn this around, I just don’t think we have the will to accomplish it. I think we are too busy pointing our fingers at each other, while expecting the government to do something. I think the wealthy should take the initiative to put together national training centers to prepare people to work in the new world.

Someone could say, why would they want to do that? I think this billionaire just gave them an excellent reason. “Every time the market goes up, the guillotines are coming closer.” Do we think that humankind has changed? Do we think that anything is different than the past when it comes to uprisings? I don’t think so. All of us want an opportunity, instead of designing a system that takes that opportunity away, lets design one that helps people to realize opportunity.

And that is my thought for the day!






Beware When Bad Becomes Good, And Good Becomes Bad

I have almost finished O’Reilly and Dugard’s book on Killing Kennedy. It is a well-written book that has brought back many memories to me from that time in our country. Lee Harvey Oswald thought he was doing good when he killed Kennedy, but he was doing bad. There are many examples of how bad is becoming the new good.

My kids used to say, that’s bad. But the term was supposed to mean good. Bad Boys involved two movies with Martin Lawrence and Will Smith who were bad cops, by bad they meant they actually did good, and they always got the bad guys. The two movies were entertaining but profanity and sex filled, and should be watched on TV stations that still edit out most of the words and explicit scenes.

What got me thinking about this was an article in the Economist last week. The title of the article is “Satan threatens the heartland,” which explained why the Devil enjoys annoying the Okies. In 2009 Oklahoma’s legislature passed a bill stating a monumental version of the Ten Commandments should be placed on the grounds of its state capital. The Ten Commandments is recognized as “an important component of the moral foundation of the laws and legal system of the United States of America.” The monument was not paid for with state money; it was donated by a family in Oklahoma City and is standing prominently in the city for all to look at. There is a similar monument in Texas that was ruled constitutional in 2005 by the Supreme Court.

Like it or not the Ten Commandments is both a religious and historically important document to us in the United States. The Ten Commandments represent God’s moral law that is relevant to all humanity. People who attempt to abide by the Ten Commandments, or some similar rule based process, are usually people that have strong morals and are not going around killing and raping people. I am not saying that people can be perfect, but I have met many people who have an internal sense of right and wrong that is inline with the Ten Commandments. Thus, the posting of the Ten Commandments in a public place would, in my estimation, benefit society.

According to the ACLU that is not the case. “Last August it sued Oklahoma for violating a section of Oklahoma’s constitution which forbids using public property to support any system of religion directly or indirectly.” Hmm, so religious systems are bad? Or are they good? Religious systems can be bad while thought good, thing of the Salem Witch Trials, but posting rules that govern how we behave is bad? But I thought it was good? I am so confused.

So now the Satanic Temple has said it wants to create its own monument and place it next to the one in Oklahoma City. “On December 2nd the Satanic Temple, based in New York, launched a campaign to donate a monument of its own, to be placed next to the Ten Commandments monument.” This new monument is supposed to be public-friendly, something that children could play on. Lucius Malfoy, oops sorry, Lucifer, oops sorry again, “Lucien Greaves, a spokesman for the Temple, said the organization has received a huge outpouring of support from folks in Oklahoma, and sees no reason why the design – due to be revealed this week, should be rejected.”

Oh my, good is becoming bad, and bad is becoming good, something that children can play on. This is just a bit nutty to me. When does it all stop? I think that Lucifer loves when we think he does not exist. I also think the god of this world loves it when bad becomes good. To think that any type of monument to Satan can be placed at the same level as a monument to God is hilarious.

I remember a scenario in the Old Testament when the Philistines captured the Ark of the Covenant. They place the ark in one of its temples next to an idol. The following morning they found the idol toppled over at the foot of the ark. Obviously God made a statement with that event; real history, real outcomes.

Bad is not good, and will never be good. There is evil in this world, and that evil will never be considered good. There is right and wrong, and there are certain absolutes that define good human behavior and bad human behavior. We should recognize that, lest we find ourselves fighting against God.

And that is my thought for the day!