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Entitlements

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The definition of entitlement from the Encarta Dictionary: English (North America) “to give somebody the right to have or to do something” [emphasis mine].  Merriam-Webster defines it as “a government program providing benefits to members of a specified group; also: funds supporting or distributed by such a program” [again, emphasis mine].

What truly are entitlements as the term applies to our daily lives?  According to A Glossary of Political Economy Terms by Paul M. Johnson of the Department of Political Science, Auburn University – the most important examples of entitlement programs at the federal level in the United States would include Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, most Veterans’ Administration programs, federal employee and military retirement plans, unemployment compensation, food stamps, and agricultural price support programs. Based on the definition above, the activities should not be called entitlements.

I would though argue that benefits such as Veterans’ Administration programs, federal employee and military retirement plans should not be included at all.  These programs were earned through employment – as are any such programs in the private sector.  Although programs such as Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid are paid for by the eventual receiver of the benefit they are unconstitutional activities of the Federal Government.

Oft cited as justification for Entitlement programs is the “general Welfare of the United States” parts of the United States Constitution.  The Constitution contains two references to “the General Welfare”, one occurring in the Preamble and the other in the Taxing and Spending Clause. The U.S. Supreme Court has held the mention of the clause in the Preamble to the U.S. Constitution “has never been regarded as the source of any substantive power conferred on the Government of the United States or on any of its Departments.”  This leaves the Taxing and Spending Clause which reads, “The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States…”.  However, while the “general Welfare” has been, and I agree should be, interpreted as many things, it says nothing of redistribution of wealth programs – exactly what these so called entitlements are.

Per the official Social Security website: “The constitutional issue about the taxing power had deep roots running all the way back to the founders and to a dispute between Alexander Hamilton and James Madison. Although both Hamilton and Madison were Federalists who believed in a strong federal government, they disagreed over the interpretation of the Constitution’s permission for the government to levy taxes and spend money to ‘provide for the general welfare.’ Hamilton thought this meant that government could levy new taxes and undertake new spending if doing so improved the general welfare in a broad sense. Madison thought the federal government could only expend money for purposes specifically enumerated in the Constitution.  The Madisonian view, also shared by Thomas Jefferson [an Anti-Federalist], came in time to be known as the strict construction doctrine while the Hamiltonian view is called the doctrine of implied powers.”  Obviously I completely agree with Madison and Jefferson.  When you throw the 10th Amendment into the mix it makes little sense for the general welfare to be interpreted as Hamilton did.  IF, as he suggests, “government could levy new taxes and undertake new spending if doing so improved the general welfare in a broad sense”, thereby opening the door to those “implied powers”, it could basically do whatever it wanted.  It would operate with complete impunity.  Can you say $16T debt?  Can you say 10th Amendment disregarded?  Keep in mind, the 10th Amendment not only covers the States but “we the people” as well.  Considering it is not only our rights being ignored but our money used to pay for these programs, it may be something with which you should concern yourself.  Just a thougth…

According to Paul M. Johnson, “The existence of entitlement programs is mainly significant from a political economy standpoint because of the very difficult problems they create for Congress’s efforts to control the exact size of the budget deficit or surplus through the annual appropriations process.”  As well, “Since the middle 1980s, entitlement programs have accounted for more than half of all federal spending. Taken together with such other almost uncontrollable (in the short run, that is) expenses as interest payments on the national debt and the payment obligations arising from long-term contracts already entered into by the government in past years, entitlement programs leave Congress with no more than about 25% of the annual budget to be scrutinized for possible cutbacks through the regular appropriations process.”  This of course presupposes that you can’t touch such programs.  I have a revelation!  How about we get rid of these programs?  How about if people “need” assistance we leave it to the States (should any individual State choose to have such programs), private charity or family/friends.  Wow, what a concept.  I cannot take credit for it though.  It was around for thousands of years prior to our Entitlement programs being implemented.

Bottom line:  this is a pure and simple redistribution of wealth which boils down to legalized (and unconstitutional) theft.  They are taking money from one to give to another.  The first receives no compensation or benefit from the “transaction”.  As well, per the Merriam-Webster definition of “a government program providing benefits to members of a specified group”, one can hardly argue that it is providing “for the … general Welfare of the United States”.  These programs are providing for specific groups of people that fit specific criteria.
That is NOT the general welfare of our country directly or indirectly!  For those that doubt, we will take a look at the Broken Window Theory at a future date.

I went through the Constitution (again!) to look for rationale above and beyond that normally claimed to support these programs.  I found none.  However, what I DID find were violations of MY rights (and yours).  Since those that come up with these ideas seem bent on interpreting the Constitution in any way they see fit, I am going to throw out these arguments as I see them (two can play at that game).

Taking my money to pay for unearned entitlements for others, and, in fact, specific groups such as the poor and farmers, violates my 4th Amendment rights.  That is, it violates my right to “be secure in [my] … effects, against unreasonable … seizures…”  In this case, taking my money to give to someone else is in effect seizing my “effects” (no pun intended).  It is unreasonable since I receive no benefit from the seizure and have no say in either how much is taken or to whom it is given.  In fact, I actually become less secure in my person and house since I have less money with which to secure family and myself.  In a similar vein, this would also violate my 5th Amendment rights.  These being “No person shall be … deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law…”  In this case we are not even talking about “private property be[ing] taken for public use”.  The money (property) they are taking from me is designated for specific groups, not to be used for the public.  Due process of law means “a fundamental, constitutional guarantee that all legal proceedings will be fair and that one will be given notice of the proceedings and an opportunity to be heard before the government acts to take away one’s life, liberty, or property. Also, a constitutional guarantee that a law shall not be unreasonable, arbitrary, or capricious.”  This specifically applies to “all persons born or naturalized in the United States” (i.e., ME!) and, while specified in the 5th Amendment this applies to States as well per the 14th.

I am also going to claim my 8th Amendment rights have been violated.  My claim in this is that since this amendment does not claim to be specific to criminals (as may be presumed by its wording), it is applicable to every citizen.  Therefore, this theft of my funds is an “…excessive fines imposed…” which results in “…cruel and unusual punishments inflicted”.  I am being unduly punished by having my money taken, again with no benefit to me, and reducing my standard of living.

Additionally I am claiming a violation of my 10th Amendment rights.  This of course is the amendment that ensures “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”  I am “the people”.  While I might agree that many of these programs could be enacted and implemented at the State level (should the people of that State so choose and it is done so in a manner so as not to violate my 14th Amendment rights), until then, and as long as it is the Federal government doing it, I am being denied my constitutional rights.  I have all those rights not enumerated in Article I, Section 8.

I am finally claiming my 13th Amendment rights are violated.  As I’m sure you will recall, this amendment states, “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”  I am claiming that this theft of my funds amounts to involuntary servitude.  I work and do not receive the entire benefit of my labor.  The time I must work to earn that which is taken to redistribute is involuntary servitude.  I have committed no crime.  Why am I being punished?

On the other hand, since we technically live in a Representative Democracy, we may as well just scrap the Constitution (Articles I and II excepted since in order to be a Representative Democracy, you need representatives) and let our duly elected representatives (Congress and the President) enact any laws they wish.  If we don’t like it, we just elect new ones and have them change it.  Based on the treatment of the Constitution over the last 50-60 years (to a more limited extent even longer), we are effectively doing this anyway.  Why not save the money being paid to the Judicial Branch and just scrap it?  No Constitution, no need to interpret it, no need for a Supreme Court (and all the support structure that goes with it).  Per the United States Courts website, “the Judiciary as a whole would receive $6.76 billion” in fiscal year 2012.  More for those Entitlement programs!

You may claim these arguments are silly, unrealistic or just plain ridiculous.  However, keep in mind, when we look at an application of our Constitution based on moving standards vice the original intent of the drafters and common sense, we can eventually make it say virtually anything we want.  Did I say “virtually”?  hmmmmmm

>>> The day is at a close, the night is drawing in and my cigar awaits – ’til next time…

A few quotes on Education

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We are coming of Spring Break and into the final quarter of this school year.  I thought, why not a few words of wisdom concerning education to carry us to through the last stretch.  Something to think about…

It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.   – Aristotle

You can educate yourself right out of a relationship with God.   -Tammy Faye Bakker

The most important part of education is proper training in the nursery.   -Plato

Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself.   -John Dewey

A human being is not attaining his full heights until he is educated.   -Horace Mann

Data is not information, information is not knowledge, knowledge is not understanding, understanding is not wisdom.   -Clifford Stoll

Much education today is monumentally ineffective. All too often we are giving young people cut flowers when we should be teaching them to grow their own plants.   -John W. Gardner

Education… has produced a vast population able to read but unable to distinguish what is worth reading.   -G. M. Trevelyan       [or, I would add, what is worth watching]

The great difficulty in education is to get experience out of ideas.   -George Santayana

If someone is going down the wrong road, he doesn’t need motivation to speed him up. What he needs is education to turn him around.   -Jim Rohn

The goal of education is the advancement of knowledge and the dissemination of truth.   -John F. Kennedy

If a man neglects education, he walks lame to the end of his life.   -Plato

We are born weak, we need strength; helpless, we need aid; foolish, we need reason. All that we lack at birth, all that we need when we come to man’s estate, is the gift of education.   -Jean-Jacques Rousseau

>>> The day is at a close, the night is drawing in and my cigar awaits – ’til next time…

Class / Refinement / Sophistication / Style — Continued

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We ended off last time with “What has this got to do with us?”

Leonardo da Vinci once said, “Anyone who conducts an argument by appealing to authority is not using his intelligence; he is just using his memory.”  While I will appeal below to a few “experts”, we will first appeal to logic, to rational thought, to critical thinking.

Pride in appearance and speech begets pride in other aspects of your life.  What you feel when you wear “dressy” clothes.  The attitude you have.  Some people claim they feel stifled when wearing a suit or nice dress. I’m not so sure that is truly the case.  You undoubtedly feel less comfortable than you do in your favorite pair of sweats – especially since most aren’t used to wearing quality clothing on a regular basis in this day-in-age.  On the other hand, there is a sense of quality.  There is a sense of status if you will.  You feel like people are going to have a higher opinion of you than is the case when you are wearing shorts and a t-shirt [and they DO by-the-way].  However you might feel in a pair of sweats – comfortable, relaxed…  I’ll guarantee you don’t feel respected when you are out and about in flip-flops and shorts and a t-shirt.  In fact, there may have been a time when you witnessed, either personally or someone else, someone “of quality” looking down with distain upon the manner of dress.  You’ve seen all kind of writings about people who look down with derision upon those not acting properly, those who do not speak properly, those who do not dress properly.  I believe that if we would be honest with ourselves we would admit that when we are “dressed up”, for lack of a better term, – at least what we would call it now days – it makes us feel good.  It does make us feel there is a quality about us – a quality that is not there when we are in a shorts and t-shirt and flip-flops or sweats or pajamas on our way to Walmart.  So keeping in mind those feelings, we should acknowledge our relationship with other people, how we treat other people, how we act toward other people, how we act with other people, is also of higher quality.  It changes us for the better.

This goes for speech as well.  There have been many times throughout history, and I would dare say even today, when you hear people refer to how those from the lower class speak – anywhere from Old Town London where people on the “lower side” (working-class Londoners) are speaking in a Cockney accent to what we would claim now about Hillbillies or those of the “lower class” in the South.  When you are speaking in such a manner you are not relating on an equal level with those that take pride in the way they speak.  The phraseology that they use…  The grammar they ensure is correct…  On the other hand, I’ve heard many a time, “he understood me, the message got across, what difference does it make how I speak?”

As you will see below, this doesn’t necessarily work as well out there in the real world, the business world as an example, where people look with derision on those who just don’t take the time to put forth a good foot, either in the they dress or speak.  It shows laziness, it shows sloth, it shows you just don’t care about the way you look, the way you speak, about the way you carry yourself. About the way you relate to other people.  And, like it or not, business owners or those in the HR department or hiring managers for an organization, want to hire and keep people that aren’t lazy – people that present themselves in all manner of care.  They want people that are going to take the time and make the effort to present themselves in a manner that is befitting the company – or people of quality period.  When you do not present yourself in that manner you are losing out on opportunities you may otherwise have – opportunities for which you may have educated and trained yourself over many years.  But more importantly, you are demonstrating to the rest of society that they are not worth the effort.  Not that you are of less value.  But that you are not worth the time.

Aside from the aforementioned (previous post) “supporting, ill-mannered, gracious less, disrespectful society” affecting the rest of us, numerous studies have been done that demonstrate the detrimental effect of ignoring proper dress and speech on relationships, work and culture. This part of what has changed is not good for humanity as a whole – which then, directly and indirectly, does affect all of us on an individual level.  How we dress and the manner in which we address each other and our speech in general translates to our attitude toward life and the effort we put into our society. As well, people that are given an inch will take a mile (not my saying but a great one).  The “old ways” may not be the best in all regard, but they are far better than the Dark Ages – for which, I would suggest, we are again heading.  We do though seem willing to accept that civility in general is lacking and we are ok with that.  It confuses me though that while people don’t object on a societal level, they certainly object on a personal one.  Well, societies are made up of individuals…

One type of example [and there are far too many to address in a single post] is the numerous studies done on dressing for work-at-home jobs (and elsewhere).  All these studies conclude that how a person dresses affects work performance (even though nobody else can see you).  The suggestion that having a home based business allows you to “go to work” in your pajamas or sweats is true.  However, the studies show that your neighbor, being in the same business working from his home but dressing as if he were heading to an office in the city, would run rings around your productivity.  Dress affects attitude.  Dress affects alertness.  Dress affects performance.  Dress affects the bottom line.  You don’t believe me?  How about a few examples?

Forbes recently had an article entitled Casual Summer Work Environment Kills Productivity and Profits.  The article claims that, too the employees, Casual Work Environment Means “You don’t have to work”.  A business owner providing a “casual summer” [or casual Friday] work schedule is setting the company up for failure. Subtle statements may result in:

• Employees don’t have to work at their normal level of quality,

• The company does not value the overall impression given to the customer,

• Customer service is not important,

• Profits are secondary to pleasing the employees, and

• The business is not intended as a long term venture.

The article goes on to say “People use the heat as an excuse for dressing casual. Unfortunately, many employees don’t know what is ‘too casual’ for the office. The dramatic difference in employee appearance taints the company’s image. This can confuse consumers.”  And finally, in the article’s “Tips For Building A Culture Of Success During Summer” (since that is often when companies institute the more casual dress policy) it states “avoid casual Friday. This policy insinuates that Friday is a ‘non-work’ day.”

In the instruction to her paper The Effect of Casual Dress on Performance in the Workplace, Sarah Maloney Hughes of The Master’s College states in the Undergraduate Research Journal for the Human Sciences:

“The way you look directly affects the way you think, feel, and act . . . . When you dress down, you sit down—the couch potato trend. Manners break down, you begin to feel down, and you’re not as effective” (Kaplan-Leiserson, 2000, p. 39). Stephen Goode (2000, p. 4) states the findings of research psychologist, Jeffery L. Magee, that “Continually relaxed dress leads to relaxed manners, relaxed morals and relaxed productivity” and “leads to a decrease in company loyalty and increase in tardiness.”        Dolbow suggests that the accepted casual dress in the office workplace is causing “casual attitudes and a lack of office decorum” (2000, p. 10).

Other examples…  in these cases, effects of dress code on students.

1) LPSRoyalTimes.com (Leadership Public Schools, Oakland, CA)

Fri, Mar 2nd, 2012 | By Livia Looby

19 Schools in Chicago did a study on student’s behavior by making one day a dress code day, one was a dress down day, and the other one was a regular day.  There were 211 referrals given out on dress code days, 233 on regular days, and 322 on dress-down days. The study done in these 19 schools showed that by having a dress code it did decrease the bad behavior in school.

2) Recent research at Sam Houston State University offers some evidence:

The research was conducted by Jimmy Creel and Angela Stallings, while completing work on their doctorates in education in SHSU.  Creel studied the impact of dress codes on black students in a Houston area suburban school district, while Stallings concentrated on Hispanic students.  “It is possible, based on our findings, that the benefits of a standardized dress code implemented and maintained over time may very well have a positive effect on student achievement,” she said. Creel said their study showed a number of positive benefits, including “improved campus morale and reduced discipline violations, increased school pride, improved collaboration and teamwork among students…”  Also, “enhanced image of students and the school in the community, minimization of the effects of economic variations among students, and reduction in the overall cost of student wardrobes.”

Considering speech in society and/or workplace:

In the book How To Turn Your Abilities To Cash, “master salesman and successful author” Earl Prevette devoted Chapter IX to How To Improve Your Speech, Voice And Manner.  He said –

There are three definite reasons why one should endeavor to speak correctly. Namely:

(1) People never judge you by what you don’t say. They judge you by what you say, and if you can do this well, it will influence people to have confidence in you. Therefore, form the habit of pronouncing each word correctly, and to speak with care and dignity.

(2) Speech is the only means to make yourself understood. By not pronouncing your words correctly and by not speaking with the proper care, your listener may get the wrong meaning out of what you say.

(3) The correct pronunciation of each word, enunciating each syllable, will not only improve your speech, but will also enable you to spell correctly more easily.

He goes on to say, “Speech, Voice and Manner are all fundamental parts of our living. The use one makes of these reflects how he lives. The study of Speech, Voice and Manner develops social poise and a more desirable and pleasant personality. The three personal attributes of character enumerated are all dependent to a large degree upon each other. The improvement and development of one means the improvement and development of all.”

In Appropriate Language by Stacie Heaps:  “One of the most important things you can do as an employee and colleague is to use appropriate language in the workplace. In the business world, making a good impression and projecting yourself as mature, intelligent, confident, and professional is critical to long-term success. Inappropriate language, whether spoken or written, can negatively affect your credibility and put off or even offend those you work with. Both in speech and in writing, take the time and make the effort to use appropriate language.”  Her 8 rules for appropriate language begin with “Use standard English and follow established rules of grammar”.

According to Science for All Americans by F. James Rutherford and Andrew Ahlgren, “The class into which people are born affects what language, diet, tastes, and interests they will have as children, and therefore influences how they will perceive the social world. Moreover, class affects what pressures and opportunities people will experience and therefore affects what paths their lives are likely to take—including schooling, occupation, marriage, and standard of living. Still, many people live lives very different from the norm for their class.”

A final note from George Washington, the 1st President of the United States – from his The Rules of Civility and Decent Behaviour in Company and Conversation

-Wear not your clothes foul, or ripped, or dusty, but see they be brushed once every day at least and take heed that you approach not to any uncleanness.

-Think before you speak; pronounce not imperfectly, nor bring out your words too hastily, but orderly and distinctly.

There is so much more but I promised my wife to keep my posts under 2000 words on Sunday – although I seem to be breaking that promise of late.  All of this translates to our dress and speech being a factor in how we view and treat each other.  We have “dumbed down” society through both.  Since most have lost this sense of style, class, refinement – how might we get it back?  We will look at possible solutions at a later date.  Until then, what are you going to do?!

>>> The day is at a close, the night is drawing in and my cigar awaits – ’til next time…

Our Country?

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I never planned to be quoting from the Bible nor have I plans to do so in the future.  However, in reading this recently it struck me as applicable to the current day.  It is said, “Those that do not study history are bound to repeat it.”  I submit that it makes little difference.  Some of the most grievous offenders of repeating history (and thinking they can do better) are the most serious students of it.

From the Book of the Prophet Jeremiah (Jer 7:23-28)

Thus says the Lord: This is what I commanded my people: Listen to my voice; then I will be your God and you shall be my people. Walk in all the ways I command you, so that you may prosperBut they obeyed not, nor did they pay heed. They walked in the hardness of their evil hearts and turned their backs, not their faces, to me.  From the day that your fathers left the land of Egypt even to this day, I have sent untiringly all my servants the prophets.  Yet they have not obeyed me nor paid heed; they have stiffened their necks and done worse than their fathers.  When you speak all these words to them, they will not listen to you either. When you call to them, they will not answer you.  Say to them: This is the nation that does not listen to the voice of the LORD, its God, or take correction. Faithfulness has disappeared; the word itself is banished from their speech.

Remind you of any particular country?

Class / Refinement / Sophistication / Style

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This is a “passionate” subject for me and I admit I will not do it justice.  But I must say something if for no other reason than my having a clear conscience.  It won’t help but…

I wish to discuss two things today – dress and speech.  Two subjects, each having volumes of books devoted to them.  I am going to concern myself primarily with our lower and middle class.  For the most part, the upper class of society has kept up with tradition and it is of limited concern the minimal amount they may have “fallen”.  And for any wishing to “run in those circles”, they will as well.  This will of course set those of the “politically correct” persuasion on edge.  I am singling out those “less fortunate”.  Yet another nail in the coffin of the “99%”.  It is not due to a dislike for them.  I myself am a member of the middle class.   However, it is what it is.  And as the old saying goes, “what you are is your parents’ fault, if you stay that way it is your own.”  As well, for those familiar with this blog you will realize I do not now, nor will I in the future, care.  The politically correct have been, and continue to be, significant contributors to this problem so their thoughts on the subject are irrelevant.

I have an “app” on my phone called BeSpeak.  For those that do not have a wardrobe consultant (I do), it helps the “style impaired” with what clothing is best suited to them and how to dress properly.   There is another called SnapDress.  It allows one to actually take a picture of clothing to determine if it is appropriate for your “profile”.  The 21st Century does have some amazing technology (if used appropriately).  However, technology or not, many just don’t care.  They do the minimum necessary to fit into the minimum, current dress for which their “industry” calls.  There is no doubt in my mind that the current state of dress and speech are not only demonstrative of the degradation of our society and culture as a whole, but contributed to their downfall.  I spoke before about civility in cyberspace.  This, of course, is only a small piece of the overall issue.  Civility in general is lacking.  Call it how you want – it is virtually lost in society as whole.  How we treat each other – opening doors for females, thank you notes, RSVP, saying please.  Our music, our television shows, our movies.  Our dress in public (even in private…).  What little civility exists is quite limited these days and is primarily found in the upper echelons of the financially well off.

From the time of the Renaissance to mid-20th Century the world operated in a more formal and dignified manner.  The elegance and grace with which they conducted themselves was astonishing.  While everything was certainly not perfect, they, for the most part, represented themselves in dress and speech in a civilized way in their everyday lives.  This translated to a cultured and urbane society at every level.

As an example – Downton Abbey.  My wife has gotten me hooked on this television show about a late 19th Century – early 20th Century English earl (the Earl of Grantham), his family (the Crawley family) and the servants that work for them.

I am really not that excited about the actual story.  It is interesting to an extent but I am far more interested in the portrayal of the times and methods of interaction – the clothing, language and manner of speaking with and treating each other.  While they are certainly not always “nice” to each other, they are formal, even polite, and proper in their relations and dress.  It is a dignified and refined manner of interaction and presentation.

And this is not limited to the “upstairs”.  It is not limited to the earl’s family and his circle of friends.  The “downstairs” staff also functions in this manner.  They address each other at all times in a formal manner.  Mr. Carson (the butler), Mr. Bates (Lord Grantham’s valet), Mrs. Hughes (the head housekeeper), Mrs. Patmore (the head cook).  You have to be as “lowly” as a mere footman or scullery maid (pretty much the bottom of the chain and quite young anyway) to be addressed by your first name.  But at the time you are promoted to a higher level, you immediately are referred to in the formal manner.  In the U.S. we came to be somewhat less formal even before that timeframe.  But the extent of that limited informality came in such situations as the Southern Plantations (or cities for that matter) where females were still addressed as “Miss” and first name (even those married) while men were still always addressed as “Mister” and last name or just plain “Sir”.  Within families or with very close, longtime friends (and normally in more private affairs) these rules were usually relaxed.

In additional to how they address each other and the formal manner in which they speak, is the way the dress.  Regardless of your position, you dressed “properly”.  Even the “lowly” footman wore white tie and tails to serve dinner and what we would consider black tie at other times on duty.  When they are not on duty they still were appropriate slacks and “sport” coats or more casual suits.  When the men went hunting it was in suit and tie (casual, but a suit none the less).  When outside they virtually always wore a formal hat (vice baseball cap).  When on a picnic the women wore dresses.  Not a formal gown of course.  That was reserved for the evening meal or other such formal occasion (where the men wore white tie with double-cuff sleeves (aka – French Cuff)).  During one episode one of the female relatives (Isobel Crawley) showed up at the manor in quite appropriate daytime dress to speak with the family.  When invited to dinner she politely refused because she was not wearing proper dinner attire (although what she WAS wearing was far nicer than what people these days wear to an evening out).  While many may suggest that this is the household of a noble and so appearances must be kept up, scenes from elsewhere in the show prove otherwise.  Scenes from the town showed that EVERYBODY dressed and acted as formally as their station in life would allow.  Shopkeepers wore suits.  Even mechanics working on machinery wore suits.  Gentlemen farmers and their farmhands wore suits.  Females were always in dresses.  I cross “the pond” to the US and look at old time photos of the Wright brothers in their bicycle shop (lest you believe this is just on TV – see original photo below), men panhandling for gold in rivers, ladies of all walks and stations of life.  They ALL were in suits and ties or long dresses often with lace.  East Coast or West, North or South.  “White Collar” or “Blue Collar”…  People cared about their appearance.  People cared about how they presented themselves to others and it made for a far more well-mannered, gracious, respectful society.

OW in shop

Orville Wright in his shop (the one working in the suit)

And now we are in the present…  I’ve actually seen people in upscale hotel (not motel) lobbies, stores, parks and other place of public dressed in pajamas.  People wear sweats and “flip flops” out to a sit down restaurant – sometimes formal (fast food restaurants are bad enough).  Places that used to have dress codes (including a rack of jackets and ties for the gentlemen that “forgot” to wear his) now have people in jeans and t-shirts.  Grown men at church in shorts, a t-shirt and athletic shoes (or even flip flops again).  Boys out in public or going to school with pants hanging off their derrière, underwear showing and continually having to pull them up so they can walk without tripping.  Other than just looking ridiculous, it has got to be problematic.  Why would one add to the problems they already face?  Girls think it absurd as well by the way.  While I will not go so far as to advocate the complete formality of the past, I certainly would be ok with not even considering going outside without a casual suit or sport coat (and maybe even tie).

Concerning speech…  I am led to understand, by actual high school English teachers, that what has been considered “informal speech” in the past is now acceptable in virtually any manner of our lives.  Miss Manners be damned.  While we have always had “formal” and “informal” (slang?) grammar, “acceptable” grammar at all levels has been reduced to the lowest common denominator.  Using a preposition to end a sentence with?  No problem.  Using “can” in place of “may” (can I go to the restroom)?  That’s fine.  Listing a group of names with that of the speaker first?  Perfectly acceptable.  It is just an informal way of speaking and we are to accept it in polite society.  Why teach correct English when we can just modify the standards to what the average 3th grade student of the past used.  “Can I go to the restroom?” from a High School student.  How ridiculous.  And their English teachers allow it!  What they fail to realize is in fact polite society does NOT accept it.  You will be looked down upon and treated with distain.  And then wonder why you can’t advance your station in life.  We are leading our lower and middle class children into believing they can work their way up the corporate and societal ladder without regard to how polite society speaks and acts.  They are being held back without even knowing it.  Then they blame “the man” for “keeping them down”.  It is not the man.  It is their own acceptance of what our society, at its lower levels, now accepts as the norm and teaches (or at very least, accepts) in its schools. As an aside – don’t get me wrong.  Our schools are doing much better than that for which many give them credit.  In some regards though we are not having our students live up to a high enough standard.  We are accepting lowered societal standards.  We are dumbing down society.  More on schools in a future post.

This leads to a situation today where the crudeness of, the vulgarity in, our speech is beyond the pale.  It is inexcusable and indefensible.  Mainstream songs, movies, even television shows demonstrate crassness never before imagined – often in the name of free speech.  I am in no way desiring to limit free speech by law (except in obvious case of libel, slander, danger (yelling fire in a crowded theater), and such situations).  However, it is a mark of polite society to limit our OWN speech.  We shouldn’t have be have laws or policies against it.  It should be taught and observed from the youngest age that it is just not done.

What strikes me most is how we’ve lost this.  “Things change” we are told.  “Keep up with the times” we are told.  That would be great if the times were improving.  I would submit in many respects our times ARE improving.  Our technology is making the world “smaller” via communication and transportation improvements.  It is improving medical care and therefore our quality (and length)  of life in many respects.  However, I defy anyone to demonstrate how changing to a more informal (for lack of a better word) society in dress and speech is making our culture – our society – a better place in which to live.  We are losing all respect for ourselves and our fellow man.

Now of course you may say, “What has this got to do with us?”  We like the more informal way of life.  It works for us and we are hurting nobody through it.  With which I would disagree.  Your being ok with, and supporting, ill-mannered, gracious less, disrespectful society affects the rest of us.  We will discuss this next time.

>>> The day is at a close, the night is drawing in and my cigar awaits – ’til next time…

Slaves and Citizens

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Here’s a thought: how about we stop worrying about the differences between the rich and the poor and just focus on helping the poor not be poor.  This cannot be achieved via redistribution of the wealth of those that earned it to pay for welfare, food stamps, government dictated medical care and other gifts to those that did not.    This creates slaves, not citizens.  Slaves ever in debt morally to the government and the people paying for those handouts.  It CAN be achieved by allowing the rich to use their resources to create employment for the poor. This allows people to get out of the cycle of slavery and enter the ranks of true citizens.  Citizens proud they are able to provide for themselves and those reliant on them.

Unfortunately our current state of Socialism won’t allow this.  It is more concerned with equality for everyone than prosperity for anyone.  Since it is pretty much impossible for all of us to be rich (I certainly am not – and barring winning the lottery, will never be), the Socialist’s solution is to take the money away from the rich and just give it to the poor (the distribution being controlled by the Socialist elite of course).  One thing the Socialists in power don’t seem to get, the rich eventually run out of money or leave the country with what they have while they still have it.  The result being that we all end up poor.  Who pays then?  What a country!

Probably more on this later…

>>> The day is at a close, the night is drawing in and my cigar awaits – ’til next time…

Educate Yourself!

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It is quite discouraging the number of people I run into that have decided to accept the absolute minimum amount of education with which they can get away.  Students that put in minimal effort (not paying attention in class, not doing homework (or as little as possible), not studying for exams).  I wonder how they expect their life to turn out.  When I ask, I end up with the unenviable task of informing them they are living a dream.  I grade point average of 2.5 is not going to get you into a quality engineering school.  That is not a goal.  It is a dream.  As well, would you put your life into the hands of a doctor or pilot or lawyer or whatever professional that finished in the bottom or even middle of his class?  Would you rather one that put in the effort to learn as much as he could about his craft?  I tell my students, adulthood begins the first day of high school.  What they do from that day forward counts.  Their grades and effort will matter to their future college and employment plans (whether they attend college or not).  My concern also is that few professions require (and therefore few people take advantage of) continued education.  With the help of modern medical science, many people die at an advanced age knowing little more than the minimum they got away with in high school.  Sad and discouraging.

Vernon Law once said, “Experience is a hard teacher because she gives the test first, the lesson afterward.”  Rarely does the test come only once.  Since most of us fail the test, we had best learn the lesson – preferably the first time.   On the other hand, someone once said, “Good Judgment comes from Experience, most of that comes from Bad Judgment.” [the quote in one form or another is actually attributed to numerous people]  Unfortunately, most of you seem content with failing the test over and over again and bad judgment.  You never take the time to learn the “why’s and wherefore’s” of the lesson.  This leads me to…

Funny thing about knowledge, the more you have, the more you know.  This may seem obvious (as should many things about which I write), but many don’t seem to get it.  They claim to “know” an awful lot just due to life experience (especially teenagers – the claim being an endless source of amusement to me).  Now, while I will grant that you gain some knowledge just from living, it is a slow and painful way to attain it.  It WILL happen.  Let it.  But don’t, as so many do, let it be the only avenue.  And if you do, don’t claim to know it all just because you have lived.  It would take 1000 lifetimes just to make a dent in the knowledge of today.  And since each day our body of knowledge grows exponentially, individually we are always losing ground.  As well, it is interesting that the more you know, the more you know you don’t know.  At least you should, if you put any effort into thinking about it.  While this may seem discouraging, it doesn’t have to be.  As mentioned, man is discovering new things each day.  Many are contributing to this body of knowledge.  Recognize you don’t and never will know everything.  But certainly don’t give up or be discouraged.  Just recognize and accept there is no way to keep up with everything and concentrate on those things of interest to you.

Formal education should never stop.  I realize life gets in the way sometimes.  You have work, families, etc. to deal with at numerous points in your life.  So put it on the back burner for a short time if necessary.  While all the things listed above DO “get in the way” at times, many use them as an excuse.  There are those on the other hand that manage to move on with their education in spite of all the other things going on.  Watch less TV.  Go out with the guys/girls less often.  Play fewer video games.  Limit your internet surfing (unless it is for a necessary purpose).  Stare at the wall less often (yes, I am to understand someone I know actually does this to pass the time).  So never stop.  Formal education is not limited to universities and/or community college.  It can come in the form of on-line courses from various educational institutions or private firms, private lessons, etc.

Another point is that once you are pretty comfortable in the level of education you need for employment in your chosen field, you are free to pursue education in all those wonders of the world in which you’ve been interested since childhood.  Learn to fly, gunsmith, build knives, paint, sing, write poetry, design websites, culinary, automotive technology, sign language, carpentry/wood working, dance, martial arts, play a musical instrument, yoga.  These are just a few off the top of my head.  I suspect there is a course in virtually anything in which you may be interested.  While books (to be mentioned momentarily) are a great way to acquire knowledge, learning from “experts” is usually the best way.  Community colleges normally have teachers that have worked in the area they teach and know of what they speak.  They can provide “war stories” from first-hand experience.  Unlike books, they can answer questions and guide you in further study in the direction YOU wish to go.  Community colleges are also significantly less expensive than universities.  As well, many community centers and adult centers provide inexpensive ways to learn from people that have “been there and done that.”

Not so formal education is what should be accomplished between sessions of formal.  READ books, magazines, newspapers, etc.  Go to lectures at local museums or community events.  Watch educational television shows on occasion (my wife tends to “force” me to do this – stupid animal shows!).  There are many DVDs you can buy or rent that have lectures/lessons on various subjects.  If you can’t afford community college tuition or fees (if any) for community center events, there are a less expensive way of gaining much of the same knowledge.  Books and magazines can be free.  Try your local library.  You won’t have the expert there to answer questions, but a search of quality sites in the internet can often provide that additional information you seek.

Just get some!  Get more!  Make it a priority.

Ok, so why am I bringing this up.  Remember that blog on apathy.  If not, go back and read/reread it.  Apathy, sloth, lazy, indifference – similar ways of expressing the same issue.  And it leads to a less productive and less enjoyable society.  A culture of ignorance is a sad and hard existence.  Why would someone purposefully make their life more difficult than it need be?  Many think getting and continuing an education is difficult.  What they fail to comprehend is that NOT being educated is actually more so.  And in all reality, the more education (read – knowledge) you have, the easier life gets (unless you take into account the growing frustration with those that choose ignorance).  As well, I will be speaking in the near future of Class/Refinement/Sophistication/Style.  The individual lifestyle and a society that practices civility is by necessity educated in all classes (poor, middle-class as well as the “rich”).  I dream of the time when we again practice such in our private and public lives (or are they nightmares of never expecting to see it).  But it will never happen if a significant number of us accept the limited knowledge present society allows.

>>> The day is at a close, the night is drawing in and my cigar awaits – ’til next time…

Intelligence

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As quoted on my “Why?” page:   “Everything has been said before, but since nobody listens we have to keep going back and beginning all over again.”   -Andre Gide

Also on my “Why?” page I said I am doing this “Because the world DESERVES to know.”

As well, I said, “I have taken the burden upon myself to grace humanity with a written account of what they SHOULD already know and practice.”

That said I also want to make clear I do not have a monopoly on this knowledge.  In fact, much of what I have to say has at least been hinted at by others.  That is part of the point, people haven’t listened.  Sometimes that is due to the “others” being relegated to ancient history (about which we should, heaven forbid, read), sometimes to limited access (to a venue or an audience).  Sometimes (but rarely) I am just repeating.  Sometimes I am elaborating.  Therefore, on occasion, of which this is one, I will be setting out a series of quotes on a particular subject that spells out, by those far more intelligent than I (at least on that given subject), much that we SHOULD know.   NO, this is not a copout – not a way to just make it easy on me.  It is an acknowledgement that some people are smarter than I.  Although the first quote suggests against appealing to authority for proof of right.  I’ll let you figure it out.  Please enjoy and contemplate.

Let us start with the topic of Intelligence.

Anyone who conducts an argument by appealing to authority is not using his intelligence; he is just using his memory.   –Leonardo da Vinci

[Editor’s note:  I will have future comments with reference to education.  This is the sighting shot]

It takes a lot of things to prove you are smart, but only one thing to prove you are ignorant.   -Don Herold

You have to be smart. The easy days are over.   -Robert Kiyosaki

[Editor’s note: a lessen I hope my cadets get]

The first method for estimating the intelligence of a ruler is to look at the men he has around him.   -Niccolo Machiavelli

Real knowledge is to know the extent of one’s ignorance.   -Confucius

Intellectuals solve problems, geniuses prevent them.   -Albert Einstein

{Editor’s note:  another thought for my cadets (Think Ahead, Do Ahead!)]

Small minds are concerned with the extraordinary, great minds with the ordinary.   -Blaise Pascal

There is nobody so irritating as somebody with less intelligence and more sense than we have.   -Don Herold

We all agree that pessimism is a mark of superior intellect.   -John Kenneth Galbraith

There are some ideas so wrong that only a very intelligent person could believe in them.   -George Orwell

[Editor’s note: If you have to think about this too long…]

Success in almost any field depends more on energy and drive than it does on intelligence. This explains why we have so many stupid leaders.   -Sloan Wilson

I won’t insult your intelligence by suggesting that you really believe what you just said.   -William F. Buckley, Jr.

[Editor’s note:  always did like this guy]

If there are no stupid questions, then what kind of questions do stupid people ask? Do they get smart just in time to ask questions?   -Scott Adams

[might be my favorite – well, except for the 1st]

>>> The day is at a close, the night is drawing in and my cigar awaits – ’til next time…

Will we be ready for our next conflict?

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Failure to maintain air dominance has historically been measured in deaths. ~Adam J. Hebert (Editor in Chief, Journal of the Air Force Association)

I would suggest this goes likewise for land and sea.

Just a thought for those less inclined to support advancements in our military capability based on the idea that we are already ahead of potential adversaries or that it would be preparing for yesterday’s war.

I would assert that while the first may be accurate, said adversaries are not resting on their current capability.

Considering the second, it is wise we consider ANY kind of potential conflict and not be so arrogant as to think we can (or will) foresee the next enemy or equipment/tactics thereof.

Resting on our laurels is deadly (literally).

Take a Chance!

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Good judgment comes from experience, most of that comes from bad judgment.

Will Rogers / Mulla Nasrudin / Rita Mae Brown / and apparently many others (there doesn’t seem to be a way to actually determine the original sage)

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