Sunday, November 30, 2008

Compassion, Tolerance, & Patience

Think about compassion, tolerance, and patience.  I have given these virtues close observation within myself as I've substitute taught in high school classrooms during the past three years. There have been times when I was inclined to behave in contradiction to these virtues when students didn't respond the way I desired.  If I'm not careful I view students through my prism of 61 years of life and experiences.  I often remind myself that these students were born only 14 to 18 years ago and there is much for them to experience on the journey to maturity and responsibility. 

This brings me to comment on some of us who behave or speak in the most intolerant, dispassionate, and impatient ways.  

First, many of us reformed smokers are absolutely intolerant of cigarette smokers. One would think that past smokers would empathize with those who cannot or don't want to quit the habit. Surely we understand the controlling desire felt by the addiction. 

Secondly,  some formal educated people distance themselves from people who are not educated at the same university or do not have an equivalent degree. Why is that? Robert Frost, the American  poet, said, "Education is the ability to listen to almost anything without losing your temper or your self confidence." 

Next, are the so called "Christians".  These folks hardly speak to or associate with others who don't appear Christian.  How does one follow the teachings of Jesus when one avoids people who need an example of the goodness in Christianity?  

This is very odd human behavior.  It causes me to wonder about the true motivations and desires in people.

Have a good week!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Taxing the Rich?

Think about it this way:

The average worker in the United States earns about $50,000 per year and pays around $7,000 per year in federal income taxes.  

Celebrities, exceptional athletes, or CEOs who earn, let's say, $25 million dollars per year probably pay around $5 million dollars in federal income tax.

Using the above assumptions it would take 714 average workers to fund the U. S. Treasury in an amount equal to one highly compensated person.

Washington, DC and legislators are naturally more interested in people who contribute most to the treasury.  This example makes it understandable why government and lawmakers pay close attention to wealthy people. Average folks matter most at elections when each person has equal value.  Talk of taxing the wealthy is code to secure votes from average and below average voters.  There aren't that many super wealthy people relative to the large number of all the rest.

Now consider individuals who earn $250,000 per year.  Those individuals probably pay around $50,000 in federal taxes or more than 7 times the average individual.  There are lots of individuals with earning power between the $250,000 and $25 million.  Even so, increasing their already high taxes, relative to the average taxpayer, will not fund our country out of debt.

Significant change is in our future.  Taxes may go down for 95 percent of taxpayers and up for the remaining 5 percent, but programs and benefits will be cut.  Get your mind ready to accept change.

Have a good week!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Inordinate Pay for Ordinary Work

Executive management of public companies is ordinary work for people with experience, skill sets, education, and an ability to lead employees and craft business organizations.  These management attributes are not rare resources. There are people around the world who can perform the jobs of CEO and vice-presidents in business enterprises.

However, for the past ten to fifteen years, top U. S. executives have been paying themselves as if they were extraordinary people.  This mindset of regarding themselves as a rare breed continues to this moment. Even as leading companies face bankruptcy, pay bonuses are planned for their executives and managers. Executives' rationale for continuing to pay bonuses is fear of losing talented employees.  I believe such reasoning is nonsense! There is little talent in executive suites that can't be replaced within a reasonable time.

There are experienced and retired military officers throughout the country who could move into these executive positions and reshape these organizations into competitive enterprises.  I believe CEOs and senior staff members in troubled companies could be replaced within a year by better managers and exceptional leaders at a fraction of the existing cost. 

I believe inordinate executive pay is the root cause of the problems on Wall Street and within financial institutions.  The sooner the new administration corrects executive pay structures, the sooner citizen and consumer confidence will return and economic recovery will begin.

Have a good week!

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Talk to Animals

Last week on a sub assignment for an absent teacher, I walked among desks in a classroom of high school teenagers and looked at their writings and classwork. When I came along side one student, he looked up at me and asked, "Mr. Mabe, if you could have any power you wanted, what would it be?" As I gave his question brief thought and delivered my answer, he responded with another question. "Do you know what power I would like, he asked?"  "No, tell me," I said. He replied, "I would like the power to talk with animals."

I was impressed with his unusual imagination and told him I admired his thought. A nearby student commented that this student wanted to be a zoo keeper when he grows up. Another student interjected the name, "Dr. Doolittle" (referring to the 1998 movie about a doctor who talked to animals). I commented to the three students in the discussion, "Just imagine the body of knowledge we could gain if someone could communicate with animals." After the student told me the university where he planned to prepare for this vocation, the discussion reached closure and I moved along to other students in the class.

I later pondered thoughts of talking to animals. I imagined if it were possible to carry on a conversation with animals, we might help them avoid being overrun on streets and highways. People might stop eating beef, chicken, and other animal flesh if we conversed with domesticated and wild life. Perhaps animals would teach us more about nature, weather, and survival. We might learn that dogs and cats prefer living outdoors instead of inside the homes of people.

Oh well, it's something I thought about which was inspired by a young student.

Have a good week!

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Lions for Lambs

What will you live for? What will you die for? What will you fight for? What will you stand for?

These questions were posed in the 2007 movie Lions for Lambs starring Robert Redford, Meryl Streep, and Tom Cruise. Matthew Michael Carnahan was the screenwriter/producer along with Robert Redford.

In one scene Professor Malley (Robert Redford) talked with a college student in the professor's office about the student missing classes. The student launched into cynical words about politics, government, elections, science, and work. When the student finished, Professor Malley said,

"You almost convinced me. You're great with words, son. But you know what would make them even better? If they had a heartbeat. If they were rooted in any kind of experience. If you had knocked on doors, licked envelopes, been to any public rally. Just put yourself on the line in any meaningful way."

The scene then switched to rugged snow covered mountain peaks of Afghanistan where two soldiers are in a gun fight for their lives as they waited for a rescue helicopter. Unbeknownst to the professor, the two soldiers were his former students.

In another scene the Malley is talking with a couple of students and tells them about how much World War I German soldiers admired the bravery of the British grunts. The professor said,

"Germans soldiers wrote poems about the bravery of British grunts. They admired them almost as much as they laughed at the British High Command who wasted these same grunts by the hundreds of thousands. A German officer wrote: Nowhere else have I seen such lions led by such lambs."

The professor continues, "That statement is so dead-right on now! These starch collars who started this war (referring to Iraq and Afghanistan), that are running it now are nowhere near the best and brightest. They are not even in the same galaxy. These are the ones that when some of our men are blown to bits in the middle of some gun battle say 'shit', like the enemy may have blooded our nose but we're learning from our mistakes."

Next week we should begin to learn if we elected a lion or a lamb to lead our country.

Have a good week!