BEGINING ANEW

August 29, 2010


BEGINNING ANEW

Our oldest son took his oldest daughter to school this week.  She is an entering freshman at a medium-sized university in the southeast.  He is a single dad, raising three kids by himself.  This exercise was a definite milestone in the life of their family.  Exciting times, full of promise and with all of those challenges you would expect being thrown at an eighteen year old little girl.  As we all know, by Christmas time senior year, a high school student is more than ready to move on to the next stage of their life.  Our granddaughter is a brainy young lady, really motivated, really focused and will major in environmental science, and if all goes well, then on to environmental law.  The next seven or eight years are somewhat programmed and planned.  She definitely was eager, willing and able to take the next step.

One fact mentioned during freshman orientation was the significant disparity between the number of entering freshman girls and the number of entering freshman boys.  Apparently this is a trend, at least right now in our country and one that has the attention of most members of academia.   In their words, “the boys just don’t get it!!”  Not only are those numbers turned in favor of the ladies but the dropout rate for the guys is considerably greater—disturbingly grater.  According to the US News & World Report, these facts are even more alarming when looking at the “hard” sciences; i.e. chemistry, physics, biology, math, etc, and when you factor in the engineering discipline, you see a country that seems to be in decline relative to higher education.  Since the jobs in manufacturing and industry have, to a great extent,  moved to China, India, South Korea, Japan, Indonesia, etc. why major in a course of study in which there will be no jobs after graduation?  Does it really make that much sense to invest four or five years, plus a considerable sum of money, when there will be nothing out there when it is all over?   Zero prospects for employment is a frightening thought.  Another scary fact is the significant drop in entering medical students.  To exacerbate the situation, the “FED” has burdened the process of accepting education visas for work study so we now receive a fraction of those foreign students capable of thriving at our colleges and universities.  (By the way, these foreign students don’t need one year of remedial education prior to attempting university work.)  Instead of coming to the United States, they go to Western Europe or Canada to study. 

Let’s take a brief look at the top schools the US News & World Report say are the “benchmark schools”.  These sixteen schools are looked at first when determining trends in higher education.  They are as follows:

1.)    University of California—Berkeley

2.)    University of California—Los Angeles

3.)    University of Virginia

4.)    University of Michigan—Ann Arbor

5.)    University of North Carolina—Chapel Hill

6.)    University of Illinois—Urbana-Champaign

7.)    University of Wisconsin—Madison

8.)    University of California—Davis

9.)    University of California—Santa Barbara

10.) University of Washington—Seattle

11.) Penn State University

12.) University of Florida

13.) University of Texas—Austin

14.) The Ohio State University

15.) University of Maryland—College Park

16.) The University of Pittsburg.

All of these schools are continuously evaluated on each of the following areas and ranked accordingly:

  1. Freshman retention rate
  2. Six year graduation rate
  3. Class size
  4. Faculty salary rates
  5. Percentage of professors who are full-time and hold the highest degree in their fields
  6. Student-faculty ratio
  7. Academic quality of students ( measured by SAT and ACT scores )
  8. Rate of acceptance of applications
  9. Per student spending
  10. Alumni giving

My school (The University of Tennessee—Knoxville) is rated number 52 on their list.  The most telling statistic is the 59.8%, six-year graduation rate with an 84% retention rate between the freshman and sophomore years.  HORRIBLE!!!!!!!!!!   I remember sitting in freshman physics class and hearing my professor pronounce the fact that two out of three students will fail out or transfer from engineering by the end of their sophomore year.  He seemed to take great pride in stating that awful fact.  In the state of Tennessee, only 21.8 percent of the residents are university graduates.  This number is barely over 25 percent for all states in our country. 

Now, if you look at the number of PhDs awarded, you will see the following ranking:

  1. Berkeley
  2. Michigan
  3. Florida
  4. UT Austin
  5. Wisconsin
  6. Illinois
  7. UCLA
  8. Ohio State
  9. Minnesota
  10. UMD College Park
  11. Purdue
  12. Penn State
  13. Washington
  14. Texas A&M
  15. UC Davis
  16. UNC
  17. Georgia
  18. Michigan State
  19. NC State
  20. Pitt
  21. Indiana
  22. Rutgers
  23. Virginia
  24. UC Santa Barbara
  25. Iowa State
  26. UT Knoxville
  27. Auburn Clemson

Impressive list but definitely not keeping up with China, India, Indonesia, etc etc.

I think one huge reason we have for the significant problems in education at the university level is the remarkable cost for that education.  Take a look at what our granddaughter is paying (or her father) per year—freshman year!)

  • Tuition                  $22,000
  • Dorm Fees          $  6,000
  • Meal Plan            $  1,800
  • Books                    $  1,200
  • Essentials            $  2,000

TOTAL                   $ 32,000 per year

Her first semester book bill was $ 513.36!  Five courses, 16 hours and used books for two of those classes.  UNBELIEVABLE and yet somewhat comparable across our country!!!!!!  We are creating a class structure by simply pricing some students out of the market.  Some students are simply unwilling to amass a $200K student loan bill when there are minimum prospects for employment after they graduate.  Let’s be fair,  our granddaughter has several scholarships and one “tidy” grant that will basically reduce the total to less than half of amount given above.  Sill,  $16K per year is a tough situation for a great number of prospective students in our country.  This is a situation that desperately needs addressing on a national level.

YOU’RE COMMENTS PLEASE.

IF

August 26, 2010


These are really tough times for many many people in our country.  Unemployment is around 10% with some sources saying it is closer to 18% if you count those who are under-employed and those who have given up seeking employment.  New housing starts down about 27% in July.  An all time low considering that we are in the “building season”.  Great uncertainty in the stock market with the DOW and NASDAQ performing like a roller coaster.  A double-dip recession is a definite possibility and with a “FED” that seemingly does not have a clue.  Two wars.  A rookie president.  We major on the minors because we are afraid to make the big decisions.  Too worried about getting reelected in November–2012–whatever.

This is a great time to re-read one of my favorite poems from one of my favorite authors–Rudyard Kipling.  Here is it.

                                                IF

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you
But make allowance for their doubting too,
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream–and not make dreams your master,
If you can think–and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ‘em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it all on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breath a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on!”

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings–nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much,
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And–which is more–you’ll be a Man, my son!

 When I am “bummed out”, having had a really bad day, week, month, etc I always read this short poem.  I don’t know why it helps but it always does.  I hope you have had a great week, month, year to date and definitely wish the same for the remainder of the year.  Let’s all keep the faith-engage-stay close to our families-work like the devil to get out of this mess and look forward to better times.  They will come again!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

FASCINATING TIMES

August 12, 2010


FASCINATING TIMES

We live in fascinating times; perilous but fascinating.  The Bible tells us that “there will be wars and rumors of wars”.  We certainly have those and have always had those. Nothing really different there!! We all strive to find meaningful employment, raise and educate our children and hopefully, after forty or fifty years of work, retire with some degree of security.  Nothing really different there!!   Most people wish for a life in which they have control over where they live, where they work, how they worship and even what they eat.  Nothing really different there!!  One hundred years ago ( or so ) some industrious, bright and content individual postulated the     “Axiom of Constancy”, which reads as follows:

                “The future will be like the past because in the past, the future was like the past.”

I don’t really think anyone would argue that this axiom is completely false, at least today, and probably never has been true for any prolonged period of time.  ( The “Dark Ages” were tough but eventually gave way to the “Renaissance”. )  Times change—people change—conditions change—trends become evident.

Our world is changing and, like it or not, we are by necessity changing with it.  Some people and countries are resisting those changes forcefully because to do otherwise would mean relinquishing control.

Let us now take a very quick look at several metrics that allow conclusions to be drawn relative to where we are and possibly the “state of our planet”.  All of the data used for my conclusions come from the “CIA World Factbook”, accessed during the end of July and the first week in August of 2010.  We are going to look at statistics relative to selected countries for the following regions:

  • North America
  • South America
  • Europe
  • Africa
  • Middle East
  • Central Asia
  • South Asia
  • East and Southeast Asia
  • Oceania

Those statistics will be estimates given as of first the quarter 2010 and will address the following:

  • Population measured in millions of  people
  • Median Age of that population
  • Population growth; i.e. birth rate minus death rate plus migration
  • Net migration, the number of people moving into or from a country measured in people per 1,000 inhabitants.
  • Life expectancy in years
  • Fertility rate, the average number of children per woman of child-bearing age
  • Literacy rate measured in percentage of total population.

Many other matrices are available but I have chosen these seven to drive home a point relative to the reluctance of making changes.

OK, let’s take a look at population for the most populous countries on our planet.  These are as follows:

  1. China                           1,330.00 million
  2. India                            1, 173.00 million
  3. USA                              310.00 million
  4. Brazil                            210.10 million
  5. Pakistan                      177.3 million
  6. Bangladesh                158.1 million
  7. Russia                          130.4 million
  8. Japan                           126.8 million
  9. Mexico                        112.5 million
  10. Ethiopia                       88.0 million
  11. Egypt                            80.5 million
  12. Turkey                         77.8 million
  13. Iran                               67.0 million

The total population of the EU (492.387 million )   pales relative to the populations of China and India and with land masses roughly equivalent.  Only five countries in the list above lie outside the Middle East or Asia proper.  Canada, at 33.7 million and Australia at 21. 515 million represent huge land masses with very small population densities.  The governments of these two countries have exceedingly strict emigration laws and “covet” their ability to control net migration and population growth.  AS THEY SHOULD.  

We are now going to consider median age and we find the following statistics:

                OLDEST POPULATIONS; i.e. over 40 years

  • Canada                                   40.7 years
  • Croatia                                   41.2 years
  • UK                                           40.5 years
  • Spain                                      41.5 years
  • Switzerland                          41.3 years
  • Austria                                  42.6 years
  • Italy                                        43.7 years
  • Hong Kong                           42.8 years
  • Japan                                     44.6 years

YOUNGEST POPULATION; i.e. less than 30 years

  • Angola                                   18 years
  • Ethiopia                                16.8 years
  • Kenya                                    18.8 years
  • Liberia                                   18.4 years
  • Niger                                      15.2 years
  • Rwanda                                 18.6 years
  • Somalia                                 17.6 years
  • Uganda                                  15.0 years
  • Zimbabwe                            17.8 years
  • Sudan                                     19.3 years
  • Gaza                                        17.5 years
  • Afghanistan                         18.0 years
  • Pakistan                                21.2 years

Since median age and life expectancy are so closely tied, I would like to jump to those countries with the greatest and least life expectance.

                GREATEST LIFE EXPECTANCE; i.e over 80 years old

  • Canada                                  81.29 years
  • Spain                                      80.18 years
  • Switzerland                         80.97 years
  • Italy                                       80.33 years
  • Hong Kong                          81.96 years
  • Japan                                    82.17 years
  • Australia                              81.72 years
  • New Zeeland                       80.48 years

LEAST LIFE EXPECTANCE; i.e. less than 60 years old

  • Ethiopia                                42.7 years
  • Liberia                                   57.5 years
  • Ghana                                     57.9 years
  • Niger                                      52.99 years
  • Rwanda                                 57.49 years
  • Somalia                                 50.0 years
  • Uganda                                  47.55 years
  • Zimbabwe                            47.55 years
  • Sudan                                     52.52 years
  • Lesotho                                 50.67 years
  • Afghanistan                         44.46 years

It is amazing to me that the United States is NOT one of those countries with a life expectancy greater than 80 years.  Close, but no bananas.

Fertility rates fuel, if you will, the median age.  A variety of conditions determine life expectancy and we all know what those are.  I will now list those countries with fertility rates greater than 3 children per woman:

  • Angola                                  6.05 children
  • Egypt                                     3.01 children
  • Ethiopia                                6.07 children
  • Kenya                                    4.38 children
  • Liberia                                   5.24 children
  • Ghana                                    3.57 children
  • Niger                                      3.66 children
  • Uganda                                  3.56  children
  • Sudan                                    4.37 children
  • Lesotho                                 3.00 children
  • Gaza                                        4.90 children
  • Iraq                                         3.76 children
  • Saudi Arabia                        3.72 children

In my opinion, population age, fertility rates and literacy rates all help to determine life expectance.  Let us now look at literacy rates for several countries within selected regions of our planet.  These are as follows:

  • Angola                                  67.4%
  • Egypt                                     71.4%
  • Ethiopia                                42.7%
  • Liberia                                   57.5%
  • Ghana                                     57.9%
  • Niger                                       28.7%
  • Rwanda                                 70.4%
  • Somalia                                 37.8%
  • Sudan                                     61.1%
  • Afghanistan                         28.1%
  • Bangladesh                          47.9%
  • India                                      61.0%
  • Pakistan                                49.9%

These rates may be compared to those of the “Western World” which exceed 90%.  Now, do you see any trends?  I am not too sure I would want to live in Africa or the Middle East.

Last but not least, let’s look at net migration.  Where do people want to live and where do they want to escape from?  What countries do people want to leave?

                POSITIVE MIGRATION:  People per 1,000 inhabitants

  • Kuwait                          15.651 
  • UAE                               21.71 (    Number  1 in the world )
  • Hong Kong                    4.22
  • Australia                        6.13
  • USA                                  4.25
  • Canada                             5.64

NEGATIVE MIGRATION: People per 1,000 inhabitants

  • Mexico                             -3.38
  • Lesotho                            -8.68
  • Iran                                    -2.17
  • Saudi Arabia                    -8.26
  • Kazakhistan                      -3.28
  • Pakistan                              -2.90

CONCLUSIONS:

If you have stayed with me till now, you are definitely intelligent enough to draw your own conclusions.  I have mine.  In my opinion, those countries and those individuals in those countries who are unable or unwilling to educate themselves relative to a changing world will be destined to live a life that brings poverty, despair and hardship.  An individual does NOT have to abandon his or her morality or religious beliefs during the process of change or “modernization”.  There is no requirement to listen to hip-hop or  Lady Gaga while becoming a “card-carrying” member of the 21st century but, change is necessary if we wish to achieve and maintain a lifestyle that brings a degree of accomplishment and satisfaction.  A “tribal mentality” that ignores “God-given” intellectual curiosity debases humanity and represents control that destroys the most basic freedoms.  Governments control us in three ways; 1.) By virtue of tax codes, 2.) They give us someone or something to hate and 3.) They give us someone or something to fear.   Imagine having no fears.  Imagine having nothing or no one to hate. Imagine being able to employ your basic intellectual resources, joined with hard work, combined with limited taxation to produce, to create.  To create art, design machinery, compose music, discover new cures for disease, explore the outer reaches of our solar system, plunge to the depths of the Marianas Trench, etc etc.  You get the picture.  You can’t do that without change.  You can’t do that with political bias and governmental intervention imposed on the populous every waking hour.  You can’t do that with controlling war-lords.  You can’t do that with “modesty police” measuring the hemline and length of every burke.  You get the picture.  Governments need to “butt out”.  Do what they are basically sworn to do; i.e. protect and defend.  Make sure the trains “run on time”.  That’s about it.  Everything else should be privately owned and operated!  Our lives must, for better or worse, revolve around our own free will and well-intentioned people coming together for the betterment of their communities.

WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN

August 2, 2010


WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN

Sometimes the only way you know where you are is to look back and see where you have been.  My grandfather use to say this to me when I was a kid.   Heard it a thousand times.  It was his way of saying that frequent reflection is “good for the soul” and reminds us we are going to have good days and bad days, at least on this earth.  Countries are like individuals in that respect—not really that different at all.  We still live in a great country, full of promise.  For the most part, a kid born today can be just about anything he wants to be as long as he has a dream AND the work ethic to put that dream into motion.  This fact has been demonstrated time and time again and with a diverse cross-section of our population.  Woody Allen was pretty much correct when he said that 95 percent of success was just showing up.  A dude names Thomas A. Edison indicated that 90 percent of his success was due to perspiration and 10 percent to inspiration.  A fairly smart guy named Einstein said the world is not dangerous because of those who do harm, but because of those who look at it without doing anything.  Years ago, when I played high school football, I had a coach named E.B. (Red) Etter.  Coach Etter had two great sayings, “You boys had better show me something and damn it, if you make a mistake, make it at full speed.”  “The next one seen loafing will do laps to Pittsburg and back.”  Coach Etter did have a way with words.   One more and I will get to the point; “I don’t get to blow the whistle, I don’t get to ring the bell, but just let the train jump the track and see who catches hell.”  Some of us, are quick to place blame, throw someone under the bus, cry foul, put on that “poor me” attitude.  Ever listen to talk radio?  We do have problems and it has become evident, forgive me—more than evident, that the American people are going to have to help themselves.  We are going to have to work around our Federal government if we get any problems solved.  We start by getting “liquid”.  Eliminate debt, become much more independent and much less dependent upon Federal services.  Employ our full resourcefulness.  Engage.

The significant inactivity we see today from our “Executive” and “Legislative Branches” of government results from nothing more than fear.  Fear of taking a stand.  Fear of performing.  Fear of engaging.  Ever hear these before?

  • If I do something to make the train jump the track, I might not get reelected.  Then what would I do?  Better not even try.  Stalling is the best policy.  Let’s consider action AFTER the mid-term elections.   
  • I definitely don’t want to offend the unions.  OK, so what if our kids can’t read.  How is that my problem?  I send my children to private schools.  After all, I am a member of Congress.
  • If I protect our borders I will lose 12 million votes.
  • There is more ( and better ) officiating in an NFL game on Sunday than we get from the SEC relative to oversight of the stock market.  Then again, porn sites are much more interesting than working a “day job”.
  • Tort reform!—Do you know how much money those guys contribute to our PAC?
  • We know that “Freddie” and “Fanny” are in terrible shape but a “re-org” right now would be too disruptive.  Besides, fixing them would mean admitting they need fixing and we have been saying all along that they were in “fine working order”.
  • We can fight two wars.  We just have to make sure we send our best and brightest back—again and again and again.  PTST doesn’t last forever—does it?  After all, those prosthetic devices seem to work well enough.

You get the picture. 

Ever wonder when these guys work?  Is “The View” more important than sitting at your desk in the Oval Office, with your sleeves rolled up and your tie loosened?  Head down, plowing through.   We have viable information that most of Congress did NOT read the new health care bill.  We have viable information that the most of Congress did NOT read the 2500 page “jobs bill”.  We have viable information that the Attorney General did NOT read the bill passed by the Arizona Legislature BEFORE the Federal suit was levied.  I don’t think in my lifetime ( and I’m 68) I have seen a president that travels more than Mr. Obama.  It seems as though he relishes the spotlight and finds great pleasure in conveying absolute minutia to just about anyone who will listen.  When you think about it, what great revelations come from Washington anyway?  I’m not talking about news; I’m talking about “stuff” you can use.  Information that, once known, changes your life; makes every day living easier; reduces stress; promotes a minimal feeling that things will eventually be OK; addresses a growing unemployment; addresses the feeling that there may be a  double-dip recession and does something about it.  Where are the “guys and dolls” we elected?  Well, they are feeding at the public well.  We are truly on our on so, let us act that way.  Develop a resourcefulness that is indicative of our American heritage.  Can do spirit.  The difficult we do immediately, the impossible takes a little longer.  We know that if we don’t they won’t.  Let’s learn from history.

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