Thursday, June 30, 2011

The right way to celebrate the 4th of July

There are so many things to celebrate on the 4th of July that I hardly know where to start. All across the country, there will be marching bands, fireworks, and long speeches to remind us of the sacrifice our forefathers made. Television will probably schedule some patriotic films like Pearl Harbor, or perhaps one of those mega productions about the American Revolution. Occasionally, some journalist will write an article about the ‘wrong’ way of celebrating the event, giving a thumbs down to recreational activities, and picnics. But I think they are missing the whole point of the 4th of July. The members of our military did not serve in the Wilderness Campaign, Okinawa or the Battle of the Bulge because they wanted to support some politician or a new bill in congress. They served because the wanted to return to their families and take part in boisterous family activities, to hug children and grandchildren, and to lie on their back in the park and watch fireworks arch toward a star-studded sky. So the next time someone tries to put you on a guilt trip because you roll out the BBQ grill, offer them a hotdog or a slice of watermelon. Have a real celebration that includes baseball, water guns, ice cream, and a ride to the park. If George Washington was still here I think he would approve. After all, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness is what America is all about.

Monday, June 20, 2011

A Man of Courage

I have met many interesting people in my lifetime, but I think Bill Haast was near the top of the list. Haast ran the Miami Serpentarium where he housed many thousands of deadly snakes. He was a showman who knew how to manage his audience as skillfully as any snake charmer from India. Haast would remove a snake from its container and place in on the floor in the courtyard. The crowd would shrink back with a collective hiss as the Cobra rose up and spread its head cowl in an intimidating manner. Haast would then seize the reptile by the tail and grab its neck just behind its head. He would squeeze the snake’s throat to force its jaws open, then insert the teeth over the edge of a flask and milk the venom into the container.

I first became aware of Haast through a mutual friend who had once lived nearby and had known him for many years. According to the stories I heard about Haast, he was not fearless, and certainly not reckless. Instead he was confident in his own abilities and aware of what his work was contributing to saving lives. The antivenin produced from the snake venom served as an antidote to any poisonous snakebite if injected quickly at a medical center. Haast was bitten several times in his work, but always managed to survive despite becoming quite ill on several occasions. Bill Haast died today at age 100. Not bad for a man in such a hazardous occupation. You can click on the title to this article and read Bill’s obituary in the Washington Post.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Kissing Spreads Germs . . .

. . . according to what my mother told me when I was growing up. After googling the problem on the Internet, I discovered that she was correct. Scientific studies have suggested that kissing was first introduced as a means to spread germs and build up human immunity to dangerous bacteria before the onset of pregnancy. Saliva contains a healthy amount of immunoglobulin which binds with bacteria and triggers the body to destroy them.

From a social standpoint, the practice of kissing has been around as long as literature. Ancient writings record instances of exchanging kisses that goes far back into antiquity. The Old Testament is full of instances of men and women exchanging kisses. Many legal contracts were not considered to be valid until a kiss was exchanged, thus the practice of a bride and groom kissing after they are pronounced man and wife.

While all of the above is probably accurate, I think writers, Hollywood filmmakers, and kids in middle school have it right when they simply say that it feels good. From a mother’s kiss on a bruised knee to the steamiest kiss in a romance novel, there is something magical about intimate human contact. This is Father’s day. Give those you love a kiss and forget about the looming prospects of a sore throat that might overtake you tomorrow.

Click on the title of this article and it will carry you to 'the kiss seen around the world. Don't miss the video at the bottom of the news report to learn a little more about the event.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Should Teens Have Freedom of Speech

In an ideal setting, your teenage years should be the best time of your life. Few responsibilities and your whole future in front of you, with ample support to fix the things that are important. Texting, tweeting, emails, and long conversations on a cell phone keep teens connected in ways that were never possible before. The life of a young person is totally wrapped up in communication with family and friends. So what is my problem, you might wonder, in suggesting that teens should not enjoy the same freedom of expression as mature adults? I am not suggesting that teens are stupid, clueless, or irresponsible. I am only suggesting that as the rest of their life unwinds in front of them, there will always be the looming specter of those stupid things they said when they were seventeen. Among the worse offenders are unwise things posted on Facebook which might include - oh, my - those photos that you thought no one would ever see. How about your high school yearbook? Would you want your future wife or husband to leaf through it and read some of the statements? How about some prospective employer checking the most expressive sentiments you emailed to a friend. Would you really want Hitler to attend the Junior Prom as you stated in your yearbook? Click on the title to this post and read about the problems resulting at one school from unwise statements made by a number of students. See if it makes you think.

Friday, June 3, 2011

The Financial Crisis in America

Whenever we have a financial crisis in this country - which is becoming increasingly frequent - the Wall Street financial experts appear on news programs and dispense their wisdom concerning what we should do about it. If the crisis is serious, the news will switch to congress and we will see a powerhouse of politicians who chair the various finance and banking committees. They gather behind their microphones and look deeply into the eyes of their voters, while assuring us that only a minor correction is needed. In the meantime, we need to tighten our belts and take our share of responsibility.

Despite the complicated explanations from the talking heads, the problem is easy to understand and the path back to financial responsibility is rather simple. American businesses are flourishing as they never have before, and the outlook for the future would be bright if it were not for the greed of the people who control the markets. Whenever financial reports come out at the end of each quarter, it leaves a lot of people scratching their head. They wonder why things are not better when profits are rising in almost ever sector of commerce. The problem is where the money is going, and the rules governing business.

A few decades ago, business leaders had their focus on the product their company produced. Most executives were engineers and they knew how the product was made and were familiar with each step from concept to the marketplace. Then, as laws were changed to ‘help’ business grow, the financial boys stepped up to the plate with ideas that appealed to the board of director’s vision of the bottom line. The product was no longer the focus, and short-term profits became the norm. Leverage buyouts were encouraged and sell-offs of company assets in pursuit of quick profits became the norm. Hefty bonuses to CEOs and board members became the new way of doing business. So where is the money going, you might ask, and why are we having so many foreclosures and layoffs? You only have to look at the salaries of the executives in American companies to see the answer.

Most CEOs in America draw more in salary and benefits than all of their employees combined!

If you look at the 500 companies listed on the S&P index, you will discover that the chief executives of those companies draw staggering sums in compensation, while the rest of the employees are facing layoffs and wage cuts. Salaries range from 84 million in total benefits awarded to one executive, to smaller companies where the CEOs draw only a few paltry millions. The overall average CEOs pay in the S&P index companies is $11,358,445.00, and growing at a staggering 23% each year. Compare this to the median wage for all occupations which is around $33,000.

If you have a strong stomach and want to view what your boss is making, you can check the figures at The information is listed by corporation, but you can also access the figures by doing a name search. The figures are gleaned from corporate proxy statements of the various companies. Think about what you find at Paywatch the next time you have to tell your wife she is going to have to drive her wreck to work for another year. Something that is even worse is having to break the news to your kids that they will have to have to attend a state school, take out a loan, and work part time. Please don’t mention to them that when they graduate, they probably won’t be able to get a job in their chosen field because some CEO has outsourced their job.

Click on the title of this article and it will carry you to Paywatch