Thursday, January 5, 2012

Using inappropriate language or slang

One of the most common indicators of the lack of refinement, good manners, and education in our society is the tendency to use vulgar or inappropriate language even in a very public context. The movies are full of crude and inappropriate language. The use of bad or inappropriate language content is nothing new. I suffered through the barrage of filthy language while I was in the Army. It seems like people have to use the language to demonstrate that they some how "fit in."

I would quote from an old English book, TALMAGE, Thomas de Witt, and John MATTHIAS. The Talmage Series of Sunday School Dialogues ... Edited by J. Matthias. 1880. Wherein Thomas Talmage has written a discussion between two boys. It is worth quoting some of the statements made:
In my opinion there is not anything so degrading, so vile and meaningless as the detstable habit of profane swearing... No good can possibly be arrived at through it... Stay now, my friend, do not look so angry at my outspoken words, as your friend, I wish you to consider your speech, think twice before you speak once, and leave off such an evil, which has become with you an inveterate habit. 
I sincerely agree with Talmage's sentiments. The use of vulgar language shows a lack of education and refinement. It is objectionable per se and there is no logical excuse for the waves of vulgar language I am subjected to on a regular basis. Quoting from Spencer W. Kimball, "Profanity is the effort of a feeble brain to express itself forcibly.”

One place profanity and swearing appear frequently is in comments written on the Internet. This is a despicable habit and very objectionable. Here is a further quote from Spencer W. Kimball,
We wonder why those of coarse and profane conversation, even if they refuse obedience to God’s will, are so stunted mentally that they let their capacity to communicate grow more and more narrow. Language is like music; we rejoice in beauty, range, and quality in both, and we are demeaned by the repetition of a few sour notes.
And yet another quote,
Some time ago I saw a drama enacted on the stage of a San Francisco theater. The play had enjoyed a long, continuous run in New York. It was widely heralded. But the actors, unworthy to unloose the latchets of the Lord’s sandals, were blaspheming his sacred name in their common, vulgar talk. They repeated words of a playwright, words profaning the holy name of their Creator. The people laughed and applauded, and as I thought of the writer, the players, and the audience, the feeling came to me that all were party to the crime, and I remembered the castigation in the book of Proverbs to those who condone evil:
“Whoso is partner with a thief hateth his own soul: he heareth cursing, and bewrayeth it not” (Prov. 29:24).
I automatically discount the statements anyone makes when they resort to foul, vile, crude, or profane language. I am not impressed with either the thought process or the education of those whose vocabulary is so limited that they cannot use civil and reasoned language. 

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Unemployed or unemployable

It is apparent that I have failed to fully explain my last few posts. The question I raise is whether or not the current long term unemployed are in effect unemployable. The jobs that they lost may not be necessarily being replaced with the same or even equivalent jobs due to permanent changes in the companies or due to technological, sociological or other types of fundamental changes. If those who are losing their jobs now do not have employable skills and the job they were previously doing is no longer viable, no upswing in the economy will bring them back into full employment. They will inevitably have to retrain in areas where skills are in demand or they will remain unemployed or only employed in lower or minimum wage level jobs. No matter what their past experience, if that experience does not prepare the unemployed for a needed job skill, they will not be able to find work.

The government's welfare support of the unemployed, without a commitment to retrain them with new employable skills only prolongs the inevitable. Part of the problem is caused by a school system that in many cases does not produce graduates with employable skills. But the problem is primarily personal. You either learn and grow into marketable work skills or you begin to move backwards and work for a reduced income. Despite your perception, your high paying middle management job may no no longer exist and the skill set you developed is no longer in demand.

Those who are "retired" from the work force have the same problems. If they have no marketable skills, if their retirement income shrinks either through inflationary pressure or cyclical downturns in the economy the retired may find themselves in a downward spiral with no marketable skills that will overcome the age prejudice built into our employment system. Long term retirement planning should include planning to obtain skills that will allow you to continue to be employed as long as you are physically able to work, not stopping work at some arbitrary age.

Work is work. If you or anyone views a job as undesirable merely because it is "boring" then you or they have bought into the entitlement generation full time. The day you stop learning is the day you start dying. I have personally seen people walk away from good, remunerative work because it was not what they wanted and they believed they were entitled to higher pay and better working conditions without any replace job or income. You need to make a realistic inventory of your job skills and work on those areas that will qualify you for replacement employment in an area where your job skills are needed.

For example, if you have been a carpenter in the construction industry, you may have believed that there would never come a time when you could not get a job. Maybe while you still had a job, you should have studied or taken classes to obtain some other types of skills that could be used to find employment in the event of a downturn in construction such as one during the past few years.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Out of work or unemployable?

I heard a short interview on the radio while driving that got my attention. It was a news commentary on the increase in the minimum wage in various states. In this case the interview was of a slightly older woman who had been out of work for a relatively long time and who blamed her inability to get a job on her age. She claimed to have been working at a position paying over $67,000 a year and had been unable to find work "in her field" and had finally found a job as a clerk in a convenience market for minimum wage. She topped off the interview by noting that she found it necessary to give up toothpaste and deodorant so she could feed her dog. 

OK, this scenario opens up a plethora of issues. Age is genuinely a factor. But job qualifications are more important than age or experience. Because I have no idea where this woman worked or what she did before she lost her job, I am forced to look at the overall picture for reasons why this can happen. First, if you hadn't noticed, we are in the middle of a post-industrial revolution. I have a friend who lost her job and she is training to do online support for a major company. This particular company found that customer satisfaction was so poor with their "overseas" support that they are moving all of their support jobs back to the U.S. with trained people. She will be working from home on her computer and providing telephone and online support. The job pays much better than minimum wage.

Perhaps this lady on the radio was employed in a job that no longer exists or maybe her whole type of work is no longer part of our economy? My guess is that the so-called high unemployment rate is more a reflection of the way the overall employment environment in the world is changing than it is a reflection of the economy. There are skill sets for jobs where the jobs going begging for qualified people. For example, during most of the past two years, our office has advertised consistently for qualified paralegal assistants and has gone months without finding a qualified prospect no matter how old or how long they had been out of work. I have been told repeatedly that there simply are no qualified paralegal assistants available. I personally added to the unemployment by retiring.

If there are jobs openings that go begging, why are there long term unemployed? It is a situation where the job skills need to match the job openings. Unfortunately, there is no quick fix. But if you are presently in a good paying job, you should count on the fact that the job may end. So what are you going to do about it now? I suggest looking at the present jobs shortages and begin to cross-train. Think of other things you can do and begin now to prepare for the downsizing and job losses of the future. Take a lesson from the insurance industry, quoting from the Insurance Networking News, "Despite high levels of unemployment, U.S. business leaders say one of the biggest risks they’re facing is a talent and skills shortage, according to the 2011 Lloyd’s Risk Index." In another article in the Huff Post Business the claim was "The mining and software industries have at least one thing in common. A labor scarcity, or a shortage of skilled workers, could affect the profit margins for both of them, according to a report issued by Fitch Ratings Tuesday afternoon."

It would be interesting to know what skills the radio lady had and what she had done to improve her skills while she was gainfully employed.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Technology is more than social networking

Less technologically adept individuals tend to equate an ability to use social networking as sign of computer prowess. Howerver, texting and Facebook skills do not equate to an ability to reason and use a computer productively. Computer use has two major components, the motor skills necessary to use a keyboard, a mouse or a trackpad and the cognitive skills necessary to use the software programs. Using a computer instinctively, requires a monumental amount of practice with a fairly high degree of hand/eye coordination. But simply because you have the motor skills does not mean you can automatically run a computer.

My personal experience with younger computer users is that many of them have acquired the motor skills to operated the computer. They can use the mouse to open, close and move files, but have no idea about software. Learning to use moderately to extremely complicated computer programs requires the skills behind the program. For example, someone may be able to play computer games all day, but that does nothing to qualify him to use a computer based accounting system, or do online legal research or build a spreadsheet. A computer is a tool. If you give a hammer to a two year old he or she can do quite a bit of damage but are unlikely to build anything. I have used computers in my work since the 1970s and I view them as a tool to an end.

When was the last time you saw a young person use a computer for something other than entertainment or as a text entry device? To effectively use a computer, you need to have a concept of work. Unfortunately, this concept is sadly lacking in American society, especially by the youth. The first level of computer usage is keyboarding. A Nielsen Study found 13 to 17 years olds averaged 3,417 text messages a month. Typically 86% of those who own mobile devices use them while watching TV! See ReadWriteWeb. Looking at the U.S. Census Bureau's 2012 Statistical Abstract, almost half of the high school students in the U.S. or 45.16 percent still have no Internet use at all. Whereas only 6.17% of those people with a bachelor's degree do not have Internet access.

Interestingly the 2012 Statistical Abstract shows, 29.13% of the population of the state of Arkansas have no Internet use at all. The state with the most computer use is Utah with only 9.9% of the population with no Internet use. Total computer use in all the states combined is fairly evenly divided between those 18 to 34 or 30.48%, 35 to 54 37.77% and 55 and older 31.75%. 

Other than using social networking, playing games, or email, when was the last time you actually did some elective work on a computer? When was the last time anyone you know under the age of 18 did some work other than that required by a school class? How many different programs do you use regularly? How many do your below 18 year olds use?

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Entitlement and the Victimization Syndrome

Two of the most common problems facing our society in the United States, are the twin concepts of entitlement and the victimization syndrome. Overwhelmingly people believe that they are "entitled." Whatever it is they want, they are entitled to it. For example, this year one of the big issues with the U.S. Congress was the extension of unemployment benefits payments. With over 5 million workers unemployed for over a year or more, the length of time that unemployment benefits payments were to continue became a political football. Unemployment insurance is a federal-state program jointly financed through federal and state employer payroll taxes. This type of payment originated in 1932 in Wisconsin. See Wikipedia:Unemployment benefits. The maximum period for most states is 26 weeks. But lately, this time period has been extended throught Temporary Extended Unemployment Compensation (TEUC) program which provides extra weeks of federally-funded unemployment benefits to unemployed workers throughout the country who have received all regular unemployment benefits available to them. See United States Department of Labor. This is essentially a social welfare program. Because of the last minute dealing in Congress, the benefits now extend from 34 to 53 weeks. See Unemployment Extension in

Through the concept of entitlement, a program that was supposed to be temporary assistance to the unemployed has now become a long-term social welfare program to which a segment of the population has become entitled. The program does provide welfare relieve in the nature of a dole, but does nothing to improve skills, provide jobs or re-train the unemployed for the jobs that are available.

We have people who are really suffering from a lack to work opportunities. But at the same time, our country and the world at large is in the midst of a dramatic revolution in the way people work. We are quickly becoming a technology based society.

Even though I have a job, I am technically self-employed. The minute I stop working, I stop making money. There is no one paying me to look for work because technically I cannot lose my job since I work for myself. It would not matter how desperate my plight, I would not qualify for unemployment. But if I fire one of my employees, they are likely eligible for unemployment insurance payments.  In addition, the unemployed are treated as victims. It is not their "fault" that they cannot find work. It is the fault of our economy or society or whatever. Because they are unemployed, they are entitled to a job and therefore as victims they must be compensated even if they do no work. Anyone who opposed the extension of benefits was heartless and blind to the suffering of the unemployed.

It is interesting that one of the areas of unemployment that continues to trend down is state and local governments. See Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, News Release December 2, 2011. In other words, the government is taking money out one pocket and putting it in another. The loss of Federal jobs was lead by the U.S. Postal Service, which is not surprising given the competition. If you read the statistics and the explanation carefully, you will see that if I am self-employed and have no work, I am counted as part of the unemployed but I cannot get unemployment benefits. But because of the idea of entitlement, of course there are other government programs that I can use to get the welfare I am entitled to.

What ever happened to self-reliance and personal responsibility?

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Knowing how the world works

As an attorney with now 37 years of court trial experience, one of the most remarkable things I have observed over the years is how few people know how the world works. Especially when confronted with overwhelming problems, commonly people react in totally inappropriate ways. Their reaction is based on a lack of awareness of how to deal with threatening situations. But, you might say, that is the reason we have attorneys and such. Did I say my observation was limited to non-attorneys? Many attorneys have no more of a clue how the world works than any average non-lawyer.

I fully realize that three years in law school and years of experience working in the court system may help, but I have come to the conclusion that it is more of an attitude than simply a matter of experience or education. I have identified that the root of the problem is, what I call, the victim syndrome. In almost every threatening situation, from divorce to bankruptcy, the individual caught up with the problem views himself or herself as a victim. The victim is always put upon and the results, win or lose, are always unsatisfactory.

One good example of the victim syndrome, recently we had an acquaintance who had a number of problems. I will not mention any names and the problems have been changed so that the person cannot be identified. This person was otherwise a capable professional with years of work experience and in relatively good health. This person's spouse had severe problems and had left the home. As a result, the person was unable to pay the mortgage and the house went into foreclosure. Although the person had a great deal of experience in real estate transactions, the person did nothing about the foreclosure and when the sale went through had done nothing to obtain an alternate place to live and had made no effort to move any of the house's contents. Rather than take charge of the circumstances and make arrangements to move, the person was found sitting and staring at the wall on the day possession of the house was supposed to change. This person had become (or may have been for some time) a victim.

In another similar situation, another person I knew, had the same problem with a mortgage payment. The couple had struggled for years to keep the house, but finally the person's spouse became seriously ill. As a result, the house payments got behind and the house went into foreclosure. While the house was in foreclosure, the spouse died. The person calmly faced the situation, found a place to live the person could afford by making a sharing arrangement with a friend, carefully reviewed the financial situation and moved to the new home before the foreclosure and was well situated when the bank took possession of the property. This person was not a victim even though the two situations were strikingly similar. In fact, this second person did have work experience but not in real estate.

The main difference between these two scenarios was the attitude of the person. The challenges and circumstances were similar but the reaction of the person to those circumstances was extremely different. One problem faced both people, they had lived in the homes for many, many years and had not taken control of their lives and paid off the mortgages. But the reaction to the lack of ability to pay the mortgage was entirely different.

Stay tuned for more about how the world works.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Is there a difference between education and learning?

What if every student in the entire United States ended up in a college or university? I was reading an article recently that repeated the commonly held belief that "every high school student should be prepared to go on to college." The article went on to claim that the failure of our school system to pass all of the high school students on to our college and university system was an indication of the failure of education. Even if that goal were achievable, would it be desirable? About the same time I was reading the article about sending the entire student population of the U.S. to college, there was another article about nurses in the California Penal system making over $200,000 a year. Is there a difference between education and training? Is there a difference between education and learning?

In support of the stated goal to have every student go to a college or a university, was the statement that if you wanted a high paying job, a "high school" education was worthless. I guess all the financially successful friends I have who have no college training didn't know that when they went to work.

So you get a college degree in say humanities or English, why are you then more qualified for a job than a high school graduate? Maybe we should start thinking in terms of jobs and training rather than "education." Maybe we need to improve the quality of our school system so that a high school diploma means something.

It is extremely difficult in today's politicized world to talk about the need for "education" when it is a given, that "no child be left behind." What that translates to in reality is that a certain percentage of students will be able to pass a test. It does not mean that the students will learn anything, especially that they will have the skills necessary to compete in a college or university environment. Even of those students graduating from high school with a high standardized test score, how many of them are poorly prepared for the academic rigor necessary to succeed in a four-year university? Some of the latest figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that in 2010 only 68.1 percent of high school graduates were enrolled in colleges or universities.  

Why do we have a goal to prepare all students for a college education when such a high percentage do not go on to higher education? How many high school students graduate with an employable skill? Bear in mind that overall in the U.S. only about half of the students graduate from high school. So of 100 students who start school, only about 50 graduate from high school. Then of those who graduate, only about 34 go on to college and then only 55% go on to graduate or about or 18 or 19 students out of 100! 

Why do we gear our entire school system to less than 20% of the students? Shouldn't the school systems be concentrating on teaching working skills rather than standardized tests that do not prepare students for anything in particular? If the goal of our educational system is to prepare all of the students for a college or university experience then we are failing about 80% of the students. Aren't we also short changing the vast majority of workers in the United States who do very well at jobs that don't require a college or university degree? What about all the college graduates who cannot find work? Isn't it about time our students learn some basic skills to compete in a global market, rather than emphasizing a uniform testing system that neither prepares them for higher education nor gives them a marketable skill when they finish high school?