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Posts Tagged ‘Romney’

Voting With Conscience, Not So Easy

In Economy, Education, Home Improvement, Local News, Media, National News, Opinion, Politics, psychology, Religion, Science, sociology, State News, Uncategorized on October 30, 2012 at 8:34 am

 

 

 

 

DEER IN HEADLINES

By Gery L. Deer

In just a few days, Americans will go to the polls to elect a new president or retain the old one for another term. It’s been a heated race almost from the start but now that we’re down to the wire, the candidates are running in a dead heat.

Governor Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama are neck-in-neck in the polls and pounding the pavement in battleground states like Ohio and Virginia, Hurricane Sandy notwithstanding. But with so much negativity – some say far more than in elections past – how will the non-partisan and undecided voter make a choice come November 6? It’s probably going to end up, for most, to be a vote of conscience.

Voting your conscience may not be easy, but it’s often the only way to feel as if you made a difference and chose the candidate that best serves your values and interests. Sometimes, you have to say, “What’s in it for me?”

Unfortunately, it’s hard to say how any individual might benefit from this election especially since most of the campaigning has been about one candidate saying why the other is bad, rather than telling us what he or she is going to do to once in office. Individual benefit will be based on a kind of trickle-down effect depending on which way the national election goes and how much change there is likely to be at the congressional level.

Once again, as noted previously in this column, it’s the local elections to which people should be giving more attention. It’s at the ground level that things actually get done in a way that directly affects the voter, regardless of how much we’d like to believe otherwise.

When weighing the issues of economic distress and job scarcity, the average person only has his or her experiences to call upon for reference. Discussing these problems on a national scale is almost pointless since the changes needed to affect these issues have to occur at the local level. That leaves the voter even more stymied.

Once more, we’re back to voting with our conscience. If you’re undecided, look at the following characteristics of the candidates – whether local or national.

First, is he or she right for the job? Do they give of the ‘air’ of a president or whatever position they intend to hold? Take the time to surf the internet and review video and read speeches they’ve given before and after becoming a candidate for office. Try to see around the fluff and the ‘marketing’ done to promote the candidate and look for threads of the person underneath. Do they seem genuine? Do you think they believe what they’re telling the people?

Do they share your personal values? I’ve long said that it’s simply a bad idea to choose a presidential candidate based on their religious beliefs or because of their take on subjects like abortion. But, when left with a tied score on the business issues, moral issues have to be taken into consideration, so you have little options at that point.

Does the candidate seem to flip-flop, only saying what his people are telling him to say or what he thinks the voters want to hear? Or, do you believe he holds to a set of ideals? This is probably the most important part of choosing a candidate in any election. Most politicians say what they expect the constituents want to hear. If he or she is a republican, conservative ideology comes across more prominently, and the same with being a democrat; the liberal voice will be louder.

But in order to capture a broader audience, the candidates will “pad” their ideology with sprinklings of the other side, or implied agreement with the opposition in small, virtually insignificant ways. This makes them seem more bi-partisan in an attempt to interest the other side.

Voting your conscience is much harder than voting based in facts and issue stance. Try to do your homework before you go to the polls. Choose the candidate you can feel good about supporting throughout their term and remember, no matter who you vote for, get out and vote.

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Is PBS television for rich people? Ask Mitt.

In Children and Family, Education, Entertainment, Health, Media, National News, Opinion, television on October 16, 2012 at 9:22 pm

DEER IN HEADLINES

By Gery L. Deer

Poor Big Bird; he was just walking around Sesame Street minding his own business, collecting a government paycheck – just like Mitt Romney – and the next thing he knew he was the topic of national political debate. The former Massachusetts governor has made it clear he intends to end funding to the Public Broadcasting Service. If he were old enough to vote – and human – he would go to the polls and help re-elect President Obama, if for no other reason than just to keep his job.

Sadness has gripped Hooper’s Store. No one’s buying sodas. Oscar the Grouch is even more cross than ever, and Cookie Monster is so distraught he turned down a plate full of chocolate chip raisin. If that isn’t bad enough, Charlie Rose might have to get a personality and stay on morning news television, evicted forever from his blackened studio.

If Mitt Romney has his way, hard line left wingers will have to find somewhere else to distribute their propaganda besides public television. But, aren’t the republicans the ones who are always saying that PBS is television for rich people? So, if that’s true, shouldn’t Romney be trying to preserve this refuge for every 20-year-old British television show ever produced? Nope. In Romney’s eyes, PBS is a complete and total waste of taxpayer dollars.

Seriously though, make a list of all the wasteful spending Congress will pass in a single year and the resulting torrential flood of pointless programs and pet projects funded in the billions by tax dollars would stagger the imagination. There’s nothing wasteful about PBS and it costs more to fill the presidential limousine once than public television costs the individual taxpayer for a year.

Fact: PBS accounts for only 0.00012 percent of the country’s budget. That’s about $1.35 per person, per year. That’s it. That’s what Romney is saying should be cut from the budget to reduce the deficit. He needs a calculator and some fact checking – something that’s not happening much in the current campaign.

In a country where we underfund schools and undervalue teachers, the American educational system needs all the help it can get and PBS offers that support.

Perhaps a more practical way to ensure the public is getting its money’s worth on PBS is to check over their spending. Paula Kerger, the PBS CEO earns just over $623.000. Is there a need for such a high, six-figure salaries at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting? What about the the political side?

Is the overall message coming from PBS programming too liberally biased? If the tax payers are funding the programs, they should be neutral – fair and unbiased. But that’s not the generally sense.

Most conservatives believe that PBS is harshly liberal, anti-American and catering to the rich, democratic elite. Most liberals think that people who don’t watch Upstairs Downstairs, or PBS Newshour, just for example, are uninformed, unsophisticated and brain dead. Well, there’s probably some truth to both of those statements. But the value of PBS is not in the news or bad English sitcoms.

The majority of those who benefit from public television are underprivileged children. In defense of PBS, commentators and pundits are saying that PBS is one of the most valuable video resources for school teachers and students, providing a type of professionally-made educational programming that is free to the public.

No, Mr. Romney, Big Bird isn’t the problem with the deficit. Your overpaid, over privileged friends in Congress are responsible for the out of control spending. Never do they have to watch a true budget, forever dipping into the bottomless pocket of the suffering tax payer.

Additionally, with all of the economic difficulty befalling the country right now, should the focus of the candidates really be on Big Bird and PBS? It just offers more proof how out of touch both of these candidates are with the problems faced by the regular people of America.

Voters can’t handle the truth

In Business, Economy, Education, Local News, Media, National News, Opinion, Politics, State News, Uncategorized on October 9, 2012 at 9:03 am

Deer In Headlines

By Gery L. Deer

Politicians distort the truth and exaggerate facts to elicit effect from an audience. All of them do it. The idea of any candidate being open and honest is not only unbelievable, but would likely bring the American political system to a dead stop.

No one is going to be completely honest and the determination of whether a politician is lying is in the eye of the beholder. Unfortunately die-hard fans of a particular candidate will insist that it’s only the opponent who lies. The hard, cold truth is, they all “lie.”

In the Star Wars film series, mentor Obi Wan Kenobi warns Luke Skywalker that many of the truths we cling to in life depend greatly on our point of view. Nowhere is that a more appropriate statement than in the political ring.

Often, distortion of the facts is an effort to cover uncertainty or a lack of knowledge. No one could possibly provide an answer to every problem and, rather than appear weak or uninformed, a candidate has prepared a neutral response to counter his or her lack of a solution. Voters should learn to read between the lines and determine whether this behavior is a character flaw or the nature of the job.

Sometimes a candidate, in a moment of either clarity or misstep, will betray his or her thoughts. Mitt Romney’s off-the-cuff remarks about the 47-percent of people who will vote for Obama because of the president’s predilection for endorsing entitlement programs is a perfect example of what can happen when a candidate’s true thoughts come to light.

Political candidates are under intense, constant scrutiny. Every word, every step, every mispronounced name can affect their overall image and subsequent performance in polling. Even misspeaking can be inferred as a lie and bring a campaign crashing down at any moment.

No matter how carefully words and phrases are chosen, however, they can still be used out of context to paint a candidate with a single brush stroke. Generally referred to as “sound bites,” the act of hacking up entire speeches into 30-second snippets has become far too common and can lead the listening public to the wrong conclusions.

Along the same concept, political advertising should be focused on informing the public about the intentions of the candidate. Instead, the point of these messages is to tear down the other guy, discrediting the opposition to the point of exclusion. Millions of dollars are poured into these ads just so each campaign can go back and forth on television, radio and on the Internet, just trying to counter the latest round of jabs from the other side.

Print or broadcast, generally the ads follow a simple pattern. One candidate takes a stab at the opponent’s position on something which is then answered from the other side with an accusation of lying about it, followed by some kind of weak rebuttal. But who is actually lying? Once again, that may depend on a point of view.

Developing and keeping on track a strong platform is tough for a political operative in today’s 2-minute news cycle. Since the American voter tends to go on hearsay and emotional preference rather than fact, it’s nearly impossible to maintain a consistent message. Much of the time is spent on damage control, like the president is doing now after his lackluster performance in the first debate.

Still, whether or not a politician lies is almost irrelevant to the modern voter. Americans seem to be more interested in trivial issues than the larger picture, proven by how easily they are distracted from more important problems by garbage issues. One man’s garbage, however, is another man’s treasure; so once again, it’s back to the pesky point of view.

One thing is for certain – all politicians lie. Voters just need to come to terms with how much of that really matters and learn how to separate the facts from the rhetoric.

 

Imagination and Experience are the Best Teachers

In Business, Children and Family, Education, Jobs, Opinion, psychology, Science, sociology on August 17, 2012 at 9:33 am

By Gery L. Deer

DEER IN HEADLINES

Albert Einstein is said to have commented, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.” As much as I admire the scientist and his great intellect and insight, I’d have to alter his statement, from my own experience, to read, “Imagination is equally important to knowledge.”

During most of my educational experience, imagination was frowned upon. Teachers wanted me to use the knowledge I gained from my books and their instruction and not vary from those works. At home, I had the opposite approach.

My parents, particularly my mother, not only encouraged my imagination, but did everything they could to enhance it. I was given the opportunity to create and experiment with everything from paper sculpture and music to electronics and heavy equipment operation; a unique combination of experiences, to say the least.

The drive to achieve is not limited to those in academia. Applying a vivid imagination using knowledge and experience to solve problems has been a driving force behind American ingenuity.

A great number of history-making people had virtually no formal education; Abraham Lincoln and the Wright Brothers, just to name a few. Some academics would have you believe that these people were anomalies but I believe they are far more common than is generally known.

Often, rising to greatness has more to do with luck and circumstance than anything else. There is something to be said for being in the right place at the right time, regardless of how intensive your labor.

Academics are fine, and necessary, and everyone should take advantage of as much education as they like. But I think our teachers should spend as much time encouraging creative thought and diversified study of the individual. What makes that student thrive? What makes her yearn to know more?

If advanced education is the goal, such as a master’s or post-graduate degree, more hands-on experience should be required before the diploma is awarded. There are far too many MBA’s and PhD’s out there with little to no practical experience behind them.

My educational background is in engineering, computer programming and the sciences, but most of my real-world experience is in communications, writing and the media. My education allows me to have a better understanding of the world as a whole and my experience helps me to apply it to a practical, wage-earning end.

If not for the creativity and drive I was taught by my family, some of which must be inherent, it’s likely I would be punching a clock at some technology lab somewhere, miserable and confined.  I have found, on my own, a blend of these vital components, but that’s hard to teach someone.

Not all educators are as rigid in their teachings as I am generalizing here. I had a few over the years who encouraged self-expression of imagination, even in the sciences. But in the end, each person has to find his or her own path but it should be as balanced as possible between imagination and knowledge.

Humanities greatest achievements have been made by some of the least-educated, most imaginative people who ever lived. There is still room for enlightenment, regardless of how many letters are after your name.

If you are not an academic over-achiever, never be intimidated by knowledge. Knowledge is free for all and in today’s high-tech world it is more accessible than ever. Take advantage of that!

For those with advanced education but no experience, don’t be so cocky about that piece of paper you’re carrying around. Be aware enough of your own shortcomings to ask more experienced people for assistance.

If you value the experience of others, no matter what their educational background, you will go much further and gain respect for your efforts.

 

A Half-Century of Walmart. Economic Savior or Evil Empire?

In Business, Economy, Entertainment, Jobs, Local News, National News, Opinion, Politics, Senior Lifestyle, sociology, Uncategorized on July 2, 2012 at 10:25 pm

Singer, songwriter Jessica Frech’s satirical music video, “People of Walmart” has attracted more than 6 million viewers, and probably offended just as many. (Jessica is in the upper left square of this screen shot from her video.)

By Gery L. Deer

Deer In Headlines

Most people don’t realize that Walmart is the world’s largest private employer. According to a recent article in Time magazine’s business section, only the U.S. Department of Defense andChina’s People’s Liberation Army employ more people than Sam Walton’s massive dynasty of discount. On July 2, Walmart turned the half-century mark of rolling back prices and shaking up the competition.

On that date in 1962, Sam opened the very first Walmart store inRogers,Arkansas. Fifty years and four-thousand, three-hundred-ninety-nine stores later, the chain employs more than 2.1 million people and sets the standard by which other budget retailers are measured.

Along with those who appreciate Walmart’s contributions toAmerica’s economy, there are equally as many who regard it as an evil, impersonal, corporate monster. And they may be correct, after all, it would have been impossible to become the discount retail leader without doing some damage to the competition and holding fast to as much of its own money as possible along the way to get there.

Impenetrable by unions and continually slammed by the liberal left, the bargain behemoth continues to rake in the cash, bringing in a whopping $443 billion last year. Revenue like that must please the company’s shareholders, who, ironically, are probably the last people to set foot in one of its stores (at least while someone’s looking).

But what is Walmart, really? Is it evil? Or, is this just the price that has to be paid for corporate efficiency and unprecedented business growth? Do small towns really dry up and blow away when Walmart moves in?

The pros and cons of Walmart are probably more a matter of perspective than fact. Walmart shoppers are hard to categorize, but the common image is the middle to lower class, interested in getting the lowest price possible on toilet paper while caring nothing about the environment in which it is sold to them.

Well if you believe singer, songwriter Jessica Frech’s point of view in her satirical YouTube music video, People of Walmart, shoppers simply cannot be categorized. They come in every shape, size, color and creed, from every socioeconomic background and lifestyle. They come at every hour of the day and night in search of, well, a great deal on whatever it is they need.

It’s worth mentioning also that many Wallyworlders found Jessica’s music video terrifically offensive because it uses actual photos of Walmart shoppers in their native habitat. Even so, People of Walmart has been watched by more than 6.1 million viewers. People of Walmart 2, released last November, already has more than 1.6 million views. Apparently people weren’t that offended.

The economic effects by Walmart on local communities are as mixed as its clientele, probably more so than people generally know. According to a 2009 study, most negatively affected by the big box giant are those mom-and-pop retailers selling products in direct competition, such as small, higher-priced grocery, clothing and dry-goods stores.

The research also indicated that retailers offering products and services not available from Walmart tend to do better if in close proximity because people are already prepared to spend the money.

As for Walmart’s overall effect on and property values, new research released by the National Bureau of Economic Research startled the company’s critics. A 2001-2006 study of 159 new Walmart stores found that homes within a half-mile of each actually increased in value as much as 3-percent. Local tax revenue also increases substantially.

Like it or not, Walmart is here to stay. Anytime a business or an individual is successful, they will always have critics and even enemies. Fifty years ago, it’s doubtful that Sam Walton could have imagined what his small shop would eventually become.

Today his company provides jobs, affordable food and clothing, and the most unusually diverse array of patrons any retailer could imagine. So, happy birthday Walmart! Keep the rollbacks coming and, please, could someone fix the wheel on that one shopping cart that just won’t roll when you’re in a hurry?

Empty Promises Headline 2012 Presidential Campaign

In Business, Economy, Education, Jobs, Local News, Media, National News, Opinion, Politics, Senior Lifestyle, Uncategorized on June 4, 2012 at 10:28 pm

By Gery L. Deer

Deer In Headlines
 

Remember when good oratory skills and talk of “change” at least seemed like a good start? The concept might have made a great slogan for candidate Obama’s election run, but there’s very little about it that would apply to his presidency. But would Mitt Romney have been able to achieve any greater success given the same circumstances? Probably not.

The president’s dismal job performance numbers and Romney’s complete lack of connection with those bringing home anything less than a seven-figure salary leave both of them a mediocre choice in November. So far, even the media can’t figure out what to say about these two.

In recent weeks, some of the biggest campaign headlines focus on relatively pointless issues like how much Obama is outspending Romney in advertising or the former governor sending hecklers to an event where the president was campaigning. It’s all fluff and no substance – again.

If something doesn’t happen to really define these candidates, the country may see a repeat of the 2008 election when many Americans were just tired of “W” and hisWashingtoninsiders. Most were happy see him gone but neither did they want a left-wing, America-downing liberal or even another Republican crony. So, who better to put in the White House but an untested, junior senator from Illinois?

As they say at Wrigley Field, “Swing and a miss.” Instead of the hopeful changes promised by the Obama camp, the country slipped deeper into recession and near depression-level unemployment which, incidentally, has yet to return to pre-Obama numbers.

But wait, there’s more. Challenging the president this fall is another millionaire – yes President Obama is a millionaire several times over – the Massachusetts Mormon, former Governor Willard Mitt Romney. Here’s a man so rich and out of touch he seemed in one speech to actually believe that every housewife has two Cadillacs and a summer home inCalifornia.

Why is Romney so out of touch? It might have something to do with that silver spoon sticking he always seems to be gagging on. Despite his profession of “humble beginnings” and being a “self-made man,” he attended Stanford, Brigham Young University in Provo, UT, and finally Harvard.

Given that kind of background, it’s highly unlikely he has any idea what it would be like to have to stand in an unemployment office or apply for some kind of welfare assistance after a layoff. But financial extremism is a problem for both parties in this election.

While the liberal left whines about conservative campaign funding from big business, the president is filling his war chest with least as much from the millionaire actors and studio execs inHollywood. Well, at least both parties are getting their cash from people who make a living off the public while pretending to be what they’re not.

 It’s likely that the 2012 election will come down to two things – the economy and jobs – something neither candidate has much to crow about. However, no one can really be congratulated for that. Many experts suggest that the economy would have eventually recovered in a natural progression without sinking billions of tax dollars into the problem.

However it plays out, in order to reach the voters, Obama and Romney will each need to stop the mud-slinging campaigns and tell the public how they will make things better. So far, all they’ve done is rail against each other. Without some real substance and a plan to get behind, the undecided voter will be stepping into the polls simply to choose the lesser of “who cares.”

Does Everyone Suffer From Freud’s Alleged Death Wish?

In Entertainment, Health, Media, Opinion, psychology, Science, television, Uncategorized on April 30, 2012 at 10:52 pm

Sigmund Freud, by Max Halberstadt, 1921

By Gery L. Deer

Deer In Headlines

Sigmund Freud said that most people have a death wish, a desire, often deeply repressed, for self-destruction, often accompanied by feelings of depression, hopelessness, and self-reproach. Arguably, Freud’s theories have been the subject of considerable controversy and debate over the years but his impact on psychology, therapy, and culture is undeniable.

Debunked or not, psychology’s most famous figure may have hit this proverbial nail right on the head. At least that’s how it seems taking into account how many things people do while fully aware of potentially lethal consequences; for example, smoking, alcohol, recreational drug use, skydiving, auto racing, base jumping and other high-risk behavior.

It could be argued that some of these activities are no more dangerous than getting in the car in the morning and driving to work. Considering the safety measures involved in the case of something like skydiving, a quick spin in a Chevy would most likely be far more dangerous.

Of course, once someone starts taking drugs or abusing alcohol, a chemical addiction takes over and impedes their ability to stop. But they’re not the only ones.

Some experts suggest that so-called adrenaline junkies are not all that different from their AA-going counterparts. Similar addictive reactions occur in the bloodstreams of extreme athletes and even serial criminals, not for drugs but adrenaline. The high brought on by the endorphin rush can be overwhelming and highly addictive.

If the experts are right, treatment may be in order to help quell the desire for such extreme behavior. But, that doesn’t answer the main question – how do they start in the first place?

Could there actually be an inborn drive that blinds some people to the relative, even inescapable dangers, associated with risky behavior? Is it possible that some people are genuinely motivated by an involuntary drive akin to Freud’s death wish?

Blaming television and other entertainment media for romanticizing risky behavior is always an option, but only to a point. While these influences do affect modern society, they can hardly be blamed for anything prior to about 75 years ago.

Before the mass media evolved into what it is today, habitually addictive activities like smoking and alcohol use were predominantly passed on through families or influenced by social circles. Plus, the detrimental effects of these substances was not yet widely known or accepted.

It could be that people are just examining these issues far too closely. Maybe, to use another Freudian colloquialism, a cigar is just a cigar. Isn’t it at least possible that people simply do dumb things sometimes without deep, psychological forces at work? Of course it’s possible.

Psychoanalyzing risky behavior may rack up tons of cash for shrinks, but it’s entirely possible that some people just enjoy these activities for their own sake. Unfortunately, some of them become addicted to the rush, the drug, the adrenaline, or whatever it is that hooks them, and some even die as a result.

Life is dangerous – even if it’s unintentional. No matter the lifestyle, no one escapes Freud’s alleged death wish. Whether it’s a compulsion for that first cup of morning coffee or an obsession with shoe shopping, extreme behavior hits everyone in one way or another.

Sometimes the things a person appears to enjoy in life the most are exactly what may be killing them, or may eventually. Lifestyle changes or even therapy may be necessary, but the individual is the only one who can change the behavior.

 

 

 

 

Don’t Believe Everything You Read. Seriously, don’t.

In Entertainment, Local News, Media, Opinion, Politics, psychology, television, Uncategorized on April 3, 2012 at 12:29 pm

By Gery L. Deer

Deer In Headlines

 

For reasons I still can’t totally understand, many people insist on believing whatever they read on a printed (or digital) page, regardless of how inane or baseless the material may seem. Generally the topic or tone falls in line with the reader’s interests or personal opinions and if it strikes them just the right way they fall for it, bait, hook and headline.

For example, while I appreciate the loyalty of my readers, I always encourage them to explore for themselves whatever topics I present and not simply take my word for it. An op-ed (opinion-editorial) column like mine offers one or two viewpoints about a particular topic but always has a ‘slant’ to it. For the author, the column can serve several purposes.

Some op-ed columnists are simply trying to put a voice to a particular viewpoint and provide food for thought to the reader. Others are doing everything they can to sway public opinion, by whatever means available to them, even by misrepresenting the facts.

Talk radio personalities and television news commentators offer the broadcast version of a written editorial column, usually with a much wider reach and, thus, a larger audience. Broadcast celebrity opinionists (my word for them) have one goal which is to please the advertisers by increasing ratings.

Banging on the desk and yelling, playing sound bites out of context and using as much spin as possible, these over paid blowhards ply the mushy brains of audiences with a lot of self-appointed authority. That authority is false but accepted by the masses, leaving them unable to tell the difference between fact and sensationalism.

Eventually, the Internet provided yet another outlet as audiences took to the computer screen for their news and information. So much pseudo-journalism has flooded the web that many now question the legitimacy and accuracy, not to mention the political slant, of modern news agencies. Take blogs for example.

The word blog is a shortened form of web log. Blogging started out simply enough as the ramblings of disgruntled workers or bored housewives who found an audience for their personal diatribes in the vast wasteland of the information superhighway. Over time, the number of blog followers has begun to surpass broadcast news and print journalism.

Depending on the content, a blog can attract millions of readers worldwide. According to the website InitialTraffic.com, the official blog of The Huffington Post was the most visited blog website of 2011 citing millions of hits for the publication. Other blogs have become mainstream resources, having transformed from op-ed material to news and video content.

Competition for subscribers and high-volume audiences is fierce between media outlets and some will do whatever it takes to keep advertising and subscription revenue coming in. It’s important that readers know the difference between opinion, editorial, news and sensationalist content. But how do you tell the difference?

An article or broadcast story that can be considered ‘news’ will provide the reader with the who, what, why, when and how of a topic, giving you the information without commentary or speculation. An opinion or editorial piece will include conjecture or literally offer the writer’s views in an attempt to slant the story or alter public perception of the topic.

In my columns, I generally cite the facts of a current event, a quote by a politician (in its entirety, so the context is clear), express the concerns of fellow citizens or I will base the work on a historical reference of some kind. The idea is to provide the solid, factual basis for whatever argument I wish to make.

For all of the chatter online, on television and on the radio, your local newspaper, in my opinion, is still your best bet for accurate news coverage regarding events immediately affecting you and your family. Online or in print, it offers a ground-level look at the day-to-day happenings without the ‘noise.’ Whatever your choice for news and commentary, be an informed reader.

 

DEER IN HEADLINES SPONSORED BY:

GLD Enterprises Commercial Writing

If Illiteracy Is the Disease, Then Literacy Is the Cure

In Economy, Education, Health, Media, Opinion, Politics on March 13, 2012 at 10:32 pm

Michael Martin and Gery L. Deer give a public reading of their writing during a Western Ohio Writers Association event, promoting literacy through creative prose.

By Gery L. Deer

Deer In Headlines 

Most Americans probably take for granted the ability to read and understand the words on this page. As a writer, I depend on the ability of the media-consuming public for my livelihood. But according to the National Adult Literacy Survey more than 42 million of my fellow Americans will never be able to enjoy (or detest) what I write because they can’t read.

Back in college, I took a job with the school newspaper as a staff writer where I learned a great deal about journalism and the power of the written word. One of the best lessons came from our staff advisor who once said, “No matter what your career or life path, your communications skills, reading and writing, will be your most valuable asset.” She couldn’t have been more correct.

I spent several years in the engineering fields for which I earned my degree, but ultimately I found my place as a full-time business writer, editor and columnist. Unfortunately, I found my calling far later in life than I’d have liked to due to an undiagnosed learning disability that seriously impacted my reading speed and comprehension.

Thousands of Ohio school children with learning disorders that affect their reading and writing skills continue to slip through the proverbial cracks every year, for a multitude of reasons I’ll reserve comment on for another time.

Suffice to say, it’s our own fault, and by “our” I mean the taxpaying public that does far more to insist on a fancier football stadium than to demand instructional accountability and better support for these kids.

Yes, there are laws in place and special education professionals to help identify and establish individualized educational plans for them, but, somehow, that never seems enough. Far too many still grow up unable to interpret the instructions on a can of soup.

Growing up, a person with illiteracy will adopt various coping skills needed to get by, but are never able to fully realize their potential. Illiterate adults have more difficulty finding jobs, developing business relationships or even doing household chores like paying bills.

Many politicians believe that illiteracy is one of those liberal issues, best left to bleeding hearts. In fact, such a staggeringly high number of illiterate citizens can be phenomenally detrimental to productive nation with a stable economy.

As the economy crawls to recovery, illiteracy will continue to keep some people on the unemployment lines, thus, adding one more contributing factor to suffocating fiscal growth. Adults struggling with illiteracy earn, on average, less than $250 per week, work less than 20 weeks per year and are at least ten times more likely to live below the poverty line.

How do we solve the problem? That’s a good question, with no easy solution. It often boils down to manpower and, dare I say it, money. If we think of illiteracy as the disease, then, surely, literacy should be the cure. So the best first step is to seek out help. Whether a child or an adult with a reading problem, there is help available, but sometimes you may have to get things started.

If you believe your child is struggling, meet with his or her teacher as soon as you believe there might be a problem. With tighter budgets, class sizes are increasing and sometimes being pro-active is the best way to get individualized help from an overwhelmed, underpaid faculty. You can also find tutors at local colleges and civic centers.

The same goes for adults as well. Community and career centers, local libraries and even senior citizen organizations are now offering adult literacy classes, either free or at a minimal cost.

And schools can help too by reinforcing the importance in the curriculum of the Three R’s –Reading, Writing and Arithmetic – with sharp emphasis on the first R, which will make the other two far easier to learn.

And, while technological education is important, particularly in today’s world, it might be time to cut back on the advanced computing classes and focus more thoroughly on reading skills. After all, knowing how to click a mouse is pointless if you can’t read what’s on the computer screen.

 

Independent columnist Gery L. Deer is the founder and director of the Western Ohio Writers Association. More at http://www.westernohiowriters.org.

Rising Oil Prices Choke Economic Recovery

In Business, Economy, Opinion, Uncategorized on February 28, 2012 at 8:42 am

Gery L. Deer, Deer In Headlines

In July of 2008, gas prices hit an average all time high in theUnited Statesof $4.11 per gallon. By November of that year, however, the price of regular unleaded fuel fell to $1.79 per gallon. According to the auto club AAA, as of Tuesday, February 28, the average price of gas inAmericahit $3.71 and is still rising.

According to government officials, including statements made by President Obama, there is no one reason why fuel prices take us on this sickening roller coaster ride. And, though political candidates promise to change things, there is no clear way to lower fuel costs or prevent their upswing because there are too many variables causing the problem.

Some blame speculation in the market, when certain investors make a profit from the rise in prices of various commodities, like oil and grain. Politicians will lay the responsibility on their opponents or some middle-eastern government bent on crippling the Western World. Still others will blame the oil companies for the sticker shock.

Often an accident or shut down in a refinery is blamed for a price jump at your local gas station, but it ends up being more of an easy excuse for price gauging. Oil companies have so much fuel already produced and either in transport or storage it would actually take months for any change in their revenue to be felt so sharply as to require a price change at the consumer level. Oil companies will use any excuse to raise prices and enhance profits.

People have repeatedly asked the government to step in but not much is happening to that effect. Congressional power players, worried about donations to their next campaign, are unlikely to create any legislation that would anger the oil companies.

Oil and gas executives spend millions of dollars every year donating to the campaigns of friendly congressional candidates on both sides of the aisle – yes, Democrats take oil money too. Add to that the idea that members of congress get reimbursed for fuel and travel costs – by us – so it’s unlikely that any fluctuation at the gas pumps would even be on their radar.

Whatever the reason and however unwilling our government officials to act, we still have to get where we are going. And for most, ditching the minivan in favor of some over-priced, underpowered hybrid or electric car is simply not an option. So what do you do?

My best advice is to take some personal responsibility and try to drive smarter. Basic fuel conservation tips still apply today: don’t let the car idle any more than necessary, drive at the speed limit, try to consolidate your driving into round trips rather than short hops and keep an eye out for the best possible gas prices. In short, a little common sense can go a long way to stretching your gas-buying dollar. Also, if you have the option, leave the SUV or other large vehicle at home.

At a time when Americans are struggling to get a leg up after years of recession and record-breaking unemployment, the pain at the pumps is going to be felt in many more places than the gas tank. Gasoline, jet fuel and diesel are required in the production and shipping of every consumer product from toilet paper to a gallon of milk, so when oil prices rise, so does everything else.

Unfortunately, household incomes are not adjusted to this type of inflation. Families already struggling to make ends meet are pinched even harder and those out of work will have a tougher time getting to job interviews, all because of rising fuel costs. So, the economy remains depressed and any growth touted by the government is even more unrealistic than ever. What happened to that hope and change we were promised?