Monday, December 22, 2014

Doing something NOW to raise the minimum wage

"An imbalance between rich and poor is the oldest and most fatal ailments of all republics,”  So stated Plutarch some 1900 years ago, and it remains a vexing problem today.  But how frustrated we all are when it comes to doing something about it.   I've increasingly felt that economic uncertainty is
THE SINGLE BASIC REASON for most of societies ills.  However we are prohibited from even talking about it because words like socialism and communism get in the way.  Learned economists can't agree on solutions and even raising an unrealistically low minimum wage is debated by legislatures.  I've long pondered it since first learning of William Sloan Coffin's proposal to limit the salary of the head of an industry at some seven or eight times the lowest paid worker to John D Rockefeller's distributing his wealth by passing out dimes, to the continuing frustration of failing to pass legislation to raise the minimum wage, I even wonder why we speak of a minimum wage rather than considering A LIVING WAGE FOR ALL.


Admittedly this is a complex problem, and I am no economist. Perhaps that gives me license to make a few observations from my 89 years of living through a number of economic cycles. No way would I want to go back to the great depression of the 20's and 30's. There were, however, several positive things I saw present then that I fail to see today:
  • Although the unemployment situation was far worse then, I remember a feeling of hope, that things would get better. I fail to see that today with the extensive bickering and almost half the country hoping our president will fail.
  • Although there was a wide gulf between the rich and the poor, the great majority of people were commiserating together. While we bemoan the fate of the middle class today, at that time the great majority of us felt we were in the same boat together in a somewhat lower middle class. 
  • In the depression era our expectation of what were life's necessities were much reduced. Time was available to enjoy the simple things of life. We had more time than money and made do with simple things.
  • With the situation so desperate the electorate supported and accepted change without the intense polarization I see today.  Rather than embracing change we tend to fear it.
  • The world scene is dramatically different today. Globalization presents untold opportunities and  unimagined problems. The war presented many opportunities to expand the middle class through higher wages. The debate continues today: was it the alphabetic programs (WPA, etc.) of FDR or the war that ended the depression? Constant war today has changed from costing lives in huge numbers to taking fewer lives, but at an unbelievably high financial cost.
It's tempting to throw up one's hands and feel that there is nothing the individual can do.  But my life as an optimist rejects that stand.  Yes, I'll continue to work through the political process, but I'm ready to something tomorrow to make a difference by looking at the problem in a different way.


I feel that if any job is worth doing, it should be rewarded with a living wage. I wonder if our problem of unemployment might be solved were it not necessary for individuals to have a second and even a third job to support their family. Perhaps there would be jobs enough for all, and we would welcome immigrants rather than building fences to keep them out. IF A JOB IS WORTH DOING, WHY DOESN'T IT DESERVE A LIVING WAGE?

While the ultimate hope of solution may rest in the legislative process, perhaps the holiday spirit of sharing and goodwill might give us a clue as something we could do RIGHT NOW. Rather than just rewarding waiters and service people with a gratuity, WE COULD IMMEDIATELY give anyone we feel is not making a living wage whatever we feel we can share to spread our wealth.. We who have so much should be aware of those occupations where people are traditionally underpaid. How surprised would be the the the retiree having to work to keep the tables clean at McDonald's to be awarded a couple of dollars or the hotel worker making the beds or the laborer who cleans our gutters.  Not only would that person benefit but I think we would be rewarded from the surprised expression on that person's face

This may not solve the problem, but I'm going to give it a shot for a while to see what impact it might have. Why don't you join me?

Monday, December 8, 2014

The Rant returns............
.........far sooner than I had anticipated. Its because of my new Dragon dictation machine and a quick healing from shoulder replacement. I had promised myself to take a month and a half off to recuperate and not bother with blogs. I'm renouncing this pledge in order to comment on several current issues in American society as reflected in an unlikely venue – the sports section of The Washington Post on Saturday, December 6, 2014. Whether or not anyone other than family read my blog, I find it beneficial for this (now) 89 year older to get some things off his chest. I'm even going to hold to a regular schedule with a Rant or Rave the 2nd and 4th Mondays of every month. I hope you will check them out.


      What a marvelous picture! Five St. Louis Rams expressing their feelings about a societal issue. How insensitive and callous of the the Bear's Mike Ditka to be affronted by this display! How in keeping with the spirit of Gandhi and King was the players actions! Or does Ditka reflect the blindness of American society? For how long has our world suffered from the silence of good people remaining quiet and failing to see the misfortune of others by not wearing their shoes? .
     How could Jason Werth, star outfielder for the National League East champions Washington Nationals, be such a great clubhouse leader yet so blind to his social responsibility as a role model for youth? Admitting he was going over 90 miles an hour, he's going to seek a jury trial? Oh, he did have a cute response to the officer when asked what he was doing by responding with the statement, "pressing my luck". Such a remarkable example of the rich white man flaunting rules that are established for the benefit of all of us. I wonder what the responding officer, unsheathing his pistol, might have done had the driver been a member of one of America's minority groups. I can't help but think about how our society would be improved if people in power and money (aren't they the same), addicted to speed, with uncontrolled sexual desires, poisoned with power or a host of other "sins" would admit their problem and seek medical help. Are you reading this, Bill Clinton?
      Sally Jenkins, stellar sports writer for the Post, continues the tradition of insightful sportswriters who have long commented on the American scene through their writings. Her article looks at the entrenched society and stopgap measures in the hopes of finding ways to protect vested interests and maintain the status quo in the face of deep-seated problems. Continuing to depend on committees appointed, staffed and chaired by the same people protecting their turf is no way to solve the complex problems of the NCAA or the nation. I can think of no other organization, group or governmental agency that has brought needed changes to our society from race to sexual orientation to opportunities for disadvantaged youth than sports and sportswriters from Boswell to Albom who have diligently and effectively reported on the American scene by joining athletes in citing areas of needed change.
        For most of a century I have seen many changes in our nation's story. Having had more time to reflect on almost 90 years as I recuperated from surgery. it's increasingly apparent to me that most of the beneficial changes in our society began on athletic fields as individuals/anonymous groups have stood up to established mores. I never once imagined that I would see the football team for Alabama composed of the players that are now a part of that team. We in the “Greatest Generations had them drink at different fountains and sit in the back of the bus. Change in society was furthered by Jackie Robinson, Branch Rickey, Curt Flood, and a host of other individuals that our insightful sports writers could list for us.
Yet how remarkable it is that our nations capital supports the team whose nickname is offensive to one of our most offended minorities. Please check my previous blog number four. Surely there must be something individuals can do to help Dan Snyder see the light.
I welcome your thoughts for possibly expanding these thoughts and turning them into a fruitful discussion.;

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Ranting about the Washington xskins

A surprising new fourth rant - thanks to my new toy:

I thought it would be at least a month after my surgery before I could share a new rant on my blog. Once again I discover the importance of the intergenerational approach to life - how marvelous it is for an 88-year-older to be able to use a modern tool – a Dragon (simple dictation machine) – to send a letter. What are all the secretaries who used to take dictation doing for a living?

Some thoughts on the Skins

For some time I thought it would be fun to initiate a lighthearted campaign to change the name of the Washington football team. The situation has become so dire, however, that this no longer seems appropriate.   Instead I decided to enlarge on a quotation in the Washington Post for Tuesday, November 18 by Thomas Boswell.

"The team's biggest and insoluble problem is not its DNA, but it's DAN".

While Boswell has cleverly stated the underlying problem (the owner), he fails to understand that to an optimist there are no insoluble problems. Perhaps instead the insoluble problem might well be an opportunity for a teachable moment for the owner:.
  • That money and power alone cannot ensure success, and
  • that for all humankind to coexist amicably together, the rights and feelings of all must be considered - not just a privileged few.
I recall the tremendous gains made in civil rights in the 60s and 70s thanks to sensitivity training. Perhaps a minuscule amount of the many millions the owner is spending might be diverted to a weekend of sensitivity training for the owner. Possible lessons he might gain are:
  • acknowledging that changing the name of the team is the right thing to do. Changing the name of the team could result in a renewed spirit of comradeship for the team – certainly many of the current players have known the trauma of being taunted by racial slurs
  • recognizing that money and power alone cannot buy success - that one can learn meaningful lessons through failure and by taking a financial loss in selling the team at a financial loss he may find a meaningful lesson in humility.
As a prudent consumer I believe there are actions I might take at this time to assist the owner in seeing the light and learning valuable lessons about humility and true leadership.  Thus my personal pledge will be:
  • to never to use the R word again 
  • to refrain from purchasing or wearing team apparel, and
  • to refrain from attending games or watching on television.

  • Ron 

Friday, November 7, 2014

I've changed the name of my blog........................

...........I just can't "Rant".  Life for me is too good!  I feel particularly fortunate to live in a vibrant city surrounded by so many fascinating young people with positive thoughts for the future.  The new title then is:


Thus my last Rant and Rave before taking a month off for surgery will contain both.  The Rave is simple - how fascinating life in D. C. can be when one is attuned to life around you.
The young woman with the map............
seemed quite confused.  Wearing my national Park Uniform I thought I could help her but I thought there might be a language barrier as her black T shirt had white "script" that I could not make out.  Since she appreciated my directing her to the Newseum, I thought she wouldn't mind my asking what the language and message of her T shirt.  Her answer, "I Love you," in black and white, written in Arabic. Wow, thought I, what a message for the world.
                                                       The elevated  metro ride ..........
was high enough that I could see a marvelous sunset.  The Green line near U of Marylands afforded me an opportunity to see one of the most beautiful sunsets ever in a very unlikely place.  
                                                     Then as I got off the elevator ..........
I saw this strange vehicle - a bus? a rickety truck? driven by a young couple.   And then I saw only one of the crude signs written on the side - "This bus is driven on discarded vegetable oil."  
Such idealism by youth, so much beauty around us, but yet the RANT kicks in:
  • how much are young people missing of the world around them by constantly being attuned to some place else on their cell/pad/whatever?
  • The frustration of an election, when
    • so few bother to vote.
    • forces in our beautiful America seem bent on seeing a president (and the country) fail.  I TRULY BELIEVE THAT THE PROBLEMS FACING THE WORLD TODAY ARE EVEN GREATER THAN THOSE FACING MY "GREATEST" generation.  Blaming one man for an accumulation of decades-developed problems is totally irresponsible and off-putting in my opinion. 
    • and to return to a theme with which I began my Rant:
  • I said I would say no ore about the Bottle Bill - a simple way all of American could pitch in to curb  litter and limit the need for more landfill.  Yet the vote in Massachusetts provokes me to no end.  Think of this:
    •  Massachusetts is one of but ten states to have a bottle redemption bill - something that much of the rest of the developed world - concerned with the future takes for granted.
    • As in all ten states the bill works well to curb litter and protect the environment.
    • PEOPLE IN MASSACHUSETTS SEEMED TO SUPPORT THE BILL when it was first introduced.  Yet MONEY BY THE TUNE OF MORE THAN $8 MILLION PUT UP BY THE THE INDUSTRY to less than $2million eked out by organizations and agencies that truly have an interest in preserving the environment.
  • Thus when I return after the first of the year with new rants, I'll also be looking for ways to get the Youth of America looking at the pros and cons of the question. I can think of no more meaningful way to get them involved in meaningful leaning than to have them consider an issue that COULD have an impact on their future world.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Ron Rants about the need for bottle bills in ALL states



The Container Recycling Institute has done a tremendous job of compiling the reasons for a container deposit law throughout the country. Their statistics and testimonies are extremely convincing. The only problem is that their efforts and those of thousands of committed environmentalists have not been effective. In the 43 years since the enactment of the first law in Oregon only eleven states have passed a bill and one of those has repealed theirs! And since the founding of the CRI 23 years ago in 1991 by a DC area resident, only one state was added while one discontinued the program. Not an impressive record! Such is the power of money! Were one prone to conspiracy theories, one could posit that the mission of the CRI is to lull us into complacency that we are “doing something” about the litter problem.
For over ten years I have studied and been impressed by the CRI literature. I've even suggested ways they might be more effective in reaching the public only to be told that they do not have the resources for “action”, only lobbying and research. Perhaps then it truly is left to us – you and me to do something about it – to use experience and the social media to start a grass roots movement. It is appalling to me that most developed countries have bottle bills and they are far more stringent than any of ours.
Studies also show that the recycling rate for beverage containers is vastly increased with a bottle bill. The United States' overall beverage container recycling rate is approximately 33%, while states with container deposit laws have a 70% average rate of beverage container recycling. Michigan's recycling rate of 97% from 1990-2008 is the highest in the nation, as is the state's $0.10 deposit.
Beyond the persuasive studies and statistics, my personal experience convinces me of the efficacy of such laws. The living environment in my home state of Michigan has benefited greatly from its law enacted some 38 years ago. How satisfying it is to feel a part of a movement working to reduce pollution and litter. The only problem I noted was caused by the nearby states of Ohio and Indiana that had no law.  It created problems for merchants near the boarder. Today the difference in the environment between my adopted “state” of Washington D. C. and Michigan is dramatic as bottles in Michigan are taken by youth, the rich, the homeless, the poor to their nearby store for recycling and monetary reward. While cost concerns seem to be paramount to the beverage companies, the benefits of the updated recycling process are legion and provide many positive results.
It's tragic that rather than looking objectively at the benefits of recycling we have been sidetracked. Bottle bills have become a political football, racial and class issues have been introduced, and short term profits and lobbying by the bottling industry have muted the voices of those concerned with the future of our planet.


I can think of a number of possibilities:

  1. Most appealing to me is one that would involve the youth of the nation – it undoubtedly stems from my passion of making education more relevant. The youth of America probably consume more than their share of beverages. And they should have a greater interest in the environment than us old folks. What a marvelous opportunity to involve high school youth in a meaningful study of the pros and cons of this topic! The lessons are limitless:
  • the power of lobbyists
  • state vs. federal laws – how quickly would they learn of the contrast between federal and state responsibilities.
  • practical politics at many levels
  • and of course all the issues regarding the environment.
    • But how could we engage youth?
      • Through organizations such as the National Honor Society, the National Association of Student Council Association of the National Association of Secondary School Principals
      • The National Council of Teachers of Social Studies Teachers, The National Council of the Social Studies, The Center for Civics Education or other of the host of educational organizations.
      • The National Speech and Debate Association,
      • Or possibly extending the action and research to college groups.
  1. An aroused public could boycott the industry. Think of the impact health-wise as well as environmentally if for one week we would all refuse to buy bottled or canned beverage! While it seems unfeasible, think of how the social media has brought difficult change throughout the world.
  1. Countess environmentally conscious agencies, foundations, colleges and think tanks continue to produce convincing information regarding the environment.  Can we find one that will be involved in an action program to change the law in every state or propose federal legislation?

Prone as we oldsters are to looking back to “the good old days,” I recall we recycled everything before the word was coined. We fixed, mended and reused.  We had to because we had more time than money. Today most of us have more money than time so we build mountains of waste and buy new.  But is this environmentally sound?

With the practice of bottle recycling so entrenched throughout the world, it is ludicrous that a bottle bill has not been adopted in all of our states. Even passing one in the District alone might well be futile with two adjacent states not having such a law. Surely there must be a way to overcome the forces aligned to defeat the passage of bills in all the states. We just need a strategy to make it possible. But this is where I fall back to a sports analogy. At my age I feel as a quarterback who has handed off to the running back: I'll help block, but the younger generation must carry the ball to the goal line while I plan the next "play"!

Go Green!

Ranting Ron

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Welcome to Ron's Rants

     The topics I'll  share periodically will be far ranging and extend from the serious to the somewhat trivial.  As noted earlier these are topics dear to my heart that I feel somewhat driven to ponder with anyone also interested.  I make no claim for expertize in these fields (except for my professional field) - merely the experience of a lifetime and some of Tom Paine's Common Sense.  In all cases I'll welcome dialogue with the hope that a seed or two will result in discussion and hopefully action if appropriate.    
     Here are a few topics that represent my primary interests and some information about myself so that you may learn some of my persona:  
The Environment
World Peace
America's Public Schools
Renaming the Washington Football Club
Religion in a Changing World
Inspiring American Youth
 American  Exceptionalism
A Living Wage
Wage Disparity
Youth Participation in Sports

About Myself
      Most of my 28 years of retirement have been spent in Washington D. C. following a lifelong career in education in Michigan ranging from elementary school teaching to university teaching.  I felt my most productive and satisfying years years were spent as a junior and senior high school principal.
     Born in pre-depression, segregated San Antonio, I had a wonderful childhood in a stable lower middle class family of German heritage.  I loved sports and attended a mainline protestant  church
       Many in my class of 1943 volunteered for the Marine Corps as it provided us with 16 months of college before an anticipated invasion of Japan.  Fortunately for me, peace was secured before I was deployed to the Pacific.   My three and a half years of military service provided me some extremely broadening experiences and the educational benefits of he G. I. Bill of Rights.
     Beyond my professional career, my life has been been focused on a family of four children and nine grandchildren with activities centered primarily around sports, music and volunteer activities often through a progressive, liberal church.

The Initial Rant...........
...........will be blogged next Monday, October 20 and concerns our environment. Intellectual studies ranging from government agencies to universities to countless think tanks provide statistics about seemingly insoluble problems, I've long felt there is a simple action that has been totally overlooked.

Container Recycling............. a fancy new name given to an old practice we used to call a bottle deposit.  Currently it is followed in only 10 states.  In 48 it was followed in all 48!  We bought our pop or soda for about a nickel and "deposited" a nickel.  Ergo - litter was reduced and the bottle was "reused".  WHY IS IT THAT WE CAN'T FOLLOW THAT SAME PRACTICE TODAY (of course using new techniques)? The studies CLEARLY give the advantages. 

Check out  "" next Monday.  It will focus on possible ways for returning to that practice in all 50 states.