Saturday, March 24, 2012

Talk To Your Elderly Relatives

     Because genealogy can be a time-consuming passion, I didn't get involved in it until I retired, and I am so sorry I waited that long. Discovering the identities of my ancestors made me hungry to know more about their lives. The records of genealogy: certificates of birth, death, marriage, etc., can provide the skeleton of family history, but it's the stories that flesh it out.
     What really whetted my appetite for more knowledge was my memory of the few stories my grandfather told me. Although he may not have remembered what happened yesterday – in his last years all days were alike – he told me in great detail about the summer he “hired out” at the age of 18: the name of the farmer who hired him, what he did from sunrise to sunset, how much he was paid (a dollar a day), and just about every other detail of those three months.
     Grandpa was long dead when I realized that there was so much more he could have told me about his early years. I spent many hours of research until I found out that his uncle owned a distillery that had been in business since before the Revolutionary War. If only I had talked to him.
     On another occasion I recorded a session with my Aunt Jackie, and I now have an oral record of aunts, cousins and other relatives that I never knew, although I did meet some of them at a family reunion in 1998. I also found out that my great grandfather Grunenberger was killed when his legs were run over by a huge horse-drawn sleigh loaded with logs, and that my grandmother had to slide down a drain pipe to meet my grandfather – things I never would have discovered by strictly genealogical records. But I had to ask.
     Recently I spoke with a lady who told me that as a prerequisite to getting a college degree, her granddaughter had to interview an older person – someone at least two generations removed from the student. That is a wonderful idea, particularly if the student finds a talkative subject who has led a varied life, as happened in this case. And a sensitive and intelligent interviewer, one who can find the right questions to ask, can learn much, not only about the interviewee, but also about life in general during the last half century or so.
     But think about what one would learn if one questioned one's own ancestor. Who were your grandparents? What was your father's occupation? Is it true your uncle was hanged as a horse thief? Etc., etc.? Perhaps one could even learn the truth of certain family stories, or the origin of some family traits, or even get a hint of certain genes that should be nurtured or guarded against.
     So consider yourself fortunate if you have an elderly family member to interview. The two of you need to sit down with a recorder and talk. Sometimes only one or two questions can stimulate a half hour of memories which will be lost when your relative dies.
     Don't wait until it's too late.
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My books, “There Are Only Seven Jokes” and “The Spirit Runs Through It” are available in paperback, or at the Kindle Store.

Monday, March 19, 2012

The Ten Commandments and the Constitution

     I have often heard it said that the Constitution of the United States is based upon the Ten Commandments, so I finally decided to check it for myself. I suggest that individuals who think this is the case should do the same. They may be in for a surprise.
     But for those who do not have the time or inclination to make such a comparison, I present the following:

      Commandment I - Thou shalt have no other gods before me. The only time God is mentioned in the Constitution is at the end of Article VII: Done in convention . . . in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and eighty seven . . . In fact, Amendment I expressly forbids any mention of religion.

     Commandment II - Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image. The Constitution is silent on this Commandment.

      Commandment III - Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain. The Constitution is silent on this Commandment.

      Commandment IV - Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. The Constitution is silent on this Commandment.

      Commandment V - Honour thy father and thy mother. The Constitution is silent on this Commandment, which is fortunate for every teen-ager in the Country.

      * Commandment VI - Thou shalt not kill. The Constitution is silent on this Commandment.

      * Commandment VII - Thou shalt not commit adultery. The Constitution is silent on this Commandment. I suppose the Founding Fathers thought that it might be difficult to find Congressmen who met this requirement.

      * Commandment VIII - Thou shalt not steal. The Constitution is silent on this Commandment.

      * Commandment IX - Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour. The Constitution is silent on this Commandment.

     * Commandment X - Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house . . . nor any thing that is thy neighbour’s. The Constitution is silent on this Commandment. Coveting thy neighbor's goods appears to be the basis of modern capitalism.

      * These Commandments were not unique to the Israelites – they were common in one form or another in many ancient tribes.

      The next time someone mentions that our Constitution is based on the Ten Commandments, ask him to prove it.
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     My books, “There Are Only Seven Jokes” and “The Spirit Runs Through It” are available in paperback, or at the Kindle Store.

Monday, March 12, 2012

More BS From The Traveling GOP Clowns

     Since both the stock market and the jobs market are looking better lately, the GOP has invented a new line of BS: the high price of gasoline is the fault of President Obama. Newt Gingrich in particular is going about bragging that, if elected, he will quickly lower the price to $2.50 per gallon. He bases that figure on the fact that it was $1.13 when he was speaker of the house. Really Newt, if the president has that much control, why don't just we reelect the president from those days: Bill Clinton?
     Actually Newt, along with the rest of the clowns, is figuring on lowering the price by means of their tried and true method: Drill, baby, drill. It is their claim that the Obama administration is holding back production in order to keep the price high. The theory is that by so doing, we will be forced to buy green, energy-efficient cars. Unfortunately, the record doesn't accord with this theory.
     At the end of 2008, under the Bush administration, there were 391 operating domestic oil wells as compared to 1,173 at the end of 2011. In the eight years from December, 2000, to December, 2008, domestic crude oil production decreased from 181.5M barrels per day to 156.8M barrels per day, or -13.6%. By the end of 2011, production had increased to 182.2M barrels per day, or +16.2%. It appears that returning to dubya's policies would be a good way to curtail production.
     So why has the price of gasoline continued to climb? Believe it or not, domestic demand has declined to the point where refined fuel is now our biggest export. Normally in such a situation, one would expect inventories to rise and prices to fall, but just the opposite is occurring. The refiners can get a higher price by exporting than by selling to the domestic market. In fact, several domestic refineries have shut down for lack of business.
     So here is the situation: We sell our crude oil on the world market, then buy it back at a higher price. We refine that and sell it overseas because we can make more money there.
     No president, Democrat or Republican, is going to tell the refiners, “Look, you are going to have to sell a certain quantity of gasoline domestically at a price not exceeding x dollars per gallon.” Nor should he.
     But let's face it – the more crude we refine, the more refined product to sell overseas. Perhaps in order to cut costs for our traveling citizenry, we should be putting more resources into finding alternative fuels. And the green, energy-efficient cars is not a bad idea either.
     An added note: The Boston Globe just reported that the United States is now importing 45% of its petroleum, down from 57% in 2008.
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     My books, “There Are Only Seven Jokes” and “The Spirit Runs Through It” are available in paperback, or at the Kindle Store.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

I May Have Been Wrong

     I have posted several blogs in which I stated that the stimulus promoted by President Obama was too small and that another was necessary. I backed up my suggestion with data indicating that President Roosevelt's stimulus, i.e., the New Deal, was working until he tried to balance the budget in 1937.
     I believe I was right in advocating a stimulus to promote jobs under the economic conditions of the past, but as far as the current situation is concerned, I am beginning to think I was wrong! The economy is vastly different from the one that prevailed during the Great Depression.
     It is true that a stimulus in the form of government spending on projects for which the government is most efficient, i.e., providing a single service for many customers, will provide a limited number of jobs. Society does not need competing armies, courts and legal systems, police forces, power grids, government buildings or interstate highways. These are tailor-made for government control.
     But I am afraid that stimuli extended to suppliers of products and services most efficiently performed by the free market, i.e., those provided by many suppliers to many customers, will indeed create many jobs – in China, India, Peru and other emerging nations! Production jobs which cannot be outsourced will be performed by automated and computerized equipment.
     But I know I am right about one thing: endless arguing about the pros and cons of insurance-provided contraception won't solve the problem. It's like arguing where to go for dinner while the house is burning down around us.
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     My books, “There Are Only Seven Jokes” and “The Spirit Runs Through It” are available in paperback, or at the Kindle Store.