Tuesday, December 14, 2010

What is wrong with this picture?

Robert Reich, former Secretary of Labor has been speaking about two economies on his blog.

If you were to walk into a classroom and see 100 students. And let's say 98 of those students are unable to keep up, their grades falling farther and farther behind, GPA dropping, struggling to get a grip on the course work. But, 2 of those students are getting all the instructor's attention they want or need, they have the textbooks they need to excel beyond grade level. Without the burden of the other 98 students, they are completing more and more work, getting farther and farther ahead. Making it less and less likely that the lower 98 will ever catch up.

What might be your initial assessment of the the problem? It probably wouldn't be that the lower 98 are all just lazy. And, it probably wouldn't be that some kids just naturally rise to the top and the two getting all the classroom resources are just more deserving of it.

You probably would think that something was a bit out of whak. The 2 lucky top students may well have been the brightest kids in the class. Catering to them might have given the quickest rewards to the teacher. They may have been the easiest to serve and work with. Initially, there might have only been a few grade points between the upper 2 and that of the lower 98, but over time, the neglect added up, took its toll and now it seems like you have two different classrooms of different kinds of students.

That might be a strained analogy for where our economy is right now, but when you look at the details, it isn't too far off.

We have two separate economies that have grown farther and farther apart. And, you can not just attribute it to the productive and entrepreneurial members at the top just being better at what they do.

If we all were experiencing the same economy, you would expect most participants to experience a similar rise and fall of fortune. Those at the higher end may see greater spoils, those at the lower end less. But, it would generally trend in similar directions. We are not seeing that at all. The 2% at the top are seeing fantastic growth and fortune. Everyone else is sinking just a little bit closer to flunking out.

Good news?

The Commerce Department just released a report that said U.S Corporate Profits Were the Highest on Record Last Quarter. Highest ever. The highest since they began keeping records 60 years ago.

That is great! Right? U.S. Businesses are doing fantastic. You know what that means, people who work for those companies get more. Well, maybe not all of the people who work there, but the executives do. Yes, executive bonuses are up too! That's good, right? That money goes right back into the economy. A rising tide lifts all boats you know. Except that tide seems to just be lifting the stock market economy. But that is good, right? Except for some reason everybody on this side had to pull their money out of the stock market to pay their bills. But at least Wall Street is getting a boost. Wall street bonuses are expected to rise 5% this year. Your bonus went up 5% this year, right?

Have you ever heard the phrase: "We'll, I've never worked for a poor man". There are more and more poor men out there and less and less rich bosses. Maybe that is why there are more and more people without work.

Something is really out of whak here. It almost seems like the top 2 percent and the rest of us are playing by different rules. And the teacher can't be blind to this. Can she?

What is wrong with this picture?

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Goodbye Macie

My last post about our dear pet Macie, who passed today.

Macie came to us from abuse.

Her previous owner, after eviction, left her to fend for herself in the back yard of their abandoned house. When the landlord discovered her, she was living on a dripping faucet for water and stones to fill her stomach to abate her hunger. I don't know what their situation was. Maybe they had no choice, but many times I have wished that they reach the level of despair that they thrusted our beautiful Macie into. I hate few people, but because of what they subjected our eventual family member to, I hate them. I have felt no remorse for that emotion.

We were fortunate to be able to provide her with a family that loved her without bounds. She gave us more that we gave her. Her love for our family was complete and without reservation. A dog's love for their owner always exceeds what can be reciprocated, and Macie gave us, her adopted family, her unconditional love.

Every family member is unique, and she had her unique and special kinship with each member. Each of our children had their own relationship with Macie, and she with them. Neither more or less special.

Life is cruel. When a pet ages at a rate 7 times faster that their owners, the pain of premature loss is expected, inevitable, but always without preparation.

Because of bone cancer, her life had become just a string of trips between places to lay down, and painful trips at that. Having become lame in her right rear leg, she made valiant trips into the yard to assert her territory against the interloping deer and hikers. But, I worried that, at any day, she may not be able to make it back up the hill and stairs to her throne on the deck. My dread of a phone call from my wife that our ever noble sentry was unable to climb the stairs back to her post weighted on me.

As her family, we made the choice that she was living an existence that was without pleasure, and with much pain, we decided to let her go. We chose to postpone the trip to the vet that day, but for probably selfish reasons, we made the choice to go to the vet hospital the next morning instead of that Saturday. I feel a little bit guilty about that choice, because the decision to wait another day, was for our benefit, not hers. That night was painful for us and her. I continually woke to hear her throughout the night, in a restless, painful sleep.

The morning was mechanical. Punctuated by emotion, but never a second though. It was time, but not without tears. We left before the kids were awake, arrived before the vet and sat with Macie in the car. Normally, she would have been apprehensive on a trip like this, but the pain and discomfort probably consumed and distracted her.

I went in to take care of the paper work while my wife waited in the car with her. I was fine until the vet asked: "How are you?" I couldn't answer, and she didn't ask again.

When it was time, I lifted Macie from the car to the ground. On level surfaces, she could walk by keeping her good rear leg centered and she had a labored skip. She followed us, unquestioning, into the room with a place for us to sit with her on the floor. We talked with the vet briefly, they took her for just a few minutes to insert a catheter which was to be use shortly. Then she returned to us for a final 10 minutes for us to thank her for the last 11 years she had given us.

When the vet came back in, he explained the procedure. We could sit with her as he administered a drug that would lead to her falling asleep and then quickly passing away.

As we sat there with her. He injected her and there was no indication of discomfort, at least for her. The hardest part for me was, as soon as the procedure began, Macie turned to me and looked directly in my eyes. I knew that look. She was looking at me partially for me to reassure her that everything was OK. But at the same time, she was reassuring me that everything was OK. We where doing what we thought was best for her, and she was telling us that she loved and appreciated our care of her.

Goodbye Macie.