Friday, December 21, 2012

Mixed Signals

Playboy founder Hugh Hefner is reportedly getting married again, on New Year’s Eve. He and former “girlfriend” Crystal Harris planned to marry a year and a half ago to much hoopla — before Harris backed out five days before the ceremony.
It all seems a bit odd that the 86-year-old Hefner would opt for such a traditional form of commitment. He’s been married twice before, of course, but as the pioneer of a sexual revolution in which anything goes, I have to ask why he bothers now, especially when he reportedly needs to pop “enhancement” drugs and to watch porn before hopping in the sack.
Hefner spent a couple of years in a relationship with Harris while simultaneously “dating” twins Kristina and Karissa Shannon. For Hefner, dating is a euphemism for being available for sex whenever he desires at the Playboy Mansion. In the past, Hefner has “dated” seven girls simultaneously. In his lifetime, Hefner has had sexual intercourse with hundreds of women, the vast majority of them lifelike blonde Barbie dolls in their teens and early 20s.
Now he is promising to be faithful to the 26-year-old Harris. What a twist for the man who is largely responsible for polyamory gaining acceptance in this country.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Still Grieving

Five days after the massacre in Newtown, Conn., our nation is still gripped with a profound sadness. The slaughter of 20 first-graders never will be fathomable, especially when all their little bodies were riddled with multiple bullets.
I think of my own precious 3½-year-old granddaughter, how vivacious and precocious, yet innocent, she is. I wonder what she will become when she grows up. I cannot imagine the pain of those parents grieving over their murdered children.
And it is still time to grieve over little girls such as Olivia Engel and Emilie Parker. It is not the occasion to launch into a debate about gun control, although that substantive discussion needs to happen down the line. Nor is it appropriate to equate the killings of these children with abortion, and politicize President Obama’s stance on the topic.
It’s not even time, yet, to delve into the depths of shooter Adam Lanza’s troubled mind. Whether mental illness or sheer evil is more to blame, suffice is to know that the plot had satanic origins.
No, it is time to mourn with those who mourn, and weep with those who weep.
As we struggle to heal from this, I am encouraged by the accounts of heroism by teachers and staff to get schoolchildren to safety. Their quick thinking, plus the rapid response of law enforcement personnel, may have saved scores — or even hundreds — more lives.
I’m also hopeful that the nation still expresses collective rage at such an act. If we become callous to murder of elementary school pupils, our country really would be in trouble.

Monday, December 17, 2012

The Youngest Finishes College

Our youngest son, Zach, graduated Saturday from Drury University with a degree in musical composition. It’s been an arduous journey, taking more than six years. Zach carried a huge load his last semester, 18 hours, and earned an A in every course. He did this while working 30 hours a week to help pay for school.
I’m glad Zach felt nurtured in music growing up. All three of our sons took piano lessons when young and all did quite well. But only Zach stuck with it, and he has become not only a skillful musician, but a talented composer as well.
Thankfully, Zach persevered. As a kid, I dragged Zach and his two older brothers out to play baseball quite a bit. His brothers loved it; Zach preferred to be about anywhere else.
Lately I’ve grown closer to Zach’s view in his disdain for watching sports as a waste of time. But it’s never a waste to listen to music.
Zach accomplished his school progress without a great deal of financial help from me. Now comes the difficult part: finding a job in his field — and paying back student loans.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Shortsighted Solution

Congress, looking for ways to remedy the “fiscal cliff,” is seriously considering cutting the availability of charitable deductions that have been in place since income tax collections began nearly a century ago. Such a plan would be a shortsighted solution, for it would end up costing the government more in the long run.
Lawmakers in favor of the proposal say those who itemize their taxes and who tithe aren’t likely to stop because they no longer can claim the deductions. In theory, that is correct. But in reality, churches likely will be taking in much less income if churchgoers are even more strapped than they are now.
And if church income goes down appreciably that means many of the free services provided to help people no longer would be available. These include soup kitchens, homeless shelters, addiction recovery centers, and after-school programs.
Without those in place, there likely will be a lot more homeless people looking for food, addicted people in need of treatment and latchkey kids getting into trouble.
The government will pick up the slack when people end up in jail, hospitals or mental health facilities because the programs that kept them from falling through the cracks are no longer affordable at churches.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Jobs and Insurance Coverage

The full impact of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, on employers is just more than a year away, but companies already are devising ways to circumvent footing the bill.
The bill, in part, is designed to tie adequate health care coverage to jobs. Starting Jan. 1, 2014, companies with more than 50 employees must provide health insurance to full-time workers or face a $2,000 per-employee government penalty.
Some companies already have announced plans to pass costs on to customers to accommodate the bill. But others are maneuvering to skirt the law by keeping a cadre of part-time workers so they won’t have to pay for their coverage.
Obamacare defines a full-time employee as anyone who works 30 hours a week. So, beginning a year from now, there will be a lot of restaurants and retail stores scheduling workers no more than 29 hours per week.
Rather than fix the problem of uninsured workers, Obamacare will result in a lot of people having to hold down two four-day-a-week jobs just to pay the bills. We will have a lot more people working service jobs in this country, but they won’t be better off regarding health insurance.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Demographic Realities

There is a job opening at my office and I hope we don’t hire another white male.
Our staff of 10 is all white. Seven of the employees are men. Eight of the workers are older than 40. That doesn’t make us demographically representative of the country, or our readers.
I’ve heard the argument that we should hire the “most qualified candidate,” but it seems strange how that person time and again happens to be white. There also is the reality that Springfield is one of the whitest cities in the country. Well, it might be time to look beyond the normal pool of candidates.
While I’m not in favor of quotas, it just makes demographic and ultimately economic sense to diversify the staff. The denomination we cover in the magazine is 40 percent non-white. While white writers like me try to do their best understanding culture from a black, Hispanic, Native American or Asian viewpoint, perhaps a non-white staff member could bring a more authentic perspective to an article. However subtle, when the four primary staff writers are all middle-aged or elderly white males, the articles have a homogenous tone to them.
I’m glad there are more ethnic minorities among the 800 employees in the organization than when I started 13 years ago. There are even a couple of African-American executives. But the reality is, if you want to find a non-white person in the complex, the best odds are to look in the kitchen.
Of course not hiring a minority for the post might not be the worst outcome. That would be if the powers to be decide to eliminate the position entirely. In this economy, that might happen.

Monday, November 19, 2012

The Real Twinkies Tragedy

Americans have raided grocery store shelves across the country to stock up on Twinkies, Ding Dongs and Ho Hos now that the 85-year-old manufacturer is in liquidation.
I find it amusing that people are getting so sentimental about a company that promotes junk foods. There is no such outcry when a magazine goes out of business.
Hostess built its trade largely by helping generations of Americans grow fat. There won’t be any shortage of junk food options now that Hostess has gone belly up.
But the real tragedy here is not the demise of Twinkies; it’s the unwillingness of workers to compromise in order to stay employed. Hostess workers went on strike and the company opted to go out of business rather than engage in prolonged negotiations with its bakers’ union.
That means 18,500 more Americans have lost their jobs, in three dozen plants and 565 distribution centers. Food is one of the few commodities that we don’t import en masse from China.
“Our members decided they were not going to take any more abuse from a company they have given so much to for so many years,” Frank Hurt, the bakers’ union president, said Friday.
Those union workers who refused to take pay, health insurance and pension cuts are living in denial. Years into a recession isn’t the time to be demanding more concessions from your employer. It’s hard enough for college graduates to find work today, let alone factory workers.
There isn’t a plentiful choice of any kind of job today, unless you happen to be an airplane pilot or physician. No matter if wages and benefits have been cut, it’s better to keep a job that to force your company into insolvency to prove a point.