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Friday, January 30, 2015

Video Minute: Sittin' On The Dock Of The Bay | Playing For Change (Incredible!!)

Your money: why you should tell children how much you make

When Scott Parker wanted his six children to know more about the value of money, he decided to do something  that many parents would consider radical: show them exactly what he earned.

One day, he stopped by his local Wells Fargo branch in Encinitas, California, and asked to withdraw his entire monthly salary in cash. In singles. It took 24 hours for the tellers to round up that many bills, so he returned the next day and took away the $100 stacks in a canvas bag.
His oldest son, Daniel, who was 15 at the time, remembers the moment his father walked into the house and dumped the $10,000 or so on a table.

“It looked like he had robbed a bank,” he said.

After a pause to let it all sink in, Mr. Parker began peeling off bills. He told them about taxes, set aside money for a tithe to their church and made a big pile for the house payment. The singles piled up for soccer and scouting and hamburger night. By the end, there wasn’t much left over. “I was trying to make as big of an impact as I could, and I definitely had their attention,” he said recently.

Your children deserve to know what you make, too. It may sound improbable, but you can begin to initiate them when they’re as young as 5 or 6, building their knowledge slowly and giving them the real answer while they’re still teenagers. Handle it right, and it will be one of the most valuable lessons of their childhood.

Here’s the bigger problem this helps to solve: Money is a source of mystery to children. They sense its power, so they ask questions, lots of them, over many years. Why isn’t our house as big as my cousin’s? Why can’t I have a carnivorous plant terrarium? Why should I respect my teachers if they earn only $60,000 per year? (Real question!) Are we poor? Why didn’t you give money to the man who asked you for some? If my sister can have Hello-Kitty-themed Beats by Dre headphones, why won’t you get me the Bluetooth-enabled Lego Mindstorms set? (It’s only $349, and it’s educational, Mom!)

We adults, however, tend to do a miserable job of answering. We push our children’s money questions aside, sometimes telling them that their queries are impolite, or perhaps worrying that they will call out our own financial hypocrisy and errors. Sometimes we respond defensively and viscerally, barking back, “None of your business,” unintentionally teaching our children that the topic is off limits despite its obvious importance. Others want to protect their children from a topic many of us find stressful or baffling: Can’t we keep them innocent of all of this money stuff for just a little bit longer?

But shielding children from the realities of everyday financial life makes little sense anymore, given the responsibilities their generation will face, starting with the outsize college tuitions they will encounter while still in high school. “It’s dangerous, like not telling them about how their bodies are going to change during puberty,” said Amanda Rose Adams, a mother of two in Fort Collins, Colo. “That’s how kids come out of college $100,000 in debt with an English degree.” Or not knowing how and why to start saving right away for retirement, or how to pick a health insurance plan.

This does not mean that children are entitled to your tax returns the first time they ask how much you earn. Financial transparency comes only with readiness, as Joline Godfrey, a family financial education consultant, puts it, and it takes a decade or so to give them enough knowledge and context to make the information meaningful and for you to feel safe sharing it.

Start by using the same, simple line every time your child asks you a money question: “Why do you ask?” Don’t say it with disapproval or defensiveness; make it clear that you’re glad your child asked.
This is a stalling tactic to give you time to think of an answer. (It also works well with questions about sex and drugs.) Even better, it can allow you to figure out exactly what is on your child’s mind. If two parents are fighting about money and a child overhears, it’s natural to wonder how much the family has or if it has enough. At that moment, it can be easy to reassure a child that the family is fine — if that’s true — and that the argument was merely about the best way to use what it does have. Still, when it comes to your children’s financial initiation, you don’t want to play defense, merely responding to their inquiries. Instead, you want to build their awareness slowly of how to build a household budget.

Start with something that you spend money on regularly — anything, really. Children as young as 6 or 7 can begin to understand the grocery bill. They often tag along to the store or add to the wish list each week, so it’s a great opportunity to introduce the idea of wants and needs as you navigate the aisles. Some children even get in on the couponing, collecting a portion of the savings from the parents.

This is all part of helping them answer basic family budget questions: What do we spend each month to cover the necessities, and what do we choose to spend on things that we merely want? Our spending isn’t a secret in the first place; children see plenty. But watching us whip out plastic cards in the store or in front of the computer, completely out of context, may give them the wrong impression entirely, which is why it’s good to introduce them to all of the expenses before they are teenagers.

Some parents start with even larger line items. Trisha Jones, a stay-at-home mother in Norfolk, Va., sends her children, who are 6 and 8, to private school. Each month, she has them sit with her while she pays the tuition online, asking them to click the button. “We jokingly say that it costs $92.50 to send them each to school every day,” she said, adding that they know that the daily number is akin to a nice Lego set. “But it’s a privilege to go to the school that they do, and we want them to know that we are making sacrifices to send them there.”

Other families focus on expenses that derive from the children’s extracurricular interests. When the local ballet studio raised prices just as her 12-year-old daughter was increasing her commitment to dance, Rebecca Miller Goggins showed her the bills. A professional fund-raiser who lives in Northampton, Mass., Ms. Goggins is used to being direct about money and gave her daughter the option of having one fewer lesson per week or cutting back elsewhere. Rather than reducing the number of lessons, her daughter started babysitting more and contributing money toward her pointe shoes.
In the Adams house in Colorado, every line item in the budget is available for inspection by the children, who are 10 and 11. Each Sunday, the family reviews it.

“You feel deprived if you’re not part of the decision-making process,” said Ms. Adams, a program manager for a technology company. Her children are now involved in deciding on trade-offs too. Skipping dinner at the Vietnamese restaurant means more money in the Disneyland fund. One idea one of the children had: Rather than hang out at the Barnes & Noble after dinner, where spending temptations abound, they head to the public library.

It’s already out there
If your child knows how to use the internet, you might be shocked by how much financial information about your family he or she may already possess. Search your home address: Did the approximate value of your home pop up? Mine, too, and it will happen when many children search their addresses for the first time and find the Zillow estimates. Once a child discovers this, it’s a quick step to looking up the address of every friend. Then comes research into salary information. If it can’t be found, the child may go looking through your belongings for your tax returns, as I did as a young snooper.

At this point, you may be in a bit of a pickle. Information about household income and home values is grown-up data; it ought to stay in the family. But if you can’t control exactly when family members acquire some of it, you need to at least try to imprint the idea of discretion. The script can go something like this: We’re trusting you with this information because we want you to know where our income goes, and we expect you to show the same maturity with other information you’ve found yourself.
The same principles apply with medical information, friends’ secrets and other private things. “We’ve had other issues that we’ve talked about that are private and confidential,” said Ms. Goggins, the fund-raiser in Massachusetts. So she and her husband recently told their 12- and 14-year-old daughters what they earn. “They’ve proven themselves.”

As will many children in middle and high school. Most of them don’t want their peers singling them out as having more or less than others, so they may try harder than you think to keep the information private. For some families, this advice will work only selectively. Ms. Adams, who wrote the book “Heart Warriors” about her son’s heart disease, shields him from knowledge of the family’s medical bills. Child patients often feel guilty for inconveniencing their families.

Families who struggle generally, or are experiencing a period of unemployment, are naturally among the most reticent. Still, even the youngest generally understand when budgets have become tighter and want to know why. Pretending that there hasn’t been a reduction in income or some other difficult circumstance doesn’t help them. “If you are not talking to them, then they are drawing their own conclusions,” said Sara Solnick, an associate professor of economics at the University of Vermont who has written about social comparison. Leveling with them about the reality and how you’re managing it may help ease their fears.
When Andrea Dutton and her husband separated and she moved with her 7-year-old daughter and 3-year-old son to a smaller house in Gainesville, Fla., she addressed the matter simply. “I’m not apologizing to them about it,” she said. “I want them to realize that the right decision is not always the easy one. I’d rather have them see that you can do the right thing and get out of a bad situation even if it means taking a hit financially.”

Keep in mind that if you are planning on applying for financial aid for college, you will have no choice but to disclose your financial information when your child is a senior in high school. That’s because anyone who wants financial aid must fill out a form called the Fafsa. It asks for information about income and assets. Parents sign it, and so must the students; everyone attests to the accuracy of the information.

Coming clean about income and assets can pose special challenges if you are truly wealthy; you may worry that children will flaunt their good fortune or think they never have to work. But you don’t get a pass: If you don’t work (or don’t work much), older children will wonder how the family affords its life. At the very least, it’s worth trying some starter exercises, like showing your children the details of what a vacation or a second home actually costs. Explain, too, that it requires a great deal of money to throw off whatever dividends and interest contribute to the family budget, and that the investments that do so may not last or may not fall to the next generation if the children don’t make something of themselves in college and beyond.

New York Times

Take note: It’s political patronage as usual

Michael Lowry’s ‘fine girl you are’ note to Enda Kenny in reference to Valerie O’Reilly shows that political patronage is as central to governing as it ever was, writes Michael Clifford

Michael Lowry lives in the real world. So he told Áine Lawlor on RTE’s News At One on Monday.
The implication is that those who made an issue over his “fine girl you are” note live in a parallel universe, many aeons from Mr Lowry’s flesh and blood world.

Mr Lowry’s real world is a place to behold, but first let’s look at what exactly the note says about Irish politics. On Wednesday of last week, Mr Lowry passed, through an Oireachtas staff member, a note to the Taoiseach.
Mr Lowry sits on the opposition benches. He is an independent TD since 1996, when he was forced to resign from Fine Gael over various improprieties.

Most independents have diddly squat influence with the executive, unless their support is required to maintain the Government’s majority. Not so, Mr Lowry, it would appear.

Could you imagine, for instance, highly competent independents like Catherine Murphy or Maureen O’Sullivan passing such a note? They, apparently, don’t reside in Mr Lowry’s real world. The note in question was brief.
“Taoiseach, would you please consider re-appointing Valerie O’Reilly to the board of the NTA. A woman, bright, intelligent and not bad looking either! Michael Lowry.” (NTA is the National Transport Agency).
Why, in the first instance, was this independent TD passing a note to the Taoiseach? The appointment to state boards is ostensibly a matter for line ministers.

Does the Taoiseach, with his punishing schedule, take time to give the final nod to the most basic appointments to state boards? Is he that obsessed with the minutiae of political patronage?
Ms O’Reilly is, by all accounts, perfectly competent. So too are many others with her public relations background, but one addition to her CV is that she used to work for the Tipperary North TD. She was first appointed to the board of the NTA by the previous government in March 2010.

At the time, the Fianna Fáil Green administration relied on Mr Lowry’s vote to maintain a majority. Irish Examiner political reporter Juno McEnroe has elicited from Mr Lowry an admission that he lobbied the line minister of the day, Noel Dempsey, for Ms O’Reilly’s appointment.

Was that the reason that she was appointed, or was it a coincidence that Mr Dempsey plucked her from the ranks of competent PR professionals?

On Monday, Mr Lowry was asked by Áine Lawlor whether he had lobbied Brian Cowen for Mr O’Reilly’s initial appointment, in the same manner that she had lobbied Mr Kenny for her re-appointment. “The answer to your question is no,” he said.

Sure, he didn’t have to. Mr Cowen had a lot on his plate. Mr Lowry didn’t have to bother him. He just went to the line minister, Mr Dempsey. One way or the other, the current government had pledged to end the business of appointing cronies to state boards, so the rules were supposed to be different now.
Mr Lowry told Áine Lawlor that once he became aware Ms O’Reilly would like to be reappointed, he did his own investigations as to how she had performed in her first term.

“I made my own inquiries as to how she performed on the board…(and was) told she was an excellent member.”
Good God.

The cynics might have concluded that Mr Lowry would have assumed, on the basis of his own knowledge of his former PR advisor, that she was highly competent, but now we find out he went away and did his homework.

No chance he might reveal whom exactly on the board he consulted about Ms O’Reilly’s competence?
The form of lobbying that Mr Lowry engaged in speaks volumes. Mr Lowry is long out of Fine Gael, having departed with the words that the then Taoiseach John Bruton was his “best friend, best friend forever”.
Despite all that has gone down since, it would appear that he retains certain influence in his former party. By passing a note to Mr Kenny, he ensured that his lobbying in this instance was beyond the reach of the Freedom of Information Act.

If Mr Lowry had done his lobbying through usual channels, it would quite likely have eventually become public knowledge. But, in the era of the Freedom of Information, this is the way these boys scratch each other’s backs.

What the whole affair showed is that political patronage is as central to governing as it ever was. All that has changed under this administration of the “democratic revolution” is that the Taoiseach has tightened his personal grip on appointments.

That and the amazing scenario that somebody with Mr Lowry’s record can have such an influence of government.

The note really hit the headlines over his subjective reference to Ms O’Reilly’s looks. “Since you people in the media are so politically correct… I’ve never met a woman who had a problem with a compliment,” the TD told Mr Lawlor. Really?

What then if, for instance, Mr Lowry was lobbying a female Taoiseach to appoint, say, a buddy of his to some public office or other that was up for political patronage. Let’s say he wrote a note like:
“Taoiseach, a good looking woman like yourself might consider appointing a fine specimen like my pal to the board of… blah, blah, blah.”

Most likely the Taoiseach in that instance would relate the contents to the Dáil and the world, and poor Mickster would look pathetic. If he wanted to compliment Ms O’Reilly on her looks, he need only tell her when she’s asking him to see if he can do anything about her reappointment.
The reference in the note was far more concerned with hierarchies of power in a male-dominated world than Mr Lowry’s lame excuse of paying a compliment to a third party.

If the note represented politics as usual on patronage, then Michelle Mulherrin’s phone bill shows that attitudes to public money still leave a lot to be desired.
Ms Mulherin has emerged as the figure behind a €2,000 phone bill for calls from Leinster House to Kenya. She initially claimed to know nothing about it, then when her attendance in Leinster House was linked to the calls, she came out and fudged the matter.

On Seán O’Rourke’s programme on RTÉ, she claimed the main issue was the breakdown of confidentiality between an elected representative and a third party. Like Mr Lowry, Ms Mulherin felt the media were to blame for what had transpired.

Then, after denying the calls were personal, she stumped up the two grand anyway. The Mayo TD was subjected to an outrageous arson attack on her constituency office in Ballina on Tuesday.
An attack like this on an elected representative is, to all intents and purposes, an attack on democracy.

None of which takes from the story about the calls. Once again, the public are being forced to observe our elected representatives sometimes carry on as if they live in a parallel universe, one Mr Lowry apparently believes to be the real world.

Michael Clifford

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Reflections in a moment: 12 Thoughts For Tomorrow

It shows an evil disposition to take advantage of a friend in distress

He is wise who learns from the misfortunes of others

Morality and virtue are despised and feared by those who have none

The tyrant will always find a pretext for his tyranny

The dishonest get no credit for when they are honest

The greatest kindness is lost on the ungrateful

One cannot afford to neglect opportunity

If an enemy has friends the problem is big but if he has none then the problem is minor

Children are not to blame for the faults of the parents and should know this before childhood ends

Contentment is the ultimate goal of happiness

Equals make the best of friends

You can stop a thief but not a liar

Out and about

Photo minute: England (1958 -1960) in original colour

                                                 St Ives Cambridgeshire England 1958
                                                St Ives Cambridgeshire England 1960
                                                                    Bournemouth 1958
                                                  St Ives Cambridgeshire England 1958
                                                St Ives Cambridgeshire England 1960
                                                     St Ives Cambridgeshire England 1958
                                               St Ives Cambridgeshire England 1958
                             St Ives Cambridgeshire England Battle of Britain procession 1960
                                                                      Welsh Hills 1958

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

12 Thoughts For The day

Better a certain enemy than a doubtful friend

Change of habit cannot alter nature

Do not try to do that which is not natural to you

Example is more powerful than presumption

Figures are not always facts

Force is less powerful than persuasion 

Kicking a man when down is like beating a bird with a broken wing

Little liberties can often be great offences

Men argue what nature is but cannot alter it

It is dangerous to speak the truth to tyrants and fanatics

In war truth must be protected by a bodyguard of lies

If men had all they wished they would want more

From 'out and about'

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

" What about the homo's.....???"

"What about the homo's" indeed and it can only happen in Ireland, the last bastion of attempted democracy in the westernised world. Those words came from a nun, who is probably the last of her kind too on these lands. The nun, identified as Sister B, sat on a panel of a school a few weeks ago to decide whether a teacher was qualified for a promotion to head principal there.  To test the teachers suitability, despite eight years at the school as deputy principal, a masters degree in teaching and on the wrong side of 40 years old, the nun wanted to know what her views were on the ‘homo’s,  as well as the non - catholic children and the changing patronage of the school. The teacher failed the test and was passed over for a less qualified one.  When she prosecuted them for discrimination they all lied with lying eyes that the teacher was not telling the truth. Their version of the truth was not believed and cost them €54,000 and the teacher kept her old job. The question could be asked with it as well: Is Ireland a democracy at all? 

The short answer is NO for the reality is that the Catholic church here are bigger than Government. The facts around this power are this: the Catholic church in Ireland owns and run over 90% of all schools, universities and hospitals here, with monies from rents, leases and grants that pull in millions of euros every year from the government, private business and very many suspect charities. Their long and deep pockets are invested in every type of business there is from insurance to petrol. They hide in open view and more than that is hidden in complicated trusts out of reach and out of sight. In fact they are the single biggest business monopoly here and getting bigger.

The order of nuns that Sister B comes from are the fifth largest landowners in Ireland, and not a whole lot of charity going on with that land, and yet they are allowed to discriminate legally in this country despite discrimination being illegal. They can fire and hire teachers based on religious and sexual orientation grounds along with martial status despite getting those public monies. They can and do ask for baptism certs for children at their schools and demand that they be baptised whether they like it or not in order for them to be allowed to attend. For the parent there is little choice 90% plus of the time: It is either no education or a Catholic one.

In order to know the essence of a Catholic religion, the Irish version of it anyway, one has to acknowledge what they did to this country before and after the last of the children’s gulags and magdalene laundries were finally closed down in 1997, that had seen over 200,000 children pass through their prison gates since the foundation of the state; like the nazis, work did not set them free and the horrors that they endured stayed with them for the rest of their lives.  The God squads were highly paid for each child prisoner and the vacant real estate left behind made even more money that had been gifted to them by the state in the first place. Did they acknowledge this? Only when they had to and not a second before. What they have given in compensation to their victims is akin to looking for a few loose and grubby coins under the sofa and offer it up with barely concealed glee for the main horde is still firmly locked away.

The corpses of babies that they starved and neglected keep piling up today, the drip feed of the horrors that they inflicted on the most vulnerable of our society keeps dripping, and still they try to deny, mitigate and cover up. They roll out their public relations spokespeople, their lawyers to hold back the dam with David Quinn as cheer leader who is there to prop up the Father Trendies to try and show a humanistic face on the catalogue of horrors that they inflicted on a craven society and government, and where each description of that horror starts with the words ‘historical’ as if had all happened a century or two before. Its end only began eighteen years ago.

There is progress, if you could call it that. They don't call single mothers fallen women or whores here anymore, or their children bastards because we as a society find that unacceptable. When the religious grasped that nugget only then they changed. When we as a society found it unacceptable that you could lock up children and consign their single mothers to Magdalen laundries that moved the mindset of the religious as well. When children were locked up in their gulags and at their behest for imaginary crimes that changed too when this country finally grasped what had been happening to them. We as a society became the Catholic church’s conscious and not the reverse. They changed only when we did and not the other way around. 

That is the core reality of religion, any religion, for their survival was based on the marketing monopoly of what a conscience was and is. It was the people always that forced that meaning upon them for behind the imagery, pomp and ceremony of the Catholic church it was, and will continue to be, a corporation where the cardinals and bishops are the CEO’s and the useful idiots their employees. 

It is never good enough to say it was the times that was in it to justify wrong or right or crime itself. If we do that did then the Nazis become blameless along with their many supporters.  Times are always changing but right and wrong is timeless in and by itself, and to claim a defence by ignorance alone is always the badge for the conveniently ignorant. 

Barry Clifford

Monday, January 26, 2015

Shark Tank ► Best Pitch ● Most Memorable Deal Ever! There are good people everywhere you just have to look a little harder

Syriza should ignore Europe’s calls to be responsible as they lack credibility

 Alexis Tsipras, leader of the left-wing Syriza coalition, has become prime minister of Greece. He is the first European leader elected on an explicit promise to challenge the austerity policies that have prevailed since 2010. And there will be many people warning him to abandon that promise, to behave “responsibly”.

So how has that responsibility thing worked out so far?
To understand the political earthquake in Greece, it helps to look at Greece’s May 2010 “standby arrangement” with the International Monetary Fund, under which the so-called troika – the IMF, the European Central Bank and the European Commission and the  – extended loans to the country in return for a combination of austerity and reform. It’s a remarkable document, in the worst way. The troika, while pretending to be hardheaded and realistic, was peddling an economic fantasy. And the Greek people have been paying the price for those elite delusions.

                                                                     Alexis Tsipras

False assumptions

The economic projections that accompanied the standby arrangement assumed that Greece could impose harsh austerity with little effect on growth and employment. Greece was in recession when the deal was reached, but the projections assumed this downturn would end soon – that there would be only a small contraction in 2011, and that, by 2012, Greece would be recovering. Unemployment, the projections conceded, would rise substantially, from 9.4 per cent in 2009 to almost 15 per cent in 2012, but would then begin coming down fairly quickly.

What actually transpired was an economic and human nightmare. Far from ending in 2011, the Greek recession gathered momentum. Greece didn’t hit the bottom until 2014 and, by that point, it had experienced a full-fledged depression, with overall unemployment rising to 28 per cent and youth unemployment rising to almost 60 per cent. And the recovery now under way is barely visible, offering no prospect of pre-crisis living standards.
What went wrong? I fairly often encounter assertions to the effect that Greece didn’t carry through on its promises, that it failed to deliver promised spending cuts. Nothing could be further from the truth. In reality, Greece imposed savage cuts in public services, wages of government workers and social benefits. Public spending was cut much more than the programme envisaged, and it’s about 20 per cent lower than it was in 2010.

Yet Greek debt troubles are if anything worse than before the programme. One reason is the economic plunge has reduced revenues: the Greek government is collecting a substantially higher share of gross domestic product in taxes, but GDP has fallen so quickly that overall tax take is down. Furthermore, the plunge in GDP has caused a key fiscal indicator, the ratio of debt to GDP, to keep rising even though debt growth has slowed and Greece received some modest debt relief in 2012.

Why were the original projections so wildly over-optimistic? As I said, because supposedly hardheaded officials were in reality engaged in fantasy economics. Both the European Commission and the European Central Bank decided to believe in the confidence fairy – that is, to claim that the direct job-destroying effects of spending cuts would be more than made up for by a surge in private-sector optimism. The IMF was more cautious, but it underestimated the damage of austerity.

And here’s the thing: if the troika had been truly realistic, it would have acknowledged it was demanding the impossible. Two years after the programme began, the IMF looked for historical examples where Greek-type programmes, attempts to pay down debt through austerity without major debt relief or inflation, had been successful. It didn’t find any.

Unable to lecture
So now that Tsipras has won, European officials would be well advised to skip the lectures calling on him to act responsibly and to go along with their programme. The fact is they have no credibility; the programme they imposed on Greece never made sense. It had no chance of working.

If anything, the problem with Syriza’s plans may be that they’re not radical enough. But it’s not clear what more any Greek government can do unless it’s prepared to abandon the euro, and the Greek public isn’t ready for that.

Still, in calling for a major change, Tsipras is being far more realistic than officials who want the beatings to continue until morale improves. The rest of Europe should give him a chance to end his country’s nightmare. 

Paul Krugman (American economist with the New York Times)

Photo minute: Pompeii-The way it was in 79 AD

Thought For The Day

'When people rob banks they go to prison
When banks rob people they get bonuses'