The Trump phenomenon

I don’t understand why nobody saw it coming.

I know why I didn’t see it coming; I didn’t see it because I’m not plugged into the feelings that Trump supporters have. I started funding my IRA the year the program started. I was told that by the time I retired, I’d be a millionaire through the power of compound interest. It turns out, thanks to some bad investment advice, that the gains in my IRA were somewhat less than a bank rate CD–still I saved in my IRA and I saved outside my IRA and I lived modestly. Social Security that people 15 years ago were saying I’d never collect, started flowing in when I turned age 62 1/2. All in all, I followed the American dream, and did pretty well.

The optimism I hold about the future, about the long-term improvement in the lot of people, is not what lots of others feel. They are the second generation of hard-working individuals who just cannot get ahead. They are crushed by healthcare costs. They are told they need a college education, only to be crushed by debt to pay for it. Families have two wage earners, and hold down multiple jobs, and still can’t get ahead. The Walton (Walmart) family has a net worth equal to the bottom 42% of everybody in the whole county. What do these people have to be optimistic about? They believe that the “system” is stacked against them. For example, an overwhelming majority of Americans (7 in 10) support raising the federal minimum wage to $10.10 and another poll found 75% wanted an increase to $12.50, but it didn’t happen. The system didn’t work for them.

That’s why there was to much popular support for Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders. Indeed, if it weren’t for the unique support Hillary Clinton brought to the race, we would be seeing an election this fall between Trump and Sanders—the two radical change candidates. People are unhappy, and people are not optimistic. They are willing go take what little they have and go to Los Vegas and bet it all on “00”.

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Patriotism is what you do, not what you share on Facebook

It’s memorial day, and a number of my friends have shared patriotic images on their timelines. With the exception of a few people that I have no clue about who they are, you are my friends and my family. I care about what you’re thinking, and if something stirs your heart, then I’d like to hear about it on Facebook.

There are other things on Facebook that are shared patriotic images to which the text “SHARE IF YOU LOVE AMERICA” is attached. I don’t react well to that. I will decide how I will show my love of America, thank you very much. I choose to express my patriotism most often through community service. For example, the South Carolina primary is being held in a few days, and I will spend 13 hours working at the polls and get less than the minimum wage. Working at the polls is me being patriotic. I give money to political candidates, I build houses for Habitat, I volunteer at the Special Olympics and the March of Dimes. I recite the Pledge of Allegiance at least twice a month. These are how I show my authentic patriotism, not doing something because someone on Facebook tells me I should.

One way that I express my patriotism on Facebook is to carefully check the information I share beforehand, and some of you have felt my criticism when you didn’t check yours. The country is at its best when the electorate is informed, and I have spent many hours over many years trying to get the best information to people. That’s how I show my love for America.

Update:

Less than hour after writing this article, one of my Facebook friends shared a post:

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The original of that by one John Davis got 25,145 shares.

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Habitat for Humanity changed my life

I volunteered once and a while with Habitat for Humanity for years. Since last summer, I’ve been a regular volunteer 2-4 days a week. It’s changed my life.

Since my retirement in 2011, I’ve been doing occasional volunteer projects, at church (web site, choir, Congregation Council, contribution accounting), helping seniors set up their computers, and with Civitan (and through them the Salvation Army, Special Olympics and the March of Dimes). I felt the need to do something more instead of sitting home, blogging and playing video games. As I get older, my perspective changes from personally getting along to giving back. Habitat game me a sense of mission. I feel like I have found my place in society (or the Kingdom of God if you will). It’s very gratifying to meet the new Habitat homeowners and hear their stories. It’s great to give these folks a leg up because we know that Habitat is part of many families’ success stories.1

My doctor told me that people who give back have better health outcomes than those who send text messages and hang out on Facebook all day. Indeed, I am feeling much better these past months both physically and emotionally. I’ve lost five pounds and I am in better condition to enjoy recreational activities than I have been in a while. They say that the key to a successful exercise program is finding something you enjoy doing. I enjoy building houses. I spent my professional career working on a computer—it’s nice to do something totally different.

I’ve made some super friends. Habitat volunteers are some of the neatest people you will come across because they all share the desire to give back. They are interesting, kind and compassionate people, and I’m privileged to be in their company. I can say the same thing for the Habitat staff. I also get to meet the future homeowners as they put in their required hours on their own house and others. Their stories of trying to make a better life for themselves and their families are inspiring.

Did I mention that I got some neat tools? I didn’t buy all that many tools (and a volunteer does not have to buy any), but I know how to use them.2 When the deck stairs on my house started rotting, I knew from the experience of building a deck with Habitat just what I would need and how to do it. I can’t build a house from scratch, but I’m pretty good with vinyl siding and dozens of other construction tasks. My local Habitat affiliate provides formal training for volunteers, and I learn something every time I go out on a job site. Having these skills builds self confidence.

The final advantage is the one I feel the least comfortable about. In this part of the country, there a convention of society that when someone mentions that they are a military veteran, a non-veteran in the conversation will say “thank you for your service.” I get similar remarks when I say that I volunteer for Habitat. I don’t do it for the appreciation of others, but I get it anyway. Volunteer work for Habitat seems to meet with universal approval. I suppose there is some self-validation in those comments, but I don’t think I need it. Doing good is its own reward.

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I don’t mean to say that I was miserable before and now I am happy. It’s not that stark a change, but all sort of good things have come out of my volunteering for Habitat for Humanity.


1There are many misconceptions about Habitat, foremost is that it gives houses to people. Habitat homeowners put sweat equity into their homes and their neighbors’ homes in addition to a mortgage. In Greenville County, the mortgage runs around $100,000 on a house that appraises for $125,000. The homeowner adds 200 hours of sweat equity to that.

2Habitat generally provides all the tools a volunteer needs. You might want to bring your own pair of gloves. In my tool belt, I carry:

  • Hammer
  • Utility knife & spare blades
  • Pencil
  • Pencil sharpener
  • Bullet level
  • Pocket square (Swanson speed square)
  • Measuring tape (25 ft.)
  • Vinyl shears
  • Claw bar (nail puller)
  • Nail set
  • Gutter nail driver (pea shooter)
  • Siding removal tool

I bought my own gloves and hard hat, but Habitat gave me a hard hat after I reached 100 volunteer hours last year (I had 342 total).

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The President is still the President and the Senate is still the Senate

That despite the outrageous calls from all of the GOP presidential candidates at the debate last night, that any Obama appointee to the US Supreme Court to replace Justice Scalia be blocked, and the decision be put off until the next president is elected.

They propose to cripple the Supreme Court for a whole year for their political advantage. (On a tie vote in the Supreme Court, the ruling of the Circuit stands.) This exposes the lie of these candidates that they support the Constitution and institutions of the United States. The Constitution calls for the president to nominate, and the Senate to advise and consent. These candidates want to throw the Constitution under the bus when it is to their advantage.

Some of us want government to play by the rules, no matter who is in power. If the Senate doesn’t want to vote on an Obama Supreme Court nominee until after the election, then they should all resign and give us a new Senate now.

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Microsoft Treasure Hunt strategy guide

The Guide is not a tutorial on the game, or a walk-through of the levels except for one sample. (For a walk-through, or details on achievements, try here.) To learn how to play, install the game and view the tutorial. This article assumes you already know how to play. It is a compilation of strategies to help you to play better. The guide is being updated as new strategies are developed. I have so far reached Level 240 and I very much doubt that I will be able to finish it.  I have completed all of the Awards. FYI, nothing special happens when you gain the 20th and final award.

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Microsoft Treasure Hunt Strategy Guide

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