Category Archives: Opinion

How to Be – A Lighter View on Life

Permit me to say a few things that are about you, yes you, even though I’m going to say some things about me. It may seem like a strange intro, but it will make more sense if you read on.

49_ford_at_stoplight_cI’m rather like that old car you might have seen on the road or in a parking lot. You know the one that looks dated, the shine has mostly gone, but it’s not a rare classic, so you’re not going to spend a lot of time looking at it, or thinking about it. You’re just going to move along.

Here’s what you probably don’t know, the car looks dated, but it still provides the owner reliable transportation. It sometimes takes a bit more effort to start, it’s seen a lot of miles, but the joy in driving it is still there. Now that I’ve said that, and as limited as analogies are, let’s find out more about you.

Almost anyone who is a regular on social media writes things, and over time, you get to know who that person is, or at least how they perceive the world. Many of you are younger than me, quite a few are significantly younger. In a way, I’m that old car, which you pass, and the things that catch and hold your attention are not old cars.

Mike USMC Hawaii on the beachKeep in mind, that car was once new and shinier, more contemporary. You might say, I’ve been where you’re are now, but you haven’t gone through all the things that I have or you would look more like … the older car.

When I frequently read things that say something like, “I don’t give a F” or that this person (insert well known person’s name here), is a cretin, there’s something disturbing going on inside you. I’m not talking about someone who occasionally says such things, I’m talking about those of you that pitch and rant about somebody, usually that same someone, almost every day.

The other description I see, are about those of you that constantly assert, it’s my life and I’ll think, say, do, and look the way I want. Of course you can, you’re responsible for you, no one else is, but there are consequences of your actions and reactions to your appearance which may not be what you wanted. It goes without saying, you may do and think what you want, but you don’t live in a vacuum. If you’re feeling the need to tell people you demand independence, or you don’t care about others, why the need to constantly remind us? Remember, you’ve stated you’re not interested in the opinion of others, yet you frequently say this in a public forum. That’s a bit incongruous, yes?

beware-false-claims-2I think I’ve passed through these experiences before. I believe if you find yourself frequently angry, tired of the actions of an entertainer, a politician, professional athlete, or some other famous person, or feel compelled to tell others to go ‘F’ themselves; there’s things going on within your mind that require additional sorting and figuring out.

Whatever you’re doing, the places and people your mind is focused on, it’s not serving you well. You are spending time on a topic or person which you’ve declared to be offensive or disturbing. Do you really think that’s going to make things better, or the object of your dissatisfaction improve?

Find another place for your mind to travel, make new associations, listen, watch, read about other things. It’s not good for you to dwell on other people you don’t like. You aren’t changing or harming them, you’re only chipping away at yourself. I know this is difficult to see, you may not want to admit it, but there’s something going on inside that just isn’t right, and whatever it is, it’s not going to get better unless you decide to make a change in you.

Let me say that unhappiness most often isn’t your physical location. It can be, but are things really better if you move or travel to ______? Wherever that fill in the blank place is located, you’re going to be the same person when you get there. The same thoughts, frustrations, habits, will go with you.

So, I’m suggesting it’s more about you. You need to be able to enjoy things around you, now. You should feel happy, even alone, without stimulus, and in your present location.

a  walk at sunset.jpgTake a few moments, away from the things that make you disturbed, perturbed, or frustrated. It may mean you have to change your current method of making decisions, choices, patterns of eating, drinking, or with whom you associate. That disassociation can take several forms. It may be there are “friends” you should stop seeing, corresponding, talking to, or reading about. It may be that reading the news, watching the news, or listening to it, has you fired up. Get away, and find new sources, or none at all. You’re going to need some time, so don’t expect immediate positive results.

If you find yourself saying, I could care less, maybe you need to care more? Maybe your lack of concern about others is actually doing more harm to yourself than you think. How about finding people and circumstances that cause you to care more about them, and less time about yourself? Apathy isn’t a key to successful, enjoyable living!

If none of this makes sense to you, maybe it’s because it doesn’t apply to you. I can be reasonably certain it does for some people. Maybe even for many that don’t recognize they’re that sort of person. Whomever you are, no matter what you’re thinking as of this moment, you deserve to be happy.

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The Road to Any Damascus is Laden with Potholes

The search for reality is the most dangerous of all undertakings, for it destroys the world in which you live.
– Nisargadatta Maharaj

I don’t know anything about this person, but I can say from my own personal experience, it’s absolutely true. If life has taught me anything, ”don’t steer clear of the tough questions, or even those you don’t have answers”. There are many more questions than any of us currently have answers, and even some in which we think we do, we may very well be wrong.

behaviorial-change-intention-chart

For most of us, perception is reality. It drives our everyday decisions, but moreover, through assumptions, attitudes, observations, intentions, and habits, our behavior is altered. We do become what we think, so perhaps that’s the thing that creates within me, a desire to find out for myself. I know that I don’t have answers for many of life’s tough questions. I gain insight through the help of others. Ultimately, it falls on me to make my discoveries and choices.

Whenever you contemplate your own existence, how you or others perceive the world in which you live, it may not match reality. Furthermore, you may not even be aware of your misconceptions. Worse still, if you do nothing to challenge your own assumptions or those of other people, you’re stuck in a fundamental crossroad between reality and wishful, maybe even harmful, thinking.

No one can build you the bridge on which you, and only you, must cross the river of life. There may be countless trails and bridges and demigods who would gladly carry you across; but only at the price of pawning and forgoing yourself. There is one path in the world that none can walk but you. Where does it lead? Don’t ask, walk!
~ Nietzsche

I’ve posted personal information before about my membership in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (“Mormons”). I’ve also posted that I left that organization over 20 years ago. I still have a few friends who are members. None of my adult children, at the time of this writing, have any affiliation with that organization. It’s their own choice. Their mother still believes in this religious organization. I left it a few years after my divorce. Those two events aren’t connected.

What do Mormons believe about general inquiry & introspection?
The LDS Church “Mormons” believe that freedom of choice, “agency” is an eternal principle. Agency is the fundamental right of any individual to choose between good and bad, and to act for themselves.

Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; and all things are given them which are expedient unto man. And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil; for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself.” ~ 2 Nephi 2:27.

The LDS Church (easier to abbreviate than the longer official title), informs its members to read official “canonized” religious texts, ponder, and pray for personal answers to any questions they might have. They’re to develop a personal relationship with God. The religion is based on inquiry and individual revelation. If however, you come up with a different answer than that which has been given through official channels of communication, then you’re to accept the church answer, and re-think your own in attempting to further understand the basis of your differences.
For more information specific go here:
https://www.mormon.org/beliefs

question_button_imageThe purpose of giving you that brief background, if you’re not familiar with the organization, isn’t to examine any religion, it’s just to examine specific portions of their beliefs, and learn how your methods of finding answers, compare. It’s not so important that you have specific knowledge about any religion for this post to be relevant. What’s important is asking, how do you gain insight about the world around you, and how do you challenge your own beliefs? Most of us come to a “world view”, fairly early on in our life. We may revise it along the way, but peer (the society in which we live) pressure, often steers us into a general consensus with those to whom we associate.


How do you decide what’s correct and what’s false?
If you’re honest, at least with yourself, you know that’s not an easy process. So what do you read, listen to, or watch to help guide you in life’s journey? If you choose to respond, I’m looking for things more in depth than, you go for long walks in the woods. I’m not suggesting that you don’t or that it’s not a good idea. I’m looking for more specifics. What do you do?

“Your true educators and cultivators will reveal to you the original sense and basic stuff of your being, something that is not ultimately amenable to education or cultivation by anyone else, but that is always difficult to access, something bound and immobilized; your educators cannot go beyond being your liberators. And that is the secret of all true culture: she does not present us with artificial limbs, wax-noses, bespectacled eyes — for such gifts leave us merely with a sham image of education. She is liberation instead, pulling weeds, removing rubble, chasing away the pests that would gnaw at the tender roots and shoots of the plant; she is an effusion of light and warmth, a tender trickle of nightly rain…” ~ Parker Palmer

There are quite a few followers to this blog. Some have made it official by clicking on the link below, to follow. I’m not asking you to follow me, I see the statistics, but most of you are silent. I know better than assume you don’t have an opinion. I want to read yours. Don’t be bashful, be candid. Please, if you’re just someone that wants to come in and shout and stomp so that you can get attention, take your circus elsewhere. I’m looking for people who have taken the time to think this sort of thing through. cartoon-people-clapping

I’m also not looking for this to be about an open forum on religion. I’ve heard the canned answers, the public sermons, the pat answers. Let’s make this interesting.


Another Harley-Davidson Story

Harley-Davidson is an ongoing story in the news, not because it’s a huge company, rather it’s an American icon. An icon that President Donald Trump used to spread his message about keeping American manufacturing here.

Then came an announcement that normally wouldn’t receive much attention outside of the motorcyclist industry and its loyal biker cadre. Harley-Davidson, the big HD, was going to move some of its production to somewhere in the EU, due to increasing costs for motorcycle imports into those markets. The reason announced, increasing costs, due to increasing tariffs.

Paul Krugman is an American economist who is currently Distinguished Professor of Economics at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, and a columnist for The New York Times. A regular contributor to the NYT of economic opinions, most especially, anti-Trump. He’s almost gloating with glee to add this latest on how he thinks the disastrous Trump economic policies are beginning to be exposed in the latest announcement by Harley-Davidson and the subsequent comments of displeasure by Donald Trump.

Paul_Krugman_at_the_German_National_Library_in_Frankfurt

Paul Krugman – public domain image

His column, Trump Versus the Hog-maker, excoriates the increasing pressure the Trump administration has placed on international trade, which for years hasn’t been the “open market”, many had supposed.

I prefer you click on the above link and read his post before you continue with mine. I’m going to refer to it and other announcements which I will provide in links.

If you’re not familiar with Donald Trump’s reaction to the Harley-Davidson offshore production announcement, click in this link to read as background.


Let me start with a few givens…

  • I’m not an economist.
  • I don’t know how the long-term effects of the Trump influenced economic decisions will play out over time.
  • I don’t think Paul Krugman, or any other economist knows how they will work out, either.
  • His June 28th opinion column is less about economics and more about politics.
  • By the end of this post, I’m more interested in you thinking about what’s being told to you, rather than just accepting it, because someone with huge public recognition says it to be so.

Let’s also start with a few pragmatic assumptions.

  • Paul Krugman doesn’t want to see the economy fail to prove his point, right?
  • Donald Trump doesn’t demand fair trade policies just because he thinks it will only benefit himself, right?
  • Harley-Davidson made these offshore production decisions before Donald Trump made any tariff proclamations?

Wait a minute? What was that last assumption?

Let’s examine what has taken place by rewinding to the past HD proclamations, and what are the industry trends.
— Quoted from CNN article June 26, 2018 – Trump vs. Harley-Davidson: What’s Really Going On? —
Harley says moving more production overseas is its “only sustainable option” in the wake of the growing trade war.

So what’s really going on?

Americans are buying fewer motorcycles. People outside the United States are buying more, and Harley wants to build bikes closer to its international customers.

Last quarter, Harley’s sales in the United States fell 12%, but they grew 6.8% in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. In Latin America, sales grew 7%.

In 2017, Harley-Davidson said they would close their plant operations in Kansas City, and expand manufacturing in Thailand. That was long before Tariffs were announced.  (CNN June 26, 2018)

HD_motorcycle_shipments

Harley-Davidson is a publicly traded company and like any such company answers to stock holders. During this downward cycle, they’ve attempted to put the best spin on a market reality, their primary buyer base is getting older. Younger motorcycle buyers in the USA aren’t as large a percentage of the population as they were when looking back over 40 years. Any quick look at who is buying what kind of transportation in the USA will find, younger buyers have made a clear choice for trucks and cars, but not a large number of motorcycles. That’s different in Asia, where you can find motorcycles are far cheaper to buy and operate, than cars.

During the low-cost & easy to get a loan for luxury items prior to 2008, many an aspiring motorcyclist were caught up with the cache of the name, HD. Harley is also competing with their 10-year-old, like new bikes for market share. It’s now common to find 10-15 year old Harley’s with less than 10,000 miles,  many less than 5,000 on the odometer. stack of money

The problem for Harley-Davidson, like other companies when it comes time to explain things, they opt for any opportunity to get out from under adverse stockholder scrutiny. Harley-Davidson made the decision several years ago to move some of their production offshore. RideApart November 14, 2013 .

Harley-Davidson worldwide retail motorcycle sales were down 6.7 percent in 2017 compared to 2016. U.S. retail sales decreased 8.5 percent and international retail sales were down 3.9 percent.

During 2016, the company reported its best-ever retail sales results in Asia Pacific and EMEA. The company added 40 new dealer points internationally. (Europe-MiddleEast-Africa). PRN

“Our actions to address the current environment through disciplined supply and cost management position us well as we drive to achieve our long-term objectives to build the next generation of Harley-Davidson riders globally,” said Matt Levatich, president and chief executive officer, Harley-Davidson, Inc. “We finished 2017 with over 32,000 more Harley-Davidson riders in the U.S. than one year ago, and we delivered another year of strong cash generation and cash returns to our shareholders.”

Corporate Tax Rateharlyvintage-ad-2

For 2017, Harley-Davidson’s effective tax rate was 39.6 percent compared to 32.4 percent in the prior year. The increased tax rate was largely due to the impact of the write-down of deferred tax assets related to the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.

The Company expects its 2018 full-year effective tax rate to be approximately 23.5 to 25.0 percent, down considerably behind the expected benefit of the new tax legislation.  HD 2017 Investor Relations

If you examine the individual components of a HD motorcycle, you will find some of the American brand name is first made overseas, then assembled in the US to claim it as an American made product. Wheel, brake, and electrical components are made outside of the US. It’s nearly impossible to determine the exact percentage of parts made in America. There are several thousand “manufacturing customers” of HD.
Here’s what can be easily found.

Menominee Falls, Wisconsin – Powertrain
Tomahawk, Wisconsin – Windshields, composite plastic parts
Kansas City, Missouri – Assembly, Powertrain <— Closed
York, Pennsylvania – Fabrication, Paint, Final Assembly
Manaus, Brazil – Assembles models sold in Brazil
Bawal, India – Manufacture of Street models for India, Italy, Spain, and Portugal

harley_vintage_3History is littered with defunct motorcycle companies, as well as resurrected ones. Many of the resurrected ones died again during the last recession.

According to a Harley Davidson 2013 annual report:

Six in 10 customers are from outside the United States.
Two out of every three new dealerships are in “emerging markets”.
>>>>
3.5 billion people live in cities globally
50% of the population is under 30
The strategy is to grow outside the US faster than growing inside the US
The strategy inside the US is to grow the ‘outreach segment,’ which includes women, young adults 18-34, African Americans, and Hispanics
In 2013, this outreach segment grew twice as fast as ‘core’ customers.

Their newest bikes, the Street 500 and Street 750, were engineered with the young urban rider in mind – smaller, more efficient bikes.

Harley-Davidson has committed to manufacture and assemble the motorcycles used in the United States. But companies aren’t blind to their ability to export motorcycles to the world at large, or to recognize other segments of their market, nor should they be. To expand in these new areas and markets, in many cases, they’ve opened facilities overseas or outside US borders. The flexibility to export using foreign facilities certainly doesn’t seem like a bad thing for an American company as it grows.

Analysts are divided about what impact the protectionist measures will have on the broader economy. That’s understandable. We’ve seen the greatest of prognosticators under the “Boffins hat” of an Economist predict the opposite of what does happen.