Ambidextrous Thoughts

This site is intended to offer research and commentary on current events covering a wide scope of topics. Over and over again, I see social media offering quick access to the latest news or trend, but often with very little thought or fact-checking put into it, which lends itself to misleading half-truths. The intent here is not to take a political side, but to discuss the differences expressed by many who use social media as their source of news and information. My aim is to look at both extremes of a topic, and try to find a way to come together. I welcome input and suggestions on subjects that you’d like to know more about. Some conversations may have a political theme, but I hope to discuss issues that affect our everyday life, whether it be what kind of education our children are really getting, why are medication prices spiraling out of control, are unions a help or a hindrance to our workers today, or what “entitlement” really means. Bookmark this spot and see how we do as we try to make a fair place to open discussions on the subjects that interest you most. By – JRBecker


Posted by on Apr 28, 2017 | 0 comments



(Junior/Senior year)

As adults, we don’t know how to fit political information into our schedules. If we haven’t gained political education before we graduate, we aren’t likely to for several more years. We glance at the news to catch the weather, or a sports score, but seldom do we sit down to watch the entire broadcast. Even worse, we spend less time listening to our political figures when they speak at a State of the State, or State of the Union Address, for instance. Even people who say they get their news online often read only the headline and a paragraph or two. Practically speaking, we elect our leaders and our representatives based on a picture, a few sentences we’ve randomly heard them speak, and a well-written biographical paragraph by a paid marketer. Some voters watch for the political ads and decide by what they see there, not realizing that these are nothing but mini-commercials by marketing strategists, selling you their product. Rarely do we think to look up an incumbent’s voting record or find out what their previous jobs were and what their business reputation was. The truth is, unless we take courses in college related to the political arena, most of us know very little about our government and how it operates. Once we leave high school, our lives become a whole new world of responsibilities with a job, and/or college classes. Many marry and begin families which brings in a whole new dimension of responsibility. We now have bills to pay, and of course we want a social life. We need a car, or a place to live… and on and on. High school prepares us for this new world with information that helps us make good choices, but does it prepare us to improve our lives and our worlds through the power of the vote?

Just about everyone knows who the president of the country is, even if they didn’t vote. However, it’s surprising how many don’t even know who the vice president is, let alone who their senators and congressional representatives are. Even locally, 20-somethings to 40-somethings often don’t know who is representing them in their state legislature, or who the governor is, or the mayor of their own city, let alone their council members. This is somewhat understandable, given that many families have both parents working, or are single-parent households. With children, there are doctor appointments, babysitters to schedule, laundry, meals, constant housecleaning, and general bill-paying. Then comes school registrations, parent-teacher meetings, sports, holiday shows, birthday parties and other parent-child activities… all while working a full-time job and trying to have some family time. Whew!

So the last year or two of high school (before all that starts) is the best time to teach some life skills that can lead to a better future for the student as he/she becomes an adult. First, we need to acknowledge that History is not the same as Civics, and a class in Government is completely different than either one.

HISTORY is mostly about the names of Kings, Queens, Presidents, Prime Ministers, Tribal Chiefs, Sheiks, Dictators and a few famous U. S. patriots and the dates of their birth, death, and times in power. It also focuses on wars and specific battles throughout the years.

CIVICS class is centered around the rights of citizens, mainly in the United States, and sometimes broken down to the state level. The Constitution is usually a part of this curriculum. Some voter information is usually included. It is an important course but it doesn’t teach much about how the government functions.

GOVERNMENT class is the study of how governments run, particularly in the United States. Besides learning about pacts and treaties and how they come to be, this course takes into account how the three branches of our federal government work (and the checks and balances this provides), and describes how policies and laws are made. Ideally, there is some overlap between government class and civics class, but one does not take the place of the other.

Today, civics classes are required as early as 7th grade. I don’t know about you, but I can’t remember a single class I had when I was 12. Boys were discovering girls, and girls were discovering that boys were noticing them. Sports were being introduced on a competitive level. I remember that elective classes were added to the curriculum, and most of us chose something that seemed like fun; possibly shop or home economics (back in those days), or music, art, or typing.

The civics classes in school today are usually half-credit classes, paired with some kind of local government class. While this is better than nothing, the message is sent that the workings of government really aren’t very important to the average citizen. The amount of time allotted doesn’t allow for the setting up of a mock government and studying the variety of issues our three main branches face. How can we expect our next generation to be inspired to become involved if they don’t even know how it works? How can they know how to vote if they don’t even know that senators and representatives can write and submit bills, but both the house and the senate must approve them and the president must sign them before they become law? (Yes, the president has a veto power which allows him to keep a bill from becoming law, but the veto can be overwritten if it goes back to congress and passes both the senate and house of representatives by 2/3 majority in each.) Instead, we believe a president can actually change the law at will, without understanding that he can only do that with the help of congress. In fact, most presidential candidates don’t even know the full extent of their limitations until they begin receiving briefings. (Many people also confuse Executive Orders with Laws. Executive Orders can only pertain to laws that are currently in existence.)

And then of course, any new laws (or orders) have to be legal. That is, laws cannot be made that go against the Constitution. Our judicial system is set up to prevent that from happening. There are legal ways to circumvent that, such as adding a constitutional amendment – something that is very difficult and requires a great deal of work in order to reach an agreement which will win the necessary backing of the individual states. First a proposal must be developed and must pass both branches of congress by 2/3 majority of each branch. Then the bill must be sent to the states where their legislatures must agree, by simple majority, to the amendment. Three quarters of all states must approve of the amendment. The president cannot veto any step of this process. ***For more on amendments, see the end of this article.

Did you know all this? More importantly, did you know all this the first dozen or so times that you voted?

Shouldn’t our future voters and leaders know that federal judges are appointed for life – not only the Supreme Court? Shouldn’t our newest voters understand that there is a hierarchy to the court system?

Shouldn’t our schools teach that even the executive branch of the government must meet the standards of the Constitution, and that our congress and judicial systems may be called on to determine if any new law or regulation is constitutional? Wouldn’t all this stick in their minds more, the closer they got to voting age?

Isn’t it up to us to talk to our state legislators, boards of education, and our school districts to try to encourage more involvement for our students so they can go into the world armed with the best information they can get? Wouldn’t we have a better world if the youngest adults were as informed as we’ve become after raising our families and then finally finding the time to actually learn about the amazing way our forefathers set up our democracy?

While researching data, I found that most requirement information is only current through 2013, so some states may have modified their requirements in either direction during the last 4 years. At this website, I noticed some states had actually dropped government from their requirements. Reference for graduation requirements Info:

According to the referenced website, only 4 states and the District of Columbia show a full credit required for U.S. Government – Idaho, Iowa, Maryland, and Nevada.

Fifteen others show Government at a full credit, but mixed with other subjects such as history or civics.

Nine states show no Government requirement at all – Arkansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Nebraska, North Carolina, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Wyoming.

The other 22 states require only ½ credit, sometimes mixed in with other subjects such as local government or history, and of these, some offer the classes as early as 7th grade.

In early 2017, several states reviewed and have changed, or are considering changing requirements for graduation. You can look up your local Board of Education to find requirements and other graduation information. If you would like to see the next generation graduate as a better informed and more aware group of young adults, you can begin with your local school board. Let them know what you want!

**** A final consideration might be to require that all students pass a citizenship test prior to graduation. Why do we expect new U.S. citizens to know more about how our government works than the young people that have gone to school here their entire lives?

There are currently many petitions and proposals circulating for a 28th amendment. A few are:

  • Citizens United (campaign funding)
  • Time limits on congressional and senate votes for appointed positions such as the Supreme Court.
  • Social Security and healthcare as a right.
  • Term limits for members of the House and Senate.
  • More recently, limitations and requirements pertaining directly to the president, such as release of tax forms, medical records, and divestiture of business conflicts are being discussed.
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Posted by on Apr 1, 2017 | 0 comments



The other evening I happened to run into a cousin of mine as I was cruising through some memes on Face Book. The meme we connected on questioned how the current congress is so willing to follow Christian beliefs by banning abortion and even birth control, but wants to eliminate help with healthcare for pregnant women or pediatric care for their children. The question; where is the help for the poor and needy, as the Christian bible promotes.

That is not what this article is about. But that topic sparked a good conversation and we found ourselves looking at a pretty interesting blend of left and right thinking.

Obviously, we have some social problems in the United States, and both liberals and conservatives recognize them. We have too many people on unemployment, on welfare, and receiving other services because they can’t find work, or work that pays enough to live on. We have recently come through a pretty steep recession, and there are some people who still haven’t been able to reestablish themselves in the work force. But we are too ready to lump everyone in the same category… if you are receiving assistance, you must be lazy, scamming the system, or addicted to something. Somehow, reducing the assistance programs and Medicaid – which is the medical safety net for lower income citizens – will force these people to go out and get jobs? Pretend you are somehow cast into one of these following situations.

Here are just a few reasons people are homeless, and/or can’t get jobs.

  • To rent an apartment, you need a reference from your last residence. If your home was foreclosed on, you won’t have a reference. You must pass a credit check. You must also have a job, or provable income.
  • To get a job, you must have a residence and a phone. Living in a car, or even a camper is not considered a residence. Neither is crashing on your friends’ couches… and P.O. Boxes won’t cut it. Many jobs also require a decent credit score. (Contrary to current belief, some people don’t have phones, either.)
  • Some people have health problems that prevent them from working. These can swing from debilitating diseases like Cancer, Multiple Sclerosis, Muscular Dystrophy, Cerebral Palsy, Heart Failure… to things that require money or insurance to fix, such as bad teeth, body odor issues not related to cleanliness, poor eyesight, loss of hearing, back injuries, etc.
  • Other problems that hinder finding jobs include transportation (buses don’t run everywhere), child care needs, lack of proper attire, and, of course, experience or education. The restaurant looking for a cook isn’t interested in how good of a mechanic you are. Even having a great resume can be a hindrance if you’re looking beneath your experience level. Call centers won’t hire you if you used to manage a call center, unless they’re looking for a manager, because they assume you will leave as soon as you get something better. (Probably true, but you see the problem.)

So let’s assume you get some assistance, and you solve the above problems for the moment. How do you find a job? Well, on the computer, of course. Oh wait, you don’t have one? Well, there is the library, but you will need an email address to even get a response. If you have a working phone, you can try to use that to check the Boards for help wanted, and you can add that needed email address (some are free). But what if there just aren’t any jobs that you’re qualified to do in your town. In many areas, assistance is available only for a limited time, and you must be looking for work. When the time is up – as little as one year in some places – you just stop getting aid.

This is where my cousin had some good ideas. Jobs could be created for people in these situations, and some of them might even end up helping others in that problem list above. Let me explain. Jobs could be created for people who are desperately seeking work. I’m going to make a list of jobs that almost anyone could do, and that don’t require a lot of training. Many of them are jobs currently being done by volunteers, but if local governments could fund some projects, people could be paid for jobs and climb out of their homelessness and poverty. In the long run, it would be cheaper than welfare and other assistance programs. It could even provide experience for potentially permanent jobs and careers.

  • Many retired people own homes but can’t keep up their yards, or can’t afford repairs to keep the home safe and weatherproof. If they could call a community service and ask for yardwork or minor home repairs, someone could be assigned to go do that job and bring back a signed approval when the work was completed – at no cost to the elderly.
  • This same service could send hospital helpers out to read to patients, to help feed them, and to work in volunteer positions in the hospital – giving directions, looking up patient rooms, connecting incoming calls, shuttling visitors to and from their cars, and the like – at no cost to the hospital.
  • Those who are handy in the trades could be “hired” to build Tiny Homes. Old mobile home parks could be converted into places for the Tiny Homes. (See example pictures below. This is NOT a promotional article. ) People working in the program but not having a home could apply to rent one of these living spaces at a discounted rate, and now they have an address! These homes would remain the property of the city/parish/county, etc., and could possibly be a tax write-off for the agency.

C:\Users\JulieB\Documents\Writing-Blogs and Articles\Pictures\th.jpg C:\Users\JulieB\Documents\Writing-Blogs and Articles\Pictures\th[5].jpg

  • Child care centers could be set up near business districts and staffed by parents who have their own children to care for, but who could easily help care for others, too, until they finished a GED program, or a college class, or found an opening for their preferred type of work, or retired people needing to add a bit of additional income to their budget could help feed and rock infants, and prepare lunches for the little ones – at no cost to the working parents.
  • Even minor street and sidewalk repairs or park maintenance could be done in smaller communities that don’t have regular maintenance contracts.
  • Workers could repair school playground equipment, fix or build desks, and keep the school grounds clean.
  • Shelters and soup kitchens often utilize volunteers, but this is also work that job-seekers could do to earn enough money to buy a phone, get a used car, and purchase some new shoes and clothing.

Of course, for most of these jobs, a background check would be needed. Tools might have to be provided, and if the job involved a team, transportation might be required. Sometimes, a person might need special insurance, if they had to drive, for instance. In the scheme of things, though, the developmental benefits received by everyone would far outweigh the costs incurred in setting up and running such a community service. Another huge benefit; it has been proven that job-seekers will be hired sooner if they are already working.

Meanwhile, some of the work could count towards new glasses, or a hearing aid, or dental work…things to help people present well for interviews. These needs might have to be provided prior to working, but could be placed on a “balance forward” jobs projection.

Of course, standard assistance programs will continue for those physically unable to work, such as the elderly and the very ill or injured. But some retired people, and even some who are sick or disabled might be able to do some work from home, such as computer data entry, or web design, or maybe just selling things on E-Bay for others in the work program.

Finally, how do we finance and maintain such a program? Well, we could make it a component of the assistance program that everyone who is healthy enough must either be attending classes for a GED, or must work a certain amount of hours per week unless going on verifiable job interviews. Instead of “collecting” welfare checks, they would receive their check for working – not to be lower than the normal welfare check after taxes. (Pay could go higher for additional hours, or supervisory work, but no lower.) In other words, the budgeted monies for welfare would be used as incentive. This work could be put on a resume, and would be eligible for a tax return for their reported income. Besides gaining income and experience, they gain pride in their work and a sense of worth that they will never attain by getting a welfare check.

Does this solve every problem? Of course not. What is does it provide a starting point for helping people learn to help themselves. For instance, if someone dropped out of school, getting a GED is going to be a minimal requirement, and should be part of this program. Also, there would have to be a minimum amount of hours worked per week… perhaps 30? Minimum wage would not apply, as this would be a temporary program designed to motivate welfare-dependent families to get back on track. This is not designed to be a full-time permanent job, but rather a way to get off assistance programs and develop skills that might lead to a new way of thinking, and even a new vocation. Do you think your local city council or mayor might be interested in something like this? What about your county supervisors?

Let’s hear your thoughts!

More information on tiny homes:

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