Getting into grammar…. or in to vs. into

September 7, 2014

I admired my father but at the same time I am glad or at least comfortable that I am not him or not a carbon copy of him — but I do wish my command of grammar was as good as his. I’m fairly sure he did not make mistakes in grammar (well maybe, I mean who is perfect?). I imagine that is because he was a good student in school from an early age, and remember, they used to call it “grammar school”. Nowadays it’s free-form, anything goes, at least so I am told, and certainly the writing one sees everywhere suggests that.

What prompts this mention is my nagging concern that I probably confuse the uses of “in to” and “into”. My dad always picked up on misuses of those two combinations of words. I’m not going “into” an explanation of the proper use here (you’re on your own on that), except I believe it would be correct to write: “The man turned himself in to the police”, that is if you mean someone gave himself up to the police. And I think that is where dad spotted the misuse in newspaper stories. For if you were to write: “The man turned himself into the police”, you would be describing some type of transformation of character. I mean the man was just an ordinary citizen (or maybe a criminal) and then by his own doing he becomes “the police”.

But the other day I was sending a message to someone remarking about my concern over this usage, that is to say whether I even have it down myself. And then just awhile ago I was trying to look for some guidance on the computer when stories popped up about someone turning himself in to the police, and sure enough, even though it was the same story, that is about the same person and the same incident, some accounts used “in to” and others “into”.

Now probably in this instance there would be no confusion in meaning, but without some type of standards in grammar there can be all kinds of confusion. And when you read something with poor usage and you realize it as such, don’t you automatically question the reliability or credibility of the source?

I may not be as good with grammar as I should be, but I believe in it. And that includes punctuation, but let’s not even go there.

One more thing. I knew English instruction was going downhill when my eighth grade English teacher remarked about herself: “I never was good at spelling”.

P.s.

Besides not being a top grammarian I sometimes purposely violate rules as a matter of style and practicality, and that is always good for an excuse.


Does big money buy influence in politics? Duh, I think so, but participation in the process by voters could override that…

September 4, 2014

Are big campaign contributions nothing more than bribery?

I would think they often are. I mean would anyone think that big donors are just exercising some form of altruistic public duty, promoting democracy? I mean don’t most of them expect something for the dough they are shelling out? Seems like a silly question to me.

But I can’t forget that in a class on state government I took at Chico State University (California) the instructor posited that it could simply be that money buys access, not necessarily votes on legislation — I don’t mean that was his actual position, he was just saying what one argument is. Same difference to me anyway. I mean the politician won’t even listen without the offer of money. The regular guy has no chance.

And just what does “buying access” amount to? Does the politician simply sit there and listen with an open mind and with the 50/50 chance that he will agree or not agree with the donor? Please. That is not to say that in some instances the politician does not reluctantly have to go against the donor’s wishes because of some overriding political concerns and conditions.

But I think the late Charles Keating Jr. of the infamous Savings and Loan Scandal had it right when he said this:
(From the LA Times)

In 1989, Keating addressed the intentions behind his massive political donations to the senators, delivering one of his trademark outrageous comments:

“One question, among many raised in recent weeks, had to do with whether my financial support in any way influenced several political figures to take up my cause,” he said. “I want to say in the most forceful way I can: I certainly hope so.”

————

At least he was honest about that. (Keating died last spring at the age of 90.)

But I would not say that politicians should not be able to accept large donations from individuals or even corporations. If those are the people they want to represent and if money talks, let them be seen for who they are. Let’s just hope a free press informs us of and reminds us about all that.

Maybe because we don’t have strong party politics, supported by local precincts — it’s more individual politicians chasing down high rollers — the broad mass of the electorate is all but frozen out in influence over who runs, who gets into office.

The common people by and large do not involve themselves in politics, the majority don’t even register to vote.

And we wonder why our leaders do not represent us.

I don’t have any real proposal for leveling the playing field, except for keeping informed and voting and sometimes even writing to your representatives. It’s pretty easy to do nowadays with computers. I think they have to pay some attention to their mail (to include email) because I think they still have to get the most votes to get into office.

Sure, your individual crank correspondence all by itself won’t likely carry much weight and may not even reach the pol him or herself, but concerns expressed in a reasonable manner may often coincide with the sentiments with others — and there can be power in numbers.


Both sides wrong, but free Palestine now…

July 28, 2014

I’m not big on the UN but if there ever was a place for it I would say it is in the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Israel killing thousands of of women and children and others is just plain wrong. And so is Hamas firing rockets into Israel. Both the Israeli and Hamas leadership are wrong. And the Palestinian people themselves seem to be following the wrong leadership or maybe they have no choice.

So far more than a thousand Palestinians have been reported killed (and of course there are the wounded) and less than a hundred Israelis.

The current flare-up in the decades-long conflict is blamed on Israeli soldiers killing a couple of Palestinian youths and then a seeming reprisal with the kidnap and murder of several Israeli youths — and the true circumstances  of any of all this is of course only known to those involved and still alive.

But whatever the case, the UN should step in full force. And the United States should use whatever influence it has and demand once and for all that Palestine become a free state separate from Israel.

Hamas probably does not represent the best interests of the Palestinian people. Any organization that would do things that they know will only lead to the death of their own people and on such a large scale is evil.

Israel is definitely caught in a bind. It does have to defend itself. But somehow killing women and children, even as they lie in hospitals (even if Hamas essentially uses the as shields by placing missile launchers in adjacent areas), cannot be moral or right.

Why Palestine cannot be a free state is beyond me.

The United States should demand Israel come to terms with the Palestinians once and for all or it should wash its hands of the problem and Israel.


All’s quiet where I am near the border…

July 11, 2014

Been off the blog for several days due to the requirements of my real job. But here I am today near the Mexican border, just north of Nogales, Az., at Rio Rico. All is quiet. Have not seen any refugee children from Latin America yet. Have not even seen any illegal aliens sneaking through the sagebrush or hiding behind cacti. I did pass the border check (several miles north of the border) at which all northbound traffic is stopped at least momentarily — I will go through this later today. Always tons of Border Patrol vehicles there, and many officers, many of whom just seem to be standing around. Do the illegal aliens dutifully go through the official border check? One would think they would skirt around that. I know they are looking for drugs too. Sometimes they have drug-sniffing dogs. I am usually not even stopped, just waved through, or maybe I get a quick: are you a U.S. citizen? On a few occasions officers have made a cursory check of my big truck trailer and maybe even peeped into the sleeper to see if I had any passengers

But seriously this issue of so many thousand children crossing into the U.S. unaccompanied is worrisome. Certainly it would seem to me that we have no choice but to provide decent quarters and decent food and water for them while things are sorted out. Some say what is really going on is that parents hope to follow them or other family members are already here. One Mexican-American I heard on a talk show even suggested that many of the children are actually poor Mexicans who are claiming to be from countries in Central and South America whose citizens we offer refugee status to because of the turmoil in their own nations. I would not know myself (and he probably does not either).

It would also seem to me that once each individual’s identity and status is determined that most of them should be sent back to their native lands. We just can’t take care of the whole world. We really need to talk to those countries and find out what their problem is, that is to say why they cannot take care of their own people. It is our business because it is affecting us.

We also are sorely in need of immigration reform. Our so-called political leaders only seem to care about the next election and which side of the issue to be seen on, and they try to be ready to switch at a moment’s notice depending upon which way the wind is blowing.

There are so many competing interests: On the one hand new arrivals offer cheap labor (although some of these may be a little young). On the other hand they compete for U.S. jobs in a wide array of areas, to include agricultural field and packing house work, food service, domestic services, and construction, as well as others. Does a politician try to craft a policy that benefits working people or businesses who favor cheap, vulnerable labor? So-called conservatives rail against our “open” or porous borders but they don’t always support sanctions on businesses who hire undocumented workers. Liberals call illegals “immigrants”, just as if they were people who had applied for citizenship and decry our treatment of them. But at the same time they complain that illegals lured in by business interests compete for jobs and bring wages down.

And just what is our immigration policy and why is it what it is? I have no idea, I must confess, but let me ask you this: do you?

And one more note before I close. Some of the photos I have seen of these refugee children show rather nicely dressed young folk. Poor people don’t look the same as they did in the past. Just an observation, nothing more. I confess I only saw the photos hurriedly. Maybe I should look again.

P.s.

A double check of news reports reminds me that most of these children are coming across the border into Texas. But there is a huge warehouse (complete with coolers) in Nogales being used to temporarily house some of these children, according to one report.

I don’t know what is wrong in Central America and other parts of Latin  America, but maybe all these years if we would have been trying to help the people and not just anti-communist strong men, things might have progressed better. Foreign policy is always a tough one.

P.s. P.s.

As I was leaving Rio Rico I saw the large “Homeland Security” bus at the truck stop with an armed driver. Could not see whether he had passengers. This border stuff is big business. Lots of people on the payroll.

The Border Patrol officer waved me on with a smile after I briefly stopped.


Three hundred a few days ago turns into 750 U.S. troops in Iraq…

July 1, 2014

Well that was quick. A few days ago we were sending a mere 300 troops or military advisors back to Iraq (plus drones), no boots on the ground, or at least not a substantial force. We were emphatically NOT getting back into the war — Obama promised that. Now we are bringing the total up to 750 for security reasons.

I think if you read the history of Vietnam (and I know I have constantly used Vietnam an analogy, but is so often fits) you will see that at one point we sent in Marines to guard airfields. Well strange thing, the enemy shot at them and then we went whole hog and at the height had committed a half million of our military there.

And ironies of all ironies, the news today is that Ahmad Chalabi, the character who misguided the George W. Bush administration about the apparently non-existent weapons of mass destruction and who used this device to siphon millions of U.S. taxpayer dollars via the CIA into his own pockets, is in the running to be the next prime minister of Iraq. So to use another Vietnam analogy, we would be put into the position of supporting another corrupt leader in an unwinnable war.

Iraq is not Vietnam. But it has the potential of being even worse.

(And today communist — but essentially capitalist in economics — Vietnam is a peaceful trading partner with the United States.)

I don’t for a minute question the danger to the United States and the free world of so-called Islamic militants getting more of a foothold in the region, but we should not again let ourselves be drug into the quagmire. We have to find other means of fighting the terrorists.

If the terrorists do take hold in the region, one day in the future the inhabitants will look around and wonder why the rest of the world has it so much better and cast off the yoke of oppression.

It happened in Eastern Europe. And in a peaceful way.

Really the people there have to make a decision.


Latest high court ruling shows a problem with health insurance tied to work…

June 30, 2014

Note: I’ve dashed this off without really knowing the full extent of the latest high court ruling on Obamacare, that is exactly who it applies to, but I can revise later. The points I have below would apply anyway I think. Okay, now I’m reading that this was a narrow ruling that only applies to certain for-profit religious run or connected corporations. I’ll take the easy way out here and add this partially explanatory excerpt from an NBC News story: The U.S. Supreme Court, in a limited decision, ruled Monday that closely held, for-profit companies can claim a religious exemption to the Obamacare requirement that they provide health insurance coverage for contraceptives.

For-profit corporations — including Conestoga Wood of Pennsylvania, owned by a family of Mennonite Christians, and Hobby Lobby, a family-owned chain of arts and crafts stores founded on Biblical principles — had challenged a provision of the Affordable Care Act.

——————-

Now back to my own words:

For most working people it is a somewhat uncomfortable but accepted fact that employers pretty much run their lives — even more than government maybe.

They determine what days you work and how much you work, either not enough or too much, and how much you will get paid and therefore what kind of lifestyle you can live.

Now with the latest ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court, employers have even more control, especially if you are female. Since so many people have their health insurance through their employment, employers can now decide whether you will have access to birth control. The court has in effect revised an Obamacare  provision requiring employer health plans to provide birth control provisions — in some cases (some) it can be ignored on religious grounds.

The controversy arises from the objection of employers who have religious convictions against birth control, as in God wants you to be fruitful and multiply.

I’m not sure but what I don’t agree with the court on this one — well actually now I have just hurriedly scanned the opinion and may change my mind. I mean you can’t just not follow the law of the land by claiming religious exemptions for things you don’t agree with, such as paying taxes. Anyway this all demonstrates a problem with having your health care dependent upon your place of work. Health care has come to be seen as a right and Obamacare seeks to implement that right. But why should employers be able to mess with that right? But then again why should employers be in the health care business anyway? I know it all began after World War II when employers in boom times were adding incentives to attract workers and health care was one of them.

But these days the world is more complex and health care has expanded so much and the costs are so high and the work place has changed — so many more women in the workplace for one thing — and the nature of work has changed. People are often forced to move from one job to another and unemployment runs high. It sometimes is difficult to have continuous health care coverage on the health insurance attached to work scheme of things.

And now if the employer can determine what you will be covered for and what not — really that is not practical or even right. But I agree I think that an employer should not have to violate religious convictions, except that maybe that is what the employer takes on when the employer hires from the general public who have First Amendment rights on religion.

And are we talking about employers as individual real people or the imaginary personhood of corporations? That is another subject. But from my limited understanding of constitutional law the personhood of corporations is merely a legal device to confer certain rights and protections in business dealings and should not be construed to confer all the rights upon a corporation  — which is nothing but a set of legal documents — that a real live human being has (except the majority on the high court and Mitt Romney believe corporations are “people too”). But like I say, that is another subject.

So to sum it up, I think health insurance tied to one’s work can be problematic.

P.s.

Here is a link to the ruling: http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/13pdf/13-354_olp1.pdf

 


Is the current IRS scandal biggest political one ever?

June 26, 2014

Syndicated radio talk show host Tom Sullivan thinks the current IRS controversy over alleged targeting of primarily conservative groups is maybe the biggest scandal ever. He likens it to Watergate.

A little early to tell, but I doubt it. Sullivan does point out that it took a year or more for the Watergate scandal to take off.

Probably by the time this one got anywhere President Obama will be out of office, having served two full terms.

There is a striking similarity in the two scandals. President Richard Nixon attempted to use the power of the IRS go after his political enemies, but the IRS balked at that (actually I had not realized the IRS did not cooperate before refreshing myself on the facts as they are known). In the current scandal is appears the IRS actually did go after conservative groups, and to be fair, even some progressive or liberal groups, but seemed to zero in more on the conservative groups. It involved tax-exempt status.

In the Watergate scandal there were the infamous, and most convenient, missing tapes from the oval office. In the current IRS case there are the missing e-mails and the mysterious and too coincidental “crashing” of computer hard drives, destroying or obstructing possible evidence of possible IRS wrongdoing. The IRS of course is not supposed to carry out its tax-collecting work based on politics.

If it could be proved that the IRS did go after people based on their opposition to the current administration, and furthermore if it were shown this was directed or even known about from on high (the oval office), then surely this would have the potential of being one of the biggest scandals ever.

Sullivan and others seem to think a too-friendly-to-the-White House media is ignoring the story for the most part. Well there is no such thing, especially these days with the internet, as one solid group called the media that supposedly controls the message. But I do notice it is not getting as much play as one might suppose in what is still called the mainstream press. But again, Watergate took quite awhile to get anywhere. But Nixon had another term to deal with. He ended up resigning the presidency after a landslide win against one of the weakest characters, in terms of politics and leadership potential, ever to run for president — George McGovern. But Obama is already in his second and by law final term.

In the case of Nixon, we probably knew then and certainly know now that much of the Watergate evidence has been made fully public, that he had an evil, vindictive personality that made him quite capable of employing every trick in the book (Tricky Dick they called him) against his opponents. With Obama, we really don’t have that background on him. It seems unlikely that he would have personally directed a campaign by the IRS against political enemies (did he know about it?).

Sullivan claimed that former IRS official Lois Lerner bragged about going after conservative groups, at least that was the message I got from the way he described it. But in the story I just now looked up in the Washington Post, it seems that Lerner did admit the targeting did take place but in typical bureaucratic ambiguity she claimed there was no partisan effort there — it was just that they were flooded with applications from advocacy groups for tax-exempt status and needed a way of sorting them out. Whatever.

So was it rogue agents in the IRS or a plot by the administration?

Certainly this has the potential for biggest ever scandal but somehow I think events will push it aside.

Obama is now faced with the legacy of the president who lost Iraq after nearly 5,000 U.S. soldiers gave their lives in the effort (started by George W. Bush and then given up by Obama, but really a no-win situation from the beginning).


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