The mob versus elected government out in Nevada

April 19, 2014

Like I always say, I am no more afraid of big government than I am of vigilantes, who might go under the name of or carry the banner of militias or the Tea Party. To be clear, I realize government can get so big and powerful that it can destroy our personal freedoms (spying on our every move via cell phones and the internet, and drones?).

Out in the wilds of Nevada an outlaw rancher who seems to think he can graze his cattle of federal lands without paying the required fees has gained the support of that vigilante-type fringe. And some opportunist politicians and ratings-driven right-wing talk show hosts have joined the cause and elements of the amorphous Tea Party have given him their backing — I mean if it’s against the government, they’re all in.

U.S. Sen. Harry Reid, though, has come out against the rancher’s actions, calling his supporters “domestic terrorists”. And if he is referring to the extreme element I would agree.

One fairly reasonable right-wing talk show host (I know a kind of oxymoron) said that some of the protestors in the rancher’s favor seemed to be every-day people. And that may be true. It also may be true that they are the kind of every-day people who are swayed by propaganda. That host conceded that the rancher was breaking the law.

I mean isn’t the right-wing all for law and order?

This rancher, and sorry, I should write his name, Cliven Bundy, is breaking the law and has been all through the courts and continually lost. He has wild claims that the land does not belong to the federal government, that it belongs to the state (is he paying the state?), and that he has special rights, well because his family has been there for a long time.

Now to be fair, as I understand it, part of the beef (intentional play on words) he has is that the feds keep reducing the number of cattle allowed on federal lands, sometimes using the excuse, among other things, that the desert tortoise habitat needs to be preserved. And I wouldn’t know, maybe it does. I mean killing off a species just so we can have more hamburgers does not seem wise to me.

Things change. The world has moved on. Bundy is said to be the only cattle rancher left in his area.

I could probably work up some sympathy for him. But it seems to me, he, as everyone else, is obligated to work within the law.

Things got ugly the other day when federal officers tried to round up his cattle trespassing on federal land. A group of supporters stood in the way and reportedly assaulted some of the feds, and there were reports of Tasers used on Bundy and the citizens. In the end the feds backed off and have reportedly resolved to try to work things out peacefully.

And one story going around is that Sen. Reid, remember? who called the mob “domestic terrorists”, actually wants federal land used for solar projects, which his son in involved in, or at least that his son is involved in some solar project and there is some kind of connection, and furthermore, the question is asked: don’t solar projects endanger the desert tortoise? So the solar thing about the Reid father and son may or may not have any validity, but time does march on and we change our ways of doing things. It may or may not be that in the long run solar poses more advantages for the people as a whole than allowing cattle ranchers to graze on public lands — I don’t know.

But what I do know is that I prefer a government run by democratically elected officials to be in charge, not the mob.

P.s.

Down Mexico way local vigilantes have taken on the drug cartels with some success that the Mexican government has not had — problem is in some cases the local vigilantes have turned out to be as lawless and as dangerous to the safety of the people as the drug cartels.

 

 


It’s hard to get someone to make the conventional milk shake (at least for me)…

April 14, 2014

I love chocolate milk shakes. I just have a hard time getting anyone to make one for me. I mean I can make my own at home and do occasionally, but out on the road I have difficulty.

Now I’m not talking those instant faux milk shakes they offer at modern fast food outlets — no problem getting them. But they do not taste like real milk shakes.

I’m talking the kind the kind they typically serve (or did) at lunch counters, the kind they make with that weird mixer with the slim blade (not the egg beater mixer one might have at home — well everyone uses blenders now). The kind they serve you in a tall glass with the metal canister that it was made in on the mixer sitting beside your glass so when you finish the glass you have a whole additional glass of milk shake waiting for you.

I’m a long distance truck driver and in this kind of work one thinks about two things a lot: when do I get to hit the bunk and where is my next meal? At some point I got this craving for milk shakes. I mean I have always liked them, but one day out on the road years ago it occurred to me that, hey, I’m an adult, I can just stop and have one anytime (time permitting of course).

But I have encountered a strange phenomenon: a lot of people at restaurants or lunch counters don’t like making them, even though they are offered on the menu. Now this is not always the case, but then again it is often the case, at least in my own individual experience.

This is what I have encountered over the past several years:

I went into one well-known restaurant chain location and ordered a milk shake. The waitress looked kind of peeved at me and warned me it would be a while. I thought, oh, she must be pretty busy. Well I had time. I’d wait. But she went about doing all kinds of things, some of which did not seem all that important to me (such as stopping to gab with co-workers). And after some time it became apparent to me that she had no intention of ever making that milk shake. I just walked out. By that time I had no more time.

At another place, I ordered a milk shake and I could see by the expression on the waitress’ face that she was not delighted with the order. And I should add that in these cases a milk shake is an order that your waitress or waiter makes up, not someone in the kitchen (I mean you knew that, but it’s an added chore for the wait person I am emphasizing).

The waitress asked a co-worker to make the milkshake. An argument ensued over who would make it. I got up and said: “that’s okay, I’ll just skip it.” The whole situation was ludicrous, annoying, and somewhat embarrassing to me.

And here’s one: for years I would pass this ice cream parlor near a truck stop. There would be some trucks parked in front. Finally one day when I was having one of those milk shake cravings I chose to stop there. I forget the name of the place but it was a woman’s first name. From the conversation inside and observation I took it that the older lady who waited on me was the owner. I sat down at a lunch counter stool and ordered a milk shake. She told me it would be a while. And it was. She took her time waiting on and gabbing with other people. But I waited it out. The milk shake as I recall was nothing special — I thought maybe at a place specializing in ice cream, but anyway…

And then there was the time not long ago that I ordered a milk shake in a newly refurbished truck stop restaurant. The waitress turned up her nose and said they did not serve milk shakes, they specialized in “fine dining”. Hey, I’ve eaten the food there and there is nothing “fine” about it, mediocre at best. She said that they sometimes had them made up in an adjacent deli counter but their machine was broken. But she did serve me a milk shake. She did it the way I have done it sometimes. She simply stuffed some ice cream into a glass and added some milk and stirred it all together with a spoon — in that “fine dining” restaurant.

And my most recent experience was at still another truck stop restaurant. I ordered a milk shake and the waitress got that now quite familiar expression on her face that seemed to ask “why me?”

She then proceeded to wait on other customers and do various other chores — and in no particular hurry. But finally she came back to the milk shake machine and proceeded to dish out the ice cream and put it on the mixer. But she left that thing there for what seemed an eternity and went about doing other things, such as wiping off tables and whatever else wait staff do, including waiting on customers — but the place was not real busy at the time. I of course should have reminded her about my milk shake or asked someone else. I chose to leave.

I’m getting the message. The hired help does not like to make milk shakes.

But the cravings will get to me and I will keep ordering them from time to time.

And if I want one bad enough I guess I’ll just wait and not be afraid to remind whoever of my order.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


We need safety exits for commerical buses…

April 12, 2014

The sound bite from an interview of a student in that horrendous truck into bus crash at Orland, Ca. (happened Thursday evening) said that students had to break out a window for those fortunate ones who escaped death (ten people dead and many injured).

There were something like 48 people on board the bus (exact number I do not know), including high school age students from the Los Angeles area, along with adult chaperones. Both the truck and bus driver were among those killed.

It was a commercial tour bus (not a school bus). One wonders why there was not a safety exit and an easier and more expedient and even safer way of escaping. And now we are told the National Transportation and Safety Board recommended requirements for escape doors/windows way back in 1999 — but nothing has happened.

Money/profit beats safety much of the time.

No we can’t protect our children and ourselves from everything and we have to keep things in balance. It’s a dangerous world. But I think this proves something needs to be done.

The reports I have heard and read say that there were multiple explosions and fireballs and people from miles away felt something like an earthquake. How terrible for the poor souls trapped in the inferno. And of course how tragic for those injured (and even those not injured), and for those who lost friends and children and loved ones. Among the dead were even a couple in their 20s who had planned to marry soon. They had made that decision in Paris.

We don’t know yet (and it may be some time) what caused that truck to veer over the median. That may lead to other safety concerns.

And I am a truck driver myself. The most terrible thing can happen in a split second out on that roadway (and I travel that stretch constantly).

P.s.

And it occurs to me that the more safety guards they can install in medians between directions of travel the better. At the section in question I believe tall bushes are in the median. They are pleasant to look at but all they do is obscure vision and stop nothing from coming through. On some sections of freeway cable barriers have been installed. I think they can be effective (maybe not always, not sure).

 


Top brass base salaries on responsibility and then take none (responsibility that is) …

April 10, 2014

Why is it that CEOs justify their gargantuan salaries (millions,billions) in part by the heavy burden of responsibility and liability they shoulder but when the you-know-what hits the fan they feign ignorance as a defense and find scapegoats?

It seems like that might be what is happening at GM over the faulty ignition switch that has reportedly led to deaths and injury. GM has announced the suspension (with pay) of two engineers. The corporation has not disclosed anything specific other than that and has not even named them. It says an investigation is ongoing.

What we do know is that GM top brass (not just possibly two engineers) knew about the ignition switch problem for more than a decade but decided it would be too costly to do anything about it, that is until incriminating evidence was found by a lawyer suing them. Government safety agencies had failed to notice anything amiss. But now GM is involved in a massive recall.

As I read it, the failure of the ignition switch led to air bags not deploying in crashes. GM had not warned customers of the problem.

First of all it seems apparent that the leadership of GM knew about the problem and in fact impossible that it did not.

Second of all captains get blamed for things that happen on their ship whether they knew about them or not because it is their job to know.

The current CEO, Mary T. Barra, cannot hide behind the claim well she was not on the job when it all took place — she assumed command and now she must deal with the problem. She tried to talk around it and white wash the whole thing before a congressional hearing but then her interrogators failed to back down and she changed her tone a little.

And here is a little aside here: on one right-wing talk show I sometimes catch I found the host and some of his callers down on GM. Usually you would not hear them be against corporate America and an American car maker at that. But then I got the idea they were digging at GM because of the fact that it got such a bailout from the taxpayers. And I think I am correct in saying that the bailout was pushed by primarily Democrats trying to save union jobs. We know that the right wing detests unions (even if some or many right wing-nuts at the working man level are union members).

But politics aside, it seems to me GM has made an egregious and criminal (criminal at least in scale) safety error. I certainly would pause before buying a GM product.

On the other hand, Japanese auto maker Toyota has just announced a massive recall. Seems like that company is at least trying to get ahead of the game seeing what happened to GM.

I’m all for American made products. But our American companies have to act responsibly. And we need leaders both on the political level and corporate level with morals. Why does money always seem to get in the way of all that?

 

P.s.

And of course we know that the governmental agencies that are supposed to be a watchdog on safety and consumer interests often have an incestuous relationship with those they regulate, due to the revolving door between government and corporate jobs. You really should not even be allowed to have a government oversight job if you have worked for those of whom you are to have oversight over.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Campaign finance laws made incumbents more secure…

April 9, 2014

Money in politics is not the problem, so says columnist David Brooks of the New York Times, and I think he makes sense. In a recent column he said that the weakening of political parties that has come partly as the result of campaign finance laws created a situation in which individual candidates raise the money themselves and essentially kowtow to special interests with that money (my wording here).

On the one had it has made life more difficult for incumbents because they have to spend so much time fundraising and kissing up to special interests and they have to hire fund-raiders and consultants and such, but on the other hand it has made their jobs much more secure. The amount of money a challenger has to raise to beat an incumbent is astronomical, and the challenger does not have as much help available from weakened political parties.

It has been noted for, well decades now I think, that the political parties are not what they used to be. At one time parties served as a vehicle where somewhat differing ideas coalesced into policy or platforms. Now it’s individual candidates chasing money and doing the bidding of special interests (I’m combining here things Brooks said and things I have read and noticed. I’ll provide a link to his column).

I had wanted to include the Brooks column (or mention of it) when I did my original post in reaction to the latest Supreme Court ruling which was seen as adding even more money influence into politics, but time did not permit me to. I actually have to work at my real job.

Brooks says the latest ruling actually will work to give back some strength to the parties.

Here’s a link to his column: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/04/opinion/brooks-party-all-the-time.html?ref=davidbrooks

My original post follows:

Maybe it’s too bad that the conservative Supreme Court majority keeps making rulings that make it even easier for big money to decide who gets elected and then use the power of their money to buy votes for their pet projects and to make sure elected officials support their interests.

But maybe it’s too bad that the general public falls for the phony and shallow campaign ads, that is the small portion who actually vote, and maybe it’s too bad few people follow the issues.

Big money has an interest in the political process. The general public seems not to have.

Of course to some extent the established news media often play along and simply keep up the accepted narrative, pretending to show both sides.

But I don’t think campaign spending limits do the job anyway and probably are too hard and too expensive to enforce.

As far as spending money on a campaign being free speech, though, I don’t quite buy that. Just like I don’t buy burning the American flag being free speech. No I don’t see the constitutional issue in spending limits. I just think they don’t work.

(I just threw the flag thing in there. I don’t think people should burn the symbol of our nation. And I don’t think they are engaging in speech when they do so. There are plenty of ways to protest things without doing that.)

For those of us who try to follow the issues and try to find out who the different candidates really are, well we do have something to complain about. But for the mass of the electorate who choose to just read the headlines and listen to the sound bites, or just tune out altogether, they deserve what they get for their ignorance.

One big problem in all of this is that money seems to be the paramount measure of support for a candidate. You can’t even get into a primary race or a debate without being up there in the fund raising. You can’t very well have hundreds of candidates for one office, so they are weeded out based on money raised.

And then there is the age-old question of does money buy votes? Or does it just buy access (same difference to me)? Well of course it does, that is it buys access for sure, and usually or often with that it buys votes. Money talks, bull crap walks.

It would be difficult to impossible to take money out of the equation.

The only answer is an educated and engaged electorate.

I am getting the idea that both civics and the political process are not taught well in school.

P.s.

That makes me think of voting registration drives. If you have to be talked into registering to vote, I’d rather you did not vote. We have too many uninformed people voting already, most likely.

 


We’re hell bent on exploiting mother nature, tomorrow be damned

March 31, 2014

We seem to be hell bent on extracting everything we can from the earth and as fast as we can in the name of energy and jobs and tomorrow be damned.

Now climate change skeptics and anti-environmental movement people or those who are just disinterested will just find that first sentence alarmist or just the rant of a tree hugger.

Well I am an environmentalist of sorts, at least to the extent I prefer that we do the best we can to preserve our environment while maintaining our modern lifestyle the best we can.

But here’s the deal: You know that terrible landslide in Washington state which destroyed so much property and killed so many people and tore apart so many lives, well now I read that despite the fact that locals say no one could have known it would happen, there were earlier reports of an unstable mountainside highly susceptible to a landslide if there were development. But who wants to read such a report, especially if it means eroding property values?

And I read that the area was heavily logged by the clear cut method where you totally denude the once forested land.

Now you can’t just say don’t cut trees down. We need the lumber to build houses and other structures. We need the jobs that such an endeavor produces. But when we get carried away and wind up being not good stewards of the land, bad things happen.

One of the articles I read mentioned the Dust Bowl on the Great Plains in the 1930s that coincided with the Great Depression and noted that droughts were historical on the land — poor farming/cultivation practices led to the devastating dust storms.

And now “fracking” is all the rage in our effort to extract natural gas, never mind what it might do to the land. We need energy and we need jobs.

Canada, once so environmentalist, now has energy blinders on and is going whole hog exploiting the tar sands and lessening its own environmental regulations.

Even President Obama seems to be leaning toward approval of the Keystone Pipeline, which environmentalist have heavy concerns over.

You can get carried away with environmental regulations. I mean I live in timber country where once the main employment was in the timber industry, much of it at saw mills and lumber re-manufacturing. When I was in high school it was said that half the town was employed at one mill and half at the other. I even worked in the industry for a short term after I got out of the army (it’s hard work). And then I think two things happened, foreign competition and the spotted owl. Logging was heavily restricted and I think barred from some old growth timber where the spotted owl supposedly restricted is nesting to. And then some environmentalist detractors said the spotted owls were nesting nicely in new growth timber — I wouldn’t know, just like I never know for sure how dangerous various things are to the environment — but we all know that you have to take good care of the earth to sustain its bounty.

But caution and moderation run headlong into the economics of we must have as much money as we can now and let tomorrow and another generation take care of itself.

Another major problem is that our leaders are more concerned about elections and the big money that powers them, the same big money pushing for energy development at any cost, than what is good for sustaining our earth and what is best for human life. And furthermore the vast public is indifferent, each person only concerned about his or her immediate need for the day.

Here is a link to one of the articles that got me going on this: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/31/opinion/is-canada-tarring-itself.html?hpw&rref=opinion

 

Have a nice day.

 

 

 

 


Political office should be a civic duty, not a profession…

March 30, 2014

I just skimmed through the FBI affidavit on Leland Yee, the latest California state senator to be arrested, and if it is accurate, well he certainly is a scum bag and deserves to be put in a cell and the key tossed away. With three senators facing criminal charges, one has to wonder if the whole legislature is not just one big den of corruption. It does not help the Democrats that all are their own. It’s like Tammany Hall all over again, but this time in California, instead of New York, and two centuries later. Politics has always been at least somewhat corrupt and probably always will be. Money and power do it every time.

But I say all the more reason to abandon the idea of holding elected office as a profession. Public office should be held by folks who simply want to serve as a civic duty and who are willing and able to accept only a small stipend. That may be problematic, but enough is enough with this corruption.

Yee had run unsuccessfully for mayor of San Francisco.  In one part of the FBI affidavit, he is quoted or described as saying that the office would give him control of billions of dollars (of public money).

I realize that the argument in favor of paying politicians is so they do not succumb to the temptations of bribery. But that is the reason we need to begin by making political office something attractive to honest people who simply want to perform a civic duty. And we might be better off with people who only serve their turn as a civic duty. Of course that potentially leaves permanent staff to fill the power void. Limit staff. Nothing is perfect. We also need better press watch dogs. But of course the public has been trained to dislike the messenger.

Nonetheless I still am wary of sting operations. My original post of March 28:

 

BLOGGER’S NOTE: The thesis of this post concerns the efficacy and the ethics and even the legality of sting operations. I wrote the original post hurriedly and now have only slightly reworded the parts concerning criminal charges because it is still not clear to me what they are. I have not read everything yet. But it’s in the news for anyone who has time — but the point is a prominent figure has been arrested in a sting operation and there is talk of great political corruption and gun running and bribes. I’ll try to write more when I have more details (time to read the stuff). In my original post,  for example, I mentioned drug running but I am not sure that authorities allege that the state senator was involved in that specifically. It’s just that in an initial news report I heard that mentioned. Anyway, to convict someone there has to be solid evidence. I wonder why the authorities don’t let it play out in court.

—————

I have trouble with sting operations. I’m talking about the kind where the cops induce someone to commit a criminal act and then arrest them.

The current big scandal in California state politics is the arrest of State Senator Leland Yee, a Democrat from San Francisco, by the FBI in connection with illegal gun running and political corruption.

And in the way it is reported in the initial stories one would be led to believe that he was directly involved in all of this, but you read far enough you find that most of it is implied and that he is charged with going along with undercover agents in these schemes and beyond that the authorities even report that at times he balked — but then again apparently he did not just say no. He also apparently did not report the activity. I mean if you are a senator and someone wants you to help them buy illicit arms maybe you should report it.

And I have to suppose where there is smoke there is fire. I would hope the authorities have more solid evidence against him. And I guess one reason they use sting operations is that these guys are so slippery that they can at once act as if they are turning someone down but at the same time do nothing to stop the process but somehow claim they knew nothing about it all.

Even so, it all seems like entrapment to me, something we are always led to believe is  a no-no in this country. I mean in other places without personal liberties police used trumped-up charges all the time.

I also find it strange that so many of his colleagues are jumping on the bandwagon denouncing him. He has only been charged. Now certainly there rightfully has to be some suspension of his duties when he is under such a cloud. And again, I imagine where there is smoke there is fire. But what ever happened to you are innocent until proven guilty?

—————-

Add 1: Three state legislators in all are involved in corruption scandals and face charges, including Lee, and have now been suspended, albeit with pay, from their duties. Legislative leaders and Gov. Jerry Brown have called on all three to resign, but so far they have not.

————————-

Oh, and I should mention that the great irony in all of this is that Yee has been a strong supporter of gun control and transparency in government. His foes are having a heyday with that.

And from what I have read so far at the least the man is highly cynical of the democratic (small d) process. He seems to have settled for the fact that money and quid pro quo is the way things get done.

I have not done a complete analysis of this whole thing, just working off the initial reports, but I wish that when these things came down the authorities could hold up true evidence and not the purported results of what often seem questionable sting tactics.

They better have more. History is replete with lost cases in these things.

————-

Add 2:

Yee was running for California Secretary of State but suspended his campaign for that, but as I understand it, his name will still appear on the ballot.

————————–

Add 3:

I take a shortcut here for further clarification and to put all this into context with this link:

http://www.mercurynews.com/california/ci_25440366/state-senate-vote-suspend-yee-calderon-and-wright

—————————–

P.s.

I’ll probably write more later on this. Others are involved, to include a character named Raymond “Shrimp Boy” Chow, an ex-con who had supposedly turned over a new leaf and had been lauded by respectable figures, including U.S. Sen. Diane Feinstein.

And some of this takes place in San Francisco’s Chinatown and involves a social/criminal group called the Tongs (that’s the short name I think). It reads like a novel and/or a movie script.


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