Knowing and using foreign languages is great, but there is a time and place maybe…

May 26, 2016

Learning Spanish is a hobby of mine. I mean I have been at it for probably three decades, or at least I trace it back to when I took courses in it as a returning student to college in my 40s. But at 66 now I have really only begun to really study it in the past two years, and what a shame, I could have been using it so much these past two decades as a truck driver — it is the language many places I go.

Sure made my vacation trips to Spain during the last two Autumns more fun.

So I am certainly aware of how helpful and even how fulfilling it can be to learn a second language (or more). But at the same time, I agree that English is the language of the United States (even though not officially by law). And I think it is best that dignitaries making addresses to the general public stick to English, unless possibly they are in front of a basically Spanish-speaking-only audience (and the same would hold true for other languages of course).

I say this in reaction to an article I just read about a female Spanish language news network presenter getting booed when she spoke Spanish before a graduating class at a Southern California college. Only some of her remarks were in Spanish, but she combined the Spanish with congratulating the Hispanics in the audience for their achievements. Apparently some non-Hispanics wondered what was up with that, what about them? And I guess she also got some boos for anti-Trump comments (heck I’d let her by on that one).

So I would not say she was wrong in her use of Spanish there, but it is questionable.

More questionable is the use by politicians of foreign languages. I think it certainly is okay if they are before an audience whose majority are only fluent in that language but otherwise probably better to save your language skills for another time, such as when you meet a foreign leader and find you can speak his or her tongue. Now that would be invaluable.

A common language is important for the stability of a nation. There are nation’s with more than one official language — Canada has English and French — but such a situation has historically brought problems with it. When people identify with a language over the country they live in there can be disunity, even peaceful Canada has had problems with the French separatist movement in the past.

Also I don’t think political candidates really get much boost from showing off their foreign language skills. Videos of Mitt Romney speaking what appeared to be fluent French — he served as a Mormon missionary in France — surfaced and seemed to work to his detriment. The other Mormon, Jon Huntsman, at being prompted I think, showed off his apparent skill in Chinese, and was ridiculed for it.

And again, although I am a foreign language wannabe of sorts (at times I have tried to learn German and French, besides my continual quest to learn more Spanish), I was frankly turned off when John Kerry’s wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry, went into Spanish (was it? or French? Italian? All three?she speaks at least five languges) at a Democratic Party convention. Hey, this is the United States of America. We speak English. We formed a the world’s strongest democracy as the result of colonists seeking the “right’s of Englishmen”.

(I think I have some English in my blood, but mostly German and French.)

I am impressed, though, by people who are fluent in multiple languages. And I certainly know it can make a world of difference in communication. And I think the world would be a lot duller place without multiple languages. And I think the various languages have their own beauty.

But there is a time and place for the use of foreign languages.

And I also resent people using foreign languages as a secret code to talk about others. That is about as rude as you can get.

My favorite story about that was when I was in the U.S, Army in Germany I had a sergeant who said he went to an on-post housing office and the staff was German nationals. They said insulting things about him in German. Then he told them what he was there for in perfect German. Unbeknown to them, he was a German national who had joined the U.S. Army.

 


Once again we attempt to choose the lesser of evils; Hillary’s email thing still unclear to me even with new revelations…

May 26, 2016

Have we been here before? Choosing the lesser of evils?

Have not had time to sort things out, but with the latest news that State Department investigators have concluded that Hillary Clinton clearly broke rules on using email and handling sensitive or classified information, using a private server, and indicated that she has wrongly stated that she asked permission to use the private server (I think that is what they say), I have to wonder if Bernie Sanders might stand a chance after all. Probably not.

And why could not have Elizabeth Warren run? She probably made the smart choice and skipped this fiasco and will run next time.

From what I have read I still can’t see if Mrs. Clinton really did anything egregious or beyond what others had been doing. I have to think two things were working here: one, she does, like a lot of office holders, keep her dealings secret, and two, you have that generational divide between old-timers like her who although they (we) use all the new stuff (cell phones, computers, tablets, whatever) they (we) don’t always understand it all or realize the security risks. I mean anytime you are on the web, whether you are Mrs. Clinton, handling important information, or just an ordinary citizen, who nonetheless has info important to yourself, you are vulnerable to computer hackers who steal stuff for gain, blackmail, or just to that show they can and then maybe share it with the world.

Of course Donald Trump is making political hay with all of this. It helps take the focus of his sordid history.

We have two leading candidates who polls show a majority of the people despise. I’m not understanding that one. I am not sure the polls are accurate. I sometimes think the questions pollsters ask or the way they are asked lead to the answers. In other words I don’t know if they really indicate anything useful.

On the other hand, I do have the sense that a whole lot of people support Mrs. Clinton but do not particularly like her style or lack of it. And I think a whole lot of people don’t necessarily approve of the way Mr. Trump handles things or believe in all he says (and he just says anything that comes to mind at the moment and contradicts himself almost or actually in the same sentence) but they so dislike what they call the “establishment” that they think a vote for him is rightful revenge on the powers that be.

Like I say, I have not had time to sort it all out.

p.s.

And then there is the wild notion that enough of the Bernie Sanders followers will be so upset with a Hillary nomination they will vote for Trump, thus giving him the extra votes he needs to move into the White House. One article I just skimmed reasoned that disenchanted left-wing voters in 1968 put a Republican, Nixon, in the White House. I only wish Nixon was running today. I despised him once. I might vote for him today…

 

 

 

 

 

 


Limbaugh and his ilk have awakened the sleeping masses with politics as entertainment…

May 25, 2016

So Rush Limbaugh has lost a lot of advertising — the source of his wealth — because of calling a young college woman a “slut” when she testified before congress on the need for young women like her to have access to birth control pills and to have something in Obamacare that would make it possible for colleges (or other entities) run by religious institutions against birth control (Catholic?) to offer the insurance somehow without getting their hands dirty. He called her a slut (more than once I guess) as a kind of satirical dig against Obamacare I guess.

I know, that’s old news.

But I just read an article in Politico that said he has lost a lot of advertising revenue and potential revenue over that and several radio stations have dropped his program — and yet he is reportedly still the most listened to guy on the radio. So much for radio.

But here’s my take on it: I have never thought Limbaugh was serious about political issues. For him it is a business. And I think he has bragged about that. What his true inner feelings are, heck I don’t know, but his main concern is pulling in the bucks, and he has apparently done quite well at it.

I’m a baby boomer. My first memories about political shows (and they came early — some kids followed sports; I followed politics, to some extent anyway) were those old black and white crudely made productions with their spartan decor and people simply discussing the issues of the day. There was Meet the Press, for example. If you check out the web you could pull up presidential candidate Jack Kennedy on one show (or more). Oh, and the news people were not glamorous for the most part. But back then, most of them were not part of the story — they just facilitated it, you might say. Of course there was the showman, journalist Edward R. Murrow. And he had style. But you had the sense that his efforts were altruistic.

But in my memory most news issue programs (not just straight news broadcasts) strived for some balance (of course there was the old FCC Fairness Doctrine rules). I’m talking about programs on the Big Three, CBS, NBC, ABC.

But there were also the partisan shows, privately syndicated I guess. Typically some strange far-right person. I remember seeing something called the Dan Smoot Report, I think it was called. What was he? A libertarian? John Birch? He was only entertaining in that he wore a suit and sucked on a pipe and talked with a thick twang and appeared to be in a room all by himself. And he seemed so different and I had little to no idea where he was coming from. What his motives were I could not say. Maybe he really believed whatever he was saying or maybe he was just trying to make a living selling books or hard copies of his report.

I don’t know Limbaugh’s full biography, but, from what I have read and even heard him say, he has been in radio a long time and at one time was a disc jockey. He is from I believe Cape Girardeau, Mo. But sometime while working at a Sacramento, Ca. radio station he discovered that if he did that over-the-top right-wing stuff he does so well, people would listen. And he turned it into money. And that is the American way, find what people want and present it to them and make a fortune.

Major news outlets quote him, many political candidates have to respect him, and people untrusting of educated establishment types and people concerned about “multiculturalism” and the ever-changing society around them follow him.

He does point out some flaws in the liberal point of view.

Limbaugh is good entertainment for many.

But thanks in part to Rush and all the Rush wannabes (and there are a ton of them on radio, if you have not noticed), the sleeping masses have been awakened. And they take these guys (and gals) at their word, as one might follow the Messiah.

Entertainment has taken precedence over critical thinking and sober thought and open-mindedness. So much so that we have the specter of  entertainment gone mad as one major contender for the president.

I’d feel a little more comfortable if that same audience availed itself of a wider spectrum of viewpoints and history.

I almost liked political shows better when the sets were spartan and the people unattractive and the talk was seemingly dull.

p.s.

If you did not know and even care, here is a Wikipedia link to Dan Smoot: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dan_Smoot

 

 

 

 

 

 


Mitt Romney could offer a safe alternative…

May 22, 2016

I know Mitt Romney vows that he won’t be running for president this time, and it does seem a bit late for that now anyway, but I wonder if the Republican Party should just draft him — tell him his country, or at least his party, needs him — a call to duty.

And that is not to say I personally think he would make a good president or that he would be better than, say, Hillary Clinton. I certainly think he would be better than the presumptive GOP nominee, but then that is a rather low bar and not a fair comparison to Romney.

On the other hand, Trump seems to be coming on so strong that the GOP die-hards or establishment might be wary of going with the perennial loser Romney because injecting a third person into the November election would most likely split the GOP vote and give Mrs. Clinton the win. They seem to be stuck with the man with the wild comb-over and the loud and dirty mouth.

To be honest, I cannot remember well what Romney is for or against. I look at him as a seemingly level-headed and pragmatic businessman politician, not given to extremes, except maybe patriotism, which is no vice (I think I borrowed that last line from Barry Goldwater).

I do seem to recall that Romney called for expanding our Navy. I personally feel we need to maintain and expand all branches of our military as needed. And even though in these modern times we may not need as many actual boots on the ground as it is sometimes put, I see an expanded troop strength as both something vital for defense and a safety valve for unemployment among young people.

Also, I recall Romney addressing the issue of upside-down mortgages. He took the prudent business approach, suggesting we just needed to let foreclosures clean things up — or something like that. Sounds heartless almost, and coming from such a rich man, but really it made sense. Some of the people injured most during the mortgage crisis were hardworking honest people who paid their mortgages and taxes and then had to watch abandoned houses on their blocks devalue their properties. One has to remember that all mortgages are a risk. And while it is true buyers were taken advantage of or at least lulled into highly risky ventures by unscrupulous and greedy people in the financial industry, except in cases of out-and-out fraud, the buyer has mostly himself (herself) to blame.

I don’t recall what his position might have been on the Wall Street bailouts. Those were wrong. I have never understood why the big banks should not have been put into receivership. Too big to fail set a terrible precedent and in part is what has led to the ongoing rebellion against the old-order establishment.

Yup just writing this stream-of-consciousness, and via the magic of the internet did instant background and found out Romney had good words for the Wall Street bank bailouts, spearheaded by the George Bush (GOP) administration  but was opposed to the auto company bailouts pushed through by Democratic President Barack Obama. I opposed both of them, for the record.

But without going completely over everything Romney has supported and not supported — well he did come up with the model for Obamacare when he was governor of Massachusetts — I think it is safe to say he is more of a moderate than anything else. And while Romney is a member of the ultra-big money set as a hedge fund manager, I don’t see him beholding to anyone, where as Mrs. Clinton must owe some favors by now for all the millions Wall Street has sent her way.

And even so, Hillary is the only plausible choice to avert disaster at this time.

While a change is needed, extremism to the point of unreason or extremism with no coherent policy to allow us to know what we are getting into is not the answer.

Romney could offer stability and moderation and prudent thought.

P.s.

I did not mention Bernie Sanders for the simple reason it seems impossible now that he can get the Democratic nomination.

 

 

 

 

 


Being paid for actual hours you work seems basic, unless you have a choice to leave on time…

May 20, 2016

In a perfect world the government would not need to have rules covering who and under what circumstances should be paid overtime. But employers in general have a long history of squeezing everything they can out of workers and blackmailing them to work overtime hours for free. Not all employers do this, but in general…

The Obama administration has just handed down some new federal overtime rules that raise the income threshold of who must be paid overtime. I don’t know all the details and frankly don’t care, except it made me think about the general subject of overtime.

You’ll remember Scrooge, who said Bah! Humbug! to a day off for Christmas — and with pay! Indeed “rob a man of his money!” (that is the employer being robbed.)

Well, social custom and good will aside, I could almost see his point about being robbed, that is paying someone for not working.

But I cannot see any justification for not paying someone for working.

And then there is that argument over who is a manager, whose job is not just producing widgets, but overseeing others, and whether such a person is already paid a little extra and has more control over his or her own time (might even be able to show up late or leave early sometimes, as long as the management responsibilities are taken care of).

And when you are doing cerebral stuff, you just can’t shut off the widget machine — it might force you to put in a little more time, but you get a bigger salary and more perks — well supposedly.

But just designating someone a chief and not just an Indian (and no offense to Indians, American or those from the sub continent) to get out of paying more for more work is on its face wrong.

At the first small six-day-a-week community newspaper I worked on (owned by a chain), the big wigs from corporate came around to do a survey to find out what each individual’s job actually consisted of, and they glibly declared that on our small paper each reporter was an “editor” in practical terms. Now in the newspaper business as I knew it then, the term editor had many meanings with no clear designation of duties by itself. But in general it signified some authority and responsibility. Sounds like some kind of mid-level manager. The reason they were so glib is that they had come across an excuse to call everyone a chief and not pay overtime. We had to sign a statement each pay period that declared we did not work over 40 hours — we generally did. It was just a lie you were supposed to accept. Now having just come off of working in a wood products mill (factory work), I was not really complaining (at first anyway).

Sometimes we were required to do a ton of extra writing for special editions — all fluff stuff to make advertisers happy — but were told no overtime was authorized. But of course I can see an argument might be this ain’t digging ditches — it’s cerebral — it’s even fun, getting paid to write, just what you always wanted to do.

I worked at one newspaper where to make sure we did not work overtime and therefore qualify for mandatory overtime under the then current law, they actually made us leave (and we had no keys to get back in). But on some days, if there was extra to do — this place was also into those extra fluff editions — they would ask if anyone of us wanted to volunteer to work overtime — for nothing. There was an implied pressure there. Everyone stayed. I, however, did not stay at that place long. It was seemingly regimented more than the army. I think they wanted to get the most possible out of people but not pay a cent more than they had to. I suppose that is just good business, but not so good for creativity, I think.

Seems to me, though, in general, if you have a choice of whether to work overtime or not, then overtime pay might be in question, but when you are are forced to put in extra work (whether officially or just by custom or just to avoid getting canned or replaced) then you are owed extra money).

For actual managers or executives, considerably higher salaries and perks take the place of overtime pay.

But again, just calling someone a manager or part of management does not by itself make it so.

It is strange to me that some people who run businesses have this feeling of entitlement to free labor. They grouse that they do not work by the clock. But if you own a business, you own an asset that provides you or has the potential of providing you with considerably more than the standard hourly wage or salary. You put in the extra effort and make sacrifices and if things go well the reward is not being a wage slave.

But speaking of slavery, that was outlawed a long time ago, at least that was what I was taught in school.

P.S.

All of the foregoing was based on the premise of a more or less 8 to 5 type job or shift work. There are all kinds of employment I guess that don’t necessarily fit into wage structure of calculations of such work. For example, for the past two decades and more now I have been an over-the-road truck driver. I don’t want to go into whether we are paid fairly or not — I mean we live in these trucks days (weeks) at a time and spend an inordinate amount of time waiting for loading and unloading. Our basic compensation is tied to miles covered. Safety concerns (along with lobbying efforts from competitors of other transportation modes) have prompted the authorities to tighten regulations on hours of service, and I understand there may be new rules concerning hourly pay on the horizon — but this post was not about that. And all that not withstanding or withstanding, I still stick with the notion that getting paid for work, rather than working for free is a basic right that does not or should not even require a written law.

“I want you to do extra work for me but I don’t want to pay you for it”. Does that sound right?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


No one saw this coming, the possibility of a know nothing president (and I don’t mean W)…

May 19, 2016

We know we are in trouble as a nation when we have to seriously worry that Donald Trump could become president.

Should we have seen this coming?

Well just like our intelligence apparatus failed us on 9/11 or for that matter in 1941 for Pearl Harbor our conventional political polling establishment may have failed us. It’s not necessarily their fault — who knew? Who knew that a silent majority (shades of the 60s) would rise up and vote (in the primaries at least)? A real silent majority who does not talk to pollsters and generally does not or has not taken part in the political process. A silent majority who for the most part bypassed politics or even current events until now. But they looked around and decided they did not like what they saw. The world has changed so much and seemingly not for the better for them.

A charlatan comes along and says he will cure what ails them. And he’s not what George Wallace would have called a “pointy headed intellectual”. In fact, he is ignorant of history and world affairs, apparently as much or more so than George W. Bush, but he is right on the money for what passes as modern (low-life) entertainment and he is closely attuned to the fear, resentment, hatred, racism, and celebration of ignorance among this silent majority (well they may or may not be a majority, November may tell).

While some of the concerns of this silent majority (well they are not always so silent these days) are justified, just flailing out and electing an ignoramus president is not going to solve anything and will surely make things worse.

But of course the argument is that this man cannot be ignorant because he is such a clever businessman, he has such a fortune.

Well for one thing, I have noticed that a broad knowledge of the world is not necessarily a requirement to be good at all levels of business or to make money. You can be clever and I guess that translates into”smart” in some sense, but still be ignorant on the world scale.

And there is so much we do not have details on about this presumptive Republican nominee. Or maybe the public record is there but it has not been made broadly known. We know he uses the bankruptcy courts excessively to his advantage (he bragged about that). We know he has a way of getting other people to invest and then getting out before things go sour. We know that he is good at developing golf courses and getting sky scrapers built. Yes, he has some abilities that is for sure.

But is he the kind of person we would want leading the Unites States, the world’s super power, the person who could in an instant obliterate the whole world with his command of the nuclear codes?

His supporters will tell you they are tired of politicians who say one thing and do another. Yet this man changes his tune in mid sentence and takes no responsibility for what he said in the past.

And his public record is one of a bigot against women, although he would say something like he loves women, but for what? He uses crass language to describe women.

But too many people, even some women, according to reports, are willing to look the other way — they just want something different and someone to shake the “establishment” up. Well this guy sure is shaking the establishment up, but I think he’s shaking anyone up who is for stability and decency and democratic (small d) government and anyone who wants intelligence and experience and ability in governance and not know nothingness.

I do understand the angst among those who see a nation that has changed in its politics and demographics and economy, but where were all the dissatisfied people during all this change? Maybe some were a little too content that things would always go their way and felt no need to pay attention.

It’s good for folks to get a little riled. And throwing out the “bums” as they say is the American way, but we don’t want to replace them with bums.


Unisex facilities should solve transgender restroom concerns…

May 16, 2016

I don’t know how big a problem accommodating transgender folks in restroom usage is — really, but I have a solution: Just have all unisex restrooms. That may not always be practical, but where it is, that should work.

At the very least, build or retrofit the restrooms to allow maximum privacy.

Out in the trucking world I’m lucky to find a porta pottie (and I really hate those things — but when you have to go you have to go and are glad to have a place to go). It is true that when men have a need to urinate they have an easier time of it I guess. Even so, doing your business just anywhere anytime is frowned upon. I once noticed a trucker do just that at one of the state scales (and there was a restroom on the premises).

I do question the idea of people up and deciding that despite their born-with anatomy that they are of the other sex and thereby demanding to use that sex’s facilities.

It seems the idea of having separate facilities is two-fold: one due to anatomical and other reasons one needs things the other does not. Of course both can get by with the simple outhouse or porta pottie or if you are out in the wild, turn your back and maybe carry a shovel. But there is also the social consideration of manners and modesty.

The edict from the White House that public schools are in danger of losing their public funding if they fail to let transgender students decide which sex they are and use restrooms accordingly, in spite of their actual plumbing, that is the student’s actual plumbing, seems a bit absurd and a bit of overreach by the government.

But the idea of unisex facilities seems to me the best way, when practical, so solve the problem, if there is one.

Using the restroom indeed should be a private thing. Of course when I was in army basic training in those ancient times we had one row of toilets, open no stalls, facing each other. You could chat with each other across the room as you, well, did what you had to do.

And speaking of speaking while, you do what you do, I notice now there is a lot of cell phone chatter in the restrooms — we just can’t seem to get off those things. I swear, though, I am not one to be on the cell while answering nature’s call…

P.s.

Where unisex facilities are not available or practical, well I am not sure that a transgender person using his or her preferred facility is a problem, except for the reaction of some people, maybe. The White House edict only applies to public schools. And I think the executive branch has gone too far here. Better to let local school boards decide this one. In a perfect world we all would just mind our own business and let someone do what they have to do by nature, rid themselves of bodily wastes, in private and be done with it. Also, local government does not really have to follow federal edicts if it is willing to fund itself. But with dollars comes control.

 


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