One of a possibly vanishing breed departs …

January 31, 2010

I  just attended the funeral of one of my brother-in-laws and realized that he was one of what seems at times to be a rare or vanishing breed of men. Instead of asking for help he went out and did things for himself and helped others too. He grew up in humble circumstances, okay, poverty. How would he say it? “It was root hog or die”.

He left school by eighth grade, I believe, and began to do construction work. He, and his brother, learned a lot from a small-time home contractor.

He did most of his work up here in the northern end of California’s Sacramento Valley.  As is the custom in these parts, he often not only did the carpentry to build houses, but some or all of the plumbing and electrical work and so on. He had little use for unions.

In fact, having known him for decades, ever since I was a teenager, I had thought he never did belong to the carpenter’s union. But he told me that he and his brother did for awhile. At the time it was the only way they could get work. But both of them got tired of showing up to a union hall and waiting to get work that might never come. They decided to just go out and get it themselves.

In addition, my late brother-in-law told me that he resented union reps coming out to a job in their air conditioned vehicles and wasting his time and telling him what to do when he was tired and hot and sweaty. He said that once when on a job he helped the concrete guy because you can’t afford to get behind when you’re pouring concrete lest it set up prematurely, he got chewed out by a union rep and threatened with losing his job for working out of his classification.

Both him and his brother built up a reputation as hard, dependable, and skilled craftsmen in their trade. Unfortunately his brother was eventually hurt on the job and his full-time career ended there.

But my late brother-in-law carried on for many decades. I can never remember him having trouble finding work, and he seldom had to leave the local area. And he was always well paid.

He raised two children and provided well for them. He usually lived out in the country and did many of the things many of us end up hiring others to do himself. I don’t think he was much of a vegetable gardener, for by his own admission he tried at times to raise a garden but had little luck.

But I recall him helping me or telling me how to do several things around the house. I recall him installing a swamp cooler for me at one house and he had no trouble getting the contraption onto the roof, using a kind of makeshift rope noose or pulley set-up. He taught me — with much effort and patience — how to do the truck driver’s hitch, and I’m a truck driver (although in my brand of trucking I don’t use it).

I can’t imagine a man of his breed ever being out of work.  There were short periods of time in which he had to work out of his regular trade. He told me he once worked at a local lumber mill and did not care for it. Fortunately he was able to continue his regular trade in short order.

Being brought up in the root hog or die environment seemed to have taught him the value of learning  skills that people are willing to pay for.

Some look to government. Some look to themselves.

I did not agree with many things he said. I was sometimes too sensitive to his not always gentle gibes. But I admired him nonetheless.

I  miss you already Robert Lee Geeter (Nov. 17, 1946 to Jan. 22, 2010).

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Obama keeps up the fight, Haiti help, don’t help those who don’t want it, eliminating forest jobs doesn’t win friends …

January 30, 2010

Not finding nearly as much time to blog nor keep up on the politics and current events I like to use for the material for those blogs as I thought I would have, but I feel compelled to blog away nonetheless.

President Obama mixed it up with some Republican leaders in Washington a day or so after his state of the union speech and even though the Republicans invited him for a chat, one report seemed to indicate they may have been sorry they did. He took their insults and gave right back to them, ever so politely. It’s one thing to let the loud mouths on hate radio rant and rave and quite another to say it to his face. He seems to be able to face his accusers quite well. And I do not claim he is always correct, but he comes across as reasonable and willing to listen (but also willing to defend himself).

— Saw a report on TV that told of looting in Haiti but also showed grateful citizens accepting help from American soldiers and praising the good old USA (you’re welcome, glad we could help).

—  My local newspaper tells me that the California State Senate has approved a single-payer health plan for citizens and north state politicians are outraged. You see the Democrats run the show but up here in my neck of the woods the Republicans reign and have convinced folks that the “giverment is the enemy”; it does not help anyone. Then are they not part of the government? They (the Republicans in government) must be the enemy too. Pardon me for not keeping up on my own state’s politics, but this was the first I ever heard the state senate was working on a single-payer plan. I understand that even if the legislation were to pass the other house (the Assembly) and get past the Republican governor’s promised veto, a single-payer system would still be some time coming.

What Democrats and others who support something to help those in need are finding is that among the population that might be hurt the worst by the whole medical insurance cost situation are some of the strongest opponents of anything to help them. Those who try to figure out such political paradoxes suggest that one of the explanations may be that folks do not like others (politicians) telling them what is best for them. I would suggest that maybe some of the politicians are just trying too hard. If people don’t want help, don’t offer it.

But, meanwhile, the Republicans have had great success in pushing the anti-government theme and then turning around and using government to line the pockets of their cronies.

— Also in my local newspaper I read that an out-of-state environmental group is suing to stop timber clear-cutting plans by a major logging company in Northern California. This is not likely to win the environmental movement friends among those who depend upon the timber industry (and this goes way beyond the forest) for their livelihoods. And what kind of houses do the environmentalists live in (made of wood?)? While I am not sure the practice of clear cutting can be explained as a good thing, I would think that some type of compromise could be worked out. But lawsuits that shut down good paying jobs do not seem to me to be the right approach. And why do we shut down our own forests to logging and then import lumber from Australia? Is that environmentally sound? I don’t think so.

That’s all for now. I’ll read and write more later.


Obama was on the ropes, but comes out swinging; can he come back for real???

January 28, 2010

Obama has been on the ropes of late, but as I listened (listen. Actually writing this as he speaks), he seems to have come out swinging with some good jabs at the Republicans, some conciliatory remarks, and some self-deprecation in his first state of the union speech.

It occurs to me what President Obama may need is a better team in the congress that will work with him. He may need more able and appealing leaders there than Pelosi/Reid.

He also needs to use the bully pulpit of the presidency to go directly to the people over the heads of congress.

I read a blog the other day in the Daily Kos that likened Obama to something directors call the “audition monster”. At the audition he wows everyone, but in rehearsals, when they really get to work, he falls apart. I’m still giving Obama a chance.

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Just said he would work to end law that kicks gays out of the military and called for equal pay of an equal day’s work for women. Liberal causes both. But even though the United States is, I believe, middle of the road, we are capable of embracing ideas from the left when they seem correct (and ideas from the far right when we get upset). How many Republicans refuse to accept their Social Security or Medicare?

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He took a swipe at the Supreme Court for tearing down precedent and opening the flood gates of corporate money into campaigns virtually free of regulation.

And he criticized lobbyists and promised to ride herd on them. But what politician can ignore the power of money? Citizens may like or dislike their congressman, but most do not send money for re-election, but they apparently do respond to the propaganda that lobbyist money can buy.

He admitted pushing universal health care was not the best political strategy, but he vowed to fight on because it is right and he challenged his opposition to come up with a better plan.

He also made reference to outlawing torture and not succumbing to the argument that we as a people have to give up our morals to protect ourselves. I personally am 100 percent against torture, but am often surprised that so many people I hear are not.

And do I believe everything I hear from Mr. Obama? No. He claimed that his administration has saved thousands of homeowners from losing their homes. Don’t know. But on a personal level I know there was no government help for my wife and I.

But everyone has their own circumstances and there are always various factors and variables.

He vowed to create more jobs ————– what has he been waiting for? And can government really create jobs or does it just hand out some boondoggle money from time to time that goes into the hands of the precious few? I know back in the 70s, I think it was the California state government that created good paying jobs in government. But we may have not needed all the extra bureaucrats, and the revenue needed to pay them comes out of the taxes of private individuals who have to compete with the government in the job sector.

Obama touched on a lot of things in his State of the Union address and I commented or made reference to only a few.

An after the speech a commentator said people want help and do not care for witnessing or constantly hearing about the process. I agree.

Action speaks louder than words.


In regards to the Supreme Court corporation and politics ruling: the problem may really be in sorting out information vs. propaganda, but would we really want government to control political speech?

January 26, 2010

Tried to do some more research on that latest and most controversial U.S. Supreme Court ruling that overturns old law and gives corporations (and unions) nearly unlimited power to make big money donations to meddle in the political process. One problem in my research is a lack of time and a current bout of exhaustion. However, thanks to Wikipedia, I did get a chance to give the 5-4 Citizens United v Federal Election Commission decision a quick read.

I had mentioned in my earlier post that corporations (artificial people under the law) had already been given the rights of real people in previous legal rulings, using the 14th Amendment in part, an amendment most people would have thought was aimed at giving the same protection under the law to former slaves after the Civil War as other citizens enjoyed. In my ever-so-quick read of the opinion and even dissenting opinion I did not catch language about the 14th Amendment directly but they did mention that the courts have ruled that corporations have First Amendment free speech rights and other rights  just as real people do. There is reference to earlier court cases on point and I suppose some or all of them may address the 14th Amendment issue, and by the way, that issue is addressed by Wikipedia if you look up “corporations and the 14th Amendment”.

Even though most legal and political observers consider this a landmark decision, I blogged earlier that I did not think it really changed the playing field since big money always finds its way into campaigns and that you can’t separate money from politics. I still feel that way.

As I also alluded to in my earlier post, I think the problem is the intelligence and critical thinking power of the electorate. Presuming as an individual you have a mind of your own and are capable of keeping up on the issues separate from propaganda, you still have no control over the other guy who may be ignorant or lazy or both but who is still able to vote, and worse yet does.

And in my mind, here is the biggest problem of all:

It is becoming more difficult to sort out fact and opinion and commentary in the news, particularly on television (and the internet) where everything is mixed together. And it is even more difficult when you have a corporation that runs a far right-wing cheering section masquerading as a news network, such as FOX.

But FOX has been so financially successful that I think even CNN has caught the bug. Now I know that CNN tends to see the liberal side in a somewhat more favorable light than FOX, but the other morning the host was touting the far left line, quoting his own father as saying there are only two types of people in this world:  “the rich and the rest of us”.  And I think he was referring to the afore mentioned court decision. His presentation was a mixture of news and commentary with no clear differentiation.

So, if this is how it is to be, it becomes difficult for anyone to make a critical analysis of the issues, if opinion, in which the deck is stacked on one side of an issue, is presented as a news report.

And if a whole news network can be hijacked by one part of the political spectrum, democracy, which depends upon the free flow of accurate information, is in danger.

Nonetheless we can hardly have government dictating the manner in which information is disseminated or presented.

And while this may or may not be the reasoning the conservative majority ruled the way they did, I find myself almost concurring with them.

The whole thing started when opponents of Hillary Clinton wanted to widely distribute an ugly hit piece, thinly disguised as a legitimate documentary, just before election time.

Opponents of corporate meddling in elections charge that the large corporations have the financial ability to unduly influence elections.

While I agree, I am not sure what can be done since big money will always find its way in. And there is merit to the argument of the majority that we don’t want the government to inhibit political speech.

The only weapon we have to combat the corruption of our politics is the free flow of unbiased information. If as consumers we responded better towards balanced reporting, the marketplace might well respond. But for some reason much of the public seems to respond better to what it wants to hear.

Many ordinary citizens probably don’t realize the value of good information.

But people who need good information to make business decisions or decisions in their professional lives/and or work do. That is why they tend to subscribe to or otherwise obtain quality publications where the aim is to impart valuable information, not just point of view.

P.s.

I’m still going to try to research this case further.


Obama revealed as the Anti-Christ — so that’s it….

January 24, 2010

While I was driving down the freeway in the middle of the night and trying to find a station on my poor excuse for a radio I heard the fundamentalist preacher warn, not directly by name, but by unmistakable implication, that Barack Obama with his eloquent speech is the Anti-Christ, as foretold in the Book of Revelations. So that’s it. That answers all my questions as to why we are in such hot water (not really).

I heard this line during the presidential campaign, with the speakers not using Obama’s name, and during that time, since he had not been elected they might be able to pretend they did not mean Obama. But now the gloves have come off and some on the evangelical-guided right wing are making it clear that we are headed in the wrong direction as a nation, that we have been taken in by the Anti-Christ.

Correct me if I am wrong, but I believe that most or all of these evangelicals making the claims are lily white and that there is some bit of racism in all of this, just as there was some racism in the ravings of that black  preacher– and would he be called an evangelical? — Jeremiah Wright who Obama was forced to distance himself from, even though he had quite willingly listened to him in the past.

These radio and TV  televangelists and all preachers certainly have a right to voice their opinions and superstitions, but I hope they are not enjoying tax exempt status when the meddle in politics (I think many of them do, though).

And I think the solution many of them offer is to send money directly to them or buy their tapes.


I can see through propaganda, but can the other voters? Supreme Court ruling on corporate political spending changes little, or you can’t take money out of politics…

January 22, 2010

A NEW LEAD:

Why should we fear corporations being able to purchase  unlimited amounts of political propaganda if we are smart and informed enough to see through it? Answer: we may be, but is that other voter?

I usually prefer to do some at least quick research before I blog, but yesterday when I heard about the latest Supreme Court ruling that gives corporations the right to do unlimited spending on the behalf of political candidates, saying a corporation has the same rights, most importantly free speech under the First Amendment, as a real person, I just felt like the good student who knows (or thinks he knows) the answer and wanted to raise my hand.

(I’m referring to Citizens United vs. Federal Elections Commission)

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ADD 1/Clarification:

I understand now the ruling does not address direct contributions to individual candidates, but in the broader context that may be a minor detail. And the court may have set the stage for a future ruling to that effect.

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Maybe later I will go into the details, but what I just wanted to get out of my system here is that it is a strange thing that that the 14th Amendmen (and some subsequent ones), enacted after the Civil War, to more clearly define or actually give black people, former slaves, the same rights as everyone else, has been used just as much or more over the years to help out big business. A corporation is an artificial entity that allows people to conduct business without being personally liable (and, yes, this is my own definition). In other words, you can reap the rewards, but if something goes wrong and someone wants to sue they can only go after the corporation, not your personal bank account.

When I took a required college course, Black Studies, the instructor, a black man from the African nation of Sierra Leone, noted, or maybe I should say claimed, that over the years, the 14th Amendment has been used more to protect corporations that actual people.

The fear among those who opposed the latest Supreme Court ruling is that corporations will be able to buy candidates and elections. While at first glance that might have been my concern too, at second glance I have to come to the conclusion that such is already the case and this really changes nothing. There have already been so many loopholes about funding that corporations — big money — pretty much runs the show, them and big labor (unions) anyway.

It is hard to impossible to take money out of politics. Money is how we narrow down the field and it is how we judge support. If anyone and everyone could run for office on an even playing field we would have so many candidates we would never be able  to sort things out.

So, where does the mythical ordinary citizen stand in all of this? Well, if he or she is all that interested, he or she can make a political contribution to a preferred candidate or to a preferred group that supports a candidate.

One reason citizens may feel left out in public policy is because they do not speak with one voice, so it is hard for politicians to gauge citizen opinion. A candidate also knows that if he or she is to stay in or win office it is necessary to obtain as much money as possible for campaigning. Those who give out the money implicitly expect something in return.

One problem for the everyday citizen is that for the most part in this country we have a weak party system. Political parties are supposed to be the forum in which various and divergent ideas coalesce into coherent policy. But members of the parties do not agree with each other and often strike out on their own. The people do not agree with each other and are liable to vote any which way. If individuals were willing to join groups and vote in blocks, especially blocks that could be identified by political candidates, they would have more power. I know that when I was a local newspaper reporter candidates for the county board supervisors (commissioners) bent over backwards to satisfy county workers because they tended to have the same interests, good salaries and benefits controlled by the supervisors, so they tended to vote in a block. On the other hand, individual taxpayers who paid for those salaries and benefits had little pull, unless maybe they belonged to the local taxpayer’s association.

But what I am really trying to say here is that this latest ruling does not  bother me terribly and, even though I do not agree that a corporation is a citizen just the same as a live human being, I cannot believe that our founding fathers and the enactors of the 14th Amendment meant a business entity to have all the same rights and privileges as a live human being. But that is all something for the lawyers to sort out.

Voters and citizens have power by keeping informed and voting accordingly and not depending upon paid political propaganda — from the right left or middle.

The only problem we the informed have is that the ignorant have just as much right to vote as we do. Fortunately although many of the ignorant make a lot of noise, most of them do not vote.

But then again, the problem is, many of them, too many, do.

I’d like to analyze this subject, especially that latest Supreme Court ruling, further, but personal time constraints prohibit that now.

P.s.

Just read that Air America, the liberal answer to Rush Limburger Cheese on radio, has shut down due to financial woes. Apparently the reactionary right wing can draw more money sponsors than the left. I don’t think listeners to right-wing talk radio or even TV necessarily represent the mood of the broader public — I hope not — but I suppose there is some connection here to money in politics generally.


Help for Haiti might be a better investment than war on terror…

January 20, 2010

Just read that a 5.9 aftershock has hit the capital of Haiti, where there are already thousands  dead and thousands (hundreds of thousands?) homeless, sending people fleeing into the streets, with many more buildings and other parts of what’s left if its infrastructure crumbling.

For the sake of the people of Haiti I hope that the political story — Democrats suffering defeat in Massachusetts in what is seen as a referendum on President Obama — does not bump their tragic story off the news cycle.

While I have little use for the United Nations, it would seem to me that if ever there were a job for that body, this is it. But I also think the reality is that the United States will be saddled with the bulk of the responsibility, and maybe that is as it should be.

In general, charity begins at home, but the United States, as the world’s superpower and standard bearer for freedom, has a special responsibility. I’d rather see billions for Haiti than billions for Afghanistan or Iraq, much of which will likely be ultimately used right back against us (yes awkward English, but this is a blog). 

I have to think that the war on terror is money (not to mention lives)  poorly spent. We must protect ourselves against terror the best way we can, but waging a war against a concept is turning out to be difficult, to say the least.