Why does anyone still buy cigarettes?

November 30, 2010

Went back to the grocery store this evening to exchange a light bulb that was the wrong size, but they did not have the right size so I got my money back. But in so doing I was in the customer service line. The young man ahead of me was buying a pack of cigarettes, just as the older man ahead of him had done. I had not noticed this before, but apparently these days you can only buy cigarettes and tobacco products at that counter.

I don’t know how much cigarettes cost these days, many, many dollars per pack, and don’t even think about a whole carton — far more than the 25 cents to 30 cents per pack they cost when I was a teenager, which was relatively cheap even then.


Had a hard time getting a simple answer on the web, but apparently cigarettes these days cost as much or more than $50 per carton (10 packs), and in New York state because of new higher taxes they are upwards of $15 per pack.


It’s hard for me to believe that in this day and age people actually still buy and smoke cigarettes. Ever since the 60s , or even 50s, at least, we have known that they lead to lung cancer and we know that they cause other lung disease, usually in the form of what these days is referred to as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), a form of which can be Emphysema.

But people get hooked on them and then they go into denial, saying things like, “I know an old woman who has been smoking ever since she was a teenager and she’s a hundred years old, or, “if I quit something else will get me” (yeah, so go out and run in front of a train, something else is going to get you anyway).

Just as bad is what one of my late brother in-laws used to tell me: “heck I could quit anytime.” That begs the question, why didn’t he? Well he finally did after a doctor told him it was either that or imminent death. But he died a slow and painful and agonizing death from the effects of COPD. His death was not only hard on him, but those who loved him — most notably a son who was close to him and my wife. They both took care of him. But even then he was in denial, saying or implying that it was not really or not just the cigarettes that gave him lung disease. He had worked with all kinds of toxic chemicals in the construction business back before they had safety breathing equipment that was at all effective. And he may have been correct that other things damaged his lungs, but certainly the cigarettes played a, or the major role and probably hastened his demise.

If these smokers do not care about themselves or their loved ones, do they realize that it is society that almost always ends up paying a major portion of the medical bills due to their smoking-related or caused diseases?

And what about the smokers who litter the countryside with cigarette butts and emptied ashtrays that they just dump on the ground or pavement or what about the ones who carelessly throw burning cigarettes out their car windows and start raging wild land fires that kill people and wildlife and destroy property and burn forests and pollute the environment? And they are so indignant when they are told they cannot smoke in a public place.

They think it is their right even though it has been found by researchers that second-hand smoke non-smokers, often children of smokers, are forced to breathe is deadly. But of course they are in denial about this too.

It almost seems to me that anyone who now smokes should not be able to get health insurance, even private insurance, because protecting them makes everyone’s premiums cost more. And they should have to sign a waiver saying they will not be eligible for public health care of any kind related to their smoking.

For that older man buying those cigarettes it‘s probably too late.

Sadly, for the younger guy, it‘s also probably too late.

Some people never really do get the message.


I even find it hard to believe that among people who are heavily addicted to cigarettes, that the realization of that slow and agonizing death and/or a shorter life span, added to the tremendous monetary cost of the habit is not enough to make them quit. But if those factors are not, then someone needs to talk them into reconsidering their smoking lifestyle, then we could all breathe easier.

P.s. P.s.

I was young and foolish once myself. I tried to get the habit, but it just wouldn’t take.

P.s. P.s. P.s.

And I know, once you start telling people they cannot do dangerous things to their bodies such as smoking, others will say then what is to stop the government from telling them not to drink alcohol (the U.S. has been there and done that back in Prohibition days).

But there really is a difference. There is just nothing safe or redeeming about smoking and the cost to society is too high.

Are we all oblivious to what is happening on our own border and south of it while our government wastes its efforts in the Middle East?

November 26, 2010

I know the Mexican Drug War is real and I know the U.S./Mexico border can be a dangerous place, but if I had not read about the whole thing I would be oblivious to it while I was on the border several times recently.

I’m not complaining. I don’t want to experience it.

But it is strange. In my job as a long-haul truck driver, hauling a lot of produce, I often take loads down to the border for transfer south into the Mexican interior. I make these drops right on the border. In fact, one place I go to has me park to wait for an open dock door right on the actual border itself. I back my truck up to the fence that separates the two nations.

Sometimes I arrive in the dark of night before the places even open. When I think about the drug wars and the wanton violence associated with them and the fact that innocent people, thousands of them, sometimes even north of the border, get caught up in the drug war violence, it makes me a little apprehensive.

But I am not really scared or highly nervous because fortunately for me things have always been terribly calm on my trips to the border.

Actually, the only time I ever had a somewhat nervous encounter was I think in the late 90s when I was still relatively new to the trucking job and before the current drug war got under way (the drug war, not drug smuggling, which has a longer history).

I had picked up a load of potatoes in northern New Mexico and was instructed by dispatch to meet some folks at the border, just south of San Diego. When I got to the place I was instructed to go it was dark and I could not see well. No one was around and there were no buildings, just an empty field. And I was right on the border. I could see the fence.

Then I heard voices and saw some light in the distance and some trucks. So I drove over to it all. I told someone who I was and what I had and asked them if I was at the right place. No one spoke much English as I recall, but they did indicate I was at the right place. I had been told by my dispatcher that I was to pay them a specific amount of money for them to transfer the load from my trailer to one of theirs. I forget the exact figure, but I will say $80. I had that much in cash on me from wired money through my company and maybe a little more of my own personal money. When I double checked with one of the men there on how much I was to pay them, he named that figure ,$80, but added that I would have to pay each unloader extra money.

I was a little nervous, but I was not about to be robbed. So I said, no, I was instructed to pay $80 and that it is it. I told them that was all the money I had.

The man just shook his head. It was a standoff.

But in a while a big car drove up. From out of a back seat a man stepped out. He had the typical thin mustache many Latin men wear, and he was wearing a kind of Mexican western (as in cowboy) cut and designed suit and wore dark glasses (and this in the middle of the night).

“I understand you have a problem,” he said to me.

Now I was a bit more nervous, to say the least.

“No, I don’t have a problem,” I said. “It’s just that I was told by my dispatch that I was to pay only $80 and that is all I have.”

He looked at me with a serious expression for a moment and then said:

“Okay, I’ll take care of it.”

And that was it.

More recently, only a few weeks or a couple of months ago, I arrived down near the border in the town of Nogales, Arizona, again late at night. I could not find the warehouse at which I was supposed to unload the next morning. I spotted a man coming out of a warehouse and asked him directions. He was just getting off work, he said. He said he thought the place I was looking for was just down the street back from the way I had come. Then he offered to give me a ride in his SUV and go down there and check the address so that I would not have to go to the trouble to turn my rig around on the narrow street for nothing.

He seemed innocent enough, but I was a little apprehensive, this being on the border. But I did and it was the place and he brought me back to my truck safe and sound and I thanked him and he told me no problem.

Just a couple or so days ago I delivered a load down at the border. I showed up just before my appointment time and had the luck that the receiver showed up at the same time in his car and he took my paper work and not long after that I was unloaded and gone. Nice people, I thought — better than the next previous time when I spent 12 hours waiting without any logical explanation — but that’s normal for trucking anywhere.

Anyway, I’m glad we have this legitimate trade with Mexico in produce — it helps me make a living. Some might be surprised or at least interested to know that not only does produce (a lot of it) flow north out of Mexico, the U.S. ships a lot down to Mexico. I deliver apples and pears out of Oregon and Washington state to the border.

Mexico is a major trading partner to the United States for all types of goods and services. Mexican labor, the illegal alien controversy aside, is vital to our economy north of the border. We have close cultural ties with Mexico, with the Hispanic population and influence so abundant north of the border.

The bribe, the payoff, the favoritism to friends, is often the way business is done in the Hispanic culture (although they do not necessarily have a total lock on that method). But I have also noticed that Mexicans by and large are hard workers — that is one reason they are so much in demand.

At any rate, when I read about the violence south of the border (with some spilling over north of the border) due to the drug war, with the bodies in the streets, birthday parties being shot up, and innocents along with government officials being murdered, I question why our own government is not more concerned about peace in our own neighborhood than things halfway around the world.

It is estimated that some 28,228 people, again many of them totally innocent of the goings on in the war between the drug cartels, and the cartels’ war with authorities, have been killed since 2007.

Having a real job (beyond this blog) I must tend to, I am just now trying to research what this drug war is all about, but as I understand it, things got under way when due to the loss of power by Colombian cartels with the arrest of some of their leaders and the loss of the PRI political party Mexico, who had deals with the cartels, a new rivalry for control of the drug trade was set off in Mexico.

The insatiable demand for drugs in the U.S. creates the market for the illicit trade and the violence south of the border is augmented by the flow of illegal weapons from the U.S. to Mexico. Weapons can be purchased legally in the U. S. but are prohibited by Mexican law. Signs at the border warn you that guns are illegal in Mexico. And I guess that kind of serves to prove the point of gun rights supporters north of the border who are fond of saying: “when you make it criminal to have guns, only criminals will have guns”.

Adding to the problem, the corruption in Mexico’s government at all levels hampers the effort against the cartels.

Back when the old PRI party was in complete control in Mexico, although it was corrupt, it kept a check on things, taking its own payoffs from the cartels to look the other way. But when a new, non-PRI president took control and vowed to fight the cartels all hell broke loose, as I understand it, although I do not mean to suggest that the war would not be taking place if the government simply cooperated. There was already an inter-cartel war that was affecting everyone in and out of the cartels themselves.

I imagine a major factor in all this strife is the lack of a strong middle class in Mexico (although there is more of one than their used to be, as I understand things). There is a lack of opportunity in Mexico which causes people to turn to the drug trade or to become illegal aliens north of the border.

At the same time, the middle class in the United States is shrinking due to economic upheaval and the fact that corporate fat cats control our government with their unlimited payoffs to politicians and the fact that Washington elites, no mater what their supposed ideology, seem to be more comfortable being around and serving the interests of economic elites than the common man (example: Obama promising to help the poor and middle class but falling all over himself to bail out the fat cat bankers). We only have to look south to see what the eventual consequences of this could be.

The Mexican Drug War and its causes and the possible solutions to it need to be addressed.

We would do better to take care of things in our own neighborhood than halfway around the world.

It should not really be beyond imagination that with our own economic crisis in the U.S. and the continued erosion of our own middle class, this ongoing drug war might consume much of the North American continent.

While we fight a war for questionable reasons in the Middle East with no identifiable things to be gained, our own security deteriorates here at home.

Appreciating and giving thanks for Thanksgiving…

November 25, 2010

The freeway was crowded with cars last night what with everyone going here and there to be with family. Well if everyone goes somewhere, who stays home?

I’m in a good mood, even though I also have the sadness that this will be the first Thanksgiving in more than 40 years I will not spend with my wife, she having passed away this past summer. I’m in a good mood because I will be with family and family is what I need right now.

It is heartening to me to see that people are so eager to be with family. Maybe we all haven’t quit the family thing after all in this increasingly impersonal world.

Of course I know the holidays can be a tricky time too when it comes to family get togethers. Sometimes old rivalries and jealousies, aided and abetted at times by alcohol, come out.

But let’s hope that is not the case for you reading this, and my advice is that if you see it coming — back off, nothing is to be gained.

I’ve been so busy driving the long haul that I am not fully up on the latest nonsense from Sarah Palin, but from listening to John Rothman on KGO last night I understand she has criticized JFK for a statement or speech he made about separation of church and state.

You’ll recall that his campaign for the presidency was threatened by charges that he being a Catholic would mean he would be taking cues from the Pope. He answered that although he was indeed a devout Catholic, he understood the need for separation of church and state in a nation where our constitution guarantees religious freedom.

There’s a lot of irony here. We know from our earliest school days, dressing up like pilgrims, that those funny-clad folks came over here for religious freedom. But strangely they would not have been too tolerant of anyone who did not believe like they did.

But here’s the deal as far as I can see it — and like so much else, I have blogged this before:

You cannot have religious freedom (which to me includes the right not to be religious) if the government in any way favors or otherwise recognizes one religion over the other.

On the other hand, we (the U.S.) are by our history nominally (maybe not the right word) a Christian nation. And we do have In God We Trust written on our money (although that does not specify the Christian God, but we know that is what it means). But we have also agreed to allow all to worship or not worship as they please.

I’m not going to go on with all of this now, since I need to prepare for visiting with family and chowing down on Thanksgiving dinner.

But I will say I am thankful for family and the bounty God (or whatever supreme power) has bestowed upon me. And I recognize that not all are so fortunate.

And what do I do for the less fortunate? Not a lot. I do not feel that I have the money to spare for charity directly, but I do pay taxes, and I do not begrudge any of that money going for those in true need.

And I am trying to get out of this blog and not digress into further subjects or variations of the same subject. But I wish there were some way to create a public assistance program that targeted individuals and families in true need due to circumstances beyond their control, such as unemployment and health problems. But a lot of our social service funding is wasted (and I mean a lot) on people who make a career out of gaming the system. Yes it works that way at both ends of the ladder. People at the bottom game the welfare system and people at the top game the federal tax structure and the financial system.

Honest people carry the burden. But they also have a clean conscience and will not have so much explaining to do when they meet God (or the supreme power).

And that is my sermon for the day.


Kennedy was a lot about image — and a good image it was…

November 23, 2010

Making a big deal about the anniversary of the President John F. Kennedy assassination — it was 47 years ago on Nov. 22, 1963 — is by now after all these years maybe like making a big deal about the anniversary of the assassinations of President Abraham Lincoln or President James Garfield or William McKinley — it has become old history, so many alive today not even being born yet when Kennedy was shot.

I was a freshman in high school, and I don’t really see it as ancient history, but I am part of the baby boom generation and those who have followed, I am sure, just see it as something in the history books and really cannot relate.

Yes, how quickly we forget or how quickly a new generation with no history of your history comes along.

(Warning I’ve used this allusion before I think) I recall selling newspapers on the front steps of the post office in the little town where I lived when I was a fifth grader. A little old lady bought a paper from me and asked: “son do you know what is special about Dec. 7?”

I didn’t.

That was back in 1959. I was ten years old. Just 18 years previous, but several before I was on this earth, the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, a surprise attack on American territory (Hawaii not yet being a state — it became one, interestingly enough, in 1959), plunging the U.S. into World War II, which resulted in a victory that in turn resulted in the U.S. becoming the foremost power on earth.

The old lady told me it was Pearl Harbor Day. I did know about Pearl Harbor, but I had no idea what day it had been on. (Okay, obvious question from you wise guys — was there something in the paper I was selling about it? Don’t know, I was only ten and was selling papers, not reading them so much — although I did a little, even then.)

I suppose for more recent generations 9/11 will or is that singular event where you know where you were and what you were doing when it happened and you know it changed everything, just like the kennedy assassination.

If you’re expecting it, there is probably no major point to this blog post, just thinking about the John F. Kennedy (JFK) assassination.

I actually got a fairly up close live (and that seems an almost insensitive reference ,“live”) look at JFK not long before he became president. During his campaign he made an old-fashioned (even then almost) whistle-stop tour, and stopped in Marysville, Ca. At that time my family lived across the river in the town of Yuba City. We went and saw him speak from the back of a train car (that is he was on the back of the train). I was only a few feet away. He had a lot of red freckles — you did not pick that up on our black and white TV.

Having JFK in the White House was fun. He and his wife were a nice looking and charming couple and they had a little girl and a little boy — kids in the White House for the for the first time in a long time. He of course had that charisma thing. Jackie, his wife, was so sophisticated and cultured. She spoke fluent French and Spanish. When she toured Latin America she could really speak their language and the crowds loved it — her up on a balcony giving speeches like they do down there.

JFK’s Boston-Irish accent was hilarious. Instead of saying Cuba (a nation much in the news at the time), he said “cuber”.

The whole Kennedy clan fascinated the nation. They would play touch football, JFK and his brothers and others. A comedian and impersonator by the name of Vaughn Meader made a career out of impersonating JFK and did records on it. One segment went something like this: JFK saying, “well when we are here we have to play (touch football) by my rules”.  Asked why, he answered, making a stabbing gesture with his finger like JFK used to do in speeches and press conferences, “because it’s my ball”.

To many the Kennedys were our first American royalty. The whole thing of them being in the White House was labeled Camelot.

To be sure, not everyone loved the Kennedys — you can’t please all the people. And the royalty treatment grated on some. Not only did they not like his progressive to liberal politics — the idea of being thought of in royal terms seemed so un-American.

And as popular as he was, JFK failed to get much of his legislative program through congress, such as his proposals on civil rights (mostly aimed at helping disenfranchised “negroes” as they were called at the time — you know, black Americans or African-Americans).

He was largely responsible for heavily involving the U.S. in Vietnam.

But I admire the fact that he inaugurated the Peace Corps. If his administration and its successors had emphasized the Peace Corps more over armed intervention, we all might well have been in a better position today — who knows?

A seemingly fine specimen of physical fitness himself (hidden were some of his debilitating ailments), he urged people to take 40-mile hikes or at least for school children and everyone else to be physically active.

I recall my dad and me going on one of those hikes — dad had always loved to hike anyway. We did not go the whole 40 miles. But we did take a fun hike along the Feather River that separates the twin cities of Marysville and Yuba City, California (off the subject, but a curious fact: Marysville is the county seat of Yuba County, and Yuba City is the county seat of Sutter County). This was not a walk along a specific trail. We just trekked through the riparian jungle, across a railroad trestle (don’t do that) and then through some orchards (to include, possibly, one of the orchards where not very many years later a man by the name of Juan Corona buried many wino, turned farm laborers, in lieu of paying them), and finally out onto a county road. Someone, mom possibly, must have come to pick us up. We did not walk back to town.

Much has been made of the fact that JFK was killed while riding in an open car — they (presidents) still sometimes did that then; they don’t do that now for the obvious reasons.

JFK was killed, his assassin was later gunned down, civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated a few years later and right after that JFK’s younger brother Bobby was assassinated while running for president.

The age of innocence, if there ever really was one, was basically over — as in the day the music died — and the age of ugliness had begun.

Most presidents today seem to leave the White House in some form of general disfavor or dishonor or even disgrace.

Nixon resigning in disgrace. Carter in pity. Clinton with the undignified, unpresidential sexual deviant visual, and Bush II with the deer-in-the-headlights lame brain look and the legacy of waging war for false reasons or for no reason, other than to maybe avenge a plot against his daddy by Saddam Hussein, and a support for torture, something heretofore the U.S. stood proudly against as a civilized nation.

JFK may have been spared ignominy, ironically, by being assassinated. I mean if he had served his full term and even a second, well, things go wrong, people change their minds.

And here’s something: In my lifetime so far we have had two presidents who were lady charmers supreme — JFK and Bill Clinton (Obama charmed everyone, for awhile).

JFK reportedly had his dalliances (unfortunately he also had his Dallas, where he was shot). But he was still in that bygone era where there was a kind of gentleman’s agreement in the press — some things were off limits, especially if the subject in question was discreet enough to keep them off limits, out of sight.

JFK’s press conferences were usually, it seemed, really just a showcase for his charm. Once when asked by newswoman Sarah McClendon (or was it Helen Thomas?) what he was going to do for the women (rights), with a grin, he answered, “I don’t think we can ever do enough for the ladies”, to which the mostly good-old boy audience laughed appreciatively, understanding the multiple meaning there.

But combine the fast-paced tell all and then some media world of today and a horny guy who apparently lacked any judgment or caution when it came to sexual escapades not with his wife and while conducting foreign policy or phone conversations with lawmakers, that guy being Bill Clinton — well there goes that reputation thing (I was going to say “legacy” but it sounded too much like some lame double entendre).

Clinton does seem accepted as the elder statesman now among many, but I don’t know what history will say about him.

But really I can’t describe the JFK political mystic. You kind of had to be there.

I do know that I have heard more than one nowadays conservative Republican say he was motivated as a young man by JFK (but then again, Ronald Reagan, darling of the right, was once a Franklin Roosevelt-style liberal Democrat). And yet if JFK were on the scene today he would be vilified by the modern conservatives — actually he was then by right-wing reactionaries especially. And it was in that atmosphere he was taken down in what was then an unfriendly part of the nation for him. I think that’s why he was in Dallas that day, to try to gain political support in the upcoming election in an area weak for him.

But I recall seeing JFK address the nation during the Cuban Missile Crisis. You felt someone strong, sober, and courageous was in charge. It was a comfort.

JFK did not back down from the Soviets, but he was not full of false bravado. He was an actual World War II war hero, even if his famous PT 109 incident may or may not have been enhanced for his political image.

To those who have followed, and to any who might have tried to emulate his style in any way, to borrow a line, I can only say, I knew Jack Kennedy and you are no Jack Kennedy.

P. s.

I cannot name off the top of my head the great accomplishments of JFK. It may be that his presidency was largely an image. But that image, a man of peace (Vietnam an aberration perhaps and a complicated story anyway), but a man willing to stand up to the Soviets and all tyranny — letting others in the world who longed for freedom know someone was on their side — was a great one for our nation.

One more thing: Kennedy went overseas and the crowds loved him. I don’t recall him apologizing for America.

Of course that may be because he and his greatest generation had recently saved the world from catastrophe — you’re welcome.

ADD 1:

I totally left out one major accomplishment of JFK, that is initiating the modern space program. That was back when we as a nation thought we could do something and even thought government could and should play a major role.


Blogger’s note: I wanted to get this posted earlier when I looked at the calendar and realized what day it was, but my real job has its demands too.

NATO and the changing alliances or Russia part of NATO???

November 21, 2010

NATO, or the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, was formed the year I was born, 1949. I was once a part of it — a very small part — serving in Germany as a soldier, part of the U.S.’s NATO contingent (well, actually as far as I was concerned I was just an American GI and that is it).

I thought I understood it, it was an alliance formed by the U.S. and its European allies to fight the advance of our old ally but Cold War foe, The Soviet Union.

Now we have invited Russia, a main part of the former Soviet Union, to all but join the alliance. Many former Eastern European Soviet Block nations and new nations, all of which were part of the old Soviet Block, are members of NATO.

Get this — we want Russia to join with us in a missile defense shield against possible attacks from the Middle East, most notably Iran, and from North Korea, the same North Korea that the Soviet Union and the Communist Chinese helped attack our ally South Korea.

We rebuilt our former enemies in World War II, Japan and Germany, only to watch them rival us economically on the world stage, while in the case of Germany (or formerly West Germany) , especially, protecting them militarily, saving them one heck of a big defense bill over the years (the same goes for the rest of Europe and other nations).

Meanwhile, we (the U.S.) have become wholly dependent upon our former ally in World War II — China — the one we saved from Japan, for our whole economy — they supply much of our manufactured and consumer goods and we use them (China) as a credit card in order to print money for which we really have nothing to back up with.

It’s hard in this world to know who are your friends and who are your adversaries — they seem to be both at different times or all at once.

I could have voted for McCain — naaaw!

November 18, 2010

It’s hard to blog without ready access to the internet — well actually impossible to actually post a blog, but because I have time on my hands and my internet connection is not presently working, I am writing on the word processing program.


ADD 1:

Back up and running for the time being:


Anyway, I was listening to an autobiography of John McCain while driving last night. At times I actually thought I ought to have voted for him, but at other times I realized why I did not.

By his own admission he got into politics because he likes the power and being in the limelight and he admits that he is impulsive and not prone to thinking things out.

I like the parts where he claimed that although running as a generally conservative Republican for office, beginning with congress, he worked with and got along with liberals and moderates — or actually I think in the past he thought himself a moderate, but these days in the Republican Party a candidate has to run to the right to be accepted.

I only just began listening to the tape of his autobiography, but one of the parts that sent a warning flag up for me was his own admission that he was attracted to Charles Keating, a major player in the Savings and Loan scandal of the 80s, because he threw lavish parties, and paid for trips to the Bahamas for McCain and wife (they later paid him back, directly that is — McCain denies any special treatment for the convicted white collar criminal).


ADD 2: Keating did some prison time, but was actually aquitted on precedural technicalities on  many counts in appeals and settled a federal case.


McCain I recall got into trouble for seeming to put pressure on federal officials to give special consideration to Keating when he was being investigated and for his wife‘s family having dealings with the shady character. Keating had been the major campaign  contributor to McCain, McCain admits in his autobiography.

(For all his troubles on the behalf of Keating McCain had to suffer being called a “wimp” behind his back by Keating.)

Of course, that is politics. How can you ignore someone who has given you a lot of money?

And that leads me to a point — I knew there was one somewhere here — In the current electoral climate, some seem to suggest they would take the politics out of politics.

It’s not going to happen. Without politics little to nothing would get done. And besides, politics is everywhere, not just government. There is office politics and even politics in kindergarten.

Politics is nothing more than the game of who gets the power or how to use power.

We can have rules for the game and some will break them nonetheless, but life without politics would be pretty sterile.

I listened to more of the tape before it started skipping on me and otherwise acting up (old technology/old tape from the free library).

I did hear the part where McCain thinks the politicians sold us out in Vietnam, but he also reveals that he understands what really happened there. The Vietnamese had fought off foreign intervention for centuries. He quotes Vietnamese officials or at least a former North Vietnamese official for admiring the U.S. for not being a “colonial” power, but being surprised that it sided with the French colonials and seemed to have attempted to supplant them after they were kicked out.

He also goes to great length in admitting that he has quite a temper and even got involved in a shoving match with another congressman.

I think what troubled me most about McCain during the last presidential campaign, though, was him indicating that he’d depend upon Meg Whitman for economic policy.

I would not want to depend upon that scary lady for anything!

Thank you fellow voters for not electing her Governor of California.

And how is Barack Obama working out?

Well, I think he tries to be reasonable. But politics is not known for being reasonable. And I think he tries to make sense of the economy. But economics does not always seem all that sensible to me.

Meanwhile, he has stuck himself pretty well to that gooey tar baby that is the Middle East wars.

Cell phone use and texting should be banned from public schools…

November 15, 2010

This cell phone/texting thing among teenagers, especially in school , has gotten way out of hand.

I’ll make this simple: There is no reason for students to have cell phones or at least no reason for them to use them while school is in session.

Emergencies can be handled in the old, but quite reliable and just as expedient way of calling the school office and notifying the student.

Having students taking calls or texting while they are supposed to be listening to their teachers or otherwise doing school work is too distracting and a waste of taxpayer dollars that go into financing the school system.

Cell phone etiquette (or lack of it) and addiction is a societal problem that runs through all age groups.

In my own work as a long haul truck driver I have come to depend upon the cell phone and probably use it when I do not need to or should not, maybe — I do have the hands-free blue tooth thing.

In fact I am writing this blog now because I am broke down on the side of the road and am waiting for help. My own cell phone would not get out, but a fellow trucker stopped and I used his — later, mine decided to get out. I think this computer is working — not sure. So yes, I am not immune to the cell phone need and addiction (I use my computer mobile through a cell service often).

I fully accept the technology, but there needs to be etiquette and common sense used.

I was hearing about the cell phones in the schools problem and rules the schools try to enforce on a talk radio show. This is not the first time I have heard about this, but it reminded me of the problem and irritated me no end.

I fear that due to the timidity possibly of some school officials and the lack of discipline and common sense among parents, who seem to think their little darlings should be able to do most anything and that the school is basically a baby sitting institution, this problem may be too far gone already.

I think the talk show host, who seemed to give into the idea that teens are going to use the phones and text no matter what, commented that it has got to the point in society that two people have dinner with each other and don’t even pay attention to one another — instead they are texting or checking their cell phones or Blackberries or whatever.

But as far as public schools are concerned, the cell phone distraction should not be tolerated.

Doctors ought to be made to treat Medicare patients and even work at public clinics as a condition of their licenses…

November 14, 2010

How’s that health care reform working for you?

So far all that I am hearing is that health insurance companies are rushing to raise their rates before all the new requirements kick in. But somehow, eventually the new rules are supposed to save everyone money.

And while I understand this next thing has nothing to do with the new health care law, I just read a story that new cuts are set to be made in Medicare and that doctors are threatening to refuse service to Medicare patients and maybe even go out of business.

The Medicare cut thing has to do with some cost control measures put into effect years ago and inaction by congress, as I understand it.

Certainly government payments to doctors ought to have some appearance of reasonability — something close to the going rate. But at the same time it would seem to me medical ethics would dictate against refusing to treat patients.

Maybe the government could pull the licenses of doctors who refuse to treat patients.

Yes, I know, medicine is a business.

Nonetheless, the law requires one to have a medical license to practice medicine. That gives a lot of power to the government over doctors.

Here’s an idea: Maybe as a condition of maintaining a current medical license doctors ought to be required to treat Medicare patients and even do a certain amount of free public service at public clinics.

While I would be generally in favor of some form of national health care, failing that I think the government could take simple steps such as making doctors more accountable to the needs of the public through conditions on their licensing.


Don’t know if this has anything to do with the new health care law but at the private cancer center I have been going to the oncologist I have been seeing is leaving town to be with his doctor wife who practices elsewhere. I was told that on my next appointment I would not be seeing a doctor, but a physician’s assistant. I told them sorry, I don’t do PAs. They told me sorry, but that is the way they do it. I already had the experience of being in the hospital and being charged (may insurance being charged) for seeing a doctor when I actually was seen by a PA.

(I know, the use of paraprofessionals is supposed to be a cost efficiency measure. But when I want to see a doctor, I don’t want to see a doctor’s helper anymore than when I call a plumber I want to be given a plumber’s helper — pun, such as it is, intended.)

P.s. P.s.

And one more thing. New health care law or no, I am 61 and would just as soon not work so hard or go to some other type work (I’m an over-the-road driver), but I need my employer’s group insurance.

Yeah, how’s that new health care law working?

Hope you enjoyed Veteran’s Day…

November 12, 2010

So this was Veteran’s Day — I’m writing this on Vets Day eve (that is the end of the day). Well technically I’m a veteran — I served three years in the Army — but I was working on Veteran’s Day. Strangely, most of the government employees get it off — veterans or not (many of course are). Seems to me if you’re going to have a national holiday then everyone, except emergency personnel and essential public service employees (skeleton staff) should have it off.

I said I was “technically” a veteran because I do not consider my service as momentous as those who actually served in the combat theatre or who actually got shot at or got shot or who made a career of it all. I was in Germany while many others were in Vietnam, to include one of my brothers who was in the Army too (although he always downplays his service). My other brother was a career Navy man, serving throughout much of the Cold War and during the Korean War. While I have not always cared for our nation’s military or foreign policy, I am proud that all of us brothers served. We get the privilege of listening to all the chicken hawks squawk about how we should go to war hither and yon while never volunteering or otherwise being available for service themselves.

And then I hear this radio report how in San Francisco one of the Catholic charities (I think it was Catholic) was handing out shoes to homeless vets. If I was president there would be no such thing as a homeless vet or one who was in need of medical care but could not get it or was bankrupted or nearly bankrupted by it, such as has disturbingly been the case for many who have served in our most current wars. You see we have gone to the much leaner force of an all-volunteer military supplemented by reserves and National Guardsmen, and even private mercenaries. The reserves and guards it has been reported get caught up in bureaucracy that separates their service from the regular military. We’ve even had wounded vets being billed for their own medical care.

I’m serious, why could not the president make an executive order that such things could not, will not happen? Would he have the legal standing to do so? Who would object? Don‘t tell me, probably the chicken hawks (many of whom are Republicans).

One thing that always bothers me is that attitudes toward war or foreign policy are always attached to patriotism by those who promote war. You can be 100 percent in support of the troops but 100 percent against a particular military action or war.

It is true, though, that once our troops are committed, they need the support of the whole nation — that is kind of a paradox or conundrum in a free society. What it points to is the fact that we need a clarification on war powers. Since Korea and especially since Vietnam we have had a muddled idea as to who can commit our troops to war and under what circumstances.

Without getting into a scholarly treatise on constitutional war powers, I thought it had been the general understanding that the president can ask for a declaration of war, but only congress can declare it. But the long drawn out and bloody Vietnam War never saw a declaration. Our current war saw congress give former President George W. Bush power to wage a war on a concept , “terror”, giving him seemingly unlimited power to wage war on anyone anywhere forever (somehow I don‘t think our founding fathers foresaw that or would even approve of it). The war continues under a new president with no clear goal and a questionable rationale. I mean, how long will it take to wipe out evil, or all the evil doers, as W. would have said? Somehow I think as long as there is a human race there will be evil doers.

But, nonetheless, we have troops in the field while a complacent nation goes about wringing its hands or whining about economic depression. The subject of war  virtually never came up in the recent elections. And ironically, the war is a major cause of our economic disaster.

I still maintain that if every able-bodied male (and maybe even every able-bodied female) was obligated to serve a tour of duty we would probably not be involved in costly armed conflict anywhere at this time.

Hope you enjoyed Veteran’s Day.


I bought a poppy from some old guy (maybe no older than this old guy writing this) who said he also served in Germany.

P.s. P.s.

And just why do we still have troops in Germany anyway?

To take out Iran or not to, that could be the question and, no Sarah you can’t see it from your front porch…

November 8, 2010

The paradox the United States finds itself in trying to be or at least preach that it is a peace-loving nation is that it is also at this time the world’s only super power but that super power means little if it cannot be used.

Put another way, while it is good to stand up to bullies, one has to keep in mind the bully may call one’s bluff and one better be prepared to put up or shut up.

I detest war or any type of armed aggression, but I also feel somewhat secure in this dangerous world by being a citizen of the world’s super power.

So I say all of this in regard to an article I just read (well by now some hours ago) in the Huffington Post (and entity that kind of represents Rush Limburger Cheese in reverse) that quotes Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina who is on the senate’s armed services committee as saying the U.S. ought not only to take out Iran’s nuclear capability but its military (Navy, I think the article emphasized) and Revolutionary Guard too and maybe give its citizens a chance to install a new government (presumably friendly to the West).


The article, which is not exclusive to the Huffington Post, is as follows: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/11/06/lindsey-graham-calls-for-strike-on-iran_n_779997.html


Keeping in mind the Obama administration claims all options are currently open on Iran, Graham says many Republicans would support tough action, beyond sanctions, by the Democratic administration.

Personally, to me it seems that when you have certified nut cases, such as president Amadinejad and the mullahs, or hoolahs or whoever they call themselves, in charge of a nation and they threaten to among other things wipe out Israel, and sentence people to death by stoning, and deny basic human rights to their own citizens and threaten movement of the world’s oil supply we cannot sit idly by and let them gain the power to really cause damage.

As far as what they do to their own citizens, I am for the most part only in sympathy with the wronged — the citizens of Iran are really the only ones who can take care of that problem, except that if such a nation gets to join the nuclear weapons club it could inflict its horrendous ways on parts of or all of the rest of the world.

The U.S. really opened Pandora’s box when it created the A bomb, but someone else would have done it eventually — most likely Nazi Germany, which was close to it during World War II.

It’s kind of tricky in a diplomatic sense having one’s own nuclear arsenal and then arguing that others should not get their own, but that’s the cost of survival.

Hopefully a military strike on Iran will not be necessary. I think the less said about it by our government the better, lest we box ourselves into a corner. Still it’s good of Graham to put that out there as a message to Iran and even to the American people, who could actually have a chance to voice their opinion yay or nay, via opinion polls and comments to their elected representatives and such,  rather than find out one morning we had another Bay of Pigs, long in the planning, but very secret, at least to the American people, maybe not to Castro, who easily put it down and embarrassed the heck out of the U.S.

My main concern about possible military action, besides the obvious that people can get hurt, is that it would require much planning and have clear goals and not turn into some kind of long, drawn out nation building fiasco.

And can you imagine Sarah Palin in the White House having to make such a decision?

First she would have to locate Iran on the map (hint to Sarah: no you can‘t see it from your front porch).


Sen. Graham has served active duty in the Air Force and has seen some time in the war zones of the Middle East while serving in reserve status as a lawyer. He currently is a colonel in the Air Force Reserve. While I do not see that he has any actual combat experience, at least he wears the uniform — I only mention this because so many who advocate military action never have offered their services in that regard, although certainly military service is not a requirement to have an opinion or to hold office, nor should it be.