Palin out of control as a face in the crowd and me as the world’s worst customer…

May 31, 2011

I usually stick to one topic in my blog posts, but I want to, for wont of time, quickly address two separate issues.

One, which I should just leave alone, but can’t, is Sarah Palin. I have come to not only dislike her, but in fact detest her. She makes a mockery out of presidential politics, which should be pretty serious stuff (okay Trump and others do that too). There is no evidence so far that she stands for anything and that she in fact knows anything of public policy and American history and even world geography, or politics, really.

What she does know about is how to capitalize on near accidental fame. Ever since John McCain pulled her out of nowhere to run as his vice presidential running mate in his bid for the White House she has turned a political loss into a financial gold mine for herself, doing the speaker tour and book thing and raising money thing. Some would say that shows she is one smart lady. Well a prostitute can make a lot of money, but that does not say much for her (and I did not call Palin a wh…, directly anyway; I just made an anology of sorts).

For those who would not like to see the Republicans retake the White House, Palin may be the best thing that could happen. Even if she is unsuccessful she messes things up for the whole party, siphoning off support others would need.

(But, God forbid, what if, by some quirk, she made it to the White House!?)

There is at least one book out on her by a former staff member of hers that I understand describes her as terribly selfish and vindictive and as basically a phony, whether it be in her devotion to the conservative cause or religion. I don’t know about all that for sure, although the indications seem to be there for anyone who has even glanced at the news since she came on the scene. I doubt I will take time to read the book, but I may.

She reminds me of the character Andy Griffith played in a movie called “A Face in the Crowd” where some TV producers pick a country bumpkin out of nowhere and make him famous. He starts out as a seemingly good guy, but once the fame goes to his head, he gets out of control and rather ugly.

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The second topic: well it is probably not worth mentioning, but I will anyway. I am probably the world’s worst customer. I hate shopping (generally) and I hate going in to get my computer serviced or looked at. But I was having trouble using my computer in its mobile mode. I went to the place where it was bought — everything, the computer and the air card and programs and programming was all done and/or bought there. I spent maybe an hour or two there and talked to three different people at least and was led from station to station and in the end accomplished nothing and left, to say the least, a dissatisfied customer, and of course I told them so.

As it turned out I should have gone directly to the AT&T store (although I spoke to purported AT&T representatives in the afore-mentioned store).

But even there I had to call the AT&T customer service line first (I had done so before I went, at the advice, I admit, from the afore-mentioned computer store — so maybe I did get something accomplished there after all, in a way).

I got a new air card, which I was told would be free, but it cost $20, but I was made to feel good because it is supposed to cost $300.

Remember when all we had were the old-fashioned telephones that the phone company installed themselves? What if we would have had to pay $300 at any given time if the phone went bad?

I did not mention the name of the computer store. It is a well-known chain. But they are good at some things and I am probably the world’s worst customer anyway.

I’m not all that big on the whole computer thing, but when they work they sure are handy and it does allow me to do this blog, which I enjoy.


Thanks to those who sacrificed regardless of the merits of the effort itself…

May 30, 2011

It’s still Sunday where I am as I write this, and I did not attend any Memorial Day (weekend) ceremonies and will not tomorrow, the actual day designated as Memorial Day — not because I have no respect for those who have died in the service of my country — quite the contrary — I have the utmost respect for them. In fact, I have a lot more respect for them than I do the politicians and policy makers that sent them into harm’s way (these days especially, it seems, none of them have or will ever have to face such a prospect personally).

To be sure, throughout our history many young men (and women) have gone quite willingly into battle, sometimes for the pure adventure of it all. Others have felt it their duty. Still others just went because they felt they had no choice, but many of them tried to make the best of it.

While I am not the military type, I am proud that I and my brothers served. I’m sure they did a better job. My next oldest brother served in Vietnam during the war there and my oldest brother was a career Navy man, working his way up from boot seaman well into the officer ranks. I did the NATO thing in Germany during the worst of the Vietnam War, Oh, well, I filled a slot. Someone had to do KP and walk guard duty and help man the tanks in case the commies were to come over the border.

Many years ago when I was a newspaper photographer/reporter I used to do the requisite coverage on Memorial Day — parade photos and coverage of ceremonies at the cemetery. In more recent years my now late wife and I attended local ceremonies at the cemetery and felt some pride in our nation, even if we did not always agree with the current or even past foreign policy that made all these sacrifices necessary.

We honor the sacrifice, if not always the policy.

Now I have seldom ever heard of anyone seriously criticizing our (the U.S.) involvement in World War II.

But I have often heard that going “over there” for World War I was a dubious proposition that solved nothing and put to waste so many lives in dreadful trench warfare in which men were forced to run head-on into machine gun and artillery fire. And to add insult to injury (and death), the European powers went to war with each other all over again within a couple of decades and the U.S. found itself fighting over there again, but with more concrete results.

If you read enough history you will even find criticism of our Revolutionary War, with some revisionists claiming that some of the colonists did not appreciate the fact the mother country was supporting its colonies, to include protection on the high seas for international trade, but that they did not want to pay the taxes — kind of sounds like today when many people expect a lot of things from government but don’t see the connection with taxes. But of course without the Revolutionary War there would be no United States of America, and we have developed our own unique form for democracy and so many people want to come here. We must be doing something right.

The Civil War (or War Between the States if you live in the South) seems to me to have been a terrible and possibly unnecessary tragedy. One of the major issues or in fact maybe the major issue, from which the others derived, was slavery. It seems maybe with the benefit of hindsight that slavery would have eventually died out from its eventual overall impracticality. But maybe again the Civil War was inevitable, with the clash of two economic cultures and social systems, one in which human beings were treated as work animals to be bought and sold and mistreated (there really never was a defense of that).

Okay, I won’t analyze each and every conflict. I mean there is plenty of controversy about Korea and Vietnam and Iraq and Afghanistan and now Libya, as well as many other military endeavors.

The point is something I have said many times before, we are honoring the sacrifices people made in the name of our country, right or wrong, without the benefit of 20/20 hindsight.

I have to work tomorrow. But if you get a chance and there is still a ceremony to attend, maybe do so. Or some people still put decorations on graves in honor of the day’s old title, Decoration Day (sometimes even on the graves of those who did not serve, I am told).

As small a gesture as it is, I think as soon as I post this I am going to go out on my apartment balcony and look over the beautiful country where I live and take a moment to be thankful for those who cared enough to sacrifice their lives and even for those who did so more under compulsion. The result is the same. We remain as the leader in democracy and free of foreign domination.

Thank you!


Bin Laden raid may have provided answer to how to get out of the Middle East wars

May 29, 2011

If I just read it correctly, in the near future we will have another official holiday to observe, besides the Memorial Day weekend we are currently in. There is to be a day to honor those who have served or taken part in the efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq.

I’m seeing the handwriting on the wall that tells me sentiment is leaning heavily for ending our involvement over there (the Middle East).

A measure was narrowly defeated in the House the other day that was aimed at doing just that. Even the Republicans seem to be turning against what was the Bush war and now is Obama’s war.

If I were the cynical type I would say, okay fine, it was all well and good in the name of fighting for freedom and all that is precious when it was a Republican-led effort, but now that the first black president, and a Democrat at that, has embraced the war over there, the by gosh by jingo lets fight them over there so we don’t have to fight them here folks are having second thoughts.

But in fact, I think save for a little excitement in the beginning, the public at large — not the families of soldiers — has been largely indifferent to the whole thing. One big reason is there is no draft. Young men (and women) do not have to worry about being called up to die for a questionable cause and parents don’t have to worry that their children will be yanked from them to become cannon fodder.

Even those who normally equate everything our nation does militarily (especially if there is a Republican president) as immune from criticism are having second thoughts, I think.

It’s the cost man. The U.S. has spent more than a trillion dollars in a near decade-long military effort in the Middle East and keeps spending billions per month, but cannot figure out if or when it can win or has already won (probably not on that last one) and cannot figure out how to stop or get out. And now the U.S. is facing the equivalent of bankruptcy we are told with the prospect it (we) will be forced to default on debt (bond) payments. While some of that threat is political theatre used as leverage to force changes in social policies, most of it is certainly real, I would think. And since the dollar is what we and the world depend upon, a default could not be good, to say the least.

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UPDATE:

So several days after posting this I found the figure I was looking for. According to a story in the Washington Post the U.S. is set to spend $113 billion this year alone on the Afghanistan war and is proposing to spend $107 billion the next fiscal year.

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To simply quit would seem to add one to the loss column, as in Vietnam, not only casting shame on us all and making a mockery out of the sacrifices of our soldiers, but making us look weak in the face of our enemies, emboldening them to strike us in ever newer and deadlier ways.

And the fear is that if we leave, militant Islam would fill the void and be in a stronger position to defeat the U.S.

But maybe the Bin Laden hit has provided an answer.

Maybe that is what we should have been doing all along, that is going after the perpetrators, rather than destroying peoples’ homes and livelihoods and nations and making new enemies in the process.

Modern technology and its rapid speed transportation and communication is a two-way street.

On the one hand, it made 9/11 possible. It allowed a shadowy underground of terrorists to make an enormous deadly strike on the world’s only remaining super power.

But it also allows that super power to strike back in surgical fashion as in the Bin Laden raid, giving proof to good old George W. Bush’s use of that old saying (was in from Joe Louis?) “you can run, but you can’t hide” (well you actually can hide and quite well for a long time, in plain sight even, but we will eventually get you).

Let’s bring the troops home and really have a celebration.

Let’s spend those trillions of dollars to pay off the national debt and provide health care for all and to revitalize our industry which made us strong to begin with.

P.s.

And yes, in honor of Memorial Day let us all take some time to look back and appreciate the sacrifices others made in the name of freedom (regardless if the policies that put  them there, and over which they had little to no control, made sense).

P.s. P.s

President Barack Obama really ought to be called out on his Libya involvement. It does seem to have violated both the Constitutional war provisions and the War Powers Act (although I confess I have not researched this; I’m just going on what others have said or written). I guess some are hedging in case the Libyan adventure were to turn out to be successful.

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And one more thing here: I have been having computer problems and have not been able to post as much as I would prefer. Believe me, I have not been without things to comment on.


The end of the world for some a day or so late; Is this climate change or same old same old?

May 23, 2011

If you predict just about anything you have a good chance of being right — it may well come to pass. Just don’t be too specific about time and date.That poor preacher who predicted that the world would end Saturday was apparently wrong and as I understand it is now in seclusion and quite distraught. Reportedly some sucker in New York spent his life savings buying posters and such proclaiming the end of the world.

But then again they may have been just a day early. For it was the end of the world for at least 116 (the latest count as I write this) folks in Joplin, Mo., where a tornado struck Sunday, and it may well seem like the end of the world for as many or more who are picking through the rubble looking for what little they can salvage or worse yet looking for missing loved ones and friends.

Within the last hour or so I heard a purported weather expert say that he has never seen such a cold weather pattern in the mid level atmosphere and thinks it might be unprecedented, but he was quick to also note that there have been cyclical weather patterns of  heavy snow packs and torrential rains and floods followed by droughts and then deluges all over again since weather began to be officially recorded. And what happened before that we don’t necessarily know for sure — at least we don’t have the official statistics (the Bible of course speaks of flood and famines).

He also indicated one cannot attribute the recent spate of bad weather and natural disasters all over the nation and world to the notion of global warming or climate change, as it has been renamed (because we hear of both extreme hot and cold weather). Those who study such things just don’t know for sure what is going on, or at least he did not, he indicated.

(I’m just paraphrasing what I heard on part of Tom Sullivan’s talk show aired on Fox Radio. I got it by way of KFBK, Sacramento, where Sullivan used to hold forth until he hit the big time and moved to New York.)

I wished I knew of some independent and objective and non-biased repository of scientific observations and conclusions on the weather so I could get this whole climate change thing in perspective. I know that the reactionary right is in denial and/or thinks it’s all a ploy by the far left to use as an excuse to control all human behavior (the right mainly focuses on control of sexual behavior). I have also just read in the past day that some of the more thoughtful among the so-called “conservative” movement or Republican Party, that is the thinking branch, would like to give some credence to the possible dangers of climate change and the notion that man has had some part in causing it and possibly has the power to help remedy it. But they risk being kicked out of their own movement for such heresy. Just ask Newt Gingrich who has had to explain away past spoken sympathies with the notion of climate change brought on at least partly by man’s activities and possibly fixable by man’s change of behaviors. He’s not even allowed to say it is worth looking into (his explanation of past statements — not necessarily so, just worth looking into). The mighty Rush Limburger Cheese himself has said Gingrich’s nod to the notions of the non-reactionaries on possible climate change was in inexplicable (read that unacceptable).

Mixing science and politics could lead to the end of the world for us all.

P.s.

I kind of indirectly described Gingrich as thoughtful. I think he is an idea person, although the word “thoughtful’ might not apply to him depending upon the context of that word one has in mind. He is given to making rash and bombastic statements. But his current problem seems to come from thinking, that is at looking at more than one side of an issue, something his brethren do not approve of. To be fair, same goes on the far left.


I say again, the way to energy conservation is price in the marketplace…

May 22, 2011

Sometimes I just repeat myself, so here I go again:

In order to promote energy conservation, let the free market work.

Really that is the only thing that seems to do it.

People, Americans in particular, don’t seem to like to conserve merely for conservation’s sake, but when the price of gas or diesel begins to hurt them in the pocketbook they cut back or go to more efficient means of using energy.

I’m a long-haul truck driver, not so much in spirit as in actual fact. I mean that is how I have been making my living for about a decade and a half. When I began most of the owner operators (people who are kind of like one-man or one-woman businesses) and other drivers would swear up and down (I would hear this primarily over the CB radio) that driving at slower speeds, say 55, on the freeway did not save fuel. They said such things as their engines ran more efficiently at higher speeds, maybe 65 or more. Besides, it was not worth their while to drive slower and get fewer miles in per day (since miles traveled translates into more dollars in this business, generally speaking).

But since diesel hit $5 and more per gallon at one point, and is still sky high, higher than gasoline, which it used to be cheaper than, I have heard a different tune or more accurately, I have witnessed a different behavior.

I was away from over-the-road trucking for awhile a couple of years ago or so when I had a bout with cancer. When I came back I witnessed two things: fewer trucks on the road and many trucks going somewhat slower than I remember (many, not all).

I am a company driver — I don’t own my truck. My truck, designed primarily for the West Coast where the speed limit is 55 in California and Oregon and 60 in Washington, has its speed electronically governed down to about 63 tops when I’m using my cruise control. So when I am in, say Arizona, where the speed limit may be up to 75, I cannot even go up to the speed limit. In fact, sometimes when there is a warning sign to slow down I can’t even get up to the suggested slow-down rate. Well anyway, that would usually mean a lot of trucks come whizzing by me. But in recent years I have noticed that I pass a lot of trucks.

The other day I was in Arizona at a truck stop and a driver told me that he felt 65 was plenty fast enough. “You save fuel”,  by going slower, he noted.

Also, my company promotes fuel conservation by handing out fuel mileage bonuses. I am chagrinned when I don’t get them. But I got to thinking the other day that maybe part of that is my own fault. I have a computer that gives me constant information on what my fuel consumption average is to the minute. This is not news to me, but it might be something I put aside in my memory some time ago. By easing off of the throttle, one can see the fuel mileage jump up rather startlingly. What I cannot say for a certainty is what the optimum speed should be on the freeway. It may well depend upon the specs for a particular truck’s engine. But I would venture to say, in general it is probably 55. The old saying or line from a song is “I can’t drive fifty five”. Driving at exactly 55 seems dreadfully slow. Law enforcement by their own toleration has put the de facto speed limit at 60 where the posted limit is 55. Most of those drivers who claim they got a ticket for going 56 were probably going 66 and the cop dropped the alleged speed to 56 to give the driver a break on the fine and to save the argument or court challenge.

I also noticed that a neighbor of mine who had been driving an SUV is now driving a smaller car, at least temporarily. She said she swapped with a  relative because she was having to make trips out of town and it is cheaper.

Back to the trucking. Since diesel prices spiked so steeply a few years ago, all kinds of efficiencies have been implemented. Trucks are going slower — again not all. And generators have been installed on lots of trucks (mine included, thankfully) that can be switched on when the trucks are not moving so the driver does not have to idle the engine to run heating and cooling and other necessities — we drivers live in these things for much of our time, you have to understand. The generators use far less fuel per hour than the truck engine and are less polluting. Shippers have done a lot of things in scheduling and dispatching to make runs more efficient. The main thing I have both read about and noticed first hand is that many companies that haul their own product are now backhauling outside freight, thus reducing expensive deadheads (empty miles). While that is more competition for the common carriers (who haul other people’s freight) it does theoretically reduce the amount of trucks on the road. I’ve even read that shippers are cooperating with one another in sharing freight space on trucks.

The bottom line is you can mandate things through government, thus creating a confusing set of rules and another tier of expensive bureaucracy for enforcement and an increase in over all expense and confusion in the marketplace or you can let the pressure of the cost of fuel create its own innovations or new behaviors.

(And government cannot run business practices efficiently. A college professor I had asserted that in the old Soviet Union they always had trouble with their grain harvests. One problem was a shortage of spare parts for combines. In the Soviet state-run industrial style, manufacturers of parts simply churned out what some bureaucratic system told them to, without regard to the real needs out in the field. In the capitalist free market, in order to stay in business parts makers and suppliers have to supply what is needed at any one time.)

There is a lot more going on in non-government coerced and market driven conservation than what I have set forth here, but I think I made my key point, and I am not even a natural free market advocate. And that is not because I am against the free market, it is because it seems to me there is seldom an actual free market. But sometimes the model or system does work.

I do think the public as a whole has been wrong is assuming that we must have all the oil we can use and do anything to make that happen. It has resulted in a vast destruction of the environment and costly wars. But the free market seems to be having more of an effect on conservation so far than anything else.

I suspect that the free market will eventually produce viable alternatives.

Government research grants and other incentives might help, but I think the ethanol boondoggle where farmers are encouraged to grow tons of corn for fuel and thus jack up the cost of food all to produce ethanol which I understand does little to nothing to conserve natural resources or reduce pollution (it may increase pollution, in fact) shows how corn state politics got in the way of good science.


Let’s recognize a free Palestine and look homeward America…

May 19, 2011

For my part, I would be pleased if our president concentrated more on domestic issues, such as how to pay off the national debt and to eliminate deficit spending, and of course to get the work force back to work. But since he seems interested in foreign relations at the moment, I applaud his call in a speech on the Middle East today for the creation once and for all of an independent Palestinian state based on the pre-1967 borders.

I’m not as up on the history as I should be, but I am certainly well aware of the Six-Day War back in 1967. I was a senior in high school then, and it being in June, I was just about out of school. I don’t think many of my classmates were interested in this sort of thing, but I recall at least one of my social studies teachers was. He was obviously pro-Israeli (I think he was Jewish), and I think based on the comments he made and the tone of the news reports I heard, the Israelis were the good guys and those dirty nasty Arabs were the bad guys. Well, in reality there is/was probably plenty of blame to go around. My quick internet research tells me that both sides were expecting war and troops from each side, the (Israelis and the Arabs) were massing on the borders. Both sides initially claimed the other side attacked first, but in the end, Israel admitted it made a pre-emptive air attack.

The Arabs had wanted (and still do) to eliminate the modern state of Israel, created in 1949 with the support of the United States and Western European governments over guilt and/or sympathy over the Holocaust (the murder of some 6 million Jews — along with assorted Gypsies and others, by the Nazis of Germany). But in the end, instead of being eliminated, Israel took over some new territory as the result of its pre-emptive attack and subsequent victory in the Six-Day War.

Well right there, that should not have been allowed. Israel should have been pressured by the western powers, upon whom it depends ultimately for survival in a hostile land, to cede back the overtaken territories. I wish after all these years the western powers, to include the United States, most notably, would simply demand that Israel recognize a fully-independent state of Palestine, based on pre-1967 borders, and at the same time let the Arabs know that Israel will continue to be a reality, so get used to it.

On a related subject, while I think the Libya intervention (remember that?) was a mistake, now that we are in it (by our support), let’s get Gaddafi and then let the Libyans do what they will with their own country, even if they have to fight among themselves to sort it out. Bin Laden is gone, and he was not in Afghanistan (surprise, surprise), and most or all of Al Qaeda is said to be out of that nation and the Taliban there are not as hot on Al Qaeda as they once were some experts say (they don‘t want to go the way of Bin Laden). So let’s hand that nation back to the people there and let them take care of things as they have for centuries in their tribal fashion.

Let’s say good riddance to out false friend Pakistan. No more money to them. (And really, if I understand it right, most of the so-called aid that goes to them is military and is really just a boon for the armaments industry.)

And let’s ignore Iran already. We should (this is something I always assert and will not stop now) secretly send Iran a message that we will stay out of its affairs but we will not tolerate a nuclear-armed Iran. Same with Pakistan and North Korea. These nations cannot be trusted. And, in fact, the world does not need any new members of the nuclear weapons club.

I wish all the best in the so-called Arab Spring democracy movement. But that is their business and who is to say their version of democracy will be like ours? It’s not as sexy or glamorous, but the United States would do better to refurbish its relations with the nations of its own hemisphere. I’m not aware of any particular problems with Canada, but I do know that Mexico, a major commercial trading partner, is in the throes of a catastrophic drug war that threatens civil society there and here as well and that the U.S. is partly responsible in that the drugs come north because of the market here and contraband weapons from the U.S. go south .

And we would do well to strengthen relations with the nations of Central and South America.

Look homeward America!


Big Business, Big Oil want the help but not the bothersome control; The way to keep gas prices down is to consume less…

May 19, 2011

Big business, most notably at present, big oil, maintains it must have tax breaks, which one would presume comes at the expense of regular taxpayers, who have to make up the difference. But it puts forth the ingenious argument that actually regular taxpayers benefit because the extra profits that result go into the 401K retirement benefits of regular taxpayers, said  401K accounts having investments in big business, to include big oil.

So, apparently free enterprise only works when it is subsidized by the very BIG government it abhors. It wants help from government but not controls.

Trouble is, the people or the entity that pays the money must exert some control as to how their or its money is spent, or even whether it should be spent at all. That’s kind of the way it is in life.

It may be that it is to the benefit of the nation as a whole to subsidize some industries — that is at least arguable. But it does not seem like the ones that are receiving record profits or profits far beyond other businesses logically should be the beneficiaries of those subsidies.

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On a related subject, the best and surest way to make fuel prices come down is to consume less — it really works. Drive anything you want: big car, big pickup, SUV, minicar (whatever that is), big truck, just consume less — it really works. If all else fails and it is available to you, take public transit. The market forces sometimes, when not skewed by government meddling or monopoly manipulation, really do work. And even though I think most people have come to the only obvious conclusion that the oil monopoly does manipulate gas prices where and when it can, all the manipulation in the world is fairly ineffective if the buyers refuse to buy or buy as much.

P.s.

Back to the first point: A Democratic bill to eliminate oil company tax breaks was defeated in the Senate, with the help of some energy state Democrats, along with ever business-friendly Republicans.

A lot of people are employed by oil companies, or energy companies as they like to call themselves. That of course gives them a lot of clout among a large percentage of working people. I recall the internal consternation among U.S. Gulf Coast residents last year during the Gulf oil spill, when those worried about the fishery and the beaches and water and vacation business and the ecology thought one way, perhaps, and those dependent upon offshore drilling thought another way, perhaps.

And as I often  note, politicians respond to the big money interests because that is how they stay in office. The electorate does not pay close attention and does not analyze issues much. Instead, it responds more to the paid propaganda that even makes its way into the so-called free media (meaning news reports presented at no cost to those who benefit from the messages).

When it was discovered a couple of decades ago or so by the major media outlets that news content could be profitable if it could be turned into entertainment and if substance was sacrificed for style, we all lost.

Add to that the clever oil company lobby promotion on the airwaves that begins with the voices of purportedly regular citizens opining of the need to look for sources of alternative energy and such and how the oil companies should do something to help the economy (forgo the tax breaks, well that is not mentioned). And then the voice, running almost simultaneously, representing the oil companies saying they already are doing these things and suggesting “we should talk about more we can agree upon” (the presumption that there is any agreement between the average consumer and the oil companies).