China rising while America declines, it seems…

June 27, 2011

I fear America’s days of being the leading power and economic force in the world are numbered.

The United States of America did not start out with the intention of being the world super power but that sort of naturally evolved.

It has been a burden, requiring us to sacrifice much blood and treasure, but I have thought it has become almost a necessity of survival to stay on top once we got there.

Think what might happen if we lost that spot. There might be reprisals.

While our intentions have been good, for the most part, there are people who don’t like us out there.

In addition no matter what we have been like all these years, there are always evil forces at work who would prefer to subjugate the whole world for nothing more than their own selfish desires of power.

And there is an age-old struggle between cultures, especially east and west — we are not one world.

Not everyone prefers American style democracy, especially those who see it as a threat to their own selfish desires for power (I know I just used that phrase) or who demand that everyone follow their own brand of worship.

But America has weakened itself economically by all but abandoning its role as an industrial power. Yes, of course we still have industry, to include heavy industry, but we are simply not the industrial giant we once were.

Our leaders fell for the idea a few decades ago that we no longer needed to get our hands dirty by actually making things and we could have cleaner air, I suppose, by eliminating so many smoke stacks (and drains of toxic substances into our rivers) by abandoning industry and buying things from elsewhere (where they could get dirty) and meanwhile deal in things such as financial services and technology (we design the software and the hardware comes from somewhere else). Instead of having working people making middle class wages at factory jobs, they would be bumped down to working at fast food or whatever they could get at much lower wages. But their kids could go to college and get jobs trading in the markets making money hand over fist by short selling and other forms of market manipulation.

There was still hard and dirty work to be done, such as picking strawberries and cleaning motel rooms and such, but we could look the other way while poor people slipped over the border to get those jobs.

And for the more skilled labor, such as construction, we could dumb down the work by having workers do limited portions of it and paying them less for it in the process, making more jobs for illegal aliens and fewer jobs for skilled tradesmen (and quality and workmanship be damned).

Even in things such as customer service jobs have been farmed out to phone banks in India and even Mexico.

We did away with the military draft after the Vietnam fiasco and went to the all-volunteer military — guns for hire. That was good in that no one had to risk his life for questionable causes our politicians got us into, but it also meant that the rest of us could be oblivious to war — that’s someone else’s job.

But we still depend upon oil for fuel  for our remaining manufacturing sector and more importantly to transport ourselves and our imported goods around.

But we are importing the parts for the new San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge from China ( ) and meanwhile China is eyeing oil from Canada, our leading supplier and ace in the whole when other sources run out or are cut off from us (  ) .


ADD 1: There is nothing wrong with world trade and competition. The United States was built on its ability to trade with other nations. And perhaps the greater interdependence this “new” global economy creates may serve to bring peoples together, but while interdependence can ge a good thing, dependence is not so good.


Meanwhile, we are mired in debt because we thought we could get rich by borrowing and not working for our money, and our main creditor is China.

Who do you think is the rising power in the world?


I did not mention India, but I just read the other day that China and India are the emerging world powers. While they are historic rivals they have also been cooperating. I had just read about this, but the first link I could find actually dates back to 2005:

P.s. P.s.

I do not think the trend is irreversible for the U.S., but time is running out. We are still the beacon of hope and democracy for the world, but we are losing our edge.

Should we get out of Afghanistan? Should we stay the course? Should we ramp things up?

June 26, 2011

How can we win in Afghanistan when we have already made in clear to the enemy that we are not in it for the long haul? The very idea of telegraphing our intentions to the enemy, i.e., planned withdrawal, is absurd. What if we would have told Hitler and Tojo, “we will give it four years but if we don’t win by then we quit”? (I know, it’s been ten years in Afghanistan, but our political leaders have been half-hearted in the matter and the public indifferent.)


I want to comment on the here and now, primarily the Afghanistan war, but for war, Vietnam is always my analogy or point of comparison.

The Vietnam war was not necessary and it accomplished nothing, except the communists did eventually take over South Vietnam (all of Vietnam), and how that, the commie take over, hurt the U.S. I have no idea. In fact, today Vietnam is a prosperous nation and a trading partner with the U.S. and has adopted a primarily capitalist economy (as has communist China).

Even if nation after nation had indeed fell to communism, as the prevailing “Domino Theory” of the time had suggested, it would not have necessarily adversely affected the U.S as a whole (some capitalists perhaps), I would not think, and eventually those communist governments would see their economic system fail as they always have under communism and look to more capitalist style business models.

But due to our Cold War doctrine we were pre-disposed to fight communism wherever we could. JFK said “we will fight any foe…”

Today the threat of communism has been replaced by the threat of terrorism, primarily terrorism that claims to carry the Islamic banner (even though the whole religious community of Islam itself is not necessarily arrayed against us).

The modern threat seems a little more real, though. Terrorists have struck all over the world and of course struck the U.S. big time on 9/11, with other incidents from those who apparently were inspired by the Islamic terrorists, since then (e.g.,Ft. Hood ect.).

With our predisposition and our rhetoric of the time of the Cold War, we were in some ways looking for a fight, and we got one in Vietnam. There was an ongoing communist insurgency in South Vietnam aided and abetted by Communist North Vietnam and the Soviet Union, and China to some extent as well.

For sure, I suppose, if communism were left unchecked the fear was that it would eat into the free capitalist markets and enslave whole nations under iron socialist, extreme leftist, rule, which ironically is the same as iron right wing (capitalist) fascism or Nazi control. Both ends of the political spectrum demand totalitarian rule — dictatorships (I am not sure why, except they are totally intolerant of independent thought).

And if modern so-called Islamic terrorists had their way we would all be enslaved under harsh Sharia law.

I’m going back and forth here, but way back in the early 60s there had not been a direct invasion by North Vietnam of South Vietnam but we were itching to fight the spread of communism — it was taught in our schools that the USSR wanted to rule the world with its communism and that it was ready to nuke us at any minute and short of that or meanwhile it was attempting through subversion and outright warfare to take over countries one at a time (and of course there was some modicum of truth here mixed in with all this). The USSR had already forced Eastern Europe under its umbrella as a kind of spoil of victory in World War II, during which it was our ally.

Our trigger finger was so itchy that LBJ used the pretext of a couple of our gun boats being fired upon (questionable what really happened) to wage war against the communists in South Vietnam. But apparently there were mixed feelings about the war from the beginning and it was found that a resolution giving the president power to use military force rather than a formal declaration of war was more practicable (politicians could both wage war and claim we were not really at real war at the same time, thus appeasing both sides of the issue. And that is the model we have followed since, except that nowadays we do call it war most of the time — we just don’t go on record as officially fighting a declared war so that we feel obligated to forgo normal activities for the war effort).

There were continued mixed feelings about Vietnam. So we fought what became an all-out war with one hand tied behind our back for fear of something called “escalating a war”. I still don’t know what that really means. War is war. The side that fights the hardest, with the most skill, the most determination, and above all does not give up, wins.

Eventually the losses were too high; we took too long to realize that. We quit and the other side won.

Oh, and there is an analogy and/or comparison here (more than one really). It was said that Vietnam was not a conventional ground war. But the North Vietnamese eventually sent in regular combat troops with uniforms and everything.

It is said that Afghanistan is not a conventional war. But real bullets and shells are being fired and people are getting killed.

In both wars we found it necessary to work with corrupt governments that were supposed to be on our side. In both wars we were trying to train domestic troops (of the respective nations) to do their own fighting — but they often seemed reluctant (it is sometimes hard to save people who have no stomach to be saved).

Not long after we left Vietnam, the unconventional war, the North Vietnamese quite conventionally rolled into Saigon with their quite conventional tanks and eventually renamed the town Ho Chi Minh City, after the legendary North Vietnamese leader.

What I am trying to note here, among other things, is that once we leave Afghanistan, an unconventional war, the Taliban/Al Qaeda forces will take over in a quite conventional manner (although they might fight among one another).

As we got into Vietnam by a pre-disposition to fight communism, Bush 2 moved into Iraq and Afghanistan to fight his War on Terror (terror is a tactic not a person or an identifiable entity — that makes it rather open-ended and hopeless — kind of like waging war on “meanness”).

The 9/11 terror was staged from Afghanistan, and the government there refused to hand over the master mind, Osama Bin Laden, so we invaded and meanwhile for good measure Bush 2 invaded Iraq, a nation not necessarily waging direct terror against us but whose government was controlled by a very bad man, Saddam Hussein, who was sympathetic at least to the cause of hating us.

This issue is so complex with so many contradictions that I am only touching on what are some high points as I see them. And since I was writing all of this off the top of my head, I neglected to mention the obvious point here is that all of our current fighting (to include Libya, which I note at bottom) is tied to our need for oil. The garbage about trying to fight for freedom is primarily just that, garbage, although most would certainly hope the end result would be a free and democratic world (you know, no matter what, eventually anything might happen no matter what we do or don’t do — you know, like the freedom and democracy movement in the Middle East indpendent of us).

Looking back, it seems absurd that we invaded a nation to catch one man, missed him, and that he hid out in plain sight in Pakistan, which is supposed to be our allied nation in all of this, and that we got so many of our own people killed and have killed and still kill so many civilians, to include many innocent women and children.

With our modern technology we probably would have been better off going after the Al Qaeda leadership using Navy Seals and various other elite military special units (Delta Force, Green Berets, Rangers (and so on) and drones.

On the other hand, as I continue to contend, as so many others have too (I hear people talk), if you fight a war, fight it to win.

But to achieve victory you have to define it and you must have the will and the resources to win.

There really is no such thing as unconventional war — war is war.

Quitting is an option too. We did it in Vietnam. We survived, but with much continuing harm to our national psyche and pride. But we could and should quit now. We can claim some success in disrupting Al Qaeda. And we could actually let them know that if they menace us again  — We Will Be Back! And this time like we mean it.

(This is in no way meant to disparage our military. From all appearances we have the best fighting force we have ever had, but they are hamstrung by namby pamby political leaders — you might read that cowards — and by the public at large, not affected, not interested — unless their son or daughter is in it.)

But for those who say we cannot abandon the fight — well then let’s do it right then.

However, to do it right might actually require sacrifice of the American people and create shortages of fuel and consumer goods and desired services. We might even have to reinstitute the military draft (a good way to reduce unemployment?).

Any takers?

I thought not. Let’s just declare victory and withdraw our forces.


I’m not saying we have to fight World War II in order to win, but we would have to be prepared to do so, financially and mentally and politically. We don’t appear to be.

P.s. P.s.

I did not mention Libya, but it is just another example of using war to secure an oil supply and for geopolitical purposes (dying for oil and politics — worth another essay).

Enough to make one join the Tea Party…

June 21, 2011

From what I have read, the Tea Party was originally a kind of gimmick set up by some fat cat conservative Republicans to get the common folk stirred up against moderates and liberals, but whatever the truth of that it has taken on a life and meaning of its own. It ostensibly stands for every-day Americans who are just fed up with all the shenanigans and money-wasting schemes that come out of Washington, primarily, and state houses and other levels of government.

For the most part I have viewed what seems to come out of Tea Party rallies as unintelligible babble of uninformed people, mixed in with some legitimate gripes about government.

But a couple of things in the news in the past many days have made me angry enough, well almost enough, to join the ranks of the Tea Party. And actually, if I really knew more of what goes on in government I’d probably already be a member.

But here are the two things:

Anthony Weiner, the New York congressman who resigned under pressure after it was brought out that he spent much time emailing photos both depicting and explicitly displaying his private parts to various women, and perhaps sometimes unsolicited at that on their behalf, may be out of a job but thanks to a generous retirement program congress has given itself, taxpayers will eventually pay him some $1.2 million or more in pension benefits.

I have never understood how people on everything from city councils and county boards of supervisors (commissioners in some states, selectmen, whatever) get health care benefits and taxpayer-paid retirement from positions that are not even permanent employment, usually.

Okay, that was one.

The other is this story that the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) has or had a program called “Fast and Furious” by which they knowingly let firearms fall into the hands of Mexican drug cartels, ostensibly to be able to track down cartel members (I know it makes no sense or at least is not good sense). It has been reported that at least one U.S. Border Patrol agent was killed by one of those firearms. So far, Obama administration officials are not saying anything or not much, anyway, about this whole affair.

While I doubt this is the case, I heard one typical Fox News watching, right-wing, probably Tea Party type (but likely a non-voter), and gun-toting NRA member (likely) say that the purpose of the gun running scheme was to get more guns into Mexico so they would then be used in violence on our side of the border (in the ongoing drug wars) and thereby add fuel to the fire in an effort to “take away our guns”. Then again, who knows?

It Just upsets me that we spend tax dollars in such cockamamie schemes. Far too much money is wasted on fighting drugs. The more we try to fight the drug running the more we bid up that illicit trade. I am not an advocate of decriminalizing dangerous drugs, I just think we need to rearrange our priorities.

Government at all levels needs to reassess itself and go back to putting the priority into basic services and go from there.

And while I never get any traction on this, I still think almost all elected offices, from local to federal, should be non-salaried, with office holders receiving only stipends for public service.

There seems to be no evidence whatsoever that high salaries and generous benefits keep office holders from accepting outright or indirect bribes.

Money is the standard motivator in much of life, but I don’t think it is good to have it be that motivator for public service on the elected level.

Think I’ll brew myself a cup of tea, but I‘ll probably hold off on joining the party, just now.

Drowning story deep sixed under pressure of advertiser and newspaper manager’s neighbor…

June 21, 2011


A couple of days or so now since posting the following I have come to realize the post probably deals more with small-town journalism than what its original headline (about Mormons running for president) suggested. With that in mind I have re-posted and revised it, hoping that those interested in how things work in journalism, or at least small-town journalism, might read it. It’s what happens when the non-news people take over and only not offending anyone, especially an advertiser, is the main concern, besides being profitable.


One of my first big bosses at a newspaper, his title being “general manager”, was a Mormon (he’s a dead one now — may he be at peace in Mormon heaven). He was not a newsman in the least, but on most (not all) of the newspapers I worked on the non-news people ran the show and pretended to admire we news types, at least to our face, and probably wondered to themselves how we could be so foolish as to work for so little money at something so trivial as reporting news rather than selling ad space. He was vain as vain could be. But who could blame him? He was a tall silver-haired (or maybe just gray at the temples then; I forget) middle-aged man and quite handsome to a woman’s eye I am sure. As he strode through the office women would all but gasp and look admiringly upon their leader. He was always polite and good natured and cordial in public, with a friendly word for everyone. But sometimes the whispers would go around that in high-level staff meetings, behind the closed door of his office, he became furious. But that fury was respected because he was the tall, handsome leader. If a lower-level staffer were to become angry it would be called a tempter tantrum.

I have mentioned this once in another context too. But Mr. Big personally killed a story about the drowning of a boy and the failure of the ambulance driver/deputy coroner to take him directly to the hospital where he might have been resuscitated in time and saved (might have). The boy was in fact brought back to life by a hospital intern, but died days later. The ambulance driver, who, as I noted, was also the deputy coroner, had stopped to interview witnesses and make his report before taking the boy to a hospital. That ambulance driver was also a real-estate salesman and advertised heavily in our newspaper. He also threatened to sue if anything mentioning him was written (I know; I took the original call).

Mr. Big asked me what he had said. I told him. Mr. Big assured me that no one was going to tell the newspaper what it could publish and what not, keeping in mind to stay away from actual libel. (My personal note here: simple truth is usually a good defense against libel, but one might want to consult a lawyer in that field on that one).

But Mr. Big, I found out years later, lived next door to a big wig in the Sheriff’s Department, which was also implicated in possible (possible) negligence. That big wig unwittingly told me that he had prevailed upon Mr. Big to kill that story. Now this individual who told me that was a self-promoting blow hard of sorts, but knowing what I know, I think Mr. Big wilted under pressure. (That was my story he killed.)

To be fair, it could be that there was little to no actual negligence involved in that incident if all the facts were gone through — I mean it was conjectured the poor boy was probably already beyond saving, except to possibly be brought back to life with severe brain damage.

(To my memory we did print at least one brief story saying that the boy had drowned, but that was it  — no details).

But in a small town, Mr. Big killed all chances of the truth getting out, at least for wide dissemination and in a credible manner (see below).

Since I am revising this post I will add here: I think the story may have first broke in a kind of quirky local newspaper to the south of us run by an eccentric older lady who had inherited it from her father. She pretty much just printed anything she felt like. The paper was known for printing divorce filings as soon as they were made. Sometimes husbands or wives got their first word of a divorce not from their spouse but from the newspaper. Because the family of the drowned boy had some connections in her community her paper jumped all over that story and immediately printed everything they could gather on it, such as the gossip that I eventually heard too that the ambulance driver/coroner/real estate salesman had actually stopped on his way to the hospital not only to gather information from witnesses or possible witnesses but to discuss real estate (no real proof of this). My editor derided this kind of reporting but also realized I am sure that we were running behind on the story. He set me to work telling me basically to do a kind of at least mini investigation (no overtime authorized, as I recall). I made several phone calls and I did some personal interviews. As I recall (this was more than 30 years ago), I went out to the site and talked to at least one resident in a nearby house. I filed a story based on the interviews of local citizens, sheriff department officials, oh, and yes, the parents (who were in the process of filing a civil suit for wrongful death and/or negligence). I don’t recall that the story came down on anyone (even the parents could have had some blame; the poor child had wandered away from them — as a parent I know how that could be/happen). It just contained the facts as best they were known at the time. I was subsequently told by my editor that he had to get an okay from Mr. Big before we could run this. To my knowledge this was the first time this had ever happened. But I do understand that Mr. Big had to be concerned about being sued for libel by the ambulance driver/coroner/real estate guy. Oh, and I should have mentioned, the ambulance driver/so on and so on, refused interviews.

But to successfully sue a publication for libel the bar is fairly high, as I understand it. There must be proof of intent and malice (my interpretation, not a strictly legal one). Certainly there was none here, even though I have to admit that getting that threatening phone call from the ambulance driver/coroner, so on and so on, kind of soured me on him — but I can rise above those things.

We waited for days and maybe a month or more for an okay from Mr. Big. Meanwhile, the quirky paper to the south kept publishing stories (to include gossip — but often gossip can be fairly accurate I have found). The story finally got cold. I subsequently left the newspaper. I was told later that the paper never ran any story but at some point ran an editorial claiming that it had done an exhaustive investigation on the drowning incident and had found nothing untoward (I can’t even say I did an “exhaustive” investigation, and to my knowledge no one else did).

Local newspapers often do not have the resources for long or extensive investigations. But that is not always called for. A simple reporting of a story could have sufficed in this incident, but that was prevented.

If the supply of illegal farm labor dries up, go to Plan B…

June 20, 2011

Well here we go again: farmers worried their source of cheap harvest labor might be drying up due to what is said to be the toughest state immigration law yet in Georgia, due to go into effect in July.

It seems that berry farmers there are having a hard time finding enough pickers and they think the reason may be that the new immigration law is scaring off some would-be Mexican or Latino workers, who may not be in the U.S. legally.

I’m getting this from a story to which I will provide a link in a second here. But first some observations:

It is difficult to impossible to get legal domestic labor (and read that white people — and no racism intended here, truly) for harvest work because the pay is relatively low, it is hard work that many are not used to or acclimated to (although they could get that way with  a little effort), it is only temporary and not a career (generally), and existing social welfare programs provide a disincentive to do this kind of work — although, paradoxically, existing social programs and laws subsidize the work to some extent too for those who do it, to include illegal aliens (they get medical treatment and education for themselves and  their children through tax dollars).

As I have often noted before, there was a time when non-Hispanics and people other than black people (often referred to as “white people” — again I am only describing, not trying to be racist) did back-breaking and low paying manual labor field work (and a few still do). But I think the Great Society programs of the 60s largely spelled an end to that.

I could go on and on about this subject, but I would rather not, really.

As long as there is a supply of relatively cheap labor, you cannot blame farmers, really, for using it. It makes good business sense. But if that source of labor was to dry up I don’t think the world would end. The farmers would go to Plan B.

In fact, in the afore-mentioned story, to which I still am going to provide a link, it notes that one type of berries can be picked mechanically, but some (much) of the product is lost in the process.

But that is the way things go. Where manual labor has become too expensive or impractical or impossible to find, mechanization tends to take over and it will continue to do that.

For those things that just cannot be done mechanically then hand labor will be found — if the price is right. Labor does and should have value.

The threat from the agriculture community, its form of blackmail, is that if they have to pay more, things will cost more for the consumer. Well, what else is new? Anyway, we can survive without blackberries or we can go to one of those pick-it-yourself fruit stands or we can go to a farmers market where a small-time grower has harvested it him- (or her) self — and this goes for almost all food commodities.

(I should note too that in some cases crops may not be raised anymore in certain areas if labor cannot be found, but if there is a demand for them, they will be grown somewhere else — yes where the labor is cheaper, no doubt.)

I’m really getting tired of hearing the whining about the shortage of cheap labor.

I do realize, though, that even if the wages were upped, it would still be hard to find people to do manual labor, often paid by the piece rate (out of understandable practicality). That is where you have to face reality and look at that Plan B (or perhaps Plan C, just quit) .

Maybe if we were not so liberal in our social welfare programs (and I am referring to everything from Aid to Families with Dependent Children and Social Security Disability — sometimes/often granted for questionable disabilities –such as an allergic reaction to work — just kidding, kind of — to extended unemployment and so on) we would have a larger pool of labor for the less desirable jobs.

But do we want to encourage or force whole groups of people to make a career out of nowhere employment that requires government subsidy in order for the people to have shelter and medical care?

It seems to me that in agriculture the real small farmers can do a lot of their own work — employ family members — and in the larger outfits, they just have to face the reality of the supply and demand of the domestic labor market. I do not think we should have to rely on the illegal alien labor market that eats up tax dollars with the social service demands (even though some amount of tax money may be derived from it), and the pull down of wages it creates for potential domestic workers (and yes, the domestic labor force will work if that is the only way to make a living), along with the criminals that sneak in with legitimate, albeit illegal workers.

Sometimes people looking for extra money, to include young people, have done harvest work and will do it.

Yes, please read the story I mentioned and view the accompanying video (if I do this correctly), I found it interesting.,0,3768292.htmlstory


And my contention continues to be that almost all harvest labor could be near totally or totally mechanized and will be once the supply of hand labor disappears.

P.s. P.s.

Associations representing farmers (or purporting to do so, such as Farm Bureau) spend a lot of time lobbying for cheap labor and for federal officials to look the other way when it comes to hiring illegal aliens. They would do better to come up with a way to devise some type of program that would make farm labor available, such as temporary guest workers and so on. They could tax themselves for this. They might even do it essentially outside of government (of course with legal permission).

Fathers sometimes just do what they must…

June 19, 2011

It’s not easy being a father.

When I was ten my father lost his job. He was fired. He quit. It was a misunderstanding and he was offered his job back after being let go. I don’t really know what the truth was.

But I do know he worked hard to support his family.

The job he lost was that of a news photographer at a small daily newspaper. It was certainly a job well below his journalistic skill level and experience, but that was of his own making.

I guess he had taken the job with the idea that he might go into business for himself as a private studio photographer.

A studio photographer in town offered him a deal in which he would set up shop in that man’s studio and do what was called commercial photography. My dad spent many hours building his own office in the large back room of that man’s building, which was as big as a small warehouse. He constructed a frame and installed insulation and nailed up drywall.

I think maybe he neglected to do any market study and soon found out there really was no market for commercial photography in that area. A businessman my dad was not.

He worked for a time at another newspaper in another town, having to stay in a ratty hotel while the rest of the family stayed put. But that job did not work out. He was in the employ of one of the most notoriously bad newspaper chains for working conditions.

He tried work as a traveling salesman for a time, but, as far as I know, made no sales.

And then he finally got a job as an editor for a small weekly newspaper in another town.

We moved there. He toughed it out for three years working for an ill-tempered owner.

Quite by chance, on a trip to another town, which he liked, he walked into a newspaper office and inquired as to whether they needed anyone and they did. They hired him as a reporter for their six-day per week newspaper. Eventually he became the managing editor.

There’s really more to this story. My dad worked at quite a few jobs, mostly newspapers, big and small, and for the Associated Press news wire service. But as far as I can gather, for one reason or another he was not satisfied with any of them. And he may have quit some or have been fired. But he always found other work and supported his family.

We always had a roof over our heads and never came close to missing a meal. And we went on vacations, and I don’t recall actually wanting for anything.

And to some limited degree I, a father myself, I have lived his life, having worked in the past in journalism and not being happy with it much of the time, and working at other jobs and not always being happy with them, but knowing I had a family to support. And, yes, I quit a few along the way.

Henry David Thoreau wrote:  Most “men lead lives of quiet desperation…”

Happy Father’s Day!


Okay, for those who know me, maybe I wasn’t always so quiet.

P.s. P.s.

And of course this is not really limited to male parents, but this was for Father’s Day and maybe harkens back to the time of my childhood when the burden of breadwinning usually fell near totally on the father.

Steaks made from human waste: now that is taking recycling too far…

June 17, 2011

Recently I did a post on when has science gone too far.

This may (or may not) be a case:

You’ve heard the vulgar term “eat sh.. (human excrement)”.

It seems as though it has come to pass, so to speak. I just read a story that says Japanese researchers have actually produced synthetic steak from human excrement. I mean I’m a fan of recycling, but this is far too extreme. Of course I realize that it may not be much different from the Donner Party resorting to cannibalism (and that soccer team that crashed in the Andes years ago), but that was an extreme circumstance (and I think they were going for the flesh anyway).

The story said that people actually ate the product and liked it. That begs the unanswered question (in the story I read): did they know what they were eating and/or where it came from?

It also reminds me of the futuristic (maybe not now) Charlton Heston movie Soylant Green in which a product was made out of unsuspecting human beings who were marched off like lambs to the slaughter.

“Soylant Green is made out of people”, cried out Heston in an anguished warning.

“That Kobe Beef steak is made out of crap!”, I cry out.


ADD 1: A friend of mine reminded me that parts of animals and perhaps animal waste products do get into the human food chain through livestock feed, or at least that has been the case in the past. Even so, the idea of eating our own waste matter is just too revolting to contemplate as far as I am concerned.



A disclaimer: I was only using the term “Kobe” in a rhetorical or metaphorical sense. I did not really mean that that type or brand was made out of you know what.

Is what’s good for business really what’s good for the nation? Economy could put Romney in the White House

June 14, 2011

Even though the United States is mired in economic malaise and tremendous debt I am not at all sold on the idea that what we need is a businessman as president.

A nation is not really a business. It is true that the thinking of a businessman could help in budgeting, that is about where it stops.

To state an obvious fact, not everyone runs a business. In fact, the majority of us don’t.  And the president is supposed to represent the interests of all people.

It is true that we all depend upon the money generated by business,  so in that regard certainly it would be nice for the president to have a keen understanding of business.

But the aim of most businesses is to make as much profit as possible, not really to ensure that everyone has a job or a piece of the action or health care (even though most businesses of any size offer some health benefits to employees), or health and safety protections.

And should the president decide whether to go to war or commit troops to action (war seems hard to define these days) based on business considerations? There is some thought and evidence that indeed that is how we decide to go to war — but as Nixon  would have said: “but that would be wrong”.

I would agree, though, that a president should not be seen or be an enemy of business.

President Barack Obama seems interested in business, but I think he may be a little too tied into the idea that so-called “green industry” is the way to boost our industrial output and economic growth. I really don’t understand. My idea is that green industry mainly involves finding more energy-efficient and environmentally friendly ways of doing things. That is wonderful and quite important as far as it goes. But it sounds more like a support effort than straight out production. It seems to me that the problem in this nation is that long ago we fell for the notion that we should abandon dirty industry in favor of clean (in the environmental sense) efforts, such as the financial service industry. We see where that has gotten us — we let that run amok because making money can never be criticized.

Mitt Romney is currently the putative front runner among Republican candidates (according to the pundits) for the presidency.

He has a track record in the world of businesses for making money and a reputation for taking control of and streamlining businesses and seeing thousands of people laid off and shipping jobs overseas where labor is cheaper in the process — good for business, not so good for people.

On the other hand, Romney seems to be fairly moderate in political ideology and not afraid to implement liberal or new ideas, such as his own health care plan for the state of Massachusetts. That has gotten him into hot water in the modern Republican Party in which you can only think in the most narrow-minded of ways. Even so, he seems to be the front runner for now, at least according to the pundits.

Romney does not mind changing views on issues at a moment’s notice when he sees the wind blowing the other way. It is good to have someone who can bend, especially if he sees new information or research or just takes a fresh look at things. But it is also nice to think that when someone takes a position on something he (or she) is sincere.

Romney is clever on the health care thing as he chastises Obama for Obamacare. Even though his program in his home state of Massachusetts was essentially the model for Obamacare — so much so that some of his Republican or Tea Party detractors are calling it “Obamneycare” —  he says his plan was just for states, meaning conceivably people in any one state could choose their own idea of a health care system. That sounds kind of weak, really. For one thing, have you noticed that a large percentage of Americans move from state to state on a frequent basis? And if the program was good for Massachusetts and Romney designed it, why is it not good for everyone?

Other candidates will emerge probably (I know there are already many of them, but really what do we know about them?).

Michelle Bachman is making a splash (according to the punditry). She has been fairly well characterized heretofore in the mainstream media as a little bizarre, outlandish, or just a ditz. I do not know enough of her myself.

Sarah Palin, yes, she is a ditz (and not a declared candidate — she‘s basically showbiz for now).

Both Bachman and Palin would probably be described as good looking. Romney would too.

I guess Obama too — Ron Paul, not so much.

But does good looks make a good president?

Okay, I was wrong four years ago when I predicted Romney would be the winning GOP presidential candidate. And truth be told, I have never found anything to like about him. But I think he has that stylized American presidential look. And I guess he speaks well.

If he can placate the extremists in the GOP (good luck) and keep enough to the center, and , biggest of all, if Obama cannot work a miracle with the economy and get everyone back to work, Romney could indeed win in 2012.

Public faced with reality that services require revenue; better off to make decisions at local level; yet another fire department talks about not rescuing people…

June 12, 2011

Was it just a week or so ago that the Alameda, Ca.  city fire and police were in the news for failing to make a water rescue because it was against their policy because due to budget cuts they had dropped the ongoing training program for “land-based water rescues”?

Alameda reportedly moved to reinstate the program after the negative publicity.

But as I was driving through Sacramento the other night, I heard on one of its local radio stations that due to budget cuts the fire department there might have to drop some rescue programs.

Part of the problem here may be that the public does not seem to see a connection between tax revenue and basic services and not everyone agrees on what constitutes “basic” services. I think it was Sacramento that was also telling the public that the good news is that they won’t have to cut fireman positions and in fact are adding them at one station thanks to a federal grant (the locality for this is not important for my point). That is part of the problem. Local governments have become far too dependent upon the state and federal governments for funding. But in times of economic downturn the well is running dry.

California’s problem is exacerbated by Prop. 13 that dates back to 1978. Local property taxes were severely limited and ever since local governments have been hard-pressed to provide services, even basic services (even though some local governments do waste money on inflated pensions and job perks and possibly unnecessary and grandiose projects).

It looks as though citizens are finally going to be called upon to foot the bill for the services they demand in a more direct fashion.

Now of course true libertarians, which I am not (only sympathetic at times), would say everyone should pay their own bill for everything and government is only there for perhaps the common defense (and that is iffy) and keeping a record of who owns what.

But it would or will be healthy if the citizenry at large is closer to the money and can see first hand how much is available and can prevail upon their elected people on the more localized level concerning what spending priorities should be, rather than depend upon some mythical endless pot of money from far away. When you depend upon help from big government, you also submit yourself to the control of big government. Also the supply of money is not really endless, which we are all funding out with some amount of pain.

Hot dog proves himself to be a weenie…

June 9, 2011

So could New York Congressman Anthony Weiner just do us all a favor and resign?

I had refrained from doing a post on this thinking it was just one of those too silly, albeit tragic (that is tragic for his constituents, his wife, and the country — not necessarily in that order) stories that pop up, pardon the expression, from time to time.

But for God sakes! now that it has come out that he has supposedly actually sent over the internet explicit photos, not disguised by underwear, of his private parts to women (who probably did not even care to see them) and all of this while it is just reported that his new wife is pregnant, please Mr. Weiner, just resign and get what ever mental help you need and spare us.

Really, he has no credibility anymore and he is obviously sick. If nothing else, no matter how socially or sexually (or even politically) liberal one is in these things, he has incredibly too poor judgment to perform his duties as a U.S. congressman (not that the bar is all that high), representing not only his folks back home but the whole nation too.

He had been known to be kind of a Democratic Party liberal hot dog, but now, to use an expression in vogue some time ago that meant wimpy, he’s proven himself to be just a real weenie.


I think you call it odd, or perhaps deliberate, juxtaposition, but as I was reading the latest story on Weinergate, to my right I saw an ad for Hebrew National Hot Dogs.