So Irene was not as powerful as feared, what’s all the carping about?

August 29, 2011

UPDATE TO THE UPDATES:

Been so busy with my real job I have not had any time to do new posts since posting this, but as of now on 9-1-11 I read that the federal government is going to be stuck with billions of dollars in repair costs because so many people did not have flood insurance. Also, I saw a newspaper headline that said the Republicans are going to try to inject politics by refusing to fund extra money for hurricane repair unless they can get and equal amount of tax cuts. Have not had time to digest all that yet. Hopefully in a day or so I will have time to post more on this and other things, such as, and what about that Jon Huntsman?

(And I note that Wikipedia now lists 55 as the total U.S. death toll from Irene.)

UPDATE (8:39 P.M. PDT):

For a hurricane some say was over hyped, it seems awful deadly, with the U.S. death toll at 40 (with flooding causing much of the danger and damage) at the last I read.

UPDATE (8:24 A.M. PDT):

While not as strong as feared, Hurricane Irene has caused billions of dollars of damage to U.S. territory from Puerto Rico to Vermont, and there is massive flooding now in Vermont and flooding elsewhere, according to news reports this morning. Millions are without power, and it could be up to a week for some customers to get it restored, and there is expected to be damage to natural gas lines. Supposedly it’s been a boost for the economy since people bought supplies for preparation and are buying materials for repair and preparation for the next one and because there is a need for public works projects to repair damage. I don’t see how that would be a net gain, though. An economy based on disaster?

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I’m somewhat puzzled by the carping that officials overreacted to Hurricane Irene and that President Obama was just trying to make political hay out of it, showing that he was in charge and on top of things and there to save people and all.

As anyone who has ever listened to or viewed weather forecasts knows, weather predictions are still an inexact science.

The early reports classified Hurricane Irene as category 3 I believe and it was thought it could become category 4 or 5 (5 being the highest or worst). But by the time it made landfall over the last 24 hours or so it was downgraded to a category 1 and then a little later to a tropical storm.

In an unprecedented move, Mayor Bloomberg called for the evacuation of certain low-lying areas of Manhattan and shut down the mass transit system to include the subways. People all over the middle Atlantic were advised by governors to evacuate. Millions of people were affected.

The federal government did some advance work, with the president taking the necessary actions and giving the necessary orders.

But people, particularly in parts of the country away from the eastern seaboard, scoffed at what they saw as exaggerated predictions and unnecessary panic and political posturing.

At least eighteen people have died in events attributed to the hurricane and there has been much flooding and property damage and power outages, but it has not been as bad as it was feared in might have been.

But what if it had and all the preparations were not done?

There would have been all kinds of accusations of failed leadership.

While you can’t go into emergency mode every time there is a hint of foul weather, when the experts predict a good chance of catastrophic weather it is far better to be prepared than not and far better to be ready to swing into action once the magnitude of the damage is seen.

During and after the infamous Katrina several years ago in New Orleans when President George W. Bush was in office, all levels of government, local, state, and federal, fell down on the job, to put it mildly.

I could never figure out how people could be trapped but reporters could get in and out and how our military, to include our first line of homeland security and defense, the National Guard, could not have been rushed in with all its helicopters and amphibious equipment (some of it tied up in the Middle East).

Dr. Bill Wattenburg on KGO Radio, San Francisco, said Saturday night that at least the folks in New York and elsewhere in the path of the hurricane got a little lesson on disaster preparedness. He preaches that everyone should be prepared for disaster with food and supplies of water at their homes and even supplies to carry with them, lest they get stuck out on the road. His main concern is not weather but some type of nuclear device that is likely to be set off by terrorists. He always says that he and all the experts feel that it is not a question of if but just of when such a terrorist strike will happen. In such an event there would be such chaos and panic, with people likely fleeing coastal areas, where a strike is most probable, to the interior, but with nor real place to go, that authorities would not be in a position to help anyone, he warns.

But talking about weather disasters, he contrasted what happened in Katrina in New Orleans with extensive flooding in North Dakota. Up in the northland folks were able to get together and help themselves, rather than wait for Washington to rescue them (although I an sure federal resources helped too).

And I think that is the way it is in the more rural areas. People tend to be more self-reliant. Maybe that is why conservatism tends to be strong out in the hinterlands, with a more socialized, governmental approach popular in urban areas.

And then a lot of us are in between. We do the best we can, but in an emergency we need all the help we can get.

Am I personally ready for the big one? No way.

There is a danger that with all the hype that Irene got that it might be a little like the boy who called wolf. No one will listen next time.

But we all have to think about being prepared and being as self-reliant as possible.

And I applaud the president for showing leadership, but don’t expect him to get much credit for it.


Employers would pay more if cheap labor was not available, but then mechanization also becomes more attractive too…

August 27, 2011

BLOGGER’S NOTE:

The following is both a re-posting and a kind of hybrid post of one I did on this site and one I did on another site a day or so ago, but I am interested in the subject of whether there are jobs out there for people to do and whether some of those jobs are being taken by illegal aliens and whether anyone really wants those jobs, and what is practical in the job department:

I think when or if relatively cheap labor is not available employers will pay more for labor, but mechanization also becomes more attractive then too.

Watching the Mexican laborers (citizens some or all, immigration status, I don’t know and don’t care) hard at work the other day as my truck trailer full of potatoes to be processed was being unloaded, I was talking to another driver and we both agreed that unemployed people drawing assistance ought to have to check out these jobs.

Actually I have been there, done that myself once upon a time, or maybe more than once — not at the potato processing plant, but in the strawberry plant harvesting business, and elsewhere, to include harvesting worms out of ponds for tropical fish feed — and these were minimum wage or slightly above jobs.

Just a thought.

This scenario occurs to me: so there are no workers from south of the border to do low-paid or relatively low-paid labor. The government has now severely restricted various programs for the out of work. So out-of-work non-south-of-the-border people go to work at these jobs. Since they are so low paid and since many of them are seasonal, the government may well begin subsidizing them. But at least U.S. citizens will have some work. Also, mark my words, where it becomes impractical to find cheap labor, plants will turn to even more mechanization.

I have watched first hand a robot machine that stacks pallets of potato boxes quite nicely.

Okay, I originally posted this with the headline “There are jobs out there”, and maybe just by itself that was a bit misleading. There’s really a lot more to all of that, and of course low-end jobs that I was referring to don’t offer much hope and may not even be practical.

The key to getting jobs, as anyone would know, is having skill or skills at something or preferably many things. Young people need to know this and plan their lives accordingly. They don’t necessarily need to go to conventional college, but they need to do something. For the rest of us, we just have to do what we can do (I mean I attended the conventional four years of college, not all at once, and I drive a truck and am happy as can be to have a job at 62).

I do not think it has turned out to be practical to have the government through its various social programs be the guarantor of a certain standard of living for us all, that is not to say the government should not be there to help. Of course it should — otherwise what is it for? But we all have to take on personal responsibility.

Once upon a time, labor unions went with the attitude that labor is labor and management is management and it was solely up to management to makes things work economically so businesses could stay in business, but labor had to be guaranteed a certain standard of living. While I do think that employers do have a certain social responsibility, in the practical world they have to do what they have to do to stay in business. Labor has to do what it can to make itself worthy the cost. In this world of rapidly changing technology that can be a real challenge.

I could see in the not-to-distant future a situation in which the majority of people in the world have nothing to do thanks to technology. Now that will be a problem. We will have no practical way of distributing the tokens we call money. But that day has not come — even though it seems like it almost.

Right now the major economies of the West subsidize their low-end labor to some degree. They also subsidize or support many of those who do no work at all.

This is starting to bankrupt these economies.

One of the big problems in the United States is that not only do we not have enough jobs to go around (well that is debatable if we have illegal aliens filling many jobs), we have for decades now been encouraging young people to just take it easy, don’t make any decisions too soon, maybe go to college and find yourself, and so on (the smart and/or motivated ones don’t take this path). Well that doesn’t work so well. But this has led to what at times seems like a food stamp/welfare nation.

But even with all this, the fact is we need more jobs. That should be the number-one effort of the president and congress. Forget foreign wars and intrigue and forget prohibiting homosexuals from getting married, and mind your own business about women’s reproductive rights.

P.s.

But when I say forget foreign wars, I do no mean forget about defense and things happening around the globe that could affect our defense. The development of nuclear weapons by outlaw nations, such as Iran, cannot be ignored. But it is not practical, especially in the economic sense, either that the U.S. be in a perpetual state of war.


(Sharia law for Libya?) Obama may have another Middle East victory: Bin Laden down and now Gaddafi

August 23, 2011

LATEST UPDATE (8-25-11):

At the the opera they say it ain’t over till the fat lady sings. In libya,  it can’t even begin to be over till Gaddafi crawls out of his hole or until he is pulled out. His loyalits are still resisting and he’s still issuing statements, according to reports, even though his command center/residence was taken over.

And one wonders if this will all devolve into a civil war.

UPDATE:

8-24-11

Over the last 12 hours or so the story/rumor that is circulating concerning the apparent Libya rebel victory over Gaddafi, who served as a tyrant for more than four decades, is that a draft of a new “democratic” constitution is circulating and that it calls for the imposition of  Sharia law.

I have to admit I know next to nothing about Sharia law, except basically I understand it is an Islamic religious code. Well if a nation is going to have an official religion, it seems logical it might well adopt that religion’s code.

I could no more deal with the imposition of Sharia law here in the United States than I could deal with the imposition of some Christian code of conduct based on the Old or even New Testament of the Holy Bible.

In the U.S., religious freedom, which includes the prohibition of a state-sponsored religion (and I would add, freedom from religion), is a fundamental part of our democracy. It would seem impossible to achieve anything close to our basic freedoms with the imposition of a religious law, even though much of our law is derived from religious moral codes of the past.

And that story or rumor about a pending imposition of Sharia law in Libya is just that, a story or rumor.

But again, my limited understanding is that there are various forms of Sharia law and that different people, that is different Muslims, interpret it differently.

Now that I think about it, Iraq, which we liberated and nation-built with so much cost in blood and treasure, now uses Sharia law. And so does our oil-rich “friend ” Saudi Arabia.

(From what little I do understand of Sharia it is not fun to be a woman where it is practiced, unless you like having no rights.)

While we have to hope that something good comes out of the Libya rebel cause, such as a Western-style democracy, I’m not sure it should make a lot of difference to any of us here in the Good Old USA. We have our democracy and a nice country — we need to take care of ourselves and let Libyans decide what they want to do.

And by the way, does it bother you as it does me when I see all those ignorant people shooting automatic weapons into the air in “celebratory fire”? BBC (a much better source of news than any of our outlets) did a little story on the dangers and the many deaths that idiot behavior causes.

Are those people really ready to take care of things for themselves?

———————————————-

My previous post from 8-23-11 follows:

Maybe there is hope that the Libya thing won’t turn into an Iraqi/Afghanistan/Vietnam quagmire after all — we don’t know yet.

Unlike the Republicans, I freely admit or concede our President Obama is looking pretty clever right now. I was critical of his move and method on Libya, thinking that although we (the U.S.) went in there, by air power, under the cover of NATO, we would be left holding the bag and it would all turn into a messy civil war, as is or was the case in Iraq and/or a seemingly unwinnable fiasco as in Afghanistan.

I was right in that it takes ground troops — air alone would not likely topple Gaddafi — but the troops were indigenous rebels, the way it should be I would think.

As of this writing, Gaddafi has not been captured yet, but reports are that fighting is intense around his palace or compound, I guess they call it (I thought he lived in a tent), and smoke can be seen coming from his residence.

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UPDATE: Now at mid morning my time on the West Coast reports are that rebels have taken over his compound and have found some of his officially-stamped papers. No reports of Gaddafi’s capture yet. If he’s like Saddam Hussein, I’d day call Rotorooter.

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It’s almost laughable how the Republican candidates have to say they are happy Gaddafi is out or almost out but refuse to give Obama any credit.

I don’t even buy that it could have come quicker with more U.S. help — I mean maybe it could have, but I have to admit Obama was wise not to make this an American war. He also knew that he could not afford to get into still another ground war.

Of course no one knows what will happen now. It could still turn into complete chaos.

But for now, with the Obama-ordered killing of Osama Bin Laden by U.S. special operations and elite forces and now apparently the downfall of Gaddafi, I’d say Obama is looking pretty good.

But the economy here at home and the question of whether the Republicans can field an acceptable candidate, palatable to the bulk of American voters, will likely decide whether Obama gets a second term.

P.s.

I wonder what Assad in Syria is thinking about now.


Economists prefer spending cuts over tax hikes; Democrats should soft peddle idea of tax increases and stress streamlining programs and point out Republicans want to gut Social Security and Medicare

August 22, 2011

Well here’s something handed to the Republicans on a silver platter: A news story I just read said that the majority of economists in a survey favor spending cuts over tax increases to deal with the nation’s deficit, that is for dealing with the national debt. A majority also see containment of Medicare and Medicaid as the first steps for reductions.

The Democrats have taken the position that a combination of spending cuts and tax increases are what is needed. I kind of thought that myself, not that I would be a fan of tax increases (who would? Except Warren Buffet and Bill Clinton), but I figured that the national debt is so huge that it would take increased taxes at some level to get to the principal, rather than just paying interest.

I also think I read that the Republicans want to restore the payroll tax to where it was before president Obama cut it to help consumers (or the middle class; everyone is middle class, you know). Just as Republicans would call lifting what was supposed to be a temporary tax cut for the wealthy a tax increase, the Democrats I think are calling lifting the cut in payroll taxes a tax increase.

Let’s not quibble folks; If you have to pay more taxes than you did before, it is a tax increase. And I guess the lesson is that if a law is on the books it is not temporary, it is reality, until it is repealed, that is.

Governments are not individuals, but it is hard to understand how a government that spends more than it takes in can deal with its debt, except a government as powerful as the U.S. has a lot of leverage, or at least has had.

I’m not sure that calling for tax increases, even if it makes sense, is a good campaign strategy for the Democrats, to include Obama in his bid for re-election. I remember Walter Mondale vowing to raise taxes and saying that the only difference between him and his opponent was that he, Mondale, was honest in saying he would raise taxes. Honesty is not always the best policy in politics, that is if you want to get elected.

Ronald Reagan beat Mondale in a landslide and while he did cut taxes at one point, he also raised taxes at many other points. He actually increased government spending overall. But to be fair, a lot of that spending was for defense and it could be argued that it led to the ultimate demise of our arch nemesis, the Soviet Union (ironically that nation bankrupted itself on defense and offense, I would call it, spending, to include getting bogged down in Afghanistan, where we –the U.S.– find ourselves today). Reagan, probably was not so much a conservative as he was a centrist, but he knew how to appeal to conservatives and his own persona allowed him to get away with a lot, so much so, that he was called the “Teflon president”.

So poor Mondale was right — Reagan did raise taxes even though campaigning as a tax cutter (sometimes it is not what is said, but who says it). Being right does not necessarily win you the election.

I would not propose that Democrats lie about their position on taxes, though. I would think it better, however, to stress revamping of programs to make them more efficient and probably tightening up eligibility standards for some entitlements. They should also warn folks that the Republicans are looking to eliminate as many social programs as they can. A lot of folks who consider themselves conservative, or tea baggers too, pause when they realize their Social Security and government health benefits are on the chopping block.

On the other hand, if the Republicans keep shooting themselves in the foot with their Looney candidates, maybe anything or anyone can beat them — they’re beating themselves so far, even among their own faithful, news reports indicate.

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The story on the economists I referred to is at:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/08/22/taxes-cuts-economists_n_932697.html


If you don’t like California don’t let us hold you back, and the Great Money God wins again as shopping center developers prepare to pave paradise while cities decay…

August 20, 2011

A lot of people talk about how great things are in Texas, how many jobs there are there, and that they don’t have an income tax and don’t put onerous regulations on business.

I think they also talk about Idaho where the climate is apparently more friendly to gun ownership.

I was born and raised and have lived almost my whole life in California.

I for one would be glad to see as many people as want to leave.

More air for me to breathe here.

A lot of the malcontents probably originally came from somewhere else.

As far as I am concerned they probably should go back home.

I like Oregon but probably would not move there. I think too many Californians have already done that and some of them maybe have brought their own ruin-the-land ways with them. I mean we have done our best to do that right here in California by paving paradise and putting up a parking lot (s). Given time that may happen in Oregon, more than it already has.

Too many people is what has spoiled California.

So all of you who want to leave — so long, have a nice life.

I feel sorry, almost, for those who will have their paradise invaded, though.

Oh, I recently did a post about the Board of Supervisors holding a hearing on approval of  a rezone to put up a shopping center in a green belt between two cities in my home county here in Northern California. They voted in favor.

The Great Money God always wins (at least here on Earth).

Despite the claim of so many to be good Christians, what they really worship is money, not God nor his creations.

We really need that shopping center while ones in our town are becoming vacant.

The developers do their dirty work and then move on.

——————

ADD 1:

What I am referring to as far as development in this post is the Churn Creek Bottom in Shasta County, California. Redding, where I live, is the county seat. I guess a citizens group is still trying to put the kibosh on the shopping center through a petition drive. Indeed I was at a small market in the area yesterday and a woman had a table set up. I personally don’t sign petitions. I also found it curious that on the web one group who seemed to be anti-shopping center referred to itself as the Tea Party. I thought the tea baggers were a conservative faction and I always thought conservatives were for money no matter what it means to the environment (you know, the Earth heals itself and all). Actually I just looked at the Tea Party post again and I guess someone was giving an anti-shopping center talk to them. What their actual position is I don’t know, but it seems by the way they posted it they are against. An interesting thing the speaker said is that the center would not create new jobs because it would just take away jobs from stores closing in the nearby city. Also it won’t even mean many local construction jobs because for some reason developers use mostly outside contractors and labor. Also it will suck away more sales taxes from the nearby cities. Redding is already cuting police and firefighters for lack of revenue. But, anyway,  here is a link about the petition drive: http://www.krcrtv.com/news/28842944/detail.html

ADD 2:

I previously gave my views on such development as I refer to in this post in a previous post: https://tonywalther.wordpress.com/2011/07/30/while-the-cities-become-blighted-developers-move-to-pave-paradise-and-put-up-a-parking-lot…/


Talk about wasteful spending that is bankrupting us, how about an estimated $1.42 trillion for our wars so far at a price tag of $9.7 billion per month — but who’s talking about it?

August 18, 2011

UPDATE, 8-19-11:

What with our precarious economy and people raising heck about the government wasting money, I am trying to figure out why not more of a fuss is made about the cost of our ongoing wars. According to a front-page story in the Sacramento Bee (on 8-16-11), due to the complex way the government budgets it is hard to pin down the exact cost of the wars, but the best estimates are $1.42 trillion since 2001 and $9.7 billion per month, and I don’t know and don’t think that includes Libya. Surely this must be one of the main reasons the country seems to be going broke.

We are not fighting World War II here. If we were fighting that type of war, a war that at least seemed to make sense, all young people (and some not so young) would be subject to the military draft and we’d be urged to buy war bonds and there would be some type of at least economic sacrifice expected of individual citizens, and people would support it because it would be for survival. This is clearly not the case now. What we are doing is fighting war for oil and other geopolitical concerns (arguably oil is for survival, but we have other sources and pretty much people want to sell the oil they have because if not it is worthless, and if we really must have it, we ought to be honest about our intentions). The mantra of fighting them over there so we don’t have to fight them over here is nonsense. What we are doing now may make us so weak that we might well find ourselves fighting them over here but not strong enough to defend ourselves. Probably what we did to Osama Bin Laden recently is the way we should have been handling things all along. We do have to have a strong military but we need to use it wisely and not get bogged down in the sands of the Middle East.

Now I have written essentially that I am against most wars, but I think if you fight a war you have to fight it to win. The surgical thing we did with Bin Laden worked. That was not a war. If we find ourselves in a position that seems to demand the introduction of troops, then yes, we have to go all out. That is what I said in Libya — not that we needed to fight a war there, but if we were to do it then go all the way. We have not and we are at stalemate, although it seems Gaddafi may be forced to step down soon (which begs the question: “and then what?”). And someone told me that he thought it was clever of President Obama getting NATO to do the heavy lifting in Libya and not leave the U.S. holding the bag. Perhaps so. But whatever, unless we are trying to be an empire of old, we have no business with occupying troops in foreign lands.

What I am saying is that if we have an enemy that threatens us, we do what is necessary, whether it be a surgical strike or an invasion, but once we commit ourselves to an invasion we have to go for it and win. We don’t need any more Koreas, Vietnams, Iraqs, Afghanistans, or Libyas (not to mention Somalias).

What makes it so hard to pin down our war costs is that we are fighting them “off the books”, a device war supporters use to avoid debate, I guess.

What follows is the original version of this post:

I was surprised to read a columnist in the New York Times referring to President Barack Obama as the weakest incumbent since Carter, until later when I realized that he is a Republican and supposed to be one of the Times’ conservative voices (the Times itself usually referred to as liberal). But I think he might be right if we don’t get our economic house in order or get more jobs and pronto.

The columnist is Ross Douthat. An interesting or peculiar name. And I see he was born 1979. That seems young for someone like me, born in 1949.

But he was also saying or perhaps lamenting that if the Republicans don’t get their act together they won’t even be able to beat what he considers the quite beatable Obama.

I would say that as long as the Republicans allow the likes of Michele Bachman and Rick Perry to represent themselves as credible presidential candidates, they might as well kiss their hopes of regaining the presidency goodbye. I guess Obama has to be secretly rooting for them.

(I still don’t know much of anything about Perry except some of his outlandish statements and that he has been popular in Texas, but I had been thinking over the past day or so he might be the kind of candidate who could disavow some of it and then go on to play a more serious role, but he does not seem to be doing that yet.)

Bachman, as far as I am aware, has not said anything of any substance at any time anywhere. And that shrill voice grates on my ears. While she may be a tax attorney she seems to be a brick short of a load and she has already been caught misstating facts and can’t seem to even get her own family history correct. Her latest or one of her latest gaffes (a minor one I admit, but silly nonetheless) was confusing Elvis Presley’s death anniversary with his birthday (and what does Elvis have to do with running for president anyway?).

Texan that he is, Perry shoots from the hip. His latest shot is that of a climate change denier. Yeah and smoking doesn’t hurt you either.

Meanwhile, the GOP’s only hope so far for a candidate that would appeal to the electorate as a whole rather than the far right or the fringes is Mitt Romney, but he is universally known and universally not trusted, as far as I know. We don’t really know much about his Mormon brother (brother in faith that is) Jon Huntsman, but that’s just it, he is an unknown.

While we got over the Catholic thing in 1960 by electing JFK, I have serious doubts a Mormon could be elected. I think most people see the Mormons more as a cult than a religion. But the women are strong and the men are handsome and their offspring are all above average.

Conservative columnist Douthat thinks Chris Christie, governor of New Jersey, would be a good candidate, except for the fact he is probably unappealing because we have not elected someone of his girth as president in a hundred years  (since maybe one-termer Taft?).

I’m not sure how this connects, but I think the problem many of our leaders have, including Obama, is not giving clear objective, non-partisan explanations on things. I say this because I was listening to an interview with New York Times reporter and author Robin Wright on NPR the other day and she was explaining why we are in Libya — and notice, I wrote “explaining”, that is giving the rationale, not necessarily supporting it or not supporting it. I really felt I understood. I did not say agree.

If Obama and others would lay out their case or cases on the various issues in adult, albeit everyday, language and talk to us all as grownups and as people capable of understanding somewhat complex issues they might get somewhere — but they don’t for the most part.

But, by the way, I still say just lets us basically withdraw from the Middle East Wars, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya. Let us stop the nation building elsewhere and put all of our resources into national rebuilding right here at home. Said it before many times. And keep believing it.

One thing Wright said is that the so-called Arab Spring movement in the Middle East is one of primarily young people looking to gain their democratic and social rights in a modern society, but they don’t necessarily want to be allied with the U.S. and they are not tied to radical Islam, although elements of the latter may be included in the movement or trying to take advantage of it.

(And let me explain, I am not trying to strictly paraphrase what Wright said, this is just what I took away from the interview.)

The important thing I think is to let the Arab Spring play out and stay out of its way.

Of course the truth is, where there is oil or if something is in the way of getting oil, the United States and its European allies in NATO are likely to be involved.

And China waits in the wings, letting us do the fighting, letting us make enemies, and looking for its opportunity to move in. This is a problem. But we need to be careful and not fall into the trap anymore than we already have and make sure we don’t ignore problems here at home.

And here is a strange and somewhat troubling phenomenon. The American public does not seem to give a wit about our wars, other than they wish they were over. And knowing this, the politicians seem to be fairly silent on the matter nowadays.

The nature of war seems to have changed for us. Back in the day we fought land wars for territory and sea wars to support the land wars. Hundreds and thousands of soldiers (and sailors) were lost in a day. I heard on NPR that during World War I, Britain lost 21,000 troops in one day. Nowadays if 30 troops are killed in a downed helicopter, it is considered horrific. It is good that the numbers are down, but I think for better or worse (probably better) the American public could never stomach a real war again.

But to use a cruel play on words, the war(s) is what is killing us. We are gaining nothing and losing much, billions of dollars per month and the loss of human life.

But no one, the public or the politicians, wants to deal with it. I don’t think anyone seems to have the guts to deal with it.

It’s the old trap: if we quit now it was all in vain. If we continue, we just continue the quagmire (Vietnam?). We go on with the delusion we are preparing our supposed friends to do the fighting for themselves. For one thing, there is little evidence we have any friends over there and for another there is no homogeneous group of friends. They are divided into religious and political and tribal (and not necessarily in that order) factions.

I would say: Stop now. The lives we save will be that of many thousands of young Americans who can go on to do great things for their own country.

Let’s show the rest of the world how to live. If they like what they see, they will probably mimic us (through modern technology it has become nearly impossible for tyrants to hide how the rest of the world lives).

Meanwhile, part of me wants to see the Republicans step further into the mire they find themselves in with nut case candidates or uninspiring or untrustworthy ones, and part of me wants to see someone give Obama a good run for his money (and he has lots of it).

P.s.

I wanted to work the Tea Party into all of this, but I could not this time. I think I still do not understand the movement entirely and also believe it is a combination of a phony group set up and financed by special interests in big business and big money along with well-meaning citizens who would like to see less corruption or no corruption and some common sense in our government and who consider themselves conservative. There is no doubt that they are successfully using the elective process to achieve their goals. For that, more power to them. No one is stopping others from doing the same thing. But apparently some of the others are not as committed or think they just don’t have the time. Or no big money donors are there to help. It almost always takes money.


Our economic woes may not be as bad as they seem, but we could improve things greatly (and is the minimum wage really a good thing?)

August 15, 2011

As I saw all the people with their boats, some of them quite large, and their muscular pickups or SUVs, all of which cost considerable money to operate and maintain, to include cost of fuel, on my trip to “the lake”, as they call it, yesterday I snarkily wondered, “where’s all the hard times we keep hearing about?”

I was meeting with my daughter and her family who took me on a boat ride for my birthday. They are one of those with a boat.

Most of these boats I talk about are not little fishing boats, but rather large ski boats. My son-law’s boat is not all that large, but it is a ski boat, and all though it is many years old, he has refurbished it and it has one heck of a powerful engine.

So, are my daughter and her family suffering from the Great Recession or hard times or whatever you want to call it? You’d have to ask them. I would say not so much. Are they rolling in dough and living the high life? not so much either, to say the least. They just work and entertain themselves the best they can. And on this day it seemed pretty good.

For that matter, am I suffering from the Great Recession? Hardly. I mean not at all.

But the key here is you must have employment.

My daughter runs a pre-school (she does not own it). My son in-law works in the pool service industry and has been working at the same job for, I don’t know precisely, but at least 25 years I believe. His employer’s clientele are primarily fairly well-paid professionals and some just plain rich folks, I imagine.

I work as an over-the-road truck driver, and fortunately for me, the freight keeps moving across the land, although it has its ups and downs as any business.

But of course we hear on the news that one heck of a lot of our fellow citizens are without jobs. And of course this is partly the result of a huge drop in economic activity due to what we often call the Great Recession, brought on by still another burst in an economic bubble, the kind that seems to often run our economy (which, by the way, we were told was over, the recession that is, but does not really seem to be). This is also further caused by a vast change in the technology and the whole dynamics of the economy. A lot of jobs of yesterday are not coming back.

But let’s get back to those without jobs. I’ve been there done that in my life. For me, though, most or all of it was — well, my fault. I think the only real job I legitimately lost due to the economy was my last newspaper writer job. Newspapers are going the way of the buggy whip and besides that when I lost that one back in the early 90s, corporate takeovers were all the rage, and the corporation I worked for gutted my newspaper and then sold it. That is how corporate business sometimes does no service for the economy. They ruin something to make a quick profit, meanwhile putting people out of work.

But, I moved on. I became a truck driver.

A lot of folks who have lost their jobs probably need to do just that, I don‘t mean become truck drivers necessarily, but they need to move on. A lot easier said that done. I know. But done it must be.

The Great Depression of the 1930s came after a generation had moved from the farm into town, but when hard times hit, a lot of people moved back to the farm with parents or relatives. Or city people moved in with others. Or for the more desperate, many people just moved into empty buildings or lived in tents or whatever.

Today a lot of people, I think, live in foreclosed houses, waiting to be evicted. It can take quite some time for that day to come.

But the federal government became more of a social welfare institution during and after the Great Depression.

These days people tend to expect help from the government as their right when hard times hit.

And I think the vast majority of Americans support government social programs for folks genuinely in need, if for no other reason than they know — and you can predict what I would say here — “there, but for the grace of God, go I”.

What they have trouble with is the over expansion of what was supposed to be a safety net.

The government, funded by the people, does not owe you a living.

I would even be so bold as to say “the rich” do not owe you a living. Even though I am not by any definition rich and as far as I can see, at 62 now, never will be, the idea of taxing the rich to pay for what everyone else wants does not sound well to my ears (I just think they owe a fair share of taxes, and certainly should not get away with paying little to no taxes through loopholes). I also understand that simply making the rich pay the whole cost is probably mathematically impossible. Darn it.

I’ve written all of this to simply say, things are not as bad in America as seems to be presented at times. But I would like to see the following:

1. Quit wasting money on nation building overseas. Withdraw the troops. But do not gut our defenses.

2. Trim the social safety net so it is just that, a safety net, instead of a tax on those who work and invest for the benefit of those who have lost interest or who never have had any interest in the whole thing.

3. Revamp government health care so it is provided to those who have no other way of getting health care — I say this because we seem to prefer a basically privatized system in this nation. I would not be against single-payer government health care, but that does not seem to fly here.

4. Back to the social programs. Whatever we can do to revamp the system so it does not promote the bearing of children outside the traditional family unit. People need families. We have tried to replace the family unit with the government. It does not work well.

5. Most important of all, technology aside, we still need to make things in this country. Whatever we can do to effect a vast renewal of our industrial capacity, we need to do it. The service economy does not work. And while the trading of various financial instruments makes a lot of people a lot of money, it starves many more.

6. I think people really do support environmental regulations and government health and safety regulations. In fact, I think they expect them. But like everything else, including the social safety net, it can be overdone. And it may have been to some extent, although in some areas there is not enough. That is why we need intelligent and reasonable adults in charge. Hard to find them at times.

p.s.

Often people say, fine and dandy, but where are all the jobs going to come from, especially for those at the bottom of the ladder? I’m thinking the minimum wage may not have been such a good idea after all (I’m not really sure on this). But there are all kinds of things, legitimate things, that people will hire others to do if the price is right. The mistake is for government to step in and subsidize low-wage work. Whole sub economies you might call them can be built around servicing the needs of low-wage workers. People who find themselves in this lowly category and who are young enough may then have an incentive to get out of it. Now that may be an area where the government should step in, education and job training. But in even that there has to be some type of entry fee or investment on the part of the trainee in order to weed out the riffraff who are just looking for yet another free ride, albeit temporary. What I mean by what I just wrote is that when I was a reporter I was doing a story about a job training program for the unemployed. I interviewed a woman who said something to the effect, “oh, yeah I’ve been through this before”. Well, what happened? I should have asked. Also, a lot of otherwise quite responsible people will take government jobless assistance of various kinds rather than seek work, and sometimes it makes economic sense in the short run on an individual basis, but in the long run it is counterproductive for the economy of the nation.

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CORRECTION:

For the benefit of anyone who read the original version of my just previous post, and for the benefit of my conscience, I wrote “Tom” instead of “Tim” Pawlenty. I corrected it in an updated version.

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