People ignore or don’t realize the danger of railroad crossings…

January 30, 2012

A tragedy over the weekend in Sacramento reinforces the fact that drivers are not careful enough around railroad crossings and that trains are often not visible until it’s too late.

Two adults and a baby, not yet two years old, were killed when the SUV they were in went around the crossing arms and a light-rail train hit the vehicle.

No one knows what the driver was thinking by going around the warning devices, but one possibility that came out in observations of those familiar with the crossing is that the arms often stay down some time after a train has passed.

On this particular crossing there are four sets of tracks and multiple trains had already come by — there are both regular freight trains and the light-rail on that section of rail right of way. Also, a sound wall obscures or blocks the vision of motorists, who may not be able to see or even hear the train until they are on the tracks.

Area residents noted that they often see people driving around the crossing arms and some had worried about just such an incident.

But here’s the deal. Going around crossing arms is just too dangerous and foolhardy, not to mention illegal.

I think we all have seen people do this and some of us have done it ourselves so as not to be inconvenienced by waiting.

And also, there are times when crossing arms malfunction and stay down long after a train has passed.

But bottom line, crossing railroad tracks is dangerous or at least can be and you just cannot afford to let your guard down.

As a professional truck driver I know well the danger of railroad crossings — I’ve had a few close calls. In traffic one can get caught in a line of vehicles when the one ahead of you stops and you are sitting vulnerable on the tracks. Driving a big truck you just can’t let this happen — it would be a lot harder (near impossible) to move out of the way than perhaps in a smaller vehicle where you might, might I say, have a chance of somehow moving your vehicle off (probably not) .

And of course everyone has to be careful about those crossings where there are no warning devices or where you never expect to see a train because it appears to be an old, unused spur line.

Not all that long ago I was in Oakland, Ca. and was on the freeway but I could see the place where I was to deliver and noted that there was a freight train going down the tracks right down the middle of the city street near there. But in the short time it took me to get to the driveway of my delivery point I was no longer thinking for that train. I was startled when as I drove in on the driveway to look to my right and see the headlamp of a locomotive. Fortunately it was not yet in motion. It had backed into a nearby building, but it moved forward not long after I cleared the tracks.

Another highly dangerous situation for motor vehicles is the combination of traffic lights and railroad tracks that you have to cross before entering an intersection.

Years ago my wife and I were watching a TV show about train vs. vehicles collisions. In one, a train ran into the side of a semi-rig, cutting its trailer in two. The train crossing warning signals were not synchronized or connected into the intersection’s traffic signals for motor vehicles. So it was possible to have a green light and proceed over the tracks just as a high-speed commuter train was barreling through. This was in Oxnard, Ca. I noted at the time that I was familiar with that intersection. I told my wife I had crossed it many times and did not realize the problem with the signals. By coincidence a day or so later I found myself at that intersection. And as I recall,  I witnessed the phenomenon of the green light and the train coming full speed for the intersection with the warning devices not yet on. Fortunately I was forewarned.

I often face a similar and even more problematic danger in Vernon, Ca. while driving a big truck. There is a crossing with several tracks and it is difficult to make it across all of them before the traffic light turns red again sometimes, what with the other traffic. And it is especially dangerous to try to make a left turn on the left turn signal. By the time I get about in the middle of it all, my light turns red. You either keep going or find yourself a sitting duck on those tracks. And the freight trains use those tracks frequently. I’ve given up on doing that left turn. I go straight ahead and circle around the block.

And I have seen people go around the crossing arms there.

They are fools. They think they are clever.

Well the driver in Sacramento was not clever, but that driver and a baby and another adult are dead.


The stories I read said another adult in the SUV in Sacramento was injured, as were a few people on the light-rail train.

Romney and Gingrich appear to be liars…

January 27, 2012

It is not news that politicians lie — not misspeak, exaggerate, embellish, but just plain engage in knowingly not telling the truth — lying.

We pretty much know now if we did not already that Newt Gingrich is a bald face liar, and for that matter so is Mitt Romney. Nice to know when one of these two might be the next president.

I have not seen direct evidence on out-and-out mendacity on the part of President Barack Obama yet but he is not fighting for the nomination; he is already in office, although of course he is beginning to fight for a second term.

During Thursday night’s debate Gingrich tried his bully- the-questioner trick but this time he was up against a real newsman who did not let Gingrich rattle him. Gingrich had previous to the debate charged that Romney was not transparent enough in his personal finances. Then when Blitzer asked Gingrich about that, Gingrich, who was on the defensive in the debate, tried to score some points like he did in South Carolina when he bullied John King when asked about a charge of philandering (or permission to fool around, really) by one of his former wives. I did not see the debate and did not watch a video, but as I understand it, King was caught off guard. Thursday night (I did see it), Blitzer kept his composure and reminded Gingrich that he was the one who brought the subject up and then got help from Romney who commented it was too bad someone can make a charge and then not want to talk about it when questioned on it further. Easy to make a charge, but not as easy to back it up.

Bullying journalists may be good for the consumption of partisans who may already be on your side — it does not play well with open-mined people just wanting to make a decision on who should be president.

For Romney’s part, on those finances Gingrich spoke of, maybe he is not as transparent as he should be. With a smirk on his face Thursday night Romney absolved himself of all responsibility for his finances, such as investments in Freddie Mac, which he so criticizes, by saying everything is in a blind trust. Not sure about that. Just read this morning that such is not so. And even when things are in a so-called blind trust, the person with the money decides how that trust operates.

Romney also claimed to be ignorant of some of his own TV Ads. Perhaps so, but then why the tag lines at the end that say: “I’m Mitt Romney and I approve of this message”.  A political consultant later said that it is standard practice for candidates to tape those tag lines, not having seen what is actually put out. That is kind a lie or dishonesty in itself and certainly a wrongful abrogation of personal responsibility for someone who wants to lead the United States.

When you listen to Gingrich you hear an egotistical blowhard who does for sure have a lot of ideas, and all over the place and not always strictly conservative, but you get the impression he really likes to hear himself talk more than anything else.

Romney is cold and calculating and could not help himself when he used the words fire someone again Thursday night. He said if he was a CEO and someone came to him with the Gingrich proposal of colonizing the moon he would “fire” him. Romney got into dutch with the job-sensitive populace some weeks ago when he said he likes to fire people who don’t provide good service — it just does not sound right to lick your chops at being able to fire someone.

While I think that Romney would be a more responsible and steady hand as president than Gingrich, his cold, calculating manner bothers me.

I’ve just been writing about the Republicans because that is where the action is now.

I have been disappointed with Obama, but I’m starting to warm up to him a little.

He does a Good Al Green singing impersonation, as seen via this link:

Read earlier today that Rick Santorum may decide to call it quits. Seems like a good idea. Cut your losses. There’s always next time.

We’d really have a shakeup if Ron Paul was elected and got his way — nearly impossible on both counts. And I don’t think a lot of people would like it, despite some of the more enticing parts of his platform — peace, personal freedom. His libertarian approach makes Democrats and Republicans appear as two peas in a pod.


What follows is my previous post (cleaned up a little) I did just after the debate:

I turned off the CNN Republican Florida debate when Wolf Blitzer asked the question why would your wife be the best First Lady?

I had already watched much of it, and I decided to go to dinner.

But I came back and began to watch a rerun of it and finally got to the point where I had walked out.

And now I am writing this, trying to listen to the rest of it at the same time.

Looks like another win for Romney to me, and I think Newt Gingrich seemed a little off and on the defensive, while Rick Santorum was strident, more in the game, and Ron Paul was in good form and continued to show how different he is and probably how impractical on some things. On health care he seemed to suggest if government just got out of it and everyone bought their own insurance all would be good.

Yes, and how on earth would most people afford insurance on their own? Certainly not when steady employment is so much in question.

Paul said something absurd. He claimed when he was a kid since government was not yet involved in health insurance it was not all that expensive. What world did he live in? I’m 62 and the cost of health care has always been astronomical in my life time.

It is a complex problem. It would be difficult to impossible to make modern health care economical, and when you want to save your own life you are in a far different position than trying to figure out what kind of car you really need.

I did think Paul was certainly correct in his non-intervention and no nation-building approach in world affairs and with his call to try to restore open and good relations with Cuba. Fighting Fidel Castro is a relic of the Cold War.

I’m not sure how Paul sees it, but there is a major difference between non-intervention and Neville Chamberlin appeasement of world bullies — there may be times when intervention is called for, but they hopefully are limited.

I only write about these debates because I follow politics. It would be doubtful I would vote for a Republican.

But it is disappointing that with the triumph of the Obama election the Democratic Party could not unite itself and get more done.

The Republican Party is currently going through the nastiest and most bitter infighting I have ever seen in that  party.

Now it has seen most in the bitter rivalry between Romney and Gingrich. At one point during the debate I almost thought Romney was going to slap Gingrich with a pair of gloves and say: “You insulted me sir; I demand satisfaction”.

It would be interesting to see if a Republican is elected president if he could get anything accomplished.

Independent and corporate money has become the vehicle and power of politics, winning out over the old party structure.

People always have differing opinions, even when they agree in general ideology, and there is always competition for economic advantage via government through laws and polices and regulations. If everyone just goes his or her separate way we have paralysis, good for keeping needless laws in abeyance but not good for handling problems that need to be solved for the good of the citizenry.

So political parties can have a legitimate role, coalescing various divergent approaches to problems into coherent policy, but they do not seem to be functioning well at this time.


Just finished listening to the full rerun of the debate while I was writing this. Nothing interesting enough to make me quit writing — but it is kind of an interesting political season this time around. The Republicans are actually fighting each other and not all in lockstep like some mindless fascist soldiers.

P.s. P.s.

The CNN debate program was produced something like a professional football championship game, with pre-game or debate promos, and at least one quick on-field or on-stage interview with Romney and Santorum (others, don’t know yet as I am writing this).

I kind of liked it better when public affairs programs were more staid with plain sets — still always entertaining to me — politics has been my sports, but I don’t want it to become nothing but pro-sports pizzaz. It’s too serious. There are consequences.

Don’t know what to think of the president’s speech; we need a third option…

January 26, 2012

It’s been a day or so since the King’s Speech, I mean the president’s speech, the State of the Union speech — not trying to be sarcastic, just could not pass up the literary allusion — and I don’t know what to think of it. I listened to almost all of it — my work sometimes gets in the way — but I just don’t know what to think.

Okay, there was some contradiction: He lauded the job of the military in Iraq and noted that after a decade of armed conflict, there are no American soldiers there now, but I would say we have to remember the reason for that is that the government we helped to set up kicked us out. Also, he praised the military for its job in defending freedom, or whatever. That seems strange since he had always called the Iraq war an unnecessary one. But politics makes people contradict themselves.

But most of the speech was the quite typical (and still not being sarcastic or snide) Democratic Party line of playing by the rules and allowing everyone a fair shake (the New Deal, the Fair Deal) and taxing the rich.

Actually, in broad generalities I tend to agree with the president’s tone. The Republicans would have you believe that if the free market was just allowed to do its thing unfettered by burdensome regulation (regulations designed for both equitable treatment in the markets and safety) and that government only did things to enhance business everything would right itself and we all would prosper.

I don’t think so. We have a lot of history to show how the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. And we have recent history to show that we have a shrinking middle class.

Oh, and the president called for the revitalizing of industry in this nation with jobs that bring people into the middle class and that would provide the flow of capital back to us that we so desperately need.

Sounds good. But just what have we been doing lo these past three and a half years?

The dilemma faced by voters who are not strictly partisan is that they (we) know that the Republican way of doing things (the free reign of anything-goes capitalism) is what got us into this mess. But the truth is we as a nation are in deep doo doo economically and just making new laws and creating new programs and government agencies will only add to our deficit and not produce revenue for the government.

If ever we needed something beyond standard Republican/Democrat ideology and methodology, it is now. We need a third way.

Lord please deliver us!

I score Romney the debate winner by a narrow margin, and like Santorum criticism of bailout…

January 23, 2012

Just watched the NBC Republican debate held in Florida and for what it is worth (not much) off the cuff I saw Mitt Romney narrowly the winner over Newt Gingrich. I think he made the point that Gingrich has essentially been working all these years as a lobbyist or influence peddler and that he was connected with Freddie Mac and the housing mess

(But also just heard someone say that Romney‘s to-be-released tax info tomorrow will show he invested heavily in the scandal-ridden housing agency.)

I finally heard something from Rick Santorum I could agree with. The big banks should have been allowed to fail and the system right itself as is supposed to happen in capitalism, to which Ron Paul agreed. In fact Paul has said the taxpayers were stuck holding the bag.

(I know there is that claim out there that the government actually has made money on the deal, but that is not the taxpayers, and I’m not sure that makes sense, and anyway the bailout money, financed by taxpayers ultimately but initially by borrowing money, mostly from China — to which the taxpayers pay interest — would not have been needed if the government had not meddled in the system.)

Private citizens generally do not get bailed out by the government, nor should they be, and neither should businesses.

I don’t have a computer mind and there is no way to instantly fact check the debaters, you just have to get a general sense of things and recognize pure hogwash when you hear it. Fortunately, with Rick Perry and Michelle Bachman and Herman Cain (and who else? I can’t recall) out of the race, there was not quite as much hogwash, I thought.

It seemed strange that moderator Brian Williams began by asking so many political horse race questions.

But it was reinforced in the debate that all but Paul are itching to go to war with Iran or at least want it known that they would not hesitate. Actually we might have to ultimately take some type of military action against Iran if it were, to say, block the strait of Hormuz, but why give away our game plan or paint ourselves into a corner? I ask.

I’m giving Romney the edge in the race so far because the only possible reason anyone could vote for him is that they think he is such a level-headed businessman, and maybe a reasonable, if a little cool (and not in as in “cool man”), guy in other respects, and that we need to get our economy back on track. I’m not promoting him, I’m just saying…

Also, even though Gingrich is a good and forceful and quick-on-the draw debater, I am not convinced that Romney could not stand up to the vaunted Barack Obama and his fully-loaded automatic teleprompter.

I thought I heard one of the after-debate commentators say that the Republican party elite thinks they might have to find a way to go back to the smoked-filled room method of old at the convention if Gingrich seemed headed for victory (heard the smoke-filled room part — not sure about the rest — at least I’m honest).

I would think the Republicans will have to be united to beat Obama and that is still in question.

Might Gingrich succumb to the fate of Goldwater in ’64?????

January 22, 2012

I read that MSNBC political pundit Chris Matthews said that the right won a victory in the GOP contest with Newt Gingrich’s shellacking of Mitt Romney in the South Carolina primary Saturday (meaning that Romney represents the more moderate wing). But now I wonder: might this be full circle for the right wing?

Barry Goldwater began it all in the 1964 race when he was the nominee, beating out the liberal or moderate or both elements of the Republican Party. Ever since then the party has been under the thumb of the hard right (even though the presidents it has had have not really been so far to the right as is often suggested, I would argue). In the 1964 election, Goldwater went down to defeat at the hands of Democrat Lyndon Johnson in the largest, or one of the largest, political landslides ever. If Gingrich is the nominee, might he succumb to the same fate?

But then again, how far to the right is Gingrich? I think his record shows that he is capable of taking many positions on the same issues, depending upon the circumstances. He actually may be more like Romney than he is given credit for.

At any rate, there does seem to be much disarray in the Republican ranks this time around. I actually think it is good for both Republicans and Democrats. The Republicans might be able to free their party from the stranglehold of the far right (even if they remain essentially conservative) and the Democrats may get the president re-elected.

ADD 1: Well now isn’t this ironic? I now recall that Goldwater used to pride himself in being different; He was not another “me too” guy, as he put it. Now after posting this comparison between the Gingrich and Goldwater phenomena, I see on the web, so has everyone else — and I thought I was original. There really is nothing new under the sun. Guess I’m just another “me too” guy this time around.


What follows is really my just previous post — my initial reaction to the Gingrich win in South Carolina:

I blog a lot about politics, but politics or blogging is not my job, just kind of a pastime, an interest. I must confess, I didn’t even realize that South Carolina’s primary was on a Saturday (I was thinking Tuesday).

But anyway it is or was and since it is an open primary, I’m wondering if Democrats were allowed to vote. Might they have helped Newt Gingrich win (dirty trick, and if so it might backfire, I would suppose)?


ADD 1: I thought I saw an article on that. Just read it again and it said all voters, regardless of party affiliation, can vote in the S.C. primary, so I don’t know what effect, if any, that could have had.


Gingrich did win, and oh what an upset. I think up until the last few days Romney and his supporters and many observers may have thought he, Romney, had the momentum. But Newt is a Southern boy and he found a new trick too — take on the media. And I actually almost hate the term “media” because I think it primarily connotes the attitude of people who think the news should be reported in a certain way, a way in which they agree with, which is not to say that there is no bias in news coverage and that people don’t have a right to object to that. Nonetheless, a lot of the ill will among the general public focuses around the term “media” as if there was some central, and liberal/socialist, force pulling the strings. So I guess to counter that there is FOX News, which makes a mockery out of journalism by constantly focusing on the modern right-wing agenda, but I digress.

This is the first time in my memory that the Republican nomination race has been remotely interesting. I don’t recall now what it was like when Barry Goldwater got the nomination — I was in high school and I followed it somewhat, but don‘t recall details, except we were told that in our hearts we knew he was right — but I think I have read he was kind of a sacrificial lamb because the Democrat Lyndon Johnson had the momentum because he had taken over for a fallen president.

Gingrich claims that he is the best debater and that is what the Republicans will need to beat President Barack Obama.

I indeed do think a debate or debates between those two would be a good match, but  I also think the electorate as a whole, including all parties and independents, might be looking for substance over flourish or cleverness this time around — but I could be wrong.

Maybe if Newt continues to growl at the moderators or his questioners the public will be so caught up in the fervor to hate the “media” that he will win hands down.

And meanwhile, Mitt Romney could find that just like one-time super rich senatorial candidate in California Michael Huffington found out, all your wealth will not buy you an election.

But, then again, even with its track record for projecting winners, South Carolina is not America as a whole. And Gingrich has a penchant for getting carried away — for running his mouth just a little too much.

It’s going to be fun to watch.


The late Sen. Goldwater of Arizona is often called the father of the modern conservative movement. But if he were alive today he would be booted out for being too liberal.

P.s. P.s.

Romney also lost because there is a big evangelical Christian voting block in South Carolina and many of them don’t think his Mormon mysticism is compatible with their brand of mysticism (I just had to say that — please Lord do not strike me dead — the Devil made me do it).

If Gingrich does not like questions about his alleged infidelities he should not question that of others…

January 21, 2012

Maybe it would not be so bad if we could go back to the days when a politician’s private life or especially when a president’s or presidential candidate’s private life was just that, private. But I think the using of so-called “family values” as a campaign and general political theme or device has pretty well ruined that.

Newt Gingrich is one heck of a hypocrite when he goes after a news person for daring to question his own family values — that is the assertion by a former wife that he had asked her to allow him to continue to fool around with his mistress but remain married to her.

Gingrich went after Bill Clinton when Clinton was president over his affair with Monica Lewinsky.

To be fair, as I understand it, Gingrich is denying his former wife’s allegation, but the story of his infidelity or infidelities has been around for years and in statements I have heard make on television he has all but admitted or conceded to the point.

If Gingrich does not think his sex life is fair game for news coverage then he would have done better to keep his mouth shut about other people, that is unless he is the pious one who is beyond reproach. But he himself has already noted that he has sinned in the past (no specifics, but tacitly admitting to his infidelities) and has said that he now is trying to atone for those sins.

Former drug addicts (I don’t mean he is or was one), alcoholics, and sinners are the worst at lecturing others on their behaviors.

Newt and his partisans made much hay about putting CNN questioner John King in his place by Newt going after him for asking the embarrassing question. There is room for debate on whether he should have asked the question or waited for some of Newt’s opponents to bring it up or have framed the question differently or so on. Certainly if Newt had just before that moment made a pro-family values statement the question would have been right on.

And if this assertion of Newt’s infidelities not been an old story, such a question might be closely akin to the “when did you stop beating your wife”- type of question. You can’t answer one of those without making it seem as if you are in the wrong, whether you are or are completely innocent. I doubt Newt is completely innocent.

I say: Calm down Newt. If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen (and maybe make sure you are in the correct bedroom).


Candidates and their followers prefer soft ball questions. Journalists who play along with that are not real journalists. And the general voting public have inquiring minds (or should) and just want to know (or they should).

Paul may be right, but not for the right, Huntsman was too much the diplomat, Romney a tad insensitive…

January 18, 2012

UPDATE: I should have written in my original post that Huntsman could not get enough support or votes because he seemed just too nice. Nice guys finish last, as the old saying goes. He was an experienced diplomat. He also committed the sin, in Republican ranks these days, of working in a Democratic (Obama’s) administration (he had also worked in Republican administrations). I don’t know how nice of a guy he really was, but he seemed to carry a nice-guy persona. Worse yet, for Republicans, he was probably too open minded.

Meanwhile, Ron Paul, who is still in there slugging it out, got boos at a recent GOP debate while talking foreign policy. It seems the hecklers did not agree with his so-called Golden Rule concept, that if we put embargoes on a country they might try to do the same thing to us or retaliate in some way.

My own thinking is, yes, a lot of things we do to other countries with whom we have disagreements would be tantamount or considered acts of war if done to us.

Paul may be right, but not by current right-wing standards. He probably has a better idea of foreign policy and one that connects more closely with that of our founding fathers than anyone else.

This of course is not the 18th Century and like it or not we are the world’s super power. But there are consequences to our actions and they might not always work in our favor.

I see Newt Gingrich is supposedly making some headway, even though Mitt Romney continues to be the presumptive nominee.

Romney should not be criticized for being a rich man, but he does seem a bit isolated and insensitive on the subject, casually suggested that he “probably” pays about 15 percent in income taxes, a lot less than many wage earners, it has been reported and that he made a little money on speaking engagements, but “not much”, just about $300,000 in the past year. It’s all relative, I suppose. But do you think he could possibly relate to the average working or non-working person?

With all the infighting going on in the Republican camp, President Obama just might get that second term, or he might actually beat the competition, even if they do get it together. While Obama is a disappointment to many, including yours truly, he is not as bad as the GOP portrays him to be. I see no indication that he is turning us into a “socialist ” nation. He did push through a health care law, but it is hardly the socialized medicine that some claim, and maybe it should have been.

My previous blog post follows:

Just got the news that Jon Huntsman Jr. is out of the presidential race. Just could not get enough support.

Kind of like good Mormon, bad Mormon and we may get the bad Mormon.

No wonder we get same old, same old in politics. Your message as a candidate somehow has to fit a stale narrative. You can’t be different, and woe be it to you if you try to mix ideologies in any fashion.

Except Ron Paul with his libertarian message kind of gets away with it, but he is more of a leader of a major fringe group and wide-eyed young people searching for someone who won’t let them down like Barack Obama.

And you should be intelligent, maybe, but not too intelligent.

Actually, I don’t know what Huntsman was, except he seemed different and somewhat or a whole lot more palatable than Mitt Romney. Of course he was a Mormon, though.

Maybe Huntsman just did not want to spend all of his money and maybe he just did not have a special interest to back him up.

It is the interest groups who run our so-called democracy.

Peeing on dead Taliban is wrong, but that’s who you hired to do your dirty work..

January 16, 2012

We Americans can hardly object to the wanton brutality and ugliness of Al Qaeda or the Taliban or any other enemy if we engage in it ourselves.

(I thought, think that of waterboard torture, but that is a different facet of this subject.)

At the same time, as Gen. Sherman said: “WAR IS HELL!”, and I am not being original to note that.  But it was the first thing that came to my mind when I heard about the incident or at least when I got to thinking about all the outcry over the incident of U.S. Marines urinating on dead Taliban fighters.

Of course some people are applauding it or at least seeing it as not really right but highly understandable.

I think the problem is this modern craze of everything has to be posted as a video on the World Wide Web for all to see. It used to be when you did naughty things you did them in private, but a whole generation is being brought up to think what you do is share every moment and every thought in your whole life on the world wide web and the accompanying social media.

I believe the Marines did discredit to their country when they did this, but at the same time I am not the one out there dodging the bullets and IEDs and losing my friends in battle.

Certainly they probably need to be reprimanded, court-martialed I do not think.

I’m not even sure that high level government officials such as Defense Secretary Panetta or Secretary of State Clinton should have bothered to condemn it, but maybe in private they ought to ride hard on the command structure who holds the responsibility. I’m not so sure but whether the chiefs don’t condone this behavior by well it’s wrong but wink, wink, nod, nod, attaboy!.

When it really gets bad is when troops wantonly go after innocent live civilians. And there is a history of that in the current and other wars.

War is hell and all of those who think it is something we just have to do also have to accept it.

I don’t know how much this is connected if at all, but we do have an essentially mercenary military, although that word in its strictest sense means soldiers from outside the country I guess. But we do not have a citizen military. We have hired people to do the dirty and dangerous work of war. Part of the deal is they face lethal danger to the ultimate. People willing to do that may have a different frame of mind than many of us. Of course I recognize that most who have served in the past as well as those serving in current times have managed to keep their civility.

But also, much of the story of the dishonorable or embarrassingly ugly aspects of war on our part was covered up or not widely disseminated in the past, with the narrative always being that it was, as an example, only the treacherous “Hun” or the dirty Japs who engaged incivility and committed atrocities.

Nonetheless War is Hell, get used to it or don’t support it.

Foreign language proficiency an asset, except on the campaign trail, not so much…

January 15, 2012

Being bilingual or tri-lingual or just plain multi-lingual can be an asset in this world. And I would like for once to see a modern president of the United States who could actually, say, speak Spanish — he could converse with out neighbors to the south. Or speak French (whoops, Romney does that) and speak to our French-Canadian neighbors or to the President of France in his own language. Or wouldn’t it be nice to have one who could speak Chinese (John Huntsman?) to our bankers in China. Maybe it would have been handy during the Cold War to have one who was fluent in Russian.

Being fluent in another language does not mean you don’t love and respect and cherish good old English. In fact, if you are actually multi-lingual (that is you speak the languages with ease and correctly) you probably have a better command of your mother tongue — it takes that to learn another language well.

But displaying your foreign language skills is not really something you want to do on the campaign trail in America. It does not generally go over well with the broad mass of people. And I have to agree with many of those who would be put off by it that it is really not the appropriate forum. Yes it is handy, say, if you are speaking to a group of maybe Mexican-American farm workers, and maybe if all the people you are speaking to at the time are speakers of the language you are using that works.

But this time around John Huntsman has been throwing around some Mandarin Chinese. Very impressive. And I think that could be highly useful to him and our nation if he were to become president. But maybe it would be a better idea just to leave that skill on his written resume for the time being. American audiences don’t want to hear it. And why should they? Most could not understand it. It would be insulting. Kind of like when you’re somewhere and everyone is speaking a foreign language and you wonder if they are talking about you — especially when they point at you and laugh.

I witnessed first-hand Michael Dukakis use Spanish — only a few sentences, as I recall — at a campaign stop. Yes, there were no doubt many Spanish speakers there, but to non-Spanish speakers it just did not sound like good old American patriotism.

The worst was when John Kerry’s wife spoke  — and now I forget — but a foreign language or languages at the Democratic Convention. I thought that went over like a bomb. This is America!

Technically English is not the official language of the U.S., but in reality and in practicality it is.

Oh, yeah, I know George W. supposedly spoke Spanish. But he was not all that fluent. He wound up calling the then president of Spain a duck by mispronouncing his last name.

Another reason to can the high-toned multilingualism — a little knowledge can be dangerous, and that is what Bush had or has.


Please don’t anyone misinterpret this. I am 100 percent for foreign language ability and think it should be required in grade school. Kids that age can learn it much more readily than adults. It is enriching and could lead to better world relations.

Romney’s irritating quality; Paul’s non-interventionism and Fed opposition…

January 14, 2012

So now the Republican race for the nomination for presidential candidate looks ever more like Mitt Romney the pick, albeit reluctantly in many quarters, with Ron Paul really going for influence on the party platform more than president. In his second-place victory speech in New Hampshire the tone of it all was that his cause had won a great victory and there is no way the Republican Party can ignore that. So the cause won, not him. He won’t be the nominee and won’t be president.

I think some of the loud mouthed so-called conservatives of the talk media loved Paul when they did not see him as a threat to win any votes but now they don’t know quite what to think. Paul as a Libertarian in philosophy or ideology is fiscally conservative — they like that. But he is also quite liberal on social issues and he does not believe in needless foreign wars and they don’t like that.

They are also nervous that he seems to attract so many young people; they feel forced to recognize the value of that. They also probably fear the votes he might snatch if he ran under a third-party banner — that gives Paul the upper hand on political influence going into the convention.

And conservatives are hard to figure out. Once upon a time, before World War II, they were isolationists and the liberals were the ones for foreign intervention to fight fascism. But I digress. The term conservative does not seem to be very precise, it includes a lot of different factions under one banner.

I think all this infighting in what used to be seen as a tightly-knit Republican Party may be healthy for it.

I just saw a video clip of New York Times columnist Gail Collins saying, among other things, that Romney has a quality about him that manages to irritate people no matter where he goes to speak.

I know he irritates me. But then so does Obama.

And since we have freedom of speech in this country and since this is my own blog, I can say this without worrying about political correctness:

That irritating quality about Romney is probably his Mormonism. They’re like that.


ADD 1:

And now I will correct or clarify the originally posted draft on this blog post:

I originally wrote:

“And back to Paul. Isolationism has its dangers. It gives rise to people like Hitler.”

But a reader, whose comment can be seen at bottom (by clicking onto comment), corrected me by explaining the difference between “isolationism” and “non-interventionism”. Basically the reader says that Paul is for not getting involved in foreign entanglements, but is for making free trade agreements (and I would imagine protecting free trade, as when we went after the Barbary pirates or even the pirates of today). I think I got sloppy and just used the popular journalistic shorthand everyone is using for describing Paul’s foreign policy. For the most part I personally think we (the U.S.) should engage in world-wide trade and protect that but otherwise keep our noses out of other peoples’ business and problems — for the most part. And thanks to the reader for the comment.


Also, this thing he has against the Federal Reserve:

As I understand it, the Fed is basically our central bank. Once upon a time we had no central bank in the United States and banks all over the country issued their own money and they went bankrupt, leaving people with worthless money.

There has to be some type of consistent centralized system. But I do agree that is seems problematic when our money is based on debt, rather than hard value, such as gold and silver, or as in the case of a very elementary economics book I had, fish sticks.