Santorum shows how he is not fit to be president (but there is a case for restoring values)…

February 27, 2012

GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum’s rant that the idea of separation of church and state, as enunciated by the late John F. Kennedy, a Catholic, as Santorum, makes him “throw up” is an indication of why one cannot really take the man seriously.

(Kennedy wound up being the first Catholic elected to the presidency — it was a major breakthrough at the time, almost as big as finally having an African-American president, haven’t had a Jewish one yet — hey what about a declared atheist or a Muslim? No Obama is not a closet Muslim, as far as I know).

Santorum put that out there apparently as red meat for the religious right or evangelicals, but he has reportedly seen fit to back-track just a little, now saying he believes in the separation, but he also believes the church (I imagine he means Christians) should be able to have influence on the government and the government has no business telling the church what to do.

While Mitt Romney is having a rough go of it, and while I don’t personally care for him, he seems the only sound candidate the GOP could muster — the rest are not fit or are nut cases. Well I guess there’s really only Ron Paul left — not sure what category he fits into — I like his anti-war stance, though.

The only practical way to guarantee freedom of religion in the nation is to have a complete separation of church and state. I do agree that such does not give the government any right to intrude upon religious practices or how a church runs its affairs. But in the recent brouhaha over the Obama administration’s attempt to force Catholic hospitals to offer birth control services I see a conflict not easily resolved, although I understand there was a compromise reached. But when a church runs a business in the public domain, such as a Catholic hospital, then it must comply with public law. Render unto Caesar what is his and all.

I do think that the separation of church and state goes far into the impractical and unnecessary when there are objections to people praying in school (except of course it would be wrong for the school people to actually lead the prayer or officially authorize it, but people can or should be able to pray on their own), and it is absurd how all of our traditional holidays, Christmas and Easter and such, have to be renamed or have all religion taken out of them at schools or in the public realm — there ought to be some small leeway for tradition.

But the likes of Santorum either are not able to see the wider picture or they just like to demagogue things for political advantage.

Religious people certainly do have a right to voice their opinion and be politically involved. They just don’t have a right to have government help them force others to do things their way. In addition, the government also has no right to impose its will on churches when they are involved in church matters. I don’t see any evidence of the latter.

I have to add that Santorum may be trying to go for the legitimate desire of a lot of people to go back to traditional values of family and marriage and that the government through various social programs, mainly since the Great Society under Johnson in the 60s, has promoted the break up of families and has in fact promoted single-parent families and has allowed the carrying on of a tradition of dependence from generation to generation. It was all done with good intentions and should not be all scrapped, just revised, with an emphasis put on personal responsibility.

If things are not changed, the religious right just might get its way and then we will all be in trouble.

If you think extreme Islam is bad, read the history of extreme Christianity.

P.s.

Even though it has been a long time since politicians could almost safely say on thing to one audience and then another to a different audience without fear of anyone being the wiser, or giving a different answer depending upon which day it is without wide reporting of the contradiction, apparently as is the case with Santorum — he is against the separation of church and state, he is for it — they still do it. It goes this way, you say one thing to the faction you are trying to court and then another for wider public consumption, with the understood wink, wink, nod, nod, that you meant what you said in the first place, but it is understood you have to tone things down to get the votes from the wider electorate.

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Off to Afghanistan: when will they ever learn?

February 23, 2012

UPDATE: (2-25-12):

Since I first posted this, it has been reported that several U.S. military personnel, including two high-ranking officers, were killed in connection with rioting and a general uprising among some of the populace in Afghanistan over the burning of Islamic holy books, Korans, reported to have been done recently by mistake by U.S. personnel. They were supposedly burning subversive material and the Korans got mixed in. I suppose since most of our personnel don’t know the native language of the area, and what is it? that could be possible, that it was a “mistake”. But whoever ordered it should be demoted, prosecuted, and sent home. If that was not incompetence, I don’t know what is.

But actually all U.S. personnel need to go home. The Afghan war is a pointless exercise. It apparently takes the United States about a decade to learn these things.

Winning the hearts and minds of people around the world should not be our job. If we minded our own business, they might seek to emulate us because of our standard of living and our freedom. We (the United States) went in there because terrorists used Afghanistan as a staging area and headquarters leading up to the 9/11 attack — ironically we finally killed the master mind of the 9/11 attack, Osama Bin Laden, not there but inside Pakistan, who pretends to be our friend at times for our financial and military support, but who aids and abets our enemies. Because our modern enemies are not uniformed soldiers operating out of specific nations they are harder to fight and beat, but helicopters swooping in with Navy SEALS is a modern tactic, and a drone up the a.. works at times too, although the latter in problematic and poses questions of ethics and whether modern warfare has got so impersonal, those who remotely fly the drones commuting to work and then home again to the suburbs, half way round the world from where the action is, that it adds a new Orwellian dimension that may already be out of hand.

STOP THE MADNESS, STOP THE WARS!

If Ron Paul was not so one-dimensional, he might be the leader who could lead us out of the madness.

—————————————————–

I see via the photos and story in my local newspaper that a local National Guard unit is deploying to Afghanistan.

And I thought all of this was supposed to be over for us (the U.S.).

But it’s never over.

While I fear this is all futile, it is not quite like Vietnam in that the military personnel going over there are all volunteers and interestingly the ages of the soldiers are often much older — one from my hometown or area is in his 50s. In Vietnam young men still in their teens were forced to go fight a senseless war which we had no business fighting and nothing to gain. We may have thought otherwise at the beginning, but it became apparent as time went by that it was all a terrible mistake, a blunder if you will.

I suppose those going over from my area feel that they are serving their country and somehow it all translates into the fight for freedom and against tyranny and extreme Islam. There is also a financial incentive. They signed up because it is an extra job.

I do not condemn them for it. I just don’t agree that it is worthwhile.

And the next part is kind of touchy. While I do not condemn the troops, I do the policy makers who are squandering our tax dollars.

I also think it is heart wrenching to think that some of these people will not make it back or will return terribly wounded. There are mothers and fathers going; in at least one case both the mother and father are going from one family. And as I said. The age span is much wider this time around.

Ironically, I think I once considered — albeit not too seriously — signing up for the unit in question, and for the wrong reason, more money. I served three years in the Army during the Vietnam War but did not go to Vietnam. I don’t know, maybe if I would have singed up for the reserves or guard I might have eventually found myself in Desert Storm or even in Afghanistan — I’m 62 now.

I was no soldier, even though I was in the Army. I did my service, though. I filled a slot.

I think it was former Secretary of State Madeline Albright who said, I think in reference to the Kosovo campaign (one I never understood what our interest in was), “what good is it to have an army if we can’t use it?” (a paraphrase probably, despite my quote marks).

I agree with that sentiment, but we should be awful choosy as to how we use it.

And think of World War I and think of Vietnam:

And think of what Peter Paul and Mary sung: “where have all the soldiers gone, gone to graveyards everyone, when will they ever learn?…”

——————-

CLARIFICATION:

In case anyone was wondering or cared, I inadvertently left out a preposition in my original headline to this post. Been so busy with my real job, I did not catch it till quite a bit later.


Rich Republicans decry the government dole, except when it comes their way…

February 19, 2012

Those Republicans who are so adamant and vociferous about getting government out of our lives and not being dependent upon it and for goodness sake keeping its hands off business in the best laissez-faire tradition are often quite the hypocrites, don’t ya know?

My California State Assemblyman, Republican Doug LaMalfa, belongs to a rice-growing family. That family received $4.7 million in federal subsidies over the past 15 years in connection with their farming, I read in my local Record-Searchlight newspaper online site . So let me get this straight Mr. LaMalfa, it’s okay for the government to fork over money to rich farmers but not to help poor people. Of course, as all of those rich people on the government dole would argue, they deserve it for their efforts are and it helps the economy.

Well there is something to the it-helps-the-economy argument. The rice-growing industry in Northern California creates a lot of jobs, to include those who work for farmers and those who supply and provide various services to the farmers and all the related businesses that go with it, to include all the retail outlets that benefit from the turn over of dollars in the local communities.

In fact, I hauled at least one load of rice in the early days of my trucking career. Another driver and I team drove a semi loaded with bagged rice from Richvale, where the LaMalfa headquarters are (maybe it was theirs), and went across the United States, some 3,000 miles, to Connecticut with it. So there you have it. I gained from the federally-subsidized rice business.

But that is just it. The Republicans are complaining about the Obama stimulus program, weak that it has been overall, and are saying free enterprise needs to get government out of its way and stand on its own. And Mr. LaMalfa is as hard-right Republican as you can get.

He’s running for the U.S. Congress now. Cut aid to poor families, but save it for his family, he’ll probably argue.

(Right now, LaMalfa is actually facing political attack over his family’s windfall from the feds from his Republican opponents. His Democratic contender indicates he is just holding back until maybe LaMalfa starts railing against federal stimulus or something.)

Government subsidized farming is a mixed bag (of rice — just could not resist that). It does provide stability in an economic activity that is highly volatile when it comes to prices. And it is hard to switch from one kind of production to another when so much of the equipment one must use is specialized. And it is probably hard to get crop loans when the lenders cannot be sure that there is some protection against wide price swings and natural disaster.

But how can the likes of LaMalfa and other Republicans argue against economic stimulus when they get so much themselves?

The story I referred to can be seen via this link:

http://www.redding.com/news/2012/feb/18/lamalfas-47-million-in-farm-subsidies-draw/?partner=popular

The U.S. domestic rice-growing industry, at least in Northern California, also depends upon federally-subsidized water; it is a water intensive crop. Some argue that other crops could be grown and the water put to better use. There are other regions on the planet more suited to growing rice with natural conditions.

If you want government out of your business Republicans, or anyone else, you cannot at the same time have your hand out for it largesse (that’s just the way it works).

P.s.

Today I haul a lot of agricultural products, so indirectly I likely benefit from federal farm programs, that include direct payments, as well as insurance, and various services. There no doubt is a major benefit to government involvement in agriculture, to include stability in the food supply and economic system. But I think rich farmers and corporate farmers utilize the image of poor farmers, of which there were many in the past, and still are, to get support for farm subsidy payments. It seems that the majority of help from the federal government goes to those who need it the least. One of my late uncles was a small farmer, 60 acres, and he used to complain that the farm advisors with the state University system were far more eager to work with the big farmers than him.


How could administrators endanger college accreditation? Just what is their job?

February 15, 2012

BLOGGER’S NOTE: This might seem like a local letter-to-the-editor kind of piece, but I think it points to a universal problem with administrators and bureaucrats.

———

So I read in my local newspaper (online) this morning that our community college is in danger of losing its accreditation, meaning that coursework units completed there would not count as transferable to four-year institutions (or any others).

As the late Amy Winehouse might have put it: “what kind of f..kry is this?!”

Exactly how does this kind of thing happen? I mean with all the six-figure-salary administrators out there, and they can’t make sure things are up to par? What exactly are they being paid for?

I suspect this all may be some kind of bureaucratic foul-up or nonsense, in which the education being offered is not really substandard, but all the right forms and reports have not been filled out correctly. Don’t know. The story I read did not explain in any depth. Something about lack of an overall plan and a questionable method of assessing student achievement.

But it brings to mind No Child Left Behind and all that political/bureaucratic crap.

What we need is for schools to offer education and students to do their part, along with help and support from their parents with a minimum of administrative/bureaucratic gobbledygook.

One also wonders how a school board, made up of locally-elected citizens, could allow something like this to happen. The story did indicate that the danger of losing accreditation has been known for several years.

As you might have perceived, I have a thing about administrators. Of course they are at best or least a necessary evil. There has to be someone to run the show and coordinate things, and essentially be of service to the faculty and students — but I suspect there are far too many of them. People gravitate toward this job in the education field because this is where the money is. And this is where far too much money goes in education — not into the classroom.

This is the kind of thing that gives public education a black eye.

P.s.

I attended this local community college and learned a lot there and have no complaints or at least could not find anything wrong with it at the time. Like I say, it is probably more bureaucratic nonsense than anything else, but quite distressing nonetheless.


And what will we all do when due to technology we have nothing to do?

February 14, 2012

Some time ago I did a post on the fact that no job is safe from mechanization or, better put these days, from technological advancements.

It isn’t just mechanized ditch digger machines — my dad once told me they took the bread out of the mouths of thousands of Irishmen, and he was not Irish, just an old saying — but all kinds of office jobs. I mean you don’t see a typing pool anymore and you don’t even see nearly as many secretaries — everyone has their own computer keyboard at their desk and can do all those letters and memos themselves, even if they can’t spell correctly or punctuate (and computers don’t know if you used the correct word or what the syntax of your sentence was supposed to be, but I digress; I‘m getting off point).

I’m a truck driver and drivers often joke about how easy dispatchers have it (even though they know that is not necessarily so) and there is that joke that an empty trailer is as light as a load of dispatcher brains. But drivers know they need them, dispatchers that is, nonetheless.

A few years ago I read in a story about careers that the job of dispatcher was going the way of the buggy whip salesman, that automated phone systems and computers and so on would replace them. At the time, I was skeptical.

Now subsequently I did work for a time for a trucking company that did have a type of automated dispatch, but even there the whole system was still dependent upon the input of human dispatchers, very much so.

But I got an email from a trade journal, unsolicited, advertising some automated dispatch system, bragging that dispatchers were replaced by automation at 30 terminals at a major trucking company for a savings of more than a million dollars to that company.

As a truck driver that does not give me comfort. I can argue with a dispatcher (although not a good idea), but I can’t argue with a phone message. I can get help from a dispatcher (I have to admit, they can and do help at times), but the automated phone things just take you around on a continuous loop, as anyone who has ever badly needed to talk to someone at a commercial outfit knows.

The point here is not that it won’t work, the automation, the point is that no one is safe from being out of a job — like I said in the previous post, they’re experimenting with driverless trucks (one driver told me that is a train, but that is not what I meant, and even a train has an engineer, although that position could probably be more easily automated — and do you want a driverless train going through your town? While I am going off on a tangent here, I understand the Bay Area Rapid Transit trains are equipped to run themselves but due to safety concerns and politics they have operators).

And I ask once again, what will we all do when we really do have nothing to do? We can’t just all go out and play. I mean how do we distribute the tokens we call money?

ADD 1:

Just read a story in the LA Times online that the Pentagon wants FAA clearance to fly drones (pilotless aircraft) inside the United States. Seems it has more than 7,000 of them in the Middle East and with things winding down there somewhat it sees uses for them here — sounds quite George Orwellian to me! And I know I have heard there has been discussion about crewless aircraft to transport passengers. In our economic system the ultimate goal is to not have to pay people to do anything. At one time it was thought that machines and technology could do the heavy lifting and we as humans would reserve the efforts that require thinking for ourselves, but with artificial intelligence we have passed that threshold.


In the wake of Tuesday’s narrow same-sex marriage ruling, it seems that the issue may be decided as much by evolution in societal acceptance as by the courts….

February 8, 2012

There seems to be some question now whether Tuesday’s ruling by the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals striking down California’s ban on same-sex marriage will lead to a hearing before the U.S. Supreme Court. Because the 9th circuit made such a narrow ruling that does not decide the whole issue, the high court might not choose to bother with the case, it has been reported.

Meanwhile, the trend has been for more and more jurisdictions to recognize same-sex marriage in the United States and worldwide. It could be that society as a whole will make the decision instead of the courts. Of course societal opinion is often to a large extent what eventually moves courts to change their thinking or to decide on matters that come before it.

UPDATE: And as if to underscore what I said about the trend toward  allowing same-sex marriage, after I wrote that it was reported that both houses of the the Washington State legislature have now passed a pro-same-sex marriage bill and it is going to the governor, who supports it. This would be the seventh state to approve same-sex marriage. The vote was 55-45 in the Washington State House, and 28-21 in the Senate. One republican lawmaker who voted in favor indicated she came to support the concept after finding out her own daughter was homosexual (I realize the preferred word these days is “gay”). And that is the way it often goes. That is part of what has changed the thinking in society. Homosexuals have come out of the closet and their families are confronted with the fact that they are their loved ones.

——————–

In this post I give some admittedly sketchy background and then offer my opinion on the matter.  Most of this was written yesterday not long after I read of the decision that had just been handed down by the appeals court:

UPDATE (Tuesday, 2-7-12):

Earlier I had blogged that the same-sex marriage issue was getting ever closer to the U.S. Supreme Court with a ruling today by a federal court, but maybe not, at least not via the Prop. 8 case. But both sides on the issue continue their efforts. And it would seem that sooner or later the high court will have to decide the matter.

Or, it occurs to me, changing attitudes in society may already be at work and the issue might take care of itself, even without the courts, as more states move to make same-sex marriage legal.

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CALIFORNIA BACKGROUND:

In May of 2008 a majority on the California State Supreme Court held that same-sex marriages were allowed under the state’s constitution. In November of 2008 voters in the state narrowly passed Prop. 8, banning same-sex marriage (52 percent to 48 percent ). The issue has been before the courts ever since and same-sex marriages have been put on hold in the state (I comment on that at the very bottom of the post).

———————–

There is an understandable resistance to change in our culture that accepts same-sex marriage and it makes a great political wedge issue too for conservatives who would like to use it as a weapon to fight anything that means change of the status quo.

The reports I have now read indicate that the question of same-sex marriage may not be headed to the U.S. Supreme Court even though a U.S. appellate court panel today ruled that California’s Prop. 8 ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional. The ruling was narrow and basically said once given the rights, they cannot be taken away, at least that is what I seem to be reading. So in states and locales where it was not legal, things would remain the same. Meanwhile, a legal stay remains in effect preventing same-sex marriages in California from resuming while the issue is still in the appeals process. It could go on to a further appeals panel or directly on to the Supreme Court, although some expect now it may not go to the high court, at least not via the present case.

WHAT I REALLY WANTED TO SAY, MINUS THE BACKGROUND:

But what this is all about really is two things: politics (left vs. right) and a resistance to culture change, and by saying the latter I am not at all implying that such resistance is wrong. To the contrary, I personally have a problem with the idea that homosexuality is to be simply treated as a normal part of life and should never be portrayed as abnormal.

By the same token it seems to me the clear evidence is that people are born homosexual or at least with homosexual tendencies and that they should not be denied rights given to any other group.

So there you have it, a dichotomy of sorts.

I personally would think that homosexual couples should be afforded the same rights as straight married couples, but only by way of official domestic partnerships or civil unions. But the problem, I guess, is that for some reason that has not always seemed to work. The domestic partnerships don’t always have the same status of marriage and may not be recognized universally among the states in the nation. In addition, homosexuals feel they are unconstitutionally discriminated against by not being allowed to be married or to be called “married” in the same sense as heterosexual couples.

Some have suggested that marriage ought to be restricted to a religious ceremony where appropriate, or for those who want a religious ceremony and sanction, but that the actual contract that gives each partner legal rights and protections ought to be a civil function and not called marriage, but something like civil union. But marriage, the term and practice, and so on, has a long history and is part of our culture and it would seem difficult to impossible to simply change it now.

I do also have a problem with government-enforced cultural change. I’m primarily talking about the school text books I hear so much about — actually have never seen one — that portray homosexuality as normal, when in fact it is abnormal, a fact of life in a certain percentage of the population, and more accepted these days by society as a whole, but a deviation from cultural and biological norms.

It’s a difficult subject. If a parent has a child and if that child is homosexual, the parent by all that is human and decent has no choice but to accept such and love the child as he or she would love a child who is not homosexual. But by the same token it would seem a parent should not be forced by public education to subject his or her straight children to the idea that homosexual practices are just a normal thing.

Like I said, it is a difficult subject to address — that is , without, on the one hand, sounding far-out liberal and throwing out all cultural values, and on the other hand, sounding as if one is some kind of bigot.

As a society I wished we, or some of us, would not spend so much time trying to control the lifestyles of others and at the same time I wished the government would stay out of the cultural brainwashing business.

P.s.

What I meant about politics being in this is that conservatives will fight anything that smacks of liberalism simply to discredit the movement on all issues, to include taxes, government regulation on business and the environment and so on.

P.s. P.s.

Another aspect of the legal battle was a challenge to the original appeals court ruling striking down Prop. 8 on the grounds that the justice who ruled on the decision was biased in that he was homosexual himself and did not reveal that until after his ruling. The appeals panel held that there was no conflict there. I’m having a hard time figuring out what they would consider to be a conflict. And I am really fairly neutral on all this nonetheless.

AND ONE MORE THING:

I find it curious that same-sex marriages already in existence are recognized, in California at least, at the same time the justice system in trying to decide whether it is okay for homosexuals to marry. It would seem the decision has already been made.


A skill and resistance to consumer credit and homemaking skills would help…

February 7, 2012

I suppose there has always been someone complaining that society is on a downward path, but two things struck me in the past few days — neither of which was new, just reinforced:

First, I heard an interview with Martha Stewart in which she was talking about how she loved and made the most of modern technology — you know, the ipads and iphones and such. But when queried, she admitted she has some reservations too.

She told how she was at a restaurant and at one table a family was supposedly celebrating the grandmother’s birthday. But the kids were all tied up on their phones with games or texting or whatever, as were the parents. Everyone was doing their own thing. No live human interaction at that table. That’s chilling.

And then I just read a comment on a story in the Daily Beast in which the writer opined that the problem or the downside of the feminist movement in the workplace is that once women got equal access in the workplace wages came down and now it takes two incomes to run a household. The writer suggested something needs to be done to make it possible for a household to survive on one 40-hour per week job. I think there is a lot to be said for that, but how we could bring that about is a big question.

A major problem is that people today have no sense of or no ability to be frugal. I had a stay-at-home mom and she knew how to shop, how to cook from scratch, how to save left overs, how to sew, and so on. She did go into the workforce for seasonal work when I was a teenager, and still did all that — a woman’s lot was/is not always an easy one — but neither is a man’s (that is a different story).

(And with respect to my late wife, she was caught in between generations. She lived up to her responsibility as a homemaker, but also felt compelled to enter the workforce once the children were old enough to meet the demands of an economy based on and husband and wife working, and she liked being out there too — there is that — but she felt conflicted between the demands of home and the workplace — she was a family oriented person.)

Another major problem is that a generation and more has been raised to believe that the only way people can survive and indeed live decently is with consumer credit.

Credit may be necessary in business, but for a household it is the root of all evil. No, I don’t imagine we will go back to the old days, although I think the last economic downfall, the crash of 2008, has made many people a little more careful, others not so much.

My advice to young people (at 62 I can give advice):

Learn a trade, pay cash, be free.

P.s.

About that learning a trade. It is difficult when you start with nothing. But in some places public schools do offer some type of trade training. As a young person I would take advantage of any grants or even military training (although there are pitfalls in that) to get trade training. And I am not limiting my definition of “trade” to the manual trades, but actual skills are what employers look for generally and they command the higher wages. Families have the responsibility of seeing that their young people get off on the right foot. Society is better off when families live up to their responsibilities.

And hoping that I have not gone off on a tangent here, it would be helpful if the government did not encourage the making of families or the producing of children without two responsible adults to raise them.

Enough said for now.

P.s. P.s.

Okay, I have to add that there will be women who do not want to be typecast as the housewife. I certainly do believe in equal rights. But as a society we need to live up to our responsibilities when we produce children. And we do need to produce children, unless we just want our culture to die off.