You may have a right to be homeless and live in the open, but please don’t crap where I have to walk…

July 26, 2012

Ever wonder where homeless people go to the bathroom? Well in San Francisco it’s reported that among their chosen spots are stairwells and escalators at Bay Area Rapid Transit Stations.

I live far from the madding crowd at the north end of the Sacramento Valley in Northern California, but we have the homeless as well. Many of them seem to hang out at the public library. Who only knows where they relieve themselves. Sure, they probably use the library facilities when it is open, along with those at nearby convenience markets, I suppose — but store owners don’t like people using their places as public restrooms, especially if they are not buying anything, and that is understandable. And the stores might not be open late at night when nature calls.

The problem in San Francisco is so bad that human excrement reportedly clogs up the works of the escalators. And of course the stench is unpleasant for the general public too. And of course this has to be a health hazard.

I did visit San Francisco some days ago and was pleased that the homeless and panhandlers did not seem to be the nuisance they had been in the past, but maybe I just lucked out and walked in the right places. I did see several homeless under sleeping bags along one street, though.

The problem with rousting the homeless is that they just move somewhere else and become a problem at that somewhere else.

Personally I think it is a tragedy that there are so many homeless, realizing that in some cases people choose that lifestyle.

But I think the homeless are a terrible blight on any city, big or small. And they present a definite health hazard.

I have mentioned this before, but years ago, in the 1980s, as I recall, Sacramento County tried to tie public assistance to living in a public shelter for people without their own residence. And as I recall the courts held that one could not be forced to live in any certain place. In essence, you have a right to be homeless.

Whenever the homeless are put up in public shelters there are security concerns. Many homeless people, maybe most, would rather be homeless than be forced to live with strangers who might well be violent or thieves or both.

But I think society has a moral duty to look out for the homeless and it is the only practical thing to do, especially when health and security and aesthetics for the quality of life for all of us is considered.

You might have a right to be homeless but you should not have a right to, well, crap where the rest of us have to walk.

I for one would support the building of public shelters, simple spartan affairs, where people can be protected from the elements.

Perhaps one cannot be forced to live in a shelter, but public benefits should only go to those who are at least willing to be a part of civilized society.

With all the cutbacks in public agencies we have been hearing about, this is probably not going to happen, but it seems to me there ought to be more gatekeepers in the public assistance system and more serious counseling available.

Unfortunately, a large portion of the homeless for a variety of reasons, including mental health, physical health, and pure economics and the cruel realities of life are probably beyond help.

But we need to do the best we can and we need to encourage the down and out to do the same.

It seems ironic that those with no resources often smoke and abuse alcohol and drugs. That is terribly expensive and who really pays the bills for all that?

And I will sound like Scrooge or something, but the thing now I see is for many of the down and out to have pets. Taking care of them is expensive too.

But if nothing else, can we at least come up with a way of discouraging the using of public places where we all have to walk as toilets? Maybe the answer is to install Porta Potties all over the place (yes, I know, they have to be serviced and that is not free).

P.s.

It is not just the homeless who have poor hygiene and personal habits. I am a long-haul truck driver, and there is an element among us, small, I would hope, who sometimes leave excrement right on the pavement of a truck stop or public road — I’m not talking someone taking a leak, I mean, well, excrement, sometimes in a bag and sometimes not, and then there are the discarded pee bottles and plastic bags (the latter used by women?).

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Horror in Aurora: we need a middle ground on gun control…

July 20, 2012

UPDATE (7-21-12) : After further reading in the news, on the second day of this sad saga out of Colorado, I note that, as so often happens in mass murders, neighbors and friends of the shooter are quoted as having no idea the person was capable of or inclined to such. In this case, the shooter was a brilliant science student. The only possible clue (and not seen at the time) came from an old high school friend who said he had a “dark, sarcastic kind of humor”.  And although I say in the post below that there ought to be some way to keep guns out of the hands of  deranged (dangerous) people, it is not always possible to spot them. On the other hand, I note that he was said to be packing a military-like assault rifle and two automatic pistols, as well as a shotgun. At his apartment he had a cache of ammunition and there were said to be booby traps. Did the founding fathers mean that every citizen should have their own, personal military stockpile?

—————————————-

Guns don’t kill people, people do.

That inane saw of the gun nut lobby comes to mind when I think of the horror in Aurora, Colorado where an obviously deranged gunman killed at least 12 people and wounded scores of others in the most deadly shooting now in American History (this being reported in the last 24 hours).

Yes, I stand behind the Second Amendment, the right to keep and bear arms, even though I think it is ambiguous in both its wording and history, but let’s face it, this nut case would not have been able to kill these people if it were not for the fact it is apparently so easy for any idiot to get lethal weapons (not to mention stockpiling ammunition as this culprit did).

One of the victims in the shooting, taking place at a movie theatre, was only six years old. Imagine, losing your young child in such a senseless, wanton shooting. Small comfort to know that guns don’t generally by themselves go around killing people.

I am not automatically for gun control — but come on folks, we need to find a way to make it difficult if not impossible for deranged people to get a hold of guns and ammunition.

This happened at a showing of a Batman movie and I don’t know anything about all of that, except to say that we all have a strange fascination about violence and that kids nowadays grow up playing video games that glorify violence and that our entertainment media glorifies violence and that kids probably grow up thinking or almost thinking that violence is not real, kind of like a cartoon where someone gets shot in one frame or run over in one frame and comes back intact in the next.

And our national pastime is not baseball but football, probably the most violent sport there is.

And sorry to get off on a tangent on rough sports.

The fact is none of us is safe anywhere. Trying to take guns away from the general populace would only ensure that the people with the power would be able to maintain that power without fear of a backlash because only they would have the guns.

And letting anyone get guns is bad news as well.

There must be a middle ground here. Sensible gun control.

P.s.

And for the record, the shooter has been identified as James Eagen Holmes, 24, originally of San Diego, Ca.


Obama uses overblown rhetoric in attack on small business; right wing radio host disavows the depiction of small businesses as ‘job creators’…

July 18, 2012

I would be the first to point out to right-wing conservatives that government plays an important role in making business possible — security, infrastructure, a court system to resolve disputes, not to mention small business loans, and so on — and in fact I have blogged more than once that businesses that ship jobs overseas should not get the benefit of our government, but I think President Obama has gone way overboard in making this point — way too far.

He said: “If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.”

I don’t have any idea what he was thinking, or what he meant. I mean if someone decides to invest money in a business and it could all be lost without any recourse, such as unemployment benefits, how can it be said such a person did not make it happen? Not everyone is capable or willing to gamble.

People who create their own businesses do indeed make it happen. Just because someone gets some support or even direct help along the way does not mean he or she did not make it happen by personal initiative and the willingness to take risks.

What an insult to small business people (as well as major investors) everywhere. I have been employed in a relatively small business as a truck driver for more than a decade and a half. If the person who began that business with one truck had not done so, I might not have had this job.

While I cannot see myself voting for Mitt Romney (for a variety of reasons) I can hardly see myself voting for Obama when he uses such overblown rhetoric.

But here is something strange: the right wing has been fond for some time now of using the buzz words or mantra that business people are “job creators”, a catchy little phrase, meant to color their activities as almost altruistic.

But yesterday or the day before (depending upon when you read this or when I post it), I heard Tom Sullivan on his radio program repudiate (or as Sarah Palin might say, “refudiate”) that tag. I guess he was digging back at Obama’s charge against Romney for reportedly firing American workers and shipping jobs overseas when he ran Bain Capital. Sullivan proclaimed that the business of business is essentially making money and not creating jobs. In fact, he said, the last thing he was looking to do when he started his first business was creating jobs (overhead).

Strangely I think even he used the term “job creators” up until now or at least enthusiastically agreed with callers who did in describing themselves.

I would agree that most people probably don’t start businesses for the specific purpose of creating jobs and that further more most businesses would be happy if they could eliminate the need to hire anyone.

There does seem to be a clear conflict this presidential election cycle between the ideology of more or less pure capitalism and/or laissez faire on the one hand and capitalism constrained by regulations that prevent fraud and excess and the maintaining of a social safety net and even a fairly large social welfare system, on the other.

I imagine the majority of the electorate is not ideologically straitjacketed into either position.

There is excess and hyperbole on both sides in all of this.

But this time the excess seems to be in the current Obama rhetoric against entrepreneurs.

Like I say, what was he thinking?

 

P.s.

The Obama contention that a business person should not take credit for the fruits of his or her own initiative sounds kind of like Marxist theory that says the value of something is what a worker put into it. While I always appreciate good work and craftsmanship (who does not?), I think the value of something is what someone else is willing to pay for it.


How do you pay off the debt by cutting taxes?

July 10, 2012

How do you solve the federal deficit problem by cutting taxes? President Obama wants to extend the Bush tax cuts for the middle class or those making less than $250,000 per year. While personally that would be fine with me, I don’t see how that helps the economy.

It just means someone else’s taxes have to be raised and the government has to keep on borrowing money and the debt gets bigger.

If taxes can or should be cut then why not cut them across the board?

But if government revenue is cut there will likely be losses in the infrastructure and support mechanism that provides the foundation for the private economy.

There is waste in government that is always ripe for cutting, but not everyone agrees on what amounts to waste, although various forms of obvious waste are often pointed out in news stories.

The uncomfortable truth is that taxes probably have to remain as they are or, actually, the Bush tax cuts should be allowed to expire, while efficiencies in government have to be increased, and like it or not, a goodly portion of that revenue should go to servicing the debt.

(The whole notion that the Bush tax cuts were to be “temporary” was dubious. And is letting a tax cut expire raising taxes? It is all very misleading, and meant to be so in the game of politics.)

Whether by constitutional amendment or a change in policies, congress should not be able to increase spending without first identifying a revenue source and deciding what has to be cut when offering a new program or how much taxes have to be raised to pay for it.

Deficit spending has its perils, look at what is happening to our country and what is happening in Europe.

There is no free money.

What the nation needs is sound fiscal policies and regulations for both government and private business, with an emphasis on production of real things and the providing of valuable services, as opposed rampant speculation in a boom and bust business cycle.

At this time neither President Obama nor his opponent Mitt Romney seem to offer that, although Mr. Obama may in some ways come closer to the mark.

It is hard to know what Mr. Romney really offers because he has spent so much time pandering to whomever he thinks needs pandering to at the time.

Romney we do know, however, wants to make sure the rich have their taxes cut, for they are, he claims, the “job creators”. His record as a rich businessman, however, seems to belie that. He got rich via the private equity firm and hedge fund route, in part, by gutting companies and cutting jobs and/or sending them overseas.


We could use a Margaret Thatcher about now in the USA…

July 8, 2012

My 101-year-old mom and I were discussing the similarities and dissimilarities between the late President Ronald Reagan and former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, both of whom were said to be great friends, sharing political beliefs built on conservatism.

This was not a super serious discussion, but we noted that both were conservatives and both had mental states that declined as they aged, Reagan suffering from Alzheimer’s and Thatcher said to be suffering from dementia of some kind now.

My mom said: well I guess you have to be smart in the first place to lose your smarts (or something to that effect).

I offered that certainly Mrs. Thatcher seemed like one smart lady — quite articulate and quick witted when facing questions before parliament, where the members love to hoot and holler and often try to embarrass the speaker (I love to watch the parliamentary question session because the head of the government has to actually face his or her opposition, live, in person, and see if he or she can withstand the onslaught — and if you are worth your salt, you lose nothing in the process and may gain in stature. And if you can’t stand it, you probably get “sacked” — thrown out — as they say in England, and probably deservedly so).

Got off the track here as often is the case: Anyway, I then noted that although Mr. Reagan was a sharp dresser and probably did present himself well (most of the time) as the head of state of the United States, he was no intellectual, in fact his bulb seemed a bit dull at times. I’m thinking he had at least average intelligence, though, and he at least had the skill to remember his lines, actor by profession that he was, and how to take advantage of having friends and the special interests who supported him.

Mom, lifelong liberal (she proudly proclaims that she is a “bleeding heart liberal”) seemed to agree with that.

What brought up Mrs. Thatcher was that I had been watching some YouTube videos of her and was quite impressed (I had seen her on TV long ago, but this reminded me).

Way back in Reagan’s time she predicted the downfall of the European economy by melding dissimilar economies together in one currency and by leaning toward socialism. Britain kept its pound sterling.

She also had a quick comeback to a Labor Party member who complained about the ever-widening income gap between rich and poor. While I did not pick up on how accurate she was in characterizing what he said, her retort was something like: the right honorable gentleman is quite content for the poor to be poorer, as long as the rich have less. She also charged that socialism stifles opportunity for all.

Mrs. Thatcher did not say anything more than our own conservatives here in the United States do today, but she said it with much more eloquence and authority, but in a matter that was not so harsh, the fact that she was known as the “Iron Lady” notwithstanding.

I’m not turning conservative — I maintain I am middle of the road — but I wish we had our own Margaret Thatcher running for president today.

As of this writing, the Gallup Poll continues to show President Obama and his challenger Mitt Romney in a basic dead heat.

Most pundits note that a president has never won re-election with the economy and unemployment numbers as bad as they are today.

I for one think the Republicans would have had a much better time of it if they had chosen a more likable and less aloof candidate. I mean Romney seems to mean well and he has done good works in his life, outside of business, such as making heavy donations to charity, and we have to appreciate he is a solid family man, but he seems to lack soul.

Not trying to make a play on words, but of course Obama is half soul brother (and why am I using the word soul so much — I used it in my last post?).

Romney, I think does have a good chance to win, though.

But here is a match up I would have liked to have seen:

Hillary Clinton vs. some woman who would be like Margaret Thatcher.

Okay, for now, for real, I think Obama has the edge, despite the overall lackluster economy.

(And the economy is a personal thing for each voter; I mean I have work every day — more work than I want sometimes — truck driving offered me what college never did, steady employment — I don’t recommend it, though ).


I miss real paper newspapers; the web has no soul…

July 7, 2012

I miss real newspapers. I used to subscribe to my local daily newspaper but dropped it, partly because I am not home a lot because I am a long haul truck driver and because my wife passed away a couple of years ago — she read everything in it — but also because it got so small and lacked consistent content. The chain that owns it gutted its staff.

So these days I just surf the net, to include my local paper’s website, but I hate getting my news that way. I mean it’s up to date, up to the minute, and I have all the news in the world at my finger tips, plus reference material and so on, but I would be a lot more comfortable with a real newspaper. And sometimes my computer does not work right, especially out on the road. And even when it does, it is an uncomfortable way to read and the electronics of it all can be cumbersome. And you must have a power source (the battery does not last long). And it has been written, and I will confirm, that when you surf the web, for some reason, you find yourself just skimming and not taking it all in (although even with the conventional printed form we all do that to some extent or at times).

What I really miss is reading a paper with my breakfast. A lot of places don’t even sell newspapers anymore, or if they do, they might have USA Today, not much of a newspaper (if I just wanted headlines, I’d listen to broadcast, which I am forced to do anyway).

Real newspapers do survive, however. Now I don’t know how good of a newspaper the Akron Beacon Journal (Akron, Ohio) is, but when I read, on my computer, that a restaurant owner died after being visited by President Obama (not his fault, even though Mitt Romney will probably try to blame him for it), I went to the Beacon-Journal’s website and read their story — quite informative and interesting. Seems this elderly woman ran a restaurant that has kept more than one generation of her family busy (and employed). She died of a heart attack — she had been feeling ill recently. But she adored Mr. Obama, the story said. (Gee, to hear Republicans tell it, entrepreneurs have to be Republican by definition, but of course she must have been a Democrat; well at least she was a fan of the top Democrat).

Oh, and the restaurant reportedly served up soul food. Now I noticed in a photo that this woman was apparently not black, but it looked like some of her family may have been of mixed race, which has not much to do with anything, but I have to put this sentence in here to go with my concluding sentence and to support my headline.

There was also a story in the same issue of a driver of a runaway dump truck who managed to steer his rig clear of parked cars, children and adults, and buildings as it careened down a hill (apparently losing its brakes), finally hitting a tree, and then sliding into a river. The driver died, but was hailed as a hero by his family and friends, who said it was his nature to think of others. I originally picked that story up on the web.

That’s another reason for wanting to turn back the tide in the decline of newspapers. These stories have to come from somewhere. And the web does not have soul.

P.s.

I had always wondered how newspapers thought they were going to stay in business when they started giving away their material for free on the web. Just read a story (on the web) in Editor and Publisher that says the trend is for newspapers to build a pay wall, something I was already aware of — charging you for access (often just offering a teaser) — but it reinforced that message. I don’t blame them and if  it saves the industry, good (don’t know what I’ll do. I already pay quite enough to AT&T for my computer access, and the cost goes up steadily).


Simple America dies with Andy Griffith, who was as American as the Fourth of July…

July 4, 2012

So the day before the Fourth of July, the United States’ birthday celebration, Andy Griffith, better known as the fictional Sheriff Andy Taylor of Mayberry, dies.

Well Mr. Griffith was right up there with the Fourth of July with what America is all about. Yes, the iconic character he played was fictional, of course, and nothing is as simple and clean as the skits that were played out on the Andy Griffith Show, but they were American through and through, although they represented a culture that is fast disappearing — the simple down home America.

I’ve seen it for real in my life time. Of course under the exterior of happiness and warmth and hospitality and simple pleasures there is always conflict and strife, but we have to accept life as it is.

But when I look back at that sitcom when I watched it, in its original presentation, I marvel now at how each show had no violence, no sexual innuendo to make you wince if your children were present or your mother, and how there was always a moral at the end, and yet it all played out as quite realistic.

But you know, in my life I have seen these characters or at least versions of them.

When I was about 12 and lived in a small town in the Sacramento Valley of California, I swear there was a local policeman who was the spitting image of the bumbling, full of false bravado Deputy Barney Fife of Mayberry. He was skinny and the police gear weighted him down. And for some reason the cops then had taken to wearing motorcycle crash helmets, even while driving squad cars — that added to the overburdening weight of gear for this slim cop.

A better example yet was my first brother in-law. He reminded me a lot of Andy Griffith, in looks and actions. He was a policeman for a time in Oklahoma. Later he ran a local service station there. Bur he loved the small town life and Oklahoma. “This is God’s Country”, he would proudly proclaim. He had a droll sense of humor. Once I was with him in his home town and he went to the local bank and drove up to the drive-up teller widow. He gave the teller a sack of fresh garden vegetables. “We’re still on the barter system here”, he told me.

When he worked as a cop he hauled hay on the weekends for extra money.

When I was taking journalism classes at junior college I interviewed our local sheriff in the small rural Northern California town where I went to high school. He looked and dressed like the stereotypical southern sheriff, although this was not in the South.

He told me that the way he got deputies was that he knew the young men’s families and hired them accordingly. I was so young and raw at this that I did not realize that he told me a lot that would have made a colorful and quite informative real news feature. I only handed it in as a class assignment.

He was folksy, but a man of the people, the people who elected him.

Later we got a sheriff from out of the area with high-toned ways. No one, but the select few, could ever see him. He was much too busy.

But the county to the north of us, with a larger population, still had the down home type sheriff. I could not get in touch with our local sheriff. But once I had a story that required me to call the other sheriff to the north. I dialed that county’s sheriff’s office number I got out of the phone book and the sheriff himself answered and was quite accommodating.

But just like that new high-toned sheriff, as a nation we have pretty much moved away from the simple life.

And we are no happier for it.

But of course not everyone grew up in a small town or small towns as I have or maybe you have (actually I was born in San Francisco but my family moved away from there before I entered kindergarten). But things were more down home and simple even in the urban settings once upon a time.

We’ve moved away from that too for the most part.

And yet I sense people long to return.

Well there’s always Andy Griffith reruns.

Rest in Peace: ANDREW SAMUEL “ANDY” GRIFFITH, 1926 to 2012 (age 86)

 

P.s.

I’ve also encountered characters in my childhood and adult life to match the other regulars and visiting characters who were portrayed on the Andy Griffith Show and I’ll bet many of you have too. Heck, if you’re baby boomer like me and a guy, weren’t we all Opie at one time?