Conservatives turn liberal when it comes to money…

February 27, 2014

It’s interesting, amusing even, when usually conservative business interests suddenly become quite liberal when it comes to money issues.

I mean gay rights (I would prefer to say “homosexual rights” but gay seems to be the word in common usage) is usually a social issue connected with the liberal or progressive agenda. But the pressure from business interests on Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (of fame for signing into law the famous or infamous your-documents-please immigration law) was intense. She saw the light and vetoed the so-called anti-gay/pro religious rights bill. Business interests were terrified that such a law would have a negative effect on business. Companies said they would not locate their businesses in Arizona if it became the law and the Arizona tourism industry and the airlines were against it. I mean they want money from gays just as much as they want it from anyone else — it all spends the same. And in some lines of work gay workers are in demand (as my late mom used to say: “they’re always so talented”).

So much for morals.

No I don’t mean to say there was any real moral issue here. It’s just that the bill was being sold as a moral thing. The idea purportedly was that a business person would have a right not to serve a customer whose morals he or she disagreed with or I should say whose social arrangement was against their religious tenets.

Well there is freedom of religion guaranteed under our First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution but it does not trump individual rights. My religious beliefs (or lack of them) give me no right to somehow interfere with your personal rights.

If you are in business you are obligated to serve the public without discrimination. And if you do not care for that, then maybe you should not be in business. I think I heard there was an issue, somewhere along the line, of a wedding photographer refusing to take photos of a gay wedding. I have to say that is a tricky one. I mean on the one had it might seem that if the practice of homosexual marriage is repugnant to an individual he or she should not have to take any part in it. But maybe when you do business with the public that puts you in a different light. We could hardly have supermarkets, for example, refusing to sell groceries to gays on the grounds doing so would force them (the employees) to help promote the gay lifestyle.

But anyway, it seems economic activity is a good promoter of individual freedom and the tolerance of varied lifestyles.

Money does indeed talk.

Minimum wage is not the answer…

February 21, 2014

I have mixed emotions about talk of raising the minimum wage. I have always thought it mean spirited the way some employers like to keep wages so low but at the same time I have to say there is no future in working at low-pay jobs and the best thing to do is to move out of them — easier said that done, no doubt.

I mean it is a sad state of affairs if you have to depend upon the government setting your wage scale (well that is unless you work directly for the government).

For people too far into the game or for people of just plain limited ability there is not much hope likely. But for everyone else, especially young people, the only way out is to improve your skills and make yourself more valuable to employers. And I know from painful experience that if you choose a line of work that historically does not pay well or is too limited or might be prone to be becoming outdated you’re probably looking for trouble. I mean if you choose something you feel you just have to do then you also must be prepared to live with the good but the bad too.

In this ever-changing and technology-driven world of work there just is no future in unskilled labor. It’s really kind of scary.

As far as mandating that, say, fast food workers, or food service workers make more per hour — that is a government mandate, I’m not sure how that works. The first tactic of the employers will be to hire fewer people and maybe even let some people go — making the ones left work that much harder. And in the food service industry there is already a movement to eliminate many jobs. While I don’t think I have been to such a place, there are restaurants, besides fast food places, I think, that have no waiters — you order through an electronic device (at least I think I saw a story to that effect). And I imagine it would not be too far of a stretch to see robots replace the wait staff.

At some point in the distant future we may start all over again and go back to being human, either through preference or some cataclysmic event. But until then, moving out of minimum wage is the answer. I don’t think a government program is going to be as effective on that as individual initiative. It’s really done one person at a time. Some people are willing to invest in their own future and others not.

And still, there may need to be some government-imposed floor on wages. But you can’t just mandate everyone be paid some artificial figure called a “living wage”. Economics does not work that way. If everyone made the same, whatever they made would be worth nothing — think about that.

Neither stand your ground nor acting like a thug is practical…

February 18, 2014

I was listening to a discussion of the legal stand-your-ground theory of self-defense in personal gun use. This was in light of the much-discussed Trayvon Martin case and then the two most recent killings in Florida in which it seems shooters used faulty judgment in killing their victims, with the theme of racism in at least a couple of the shootings.

I’m writing this without going back to specific references — just off the cuff, for if you keep up with the news at all then you are generally familiar with them.

Two things stand out in my mind: first it is absurd to allow people to carry guns around and at a whim decide they are in danger because someone seems threatening and then simply blast away. It is just not practical. I mean we all (I’m a baby boomer) used to watch those TV and movie westerns in which, well, people did that. But that was make believe and those were actors. It was like when we used to play cowboys and Indians. We faked our deaths and then got up and played some more. In real life that is not the way it works.

(Oh, and of course there are those popular movies where heroes go around vigilante style protecting and avenging the innocent — but it is supposed to be make believe.)

If I had more time here and ability at the moment to cite references and such I would go into a discussion about stand-your-ground and the theory of justifiable use of force in self defense. But I will just say I don’t think stand-your-ground is a good idea. I do feel, however, a person should have a general right to self defense by weapons and it should be interpreted liberally with a small l, that is to give the benefit of the doubt to the person defending him or herself.

Secondly, there is too much of an emphasis on this as a racial problem. The storyline is that white guys carry guns and when they see a black kid they get scared and start shooting. Yes racism does seem to play a part in some of these cases for sure, but it obscures the real story. The right to keep and bear arms guaranteed us all under our constitution is interpreted popularly as a personal right to own and use handguns and all types of weapons, not only to hunt or to target practice but as personal protection from bad people and the government. Now the legal analysis of the Second Amendment might differ from that, but as far as much of the public is concerned, we simply have a right to have guns and use them when necessary.

Well fine. But the problem is that a lot of people use them when it is neither necessary nor wise or justified. In one of the most recent incidents a retired cop killed a man in a theater over the fact the now dead man had been texting. Texting — is not that a silent thing? How was that affecting the shooter, other than he might have thought why did you come to the movie to text? Also it was said to be during the previews. And anyway no matter what the victim had been doing — even talking loudly during the feature presentation, as people often do, that would not make shooting him legitimate. Any one of us might say: “I felt like killing the guy” but it would be only a figure of speech. Trouble is a lot of hot heads turn a figure of speech into literal action when armed. And who knows? What would any of us do if we were armed? You get mad enough, sometimes something weird takes over.

And finally let me add this:

A black man (or woman) has as much right to wear anything he wants and comport himself anyway he wants. But it really makes no difference what your race. You act like a bad guy or a thug, and you will be perceived as one.

I was sitting in my truck the other day and a group of black teenagers came walking by. I perceived no threat, but I have to say, they wore the apparel that seemed to suggest they might be at least gang wannabes and the way they walked suggested they were trying to make some kind of statement — but I must quickly add that in reality teenagers of all races do this. It’s just something a lot of us go through. But it would not be wrong or racist to suggest that young people (of all races) need to be taught that appearance and perception mean a lot? (Okay, I know, they would not listen — but it should be reinforced nonetheless). But a black woman in the discussion kept decrying the fact she had to tell her son not to wear a hoody. Wear anything you want to, but just know people act on perceptions. It’s human nature, I’d say.

It would be a relief if to not be threatening were cool.


Oh, and one of the recent incidents had to do with a white guy who winds up shooting a black young man to death, basically over a beef about a car load of young people playing loud music. He claimed he thought a shot gun had been aimed at him but it seems the credibility of that statement is in doubt — no shotgun found and no other  testimony to back that up. He also failed to notify authorities in a timely manner that he had shot someone — went home and had a pizza instead.

I don’t care what the race or type of music — loud music (especially that base-pounding thing that is like an earthquake) pees me off too — and it is meant to, no doubt. Probably not a good idea to shoot someone over it though — ya think? And that makes me think — most of these incidents we hear about now seem to involve unbalanced people or at least people with mighty poor judgment carrying around hand guns.

Government commits fraud in Obamacare in California (and this is not your typical anti-Obama rant)…

February 9, 2014

So I was travelling down the road in my big truck and listening to 1070 on the AM dial out of LA and all day long they were repeating this story that Covered California, the state’s health insurance exchange under Obamacare, had taken down some list of insurance companies and doctors that their policies worked with because the list turned out to be bogus. I mean people signed up for the insurance, paid their premiums, and then found out the doctors listed were not approved by their insurance. But Covered California is not going to be helping them get any refunds. Well that is outright fraud.

I at one point promised to study up on Obamacare but it is just too convoluted. The good news for me is that so far I don’t seem to be affected by it, at least not directly (I don’t have to navigate the website or do anything). I still have my employer-sponsored coverage (for which I kick in a way too hefty sum) and through some odd quirk (which I need not explain here at this time) I am also on Medicare (some say I am crazy to have both — but all I know is that when I show my cards to the doctor offices it sure seems to satisfy them. I still get bills. And I do a novel thing. I pay them. I think, or I would hope, they are happy with that too).

Now I still think even with all the problems or at least purported or reported problems, Obamacare may in the long run work fine and become sacrosanct as Social Security, but I also think that it was overkill. The problem was that some people could not get insurance. So help them already. But the federal government has interfered with the marketplace for all and may have screwed things up for all in the process (and don’t I sound Republican, and I am not). And then I keep reading or hearing these stories that there are people somehow caught up in a catch 22 in which they cannot afford insurance but also are offered nothing under Obamacare — this was not supposed to happen. I know that problem supposedly has something to do with some states opting out of Obamacare or the Medicaid expansion or something (a Republican tactic to thwart Obama’s signature legislation). I really don’t care. It just sounds like an incredibly reprehensible and absurd situation that only politicians could have created.

Now I have often written that I would prefer or thought it would be better to have some kind of single-payer insurance funded by the government for everyone. It is hard to have an open market in medical coverage because it tends to lean toward monopoly and there is no realistic price setting structure. But the reality in the United States seems to be that we will continue to resist so-called “socialized medicine,” notwithstanding that many would say Obamacare is a major step towards that or is that.

The problem was that President Obama and others who wanted some type of universal coverage guaranteed by the government or provided by it could not figure out how to get it done without the help of the medical insurance establishment. The insurance establishment captured them — some politicians joined the enemy and became lobbyists for the enemy.

And that is the problem. As long as we have people trying to be representatives of the people not with the purpose of public service but instead to line their own pockets, the interest of the public at large will not be served.

I have suggested before — but have been a little hesitant, but I no longer am– that political office should not pay a salary, only a stipend. There would be a danger of paid staff filling a power void with their institutional knowledge, but the people’s representatives would have to be intelligent and vigilant people themselves who could thwart all that.

Maybe that is impractical. But when I read about the Obamacare mess as I described, I just feel like throwing up my hands or just throwing up.

It seemed mom might live forever…

February 3, 2014

You can’t live forever but my mom certainly gave it a good try. Maxine H. Walther, my mom, passed away on Jan 23, 2014, after living 103 years plus. She was born Oct. 30, 1910 in Modesto, Ca.

Although toward the end she had trouble collecting her thoughts at times, she was alert and still sharp (sounds like a contradiction I know, but don’t we all have that problem from time to time or all of the time?). It was only a couple of months ago, if that long, that I did a short video of her telling some of her memories of her children growing up, and her eyes lit up as she told them.

Until quite recently, she even could be seen riding her adult-size tricycle around the outside of assisted living place at which she lived (for a time she rode it on the inside, but it made folks nervous). She had been using a walker and wheel chair to get around for some time.

For  a person her age she was quite healthy, except for various nagging ailments (I know, another contradiction — I’m having trouble with this — I’m sick myself with a virus right now as I am writing this). She was not bedridden.

And then a few weeks ago now — it seems like yesterday — I was visiting her — my last visit — and she was perplexed and bewildered: “I can’t do anything. I guess it’s all right if I don’t do anything,” is what she plaintively told me. “I wouldn’t worry about it,” is the only lame remark I could come up with.

And I think that spelled the end. Once she could not get around and do anything there was no point.

As I understand it, she died peacefully.

Who was mom? Well like most of us she was just a person on this earth who few, aside from her family, will ever remember. She was not famous. But to me she was mom. She was a housewife. She was a “stay at home mom” (except for some seasonal work in fruit processing for a limited time). That designation has become a pejorative in some circles. But I’m the baby of my family, having three siblings, including one of two brothers who is 20 years older than I. I mention that because I want to set the time frame. I can only speak for my own life. But I was born in 1949. I pretty much lived the “Leave it to Beaver” style of life in the ’50s and ’60s as I as growing up. Mom could have been June Cleaver. She cooked and cleaned and sewed and nursed us when we were sick and took care of the much-neglected family dog, baked cookies and put together potluck dishes for PTA meetings and back-to-school nights and read Ladies Home Journal and Family Circle (along with some weird and somewhat racy novels I would sneak a peek at). Along with that Leave it to Beaver theme, my dad usually wore a coat and tie, but unlike Ward Cleaver he did not hang around the house. He actually had a job to go to.

Okay I could go on forever with my childhood memories but let’s cut to the chase here:

Mom was a good citizen. She kept informed. She was always up to date on the news. She always voted. She was not an activist but if you asked her she did not hesitate to tell you her politics. “I’m a bleeding heart liberal” she would tell you, in a way that you knew she was noting the irony of the fact that many people throw that tag around as an expression of derision.

(A note here: I am my mother’s son but I don’t call myself a liberal. I prefer middle of the road. But sometimes one has to go with what works at the time. A blend of liberal and conservative seems to work — hard and fast ideologies can be so constraining — the only thing not to waver on is “personal freedom” to the fullest extent possible.)

But I don’t care what your political persuasion is, it would be good if everyone, regardless of their own political persuasion, just kept informed (reading and listening to objective reports and weighing both sides of an argument) and realize one has to use one’s own judgment — so much of what is put out these days is bogus, incorrect, slanted or at best incomplete. But if everyone just used his or her own judgment and voted accordingly the people could be in control. But the politicians depend upon us all being ignorant and indifferent. What I am so awkwardly trying to say here is that those of the old school, like my mom, who say little to the broader public, but just vote, wield the potential power — a potential that could be reached if more people participated — no marching or demonstrations required, just vote.

Mom saw the Great Depression and did not like it. I think some of the people in her assisted living home would wax nostalgic over those dark days when although so many people were poor, they enjoyed what they had and the family around them, and the little things they could do, as in when you have nothing, little things mean a lot. Mom expressed disgust to me over such talk.  You don’t have to agree with her, that was just what she felt.

The Depression was all a decade before I was born, but as far as I know, although mom and dad had a rough time of it, already bringing up one son, born in 1929, the year the Great Depression began, they never went hungry or were destitute. For at least part of the time they lived on my dad’s family farm and/or another farm just across the road. But the income was low in those days. I think mom saw how bleak things looked. Maybe that is part of why dad went to college and got out of farming (he was always a good student; he was the first kid in his country neighborhood to go to high school). Ironically many of the neighbors expanded their operations during World War II and after and did quite well with a booming economy.

I think mom’s concern was not so much for herself as much as for others. She was if anything compassionate. She did not think that it was wrong to take tax dollars from all of us to help those in need. As for abuse of the system, she felt it was much exaggerated by the likes of Ronald Reagan, who used it as political hay.

(Personally I have witnessed some pretty outrageous abuse, but I would not throw out the baby with the bath water. All government programs, including those that support business, are abused.)

I’m really feeling too ill to go much farther with all of this, but maybe I can close by saying one thing I learned from mom that has had lasting impact:

Be skeptical.

I never really had to worry about mom being tricked by hucksters who prey upon older folks. She was just too skeptical. I mean she seldom believed anything I ever told her.

I miss her so much…


I was under the weather when I first wrote this and did not immediately publish it, but for the record I’m much better now.