You can’t fight automation but we depend upon well-paying jobs…

February 20, 2015



So a day or so after I posted this, under pressure from the federal government and state officials, both sides in the West Cost port dispute reached a tentative agreement, but this post still applies.




You really can’t fight automation. I say this in regards to the West Coast shipping port labor dispute that has stalled the unloading and loading of seagoing vessels for some time now and in turn has stalled exports of American products — agriculture hit the hardest currently — and the distribution of products to American consumers — and I mean practically everything we buy from tooth brushes to cars and car parts comes from overseas.

Right now the one sticking point — other issues such as pay being resolved — is the selection of arbitrators. At present, arbitrators are appointed to help resolve disputes, and an arbitrator cannot be removed without the consent of both management and labor. Labor now wants to have a separate say. Ironically it had sponsored the appointment of one arbitrator but apparently he did not go the way they wanted him to (that happens, remember Eisenhower’s pick of Earl Warren for the Supreme Court?).

But underlying this may be the concern of the longshoremen’s union in maintaining good well-paying middle class jobs for its members and at least dealing with the effects of automation. Also ironically, it is said that the union cooperated wholeheartedly back in the 1960s when the push toward automation began.

You’ve at least seen the old movies — “On the Waterfront” — where the stevedores unload the ships by hand and where men fight to be selected for a job each day and where if someone injures himself he is out of luck.

Today the pay is excellent (although not everyone works full-time) and so are the benefits. And all that hand labor is virtually gone. You see giant cranes and instead of individual crates you see containers that move intact from the ship to a truck and possibly to a rail car and maybe back on a truck — and air is another possibility somewhere along the way. You see forklifts of course too.

I’m not up on this, but I am reading and hearing that even with all this automation, the United States is behind other places in shipping automation. And in the current West Coast slowdown some freight is being diverted to ports in Canada and Mexico.

So it behooves all involved to get this settled.

Protecting good jobs is important, not just for those who have them but for everyone else who benefits from the flowing dollars.

But you can’t fight automation. Fighting it by labor almost killed the railroads until they made the switch (no pun intended really). And I know little to nothing about railroads but was interested to hear that they have automatic switches these days and remote controlled trains in rail yards.

It wasn’t all that long ago that production people in the newspaper industry fought automation. They may have won some battles but the war was lost. Technology has all but killed the conventional newspaper.

For those who work for a living, the pressure is to keep one step ahead of technology and learn the skills necessary for changes in work.

Easy for me to say now. I’m old enough to be almost done with it all (But then again, who wants to be done with it all?).

It’s kind of a scary world out there for job seekers and workers but labor has not been done away with (yet), it is just changing.



Much of the information in this post is thanks to a listen of the Diane Rhems Show on NPR, a good show to listen to because you get thorough discussion of issues enhanced by a talented moderator, solid information with a balance in points of view, generally, or always, without the usual bombastic presentation of talking points that add nothing to the understanding of an subject. Oh, and there is generally intelligent and important input from callers too. And my endorsement is totally unsolicited.






Tactics have no place in war authorizations…

February 15, 2015

BLOGGER’S NOTE: The following is the declaration of war against Nazi Germany congress adopted and President Franklin Roosevelt signed. It essentially reads the same as the one against Japan adopted after the surprise attack by that nation on Pearl Harbor in December of 1941:


Whereas the Government of Germany has formally declared war against the government and the people of the United States of America:

Therefore, be it Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, that the state of war between the United States and the Government of Germany which has thus been thrust upon the United States is hereby formally declared; and the President is hereby authorized and directed to employ the entire naval and military forces of the government to carry on war against the Government of Germany; and to bring the conflict to a successful termination, all of the resources of the country are hereby pledged by the Congress of the United States.


That’s what a declaration of war looks like.

That does not look like what President Obama has proposed to fight ISIS.

Mr. Obama seems to be of the mind that you can and should spell out your policy, tactics, and methods within such a declaration, even including provisions to limit warfare.


I mean I realize this is not 1941, and we don’t seem to fight ultra large-scale wars as in the past (and I imagine we should be somewhat thankful for that), and I realize one size does not fit all in war resolutions, but when you limit yourself from the git go in the war resolution itself, as is done in Obama’s draft of a requested authorization to use military force against ISIS, how can you hope to have any military success?

We lost Vietnam for a variety of reasons, but number one was that we limited ourselves, in the terribly misguided notion that we could preserve lives of American soldiers — instead it turned out to be the opposite. Of course in that one it could be argued we never should have gone there. But we did, and the only honorable and moral course after committing so many of our children to battle would have been to use everything we had to win and get it done.

And I am not saying that every time we get into a dispute we have to immediately deploy large scale landings and combine air and ground assaults and put the public on war rationing, I’m just saying we have to be willing to do what needs to be done. And it would sure help if we did not telegraph what we plan or can do to the enemy.

As I understand it, the president is still using military forces in the Middle East under the authorization to use military force passed by congress as the result of the 9/11 attacks. And he says in reality that is all he needs, he just wants to clean things up and be a little more specific. He also says he would like to rescind the 2001 resolution.

I can see an argument for doing just that — I mean the 2001 declaration asked for and received by George W. Bush seems to allow for open-ended war forever.

So yes, there ought to be some specificity, but there is language in Obama’s draft that prohibits the president from deploying ground troops. But what if that becomes necessary? Better to just say we will use necessary force to get the job done — in the correct language of course, not verbatim as I just put it, maybe.

In the 1941 declaration the president was authorized to use the total resources of the military and the nation. That should always be left open. Just because a president can does not mean he will or should, he just needs to have all options open (well not nuclear war I don’t think — that would be a doomsday approach, but we should just keep mum on it and leave them wondering).

One thing, when we use military force, the president, the congress, and the American people should be on board. Confusion just costs lives and hinders success.




We have no choice but to fight the war on terror, tactics the question

February 14, 2015

In a recent blog post I speculated on whether George W. Bush might have had the right idea after all when he declared a war on terror, although I questioned his tactics.

But now with the attacks on free speech in the West by ISIS on Western soil, first France, and now Denmark, I would say it does not matter. Whether we like it or not we are in a global war on terror unless we want to submit to the demands of ISIS and/or other such terror groups.

The only question is tactics.

I don’t have an answer — and really who does?

I have no doubt that ISIS has already attained some form of victory. I even heard a European journalist admit he thinks twice before making comments about Islam or I presume ISIS itself.

There is a question as to whether ISIS and other such groups really represent any form of the religion of Islam or whether they just use the religion as a shield, or bludgeon as the case may be. But whatever, you can’t talk about one without the other.

Moslems in the West it seems to me ought to make it more plain where they stand. It is an inconvenience for them but what about the rest of us who want to protect our way of life? Or our life period.

The next president of the United States should not be full of bluster, but he or she must make it plain nonetheless that we in the West will do what is necessary to protect our free and democratic society.

Drawing lines in the sand and then stepping back won’t do. Don’t threaten, just do.





We need different thinking for the presidency and quiet but firm resolve in foreign policy…

February 8, 2015

It seems the Republican Party might have the best chance to win the 2016 election if for no other reason than the electorate might feel it’s just time for a change of parties. That certainly was the case in the congressional elections.

But a self-described right-wing but decidedly non-Rush Limburger Cheese-like radio talker I often listen to seems to be in a quandary. He thinks Obama is ruining the country but at the same time he thinks the economy is really doing well. And while he spends a lot of time promoting the idea of putting a Republican in the White House to improve the economy, among other things, when confronted with the fact a Democrat has been in there for going on two terms and the economy is improving he shifts to the notion, well the president really has no effect anyway.

Kind of like the blowhards who talk politics and run down one side and then when confronted with the fact that their guy did the same thing or worse says: “Oh I don’t care; they’re all a bunch of liars and crooks anyway.”

(But I don’t mean the talk show host is a blowhard. Actually he comes across as intelligent and quite level headed and certainly not bombastic.)

That aside, we need some new thinking and a new approach.

Yeah, I think often economics just happens and it runs in cycles — boom and bust. But of course the government sets policies that certainly have an effect good and bad — and I think that talk show host was saying much the same thing. We can agree on that.

One problem in these economic reports, besides the fact I and most people don’t totally understand them, is that what is good for one sector is not necessarily good for another. What is good for business is not necessarily good for workers. What is good for big business is not always good for small business. What is good for energy producers is not always good for other producers. You get the picture I’m sure.

But a big problem is that we are in a major social transition. Kind of like the Industrial Revolution of the 19th Century — I guess this is the post industrial revolution (although we have to have industry, so I don’t know how to square all that).

The whole way we do business and produce products and distribute wealth is going through a radical change (and I am not referring to the notion of redistribution of wealth, although our long-standing tax policies are just that).

Yeah, I wouldn’t mind going back to what seemed a simpler place and time, but we are not going to. And besides in that simpler place in time I had a heck of a time finding work. The good old days in some ways are only the good old days in memory.

But we need a restructuring in lifestyle and education and future job training. If we don’t restructure we will devolve into chaos.

President Obama has proposed free community college (free to the student not the taxpayers). But that to me seems like it just makes community colleges a continuation of high school — instead of four years of high school, six years. I wonder if high school should actually be trimmed to three years or less, but with more intensive instruction, with on emphasis on basics we all need.

And why do four-year institutions end up teaching high school level English and math?

If we are to remain competitive in the world, we need to demand more of our students and demand that they (and their parents) make decisions about their future earlier.

After high school, you either head to vocational training or academic pursuits. Yeah, it’s a free country, and you can wander the highways and byways, or kick around town, but why do the rest of us have to support you?

And these days, employment prospects may require more of a mix of academic and vocational training, so the whole structure of education may need to be changed.

(I knew a guy whose father worked his whole life in the paper mill industry, and then this guy went into that and worked many years. Then when his mill closed he applied for a job at another one in another state but flunked the application process because he did not know how to figure weights and measures in the metric system. He was not stupid, and he really should have done his homework before applying, but at the same time, he should have already had all this ground into him in high school and even grade school.)

The business, education (public and private), and governmental sectors should work together in all of this.

While we don’t want to elect someone president who has no concept or interest in foreign affairs, we do need one who can look more homeward than one who is on a mission to right all wrongs in the world.

And while we need a person who can look homeward, we also need one who is willing to stand up to the bullies of the world, not with George W. like bravado, but with quiet resolve, letting actions speak louder than words. We also need someone who is not foolish enough to draw lines in the sand, only to back off, or someone who does not telegraph our military intentions (on eventual withdrawal) to our enemies.

No one comes to mind right now.

President Obama deserves to get due appreciation. The economy by many measures is reported to be on the upswing and has been improving throughout his tenure, part of that of course due to the natural cycle of business.

And the worst thing the Republicans can seem to criticize him for is trying to provide health care for everyone in a way that does not clog emergency rooms and require those with insurance to pay so much for those without (whether Obamacare fills the bill remains to be seen).

Oh, and they don’t like his executive end run on immigration but they can’t seem to offer anything in return except to say there is an immigration problem.

And did anyone ever think maybe we just need to take another look at our immigration standards? I mean shouldn’t anyone who is healthy enough and who has the ability to get employment be eligible for citizenship, as long as he or she demonstrates commitment to the USA and is able to pass the standard citizenship tests that require more knowledge than most of our native born?

(Of course there still may need to be quotas of some sort to insure we have room for additional citizens, but we should not favor those of one country over another.)

A  jumble here I know. Just some thoughts.


And NBC anchor Brian Williams is taking some time off. Maybe he’ll write a book. A fiction novel.





The Brian Williams scandal is what happens when the news is show business…

February 7, 2015

A primary problem pointed out in the NBC News anchor Brian Williams flap involving his false war story, in which he claimed to be on a helicopter that was forced down by enemy fire in Iraq, is that since the coming of age of broadcast journalism the so-called news people have become the news. And news has become nothing more than entertainment (not that there has not always been some of that). Williams is reportedly paid something to the tune of $10 million per year (could he do a story on overpaid CEOs?).

Time after time on major stories of our time I have seen news people (primarily electronic media) interviewing each other. Such nonsense.

If Williams had any self-respect left or any respect for journalism he would resign. If the NBC brass have any care about journalism, they should terminate Williams. They are conducting an investigation of some of his past reporting, including that on hurricane Katrina, that has now come into question, it has been reported, as well as the Iraq incident.

It seems to me that Williams has lost all credibility (he certainly has with me).

I have nothing against the TV news in general, except FOX, which is a blatant ultra right-wing propaganda machine (not so much to push a political agenda, I would think, but more for profit, aimed at the ignorant, who are many), but for the past 20 years and the past ten in particular, I have watched it little due to my on-the-road lifestyle as a long-haul driver. But I grew up on TV News — Walter Cronkite, Huntley-Brinkley, Howard K. Smith.

I remember when newscasters or correspondents were not all good looking (men or women). I don’t mean to say they were ugly — but they were not necessarily pretty boys and girls performing in a show in which the look and the production was more important than the content.

But even in print journalism, in which I once worked (albeit the small time), I too often saw where style (page layout) was emphasized over substance.

I resent the non-apology, apology and the non-retraction, retraction (s) Williams has presented on the helicopter incident. He has only owned up to making a “mistake”. No what he did was lie. It may have been a mistake to lie, but the act itself was a lie.

Now it is well known that most of us have told stories that may not have been totally accurate either due to faulty memory or just enthusiasm for an entertaining story. War stories from soldiers that may have been embellished are legendary. There are of course the wild stories told by fishermen — the one that got away, and such.

But the evidence is that Williams, who is a representative of the journalism establishment (many just call the “media”), even if his skill may be more in performance and reading than in actual investigation and reporting, over the course of a decade has told and retold a war story in which he portrays himself in heroic terms, and it just was not true. And it was an insult to those who actually do put themselves in harm’s way and those who gave the ultimate sacrifice.

I’m not sure the public deserves it, but it needs better people reporting the news to them.

Give me an ugly guy or gal anytime who knows what they are talking about — maybe I’ll just listen to them on radio.

I suggest NPR — and I don’t mean they are ugly (I never see them). Now NPR does sometimes seem a little to the left of the political spectrum to me, but it may be more of a perception. And it’s hard to filter out all bias. And without getting too deep into something else here, I think Arianna Huffington has a point when she says sometimes you just have to tell things like they are rather than going through the phony practice of balancing things, like when you say or report something that is obviously bogus just to be fair to both sides. Okay, maybe she would say that is not what she said, but that is what I took her to mean, and as a former journalist I know what that is.

Yeah, but anyway, if you want a more objective source where content seems to play the lead role, try on NPR, that is National Public Radio.


So, keeping in mind here that apparently Williams was not in a helicopter that took enemy fire, here he is nonetheless telling his “war story” on David Letterman. And notice his enthusiasm when he tells of what “we” were doing…









Likely presidential candidate Christie panders to ignorance…

February 2, 2015

And so Chris Christie  (Republican governor of New Jersey) is pandering to the no-shots-for-their-kids crowd during this current measles epidemic.

And he wants to be president of the United States.

He says his kids got their shots and he and his wife thought it a good idea but parents should have some say.

Well to a degree I would say yes, parents should have some say.

But there are limits.

The kids have a right to be protected and so does the general public.

I don’t know where this no-immunization hysteria came from. Well, yes, I guess it was from some misguided reporting many years ago that suggested that some of those immunizations might lead to autism. Since then, as I understand it, all that has been disproven or at least no real evidence could be found such was so.

Research is only as good as the methodology used and maybe the actual numbers tested.

But I am always in wonder about this parents not getting their children immunized thing.

I was born into that crowd who were the first children to get the polio vaccinations. I was in first grade and those needles looked humongous. When I was older they went to sugar cubes.

Don’t recall anyone questioning all that. And certainly no one wanted to get or have their kids contract polio.

And when my wife and I had two children we would never have considered not getting them vaccinated.

As a former journalist, I think the field of journalism ought to be more careful in reporting all this medical research. The problem is everything is summarized these days. Most news comes in sound bites. And of course most journalists are not doctors — they are at the mercy of the medical field and sometimes fall for poor research.

But of course the public at large has a responsibility to keep informed and make informed decisions. Not getting your children vaccinated because you heard it was dangerous is not a good excuse. If you’ve actually done some research yourself, at least enough to determine the validity of your sources, then maybe such a profound decision against vaccinations might have a basis.

But Christie was just pandering to ignorance I believe.




I’m back; Romney out (maybe) but who’s in? Free speech but with consequences…

February 1, 2015

Wow! It’s been ages since I posted. For one thing, I lost my password and had a hard time resetting a new one for some reason. And then I do have to make a living at my real work. But I love to post. So much to talk or write about. Mostly I talk of politics and current events and such, but sometimes I go off in another direction.

Been studying Spanish by way of using what I learned in school way back when and from what I have learned on my job as a truck driver and what I picked up in Spain last Fall. I want to go back to Spain but this time I want to really speak Spanish — you know beyond ordering vino tinto and saying mucho gusto when I meet someone — really.

But on to current events:

I was surprised Mitt Romney dropped out of the race for president. I know he is a serial loser but it seems to me he is the only one who would stand a chance among such a crowded field of know nothings and light weights in the Republican Party (well Chris Christie may not literally be a lightweight). But perhaps someone will emerge.

I’ll just say here and now I am not at all excited about a Hillary candidacy and unless the Republicans really shoot themselves in the foot — like nominating a Sarah Palin type for vice president or president or a goof like Rick Perry (I mean, sorry, he comes off like that), I think she would be vulnerable. For some reason she puts off a lot of bad vibes. And then there is the idea she would be the first woman president. Well that is a powerful thing, but then again there was the novelty of a first black president (no not Bill Clinton), but somehow the novelty of Obama wore off quick. But even so he has done a reasonably good job and maybe even a stellar job in some areas. But the Republicans made themselves look so silly and irresponsible with all the characters who ran in the primary last time.

Well it’s too late for this advice since Mitt has dropped out (or has he? he has left the door open just a little, like maybe he wants them to beg him to run), but if he were to run or would have run, I would say lose the designer jeans and don’t try so hard to be an ordinary Joe — you’re not. We don’t expect you to be. But do try to think about the little people a little. And don’t say crazy things like the way to solve the immigration issue is to let people “self deport” themselves. I mean, yeah, it would be more efficient if criminals “self arrested” themselves, but really.

But a real matchup would be Hillary Clinton vs. Condoleezza Rice.

Oh, and all the time I was locked out of my own blog I wanted to comment on the I am Charlie thing over in France where so-called Islamic extremists murdered some satirists. I say hooray for freedom of speech, but just because you have a right to it does not mean there are not consequences. So before you go poking fun at people you better make sure it’s worth it. Even the Pope said as much. He said something to the effect that if one of his bishops insulted his mother he’d sock him.

Nonetheless we can’t put up with these terrorists threatening our way of life here in the West.

And like I said in one of my posts before I locked myself out of my own blog, maybe George W. was right: we are at war with terror — we have to be, or it will win. The strategy in this war is the difficult part.