And the winner of the Agriculture Communicator of the Year is…

February 27, 2017

Didn’t catch the Oscars snafu where best picture was handed to the wrong people and the mistake was not cleared up until they were into their acceptance speeches.

But I feel their pain.

It was not as prestigious as the Oscars, to say the least, but it reminds me of the time I, well the first time, I was nominated for “Agriculture Communicator of the Year” in the little town where I once worked on the local newspaper.

I was the farm reporter or farm editor — take your pick. That was just a sideline. I was also a general reporter-photographer.

But I took my farm reporting seriously. I had been a member of the Future Farmers of America in high school and had some animal projects (swine, beef) and had taken some college-level agricultural courses. In addition I had done some honest to goodness farm work, including irrigation and tractor driving.

One day my boss informed me that I was up for Agriculture Communicator of the Year. It was an award presented by the local Farm Bureau.

I hate to admit it, but I don’t even know what the history of it was, that is to say how many winners of the award there might have been. But for some reason I just assumed I was to get it. For one thing, I could not think of anyone else who even did any farm reporting in my area.

It’s been so long ago now that I don’t recall if I wrote an acceptance speech but I am sure I had one in my head. I’m pretty good at extemporaneous speeches. I took a speech class in high school and I recall I did pretty well on my assignments, especially on the off-the-cuff one. And did I not recite the FFA Creed before an audience at the annual Farm-City Night as a freshman in high school? I did. You know how you do something like that? You memorize your speech backwards, from the last paragraph back up to the top (I don’t mean that you talk backwards). Sounds weird, but I guess in that way you can remember what comes next. It worked for me.

But back to the Agriculture Communicator of the Year Award. My boss at the time, a man who was even younger than I, and perhaps almost as naïve, picked me up at my house in his old pickup truck with the broken windshield he never did get repaired, as long as I knew him anyway. He was wearing a tie as I recall, but no sport coat, just a light windbreaker-type jacket. I don’t think he owned a sport coat. I think I was in coat and tie. I’m sure I was rehearsing my lines in my head (“I feel so humble. I just want to thank all of my readers. It is an honor to be here among you and to be recognized for something I have done, blah, blah, blah…”)

We had the rubber chicken dinner at a local motel dining room and then there was the usual Farm Bureau business meeting. When are they going to present me my award? I kept wondering.

And finally it was time. The Farm Bureau president announced that he would now present the prestigious Agriculture Communicator of the Year Award and told of how valuable it was to have people spreading the word of agriculture to the general non-farming public as well as valuable information needed by local farmers.

And then I could tell he was about to make the announcement, read the name. I prepared to get up out of my seat and walk to the lectern and give my speech.

And the winner is….

Well, it was not me. I know who it was but will not say because for one thing the poor guy passed away of an illness not long afterwards. No it was not from the rubber chicken.

I could not believe it and hoped no one saw me preparing to get up out of my seat.

In retrospect I imagine that guy deserved his award as much as me — not more — but as much. You see, he was a local TV reporter. I don’t think he actually did farm reporting as such, but he did give weather reports I think. And really, what kind of news do farmers need the most? Weather reports.

And this is not to criticize the recipient, but my memory of him is that when he covered a story he would just casually pan the crowd with his super 8 film camera (that was the state of the art at the time), a device no bigger than a medium-sized squirt gun, shooting from the hip, not even looking at what he was filming. Also TV guys used to always make that shot of a sign that might have a name of an event on it that they were covering. Then he would record a few remarks — like: “hey what’s this all about?” guy answers and he was done. No long interviews, going back to the office and poring over notes and then trying to condense it all and bang out a story on the typewriter (the state of my art at the time), not to mention taking representative still photos and then developing them in a darkroom and trying to print up the right shots and so on. And as far as understanding anything — hey I did some local broadcast news later and all we would do is record the players and let them do the talking. No probing questions. No substance.

(Of course local farm reporting of the nature I speak did not usually include controversy.)

But this guy who got the award was a personable character and liked by all. May he rest in peace.

So, like I mentioned, I got my chance later at broadcast news, well as a radio reporter. I put together my own farm report and did put some effort and imagination into it and was again nominated for the Agriculture Communicator of the Year Award.

Don’t remember if I attended the awards ceremony. I do know I did not get it. I don’t know who did. Wouldn’t it have been ironic if the local newspaper guy got it? I don’t think that was the case, though.

And while I do not know for sure why I missed out again, one reason might be that our radio station’s signal barely extended beyond the city limits.

I do think in the end I got a better award or reward. I don’t have to do that stuff anymore.

Hope I don’t appear bitter. I am not. A little embarrassed, maybe.

p.s.

For further fun reading, I did a previous post related to all this several years ago:

https://tonywalther.wordpress.com/tag/les-nessman/

 


Deport the layabouts, keep the illegals who work…

February 27, 2017
There is a difference between fake news and sloppily-reported news I think, although maybe there is a cross-breed thing that is partly true but also partly false because of what it seems to leave out or not emphasize. And it is no better than fake news.
And maybe it is because I have developed the bad habit of not reading the whole story that I get confused or misled. And if it is a video or audio thing it is easy to just get part of the story or only part of the story is presented anyway.
Well, what a long way to get into this question: are undocumented immigrants just being scooped up for no reason (well other than they are technically here illegally), even when they have had no previous encounters with the law?
Answer: so far I do not know. Maybe I should know, but I don’t. You see I caught some headlines on the web and skimmed through some stories that certainly at least implied such.
What was really disturbing to me is that I read of adults who had been brought here by their parents as children and were now being deported back to places such as Colombia. At least one person was quoted as saying that she did not know the customs (or language?) of her native country and had no money and no connections there.
Now, come on, that seems a bit harsh and a bit hard to believe someone would just be willy-nilly grabbed off the street and sent away, even if they were not technically legal to be here. It seems there at least had to be some contact with the law, even if it was a minor violation anyone might commit — a traffic ticket?
First of all, I do not think that anyone who was brought here as a child but raised here should suffer deportation just on the technicality that said person is without papers. Second of all, I think there should be some relatively easy process by which such a person could become a naturalized citizen without fear of deportation.
But anyone who knows what their status is, that is that they are not here legally, certainly should have the good sense to walk the line and stay away from trouble with the law. Now I don’t count minor traffic violations as trouble with the law.
Shoot! I guess I’m just liberal on the subject.
Seems to me the problem is that our immigration laws and regulations need to be simplified. I mean if you can show that you are a healthy and productive citizen you ought to be able to gain citizenship. It should be made easier to immigrate into the U.S. Would that not stem the flow of illegal immigrants? It would be a lot safer for the immigrants and a lot safer for the rest of us.
So, make it easier to become a citizen but keep up our immigration enforcement at the same time. Certainly anyone who commits a serious crime (and that just needs to be defined, but, say robbery, that’s an example) should be deported.
I’m not saying that we should just simply open the doors and let the world come in. There probably does need to be some control. Too many immigrants depress wages for workers and depending upon their income status, tax public services. So, yes, there is no easy solution in reality. Even so, I think citizenship should be easier to obtain. Work permits (green cards) should only be granted when a true labor shortage can be shown.
And why are employers not held more accountable for hiring illegal immigrants?
p.s.

Several years ago while I had the misfortune of a long hospital stay a young nurse who had just moved into my home area told me that she as a working woman had a hard time finding young men to hang out with. It seemed that they all lived with their mothers, had no job, and drove around in nice new pickup trucks. Well, to that, I say: why not send them to the army and let the hardworking illegal immigrants alone?


It will take more than Trump tactics to save American jobs (but they could be at least a start)

February 25, 2017

It will take more than President Trump’s showcase gesture in bribing Carrier Corporation into keeping some jobs in the U.S. while it still moves many to Mexico, nevertheless, to bring about a new wave of American manufacturing and the saving jobs for Americans .

I don’t know how much of Trump’s effort was genuine or how much was hocus pocus or sleight of hand. But let’s just assume it was sincere, at least that is a start in the right direction. In the end it will take congress enact new legislation.

I’d like to see it this way: any United States-based firm that shifts its production outside of our borders would pay a hefty tax in order to bring its finished products back in. In fact it might have to pay a higher import duty than straight imports from other nations.

It rubs me the wrong way that companies can get the benefits of being based in the United States, including the protection of our courts, the world-wide security provided by our military, and of course immediate access to consumers in the world’s largest economy, while abandoning our own workforce. And adding insult to injury, many large corporations pay little to no U.S. taxes via convenient quirks in the tax laws. Congress needs to change that too.

I often think about this, but it was brought to back to the forefront of my mind a day before writing this when I was touring Mission Dolores in San Francisco, the oldest building in the city. Right across the street, my sister pointed out, is the original headquarters and factory for Levi Strauss, maker of that “all-American” product, blue jeans (and now other apparel) with that iconic label “Levis”. But for a long, long time now, Levis have been made in Mexico. None are made in the U.S.

While straight-out protectionism might not be a good idea (remember, history tells us that in part or in whole it led to the Great Depression of the 1930s because so many nations took that route that trade was killed), there is nothing wrong and everything right, I would think, about a nation’s government taking prudent steps to look out for its own manufacturing base and the livelihoods of its own citizens.

And really what sense does it make what with the workforce, the raw materials, and the infrastructure (albeit always in need of improvement or maintenance) we have in this country to ship production out of country?

While the truth is that technology, now advancing at warp speed, continues to mean fewer and fewer jobs in all type of endeavors, from factories to services, we still live in a world where people go somewhere to work in order to make a living. And as much as possible that work needs to stay right here in the United States.

A little pressure from the top, such as Trump has engaged in, can help, but it will take the work of congress and maybe consumer pressure on our own companies to complete the job.

p.s.

Do we have excessive regulations in this country that hinder domestic production? The answer to that may be subjective. It is nonsense to suggest that we should repeal regulations that protect health and safety and that seek to protect our environment. We don’t want a return to Triangle Shirtwaist factory-like fires (New York, 1911) or the kind of fires that rip through textile sweatshops in Bangladesh in these times, and we don’t want a return to LA smog or Peking-like smog. But it may be true that excessive bureaucratic red tape (always a problem) can be counter productive. But it is the red tape that needs to be reduced, not the protections provided by regulations.

 

 

 


Vote that big bad Obamacare out, oh, but now what?

February 24, 2017

I don’t know what to think about the raucous town hall meetings Republican congressmen and women are having back home where people are yelling at them to “do your job” and are objecting to them trashing Obamacare.

I mean Trump supporters would like to say that it is just a liberal activist dirty tricks thing where they are flooding the town halls with what they like to call “non-organic” protestors — in other words hired people, including outsiders.

I imagine that could be the case to some extent. I don’t know. But I also have to imagine the congressmen are facing real people who have come to the realization that the Republicans had no intention of providing anything that looked like universal health care. Health care is just a free market thing to them. You got the money, you buy the product. You don’t have the money, do without.

I don’t even know what “access to health care” means. That is what some Republicans say they want to guarantee. You can’t have access if you don’t have the money.

Personally, I am not dependent on Obamacare at this time but that does not mean I would be willing to leave others without health care. Even if we are as cold as ice (and I hope that I am not), it behooves all of us to have a healthy nation. We need some form of universal health care. But for some strange reason our elected representatives could never quite get it together until Barack Obama came along. Obamacare, admittedly, even by its sponsors, was not perfect. It was a compromise of sorts. But it was a good start and it can be improved.

(And maybe after a lot of heated campaign rhetoric, using Obamacare as a straw man of sorts, the Republican majority in congress will just patch up Obamacare.)

But the Republicans don’t want to give the Democrats any credit so they just have sought to scrap the whole thing, seizing on the fact that some people got a shock when their health insurance premiums jumped up. And they also seized on the fact the government was trying to force people to buy plans that were controlled by the government. And some people may have even voted for Donald Trump over the issue. And some of those people may have come to the realization — now what? You see, the Republicans never had a serious plan to replace Obamacare. If they did, they’d have passed it into law by now.

If it were up to me, and of course it is not, we would just have single-payer health insurance financed by the government, which is really us. And maybe people who wanted something a little better, a step up to keep themselves out of over-crowded clinics, could buy their own supplemental insurance.

I have written previously and still feel that a better solution for the United States would have been to expand Medicare to cover all people, regardless of age, who could not otherwise afford health care. Of course the rub is determining eligibility. And no doubt people would cheat in some way so they could get a free ride while others pay.

I think the problem is that no matter what, health care will always be expensive. There needs to be government oversight no matter what system we use. It seems that it is as hard to determine how health care providers, particularly hospitals, come up with their pricing as it was to figure out how the price for a gallon of gasoline is determined. The normal rules of supply and demand and the free market don’t always seem to apply.

Oh, but back to the Republicans: I thought that this was telling. In a CNN news clip of a town hall meeting by Republican Congressman Tom Cotton of Arkansas, a woman asked him that since he has promised to vote to repeal Obamacare would he commit to replacing it with something so people like her would not be left without coverage. His reply: “are there any more questions?” Kind of like: next question. The crowd roared at him, chanting “do your job”.

That does almost sound like he was set up. But he deserves it.

There is blame on both sides of the aisle for the health care debacle. On the one hand, the Republicans resisted health care reform because their tendencies are to represent those out for profit not necessarily the ordinary constituent. On the other hand, some on the other side of the aisle sneakily represented big health care industry forces (who dole out the money to politicians) and scuttled the idea of single-payer. One influential Democratic senator at least took millions of dollars from the health care lobby and had staffers with connections to the health care industry and was instrumental in scrapping single-payer and/or any public alternative and for inputting items favorable to the health care industry and big Pharma into the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare as it is known. One of his staffers, it was reported, basically was the architect of the law and then went back to the health care industry as a lobbyist.

Pretty sweet for some private health insurance providers and drug companies — the government seeks to force you to do business with them and does not use its power to negotiate a better price for drugs.

And that often is how laws are made in this country — the special interests write them.

We might be better served if our congressmen and senators were simply citizens doing public service for a nominal salary — they would be people who had other jobs or who were retired — and who did not make a career out of writing laws. There would of course need to be rules blocking the big money influence of lobbyists.

 

 

 


Just how does Trump have power when we know that the emperor has no clothes?

February 21, 2017

I guess in President Donald Trump’s world negotiations, business, and now political, are a lot like poker, where the bluff is often the key.

But how often can a bluff work? Let’s see if I can best George W. Bush and get this one right — fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me.

We know that Trump tells bold face lies, even with the truth staring him and his audiences in the face. We know he plays the game of intimidation but is ready to turn course at any moment.

We know that he just says things to stir people up and create misdirection.

We also know that he is fairly ignorant of the greater world beyond his real estate kingdom and his little bubble of a universe where daddy started him off with a million dollars.

Despite his denials and his claim that his administration is working like a well-oiled machine, it appears the truth is that things are in disarray. Running the world’s superpower is not like running your own real estate investment firm or reality TV show.

Why do we (and I don’t mean me or you specifically but the world in general) put up with him? We know he is a phony. We know he is like the man behind the curtain in the Wizard of Oz or the emperor who wore no clothes but thought he was finely dressed but no one dared tell him — he was the emperor.

And why has much of the main-stream Republican establishment abandoned any principles and sense of decorum and even many of their own political positions and succumbed to Trump? Well for one thing, he won the presidency and they at least hope they can gain much from that, such as lowering taxes on the upper classes, gutting social programs, including health care, and rescinding all those pesky environmental regulations which they conveniently claim are based on what they call the climate change hoax.

I think on that last, all intelligent people, even Republicans, know something dangerous is going on with our climate and a substantial part of it has to do with carbon emissions and other human endeavors. And almost no one would seriously suggest that we have to go back to the stone age and abandon all of our modern technologies — we just need to take prudent steps to save our planet and the human race. I’ll put my trust in science any day over right-wing politicians and those whose quest for quick profit blinds them to impending environmental catastrophe. And from what I have read, no the jury is not still out on climate change. We know there are serious problems. We do not know the full extent or necessarily what is the best course of action going forward, except that we know we must curtail some of the damage we have been doing to our own nest. And yes, it is possible that in some cases opportunists on the left have used climate change to move their agenda, as reactionaries on the right use racism and über nationalism to move their agenda (whatever it is).

Yeah, in that last sentence I stuck in a German word, über, as in Deutschland über alles (Germany over all). Isn’t it ironic that now we have our own Hitler at the helm, who fans the flames of racism and bigotry, attacks the free press and anyone else who dares question him, that Germany is led by a more democratic form of leadership, even if it does have its far-right problems still. And add to that, Great Britain, the nation we broke away from to gain liberty, seems to have a leader and legislators more devoted to civility and freedom than we now have. Go figure.

Now there is an ongoing debate in Britain whether Trump ought to be dis-invited for a state visit. One conservative member of parliament said that Trump is being condemned for being the first politician to “keep his promises”. I’m not sure to which promises the right honorable gentleman was referring, except maybe to be racist, bigoted, and uncivilized, and to keep America ignorant.

For purposes of accuracy and fairness, it may not be correct to say that Trump is a Hitler clone but his tactics and actions dangerously resemble those of the infamous dictator. Sen. John McCain has pointed out that dictators always go after the free press. And I think those otherwise seemingly intelligent people who support Trump while acknowledging that they are at times uncomfortable with his behavior think that Trump can be used to move their agenda and that he can be otherwise controlled. That’s a dangerous assumption. The man is already out of control.

Read a little bit of history folks. The German establishment made the same mistake with Hitler.

p.s.

And so, what can be done? Mainly don’t give up on your principles and don’t waste your time arguing with dunderheads or narrow-minded people. Keep informed by checking a variety of souces. And in the end vote.

 

 


Maybe Republicans will rebel against Trump…

February 19, 2017

It appears now that Sen. John McCain has retained his office he has come out against President Donald Trump and his policies.

This is interesting. It may take the Republicans themselves to remove the would-be dictator.

Maybe one day McCain will lead a delegation to the White House or Mar-a-Lago  and suggest Trump resign or be impeached.

Meanwhile, the Democratic Party just thrashes around.

I sometimes think the Democratic Party turned its back on working people and is now paying the price. But in some cases it may be the working people turned their backs on the Democratic Party.

You see the party has always been a coalition of disparate groups, one of which was working people, often represented by trade unions. But as the unions made their members more prosperous many of their members turned their backs on the Democratic Party and went Republican and in many cases left the unions too (once they got what they wanted, why pay the dues?). And maybe nowadays a lot of people consider themselves independent.

Also, when it comes to Washington politics and I suppose even state politics, office holders are stuck in a cycle of raising money for campaigns to hold onto their jobs. And special interest groups are there with the cash — ordinary people often not as much.

I suppose Barack Obama raised a lot of small donations, as well as Bernie Sanders. But by and large, the way the game is played is big money throws its weight around in politics.

Admittedly this post is just off the top of my head. It’s the middle of the night and I could not sleep. Been working a lot and am somewhat behind on the news.

I did hear the Trump press conference the other day. Through sometimes sloppy reporting and pack journalism (everyone wants to be on the same page) it may be the mainstream press or media has made itself vulnerable to criticism. But a free press is not the enemy. Ignorance and lies are the enemy.

I do wish journalism (it was once called that instead of what I think has become a pejorative term “media”) would return to the principle I was taught so many years ago that news should be reported straight and opinion should be in clearly-marked opinion pieces, and even those opinion pieces ought to be based on facts. I know, whose facts?

It is hard to determine whether Trump is just ignorant sometimes or whether he actually just sets out to tell a big whopper. I mean when he claimed to have a record vote and then was caught immediately on the inaccuracy by a reporter, he just said, well, that was what he was told. So like he is too addled to even look it up on Wikipedia? And then he, I must say, somewhat got himself off the hook by asking the reporter if he really did have a big victory nonetheless. The reporter answered: “you are the president”.

(I think that reporter got caught in the trap of inadvertently saving Trump because he wanted to do his job and be agressive and speak truth to power and all but not be simply dismissed by the big man, lest he never get a chance to ask a question again.)

Personally I think Trump either needs to be impeached or otherwise forced from office or at the least needs to be kept in check.

And it may well be that the Republican Party will be our saviors, but maybe the Democratic Party will find new life in the process.

How about a Republican Party that was generally conservative (as opposed to reactionary) and represented Main Street over Wall Street and free enterprise in general and a Democratic Party that returned to the people?

And how about a mainstream press that was aggressive both in pointing out the faults or dangers posed by our public figures but were also aggressive on their own fact checking and who could write or tell a story without it being nothing but a sermon or subjective piece short on evidence?

p.s.

The “media” (I have to use the term) does supply fact-check articles (although one sometimes wonders who checks the checkers) to its credit. But one fasle or sloppily-reported story can do a lot of damage to credibility — and that is what coniving politicians and others with ill will count on.

 

 

 


North Korea missile launch toward Japan and Trump instability poses threat…

February 12, 2017

It’s amazing what can happen when you are out of touch with the news over the course of a working day. I’m a truck driver and my AM/FM radio reception is lousy — oh the religious stations come in powerfully all the time (God has power!) and on the weekend I am forever hearing those infomercials (advertising propaganda masquerading as objective information) about vitamins and real estate.

But it was not until late last night that I got on my tablet before hitting the sack that I saw that North Korea had lobbed a missile toward Japan — falling short/ just practice I guess.

CNN was playing it up, the New York Times, not so much. But it did seem to me to be the first real test for President Trump international incident wise.

North Korea has a nuclear program and keeps perfecting its missiles, even though we are told they cannot yet reach our soil at this time.

This missile test came as Trump was meeting with the prime minister of Japan who is visiting the U.S.

So far, as of this writing, no direct response from the president except that he promised the U.S. would back Japan.

Seems serious to me. And it points up how precarious things are. If things should escalate we have to be aware that while that leader in North Korea is bananas, our own leader’s mental state is in question, as his erratic and irrational behavior and his living in a different reality, truth-wise, points out.

We are in the most dangerous times since the Cuban Missile Crisis of the Cold War era, no doubt.

p.s.

Some say that if Trump is crazy, he is crazy like a fox, in other words there is a method to his madness. He did get elected president despite what seemed overwhelming odds against it. But we know that he does not mind telling outright lies, or making statements that have no factual basis (more so than the average politician) which does not make him crazy, but it does make him dangerous. And we know that his behavior when compared to acceptable norms is to say the least erratic. Can we afford to have him with his finger on the nuclear button? The big-time bookmakers are giving good odds that he will be impeached or resign or otherwise be removed from office. I think that would be a good thing and the sooner the better.