So, the GOP is not lockstep behind Trump, that’s refreshing…

March 30, 2017

Building onto my just previous post, it is encouraging to see that the Republican Party, who seemed to have made a strange and dangerous choice in choosing Donald Trump, who holds no identifiable ideology nor has any history in governing, and who is obviously ignorant of a wide variety of public policy issues (it just has not been his world), as their standard-bearer, seems to now have the guts to challenge Trump.

At the same time, it is encouraging to see Trump fight back.

The ultra conservatives and the moderates within the GOP, for diametrically opposed reasons, defeated the president’s anti-Obamacare bill, and now Trump has warned the party and challenged the conservatives, saying that if their obstructions to his agenda persist the party will suffer.

Meanwhile, I am not sure what the Democratic Party strategy is or should be at this point. It could play the just say no game that the GOP has done to it for the last eight years or it could take advantage of the rift in their rival party and try to work with moderates.

But, whatever the case, it is refreshing to see that congress is feeling pressure from constituents, perhaps other than the usual lobbyists — like they might actually be reacting to real public opinion. We will see.

My previous post follows:

About President Trump’s inability to broker a deal on healthcare and make good his promise to do away with Obamacare:

It may be simply a matter of it being a lot easier to make deals in the world of business and real estate where one uses appeals to the greediness of others than the world of public policy where the goal is (or should be) to actually help people and evenly distribute services.

Also, it may be that people who decry wasteful government spending don’t find anything that benefits themselves personally — Obamacare? — wasteful. It’s just that stuff that goes to other people.

Mr. Trump is what we always knew he was: a huckster.

The Wall Street Journal is saying that despite the cries that he would be like Mussolini or Hitler (I was among that crowd), our system of checks and balances have so far prevented that.

Well, at least there is something hopeful.

It is going to be a long four years, though, if it lasts that long.


On doing what you want and what you have to do and does social media replace journalism?

March 21, 2017

We need industry and the jobs that (still) come with it but maybe I’m glad I left the factory decades ago and then after less than a year. Being stuck on the factory floor was no life for me. But for a beginning job the pay was relatively good and I did have some health insurance with it. And I should not have left the way I did. I just left. But I used my GI bill and took some journalism classes, became a reporter (finished my college work years later).

But that factory was hard work. And unlike the small newspapers I worked at no one ever made me feel that my job was not important. This was in what most people just called “the mill”. It was a lumber re-manufacturing facility. We made the parts for the now old-time fruit lug boxes (yeah a box factory) as well as molding strips for construction. I remember during an orientation a plain-talking no-nonsense mill manager said: “some of you might find yourself sweeping the floor and think that your job is not important — that’s a bunch of bologna sausage (he really said that); we wouldn’t have hired you if it was not important”. And I guess a Republican might say that is the difference between the private sector and the public sector.

But what made me think about all this is that I was talking to a handy man in the apartment complex where I live and he was telling me about the factory he worked in before his present job. He told about 12-hour rotating shifts and about being left out on the line by another employee who decided he wanted to goof off. The stuff kept coming and he could not keep up.

Heck I had help and could not keep up at times. Machines are relentless. They never tire. They just keep spitting stuff out at you. And being cooped up in a building all day long is not for me anyway. Where I worked the sun beat down on the metal roof in the summer and sawdust got all into your clothing and stuck to your sweat-drenched skin.

But it was honest work. It was work and even then not everyone had work, even those who wanted it.

But the stuff I did at the small newspapers was work too. But I enjoyed it for the most part. But too much of a good thing can be work too. And it was not always enjoyable because one person can only write so much and that one person likes to go home now and then and visit the family but in that kind of work there are no regular hours and for the most part overtime rules don’t apply or if and when they do they are ignored. But the worst of all is that in the small time they actually see you as necessary but bothersome overhead. I’m talking small newspapers often run by small-minded people or big corporations that operate them as cash cows. No wonder so many have gone out of business. The same attitude affected some of the bigger publications (just some). And the internet has changed everything.

And I have just discovered something to add onto what I just wrote concerning changes in journalism but I’ll save it for further down in this post.

But I did not mean to go into all that.

Another thing that got me thinking along these lines is the conversation I had with my dental hygienist. She said that she and her husband want to move somewhere else where they think they could have a more suitable lifestyle. They are not sure what the job prospects would be where they want to move (and we are not talking big city, just the opposite). But I’m thinking like I think they are: settle where you want to live and make it work. No job can take the place of that.

I did not originally aspire to be a newspaper reporter. I just wanted to write. I was thinking more along the lines of novelist. Who knows? I just might write a novel sometime. But I think the secret to writing is to write. And the secret to writing novels is to write one. People who are meant to do it do it.

And one should do what he or she is meant to or what he or she would like to do if at all possible.

Okay, so I settled for truck driving for survival. And it has indeed sustained me. And there is a lot of independence hour by hour (by hour by hour….).

But, whatever, we need those factory jobs, even if automation is taking over. Technology is even moving into the heretofore protected world of the so-called cerebral jobs and professions.

I think we are destroying our own humanity.

I suppose that if the machines and computers take over that will free us all up to do what we want to do if we know what we want to do or if there will be anything left to do.

And now that thing I discovered: I had mentioned the fact the internet changed journalism. Well some people apparently think that it is obsolete, that social media makes it unnecessary. I just lifted the following paragraph out of a publication (to which I will give full credit at the bottom):

But here is what one man thinks:

With the rise of social media and the internet, journalists are becoming irrelevant.  After all social media has made everybody a journalist.  We no longer need for journalists to act as a middle man and report what someone said or what event may have happened.  With social media we get it straight from the horses mouth (sic).  No journalistic comments are required or even welcomed. We are now in a position of having to make up our own mind.  And that is scary for people who run on a high level of emotion. They are used to someone telling them how to think. (By Larry Oscar) full article: http://haulproduce.com/2017/zinger-8/


Well okay, I say, if you want to wade through the hodgepodge of items (including posts like my own) and decide what is true and what is not or what makes sense and what does not without any gatekeepers and fact checkers and with computer hackers filling the web with fake news and put up with the illiteracy that further confuses communication, have fun — not for me. We do need responsible journalism, though. And it is indeed helpful to have access, especially video, to what the professionals do — if makes us more aware and keeps the professionals honest. But we need journalism still I believe.

Oh, by the way Larry, my own spell check just reminded me that what is displayed in your article as horses mouth should be horse’s mouth (possessive), but we know what you meant.


Chuck Berry dies; for me it was a teenage wedding

March 19, 2017

It was a teenage wedding, and the old folks wished them well…

That first line from the song “You Never Can Tell” is what came to mind just now when I read that Chuck Berry, the black musician, known for his unique guitar licks and his duck walk while performing, had died at age 90.

The news was that he died today, Saturday, March 18, 2017.

My mom liked the song I think because it sounded to her like my marriage, which she opposed at the time. And all these years later I don’t blame her. Both my wife and I know she was right, even if we did make that marriage last for just shy of 43 years, when my wife died.

My wife was just 16, almost 17, and I had just recently turned 18 when we were married in November of 1967. Later, neither one of us would have advised anyone so young to marry.

My mom had nothing against my late wife. She just knew that life can be rough and that we were too young.

Oh, my mom was I think only 18 or so when she was married. And the Great Depression hit not long after. My folks stayed together — till death did they part.

Young people only know what is in their hearts. And they want to enjoy life and each other and be happy.

Berry was not so young when he became popular — he was already in his 30s. But he was a pioneer in rock ‘n’ roll. And so many artists would later virtually copy his lyrics and style.

I lost my youth a long time ago. I lost my wife seven years ago. And now we have all lost Chuck Berry.

Life goes on. But somehow, to me, it is almost as if the music has died.

 

 

 

 


A Trump admirer extolls the virtues of China and socialized medicine…

March 16, 2017

So this self-identified Donald Trump admirer was letting me in on the secret to why he got nearly free medical care in China, where he has a wife. In fact, he said he married his doctor. No that is not the secret he was talking about. The secret to great and affordable medical care in China is:

“socialized medicine”.

Gee I thought that was anathema to Trump and his Republican Party (well actually I don’t think Trump is tied to anything, but he’s playing Republican these days).

We were not really talking politics and I don’t know the man’s actual political persuasion, if indeed he has any. He came across as just a regular old Vietnam veteran, trucker/beekeeper white guy who believes everyone ought to work and that there should be no welfare.

He was extolling the virtues of the Chinese system — this self-described Trump admirer. I said very little, just interjected a couple of questions. I noted that China is identified as a “communist” nation. His answer was he was not sure how they work all that out. I allowed that I understood that while China has a communist government it has turned to partial capitalism in its economy.

I don’t know how much of all this was for real but without knowing anything else I will assume he was describing himself accurately (I have no reason to think otherwise).

He said that he has a bee business and that these days his children run it. He also said he was a pilot and he bemoaned the pollution in California. You fly over the mountains into California, he said, and you see a blanket of pollution over the land.

I thought Trump was not big on pollution control — he is trying to dismantle the EPA or at least make it weak.

The man expressed puzzlement over the notion that China has a pollution problem. He said he spends a lot of time there and has not seen it. I would not know myself. All I know is what I see on the internet. I know there was much news that they had to shut down their industry in and around Beijing, the capital, during the Olympics several years ago.

Oh, and I thought Trump has been complaining that China is doing us wrong in trade, taking advantage of us. And what this man said did not necessarily belie that, but it was curious. He claimed that the Chinese “love” Trump because — I guess he was saying that Trump will free up our business and the Chinese love to do business with us.

The man said that he actually ships honey to China for processing. “Everyone (in the bee business) is doing that”, he said. He said that China is the biggest customer for honey.

And China, according to him, is some kind of peaceful paradise. He claimed there is no crime in China. He said you could leave your wallet on a table in a bar and no one would steal it. And if a Chinese policeman tells you to stop, you either stop or you get shot. He said that is what should be done here in the USA.

But one of his main points is that in China everyone works. He did not say how that comes about (and actually I think I have read different — but my knowledge of China is admittedly scant).

So this could be all bunkum or it could be exaggerated or it could be just one man’s limited vision or maybe China is just a paradise and we should all wish we were Chinese (and maybe someone reading this is).

And of course I’m talking about the big China — the People’s Republic (communist), not Taiwan.

Is there a point here? Well my point is that while many of us non-Trump admirers and open-minded and politically informed people see the world a little different from maybe your average Trump supporter, some of us (I hope not me) tend to put people into boxes.

I mean it’s interesting, you can have someone who admires Trump and who is by what I could make out a self-made man and a communist-fighting Vietnam vet to boot, who thinks a communist country is on to something.

I mean they have solved the health care problem:

They have socialized medicine.

p.s.

One thing I wanted to write here was that some people don’t fit into boxes, but rather pick and choose the elements in life that work for them, with an eye toward the practical (practical for them).

Oh, and about cops shooting people. Dead men can’t rob you.

And I think things are a little more complex than all that. But for all my “thinking”  I know that Donald Trump and the man I talked to (as far as I can gather) are far better off than I (financially anyway).

 

 


Not as much smog in LA these days, could it be those ‘needless’ environmental regulations are needed?

March 11, 2017

The late Johnny Carson used to do a comedy bit on the Tonight Show where he posed as a Middle Eastern mystic, “the Magnificent Carnac”. He would be given an answer or response and he would supposedly by divine intervention come up with the heretofore unknown question or first part.

A favorite of mine: UCLA…..the response was “when the smog lifts”.

Carson of course broadcasted from Burbank, in the Los Angeles basin. If you are way younger than I (I was born in 1949) you might not be aware of or have experienced the thick smog of LA. I got my first sight and whiff of it when I was maybe six years old. My family took a car trip to LA. We came down the old Ridge Route (nowadays more commonly referred to as the “Grapevine”) and there was a pall of smoke, or actually smog, over the basin and it burned our eyes.

(smog = fog or haze combined with smoke and other atmospheric pollutants).

As a child, my family made a few more trips to the LA area or through it on vacations, but then I was seldom through there for a couple of decades. And then in late middle age I became a truck driver and since then have spent a lot of time driving around in that area.

There are two things that stand out to me:

Disneyland is no longer surrounded by orange groves like it was in 1955 and most of the smog in LA seems to have disappeared, even though the traffic has gotten much worse.

I can only conclude that the heavy environmental regulations, including smog devices on internal combustion engines and other such pollution controls, have had a positive effect. Also I just read a story that said respiratory health among those who live there has improved over the decades.

But if you can believe it, we now have an administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency who sees no direct correlation between carbon emissions and the degradation of the earth’s atmosphere, including global warming. As far as I know the consensus of the scientific community is that there is indeed a link. And I’ve been told that the earth is more round than flat (but if I wrote that in the Middle Ages I might have been burned at the stake by religious zealots or today by alt right know nothings).

Like I always say on this subject: I am not a scientist. I have to defer to the scientific community on this one (as well as my own observation).

But this guy Scott Pruitt who was appointed by President Trump and confirmed by the Republican-controlled senate as the EPA administrator, is no scientist either. He is a lawyer and his background is in part with big oil and fighting regulatory rules on the behalf of industry.

Now I do realize that it is possible for regulatory agencies to get out of control and issue regulations and requirements that are unreasonable and maybe even counterproductive. Bill Wattenburg, who used to be on a San Francisco radio station and who said he was an engineer and billed himself as something like the smartest man in the world (he was not humble), used to rant that the California Air Resources Board, among other terrible things, was forcing everyone to use an ethanol gasoline formula that actually increased pollution. I don’t know the validity of that, but I would say it is worth looking into. There always needs to be public oversight over the bureaucracy. Of course mid-western corn farmers have a big lobby pushing for the use of ethanol, produced from corn.

But I would be more comfortable with someone with a scientific background as administrator of the EPA.

If I have a medical problem I don’t go to a lawyer. I go to a doctor.

 

 

 

 


Where are the elites when we need them?

March 10, 2017

Periodically I read a column and think: I agree with this or at least think the writer is possibly onto something and I could not have said it better. David Brooks’ column in the New York Times is an example.

An excerpt:

“People had so lost trust in government, the media, the leadership class in general, that they were willing to abandon truth and decorum and embrace authoritarian thuggery to blow it all up.”

I think that one sentence pretty wells says it all.

I don’t think he meant all people or even a majority (you have to read the whole column for context), but it applies to too many people, enough to swing the Electoral College and give us the dangerous buffoon we now are suffering under.

It seems to me we are in desperate need of those much vilified, but knowledgeable and reasonable, elites to reassert themselves, wherever they may be.

p.s.

Link to the Brooks column: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/10/opinion/the-republican-health-care-crackup.html?action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=opinion-c-col-left-region&region=opinion-c-col-left-region&WT.nav=opinion-c-col-left-region

 

 

 


Talk about fake news, it appears most health insurance premiums did not soar due to Obamacare

March 9, 2017

I feel so guilty. My only consolation is that my blog readership is to put it mildly not huge. I think that I have casually written or implied that a lot of consumers saw their health insurance skyrocket as the result of Obamacare.

But a story in the New York Times today claims that in reality just 3 percent of the people on Obamacare had premium increases resulting from Obamacare. Hope I don’t get this wrong, but I believe those were people who were not able to take advantage of state insurance exchanges because their Republican-controlled state governments did not set up insurance exchanges.

The story said that, in fact, people on group plans through their employment did not see big jumps in their premiums (that is not to say their premiums did not go up somewhat, but that would be the case without Obamacare). It could be a lot of people just assume that any increase in their premiums is attributable to Obamacare.

Since I am not enrolled in Obamacare I am not personally attuned to the situation.

I think what seems to be a canard that Obamacare has caused insurance premiums to skyrocket has moved into a kind of meme. It is just a story passed on that has become a truth, even if it is not true.

Whatever the case is, monkeying with people’s’ health insurance from one year to the next just does not work. One has to have continuity and predictability in coverage in something ongoing like your health. And we all only have a precious little time on earth. We can’t just try out a plan and then the next month or year go to another model. We do not know when we will come down with something and we need to be covered at that time.

I do know that in all of my 67 years conservatives have been trying to prevent any form of what used to be called “socialized medicine”. If something even resembles it they are against it and no amount of reasoning will change their minds.

But depriving people of health care based on income is not only immoral but impractical. People not only need to be tended to when they are already sick or injured but they need preventative care that might save us all in the long run.

People deprived of preventative care clog up the public clinics and hospital emergency rooms and put us all in danger. So even if you have no sympathy for the less fortunate, you would be helping yourself to help them.

And now those anti-Obamacare folks can’t agree on something to replace it, when in reality it probably does not need to be replaced but instead improved.

When you have doctors and hospitals defending the existing Obamacare, you have to wonder why some Republicans are so all-fired up to repeal it — but not as fired up to replace it.

So if I have this right, Obamacare does not work as well in states whose Republican governments failed to go along with all the provisions of Obamacare.

And what we now know of a possible replacement plan from the Republicans indicates a lot more people will see their rates go up. Yes, this too could be wrong. It is a complex subject, as President Trump himself admitted recently.

We need to get it right.