When does the gun madness stop?! Massacre in Las Vegas…

October 2, 2017

I just got home from a long trip this past evening and awoke two or so hours after going to bed and could not get back to sleep and then I look at my computer to discover there has been a mass shooting in Las Vegas — current count as I write this: more than 50 dead and at least 200 injured. The gunman is believed to have killed himself. It is among the worst mass shootings in U.S. history I think.


UPDATE: I’m writing commentary not up-to-the-minute news, nevertheless as the morning after progresses I note that the death toll as I write this update is 58, with 515 injured.

———————————————————————————————————————————–

And I am posting this without even reading the whole story.

But when does the gun madness stop? I live in gun country. The right to keep and bear arms, for every man woman and child to pack a gun (okay a little exaggeration), is held sacrosanct. Most of the people I know here don’t read my blog. I mean I can’t say what I really think in public around here for fear of being ostracized. I am not against personal gun ownership or at least have not been. But with that shooting of a full class of school children several years ago and now this (plus all the others in between) I have to ask, why cannot we limit the free flow of guns that allows nut cases to perpetrate these horrific murders?

And this one just now in Las Vegas hits (and pardon that expression) too close to home. Not much more than 24 hours ago I was talking to a man headed for Las Vegas at an airport in Philadelphia. He could have be a victim. Worse (for me) I often drive to and in or through Las Vegas as a truck driver.

Folks, no matter what your position is on guns and gun control — we have to stop the madness. No we cannot control every action of every person. Yes, there will always be murderers and victims — but this free flow of weapons has to STOP!

And I know Second Amendment diehards (and again, pardon the unfortunate use of words) will never let go of their absolutism. But do they care about their fellow human beings? I wonder sometimes. And everyone packing their own gun would have not likely been able to stop this person in time.

Yes, I need more details. I will read them all. We all should.

Advertisements

Good to be back home, but what about those homeless?

October 1, 2017

Looks like I got out of Spain just in time. Some violence has reportedly broken out in Catalonia where what is described by the central government in Madrid as an illegal referendum on independence for that region is taking place. I was not in Catalonia. I spent almost all of my time in Navarra. But I know just enough about Spanish politics to understand that just like in the U.S. there is always the conflict between the central government and regional and local governments.

And actually I almost wished I was still there, being the one-time journalist I am. Last year the night before I left Madrid there was excitement over the truce between rebels and the government in Colombia, with a happy demonstration on the Puerta del Sol.

But I will go no further now into the politics of either of those nations (Spain or Columbia), one because I am not knowledgeable enough, and two because that is not the reason I am posting today.

Just wanted to say there is no place like home. As happy as I always am to visit Spain — this being my fourth trip there now just completed — I am always happy to return to my homeland.

In fact, I am just south of the city of my birth at this time. I am in South San Francisco. I was born in San Francisco — the most beautiful city on earth, as far as I know — and Madrid is beautiful too and so many other places are, but since San Francisco is my birthplace I am partial to it. Can’t afford to live there though. Always amazed that my humble family (my parents and my siblings) lived there once upon a time and quite comfortably — that was then, this is now.

I live up at the north end of the Sacramento Valley these days and have for more years than anywhere else.

Redding is a nice place but it is being overrun by the homeless. I don’t know why.

The running story, true or not, maybe a meme (not sure that is the correct word) is that the homeless are bussed into Redding from other locales, especially from out-of-state. And for some reason, supposedly, the homeless thrive in Redding with assistance from welfare officials.

Personally I have little to no sympathy for them. Sure if someone is just down on his (or her) luck or if a family is in distress that is different. But I have dealt with these people, that is having to wade my way through them or dodge them as they saunter across the street without a care as to the traffic or congregate at the entrance to the library. My youngest daughter lived in a modest but clean apartment complex but was physically run out by the homeless who came up from the creek below and molested the inhabitants. The police don’t seem to be able to do anything except sometimes move them from one part of town to the other.

I would be perfectly okay with my tax money used, that is some of it, to provide shelter for these individuals — who range from the mentally ill and substance abusers to just people down on their luck. It would be good for both them and the rest of us.

But I don’t know what the current case-law is. In the past in California I know that Sacramento at one time tried to force the homeless to accept shelter, rather than live on the streets but the courts ruled essentially that they have a right to be street people.

I in no way envy the homeless. But it is kind of galling that at 68 I am still working for a living, paying my way, while these people line up fo  their free phones (and that is no fiction) and ride around on bicycles, and even have pets (do we pay for that too?).

Perhaps if the judges who are so lenient had to suffer the abuse of the homeless rather than live in protected enclaves, they would change their tune.

I know they have done a lot of despoil the enjoyment of my native San Francisco too.

Hey, but it’s good to be home.

p.s.

I always describe myself as middle of the road in politics and ideology. Ultra conservatives reading things I have written might consider me just another liberal (strange, when and where I grew up that was not necessarily an insult), but when it comes to putting up with abuse from the homeless, I am the type who wishes it was like the old days when vagrancy was against the law. No, I don’t want to see the return of work houses or debtor prisons. I just think for the betterment of society we should provide safe and secure shelters for those who for whatever reason cannot provide for themselves.

I mean, does a bear go doo doo in the woods? Where do you think the homeless go?

 

 


But it’s not my fault, no es mi culpa, I protest (about Trump)…

September 28, 2017

Now back in the states I might think who we elect president is no one’s business and I don’t want to hear any grief over that from foreigners.

But I am in Spain and from this perspective I can see it a little differently.

The U.S. is not just any nation. We have been the leader of the free world at least since the end of WWII in 1945. Other nations look up to us, even our enemies have had to respect us (whether they wanted to admit it or not). Freedom-loving or freedom-yearning people the world over have followed our lead.

Spain lived under a sometimes brutal and always harsh dictatorship of Francisco Franco for several decades. It was not until his death in the 1970s that Spain moved toward democracy (albeit re-instituting a monarchy — along with a new democratic government — as a symbol of unification I suppose and maybe to give the political right reason to go along with the rest of the crowd).

(The union is being challenged right now by a separatist movement in Catalonia, and it has faced other obstacles in the past, such as that from the Basque separatists, who appealed to a distinct or actually unique culture that suffered under Franco.)

But democracy has flourished in Spain, despite challenges, and the political left has had its turn at power in their parliamentary system with a conservative currently holding the prime minister position but without a majority in the legislature, so the left can still have its effect, along with centrists. And I am no expert on Spanish politics. You know we U.S. citizens, we think we are the only one’s who exist and our news media pretty much ignores the politics of the rest of the world due to lack of interest of readers and listeners and web surfers.

So it is with some dismay here in Spain that the U.S. elected narrow-minded person as president with nationalist and far right-wing tendencies, with a xenophobic attitude, and what certainly appears as racist tendencies — and worst of all a world view that boils down to America first, you are on your own the rest of the world.

(Now since Trump will deny things immediately after saying them, trying to hide behind a wall of non-sensical and equivocal statements of position and tortured explanations, some die-hard Trump supporters might say I have it all wrong. I don’t. He is a narrow-minded egotist with visions of grandeur and he is a bit unstable to put in mildly. He is capable of doing some good but is more inclined to do of so much evil at the same time. It is not my job to explain why — one only has to take an honest look at his recent history and then the rest of his public life to know he is not the one to lead the free world. And he is in way over his head.)

A Catholic monk  (and I am not Catholic by the way) basically blessed me in greeting but with the caveat, despite Trump. Another Spaniard groaned about Trump when he heard that I and one other person were American citizens.

Oh, and then there was the civil servant who lamented that Obama was nice, but Trump…

An article in the main newspaper here stated that with her re-election as Chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel is the leader of the free world.

It has come to this folks: we took the lead and with the help of our allies defeated fascism in the name of Adolf Hitler of Germany in 1945 (along with the militarists of Japan) and became the beacon of freedom to people worldwide. But through a fluke in our electoral system, perhaps the better candidate not being quite attuned to the mood of the people, and through inattention and down-right apathy among the voters we have relinquished our position as world leader to Germany.

Personally I  prefer that the U.S. be the leader, albeit a benevolent and kind one. Rank has its privileges. Even Trump would probably say that anything less than number one just doesn’t cut it.

Oh, and in the best Spanish I could muster I told that Spanish civil servant: “No es mi culpa” (it is not my fault).  I did not vote for Trump. But I did vote.

We really need to take extraordinary, but peaceful and legal, measures to rid ourselves of this curse.

If enough people wrote their congressmen and senators (at least by email) it would seem some pressure, to  include induced resignation, could be brought to bear.

Of course living with a president Pence (remember him?) might not be all that great but I think he might be more stable and traditional and then perhaps quite beatable less than four years from now or if not, then by god he might deserve a full term himself.

On the other hand, with Trump’s continued legislative failures, the Democrats might prefer to keep a weakened president of the rival party in power.

p.s.

I must note that Spain’s prime minister Mariano Rajoy (of Spain’s conservative People’s Party) paid his respects to Trump at the White House this week, pledging support against world-wide terror and Trump in turn supported Rajoy’s position against the break-away of Catalonia. I am surprised that an American president would comment on what is really an internal matter for Spain. But it is comforting to think that Spain remains an ally to the U.S. With Trump we need to hold on to the friends we still have while we still can.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


A little Pueblo in Spain where everybody knows your name…

September 24, 2017

I’m in a small village in northern Spain in the autonomous region of Navarra. I have been here two times previous. We just concluded a fiesta and all is peaceful now. Actually, compared to the United States, all was peaceful during the fiesta.

Life seems simple here, although I am sure under the surface it may not be all that simple. People tend to have the same problems the world over: money (never enough), family, illnesses, politics, and so on.

I won’t go into the whole story of how I came to have a connection here except to say that I was, am, acquainted with a couple (una pareja; I’m continuing to study Spanish) who currently still have their official residence in Tempe, Arizona but who also have a home here in Olite, Spain. The man was born here. The woman’s parents were from Mexico and she was born in Texas but grew up in Arizona.

At any rate, they introduced me to Spain and this village three years ago, and then the following year I traveled to Madrid and took a month-long Spanish language course. I had previously studied Spanish in college but as anyone who has studied a foreign language in school knows, unless you get out into the real world and use it, you never really learn it at all. I’m still working at it, with continued successes and failures — but my failures are not as bad as they used to be.

Back home in the states I have worked as an over-the-road truck driver for some 20 years (a second career as it were). I should be retired by now but how else to pay for my travel or even rent at home? (Invest in your retirement young folks; it arrives quicker than you think). But anyway, on my job I come into contact with the Spanish language frequently. So dabbling in Spanish has been some help, both in getting the job done and learning a new language.

But back to life in Olite, population about 4,000 (not counting tourists): it seems so much slower paced here and more family oriented. And my friend the home boy seems to know everyone in town or I could say everyone knows him. We cannot walk down the street without people greeting him and most of the time stopping to talk and more often than not for an extended conversation. Since my Spanish is still at the fairly elementary stage I seldom know what they are talking about and like any conversation among acquaintances anywhere in any language there is a lot of short hand, left out words with much of it understood from past encounters or from a history of events.

As often as not if I am alone people ask me how he is doing using his nickname. As I understand it, all men here have nicknames from youth that follow them all their lives, some are cute or complimentary perhaps, some innocuous, and some even offensive, but they are stuck with them. I’m glad that I did not print his if I got it correctly because it is not exactly complimentary but he seems to take no offense to it. But I do not know him THAT well, so I’ll just stick to his official name.

He did tell me that although he knows the adults, a lot of the younger people he does not. He’s worked in the U.S. for several decades, visiting home once or more a year. He just recently retired.

Now he plans to set up permanent residence in his hometown once again. He already has a home in the medieval old city section, a four-story affair, kind of tall and narrow. It also has a basement and what we might call an attic (and I am not sure I counted the levels correctly). But in typical Spanish style it has little balconies one can walk out onto and see the street below. If you ring the doorbell you need to step back into the narrow street so someone can open a window upstairs and see who it is.

It’s Sunday as I write this. Lots of people are out on the plaza eating and drinking, often whole families. People are strolling around. Now this town is historic and has a castle so some are tourists yes, but the multitude now that the fiesta is over I believe are natives.

I’m not writing this as if I were any kind of authority on culture. And far be it from me to suggest that somehow things are so much easier and better here. One thing, I’ve been told, everyone knows your business, and sometimes they even suggest their opinions on that. Kind of like small towns everywhere.

But I do get the sense that the role of family and the feeling of togetherness, and sharing meals and just enjoying the natural surroundings, is surviving here better than at home.

My friend the home boy wants to get a little parcel outside the town like a lot of people have — probably no more than a garden plot. Not to live on but to enjoy nature and raise vegetables and fruit trees. Maybe have some animals.

He often remarks on how peaceful it is and how people eat and drink but get along with each other.

Like I say, I don’t know. but so far it looks and sounds good to me.

But alas I belong to another land and don’t intend to leave it. I might even appreciate it more — there’s no place like home.

p.s.

I did not address the drinking of alcohol head-on. From reading Spanish newspapers and seeing the news on TV I know that the notion that somehow Europeans know how to handle alcohol better than us in the U.S. is a myth. They have all the same problems. Even so, in this little pueblo, I have witnessed more widespread and peaceful sharing of drinks than I do at home. It may well just depend upon where you are. But here, for example, drinking wine with meals is basically taken for granted.

 

 

 

 


Trash talk betweenTrump/Kim Jong perilous and solves nothing…

September 22, 2017

So it has come down to this: international relations to be carried out by way of trash talk. U.S. President Donald Trump refers to the North Korean leader as “Rocket Man” and in turn Kim Jong Un calls Trump a dotard (mentally feeble old man).

And just as Trump attempted to belittle his adversary as a crazy man threatening with rockets (the name obviously taken from an Elton John song, by the same name), The North Korean leader in a personal statement likened Trump to a “scared barking dog”.

And to make matters worse, North Korea is now threatening to explode I guess a test nuclear bomb in the ocean (not that we never did that, except that was then and not a direct threat to anyone I suppose, except maybe the USSR, and it was way down in the South Pacific — not good for Pacific islanders though.)

Both men are wacky in their own way.

Kim Jong Un seems to be employing trash talk as done in sports — he is a basketball fan we know through his personal friendship with an American player, Dennis Rodman. And Trump is too and is stuck in the so-called “reality TV” mode where it is all just for show and ratings — except this is for real.

(Maybe Trump is like the Alzheimer’s Reagan and mixes make-believe with reality.)

I actually like Trump’s message that we would retaliate in a massive fashion or even perhaps pull off a pre-emptive strike to curb North Korea’s threatened nuclear aggression (I think that has been alluded to). I just don’t like the way it was delivered, like trash talk from one side against the other in a sporting game or prize fight.

I think the same message could be delivered in a more indirect and diplomatic but quite understandable way.

And by constantly reacting to the North Korean leader’s trash talk we are sucked into his game. I say let our position be known (and keep up the practice missions of ground and air forces as a signal we are ready) and then ignore Kim Jong Un until or if he tries something — and if we can know in advance and pull off a pre-emptive strike, then we may just have to do it. I would hope our military would have a strategy that would combine an attack on North Korea’s nuclear arsenal and one directly at the leadership — cut off the head of the snake.

But let’s not get sucked into trash talk so far that we rule out a diplomatic solution.

And as much as we depend on trade with China, if that nation cannot bring its wayward ally under control then perhaps we need to isolate ourselves from the China trade. It seems we ought to have leverage with China. China as I understand it could bring North Korea to its knees by cutting off oil supplies to and trade with North Korea. But then it does not want refugees flooding into China. So they are reluctant to go too far. But even though we have a trade deficit with China, I think the loss of our market would really hurt China as much or more than us. We need to convince that nation to help us out — we have actually had good relations with it since Richard Nixon visited there.

At any rate, Trump had his say about North Korea. If he were wise (and I doubt that he is) he would leave it at that. North Korea cannot really imagine we would stand by and do nothing if they dropped the bomb.

Once upon a long time ago now a nation pulled a devastating surprise attack on us (I’m not talking 9/11 for that was not a nation as such) and we retaliated and we retaliated with more force than the world had ever seen.

In this type of situation Hillary Clinton would have been more diplomatic and yet everyone would know that like any American president she would do what had to be done to defend our nation. While a woman, she was no dove on foreign policy.

OK, so I am satisfied Trump made his case but I hope he does not blow it all and us up with it by flapping his yap or twittering — good luck to us and the world on all of that.

 

 

 


Climate change: free market and free thinkers, unteathered to money, needed to deal with it…

September 15, 2017

When I left of this blog, what? a week or so ago? I was wondering how to pack my bags for a trans-Atlantic flight to Spain. I wanted to get everything in one of those carry-on roller bags and my backpack. Did not want to have to check baggage, mostly because I am afraid it won’t be there at the other end and also because I don’t want to be held up and miss my next mode of transport. Well, they made me check my bag in because they were running out of room in the overhead bins. All was well, there it was on the carousel at the other end. And I did not have to drag it down the long ramp and stairways at the airports (in my case, Philadelphia and Madrid).

So I am vacatinoning in Spain, my fourth trip. But I am aware of the ouside world and my own home country. When I left it was in the middle of the great storm in Texas and other Gulf Coast locations and the great hurricane (s) in Florida and Puerto Rico and the Carribean.

I had wondered in one post whether the powers that be were prepared. Seems like in some respects, especially in Florida, the answer is yes. But I am not in a position to judge really. But maybe we have to be prepared for more of this.

Climate change seems to be upon us. One can argue whether it is just a natural phenomenon (isn’t the climate always changing?) or whether it is man-caused or man-exacerbated. Like I always say, I prefer to follow the scientists and the independent ones (if there are such people), not the industry/special interest dollars now worry about the rest later kind.

On the other hand, I could see that there needs to be a check to some degree because some could use real science (or even fake science) to their advantage to push their own agenda. I guess this works for both climate change believers and non-believers. The non-believers might want to stick to the old ways they are comfortrable with and may not want anything to interrupt the money flow and feel we live for today, not for tomorrow when we will be dead in the ground. On the other hand, some people just have a vision of how they think people should live and get around — back to nature man, even though you shop at a super market that claims to be organic or something (and don’t you know much of that is packaging? Much of it comes from the same source. Hey, I haul food in a big truck. I know something about that.

And then there is the middle, prudent, and responsible ground. We want to save our planet and be good stewards of the earth and we believe there just might be a problem with how we pollute our air and water and lands with fossil fuel exhaust and chemical fertilizers and bug and weed sprays. Yeah, I know the line. Our farmers produce more food to feed more people with all that. But people used to produce their food on a smaller scale until industrialiation pushed them into urban life.

I have some cousins who live on a farm that my own father grew up on. They rent the land out. But they are afraid to drink the water from their own well. Decades of chemical fertilizers and bug and weed spray have polluted the water table. Also the water table in which one only had to stick a pipe in the ground and water came up naturally has subsided and in the recent drought farmers were ratting on each other for wasting water in their irrigation district (water from the high mountains).

When folks settled there in the early 20th Century they had small dairy farms. Today what dairies are left are virtual milk factories with thousands of animals each and so much waste that a neighbor actually rents my counsin’s place, in part, as I understand, to get rid of it all. Feed crops are grown on the land. I don’t know the actual arrangement.

Tree crops, such as almonds, make more money and on a more steady flow (export markets ensure that — did you hear that Trump or even you silly farmers who may have cut your own throats by voting for someone who seems not to understand that the import/export market is a two–way street). But oh, the chemicals that go into orchards. There seems to be sprayers going all the time. I’ve lived among the orchards. I know.

But most of us — are we the real silent majority? — just want to do the right thing but realize we lack leaders who seem to be able to handle it without getting locked into special-interest big-money politics.

Some people who masquerade as environmentalists are just after government funding for non-cost effective projects. Hard to know sometimes.

Sometimes the free market is the answer. Case in point. Stick with me now. When I began truck driving a lot of owner-operators scoffed at the idea of driving slower to save fuel (you know 55 instead of 65 or 75 or faster). They also claimed that their trucks actually were more efficient at the higher speeds. What they based that belief on other than their desire to drive fast I have no idea. Then when diesel jumped up to $5 a gallon a few years ago suddenly many of them became believers in driving a little slower to save fuel (not that everyone drives slow — but more than before). Then they scoffed at the idea of automatic transmission trucks (the old automatics did not always work so well). But when they saw that the new automatics were getting 8 to 12 miles per gallon or more as opposed to 5 or less and they calulated the savings, suddenly they began buying those new automatics.

Don’t misundertand me, I’m not hostile to fossil fuel. It’s brought us a long ways. It took me to Spain and hopefully back home again. But we may have to look elswhere, both because of availability and cost and sustainability to our environment.

If we can find them we should vote for and support responsibile leaders who will do their best to protect our livelihoods and still plan and act for the future.

I don’t want to pick on poor Hillary (well she is not so poor money wise), but by perhaps a slip of the tongue she had promised to put coal miners out of business. I don’t think she meant it like it came out but simply writing people off is not the way to go. But simply playing to the greed of the short-sighted industrialists and some of the ignorant masses (ignorant mostly because it’s easier for them not to know maybe) is not the way to go either.

I have written this before but I always have wondered if we would be better off with politicians or office holders who are retired or who are taking a break from the real world and do not have to kowtow to special interests and their money.

In one way President Trump fits that category, except from what I see his special interest is himself, his sense of self, his own sense of power and vanity. But it is said he is cutting deals with the opposition. That’s a hopeful beginning, maybe.

Trump is on record as a climate change denier or skeptic. But his stated positions have little meaning.

 

 

 

 

 


How to pack, that is the question (???)

September 3, 2017

I´m ready to go but my bags are not packed. I am in the process. I have never been good at packing — never really tried to be until last year. I looked on the internet and after so many decades learned a good and easy way to fold a shirt — before that I just kind of folded them any old way. This year I am trying the roll-your-clothes technique. Not sure how it will come out — it’s in progress. In fact I am writing this as an excuse to take a break. I don’t like packing. Who does?

I’m headed to Spain for the fourth time in my life. I never had a hobby, except maybe following current events and politics, but for the last four or five years I have been trying to learn Spanish and I have been visiting Spain. Of course Mexico is a lot closer (and I have made a  few forays into that country in my lifetime (not far though) but quite frankly I’m afraid of it — too much violence and lawlessness there. Now I have had Mexican natives assure me that is not the case everywhere and others tell me if I just go to the tourist areas I should be safe. But all that is counter to what I have been reading and seeing on the internet. Of course there was that recent horrific terrorist attack in Barcelona, Spain or Catalonia or Cataluña if you prefer. And Madrid had a terrible commuter train bombing by terrorists a few years back. But world-wide terrorism is a fact of life. We have to deal with it.

Well, I have to get back to my packing. I’m limiting myself to carry-on, which for me means just one of those slim suitcases on wheels and a backpack. And yet I will be in Spain for 21 days (hope to use some laundry service at one of two hotels I will stay at).

Hope everything fits. I’ll let you know. Any suggestions? I still have three days to get it done, more or less, or more like less.