Friday, December 14, 2012

Protecting the Children from NRA blood money.

When I had a newspaper job in a local community, I encountered a tragic story regarding a kindergarten student who unwittingly chased his art work beneath the tandem wheels of his school bus.

It was back in the time when a child hand carried their school work home.  A five-year-old was holding a construction paper picture colored with tempera paint flapping in the wind as he stepped off of the bus stairway at the stop near his house.  When the wind gusted and swept the picture away and under the bus, he chased got on his hands and knees to chase it down.

The bus driver started rolling as soon as the children who stepped off of the bus were out of the driver's sight.

That, and other tragedies where kids ran in front of a bus before it started rolling resulted in quickly defined laws to fund the purchase and installation of mirrors which provided an all around view of the bus from the driver's seat.

As a separate check, someone designed a bar which swept in front of the bus that would not allow the driver to proceed if it struck an object too close to the bumper for the driver to see below the vehicle's hood.

Oh, the speeches, from school board to city council to county commission to state legislature to the governor's office about how important it was to protect children from the insidious and irresponsible use of a school bus.

So, today, I hear on the radio about a shooting in a school in Connecticut.

Initial stories said the gun toter was dead killed and three people wounded; not a pleasant event for a school, but it sounded like the kids were safe.

But, as the hours ticked by, the news reported 100 shots in quick succession, and the death toll increased to the point where it made no sense, except perhaps to the troubled young man who perpetuated the act.

He was apparently troubled by learning disabilities, and for whatever reason, found at least two guns with a significant ammunition supply, and took them to the school to shoot his mother, five-year-olds, staff people at random.

I'll be curious to see if the 20 kids wiped out in their school will be valued as much as the children who were killed by school buses once the NRA and Walmart lobby to protect gun ownership.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Laborer as Employer

Back in the early 70s, I was a resident of Detroit.

As a resident of The City, I faced an issue with a teacher strike against the Detroit Board of Education.  The schools were shut down for several weeks after the usual start of the year because "the teachers" wanted better wages.

I worked as a journalist, and was involved in organizing workers in my news outlet under The Newspaper Guild (TNG).

At that time TNG represented writers, editors, and advertising sales people for the Detroit Free Press, the guards and custodians at The Detroit News, reporters at the Michigan Catholic, and writers working for the UAW world headquarters in Detroit (Solidarity House).  My unit, Associated Newspapers, was seeking recognition from an outfit known as Panax, later publishers of the Washington Times (before Sun Myung Moon bought it), and a publishing empire in South Africa where apartheid labor practices more mimicked the corporate attitude toward workers (look for John P McGoff on the web -- may he rest in peace with his riches).

As a taxpayer, I disliked the idea of "workers" asking for more wages at the expense of my taxes.

But, once I considered what I was doing in my workplace, I realized that as a Union member, my allegiances changed when I became a taxpayer.

Being the Christian sort, I wondered if what was good for me was likewise good for my fellow man.

Believing in the words of Jesus, I discovered the meaning of his "do unto others" counsel.

If I expected an employer to respond to my needs as a worker, when I became the employer (as in being a taxpayer), I had to agree that those who worked "for me" deserved the same.

I rejected the Jerry Fallwell / Jim Baker counsel to "do unto me; and forget about those not as worthy as me."

The issue is what the workers in Wisconsin face with their public employees.

It's one thing to be the employee and "demand" justice from the employer.
It's another to be the "employer" (as in taxpayer) and recognize that my "employees" are owed the same respect I demand in my behalf.

Doesn't mean the tension of finding an economic common ground should be ignored.  Just means that the right to seek that ground belongs to public as well as private employees.

My enemies are those who take from all, not those who are trying to make their families as secure as I choose to make mine.

Friday, June 1, 2012

From the Tea Bagged Fiefdom of Michigan

Michigan residents won a minor victory when the Michigan Supreme Court ruled in favor of a 2008 Medical Marijuana Law passed by popular vote (passed by 63-percent of the voting public).

 Detroit Free Press: Michigan's medical marijuana law shields patients

The law was contested by the State Attorney General (Bill Schuette) following the 2010 Tea Bagging when all the State level administrative offices went to Republicans, the State House went over to Republican control, the State Senate saw its Republican majority increased, and the Supreme Court retained its 4-3 majority of Republican-backed candidates.

The victory is minor, because it addresses a sideshow issue to the Republican agenda in Michigan.

At this time, residents in Michigan have presented petitions a ballot initiate to overthrow the state's "Emergency Manager" law.

The original 1990 Public Act 72 was changed during the 2010 legislature session to allow the state declare a "financial emergency" in a government entity before the community reaches the 1990 standard, or requests a review of its financial stability:

 Firedog Lake: Context on Michigan's Financial Manager Law>

 That petition is being contested because, though containing enough signatures to get the question on the ballot, the board of canvassers have not approved it following one member's assertion that the typeface on the petition didn't meet a print size standard.

Mlive:  Deadlocked vote on petitions

Mlive: Coalition calls foul over font size

The contention over the type face issue is expected to be resolved at the State Supreme Court.

The Emergency Manager petition effort is similar to that which put the Medical Marijuana initiative on the 2008 ballot.

I suspect that the public will get things that don't mean that much to the sociopaths who have purchased the allegiance of the Republican Party (American Legislative Exchange Council, Koch Industries, et al), but when it comes to their interests (follow the money), the people won't prevail.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Maria's Message

As I recall it, we were at a graduation party for my niece July 17, 2004 when I retrieved the cell phone message from my excited daughter:

“I just wanted to tell you my water broke and we’re going to the hospital.

“I don’t know what will happen, but we’re going there.”

In the background, I could hear Jason, my son-in-law, saying in his calm voice “Yeah, Chris’ water broke so we’re . . .”

Chris continued, “I don’t know what they’ll do, but we’re going to the hospital.”

“I’m going to call Ben, and see if I can get a message to him.

“Oh, yeah, I don’t remember if I told you, but my water broke, so we’re going to the hospital.

“Love you. Bye.”

I didn’t check for the cell message until after Ben answered his cell, and allowed Cecilia and I to talk to Chris. She was excited, a new mother on her way to meet her first child.

After Ben had alerted me, I checked my cell, and saved the message I’d missed.

It marked the start of an adventure for our daughter and her husband which she had started for Cecilia and me more than 29 years before that call.

It was early the next morning when Jason called to say our first grandchild, Maria Christina, had arrived in Grand Rapids.

When he called, I remembered Cecilia trying to stint the flow of water marking that her first pregnancy was ending, precipitating the journey to the hospital, and the eventual arrival of little Christina in a crib the nurse allowed me to view, but not touch, many hours later.

My first call was to my mother. The next was to Cecilia's.

Christina and Jason were going through that at the same time I was reviewing, and saving, the cell phone message she had left because I didn't answer.

There was a nexus associated with Maria’s birth beyond the continuation of what Cecilia and I started those 29 years ago.

Our niece was not only celebrating her graduation, but the eve of her 18th birthday . . . a birthday she gladly shared with her second cousin, the first in the family, my little granddaughter Maria.

I can’t count the number of times I’d reviewed that saved message, being careful each time to save it again for the 21-days my cell provider allowed.

Each time I listened, it meant much to me as a father and grandfather, because it marked the positive progression of Cecilia’s and my family.

Then, on Maria’s birthday in 2011 – an important one because it denoted an occasion when her friends were allowed to stay overnight at her house for a special sleepover – I checked for another message.

As was my habit, I started to wait for the stored message from 2004 to play before I got the new message.

But, being impatient, and almost knowing what it said, I figured that I could speed the time to get my new message by re-saving Maria’s for later by pressing “7.” Unfortunately, “save” was number 9, and erase was number “7.”

In my impatience, I’d guessed wrong.

Maria had just turned seven the day I lost the message announcing her arrival.

At first, it was sad, because I wanted to recall when my daughter and her husband were going to be new parents, and my wife and I could share in the excitement of a new member in the family.

But, then, Maria is beyond being a “new” member in the family, and regardless of whether the birth marked a transition for Cecilia and I, it had passed.

In the seven years since I’d saved that message, Maria, in her own way, had instructed me on what was important in life, be it her concerns, or the concerns for her welfare that she inspired as she matured.

And, though recalling that her arrival had provided some nostalgic memories, the fact the message announced she might arrive isn’t as important as the fact that she had arrived. She is in need of the same nurturing and counseling I offered Chris before she moved from the house, married, and started a family of her own, only from the perspective of a grandfather as opposed to a father.

The memory of that responsibility is important, but not as important as exercising it in Maria’s behalf.

So, instead of listening to history, it has become happy birthday.

Maria; here’s hoping there are many more for you to share with Grandma, Chris, Jason, Ben, Aunt Kara, your brothers, and me.

Monday, March 15, 2010

The Myth of the Public Option

Since I have a little time, I thought I’d share my personal experience to counterbalance some of what I am reading / hearing regarding politicians’ concerns on passage of a “public option” by some politicians.

When I was first hired by the Federal Government I was bewildered by the list of carriers from whom I could choose an insurance carrier for my family. It included as many as 20 local carriers and 10 to 15 national carriers who were obligated to insure me so long as I paid my premiums. The information included data and limitations on benefits, and costs for coverage defined in terms of both monthly and by-paycheck premium I would pay in return for that coverage.

Every year, in October, I received a new prospectus, which listed benefits, out of pocket expenses, and paycheck deductions, allowing me to choose among carriers, if I wished to change.

I have stayed with one carrier, not so much because the cost is the best, but because I am familiar and comfortable with the doctors available, and the doctors who provide the care are familiar with me.

This is the equivalent of the “public option” being discussed as part of the national health care reform legislation before Congress.

Now, it’s amusing to hear some elected officials (including my congressman) talk about the “evils” of having a public option, or “health care reform” because what is being proposed as a “public option” for ALL AMERICANS is the SAME CARE those elected officials receive as part of their “employee benefits” we cover with our income taxes.

So, if you hear about concepts such as “creeping socialism” or “diminishing the free market” being tossed about by YOUR politicians as a reason they vote against a “public option,” keep in mind that THEY are denying you the SAME CARE they receive, because THEY don’t believe YOU are as IMPORTANT as THEY in the whole scheme of things.

And, just in case you “know” someone who disagrees with my experience, please put them in touch with me so I can refute their lore with reality of how a “public option” works.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Novel New Book Titles

Taking some time to observe people around me, I believe I’ve discovered a lot of research in the literary genre providing self-help, personal discovery, and tourism information to us common folk.

I’m talking about books with titles like: “My Guide to Bed and Breakfasts”, “100 Reasons to Visit (Insert City Name Here)”, “Everyday Guide to Washing Dogs”, “1000 Things to See before You Die”, and the like.

Of course, with many popular subjects already copyrighted by the “For Dummies-”, “Fodor’s Guide-”, series and the like, the budding authors are searching for different topics to offer their unique spin within the type.

Though the specifics of the title may vary, here are a few of the emerging ones I’d anticipate based on my observation:

America’s Most Beloved Stoplights

This book must be aimed at readers who have an interest in the architectural styles, traffic management techniques, and motion sequencing options provided by to most of us is the common traffic light. Research consists of driving along major thoroughfares at a pace akin to a walk assuring that the researcher gets a full 30-90-second opportunity to observe and record details about each stoplight along their route.

My wife, who has sometimes joined me in this research, says one dead giveaway of a budding author is a man wearing some form of boater, beret, bowler (except chauffeurs), deerstalker, fedora, fez, flat, Gatsby, Kepi, Panama, peaked (except chauffeurs), pork pie, top (except chauffeurs), trilby, turban, or ushanka (See).

Another of her triggers is a female driver whose head does not project above the seat rest but whose bonnet projects horizontally or vertically outside the outline of the seat.

Building from her observations, those I would exclude from being authors are maybe 25-percent of the men wearing baseball caps with the peak facing forward, 50-percent of those whose peak slants over their right shoulder, and definitely any man whose peak faces the rear.

I turn off the street when I see a man driving with the peak over his left shoulder.

Adding to the hat trigger, I figure I’m observing research when I encounter any driver who appears to be hooking one finger in their ear while steering their vehicle with the off side hand.

Though from the rear the activity looks like a subliminal message I observed in Mad cartoons portraying dolts, if I get to the side of the ear hooker, I discover most times they aren't resting their off hand in a convenient cradle, but instead are using a cell phone.

I have to be careful in labeling the research, however.

There is one ambiguous activity by drivers coasting along the right border of the left turn lane. They slow to catch the main intersection light, but fool me by slipping into the left turn lane just in time to take their turn on the left turn green arrow.

I’ve noted a variation on the research, apparently aimed at studying yield right of way signs at round abouts. The driver comes to a dead stop at the place where traffic is to merge whether there is oncoming traffic from their left or not.

Based on the many stopping opportunities these people have offered me by foiling my attempts to move with traffic at a steady gas-saving pace which precludes 30-90 seconds of idling (and gas guzzling) time at each intersection, I’m pretty curious who will write the first of their tomes, and how those who missed out on being the first will react.

Street Bazaar Shopping Techniques

I have a kind of uncanny biological radar which places me in lines to observe firsthand the haggling techniques portrayed in old movies documenting travels in foreign lands, quests based on Greek or Arabian mythical heroes, early Jewish and Christian histories, treks across trackless expanses in the days of camel caravans and sailing ships, .and the barbarian sagas. Most of these have a scene in a town square bordered by multi-colored fabric awnings from which merchants hawk their wares.

If not part of the story, at least the backdrop to the scene involves characters loudly arguing prices for goods.

The biological radar comes into play because regardless of how many lanes in a store are open for our more modern 21st century exchange of goods for money, I pick the one where this scene unfolds in real time.

Walking about with two items in my hands, I scan the lines, and choose the one behind a cart with 40-items, because all the others have multiple customers or carts even more overflowing with goods.

I should note here I’m amazed at the speed the researcher explores the topic, as the sweeping of goods across the laser table and the flash of the price on the screen is so quick for me that I don’t react until I get a final price.

These technicians are aware of every detail of the bazaar providing an opening to haggling.

Scanner: “Tweet!”

Researcher (stopping the Check-out Assistant from grabbing the next item): “I thought the circular said XXX Super Prunes were 79-cents a can.”

Knowledgeable Check-out Assistant: “That was last week’s circular.”

Researcher: “But, I could swear it was in this week’s too!”

Knowledgeable Check-out Assistant (pulling circular from shelf beneath cash drawer): “Let’s look.”

Researcher (leafing through dog eared circular): “Well, I don’t find it here.” (Looking at date in bottom corner) “It says it’s for this week. OK, I don’t want that can of prunes. Are you sure you want to put a dented can back on the shelf?”

Knowledgeable Check-out Assistant (talking into phone at cash register): “Manager to aisle seven!”

Suffice it to say that while the lines I’d avoided because four and five people with big loads of food in their baskets passed along at a pace I had desired by driving discretely in the “Beloved Stoplights” topic, I get to observe the drama.

Manager: “How can I help?”

Researcher: “I apparently misread one of your circulars – maybe the mailman delivered it late. But, this can of prunes was advertised at 79-cents, and the scan rang it at 89-cents.”

Manager: “I’m sorry. We always update every item price in the store Sunday morning to coincide with the circular distributed in the Sunday papers. The scanned price is accurate!”

I cheered for the manager in my mind, while peering at the ceiling to indicate I wasn’t involved.

Researcher: “The can’s dented!”

Manager (spying my three items tightly jammed behind the “place between orders” bar behind the 40-items the Researcher had unloaded from the cart and the end of the conveyor): “OK, we’ll sell t for 79-cents.”

The manager places a card in the scanner’s reader, types in some information, waits, and types in again.

Manager: “It’s been corrected.”

The manager walks away.

Scanner: “Tweet!”

Researcher: “I thought . . .”

As the people behind me start pushing their carts to other lanes, I continue my observation without regard to what may be taxing my already overworked blood pressure.

Guide to Sharing Knowledge

Being an observer of nature, I spend a lot of time along trails in open lands. Trying to get in tune with my surroundings, I try to be non intrusive, carefully watching where my steps fall along trails to avoid cracking twigs or rustling leaves, scanning the area around me for movement, or contrast in an attempt to spot interesting life forms, and listening for changes in the wind rustling the leaves or animals calling.

In heavily wooded areas, the first evidence of the researcher comes as caws from birds high in trees in enclosed areas, first at a distance and if the research is approaching me, closer in. The acid test whether it’s coming is when I stop, and while I listen, the noise radiates in a sequence from left to right or worse from farther to nearer. In open areas, it shows itself by birds rising to the air, first at a distance and gradually nearer to me.

As the birds or rise closer to my location, I’ll hear first a deep drone, and later distinct human sounds. It’s more difficult to determine whether the research is taking place when the human sounds are intermittent, but is certain when they are at a constant cadence and echoing across the expanse.

By the time all the life around me has moved I make out the subject:

“Over there is a Tufted Plover Grouse,” says the researcher to his audience. It’s a dead giveaway when he’s wearing boots suited for an ascent of Everest, carrying a pack with 3-days of provisions on his back, and has binoculars suitable for spotting targets for naval warfare around his neck in a 200-acre nature preserve.

“But, a Tufted Plover Grouse is a Gulf Coast bird which has migrates there from the Amazon jungle,” responds one from the audience.

“Well, then it’s transient here in Maine. I’ll have to point that out when I find the ranger!”

Since I generally wear khaki, and have my own naval-quality binoculars around my neck, I’m sometimes mistaken for a park official.

Not wanting to intrude on the research, I’ll often look for a side trail or begin back tracking from the way I was approaching the encounter.

Although I’m most sensitive to it in natural areas, I often encounter evidence of this research in many venues. Engineering research is conducted in stores specializing in electronics, culinary research in specialty food stores, financial research near banking institutions, and a general studies research in the walkways of enclosed shopping malls.

An Art of Romance

This research is performed as couples, most often male female encounters among Generation X or Y or Z types. I’ve most often noted it in restaurants among more mature couples either on a date or out for a quiet dinner.

It’s most obvious in surroundings designed to emphasize intimacy, lights toned down, candles on the table, cleverly tented napkins at each place setting, and soft music in the background.

The researcher and his partner arrive together, and he often seats her with a flourish, maybe even holding her chair if the waiter doesn’t. Once the waiter has conducted the preliminaries, maybe unfurling the napkin and placing it in each diner’s lap, presenting the menus, explaining the selections, and taking a drink order, the research begins.

While the woman peruses the menu, the researcher will pull a cell phone from a hidden pocket and begin peering at the light. As she reads, he’ll punch furiously at the display, maybe using one thumb to dial a number or two to type a message.

I admire multi-tasking skills when the punching is done in the right hand while the menu is held in the left.

As the waiter approaches with the drinks, he’ll clap the phone shut, and toss it in a breast pocket.

Right after the drinks are served, and the waiter takes each diner’s order, the man’s pocket will buzz.

Researcher: “Yeah! (30-second pause)

“Well, why didn’t they deliver it on time?
(2-minute pause)

“That’s not acceptable. (90-second pause)

“You call Jones and put him on it! (10-second pause)

“OK. (interminable pause)

“Hmmm (interminable pause)

“Uhuh (interminable pause)

“Oh!” (interminable pause)

“No! You tell Mike . . .”

The grunting and orders continues through the drink, past the salad, picked through with a fork in the left hand, and well into the main course, sampled in the same manner. After clapping the phone shut and returning it to his pocket, he then relates the other side of the conversation he just had to his partner.

About the time he finishes, the waiter arrives with a check, and the phone rings again.

Because the region in which I research is limited, and time available at a premium, I don’t believe these are the only topics the inquisitive reader should anticipate on the shelves at their favorite bookstore. But, because they occur most frequently, I’d expect these, or similar titles to be available sooner than later.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Vacuum Cleaner (Redux)

It’s not often one gets a second chance, but today I got a second chance on the vacuum cleaner gig.

Today around 3 p.m. the doorbell rang. Taking a break from preparing some roast stuffed brook trout, I went to the door, and again, found another not quite so lithe dancing teddy bear standing there, this time holding out a box of Kleenex (real Kleenex!) and telling me that I had no obligation for accepting it.

“I’m from “Buzzy-scheme” (name changed to protect any consumers who may read this)
and we don’t expect you to buy Buzzy Scheme, but we get credit from the boss if we show it to you.

I was a little disappointed as the last time the boss showed up to get Flopsy (or was it Mopsy?) in the door, and peering past this guy’s shoulder, I didn’t see Flopsy (or was it Mopsy?) waiting to enter my home.

“We don’t want you to buy anything . . .” (a circumstance which may explain the current economic demise more than the Imbecile President George W. Bush dumping the economy in the drink) “ . . . but . . . ”

I looked to the north and spotted the station wagon.
“ . . . we’d like to show you the product.”

Thinking I could use a box of REAL Kleenex, I paused for about five seconds, but thinking about the trout, and the time I’d take looking at something I wouldn’t be expected to buy anyway, I said, “I’m not interested.”

My hand shook, but to put the exclamation point on the “not interested” statement, I held the Kleenex out to him.

He looked over his shoulder at the car, and took the box in his hand. Before he could argue, I was back in the house, closing the main door, letting him hold the storm open.

He didn’t slam it shut, but thankfully disappeared (presumably heading south).
My conscience clear, and juices running, I returned to the trout and began salting and peppering the cuisine prior to roasting it (375-degrees for 30-minutes).

Can’t say old dogs don’t learn new tricks.