Archive for April, 2016

“New” Economic Problem(S)?

A recent morning’s paper had an article about the election tied to the loss of jobs in this country now. It talks about work being sent overseas and had quotes from people  whose work disappeared. It is obvious that workers whose support used to go to the Democrats blame government for having done nothing to stop job losses. Unfortunately for the Democrats, that assessment is pretty much on target. Under pressure from Republicans, Democrats agreed to getting rid of some of the New Deal legislation that was a curb to movement overseas. In addition, banks were bailed out of their self-inflicted problems and left to go about their business as usual.

There is nothing unexpected about these actions. While automated machines were not the whole problem, they were a major part. Every year, machines do more with less human management. Machines which had made man’s work more efficient came to replace their managers. The rise of European producers and the entrance of China in the production and export business were clearly visible in the 1990’s. Congress makes it hard to know where it was when this was taking place, but to the outside observer it did not seem to know what was going on. Extended military involvement overseas, including two major wars, plus the airplane attacks on the Twin Towers in New York and on the Pentagon in Washington gave us all plenty to think/worry about.

Obviously, the people who had to take lower salaries, or simply lost their jobs completely, from shifting work overseas are also well aware of the role of continuing automation. Their support for Donald Trump probably will mean little to them directly. However, in many ways people are showing their concern in this election. Congressmen are feeling the pressure to do something and the dominant reaction is to cut government spending at all levels. The candidates in the presidential election, particularly one, are addressing the issue. It is doubtful that the candidate to whom so many of those affected are rallying understands either the lack of work or what is causing it.

Having a Republican presidential candidate promising his supporters to provide welfare and create jobs is unusual. Should he be elected, it will be interesting to see what he does. If he is not elected, will the winner devote time and energy to see that work is created for people who used to have it and then found it taken away from them?

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whatzup ?

It’s hard for me to get a handle on this election. For the Republicans, the party really doesn’t exist any more. Of the three candidates left in the running, only one makes any pretense of adhering to the central principles of the Party. He has been the governor of a state and actually considers what government can and cannot do. He has definite conservative principles and keeps his campaigning pretty much within them.

Ted Cruz, Senator from Texas, seems to me to be beyond what I regard as conservatism. He held the Senate floor for 21 hours arguing to defund the Affordable Care Act, and was a leader in closing the Federal Government. He also sponsored several bills that would reduce federal spending by abolishing or reducing spending for other safety net spending to the extent that he was referred to as a “wacko bird” by Sen. McCain.

Finally, for the GOP, there is Donald Trump, egotistical and convinced that he has a lot to offer the country. As one with enormous amounts of money (or at least is thought to have) which has made him the decision maker in his world, entering politics has put him in a world in which he can’t leave it to someone else to speak about the details.

For the Democrats, Senator Sanders is whipping right along in drawing large numbers of “younger” people to his meetings, but articles that talk about this usually mention that mostly they don’t vote. He has taken several days off from campaigning, several of which were spent in Rome where he managed to snare a quick hand touch with the Pope. He didn’t do well in the New York primary, but seems intent on slogging on.

Mrs. Clinton is dogged by having kept some/most of her messages while Secretary of State in a personal file. She denies this and the various investigators have not given an answer. Never-the-less, she did well in the NY primary, maintains an insurmountable lead and cheerfully eats food she would otherwise never touch.

In thinking back through previous elections, the one in 1948 comes closest to being as unusual as this one. Thomas E.Dewey, governor of New York, was the Republican candidate and universal favorite to win the election. The Democrats were in bad shape. Harry Truman, who as Vice President assumed the presidency on Franklin Roosevelt’s death, was thought to be out of his league and a sure loser.

Supporting that assumption was the entrance of Henry Wallace, rallying the more liberal members of the Democratic Party to expand government involvement in the environment and in the lives of people. Southerners were irritated at Truman because he began expanding the rights of blacks in the military and civil life. J. Strom Thurmond became the candidate of the States Right Party, thus taking away the votes of most of the South on which the Democrats had come to count. Finally, there was Norman Thomas for the Socialists.

Mr Dewey’s campaign was conducted so as not to lose votes and his speeches were moderate, calm and dull. Thurmond stayed mostly in the south supporting the existing social system in that region. I really can’t remember anything about Wallace. President Truman campaigned when he could. I remember that he spoke to a vast audience of workers in Pittsburg on Labor Day. Then, later in the Fall he went to a huge gathering of farmers in the middle west, gave a speech, mixed with the attendees, and examined new farm equipment. For the first time these two meetings caught the attention of reporters who had been viewing the election as a done deed. Finally, there was that memorable photo on Wednesday morning after Truman’s election victory of him waving the Chicago Tribune and it’s headline, DEWEY WINS! Truman went on to continue dealing with our economic and social problems as well as a turbulent international situation.

This election is different in time and people, but similar in the disorganization of the process.




A cousin of mine recently asked me what I remember about our grandfather, and so I wrote him this statement. After finishing, I realized that this is a world long gone except in the memories of those old enough to have lived in it and that it was probably worth making available to those who may read this blog.

Dear Bill,

I am going to write this and send it to you because I probably don’t have much and that sort of expands as I think about it. You remember the roundhouse down on the railroad yard. It was designed to work on those massive 16 wheelers that pulled coal trains. One time grandaddy took me down when they were taking off some broken part, which we saw them doing. The part then went over to the foundry (not just to the RR parts department) on the road to Big Stone and next to the HS playing field. There we watched the man draw the part on flimsy paper and then cut the part out of wood. Next they built a model and placed it inside a clay dome. They did this for lots of things, and then heated up iron and poured molten iron in the mold and waited some time-days- for it to cool and harden. He took me back when the mold was knocked down and the part was pulled out to have it’s rough edges filed off. Next we went over to the round house again and watched them go through fitting, which was a lengthy process. Finally, an engineer took it out for a test, backing it up the tracks to one of the coal mines. Grandaddy and I went along in the cab and I got to blow the whistle and ring the bell. On another occasion we went for a ride and I got to put my hand to the throttle and move it back and forth as I was told, as well as blow the whistle and ring the bell-almost nonstop as I remember.

Grandmother and Grandaddy had a cow which was reached through the railroad yard to the west and across the little “river”, most of the time it barely covered my feet, and up the path to the pasture where the cow was kept. I reversed the path back through the yard and up the hill to the pasture to get the cow back. Sometimes this was a twice a day job-I don’t remember why. Once, as we walked on the path between the tracks an engineer decided to have some fun and shot some steam at us. The cow took off and outdistanced me on the bridge by the school into the neighborhood where you grew up. We were half a day getting the cow back and the milk was useless. Grandaddy was in a rage and took off for the yard. (I’m sure you know that he was stationmaster of that entire yard, with the passenger station, before he retired.)

He had several projects at the farm he owned down toward Bristol. Somebody found oil on a mountain and he bought 1,000 acres on the other side. There was no oil on his side and nothing worthwhile on the other. So, he tried raising tomatoes one year with one of his henchmen providing transportation and labor. (The henchman’s two sons and I rode on the open back which had no sides up.) We had tomatoes out the wazoo which he saw were distributed to what seemed like thousands of Appalachia residents. Another year it was apples. I didn’t like tomatoes, but I ate apples in great quantities.

I learned to do lots of things-for example it was my job to catch the chicken we were to have for Sunday dinner, put it in the coop Saturday night and wring it’s neck the next morning. Then, there was the cow!  The steam incident was simply one of the escapades she thought up for me.


What’s News

There is so much going on in the world these days that it’s difficult to take it all in. First (biggest) in the news are the primaries for delegates to the Democratic and Republican conventions. On this past Tuesday Sen. Sanders was reported to have won the Democratic primary in Wisconsin, and Sen. Cruz the Republican, leading me to think each got all the votes. After searching I found that Sanders got 47 delegates and Clinton got 36, hardly a runaway. Sen. Cruz did better with 36 to Mr. Trump’s 6, better than Sanders. Now, on to New York.

Sen. Sanders reports that he has an invitation from the Pope to participate in a conference hosted by the Pope. The Pope says that he doesn’t. Besides the conference won’t be in Rome. An archbishop says that probably Sanders does have an invitation because he probably sent him one. How do we score that one?

Then there is the revelation that rich people are squirreling their money away in Panama that issues no reports on who and how much (thereby leading to Bloomberg among others describe it as “dirty money”). What’s little known is that the United States joins other countries in setting standards and regulations, but is the only country other than Panama that refuses to impose international tax and money laundering standards on its own dealings. That fact is never mentioned in OECD announcements.

Then there is the problem that in some cities and towns the law enforcement people are difficult to control. New York and Chicago plus smaller jurisdictions are having larger numbers of people shot by police.  However, with virtually unlimited numbers of guns available, some police shooting is legitimately provoked. Yet, gun selling, with some regulation is just a business like any other.

Like everything in this blog, this is to be continued.

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News Over Time

I have recently dealt with political news in this essay space. We are seeing more about a particular presidential candidate and what will happen if he is nominated. Before writing this essay, I decided to go back to the January 5, 1861 issue of Harper’s Weekly to see if its writers were as exercised about events of the day

On the front page are photographs of the ten members of the Georgia delegation to the U. S. Congress. On the following page is a factual brief biography of each member. This is followed by news items led by the story of the abandonment of Fort Moultrie and the movement of its troops to Fort Sumter outside of Charleston.

‘‘Fort Sumter is a work of great strength, and, with the force now in it,
commanded as it is, can be held securely against any army that South Carolina can bring against it.”

This is followed by an article on “The Fall of Pekin” to the allied forces of France and the English. Moving on, there is an extensive, positive article on the Emperor Louis Napoleon. A little further is one on the positive benefits of building Central Park in New York. Then, there follows an extensive collection of ‘Humors of the Day:’

“A person having willfully put an end to his life by drowning in a canal, the coroners jury returned a verdict of ‘Felo de Se.’ Upon hearing it, a Frenchman exclaimed, ‘Not de sea, for he fell in the canal.’

Unsocial old Snarl says that love is a combination of diseases – an affection of the heart, and an inflammation of the brain.”

Then there is a page of Domestic Intelligence, and Foreign News. Making up the rest of the paper are chapters from each of two books by Charles Dickens.

Given the difference in time, but the similarity of alarming issues, that Harper’s Weekly is not too different from today’s Washington Post. Several months ago, writers in the Post were expressing similar attitudes toward the Republican primary as the earlier HP was about Southern secession.

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