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Archive for December, 2011

As the Worm Turns

28 Dec

As the year comes splashing to an end,

And the next is just around the bend,

I contemplate the events just passed,

And put them clearly in the past.

 

Am I proud of what I’ve done?

I guess I am except for one.

If you can guess it, be my guest,

If not, then, I’ll just put it to rest.

 

I’ve made my share of real mistakes,

But not so many I’ll apply the brakes.

It’s been for me a pleasant year,

I hope it’s also brought you cheer.

 

Yes, the first is just days away,

Plenty of time to go out and play.

Though that’s not really my game,

I’ll do it some just the same.

 

To all of you out in ether land,

God bless you and our great land.

I’m glad you visited from time to time,

In your honor I’ll fill my glass with wine.

 

It’s now time make a resolution,

Worry not for its no revolution.

But it will be I’m very sure,

A change in direction to make time whirr.

 

I appreciate your rapt attention,

Hope it spurred some retention.

If not, however, I’ll not cry,

‘Cuse perhaps our paths will be nearby.

 

So now it’s time to say,

As we plant this year in dark red clay,

Lift your mugs filled with frothy beer,

I toast you all with a HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!

 

Clear the Skies! Here He Comes!!!

24 Dec

Tonight will be sleepless worldwide.  If only all children, in every nook and cranny could be blessed with a happy family and wonderful living environments we could really enjoy the upcoming day.  Sadly, that is not the case.  Maybe one day it will be.  If mankind doesn’t find a way to accomplish that, the one whose birth we celebrate tomorrow will surely do it for us.

Let us strive to fulfill our individual purposes to the best of our abilities.  May we be successful in our execution of our tasks.

In the meantime–MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL.  AND TO ALL A GOOD NIGHT!!!

 

Tis the Season for Vacations

21 Dec

Everyone is doing it.  Why shouldn’t the President?  Why shouldn’t the Congress?

Well, everyone isn’t doing it.  In fact many aren’t.  Think of the police, firemen, EMT professionals, even ticket takers at the movie houses.

Then there are those that seemingly are on vacation but really aren’t.  They are the millions of unemployed.  The very ones that our fearless leaders could be helping if only they would stay on the job until the job is done.  Then again, more than a few of our leaders will be on a forced vacation of their own by this time next year.

The lucky ones, like me, are living a pleasant vacation as we while away the hours until we are elevated to an infinitely long vacation…..at least we hope that’s the way we’re headed.  But if our leaders don’t get to leading we too will be pushed into the kind of retirement that we surely don’t aspire to.

It’s not like they couldn’t have already done their jobs.  They tend to procrastinate.  In fact they take that exercise to an all new level.  I know it is difficult for them to make hard decisions.  We are, after all, approaching an election year.  Rather than be motivated to excel in the art of governing, they sit there frozen like deer in the headlights waiting for the train to hit them.  And the train will hit some of them right between their eyes.  That is except for those running away from their assigned work.  Worry not.  The train will get them too…right in their over calloused…well you know where.

It’s easy for me to criticize them I suppose.  I’ve never had to walk in their shoes.  I’ve not even tried to get a pair of my own by running for office.  However, like many, I don’t shy away from sending a barb their way from time to time.

I do hope that they can find a way to carve out a little bit of time to complete their task before year’s end.  The country is counting on them.

 

Ryan & Wyden Call Obama’s Bluff

17 Dec

How many times have you heard President Obama say that he is willing to listen to any plan that someone comes up with.  Sure, usually he is referring to any plan the republicans come up with.  Paul Ryan and Ron Wyden have put together a proposal for him to consider.  Let’s see if he really means that his mind will be open.  If so, this will be the first time.

The Ryan-Wyden plan for medicare has several things going for it.  It is bipartisan.  It gives people choices.  And, it presents an option that brings competition into the mix.

From Obama’s perspective it seems to have only one thing going for it.  It is bipartisan, that is unless he kicks Wyden out of his party.  He cringes at anything that gives people a choice other than total government control.  And he detests anything that smacks of competing with the government.

The Ryan-Wyden plan puts something on the table for discussion.  Now I haven’t personally heard the president come out against it, but he has certainly sent his minions out to cut it off at the pass.

He should put his his big ears (his description not mine) to work.  Perhaps they need a cleaning.  It is for sure that he either doesn’t hear these proposals or in spite of global warming his brain freezes up.  I suspect the latter as time after time he has rejected out of hand any and all proposals that deviate from his mantra: It must be government controlled and run.

I hope the Ryan-Wyden plan doesn’t spoil his vacation.  I doubt that it will since he has had many of them.  I guess he is just trying to get one right.  I’m sure he won’t let this little bit of work get in his way.

I do wish him a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year (at least the first ten months of the year).

 

Agenda 21–Beware

14 Dec

Agenda 21 was the outgrowth of a 1992 U.N. Conference on Environment and Development.  While this is a voluntary action plan that advocates “smart-growth” policies, its impact has created havoc.  “Smart-growth” is essentially what is more familiarly known as  “social engineering”; an effort to make society conform with some goals that “the high and mighty” want to subject on us.  That is to say, they know what is best for us, something we couldn’t possible know because….well, we just don’t know what is good for us.

Throughout my career I witnessed “social engineering” creep, first slowly, the rapidly into our transportation system.  When I began working for the Oregon Highway Department in 1961 highways were the backbone of our economic growth.  Timber and farming were our major industries followed by tourism and fishing.  It was relatively easy to plan, locate, design and construct a highway in those days.  I’ve seen many highways move from location to completion in less than a year.  Sure, many took much longer, but as fast as we could get the money we could improve the system measurably.

The “shovel ready” jobs (like President Obama claimed to have) were readily available so if we suffered a recession of some sort, we could put people to work quickly, often funded by a bond program.  A typical highway jobs in the rural area might cost a few hundred thousand dollars per mile.  In urban areas, a freeway might run up to one or two million a mile.

Oregon chose to set a high priority on rural completion of the Interstate system so our early efforts made significant improvements and were loudly applauded.  It was a priority of the state to get the backbone build as quickly as possible.  The public was strongly supportive of our work.  Largely because, our highways were paid for from a constitutionally formed trust fund.  That meant that the money our citizens were paying at the pump could be spent only on highway related work.

Resistance began building as we moved into the urban areas.  Before any Interstate money could be spent in our three largest cities, a highway plan had to be developed cooperatively with the urban governments.  This planning went very well at first.

Then in the early seventies along came the “smart-growth” movement.  Oregon was a leader in this effort.  The Highway Department was merged with the Aeronautics Department and several other related governmental units. This became the Department of Transportation.  That meant that we had to plan for all of the ways people got around–highway, bus, train, boat and air.  My job at that time was to pull all this planning together and make it work to the benefit of our traveling public.

Also at that time the state added two new agencies to our roster–The Department of Land Conservation and Development; and the Department of Energy.  I also was charged with setting up the Highway Division’s first Environmental Section.  Typical of any bureaucracy that meant bigger budgets and more people.  Before I was through we were able to get the Legislature to add around a hundred more people to our payroll.  And that was just for our department.

Highways were still the major backbone of our system and to get them built we had to follow the “new rules.”  And our efforts couldn’t be just paper tigers, they had to perform the work required by our new legislation.

Then as each year went by, more and more obstacles were placed before us.  We had always held public hearings and worked closely with the counties and cities.  But now we had to present our plans to the public as they were being developed.  Until then, by law, we had to keep our highway planning a secret to prevent developers from buying up land near them, thereby running up the cost of right-of-way significantly.  Then we had to make sure that we looked at all possible alternatives and their costs.  That really jacked up the cost of our projects and created significant delays.  A whole new set of lawyers were generated to fight our projects.   Anybody could stop or delay the building of just about anything for years.

Even that was tolerable to me, a died in the wool conservative.  The state still needed better highways in order to satisfy the growth that our system was allowing to happen.  But then in the late eighties and early nineties the “smart growth” movement really moved into high gear.

No longer were we trying to do what the public wanted us to do.  No, now we were trying to convince our citizens that they needed to change their lifestyles to conform with the policies of the “smart growth” movement.  In other words instead of saying (and meaning it) that “we are here to help you,” we were saying, “we’re here to tell you what you need to do in order to move our society in the required direction.”  It was a community organizer’s fondest dream.

As it turned out the timing for my departure was at hand.  I loved the work that I had done and much of what I was still doing.  But politics and wishful thinking helped me to decide to retire when I did.  And I’m very glad that I was able to do just that.

 

Sixteen Tons–A Forecast of the Future?

10 Dec

As Tennessee Ernie Ford sang: “Another day older and deeper in debt.”  For those of you too young to know, or too old to remember, Tennessee Ernie Ford was a popular singer of years gone by.  This was part of his song entitled, “Sixteen Tons.”

This ballad was about a cool miner.  It laments the travails of a man made of mussel and blood as he worked away in dingy coal mines.  Struggle as he might, fortunes and riches evaded the poor man.  This was, by the way, long before two or three years of unemployment benefits came along.

Not that I’m against helping the unemployed out, but when does unemployment become a career?  Seems we are taking any incentive to live on your own rather that collecting a monthly check for doing nothing is the paragon of our unemployment system.  There must be a better way to help out those in need.

But I digress.  The analogy I wish to draw is the part of the song that deals with debt.  While the song doesn’t single out debt to a great degree, I wish to use the song as a segue way into the overall state of our great nation.  I know.  There is really no connection here, but it did retrieve me from a tad bit of writers block.

Our country is working hard to break out of the conundrum we find ourselves in.  However, it seems to be to no avail.  Back to the coal miner for a moment.  One of the reasons, and a not too insignificant reason at that, is the way the Obama administration is dealing with the production of energy.  He seems to have a major problem with using the vast energy resources at our command.  Ford’s miner, while being able to work today, won’t have a job once Obama shuts down all the coal mines.  Seems to me that coal and oil (and dams for that matter) can serve us well until Obama’s “green energy” programs come up to speed.  That may take quite some time.  Surely work should be done to speed the process up, but not at the expense of our country’s health.

The president’s favored approach is like standing by watching a man going under for the third time without throwing out a life vest.  Obama’s reasoning seems to be that to help the man deal with his considerable dilemma would retard the development of better rescue equipment.  That, my friends, is the thinking of a community organizer, not a leader.

So, back to the song.  “Another day older and deeper in debt.”  It is up over $14 trillion now…..and climbing!!

 

Reflections of Seasons Long Past

07 Dec

As Christmas approaches I find my mind wandering over years gone by.  It’s as though the ghost of Christmas Past came a knocking.  Luckily the sound of chains dragging across the floor is either muted or nonexistent.  I don’t recognize the purveyor of the message being delivered.  But I’m intrigued as her voice plays pump-pump pull-away with my emotions.

The scenes laid out before me wash through me like ocean waves lapping at the shores of my early life.  Any storms that may have befallen me have faded into soft breezes.  The clouds have cleared and all that remains are visions of a very happy time.  It is as though my life has been pushed through a series of sieves until only the best pop out at the bottom.

My focus falls on one particular Christmas morning back in the very early forties.  While I don’t specifically recall that day, I was only three or four years old, but I’m sure that I probably spent a sleepless night.  My mind was sprinkled with the possibilities that could be found beneath that beautifully decorated tree.  There were more gifts than could be fathomed.  What a great time I was having as the ghost gestured toward the scene, pointing out the glee and pure joy my sister and I were exhibiting.

As I tagged along with the ghost I was regaled by many, many equally joyful Christmas mornings.  They all shared two things in common: a family that loved each other and the feeling that our future was bright.

I now watch my grandkids transition through the makings of their memories.  They too have the blessings they I have had.  I do have one concern though.  The explosion of gifts beneath their tree leaves them with little need to use their imaginations as they paw through piles of gifts seeking just which one they want to partake of now.

I’ve got a bit more time before that ghost and the two to follow are through with me.  Hopefully, I’ll survive their messages and live for a few more holiday seasons.  If not, I am comforted by the biggest and best gift of all time.  That each Christmas exists to herald the glory of the one born oh those many years ago.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

 

Unemployment–How Bad is It?

03 Dec

Good news came out yesterday.  The nation’s unemployment dropped to 8.6% last month.  That is really good news.  But don’t take that drop too seriously.  Not quite yet at least.

I would be ecstatic should it remain that low for a few months.  And even happier if it continued a downward trend.  Considering the time of year and the rest of the economic indicators makes one question if such wishing has merit.

It is not unusual for companies to begin hiring as they prepare for the Thanksgiving to Christmas spending that is likely to occur.  So just how many of the new jobs picked up in November will still be around come January?

Then there are all of those people that are working in jobs well below their potential or are on a part time basis.  Several of these folks are struggling as they work at two or more jobs.  The estimates of how many fall into these categories are basically just guess-estimates.  You certainly see many of them being interviewed on TV.  We know there are a lot of them.  They are considered employed and are not reflected in the 8.6% figure.

Most depressing is the number of potential workers that have simply given up and no longer seek employment.  This is another group that we don’t have a solid handle on.  They also are not counted in the unemployment figures.

Some say that the true unemployment figure could be up into the 20% range.  For sure the number is much higher than we would like.  And for those that are working in jobs they are not suited for, life is miserable.  They know they are worth more than they are getting and they are frustrated and scared.

A lot of students will be graduating, hoping to get a job when there few to be had.  Some of course will be successful because they are in fields still very much in demand.  Many liberal arts majors will not see the hiring success rates of the past.

Then look at how the unemployment is distributed.  The black minority in the large urban areas is hit the hardest.  There are many reasons for this, but the fact is that they will find getting a job very difficult.

Finally, look at the fiscal condition of most of the cities, states and the nation as a whole.  It is deplorable.  This casts a dark cloud over those that are creating the jobs.  Until the uncertainty of our taxing and regulatory polices is stabilized there is little hope for meaningful employment opportunities to become commonplace.

So until our governmental leaders realize that jobs are not created by government it is unlikely that we will see much positive progress.  That doesn’t seem to be in the near future….at least not until next November.

So stay tuned.  Things will get better, but don’t get the idea that November’s 8.6% rate is the start of a massive move toward lower unemployment rates for our country.  In the meantime we will have to deal with those that are hurting in a compassionate manner.

Government does have some role to play in this, but the bulk of it rests with us as individuals.  The citizens of the United States leads the rest of the world in stretching out a helping hand.  We’ve done it in the past and we’ll do it now.

 
 

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