Archive for September, 2013

163 “The Amazing Disappearing of America”

Friday, September 27th, 2013

By Hetty Gray

September 27, 2013

“The Amazing Disappearing of America”

# 163

Well, now, it is undeniable that a profound change is consuming the nation… a crumbling of the institutions and workings that built this country from its inception.

Like any crumbling process, it begins slowly and never quite catches the eye of the wider public. It began decades ago when the so-called “Progressives” saw an opportunity to launch a long-term attack on freedom. Yes, freedom…

If anything, they are persistent. Meanwhile, the larger portion of the educated public (those in tune with the Founding Fathers and their wisdom), remain silent, consumed by their faith in the U.S. Constitution and its precepts. It is just that silence that dooms a society to dark forces.

Dark forces? Yes, dark forces. No force of light and good would launch programs to bait and switch persons who might have wanted a good job into the belief that Uncle Sam knows best. In the end, the very voters who keep these people in office are victims of their poor policies.

Once, factories in this nation churned at a frantic rate. In the midst of all that activity, more inventors came to the fore with newer and better products. The incentive to work was high. A person had to make it on his or her own, and that went for widows whose husbands died on the job. Few companies offered any kind of retirement. Folks were expected to save their money and insure their own retirement.

When FDR came up with Social Security, it was deemed supplemental income, not subsistence income. One by one, new programs arose until the days of LBJ brought us “The Great Society”. And what did that bring us? Are there less poor than in the past. Hardly. The key is that of the poor in this country, one would expect new poor to come into focus as others move up into the middle class due on their own.

The words “their own” has a new meaning and it’s not good. Once it meant that people had achieved solely due to their own work. Now, it means that those same people are “their” own. “Their” equals government. Today, we see a frighteningly large proportion of our populace totally dependent on the government and — to a shockingly high degree — unprepared to go out and work for themselves.

Oh, some will scream for a higher minimum wage, but that is not the answer. The answer is individual effort fueled by ambition — that “fire in the belly” that fueled and spurred forward the early colonists, pioneers on the trails west, and entrepreneurs of the 20th century.

Let’s take a quick look at why I cite “The Amazing Disappearing America.” First of all, the core industries that built America are, for the most part, gone. Gone are the sprawling mills that turned out the steel that built America. Gone are the railroads that linked both coasts. Gone are the wildcat oil fields that positioned America to stand on its own when it came to energy.

Granted, some of these industries imploded due to poor management and a lack of reinvestment and retooling. Old plants do not last forever. Copying on our success, foreign countries began building their own steel mills and other heavy industries.

And what do we have now? Small but well-funded groups clamor for the shutdown of coal-fired power plants. Oregon’s timber industry is dying. Most of the forests are on government land and growing number of government officials are complicit with them. It’s worse than the tail wagging the dog. It’s dangerous.

What if we were to launch a revival of the growth of America today? We wouldn’t be able to cut down a tree. God forbid we would want to scratch a line on the ground for a rail line. Remember, that the Allegheny Mountains were conquered by rail, not by road. An isolated east coast would never have witnessed the explosive growth spawned by the railroads.

Not a shovel of dirt would turn over for a new industrial plant. Not one shaft would have been dug into the coal-rich mountains, and the country would have been stagnant beyond belief.

And so, where are we today? We find ourselves hobbled by charlatans who want us to believe that every tiny change in temperature is the fault of man. If we closed down every coal-fired plant in this nation, the only result would be exorbitant utility bills. Since our prevailing winds are from west to east, where are these environmental wackos when China brings a new coal-fired plant on line every week?

If we sign a treaty to cut back on carbon emissions and Asia does not, who is the loser? Yep. It’s us. What good does it do us to assume a posture of “doing the right thing” when it results in our demise?

It’s time to kick the United Nations out of New York City. It would open up a lot of good office space with spectacular views and rid us of a lot of parking violators. Incidentally, they seldom pay their tickets anyway, so don’t worry about losing NYPD revenue if they leave town.

Looking at recent initiatives by that laughable body of diplomats with expense accounts in one of the world’s best entertainment cities, they have one goal in mind: America’s disappearance as a major economic and military power. If you disagree, you aren’t reading the signs. If anything, socialists are very patient. They are incremental in their processes and don’t care if it takes generations to accomplish their ends.

Well, their ends will be the “end” of this nation, if we, the people, don’t wake up and smell the coffee. Get accustomed to saying “good-byes”. We said one to the railroads, we said one to the great steel and textile mills, and now we say goodbye to timber.

Well, since the “greenies” are against chemicals, I doubt if new structures will be made from plastic and composites. Steel is out. They are ruling out timber, too.

Fuel is abundant in this nation. Estimates are coal for at least 200 years and a huge supply of natural gas. A two-century lead-time assures our scientists and inventors time to innovate and come up with alternative energy sources. Solar and wind are only viable with huge subsidies, but subsidy is another whole issue and deserving of its own column.

It is not unreasonable to see that the agriculture sector is next on the list. A safe, reliable food supply is critical to this nation. Check out the shortcomings in the food supply over the past few years and you will see that it comes from “organic” farms. What I want to know is this: what food is INORGANIC? For Pete’s sake, leave farming to the experts – the American farmers who feed both their nation and the world. Paying two to three times as much for something marked organic is — for want of a better word — stupid. We have heard some of these people laugh at the fact that they have sold their customers a bill of goods. They laugh all the way to the bank.

Minus steel, timber and coal, we are in a real fix when it comes to economic growth. Can you imagine any kind of retail or commercial expansion without those basic ingredients? I guess the environmentalists won’t think too much about plywood unless they need to board up the windows on their expensive beach houses as a hurricane bears down on them. Of course, rules are only for us peasants, not the ruling class. Unfortunately, what we see is more and more a ruling class among our leaders. They routinely exempt themselves from laws crushing us. The current health care law is but one example.

Jefferson, Madison, Paine, Henry, and Washington must be rolling over in their graves. Franklin, on the other hand, reminded one questioner curtly. When the woman asked if the country were a democracy or a republic, he replied: “A republic, madam, if you can keep it.”

Egad. I think Rod Serling was right. We are living in “The Twilight Zone” — not one of his making or a warped vampire series, either — but the Twilight of America itself. I remember one particular line from “Star Wars.”

“I felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced. I fear something terrible has happened.” (Obi-Wan Kenobi, referring to the Destruction of Alderaan)

Are you willing to stand by and do nothing as America is silenced? Email. Call. Write. Make your voice known.

161 “Attitude”

Wednesday, September 18th, 2013

By Hetty Gray

# 161

September 18, 2013


As many of you know, my Newfoundland Bear and I are a Certified Delta Society Therapy Team. We routinely visit extended care facilities, nursing homes and swing bed units in hospitals in both Indiana and Michigan.

It never ceases to amaze me how the elderly residents can “cut to the chase” and boil down situations in a few words. Would that our politicians adopt that behavior.

Recently, we stopped to visit a facility that had a number of fenced outdoor areas for residents. We had already been in the two main areas of this particular facility. As we walked back from a separate building, we padded down a sidewalk bordering one of these cozy patios. There, behind a lovely white picket fence festooned with red roses, a lady beckoned to me. She was taken with my canine partner. He is large. At 160 pounds and boasting a shiny black coat beneath his working vest, six-year-old Bear makes a strong first impression.

I asked her if she would like for us to come to visit with her. She enthusiastically replied, “Oh, yes!” Normally, we inquire at restricted areas and ask the staff to bring out a resident who would enjoy a pet visit. Actually, this was the first instance of a resident inviting us!

Minutes later, a nurse directed me to a secure door. You see, the lady was a resident in what is more commonly called a “memory unit.” People who suffer from dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease often live apart from those residents who either require skilled nursing care or are not able to live independently.

As we chatted, I told her about the Newfoundland breed. She was particularly interested in knowing about Riger, the Second Officer’s dog on the Titanic. I am always ready with famous “Newfie Stories.” As she petted Bear, she began to talk to me. When I remarked that it was a beautiful day outside, she bristled a bit. The following remarks are hers entirely, but I offer them in story form, rather than in quoted text.

She began…. You see those folks inside that room? They should get off their butts and get out here with me. Most of the time, dear, I sit outside by myself. I don’t mind the weather, except for rain or snow. I love to be outdoors and enjoy God’s wonders. The fields below are beautiful in the fall. I know that the farmers will be out there harvesting soon. I remember the farms when I was a girl. The equipment was not so big as it is today, but the jobs were just as hard.

To sit inside watching that stupid television set is such a waste of time. We never know how much time we have, so we mustn’t waste it. Not a day. The people here are so good to me. I’m not sure where this is, but it is clean and nice. I feel safe here. I used to be afraid, I think.

Can’t understand how anybody could want to sit on a chair and not come outside and enjoy this wonderful world out there. She pans the vista before us with her hands as if it is everything to her. And it is.

Somehow, I see her on a front porch of a farmhouse waiting for her husband to come home. She wears a wedding ring, and her eyes light up when she talks about the crops. I don’t know if she had been a farm wife, but she could have been. Given her age, she undoubtedly grew up around the time of the great Depression of the 1930s.

She had a lilt to her voice, a spontaneity and enthusiastic tone that you don’t hear from baby boomers and their progeny. Those people are so intent on who they are and what they are doing that “smelling the roses” is hardly on their schedules.

In a time when I worry about terrorist threats, indiscriminate government spending, the health care fiasco and disintegrating morals, it was comforting to sit down with an elderly woman who had her ducks in a row.

I could tell she was a loving person. I saw that in her eyes. Her tone of voice was soft and her smile was contagious. Few of us want to think about moving from our homes and taking up residence in a long-term care facility, yet I find that there are beacons of hope and love on every hallway.

Framed pictures of loved ones line shelves and dressers. Stuffed animals remind folks of the pets they left behind. Quilts and crocheted blankets echo love of caregivers or family members. Often, CDs play the music of the 1940s. The Big Band sound is not absent from their lives. If I were to guess, I would say that it transports them back to the days of their youth.

For those of us who graduated from high school in the 1950s and 1960s, it doesn’t take a lot of imagination to recall good times with classmates. We reel at the true impact of how many years have passed. So, how are we spending our time — really?

Back the lady on the patio and the other residents with whom we visit regularly… When current events arise, the responses are pretty standard.

“The government should live within its means. I sure did.”
“Seems to me that the politicians only want to get elected, not fix things.” “Sure no common sense in Washington these days.”
“The Lord said, those that don’t work don’t eat, but people still want good old Uncle Sam to do it all for them. That’s not right.”

Sage advice in few words, don’t you agree? Straightforward and to the point? You bet! Don’t lament growing old. It’s the ultimate waste of time. It isn’t always easy. The old saying “Getting old is not for sissies” comes to mind.

Aging is a natural thing and a blessing for those lucky enough to see it. Remember, it’s a privilege some never achieve. In essence, it’s not the number of years one lives that count, it’s the quality of those years. Are you seeking quality or worrying about quantity? Spend your time wisely. Do what you can to change what it is possible to change and deal with everything else as best you can. Shades of “The Serenity Prayer!” After all, in the end, it’s a matter of attitude. Think about it.

160 “Missing Mantra”

Tuesday, September 10th, 2013

By Hetty Gray

September 10, 2013

# 159

“Missing Mantra”

No, a mantra is not a pet, nor is it a new fashion. It is an oft-used expression that can become passé because nobody pays any attention to it. To put it in fable form, it is akin to “crying wolf”. Too many repetitions render it moot.

Transparency comes to mind. Just how many times have you heard that term in the last five years? Probably more than you would have liked, if I judge the situation correctly.

Other than Saran wrap (or some competitor’s product), the only transparency I have witnessed is the complete lack of ability on the part of the federal government at the administrative level to explain anything they have done. The reason could be that what they have done is highly suspect.

Let me try to understand why we (as a nation) would stand by for years as more than 100,000 people were killed by bombs, rockets, bullets, and beatings yet come forward when less than 2,000 were killed by chemical weapons. I am not equating anything but the outcome. Dead is dead. How a leader accomplishes those deaths does not make them irrelevant.

Genocide is not new. Ask those in Cambodia. Ask those who turned aside in Germany during World War II as the stench from concentration camps hung over the countryside. Ask the people of Africa who escaped the machete attacks on innocent people.

We seem “hell bent” to go after forces in a civil war because of 2,000 Syrian deaths. Yet, at the same time, we can claim no arrests or punishment for those who murdered four Americans in Benghazi.

There is always a call for the building of flags in New York to do something. So — yet again — we see what I call the “Untied Nations” appointing representatives of countries with long histories of human rights abuses to the Security Council. Some security, huh?

United it is not. Untied and unviable it is.

It seems to me that there is another “take” on transparency. It seems to me that transparent is precisely what this administration illustrates. No, not the transparency that allows anyone to see what the government is doing, but another type. What I see is that this administration and staff are just about as transparent as it gets. You can — literally — see right through them. The talking heads may give administration motives a pass, but there is nothing positive for the United States whatever action or actions are taken in Syria.

From the “get go” when this president apologized for America in Egypt, the whole pace of our diminishment has only increased. Present lack of leadership has led to these results: (1) America a diminished military power due to “sequestration” and systematic reductions in our military personnel and equipment. (2) America less a superpower. (3) America now a shadow of the economic engine that led the world. (4) America still dependent on foreign oil despite sitting on huge reserves at home.

If this is by design, then surely those in charge must be pleased with their successes. No matter how this Middle East problem will sort out, Russia has never been a friend to America. To see Putin take center stage and credit for the bungling of a lack of leadership here on the home front should make anyone cringe. Egad!

And so, where are we? We are not at a crossroads. We are well past that. Remember elections of 2002 and 2008? Each of those was a crossroads. Inattention on the part of the voting public and a want for government largesse gave us what we have today. Much to the chagrin on the generation motivated to work, far too many of us believe that there is — and should be — a free lunch.

The void in Washington, D.C. shocks those who believe in the America of the past and warns of what may come if the electorate fails to see the threat posed by a lack of leadership.

And is there an American mantra? I guess the current White House would put it in tow words. “Trust us.” Try again, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. I remember a more important phrase: peace through strength. We see none of the first and little of the second. Weakness, in the words of Donald Rumsfeld, is “provocative.” Think about it.

159 “Labor Day”

Sunday, September 1st, 2013

By Hetty Gray

“Labor Day”

September 2, 2013

Every time I hear that the government is about to release the latest “jobs report,” I cringe. It’s not that I expect too much, it’s that I’m not surprised when they are less than expected. By that, I don’t mean an actual jobs figure. It goes deeper than that. A recent article in The Huffington Post confirmed my worries. That publication’s reporters put a different slant on the jobs numbers.

You see, jobs numbers are far more serious than the government would have us believe.

Yes, jobs are added as the months go by. In many instances, they are less than expected. Pundits jockey for position to put a bright face on this, but they do not tell what Paul Harvey termed as “the rest of the story.”
While millions are out of work, they are not completely counted in the government’s monthly jobs reports. Why? Well, the core of the problem is that the job claims are only for those currently looking for work.
Consider what Huffington reporters had to say.
“The number of Americans in the labor force — those who have a job or are looking for one — fell by nearly half a million people from February to March, the government said Friday. And the percentage of working-age adults in the labor force — what’s called the participation rate — fell to 63.3 percent last month. It’s the lowest such figure since May 1979.
The falling participation rate tarnished the only apparent good news in the jobs report the Labor Department released Friday: The unemployment rate dropped to a four-year low of 7.6 percent in March from 7.7 in February.
People without a job who stop looking for one are no longer counted as unemployed. That’s why the U.S. unemployment rate dropped in March despite weak hiring. If the 496,000 who left the labor force last month had still been looking for jobs, the unemployment rate would have risen to 7.9 percent in March.”
Do you see where we are going here? The economy depends on the labor force. The smaller the force, the smaller the tax revenues. We are spending $200 million an hour of money we do not have. Borrowed money. That’s not good news, folks. It’s hard to wrap your mind around a figure like that. Sadly, we are between the proverbial rock and a hard place.
Unions came into existence due to worker injuries, worker exploitation, child labor, sweat shops…. The list goes on and on. In that light, there is nothing negative about a union. The trades include many talented union workers across the country and we are grateful for them.
The problem comes when we look at how union higher-ups have squandered the hard-earned dues of the everyday Jane and Joe. The most serious cases have soared to astronomical amounts of money. In addition, the difficulty in terminating a poor worker only makes it harder for everybody else in the workplace.
Couple that with stories that defy common sense illustrating how an entire assembly line must shut down because an operator is banned from opening a door on his or her machine to replace a fuse or part (a electrician must do it!), and you can see why union reputation has suffered over the past several decades.
There is room for everyone in America’s workplace, union and non-union. Overseas job losses are more than numbers. We are fast becoming an information-based workforce. Manufacturing, especially heavy manufacturing, is a shadow of what it has been in the past. American ingenuity and work ethic built a nation that led the world in nearly every area. Now, there are millions looking for work.
The Middle East is ready to boil over, and we sit on huge amounts of energy here. Cut off the candy to those oil-rich states. We don’t need them if we tap our own resources. Take a look at North Dakota. Jobs open up daily and the economy is soaring. At the core? Fracking.

I wonder how many of the people who come out to protest tapping our oil reserves can curb our dependence on foreign oil. Don’t scream solar or wind. Both are heavily subsidized. The only reason to subsidize anything is to offset its losses. Electric cars? Ever hear how many miles you can go between charges? Not too far.
Today, as we honor the American worker, take a moment to think about the basics. Businesses must clear a profit to employ anyone. When the cost of doing business rises, there is less money for payroll. Looming health care costs impact the workweek.
James Hoffa claims that the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) will end the 40-hour workweek. I know of several people who were fired from full-time jobs only to replaced by two part-timers.
Here is a good comparison of how the cure is worse than the disease. It is easy to demand more money, but there is just so much money to go around. True, huge businesses report huge profits, but when expressed in percentage, many business owners only clear 2-4 percent profit for a year. That is not a lot of money.
Why do you think that gas stations began to stock food services and small merchandise? It’s because they need to make more money than their margin on fuel. And so it goes…
Getting back to the cost of doing business, especially for the small business owner, get behind the push for a rewrite of the job-killing health care legislation. Among its strong points is the coverage for pre-existing conditions. But, something else doesn’t ring true. It defies commons sense that an 18-year-old is considered an adult — able to vote or serve in the military — yet that same 18-year-old is relegated to “child status” when allowed to remain on parents’ health care insurance until age 26.
So now, we are children until age 26? A hundred years ago, 26 was considered middle age. After all, life expectancy was around 50. And what of my own family? At age 26, my grandparents owned their own homes and took care of themselves. By age 26, my parents had two children and were well on their way to owning their home.
Young people need to step up and take personal responsibility. They should expect work to be hard, and not shy away from the hard jobs. Sadly, most are not taught to have that “fire in the belly” once synonymous with Americans on the job. The “trades” are the heart of America, yet they are roundly ignored. In fact, many high schools abandoned industrial arts and home economics in favor of computer classes.
Take a current example. We have Caterpillar equipment on our farm, yet this summer we spoke with a Caterpillar dealer that serviced the oil fields in North Dakota and he and other Caterpillar dealers cannot find enough qualified mechanics. These are good jobs that pay well. And this situation is replicated in many other large companies.
What’s more, I don’t see a plumber or an electrician standing at an intersection with a sign reading “will work for food.” We cannot all sit in front a computer screen. Our society generates a lot of information, but it also needs to produce tangible, useful items. America needs to regain its spot as the best manufacturing nation in the world. We can start with a government that is “business friendly.”
Moreover, there is nothing wrong with getting your hands dirty at work. Many people do it every day to the benefit of each and every one of us. At this point, and at my age, I risk climbing up onto my well-known soapbox. Therefore, I close on a positive note.
Let’s make a promise to do what each of us can do to help the American worker. He or she is as precious as gold. Whenever you have a chance, take a moment to thank the person serving you. Nothing brings a smile to someone’s face faster than a compliment.
Every time you pick up an item marked “Made in USA”, give thanks for the jobs behind that product. Commend the serviceman or delivery woman who comes to your home or business. Remember that every food purchase in a grocery store represents the work of the farmer, rancher, dairyman, processor, packaging company, trucking company, railroad — and in the case of many perishables — the airline company.
We owe the American worker thanks in so many ways. Thanks to the guys and gals who get up, go to work, show up on time, step up and volunteer for the hard tasks, stay late if necessary and smile. It works!
Push for your representatives in Congress to move toward more energy here at home. It creates jobs. Be willing to spend a little more on large purchases and buy “American.” Think about it.