Thursday, April 20, 2017

Save Those Bags, Help Save the Earth

Earth Day is coming up, again offering an opportunity to reflect on the role each of us can play in protecting and improving our environment.

The "Three R's"--Reduce, Reuse, Recycle--continue to be good general guides for positive things individuals can do. With spring and Earth Day coming on, I've been conducting a small, unscientific survey of one action that helps with two of the three R's. Bringing one's own shopping bags to the supermarket reduces reliance on plastic or paper bags, and fabric bags are reusable.

In my little survey I asked three veteran checkouts to estimate how many people bring their own
Reuse and Reduce
fabric bags. Somewhat surprisingly, the answers were identical--40 percent. That seems a poor performance considering widespread publicity for many years on problems with plastic waste in the environment and the often-repeated assertion that conserving paper saves trees. (Although the tree-saving idea is questionable, it is appealing).

Fabric shopping bags are easy to find. Both major supermarkets we visit display them prominently. One charges 99 cents for a bag, the other only 50 cents. In addition, one of the markets offers a 5 cent per bag discount every time you provide your own bags at checkout. In other parts of the country, some supermarkets provide free bags to promote use.

My checkout contacts offered two major reasons customers say they don't bring their own bags. They are (with my comments):

1. I tried using them, but forgot to bring them to the store so often I just gave up. Solution: Keep four or five extra bags in your vehicle's trunk. If you get all the way into the store before your light bulb flashes on, the brief round-trip back to the parking lot for bags will be just a bit of healthy exercise.

2. You have to wash them regularly. Not so: We have a few fabric bags we've used for more than 10 years and they still are clean. Items such as fresh meats and veggies that could cause sanitation problems will not if they are separately wrapped or bagged as you pick them up or you request extra wrapping at checkout.

Two of the three checkouts I contacted said they wished more customers would bring their own bags. Amen. Check here around next Earth Day to see if my follow-up survey shows any improvement.

Friday, April 14, 2017

New Attacks Target Newspapers


Just as President Trump seems somewhat distracted by world events from his war against news media, far right and alt-right Republicans are launching new assaults on the press, especially newspapers that serve small communities. My hometown newspaper in Wisconsin published an appeal to readers to "oppose proposals to eliminate legals from newspapers" by contacting elected officials.

Old-style progressive Republicans such as "Fighting Bob" LaFollette, once powers in the Badger State, must be turning over in their graves. As in many states, progressives led the way in pushing adoption of legislation requiring openness in local government operations and some private matters such as settling estates and debt collection. Some key features were requirements to print notices of bid invitations, election sites and hours, government employment opportunities, and proposed regulation changes in a "newspaper of public record." These "legals" or "legal ads" not only have long supported democracy by helping to make government activities transparent, they have been important sources of revenue for community newspapers.

I did a bit of calculating just how important legals can be to a small newspaper by measuring ads in my local weekly paper, a modest journal that usually publishes eight pages per issue. The number and sizes of ads seemed normal.  Of the 197 total column inches of advertising, 74 or 37.6 percent were legal ads. A small newspaper simply cannot survive if it loses a third of its advertising revenue.

Printed publication of legal notices shines light on democratic processes. Moves to rescind state legislation requiring publication of "legals" threaten many newspapers, especially small community publications.

Newspapers, generally, have taken heavy hits in the last two decades. Many closed, consolidated with others, or made moves into internet publication to stay in business. Advertising revenues plunged. In the U.S., print display advertising revenue dropped 45 percent. Revenue from classified ads went down 75 percent, with declines in real estate ads leading the way. Revenue from just two forms of advertising--paid obituaries and legal notices--stayed relatively stable.

Losing legal ad revenue would be a crushing blow to many community newspapers. Wisconsin is not the only state where moves are afoot to eliminate laws designating "newspapers of record" and requiring legal notices be placed in them. In New Jersey, where governor Christie has had numerous run-ins with the press, legislation to curtail legals has been introduced several times and is said to have a good chance of passing this year.

The reasoning of proponents is simple, and difficult to argue against. They claim cities, counties, and townships would save considerable costs. Legal announcements could be made available just as well through the internet. Opponents say there are undefined but substantial costs in setting up and maintaining web pages to post legals. They also decry a loss of openness in public affairs without state laws requiring traditional publication of legals.

Unfortunately, I think those who would strip newspapers of their monopoly on publishing legal notices will prevail eventually. Printed community newspapers are destined to succumb to financial pressures and be replaced by some form of internet news media. What the effect on democratic processes will be is unknown, and that is frightening.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Finding An Honest Man

Greek philosopher Diogenes is said to have strolled about in broad daylight carrying a lamp as he looked for an honest man. Legend has it he found only rascals and scoundrels in the human race.

I found an honest man this week without searching.

Following our last winter snowstorm about two weeks ago, roads were icy in places. One especially treacherous stretch was a curved section near our driveway on the entry road to our community. Our home is set back far enough from the road so we seldom hear any traffic noises when we are inside.

In mid-afternoon, I answered the door and met Jim Beebe. To my surprise he said, "My 16-year-old son came home and told me he slid off the road onto your property. He grazed your mailbox and ran across part of the lawn. I do home improvement and repair work for a living, and want you to know we will take care of all damages."

Mr. Beebe handed me a  business card and said I should call him to get the work done when the snow was gone and I had a change to assess the situation. He thought the mailbox was OK, but knew there would be some work needed on the lawn.

The first day of spring brought good weather, and beautiful wife Sandy and I checked things out. Big chunks of sod were gouged out of the lawn in three places. At first I thought the mailbox was a little wobbly, but probably would be all right. Sandy thought otherwise. As usual, she was right. The plastic parts that
Diogenes failed, but I found an honest man.
supported the box were broken in two places, not just cracked as I thought, and we decided the box was inadequate. I could see no good way to make repairs. I thought, however, that we might get an argument about the need for a new unit. Similar replacements cost about $65.

I phoned Mr. Beebe. He said he and his son would be over that afternoon to take care of things. Kenny Beebe rang our doorbell at about 3 p.m. He said we should buy a mailbox, we would be reimbursed, and he and his father then would be over to install it and repair the lawn.

About an hour later we spotted Mr. Beebe and son working on the lawn damage. I told Mr. Beebe we thought the work would be done after we got a mailbox. He said, "I told Kenny that's not good enough. When we've done with this, we're going shopping for a box. When we have one, we'll ask you to approve it before I install it."

Two hours later, the Beebes reappeared with a mailbox that proved to be an updated version of the one that was damaged. They said they visited three stores to find just the right one. We agreed they had succeeded. Mr. Beebe did a beautiful installation job, and the result was a unit superior to the one it replaced.

Had Kenny Beebe simply driven away and not told his father about the accident we would have had no way to know who caused the damage. I told Mr. Beebe that his son seemed like a fine young man. "Not quite," he replied. "He should have told you right away, not gone home to tell me. I've straightened him out about that."

I think there will be more than one honest man in the Beebe family if Jim has his way.


Monday, March 06, 2017

A Trump By Any Other Name . . .

Some of my internet correspondents have been busy coining nicknames for our president. Most of them are not flattering. "Dopey Donny" seems truly insulting for the leader of the free world. "Groper in Chief" is not nice at all. One widely read blogger went so far as to claim she will never mention Trump's name, and chose instead to indicate him as an * in her writings.

Although political opponents traditionally have tried to hang derogatory descriptors on presidents, most of the slurs did not become widely accepted enough to make it into formal histories. However some terms have had remarkable staying power.

Andrew Jackson will forever be known as "Old Hickory," a tribute to his toughness supposedly applied by soldiers he commanded before becoming president. Calvin Coolidge, who said little and also didn't achieve much, is known to most students of American history as "Silent Cal." And who doesn't still like to refer to "Ike"?

Is there a pattern to all this? Indeed, there is a minor trend along party lines. Although the first president to be known by his initials was a Republican, Theodore Roosevelt's "TR" designation was the only such label that stuck among GOP presidents. The Democrats, for reasons unknown, assumed leadership in nicknaming by initials. Even many in our younger generations know that HST was Harry Truman, JFK was John Kennedy, and LBJ denoted Lyndon Johnson.

The Republican trend in nicknaming is quite different. The best known labels represent some great deed or characteristic attributed to the president. Abraham Lincoln became "The Great Emancipator" for his proclamation that freed many slaves during the Civil War.  Ronald Reagan is widely known as "The Great Communicator" for his abilities as an orator.

So how should tradition and performance guide us in attaching a suitable nickname to Mr. Trump? "The Donald," a label bestowed on him by his first wife Ivana in 1989, may speak to his ego but hardly relates to any great achievement. Reading the findings of fact checkers who have analyzed Trump's various statements and claims during his presidential campaign and early days in office is perhaps our best guide to an appropriate label.

One respected fact checker found that three-fourths of Trump's statements during the campaign were exaggerations or downright lies. He hasn't improved much, if at all, on that level of performance as president. Perhaps, "The Great Emancipator" and "The Great Communicator" should be followed on the list of lasting Republican presidential nicknames by "The Great Prevaricator."

DONALD TRUMP
The Great Prevaricator



Saturday, February 18, 2017

A Stress Buster

These are stressful times as Americans and others vitally interested in American government policies ponder the damage caused by pronouncements emanating from the White House and quiver at thoughts of what is yet to come.

Responding to the excessive worry, experts in the workings of the human mind have produced hundreds of words of advice on how to cope with stress. Ideas range from hugging your puppy to taking a strenuous run through the park. So far, only a few I've read have suggested a hearty laugh.

Yet laughter can be good medicine in trying times. It was years ago when I was one of about 100 college students taking the final exam in Psychology 101. The multiple-choice test would determine a full half of our grade for the course. The lecturer was a newly appointed PhD who brought lots of enthusiasm to his task. He was serious about his work and had presented a ton of information. No one thought the final would be a snap.

Sure enough, there was dead silence in the lecture hall and sweat popped forth on more that a few foreheads as we started work on the problems. But after about 20 minutes a few snickers were heard. Then mild laughter filled the hall, followed finally by raucous guffaws.

Most of the students had reached the tenth question:

     "10. The Fallopian tubes are:"

And read the third choice:

     "Subways in Rome."

Arrivederci, stress.


Sunday, January 29, 2017

Trump Started a War He Cannot Win

On Friday, Donald Trump once again lashed out at the news media, this time for no apparent reason. He endorsed a comment by his chief strategist, Stephen Bannon, that the media are "the opposition party in many ways."

Trump added, "I'm not talking about all of them . . . but a big portion of the media, the dishonesty, total deceit and deception. It makes them certainly partially the opposition party, absolutely."

That garbled prose seems to indicate that Trump is slightly narrowing the number of his journalistic enemies. Earlier, he exempted no one in a talk at the Central Intelligence Agency. There he said, "I have a running war with the media. They are among the most dishonest human beings on Earth, right?"

I'm a journalist. I've never considered myself to be a dishonest person, let alone one of the most dishonest on the planet.

By coincidence, two of the most principled people I've ever been acquainted with, both journalists, died recently. Their passing and Trump's assaults on the profession caused me to spend some time recalling my hundreds of encounters with journalists both as a newsman and as an information specialist in government and private industry. How many individuals do I remember practicing "deceit and deception?" Exactly two.

One was a young television reporter who interviewed me about a Forest Service program. Before he turned on the camera, we agreed that he would not ask questions in one area. To my amazement, his
Trump will be scrutinized as no other has been
second question hit directly in that area. I learned from others at his station that he was totally dedicated to advancing his career, and sometimes bragged about using questionable tactics to enhance his stories. How did that work out for him? Several months after he embarrassed me, he disappeared from the airways and never was seen on television again. Apparently his supervisors did not endorse deception.

The other miscreant was a reporter for a small radio station. He taped a speech I gave at a luncheon following the announcement of the closing of a Job Corps Center operated by RCA where I served as public relations coordinator. I was astounded to hear his broadcast that evening. The tape of my talk had been edited to completely reverse the meaning of what I said. That reporter merely was running true to form. He was opposed to the Job Corps as part of his personal political ideology, and took every opportunity to show the program in a negative light. Certainly, there are people like him associated with media in small and large markets, but I believe their numbers are relatively small.

It's only one person's experience, but two bad apples in a barrel with hundreds may indicate there is little reason to disparage the entire group.

Above all, journalists who follow the code of ethics that guides the profession attempt to be objective. They often fail. Humans develop biases and it is difficult, perhaps impossible, for anyone to completely set theirs aside when reporting events or selecting which items to include in print or programs and how to present the stories. Nevertheless, the true professionals strive for personal integrity in their work and balance in the products.

When anyone, especially a person who frequently displays his own lack of integrity, accuses journalists of deliberate dishonesty he is making a big mistake. I take Trump's remarks along those lines as a personal insult, and I've been out of the workaday information business for a long time. You can bet many in the media are going to have more than the usual struggle to keep their anti-Trump biases under control. They will try to treat him fairly, but they also will be extra diligent in their responsibilities to serve as watchdogs over government, and they will pull no punches in their reporting.

Mr. Trump can expect to see a whole lot of reports such as the one that appeared in the January 24 New York Times under this headline: "Trump Won't Back Down From His Voting Fraud Lie. Here Are the Facts." An editor who had not been insulted by the major player in the story might have created a more kindly label, yet it is not "dishonest and deceitful."

Trump's assaults on the media ensure his activities will be scrutinized as no other president's have been. Every move will be reported, and not kindly. Who will win this "war"?  We might get a clue from an historic figure who participated in many wars: 

"Four hostile newspapers are more to be feared than a thousand bayonets."--Napoleon Bonaparte


Monday, January 16, 2017

Let's Do Lunch--Got Three Dollars?

It's mid-January, and much of the annual bad economic news for retired geezers is in. The meager cost-of-living increase in my annuity and social security payments was eliminated by increases in medical insurance premiums. Gasoline prices and our annual auto registration fee soared, courtesy of hefty tax increases imposed by our Michigan legislature. Property taxes also increased. Yes, state and my local governments are under complete Republican control. Those are the same guys who preach, when running for election, that they will spare no effort to cut taxes.

Lesser items not subject to political control also increased in cost, or are projected to do so. What's a poor retiree to do? Of course, it's the American way to combat bad news by ingesting a heavy dose of comfort food. That's just what I did, although to feel completely comforted I had to hold the cost to a minimum to blunt effects of the rising costs of just about everything else.

Aided by some advance actions, my net cost was $3.18 (including sales tax) for a very satisfying (and
What made America fat--hard to resist at any price.
quite unhealthy) midday meal at the local Burger King. The lunch featured a Whopper sandwich (regularly priced at $4.48), french fries, and a good-sized coffee blended to my specification.

Normally, that meal would have cost nearly $7.00. How did I get it below half price? First, I spent about five minutes filling out an online customer satisfaction survey after a previous visit to Burger King. That got me a coupon for a free Whopper. Then I used a gift card bought online at a 13 percent discount to pay my tab. Next month, I'll knock another 1 percent off the meal cost because I paid for the low-cost gift card with a credit card for which I always get at least 1 percent off all purchases by paying my balance every month.

I had to visit a store right next to Burger King for a necessary purchase, so no transportation costs were involved in getting to my comfort luncheon. And, on the way out I picked up a free copy of the local weekly newspaper, courtesy of Burger King. It costs 75 cents at the supermarket next door. So we might say my net luncheon cost really was less than $2.50. But that's a bit of a stretch, so let's stick with $3.18.

Don't worry, I'm not going to reduce my life span by changing to a diet dominated by burgers and fries, even at three bucks a meal and no matter how tasty the comfort food is. I'll keep my healthy standard items on the menu--tuna or chicken chef salads. Now where can I find discounted gift cards for tuna and chicken? 

Friday, December 23, 2016

Please, Just One Tie in the New Year

Which do you root for when two of your favorite sports teams collide? I'm going to have that difficult choice on Jan. 2 when the University of Wisconsin Badgers and Western Michigan University Broncos square off on the Cotton Bowl football field.

I started backing the Badgers in 1953 as a student at UW. The main attraction was watching Alan "The Horse" Ameche run over and around opponents. Contributing to my interest in Wisconsin

football, which continues to this day, was the fact that fraternity brother Bob Gingrass led a lot of the blocking that allowed "The Horse" to set rushing records.

Ameche, the first Wisconsin player to be named  an All American, led the team to its first post-season game, a visit to the historic Rose Bowl. In recent years, bowl appearances have become old-hat for the Badgers. This year's contest will be their 15th consecutive bowl game. About half of them have been "major" bowl contests.

Led by a young, enthusiastic coach, Western Michigan has fired up folks where I live by going undefeated. Two of the 13 victories were against Big Ten teams (Illinois and Northwestern) so nobody can claim the Broncos rolled up all the wins against minor opposition. Western has appeared in eight bowls over the years, but this one will be special because the Cotton Bowl is one of the Big Six. No question, it is a "major."

Why am I unsure about which team to cheer for? I've been rooting for both all year. Since moving to southwest Michigan I've become acquainted with many Western grads and several faculty members. It's been fun joining them in pulling for the Broncos. The team's winning streak has had positive effects on the Kalamazoo community, including people who previously had zero interest in football. A page 1 headline in the local newspaper summed it up: "Cotton Bowl Bid Ties City Together."

I've always been amazed that success in sports, especially following years of mediocrity by local teams, actually could inspire a whole city or area. But it can. The city-wide celebrating in Chicago when the Cubs finally won a baseball pennant is a good example. In my youth, when the Braves arrived in Milwaukee to make the city "major league" business pretty much came to a standstill on game days as everybody was at the ballpark or listening to the radio. That happens nowadays in Green Bay when the Packers play at home.

The same kind of pride on display in those cities has been appearing in Kalamazoo of late. Management of a large movie theater announced yesterday that it will provide free seating for those who want to watch a closed circuit broadcast of the Wisconsin-Western game. Other merchants and organizations are sponsoring similar events or other types of recognition of the importance of the game. A Broncos' win in the Cotton Bowl would be a big deal.

The bottom line is I would like both teams to win on Jan. 2. That is impossible, so I would appreciate a tie. That can't happen either. Although tie games were fairly common throughout the first 125 years of American college football, those players, coaches, and fans who found them unsatisfying finally prevailed. In 1995, the rules were changed and ties became impossible. Teams tied at the end of regulation time must continue to play until one becomes a clear winner.

But, please, football gods, won't you allow just one more tie? It would make this Badger-Bronco backer very happy.

Friday, December 09, 2016

Our Holiday Traditions

Seasons greetings from Dick and Sandy Klade. As we get ready to usher out 2016 our activity review shows we stayed pretty much with old but good things. Among them were a couple of holiday traditions.

Dick continued a Klade family tradition that dates back nearly 150 years when he celebrated his 80th birthday on January 1. Dick's grandfather Friedrich C. Klade and father Fred J. Klade both were born on Christmas Day. Our New Years guy somehow picked the wrong holiday to arrive (his mother always joked that he was stubborn), but for us it is a special day nonetheless.

We more than a half century ago began carrying on family traditions when decorating our Christmas tree. Here we chatted before a completed tree while son Lee rode "Blaze." Blaze was a gift from his Grandfather Ed Steinmetz. Our matching sweaters were gifts knitted by Sandy's Mom, Vannie Steinmetz.

We've just finished an annual task that has been a family tradition for decades. Both Dick and Sandy's parents decorated their Christmas trees in silver and blue every year, and we adopted an identical practice more than 50 years ago in our first year of marriage.

The tree decor always has featured only blue ornaments. Until it became impossible to buy good quality tinsel, family members meticulously placed tinsel strips in every available space, a process that took many hours. We now maintain the silver look with strips of glass and snow flakes.

The blue glass ornaments we bought during our first year together have faded a bit with age, but all have survived a half dozen moves in their original thin cardboard boxes and many annual unpackings
and repackings. They bring us joy year after year.

May you enjoy happiness continuing the good things in your life in 2017 and many years beyond.


                                                                 








Thursday, December 01, 2016

Hands Off Our Rights, Mr. Trump

Still weeks away from our presidency, Donald Trump is acting more and more like the type of  establishment politician he continually criticized during his campaign. Trump is waffling all over the place.

Sometimes it's all to the good. Regarding LGBT rights to marry, an idea vigorously opposed by hard-core Trump supporters, The Donald recently said he had no problem with such unions because the matter was settled by two Supreme Court decisions.

Soon thereafter, Trump said that anyone burning an American flag should be treated as a criminal and face consequences--perhaps a year in jail or loss of citizenship. The Supreme Court twice has ruled that burning the flag as a protest, which Trump was referring to, is protected as a free speech right by our constitution. The court also has ruled that revoking citizenship is prohibited as a punishment for wrongdoing.
 
Making this a crime will make me a criminal
Trump obviously was pandering to his "alt-Right" followers, who consider themselves to be the ultimate patriots. This group was irate when he reversed his position on pursuing an investigation of Hillary Clinton ("crooked Hillary," he called her without a shred of evidence of wrongdoing). Trump now says he won't do anything to hurt the Clintons, because they are "good people."

I consider myself a patriot, but not the "my country, right or wrong" type that supports Trump and condones violence or discrimination for questionable reasons. I have generally good feelings about my country, although it is not perfect. My parents weren't  poor, but certainly were not members of a privileged class. The U.S. proved to be a place where I was free to choose my own path and work my way up to achieve a much better lifestyle for myself and my family than my parents had. I'm grateful for that.

We lived for a dozen years in a planned community where homeowner association rules precluded flying a flag, to my disappointment. When we moved to our present home nine years ago, a flagpole came with the property. I've flown Old Glory every day since we arrived.

I have no respect for a protester who thinks burning an American flag furthers whatever cause is at issue. However, I fully support their free expression right to do so.

Dave Stalling, an associate of mine in the U.S. Forest Service, expressed my feelings very well in a recent Facebook post. Dave served proudly as a Marine sergeant in a Force Recon unit, among the best of the best of our military personnel. He said: "Personally, I don't understand why anyone would want to express their freedom by burning a symbol of that freedom. However, although I may not agree with it, I have (and would again) defend with my life people's rights to do so. I have never considered burning an American flag, but if Trump makes it a punishable offense, I will burn one out of defiance and--to paraphrase Trump himself--I would not hesitate to use my Second Amendment rights to defend my First Amendment rights."

I'm not big on joining protests, but I'll go at least part of the way with Stalling on this one. If Trump succeeds in making flag burning a criminal offense, I will haul mine down, burn it, and invite the sheriff to drop by, observe my crime,  and arrest me. Spending some time in jail to defend freedom of speech is something I definitely would do.

I'm not so sure about the armed protest part of Stalling's declaration. I did qualify as a sharpshooter with a rifle in the U.S. Army, but that was long ago. I would be pretty rusty now and, even with expert coaching by Stalling, as likely to shoot myself in the foot as to seriously threaten anyone.