Monday, June 27, 2011

Right to Work? Right.

When I was fired as the Sheriff's secretary after 10 years, the new sheriff told me that no one could ever fault me for my work ethic. He said I was a superior employee. But.....he wanted the person in my chair to owe their job to him. He wasn't sure he could count on my total support in the next election. He considered that insubordination and grounds for my termination.

I consulted an attorney who specialized in labor law. He told me that as long as my boss hadn't violated EEOC regulations, he could fire me at will. He could fire me if I wore yellow socks to work and he hated yellow socks. He said that was because Indiana was a "Right to Work" state.

Twenty-one states are Right to Work states. As so often happens with politics, the designation "right to work" means almost exactly the opposite of what it implies. What it actually does is protect industry from unions.  According to right to work laws, employers cannot punish workers for either choosing to join a union or refusing to join a union. Trust me, these laws didn't come into effect because employer anger at employees not wanting to join unions was rampant.

And naturally, business knows how to work these laws to their benefit. When we moved to Texas, the first question my husband (a tool and die maker) was asked when applying for a position was: "how do you feel about unions?" and you'd damn well better say you were opposed to them or you could kiss the possibility of getting hired good-bye. Employers didn't need to worry about punishing employees for wanting to join a union since being anti-union was a virtual condition of employment.

In April, the National Labor Relations Board issued a complaint against the Boeing Company for moving part of their operation from Seattle, Washington to Charleston, S.C., investing $2 billion dollars and creating 1,000 jobs in that state.

A big part of the reason Boeing finds South Carolina so attractive is, of course, is its business-friendly, Right to Work climate. No nasty old strikes to interrupt the production process as so often happens in Washington.

Oh, man, this is hard for me because I think Right To Work is a farce perpetrated on state workers by their governments to suck up to business. No employee should be able to be fired for wearing yellow socks.

But, having said that, this is over-reaching on the part of the Obama administration. Industries require overseeing by the government to ensure safe and fair working conditions for their employees but dictating where they can locate their operations is going a big step too far.  The NLRB should back off on this one.





Thursday, June 23, 2011

Smoking Propaganda

When I worked at the Sheriff's Department, I was invited to attend an autopsy, something I had always wanted to do. I knew the pathologist quite well and he enjoyed having a rapt student (unlike the cop who was forced to be there and kept his face turned firmly away from the proceedings). Doctor G. explained each action as he performed it and described each body part as it took center stage.

Our lady was in her late 50's. She'd committed suicide by means of an overdose of pills. As the pathologist was examining her lungs, I asked, "was she a smoker, Doc?" I was used to the idea that certainly the lungs of a long-time smoker would be obvious even to a layperson such as myself, probably resembling lumps of charcoal rather than actual human organs.

Doctor G. smiled faintly and said, "you know you shouldn't smoke, Vic."

"But was she a smoker?"

Again, that small smile as he repeated - "you know you shouldn't smoke."

Finally, what he was saying dawned on me and I said incredulously, "you can't tell, can you? It's propaganda, isn't it?"

He showed me some black spots on our subject's lungs and told me, "anyone who lives in today's polluted society is going to exhibit some of these whether they smoke or not. But, yes, to answer your question, she was a smoker."

"Well, I'll be damned," I said.

The figures for smoking deaths are astronomical. According to the statistics, a smoker or ex-smoker dies every 6.5 seconds. That amounts to over 443,000 Americans every year, with 50,000 of the number expiring due to second-hand smoke. Of people who smoke, a third of them will die from causes related to their addiction.

Well, geez, I'll grant you that sounds pretty horrific. But hold on a minute. Are we really that confident of the numbers? My husband, for instance, died of lung cancer at age 46 and yep, he was a lifetime smoker so what do you want to bet, according to the statistics, his death was laid directly on the door step of tobacco?

But, do you think the fact that he was in Vietnam when the military was spraying Agent Orange over all and sundry like it was no more lethal than rainwater might have been a contributing factor? The Veteran's Administration must have thought so because they paid him an Agent Orange disability pension from the time he was diagnosed until his death.

And what about his working in a factory that made brake shoes and clutch facings out of lead and asbestos before OSHA came along to mandate the safety features that were installed later. Did these deadly substances play their part in his early death? Maybe. The plant owners must have worried about it since they required their employees to have respiratory testing done every six months.

But when Jim died, I bet the people who get to decide made another satisfying little check mark next to "Smoking Death".

The top ten causes of death are: 1) coronary disease, 2) stroke 3) lower respiratory infections, 4) chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, 5) diarrheal disease, 6) AIDS, 7) tuberculosis, 8) tracheal-bronchus disease and lung cancer, 9) road accidents and 10) low birth weight. Of these, seven are considered to be aggravated by smoking and I expect the experts would find a way to include the other three if they could find anything at all to hang their hats on. (AIDS from sharing dirty butts?)

What do you suppose people would die of if smoking was eliminated from the face of the earth? Would they still succumb to heart attacks and strokes and respiratory infections and low birth weight or would we all just live forever?

I once read a letter to the editor by a newspaper reader who took her father's death as a personal insult because he had smoked until the last despite his family's pleas for him to quit. He was 96 years old. This is how deranged anti-smokers can be.

My own grandmother, a life time smoker, died at age 96, as well. My mother, who smoked from her teenage years until she was in her 60's, is still alive at 92. My son, who was raised in the same household with two dedicated smokers, consistently won a Presidential Physical Fitness Award every year he was in school. He rarely had to see a doctor while his best friend, whose parents didn't smoke, seemed always to be taking antibiotics.

It all reminds me of my youth in the 60's and 70's. At that time, the government's big propaganda campaign was to convince us that by smoking marijuana or doing other recreational drugs, we would all end up giving birth to deformed monster babies. Most of the people I knew back then, including me, did smoke marijuana to one degree or another. Some of us, not including me, did other drugs as well, like LSD and cocaine and speeders. Low and behold, when we began venturing into parenthood, our children were perfectly fine. With the proof right in front of our eyes, the government had to back off but what we learned from it was that our leaders will not hesitate to use scare tactics to influence social behavior.

Which is what I believe they are doing with smoking. And now the powers-that-be have developed a new campaign designed to shock us into submission because, don't you know, we have grown blase about mundane phrases like, "smoking may be hazardous to your health" and some of us are resistant even to being treated like the pariahs of society hounded out of polite company. (As opposed to drinkers who are, of course, welcome as the flowers in May to all the most elite establishments, with alcohol producers encouraged to advertise virtually anywhere, particularly in the youthful world of sports - go, Kevin Harvick in that #29 Budweiser Chevy!).

Cigarettes packs will soon have multi-sided new illustrations of cancerous lungs and skeletal babies and I don't know what all. I am seriously thinking of designing my own little stick-on labels to go over those mandated ones. I'm leaning toward a simple message - "I smoke - fuck you."





Saturday, June 18, 2011

*Note - Reprint from my blog

Jimmie Johnson - Greyhound - He might be playful and affectionate at home (as you'd know if you followed him on Twitter) but put him on the track and he's a pure professional. He doesn't ever let his attention get distracted away from chasing that rabbit.

Jeff Gordon - Collie - Graceful, dignified, responsible, but still capable of administering a serious bite in protection of his territory.

Dale Earnhardt, Jr - Blue Tick - Dead honest but a little stand-offish with those he doesn't know well. Set him a task, give him some encouragement and he'll do his best to accomplish it.

Trevor Bayne - Cocker Spaniel puppy - Sweet and adorable. Everyone wants to pet him.

Carl Edwards - Gold Retriever - Friendly, funny, attractive. The All-American dog but like Americans themselves, he can exhibit a dark side if he feels he's being pushed too far.

Kevin Harvick - Pit Bull - Of course. When he has his jaw clamped on his victim, he doesn't want to let go. Shows that same tenacity on the track, bulling his way from back to front in spite of obstacles in his path. Question: is fight or flight the wisest championship course or can he have both?

Kyle Busch - Jack Russell Terrier - He can run faster and jump higher than most other breeds. He'll dig a hole to China to catch his prey. Young JR's sometimes get themselves in trouble biting off more than they can chew.

Matt Kenseth - Border Collie - not the loudest or showiest breed but all business. He often has his sheep corralled while others are still running around hunting theirs.

Tony Stewart - Boxer - solid, steady and loyal. Superior on obstacle courses because he can adapt quickly to any kind of terrain. Not above showing his teeth if things don't go his way.

Ryan Newman - Rottweiler - brawn and brains powered by perseverance.

Clint Bowyer - Labrador Retriever - outgoing, entertaining, sometimes clownish, well liked by most of the other dogs but a strong performer in the field as well.

Mark Martin - Rat Terrier - eagerness to please on the outside, aggression on the inside. Check out his workout regimen if you don't think he isn't stoked by pure competitiveness.

Kurt Busch - Chow - Known for being sometimes short-tempered but note to owner * he can pull his weight when he's happy with his doghouse, his dog food and his toys.

Jeff Burton - American Foxhound - Classy breed, works cooperatively with others. Not demanding but diligent about trying to bring home the prize.

Marcos Ambrose - Okay, we'll go with Australian Terrier. The Aussie accent, charm and sense of humor overlays ambition and hunger to succeed.

A. J. Allmendinger - Corgi - Heir to royalty. Impatient and eager to prove himself worthy.

David Reutimann - Old English Sheepdog - Not as well-groomed as some. Low-key and self-deprecating, maybe a little too much so.

Kasey Kahne - Afghan Hound. - Swift and beautiful but too reserved to win the Congeniality award.

Brian Vickers - Irish Setter - Always first to volunteer for daring feats. Brash and confident. Confidence may out-strip his talent on occasion.

Greg Biffle - Alaskan Husky - Tough, able to struggle through hardship and survive on lean rations while still making a full contribution to the team. Over-shadowed by the Golden Retriever in his kennel.

Denny Hamlin - Airedale - Smart, self-assured, exceptionally capable. May want to learn not to bark so loud to warn others that he's coming.

Brad Keselowski - Schnauzer - One of the brightest breeds. Funny and feisty. Never backs down from the larger dogs, has the bite marks to prove it.

David Ragan - English Setter - Quiet and courteous, later bloomer, hopefully showing his ability in time.

Juan Pablo Montoya - Doberman Pinscher - aggressive, energetic, impatient, willing to knock the other dogs out of the way to get to the bone first.

Joey Logano - Beagle puppy - Still going through that awkward stage. When he matures into himself, he'll live up to his potential.

Jamie McMurray - Brittany Spaniel - One-man dog?

Martin Truex, Jr - Portuguese Water Dog - humble, hard-worker, keeps his head down and does his job, doesn't cause trouble in the Dog Park.


Thursday, June 9, 2011

Is Cell Phone Sex Satisfying?

What the hell, Congressman Weiner? I thought you were one of the good guys. Now, I just think you're sad and it isn't because you had sex but the kind of sex you had.

For me, there something naturally more distasteful about internet sex than than the body-to-body kind. Take Bill and Monica. Obviously, there was attraction between them and it played out with  actual acts. Maybe it's because I'm in my 60's but that seems like an age-old situation, if not admirable, then at least somewhat understandable. Men and women have been unable to deny their lust for one another for however many generations people have been in existence. Hell, dynasties have fallen over passion. I fully expect that to continue for however many more generations our species endures. Sexual desire is all too human and irresistible. There have been a million books written around that plot.

But there's something sort of creepy about this new internet sex...playing around with pictures of genitalia. No touching, just looking - satisfied to be a voyeur rather than a performer. If I was going to risk going down over a sex act, I'd want it to be for the whole big, messy enchilada. I'd want to feel that other person next to me - their lips, their hands, their sex. As a woman, I don't think staring at a man's member on a cellphone would give me much of a thrill, certainly not enough to pay such a huge price in loss of pride, reputation and even possibly, profession.

Society has always had its larger than life bad boys. Their charm and daring buys them a certain amount of tolerance, whether they are musicians, actors, athletes or politicians.   By contrast, an internet Don Juan just strikes me as pathetic. It would be like finding out your husband had sexual relations with a department store mannequin. He wouldn't have really cheated on you but you'd probably lose even more respect for him than if he'd slept with a live woman.