Blagojevich To Speak On Ethics

 Rod Blagojevich

Chris Matthews has just reported that Rod Blagojevich will be featured at a discussion on ethics at Northwestern University.   The event is being billed as “Ethics in Politics: An evening with Former Governor Rod Blagojevich.”

Huh?  Where have these people been?  Why are they giving this guy yet another forum?  What’s next?  Sarah Palin on the geopolitical implications of Iran getting the bomb?

Why Not Just Dump The Network News?

Matea Gold reports in the Los Angeles Times, that ABC is preparing to cut its news division by as much as 20%.  The new model she reports, will force some of those who remain to act as “one man bands” both shooting and producing their stories.

“The process is expected to begin Wednesday morning when employees receive a letter asking for volunteers to take buyouts and leave the company. Newsroom employees have heard that the network is seeking to shrink the newsroom by as many as 300 positions, about 20% of the 1,400-person staff. If not enough employees volunteer to leave, layoffs are likely to follow.” -LA Times

The so-called “one man bands,” which force fewer people to do more with less and sacrifice journalism for the sake of cost cutting, were once used exclusively in small and medium sized non-union markets and would have been unthinkable at the network level.

The cuts at ABC follow recent cuts by CBS News.  Can the elimination of network news be far behind?

What the American public needs is obviously no longer paramount, so why bother?   It might even help newspapers regain some of their lost readership, if not with actual newsprint then on the Internet.

Is the responsibility of the networks to provide programming in the public’s “interest, convenience and necessity” anything more than a fading memory?  Isn’t allowing the networks to present promotion and entertainment pieces disguised as serious journalism, worse than nothing at all?

This Is Not A Dress Rehearsal

Much of the country appears to be in a state of denial.  It’s a sort of,  “This can’t be happening to us, so let’s pretend it isn’t and eventually everything will be okay” mentality.  But it isn’t okay.  Far from it.  This is not a dress rehearsal and better times may not be just around the corner.

It might take some time to get the Congress up off its collective duff and back in a position where it can actually do something other than refuse to move forward because it might make the other guys look good.  Our elected representatives need to start putting the country ahead of party politics.

As Senator Bernie Sanders points out in his piece “The Senate’s Reconcilable Differences” currently featured in “Truthout.”

“Since December of 2007, more than 7 million Americans have lost their jobs; a staggering 17.3 percent of the American workforce is either unemployed or under-employed; and over 6 million Americans have been out of work for more than six months, the highest on record.

In America today we have the most unequal distribution of wealth and income in the industrialized world. With the top 1 percent earning more income than the bottom 50 percent, we have the highest rate of childhood poverty among major countries. About a quarter of our children are dependent on food stamps. Today, as the middle class continues its decline, one in nine families can’t make the minimum payment on their credit cards, and 120,000 Americans are declaring bankruptcy every month.

Sadly, this economic pain didn’t begin when the financial sector nearly collapsed over a year ago. It has been going on for a decade. As the Washington Post reported in January, “The past decade was the worst for the U.S. economy in modern times … It was, according to a wide range of data, a lost decade for American workers … There has been zero net job creation since December 1999 … Middle-income households made less in 2008, when adjusted for inflation, than they did in 1999–and the number is sure to have declined further during a difficult 2009.”  -Truthout

A past decade that has been “the worst for the U.S. economy in modern times…”   

Let’s see, 8 of those years were dominated by chickenhawks in the White House and a Republican dominated Congress pushing for two wars and a laissez faire economy.

It’s really worked well, hasn’t it?  And now when Mr. Obama proposes change with the prospect of improving things for the vast majority of Americans who are being squeezed until they bleed, he is confronted by the “party of no.”  Beyond that, he is confronted by members of his own party who have grown politically fat by taking millions in bribe money from corporate interests.

But everything is going to be okay, right?  It’s easy to stay in that “never, neverland” of denial, until you or someone you care about loses a job and is suddenly without a paycheck and health insurance.  Until you or someone you care about is suddenly face to face with the prospect of depleting their retirement fund just to get by.   Provided they even have a retirement fund.  Do you think it’s possible for the millionaires in the Senate to begin to relate to the stone cold fear that grips the parents of a family of five who suddenly find themselves without the money to pay the rent and buy food for their kids?

The unemployment rate here in California, currently stands at 12%.  That’s what Governor Schwarzenegger said yesterday during an appearance on “This Week” on ABC.  He said a few other things too, things about Ike Eisenhower and ancient Egypt that made me take notice, because I had been thinking along exactly the same lines.

The idea of those who are remembered as the world’s great leaders being linked to public building projects popped into my head while watching a documentary on Ramses II.  Old Ramses, the archeologists say, was among the great (he may have been the greatest) builders of Egypt.  There was no unemployment,  just lots of building going on the documentary reported, and what Ramses II accomplished was amazing.   Fortunately, some of it is still out there more than three thousand years later.  Temples, statuary,  buildings representing the physical manifestation of an ancient culture’s spiritual essence.  Fast forward to the 1950’s and Ike Eisenhower, the man who put the U.S. to work on what is now our interstate highway system, not to mention bumping up the infrastructure for a whole new country in the wake of World War II.  There have been others of course, I simply found it interesting that Mr. Schwarzenegger and I were both thinking about the ancient Egyptians and the parallels between  great builders, healthy national economies and being remembered by history.

It seems so simple.

History seems to teach us that putting people to work building the national infrastructure serves to support the economy.  Doing nothing, on the other hand, leads to nowhere.  An entire decade of going nowhere, with the rich getting richer while the middle class dies a slow death, has gotten us to where we are today.

Imagine if someone could wave a magic wand and  actually regulate:

-Healthcare costs

-Food costs

-Insurance costs

-Energy costs

-The banking and finance industry

-Fraudulent Advertising

-Media in the public interest

Oh wait!  The Congress has the power to do that, don’t they?   And a system to do all that was in place prior to deregulation wasn’t it?   And now, with the old regulations struck down,  Congress seems to be doing next to nothing for the American people and everything it can for the banking industry and the military-industrial complex.

Speaking of which,  Ike Eisenhower’s words continue to echo across the land.  Or they should.

“In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.”  –Dwight D. Eisenhower  1961

Of course rebuilding our infrastructure, reforming government and establishing programs that will benefit the people of the United States will be expensive.

And who will pay for all of this, you ask?   Who do you think is paying for two wars and our current military deployment in more than 150 countries around the world?  We are, friends and neighbors.  We are.

The money is there, it is simply a matter of who it is being given to.

Perhaps we would be better off continuing on our current path of massive handouts to banking interests that are “too big to fail” and the nearly unlimited financial support for the military-industrial complex.  Perhaps it would be wiser to continue with the policies of the past decade, policies that gave us two wars, a military deployment in more than 150 countries and the worst economy since the Great Depression?

Or we can tell the people in Washington, that unless they go back to work for us, we will throw them all out on their  self-serving asses regardless of party affiliation?   That seems to be the only message they are going to understand.

Schwarzenegger Chides Republican Colleague’s Hypocrisy

Appearing on  “This Week” on ABC,  California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger criticized some of his Republican colleagues for accepting stimulus money from Washington and bragging about the good it’s doing in their home districts, even while they continue attacking the Obama Administration’s stimulus package.   According to Mr. Schwarzenegger, stimulus money is responsible for 150,000 jobs in California.

“You have a lot of the Republicans running around and pushing back on the stimulus money and saying this doesn’t create any new jobs,” Schwarzenegger said.

“Then they go out and they do the photo ops and they are posing with the big check and they say ‘Isn’t this great?'”

A Post On Palin To Good To Pass Up

Sarah Palin

  photo: ben aveling    

“The dangers of “death panels” were explained to Americans on Sarah Palin’s Facebook page. Oh, sweet Lord, she must not sleep at night…her grandson could be the next victim of “socialized medicine”.

Recently released documents from the custody battle show clearly Tripp Palin Johnston has socialized health care through Indian Health Services and the Alaska Native Medical Center.

Palin’s family has federally funded health care afforded to them…but if you had it Barack Obama might kill you. Put this on the list of Palin’s Greatest Hypocritical Hits…volume 97.”  -Shannyn Moore in the Huffington Post

Cheeseheads On Wheels

cheeseheads

       phtoto: ron olsen/workingreporter.com 

In what may be a first, a move is underway to make Harley-Davidson, Wisconsin’s official state motorcycle.   Harley, is a Wisconsin-based company.

SB-394,  “…designates the Harley-Davidson as the Wisconsin state motorcycle and requires the Wisconsin Blue
Book to include that information.”

A push is also underway in the state assembly, with AB-596.

However, as an old friend used to say, “You can’t do anything without goring somebody’s ox.”   In this case, the ox appears to be peace and quiet vs. the famous Harley roar.   The group “Noise Free America” is opposing the bill.  “The noise frightens and intimidates people,” George Atwood of Milton said.

Can We Move On Now?

 Tiger Woods

Tiger Woods does one thing very well.  He can hit a golf ball.  That’s it folks.  To the best of my knowledge he has never claimed to be a great thinker, philosopher or moralist.  He has not been nominated for beatification by His Holiness, the Pope.  He is a private citizen, not an elected public official who can be expected to answer to a constituency.

“Oh” but you say, “He should be setting a standard for others to follow!”  Well, maybe, but hasn’t this been taken a bit too far?   It seems as though half the professional athletes in America are, or have been, on one drug or another.   Does anybody get into the pros without using steroids or some other “performance enhancing” drug?   And do you really think other athletes don’t fool around?   Give me a break.  The only difference between Tiger Woods and any number of others, is that he got caught.

The man hits a golf ball and endorses products for a living.  He does not represent the second coming.  He may love women, but at least he appears to be drug free.  He hasn’t promoted dog fighting or been charged with assault.  He didn’t carry a gun into the locker room at Inverness.

The degree to which the mainstream press has continued to chase and promote this story, eyes bulging and drool dripping from their chins,  only exemplifies how badly our national news product has deteriorated.

We celebrate superficiality, mediocrity and anything, absolutely anything, that can be tied to human sexuality, making it increasingly difficult to determine where the tabloid press ends and the mainstream begins.   As a consequence, all of it, the tabloid and mainstream, is beginning to look like one big muddy river.

We have found the lowest common denominator.  It is us.

The man hits a golf ball for a living.   Yes, this was a story, but  there are more important issues out there.  Get over it and move on.

Alexander Haig Dies

Alexander Haig

   photo: u.s. dept. of defense   

News of the death of Ronald Reagan’s Secretary of State, Alexander Haig, prompted memories of Haig’s statement on the day Mr. Reagan was shot.   “As of now, I am in control here in the White House, pending the return of the vice president,”  he said.   I remember wondering why he would be in charge when clearly the VP was next in line to Reagan.

Haig, later wrote that it was a bad word choice prompted by the heat of the moment.   Since he was actually fourth in line to the President, the statement made him look like a power-hungry politician, an image he’d never live down.

Beyond that, Haig will be remembered for stepping in as White House Chief of Staff for Richard Nixon, when H.R. Haldeman was forced to step down during the Watergate scandal.

It’s been written that the country owes General Haig a great debt of gratitude for holding the government together during the final chaotic months of the Nixon Administration.

Haig, served under three presidents, Nixon, Ford and Reagan and ran for president himself in 1988.  A four-star general of the Army, Alexander Haig died at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore.  He was 85.

A Return To The Two Party System?

 DNC 2000

photo: ron olsen/workingreporter.com 

There are signs the Democrats might be getting back into the game by growing a collective backbone and taking control of the United States Senate with the majority they were given by the American people.  But is it possible?  Are they about to finally stop what has become an ongoing tragic and painful exhibition of mousy knuckling under to minority Republican bully boys, representing corporate interests and a base that denies our separation of church and state while they eagerly look forward to being swept up in the “Rapture.”

Have Senate Democrats finally broken through their inside the beltway fog and recognized the potential for being hammered in the mid-terms if they fail to represent their constituents?

It took them long enough to get here.  Our government is broken.  Our Constitutional Republic, battered and bloody is down on the mat.  Hopefully, God willing,  it is not down for the count.

The tipping point on beginning the job of restoring our political process may have been reached.

The first half of setting the scales back into balance may have been the decision by the now totally politicized and conservative dominated Supreme Court of the United States.   It was a sad day when the Court, led by George W. Bush nominee John G. Roberts Jr., decided corporations have the same rights as citizens, that corporations can throw their millions and even billions behind a given political candidate in the U.S., even if the corporations in question happen to be multi-nationals.

The high court’s decision means it will be “we the people” gathering up our nickles, dimes and dollars in an effort to push back against the millions that corporate interests have to support (buy) candidates of their choosing.  If that isn’t an obvious enough blow against our democratic process then consider the ongoing health insurance monopoly that threatens to further erode our economic well being.  A monopoly that continues to be protected by an anti-trust exemption the Congress refuses to do anything about.

Monopoly breeds arrogance.   That may be what completed the tipping point process, knocking the scales so far out of balance that even the worst of the worst among the self-serving on Capitol Hill had to sit up and take notice.

It was Anthem Blue Cross (Wellpoint) of California announcing they were raising their rates to their most vulnerable customers, those not included in any group plan,  by 39%.  They were going to do it Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius says, not because they need the money, but because they can.  In other words, sheer  arrogance and greed.

And the reason they can?   It’s because they have no real competition and inadequate oversight.   In the middle of what is our worst economy since the Great Depression.

It was so outrageous that the government finally did its job and interceded on behalf of the American people.  Wellpoint, agreed to delay the monster rate hike for two months while the government looks into the insurance company’s motivation.  Okay fine, but Secretary Sebelius has already indicated their profits are huge and their motivation is nothing but greed.  At least Health and Human Services seems to be paying attention.

A government that represents the people.   It’s a fascinating concept in a country with a Supreme Court that has given corporate interests control of the political process.

Trouble is, when it comes to health care, laissez faire does not work.  It only gets people killed.

The question of course, is simple:  Will this democracy killing nonsense be enough to shake Senate Democrats into action in spite of the millions they’ve taken from corporate interests?   Will they finally stand up to the Republican bully boys and say, “enough.”

There may be hope.   18 Democrats in the Senate  have indicated their willingness to get behind a public health care option and they’ve come up with a way to do it without the need for the 60-vote “supermajority.”   Apparently, they can do it with something called “reconciliation,” which will get parts of their health care reform plan passed with only 51 votes.  The White House says that if the Senate gets it done, Mr. Obama will back the effort.

It could be a first step toward restoring a balance to the political process in America.   It could mark a return to the two party system.  Remember that?

From Hell To Hollywood

An exhibit of photos taken by my old friend Nick Ut of the AP has opened in Orange County.   You may remember Nick being awarded the Pulitzer for an image he captured in 1972 of an injured little girl running down a road in Vietnam after being badly burned by napalm.  The picture became iconic of the Vietnam War.

Years ago, I was covering the O.J. Simpson civil trial in Santa Monica, when Nick showed up with someone he wanted me to meet.  It was Kim Phuc, the little girl in the award winning photo.  Even then, some 25 years later, I saw her face and knew exactly who she was.  That photo Nick took remains among the most memorable images of the war.  For me, a child of the 60’s, meeting Kim Phuc was to say the least, impactful.  I will forever appreciate having been given the opportunity to meet her.

Following his work as a combat photographer, Nick went on to practice his art here in the Los Angeles area.   Some of it is now on display at the Nguoi Viet Daily News building in Westminster’s “Little Saigon.” Click here for more photos on Ted Soqui’s blog.

Nick Ut

Peter Arnett, Kieu Chinh, David Hume Kinnerly and Nick Ut

(photo courtesy of Ted Soqui)

Daryl Gates Hospitalized

Daryl Gates Book

Former Los Angeles Police Chief Daryl Gates is hospitalized with a serious illness.

“Chief Charlie Beck informed the police commission during its Tuesday meeting that he had visited the former LAPD chief in the hospital over the weekend. Beck said Gates, 83, had a “very serious malady.” He did not describe the nature of Gates’ illness.

“I ask everyone to keep him in heir prayers,” Beck said.” –LA Times

Chief of the Los Angeles Police Department for 14 years, Gates was at the helm during the infamous Rodney King beating incident and then later, when the Los Angeles riots broke out.   Remembered for his verbal sparring with Mayor Tom Bradley, he eventually testified in federal court that the four officers charged in the beating incident should have restrained themselves and used a “swarm” technique to subdue Mr. King.

Gates is credited with helping to change the course of modern policing with the creation of “SWAT” teams.

“Gates is considered the father of SWAT (Special Weapons And Tactics), who established the specialized unit in order to deal with hostage rescue and extreme situations involving armed and dangerous suspects. Ordinary street officers, with light armament, limited weapons training and little instruction on group fighting techniques, had shown to be ineffective in dealing with snipers, bank robberies carried out by heavily armed persons and other high-intensity situations. In 1965, Officer John Nelson came up with the idea to form a specially trained and equipped unit to respond to and manage critical situations while minimizing police casualties.

As an inspector, Gates approved this idea. He formed a small select group of volunteer officers. The first SWAT team, which Gates had originally wanted to name “Special Weapons Attack Team,” was born LAPD SWAT, D-Platoon of the Metro Division. This first SWAT unit was initially constituted as 15 teams of four men each, for a total staff of 60. These officers were given special status and benefits, but in return they had to attend monthly trainings and serve as securities for police facilities during episodes of civil unrest. SWAT was copied almost immediately by most US police departments, and is now used by law enforcement agencies throughout the world.”  –Wikipedia

The LA Times reports that Gates retired from the LAPD following the riots in 1992.

Going To Haiti For Bragging Rights

An interesting piece by Marc Lacey and Ian Urbina in the New York Times questions the motivation of some missionaries involved in the Haitian relief effort.  The Times reports on a line between some of the new arrivals and those who have been there for a while.

“Dale Winslette, 51, a volunteer with Give Me Shelter Ministries in Shalimar, Fla., which has been providing food and medical and dental care in Haiti for the past four years, said there were many missionaries who were mostly interested in returning to their churches with grand stories of good works.

“These people are so zealous to get out there and say, ‘Look what I did; look at these kids I saved,’ ” he said.” –NY Times

Bye, Bye, Bayh

Sen. Evan Bayh

Noteworthy this morning is the news that Indiana Senator Evan Bayh, has decided not to seek re-election.  Oh sure, another “top” Taliban commander has been captured, Secretary of State Clinton is having nasty words with the Iranians and Kim Jong Il is throwing himself a “king- size birthday party,” but the story about Evan Bayh of Indiana,  is the one that grabbed my attention.Evan Bayh is a popular Democrat.  A guy with a future,  just the kind of politico the Dems need to keep around.   He’s leaving, he says,  because he’s fed up with the inability of the Senate to get beyond political bickering and do what’s best for the country.  Not that the country’s in any trouble or anything.

For me the story about Evan Bayh is a red flag.  Obama came in with a promise of hope.  Evan Bayh’s voluntary departure is a sign that hope is rapidly running out.

Let’s take stock:  First came the proclamation from Ralph Nader that “Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us.”   More recently, it was economist Paul Krugman who wrote that we’re “doomed.”  And now Evan Bayh is turning in his parking pass to the millionaire’s club and going back to Indiana.

Here in California, we’re looking at a budget deficit of nearly $21 billion and our politically deadlocked state legislators can’t agree on whether it should be tuna or chicken salad for lunch.  The City of Los Angeles, is facing a budget shortfall of  $212 million with joblessness running at 15%.  The unemployment rate in Michigan is near 15%.   If you live in Tennessee, forget about sending the kids out looking for work.   The unemployment rate for teens in the volunteer state is running around 29%.

When the unemployment insurance runs out people will start doing whatever is necessary to feed their families.  What will the tipping point be?  Are some already there?

A new USA Today/Gallup Poll indicates Americans are fed up with Washington.  By a margin of 3 to 1 we feel the country is headed in the wrong direction.  And still, according to the poll, we remain optimistic about the future.

“Even so, confidence that there will be better times ahead — and that the classic American dream endures — hasn’t been extinguished. It’s not even at its low ebb.” -USA Today

The government appears to be broken beyond repair but better times are just around the corner.

This is what happens when an entire country starts taking anti-depressants and stops reading newspapers.  Just sprinkle a little fairy dust in the air and Tinker Bell will dance in to save us all.

Rearranging Chairs On A Ship That’s Going Down

 USS Pendleton Sinks

Our standards are sinking.  This simple fact struck me years ago as a reporter covering the crime beat in arraignment court here in Los Angeles.  The judge called a case.  A young man got up wearing tennis shoes, jeans and a t-shirt with writing on the back that read “Speedway Kicks Ass!”   “This idiot’s going to jail” I thought to myself, astonished at his naivete.

Things have only gotten worse.

Our acceptable national uniform is now a baggy t-shirt (often with someone’s advertising on it), shorts that end just above the knee (often cut off and raggedy) and tennis shoes or sandals.  The shorts, by the way, apparently originated with former inmates from the LA County jail, who kept their jail-issued pants when released and wanted their homies to know they had been in the joint, so they cut them off and wore them as shorts.   The”style” was later adopted by the NBA and much of young America.  So the entire country is now emulating gang bangers.  Beyond that, if you rank among the coolest of the cool and the hippest of the hip,  you wear your pants down around your crotch enabling butt crack visibility from the rear.  What a magnificent sartorial legacy we bear.   What an outstanding picture we paint for the rest of the world to see as we rush onward in search of our lowest common denominator.

And there’s more.

Yesterday, I was waiting in line at a local bookstore.  There were four clerks behind the counter.  One, a big kid who appeared to be in his late teens or early twenties, was wearing a jersey.  The front of the jersey was emblazoned with the letters “AIG.”  You know, AIG?   The company that helped wreck the nation’s economy?  The company we all had to bail out with our tax dollars because it was “too big to fail?”  That company.

“Anybody but that guy” I thought to myself as I waited in line, so naturally, he was the clerk I ended up with.  Murphy’s law strikes again.  Damn you, Murphy.

So there I was, face to face and about to do business with a “sales representative” wearing a jersey bearing not the name of his company, but the name of what is arguably one of the most disliked companies in America.   Do you really think I could keep my mouth shut?

“Does that stand for “AIG,” the company that helped wreck our economy? I asked.   “Ya, they sponsored this soccer team” he said, as he turned and showed me the emblem of Manchester United on his back.  I nodded in acknowledgement.  My blood pressure had already gone up and I decided the situation was worth nothing more at that point.   I did though, wish him “good luck with the jersey,” as I paid for my book and left the counter.  I figured if the kid was that naive, somebody had better say something.

Or maybe it’s me.  Maybe it’s okay to just throw on any old thing that happens to have come out of the dryer?

We used to say that first appearances are all important and that “clothes make the man.”   The “make the man” thing would now be considered sexist, so it would have to be updated to “clothes make the person.”  Unless the person can’t afford better clothing, in which case you shouldn’t consider what he or she is wearing at all, because that will indicate your bias and shortsightedness at not being able to see someone’s worth beyond the clothing they can afford and have decided to wear, which may have nothing at all to do with their intellect and ability.  Consider the frumpy clothing Einstein wore.

Things can become somewhat twisted around, can’t they?

And so dear friends, I leave you with this thought:  Speedway Kicks Ass!

A Valentine’s Day Story Worth Reading

 valentine

The usual Valentine’s Day fare in newspapers and on television includes stories about the sharp and sudden rise in the cost of roses, where to buy the best candy, naughty nighties, singing greeting cards, a special dinner out for that special someone and so forth.  It’s Valentine’s Day ad nauseam.  Deja vu all over again as the American sheeple fall victim to one of the mightiest marketing scams ever devised.

Well, finally, a reporter has written a story worthy of reading on Valentine’s Day.  Kathy Kristof at the Los Angeles Times has kicked one right between the uprights with “Love is all you need?  Get real.”  Subtitile:  “Love me, love my credit score.”

Kristof writes:

 “No one is saying that money is everything. Romance, common interests, shared values and friends are important for the survival of a marriage too.

But couples must understand that money carries far more meaning than the simple things it can buy. How you handle money can telegraph how you feel about power, personal responsibility, charity and family.  And these are the issues that can pull a marriage apart.” -LA Times

This should be required reading for anyone considering marriage.

Just how serious the business of marriage really is can be pointed out by the presence of a google ad for prenuptial attorneys at the bottom of the page carrying Kristof’s story on the Time’s website.   “Low Flat Fees for Prenuptial Agreement Drafting and Review” the ad says.

Coincidence?  I don’t think so.

Oh, and happy Valentine’s DayDon’t forget to pick up the flowers and candy.

(Not that it matters, but Valentine’s Day was established by Pope Gelasius in AD 496 to honor several martyred saints who apparently held the name Valentinus, and had nothing to do with romantic love.  The whole thing got twisted around and connected to romantic love and gift giving somewhere in the high middle ages.  The mass marketing of paper valentines started in the early 1800’s in England.)