Not Really About Economics

Economic prosperity and likewise economic distress are both very complex issues with a considerable number of variables sharing responsibility for the economy’s health. To blame any one political party and/or politician for our economic troubles is disingenuous. Knowing that people like simple solutions to complex problems Republicans cleverly apply Occam’s Razor to their campaigning. They frame both our problems and their solutions in the simplest terms possible. Democrats have an unfortunate tendency to endlessly debate, then partially address, each of the numerous variables responsible for our most significant problems, leaving people confused and suspicious.

Republicans are aware that people approach life and its problems emotionally rather than mentally. They use emotional persuasion based in such things as fear, revulsion, and scorn to get their point across. They use emotional ad hominem attacks and sensational prevarication to vilify their enemies (read opponents). They avoid issues primarily because there are no easy solutions to complex problems. Thus they don’t spend a lot of time on policy and problem solving. They do spend in inordinate amount of time disseminating emotionally charged attacks and simple solutions to as many people as possible through their cleverly purchased and easily accessible information sources. They use glib and charismatic talking heads to sell their framing to the masses. These tactics are often successful given peoples’ tendencies to get their information from just one source without taking time out of their manufactured busy day to investigate issues.

On the other hand, assuming we have two hands, Democrats rely on the overrated fact that life is practical and ordered, based on truth and knowledge. They have a different concept of simplicity than Republicans. They feel (over)confident that if they simply and clearly reveal all the factors that influence public policy and problem solving that the people will magically absorb it all into their heads. Voters will obviously recognize and embrace the truth, facts, and irrefutable policy conclusions of the nearly infinite research and careful considerations of the hard working, honest and empathic clerks of the Democratic Party. What a crock. Most people fall asleep before the end of the first paragraph. Luckily for the Democrats, the country, contrary to expansive marketing, is mostly a center/left nation. Philosophically there are more Democrats and sympathetic independents than Republicans. If the Democrats can somehow motivate, logically of course, their base and likely allies to forego chatting over their weak lattes long enough to vote they can usually win. These outcomes hold up for both major parties unless one of the frequently incompetent candidates is vastly more incompetent than the other. Herschel Walker this means you.

It is relatively easy for Republicans to proudly and loudly shout out their simple and emotional views of our problems and their simple and emotional solutions while attacking the Democrat’s complex, mental, and issues oriented assessment of problems and their complex and mentally oriented policy solutions. Democrat’s tough but convoluted solutions are normally more effective but Republican’s easy and understandable solutions are more popular. It is so much easier to convince someone that you are correct in one or two sentences than in a white paper.

Tangentially I rest partial blame for the incredibly short attention span of the modern American squarely on the head of MTV, even though they essentially no longer play music. The accepted metric for editing a music video states there should never be a continuous scene of more than four seconds. For a generation raised on music videos and their progeny and progeny’s progeny this style of editing has conditioned and normalized the average American’s attention span to that very four seconds. Well, perhaps as much as 10 seconds. Barely enough to get in a sentence, or maybe two if they’re short.

Enough of my tangential hypothesis.

Frankly, this very essay is too long and complex. There is a reason many modern opinion pieces, news articles, essays, social media comments, and actual conversations are passed over by ultra busy people. They haven’t the time to read anything longer than a tweet. In the 21st century time is money and you don’t get paid for the 10 minutes it takes to read something that actually covers the subject. With the acronym TLDR: Too Long, Didn’t Read (these days everything seems to be an acronym ) writers apologize for their verbosity, warning the reader, and targeted readers apologize for choosing to avoid reading the piece regardless of it’s relevance.

Here’s my attempt at something succinct. Not easy for this Irish Italian. The Democrats suck but the Republicans suck more. A fender bender sucks but totaling your car sucks more. Do you wanna vote for a fender bender or a totaled car? No brainer if you ask me. Don’t wanna vote for either one? That kinda makes sense but it means you probably don’t have a car.

A final thought. Control of the government roughly resembles a sine wave, with the GOP ruling above the axis and the Democrats below. Once the public elects a party that controls government they eventually become disillusioned with that party’s inability to do much for the people and subsequently vote them out of office. They figure out that the Democrats have such a complex plan they can never really effectuate it and the Republicans have no plan and can only fool people for so long.

So yeah, both parties suck but one party has no plan and the other party has a flawed plan. For my money flawed beats none by a nose.

And if you choose not to vote you’re riding the bus.

Guns and Woes Is

That well known screaming progressive Justice Antonin Scalia in his majority opinion for Heller vs. Washington D.C. stated that even the second amendment could be regulated and in fact all constitutional rights can be regulated by society, limiting the liberty of individuals to act in a way that threatens society. Infringement means encroachment, an intrusion, a breaking of the terms of a law. It does not refer to a reasoned regulation based on serving the greater good. This aspect of the constitution is rarely/never referenced or talked about. 

Constitutional rights and inalienable liberty are two different things. Everyone has certain rights but when ones expression of those rights interferes with the liberty of an individual to do as he legally pleases that expression is subject to the laws of society, laws that limit people from infringing upon the liberty of another person. For example, everyone has the right to drive a car. Society limits that right to those over 16 because society has determined that those younger than 16 present a danger to society. Technically everyone also has the right to drive on the wrong side of the road but society says that we are not at liberty to run headlong into another’s vehicle, as that endangers the other individual’s right to life. 

We, as a society, agree that reasonable limits to the second amendment are needed to help protect society from gun violence. That is a verified fact. People do kill people. People with guns. People with the means to accomplish their plans, however heinous. The argument that criminals will always be able to get guns is specious. People will always be able to break any of society’s laws. Is that a valid reason to stop striving to refine our laws, make them more effective and fair? This is why we have laws, law enforcement, a judicial system, and consequences for behavior that violates the laws that are enacted to protect the many. We strive for justice. We don’t give up because injustice is not always served. If even one domestic massacre is prevented by stricter scrutiny of those buying guns that effort is worth it. 

Laws, by their nature, are reactive. They address illegal behavior and its aftermath. Gun safety laws are no exception. People talk about addressing the ‘root causes’ of gun violence but their vision is mostly myopic. They talk about mental illness and youthful transgressions. Some even mention limiting those who have publicly stated their intent to commit violence, which is good. However, the root causes of violence go much deeper. They go into what society accepts as conflict resolution. They go into the accepted societal mores of masculine roles. They go into abject poverty and lack of parental guidance. They go into poor and/or neglected education. These things are deeply ingrained in today’s American society and to break these cycles armed only with weak social and political will will be incredibly difficult. 

I’m not sure we have it in us to do so, especially when our very democracy is confronted by so many intense existential challenges. Where would these potential solutions to rampant violence fall in the current national triage? One immediate thing that can be done is a redoubling of the efforts of public education to teach our children the lessons of empathy, humility and civic responsibility. Racial and religious biases and prejudgement of the ‘other’ are all learned behaviors. They can be unlearned by way of a quality education full of truth and respect. This type of education, an education embraced by a populace that cared about each other, one that gave us the ‘greatest’ generation and has served America for a very long time is being slowly chipped away by forces who would prefer that children only learn what they want them to learn, truth and critical thinking be damned.

Most recently, these authoritarians loudly complain that public education has a liberal bias. But that squawking only serves to mask the fact that what they want to teacher youth is not merely biased but often patently untrue. They are the ones with the agenda. That agenda is to sow mistrust in America’s democratic institutions, confusion about the truth, and to stir up outrage over nonexistent problems they themselves created, such as their virulent attack on something very few people know anything about, Critical Race Theory. Backed by obscenely wealthy oligarchs they are winning.

Be afraid. Be very afraid.

All the news that’s fit to teach: The battle for our students hearts and minds

The people who justify not approving math texts that advocate for including SEL (Social Emotional Learning) strategies use the seemingly legitimate argument that the function of math education is to teach students how to get the right answers and not to influence their emotions. This sounds good on the surface, as many right wing arguments do. It does not consider that there is math in everything we do; that knowing basic essential math helps a person function better in society. Learning how to express emotions, empathize and get along socially with others helps students learn how to use math principles, often subtly, in their daily lives to everyones benefit. Have you ever experienced irritation with a cashier unable to give you correct change?

A big part of the reason so many students think they will never use math after high school is that very idea that math is only used to get the right answer. Students know there is life after school. When it is implied that all you need to do in math class is get the right answer they figure it’s waste of their precious time. They dismiss math as worthless, just another useless part of a useless education. There is no connection to living a better life, with others, through math. This kind of thinking promotes not a love of learning but a disdain for education. It contributes to the continuous decline in critical thinking skills and social responsibility among Americans. The resulting tendency toward dependency on others to think for them makes them vulnerable to propaganda of all sorts. 

The multi pronged efforts of those advocating for ideas such as parental rights to choose what their children learn, stacking school districts, decrying diversity and diversity training, attacks on curriculum and control of textbooks, syphoning public money into private schools, denial of resources, covert and overt racism, mandates for strict standardized testing etc., represent a concerted effort to weaken public education to the point that it is ridiculed, reviled, and especially, defunded by disinterested families. Some of theses ideas have a semblance of legitimacy. Others are blatantly cruel. This strategy is designed to allow for sociopolitical control of the educational narrative and the concurrent control of it’’s content. This sort of control of education is a hallmark of authoritarian regimes, largely because it works well in creating a supportive, compliant populace.

School is not a spectator sport. It needs to be participatory. Large numbers of students treat school as a necessary evil and actively resist learning to the point of chronic interruption of class and even threats to the well being of teachers. The claims behind the justification for ‘reform’, say that public education is failing, but fail to mention the major factor of so many indifferent, ill-prepared, and counter productive students entering the system. Parents these days seem to consider schools as nothing more than glorified day care centers and teachers as executive babysitters. The disinterest and disrespect their children show in the classroom make those claims of failure self fulfilling prophecies. When there is no interest in education in the home and there is a movement by many of the public to abandon public education how can the system inspire any child to strive for excellence and a love of learning. There is a selfish and parsimonious faction loathe to educate children who ‘don’t deserve it who are taking over school boards everywhere.

It is this disinterest in education and doubt of its value that has led to a never-ending generational cycle in many American families of discouraging the teaching anything of value to their precious progeny. A cycle that is difficult to break. When parents tell their children that school doesn’t matter it opens the door for external control of what exactly their children learn about the world. Either the parents themselves or other sociopolitical influencers will then offer their own alternate ‘truths’ to the student as a means to indoctrinate them in a particular ideology. This is done under the guise of telling the student ‘what your teachers and government don’t want you to know’. Once again we have a recipe for authoritarian control of the information available to our youth.

Somewhere in the last third of the twentieth century education took a right turn away from a goal of producing adults with critical thinking skills, respect for others, and the ability to adjust to the challenges of life. The new mantra was ‘we’ll get you ready for a job and don’t worry about the rest of that stuff because all you really need to succeed is money and the things it can buy’. Developing quality citizens capable of contributing to a thriving society began to take a back seat to preparing our youth to be cogs in the capitalist machine, capable only of following orders and being told what to think. The oligarchs pacify them through assurance of the opportunity to become bosses themselves and the ‘personal freedom’ to enjoy the creature comforts the exploitation of international workers provide for them.

Authoritarian types are very good at creating societal problems and then currying favor by magically coming up with ‘solutions’ to those problems. Of course, those solutions move the needle toward their own dominance. I’m not sure there are any immediate and viable solutions to these huge manufactured problems. The promises of the capitalists are hollow but they gleefully point out to the masses, over and over, the sad fact that no one else has solutions and at least they have a plan they say will work, eventually.

The only strategy that comes to mind for resolving this issue is taking children away from their parents’ influence and teaching them facts and debatable concepts with an honest, open and comprehensive approach, inclusive rather than exclusive. Of course, even if it is better for the student’s welfare and development this methodology is also somewhat authoritarian in nature. Parents and students alike will hate it and it’s proponents. It is as undesirable as the modern strategy of rejecting everything educational that makes anyone uncomfortable.

Many of the people who want to delete these uncomfortable truths purport to be strong Christians. Perhaps they have forgotten that Jesus exists not only to comfort the afflicted but to afflict the comfortable. Evidently they desire the Cliffs Notes method for entering heaven for themselves and their children. Sadly, they insist a theocratic authoritarian control of society through false promises of prosperity is the way to salvation of everyone.

Today there is such a broad range of attacks on public education that to neutralize their effects people will need to be strong in standing up to revisionist history and the ‘cancel culture’ of those afraid that teaching our children anything about feeling or thinking will lead them down a path of destruction and damnation. Their path of censorship and denial leads only to the destruction of American democracy as we have known it. How Orwellian to witness Americans being led down a path they think leads to the renewal of American pride and world dominance only to find that path leads to their oppression by the few, wealthy and white.

The wolves are at the doors of our classrooms.

Our living rooms are next.

The Border is no boundary

It is international law that compels the US to accept any and all persons claiming asylum and give them a fair hearing. It is US law that says asylum seekers must present themselves at an official port of entry. I agree that anyone breaking away from the group and crossing elsewhere can and should be treated as a lawbreaker and subject to our immigration laws, with the caveat that ICE not treat them like animals. But those presenting themselves legally to ask for asylum must be granted entry and be heard in a court of law to determine their status.

Rather than spending millions sending thousands of troops to the border who legally cannot engage with the asylum seekers anyway, we should spend the money sending more agents to process all the legitimate claims and find adequate housing and feed them. Our president says he will not “release” any of them, claiming they will not return for their hearings and disappear. That may be so for a few but it sounds like concentration camps to me. 

How we spend resources on this issue says a great deal about the morality of the current federal gov’t. Yes, of course there may be “mother rapers and father stabbers” hidden among these people. If so it should only take a basic investigation to reveal that fact in a hearing. We don’t just let people waltz into the country, even when they have legally asked for asylum. We vet them. But processing takes money and as I said, the gov’t is choosing to spend that money on mustering federal troops. Rather, they should be treating those seeking asylum in a respectful humanitarian way. They should be providing adequate human necessities and muster enough personnel to quickly and effectively process their claims.

The strategy the government is employing in this instance is called a strategic initiative. A strategic initiative is a single multipurpose action that meets several goals. This strategic initiative: 1. Created a crisis where there is none to arouse the base just before the midterm elections. 2. More of the aroused base would vote and increase the number of republican votes. 3. Continues to create an atmosphere of fear that seems real and threatening to American citizens, when their is none. 4. And most critical, this action was a test of just how many laws the gov’t can break and still have the public accept and normalize that behavior.

The 2018 midterm elections represented a pivotal and grave moment in our history. The leadup was tence and scary. Now, the results told us our democracy has not yet been intentionally dismantled and replaced by a tyrannical, authoritarian regime. But not by much. It proved what I have long realized; that there are a large number of Americans who have succumbed to being groomed into buying in to this nationalist, jingoist, isolationist universe of manufactured scarcity. They are out there, so angry, indignant and arrogant. We cannot be complacent and assume a House majority will fix everything. It won’t.

The oligarchy has directed this anger at the “other”. It is an anger funneled into a soothing blame, pointed at the scapegoat flavor of the day, the gays, the Muslims, the Mexicans, Al Qaeda, ISIS, East Africans, Feminists, Socialists, I could go on. It’s a distracting and deflecting blame of anyone who isn’t white, male (and their subservient wives), wealthy or connected, hetero, cisgender, believers in allegedly fair and balanced but actual ”fake news”, dominionist Christians, and conservative sycophants. Oh, and the throngs of American serfs who worship them for deigning to toss a few crumbs their way, along with the false promise of safety, sovereignty, good jobs, and “things”.

The last time we experienced such a profound internal existential crisis was one one and one half centuries ago. We were guided out of it by a willful and strong President. In this crisis we have a willful and weak President. The contrast is striking. That this internal threat mirrors a previous external existential threat is not unusual from a historical perspective. Despots often turn to ideas of dominance from past authoritarians, rarely having the insight to invent their own.

This president continues to conduct tests to see how far he can go, how much he can get away with in breaking both American and international law through executive fiat. He is testing the limits of his power to normalize evil through his extraordinary authority to defy the constitution and get the groomed public to accede to it. All this for rallying his base and making them feel good about themselves; to establish himself as a man of the people when he is merely a man for himself. He cares not for America. He only cares for his own power and glory.

The last time we experienced such a profound internal, existential crisis was one and one half centuries ago. We were guided out of it by a willful and strong President. In this crisis we have a willful and weak President. The contrast is striking. That this internal threat resembles a previous external existential threat is not unusual from a historical perspective. Despots often turn to ideas of dominance from past authoritarians, rarely having the insight to invent their own.

I often hear my liberal peers express a wild desire to invoke the 25th amendment, demanding the president be impeached for his obvious high crimes and misdemeanors. Although their is a solid legal basis for this I do not think it is necessarily a good idea. I would prefer to humiliate him through righteously repudiating everything he has done to harm our nation. I want to see his white nationalist, racist, neo-apartheid base shown the door, out of the halls of power, their imagined dominance destroyed, never to rise again.

We do not need to punish. Raw punishment is a kind of hate. I want to see America change and grow into a better society, a leader in becoming a better world and a people worthy of saving. I want to see the human race, we specks of dust in the vast universe, thrive by evolving and not euthanizing. I want us to always walk toward the light, as do we all, each of us slowly dying.. 

And in this dying, in this seeking of the light and conscious rejection of our dark selves, we who do not close but open our hearts will become more our true selves, living rich lives in accord with each other. It is the only path that assures coninued life on this planet.

I believe this light and this love will conquer.

A Case of Invisible Sexism

Recently an airline pilot was heroic in bringing in an airline’s broken plane that had struck one passenger with mortal injuries and threatened the entire crew and passengers with the same fate. This pilot’s ability to perform under extreme pressure, ultimately saving lives, was rightfully praised. Bravo to the ex-navy fighter pilot with “nerves of steel”.

Tammie Jo Schults was this cool, calm, collected pilot. I will admit media coverage wasn’t atrocious. Coverage of the near tragedy itself did not particularly single out Tammie’s gender. Journalists are making efforts to catch up with the curve

But when women do something outstanding there is still the strong urge to emphasize the fact. I am an aging middle-class white cisgender male. My limited understanding of the gender issues of today tells me that the eventual goal of those fighting for women’s equity, in all areas of society, is for coverage of events of this nature to be virtually the same. The only changes between the woman hero and the man in the article or broadcast would be the names.

It seems modern journalists can’t seem to avoid overcompensation. In the midst of good treatment of the fact that the protagonist of the story identifies as female, they are compelled to find something somewhere to go on and on about.

I have read numerous accounts of this striking news story and a large number of them went off on the fact that the modest pilot didn’t want her name out in public and they had to go to passengers and relatives to find out who she was.

They also made a big deal of how she was among the first female fighter pilots in the Navy and how she had tried to get into an Air Force program but was rejected because she was a woman. They went on and on. This portion of the articles was usually made the main focus and took up more column inches than the description of the incident itself.

I’m not saying that a male pilot’s background would not be appropriate for inclusion in this sort of article. Far from it. The back story is an important part of any human interest story.

I am simply contending that if this had been a male pilot the segment on his background would have been one or two paragraphs, a simple exposition of facts. It would not have been a major part of the article.

As we move into a new phase of understanding a more subtle and invisible sexism people will have to continue digging deeper inside themselves. Even women won’t escape the uncomfortable awareness of truths that are buried in the subconscious. We will all have to listen carefully to the women who have liberated these truths and dedicate themselves to educating an evolving world.

This is hard work. You meet a part of yourself you don’t want to know. And it’s not the only work you are called to do. We have to manage somehow to live together with many who think these efforts are a bunch of BS. We have to search inside and find our racism, our religious prejudices, our unique and shameful treatment of natives, our support of the inequities of economic hierarchies, our faith in a flawed original constitution. and more.

I am always careful to include disclaimers in my works. My posts are my observations and visions and are not intended to be a claim of authority. They are my relative truths and never designed to be the absolute truth.

I am certain I have a mountain of things to learn about this topic. Please get in touch with me if I have totally screwed up somewhere. My opinion is mine alone. But the truth that serves everyone must be shared.

Knowledge is power.