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Is It Game Over?

May 14, 2017
A report recently released by the progressive advocacy group PrioritiesUSA implies that Hillary Clinton, in falling 23,000 votes short of Trump’s tally in Wisconsin, may have lost that state because 200,000 voters were effectively denied the right to vote by its draconian voter ID law. The report, and its implication, remain to be substantiated.

It is a fact, however, that Trump has named an “Advisory Commission on Election Integrity” to look into the essentially nonexistent problem of voter fraud. He has named as vice chair to that body (Pence will be the chair) one of the loudest advocates of the strictest voter ID laws in the country, Kris Kobach.

Trump, who is on a hopeless quest to claim a majority of the popular vote, which Clinton won as handily as he won the Electoral College vote, will apparently stop at nothing in this pursuit.

The past is the past, and let Trump struggle to make of it what he can. I am more concerned about the future, in which the commission could concoct a major brouhaha over the few instances of voter fraud they can document, leading to many more voter suppression laws throughout the states. Federal legislation could also seek to shackle every state with onerous, expensive, unnecessary, but very effective legislation that will discourage from voting primarily those constituencies that favor the liberal, Democratic, and/or progressive view. These are, in the main, young people and minorities.

Just as the anti-abortion lobby has been nipping away at a woman’s right to abortion through hundreds of laws that limit that right, until obtaining an abortion today in some states can be so difficult as to render it effectively impossible, so too can the current klepto-plutocracy nip away at our most cherished right until it simply becomes impossible for large portions of our citizenry to vote. We will then join China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and other admirable nations in one-party rule for the indeterminate future.

If that happens, then it’s game over for the American experiment, irredeemably and ignominiously. This fear has now joined that of nuclear annihilation and apocalyptic climate change—two other reasonable fears that have been brought to us by this administration—as a third existential fear for the continuation of our species. Because as far as I am concerned, if the struggling, imperfect, noble American Dream is dead, then the rest of our species “got no reason to live.”

tags: Governance | Politics

Out on a Limb

Apr 17, 2017
In the wake of last week’s Republican win in Kansas, and in anticipation of this week's special election in Georgia, I'll go out on a limb and make a couple of  predictions.

First, mid-term elections usually see significant gains made by the party not in the White House. I predict the 2018 midterms will see relatively few gains, if any, by the Democrats, and they will regain control of neither the House nor the Senate. They may even lose ground.

Second, twenty-five states currently enjoy Republican "trifectas," which means one party controls the house, senate, and governor's office. There are only six Democratic trifectas. I further predict these numbers will not change significantly (more than plus or minus 10%) in the 2018 midterms, and for the same reasons.

Why? For starters, the nation is so full of angry, poorly educated voters, who are so economically desperate and so easily manipulated by the massive infusions of money into the political process since Citizen's United that they voted a hugely unqualified candidate into the most powerful position in the world. Nothing the Democrats have done or are planning to do (so far as they have let any of us in on their plans to date) will address the anger, the education level, or the economic stressors afflicting those voters between now and November 2018. And billions will be poured into the midterms by the Mercers, the Kochs, and their ilk to retain the advantage of the Republican majority now held in all three federal branches.

So where is the Big Democratic Idea that will address the economic desperation of the 63 million who voted for Trump? Their numbers will only grow in the next two years, under the care and feeding of the Republicans. We may expect the party of Lincoln to dismantle labor and environmental protections; increase economic stressors on the poor and middle class in order to swell the wealth of the one percenters; and in general further diminish our American quality of life (US News currently ranks us #18). Nothing resembling business as usual will appeal to those disaffected voters. They will turn again to anything that looks like it will shake up the status quo in a do-or-die attempt to improve their situations. If they could make the suicidal move of supporting Trump in 2016, they will do it again in 2018—unless they have a clear and persuasive reason not to.

There is no going back to the country we all knew before last November. We don't yet know the extent to which it has changed or will change in the coming years; however, we know those changes will not be favorable to the general populace or to the future of our species. The stranglehold of the corporatocracy and the plutocrats who run it is now complete, and the mischief they may do while the new status quo obtains is incalculable.

Neither is there any going forward via the old business model. We either fix our problems or watch as they metastasize to the point where they engulf us all, and all the world along with us.

tags: Politics | Governance | People

Three Thoughts

Apr 01, 2017
Long-term economic insecurity is physically and mentally debilitating, ultimately infecting the sufferer with a level of resentment that is impossible for reason to reach. The mind seeks out scapegoats to blame for all that pain, and once they have been identified, no matter how erroneously or unfairly, it is almost impossible to dislodge them from the consciousness of the economically insecure.

Humiliating encounters with exploitative employers and social service bureaucrats provoke rage that too often results in violence toward oneself, one’s family, or society.

Constant reminders of how better off are one’s friends, neighbors, acquaintances, and just about everyone outside one’s own family produces a greater degree of resentment and depression than does awareness of the one-percenters and their ill-gotten billions.

Economic insecurity? Nearly 40% of the labor force is unemployed, and over half those who do have jobs do not earn enough to live on.

***

Trump’s dismantling of Obama’s modest environmental protections may be the first truly evil act of his administration.

Boasting about pawing female genitalia is the stuff of lowbrow locker room jabber (and who, after all, has actually come forth to accuse this bozo of following up on his boasts?).

Even the attack on immigrants may be defended by a confirmed xenophobe, who will point to Muslim mischief around the world while ignoring our own long, more lethal history of mischief making.

But Trump knows that climate change threatens our species, and he has gone ahead and advanced its onslaught in spite of that knowledge. Why? To toady to his ignorant base? To express his impotent rage at the world? Who knows?.

For whatever reason, his executive orders signed last week regarding the environment are evil, plain and simple.

***

Wealth is an addiction, as dangerous as heroin or opioids. And just as a heroin addict will knock his crippled grandmother on the head and sell her walker for a fix, so many wealthy individuals are without a moral compass or the capacity for any consideration beyond their drive for more more more.

The super-rich may, like the Mercers, the Koch brothers, and others, profess naïve political beliefs in order to cloak their insatiable greed, but no one is fooled. They are monsters of greed, and are, to a significant extent, now in control of my life, of your life, and of your children’s futures.

tags: Poverty | Politics

What's the Big Idea?

Mar 18, 2017
The American political landscape is in ruins.

Our federal government and most of our states are controlled by forces determined to reverse the political, economic, social, and environmental gains achieved since the end of the Civil War.

A klepto-plutocracy is primed to destroy the remains of the middle class through fiscal policies and anti-worker legislation that will have us looking back fondly on the economic inequality of today.

Mindless abuse of the environment in this hypercritical period may well tip us past the point of no return in our struggle to maintain a climate that will support our species.

Our geopolitical affiliations are in tatters, with the repudiation of long-standing commitments to cooperation among the world’s democracies; with unwinnable wars raging across the globe and on into a second and third generation; and with a turning of our back on a world more in peril and in need of our example and our help than at any time since the end of the second world war.

And where is the opposition? Nowhere. There is no voice, outside those in the marginalized alternative media, that come near to expressing the perilous state in which we find ourselves. The Democratic party pursues a business-as-usual course (yes, even Bernie) that is positively zombie-like in its mindlessness. The mainstream media has been bullied into acquiescence with the false equivalency absurdities that have discombobulated our moral compass.

And even among the voices of loudest protest, where is the Big Idea? Where is the bold proposal—the tectonic shift in our national conscience and consciousness—that will bring us back into a decent comity to assuage the desperation of those millions whose extreme economic insecurity put this fraud in the White House and their sworn enemies in control of Congress and, soon, the Supreme Court? And where will they turn when their hopes are dashed? When their paychecks, if they are lucky enough to have one, shrink even further from provision of a decent living. Them? Rather, I should say us, as we are all threatened.

Only a Big Idea will save us—and the world—from even further dissolution of the grand American experiment. Only a new social contract, that puts people first—their jobs and their educations—will reverse the desperation that has brought us to this point. And where is that Big Idea? Amidst the carping, the protesting, and all our impotent handwringing, where is the Big Idea?

tags: Politics | Governance

Other Voices

Feb 12, 2017
I have run across a couple of essays I admire recently and want to pass along. They are both written by men described as “conservative,” which I do not consider myself to be; however, I expect labels such as these are not of much use any longer. We are bereft of any but self-serving leaders who are bankrupt of ideas of a scope and daring to bring us together; and our two political parties have deteriorated into a grotesque set of identical twins.

First some outtakes from “How to Build an Autocracy, by David Frum, March 2017 Atlantic. You can read the full piece HERE.

“[T]he proper functioning of the law depends upon the competence and integrity of those charged with executing it. A president determined to thwart the law in order to protect himself and those in his circle has many means to do so.

“. . .A culture that has accepted that graft is the norm, that rules don’t matter as much as relationships with those in power, and that people can be punished for speech and acts that remain theoretically legal—such a culture is not easily reoriented back to constitutionalism, freedom, and public integrity.

“. . .[E]xactly how much damage is allowed to be done is an open question—the most important near-term question in American politics. It is also an intensely personal one, for its answer will be determined by the answer to another question: What will you do? And you? And you?

“. . .If the story ends without too much harm to the republic, it won’t be because the dangers were imagined, but because citizens resisted.

“. . .And the way that liberty must be defended is not with amateur firearms, but with an unwearying insistence upon the honesty, integrity, and professionalism of American institutions and those who lead them. We are living through the most dangerous challenge to the free government of the United States that anyone alive has encountered. What happens next is up to you and me. Don’t be afraid. This moment of danger can also be your finest hour as a citizen and an American.”


Next is Andrew Sullivan, “The Madness of King Donald,” New York Magazine, dated February 10, 2017. You can read the full piece HERE.

“With someone like this barging into your consciousness every hour of every day, you begin to get a glimpse of what it must be like to live in an autocracy of some kind. Every day in countries unfortunate enough to be ruled by a lone dictator, people are constantly subjected to the Supreme Leader’s presence, in their homes, in their workplaces, as they walk down the street. Big Brother never leaves you alone. His face bears down on you on every flickering screen. He begins to permeate your psyche and soul; he dominates every news cycle and issues pronouncements—each one shocking and destabilizing—round the clock. He delights in constantly provoking and surprising you, so that his monstrous ego can be perennially fed. And because he is also mentally unstable, forever lashing out in manic spasms of pain and anger, you live each day with some measure of trepidation. What will he come out with next? Somehow, he is never in control of himself and yet he is always in control of you.”

Read them and weep.

tags: Politics | Governance

An Open Letter to My Reps

Jan 31, 2017
To Senators Patrick Leahy and Bernie Sanders, and Representative Peter Welch:

We are in the hands of a rogue government led by a mentally ill narcissist with the emotional maturity of a seven year old. He has his hands on the Big Button and could end civilization in twenty minutes. Any act of cooperation, collaboration, or collusion with this administration on the part of any of you will destroy your credibility, as it has Elizabeth Warren’s. I know re-election is at least as important to you as the maintenance of civilization, so I ask you to take what I am saying very seriously.

You should oppose, without comment, all legislation proposed by the White House or the Republican congressional majority, even in the unlikely event you agree with it.

You should, also without comment, vote against all nominees at all levels of the Executive Branch, even in the unlikely event you think they may be qualified, and you should not confess, as at least one of you did in the case of Sessions, that you have given any of them even a moment’s thought.

You should stop posting your outrage on Twitter. I know you think it sounds like reasoned and reasonable discourse, and perhaps it would be under different circumstances, but the fact that you aren’t simply answering this madness with a horse laugh or an obscenity plays into the hands of this pugnacious and dangerously out-of-touch individual and his power-drunk minions.

And you should let the country know that you are opting out of any involvement in a dysfunctional government led by a man who probably shouldn’t be allowed to roam the streets unattended. You should identify the naked emperor for what he is and then get on with the real business which history has suddenly conferred upon you.

You should (and here comes the hard part) fashion a New Deal for the American people, one which will convince the economically desperate sixty million who voted for Trump that you have heard them, and that real help is on the way. No half measures will do. The status quo is dead. What is called for now is Drama with a capital D. See alltogethernow.org if you would like one idea of what to do; however, whatever you propose must be a game changer on the same level as that which is proposed there.

And then get on the phone. Bring together, as loud vocal proponents of your New Deal, the ACLU, the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Sierra Club, Glenn Greenwald, Amy Goodman, Black Lives Matter, Jerry Brown, Greenpeace, the SCLC, Warren Buffet, Hollywood, the AFT and the NEA, your family, my family, all those nurses in California, Cornel West, Noam Chomsky, Matt Taibbi, Naomi Klein, ThinkProgress, Edward Snowden, TalkPoverty, The Intercept. Keith Olbermann, Jon Stewart, the Onion—well, you get the idea: EVERYONE of a like mind, because we can ONLY take this on together. Then get back on the phone to the VFW, the American Legion, the other 24 veterans' organizations listed on Google, the Boy Scouts of America, and any other not-so-like-minded organizations that nonetheless would like to think the best of the U.S. and bring them on board as well. Remember above all else, we can only do this with a plan that will fix the economic train wreck we have been hurtling toward for the past 40 years.

That wreck is here, it has happened, it isn’t going away, our country hastens toward ruin, and there is no going back to November 7.
tags: Politics | Governance | New Political Party

What Happened?

Jan 24, 2017
In case you’ve been asleep since last August, when the mainstream media were predicting Hillary would be a shoo-in against the Donald: Good Morning!

Here’s what happened: Sixty million people, in desperation over their economic plight (37.4 percent of the labor force have no work and over half who do don’t earn enough to live on) voted their despair and put a scoundrel and buffoon in the White House rather than continue to support the status quo. Those of us who didn’t vote for him are just as responsible as those who did, having silently acquiesced in the hijacking of our nation over the past 35 years by the forces of unregulated capitalism and overweening greed.

Racism, abortion, immigration—these are all smokescreens for what is really going on—the emptying of your pockets by the super-super-rich, who are simultaneously killing the American Dream and threatening all human life with nuclear or climatic disaster.

Things fall apart; the center cannot hold; mere anarchy is loosed upon the world. But don’t look for a second coming to save you. This one’s up to you, Charley, and you and you and you. Ralph won’t save us; Bernie won’t save us; Elizabeth won’t save us: the status quo and all its traditional players are finished.

What will save us, if we’re lucky, is a daring New Economic Policy that will credibly revive for all Americans the ideals of equal opportunity and self-reliance upon which this brave new world was originally founded. And to my mind, this means jobs for all at wages that support a decent living. Promise the American people this and make them believe you can deliver, and in 2018 we can elect a veto-proof Congress that can set about making it happen.

Anything less, anything smacking of “business as usual,” is doomed to failure. And failure today carries a cost none of us wants to think about.

tags: Politics | Governance | New Political Party

My Four-Star Books in 2016

Jan 02, 2017
I rate the books I read (I finished 60 in 2016, a bit below my average). Three stars is Recommended; four stars is Highly Recommended. Here are my 30 Four-Star (and one rare Five-Star) books from 2016. The ones in boldface were particularly memorable.

The Pickwick Papers, Charles Dickens
Another life, Michael Korda
The book of Aron, Jim Shepard
Narrative of the life of Frederick Douglass
The ginger man, J.P. Donleavy
Fourth of July creek, Smith Henderson
The Blackhouse, Peter May
Dumbing us down, John Taylor Gatto
The white boy shuffle, Paul Beatty
The 6:41 to Paris, Jean-Philippe Blondel
Someone, Alice McDermott
Madison’s gift, David O. Stewart
The catcher in the rye, J.D. Salinger (five stars, simply masterful)
Nine stories, J.D. Salinger
All the light we cannot see, Anthony Doerr
The smartest kids in the world, Amanda Ripley
One of us, Asne Seierstad
The dog, Joseph O’Neill
The UnAmericans, Molly Antopol
The Federalist papers, Hamilton, Madison, and Jay
That night, Alice McDermott
An unnecessary woman, Rabih Almeddine
The sellout, Paul Beatty
Submergence, J.M. Ledgard
Tenth of December, George Saunders
The son, Philipp Meyer
The souls of black folk, W.E.B. Dubois
Men we reaped, Jesmyn West
The adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain
Play it as it lays, Joan Didion
After this, Alice McDermott
tags: Books and Libraries

Let Me Ask You

Dec 24, 2016
Let me ask you a couple of questions:

Do you think an adult living legally in the United States of America, between the ages of 18 and 65, who is ready, willing, and able to work should be able to get a job?

Do you think an adult living legally in the United States of America who is working full time should earn enough to live on?

If you answered “Yes” to either or both of these questions, then you need to be made aware of the extent to which you are living in a country where this is decidedly not the case, and then you need to answer a third question: What are you going to do about it?

The lack—not the love—of money is the root of all evil, and that evil displayed itself in spades on November 8.

Our actual unemployment rate is not four point something, it is 37.4%. That is the percentage of the labor force—Americans 16 years and over—that wasn’t employed in November 2016. In 1998, that number was 32.8%, and it has gone up in 16 of the 18 years since. You can look it up at the Bureau of Labor Statistics (data.bls.gov). In numbers, that is 119.2 million Americans who don’t work.

Of those who do work, more than half earn less than enough to live on. More than half! Read earlier blog entries here for citations you can look up to verify these numbers.

I don’t object to the rich. God love them, they’ll always be with us. But I do object to the poor. There is no excuse for poverty in the richest nation in history, never mind that that poverty has been increasing frighteningly since the Great Recession, as more and more multi-billionaires find more ways to squeeze the American workers—or do without them altogether—to enrich themselves beyond even their own wildest dreams.

And speaking of dreams. The American Dream must not be allowed to die. It will take the world with it, if it does. The next four years may not be dispositive of that question, but if we are not working from now until then to assure its survival, I am not at all sure it will survive.

Our traditional political parties are bankrupt of ideas. The Republican party has given itself over wholeheartedly to a reactionary and mean-spirited plutocracy. The Democratic party has self-destructed on the bifurcating influence of a misguided neoliberalism. Money dominates all.

Only a new, third party can save us. And it can happen. If Donald Trump can be elected president, anything can happen. But it will take a party that represents the beliefs of a large majority of Americans. To my mind, those beliefs include equity, opportunity, self-reliance, and independence. And none of those ideals is possible without assuring every American a job that pays enough to live on.

That is the first, non-negotiable, plank of the American Dream Party platform. More on the other planks next time.

tags: New Political Party | Politics | Governance

The Gathering Storm

Dec 15, 2016
We’ve heard it all our lives. We never really believed it. But now we find out it’s true: Anyone born in the United States can grow up to be president. Absolutely anyone at all.

I don’t know what will happen over the next four years. It is easy to imagine a worst-case scenario bringing about the end of civilization. Climate change or nuclear proliferation could spell our doom, and both are in “full vigor” to quote Ebenezer Scrooge.

Meanwhile, cities and states vow to become “sanctuaries” for Muslims and/or undocumented immigrants.

Mayor DiBlasio says NYC police won’t be pressured into increasing the use of stop-and-frisk.

Women’s rights advocates plan a “Million-Woman March” on Washington to exacerbate Trump’s hangover on the day after his inauguration.

It’s not enough.

It’s not enough to organize to stop the wave of unwelcome change that is coming our way. It’s not enough to support the status quo that was soundly rejected on November 8.

Sixty million Americans voted for someone they had ample reason to know was morally reprehensible, intellectually lazy, and utterly without the mindset or inclination for public service. Many of them voted against Hillary Clinton. All of them voted against the status quo. And forty-two percent of us didn’t vote at all.

And although we are about to be served up with “business as usual” on steroids for the next four years, further affecting our incomes and entitlements, especially for those who voted for Trump, business as usual will not do any longer.

Something in the social construct of America has to change. I believe that that change must happen in the areas of employment and compensation. All working-age Americans need to be able to obtain employment at a wage that affords them a decent living. Right now, we are so very far from that, and the number of people in the labor force who are working continues its 20-year decline.

The Tasmanian devil of unrestrained capitalism is about to have its way with America. Most of the social issues—abortion, immigration, gay marriage—are just smoke and mirrors for the real agenda, which is to concentrate as much wealth into as small a fraction of fabulously wealthy Americans as possible.

And we have just the president, congress and, soon, supreme court to do it.

tags: New Political Party | Politics | History

Bad News

Nov 13, 2016
The holocaust we visited upon the indigenous populations.

Four hundred years of African-American torture and oppression.

The Japanese internment.

My Lai.

Assassinations of foreign leaders.

Abu Ghraib.

Somehow, these horrific acts all pale when set against the worst enormity ever perpetrated by the ignorant, arrogant, and brutish citizenry of this benighted country. This week’s election should lay to rest forever the risible myth of American “exceptionalism” and may rank us with the lowest of the low among history’s tyrannies.

I am so ashamed of my country I can scarcely lift my head.

Though I may strongly disagree with, possibly even abhor, some of his policies and procedures, Obama is one of the most intelligent, eloquent, and gentlemanly leaders we have ever had the good fortune to have in the White House. He will be succeeded by a petulant, vindictive, and inarticulate boor who never grew up, who does not know how to behave in private or in public, who hasn’t the civic understanding of a sixth grader, who is incapable of acting for anything or anyone except for his own pathetic self-aggrandizement, who is a resounding failure in both his personal and business life and still imagines himself a success.

Now, a few days after the election, we enter a period of uncertainty. Some pundits are attempting to assuage our anxieties, telling us, “Oh, he can’t do that” or “Oh, he can’t do the other.” In truth, we have no idea what he can or will do.

What we do know is that on January 20, 2017, two of the three branches of our federal government will be in the hands of racist, homophobic, and misogynistic loonies who, in denying climate change, will hasten the greatest train wreck in history which is about to rule our days and nights and drive us to extremes of desperation.

What we also know is that shortly after January 20, all three branches will be in the hands of those loonies, after the Senate invokes “the nuclear option,” as they in all likelihood will, if it is the only way they can confirm Supreme Court nominees as disgusting as Scalia, Alito, Roberts, and Thomas.

You may say, “Oh, he can’t do that,” but can he ignore the 60 million Americans he courted so shamelessly? Can he turn his back on building the wall; deporting tens of millions; killing NAFTA and the TPP; overturning Obamacare; repealing Roe v. Wade; letting slip the dogs of oppression against women, gays, and minorities; and “locking her up”?

I don’t really believe he has a clue as to what he is in for. He happened upon a line of virulent nonsense that was catnip to a fed-up and ignorant constituency, and he was swept, if not against his will then against his understanding, into the White House.

And so we march resolutely into the past, in search of a Great America that never was, but that we thought, perhaps, given our brash optimism and the blessings of our geographical situation, might be just ahead, if we could but muster the generosity, compassion, and political will that we hoped was in our hearts.


Note: I will be taking time off Alltogethernow.org for a while. Everyone seems to be doing a great deal of talking these days, and I am not sure who is listening to whom any more. I have grown as tired of my own voice as I have of all the cacophony around me. Silence is golden; and meanwhile we all await further developments.

tags: Politics | New Political Party | Domestic Unrest

Stump Speech

Oct 09, 2016
My fellow Americans,

Good [morning | afternoon | evening].

I stand before you a rather odd duck: A politician without portfolio, a candidate for no office. I speak to you today not for my sake, but for the sake of my country.

I am not currently living in my country.

My country does not let bosses pay their workers less than a living wage, then force the rest of us to make up the difference.

My country does not educate its African-American citizens in inferior schools, then bedevil them throughout their lives with discriminatory hiring, housing, and policing.

My country does not become entangled in ruinous military adventures that deplete our public treasury of trillions of dollars while overflowing the private coffers of the obscenely wealthy.

My country does not kill, maim, and traumatize generations of its youth in order to bolster tyrannies which, if they were not our allies, would be our deadliest of enemies, opposed to all we stand for.

My country does not minimize, sexualize, or traumatize its female majority with boorish characterizations, substandard pay, and physical violence in order to assuage male insecurity.

My country does not risk the future of humanity in the face of the overwhelming evidence of imminent environmental apocalypse.

My country is not governed by men and women who are servants of big money, subservient to a tiny fraction of our population to the detriment of the rest of us.

No.

In my country everyone who can work has the opportunity to do so at a living wage, with only two expectations: That they perform their job to the best of their ability and that they be good citizens.

In my country, those who can’t work are cared for in a humane and benevolent environment designed to give them the fullest life possible.

In my country, the education of every single one of our young citizens is everyone’s priority and everyone’s most important task, as it is everyone’s only realistic hope for the future of our species.

In my country we acknowledge our racist tendencies and struggle mightily every day to overcome them, knowing that discriminating against a fellow human being is the worst thing you can do to them, short of depriving them of their life.

In my country, foreign relations are made for the purpose of promoting democracy, not commerce, and those nations that are not ready, willing, or able to entertain the prospect of endowing themselves with the blessings and responsibilities of self-determination may be tolerated without being welcomed into the community of a free people.

In my country, men are the equal of women.

In my country, our technological ingenuity is focused on the task of developing renewable energy sources for all our needs as soon as possible. And if it is not possible to do this within a decade or two, we will nevertheless turn our backs on the burning of fossil fuels and make do with whatever benefits may be had from the energy we can produce.

In my country, no special interest ever takes precedence over legislation to promote the good of all the people all the time.

In my country, there is inequality, but there is no poverty.

In my country, there are no hungry children.

In my country, we are all created equal and endowed with rights that may not be attenuated by reason of race, creed, class, income, gender, age, sexual orientation, or any other compartment into which the small-minded among us try to maneuver those of us whom they think of as threatening.

This is the country I hope to live in some day. So if my country is your country, let us make it our country. There is only one way to do that.

You know what it is.

tags: Governance | Politics | New Political Party

Does Someone Need to Shoot Donald Trump?

Sep 17, 2016
With the exception of Donald J. Trump, Hillary Rodham Clinton is the weakest candidate for president we have seen in our lifetime. She is an inept campaigner, cold as the proverbial well-digger’s knee, and widely mistrusted and disliked. She carries baggage that would floor anyone even moderately capable of being ashamed of themselves: her emails, the Libyan debacle, Bill, quarter-million-dollar speeches, habitual warmongering. And finally, it seems apparent she is not well. Should she have to drop out before the election, and should her running mate take her place at the top of the ticket, he has neither name recognition nor much of a track record in politics, and would seem to be unelectable given a choice between a celebrity and someone no one has ever heard of. Biden? Perhaps, but how can they justify a candidate who hasn't even campaigned?

This week in The New Yorker, John Cassidy asks, “The Big Question About Donald Trump’s Rise in the Polls.” In the piece, Cassidy mentions several recent polls which show Trump fast approaching Hillary’s numbers and, in one terrifying case, overtaking them. Cassidy’s Big Question is essentially, “Can he maintain this new momentum and carry himself into the White House?”

But we can’t have Donald Trump in the White House. So my Big Question is, “Does someone need to shoot him?” Or poison him, or strangle him, or toss him off a high bridge?

Now, before the Secret Service gets all bent out of shape, recall Trump has made more than one lightly veiled allusion to the desirability of someone offing his opponent. So tit for tat.

Of course, I don’t believe anyone needs to shoot Donald Trump. Or should. Any halfway competent opponent would have made mincemeat of this lightweight long since. And he’s no Hitler, as I have said elsewhere in this blog. However, in the White House, he is a menace to us all, to our pocketbooks, our health, our domestic tranquility, and to our lives. With his testy and dummkopf finger on the button, he could easily bring on the End Times.

At the very least he will preside over four years of political chaos in which the modest gains of the Obama years will disappear; Supreme Court justices even loonier than Clarence Thomas will be appointed; Black Lives will Matter not at all, never mind brown ones or, for that matter, any white ones not intimately associated with the inner sanctum. The world economy will stagger under his ignorant fumbling; our alliances will unravel; our climate will deteriorate further; and income inequality will soar.

If this sorry excuse for an American faces the Chief Justice on January 20th and mouths the oath of office, the office will never be the same and, in a way, perhaps, America will have fulfilled its destiny, after all.

tags: Governance | Politics | Domestic Unrest

Something to Do

Sep 10, 2016
“I like life. It’s something to do.” —Ronnie Shakes

Finding something to do has become a problem for many of us.

Almost eight million people had nothing to do in August, and that is only counting the unemployed who were looking for work. One point seven million more had given up looking. Another 6.1 million, involuntarily employed part-time, did not have enough to do.

Perhaps the most telling statistic is this one: 37.2 percent of Americans who might be working (the so-called labor force) are not. No doubt some are the stay-at-home helpmates of CEOs or the offspring of seven-term senators. Still, that figure has been steadily increasing since its low of around 33 percent 20 years ago. (Source for all the above: Bureau of Labor Statistics (.pdf).)

The situation is certain to become worse, and rapidly, owing to several factors. The Big Two are globalization and mechanization. Globalization will continue to move low- and medium-skilled jobs overseas and, increasingly, highly skilled jobs as well. Mechanization of manufacturing and service sector jobs is about to skyrocket, owing to the increasing speed and capacity of computers and the maturation of robotics.

Additionally, merger mania, with its emphasis on downsizing and layoffs; an aging population that stays on the job longer while still receiving retirement benefits that must be paid for through current F.I.C.A. contributions; and substandard health and education infrastructures that are driving down our standing in relation to both our allies and our antagonists are three more stressors on the labor force in addition to the Big Two.

It is arguable that a machine ought to do any job of which it is capable, freeing up the human for higher-level pursuits. That may be true, but between globalization and mechanization, it is all happening too fast, as the labor force participation rate so graphically reveals. And as for programs to retrain the out-of-work, they are few, underfunded, and of questionable value. You may attempt to train a 50-year-old laid-off coal miner to program in Python, but your success rate is not going to be anything to write home about.

On the other end of the work force, our children are not being trained today for tomorrow’s jobs. A K-12 school system in New Hampshire with which I am familiar has no computer science courses, or any plan to offer them. If there is one area of employment in which we may reasonably expect humans will be involved in 50 years it is in configuring, programming, managing, and repairing these beasts that will have by then relieved us of all sorts of work we do today. Not to prepare our children for that will, one day, be looked on as an unforgivable sin of omission.

What are people going to do? What should we be doing to ensure they have meaningful and remunerative work and, even more importantly, are ready to perform it? Probably a great deal more than we are doing now, or even talking about doing now.

I wrote a piece here entitled “Make America Work Again” in May. There I noted that over half of working Americans do not make enough to live on. But at least they are working. Increasing numbers of us are not, however, and our polarized and paralyzed political system holds out little hope for effective action at this time.

If any of us are to continue to have something to do, we must do something. And now.

tags: Labor | Employment | Education

Shame on You?

Aug 20, 2016
If you shop at Amazon.com, be sure to do it through their Smile program. Why? Because Smile donates one-half of one percent of sales to the 501c3 charity of your choice (that’s 50 cents of every $100 purchase). This gives you an absolutely cost-free, hassle-free opportunity to help some struggling organization you care about, and if you’re not buying through Smile and don’t begin to after reading this, you are essentially admitting you don’t give a damn about anything. And if that is the case, shame on you!

It’s as easy as pie to join Smile and once in, your shopping and buying experience at Amazon doesn’t change one bit (except you go to smile.amazon.com instead of plain old amazon.com), and you never really have to think about it again. Your purchases just keep on giving.

I have a charity that I have been running since 2012, called bookaworld. Its mission is to place a Library of the world’s most important, educational, and entertaining books into the hands of every child in the world. It costs us about $100 per recipient right now, and if, after you’ve read a bit about it, you’d like your Smile account to benefit bookaworld, sign up with Smile at this link:

http://smile.amazon.com/ch/32-0378198

(And if you do sign up and want a quarterly accounting of our receipts, send me your email.)

If you want to benefit some other registered 501c3 organization, sign up with this link:

http://smile.amazon.com

But sign up! And before you make even ONE MORE PURCHASE.

Or shame on you!

tags: Poverty

Goldman Sachs vs. the Yahoos

Jul 23, 2016
As we pause between the clumsy dud of a Republican convention last week and what will probably be a clumsy dud of a Democratic convention next week, let us contemplate what we will face on the day after the 102 endless days between Hillary’s investiture on July 28 and Election Day.

Someone on that parlous day will be President-Elect and, barring human or divine intervention, it will be either Donald J. Trump or Hillary Rodham Clinton.

As Bertie Wooster would, and probably did, say: The mind boggles.

I said my piece regarding Mr. Trump in Look Who’s (Maybe) Coming on April 28. Here, I will only remind you of Trump’s failures, as a husband (three wives), a businessman (four corporate bankruptcies), a writer (someone else scribbled all that nonsense), and a speaker (just listen). That Trump has never held elective office and now aspires to lead the free world by, presumably, the seat of his pants, speaks to his overweening arrogance, ambition, and asininity.

And then there is Hillary, who will probably win, because who can imagine we have produced sufficient Yahoos over the past few generations to actually propel this hateful and know-nothing narcissist into the Oval Office.

Hillary promises business as usual, which has got us where we are today and she will be frogmarching us for four years further down the now familiar path toward the destruction of our species. Her puppet masters have long been outed, and the corporatocracy will not count their pennies as they finance the necessary destruction of her loose cannon of an opponent. (Happily, the Yahoos are broke.)

With Hillary, we can look forward to increased income inequality, further degradation of the climate, employment anxiety for additional millions, and many more executive branch military adventures. Hillary never saw a war she didn’t like and is even today no doubt champing at the bit to start a few more splendid little conflicts here and there. After all, what’s good for Lockheed-Martin . . . .

Having taken the pledge (see my November 2014 entry), I have no stake in the coming debacle. No candidate has come forward with real solutions to the existential problems we face, so I will be sitting out this election, and almost certainly any others in the limited time remaining to me. I invite you to join me on the sidelines.

To paraphrase George Carlin, if you don't vote, you have every reason to complain about what those who did stuck you with.

tags: Politics | Governance

Make America Work Again: Our Employment Crisis

May 30, 2016

We are in the midst of an employment crisis in this country. Too few people are employed and too many who are earn less—sometimes far less—than enough to live on.

Nearly eight million people were on the unemployment rolls in April. [1] Only 62.7% of Americans of working age are employed or looking for work, the lowest percentage since 1978, [2] and this does not include the nearly 600,000 who have given up looking for work.[3]

Additionally, around three million people who are working earn at or below the minimum wage, which has been $7.25 at the federal level since 2009. [4] Living wage calculators at MIT [5] and the Economic Policy Institute [6] both indicate that $7.25 is less than one-third of a living wage for an adult with one dependent child living in Vermont or New Hampshire. Millions of other workers earn more than the minimum wage but much less than these calculated “living wages.” Almost half of all American workers earn less than the inadequate $15 per hour currently called for by various activists and politicians. [7]

Finally, around six million working people are involuntarily employed part-time and also probably earning well below a living wage. [8]

People need to work, and when they don’t, or when they work for less than a living wage, those of us who do work and earn a living wage are unfairly called upon to pick up the hefty slack, while employers reap the benefits, often, as in the case of the Walmart heirs, becoming multibillionaires in the process.

A recent study by the Center for Labor Research and Education at UC/Berkeley [9] determined that a mere four social welfare programs, the Earned Income Tax Credit, Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, and Medicaid cost $152 billion a year between 2009 and 2011. That is almost half a trillion dollars in only three years. Over half that assistance went to working families. And there are dozens of other taxpayer-funded federal, state, and local programs in addition to these.

How long would a business that only paid a third of its electric bill or half the cost of its raw materials remain open, or deserve to? And yet Walmart, only the largest employer to pay their workers less than a living wage, goes on growing year after year. Forbes magazine reported in 2014 that Walmart alone cost taxpayers about $6.2 billion a year in public assistance. [10]

We need to forge a new social contract with ourselves, setting out our rights and responsibilities. The two most important elements on the rights column would be an adequate education and a job that paid a living wage. Every U.S. citizen and legal resident should be guaranteed both. And in the responsibilities column?: Perform your job to the best of your ability and be a good citizen.

Then we can dismantle all these expensive, inefficient, ineffective, and humiliating “safety net” programs and let people enjoy the independence of which we are (almost) all capable. Those few who can’t work could be cared for. Those who can work and won’t, well, good luck to them.

When almost everyone is working and receiving a living wage, almost everyone will be paying into our shared tax pool instead of siphoning funds out of it. Tax revenue up; social “welfare” expenses down; lower taxes for all of us to pay.

Before any “political revolution,” we need a social revolution, one that acknowledges that although we are a liberty-loving, rambunctious, and ingenious people perfectly capable of taking care of ourselves, we are too easily tempted to let someone else take care of us if the opportunity is available.

We would all be much better off if our system encouraged, enabled, and, yes, expected us to exercise our natural independence rather than the contrary.

What individual of any political persuasion could offer a valid argument against such common sense? The left-leaning inclination to expand the safety net and the right-leaning inclination to limit such support to business and the one percenters, are both equally misguided. There is dignity in work, and there is equity when everyone, worker and business alike, pulls their own weight.

Our employment model needs to be based on the unique individualism, love of liberty, and instinct for self-reliance which has always characterized our people. It also needs to stop enabling so many of us—employer and employee alike—to be dependent on the rest of us.

But don’t take my word for it:

“This country will not be a permanently good place for any of us to live in unless we make it a reasonably good place for all of us to live in.”
Theodore Roosevelt, 26th president of the United States (1858-1919)

“It seems to me . . . that no business which depends for existence on paying less than living wages to its workers has any right to continue in this country . . . and by living wages I mean more than a bare subsistence level—I mean the wages of decent living.”
Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 32nd president of the United States (1882-1945)

“The best social program is a good job.”
William Jefferson Clinton, 42nd president of the U.S. (b. 1946)

Sources
[1]  http://tinyurl.com/zpu5uv
[2]  http://tinyurl.com/zpu5uv
[3]  http://tinyurl.com/h37rmuj
[4]   http://tinyurl.com/z6e53mp
[5]  http://livingwage.mit.edu/
[6]  http://www.epi.org/resources/budget/
[7]  http://tinyurl.com/h2p7h2n
[8]  
http://tinyurl.com/zmfhsbk
[9]  http://tinyurl.com/kda4v6q
[10]  http://tinyurl.com/jjyv7d3


tags: Labor | Politics | Employment

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