Number of Days Until The 2020 General Election

Saturday, May 23, 2020

China Gets Tacit Okay To Move On Hong Kong From Trump

The political pressure cooker used by Trump to govern with has been breached and may not be repairable.  While the political strategy of dissent and grievance continues to simmer and be driven by Trump's governing style and campaign for reelection here at home underneath the cover of the unabated sear of the COVID-19 pandemic, Trump's foreign policy negligence goes politically unchecked through via the distracted eye of the corporate media here at home and abroad.  In 1997 when the United Kingdom's lease on Hong Kong expired there was a "gentleman's agreement" between the still very much communist government of China and the provincial government of Hong Kong letting the city keep its unique status of a free market that thrived within the confines of a democratic political structure granted by an exceptional status that would transition over a period of fifty years to complete Chinese government control.  It is obvious by now that "gentlemen's agreement" has collapsed, along with the democratic government of Hong Kong as the government of China prepares to move in with its military to administer the political and cultural hand of oppression and suppression. 

Meanwhile Trump has given a Tacit okay to the Chinese government and Secretary Xi Jinping to go through with this move on Hong Kong as the White House walks a tight rope clinging to the prospects of a trade agreement still unresolved between the two countries.  What's going seemingly unnoticed is the continuing and ever expanding chasm between the United States and the western world politically and socially driven by the vacuum of an absentee leadership role by Trump as he turns his back on our European allies and the rest of the western hemisphere.  His "America First" policy, as Trump likes to call it, is by day proving to be economically and politically detrimental and expensive for our nation in its relations outside of our boarders as we turn inward and withdraw from a global community grasping for a leader pull us out of this global pandemic.

While we had a world leader and statesman do just that from the confines of a wheelchair at the outbreak of World War II with President Roosevelt we find ourselves with a President who won't even wear a medical mask in public as he politically flails about in an environment fraught with massive unemployment and unrest over how to handle the pandemic as it spreads across the country.  His lack of leadership at home and abroad is on the verge of undoing what over 150 yeas of healing in post Civil War America had made possible with the election of its first black President. 

We were only now beginning to form scars over the scabs that still existed from a war that nearly destroyed us from within.  The fact that Trump can almost undo all of that work in a short four years has only underlined how tenuous it has been over a century and a half.  If he gets four more years those scabs may turn out to be wounds that will not ever heal in the political environment we have now that makes us what we were to the world: a beacon of hope and unity.  

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Trump Continues Meme Of COVID-19 Not Being That Serious With Ford Plant Visit In Michigan

Despite calls from Ford Motor Company and the state of Michigan’s Attorney General for Donald Trump to wear a mask during his visit at the automakers Ypsilanti’s plant he still refused to do so during his tour.  This is nothing more than a continuance of Trump’s view the effect of the global pandemic on the United States is not a pronounced as the corporate media asserts.  This is also a shout out to his devoted base to also reflect the same view and demand their state and the country at large re-open.  After threatening the state of Michigan to withhold federal funds because they mailed out 7.7 million applications for absentee ballots before his visit he failed to mention the two dams that burst 140 miles northwest of Detroit forcing the evacuation of near by townships on the Tittabawassee River that was directly effected by the breaches.  

This is a critical state for him electorally for the 2020 election and logic would dictate these latest White House moves and assertions about the state would take on a different approach.  But Trump is who he is and rigid pronouncements and bluster is the style that got him where he is today.  There is no reason he is going to change that style anytime in the near future. 


The Blue States vs. Red States Meme Used By Trump Is making Us A "House Divided Against Itself" That Cannot Stand


Red States vs. Blue States.  Blue States vs. Red states.  Though that national dichotomy was already here before the political arrival of one Donald J. Trump on the scene it was a political dynamic he would seize upon to use as an advantage at the expense of what we had built as a nation after 151 post Civil War years of pain, crisis, and incredibly hard work that remains to this day still unfinished.  He used it like a sledge hammer to divide and drive wedges in the electorate in an attempt to add just enough to his grievance filled devoted base to prevail in 2016.  Now we find ourselves dealing with an even more exacerbated political dichotomy he used the first time due to a global pandemic to engineer another four year term to continue with an agenda of division, strife and a plan to deconstruct our federalist system while he continues to settle political scores.

Now the idea that our country is defined as a confederation of blue and red states that must somehow link together in league with other politically like minded entities to overcome the other  because they aren’t the “right kind” of Americans is being used by Trump at the expense of enough consensus government to hold our federalist system together.  There is now no doubt we have reached a point where the reasons for today’s political dichotomy smacks of some of the same reasons used by the southern states beginning in 1860 to file articles of secession in their state legislatures as a preamble to the Civil War.  Trump is exacerbating these differences in ways many of us felt was unimaginable at this point in our history.

On a late and lazy summer Wednesday afternoon at 5:00 pm on June 16th, 1858 in the Illinois state house Abraham Lincoln found himself standing before the State Republican convention as he started a speech that would rock the political electorate at its very core:
….If we could first know where we are, and whither we are tending, we could then better judge what to do, and how to do it.  We are now far into the fifth year, since a policy was initiated, with the avowed object, and confident promise, of putting an end to slavery agitation.  Under the operation of that policy, that agitation has not only, not ceased, but has constantly augmented.  In my opinion, it will not cease, until a crisis shall have been reached, and passed.  A house divided against itself cannot stand."  
Once he finished it would not only rocket him into the national spot light as a Presidential candidate for 1860, it would define what it meant to be a nation so fraught with a political crisis of division that it threatened to disintegrate beyond repair before our eyes if steps weren’t taken to bring it back together.  Of course we know what followed:  a Civil War that would kill 600,000 Americans by its end as a horribly tragic first step on the way to repairing what was.

We now find ourselves with a President who is not only trying to avoid that crisis of division but instead is relying on it as a road map to victory at the expense of the very fabric that makes us a beacon to the world.  Using the power of his office to punish those states that don’t align with his political goals is a dangerous precedent to use at this point in our history after such a long, hard road after 1865.

The founding fathers took great pains to make us a more unified entity after the failures of the Articles of Confederation that was leading to a division of states similar to what we are seeing today where one state is pitted against another at the expense of a national entity as opposed to a confederation of regions with their own ideas of political, social and economic policy.  Their idea was something called a Constitution that began with these words: 
"We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America." 
“We the people” meaning we, as Americans are tasked with this call to make a more perfect union for one and all.  THIS one statement made us and defined who we are:  Americans.  It wasn’t perfect, as it took a Civil War to realize the true meaning of this sentiment.  But it was something we aspired to and was STILL working on until the present, what John F. Kennedy called, the “responsible officer of government” set out to destroy it.  Lincoln also once said, “……“the dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present….we must think anew, and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country.”  The time to “think anew, and act anew” is here.  It’s a time worn adage that every general election for the President of the United States is always called the ‘most important election in our history.’  This time it isn’t just rhetoric, it’s real.  Real enough that any sane citizen can see the fabric of our nation is starting to come undone.  That’s how important the coming general election for 2020 is. 

If we don’t take steps to repair what Trump has done we will find ourselves where Lincoln found himself on that fateful trip from Springfield, Illinois to Washington, D.C. to prepare for his oath of office.  There is still time but here is precious little left.  If Trump finds his way to being the “responsible officer of government” again I’m not sure time won’t have run out.  


Monday, May 18, 2020

Eddie Haskell Is Donald Trump With The Nuclear Codes

Upon learning of the passing of Ken Osmond, forever identified as the actor who portrayed smooth talking and charming trouble maker on the late 50 & early 60s TV show “Leave It To Beaver” I couldn’t immediately help but think of one Donald J. Trump.  It is all to easy to see how Eddie Haskell’s persona was a perfect reflection of Trump as a kid growing up in a world where nothing was ever his fault.  The smooth talking Haskell was always charming and excessively polite in view of the parents of Ward and June Cleaver.  But once out his their sight he had that laugh and sneer that was inescapable. 

It was always interesting how Beaver and his older brother Wally was on to him but at first not their parents who eventually came around.  Haskell’s character was also perfect characterization of Goofus and Gallant, an old comic strip one found in “Highlights for Children” magazine that was found in every dentist and children’s doctor office across America.  I remember grabbing those magazines as a kid and turning immediately to the good kid Gallant vs. the bad kid Goofus parable to see what kind of trouble Goofus was up to.  Haskell was the live version this strip on TV broadcast into the living rooms across the country.  For me, as a kid Beaver’s age, he is the most memorable of the characters in that show.

His passing made me think immediately about #Trump as a parallel of Wally as an adult.  The problem here though transcends an individual who became known for the fake reality TV show he hosted that was also beamed into every living room across America.  The reality is Trump IS Wally but with a slight difference.  He’s got the nuclear codes.  Wonder what June and Ward Cleaver would think about that.  Let that sink in.
 

Former President Obama’s Commencement Speech In A Call For Unity and Community


As I watched former President Obama deliver a national commencement speech to our nation’s graduating high school seniors in lieu of the one they won’t get this year under normal circumstances due to COVID 19 three things struck me I wasn’t prepared for.  One, how much I missed his national leadership and speaking skills where he always seemed to be talking WITH you as opposed to one speaking at you.  Second, he reminded me how whenever he could he always called for us, as Americans, to contribute to community either nationally or locally as opposed to someone who always tried to angle themselves to take away from our communities at the expense of it’s denizens.  And finally, thirdly I was taken by his call to the youth of America to make be the leaders we expect of them and make the changes we need. 

It was so much more than a congratulatory bromide that one usually hears form guest speakers that I kind of half heartedly expected but one that was a call to not just be true to themselves and be who they are but a call to make a difference. It reminded me so much of President Kennedy’s call to, “…..ask not what your country can do for you, but to ask what you can do for your country.”  In a new dark age of Trumpism where we only hear, “…get what’s yours and to hell with everyone else” it was a hope that this too will pass.  One can only hope our seniors striking out on the path Mr. Obama called for takes up that challenge and heed his call.  We are counting on them in ways they certainly can’t imagine. 


Sunday, May 17, 2020

Truman's Conscience Rebooted Mission Statement


As of this inaugural post, it has been sixty-seven years, three months, three weeks, six days and three hours since Harry S. Truman’s official term of office expired. As each decade passes since that moment it only serves to underline the flourishing legacy he left behind that is still with us today. With the exception of Abraham Lincoln, it is doubtful a better representative of the common man with an evolving progressive mind could be found. At first, our 33rd President came out of Missouri with a parochial outlook couched in the southern prejudices of the time. With a progressive mind and a conscience that always strived for fairness one can only marvel at the evolving ideals and a sense of justice he would harness as the arc of his ascension in public life spiraled upward growing beyond his humble origins.


His biographer, David McCullough, called him, “….a man of uncommon vitality and strength of character.” As the embodiment of one being faced with a world that had evolved beyond his capacity to view it with the sensibilities of a time long past he became much more than that. Our greatest President, Abraham Lincoln once profoundly observed, “The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present….we must think anew, and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country.” Only a progressive mind such as that of Harry Truman could understand the meaning of Lincoln’s profound sense of what is needed to face a world that seemed at the time to be so fraught with unmeetable challenges and peril. His strength of character and profound sense of self-awareness eventually enabled him to reach beyond himself and those around him in order to harness the ideas and energy that would allow him to, “….think anew, and act anew,” as Lincoln prescribed.

Now we find ourselves being led by a conservative mindset that has produced an individual so lost in a world devoid of ideas, lost humanity and score settling grievances he has turned global American leadership upside down in a post cold war world conflicted with ambiguity and contradictions about our place and where we fit into it. As he lurches and reaches backward for tired old prescriptions of division and prejudices of the past that only serve to undermine the American ideal our burden is added to as he strives to serve and soothe the closed mind of raw emotions driven by those that are easily angered and quick to judge. Progressive ideas are marginalized and ridiculed by a conservative mindset that prefers the simple solutions of yesterday and quick fix answers serving a consumer driven public massaged by the commercial blandness of mass consumption and the low expectations of a status quo society.

Now more than ever we need new voices that call for us to, “…..think anew, and act anew.” We need new voices that ring with the clarion call for change to wash away the “dogmas of the quiet past that are inadequate to the stormy present.” This blog is a humble attempt, in a very small way, to join that chorus and harmonize with those that feel that sense of urgency before it is too late to save the progressive ideals we fought so hard for and achieved. We need new voices that are driven by the conscience of Harry Truman and the sense of justice and fairness it embodied. As his legacy has driven me toward this small effort to continue that fight this blog will focus on two main objectives: first, to make all of our elected officials accountable to their constituencies, their country and to the American people they serve, and second, to promote the causes and principles of the liberal/progressive view.  From 1941 to 1944, then Senator Harry S. Truman, before he was chosen to be F.D.R.'s running mate, was legendary for his chairmanship of the Senate Special Committee to Investigate the National Defense Program. It even came to be called "The Truman Committee" for short as it became legendary for its tenacity and crusade against war profiteering. That legacy included going after those that violated the rules and spirit of defense and government contract spending. If Democratic party members were found to be included in those violations he made sure even they were equally held accountable and suffered the same consequences.

Alas, it is in that same spirit that my first objective will be to hold all elected officials accountable on both sides of the aisle no matter the party or ideological standing. It is especially critical that our Democratic party elected officials are held to an even higher standard making them even more accountable to ensure the principles and causes of liberal and progressive values are upheld.
So welcome to Truman’s conscience. My name is Michael and I’m the custodian of this small effort to harmonize with the voices of change and the call for justice in a political climate driven by fear and moral certainty. Come and join in on occasion and let us sing together.


Truman's conscience will be here.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Mississippi Bill Will Allow Guns In Churches


On March 30th, 1981 President Reagan was shot in an assassination attempt by John Hinckley, Jr. just short of 70 days into his administration.  Three others were wounded as well, including press secretary James Brady.  Three decades later Brady would die from complications of his wounds.  I've always wondered why gun enthusiasts claim that arming good guys is the only way to stop bad guys from killing people.  After all the clarion call has always been, "Guns don't kill people, people kill people."  What I find amazing is here is an instance where a sitting POTUS, surrounded by highly trained and armed secret service personnel, was not able to avoid being shot with three others.  There was no doubt Reagan was surrounded by a small army of armed 'good guys,' including local police and was not able to avoid being shot by an individual who was not trained in the usage of firearms.  As far as I'm concerned, that 'good guy with a gun' argument falls apart irrevocably with, not only this instance, but many more that have the same circumstances.

Now we see the governor of Mississippi signing into law a bill that is based entirely on that canard about "good guys with guns:"
"The Church Protection Act, as sent to [Mississippi Gov. Bryant's] desk, allows individuals selected by the church's governing body to carry weapons into the church for protection purposes. It also does not require people to have a permit to carry a holstered weapon."
Naturally the bill's proposal was, according to its sponsor, in response to the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in downtown Charleston, South Carolina shooting spree in June of 2015 that killed nine.  Republican State Representative Andy Gipson makes it clear Churches needed to arm themselves for protection against future incidents like those in Charleston, SC.

It seems to me the only way to stop such incidents of "bad guys with guns" is to be mind readers  as well to quickly figure out who "the bad guy is" and not be surprised when a gun is produced and the shooting starts.  Unfortunately for State Representative Andy Gipson I don't think there is a bill that will fill that requirement.

As one might expect the bill wasn't met with universal approval, especially by those that will be most affected by this urban myth of 'good guys  with guns:"
Those opposing the bill, including the Mississippi Association of Police Chiefs, have argued that it removes important restrictions on who may obtain a permit."This bill would put law-enforcement officers and all Mississippians directly in harm’s way," Ken Winter, the group's executive director, said in February.
What's interesting is the Mississippi Association of Police Chiefs is all a bunch of "good guys with guns" and they don't seem very happy about this legislation.  I mean, after all, who wants hear from a bunch of people who have direct experience with people who shouldn't be allowed with a permit in the first place?  Right?

Bernie Sanders Wanting His Cake and Eating It Too


I almost did not watch this past Thursday's Democratic debate on CNN.  As a Floridian I've already voted in our state primary back on March 15 when Hillary was a big winner.  I had decided that watching yet another deliberation on the variations of liberal and center-left policy arguments was a waste of time since my mind had already been made up and my vote cast.  As a Hillary supporter I recognize that my liberal proclivities should pull me more toward Bernie than her.  But I'm also a pragmatist and I'm more comfortable with her ability to face down the reign of attacks on the Democratic candidate by a well funded GOP than I would be with Bernie.  What concerns
me about him leading the ticket is the fact the GOP smear machine will make the word 'Socialist' his first name in every social medium possible.

Having said all that I did watch most of the debate because I had decided I wanted to watch the dynamic between them to see if they were going to cut into each other beyond what is necessary to gain enough support for a victory in the coming New York primary this Tuesday, April 19th.  Right away I felt uncomfortable with their demeanor as they addressed one another.  After all I can just as easily vote for Bernie in the general election as I can Hillary no matter who wins.  I didn't like the tone both were taking with each other though I understand this is a political bare knuckle fight for the bounty of 240+ delegates at stake.  My point of this discussion is something that continues to bother me about Sanders and how Its really starting to turn me off about him.

Since the beginning of the campaign he has been going after Hillary steadily over her Wall Street connections and the money her campaign is receiving from the various firms that inhabit the financial capital of the country.  Then there is the continued call to release the transcripts of her paid presentations to a variety of various wall street firms.  The thing is I have no problem with her connections to the sinews of power that make up the core of the United States financial market matrix.  She should never apologize for that as it gives her power and gravitas to  work from within Wall Street and the financial community when she's in a position to initiate reforms which brings us to the crux of this discussion.

The list of Hillary's top donors seem to be missing one conspicuous organization in particular:  the NRA.  The thing is Sanders can't keep harping about who she gets or receives money from for her campaign when it can be proved she hasn't made a decision that favors them in a specific instance with a quid pro quo for contributions.  As for the NRA and her 'F' rating Sanders can't have it both ways attacking her for her connections with various Wall Street lobbying firms and their PAC money while she attacks the NRA lobby and the money from their PAC's rejecting a possible money stream to her campaign.  If she is so craven and crass to take money from any source this argument makes no sense.  

I would feel better if Bernie and Hillary both would confine their argument on the nuance of policy differences as opposed to attacking one another on moral grounds.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Donald Trump's Next Book: The Art of the Fine Whine


One of the fascinating aspects of Donald Trump's run for the White House is the aura of business acumen he projects as one of his greatest strengths.  He is never at a loss of words to describe his ability to always maneuver from a  position of strength to strike an agreement when he has the obvious advantage.  By his own admission he has a genius for being able to not only strike a deal where he is in a
win - win situation but to make the end result one where the other side always wants to come back for more.  There is a large segment of the population that still sits in awe of the successful business person with abilities to achieve high levels of success through a public persona that suggests a shield of invincibility all due to their own prowess and powers of persuasion.

According to the Donald his acumen and power to construct deals will be unmatched in contrast to a bunch of unimaginative and dull witted government bureaucrats not able to comprehend the power and strength of his abilities to conduct high level negotiations in a cut throat world of multinational deal makers.  They will fall to their knees in sheer bedazzlement at his ability to coerce reluctant and reticent lawmakers to come around to his agenda and beg for more.  This perceived aura is a common thread running through his supporters when you see them in interviews or panel discussions.  They feel he can achieve things no one else can while ignoring off putting characteristics that would spell certain doom for any other mortal denizen associated with public service through an elected office.  

This is where we come to the Donald's problem.  Over at Digby's blog, Hullabaloo, she has a great piece detailing Trump's sudden realization that maybe he isn't the man he thought he was dealing with people unaware of his powers and abilities.  It's suddenly becoming all to evident the tycoon who claims to be known for his genius at deal making is completely befuddled by a convoluted process with a labyrinth of rules and mechanisms for delegate selection:


[...]Donald Trump made it all the way to April of the primary season as front runner for the presidential nomination without being aware of [the GOP nominating process] says everything you need to know about his organizational acumen. It turns out that national politics isn't as simple as a branding deal with Macy's over ties and underwear. It isn't a Manhattan real estate negotiation either. But like so many wealthy men, he assumed that making all that money must make him a genius, so much so that he's capable of running the world by the seat of his pants.
To go a bit further there's more to it than his sudden discomfort from being in a position where he doesn't have the upper hand:
The Republican front-runner claims to be the world’s smartest businessman, a master at cutting deals and winning with his negotiating savvy. In recent days, though, he has been looking like a chump who bought property in Florida without reading the fine print stipulating the land was underwater and infested with alligators. Trump appears to have jumped into his campaign for president thinking all he needed to do was show up for the debates, call in to TV news shows and tweet out his random thoughts to a waiting world. Actually, thanks to the big boost he got from being a reality show celebrity, that approach did bring remarkable success in the early months of the presidential race.  Now, however, he is getting snookered in many states where the Cruz campaign is far better organized and knows how to exploit the delegate selection rules.

Since the early days of the primary calendar the Cruz campaign has been waiting for its moment to strike.  The Texas Senator patiently waited for caucus and primary states where the Trump campaign would be caught with its proverbial pants down with staff that were not only light in numbers but without knowledge of the ins and outs of that particular state's byzantine mechanism of delegate selection.   When Cruz's various state organizations pounced it was too late for Trump to react:
The Colorado system — precinct caucuses electing delegates to district and state assemblies, where they are selected for the national convention — isn’t undemocratic. But it rewards a different, more demanding and engaged sort of participation than a primary.  An accent on grass-roots organizing is not, by the way, a hallmark of establishment politics. In fact, it is the opposite. The classic conservative insurgent excels at organizing as a means to bypass the party’s gatekeepers and to make up for a lack of resources and media attention. Although the Cruz campaign is well-funded, it has the grass-roots DNA of this kind of insurgency, which it began as, and, in significant respects, still is.

Now Trump finds himself being defined not as the great deal maker with a wizard's touch and knowing smirk, but as the classic whiner who has managed to hone his high pitched complaint into the fine art of, "the whine."  As Rich Lowry over a Politico points out there is one more thing to add to the fact that Trump  has been put into a position where his failings in the primary process highlight how out of depth he is in the rough and tumble political world of grass roots campaigning: 
For all of Trump’s complaints, the nomination system was set up to favor the front-runner and get him over the top as soon as possible. It is a symptom of Trump’s weakness that, even as he romped through the first couple of months of the race and accumulated delegates out of proportion to his popular vote (about 45 percent of the delegates on 37 percent of the vote), he still might fall short of 1,237.

Over at Hullabaloo Digby puts a finer point on the optics for Trump and his veneer of invincibility and what it really means for his public persona:
This is an extremely important point. The rules were rigged. But they were rigged to favor Donald Trump. For a man who is selling himself as the greatest deal maker the world has ever known, he's having an awfully hard time closing one that was set-up for him to win from the very beginning.  So now he's claiming the election is being stolen.
As Trump has been perfecting his technique for the fine art of the whine the coup d'grace in all of this is his ability to readily admit to his penchant for doing just that, whine:
"I think [Rich Lowry] is probably right. I am the most fabulous whiner. I do whine because I want to win. And I'm not happy if I'm not winning. And I am a whiner. And I'm a whiner and I keep whining and whining until I win," he said. "And I'm going to win for the country and I'm going to make our country great again."
Trump "The Great Deal Maker" isn't finished just yet.  He still may win even if he comes up short of the delegates he needs to win the nomination in Cleveland this summer.  Considering all that's  happened to date though one thing is clear no matter if he wins or loses:  his next book will no undoubtedly be a best seller as well -  "Trump The Art of the Fine Whine."

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Progress With Anti-Bullying Campaigns Nationwide Being Undermined By 2016 Election Campaign


For the first time in twelve years, since I've been teaching high school, there is a perceptible change taking place in my classroom dynamic.  My Muslim students, some whom I have known for two or three years are now telling me for the first time things are being said to them about their religion and who they are.  One young girl whom I've taught for two years told me that this year she's had something said to her about her belief system from several students, including ones she has known since beginning high school and that for the first time they felt uncomfortable about who they were.

I've also picked up rumblings from my students about LGBT's suddenly getting harassment in ways they've never experience before.  This goes for my black students as well who tell me they are hearing the 'N' word more often how than ever before.  There is no doubt something is happening in my school I've never experience before and apparently I'm not the only one:

"I think there's a real danger of harm taking place in all American schoolchildren," Maureen Costello, an education expert at the Southern Poverty Law Centre (SPLC), a civil rights group, told Al Jazeera."We've seen 10 or more years of anti-bullying work get rolled back by a hostile atmosphere in many schools. Teachers describe disillusionment, depression and discouragement among kids who feel like they now know what people have thought about them all along," Castello said.

What seems to be causing all of this?  The data from a Southern Poverty Law Center survey of some 2,000 schools across the nation appears to be unambiguous in its findings:

An SPLC survey of some 2,000 US schools found that two-thirds of teachers described their vulnerable students - including blacks, Muslims, Latinos and other minorities - as affected by rhetoric in the 2016 White House race.
It shows a spike in racist bullying. For Muslims - or even some non-Muslim brown-skinned children - the acronym "ISIS" has become a stock taunt, referencing the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, which is also known as ISIS).
There doesn't seem to be any coincidence with the findings of this study and the 2016 campaign for the White House where a leading Presidential contender is talking about building walls and describing Mexican immigrants as anything but in a positive light.  At the beginning of businessman Donald Trumps campaign he started a firestorm with this opening gambit to the 2016 race for the White House:
“[Mexico] are sending people that have lots of problems, and they are bringing those problems to us. They are bringing drugs, and bringing crime, and their rapists,” the business mogul said.
The damage being done to the classrooms across the country seems to be undeniable.  The anti-bullying campaign being so assiduously used over the last 10 years now almost seems to be for naught with the prevailing atmosphere rolling in from the hateful rhetoric by the Republican side of the 2016 campaign.  The damage being done by the rhetoric of fear, anger and racism spilling out of the Donald Trump campaign is going to make it so much more difficult to roll back after such positive progress that seemed to be so evident with that nation-wide anti-bullying campaign.  I never imagined the source of ugly xenophobic rhetoric you would hear at this level would be rooted in the campaign for the White House.


Tuesday, April 12, 2016

ICARE Community Initiatives Clouded By Mayor Curry's Pension Reform Issue As Conditional For Support

I was fortunate enough to attend the ICARE Nehemiah meeting on Monday, April 11th at the Abyssinia Baptist Church on Interstate Center Dr. For those unfamiliar with ICARE it is the Interfaith Coalition for Action, Reconciliation, and Empowerment that is a coalition of 24 churches, mosques, and synagogues dedicated to improving the quality of life in Jacksonville, Florida by addressing neighborhood and city-wide justice issues important to our members. 

The evening event in question subjected the Abyssinia Church with an overflowing crowd that waited in anticipation for the expected appearance of Mayor Lenny Curry. It is no secret Mayor Curry was a reluctant participant to attend and had to be pressed into attending with constant entreaties from the ICARE community and the publicity surrounding his reticence. Once he was invited on stage to answer questions regarding the community initiatives supported by the ICARE board it came as no surprise that he based his administration commitment to the initiatives on the outcome of the pension issue currently simmering in the current local political discourse. In a nutshell Curry based his argument for giving a full commitment to the ICARE community initiatives on the 'success' of his pension reform plan which includes cutting pensions for city employees with a proposed shift to 401K's which have well known vulnerabilities as a retirement plan with details that go outside the purview of this discussion and can be discussed at a later date as it has a direct link to the pension issue. 

In 2011 Rick Scott instructed state and local governments to start cutting teacher salaries by 3% to contribute to the Florida state pension plan to replace up to $1 billion contributed by the state. My pay was cut 3% to increase donation to the pension fund statewide that was not my original contracted agreement as a salaried teacher. Scott offered in exchange an increase in educational funding based on a per student formula statewide. Not only did he abrogate the agreement to increase that funding he has steadily cut statewide per student since 2011. This is a typical bait and switch tactic on government spending agreements used by Republican Party operatives for statewide monetary policy. Mayor Curry is now trying to employ the same Rick Scott playbook not only on ICARE community initiatives but on citywide initiatives based on the pension 'crisis' being reformed through policies approved by his plan similar to the tactic Scott used for the state pension fund. 

Curry decries a tax burden on on the city as one obstacle to helping defuse the pension crisis which was admittedly mismanaged by the pension board for using public investment in a volatile market that backfired and helped cause the current crisis. Reaching for a 401K alternative is offering the same formula which helped cause the crisis in the first place which is another matter for discussion outside the discussion here. Let's quickly review the tax structure on the city of Jacksonville as outlined at the city's website which has the third lowest "tax burden" in the country:"


As an added argument to the local tax structure being unduly burdensome to the citizen taxpayer as the lone supporter for upkeep of the community infrastructure without city based businesses contributing one dime here is the current city mill rate compared to the top 10 cities in the state:



In a nutshell this is the current “pro-business” tax structure for city based businesses in Jacksonville proper [Duval county]. The city based business entities enjoys this under-taxed pro-business tax structure that by design allows them to be exempt from committing to a tax investment in the very infrastructure they exploit. This is a typical Republican "pro-business" blueprint for city based businesses to use and exploit the Jacksonville community infrastructure and force the entire burden for its upkeep on the citizen taxpayer. The corporate entities enjoying the 'benefits' outlined above will argue there is community investment through quality high paying jobs for individuals while moving company profits outside not only its host city of Jacksonville but the state of Florida. 

This leads the discussion to the Curry principle of defunding pension levels and replacing pension contributions by the city with 401K retirement plans vulnerable to market volatility as a viable plan while protecting the status quo of the Jacksonville business based tax structure. This puts ICARE community initiatives on the back burner waiting for the right opportunity to use the defunding of city employee pensions for a path to community initiatives at not only their expense but at individual taxpayer expense as well through the continued exemption of a tax investment in the community infrastructure by those business entities that profit from it the most. 

These actions also adds to the conservative Republican meme that somehow any government, whether local, state, or federal has the potential to be intrusive or an obstacle to individual initiative and the business environment as a whole. Somehow the meme is propagated that when a business fails somehow it’s the governments fault but whenever it finds success and flourishes then it is only through individual initiative, hard work and nothing else. In other words the taxpayer provided infrastructure current Jacksonville based businesses do not contribute one dime too, employees that were educated through a taxpayer subsided education system that fill their job positions, and a community that offers volunteer services such as family support groups, church based charities that help the community around the business all had nothing to do with its success. 

There is an argument that life spans are longer and pensions are no longer viable through a modern local government funding structure. This is the SAME exact argument used by the Republican party to defund social security and turn it over to Wall Street entities as a privatized fund. Good efficient, honest government by individuals dedicated to those ends deserve retirement pension funds paid BY THE COMMUNITY. That's the cost of having a viable and prospering community through an investment in the overseers of that local government. Good employees that are dedicated and committed to good local government will be hard to find if there is competition from privatized entities with goals and agenda that are not the same as those of a community as a whole. Earlier in an article from the Florida Times Union a local taxpayer was quoted thusly when told that taxpayer funds will be proposed to replace the pension shortfalls:
 “I’m so angry as a taxpayer,” said Karen Fergusson, a resident of Jacksonville who came to City Hall on Wednesday to hear about the forensic audit. Fergusson was joined by about 60 other people. “I own a home. I pay taxes. Our money is needed in so many other areas.” 
This is a typical response from a taxpayer that absolutely fails to understand that community investment also calls for paying government employees that dedicate themselves to the very community she inhabits that include "...so many other areas."
This is not a call to ignore the individuals responsible for the current pension crisis. On the contrary they need to be held accountable but not at the expense of city employees. Mayor Curry needs to be called on this by the opposition as these two political initiatives of pension reform

and community initiatives come to ahead. The problem is I see no one willing to do that. I saw some fight in the ICARE powers that be that evening but that is not enough. The overflow attendance that was in attendance watching this kabuki political blackmail theater play out before them should be a warning to Curry that the people’s concerns should not be subjected to political blackmail. I'm just not sure the will is there from the ICARE community to hold Curry and his administration’s feet to the fire in a more aggressive manner that was demonstrated tonight and force a political change that will benefit the community initiatives we all want. For those of you that want to 'keep politics out of this' as an argument are in self denial here. It IS political as that's the process of governing we chose as a republic. I'm willing to take that fight to Curry. I hope others will as well and contribute to this discussion.

Wednesday, April 06, 2016

A Slur By Any Other Name Is Still A Slur


I've been following Hillary Rodham's career ever since I first became aware of her in June, 1991 as Arkansas First Lady.  I liked her right away as she presented herself, to me anyway, as a woman of intelligence, strength, and perseverance in the face of adversity as a public figure I've never seen for anyone else before or since.  And that includes the likes of Richard Nixon at the height of his, of his dishonor, LBJ at the height of his disapproval over Vietnam, or Harry Truman when he left office with a 23% approval rating as examples.  She has been the target of a right wing slur machine put into motion from the first moment she stepped foot on the national political scene as the political activist and wife of then Governor Clinton of Arkansas.  


As a latch key kid in the late sixties I watched my mother raise myself and my brother mostly on her own while we had a father that seemed to be so important to the navy in the midst of the Vietnam war he was hardly ever home with unending overseas duty assignments up until he finally retired in the late 1960's.  I was too young to understand as a boy as I watched her endure a patriarchal world in segregated North Caroline where society was constructed on a system of institutionalized racism and sexism.  Yet she still managed to wind her way through societies built in obstacles that favored white males to do a job I still marvel at raising my brother and myself.  As I look back on those years watching her do her work as a mom I can only admire as a son in total awe I developed, over time a feminism, that was almost nearly as radical as any adherent the women's movement could produce at its height of activism in the early 70's. 

One of the pet peeves I developed through this period was the detestation of two names for females of any age, social/class circumstance, or race that would be uttered to describe them in the heat of emotional conflict, debasing humor, or worse, everyday conversation:  'bitch' and 'whore.'  These two labels have always in the past and still do in the present exist in an environment for which there is no male equivalent.  These two labels, if you will, serve only one purpose: to be used as a tool of debasement to identify a behavior that does not meet the expectations of a male. It is especially unnerving for me to hear other women to use those monikers of derision to affirm male expectations of behavior.  As a son of a mother, a husband to my beautiful wife, and the father of a precious and beautiful daughter I am very sensitive to the usage of these terms of debasement.  I flinch with disgust whenever it is wielded on women in my family, circle of friends, colleagues, acquaintances, or strangers I encounter in everyday movement through the general negotiations of public encounters.  My male feminism is one of many driving forces of my liberalism that has laid out boundaries of what I will not tolerate from other individuals as a public citizen, father, school teacher, or the unending circumstances of public encounters.

This brings me back to Secretary Clinton whom I currently support for President of the United States for 2016.  I recently ran across this chart/table of names on Twitter that has been put together tracking  the slurs used to identify her in social media.  The image is visceral as a tool for dehumanization demonstrating contempt for a female who certainly does not know or insists on not recognizing the boundaries for women and their place in a patriarchal world still institutionalized socially, culturally, politically, legally, economically, and especially sexually to favor white males, focused on those particularly inhabiting positions of power and influence.  Note the number of times names that are unprintable in social media have been used in contrast with the others: [click to expand]


There is no doubt she has endured these uncountable instances of public derision for as long as she has asserted herself as a woman of empowerment.  Note also the number of times Sanders supporters have employed names 'to crude to print' as I'm sure had not gone unnoticed by Jane Sanders, Bernie's wife.  I am certain she is aware of the shoulders of sacrifice she stands on that are instrumental and a testament for what she was able to become in allowing her to persevere as a model for women to today to aspire to.   I'm thinking of my 10 year old who follows her and smiles whenever she sees her on TV.  If she manages to become President of the United States I try not to think of the instances that will multiply a million fold above and beyond what the chart above shows.  One can only hope it is a first step toward a plateau where women will one day been seen as a complete equal so much so a thought is not even given to it.  But that day is still far, far, off above and beyond, I"m afraid, even further than the life span of my daughter.