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Is America Dead?
John Pavlovitz recently published the following commentary. I find myself lamenting the same behavior that infects many of my fellow citizens.
America is Dead

JULY 16, 2019 / JOHN PAVLOVITZ

America is dead.

Not the America that I idealized as a boy; not the glittering beacon of equality I imagined it to be through the vaseline-covered lenses of my maleness and straightness and whiteness; not the star-spangled stuff of towering billboards, celluloid dreams, and black and white movie reels—promising every human being open-armed welcome and the unencumbered chase of life, liberty, and happiness.

That America, I’ve come to learn, never really existed. Its freedom and abundance were never fully available to everyone here. It had been built on the land and the backs of people who saw only a fraction of the promises made by the anthems and the slogans. I grieved the passing of that America long ago, like a childhood myth you one day wake up and realize you’ve outgrown and can’t fool yourself into believing anymore, as much as you want to.

The America that I came to know as real, was deeply flawed: erected on supremacy, steeped in misogyny, forged through force, and polluted with prejudice—but still beautiful in what it aspired to. Despite its fractured and ugly parts, that America was a place where I believed most people were trying really hard to make space for difference, to defend the vulnerable, to listen to someone else’s story.

The America I accepted as real, was a place where our leaders were expected to be public stewards of the dream. They were supposed to be the ones leading us to our better nature. They were there to steady us in turbulence and to bring clarity when confusion reigned. They were the people, at least on the surface—declaring the inherent worth of every human being and working to make each person feel seen and safe and welcome here.

The America I accepted as real wouldn’t tolerate an unrepentant racist at its helm.

That America is dead.

Our leaders no longer even need to pretend.

They can hate with impunity.

It is not lamented by their supporters, but celebrated.

From our most revered platform they can openly and with great enmity, declare the inferiority and inhumanity of an entire group of human beingsand it is simply amened by a choir of like-hearted loyalists; defended on talk shows and buttressed by political partners and boosted on bumpers: no, you are not welcome here—no, America does not want you.

Leaders can tweet out unthinkable cruelty and abject lies, and hurl every kind of otherizing slur about people and place those people directly in harm’s way—and no objections are raised by those who once would have held them accountable. They can lobby for people’s removal and eradication, and it is deemed acceptable, even Presidential.

In the presence of unapologetic bigotry from the very highest levels of our Government, millions do not bat an eye, they speak not a word of dissension, they do nothing to demand an elemental level of human decency—they expend no energy protecting vulnerable life.

And most heartbreaking, men and women who profess faith in a dark-skinned, itinerant, middle eastern rabbi who preached love of neighbor—are now the greatest perpetuators of violence against the poor and the assailed and the marginalized. Their silent complicity and vocal support is perhaps the worst of these recent deaths.

I used to look at my country and even when I saw its many deficiencies, I believed the people around me were at least attempting to be the best version of themselves and striving to do no harm. I no longer believe that about many of them—not because I want to believe that, but because they are telling me that. They are regularly and loudly pronouncing the America I once believed in to be dead.

Now I’m attending the funeral of another version of the country I love and trying to find reason to keep going. My only comfort is found in those who do grieve alongside me, those who are also disgusted by the malevolence so many have embraced, those who refuse to accept the unacceptable. They are the ones who will keep the idea of America from dying in the country called America.

I only hope that I can avoid not letting the dream of a better nation—one where everyone is truly welcome and treasured and given the chance to thrive—die in me.

(After https://johnpavlovitz.com/2019/07/16/america-is-dead/ via LMJ @ Facebook. Too important to let ads and superfluous graphics get in the way of the message.)

Original Article

Keep the candidates coming; challenge their stamina
None of the "front runners" presents much of interest beyond their canned speeches. I enjoyed listening today to Andrew Yang and Marianne Williamson on CNN. Yang would be the most fun, and he seems able to think in large numbers. Would love to hear round robin debates between the newcomers of both parties, plus some of the more thoughtful (R)s like Adam Kinzinger, who'd be running if not for Tr*mp.

The more I think about round robin debates the more I like the idea; perhaps like baseball; mostly in their own league (party) with occasional interleague play. Once a week from July to May rotating among broadcast and cable networks, followed by a national "jungle" or "top two" primary with runoff as necessary in June followed by a national election with all states pledging their electoral votes to the national majority winner as 11 states already do. (If you're afraid of the latter you don't believe in democracy, admit it.)
National Internet Access Program Needs Net Neutrality
I note the T administration has come out in favor of universal access to the Internet. Wahoo! At the same time they want to allow ISPs to ration service and decide which content providers get preferred access. Learn more by searching "Net Neutrality" in your browser.

BTW, most other industrial nations have had national universal service policies for decades. It can only be done with government support, as there are vast areas with sparse population and without the required infrastructure, in which there is no potential profit in offering the service. Both democracy and free markets depend on universal access to information and ideas.
How long, Lord?
Today's history lesson: Darius III knew more than his generals and assumed field command before the onslaught of Alexander and the Greeks; he fled the battle and was murdered by his own commanders. The Achaemenid Empire ceased to exist.

Napoleon knew more than his generals and invaded Russia before leaving his army lying frozen in the marshes. While France continued, it has ever since been a second echelon power—albeit with great wine and cheese.

Adolf Hitler knew more than his generals and dithered during preparations for invasion before Eisenhower and the Allies achieved the D-Day invasion, whereafter suicide soon became his only option. Nazi Germany ceased to exist.

Donald Trump knows more than our generals and will soon abandon our few remaining Middle East allies—especially the Kurds and potentially the majority of Afghans—to their fate, just as Nixon and Ford did in the case of the Montagnards and Hmong of Vietnam. The US survived the latter but the shame lingers; who now will stand with us when we next need help?
Words fail...
It's no surprise that children have died in custody of the US government, the latest being a 7-year-old girl who walked into NM from Mexico and probably expired from heat-related causes TBD).

The gut instinct of EVERY SINGLE ONE of the administration toadies was to defend the policy. NOT ONE—from DHS Sec. Krysten Cutiepie right down to the grunts at the B.Patrol—interviewed today opened with sympathy or commiseration but went directly to blaming the victim.

The whole thing suggests a new group label. We have a flock of geese, a murder of crows, and now an embarrassment of executives.
Trump: A reasonable request
Donald Tr*mp does not speak for all Americans and cannot expect to stifle violence by "all" who would perpetrate it. He can, however, influence his followers. All we can ask — but probably cannot expect — of him is a statement something like "if you think you are acting in my name or the name of causes in which I believe, you are wrong, and I repudiate you and all like you and do not want your support or your vote." This should come without his characteristic attempt to confuse a situation like today's Pittsburgh shooting by diffusing blame so thinly that we cannot assign responsibility, thereby pointing the finger away from himself. We all know whence this came.
A wee pun is a bit o' fun


Rural America in Crisis Due to Tr*mp Tariffs
Writing in the New York Times, Robert Leonard says "The most poignant evidence of the depopulation of rural [America] over the last three-quarters of a century is the lily. Drive any highway or rock road in the state about this time of year and you will see that about every half-mile, the ditches are full of beautiful orange lilies.

"Behind the lilies are hundred-acre fields of corn or beans, and if you park your car and wander the field behind the lilies, you will invariably find nails, broken crockery and remnants of life where a farmhouse once stood. The lilies are all that’s left of the dreams of the optimistic family that planted the lilies and made a farm and a life on the land generations ago, only to see it lost.

"The destruction of a way of life cuts as deep now as it did back then, especially when it comes from this president. The only thing he knows about food is that it always comes served to him on a silver, or maybe gold, platter."

NYT Article

Orthography
A recent thread on Facebook asked for comments from people whose name is spelled in a less common way. My answer: Rees, not Reese. When I was born during WWII there were many shortages. It was intended that no one should have more than two eGGs, but there was also a shortage of Gs, so a rule was inadvertently published providing that no one might have more than two Es. Rationing, like war itself, was Hell.
Toward equity, not necessarily equality
A high school friend has been commenting that proposed cost of living (COL) adjustments in pensions, social security, etc., seem to be immediately absorbed by rises in health insurance and other basic needs. Sad but true.

However, COL is meaningless without a comparison to gross domestic productivity ) per capita (GDPC). GDPC is now about $55,000/year. Of course not everyone works; GDP per WORKER (GDPW) is about $112,000 (World Bank 2016). If your family of 1-2 workers is not getting somewhere between $112K and $224K, you should be asking yourself (and your political representatives), who's getting the balance? The answer, of course, is corporate managers, successful financial speculators and the idle rich. These are political, not financial, considerations.

Unfortunately, the current political system seems to conflate the value of the person with the value of the job to enable the powerful to assert that the low earners are unworthy of a better life. Pitchforks, anyone?

Of course not all work is equally productive or valued, and one can live decently at 1/4 those numbers in the US except in the highest cost cities. Interestingly, 1/4 of GDPW turns out to be just about the $15 per hour minimum wage called for by the progressive wing of the political spectrum.

If each such worker (and all other earners) were assessed ten percent of income during working years, a pension of 1/4 of prior earnings would be easy to finance, and a modest additional personal savings plan should let even low-wage (minimum) workers have a decent retirement. It would take a generation to bring this into effect, and of course simple estimates like ten percent would need to be argued financially rather than emotionally. We have the financial strength to do such a plan; what we appear to lack is the will and the wisdom.
Average
Click the graphic for a comparison of one medical procedure.

Actually, it's even better. Since I already speak Spanish, I can just lie around instead of doing homework!
Interior Dept. Shamed into Abandoning Fee Hike
Alt National Park Service Reports:
Attn: Your voices have been heard! The Interior Department is backing off from substantially raising the entrance fee for national parks after more than 100,000 Americans wrote to complain about the proposed hikes. Last October, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke proposed raising the entrance fee for 17 major parks from $25 to $70, a change that would mark the largest price increase since World War II.

The idea that public parks should show a profit is as public policy patently insane.

As of 2016, the National Park Service has an annual budget of about $3 billion and an estimated $12 billion maintenance backlog. The National Park Services budget is divided into two primary areas, discretionary and mandatory spending (Wikipedia). That annual budget is about $10 per citizen. For another $2 each per year (total about $1 per month per citizen) we could create a sinking fund that would clear the repair deck in about 40 years, leaving the National Parks as they were in my childhood. Maintaining that $12 fee or (saints preserve us doubling it to a whopping $24 per year could make the parks free to all forever. (Feel free to suggest a progressive income related fee structure.)

The (R)eally selfish people who came up with the fee increase idea don't care a whit about the parks. The Secretary of the Interior who oversees this is the beloved Ryan Zinke (often referred to as Who?, yes the guy who took a batallion of security agents along on his European vacation at public expense), the same guy who wants to strip mine most of North America and charge bargain rates to industry for whatever is exposed. Like most of the current Cabinet, he was appointed not as a steward but as a liquidator of the national patrimony (if this were the 19th Century I'd have added "upon the altar of Mammon," but I won't go there.)
Net Neutrality on the Auction Block
In what universe is turning over unfettered control of the Internet to ISP and telecomm giants consistent with the core objectives of the US government, namely " 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..."?

You can still make a difference. The FCC, following the lead of their industry-tool chairman, will vote to protect corporate power and to screw you on Thursday, Dec. 14. Write your congressional representatives NOW! (https://dearfcc.org) It is VERY important that you write a personal message in the comment section; otherwise your message will be ignored as a bulk mailing. Say something about how you expect the proposed changes will harm you or your community (they will).
Training and arming classroom teachers as school guards; costly, bad idea
Donald Trump, ever our protector, has proposed arming 20% of school teachers as part-time guards. That's 600,000 teachers. We can evaluate the proposal superficially rather quickly (fearless analysis: this article has taken longer to write than DT has thought about the issue).

Average teacher salary in US (2014) is $56,383 plus benefits. With est. fringe of 25% = $70,000.

Average training period for a sworn police officer is six months; we might assume three months for limited-duty training. There is ample reason to doubt that police-training agencies could gear up for this effort, but we won't count that for now.

Cost of training = one-fourth of a teacher's annual salary plus cost of training a police officer. Averages $7,000 across the US. Total with three months teacher salary $18,500 approx. The trainees might reasonably ask for a bonus for giving up their summer vacation, but we won't count that.

Presumably the teachers accepting the risk would get combat pay, let's say 25% bonus for half their career span. Figure 25% of $70,000 for 20 years or $300,000. Of course that would raise their pensions by a commensurate amount; est. 10% rise in pension cost; we won't try to calculate that permanent cost either.

So to summarize.

  1. Initial costs
    • N/teachers (20% of 3,000,000), 600,000.
    • Initial training @ $15,500.
    • Training, first year (600,000 X $15,000), approx. $9.0 billion one time.
  2. Annual costs thereafter
    • Retraining est $2,000 + one month salary (5800/12), total @ $7,800.
    • Combat bonus, $15,000.
    • Total/teacher, $22,800.
    • All teachers (600,000), $13.7 billion.
    • Continuous training of recruits @ 600K x 1/40 = 15,000 recruits/yr @ $18,500, total $342 million/yr.
  3. Combined annual costs
    • Recruit training, $342M.
    • Armed teacher extra pay, $13.7B.
    • Min. total, $13.7B+342M=$14.022 billion per year, FOREVER, NOT including hiring more teachers when an unknown number are removed from classrooms to roam the halls at all times.
  4. Ten year program cost $9+14=$23 billion or $2.3 billion/year. That's $115 per adult (taxpayer). You might ask your local T-bagger how he feels about that.

Alternative

Ban and collect all "assault" weapons (define it yourself).

Government(s) might reimburse owners @ $400 each (currently advertised price of used AR-15 on 26 Feb 2018). (This is a good deal for most owners, whose guns are mostly hidden in closets, improperly maintained and rusting away.)

This would put a lot of money into circulation, almost entirely at a scale conducive to re-spending, which could be a boost to the economy, or perhaps equally to savings, which has lagged in recent decades.

If 10M are in circulation the one-time cost would be (400*10M)=$4 billion — about one-fifth of the armed-teacher plan — with no annual incremental cost.

To assuage anti-"Big Gub'mint" fears, there could be a federal license to carry with reasonable qualifications, e.g., an age limit; training requirement and certification; documentation while in possession; storage and protection obligations... Such a license might carry fees roughly equivalent to a passport, around $200 initially plus a periodic renewal. Further open and honest dialogue could work that out. Thus we protect the Second Amendment, as we should for a host of reasons.

Summary of Alternative

  • Less expensive
  • Radically reduces the likelihood of mass murder with assault rifles.
  • Losers: Gun manufacturers.
  • Winners: Everyone else.
  • We won't count those, either, but you might want to.

The nay-sayers are probably right that nothing can entirely eliminate the possibility of mass shootings, but this is about probabilities, not metaphysics, and imperfection is no excuse for inaction.

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