Making Money…

Okay, a mea culpa, of sorts; I’ve written in the past that I want to see manufacturing jobs come home from overseas.  I note two reasons.  One, I feel that American military strength has been weakened by the loss of working factories that might be converted during an actual, existential war.  (What, do you think China would continue to supply the US with steel should the US and China go to war?)  Two, they were good-paying jobs.  Both statements remain true but the second half, the “good-paying jobs” part needs a bit of an update.

I had occasion to watch Bernie Sanders’ internet Town Hall with Michael Moore and Elizabeth Warren.  They had a guest on the panel, Cindy Estrada – the current Vice President of the UAW.  She made the point – correctly, to my mind – that those jobs weren’t “good paying” because of the job itself but because they were unionized jobs.

A large segment of our society has been deceived by what people call Right to Work states.  28 states have instituted “Right to Work Laws.”  Right to Work takes the position that people have the right to work without joining unions.  Whenever I hear Right to Work, I always think, “Wait…the slaves had a “right to work” as well…”

The fact is, labor is a commodity.  The idea that workers might band together to protect worker interest is VERY “Capitalist.”  It’s just that the Capitalists don’t like unions.  Being forced to pay a fair wage, they contend, harms their overall profits.  I’d say that’s true.  The Antebellum South didn’t pay their “workers” at all and profits soared – for a few.  Today, the closer an employer can get to that model, the higher the profit for the company.  But it’s not good for the workers and, long-term, it’s not good for the overall economy.  The Antebellum South was a poverty-stricken hell-hole for most of the inhabitants.

So, in retrospect, it wasn’t “manufacturing jobs” the corporations outsourced so much as it was the UNION jobs.  They told us, honestly, that the US was going to become a “service economy.”  As it happens, many service jobs weren’t unionized.  Note that they were and are low-paying.  So, my correction is this: it’s less important to “bring back” manufacturing jobs (at least for that reason) and MORE important to start unionizing service jobs.

Yes, I include burger-flippers.  No, I don’t want to pay $15 dollars for a fast food product.  Of course, if all workers are paid a decent, living wage one COULD pay that but the truth is, these corporations make BILLIONS of dollars in profits every year.  They COULD pay a living wage and still make money – just not quite so much.

I’ll tell you this: when all is said and done, it all comes down to one point; if a person is ready, willing, and able to work 40 hours a week, they have a right to earn a living wage.

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Speaking of making money, I’ve begun to suspect that our National Embarrassment is doing so with his mouth (or his Twitter account).  He puts out a comment, say, about tariffs on Steel.  Stocks drop.  He updates his position.  Stocks recover.

During the drop – if you know it’s coming (because you’re about to say something that will bring it about) – why wouldn’t you use what’s left of the vast fortune your daddy built to buy the temporarily declined stocks at bargain basement rates and then “update” your position, bringing the stock price back up?

I’ll make the numbers up for an example.  Let’s say a stock trades at $10 dollars a share.  Trump throws out some threat and the stock drops to $5 dollars a share.  Trump buys 5,000 shares and then recants his threat.  He just made $25,000 and all he had to do was undermine the stock market for a few hours – or days, depending upon how much he needs.

Of course, Trump supporters (yes, there are still far too many) will call that “smart.”  I don’t think he’s smart.  I think he’s a schemer and schemers don’t have to be smart.  What I call it is illegal stock market manipulation.  Insider trading at it’s worst.

I’ll tell you this: I’ve stopped being surprised to find ‘Trump’ and ‘worst’ in the same sentence…

Wrecks…

There’s an old joke: A man walks up to a woman in a club and asks if she would sleep with him for a million dollars.  She considers him and his request and finally answers, “A million dollars?  I guess so…”
“Great,” he answers.  “How about for twenty-five bucks?”
“Twenty-five bucks?!?” she asks, insulted.  “What do you think I am?”
“Oh, we’ve already established what you are,” he answers.  “Now we’re just haggling over the price…”

I’m actually starting to feel badly for Melania.  Sure, she’s a gold-digger who thought she’d hit the jackpot by marrying such an extensive fortune.  She HAD to know he wouldn’t be faithful.  He’s never been faithful…to anyone or anything.  But a porn star?  I’m guessing she didn’t realize she was signing up for…

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TeslaModel-xC780x439

Tesla came out in full offensive mode after this crash.  I can hardly blame them.  They made the point that Tesla’s Autopilot mode isn’t REALLY a full Autopilot mode.  They stated the driver’s hand were not on the wheel at the time of the crash and that the driver had ignored -or, at least, not responded to – warnings from the car.  They suggested the car hadn’t been properly repaired after a previous accident.  They pointed out that the highway abutment was missing it’s attenuator.

In 1965, Ralph Nader published a book called ‘Unsafe At Any Speed.’  The book was really about the automobile industry’s unwillingness to adopt safety standards quickly enough but one chapter focused on a particular model on the road at the time, the Chevy Corvair.  He pointed out that because of a design decision that could have been done differently (and inexpensively), if you took a corner fast enough in a Corvair, the rear wheels might well tuck under the car sending you into an uncontrollable spin.  Within four years, the Corvair was out of production…

Ford introduced the Pinto in 1971.  A design flaw caused the car to burst into flames if it was rear-ended hard enough.  Somewhere between 27 and 180 people died as a result.  The danger got into the press.  People found out.  The Pinto was out of production by 1980.

The ONE piece Tesla hasn’t mentioned in their various defenses of the Model X is that the car in question burst into flames after the accident.  I don’t know how common it is.  It happens from time to time, particularly in very bad accidents.  So, Tesla has little option but to distract.  They know history.  They can’t afford to allow the public perception that under the right circumstances, your shiny new Tesla might become an impromptu crematorium…

…but it might…

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Our national embarrassment is attacking Amazon.  He’s claiming they don’t pay enough taxes.  When HE didn’t pay taxes, he claimed it was because he was “smart.”  He claims the “failing” Post Office isn’t getting what they should from Amazon.  It’s time to repeat – and never forget – that the Post Office is suffering under an artificial financial burden imposed on them by Republicans in Congress.  The P.O. would be doing just fine if they weren’t required to fund pensions for employees they haven’t even hired yet.  The Post Office is established in the Constitution.  The only way Republicans can kill it is to artificially bury it financially…

What Changed?

As the gun debate once again rages across this once-great nation I saw a question pop up in social media that I thought deserved some attention: ‘What changed?’  The premise of the question is that guns have been in our society…literally longer than we’ve BEEN a society.  One can go back through the years and NOT find mass shootings.  If you represent a certain age group you know that people used to drive around with rifles in their gun racks and really, nobody cared.  Students could have fights at school and nobody ever went out to their car or truck, grabbed a gun, and came back shooting.  So?  What changed?  Here are two possible answers, both of which are correct, neither of which is intended to be all-inclusive.

One thing that changed, quite frankly, is the National Rifle Association.  The NRA used to be a gun safety group.  They sponsored clubs and taught safety and responsible firearm practices.  Once upon a time, the NRA was on the side of the good guys.  These days, though, the NRA has morphed from the gun safety club they started as into a lobbyist group for gun manufacturers.  They’ve taken a “no compromise” position on the 2nd Amendment supported by an intentional misreading of it’s one sentence.

The other thing I point to that has changed is the media.  Information flow in the United States used to be (mostly) limited to newspapers and evening news reports on the three networks.  The people involved used to practice a thing called “Journalism.”  The media would provide the facts; who, what, when, where, why, and how.  People would come to their conclusions.  Opinions were limited to the Editorial pages.  On TV, if someone offered and opinion, they had to provide equal time for dissenting opinions.  (Imagine if FOX “News” was required to provide free equal time for dissenting opinions…)  It was MUCH more difficult for self-interested parties to inject disinformation into the discussion in support of profits.

With deregulation of broadcasting and the advent of the internet, though, all of that changed.  We started to see various outlets feeding certain types of information to certain groups of people.  We witnessed the rise of conservative media, then the conservative bubble.  Eventually, a liberal media branch was born, as well, but it has never been so fully developed as the conservative media.

And the conservative media is ANGRY.  They make their money stoking fear and anger.  At the risk of being accused of over-simplifying the message, conservative media maintains certain subtexts: the government is bad and only bad.  Business is good and only good.  “They” (defined as nearly as I can tell as anybody not conservative enough) are coming to enslave the population.  Conservative media hammers constantly on an “us-vs-them” mentality which they frame with existential overtones.  Over time, the weakest thinkers in the crowd begin to act on their anger and fears…

I have to take a moment, here, to talk about that term, “weak thinkers.”  I know it sounds like a slam but I don’t mean it that way.  It has nothing to do with “stupid.”  I actually mean people who were never taught to think properly or, perhaps as the result of some medical condition, for example, can no longer think as effectively as they once did.  The Austin bomber is an excellent example.  This white male conservative Christo-terrorist was raised in a super-conservative, super (pseudo) Christian household.  He was home-schooled with a goal of keeping him from having contact with “outsiders” – non-believers.  He participated in a group that taught shooting and the Bible.  He was specifically, intentionally isolated from “the secular world” ostensibly for his own protection.  (Truthfully, I’ve never been able to figure out why it doesn’t qualify as child abuse…)

Christian households are not teaching their children critical thinking.  The moment one answers “The Lord works in mysterious ways” to an honest question, one has planted the seed that critical thinking has limited application.   Conservative households specifically denounce critical thinking as some sort of conspiracy of the “intellectual elite.”  Now toss in a bit of Alex Jones or Glenn Beck or Rush Limbaugh.  Essentially, that kid didn’t stand a chance.  But by every account, he seemed intelligent enough.  His problem was not stupidity, it was weak thinking.  So…conservative media radicalizes weak thinkers – and a shooter (or bomber) is begotten.

I’ll tell you this: I’m going to go out on a limb, here, and predict that my conservative brethren will take issue with my positions, particularly regarding conservative media.  But there’s a reason the shooters keep coming up white, male, conservative, and pseudo-Christian and I think these are honest responses to the question; ‘What changed?’

Thoughts, March 19, 2018

I suppose, by now, you’ve had a chance to look up some of Stormy Daniels’ work.  That girl can act!  I mean, I really believed her anguish at not having the money to pay for that pizza…

I hear Trump gets his parade.  Bully for him.  I’m glad the United States has finally found a way to project her military strength to the rest of the globe…

FINALLY, we know who’s going to lead Russia for the next six years.  I guess he’ll be leading the US, as well.  At least until we can get rid of Trump…

The United States Supreme Court.
That’s it.  That’s the whole joke…

Republican leaders are warning Trump not to interfere with Mueller’s investigation.  They want him to let it play out.  I think they know that, politically, it’s the best way to get rid of him…

California lawmakers seem to be catching on to the idea that taxing cannabis at 50% just sends buyers back to the black market.  Apparently, the “fix” they’re considering is to lower the tax by 9% for three years.   I don’t know if Gavin Newsom intended to be so supportive of California’s black market in cannabis but he couldn’t have done a better job if he had tried…

On Sanctuary Cities…

I got lost, recently, on the topic of Sanctuary Cities.  With so much misinformation going around, I suppose it’s not such a difficult thing to do – get lost in the stream.  It started when I heard that a city in the bay area was considering declaring itself a sanctuary city for marijuana.  So far, the sanctuary tag has been used in ways I support.  But I began to wonder what happens if another state uses the ‘Sanctuary’ moniker to do something I don’t believe in.  What if, as an extreme example, Alabama decided to declare itself a ‘Sanctuary State’ for slavery or Texas declared itself a ‘Sanctuary State’ against Roe vs Wade?  Then Jeff Sessions, the impish Attorney General of the US, saved me by filing suit against California.  His suit insists that California has no legal right to make laws contrary to the Federal government.  It brought me back.  If you, too, might be feeling a bit lost regarding what the state is doing, allow me, please, to share my insights…

My mistake was seeing the ‘Sanctuary’ identifier as a thumb in the eye to the Federal government and that’s exactly what Sessions is arguing.  The thing is, that’s NOT what the sanctuary moniker is about.  The reason California is going to win this legal fight is because nobody is telling the Feds they can’t do their jobs.  The Sanctuary Cities are simply declaring that the Fed doesn’t get to use local (city or state) resources.  Everyone agrees; immigration is a Federal responsibility.  Nobody is trying to stop the Federal Government from using Federal resources to carry out a Federal job.  Because the state doesn’t agree with the tactics of the Feds, we’ve simply declared we’re not going to help.  In short, California’s sanctuary laws are not contrary to Federal law.

It’s the same with Berkeley’s marijuana sanctuary city designation.  Berkeley is merely stating that they won’t use local resources on cannabis cases.  But while writing this, I began to wonder about the anti-marijuana bent of the Federal government.  The Feds classify cannabis as a Schedule 1 drug, meaning, by definition, there’s no known medical benefit.  Yet, the Federal government grows and provides same to Glaucoma patients, clearly indicating a known medical benefit.  I wonder if one of my legal friends would enlighten me as to how the Feds ever got a conviction if their own actions demonstrate lack of belief in the basis for one of it’s laws.

I’ll tell you this: It’s a confusing world we live in but I’m feeling better about sanctuary cities…

Activating Empathy…

Every time this gun debate happens, sooner or later, some frustrated soul says, “Well, I hope one of THEIR kids ends up on the wrong end of a gun!”  The speaker invariably looks horrified by what they’ve just suggested, retracts the statement, and begins apologizing profusely to whatever higher power they claim.  They don’t REALLY mean it.  After all, what kind of blithering, blind fool would wish harm on children because of the sins of the father?  But they ARE reacting to something many people know: there’s a large swath of people on this planet who lack empathy and the only way to get them to understand a thing is for them to experience it.

My American Heritage Dictionary defines empathy as “Identification with and understanding of another’s situation, feelings, and motives.”  Basically, empathy is the capacity to accurately place oneself in another person’s shoes.  Because people who lack empathy cannot properly relate to another person’s position, they often come to erroneous conclusions about things – but only while those things remain abstract.  Once the “empathy-challenged” gain personal experience in a given subject, they often have a more…applicable attitude…

Gabby Giffords is one of the more obvious examples today.  She was a Congresswoman from Arizona.  She didn’t get a high grade from the NRA because she supported an assault weapons ban but, according to Foxnews.com, she has been “vocal about her support for gun owners’ rights.”  She supported and signed an amicus brief in support of gun owners’ rights in DC vs Heller.  These days, however, she fronts a gun-control group she founded with her husband.  What changed?  A bullet to the head.  Apparently, getting shot in the head is a very convincing argument for gun control.  For her, the entire gun debate left the world of “philosophical positions” and became very real, indeed.  It got me to thinking…

No, I’m not thinking we should shoot anybody who supports gun rights.  Listen, I support gun rights, though I acknowledge it might be a little difficult to tell from this particular piece.  But that’s because I’m tired of mass shootings and I’m tired of people standing in the way of common sense gun controls that might prevent them.  Yes, I know, they might not.  But suggesting that something shouldn’t be tried because it might not work perfectly in every possible situation just sounds stupid.  Because it is…

I know that more than 99% of gun owners are “responsible.”  But in fighting every suggestion – many proven by application in other countries – that comes down the line as an attempt to take away all guns, the 99+% aren’t doing anything to help society deal with the less than one percent.  It seems to me, the very best way to ensure that eventually, society will demand confiscation is to continue to protect and defend the people who misuse their weapons and the (lack of) process that makes it so easy.  It remains true: the few always ruin it for the many.

Yes, it’s a “mental health problem.”  But our society has decided to destroy itself through endless war so there’s no money to deal with mental health problems.  If we’re not going to treat those with mental health problems, we’re going to be left with no alternative but to take away the devices they use to express their mental health problems.  You feel free to cite all the pseudo-facts and “massaged” statistics you want.  No matter what you say, the other side of the ledger shows children cut to pieces by lead.  You want to deride that as an “emotional response?”  Have at it.  It won’t change a thing.  When a loved one is cut to pieces in a way that could have been prevented, statistics have no meaning…

But I digress.  This is about empathy.  To that end, I’d like to pass a law called ‘Giving The Finger To Shooters Act.’  It provides that every time there’s a shooting with six or more deaths, society gets to take one of Evil Wayne’s fingers.  (“Evil Wayne” is Wayne LaPierre, the current bastar…uh…CEO of the NRA.)  Look, I know it sounds harsh.  I’m not trying to be cruel.  I mean, we wouldn’t use garden shears.  We’d have a doctor do the work.  We wouldn’t start with “important” fingers, either.  We would start with the pinky of his non-dominant hand and work in from there, one at a time, as the qualified shootings occur.  Real-life practice currently identifies a mass shooting as four or more victims.  The ‘Giving The Finger To Shooters Act’ calls for six or more deaths, so there’s some grace there, too.

When you think about it, the proposal provides Evil Wayne greater opportunity to protect his fingers (and toes, eventually) than his rhetoric provides for children.  Besides, said law isn’t really aimed at Evil Wayne.  It would apply to whoever the CEO of the NRA is a the time of the shooting.  But I’ll tell you this; I’ve got to believe that if Evil Wayne had to give up a digit every time someone killed six or more people in one shooting, the NRA would have an entirely different attitude about gun control.  You see, Evil Wayne would have something tangible on the line.  His empathy would be activated.  These shootings are not abstract to the victims’ families and they wouldn’t be abstract for the currently carefully protected Wayne anymore, either.

I know.  I’m not going to get such a law – and I shouldn’t – because of civilization.  Evil Wayne is protected by (and gets to profit from) the reality that I don’t get to BE a barbarian in an attempt to stop barbarianism.  So let me, instead, try to activate some empathy by using a metaphor that a certain segment of our society once found oh-so-convincing.  Imagine you have a bowl of Skittles…

To the best of my knowledge, Skittles are nothing more than an enjoyable snack manufactured by conscientious people in a clean and safe environment.  (That’s my disclaimer for the people at Wrigley…)  In our bowl of Skittles, though, through some unknown anomaly of the manufacturing process, two of the Skittles contain pure poison with no known antidote.  They’re slightly misshapen, so if you could examine them closely enough, they COULD be routed out before anyone consumed them.  But you’re not allowed to look.  And those are the two we might have caught.  There’s also one Skittle that started out just fine but, again, through some unknown group of pressures, that Skittle has “broken” and morphed from being a “responsible” Skittle, to being pure poison, with no known antidote.  No one will find out about that Skittle until someone dies.  That’s just the risk we take for enjoying Skittles…

Now…and you don’t get to choose zero…how many Skittles are you going to put in your child’s lunch today?

An Open Letter to Great Britain…

Reuters is reporting that Rupert Murdoch is doing everything he can to win approval to buy the 61 percent of Sky he doesn’t already own.  Regulators won’t let him at the moment.  They fear the “influence Murdoch could wield through the ownership of Sky News.”  They’re right to do so.  I wouldn’t want to overstate things, but if you love your civilization, you’ll do anything, everything you can to stop him.

I know, “…if you love your civilization” seems hyperbolic.  But all you need do is look across the pond to see the damage Murdoch has inflicted on the United States.  In the US, consumers of Murdoch’s Fox “News” will fight for their right to be wrong. They’ll do it because Murdoch convinces them their opinion is every bit as important as someone else’s facts.  After awhile, you’ll hear people discounting facts in favor of opinions as though that’s perfectly reasonable.  Eventually, they’ll go so far as to deny science, itself, in order to stay safely in the club.  It’s like trying to convince the Pope that Jesus never existed.  Even if he agreed with you, he would never admit it.  He’s got way too much to lose…

Murdoch accomplishes his goals by empowering and emboldening the worst aspects of the weakest thinkers.  He sells fear and anger.  He tells the weakest thinkers that, secretly, they’re the smart ones and they should shun the “intellectual elite.”  Secretly, they have the truth and everyone else is deceived.  That empowers them.  He causes them to believe that, secretly, they’re the majority.  All they need do is step outside and say what they think and they’ll find their kindred.  All too often, they do.  That emboldens them.

Mind you, Murdoch’s Fox “News” doesn’t come right out and say any of these things.  It’s more subtle.  It’s insidious.  Certain messages are reinforced a thousand times a day by implication and insinuation.  Fox uses every trick in the book to deceive the gullible – and they’ve even made up a few of their own.  They cite “some” as a source.  (“Some say…”)  Many stories are factually accurate, though factually incomplete.  Often, it’s the bit that gets left out – an “editorial decision” – that moves a story from “truth” to “not truth.”

I think the sentence that chilled my blood the most while reading this article was this: “Last week, Fox pledged to maintain and fund a fully independent Sky-branded news service for five years, and on Tuesday it upped this offer to run for 10 years.”  I’ll bet.  Murdoch ran Fox “News” at a loss for years before finally turning a profit.  He doesn’t mind.  He knows it takes time to undermine a culture.  He’s patient.

And it won’t just be Sky News, either.  After Murdoch gets started, a network of supporting players springs up in various formats.  I know many conservatives who insist they never watch Fox “News” without ever considering that they’re watching people who, themselves, are watching Fox “News.”  Call it Fox “News” by proxy.

Keep Murdoch out if you can.  He’ll only do to you what he’s done to us.  Not to put too fine a point on it, Donald Trump is the culmination of twenty years of Fox “News.”  I’ll tell you this: if you relish the notion of having your very own Trump as PM, give Murdoch what he wants.  I don’t advise it, though.  Not if you love your civilization…