SUNDAY 6-Pack: April 29, 2018

A weekly listing of articles, audio clips, and other tidbits I’ve encountered that seemed interesting, insightful, or otherwise useful

 

Okay, I’m a day late.  Things got busy at work yesterday and then we went out to see friends.  But I did start a list this week.  So here we go …

First up, a two-fer from Marketplace on what is/isn’t happening in the economy due to tax cuts and globalization.  Note where most of the corporate savings from tax cuts are going (hint: only a third of companies are raising wages — and that’s mostly because it’s harder to attract employees, not tax cuts).  The second piece tackles popular narratives about globalism; in this one, note what is causing (and will continue to)  cause more job loss than globalization.

https://www.marketplace.org/2018/04/23/business/forecast-sunny-business

https://www.marketplace.org/2018/04/24/world/is-globalism-failed-policy

=====================================

Not only are some popular narratives about taxes and globalism inaccurate, these narratives also miss the mark in accounting for the Current Occupant being in the Oval Office.  University of Pennsylvania political science professor Diana Mutz explains it wasn’t a sense of being left out/behind or a hope for better that moved the Current Occupant’s base; it’s fear.  The transcript is just a small part; the whole interview is on audio:

https://www.marketplace.org/2018/04/27/life/trump-voters-economic-anxiety

======================================

This one is actually from a few weeks ago … April 18th, in the middle of what turned out to be a very busy news week. The radio program 1A does a news roundup each Friday; however, seeing what had already happened and what was likely in the next few days, there was a mid-week roundup that day.  There are some interesting insights on several stories early that week that have remained in the news since.  However, it was the comment about Fox News as “state media” that caught my ear.  This comes around the 12 to 13 minute mark and is in the context of Sean Hannity, perhaps the biggest host Fox News has right now, and his connections to the current White House.  But it’s something to give more thought to in light of this past Thursday’s high profile caller to the morning Fox & Friends program…

https://the1a.org/shows/2018-04-18/the-wednesday-news-roundup

=======================================

I almost included Jonah Goldberg’s NPR Morning Edition interview on his new book, Suicide of the West, because his insights into tribalism seem enlightening.  There are glimmers in the interview, but there’s also a lot that’s off-putting (and didn’t need to be) that makes it hard to see those glimmers.  So instead of Goldberg, I opted for a report on how those who should be feeling that they’re “starting to win again” don’t feel that way … that they feel marginalized and defeated.  As a counterpoint, there’s a piece of Leonard Pitts, responding to an accusation from his senator, Marco Rubio, that he’s rejecting a significant segment of America.  Pitts’ ultimate question is the most profound in all of this: I am not unmindful of the troubling implications of writing off Trump supporters. When we can no longer talk to each other, what’s left? How can we be a country?

 ======================================
On the subject of divisions and what separates us, generational divides haven’t been on the forefront much in recent times.  First, Generation X, my generation, was labeled as slackers. (Perhaps we only seemed less industrious or productive simply because we were fewer in number than the Boomers before us.)  Now the slacker label is being applied to the Millennials.  But could it be that the Boomers are just looking for someone else to take the blame?  This interview with Bruce Gibney, author of A Generation of Sociopaths: How the Baby Boomers Betrayed America, offers a different perspective on the generations — and a serious call for people from the younger generations to get into public office.
========================================
Fake news … false narratives … who to trust/not to trust … who’s to blame for all the problems… what will help?  Some simple steps that might help from one of the founders of that groundbreaking crowd-sourced project known as Wikipedia, Jimmy Wales:

WHAT’S IT LOOK LIKE? Clark … King … Death … Life … Easter

Four weeks ago, as of last Thursday, I was headed off on a reluctant return errand to a store I generally visit only once a month because it is a fair drive from home.  I misremembered whether it was north or south that I wouldn’t be able to go directly from the eastbound freeway.  As a result, I ended up taking a much longer and (worse!) time consuming way than that drive already takes.

I’m trying not to fret and stress over such moments by turning my attention to the questions: Why am I in this place right now?  What am I supposed to be seeing?  Is there something to be learned here?

There’s something happening here

What it is ain’t exactly clear…

That day, as it turned out, the question wasn’t so much about what I needed to see as it was what I needed to hear.  Had I gone the fastest route, I might have arrived at my destination not long after The Takeaway radio program comes on the air here.  And it was the first story of that show that (apparently) I needed to hear.

That March 22nd episode started out with a report on the killing of 22-year old Stephon Clark in the backyard of his grandparents’ home in Sacramento, CA.  When I first heard the name, I thought Todd Zwillich had said “Jamar Clark,” a young man killed by police in Minneapolis several years ago.  But I quickly realized that, while the story shared some similarities with the Clark shooting here, this was yet another case of a young, unarmed black man who was killed by police.  This was the first I heard of Stephon Clark; it wouldn’t be the last.

There’s a man with a gun over there

Telling me I got to beware…

The story included the recently released bodycam recording of the incident.  It was staggering – especially the gunshots.  Had I not been on the longer route, I might have missed it … and that’s what I’m sure I needed to hear that day.  A few days later, the recording of Alton Sterling’s fatal encounter with the Baton Rouge, LA police was released … and at first, the two conflated in my mind.  The killing of Sterling happened a couple of years ago, around the same time Philando Castile was killed in Saint Paul, MN … along a stretch of road that I used to drive on a daily basis.  In the glare of this local story, the similar story from Baton Rouge was hardly noticed.

These stories – and too many more just like them – form a common pattern in which an unarmed black man is perceived as a threat in some way by a police officer (or several officers) … so the quick-thinking officer of the law makes the decision that deadly force must be used to mitigate the threat.  I’ll delve much more into in another couple weeks.  [It’s a post that’s been waiting in the wings for a local county prosecutor to decide whether or not to being charges in another similar, and yet different, local situation.  That happened shortly before the Stephon Clark story came to national attention.]  I want to stay with the unfolding of this Clark story for now…

The funeral for Stephon Clark took place one week later, on Maundy Thursday … and the results from a private autopsy the family had commissioned were made public.  Eight of the twenty rounds fired by the officers hit Clark, almost all of them entering his body from the back side.  But none of the shots were instantly fatal.  While the officers continued to assess Clark’s level of threat from a distance, he died.  Instead of rendering aid, they continued to act with suspicion and fear.

Maundy Thursday, in the Christian liturgical calendar, marks the first of the triduum, the sacred three days of commemorating the death and resurrection of Jesus.  Maundy comes from the Latin word mandatum, meaning commandment – pointing to Jesus’ command to his disciples at their last meal together, a call to “love one another as I have loved you.”  The service might include foot washing, a remembrance of how Jesus himself washed his disciples’ feet in an act of loving service that they were to emulate.  Services most definitely include communion, the sacramental and ritual meal instituted at that last supper together, which the disciples were also instructed to do “in remembrance of me.”  The events of Jesus’ life recounted on Maundy Thursday include his prayers in Gethsemane … and that his followers would be one … and then the betrayal by one of his followers, his arrest, and the start of the series of trials that would lead to his execution by the authorities the following day.

These were the stories being told inside churches as marches and demonstrations protesting the killing of Stephon Clark were taking place in the streets outside them.  Such demonstrations continued throughout the weekend … on Friday, as Christians commemorated the death of Jesus and Jews began the Passover celebration of deliverance from slavery … and on Saturday, as a few churches here and there keep vigil, waiting for the promise of resurrection … on Sunday, Easter, when even non-churchgoers might stop by to keep Easter with Mom or Grandma and maybe hear some hopeful news that death might not be the end of everything after all.

Beyond the Christian calendar, the demonstrations in Sacramento continued (almost two weeks from when I first heard) to April 4, 2018 … the 50th Anniversary of the assassination of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in Memphis, TN … another black man who was perceived as a threat by some number of people at the time … a fact which may have been lost with the hagiography of the decades since.

Most famously, King was the key leader in the Civil Rights struggle of the early 1960s that (eventually) led to the end of Jim Crow laws, assurance of voting rights, and other protections in the 1964 Civil Rights Act.  That, however, was not the end of King’s public life and leadership.  He had become a vocal opponent of the Vietnam War.  A number of those who had agreed that the Civil Rights Act was a good thing then turned away from him when he opposed the war; they considered him un-American … and quite possibly a communist.  King was also preparing for a “poor peoples’ campaign,” to call attention to the needs of the impoverished of all races and all areas of America.

That’s what took him to Memphis … a request to support striking sanitation workers.  The strike began when two black workers were accidentally killed as they took refuge from a storm in the back of a garbage truck.  Black workers went on strike to protest low wages and unsafe working conditions.  They carried signs stating: “I Am A Man.”  And they were men – but they weren’t seen or treated as such.

And here it is now, more than four weeks since I first heard the horrifying sound of those twenty rounds being fired at Stephon Clark.  At just 22 years of age, he was still young … but he was over 18 – and that makes him a man.  But to the police officers, he wasn’t a man; he was something else.  What that something was, only they can say for certain.  However, it is certain they did not regard him as a man, someone just like any one of them.

I think it’s time we stop, children, what’s that sound

Everybody look what’s going down

This keeps happening and nothing changes.  Since I heard about the killing of Stephon Clark in Sacramento, half the country away, in Detroit, MI a 14-year old (14-year old!) was shot when he knocked on a door to ask directions.  And then there were the incidents over a weeks ago at Starbucks – the big news story of two black men at a shop in Philadelphia who were arrested when staff called the police because they had not yet bought anything.  (It turned out they were there to meet with a business associate.)  In a lesser story from the west coast, reports surfaced of a Starbucks employee in Torrance, CA not only refusing to allow a black man to use the bathroom, but also calling the police.  Same themes … different variations … they all start to blend together after a while.  And if it’s this bothersome to keep hearing these things over and over, what’s it like to live them out?

We talk about King and his legacy as if getting the Civil Rights Act passed was all that was needed to make everything right and fair and equal.  But it isn’t.  Systemic racism always seems to find a way.  Housing discrimination still happens.  Get the Voting Rights Act passed and discrimination in employment banned … but then the strategic changes in policies during the Nixon Administration accomplished the goal of targeting the Black community without seeming to specifically target anyone.  (Michelle Alexander describes this in The New Jim Crow.)  In much the same way, the push for Voter ID registration in many states purports to be aimed at preventing alleged voter fraud by impersonation, which is something that rarely happens; however, these laws do create barriers for people with low incomes (who, oftentimes, are also persons of color or culture) from voting.

The litany of examples of the lack of real progress goes on. In the weeks since the shooting of Stephon Clark, a 50-year follow-up to the Kerner Report was released.  The original report came from a commission initiated by President Lyndon Johnson, but then he tried to quash the report because it didn’t praise his actions enough.  Fifty years later, the follow-up report shows little has changed.  The economic disparities aren’t much different now than they were 50 years ago.  Most glaring, Black men born into middle class families are quite likely to do less well economically than their parents.  If that doesn’t make sense, then consider the parallel resume studies in which the exact same resume is submitted, one with a name like James and another with a name like Jamal.  James gets a call for an interview; Jamal’s resume goes to the trash.

Recent studies are also showing maternal deaths among Black women are dramatically higher than they are for white women.  (Here’s one such example.)  The exact reasons for this aren’t clear, but the outcomes are stark enough.  Preliminary findings show that there are presumptions made by medical professionals about Black women that lead to a dismissal of their physical concerns. (Here’s a talk about that.)

And all of this is coming forward in the midst of the Easter season, the celebration of the resurrection.  What does resurrection look like for the family of Stephon Clark?  What does resurrection mean for the other families who have suffered similar losses?  What does resurrection mean for the marginalized, maligned, and neglected?  What does new life out of dead ends look like in these situations? And what does it mean for those of us who profess to walk in the light of the Risen Christ?

Resurrection means new life is possible, even from dead ends.  Resurrection is about a new way of life, right here – right now.  It’s not just a promise of eternal life in peace and joy in the presence of God after our bodies have died.  Resurrection is not about some heavenly existence far removed in time and space from life in this world right now.  Resurrection is about life right here, right now.  Resurrection is about God and what God is doing.  Resurrection is proof that death and destruction and sin and evil do not have the last, final word.  God has that last, ultimate word and that word is life – life of the Reign and Realm of God, what God has always intended for the world.  That resurrection life starts right here, right now as people touched by the resurrection stop living by the old ways, which lead to destruction and death, and start living new ways, the ways of the Reign and Realm of God.

People marked by the Resurrection of Christ live differently.  That means me, and if that means you as well, then we are going to have to learn how to do things differently.  The privileged people are going to have to do the heavy lift of tearing down the very systems and structures which grant them their privileges … because those being marginalized, overlooked, excluded, oppressed by these systems will never be able to dismantle them.

Where to start?  First, acknowledge privilege exists.  The idea that we all start out essentially equal and what becomes of us, where we end up is determined solely by our own efforts is a story that isn’t true for everybody else.  Only the privileged can say that; everybody else knows that they’re behind from the start.  (They can see the backs of those in front of them.)  Stop finding fault with the victims of this system of privilege; drop the “they need to …” and the “yeah, but they should …” and the “if only they would realize …”  Just stop it.  Stop trying to talk it away; the silence creates space for listening.

And listen.  Listen to the stories, the experiences, the accounts of others who have had a different path.  You do not know them.  You do not know what their lives are like.  You cannot narrate their experiences for them.  Be open to what others have to say.  Don’t close your ears and eyes and heart, saying “I’m tired of hearing about this.”  As Jon Stewart once said, if you’re tired of hearing about it, imagine what it’s like to have to live with it.

As it happened, this past Thursday, I went out to the same destination as at the start of this post.  I took a different, better route this time … but still, I was later than I’d intended to be.  Because of the timing, I was able to hear a regular mid-day broadcast feature on MPR called “Counter Stories”.  If you need some other experiences to listen to, you can start with these.

To really listen and understand what you’re hearing, you’re going to have to check you biases.  (Here’s a couple places to do just that: Understanding Prejudice and Project Implicit.)  We all have them; it’s part of being human.  But part of being human is also that we have higher level abilities, such as self-awareness.  Learning to recognize your own internal biases helps you be aware that they are present and working on you … so you can think past them, rather than just letting the biases automatically guide your responses and behaviors.  Once you see them, you can choose differently.

And living differently is what resurrection life is all about.  It’s about living here and now in ways that align with the Reign and Realm of God … so others can see and be drawn to this new way of life … and others … and more … and then, in time, with more people involved, life in this world starts to look a bit more like the Reign and Realm of God.

We better stop, hey, what’s that sound?

Everybody look what’s going down…

Lyrics are from “For What It’s Worth” by Stephen Sills                          (c) Warner/Chappell Music, Inc.

SATURDAY 6-PACK: April 21, 2018

A weekly listing of articles, audio clips, and other tidbits I’ve encountered that seemed interesting, insightful, or otherwise useful

 

The dominant stories in the week concerned James Comey’s press tour to promote his book … a storyline that culminated in the release of the memos he wrote after encounters with the Current Occupant of the Oval Office … none of which reveal much of anything that wasn’t known beforehand.  The Current Occupant kept an atypical low profile, aside from the usual early morning insult tweeting … not injecting himself into the Starbucks incident or Barbara Bush’s  funeral … content to go golfing with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe … and make a big reveal that current CIA Director Mike Pompeo met with Kim Jong-un in North Korea weeks before being named as the next Secretary of State.  (Confirmation of that – as well as for his intended replacement at the CIA – is still very much up in the air.)

 

Here are smaller things … and better thoughts from the week that was.  Starbucks started it so, let’s start there.  I’m well aware that for a lot of people, Starbucks is THE coffee shop (maybe because you can have your coffee shop anywhere you happen to be), but I’ll take a non-standardized neighborhood coffee shop over any Starbucks any day … even before last weekend’s bad optics from Philly.  The arrest happened back on the 12th; by the weekend, the customer video had gone viral and it was a national story.  This week’s two-fer consists of the two columns Leonard Pitts wrote in the aftermath – one before the CEO of Starbucks announced the May 29th day for training and then one reflecting on that announcement:

http://www.miamiherald.com/opinion/opn-columns-blogs/leonard-pitts-jr/article209183114.html

http://www.miamiherald.com/opinion/opn-columns-blogs/leonard-pitts-jr/article209467289.html

 

Still on the subject of misadventures at Starbucks, here’s an amazing and amusing account of a real-life adventure in privilege.  Not sure white privilege actually exists?  Roll your eyes and bite your tongue whenever the concept is mentioned?  This might just change your perspective …

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/whowechoosetobe/2018/04/white-privilege-is-getting-freebies-for-loitering-at-starbucks/?utm_source=Newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Progressive+Christian&utm_content=43

 

The brief press release came out on Sunday that Barbara Bush was in failing health, so news of her death Tuesday morning came as no surprise.  It has been said of her that she was as authentic as her signature pearls were fake.  As is true for all of us, such authenticity has both its praiseworthy and lamentable qualities.  She definitely had a number of gaffes, poorly phrased statements, and glib comments that should have been given more thought before said aloud.  But there was also much to appreciate and respect in this remarkable woman.  Here’s a three-fer in honor of a first lady and the two presidents related to her — notable for the little observations, like she didn’t “do metaphor” or her willingness to make direct apologies or the rug under everyone’s feet during an interview:

https://www.twincities.com/2018/04/20/tom-rosshirt-thank-you-mrs-bush/

https://www.npr.org/2018/04/18/603476064/legacy-barbara-bushs-approach-to-policy-and-politics

https://www.npr.org/2018/04/18/603475998/former-first-lady-barbara-bush-dies-at-92

 

Lulu Miller, co-founder of the podcast Invisbilia, is coming to Saint Paul on May 4th.  To raise awareness of the program, Minnesota Public Radio aired several episodes of Invisibilia.  This is the one that was aired on Wednesday — a deep dive into the power of predictive factors and the application to one person’s life.  If you like this one, additional episodes aired on Thursday and Friday …

https://www.mprnews.org/story/2018/04/18/invisibilia_the_pattern_problem

 

By now, everyone has heard about the Southwest Airlines flight with the blown engine and the incredible poise of pioneering aviator Tammie Jo Shults.  If you’ve read the articles, heard the reports, but haven’t heard her on the radio with Air Traffic Control, this story has audio clips.  The calmness she displays is breathtaking…

https://www.npr.org/2018/04/19/603861914/what-happened-on-that-southwest-flight

 

Story Corps can always be counted on to deliver a conversation to brighten a day.  This Friday was no exception.  A gentle and realistic reminder of the enduring nature of love and that there is always hope for a better future:

https://www.npr.org/2018/04/20/603903666/we-came-a-long-way-after-prison-a-new-chance-for-a-dad-and-his-daughter

 

SATURDAY 6-PACK: April 14,2018

A weekly listing of articles, audio clips, and other tidbits I’ve encountered that seemed interesting, insightful, or otherwise useful

So after much of a week with “will he or won’t he?” speculation, fueled in large part by his reactive morning tweeting habits, the Current Occupant of the Oval Office finally announced that  missiles were launched at Syria … after wiser and more sensible voices managed some level of restraint and cooperation from allies.  This news overshadowed what otherwise would have been the major news story of the week … Paul Ryan’s decision not to seek re-election this fall.  A number of comments and editorial pieces have praised his character, his solid intentions, his maturity.  However, Ryan had plenty of flaws to offset the praise.  This piece from The Atlantic seemed to be the most balanced:

https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2018/04/paul-ryans-sad-legacy/557774/

 

The launch of missiles into Syria also disrupted the looming conflict with China around tariffs and trade.  Now, the Current Occupant is making noise about getting back into the TPP … after having hamstrung previous US efforts.  This isn’t smart negotiating; it’s short-sighted and stupid.  Here’s a quick briefing on why:

https://www.npr.org/2018/04/13/602091046/trumps-tpp-turnaround

 

EPA Secretary Scott Pruitt has been providing plenty of examples is why it is unwise to put predators in positions that are supposed to protect the vulnerable.  But he’s far from alone in the assortment of characters trying to pass itself off as a presidential administration.  Mike Mulvaney provided yet another example of how inappropriate he is as head of an agency that’s supposed to protect consumers from predatory financial dealings:

https://www.marketplace.org/2018/04/11/economy/cfpb-mick-mulvaney-payday-lending-testimony

 

NPR is airing occasional segments recalling influential events from 1968.  The week marked the 50th anniversary of the Fair Housing Act.  Here’s a brief, but thorough, accounting of how on-going housing discrimination perpetuates racial inequalities in so many ways:

https://www.npr.org/2018/04/11/601419987/50-years-ago-president-johnson-signed-the-fair-housing-act

 

We’re good at generating all kinds of stories to justify prejudice, policies of exclusion, and blaming the struggling for their problems.  Immigration is an area that is so fraught with myth and misinformation that it’s nearly impossible to have a productive discussion of the actual problems and possible solutions.  I only caught the first part of this 30+ minute conversation aimed at separating the real facts from the swirling fictions, but I will listen to the rest of it:

https://www.mprnews.org/story/2018/04/11/immigration-myths

 

And finally, a three-fer.  Joshua Zeitz did a three-part series for Poltico exploring historical roots of key factors that were at work in the Current Occupant being elected to the Oval Office.  All are good, but the third piece on Populism might be the most pertinent.  (I’m stuck in a blizzard with nowhere to go, so I might as well read.  Maybe you’re in a similar situation…)

https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2017/12/31/trump-white-working-class-history-216200

https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2018/01/07/trump-american-exceptionalism-history-216253

https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2018/01/14/trump-populism-history-216320

SATURDAY 6-PACK: April 7, 2018

A weekly listing of articles, audio clips, and other tidbits I’ve encountered that seemed interesting, insightful, or otherwise useful

 

Item #1================================
Brother Leonard Pitts has written much this week about the remembrances of the 50th Anniversary of the assassination of the Reverend Dr. martin Luther King, Jr. that took place in Memphis this week.  All are good, but this one best bridges from then to now (and you can find the other ones from there):
Item #2===============================
One of the biggest news events of the week is the back-and-forth between the Current Occupant of the Oval Office and leaders in China about tariffs that may (or may not) be coming.  With all the tweets and the tits and tats flying back and forth, it’s hard to keep up with it all.  However, some lessons from the past may be more helpful.  Here’s the three-fer this week.  First up is an NPR interview with Glenn Hubbard, Chair of the Council of Economic Advisors under President George W. Bush.  That interview references a piece from the  Washington Post article involving Andrew Card, President Bush’s Chief of Staff when the steel tariffs were tried back in 2002; that article is included here as well.  And then, since I’ve heard several references to  Ben Stein’s rather memorable “lecture” on the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act in the movie Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, here’s a piece from Marketplace (last August!) , with more insight than the lecture scene provided
Item #3 ===============================
The hit sitcom from the very late 80s/early 90s Roseanne has returned.  The show is no less controversial now than ever it was then.  Now the controversy is about the real-life Roseanne Barr’s support for the Current Occupant of the Oval Office … and how it carries over into her TV alter ego.  Part of the attraction that this show has had from the start is that the character of Roseanne is no one’s ideal anything … which helps make the family’s interactions seem oh-so real.  And in reality, people like Roseanne Connor are quite likely to have voted for the Current Occupant in the last election.  But he should be careful about claiming this as an endorsement.  Kareem Abdul Jabbar (yes, that Kareem) explains why:
Item #4 ================================
Speaking of blasts from the past and history lessons and the question of “When will we ever learn?”, here’s an interview with three key players during the financial meltdown at the start of the Great Recession ten years ago.  They explain what they did, why they did it, what more they would have liked to have done, think should be done … their regrets and what might have been different … and their concerns about the future.  The threesome consists of Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson, Federal Reserve Chair Ben Bernanke, and Tim Geithner, who started out as President of the New York Fed and then went on to serve as Treasury Secretary under President Barak Obama. Kai Ryssdal interviewed the three of them together and aired segments on Marketplace the last week of March.  Here’s the whole thing.  It’s over an hour long, but the conversation moves and it is well worth the listen:
Item #5 ================================
We’re now two weeks past  the March for Our Lives … and some more actions are being planned to coincide with the 19th Anniversary of the tragedy at Columbine High School in a few weeks.  The student activists are keeping gun safety concerns active in the political environment and other places.  Here’s a long form piece with keen insights into attitudes and experiences concerning guns. From the New York Times Magazine,  Gun Culture is My Culture — And I Fear What It Has Become:
Item #6 ================================
Although mental illness is frequently invoked as a cause for the gun violence , the reality is that the mentally ill are more likely to be victims of than the perpetrators of violence.  What would be more helpful regarding mental illness is to recognize the crisis we have regarding care for the people who suffer from these conditions. All too often, police are serving as paramedics or nurses or physicians assistants (initial points of contacts) with jails and prisons filling in as treatment  centers.  This isn’t the way to do it.  Alisa Roth, author of Insane: America’s Criminal Treatment of Mental Illness, explains why in an interview for Marketplace.  (Her comparison imagining if we were to treat heart disease the same way is chilling and provocative!)  The other piece in this two-fer is a local report on an approach that is working much better.

 

SATURDAY 6-PACK: March 17, 2018

A weekly listing of articles, audio clips, and other tidbits I’ve encountered that seemed interesting, insightful, or otherwise useful

 

It’s been a few weeks … and so much has happened.  Yet, maybe not so surprisingly, a number of items that have been pending for my unwritten recaps these past few weeks are still relevant.

First was the sudden (but not the least bit unexpected) firing of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.  Current Occupant of the Oval Office or no, Tillerson has been inept in his role.  But the firing was done in the brutal, ham-handed way that is the trademark of the Current Occupant.  His departure plus other recent ones plus rumors of more to come have once more made it clear that chaos is “business as usual” for the Current Occupant.  However, despite the traction the chaos narrative finds, the chaos itself is not the the problem; it is that underlying issue that is  the root problem in the White House these days.  Read on to find out what that is:

https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2018/02/the-white-houses-problem-is-honesty-not-chaos/553073/

 

But that’s just how he does things, right?  One person’s chaos is another’s creative, stimulating environment.  Is it just a matter of perception and personal style? While chaos can be creative and encouraging conflict can be a way of surfacing the best ideas, it takes real leadership skills to do this effectively.  Is that really what’s happening in the White House?  Here’s a two-fer that offers some insights:

https://www.marketplace.org/2018/03/08/business/how-right-kind-conflict-can-lead-better-management

https://www.npr.org/2018/03/08/591816734/trumps-televised-meetings

 

Speaking of chaos, one of the big developments in the last few weeks — that’s quickly disappearing under the firings and rumors and the Stephanie Clifford lawsuits (and sordid details) — is the Current Occupant’s decision to impose tariffs on imported steel … and then Chief Economic Advisor Gary Cohn resigned.  These are not encouraging signs and these two pieces explain why:

https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2018/3/8/17091906/us-economy-danger-trump-tariff-policy

http://www.businessinsider.com/theres-no-one-to-stop-trumps-economic-agenda-2018-3

 

In a more recent economic development this week, iconic megastore chain Toys ‘R’ Us is going our of business.  Most of the coverage regards this as just the latest example of traditional bricks-and-mortar retail failing to adapt to the modern era of Amazon.  But there’s more to this story that just that … and more to it than the declining interest in actual toys as touchscreens become ubiquitous  — even for tots.  “We are all Toys ‘R’ Us and the vultures are hungry…” Read on to find out why:

http://theweek.com/articles/761124/how-vulture-capitalists-ate-toys-r

 

This week also marked one month since the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.  State legislatures are in full swish across the land … and changes in gun regulations are being introduced, debated … maybe even given a vote.  On the national level, Congress, with full cooperation from the Current Occupant and the White House, is doing the usual slow-walk in hopes the furor will subside in the near future.  Why can’t we change the policies in ways the vast majority of Americans want?  The NRA justly gets much of the blame and this two-fer explores why and how.  The Radio Lab is well worth a listen, but it is over an hour.  However, the history detailed in the podcast is referenced in the Vox piece.

http://www.radiolab.org/story/radiolab-presents-more-perfect-gun-show/

https://www.vox.com/2018/2/27/17029680/gun-owner-nra-mass-shooting-political-identity-political-science

 

Students walked out of schools across the country this past Wednesday as a call to action.  Some countered by telling them to walk in and reach out to the marginalized and bullied in their midst to better prevent future shootings.  Others called this victim blaming.  Why does it have to be either-or?  The real solutions that can prevent future school shootings require both-and.  The author of this piece takes us into his real life experience as a teenager who might have become another Eric Harris or Dylan Klebold or Nikolas Cruz.  It’s a powerful reminder that Nikolas Cruz is not a monster; he really is a teenager with a very difficult life — and a very real, very human being.

http://www.startribune.com/this-is-what-a-potential-school-shooter-looks-like/476420823/

 

SATURDAY 6-PACK: February 17, 2018

A weekly listing of articles, audio clips, and other tidbits I’ve encountered that seemed interesting, insightful, or otherwise useful

 

Well … it’s been a week and then some.  Hard to remember that a mere seven days ago we were wondering about the drops in the stock market and what that might mean … and the current administration was preparing to focus on infrastructure … while the Senate was having open discussion/debate on immigration proposals (first to reach 60 votes, wins … assuming, of course, something could).

But as the week progressed so did the most recent iteration from the scandal factory (also known as the White House) pushed the planned agenda to the side … and then another unthinkable school shooting happened (something that also occurs with appalling regularity) … and the routine bluster from the current occupant of the Oval Office blew off any chance of a deal on immigration.

So here’s my six (or so) from the week that was — if for nothing more than to call to mind some things we might lose sight of:

1. About that economy … what goes up must come down and, with that being the case, it was inevitable that the stock markets would have to come dons at some point.  Things seem to have mostly recovered this week.  But given the cyclic nature of economic things, sooner more likely than later, there will be another recession.  The damage done to employment in many sectors by the Great Recession is going to compound the troubles of the next.  Read this and be forewarned:

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/the-next-recession-suck-unemployment-benefits-republican_us_5a7e0362e4b08dfc93040b5e

 

 

2.  About that infrastructure … it’s been widely reported that the amount for infrastructure in the proposed budget from the current administrative collective in the White House is far too small to meet the needs.  Here’s a good summary of the recent study by the American Society of Civil Engineers of the current state of US infrastructure — and how much it will cost to address those needs:

http://www.businessinsider.com/asce-gives-us-infrastructure-a-d-2017-3

 

3.  For all kinds of reasons, we do need to talk about the latest mass shooting, this time at a high school in Florida.  Yes, it really is about the guns — and this was published three months ago (just click on the Times‘ logo; it will take you there):

 

4.  But there is no one-part solution to this mess.  Regulations to improve gun safety are an important piece of it.  However, culture change is also required.  Here’s one example of how to do that:

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/glennon-melton/this-brilliant-math-teacher-has-a-formula-to-save-kids-lives_b_4899349.html

 

5.  Not to be overlooked in all of the drama of this week, it’s opening weekend for the latest Marvel superhero movie — The Black PantherReviewers are agreeing it’s deserving the hype.  However, it’s also more than “just a movie.”  Here’s the two-fer for the week: two different perspectives on the cultural impact of this movie in this time:

https://www.npr.org/sections/codeswitch/2018/02/16/585415685/can-marvels-new-superhero-bear-the-weight-of-representation

http://www.miamiherald.com/opinion/opn-columns-blogs/leonard-pitts-jr/article200350754.html

 

 

6.  And somewhere in all the mess that was last week, there was Valentine’s Day … yes, it is a largely bogus non-holiday made up for marketing purposes between Christmas and Easter.  However, is a day to think about and celebrate love in all it’s forms such a bad thing?  Here’s a love story to warm even a skeptic’s heart:

https://www.npr.org/2018/02/09/583998949/two-vets-celebrate-love-if-you-came-to-see-the-bride-you-re-out-of-luck

SATURDAY 6-PACK: February 3, 2018

A weekly listing of articles, audio clips, and other tidbits I’ve encountered that seemed interesting, insightful, or otherwise useful …

 

This week’s major event was the State of the Union address, that (nearly) annual exercise in recapping and previewing the President’s agenda.  Coming at the end of the current occupant’s first year in the Oval Office, a re-cap of the year that has preceded the address would be in order.
First up, a two-fer, two recaps of the first year of the current  … uh … administration doesn’t seem like quite the right word.  But whatever you call it, these perspectives are worth considering:
 —————————————————————————–
 ==============================================
Second, on the morning of the speech, Mara Liasson of NPR offered this frank and succinct assessment of the State of Politics in our (sort-of) Union:
 =============================================
Third, there’s the speech itself … The current occupant is not known for great rhetorical style when left to his own methods.  However, his speechwriter(s) saw fit to string together familiar, patriotic tropes that are common in a number of these speeches, which was a pleasant change from the “American Carnage” inaugural address (even if it made much of the State of the Union speech clichéd and almost meaningless).  These were woven with heart-warming  vignettes about specific Americans (and one Korean), each of whom did something heroic on scales both small and great.  So far, so good.  But the current occupant is  well-known to be less than a close acquaintance with the truth.  Because his voice acts on my nerves much like fingernails on a blackboard, and because his speaking (scripted or off the cuff) is peppered with so many inaccuracies, distortions and flat-out lies, I prefer to read the transcripts.  This annotated one is particularly helpful:
 =============================================
Fourth, the current occupant has made much of what happened in the stock market this past year as proof his policies are succeeding.  Of course, he will likely find someone (or something) else to blame for Friday’s significant drop.  But as the Clinton campaign famously put it in 1992, oftentimes “It [is] the economy, stupid.”  Time will tell more certainly than the State of the Union Address what, if any, impact the economic policies described in the speech actually had on the economy.  But here is much to think about and consider as we wait and see: five economists discuss America’s economic outlook.  None of them are boring to listen to.  Only one of the five is strongly committed to a particular political mindset (Stephen Moore, former econ advisor to the current occupant of the Oval Office and one of the architects of the recent changes in the tax code); the other four represent a variety of perspectives and can consider multiple angles:
 =============================================
If the State of the Union Address dominated the first part of the week, the Nunez memo has dominated the most recent days.  Item Five: what is in the memo?  It’s been often described as an exercise in cherry-picking — but as at least one observer has noted, to call it that could be an insult to cherries.  Here is the full text of the memo along with the letter from White House counsel Don McGahn authorizing its release.  This annotated version fills in details that are well-known and yet have been omitted from the memo; the notes also point out underlying details that are not known at this time.
 ===========================================
And finally, what next?  Here’s another two-fer: both a pre-release and a post-release assessment on the memo and its likely impact
Before ….
After …

 

SATURDAY 6-PACK: January 20, 2018

A weekly listing of articles, audio clips, and other tidbits I’ve encountered that seemed interesting, insightful, or otherwise useful …

Yeah … there’s a shutdown happening.  But the road to the shutdown started when Senators Lindsay Graham and Dick Durbin presented a compromise on immigration to the occupant of the Oval Office on January 11th.  This agreement covered a number of concerns about immigration and had been in development for four months.  After having indicated that he would sign any deal congress produced, the occupant rejected this proposal and used very disparaging language about certain countries.  This wholesale rejection of a bipartisan agreement green-lighted the take-it-or-leave it approach by would-be leaders Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell … an approach that also involved pitting one group of children (represented by CHIP) against another (represented by DACA).
Since immigration is a major factor in this, here’s six places for a deeper dive into better understanding immigration:
============================================
Back in December, This American Life (perhaps THE finest hour of radio in any given week) produced a two-part show in December called “Our Town, ” detailing experiences with immigrant workers in an Alabama town.  It’s two hours well-spent:
(PS .. analysis shows Jeff Sessions gets it wrong: the immigrant workforce is not depressing the wages of the native workforce.  If you want the details, the analysis is also on website for This American Life.)
============================
About a year ago, Lulu (Lourdes) Garcia Navarro became the host of Sunday Edition, the Sunday morning news program on NPR.  And at some point last year, she also became a naturalized US citizen.  Did she have things to say last Sunday?  You betcha! Here are the pertinent segments from last Sunday’s show:
 ======================================

Two op-ed pieces appeared on the same day in the Star Tribune that addressed the topic of immigration with candor, experience, and fact.  Since they appeared together, here they are as two-fer:

http://www.startribune.com/was-trump-right-or-wrong-about-immigration-let-s-consult-the-data/469438003/

http://www.startribune.com/reflections-of-a-minnesotan-from-a-country-on-the-president-s-list/469438033/

 

====================================

A couple of sticking points around immigration involve families: family reunification policies (now being called “chain-migration”) and the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).  Family reunification builds immigration policies that place a high value of the nature of families to want to be together in the same place.  The DACA program was developed to allow immigrants, who were brought into the US as children, who grew up as Americans, who may have siblings who are US citizens, who have built lives and families for themselves here,  to stay here.  This, too, places a high value on keeping families together.  This is why it is so troubling that many who publicly identify as Christians and cite “family values” as an  essential aspect of their religious faith are quickly and vociferously calling for immigrant families to be shredded to pieces.  Consider this perspective from Benjamin Corey:

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/formerlyfundie/conservative-christian-tell-me-again-about-how-youre-pro-family/

==================================

This week also saw the annual commemoration of the life and legacy of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  The title of this piece cites King, but the content speaks to driving forces the bring refugees and immigrants to our shores — and why we need people such as these:

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/thoughtfulpastor/2018/01/15/answer-no-change-world-better/#

====================================

And finally, in remembrance of Martin Luther King, Jr., Erin Wathen works the themes of King’s “Letter from the Birmingham Jail” to speak right to the discomfort of many of us who are privileged to be white and American, calling us to lean into our discomfort and face some hard truths:

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/irreverin/2018/01/white-polite-part-problem-honor-mlk-day/

 

SATURDAY 6-PACK: January 13, 2018

A weekly listing of articles, audio clips, and other tidbits I’ve encountered that seemed interesting, insightful, or otherwise useful …

 

Things were a bit busy last week and I didn’t have time to get to this.  There wasn’t much, either.  Some book, oddly enough with the word fire in the title, was consuming almost all the oxygen in the news cycle.  But it’s another week … and another cycles of stories and events.  Here’s my curated collection for the 51st week of the current administration … interregnum? …

 

First, when the nation’s largest employer announces wage increases and bonuses, the sheer number of employees potentially impacted makes it hard to ignore.  The announcement sounded good — $1000 in bonuses for current employees and a bump up to $11/hour in starting wages.  But as the details emerged, maybe not so much.  The top bonuses go to employees (does Wal-Mart still call them “associates”?) who have been there for 20 years.  The average store employee will get a bonus of around $190.  Also keep in mind, the estimated savings to Wal-Mart from the new tax policies amount to $18 BILLION; what’s being shared with the employees is no more than 2% of it.  Plus, there was an attempt to cover over the closing of more than 60 Sam’s Club locations.  Tends to make one wonder where the money in the bonuses  is really coming from.  But at least wages are going up — that’s something, right?  Maybe not.  Consider these insights from The Motley Fool:

https://www.msn.com/en-us/money/markets/what-living-on-an-dollar11-hourly-wage-looks-like/ar-AAuyJLc?li=BBnb7Kz

 

This was on the tentative list for last week.  But perhaps it’s even more timely with the news about Wal-Mart this week.  Here’s a three-fer from Marketplace, a series of stories about the life and times in the retail sector — especially for the workers:

https://www.marketplace.org/2018/01/02/business/coming-retail-apocalypse

https://www.marketplace.org/2018/01/03/business/retail-workers-are-taking-cue-coal-miners

https://www.marketplace.org/2018/01/05/business/are-fulfillment-center-jobs-good-fit-laid-retail-workers

 

This was a small story that caught my ear, in no small part because my daughter is three semesters away from joining the ranks of school teachers.  We’ve known for a long time that teachers are generally underpaid.  We’ve known for quite some time that workers at the lowest end of the wage scale are being priced out of housing — renting as well as ownership.  But what does it mean when educated, highly skilled professionals (such as teachers) are being priced out of housing in the places where they work?  Consider this:

https://www.npr.org/2018/01/11/577279624/subsidized-housing-my-help-school-districts-retain-teachers

 

Now … onto the latest cause for widespread outrage at the current occupant of the Oval Office.  First of all, did he really say that?  Sen. Durbin says “yes, he did.”  But Durbin’s a Democrat, so can his accuracy be trusted?  Sen. Graham was in the room, too, but he’s only willing to say that he said his piece at the moment to the boss of his party.  Others who were in the room claim they didn’t hear such language.  Here’s how the situation developed and who is saying what.  Bottom line: while Graham is too much of a team player to publicly confirm something like this, he has acknowledged Durbin’s account as essentially accurate.  As for the others supporting Trump in his denials, well, they were there only because of his invitation and they openly share his already well-established highly negative attitudes towards immigrants, particularly immigrants who would not be considered “white”.  That’s my take, but you can read it and do your own math:

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/how-it-happened-donald-trumps-shithole-countries-remark/

 

The disgusting word itself is not the problem here.  The real problem is the attitude behind it: the sheer racism and bigotry that underlies, enables it, and makes it acceptable.  The claim that “Trump was only saying out loud what lots of people are thinking” is a genuine one.  Until that line of thinking that justifies racism and bigotry stops, this will happen again and again to the delight and applause of a significant number of our fellow citizens.  I wish I knew how to stop this, but I don’t.  Read or listen, and weep:

https://www.npr.org/2018/01/13/577833629/how-political-media-reacted-to-trumps-vulgarity

 

Finally, about “that book” … Fire and Fury by Michael Wolff.  I haven’t read it and don’t plan to.  Wolff’s reputation for slipshod work and the sloppy style of reporting that’s more suited for gossip columns that real journalism or analysis is considerable.  However, even a broken clock has the right time twice a day, and no doubt some of what he describes is accurate.  But that’s been abundantly clear for some time now.  There’s a deeper question that isn’t answered, which Leonard Pitts draws out: “Yours truly had hoped this book would answer a nagging question about Trump’s White House: What should we make of these people? When they turn reality inside out like a sock, when they stand before calamity and assure us there is no calamity, when they insist Trump is a misunderstood genius whose only problem is our failure to see his greatness, are they lying to us — or to themselves?    The former would make them fools. The latter would make them something worse.”  Which is it?  That’s what we really need to know.  Read the whole piece here: