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:

SATURDAY 6-PACK: December 30, 2017

SIX FOR THE YEAR THAT WAS & THE ONE THAT’S COMING

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

 

First up, no one reviews the year with mirthful insight quite like Dave Barry (one of the added perks of subscribing to the Miami Herald just to be able to read Leonard Pitts).  Here’s Barry’s take on 2017:

http://www.miamiherald.com/living/liv-columns-blogs/dave-barry/article192007484.html

 

There are reasons editorial cartoonist Steve Sack has multiple nominations for the Pulitzer Prize and has won at least once.  Here’s the 42 the Star Tribune pulled from his work this year.  Most are related to national events, but a few are local.  Some, like the seemingly endless reworking of Nicollet Mall in Minneapolis or the construction-created traffic mess, translate well enough — just substitute local public works and road construction projects.  Others, like the Minnesota Lynx winning the NBA title (again!) or Minnesota Public Radio severing ties with Garrison Keillor, were national news stories … but might not have been noticed.  The drain plug in the lake is a strictly local story about White Bear Lake, where water levels have dropped precipitously in recent years.

http://www.startribune.com/the-best-of-sack-2017/466875003/#1

 

At the end of the year, NPR offers a montage of music from prominent musicians who died during the year.  Where else will you hear rap and opera, the most essential of rock & roll and some classic county … along with gospel and show tunes … and???  This is less than 10 minutes and anyone is sure to recognize something.

https://www.npr.org/2017/12/29/572828157/in-memoriam-2017-the-musicians-we-lost

 

If movies are more your thing than music, there are all kinds of top movie lists out there this time of year … from best of the year to most likely to contend for Oscars.  There’s more than 10 on this list … and not all the films are going to appeal to anyone.  However, it covers a wide range of genres — from foreign language to indie flciks and documentaries … dramas to special-effects blockbusters.  If you’re looking for what to see when it comes on Netflix or whatever, some titles on this list will appeal to you:

https://www.npr.org/sections/monkeysee/2017/12/19/569983957/nprs-favorite-movies-of-2017

 

This is topping some lists of news stories from the year … but it wasn’t just a 2017 story.  The FBI began investigating Russian activities in the 2016 election during the campaign, including possible links to the Trump campaign.  Here’s how it really started.  We’ll see where it goes in the coming year …

http://www.startribune.com/russia-inquiry-began-with-an-aide-drinks-and-political-dirt/467324523/

 

And finally, because it is New Year’s … which is a time for making resolutions or setting goals.  Here are a handful of helpful tips:

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/emmahiggs/2017/12/5-brilliant-motivational-tips

 

Here’s to a better 2018!

The 6-Pack: Christmas Weekend 2017

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

 

Yeah, I missed Saturday … and I still haven’t started on the holiday cards (yet).  But here’s a list of pieces that might make you season just a little merrier … or a little brighter … or maybe just more peaceful.

 

First up, the Dominican Sisters of Mary… The sisters sing a couple of seasonal favorites.  There’s also a wonderful discussion about a sense of call.

https://www.npr.org/2017/12/16/570555334/the-dominican-sisters-of-mary-highlights-the-true-beauty-of-christmas-with-new-a

 

I haven’t had a chance to listen to it  — yet!  But after discovering this gem of an annual program when I was in seminary, I’ve made a point to find it each year.  True, Hannukah has passed, but the stories read each year on Hanukah Lights are about identity and community, what it means to belong.  If you’ve never heard one of these, check it out:

https://www.npr.org/2017/12/06/566900064/hanukkah-lights-2017

 

If the commercialization of Christmas is getting overwhelming, you might find ideas of alternatives in Krista Tippet’s essay here:

Why I Don’t Do Christmas

 

Or if you’re looking for a more humorous angle on the whole mess, there’s always Crumpet the Elf (aka David Sedaris) telling it like it was with The Santaland Diaries:

https://www.npr.org/2017/12/22/572791717/the-25th-anniversary-of-david-sedaris-reading-santaland-diaries

 

If holiday gatherings have you dreading conflicts with other members of your circle of family or friends or coworkers or whatever, this TED Radio Hour episode has some insights for a very diverse group of speakers:

https://www.npr.org/programs/ted-radio-hour/558307433?showDate=2017-10-27

 

And finally, if the new year is more your thing, this piece by Sharon Saltzberg has some insights on things we may need to let go of … practices we might develop for more relief in the new year:

We Can’t Survive In a State of Constant Agitation