SATURDAY 6-PACK: July 14, 2018

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

 

I’ve been on vacation … and then the usual catch-up when back at work.  Wow, has there been a lot happening!  There’s so much to pick from, but this is what I came up with

The Supreme Court pick … First, there was much speculation that turned out to be all wrong.  Then the prime-time, made for “reality” TV tastes (I’m sure …. which is why I avoided it) reveal.  After that, the real games begin.  Here are two pieces that caught my eye with some intriguing points for consideration of the latest nominee:

http://www.startribune.com/u-s-supreme-court-nomination-brett-kavanaugh-is-uncommonly-partisan-research-shows/487825491/

http://www.startribune.com/oh-come-on-no-one-s-a-strict-originalist/487912351/

 

Then there’s the trade war and what it might mean … Monday mornings on NPR, one of the regular hosts, David Greene this time, and Jonah Goldberg, Senior Editor at the National Review, discuss recent events, trends, and perspectives.  This time the major point is one of the very few areas where the current occupant has been consistent for decades: protectionist trade policies.  But this may not go the way he wants or expects it to …

https://www.npr.org/2018/07/09/627190257/there-are-worries-a-trade-war-could-cost-gop-its-majority-in-congress

 

Then it was on the the NATO summit.  First up, a tutorial about the history of NATO and a quick fact-check (necessary because the current occupant and verifiable facts are not well-acquatined):

https://www.npr.org/2018/07/14/629058526/a-short-history-of-nato

https://www.npr.org/2018/07/11/628137185/fact-check-trumps-claims-on-nato-spending

 

Just as the current occupant blustered and pouted his way through the G-7 summit a few weeks ago en route to his rendezvous with the leader of North Korea, his performance at he NATO summit was more of same.  This is an opinion piece, but the source has immense experience with NATO and a good working knowledge base.

https://www.npr.org/2018/07/13/628789350/opinion-the-problem-with-trumps-wrecking-ball-approach-to-nato

 

A local attorney wrote this piece for the Star Tribune a few weeks ago, when the most recent immigrant crisis was the focus of the news, those heart-wrenching accounts of children being ripped from their parents … and the galling attempts by the architects of those policies to justify them.  The specter of Hitler and his Nazis has been invoked so many times in the past decades it’s become a sort of boy-who-cried-wolf situation.  Would we consider things enough to recognize it if it were happening now, to us?  Is it, really?  I don’t know, but it’s something to think about …

http://www.startribune.com/good-germans-good-americans-where-are-we-headed/486320971/

 

Who are we now? Who … what do we aspire to be?  How much has been lost?  Can we rebuilt what has been torn apart?  I don’t know  … but Leonard Pitts offers much to chew on and ponder:

https://www.miamiherald.com/opinion/opn-columns-blogs/leonard-pitts-jr/article213879189.html

 

 

SANCTUARY … REFUGEES AND IMMIGRATION

One of the joys of parenthood is introducing your children (as they reach appropriate ages) to significant pieces of culture from before their time (significant, at least, in the eyes of the parents).  A few summers back, my husband and I seized on the window of opportunity (our children being still at home but young adults soon to be off on their own) to introduce them to something that roughly coincided with their births – the best Star Trek series ever: Deep Space Nine.  When the series concluded in 1999, they were both too young to have watched it.

There’s always a risk when you do this that the storylines and production values (not to mention special effects technology) will prove to have not stood up well over time.  In retrospect, there was little chance of that happening with this particular series.  Many of the stories, as science fiction does at its best, offer commentary on issues that remain contemporary … perhaps because, well, human nature being what it is.  As my husband and I watched them again (and our kids watched for the first time), I was struck by a number of episodes that seemed as contemporary now as they did then … which is probably what made those particular stories (and the series as a whole) so memorable.

One episode that stood out when we watched it with the kids a couple years ago – and seemed perhaps even more relevant when I caught part of it a few weeks ago as hubby was amusing himself with the nightly “All Trek” broadcast on you-might-know where – was titled “Sanctuary.”

This episode came around the mid-point of the second season of the series.  To understand the story in the episode requires a little knowledge of the series itself.  Deep Space Nine, as the name might suggest, was set aboard a space station that the Federation of Planets (the heroes of the Star Trek stories) was now staffing after the occupation of the nearby planet, Bajor, by the Cardassian Empire.  The station is also close to a stable wormhole, a short-cut conduit between quadrants of the galaxy.   In this particular episode, a badly damaged space craft has come through the wormhole from another quadrant and is allowed to dock at the station.  The first people to emerge from the ship are strangers to everyone on the station.  Eventually we learn these people are called the Skrreeas, but initially even the fabulous universal translator cannot recognize their speech patterns and language.  But even without language, the female, who seems to be the leader of these new arrivals, and Major Kira Nerys, a Bajoran officer who is the second in command of the station, form a connection.  Eventually, the universal translator puzzles out the new language and communication is possible … and the story of the new arrivals comes into view.

They are refugees from a planet in the Gamma Quadrant.  First, their world was dominated by an occupying force, much as the Cardassians did to Bajor.  But then something even worse happened as another imperial force, referred to as the Dominion (which will eventually become quite significant in the storyline of the entire series) came and devastated the planet, rendering it uninhabitable for the Skrreeans.  The leader, Haneek, who was first to come aboard the station is seeking a new home for her entire people, some three million of them.

What Haneek does not so readily disclose to her hosts is that she has been following a prophecy once given to her people.  She has led them through “the Eye of the Universe” (the wormhole) in order to find Kentanna, “the planet of sorrows,” which is to be their new home. Gradually, she comes to recognize that the nearby planet Bajor is the Kentanna of the prophecy.  At about that point, the Station Commander, Benjamin Sisko, informs her that the Federation has identified a suitable new home world for the people.  She tells him that she has already found the new home world for her people: “Your planet,” she tells Kira; her people will settle on Bajor.

This request, or expectation, touches off an understandable debate among the leaders of Bajor.  Their population is already facing a famine because of the struggling recovery from the devastation of the Cardassian occupation.  The leaders don’t see how they could possibly support an influx of millions more people – and refugees at that, newcomers who are bringing very little with them, who have few resources of their own they can use.

Haneek counters that she has identified a currently uninhabited expanse of land on the planet.  She and her people can settle there; no one would be displaced.  But, the Bajoran leaders tell her, that area is uninhabited because it is uninhabitable; it suffered extreme devastation during the occupation by the Cardassians.  However, Haneek has her own counter revelation: she and her people are farmers.  All they need is land and they can support themselves.  This does not sway the Bajoran leaders; the land is devastated – nothing can be grown there.

In the end, the Bajoran leaders refuse to let the Skrreeans refugees settle on their world … and Haneek reluctantly accepts relocation to the planet the Federation is recommending.  It is only hinted and implied, but not clearly confirmed, (the writers were far too clever to be heavy-handed on this point) that these refugees are an answer to Bajor’s needs; in a rather literal sense, each could answer the other’s prayers.  The Skrreeans need a new home.  Bajor needs food.  It might be that these refugees know farming techniques that could restore the now-barren land to production and grow enough food to feed themselves and to ease Bajor’s famine. But the leaders of Bajor were too fearful to take that chance.

It’s more than just the “We are farmers” countermove by Haneek that hints at this.  Like the Skrreeans and their trust in a prophecy, the Bajorans are also a spiritually-minded people.  The wormhole that the refugees call “the Eye of the Universe” is referred to as “the Celestial Temple” by the Bajorans, who know that it is actually inhabited and sustained by extra-dimensional beings whom the Bajorans reverence as  “the Prophets.”  It does not seem to occur to the Bajoran leaders that perhaps their revered prophets have drawn these refugees to and through the wormhole to be of assistance to the Bajorans in their needs.  Perhaps that’s because, for some reason, the leaders did not include the Kai, their spiritual leader, in these discussions. (However, one of the Vedeks, a lower level of religious leader like a priest, is involved in the discussions with the Skrreeans.)  What the Bajorans stubbornly insisted on seeing as a burden that they absolutely did not need might actually have been a gift in the guise of a beggar’s request.  But they rejected the gift and will likely suffer more in the long-run for it as the famine persists.

How are immigrants viewed among our people in our country, one of many on this particular planet?  Unlike the fictional Skrreeans from a hypothetical Gamma Quadrant, elsewhere in the universe … inaccessible except through some special portal, the immigrants we are facing come from other countries on this planet, the same planet we are on.  There is a history between peoples; there have been interactions before and there will be interactions in the future.  Past actions by our nation have impacts on others on this planet.  Although we may speak different languages, the various languages are not unknown or unknowable.  Translation is readily available.  If we choose to do so, we can readily understand.

So, what do we understand in this?  Who are the immigrants coming here?  Why do they come?  What do they seek?

There seems to be little conflict over immigrants from other first world nations, reasonably prosperous countries who apply for an obtain one of the openings extended to residents of these types of nations, who come on the H1B Visas by which employers can support someone from another country to come.  These people are clearly capable, self-supporting, motivated, law-abiding and share in our common values.  We tend to see them as much like us; they will fit right In with the rest of us and be fine additions to the American population.

Most of the public concern is directed toward those who come from poorer countries, who seem to lack resources (wealth, education, potential to contribute value to our society).  Because of the generally lower level of education than is common in wealthier countries, these immigrants tend not to be able to speak English.  (In wealthier, more educated countries, English is one of the foreign languages commonly learned by school students.)  Often, their skin tends toward darker hues than is common for most Europeans or what is considered normal among a declining majority of Americans.  Immigrants and refugees (and there is a difference) often come with little more than the clothes they are a wearing and whatever they can carry with them.

Are they gifts – or are they burdens … coming with too many needs, too few resources, too many limitations and potential liabilities … a drain on our society in multiple ways?   Why are they coming anyway?  More importantly, what was the role of our nation in creating the very circumstances they are so desperate to escape?

First, there is the specific case of refugees.  All refugees are immigrants, but not all immigrants can be considered refugees.  Asylum-seekers are not refugees.  A displaced people group is qualified for consideration as refugees but the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.  Their plight is clear.  They have been displaced from their homeland, generally by some act of violence such as a war; they cannot return to the place they left and expect to survive.  Once that determination is made, preparations begin to relocate the refugee populations.  Representatives from the commissioner’s office work with families on their applications.  Applicants are interviewed individually; if the individually stories of the family unit do not match, all the family members will have their applications rejected.  There are basic health screenings and wellness checks.  The whole process takes well over a year.  Once approved, the refugees are sorted into groups and assigned to the receiving country.  They will spend a few months in preparation for their new locations, but they often do not know exactly where they will be relocated to until a couple of days before their flights.

When the US receives refugees, they are eligible for public benefits immediately.  (No other immigrants are eligible for these.)  However, they can only have those benefits such as food stamps and cash assistance for a limited period of time.  Once that time passes, the refugees are expected to be self-supporting.  Volunteers from refugee sponsorship groups often assist the new arrivals in managing the transition, settling into their new homes, finding work, etc.

Given our participation in recent conflicts in the Middle East, do we not have some responsibility for the refugees these conflicts have created?  This may be especially true in Syria.  There is no doubt the current ruler, Bashar Assad, has committed numerous atrocities against some of his own people.  The country would be better served if he were removed.  However, there are no clear replacements who would be reliable in doing good, not harm.  Furthermore, to take on Assad directly is to invite open military conflict with Russia, something no one wants (and with good reason).  Therefore, since we cannot resolve the conflict, do we have some role – responsibility, even – in doing what is possible to mitigate the very real suffering?

Asylum seekers come as individuals, rather than groups.  They are facing direct risk of violence or persecution in their homelands that is directed at them personally.  The threats may be due to a person’s political activities or affiliation, identity, life situation … any number of things.  By both international and US law, anyone may present her or himself at the border and request asylum.  This is a legal form of migration.

Many of the immigrants currently in the national spotlight on our southern border are seeking asylum.  They are fleeing violence in their homelands … sometimes from husbands, but mostly from gangs – gangs that may be menacing the whole family or just the sons.  The threats are real.  The governments are ineffective.  People would never risk the arduous journey from their homes in Central America through Mexico (where the risk is slightly reduced and the government is slightly more effective) if the homeland weren’t still more dangerous.  Parents would never send their children unaccompanied on “the beast” (the roof of a train many immigrants ride through Mexico to the US border) unless that was safer than keeping them at home.

We know why they come, but what responsibility do we have to receive them?  More, perhaps, than we want to acknowledge.  The hyper-violent gang, MS-13, has received much mention these days – usually in the context that it’s coming here from there courtesy of illegal immigrants.  That’s not actually the case.  The gang was born here among El Salvadoran immigrants in the 1980s who were into drugs (marijuana, mostly) and death metal music.  As part of the War on Drugs, they were sent to prison where they learned US gang culture, especially violence … which interacted with the satanic lyrics of death metal music in horrifying ways.  When these immigrants were released from prison and subsequently deported, they took what they learned here home with them.  Our culture played a significant role in creating the gang; do we owe it to the victims to help mitigate that damage?

While the argument that the governments in those countries should be protecting their citizens, acting to stop the gangs and end the violence is valid, the reality is the governments are corrupt and ineffective.  That, too, is a result of US policies.  Fearing the “domino effect,” that communism might spread in Central America and migrate north to our border, the US took sides with military aid, CIA operations, and the School of the Americas all supported countermeasures to be directed against communist insurgents.  “Communist” became a flexible term directed at anyone challenging the status quo.  A number of dictators and leaders were trained by or supported through these programs.  Having crippled governance by the will of the people and supported corrupt leaders, do we not have some responsibility for the current suffering of the immigrants requesting asylum here from the mess we cultivated there?

And then there are the “dreamers,” children who were brought across the border by their parents, most when they were quite young.  These children have grown up in this country, attended school alongside US-born children, participated in US culture for much of their lives.  Often, it’s only when they are seeking to do normal things for US teens – get a driver’s license, go to college, etc. – that they learn they lack the necessary documents, that they were actually not US citizens as they had thought themselves to be.  Their plight is not unlike that of Tom Hanks’ character in the movie The Terminal … no way forward and no way back.  They don’t have legal status in the US – and they likely lack similar documentation for re-entry to their countries of origin, countries that would be as unfamiliar to them as to any of their US-born peers.

They are here.  They identify as American.  Their peers who grew up here with them see them as belonging to their communities.  But for the accident of their births in another country, they are otherwise Americans.  What is the right thing to do?  Leave them in perpetual limbo?  Deport them to a country they do not know, that has not been home for significant parts of their lives (assuming the other country can be persuaded to take them back without documentation)?  Or do we acknowledge what is at present, let go of how they came to be here, and give the Dreamers a way to move forward as Americans?  There are no perfect answers to this particular dilemma.  However, which option is most true to how we imagine our nation to be?

Some years ago, I came across a suggestion to pray for our country over the weeks between Flag Day (June 14th) and Independence Day (July 4th).  During this time, I regularly use prayers that were written in late 1960s and published in 1970.  Among the petitions are these words:

We pray You would make this nation a haven for refugees, for the persecuted and the displaced.  We pray You would urge [people] in our nation to pursue always the search for human freedoms.  We pray You to stimulate the leaders of this nation to regulate our government that it will offer the hope of freedom for all who swear allegiance to it.  We pray you to forgive our sins of pride, bigotry, lawlessness, indifference, and license. … Forgive us our waste of natural and human resources, for the neglect of our own rights and the rights of others.

Is this who we are called to be?  Is this who we, as Americans, still desire to be?  Or has the time has come to send the Statue of Liberty back to France and donate the plaque from its base, with the words of Emma Lazarus’s poem, to Chancellor Angela Merkel in Germany?  Just who are we going to be?

And here is one more layer, where the connection to the Deep Space Nine episode is particularly pertinent: we need more people.  Throughout its entire existence and into the foreseeable future, the Baby Boom has been the rat in the demographic snake.  Things expand to accommodate them at each phase … and the contract in the wake.  (I’m a Baby Buster, a member of Gen X – I’ve seen it firsthand by being part of a demographic disappointment my entire life.)  The retirement wave of boomers is reaching its peak.  Forecasts for Medicare as well as for Social Security are dire, in large part because the number of working adults per retiree is about to drop precariously.  We need more working adults – and we need them soon (like yesteryear, if it were possible)!

We can’t go back in time and have more children in the Gen X and subsequent generations.  We can’t magically conjure up workers right now.  However, if we welcomed the immigrants (however they find their ways to us) and gave them paths to citizenship and helped them hone their skills to become productive workers and full participants in our economy, then we might cooperate to address each other’s needs.  It would at least be better than whatever it is we’re doing right now.

SATURDAY 6-PACK: June 23, 2018

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

 

Wow!  That was some week.  Before taking on THE issue of the week that was, there are some other things that may have been lost in the roar that really shouldn’t be overlooked.

 

First: the Inspector General’s review of the FBI’s handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails from her tenure as Secretary of State.  The verdict seems to have been far less than what the Republicans who initiated it were hoping for.  As The Hill summarizes things:

Regardless, that brings us to the accusers. They face more consequences, in terms of hurt credibility. Republicans were crying foul that the FBI was helping Clinton, but Comey’s actions appear to have favored Trump. That’s what the IG report suggests. But Republicans are still whining. They want retribution for the FBI ultimately helping Trump. Huh?!

Read the whole piece here:

http://thehill.com/opinion/white-house/392714-after-inspector-general-report-republicans-must-reform-themselves

 

Second: the escalating trade war.  Here’s a two-fer, one from The Hill (again and the title says it all) and the other from Marketplace, about trade policies (or lack thereof) and real impacts to Americans:

http://thehill.com/opinion/finance/392654-trump-trade-policy-ungrounded-in-economics-oblivious-to-history

https://www.marketplace.org/2018/06/22/economy/your-new-tariff-questions-answered

 

Third: Neal Conan (former host of Talk of the Nation) now has a series of broadcasts titled Truth, Politics, and Power.  This episode looks at the purpose and art of presidential speech-making with two experienced practitioners of the craft (one from Reagan’s tenure and the other from Clinton’s) along with a look at Obama’s use of the “bully pulpit.”  (Bonus — there’s an explanation of how TR meant that in a good way.)  The last segment contrasts the methods of the former occupants with the habits of the current occupant of the Oval Office.  Note what is said of the role of “conservative media” in recent developments and then consider the illustration in the second piece of how the failure of the echo chamber to buttress the current occupant’s rhetoric factored in the developments of the past week:

https://www.mprnews.org/story/2018/06/20/the_presidents_bully_pulpit

https://www.npr.org/2018/06/21/622137992/conservative-media-failed-to-redefine-debate-on-trump-s-immigration-policy

 

Fourth: The children of immigration.  First, Scott Simon on why the cries of children should — and do! — move us.  Then Leonard Pitts takes us beyond this moment to the larger picture of how much damage the current policies are doing throughout our country.  Read and weep …

https://www.npr.org/2018/06/23/622712944/childrens-cries-brought-down-walls-of-indifference

http://www.miamiherald.com/opinion/opn-columns-blogs/leonard-pitts-jr/article213480684.html

 

Fifth: The “system” (if it can truly be called that) is broken.  To figure out real solutions, we have to understand what the actual problems are.  Here’s a good start:

https://www.npr.org/2018/06/23/622795409/a-former-immigration-judge-on-the-current-situation

 

Sixth: Something to think about on the whole subject of immigration … and a call to most of us for a lot more humility:

http://www.startribune.com/living-in-minnesota-our-land-their-land-our-history-their-history/486324061/

 

SATURDAY 6-PACK: June 16,2018

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

 

There is something of theme this week: divisions

Anyone else find it amazing that a sense of common ground, shared reality keeps getting harder to find?  People who get their news from FOX are skeptical of reports from other sources like NPR or long respected papers like the New York Times or the Washington Post.  NPR listeners question the veracity of what FOX reports.  The Republican Party was once considered the “country club” party, but now it’s the “country” (meaning rural) party … and the Democratic Party, once viewed as the party of the common people, is now seen as the party of and exclusively for the elites (meaning urbanites, city-folk).  How did this come about? And what might be done to bridge the divide?  This piece points to what just might the real source of all this polarization (hint: It’s the economy – or at least the personal one) … but it also suggests bridging the gap may be even harder than it already seems:

https://www.vox.com/2018/5/24/17368308/income-inequality-poverty-in-america

 

 

There’s been a lot discussion this week about the separation of children from parents by Immigration and Customs Enforcement … why this is being done … what the law requires … what options could be considered.  These two pieces sum up the reasoning (or lack thereof – YMMV) to regard all border crossings (even by those seeking asylum) as criminal, rather than civil, violations and how criminal incarceration of adults means the children cannot stay with them.  But it is very damaging.  Is this really the best approach?

https://www.npr.org/2018/06/15/620230362/a-texas-prosecutor-on-immigrant-family-separations

https://www.npr.org/2018/06/15/620254326/doctors-warn-about-dangers-of-child-separations

 

 

Attorney General Jeff Sessions introduced the Bible into his arguments for his current course of action regarding people from other countries crossing our southern border, apparently as pushback against a number of Christians and faith-based organizations publicly condemning his policies.  Sarah Huckabee Sanders was also quizzed on this subject by a number of reporters (including one from Playboy magazine).  Any marginal Bible scholar can tell you it’s possible to proof-text just about anything if you do it right.  The deeper question is what kind of God do we seek … want … have?  Leonard Pitts, as usual, cuts right to the chase:

http://www.miamiherald.com/opinion/opn-columns-blogs/leonard-pitts-jr/article213298284.html

 

 

The current occupant of the Oval Office is trying to blame the Democrats for the policies (ie: if they would agree to fully fund the construction of his desired border wall, then he might reconsider the current practice), essentially using children as hostages in a power struggle that has nothing to do with them but is doing tremendous (possible irreparable) harm to them in the process.  (And whatever happened to the promise that not one cent of US money would be spent on this wall project?)  Here’s what is trying to pass for justification of this patently unjust policy:

http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/politics/trump-cites-as-a-negotiating-tool-his-policy-of-separating-immigrant-children-from-their-parents/ar-AAyI1lK?li=BBnb7Kz&ocid=iehp

 

 

They know the risks when then come.  They know what’s likely to happen.  If the policy doesn’t drive opponents to acquiesce and fund the wall, it should at least scare would-be refugees from coming here.  Or so the arguments go.  They know; why do they still come?  Because they judge the risks they face traveling to the border and in crossing the border to be less than the risks at home.  And as for the risks at home, well … we have a hand in those, too.  Our culture of gang violence gave rise to MS-13 … and then we deported it to Central America.  Since we helped create this mess, do we not have a part to play in dealing with the damage?

https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2018/2/26/16955936/ms-13-trump-immigrants-crime

 

 

And finally on the subject of divisions, much has been made of the meeting between the current occupant of the Oval Office and North Korea’s “dear leader” … who apparently endeared himself to the occupant.  The meeting has been appropriately described as heavy on optics and light on substance … so much so that the signed agreement is reminiscent of cotton candy – the paper thing it comes on is the most substantial part.  However, the current occupant’s appreciation for dictators is far more disturbing than the agreement is assuring:

http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/politics/%e2%80%98dictator-envy%e2%80%99-trump%e2%80%99s-praise-of-kim-jong-un-widens-his-embrace-of-totalitarian-leaders/ar-AAyIko1?li=BBnbcA1&ocid=iehp

 

SUNDAY 6-PACK: June 9, 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 (over a month, really).  I did start getting a list ready last weekend, but it never made it to posting.  Hence, there are a couple of two-fers this time out.  And this was supposed to go up last night, but Coco was too engrossing.  If you haven’t seen it (and I highly recommend you do), it’s all about family and community and how individuals fit into these complex relationships.  If there’s a theme to this week, it’s about taking big topics/problems/issues down to the personal level … starting with the economy.

First up – The G7 met this weekend. Globalization and trade policies involve all kinds of complex interrelationships.  What counts as an American-made product?  Anything made here, even if components of that final product came from elsewhere?  What counts as an American job?  Do Americans working at facilities here in the US count, even if the company that owns and operates the facility is based outside of the US?  These questions, and the two stories from this week below, demonstrate why trade policy is complicated and co-operation with other nations on the world stage is essential.  What if what you’ve been told (sold) as being “good for you” turns out not to be?  (Note: even those supportive of the tariffs acknowledge they will not be able to bear the negative consequences for more than a brief time)

http://www.msn.com/en-us/money/smallbusiness/this-ohio-factory-thought-it-could-bring-us-jobs-back-from-china-then-trump-got-involved/ar-AAykkkA?li=BBnb7Kz&ocid=iehp

https://www.npr.org/2018/06/08/617200482/trumps-tariffs-worry-a-small-steel-city-in-pennsylvania

 

Secondly, the common mantra is that we should trust these policies on tariffs, tax cuts, etc. to get us where we need to be … just give it time.  But how much time can we afford to wait?  There was news this week about Social Security and Medicare going through money faster than expected.  (This news was reported in multiple forms by multiple sources, but it’s the first story in the first link, the Marketplace Morning Report from Wednesday.) We’ve known for some time now this day was coming and none of the suggested changes that could help have been made.  It might be getting too late to solve it; that’s the second link below.  And yet, there were statements from the various administration officials not to worry because economic growth from tax cuts and tariffs will fix all this.  But if that’s really the case, how come things are worse — not better — after almost a decade of economic improvement and growth?  Bottom line: the younger Boomers and all other generations after that point should not be planning for the current standard model of retirement … and places building their business plans around that ideal might want to rethink things.

https://www.marketplace.org/shows/marketplace-morning-report/06062018-us-edition

http://www.msn.com/en-us/money/retirement/preparing-for-poverty-america-will-face-a-retirement-funding-crisis/ar-AAyoCwW?li=BBnbfcL&ocid=iehp

 

Third, to further complicate the issue, the Minneapolis Star Tribune ran a series this week on the burden borne by family care givers, often uncompensated … which costs in plenty of ways … and would cost our health care system a lot more if it were compensated appropriately (like $470 Billion more).  And then where would we be?  This is part of why people are struggling to save for their own retirements and other future needs — and why Medicare is running out of money faster than expected (health care needs at end of life or for chronic conditions).  While compensation might help the finances of the family members doing the care, it will make costs even higher for Medicare recipients.

http://www.startribune.com/invisible-workforce-of-caregivers-is-wearing-out/483250981/

 

A lot of attention was on a certain Supreme Court ruling this week concerning free speech and business owners…

[Digression: if someone runs a business attractive to couples planning their weddings and that someone doesn’t want to become involved in a same-gender wedding, that person should collect the names of the couple, date, time, etc. up-front and then “check the calendar” to see if the schedule permits; then come back and tell the couple that the date is booked and the request cannot be accommodated. That’s strictly business; there’s no real business need to say anything more.  Turn away enough couples and word will spread far enough that only an equally selective clientele will find its way to the door.]

… A far more potentially pernicious case involving business owners and free speech rights started brewing a couple weeks ago – the decision by NFL owners regarding players’ presence and posture during the pre-game patriotic ceremony (sponsored by the US military), which includes a display of the American flag that is actually in violation of the uniform flag code.  If you don’t think this issue is all that important, consider these points:

https://www.vox.com/2018/5/25/17386298/nfl-national-anthem-protests-rule

 

Let’s remember why the players are kneeling – to call attention to the reality that our nation is failing to fully live up to the ideals embodied in symbols like the flag and the pledge and the anthem.  (And as a practicing Christian and pastor, I really want to know when and how kneeling became disrespectful, since we kneel a number of times in church.)  Add this episode to the ever-growing list of lack of accountability when police officers act as judges, juries, and executioners of black men who were, at worst, guilty only of misdemeanor offenses that never involve the death penalty:

http://www.miamiherald.com/opinion/opn-columns-blogs/leonard-pitts-jr/article212537889.html

 

Finally, a long form piece from The Atlantic (which will take an hour or so to read) exploring the “the 9.9%” … who, although they lack the financial leverage of the 0.1% to buy politicians, elections, or set policy, nevertheless cooperate with policies and help build the walls that ensure wealth and privilege accrue to them and theirs only, while loudly and proudly proclaiming it’s all about personal merits … as though anyone and everyone could earn a place … if only he (or she) would try hard enough.  This has generated some push-back by those who want to focus only on the 1% or just the 0.1%.  But household wealth covers a wide spectrum; there aren’t sharp breaks between one layer of income ranges and another … and there is still some wiggle room over the course of a person’s life.  But the blend of analysis, observation, and family history in this is worth consideration.  Read it and weep – or get angry.  Anger is a sign that something needs to change; this will give you ideas about what needs changing.

https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2018/06/the-birth-of-a-new-american-aristocracy/559130/

 

 

 

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 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/