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/