Inhumanity, Puerto Rico, and the Real American Creed

The sad suspicion about Trump’s shameful treatment of Puerto Rico, Dana Milbank, WPO

 

Sadly, horrifically, the inhumanity of this, the disregard for real people and the quality of the lives they are able to live in our society is a reflection of the inhumanity of the system we are held under, that holds so many down and regularly counts scores of people out. They are simply not affordable. Their lives cannot be counted for the cost of decency would diminish the riches of those who are already rich, those who are important and whose welfare comes first even though they already fare very well already. We have a government that is not about THE people. It is about some people and we, the people, pay for that government and are constantly told that what we need costs too much.

This is about Puerto Rico because the way the lives on that island are being considered has so little to do with that good that is so often thrown out to explain America and motives. What is happening in Puerto Rico is but one manifestation of an ingrained and taken for granted ugliness that is so evidently obvious when situations like the present one arise.

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Again, I make reference to of what PBS’s Vietnam series should remind people, that there is a mean spiritedness that dominates the decision making processes of this should be democracy and that mean spirit is papered over constantly with propaganda that is used to keep it hidden so that we can feel good about ourselves as a nation and keep buying the stuff that makes those few who are filthy rich even richer.

Snake oil. Drunk from Coca Cola bottles and sold as honey. It makes our world sing and most don’t know what the words of the song even means. Our one good is not at all good. A nation built on acquisition of wealth, a nation where the real ethos is do whatever it takes to get more, is a sick nation and that sickness has been sold over and over as happiness and the only kind of happiness a human being can possibly acquire.

The people of Puerto Rico are suffering from our sickness, were suffering from it before but now to the point where they feel like they are fixing to die. Many are and, though Mr. Trump wants people to believe that it is their own damned fault, it is not. It is our fault because we consistently ignore our own sickness, allow ourselves to be entertained by it and allow our entertainers to sell us ever more of it.

Fuck the system! Restore a modicum of humanity to way we do business. Put people first and look closely again, if you ever have, at the faces of those children running from the napalm dropped on their homes and think about the pain that little girl in the famous picture is feeling as she runs down the road with her burned skin falling off of her little body.

 

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How can we ever live with that? Turn away and concentrate on all that is good and forget those who have it so bad. Really?

WCSD! WC people!

A not so satisfying follow-up on WCSD school building projects

Is the response to the reasonable questioning of a one year 40% cost hike in the building of the buildings promised if WC1 passed an acceptable one?  Even if the bonding will cover all of the projects proposed despite the new cost estimates, is there not good reason to question how it is that costs have risen so incredibly fast in the little less than a year since WC1 was approved?  Remember this, that this measure was sponsored and the campaign for it paid for, in large, by the building industry and its friends in the Chamber of Commerce and other business boosting organizations, most of which have traditionally not supported proposals for raising taxes to support education.

These WC1 boosters got voters to vote for a sales tax increase that will pay only for the cost of building buildings.  There is not a penny of WC1 money that can be used to hire new teachers or raise the salaries of teachers so that the District can attract the numbers of teachers needed and insure that they are the best and brightest available.

As I said in the earlier post regarding this issue, if it is true that costs have risen so precipitously over the course of the last 11 months or so, then it will be reflected in the cost of living.  All will be affected by rising costs, not only the builder amongst whom very few are  living paycheck to paycheck as many teachers must.

If the builders are, as they worked hard to make people believe during the campaign, really interested in education and the betterment of the community, shouldn’t they be willing to lower their profit margins, for the sake of the community they so love, absorb some of the added costs they claim to face, maybe even do the work on a non-profit basis?

When hell freezes over, right?  Washoe County, voters, I think you have been had.

 

 

Deny all access to good health care!

Watching the Vietnam films on PBS, it struck me that an effective strategy for bringing about change in our society was provided us by Richard Nixon when he ended the draft and began the lottery.  The draft allowed for all kinds of deferments which went mostly to upper and middle class men who could afford to go to college or pay a doctor or lawyer to find legal avenues to avoiding service.  I was, to some extent, one of those men though the legal reason for my not being drafted had much to do with a self-inflicted medical condition that led the family physician to say that recurrence of the problem was possible without mentioning that it would only reoccur if I did to myself what I had done before which was a pretty stupid thing to do and very easy to avoid ever doing again.

The lottery, invented by the Nixon administration to deal with claims that were so obviously true to hide, that those who were fighting and dying in Vietnam were disproportionately poor and of color, was conceived to change the balance by making the selection process a random one, almost every boy attached to a number in a tumbler in a barrel from which would be drawn the next batch of potential war heroes.

Up until this point, the anti-war protest was relatively weak, who was dying in Vietnam and why not of much concerns to broad portions of the American public.  Those dying for whatever the cause may have been were reflected in statistics that were not attached to faces of any real consequence; the vast middle class was not feeling the pain, its parents and children were not being made to suffer.

The lottery, more or less, evened the playing field, the battle field casualties coming to be of more familiar faces and, thus, concern for the results of war and for the reason for the war grew to monumental proportions.  The protests became louder and louder as the death toll and the numbers of those injured now rose to include more white members of the American middle class.

For those who currently have access to good medical care, it seems, especially those who get the best care, there is but little concern for those who suffer without it.  I know people who can afford to go to the Mayo Clinic, for instance, and of people who go to the emergency room so their sick children can receive minimal care.  I know of some who receive no health care at all even when they are badly in need of it.  I have always gotten enough when I needed it and even something more even if it wasn’t necessarily the best available.

I am not proposing a lottery for health care, but such would be a better, more democratically equitable system than what we have now.  What I do think we must have is a system that affords all access to good health care.

Those who do not insist on good health care for all really have not right to that they are willing to deny others.  So, maybe the way to end their resistance is to make it very difficult for them to get what they allow others to not have. (An article on medicine for the very rich).

Instead of fighting against the all to numerous attempts to do away with what now stands as the health care system’s access for the many (and that is not enough–only all is enough–let’s make it impossible for those WITH to access what they have that others don’t!  Make them feel the pain.

Protests should focus on keeping those who have away from what they can get that others cannot!  Block the entrances to their clinics and their doctors and, if public resources, police and so forth, are used to clear the path, ask loudly for whom it is that these public servants work.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Authority and patriotism

Disregard for the value of human life is an evil. It is the most inhumane kind of evil. When one is told that it is the proper thing to do to commit inhuman acts of evil and, if not convinced, forced to commit inhumane acts of evil by those with the authority to punish those who do not capitulate, then a sensible and humane human being will have to question that authority and the legitimacy of the society that places authority in the hands of such people.
Being on the wrong side of an illegitimate patriotism, an inhumane patriotism, should be understood to be, in a legitimate democracy, an act of true patriotism for a true democracy, a sensible democracy, exists first and foremost for the welfare of the people. For “welfare of the people” to mean anything at all, there must exist a high level of respect for the value of life, for every individual’s life and such valuing would never allow for a single life to be wasted.
Vietnam taught me that the society in which I lived was hardly a legitimate democracy and the years since have forced me to understand that we take so many steps backward that it is near impossible to move forward toward the original dream of a more perfect union.

Stealing the welfare of students in Washoe County, Nevada

From article that begins on the front page of our local newspaper: “Two new middle schools, one in Sun Valley costing $85 million and another in Spanish Springs costing $80 million, will eat up the largest chunk of the bond. The remaining $34 million will go toward a new elementary school in the South Meadows area.

During the campaign to pass WC-1, new middle schools were estimated to cost about $55 million a piece, while elementary schools were projected at $23 million.”
A rather large jump in a rather short period of time? The bonding measure was passed in November 2016.  As I recollect, the main proponents of WC-1 were representatives of the kind of big construction companies that will have to be hired to build the schools. Who now is projecting cost increases amounting to 40% more than projected during the campaign to pass the measure? I have to believe it is these very companies.
When the campaign for WC-1 was being waged, I questioned the motives of those pushing hardest for its passage, not because I have any doubts as to whether new buildings are needed, but because I knew that these same people, over the years, were more likely than not to be opponents of measures intended to raise teacher salaries or cut student to teacher ratios, measures critical  to attracting the best and brightest and insure that the conditions of work were reasonable in respect to legitimate goals for education in a democratic society.
I asked repeatedly if it could be true that WC-1’s main supporters might be acting selfishly, whether their claims of wanting what was good for the community was outweighed by their desires to increase corporate profits. So, being of this frame of mind, I wonder how it could be that the cost of building the buildings that are to be paid for with WC-1 funds has risen so in such a short period of time.
If those increased costs reflect increases in the cost of such things as material and labor, those increases cannot be limited to only that which affects the building of buildings. If the general cost of thing has risen so, then this would have to be reflected in the cost of living for all who reside in places affected by such inflation and this would be reason for across the board increases in salaries and wages. In the realm of education, as far as I can tell, there are few in the business community, in the building business, clamoring for 40% pay raises for teachers. I doubt if they would support 10% increases.
So, is it really that the jump in cost reported reflects increases in costs to builders building the buildings or something else? And if it is something else, a 40% rise in less than 11 months for building what the builders fought to have build with tax payer’s money, should be treated with at least some suspicions. I am a lot suspicious. Remember that WC-1 explicitly prohibits that funds raised be used for anything other than the building of buildings, that the argument made for the need to build buildings to cut down on school overcrowding never included argument for hiring and retaining (salary and conditions of work count here) teachers or for reducing students to teacher ratios despite the fact that a good many teachers are forced to work with impossibly high numbers of students, impossibly high if quality of instruction is a concern.
Of the local newspaper, the Reno Gazette-Journal, I ask why it is that the article reporting the increased costs for the WC-1 projects is titled “WCSD: WC-1 may generate $955M” and not “Cost of Building Schools Rises Precipitously” and why it is that the article at no point raises questions as to why this might be so. The discussion of the rise in the cost of building is withheld for the portion of the article that appears in the back pages, not on the front page where the “good news” regarding increased bonding capacity is reported.
I am suspicious. Maybe others should be too? Or maybe I am just being paranoid and all that is being done, all that is happening in regard to WC-1 is really for the best, in the best interests of students and our community.

The beating goes on

Meaning that celebrity culture continues to gain force because in our nation celebrity counts for a lot, in my opinion (to be heard by very few), there is no good sense reason why it should, unless, that is, it of particular worth in terms of what it has to offer our democratic discussions of how we should, as a society, deal with today and go about fashioning our future.  One of the guys who wrote the book Teaching as a Subversive Activity, the late Neil Postman, later wrote a book just as important and as little known in American society titled Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business.  The first,co-authored by Charles Weingartner,  was published in 1971.  Amusing Ourselves came out in 1985 reflecting the fact that schools had not taken seriously the Postman/Weingartner suggestion that schools concentrate on helping students develop real critical thinking abilities, what they called “bullshit detectors.”

Everything aspect of the democratic decision making process has come to be more showbiz than of substance.  Americans care far more to be entertained and entertained in mindless ways for that matter as evident in the kind of entertainments now most popular.  The purveyors of this kind of entertainment, now, not only deliver incredible amounts of meaningless material to occupy the minds of citizens, they have also come to be respected as legitimate voices for expression of political ideas.

In two previous articles I shared my brooding over the prominence of the stories concerning the dominance over the past few days of stories in the news concerning sports leagues and their players reacting to the president’s ridiculous remarks concerning player protests in response to particular issues of consequence to the public welfare, issues that have been raised before, over and over again but hardly ever with the kind of response the players have managed to create.

Good for them?  Yes!

But the important story, as I have tried to explain before, is more about us than them, more about what we as a public accept as legitimate authority, the legitimate authorities we ignore and, in turn, why it is that things are as they are.  While celebrities may not intend to steal the light from those who have studied and have thought deeply about the issues, it seems quite evident that they have done just this, their few words having must more suasive value in the society than the many words published by thinkers like Postman or Chomsky, Hillary Clinton or Stephen Hawkins.

I have intentionally included Hilary Clinton in my most absurdly short list because she is an interesting example of how the celebrity as source of wisdom phenomenon can work upon a public such as ours, educated as it is.  Hilary Clinton, first and foremost, is an intellectual, one has dedicated a large portion of her life to studying the issues, thinking through what they mean, and then trying to use her knowledge and understanding to inform the public decision making process.  One may like the conclusions to which she comes or the policies she supports but, what she has to say, the positions she takes, most of the time, are the result of serious intellectual engagement with the issues at hand.

In order to play the political game as it is presently played, however, celebrity had to become a critical aspect of her existence as a politician, a popular figure more than a sensible one because popularity for whatever reason trumps good sense in this society, the lack of a subversive pedagogy and subversive pedagogues a real cause of our current frivolousness when confronted with matters of real consequence.  Of course, Hillary came to be the Hillary who was a candidate by popular demand, because of what the American public demands from those who are to win office now.

Soon, it may happen, that the democrats will have to run Jimmy Kimmel and Whoopi Goldberg as candidates, performers who have been well used to play important supportive roles in the quest for political victory–consider again the number of speakers at the conventions who were famous for things other than their good ideas or political brilliance–will become the new political stars.  I remember Sonny Bono.  I have seen the power of Bono to deliver persuasion to politicians.  I suffered the reign of Ronald Reagan.     Someone named Shailene Woodley is considering the  possibility of running for Congress.  She is an actress I think.  And what about Kid Rock?  Jack Kemp?  Jessy Ventura.  Arnold Schwarzenegger. Al Franken. Curt Schilling.

Oh yes, and Donald Trump.

This is not to say that such people should not run for office or to argue that none of them are properly qualified for office.  The fact is that many of them are not but have been elected or have a real shot at becoming elected.

Watch out for what Postman predicted because what he predicted is actually here, an unbelievably merger of entertainment and political realities, sports and movie and musical personalities becoming dominating forces in the societal decision making processes of the society, becoming the voice of current day political ideologies, and, if not candidates for office, certainly the most listened to pitch men and women.

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NFL

Addendum to previous post:

The NFL, it should be noted, management, is not protesting because it supports players’ right to express their political views through the game.  Management protests expressed over the past few days are about the president calling upon fans to act in ways that would hurt team and league profits.  If the president had only taken aim at Colin Rand Kaepernick, the league and team owners would have done nothing to defend him or the other players who supported and emulated Kaepernick’s kneeling.  A good number of those involved NFL management, a good number of team owners, are Trump supporters, many having shown up at Trump rallies and several having given him hefty donations to support his candidacy.

Of course league management and team owners were upset by Trump’s call to fire players involved in protest!  They are the characters who draw people to the play, they are the stars whose performance people come to see, tune in their TV sets to watch.  Their politics are irrelevant as long as they are innocuous, innocuous to their drawing power.  If fans, as Trump said, were causing people to not watch the games, not buy the products that advertisers pay the league sell, then those players would likely be gotten rid of someway.  Interference with political views has nothing to do with owner/league outrage at the president.  It has everything to do with money.