Class Warfare Blog

November 22, 2014

Why is the Immigration Issue So Hard?

I grant that the details involved in any issue of national scope are always complex, but a solution to the “illegal immigration problem” seems straightforward. While all of our borders are “leaky” the concerns of most people are with regard to our southern border. So let us start by asking and answering a few questions:

Question: Why people are risking life and limb and are spending large amounts of money on suspect guides to traverse that border? The answer is simple: jobs. If there were no jobs available, they would not come, certainly not in any great numbers.

Question: How do other countries handle this same issue? Answer: Other countries require proof of citizenship or “guest worker” status (aka a “green card”) to secure employment.

Question: Since the simple policy of requiring status to secure legal work works so well in other countries, why do we not do the same? Answer: Ah, here is the nexus of the problem. Certain employers like having a pool of inexpensive workers who basically cannot complain to the authorities when they are taken advantage of. There is, therefore, substantial opposition of “proof of status” for employment. Much of it centers on having a federal database in order to verify status, a safeguard against forgery, but that is a smokescreen. Evoking fears of 1984-esque government in this issue is stupid at best. It is the databases we would not know about that we might fear.

There is a need for temporary workers in this country. There are jobs that Americans will not do. One of them is picking crops (most of them, anyway). There seem to be crops that are not susceptible to motorized picking (like we do with wheat, corn, almonds, etc.) or that we do not like what motorized picking does to them (to make things acceptable for motorized picking the produce has to be hardened, so strawberries, peaches, and other soft fruits either have to be picked when they are far from ripe and still hard or have to be genetically modified to be harder when ripe). So, hand labor will be involved in food production for the foreseeable future. Americans will not do this work, certainly not for the wages offered. So there is a need for a “guest worker” program. When I was young, there was the Bracero Program which allowed Mexican citizens to work temporarily in the U.S. It was ended in 1964 because of criticism that we were exploiting Mexican workers and depriving American workers of jobs. Since it is clear now that Americans do not want such jobs and that Mexican workers are being exploited anyway, could not such a program be re-instated with additional safeguards for the workers? How hard could it be?

As to proof of legal status, employers either have to bear the brunt of the law for hiring undocumented workers or they have to accept reasonable procedures to establish such status before hiring. Accessing a federal database for each worker hired is exactly how difficult, as it can be done from a smart phone or tablet if web-based as it surely will be?

Apparently, our politicians would rather have the issue be “open” than have it be settled. Once again, politics triumphs over practicality and the caliber of our politicians is so low, little chance of legislative solution can be seen.

So, we do not have an immigration problem, we have a political problem. So, we must ask ourselves, which political party has a stated desire to make our political system less functional and has acted as such? Answer that question and you will have arrived at the source of the problem, the real source of the problem.

Oh, if you need a solution to the “problem” of all of the “illegals” already in the country, solve the ongoing problem as above … and then wait 50-75 years. All of the current illegals will be dead and no longer a problem. During that time, they will pay taxes but not be able to vote, etc. If they cannot find work, they may just leave on their own. Or, we could just accept them as being “legal residents” by giving them a green card, the more humane thing to do.

Five Immigration Myths Debunked

November 19, 2014

Is Public Education a “Goner?”

The history of public education includes some things distinctly American including a number of things more than a little unlaudable. A recent blog post by Lloyd Lofthouse entitled “A Successful History of—and the Threat to—Public Education in the United States” highlight a number of these. I quote from his post:

“We’ll start with Thomas Jefferson in 1779, because he thought the US should have two education systems: one for the wealthy and one for everyone else. As Jefferson said, we’ll “rake a few geniuses from the rubbish.”

“The first public high school opened in Boston in 1820, and by the 1830s in the southern slave states laws were passed making it illegal to teach slaves to read.

In 1896, the Southern States pass laws requiring racial segregation in the public schools. They can’t stop blacks and other minorities from attending public schools so they make sure these children attend separate schools and have less funding.

 “After Ronald Reagan is elected president in 1980, his secretary of education William Bennett began an all-out war on teachers, teachers unions and public school districts. He calls democratically elected school boards and school districts “the blob”. Reagan also vetoed the Fairness Doctrine that for thirty-eight years required the media to offer the public an honest balanced reporting of important issues, and soon after the Fairness Doctrine was abolished conservative talk radio exploded across the country using cherry-picked facts to present biased opinions without balanced reporting.

“But even with all this success, in recent years, the Walton family has spent more than $1 billion toward efforts to “infuse competitive pressure into America’s K-12 education system.” Never mind that this money is mostly in states where no Walton family members live or have children in school. In addition, The Wall Street Journal reported that Bill Gates has spent $5 billion in his attempt to destroy public education with the same goal—the Walton’s and the other billionaires have—to fire public school teachers and close public schools.”

The Jefferson quote reminds us that the “Founding Fathers” we far from plebeian. In fact, they assumed that the governing bodies would be dominated by their sort and not the “middling” kind of citizen.

The laws passed in early 1800s forbidding Blacks from being taught to read are particularly cruel and are continuing to pay “benefits” today. The Jim Crow laws requiring segregated education were clearly designed to make sure that Black Americans would continue to be disadvantaged. All of the evidence indicates that Blacks just wanted to move on down the road and not extract vengeance for all of the evils done them, but Whites continued to behave as if they were on the verge of a Jihad and so disadvantaged them at every turn. All of these efforts have remains in the structural racism of today.

The public education system we created, one of the first of its kind (meaning egalitarian), had the promise of bring us together as a country. The efforts of the “Reformists” are turning the clock back and creating a system more separate, more unequal than the one we were progressing to. The Charter School Movement, launched in hope of a better educational system, has become a profit-centered enterprise striving to separate us into enclaves, so that each segment of society can have its own schools, so that our kids don’t have to rub elbows with other than their own kind and disabuse themselves of misunderstands of “those people.”

All of this is in the name of the Golden Rule: those who have the gold make the rules.

I weep for my country.

November 17, 2014

Public Education Reformist Inconsistencies

It is fascinating to see the almost bizarre inconsistencies in the programs of the public education “reformists.” (Calling them “reformers” would give them too much credit.) Consider just this one basic conflict: No Child Left Behind, the federal standard which requires a 100 percent pass rate for all school children, is being demanded at the same time that the demand to “be able to fire teachers willy-nilly.” So, no students may fail, but teachers can and should be failed by administrative fiat?

First, is any other profession tasked to perform at a “zero failure rate?” How about doctors? They are trained and paid at much higher levels than teachers, surely they required to perform at a “no failure” rate? No? Oh, they are all required to have insurance to pay for the cases in which they do fail and they are at fault? Ah, hah. How about lawyers? They are required by law to have malpractice insurance, too. Hmm. NASA engineers, oh, they had the meters into yards problem recently that cost a billion dollars or so. Can you think of any other profession held to a “zero failure” rate? The whole idea is nonsense, but the NCLB law includes penalties for a goal that no school has ever met or ever can meet.

The reformists wanting to hold teachers “accountable” also seem to pooh-pooh the effects of student poverty and all other outside effects on student performance (gangs, drugs, overworked parents, etc.). Consider the study the Journal of the American Medical Association’s Pediatrics released by Dr. Glenn Flores and Bruce Lesley. Some of the highlights of that study are:

  • Childhood poverty has reached its highest level in 20 years
  • 1 in 4 children lives in a food-insecure household.
  • 7 million children lack health insurance.
  • A child is abused or neglected every 47 seconds.
  • 1 in 3 children is overweight or obese.
  • Five children are killed daily by firearms.
  • 1 in 5 experiences a mental disorder.
  • Racial/ethnic disparities continue to be extensive and pervasive.
  • Children account for 73.5 million Americans (24 percent), but only 8 percent of federal expenditures, and
  • Child well-being in the United States has been in decline since the most recent recession.

Ah, but a great teacher can overcome any handicap faced by her students, no? Of course they can, especially when you consider their lavish salaries and benefits and time off. Studies indicate things like: “an analysis of trends in weekly earnings shows that public school teachers in 2006 earned 15% lower weekly earnings than comparable workers over the 1960-2000 period,” and “female teacher wage discrepancies (compared to occupations requiring similar qualifications) grew by nearly 28 percentage points, from a relative wage advantage of 14.7% in 1960, to a pay disadvantage of 13.2% in 2000. Among all public school teachers the relative wage disadvantage grew almost 20 percentage points over the 1960-2000 period” and “Teachers’ weekly wages were nearly on par with those paid in comparable occupations in 1996 but are now 14.3% below that of comparable occupations.”

And all of that “time off”? An OECD study indicates that “American teachers work far longer hours than their counterparts abroad.” So, over time, teachers have been paid less and less and are working more and more (having that in common with most Americans) and then have been dumped on by policy makers who are paid shills of billionaire reformists.

Sounds like it should work.

We are experimenting upon our own children … and the experimenters are completely daft. And, really, it is all just to disempower teachers unions as political entities, teachers unions that support Democratic candidates in general. If you want confirmation, consider the fact that NCLB and the Common Core State (sic) Standard requirements are all federal regulations of what primarily are state enterprises and Republicans are all in favor of reducing regulations, no? Apparently not, especially when there are political points to score and, well the CCSS is promising to show big profits for people who lobby Republicans (Pearson, et.al.).

November 6, 2014

Scriptural Chickens and Eggs

Which came first, the documents making up the Old Testament (OT) or the documents making up the New Testament (NT)? (Yes, I am going somewhere with this, humor me.)

Since in most Christian Bibles the books of the OT are in the front part and the books of the NT are in the back, plus characters in the NT refer to things in the OT, etc. we are lead by that order to assume the OT books came first.

Surprise! The books of the NT were mostly written from 50-130 CE. The OT books were written somewhat later. Obviously, the OT material existed prior to it being written down, but it was as an oral tradition, not a written one. Writing down the books of the OT to make a Jewish Bible was a subject of great debate, one of many triggered by the Roman destruction of the Second Temple and much of the rest of Jerusalem ca. 70 CE.

There are a few things recently brought to my attention regarding this. The Rabbis who oversaw the writing of the Jewish oral tradition considered there to be two scriptures: the oral and the written. Of the two, the oral was considered superior because of the suspicion that the written tradition would become calcified and unmalleable. You see, Jewish scripture is continuously re-evaluated to guide present actions. It is not static. This is important.

Consider, also, that Hebrew is written only using consonants. The vowels have to be interpolated. So, using English examples, both god and good would be represented as “gd,” book and bike would be represented as “bk,” so “gd lvs” can be taken to mean “god loves” or “good lavas” or even “good larvas” if you entertain possible copying or spelling errors. This stresses context beyond all boundaries and has allowed interpreters to make more than a few rather stretched “reinterpretations” of scripture.

Consider, also, the structures of the three monotheistic religions: only Christianity has an administrative structure containing a hierarchy of authority. In Judaism and Islam, all Rabbis and Imams are independent contractors, as it were. The first Christian Church adopted Roman administrative rule and so priests report to bishops, bishops report to archbishops (if there is one), archbishops report to cardinals, cardinals report to the Pope, etc. And the entire structure is painted with familial duty. The word Pope means papa, or father, and in a patriarchal society, the word of the father in a family is law. (And participants are further insulted and demeaned by being referred to as “children” and “the flock,” but that’s another story.) And while Protestants inherited such structures, albeit more loosely, all of the Christian sects have somewhat more calcified scripture.

Christians put the vowels back in by using Greek and languages other than Hebrew to write their scriptures. Evangelicals took it even farther to claim that written scripture is the inerrant word of god, locking it into place forever (and ever, amen). Yes, yes, they still quibble over scripture but it is from a viewpoint of “we have failed to understand,” and not “how can we reinterpret this to help us understand.”

In Judaism, scripture is alive and breathing; in Christianity, it is dead.

So, how does this affect the minds of Christians who believe in this? Jews are continuously reinterpreting their scriptures. (Israelis devoted to “studying the Tanakh” are exempt from military service and receive a stipend from the government if memory serves.) Christians don’t seem to study their scriptures all that much and the assumption that it is immutable is widespread.

Consequently, apocalyptic claptrap like the Book of Revelations (they had so many other, better, choices of books like Revelations; why they chose it to include in the Christian Bible is beyond me) is taken seriously by a fair number of Evangelicals to the point of preparing for the “End Times.”

Isn’t it interesting that the most calcified beliefs are based upon the actions of a person who believed that scripture was to be flexible and malleable (the Jesus character was a devout Jew). Isn’t it interesting that the monotheistic religion with the strict hierarchy is the one with the most rigid scripture, requiring less interpretation by individual practitioners. Isn’t it interesting that such a structure is designed to preserve power in the hierarchy. And, isn’t it interesting that the Christian sects most vehemently opposed to the hierarchical powers of the Catholic Church, became the ones with the most rigid scripture, scripture not needing interpretation by priests, but also not needing interpretation by practitioners, either.

All of the above is preamble to why I write about religious issues in a blog devoted to Class Warfare. Religion, Christianity in our case here in the U.S., is a weapon of class warfare. The message has always been: sit down, shut up, do as we say, you have no role in running things, your reward is in the next life, not now. By way of contrast, the Israelis most devoted to scripture are a rowdy, unconforming political lot, who wield a lot of power in Israel. And we here in the U.S. consider ourselves to be individualists, hah! In Israeli, people who interpret scripture believe in their own power. Here, we bow our heads.

Allow the elites to make all of the decisions for you. These are not the droids you are looking for. Move along.

November 5, 2014

Could the Democrats Be More Politically Inept?

Instead of running on what the Democratic Party stands for, Democrats ran in fear of what the Republicans might say, out of the fear of losing, and thus guaranteeing their losses.

The Republicans vowed to run these latest national elections on Obamacare. It would be a “national election,” that is a plebiscite on Obamacare. But, oops, Obamacare turned out to be more of a success than a failure so it got dropped like a hot rock by all of the Repubs. But did any Democrats embrace Obamacare and the intransigent Republican opposition to it as a point of clarification for what the parties stood for? Not a one. They continued to be in fear of what the Republicans “might say.”

And the economy. Sure it is picking up, but that hadn’t reached rural America (where many of the key elections were) so much as yet and seemed like a place Democrats could beat Republicans about the head and shoulders. Republicans killed every jobs bill, every infrastructure bill, essentially every non-military, non-plutocratic (approved farm subsidies but cut out food stamps, for example) spending bill that Democrats proposed (filibuster, filibuster, filibuster). The Republican idea of a jobs bill is a tax cut for the rich. Think you coulda sold that one, maybe?

Governmental Dysfunction? Couldn’t that have been laid in the Republican’s lap? Republicans lock up the government and then complain that nothing is getting done and they still win? Hey, gang, I’ve got an idea! Let’s let the other guys determine all of the debate topics! Amazing.

When you run against the other party and the other party hasn’t done anything, you lose. Maybe if a few tried to run on what they were for, Democrats would have done better.

 

November 4, 2014

Traditional Values (or the Lack Thereof)

I am so sick of hearing politicians spouting “support” for traditional values. Hey, Adrian Peterson of the Minnesota Vikings football team is on trial for exercising his “traditional values,” aka child abuse. Ray Rice of the Baltimore Ravens lost his job because he exercised his “traditional values” aka spousal abuse.

Something is “traditional” because we’ve always done it that way. Being traditional doesn’t make something right or wrong, just something that has been done a certain way for a longish time. Obviously, any traditional practice that resulted in the death of the practitioner or the practice wouldn’t be traditional for very long. (Ask the Shakers about their tradition of celibacy. Hello, Shakers? Are there any Shakers listening? No? Hmmm.)

So, consider the “traditional family values” that Republicans tout so often. If you saw the movie “42” you saw a long-standing tradition being passed from father to son, that of white people calling African Americans “dirty n-ggers.” That boy receiving his instruction in tradition, by the way, could not own property and any money he earned was the property of his parents (every damned dime of it). And when you take into account that Shirley Temple was the biggest star in Hollywood for a decade or so, yet had no claim whatsoever upon her  earnings, well, it was traditional, you see.

It was traditional that women did not vote. Where they got that silly idea was beyond most men, any way. It was traditional that African-Americans did not vote. Heck, it was traditional to not consider them human beings. It was traditional to say Christian prayers in public schools, whether all of the students were Christians or not. It was traditional in both the South and the North to “string up n-ggers” who committed crimes. It was easy to see who did those crimes, their skins were black.

It was traditional to give public service jobs to relatives (we called it “patronage” to make it sound more noble) instead of more qualified applicants (through WW2 and into the 1960’s, by the way).

So, the next time you hear some sincere sounding, bloviating politician use the term “traditional family values” or “traditional American values” you can believe what they are saying (without explicitly saying it) is: I think the way you do. Then, once you have heard that pol say that phrase, you can also count on the fact that … he doesn’t. You see, that politician does not possess the non-traditional values of “honesty,” or “integrity,” or “commitment to public service” (meaning serving the public at large rather than special interests). Any politician using the “code words” of “traditional this” or “traditional that” only wants your vote and is willing to say anything to get it. Unfortunately, that is the traditional way we do politics.

Happy Election Day, 2014!

November 3, 2014

Our Broken Political System

I have railed against the perfidious politicians who have sabotaged our political system. The word sabotage” comes from the word “sabot” which referred to a wooden shoe, which when jammed into the gears of a machine, caused that machine to malfunction, so my choice of words is correct, our political system has been jammed and stopped.

Consider this, though. About 25% of the electorate claims to be Republican. Since the Republicans managed to take control of the House of Representatives by focusing on state-wide elections that allowed them to remap all of the Congressional districts after the 2010 Census. Then the Republicans wrote a new rule: they would pass no legislation that did not have the support of a majority of the Republicans. This rule is their rule, it is not in the Constitution or really anywhere else. Hewing to this rule has allowed a subset of the Republican Party (the Tea Party) to be the tail that wags the dog. the Tea Party Caucus does not have enough members to prevent a majority of Republicans from making a decision, but they have additional influence. They can find and fund a more conservative challenger for any of their colleagues should they so choose. Getting “primaried” in this fashion has lost a number of Republicans their jobs recently, so the influence the Tea Party wields is not just by force of personality. And the Tea Party’s political appeal is to a section of the electorate which has a “no cooperation, take no prisoners, my way or the highway” attitude.” Being thus chosen, they have no political skills whatsoever. They couldn’t cut a deal with a used car salesman, let alone with the party “across the isle.”

“Nothing can get done. Nothing will get done.”

So, here is the situation we are in. Normally Congressional legislation requires passage by both houses of Congress and the signature of the President. One of the two houses is in the control of a party that represents 25% of voting age Americans. Less than half of those House of Representative members control the Republican Caucus, which controls all legislation going through, by means of their own votes and “primarying” threats. Not only is the tail wagging the dog, but actually the hair of the tail is wagging the dog. Nothing can get done. Nothing will get done.

By the way, guess whose world view benefits from a government being so dysfunctional that it cannot be trusted to do even the simplest things? Uh hunh.

This is ridiculous.

To fix this mess requires a few changes.

For one, we need to stop letting the political parties do congressional redistricting after censuses. This is task better done by an independent committee or. really, a computer can do it. The only thing the politicians should be associated with is determining the rules by which the districts will be determined.

Second, we need to fix the campaign finance system. Currently, we are using the Golden Rule of Politics, which is “those with the gold make the rules.” Either elections are to be publically funded or some new system needs to be created.

Third we need to limit campaigning to shorter periods of time. For pity’s sake, the 2016 Presidential Election campaigns were beginning before the Mid-term Elections were completed. I just saw my first Christmas commercial last night (more than one). It used to be frowned upon to have such ads before Thanksgiving (except when Thanksgiving was particularly late), but at the rate we are going we will have year-around Christmas … and year around campaigning. How can anything get done when our legislators are campaigning continuously? How is it that Parliamentary governments can limit their elections to six-week periods? Could we not do the same?

 

October 31, 2014

Freedom and “The State”

I was reading a column by Austin Cline (Freedom as Self-Determination, Democracy as Independence from Religion) which started on the wrong foot, specifically by defining “political freedom” thusly:

What does it mean to be “free” in a liberal democracy? At the very least, it must mean that people are able to form opinions and pursue goals relating to the direction of their life with a minimum of interference from the state.”

My reaction was instant and visceral: why is freedom defined incorporating and emphasizing the phrase “a minimum of interference from the state?”

Think about all of the times “the state” was all there was separating people exercising their rights and their fellow citizens trying to deny them. I am thinking of the Civil Rights Movement for one, slavery as another. There are a great many more: Women’s right to vote, Black’s right to vote, the right to divorce a marriage partner, etc. And has not legislation passed by our governments righted wrongs (including legislative prejudices, e.g. against interracial marriages)? Isn’t the recent Supreme Court decision regarding Marriage Equality an interpretation of our government written laws that is opening up the institution of marriage to all?

The “state” is just an actor, like individual citizens, just one more powerful than any citizen. The definition of political freedom should mention our governments but not as “the major source of restriction of our freedom.”

Have the Republican lies about Government as “the problem” soaked that far into our collective consciousness? I hope not.

October 30, 2014

Loving/Hating Israel

According to an article in The Guardian, some anonymous Obama administration officials had some not nice things to say about Israel’s Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. The article included the quotes that Netanyahu was a “chickenshit prime minister,” a “coward,” and “a man more interested in his own political survival than peace.”

For his part, Netanyahu angrily insisted he was “under attack simply for defending Israel,” adding that he “cherished” Israel’s relationship with the U.S.

I believe that the part of the relationship he “cherished” applies to the more than $8,500,000 per day (yes, that’s eight and a half million dollars every day) the U.S. government spends in support of Israel. Other than that, Israel’s Prime Minister would prefer that we shut up and go away.

A World Series Interlude

Again, I take a point of personal privilege to discuss the World Series of U.S. Major League Baseball. I have just a few comments.

First, can we stop singing God Bless America in the seventh inning of every damned baseball game? It was first done shortly after 9/11 because, well, we had taken a body blow and people were feeling a bit vulnerable and it lifted our spirits. Now it has become a requirement and with the mind numbing repetition it has become like the Pledge of allegiance, something almost meaningless as we have heard it so often. It has become like a politician’s American Flag lapel pin.

The Fox Sports coverage was its usual level of irritating: too much talk, too much stupid analysis (it doesn’t matter that the nine previous Game 7s were won by the home team, those were different teams!; the home field advantage has nothing to do with sleeping in your own bed or eating home cooked meals (who cooks at home any more?), it has to do with batting last in every inning (the Royals tied their Wild Card Game and then fell behind 8-7; if the Royals hadn’t been batting last, the game would have been over), etc.

Fox’s strike zone graphic was completely horrid. I assume they were using Pitch Trax technology (which uses two synchronized cameras to track pitches) but the strike zone shown on screen was way too wide. It is only supposed to be as wide as the front edge of the white part of home plate, yet it was wider than the entire plate (which has a black border) seen at an angle from the center field camera (which makes it appear wider)! What good is showing the locations of pitches against a grid that does not conform to the strike zone? Any part of the ball overlapping the white part of the plate at the correct level is the definition of a strike.

And as I celebrated with the thousands of people shown outdoors at the Civic Center in S.F., I was struck by how much the outcome of the game meant to all of us Giants Fans. If there is any argument about the ridiculousness of a search for meaning, use this as example #1. These were professional athletes playing a game to entertain us and we were celebrating like a we had just won a major war. Absolutely meaningless … and wonderful at the same time.

A Chicago Cigar Store had a WS Special sale on Gigante and Royale cigars. That’s what made this country great!

And, once again, we have an example of a group of men, some Latin-American, some African-American, Southern and Northern whites, young rookies, and grizzled veterans, all working for a common goal out of love and respect. We can do this … but in our body politic we have white people trying to disenfranchise black and brown people, rich people trying to disadvantage poor people, wealthy corporations trying to avoid paying any taxes in support of the common good at all. Is it because we have no common goal? Maybe it is time we found one.

Viva Gigantes!

 

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