Dying For Lack of Opportunity

The death rate for white males in their middle years has skyrocketed because of suicide and drug overdose. These are people who have been denied the American dream. Their jobs disappeared, along with their house, their medical care, and their retirement. Their very lives.

People who have faced such depressing conditions become depressed, naturally. The longer it goes on, the more likely they will become dependent on alcohol or the other dangerous drugs that are so readily available everywhere. The longer they are depressed, the more likely it is they will kill themselves.

When these conditions affect the black population, self-righteous whites put on their church pins and tell them to man up. Get a job. They are not saying those things now, because the ones affected are white. There are no jobs of any kind in lots of places, other than a few part-time minimum wage gigs. Nothing you can live on.

Where did the jobs go? Many were shipped overseas by corporate bosses, where desperate people are forced to work under conditions that would be illegal here, and for pennies on the dollar.

But the other condition, which nobody is talking about, is the absorption of jobs by new robots and computers that aren’t paid a wage. We can’t even see this huge dilemma, because its onset has been insidious over decades, and it’s ubiquitous.

What began as a novelty is now the norm. Take the job of inventory of stock. Today’s young adults were not around to know that there were businesses whose sole purpose was to take inventory for companies that hired them. They came to work after a store was closed for the day, and a large crew counted everything in the store and wrote it down on paper. Later, the managers tallied these counts and presented their report to the store.

All those jobs are gone. Inventory today is continuous and invisible. Each new item is scanned into the computer, and each sold item is automatically deducted from the inventory count. If an item becomes depleted, the computer tells when to order more, or does it automatically. There’s no such thing as an independent inventory, and computers perform dozens of other business services that used to require employees.

Likewise, robots have taken over large parts of manufacturing in every realm. Even things like certain types of surgery are on the verge of being performed by robots, which are much faster than human surgeons.

This modernization came on over a long period, and the evidence is scattered, so it’s not easily seen with casual observation. But it’s everywhere.

Perhaps skilled laborers are the most heavily affected by this modernization, but in actuality, new machines are absorbing jobs at every level from unskilled labor to CEO, and some of the displaced from every kind of work end up on the street, helpless before the new reality.

This, I believe, is one of the reasons that homelessness is not being solved. Every year there are additional people forced from their homes and their former lives into the streets, into tents.

My belief is that there are two things we could do to help solve the condition. First, shorten the official work week to 30 hours or less, which would mean more people working. This is not a radical change. There were regular reductions of the 72-hour work week before we reached 40 hours. Second, require all employers to pay a living wage for 30 hours of work. High enough earnings to supply everything necessary. Living wage does not hurt business because employees must spend what they earn to survive, which is fed directly into the local economy.

The federal government could greatly help the nation’s people by passing several wise laws, such as improved Social Security and initiation of national health care, like every other nation did long ago. Note, however, that this modernization would make the insurance industry largely redundant. It’s also unlikely to happen any time soon because conservatives have labelled it “Socialism”, which they associate with Karl Marx and the USSR, whereas the proper model is the modern nations of Europe and Asia.

Until the cause of white decline is recognized, accepted, and conditions changed, we can expect more of the same: substance abuse, overdose, and suicide. It won’t go away by itself.

How to Smallify Gummint

Here’s the quickest way to reduce government to the size that even libertarians might like: eliminate each and every tax deduction and tax break for individuals and businesses. Compel every person and organization to pay their share of taxes. Cut funding for war-making by 50%. Easy, huh?

No longer let the Pentagon fill in the sums on a blank check when they want to build bigger and better death machines. It should be obvious: you have to win hearts and minds, something that is rarely accomplished by carpet bombing. Trying to foster the next war to “bomb them into the stone age” would be enormously wasteful, like it is now, but with a 50% cut we would be less likely to launch such foolishness.

Compel all corporations and individuals to pay their share of taxes—not zero, as many have been paying for years. Take an import duty for every product sold in the US by corporations who have moved their headquarters overseas to avoid taxes. In other words, don’t allow them to play games with what they owe for the services and infrastructure they use.

Homeowners would suddenly be minus their favorite write-off, the mortgage interest deduction. Suddenly they would be like people in Canada and Europe. But their taxes would not increase. Most probably they would decrease, because nobody would be getting away with tax gamesmanship.

Who would scream the loudest? The ones with the most tax breaks, of course. And who might they be? Why, the ones with all the money, of course. But how did they get all the money, you might ask? Simple, they bought it. How is it possible to buy money?

Well, first you must have a lot of money to begin with. When you have accumulated money beyond any conceivable use, you invest in politicians. You give lots of money directly to the politicians most likely to pass laws that would give you more money. So they have plenty to assure their re-election. Getting re-elected is the most important thing most politicians do.

You give lots of money to lobbyists who explain to the politicians you own how to vote. That way the politicians you own will pass the laws you gently suggest would be “good for business”, meaning corporate capitalists, never the people. What is good for the population becomes irrelevant. What the corporations want always gets done, even when 90% of the population wants the opposite.

In the end, even with all tax breaks eliminated, everyone but the very rich would be happier for paying lower tax. This would come about because corporations and the wealthy would no longer be able to screw over the rest of us by owning the government.

It should be observed, though, that even with all the tax breaks for the rich and corporations, we already have lower actual taxes than every other advanced nation, and corporations never pay the maximum tax rate, if they pay any taxes at all. Why are our taxes so low? Because we underfund government services and benefits. Most notably, we have no national health care policy, even though 80% of us want it and our failure to have it costs us literally twice as much. Nor do we have adequate educational support, or retirement funding.

What we do have is a grossly bloated military budget, equal to the total of the next dozen or so countries, and famous for literally squandering billions. Billions were sent to Iraq, literally filling Air Force cargo planes with pallets of hundred dollar bills, most of which evaporated.

These things would not improve just because tax breaks were eliminated. We would have even lower taxes, but we still would not have the level of services that the civilized nations have. It would take positive steps to bring our personal security up to the level of the more advanced countries.

In the end it comes back to the purpose of government. Is it for the capitalists and corporations so they can become ever richer? Or is the actual reason for government to serve the interests and needs of the citizens, all of them? We know what the answer is at the moment.

We Desperately Need a National Reboot

The US was founded on an imperfect belief in equality. We have lost much of what we had of that belief, and are overdue for better treatment of everyone, and major changes elsewhere as well. Here are some old lessons to learn again.

No group is superior; no group is inferior. There are many cases in which a group of people has been particularly successful at one thing or another. Mostly this is because of strong cultural habits. Not all Asians are good at math, and there are erudite African-Americans who have no interest in basketball. Natural and permanent superiority has never been demonstrated for any group. There’s just no such thing as a superior race or culture, and those who believe otherwise need to learn why it is so.

It has been often said that justice in a country is best seen in how its poorest are treated. We’ve been slipping for a long time, in particular because of the machinations of the very rich over the past half century or so, which is part of the Republican drive to reduce the effectiveness of government. This has left us with a legacy of unfair laws both at the national level and state levels. New laws in Republican states frequently are specifically designed to punish one group or another, and to favor Republicans and the wealthy.

Everybody must be able to live a decent life on earnings from full time work of any kind. Anything else is undemocratic. The ugly belief popular on the right is that the poor deserve their fate because they are too lazy to work. It’s a claim made especially for African-Americans, ever since they quit working for free, and it’s a stupid belief. The poor are poor because they aren’t paid enough money and have no power to change that, not because they are lazy.

The rich have always had an unfair advantage with government because they can afford to spend heavily to influence law, which of course always favors themselves. Since the 1970s, when Republicans began to espouse the idea that government could do no right, the wealth of the rich has grown rapidly. Inequality now stands at an all time high, fed by top salaries and earnings far beyond reason, greed overcoming all else.

Everyone must learn what science does. The scientifically illiterate influence our laws far too much. Not only the undereducated don’t understand, but even many members of Congress don’t. The discoveries we make through science tell us how the natural world and the natural universe actually function, not how we imagine it functions, and particularly not how religion says it functions. To not “believe in” science makes no more sense than not believing in gravity.

Science is self-correcting. No scientific explanation can be “proven”; it can only be disproven. A good scientific theory is one that has been rigorously tested with many unsuccessful attempts to disprove it. Einstein’s Relativity is a good example.

Scientific thinkers were aware a century ago that it was possible to upset the global thermal balance. We have now arrived at the point where the evidence of that danger is very real every day, and whether we “believe” it is irrelevant. Firm scientific evidence of warming was found decades ago by petroleum scientists, their findings killed by corporate capitalists more worried about reduced profit than the fate of the planet. At that time we could have corrected our faults. Now it’s probably too late. The denial of politicians has also almost completely prevented actions that might have saved us when it was still possible. Instead, we may well have sacrificed the future existence of all life on earth.

Religious beliefs cannot be allowed to determine what non-believers may do. In some cases church dogma has been directly responsible for a person’s death. The church has said a pregnancy may not be terminated for any reason, and the mother dies. This is hardly what Jesus taught.

The debate over abortion is legitimate, but many of the forced-birth crowd have no real interest in protecting life, only in forcing an unwanted birth. The very real unmet needs of one out of three of our living children for adequate nutrition, health care, and education are largely ignored, seen as of lesser moral concern than small collections of cells that stand less than a 50% chance of becoming a viable birth. I call this hypocrisy of a high order.

Worse, protests against abortion tend to be radical and violent, accepting only a complete cessation of all abortion, rather than seeking a solution that improves the situation. Many also refuse to accept any form of contraception for anyone, and a few have become violent enough to commit arson, and even to murder women’s health care providers.

My personal belief is that every abortion represents a failure, a failure of sex education and of providing contraception when it was needed. Higher rates of unwanted pregnancy and abortion are found where education and contraception are wanting.

Republican battles against universal health care makes no sense. Even after a century and a half, we remain the only advanced country that fails to provide affordable health care for every citizen. Our health care costs literally double what others pay, wasting hundreds of billions of dollars. Many millions of Americans do not earn enough income to afford health care insurance, causing some 700,000 medical bankruptcies every year. The toll in all nations with national health care: zero.

It is time to correct these grievous faults, brought to us almost universally by the Republican party and it’s wealthy supporters. It is time for Republicans to think about what they have wrought, to restore the beliefs they once had, and to again make government serve the people, and not just the very rich.

None of this will happen if we sit on our asses again November 8th. People need to vote.

Ways to Manage a Threatening Person Without Killing Him

There seem to be endless cases in which American police address a threatening person and simply kill him as their first and only option. There are plenty of tools to avoid this. Here are some that are used in various countries, and a few from my own fevered brain.

Tool #1: Wrapping Up the Perp

Police confront a confused man waving a knife around. He hasn’t hurt anyone so far, but is disoriented and angry, and the knife presents a danger. One cop is assigned to keep his gun focussed on him. One cop, not an armada.

Two cops take out the “wrapper”, made of plastic netting that has been folded accordion style. With one cop on either end, they stretch the net out and slowly approach to each side of the man. The officer with the gun also approaches, behind the net. At a signal, the two officers rush past the subject, go behind him and entangle him in the net. At the moment they meet, they reach across to the other end of the net, feed the opposite loose end through their own end, and pull built-in straps that collapse the wrapper and close it tightly about the man, who then can’t move. The police can now safely confiscate his knife and restrain him as needed. If the attempt fails, the officer with the gun can shoot him in the thigh from close range without killing him.

Police elsewhere have addressed the same situation by surrounding and closing in on the man with vertical plastic shields. Once the man is surrounded, he has no target for his knife, and can easily be disarmed and subdued.

Even simpler, police officers can simply toss a blanket or two over the threatening person, followed by holding him with arms or a rope until he is disarmed.

Tool #2: Net Losses Can Be Good

Some Japanese inventors devised a simple plastic gun that shoots out a net for ten feet or so. Two or more of these devices can be used at once. They trap a threatening person in loose nets that cannot quickly be untangled.

This is much simpler than the device I thought of, which is a device that shoots a bigger and heavier net, which automatically tightens once it has been deployed. But the Japanese device is better because it is inexpensive, simpler, and more lightweight. Several can be used at once. Both devices allow a person to be taken into custody without excessive danger.

Tool #3: The Gun Cruncher

This is a robotic device that captures a threatening person’s handgun by immobilizing his arm and clamping onto the gun barrel. It consists of a large “mitt” mounted atop a rolling robotic device that moves toward a person who is armed with a pistol. It is semi-controlled by a shielded operator from a distance.

The “mitt”, or pouch, is roughly three feet deep and about 18 inches in diameter when open. The material is bullet-proof, with thick padding. Inside the front end are two strong but bendable rods that will clamp an arm.

The device approaches the armed person at a leisurely pace, the mitt closed. The natural reaction of the armed person will be to aim his pistol at the closed end of the mitt, and maybe to shoot at it. When the robot reaches a critical distance from the gun, the mitt apparatus suddenly shoots forward, at the same time opening the mitt. If the person’s shooting arm is extended this is automatic, if not, the operator waits to deploy it. Deployment will be too rapid for the person to react, so his gun and arm will go inside the mitt.

At the instant sensors inside the mitt register that the gun has reached the right depth, it releases a strong clamp that immobilizes the gun barrel. At the same time, the mitt snaps shut tightly on the person’s arm, so that he cannot extract either the gun or his arm, thus immobilizing him. After the police reach the gunman, the operator releases the arm clamp, allowing the gunman’s arm to be removed and handcuffed, while the gun remains tightly clamped inside the mitt.

Tool #4: Barfworthy Face Glop

In this instance, a quantity of foul sticky glop, perhaps in a balloon, is fired at a person’s front or face. It smells bad, tastes worse, and stings the eyes and nose. No one with a faceful of this awful crap will be able to concentrate on causing trouble, and rather simple techniques should quickly immobilize him.

Perhaps this stuff already exists, but if it doesn’t almost any crew of junior high boys would love to work on it as a science project.

Tool #5: Sun-Screamer

This device is simply a very bright light, either a steady, very bright light, or a very bright flash. It must not be bright enough to cause permanent eye damage, but must be strong enough to cause temporary blindness and confusion.

It is used to capture someone who has no gun. It requires at least three officers. One keeps a gun trained on the threatening person. A second turns the light on at a signal. The additional officer or officers rush the person and immobilize him with nets or blankets.

Police services around the world routinely disarm and arrest people without killing them. Single cops are able to stop a dangerously disoriented person with a single pistol shot to the thigh, followed by standard disarming procedures. This is in contrast to the standard American procedure, which is for several cops to kill a threatening person, even an unarmed person, with a fusillade of bullets within seconds of encounter, a practice which must end.

How to Get Rid of Refugees

Europe is swamped with refugees, so many they are shipping some back. In the US, that enlightened political icon who emblazons his name on everything says that all eleven million Mexicans in the US are rapists and criminals, and should be deported. Certain citizens have minds just as closed. They are morally wrong, because we ourselves create refugees by the way we treat people in other countries.

There are 60 million refugees worldwide, half of whom are children. Refugees are created three primary ways. First, violence, especially war, creates refugees. Second, poverty. Third, environmental collapse, which is closely related to poverty, and is increasingly due to climate change. We create a significant percentage of these factors ourselves. Therefore, to get rid of refugees, it behooves us to quit doing the things that create refugees.

People usually love their homeland, even when it’s a place that doesn’t appeal to us. To keep people from becoming refugees we should do our best to preserve the things they like about their homeland. Armies and corporations can’t do that; they do the opposite, making life so difficult and dangerous that people lose everything and leave.

Capitalism and politics, including military politics, are the two main factors that create almost all of the destruction and danger that causes people to flee their home country at great risk to their very lives. The two are closely linked because we don’t do nearly enough politically to prevent the problems that capitalism creates. In fact, we make it worse.

Big Oil in Nigeria is a salient example. The oil companies have extracted huge quantities of oil from Nigeria. This has made the executives of these companies extremely rich, but has devastated Nigeria. Big Oil has literally destroyed vast tracts of land with severe pollution, making life physically impossible for the people who had lived there thousands of years. Very few jobs were created for Nigerians, and none of those brought affluence to the workers. In short, capitalists essentially raped the country, chasing the natives off their own land, and created devastating poverty. The original inhabitants live in misery and squalor.

From such conditions refugees by hundreds of thousands are created, all doing everything they can to reach Europe, hoping to be able to earn a living there, however modest. It takes no great intelligence to see that these refugees would prefer to stay at home if corporate capitalism and political failure had not made their situation desperate.

Think back to 9/11. The whole world, we thought, mourned with us. But not so much in the Middle East, and some other places. They didn’t get so excited about it, and the reason was that capitalism and politics had victimized them for so long, in so many ways, that a mere 3,000 deaths and a couple of tall buildings didn’t seem like such a big deal. Nothing to get upset about. Some were even happy that we got a little taste of our own medicine.

We took oil from the Middle East, but of course we didn’t outright steal it, like we did in Africa and certain other places, such as Venezuela. But our politics! Ech!

It’s been a virtual rule that we must back the dictators who would be the worst for the people, if the country has resources to sell. The CIA was in back of virtually all of the coups that removed the democratically elected leaders of the people and replaced them with a cruel autocrat. We put Shah Reza Pahlavi on the Peacock Throne in Iran, nullifying a democratic election. He beefed up his secret service and tortured anyone who so much as mentioned democracy. We arranged the assassination of Allende in Chile, and replaced him with Pinochet and his thugs, who “disappeared” thousands, many of whom are still not accounted for.

In Haiti we meddled with the popularly elected Aristide in several illegal and amoral ways, in the end literally kidnapping him and flying him to the least safe place in Africa, where he was held against his will until eventually he was allowed to return, but not to Haiti. In fact, there is practically no place in the world, where we haven’t meddled and created anti-democratic havoc.

There have been few if any years when the US wasn’t busy with invasion, war, or occupation of countries where we have no real reason to be, usually several countries at once. The real reason is virtually always resources, usually oil. If we quit this stuff we would reap the benefit of many billions in avoided military expense, significant improvements in the refugee situation, and greatly improved national reputation. But then of course the capitalists would not be quite as rich, and that is the whole purpose.

None of this is, as they say, rocket science. It amounts only to following the Golden Rule on an international level. Corporations need to quit screwing over countries where there is something they want to steal. Our government needs to find ways to prevent corporate malfeasance. Our government needs to quit invading places and giving money to tyrants.

We need to close, say, 75% of the military bases we have forced on the world, and to bring home our troops. They’re not creating good will. They’re not creating stability. They’re creating hatred. They’re creating terrorists.

Refugees are created by wars and other stresses. Since we create wars and other stresses, ceasing to do those things would make for fewer refugees for us to deal with. People end up where they don’t want to be, away from home, because there is no opportunity at home, because there is war, because there is corruption, because there is no freedom, much of it compliments of the U. S. of A.

So what should we do? Easy. Quit invading countries; quit allowing corporations to rape and pillage; make corporations actually support the places they do business; protect the environment; hire the locals; etc. Live up to what we’re supposed to stand for.

Ways to Enable the Absolutely Essential Republican Reformation

The Grand Old Party is a catastrophic mess. Republicans are more faithful to their party than they are to the country. If it is to once again become a worthy opponent to the Democratic Party, real Republicans must begin at once to take charge and formulate ways the party can shed its current disgraceful reputation.

First, the Republican attitude must change from totally negative to a positive one. What they are for, not what they are against.

Most Republican efforts have been extremely negative for at least the past eight years, in denying debate on proposed new laws, in denying to confirm a large number of proposed government leadership positions (including the Supreme Court), in making ugly and inappropriate statements about President Obama that are not befitting the dignity of the presidency, and so on.

Basically, Republicans have refused to do their constitutionally mandated duty. Worse, they have been petulant about it, like kids on the playground. There have been numerous instances of gross disrespect, not least was a shout of “You lie!” during a State of the Union address.

Cooperative lawmaking has intentionally disappeared. Republicans proved this when the president tried to elicit cooperation during his first term. The party adopted a literal policy of complete non-cooperation. If the GOP is to become relevant in coming years there will have to be a radical change in how it behaves.

Republicans will have to learn to truly respect all the people of the world.

Most of the world population consists of people who are not the descendants of pale northern Europeans. People of every description in every part of the world are just as capable of all the good and bad as white guys. Whites are no longer a majority in certain parts of the country already, and are a definite minority among school children nationwide. Nor is English ever going to be the only language in the country. In fact, Spanish has always been the dominant language of the southwest.

Quit passing unconstitutional laws that are designed to punish people for being who they are. Accept the given fact of the LGBT community, which consists of people whose natural sexuality cannot be assigned a handy Republican category. None of them ever chose to be who they are, nor did you, and who anybody is cannot be the basis for unequal treatment under the law. No, you can’t “convert” them into straights, any more than you yourself could be “converted” to gay.

Get out of the racism business. Reagan’s semi-disguised racism and current Republican raw racism have no place in the modern world. Republican state legislatures must quit completely their nouveau Jim Crow efforts to prevent poor people and Democrats from voting. Their gerrymanders and discriminatory requirements fool no one. They are not addressing voting fraud; they are perpetrating vote fraud.

Republicans must free themselves from control by the very rich.

Republicans have become puppets, and democracy suffers for it. The very rich have usurped the powers of the Republican Party, of both houses of Congress, and many statehouses as well. This has allowed them to dictate the content of legislature, which they structure to funnel money to themselves. In so doing they have created increasing misery for most of us, especially the poor. The GOP has aided and supported these efforts because it is the very rich who provide money for their re-election. Republicans who demonstrate ability to do their own thinking are threatened with election defeat by extremists from the far right, who expect strict obedience to policies that are stupid and wrong.

Face the fact that many of the talking points adopted since the time of Reagan are quite simply wrong. Tax cuts for the rich always result in a decrease in tax revenue and a worsening economy, yet Republicans never quit claiming they work. Recent state governments that have tried it, with disastrous results, are obvious examples.

Quit pretending that people are poor because they refuse to work. People are poor because they cannot earn enough money. Work for a living wage. Quit pretending that African-Americans are lazy and stupid, and prefer welfare to work. It’s a claim that began when slavery ended and blacks quit working for free. Concentrate instead on ending inequality of opportunity and requiring fair pay.

Quit telling us tales based on unsupportable falsehoods.

Recently a public figure proclaimed that Obama is the worst president we ever had. But of course he presented no evidence at all to support his claim. This is characteristics of such claims; they are empty rhetoric, absent factuality. Republicans must quit making claims they cannot substantiate.

Base what you claim on real facts. The Obama years have been marred by endless Republican false claims that are contradicted by the hard facts. For example, after six years of solid success with Obamacare, many Republicans are still claiming that it’s a complete failure that will cost us billions. This is stupid. Anyone can look up these figures at the Congressional Budget Office. The people who benefit from Obamacare have no such illusions; nor do studies support such claims.

The country has work to do, and Republicans are needed to help do it.


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