Politics

Logical trade, illogical politics

A week or so ago I wrote about a logical trade when it came to finding a solution to a budget impasse and solving some immigration issues. It seems no one was paying much attention (of course, my readership isn’t that high so that last statement was tongue and cheek).

We wake up today with a government shutdown and while the political spin machines are working over time to spin it this way and that, there is really only one place that blame can be laid here. I say that because when it comes right down to the crux of the issues, there is only one party in this case that is taking an illogical stance and fighting with illogical politics – the Democrats.

The Democrats are where the blame for this shutdown should be squarely placed. This is the bed they made for so many Americans who may find themselves with no job and no paycheck come Monday morning. Or worse yet, those federal employees (like our men and women in uniform serving all over the world) who will have to work and not get paid.

Why do the Democrats take the sole blame for this one? Well, they are standing on a program that protects illegal immigrants, DACA, and they are keeping the government from being able to protect and enforce it’s own borders, which essentially continues to add to the problem of illegal immigration. So, instead of negotiating with a little give and take, they have decided that this is where they will plant their flag and stand.

Just in some quick looking around, this is what we are talking about, by the numbers:

  • 700,000 (+/-) illegal immigrants who are known as “Dreamers” that the DACA program is protecting and allowing to stay in the US because they were brought here as children.

VERSUS

  • 13,000,000 (+/-) federal employees who will be affected by the shutdown, in one way or another.

These numbers come from CNN, who we all know is left-leaning and “fake news” according to the president. The point being, these numbers are from a typically Democratic party friendly source so they may be even higher. There were various estimates all over the net.

All that being said, it shows that one party here is not making a logical stand when it comes to negotiations and is putting even more Americans at risk by taking this stance. The spin machines can spin all they want, but there is not getting around the numbers and what the fight is really over. Remember the old adage, “The greatest good for the greatest number’? It seems one party has forgotten it.

Hopefully, come Monday morning there will be an agreement that involves both sides giving something and the prospect of moving forward isn’t just a hope.

We have a broke(n) government – literally and figuratively.

 

 

Seems Like a Logical Trade

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Hey, we need a budget (it would be nice if they could live within their means – but that is for another day) so there seems to be some negotiating going on that supposedly will at least make the unbalanced budget happen…ok, who are we kidding? There isn’t any negotiating going on, just a lot of posturing, finger-pointing, and name calling.

One point of contention is that there are people in our country that shouldn’t be here, 89a8134cd81b7609bec1fc47d6ca-should-illegal-immigrants-be-treated-equallymaking them illegal (why illegal, well because they didn’t follow a legal process – the law – to get here and stay here). This we know for sure and there is no debating it. However, some of those people are here as no fault of their own. They were brought here, illegally, when they were young and, for all intents and purposes, have not known any other home. This too isn’t a point of debate because it is fact.

dacaThose young illegals, were afforded some protection under the DACA policy (seems reasonable given their age and the requirements to stay) and on the surface it would appear to be a rather humane and successful way to deal with the issue. The DACA policy is set to expire in March, however, and some people would really like to keep it. Temporary programs, given that no actual law is created to make it permanent, are meant to end and not go on perpetually. So, a compromise on this point seems achievable.

Another point of contention is that there are lots of people in the US who would like to have a wall on the southern border to keep future illegals from entering the US. This is, after all, the right and privilege of any sovereign nation – to control its borders and limit who can enter the nation (in lots of cases around the world, this is done with a combination of actual, physical barriers and laws). This idea, while completely legit doesUS-MEXICO-RELIGION-BORDER-EASTER-MASS have some drawbacks since there are places where a physical wall is completely impossible. That really isn’t the point though and if there are places there can’t be an actual wall, there can be, in all practicality given technology today, a “virtual wall.” Regardless of how it happens, there does need to be a larger and more daunting barrier to keep people from entering the country illegally (because it is against the law). This too doesn’t sound like a bad idea, regardless of cost, because it is in the nation’s best interest to limit who is capable of arriving at and crossing over our borders. So, again, a compromise seems to be achievable here too.

**Author’s Note: Apparently I am too slow in writing at least part of this, as there now has been some negotiating, and apparently still some name calling – but we just aren’t sure.

Either way, this issue has lots of places there can be bipartisan agreement (or at least there should be) instead of just grand-standing on one political ideology or another. We need a government that works to keep the country safe and a political system that isn’t influenced by money. I know this is a lot to ask, but securing the borders of our country and stopping illegal immigration should be a priority. Again, that isn’t an issue that allows much debate – you either support safety and security or you don’t.

 

 

 

 

Swiss Diplomat Risks All During the Holocaust

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Having been a high school history teacher and also having a particularly strong affinity to things related to the Holocaust, this story highlighted in the link below was of extreme interest to me. I used to use Schindler’s List in class and spend a large amount of time teaching about WWII and the Holocaust in class. Several years ago I found out that I had a familial connection to heroic actions of a distant family member during the Holocaust (a story I hope to tell on here some day), which has heightened my interests in the subject even more.

This story from the BBC is one that many more people should read and know about. I had no previous knowledge of Carl Lutz but his sacrifice and courage while facing his own personal danger is extraordinary.

Please take the time to follow the link and learn about a man who should inspire us all.

The forgotten Swiss diplomat who rescued thousands from the Holocaust

“Never again”…and the world stands by

The news about the Rohingya population in Myanmar (Burma) continues to astound me. As someone who has taught about genocide to high school students, this struggle for life is heartbreaking. I wrote about genocide in the past (Duck, Duck, Genocide) and it would appear that the United States (and the West) is taking the same position is has in recent years, calling genocide “ethnic cleansing” just so it doesn’t have to do anything about it. The United Nations “Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide”  is pretty clear, but there are too many ways to avoid committing to stopping genocide. This is one area where we seem to pick and choose how we will respond – sometimes we do something, most of the time we do nothing.

Franklin D. Roosevelt’s words, when he said “Never Again” after the Holocaust, continue to ring hollowly in the collective memory of the world. I would venture to say that we have not learned from history and we are doomed to repeat it, at the expense of humanity.

Here are a few articles to get you up to speed if you need to know more about this:

No Such Thing as Rohingya: Myanmar Erases a History

Rohingya Crisis: US calls Myanmar action “ethnic cleansing”

US Denounces Violence Against Rohingya as “Ethnic Cleansing”

When will the world stop sitting back and watching as peoples, and histories, are erased?

 

 

 

Check Your Bias: Media Evaluation

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I used to tell my students there was no such thing as unbiased media – everyone has a slant – and I stand by that statement. However, there are media resources/outlets that do their best to remain “neutral”, as hard as that may be. One thing we know, even if an outlet tries to remain bias free the person/people contributing the media still have a bias.

I recently found a source I wish I had known about while I was in the classroom. It would have been incredibly valuable! The site is called AllSides.com. The cool thing is that you can get news from across the political spectrum – the Left, Center, and the Right. So, if you are a news hound like I am, you can get your news from all perspectives, not just the ones Google thinks you want to see (remember, Google logs your clicks and searches so it progressively narrows the results you get based on your selections).

Allsides

AllSides.com site banner

An interesting part of this website is the ability to check your own bias. It has you take their short bias survey, but you also have the ability to complete a bias survey from Pew Research as well as a political party quiz from Pew (for confirmation of where you fall, specifically, or seriously have no idea). All together those surveys give you a pretty complete picture of your social and political bias.

From there, you can rate the numerous media outlets based on your perception of their bias. Of course, your opinion is only a small part of the overall bias rating. They take all the submissions (a sort of crowd-sourcing) and then use statistical research and methodologies to develop on over-all rating for the media source. The methods they are using is really quite interesting. For me, I agreed with the bias rating on about 70% of the media outlets. I gave my input and added it to the aggregate results.

Article

An example of what you would see at AllSides.com

The important thing here is that you are contributing to bias awareness. Why is that important? Well, too many American’s get their information from too few sources. If more Americans took time to look at the same topic from different sources/perspectives, they might understand the topic in a more well-rounded way. Instead, many Americans fall into or use a confirmation bias. This is dangerous, especially in a technological, highly connected society that is hyper-sensitive and hyper-politicized.

We have to (no, really NEED to) stop using just one source to support our argument. Or, even better, we need to stop using sources that fit our point of view. We need to encourage more media sources to go back to what they used to do – report, without editorial and bias. We need to stop trying to argue our points over social media and instead demand truthful, unbiased reporting.

I know. Maybe I am too hopeful that we can “turn this ship around”. But, I believe that if we are more aware of our own bias we might have a chance. I think using websites like this is a good first step in the right direction.

**Disclaimer: This is not a paid endorsement for the website mentioned above and I am in no way affiliated with the organization. Just a satisfied new user.**

In the days of outrage…

…why not jump on this bandwagon?

Since everyone is mad or offended about or by anything and something, all day, every day, I found and issue we all should be totally outraged about. Let’s add this to the outrageous pile of outrages so everyone can be outraged out of their minds! I mean, since we are all picking things to be outraged about I am going to pick this – motorcycle helmets.

 

 

Well, not just any motorcycle helmets. I am talking about the ever popular NAZI “replica” helmets. I am sure you have seen them and maybe didn’t even know they were a replica of something so abhorrent. I would even venture a guess that some of the people using them as a lid on their motorcycle noggin probably don’t even know what they are wearing. But then, I might just be naive…

It’s weird how you start seeing something everywhere when you start paying attention. I live in the northwest corner of the country so this isn’t exactly the time for motorcycle weather and yet I seem to have noticed at least one helmet per day over the last couple of weeks. I have seen them on heads. I have seen them illustrated on the back windows of pickup trucks. I have seen them in ads for motorcycles.

They aren’t real expensive, I guess, at least in comparison to some of the other helmets available. Maybe that’s why they are so popular. I have no idea really, so I am just speculating. I found them at one website with a rather curious sales description:

“German Motorcycle Helmets have been specifically designed to look like the war helmets worn by German soldiers during World War I and World War II. These rebellious-looking lids are a cool and lightweight option for protecting your noggin in style..German-style helmets are a lightweight and stylish way to fulfill the requirements of the helmet law…And most of our German helmets are classically clean in style because like a plain, black leather jacket, these helmets don’t need bright colors and flashy graphics to make them cool…”

*Emphasis above is mine.*

Should we all be upset about this? Aren’t we supposed to hate everything related to Germany (really?), Nazis, fascism, racism, murder, etc.? Shouldn’t we be offended by this because, you know, it is easy to be offended about?

Anyway, if you gotta be outraged about something, this is a great next target. What do you think? We can eradicate this menace by running every motorcycle rider we see wearing this style of helmet right off the road! That’ll show ’em! Besides, obviously someone who wears this helmet is a nationalistic racist and we are only doing the world a favor, right?

*Trigger warning* This topic may be sensitive and possible outrage you. Find a safe space and rock back and forth while humming lightly should this actually occur. May I suggest a dark, quiet room in a corner away from all of humanity?

Post Script: OOPS! I screwed up the trigger warning…I guess that should have been at the top of this post.

P.P.S. (Post post script?) I don’t really care about this topic. It was just something to write about and maybe would generate some conversation somewhere, maybe. Again, maybe I am naive. Oh well…

The Russians are coming! The Russians are coming!

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Rather, they have been here all along and top administration officials in previous Executive branch positions have either ignored them and benefited from it, or allowed them and benefited from it. Either way, the evidence that the Russians are playing freely on American soil and in American cyberspace appears to be mounting – and this isn’t just a Trump issue, this is an issue that was prevalent long before him.

The interesting thing is this all took place during James Comey’s FBI. Another big questions is, if this was going on while he was the head of the FBI, why was this issue not raised during the past administration, like screamed from a mountain top! Or why wasn’t it raised during the presidential election when a Clinton was running and clearly benefitted from the arrangement outlined in the article?

There are a lot of things the need to be questioned here AND why isn’t this all over the media?

See the article and link below:

Before the Obama administration approved a controversial deal in 2010 giving Moscow control of a large swath of American uranium, the FBI had gathered substantial evidence that Russian nuclear industry officials were engaged in bribery, kickbacks, extortion and money laundering designed to grow Vladimir Putin’s atomic energy business inside the United States, according to government documents and interviews.

Source: FBI uncovered Russian bribery plot before Obama administration approved controversial nuclear deal with Moscow | TheHill

And an UPDATE:

Senate Judiciary opens probe into Obama-era Russian nuclear bribery case

 

Tragedies Shouldn’t Serve Political Agendas

In the aftermath of the Las Vegas massacre, I have struggled with what to say. Words can’t really express the sorrow, the hurt, the grieving that some must feel and offering words of condolence sometimes feels hollow when you feel helpless. Yet, words of condolence and understanding are all that can really be offered at this time.

I am not a victim and I don’t know anyone personally (at least not to my knowledge as of now) that was affected. What I do know is that bad stuff often happens to good people and there really isn’t anything we can do about it. That isn’t comforting, I know, but unfortunately humans do bad things to each other and until something changes in our hearts, people always will.

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One of the reasons I have struggled to find words to write is that there are always those who use tragedies to pursue their political agenda. It doesn’t matter which side of the aisle they are on, they just try to use it for political capital in their fight to enact their agenda. No time to grieve. No time to mourn. No time to comfort. Just straight to the microphone and soapbox.

There are discussions that have to be had, that is for sure. But they need to be done rationally, in a time set apart from the tragedy so that knee-jerk reactions don’t add to or become a part of the problem – or worse, have unintended consequences that create larger issues. Time, they say, heals all wounds. How much time? Well, “they” have never said but I am pretty sure they didn’t mean hours, or days, or maybe even weeks after something so horrific.

Let’s just take a step back and breathe for a minute, or three.

Then let’s talk. With reason, rather than emotion.

 

 

9/11: Inside and Outside Perspectives

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So we may never forget…

Every year as a history teacher I used to be faced with the reality that the anniversary of 9/11 also came very close to the beginning of the year. I was always challenged with the question, What do I do to commemorate the anniversary in my classroom this year?

It actually is an easy question, aside from the myriad of choices I had at my disposal. I mean there are a plethora of sites, organizations, and materials that are available to these days so there is no shortage. But, the harder part was always what can I use to help students who were barely alive, at the time of the attack, understand the scope of the attack while also helping them to understand the feelings of the day. That is a much harder task because helping students connect to historical events is really tough. So, I had two videos that were really the mainstay to my instruction and let to larger, more in-depth units later in the year or even to following year.

In most cases, I would start their exposure to the subject during their junior year since I had them for US History. It is, of course, an American historical event. The following year, as seniors, I would pick up where I left off in their exposure and delve more deeply into the background and aftermath of 9/11 via units in my Contemporary Issues class. This would allow them to develop a deeper understanding with a more complete history of the event instead of just a simple moment of commemoration.

Two invaluable resources are shown above and each are briefly described below.

Inside Perspective: 9/11

There is of course really only one video that can be used for this purpose. What was it like inside the Twin Towers that day? While this can’t be fully known, there is only one surviving video from inside the towers that day and it is the one shot by the Naudet brothers, Jules and Gedeon, as they were recording a documentary about become a New York firefighter. The video, 9/11, is or should be essential watching, really for all Americans.

Perspective. Always an important thing to consider. There is no better video to show students what it was like inside the towers. I really believe this is a MUST SEE for students.

If you would like to see this video (if you haven’t, or want to remember) you can see it on YouTube, in its entirety (here / here / here), though it is hard to tell for how long as it is copyrighted. I have included several links just in case one or more becomes unavailable. It is also available for sale from many of the popular shopping sites.

Outside Perspective: 9/11 Day that Changed the World

Again, I believe there are questions that have to be answered and students often wonder after watching the first video, What was going on outside the buildings and what were our leaders doing while the attack was happening? This video answers both those questions with incredible insight so this was also an important video for them to see.

This video takes actual news footage, firefighter and police radio broadcasts, phone calls, hijacker cockpit radio transmissions, air traffic control conversations, and weaves it together with interviews of the most important people (except President Bush) who had a role that day. This video was put together by the Smithsonian Channel for the 10 year anniversary of the attack, therefore giving the people who were responsible for running the country and cities a chance to put a little time and perspective into their insights. The video is extremely powerful as it bounces between cities as the timeline of the attack unfolds and then incorporates the interviews of the officials

This video is currently available on YouTube as well (here / here). It is also available to order at the usual places online.

Final Thought

It is important to remember 9/11. We can never forget what led to it, and the profound affects it had on our nation moving forward from it. There were implications in and to all facets of life. We must never forget – ever.

 

**Please be aware that both of the videos deal with sensitive topics and show some alarming scenes. Do not let that discourage you from showing them to students, however be sensitive that each student may handle to emotions differently and react differently. It is always good to follow up each viewing with a discussion to process what they saw, what they felt, and how it impacts them.**

The Ministry of Objectionable Materials

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Doesn’t it seem as if life in the United States is getting more and more surreal every day? It almost appears that we are watching scenes from a movie unfold before our eyes. Movie scenes we thought we would never see in our country. The events on the East coast over the last couple weeks just make it more and more clear we are headed for a change and I don’t think it is a good one.

As most of my readers know (at least I hope so), I am a history guy. I think it can be very useful to study it and think it is more important than ever to teach it (something our schools and society doesn’t think is important any longer, but that’s another discussion). No, I am not in the classroom any longer, but there are times like the last couple of weeks that make me wish I was still there.

History is being made. Every day. Good. Bad. Ugly.

At the moment, I believe we are headed into the bad…into a scene from a movie I never thought I would see in real life. I used to show it in class because it provides a good example of how a government can become oppressive, but also how the people of a country can allow it to get that way – mostly because they DEMAND it to become that way.

I used the movie V for Vendetta in my classroom as I wrapped up my unit on the Constitution with my seniors. It is an awesome teaching movie as it uses lots of references and allegories that are historically based as well as great examples of what a government shouldn’t be (and how our Constitution should keep it from getting that way). Plus, it’s just kind of a cool but that isn’t really for discussion here.

What is important is one of the things it references in passing, a government organization called “The Ministry of Objectionable Materials.”  The female lead character asks the main character where he got all of the works of art, film, music, etc. (because she obviously knew they were all banned materials) and he responds by saying he stole it back from the government (see clip).

Apparently we are demanding this of our government now. Any by this, I mean that we are asking out government to protect us (or better yet, others) from things we find objectionable. We are doing it because we have many in society who can’t handle our own history. We would rather run and hide from our history than learn from it or, perhaps we’d rather run to hide history because we’ve still not learned from it.

lenin-statueThis is offensive,” said Tony Barger. “This should be taken down. This is an actual Russian relic and should not be here on American soil.”

History is beautiful. History is ugly. History demonstrates many successes, but it also exposes many failings too. That is why it is important not to hide it away. As Americans we should certainly want to learn from the “historical black eyes”, we ourselves have put into our own history. We certainly shouldn’t want to tear down or hide our history. As Americans we should celebrate the successes we’ve had, and I honestly believe we have had more success than failure.

Tearing down our past and hiding it away isn’t going to make our history any better, but it just might make it worse. Public memory fades fast, probably faster than any of us would really like. If we don’t have reminders of the past before us, we will forget it. Does that mean we should keep monuments commemorating our “historical black eyes”? Yes, even if they offend. They are important reminders to times that were not so good and they also represent mile markers in our road to success.

There will be some who use those monuments as a rallying point to their agenda or beliefs, but they typically represent a minority point of view and while it may be disgusting they are within their rights to believe, and assemble, as they wish (the Supreme Court says so and the ACLU helped, surprisingly). As a society we need to work to change their views, but we can’t do it the way it is being done right now. The more attention you give it, the worse it will get. Think of it along the lines of a bug bite – if you leave it alone (not ignore it) it will go away faster but the more you scratch it, the longer it sticks around (sometimes opening it up so it can fester into something more/worse).

Obviously, we can’t ignore it. Nothing just goes away on its own. Hostatues-removed-at-ut-austin-20174518-700x467wever, if not given attention on a grand scale, it will diminish. Fire, as destructive as it can be, if left alone eventually burns itself out. The president of the University of Texas wrote a letter to students just before classes resumed for the fall. He made some good points, but I can’t help but think he only provided fuel for a fire that wasn’t burning (at least not brightly). Instead, by giving a voice to the small fire that may have burned there on campus, he most likely made things worse.

Where should the Ministry of Objectionable Material stop? Where does the line get drawn? Who gets to decide where the line is drawn? When do we stop getting our feelings hurt? When do we stop getting offended by nearly everything around us?

For some more food for thought, check below.