Category: Civil Rights

How Do We Handle Sexual Harassment?

George S LedyardLet’s talk about the on-going discussion we are having about sexual harassment and how we wish to treat it in our society. The central theme at the moment seems to be trying to understand the continuum of severity involved. Few actually believe that grabbing a woman’s butt or using sexist language in the work place is exactly the same as rape.

The real discussion revolves around whether all these offenses get treated the same, the so-called “zero tolerance” model, or is there some range of consequences that would fit the range of offenses.

Minnie Driver recently made a passionate case for the zero tolerance model while Matt Damon made a reasoned appeal asking us to be more nuanced in our approach to this. The Guardian Article

I have listened to the various discussions and found that neither side has really defined the problem properly. There are, in fact, two continua that we need to consider in order to better understand this problem.

The one we have been publicly debating is the “severity continuum”. It ranges from merely suggestive or objectionable sexist language, to unwanted touching, to outright groping, unwanted kissing and embraces, aggressive physical sexual advances, using positions of power to coerce sex, and out right rape.

Where our discussions have fallen short is in our failure to look at the effect of “frequency” when judging the severity of our problem and the effect of harassment on both individual women and the women in the society as a whole.

Let’s use the example afforded by the historical suppression of our Black community before the civil rights movement as an example of how “frequency” can be equally as powerful in maintaining second class status as “severity”.

While lynching was the ultimate weapon used against any Black folk even perceived to be getting “uppity” or “not knowing their place”, they did not happen on a daily basis. And no one would equate calling someone a “nigger” with lynching him. Yet the issue here is much the same as with the women and harassment issue.

What kept the Black community in a position of subjugation, even in places in which they had the majority population, was a constant, 24/7 environment with myriad reminders of second class status. Not being allowed to make eye contact, whites always using your first name, never your last, or using Mr. respectfully. Calling grown men “boy”, sitting in the back of the bus, or in the hot balcony of the movie theater, not using the same drinking fountain. It went on and on.

When your entire environment is structured to provide constant little reminders of your second-class status, it disempowers you, it saps your self-esteem. It removes your sense of possibility that things could be better. Well, that is what women have been living with.

Despite endemic sexual assault rates, most women are not rape survivors. But just about EVERY woman in our society has been subjected to the myriad little, what are now being called “micro-aggressions”, women referred to as girls, sexual discriminations, innuendo, minimizing humor, and so on. Very few women have not had to fend off an overly aggressive man, or to dodge the wandering hands of a boss or co-worker. And, as we are now seeing, thousands of women are coming forward with their stories of coerced sex and rape. Their horrific stories aren’t even unique. They are ubiquitous and thereby risk losing their power to appall.

But when women come forward and say they want the guy who groped, the guy who pulled up porn on his computer, the guy who suggested that a career could be advanced if a women were “nice”, when they say that they want these guys expunged, that there should be “zero tolerance” for these behaviors, they are acknowledging that the daily onslaught of seemingly small harassments being considered “normal” or the myriad minor sexual harassments being “minimized” or “tolerated” is in many ways just as serious as the damage done by those assaults that even men would consider serious.

What we are seeing right now is the rising up of over half of our society who are saying that they will not accept second class status any more. They are pointing out that living in a society in which women’s daily experience contains actions which demean, that disempower, that insult is how women have been led to tolerate and accept second class status since the beginning. Generations of women were taught to quietly accept this treatment because if they complained, at best, they were minimized, were treated as hysterical, were made to feel stupid and at worst they were pilloried and lost their jobs or were shunned by their neighbors for speaking out.
So, while I am in agreement that we have to figure out what kind of consequences there are for men who commit these ranges of misbehaviors and we definitely need to decide whether there is a “road back” to acceptance in polite society for the minor offenders who seem to be truly remorseful and are willing to be part of the solution, not the problem, I am also sympathetic to the “zero tolerance” argument.

We are trying to undo many hundreds of years of injustice just within our own society here in the US. That cannot be done by only dealing with the major assaults like rape and coerced sex while allowing minor infractions get a slap on the wrist or a mere reprimand. We have to commit to turning around the entire professional environment for women of all walks of life. Not just the movie stars or corporate executives but the hotel workers the waitresses and domestics.

It may be that we need to go through a period in which we do have zero tolerance so that we raise a generation of women that hasn’t had to “survive” any type of harassment or assault. What kind of young ladies will we raise when the mothers of a whole generation have never had to treat harassment or assault as normal? I think we need to make it a priority to find out.

“Identity Politics” and the Struggle to Realize the Promise of July 4th

George S Ledyard“We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

One of the things for which conservatives have criticized liberals and Democrats is what they call “identity politics”. Some maintain that “identity politics” rather than a focus on the economic realities of the heartland is what cost the Dems the election.

But the fact is,”identity politics” is the on-going struggle for our nation to realize in reality what the Declaration of Independence stated in principles. When the document was written, it didn’t cover women, it didn’t include blacks or native peoples. Over time we have as a society recognized that other groups were not included. LGBT communities weren’t even acknowledged to exist when that document was written. Hispanics didn’t factor in. Large numbers of indentured servants were not equal participants.

When this document was authored, its provisions largely meant white men of property. In the next almost 250 years we have steadily enlarged our notions of who is included in “all men” to actually mean “all people”. At every step, some portion of the previously “included groups’ resisted the addition of other new groups as belonging to “all men”. The have, at every step, have tried to keep the club small and exclusive.

The fact that we, in 2017 are still grappling with women’s issues, racism on a large scale, an anti-LGBT backlash, anti-immigrant hysteria, and so on simply makes “identity politics” inevitable and essential. It is the on-going battle to realize the promise of that original document.

What does the unalienable right to liberty mean in a society which imprisons a higher percentage of its population than any other nation in the world?

What does the right to the pursuit of happiness mean when economic class division condemns a significant proportion of our society to stultifying poverty with little or no opportunity to move up the economic ladder?

The Declaration of Independence set out the ideals of the nation, however imperfectly realized at the time. Later, the Constitution of the United States delineated the legal framework upon which this dream would be based. The provision for amendments recognized that this was a living document, that the future would require that we update the document to deal with realities not envisioned by the framers.

But the dream remains the same. And it is an unrealized dream. The unalienable rights defined in the Declaration of Independence are unequally available to our citizens. Vast economic inequality simply makes anything like an “even playing field” that affords equal opportunity a bad joke in our society.

So while conservatives try to pretend that we are in a post racist society, that no special protections should be afforded vulnerable groups within the larger society, “identity politics” will continue to be an essential part of the on-going fight to realize the original promise of our formation as a nation.

The conservative point of view:

The Declaration of Independence and the case for a polity based on universal principles

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The Jeff Sessions War on Drugs Revisited

George S LedyardWhat we now know as the “war on drugs” was begun back in the Nixon days as a means of quashing political opposition. His advisers agreed that they couldn’t make being a hippie or being Black illegal. But they could use the war on drugs to go after the anti-war and civil rights movement leaders and get them in jail.  CNN Article

Going on fifty years, the US incarcerates more of its citizens than any other nation in the world. The incarceration rates fall dis-proportionally on people of color (as predicted by the Nixon team).

Richard Nixon and advisers - war on drugs
The war on drugs is now a multi billion dollar industry. Huge anti-drug government institutions, private prisons, etc have created an inertia that makes the system resistant to change. But slowly we had started making moves towards changing things.
Under President Obama there had been a de-emphasis on drug enforcement against a minor drug like marijuana. The government even looked the other way as several states legalized the use of marijuana. The President had also moved to start closing the private prison structure, and many states had begun to look at our substance abuse problem more as a public health / mental health issue rather than a criminal issue.
Jeff Sessions war on drugsNow, we have an Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, about whom many had concerns based on a past history of racism. And what is the very first initiative this man attempts? Going back to the bad old days of the war on drugs, an effort that even conservative thinkers have declared to be ineffective at achieving it’s stated goals and has created more negative consequences to our society than benefits. Washington Post Article
Whether or not you think there is a connection between Sessions alleged racism, and his support for escalating the war on drugs, the single fact is that the war on drugs has been a disaster. It plays a major part on our inability to solve our wealth divide problem. It has condemned a substantial segment of our society to multi-generational poverty and the hidden costs to our nation are many times the overt costs.
We have to do what we can to resist the Jeff Sessions effort to reverse our progress in this are.

Libertarian-ism and the Corporate State

George S LedyardThere are two kinds of Libertarians on the political scene today; the actual members of the Libertarian Party and the members of the Republican Party with strong Libertarian views.
The Libertarian Party folks are where you find the true believers, the ones who are radically anti-government and pro individual freedoms. The one thing that you can say about these folks is that they are consistent in their application of these principles. They are fine with just about any behavior as long as it’s in the privacy of your own home between consenting adults. You don’t get the socially conservative tendency to legislate morality with these guys. But the party is also where you find the true nut cases, the ones who are so Libertarian that they are pretty much anarchists. At the Libertarian Convention in 2016 one candidate actually suggested that drivers licenses were an imposition by the government on our personal liberty. It’s pretty clear that the official Libertarians are not where you look for people to govern your country.
Most people with Libertarian leanings are to be found in the Republican Party. And they are far less concerned with being consistent. They favor small government and maximum personal freedom, or so they say, but are often the first in line to legislate morality that fits with Christian fundamentalist values, which hold a lot of sway in the GOP. Really, they mostly skip the personal freedom aspect and focus on the property rights side of things.
People shouldn’t be told what to do with their property by some central government. In fact Federal government ownership and management of public lands is suspect. Corporations are people, so all the rights of the individual are extended to the corporations and a overwhelming trait of the philosophy held by these people is an almost religious faith in the market place as the most efficient force in managing an economy.
These folks are the Über Capitalists. The current Republican crusader for Capitalism sees his personal mission as undoing virtually every piece of regulatory legislation passed since the New Deal and dismantling the Federal regulatory structures that performed this oversight.
These people have waited for years and years for the Holy Grail of a Republican Congress and Presidency full of truly radical right wing conservatives. With Donald Trump, they may not have found the guy who will pursue the radical social conservative agenda he seemed to promise in his campaign, but they definitely have a champion of the billionaire corporate class willing to destroy virtually all of the protections offered by our government against corporate malfeasance.

Donald Trump has asked Corporate representatives to make their recommendations as to what regulatory legislation they would like to see undone. This is asking the fox to guard the hen house. This is giving a group of folks whose sole interest is in delivering short term profits to their share holders free rein to pollute, to discriminate, to have unsafe working conditions, and so on.
If you look at the America proposed by Republican libertarian / Tea Party advocates, it is an America in which business is free to pursue its own course as dictated by the market place. The problem with all of this is that we have already been here before. From an historic point of view there is absolutely zero evidence that a corporation will ever choose to forego possible financial gain when it conflicts with maximizing profits.

Smog
LA smog in the 70s

When business did have pretty much free rein we had our nations rivers full of undrinkable carcinogenic waters. In the most famous case, the Passaic River in New Jersey actually caught fire. The air on our major urban areas was toxic and in the worst cities, like Los Angeles, toxic smog clouds hovered over the city, virtually obscuring the city from the view in the mountains. Our national bird, the bald eagle, was on the edge of extinction dues to the use of the pesticide DDT, lung cancer due to smoking killed tens of thousands of Americans every single year, and so on.
Child LaborThe fact is that when our US government was run on a more libertarian model we had unsafe air, unsafe water, unsafe food, unsafe working conditions, child labor, no social safety net, rampant sexual harassment, housing discrimination, racial discrimination,  massive economic fluctuation due to unrelated speculation in the stock market and so on. The economy would crash and serious economic depressions happened with some regularity.
This is the world of the US in the late 1800s and early 1900s. We had it already and we chose to change it. Now, people with absolutely no historical perspective, who derive their political philosophy from the works of Ayn Rand, are ready to take our country backwards in time to a world that will look more like Charles Dickens than anything we’ve see for 150 years.

asbestos is toxic
Removing asbestos from a home

The idea that the market place and unrestrained capitalism with voluntary self regulation by the corporations would do anything but open us up to the predations of corporate pirates is laughable. These are the same people who for decades denied that asbestos was terribly dangerous and was killing people. They sponsored studies that faked research and they lied through their teeth in order to preserve their profits.
These are the same people who for decades knew, from their own research, that tobacco caused cancer but fought all attempts to acknowledge that fact in court while simultaneously working to develop a product that was even more addictive than it was naturally.

Unsafe at any speed
Ralph Nader exposes the auto industry and the Corvair

These are the same people who produced an automobile that they knew was unsafe but chose to not correct the problem because it was cheaper to settle the law suits than it was to correct the problem.
It is simply an observable fact that every single instance of attempts to institute clean water standards, clean air standards, work place safety standards, equal rights, the list goes on and on, was resisted tooth and nail by the industries concerned. It’s history. You can read it and verify it.

The fact is that the only thing that stands between our citizenry and total corporate control of our nation like something out of a science fiction novel, is the Federal Government. No other entity in our society has the power to stand up to the power of the corporations derived from the vast wealth concentrated under their control. That’s why the wealthy and the corporations spend so much money trying to subvert it.  Every single positive step this nation has taken on the environment, worker’s rights and safety, auto safety, child labor, every single instance was IMPOSED on unwilling industry by the government.

desegregation of the schools
Women resisting school desegregation

This is also true on the equal rights front. Without the power of the Federal Government and the forcible imposition of civil rights legislation on the Southern States, we would still have segregation. Without the Fair Housing Act we would still have redlining and rampant discrimination in all areas of real estate.
LGBT rights, Women’s rights, the rights of the disabled, none were voluntarily enacted by most of the country. Supreme Court decisions backed by the enforcement power of the Federal Government were what forced the nation to start living up to its stated values. It was not voluntary. People did not voluntarily decide to act better, As society began to evolve, it needed to reach a tipping point at which it was ready to change. But it was the government that made that change happen in the larger society. It has been both the mechanism for making positive change happen and the guardian of those changes once they did.
So, we are now looking at the dismantlement of the only agency in our society that effectively stands up for our rights, for our environment etc. The right has hijacked the Supreme Court and they wish to cripple enforcement. Donald Trump’s invitation to private industry to suggest what legislation it wishes to repeal is just the start. It’s just one step away from total corporate control of our nation. The wall that has protected us from the self serving, profit before the public good, predations of the industrial pirates is slated for demolition. We must do what we can to ensure that this effort does not succeed.
From the New York Times EPA is major Target

The Democratic Dilemma – Where to Go from Here?

George S LedyardThe Democrats are in flux. They have a very real set of issues.
First, the wealth divide, which can also be seen as a generational issue. The democrats moved away over time from their working class roots towards looking to the liberal elites who have made their fortunes in finance and tech in order to raise the kind of money it takes to run modern campaigns.
The Bernie Sanders progressives are far to the left of the bulk of the Democratic voters who are still part of the baby boom generation and while they are extremely supportive of civil rights and diversity issues, they are a bit gun shy of what the right wing propaganda depicts as socialism. That’s why we haven’t been able to get to single payer before now.
Campaign Finance ReformIf we can get the big money out of the electoral process, the party can place more focus on the young voters who are quite a bit to the left of their parents. Studies have shown that millennials are actually fine with describing their political positions as some variation of socialism. My generation, which was born at the time of the Red Scare and McCarthy stayed far away from that term.
But as long as it takes such huge sums to mount an effective campaign, it’s hard for the Dems to shift direction towards an agenda that their big bucks liberal supporters might find to be a bit much. Bill Clinton, Barrack Obama, and Hillary Clinton were all quite successful with their centrist focus, at least in terms of having the kind of fund raising machines it takes to win. The Dems may have lost the heartland but it wasn’t for lack of money, it was more where and how they spent it.
Bernie Sanders showed that a Presidential candidate can raise enough money from a real grass roots fund raising effort made up of small contributors. But the fact is that there is no state and local network of progressive candidates or a progressive party organization to mount down ticket races that requires the support of a national organization.
What Kind of Money It Takes to Run for President
Bernie’s fund raising supported his campaign but progressives have yet to demonstrate any staying power. They have not yet shown they can create the structure of a national movement. Bernie’s Movement was in some ways a “cult of personality”. It was all about making Bernie into the Great White Progressive Hope.

Democratic Baby Boomers
Hillary Clinton’s Supporters Were Older

Anyway, clearly the future belongs to the young. However there are probably more young, non-college educated, working class folks out there as there are nice educated liberal / progressive millennials. They will not be able to carry elections on their own for a number of years. The Baby Boomers, like myself, are more moderate and centrist. And They look to be around as a voting block for another three or four election cycles.|

Cornell West and Bernie Sanders
Dr. Cornell West and Bernie Sanders

The second is race. Like it or not, the developing progressive movement has not connected with minorities very well. Hillary Clinton did far better with Black voters than Bernie did, despite the endorsement of Bernie by a number of famous Black activists. In many ways, the Bernie Progressives were as much a white phenomenon as Trump’s Tea Party supporters. In the actual election Clinton got 88% of the Black vote cast but the numbers of Black voters who stayed home was in the  millions.
How Bernie Sanders Lost the Black Vote
White Young Bernie Sanders SupportersAfter eight years of Barrack Obama, the Black community is disillusioned with the whole system, They have consistently supported the Democrats with no measurable change in economic status, without changing the war on drugs, unequal imprisonment, unequal justice in the courts, grossly unequal violence at the hands of law enforcement. The white, college educated professionals who flocked to Bernie Sanders have not connected with minority voters to any large degree. This has to be figured out before we are going to see anything but cynical apathy on the part of minority voters.
So, the Democrats absolutely need to find candidates going forward that can appeal to minority voters and white liberal elites at the same time, as Barack Obama did. And they have to develop a platform which they strongly push at the local, state and national level that addresses the wealth divide. They are not going to win any support away from Trump, heartland supporters, on the social issues that liberals and progressives consider non-negotiable.
These issues represent a culture divide that will not be breached until the income and educational chasm is addressed. But, if, over time they can show they actually have a real plan that would benefit the poor and working class folks in this country without scaring the liberal elites with the money too badly, over time they should be able to get back that old Democratic identity as the party that represents the working and middle classes. The Progressives will have to stop assuming that success and money equal corruption or they will drive away the very support they will need to shift the Dem Party towards a more progressive agenda with progressive candidates.

Deomocrats and the “Forgotten” Heartland

George S LedyardMuch of the conventional wisdom since the disastrous electoral loss in Nov 2016 is that the Democratic Party lost because it had become too focused on identity politics and the educated liberal urban bastions on the two coasts. Bernie Sanders has maintained that a lack of an economic agenda that clearly benefits the working and middle classes was what turned voters away from the Democrats.
But a recent article in Vox provides a very different take on this issue. It points out that populism is on the rise all over the world in democracies which have far more socialized economic systems than what we have.

This had occurred to me a while ago. I had been trying to envision what possible Democratic / Progressive platform would have brought any significant number of Donald Trump’s supporters to our fold. My answer was, there isn’t one.
diversityThe whole basis of the Democratic / Progressive liberal agenda is diversity. It is about championing the rights of minorities and vulnerable populations. It is about LGBT rights, It is about a woman’s right to choose.  It is fundamentally about ensuring that all Americans have a level playing field when it comes to economic opportunity.
Of course, as Bernie Sanders has so aptly demonstrated, liberals have fallen far short of achieving this level playing field. But the Vox article is fairly convincing in maintaining that this wasn’t actually the reason we lost the election.
The fact is that I cannot envision what agenda would both preserve the fundamental focus on civil rights, minority rights, women’s rights, maintaining the social safety net, and be based on the philosophy of mixed public / private management of the country’s economy. It is fundamental to Liberal and Progressive philosophy that the government has a crucial role in managing those things which we determine to be “public goods” on behalf on the American people.
These include clean air, clean water, the environment in general, our rivers, the ocean, endangered species, fish runs, and the social safety net (sometimes called the welfare system). Health care has, since its inception, been a mixed bag. The government has policies which heavily “regulate” the industry, and via medicare, medicaid, and the veteran’s administration covers some financing, but the majority of our system is private. It is an “employer based” system and insurance is provided by private insurers.
Trump SupportersSo, what do we see on the right? It certainly is not a monolithic group. The GOP base is made up of a disparate groups and philosophies. But one unifying element is an almost visceral dislike of the Federal Government. The Tea Party wing of the Republican Party, which has hijacked the Party’s agenda, wants to see smaller government, less regulation, a strong focus on property rights (as opposed to the public good), and far less Federal civil rights interference in state and local matters.
It is impossible to separate our current “populism” from “nativism”. The core demographic supporting Donald Trump and the farther right politicians is non-college educated whites. And they are Christians. This group is adamantly opposed to immigration. It wants to see deportation of undocumented residents. It wants to see a Wall built on the Mexican border. It wants to see an almost total ban on immigration from Islamic countries.
This group has gradually been influenced over a period of decades to become an anti-diversity, increasingly white supremacist group. They are convinced that diversity is a war against our Eurocentric values and heritage. They are xenophobic and more isolationist than we have seen for many years.

The Alt Right
The Alt Right Movement

My point here is that these people are rabidly opposed on a very fundamental level to almost EVERYTHING we liberals and progressives stand for. They do not believe that the government should have much of a role in anything beyond defense and law enforcement. They believe that the social safety net is a giveaway of public money to undeserving minority moochers. They are made uncomfortable by cultural values different than their own, especially when they are introduced into their previously homogeneous communities.
So, I would ask, would an vehemently anti-abortion person be persuaded by an economic program designed to benefit their demographic to vote for a Party that is firmly committed to “choice”? I would say nothing would do that.

I would ask what would persuade a voter who hates the Federal Government, is convinced that all politicians are corrupt, and feels that just about everything the government does that he sees is bad, to vote for a candidate that believes in a single payer, national health system administered by the government? I would say nothing.
Black Lives MatterI would ask what would persuade a voter who is fundamentally frightened by minorities and immigrants, who wishes to see the clock turned back to when white exceptionalism was the rule in our country and minorities just had to go along, to vote for a candidate from a party that is fundamentally associated with equal opportunity and rights for all… that has made “inclusion” the basis of its philosophy? I would say nothing.
I think it is time to understand that the country is polarized between extremes that really are not going to be reconciled. One side is not going to be persuaded to join the other side. This is a conflict that is going to have winners and losers. The losers will not be happy. And nothing we can do as liberals and progressives will change that fact.
Diversity PictureSo, no, the Democratic Party does not have to abandon its focus on diversity and identity politics. What it needs to do is incorporate a more progressive agenda into a plan that targets it liberal / progressive base. It isn’t about winning over the Tea Party folks in the heartland, or the uneducated workers on the rust belt. It is about finally coming up with a program that actually does improve the lot of the folks that have been Democratic supporters all along.

ACLU Civil Rights

Let’s make it clear to our minority populations that we have a real commitment to ending the war on drugs, shifting decriminalization to support via education, rehabilitation, mental health services, business development in the urban centers, etc. Let’s have a comprehensive plan to provide economic incentives and create educational / vocational alternatives for our workers who will be increasingly replaced by the robotics revolution.
To take back the country we need to motivate the folks that have traditionally been our base of supporters, not try to win over a group of folks that isn’t going to be won over no matter what we do. Instead, we need to maintain the focus we have had but actually start to deliver the goods. It was disinterest in our base this election that gave us Donald Trump, not a huge mandate.
Check out the article on Vox
No easy answers: why left-wing economics is not the answer to right-wing populism

“Merit Based Immigration” Ignores the Needs of Regular Americans

George S LedyardMerit based immigration” is a disguised “class-ist” system. Right now the US is allowing highly skilled workers to come from overseas and take positions in American companies. We benefit from their expertise and that seems like a good thing.

But the fact is that we need to bring in high level expertise from overseas because our own schools are not turning out sufficient numbers of skilled workers to fill the openings we have. Importation of foreign expertise removes market pressures to fix our education system. If we didn’t allow H1B workers to satisfy the demand for skilled workers, our corporations would be pressuring Federal and State government to fix our educational system to produce the educated work force they require.

 H1B visas, merit based immigration
We have a massive income divide in the US and a middle class that is under pressure. Current debates about jobs, bringing manufacturing back to the US, etc largely ignore that robotics / automation is a revolution on the scale of our industrial revolution. It will not be too long before most of the jobs performed at the low income level of the economy will be performed by machines. Even now, the jobs being created via economic growth are jobs that require higher education or at the very least, extensive vocational training.

Who are the H1B Visa recipients? More often than not, these people represent the elite of the countries from which they come. They come from the top strata of society that could afford to send their children to the very best lite schools. They can then come to the United States and gain valuable work experience. Some choose to stay here and other return home, taking that valuable experience with them and many end up in businesses that directly compete with our own companies.

But that isn’t the real issue. The real issue is that the American middle class has been in decline for decades. It is increasingly difficult for the average American worker to find jobs that actually pay enough to maintain that middle class status. The opportunities for movement up the economic ladder for most of our middle class folks is decreasing all the time.
We have a country in which the average citizen reads at around an 8th grade level. These people simply do not have the education or the skills needed to fill the new economy jobs which are opening up. Even if Donald Trump succeeds in bringing back manufacturing to the US, these people will not be getting those jobs that return.
A merit based immigration program allows American business to get the expertise it needs without the country making the investment in its own citizens required to meet these corporate requirements. It is a system in which we let someone else shoulder the burden of creating an educational system that produces these highly trained people and then we bring them in and put them to work. All the while, our own citizens are struggling. We are not investing in getting them ready for the jobs of the future.
H1B, merit based immigrationWe have allowed an income divide to develop over time that simply leaves most Americans behind. A huge percentage of our citizens are underemployed, which means that they are working very hard at one, often two jobs, but are still barely able to survive. This income divide exists all over the world. Now the children of the economic elite of one country can come to the US and be a part of the economic elite of our country while no effort is made to better the lot of the folks already here who exist at the bottom.
So, while I am at pains to say that I am not at all anti-immigrant, the so-called “merit based” immigration system obviates the need to do something about our school system’s failure to produce enough skilled workers to ensure decent wage paying jobs for our own citizens. The jobs may be there but our own people aren’t prepared for them. It produces an upper middle class of technical elites that actually makes upward mobility for the rest of our citizens more difficult.

Fascism Alert – Asset Forfeiture, A Tool to Destroy Dissent

George S LedyardNot only is legitimate news under fire from our developing totalitarian administration, but the ultra right is incrementally setting up the means to shut down dissent. Initiatives are systematically being introduced in state legislatures all over the country by ultra right GOP legislators. This is a nationally coordinated effort and, if successful, will allow the authorities to basically destroy any individual or group that is involved in protests.

Check out this article on a successful effort in Arizona to pass this type of oppressive legislation.

Arizona Senate votes to seize assets of those who plan, participate in protests that turn violent

Suppressing dissent

This is not using existing laws to prosecute individuals who break the law by becoming violent at a demonstration. It is making it possible for the government to go after any group that organized the demo, any sponsor of the demo, even the other individuals who participated even though they may not have broken the law.

Seattle Women's march

This is an incredibly insidious effort. It is escaping notice largely because the right has chosen to operate at the state level rather than the Federal level. The right has found ultra right legislators in states all over the country to sponsor this legislation. It is virtually identical and was clearly constructed by some shadow group behind the scenes and disseminated to sympathetic supporters at the state level.
Do not be deceived. This is a concerted effort to give the government unprecedented authority to supersede all existing laws to destroy those who organize dissent. It is presented as a way to get violent protesters to pay for damages caused by their violent actions. But the wording allows a much broader application than simply holding individuals responsible for their actual behaviors. It also serves to make the use of provocateurs much more effective in destroying peaceful dissent. A few individuals involved in violence can cause the entire demonstration, organizers and participants,  open to asset forfeiture.
Authoritarianism, Trump, asset forfeiture, suppressing dissentThis is a hugely powerful and dangerous step towards authoritarian government. Coupled with the unprecedented and concerted attack on legitimate mainstream media you are seeing an effort to prevent the ordinary citizen from being presented with any alternative points of view which might oppose what the administration is pursuing.

Donald Trump and the White Supremacists

George S LedyardI think that there is no doubt that Donald Trump is not anti-Semitic. His daughter and son-in-law are Jewish. He is a huge champion of the State of Israel.
But throughout the campaign and right up to the present day, he has repeatedly past up opportunities to disown the support he was receiving from the Alt Right, the Neo-Nazis, the KKK, and other white supremacist groups.
I Think this is largely due to the fact that he is thoroughly Republican in his bias against people of color. The radical white supremacist fringe is quite aware that Trump isn’t one of them. But they also have understood that he has been willing to accept their support and that he is at least sympathetic to some of their biases.
Alt Right, White supremacist, Neo-Nazis, Aryan Nations
They seem to have believed that they could use him to further their own ends. But Trump is a developing would be dictator. If the racist, white supremacist movement crosses a certain line with regards to violence against the Jewish community, I think that Trump will loose the full weight of the law enforcement establishment upon their heads.
Church burnings, neo-nazis, KKK, Aryan nationsTrump might be willing to put up with gay bashing. He might overlook violence against followers of Islam and Mosques. He might choose to remain ignorant of church burning and other anti Black violent incidents. But if these people push their anti-Semitic agenda too far, Trump will abandon them just as Mao abandoned the Reg Guards and turned the PLA loose on them when he decided the Cultural Revolution had gone too far.
Anti-Semitism, violence, Neo-Nazis
white sumpremacistsBut in the mean time, we watch as the power of these groups is growing. Our Jewish community becomes increasingly alarmed at the failure of the government to take these threats seriously. The latest news that the Trump administration had instructed the Homeland Security Department to take domestic right wing hate groups off the terrorism watch list and focus on Islamic terror threats has done nothing to reassure anyone that the white supremacist threat will be dealt with before they commit some truly heinous act of violence. Under Trump, “Never again” starts looking more like “Probably not again” and that is truly frightening.
Article from The Hill – Jewish community centers receive new wave of bomb threats

Steven Miller – We Should All Be Afraid, If We Weren’t Before

George S LedyardWe keep being told that bringing out the term “Fascist” is inappropriate and inaccurate when talking about the Trump administration.

Steven Miller as Brown ShirtI am sorry but it would be impossible to find a person who sends up more red flags than Steven Miller? Don’t let the suit and tie fool you… this is a contemporary version of a Brown Shirt.

Steven Miller and Joseph GoebbelsWhen you hear that Trump’s executive power shouldn’t be subject to judicial review… when we are being told that Trump’s decisions are not open to question… then you are looking at a Fascist, a totalitarian, or a supporter of autocracy, a proponent of despotism, however you wish to describe it. The fact that Trump publicly thanked this man for how he represented the President on all the talk shows should tell you everything you need to know.Trump Tweet - Steven Miller

This guy is one step from telling us that we should make Trump Emperor for Life. He is easily the scariest man to have appeared in the administration since Steve Bannon. Another Joseph Goebbels point man for the Great Leader.
We are a Constitutional Democratic Republic. A nation of laws. When you have a spokesperson trying to maintain that a President’s actions cannot be subject to judicial oversight, you are hearing the verbal justification for a totalitarian takeover of the government. This is the beginning of a Cult of the Personality, the justification for dictatorship. No one must question the absolute power of the leader.
If there are any genuine Conservatives left in our government, they should be quaking in fear. They should be asking at what point do they step up and start resisting this threat to the democracy they say they care about so much?

These are not just people who have a different political agenda from us. It isn’t just their ideas and policies. These people are a type that is seen throughout history. The fanatical, true believer. This is precisely the kind of person who would send a family off to the camps and not think twice about it.

white supremacists, Fascists, Trump, Steven Miller
We cannot allow these people to prevail. Resist.