RJ's Corner

Meet the new workers’ movement that is terrifying the wealthy and the powerful

2015-03-30_09-35-17They aren’t actually anything new, just a variation on long-standing labor-organizing practices that have come back into prominence. “Micro union” is a recently coined term of art for bargaining units that encompass one category of workers at a business — the cosmetics workers at a Macy’s, for example — instead of the more traditional model of organizing all the workers for the business into one single bargaining unit. In 2011, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) decided a group of certified nursing assistants at a nursing home constituted an appropriate bargaining unit in themselves, in a decision called Specialty Healthcare. In 2013, that decision got the stamp of approval from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. In 2014, the NLRB applied its logic to the aforementioned Macy’s cosmetics workers. Since then, union critics and business interests have been scrambling to respond. Retail industry groups told The Hill that the NLRB’s Macy’s decision would “pave the way for micro unions at thousands of retail stores around the country.” Isakson has made multiple attempts to pass his bill rolling back NLRB’s decisions, with the backing of GOP heavy-hitters like Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).

SOURCE: Meet the new workers’ movement that is terrifying the wealthy and the powerful.

Micro-breweries are quite the rage right now and I admit I am one of their fans.  When we travel I often order local beers when I come across them. It is nice to see these types of cottage-industries rising up again. It is even nicer to see the micro trends more to work unions. One of the big problems with unions in the last half century or so is that they just grew too powerful for their own good.  They quit looking out for the workers and instead become just anti-owner organizations.

You don’t need giant unions to help you get your fair share from an employer. micro-unions seem to be a natural evolution in employee-employer relationships. But the thing that will make micro-unions effective is that all workers in an indirect way support the right of an employee to address grievances with their employer. They do that by not frequenting establishments that lord it over their workers. They do it by not rushing in to snap up a job after a worker has been fired.  Money talks…

The sad thing in the last few decades is that American business have been thriving with increased sales but not sharing their prosperity with the ones who generate it. We seem to be a owner-society now. Those with the money demand more and more of the pie. I hope micro-unions will reverse this trend…

Fashion is Out….

High Heels 1This is no longer a trend – it is now a lifestyle that is too comfortable, for consumers of all ages, for it to go away anytime soon,” he said. Millennials’ tendency to rent instead of buy is also turning the retail industry upside down.

SOURCE: Rebellious millennials are turning into a huge problem for retailers – Yahoo Finance.

It appears from the above article that millennials (19 -35 years olds) are turning away from “fashion” and its annual almost dictated changes. They are giving up the high heels, yes especially the seven-inch ones, for more comfortable athletic shoes.  They insist on not be dictated to as to what they wear or own.  And to that I say “Good for you”.

I have read elsewhere that the suit and tie standards are dropping rather dramatically across the business world. Marketing is a very powerful force in any capitalistic society. What will happen when most of us become immune to their dictates?

Special courts…

Around the country, special courts are set up for former military members who have been charged with crimes after returning to civilian life, and who may be struggling with PTSD. Judges, lawyers, probation officers and others work together to treat or punish each defendant. Special correspondent Spencer Michels reports on how the new approach can offer troubled veterans a path forward…. JUDGE JEFFREY ROSS: Our goal is to find an outcome which will both prevent recidivism, keep the public safe, keep the victims from being re-victimized, but also deal with the person’s background and the reasons he that he committed the violent conduct that we were just addressing. SPENCER MICHELS: Using federal grants, as well a local funds, courts rely on the VA to coordinate physical and mental care, plus weekly court dates for vets in trouble. It’s up to the vet to comply. KYONG YI, Department of Veterans Affairs: We often meet with the veteran when they’re in custody, develop a plan for where they’re going to go when they’re coming out, especially if they’re homeless.

SOURCE:  Special courts take on criminal cases of troubled veterans.

It is about time our criminal justice system returned to treating those who break the law because of circumstances some say are beyond their control differently.  It is good to hear that many veterans are being treated instead of incarcerated. I’m sure PSTD has deadly effects of some of our returning soldiers. But are the vets the only ones who could benefit from this special judicial attention?

Couldn’t these same sets of parameters apply who those who grew up in abusive families, or those due who live are in areas with destructive gangs. Couldn’t taking into account these conditions also result in less recidivism? Wouldn’t it be great if this new way of looking at returning soldiers’ crimes could be applied to others.

Just giving special attention to someone, rather than just shoveling them through the system, almost always has positive effects.  This phenomenon is known as the “Hawthorn Effect” was discovered almost a hundred years ago in a Western Electric plant near Chicago. Here is a little about that from Wiki:

The Hawthorne effect (also referred to as the observer effect) is a type of reactivity in which individuals improve an aspect of their behavior in response to their awareness of being observed

The crux of the message is that if you pay special attention to people they will usually react positively. I am very glad to see special attention given to our very distressed returning vets and would like to see that applied to a much wider variety of our citizens….

Free-Range Kids??

2015-03-30_08-52-18Peanut allergies are one of the most common forms of food allergy among American children. And the last two decades have seen a dramatic rise in the number of cases. It’s estimated that today 2 percent of all children are allergic to peanuts, four times the number as recently as 1997. And it’s the leading cause of death from food allergies. For parents, of course, a key question, how to avoid the risk to their children. And now comes a new twist. A study published in “The New England Journal of Medicine,” it finds that exposing higher-risk infants to peanut products greatly reduced the risk of developing an allergy later on.

SOURCE:  Feeding infants peanuts could reverse dramatic allergy rise.

I think that when the first two decades of the 21st century goes down into the annals of American history it will be know as the “Age of Fear”. They will describe it as a time when we let fear drive us to a higher degree than any time before (and hopefully since).  Of course that probably started with 9/11. After all it was the first time that so many of our citizens were killed in a single day by someone from beyond our shores.

It seems kind of ironic that our fear that our children might be allergic to peanuts is the reason that so many of them are allergic to peanuts. I’m sure that I, like probably everyone in my generation, was given my first taste of peanut butter as an infant. And I’m  pretty sure that I loved it and ate many PB&J sandwiches before I reached puberty.

Is it now impossible for parents to raise “free-range” kids? Must we protect them from every possible danger out there? I was a free-range kid. I often spent my days roaming the neighborhood seeing what kind of trouble I could get into. :)  I can’t image kids being so sheltered today that they can’t do the same.  It is ironic that what we fear from peanuts we may actually make happen because of our fear.  That is kind of like those folks who refuse to get immunizations for their kids because they fear that it causes other problems.

Fear is a very powerful thing for many I guess.

The Age of Disbelief

My wife is one of those people who if something doesn’t sound logical it must not be true. For example she absolutely refuses to believe in statistics of any form. I on the other hand have a very scientific nature. I am always trying to look at things for different angles. That is a basic difference between us and a very basic difference between many of us in the U.S.  It is nothing new.. Below is an excerpt from an article from National Geographic about this phenomenon.

2015-03-21_13-57-06The world crackles with real and imaginary hazards, and distinguishing the former from the latter isn’t easy. Should we be afraid that the Ebola virus, which is spread only by direct contact with bodily fluids, will mutate into an airborne superplague? The scientific consensus says that’s extremely unlikely: No virus has ever been observed to completely change its mode of transmission in humans, and there’s zero evidence that the latest strain of Ebola is any different. But type “airborne Ebola” into an Internet search engine, and you’ll enter a dystopia where this virus has almost supernatural powers, including the power to kill us all. In this bewildering world we have to decide what to believe and how to act on that. In principle that’s what science is for. “Science is not a body of facts,” says geophysicist Marcia McNutt, who once headed the U.S. Geological Survey and is now editor of Science,the prestigious journal. “Science is a method for deciding whether what we choose to believe has a basis in the laws of nature or not.” But that method doesn’t come naturally to most of us. And so we run into trouble, again and again…. The trouble goes way back, of course. The scientific method leads us to truths that are less than self-evident, often mind-blowing, and sometimes hard to swallow. In the early 17th century, when Galileo claimed that the Earth spins on its axis and orbits the sun, he wasn’t just rejecting church doctrine. He was asking people to believe something that defied common sense—because it sure looks like the sun’s going around the Earth, and you can’t feel the Earth spinning. Galileo was put on trial and forced to recant.

SOURCE: Why Do Many Reasonable People Doubt Science? – National Geographic Magazine.

Accepting things that don’t seem logical is difficult for many of us. Who would have believed even twenty years ago that we could put the entire Christian Bible on something smaller than the head of a pin? But that is commonly accepted fact, even though not really understood, today. I am a very techie type person but the things I have seen in my lifetime even astounds me.  Being a scientist I thoroughly appreciate scientific method as being a process and not a body of facts. It is a way to get at the truth and not the truth itself.

There are many around today that doubt almost everything about science but have no problem using the things that science has provided them. I believe a big part of this doubt come from those who cling to a literal interpretations of the religious documents. Much of what they see in those documents has been discounted by science. That is a direct threat to them so they stubbornly refuse to believe anything science shows.

Another big problem for many is that they don’t take the time to learn much of the “scientific discovery” they see is just our 24 hour media outlets trying to find something to report.  They find a small article income obscure place that come to an outrageous conclusion and then report it as fact. It takes work to determine what is valid science and what is bogus. Neither the news media nor many of us bother to discern the difference.

I Am Ashamed Of My Native State…

2015-04-03_08-24-43I am ashamed of the State of my birth and where I have lived most of my life. But, this isn’t the first time. Indiana for most of my life has been a very conservative red State who embarrasses me on a regular basis.  The Republicans now have total power and they are wielding it. The latest “religious freedom” law is just one example. It sounds like we are now going to have placards placed on business doors saying which potential customers are not allowed to enter their business.  It reminds me kind of like my youth when I saw signs saying “No Negroes” when we traveled in the south. That embarrassed me even at that young age but at least I could say that didn’t happen in “my” State.

I don’t know how big Salesforce company it but once again Indiana is pushing people out by their actions.

Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff said Wednesday that he is helping employees who are uncomfortable with Indiana’s controversial religious freedom law to transfer out of the state….

“I just got an email on the way to studio from another employee who said, ‘look I don’t feel comfortable living in this state anymore, you have to move me out,’ and I gave him a $50,000 relocation package and said, ‘great, you’re clear to go.’ “

SOURCE:Salesforce CEO: We’re helping employees move out of Indiana – Yahoo Finance.

Eli Lilly which practically owns Indianapolis is also stating concerns. I don’t know if Governor Pense and his GOP congress will get the message or not. They just might change the law but that doesn’t mean they will change their attitudes towards those who are different from them.

Maybe I need to consider if I am going to spend my final years in the State of my birth. I know my leaving would not make much of a difference but it might symbolically mean something to me….

Weighing Nuclear Option…

2015-03-16_09-11-08“We were ready to do it”

Russian President Vladimir Putin said he considered putting the country’s vast nuclear arsenal on alert to prevent outside agents from stopping the Kremlin’s forced annexation of the Crimea peninsula from Ukraine last year.

Putin’s admission was aired during a prerecorded documentary called Homeward Bound, which was broadcast on a state-backed television network Sunday in the run-up to the first anniversary of Crimea’s annexation later this week.

SOURCE: Vladimir Putin Admits to Weighing Nuclear Option During Crimea Conflict | TIME.

During our 30+ years of the Cold War and the nuclear standoff with the USSR a strategy was developed by the west called MAD. It stood for “Mutually Assured Destruction”. It went something like this. If the USSR bombs us with a nuclear weapon we will send off our entire nuclear arsenal on them and that will basically ensure that both countries, and probably the rest of the world, would be totally destroyed. The USSR then said we will do the same to you.  I’m sure that was constantly on the minds of both country’s leaders during those times.

Why do we constantly fear another country, rogue or not getting a nuclear weapon? The sixty year old technology is pretty much known to all the world’s scientists now. It is just a matter of getting the materials together to build one. We need a different deterrent to stop the spread of nuclear weapons than just trade embargoes and such. We need TAD, “Totally Assured Destruction”. That is the statement signed by all, or almost all, countries that says that if you use a nuclear weapon on another country the rest of the world will do whatever it takes to insure that your country is totally destroyed. No “if”, “ands” or “buts”. Your country is toast.

Can you image a hundred war machines immediately charging into Iran for example because they used a nuclear bomb on Israel. Would they really want to use a bomb under those circumstances? Of course part of this new tactic would require that the rest of the world start carrying their share of military might and that the US trim down our totally dominate war machine.  But wouldn’t that be a win-win scenario for everyone.

Let’s enact TAD and stop all these political games of one-upmanship that goes around a country buying aluminum cylinders..  Stop the current stupidity and come out plainly with “You use a nuclear bomb and your country will cease to exist”.

Occam’s Razor is a widely known theory that in its most basic form is “Keep things simple!“. That should apply here. We have prevented possible aggression with NATO in the past. Now it is time for TAD

Enough said….

Tough Love… The Consequences Of Your Actions…

In order to assure his victory Netanyahu flatly said there would be no Palestinian State while he was prime minister. Those words just might result in some tough love for US/Israeli relations. Bibi might finally realize that his actions have consequences.

The current day Israel was at least partially created by a United Nations General Assembly Resolution 181 back in 1947 which mandated a two state solution for the Palestinian territory. There have been several attempts in recent years for the UN to once again declare a two state solution to the problem but the U.S. has threatened a veto each time to prevent it from happening.  The good news is that the we might finally back away from that resistance and allow the UN to try to enforce a two State solution.  So, Maybe some good news will result from the recent Israeli re-election. We can only pray that Bibi’s gun is finally taken away from him….

2015-03-20_09-07-51The White House, unmoved by Netanyahu’s effort to backtrack, delivered a fresh rebuke against him on Thursday and signaled that Washington may reconsider its decades-old policy of shielding close ally Israel from international pressure at the United Nations…. Among the most serious risks for Israel would be a shift in Washington’s posture at the United Nations. The United States has long stood in the way of Palestinian efforts to get a U.N. resolution recognizing its statehood, including threatening to use its veto, and has protected Israel from efforts to isolate it internationally.

SOURCE: Obama tells Netanyahu U.S. to ‘reassess’ policy on Israel, Mideast diplomacy – Yahoo News.

Spin, Spin, Spin…

2015-03-03_08-42-13Remember when George W. Bush sold himself as a “compassionate conservative”? Of course you do. Now, his brother Jeb is using a similar formulation, describing himself as an “inclusive conservative.” The difference may seem trivial at first, but the Bushes are no fools when it comes to winning elections. And this difference tells us something about the changing perception of the parties, as well as the changing priorities of left and right…. A recent Pew survey found that 60 percent of respondents said the Democratic Party “cares about the middle class.” Forty-three percent of respondents said the same of Republicans, a 17-point gap. But the same Pew survey found that 59 percent of respondents said that Democrats are “tolerant and open to all groups of people,” and only 35 percent said the same of Republicans, a 29-point gap…. This is the latest sign that culture war issues continue to move to the front of our politics, while economic issues take a back seat. Fifteen years ago, the Republican problem was that it seemed to have nothing tangible to offer the poor, blacks, or others on the margin of society. For Jeb, the problem with conservative conservatism is that it is exclusive. Conservatism is for the married, white, Christian, suburban, and exurban. SOURCE: How Jeb Bush is tweaking his brother’s brand of ‘compassionate conservatism’.

I would love to see a poll on how many people today believe that brother George lived out is self-proclaimed label “compassionate conservative” while he was in office.  I suspect that only hard-core Republicans would answer yes.  Maybe I am skeptical here, it wouldn’t be the first time, but I kind of think that this self-labeling stuff is nothing but spin. These guys, and I am talking about all politicians here, think that they can describe themselves as anything they want and maybe it will get them a few more votes for those very naive voters out there.

Having said all that I do kind of wish that it had been Jeb who ran the country for eight years instead of his brother.  George was just not my kind of guy. Too much swagger, too much bravado, too unread, too fixated on sports…  Jeb just seems to be a mellower type guy who would make decisions based on his intellect instead of alway his guts.  This article goes on to say the Hillary just doesn’t wear the “compassionate” label too well either. Her demands for six-figure payments for her speeches maybe show her core values too prominently for me.

But the name of the game in today’s politics is spin, spin, spin.  You don’t have to know what you are saying as long as you say it with authority. That seems to be the mantra for all those yahoos inside the beltway.  They put on masks for each group they want support from. I don’t know if Mitt Romney really believed his 47% rhetoric but it was good spin for the group he was then talking to.  The problem is that video cameras are now everywhere. There are thousands in every major city street corners and in almost everyone’s pocket now. You just can’t get away with spinning to one group without everyone knowing it.

My dream for 2016 is that there is neither a Bush nor a Clinton on either ticket…

The Inequality of the Current Justice System…

2015-02-21_08-56-34I have seen two vastly different examples of American justice in the last few months.

Example 1 – Five months ago it was discovered that an elected official in our county has been stealing funds from us for the last ten years. Since that time she has been free to do whatever she want while the evidence has been gathered. It seems that over the last ten years she has stolen about $400,000 in our very small county mainly by charging totally personal things like food, vacations, TVs to a county credit card. She was finally indicted this week and the trial is to take place in about four months. During that time she is again free to do whatever she wants as she was released on her “own recognizance” meaning no bail

Example 2 – is a person in a large metropolitan area that was roaming the city inebriated. He was quickly gathered up and brought before a judge and was set for a trial in the same four months as the first example. The difference is this person is spending the time before trial in a local jail. He has lost his job and what remains of his contact with his family. His life is basically ruined. Why?? The reason is the judge set a ball on him that required him to come up with $200 out of his pocket. Being unable to do that he languishes in prison with his life ruined because he drank too much one lonely night.

I hope I don’t have to explain to you just how unjust the treatment is between these two cases!! But, I have learned that they are by no means unusual. The well-known, even at the local level often get “OR’ed” while the poor get jail time before they even go to trial.  It is a well know fact that the first exposure to our prison system often taints the person for a lifetime of incarceration.

I am certainly celebrating that recent similar events that have gone national are now showing just how unjust our justice system has become in the last thirty years or so. When Reagan decided that the “bad guys” had to be put in jail to protect us, all the wheels were set in motion for today’s version of justice. When our prison system became “privatized” as he insisted and found to be very profitable it grew almost exponentially such that these private jailers scream for more and more occupants and the judges are certainly giving them what they want.

Our fear, which seems to become endemic during this period now insists that we lock up even those who even “might” do us harm and that includes people who we fear for some very unjustifiable reasons. They are dirty so lets remove them from society by making it against the law to be homeless. They do damage to themselves so lets lock them up in case they might want to do damage to us. Our fear has driven us to be the number one country in the world to lock up our citizens.

The inequality in our current justice system simply reeks of injustice and it is about time that we recognized that fact and quit being so fearful of those who will never do harm to anyone besides themselves. It is time to have some compassion for those who might not be like us. It is time we live up to the last words of our Pledge of Allegiance.

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