Archives For In The News

Things happening in the world today

In a half-dozen nations, tyrants who once ruled by fear and repression have been toppled, unleashing centuries-old sectarian rivalries and bloody struggles for power. Syria’s horrific civil war is spilling into Lebanon and threatening Jordan and Turkey, while Iraq has effectively devolved into three nations — one Shiite, one Sunni, one Kurdish. In the chaos, a particularly malignant form of radical Sunni Islam, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, has seized large swaths of territory in Syria and Iraq….

Why is that rivalry raging now?
It has fueled conflict and repression since the dawn of Islam in the 7th century, but was ignited into a bonfire in 2003. That’s when the U.S. overthrew the Sunni-dominated regime of Saddam Hussein in Iraq. Hussein had long brutally suppressed Iraq’s Shiite majority, and his fall turned that power dynamic on its head. The new Shiite-dominated government of Nouri al-Maliki marginalized Iraq’s Sunnis, denying them any real voice in the new national government.

SOURCE: The grand Shiite-Sunni struggle.

I recently read an article about how Islam needs its own Reformation. The Christian Reformation began with Martin Luther posted ninety-five complaints against the might Roman Catholic Church over 500 years ago. Up until then there were only a handful of dominant Christian churches around and RC was the major one. They told you what to believe, how much money they wanted, and where you go after you die. A lowly monk just didn’t buy that and visibly told them so.  That started the flames rolling and the many different belief systems sprouting out that differed with the Roman Catholic church.

Today I am told that we have over 14,000 different versions of Christ’s church each saying they are the ones who have it right. We went from a handful to thousands because of the Reformation. Isn’t that what is currently happening with Islam. Isn’t ISIS just another version of Islam that has sprouted off the Muslim root? In some ways we don’t need an Islamic Reformation but instead an Islamic consolidation. We need some overall authority to reign in all this centuries old fighting among the Sunnis, Shiites, Kurds, and all the other out there.

As the article above says some think the we the U.S. is responsible for much of the latest fighting in Islam. Before we invaded Iraq its leader kept an iron grip on the various Muslim sects.  Since that overthrow the Middle East has exploded into one religious sect fighting another and hating all the other versions of spirituality.

We don’t need a Muslim Reformation, but just the opposite. While that is happening it would be nice is somehow we managed to get all the 14,000+ Christian sects to agree to some core beliefs but that seems almost as impossible as the former. At least we are not fighting and killing each other as our Muslim brothers are doing..

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….

April 16, 2015 — Leave a comment

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…

April 15, 2015 — Leave a comment

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??

April 14, 2015 — 2 Comments

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.

2015-03-25_14-59-11Total U.S. defense spending (in inflation-adjusted dollars) has increased so much over the past decade that it has reached levels not seen since World War II, when the United States had 12 million people under arms and waged wars on three continents. Moreover, the U.S. share of global military expenditures has jumped from about one-third to about one-half in this same period. Some of this growth can be attributed to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but the baseline or regular defense budget has also increased significantly. It has grown in real terms for an unprecedented 13 straight years, and it is now $100 billion above what the nation spent on average during the Cold War. The fiscal year 2012 budget request of $553 billion is approximately the same level as Ronald Reagan’s FY 1986 budget.

As a result of this “gusher” of defense spending—to quote former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates—Pentagon leaders have not been forced to make the hard choices between competing programs as they traditionally have. And the ballooning defense budget played a significant role in turning the budget surplus projected a decade ago into a massive deficit that forces the U.S. government to borrow 43 cents of every dollar it spends. As the nation attempts to bring this massive deficit—which chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Michael Mullen calls the greatest threat to our security—under control, leaders from both parties recognize that these unprecedented levels of defense expenditures cannot be maintained.

The question currently facing Congress and President Barack Obama—how much to spend on defense in times of large deficits or in the final years of a war—is not new. Presidents Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton had to identify reasonable levels of defense expenditures as the United States transitioned from war spending to peacetime budgets, while President Ronald Reagan needed to control defense spending in the face of rising deficits. Presidents Dwight Eisenhower and George H.W. Bush confronted both scenarios at once, like President Obama today.

SOURCE: A Historical Perspective on Defense Budgets | Center for American Progress.

In looking at the chart above it is obvious that two American presidents are primarily responsible for most of our outrageous military spending. I don’t think I have to tell you which ones those are. Sadly, for the most part those increases in spending were matters of choice. Yes, the Iron Curtain was up for one president but it had been up long before he came into office.  Yes, a rag-tag bunch of fanatics managed to kill three thousand of our citizens with some box cutters but in the world scheme of things  more people than that have died daily in the world from lack of food and drinking water. If we had just gone after the rogues instead of invading nations that had nothing to do with the tragedy our military expenses would never have risen to such mammoth levels.

Can we continue to spend such levels in these times of rising deficits? Aren’t the deficits causing us more harm than the enemies we are supposedly facing. Fear just seem to be the primary driver of our nation today. We have long forgotten one of our most meaningful American quotes “All we have to fear is fear itself”. We need to just get over this paranoid fear that has come to grip us so  forcefully…