Sunday, June 26, 2016

HEART BERN? TAKE AN ANTACID. BERNIE SANDERS AND THE POLITICAL REVOLUTION


“OK Bernie, we get it about your political revolution, but can’t you be nice about it? Can’t you just step down for the sake of Party unity? Can’t you just endorse Hillary already, for gosh sakes? I mean, after all, you lost!”

I think a lot of people are feeling this way, especially people who are in the Hilary camp. And don’t get me wrong, I understand it, and it’s OK. You are entitled to your feelings, just as I’m entitled to my opinion (which you happen to be reading). 

I, too, had been wondering what Bernie Sanders would do once Hilary got past the magic number and was labeled the “presumptive nominee.” Bernie, however, has been very clear about this for a long time; he will continue campaigning to get as many votes and delegates as he can, and then take his political revolution to the Democratic Party convention. 

And why not? After all, what is a political party presidential convention? It used to be a gathering at which delegates from every state cast their votes for the candidate of their choice. It used to be a gathering at which political ideas met head-on in order to pound out a Party platform that the selected nominee would champion. It used to be a gathering at which delegates cast votes for the candidate they represented based on the votes of their state’s voters (there are a number of permutations of this last point, based on the state). Maybe it is still this way, and so let’s let the process roll on.

If you think that Hilary Clinton is now the nominee of the Democratic Party, you are wrong. She has the delegate count, but the delegate votes have not been cast. If you think the race is over, then why have a convention? In other words, it ain’t over ’til it’s over. Yeah, I know, the convention is just the formality that seals the deal; however, how many of us are hoping the Republican convention is not a done deal, and that somehow, magically, Donald J. Trump does not emerge as the nominee? 

“Yes, but it’s so different this time because of Donald Trump. The stakes are so high, we can’t risk a divided party!” Yes, it is different, Trump is a dangerous man, the stakes are very high; however, does that mean we should toss democracy out the window? And isn’t this an opportunity to stage a political revolution? 

I don’t know Bernie Sanders (I wish I did). There are people in politics who I respect who do know and support Bernie, including Robert Reich and Oregon’s Senator Jeff Merkley. I also know that Bernie perfectly represents my political thoughts and ideas. I called for revolution in a blog post during June, 2005; and pointed out that the definition of revolution is "a drastic and far-reaching change in ways of thinking and behaving.” Drastic. Far-reaching. The state of American politics, the ascendency of Donald Trump, the excesses of the moneyed class, the great disparity in wealth between the top 1-percent and the rest of us, global warming and energy use, poverty, education and on and on - all of these issues define the political realities of our nation at this time and fuel the large-scale discontent of both the right and left ends of our political spectrum. 

I understand the Bernie Sanders strategy at this time. I think it is very simple: do not concede to and endorse the presumptive nominee, but rather, maintain a position of strength backed by 12,000,000 primary votes and carry that into the convention for maximum influence. After all, the Bernie campaign is based on building a political revolution, whether or not Bernie Sanders becomes President. 

Bernie has said in interviews that he will vote for Hilary Clinton, and he will do everything he can to stop Donald Trump from being elected. These are significant statements, and should be enough prior to the convention to allay fears that he will go rogue and split the party. In his “where do we go from here” speech, Bernie outlined ideas to continue building the political movement. He asked people to sign up if they are interested in thinking about running for political office, such as local school board, city council and others. It looks like there has been a large response to this. Bernie has a set list of issues and programs; he has been hammering away with them for the entire campaign. In my opinion, he is capitalizing on his primary success to continue building a political movement, with a focus on younger people. I agree with this goal.

As far as I am aware, there is no law of nature that guarantees human societies can be governed in a way that benefits every member of the society. Many systems have been tried; most, if not all have failed. Maybe it is not possible. Maybe only the strong, the greedy, the evil, the lucky, the manipulative or some other trait succeed. But that doesn’t mean humans shouldn’t try to build an egalitarian society. I’m not talking about classic models of socialism, communism, capitalism, monarchy or anything else that’s been tried before. The Bernie Sanders model is not fully fleshed out; it has a basic framework of common-sense ideals that we can strive towards. 

So let’s do our best between now and November - and beyond. Feel the Bern if that floats your boat. Be thrillery for Hillary, if that rolls your Prius. Stay engaged, keep your cool, be thoughtful and wise. 

What an amazing election! 

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Saturday, June 25, 2016

THE BIG CHURN - OUR MOMENT IN HISTORY



So tonight, let us resolve to build that bridge to the 21st century, to meet our challenges and protect our values. Let us build a bridge to help our parents raise their children, to help young people and adults to get the education and training they need, to make our streets safer, to help Americans succeed at home and at work, to break the cycle of poverty and dependence, to protect our environment for generations to come, and to maintain our world leadership for peace and freedom. Let us resolve to build that bridge.
 August 29, 1996. President Bill Clinton acceptance speech, Democratic National Convention, Chicago, Illinois

President Bill Clinton’s “Bridge to the 21st Century” speech twenty years ago was an inspiring call to action as he was poised to run for his second term. Whether or not the bridge was built is a question I’ll leave to professional historians. 

I do know that a number of things have changed for the good so far in this century: 
  • greater acceptance of LGBT persons and same-sex marriage in the United States and other countries;
  • an African-American President of the United States, a woman presumptive nominee for President of the United States (and, of course, a strong challenge for the nomination by a Jewish socialist!);
  • wider acceptance of human-caused climate change as a reality (with notable holdouts);
  • advances in implementation of alternative energy production methods;
  • advances in and dissemination of information and computer technology;
  • globalization (positive aspects);
  • improved relations between the United States and Cuba. 

We now have the cloud, the twittersphere, Facebook, Instagram and a legion of computer applications that do almost everything we can think of doing. In many ways, the world is smaller and more accessible for many millions of people. 

But then there is the other list, the list of things that contribute to what I’m calling the Big Churn. In my view, we are living at a moment in human history in which great turmoil will result in a resorting of societies and a reordering of geopolitics. It isn’t pretty, it isn’t nice, and many people are frightened by the potential outcomes. 

Here is the other list: 
  • disruptions related to climate change, and effects to weather patterns, destructive storm frequency, agricultural production, sea levels, water supplies, drought and wildfires, distribution and persistence of flora and fauna;
  • the fallout from the Cheney/Bush Wars, and the resulting disruptions to the geopolitics of the greater Middle East;
  • the refugee and migration crises in Europe and North America resulting from: a) political turmoil in the greater Middle East (set loose by the Cheney/Bush Wars), b) effects of climate change; c) political, economic and ethnic conflicts in numerous places;
  • expansion of Islamic terrorism in the greater Middle East, and exports into the Western democracies and other parts of the world;
  • nationalism and expansionism by the Putin government in Russia;
  • nationalism, economic and political disruptions in China
  • militaristic, imperialistic actions by the United States;
  • increasing danger from rogue states, such as North Korea;
  • long-term regional conflicts, such as India-Pakistan, Israel-Palestine, Shia-Sunni states;
  • the Brexit vote, and the decline of the European Union;
  • the rise of the Radical Right in the USA; 
  • the Trump ascendency;
  • spreading populism, nationalism, xenophobia;
  • crushing racism that is pervasive in American institutions and legal systems;
  • increasing political and economic power by the super elites and their corporations;
  • stagnation of wages, loss of jobs by the working and middle classes in Europe and USA;
  • globalization (negative aspects);
  • ethnic and religious violence world-wide;
  • degradation of infrastructure, affecting health and safety (e.g. lead in drinking water, unsafe bridges, etc.);
  • conflicts over hydrocarbon energy resource extraction, transportation and use;
  • declines in major global economic sectors;
  • industrialization of agriculture, with related increases in human health and environmental risks;
  • nascent democracy movements that have mostly failed.

This is a long list, and I’m sure you could add more items to it. The question I ask myself is, “is this list unusual in the history of human societies; or is it always like this?” Again, I’m not a historian, but I do know that there have been many moments in history at which great turmoil has resulted in great upheaval and change. We study these moments in history class; books have been written about them. What will future history students and scholars think about the first quarter of the 21st century? 

 I know a lot of people who are deeply concerned about the rise of Donald Trump and other politicians like him around the world. The vote a couple of days ago by the people of the United Kingdom (dis-United Kingdom?) to leave the European Union has raised the level of concern and stress. Terrorism seems to be growing, America’s wars seem to have no end, the super rich seem to only get super-richer, discontent with government seems to be growing everywhere. Where will it all end? 

The simple fact is that it will end where it ends. Everything I just wrote is already history; every day that passes is another day in history. Individuals can work to make change, or to keep things from happening a certain way; Americans will elect Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton, for example. But whatever happens becomes history, and so we will move on. 

This might sound callous and cavalier, but I’m simply trying to be a realist. Too often we humans dwell on the past, on history, when we should be focused on the future, on how we can try to influence the history of tomorrow. Many things have and will occur in my life that I have not and will not like; but I can’t change history. I happen to think that the election of Donald Trump as President of the United States would take the USA and the world in a bad direction, and I will do what I can to keep him from being elected. But if we do have a President Trump, it will be a historic fact that I will have to deal with. I think the British exit from the European Union is a regressive step, but it is now history, and I need to deal with it. 

My attitude doesn’t necessarily make me feel better about what is happening in the world, and I know it is a coping mechanism. It is a way to force myself into objectivity instead of subjectivity, to look toward a better future and not dwell in the past. But it won’t keep me from ranting! 


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Tuesday, May 10, 2016

HOW GOOGLE WILL BEAT THE CRAP OUT OF AT&T AND VERIZON

We have been AT&T customers for as long as we have had cellular phones/mobile phones. In fact, we were their customers before they were AT&T Mobile (McCaw Cellular, in the beginning). To their credit, AT&T has always given us top-notch customer service, even though the actual phone coverage was not always the best.

But I have jumped ship, and I am now a customer of Project Fi. That's Google. It is mobile phone service using VOIP (voice over internet protocol). And so far, it totally rocks my boat!

Let me explain.

Project Fi service has a very simple pricing plan - yep, just one plan for everyone. Basic service is $20 per month; that includes unlimited calls and unlimited texting. Data is charged at $10 per GB per month, and you can sign up for as many GB per month, at $10 per, as you want. I rarely use 1GB of data per month, so guess what? Project Fi credits my account for whatever part of 1GB I don't use. If I use 0.5 GB in a month, they credit my account $5. If I use 1.5GB in a month, they charge me an extra $5. Nice! And, of course, I was able to port my mobile phone number over to Project Fi.

But Project Fi has also solved a problem I have had for many years; what to do for mobile phone service when traveling out of the country. This has been a very major issue for me, and lots of other people who travel a lot. The answer is simple: Project Fi works in lots of countries! For example, every European country we have visited is on the Project Fi list. The only difference in pricing is that phone calls using the cellular network are $0.20 per minute. That's a helluva lot better than the $1.00 per minute AT&T charges me after I give them an extra $30 per month for Global Roaming. And for that $30 per month, AT&T gives me 120MB of data - I can use 120MB in a day, especially if I'm navigating with Google maps.

Keep in mind, Project Fi is VOIP. Here is how it works, and what that means for the customer (me). The Project Fi SIM card monitors the T-Mobile and Sprint cellular networks, as well as available wi-fi. It determines whether or not the available wi-fi is trustworthy. It switches the phone between these three choices based on which offers the best signal. So if I have a good wi-fi connection, my phone calls use that, and it's charged as data, not at $0.20 per minute. I haven't tried it yet outside the USA, but we will be in Europe again this summer, so I will be testing it. I do have to say that so far during our travels in the USA, it has worked almost perfectly everywhere. And it worked great at the Oregon coast in a location where AT&T is always iffy.

And customer service? The best! I have a terrific and simple Project Fi app on my phone that shows me exactly how much data I have used for the month, has my billing info, and has customer support - you request support and someone calls you almost instantly!

Is there a drawback to Project Fi? Well, first, at this time it only works with the newer Google phones, Nexus 5X and newer. I had a Nexus 5, so I bought a 5X. And btw, the Nexus 5X cost me $250, compared to a new iPhone that costs $650 or more.

The second drawback, for some people, is that it is Google; the Evil Empire. Yawn.

I don't know what the Project Fi business plan is. Will it be available for all phones in the future? Will the pricing remain very affordable? Time will tell. I do know that, for me, it is kicking the crap out of AT&T! I think the difference is that Google has looked carefully at mobile phone needs and how the established providers dish out service. The biggies have so many plans it is dizzying. And they rack up costs for everything. I have changed plans more times that I can possibly remember with AT&T. So Google very likely decided; let's offer cell phone service that is affordable and very simple - one plan for everyone. Does this work for everyone? I don't know; maybe a family with a bunch of teenagers can get a better deal with ATT or Verizon, but maybe not. Maybe Project Fi is a better fit for business people who travel, or for one customer, rather than a family.

All I can say is, thanks Google, you have solved some major issues I've had with mobile phone service, and I can check that box on my wish list.

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Thursday, May 05, 2016

REMEMBERING

I have a family tree printed in 1993 on many sheets of paper that were taped together to form a roll about 10 feet long. Cousin Mel Pollack made it, and my uncle Louis Fishman did an earlier draft by hand. 

I’ve been thinking lately about family history; maybe a lot of people my age do this as we watch the precipice getting closer. One thought has nagged at me for many years: what relatives of mine were killed during the Holocaust? 

Below is a list of names from the Pollack (Pulik) family tree, of families for which all or many of the members died the same year during World War 2. I don’t know the circumstances of these deaths, and so I am making an assumption that they were killed by the Nazis or Nazi sympathizers in Poland, Russia or elsewhere. 

Yetta (Yentle) Pollack (1909-1942) and children Shulamis Oberman (1934-1942), Henya Oberman (1936-1942) and Malka Oberman (1936-1942)

Kossel Pollack (1912-1942) and wife Chaya Suchman ( - 1943)

Chaim Lieb Pollack (1917-1942)

siblings Yossel Pulik (1907-1941); Berrel Pulik (1909-1941); Yentel Pulik (1912-1941); Siegel Pulik (1914-1941) - (brother Aaron Paul (Pulik) survived and wrote a memorial book (Yizkor Book) about the town of Motol where my father’s family lived before coming to the United States

Benjamin Pollack and wife Tzaitel and 6 children: Raisel, Yossel, Yentl, Schloime, Osher and Herschel; all died in about 1942

Chaike Fishman and husband Chaim Tevyansky, and 3 children: Zloty, Sorreh and Masheh Tevyansky; all died in about 1942

Reva Pulik (1874-1943) and husband Moishe Pruzansky (1872-1943) and 5 children: Sorren, Yudel, Tanye, Channah and Dora Pruzansky - all died in about 1942; (daughter Cyril Pruzansky (born 1908) survived and married Charles Glassman, I knew them and their sons Art and Jeffrey when I was a kid in Chicago)

Peril Pollack (1895-1943) and husband David Aizenberg (1892-1943) and daughter Chaske (1919-1943)


I don’t know, and can not imagine, the suffering these people went through before they died. I don’t know if they were murdered outright, tortured and murdered, or rounded up and sent to the death camps to be murdered. I do know that they, and all others killed in genocides, should be remembered. 

Thursday, April 28, 2016

BERNIE SANDERS CAN STILL WIN, IF...

Senator Bernie Sanders knew from the beginning that his bid for the Democratic nomination for POTUS was a long shot. His early remarks, before he officially declared himself a candidate, were more about pushing the Democratic Party to the left by running, rather than actually winning. I think he was surprised, as were many of us, by the amount of support he has had from voters, especially the younger generation. For awhile, it looked like Bernie might actually have a chance to beat the Democratic establishment political machine; now that possibility is all but gone.

However, I still think Bernie can win. He can win if, and only if, the people who so vociferously support him stay in the political game during and after the 2016 election.

The Bernie movement is a political revolution. The movement is criticized by the establishment for being focused on one theme: the inequality of those with lots of money and those without. But the reality is that this huge (or yuge) and growing wealth gap IS the major problem in the United States, and it affects everything in our society. The projected outcomes of this expanding wealth gap are getting more obvious.

Big money rules everything. A recent post on my blog was about a research report that found corporations and their lobby groups are very successful getting legislation passed at the federal level, while citizens and citizen lobbying groups are not successful. In other words, the power in government is in the hands of big money; citizens have no political power.

Elections, such as the current race for the presidency, are based on big money. Sanders points to Clinton's ties to big money, which are many, as a symptom of the problem. A recent fund-raiser for Clinton and the Democratic Party hosted by the actor George Clooney was a big money event; seats at the main table cost over $350,000 each. Clooney himself told an interviewer that this is obscene; however, that's the way things work, and until campaign financing is changed, well, that's the way it has to be.  Until when? Well, until a political movement with Bernie Sanders' values gains political power.

And this is how Bernie can still win. If the Bernie supporters go away after his candidacy ends, if they turn their backs on politics out of disappointment or anger, then Bernie's efforts were for naught. "Bernie or Bust" isn't a political strategy, it is political suicide. Instead, a Bernie Movement, or let's call it building a Democratic Socialist Party in the United States is where the Bernie Revolution needs to go. Young voters need to work at the local level, state level, and federal level to build a political revolution that addresses and ends the rule of big money in this country.

This doesn't mean the end of capitalism and big business; it means the end of government of, by and for the super wealthy class. It means social justice. It means living-wage jobs doing meaningful work. It means housing available for everyone, and at affordable rates. It means working together as a society to slow down the rate of climate change. It means educational opportunity for everyone. In other words, it means Bernie Sanders' platform of common sense politics.

The dark side of this election cycle is the Trumpization of American politics. Donald Trump is, unfortunately, not just a quirk. Trump represents the resentful and fearful feelings of more than 10 million people who have voted for him to date in the primaries. And these people, and their brand of politics will not go away anytime soon. In fact, I fear that if a President Illary Clinton continues the business as usual establishment politics of the Democratic Party, something I predict she will do, the Trump people will only gain more strength. This is because the business as usual politics of the Dems does not address the core issues in our society that Bernie and Trump talk about, from very different perspectives, of course. A continuation of the big money politics in America clearly does not lift the majority of Americans out of the stagnation they have been in for so long.

So yes, Bernie Sanders can be the eventual winner in this election cycle if, and only if, the young voters who have been energized by Bernie stay in the game. The first thing they need to do is be certain our next President is Hillary Clinton, not Donald Trump. Second, they need to hold Clinton's feet to the fire and not let her immediately jump back to the center, which she is already drifting towards, now that Bernie's challenge has been beaten back. Third, and most importantly, young people, and oldsters like me who still have breath in them, need to build on what Bernie started. Build a movement, a political party, united around core principles of democratic socialism, and slowly take back our government from the big money class.

Feel the Bern! And take to heart the words of Joe Hill (google him): "Don't mourn; organize."

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Tuesday, April 05, 2016

IS IT SOCIAL, OR ANTI-SOCIAL NETWORKING?



Social networking: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and myriad others. These internet sites and applications fall under this rubric on the basis that they facilitate social interactions between people, and therefore, one would assume, draw us closer together. 

But I wonder.  Does Facebook really connect us with other people? Do we interact socially on Facebook more than we otherwise would? I tend to think not.

Look around you. If you go into a coffee shop, walk around a park, watch people everywhere you go, how many are interacting with people around them, and how many have their attention on a screen? I once sat in a large Starbucks with my cousin Gary arguing politics, debating great global themes, telling funny stories - all while sipping coffee. I looked around the immense room filled with customers at tables and stuffed chairs and couches. Gary and I were the only people actually talking to each other; the rest were each focused on a smartphone, tablet or laptop in front of them.  It would not surprise me if some of them were in a texting exchange with the person next to them! 

I’ve had a Twitter account for a few years, although I have still not figured out the purpose of and reason for Twitter to exist (with the exception of instances where masses of people can be organized or stay informed about unfolding events). When I occasionally open Twitter, I marvel at how much time certain people spend tweeting. Do they have time for anything else? 

I use Facebook. In the past few weeks, I have purposefully not opened the Facebook app, and I don’t miss it. For me, the greatest benefit of Facebook is to keep in touch with people I otherwise would not see very often. I have also reconnected with people from my past. This is good. 

But here is my issue with Facebook: unless I open it at least several times a day, I will miss a lot. And so when I only open it once in awhile, there is a tendency to keep scrolling down in case I missed something important, or interesting. And yes, there are a number of posts that are important or interesting, but there are many more posts that are kitty cats, dogs, funny “posters” and witty sayings, and links - lot and lots of links to articles and videos and photos and……more time diverters. 

I have been guilty of posting this stuff; oh yes I have. I have posted hundreds of my photos because I want to share them. But what is the real purpose of this? Is it to see how many “likes” I get? How many comments I get? Do people like me? Am I popular? Do they compliment me? 

If this is what social networking is all about, maybe I don’t need it. Maybe the novelty has worn thin for me. Maybe, just maybe, I would do all the other things I keep wanting to do but just can’t - or don’t - find the time for. 

A few weeks ago I thought about making a cardboard sign on which I printed the words: “Let’s have a conversation!” and then holding it up while sitting alone at a table in Starbucks or some other neighborhood place. The idea, of course, would be to engage my neighbors, most of whom I don’t know, in a real conversation. Social Networking! No screens allowed! I still might try this.

The internet has spawned amazing technologies, including the smartphones, tablets, laptops and other computers and all the apps that go with them. Many times I feel it is too much. The Googles, Facebooks, Twitters, Apples of the world know too much about me, bombard me with too many ads, try to rule every moment of my life, ostensibly to improve my life. After all, if I didn’t have internet social networking at my fingertips, would I be doomed to a solitary and lonely existence? 

I’m wondering what the next paradigm shift will be in internetting (yes, I made up a word)? Will we continue to be used more and more as vessels of data to be sold and bought by ever-expanding corporations? Or will the geeks of the world figure out a more democratic internet that helps us use our time wisely between the real and virtual worlds? 

And yes, this blog is a virtual conversation. I would truly prefer to sit with other people, sipping coffee or wine, and have this discussion. Perhaps I can initiate a multi-party on-line video discussion group that would include people I know all over the world. Now that would be fun!


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Saturday, March 12, 2016

TRUMP ASCENDENCY HEIGHTENS THE DEBATE BETWEEN SCIENCE AND THEOLOGY




The ascendency of Donald Trump to the lead position in the race to be the Republican Party nominee for President of the United States has created surprising turmoil within scientific and theological circles. 

Scientists who support and lecture about evolutionary theory have recently begun to use Donald Trump as an example that, in fact, the science of evolution might not be correct, after all. And theologians who argue strenuously that everything in our world is the result of intelligent design have recently advanced the position that, in retrospect, Donald Trump clearly demonstrates that intelligent design is not a correct view of the world.

Professor Howard J. Krumbein, a leading evolutionary biologist, stated in an editorial piece that: “Recent research into the Donald Trump species has confounded our understanding of the origins of life and it’s biological diversity, to the point that new theories are being tested. The mounting evidence is that the Donald Trump species cannot be explained without incorporating an act of Divine intervention, or, as we say in evolutionary science, “bizarre tinkering.”

Meanwhile, in a major theological publication, His Most Reverend Dr. Gene S. Plicer has postulated that the many years of intelligent design explanations for the natural world have been focused on incorrect assumptions concerning the abilities of God. HMR Plicer stated: “We will in no way take the blame for this strange fellow - he is not ours, he is the evolutionist’s nightmare.” 

Whatever the source, Donald Trump continues to confound all reasonable and sane humans as to his origins. 


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