government and politics Feed

Governor Abbott, Why are You Lying to Us?

If I could write Abbott a letter (I could, but I don't think he would read it), I would ask him why he lied to the citizens of Texas during his press conference update on Coronavirus today. He claimed that testing "wasn't any good if you are testing negative." This is totally wrong, and I don't know why he would say this unless he just wants to make an excuse for catering to the Trump administration. We can't know who is silently spreading this disease unless we test wide swaths of the population, sick or not, because carriers are frequently asymptomatic. 

He also said that he was going to follow Mnuchin's directives about restarting business. Mnuchin would be happy to sacrifice the working class on the altar of his stock market in order to satisfy Trump. When Mnuchin and Trump talk about sacrifice, they are talking about your life. Abbott was happy to kiss up to his conservative base and strangle rural hospitals out of existence by cutting the funding. Anything that neoliberals like Abbott can do to destroy the fabric of public life, they will do. Destroying the fabric of public life includes using austerity to cut funding and collapse safety nets like county hospitals, rural doctors, Medicaid, and so on.

These "holier than thou" conservative types like Abbott believe that safety nets for working class people and generational poor are a waste of money; they think these populations of vulnerable people are undeserving of anything except charity. That is why charity, especially from Christian sources, is encouraged over using government to properly distribute tax dollars. When charities manage everything, then charities can make decisions based on their private set of moral values. They use these moral values against the recipients of their charity.

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This is a destructive and undemocratic way to govern a society. Neoliberalism leads to death and violence. We can see this in action as Trump uses briefings to spread disinformation and bully and insult the free press. As we sit here now watching this horror unfold, we can also see the gaps, huge chasms really, between the haves and the have nots. But people like Abbott see the world through a neoliberal lens, a lens that devalues human life using deception and a "profits over people" approach to every decision.


Collapse of Coronavirus Leadership: Alex Azar, Trump, and Pence? Heck Ya I'm Nervous

No doubt this virus is nothing to joke about because of its dark nature. Look at all of the souls it has recently dispatched, and the intense suffering that it's causing around the globe. If the Trump administration and the CDC are resistant to calling this calamity a pandemic, if WHO doesn't want to call it that, then what exactly are we dealing with? It's certainly more than an inconvenience, especially in the United States.

For us, this pandemic could endanger millions of people because of our lack of a basic social safety net. No one from the Trump administration has said that our government will pay for these long hospital stays and thousands and thousands of tests for individual citizens. If our profit partnerships with hospitals and insurance companies are in charge of billing for this disease, then we could be facing a financial collapse for thousands of individuals with insurance and the certainty of long term debt for those without it.

People are buying food and supplies in bulk, at least around my town. Yesterday, one lonely bag of jasmine rice remained on the shelf, and the dried noodle aisle was almost completely empty, as if a big storm was rolling in. I'm finding sales on weird items like holistic cough medicines and immune support supplements. Name brand vitamins are getting pushed, and so are some off -brand cold and cough medicines.

The liquor store had quite the run yesterday considering that most people were down at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo Bar B Q event. I guess maybe this isn't that unusual, except if you follow what people are actually saying around town they pretend they aren't concerned at all. I haven't seen anyone wearing a mask, but I have seen an uptick in people rubbing on hand sanitizer. I, in fact, purchased the last bottle of 365 Lavender Hand Sanitizer at my local Whole Foods.

I am going to go ahead and act as weird as possible. I'm a nerd anyway, so no one will notice (not that I think anyone should care what others think about them). Since I pick up nearly every single virus that my kids bring around, I'm spraying all surfaces liberally with Lysol. I'm using hand sanitizer even when I don't need it, and I have picked up quite a few extra things from this place and that place just in case I decide to park myself at home. I'm unabashedly unashamed of my paranoia because I feel as if I am on a winding mountain road with a drunk at the wheel. This morning's visit to the Sunday news shows by Alex Azar the Human Health Secretary, previous pharmaceutical lobbyist, did nothing to assuage my fears. He's not a doctor, and this is not a political hoax as Trump has tried to declare.

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Why the Bloomberg Message Matters so Much! Listen America...

Writing in juxtapositions hyphenates how circular and connected everything in the world is. When I interact with my dogs, I parallel their train of thought with my own because I respect the brain, the little soul, that exists in this furry, needy, little body. As Lukács relates his theory of social realism to Marx, he "contends [that human beings] are essentially socio-historical beings" and that the "formation of human society across time is a process of economic transformation, in which deep economic tensions resolves themselves in higher forms of social organization" (Graham 198). Even though Georg Lukács theory of the novel is simply that, a theory about novels, the economic juxtaposition is impossible to ignore. How does this all relate to what is happening in American politics now? Trump, an obvious fascist, represents an opposition to what most Americans fear the most, a debasement of the social structure as it swings left to shelter and support vulnerable individuals coded out of the mainstream economic upturn. 

How much of this upturn is due to an increased expansion of the fossil fuel industry is unknown by me, but I would say that it goes far enough to spike fear in the worker, enough fear to maximize a winner-take-all mindset such as the one that Trump represents. Critical realism debunks any possibility of a happy ending in the great American story because these higher forms of social organization, the economics of the neoliberal/capitalist state, will forbid any transfer of wealth into more sustainable energy forms. While Americans do see a few more solar panels and electric cars around, nothing is happening to offset carbon and methane output, quite the opposite, so a dirtier and more perilous world awaits for our children and grandchildren, even as we now watch helplessly as a worldwide pandemic unfolds. Politics at large, especially left leaning lip service, fails to permeate the echo chamber of winner-take-all-fascist-mindset even on the eve of our destruction.

The politicians on last night's debate stage fail to grasp Lukács theory of society functioning as an economic process constantly in transformation, so in other words, they will fail to beat Trump's fascist ideology because they are unable to adequately assuage the fears of the common worker, the fear of sustainable energy overtaking the fossil fuel industry. Even so, another, more dark and shady goblin lurks behind the transference of power from fossil fuel to sustainable energy, artificial intelligence. Fossil fuel workers realize at some level the sloughing off of jobs to machinery and robots. Even as we transfer wealth from one sector to another, skill based jobs are declining, no matter the purpose or intent. Following a cruel fascist into a dirtier future will only make this economic transformation more difficult and result in more penury and suffering. 

This is why I think it's vitally important to the public that Mike Bloomberg use his platform if not to win, then at least to inform. Stopping Trump means that Americans will face a brighter future even in the face of this economic transformation. Maybe we are trading one neoliberal narcissist for another, but at least Bloomberg is authentic, a strong juxtaposition to Trump.

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Fresh Starts, The Crucible, and Joseph McCarthy: Relationships Matter

    Have you ever thought about what happens to a student, friend, colleague, or partner when you refuse to grant them a fresh start? What if we hauled our students into the principal’s office at the beginning of a fresh semester and reminded them of everything they had been accused of the year before? What if we did this to someone year after year? What happens when we continuously degrade a person even after time has passed, new facts have been substantiated, and old bullies and players have vanished from the scene?

    My current students never thought about life in America after World War II, the simmering suspicions, the Red Scare, the liberal silence, and the Senate hearings that blacklisted writers, actors, and artists from their livelihoods. Unwilling to recognize that American power easily overwhelms fringe politics, conservatives clung to the horrific past and fixated on a worldwide Communist movement believing it would overtake democracy. Even after the most obviously innocent citizens were exonerated, many of them never recovered their reputations or lost incomes. They never recovered because they were never really given a fresh start. But my students, open minded and pure of heart, wrestle with persecution and ignorance on a daily basis, so they know something about the importance of a fresh start and its lasting effects.

    By having them read the Crucible and compare it to McCarthyism, they are not only seeing how an artist can affect public policy, but they are also learning the value of a fresh start. They can see how petty grievances and gossip, jealousy and envy, and raw fear combine to create misconceptions and support lies. They can see how this form of finger-pointing indicates a lack of character and integrity that blossoms in a brain overstuffed with fear and silly, low-level thought processes. The Senate hearings differed little from the witch trials…a litany of hateful players, a lack of common sense, and a desire to indulge in cruelty is not acceptable in any business, school, or government. We all deserve a fresh start without prejudice.

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Goodbye to the NRA, Trump, and Greg Abbott--Enough is Enough

On days such as this, after a series of tragic, public mass slayings, I usually just fall silent. A side of me feels as if I am not up to the task of writing about such sensitive and important, unnecessary, and bloody crimes. What would I say? I guess I could write about it from some lens pretending it was some kind of sick, dystopian literary piece, and I could wrangle with some psychoanalytical interpretation of the events. But to lay it all off on the mentally unstable in society creates a false premise, a premise that suggests that these awful crimes present only in the psyche and not the social.

If I were to comment on facts only, I would focus on our government’s failure to act in these murderous rampages. Texas Governor Greg Abbott just sits on his proverbial political throne and offers up his condolences and prayers while he washes his hands in blood, NRA sponsored blood. Trump exhibits nothing but hate, and because of Trump’s hate, I hate him. Writing about Trump makes me sick because I am sick of his visage in my mind. I am sick of his presence, his words, his style, his lack of regulations, his stupidity, his fakeness. I’m saddened by his treatment of women, minorities, and the poor; his use of the word ‘loser’ makes me want to cry out in pain. I am sick of all of his hateful words.

I remember talking to my mentor and angel, and I asked how I could persuade others to stop the evil. He told me that some people were just bad people, and that nothing could be done to change their minds or steer them into another direction. They enjoy the mendacity of what they do. This acceptance of evil, the kind of evil that shoots down babies and mothers in cold blood outside of war time and inside a peaceful setting, contradicts everything in our social contract. In fact, our social contract is broken down by the people most responsible for maintaining its integrity.

I like powerful equipment, big guns, and unruly characters. But at the same time, I realize that equipment, guns, and unruliness belong only in the hands of certain strong people, not young haters and terrorists. Guns, like politicians, are too accessible, cheap, and easy to buy. Even now, as Trump and Abbot try to deflect responsibility and miser away their cash, the next mass shooter plans his attack. Let’s do the right thing and vote these sold-out leeches out of our government. Bye Abbott, bye Trump…

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Human Caused Climate Change and Human Extinction: Is it Possible?

 

            The book, “The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming,” written by David Wallace-Wells (writer for New York Magazine), dishes up a frightening dose of climate reality including analysis pertaining to why the muted message to the public hampers progress and endangers innocent people living in developing countries. A few chapters into the book, I became deeply disappointed in my local Houston, Texas, news channels and media outlets because of the completely silent response to our own regional climate change reality and the continuous and mindless focus on junk entertainment. Reading the book in its entirety, and then reflecting on its frightening but well-supported material, rearranged my own personal priorities about the natural world. I feel as if we need to start ignoring junk entertainment and news and start focusing on how to solve the climate problem.

            The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) meets periodically to measure the effects of climate change on people in developing countries, and, sadly, even though third world peoples clearly impose the tiniest fraction of a fraction of carbon imprint, they will, according to data and recent experience, undoubtedly, suffer the most. Bangladeshi is a prime example of how climate change will create millions of refugees with no place to go and no means to get there. As coastlines disappear, along with vegetation and available farming land, people will die and starve.

            This is happening now, but I am hearing more about Beyonce’s new film and other fluff than the atrocities happening in vulnerable communities (Houston, her hometown, is extremely vulnerable). Media, and this includes stars and personalities, must begin to raise awareness and cultivate an ongoing conversation that informs and educates because big corporations and big oil have been doing their best to suppress the truth about climate change. Besides, selfish media personalities and vainglorious politicians will soon look extremely silly, evil, and ill-informed at this crucial point in history. People will begin to see that they have been scammed by a rich elite that believes they can build and buy their way out of the deleterious and calamitous effects of climate change. Believe me, this is not going to work for them. Life, life as we understand it, is on the edge of extinction. But instead of a dose of reality, all we get is a tremendous amount of butt wiggling and hair tossing, stuff I can do without. If someone wants to butt wiggle and hair toss to raise money for Bangladesh, then I am good with that because at least some people would have food and shelter while raising awareness about this disaster that will undoubtedly wipe out huge swaths of life on our planet. Once you begin to look down the barrel of climate change in a realistic way, then other problems in life like phony people at work and vacay plans seem superficial in a profoundly sad and shocking way.

I encourage everyone to read the climate change science and help spread the word while finding ways to limit your own carbon footprint.

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Emergency! Become Aware of the Creeping Consequences of Neoliberal Policy and Learn how to Fight Back 💲

            American parents and students must become aware of how neoliberal values creep into schools and negatively affect the quality of learning. Marketplace ideologies warp education because schools spend billions on test prep and curriculum materials that fail to regard student locality and culture. The “one-size-fits-all” approach to education supports the neoliberal agenda by ensuring that an oppressed underclass will always be available for cheap labor.

            Parents and students need a working definition of neoliberalism so that talking heads such as Sean Hannity can’t deceive them by twisting words such as “socialism” and redefining such words to fit the sneaky neoliberal motive: The removal of all public safety nets and the complete privatization of all pubic resources.

            This economic model has nothing to do with “liberalism” as commonly understood. Rather, neoliberals are generally politically conservative and are always decrying the evils of socialism, even though shared public resources do not equate to socialism and have always been a staple of free enterprise and capitalism. Neoliberals reject any restrictions or regulations on business no matter the human or environmental cost. Neoliberalism’s marketplace theory supports the complete removal or privatization of all public safety nets including Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and the Affordable Care Act.

            Neoliberals wish to privatize and profit from everything that is currently remaining in the public sector: National parks, existing state and federal roadways, libraries, remaining public utilities, federal lands, public schools and colleges, and any other form of shared public ownership that is intended to benefit all people in a democracy. NOTE: Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell exemplify neoliberalism in all of its greed, corporate welfare, and sneakiness.

            Neoliberalism’s parameters exist worldwide, as the creeping takeover of publicly owned enterprises means these institutions become corporate entities intended to serve the interests of profit and not people. This results in the bottom line, the profit margin, becoming more important than the quality of services rendered to the public. This is how teacher quality and educational access are affected.

            As we monitor the growing spectacle of neoliberalism, and the decay of all public goods and services, schools fight to hire the best educated teachers. But, because of neoliberal austerity policies, they have no budget to attract top talent. Colleges and universities cut funding to writing programs and bend to the will of corporate interests in an effort to meet tight budgets. An explosion of adjunct positions and dual credit courses intended to offset the consequences of neoliberal austerity measures have destroyed countless professional teaching careers, undermining education at all levels.

             Undervaluing the teaching community and ignoring school culture interferes with student ability to critique, write, and practice democracy. If students and teachers become critical thinkers and resist the regressive and punitive policies associated with neoliberalism, then neoliberal politics can no longer continue to infect all corners of our democracy and can no longer continue to profit from human suffering.    

Following is a list of books and articles that can aid in your understanding of neoliberalism as it pertains to education and the destruction of democracy.

For everyday people beginning to become aware of neoliberalism, this book works as an introduction.

Klein, Naomi. The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. New York, Metropolitan Books/Henry Holt, 2007.

If you are an academic and you are beginning to recognize the symptoms of neoliberalism in your own career or institution, this book can help you understand what is happening.

Giroux, Henry A. Neoliberalism’s War on Higher Education. Pbk, ed., Chicago, Haymarket Books, 2014.

For writing teachers at all levels, this book of excellent academic articles can help you see what is happening in your classroom because of neoliberal economic policies. You will learn how your class is connected to the building of a democratic society, and how neoliberal policy is preventing you from fulfilling your pledge to your students.

Welch, Nancy, and Tony Scott. Composition in the Age of Austerity. Logan, Utah State UP, 2016.

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Writing Assessment: Why are we doing this to our students?

The neoliberal approach to education, an approach that bases itself in austerity and cruelty, is rooted in the test and punish cycle. Students are sorted by scores and data, rather than interests and talent. Writing, with its connections to personal style and background knowledge, should never be judged by a standardized test. Teachers that never write anything more than the odd email are charged with teaching basic writing techniques in a pedagogy that is eerily similar to the rejected and formulaic Current-Traditional Rhetoric, known simply as CTR. A top-down, managerial type teaching style is noted by critical theorist Paulo Freire as the "banking model of education" a form of pedagogy that privileges the teacher over the student and "deposits" information into an otherwise empty receptacle. The "banking model" oppresses the student by not providing them with an opportunity to experience the joy of altering reality with a problem-posing pedagogy. The "banking model" suggests that reality is fixed and static.

Peter Elbow points out that three types of assessment exist. In order to better understand why one method of assessment is superior, we have to analyze why writers write in the first place. First of all, people write to salvage something from their soul, especially when they are hurting. From this kind of misery, poetry and short stories are born, along with essays and critical, pithy statements. Transmitting messages and exploring modes of creativity typically arise out of exploratory pieces, and these exploratory pieces bare a connection to some travail in life. Storytelling comes from a well-ordered mind that aims to share a moral or idea. No one writes against their will unless it is for a standardized test. This kind of writing, because of its oppressive nature, fails to measure talent or purpose. 

Elbow, in an essay in College English, observes that gauging a piece of writing on its validity and effectiveness are the most common measures in a typical classroom. His problem with this type of assessment is that it fails to allow for how the piece makes the reader feel. Elbow argues that how the words make the reader feel is the highest form of assessment. If the purpose for writing is not left to the student, then even a well-written piece really demonstrates nothing but an ability to adhere to mechanics and form. Even assigning a particular genre to the student waters down the joy of writing, inhibiting the flow of ideas and artistry.

Obviously, the way we teach writing must change. Our students are actually writing more than ever on social media posts and electronic message boards. Self-publishing is common and apps allow for writers of all levels to share ideas and self-promote. The quality of these communications matter to our democratic society. Unless we are able to concisely explain our positions with clarity, we remain vulnerable to those who want to exploit us. Working to weed out the neoliberal test and punish cycle from the English classroom must become a priority. Neoliberals have no desire to teach civil discourse or share power. They would prefer that our students remain as spectators to democracy, rather than grow into strong individuals with an ability to transform reality.

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Trump and Tillerson: Fascists Hate Dissension

The fact that Trump keeps kicking people to the curb that disagree with him makes me think that he's so demented and hard line that he finds even the slightest bit of advice repugnant. If that's true, and by all accounts it is, then our country is in even deeper trouble than we imagined. His arrogance is unmatched by anyone, and he is the quintessential adult bully.  

As he becomes more authoritarian, his followers become more defensive of his behavior. The other day, when I was driving home from school, I tuned into Sean Hannity's radio program. I listen to Hannity so that I can hear the other side of the argument, and he is generally so facetious and such a liar that he makes me feel slimed while I listen. But he was one-upped last Friday by a whining female caller that couldn't get over the fact that the "liberal media" wouldn't admit that Trump is a "Godly man doing God's work." 

This kind of talk is sickening to say the least. Nothing anywhere is further from God than Trump, unless it's the devil himself. But the incident today ushers in a new low-level of hate mongering and potential violence because Tillerson's replacement, Mike Pompeo, supports and promotes torture as a method of extracting "information" from terror suspects. Even though it has been proven that evidence and intelligence garnered from torture is generally false or inconclusive, it appears that it will now become formal US policy. 

I can remember the first time it occurred to me that my country would actually officially torture a suspect, and I was in shocked disbelief. I knew that rogue military personnel would torture prisoners, but I had no idea that this behavior would ever be accepted by the leaders of my country. The unbelievable and hideous hypocrisy of these so-called Christians is just mind boggling. All of this is extremely disturbing, rather reminiscent of Nazi Germany.

Getting Trump and his mess out of our highest office must be a priority.

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The Adult Day Care Center and Donald Trump: The Frightening Reality

Senator Bob Corker articulated what is on everyone's mind these days, and his response to Trump's attack is classic. I am not going to disparage adult day cares by inferring that they are a negative, but I think we understand the comparison. Trump's Twitter attacks are juvenile and spontaneous, and they amount to cyber-bullying. It's hard to reconcile Melania Trump's empty announcement that she wanted to take on cyber-bullying as a cause with the constant echo of her husband's attacks resonating around the country. I don't intend to veer off into what Melania does these days; but I will say that other than decorating her husband's arm she is the most unproductive first lady to date. Her husband is the most destructive force our country has ever witnessed. Everything he does and says is negative and does nothing to help us become a better America. It's almost incomprehensible to me that anyone in our country would consider building a wall to keep our southern neighbors out after we collectively witnessed the reverential conservative icon President Reagan utter the famous words, "Tear down that wall Mr. Gorbachev!" After all of the hero worship concerning Reagan, the outlandish pandering to a basic Hollywood washout, the constant praise, and even the coinage of "Reaganism" our fundamentalist, capitalistic neighbors and friends can't see beyond their account balance into their own wretched hypocritical mindset. 

Trump's team of conservative thieves are trying ever harder to plunge the country into chaos so they can wipe the slate clean and rebuild using Milton Friedman's cruel and criminal theory of economics, the shock doctrine, a system that endeavors to privatize everything and redistribute state wealth to the one-percent. Friedman economics is the failed "trickle down effect" on steroids, and it's responsible for most of the suffering and war that is taking place around the world. Betsy DeVos, (Trump's Secretary of Education) the ugliest rich woman in America, is a prime example of the shock doctrine in full swing. She works tirelessly to privatize public schools (imagine a world of private and charter schools) because education is "flush with cash." 

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, we have another spoilt and phony television icon that is obviously teetering on the edge of dementia blathering non sequiturs on Twitter while we all scratch our heads and ponder this unimaginable mess of a future, a future without any public services or safety nets. We look at pictures of this fool tossing paper towels to Puerto Rican residents that are suffering without basic necessities, and we listen to him prattle on about how their reconstruction will have to be a "discussion" like Puerto Rico is of no worth to anyone. 

I can't believe that after all my family has been through fighting wars for this thankless mess of a country that any self-respecting American would follow along with this disgusting agenda of greed and cruelty. All of my peers and colleagues, or at least most of them, have a relative that fought in Vietnam and prior wars. They fought before the military became a system of contractual agreements, before privatization had a chance to take over. This labyrinth of private contracts and agreements were long predicted and rightfully feared, and now we are looking at the result. This is a self defeating system that requires death and violence to profit and grow. Trump, and war pigs like him, want to make sure they have plenty of cannon fodder. If they can finish destroying the middle class by underfunding the workers and denying their children an education and healthcare, then they will have a fascist victory. With the new proposed budget, all of our safety nets are under attack. If this mess passes, many of your children's dreams will be destroyed. 

Some of us have carried an unusually heavy load, and some of us have sailed by just enjoying the benefit of somebody else's suffering. It is to those people that have benefitted the most, those many Trump voters and supporters, that I fail to connect with. I can't understand why you have no gratitude for the benefits you receive (think of basic public services and social security or medicare, college loans and grants for your children). I can't understand why you can't envision the suffering that happened while you enjoyed football and movies, opportunities and growth. Other people had to pay for your success with their blood and their minds, but you just wallowed in conservative nonsense, only thinking of yourself. Trump, a reality television star, conned you. The irony is that he is just a demented puppet. He is tearing our country completely down under the assumption that it can be rebuilt, and that his wealthy special interest groups can reap the profits. This does not work...it has failed in every single country. And the people that starve and die from illnesses, accidents, and wars, are just forgotten. By continuing to support this system, the Trump Conservative greed machine, you are marching your neighbors and friends, and their children, to a certain, miserable death. Soon, Trump will be gone, but the machine will remain. You need to think about what you are supporting because it doesn't care about you...you are not the one-percent.

For two great books that support this argument, please see:

Klein, Naomi. The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism ISBN-13: 978-0312427993

Mayer, Jane. Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right ISBN-13: 978-0307947901