Black History vs Critical Race Theory (CRT)

Today, February 1st, marks the beginning of Black History Month in the United States for the year 2023. At least in any school district still allowed to teach it.

In the past, I have observed the month by trying to put forth a series of social media deep dives into the lives of the Black men and women whose incredible contributions to medical, industrial, technological, and social advancement of our nation have largely been erased from our societal record while their contributions remain a part of our daily lives. My intent was to focus on those individuals overlooked in favor of the constantly rehashed chosen few deemed worthy of very brief cherry-picked [white-washed] discussion by those in charge of the curricula.

This year, in light of the assault on all aspects of Black History education by White Nationalist American conservatives and evangelical Christians, I am only going to write this one essay on the subject.

Contrary to what Republicans would have you believe, a focus on teaching Black History in our schools (even for just a month) is intended to show that People of Color, most specifically Black people, have contributed so much to the advancement of our society, culture, nation, and world that most of us take for granted. In most cases this was done both for, and in spite of, a society, culture, nation and world that has long sought to belittle, demean, exploit, dehumanize, gaslight, enslave, and eradicate them.

The lessons on the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., always focus on largely white-washed highlights of his “I have a dream speech. The lessons on the Black Panthers always focus on the fact that they were walking around in public armed with pistols and long guns. Teaching about Harriet Tubman focuses on her as a matriarch leading countless slaves to freedom.

Modern American Republicans (those political conservatives and evangelicals) want you to believe that learning these things somehow harms the emotional and psychological health of modern White children. They have chosen to mislabel it as Critical Race Theory which is not now and has not ever been a focus of any public elementary, middle or junior high, or high school curricula, not even for one month a year.

Critical Race Theory (CRT) is a largely academic exercise for jurisprudence and political scholars. It explores how racial bias and discrimination have become embedded within societal systems and that harm that creates directly for those targeted by it and indirectly for our society as a whole. It then forces us to look for ways we can begin to excise those biases and discriminations from those systems to create a more fair and equitable society for us all. Accomplishing this would not in any way diminish or harm any White child, it would only help put an end to continuing the diminishment and harm they inflict on all People of Color.

Encyclopedia Britannica’s online entry for Critical Race Theory states:

“[R]acism in the United States is normal, not aberrational: it is the ordinary experience of most people of colour. Although extreme racist attitudes and beliefs are less common among whites than they were before the mid-20th century, and explicitly racist laws and legal practices—epitomized by the Jim Crow laws that enforced racial segregation and denied basic civil rights to African Americans in the South—have been largely eliminated, most people of colour continue to be routinely discriminated against or otherwise unfairly treated in both public and private spheres, as demonstrated by numerous social indicators. African Americans and Hispanic Americans (Latinxs), for example, are on average more likely than similarly qualified white persons to be denied loans or jobs; they tend to pay more than whites for a broad range of products and services (e.g., automobiles); they are more likely than whites to be unjustly suspected of criminal behaviour by police or private (white) citizens; and they are more likely than whites to be victims of police brutality, including the unjustified use of lethal force. If convicted of a crime, people of colour, particularly African Americans, are generally imprisoned more often and for longer periods than whites who are found guilty of the same offenses. Many Blacks and Hispanics continue to live in racially segregated and impoverished neighbourhoods, in part because of zoning restrictions in many predominantly white neighbourhoods that effectively exclude lower-income residents. Predominantly Black or Hispanic neighbourhoods also tend to receive fewer or inferior public services, notably including public education. The lack of quality education in turn limits job opportunities, which makes it even more difficult to leave impoverished neighbourhoods. On average, Blacks and Hispanics also receive less or inferior medical care than whites and consequently lead shorter lives.”

If we were to approach those oft-revisited Black History Month lessons from above with a CRT viewpoint we’d be doing a critical analysis of Dr. King’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” as well as why it was necessary to be written from a jail cell. We’d be talking about the reason the Black Panthers were armed was to protect Black citizens from racist attacks which led to White conservative politicians led by Ronald Reagan and the NRA to establish California’s first major gun control restrictions, the Mulford Act. We’d also discuss how that same organization, the Black Panthers, were responsible for the creation of the school breakfast programs that greatly benefited all impoverished children, including White children. We’d learn about how the 2nd Amendment was established in large part to maintain armed slave patrol militias to recapture escaped slaves the the warrior-spy Harriet Tubman was forced to become to protect those she was helping reach safety.

This month, I encourage and implore you to learn some real facts about both Black History and Critical Race Theory.

Set aside a few hours to learn how the history of American Slavery has affected every aspect of the American society that was built both by and atop it, and learn how that same society has worked hard to erase the memory of those contributions while still benefiting from them.

Go watch Hulu’s short series of episodes based on the Pulitzer Prize winning “1619 Project.”

Hopefully, that will pique your interest enough to go read the full award winning series of articles created for the New York Times by Nikole Hannah-Jones.

The #Culturalinertia of the Zombie Apocalypse

As far as we can tell, humans have been mystified and filled with hope and fear by the concepts of the possibilities of life after death and the possibility that death is the ultimate end.
 
For many it alters the way they choose to live, behave, and interact.
 
Entire religious belief systems have been built and destroyed because of it.
 
It has been the subject of endless theological and scientific study and debate.

It has permeated every aspect of human entertainment culture from the various forms of heaven, hell, purgatory, angels, demons, eternal banquet halls celebrating warriors, eternal pits of fire and brimstone punishing sinners, to the aspects of the undead walking the earth as vampires, ghosts, zombies, and the twisted monsters stitched together by mad scientists.  

Much of our #Culturalinertia and how it has shifted can be measured by looking at how such things are discussed as its presentation evolves through entertainment.

The TV show ‘Supernatural’ ran for over 15 years, it survived after the network it originated on died and disappeared, and it had a very different take on modern religion than any previously show could have put on air.    It followed in the footsteps of “Charmed” and Buffy the Vampire Slayer” introducing the concepts to millions that not all “monsters” were bad and not all “heavenly creatures” had the best interest of living humans as a priority.
 
We can see a similar evolution in the seemingly never-ending cultural fascination with a zombie apocalypse.
 
The modern form of it started with George A. Romero’s “Night of the Living Dead.”   This movie launched not only an enduring new genre of film, but dared to be one of the first major studio films brave enough to make a Person of Color the hero in a position of authority leading White characters. It also laid the groundwork for building nearly every horror film sequel franchise that has been made since.

The only real question of morality in Romero’s films though was whether one would have the fortitude to kill a zombie that had once been a person we knew or cared about.

But, to keep us from getting bored with it, the zombie mythos has had to evolve many times since that movie’s release in 1968.  Romero’s follow-up films helped forge the path for that as well.
 
Then came the inevitable spoof films and reboots like “Revenge of the Dead,”” Night of the Day of the Dawn Of the Dead,” one of my favorites: “Shawn of the Dead” or my daughter’s favorite — the zombie apocalypse Christmas musical — “Anna and the Apocalypse”

These would be followed by reinventions of how zombies would move in “28 Days Later” and its sequel as well as South Korea’s “Train to Busan.”
 
Through all of these, the fascination with the genre has been more about either being torn apart and eaten alive or the fear of falling victim to whatever virus or curse was turning people into reanimated corpses with a singular purpose of spreading their affliction or a never ending hunger for human flesh/brains.
 
Entire fictional religious and scientific backgrounds have been created, fleshed out, torn down and rebuilt to explain how it could happen in each particular film’s fictional universe.

Then “The Walking Dead” came along and changed it all again, both with its graphic novel and its TV show.

This show survived for more than a decade and spawned multiple spinoffs simply because it decided to introduce the audience to something scarier and more monstrous than the zombies.   The moral ambiguity of the humans capable of surviving in a post-apocalyptic world and the struggles they’d have with their own humanity to manage it.  It explored not just the terror of surviving the initial outburst and its spread, but the terror of competing with other survivors for food, water, and an ever-depleting supply of shelter, ammunition, fuel, and other vital resources.

These survivors quickly learned how to navigate and defeat the monsters in all but the most dire circumstances.  They even eventually learned how to weaponize the monsters against each other.

This brought new dimension and depth to explore in what was becoming a played-out genre.
 
Would becoming a living monster be worse than becoming an undead one?   Would you be the kind of person that would sacrifice others to save yourself or yourself to save others if it became necessary to choose?  Would the answer live on a sliding scale of morality and self-preservation depending on who was involved?  What psychological struggles and tangible hardships would arise with the possibility of conceiving and delivering a child into such a world?  What kinds of cooperative communities, leadership politics, and both internal and external rivalries would arise between such communities?

It even allowed children as primary characters to do what was necessary to survive or sometimes failing.   It didn’t shy away from making the parents of those kids deal with the undead monsters they had become, or the making the kids deal with the undead monsters they’re parents became.
 
These are the plotlines that allowed the entire genre to rise up and start plodding forward again.

A few years after the Walking Dead TV show first aired, a video game was released called “The Last of Us.”  It won tons of rewards for both its visuals and storytelling.    And it re-wrote the “zombie” mythos all again.  These monsters weren’t walking undead.  They were infected, not by a virus or curse, but a very real (in our world) fungal infection.   A fungal infection that already takes over living hosts with no purpose other than to spread itself through other hosts as far and as fast as possible.  This fungal infection is called Cordyceps.  It is the one that already infects and spreads through ants that are known as “zombie ants” once infected. The fungus overgrows the central nervous system and assumes control of the body. 

The only reason the virus can’t infect humans in our current world is that it cannot survive at the temperatures found inside a living human.   The game itself never explains how that changes, but the new TV show based upon it does.

The fungus, like many things, is forced to evolve to survive in higher temperatures as the global climate warms.  The slight adjustment needed to survive at human body temperatures from its current limit of about 94 degrees Fahrenheit doesn’t require a massive suspension of disbelief to make it terrifying.  The show also changes its secondary spread methodology from airborne spores (which the game used as an obstacle to be navigated) to a more scientifically sound growth of fungal tendrils.

It cannot be stressed how viscerally this concept lands right now as we are navigating our third year of a massively contagious global health pandemic and the ongoing crises created by the environmental changes brought about by rising global temperatures.

It isn’t surprising that modern survivalists have gone from prepping for the likely possibility of a nuclear apocalypse to one created by an unstoppable health crisis or global climate catastrophe.  
 
You can even buy premade zombie apocalypse survival kits now and they’re not entirely considered “gag gifts.”

As our society evolves to new levels of personal and interpersonal risk and horror, the entertainment we use to escape and/or cope with it also evolves to keep pace.

We can learn much about ourselves and others by analyzing the trends that endure, the ones that are rejected, the ones we mock, and the ones to which we pay homage.

The #Culturalinertia of Social Media

Title graphic created with DALL-E-2 AI text to image creator

On October 29, 1969, ARPAnet delivered its first message; a “node-to-node” communication from one computer to another, and the internet as we know it was born.

In 1976, Ward Christensen invented the XModem file transfer protocol. It was released to the public in 1977 and the world as we knew it would never be the same again.

Social Media didn’t begin with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or TikTok.

It is not going to end there either, regardless of what happens with those services over the next few months or years.

Long before Facebook and Twitter were created, those of us who pioneered online social media were doing so on CompuServe, GEnie, and then Prodigy, AOL, and Myspace.  Before Spotify and YouTube there was Napster.  Before Napster we had FidoNet and others like it.

Before all of those we had dial-up BBS systems with messages boards, text chat rooms, and slow as hell file sharing.

I have been a part of all of it since I obtained an Apple IIe and 300 baud modem in the late 1970s.

In the mid-to-late-80s, I worked as a customer service and tech support representative, content moderator, content creator, design advisor, and alpha/beta tester for the General Electric Network for Information Exchange (GEnie), which General Electric created in 1985 in partnership with Ameritech.   During my time there, I also served as the Technical Editor and content contributor for John C. Dvorak’s (now out of print) public user’s guide to the service.

I present this information here to show that on the subject of electronic social media, I have been not just a user, but helped build and shape it through its early stages, and have been involved with using it, through all of its iterations and evolutions since the very beginning.

On this subject, I can legitimately claim a bit of expertise.

BBS Systems

CBBS, the first computer- based bulletin board system on record, was established in 1978.

Originally, the service served as a space for scientists and engineers to share and brainstorm ideas and knowledge. 

However, it didn’t take more than about two years for the spin-offs to start; presumably, by many of those same people looking to use them for more leisure based and, in some cases, illegal communications.   ISCABBS, the largest BBS in the world was created by the University of Iowa and was still up and running in 2019.

As computers started allowing other computers to connect to them, online hacking immediately began.  Hackers migrated to services like Demon Roach Underground, OSUNY, and Plover-NET.  What you know now as the “Dark-Web” had its origins here.

The porn industry also found its space on these services in the early days.  First as text stories, then ASCII art, and finally image sharing.  Rusty n Edie’s BBS was raided in 1993 by the FBI and sued by Playboy in 1997.

Terrorist groups and criminal organizations also created and maintained BBS systems to communicate with each other before law enforcement found ways to tap in and decipher the communications.

And yet, while all that was going on, great leaps in both science and engineering began to happen specifically because the people pushing those fields forward now had a way to communicate almost instantaneously across borders, continents, and oceans with a method that was far more substantial and productive than a one-on-one telephone call, or even a conference call.

Hobby and gaming groups formed as well, connecting people with similar personal interests but different national, ethnic, and professional backgrounds, from all over the world in a way we had never seen before.

This interactivity and blind connection fostered two things.

It removed the barriers of race, religion, gender, and political differences from personal interactions.  We had no way of knowing those things about someone unless they told us, and most didn’t bother telling anyone until a strong enough bond had been built that the relationship itself would challenge those innate beliefs about those differences in ways people would never otherwise experience.

I am a firm believer that this ever-burgeoning electronic global community was a massive, but generally unrecognized and/or unacknowledged, part of the fall of the U.S.S.R. and the destruction of the Berlin Wall.  It also provided many with the information they needed to continue anti-war protests because the information being exchanged between individuals was exposing the misinformation and disinformation rhetoric governments were putting forth in the media to justify those war efforts.

However, just like there have always been criminals, there have always been Internet trolls. The Internet also gave some people a shield of anonymity to begin freely putting forth hateful beliefs, rhetoric, and false information without personal recourse or recompense.

Social media, in all its forms, has reshaped every aspect of our lives both online and off.  It has changed how we communicate with family and friends, as well as complete strangers.  It has changed how we do business.  It has changed our global socioeconomics and our geopolitical views and policies.

Anyone telling you not to talk about the things that are important or interesting to you on social media because “No one can change anything by whining online” is full of shit and just trying to get you to stop pushing the boundaries of their own personal comfort zone.

~Tim Shehane

All of this still continues across every social media platform that ever was, or will be, invented.

Generational Differences in Usage

The Baby Boomers created the Internet as a long-distance information sharing tool.  Gen-X created social media as we know it currently as a connectivity method in a quickly expanding world of rapid international business growth and development.  Millennials, or Gen-Y, were the first generation raised with that connectivity being a major part of their personal social, educational, and professional development.  Members of Gen-Z live their lives out loud on social media as it – and its associated technology — serves as an integral part of every aspect of their lives. 

In the early stages, the old principles of public decorum ruled the public spaces on the Internet.  Most people conducted themselves online the same way they did offline, by avoiding the taboo subjects of politics, religion, and personal bigotries and biases except in small groups that had already proved themselves to be like-minded on any particular issue.  The Baby Boomer era mentality of “If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all,” was the primary content moderation guideline.

As Gen-X became more casual with the usage of the Internet for non-job related communication and tasks, the moderation guidelines changed, and the echo chambers we have now began to develop through self-segregation of users with others who shared their beliefs.  But they were still leery of putting too much personal information online for potential employers and business contacts to see if that information could be used against them in any way.

Gen-Y (I am not using the term Millennial here because it is too often used as a derogatory slur) threw caution to the wind and started posting all kinds of personal information and private thoughts online for the world to see.   This gave birth to a new profession:  the Social Media Influencer.  These social media influencers achieved celebrity status as they monetized their audience reach by stealth endorsements of products and services for others to buy.

Gen-Z has been raised almost as much by these influencers as they have been by their friends and families.  Their lives are akin to the Truman Show, lived as much online for the entertainment of others as they are offline for personal growth and satisfaction. Just this week it was reported that a young woman in France is allowing her subscribers on OnlyFans to dictate all of her personal life decisions. As a result, she has quit her internship and ended a toxic relationship, among other things. 

Understanding these generational differences in social media usage helps both businesses and cultural influencers to better serve their audience and also to weaponize the knowledge with their marketing algorithms to better manipulate their targets.

Social Media and Celebrity

Maintaining a celebrity status in our modern culture almost requires a person to become a social media influencer to hype projects and endorsement products. Going viral on social media can make or break a celebrity overnight.

Even those few celebrities who maintain no social media presence cannot avoid the affects on their personal and professional lives due to other members of their industry, allies, rivals, fans, and haters posting about them on social media.

After making a music industry connection at a Holiday Inn party, singer Halsey was able to get access to a studio to record her first song — “Ghost.” She posted it to her SoundCloud account once it was finished. Within an hour, she said she logged onto her Twitter account only to discover her account was blowing up. The next morning she had multiple record labels begging to sign her.

Late-night talk show host James Cordon recently found out just how much damage social media can do to a well curated public persona.

Actors Ryan Reynolds and Blake Lively, who each have a massive online following, recently had to post pictures of their newborn child to social media so the paparazzi would stop swarming their house and spying on them in an attempt to get the first photos for the public.

Business Use and Misuse

Businesses have entire departments, actually entire industries, dedicated to social media data harvesting and evaluation.  This information is collected at every single level of interaction and collated in every possible way that can be imagined.  Once collated, it is analyzed and sold to anyone that wants to leverage it.  Nearly every business wants to take advantage of collected data, whether to reach and engage their target audience or influence and manipulate each target audience for their own purposes.

Businesses have been monitoring employees’ social media postings for years and will quickly use personal postings made away from work as a reason to fire someone for cause if they post anything negative about the company itself or harmful to the company’s reputation for a known employee to be saying or doing.

Coca-Cola famously fired an employee whose photo was taken while he was drinking a Pepsi while wearing his delivery uniform back in 2003.  This was just the excuse the company needed to fire a pro-union worker.

Today, nearly everyone knows that they can get a person fired from their job by filing complaints with their employers about that person’s misconduct, both online and off, even when away from work if it can be posted to social media.

While this is a valid and powerful way to disempower those racists, bigots, and fascists that shouldn’t have any power or influence over the lives of those they hate and/or fear, it also means that people cannot have a single bad/off day anywhere without fear of long-term repercussions.

Government Use and Misuse

Obviously, governments – and those that want to control them – could not overlook the power and influence of the growing Internet, but it was growing faster than they could regulate or restrict its usage and availability.  By the time they could pass any laws to do so, the World Wide Web interface was developed making it and all its information more available to nearly everyone with access to electricity, a computer, and a phone line.  Just as they started to get a handle on that, the social media platforms and their BBS message boards, chatrooms, and encrypted file exchanges changed it all again.   Then smartphones came along and disconnected many of the users from the traceable landlines law enforcement could easily monitor.   With few exceptions, the changes and advancements in how we use technology are nearly always at least a decade ahead of the governments’ ability to regulate and monitor that technology.

Not surprisingly, those in government, or those that wanted to seize governmental power, quickly become adept at using that technology as well for propaganda distribution, misinformation and disinformation campaigns, and illicit surveillance to their advantage.

We have seen firsthand in recent years how social media can be used to plan and coordinate a massive non-violent political protest to affect change as well as coordinate and plan an armed and murderous insurrection siege attempt upon the United States capital during a joint session of the full Congress.

We have seen firsthand how one state or national government can use social media to socially engineer influence over the international and domestic governmental policies and procedures of other states or nations.   We have also seen how they can create public animosity or distress for each other.

Donald Trump would have never been able to successfully become President without social media. The vast majority of the damage he created while President may not have ever been fully known or understood without social media cutting through the official press narratives.

We have seen firsthand how social media can be used to spread the truth about important events to those that might not otherwise ever hear it and how it can be used to convince others that those events either never happened or were something else entirely.

Where Do We Go from Here?

The Internet, especially social media, is the most powerful and influential tool of cultural change ever put into the hands of the general populace, and with the invention of smartphones, it is literally in our hands all the time.

How we use that power, and allow it to be misused, is entirely up to us.

I am doing my best to weaponize it in my ongoing lifelong battle against willful ignorance, racism, religious bigotry, toxic misogyny, fascism, and the gradual slide toward Corporate Feudalism that seems to be driving our economic policies.

What Will You Do with It?

It is up to you what kind of influence you will let the Internet, social media, and those adept at wielding them as weapons, have over your life.

It is also up to you how you will use them as vital tools in making your life, and the lives of others, better.

What kind of citizen will you choose to be?

What kind of person will you choose to be?

Whatever choice you make; social media is creating a real time record of your involvement in our society and culture through this period of time for future historians.

How will you choose to be remembered?

Coming Out

Let’s start the upcoming weekend off with a #culturalinertia article by Jessi Hempel for Time Magazine about “coming out” that reminds us of a few important things.

The first is that while we normally, and rightly, use the term in reference to people who are not cisgender “coming out of the closet” it can be much more than that. It can be no longer keeping any important aspect of your identity secret; whether you are hiding it from your family, friends, social groups, coworkers, employers, neighbors, the public in general, or even yourself.

Generally, people keep these aspects secret to prevent ridicule and rejection, whether the secret is innocent and harmless to others or not. Sometimes it is done out of a concern for self preservation. Those who disapprove of the secret aspect of your true identity might react violently. Many parents have been known to kick their own kids out of their homes or worse, drive them to either runaway or commit suicide to escape. Violent hate crimes are committed all the time for people who openly display their non-traditional gender identities, sexual identities, or religions.

But these aren’t the only aspects we hide.

We may hide some talents or skillsets, we may pretend to be smarter or less intelligent in order to fit in or not be intimidating, we may be afraid to talk about the hobbies we enjoy or the genres of entertainment we prefer. It could be we are hiding a polyamorous relationship, or a romantic couple could hide their own mutually chosen power dynamic from others.

The advent of social media has made it easier for adults and even some teens to at least partially come out with their secrets. And for the most part that can be a good thing. Suppressing a key aspect of your identity is often toxic for our mental health.

However, it has also opened the way for many to come out with the toxic and harmful aspects of themselves. I contend that this is also good from a #Culturalinertia aspect.

When these people self-identify and begin to live their own lives out loud it shows us who needs to be disempowered, and which people and businesses to avoid or cut loose from our own lives.

Ultimately, coming out is about choosing to accept whatever personal consequences there may be for freely being your authentic self in all situations.

When doing so causes no personal harm to any other person, there should be no consequences.

50 Days

In 50 days the members of the 2022 to 2024 congress will be determined.

As a result of Trump’s efforts with the 2020 census to undercount minority and immigrant communities, Republican states have greatly increased their gerrymandering efforts, and the Trump tainted Supreme Court bench has allowed those efforts to remain in place for this midterm election cycle, even while declaring many of them unconstitutional.

This means the House is likely to flip back to a Republican majority led by Kevin McCarthy as speaker, if the Republicans don’t go completely nuts and give it to someone like Marjorie Taylor Green or Matt Gaetz.

The Senate is a different story.

Democrats currently hold a tie breaking majority, on paper. But that majority is greatly hindered by Senators Manchin and Sinema. Both of whom will remain in place until after the 2024 elections.

This means they actually need to win at least 2 seats to hold a real, effective majority.

Meanwhile, the Republicans only need to gain a single seat to reinstate Mitch McConnell as Senate Majority Leader. I guarantee that one of his first steps as leader will be to eliminate the ability for Democrats to filibuster any bill he wants to pass.

If Republicans, due to that gerrymandering that will likely secure the House for them, also gain a supermajority then they will be able to override any veto Biden attempts

There are also more than 35 gubernatorial seats up for election this cycle, along with an equally staggering number of Lt. Governorship, states’ Attorneys General, and Secretaries of State, and school board seats.  The importance of these offices cannot be overstated with the recent Supreme Court rulings on “States’ Rights” to religious oppression, election gerrymandering, denial of womens’ rights, and limiting/restricting health care access.

Do not let any of the hype about a “Blue Wave,” or “Roevember,” or insurrection backlash creating an enhanced turnout lull you into a sense of overconfident complacency.

Make a plan now.

Make sure you are registered. Make sure you cast and submit your ballot properly, whether in person or absentee. Make sure to help at least one other person do the same.

The Republicans have made it clear that the future of our democracy, all of our rights, all of our health, all of our education, many of our marriages, and quite a few of our lives are actually on the ballot this year.

Act accordingly.

You have 50 days.

The Rising Cost Of Greed

Inflation isn’t at record heights because of an increase in production or distribution costs or even pay raises for what were considered menial jobs prior to a global pandemic teaching us who the real essential workers actually are.

Inflation is rising at record paces because the leaders and shareholders of multinational corporations are greedy and price gouging.

Already Americans are paying about $250 more per month, per household, for the same goods than they were before the pandemic according to a study by Moody’s Analytics.

If it were true Inflation the corporations behind it would be, at best, breaking even.  Especially, if production and supply chain delays are preventing them from meeting demand.

However, while many local small businesses are failing — some because they didn’t have the resources or capital to adapt to pandemic business needs — the megacorporations are raking in record profits, undertaking massive stock buybacks, and buying up the resources of the failing local businesses.

What the federal reserve is doing in response to it is; therefore, exactly the wrong solution.

Increasing interest rates now will make loans for individuals and new small business startups with new post-pandemic market strategies even harder to obtain.

As a result people will curtail purchases of non-essential goods and services and be even less likely to invest. It will also curtail new home and vehicle purchases.

The real solutions are easy to identify. They would also be easy to implement if we had a majority of members in Congress working for the people instead of lobbyists.

1.  Establish a minimum wage that is no less than a true living wage.

2.  Tie that minimum wage to true inflation so it remains a living wage.

3.  Establish a national single payer health care system that is completely separate from employment. 

4. Close the corporate tax loopholes.

5. Create a tiered wealth tax on those whose wealth exceeds $3M.

The combination of these things would free employers from the need to pay the employer portion of health care plans. It would free people from the leading cause of bankruptcy in our nation, medical expenses. And it would eliminate the vast majority of the government’s need for public assistance programs like SNaP, CHiP, and others that are currently actually used to subsidize the shortfall between employer wages and living wage requirements.

People would be free to pursue the careers that would interest them most and which they would he best at doing, without fear of losing their health care.

This would stimulate the economy more than anything else we could do.

It would also stimulate the creation of more new innovative small business and free market competition than anything else we could do.

Ultimately, the problem with the Federal Reserve’s approach is that it will punish average consumers even more instead of those driving prices up with their boundless greed.

What It Will Take To Flip Texas Blue.

Beto O’Rourke failed in his bid to unseat Texas Senator Ted Cruz, but the attempt made him the most widely recognized Texas Democrat without any direct ties to the Obama Administration. That last point is more important than most might think. This is simply because nothing will make Texas conservatives overlook a direct link to what man they are determined to make America’s last Black President.

Beto is trying to use that recognition now as he accelerates his campaign for the Governorship of the state. He is running the same platform with one notable exception, which we’ll get to in a minute.

The incumbent Governor, Greg Abbott, has chosen to fully embrace every aspect of White Nationalist Trumpism in the hopes that the state’s aggressive gerrymandering will overcome the staggering COVID death toll among Republican voters, as well as the backlash from the power grid failure last winter, and carry him to another term.

O’Rourke already knows that he’s got the vote of every Democrat who will show up, because whatever Democrat ends up on the ballot running against Abbott does.

That same Democrat candidate will also receive many secret, silent votes from Libertarian and Republican women who will never publicly admit they voted against the Republican incumbent, but who will do so specifically because of the recent anti-abortion bill Abbott pushed through a special session of the state Congress. These votes will noticeably skew the predictions and exit polling.

They won’t; however, be enough to overcome the gerrymandering.

Which brings us back to O’Rourke’s new platform focus.

He has chosen to put legalization of marijuana front and center in this election race.

Every single item needed to cultivate and process the plant from seed to sale is manufactured here in Texas. There is no shortage of land, or financially troubled farms, that could easily and quickly become marijuana farms. That would immediately create jobs working crops for a product that will actually move in today’s economic market. It would also create jobs in all regions for resale shops, at a time when small business store fronts are failing. It would create a massive tax revenue stream for the state that would immediately start paying down the deficit, as it has for other states.

Finally, the legalized marijuana industry has some heavy hitter former Republicans and Republican darling celebrities behind it as owners and investors.

This could be the issue that eventually drives some of the male Libertarian and Republican voters to cast their own secret, silent ballots for a Democrat party candidate, especially the younger ones that want to have easy access without the risk of a criminal record.

Will it be enough to drive Democrat voter participation and Republican/Libertarian defection to levels that will overcome the state’s aggressive voter suppression and gerrymandering of districts?

Unless Congress quickly passes the John Lewis Voter’s Rights Act and makes it enforceable for the 2022 elections, we better all hope so.

This Is Our Fault.

When I was in Jr. High School in Gaithersburg, MD a classmate walked up behind me and held a knife to my throat during a multi-class science lab experiment.

He said he was going to kill me because of something one of his friends told him I had said about him. I had not said it.

Three teachers pretended not to see this happening because they didn’t want to get involved in an altercation with this known troublemaker.

I managed to survive the encounter.

When we were brought before the school principal, this kid was told to dispose of his illegal switchblade knife and was suspended for two days.

My parents were not informed by the school, they did not find out until I told them.

That’s when we got the police involved for aggravated assault charges.

At different points during their investigation this kid tried to kill his mother, himself, and at least one cop. He would spend several years receiving mandatory inpatient psychiatric care.

Meanwhile, his friends decided to jump me one day after school for “ratting on him.”

I did not win that fight.

I also did not lose it.

As a result, the school administration thought my own use of extreme violence in self defense — thanks to martial arts training — against multiple attackers who were close friends with someone who had already tried to kill me warranted the necessity of me receiving psychiatric counseling in order to be allowed to stay in school.

To this day, 4 decades later, I still cannot sit comfortably with my back to a room and ever vigilant threat assessment is automatic.

Thankfully, this — and extreme discomfort wearing a tie with the knot pressing on my throat — is the extent of my PTSD from these attacks which I endured in the 7th grade.

Today, we train preschool kids to look for their emergency exits on playground areas and to not only know, but practice, what to do when bullets start flying on campus.

There is no point in their public lives from that moment on that they are not dealing with the same situational combat awareness stress that makes it difficult for war-time vets to readjust to normal day-to-day life when returning home.

This is our fault.

Because we refuse to reasonably regulate the right to bear arms.

If that boy had a gun instead of a knife, I would have died in a 7th grade science class.

And now we also add the trauma of complete strangers attempting to harm them through anti-public safety protocols — refusing vaccines, social distancing, and masks — during a pandemic health crisis as they cough and sneeze on grocery produce and in small spaces with recycled air. They assault retail and food service workers and flight attendants for trying to enforce the rules. They stand outside elementary schools and scream profanities and threats at educators and kids who are just trying to survive the day.

It’s a miracle any of these kids remain functional.

Some days, I think it’s a miracle I do, and I had it much easier than these kids today.

Space, The Final Frontier

Space has been in the news quite a bit recently as the world’s richest men vie for control of the future of space travel.

Jeff Bezos already wants to open an office park offering wealthy executives the most expensive business commute in history and an exclusive place to shop for things that have to be shipped up from Earth on the same transports. His ultimate goal is for this “Orbital Reef” business park to replace the International Space Station (ISS).

Elon Musk wants to avoid paying taxes that would be used by the current Presidential administration to improve life here on Earth, especially in the United States, because he wants to use that money instead to “get humanity to Mars and preserve the light of consciousness.”

Major nations that used to control the world’s access to space are already outsourcing their space travel and satellite repair and maintenance needs to the companies run by these men. Just this month Russia announced it will be contracting SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft to transport Russian cosmonauts between Earth and the current ISS until their participation on the station comes to an end. Meanwhile, the companies run by Bezos and Musk are embroiled in legal battle over providing contract services to the United States’ NASA.

Private companies like Verizon are already lining up to pay these companies to place their own communication satellites into orbit, a service that used to be handled by NASA.

All this has been happening, while China has reportedly launched a new satellite that analysts say can be used as a weapon capable of grabbing and crushing they do not control.

Throughout these developments, we have heard remarkably little from former President Trump’s overhyped U.S. Space Force.

Various news sources have been busy reporting on multiple different aspects of all of this, but there remain a few aspects and connections to other news that they all seem to be trying hard to avoid exploring.

The details hidden in those gaps; though, are innately obvious to those who have followed science fiction stories, novels, and movies over the years.

To us, it is not at all surprising that there has been a strong resurgence of dangerous fascist right-wing Nationalism as we are on the verge of both true space travel capabilities and the beginning of true multinational climate disasters.

As contention for dwindling non-renewable resources escalate, control of the territories that still have reserves of such resources will be guaranteed global superiority, if they can successfully defend them.

Later, when the resources have been depleted the only option for survival will be escape.

At that point the nation or corporation that control access to space travel and the ability to create food and water in space will also control the policy, priorities, and governance of any future the human race may have beyond Earth.

Nations and borders on any individual planet are rendered meaningless when commerce and survival become dependent upon space travel, even more so when it extends beyond orbital spaceships to interplanetary or interstellar travel.

While the culmination of this is not likely to come about in my lifetime, it is entirely possible that these issues will reach their critical peaks within the lifetime of my own children.

A Field Guide to Changing the #Culturalinertia – Part 3

I am long overdue with the release of this third part in our Field Guide to Changing the #Culturalinertia. Follow these links to find parts One and Two. It wasn’t from a lack of trying. I had an essay planned for release in January of this year following the victory of Georgia’s Democrats in securing their national Senatorial seats and also securing what should have been a true Democrat majority in the Senate.

That article was going to address the historical origins of systemic and societal racism in America, how it is perpetuated, and how we could and should have been using a democratic control of both the legislative and executive branches of our federal government for whatever time that control could be maintained. It was going to begin with Abraham Lincoln’s misguided decision to embrace confederate leadership and their “Lost Cause” efforts for the sake of “compromise” instead of allowing them to languish in defeat. Thus began the trend of allowing treasonous generals and politicians into congressional leadership, naming military bases after those same treasonous people, the establishment of Jim Crow laws and sundown towns, the creation of the DoJ to protect civil rights and deal with the KKK terrorists cells and the subsequent subversion of the federal law enforcement agency to be used as tool against any progressive progress made on behalf of People of Color, culminating in today’s school to prison pipeline feeding mass incarceration for privatized prison labor profiteering.

It was a lengthy article that I have deleted and rewritten several times since then because it was scheduled to be released on January 7th, 2021. However, the day prior, a large group of White Nationalists answered the incessant Stochastic Terrorism calls of Donald Trump, leading Republicans, and nearly all conservative media outlets to attempt a murderous insurrection to interfere with the certification of a presidential election and overthrow the legislative branch of our government while planning to assassinate both the Republican vice president and several of our elected Democrat members of Congress along with a few Republican members like Mitt Romney of whom they disapproved.

Every day for weeks after that there were new pertinent additions to be made and the essay morphed into a dissertation.

One of the most telling being that despite the win in Georgia, the Democrats had not truly obtained a Senate majority. Because two right wing conservatives had been elected by their states as Democrats; Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Krysten Sinema of Arizona. Through their refusal to help end the filibuster process, which was originally created as a tool for conservatives to fight against civil rights reforms and is still being used primarily for that same purpose, they have thwarted nearly all major important efforts of the Biden administration without the need of real effort at opposition by the Republicans.

Every time I thought my revisions were done and it was time to release it, new developments would immediately arise within the obvious injustice of the lack of consequences not only for those who perpetrated the offenses but also for those who incited them to it for their own political profiteering purposes.

After months of revisions and rewrites, I have come to an important realization regarding the never ending fight for equity of opportunity and justice. There are a few common recurring points for each side of the political debate on every issue throughout every examination of this fight at every stage of history.

Throughout American history the nation’s conservatives have been working to undermine or eliminate all progressive reforms, all attempts at multicultural equity of justice, and all attempts to establish and secure social safety and security. They strive to maintain gerrymandering, systemic oppression, redlining, and inequality based on gender, ethnicity, and religion.

They feign ignorance to divert the debate to petty points instead of real solutions. They fund and cite pseudoscience to present as real science. They resort to overt lies, which they now call “alternative facts,” gaslighting, cherry picking data, and as many other logical fallacies as they an get away with to control the framing narrative of debate. They have started a civil war and an insurrection, both based on White Nationalist racism.

At the same time, throughout all of American history, the nations liberals and progressives have worked on the assumption that reaching some form of bipartisan compromise with them is vital on every single issue.

That latter, more than anything else, is the true fatal failure of our current system.

The entire political platform of modern Republicans is to maximize suffering and death. It is the reason they fight against all efforts to establish social security, SNaP, CHiP, health care assistance, housing assistance, public health safety, environmental protections, consumer protections, worker safety regulations. It is why they constantly raise taxes on average people while eliminating them for the ultra wealthy and large corporations. They have even courted the assistance of adversarial foreign governments to accomplish it.

So, the next step in our Field Guide to Changing the Cultural Inertia is to stop seeking ways to compromise with those who harbor evil intent.

Until we have made that step, we are letting the terrorists set the terms of our future.