Terrorism is the only protest left

For the last 2 days, the world has been focused on the terrorist attacks in Paris. Much like lots of Donald Trump campaign trail rhetoric, terrorism is focused on triggering media coverage, not actual effectiveness.

In the grand scheme of things, the downing of the Russian airliner out of Sharm El-Sheikh, where 135 people died, was a more effective campaign- about the same number of deaths 135, with a lot less casualties of terrorists. Same goes for 9/11- 20 men lost, 3000+ victims. Yet, Paris will dominate headlines because of where it is, and because Europeans died.

Every day in the United States, hundreds of people die from heroin overdoses, drunk driving, distracted driving, lung cancer caused by smoking, and we’re used to it. But the moment someone yells “allahu akbar” while killing people- we’re up in arms and condemn an entire religion making up about 23% of the world’s population.

What we refuse to understand about terrorism, and fail to acknowledge is that it is the last resort of those who feel powerless. The fight for attention, for a voice, is more easily gained by bullets and bombs than by words and peaceful demonstration. The days of Gandhi and King are over.

Those who are willing to die for a cause will never stop, as long as their deaths prove to be effective at gaining the world’s attention. That their message gets lost in the media noise isn’t an accident, it’s the very reason they continue. At some point, we need to stop pointing fingers and figure out what the real cause of radicalized Islam is, and what causes it.

Now, the mythology of American Supremacy has to be examined. There are plenty of Jim Bobs and Billy Bobs in America who believe that what happened in Paris couldn’t happen here. That the “good guys with guns” would take out the “bad guys with guns.” This philosophy, this pipe dream, is why we also continue to spend more than the rest of the world on maintaining a military that is so grossly mismatched to any kind of conflict that no nation would willingly think of a conventional war with us. Nuclear power, submarines, aircraft carriers aren’t ever going to be used again as in World War II and yet we cling to that fantasy.

So do the Billy-Bobs- who think their concealed carry 40 caliber 9 shot automatic is going to take on 4 guys with a plan, the advantage of surprise and superior firepower. It’s why we equip our cops with AR-15’s now- because you lose that fight every time. To quote a t-shirt that I owned when I was 19- with a picture of an M-16 on it- “Why waltz when you can rock-n-roll” comparing the three shot burst setting to full auto.

Mismatches cause two things- overconfidence and helplessness. This applies to military might, and to income inequity (which are often intertwined, but that interrelationship is often ignored). Throughout history, whenever the gap is too big between parties, be they nation states or even between 2 people- things implode. There is a good reason we talk about the balance of nature. Balance is the key to averting disasters that can be controlled by man.

Terrorism tilts the balance to the underdogs, conventional war, to the mighty. With all of our investment in winning wars, we believe we are preventing them, when in fact, we’re just asking for it.

If we want to stop terrorism, the first thing to do is to stop exporting weapons. Only a fool hands a gun to his enemies or untrusted ally- and expects it not to be turned against him. The military industrial complex that President Eisenhower warned us against, has made trillions off these wars that can’t be won, that never end, and guarantee a world where terrorism is the only game left.

The other part we have to do, is to stop thinking we have a birthright of freedom to share across the globe. Our own people are, despite “a standard of living” that we consider superior, drowning in debt, poverty, and a frustration brewing at home that the deck is stacked against us as well. Inequality is something that never lasts. Equilibrium is and always will be, a force to be reckoned with.

To understand jihadists, look at the numbers that we overlook, the death tolls in our attempts at regime change in Afghanistan and Iraq. Iraq- 224,000. U.S. military deaths- 4,491 from 2003 to 2014.  In Afghanistan, 2,372 U.S. deaths, compared to 106,000–170,000 for the Afghans that we were “freeing.”
The fact that we can clearly count our casualties and not those of our opponents should tell you something.

When the odds are this mismatched, there is no choice but terrorism. Call it a cost of war, call it a last resort, but, understand that it won’t go away as long as the deck is stacked on one side’s favor.

What happened in Paris sucks. What happened on 9/11 sucks. But, what we did to Iraq and Afghanistan and Vietnam before that- wasn’t exactly how you help a country out. War is never the answer, it’s the result of failed statesmanship, it’s the result of failed policy, it’s the result of shortsightedness.

It’s time to step back and re-evaluate our extension of military power, our exporting of the weapons of war, and our policies of trying to pick other countries’ leaders.

We wouldn’t tolerate it here if we thought another country dictated who our leaders were, would we?

Grandstanding congressmen and CEO pay

Chafetz vs Planned Parenthood

Obviously, bombs are a cost no object endeavor- while birth control. needs tight oversight.

Reading an editorial about the Planned Parenthood inquisition, I saw a mention that a member of Congress had questioned the pay of Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards- a whopping $520,000.

I thought to myself of the companies that have federal contracts, GSA schedules- who promise to do work for the people of the United States at the lowest cost possible. Companies like General Dynamics- who are so far over budget on the F35 program– and yet, keep getting funded. The CEO of General Dynamics, Phebe N. Novakovic, who also happens to be a woman- made $19 million last year. No inquisition there.

From the only news source that carried this in depth- Al Jazeera, read the exchange:

“Your compensation in 2009 was $353,000. Is that correct?” House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, began. “Congratulations, it was,” Chaffetz continued when Richards said she didn’t have the exact figures. He went on to note that Richards’ salary had risen to $520,000 since then…

“I would like to register my opposition and objection to the chairman beating up on a woman, on our witness today for making a good salary,” said Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y. “In the entire time I’ve been in Congress, I’ve never seen a witness beaten up and questioned about their salary… I find it discriminatory and inappropriate.”…

Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., ranking member of the committee, said in a fiery rebuttal that it was particularly hypocritical for Republicans to place Planned Parenthood under a microscope and take Richards to task over her salary when they had never taken an interest in the hefty compensations of executives at big banks, drug companies and defense contractors, who had all engaged in law-breaking.

“Last month, Lockheed Martin was fined millions of dollars for using taxpayer funds to lobby Congress to maintain its hold on a multi-billion dollar Pentagon contract. Lockheed’s CEO received a stunning $33 million last year,” Cummings railed.  “Ms. Richards, do you know if there has been any investigation or any effort  — any — to eliminate Lockheed’s federal funding?”

“It sounds like there hasn’t been,” Richards answered.

“You got it, of course there wasn’t!” Cummings said. “These are huge companies that are actually guilty of breaking the law and their CEOs make millions of dollars — Republicans never criticize the salaries of their CEOs or they never try to strip their federal funding, their government subsidies or their tax breaks.”

Source: House GOP ‘beats up’ on Planned Parenthood president — and her salary

The Wall Street bankers made millions, while being bailed out. The program to save the homes of Americans from foreclosure- actually put more money in the hands of bankers than in the hands of the people being bailed out.

If Congress really cared about reeling in government spending- why not put a simple cap on executive salary for any company that receives significant income from the government. Any medical organization accepting funding for medicare/medicaid, a cap. Any defense contractor- a cap. Any bank that is guaranteed by the federal reserve- and has the ability to create money- a cap. Any company where employees depend on federal programs to make ends meet- a cap.

What the cap should be isn’t something random- set by the boards of directors- but based on a ratio of the total payroll of U.S. employees. You want to make more- don’t do business with the people of the United States- or accept our assistance.

Obviously, if the pay of the CEO of Planned Parenthood is relevant to the cost to our country of a government shutdown- this is important stuff.

The Socialist Republic of the United States Military

I’m not a fan of the Dayton Daily news- and even less a fan of their local editorial pages- after years of being mocked by them. First time running for office, I was called “an advertising man with not much to say.” All of you who know me, know that wasn’t true- and my campaign literature at the time was 11×17 covered in text. I once walked out, after they refused to apologize for something that had just appeared in their paper- where a writer said a band (G-Love and Special Sauce) sounded black. As if music sounds a race? Then there was when I mocked the big plans for the 2003 “celebration of flight” which instantly got me on their shit list- since it was Brad Tilson’s baby. We all remember what a fiasco that was.

A few years back, they stopped doing local opinion and promoted Ron Rollins to curate the page. This means ask people to opine for you. I find it lame, but fairer than what came before under the old regime. His second in command is now Dr. Connie Post- yep, a Ph.D. working at a newspaper. Ron must have been on vacation last week, because I sent a short response in to a “Speak Up” piece and Connie asked me to expand it into a guest column. Usually I don’t like working for the evil empire for free- but, in this case, I felt pretty strongly about the issue- and believe it or not- I was on the editorial page last Friday- for once, not being lampooned.

First- the “Speak Up”- a called in, anonymous thing that no reputable paper would do.

This appeared 17 Feb 2015- unsigned:

For those fast food employees striking for $15 an hour, let’s do some math. At $15 an hour, Johnny Fry-Boy would make $31,200 annually. An E-1 (private) in the military makes $18,378. An E-5 (sergeant) with eight years of service only makes $35,067 annually. So you’re telling me that a burger flipper deserves as much as those who are getting shot at, deploying for months in hostile environments, and putting their lives on the line every day protecting you?

My response was published on Friday, 27 Feb. 2015 – Photo was a crop of a shot by Larry C. Price who used to work for the DDN. It was behind their paywall (nice to know I was helping their bottom line, as they’ve never given me a link or mention for my stories they’ve taken).

I did not write the headline:

Serving my country as an Army private

By David Esrati
A recent “speak-up” caller compared a $15 minimum wage for “Johnny-Fry Boy” to an E-1 in the military. He stated there was no way flipping burgers was worth more than risking your life for your country on a straight hourly basis.

As a former E-1, I feel qualified to respond.

On Day 1, I was issued clothes. When in training, I didn’t even have to do my own laundry. Food was free. I was given three square meals a day, even if some came in cans or plastic packages. Granted, “fast food” depended on the order of entering the mess hall — first in and you had time to eat; last in and it was eat it or leave it.

Zero rent. For the most part, I lived communally. The WWII-era barracks at Fort Gordon had group showers, and cheek-to-cheek toilets, which took a little getting used to. But it still beat the portable micro housing I sometimes slept in. It came without running water (unless raining), no heat or electricity unless I used the 25-pound hand crank generator that I had to carry with my house, food, bed and M16.

My only utility bill was a phone bill, paid in quarters, via a phone booth.

Health care was 100 percent covered, including dental and vision. If I was injured on the job, I was guaranteed health care for life as well as a disability check.

Job security was solid; in fact, my employer liked to sign me like a pro-athlete. There were signing bonuses via 3- to 4-year revolving contracts. Advancement opportunities were up to me with a very clear career path. All training was provided free.

I learned Morse code at 15 groups per minute send/receive. I jumped out of perfectly good airplanes, which in my time paid an extra $75 a month, so I could visit faraway places and serve as a “community organizer.”

After 20 years, retirement was guaranteed at 50 percent of my pay. Stay in longer and retirement went up. Many of my peers got to travel internationally, sometimes with welcoming arms and others versus small arms. A gym membership was unnecessary. I was paid to work out, often going on long hikes with a very large rucksack. My hours were never subject to overtime. Often I was scheduled to be on the job 24/7.

I always found it ironic that our military, tasked to spread democracy and capitalism, was a lot like socialism.

If the speak-up caller was making an argument that the Private E-1 should make more than “Johnny Fry-Boy,” I’m in total agreement. But, if you say that Johnny Fry-Boy shouldn’t make enough to pay for his health care, clothing, food and shelter, this former E-1 wants to know why he was putting his life on the line to protect a country that doesn’t believe its citizens are entitled to the basic freedoms that financial stability provide — nominally described as “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” Those freedoms certainly cost a lot more than the $7.25 federal minimum wage.

We’re long overdue for a higher minimum wage and deserve a country that truly treats its citizens as if “all men are created equal,” providing an equal opportunity for advancement, without having to volunteer to die for our great country.

David Esrati served in the U.S. Army, both active duty and reserve, in the 1980s. He got out as an E-4.

I posted this on Facebook- and received a considerable amount of positive feedback. At the Second Street Market yesterday, a few people praised it- and again today, at the Legacy Pancake House- a few more. I’ve had more than a few fellow veterans also thank me- because as one, Scott Ricketts so gracefully summed it up:

The military taught me we had to take care of everyone on the team and pay more attention to help the ones having problems. We were not allowed to leave anyone behind and we’re only as strong as the weakest among us. Making sure the people on the bottom get to the finish line is our collective responsibility. At least that’s what TSgt Esteves yelled at us.

This pretty much sums up why I probably feel closest to my friends who have served.

There are some arguments about “entry level jobs” and the minimum wage. I don’t buy them. I’d be OK with a lower minimum for kids in high school, or for their first 2 years of work, but, there is no excuse for our pathetic minimum wage, or the crying of huge corporations talking about “competitiveness.” McDonald’s operates in Germany, where they have to pay a living wage, GM does too- where they deal with labor unions in a totally different way than they do here. Apple is sitting on $170+ billion in cash- and still refusing to let Americans make much of their product (the Mac Pro which starts at $3k is assembled in Texas- but that’s about it).

Our country has to stop believing the lies that are fed to us by politicians who didn’t serve, who sell out, and for the most part, work against the best interests of the American public. This isn’t the America that any of us want to risk our life for- but we do and did.

It’s time to reassess. We can do better.

Boycott Family Dollar. Makes Walmart look good on employee compensation

The security cameras that were all over the store didn’t catch a thing when a robber stepped behind the counter and pointed a gun at the manager’s head, that’s because they were fake. The manager had just taken over the store after 8 years with the company. She’d lived in the neighborhood most of her life and knew most of the customers. On her second day in charge, the back wall of the store had collapsed, and water had poured in. Three weeks later, they were only coming around to get estimates on repairs.

In the time she’d been promoted to manager, the Chief Operating Officer of Family Dollar had both appeared on “Undercover Boss” and left the company to “pursue other interests.” He probably had a hard time living with his conscience, realizing that the company exploits workers and is part of what’s wrong with America today. Sure, showing up on “Undercover Boss” and playing Santa Claus is great- but, bailing out a few people doesn’t mean the rest of the company’s employees won’t hate you for your stunt.

The robber fired a shot in the store. Luckily, no one got hurt. The new manager wanted to quit, but jobs are hard to find. She has 2 kids at home and a disabled baby daddy. The robber has continued on a spree, hitting several other dollar stores. The police think they are close to finding him. Family Dollar put a security guard in the store for about a week- and added real video surveillance cameras and panic buttons throughout the store.

But, here is the crazy part. The “manager” wasn’t being paid as a manager yet.  After 8 years with the company, most as an “assistant manager”- she was still getting paid a whopping $9 an hour. The manager’s job, which pays a whopping $800 a week, wasn’t hers yet- she was an “acting manager.” And I always thought actors were paid better than their real-life counterparts.

My advice was to tell them that if she’s not being paid as a manager, she’s not responsible to do the duties of one. Their response was to cut her hours back to 30 a week and that she “no longer had a store.”

A little poking around online finds that Family Dollar has settled lawsuits galore, for violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act, and that their expectations of “managers” amount to being slave labor that must work 60 hours plus to make things work via their allotted budgets. Meaning management is lucky to make around $13-$14 an hour. This is a company that’s traded on the New York Stock Exchange.

Who invests in companies that engage in corrupt and illegal labor practices? Where are the investigations by state attorneys general into a company that’s been sued and lost in several states over its crappy practices? For all the people that talk about unions being the demise of American manufacturing- it’s these kinds of management practices that gave unions their moral high ground to organize.

And the store that had the shot fired- used to qualify as one of the “high-risk” stores eligible for higher manager pay, but they took away that status too- just weeks after the robbery.

One other well documented despicable practice of this “business” is that when employees leave the company they aren’t entitled to cash in their earned vacation time. As a condition for hiring, you are forced to sign that right away.

Family Dollar stores don’t deserve to be in business with business practices like this. Boycott Family Dollar.

16 years of education, and not a single memorable worksheet

Tonight, Dayton has the opportunity to hear one of those “experts” come in and tell us the secret to education. This one is a “Sir” as in knighted by the queen, as an “educationalist.”

Sir Kenneth Robinson will be giving a free talk at the UD Rec Plex gym at 7:30 pm. But, you can watch these two videos and get a good idea of what he’ll say.



Sir Ken’s specialty is talking about the teaching of creativity. The arts- the non-mass production of education. To bring passion back into learning and the educational process. And while I agree that creativity is one of the most undervalued skills in education these days- and, possibly in life, the problems of our education system may well be mostly moot compared to research about talking to your child before age 5, as pointed out in an opinion piece in today’s NYT:

the key to early learning is talking — specifically, a child’s exposure to language spoken by parents and caretakers from birth to age 3, the more the better. It turns out, evidence is showing, that the much-ridiculed stream of parent-to-child baby talk — Feel Teddy’s nose! It’s so soft! Cars make noise — look, there’s a yellow one! Baby feels hungry? Now Mommy is opening the refrigerator! — is very, very important. (So put those smartphones away!)…

All parents gave their children directives like “Put away your toy!” or “Don’t eat that!” But interaction was more likely to stop there for parents on welfare, while as a family’s income and educational levels rose, those interactions were more likely to be just the beginning.

The disparity was staggering. Children whose families were on welfare heard about 600 words per hour. Working-class children heard 1,200 words per hour, and children from professional families heard 2,100 words. By age 3, a poor child would have heard 30 million fewer words in his home environment than a child from a professional family. And the disparity mattered: the greater the number of words children heard from their parents or caregivers before they were 3, the higher their IQ and the better they did in school. TV talk not only didn’t help, it was detrimental.

via The Power of Talking to Your Baby – NYTimes.com.

What kind of change could we make in Dayton Public Schools performance by rewarding neighborhoods that set up neighborhood reading sessions for pre-k kids every day? A community that reads together may create the kind of learning community that can start to overcome the obstacles of poverty that have proven to decrease student performance.

But, thinking back over my own education- there is one indisputable fact: I remember about half a dozen teachers/professors profoundly- Susan Forde, Steven Young, Larry Geiger, David DiCarlo, Dr. Cleary, Dr. Jacobs- but I don’t remember a single worksheet, standardized test, or even textbook.

Great teachers, who stir up emotions, who challenge you to think, to come up with answers that aren’t fill in the blank, or memorization exercises, are the ones who made the difference.

Our new “Common Core” still suggests that one-size fits all, and that people need to know certain things- instead of how to solve uncertain problems.

Life isn’t as easy as fill in the blank. There are always many different solutions to every problem. That’s why I’m interested in hearing Sir Kenneth tonight- to see if he can make me think about things just a little differently. I hope I see you there.