Debate? I Wanna Rebate

The debate is tonight. Forget everything you know about the election so far because it is about to change. Clinton is going into this with a decent, but not commanding lead so it’s up to Trump to reverse things.

Can he? Will he try to do something big and bold? Or will he go with what got him here, more or less constantly hitting even if the punches are pretty low?

I’m going to argue that it doesn’t matter. This is Clinton’s election to win, and we’ll see why very shortly. If she can erase some of the negativity surrounding her simply by being in charge and very Presidential she can ice this thing. That’s what counts.

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Why We Say “Black Lives Matter”

Another day, another person dead from a police bullet. Another night of unrest as anger spills out into the streets. Another heated round of angry statements from all sides shouting past each other. Another opportunity missed to speak words of healing, love, and respect.

We say “Black Lives Matter” because it is not at all obvious that our nation believes this. It seems obvious enough that “All Lives Matter”, but when you focus on those of us who are darker life seems much more disposable, much easier to kick to the curb and forget.

When we say Black Lives Matter we say it not as a direct challenge in opposition to the officers in uniform or to white people. We say it as a challenge to the systems that produce far too much death far too easily, and as with everything bad in our nation that death falls heavily, horrifically on black people. That is why we have to keep saying it until it is true – Black Lives Matter.

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Education at the Speed of Profit

ITT Technical Institute was hardly a fly-by-night operation. After 50 years in business as a for-profit technical school it was forced to close down after losing its accreditation and, shortly afterwards, eligibility for federal student loans. It’s merely the latest blow to the for-profit education market after the closing of Corinthian Colleges in 2015 and the dramatic paring back of the previously aggressive University of Phoenix.

Is there a future in for-profit education? Does the free market work, or should education be entirely run by and for the public?

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Labor Unions are Inevitable

Labor Day is brought to you by those who brought you the weekend – Organized Labor.

When I worked in Germany for a short time in the 1990s, labor relations often came up. Some of my colleagues were envious of the US system while most hated it. All of them, however, had a term for what they understood our core principle to be – “Hire and Fire”. The idea of an “at will” employee with no job security in law and no loyalty by tradition was alien to Germans.

Compared to the nations in the developed world which we compete with, our position is unusual. It’s a bias at the foundation of our system – a natural outcome of the demand for a flexible workforce. This is also likely to change as more and more skill is needed to do the jobs of tomorrow.

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Labor Day 2016

Labor Day. For most of us, it’s one last picnic as the seasons change over. It’s one last chance to look back over the hot, lazy summer to reflect on where we’ve been and where we are going.

What it’s really for is Labor. Rather than give workers a May Day holiday, the deep suspicions and fear lingering after the Haymarket Riot made politicians wary enough to put the official day clear on the other side of Summer. The US, and later Canada, decided to go it alone in our celebration. Some things never change.

The two of these facts have a lot in common this year as we look back from what is clearly a turning point in the economy. The glass is indeed half-full for Labor – or, if you’re not so optimistic, half-empty. Jobs are being created, if slowly, layoffs are at an all-time low, and wages are finally beginning to creep up. What’s ahead of us? If this keeps up it may surprise just about everyone that a serious labor shortage is in the works – indeed, there already is one in some industries. That’s worth celebrating even more than the end of Summer.

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Racists Anonymous

Not many years ago, it was fashionable to say that racism was dead. “We live in a post-racial society now,” many people said, “And we don’t have to worry about that any longer.” Many white people, that is, said that. Non-whites knew perfectly well that racism has always been the disease at the core of our nation. The hurtful words were confined to private conversations and public dog-whistles of code didn’t fool anyone kept down and apart by racism.

With the rising voices of racism in the last year no one says that anymore. “At least,” in the words of Mike Yard, “We know who the racists are now.” The First Amendment does work. But for all the pain this open racism causes, are we any closer to getting past it? Only if openly acknowledging our racism is the first step towards healing.

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Facts or Feelings?

Left or right? Democratic or Republican? Progressive or Conservative? These are the choices we supposedly make as we consider our political philosophy – our outlook on the nation and how we vote. It’s one end or the other, with a fair amount of room in the middle for those who see room for both.

But that doesn’t seem to be what divides us politically anymore. The sharpest division seems to run between something like optimism and pessimism, either staying the course with a few tweaks or smashing the system to give room for something totally new to come along. Yet even that doesn’t seem to describe it.

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