Mark's thoughts on School Closures.
The nation’s largest teachers union, the National Education Association, said its members will do “whatever it takes” to protect students during this pandemic. “Nobody wants to see students back in the classroom more than educators, but when it comes to their safety, we’re not ready to take any options off the table,” the group’s president, Lily Eskelsen García, said in a statement.
In many local school districts around the country there seems to be a bit more to it than just safety of teachers and students. Take the Los Angeles School District for example, I’d like Lily Eskelsen Garcia to please explain what shutting down charter schools, defunding police, government run Medicare for All, funding housing for the homeless, financial support for undocumented students and families, a California state wealth tax, a ban on evictions, and oh yes, of course, a federal bailout of the bankrupt LAUSD so they can meet their obligations to retired teachers and staff. These are just some of the conditions that the L.A. Teachers Union has demanded before they even consider reentering the classroom. Because it’s in the students best interest of course.
Masks or no masks, it is becoming increasingly clear that there are more impenetrable barriers between us these days than a piece of cloth. Rabid political partisanship is rampant among our communities and infecting all of us.
How does a Re-Open SLO Facebook Group transform into a ‘Freedom Rally? What has re-opening local businesses got to do with giving a platform to speakers that rant about the supremacy of Judeo-Christian religion? Or promoting a university academic called Thaddeus Kozinsky who claims that 9/11 was a conspiracy theory and Bill Gates is part of a global cabal trying to take over the world? Why invite a “Christian Conservative Activist” from Fresno called Ben Bergquam who believes “homosexuality is sin” and that “liberalism is a plaque on society”?
One. Count them. One. Not a hundred. Not a thousand. One. That is the number of people in San Luis Obispo County who have died with Coronavirus (CV19). On the day the 82 year old man who was also suffering from underlying health conditions died, 25,000 human beings around the world died from starvation. In the US about 110 Americans died in car accidents. 183 died from a drug overdose. On that day about 600 Californians died from cancer or cardiovascular disease.
Yet the powers that be at State and County level have ordered the shutdown of our economy, the single biggest act of financial self-mutilation ever perpetrated by a government in the history of this country. In a little over a month 3 million Californians have filed for unemployment. Estimates are that 20% will be out of work in two months. State experts say we are already in a recession that could last for years.
Those of us who live here, well all but one of us, are the lucky ones. Across the country in New York State, 14,000 have died.
The days when food and beverages are made not in a farmyard or vineyard but in factories are upon us.
Wines without vines, booze without berries, beef without cows and fish without….well water!
Burger King is selling the ‘Impossible Whopper’, the equivalent of their Whopper burger, only this one is made entirely out of plant-based ingredients grown in labs.
And that is just the tip of the iceberg. With the world's population due to add another 2 billion people in the next 30 years, (that’s like adding another China, America, Mexico & Russia), the race is on to feed the human race without destroying the planet.
The UN forecasts that to feed 9 billion people will require a 20% expansion in water use, but water use already exceeds supply in many places, including a country like England where it rains a lot! Some estimates suggest that growing meat in labs could cause greenhouse gases from agriculture to drop by 80% or more!
There is also a global soil crisis as vast swathes of arable land lose their fertility because of erosion, compaction, contamination and simple over use. Think of the images of the central plains of America during the great depression.
Improving productivity through intensive farming practices is already pushing the boundaries of decency. The US guidelines allow as little as ½ a square foot per chicken for their ‘living’ conditions. The answer to that cannot be ‘extensification’ - increasing the amount of land used for farming. Housing is already unaffordable for many. Every acre used for farming means one less acre for homes not to mention forests, natural habitats etc.
It is more than deeply ironic, it is deeply hypocritical, that a country forged in a revolution whose call to arms was ‘No taxation without representation’ now demands taxes from nearly 15 million Lawful Permanent Residents (LPRs) yet bans them from voting.
Affectionately known as ‘Green Card Holders’ (it’s better than resident aliens), we live and work across the United States, and about a million more of us are welcomed every year. Yet, except for a few municipalities where Green Card holders can vote in local elections, Federal and State governments deny us the right to vote in even a School Board election.
It was not always so. Indeed, a country built largely on immigration (aren’t they all?), promoted universal suffrage for all residents up until World War 1.
I'm ashamed to say that most of what I thought I knew about the homeless issue was wrong. We have just launched our first podcast and chose this issue as one of the more pressing and depressing issues of our time. We wanted to explore the question that, irrespective of your politics, how could some of the wealthiest communities on the planet not solve this problem?
I'm not going to replay the podcast and what we learned here (simply go to the ‘Podcast’ page and your can listen to it there). Suffice it to say most of the homeless are not 'bums' or mentally ill. In fact, about 65% of our homeless population are neigbors and compatriots who have fallen on hard times. That's hardly surprising when about 70% of Americans dont have $400 saved for an emergency. The good news is that the situation is improving, and there are very succesful programs out there like Haaven in Los Angeles (see link below) who are delivering shelter & support for less than $10,000 per bed while the public sector solutions cost over $500,000 a bed! The bad news is that despite the valiant and heart warming efforts of many, the system is still not fit for purpose and unless we adopt innovative ideas like Haaven, never will be!
Please do listen to the podcast. There's tears and laughter, 'you can't be serious moments', harsh words, uplifting stories and a happy ending. It will leave you thinking differently about homelessness.
Here are the links to the people we interviewed in the show, including the volunteers and charities that you could support by doing something as simple as donating some care packs of things like socks, tooth brushes & toothpaste; or offering to help them at feeding stations.
Weaponizing political issues is always a negative step. Rather than trying to find non-partisan, common sense solutions, it shows that once again the political class are looking for political credit not pragmatic solutions.
Nowhere is this more apparent than in the cacophony of outrage emanating from Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) and her proponents of ‘The Green Deal’, Greta Thunberg and her Extinction Rebellion (XR) acolytes, or the more genteel and dulcet tones of David Attenborough.
Theirs is a noble cause and these are all impressive, impassioned and inspiring evangelists who have picked up the mantle of Al Gore’s Inconvenient Truth crusade and dragged it kicking and screaming into the 21st Century. They have literally bullied their way into the hearts and minds of Governments, the Fourth Estate and society in general.
Despite my personal belief that, as we enter a post-human epoch, the proliferation of Intelligent Machines is a greater threat to homo-sapiens than rising CO2, it is still sensible to agree that raising awareness is a necessary and commendable first step to sensible management of our eco-systems. However, the real test of the climate change zealots is their ability to bring about the seismic socio-economic behavior changes that governments and their populations will have to make if carbon dioxide emissions are to be reduced. Alas the hysterical forecasts of imminent extinction by the self-appointed guardians of our environment are not just exaggerated, they are self-defeating.
Cars don’t kill people…..Drivers kill people. Makes sense. So much sense that in the 1960’s when America was experiencing an epidemic of deaths from car accidents, especially among younger men, the government realised that it couldn’t ban people from driving, nor could they ban the sale of cars; so they decided to invest significant resources in trying to make cars safer.
In England we have a saying for a person or a group who are speaking or acting in a nonsensical and ridiculous way. We call it ‘a load of bollocks’. That expression was sadly presented in technicolor glory by a government body in British Columbia who are investigating whether beauty salons broke the law because they refused to wax the testicles of a transgender man. Seriously, the government is spending tax-payers money on this investigation because they think the transgender man may have had his human rights violated!