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Guest Post: A Teacher Speaks Out on School Shootings

Ted Rall - 4 hours 11 min ago

The following is a guest blog post by an American high school teacher, a person I know, who wishes to remain anonymous. — Ted Rall

Nicholas Cruz got his gun legally.  So did Adam Lanza.  So did Steve Paddock.  So do most shooters.

Short of taking everyone’s guns, which is not going to happen and which will just drive the underground market for guns, what can society do about these disaffected kids who want to shoot up their schools?

The premise of the school where I teach is that we cannot prevent shootings; all we can do is minimize casualties.  Think about that for a moment and think about how far we are pulling back the line.  We are acknowledging that one day there will be a shooting, some kids will get shot and some will die.  There is no stopping it.

We train with that idea in mind.  We practice barricading the room and fighting back.  We discuss running away.  Gone are the lockdowns where we herd a class to the back of the room, turn off the lights and pretend we’re not there.

The FBI has told us that does not work.  All public schools in the United States have a security plan which is constantly being updated.  Administrators are in touch with the police.  FBI agents have probably met with your school’s officials.

Of course, in some public schools, kids routinely come into the building armed with guns and knives.  These kids know that people know who they are and that they’ll be caught.  They will finish their business out on the street.  These are the schools where we don’t want metal detectors.  We don’t want to disarm the people who can take an active shooter out.

I teach in one of these schools and have never felt unsafe.  Perhaps that’s foolishness.  Kids aren’t after me; they’re after each other.  Occasionally, someone gets unhinged.  One year, I had a kid whose computer kept getting unplugged by other students.  “I’m about to go full psycho!” he screamed.  Not a tad.  Not a smidge.  Full-on psycho.  The student was removed and later outplaced.

Teachers here carry distress buttons that are wired in to the police station so that a swat team can be dispatched immediately.  So far we have not used them.  My school has its problems, but it is in my hometown, where kids have too much money, parents don’t pay attention, and administrators brush problems under the rug that I would be afraid to teach.  Given what I know about public schools, I would not teach in an affluent one.  I’d find another way to make a living.

I don’t want to get shot. I’m not a hero and neither are my friends. As much as we admire men like Aaron Feis and Peter Wang, the two men who died saving others in Florida, I’m sorry parents, we are probably not those teachers.  We’re out.

And while the media rightly focuses attention on those two heroes, as well as myriad other issues related to the shooting, there is a big question that thus far has gone unexplored.

How did Nicholas Cruz get in that high school?

He had been expelled and was reported to the FBI.

A massive security breach occurred when Cruz walked into that building.  The school administration needs to do an investigation and be transparent about its findings.  If there was a breach in protocol, then someone needs to be fired, perhaps held criminally negligent.

Negligence is a massive liability so the school district will try to cover up any investigation if it heads in that direction. But someone needs to be accountable.

School districts need to be responsible for your child’s security.  So do you.  Pay attention to your kid and what he is up to just the way you pay attention to his academics and extracurricular activities.

Just as a responsible parent is involved in their child’s education, you will need to be involved in making sure your child’s school stays safe.

Have a look around the school building itself.  Walk around it.  Are there points of access where you can enter unobserved?  Are there doors propped open or unlocked?  Talk to your child.  They know these points as well as places to hide better than teachers.  They also know what kid might go “full-psycho” better than a teacher would.

Do you need photo I.D. to get in the building?  Are you escorted to and from your destination?  How many police officers does your school have?  Are there security guards at the entrances?  Does the school have cameras?  Do staff carry distress buttons?  Will administration let you sit in on the school safety committee and offer an opinion?  If not, why?

If, God forbid, there is a shooting, what happens?  Do you want your child running madly through the halls, trying to escape?  If you don’t want to arm the teachers, do you want them to have glass cutters to break the windows out and fold-up ladders for those not on a ground floor?

Are there things that you can do to improve your school’s security?  In a town adjacent to the one where I live, mothers take turns patrolling the perimeter of their child’s elementary school so that trouble does not enter the building.

These question matter not if someone wants to shoot up your child’s school, but when.

Russian Bots Exploit Long-Neglected Problems and Divisions. Let’s Attack the Bot, Not the Problems!

Ted Rall - 8 hours 51 min ago

Russian bots allegedly were deployed online in order to amplify and exploit America’s long-neglected problems. So are we going to do something about them now? Guess again.

Why the Common Good Disappeared (And How We Get it Back)In 1963...

Robert Reich - Thu, 02/22/2018 - 14:26

Why the Common Good Disappeared (And How We Get it Back)

In 1963 over 70 percent of Americans trusted government to do the right thing all or most of the time; nowadays only 16 percent do. 

There has been a similar decline in trust for corporations. In the late 1970s, 32 percent trusted big business, by 2016, only 18 percent did. 

Trust in banks has dropped from 60 percent to 27 percent. Trust in newspapers, from 51 percent to 20 percent. Public trust has also plummeted for nonprofits, universities, charities, and religious institutions.

Why this distrust? As economic inequality has widened, the moneyed interests have spent more and more of their ever-expanding wealth to alter the rules of the game to their own advantage. 

Too many leaders in business and politics have been willing to do anything to make more money or to gain more power – regardless of the consequences for our society. 

We see this everywhere – in the new tax giveaway to big corporations, in gun manufacturer’s use of the NRA to block gun controls, in the Koch Brother’s push to roll back environmental regulations, in Donald Trump’s profiting off his presidency. 

No wonder much of the public no longer believes that America’s major institutions are working for the many. Increasingly, they have become vessels for the few.

The question is whether we can restore the common good. Can the system be made to work for the good of all? 

Some of you may feel such a quest to be hopeless. The era we are living in offers too many illustrations of greed, narcissism, and hatefulness. But I don’t believe it hopeless.

Almost every day I witness or hear of the compassion of ordinary Americans – like the thousands who helped people displaced by the wildfires in California and floods in Louisiana; like the two men in Seattle who gave their lives trying to protect a young Muslim woman from a hate-filled assault; like the coach who lost his life in Parkland, Florida, trying to shield students from a gunman; like the teenagers who are demanding that Florida legislators take action on guns.  

The challenge is to turn all this into a new public spiritedness extending to the highest reaches in the land – a public morality that strengthens our democracy, makes our economy work for everyone, and revives trust in the major institutions of America. 

We have never been a perfect union; our finest moments have been when we sought to become more perfect than we had been. We can help restore the common good by striving for it and showing others it’s worth the effort. 

I started my career a half-century ago in the Senate office of Robert F. Kennedy,  when the common good was well understood, and I’ve watched it unravel over the last half-century. 

Resurrecting it may take another half century, or more. But as the theologian Reinhold Niebuhr once said, “Nothing that is worth doing can be achieved in our lifetime; therefore we must be saved by hope.“

SYNDICATED COLUMN: Never Mind Millennial Apathy, Here’s Generation Z

Ted Rall - Thu, 02/22/2018 - 13:00

            Like many other Americans this week, I have been impressed with the poise, passion and guts of the Florida teenagers who survived the latest big school shooting, as well as that of their student allies in other cities who walked out of class, took to the streets and/or confronted government officials to demand that they take meaningful action to reduce gun violence. As we mark a series of big 50th anniversaries of the cluster of dramatic events that took place in 1968, one wonders: does this augur a return to the street-level militancy of that tumultuous year?

The Sixties were the Decade of Youth, an era that ended when Baby Boomers aged out of flowers and free love into jobs and suburbs. Adulthood makes everyone put away childish things — not that agitating against war and fighting for equal rights is kid stuff — and to be fair to the Boomers, they were driven off the protest lines by hails of government bullets at places like Kent State University. For my money the Sixties died in 1972, the first year 18-to-20 year-olds got the vote and either didn’t show up or used their new franchise to reelect Richard Nixon.

Compared to the heyday of the anti-Vietnam War movement, when every little town in America had protests pretty much every day (even just sad little clusters of hippies huddling under umbrellas in the traffic median) for years on end, the activist left has been on hiatus ever since. There were Solidarity Day in 1981 and the Battle of Seattle in 1999 and marches against the Iraq War in 2003 and Occupy Wall Street in 2011 and, recently, a pair of anti-Trump Women’s Marches. But those events were intermittent, exceptional, spasmodic. Generation X — discriminated against, passed over for good jobs, marginalized by culture and media — was too busy working multiple crappy jobs to organize, protest and effect change.

If anything, Millennials have proven even more politically apathetic — or perhaps it would be fairer to say hapless. More than other generations, Millennials believe volunteerism and growing local businesses can change society. The issue they care most about is transparency. There’s nothing wrong with helping out with a community garden, buying organic food or demanding that charities show where donations go — but what about climate change or the fact that capitalism is inherently an engine of inequality?

The last four decades have been characterized by somnolence; that’s why we now call people who are different than that, who actually pay attention and care about the state of the world, “woke.”

Which is the good thing about Trump: he woke us. President Hillary Clinton wouldn’t have provoked nearly as much activism against sexism, misogyny and gun laws that allow 18-year-olds to buy AR-15s.

What we need now is a post-Millennial generation of activist youth ­— because revolutions require passion and rage, i.e. lots of energy.

The post-Millennial generation, now teenagers and college-age, are so freshly-minted that the best name demographers have assigned them is Generation Z — a riff on their parents the Xers. (Millennials are Gen Y.) So far their no-nonsense “since no one else is fixing the problem we’ll take care of it ourselves” fits neatly into the Strauss-Howe generational theory model. As Gen Z heads into their twenties in the 2020s, the “Generations” authors predicted they’ll be challenged to respond to some major American crisis. If the young Floridians who stood up to establishmentarian right-wingers Senator Marco Rubio and President Trump are any indication, they’ve just begun to fight — and we’ll be in good hands.

(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall) is co-author, with Harmon Leon, of “Meet the Deplorables: Infiltrating Trump America,” an inside look at the American far right, out now. You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)


Absorbing the Irresistible Consumer Reports Magazine

Ralph Nader - Thu, 02/22/2018 - 09:12
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By Ralph Nader

February 22, 2018

On my weekly radio show, I recently interviewed Liam McCormack, the head of testing for Consumer Reports (CR)—a resource and monthly magazine with seven million print and online  subscribers. It has always been a wonder to me why seventy million people don’t take advantage of this honest, non-profit testing organization that gives you the lowdown on just about every kind of consumer product—and some services—that you buy regularly.

Year after year, month after month, Consumer Reports proves its worth to consumers through money saved, aggravation avoided and safety advanced. Founded in 1936, this venerable  organization takes no advertising and is as incorruptible as  any organization can possibly be.

Here are just a few examples of naming names and suggesting better purchases:

–“AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint or Verizon cost an average of $960 a year. We’ll tell you about the carrier that provides better voice quality and costs $360 a year. You can save $600 a year.”

–Comparing price, selection and service of more than 20 chain retailers, consumer satisfaction scored Costco higher than Walmart.

–You’ve heard the Geico insurance ads—“15 minutes” saving you “15 percent.” CR advises you compare insurance companies every two or three years, adding, “After 20 years with Geico, one of our readers switched to highly-rated Amica insurance companies and saved $793 on her coverage.”

–The most expensive brands, whether cars or mattresses, are not often the best buy, whether it is a specific Mercedes-Benz model or an Apple computer, or a Serta mattress. CR’s own testing results often show other brands—including lesser known ones, are a better deal for a variety of reasons—including price and performance.

To show how much you can save and how you pay for rewarding name-brand advertisers, Consumer Reports tested the “Serta Comfort Smart Support HB300Q,” which costs $2,275, and “had unimpressive back support.” By contrast, the “Denver Mattress Doctor’s Choice” received a CR top-rating with “very good back support” and is priced at $500!

CR’s food testing and advice can save your family hundreds of dollars a year while protecting your health and saving you additional health care expenses.

One of the magazine’s innovations was their Annual Auto Issue. Let’s say you’re thinking about buying a car or selling a car. You’ll receive “detailed ratings, reliability, recommendations, photos and base price ranges for 240+ recently tested cars and trucks.”

CR doesn’t shy away from controversy. It writes that doctors recommending CT scans include many physicians who “underestimate the risk of CT scans,” whose substantial radiation can “increase your risk of cancer.” “Always ask your doctor why the scan is being ordered and if your problem could be managed without it,” urges CR. As with other cautions, CR backs such statements up with hard evidence in its magazine.

With various offerings, the subscription is $30 a year and you should receive the famous CR’s Buying Guide and another book titled, Should I Eat This? which you will find very nutritious.

As someone who has received thousands of complaints from consumers over the years, pardon me if I continue to wonder why so many consumers continue to act against their own perceived self-interests.

If you’re already a CR subscriber and you want to get the attention of friends whom you think can benefit from its comparative ratings and other advice, try a little reverse psychology: to wit, I submit the following:

10 Ways to Shaft Yourself as a Consumer

Buy before you think

Buy before you read

Buy before you ask questions

Buy before you can afford to buy

Buy before you see through the seller’s smile and smooth tongue

Buy before you comparison shop

Buy when you are tired or hungry

Buy when you are rushed

Buy to dote on your child or because your child demands the product

Buy just to keep up with your friends or neighbors

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For $2500 You Could Now Murder Anyone You Want Using a Remote Drone

Ted Rall - Wed, 02/21/2018 - 00:04

A company called Skydio Is marketing a $2500 consumer autonomous drone that can track the face of someone who has had their image uploaded to the Internet. Given the fact that in 2015 a father and son in Connecticut mounted a pistol to a drone and shot it remotely into the woods, this seems like cause for concern. However, we live in a society where technological progress is a given and the idea of regulation is anathema. So we will just sit back, and I would say enjoy the ride, but this is more like hunkering down while the future goes by. Adding to the frighteningly freaky aspect of this particular invention is the fact that it doesn’t need to be piloted. It’s all automatic.

The 3 Choices When it Comes to TrumpFirst, you can complain....

Robert Reich - Mon, 02/19/2018 - 18:09

The 3 Choices When it Comes to Trump

First, you can complain. Yell. Bang on the dinner table. Tell your family and friends the man is a dangerous fool. Explode every time you read something about him. Swear every time you see him on TV. Go ballistic when you listen to him or about him on the radio. 

Complaining may feel good, but it won’t help.  

Your second choice: You can bury your head in the sand. Pretend he’s not there. Stop reading the news. Turn off the TV and radio. No longer visit political Internet sites. When family or friends bring up his name, change the subject. 

Burying your head in the sand may also feel good, but it certainly won’t help, either.

You have a third choice. You can get active, and make it harder for Trump to damage America. This coming November 6, 34 senate seats, all 435 seats in the House of Representatives, and 36 governorships will be up for election or re-election.

Support primary candidates who will resist Trump. Mobilize to get out the vote. Organize so that November 6 becomes a total repudiation of Donald Trump and all he stands for. 

Start right now. Find an Indivisible group near you. Go Indivisible.org and become part of the solution. If you’re already in a blue state and want to reach out to purple or red parts of the country, visit swingleft.org or sisterdistrict.com.

Democracy is fragile, it requires all of us to protect it. 

Which Side Are You On? You Must Choose Trump or the FBI

Ted Rall - Mon, 02/19/2018 - 00:00

You know it’s a wild crazy world when liberal Democrats find themselves in the position of having to defend the FBI, CIA, and other intelligence agencies that spy on Americans and violate their rights simply because those agencies have bureaucratic disagreements with President Donald Trump. That’s exactly the position that we are in now. So the question is, when are people going to realize that we can break out of this binary crap and just simply say that we don’t like anyone involved?

The Meaning of America

Robert Reich - Sat, 02/17/2018 - 13:38
When Trump and his followers refer to “America,” what do they mean?Some see a country of white...

SYNDICATED COLUMN: On the One Hand, Gun Violence. On the Other Hand, Gun Control. It Never Ends.

Ted Rall - Fri, 02/16/2018 - 11:10

On the one hand, the news that another psychologically damaged man shot 17 schoolchildren to death with an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle is not news. Put it on page 27 below the fold, maybe?

On the other hand, you have to be shocked because these are kids and who do we become if we stop being shocked? Congress and the president should put their heads together and act now.

On the one hand, the Second Amendment is an essential safeguard against government tyranny. While an authoritarian state (any state) will always have police and troops with better training and arms than its enemies at its disposal, owning a weapon will give many resistance fighters of the future the courage they need to fight back.

On the other hand, the population of Americans who live in rural areas was 95% when the Founding Fathers ratified the Constitution. Now it’s 15%. Once a major source of food necessary for survival, hunting today is mere sport. Considering the daily carnage of gun violence, the Second Amendment may be as obsolete as the flint-lock rifle. Perhaps we should repeal?

On the one hand, military-style weapons like the current mass shooters’ gun of choice, the AR-15, were designed for one purpose: to kill people efficiently. Until 2008 they were banned. Why not renew the assault weapons ban?

On the other hand, people really do use them to hunt. Having been on the receiving end of more than my fair share of death threats, I’d rather defend my homestead with an AR-15 than a less efficient, less accurate gun. Sorry, liberals, but gun rights people have a point: ban AR-15s and the next step will be a push to ban other weapons. Slippery slopes are a real thing; look how the pro-life movement has rolled back abortion rights via incremental, reasonable-seeming moves like bans on late-term terminations.

On the one hand, there are 270 million guns in the United States — almost one for every man, woman and child. Even if we banned guns, how would we force the gun genie back into its bottle of death? Send government goons to kick down every door in the country to search for them?

On the other hand, existing guns could be grandfathered into a ban on the manufacture and sale of new guns (including from one individual to another). Guns would get old. They’d rust. Those used for target practice would wear out. Trigger mechanisms are often the first to go. Like the fairly effective ban on ivory, the effect would become evident over time: a nation awash in weaponry would become less so with the passage of time.

On the one hand, states like Florida seem crazy for not requiring gun purchasers to register their weapons. Florida actually bans such regulations. Cars, boats, even bicycles and cats and dogs, must be registered. Why not devices that kill people?

On the other hand, gun ownership is different. It’s a constitutional right. Automobile ownership, operating a boat and having a pet are privileges guaranteed by state and local laws. Mandatory gun registration would be no more constitutional than forcing media outlets to apply for a state license before publishing (they do this in other countries).

On the one hand, many if not most mass shooters are mentally ill. Wouldn’t it make sense to prohibit sales of firearms and ammunition to people suffering from mental illness?

On the other hand, who gets to define what constitutes mental illness? Federal law bans sales to anyone who “has been adjudicated as a mental defective or has been committed to any mental institution.” New York, where I live, goes further, banning sales of guns to one “who has stated whether he or she has ever suffered any mental illness.” That’s very broad: “Heathers” and “Stranger Things” actress Winona Ryder, singer Mariah Carey, artist Yoko Ono and actress Roseanne Barr were all institutionalized. But no one thinks they’re going postal any time soon — frankly, I’d trust Winona with the nuclear codes more than Trump. The metric is also highly subjective. Gays were officially classified as mentally ill until 1987. Transgender people are still on the list.

On the one hand, people who knew him say they’re not surprised that Florida shooter Nikolas Cruz went berserk. The signs were there all along: violent Internet posts, ties to white supremacists, erratic behavior like threatening people with a BB gun. People saw something; why didn’t they say something?

On the other hand, this isn’t “Minority Report.” You can’t jail someone for what they might do. People are entitled to their opinions, no matter what they are. If you jailed everyone who acts strange or right-wing or loopy, half the country would be locked up. And anyway, who trusts the police or the government to decide which half?

On the one hand, if anyone deserves to die, it’s Nikolas Cruz.
On the other hand, what kind of society executes a “broken child,” possibly autistic, almost certainly emotionally damaged, absolutely wrecked by the recent death of his mother, his last surviving parent?

How does killing a killer send the message that killing is wrong?

(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall) is co-author, with Harmon Leon, of “Meet the Deplorables: Infiltrating Trump America,” an inside look at the American far right, out now. You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)

CORRECTION: This piece has been corrected by the deletion of “because it’s the 18th school shooting so far this year, ” from the first sentence. I fell victim to a widely disseminated, now known to be untrue, statistic. Please see The Washington Post here for details.

Trump’s Plan Won’t Solve the Problems of America’s Crumbling Infrastructure

Common Dreams: Views - Fri, 02/16/2018 - 10:08
Eileen AppelbaumJust listing everything the President’s plan claims to address for a federal expenditure of just $100 billion makes the inadequacy of the plan obvious.

Taxing Wealth to Make Public College Free Again

Common Dreams: Views - Fri, 02/16/2018 - 09:40
Chuck CollinsA California campaign is pushing to add an innovative initiative to the November ballot. The plan: make public higher education tuition-free by restoring the estate tax.

The FCC Chairman Is Under Investigation

Common Dreams: Views - Fri, 02/16/2018 - 09:26
Candace ClementThe New York Times is reporting this morning that the FCC inspector general is actively investigating whether FCC Chairman Ajit Pai and his aides improperly pushed for rule changes that would clear the way for Sinclair's purchase of Tribune Media.

And the Winners (in America’s Wars) Are…

Common Dreams: Views - Fri, 02/16/2018 - 09:08
Tom EngelhardtIn the bipartisan style that these days usually applies only to the U.S. military, Congress has just settled on giving an extra $165 billion to the Pentagon.

The Latest Schoolhouse Slaughter Shows We Have Been Defeated

Common Dreams: Views - Fri, 02/16/2018 - 07:48
Elizabeth BruenigPrayer itself winds up looking like a sham, and such promises sound cheaper every time.

Who is Guilty of Climate Crimes?

Common Dreams: Views - Fri, 02/16/2018 - 07:36
Margaret Klein SalamonThese are the key perpetrators of the largest human rights violation in history.

We Are Drowning In Plastic, and Fracking Companies Are Profiting

Common Dreams: Views - Fri, 02/16/2018 - 07:13
Wenonah HauterPlastic production wreaks havoc on people and the planet—from fracking wells and pipelines in Pennsylvania, to air pollution from plastic plants in Scotland.

US 'Stumbled Into Torture,' Says NYT Reporter

Common Dreams: Views - Fri, 02/16/2018 - 05:38
Adam JohnsonCorporate media routinely assert that the US “stumbles,” “slips” or is “dragged into” war and other forms of organized violence, rather than planning deliberate acts of aggression. For reporters in foreign policy circles, the U.S. only does immoral things on accident—unlike Official Bad Countries, which do them for calculated gain when they aren’t motivated by sheer malice.

Who’s the Next Trump Official Who’ll Turn Out Not to Have Been Vetted?

Ted Rall - Fri, 02/16/2018 - 00:56

White House staff secretary Rob Porter was forced to step down after it turned out that high-ranking White House officials failed to make sure that he passed his security check even though he handled highly classified information for the present. Although there were a variety of changing narratives coming out of official spokespeople, it now seems clear that they knew that he stood credibly accused of domestic violence against his former wife, yet decided to keep him on board anyway

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