Old Howard Union

80 – Do Nuclear Weapons Serve A Purpose Today?

Nearly seven decades after the ‘bomb’ was dropped on both Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the specter of nuclear war remains, but the publics eye on the conversation has moved quite dramatically. In recent years, the talk of the dangers of nuclear war have come more boldly into the public discourse, but with the threat of the Cold War, perceivably over, the conversation rather than occurring in the proverbial town square occurs quietly in academic circles. As the West is embroiled in a quiet, lukewarm war do these weapons serve a purpose, and what is that?

Show Notes

  1. The World Can Still Be Destroyed in a Flash, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/08/06/opinion/hiroshima-anniversary-nuclear-weapons.html
Writing

Piece 66 – School Choice? An Answer to Our Failing Public Schools By. Raimondo Graziano

School Choice?

An Answer to Our Failing Public Schools

By. Raimondo Graziano

      Like many programs that are run by the government, schooling in this country is woefully a low priority for policy makers from the local to the federal government. Politicians are good at the talk of it all – supporting students, supporting teachers, etc. Though when it comes to enacting meaningful reforms, they fall far too short. It is obvious there is a serious problem with educating in the country – we lag far behind the Western world in educational standards, and our students meeting them. For many decades now the quality of American education has been declining steadily. Our students have been given a raw deal – something has got to give. It is obvious that there are systemic inequities in our nations schooling system; from the way funds are appropriated, to how we evaluate students, and to what is taught not from state to state but from district to district. It is going to take a great deal of political will to tackle the issues surrounding education; teacher pay, quality of education, and the great disparities in the direction of our higher educational institutions.

      But there is something we can do today. What’s spurred my thinking on this is the current debacle Congress has stumbled into in regards to relief bills aimed at direct assistance to millions of American families. Bear with me – I do have a point pertaining to education. They, in their usual fashion, waited to the very last minute to address the concerns facing millions of Americans. Now they have a handful of days to hammer out an agreement between two deeply entrenched political parties, who have wildly differing views on how aid ought to be dispensed. The Senate aims to cap a bill at $1,000,000,000,000. While the House’s starting position is $3,000,000,000,000. A cavern of differences exists. The problems the bills aim to address are far reaching and can effect many facets of American life. But there are portions that overlap – namely the need to extend unemployment benefits and provide direct stimulus payments. Disagreements may exist on amounts, but both sides recognize that action needs to be taken now on this issue. They should address that now. It is the same for education. We can sit and debate about issues we have deep, deep disagreements over but the bottom line is the American people need actionable results now. In that, and I say this as a moderate and a progressive, school choice may be our answer for our children across the country.

      In the interim while Congress works to tackle the greater issues at the heart of our education system, why can we not use the resources afforded to us to give greater power and agency to families across the country, and even here in New York City. Why is it that Democrats are so opposed to school choice? How is the freedom to choose ones school any different from the cities voucher program as it pertains to housing? We give people a voucher which covers the cost, or part of the cost for rent- that way folks can avoid the shelters. The shelters and public schools are run shoddily – why not give more choice to families. Education of our youth is the most important. Parents ought to be able to give their children the best – and whether that is a public school or a private school the state ought to facilitate the greatest most beneficial agreement and policies in the immediate for the sake of our children, while our politicians work out fixing the broader strokes. Action now, broad reforms later. People, and families need action now.

Old Howard Union

66 – Monopolistic and Predatory: When the Concertration of Wealth Becomes A National Security Concern.

 

Show Notes

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  1. After the Bailouts, Will Taxes Go Up? https://nyti.ms/2WB5jcE
• Mr. Fink predicted more bankruptcies and higher taxes on a call with clients of a wealth advisory firm. He sees the U.S. corporate tax rate going to as high as 29 percent next year, from 21 percent now, to help pay for government rescue efforts. (He expects the individual rate to rise as well.) He thinks many companies will reopen with only half of their staff at the office, which could
• Small businesses fear that their rescue loans might not be forgiven, The Times’s Alan Rappeport and Emily Flitter report. Borrowers took the money “assuming that it would be a grant, but it’s not,” said a banking lobbyist.
• The Federal Communications Commission fined Sinclair Broadcasting a record $48 million yesterday. The penalty stems from Sinclair’s thwarted attempt to buy Tribune Media, a rival local TV station operator.
• Sinclair bid $3.9 billion for Tribune in 2017 to create a local-TV colossus with 215 stations across the country. It would have given Sinclair, known for its conservative leanings, a way to challenge Fox News.
2. Bernie Sanders: The Foundations of American Society Are Failing Us https://nyti.ms/3bm6u5D
• wealth inequality, that reality means little to half of our people who live paycheck to paycheck, the 40 million living in poverty, the 87 million who are uninsured or underinsured, and the half million who are homeless.
• As tens of millions of Americans are losing their jobs and incomes as a result of the pandemic, many of them are also losing their health insurance.
3. A Wealth Tax Is the Logical Way to Support Coronavirus Relief https://nyti.ms/2yxqpjw
• Congress has already enacted three bipartisan relief packages, including the Cares Act, that collectively provide roughly $2 trillion in pandemic aid. Further assistance is hopefully on the way. These are necessary but enormous public expenses. To put them in perspective, the stimulus package enacted in the shadow of the Great Recession was $831 billion, while recent annual federal budget deficits average about $700 billion.
• But borrowing will in the end burden the young, who — already worse off than their parents’ generation — are now suffering their second economic calamity in a decade. Instead, the relief effort should be funded through a one-time wealth tax imposed on the richest Americans, whose wealth has exploded alongside rising inequality.
• The wealthiest 5 percent of American families now hold $57 trillion, or two-thirds of all household wealth in the country (up from about half in 1960). An exemption for the first $2.5 million of household wealth would exclude the bottom 95 percent from paying any tax at all and leave the top 5 percent with total taxable wealth of roughly $40 trillion. A 5 percent tax on the richest 5 percent of households could thus raise up to $2 trillion.
• The initial stock-market bump triggered by the Cares Act’s passage added more than $4 trillion to the value of equities in the United States, and the richest 10 percent of households, holding 84 percent of American-owned stocks, benefited from this bump to the tune of roughly $2 trillion.
• The Sanders and Warren programs hold appeal, especially for progressives, but they also face challenges. The focus on extreme wealth reduces the tax base and therefore the revenue raised — while the top 5 percent hold two-thirds of the wealth, the top 0.1 percent hold roughly one-sixth.
4. We Need Amazon During the Coronavirus. That’s a Problem. https://nyti.ms/2Jv0Wtu
• During the pandemic, reliable delivery of essentials like milk, eggs, toilet paper and cleaning supplies has been a lifeline for those who are reluctant or unable to venture outside their homes — Amazon-branded trucks have remained a familiar sight in residential neighborhoods. The competitive advantages of Amazon’s meticulously constructed worldwide logistics network, built to shuttle nearly every imaginable item to customers in as little as an hour, are especially evident in this crisis.
• At Amazon, white-collar employees were sent home while the company’s army of pickers and packers have had to brave outbreaks in at least 21 facilities. Some 1,500 Amazon employees signed a petition this month seeking workplace improvements in the face of Covid-19. And attorneys general in 14 states and the District of Columbia sent a letter to Amazon’s chief executive, Jeff Bezos, urging him to loosen its sick leave policy.A few workers at a Staten Island Amazon warehouse walked off the job Monday in protest, after one employee tested positive for coronavirus, prompting Amazon to fire one of the organizers. New York State’s attorney general said Monday she was investigating the dismissal. Others were planning to skip work at the company’s Whole Foods grocery stores Tuesday over its sick leave policies.
• Consumers may be at a disadvantage, too. Because Amazon relies on smaller sellers for the majority of sales, price gouging remains a problem. And while prioritizing storage and delivery of products it deems “essential” during the pandemic — such as “household staples, medical supplies, and other high-demand products” — Amazon has also appeared to include its own branded devices in the “essential” category.
• Even in less frantic times, Amazon has been criticized for its workplace culture and its heavy-handed tactics with sellers. Last year, The Wall Street Journal contended that Amazon may be losing control of its own marketplace, allowing dangerous counterfeits to appear on its virtual shelves that would never pass muster at traditional retailers. Both Walmart and Amazon have quashed unionization efforts.

Transcript

Writing

Piece 59 – In Defense of Bail Reform By. Raimondo Graziano

In Defense of Bail Reform

By. Raimondo Graziano

 

There is a deep history of systemic racism and deliberate incarceration pointed at predominantly black and brown communities, people of color and in some of the most historically marginalized communities across the United States. It is something that is deeply ingrained in American culture and finds its sordid roots in the very founding of the nation, in that fateful deliberate choice to allow the birth of a new nation under the oppression that is the institution of slavery. In that moment, the moment we stand at today, was forged. A nation conceived with the ideals of liberty and justice for all founded upon a foundation whose core pillar which would last for nearly a hundred years after its founding, denied that very ideal to a large portion of the population, thus sowing the continuance of the plague of racism that still deeply grips this country. In our failure to leave slavery in the past with the founding of our country we set the stage for generational poverty, income inequality between whites and blacks, and the perpetuating of racism and discrimination.

This plight did not end either with the emancipation proclamation, or the 13th or 14th Amendment. Racists in government, whose very thinking is antithetical to the god they often defer to, crafted devious methods and means to deny people their rights long after the end of slavery. These empty husks of humanity, parading as human beings, found ways of stifling communities who never had the chance to build wealth and foundations here uninhibited by a system meant to keep them in the mud – from suppressing votes, to housing and labor discrimination and the stain of segregation which lasted well into the 20th century, and in some cases still to this day – racists hell bent on the belief that one race is superior to another, that one race has divine favor while the other is lesser have imbedded themselves in American society and pushed an agenda diametrically opposed to the ideals that this nation was founded on. Though perhaps the greatest sin of all, is denying a free man his freedom through targeted and systemic enforcement of laws built to suppress the black and brown communities of this country through mass incarceration.

Righting the wrongs of our past will take time, and in many cases will take measures that some may deem extreme, the circumstances under which these problems first arose where in essence extreme, inhumane, brutal, and demand rectification. The United States has the largest incarcerated population of any nation in the entire world – land of the free? When a quarter of the worlds prison population rests in the supposed seat of the steward of democracy, we indeed have a problem. For decades now, black and brown communities have been disproportionately targeted for crimes solely based on the color of their skin. Studies have shown that blacks and whites commit crimes at the same rate, then why is that the large majority of the prison population is black men? Many rotting in a jail cell for minor possession charges, and facing insurmountable odds upon being reingratiated in society – if they ever manage to get out.

With polices such as mandatory minimums, coupled with a discriminatory attitude in police forces we have condemned a generation of black and brown individuals to languish away in jail, sons without their mothers, daughters without their fathers, families torn and teared apart – a deep moral scar on the very face of this country. In order for us to right these wrongs bold action must be taken, we must work to stem the tide of continued incarceration through measures that may be unpopular, but that are necessary. The problem we have created must be rectified, and if some may view them as extreme than they fail to see the severity of the situation. Not only are we trying to end mass incarceration, but we have to account for those imprisoned already. It is as if a one man or woman is holding two walls of inequity at arm’s length from crushing and suffocating him or her, and that man or woman is named liberty. The Bail Reforms enacted in New York State are a necessary first step towards righting the wrongs of our morally degenerative epoch in this country, we should not overturn them, we should work to ensure they are enforced effectively and to the benefit of all people, especially those most affected by the racism that persists here, and all across this nation.

Writing

Piece 58 – The Importance of Our Allies Across the Atlantic By. Raimondo Graziano

The Importance of Our Allies Across the Atlantic
By. Raimondo Graziano

The importance of the United States on the global stage cannot be understated; we are looked to for leadership, guidance and approval for a great many undertakings of the nations of the world. The order we established after the end of the second world war remains, though imperiled it may be. In recent years our respect and integrity on the world stage has been degraded by both foreign and domestic threats to not only the constitution but to the very ideal that is the United States.

What is perhaps even more important than the unilateral approach and power of this country is the pertinence of our allies across the Atlantic in maintaining, committing and doubling down on the established order of the prevailing of the liberal democratic idea. Our allies in Europe are indispensable, the maintenance of the West, and any hopes for dramatic reforms of our world order rely heavily on The United States and more crucially on our allies who span across an entire continent, more directly connected to the vastness that is the international community.

The world we live in today is riddled with crisis after crisis, and the many governing bodies of the world seem engaged in a state of governance by crisis. From domestic threats of rising authoritarianism and populism, to protracted wars abroad, and economic downturns and entire continents lit ablaze – the world we live in today is fraught with instability. The West is under threat of consuming itself in its own decadence, moral negligence and excessive income inequality. We must rise to the occasion. Here in the States, we must reject that which is easy and fleeting for that which is difficult and worthy of struggle. We must reject isolationism and the idea that it is America first, and America Alone.

We must reach out across the sea, the arms of liberty cleansed anew and stretched out to our European brothers and sisters to engage hand in hand in amending the ills that we collectively have helped to ferment. We must right the wrongs of our past and of the present by boldly leading forward, now. United.