Saturday, August 28, 2010

Here's an article that provides one reason for many of the problems this nation is currently having...

Heritage Foundation: Solutions for America (Part 2 - Looking at the Introduction)

On Page vi of the Solutions for America we find a two-page "Introduction. " (Note that my responses will not necessarily be in the same order found in the Solutions for America). In the "Introduction" the authors attempt to briefly state the problem. They begin with the following sentence: "America has reached a tipping point."

It's their perception that the problems facing America are primarily caused by the government. In the introduction to Solutions for America the following phrases, "government policies," "excessive government intervention," "federal grasp and reach," and "Government now intrudes," and others convey this perception. Is the government really that much of a problem? Let's see how well the Heritage Foundation checked the facts.

In the first paragraph the writers of "Solutions for America" later called "...a team of Heritage experts," complain about the government dictating; "..the mix of fuel we can put in our cars, to the kind of light bulb we use." Let's look at a few of the substances the government regulates. Is it possible that the Heritage Foundation would like us to still use leaded fuel in our cars, considering that lead in the environment adversely impacts the health of children interfering with brain development and learning ability? What about asbestos, which was used in building materials as insulation from temperature and sound, and is know to cause asbestosis and mesothelioma, both fatal diseases for which there is no effective treatment? Mercury is another toxic substance that can harm the brain, heart, and lungs of people of all ages, but is especially toxic to pregnant women. The Heritage Foundation, in the Solutions for America, seems to think that the federal government should not be regulating businesses, but if they didn't would the the oil companies have voluntarily taken the lead out of their gasoline? Would the construction industry still be using asbestos in buildings? Certainly the government is bigger than it used to be, and is probably bigger than it needs to be, or should be. But the country is also much bigger in terms of population. Is the over growth of the federal government really a problem when it comes to protecting citizens from toxic substances that otherwise would end up in the environment? Or is the federal government overgrown in some other area? Would it have been realistic and effective to expect state and local government to impose their regulations on these toxins? We all know that discharges of poisonous substances into the environment is still a problem throughout this country, indicating that perhaps more regulation is needed. Mercury is one toxic substance that needs more regulation since power plants that burn coal still release mercury into the environment.

In the "Introduction" the Heritage Foundation complains about government funding of alternative energy sources. They write "Government policies have stifled domestic energy production while pouring billions of dollars into alternative energy subsidies..." The countries that are leading the world in alternative clean energy production, Germany and Spain, are doing so precisely because their government have poured "...dollars into alternative energy subsidies."

According to "Renewable Energy in Germany" at, "The renewable energy sector was aided especially by the law that required businesses to buy energy generated from renewable sources first, before buying energy from non-renewable sources." Also "People who produce energy in their own homes have a guarantee from the government that they can sell their 'product' at fixed prices for a period of 20 years." In a corresponding article about Spain is found: "In 2005 Spain became the first country in the world to require the installation of photovoltaic electricity in new buildings, and the second in the world (after Israel) to require the installation of solar hot water systems." Note that the reason these two countries are leaders in developing clean alternative energy thereby reducing their dependence on foreign oil, is because the government passed laws requiring changes to be made. There should be similar laws in the US including laws encouraging and facilitating home and small business owners installing clean energy sources. These laws should be so attractive with funding and financing options that people would be lining up at the doors of solar and wind production business to purchase their own production systems. If we can select, embrace, and fund a crash program to put a person on the moon in a given period of time, we can also do the same to eliminate or significantly reduce our dependence on foreign oil. The Heritage Foundation complains about energy being too expensive even though a gallon/liter of gasoline in Europe costs much more that the same in the US. Keep in mind that the cost of gasoline in the US includes the cost of both US military attacks on Iraq and also on Afghanistan.

At the end of page 1 of the Introduction the "Index of Dependence on Government" is quoted as showing that Americans' dependency on government - "increased last year at the fastest rate in over three decades." No where do they mention that this "Index" is determined by the Heritage Foundation.

The Heritage Foundation emphasises the need for government to be smaller and seems to prefer local and state government actions to decisions made by the feds. They write, "The closer a government is to the citizen, the more effectively it will spend the citizen's tax dollars; i.e., the federal government wastes the most, state governments somewhat less, and local governments waste the smallest portion of each tax dollar" (Page iv). However I don't see them advocating turning the nation's defense over to state and local governments. Since our sources of energy (pipelines and power lines; domestic and imported oil) also cross state lines, as does polluted air and contaminated rivers, isn't it just as ridiculous and un-workable to suggest that environmental regulation and energy policy be developed at state or local levels of government? Since citizens frequently travel and relocate, moving from one part of the country, crossing state and local boundaries, naturally taking their health issues with them where ever they go, isn't it also better for the federal government to address the issue of health care, providing a single payer plan, independent of drug and insurance company input. Such a plan would be cheaper and more efficient, resulting in less overhead and paperwork, and providing more consistent care, compared to each employer or state having different plans which threaten citizens with tons of paperwork and loss of coverage every time they change employers or living locations.

The Heritage Foundation laments over, "Our burgeoning welfare state now dispenses a trillion dollars annually to tens of millions of Americans without asking for anything in return." Doesn't the Foundation realize that this trillion dollars being dispensed to Americans each year are tax dollars that came from Americans in the first place? Who does the Heritage Foundation think this money should be going to? Should they be going to finance the bombing of people in Iraq and Afghanistan? Should they be used for corporate welfare at the expense of individual and family support? Conservative decisions during the recent Bush Administration, which included cutting funds for education and veterans, as well as funding two questionable wars and bailing out the bankrupt banking industry, would lead us to believe that the Heritage Foundation might just think this trillion dollars should go to people other than the ones who earned the money in the first place, that is the US taxpayer!

Leonard Nolt

Friday, August 27, 2010

Heritage Foundation: Solutions for America (Part 1- Changing America's Course)

The Heritage Foundation, according to their website, is "a think tank - whose mission is to formulate and promote conservative public policies based on principles of free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom, traditional American values, and a strong national defense." They go on to write that "Our vision is to build an America where freedom, opportunity, prosperity, and civil society flourish."

The Heritage Foundation was founded in 1973 and have more than 684,000 members who pay an annual fee of $25. so they are very well funded. Members include well-known conservative such as Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity and also many not so well known, such as my father, who was much more conservative than I am. Unfortunately he died in 1995.

On their website the Heritage Foundation has a section called "Solutions for America," which is over 50 pages of their ideas of how to solve many of the problems facing this country today.

In the coming weeks I intend to look at some of the solutions offered by the Heritage Foundation and respond to them. Stay tuned

Here's my first response

Page 1 of Solutions for America is entitled "Changing America's Course. The authors seem to have an exaggerated idea of US uniqueness in the world. The first sentence says; "The United States is the world's strongest, most prosperous, most just, and freest nation."

Is that really a truthful statement? Let's examine it starting with strength. Strength can be measured in many different ways. If the Heritage Foundation means military strength, or our ability to attack and destroy other countries, we probably are the strongest. But strength also has to do with the possibilities available to each individual in this nation. If people are hungry, do we as a nation have the strength to provide them with food? If they are unemployed or homeless, is it possible for those needs to be met? If people are sick or injured and cannot find affordable health care, we certainly aren't a very strong nation. Sick, injured, hungry, homeless, and unemployed citizens do not make for a strong nation. I'm not necessarily saying that the government should automatically meet those needs. But if opportunities are not available for people to help themselves, then changes need to be made so people can have hope. When unemployed young men and women cannot find a job anywhere except by joining the military, we certainly have a very weak country. It probably means that we have devoted so many resources to the military that we are starving the other necessary parts of our economy, such as education, business, and health care.

The strength of a country can just as accurately be determined by its ability to respond to the needs of its citizens, as it's ability to attack another nation, or respond to an attack from another country.

Is the US the most prosperous nation? A study researched by Jane's Information Services and published in the British Sunday Times on March 25, 2008 addressed that very question. On the list of the top 50 most prosperous nations, the US was, NO NOT # 1, much to the dismay of the Heritage Foundation, but # 24 behind such notorious countries as Canada, France, Andorra, Iceland, Ireland, Malta, and Sweden.

Is the US the most just country? Or to put it another way, is the US the country with the most justice. Justice has to do with fairness, especially in the judicial system. If we believe that all people "..are created equal and endowed by their Creator with unalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" (Page 1 of the Solutions for America), than justice is certainly an important issue.

The Equal Justice Initiative at states that the United States is the most punitive country in the world. "Mass incarceration in the United States continues at record high level despite outsized costs. According to recent data reported in The Economist, the United States has the world's highest incarceration rate, locking up five times more people per capita than Britain, nine times more than Germany, and 12 times more than Japan."

"Recent reports have documented the magnitude of the increase in mass incarceration in the United States. In 1970, one in 400 Americans were incarcerated, compared with today's rate of one in 100. Counting people on parole or probation, one adult American in 31 in under correctional supervision."

Does this mean that there are simply more criminals in the United States? Of course not. It means that our criminal and judicial systems are essentially unjust, especially when you take into consideration that the portion of minorities incarcerated is out of proportion to their populations. Is this a just system? No way.

Is the United States the freest nation in the world as the Heritage Foundation wants us to believe? Any country in which the citizens have access to universal health care coverage is a country with more freedom than the US. This is especially true if there is a single payer plan. Then citizens have the freedom to change employers and living locations without losing their health insurance, or worrying about being unable to get insurance elsewhere especially if they have a pre-existing condition. Thankfully Pres. Obama has taken some successful steps to correct this problem with the passage of the Health Care Reform Act, but we still fall far short of nearly every other industrialized nation. Some countries like Canada are so far ahead of the US in this area that they've had coverage for over 60 years and we're just beginning to work at getting it.

In the US workplace freedoms have been disappearing for the past several decades. Mark Ames in "Going Postal" writes, "In Soviet times, workers often had to show an ID to enter their factories, which usually had a security entrance, but once a worker was inside they were never subject to the degree of full spectrum dominance as today's American workforce." Ames goes on to say that: "The strangest thing about all of this is that if you were to tell an American that his workplace is more Soviet than what the Soviets ever created, he would think you're simply a nutcase or a troublemaker" (Page 107-108).

According to Lewis Maltby in "Can They Do That: Retaking Our Fundamental Rights in the Workplace," your freedom "... disappears every morning when you go to work" (Page 1). Professor Bruce Barry from Vanderbilt University said, "Your boss can fire you for your politics, the books you read, or even the baseball team you root for, and there's usually nothing you can do about it" (Page 5).

Maltby writes, "Glen Hillier lost his job because he asked a presidential candidate an embarrassing question at a public political rally. During the 2004 presidential campaign, Hillier, who worked at an advertising and design company, attended a rally for President Bush in West Virginia. He attempted to ask Bush a challenging question about the war in Iraq. One of his company's customers, also at the rally, was offended by the implied criticism of Bush and told Hillier's boss. When Hillier came to work the next day, he was fired. When Hillier called his lawyer he was told that his boss had done nothing illegal."

"What happened to Hillier's freedom of speech? What Hillier didn't know is that, where his employer is concerned, he has no freedom of speech. The United States Constitution, (including the Bill of Rights) applies only to the government. It does not apply to private businesses. A corporation can legally ignore the constitutional rights of its employees"(Page 5).

As you can see the trend in this nation is loss of freedoms. Certainly employees who have union representation, a pension, paid vacations, and cost-of -living raises have more freedoms than those who do not, but those benefits are some the benefits that have been disappearing from the workplace during the past three conservative administrations (That includes the Reagan, Clinton, and Bush Administrations. Although Clinton was not as conservative as the other two, he was an accomplice to conservative regulation including welfare reform and NAFTA and was certainly more conservative than the Republican Nixon Administration) .

It was during these conservative administrations that many of our freedoms have been lost and not just the one I focused on, freedom of speech in the workplace. Now the conservative Heritage Foundation foolishly and inaccurately claims that we are the freest nation in the world. This ethereal platitude by the Heritage Foundation that I just dissected indicates that we have some problems with their approach. If they are going to make initial outlandish statements with no documentation, can we really expect them to offer credible sincere solutions to the problems facing America?

Stay tuned for Part 2.

Leonard Nolt

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Trauma and Recovery

I'm reading Judith Herman's fine book "Trauma and Recovery: The Aftermath of Violence - from Domestic Abuse to Political Terror" published in 1992 by Basic Books.

Here's an important quote from page 58: "Restoration of the breach between the traumatized person and the community depends first, upon public acknowledgement of the traumatized event and second, upon some form of community action."

Victims of crimes may get the public acknowledgement and community action they need through the legal process of apprehending the criminal and prosecuting him/her, but that alone is rarely adequate. They also need support from family and friends and many need opportunities to express themselves. Unfortunately those who are the victims of acts of violence that may not be criminal in the legal sense are often not granted any public acknowledgement or community action. This would include, but is not limited to, victims of warfare (since war is usually "legal"), sexual harassment and abuse and physical harassment and abuse since those behaviors are only infrequently publicized and prosecuted; bullying and mobbing, both at school and in the workplace; whistleblowers; plus any form of discrimination. It's true that there are laws and policies addressing some forms of harassment and also laws and policies protecting whistleblowers. Unfortunately these laws are very weak and designed to protect the companies and corporations who otherwise might be liable for what happens to people on their campuses.
Any student or employee taking legal action against an institution or company due to their failure to provide protectection from some form of discrimination, harassment, or abuse is taking a very risky step. Virtually no individual has access to the unlimited financial and legal resources possessed by a large company or educational institution. In my own experience of being the target of a workplace bully for over two and a half years at Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center, and injured with PTSD (See "Workplace Psychological Abuse" on this blog for more information), I've made numerous attempts to address the problem with those involved by requesting a professional mediated conflict resolution process. My requests have been denied even though such a process would have the following advantages over litigation:

1. Cheaper
2. Quicker
3. Access to more information
4. Everyone could come out a winner
5. Not a punitive process
6. Open communication
7. More possibility of preventing similar injuries in the future
8. Increased possibility of publicity, thereby increasing awareness which
would make the community and region safer
9. Financial and other resources directed toward prevention, not retaliation
10. Would include possibility of hearing everyone point of view,
not just those who were most directly involved.
11. Better educational opportunities
12. More flexible option
13. No gag rule

A few of these overlap, but the point remains. This would be a much more efficient and inexpensive way to resolve conflicts. In spite of these advantages, management at St. Als adamantly refuses to consider this option. The reasons are obvious. Selecting a venue or process for addressing a problem that does not utilize their legal department and is not a conflict they can win while inflicting a loss on the other party, is outside their comfort area. Also their legal department would advise against choosing such a resolution because it minimizes or eliminates the role attorneys play in resolving conflicts and thereby reduces their need for attorneys. Unfortunately the losers are the citizens of this region as well as all St. Alphonsus employees.

A medical center ignoring a request to be heard from a victim violates everything that a responsible health care employer represents. It blocks healing; it foolishly implies that the company cannot make mistakes and that it has no responsibility for those mistakes when they are made, and it also makes the leaders and members of upper management look very uncivilized in their unwillingness to acknowledge the trauma. I watched the film "Food, Inc." last evening and it includes the story of a small boy who died as a result of eating a Jack-in-the-Box burger contaminated with e-coli. The boy's mother expressed her grief and disdain at the appalling behavior of those individuals who were responsible for the contaminated meat that killed her son, and their refusal to listen to her grief, to apologize, or to in any way be personally accountable. Certainly the first lesson of Civilization 101 that we should have learned in kindergarten is the lesson that when we hurt someone, we offer a sincere, public, and official "I'm sorry." Are those who refuse to do that really civilized?

Herman writes on Page 8 and 9:

"The study of psychological trauma must constantly contend with this tendency to discredit the victim or to render her invisible. Throughout the history of the field, dispute has raged over whether patients with post-traumatic conditions are entitled to care and respect or deserving of contempt. whether they are genuinely suffering or malingering, whether their histories are true or false and, if false, whether imagined or maliciously fabricated. In spite of a vast literature documenting the phenomena of psychological trauma, debate still center on the basic question of whether these phenomena are credible and real. "

"It is not only the patients but also the investigators of post-traumatic condition whose credibility is repeatedly challenged. Clinicians who listen too long and too carefully to traumatized patient often become suspect among their colleagues, as though contaminated by contact. Investigators who pursue the field too far beyond the bounds of conventional belief are often subjected to a kind of professional isolation."

" To hold traumatic reality in consciousness requires a social context that affirms and protects the victim and that joins victim and witness in a common alliance. For the individual victim, this social context is by relationships with friends, lovers, and families. For the larger society, the social context is created by political movements that give voice to the disempowered."

"The systematic study of psychological trauma therefore depends on the support of a political movement. Indeed, whether such study can be pursued or discussed in public is itself a political question. The study of war trauma becomes legitimate only in a context that challenges the sacrifice of young men in war. The study of trauma in sexual and domestic life become legitimate only in a context that challenges the subordination of women and children..."

I would like to add here that the study of psychological trauma from bullying and mobbing in the workplace only becomes legitimate if discussed in the context of employees and customers/patients at a place of employment. Does management have the right to ignore their own standards? Do they have the right to threaten someone with termination for reporting an on-the-job disabling injury as the Employee Relations Manager did to me in July, 2005? It's about how management treats their employees - everything from refusing to enforce or even follow their own standards, to the absence of unions whose presence would help protect employees and patients from injury. It's a human rights issue as well as a safety and health problem.

Herman goes on to say: "Advances in the field occur only when they are supported by a political movement powerful enough to legitimate an alliance between investigators and patients and to counteract the ordinary social processes of silencing and denial. In the absence of strong political movements for human rights, the active process of bearing witness inevitably gives way to the active process of forgetting. Repression, dissociation, and denial are phenomena of social as well as individual consciousness."

"Three times over the past century, a particular form of psychological trauma has surfaced into public consciousness. Each time, the investigation of that trauma has flourished in affiliation with a political movement. The first to emerge was hysteria, the archetypal psychological disorder of women. Its study grew out of the republican, anticlerical political movement of the late nineteenth century in France. The second was shell shock or combat neurosis. Its study began in England and the United States after the First World War. and reached a peak after the Vietnam War. Its political context was the collapse of a cult of war and the growth of a antiwar movement. The last and most recent trauma to come into public awareness is sexual and domestic violence. Its political context is the feminist movement in Western Europe and North America. Our contemporary understanding of psychological trauma is built upon a synthesis of these three separate lines of investigation."

The next form of psychological trauma that needs to addressed by society and that also needs a political movement to support the actions taken, is the very common and serious problem of workplace psychological abuse, commonly called bullying or mobbing.

Leonard Nolt