SHOW AUDIO: Link is usually posted within about 72 hours of show broadcast.
This program was recorded on SUNDAY, JULY 5 at about 4:30 AM. Due to Covid-19, shows are being prerecorded beginning March 13th and until further notice. We miss our live call-in participants, and look forward to a time we can once again go live.
Listen live on the radio, or on the internet from anywhere in the world! When the show is live, we take calls at 713-526-5738. (Long distance charges may apply.)
Please take a moment to visit Pledge.KPFT.org and choose THINKWING RADIO from the drop-down list when you donate.
For the purposes of this show, I operate on two mottoes:
- You’re entitled to your own opinion, but not your own facts;
- An educated electorate is a prerequisite for a democracy.
SIGNOFF QUOTE[s]: “In my work with the defendants [at the Nuremberg Trials, 1945-1949] I was searching for the nature of evil and I now think I have come close to defining it. A lack of empathy. It’s the one characteristic that connects all the defendants, a genuine incapacity to feel with their fellow men. Evil, I think, is the absence of empathy.” ~ Captain G. M. Gilbert, the Army psychologist assigned to watching the defendants at the Nuremberg trials http://www.crisispapers.org/essays8p/empathy.htm (For attribution, I found this information here. Thanks to edwinrutsch3.)
“There’s a reason why you separate military and police. One fights the enemy of the State. The other serves and protects the People. When the military becomes both, then the enemies of the State tend t become the People.” ~ Commander Adama, “Battlestar Galactica” (“WATER”, Season 1 episode 2, at the 28 minute mark.)
Pledge to support KPFT by Text: Listeners can now text “GIVE” to 713-526-5738 and they’ll receive a text message back with a link to KPFT’s donation page, with which they can make their pledge on-line at their leisure.
MAIN TOPICS: TOPIC: July 14 Primary Runoff Elections, Voting Info, July 15 Tax Deadline, Brain imaging predicts Alzheimer’s-related memory loss, How Covid-19 is changing children, Alabama GOP Senate primary runoff [on July 14th] with [Jeff] Sessions, Why Do the Rich Have So Much Power?, Soft despotism by Alexis de Tocqueville, The Spoils system and why we have a United States federal civil service, MORE.
Make sure you are registered to vote! (Voting and election info are items 1 thru 6. Show information begins after Item 4.)
This program was recorded on SUNDAY, JULY 5. If you call in, you will NOT be able to get on the air, so please do not call the call-the show. We love our callers, but unfortunately live call-in is one of the casualties of COVID-19.
- Next election is a runoff, originally scheduled for May, is now scheduled for July 14, 2020 – Primary Runoff Elections (SAMPLE BALLOT at com). CHRIS HOLLINS, HARRIS COUNTY CLERK
- Make sure you are registered to vote!
- For a personalized, nonpartisan voter guide visit VOTE411.ORG (DO NOT!! go to 411Vote!!)
- If you are denied your right to vote any place at any time at any polling place for any reason, ask for (or demand) a provisional ballot rather than lose your vote.
- HARRISVOTES.COM (Election Information Line (713) 755-6965) VOTETEXAS.GOV – Texas Voter Information
- VoteTexas.gov- Texas Voter Information
- HARRISVOTES.COM – Countywide Voting Centers
- HARRIS CTY – IDENTIFICATION REQUIRED FOR VOTING: If you do not possess and cannot reasonably obtain one of these IDs?
- Fill out a declaration at the polls describing a reasonable impediment to obtaining it, and show a copy or original of one of the following supporting forms of ID:
- A government document that shows your name and an address, including your voter registration certificate
- Current utility bill
- Bank statement
- Government check
- (a) A certified domestic (from a U.S. state or territory) birth certificate or (b) a document confirming birth admissible in a court of law which establishes your identity (which may include a foreign birth document)
- You may vote early by-mail if:
- you are registered to vote and meet one of the following criteria:
- Away from the county of residence on Election Day and during the early voting period;
- Sick or disabled;
- 65 years of age or older on Election Day; or
- Confined in jail, but eligible to vote.
- HARRIS CTY – IDENTIFICATION REQUIRED FOR VOTING: If you do not possess and cannot reasonably obtain one of these IDs?
- Make sure you are registered
- Make sure you are registered:Ann Harris Bennett, Tax Assessor-Collector & Voter Registrar
- IRS Announces New July 15 Tax Deadline …, By Ashlea Ebeling, Senior Contributor | FORBES.COM| Apr 9, 2020,06:54pm EDT
- Brain imaging can predict Alzheimer’s-related memory loss, by Karolinska Institutet | MEDICALXPRESS.COM | July 3, 2020
- Researchers at Karolinska Institutet have imaged tau protein in the brains of living patients with Alzheimer’s disease. The amount and spread of tau proved a predictor of future memory loss. Brain imaging for measuring tau can be useful both for improving diagnosis and for developing more effective treatments, say the researchers. The study is published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry.
- How Covid-19 is changing the world’s children – From their academic success to their social skills and mental health, the pandemic is a crisis for today’s children – and the fallout may follow them for the rest of their lives. By David Robson | BBC.COM/FUTURE | 3rd June 2020
- … When today’s children and adolescents grow up, will they see themselves as a “lost generation”, whose lives will forever fall in the shadow of a global pandemic?
- The school closures are one of the most visible – and controversial – means by which Covid-19 is affecting young people. According to Unesco, the education of nearly 1.6 billion pupils in 190 countries has so far been affected – that’s 90% of the world’s school-age children. And at the time of writing, there are still no definite plans for opening the schools of around half of these children. …
- [W]hen that is combined with the other stresses of living in isolation under quarantine, it may have some serious consequences – delaying their cognitive, emotional and social development. For those in the most critical periods of adolescence, it may even increase the risk of mental illness.
- Since the poorest will be hardest hit by all of these effects, lockdowns are expected to widen the existing inequalities across the globe, with repercussions for years to come. “It’s disadvantaged children who pay the greatest price here, as they will fall the furthest behind, and have the fewest resources available to ‘catch up’ once the pandemic threat has passed,” says Armitage.
- Some experts, such as Wim Van Lancker, a sociologist at the University of Leuven in Belgium, go as far as to describe it at as “a social crisis in the making”. …
- Alabama GOP Senate primary goes to runoff [on July 14th] with [Jeff] Sessions and former Auburn football coach [Tommy Tuberville], By Alex Rogers, CNN.com | Updated 9:27 AM ET, Wed March 4, 2020
- (CNN)Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions will face former Auburn football coach Tommy Tuberville in a fierce Republican runoff election, CNN projects, pitting the man who held the seat for 20 years against a political neophyte.
- The race is viewed as the Republicans’ best opportunity to pick up a Senate seat in the country. The question over whether President Donald Trump would try to pick a Republican in the runoff was answered quickly, as Trump tweeted Wednesday morning that Sessions’ inability to win outright was the result of not having “the wisdom or courage to stare down & end the phony Russia Witch Hunt.”
- Alabama’s primary runoff is on the same day as the Texas runoff: July 14
- Why Do the Rich Have So Much Power? – Americans may be equal, but some are more equal than others. By Paul Krugman, Opinion Columnist | NYTIMES.COM | July 1, 2020
- America is, in principle, a democracy, in which every vote counts the same. It’s also a nation in which income inequality has soared, a development that hurts many more people than it helps. So if you didn’t know better, you might have expected to see a political backlash: demands for higher taxes on the rich, more spending on the working class and higher wages.
- In reality, however, policy has mostly gone the other way. Tax rates on corporations and high incomes have gone down, unions have been crushed, the minimum wage, adjusted for inflation, is lower than it was in the 1960s. How is that possible? …
- The answer is that huge disparities in income and wealth translate into comparable disparities in political influence. …
- [In 2011,] everyone who mattered seemed to be saying that the budget deficit was the most important issue facing America and that it was essential to rein in spending on Social Security and Medicare. …
- The question is, who wanted such a deal? Not the American public. …
- A groundbreaking study of rich Americans’ policy preferences in 2011 found that the wealthy, unlike voters in general, did prioritize deficit reduction over everything else. They also, in stark contrast with the general public, favored cuts in Social Security and health spending.
- And while a few high-profile billionaires like Warren Buffett have called for higher taxes on people like themselves, the reality is that most billionaires are obsessed with cutting taxes, like the estate tax, that only the rich pay. …
- Campaign contributions, historically dominated by the wealthy, are part of the story. A 2015 Times report found that at that point fewer than 400 families accounted for almost half the money raised in the 2016 presidential campaign. This matters both directly — politicians who propose big tax increases on the rich can’t expect to see much of their money — and indirectly: Wealthy donors have access to politicians in a way ordinary Americans don’t and play a disproportionate role in shaping policymakers’ worldview. …
- Perhaps the most striking aspect of the fixation on cutting benefits in the early 2010s was the extent to which it was treated not as a controversial position but as the undeniably right thing to do. As Ezra Klein pointed out in The Washington Post at the time: “For reasons I’ve never quite understood, the rules of reportorial neutrality don’t apply when it comes to the deficit. On this one issue, reporters are permitted to openly cheer a particular set of highly controversial policy solutions.” …
- No, America isn’t simply an oligarchy in which the rich always get what they want. In the end, President Barack Obama presided over both the Affordable Care Act, the biggest expansion in government benefits since the 1960s, and a substantial increase in federal taxes on the top 1 percent, to 34 percent from 28 percent.
- And no, the parties aren’t equally in the wealthiest Americans’ pocket. Democrats have become increasingly progressive, while the rich dominate the Republican agenda. Donald Trump may have run as a populist, but once in office he reversed much of that Obama tax hike, while trying (but failing, so far) to take away health insurance from as many as 23 million Americans.
- But while you shouldn’t be too much of a cynic, it remains true that America is less of a democracy and more of an oligarchy than we like to think. And to tackle inequality, we’ll have to confront unequal political power as well as unequal income and wealth.
- Soft despotism, From Wikipedia, the free encFENGLAN2*yclopedia, (Not to be confused with Soft tyranny.)
- Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville [in “Democracy in America”, published in two volumes, the first in 1835] describing the state into which a country overrun by “a network of small complicated rules” might degrade.
- Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called ‘hard despotism’) in the sense that it is not obvious to the people.
- Soft despotism gives people the illusion that they are in control, when in fact they have very little influence over their government. Soft despotism breeds fear, uncertainty, and doubt in the general populace. Alexis de Tocqueville observed that this trend was avoided in America only by the “habits of the heart” of its 19th-century populace.
- In his book, In Volume II, Book 4, Chapter 6 of Democracy in America, de Tocqueville writes the following about soft despotism:
- Thus, After having thus successively taken each member of the community in its powerful grasp and fashioned him at will, the supreme power then extends its arm over the whole community. It covers the surface of society with a network of small complicated rules, minute and uniform, through which the most original minds and the most energetic characters cannot penetrate, to rise above the crowd. The will of man is not shattered, but softened, bent, and guided; men are seldom forced by it to act, but they are constantly restrained from acting. Such a power does not destroy, but it prevents existence; it does not tyrannize, but it compresses, enervates, extinguishes, and stupefies a people, till each nation is reduced to nothing better than a flock of timid and industrious animals, of which the government is the shepherd.I have always thought that servitude of the regular, quiet, and gentle kind which I have just described might be combined more easily than is commonly believed with some of the outward forms of freedom, and that it might even establish itself under the wing of the sovereignty of the people.
- Our contemporaries are constantly excited by two conflicting passions: they want to be led, and they wish to remain free. As they cannot destroy either the one or the other of these contrary propensities, they strive to satisfy them both at once. They devise a sole, tutelary, and all-powerful form of government, but elected by the people. They combine the principle of centralization and that of popular sovereignty; this gives them a respite: they console themselves for being in tutelage by the reflection that they have chosen their own guardians. Every man allows himself to be put in leading-strings, because he sees that it is not a person or a class of persons, but the people at large who hold the end of his chain.
- By this system the people shake off their state of dependence just long enough to select their master and then relapse into it again. A great many persons at the present day are quite contented with this sort of compromise between administrative despotism and the sovereignty of the people; and they think they have done enough for the protection of individual freedom when they have surrendered it to the power of the nation at large.
- Soft tyranny is an idea first coined by Alexis de Tocqueville in his 1835 work titled Democracy in America. It is described as the individualist preference for equality and its pleasures, requiring the state – as a tyrant majority or a benevolent authority – to step in and adjudicate. In this regime, political leaders operate under a blanket of restrictions and, while it retains the practical virtues of democracy, citizens influence policymaking through bureaucrats and non-governmental organizations. This is distinguished from despotism or tyranny (hard tyranny) in the sense that state of government in such democratic society is composed of guardians who hold immense and tutelary (protective) power.
- Spoils system, From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
- In politics and government, a spoils system (also known as a patronage system) is a practice in which a political party, after winning an election, gives government civil service jobs to its supporters, friends, and relatives as a reward for working toward victory, and as an incentive to keep working for the party—as opposed to a merit system, where offices are awarded on the basis of some measure of merit, independent of political activity.
- The term was used particularly in politics of the United States, where the federal government operated on a spoils system until the Pendleton Act was passed in 1883 due to a civil service reform Thereafter the spoils system was largely replaced by a nonpartisan merit at the federal level of the United States.
- The term was derived from the phrase “to the victor belong the spoils” by New York Senator William L. Marcy, referring to the victory of Andrew Jackson in the election of 1828, with the term spoils meaning goods or benefits taken from the loser in a competition, election or military victory. …
- Before 1828, moderation had prevailed in the transfer of political power from one U.S. president to another. Andrew Jackson’s first inauguration, March 4, 1829, signaled a sharp departure from the past. A group of office seekers attended the event, explaining it as democratic enthusiasm. Jackson supporters had been lavished with promises of positions in return for political support. These promises were honored by a large number of removals after Jackson assumed power. At the beginning of Jackson’s administration, fully 919 officials were removed from government positions, amounting to nearly 10 percent of all government postings.:328–33
- The Jackson administration aimed at creating a more efficient system where the chain of command of public employees all obeyed the higher entities of government. The hardest changed organization within the federal government proved to be the post office. The post office was the largest department in the federal government, and had even more personnel than the war department. In one year 423 postmasters were deprived of their positions, most with extensive records of good service.:334 …
- United States federal civil service, From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia: The federal civil service was established in 1871 (5 U.S.C. 2101).
- Public support in the United States for civil service reform strengthened following the assassination of President James Garfield. The United States Civil Service Commission was created by the Pendleton Civil Service Reform Act, which was passed into law on January 16, 1883. The commission was created to administer the civil service of the United States federal government. The law required federal government employees to be selected through competitive exams and basis of merit; it also prevented elected officials and political appointees from firing civil servants, removing civil servants from the influences of political patronage and partisan behavior. However, the law did not apply to state and municipal governments.
- … While few jobs were covered under the law initially, the law allowed the President to transfer jobs and their current holders into the system, thus giving the holder a permanent job. The Pendleton Act’s reach was expanded as the two main political parties alternated control of the White House every election between 1884 and 1896. After each election the outgoing President applied the Pendleton Act to jobs held by his political supporters. By 1900, most federal jobs were handled through civil service and the spoils system was limited only to very senior positions.
- The original legislation allowing federal employees to organize together and protect rights was the Lloyd–La Follette Act in 1912. However, this act only allowed for employees to unionize together and petition the government, but gave them no real bargaining power.
- The separation between the political activity and the civil service was made stronger with the Hatch Act of 1939 which prohibited federal employees from engaging in many political activities. …
- The United States Civil service exams have since been abolished for many positions, since statistics show that they do not accurately allow hiring of minorities according to the affirmative action …
- The Civil Service Reform Act of 1978) … sought to fix common problems across the public sector, such as eliminating manipulation of the merit system without inhibiting the entire structure, … both [investing] authority in managers while simultaneously protecting employees from said authority, limit unnecessary or excessive spending, and make the federal work force mirror the American people more closely.
- [The 1978 Act] abolished the United States Civil Service Commission and created the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM), the Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA) and the S. Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB). OPM primarily provides management guidance to the various agencies of the executive branch and issues regulations that control federal human resources. Federal Labor Relations Authority oversees the rights of federal employees to form collective bargaining units (unions) and to engage in collective bargaining with agencies. U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board conducts studies of the federal civil service and mainly hears the appeals of federal employees who are disciplined or otherwise separated from their positions. This act was an effort to replace incompetent officials. …
- In addition to the creation of new agencies, a new grade classification for the government’s top managers was created – the Senior Executive Service (SES). These managers were strategically positioned throughout the government and were rewarded via bonuses based on merit. Middle managers were now paid and rewarded based on evaluations and merit only. The act also created processes for firing employees found to be incompetent and provided protection for “whistleblowers”.
- Attempted Reforms under the Trump administration
- … Donald Trump signed three executive orders designed to enforce merit-system principles in the civil service and claimed it was intended to improve efficiency, transparency, and accountability in the federal government. However, after reviewing the executive orders in detail, S. District Court Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson temporarily struck down a majority of Trump’s executive orders, ruling that his executive orders were an attempt to weaken federal labor unions representing federal employees. Judge Jackson’s opinion was reversed by the DC Circuit.
- MIKE: But at the end of the day, after over 100 years of legislation and reforms, all the people in the civil service system still “serve at the pleasure of the president.” This ultimate power has allowed Trump to fire civil servants and eviscerate whole departments “at his pleasure”. This is a power that will have to be meticulously examined and modified after Trump’s departure.
- ADDITIONAL READING:
- The US civil service: Protectors of the republic, By John Hudak | The Brookings Institution, BROOKINGS.EDU | Wednesday, November 13, 2019
- What is Due Process in Federal Civil Service Employment?
- Toward a Merit-Based Civil Service, By lumenlearning.com
- Why American civil servants matter, By Joshua Spivak, opinion contributor | THEHILL.COM/OPINION | 12/04/19 07:00 PM EST