9-23: “They (Wells Fargo) Ruined My Life

[I consult and consider many sources in search of appropriate subject matter for this blog. Today’s piece’s concept comes from Walter Einenkel’s blog.]

Life Altering Events in the Work Place

Walter Einenkel quotes former Wells Fargo banker, Bill Bado, who said, “They ruined my life.” Einenkel continues:

Bado not only refused orders to open phony bank and credit accounts. The New Jersey man called an ethics hotline and sent an email to human resources in September 2013, flagging unethical sales activities he was being instructed to do.

Now, how do we–Americans, that is–feel about whistle blowers? This is how the largest bank in the world deals with this annoyance.

One former Wells Fargo human resources official … said the bank had a method in place to retaliate against tipsters. He said that Wells Fargo would find ways to fire employees “in retaliation for shining light” on sales issues. It could be as simple as monitoring the employee to find a fault, like showing up a few minutes late on several occasions.

“If this person was supposed to be at the branch at 8:30 a.m. and they showed up at 8:32 a.m, they would fire them,” the former human resources official told CNNMoney, on the condition he remain anonymous out of fear for his career.

And so, over the past five years Wells Fargo fired more than 5,000 employees, not necessarily as whistle blowers but as sub-par performers, where par was somehow having every Wells Fargo client have eight separate accounts with the bank. The lowest level employees scrambled, even cheated with a wink and a nod from managers, to bloat the corporate spreadsheets which, in turn, larded the fat cats with multi-million dollar bonuses.

Gee, too big to fail? Nope, let’s keep growing, even if our growth spurts are as fictitious as Jack’s bean stalk seeds.

Two Other Cases to Consider

Edward Snowden

Is former National Security Agency contractor a whistle blower or a traitor?

Chelsea Manning

Is former U.S. Army Private Chelsea Manning, formerly known as Bradley Manning, a whistle blower or a traitor?

Whether you decide whistle blower for both or traitor for both or any combination of the two, perhaps you will acknowledge that Snowden and Manning wrestled with the same ethical dilemma before they decided to act against established protocol. Who is more evil, if evil at all, the whistle blower or the perpetrator of egregious acts?

Connection to PTSD

A combat soldier knows that every step taken while on a mission carries the possibility of the soldier having to make a moral decision … in an instant. If that soldier fires a shot–and the shot is proved unnecessary–the military institution might justify it as “training.” Training therefore becomes a blanket authorization for soldiers in combat to fire their weapons while ethical questions are supposed to disappear. As I type these words, they ring hollow; so I will be more specific.

In Vietnam we often patrolled what were called “free fire zones,” which meant that anyone encountered who was not wearing GI jungle fatigues was categorically suspected to be the enemy … and therefore could be shot just for being there. In every instance I can remember, inhabitants of free fire zones were warned days in advance, usually by air-dropped leaflets, that we were coming.

The question I always asked myself was, where were these subsistence farmers supposed to go? And so I encountered numerous indigenous Vietnamese people in free fire zones. (They may or may not have been Vietcong.) If there was no weapon visible, not a shot was fired. But sometimes these areas were bombed before we grunts had to make our way through elephant grass, jungle, and rice paddies and we found hooches and the families in them destroyed.

They were warned.

Where were they supposed to go?

A soldier confronting an unarmed person, enemy or not, does not/should not follow the blanket order to shoot. Employees must also make difficult moral and ethical decisions when it comes to dubious tasks they are expected or directed to perform. None of this is easy. What I know is that neither military ineptitude at the flag level or corporate corruption in the board room will end until generals and company leaders are fired, lose their pensions, and when appropriate go to  prison. Until then, the little guys and gals will continue to bear the brunt of bad situations they did not create.

Let’s start with John Stumpf, Wells Fargo CEO.

9-22: Who Is in Charge?

[I consult and consider many sources in search of appropriate subject matter for this blog. Often I find material that is best left (mostly) untouched by me, e.g., today’s piece, which comes from various places.]

With regard to the U.S. bombing of regulars in the Syrian army last week it seems several scabs have been scratched.

On the World Socialist Web Site we find:

“Everything suggests that the attack…… was deliberately committed by forces inside the US government hostile to the ceasefire….Claims that US fighters were unaware of who they were bombing are simply not credible, and are flatly contradicted by other accounts in the media…”
— Alex Lantier

The Smirking Chimp headline roars:

Rogue Mission: Did the Pentagon Bomb Syrian Army to Kill Ceasefire Deal?

This provocative, bold-faced question begs another: who is in charge of U.S. military affairs, the White House or the Department of Defense?

The Chimp’s Mike Whitney says,

A rift between the Pentagon and the White House turned into open rebellion on Saturday when two US F-16s and two A-10 warplanes bombed Syrian Arab Army (SAA) positions at Deir al-Zor killing at least 62 Syrian regulars and wounding 100 others. The US has officially taken responsibility for the incident which it called a “mistake”, but the timing of the massacre has increased speculation that the attack was a desperate, eleventh-hour attempt to derail the fragile ceasefire and avoid parts of the implementation agreement that Pentagon leaders publicly opposed. Many analysts now wonder whether the attacks are an indication that the neocon-strewn DOD is actively engaged in sabotaging President Obama’s Syria policy, a claim that implies that the Pentagon is led by anti-democratic rebels who reject the Constitutional authority of the civilian leadership (emphasis added). Saturday’s bloodletting strongly suggests that a mutiny is brewing at the War Department.

This is a claim not to be taken lightly by any of us. Our history was forged on the principle that the supreme leader, so to speak, must be a civilian; our future as a democratic state depends on it.

The world is watching.

The chasm that’s emerged between the Pentagon warhawks and the more conciliatory members of the Obama administration has drawn criticism from leading media outlets in the US (The New York Times) to high-ranking members in the Russian cabinet. On Saturday, at an emergency press conference at the United Nations, Russia’s UN ambassador Vitaly Churkin referred to the apparent power struggle that is taking place in Washington with these blunt comments:

“The big question that has to be asked is ‘Who is in charge in Washington? Is it the White House or the Pentagon?’ …Because we have heard comments from the Pentagon which fly in the face of comments we have heard from Obama and Kerry…”

The old adage about political differences ending at our shores apparently does not hold sway anymore. The current argumentative state of presidential debate does nothing to assuage this condition. The New York Times reported on the incident, saying that Secretary of Defense Ash Carter

“was among the administration officials who pushed against the (ceasefire) agreement … although President Obama ultimately approved the effort … at the Pentagon, officials would not even agree that if a cessation of violence in Syria held for seven days — the initial part of the deal — the Defense Department would put in place its part of the agreement on the eighth day…

“I’m not saying yes or no,” Lt. Gen. Jeffrey L. Harrigian, commander of the United States Air Forces Central Command, told reporters on a video conference call. “It would be premature to say that we’re going to jump right into it.” (“Details of Syria Pact Widen Rift Between John Kerry and Pentagon“, New York Times)

Food for Thought

(Whitney) Think about that for a minute: Lt. General Harrigian appears to be saying that he may not follow an order from the Commander in Chief if it’s not to his liking. When exactly did military leaders start to believe that orders are optional or that the DOD had a role to play in policymaking?

This is serious stuff, folks. Let’s hope the subject comes up in next week’s debate. It certainly wasn’t broached in the so-called Commander-in-Chief Forum hosted by Matt Lauer.

9-21: State of Women Veterans

[I consult and consider many sources in search of appropriate subject matter for this blog. Often I find material that is best left (mostly) untouched by me, e.g., today’s piece from the Department of Veterans Affairs.]

VA aggressively implementing measures to prevent suicide among Veterans

Testimonial

When I came home from Iraq in 2004, I struggled to control intrusive memories about awful things I’d seen in the war — and the intense emotions those memories triggered. At the same time, I felt overwhelmed by the pressure of trying to help my then-boyfriend recover from the traumatic brain injury he sustained during the deployment. One night, it seemed as if the only thing I would be able to control was how my life ended, and I sat staring at a gun for what felt like an eternity. Luckily, I got help, and today I’m thriving.

Key words for me: struggled, intrusive, intense, overwhelmed

The recent VA report on suicide shows that my experience with these challenges was not unique. In 2014, after adjusting for differences in age, the risk for suicide was 2.4 times higher among women Veterans when compared with their civilian counterparts. That year, the rate of suicide among civilian adult women was 7.2 per 100,000; their age-adjusted rate of suicide had increased by 39.7 percent since 2001. Meanwhile, the rate of suicide among women Veterans was 18.9 per 100,000, and our age-adjusted rate of suicide increased by 85.2 percent over the same time period.

VA has been aggressively undertaking new measures to prevent suicide among all Veterans. These include expanding the Veterans Crisis Line, using predictive analytics to identify those at risk and intervene early, expanding telemental health services, providing free mobile apps to help Veterans and their families, and leveraging VA Vet Centers and readjustment counselors. VA is also conducting proactive outreach to Veterans needing care, through channels including Make the Connection and this powerful new suicide prevention PSA.

Proactivity

VA has also taken steps to specifically bolster physical and mental health services for women Veterans:

  • VHA’s Mental Health Services held its first National Women’s Mental Health Mini-Residency, during which approximately 200 mental health providers from across VA attended an intensive three-day training on gender-tailored mental health care that addresses women Veterans’ unique treatment needs.
  • VA has enhanced provision of health care to women Veterans by focusing on training and hiring designated women’s health providers (DWHPs) at every site where women access VA, with 100 percent of VA Medical Centers and 90 percent of Community-Based Outpatient Clinics having DWHPs. VA has now trained nearly 2,500 providers in women’s health and continues to train additional providers to ensure that women Veterans have the opportunity to receive their primary care from a DWHP.
  • VA operates a Women Veterans Call Center (WVCC), created to inform women Veterans about VA’s benefits and services. As of February 2016, the WVCC received 30,399 incoming calls and made about 522,038 outbound calls, successfully reaching 278,238 women Veterans.

These efforts are making a difference. According to the research, we know that women Veterans who are not using VA care have a much higher rate of suicide compared with those who are. In fact, compared with the general population, the risk for suicide among VA users has decreased since 2001 — for both men and women.

Spread the word; help save a Veteran’s life.

9-20: Mike Pence, Woe Is He

[I write about politics because of the direct link I see between the words and actions of politicians and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. America’s political class manipulates our military as though they were pawns in a global game of chess. To them, PTSD is merely an unfortunate cost of war.]

Anonymous Sources

Joan McCarter “reports” the dead enders Mike Pence ran into when he returned to his former place of business, the capitol. She openly admits that everything she has written is hearsay, since journalists were not permitted to attend any of the meetings Pence had with his former colleagues. So let’s share the grain of salt, even though the gist rings true to me. McCarter writes:

An otherwise friendly morning meeting with House Republicans turned awkward when Mr. Pence was pressed by Representative Jeff Fortenberry of Nebraska about Mr. Trump’s difficulties with women, said two House Republicans who relayed the conversation. Mr. Fortenberry told Mr. Pence that his young daughter had come to him and said, “Daddy, Donald Trump hates women,” according to one of the lawmakers, who both insisted on anonymity to recount a private conversation.

Fair enough.

“It’s just not true,” Mr. Pence shot back, arguing that Mr. Trump was improving with women, the two House Republicans said.

… with what women?

Mr. Pence faced resistance again when he met privately with Senators Mike Lee of Utah and Ted Cruz of Texas, neither of whom has endorsed Mr. Trump. Mr. Lee pressed the governor on his reluctance to denounce Mr. Duke and the so-called alt-right movement more explicitly, stressing “that Republicans must identify David Duke’s racism as deplorable,” according to Conn Carroll, a spokesman for Mr. Lee. […]

Why is that so hard?

Mr. Pence was greeted warmly by Senate Republicans when he joined them for a lunch of Chick-fil-A sandwiches, but received a firm rebuke from John McCain of Arizona, the chairman of the Armed Services Committee. Calling Vladimir V. Putin, the Russian president, “a thug and a butcher,” Mr. McCain said Mr. Trump’s embrace of the autocratic ruler was unacceptable, according to a Republican official present who also insisted on anonymity.

There was a time when I could have been a McCain supporter. But notwithstanding the paragraph above, he still claims, as he said early on, he will support the Republican nominee, no matter who it is. To me, that’s placing party over country and I simply can’t accept that … from anyone … of any party.

If Pence thought he had a future in politics, he should now be rethinking a return to radio show talk hosting, from whence he came.

9-19: Trump Ends Birtherism Canard. Period

[I write about politics because of the direct link I see between the words and actions of politicians and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. America’s political class manipulates our military as though they were pawns in a global game of chess. To them, PTSD is merely an unfortunate cost of war.]

Sweet Memories

Remember, oh five or so years ago, when Donald Trump sent a team of experts to Hawaii to once and for all discover the truth about the place of Barack Obama’s birth? “What they are finding is ‘unbuhleveable,” he claimed at the time. Well, we never heard or saw what they found; in fact, we never even heard who they were, what sources they searched, or what they allegedly found. Liar. He even demanded to have Obama’s college transcripts made public. Fool.

Fast Forward

Last week Trump uttered magnainmously a simple, declarative sentence, stating that Obama is, indeed, an American. But he couldn’t leave it there. Instead of just ‘fessing up to his long-standing, campaign-launching absurdity, he had to add that it was Hillary Clinton’s campaign that actually started the prevarication. Liar.

Trump Followers

Setting aside the fact that Obama is black–a huge omission to be sure–I have another theory as to why so many people were/are so eager to jump into Trump’s looney bin.

Back in the day, there were 13 British colonies that decided to rebel against their tyrannical king, they declared independence, they fought and won a war that established the United States of America. They explored, they pioneered, they migrated, they plundered, they settled on territories far beyond the boundaries of the original colonies. Then, to justify Anglo expansion and usurpation, some wordsmith coined the magnificent term “Manifest Destiny.” It was God’s plan all along that (mostly) white Protestants rule all the land from sea to shining sea.

Most Americans bought into the blatant fallacy that all men (forget women) were created equal. The Chinese who immigrated through the port of San Francisco might harbor a different view on that, as might the Italians and Irish who entered the land of Milk and Honey through Ellis Island. But for all its flaws there was this wonderful new place cartographers had to deal with: the (48) United States of America. “We” were/are hard working, self-reliant, industrious, generous people. And despite the facts that are so evident, we considered ourselves tough but non-belligerent. We never deployed our military except in the service of others. False. We never licked our chops over annexation of other lands beyond what is now known as the continental United States (the lower 48). False. In 1959 Alaska and Hawaii entered the union as states, 48 became 50, just like that.

My Theory

When Trump declares he wants to make America great again, I believe he is whistling directly to the Anglos of old–not all, but many–even and especially those who need scapegoats for their own less-than-desirable circumstances. Mexicans take their jobs, Chinese take their jobs, Jews take their jobs, Italians take their jobs, and Irish need not apply. Would these white, fly-over-country Americans, who comprise the majority of our citizenry, be better off in Alaska or Hawaii? Maybe so, maybe not. One thing for sure, though, they would be ethnic minorities in either state.

The U.S. did not grant statehood to Alaska and Hawaii because the people in those places shared ethnicity (Caucasian) or lifestyle. Arguably, the most famous American born in Hawaii is Barack Obama, while the most famous American born in Alaska is Sarah Palin. The great majority of Hawaiians are of Asian descent (Chinese and Japanese), Alaskans are mostly what we now refer to as Native American (e.g., Inuit).

Imagine instead of Palin and Obama those states sent us an Asian-American and an Eskimo to run for national office. The right would go nuts. We need Hawaii’s deep water ports in the Pacific and Alaska has oil and other natural resources that suit our purposes. “We” don’t need their inhabitants to set up cabanas and igloos in Washington, D.C.

So I believe that much of the willingness of people to challenge Obama’s citizenship is due to the fact that those same people don’t really accept the full statehood of Alaska and Hawaii.

 

 

9-16: Jurgen Habermas, Philosopher

Jürgen Habermas: A Biography

By Stefan Müller-Doohm; Daniel Steuer, trans.

Following are portions of a review of A Lion in Winter, a biography of philosopher Jurgen Habermas. The article was written by Peter E. Gordon and appeared in Nation magazine.

It begins:

Jürgen Habermas remains an indispensable guide to the unfinished project of democratic consciousness and enlightenment.

Not far from Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate lies the Holocaust Memorial, a vast grid of nearly 3,000 concrete blocks that span a field of 19,000 square meters and vary in height. Some rise only to the knees; others loom above the head as one descends the sloping plain to its center. The memorial was built only after a protracted debate as to whether such a sobering reminder of the darkest chapter in Germany’s past should stand at the heart of the nation’s newly refounded capital.

Following the memorial’s inauguration in May 2005, a reporter for the weekly Die Zeit took note of a solitary visitor, “a gentleman with snow-white hair” who was standing near an ice-cream van. “His hand is pensively holding his chin. He is looking at the people surging amid the stelae, the catch-me-if-you-can games of the pubescent, the photo-shooting fathers, exhausted pensioners. The man is standing there in silence.” He observes the whole scene “as if he were watching a sociological experiment.” But he has an air of dissatisfaction. “What is he thinking? ‘No comment.’” says the man. “He does not want to talk about it in public, not yet.” As the reporter leaves, the man’s “white hair can still be seen among the crowd.”

The pensive man with the snow-white hair was the philosopher and social theorist Jürgen Habermas, who for more than six decades has played the part of gadfly in modern Germany, just as Socrates did in ancient Athens. Even at his ripe age—he is now 87—Habermas’s passion remains undiminished. As a public intellectual, however, he may seem an unlikely hero. We live in an age when what some of us still fondly call “the public sphere” has grown thick with personalities who prefer the TED Talk to the printed word and the tweet to the rigors of rational argument. For Habermas, it’s clear that without the constant exercise of public deliberation,

democracy will collapse

and this means that citizens must be ready to submit their arguments to

the acid bath of rational criticism

The debates that preceded the construction of the Holocaust Memorial brought bitter memories to the surface—the novelist Martin Walser complained of “a monumentalization of our disgrace”—but for Habermas,

a willingness to engage productively in self-criticism is a prerequisite for democratic consciousness

. National pride in the conventional sense leaves him cold: In an essay for Die Zeit, he responded to Walser, emphasizing that “anyone who views Auschwitz as ‘our shame’ is more interested in the image others have of us than in the image German citizens retrospectively form of themselves in view of the breakdown of civilization, in order to be able to look each other in the face and show each other respect.” Habermas argues instead for “constitutional patriotism,” a sense of loyalty to the principles and procedures of the modern democratic state.

The review continues for several thousand words, but I’ll leave it at this point … and repeat Habermas’ basic definition of constitutional patriotism: “a sense of loyalty to the principles and procedures of the modern democratic state.”

It would be ideal if the modern democratic state–starting right here in the USA–truly stood for the rights and well-being of all our countrymen, and then extended to the entire world. Polyannaish, I know, but worth dreaming of and working toward.

Connection to PTSD

Habermas demonstrates that deep, dark feelings can extend beyond the individual, that an entire country/culture can fall into malaise. Atrocities of war will do that.

The first step to recovery is to acknowledge the existence of a problem.

 

 

9-15: Newsweek Outs the Trump Organization

[I write about politics because of the direct link I see between the words and actions of politicians and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. America’s political class manipulates our military as though they were pawns in a global game of chess. To them, PTSD is merely an unfortunate cost of war.]

According to this week’s issue of Newsweek magazine, “(Donald) Trump’s global deals would make it impossible for him to conduct foreign policy in many countries without padding or depleting his wallet.” Is this why he won’t release his tax forms?

The weekly’s argument:

If Donald Trump is elected president, will he and his family permanently sever all connections to the Trump Organization, a sprawling business empire that has spread a secretive financial web across the world? Or will Trump instead choose to be the most conflicted president in American history, one whose business interests will constantly jeopardize the security of the United States?

These questions are particularly poignant in light of all the mud being thrown at the Clinton Global Initiative.

Throughout this campaign, the Trump Organization, which pumps potentially hundreds of millions of dollars into the Trump family’s bank accounts each year, has been largely ignored. As a private enterprise, its businesses, partners and investors are hidden from public view, even though they are the very people who could be enriched by—or will further enrich—Trump and his family if he wins the presidency.

On the other hand the CGI discloses every donor–no matter who, no matter how much the donation. This is what “transparency” looks like. Apparently, that unwritten rule does not apply to Trump.

 Newsweek … reveals an enterprise with deep ties to global financiers, foreign politicians and even criminals, although there is no evidence the Trump Organization has engaged in any illegal activities.

Yet! I, for one, am waiting anxiously for the next foot to fall.

It also reveals a web of contractual entanglements that could not be just canceled. If Trump moves into the White House and his family continues to receive any benefit from the company, during or even after his presidency, almost every foreign policy decision he makes will raise serious conflicts of interest and ethical quagmires.

But he “tells it like it is,” admirers chant, mantra-like. He is going to make America–and therefore me–great again.

Organization with Conflicting Missions

The Trump Organization is not like the Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation, the charitable enterprise that has been the subject of intense scrutiny about possible conflicts for the Democratic presidential nominee. There are allegations that Hillary Clinton bestowed benefits on contributors to the foundation in some sort of “pay to play” scandal when she was secretary of state, but that makes no sense because there was no “pay.” Money contributed to the foundation was publicly disclosed and went to charitable efforts, such as fighting neglected tropical diseases that infect as many as a billion people. The financials audited by PricewaterhouseCoopers, the global independent accounting company, and the foundation’s tax filings show that about 90 percent of the money it raised went to its charitable programs. (Trump surrogates have falsely claimed that it was only 10 percent and that the rest was used as a Clinton “slush fund.”) No member of the Clinton family received any cash from the foundation, nor did it finance any political campaigns. In fact, like the Clintons, almost the entire board of directors works for free.

The article continues … but the gist is evident above.

Hillary Clinton is an unpopular candidate, although seemingly slightly more palatable than Trump to a vast number of the electorate. It is an election season of false equivalents. In the bizarre world of Trump enthusiasts anything said about their man in an accusatory manner is immediately rejected and redounded to Clinton. Now that Trump’s organization has been outed by a major publication, expect an onslaught of accusations about the Hillary and the CGI.

Truth be damned.

Connection to PTSD

Truth matters.

9-14: Deplorable

[I write about politics because of the direct link I see between the words and actions of politicians and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. America’s political class manipulates our military as though they were pawns in a global game of chess. To them, PTSD is merely an unfortunate cost of war.]

Many of my friends and relatives are conservatives/republicans. So blogging about the current state of political affairs in America gets a bit dicey for me, a stalwart left-winger.

Words, by definition, mean something. Turns out Hillary used two over the weekend that brewed up a storm: “half” and “deplorable.” She backed off the “half” part of her comment about the number of Trump supporters, but retained the “deplorable” as in deplorable persons … such as former Head Mucky-muck of the KKK David Duke, who along with other white supremacists whole heartedly supports the Trump-Pence ticket.

Meanwhile, in a single interview with CNBC Trump managed to hurl the following invectives: