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No ifs, ands or bots

Wake-up call


To achieve peace between warring factions, whether on the geopolitical stage or in labor-management conflicts, balanced judgment is essential. But is it the same thing as moral equivalence? Is the assertion of moral equivalence in the interest of truth and conciliation, even when the weight of guilt and innocence are uneven?   

Revisionist history has a grip on revisionist present times.

There must be no equal time for latter-day Einsatzgruppen to make their case. This thought crossed my mind on International Holocaust Remembrance Day (ironically designated by the United Nations) Jan. 27, and perpetually and quite mercilessly crawls at the bottom of the screen of my ancestral memory.

But on a lighter note.

We are most blind to solutions when they are in plain sight. And never are we more thoughtless than when we overthink. Ostriches know that. Policymakers have their own sandboxes. Instead of burying their heads, they muddle their minds with bootless playbooks.

How would they have us protect children from drugs and guns? By posting "Drug-Free Zone" signs around school perimeters so that the candy man will show appreciation by keeping off the grounds? And a picture of a crossed-out gun on a metal pole will be enough for gangbangers to get in the habit of leaving their weapons in lockboxes. 

If we engage miscreants by appealing to their better instincts, rather than go on a fool's errand of punishment, all peace will break loose. How have we reinvented crime containment?

By manipulating data, making categories vague and classifications so elastic that statistics can be favorably interpreted without outright fudging. And by refusal to accept or investigate complaints in a timely fashion. Or by discouraging victims from reporting crimes because they know there will be no consequences to criminals even in the unlikely event they are caught.

Last week, state lawmakers introduced the Retail Worker Safety Act. The legislation requires businesses to do risk assessments, put on active shooter drills, and hone their de-escalation skills. This is in response to the open season on employees who happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Which in recent years has become everywhere and anytime.

Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, said that his members' lives should "be valued at least as much as the merchandise they sell.” Maybe they should be locked up like toothpaste and eyebrow pencils?

Is punishment for major serial offenders a remedy worth trying? They know that laws are not binding, but are merely suggestions and humble requests. State Senator Jessica Ramos blames “many concurrent policy failures: the mental health crisis, poverty, and a lack of common-sense gun control.” 

"Tough love" is not too harsh for perpetrators.  Nor measured penalties.

There is even less accountability for politicians than for the perpetrators. They are better at prose than at action. They are more interested in language than in solutions. And when charged with giving form to the truth of their real motives, they, no less than Big Management, are apex contortionists.

According to The Verge, Sundar Pichai, the CEO of Google, said that recent layoffs are about "removing layers to simplify execution and drive velocity in some areas.” Just last year he slashed 12,000 jobs. He calls this "role elimination.” 

The euphemism isn't direct, but its intent is plain. So is a strike vote. And there's no oration as rousing as a picket line. Especially in a leap year. And so, on Feb. 29th, the contract of 5,000 Anheuser-Busch brewery employees in Florida runs out, and their strike authorization passed by 99 percent. Teamsters President Sean O'Brien said, "The concession stand is closed!"  

Now that's taking a stand. Nearly a half-million workers went on strike last year. Strikes are not goals; they are last resorts. And sometimes performance art.

The American Federation of Musicians is now in contract negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture And Television Producers over such issues as artificial intelligence abuses, residual income and profits from lucrative streaming services.

By being shared, booty becomes bounty.

The length of a strike does not necessarily reflect its effectiveness. Last week, Daily News journalists walked out for just one day. That iconic tabloid has certainly seen better days. They have cut the veins of staff and are letting the paper bleed out. Two months ago, the NewsGuild was forced to lodge a complaint alleging unfair labor practices against Alden Global Capital management for their unilateral changes. It appears the city-based hedge fund is "divesting from the paper,” according to Ellen Moynihan, the Daily News Union's unit chair.

Another strike threat looms at The Onion self-styled "America's Finest News Source” and people are tearing up over it. By a 97 percent margin, staffers passed a strike authorization vote. Being satirists, you know they're dead serious about the storm cloud of artificial intelligence that management is seeding.

 No ifs, ands or bots.

"Things are seldom what they seem. Skim milk masquerades as cream.” You're so right, Mr. Gilbert! BLDG44 Developers LLC is not the cream of their industry. 

And their claimed eligibility for a "421-a" tax exemption may be a facade. The city comptroller's office alleges that they are persistently underpaying construction workers and is referring the matter to the city's Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings. Such tax exemptions are "the city's biggest tax break for developers and landlords" and costs the state $1.7 billion in lost revenue annually, according to The Scoop.

What were they thinking?  

With cognitive functioning so much in the news lately, let's give thumbs down to the federal government, abetted by the American Museum of Natural History, for smearing the culture and legacy of Native Americans with manufactured veneration.  

The museum is shutting down its exhibitions of Native American artifacts and history. Their rationale is patronizing, illogical and incredibly cynical. By preventing people from accessing knowledge, they believe that justice will be served, and historical ignorance will not be aggravated by the experience of further exposure to the legacy of these complex people.

The federal government has concocted conditions that might possibly allow a restoration of portions of these exhibitions, but they are practically impossible to meet.

Native American peoples have been demeaned and viciously caricatured, and their languages are nearly extinct. Will they be revived by avoidance of study? Will they take on a new life by their disappearance?

Out of sight, out of mind. A truism truer than most. Makes about as much sense as splattering Mona Lisa with pumpkin soup to call attention to climate change. But what does make sense is Black History Month, though it shouldn't be confined to February.   

Recognition of achievement should not be seasonal, or calendar-based. Nor should it be primarily restricted to athletes, entertainers, activists or politicians. In the American labor movement, African-Americans have been legion, and their vital contributions predate the modern era by many generations.

Worth a deep dive anytime between January 1 and December 31 any given year.

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