LTC Jason Amerine

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We need your support by signing the petition here.

My U.S. Military Academy (West Point) classmate, LTC Amerine, SF, US Army, needs your help. He’ll never ask for it. But, now is the time for us, as civilians with greater degrees of freedom, to stand up in support of one who defends our freedom.

LTC Jason Amerine, SF, US Army, is a hero. He parachuted into Afghanistan, linked up with future President Hamid Karzai, and helped defeat the Taliban. He was working as part of a small Army team tasked with helping rescue ISIS hostages. Several have been publicly beheaded. Most recently, an American drone strike killed two hostages. LTC Amerine cooperated with Congressman Duncan Hunter to propose a legislative fix, to coordinate the various separate agencies and efforts into a single system to recover hostages. In response, the FBI and its allies retaliated by initiating a criminal investigation of LTC Amerine.

LTC Jason Amerine embodies the West Point values of Duty, Honor, Country and the Cadet Prayer to choose the harder right rather than the easier wrong. In LTC Amerine’s own words, “I have been under criminal investigation for the last four months for whistleblowing to Congress over our completely dysfunctional system for recovering hostages. The FBI formally complained to the Army about me reporting to Congress about their failed efforts to recover Warren Weinstein, Caitlin Coleman and the child she bore in captivity…If I learned nothing in my 22 years of service I learned that we never leave people behind.”

If it was you or someone you personally cared about, you would want LTC Amerine fighting to bring you or your loved one back! Please sign the petition and write your elected officials to give LTC Amerine the Whistleblower Protection he deserves for his courageous selfless service. Sign the petition here.

Please write your Representative and Senators. Here is a copy of the letter I wrote to my Representative and Senators. Hopefully this makes it easy for everyone to cut, paste, and edit their own:

Dear Senator _______:

I respectfully request your help on behalf of LTC Jason Amerine, Special Forces, US Army. In his own words, “I have been under criminal investigation for the last four months for whistleblowing to Congress over our completely dysfunctional system for recovering hostages. The FBI formally complained to the Army about me reporting to Congress about their failed efforts to recover Warren Weinstein, Caitlin Coleman and the child she bore in captivity…If I learned nothing in my 22 years of service I learned that we never leave people behind.”
In a three-branch government, in a system of checks and balances, I ask that you and your colleagues give LTC Jason Amerine, a National Hero, the Whistleblower Protection he deserves for his selfless service.

Sincerely,
Your Name Here

You can read more about it here and here and here

Thank you.

A Considered Moment

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The Problem with Monopoly (the Game)

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Monopoly replaced the iron game token with a cat?!  OK, fine.  But, it should look more like a feral cat.  And, the shoe should be replaced with a soldier’s boot (since he’ll only need one), the car with a bus, and the guy mounted on a horse with a shopping cart (filled with a trash bag).  The thimble can stay until we end slave labor.  And, all of them go round and round on a board with no hospitals or health care fighting each other for the same small piece of pie until 1% is rich and everyone else is wiped out!  That is an afternoon of family fun?!  It is interesting how a game shapes behavior.  To think, I used to love this game!

The problem with Monopoly is that it is not a game.

Editorial: Minimum Wage in Los Angeles

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Congress can vote themselves a raise. CEOs and other executives and board members can vote themselves a raise (shareholder votes are only advisory). The majority of employees have little or no influence on their raises. Wage increases have continued to be relatively flat and well below the rates of increase in the cost of living with the result that their relative quality of life deteriorates.
Now, with a wage increase, there are many people citing economic theories that they really do not understand. Filled with fear and hatred against the growing number of working poor, seeing them as other, they deny that the middle is disappearing and deny that they are far more likely to join the poor than the rich. Meanwhile, with dueling idealogies dividing the masses, the majority of wealth and income continues to be siphoned off and hoarded by the rich with little evidence of trickle down. The question, in my opinion, is not whether there should be an increase in wages, but rather an overall question of how we are spending money and how do we measure success. What is the good of all this technological improvement in efficiency, including the continuing improvement in the optimization of agriculture, manufacturing, and supply chain (viz. logistics) if we cannot use the gains to create a better quality of life, better education for all, better healthcare for all, and better nutrition for all? For ALL?
US GDP is $16.77 Trillion. That’s US GDP per capita of $53,042! That is a stunning figure that should enable more equitable distribution of resources. Not just wages, but education, healthcare, etc. if we would view every person as a human being with dignity. Germany (GDP per capita $46, 269) and Sweden ($60,430) are two countries with similar GDPs but far different distribution models that are examples of far different priorities. The education systems use testing to identify people’s skills and give them free education that will result in competency and employment at a living wage. German corporate governance is far more inclusive, for example.
In the U.S., in particular, and as we continue to export the U.S. economic model, the continued accrual of efficiency gains to the wealthy few creates an adversarial system in which a growing number of people are being rendered obsolete rather than collectively enjoying the efficiency gains. The resulting class system is a form of socioeconomic structural oppression in which the majority of people are valued as consumers. The military-industrial complex continues to be a system in which perpetual conflict exchanges the lives of many for the profits of a few. The prison-industrial complex is growing as a form of indentured servitude primarily composed of people of color.
The failure to invest in people, in families, in communities, to fundamentally shift areas out of crime…it is hard to see this as anything other than an intentional effort to perpetuate fear and division within the masses rather than to apply existing evidence-based solutions to help improve our collective well-being. Instead, society has been manipulated into idealogical camps that divide us, one from another, and creates a situation in which people are expressing so much fear and hatred because Los Angeles (like other cities) proposes an increase in the minimum wage from $9/hr in 2015 to $15/hr by 2020. For reference, those figures annualize to $18,000 in 2015 increasing to $30,000 for a person working 40 hours per week x 50 weeks per year BEFORE taxes and deductions. Average rent estimates easily range from $1500-2,500, or $18,000-$30,000/yr. That’s just rent. Rent drives the poverty level to 22% of the population in Los Angeles and the poverty level is a poor measure of quality of life and the potential for present and future security and upward mobility. It is, rather, perpetual surviving on the edge. The LA Unified School District graduation rate is 67%. In schools such as Dorsey High School, the graduation rate is a mere 48.8%. Los Angeles has the largest food insecure population in the country at 12.2%. Food deserts in these areas means food is higher priced with lower accessibility. Where people cannot get access to credit or pay security deposits, long term residency means high rates of occupancy as one or more families find themselves living up to 30 days at a time in different motel rooms. There is no simple solution. Hopefully, when seen this way, the problem can be seen in its complexity and given faces. When faces are put to the problems, perhaps we can back off of the rhetoric that, honestly, behind the theory and ideology, all too often feels more like hate speech against the growing number of perpetually downtrodden.

Gaza: An Analysis and Proposed Way to Peace

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Assumptions: if Israel X, then Hamas will stop.  If Hamas Y, then Israel will stop.  What is the historical bases of these assumptions?  To be clear, I propose that the only meaningful definition of stop is the permanent cessation of armed conflict on both sides.  Otherwise, stop just refers to a temporary reduction and resetting of armed conflict and is meaningless because it has failed to change either conditions or reform hearts and minds.  Without internal alignment of the actors, can there be external alignment between actors?  Leaders on both sides have an absence of trust and/or self-interested (e.g. economic, political/power, religious, ideological) reasons to perpetuate the conflict.  Perspectivally, at least, the conflict is occurring on homelands and involves people with a historical identity that includes oppression and a struggle to survive.  This drives at least some actors on both sides to engage in total war, each according to relative power and capability.  Many of the same arguments over tactics, etc. in this conflict can be applied to the Revolutionary War between the U.S.A. and England.  I do not see how externally brokered “peace” results in anything other than the perpetuation of fear and structural oppression on both sides and the perpetuation of the conditions that, based on history, can only lead to war.  It seems like peace between the parties can only occur when conditions result in both sides exhausted of conflict and aligned in a way that enables the organic development of peace between the parties.  The proportional response argument and the comparison of body counts are two examples of the illogic that applies.  Each party acts in the only way it can under the conditions.  For example, larger groups generally engage in conventional warfare for economic and political reasons.  Smaller groups generally engage in low intensity conflict warfare means due to a lack of economic, political, and military power.  I think all parties are prisoners to the situation and engaged in a prisoner’s dilemma.  Thus, the least rational outcome results and they betray themselves and one another.  Perhaps, it is not that Israel and Hamas need to stop, that war can end by the absence of activities, but that Israel and Hamas need to start a set of activities internally hold combatants accountable and that signal to one another indirectly and set the basis for peace.  For illustration purposes, by total war and internal actions that would reverse total war and signal to the other side the basis of peace, Israel could, for instance, destroy illegal settlements created by its citizens.  Based upon limited economic, military, and political power, I would not expect the Palestinian response to be proportional.  So, for example, Palestine could turn over some rockets.  Eventually, as disproportional reciprocity continued, each side would have to start arresting and imprisoning its own combatants removing their capacity to escalate the situation.  It seems absurd that the international role is to perpetuate war by providing economic incentive to fight in an area with limited economic options and then stands back blaming others.  Arguing over which side’s actions are worse.  This situation requires dialectical thought, the capacity to take two diametrically opposed ideas and merge them via a process akin to chemical compounding to produce an entirely new third and best option.  Instead, what dominates is simple arithmetic thinking on a binary level that produces nothing new.

Compassionate Abiding as a Response to Conflict in Gaza?

Differences in power (military, political, economic) results in asymmetric warfare. Ostensibly, there are two belligerents, Israel and Hamas. However, there are far more actors involved. Possibly, there has been/is war by proxy that limits the possibilities for a conclusion. What if the strategic objectives of the belligerents (military, political, economic and therefore not limited to Israel and Hamas) are mutually exclusive and collectively exhaustive? Isolated from perspectival ethics, rhetoric, etc. one can hypothesize that each actor has a center of gravity, a motive force, and an objective (i.e. each actor can be represented by a vector) suggesting the potential for a geometric solution. However, the resultant vector does not exist. Each actor is composed of opposing forces within itself and is probably better represented by a chaotic field than by a vector. There are multiple fields each with its local optima and an overall systematic optimum. Each actor influences every other actor. Thus, the best that has been achieved are temporary dynamic equilbria; the overall system has never been annealed/crystallized to achieve a global static equilibrium (I propose that spin glass theory offers an excellent model for the situation). I have intentionally modeled the situation in abstract terms because win-lose models predominate the discussion and I believe that the cycle of violence will continue because a solution has to be win-win or no deal. If spin glass theory holds, that will require a particular configuration, a fundamental shift in the amount a systemic energy, and a catalyst (figure(s), event), to produce an annealing event. I have heard of one such event in the history of humankind, but it has not happened yet. I am not a moral relativist, but I do not claim the capacity for moral objectivity and acknowledge that my morality is relative to my position and would change if in one of the other positions. On some level, each side is a rational actor engaged in a cycle of action and reaction otherwise there is no sense of humanity as the basis for resolution, right? Given the situation, each side is acting and reacting on the basis of environmental influences. The differences in positions within each actor’s constituencies and how these differences change and are translated by politicians suggests to me no resolution at present. So, perhaps those of us further away from the geographic center of the conflict can challenge ourselves under easier conditions to model and cultivate peace, abide, and pray for all sides and the people in the middle until dynamic equilibrium is restored.

Please Watch This!!!

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Please watch this. Then, if so moved, help it go viral, donate any and all Abercrombie & Fitch wear, and never buy from them again!

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/14/abercrombie-and-fitch-homeless-brand-readjustment_n_3272498.html?utm_hp_ref=fb&src=sp&comm_ref=false