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Norbert Bufka

Author  ·  Historian  ·  Bufka Books

Published Articles, Letters, and Blogs

Geofencing is n invasion of privacy

Many people complain or are concerned abut government intrusion into one’s personal lives, but private companies are doing the same thing without you even noticing it.  they are able to capture information from your cell phone and use it at the time to send you an ad or save the data for later contact with an ad. This is done through a process called geofencing. I looked it up and found a company promoting itself as “THE LEADERS IN GEOFENCING”. Its home page says:

No company in the industry offers a more targeted approach with household IP extension & cross device targeting across 98% of the web’s publishers. Our proprietary Geofencing process creates a virtual fence over your store, a competitor’s store, or even key neighborhoods. We then deliver your ads to any device that enters your geofence, PLUS capture device ID’s so you can retarget them later when they’re at home, work or play.

Our Geofencing technology is so precise, we reach shoppers inside a store or even at live events. Once they have entered your Geofence, consumers are served your ads on both apps & browsers. This targeting will help capture your customers on a more personal level by providing them with special offers that apply to their current location.

You and I have no idea when some company is doing this but a Catholic organization is proudly doing this inorder to support Trump for re-election. The group is called Catholic vote.org.  they geofence a church and then capture data from the cellphones of churchgoers, and then send ads to those devices.

So, while you are in church praying, this company may be invading your privacy so it can send you pro-Trump ads.  This is an added incentive to make sure your cell phone is turned off before you get to the parking lot!

Read more about it in an article in NCR by Heidi Schlumpf

 and another by Michael Sean Winters. Then spread the word by talking abut it or sending the links to others.

New Year's Resolution

It is traditional to make some resolutions for a new year and it is also traditional to break them before thened of January. There is one resolution however that I urge you to make and keep. This is a very important election year.

President Donald Trump is running for reelection and the Republican party is forbidding anyone to run against him in state primaries. The Democratic Party candidate is our only hope for a different president when January 2021 rolls around.

Because of the ineptness of Trump on all grounds (see previous blog posts), it is imperative we elect a Democrat in the fall. In Michigan it will be easier to vote in all elections because of the Amendment passed in2018.  Anyone can register to vote even on the day of election. Anyone can choose to obtain an absentee ballot and vote before election day. You need to contact the clerk of your residence to do both of these. If you are not registered to vote,please do so as soon as practicable. Tell the clerk you want an absentee ballot and learnd the procedure to make sure you actually get one in October in advance of the November election.

So my proposed resolution is this:

I will do everything I need to do so I can vote in the November election.

These steps might include:

Register to vote.

Study the candidates and issues

Get an absentee ballot.

Actually vote.

 

1984 has arrived

George Orwell’s book, 1984 became public on June 8, 1949. It depicted a country run by Bib Brother and the Party. In the book this was a leftist organization and all readers thought that the threat of government control would be the product of the political left. Orwell described a country in which 15% of the people belonged to the Party and were blindly loyal to it. They didn’t care about the 85%, called proles. Orwell described them, “All that was required of them was a primitive patriotism which could be appealed to whenever it was necessary to make them accept longer working-hours or shorter rations. In a way, the world-view of the Party imposed itself most successfully on people incapable of understanding it. They could be made to accept the most flagrant violations of reality, because they never fully grasped the enormity of what was demanded of them, and were not sufficiently interested in public events to notice what was happening.”

The Ministry of Truth altered the past and current news so that both the Party member and the proletarian would “tolerates present-day conditions partly because he has no standards of comparison”  and will believe that they are well off. But it is important to change the past and the news to protect the inffalibility of Bib Brother. “To change one’s mind, or even one’s policy, is a confession of weakness.”

Reality is in the head and the Party makes the laws of nature.

 

This was scary enough when reading it back in the 1950’s and 1960’s but it is rapidly becoming reality. I believe that this book is the playbook of Donald Trump. He expects 100% loyalty from everyone, he accepts no compromises or disagreements with what he says or does. He is infallible, in his mind. He has said he is the Chosen One. He even asked the Secretary of the Interior to tellt the Weather Bureau to change its report on a hurricane so when Trump’s said Alabama was in the path of the hurricane, he would appear to be right.

Trump has denied saying things even though he have been recorded. He says something is good when it is bad, such as calling Putin a friend when all know Putin cannot be trusted. Trump is trying to circumvent and disregard laws because he is above the law.

If Trump is reelected, we can be assured there will be more efforts to make himself Bib Brother and turn our democracy into a dictatorship.

In 2008 I wrote an oped column for the midland lpaper in which I charged President George W. Bush as trying to be Big Brother. He favored and signed into law the Patriot Act which infringed on human rights inorder to protect national security. The Republican Party tried to get a marriage amendment passed and have tried to overturn Roe. V. Wade for several decades. Those efforts pale in comparison to what our current president is doing and wants to do. He has resurrected a plan for a police force accountable only to him, reminiscent of Hitler’s Gestapo.

He denies climate change and withdrew from the Paris Agreement on climate and has directed the government to do nothing about it. He favors destroying our natural resources for the sake of making money. He has no moral values and treats immigrants seeking asylum with despicable plans. He wanted to ban all Muslims from entering the country or those here from leaving and returning.

The country described in 1984 is becoming a reality and it is no joke. Please get a copy of the book and read it yourself and spread the word about what Trump is doing to our country.  Keep in mind too that all those who support him are complicit in this destruction of our democracy.

 

 

Let there be peace on earth

 

With Christmas day now a memory, it is still important to reflect on the meaning of this day. Peace and harmony are at the heart of all the major religions, especially Christianity, whose source is called the Prince of Peace. . Unfortunately these sentiments are often lost in our everyday lives, even during this time of year. We destroy peace and harmony through environmental degradation, gun violence and acts of terror, fueling fear, and extreme ideologies.

Environmental Degradation

One of the ways we destroy harmony is through environmental degradation – the destruction of our land and the pollution of the air and water. We know that global warming is a reality but many choose to deny the human contribution to that warming. In a letter about our world, The Care of Our Common Home (Laudato Si),  Pope Francis emphasized that we have a responsibility to take care of each other and everything in the world. Yet we are largely responsible for the environmental degradation that exists all over the world-  pollution of our air, water, and land and adverse climate change. All of our human actions have caused disharmony with adverse effects especially on the poor. We are heading for global suicide, he said on his flight back from Africa in 2015.

Terrorism

Acts of terror have been occurring all over the world including the United States. Many of the perpetrators have been members of ISIS, giving reason for some to demean Islam and its adherents, but we must avoid this kind of . language. It is unfair and contrary to our American ideals of innocent until proven guilty.  Our president is a primary leader of demeaning Muslims.

we have our own brand of terrorism right here in this country under the name of mass shootings. A mass shooting is any incident in which four or more people are killed or injured by gunshot.  A gun proponent sent me information about how statistically low is the number of victims of gun shootings, but I would challenge him on the basis of this question. “How would you react if the victim was your child or grandchild?” I think the response might be quite personal rather than saying, “oh, it was all right. He was only one of .01% .”

Fear

Fear has been shamefully promoted by our leaders, especially after 9/11/01. As a result, fear clutches the hearts of so many people that it is nearly impossible to arrive at reasonable solutions or courses of action in the face of these mass shootings and other problems. It would be well for us to remember the words of President Franklin Roosevelt, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” “Be not afraid”, or similar words, are the most common phrase in the Bible. Unfortunately, our president loves to fuel fear in his audience.

Extreme ideologies

An extreme ideological stance guides so many people who are unwilling to compromise. They see compromise as a sign of weakness. They defend their positions as if they have been given to them directly by God.

Asubset of extreme ideologies is religious fundamentalism, which occurs in all the major religions. Any religion, which preaches and practices intolerance, hatred, and/or murder is not authentic and should be curtailed. Authentic religion is about helping each other in need, as the letter of James (1:26) says,  “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to care for orphans and widows in their affliction and to keep oneself unstained by the world.”

Let’s rise above the fears and ideologies so that we can work towards peace and harmony in our country and world. This work begins with you and me in our everyday living

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

 

A version of this blog appeared in the Midland Daily News on December 20, 2015.

 

Our president is mentally unstable

In 2016, I wrote in an op-ed column in the Midland Daily News that Trump was unfit for office. My claim was not based on his policies but rather his mental state and character. He was unable to focus on anything longer than a few minutes, he seldom read anything, and he did not listen to advice from others, especially those whoo disagreed with him.  Speaking in complete sentences with a coherent thought was a challenge to him.

His time in office has shown very clearly that my claim in 2016 was accurate. In fact, he has far surpassed all my claims of ineptitude. It is now certain that he has a mental illness. This was made clear to me when I looked up the definition of a sociopath after a friend alerted me to that condition.

Trump asserted after one of the mass shootings that the shooter was mentally ill and therefore we should have a register of all who are mentally ill. Besides being a totally preposterous idea, if such a list were made, he would be the first one on it.

In early December 2019 mental health professionals wrote an open letter to Congress urging them to be aware of Trump’s fragile mental health. They declared his condition to be Narcissistic Personality Disorder, or more popularly extremely low narcissistic self-esteen.

. This is why he seeks constant affirmation from people around him and denounces anyone who refuses to do so. He demands absolute loyalty and thinks this is part of his constitutional right.

The House prepared to Articles of Impeachment and on December 18, the House approved both articles. Interestingly, the Republicans in the House offered no defense of the President’s character or actions. They only vilified the \democrats for the impeachment. Now it will go to the Senate for a trial with Chief Justice John Roberts presiding.  A simple majority vote is enough to find him guilty, but a two-thirds majority vote is required to remove him from office. This should be a no-brainer, but the Republicans in the Senate are such sycophant’s that they lack the courage to stand up to this president. They would rather let our democratic republic fall into the hands of a self- appointed autocrat rather than preserve and protect the constitution.

In 1967 the states approved the 25th Amendment in which the Congress can declare a president unable to serve because of his disability. This is another no-brainer but both houses of Congress would need a two thirds vote to remove him based on disability. this option hasn’t been given any serious considereation.

Three psychiatrists, Yale Medical School Professor Dr Bandy Lee, George Washington University Professor Dr John Zinner, and former CIA profiler Dr Jerrold Post said  that with impeachment, “Donald Trump has the real potential to become ever more dangerous, a threat to the safety of our nation.” 350 mental health professionals signed on in support of their statement.

They recognise Mr Trump is exhibiting “definitive signs of severe pathology of someone who requires an advanced level of care” and who “meets every criterion of lacking a rational decision making capacity”. Our president is not just telling lies, he is delusional.

This statement by mental health professionals must not be dismissed as just another point of view. To do so denies the science of mental health and falls into the rants of our president that he is a stable genius and must not be opposed.  Only he can resolve the issues facing our country, he says.

All of this confirms that the process must proceed and he must be found guilty in the Senate. Otherwise, he will be claiming his innocence and blaming the Democrats of an unlawful impeachment probe.  And unfortunately, his base will eat that up and give them another reason to re-elect him in November.

We must not allow this to happen.

Source:

“350 health professionals sign letter to Congress claiming Trump's mental health is deteriorating dangerously amid impeachment proceedings”, Independent, Dec 5, 2019.

 

 

US in Grave Danger

We have a president who is totally about himself, hates anyone who disagrees with him, demeans immigrants and others whom he dislikes, befriends our enemies at the expense of our allies, is morally corrupt, and is a consummate liar.

I cannot believe anything he says nor trust him about anything that is important and sacred to our country. He is totally selfish. The Republicans are afraid to stand up to him. He is a model of bullying, blaming, and self-promotion. These are the very antitheses of what it means to be an American.

He claims to know more about the climate than scientists, more about the military than our generals, and more about intelligence than our intelligence services.  He has opposed most of the rights in the First Amendment. He has said he is the Chosen One, and some of his supporters put up a billboard near St. Louis MO with his image and caption, “Word made flesh”. All should abhor these claims but to Christians they are blasphemous.

We need to stand together to oppose evil wherever it is and especially when it is in the oval office.  Or surely we will go down the path of Germany in the 1930’s under Hitler.

the above appeared in the Midland Daily News on November 22, 2019 as a letter to the editor by me. Our President has very low self-esteem. this is why he must seek affirmation constantly from everyone around him. over 300 counselors have signed a letter attesting to this danger. Impeachment will cause him to go bonkers. he needs to be removed from office under the 25th Amendment. Unfortunately, the Republicans in the Congress, especially in the Senate, are complicit in this danger.

 

 

 

Labor unions in Michigan

An essential component of any business operation, whether manufacturing or service, whether private or public, is the employee, whether there is only one or thousands.  Adam Smith in his Wealth of Nations, the often quoted authority on capitalism, envisioned the employee an integral part of the business and must share in the wealth the company makes. George Lakoff, in his book, The All New Don’t Think of an Elephant, called employees “profit creators”. 

Employees created labor unions so they could secure some benefits through a process called collective bargaining. They were very successful over time through many legal and even bloody battles. These successes include a ban on child labor, a 40 hour work week, extra pay for overtime work,paid days off, unemployment compensation, disability benefits, health insurance benefits, and  retirement plans.  Today these are standard benefits in most employee agreements, whether the employee is in a union or not,.

Even though the owners are the ones who use their capital to start a business, they are not the only ones who take a risk in that business. The employee too is taking a risk in agreeing to work for a particular company. He or she is giving his time, energy, abilities, to the company and deserves recognition and compensation for those risks. In addition, his and his families current and future security rest on that employment.

There have been efforts in recent years to destroy unions based on the false argument that they are an impediment to the free exercise of the business owners. The most egregious example of this is the so-called Right to Work laws, which have been passed in 28 states, including Michigan in December 2012. These laws forbid a union to negotiate with the empoyer for the requirement that all who are covered under the union agreement make “payment of union dues, or fees as a condition of employment”. [i] They receive the benefits of the union but do not pay for them.  

Michigan has had a high percentage of employees belonging to unions, primarily because of the auto industry with hundreds of thousands of workers. The United Auto Workers Union gained respect and Many members through the sit-down strike in 1937 at General Motors plants in Michigan.

In 1989 union membership in Michigan was at its all time high of 26%.  it sank to its lowest in 2016 at 14.4%, but rose in 2017 to 15.6% (658,000), compared to 10.7% (14.8 million) nationally in 2016 and 2017.  Michigan’s rate has consistently been higher than the national. In 2017 another 53,000 workers in Michigan were represented by a union for benefits but not a union member. Nationally this number was  1.6 million. [ii]

We support employees and their right to organize a union. Union must be protected and encouraged. We recognize that some unions have fallen into the snares of greed and corruption. These must be curtailed so  that the original purpose of the union is paramount. Right to Work Laws must be repealed.  Benefits obtained by labor unions should not be diminished or taken away.

 

 Chart 1.  Members of unions as a percent of employed in the United States and Michigan, 2007-2017

 

This chart is from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, cited below.

 

 

[i] “Right to work laws”, Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Right-to-work_law

[ii] “Union Members in Michigan — 2017”,  U. S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, https://www.bls.gov/regions/midwest/news-release/unionmembership_michigan.htm

Shared time instruction in Michigan

Students in nonpublic schools and those who are homeschooled are eligible to take non-core classes at the local public school. Originally these were subjects like art, music, foreign languages, and gym but  the legislature has encouraged these programs as a way to offer choice and opportunities to more children. This shared time instruction, as it is called, has been expanded from nonpublic students in the local district to students in other districts, even across county line and the instruction is done right in the private school classroom by public school teachers, according to a report by the Citizens Research Council of Michigan. . In 2017-2018 the cost is more than $133 million, about three times what it was just seven years ago, according to the Detroit Fre Press.. About 100,000students currently participate in shared time.

Local public school Districts, including Charter Schools, have taken advantage of this program by promoting instructional classes in private schools. They hired teachers who are not part of the regular school system, pay them less, and the teachers are not covered under the local district’s collective bargaining agreement. As a result the district has less cost per student and it becomes a money making program for the district.

Berkley School District, for example, has about 4,300 students and an operating budget of about $55 million. It has public school teachers working in about 40 private schools to 1,500 equivalent full time students. Berkley receives about $12 million for this program.  It needs only about 60% to meet all the expenses associated with shared time instruction, so it has a windfall of more than $4 million to spend on other programs.  Madison Academy charter school in Flint has more students in shared instruction than in its regular program, thus doubling its income, reported the Detroit Free Press. .

In 2018 Gov. Rick Snyder, who had been supportive, said “This program diverts resources from core instruction that improves student outcomes” and is calling for a cap on shared time of 5% of their regular student enrollment. Proponents say it is a good program providing benefits to student who would otherwise not get these benefits.

Shared time instruction would appear to be in keeping with the state’s goal of education for all, but it is part of the nationwide movement to destroy universal public education and support nonpublic schools. The teachers in share time are not part of the staff of the public school which hired them nor part of the staff of the nonpublic school. School districts are using them oney to fatten their budget rather than provide quality education in shared time instruction. We therefore support Gov. Snyder’s efforts to reign in this program.

 

Sources:

“State Support of Nonpublic School Students”, Citizens Research Council of Michigan,  January 22, 2014. https://crcmich.org/tag/shared-time

Erin Einhorn, “Snyder takes aim at program steering public money to private schools”, Detroit Free Press, April 9, 2018.  https://www.freep.com/story/news/education/2018/04/09/snyder-public-money-private-schools/490851002/

 

School safety

School safety in my youth were mundane concerns compared to the safety issue today. School shootings occur far more frequently in the United States than anywhere else in the world. When combined with other mass shootings, eleven of the worst 50 mass shootings were in the United States.  We have only 4.4% of the world population but 22% of themass shootings.

After the shooting at Marjorie Stone and Douglas High School in Parkland Florida an Interdisciplinary Group for Preventing School and Cmmunity Violence at the University of Virginia has prepared a Call for Action to Prevent Gun violent in the United States  of America. Anya Kamanetz

NPR reported that “About 200 universities, national education and mental health groups, school districts, and more than 2,300 individual experts have signed on to support this document in the weeks since” .

The documents says, “Although security measures are important, a focus on simply preparing for shootings is insufficient. We need a change in mindset and policy from reaction to prevention. Prevention entails more than security measures    and begins long before a gunman comes to school. We need a comprehensive public health approach to gun violence that is informed by scientific evidence and free from partisan politics.”

The Call for Action revolves around three levels of action: preparing a safe place, protecting those who are at risk, and intervening when violence is a threat. The eight steps are:

  1. Initiate a national review of school safety to insure safety from bullying, harassment, and discrimination.

  2. A “ban on assault-style weapons, high-capacity ammunition clips, and products that modify semi-automatic firearms to enable them to function like automatic firearms.”

  3. Adequate support staff of psychologists, social workers, and others.

  4. foster positive social, behavioral, emotional, and academic success.

  5. Universal background checks.

  6. Develop threat assessment teams.

  7. Removal of barriers that keep professionals from sharing at risk behaviors with others.

  8. Gun violence protection orders.

We support the Call for Action.

 

 

 

Schools of choice

“Schools of choice” refers to an effort to give students a choice in the school they attend. One way, allowed in Michigan, is to let students choose a different public school than the neighborhood school. This program also allows students to go to another public school district if that other district will accept them.  Two other schools of choice are Charter Schools and homeschooling (see separate issue briefs.)

Vouchers give students tax dollars to attend the school of their choice, including  nonpublic schools, but in Michigan and many other states state tax dollars cannot go to a nonpublic school. In 2001 a proposal to amend the Michigan constitution to allow vouchers was defeated by a large majority of 68’%. The leader of this movement was Betsy DeVos, now Secretary of the U. S. Department of Education. After this defeat in Michigan the DeVos family took their plans to other states through the American Federation for children, which they founded in 2010. 

Variations of the voucher plan includes setting up education savings account, which are funded either by business leaders with and without tax credits, and genral fund tax dollars. Some vouchers based the dollars a pupil receives on the family income.

Fourteen states and the District of Columbia have a voucher in place.

Evaluation and recommendations

The school choice program within the public school system sounds good on paper but it exists only in districts where there is more than one public elementary, middle, or high school in the district. It is also only a choice when the parents have the resources to provide transportation to the school of choice, so it sounds good on paper but doesn’t work well in reality.

Some of the oldest voucher plans are in Milwaukee and Cleveland, where the results are unimpressive, according to Larry Miller, a teacher in Milwaukee for 17 years and a member    of the Milwaukee School Board. [a]

Proponents of school choice appear to be supportive of better education and schools for all children, but their intention is to dismantle and destroy public schools by fragmentation and privatization. We will be served far better to put our efforts into improving the public schools through better teacher training, more funding and resources, and common goals based on the traditional American value of equality.

 

 

 

 

[a] Larry Miller, “Who is the American Federation for Children? “, Educate All Students, April 4, 2014. https://millermps.wordpress.com/2014/04/04/who-is-the-right-wing-american-federation-for-children-2/.

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