Estonia is helping Ukraine stave off Russia’s cyberattacks

An interesting article by Maggie Miller of Politico caught my attention this week called “How Estonia is helping Ukraine take on Russian cyber threats.” Why Estonia? As one of the Baltic nations, Estonia is renowned for its country’s ability to identify Russian propaganda and make it known to its people.

In fact, one of the more popular TV shows on Sunday night is one that highlights what Russia is up to this week. The western world could learn a lot from this tiny country about stiff arming Russian disinformation. Here in the US, we have pseudo-news folks parroting Russian propaganda to defeat or downplay successes that would be harmful to the message of their political party. That is not news, if you are keeping score.

Here are a few paragraphs, with the full article accessible below.

“TALLINN, Estonia — Ukraine has surprised the world with its ability to fend off major cyberattacks from Russia. And one small country — Estonia — has played an outsized role in helping them do so.

The nation of just over 1 million, which has fought off cyberattacks inside its borders from Russia for years, is now leading many of the efforts to provide cyber threat intelligence, funding and critical international connections to protect Ukraine from Russian hackers.

In interviews in Tallinn, Estonian officials provided fresh details about how they aid cybersecurity workers in a besieged Ukraine and coordinate with more powerful allies in Europe and the U.S. in the global effort to defend against Russia’s digital attacks.

It’s a partnership that illustrates a unique aspect of modern cyber warfare — some of themost sustained efforts to protect networks are coming from smaller or less-resourced countries that have been the repeated victims of attacks and have learned the hard way about the need to invest in cyber armies.”

It is great to see countries, even smaller ones, lend their expertise to help push back aggressors like Vladimir Putin and Russian armies. In an even more telling example, some Russians are feeling a little more impunity to push back with their concerns within Russia. This would have been unheard of a few years ago.

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What a real hero looks like (an encore performance)

Two years ago I wrote about the latest act of heroism from Dolly Parton. Last night, we watched a host of popular, rock and country singers honor her as one of the latest inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. From Pink to Brandi Carlisle to Sheryl Crow to Zac Brown to Pat Benatar, we saw a loving and admiring tribute to this talented woman. She also played a new rock and roll song she wrote for the occasion, “Rocking til the cows come home.” It was pretty good. Yet, she might be remembered more for her humanity.

I have written before about this hero primarily for her book gifting program for young kids, which is now an international program called “Imagination Library” (see second link below). Her name is Dolly Parton. I heard she could write songs and sing, as well. Yet, Parton just received some new acclaim for helping fight COVID-19.

In an article in The Hill by Judy Kurtz (see first link below) called “Dolly Parton among donors behind Moderna’s coronavirus vaccine,” her efforts are revealed. Here are a few paragraphs from the article.

“Dolly Parton can add another achievement to her résumé: helping to fund research for Moderna’s coronavirus vaccine.

The ‘9 to 5’ singer was one of several donors listed Monday as part of the announcement that Moderna’s coronavirus vaccine candidate was 94.5 percent effective in an interim analysis. The ‘Dolly Parton COVID-19 Research Fund’ was named as a supporter in the footnotes of a New England Journal of Medicine report.

Parton, 74, announced back in April that she was giving $1 million to researchers at Vanderbilt University Medical Center toward finding a vaccine to fight against COVID-19.

In an April Instagram post announcing her contribution, the Grammy Award winner said she was donating in honor of her longtime friend, Dr. Naji Abumrad, a researcher at Vanderbilt who informed her ‘that they were making some exciting advancements towards research of the coronavirus for a cure.'”

Parton will be remembered many years from now for her Imagination Library where 147 million books have been provided to young children. Currently, there are 1.7 million children signed up for the program. Yet, seeing her do things like the vaccine funding adds to her legacy.

Seeing her interviewed on multiple occasions, the depth of her kindness, integrity, and approachability is heart warming. Her ability to laugh at herself (both the stage personality and at home one) reveals a very smart woman that disarms people. She does not need to solicit attention for her good deeds, it just spreads.

Well done, Ms. Parton. You are a credit to the human race. Thank you for your music and big heart.

https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/politics/dolly-parton-among-donors-behind-moderna-s-coronavirus-vaccine/ar-BB1b6aIj?ocid=msedgdhp

https://imaginationlibrary.com/

Troops To Teachers – an old idea with new legs

NBC News ran a piece last night on a program that has been around awhile but is getting more traction with teacher shortages. It is called Troops To Teachers or TTT for short. Here is a brief overview from a Veterans’ website.

“Troops To Teachers was created in 1993 to help service members, military retirees and other veterans gain education and start new careers as kindergarten through 12th grade teachers in public schools, charter schools, and Bureau of Indian Education schools.

The general idea is for those leaving military service to get assistance to accomplish these goals, but in order to get financial aid from the program the applicant must start before retiring or separating from military service….

The Troops To Teachers official site lists a variety of program benefits, but the one most will initially be interested in is the $5,000 stipend or $10,000 bonus (depending on eligibility). We’ll cover more about that below but other TTT benefits include:

  • Transition assistance
  • One-on-one counseling
  • Assistance with state teacher certification and licensing
  • Connections with hiring officials
  • Mentorship

These services are free to the applicant and there may also be state-level Troops To Teachers programs or resources available depending on the state.”

This idea is terrific. With a shortage of teachers, especially STEM teachers, the program is much needed. Per the NBC News piece, the kids in a high school class with a Navy veteran were sharing lessons learned from their teacher veteran about getting stuff done and done on time. Accountability and responsibility are key tenets of the teaching as well. The teacher also spoke of what it means to him to help out with our most important resources – students.

From the website link (see below), the veteran must apply withing three years of leaving the service. To me, even if the veteran learns teaching is not for them, it puts them on a path to figure out better what they want to do. But, for those who stick it out, the lessons they can give could be dramatic. This is a very cool idea in my view.

https://veteran.com/troops-to-teachers/

https://www.nbcnews.com/nightly-news/video/troops-to-teachers-military-members-bringing-life-lessons-to-students-153108037750

Pay day lending – a little easy math to show how perilous this is for a person in need

I wrote the following about ten years ago, but the example remains pertinent.

I am quite certain my fellow bloggers are inundated by spammers who love your blog or post without commenting on anything specific. One of the more popular spammers comes from various pay-day lending groups. When we talk about bad types of capitalism, pay-day lending ranks close to the top. It is the worst form of usury as people in need get preyed upon by these folks. The pay-day borrowers do not realize they are paying an interest rate north of 200% as it is so easy to do.

Yet, what happens are the people in need set themselves up for a death spiral that is hard to pull out from. They begin a journey of paying more and more interest to pay off the use of funds a few weeks before their pay check. These lenders were outlawed in NC, which just meant they moved across the border to do more sales. I have heard people who say they provide a useful purpose, yet in essence they don’t. People are getting immediate money for a need coverable by their pay check. Yet, end up paying more than double or triple the amount they borrowed. And, it does not stop. You are beholden to the pay-day lenders for a long duration.

The lenders used to set up shop just off the military bases. This is unfortunate as they would prey on married couples who are separated by an ocean with one distracted  by war. The one at home needed the money and did not have the counsel of two heads asking is this the right path forward. In the volunteer charity work I do with homeless families, quite often the families are paying interest rates of 23% on a car loan. This type of car payment puts a huge bind on their budget and we help them get away from this loan and into a better one. Yet, for the pay-day lending, you have to multiply the 23% loan interest rate by a factor of 10 or more.

If you do not believe me, let’s do a simple exercise. If I have bi-monthly take home pay of $1,100 and need to get it now, the pay-day lender will give me $1,000. That will likely include a processing fee of some sort, but let’s say it is $0 and the rest due is interest plus the loan. So, the next pay-day, the lender takes my $1,100 payment to settle the loan. That is a 10% interest for a 1/2 month time period. Since there are 24 such time periods in a year, using simple interest, that is a 240% annual rate of interest.

If that is not bad enough, come the end of the 15 day period, I find I need my paycheck, so I reborrow it. So, I give them my paycheck, they take out another an extra $100 (I am rounding to make the math easier) on the interest I owe and they loan me $900 rather than $1,100 in take home pay. So, now I owe $2,200 on the use of $1,900. Assuming I could pay it back in 15 days, that would be a 1/2 month loan rate annualized to the tune of 379% per annum. However, I cannot pay the full loan back as my next pay check is only $1,100. So, I borrow yet again. The take out $200 more in interest due on top of the next $100, so I get $800. So, now I owe $3,300 on the use of $2,700.

I used a fictitious interest rate for the ease of the math. Yet, I also did not factor in a processing fee either. Yet, the purpose of the illustration is to show how fast you can get in over your head. Even if you did not borrow against a portion of your paycheck, you can soon end up owing the entire amount. A key problem is the people in need are the least likely to run the numbers. They just need the cash.

I am presuming the audience reading this is fairly astute, much more so than the average Joe’s and Josephine’s. If you have friends or relatives who are going down this path or who are considering it, help them look at other options. There are an increasing number of microloan possibilities whose lenders do not prey upon the borrowers. There are some other financial assistance programs that go under varying names. There may be some co-lending options as well. The dilemma is the pay-day lending is a vicious cycle that is difficult to break. So, help people avoid that cycle and try to get out of it if they can.

I do not begrudge anyone making a reasonable profit. Yet, I do find fault with people making an excessive profit off the backs of people who can least afford it. If you have a story about pay-day lending, please feel free to share it. Others need to see how this death spiral can affect people.

Noble – a movie about a real hero named Christina Noble

My wife and I like to explore movies that ran beneath the radar. One called “Noble” caught our eye and it was well worth the watch, as it is a true story about a relatively unknown hero.

Per Wikipedia,Noble is a 2014 film written and directed by Stephen Bradley about the true life story of Christina Noble, a children’s rights campaigner, charity worker and writer, who founded the Christina Noble Children’s Foundation in 1989. It stars Deirdre O’KaneSarah GreeneBrendan CoyleMark Huberman and Ruth Negga.

The film is set in Vietnam in 1989, fourteen years after the end of the war. Christina Noble flies into Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon), a country ‘that she wouldn’t be able to show you on a map.’ With a few dollars, her own hard-won courage, she is about embark on a life calling. The film explores her tough upbringing in Dublin and her early adult life in the UK. It is the inspirational true story of a woman who believes that it only takes one person to make a difference.”

Per The Guardian article called “Christina Noble: the woman who transformed the lives of 700,000 children,” by Joanna Moorhead, here is a quick summary of Noble.

“We all have dreams, but Christina Noble had a dream that was to transform not just her own life, but that of the lives of 700,000 children (and counting). At the height of the Vietnam war, in the 1970s, Christina went to bed after watching the news and dreamed she could go there and make a difference.

At the time she was raising three children of her own in Birmingham, working all hours as a waitress and coping with the fallout from an abusive marriage. She wasn’t rich, she wasn’t highly educated, she knew next to nothing about Vietnam and what was happening there and she had no skills that might have singled her out as someone who could do something useful in a country thousands of miles away. When she called an aid agency to tell them about her dream and to offer her services, they listened politely and said they would call back. Unsurprisingly, they never did.

The aid agency people weren’t to know it, but there was one qualification Christina had for the work she was volunteering for. She had endured a childhood of appalling suffering and from that had sprung a passion to help other children. ‘It doesn’t matter whether you’re in a gutter in Dublin or Ho Chi Minh City, it’s still a gutter,’ she says when we meet to talk about a film that has been made about her life. ‘What I want to do is get children out of the gutter because it’s no childhood at all – every child deserves love and cuddles and kindness and warm food and a bed, and every child has the right not to be afraid.’”

In today’s time, where we look to superior athletes and celebrities as heroes, it is awe-inspiring to see a real hero. Noble’s heart is matched by her tenacity to serve these kids, often not taking no for an answer after it is offered up time and again. I encourage you to either read-up on her life, watch this movie or both. Her name is apt as she has a noble cause which she fights for.

https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2016/feb/13/my-700000-children

A few sayings to help us through the day

Here a few sayings that I have picked up along the way. Please feel free to offer some of yours that who add some relish to this grouping.

Have you ever felt like the whole world is a tuxedo and you’re just a pair of old brown shoes? (George Goebbels)

I have noticed the more I practice, the luckier I get. (Gary Player)

Opportunity is often missed as it is dressed up as hard work. (Malcolm Gladwell)

I have noticed common sense is not all that common. (Mark Twain)

A man will never be shot while doing the dishes. (Unknown)

More shots are missed because they are never taken. (Unknown)

If you always tell the truth, you don’t have to remember as much. (Unknown)

We tend to spend more practice on what we do well and less on what we don’t. It should be the other way around. (Harvey Penick)

No is just an answer. Don’t be afraid of hearing it. (Unknown)

I took the last shot because I knew I could handle missing it. (Jim Furyk)

You cannot have too many cups of coffee with people. It is my fault should not be a frightening thing to say. (a friend and colleague)

Don’t ever be surprised when an ego-centric person turns on you. It will happen. (Unknown)

People should get more credit for doing the right thing than going along with the crowd. (Unknown)

Paying it forward may be the most selfless of gifts. The gift of your time is the best thing you can do for your kids. (Unknown)

The greatest lights in our community or family are the people who always visit or help when it is needed. (Unknown)

Helping people climb a ladder out of the hole they dug is better than just pulling them up. If they climb it, they may avoid digging a new one. (a friend and social worker)

You have two ears and one mouth, use them in that proportion. (an old boss)

32 million fewer words – a second much needed reprise


The following post was written ten years ago and I provided a reprise of it last year. Given its continuing relevance with attacks on education by a short-sighted few and difficulty in recruiting, rewarding and retaining good teachers, I thought I would republish it. It is a little longer than my current posts, but it takes a more holistic view of the issue, so please bear with it.

While reading David Brooks’ excellent book called “The Social Animal,” I was alerted to a key result of classic study by Betty Hart and Todd Risley of the University of Kansas. One of the conclusions of the study is by the age of four, children raised in poor families have heard 32 million fewer words than those raised in professional family households. Breaking this down to an hourly basis, children of poor families hear on average 178 utterances of words per hour as compared to 487 words per hour in a professional family home.

And, it is not just what they hear, it is the emotional tone. There tended to be far more encouraging words than discouraging words in the professional home setting. Translating this to today’s time, there is a greater propensity to see single head of household families in impoverished families, so with one less adult and with the greater stress of earning a paycheck, doing housework and raising children lends itself to fewer conversations to hear those missing words.

In my volunteer work with homeless families and tutoring underprivileged children, I witness this first hand. I see kids who are having to overcome more obstacles than the very difficult one of coming from a homeless or impoverished household. They are starting school even further behind than the other children and will have to work hard to catch up. Just using the tutoring example, the two 5th graders I tutored were smart children, they just needed more time, targeted explanation and encouragement. The encouragement is as or more important than the first two needs.

In this same book, Mr. Brooks introduced me to a Greek term called “thumos.” We apparently don’t have an identical match in our language, but the word explains a lot of what we all need, but especially children. Thumos is the desire for recognition and union. People want to be recognized for their contributions, but through such recognition they want to have a sense of belonging. Translating this to the 5th graders, the children reacted well to the recognition of their efforts and especially the successes. When they “got it” it was like giving them the keys to the kingdom. It truly exhilarated me as much as it did them. To see their faces light up at the moments of clarity was truly joyous. High fives and fist bumps seemed to be insufficient to celebrate the moments.

I mention the tutoring as I see the resolution to this effort as “taking a village to raise a child.” This African proverb is very much on point, as parents, teachers and counselors all need hour support to help these children climb their individual ladders out of poverty. Why is this important for everyone? Education is probably the greatest challenge for our country as we have fallen asleep at the switch and will not be able to compete as well in the future. I do not have any statistics for what I am about to state, but I believe our best can compete with others’ best students. I think other countries have caught up and made this echelon highly competitive. Yet, when you get beneath this small sliver of talent, I think other countries are kicking our hind end all over the place.

The jobs of the future are not the jobs of the past. Even manufacturing jobs and high skilled blue-collar jobs require an understanding of technology that may not have been required to the same extent before. If our children are not educated we will continue to be left behind. There are too many examples of where the United States is not in the calculus of whether to invest in a facility, but the one I like to use, is Mercedes had to dumb down their manuals on how to build their car for the plant they built in Alabama. They had to use more pictures than words. If we cannot offer an employer a capable workforce, they will find it elsewhere and they do.

So, what do we about finding those 32 million words? And, what do we do from that point forward? In this age of budget cuts, which are totally understandable, we have to be zealous in defending educational investment. We have to invest in pre-school programs to help kids get off to a better start. The “Smart Start” and “More Before Four” programs do pay dividends and we need to find more ways to reach kids. And, we need to invest in our teachers – we need more and higher quality of teachers, but we need to give them the freedom to tailor their teaching.

We need to continue the focus on providing resources to parents through the various “Parent Universities.” To my earlier example, we need more volunteers to help tutor, mentor and baby sit while the parents attend self-education or teacher conferences, etc. In my work with helping homeless families, the significant majority of whom are employed, I come across a contingent that cannot be swayed from their belief that all homeless people are bums and addicts. I have argued until I am blue in the face to dissuade them from this erroneous belief, but the one area I do get some nods of approval, are to say let’s set aside the parent(s) and focus on the kids. They did not choose to be homeless. If we help them, we can break the cycle of homelessness. Quoting a forward-thinking minister, he said “we have no idea of the untapped intellectual capital that may reside in these kids in poverty.”

So, spending in the area of helping children is not only the right thing to do, it is the smartest investment we could possibly make. I need only look at the second prize winner in a recent Intel science project who was a former homeless child. Yet, we also need to spend money on organizations like “Planned Parenthood.” This organization has become a pawn in an idiotic political game. As an Independent voter, this pariah status placed on such an important organization makes me ill. There are numerous studies that show causal relationships between family size and poverty in the US and abroad. In the work on homeless families I do, I tend to see larger families than in non-poverty settings. I place a lot of criticism on the churches for this. Birth control is used by many women and men, but it not as available or universally understood as needed in all segments of our population.

One of my old colleagues who is an African-American woman told me how frustrated she was at her minister and church leaders. She said the teenage kids in her congregation are so misinformed about pregnancy and STD risk. As an example, some told her they heard you could not get pregnant if you had intercourse standing up! When she went to her minister to see if they could offer some guidance she was scoffed at.  Abstinence is the only thing they will teach. Well, as a 53-year-old let me state what everyone seems to know but the church leadership – kids are going to experiment and have sex. You can preach all you want, but it will not stop that train. So, we must embrace planned parenthood and the use of birth control. And, to me what better place to teach than in church. In many respects, I think some ministers and church leaders are misusing their authority to not be forthcoming with these kids. Please note through all of this discussion, I did not use the word abortion; I see that as its own issue with its own debate. I am speaking of birth control which is used by well over 90% of Catholic women, a fact the Catholic church tends to overlook.

You probably did not expect a discussion on education to include planned parenthood and birth control. Yet, I see them linked with the causal relationship I noted above between poverty and family size. Having an unfettered number of children, will put the family and children at risk. I love children, but with the cost of raising a child the way it is, I don’t think I could afford a fourth child. Yet, my wife and I have access to birth control and governed our family size to a manageable level. We would have loved a fourth child, but we have the family size we want. I think many church goers would say the same thing.

However, I would prefer to end on a more targeted note and that is the volunteerism. I described the need for the help, but also the joy to the giver. The gift of your time is immeasurable to those in need, but it will lift you up as well. At our agency that helps homeless families, where we do not permit the proselytizing to those in need, our executive director likes to say “who is witnessing to whom?” Our volunteers get as much out of the experience that the families do. The families are witnessing to the givers. So, find some way to give back. It will be a fulfilling experience. Match your passions with the needs in the community. My wife likes to say on her involvement “I am giving these kids a soft place to land.” Let’s all provide these soft places to land and help find the missing words in the children’s lives. You may even find a few words for yourself.



The Big Four

One of the premier college sports leagues in the US is called The Big Ten, which for the longest time included ten universities. It has since grown to more than ten universities, but they still call it The Big Ten.

Yet, what is terribly concerning and disheartening is four of the more prolific of these universities have two unfortunate similarities. They each had a major sexual assault predator and they each covered up their awareness allowing more students to be impacted. They are The Big Four.

Michigan State University employed a physician for its women’s gymnastics program who fondled young female athletes, sometimes right in front of their mother. The girls later testified they would look at their mother to see if what he was doing was alright. And, by hiding this doctor’s predator behavior, he also moved on to do the same for the US Olympic Women’s Gymnastics team.

Penn State University employed a football coach who would run camps for young football players enamored with Penn State. Sadly, he was a pedophile who preyed on these young boys, sometimes in his own basement den. The head football coach, athletic director and university president knew of his predatory behavior, but largely did not address the problem.

Ohio State University and University of Michigan are huge football rivals. But, each school had a physician who fondled male athletes or did rectal exams when unneeded. You go in with a cold and you would have to drop your pants. And, at each school, coaches were aware of the practice and did nothing. One Ohio State wrestling coach is now in Congress and denies ever being told about this, but six of his wrestlers say they told him. A Michigan player just appeared on Dr. Phil’s show and noted that the coaches would use going to the doctor as a threat.

When I saw the player make that statement, it just infuriated me even more. Coaches (plural) knew the doctor was violating their players and they not only did nothing about it, they used it as a threat? Really? That is not only bad stewardship, that is criminal behavior, in my view.

Let me be brutally frank. Young men, women, boys and girls were sexually assaulted by these men. By not doing anything about it, more young people were sexually assaulted. These universities have paid a price for their culpability, but well after the fact. Yet, if they acted when they first knew about it, they could have saved thousands of young people from being sexually assaulted.

Parents entrusted their kids to the coaches, staff and leadership of these universities. The breach of trust is staggering in its irresponsible nature. It is not unlike the Catholic Church, Southern Baptist convention, British youth football organization or Boy Scouts of America hiding and covering-up for their sexual predators that numbered many more than just a few. All in the name of protecting their brand. Yet, what each entity did was far more harmful to their brands. They valued their brands more than the people who treasured those brands.

I have purposefully avoided mentioning the names of these predators. Preying on young adults, teens and, in some cases, adolescents is inexcusable. But, it is also inexcusable for those in the know who failed to act or chose not to act as they did not want to upset the powers that be. At the end of the movie about a very famous head football coach who did not act, there was a phone call made to a hotline telling them that this victim had raised the issue twenty years before the police investigation said it started. It was chilling that he had let someone know that many years before. And, nothing happened, except more molestation of many more kids.

Christianity without Jesus is an empty suit

John Pavlovitz is a minister who writes a blog that speaks to the key tenets of treating people like you want to be treated. He is not too keen on performance religion which is too closely aligned with politics. A recent blog called “Actual Followers of Jesus Don’t Want Conservatives’ Compulsory Christianity” is a good example of his work.

“There’s nothing more dangerous than professed Christians who have no real interest in Jesus. They’re rather easy to spot if you’re paying attention.

They’re usually the ones most loudly claiming things like religious liberty while methodically swallowing up the personal freedoms and elemental rights of other people.

They incessantly broadcast their devotion of God on their bumpers and bellies, while living antithetically to the compassionate heart of Jesus actually found in the Scriptures.

Their spirituality is largely performative: a showy firework display of culture war talking points and religious buzzwords that distracts from the truth that their lives are yielding almost nothing truly loving to anyone but people who agree with them on everything.

This blog caught my eye as the key tenets of Christianity surround that Jesus fellow. Absent that, Christianity is just an empty suit. Gandhi once said, he admired Jesus, it was just Christians he was not too keen on. I understand his point as too many ministers in our history had a fear-based ministry, rather than a love-based ministry.

Teaching people to fear the other is not inclusive. Religious scholars have noted Jesus probably spoke four languages. He needed one language for trade as a carpenter, as well as others to communicate as a Rabbi and to his followers. Where he preached and worked had numerous types of people. So, he spoke inclusively. It is a message we should emulate.

There is an old line that speaks the truth to me. If you want to create an atheist, have them read the old testament. In Pew surveys on religion, atheists did better on biblical quizzes than Christians did. If you want to reach more people with a message of love, start with the new testament. That is the part where Jesus’ words are found in red. Those are where the messages of love exist. I might throw in a few Psalms as well from the old side.

Treat others like you want to be treated. This rule of Jesus’ is so important it called “golden.” It is also found in other religious texts in one shape or another. Also, he threw in a few messages about taking care of your neighbor and the downtrodden. Nice words and actions he spoke and he followed. Those are among the words in red.

If you are not a Christian, the last paragraph can still offer governance of a good life. Maybe that is the beauty of what Jesus said. Something that can touch others. Inclusivity.

Check out the rest of this and other posts on johnpavlovitz.com.

The real replacement practices

This concept of replacement theory where white workers are subject to a planned replacement by black and brown workers has been around for decades. In fact, the fascists in England were using this replacement theory in the early 1960s, of course, blaming Jews for its orchestration. In essence, the theory says white workers’ jobs are being systematically replaced by immigrants and those other people who don’t belong here. Sound familiar? Yet, this replacement theory well preceded the 1960s.

It is all subterfuge to create fear and blame others for your problems. Fear has been used to sell ideas and manipulate people for a long time. Overstating an inflammable cause is one way to do that. The fear of the other overlooks the deeper problems for loss of jobs and disenfranchisement. The key reasons for disenfranchisement are the actual replacement practices that we need to address. These are not some theory, but deployed routinely and recurringly in practice.

There are two key reasons, which impact all workers of all colors:

– technology improvements which reduce the number of workers needed, and

– CEOs chasing cheaper labor to lower the cost of production

The latter cause manifests itself in offshoring, outsourcing, or migration of factories. For example, the textile industry has left a trail of closed plants as the industry moved from England to the United States first in New England and then to southern states. Then in the 1980s, the heavy migration occurred to China and Mexico and eventually to Vietnam and Bangladesh searching for cheaper labor. One company that comes to mind went from 86,000 US employees in 1980 to about 4,000 today, with the rest abroad. That is not an isolated example and it is not just manufacturing work. It is call center, IT, analysis, etc. The US based insurance industry has been shipping claim forms for review to Ireland as the Irish were, on average, more literate than Americans, even before technology made it easier to get the Irish to review them.

The former cause has been occurring routinely as well, but has accelerated once again with the advancement in Artificial Intelligence (AI). Yet, a robot need not look like a humanoid to be effective. Computer driven machines and robotic appendages have evolved over time. I watched a “60 Minutes” episode about ten years ago, which demonstrated a programmable robotic machine that went for the price of a car to be used by small businesses. The tasks need not be complex to improve efficiency, so these cheaper machines could replace a half-dozen workers.

So, when you hear immigration is a problem, that does not address the main issues. Of course, the immigration system could be improved and opportunities to do so were not voted on after some agreement even by some of the most vocal critics. But, there are some industries and municipalities that need more workers. Those workers need to be trained or trainable, so some may come from abroad and some from here.

Where we need to focus our attention is working with new and old industries in transition and community colleges to train new workers. The coal industry has been on the demise for a dozen years, but some politicians have been clinging on to its protection. I have said several times, whether or not you like Senator Bernie Sanders, he was the only presidential candidate in 2016 to stand up in front of coal miners and tell them the truth – your jobs are going away, but here is what I plan to do about it.

In this vein, some towns are dilapidated by closed factories that moved. The forward thinking towns invested in bringing new workers from whereever they could. They developed initiatives to reinvest in the area using the brainpower of the new and old blood mixed together. They developed incentives to draw younger adults to their towns. And, it worked.

The issue of workers needing more opportunity and investment is where we need to focus our attention. This is a good example of a group of PR people coming up with an issue, blowing it way out of proportion as the problem, and putting it on a bumper sticker. “Build a wall” some might say as the panacea. Ironically, when the major proponent of that comment accepted a deal to get $25 billion for this wall in exchange for making DACA law, he was talked out of it. This was his number one issue, but he said no after saying yes. Why? He knew it would not solve the problems and his bluff had been called.

Our problems are complex and have multiple factors. One of the tenets of the book “Built to Last” by Thomas Friedman and Michael Mandelbaum is most of America’s major problems over time were solved in concert between some combination of government (federal, state and/ or local), venture capital, and private industry or philanthropy investment. We won’t solve our problems unless we identify them and their many causes. We won’t solve them by listening to opinion hosts and candidates who are trying to scare, who really don’t want to solve anything other than getting someone elected.

We will solve them by looking at the facts, coming up with a plan, getting buy-in and funding and making it happen. That is hard to put on a bumper sticker or define in a two-minute sound byte by an opinion host.