Prioritizing Safety in the Supply Chain is a Must

Warehouse supply chains are all about speed and efficiency — it’s important to get the products packed up and where they need to go promptly. What is often overlooked in this rush to produce a product? Safety. Why is it so important to prioritize safety in your supply chain and what can you do to create a more safety-centric culture for your business?

Common Safety Hazards

What sort of safety hazards do you need to be aware of when you’re running a warehouse or supply chain? It will vary depending on the specifics of your supply chain, but in general, OSHA has reported that the most common risk areas (where warehouses receive the most safety citations) include:

  • Forklifts
  • Hazard information and communication
  • Electrical risks, specifically wiring and system design
  • Floor and wall openings, entrances and exits.
  • Power transmission and safety
  • Lockout/Tagout procedures
  • Fire extinguishers

Of all the potential safety hazards, forklifts are among the most dangerous. It’s estimated that of the nearly 860,000 forklifts being operated every day in supply chains around the country; more than 11% of them will be involved in some sort of accident.

What Causes Forklift Accidents?

Forklifts are an essential part of any efficient supply chain, but they can create safety hazards if they’re not used or maintained correctly. What are the most common causes of forklift accidents?

  • Improperly maintained or old equipment— Forklifts, like all other equipment, have a shelf-life. A well-maintained forklift can function for upwards of 20,000 work hours before they require any major repairs, as long as they’re being used within their normal parameters.
  • Production issues— Deadlines, last-minute shipments, and other issues with production can encourage unsafe forklift use, leading to accidents.
  • Improper or incomplete training— Allowing untrained users to drive a forklift can create hazardous working conditions and lead to dangerous accidents.
  • Lack of support— A forklift operator is not a one-man team. Floor managers and foremen should offer as much support as possible, and forklift operators should not be discouraged from asking for help.

By ensuring that all of these things are addressed, you can help to reduce workplace accidents and help improve employee safety in your supply chain.

Other Safety Concerns

How can you address the other common safety concerns that you may encounter on your supply chain?

First, take steps to eliminate common safety hazards. This includes wet floors, power cables or other tripping hazards, and even damage to the concrete or floors that could create a hazard. Make this everyone’s responsibility — if they see something, ensure that they’re able to take steps to correct it or have the ability to report it to a higher authority.

Continuing safety education is also essential for all employees. Safety training isn’t something that should stop once a new trainee takes up their position on the factory floor. It is something that should be continued every time a new policy or program is implemented and refreshed as often as needed. Courses on lifting techniques, MSDS and hazardous material use and disposal, and warehouse specific safety techniques help to keep them fresh and in everyone’s mind. It also helps to lower the frequency of corrective action, enabling employees and management to continue working more efficiently and without interruption.

Finally, focus on creating a safety-centric culture. By combining all the things we’ve discussed thus far, you can help to improve your overall safety culture while still creating an efficient and functional work environment. Other things to try might include:

  • Incentives or bonuses for going a certain number of days without an accident or safety incident. The incentives can even increase or roll over as a number of accident-free days continue.
  • Get your employees involved at every level in decision making. If even the newest employees feel as though they are involved in the decisions concerning their safety, they will always have the safety on their minds while they’re working on the factory floor.

Maintaining a safe working environment and prioritizing safety in your supply chain is as important, if not more important, than meeting deadlines or getting shipments out on time. Injuries and accidents on the floor cause more than just lost work for the injured individual — they can upset the entire supply chain while equipment is repaired and accidents are investigated. Take the time to prioritize safety, and you’ll create a better supply chain with happier and more efficient workers.

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Sandy Hook lawsuit court victory opens crack in gun maker immunity shield

File 20190314 28471 1ngs29c.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
A detective holds a Bushmaster AR-15 rifle, the same type of gun used in the Sandy Hook School shooting.
AP Photo/Jessica Hill

Timothy D. Lytton, Georgia State University

The Connecticut Supreme Court ruled on March 14 that families of the Sandy Hook Elementary mass shooting victims could proceed with a lawsuit against the companies that manufactured and sold the semiautomatic rifle used in the attack.

The ruling, which reversed a lower court’s decision, has the potential to unleash a flood of claims by gun violence victims against gun manufacturers – if it’s upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court, that is.

My research on the history of lawsuits against the gun industry has documented the failure of gun violence victims to hold gun manufacturers liable for legal marketing practices that many people consider irresponsible. The latest Sandy Hook decision could pave the way for gunmakers to finally be held responsible for them.

Interpreting ‘applicable’

A 2006 law called the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act grants gun manufacturers immunity from lawsuits that arise out of the criminal misuse of a weapon.

The Sandy Hook families argued that their lawsuit fell under an exception to this federal immunity. The exception allows gun violence victims to sue a manufacturer who “knowingly violated a state or federal statute applicable to the sale or marketing” of a firearm.

The families claimed that Remington Arms “marketed, advertised and promoted the Bushmaster XM15-E2S for civilians to use to carry out offensive, military style combat missions against their perceived enemies.” They said that this marketing constituted an unfair trade practice under Connecticut law, which they argued is a state statute “applicable” to the marketing of a firearm.

The Connecticut high court agreed and, importantly, interpreted the term “applicable” broadly. That is, the court said that a relevant statute only had to be “capable of being applied” to gun sales, not that the law needed be specifically about firearms, as other courts had held.

The shoes represent the 7,000 kids killed because of gun violence between the Sandy Hook shooting in December 2012 and March 2018.
AP Images/Paul Morigi

What’s next

It is this interpretation that could potentially unleash a flood of lawsuits across the country.

Since many states have unfair trade practices laws like Connecticut’s, it seems likely that gun violence victims will bring similar claims elsewhere. Victims are thus likely to allege that a gun manufacturer’s aggressive marketing of combat-style weapons violates a state statute – like an unfair trade practice law – that is applicable to the sale or marketing of a firearm.

The fate of the Sandy Hook lawsuit and any others that follow will depend on the outcome of an all-but-certain appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. If the court rejects the Connecticut Supreme Court’s broad interpretation of the word “applicable” in the federal statue, that will restore the immunity from suit that gun makers have enjoyed for more than a decade.

However, if the top U.S. court adopts Connecticut’s broad interpretation, then the gun industry can expect to be the target of a great deal more litigation in the years to come.The Conversation

Timothy D. Lytton, Distinguished University Professor & Professor of Law, Georgia State University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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California and the Death Penalty

By Peter Funt

SAN FRANCISCO – Gov. Gavin Newsom has not only acted swiftly to save 737 souls on California’s death row, but he has also had the courage to call state-sponsored executions what they are: uncivilized.

“I do not believe that a civilized society can claim to be a leader in the world as long as its government continues to sanction the premeditated and discriminatory executions of its people,” the recently elected Democrat explained. He signed an executive order preventing executions while he is in office.

Too often, politicians take an easier path in confronting the death penalty issue. They dwell on the methods used in death chambers, or they fixate on the costs required to handle capital cases. These considerations, while valid, are cop outs.

As with many other controversial issues in America, California is at the center of the death penalty debate. Although overwhelmingly liberal in its state government, voters here nonetheless approved a measure in 2016 to streamline the appeals process for capital cases – in effect, a vote for the death penalty. It passed with 51 percent support.

Although California has not carried out an execution since 2006, its roster of 737 condemned inmates represents about 25 percent of the national total.

Newsom becomes the fourth sitting governor to issue a moratorium on the death penalty, joining chief executives in Oregon, Colorado and Pennsylvania. Twenty states have banned the practice entirely, with Washington joining that group last year.

Opponents of capital punishment, understandably, accept any rationale for halting the practice. But Newsom cuts to the heart of the matter when he says it is simply “inconsistent with our bedrock values.”

That is the only basis on which the United States will eventually join over 100 civilized nations in eliminating capital punishment. It does no good to seek more “humane methods” of killing, nor to speed up an already flawed appeals process, nor to find ways of reducing costs.

Most executions worldwide are carried out by Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Pakistan and Iran. Add to that the unpublicized state killings in China, North Korea and presumably in Russia, and you have a pretty good picture of the company America currently chooses to keep.

Predictably, President Trump tweeted a fast response to Newsom’s action, saying he was “not thrilled.” Trump appealed on behalf of “friends and families of the always forgotten victims” – as if executing people would do anything to bring their loved ones back. State-sponsored revenge is immoral.

Newsom’s action is likely to rekindle debate about the death penalty on the national stage. California presidential contender Sen. Kamala Harris opposes the death penalty but has faced tough questions about her handling of capital cases while state attorney general.

Every Democrat seeking the presidency in 2020 should speak out clearly regarding capital punishment. The 2016 party platform, pushed by Sen. Bernie Sanders, called it a “cruel and unusual form of punishment” that “has no place” in the nation. The eventual nominee, Hillary Clinton, supported its “limited use.”

The GOP platform that year stated, “The constitutionality of the death penalty is firmly settled.”

“The intentional killing of another person is wrong,” said Gavin Newsom while campaigning for governor. In signing his executive order he has underscored the fact that the issue is really no more complicated than that.

A list of Peter Funt’s upcoming live appearances is available at www.CandidCamera.com.Peter Funt is a writer and speaker. His book, “Cautiously Optimistic,” is available at Amazon.com and CandidCamera.com. © 2019 Peter Funt. Columns distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons, Inc., newspaper syndicate.

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Manafort’s lawyers appealed for mercy — but not from the judge

Paul Manafort’s lawyer Kevin Downing speaks with the press after Manafort is sentenced at the U.S. District Court in Washington on March 13. (Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post)
Photo by: Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post

WASHINGTON — In the final moments before Paul Manafort’s sentencing Wednesday, the former Trump campaign chief’s lawyers appealed for mercy — but not necessarily from the judge.

Convictions for tax and bank fraud, illegal lobbying and witness tampering have been “very hard” on his client, Kevin Downing pleaded in U.S. District Court in Washington on Wednesday. “The media attention, the political motivation … is so unreal.”

U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson cut him off. “Whose political motivation?” she asked.

Downing fumbled like Sarah Palin replying to Katie Couric: “Everybody out there,” he said.

The judge pressed: Was Downing accusing the special counsel of political motivation?

“No,” Downing said, retreating.

But that is exactly what he — and Manafort — have been insinuating.

President Trump and Manafort have been using their public statements to coordinate with each other with the rhythm of synchronized swimmers. Trump praises Manafort for not flipping on him, and Manafort’s lawyers dutifully repeat Trump’s mantras — that there was “no collusion” between the campaign and Russia and that special counsel Robert S. Mueller III has taken a partisan detour. It’s clear Manafort’s hope, if not expectation, is for Trump to pardon him.

The judge was wise to the signaling. After Downing suggested Wednesday that Manafort’s manifold crimes wouldn’t have been prosecuted “but for a short stint as a campaign manager in a presidential election,” Jackson unloaded on him.

The defense’s “repeated” claim that Manafort wouldn’t have been charged but for the special counsel, she said, “falls flat” and “is not supported by the record.” In an apparent reference to Trump, the judge speculated that the claim “was being repeated for some other audience.”

Jackson tore into the Manafort defense’s claim that Mueller’s team took a technical violation and “transmogrified it” into a major case. “To the extent that’s the correct word, it was the defendant who was the transmogrifier,” she said.

As for the other claim frequently offered by Manafort’s defense, “the ‘no collusion’ mantra is simply a non sequitur,” she said, adding that it is “not clear if it is accurate” and that her ruling doesn’t vindicate or incriminate anyone in Mueller’s broader investigation.

That was another apparent reference to Trump, who falsely claimed that last week’s sentencing of Manafort in a separate trial vindicated his “no collusion” claim. An Obama appointee, Jackson offered a mantra of her own: “If people don’t have the facts, democracy can’t work,” she said. “Court is one of those places where facts still matter.”

Validating the judge’s suspicions about “some other audience,” Downing falsely declared to TV cameras immediately after the sentencing that “Judge Jackson conceded that there was absolutely no evidence of any Russian collusion in this case.”

Based on the sighs I heard in the courtroom, Jackson’s sentence — adding 43 months to last week’s 47-month sentence in Virginia — disappointed prosecutors. But she displayed far more professionalism than Judge T.S. Ellis III, who, when his harassment of prosecutors during the Virginia trial didn’t sway jurors to acquit Manafort, gave a flagrantly light sentence. Manafort’s fate still depends both on further prosecution (New York state just announced indictments) and Trump’s possible pardon.

But Wednesday’s sentencing carried symbolic weight; two dozen Justice Department officials, including several top Mueller lieutenants, attended. Manafort, 69, in a business suit instead of a prison jumpsuit, was gray-haired (no hair dye in jail) and in a wheelchair because of gout. He sat at the defense table, his back to prosecutor Andrew Weissmann, who derided Manafort’s claim to have spent a lifetime “advancing American ideals and principles.”

Weissmann said Manafort worked illegally for foreign governments, cheated the Treasury of $6 million and has a malfunctioning “moral compass.”

The defense claimed, with some contradiction, that Manafort deserved leniency both because he accepts responsibility and because he maintains he didn’t play a “leadership role” in the crimes.

If restrained in her sentencing, the judge was liberal in criticism. She said “it’s hard to overstate the number of lies” and the “amount of fraud” Manafort committed, living extravagantly on ill-gotten money, lying to members of Congress and the public, showing “ongoing contempt” for court proceedings and even mischaracterizing his prison conditions.

“The elements of remorse and personal responsibility were completely absent,” Jackson said, describing his continued “dissembling at every turn” and his “willingness to win at all costs.” Manafort’s behavior, she said, is “antithetical to the American values he told me he championed.”

Manafort stood briefly, then was wheeled away — to await relief from another man who dissembles at every turn, exercises no personal responsibility, shows contempt for the law and seeks to win at all costs.

Follow Dana Milbank on Twitter, @Milbank.

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Populists and traditionalists are battling in both parties

By DAVID IGNATIUS
Washington Post Writers Group

WASHINGTON — Dick Cheney, the former vice president, made just about the nastiest crack a Republican could offer about President Trump’s foreign policy when he said it “looks a lot more like Barack Obama than Ronald Reagan.”

Obviously, the comparison is flawed. But say this much for Cheney: He’s the rare Republican who isn’t intimidated by Trump these days. Cheney made a string of similarly blistering comments at a supposedly off-the-record conversation with Vice President Pence at a gathering in Sea Island, Georgia, last weekend hosted by the American Enterprise Institute.

Cheney’s remarks tell us that we are experiencing what may be a political realignment in America, in which some of our political labels don’t work very well. There’s a populist wing in both parties, with Trump and some progressive Democrats expressing broadly similar concerns about America’s overextension in the world and the unfairness of the existing global order to working people.

There’s a traditionalist wing in both parties, too, which supports the old Cheney-esque American-led world order and its network of alliances and trade agreements. This traditionalist approach was embodied in the shared invitation this week by Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to NATO’s secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, to address a joint session of Congress.

There’s a world of difference, to be sure, between Trump’s bullying, rich-guy version of populism and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ empathetic, progressive version. Similarly, Pelosi’s version of internationalism is less defense-oriented and hawkish than McConnell’s. But politics is confusing these days partly because the usual left-right spectrum doesn’t always apply. Is free trade liberal or conservative? How about internationalism? What about privacy protection?

American politics has always been more personality-driven than ideological, and when we think of eras, they’re usually defined by presidents. George Washington personified the Federalist Era; Andrew Jackson defined a freewheeling Democratic Party assault on the elites; Abraham Lincoln created the modern Republican Party in the Civil War; and Theodore Roosevelt recast it in the Progressive Era; Franklin Roosevelt created a new Democratic coalition; and Reagan framed a new Republican one.

Is Trump such a transitional figure? I doubt it. He seems more an emblem of our current political disorder than the architect of a new political alignment. But he’s a harbinger of change in our party system.

Trump already has led one of the most successful insurgencies in American politics. He destroyed the existing Republican establishment, savaging the GOP’s field of presidential candidates in 2016. His defiant, carnival-barker politics of resentment was on display this month at the CPAC convention. It was a bizarre, idiosyncratic performance, but it clearly enthralled his audience. Trump owns what’s left of the party he wrecked.

Democrats these days can seem just as frightened as Republicans by a party base that’s in ferment. An example is former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, an ex-entrepreneur who created a bipartisan base in his home state. Hickenlooper is the embodiment of a moderate Democrat. But he verged on incoherence last week on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” when host Joe Scarborough asked him if he was a “socialist” or “capitalist.” Watching him, it seemed possible that Democrats are as jittery about offending Sanders supporters as Republicans are of crossing Trump.

Maybe Sanders has the passion and progressive appeal to make “democratic socialism” a winning strategy for 2020. He’s undeniably appealing to the Democratic base; polls show him gaining steadily over the past two months, while most of the rest of the field has been treading water.

But I’ll be very surprised if Sanders can make it to the White House. The Democrat who can beat Trump is more likely to be a large but also reassuring personality, acceptable to blue-collar Democrats and also exciting to younger voters — a more youthful version of Joe Biden, perhaps. People who occupy that space (at least on my mental map) include Sen. Michael Bennett; Sen. Kamala Harris, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Rep. Seth Moulton and former Rep. Beto O’Rourke.

Political systems can be like scientific theories. Sometimes there emerge so many anomalous elements that don’t fit the existing structure that the theory collapses, and a new one arises. In science, that means, for example, that the theory that the sun revolves around the earth loses its explanatory power, and evidence proves the opposite is the case. In politics, new parties emerge, or the existing ones develop new identities.

We may be entering such a period. The definition of a winning Democrat may be that, in response to Trump’s rambling circus of self-aggrandizement, he or she could create a genuinely coherent new political order.

David Ignatius’ email address is davidignatius@washpost.com.(c) 2019, Washington Post Writers Group

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Christchurch mosque shootings must end New Zealand’s innocence about right-wing terrorism

File 20190315 28512 1c5h6c9.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
Members of the Armed Offenders Squad push back members of the public following a shooting at the Masjid Al Noor mosque in Christchurch.
AAP/Martin Hunter, CC BY-SA

Paul Spoonley, Massey University

Mosques across New Zealand remain closed and police presence is strong, following a terrorist attack at two mosques in central Christchurch on Friday.

Fifty people have been killed at Masjid Al Noor and a second mosque nearby.

Three people have been taken into custody in connection with the shootings. One man in his late 20s has been charged with murder.

In the hours after the attacks, New Zealand’s Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern made it clear this was a terrorist attack of “extraordinary and unprecedented violence” that had no place in New Zealand.

She said extremist views were not welcome and contrary to New Zealand values, and did not reflect New Zealand as a nation.

It is one of New Zealand’s darkest days. Many of the people affected by this act of extreme violence will be from our refugee and migrant communities. New Zealand is their home. They are us.




Read more:
Why news outlets should think twice about republishing the New Zealand mosque shooter’s livestream


She is right. Public opinion surveys such as the Asia New Zealand Foundation annual surveys of attitudes tend to show that a majority of New Zealanders are in favour of diversity and see immigration, in this case from Asia, as providing various benefits for the country.

But extremist politics, including the extreme nationalist and white supremacist politics that appear to be at the core of this attack on Muslims, have been part of our community for a long time.

The scene of the mass shooting, Masjid Al Noor mosque on Deans Avenue, in Christchurch.
AAP/Martin Hunter, CC BY-SA

History of white supremacy

I completed research in the UK on the National Front and British National Party in the late 1970s. When I returned to New Zealand, I was told explicitly, including by authorities that were charged with monitoring extremism, that we did not have similar groups here. But it did not take me long to discover quite the opposite.

Through the 1980s, I looked at more than 70 local groups that met the definition of being extreme right wing. The city that hosted many of these groups was Christchurch.

They were a mixture of skinhead, neo-nazi and extreme nationalist groups. Some were traditional in their ideology, with a strong underpinning of anti-Semitism and a belief in the supremacy of the “British race”. Others inverted the arguments of M?ori nationalism to argue for separatism to keep the “white race pure”.

And yes, there was violence. The 1989 shooting of an innocent bystander, Wayne Motz, in Christchurch by a skinhead who then walked to a local police kiosk and shot himself. The pictures of the internment showed his friends giving nazi salutes. In separate incidents, a Korean backpacker and a gay man were killed for ideological reasons.

Things have changed. The 1990s provided the internet and then social media. And events such as the September 11 terror attacks shifted the focus – anti-Semitism was now supplemented by Islamophobia.

Hate speech online

The earthquakes and subsequent rebuild have significantly transformed the ethnic demography of Christchurch and made it much more multicultural – and more positive about that diversity. It is ironic that this terrorism should take place in this city, despite its history of earlier far right extremism.

We tend not to think too much about the presence of racist and white supremacist groups, until there is some public incident like the desecration of Jewish graves or a march of black-shirted men (they are mostly men) asserting their “right to be white”. Perhaps, we are comfortable in thinking, as the prime minister has said, they are not part of our nation.

Last year, as part of a project to look at hate speech, I looked at what some New Zealanders were saying online. It did not take long to discover the presence of hateful and anti-Muslim comments. It would be wrong to characterise these views and comments as widespread, but New Zealand was certainly not exempt from Islamophobia.

Every so often, it surfaced, such as in the attack on a Muslim woman in a Huntly carpark.

Families outside following a shooting at mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand.
AAP/Martin Hunter, CC BY-SA

An end to collective innocence

It became even more obvious during 2018. The Canadian YouTuber, Stefan Molyneux, sparked a public debate (along with Lauren Southern) about his right to free speech. Much of the public comment seemed to either overlook or condone his extreme views on what he regards as the threat posed by Islam.

And then there was the public protest in favour of free speech that occurred at the same time, and the signs warning us about the arrival of Sharia law or “Free Tommy” signs. The latter refers to Tommy Robinson, a long-time activist (cf English Defence League leader) who was sentenced to prison – and then released on appeal – for contempt of court, essentially by targeting Muslims before the courts.

There is plenty of evidence of local Islamophobic views, especially online. There are, and have been for a long time, individuals and groups who hold white supremacist views. They tend to threaten violence; seldom have they acted on those views. There is also a naivety amongst New Zealanders, including the media, about the need to be tolerant towards the intolerant.

There is not necessarily a direct causation between the presence of Islamophobia and what has happened in Christchurch. But this attack must end our collective innocence.

No matter the size of these extremist communities, they always represent a threat to our collective well-being. Social cohesion and mutual respect need to be asserted and continually worked on.The Conversation

Paul Spoonley, Pro Vice-Chancellor, College of Humanities and Social Sciences, Massey University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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Trump is right. This is a witch hunt!

WASHINGTON — President Trump is right. This is a witch hunt.

Monday morning, he used the term for the 261st time as president (according to the Factba.se database), this time tweeting: “50% of Americans AGREE that Robert Mueller’s investigation is a Witch Hunt.”

On a weekend of rage directed at late senator John McCain, “Saturday Night Live,” Fox News and many others, Trump rose Sunday morning to denounce Crooked Hillary’s Fake and Unverified Dossier, “the info that got us the Witch Hunt!”

Sometimes it’s the “Mueller Witch Hunt,” other times it’s the “Russian Witch Hunt,” occasionally it’s in ALL CAPS and often punctuated: “RIGGED WITCH HUNT!”

Just because Trump says something, however, doesn’t automatically mean it’s wrong. The treatment of Trump by special counsel Robert Mueller and other investigators does have characteristics of a witch hunt. This is because Trump has characteristics of a witch.

So says a leading authority on the history of witchcraft, Thomas J. Rushford, history professor at Northern Virginia Community College in Annandale. In an anthropological sense, Trump “is really quintessentially a witch figure,” the professor tells me, and if what is happening to Trump is a witch hunt, “it is only in a good sense, that is, this is society policing the boundaries that they believe to be ethically and morally right.”

Some explanation is in order.

Witch hunts get bad press, probably because of playwright Arthur Miller’s portrayal of the Salem witch trials in his immortal takedown of McCarthyism, “The Crucible.” We tend to think of innocent women burning at the stake because of accusations by devil-possessed girls (or, if not so literary, we might think of a wart-nosed hag stirring a noxious potion with the broomstick she uses to commute). But witch hunts weren’t all bad, and their targets weren’t always innocent.

Therefore, to dismiss what is happening to Trump as groundless by calling it a witch hunt is unfair — to witch hunts.

In the time of the witch hunts, roughly the 1530s through the 1690s, the existence of magic and witchcraft was as universally accepted as the existence of electricity is today. Though typically illegal, the practice was generally tolerated until something really bad happened — cows got sick, babies died, men went lame. When that happened, authorities (they lacked our modern understanding of illness) cracked down on bad magic.

Likewise, today’s laws and norms say that certain behaviors — cheating on your taxes or your spouse, holding racist views, lying to business associates — are bad, even if they are fairly commonplace and often ignored. But when, say, the president smashes social norms in an extreme way — attacking minorities, boosting his wealth with foreign money, paying hush money to a porn actress — the culture no longer tolerates his bad magic.

“A witch would be doing a lot of magical things all considered to be wrong,” the witchcraft professor says, but authorities “wouldn’t do anything about it until there was some egregious enough act.” If somebody was “truly a witch figure,” Rushford said, he eventually “crossed a line.” He also noted: “Trump has done the same kinds of things.” Trump’s dubious legal and ethical standards didn’t matter as much when he was in the private sector. But people are alarmed now that he’s using those same dubious standards to run the country.

This defense of witch hunts isn’t to excuse the long-ago practice of torture-induced confessions and executions of innocent people — often women or those on the margins. But it’s unfair to say, with the benefit of modern scientific knowledge, that earlier cultures were foolish because even the best-educated among them believed magic controlled the unseen, which led them to regulate witchcraft. “If you take that culture on its own terms, they had every right to punish people who were breaking the law,” Rushford argues. “They were saying, ‘Here is a person we believe to have violated the ethical and moral conventions of our society.’”

Just as Europeans had laws against witchcraft some 450 years ago, the United States today has laws about cheating on taxes, working for foreign powers, and lying to lenders and civil authorities. Five former Trump advisers have admitted violating these laws, and a sixth has been charged. That’s half a coven.

As far as we know, Trump hasn’t turned anybody into a newt yet. But the dubious business dealings he has conducted for years and continues to conduct in the White House are a 21st-century form of bad magic. You can’t plausibly complain about a witch hunt if you’re the guy stirring the cauldron.

Follow Dana Milbank on Twitter, @Milbank.(c) 2019, Washington Post Writers Group

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Some conservative commentators blast GOPers who backed Trump on national emergency

RJ Matson, Portland, ME

So even with the votes in Congress, Donald Trump will get his national emergency. The reason: the bulk of Republicans in Congress decided to do what is widely seen as abandoning traditional Republican adherence to separation of powers as outlined in the Constitution to back Trump. The reasons? Some agree with Trump but many fear being primaried and opposed by Trump (i.e. Profiles in Cowardice).

Initial news reports and commentary focused on the 12 GOPers who broke with Trump (not enough to override a Presidential veto) and voted with Democrats in the Senate to back the House’s nix of the National Emergency aimed at letting Trump end-run Congress’ rejection of big bucks for his border wall to extract money elsewhere from the government. But commentators later asked the question: what does it SAY about today’s Republican Party that most of the Republican Senators backed Trump, including one that had an op-ed opposing the wall and another who had cultivated the image as a more independent, traditional conservative?

The bottom line message: There are few political norms Trump can jettison that won’t be backed by them. And perhaps none since their job security is their priority. The Huffington Post has this great round up comments. Here’s one part of it:

Conservative commentators angrily called out Republican senators who on Thursday continued to back President Donald Trump by voting against a resolution overturning his border wall national emergency.

A dozen GOP lawmakers joined Democrats in approving the measure to reject Trump’s declaration. Trump tweeted he would “VETO!” the resolution.

High-profile writers on the right lambasted the Republicans who stood with Trump ? including Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) and Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) ? on Twitter, on television and in opinion columns.

…..Jennifer Rubin wrote in The Washington Post that “if Trump told” the Republicans who stood with him “to amend the Constitution and toss out the Bill of Rights, they’d likely do it.”

“After all, Article I means nothing to them, so why should any other portion of the Constitution?” added Rubin, who said the GOP had “sacrificed its principles and decency for … what? For the right to sit in the Senate, doing nothing? For fear that they cannot justify themselves to the mob Trump has drummed up?”

Rubin also predicted Trump’s presidential downfall:

“In all likelihood, barring an act of political suicide by the Democrats (i.e., nominating an unelectable, self-described socialist), he’ll be out of office and facing prosecution in less than two years. And the Republicans who defended and enabled him? They’ll have gone down with the ship.”

I need to note: I disagree. I personally think we’re already seeing Democrats fall into their traditional pattern of some Dems suggesting they won’t vote for a nominee who isn’t their preference so they can teach their own party a lesson.

Democrats have historically taught their own party a lesson by helping elect Richard Nixon, George W. Bush, and Donald Trump. In the process, they have taught their party a lesson by seeing Republicans replace New Deal/Great Society judges with more conservative judges.

They have taught their own party a lesson by virtually gifting the Supreme Court to Republican conservatives.

In 2020 there’s likely to be a third candidate (and the resulting boycott of a certain coffee chain). So just as in 2016 where Green Party candidate Jill Stein insisted there was little difference between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, there is likely to be someone lumping the two parties together who will get some Democratic votes by peddling the same (inaccurate) line about there being no difference between the parties so vote for me. Trump is more likely than unlikely to win re-election if the historical pattern repeats itself. More:

Michael Gerson, an ex-speechwriter for former President George W. Bush, did not comment on the vote itself. But in an op-ed for The Washington Post, he said a reality gap had opened up “between the GOP and the rest of our political culture.”

“The rift between Republican perceptions of the president and the view of the broader public” which has “grown into a chasm” was now “the main political context of the 2020 campaign,” he added.

Gerson also asked three questions of the GOP:

“Why have Republicans fallen in line with a politician who has sometimes targeted their own party and leaders for populist disdain? Why have conservatives come to the defense of a leader with decidedly unconservative views on trade and foreign policy? Why have religious conservatives embraced the living, breathing embodiment of defining deviancy down?”

Why?

Among other reasons: (1)political expediency, (2)the overriding role and addicting nature of political tribalism (READ THIS MUST READ ON DEMOCRACY AND TRIBALISM), (3)the fact that throughout history groups, intellectuals and others have betrayed their principles to adamantly support someone who they feel can speed up change they want in one area, often with utterly disastrous consequences for their countries.

Welcome to 21st century politics.

Meanwhile, one Republican who clearly folded under White House political pressure has been unendorsed by his state’s biggest newspaper, The Denver Post.

We endorsed Sen. Cory Gardner in 2014 because we believed he’d be a statesman. We knew he’d be a conservative voice in Congress, to be certain, but we thought his voice would bring “fresh leadership, energy and ideas.”

We see now that was a mistake – consider this our resolution of disapproval.

Gardner has been too busy walking a political tight rope to be a leader. He has become precisely what we said in our endorsement he would not be: “a political time-server interested only in professional security.”

Gardner was not among the 12 Republicans who joined Democrats in rejecting President Donald Trump’s use of a national emergency declaration to allocate funds to a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

We fully expect to disagree with our lawmakers from time to time — in fact we’ve been critical of Gardner but stuck by him through tough but defensible votes including the attempted repeal of the Affordable Care Act.

And:

To be honest we were surprised by Gardner’s vote. It’s completely inconsistent with every stance he has taken on Trump’s presidency. He told reporters in 2017 that “I don’t think the wall is the best idea,” and in a telephone town hall a month later he said, “I believe we have to have border security, but I do think billions of dollars on a wall is not the right way to proceed.”

And:

Gardner was a never-Trumper in the primary who in recent months endorsed the president’s re-election campaign even as Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation continues to unveil the worst of this administrations web of lies and deceit. Tuesday’s vote was the last straw.

We no longer know what principles guide the senator and regret giving him our support in a close race against Mark Udall.

The post Some conservative commentators blast GOPers who backed Trump on national emergency appeared first on The Moderate Voice.

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La Pietà, ‘Handle With Care’

La Pietà at New York World Fair (Credit Georgina Louise)

It is interesting how one story can lead to another.

In my story about two Italian immigrants — now dear neighbors — I wrote how 12-year-old Grace Lasala (now Mrs. Joe Zambito) sailed into “a cold and snowy New York Harbor aboard the S.S. Cristoforo Colombo three days before Christmas 1960.”

In reading about the Cristoforo Colombo, I discovered that, four years later, that same ship would sail into New York Bay, escorted by three red tugboats, with a very precious, very delicate passenger.

An April 14, 1964, New York Times headline put it this way, “The ‘Pieta’ Arrives Here, Ever So Gently

La Pietà,” of course, is Michelangelo’s priceless marble masterpiece depicting the frail body of Jesus Christ in death cradled in the arms of His Mother Mary after the crucifixion (below).

The Pietà at St Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City. (Credit: Alfonso González, flickr.com.)

La Pietà had left the Vatican, and Italy, for the first time in 465 years to be displayed at the World Fair in New York.

The Times describes some of the unprecedented security measures taken to protect the irreplaceable treasure, including using a derrick barge – instead of risking New York traffic— “guarded by the Coast Guard’s Harbor Patrol, the city police and the fair’s special police force” to ferry the Pietà from the Italian Line pier to the New York Fair site.

Additional extraordinary precautions were taken during the offloading of the 11,600 lbs. case containing La Pietà.

According to the Times, the captain of the Cristoforo Colombo appeared visibly relieved when his priceless cargo – insured for $6 million – was safely on the barge.

The Times:

“There was pride and fear when I heard that I would be in charge of such a cargo,” Captain Soletti said. “Should it be transported at this season of the year? What of the possibility of storm or high seas? In all my 39 years at sea ‘my two reverend guests’ were my most important cargo.”

Captain Soletti’s second “guest” was another, smaller marble sculpture that the Colombo brought in, “The Good Shepherd,” whose maker is unknown.

Fortunately, the Colombo did not encounter storms or other disasters during its 10-day voyage. But even if it had, even if the Colombo had caught fire or had sunk, or both, Pietà had an excellent chance of surviving, hopefully unscathed.

Meticulously packed in a watertight crate, within a crate, within a crate — each with unique properties and a specific purpose — Pietà was lowered onto a rubber base in the ship’s first class swimming pool.

The Times:

Even if the Italian Line’s Cristoforo Colombo…had sunk, the container would have floated. The top of the container was painted a bright orange, so it could be spotted easily.

And even if the container, through some mischance, had sunk 10 feet below the surface, electronic equipment within the case would have radioed the Pietà’s position.

Even before it was loaded onto the Colombo, painstaking planning and preparations had been ongoing for months in Italy.

In his blog, Andrea Felice describes in detail, using rare photos, the ultracareful planning, preparations and packing of the Pietà: from the moment “technicians, skilled workers, ‘sampietrini‘ (attendants of the basilica) and managers” removed the Pietà from its pedestal in St. Peter’s Basilica, through its road trip to the Colombo (“onboard a small open Italian OM Tigrotto truck,” with very little security) until the precious cargo is placed aboard the Cristoforo Colombo.

[Note: This source states: “The box was not placed in the holds but was placed on the deck to ensure the free float in the event of the ship sinking. It was blocked to the deck with solid tie rods with hydrostatic release….”]

Regardless, La Pietà made it safely to New York and, 19 months later, back to The Vatican.

In the meantime, a plaster cast made earlier by Francesco Mercatali took La Pietà’s place at the Chapel of the Pietà.

At the 1964-1965 New York World Fair, La Pietà (lead image) became one of the Fair’s most popular exhibits with 27 million people visiting the Vatican Pavilion.

It has been called the “crown jewel” of the fair, for good reason.

On the side of the crate containing Pietà was written in large print, “Pietà – from His Holiness Pope Paul VI – to His Eminence – Francis Cardinal Spellman – Vatican Pavilion – New York World’s Fair.

The only words missing were “Handle with care.” But then, that would have been history’s biggest understatement.

Lead image: Credit Georgia Louise

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I Am Not a Dog Brush

Amazon is convinced that I am a Dog Brush. If you don’t believe me, just go to their website and type in the words “Doug Bursch.” I’ll wait…. What you’ll find, unless this post has somehow transformed their current trajectory, is an extensive listing of Dog Brushes. That’s right, Amazon does not believe that I exist or that there are people in the world searching for signs of my existence. Even though I’ve self-published a book in paperback, digital and audio forms, using their company’s self-publishing platforms, Amazon is refusing to recognize the existence of my book on their website. Well, they eventually recognize my existence when someone types in the title just right, “The Community of God: A Theology of the Church From a Reluctant Pastor.” And they also recognize people who use my long form given name of Douglas Bursch. However, if you remove that “las” ending from my first name, I cease to exist as a relevant search term on Amazon’s platform.

I wonder how this reality came to be. How many people have mistakenly typed “Doug Bursch” when looking for a “Dog Brush.” I assume the answer would be zero people or possibly zero people. Even so, every single person who types my name in Amazon’s search engine is immediately introduced to a world of Dog grooming products, while my name is relegated to the doghouse. Some might say, do something about this Doug, reclaim your identity!

Thanks for your advocacy, but I’ve already tried unsuccessfully to convince Amazon that my name has the right to be searchable. After spending a fair amount of time trying to track down the department that is responsible for disregarding my humanity, my concerns have been repeatedly brushed aside. I even had one customer service representative suggest that I change my name. Others have spent time explaining to me why I just have to accept how their search engine processes the query of my name. They explain that the technology is dictating the outcome, as if people did not create the technology that is rejecting my existence. I’ve been basically told that everyone must follow the lead of the search engine algorithm or whatever programing dictates an inability to recognize that any search using the word Bursch should probably send someone to a product that includes the word Bursch.

So here I am, lost on the internet, abandoned by Amazon’s search engine that refuses to recognize that people are actually searching for what they are searching for. My name is only a mistake to be corrected, an opportunity for Amazon to tell people what they really meant to type. Help me Jeffrey Bezos, you are my last hope. Or should I say help me Jeff Bezos because you are not able to recognize a plea that uses the long form of your first name. Somehow, I think you won’t confuse my use of your name with an interest in Dog Brushes. However, you may understand my use of your name as a plea for you to examine the influence your increasingly expanding company has on the humanity of your users.

I am not a Dog Brush! Yes, I find that statement hilarious as well. I also find my reason for using this statement profoundly troubling.

(If you’d like to order my book, here is a direct, not search dependent link)

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