Fascinating, albeit very sad, article in the Washington Post about America's vanishing middle class. The additionally troubling aspect of this decline is that it is not limited to the States; it is a world-wide phenomenon. Just as many people in poverty-stricken nations are trying to improve their economic status so the jobs that I needed are vanishing. Not mentioned in this article, which comes with a most illuminating map, is the curious and puzzling fact that so few of the people who are being hurt vote but, when they do, they vote against their own interests.
Scientists are scheduled to gather in Lima, Peru to talk, once again, about climate change. The recent accord between China and the United States is apparently providing some optimism but a different kind of optimism. No longer are we hoping to keep warming to 2 degrees Celsius; we are now hoping to escape 4 degrees Celsius. The latter will melt the icecaps, causing seas to rise by 213 feet or 63 feet over the Statue of Liberty. It will make the tropics uninhabitable and will wipe out life on most islands. Welcome to our brave new world.
Now going through the third death of a young, black male at the hands of the police. Charles Schumer, senior senator from New York, commented on Democratic politics yesterday, saying that only one-third of those that Democrats “represent” are registered to vote and only 40% of those actually vote. This is not a recipe for success at the ballot box. The comment was not intended to apply to Staten Island but surely does. The borough is predominantly conservative white and the district attorney is elected to represent them – not the young black man who died. I have talked elsewhere about the failure of democracy. These cases highlight the crisis. On TV Bill Bratton, NY Police Chief says that he wants “them” to have “their” protest but to do so at as little “inconvenience” to the city as possible. That just about seems to sum it up.
An interesting perspective on the abortion issue from Katha Pollitt quoted by Adam Gopnik in the New Yorker: “Sonograms distort reality in another, more subtle way: you can only take a picture of the embryo/fetus if you erase the body of the pregnant woman. As with the famous optical illusion of the duck-rabbit, you can’t see them both at the same time: either you see a rabbit or you see a duck. In a sonogram the fetus is the subject, the woman is the background; the case for its personhood is made by turning her into gray-and-white wallpaper.”
A profoundly depressing article by Edwidge Danticat in the New Yorker about Ferguson and the many killings of black men by white police officers called Enough is Enough. And by contrast, Manny Ferandez and Brent McDonald's story in the New York Times about the wonderful example of one officer Lt. Jerry Lohr who “defused eruptions as crowds grew tense” by simply asking a young would-be rioter “how's your Mom?”
Cheryl Hall has a fascinating article in this morning's Dallas Morning News called At your service. It describes how an organization called Marketplace Ministries Inc. provides chaplains for businesses. Their goal is to have a spiritual counselor on hand for employees who lack a church. Apparently some 70% of workers are unchurched. What a great idea. Run by Jim & Ann Stricklin, it currently has a staff of 125, 2,735 chaplains on call, 635 companies that it is serving and a budget of $14 million.
Jim Landers list in the Business Section of the Dallas Morning News how much each hospital in the Dallas Metroplex spends or, if you will loses, on uncompensated care. Parkland, our big country hospital, spends 36% of its budget or a total of $1.5 billion on the indigent. Presbyterian, where the Ebola death occurred, spends $86.5 million or 5.8% of its budget on the indigent. Someone has to pay for this. And, obviously, it is the insured who pay for the uninsured. Landers says that the average insured person in Texas pays $1,800 to take care of the uninsured. This is partly because Texas refuses to accept Federal money that would take care of 90% of this bill. It never fails to amaze me that otherwise, apparently level-headed people, who claim to understand business, are unwilling or unable to set their conservative principles aside and examine the economics of an issue. Would it save us money if we provided preventive care? Yes, that is highly probable. But, no we'd rather pay the $1,800 than consider preventive care because the apparently smacks of socialism. It is all rather unbelievable. The article says that even hospital administrators in the state who look at the red ink flowing are unable to persuade the unpersuadable. We are a strange people.
Lots of stuff about the recent election leaves me puzzled. It is being reported that many Hispanics voted Republican this time around. Given the anti-immigration stance of the Republican party, this doesn't seem to make much sense, unless those who are here legally are keen to keep out those who are not here legally. It is also reported today that the unemployment rate is now at its lowest in six years, in other words almost back to pre-2008 levels. Yet, the electorate seems not to have given the President any credit for his efforts in this regard. The deficit is also approaching historic lows. By contrast, the promises by the Republican party to cut taxes and stop the Fed's stimulus of the economy threaten to throw the economy into another Great Depression. So what is it that the 30% of the electorate that voted thinks they are getting for their vote? I just don't know. Very puzzling. Tossing out old books one by Peter Haydon on English pubs
Guy Fawkes day in the British Commonwealth is perhaps not wholly inappropriate for the day after an election like the one we have witnessed in the States. After suffering through six years of a do-nothing, know-nothing Congress, one wonders what the takeover of the Senate by the Republicans will mean for the country. No-one, on either side, ran on a mandate for positive change so it is unclear what either party has to offer. Meanwhile the IPCC issues another report, warning of the horrors that lie ahead if we continue to do nothing. As Eric Holthaus notes in Slate the issue was dead last in election issues. So, we wait and see what will happened – if anything! Culled from post-election news reports. I have some unrequested political advice for Democrats – equally applicable to Republicans.
What is happening to us as a nation? We have governors imposing medieval quarantines with no medical or scientific justification but purely to pander to the politics of the day. We have politics of the day driven by a totally unscientific fear based on a level of ignorance that is hard to comprehend. Is the truly the behavior of the supposedly most advanced and sophisticated nation on earth, the nation that purports to be the leader of the world. It is all quite incomprehensible.
We talk about the importance of living in the moment and many of us try to do that. And then suddenly along comes an exemplar who makes one want to weep and rejoice at the same time. Lauren Hill, an 18 year old freshman at Mount Saint Joseph College in Cincinnati, learned last October that she has inoperable cancer of the brain and was given a year to live. As she herself says, she tries not to think about what lies ahead and she does all that she can to live in the moment, to squeeze out of life as much as she can in the few weeks or months left to her. I'm getting old and expecting to die one of these day. How, though, does an 18 year old do it? It's just awe inspiring. Her Mom Lisa says that it is easy to begin grieving about the loss that is coming but then we'd miss today. “We've got today. I can spend today with her doing everything we want to do.” Lauren plans to play another game of basketball for her college on November 2nd. It will probably be her last but as she says I will continue to play as long as I can stand up. What an inspiration.
I just can't believe that a trained doctor, one who even went to West Africa to work with Ebola patients, would treat his own health and that of those around him so cavalierly. What would make him put his own girlfriend at risk?
The computer seems to be running a little more smoothly today. I turned it on and off and on and off, hoping that in the process it would begin to self heal. I also decided to upgrade my memory to 8g from 4g in hopes that would help. Who knows? Very disappointing. Meanwhile what a tragedy in Canada! And then the axe attack in New York!! These deranged people acting in the name of Islam give it a really bad name. How sad that so few people know regular Muslims, the kind, wonderful people that I know in Cape Town.
Fool that I am, I decided to install Yosemite. Ouch! My computer that used to run so sweetly on Mavericks has just about ground to a halt. My Finder crashes again and again and again. I'll learn next time to wait until the bugs have been ironed out before I install another operating system!
Decided to buy the new iPhone 6. Decided against the Plus but still having buyer's regret about the size of the 6 after my much smaller 4. We'll see how I get used to the bigger 'phone. On a broader note, people who were quarantined because of Ebola are now past the 21 days and are returning to normal life.
The newspapers are full of the Ebola crisis. I am fascinated by how vulnerable we are to something that is invisible to us. We tend to think of ourselves as masters of the universe. Someone recently said something like bacteria and viruses are the real masters of the universe; we merely live here. We would all be dead tomorrow were we not protected by the billions of bacteria that live on our skin. We would all starve to death were it not for the billions of bacteria that live in our gut. We are merely the superficial structure somewhat like a New York skyscraper that is inhabited by thousands of people.
When people criticize Texas for being “Republican,” conservative, or what-have-you, they forgot the many idiosyncratic Texans who make this a very different place. Here is a 91 year old who runs a bookstore from his home. http://keranews.org/post/final-chapter-91-year-old-prepares-shutter-his-home-bookstore. Its a federal holiday Columbus Day but here in the Southwest its a forgotten holiday – except for the Post Office, which is closed. Strange since the real story of America is its founding by the Spanish, not by the English two-hundred years later. One would expect Columbus to be more remembered here than in Boston, say, where this is a major state holiday, with parades and celebrations, as well as being a federal holiday. We still have piles of brush on our sidewalk left by the storm ten days ago.
Back from an extended trip and time to catch up on thoughts. Ebola is much in the news with two cases now in Dallas. China's rise to power is another topic. Having been at the center of the universe for thousands of years it naturally wants to retake its place but this is inevitably threatening to others. Also, one wonders whether an un-democratic China will be preferred by the world to a pro-democratic America? Ezekiel Emmanuel, apparently, wants to die at 75 but gives no clue as to how he will achieve this except by a long, lingering, potentially painful refusal of all medical care. The election in Scotland came and went with promises of devolution and the Economist's musings on the demise of the nation state.
Wise words from David Brooks this morning in “The New Right” http://nyti.ms/1pxZwxf. I quote: “conservatives should not be naïve about sin. We are…toward a world dominated by clusters of networked power. These clusters are dominated by interlocking elites who create self-serving arrangements for themselves. Society is split between those bred into these networks and those who are not.” In other words, let's not forget in our enthusiasm for market-based solutions that the world, including markets, are inhabited by people who are less than perfect and not necessarily guided by Christian altruism.Economics & Politics
I am an avid reader of New Scientist and was caught by their recent article on the problems with paracetamol known to us Americans as acetaminophen or more commonly by its brand name Tylenol. The article is entitled What's wrong with the world's favorite painkiller?. The answer it turns out is a lot! Apparently in the United States some 80,000 people each year visit emergency rooms because of poisoning from “Tylenol” and 16,500 people with arthritis die each year from this supposed painkiller. Taken over a period of time it can cause internal bleeding and severe liver problems. To make matters worse research studies show that it is only marginally better than a placebo. Who knew?!
Pentecost Sunday today. More on that in Pentecost I was also reflecting on how we tend to tar all Muslims with the same brush whereas Islam comes in many different forms, not all of them antithetical to our way of life. These thoughts were prompted by the outcry over Sergeant Bergdahl.
Listening to a program on the radio featuring the voice of Rosa Ponselle. What a glorious voice she had undimmed by the lack of hi-fi. Apparently she fainted from stage fright back in 1918 when she was chosen to sing with Enrico Caruso at the Met in 1918. It was rather sad to hear that the Met refused her permission to move to roles in a lower register as her high notes began to fade. But how fun to learn that near the end of her life she coached opera stars that we know like Beverly Sills and Placido Domingo. What a life. music
Alice Goffman writes a heartbreaking story in This Fugitive Life about the lives of young, black men in the ‘hood. Back in 2002, this now sociology professor chose to live in one of the poorer neighborhoods of Philadelphia. She writes, “Some of the saddest days I spent were the days that young men went searching for work. Watching them try and fail, day after day, to secure low-paying part-time jobs broke my spirit.” It broke my spirit just to read her story. We just don’t realize how blessed we are to have had parents who supported us and connections who facilitated for us our search for a job.inequality
I wondered today how many months begin on a Sunday. Maybe more than I realize. I was asked recently whether I saw myself as an American, having lived here for some 40 years. I answered yes – for the most part. Until something pops up that reminds me that I was born abroad. This morning in Sunday School class we talked about how Europe was saved by America's entry into the war in 1942. And, I wanted to say, yes fair enough but what about all those Brits who held the line until America made up its mind to join. And, what about the Canadians, the Australians, the New Zealanders, the South Africans and on and on who gave their lives. What about my father? My uncles? My cousin who died while learning to fly for the war effort. Yes, America surely helped, but their were a lot of brave men and women from other countries who did their share.
A good friend shared The Writer's Almanac with Garrison Keillor with me this morning. I did not know it existed. I clicked on the audio and was even more surprised to hear Keillor's voice. I assume he does this every day. It's quite wonderful and I shall add it to my listening/reading pleasure. What a jewel. Wendell Berry's poem really spoke to me as it did to my friend. I think what keeps on surprising me again and again is how my private thoughts are shared by others. I suspect that were this not true, authors would not be able to sell their poems and stories. Nevertheless it remains a surprise to me when someone that I don't know personally at all captures my mood pretty exactly. It is almost as if one is being spied on!
The Republican establishment beat back the Tea Party in all the precincts across the country – except in Texas where the Tea Party was the big winner. The Dallas Morning News had one of the most negative editorials that I remember reading this morning. One of our winners announced that he was off to Washington to “balance the budget.” For anyone who has been following my blog over the month, they will know that this is a clear indication that our new representative understands nothing about government accounting. C'est la vie.
Memorial Day here in America. A day when we remember those mostly young Americans who sacrificed their lives. I wish that we could use Memorial Day to remember all the young people from across the globe who died for the sake of a cause and that we might join hands together across the globe to make more sacrifices unnecessary.
The Review section of this morning's New York Time was just full of fascinating stuff. Anand Giridharadas tells how native-born Americans struggle to compete with the foreign-borns in much of Middle America. Shadi Hamid argues that Muslims are entitled to vote to be ruled in accordance with their beliefs. Kiera Feldman wrestles with the problem of transgender students at women's colleges. Nancy Segal wrote most thoughtfully about reuniting twins that had been separated for 78 years. And the main editorial makes a good case for ending mass incarceration in America.
I got hit by a phishing expedition yesterday and spent half the day apologizing to friends for the strange e-mail they got from me. I then discovered that my access to my server had been cut off because of this problem. So sad that something so useful could be so infected by evil doers.
Blogging is a strange business because one throws one's thoughts out on a particular day and then they vanish down the hierarchy as day succeeds day. I am going back to this Wiki partly because it enables me to capture snippets but largely because it enables me to hyperlink and so connect today's thoughts with yesterday.
I am struggling to discipline myself to complete my introductory text to accounting. I have also started to collect my thoughts on the future, which frankly worries me, hence the title uneasy mind. I have a long interest in matters of faith and particularly how faith might (or sadly does not) inform our actions on Monday. I capture my thoughts in this area under Monday Faith