Wednesday, September 29, 2010
-- Pew Research Center, in a statement, on a new study showing that U.S. residents lack basic knowledge about religion
Large numbers of Americans are not well informed about the tenets, practices, history and leading figures of major faith traditions — including their own.
This is really quite disturbing when you think about it. No wonder there's so much religious conflict and bigotry when people don't even know what it's all about.
Monday, September 27, 2010
Bill Maher: When Will Obscenely Rich A**holes Stop Crying About Taxes?
The piece gets started like this:
Someone once said that taxes are what we pay for a civilized society.
New Rule: The next rich person who publicly complains about being vilified by the Obama administration must be publicly vilified by the Obama administration. It's so hard for one person to tell another person what constitutes being "rich", or what tax rate is "too much." But I've done some math that indicates that, considering the hole this country is in, if you are earning more than a million dollars a year and are complaining about a 3.6% tax increase, then you are by definition a greedy asshole.
And let's be clear: that's 3.6% only on income above 250 grand -- your first 250, that's still on the house. Now, this week we got some horrible news: that one in seven Americans are now living below the poverty line.
I recommend that you click through and read the rest of what Bill Maher has to say. You won't be sorry.
Sunday, September 26, 2010
Here's an excerpt:
A recent survey from Petfinder.com of shelters and rescue groups found that 95% of their shelter and rescue group members currently have adoptable pets for whom they are having extremely hard time finding homes. Another 33% of their adoption groups have had pets who were posted on Petfinder for 1-2 years without being adopted, and 27% have had pets who've waited more than two years for a forever home.
Who are these animals? Mostly senior animals, followed by pets with medical issues, victims of breed discrimination, shy animals and the ones who need to be the only pet in the family. Sometimes they’re just the wrong color, or not the breed someone had in mind.
"It breaks my heart to think that some pets are homeless for years when they are just as wonderful as the younger, fluffier puppy next to them," [said Petfinder co-founder Betsy Banks Saul.]
"The goal of this initiative is to bring the issue to the forefront and help find forever homes for these special animals."
Saturday, September 25, 2010
The unlikely but powerful radicalizing impact of the Tooth Fairy
And the opening paragraphs of this article offer one of the best summaries I've seen yet of what has happened in and to this country:
I do urge you to click through and read the rest of it - especially if you want to know what's behind that headline.
Many decades ago, exploitative robber barons mercilessly worked our immigrant forebears, for negligible pay and no benefits, under dangerously unsafe conditions.
Only the hard struggle of organized labor won everyday Americans better lives.
Then came the union-busting Reagan era, which dropped working-class living standards to dire levels.
As that decline occurred, upper crust prosperity commensurately grew. What workers were losing in lower wages and vanishing benefits was appropriated as immense profit by corporations and banks.
Republicans subsequently rewarded them, and their elite executives, with huge tax breaks, and rampant deregulation, the destructive consequences of which tanked our entire economy in 2008.
Friday, September 24, 2010
You can see the context right here.
I don’t believe that the Republicans deserve to win. They have not merited it. They have operated by trying to drag down President Obama and his programs by obstruction through lack of any positive ideas of his time. I personally find the smearing of President Obama as an issue of national discussion. It is repulsive and ought to be discussed. I think it ought to discredit the Republican Party from consideration.
Thursday, September 23, 2010
Shocking and depressing is so right:
Americans Have No Idea About Wealth Inequality in America
Here's part of what it says:
If you click through to the article, you will find a very interesting graph illustrating the above point. You will also find some interesting comments (some of which are also shocking and depressing.)
Disagreements about the optimal level of wealth inequality underlie policy debates ranging from taxation to welfare. We attempt to insert the desires of "regular" Americans into these debates by asking a nationally representative online panel to estimate the current distribution of wealth in the United States and to "build a better America" by constructing distributions with their ideal level of inequality. First, respondents dramatically underestimated the current level of wealth inequality. Second, respondents constructed ideal wealth distributions that were far more equitable than even their erroneously low estimates of the actual distribution. Most important from a policy perspective, we observed a surprising level of consensus: all demographic groups—even those not usually associated with wealth redistribution such as Republicans and the wealthy—desired a more equal distribution of wealth than the status quo.
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
If we actually ended the Bush-era tax cuts, that would pretty much do it.
-- Peter Orszag, President Obama's recently departed budget director, saying that letting tax rates for all taxpayers return to the levels before George W. Bush's presidency would bring the country within reach of Obama's goal to balance the budget by 2015
So what's the problem? Did we not have prosperity before the Bush era?
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
A Divide So Wide, A Healthcare Disconnection So Deep
I'm going to give you a rather substantial excerpt from the beginning:
The rest of it is good, too.
Our national obsession with individualism and the attainment of personal wealth is so sick and so deep for some of our fellow citizens that even the bonds of marriage are often no match for the selfishness.
A woman with advanced breast cancer schedules her chemo and her radiation so that by the time the worst physical side-effects set in, she is at the weekend and can sufficiently recover to allow a return to work on Mondays. She has negotiated remote work-time on chemo days and the day after. She pays for her family’s for-profit, private health insurance because her husband is a small business owner whose business has felt deep losses during the recession. She must keep working if she wants the care that is attacking her cancer.
If it sounds brutal, that’s because it is.
I had occasion to chat with her husband. He believes that I am misguided in my work for a progressively financed, single standard of high quality care for all. He said, “You know, government can’t and shouldn’t do everything for us. It’s up to us to pull ourselves up by the bootstraps.” Huh?
He really used those words. While his wife struggles to keep the premiums for the for-profit, health insurance paid, his bootstraps are sagging. Yet, he shows no sign of wavering from his entrenched position. He is not particularly active politically. He is not in the Tea Party or the Republican Party or any party. Yet his obsessive selfishness learned through intense cultural and societal indoctrination is so strong that he can bury the reality his wife is living and cloak himself in righteous anti-establishment, anti-government propaganda.
I've listened to conservatives who don't have insurance argue with me against universal health care. It boggles my mind - really.
Monday, September 20, 2010
-- David Edwards, of the Biotechnology Industry Association, as the FDA begins a two-day meeting on whether to approve the marketing of genetically engineered salmon, which would be the first such animal approved for human consumption
If you can imagine it, scientists can try to do it.
It's from the TIME Magazine website.
Sunday, September 19, 2010
By the Numbers, Public Workers Defy Anti-Government Stereotypes
Here's how the article gets started:
Want to get a disgruntled worker really mad? Just point to his arch enemy: the civil servant. You know, the shiftless paper-pusher, fattened on our tax dollars, the epitome of “waste, fraud and abuse.”
Alright, this might sound harsh to those of us who still think the government has some useful functions in society today. But bashing on the government and its workers has become a favorite pastime for conservatives like New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who has argued that public employees enjoy undeservedly lavish compensation packages while their private-sector counterparts grapple with shrinking paychecks. So the logic goes: Why should struggling families' tax dollars finance the bloated wages of bureaucrats?
An analysis of New England public employees by the Center for Economic Policy and Research and Political Economy Research Institute helps dispel the myth of the “spoiled” government worker. Researchers found that New England's state and local workers are actually comparatively disadvantaged. After taking into account variables like age and education level, "state and local workers actually earn less, on average, than their private-sector counterparts."
More and more I wish that the fundamentals of research methods were taught in high school and were made a basic requirement for undergraduate degrees. Too many people simply have no idea how to assess what's true or not when dealing with large groups.
Friday, September 17, 2010
-- Bill Clinton, joking on The Daily Show about the Republicans' argument for why they should win in the upcoming midterm elections
[Democrats] have had the White House for 21 months, and they haven't dug us out of the hole we left — so put us back in.
And here's how it gets started:
As Election Day 2010 approaches, the consequences of the nation’s three-decade-old decoupling from reality are becoming painfully obvious.
It's a riveting article, actually. Mind you, I don't agree with everything Parry says here. Nevertheless, everything he says makes you think. I would also urge you to read the comments that follow because many good points are made (and questions are raised) there as well.
As Election Day 2010 approaches – as the United States wallows in the swamps of war, recession and environmental degradation – the consequences of the nation’s three-decade-old decoupling from reality are becoming painfully obvious.
Yet, despite the danger, the nation can’t seem to move in a positive direction, as if the suctioning effect of endless spin, half-truths and lies holds the populace in place, a force that grows ever more powerful like quicksand sucking the country deeper into the muck – to waist deep, then neck deep.
Trapped in the mud, millions of Americans are complaining about their loss of economic status, their sense of powerlessness, their nation’s decline. But instead of examining how the country stumbled into this morass, many still choose not to face reality.
Thursday, September 16, 2010
Something to think about, folks.
Wednesday, September 15, 2010
Barbara Santee sent around an email today with the picture above and also an article of which the following is an excerpt:
Just to clarify here, I am not an atheist. I am, however, an ardent supporter of the separation between church and state. I also cherish the constitution and it clearly states that there exists no religious test as a requirement for holding office in the United States of America.
A Tulsa man came up with a national billboard posted in Midtown Tulsa.
The message in patriotic colors reads, “Atheism is OK in Oklahoma. Saluting Gore-First Atheist Senator.”
Not surprisingly the billboard is getting a lot of attention.
On the westbound Broken Arr! ow Expressway at the 15th Street exit you’ll see the Freedom From Religion Foundation billboard.
A national group sponsored the board but the idea came from a Tulsa man.
Billboards are a way to sell a product and a way to promote beliefs.
Christians do it and now Atheists are too.
"I thought playing into Oklahoma's desire to be number one. Well we will capitalize and advertise the fact that we are number one with the Atheist," says Bill Dusenberry.
Dusenberry is a member of the Freedom From Religion Foundation. He is talking about U.S. Senator Thomas Gore who was an Oklahoma native who Dusenberry believes was the first openly Atheist US Senator. He was first elected in 1907 and says the sign is a tribute to him.
It absolutely stuns me that many of my fellow citizens don't know this.
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
It's published in The Nation and here's how it gets started:
Now. Please click through and go read what the suggestions are. A lot of them seem so obvious that it's truly hard to understand how they're being neglected.
Yes, the country is in a foul mood, with 15 million unemployed. The Democrats may get clobbered in 2010. And even if we survive, how do we hang on for the long term? If our great founder, FDR, could come back to us, he might remind us of the three simple rules that once, long ago, Democrats used to follow:
1. Do something for your base.
2. Do something for your base.
3. Do something for your base.
Seriously: why can't we do something for our base? It's been almost a half-century since we Democrats did something for our base, when Lyndon Johnson pushed through Medicare, i.e., "socialized medicine" for seniors. And while some may compare the new Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 to Medicare, there's a big difference. To the public, the new law seems to benefit only the uninsured: the young or the marginal, few of whom will even vote in 2010 (maybe just a third of the electorate will). So while the new law is a big help to them, it does nothing for the rest of our base, especially our smaller core base that will vote in the midterms.
Monday, September 13, 2010
Sunday, September 12, 2010
Here are some sample principles:
You can find the complete list right here.
Jan. 30: Today, I will reflect on what peace means to me.
Jan. 31: Today, I will look at opportunities to be a peacemaker.
Feb. 14: Today, I will affirm my value and worth with positive "self talk" and refuse to put myself down.
Feb. 21: Today, I will greet this day -- everyone and everything -- with openness and acceptance as if I were encountering them for the first time.
Feb. 22: Today, I will drive with tolerance and patience.
Feb. 23: Today, I will constructively channel my anger, frustration, or jealousy into healthy physical activities (i.e., doing sit-ups, picking up trash, taking a walk, etc).
Mar. 3: Today, I will identify something special in everyone I meet.
Mar. 11: Today, I will listen with an open heart to at least one person.
Mar. 12: Today, I will treat the elderly I encounter with respect and dignity.
Mar. 23: Today, I will hold no one hostage to the past, seeing each -- as I see myself -- as a work in process.
Mar. 24: Today, I will make a conscious effort to smile at someone whom I have held a grudge against in the past.
I really do urge everyone to click through and let this list be the inspiration it is designed to be. Anyone who makes a commitment to put these principles in practice will certainly experience a changed life; of that I'm certain.
Saturday, September 11, 2010
I so identify with the response to that ecstasy. I have experienced something similar myself and I plan to reflect on this at length today.
The anniversary of 9/11 reminds us why we need the Charter for Compassion. It should be an annual summons to compassionate action. The need is especially apparent this year. In the United States, we have witnessed an upsurge of anti-Muslim feeling that violates the core values of that nation. The controversy surrounding the community centre near Ground Zero, planned by our dear friends Imam Feisal Rauf and Daisy Khan (who were among the earliest supporters and partners of the Charter) has inspired rhetoric that shames us all.
Imam Feisal Rauf is a Sufi. Over the centuries, Sufis, the mystics of Islam, have developed an outstanding appreciation of other faith traditions. It is quite common for a Sufi poet to cry in ecstasy that he is no longer a Muslim, a Christian or a Jew and that he is at home equally in a synagogue, mosque, temple or church, because once you have glimpsed the immensity of the divine, these limited, human distinctions fall away into insignificance. We need that spirit today -- perhaps especially near Ground Zero.
-- Prince Charles, expressing dismay toward climate-change doubters, during an eco-tour of Britain
We're putting nature's systems under huge strain, and we can't go on like that if we want to hand over something reasonably worthwhile to our children and grandchildren.
He's right, of course.
I wonder if anybody will listen.
(This was one of the Time Magazine "quotes of the day" yesterday.)
Friday, September 10, 2010
History leaves no doubt that among of the most regrettable crimes committed by human beings have been committed by those human beings who thought of themselves as civilized. What, we must ask, does our civilization possess that is worth defending? One thing worth defending, I suggest, is the imperative to imagine the lives of beings who are not ourselves and are not like ourselves: animals, plants, gods, spirits, people of other countries, other races, people of the other sex, places and enemies.
Thursday, September 09, 2010
Wednesday, September 08, 2010
Normally I don't particularly like an excessive use of the "f-word" but, trust me, it's truly appropriate in this case!
Tuesday, September 07, 2010
-- President Obama, on the Republicans who have consistently opposed his economic proposals since he has been in office
If I said fish live in the sea, they'd say no.
Since Day 1, Mr. Obama has tried to play "nice-nice" with them and go the bi-partisan route and it just hasn't worked. Maybe he's finally getting it that the Republicans are going to be obstructionist as long as a Democrat is in office and that's just the way it is.
Monday, September 06, 2010
What happened to this man?
Here are some thoughts:
This speech was given in 1948. This was before the Supreme Court ruling of "Brown vs Board of Education" and before the Civil Rights Movment of the 60s. Yes, Reagan briefly mentions civil rights in his remarks here but I'm wondering if maybe he wasn't expecting the Black Power and Black Pride movements. This speech was also before LBJ's "Great Society", anti-poverty efforts. I'm wondering if a certain racism prompted his move to the Republican Party. It is widely considered that his visit to Philadephia, Mississippi in 1980 was a deliberate racist appeal through code words and symbolism.
Remember, too, that he supported the apartheid government of South Africa.
Also worthy of note is that Reagan was married to Jane Wyman, a liberal, when this speech was made. He later married Nancy Davis, a conservative.
Then President Barack Obama was quoted:
I think that's true for workers generally. I think if I was a coal miner, I'd want a union representing me to make sure that I was safe and you did not have some of the tragedies that we've been seeing in the coal industry. If I was a teacher, I'd want a union to make sure that the teachers' perspective was represented as we think about shaping an education system for our future.
In fact, I have been a member of three unions during my working life: two teachers' unions and the musicians' union. (Two of them were affiliates of the AFL-CIO.)
Let me tell you something: I've worked union jobs and I've worked non-union jobs and I'll take the union jobs any day. As a musician, I've been hired to perform in non-union situations where the working conditions were simply appalling. (Once an orchestra pit for an opera company I worked for was so filthy there was a dead rat in it.) I also sometimes had trouble getting paid and, let me also tell you, when you're in the "starving artist" category, you can't very well hire a lawyer to go to bat for you. When I joined the union and started working those jobs, everything changed. Appropriate conditions, no forced un-paid overtime (par for the course in non-union jobs), decent pay and, most of all, respect. Having representation and recourse when there's a problem makes all the difference in the world.
Do we sometimes find corrupt politics in unions? Well, yes. The thing to remember is that without unions, the corrupt politcs will all be on the side of management. (Ponder that one for a while.)
I've also been on the receiving end of union-busting intimidation techniques and, I assure you, that's no fun. I still get a little sick to my stomach when I remember it.
This Labor Day, thank the unions. Even if you've never belonged to a union in your life, unions have benefited you hugely. Because of unions we have, in this country, the following:
And, if you don't have the above in your work, you probably think that you should. That's the influence of the union movement on societal values.
40 hour work week
On the job safety regulations
Reasonable job security
Protection against abusive employers
The laborer is worthy of his hire.
-- Luke 10:7
You shall not oppress a hired servant who is poor and needy, whether he is one of your brothers or one of the sojourners who are in your land within your towns. You shall give him his wages on the same day, before the sun sets (for he is poor and counts on it)...
-- Deuteronomy 24:14-15
Sunday, September 05, 2010
It seems to me that we have lost the will to save ourselves as a species. And there's really only one reason for it: the seemingly inescapable grip that the capitalist system has on us.
Capitalism is the most wildly productive economic system in history, but the one thing it cannot produce is meaning. Even more troubling is the way, through its promotion of narcissism and mindless consumption, that capitalism undermines the larger culture’s ability to create real meaning. Virtually all of what is good in society—solidarity, compassion, creativity, ethics, joy—comes from outside capitalism, giving the illusion that capitalism is a civilized system. It’s a cliché, but important enough that we sing it over and over: Money can’t buy you love. Capitalism cannot create a healthy human community, and it undermines the aspect of human nature rooted in solidarity and love.
The other obvious failure of capitalism is its contribution to the erosion of the health of the ecosystem. Humans have been drawing down the ecological capital of the planet since the invention of agriculture about 10,000 years ago, but that process has intensified dramatically in the capitalist/imperialist/industrial era. Our culture is filled with talk about the success of capitalism even though that system degrades our relationships and threatens our existence. That’s an odd definition of success.
Saturday, September 04, 2010
As someone who practically grew up in libraries (my mother, of blessed memory, taught both English and Library Science) this distresses me very much.
I received the fundamentals of my education in school, but that was not enough. My real education, the superstructure, the details, the true architecture, I got out of the public library. For an impoverished child whose family could not afford to buy books, the library was the open door to wonder and achievement, and I can never be sufficiently grateful that I had the wit to charge through that door and make the most of it. Now, when I read constantly about the way in which library funds are being cut and cut, I can only think that the door is closing and that American society has found one more way to destroy itself.
-- Isaac Asimov
And here's a small excerpt toward the beginning:
Let's think about it, people.
Social Security, wage AND hour laws, collective bargaining rights, unemployment compensation, the GI Bill, the interstate highway program, civil rights laws, Medicare, Head Start -- and more -- provided the national framework necessary to sustain a middle class for the American Majority.
This essential framework was not "given" to us by corporate executives and politicians -- indeed, they sputtered, spewed and fought every piece of it tooth and nail. Rather, it came from union-led grassroots movements, organizing for structural change.
This Labor Day, we see corporate executives and their politicians relentlessly dismantling that framework, piece by piece -- and we see the middle class disappearing and poverty rising with each dismantled piece.
Friday, September 03, 2010
I found the quotation right here. I must say, however, that some of the comments to that post are very cynical. (Maybe appropriately so.)
I don’t know where we would have been in Mississippi after Katrina if it hadn’t been with the Spanish speakers that came in to help rebuild. And there’s no doubt in my mind some of them were here illegally.
My idea is everybody from Stanford who’s from India that gets a PhD, we ought to stamp citizenship on his diploma. So instead of him going back to India and starting a business that employs 1,800 people, then he’ll start a business that employs 1,800 people in Des Moines, Iowa, instead of India. A lot of it is just common sense. And common sense tell us we’re not going to take 10 or 12 or 14 million people and put them in jail and deport them. We’re not gonna do it, and we need to quit — some people need to quit acting like we are and let’s talk about real solutions.
Here's an excerpt that really caught my attention:
And here's another statement we need to ponder:
The sociologist Michael Smithson has pointed out that all social relations are trust relations. We trust other people to do things for us that we can’t or don’t want to do ourselves. Even legal contracts involve a degree of trust, because the person involved could always flee to Venezuela. If we don’t trust others or don’t want to relinquish control, we can often do things for ourselves. We can cook our own food, clean our own homes, do our own taxes, wash our own cars, even school our own children. But we cannot do our own science.*
So it comes to this: we must trust our scientific experts on matters of science, because there isn’t a workable alternative. And because scientists are not (in most cases) licensed, we need to pay attention to who the experts actually are -- by asking questions about their credentials, their past and current research, the venues in which they are subjecting their claims to scrutiny, and the sources of financial support they are receiving.
You know, I wonder if the climate change deniers out there would refuse a heart by pass operation if they needed one. Probably not. And what they're not considering is that the very same scientific principles that make such surgery possible also tell us that we are in serious danger of driving ourselves into extinction by the way we are treating the earth.
All scientific work is incomplete— whether it be observational or experimental. All scientific work is liable to be upset or modified by advancing knowledge. That does not confer upon us a freedom to ignore the knowledge we already have, to postpone action that it appears to demand at a given time.
I really do recommend that you click through and read the whole article. There are some nuances and particulars discussed that really can't be captured in a couple of short excerpts.
* (Emphasis mine)
UPDATE: Here's a Sierra Club page entitled "TEN POPULAR MYTHS About Global Climate Change". Definitely worth spending some time with.