A welcome to readers

As a resident of this planet for more than three quarters of a century, I have enjoyed both successes and disappointments in a wide variety of vocations, avocations, and life experiences. This blog satisfies my desire to share some thoughts and observations--trenchant and prosaic--with those who are searching for diversions which are interesting, poignant and occasionally funny. I also plan to share recommendations about good/great movies I've watched and books and articles which I've found particularly mind-opening, entertaining, instructive. In addition, I can't pass up the opportunity to reflect publicly on how I am experiencing the so-called Golden Years. Write anytime:

Thursday, January 22, 2015


Read more to find out how the 80 richest individual people in the world ( a number that could easily fit onto two busses [not one as claimed]) control more wealth than 3.5 billion of their fellow humansand what this means. Why is this so? Does it help to know that this year, more than half of the people in our Congress are millionaires? Hmmm.

Imagine Something Different

Posted on Jan 21, 2015
By Amy Goodman
“Imagine if we did something different.”
Those were just seven words out of close to 7,000 that President Barack Obama spoke during his State of the Union address. He was addressing both houses of Congress, which are controlled by his bitter foes. Most importantly, though, he was addressing the country. Obama employed characteristically soaring rhetoric to deliver his message of bipartisanship. “The shadow of crisis has passed, and the State of the Union is strong,” he assured us.
From whose lives has the shadow of crisis passed? And for whom is this Union strong?
“Will we accept an economy where only a few of us do spectacularly well?” Obama asked. “Or will we commit ourselves to an economy that generates rising incomes and chances for everyone who makes the effort?”
Oxfam, the international anti-poverty organization, weighed in on the question, releasing a report the day before the speech called “Wealth: Having It All and Wanting More.” Oxfam analyzed data from the Credit Suisse Global Wealth Databook 2014 and the Forbes list of the world’s billionaires to determine some shocking facts about global inequality.
First, it found that, as of 2014, the 80 richest individuals in the world are wealthier than the bottom 50 percent of the world’s population. This bears repeating: The 80 wealthiest people, a group that could fit on a bus, control more wealth than 3.5 billion people. The wealthy are not only accumulating more wealth, but they are getting it faster. Between 2009 and 2014, Oxfam reports, the wealth of those 80 richest people in the world doubled. This, while the rest of the world was mired in the Great Recession, with rampant unemployment and people’s life savings wiped out. If current trends continue, Oxfam notes, by 2016 the richest 1 percent of the world’s population will control more wealth than the bottom 99 percent.
One way the wealthy manage to increase their wealth, Oxfam reports, is through lobbying. The report identifies two industries, finance/insurance and pharmaceutical/health care, as major sources of wealth for the richest, and as principal founts of political contributions. Hundreds of millions of dollars are spent by these industries annually to shape public policy and safeguard profits.
“For far too long, lobbyists have rigged the tax code with loopholes that let some corporations pay nothing while others pay full freight,” President Obama said in his State of the Union. “They’ve riddled it with giveaways the super-rich don’t need, denying a break to middle-class families who do.”
Obama has proposed increasing taxes on the very rich: “Let’s close the loopholes that lead to inequality by allowing the top 1 percent to avoid paying taxes on their accumulated wealth.”
Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist David Cay Johnston is an expert on taxes. We spoke to him on the “Democracy Now!” news hour soon after the State of the Union. “The idea that we shouldn’t adjust the tax rates for people at the top and doing so is somehow class warfare is absurd,” he said. “The president is proposing that for those people in the top one-half of 1 percent—and almost all the money would be paid by the top tenth of 1 percent, people who make over $2 million—that their capital-gains tax rate be at the Ronald Reagan rate of 28 percent,” Johnston summarized. “And Republicans are saying that that’s outrageous. Well, I’m sorry, they’re always telling us Ronald Reagan is a saint.”
What would these taxes pay for? Among other things, Obama pledged to make child care more affordable. He promised free community-college education. These are genuine, good ideas. After his address, Republicans repeatedly said he was for the “redistribution of wealth,” code for socialism. But wealth IS being redistributed by the government—upward, from the poor to the rich—through policies promoted by both major parties, from tax loopholes to “free trade” deals that protect corporate profits over workers’ rights.
And who is promulgating these laws?  The Center for Responsive Politics, a political contribution watchdog group, reports that, for the first time ever, more than half of the members of Congress are millionaires. The group states that this “represents a watershed moment at a time when lawmakers are debating issues like unemployment benefits, food stamps and the minimum wage, which affect people with far fewer resources, as well as considering an overhaul of the tax code.”
As President Obama said in his State of the Union, “To everyone in this Congress who still refuses to raise the minimum wage, I say this: If you truly believe you could work full time and support a family on less than $15,000 a year, try it.”
Growing economic inequality not only hurts the poor, and the working and middle class, but destabilizes society overall.  Yes, we must “imagine if we did something different.” Everyone must have a stake in the state of the union.

Denis Moynihan contributed research to this column.
Amy Goodman is the host of “Democracy Now!,” a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on more than 1,200 stations in North America. She is the co-author of “The Silenced Majority,” a New York Times best-seller.
© 2015 Amy Goodman


This is an issue worth thinking about.  If you follow some of the links in the article, you'll learn (among other things) that the "Doomsday Clock" has been moved closer to midnight as of today.  As I look at the world, I can certainly see why that decision was made.

People are so involved in their own "Stuff" that they can't see what's really going on in the world--the hunger, poverty, disparity between ultra rich and the indigent. the racism, ecological damage (some irreversible), etc.  ad nauseam.  Reminds me of the passangers who played tunes and danced on the deck of the Titanic as that "great ship went down to the bottom of the ocean."

I grieve that all I can do at my age is to observe and comment…while leaving corrective and restorative action to the next generations which may be so busy texting, gaming, scoring drugs, and making money that they won't even notice.

The Slice
stories that cut to the quick
You're a Luddite? Don't Worry, It's Human Nature

You're a Luddite? Don't Worry, It's Human Nature

“What do you mean, honey? It’s the sunset.”
“No, I mean is that fake, like is this something we see on TV, or is it actually happening?”
I thought I’d done a better-than-average job striking a tech balance for my kids—I take them on hikes, craft illegible chalk drawings on the sidewalk, have a no iPhone rule for the beach—but my daughter’s confusion bothered me. Yes, she’s five. Yes, kids that age sometimes confuse what they see on TV and what’s real. You can’t touch a sunset, so I couldn’t explain it to her in the physical way, but I emphasized that we weren’t staring at a screen. That what she saw in front of her eyes was in fact,real life.
I thought about this moment when I read Alison Slater Tate’s Washington Postarticle last week about what it’s like being a parent in the age of iEverything. Tate groans about how challenging it is to get her kids to look up from their phones just to acknowledge nature. “We can try as hard as we want to push back and to carve space into our children’s lives for treehouses and puzzles and Waldorf-style dolls,” she writes, “but in the end, our children will grow up with the whole world at their fingertips, courtesy of a touch screen, and they will have to learn how to find the balance between their cyber and real worlds.”
Tate’s essay is the latest in a wave of modern critiques about how the onslaught of our digital world will be the end of us. This week, Information Age’s headline blared that the digital reborns are taking on the digital natives. This doomsday mapillustrates how humanity keeps discovering brilliant new ways to destroy itself. And ifNewsweek’s threat of Cyberwar doesn’t want to make you escape to a computerless cabin in the woods, I don’t know what will. It’s a point that’s made over and over andover again.
There’s part of me that sympathizes, but something about the panic rubs me the wrong way. This constant commentary isn’t just unsettling, it’s fear-provoking. It’s like we’re living a written history, a techno play-by-play, instead of what Matthew McConaughey would recommend (which, I would never say in a million years…okay fine, maybe once): Just Keep Livin’.

Our awe over technology allows us to tap into an intrinsic part of human history.
Even though our technology is new, our anxiety about it is not. And it’s this same anxiety that connects us to the growth and innovation of every other era of human history.
Each generation has a story to tell about a gadget that seemed modern and crisp and also utterly daunting. When my mother watched Milton Berle on her set in her two-family house in Brooklyn, it was the first television set on her block. I had the first Atari in my neighborhood, which was why my cute neighbor wanted to hang out at my house. All you have to do is watch “Downton Abbey” to see how uncomfortable tech advances have made us in the past 100 years—in a recent episode, Lord Grantham and Mr. Carson melted down when Lord Grantham’s much younger niece asked for a “wireless” (a radio) to listen to a broadcast of the king’s speech. “I find the whole idea kind of a thief of life,” Grantham said. “That people should waste hours huddled around a wooden box, babbling inanities at them from somewhere else.”
Look at big-impact inventions: Technology writer George Dyson credits cement as a crucial first-millennium innovation, telling the Atlantic that “it was the foundation of civilization as we know it—most of which would collapse without it.” But isn’t it possible some Egyptians were all, Hey, what about limestone? Our society will never be the same.
Granted, the changes of the past five years have moved quicker than any time in history. My son, age 11, didn’t have the luxury of playing on an iPhone when he was a toddler, but my daughter, five years younger than he, already knew how to use a few of the early apps by the time she was 18 months old. Tech has had such tremendous breakthroughs since 2010—tablets, motion sensor game consoles, agricultural drones and brain mapping—that the ones screaming “Remember when?” are practically newborn babies.
But even though it’s faster now, our awe over technology allows us to tap into an intrinsic part of human history. In a way, that’s strangely comforting. My son constantly reminds me, You know nothing about life because you grew up in the seventies, but in the very near future, someone is going to dismissively say to him,You’re from the aughts. It’s all different now.
In the end, though, nature still has a magnetic pull. Just the other day, “War Games,” the OG of hacker movies, was on TV. A pivotal scene shows Dr. Stephen Falken, a character based on Stephen Hawking, learning that the computer he created for NORAD—the kind of intelligent computer that can think for itself—is about to launch Global Thermal Nuclear War and there’s nothing anyone can do to stop it. Just before Falken helps save the world, he lectures Matthew Broderick and his girlfriend about human evolution:

Once upon a time, there lived a magnificent race of animals that dominated the world through age after age. They ran, they swam, and they fought and they flew, until suddenly, quite recently, they disappeared. Nature just gave up and started again. We weren't even apes then. We were just these smart little rodents hiding in the rocks. And when we go, nature will start over. With the bees, probably. Nature knows when to give up.
Until our technologies destroy it, nature will endure. We’ll always be forced to look up from Twitter or stop scrolling through whitewashed Swedish homes on Instagram to catch a sunset or a full moon. Even my daughter’s question seems much more innocent in this context—less spawned from the evils of technology than child-like curiosity. “This is so beautiful,” she seemed to be saying. “How can it be real?”
Hayley Krischer is a freelance writer based in New Jersey. Her work has appeared in The Toast, The Hairpin, Salon, The New York Times and other publications. You can find her on Twitter.