This Little Group

The Free Thinkers and Peace Builders group I started with a friend has grown quickly. We have 85 members and have only been around 3 months! I thought having this many members would mean good turnouts for the meets I create, with lots of good exchange of ideas.

Alas, I have been disappointed. I know, people join online groups all the time and never attend a single meet. I’ve done that. You get busy and can’t make yoga. Or didn’t write anything to present to the writers group on Monday. I had thought this group was made up of slightly more determined individuals. If we want to make change, talking to each other is key! If we are not determined, why are we bothering?

If you are not committed to making change, how can change ever come? Do people expect things to change simply because they want them to? I know we have leaders out there. Those determined to expose Trump for the racist bumpkin he is. People trying to change the US justice system. They don’t seem to get the media coverage they deserve. Those in power do not really want anything to change. They own the media. All of it, and no one seems to care. Except me.

CNN and the thousands of “independent” news outlets are too busy spending two weeks discussing a hurricane. For 24 hours a day, every day.  For two weeks! And if there is no storm or crisis they still only show you the same 5 stories all day long. It would appear that today’s media does not realize there are more than one story a day.  CNN doesn’t seem to realize what a parody of news it has become. In the US we have CNN or Fox. That explains a lot doesn’t it?

Today’s Newsroom Meeting:

“Ok boys, go out and get those stories.” The “reporters” all look at each other. “What’s the boss mean, “go out”? I pick up all my stories off of Facebook and other social media. I don’t have to “go out” anywhere and talk to people live and in person. I’ve got important shit to do.” So the “reporters” set their interns the task of bringing stories to them off the internet. There are only five reporters, and five interns, therefore, we get only five stories. Not a one with verifiable sources. Are we just lazy? Is it just because my family loves to watch CNN day and night and I get incensed that the story, and clips and interviews that I saw at 9AM are the exact same I see at 9PM.

Today I feel disappointed. I know what I’m trying to do isn’t easy and not everyone can devote the same amount of time and effort. But I can’t do this alone! Have those who have joined my group done so for no apparent reason? Do they care about what I am trying here? My friend who started this group with me has since abandoned the cause. I feel ready to do the same. My WP site costs me money. My Meetup page costs me money. Not much but it’s money that I would otherwise spend on useful things like food. I’d like to think what little I pay out would pay off in a good solid group of people.

Today I am disappointed in my fellows. I sent a notice for a meeting. The topic doesn’t really matter as long as we discuss the important stuff. But only ONE person showed up for the last meet and only ONE has signed on to attend this one. I don’t know if I should bother. You can’t hitch your star to someone else’s wagon.

Same question I ponder daily: Should I give up or keep going?

Recovery – Day Five

He’s not coming out of it like usual. I swear he’s becoming delusional. And I know delusional and how difficult it is to get along with them. To avoid conflict you have to buy into their delusion. It’s especially hard to do when the delusions change from day to day.

Every day he tells me something that’s just plain wrong:

“We watched that show together.” Except we did not watch that show together.

“Where’s the leftover chicken from last night?” We hadn’t had chicken in several days. Is this a problem with keeping track of the days? It doesn’t seem so, because he insists we had roast chicken the night before and doesn’t understand why I would deny it. You would think logic would come into play, but no.

“Can you print something for me?” I do. Then I give him the papers and he says, “I didn’t ask you to print that.” This in a span of 15 minutes.

He is so convinced that what he remembers is real and what we remember is just wrong. I ask him, “Why would I lie about that?” Not to mention, he knows I have never lied to him.

Every day he has a new problem with his computer or tv. One day it won’t turn on at all. The next day he has no volume control, etc. He’ll get each issue fixed and a few hours later it’s another problem. I’m not sure there is ever anything wrong. It’s impossible to know. He won’t leave it alone long enough for you to really help. Near as I can figure, he hallucinates that there is a problem and starts to unplug and turn things off. But I have to go in his room and look at all the wires and figure out what he’d disconnected.

I’m supposed to go with him to the doctor today. He’s talked about it all week. Now this morning he doesn’t want me there and doesn’t want to give me permission to talk to the therapist at all. I told him if he wanted his dad and me to be able to help him, he’d give his permission. Now he’s in his room, ruminating on why we are so mean and demanding.

It is 11:40AM and I’m arguing with Son about it. He’s telling me we should get going if we’re going to make it on time. I thought the appointment was at 1. He says yes, but it’s 12:40 and I have to repeat it is not. Now he’s upset again and hiding in his room. I’m looking forward to the ride to the doc. God know if I’ll even get to say anything once I’m there. Probably a total waste of time, but I’ve got to try. They need to at least understand that the situation at home is barely tenable. We need help to understand, and they are not getting a complete picture of the situation.

GAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!!!!!!!!

 

A Time To March

Agreed. I think we all need to show our faces to these racist wastes of air space.

Empty Nest, Full Life

I’m horrified, shocked, furious about the terrorist attack in Charlottesville this weekend. White Nationalists, whatever the hell that means, marched supposedly to protect the statue of a man who committed treason 150 years ago and then lost a war.

How to pick a winner, right?

They wore Nazi insignia. They gave the Nazi salute. They chanted about the Jews “replacing” them.

Their true goal, obviously, was not to stand up for old dead Robert E. Lee. It was to provoke a fight with all those awful people who they believe are trying to take away their white male role as masters of the continent.

They succeeded. There was fighting. There was death.

They got their headlines.

Now these radical deplorables are planning to march on Boston. The capital of the state where I live. They want to chant their pathetic racist drivel on the streets where Sam Adams rallied patriots…

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The State of Healthcare in America

We all know the healthcare system in the US is a mess. Our federal government is broken. And it seems there is a central character in our numerous problems: money. The privatization of prisons, hospitals, universities. It’s become not about people, but the almighty dollar.  Since when have hospitals been For Profit. I thought they were For Care of the Community. Instead we have board members, rich board members, who are getting paid to be on the board. They have no vested interest in whether people have healthcare. Doctors are overwhelmed by the paperwork required, and the limited time the insurance companies allow them per patient. Talk to your doctor, if you don’t believe me.

Ins No

From an article from the National Economic and Social Rights Initiative (NESRI).

“The market-based health insurance system in the United States has caused a human rights crisis that deprives a large number of people of the health care they need.  The most visible problem is the 32 million people without health insurance; the most distressing is the number of preventable deaths – up to 101,000 people per year – simply due to the way the health care system is organized.”

“Since social determinants, such as race, income and environment, strongly influence who becomes ill and who receives access to quality care, the health care crisis disproportionately affects disadvantaged groups and under-resourced communities, such as people living in poverty, people of color, and immigrants.”

Overall, the “health care crisis is the result of the privatization and commodification of the U.S. health system, which reflects market imperatives and profit interests that devalue human needs, dignity and equality.”

According to the article 45,000 people die each year simply because they have no health insurance.  That’s a lot of voters! Apparently since they are poor, non-white, and often, immigrants, our federal government doesn’t see them as citizens. It seems our government doesn’t see them as human.Some 700,000 families go bankrupt each year trying to pay their medical expenses. Even with insurance, high co-pays and exorbitant hospital costs, it’s not surprising , especially when a catastrophic injury or illness hits.  Yet in 2009 the five largest insurance companies had a combined profit of $12 billion. Some of that money could have been used where needed, not to line the pockets of those who already have enough. (There are no poor people on hospital boards.)We also now have fewer doctors and nurses than other high income countries (WHO 2007).  WHO projects a shortage of 44,000 primary care doctors within the next 15 years (WHO, Health Affairs 2008). Fewer doctors because there is too much paperwork and not enough healing. According to an article from 2016 from Forbes:  One study showed physicians spent 27% of their time in their offices seeing patients and 49.2% of their time doing paperwork. Seems lopsided to me. I can’t blame them when many became a doctor to help people, not do endless reams of paperwork. Nurses are already badly needed, but there are too few nursing programs to put enough nurses to work. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Employment Projections 2014-2024, Registered Nurse (RN) is listed among the top occupations in terms of job growth through 2024. The workforce is expected to increase, providing 439,300 new nurses. However, the Bureau also projects the need for 649,100 replacement nurses in the workforce bringing the total number of job openings for nurses due to growth and replacements to 1.09 million by 2024.

Meanwhile we have the GOP trying to strip most US citizens from receiving even minimal care. We must stop For Profit from becoming the norm in every conceivable business.  Seems the public schools are about the only thing not privatized (yet).

 

For the want of critical thinking, America has succumbed to tribalism

This says so much of what I’ve been trying to say.

Progressive Culture | Scholars & Rogues

Antarctica is cold. I learned that in grade school. The record is 128.6 degrees Fahrenheit below zero set in 1983. Did you know the southernmost continent is also a desert? I know much of the history of the exploration of the continent — the stories of Roald Amundsen, Ernest Shackleton, James Clark Ross, Caroline Mikkelsen, and others. I know the continent’s 5,400,000 square miles are 98 percent covered with ice (although that’s changing, I suppose, as the climate and sea continue to warm).

p-6421-mfatBut I’ve never been to Antarctica. It’s likely that you haven’t, either. So how do we know so much about the fifth-largest continent?

We read books about it. Teachers taught us about it (usually from textbooks and, if you’re my age, “film strips”). We’ve seen movies and videos about Antarctica. We’ve seen the continent on maps and globes. We’ve watched Emperor penguins on basic cable nature specials.

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On The Realities of Being Poor

I’ve been reading lately:

  • The Heritage Foundation Backgrounder, 19 March 2014 – “Do Federal Social Programs Work?”, by David B. Mulhausen, PhD
  • The Heritage Foundation Backgrounder, 15 September 2015 – “Poverty and the Social Welfare State in the United States and Other Nations,” by Robert Rector
  • Center for American Progress – “The Facts About Americans Who Receive Public Benefits,” by Joy Moses, December 2011.
  • UC Davis Poverty Research Center -“How To Reduce Poverty in the United States”

Poverty, as we all know, is a deep seated problem with no easy answers. The four articles noted above contradict each other on several issues, so it is not surprising that solving the problem is so difficult.

The March 2014 Backgrounder, for example states, “The American Public should have nothing to fear from the elimination of ineffective programs. Now is the time for deep budget cuts in federal social programs.” Some of the programs it suggests terminating include Head Start, which after detailed evaluation found that the program failed to improve the lives of the children, any more than the children who did not attend.  I’d have to agree, the Head Start program may have outlived its usefulness now that nearly all children attend a pre-school for at least a year before starting kindergarten. So, how much is actually spent on Head Start? According to one source: $7 billion.

Other programs the March 2014 article suggests are ineffective are:

  • Food Stamps (SNAP), which “failed to affect earnings and employment outcomes.” Sorry, what? This makes no sense. Were food stamps meant to increase the recipients earnings or employment? Yeah, I didn’t think so. It is a program to ensure better health through nutrition. So I deny that this is a failed or ineffective program based on the faulty testing criteria.
  • Moving to Opportunity (Section 8 housing) was also found to have failed “to produce statistically meaningful results” for the recipients.  This article does not explain the criteria used, but you can go here for more info. I suggest that part of the failure of this program is due to lack of participation of landlords. Applications for the program have actually been suspended for the past 10+ years (at least in Los Angeles), due to the long waiting list and short list of landlords, as well as the limited range; housing is not even offered in most of the surrounding cities. There must be some incentive provided to landlords to participate in the program, and currently there does not appear to be any.
  • The Job Corps program studies show that participants worked fewer hours and received less pay than the control group. I posit this is due to the dearth of opportunities in areas served; i.e., learn all the skills you want, if there is only a job at McDonalds, you will not make more money.  The program isn’t failing, we are. Yes, the program is ineffective, because it doesn’t solve the problem of job availability. Again, we need to provide incentive for businesses to locate in poor communities. Not an easy fix, so I guess it’s easier to just say it doesn’t work and trash it, than say it doesn’t work because it is flawed but could be improved.

The September 2015 Backgrounder discusses the living standards of those people considered poor. The US census (from which most financial data is taken) does not provide an indicator of those who may be using federal aid.  I should think that might skew the numbers, no? One of the criteria for determining poverty (other than income) include whether or not they have air conditioning. Most modern buildings have central heating and cooling.  While I might use my power for heating, I’m less likely to use the A/C because of the cost. So, just because A/C is available to me doesn’t mean I use it. And who says A/C is a luxury? Sure in 1945 it was, but today?

Nearly 75% of those defined as poor have at least one car. Again, who decided that a car was still considered a luxury item. The survey asks “do you have a vehicle.” It does not ask for the age or condition of it.  Two-thirds of the poor have a computer with internet access. Again, not really a luxury item either, now that so much of our lives need that access, especially when it comes to education. They have cable/satellite playing on a wide screen modern TV.  TV is again, not a luxury item. What the survey does not ask is “did you buy the TV or gaming system?” It might be a gift from a friend or relative. All I’m saying is that statistics don’t tell much of the story. Data can be skewed. Information omitted.bad wires

In the end, I know not all our systems work, and some should be dismantled, but others could be streamlined and improved. With each change we make to a system, it is only a patch. Now imagine that as an electrical system? Patch upon patch, always adding a new wire. I’d say it’s a reasonable assumption that this is why our government has become too large, too cumbersome, and too expensive.

And we never really fix the problem because of partisanship. Neither side will let the other side get exactly what they want. When did Party become more important than the People? (Much more on that later.)

The Growing Poor in America

Our GNP has been growing.  Inflation has been rising since the 70s and cost of living has increased.  Yet wages have stagnated.

wages

Most wage increases over the last 20 years have been less than helpful in keeping up a Middle Class.  You can see by the above chart, the lowest incomes have actually decreased in the last 15 years!  Inflation has continued.  No wonder we no longer have a Middle Class.  I’d say Middle Class has dropped into the following categories: Poverty-Stricken, Poor, Middle Poor, and Barely Squeaking By.

Wages
In 1970, minimum wage was $1.60 an hour. Today, it’s $7.25 an hour. That’s a 353% increase over that period of time, which seems like a fair amount… until you actually start looking at how prices have increased.

What about average wages? I couldn’t find a document that laid out full details on average wages per year, but this document from the Census Bureau, laying out some average wage information, shows that average household income has roughly kept pace with consumer prices.

Consumer Prices
In January 1970, the Consumer Price Index was 37.8. In January 2011, it was 220.223. That’s a 482% increase over the period we’re looking at.

In other words, for every dollar increase in the minimum wage since 1970, the price of an average item has gone up $1.36. Even adjusting for inflation, a dollar today buys less than it once did for low income earners.

So, for a person freshly out of school, the initial income outlook is worsethan a fresh graduate in 1970, but after some career advancement, their salaries end up being comparable given inflation.

Education
In 1970, a year of tuition at a public university cost $1,207. In the most recent year of data available, 2007, a year of tuition at a public university cost $11,034. That represents an annual average increase of 6.2%, which, if you applied it to the 2007 price, gives you an estimated 2010 cost of a year of education as being $13,216. That’s a 994% increase in the cost of a four year degree.

So, let’s say you’re earning minimum wage and trying to make it through college.

In 1970, you could work 755 hours at a minimum wage job over the course of a year to earn enough to pay for a year of schooling at a public institution – about 14 hours per week.

In 2010, you would have to work 1,823 hours at a minimum wage job over the course of a year to earn enough money to pay for a year of schooling at a public institution – about 35 hours per week.

Source: http://www.thesimpledollar.com/a-dose-of-financial-reality/

 

Most people I know are in the Just Barely Squeaking ranks.  They own houses with large mortgages, have car payments, and credit card debt in excess of $10,000, lots of that is student loan debt.  Adult household members work at jobs they probably hate, and don’t pay near enough.  Jobs they have taken mainly for the insurance benefits, which have decreased steadily over the past 15 years.  Ever since the Reagan Era “Trickle Down” theory.

We pay more for homes, cars, and groceries than ever before, and are (for the most part) no better off than their Middle Class upbringing.  Why?

Technology.  It’s expensive.  Lot’s of techies make lots of money, but it doesn’t trickle down very far.  Maybe it trickles to their housekeeper, gardener, grocer.  (All of whom make 1/4 of what the Techie does.)  Technology, that god I heard about ever since I can remember.  That thing that would give workers more leisure time.  That thing that has replaced people with computers and robots.  Remember the old Secretarial Pools?  Large documents would be typed up by a bevy of women with each one typing a section over and over.  It took more people to do the typing because at that time Xeroxing was new, time consuming, messy, and expensive.  Now one person can type entire documents. Granted this didn’t happen over night, but computers have eliminated millions of jobs.

Health Care.  It’s expensive.  Insurance costs for such care is beyond believable when you see hospitals charge $1,000 for Tylenol.  Doctors charge over $300 per 15 minute visit. Luckily most of us can still see a doc for under $50 co-pays, but not all of us.  God forbid you have a serious health problem like cancer, Parkinson’s, Huntington’s, Progressive MS or ALS.

Housing.  It’s expensive.  Greedy people have driven up the cost of homes to unprecedented heights.  New York, Paris, London, Los Angeles; all the major cities are virtually unaffordable for the Barely Squeaking.  In my city the cheapest homes you can buy are $500,000 fixers, for which you need another $200,000 to make repairs or alterations.

Gentrification of Poor Areas.  Rich Man buys apartment building occupied by 20 families each making less than $30,000 per year.  Rich Man evicts all 20 families.  He spends millions to rehab and improve his investment.  Who can blame him? So he puts in expensive carpet, wood floors, guts the bathrooms and kitchens and adds stainless steel appliances, granite counters, fancy pedestal sinks, and low-flush toilets and showers. The evicted families were paying less than $1500 per month for their 2 bedroom 1 bath apartment.  The newly finished building now houses only 10 units, minimum 2 bed/2 bath over 1500 square feet of living space (as opposed to the original 700 sf 2 bed/1 baths).  There is now underground parking, and a concierge.  The units are now to be sold as condos, starting at $750,000.

Improving the poor areas, right?  No.  It’s just relocating the poor by force.  Those 20 families now struggle to find a new apartment that they can afford. Usually they find something farther from their jobs.  Making it more difficult for them to keep those jobs. Likely a job will be lost simply because they can’t make it to the second job on time riding the bus.  Bus service is slow, cabs or Uber are expensive, cars even more so.

Many people with such low income work two part time jobs.  Neither of which will provide health insurance coverage if the worker puts in less than 30 hours.  So mom and dad work two minimum wage jobs without health insurance.  Their only health care provided by ERs across the nation, thousands of which have been systematically closed down by the Board of Directors of hospitals, because the ER is not cost-efficient.  Why? Because 90% of those in an ER have no insurance and no means to pay for their visit. ERs are required to treat a person, regardless of their ability to pay.  It’s no wonder they aren’t cost effective.

That says a lot when discussing a National Healthcare Insurance.  ERs would no longer be crowded with people with ear infections and colds, and could return to the intended use for accident victims.  Thereby decreasing costs simply by eliminating those without means from incurring debt they cannot pay.  It’s not Socialism, at least not in the bad sense of the word, it’s common sense with some compassion tossed in.

Do rich people really think I want to be borderline poor?  What is this lingering hate toward the poor (and the homeless)?  It’s been with us thousands of years, ever since “income” became a necessary part of life.  The poor in this country will continue to fall further behind and end up on Welfare (another GOP-hated social assistance).  The number of homeless will continue to increase.

Don’t those in power and/or with money care at all about us down here on the bottom row of the pyramid?  We built the fucking pyramid, we should not have to be buried by it.