RSSCategory: Quality of Life

William Black explains Mitt Romney’s 47% comment

September 18, 2012 | By | Reply More

William K. Black is spot on in his analysis of Mitt Romney, the candidate of America’s Social Darwinist Party (aka the Republican Party):

Romney’s initial non-apology for his dismissal of the 47 percent claimed that he was not “elegant” in his statements, but that is a deliberate effort to divert our attention from the real point. His consignment of nearly half of all Americans to the trash heap was deliberately crude because his fellow plutocrats love the crudeness of his dismissal of those they see as immoral moochers. His speech demonstrated perfect pitch for his audience because his plutocratic peers are the only Americans who Romney knows and understands.

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How Ayn Rand destroyed a home

August 16, 2012 | By | 13 Replies More
How Ayn Rand destroyed a home

Salon presents a young adult’s description of how Ayn Rand destroyed her family. This vivid and intensely personal article by Alyssa Bereznak exposes the ugly underbelly of objectivism, summed up by the following words by Ayn Rand:

My philosophy, in essence, is the concept of man as a heroic being, with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life, with productive achievement as his noblest activity, and reason as his only absolute.

I disagree with those who believe that Rand offers a path to a meaningful life. I see life as a yin-yang dynamic, a struggle we all have trying to balance our own needs and wants with the needs of the group. [More . . . ]

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Why rich kids hate their parents

June 28, 2012 | By | Reply More
Why rich kids hate their parents

I’m not convinced that most rich kids hate their parents, but there are presumably some who do. I also know many non-rich kids who don’t get along with their parents. Franco Lombardo says many rich kids hate their parents in his new book, “The Great White Elephant: Why Rich Kids Hate Their Parents.” Lombardo bases his claim on the failure of 70% of rich families to pass their wealth-making ability onto the next generation intact. This reminds me of a proverb:

The first generation in a family makes money (goes from rags to riches); the second generation holds or keeps the money; and the third generation squanders or loses the money (and so goes back to rags).

In this report by CNBC, he gives three reasons:

First, wealthy parents don’t say “no” enough. “A child grows up with a sense that they get whatever they want,” Lombardo says. “When they go out into the world and the world tells them ‘no,” they’re angry. And they resent their parents.” The second cause is time. Wealthy parents are often absent parents, and the kids feel abandoned. . . . The third reason is society , , , makes fun of rich kids. So parents tell their kids at an early age to hide their wealth. When the kids grow up, they feel that a big part of their identity has to remain hidden – and they blame their parents.

These reasons make some sense to me, but I like to see some numbers quantifying this supposed hate. I’d like to know who we “know” that rich kids hate the parents any more than non-rich kids hate their parents.

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How to make an island

June 19, 2012 | By | 1 Reply More
How to make an island

Do you need to get away from it all? Do you crave an island of your own? Richie Sowa was in that position. Rather than find an island or buy one, he decided to make his own. The foundation of his island is consists of empty plastic water bottles.

Sowa is now growing his own bananas, coconuts, spinach, almonds and tomatoes. In the video below, he says that he has everything he wants. Although his island is currently in Mexico, he plans to keep increasing the size of the island, until he sets out to sea.

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Growing income disparity and its consequences

June 7, 2012 | By | 7 Replies More
Growing income disparity and its consequences

Joseph Stiglitz has some shocking numbers:

Nowadays, these numbers show that the American dream is a myth. There is less equality of opportunity in the United States today than there is in Europe – or, indeed, in any advanced industrial country for which there are data. This is one of the reasons that America has the highest level of inequality of any of the advanced countries – and its gap with the rest has been widening. In the “recovery” of 2009-2010, the top 1% of US income earners captured 93% of the income growth. Other inequality indicators – like wealth, health, and life expectancy – are as bad or even worse. The clear trend is one of concentration of income and wealth at the top, the hollowing out of the middle, and increasing poverty at the bottom.

This is troubling, but not merely for a sense of mathematical equality or even gut level justice. This is bad news because income disparity hurts people in predictable and demonstrable ways.

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Dad performs sting operation to catch teachers bullying his 10-year old autistic boy

April 25, 2012 | By | Reply More
Dad performs sting operation to catch teachers bullying his 10-year old autistic boy

This dad of a ten-year old autistic boy wired up the boy to see how his teachers were treating him. The results were shocking, and he now rightfully wants the school to fire all the teachers who heaped abuse on his son.

I forced myself to watch and listen to the tape recordings. It makes me wonder how many other vulnerable people (autistic kids, mentally retarded kids, people in nursing homes) are abused. I couldn’t blame other people who want to do these sorts of sting operations. Warning: in many states such as Illinois, these one-party consent stings would be illegal.

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How to buy happiness

April 24, 2012 | By | Reply More
How to buy happiness

Michael Norton points to the difficulties of winning the lottery, then suggests that there are ways to use money to buy happiness. One trick is to spend money on others, especially others with significant needs. His conclusion: “If you think money can’t buy happiness, you’re not spending it right.”

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Motherhood and Politics

April 13, 2012 | By | 1 Reply More
Motherhood and Politics

I don’t have a lot to say about this kerfluffle over the remarks of someone who, as it turns out, is not actually working for Obama regarding Ann Romney never having worked a day in her life.  This kind of hyperbole ought to be treated as it deserves—ignored.

But we live in an age when the least thing can become a huge political Thing, so ignoring idiocy is not an option.

I remember back in the 1990s a brief flap over Robert Reich.  I’m not certain but I believe it was Rush Limbaugh who started it by lampooning the Clinton Administration’s Secretary of Labor for “never having had a real job in his life.”  Meaning that he had gone from graduation into politics with no intervening time served as, at a guess, a fast-food cook or carwasher or checker at a WalMart.  Whatever might qualify as “real” or as a “job” in this formulation.  In any event, it was an absurd criticism that overlooked what had been a long career in law and as a teacher before Clinton appointed him.  It’s intent was to discredit him, of course, which was the intent of the comments aimed at Mrs. Romney by asserting that she has no idea what a working mother has to go through.

A different formulation of the charge might carry more weight, but would garner less attention.   It is true being a mother has little to do with what we regard as “gainful employment” in this country: employees have laws which would prevent the kinds of hours worked (all of them, on call, every day including weekends and holidays) for the level of wages paid (none to speak of) mothers endure.

Hilary Rosen raised a storm over remarks aimed at making Mrs. Romney appear out of touch with working mothers.  A more pointed criticism might be that Mrs. Romney does not have any experience like that of many women who must enter employment in order to support themselves and their families, that a woman who can afford nannies (whether she actually made use of any is beside the point—the fact is she had that option, which most women do not) can’t know what working mothers must go through.

But that’s a nuanced critique and we aren’t used to that, apparently.  Soundbite, twitter tweets, that’s what people are used to, encapsulate your charge in a 144 characters or less, if we have to think about it more than thirty seconds, boredom takes over and the audience is lost.

Unfortunately, the chief victims then are truth and reality.

So the president gets dragged into it for damage control and the issue becomes a campaign issue.

Which might not be such a bad thing.  We could stand to have a renewed conversation about all this, what with so many related issues being on the table, given the last year of legislation aimed at “modifying” women’s services and rights.  Whether they intended it this way or not, the GOP has become saddled with the appearance of waging culture wars against women, the most recent act being Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin’s repeal of that state’s equal pay law.  Romney is the presumptive nominee for head of that party and one of the things he’s going to have to do if figure out where he stands on these matters and then try to convince the country that he and his party are not anti-woman.

Yes, that’s hyperbolic, but not by much.  This is where the culture wars have brought us—one part of society trying to tell the other part what it ought to be doing and apparently prepared to enact legislation to force the issue.  Ms. Rosen’s remarks, ill-aimed as they were, point up a major policy problem facing the GOP and the country as a whole, which is the matter of inequality.

That’s become a catch-all phrase these days, but that doesn’t mean it lacks importance.  The fact is that money and position pertain directly to questions of relevance in matters of representation.  Ann Romney becomes in this a symbol, which is an unfortunate but inevitable by-product of our politics, and it is legitimate to ask if she can speak to women’s concerns among those well below her level of available resource and degree of life experience.

The problem with all politics, left, right, or center, is that in general it’s all too general.  Which is why Ms. Rosen’s remarks, no matter how well-intentioned or even statistically based on economic disparities, fail to hit the mark.  She can’t know Ann Romney’s life experience and how it has equipped her to empathize with other women.  Just as Ann Romney, viewing life through the lens of party politics, may be unable to empathize with women the GOP has been trying very hard to pretend are irrelevant.

Like with Robert Reich’s critics, it all comes down to what you mean by “real” and “work.”  And that’s both personal and relative. Isn’t it?

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End the use of long-term solitary confinement in Illinois!

February 22, 2012 | By | 3 Replies More
End the use of long-term solitary confinement in Illinois!

Hey all. I haven’t been posting since last summer, mostly because I’ve been drowning in graduate school duties. One of these duties has been interning at Chicago’s Cook County Jail. There, I sit in on group therapy sessions for inmates with drug-related offenses. I’ve been consistently touched by the philosophical and psychological depth of these men, their gentleness and the span of their regrets. These are men who will sit down and opine for hours on topics you wouldn’t expect low-SES drug dealers and addicts to have much knowledge of: gender identity is a big topic, for example (these guys live firsthand the consequences of masculinity). And when it comes to living with shame or regret, these guys are almost the best resource you can find.

The only place where you can find more affecting people, I think, is at prisons. I’ve been volunteering for a Chicago-based group called Tamms Year Ten, which advocates for prisoners housed in long-term solitary confinement. I write and read inmates’ letters, respond to their requests for photos and magazines, and read their countless reports of abuse– from medical staff, from Corrections Officers, from mail room staff, and from the state itself.

Let’s be clear on what “long-term” solitary confinement means. These men at Tamms are housed alone for 23-hours a day, with zero human contact, for decades. Some have been locked up alone for 23-28 years.

[More . . . ]

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