RSSCategory: Meaning of Life

No national war on needless hospital deaths in the U.S.

September 20, 2013 | By | Reply More

So why isn’t there any national war on hospital negligence? Isn’t a death a death? More than 200,000 needless hospital deaths every year.  Propublica Reports. 

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Time to ban predatory lenders and rent-to-own shops

July 9, 2013 | By | Reply More

David Ray Papke has recently published “Perpetuating Poverty: Exploitative Businesses, the Urban Poor, and the Failure of Liberal Reform,” suggesting that it’s time to pull the plug entirely on predatory lenders and rent-to-own outlets. If only legislators would base their decisions on what is just rather than the flow of money to their re-election campaigns. Why ban them rather than regulate them? Because it’s been attempted for a long time, unsuccessfully. These business are great at evading the spirit of regulation.

In the end, the urban poor who shop and borrow at rent-to-own outlets, payday lenders, and title pawns do in fact pay exorbitant amounts that are much higher than what they would pay for goods at Walmart or loans at the local bank. As scholars have argued for almost fifty years, it is routinely the case that the poor pay more than middle and upper-class Americans for comparable goods and services.1 This includes food, housing, transportation, insurance, mortgages, and health care,2 and it certainly includes goods and loans from rent-to-own outlets, payday lenders, and title pawns.

This article has four major sections. The first three examine the business models of, in order, the rent-to-own outlets, payday lenders, and title pawns. Each of these business models features a highly-crafted, standardized contractual agreement that does not merely support the business but rather is central to it. The fourth section of the article reviews reformist efforts related to these businesses and also argues that these liberal efforts at reform have been ineffective. The business models and concomitant contractual agreements of rent-to-own outlets, payday lenders, and title pawns are so sophisticated and adjustable as to make them virtually impervious to regulation. As a result, rent-to-own outlets, payday lenders, and title pawns continue not only to exploit the urban poor but also to socio-economically subjugate the urban poor by trapping them into a ceaseless debt cycle. A blanket proscription of these tawdry businesses might be the only way to drive them from our midst and to eliminate their active role in the perpetuation of urban poverty.

. . .

Some practices so fundamentally affront our shared values that they should quite simply be prohibited. It is one thing to exploit the urban poor, but it is another thing to systematically worsen their socio-economic condition and to thereby subject them to greater control and subservience. Exploitation, in other words, might be tolerable in our market economy, but subjugation should not be. You can take people’s money and the value of their labor, but you not should be able to yoke them permanently or even semi-permanently to subordination. By actively making the urban poor even poorer, the rent-to-own, payday lending, and title pawn businesses do just that and should be banned.

Papke’s article can be found here. It is published by Marquette University Law School.

For more on payday loans, see various articles at this site with the word “payday,” including this look at how the battle between reformers and the industry wages on the ground.

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United States attempts to blackmail Ecuador over Edward Snowden

June 28, 2013 | By | Reply More

From Democracy Now:

Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa: “All of a sudden, trade tariffs became an instrument of blackmail: behave or leave the free trade movement. In the face of threats, insolence and arrogance of certain U.S. sectors, which have pressured to remove the preferential tariffs because of the Snowden case, Ecuador tells the world: We unilaterally and irrevocably denounce the preferential tariffs. Our dignity has no price.”

Correa’s government followed up with a dig at the Obama administration by offering to donate millions of dollars for human rights training in the United States on matters of “privacy, torture and other actions that are denigrating to humanity.

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Five common regrets of those who are dying

June 23, 2013 | By | Reply More

These are from a nurse who works with those who are dying, as reported in the Guardian:

1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.

3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.

4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

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A breast is a breast is a breast

May 17, 2013 | By | Reply More

According to PolicyMic,

Ladies of New York , you are free to walk bare-breasted through the city! New York City’s 34,000 police officers have been instructed that, should they encounter a woman in public who is shirtless but obeying the law, they should not arrest her. This is a good step towards gender parity in public spaces.

So, a woman’s bare breast should be treated no differently than a man’s breast under the law. Nonetheless, the fact that this NY law is so contentious (or at least newsworthy), means that a breast is not the same as an arm or a leg, especially a woman’s breast. I explore the existential connotations of breasts here.

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Obsessing over physical courage; overlooking moral courage

April 29, 2013 | By | Reply More
Obsessing over physical courage; overlooking moral courage

Ask people who their heroes are, and many of them talk about those who engage in physical exploits, such as soldiers and athletes. Most of those who I consider to be courageous, however, do not engage in any physical acts of bravery. [More]

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African proverbs

April 27, 2013 | By | Reply More

I’ve often posted on quotes, but a friend recently sent me a link to a big collection of African proverbs. Lots of wisdom in these words, and here are some of my favorites:

To get lost is to learn the way. ~ African proverb

He who learns, teaches. ~ Ethiopian proverb

You always learn a lot more when you lose than when you win. ~ African proverb

You learn how to cut down trees by cutting them down. ~ Bateke proverb

Instruction in youth is like engraving in stone. ~Moroccan Proverb

Traveling is learning. ~Kenyan Proverb

Peace is costly but it is worth the expense. ~Kenyan proverb

War has no eyes ~ Swahili saying

There can be no peace without understanding. ~Senegalese proverb

If you can’t resolve your problems in peace, you can’t solve war. ~ Somalian proverb

He who thinks he is leading and has no one following him is only taking a walk. ~ Malawian proverb

A large chair does not make a king. ~ Sudanese proverb

Sticks in a bundle are unbreakable. ~ Bondei proverb

It takes a village to raise a child. ~ African proverb

Cross the river in a crowd and the crocodile won’t eat you. ~ African proverb

Hold a true friend with both hands. ~ African proverb

Show me your friend and I will show you your character. ~ African proverb

Bad friends will prevent you from having good friends. ~ Gabon proverb

Make some money but don’t let money make you. ~ Tanzania

The rich are always complaining. ~ Zulu

Money can’t talk, yet it can make lies look true. ~ South Africa

What you give you get, ten times over. ~ Yoruba

The surface of the water is beautiful, but it is no good to sleep on. ~Ghanaian Proverb

You are beautiful, but learn to work, for you cannot eat your beauty. ~Congolese Proverb

Three things cause sorrow to flee; water, green trees, and a beautiful face. ~Moroccan Proverb

A beautiful thing is never perfect. ~Egyptian Proverb

Youth is beauty, even in cattle. ~Egyptian Proverb

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Kokura, Japan: a wrenching story about luck

April 24, 2013 | By | Reply More

I recently stumbled across an article about the fate of Kokura Japan near the end of World War II. In a sentence, cloudy weather saved the people of Kokura from being consumed in the world’s second nuclear bomb attack. Those same clouds doomed the people of Nagasaki.

A young man named Kermit Beahan peered through the rubber eyepiece of the bombsight, and he could see some of the buildings of Kokura and the river that ran by the arms factory, but the complex itself was blocked by a cloud.

So Bock’s Car gave up on Kokura and went on to its secondary target, Nagasaki. Clouds also partly obscured Nagasaki, but not quite enough of it.

The plutonium bomb killed somewhere around 100,000 people in Nagasaki, and it was the most powerful blast the world had ever seen, significantly more so than the one three days earlier when a uranium bomb destroyed Hiroshima. Nagasaki was destined for the history books, and Kokura was forgotten.

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Roger Ebert writes of death as a matter of fact and permanent

April 6, 2013 | By | Reply More

In 2011, Salon published a serene meaning-of-life article by Roger Ebert. Here is an excerpt:

Many readers have informed me that it is a tragic and dreary business to go into death without faith. I don’t feel that way. “Faith” is neutral. All depends on what is believed in. I have no desire to live forever. The concept frightens me. I am 69, have had cancer, will die sooner than most of those reading this. That is in the nature of things. In my plans for life after death, I say, again with Whitman:

I bequeath myself to the dirt to grow from the grass I love,

If you want me again look for me under your boot-soles.

And with Will, the brother in Saul Bellow’s “Herzog,” I say, “Look for me in the weather reports.”

Raised as a Roman Catholic, I internalized the social values of that faith and still hold most of them, even though its theology no longer persuades me. I have no quarrel with what anyone else subscribes to; everyone deals with these things in his own way, and I have no truths to impart. All I require of a religion is that it be tolerant of those who do not agree with it.

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