The ramblings of an Eternal Student of Life     
. . . still studying and learning how to live
 
 
Friday, November 20, 2020
Current Affairs ... Public Policy ... Society ...

I haven’t said much about the current nationwide discussion on race that arose in the wake of the George Floyd killing. I did post a recent blog on Robin DiAngelo’s critique of white fragility, given that her book has taken on an enlarged role in this discussion of late. So I am now going to say a few more things — but mainly about Professor John McWhorter’s reaction to DiAngelo. To me, McWhorter maps out a road to reason, something quite welcome in these not-very-well-reasoned times.

I first became interested in American racial issues as a senior in high school, 2 years after the killing of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. I have written on the matter of racial relations a fair amount in this blog. I can’t say that I’ve devoted my life to social justice, but I did get involved with a handful of related organizations and causes over the past 40 years. Yes, you can find various traces of white fragility and privilege and implicit bias in me. I’m not perfect, I don’t pretend to be. But I can say that I am concerned, and have been for a long time.

To be honest, I haven’t been all that interested in writings and literature by white authors about “the white problem” regarding race. I have listened a bit to voices like TaNeshi Coates and more recently, Ibram X. Kendi; but as to Robin DiAngelo, I scarcely knew who she was until just a few weeks ago. And that was only because I was reading a reaction to her writings by a black author — the indomitable John McWhorter.  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 11:41 pm       Read Comment (1) / Leave a Comment
 
 
Wednesday, November 18, 2020
Current Affairs ... Politics ...

I’m glad to see that Joe Biden won the election and will be the next President, come late January. I’m not so sure that there weren’t any significant voter irregularities or fraud in this election, given all of the mail-in ballots and new rules and procedures that were quickly implemented in the wake of the COVID pandemic. But I doubt if they will make a difference, despite all of Mr. Trump’s efforts in court (and I agree that Trump and the GOP should get its day in court). It’s a good sign that so far that Trump doesn’t appear to be stirring up white nationalist groups in preparation for a violent putch. And it doesn’t look as if GOP state legislators have the appetite for violating long tradition and sending a pro-Trump delegation to the Electoral College in states where Biden won, however narrowly. The GOP may not yet be done with Donald Trump (unfortunately), but for now Trump is a sinking ship; even if most of the rats on board are sitting tight for now, none of the shore-side rats are jumping on.

But still, the Democrats didn’t do very well overall on Election Day. There have been many articles about this over the past few weeks (here’s a good one), citing disappointing Senate race results, loss of seats in the House, GOP gains with minority voters, and unfavorable net results on the state legislature and state governor levels.

My one contribution to this is a quick and dirty summary of how the Electoral College map changed for both parties as a result of the 2016 and 2020 elections. Here is my summation:  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 4:52 am       No Comments Yet / Leave a Comment
 
 
Saturday, October 31, 2020
Personal Reflections ...

Just a few thoughts on old age. Here’s where I am — and I’m just getting started! (going for the big 68 soon).

Every day when you get up, you take stock of the situation —

Your time left in this life is limited; the end is not that far out there

You have scraps and bits of broken dreams from younger days lying all around you.

You have a handful of small accomplishments, but they seem tiny and insignificant compared to the debris of past imaginings.  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 4:10 pm       Read Comment (1) / Leave a Comment
 
 
Friday, October 16, 2020
Current Affairs ... Politics ... Public Policy ...

OK, this is about racism; but as with Robin DiAngelo, I am going to be talking to my fellow white Euro-heritage Americans. However, contra Robin, I am going to focus mainly on the “woke”, including Ms. DiAngelo herself. And less-so on the elite-but-not-yet-woke and the not-so-elite anti-woke, i.e. those who Robin DiAngelo would lecture to.

IMHO, it’s time for progressive-minded whites who worry about privilege and “fragility” (as per DiAngelo’s book) to stop the fashionable accusations and the hairshirt exercises, and get serious about the brass tacks of a public policy response to the historic injustices that have been done to African Americans on American soil since 1619. (But no, I’m not buying into the NY Times 1619 Project and its contention the primary inspiration for the British colonization of North America and the following independence of the United States was the preservation and expansion of African slavery – although slavery no doubt had some part in the thoughts and actions of the founding fathers. Even if 1619 is not what America is all about, which I believe, it certainly is the year when African slaves were first brought to American soil by the British – and isn’t that bad enough, in and of itself? Yes, it is bad — but that doesn’t mean that America is irreparably bad and beyond future improvement).

I’m tired of reading CNN articles or hearing progressive white scholars say “Liberal cities such as Minneapolis, and the liberals living within them,  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 3:50 pm       Read Comments (2) / Leave a Comment
 
 
Sunday, October 4, 2020
Personal Reflections ... Photo ... Zen ...

When I was a kid, I hated centipedes, just like most everyone else. Almost all bugs are creepy — ok, so we give lady bugs a pass, and butterflies can be beautiful. But most bugs have odd shapes and all sorts of crazy and vaguely threatening arrangements of legs and tentacles and body plates, they have weird eyes and stingers and other ugly protrusions. They seem like feelingless robots, as they fly with their buzzing sound or dart around on the ground. Centipedes take “buggyness” to the next level.

But a guy at my zendo once told me that centipedes are a good way to practice the Buddhist notion of patiently respecting all life forms, even insects. You’d have to be a really devoted Buddhist to ignore a poisonous spider or to “gently” remove it. And roaches are so overwhelming; they truly push you to the “me or them” point of survival. But as to the average house centipede . . . well, no doubt that centipedes are terribly ugly and creepy. You usually see one darting across the floor or up a wall, and your instantaneous mental instinct is to drop everything else and plot an “intercept vector” in your head, and then kill the dang thing, right now!

But my Buddhist friend told me that most house centipedes are not a threat to humans. They try to stay away from people, and  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 3:32 pm       No Comments Yet / Leave a Comment
 
 
Sunday, September 20, 2020
Current Affairs ... Public Policy ... Science ...

Back in November, Scientific American ran an article about a computer model that a research team at Tufts University used to simulate and research the economic processes that drive the inequalities in income and wealth of individuals, families and households in modern industrialized nations having capitalist market economies. The article was written by Prof. Bruce Boghosian, one of the leaders of this team.

By studying the results from this model after running it with a variety of hypothetical and historical data inputs, the researchers found that concentration of wealth is mostly inevitable in modern market-oriented nations. However, wealth redistribution mechanisms can mitigate the severity of concentration and prevent extreme oligarchy. A “redistribution mechanism” is something like Robin Hood; it takes from the rich and gives to the poor (or intends to, but is often misused by those who aren’t poor).

An example would be the progressive tax system, whereby the rich are subject to higher taxes on income, while the poor pay less (or nothing). The poor also benefit more than the rich from government spending on subsidized housing, subsidized health care (e.g. Medicaid), low-income tax credit cash refunds, etc. Some nations have more generous redistribution mechanisms while others have more stingy ones (redistribution is usually the province of the government, although voluntary charity and philanthropy can also have a redistribution effect). Obviously, American’s “social safety net” has been getting more and more stingy in recent decades.  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 1:20 pm       No Comments Yet / Leave a Comment
 
 
Tuesday, August 25, 2020
Current Affairs ... Personal Reflections ... Photo ...

While looking through my stamp collection recently, I thought to myself “this arrangement looks pretty nice”. So I got out my camera and snapped a few shots, and have attached more of them below. I started collecting stamps when I was in grammar school, maybe around 1963. My mother had occasionally saved “plate blocks” of commemorative stamps since the late 50s; being a young space geek, I got interested myself when the 4 cent commemorative for Project Mercury came out. My mother thus let me walk down the street to the local post office with a quarter or two in my pocket.

Once I got thru the door and up to the counter (ah, I still remember the cool and slightly musty air and the grim seriousness of the décor), I would ask Mr. Stanton, the regularly assigned postal clerk, if he had any new commemoratives. Sometimes he did, and I  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 10:09 am       No Comments Yet / Leave a Comment
 
 
Thursday, July 9, 2020
Current Affairs ... Personal Reflections ... Photo ...

My office recently started bringing people back on a regular basis, although for now most are alternating between a week from home and a week in the office. Most of us were ordered in mid-March to work from home until further notice; I lasted to March 20 before I was told to go home. But now the place is coming back to life, even if it won’t be at full speed anytime soon. Even though I occasionally stopped by my office for an hour or two over the past 3 months, the place mostly seemed like a “dead ship”.

Now I will be there for full days, even if not 5 days a week. So on Monday it was time to get my office calendar updated. When I arrived, I noticed that I hadn’t changed the calendar page since April. It’s as if time stood still. I took down the pages for April, May and June, and then wondered — where did the time go? It’s like COVID just sucked them up and made them disappear. Before I threw out these sheets, I took a pic, as a tribute to the “lost months” of 2020.

◊   posted by Jim G @ 9:26 pm       No Comments Yet / Leave a Comment
 
 
Friday, June 26, 2020
Economics/Business ... Politics ... Society ...

In recent times, we have heard a lot about systemic racism. Since the horrible George Floyd killing by the police in Minneapolis, we have heard a lot more about it. What is systemic racism? To be honest, from what I’ve read about it (which has been a lot lately), I’m not completely sure. Those who use the term seem to be saying that racism is widespread in American society. The days of Jim Crow and back seats on the town bus are long gone, thank goodness. But there remains something about our “systems” that continue to manifest anti-black acts and attitudes; that is what I take away from the notion of systemic racism. And I am not writing this to deny the concept’s validity. But it does raise questions and problems in pinning it down precisely.

So, next question — exactly what is it about our systems that manifest racism? The easiest answers to this question come from the criminal justice system, especially from the police enforcement component. The George Floyd killing was perhaps the most egregious recent example of an African American being treated in a racist fashion by police, but Floyd’s death follows in a series of incidents where blacks stopped by the police wind up dead or seriously wounded because of police misconduct. The evolution of widespread video recording capacity in the late 1990s was the technology that “uncovered the rock” to see the ugly stuff that was previously shielded from most citizens.

Yes, there is no denying that many police departments have a problem in controlling racist attitudes and unprofessional behavior on the part of their officers, and that inadequate progress has been made in addressing this problem over the past 2 decades.

OK, so we can watch the videos and see systemic racism occurring in the nation’s policing system. But the term ‘systemic racism’ as used today appears to be addressing much more  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 10:52 pm       No Comments Yet / Leave a Comment
 
 
Thursday, June 18, 2020
Current Affairs ... Public Policy ... Society ...

I grew up in a fairly devout Roman Catholic family, and we went to church regularly. But I was never an altar boy. However, my younger brother did don the cassock and surplice (and today, he still occasionally serves as an adult acolyte at his local parish — he hopes to get back to that once services return to normal following the COVID pandemic).

My brother did the altar boy thing into his high school years, and he got to know a lot of other kids who wished to be involved in the Catholic mass ceremony (albeit at a rather subservient level). He became friends with several of his fellow servers. One fellow was about his own age, and came up the ranks with him — but unlike my brother, this fellow went all the way up the ecclesiastical stairway. Following high school, he joined a seminary and became a priest after college study in Europe. My brother himself actually had the priest dream, but the circumstances of his life led him away from it.

My brother stayed in touch with his former altar boy now priest friend over the years — let’s call this fellow “Jay” although that’s not his real name. Jay and my brother would go a few years without talking, then come across one another and have a catch-up. About 15 years ago, it became known that Father Jay had been “put on inactive status” while being investigated by the diocese for allegations of sexual contact with a minor. His case was reviewed by the Vatican, which in effect gave him a NOT GUILTY verdict. Despite that, he never served as a parish priest again; he  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 10:31 pm       Read Comment (1) / Leave a Comment
 
 
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