Archive for the ‘Social ills’ Category

A clean race

2017/10/26

The latest edition of the Volvo Ocean Race has just begun, with 7 teams competing in this round-the-world spectacular.  One of the themes of this iteration is fighting the pollution caused by plastic.  The oceans are becoming seas of plastic, from fishing nets to microbeads, and the plastic is getting into the food chain.

One of the biggest offenders is the single-use water bottle, a now common item in many households.  All plastics degrade into tiny pellets, which stay in the environment for a long time, decades in some cases.  Although plastic can be re-used in making some products, the majority is simply discarded, ending up in landfills and the ocean.

Fish ingest plastic in the form of microbeads, which become lodged in their tissues.  Often, the fish are eaten by other fish, further up the food chain.  Humans are at the top of the food chain, so the things that creatures down the food chain consume can end up in our bodies.  The huge increase in the numbers of single-use water bottles portends ever-increasing amounts of plastic getting into our bodies.  The sailors of the Volvo Ocean Race encounter plastic in every ocean, all over the world.

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Department of Redundancy Department

2017/10/08

Saying the same thing over and over again is something I try to avoid, so sometimes I don’t write very much.  But I will revisit certain themes, such as Greed, which is on my mind constantly these days.  The tragedy of the Grenfell Tower in London, a horrific fire which killed dozens of people, brought this to mind, as I was researching the death toll as of several months following the fire.  The police are having to sift through about 15 tons of material on each floor of the 24 story building, looking for human remains, which might be fragments of bone.

Then the puzzle of trying to determine if the remains are part of a body which remains have already been found, or if this is a new individual.  So far, the death toll has not gone up, and some are saying that it might be somewhat less than the ‘about 80’ figure given out shortly after the disaster.  So far, 69 victims have been identified, and 13 remain unaccounted for and missing.  But there were quite possibly people in the building who were not listed as missing, and don’t show up on the tenants lists.

Greed is the reason that those people died, the intentional disregard of safety for the sake of profit.  Added to the insult of the deadly cladding being installed just a year ago is the fact that only one stairwell was usable at the time of the fire, as well as the lack of any central fire alarm.  Greed is destroying people through stress, depression, and insanity.  There is nothing wrong with working, especially when what you do contributes to the well-being of others.

If we insist on trying to live on profits from investments, we suck the energy out of the venture, when reinvestment, better staffing, or paying retirement costs are vitally needed.  Contributing more than just money to something makes that project much more likely to succeed. I am starting to repeat myself, so I will stop.

Is this wealth real?

2017/09/02

Supposedly, vast amounts of wealth are being created in the world today.  Trillions of dollars are tied up in various markets, chasing other dollars in the search for more wealth.  But most of this wealth is just numbers in computers, not new bridges, roads, houses, or factories.  If a market takes a downturn, huge amounts of wealth suddenly disappear.  And this wealth does not trickle down to the average person, in the form of increased compensation for work, or better health care, or improved retirement benefits.

Money is a way of representing work, or value.  Practically all value requires work, as very few things are valuable without some sort of investment of labor.  In theory, if a worker is more productive, they should earn better pay.  In reality, that has not been happening since the 1970’s.  Increasingly, money has lost the connection to work, becoming easy to create without putting time or energy into something.  Some people are able to survive without working, because their money is ‘working’ for them.  In most cases, the money they are ‘making’ is the money that should be going to the people who are actually creating the new wealth.

When too much profit is taken out of an operation or a business, the whole thing will collapse, because not enough is being put back in.  Resources become unavailable, workers stop being productive, equipment breaks down.  This is what is happening today, as large amounts of profit are being taken out of practically every operation.  Raising the minimum wage does not mean that the workers will receive a larger portion of the wealth that they create, because their percentage of the profits does not change.  The creation of real wealth benefits everyone.  What we are making today does not.

We need each other

2017/08/11

Thinking about socialism, and socialist countries got me to consider the countries in the far North, like Sweden, Denmark, Finland, and Canada.  These are places where people have to count on each other for survival, and work together to get through winters.  In more temperate climates, people exist without having to share, and can get by without being checked up on by a neighbor.  Going off the road in a car does not mean danger of freezing to death in most of the U.S.

The less we feel part of a community, the less we will sacrifice for that community.  As we become more wealthy, we are reluctant to share that wealth with those we do not consider part of our group.  We have got to realize that we are in this together, and that we will need each other at some point in the future if we want to pass anything on to  generations to come.

The contribution that we make may be small, perhaps only a moment out of a lifetime, but that moment will be a critical one for everyone.  We all have worth, and we need to be reminded of that, frequently.

The Better Wealth Care Act

2017/06/25

The Republicans in the Senate are scrambling to pass a bill gutting the health care system in the United States before anyone can examine it.  The bill was drafted in secret, without input from doctors, insurance companies, hospitals, or those who it will affect.  The primary purpose of this bill is to allow taxes on the very wealthy to be reduced.  Those taxes have supported the expansion in Medicaid which has allowed millions of people access to health care for the first time in their lives.  (I don’t consider emergency room visits to be ‘access to health care’.)

What the Republicans are basically saying is “we don’t care about you, you little grub.”  They don’t feel a part of the community, because their wealth allows them to survive outside of the community.   Our society is under attack by people who are afraid of society, of community, of sharing the surplus.  They don’t view the average person as a person, but as bunch of numbers; productivity, age, pay rate, etc.  People are a resource to be mined, exploited, used up and thrown away.

The supporters of this bill are not concerned with health care, they only want wealth care.  More tax breaks to the people who would never be able to spend all what they have.

Greed Kills!

2017/06/21

London experienced a horrible fire recently, when a 24 story apartment building caught fire and burned rapidly.  So far, 79 people are either confirmed dead or missing and confirmed dead, and the death doll may go higher.  I happened to be reading the New York Times at the time that the fire was reported, and the video that I saw was terrifying.

High rise buildings are designed to contain fires to their starting point, so that people have a chance to get out.  This building burned like it was soaked in gasoline.  Seeing a multi-story residential building burning from top to bottom is utterly wrong, never supposed to happen kind of stuff:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LKe2I-s_AQo&index=1&list=FLT0coajYwPzUbTWP5a9lTEQ

From the first, people who lived in the building were saying that the cladding,  which had been added during a 10 million pound renovation as insulation, had burned rapidly, spreading the fire from a lower floor to the top floor in minutes.  Additionally, the building only had one fire stairwell, and there was no central fire alarm system.  As the building had been built in 1974, it was not required to have sprinklers.  That anyone escaped at all is mostly due to the presence in the building of many Muslim people who were awake preparing their Ramadan meal and spread the alarm.

This horrible tragedy was completely preventable, and most certainly is the result of criminal negligence.  Terrorism is an act meant to force people to change.  Setting people up to die  by saving a few pennies is far worse.

Wanting Change

2017/06/07

Americans by and large want to see changes in their country.  They see many problems that should be addressed, they see large amounts of money disappearing into government treasuries, and they wonder if they will be employed in six months.  Change is happening, but not very often for the better.

The changes that we need are ones that deal with our selves, our expectations, our hopes, our strengths, and our weaknesses.  Understanding that we need to work together to achieve things, so that we can combine our strengths to counter our weaknesses.  We have been trained to crave physical, material, monetary rewards in lieu of all else, yet we need spiritual rewards as well;  the pride of a job well done, the thrill of achieving a goal with teamwork, the feeling of being included when part of a group working together.

Even more so, we need the emotional and spiritual energy of sharing good times with others, excitement and novelty to inspire creativity, and affirmation and recognition to develop self-esteem.  We need to open up to our spiritual side, the side of how we treat each other, and how we treat ourselves.  All of us have worth, all of us contribute somehow.  Treat yourself like you would treat a good friend.  Do not fear change.

The West in crisis

2017/05/07

France teeters on the edge of a anti-Eurpopean revolt, the United States seems locked in a internal war, and England has decided to leave the European Union, which it was never completely a part of.  Spain, Italy, and Greece, the foundation of the Western mind, are trapped in financial suspended animation.  Germany’s premiere auto maker admits to designing vehicles to cheat on emissions tests.

Social issues, such as financial in-equality, health care, and retirement benefits are becoming very important in the U.S., eroding the dominance capitalism has had for the last 150 years.  Church attendance is at all-time lows, yet many people are interested in spiritual growth.  Evidence indicates that Russia meddled with the American election, throwing the result into question.

The acceptance of capitalism and materialism in areas outside the West is very troubling, because they are not working very well in the West.  Greed for ever increasing profit, disregard for environmental issues, and lack of sustainability are becoming trademarks of the Western world.  The West consumes the majority of the world’s resources, yet represents only a fraction of the world’s population.  That is unlikely to continue, especially as countries like China adopt automobiles in place of bicycles.  We all are going to be riding bicycles soon, I think, and we will consider ourselves lucky to have them.

The wrong stuff

2017/05/01

America was made great by companies working together with employees to build products which would last and last.  America was made great by governments investing the public’s money into roads, bridges, and water systems.  America was made great by working people sacrificing part of their lives to an employer, or by people who built their own empires from the ground up.

America is being destroyed by greed, the belief that work is somehow demeaning, only fit for inferiors.  Greed which drives corporations to focus on practices which drive away customers; cutting costs often means cutting staffing, so there are fewer people to provide customer service.  The emphasis on profit has become obsessive, driven by shareholders who demand an income from lending money to a company.

Capitalism may have been great during the early years of the United States, but it is doing great harm today.  Wealth is so concentrated that the economy is capsizing.  Debt is considered an essential financial tool, instead of last resort.  Banks no longer are lending depositors money, but money from investors hungry for immediate rewards.  Many dwellings are mortgaged for more than they are worth, and there are vacant homes all over the country.

Taking care of the people should be the most important aspect of society, insuring that there are healthy, educated, well-fed people to perform the work needed to support an advanced society.  Single-payer health care is an essential aspect of an advanced economy, protecting the employer from the costs of employee’s health care for life.  This health care should include dental, vision, and behavioral aspects, as the prevention of problems is far cheaper than dealing with the problems.  Providing minimal housing is another essential government role, insuring that everyone can sleep indoors if they want to.  We don’t need a three-bedroom home for every person, but a shipping container can provide superior protection from the elements for a very small price.  How you fix up the inside is up to you.

Taking care of the people is like taking care of your car.  Unless you don’t care about costs, taking care of tools, vehicles, or plant and equipment is essential.  People are our most valuable resource, and we have been exploiting people without mercy.  The rewards for submitting to the constraints of employment have been diminishing for decades.  Our spiritual lives are frequently empty and barren, amidst a society obsessed with material things.

Our culture  of greed is making people sick, to the point of killing each other, and themselves.  Our society is destroying us, exploiting us to death.  We cannot go back to earlier days, nor can we afford to continue as we are.  Change is inevitable, and the longer it is delayed, the more disruptive it will be.

Science saves lives!

2017/04/24

On Saturday, April 22nd, I joined hundreds of people to march in the streets for Science.  In was also Earth Day, and we were marching for Earth as well as Science.  After chasing down materials an hour before the march, I made a sign that said “Science saves lives!”.  This message was my own idea, and I liked it more than any that I had seen on the Web.  I discovered that it was also an easy slogan to chant, and got people to chant it several times.

Science is under attack, by people who don’t want to believe that our existence is threatened by our own activities, or who feel that profit is more important than the future.  Some people believe that Science is anti-spiritual, anti-religious, because their faith depends on miracles.  I happen to believe that Science does not have all the answers, and that there are things which we cannot measure, or detect, which still have an impact on the Universe.

Science is not bad, or evil, it is neutral.  It can be used to do harm, to destroy, but it also is an important part of survival.  But Science can be hard for people to understand, and even intelligent, well-meaning people can get confused.  Vaccines are beneficial, the square root of negative one does exist in mathematics, and electricity flows from negative to positive.  Investigate, study, question.  These are fundamental to the scientific process.