Article 43

 

Monday, December 11, 2017

A Poverty Of Understanding III

image: poor

Why the UN is investigating extreme poverty in America, the world’s richest nation

By Ed Pilkington
The Guardian
December 1, 2017

The United Nations monitor on extreme poverty and human rights has embarked on a coast-to-coast tour of the US to hold the worlds richest nation - and its president - to account for the hardships endured by America’s most vulnerable citizens.

The tour, which kicked off on Friday morning, will make stops in four states as well as Washington DC and the US territory of Puerto Rico. It will focus on several of the social and economic barriers that render the American dream merely a pipe dream to millions from homelessness in California, to racial discrimination in the Deep South, cumulative neglect in Puerto Rico and the decline of industrial jobs in West Virginia.

With 41 million Americans officially in poverty according to the US Census Bureau (other estimates put that figure much higher), one aim of the UN mission will be to demonstrate that no country, however wealthy, is immune from human suffering induced by growing inequality. Nor is any nation, however powerful, beyond the reach of human rights law - a message that the US government and Donald Trump might find hard to stomach given their tendency to regard internal affairs as sacrosanct.

The UN special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Philip Alston, is a feisty Australian and New York University law professor who has a fearsome track record of holding power to account. He tore a strip off the Saudi Arabian regime for its treatment of women months before the kingdom legalized their right to drive, denounced the Brazilian government for attacking the poor through austerity, and even excoriated the UN itself for importing cholera to Haiti.

The US is no stranger to Alston’s withering tongue, having come under heavy criticism from him for its program of drone strikes on terrorist targets abroad. In his previous role as UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial executions, Alston blamed the Obama administration and the CIA for killing many innocent civilians in attacks he said were of dubious international legality.

Now Alston has set off on his sixth, and arguably most sensitive, visit as UN monitor on extreme poverty since he took up the position in June 2014. At the heart of his fact-finding tour will be a question that is causing increasing anxiety at a troubled time: is it possible, in one of the world’s leading democracies, to enjoy fundamental human rights such as political participation or voting rights if you are unable to meet basic living standards, let alone engage, as Thomas Jefferson put it, in the pursuit of happiness?

Despite great wealth in the US, there also exists great poverty and inequality,” Alston said in remarks released before the start of the visit. The rapporteur said he intended to focus on the detrimental effects of poverty on the civil and political rights of Americans, given the United State’ consistent emphasis on the importance it attaches to these rights in its foreign policy, and given that it has ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Poverty experts are watching the UN tour closely in the hope that it might draw public attention to a largely neglected but critical aspect of US society.

David Grusky, director of the Center on Poverty and Inequality at Stanford, said the visit had the potential to hold a mirror up to the country at a moment when globalization combined with a host of domestic policies have generated a vast gulf between rich and poor.

The US has an extraordinary ability to naturalize and accept the extreme poverty that exists even in the context of such extreme wealth,” he said.

Grusky added that the US reaction to Alston;s visit could go either way. It has the potential to open our eyes to what an outlier the US has become compared with the rest of the world, or it could precipitate an adverse reaction towards an outsider who has no legitimacy telling us what to do about internal US affairs.ғ

Alstons findings will be announced in preliminary form in Washington on 15 December, and then presented as a full report to the UN human rights council in Geneva next June. An especially unpredictable element of the fallout will be how Trump himself receives the final report, given the presidentԒs habit of lashing out at anyone perceived to criticize him or his administration.

Trump has also shown open disdain towards the world body. In the course of the 2016 presidential campaign he griped that we get nothing out of the United Nations other than good real-estate pricesғ.

On the other hand, observers have been surprised that the White House has honored the invitation to host Alston after the initial offer was extended by Barack Obama. US diplomats on more than one occasion since Trumps inauguration have said they welcomed the UN party.

Alston himself is reserving his comments until the end of the tour. But his published work suggests that he is likely to be a formidable critic of the new president. In a lecture he gave last year on the challenges posed by Trump and other modern populist leaders, he warned that their agenda was Ԓavowedly nationalistic, xenophobic, misogynistic, and explicitly antagonistic to all or much of the human rights agenda.

Alston concluded the speech by saying: ӔThese are extraordinarily dangerous times, unprecedentedly so in my lifetime. The response is really up to us.

The UN poverty tour falls at a singularly tense moment for the US. In its 2016 state of the nation review, the Stanford Center on Poverty and Inequality placed the US rank at the bottom of the league table of 10 well-off countries, in terms of the extent of its income and wealth inequality.

It also found that the US hit rock bottom in terms of the SAFETY NET it offers struggling families, and is one of the worst offenders in terms of the ability of low-income families to lift themselves out of poverty - a stark contrast to the much-vaunted myth of the American dream.

To some extent, Trump’s focus on “making America great again” - a political jingo that in itself contains an element of criticism of the state of the nation - chimes with the UN’s concern about extreme poverty. His call for greater prosperity for white working Americans in declining manufacturing areas that proved so vital to his election victory will be echoed in Alstons visit to the depressed coal-producing state of West Virginia, which backed Trump in 2016 by a resounding 69%.

In many other ways, though, the Trump administration in its first year has taken a radically hostile approach towards communities in need. He has tried, so far unsuccessfully, to abolish Obamacare in a move that would deprive millions of low-income families of healthcare insurance, was widely criticized for his lackluster response to the hurricane disaster in Puerto Rico that has left thousands homeless and without power, and is currently pushing a tax reform that would benefit one group above all others: the super rich.

The US poses an especially challenging subject for the UN special rapporteur because unlike all other industrialized nations, it fails to recognize fundamental social and economic rights such as the right to healthcare, a roof over your head or food to keep hunger at bay. The federal government has consistently refused to sign up to the international covenant on economic, social and cultural rights - arguing that these matters are best left to individual states.

Such an emphasis on states rights has spawned a patchwork of provision for low-income families across the country. Republican-controlled states in the Deep South provide relatively little help to those struggling from unemployment and lack of ready cash, while more assistance is likely to be forthcoming in bigger coastal cities.

By contrast, raging house prices and gentrification is fueling a homelessness crisis in liberal cities such as Los Angeles and San Francisco Ӓ the first stop next week of the UN tour.

Martha Davis, a law professor specializing in US human rights at Northeastern University, said that such vast regional variations present the UN monitor with a huge opportunity. Unlike other international officials, he has the ability to move freely at both federal and state levels and be equally critical of both.

“There’s a lot that Philip Alston can say about basic inequality that goes to the heart of the rights that he is reviewing,” Davis said.

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Posted by Elvis on 12/11/17 •
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Sunday, December 10, 2017

Boomers Burned By Recession Part 8

image: american dream is over

Broke baby boomers, its time to face reality

By Elizabeth White
PBS
Jan 19, 2017

Editor’s Note: “Friends wonder privately how someone so well educated could be in economic free fall.” Elizabeth White wrote in a column for PBS Next Avenue. “At fifty-five, she has learned how to fake cheeriness and to appear to be engaged, but her phone doesn’t ring with opportunities anymore.”

The article about the growing number of women facing retirement and struggling to make ends meet hit a nerve, receiving thousands of likes and comments on Facebook. People resonated with the reality White faced herself. She had had a comfortable upper-middle-class lifestyle and a good-paying job, but after a failed entrepreneurial endeavor and the Great Recession, she was facing a stark reality. She was broke.

In Fifty-Five, Unemployed, and Faking Normal,” White offers advice to those baby boomers who, instead of facing cushy retirements in Florida, are facing financial ruin and the shame that comes with it. The following is an excerpt from her book. For more on the topic, tune in to tonights Making Sen$e segment, which airs every Thursday on the PBS NewsHour.
- Kristen Doerer, Making Sen$e Editor

I have been fortunate. I have been poor for quite a long time now, so Im pretty good at it. The simple no-frills life is fine by me.
- Debie

Millions of us are trying to wrap our brains around futures that look nothing like the ones we imagined. How do we walk up that hill? Its about letting go of what used to be and figuring out what we need to do and to change now so that we can have a shot at a more satisfying life in our fourth quarter.

You may not like all of the things that I invite you to consider and take on in the chapters ahead. Adaptation is hard at any age, but it’s especially hard now, as all of the rules changed just as we baby boomers are planning our end games. It would be so much easier to just do what we’ve always done.

But we can’t. We’re anxious, uncertain about the future and just scraping by for the next 30 years is just not going to cut it. Nor is being mired in some old stuck story or feeling mad, bitter and crotchety. All of those “wouldas, couldas and shouldas” are just a waste of precious time at this point.

The bottom line is that we are where we are. And its from here that we start. While there is no one-size-fits-all solution to the challenges were facing, there is much we can learn from our peers who are experimenting with unconventional approaches and innovative ways of relating to others, consuming goods and working to find security and happiness.

If weҒre in denial, resistant to change or unwilling to consider anything new or outside of our comfort zones, we might as well close up shop now. How we start this exploration matters. Staying open and hanging loose are important.

The cavalry aint coming

Where we start is by recognizing that the cavalry is not coming to rescue us. There is no national bailout - no prince charming on a white horse.

In the short to medium term, were going to have to save ourselves and one another.

Why? Well, with few exceptions, our politicians are not offering comprehensive solutions to the retirement-income crisis. Most are focused on Social Security as though it were the answer and the magic bullet. But what if youҒre one of the millions of boomers under the full-retirement age, of between 65 or 67 depending on when you were born? Then for now, youre out. Receiving the full Social Security benefit isnҒt even an option.

And even when you are eligible for it, the full benefit will only replace about 40 percent of your preretirement income, if that. Most financial advisors say youll need 70 to 80 percent of it to maintain your standard of living. For tens of millions of Americans, that small Social Security check is the only money coming in. Our lawmakers can pretend all they want that that’s enough to live on. Give me a break.

And while we welcome the recent talk in Washington about increasing the Social Security benefit, we also know that the wheels of change turn slowly. Were living in the meantime.

And exhorting us to simply save more without telling us how to do it doesn’t help us either. I went with my sister to one of those financial-planning seminars and had to leave the room a few times because I was so upset by what I was hearing. It was just so sobering. I have no savings. The planner kept talking about putting 30 percent of your assets into this or that thing. Well, 30 percent of zero is zero.  Chris

The truth is that Americans are saving less, not more.

It will take years for our government and institutions to find and scale solutions to the myriad of problems that underlie the retirement-income crisis. And as those most affected by the crisis, part of our job is pressuring them to do more and to do it faster.

But in the meantime, with no big interventions in the works, our immediate focus should be on what we can do for ourselves.

Saying goodbye to magical thinking

So where do we start? We start by dismantling the belief that if we just tough it out, things will return to normal. The truth is that weҒre not going back. The normal we knew is gone.

In normal land,Ӕ we could zig and zag, move, change jobs or spouses, try new things and still recover from our mistakes. We had time. Now, in our late 50s, 60s and beyond, we dont have that time anymore.

ғNormal was when we had money and did not have to weigh our every decision against its affordability.

Normal was before we knew anyone trapped in their homes, unable to move because their mortgage was underwater.

It was before we were outsourced, merged downsized, rifted and surplused.

In normal land, the ԓsharing economy had mostly not been invented yet. Instead, there were good IRS W-2 jobs with pensions and benefits.

In normal land, we measured our worth by our incomes, props and credentials. For some of us, working hard assured a nice retirement ԓdessert of travel and kicked back living.

Normal was when we werenԒt worried about our childrens futures. As one friend put it, we figured weҒd done our jobs if our adult children were employed and could afford their own therapy.

Normal land had material perks too. There was stuff and more stuff. Back in those days, designer labels mattered more than the factory workers who made those labels.

Before marketers coined the term HENRY, or high earners not rich yet,Ӕ there were yuppies and buppies. A good life of achievement and acquisition was what most of us aspired to and sought.

Magical thinking is believing that the old normal is coming back.

The new normal of financial vulnerability

Right now, depending on your work situation or bank account, you may feel like a tourist in the land of the poor people. At this stage, your main goal is to avoid getting trapped and having to take up permanent residency there. It is a paralyzing thought. I know.

This happened to me in my 40s, and it took me a good 10 years to get back to a normal wage. It took periods of working three jobs at crummy wages and doing whatever I had to do to keep going. The truth is, your friends dont notice the struggle, because they fear it will happen to them. Decide who your genuine friends are, and come clean to them. If nothing else, it will help to talk about it and frees you up from pretending. This is more widespread than most people think. җ Linda

You see friends who used to be at or near the top of the food chain off ramped with no clear path back to normal. You see it in their faces. Its like they have dematerialized.

Most of the women (and men) I worked with who suffered a similar fate never seemed to quite get back to where they were even though they worked as hard as I did and even in the booming tech market. And I pretty much expect every day that this could happen to me again, no matter how hard I work or how many points I put on the board. The worst part is the isolation. This is the first time I have ever let on how bad it was (is), and it still feels extremely risky to do so in a valley rife with swagger. җ J

And you know that if it happened to others, it could happen to you. No longer in denial now, you actually begin to contemplate what would happen if the bottom totally fell out. What would you do? How would you survive?

And millions of us arent contemplating itҗwere living it.

I am at the 15-year mark of my uphill climb out of my hole. I am living tiny, but it is mine, and I am able to live within my means. җ Lesa</i

Many of us wont be making the money weҒre used to making. For the first time, we will be facing the prospect of significant downward mobility, with our accustomed earnings cut by 20, 30, 40 percentor more.

<i>I never had to resort to food stamps but was headed that way and am still rattled to the core by that. ח Linda

And the truth is that if we lose our jobs in our 50s and 60s, were unlikely to be reemployed at the same salaries we had before. This is even true for those whose career choice privilege has, until now, firmly established them in the high five- or six-figure salary range.

Sure, a few of us will manage to find traditional W-2 jobs paying that long bread like before. But many more of us can expect months or even years of unemployment that deplete our savings and shake our confidence.

And when we do work again, weҒll likely do contract work in the gig economy or some part-time jobs in new professions.

I am single, 64, getting Social Security and working whatever jobs I can find that pay the bills. Im finally in a job I like now, but it has taken years to get to this place. During those years, I worked in factories, in retail and at a gas station, and I did home care. You name it, and IҒve done it. Im tired of job hopping to survive. җ Anita

I drive a school bus, have a class B CDL with a passenger/school-bus endorsement and feel lucky to have a job. I was a music-ed teacher. You gotta lose your pride and get out there and start somewhere. I am 57 and was married to a doctor for 20 years, and I got divorced 16 years ago. Pull up your big-girl pants, and take whatever job(s) you can find.  Mary

Some people start entrepreneurial ventures to try to make ends meet. Whatever we do, weגre looking at a lot less money to live on at least in the short termand maybe forever.

Thatגs why a big first step in securing our futures is adopting live-low-to-the-ground mind-set which means that we have to drastically cut our expenses to fit our new income realities.

I know, I know that sounds easy peasy. YouŒre thinking, how hard could it really be to live within your new means?

Its true that reality forces most people to make the needed changes eventually. But that click down from the standard of living that you assumed youҒd always have to one that is much more modest is well, itŒs an adjustment. And its a big adjustment if you were living large and are now scrambling just to cover the basic necessities.

The real question is can we cut way back and still have good quality of life, still find ways to be connected to who and what we love?

But a downgrade in lifestyle is not hard only for the people who were doing well; its hard for everybody. The truth is that most folks just donҒt have that much of a cushion. A recent Pew Charitable Trust Survey of American Family Finances found that the median household does not have enough in liquid savingsӗmoney held in checking and savings accounts, unused balances on prepaid cards, and cash saved at home to replace one month of income.ה

And the average family in the lowest income quintile is even worse off, with less than two weeks of financial reservesor, to be exact, enough to cover about nine daysג worth of expenses.

So as we look into the future, the key question will not be how to tighten our belts or live within our means in the conventional sense. In the new normal of financial insecurity, a lot of us are already doing that.

The real question is can we cut way back and still have good quality of life, still find ways to be connected to who and what we love?

I believe that the short answer is yes. But to have a shot at something other than being old and poor in America, we can’t just do what we’ve always done and be what we’ve always been. The world as we knew it has changed forever. And if we want better futures, we’re going to have to change too.

SOURCE

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Unemployed, 55, and Faking Normal
You may recognize these women, hiding in plain sight

By Elizabeth White
May 16, 2016

She is in your friendship circle, hidden in plain sight.

She is 55, broke and tired of trying to keep up appearances. Faking normal is wearing her out.

To look at her, you wouldn’t know that her electricity was cut off last week for non-payment or that she meets the eligibility requirements for food stamps. Her clothes are still impeccable, bought in the good times when she was still making money.

A Grace Note of Panic

But if you paid attention, you would see the sadness in her eyes, hear that grace note of panic in her otherwise commanding voice.

These days, she buys the $1.99 10-ounce “trial size” jug of Tide to make ends meet. You didn’t know laundry detergent came in that size.

You invite her to the same expensive restaurants the two of you have always enjoyed, but she orders mineral water with a twist of lemon, instead of the $12 glass of Chardonnay. She is frugal in her menu choices, meticulous, counting every penny in her head. She demurs dividing the table bill evenly to cover desserts, designer coffees and the second and third glasses of wine she didn’t drink.

Nest Egg: Gone Long Ago

She lives without cable, a gym membership and nail appointments. She’s discovered she can do her own hair.

There are no retirement savings, no nest egg; she exhausted that long ago. There is no expensive condo from which to draw equity and no husband to back her up.

Months of slow pay and no pay have decimated her credit. Bill collectors call constantly, reading verbatim from a script, expressing polite sympathy for her plight before demanding payment arrangements that she canגt possibly meet.

When the Phone Stops Ringing

Friends wonder privately how someone so well-educated could be in economic free fall. After all, she is still as talented as ever and smart as a whip. But work is sketchy now, mostly on-and-off consulting gigs. You can’t remember when she had a real job. She has learned how to appear engaged, but her phone doesn’t ring with opportunities anymore.

She doesn’t remember exactly when it stopped.

But she has entered the uncertain world of formerly and used to be and isn’t sure anymore where she belongs.

What she does know is that dozens of online job applications shes filled out seem to have disappeared into a black hole. SheҒs convinced that employers have set their online job recruitment algorithms to reject anyone who graduated before 1995.

She wonders what is to become of her. So far, her health has held up, but her body aches. Or is it her spirit?

Homeless women use to be invisible to her, but she appraises them now, with curious eyes, wondering if their stories started like hers.

Time to Stop Faking Normal

Even if you are not poor, exactly, you may still be facing downward mobility and feeling ashamed and embarrased about it. If so, come on out. Stop faking normal. There are millions of women like us and there is strength in our numbers.

Women nearing retirement are particularly hard hit by Americas retirement income-security crisis. The gender wage disparity gap costs women $431,360 over the course of their lives, according to the Center for American Progress. Add to this shortfall another $304,000 that women forfeit for time off from paid work to tend to parents (according to the National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP) and hundreds of thousands more to care for children and the consequences of spending a life of economic disadvantage becomes clear in lost wages, reduced pension and Social Security benefits.

The prospect is even worse if you are a woman of color: Today, three in 10 single black women over 65 and early 4 in 10 older single Hispanic women live in poverty, a rate more than twice that of white women, according to the WomenҒs Institute for a Secure Retirement (WISER).

But if we are hiding or in denial about our financial insecurity, were not taking the active role we need to navigate this phase of our lives. One action I took that really helped me and gave me both perspective and peace of mind was picking a friend to talk to and totally come clean about my situation. Turns out, she was broke, too, and was as worried about her future as I was about mine. It was such a burden off me to just speak my truth.

For all of us, there are hard choices to make about where we are going to live and how. The good news is that the market is beginning to respond with many more innovative and affordable senior housing and co-housing options to help boomers stay engaged and lead meaningful lives. I expect manufacturers to follow suit with value-engineered products geared to retirees with lower incomes.

So while our new living quarters may be a rental and the size of a postage stamp, it beats being confined to a dim lit room in some drab building with a weird hospital smell and institutionalized food.

Welcome to the new normal.

SOURCE

Posted by Elvis on 12/10/17 •
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Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Bad Moon Rising Part 70 - The End Of Empire 2

image: dying america

“Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”
- John Adams

American Calamity Get Ready for the Day of Reckoning

By Phil Butler
New Eastern Outlook
December 3, 2017

The America we once knew is gone forever. The 21st century has dawned just as the true light of liberty fades into shadow. The sooner the world recognizes this, the better off humankind will be. RussiaGate, Bill and Hillary Clinton revelations, Donald Trumps quasi-populist misdirect, and a great nation turned amoral, this and much more forewarn of a cataclysm.

Ill tell you about the instant I gave up on America ever being great again. When my oldest friend failed to reach me on Skype a few weeks back, a strange reconnect on his device put me in the position of a fly on the wall with he and two other high school friends. At first, I thought my old friend and I were connected as per usual, on a conference call. Then, when I realized I could hear them without the trio hearing me, the real American tragedy unfolded. The realization struck me hard, I’ll tell you. Listening to old pals discuss my new book that debunks many RussiaGate lies, Putin’s Praetorians met with nasty and harsh criticism without my chums having even read what is inside. Their obtuse and unfair criticism made me finally realized Vladimir Putin and the Russian people have no chance whatsoever - no chance of ever being friends with the United States of America. Three intelligence college graduates, professional men, demonstrated the utter ignorance of a people. Some of my closest friends shouted in my ears that day; the propaganda worked - CNN has already won.I know this is a harsh reality for many of you to accept. Losing hope is not something to take lightly. But get ready, the war will come eventually.

When Donald Trump won the 2016 presidential election the hopeful among us considered his victory a successful populist revolt against the Washington swamp of globalists. Trump swore to us he would take on the technocrats and the elites in favor of the “forgotten of America” and the new president sold himself as a man of the people. However, billionaires are not ordinary people, and we should all have remembered this. Many of us voted Trump just to keep a certified psychopath from winning, but Trump and Clinton are nothing more than symptoms of a far more WIDESPREAD CONTAGION. Now let me describe the infectious host my country has become, and a bit on how Lady Liberty will finally succumb.

THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA is the modern and digitalized Rome. Just why we we’re not taught this in grade school, it escapes me. After all, we always believed our teachers and trusted them to tell us the truth. The unarguable fact that Americans have been the most privileged people on Earth since World War II. But we were told for decades that our privilege was due to our industriousness, our intelligence, and because God had blessed us. In the 1950s and early 1960֒s this may have really been true. For those who recall that we made stuff back then, and that we conformed more often to our religious convictions, my meaning here is clear to you. We Americans benefitted largely because of our hard work back then, and not sometimes because of brilliant industrialists too.  Then the two Kennedy brothers were shot and killed, Martin Luther King and Malcolm X were assassinated, and Lyndon Baines Johnson and his boys carried us into Vietnam. In the meantime, those of us too young (or chicken) to fight in southeast Asia, we got our fill of Woodstock, a popular anti-war movement and the hippie revolution, and decades of drug culture that nobody talks about much these days. But this component of the American metamorphosis is far too important and massively deep to discuss here. It should suffice those from that era to know, that Iғ know what you know. This was the moment the American people dipped themselves in the narcotic of too much self-love and when we began to exceed and excel in moral promiscuity. Today an entire nation is drowning in a sea of vanity that originated back then. We saw this moral lasciviousness when the last President, Barack Obama spat out our exceptionalismԓ right in the worlds face. Let’s now take a candid look at this how collectively extraordinary we Americans have been.

A decline in courage may be the most striking feature that an outside observer notices in the West today. The Western world has lost its civic courage . . . . Such a decline in courage is particularly noticeable among the ruling and intellectual elite, causing an impression of a loss of courage by the entire society.” Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

I’ll not even attempt to describe the rise of consumerism in America following WW II, nor can anyone explain in such limited space how the average American benefitted from our role in that war. As the only major nation untouched (literally) by the massive destructive force of the world war, the United States quickly became a nation blessed with a giant middle class. And with this burgeoning middle class came a youth culture that will absolutely melt down when the next big crisis comes. This foreboding moment can be understood if we look at American society’s rise to affluence in the 60s, 70’s, and even the 1980s, as compared to the disenfranchised in the country today. But I said I would not delve too deeply into this part of Americanism. What makes the United States even an unique country in modern times is how the world lost while America consumed. Make no mistake about it, the real American exceptionalism cost every man, woman, and child on Earth an incalculable price. Citizens of my country have used fully one-fourth of every resource utilized since World War II, and the ongoing wars and corporate shenanigans perpetuated the damage. Up until the 21st century, the curve of American gluttony rose sharply in between 1900 and 1995. A PAPER (PDF) entitled; “Consumption of Materials in the United States, 1900-9950”, from the USGS by Grecia Matos and Lorie Wagner discusses this in depth. Here is the short version from the paper on materials use:

“During this century, the quantity of materials consumed has grown, from 161 million metric tons in 1900 to 2.8 billion metric tons by 1995, an equivalent of 10 metric tons per person per year.”

The report details our consumption from many directions including environmental impacts, and so on. Nowhere is our exceptional appetite for world resources more prevalent than in our energy use. THIS REPORT from 2011 shows how America went stark raving mad using coal, natural gas, petroleum nd nuclear energy after WW II. For comparative purposes, Americans used about 10 quadrillion btus of petroleum in 1945, as compared to just over 40 quadrillion btuᒒs at the peak in 2005-2006. On energy, its fair to assert here that all those energy wars the so-called conspiracy theorists writeabout are real news stories, rather than fake concoctions. But let’s forget about American politicians opening up North America for a toxic fracking future for the moment. This Scientific American STORY points to Americans as the least sustainable society on Earth. From the article Sierra Clubs Dave Tilford tells us:

“The average American will drain as many resources as 35 natives of India and consume 53 times more goods and services than someone from China.”

The final take here is telling. The United States, with less than 5 % of the global population, uses more than 25% of the world’s fossil fuel resources, by burning up nearly 25 % of the coal, 26 % of the oil, and 27 % of the worlds natural gas. Another way of looking at our “exceptional self-destructiveness” is to think how many “worlds” it would take to support humanity, if everyone consumed like we do. But this my point is the fact that our addictive and suicidal behavior costs all of humanity. America’s unique exceptionalism will very soon lead to a horrific cataclysm for out sick culture. I’ll frame for you now:

Sick cultures show a complex of symptoms such as you have named - but a dying culture invariably exhibits personal rudeness. Bad manners. Lack of consideration for others in minor matters. A loss of politeness, of gentle manners, is more significant than is a riot. Robert A. Heinlein, Friday

Drugged on the self-aggrandizing drugs of excess, lude and lascivious lifestyles, and utter godlessness, the United States is all set for an apocalypse few in my country see. Before I describe how this cataclysm will likely play out, let me introduce an economic surety. Debt and constricted growth are about to cause a gigantic bubble to burst.

Most readers may not know that the worlds central banks are about to be decimated. The balance sheets of most of these banks have gone from an indebtedness of $6 trillion in 2007 to over $21 trillion today. To make matters worse, the rate of debt expansion exceeds a pace of $200 billion every month. In the UK, the Bank of England prints money on a pace to equal that of the European Central Bank (ECB) and even the Bank of Japan in a hopeless effort of Quantitative Easing (QE) that involves buying the bonds - or debts of governments and investment grade companies. Subsequently, bond prices have shot sky high, while yields are now at record lows. A further indication is contained in a rather innocent PRESS RELEASE about UBS Wealth Management’s UBS Global Real Estate Bubble Index 2017. According to this news San Francisco and other real estate markets are ripe for a second devastating housing bubble catastrophe. Also included in the report are; Amsterdam, Stockholm, Munich, Vancouver, Sydney, Hong Kong, New York, Los Angeles, and Boston. I could go on and on presenting indicators such as the massive $750 billion dollar trade deficit America runs. But pointing out the reality of Americas $20 trillion dollar national debt is useless for swaying even one typical consumption addict to pay attention. Like my pals who refused to even crack open a book before condemning a friend, most Americans are simply too ignorant and self-involved to give facts a glance. When the lie of CNN or Bloomberg will do, as long as the cheap gas flows, Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again (MAGA)” slogan is a fairytale. America has not been great in a very long time, and she never will be great again. Now let me show you who knows this.

Like Rome, the heyday of Americas empire was been based on expansion and growth. Propped up with militarism and the legendary military industrial complex, Washington has played Wall Street’s gambit for many decades. The recent villainizing of Russia and her president Vladimir Putin is not about the spread of democracy, it’s about Putin standing in the way of privatizing like that which occurred under Yeltsin. Putin is in a fight against the American supported liberal world order bent on gobbling up Russia’s massive resources to fuel further American (plus EU & British) addictions. Without new markets and resources America will very soon be out of gas literally. So, assuming I am correct here, what happens when a land of consumer zombies runs out of gas (or food)? This Fortune Magazine ARTICLE speaks of an education economics bubble about to destroy lives and dreams on a scale never witnessed. The foreboding article touches on but one facet of a fractured American society - the society presidents, senators, and congresspersons swore would benefit from high tech jobs and new age technologies. Now that I’ve painted a small portrait of dread, insert all the twenty-something and thirty-something smart phones you saw in use yesterday in town! You forty-something and fifty-something readers, can you sense the domino effect when the entitled youth cannot get cell service or buy a cappuccino? For further reading on this catastrophe, see Zero Hedge and read RON PAUL’S ASSESSMENT of the imminent doomsday. My conclusion here is pretty short and sweet:

“Of the twenty-two civilizations that have appeared in history, nineteen of them collapsed when they reached the moral state the United States is in now.” Arnold Joseph Toynbee

Vladimir Putin is the barometer everyone should watch. And Vladimir Putin has all but given up on reconciliation with the west. This report from World Socialist Web outlines reports that suggest Putin is ramping up in preparations for the coming war. At the recent Sochi meetup, the Russian president had this to offer on Russias economy being prepared:

“The ability of our economy to increase military production and services at a given time is one of the most important aspects of military security. To this end, all strategic and simply large-scale enterprise should be ready, regardless of ownership.”

Putin’s recent moves, his ongoing pragmatism during these new crises, and the “all or nothing” approaches of western governments toward Russia tell us all we need to know here. Putin is admittedly testing the capability of Russia’s economy to defend in an all-out war with the west. Read Alex Lantier’s article above, then correlate everything you can find on global defense in the last few months. Putin is only following suit after NATO recently discussed improving infrastructure for war-making. In Moscow the thinkers know once the petro-yuan replaces the dollar, that general chaos will rein in America. And the American globalists know this too. Now imagine a dollar being worth ten cents. Imagine store shelves empty and several million more foreclosures. Imagine Apple not selling iPhones for two months. Visualize what happens in America if another big recession hits now. The kid who was 12 when 2008 rolled around, is now 21 with a college degree and a mountain of student loan debt, working at McDonalds to pay for an $800 dollar smart phone. Fox News just reported on the 5 dead and 20 wounded in Chicago over the Thanksgiving weekend, and Trump’s policies have been a shot in the arm for Wall Street. If the big bubble bursts the disenfranchised will turn to cannibalism. Putin and the Washington swamp knows this too.

So, when America does finally succumb to the death throes we’ve seen happening the last thirty years or more They’ll push the button, you bet they will. Zombies could care less about Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, Yugoslavia, Ukraine, Palestine, Syria and Yemen. You unplug the intravenous joy and it’s over. And this is the truth of an America since 1955. Find yourself a cave here on Crete, fort up and get ready. Its coming.

SOURCE

Posted by Elvis on 12/05/17 •
Section Bad Moon Rising • Section Revelations • Section Dying America
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Monday, December 04, 2017

Rationalizing Suicide

image depressed man

The prospects for the re-employment of older workers deteriorate sharply the longer they are unemployed . . . This is all the more reason to support the unemployed and depressed who threaten suicide.
- Thinking About Suicide

Suicide as Rational Choice?
Can someone who isn’t ill kill themselves for a good reason?

By Stanton Peele Ph.D.
Psychology Today
January 20, 2011

I once saw the author of “night, Mother,” Marsha Norman, “debate” (on a television talk show) Bernadine Healy, the former director of the NIH and a forceful proponent of the idea of mental illness as a disease.

In a fey, offhand way (she didn’t confront Healy directly) Norman made the case that some people’s lives result in a rational decision to kill themselves (as the play proposes). This is perhaps most evident in cases of terminal illnesses. But in the play, it is because a woman’s life had never gone anywhere - she was stuck in a house with her mother, having never launched an independent life.

This same issue was raised by at least one woman interviewed in the film, “The Bridge,” which tracked the horrifying suicides from the Golden Gate Bridge over a year. This woman accepted that her grandson - like his mother - was geared to kill himself his whole life. The NY Times reviewer, Stephen Holden (obviously not a mental health professional), said of the film: “Because their testimony is remarkably free of religious cant and of cozy New Age bromides, this is one of the most moving and brutally honest films about suicide ever made.”

But this post isn’t about “‘night, Mother” or “The Bridge.” It’s about a film titled, “The Woodmans,” about a family of artists whose daughter - Francesca - killed herself at age 22 in 1981 by throwing herself out a window.

Francesca Woodman was a brilliant, provocative (she often photographed herself nude) ferociously ambitious artist who revolutionized photography - only she wasn’t around to get credit when the credit came due. Her agent described her working as a third photographer’s assistant when she had already created the most audacious photographs of not only that decade, but the next (let’s leave aside Robert Mapplethorpe, another kind of suicide in a way, whose life and work is explored in Patti Smith’s memoir, “Just Kids").

Woodman anticipated virtually every movement in commercial and art photography - the sexualized self-dramatization adopted by Cindy Sherman (whose life and work is shown in a film by her ex-lover, “Guest of Cindy Sherman"), the currently popular black-and-white gritty semi-sexual advertising for jeans and other consumer items, the integration of setting and subject, the visual representation of words, sounds, and ideas.  But this was all undoable at the time.

And now she IS recognized. Perhaps the most chilling shot in the film is of her agent laughingly saying that, when he needs to pay college tuition for one his kids, he pulls out a photo - of which he says he has stacks - to sell for Woodman’s current “going” price - $20,000 (she is now widely exhibited).

Okay, why did Francesca Woodman kill herself? Her parents are decent, loving, supportive people. She had a close relationship with her father (he admires her so much that, after her death, he turned to photography from painting to make pale imitations of her photos).

Francesca was beautiful, lively, appealing to others. She was also incredibly demanding - as a friend said - of her friends, her lovers, herself. And she recognized - and expected and needed public recognition of - herself as a great artist. Which only came after she committed suicide due in no small part to its absence - the inherent paradox of her life and death.

Life may have made her choice - given her intense ambitions - seem reasonable to her at the time.  But subsequent history, we now know, would have provided her with all that she sought.  Only - in the impatience of youth - enduring that gap was intolerable to her.  And, of course, the success of her vision was far from preordained.  So how could a therapist (she was seeing one regularly, and receiving antidepressants) have anticipated such a development, or addressed her seemingly shattered dreams?

Psychology and psychiatry have not developed better answers to these questions than they had three decades ago, when Francesca Woodman gave her life away.

SOURCE

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High-Tech Suicide Machine Makes Death a Painless, Peaceful, Optimal Way to Go
The Sarco is a state-of-the-art death machine.

By Kali Holloway
AlterNet
December 1, 2017

In a world filled with chaos, a new suicide machine allows people to exit life in an orderly, peaceful manner. The Sarco is a technological marvel, resembling some kind of futuristic sleeping chamber, that aids in voluntary assisted dying. Australian doctor Philip Nitschke, whom Newsweek identifies as the “Elon Musk of assisted suicide, unveiled the new apparatus earlier this week, just days after lawmakers in the state of Victoria voted to legalize euthanasia. The device simplifies what Nitschke dubs ԓrational suicides, ensuring that the process is painless and easy - an optimal way to go.

The Sarco was developed by Nitschkes organization, Exit International, which bills itself as an ғaid-in-dying organisation. The machine includes a base topped by a translucent chamber perfectly proportioned to comfortably fit a human which. After settling in the pod, the user will push a button and the chamber will start to ԓfill up with liquid nitrogen to bring the oxygen level down to about 5 percent. Around the minute mark, the user will become unconscious, experiencing almost no pain, according to the Newsweek report. (The doctor describes the changes as akin to ԓan airplane cabin depressurizing.) After death comes, which is fairly swift, the chamber can be used as a coffin. The base, just fyi, is reusable.

In a press release, Exit International notes the Sarco “was designed so that it can be 3D printed and assembled in any location” and that blueprints “will be free, made open-source, and placed on the Internet.” While accessibility is a major selling point, there is one hurdle would-be users will need to clear: a “mental questionnaire” that’s available online. Once a client has established mental health, they’re given a 4-digit code that opens the capsule door, the first in a series of steps to “a peaceful death”...in just a few minutes.

According to Newsweek, a few suicide clinics in Switzerland have expressed interest in licensing the Sarco for use. There are also likely to be takers in other spots around the world. In addition to the new Victoria law, assisted suicide is now legal in Belgium, Canada, Colombia, Luxembourg and the Netherlands, where it’s become an increasingly popular choice. In the U.S., only teminally ill patients can opt for assisted suicide, and in many states, at least two doctors must verify the legitimacy of the request. State-specific legislative nuance governs “death with dignity” laws in California, Colorado, Oregon, Vermont, D.C. and Washington. All that said, support for the right to choose when and how one dies is on the rise. In 2016, 69 percent of Americans said doctors should be allowed to end a patient’s life by painless means.ғ That number increased to 73 percent this year.

Philip Nitschke, who advocates for euthanasia to be a legal option for anyone over 70, continues to push for assisted suicide as a civil right. He says that the grey wave washing over Baby Boomers has helped create a sea change in thinking.

“These are people who are used to getting their own way, running their own lives,” Nitschke told the Big Smoke earlier this year. A lot of the women have gone through political battles around abortion rights, feminism, the Pill. They don’t want to be told how to live or how to die. The idea that you can pat these people on the head and say there, there, “let the doctors decide” is frankly ridiculous...Peoples’ lives are people’s lives. Death is a part of that, and so it should be up to them to make the decisions.

SOURCE

Posted by Elvis on 12/04/17 •
Section Spiritual Diversions
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The U.S. Political System Has Been Hijacked

image: dying America

Harvard Business School: The U.S. Political System Has Been Hijacked

By Yossarian Johnson
The Intellctualist
November 2017

A new CASE STUDY [local copy] by Harvard Business School asserts that U.S. politicians have rigged the system to such a degree that the U.S. is on its way to becoming a failed democracy. The authors of the case-study use the word ‘hijacked’ to describe what the political parties have done to governance in the United States.

Some tidbits:

America’s political system was long the envy of the world. It advanced the public interest and gave rise to a grand history of policy innovations that fostered both economic and social progress. Today, however, our political system has become the major barrier to solving nearly every important challenge our nation needs to address. This was the unexpected conclusion of the multiyear Project on U.S. Competitiveness at Harvard Business School, established in 2011 to understand the causes of America’s weak economic performance and rising inequality that predated the Great Recession.

The authors point to a number of American pathologies that do not plague other advanced nations.

A similar failure to progress has also afflicted the nations social agenda. In areas such as public education, health and wellness, personal safety, water and sanitation, environmental quality, and tolerance and inclusion, among others, U.S. progress has stalled or gone in reverse. In these areas, where America was often a pioneer and leader, the U.S. has fallen well down the list compared to other advanced countries. Tolerance, inclusion, and personal freedom are registering troubling declines, a sign of growing divisions in our society.

A poorly educated

In public education, of particular significance for citizen opportunity, in math the U.S. was ranked 31st out of 35 OECD countries (the other advanced economies using the respected PISA process) in 2015, down from 25 in 2009, 20th in reading (down from 14) and 19th in science (down from 17).5 Instead of progress, then, our government is mired in gridlock and inaction. Increasingly over the decades, Congress has been unable to get things done, especially on important issues.

The authors of the piece note how the Founders of the United States would find the rules that govern the country unrecognizable today.

The result: America’s political system today would be unrecognizable to our founders. In fact, certain of our founders warned against political parties. John Adams, our second President, said, “There is nothing which I dread so much as a division of the republic into two great parties, each arranged under its leader, and concerting measures in opposition to each other.  Our founders and most Americans today - would be shocked by the extent to which our democracy has been hijacked by the private and largely unaccountable organizations that constitute todays political industrial complex.

SOURCE

Posted by Elvis on 12/04/17 •
Section Dying America
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