The comic strips “Doonesbury” and “Bloom County” are having a field day with this primary season, and who can blame them? The debates are like catnip to cartoonists, especially the Republican displays of cartoonish aggression. This Sunday’s “Doonesbury” is especially chortle-worthy: Doonesbury, February 14, 2016.
© G.B. Trudeau – All Rights Reserved.
Featured image: Reilly Butler/Flickr.
A sobering article from the Los Angeles Times: Too Poor to Retire and Too Young to Die. My spouse and I have diligently worked and saved our whole married life, to provide for our own retirement and our kids’ educations. Our parents did the same, but had more of a safety net, such as company-funded retirement benefits. Those seem to have gone the way of the Dodo.
I don’t think our country has any real idea of the crisis that’s going to hit when that demographic phenomenon known as the Baby Boom hits its 70s, which starts this year, seventy years after the Baby Boom began in 1946. We’ve allowed a generation’s worth of unprecedented wealth creation to become concentrated in the hands of billionaires and corporations since 1980. We’ve allowed infrastructure and basic public services to crumble. And if we don’t get our act together and reclaim some of that undertaxed wealth through revised estate taxes for these mega-fortunes, we risk permanently entrenching this concentration of money and power.
The billionaires distract us by linking their situation to that of people like my family: middle-class people who worked and saved in the hope of being independent and comfortable, not obscenely rich, in our old age. Basically, they are asserting that if they get taxed, savers like us will also lose what we’ve worked so hard to accumulate. Baloney. There’s a huge difference between the size of their estates and ours. We need to stop getting distracted by the political gibberings of the likes of Donald Trump. While we react to his outrageous “campaign”, he is laughing all the way to the bank.
The more I see of Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, Fox News and the rest, the more I am reminded of the rise of fascism in the last century. Xenophobia is on display, with know-nothing values, corporatism, authoritarianism, etc. This is nothing new, we’ve seen it before, but it has been repackaged with modern communications and given a smoother surface. And it is scary how many of today’s leading lights of the GOP have fathers who are alleged to have been quasi-fascists: the Koch brothers, Donald Trump, Ted Cruz. For an instructive look back, here’s what Salon.com has to say: It Can Still Happen Here, which recounts the 1944 article written by then U.S. Vice President Henry Wallace, on the danger of fascists in America.
“The American fascists are most easily recognized by their deliberate perversion of truth and fact,” Wallace wrote. “Their newspapers and propaganda carefully cultivate every fissure of disunity, every crack in the common front against fascism. They use every opportunity to impugn democracy.”
In his strongest indictment of the tide of fascism, the vice-president of the United States saw rising in America, he added:
“They claim to be super-patriots, but they would destroy every liberty guaranteed by the Constitution. They demand free enterprise, but are the spokesmen for monopoly and vested interest. Their final objective toward which all their deceit is directed is to capture political power so that, using the power of the state and the power of the market simultaneously, they may keep the common man in eternal subjection.”
Sound familiar? Scared yet? I am.
The viral news of this week — leaving aside the serious issues of war and peace in the Middle East, ongoing genocide in Africa, incursions into international waters by China, etc. — was the reaction of undergraduates at Yale College to two emails sent to them by various faculty and administrators. The first, send by a group concerned with Intercultural Affairs, reminded students to avoid racially and ethnically offensive Halloween costumes. The second, sent to students in one of the residential colleges by its Associate Master, criticized the first message and questioned whether it was appropriate for Yale to manage expression by its students or if it would be preferable for Yale students to monitor each other and — gasp! — have thoughtful, respectful conversations about their disagreements.
So far, just another tempest in an academic teapot. But when an advocacy group called FIRE (Foundation for Individual Rights in Education) got hold of the story, and its president recorded and aired a video showing a confrontation between some students and the Master of Silliman College (who is married to the Associate Master), the story went viral. Lines were drawn in the sand and loud voices at both extremes of the political spectrum have been raised. Score one for FIRE! Free publicity!
Here is my take on it, in part. Continue reading →
For those of you who may not read The New York Times, here’s a sobering piece of news: Death Rates Rising for Middle-Aged White Americans. Basically, so many white Americans with less than a college education are dying prematurely from things like suicide and substance abuse that they are causing a statistical anomaly. This came to researchers’ attention when they realized that “unlike every other age group, unlike every other racial and ethnic group, unlike their counterparts in other rich countries, death rates in this group have been rising, not falling.” So they started digging into the details of that data. ” [P]oorly educated American whites … are dying at such a high rate that they are increasing the death rate for the entire group of middle-aged white Americans, Dr. Deaton and Dr. Case found.” Dr. Angus Deaton, by the way, is a 2015 Nobel Prize winner in Economics.
Furthermore, the impact of this sudden increase in death rates in a specific age group is so dramatic, “Dr. Deaton had but one parallel. ‘Only H.I.V./AIDS in contemporary times has done anything like this,’ he said.” Continue reading →
I have a love-hate relationship with The New York Times’ “Room for Debate” feature. I know the whole point is to present, in brief, conflicting points of view. It just riles me up. And this past week’s topic REALLY riled me up. “Is Honesty for Suckers?” . I think in our culture, at this time, it probably is. But that doesn’t mean I plan to become dishonest or I envy those who are. It just means I have resigned myself to foregoing some of the rewards that I have seen dishonest people reap for years. And I’m okay with that, as I am very fortunate in many ways, and I’d rather be myself (and live with myself) than go through life the way they do: rushing to grab every advantage, making and dropping “friends” along the way, unable to sustain loving, real relationships (funny how many of these folks seem to have dysfunctional personal lives). If that makes me a sucker, so be it. Honestly.
Well, well, well — it turns out that a certain amount of rage, in specific situations, is strategically useful. Rational, in fact, according to The New York Times: The Rationality of Rage.
We tend to associate anger with the loss of control, but anger has clear applications and obeys distinct rules. It may be blunt, but it has its own particular logic. And used judiciously, it can get us better deals, galvanize coalitions and improve all our lives.
The situations where anger is most useful as a strategy are “balanced”, i.e. they have elements of both cooperation and competition, such as selling a business to a buyer. Makes sense to me but I’m not so sure about this part:
… anger evolved to help us express that we feel undervalued. Showing anger signals to others that if we don’t get our due, we’ll exert harm or withhold benefits. As they anticipated, the researchers found that strong men and attractive women — those who have historically had the most leverage in threatening harm and conferring benefits, respectively — were most prone to anger.
Wow. Strong men and attractive women have the most leverage because they can threaten harm and withhold benefits. Sounds like war, money and sex to me. I guess we really are still primates at heart!
Illustration: Gerard DuBois, in The New York Times.
Surprise! Stressful work environments have a measurable negative impact on employees’ health and mortality, as set forth by The New York Times: How Stressful Work Environments Hurt Workers’ Health.
Among the findings:
• Work-family conflict more than doubled the odds of an employee reporting poor mental health and increased the odds of self-reported poor physical health by about 90 percent.
• Job insecurity raised the odds of self-reported poor physical health by about 50 percent.
• Low organizational justice increased the odds of having a physician-diagnosed condition by about 50 percent.
• High job demands raised the odds of a physician-diagnosed illness by 35 percent.
• Long work hours increased mortality by nearly 20 percent.
In addition, unemployment and low job control significantly upped the odds of all of the outcomes, while adverse psycho-social situations at work – lack of fairness, low social support and low job control – were as strongly associated with poor health as concrete factors like long hours and shift work.
Continue reading →
Usually I save my weekly vents until the weekend, when I can process the outrages of the previous seven days, including an entire work week. However, this week merits its very own, special, midweek Weekly Vent. Yes, today was my office’s semi-regular, offsite, daylong, management retreat. Shoot me now.
I like my job. Just spare me the management retreat and let me DO my job. Trapped in a room for seven straight hours. The platitudes. The hypocrisy. The blatant falsehoods. The false friendliness. The colleagues texting and reading email while their unfortunate peers make forced presentations. The plans that will gather dust until the next offsite retreat. The collecting of ammunition to be used later to stab
rivals colleagues in the back. Here’s why they call these “retreats” — because work has become a battlefield, if not a war of attrition. Only Dilbert can adequately express the pain.
Cartoon: copyright Scott Adams
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