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Posts Tagged ‘Society’

I don’t know what word in the English language — I can’t find one — applies to people who are willing to sacrifice the literal existence of organized human life so they can put a few more dollars into highly overstuffed pockets. The word “evil” doesn’t begin to approach it.

Noam Chomsky

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I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious.

Albert Einstein

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He who knows does not speak. He who speaks does not know.

Lao Tzu

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In my book, it’s pretty simple. If you work hard to prevent people from voting, you pretty much admit your ideas aren’t popular and you fear the verdict of the people.

Dan Rather

Chomsky

Rather

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The United Nations has a thing called the Human Development Index, which ranks the nations of the world according to the well-being of their people. Primarily, the index considers income, life expectancy, and education level.

The 2020 HDI, the most recent, said the leading countries are, in descending order:

1. Norway
2. Ireland
3. Switzerland
4. Hong Kong
5. Iceland
6. Germany
7. Sweden
8. Australia
9. Netherlands
10. Denmark
11. Finland
12. Singapore
13. United Kingdom
14. Belgium
15. New Zealand
16. Canada
17. United States —Aha! There we are, in 17th place on the well-being of the citizenry chart.

Frankly, that stinker of a rating is no surprise to me. In spite of our huge wealth and abundance of potential, we rank poorly in most categories that genuinely matter to actual people. The US is:

— 13th in standard of living
— 20th in quality of life
— 24th in science education
— 29th in personal freedom
— 31st in delivering decent healthcare
— 34th in the actual health of the population
— 38th in math education
— 46th in life expectancy

But, by God, we do have some Number Ones to our credit. We lead the world in:

— Military spending
— Cost of healthcare per capita
— Incarceration rate per capita
— Number of guns owned by civilians

Is this a great country or what?

That’s a rhetorical question.

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This Just In

RIYADH, SAUDI ARABIA — Organizers of a camel beauty contest in Saudi Arabia disqualified and fined 43 breeders who used illegal methods such as Botox injections to improve the appearance of their camels.

The King Abdulaziz Camel Festival, in which breeders compete for over $66 million in prize money, is in its sixth year. Because of the high stakes, breeders use a range of illegal methods to improve their chances of winning. These include Botox and hormone injections, bobbing a camel’s tail, and dyeing its coat.

To detect tampering, the camels are inspected physically and scanned with x-ray and sonar devices.

The owners of winning camels not only receive cash prizes, but are able to sell their animals at higher prices. Thus, fines for tampering are high, ranging from $8,000 to $27,000 per offense.

ACTON, ENGLAND — A British company set a Guinness World Record for the largest pyramid made of recycled washing machines. Currys PC World, a retailer of home appliances and electronics, stacked 1,496 recycled washers into a pyramid 44 feet tall.

Guinness said the base of the pyramid was comprised of 256 washers forming a square that measured 31 feet per side. The machines, all refurbished and ready for reuse, were stacked unsecured.

Currys said the pyramid was an effort to raise awareness about recycling the 1.45 million tons of electronic waste generated in the UK each year.

A survey conducted by the company last year found that 68 percent of Brits claim to be confused or uncertain about the recycling process. Translation: not interested enough to find out.

SÃO JOSÉ DO RIO PRETO, BRAZIL — In November, a cow escaped from a slaughterhouse, wandered through town, and ended up at a water park. The park was closed for the season, so the cow was at first undetected.

Employees said the cow found its way up a ramp to the top of a water slide, then dropped to its knees and slid down the chute and into the swimming pool below. It was then rescued and secured.

The workers said the slide is designed to hold 450 pounds, but held the 700-pound cow without damage.

The cow was not returned to the slaughterhouse, but was adopted by a nearby rancher and will live out its life among new bovine friends.

The rancher named the cow Tobogã, which means “slide” in Portuguese.

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Misplaced Power

In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.

Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1961

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Once again, it’s a Merry Christmas for the defense industry.

The US House and Senate have approved the 2022 National Defense Authorization Act, and, as always, the extent of our military spending is obscene. For the military-industrial complex, it means riches beyond the dreams of avarice.

For 2022, the Biden Administration had asked for the breath-taking sum of $753 billion in military spending, the same as our 2021 spending. The House bumped it up to $768 billion, the Senate concurred, and that was that.

Those billions will go toward our spectacularly costly and largely unnecessary military machine; will buy still more jets and tanks and bombs; and will further fatten the defense industry contractors that have been leeching on the taxpayers for lo, these many years.

The US has spent insane sums on the military for decades. Consider our spending for the last 10 years:

The last time the US authorized less than $500 billion in military spending was 2004.

It’s true that the rest of the world lavishes billions on its military, too. But no country comes close to matching us. Here are the world’s 10 leading countries in 2021 military spending:

Our spending was more than that of the other nine countries combined.

Among rational people, one school of thought is not to spend those billions at all. Another is to use it in more worthwhile ways. Considering our many chronic problems, the latter seems a reasonable choice.

Some version of Medicare for All would be a godsend. But that would cost trillions, not billions, and is another conversation. Instead, consider a few other options I’ve read about recently for the best use of our wealth:

For $36 billion a year, we could expand Medicare to include dental, vision, and hearing coverage.

For $80 billion a year, we could make all of our public universities tuition-free.

For $15 billion a year, we could have free, nationwide, publicly-owned broadband.

For $55 billion a year, we could give every working adult in the country 12 weeks of paid family or medical leave annually.

For $150 billion a year, we could create a system of free Pre-K and free childcare for working parents, nationwide.

All pipe dreams, I know. As always, the politicians will continue to serve the military-industrial complex.

In 2022, the Air Force plans to buy 12 more F-15EX jet fighters from Boeing for $1.4 billion. The jets are needed, they say, because the fleet of F-15C fighters is aging.

Only a few scattered politicians in Washington — Democrats, of course — will say no to that.

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We have come to live in a society based on insults, on lies, and on things that just aren’t true. It creates an environment where deranged people feel empowered.

Colin Powell

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Few things can help an individual more than to place responsibility on him and let him know you trust him.

Booker T. Washington

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Every war, when it comes or before it comes, is represented not as a war, but as an act of self-defense against a homicidal maniac.

George Orwell

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Don’t find fault, find a remedy. Anybody can complain.

Henry Ford

Powell

Ford

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A case can be made that democracy is in trouble today because of — I’ll just tell it like it is — widespread stupidity and ignorance.

In general, people are not very bright. That’s reality. And nowadays, the dumbness of the population is amplified and inflamed by social media, Fox News, and that ilk.

As for ignorance, the story is just as bad. The Department of Education reported in 2019 that literacy in the U.S. stood at 79 percent. Which means 21 percent of the population is functionally, if not fully, illiterate. One in five.

Further, DOE said the literacy of 54 percent of American adults is below the sixth-grade level. Half the population. Below sixth-grade level. Stunning. We are demonstrably stupid and ignorant.

But an equally strong case can be made that democracy is reeling because of the rise of hatred. Toxic stuff, hatred.

A recent psychological study in Canada suggests that hatred, especially hatred of particular groups or institutions (immigrants, black and brown people, those evil socialists, etc.) is a powerful motivating force that gives haters the sense that their lives have purpose.

Does this imply that the haters’ lives lack purpose otherwise? Or that they experience feelings of inadequacy? Hey, I’m just a journalism major. What do I know?

The study was conducted at the University of Waterloo in Ontario and involved extensive interviews with over 800 participants. The researchers found that hatred of individuals was motivating, but far less so than hatred of groups.

Hating specific individuals, they said, indeed gives the hater feelings of heightened purpose. But the fact that the hated person is real gets into all sorts of uncomfortable complications and negatives.

Conversely, hating on groups allows the hater to focus on a simple enemy more easily portrayed as a generic evil. It presents an “us vs. them” scenario and an enemy that needs to be stopped.

In other words, according to the study, flawed people are drawn toward hate because it makes them feel better about themselves. That’s both pathetic and perverted.

Honestly, I don’t hate a single group or institution. I don’t even hate the haters. They certainly anger, aggravate, and exasperate me. But I feel sorry for them. And I’m amazed at how people can end up so psychologically damaged.

The truth is, a vast sea of haters is out there, a combination of mental midgets and the mentally screwed-up, and they represent a genuine, alarming threat to democracy as we know it.

And let me point out that damn near 100 percent of those haters are conservatives. Republicans. Right-wingers.

Let’s tell it like it is.

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The Questions

1. The logo of which NFL team is a flower?

2. A porter who handles luggage at a railroad station is called a redcap. What is a porter at an airport called?

3. Hg is the symbol for what chemical element?

4. What country is the world’s largest producer of coffee?

5. What and where is the world’s tallest uninterrupted waterfall?

The Answers…

1. The logo of the New Orleans Saints is a fleur-de-lis, a stylized lily associated with the French monarchy. (New Orleans was founded by French colonists in 1718.) Fleur, as you may know, means flower in French, and lis means lily.

2. A skycap.

3. Mercury. The symbol Hg comes from the chemical’s original name, hydragyrum, which means “water-silver” in ancient Greek.

4. Brazil has been number one for 150 years. It produces one-third of the world’s coffee.

5. Angel Falls in Venezuela, which drops 3,212 feet.

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Backsliding

Last week, a prestigious think tank in Sweden issued its annual list of “democracies in decline.” For the first time, the United States is on the list.

Let that sink in.

The think tank, the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA), said the U.S. is backsliding as a democracy because it is yielding to “authoritarian tendencies.”

Specifically, the Institute cited the issue of Trump’s lie that the 2020 presidential election was rigged and stolen. That fabrication has been accepted, naturally, by the Republicans — in fact, by an overwhelming majority of them.

IDEA also cited the shocking wave of restrictive state voting laws passed by the same nefarious Republicans.

The Institute did applaud the U.S. for passing a new monthly child tax credit. It said the credit likely will cut the U.S. poverty rate in half and in 2021 will lift four million children out of poverty.

The child tax credit, mind you, was 100 percent courtesy of Biden and the Democrats. As for the Republicans — who voted against the tax credit, and who are the direct cause of our backsliding — I offer this photo in lieu of words.

For this photo, words fail me.

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