A minute is not Enough

My early impression of Marianne Williamson was that she was just another opportunist building her celebrity status. I was wrong, as were most of the media pundits who mocked her.

The Democratic debates only served to make matters worse and ended up being a media spectacle with little substance and a ton of hype.

But some more thoughtful observers saw something that the rest of us missed. Williamson was speaking to the core problem of America. She alone among the hopefuls had a big vision of what we could and should be. Here’s what NY Times’ David Brooks saw:

And the LA Times:

And the Washington Post:

What she brings to the debate is too complex for the over-compressed and frenetic format of the debates. Her ideas, once understood, have the ring of authenticity. There is vision and a strong sense of what the soul of our nation truly is. It resonates.

Here in no particular order are video clips from interviews that raised challenging questions and gave Williamson time to make her point. See if you don’t find what she is saying compelling.

Vision is what’s missing from the political rhetoric–vision and soul. Williamson has awaked us to that.

US Politics Explained

In a cogent ten-minute segment of a much longer program, Noam Chomsky offers a clear explanation of the US political situation and the forces driving it. Watch his low-key analysis and you’ll see that some of the happenings that leave us incredulous actually make perfect sense.

Using Chomsky’s frame for recent events, it easy to see why Mitch McConnell and the GOP establishment do what they do. Control of US politics depends on not letting the popular majority rule.

McConnell’s actions to scuttle tamper-proof voting, to stack SCOTUS with like-minded justices, and to lavish economic benefits on large business interests is justified in his mind by the threat to the establishment posed by reform candidates who want America to deal with the pressing issues that will be economic disrupters: climate change, economic justice, etc.

The Dem establishment is also trying to avoid big ideas that would disrupt the status quo and risk losing wealthy backers. It’s the young upstarts who are championing change. Chomsky warns that failure to see what he sees could lead to the GOP winning in 2016.

All of us are being played. The manipulation is happening through the media and most of us are not yet savvy enough to see it, nor are we outraged enough to adjust our personal priorities to do anything about it. Our democracy is being dismantled while we are distracted by the daily political theater.

God save America.

Lest we become inured

John Young is a pro journalist who writes a blog. He does very satisfying rants. Here is his latest…


 It just needs to be said aloud shouted out so that silence doesn’t become complacency and acceptance.

Fire! (not a full pail)

“Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.” – William Butler Yeats

Education should have as it’s ultimate goal making a person an autonomous learner – someone who wonders, who has curiosity, and who is equipped to learn.

Being equipped to learn doesn’t just mean the three R’s. I means learning to harness intuition, do research, and come up with new ideas. It means to think critically and question what one assumes to be true.

It doesn’t mean being an isolated scholar. Learning is a social activity that draws on contemporary thought, and the vast body of knowledge amassed by thousands of years of humanity.

Humans dominate the planet because they collaborate and learn from one another.

Will we be smart enough to keep our Earth habitable?

R B Shreve, EARTH DAY 2019

Poverty – The Experience

Courier Times Photo
That’s me (unemployed) in line to get my lights back on. (Courier Times Photo)

I’ve never experienced real poverty. I’ve lived on a restricted budget as a college student and as a young married parent. I’ve never gone hungry, or been at risk of being homeless, or at my wits’ end about where to go or what to do simply survive.

But I got a glimpse of what it feels like by participating in a clever and realistic simulation presented by Bucks County Opportunity Council. The simulation lasted only an hour (four 15 minute weeks) but it drove many of the participants frantic with frustration.

We had to deal with bureaucratic delays and lines, lack of time and resources to do the basic things needed to pay bills, buy food, get to and from work, care for our children. We faced exploitation by payday lenders and banks.  We could easily imagine the plight of those in poverty, as we tried to juggle priorities and prevent eviction, utility shut-offs, missed meals. We experienced frustration, outrage, despair, and seething anger.  Little wonder that marriages fail, children get into trouble, and adults resort to crime. Life with few prospects and little hope can drive a person to desperation.

The take away is profound empathy for people who can’t make it without public assistance. They not only need help to survive, they need emotional support and encouragement in organizing to get on a path to self-sufficiency. Going it alone is a recipe for failure.

The Bucks County Courier Times writer James McGinnis described the experience well:

Poverty CT 181025

Don’t assume that those you love are above this situation.  Wages have not grown with the rest of the economy. In real dollars they have been flat for decades.  In the sixties we though that shelter should cost about 25% of a families income. Now families spend 30 to 50% to keep a roof over their heads. Recent surveys show that a shocking 80% of working families live paycheck to paycheck and have little or no savings. A $1,000 emergency becomes a crisis. Poverty is just one home accident or bit of bad luck away.

Each minimum wage job pays about $15,000 a year before taxes. It takes $60,000 a year for a family of 4 to live independently in Bucks County.

To make ends meet, an unskilled or semi-skilled person and their spouse might need three or four jobs. Minimum wage jobs rarely offer benefits or even stable employment. Nor are they easy or fun.

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