Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Patricia Lyons Simon Newman Gilband (1929 -- 2013)

This is the longest and most beautiful Chripstory I have had the privilege to curate. 
One of NPR's most erudite journalists has given the world a shining monument to his mother in these Twitter messages. 
Take time to read them one at a time. 

The Passing of Scott Simon's Mother

By request, my ICU bed. Hermes
orange, my mother notes.
Note functional nightstand, too:

I brought news to my Irish mother in hospital of the royal birth, & she said, "We have a king!" Always a UK, eh?  (8 days ago)

I just want to say that ICU nurses are remarkable people. Thank you for what you do for our loved ones.   (7 days ago)

My mother in ICU sees Kate & Will holding baby and tears: "Every baby boy is a little king to his parents. " So I tear too.

So whole raft of @elischeesecake goodies just personally delivered to ICU. Delicious. More important--epochally thoughtful.                                               (6 days ago)

Bless all ICU nurses who are getting people through pain & anxieties tonight.                                     (5 days ago)

All hospitals should have roll-out chairs in ICU rooms so loved ones can spend night w/ patients & not sleep on floor. @NMHnews

Thanks for prayers my mother in ICU. She greeted the woman who picks up trash: "Blanca, you herald a new day." Class.

@101Below Thank you so much for your prayer for my mother in that historic church. Our whole family is grateful.

I am getting a life's lesson about grace from my mother in the ICU. We never stop learning from our mothers, do we?

In line at hospital Starbucks. Dancing in the Streets comes on. Line begins to sing, "They're dancin' in Chi-caw-go!"

Restorative night at Frontera. Tomato dish worth flying from Dubai to eat. Maybe @rick_bayless can reveal how it's done.                                                                                                            (4 days ago)

Tnx for all but wishes for my mother in ICU. Her anthem, more than ever, is But I'm Still Here. She inspires us all.

My mother knows the name & story of every nurse & doctor in the ICU. She keeps no one a stranger.

What is the idea behind deep fried onion rings in a hospital cafeteria?

Bought air mattress for ICU floor. Told salesperson "All I know about outdoors is I loath them." "You looking for Bloomingdales?"

Our friend Wen Huang dropped by ICU to read to my mother from his book. She smiles, "Haven't we had a lovely day?"

My mother & I just sang Que Sera Sera 3 times. God bless you Doris Day for giving us such a great theme song.                                                                                                                           (3 days ago)

Tried to buy coffee for family w/ a mother in ICU too. Barista overheard, refused my card. "Your money's no good here."

I consider this a good sign: mother sez when time comes, obit headline should be Three Jewish Husbands, But No Guilt.

My mother drifts to sleep listening to Nat's Unforgettable. I keep things light, but moments like this hard, if sweet.

Mother can't sleep. We listen to music, her face feels puffy, hot. We talk of much. I say "You need sleep." "Not really."

Mother & I just finished a duet of We'll Meet Again. Every word has meaning. Nurse looks in, asks, "Do you take requests?"

Thanks for all good wishes. Mother says, "We can get through this, baby. The hardest part we'll be for you when it's over"                                                                                    

-I tell her, "You've given me strength to carry it." She's reciting White Cliffs of Dover now, becoming 14 before my eyes.

Nights are the hardest. But that's why I'm here. I wish I could

And yes, wish my family was here. But want our daughters just to remember the Grandmere who lavished them w/ smiles.

No real sleep tonight. But songs poems memories laughs. My mother: "Thank you God for giving us this night & each other"

That will be my life.s slogan from now on.

My mother: "Believe me, those great death bed speeches are written ahead of time. "

Mother: what time is it? Me: 6:30. Her: oh let's raise the curtains on the city we love.

Mother: "I don't know why this is going on so long. I'm late for everything I guess."

She's a tough Irish showgirl who doesn't quit on those she loves.

Listening to La Boheme now, Bocelli. Mother can't keep eyes closed. "Maybe opera will help. I always slept when I went."

I tell my mother, "You'll never stop teaching me." She said, "Well don't blame me for everything.

Anytime you've heard me being gracious & kind, it reflected my mother's teaching. Anytime I was unkind, I fell short.

We're singing through musicals my mother taught me to love (Fiorello now). She says, "I've seen so much talent in this world!"

Old friend, Fr Chuck, comes by to recite Act of Contrition w/ my mother. We love him. My mother has nothing to be-

-contrite about. But she is typically gracious in saying it w/ Fr. Chuck.

My mother is breathing, finally sleeping. Docs asked what priority is. I just want to take her to sit in our favorite park.

Thanks for all kind messages. We're watching 42 (movie), cherishing every second of normalcy. Cherish yr mother tonight too.                                                                                                        (2 days ago)

Watching 42, mother remembers Leo Durocher made passes at her twice: "Once as a Dodger, once as a Cub." Who's the all-star?

I don't know how we'll get through these next few days. And, I don't want them to end.

Mother asks, "Will this go on forever?" She means pain, dread. "No." She says, "But we'll go on forever. You & me." Yes.

Wake up, see my hands shaking. Mother holds them, murmurs, "Goodnight Sweet Prince." Morphine, but no sleep for her.

Family joins me today. Maybe they'll help me to be strong. My mother showed me how that's done, come to think of it.

I see dawn coming in sky and want to hold it back to keep my mother from what's ahead--to keep my mother, period.

A thought tonight for all who are in pain. We must be stronger than our fears.

If we only truly realized how little time we have..,

Derek, mother's kind & wise nurse, says "Get some sleep. Mothers like to see sons sleep." But I hold her hand while I can.

When my mother woke briefly I sang her My Best Girl. She replied w/ You Are the Sunshine of My Life. Broadway in the ICU.

ICU seems to be staffed by good, smart young docs who think they know everything, and wise RN's who really do.

I just realized: she once had to let me go into the big wide world. Now I have to let her go the same way.

City is cool, bright, & lovely this morning. My mother touches a splash of sunlight w/ her fingers. "Hello, Chicago!"

Just spent 45 mins looking for mother' favorite dental floss. Waste of time? Act of faith.

I am not sure my mother understands Twitter or why I tell her millions of people love her--but she says she's ver touched.

I think she wants me to pass along a couple of pieces of advice, ASAP. One: reach out to someone who seems lonely today.

And: listen to people in their 80's. They have looked across the street at death for a decade. They know what's vital.

Oh, and: Oh earth, you're too wonderful for anyone to realize you. It goes too quickly.

Journos who say they're hard-boiled cause they see so much should know ICU nurses see more in a week. And come out kind.

Been mulling (friendly, Merlot-soaked) arguments with CHitchens on God. Hitch knew more bible & eloquently pointed to inanities. I always wound up saying, as I do now, Maybe you're right. But it's not the way I want to live.

My mother now wakes only to be gracious. "Is Reggie or Don on-duty? They're both such exquisite gentlemen." (and they are)

Mother groans w/ pleasure--over flossing. "When they mention great little things in life, they usually forget flossing."

Breathing hard now. She sleeps, opens eyes a minute, sleeps. I sing, "I'll always be there, as frightened as you," to her.

My family has landed! ICU nurse works on mother's hair, using makeup mirror. Almost falls. Mother: "Don't let that break!"

In another ICU, father of our friend @RobertFalls201 passed away this AM after a helluva fight. We send our love and prayers.

Was my mother saving this line? My family flies in. My wife & I joke about me sleeping in the ICU ("All the beeps! Can't  you med people keep it down?") Tell my mother I'll see my wife downstairs, back in 10. Mother says, "Have a quickie!"                                                                           (1 day ago)

I love holding my mother's hand. Haven't held it like this since I was 9. Why did I stop? I thought it unmanly? What crap.

Thought that my mother won't get another glimpse of the city she loves is unbearable. My wife, from France, points out--

"She is seeing Chicago in the faces of the loving, tough, & kind souls working so hard for her in the ICU." She's right.

Wish clever minds that invented the Space Shuttle or Roomba could devise an oxygen mask that doesn't slip every 20 mins.

In middle of nights like this, my knees shake as if there's an earthquake. I hold my mother's arm for strength--still.

Mother cries Help Me at 2;30. Been holding her like a baby since. She's asleep now. All I can do is hold on to her.

@SarahJonesNews Sarah contact kathy@kathylayne.com who is routing all contact.

Can't hold my mother like a baby indefinitely--have to use the bathroom. My wife coming over w/ my mother's husband.

Her passing might come any moment, or in an hour, or not for a day. Nurses saying hearing is last sense to go so I sing & joke.

When she asked for my help last night, we locked eyes. She calmed down. A look of love that surpasses understanding.

Listening to Nat & Natalie sing Unforgettable. Mother & I sang it just two nights ago. Coles have better voices for sure.

I know end might be near as this is only day of my adulthood I've seen my mother and she hasn't asked, "Why that shirt?"

@michele_norris Thank you, Michele. I miss my friends & colleagues but am so grateful to hear such warm words from so many.

I think I can safely reveal now that last night we snuck a dram of "grape juice" to my mother. Nurses shocked, shocked!

Heart rate dropping. Heart dropping.

The heavens over Chicago have opened and Patricia Lyons Simon Newman has stepped onstage.

She will make the face of heaven shine so fine that all the world will be in love with night.

Thank you for all yr warm wishes and prayers. Such love drives the world.                 (23 hours ago)

The loveli cityscape at the foot of my mother's bed:

HCR -- Government Run Health Care in Montana

Next time someone complains about "government run health care" don't let the phrase pass without asking what they mean. It's the most abused and ignorant phrase in most conversations about health care reform, typically heard in anti-Obamacare rants. We do have government health care in the Veterans Administration, community clinics and the active duty armed services. But most people who complain about government run health care are not thinking about those programs. Typically they have been drinking too much GOP kool aid and are repeating anti-Obamacare talking points. (That's why they are called talking points, not thinking points.)  So tell them about what Montana has started...
Montana's State-Run Free Clinic Sees Early Success
by Dan Boyce
July 30, 2013 

A year ago, Montana opened the nation's first clinic for free primary healthcare services to its state government employees. The Helena, Mont., clinic was pitched as a way to improve overall employee health, but the idea has faced its fair share of political opposition. 
[...]  The state contracts with a private company to run the facility and pays for everything — wages of the staff, total costs of all the visits. Those are all new expenses, and they all come from the budget for state employee healthcare. 
Even so, division manager Russ Hill says it's actually costing the state $1,500,000 less for healthcare than before the clinic opened. 
"Because there's no markup, our cost per visit is lower than in a private fee-for-service environment," Hill says. 
Physicians are paid by the hour, not by the number of procedures they prescribe like many in the private sector. The state is able to buy supplies at lower prices. 
Bottom line: a patient's visit to the employee health clinic costs the state about half what it would cost if that patient went to a private doctor. And because it's free to patients, hundreds of people have come in who had not seen a doctor for at least two years
If your head hasn't exploded already, go to the link for more details. But this quote above tells the reason government-sponsored (face it:  medical professionals actually run the system, not the state)  less costly and just as effective as what comes by way of insurance companies.

Better yet, just listen to the program here:

Morning Twitter Messages -- July 30

I haven't done a Twitter message sweep for a while in favor of subjects that do better with dedicated blog posts. So here is a potpourri for today.

If you aren't aware of Reza Aslan and Zealot you have homework to do. After watching the embarrassing FOX interview, bookmark the much better Fresh Air interview for later listening. He's quite impressive.

The struggle for democracy continues in Bahrain. Videos like this break my heart. The Sunni monarchy there rules the place with an iron hand and minorities are really treated like second-class citizens.

Who needs The Onion when you have Karl reMarks? 

America has left a big bloody footprint in the Middle East. I hope all the war mongerers are happy. Anyone who thinks US policies and actions causing that bleeding began with the attack on the World Trade Center is seriously ignorant about history. It started decades ago and has got worse ever since. And contrary to all the criticisms of Barack Obama about not being assertive enough, it continues to this day. 
"I am deeply concerned about the heightened level of violence which carries the danger that the country falls back into sectarian strife," said acting United Nations envoy to Iraq, Gyorgy Busztin.
"Iraq is bleeding from random violence, which sadly reached record heights during the holy month of Ramadan."
At least 10 people were killed when two car bombs blew up near a bus station in the city of Kut, 150 km (95 miles) southeast of the capital, police said.

...as I said. 


In other news, or more accurately non-news, yesterday's scattered wildcat strikes by fast food workers all over the country received virtually no media attention. They didn't even generate a Twitter hashtag, much less a trend. Sadly, those at the bottom of the economy have always been at the mercy of those who make the rules.  Plus ça change, no?  Suggestions to raise the federal minimum wage fall on deaf ears in good times and have even less impact when times are bad. And anyone who thinks times are good is not paying attention no matter what the numbers say.

In a somewhat dry but excellent long read Daniel Alpert looks at those numbers and draws some dismal conclusions.  The New Sick-onomy? Examining the Entrails of the U.S. Employment Situation  is too long to summarize here, but is a highly recommended piece. He carefully dissects a lot of analytical numbers and documents what most of us already know, that an increasing number of people are being employed in jobs way below their skill sets, living payday to payday and finding that upward mobility is more of a concept than a reality.  (When Atlanta was preparing for the 1996 Olympics a representative from the Olympic committee paid a visit to inspect what was underway. One morning as he left Georgia Tech he observed that construction was just starting for a swimming pool, and when he returned to his hotel that evening was surprised to see the pool was finished. His timeless comment sticks in my memory: "In Europe constructing a swimming pool in one day is an intellectual concept.")

...the fact is that the U.S. employment situation is more of a wounded beast than a bull. And it is a wounded beast whose entrails tell a different story, indeed—one that ties far more convincingly into the anemic sub-2 percent GDP growth rate of the U.S. economy and the sluggish retail sales data we have seen of late....
  • Over 69 percent of the jobs created in Q2 2013 and over 57 percent of all the jobs created in the first half of 2013 were created in the three lowest wage sub-sectors of the economy, Retail Trade, Administrative and Waste Services, and Leisure and Hospitality, that otherwise account for an aggregate of only 33 percent of all private sector jobs. These jobs, in the aggregate, pay an average of only $15.80 per hour, compared with the other two-thirds of private sector jobs, which pay $27.16 per hour. Relative to unemployment benefits and other assistance, jobs at $15.80 per hour put less than $3.00/hour more in the pockets of a newly working consumer. 
  • About half of the jobs created during H1 2013, and a large majority of the jobs created in Q2 2013, appear to have been part-time jobs that offer employees as little as one hour of work per week, and up to 35 hours of work. Moreover, after falling from a recession high of 9.2 million to a post-recession low of 7.6 million at the end of Q1 2013, the number of people saying they are working part time because they can’t find full time work (part time for economic reasons) crept back up to 8.2 million, double pre-recession levels. The U-6 underemployment rate, incorporating those working part time for economic reasons, plus another 6.6 million folks who the Bureau of Labor Statistics does not count as part of the labor force, but who nevertheless say they want a job, as well as others, rose during Q2 2013 to 14.3 percent from the 13.8 percent it registered at the end of Q1. 
  • The U-6 rate topped out at 17.1 percent during the Great Recession, and has only declined by 16.4 percent from its peak, while the official U-3 unemployment rate has declined by 24 percent. 
  • Unsurprisingly, therefore, since the recession it turns out that the decline in the U-3 unemployment rate has been principally due to a reduction in the labor forces itself, which stood at 65.09 percent when unemployment hit its 10 percent peak (down already from the pre-recession high of 66.11 percent) to 63.46 at the end of Q2 2013. If the unemployment rate were calculated at the 65.09 percent labor force participation level, U-3 would stand at 9.77 percent today. 
  • Real wages, calculated after giving effect to inflation, have been falling for nearly fifteen years. But with inflation at or near all-time lows, U.S. families were beginning, on average, to scratch their way back—albeit slowly. But decidedly not so in the sectors in which most of the jobs are being created. On the whole—with hyper-low inflation (which is likely to continue)—U.S. wages are roughly keeping pace across the board (real wages are up 0.07 percent—tiny, but considering that they have been falling for so long, not so bad). But in the three low-wage sectors responsible for the creation of over 69 percent of jobs in Q2 2013, wages have fallen after inflation by -0.7 percent (seven tenths of 1 percent) year over year. In contrast, wages in the high-wages sectors which have generated less than a third of newly created jobs, have risen 0.44 percent after inflation.
There's more. Much more. 
He has loads of charts and numbers to support his argument. But as Dylan said, it doesn't take a weatherman to tell which way the wind is blowing. 
But when the percentage of low-wage sector job creation accelerated sharply from the first quarter into the second quarter of 2013, elevated hopes turned to elevated concerns. The job creation this year may not evidence of a curing trend, but rather continued sickness. I am beginning to believe that we may be seeing workers accepting jobs at wages only marginally above the assistance benefits they were receiving, because their benefits have run out. Employers—seeing a bit more demand (not much, however, given the poor final reading for the growth of Q1 2013 GDP), seeing confidence build from monetary policy-led asset inflation in the housing sectors, and perhaps reacting to the deceptive jobs numbers themselves—have been willing to take on a little extra help here and there after years of cutting back to the bone, as long as that extra help comes dirt cheap and isn’t looking for anything in the way of a raise. 
I am concerned also by the fact that an expansion in revolving consumer credit has accompanied this rise in confidence. Credit card growth led by rising incomes is a great thing. Consumer credit growth resulting from people having jobs paying little more than the assistance they were previously receiving (after all, you can’t get credit when you’re on the dole) is not a good sign—it shows people still can’t make ends meet. It is possible that may be some of what we are seeing. Regardless, I know that what we are taking for a jobs recovery is not the “real thing.”
Personal anecdote here. The neighborhood where we live was already in trouble years before the housing bubble and financial crisis of 2008. What was supposed to be a moderately upscale subdivision of 70 homes got stalled along the way for a variety of reasons and a string of developers never succeeded in finishing the project.   To make a long story short our little cluster of homeowners, about 28 altogether, finally wrested control of the HOA from the last developers and has done all a little group can do to keep one street and a cul-de-sac from looking like the economic casualty it is.

Despite all efforts, those of us who are home owners are being surrounded by rental property as the value of our homes sinks along with the rest of the country's real estate. Recently, however, another foreclosed property has been acquired by a large national company with an interesting business model. Unlike the banks (which are typically poor property managers) and small-time investors with limited resources, this big outfit is buying foreclosed single-family homes at bargain prices, not for resale, but to be marketed as rental property. Their target market is -- wait for it -- people who are now renting, living in apartments, who were once home owners but had to declare bankruptcy and want to be back into a single-family home. They can't "lease with an option to buy" because their credit rating must first recover, so they are stuck renting for a few years.

This shift in real estate management indicates to me that Mr. Alpert (and a growing number of others saying the same thing) that what is being billed as a recovery is not, in fact, anything to brag about. Yesterday's fast food wildcat strikes are just another indicator of the same phenomenon. It all puzzles together.


I thought I was finished, 
but this is too good to pass up.
Karl Sharro is the wittiest ME observer of them all.  He has put together a taxonomy of Arab secularists.
Go read the whole piece. Here is a snip:
The Libertarians 
The libertarians are liberals who also like porn. The good porn with pictures and stuff, not the complicated type in serious novels that liberals and leftists like. 
The Communists 
It used to be said that “when it rains in Moscow, Arab communists open their umbrellas.” But since the demise of the Soviet Union, Arab communists have been wandering around aimlessly, mostly trying to organise the third annual party conference that will bring new blood in. The second conference was organised 47 years ago. 
While waiting for the objective conditions to ripen, Arab communists spend their time calling each other ‘comrade’ and talk about workers’ rights in the abstract. Someone promised to introduce them to some workers and they’re very excited about that. 
Major locations: London, Paris, and one street in Beirut. 
Favourite drink: cheap vodka. 

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Will You Receive an Obamacare Subsidy?

Maggie Mahar breaks down the details at her blog and healthinsurance.org.

Find out the size of a Silver plan premium – and your subsidy.

Eleven states have announced the rates that insurers will be charging in their exchanges-marketplaces where individuals who don’t have employer-sponsored coverage can shop for their own insurance.

Middle-income as well as low-income people buying coverage in the exchanges will be eligible for government subsidies that will come in the form of tax credits. Anyone earning between 100 and 400 percent of the federal poverty level (FPL) (now $11,490 to $45,960 for a single person, and up to $126, 360 for a family of six) will qualify for a tax credit.

Knowing the price of a Silver plan in your region is key to calculating the size of your subsidy. Subsides will be tied to the cost of the second-least expensive Silver plan in your area. The architects of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) wanted to make sure that people who must buy their own insurance can afford that benchmark Silver plan, even in regions where health care is extremely expensive

In the exchanges, insurers will be selling Bronze, Silver, Gold and Platinum plans. All must cover the ten benefits that Congress decided are “essential” (outpatient care, emergency services, hospitalization, maternity and newborn care, mental health and substance abuse disorder services, behavioral health treatment, prescription drugs, rehabilitative services, laboratory services, preventative care and pediatric services, including oral and vision care for children.)

All plans also must offer free preventive care, and they cannot refuse to cover you or charge you more because you suffer from a pre-existing condition.

The only major difference between the four tiers is that Bronze and Silver plans will boast lower premiums, with higher co-pays and deductibles-up to a maximum of $6,340. After that, the insurer pays for all essential benefits. Gold and Platinum plans’ premiums will be higher, but total out-of-pocket spending will be lower.

If your employer offers “affordable” comprehensive insurance, you will not be able to buy coverage in the exchange. You already are receiving a subsidy from your boss. The exchanges will be open only to the self-employed, the unemployed, and employees work for a company that does not offer affordable health benefits.

The size of your subsidy will be based on your income, the number of people in your household, and the price of the benchmark Silver plan in your region.

for tables and charts to get an estimate.

Healthcare Law Explained In 90 Seconds

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Subway Conversation

Joan Walsh is Salon.com editor at large, MSNBC political analyst, author of What's the Matter With White People? Finding Our Way in the Next America'
I came across this exchange between a couple of college kids she overheard on the subway.
And here's the highlight:

Subway home from great @LGRforCollege event...
2 chiseled porcelain near-Ivy League kids holding forth on --wait for it-- Affirmative action.

Boy:   OK slavery was bad, but it’s been over forever, get over it! 

Girl:   I agree, but we don’t know for sure that They're taking our place in college!

 Boy:  Yes we do! They are! 

Girl:  You’re right. Also, they’re loud, and I don’t do well when my sleep Is disrupted! I do have one Hispanic friend, but (but?) she’s smart.

 Boy:  Well my Hispanic friend from high school got in everywhere! And I had better grades! 

Me, as they get off:  Guys, you have to rethink your whole conversation, because you’re so wrong. Please. 

**Doors close**

~~~§  Sleep well, America  §~~~

The Charitable-Industrial Complex by Peter Buffett

Totally essential reading from a man in a position to know what he's talking about.

The Charitable-Industrial Complex
By Peter Buffett

I had spent much of my life writing music for commercials, film and television and knew little about the world of philanthropy as practiced by the very wealthy until what I call the big bang happened in 2006. That year, my father, Warren Buffett, made good on his commitment to give nearly all of his accumulated wealth back to society. In addition to making several large donations, he added generously to the three foundations that my parents had created years earlier, one for each of their children to run.

Early on in our philanthropic journey, my wife and I became aware of something I started to call Philanthropic Colonialism. I noticed that a donor had the urge to “save the day” in some fashion. People (including me) who had very little knowledge of a particular place would think that they could solve a local problem. Whether it involved farming methods, education practices, job training or business development, over and over I would hear people discuss transplanting what worked in one setting directly into another with little regard for culture, geography or societal norms.

Often the results of our decisions had unintended consequences; distributing condoms to stop the spread of AIDS in a brothel area ended up creating a higher price for unprotected sex.

But now I think something even more damaging is going on.

Because of who my father is, I’ve been able to occupy some seats I never expected to sit in. Inside any important philanthropy meeting, you witness heads of state meeting with investment managers and corporate leaders. All are searching for answers with their right hand to problems that others in the room have created with their left. There are plenty of statistics that tell us that inequality is continually rising. At the same time, according to the Urban Institute, the nonprofit sector has been steadily growing. Between 2001 and 2011, the number of nonprofits increased 25 percent. Their growth rate now exceeds that of both the business and government sectors. It’s a massive business, with approximately $316 billion given away in 2012 in the United States alone and more than 9.4 million employed.

Philanthropy has become the “it” vehicle to level the playing field and has generated a growing number of gatherings, workshops and affinity groups.

As more lives and communities are destroyed by the system that creates vast amounts of wealth for the few, the more heroic it sounds to “give back.” It’s what I would call “conscience laundering” — feeling better about accumulating more than any one person could possibly need to live on by sprinkling a little around as an act of charity.

But this just keeps the existing structure of inequality in place. The rich sleep better at night, while others get just enough to keep the pot from boiling over. Nearly every time someone feels better by doing good, on the other side of the world (or street), someone else is further locked into a system that will not allow the true flourishing of his or her nature or the opportunity to live a joyful and fulfilled life.

And with more business-minded folks getting into the act, business principles are trumpeted as an important element to add to the philanthropic sector. I now hear people ask, “what’s the R.O.I.?” when it comes to alleviating human suffering, as if return on investment were the only measure of success. Microlending and financial literacy (now I’m going to upset people who are wonderful folks and a few dear friends) — what is this really about? People will certainly learn how to integrate into our system of debt and repayment with interest. People will rise above making $2 a day to enter our world of goods and services so they can buy more. But doesn’t all this just feed the beast?

I’m really not calling for an end to capitalism; I’m calling for humanism.

Often I hear people say, “if only they had what we have” (clean water, access to health products and free markets, better education, safer living conditions). Yes, these are all important. But no “charitable” (I hate that word) intervention can solve any of these issues. It can only kick the can down the road.

My wife and I know we don’t have the answers, but we do know how to listen. As we learn, we will continue to support conditions for systemic change.

It’s time for a new operating system. Not a 2.0 or a 3.0, but something built from the ground up. New code.

What we have is a crisis of imagination. Albert Einstein said that you cannot solve a problem with the same mind-set that created it. Foundation dollars should be the best “risk capital” out there.

There are people working hard at showing examples of other ways to live in a functioning society that truly creates greater prosperity for all (and I don’t mean more people getting to have more stuff).

Money should be spent trying out concepts that shatter current structures and systems that have turned much of the world into one vast market. Is progress really Wi-Fi on every street corner? No. It’s when no 13-year-old girl on the planet gets sold for sex. But as long as most folks are patting themselves on the back for charitable acts, we’ve got a perpetual poverty machine.

It’s an old story; we really need a new one.

Peter Buffett is a composer and a chairman of the NoVo Foundation.

The News From Egypt Is Not Good

Without more information 
I am reluctant to comment. 
Here are the Twitter messages.

If Issandr El Amrani sez ridiculous it very likely is.  

(Let's hope this is true.) 
Photos by Mosa'ab Elshamy. Many more at the link. 

Brilliant, indeed. 

This next message is one of a kind -- hopefully. 
 I wish it didn't give me a bad feeling it may not be.

Friday, July 26, 2013

All Qaeda Is Getting Stronger, Bigger and Better Organized

From the Brookings Institution...
Two spectacular al Qaeda prison breaks in Iraq, freeing over 500 of its members in two separate prisons simultaneously this week, demonstrate the group is back with a vengeance. Al Qaeda’s Iraq branch is also the moving force behind the jihadist success in Syria. The resurgence of al Qaeda in Iraq has sobering implications for what is likely to follow the drawdown of NATO forces in Afghanistan for the al Qaeda mother ship in Pakistan. 
The double jailbreaks at Abu Ghraib and Taji prisons were massive attacks. Suicide bombers, teams of attackers using mortars and small arms, and two dozen car bombs were used. The firefight killed over a hundred Iraqi guards. The attackers also had inside help within the Iraqi security forces. The attacks were the culmination of what al Qaeda in Iraq’s leadership had promised a year ago when it launched the “Breaking the Walls” offensive to free its prisoners from Iraqi jails. 
Al Qaeda in Iraq, or the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, as it is officially named, was created by Abu Musab al Zarqawi in the wake of the American invasion of Iraq in 2003. A Jordanian, Zarqawi had worked with Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan before 9/11 and built many connections in Iraq in the months before the war. Within months of the occupation, his terror gang was killing American troops and Iraqi Shia and taking the country to civil war. Bin Laden publicly anointed him al Qaeda’s amir for the entire region including Iraq, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, and even Turkey. 
(More at the link)  

From NY Times...
Islamist extremists in Syria’s insurgency killed 150 soldiers in a battle for control of an Aleppo suburb this week, including 51 who were executed after they had surrendered, according to a Syrian monitoring group that has been chronicling casualties and evidence of atrocities.

The group, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which sympathizes with the opposition and reports daily tallies of combat and violence from a network of contacts on the ground in Syria, corroborated its assertion on Friday with a video  posted on the Internet. 
The video, dated Wednesday, showed what appeared to be an execution ground, with dozens of lifeless bodies clumped against a wall pockmarked with bullet holes. The video’s authenticity could not be independently confirmed, but Rami Abdulrahman, the Syrian Observatory founder, quoted witnesses as saying 51 soldiers taken prisoner were later shot. Among the total who had surrendered, he said, “very few were taken hostage.” 
Mr. Abdulrahman said the killers were members of the Nusra Front and Ansar al-Khalafa al-Islamiya Brigade, among the many jihadist groups, some affiliated with Al Qaeda and populated with foreign fighters, that have entered Syria to join the insurgency battling the forces of President Bashar al-Assad in the conflict, now in its third year. 
If his assertions are confirmed, the killings would rank among the worst mass executions carried out by the rebel side and could aggravate the image problems for the coalition of insurgent forces, which are already riven by internal conflict and have been losing territory to Mr. Assad’s side in recent weeks. 
(More at the link.)

Brookings Continues...
So far this month al Qaeda terrorist attacks have killed over 500 in Iraq. Its leader today, Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, promises many more deaths. 
At the same time, al Qaeda in Iraq has been the moving force behind the birth and growth of al Qaeda’s franchise in Syria. One of Zarqawi’s protégés, Muhammad al Golani, was sent by al Qaeda in Iraq to set up the al Nusra Front in 2011. By mid-2012 it had become one of the most effective groups in the Syrian opposition movement to Bashar al-Assad’s government. It got considerable support in money, arms, and men from the Iraqi front. 
Now al Qaeda in Syria is getting hundreds of volunteer fighters from across the Islamic world, all coming to join the struggle. This week Dutch police arrested a 19-year-old Muslim girl in The Hague who was helping to organize the recruitment and movement of Dutch Muslim citizens to Syria to join the al Nusra Front. Dutch sources say over a hundred have already gone. In Pakistan, the al Qaeda–affiliated Taliban says it is sending fighters to join the battle in Syria and support al Qaeda. Syria has become what Afghanistan, Bosnia, and Iraq were to earlier generations of jihadists: the epicenter of the global jihad. From Western Europe to Southeast Asia, the networks that shipped fighters to Iraq a decade ago are now sending them to Syria. 
The al Qaeda group has also begun spreading its influence into Lebanon as well. One well-informed observer reports that “from Tripoli to Akkar, and from Sidon to the heart of Beirut, black Salafi-jihadi flags and banners have been spotted in increasing numbers, a picture unseen before in Lebanon’s history.” The Shia Hezbollah’s support for Assad is creating an all-too-predictable backlash of support for al Qaeda and other extremist Sunni groups inside Lebanon. 
Over the objections of al Golani, the Iraqi al Qaeda leadership has insisted it is in charge of the entire al Qaeda movement in the Fertile Crescent states, arguing it has inherited the mandate that bin Laden gave to Zarqawi a decade ago. Bin Laden’s successor, Ayman Zawahiri, has sided with al Golani and wants the two groups kept separate, each reporting to him. Al Baghdadi is proving as independent and difficult to manage as Zarqawi was in his heyday, when he too defied Zawahiri’s injunctions to be more restrained in his attacks on Shia targets. 
The regeneration of al Qaeda in Iraq and its spread into Syria and Lebanon has important lessons for dealing with al Qaeda in South Asia. In the last five years President Obama has made considerable gains in disrupting and dismantling the al Qaeda core leadership in Pakistan, as he promised he would. Bin Laden’s death, and the death of many of his key lieutenants by drones, has put the mother ship of al Qaeda on the defensive. But it too is not defeated. 
Al Qaeda in Pakistan is embedded in a deep network of support groups, including the Taliban and Lashkar e Tayyiba, which help protect it and give it sanctuary, especially in cities like Karachi. It is under virtually no pressure from the Pakistani government. The government’s own secret investigation of how bin Laden lived for almost a decade inside Pakistan before the SEALs delivered justice concludes that the Pakistani intelligence service, ISI, is either hopelessly incompetent or complicit in working with al Qaeda.
All of which means that if American pressure on al Qaeda in Pakistan diminishes after the NATO withdrawal of combat forces next year from Afghanistan, we can expect a rapid regeneration of al Qaeda in Pakistan. The drones all fly from bases in Afghanistan, without which there is no pressure on al Qaeda next door in Pakistan. Iraq is a sobering lesson in what happens when a battered al Qaeda movement gets a second chance.

2008 Presidential Campaign Vignette

I followed the primary and general election campaigns of 2008 in the longest and most visited post I ever published. While looking this morning for something unrelated, I came across this exchange in a long comments section of my old blog, Hootsbuddy's Place.  This exchange is dated January 9, 2008.  

Now, five years later, Islamophobia remains just as widespread, perhaps more so, than it was in 2008 so this snapshot gets a repost for this year's Ramadan. 

Barry said...

Scrolling through your comments over the last year it is safe to say anyone with a view other than your own is sure to be crucified. However it is worth the risk to at least quickly address the muslim issue. Today it is not logical to trust any politician that would state Islam is a religion of peace. No one thinking sanely can argue the fact that although not all muslims are terrorists, today, in our time, almost all terrorists are muslim. Radical Islam is a threat to Western Civilization, and until we admit that we are no different than the Ostich (sic) and the sand, and when I hear more peaceful muslims condemn terrorism, my opinion will change. Recently a man was threatened and insulted in Tulsa, OK for doing just that in his local Mosque.

Hoots said...

I'm sorry you have concluded that anyone who does not agree with me will be "crucified." I make every effort to be both clear and tolerant without being ugly. So far I have not deleted a single comment from this thread...and I have intentionally left a few without any response from me because they speak for themselve. I do admit to having little patience with avoidable ignorance, race-baiting, rumor-passing and getting way off topic (the post title is "What is Barack Obama's Religion").

Getting to your comment, you stated "it is not logical to trust any politician that would state Islam is a religion of peace." It took only a second to find that George Bush made that remark as headlined on a White House website entry.

My point is not that Bush is trustworthy but that in the realm of politics there are many reasons for anyone to use language that may well be intended to be conciliatory rather than inflammatory.

Incidentally, that line about "not all muslims are terrorists [but]almost all terrorists are muslim" was written by a Muslim. The writer was being very self-critical of his own faith.

I hope you don't take these points to be a crucifixion. I simply have a hard time letting ignorance pass unmentioned.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Aerial Photo of Rio de Janeiro

Some Twitter messages are pretty enough to blog.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Hate and Threats In Your Face

James Carville's description of Pennsylvania as "Philadelphia and Pittsburgh with Alabama in between" is an insult to Alabama. There are still pockets of hate in Alabama as there are in every state, but our neighbors to the West mostly got rid of ugliness like this years ago. 

Top cop's profanity-laced video goes viral
Police chief in small Schuylkill County town says he made the video to draw attention to gun rights.
By Nicole Radzievich, Jacob Seibel and Samantha Marcus, Of The Morning Call

July 23, 2013
GILBERTON ——  In a YouTube video with nearly 20,000 hits, Gilberton police Chief Mark Kessler fires restricted weapons in a profanity-riddled monologue off an old stripping road in this tiny coal region borough. 
Despite the ensuing media stir and calls to Borough Hall the video generated Tuesday, Mayor Mary Lou Hannon said she saw no reason to discipline Kessler, who said he made the video to draw attention to gun rights. Hannon noted he did it on his own time and violated no laws. 
Tuesday on his Facebook page, Kessler called for
a massive rally
to “show these tyrants we will not
stand for any more violations on our constitution or
 our freedoms.”
"Each member of council, each employee and each citizen is not only entitled to their own political opinions, but also the right to express them," she said in a prepared statement. "We will not take action to quash free speech, whether or not each member of council or any member of council agrees with it."

[...]  In an interview, Hannon said she understands how the video could appear alarming to those who don't know Kessler, but she believes the borough is safer with him than without him. She described the video, which she and other council members viewed Tuesday morning, as something from "an R-rated movie." 
[...]   Kessler said he made the video and other videos to draw attention to efforts to restrict guns. He specifically pointed to public statements that politicians made after the Dec. 14 shooting in Newtown, Conn., where 20 children and six adults died. He called the shooting "a tragedy" but condemned the person who shot the gun, not the gun. 
Kessler, the borough's chief for 14 years and a freshman member of the North Schuylkill School Board, said he used profanity to get attention. He said he's gotten thousands of emails over the last two weeks from supporters across the nation. 
More at the link. 

Link here to his now famous profanity-laced video. (NSFW)

Here is a screen shot from 


==►  I started to make a different blog post featuring the latest George Zimmerman story, about how he was at the right place at the right time to help get a family to safety after their vehicle overturned in Sanford, Florida.  Zimmerman is not in any way connected with the story above, but the comments section I just came across simmers with many of the same sentiments to which the Pennsylvania police chief appeals -- resentment of Liberals and bigotry writ large and getting larger.  

The Daily Mail tracked down Mark and Dana Michelle Gerstleat
 their home, but says they are refusing to talk because they don’t 
want to be accused of painting Zimmerman as a hero and face 
those who are furious with the jury’s verdict.“They are very
 grateful to Zimmerman for what he did, but they do not want to
 get involved,” a family friend told the Daily Mail.
►Who has caused this families fear….Barack Hussein Obama and his evil minion Eric “Racist” Holder. Mr. President heal the nation and end the madness…

►He’s not a coward. I understand why he doesn’t want to ask questions. He is right, people will target them & accuse them of making up the story. There’s no reason why he needs to come out to the press & justify anything, as long as they know the truth, that’s all that matters. As far as George Zimmerman, he can’t fool Karma, he’s going to have to do a lot more than help a family out of their car in order to build up enough good karma to save him from the black hole.

►So, he is not allowed to protect his family from the crazy leftists and black racists out there who might want to do them harm because this accident might have made Zimmerman look heroic?? Are you friggin’ kidding?

satan now rules America. 
►Taking precautions against the small army of racist thugs terrorists that the CBC, Holder, and Obama have aimed at anyone associated with Zimmerman, even marginally isn’t cowardice when you have the lives of two small children to worry about. Don’t think for an instant that these monsters on the left wouldn’t murder these two innocent children just to make their point. 
We just need to get the Race War that’s coming started and get it over with already……. 
►Doesn’t anyone have the courage to stand up for whats right anymore? Why do people let these thugs intimidate them? Yes, these professional victims exist everywhere, including the White House, but look what decades of coddling created. I stand with Zimmerman. 
►It’s “Don’t get involved”, “let someone else help” ,or “I might get sued.” Over time we have been reeducated; don’t stop, don’t look, and don’t help. When seconds count, the police are minutes, or sometimes even hours away. We have become a nation of gutless cowards. We are now being trained that it is wrong to even defend ourselves. In grammar school, your kids are being PUNISHED for standing up for themselves against bullies. What kind of adults do you think they will grow up to be? Just the kind our administration wants. More cowardly passive and dependent than even some of us are now. 
This family’s fear is the embodiment of everything we’ve been saying about liberals and the kind of people they are – this family is saved from their vehicle crash – but the libs threaten to hurt them? I guess the “caring” libs expected the family to turn to GZ and say – OMG – it’s YOU. Get away! I’d rather burn in this vehicle than have YOU pull me out.
Remember – libs’ hero (drunk hero) walked away from the vehicle he himself crashed, leaving Mary Jo Kopechne to drown alone. And I don’t remember the libs doing anything but standing behind their guy for it. 
►This is all we need to know to prove who liberals really are – they’re dangerous, self-serving, and out of control and they don’t actually give a d** about anybody but themselves (for all their empty chest beating about how caring and diverse they are). 
**Wholeheartedly agree 
Our GOD IS NOT a god of fear, but of courage and a sound mind.
Guess who the administration serves?
**Amen Grandma, amen. 
**In the end one serves either God or the Devil, and the leftist of the administration have demonstrated by word and deed where their ultimate allegiance lay.
Another amen here KICK………….Satan is alive and well and has moved into our White House. 
**Galations 6:14, “far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” 
**We really need to put on the whole armor of God, and not be afraid. Better to die doing good than to sit around bemoaning this government. If we don’t get involved in getting good people in this government, who will? George Zimmerman is being trashed by our useless president and the left, I for one am sick of it. Thanks for the comment Granny

I could go on for pages, but this is enough to make the point.  A large, angry subset of the population appears to be trembling with rage. And when religion becomes part of the argument little remains separating them from extremists whom we read about in other countries who have crossed the line from non-violence to violence. What is being expressed here is more than offensive. It is potentially dangerous. 

I hate to say it, but these people are a good reason for the National Security Agency to keep an eye on a large part of the population.  No wonder some of them don't want anyone looking over their shoulder. 

Morning Twitter Messages -- July 24

Haven't done one of these for a while. Since there is no one spectacular big story, here's today's mixture....

The Price of Hypocrisy
24.07.2013 · Even the best laws will not lead to a safer internet. We need a sharper picture of the information apocalypse that awaits us in a world where personal data is traded to avert the catastrophy.

The problem with the sick, obsessive superpower revealed to us by Edward Snowden is that it cannot bring itself to utter the one line it absolutely must utter before it can move on: “My name is America and I’m a dataholic.” For American spies, Big Data is like crack cocaine: just a few doses – and you can forget about mending your way and kicking the habit. Yes, there’s an initial illusion of grandeur and narcissistic omnipotence – just look at us, we could prevent another 9/11! – but a clearer, unmediated brain would surely notice that one’s judgment has been severely impaired. Prevent another 9/11? When two kids with extensive presence on social media can blow up a marathon in Boston? Really? All this data, all this sacrifice– and for what? 
So let us not pass over America’s surveillance addiction in silence. It is real; it has consequences; and the world would do itself a service by sending America to a Big Data rehab. But there’s more to learn from the Snowden affair. It has also busted a number of myths that are only peripherally related to surveillance: myths about the supposed benefits of decentralized and commercially-operated digital infrastructure, about the current state of technologically-mediated geopolitics, about the existence of a separate realm known as “cyberspace.” We must take stock of where we are and reflect on where we soon will be, especially if we fail to confront – legally but, even more importantly, intellectually – the many temptations of information consumerism.
Long read here, folks. 
Bookmark it and be sure to come back later.

==►I was wondering this morning when I heard a curious story about Liberals and Tea Party types in Congress holding hands in unity to reign in the excesses of the National Security Agency. (Read stop the appropriations.) how many will also be wanting Edward Snowden's head on a platter cuz he spilled the beans they didn't know were there. 

Obviously, I am biased. Not only did I receive an invitation, but I also was the Editor of MuslimsForObama.com and so these debates about whether Obama is anti-Muslim and whether he deserves any support from the Muslim community are not new. What is new, however, is the unseemly and hostile tone of these attacks on the President and fellow Muslims, especially during Ramadan.

Is this the kind of language and behavior that characterizes our community? Is this type of rhetoric appropriate in Ramadan? I think not.

I believe that as a political community, we can and should have a debate on these issues. But the way to effect change is not to burn a bridge with the Administration, which is what the angry activists would have us do. Look at their arguments on the hashtag – they accuse the President of being a murderer and make sickening jokes about force-feeding the attendees at the iftar. This is a childish tantrum that delegitimizes the efforts by the community to gain influence and persuade the Administration of our perspectives. It undermines everything that the actual leaders of the Muslim community – not these self-styled moral scolds on Twitter – have been working for towards the actual betterment of our community for decades.

The reason that Presidents Bush and Obama hold these events is to meet ordinary Muslims face to face, hear our stories, and understand how we are a part of the fabric of America. It is why President Bush was the first to call Islam “a religion of Peace” after 9-11. It is why President Obama has included Muslim Americans in his Administration, including Farah Pandith and Rashad Hussain. Events like these Iftars are the reason why Obama spoke out against Terry Jones’ plan to burn the Qur’an, supported the Park 51 project, and defended the role of Muslim Americans during the State of the Union even as the Republicans were holding “witch-hunt” hearings about us on Capitol Hill. When it comes to the Muslim American community, President Obama has consistently emphasized our importance, rejected offensive terminology and Islamophobia, and made it clear that Islam rejects violent extremism.

Remember, Muslim Americans are Americans. Yes, we should be concerned and have a debate about drone strikes in Yemen and in Pakistan, but those are decisions that Obama made in the context of national security, which includes and benefits our community too. We cannot expect all of Obama’s governance to be made through the filter of our concerns. Obama is not just the President for Muslim Americans, but all Americans, and sometimes we are going to have to agree to disagree. That does not make us any less a part of America and it does not invalidate the very real efforts Obama has made to address our community and include us in the conversation about our life here.

We should be thankful this Ramadan that President Obama continues his outreach to our community. And we should disavow any self-styled leader of the Muslim community who acts in such a manner and publicly shames and embarasses us all.

The poll was conducted four days after U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry's announcement last Friday that negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians would resume. Following that announcement, Netanyahu, under pressure from his right-wing coalition partners, pledged that he would bring any peace deal to a referendum.

I sincerely wish Americans were less ignorant regarding the Kurds. Here is a helpful recent link for anyone wanting to catch up...

Turkey Kurds: PKK chief Ocalan calls for ceasefire
The jailed leader of Kurdish rebels fighting Turkey, Abdullah Ocalan, has called for a truce after years of war. 
Ocalan also urged the fighters of his PKK organisation to withdraw from Turkey, in a message read out to cheers during Kurdish New Year celebrations in the city of Diyarbakir. 
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan cautiously welcomed the call.
More than 40,000 people have died in the 30-year fight for an ethnic Kurdish homeland in Turkey's south-east. 
Mr Erdogan said the move was "positive" but stressed the importance of the implementation of any ceasefire. He said Turkish security forces would not undertake fresh operations against the rebels if Ocalan's call was implemented. The military leader of the PKK, Murat Karayilan, said that he "very strongly" supported Ocalan's move.
"All of Turkey, Kurdistan and the world must know this: as the PKK movement, we are ready for war and for peace," he told the Kurdish Firat news agency.
Hundreds of thousands of people were present in Diyarbarkir to hear Ocalan's message, which follows months of talks between the PKK and Turkey.