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All posts for the month January, 2023

Seriously…

Published January 27, 2023 by Nan Mykel

Keith Wilson of Musings of an Old Fart shares with us:

A nonpartisan and knowledgeable voice on US debt and deficit concern

From the desk of Maya MacGuineas of the nonpartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. I will offer no additional comment as it speaks for itself.

“Today, the Treasury Department announced that it has begun engaging in a set of accounting tools known as “extraordinary measures” to avoid breaching the nation’s $31.38 trillion statutory debt limit. Those measures are expected to delay that breach until at least early June and possibly later.

Without qualification, the debt limit must be increased or suspended, and it should be done so as quickly as possible. Ideally, we would return to the practice of lifting the debt ceiling without relying on extraordinary measures – which have become all too ordinary – and refrain from making the increase anything close to a last-minute showdown.

The debt ceiling is too important to turn into a game of chicken, and default should never be suggested by those with a fiduciary responsibility to govern the nation. Politicians who are rightly worried about the nation’s unsustainable borrowing path should take a hard stance against new borrowing and oppose legislation that would add to the debt while offering specific solutions to control the debt already on the books, rather than threatening not to pay the bills on borrowing that has already been incurred.

The debt ceiling does offer the opportunity for all lawmakers to pause, assess the fiscal situation of the nation, and take action as necessary. And it is necessary. The debt as a share of GDP is at near record levels. We are on track to begin adding $2 trillion per year to the debt by the end of the decade. Interest payments are the fastest growing part of the budget and are projected to start costing $1 trillion annually in only a few years. The Social Security and Medicare Hospital Insurance trust funds are headed toward insolvency. And last year alone, Congress and the President passed bipartisan legislation that added nearly $2 trillion to the projected national debt. This is an urgent problem that is not getting the attention it needs.

An ideal solution would be for Congress to lift the debt ceiling as soon as possible and at the same time put in place measures to improve our fiscal trajectory. This could include specific policies or processes such as a fiscal commission.

Attaching fiscal reforms to the debt limit was common practice in the past when both policies and processes to improve fiscal responsibility were included as part of a deal. More recently, in a jaw-dropping act of fiscal irresponsibility, politicians in both parties pivoted to support debt ceiling increases along with legislation that made the debt worse. Under President Trump, the debt ceiling was lifted three times with bipartisan support and included legislation that added in total a stunning $2.1 trillion in new borrowing to the debt.

Congress should return to the past model of a debt ceiling increase, legislation to improve the fiscal situation, and a broad based understanding that the debt ceiling must be increased in a calm and timely manner. We must not threaten default. The cost is simply too high.“

A COMMON SENSE APPROACH TO GUN DEATHS

Published January 25, 2023 by Nan Mykel

An opinion piece in the New York Times by Nicholas Kristof yesterday titled “A Smarter Way to Reduce Gun Deaths” is worth an entire read. In it Kristof faults both liberals and conservatives for focussing more on divisive approaches than common sense expeditious methods, and his suggestions are backed by (shudder) statistics. Kristof responds to the observation that for decades, we’ve treated gun violence as a battle to be won rather than a problem to be solved — and this has gotten us worse than nowhere.

See NY Times, Nicholas Kristof   January 24 2023

Me and My Shadows

Published January 25, 2023 by Nan Mykel

I like being me inside my head
and never want to empty out
leaving my cavern of echoes.

What’s it like inside your head?
I wonder and wander–
can we try to compare?

Show me yours I’ll show mine.
Hear me think–no not that
I don’t smoke, snort, sniff or shoot

I’d choose psychotic
over robotic
any day or night.

Please! I don’t want to be a robot
instead of being me–not that
being me’s so hot but inside I can see

Pictures dancing in my head–
Metaphors chasing similes.
Feeling nothing’s what I dread.

I want me inside, not that.
Me and my shadows feel less lonely
than nothing and nothing.

Nan, about 2018

The Artist’s Studio

Published January 20, 2023 by Nan Mykel

You always suspected there was a place like this inside,
right? There’s more than science rolled up into the Self:
the arts, the experience of beauty, mystical sensitivity, the
home of the oceanic feeling, the pull toward the unknown, music,
other art forms, the experience of which communicate directly
with the experience of others, bypassing strictly cognitive
processing. The creative urge–the valuing of its products and
curiosity–will always stave off boredom; at least that’s been
my experience.

Metaphors rule in the language of dreams and artistic creations,
and stem from our very evolutionary roots. I think of metaphors
as strong similes. Similes use “like” (He acts like a bear in
the morning, versus the stronger statement “He is a bear in
the morning.”)

“The Artist’s Studio” could be a metamorphic way of referring
to the place we’re probably both in right now, or at least
headed that way. We need to attune our ears to metaphors if we
hope to receive feedback from our inner Self. That’s the
language it speaks. If you’ve ever tried to write a poem you
may have struggled. Let’s try an experiment if you’re game
[a metaphor?] Write a 1 or 2-line metaphorical (“loose”)
description of poetry. Okay, you can come up with several
versions. (No roses are red). Remember the Journal.

“If you can’t be a poet be a poem.”

HOW IN THE BLAZES DID I MISS THAT!?!

Published January 16, 2023 by Nan Mykel

Sarah Huckabee Sanders ran for and has become the governor of Arkansas?!? Where have I been! (If you’re surprised also, my source is David Badash on today’s AlterNet:

“We have to make sure that we are not indoctrinating our kids and that these policies and these ideas never see the light of day, we should never teach our kids to hate America or that America is a racist and evil country. In fact, it should be the exact opposite.”

How Could an Old Column Be So Rousingly Pertinent?

Published January 15, 2023 by Nan Mykel

I’ve been impressed recently by what I’ve learned about the Boston Review. I just read an excellent article about MLK and thought it right-on, today. Surprised to see a 2015 date on it, I thought such longstanding truth should not go unshared. It is even more TIMELY than then!

The celebration of King’s official legacy as a cuddly figure of unity and tolerance serves to erase his politics from public memory. by Simon Waxman

AMERICANS LOVE KING BECAUSE THEY DON’T UNDERSTAND HIM

Each year, the Martin Luther King holiday brings with it a barrage of citations and encomia. Yesterday was no exception. His least controversial words were quoted and contorted to suit every political whim. His legacy was again burnished by all. We were reminded that by now he is not a man but a civic saint.

All this agreement should give us pause. King was a divisive figure. Though his dreams—what we mostly remember today, because we like to pretend we’ve achieved them—bent toward harmony, his actions evoked tension and won the ire even of many who considered themselves civil rights supporters.

If Americans knew what King stood for, there would be no day named in his honor. It would be impossible to capitalize on his legacy by, say, selling cosmetics, as the Mary Kay Foundation attempted. Indeed, the celebration of King’s official legacy as a cuddly figure of unity and tolerance serves to erase his politics from public memory.

Rather than sup on anodyne statements endlessly recalled, consider what King wrote, in context. Don’t celebrate “a nation where [people] will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” We don’t live in that nation. Instead, read the 1963 Letter from Birmingham Jail.
His least controversial words are quoted and contorted to suit every political whim.

In the letter King elegantly and without compromise rejects the moderation of white liberals who counsel patience and deference even to unjust law: “You may well ask: ‘Why direct action? Why sit-ins, marches and so forth? Isn’t negotiation a better path?’ You are quite right in calling for negotiation. Indeed, this is the very purpose of direct action. Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks to so dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored.”

This is what the protestors who recently blocked Interstate 93 in Boston sought to do, to a dismissive response. In the Boston Globe, Kevin Cullen called the demonstrators “zealots” who “alienated” supporters by trying to foreclose what he is willing to admit is at least an important “conversation” (our endless “conversation” about racial justice). Twitter was similarly unmoved.

The reaction suggests we have had too many dreams, believed too many of them fulfilled, and generally failed to understand King’s message. Those complaining of delay, piously condemning protestors for estranging allies, are reprising the role of the fainthearted clergymen to whom King addressed his letter. “I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner,” he wrote, “but the white moderate, who is more devoted to ‘order’ than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: ‘I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action.’”

The obstacle to equality, King knew, was not limited to racist ideology. It included the timidity of moderates.

It is not surprising that some wonder at the I-93 protest and similar events throughout the country, which don’t seem obviously related to abusive policing, the racist challenge most present to our minds. How, the moderate asks, is a highway stoppage supposed to combat racism? How can it be a good thing if people miss appointments or are late for work?

These questions make sense if your life is generally free of significant inconvenience, but if you’re black in America, that is probably not your life. Not for nothing are the words “stop” and “arrest” synonymous. In fact the roads are especially important sites of racist policing. Police stops on highways and city streets are essential tools for the surveillance of black men. To experience this sudden inconvenience, and be open to the meaning of it, is to recognize in small measure what it is like to be unaided by the comforts and accelerators money can buy. This is some of what poverty—a status most prevalent among nonwhites—means. It means struggling against impediments that those of privilege cannot identify until we are forced to face them.

But the protest, read beside King, also shows how much has changed since the Civil Rights movement. Here I refer not to real and superficial improvements in the behavior of whites toward nonwhites and in the achievements of the latter but to the workings of racism. Today’s racism is different from that of the Jim Crow era, and the methods of direct action that the Civil Rights Movement pioneered are, in our time, hard to implement successfully.

King urged direct action against unjust laws. But laws barring people from disrupting traffic are not unjust. They are not like the laws of segregation and disenfranchisement. It was wrong to ban blacks from restaurants, public transit, hotels, voting, and other goods that whites enjoyed, so it was necessary for civil rights agitators to oppose those bans by flouting them.

Today’s civil rights action is necessarily more symbolic than yesterday’s because today’s racism is not a function of unjust laws so much as unjust implementation and institutions. No one need spout racist rhetoric or pass legislation to divide and demean. As legal scholar Richard Thompson Ford argues in a forthcoming essay in Boston Review, we live amid a tacit agreement whereby whites are still largely segregated from nonwhites in work, school, and residence. Poor people live in ghettoes and prisons, under surveillance as provided by the war on drugs, policing of lifestyle infractions, and patrol strategies predicated on fear of nonwhite men. All of these follow political decisions. Officers are doing what citizens ask of them, while the private choices of those citizens help to ensure that vast economic and educational disparities persist in spite of formal equality of opportunity.

So while there is good reason to locate a protest on a highway, it is easy to appreciate why a lot of observers will not grasp the civil rights message in it. The Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and ’60s eliminated most of the legal sources of oppression, revealing informal foundations of racism so deep they are hard to fathom.

Therefore the civil rights action of our time must protest not just obviously unjust laws, but also the subtle means by which white supremacy is maintained. That it is so maintained is undeniable. The median net worth of whites is thirteen times that of blacks, ten times that of Latinos. Though too many white Americans are in prison, there is still a far greater chance you’ll wind up jailed if you’re black. Nationally, felon disenfranchisement laws ensure that one in eight black men can’t vote; in some states, the rate is much higher. Blacks are half as likely as whites to have earned bachelors degrees, and those blacks who do graduate college get less in return. Being black means you have fewer years to live. These are markers of a society riven by unfairness.

As the recent focus on police violence has clarified, that unfairness is accompanied by tension. Today’s civil rights protestors are not the source of tension, but they are, like their predecessors, fostering it so that it can be turned in productive directions. This involves sacrifices by some, but they don’t have to be in vain. It might be easier to see why that is—to see the value of this protest—if we celebrated the actual King and his radicalism rather than the inoffensive persona created to serve the status quo.

Americans Love King Because They Don’t Understand Him

Crime Doesn’t Pay?

Published January 13, 2023 by Nan Mykel

How come so many people of color are in prison over drugs, yet millionaires get by with paying for their crimes with a fine? And why are federal prisons so much nicer than state prisons? Does that mean that federal crimes are less major? what’s going on at Rikers Island anyway?

I’ve been impressed recently how misuse of emotional language interferes with clear thinking. My New Year’s resolution is to steer clear of it.

And I’d love to hear your thoughts about how anyone with an ounce of compassion could be against Social Security and Medicare. I’ll have to learn how to join one of those back and forth conversations that I stumble across every now and then.

Real love is a blessing for those who have known it and can share it.

WHAT TIME IS IT?

Published January 10, 2023 by Nan Mykel

One of my computer screens comes with a color photo of the universe as best we can see on the newest telescope, but. I’ve decided that may not be healthy for us.

Common sense appears to suggest that if you wait long enough a monkey can produce a good novel; Just endless time may be needed. On the other hand, scientists insist there’s no such thing as time. Some of them even talk about multiple universes. While looking unsuccessfully for the recently published book about the Effects of physics on physicists ..(maybe it’s in the other bookcase) — I was impressed by the number of books on Google about that very topic. One outfit has something called “Why So Many Physicists Write Crime Novels.”  I didn’t know they did, but I didn’t have the anticipated charges for subscribing. The book I bought and can’t find was on the effects of physics on their discoverers. (One temporarily went crazy).

I don’t pretend (and am not sure I dare to) to understand time, but today, while surrounded by the latest photos of the universe with the newest telescope, I realized that really given enough time and “space,” anything is possible…and probable. Where does life come from? One of those endless blips? Forever and evermore limitless in a bowl without a bottom??

But does that mean given enough time then God could exist? Something’s awry but I can’t answer that question this afternoon.

How about a universe where “we” get to choose outcomes?!

How about one with no MAGAs?  Maybe it’s out there some where.

We Set the Bar for Others

Published January 8, 2023 by Nan Mykel

GRIM. SHAME. ALMOST UNFORGIVEABLE…The United States has set the bar for the world to follow? It’s things like this that almost makes me hate:

Per the New York Times, Bolsonara’s followers in Brzail are rioting, claiming that their election was rigged. Sound familiar? Bad continuing bad, and spreading. Many Americans are still not contrite that we’re responsible for having crafted a lethal pandemic of lying.

S.O.S. from homeless

Published January 8, 2023 by Nan Mykel

Go to San Diego Newsbreak

Read all of it… Humans need more than food, water and shelter. Autonomy and a sense of belonging are equally important to survival — and are actually the keys to recovery for people who have had a hard time in life. The impersonal facilities that we’re asked to move into are not designed with this in mind.

But autonomy and belonging are the essence of what camps are about. We camp together because it is essential to our physical and mental survival.

The above was quoted from a much more detailed explanation from a homeless man in California…

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