Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Thoughts at Large at the Beginning of the Year

I heard a clip on the radio today of VP-elect Pence stating that the November election  showed the overwhelming vote of the American people was to get rid of the Affordable Care Act. Well of course this is an outright lie on two counts. Even if everyone who voted for Trump was against the Affordable Care Act, highly unlikely and impossible to prove, Mr.'s Trump and Pence actually had more voters vote against them than for them.!!! They received only 48% of the vote which means 52% of the people wanted someone else. The Republicans lost six seats in the House, even though they have a commanding lead in the number of seats (241 to 194)  or 55% of the seats. Total votes for the House the Republicans received 1.1% more votes than the Democrats, but still less than 50% of those cast for US House seats. If ever the use of the term "mandate" was inappropriate this is clearly one. Make sure when it is used you call them out. (Ballotpedia LogoSee Ballotpedia for the data).

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On this evening's broadcast of  Martketplace there was story about Secretary of State nominee Rex Tillerson's plan to divest his holdings in Exxon Mobil. I believe I heard some interviewee suggesting that this would be quite a loss for him. When he could cash out for $55 million in present stock and an addition $182 million in deferred stock are we supposed to feel sorry for this guy. 

If the HOUSEHOLD (not individual) median income (50% of households earn more and 50% less) is approximately $50,000 and the typical working lifetime is about 50 years, that means a lifetime of median income would have a household collect about $2.5 million. Tillerson's stock value alone is 100 times that amount and does not include his income received over the many years of his working life. How much is enough!!!!

Exxon Mobil's Rex Tillerson speaks at a discussion organized by the Economic Club of Washington.

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Has anyone who has been yipping at the diverse countries at the UN who signed UN Resolution 2334 regarding the Israel/Palestine conundrum actually read it???? You had countries as diverse as Malaysia, New Zealand, Spain, France China, Russia, Japan, Uruguay, Angola, Senegal, United Kingdom, Venezuela, and Egypt all voting in support? Why, because they are all anti-Semites??? That's what you would think if you listened to the critics both in Israel and among our own Congress. As you will read in the resolution and as you can better understand if you are willing to listen/watch Secretary of State Kerry's thoughtful and powerful explanation of the US abstention, we can either have international law and agreements which we honor or we throw them all away and go back to all out war, every country for itself.

Image result for john kerry speech c span israel

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Hardly a peep about climate change in the political discussion save the notation of all the climate deniers the President-elect hopes to surround himself with in his new cabinet. Even as the the climate science community gets ready to officially declare 2016 as the hottest year on record following  the pattern you see below.


Image result for climate change warmest years

Having just finished David Orr's recently released superb Dangerous Years: Climate Change, The Long Emergency, and the Way Forward (Yale University Press, 2016), I feel MLK, Jr's deep sense of the "fierce urgency of now". But as Orr does better than anyone else I've read or heard, you see the ties that bind and the durable threads essential for creating a fabric of life that is sustainable. He has long been higher education's sage of sustainability. As Dangerous Years makes vividly clear Orr has immersed himself in the literature of many disciplines - biology, physics, philosophy, economics, sociology, history, literature, the classics and of course political science. His writing is powerful and persuasive, but he is not arrogant as the following passage clearly notes. In it he is describing the two-and-a-half reasons we should have concerns for future generations. In this section he begins to describe his half reason.

         "My half reason to act on behalf of future generations follows. It is discounted by half because it rests entirely on the unverifiable grounds of my own feelings and experience such as they are. I cannot say for certain whether my life is a gift or not, but even with its ups and downs it certainly feels like one. I cannot say for certain that the feeling of sea winds in my face, or the fragrance of spring flowers, or the sounds of whitewater, or the comforting solitude of an old-growth hemlock forest, or the view from an Appalachian ridgetop, or the feel of good oak, or the hug of an old friend, or the smell of rain after a long hot drought or that of newly plowed ground, or the red-tail hawk that is nesting in my yard this spring, or the delight of fireflies on a summer evening are gifts. But they give me pleasure and they feel like beneficence beyond any thoughts I can muster. I cannot say with cool scientific logic why such things should be passed on unimpaired to my four grandchildren. But I fervently hope that they will be. I can only say that I am very thankful that others before us protected what they did or were unable to damage more than they did.

        Whether life and all that it entails, including pain and suffering, has come to each of us as a gift or by some random chance no longer interests me. How could I know such things? Either way I can imagine no good reason to destroy, cheapen, deface, or risk harm to the biotic community and the enterprise of life. I can, however , think of many reasons to protect life from the vast planetary cycling of water and materials down to the pair of cardinals nesting this spring in my side yard. I believe myself to be better off because they're busy raising their brood and that makes me happy. I am even willing to chase off the neighbor's cat prowling close by on their behalf. Exactly why I cannot say, nor do I think it very important to give reasons or analyze further. In all of our efforts to conjure up reasons for one thing or another down to parts per million, one thing is missing is the sense of wonder that exists beyond words and reasons. Theologian Abraham Heschel once said that 'a l;ife without wonder is not worth living.' In that spirit I am content to find my cardinals ad their brood wonderful and feel blessed by their presence in some mysterious, unnamable way and let It go at that. But I am distraught by the possibility that these wondrous things may go extinct, never to be experienced by my descendants and yours." (p. 134-5)


While Orr is simultaneously lyrical and scholarly, you can feel his heart and soul in this book, a culmination of a life's work, a crescendo of head and heart. His 50 pages of annotated notes are themselves an education from which he has plumb the depths of many to synthesize for us both a description of the challenges, and possibilities for solutions. He finishes with one example from his own current community level work which is a poster child for communities everywhere - the Oberlin Project