Friday, November 30, 2012


They are people walking this earth who are 24/7 solipsist's [the self is all that can be known to exist.]. We are all at one time or another solipsists, but some more so than others. 

It is my observation that advances in technology has created what Aaron James calls a solipsist paradise. Solipsists can now discussed their lives in public on reality TV (Which is not really reality.), and especially on cell phones. Tim Kreider*, writing in the Opinion section of the NYT describes the problems he encounters on Amtrak's Quiet Car. I have much the same experience riding buses in Houston. Sometimes when I go to my sister's I get to listen to non-stop cell phone conversations for an hour or more. The bus is not a 'quiet car' so there is noting one can do but maybe find another seat. 

However I expect quiet in the public library. I find, to my surprise, that quiet is now passé in the library. I know this because I sent an e-mail complaining about the noise level to the Librarian at the Houston Central Library.  Her reply was that I must adapt to changes in contemporary library management and the 'new type' of patrons. 

Following the Librarian's advice, I no longer spend what use to be enjoyable hours, reading, looking at photo  books (my favorite library pastime) and just browsing. Now, I order on-line, pick up my order and leave the library immediately. 

*Tim Kreider, "The Quiet Ones", Opinion Section, New York Times, November, 17, 2012.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

"To be honest, I pray God I never see these people again."

The New York Times is still covering the continuing efforts to recover in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. Many working class enclaves in the outer boroughs were impacted the hardest. These include the Rockaways in Queens, parts of Staten Island (Where about 50% of the deaths occurred.) and the Red Hook area in Brooklyn. Of course New Jersey seemed to have a bullseye on it, but this post is concerned with the reporting by Sarah Maslin Nir*, who is concentrating on the income/racial divide in New York City that she discovered while reporting on volunteer activities.       

Much of the volunteers are described as middle to upper class white people and so among the victims seeking assistance there is some bitterness. Sarah Maslin Nir doesn't note any minority volunteerism and the Times has not covered any black assistance. That doesn't mean it's not there, but it has not been covered by this major metropolitan newspaper. If it exists than the Times is very much remiss and doing a disservice to minority efforts.

I mentioned bitterness among people trying to recover from Sandy. They resent their forced dependence on middle and upper class white people. So it is both a class and racial bitterness. Although much of the reporting by this reporter is antidotal, it cannot be dismissed solely on that basis. I would like to see more reporting on the income/racial divide not just in NYC but throughout the nation. But if you bring up this divide you are accused of promoting class/racial warfare. The following is a quote from Nicole Rivera: "It's sad, sometimes it's  a little degrading," she said as she stood in line in a parking lot waiting for free toiletries. Ms. Rivera said that she was thankful for the help, but that its face-mostly white, middle-and upper-class people -made her bitter. The only time you recognize us is when there's some disaster, she said. Since this happened, it's: 'Let's help the black people. Let's run to their rescue.' Why wait for tragedy? she added. People suffer everyday with this."

What Ms. Rivera is saying is that she lives in a racially and class divided society that persists with or without hurricanes. Probably the reporting of recovery efforts from Sandy will soon disappear from the Times front page and Sarah Maslin Nir will move on to other stories, but Ms. Rivera will still be saying, "Come See About Me".

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Tone Deaf

Some of us are following the growing scandal surrounding General Petraeus et al. with a deeper concern than just a prurient interest.

Tom Shanker writes in the NYT* about other top military officers being relieved of command for serious lapses in judgement and even criminal behavior. There is some speculation that the military has developed a we/they view toward the civilian population. Within this article is a quote by Paul V. Kane:  “The country is suffering a crisis of leadership — in politics, in business and in the church, as well as in the military,” he said. “We have lots of leaders, but we have a national deficit in true leadership.”

For some time it has seemed to me that our leaders are tone deaf to the views of the general population. In politics they seem to ignore our concerns and vote against the interests of the country for their own ambitions and retention of power. Congressional ratings prior to the recent election were at all time lows yet there is at least a 50/50 chance we will purposely go into a recession because Congress will not compromise even though there was a national mandate for both parties to work together. Business executives used government bailout money in 2008 to raise bonuses even though the public was vehemently opposed. The Catholic Church moved known pedophile priests to different parishes, certainly unknown to the congregations. 

I don't think it is too much to ask people we give power over the welfare of our lives and nation to be held to a high standard and accountable for their behavior. If that shrinks the so-called pool of talent then so-be-it. I believe that there are principled men and women who respect the will of the people and feel privileged to be entrusted with our welfare. 

*"Concern Grows Over Top Military Officers’ Ethics", by Tom Shanker, NYT, November 12,.2012.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Do You Hear What I Hear?

I have a friend who hallucinates. Over 40 years ago he was very, very thirsty and a babbling brook was within his reach yet he would probably die if he approached the water. Today when he bends over a water cooler he sees, smells and hears in excruciating details the scene. It's not just a flashback, it's real for the moment. He sweats and shakes and must set down. Is he nuts? No, he is a successful businessman, father and husband.

Oliver Sacks, a professor of neurology at NYU, knows blind people who 'see' and deaf people who 'hear'. Most times my friend and these people who hear and see things keep quiet about it, otherwise they might be put on meds and God knows what other 'treatments' they would be subjected to. Professor Sacks recently completed a book entitled Hallucinations. You can hear him discuss his views here.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Let George Do It

Russ George has decided to take matters into his own hands so this summer he dumped about 120 tons of iron-sulfate into the Pacific Ocean. The theory being that this act of geoengineering will form into and algae bloom, which in turn will trap carbon, which in turn will reduce global warming. It's a theory without testing and the consequences are as yet unknown.

Mr. George is among a group on individuals that include Bill Gates, who believe that matters of climate change are not being taken seriously and therefore require citizen action. Mr. Gates is lending financial support to a company called Intellectual Ventures. Among the ventures is a scheme called Strato-Shield. It is essentially "a 19-mile-long hose suspended by helium balloons that would spew sunblocking sulfur dioxide particles into the sky and a tool that can supposedly blunt the force of hurricanes."*

The problem here should be obvious. These geoengineers are doing or planning to manipulate climate change that may be more devastating than what is going on now. For one thing Naomi Klein notes: "… the people who could well be most harmed by these technologies are already disproportionately vulnerable to the impacts of climate change."

Geoengineering: Testing the Waters, by Naomi Klein, NYT, OpEd, 10-28-12