Weekend Update 03-19-2011

George Takei published a personal message on the tragedy in Japan. We are all Japanese.

And he’s giving a number of interviews. I particularly liked this one on CNN.

ABC has published before and after satellite photos.

Freedom and the Self is a post by Fr. Stephen Freeman that I recommend to anyone.

Krugman wonders why Washington has lost interest in the unemployed. It’s a good question. I particularly noticed his comparison toward the end of his column to the last severe recession in the early 1980s and I worry about my kids, all of whom are just the right age to be most vulnerable to the lack of jobs. I remember that last recession well. I was a teen parent desperately looking for any source of income. I did all sorts of temporary jobs, often traveling hours away and sometimes living out of my car to do them. Digging trenches for cable. Planting pine trees. Clearing woods. Construction. Picking strawberries and other crops that need to be picked by hand. As soon as I was old enough, I joined the Army National Guard. That helped a lot and later helped me get work in security. I’m smart and I’m sometimes driven, but I look at where I am now and how I got here and a huge part of it was simply luck. Yes, when a window of opportunity has opened, I’ve typically been able to take advantage of it, but I didn’t control those windows. Also, as anyone who has studied history should know, we could still easily tip into a depression. The Great Depression took several years to fully grip our nation. We’ve avoided some of Hoover’s mistakes, but we seem determined to repeat others.

Of course, it’s also true that wages for all but the wealthiest in our country have stagnated for 30 years. Yet the GOP has been able to take that truth and turn at least some groups of private workers against public workers because the wages of public workers have stagnated a little less than those of private workers. If I ever doubted the insidious power of the passion of envy, that has cemented it in my mind. If I hadn’t watched it happen, I never would have believed it. It’s sad.

Steve Robinson did a little cartoon that also helps illustrate the Orthodox view of salvation. It made me smile. Be sure to read the first comment, which is actually the quote from Elder Paisios that underlies the cartoon.

The myth that there is a “social security crisis” continues to be promulgated. Just yesterday on NPR, I heard a Republican from the House state that the problem with Social Security is that demographics have changed since it was founded and we need to reduce benefits rather than fix payroll taxes. It’s frustrating to hear such outright lies go unchallenged. Social Security was fixed to match our current demographics using actuarial data in the 1980s. That data has not significantly changed since then. What has changed? Simple. Wealth and income have become enormously more concentrated at the very top. The fixes to Social Security were designed to include 90% of income in the payroll tax. Because of the concentration of wealth, the payroll tax now only covers about 84% of income. We need to put the tax back at the 90% level. That’s the only “fix” required for Social Security. The GOP wants to talk about “entitlements” so they can focus on SS and ignore the real problem, Medicare and Medicaid. They have no plan (or desire apparently) to do anything to fix our broken health care system and they campaigned, ironically, on pledges to “save” Medicare. But those are the problem. Why can’t the citizens of our country do simple arithmetic? Krugman also points out some of the “cockroach ideas” about Social Security.

Krugman also tries again to shine a light on the wave of banking abuses, not just immoral, but actually illegal in many cases. And they get away with it. Our government is even actively colluding with them at times. If we want it to stop, we not only need better regulation, we need to start throwing some of their top executives in jail. I don’t think anything less will get their attention. As long as they accurately believe they can act with impunity and without consequence, these abuses will continue. Of course, I live in a state that used to know just how evil bankers can be. A lot of people came here originally to escape 19th century abuses in other states. While our present GOP dominated legislature would like to eliminate many of our protections in Texas, they were written into a state Constitution that is notoriously difficult to change. The people who came here didn’t like banks, so we have a lot of protections. They didn’t trust government, so virtually every position is elected and also set in the state Constitution. And the legislature is largely limited to a few months every other year, most of which is consumed trying to get a budget in place. And they didn’t even trust each other all that much, so just about everything of consequence is fixed in a hard to change Constitution. Given the current wave of GOP profiteers who have somehow deluded people into believing they are acting for their benefit, I would say that last decision was prescient.

Though I’m sure many people won’t catch the reference, I chuckled at Robert Reich’s allusion to Nero.

People mostly seem confused by the health care law since every time pollsters probe more deeply and specifically, a majority of people support every provision in it — even the individual mandate.

The battle definitely isn’t over in Wisconsin as a judge halts implementation of the collective bargaining rollback law.

Mother Earth News is starting a Gluten Free Foods and Recipes Blog. That’s so cool!

Texas cutting benefits and services for veterans? So not cool!

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