America: A tale of two countries
What if there were actually two United States of Americas? What would that look like?
One country is comprised of the financial and technology industries. This is the 20 percent of the population who have money and strong social support. They are excited about the possibilities of the future, and they are powerful enough to influence the future.
The other United States couldn't be more different than the fin-tech USA described above. This is comprised of the other 80 percent of folks who are in debt, who are insecure about their jobs, and who are saddled with crumbling roads and inadequate public transportation. In the words of Lynn Parramore of the Institute for New Economic Thinking, they are "getting sicker and dying younger... focused on surviving the present... [and] acted upon."
In an April 20, 2017, article, Parramore examines the dual economy described by Peter Temin, MIT Professor Emeritus of Economics, in the book The Vanishing Middle Class: Prejudice and Power in a Dual Economy. Temin applied to the United States an economic model that was originally created by West Indian economist W. Arthur Lewis to understand the economies of developing countries. Parramore describes the results of Temin's experiment as "profoundly disturbing."
According to the Lewis model, there are five signs of a dual economy:
To paraphrase Parramore, in today's America, it's "Check, check, check, check, and check."
Temin believes the best way to restore the country's disappearing middle class is to cut military spending and increase investment in people (education) and infrastructure. He recommends breaking the mass-incarceration model, forgiving mortgage and education debt for low-income citizens, rejecting attempts by private companies to provide what have traditionally been government services, and taxing both the income of the rich and their capital.
It's up to all of us to restore the balance that has been lost in our current economic system. One possible way to do that is to stop doing business with big business. Whenever it is practical to do so, refrain from transacting with any company that isn't locally owned. Keep your money in the neighborhood.
Happy happy joy joy! It's all about the telomeres
Cynicism and hostility can kill you - or at least shorten your life.
That's the conclusion of researchers Elizabeth Blackburn and Elissa Epel in an April 26, 2017, article on ideas.ted.com. Their research shows that how you respond to everyday stress helps determine the health of your telomeres, which they describe as "the genetic heart of all our cells."
Telomeres are like caps on the ends of our chromosomes that "keep the genetic material from unraveling," according to Blackburn and Epel. Stress contributes to shortening our telomeres, which makes them less effective. In other words, short telomeres correspond to faster aging. Keep your telomeres nice and long, and you may be able to slow the aging process.
Research has shown that thought processes affect the health of telomeres. One behavior identified as unhealthy to telomeres is "cynical hostility." This isn't just someone thinking, "I hate standing in long lines - I wish it would speed up." It's someone seething silently after believing they were cheated out of their rightful place in the line.
Three other behaviors that can make you old before your time are pessimism, rumination, and "thought suppression." You can't just ignore the unhealthy thought patterns. The act of suppressing thoughts puts even more stress on your overtaxed brain.
What's the best way to keep your telomeres long and youthful? Be happy. Blackburn and Epel cite a study that found people are happiest when they are fully engaged in an activity. It doesn't matter what the activity is, so long as you're giving it your full attention.
The flip side is what happens when you're wishing you were doing something other than whatever activity you're in the midst of. The researchers describe negative thoughts as "a blindfold around your brain so you can’t see what is really going on around you." When you take off the blindfold, you can return your attention to what's actually happening right in front of you.
Extremists of all stripes are fomenting violence -- Don't fall for it!
Rick Pearlstein of the Washington Spectator is one of several journalists concerned that heavily armed right-wing militants are primed and waiting for "someone" to give them the go-ahead to start knocking off liberals. In an April 28, 2017, article, Pearlstein writes that a small group of self-described anti-fascists engaged in violence with their right-extremist counterparts during demonstrations that occurred when Milo Yiannopoulos was scheduled to speak on the UC-Berkeley campus in February 2017. This was all the violent right wingers needed to concoct a "mythology" of an actual political war brewing.
According to Pearlstein, those prone to political violence on either end of the spectrum are attempting to justify their actions as defensive: They're simply responding to attacks by the other side. He claims the more guns and ammunition extremists buy and preparations they make, the more likely they are to feel compelled to act to justify spending all that money, time, and effort.
Pearlstein says it's dangerous to downplay the threat presented by extremists on either end of the spectrum.
There's no time like the present to de-escalate the current climate of political debate. Here's what I suggest: Don't engage the Nazis in the streets - engage them in the courts.
Shun Trump and his supports. Subject them to in-place exile. Pay no attention to what they say because they're just repeating Trump's lies. Pay close attention to what they do and insist that law enforcement agencies arrest and prosecute all violators of the law, whether they're violent protestors or criminal government officials.
Trump isn't a leader, he's a front, a patsy for the Nazis. He's an idiot they know they can manipulate now and scapegoat when the time comes. Stop focusing on Trump and start focusing on the anti-democratic fascists who are using him to take over the country. Can you say "Jeff Sessions"?
We will beat back this internal attack on our democracy by battling them in courts of law. Our salvation lies in the U.S. judicial system. God help us all -- and God help our judges especially.