Friday, October 18, 2019

The Other America: 1962–2019

Poverty & The Poor

The Other America: Poverty in the United States by Michael Harrington (1962)
Photo Credit: ©2019. Perry J. Greenbaum

This book is still relevant more than five-and-a-half decades after it was published, to critical acclaim. In some ways, the lives of the poor have bettered; in other ways they have worsened. Things improved in America after Michael Harrington wrote The Other America (1962), which influenced President Lyndon B. Johnson to publicly declare two years later an unconditional War on Poverty.

There was initial success until about 1978, and then America in the last 30 years began to regress, regardless of which political party was in power, thereby eroding any gains that the poor previously made. Under the politics of neo-liberalism, The War on Poverty became The War on the Poor.

The poor might not be as invisible as they once were, but they are still ignored and left without any say or any opportunity in how to better their lives. For more, see my recent essay, “Born Poor, Staying Poor” (May 10, 2018).

The poor, the less successful, the underclass, are still ridiculed and blamed for their poverty, even as the super-wealthy pile up bags of money in obscene, ingenious and immoral ways, doing so without shame or fear of conscience. As for the the middle-class, they are too busy trying to stay middle-class to worry about the poor, including a large group of working poor, fearing that they too are a step or two away from joining this ignoble but growing cohort of the downwardly mobile.

That this is taking place with the full knowledge and acquiescence of the political class of both parties, with few exceptions is a failure of great consequence, to be sure, and the people at the bottom feel it keenly. (Bernie Sanders being a bright example of an individual fighting the good fight, speaking the truth. ) As he points out time and time again, the blame lies elsewhere, as ought the shame, if it is to be found among the wealthy and super-wealthy.

There is no doubt, and it is shown and proven in so many ways, that the poor are at the mercy of a capitalistic predatory system that has no mercy; its list of opportunists are many, including both the financial and religious fraudsters, as well as, of course, the political opportunists, who never fail to seize what is not rightfully theirs, using the cover of law (but not justice) to do so.

Then there are those that use the cover of religion to do their dirty deeds and to hide their rapacious appetites, which is to build a tower of money that serves no good purpose. Defending such actions as the excessive accumulation of money (as is common among the billionaire class)  says much about the persons who do so. I guess that what predators do. But is this the way we all want to live, among predators?

Yes, the poor will always be among us, but whether that is congruent and necessary to a healthy and sane society is highly doubtful. That only the few chosen ones are meant to be rich and the rest struggling to get by is a sure sign that something is wrong, terribly wrong. No, it is more than likely a sign of a sick society, one that is rotten and decaying on the inside.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Vacant Lots Theory

Abandonment & Alienation

An article (“The Other Side of “Broken Windows;” August 23, 2018), by Eric Klineberg, in The New Yorker examines the relationship between abandoned urban lots and crime, which tends to shed light on where the “tough on crime” approach, made famous by the “broken window” article (Wilson and Kelling; The Atlantic; 1982) and its follow-up policing approach failed to address root problems of poverty, especially among black families; Klineberg writes:
But what if the authors—and the policymakers who heeded them—had taken another tack? What if vacant property had received the attention that, for thirty years, was instead showered on petty criminals?
Afew years ago, John MacDonald, the Penn criminologist, and Charles Branas, the chair of epidemiology at Columbia University, began one of the most exciting research experiments in social science. Branas is a leading scholar of gun violence, having become interested in the subject while working as a paramedic. He met MacDonald in the aughts, when they were both working at the University of Pennsylvania, in a seminar on gun violence at the medical school’s trauma center. Both were frustrated by the science that linked crime to neighborhood disorder. “A lot of it, from ‘broken windows’ on, was just descriptive,” Branas told me. “You didn’t know exactly what counted as disorder. And it wasn’t actionable. Outside of policing, which was obviously complicated, there wasn’t much you could do about it.”
The two began meeting on campus. While they were brainstorming, Branas was invited to discuss his research at a conference in Philadelphia. During his presentation, he briefly mentioned his interest in running an experiment on the physical factors related to gun violence. “When I finished, someone from the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society approached me,” Branas recalled. That person was convinced that vacant properties—Philadelphia had tens of thousands of empty lots—were driving up violent crime in poor neighborhoods. The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, or P.H.S., had incredible data, and offered to help.
The tough-on-crime approach always seems like a good approach, often because it is a simple approach, and appeals to our instincts for justice. But what if the chief problem is poverty, injustice of another kind, and this is made apparent by thousands of vacant and abandoned buildings, overgrown by weeds and by garbage?

What if the city authorities decided to do something about these vacant properties, to beautify the poor areas? To persuade the property owners to take care of what they own, whether privately or publicly?  Wouldn't that be something? I bet that many cities will say that they do not have the public money for such a beautifying project.

Yet, I bet that they do. That the small amount of money necessary to do this can be found, but only if the will is there. Let's call it a coalition of the willing.

For more, go [here]

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Bob Dylan: Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door (1986)

Bob Dylan: “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door”as part of the Hard to Handle concert film,shot during the Australian tour in 1986. Bob Dylan is backed by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers in what is a fantastic rendition; they play well together The song, written by Dylan for the 1973 Sam Peckinpah film, Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid, is the second track on the flip side of the (almost) same-named album, Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid, which was released on July 13, 1973. That long black cloud is comin’ down/I feel like I’m knockin’ on heaven’s door. Yeah, that black cloud is coming down. Can’t you see it. Feel it.
Via: Youtube

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

The Traveling Wilburys: End Of The Line (1988)

The Traveling Wilburys: “End Of The Line” (1988) is the last track of their album, Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1. We got to keep on going and doing what we can and saying what is right, with our heart and soulwhen we are alive and have the opportunity to do so and live as we must, even if some might disapprove or find it disagreeable. Freedom to be has never been easy, nor has freedom of conscience. Nice touch with Roy Orbison’s empty chair, guitar and photo. Even if you’re old and gray/You have something to say. Enjoy!
Via: Youtube

Monday, September 23, 2019

Small Town Newspapers are Best Run By Locals

Local News

An article (Reporter’s Notebook; Our Towns: “There’s Hope for Local Journalism;” September 18, 2019), by Deborah and James Fallows in The Atlantic looks at one small-town newspaper that is trying to go against the tide of newspaper ownership by Wall Street investment firms, which are distant, both geographically and philosophically from the publications they own.

Deborah and James Fallows write what small-town newspapers are up against:
The conventional view of the local-journalism crisis is that running a small-town newspaper just isn’t a viable business anymore—now that the internet advertising has drained off revenue, and now that virtual communities and social media have displaced real-world connections and communities.
Those pressures are all too real. (Sobering details on the collapse of ad revenue are here.) But some of the remaining success stories in this troubled field suggest that the ownership structure of local news organizations may matter as much as internet-era advertising shifts, in determining which organizations survive and which perish.
In short: Increasing evidence suggests that the local newspaper business may still be viable, simply as a business. What it can no longer do is provide the super-profit levels that private equity groups expect from their holdings, and that they demand as a condition of letting the papers exist. Papers that are doomed under private-equity ownership might have a chance in some different economic structure.
This proposition—that newspaper ownership is as important as internet-era advertising trends, in deciding local journalism’s future—was examined at length in a 2017 article in The American Prospect by Robert Kuttner and Hildy Zenger (the latter a pen name). It has been a theme connecting our previous newspaper-survivor reports, from Maine to Mississippi. And it is the idea behind a new weekly print newspaper whose first edition came off the presses this month, in Provincetown, Massachusetts, at the tip of Cape Cod.
Small town papers run by locals are important, because business owners have a stake in the communities in which they live. Moreover, they are not as profit driven (8 percent profit is good) as publications owned by equity Wall-Street investors, which/who care only about much higher double-digit profits of at least 20 percent a year. Is this really sustainable year after year? Unlikely, which explains the mess and chaos that Wall Street creates and for which it is widely known.

I remember a time, in the early 1970s, when everyone thought 7 percent was good enough. This, no doubt, was before the "greed is good" business principle started to become institutionalized and normalized and a model to emulate for success. We witness the results today, four decades later, and we can say it is not all good or pleasing to the eye. Small towns are not the only ones to suffer.

For more on The Atlantic story, go [here].

For more on the The Provincetown Independent, go [here].

Sunday, September 22, 2019

The Traveling Wilburys: Handle With Care (1988)

The Traveling Wilburys: “Handle With Care,” performed by George Harrison, Roy Orbison, Bob Dylan, Jeff Lynne and Tom Petty. It is the first track on The Traveling Wilburys: Vol. 1, released on October 17, 1988.
Via: Youtube

Wikipedia gives the following background information in the making of this song.:
The Wilburys filmed a music video for "Handle with Care" in early October 1988, at an abandoned brewery near Union Station in Los Angeles.[41] It was directed by David Leland, who had recently directed Harrison's HandMade Films production Checking Out.[42] The video features the group members performing the song around an old-fashioned omnidirectional microphone.[43] The band were dressed and styled by Roger Burton, whose stylist credits included the films Quadrophenia and Chariots of Fire, and music videos for David Bowie, Eurythmics and UB40.[41]

The video was the last to feature Orbison,[44] who died of a heart attack on 6 December.[45] Lynne recalls that, as they all travelled together to the film shoot, Orbison kept the band entertained by reciting entire Monty Python comedy sketches by himself. Lynne continues: "And he's got this enormous and most infectious giggle you've ever heard, and we'd all be giggling like schoolgirls after a minute or two and all fall about!"[46] At the time, Lynne described the video as a "nice film, where we're just playing, with nice shots of guitars and heads and feet", and free of "gimmicks and fireworks".[47] Orbison was dressed in a long black coat, black trousers and red shoes, and wore his usual diamond-encrusted Maltese cross broach.[41]
In a later interview, George Harrison says the group was formed by happenstance and circumstance, and its purpose was “to have fun,” and not allow egos to overtake the music, which is not always easy to do. Like all good music, the song remains relevant decades later, perhaps more so. Been stuck in airports, terrorized/Sent to meetings, hypnotized/Overexposed, commercialized/Handle me with care.

Saturday, September 21, 2019

A Belief in Unicorns

Myth and Imagination

The Unicorn in Captivity (from the Unicorn Tapestries),1495–1505, South Netherlandish, as part of the collection of the Metropolitan  Museum of Art, New York City: The Cloisters Museum & Gardens. “Search for the Unicorn,” May 14, 2013–August 18, 2013.

In an essay (“Greenland Unicorns and the Magical Alicorn;” September 19, 2019) in the Public Domain Review, Natalie Lawrence, writes:
Unicorns seem to be everywhere these days. It’s virtually impossible to walk down a high street or go into a gift shop without coming face to face with one of these rainbow-spangled creatures in some form or other. They have become a fashionable cultural icon of fantasy, escapism, and (somewhat paradoxically) individuality — a fact exploited to the full by manufacturers and marketing experts. All the same, most people today are well aware unicorns don’t exist.
But people want to believe that they do indeed exist, especially today. The unicorns and their magical horns still captivate minds both young and old. This is true in my household, where my son and I--young and old--both enjoy the myth and magic of unicorns and what they can do for us, especially during these times of high anxiety and distress, chiefly brought about by a disruption and a disorder that has eaten away at what we long viewed and thought as good.

The unicorn promises not what politicians or clergy can and do promise, but what myth and magic can along with imagination. Merciful Justice. Fairness. Decency. Feeedom to Be. Such expectations come from somewhere afar, yet they are of the kind that are not humanly possible; the kind that takes the faith of a child, particularly a small one. And of course, unicorns are rare, so rare that you can't see them. At least not with your eyes. Unicorns are also fierce and pure, and these mythical creatures know what is necessary to know. Not everyone knows what the unicorn know, but you can.

For more, go [here].

Friday, September 20, 2019

Why the Green New Deal is Our (Only) Brighter Future

Our Living Planet

An article (“Only a Green Deal Can Douse the Fires of Eco-Fascism;“ September 16, 2019) , by Naomi Klein, in The Intercept, speaks clearly about the importance of the Green New Deal, an ambitious plan that makes perfect sense if you view that the current (non-renewable) fossil-fuel economy is harming our planet and every living thing which lives on it. I certainly do, and so do most scientists with close knowledge of climate change.

Klein writes:
ORGANIZERS ARE EXPECTING huge numbers to turn out for the Global Climate Strike, beginning on September 20 and continuing through September 27. It builds on the first global climate strike, which took place on March 15, and attracted an estimated 1.6 million young people, who walked out of class at schools on every continent.
But this week’s strike will be different. This time, young organizers have called on adults from all walks of life to join them in the streets. So in addition to schools in over 150 countries, almost 1,000 workers at Amazon’s headquarters in Seattle have pledged to walk out, as have some faculty unions, Britain’s Trades Union Congress, and many others. There is a plan to shut down Washington, D.C. on September 23.
This diversity of the groups involved may well prove to be a new stage in the climate movement, with many more movements and constituencies seeing themselves in the struggle against climate breakdown — as well as in the emerging vision for an intersectional justice-based Green New Deal.
And it’s a good thing too, because as Donald Trump spews racist hate at Bahamian refugees fleeing the wreckage of Hurricane Dorian and growing numbers of far-right killers cite environmental damage as a justification for their rampages, there is a pressing need to confront the ways in which the fires of climate breakdown are already intersecting with the fires of white supremacy and surging xenophobia globally.
Yes, these issues are related, although on first glance they seem separate. Nativism is nothing but old-fashioned hubris on a collective scale; fascism uses violence and cruelty, among other measures, to enforce its totalitarian and exclusive thinking, one fed on mythology and stories of historical power and supremacy. In this case, the unusual marriage of white supremacy and environmentalism has resulted in eco-fascism, an online ideology which is as bad and hateful as it sounds. It is a blood and soil (blut und boden) movement, mixing Nazism and Norse mythology (North Germanic origins). Eco-fascism is just another fascist thought masquerading as concern for the environment. It is nativist and its concern is exclusive to white people of certain “origins.” (For more on eco-fascism, go here and here.)

Its existence is worrisome, but its existence is not surprising, considering the right-ward tilt politically in many of the world’s wealthy nations. When things get bad, and turn from bad to worse, it is expected that nationalists and fascists will clamor to shut their nations’ borders to migrants fleeing cities, nations and large geographical land-masses that have already been damaged by extreme weather (i.e., floods, hurricanes, cyclones, tsunamis, earthquakes, etc.), and who have nowhere else to go but to the wealthy nations, which have better infrastructure and more resources to stay afloat. 

Survival of the fittest is not a good model for a modern humane society to follow, that is, unless cruelty and callousness are acceptable, which it is not for most people. Do not the wealthy nations have a moral responsibility to those migrants?  The answer depends on where you stand, not only on climate change, but also on how you view and value other human beings. We are much more interconnected than some believe or acknowledge; borders are human-made constructs, which will become meaningless (and likely impossible to control) in a future where extreme climate disrupts the lives of most of the people residing on Earth.

This is why the Green New Deal (along a Marshall Plan for Climate Change) is so important. The perceived consequences of not having such plans in place are so great that it is something that most of us would rather not think about. There are better ways, better scenarios, buy if only we act prudently and purposefully. There is a good purpose, after all, an end goal. A habitable planet.

We will collectively have to make changes to our way of life, to our habits and especially to our consumption of fossil fuels. As for halving carbon emissions by 2050, the ecological, social and economic benefits are many, and I plan to write about the decided advantages of a net zero carbon economy in a future post. It is always good to point out and remember that it is our responsibility to be good stewards of the Earth. It is the only place that all of us can call home.

For more, go [here].

Thursday, September 19, 2019

U.S. Hospitals That Operate on the Greed Principle

Life & Death

An article (“How Greedy Hospitals Fleece the Poor;” September 11, 2019), by Libby Watson in The New Republic reports on how greed permeates the decision-making of some hospitals in the United States. Such greedy hospitals show no regard for the poor of society, have no understanding of what it is to be poor, and, of greater significance, have carelessly forgotten (that is, if they ever knew) of what is their fundamental  purpose as a provider of healthcare. (Hint: It is not to make huge profits; it is to help heal people)

Yet, not all hospitals and their leaders accept this mandate. For such hospital administrators, it is chiefly, or perhaps only, about money; Watson writes about such examples:
On Monday, a Kaiser Health News report detailed the University of Virginia hospital system’s heartless pursuit of poor patients who owe them money. The hospital has sued its patients 36,000 times over six years, for as little as $13.91, with devastating consequences. The hospital has garnished wages and put liens on houses, levying high interest on delinquent patients. It sued its own employees for unpaid bills around 100 times a year.
It’s not just happening at UVA, though they are particularly aggressive. Last week, The New York Times reported on Carlsbad Medical Center in New Mexico, which has sued many more of its patients for unpaid medical bills than nearby hospitals; even the county judge who hears the cases was sued. In June, ProPublica published a story on Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare Hospital in Memphis, which filed 8,300 lawsuits against patients in five years.

These hospitals are outliers in their communities, pursuing cases more aggressively than other hospitals do; some don’t file lawsuits against patients at all. These particularly aggressive hospitals are only known about because reporters have highlighted their practices. How many more of the 6,210 American hospitals are suing their patients? And, in turn, how many Americans have been sued by their hospitals? We don’t know, but it’s at least thousands.
This helps explain why hospitals and the health insurance industry do not want single-payer government medicare (as is the case in Canada, where there are no such stories) made the primary health choice for Americans. “Medicare for All” means just that; no special privilege for the wealthy, and, more important, no going into debt for the average Joe or Jill because of unpaid hospital bills.

Greed. Unchecked greed, plain and simple. It is the same reason that there is a misinformation and disinformation campaign about such a fair and equitable system. It would likely reduce how much these hospital and insurance executives get paid. It is about the money. As long as institutions reward this, it will remain normative. Then we all suffer.

Not surprising, but disheartening. But, then again, this practice is normative in a system that rewards greed and, consequently, ensures that hospital executives and administrators are wealthy, at least in the top 10 percent, if not wealthier. They too are caught in the trap, the treadmill, take whatever metaphor fits, of meritocracy. A false promise, a beguiling one, that appeals to the ego.

Thus, they want more. For these greedy executives, it is profits and personal gain over people. There is a kind of rule of what usually happens when money is worshipped like this. If money becomes the focal point of someone's life, he will never be satisfied, and he will become more callous and more cruel. The love of money will affect his health, including his spiritual well-being.

As long as greed is institutionalized— as it has been for the last 40 years—there is little expectation for real change, but there is always hope. Both are human aspirations, but hope is of the non-material kind, anchored in unseen things. All in all, greed has to be seen for what it is, an unhealthy and deadly vice.

For more, go [here].

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

The Least of These

The Human Condition

In an article (“Organizing Skid Row;” Summer 2019) in Dissent, Cora Currier describes a scene taking place at Venice Beach in Los Angeles:
Mornings on Venice Beach are often chilly, thanks to low-lying leaden clouds known as the marine layer. The gloom leaves no golden SoCal gleam on the graffitied concrete skate structures or the shuttered souvenir hutches promising legal pot, bikinis, T-shirts, and ice cream. Surfers cross the sand with their wetsuits half-on, joggers careen through with smartwatches on their wrists, and jet-lagged tourists wheel their suitcases in search of a beachfront hostel. And each Friday morning, near the famous weight-lifting equipment of Muscle Beach, a flotilla of trucks and police cruisers assembles. Police officers and sanitation workers, dressed in blue uniforms or white Tyvek coveralls, huddle amid the trucks before the sweep begins.
Their targets are the items accumulated by people living on the beach, the boardwalk, and in the alleys of Venice. Los Angeles permits sleeping in public spaces from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m., but on Fridays in Venice, the belongings of each of the unhoused must be packed up and consolidated into a sixty-gallon plastic bag, per city code. Anything that doesn’t fit, anything deemed “bulky,” will be seized, and if it’s “soiled,” it will be trashed.
This takes place regularly, the sweeps done as an attempt to remove all evidence of the human beings who are without any permanent shelter. It is done for very practical reasons, as if it is necessary to remove the shame and the stigma that the urban wealthy feel for not doing anything or not enough to better the lives of their fellow citizens— those who are dispirited, downtrodden and denied justice. The least of these.

It is truly a matter of perception. If you view the homeless as lawbreakers, then you will view the police actions as welcome and necessary; if however, you view the homeless as human beings, then you will take action to improve their lives. One such group is Street Watch, an organization with a purpose and a social conscience; Currier writes:
I’ve watched many of these sweeps over the past year and a half as a volunteer participating in Street Watch, an initiative organized by the L.A. chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America and the Skid Row activist group Los Angeles Community Action Network (LA CAN), and carried out with volunteers from KTown for All, the Los Angeles Tenants Union, and other organizations. Modeled on Copwatch and building on monitoring work done by LA CAN, Venice Community Housing, and other legal observers over the past several decades, Street Watch sends volunteers out to observe and record sweeps of homeless encampments around the city, looking for illegal seizure of property and other forms of harassment, and offering support to the people in the camps. The work differs from charity outreach in critical ways. As well as helping homeless people to prepare for sweeps and keep their belongings, volunteers provide know-your-rights information. Street Watch also tries to engage homeless Angelenos in the broader fight for housing in the city, offering them rides to public hearings, demonstrations, or organizing meetings. (In this, it also follows the example of LA CAN, which was founded on the principle of low-income downtown residents organizing themselves. The group says that its model “directly addresses the core problem of exclusion of low-income residents in public decision-making by recruiting and training members to be involved—whether invited or not—in all levels of decision-making impacting our communities.”) Street Watch is about connecting homelessness to the issues of over-policing, gentrification, rent control, and the fight for affordable housing—and asking the city to recognize the homeless as members of the community deserving of resources and support, rather than a problem to be swept out of view.
Again, viewing such things on on the material level, it is about allocation of money and resources.  If some of it would be spent on those on the bottom, how much better would be cities like L.A and countless other cities with large number of homeless people. Late capitalism and hyper-capitalism (a political economy of greed mixed with lack of caring) is responsible for the problem as we see it and know it, as is a reduction in affordable housing since the 1980s.

It would be a sign of hope and of humanity if these same people who once advocated for such a cruel and selfish political economy should now want to fix it. It is not too late, and it is within the realm of possibility. This would take, I believe, a change of heart, acknowledging the spiritual malaise in one’s own heart and how it manifests itself in the love of money. Such is an insatiable love, which more often than not opens the door to many, if not all, immoral and unethical actions, including viewing the least of these as not worthy. But, of course, such are. Perhaps more than we know.

If interested, here is my plan for decent affordable housing. Let me know if you think it has any merit.

For more, go [here].

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Loving Your Children (2019)

Beautiful Children

The Office of Missing Children (2019), posted on Youtube and on The Atlantic site itself on the continuing cruel and inhumane policies of the current American Administration.
ViaYoutube & The Atlantic.

Sadly, this is not a fictional movie or a cartoon, although it appears in such a manner, but an everyday reality for thousands of migrant children escaping with their parents from nations where there is no hope of a better life. Quite the opposite; they are escaping danger, and doing the only sensible thing that they can.

Despite the United States having made an error in its immigration policies, a mistake in judgment and a mistake in moral decision-making, it still remains a beacon of hope, for one, because such cruelty is shown for what it is and nothing more. This is what good journalism does—shines a light on injustice. This is always good and necessary.

In this piece, The Atlantic writes (What Happened to Wilson?; September 10, 2019), quoting and giving voice to a concerned neighbor:
“I was home when I saw two vans pull up. They opened the van, and out came the kids. They were all walking in a line. I don’t know what’s actually going on in there. I hope they’re okay.” When a concerned neighbor sent this to Reveal from the Center for Investigative Reporting, Aura Bogado went to investigate. Read more: "The Office of Missing Children" was directed by Michael Schiller and reported by Aura Bogado, both from Reveal from the Center for Investigative Reporting. It is part of The Atlantic Selects, an online showcase of short documentaries from independent creators, curated by The Atlantic.
Now, call me crazy or sentimental, but I imagine myself in the shoes of such migrant parents whose children are taken away—for having the audacity of desiring to escape harm and wanting safety in a nation whose whole historical narrative is to provide such sanctuary. Well, I think my response is human, and not crazy at all. All good parents love their children. The inhumane response, starting with indifference, then rationalization and justification and escalating to hatred, is something alien to most of us.

For more, go [here].

Monday, September 2, 2019

There Will Never Be Another Einstein

Moral Scientists

Albert Einstein [1879–1955] shares a joke with Israeli Prime Minister David Ben Gurion [1886–1973] when the two men met at Einstein’s home on Mercer Street in Princeton, N.J., on May 13, 1951. The JTA writes about their private talk: “Israel’s Premier David Ben Gurion today sited Prof. Albert Einstein here at the latter’s residence and spent about two hours with him. No one else was present during their talk. Emerging from Prof. Einstein’s home, Mr. Ben Gurion told reporters that they discussed relativity, freedom, Greek philosophy, Spinoza and similar subjects. “We discussed no politics,” he stated. For more, go [here] and [here] and [here] and [here].
Photo CourtesyTablet Magazine & AFP/Getty Images

In an article in Scientific American, John Horgan writes why Albert Einstein, the noted physicist and pacifist, remains unique among modern scientists.
After Israel's first president, the chemist Chaim Weizmann, died in 1952, the Israeli cabinet asked Einstein if he would consider becoming the country's president. Einstein politely declined--perhaps to the relief of the Israeli officials, given his commitment to pacifism and a global government. (While awaiting Einstein’s answer, David Ben-Gurion, the prime minister, reportedly asked an aide, “What are we going to do if he accepts?”)
It is hard to imagine any modern scientist, physicist or biologist, being lionized in this manner. One reason may be that science as a whole has lost its moral sheen. The public is warier than ever of the downside of scientific advances, whether nuclear energy or genetic engineering. Moreover, as modern science has become increasingly institutionalized, it has started to resemble a guild that values self-promotion above truth and the common good.
Einstein also possessed a moral quality that set him apart even in his own time. According to Robert Oppenheimer, the dark angel of nuclear physics, Einstein exuded “a wonderful purity at once childlike and profoundly stubborn.”
I think that this alone explains much of what sets Einstein apart, a quality that is not much in evidence today among scientists—humility. Such is characteristic of individuals who truly cherish the truth, who view fame as secondary, who view awards and acclaim as a distraction. Such does not define our age and while there are today many intelligent men and woman, there are no notable scientific geniuses like Einstein.

For more, go [here]

Sunday, September 1, 2019

Bernie Sanders and Old-School Real Journalism

Democracy & Public Interest

In an op-ed (“Bernie Sanders on his plan for journalism;“ August 26, 2019), published in the Columbia Journalism Review, Bernie Sanders, the U.S. senator for Vermont and the Democratic candidate for president, says quite clearly what hampers journalists and how journalists can better do their job—if only they were allowed to and had the means and support to do so. (How many frustrated and disappointed journalists there must now be.)

In so many words, in a well-functioning democracy, it is imperative to let journalists do what they were trained to do. Ferret out the facts. Get at the truth. Remain devoted to attacking wrong-doing. Report everything without fear of reprisals.

It was once like this, or much more so than today, before the Age of Internet, before social media, before attacks on journalists and the publications they represent became so common that moral outrage itself has been impeded and often suppressed along with the free unimpeded flow of dissenting views. One would agree that there is a need for reform only if we value and enjoy the benefits of democracy, which have been eroded and in marked decline for some time, but more noticeably so during the last two decades with the obvious moral decline in public life. As has been a decline in independent thought, maverick ideas and a strong social conscience.

It can be turned around, but it will be a challenge, because the obstacles are many and great. For one, it is necessary to put a stop to the conglomeration and control of the media by large business concerns, which is decidedly harmful for democracy, because it leads to real news being under-reported or ignored. It leads to the failure sadly common today of not holding the powerful sufficiently  accountable, which has always been a prime mandate and motivation of the press.

Even in the face of all these obstacles, many, many journalists are doing an excellent job in America—their hard-won efforts and stories reported on this blog. It is, however, not easy. The fault chiefly lies in those who hold the levers of power, in those who want to consolidate their power, in those who want to hang on to it.

Imagine what it could be, if there was greater transparency, greater diversity of views in the corridors of power, and, moreover, if power itself (and wealth, as well) was viewed with suspicion as an unhealthy burden to bear. In the end, it is fair to say that concentration of the media in the hands of the wealthy is not conducive and actually is terribly harmful to real journalism, the bringing to light of injustices, the bringing to light of wrong-doing and corruption, the bringing to light of the plight of the poor, the underprivileged, the underdog and anyone not part of the ruling and privileged class.

In other words, writing and speaking for ordinary people, giving voice to those who have no voice in the corridors of power; in the op-ed, Sanders writes:
Real journalism is different from the gossip, punditry, and clickbait that dominates today’s news. Real journalism, in the words of Joseph Pulitzer, is the painstaking reporting that will “fight for progress and reform, never tolerate injustice or corruption, [and] always fight demagogues.” Pulitzer said that journalism must always “oppose privileged classes and public plunderers, never lack sympathy with the poor, always remain devoted to the public welfare, never be satisfied with merely printing news, always be drastically independent, never be afraid to attack wrong, whether by predatory plutocracy or predatory poverty.”
When we have had real journalism, we have seen crimes like Watergate exposed and confronted, leading to anti-corruption reforms. When we have lacked real journalism, we have seen crimes like mortgage fraud go unnoticed and unpunished, leading to a devastating financial crisis that destroyed millions of Americans’ lives.
Real journalism requires significant resources. One reason we do not have enough real journalism in America right now is because many outlets are being gutted by the same forces of greed that are pillaging our economy.
And, yes, greed underpins most of what we are witnessing today in the realms of politics, of law and the courts, of business and of religion, to name four prominent areas of public life that require closer scrutiny. Such are four areas that have done little, or certainly not enough in the last 40 years, in this writer’s view, to markedly better the lives of the majority of  its citizens, or of its consumers or of its congregants. This, despite the promises made and not kept or fulfilled, as if they, “the forces of greed,“ never really had any intention to do so.

In a transactional society, where there is desire to commodify and monetize everything, these four areas of public life now converge to the top of a large impressive and monumental pyramid (somewhat crumbling at closer inspection), yet for now still richly rewarding the greedy, the unprincipled and those without an operating and awakened conscience—a spiritual necessity (but not necessarily religious) for the moral human being.

For such people who care nothing or little about morality and pursuing good, facts and truth are their adversaries and enemies and are to be assaulted and put down. For real journalists, facts and truth are allies and friends and are to be nurtured and kept close.

For more, go to [CJR]

Saturday, August 10, 2019

The Appeal of Denying Climate Change

Our Earth

An article (“Burning Down the House;” August 15, 2019), by Alan Wiseman, in The New York Review of Books, repeats and reaffirms the bad news that all climate change believers (including me) already know and agree as true:
Climate scientists’ worst-case scenarios back in 2007, the first year the Northwest Passage became navigable without an icebreaker (today, you can book a cruise through it), have all been overtaken by the unforeseen acceleration of events. No one imagined that twelve years later the United Nations would report that we have just twelve years left to avert global catastrophe, which would involve cutting fossil-fuel use nearly by half. Since 2007, the UN now says, we’ve done everything wrong. New coal plants built since the 2015 Paris climate agreement have already doubled the equivalent coal-energy output of Russia and Japan, and 260 more are underway.
Climate deniers or skeptics, however, are unlikely to be convinced or persuaded one whit by this article or any other published, whether today or in the last 20 years, when the evidence started to become increasingly overwhelming—to the point that one would have to close his or her eyes to any and all scientific evidence to believe otherwise and carry on as nothing is wrong.

I am not really surprised that many can do this, because the evidence does not project a pretty picture of what we humans have done to the planet, particularly in the last 200 years of our fossil-fuel economy, coinciding with the Industrial Revolution. Our collective records of stewardship is quite frankly dismal. I am not pointing any fingers at any particular individuals, although the fossil fuel industry and its advocates are not looking good. It would be smarter if they dedicated more resources to the green energy revolution, and thus be a part of the solution.

But short-term thinking and greed predominates, with expected results, most not good for us. If we continue as we have been, our planet will eventually become uninhabitable. Money, and its acquisition and accumulation, will be an exercise in futility, which seems counter-intuitive now. You can’t eat money, which is certainly true with Canada’s plastic-based bills, which itself feeds the fossil-fuel economy. The beginning of the end might start in 2030, it might start in 2040, or it might start later. It is only a matter of time. Given the age of the Earth, a few decades is not much time in the grand scheme of things.

Yet, there is a kind of necessity to denying the evidence; and I can understand its appeal, which includes not making any changes to one’s way of life and not worrying about any dreadful consequences. I get it; there is already so much to worry about. Everyday stuff like paying the bills, which always pile up. Why add to the pile? Why make unnecessary changes, when we have been through so many disruptive changes? Yet, as much as I understand this, much of it, I also think that such an approach is neither prudent nor wise. Sure, it is appealing and beguiling.

After all, this is one of those arguments that if we avoid the catastrophe ahead that deniers will say, “you see; it was all a hoax and we were right all along.” Yet, if the events transpire as believers say they will, which includes the great majority of the world's scientists, well, it won't really matter, because we won't be around to say that we were right all along. Or if somehow some of us manage to survive, it will not really be much of a victory.

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Life After the Bombing of Hiroshima

Second World War

Hiroshima Ruins (October 1945), two months after an atomic bomb was dropped on it. This is a view from the top of the Red Cross Hospital looking northwest. Most of the land is bleak and desolate, and yet some wooden houses are still standing, as well as some infrastructure and trees, a reminder of the life that existed before. 
Courtesy: Wikipedia Commons

It was on August 6th, 1945, early in the morning around 8:15 a.m. when the U.S. dropped the world’s first atomic bomb—the first nuclear weapon—on Japan, a country which it was at war. The residents of Hiroshima were its first victims. An estimated 150,000 died or were wounded as a result; this is a conservative estimate; other atomic scientists say it might be as high as 240,000 dead and wounded.

The U.S. would drop another atomic bomb on Nagasaki three days later, with another estimated 75,000 deaths or wounded; or as high as 149,00 dead and wounded. Accurate numbers are not possible to ascertain, but these give a good idea of the results of atomic warfare. These are the only two cases when atomic weapons were used, and I can confidently say that all sane humans hope it is also the last.

The first was Hiroshima, a name that will always be synonymous with the first atomic bomb and what it did to a nation and its people. The stories have been written down and published, as they ought to be. Not to be forgotten. Not to be minimized. Not to be misunderstood.

Towards that effort, there is a fine piece of reportage by John Hersey [1914–1993], published in The New Yorker on August 31, 1946, a year after. It looks at the lives of six survivors. It looks at the human cost of war, which bears repeating. The article was then turned into a slim 160-page book of 31,000 words. If any book will change your mind about war, it is Hiroshima  (1946).

Get your hands on it and read it. You will not be the same person. You will be a better person for it, I think. Or at the very least I presume to hope, because this (knowing and understanding our shared humanity) seems the better way, the way of sustaining and nourishing life for all on the planet that we all humans share. War is the antithesis of life; one day of war is one day too much.

Friday, July 26, 2019

The Guess Who: On the Johnny Cash Show (1970)

The Guess Who: On the Johnny Cash Show (between June 7, 1969 and March 31, 1971 on ABC-TV), which was broadcast at the Ryman Auditorium, formerly the Grand Ole Opry House in Nashville, Tennessee). This episode aired on October 21, 1970. Here the Canadian rock band, originally from Winnipeg, Manitoba, sing “Hand Me Down World” and “Share the Land,” which are tracks tracks 3 and 5, respectively on the album, Share the Land, released on October 5, 1970.
Via: Youtube

The Guess Who

Burton Cummings: lead vocals, keyboards
Kurt Winter: lead guitar, backing vocals
Greg Leskiw: rhythm guitar, backing vocals
Jim Kale: bass, backing vocals
Garry Peterson: drums, backing vocals

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Creedence Clearwater Revival: Don’t Look Now (1970)

Creedence Clearwater Revival: “Don’t Look Now ”is the second track on Side 2 of Willy and the Poor Boys (1970). Who will take the coal from the mine?/Who will take the salt from the earth?"
Via: Youtube

Trump Governs Through Spectacle

The Cruel U.S. Administration

“For the trouble with lying and deceiving is that their efficiency depends entirely upon a clear notion of the truth that the liar and deceiver wishes to hide. In this sense, truth, even if it does not prevail in public, possesses an ineradicable primacy over all falsehoods.”

Hannah Arendt [1906–1975];
“Lying in Politics” in The Life of the Mind (1978)

An article (“Trump’s Day of Terror;” July 12, 2019), by Matt Ford, in The New Republic explains what the mass immigration raids are hoping to achieve. It is not to solve the immigration problem, but to both instill fear in the “other” communities of undocumented immigrants, and to also assure his supporters that he’s on the right track in his campaign of cruelty. Ford writes:
The Trump administration forecasts its deportation raids not to make them more successful, but to instill fear in disfavored communities and to signal to his supporters that he’s doing just that. Trump constantly strives to slake his base’s unquenchable thirst for harsher policies toward immigrants. I’ve written before on how the border itself, and all the social ills that Trump ascribes to it, acts as a white whale of sorts for his presidency. The Cops-like show drama of the upcoming raids is red meat for Fox News viewers and Breitbart readers alike.
It does not matter to such people whether or not these immigrants are a security risk or what their lives are like or what they are escaping; what matters, and the president and his administration says so, is that these persons, including children and babies, need to be removed and deported back to where they came—even if where they came from is dangerous, even if where they came from is dangerous because of blunders in American foreign policy—the kind that hurts the poor, the working class and the non-wealthy. 

No, none of that matters for people like Stephen Miller, “the immigration warlord” who counsels Rasputin-like the president, who Ford says, “governs through spectacle.” Nor does it matter for his base of fans. Yet, there is a real problem in such callous and superficial thinking, one that is bound to fail. It is hard for me to fathom why anyone in the working-class would want to support this wealthy president, when his economic policies are aimed solely at the wealthy. He takes from the poor and gives to the rich.

The working-class is being used and duped, since the working class has few “friends” in Washington and none among the Republicans. This reason alone makes me doubt that Trump & Co,—who grew up with silver spoons in their mouths, who never suffered hardship, and who disdain the poor—give two hoots for the working class. No, they care as much for the working class as they do the other desperate masses of people trying to make a better life in America. For them, it is all about political spectacle; and it matters not for these “wealthy ones” that its policies are cruel, that its policies are immoral, that its policies are unjust.

Can you imagine what could happen if the nation’s leaders considered as good the virtues of love, of truth, of mercy, and of justice? If it would welcome the stranger with respect and treat him or her with dignity and with kindness? Can you imagine the outcome? Such small gestures alone would move the nation in a completely different direction than the one it is now going. 

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

HIAS & ADL: Witnesses at the Border (2019)

HIAS & ADL: Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS) and the Anti-Defamation League (ADL): Two prominent Jewish organizations with broad social justice mandates, and with long histories in advocacy (HIAS; 1881 & ADL; 1913) join together in a common cause to act as Witnesses at the Border, that is, the U.S. southern border with Mexico. I agree that the status quo is not good; there has to be a better way than the cruel tactics—of mass detention, forced family separation and deportation—currently employed by the U.S. government agents (“only following orders”) against people crossing the border. The vast majority are simply looking for a better life than the dangerous one they would like to escape in Latin America. Some die of heartbreak, having given up any hope.
Via: Youtube & HIAS & ADL

Freedom to Do Good

Latent Goodness

There is an oppressive goodness found in the Bible, in that humans are instructed to follow a number of rules and laws in order to be viewed as “good.” There is also, at times, an oppressive goodness found outside it when authoritarian human-made institutions, even in western liberal democracies, tend to make other rules and laws to limit the freedom of its citizens.

These laws are now increasing, often on the pretense of security or any other considerations viewed as important to the state. Although not nearly as restrictive as those found in theocracies or theocratic-like states, both tend to view the restriction of freedom as a “common good.” Of the two world systems, however, I still prefer the liberal western state, founded on the principles of the Enlightenment. It is the nearest one can now get to achieve the principles of human freedom, dignity and goodness.

This does not mean it can’t be improved or made better in our modern times. Let’s consider a thought experiment. That there is the freedom to be good, because that is what humans see as good and beautiful. Being good out of fear of punishment is no doubt effective, but it is nowhere near the same as being good, because the notion of being good is a better way to be.

Both work, but in different ways: the former, because of tradition, and of the fear of not meeting the dictums of an authoritarian deity and his many representatives here on Earth; whereas the latter gives individuals the freedom to decide for themselves, autonomously as is humanly possible, the ways of goodness, which are many. The moral imperative to do good is a moral imperative that is not one of religion alone.

The basis to do good is found in human freedom, the lack of which contributes to many societal ills. Confirming such thinking is Albert Einstein, the great physicist and humanitarian, who said as much in his commencement address (June 6th, 1938) to the students and faculty and other guests at Swarthmore College, a private liberal arts college in Swarthmore, Pennsylvania:
This conception implies one requirement above all - that every individual should have the opportunity to develop gifts which may be latent in him. Alone in that way can the individual obtain the satisfaction to which he is justly entitled; and alone in that way can the community achieve its richest flowering. For everything that is really great and inspiring is created by the individual who can labor in freedom. Restriction is justified only insofar as it may be needed for the security of existence.
This is an ideal, undoubtedly and hard to achieve, since humans are either beholden to a religious idea or to a state idea, more often than not a learned response, but not always. There are also people who are not in any way good, who are inherently selfish in a pathological sense, and who see no need to do good for others. There are many factors that come into play, yet I sense that such people are very small in number, and such persons should not set policy for the whole. They are, for reasons that are not always clear, destructive and dysfunctional, and cause chaos around them. Such persons are separate and exceptional cases and need to be viewed in such manner.

We are here talking here about the vast majority of persons, who have a desire and want to be free to develop their latent gifts; these are people who want to be individuals within a community, who want to be part of something beyond themselves, and as a result to do good. Freedom of goodness, to be good and free, is in many ways like walking a thin tightrope between the two large edifices of Religion and State.

But as Einstein has noted above, it can be done if you believe it to be true and necessary and find it a desirable and enviable way to live.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

The Flip Wilson Show: Diner Sketch (1972)

The Flip Wilson Show and the Diner Sketch (NBC; March 16, 1972) with Flip Wilson as the owner of a diner, Tim Conway as a truck driver, and Bing Crosby as a plumber.
Via: Youtube

The Temptations: Ball of Confusion (1970)

The Temptations: Ball of Confusion (1970).
Via: Youtube

The song remains relevant today, as our society continues to shrink into regressiveness, segregation and intolerance, providing the opposite of openness and clarity, while only a few benefit from all this chaos and confusion.“Ball of Confusion” is a single, written by Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong; Berry Gordy Jr’s Motown released it as a single on May 7, 1970. The lyrics describe clearly the times it was written, I would say; and yet it seems to feel current today. In some ways, things have gotten worse in our society, with little hope of it getting better. I know that I am “preaching to choir here,” yet, we must continue to not only have hope, but to also work by every means moral and necessary to make it better for everyone. It takes leaders with vision, for the people perish for a lack of vision. This much we know and see and feel.

Ball of Confusion (That's What the World Is Today)
by Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong

People movin' out, people movin' in.
Why, because of the color of their skin.
Run, run, run, but you sho' can't hide
An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.
Vote for me and I'll set you free
Rap on, brother, rap on.
Well, the only person talkin' 'bout love thy brother is the preacher
And it seems nobody's interested in learning but the teacher
Segregation, determination, demonstration, integration, aggravation,
humiliation, obligation to our nation
Ball Of Confusion that's what the world is today (yeah, yeah)
The sale of pills is at an all time high
young folks walkin' 'round with their heads in the sky
Cities aflame in the summer time, and oh the beat goes on
Eve of destruction, tax deduction,
City inspectors, bill collectors,
Evolution, revolution, gun control, the sound of soul,
Shootin' rockets to the moon, kids growin' up too soon
Politicians say more taxes will solve ev'rything, and the band played on.
Round and round and around we go, where the world's headed nobody knows.
Great googa mooga, can't you hear me talkin' to you, just a
Ball of Confusion that's what the world is today. (yeah, yeah)
Fear in the air, tension ev'rywhere
Unemployment rising fast, the Beatles new record's a gas,
and the only safe place to live is on an Indian reservation,
and the band played on
Eve of destruction, tax deduction,
City inspectors, bill collectors, mod clothes in demand,
population out of hand, suicide too many bills, hippies movin' to the hills
People all over the world are shouting end the war and the band played on.
Round and round and around we go, where the world's headed nobody knows.
Great googa mooga, can't you hear me talkin' to you, just a
Ball of Confusion that's what the world is today
Let me hear you, let me hear you, let me hear you
Ball Of Confusion that's what the world is today

Monday, July 22, 2019

Bob Dylan on CBC Quest (1964)

Bob Dylan [born in 1941] performs solo for the Canadian show “Quest” on CBC-TV, recorded on February 1st 1964.
Via: Youtube

00:06: The Times They Are a Changin’ 02:43: Talking World War III Blues 07:36: Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll 13:01: Girl From The North Country 16:20A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall 22:22: Restless Farewell

Bob Dylan on The Studs Terkel Program (1963)

Bob Dylan [born in 1941] on “The Studs Terkel Program” (May 1, 1963).
Via: Youtube & Open Culture

Bob Dylan had just finished recording the songs for his second album, The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan, when he traveled from New York to Chicago to play a gig at a little place partly owned by his manager, Albert Grossman, called The Bear. The next day he went to the WFMT studios for the hour-long appearance on “The Studs Terkel Program.” Studs Terkel [1912–2008] is a wonderful interviewer, a master of allowing others to tell the story.

Dylan sings a number of his songs on this program:

1) Farewell
2) A Hard Rain's a-Gonna Fall 
3) Bob Dylan's Dream 
4) Boots of Spanish Leather 
5) John Brown 
6) Blowin' In The Wind

If you think about it, Dylan’s songs are about freedom of one sort of another, about the basic freedoms and human dignity, which are more often than not denied us humans. An injustice done in the name of law, whether religious or secular, remains the same injustice. The human need for freedom is never fully realized—the freedom to be the way you see yourself.

When agents of the government and agents of religion act as they do in a cruel manner, by denying human freedom, they do so for a number of reasons, but deep down (often way deep down) they know that none are just; all reasons given are cruel, a betrayal of anything that is good in them. But they do not see (or feel); or perhaps they deny what they see (or feel) as good.

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Creedence Clearwater Revival: Have You Ever Seen the Rain

Creedence Clearwater Revival: “Have You Ever Seen the Rain” is the fourth track on the album Pendulum, released on December 9, 1970.
Via: Youtube

Yes, the song is about the loss of something good, something beautiful, something true, as this video shows. This song has particular meaning when you get older, since the memories of the losses of what was good and beautiful and true in the past become stronger with the increasing decades. We tend to not appreciate what we have until it is absent, no longer present, and this happens only after it sinks in, that such times, such persons are no longer present and they exist as they do now only rooted in memory and nostalgia. This makes us sad, and tears come to our eyes, because we know that what was is gone, never to return. Have you ever seen the rain/ Comin' down on a sunny day?

Bob Dylan: Live at the Gaslight (1962)

Greenwich Village Cafes

Bob Dylan:  Live at The Gaslight (1962), Wikipedia writes  is a live album including ten songs from early Bob Dylan performances on October 15th, 1962, at The Gaslight Cafe in New York City’s Greenwich Village.”
Via: Youtube

In an old building, dating from 1883, was a coffeehouse located at 116 MacDougal Street in Manhattan, The Gaslight Cafe [1958–1971]. It was home of the Beat poets and folk singers, who had something to say.

It was here that Dylan wrote and first performed A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall.” (This is the same song that Patti Smith sang on behalf of Dylan at the Nobel Prize Ceremony on December 10th, 2016; she did a masterful and beautiful interpretation.)

The 10 song-set that Dylan performed on the night of October 15th were finally released as an album on August 30, 2005. Nice to hear a young Dylan performing; he was already writing good poetry.

Live at The Gaslight Album Cover; Bob Dylan [born  on May 24, 1941] was 21 when he performed these songs, many of which he wrote himself.

Barry McGuire: Eve Of Destruction (1965)

Barry McGuire [born in 1935]: “Eve Of Destruction” (1965), written by P. F. Sloan in mid-1965, during the Vietnam War, says all you can about war in a short song. It is the title track on the album of the same name.
Via: Youtube

This song can apply to all wars in the modern age of warfare, which began with the First World War, and which continues today. It will continue until the thinking changes; if it doesn't then either humanity kills itself in a nuclear war or, in a better alternative, humanity realizes that wars will never solve anything, and that life is worth living.

Patriotism, which is essentially tribalism under another name, is not worth dying for, especially if one considers that the tribal leaders are the chief and perhaps the only beneficiaries of war.

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Google Doodle: Mike Collins Recounts Moon Mission

Moon Landing

Google Doodle: Mike Collins recounts the U.S. Moon Mission of 50 years ago. It was at 3:17 p,m. EDT (or 20:17 UTC ) 50 years ago today that NASA landed  the Eagle spacecraft (“the lunar module”) on the surface of the moon. Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin followed by walking on the moon. Mike Collins, in the command module, was orbiting 60 miles above the moon surface. Google writes that the next stage in the moon program, after a long absence, is about to begin: “NASA’s new Artemis lunar exploration program will land the first woman, and the next man, on the Moon by 2024. With innovative commercial and international partnerships, NASA will establish sustainable lunar exploration by 2028. Using the Moon as a stepping stone, NASA is preparing for humanity’s next giant leap – sending astronauts to Mars. Click here to learn more.”
Via: Google Doodle & Youtube

Creedence Clearwater Revival: Fortunate Son (2018)

The Working Class

Creedence Clearwater Revival [1967–1972], or CCR, as they are widely known are the music behind this “Fortunate Son” video composition. It was put out by the record label (Concord Records/Fantasy Records), which “own” the rights to the rock band’s songs, as a way to celebrate the band’s 50th anniversary. This song is the first track on the flip side of the album, Willy and the Poor Boys, released by Fantasy Records on November 2, 1969. A protest against class differences and how they play out, it is written for the common people of America, the soul of the nation, the working class. That’s most of us. It ain't me/I ain't no fortunate one.
Via: Youtube

Willy and the Poor Boys 1969 album cover.
Courtesy: Wikipedia

Apollo 11 Remembered 50 Years Later (2019)

Moon Landing

First Steps: Neil Armstrong, commander of Apollo 11, descending the ladder on the lunar module on July 20, 1969, at 10:56 pm EDT; Buzz Aldrin, the lunar module pilot, followed 15 minutes later. That event was viewed by an estimated 450 million people, then about 15 per cent of the world’s population. This is a polaroid image of slow scan television monitor at Goldstone Station. . 
Photo Credit: NASANASA image S69-42583

I do remember the excitement of the moon landing and the moon walk, on that Sunday 50 years ago, which our family watched on our large wooden box black & white TV, having a prominent place in our living room. For many, it was a period of optimism, in pushing of boundaries, not only physically but also mentally; it was a good time for a 11-year-old boy to be alive.

Later on things in my mind would change. My awareness of the war, the civil rights movement, and workers rights, and the women’s liberation movement would increase my understanding of freedom and individual dignity. There is no denying freedom’s importance, whose importance increases when there is less of it.

For that brief moment in time, however, I wanted to be an astronaut; I wanted to work for NASA. Neither happened, but I did end up as an engineer, having taken many science courses in college and in university. The moon program was a good part of the inspiration. Then I moved away from it altogether after I learned more about the fundamentals of freedom as I grew older, and the space program was understood in a different light.

For more on my thoughts of that day, go [here].