Thursday, January 28, 2016

Isn't this exciting! (Not.)


Zika Outbreak Epicenter in Same Area Where GM Mosquitoes Were Released in 2015

Friday, January 15, 2016

The Ascendance of Sociopaths in U.S. Governance

Is this guy "over the top"? Or is he onto something?

Is it true that "All the institutions that made America exceptional - including a belief in capitalism, individualism, self-reliance, and the restraints of the Constitution - are now only historical artifacts"?

Casey writes:

You may recall the ethologist’s characterization of the social interaction of rats as being between a few alpha rats and many beta rats, the alpha rats being dominant and the beta rats submissive. In addition, a small percentage are gamma rats that stake out prime territory and mates, like the alphas, but are not interested in dominating the betas. The people most inclined to leave for the wide world outside and seek fortune elsewhere are typically gamma personalities.
What do you think? Are you an alpha, a beta, or a gamma?

What about his suggestion that "the 50,000 [TSA agents] are exactly the same type of people who joined the Gestapo - eager to help in the project of controlling everyone"? 

The Ascendance of Sociopaths in U.S. Governance | International Man

Thursday, January 07, 2016

Buying Vs. Renting (A Home Buyer's Guide, Part 1)

An excellent first-order analysis of just one part of the mortgage question.

I've done some of these analyses myself and been shocked to see how truly awful most counsel is concerning paying off our mortgages. (You don't want to pay it down quickly! . . . But you do want to place your "extra" money--not spent on the mortgage--in a safe place . . . like, for starters, high cash value [i.e., just below the MEC line], participating, whole life insurance with a PUA rider. . . .) And then, once you have built your safe money base, you want to use the "excess" cash in your policy [beyond the safe money base] to invest in safe, cash-flowing investments that will give you at least high single- if not low double-digit returns.)

More on these other items at another time.

For now, however, check out Kim Butler's Buying Vs. Renting (A Home Buyer's Guide, Part 1)

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Can you train yourself (or someone else) to become an optimist?

Sarita and I were talking about built-in predilections concerning how we think, how we perceive the world, how we feel about things.

Our eldest daughter, Amy, has been an advocate of the Enneagram as a tool for understanding personalities and, Sarita says, Amy and I are both obvious "gut" people. We respond from the gut. Viscerallly.

(I wrote to a co-worker this past week concerning something I had read: "It makes me want to throw up." And concerning a certain set of ideas in the article: "I hate that thought." --Visceral responses, said Sarita. And I think she is right.)


So then I ran across this story from Randy Cassingham's The Optimist and the Pessimist on Christmas Morning:
A family had twin boys whose only resemblance to each other was their looks. If one felt it was too hot, the other thought it was too cold. If one said the TV was too loud, the other claimed the volume needed to be turned up.

But worst of all, one was an eternal optimist, and the other a doom and gloom pessimist, so their father decided to play a trick on them both.

On Christmas morning they found two huge boxes under the tree. The pessimist's box had the greatest, most expensive toy ever. The optimist's box was loaded with horse manure.

When the pessimist opened his box, he burst into tears.

"Why are you crying?" the father asked.

"Because my friends will be jealous, I'll have to read the manual before I can play with this, I'll constantly need batteries, and eventually it will get broken," sobbed the pessimist.

Then the optimist opened his box, and he whooped with joy.

"What are you so happy about?" the father asked.

"Well, daddy," the optimist twin replied, "there's got to be a pony around here somewhere!"
I shared this story with Sarita, and then, an hour or so later, in a totally different context, I commented, "Boy! I sure wish we could help ____ overcome his pessimism!"

"I don't think that's possible," she replied. "Remember the story of the optimist and pessimist twins?" . . .

What do you think? Can one train someone to become optimistic, to become--as some say--a "possibility thinker"? Or are these things totally innate?

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Finding people of good will and common purpose . . .

I ran across this video:

And I got thinking. Am I missing something? Is this guy's rant heinous? Or are his questions valid?

As I thought about it, I came to some conclusions.

 First, some background.

I was a fan of Martin Luther King (as much as I could be a fan at my young age when he was alive and active). Despite my grandmother's comments about him "stirring up trouble" or "trying to push change too fast," I thought SOMEONE needed to bring the problems to the national spotlight. I have often IMAGINED I would have participated in the Freedom Rides of the early 60s. Honestly, however, I expect I wouldn't have. Not because of opposition, but, rather, because I would have had too many other options and opportunities open to me . . . and/or, again, honestly, I'm too much a chicken at heart.

But still.

I desire justice. Righteousness. Fairness. Much that goes down in the United States today is NOT just, righteous or fair. And we need to face the injustice, unrighteousness and unfairness. But we need to do so in a just, righteous and fair manner.

And Wayne Allyn Root, here, at least SEEMS (to me) to be asking for this. "Quit listening to any and ALL race-baiters and power-hungry 'big people.' . . ."

Or maybe not.

As I asked up top--am I missing something?

 Ah! It struck me: Yes, I probably am!

I think Root is correct: President Obama and the national media are NOT doing a great job at this time. But I'm afraid Root hasn't gotten to the root issue [excuse the unwanted pun], either.

President Obama and the media are pointing their fingers in one direction. And Root is pointing his finger in the opposite direction. But what we need--what is missing--is this.

We need to begin asking--in addition to questions of guilt and responsibility: How SHOULD the problems of race relations be addressed? How can we find people of common purpose with whom to join forces so we can pursue justice and peace in ALL of our neighborhoods (black, white, mixed) AND in our society as a WHOLE?
From Root's video:
Shouldn’t the media question why the federal government calls it a “hate crime” if a white person kills a black man . . . ? One happened to a white Bosnian immigrant driving through a black neighborhood in St. Louis only days after the Ferguson verdict.
His fiancée watched him being murdered by a gang of black criminals who had allegedly yelled out, “Kill the white people.”
Yet there is no “hate crime” designation for that murder, no civil rights investigation, no federal intervention, no national media headlines, no coast to coast protests and no press conferences by the president or Al Sharpton. Where are the media? Silent.
What about Sharpton? Shouldn’t the media be pointing out that a known racist rabble-rouser who . . . was filmed negotiating cocaine deals, who was a federal informant doing business with the mob, who tried to destroy the lives of police and prosecutors back in the ’80s based on false rape allegations (see Tawana Brawley) and who owes more than $4 million dollars in back taxes (as reported by The New York Times) is one of Obama’s BFFs (best friends forever) and has visited the White House 81 times to give the president of the United States advice on racism and race relations?
Are you kidding me? . . .
Where are the media questioning the role of a “race pimp” and con man (Sharpton) hanging out in the White House with the president? What’s the difference between Sharpton and David Duke? Both are racists and haters. Both have made money trying to cause racial division and stir up violence. The only differences I can think of are that Duke was never involved with the mob, has no background in drug dealing and doesn’t owe the IRS more than $4 million. Shouldn’t the media be asking Obama why he isn’t embarrassed and ashamed to have a man like Sharpton step foot in the people’s house?
Shouldn’t the media be asking what’s the difference between white Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy and Sharpton? Bundy owed a disputed $1 million in back fees to the government, so the government raided his ranch with militarized SWAT teams, airplanes, helicopters and assault weapons. But Sharpton owes more than $4 million to the same government; and there’s no raid, no threats or intimidation by government and no police surrounding his New York City headquarters.
Remarkably, that same guy (Sharpton) gets to pal around with the president of the United States. That same guy gets to give advice on race relations to the president. That same guy gets a national TV show on MSNBC. That same guy makes a living extorting corporations in the name of “racism.” . . .
There's more. Much more. And it's not merely about black-vs-white. It's also about black-vs-black. For example:
Where are the nationwide protests for the thousands of innocent black lives taken by black criminals? Is there no money or media headlines or political gain in those kind of protests?
Why don’t the media ask the president if black-on-black crime matters to him? If so, why has he never chosen to speak out about it? Why don’t they ask Obama to name one victim of black-on-black crime in Chicago this past weekend? Can he name anyone in the past year? Why are their deaths unimportant, insignificant and anonymous?
Why not ask Obama and Holder why there aren’t teams of Justice Department investigators and prosecutors assigned to black-on-black murders in Chicago (Obama’s hometown)? . . .
Again: AND MORE. . . .

Monday, December 01, 2014

You get what you pay for

Gallup: Peak Number Of Americans Delaying Medical Care Over Costs | The Daily Caller: It’s a remarkable shift: after Obamacare’s redistribution of wealth, the middle class is actually delaying medical care due to high costs at a higher rate than the poorest section of the country, which is highly subsidized by taxpayers.From the linked article: "[W]hile it’s named the Affordable Care Act, its purpose was to increase the number of Americans with health insurance, not to make it more affordable for everyone."
Look at the numbers:


Americans with an annual household income of between $30,000 and $75,000 began delaying medical care over costs more in 2014, up to 38 percent in 2014 from 33 percent last year; among households that earn above $75,000, 28 percent delayed care this year, compared to just 17 percent last year.

The lowest-income section, some of whom can take part in Medicaid and who are more likely to qualify for significant premium and cost-sharing subsidies on an Obamacare exchange, are less likely to delay care this year. Now, 35 percent of those who earn under $30,000 a year are putting off seeking medical care, down from 43 percent last year.

******END QUOTE******

As the old 60s song asked, "When will we ever learn?" (From "Where Have All the Flowers Gone?")

You get what you pay for. And your elected representatives appear happy to buy your votes . . . and move you toward dependency.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Sexual abuse of children by persons in trusted positions of authority

I heard an NPR report yesterday about the ongoing scandal of Catholic priests' sexual exploitation of children and the Church's stalwart protection of those priests . . . and failure to protect the children.

A devastating story. As the story ended, I thought, "Supposing these power players in the Church actually believe anything they teach about the spiritual realm, how can they imagine this kind of behavior wouldn't wreak spiritual havoc in the lives of these children's--not to mention the children's parents'--eternal souls?"

Strange "coincidence" (???): I also received a gentle question about my modification of a story I reported on a month ago . . . about sexual abuse in public schools.

I had modified a blog post by Matt Walsh with the following annotations:
[T]here was a 2004 study titled Educator Sexual Misconduct: A Synthesis of Existing Literature, commissioned by the Department of Education. It received no attention from anyone, but the findings were terrifying: nearly 10 percent of all public schooled students had been raped, abused, or sexually harassed by teachers someone at school. Over two percent by teachers. [NOTE: . . . I . . . replaced the link in [Walsh's] article [with a link] to the actual study by Charol Shakeshaft. If you go to the original study, see pp. 16ff (PDF pages 24ff) and pay particular attention to the paragraph that straddles pp. 17 and 18 (25 and 26). There you will read, "This analysis (Shakeshaft, 2003) indicates that 9.6 percent of all students in grades 8 to 11 report contact and/or noncontact educator sexual misconduct that was unwanted." Many reports--like Walsh's--have run with that number alone. They have not gone on to note (what appears three sentences later, in the same paragraph) that "Of students who experienced any kind of sexual misconduct in schools, 21 percent were targets of educators, while the remaining 79 percent were targets of other students" (emphases added; JAH). Multiply 9.6% by 21 percent and you wind up with 2.016%. So--adding in one more caveat made by Shakeshaft (p. 17 (25)), that her "findings can be generalized to all public school students in 8th to 11th grades at a 95 percent confidence level with a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points"--we can conclude that approximately 2 percent of all students may, indeed, be sexually abused or harassed by adult educators at school using "civil and criminal definitions of sexual abuse and harassment." --I find that figure more believable. But every bit as much disturbing!--JAH]


That makes the sex scandal in public schools many, many, many times more prevalent than the abuse epidemic in the Catholic Church. . . .

My correspondent, Melinda, wrote,
John, I think you made a mistake. . . . [T]he quote you give says 9.6% report EDUCATOR sexual misconduct. The second quote says that of those who experienced any kind of sexual misconduct, 21% were the targets of educators. I would read those 2 statistics as 9.6% experienced educator misconduct, and far, far more experienced sexual misconduct from other sources. If I'm right, there would be just under 10% who experienced educator sexual misconduct, and that number is only 1/5 of the total number who experienced sexual misconduct. . . . The total number of students in grades 8-11 who experienced some type of sexual misconduct by somebody would be closer to 50%!

Well, I re-looked at the underlying document. I recalled that Melinda's interpretation had been my own at first. But, then, the suggestion that almost 50 percent of all students are sexually abused seemed completely unbelievable. And when you read Shakeshaft's article, she goes to great lengths describing the abuse by all manner of people (and, most especially, students) in the public schools.

On the other hand, Shakeshaft consistently refers to educator abuse. And I would never classify students as educators!

Still, I was uncomfortable. Because when Shakeshaft puts "students" in a list of possible abusers, she never includes "educators" as a separate class of potential abusers; instead, she always refers to "teachers," "school employees," "coaches" and so forth. The word "educators" always comes up separately. Then again, how else might one refer to teachers, coaches, administrators, and so forth in one word? Educator seems appropriate.

I kept digging. Finally, I came across another document that Shakeshaft referenced--a document that she herself wrote.

After reading this second document, I have come to the conclusion that Melinda is correct. I was wrong. Matt Walsh was right. Which--sadly--means Walsh's (and others') comments about the comparison between the Catholic Church's scandal and sexual abuse in the public schools totally appropriate.

In this new document I read, Dr. Shakeshaft writes (see the last page of the linked PDF):
[W]hen alleged abuse is reported [in the public schools], the majority of complaints are ignored or disbelieved. Other students note this lack of response and reason that it is futile to try to stop a teacher from harassing since the school has not done anything about it in the past.

Until recently, teacher unions have been active in keeping fingerprinting legislation or statutes that prohibit educator sexual abuse from being passed. And, as in the case of fingerprinting, current teachers are exempt from the regulations.

Even when students allege abuse and the district responds, few students, families or school districts report this sexual abuse to the police or other law enforcement officials. As a result, most cases are not logged into the criminal justice system. Instead, abusers are dealt with using internal channels. In one of my early studies of 225 cases of educator sexual abuse in New York, none of the abusers were reported to authorities, and only 1 percent lost the license to teach.

In the aforementioned study, all of the accused had admitted to physical sexual abuse of a student, but only 35 percent suffered a negative consequence of these actions: 15 percent were terminated or, if not tenured, were not rehired; and 20 percent received a formal reprimand or suspension. Another 25 percent received no consequence or were spoken with informally. Nearly 39 percent chose to leave the district, most with retirement packages or positive recommendations intact.

Of the 54 percent who were terminated or retired, superintendents reported that 16 percent were teaching in other schools and that they did not know what had happened to the other 84 percent. A recent report on sexual abuse in New York City indicates that 60 percent of employees who were accused of sexual abuse were transferred to desk jobs at offices inside schools, and 40 percent of these teachers were repeat offenders.
The Church (rightly) is being hung out to dry for the offenses of its priests. These preachers of virtue, one would hope, would be virtuous themselves.

But even acknowledging that the public schools long ago disavowed any responsibility to teach morals or ethics, where is the outrage against the schools for their unseemly cover-ups?

Why is there so little public knowledge of the dangers in the public schools? (Note the comment by one person on the NPR site: "Public schools have never engaged in widespread abuse of children and subsequent cover-up." --Really?!?