Sunday, July 23, 2017

Big Box Closings: Walmart in Rural West Virginia

Read What happened when Walmart left. We have all read articles on what happens when Walmart comes. This is what happens when it left the county in the US that has the lowest life expectancy. It is not just about jobs and taxes, its about health and social life.

“Socialization. We lost our socialization factor. Now it’s hard to keep track of people, there’s no other place like it where you can stand and chat.”

There used to be 28 churches of her United Methodist denomination in the county, now there are six; there were seven bars in Welch, all but one have closed; there were three cinemas, now it’s down to one; there are no community centers left; many of the corner shops have gone. “There’s nothing here,” McKinney says. McKinney has one other, rather astonishing, reason to regret that the store closed. Walking. Walking?  “I went to Walmart for the walk,”

What part do Big Box stores play in in your part of the country? in your life?

How has that been changing?

K-Mart and Sears Close in Lake County

Friday, July 21, 2017

And now for something completely different ...

I have long been a fan of Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) who, decades ago, used to be on an NPR late-night talk show with Sen. Joe Biden. Biden would hog the mike until Grassley sputtered, "Now, my friend Joe's been saying a lotta things, and I wanna say something now." Then Biden would say, "Sure, Chuck, but let me make this one last point ..." And Uncle Joe would talk until the music for a break came up.

It's not that I agree with Sen. Grassley "about a lotta things," but I recognize a decent fellow Midwesterner when I see one. And what came across in those Chuck-and-Joe (but mostly Joe) chats were two regular guys with very different ideas and personalities who sincerely respected each other and often found common sympathies.

So here's my appreciation of Sen. Grassley.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Cardinal Cupich: not a liberal

America Magazine has a post on Cardinal Blase Cupich ... Chicago's Cardinal Cupich: Saying gay, lesbian and L.G.B.T. is a step toward respect. Here's the beginning of it ...

Cardinal Blase Cupich waded into a debate about how the Catholic Church should interact with gays and lesbians, telling a crowd in Chicago that at minimum they should be called by the phrases they use for themselves ...

I do think the church does wield the word" homosexual" like a weapon and that Cupich is right about how important words are. But what's bothering me is Cupich himself and the way he is seen as a liberal in the church. Ever since "reforming" Pope Francis noticed him, Cupich has been touted thus ... Pope Francis names Spokane bishop to Chicago, dashing conservative hopes ... but if Cupich is no liberal.

When Cupich was bishop of Spokane, Washington, and a vote on marriage equality came to his state, he wrote against it in Some Reflections on Referendum 74, warning that if the referendum passed, it could lead to incest marriages and polygamy ...

[...] If there is anything we have come to appreciate and value more fully in this modern age, it is that men and women are not the same. That is true not only biologically, but on so many other levels. Men and women are not interchangeable. They each bring something of their difference to complement each other. In a marriage union, a mutual sharing of each other’s difference creates life, but it also nourishes that life in a family where sons and daughters learn about gender from the way it is lived by their mothers and fathers. The decision to unhinge marriage from its original grounding in our biological life should not be taken lightly for there are some things enacted law is not capable of changing. Thoughtful consideration should be given to the significant consequences such unhinging will mean for children, families, society and the common good .....

If marriage is only about relationships, why limit unions to two people? Why does the new law include the traditional prohibition of close kinship unions for both opposite and same sex couples? The threat of genetic disorders in children is not an issue for same sex couples. Is it not reasonable to assume that a closely related same sex couple will in time successfully challenge this prohibition as an unreasonable imposition? .... In the coming weeks I will provide through the Inland Register, and our websites ( and materials based on what we believe God has revealed to us about creation, the meaning and value of marriage and family, and the way we are called to live as Christ’s disciples.

I didn't post this just to pick on Cupich, but use him as an example of our false complacency ... to all those moderates who like to think of Francis as a reformer and of themselves as liberals, he isn't and you are not.

The few actual liberals in this church have been silenced like Fr. Tony Flannery or excommunicated/laicized/tossed out like Fr. Roy Bourgeois. Our church is run by someone with grandfatherly charisma, but let's be honest about where we really stand under his conservative banner: gay people can't have their relationships recognized within the church, women will "never" be priests (or deacons), there will be no official change in communion for divorced/remarried people, contraception is still wrong, and sex abuse by priests and the cover-up of that still has not and will not be effectively addressed.

I suppose it is fitting, then, that Cupich, our "liberal" champion, is in the news because of words, not deeds.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Hospitals save themselves, but not their neighborhoods

Apropos of the discussion about Michigan and the role that medical centers may (or may not) play in revitalizing their surroundings, here's a piece about the Cleveland Clinic that questions its high value to the city of Cleveland, but the neglect of the people who actually live within sight of it.  Politico

"There’s an uneasy relationship between the Clinic — the second-biggest employer in Ohio and one of the greatest hospitals in the world — and the community around it. Yes, the hospital is the pride of Cleveland, and its leaders readily tout reports that the Clinic delivers billions of dollars in value to the state. It’s even “attracting companies that will come and grow up around us,” said Toby Cosgrove, the longtime CEO, pointing to IBM’s decision to lease a building on the edge of campus. “That will be great [for] jobs and economic infusion in this area.”

"But it’s also a tax-exempt organization that, like many hospitals, fought to preserve its not-for-profit status in the years leading up to the Affordable Care Act. As a result, it doesn’t have to pay tens of millions of dollars in taxes, but it is supposed to fulfill a loosely defined commitment to reinvest in its community.

"That community is poor, unhealthy and — in the words of one national neighborhood-ranking website — “barely livable.”.....

"It’s the paradox at the heart of the Cleveland Clinic, as it lures wealthy patients and expands into cities like London and Abu Dhabi. Its stated mission is to save lives. But it can’t save the neighborhood that continues to crumble around it."

Sunday, July 16, 2017

My California

Margaret's post on Michigan has inspired me to write a post about California for those who have never been .I've lived most of my life in a suburb of the capital of the state, Sacramento, but I've been lucky as a kid and an adult to travel all over California. Here are some of the places I've visited ...

- San Francisco. My grandparents took us kids often to Golden Gate Park and the Steinhart Aquarium and natural history museum in the California Academy of Sciences there. We also visited the San Francisco Zoo, which has a great Dentzel Carousel (see above).

When I was a teen my parents took us there to see the Beatles twice, at Candlestick Park and at the Cow Palace :) We went to many other concerts over the years, as well as visiting museums and shopping in places like Japantown, the Embarcadero, and Ghirardelli Square. Perhaps a little known SF factoid - people can't get buried there. Burials were outlawed in 1900 and most of the dead were relocated to the nearby town of Colma. Now parts of SF are built above the old cemeteries, like the Jesuit University of San Francisco.

- San Diego. I lived for a few months here with my sister and spent my time divided between Balboa Park (home of the San Diego Zoo), and the beach at the Hotel del Coronado (all beaches in CA are free and open to the public), and the Cove in La Jolla ...

- Napa. When I was in college I visited the wineries many times with my family. We also rode the Skunk train and visited the nearby cheese factory. One place in Napa I'll never forget visiting was the Napa State Hospital (for the mentally ill), which was a field trip for a college psych class. Very depressing place. Perhaps a little known fact about Napa - while there are defunct gold and silver mines all over California, Napa has some old mercury mines - eeek!

- I've also visited Yosemite National Park, Kings Canyon National Park and Sequoia National Park, Santa Cruz (home of the famous boardwalk), Carmel, Mendocino (where they filmed Murder She Wrote), Sausalito, Monterey (home of the Monterey Bay Aquarium ...

And also the John Muir Woods, the Sierra Nevada mountains for cross-country skiing, Solvang (a little piece of Denmark :), Lake Tahoe, and of course, LA, with its La Brea Tar Pits, UCLA, Knott's Berry Farm, and Disneyland.

I think sometimes people believe California is really just a giant parking lot in LA but that's not true :)

Can we talk about Michigan again?

Fireflies have probably flamed out. So let's ask Jean about "rust belt" Michigan.

Brookings has a report up, "A Tale of two Rust Belts: Diverging economic paths shaping community politics."   John Austin, the author summarizes and laments the loss of industrial jobs in the Midwest over the last several decades. But he goes on to argue that not everyplace has fallen into desuetude, not all rust belts cities are the same....some aren't rust belts. His focus is on Michigan. He further argues that places that have moved on are also places that voted Democratic in the 2016 presidential race. He cites the following:

...Apart from Wayne county, home of Detroit’s Democratic base and its African American population stronghold—the big blue votes came from the places that are growing and arguably are succeeding in a changed economy—with more optimistic residents. As Table 1 shows, these metros include:
  • Washtenaw county, home to the world-class University of Michigan and Eastern Michigan University, as well as a growing highly-educated population that includes nearly all the state’s venture investors and innovation community;
  • Ingham county, home to the state capitol and Michigan State University, Michigan’s other top-tier research university;
  • Kalamazoo county: the Kalamazoo Promise, which pays college tuition for all school graduates, has helped spark a downtown revival, aiding economic development efforts that have worked to replace the loss of big anchors like Pfizer Corporation and has brought middle-class families back to the urban core; and
  • Once solidly Republican Oakland County, which surprisingly also went blue. Oakland is home to a well-heeled professional class, a growing middle-class African-American and professional immigrant community, high education levels, and a very diverse economic base.
These communities are growing in population and income, and are attracting and keeping well-educated people. In other words, they are “Rust-Belt” no more.

Jean Raber: What's your view on this?

Thursday, July 13, 2017

How Big?

The glacier that broke off Antarctica is:
  • Twice the size of Luxembourg and Samoa;
  • Approximately the same size as Delaware or Brunei;
  • Nine times the size of Singapore;
  • Four times the size of London and seven time that of New York City.
In other words, it's pretty big, or as Calvin Trillin might say, bigger than a carrot and a bread box combined.