Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Jack Rakosky: List of Posts

We need to pay attention to the global so as to avoid narrowness and banality. Yet we also need to look to the local, which keeps our feet on the ground. Together, the two prevent us from falling into one of two extremes.
 In the first, people get caught up in an abstract, globalized universe, falling into step behind everyone else, admiring the glitter of other people’s world, gaping and applauding at all the right times.

 At the other extreme, they turn into a museum of local folklore, a world apart, doomed to doing the same things over and over, and incapable of being challenged by novelty or appreciating the beauty which God bestows beyond their borders.
Francis, The Joy of the Gospel

There are a number of local projects here in Lake County that are related to my posts, of which the following are the most obvious..

I have been intrigued by the "Commonweal Local Communities."  They have not created one in Cleveland yet,  It may be difficult creating one, it will likely meet far from Lake County and  may involve few people. But I recently met someone at a gathering of Democrats who was a former Commonweal reader; so the idea of creating a local community here in Lake County may not be out of the question.

Whether or not that happens I am interested in being a catalyst for a digital community here in Cleveland that would draw on the resources of Commonweal and this blog.

The following list of my posts allows me to access them all quickly on my iPhone. It allows me to give people a card with my e-mail, phone number, and this link to all my posts. I can easily write the dates of the relevant ones on the back.  I plan to keep this link updated, and have located it at this date because it comes up immediately when one clicks the May posts. Some time in the future I may rearrange it by category rather than month.

List of Jack Rakosky's Posts

Trump to withdraw from Paris Climate Accord

Everyone from Pope Francis to Elon Musk has been advising Trump not to do this (Elon Musk threatens to leave White House advisory councils if Trump drops Paris accord). Well, everyone except his Republican toadies ... 22 GOP senators want US to pull out of Paris climate accord .... they would do anything to remain in power, anything.

More: Editorial If Trump withdraws from the Paris agreement, let's hope the world survives

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

To drive or not to drive, let the car do it

My Prius has started to internally eat oil at a rate of one quart per 1500 miles.  It's still economical for me to feed it oil.  I have 136,000 miles on it and would love to keep it 3 more years for a full 10 years but we'll see.  However, it's enough for me to start looking at what is available now and perhaps 3 years from now.  I looked at the Tesla Model 3, an electric car with a 240 mile range and, more interesting than the type of motor, the ability to SELF DRIVE.  Even at 68 my driving skills are at an all time high, risk avoidance tweaked to the max and my reaction times seem to be still adequate.  But I hate driving, more exactly, the idiots I encounter on the road.  So I am ready to get taken out of the loop and let an AI do the work.  What will this mean for me?

My driving skills will plummet.
I can let my friend MaryAnn, a pathological level backseat driver who could fill a whole Dr. Phil Show, shout at the car while I listen to Classical Music.
I can paint over or frost the car windows so I can ride naked, if I want.
I can drink more.
I can sleep more.
I can surf the net more or even read print books.
I can ride until I'm a hundred without a silver alert.

Recently, My mother was all panicked that her license would be taken away.  The neurologist gave her a clean bill of health but not before I got a "Why did you do this to me? and a lot of crying.  So eff me.   But, in the future

How will insurance companies react?  Tesla is claiming a 90% reduction in accident rate.
Why own a car that spends 95% of the time dormant?  Self-driving ubers can pick you up and drop you off.  I looked up the cost of uber and it's still pricey.  But with volume and multi-passenger shared rides, it could be cheaper than owning a car on a per mile basis with all the annoyance that goes with it.
With cars mostly in motion, who needs parking lots and parking spaces?
The municipalities will lose an important source of revenue.
Goodbye, car insurance companies.

Some right wing dweeb who thinks he's smarter than he is posted on that there isn't enough lithium to supply a total changeover from internal combustion to electric cars.  Though not necessarily true, a smart guy then replied to Fred Flintstone that that will not be true if you only need 10% of the cars.

For me, the writing is on the wall.  Digital Cameras killed Kodak.  There was nothing Kodak could do,  Film made Kodak indispensable and nearly unique.  But anybody can build a digital camera.  Eventually, self-driving may collapse the car industry to 10% of its present size.  Of course, in this country that couldn't convert to metric or adopt a dollar coin or buy round monolithic dome houses in Kansas that can withstand F5 tornadoes, maybe not.  We are good at thinking inside the very, very small red, white and blue box.

Monday, May 29, 2017

What Merkel Said UPDATE: Italy!

Angela Merkel: "The times when we could fully count on others are over to a certain extent. I have experienced this in the last few days. We Europeans must really take our destiny into our own hands, of course in friendship with the United States, in friendship with Great Britain, with other neighbors wherever possible, also with Russia. But we must know that we need to fight for our future ourselves, as Europeans, for our destiny." Per the New York TimesAnd Reuters: "BERLIN — German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Monday it was right not to gloss over differences with the United States on climate issues and added that a G7 debate at the weekend had shown it would be tough to make the Paris climate agreement successful."

But what Does She Mean?
She is right, "Europeans must really take our destiny into our own hands." But,
"of course in friendship," etc. This was a campaign speech. She duly addressed German angst about Trump. She told Trump to shove it--of course, in a nice way. She proposed that her fellow European leaders stay calm and recognize that they are responsible for their future and that they also have leverage with the U.S., the U.K., and even Russia. 

And while Trump brays as if he's in charge, his Secretary of State and his Generals use their back channels to reassure Europeans that NATO will help defend them and that  trade will hold up. 

This may be the end of the American Century, but it will be a long time fading away, especially if Merkel is reelected.

Yea? Nay? More nuance?

UPDATE:  NYTimes headline (5/30):  "With Italy No Longer in U.S. Focus, Russia Swoops to Fill the Void" !!! Remember when Italy had the largest Communist Party in Europe (after WW2). One of the reasons for the Marshall Plan, the European Coal, Iron, and Espresso Union, Etc.  The story points out that the U.S. currently has no ambassador to Italy (though we have one named to the Vatican--I can't bear to say her name). This is getting to sound like a Peter Seller's "Being There." Of course, the Italians will outwit the Russians as they have outwitted everyone else, including themselves.  

Sunday, May 28, 2017

A Cabin in the Woods: Its All Relative

In the 1970s, when I was a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst we had a young faculty member who grew up in Budapest, took a non-tenure track position at Harvard, then a tenure track position at U Mass. He joked about faculty members who had a cabin in the woods. "This is the woods! Why do you need a cabin somewhere else?"

Six years earning a doctorate at University of Missouri, Columbia plus three years at U Mass formed a large state university template that shaped but did not control my life.

Teaching at Franklin College in Indiana, I lived about 15 minutes from Bloomington. No classes on Wednesdays meant a day at the Indiana University library (free to anybody with an Indiana drivers licensee), lunch with a senior faculty member who shared my research interests, and evening free concerts of the University School of Music.

When working in the mental health system during the 80s in Toledo, I enrolled as an MBA student in the evening program at the University of Michigan. (In-state tuition but same standards as the day program). Ann Arbor was just a 45 minute drive away. 

Two decades here in Lake County, "an island off the coast of Cleveland," have given me the benefit of many academic resources (Case Western, John Carroll, diocesan pastoral center -seminary).  Courses at the local community college (e.g. photography) gave access to all the books and electronic resources of the Ohio Colleges and Universities. Summer courses at Notre Dame and University of Michigan plus annual presentations at professional conferences when I was still working rounded out the large state university template.

One can easily develop and maintain notions of what the good life is.

My Parent's Cabin in the Woods   

Friday, May 26, 2017

Trump just saved us millions and billions!

Trump tweeted this morning:

Just arrived in Italy for the G7. Trip has been very successful. We made and saved the USA many billions of dollars and millions of jobs.

What this means is anyone's guess. Bitching out NATO allies to pay more does not translate directly into jobs and money. Or maybe he's talking about the Saudi arms deal, which will result in more jobs and $$ for military contractors? (Senate hold-the-phone hearings on the sale notwithstanding.)

After making the arms sale, Trump met the pope and tweeted:

Honor of a lifetime to meet His Holiness Pope Francis. I leave the Vatican more determined than ever to pursue PEACE in our world.

I guess this is some type of "peace through selling arms to the people whose nationals blew up the Twin Towers" initiative.

But, whatever! It's great news if you're brain doesn't care about facts and details! And now that peace is breaking out, we under-employed folks will be waiting with bated breath for the job offers to pour in and taxes to go down due to the millions and billions the president has saved us. I'm gonna get the dishwasher fixed!

Trump also posted a new Rasmussen poll that shows his approval ratings at 48 percent.

The fact that Trump is bragging about fewer than half of the American people approving of the job he's doing struck Philip Bump in the WaPo as weird , too.

But it's not that weird given where his ratings have been. See? Read this stuff long enough and it all starts to make sense!

Now I gotta go bake a bundt cake to make our Memorial Day picnic great again! Have a great weekend!

Stay Wars: 40 years old

Forty years ago today I was sitting in a local movie theater with my sister and ex-boyfriend, watching the first Star Wars film (prequels don't count) ... ‘Star Wars’ Opened 40 Years Ago: Background Actors Recount How Movie Changed Their Lives. I had been a fan of science fiction since I was a kid and was so happy that someone had made this movie. Luke Skywalker was my favorite character (still is) but I liked everyone and everything about it ...

And I love its latest iteration too, which still retains Luke Sywalker :)

Did you guys see the first movie too?

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

The Commonweal Survey

Just Completed it; My Comments Below.

Did you get a survey?

What do you think about the survey and the issues

Recently Commonweal made some changes in its online design. What is your overall reaction to these changes?
Very negative
What are your primary reactions, positive or negative, to the new site?
The site is very difficult to navigate. In the old site I always could see immediately what was old and what was new. So I would check the website every day. Now I don't.
I liked the blog and the comments. They were motivation for me to come every day and check the site. If there wasn't something new to read, I could at least check up how the comments were going on what I had read.

The Federal Budget

Here is progressive rising star, Washington state Democrat Pramila Jayapal, on the budget ...

Trump's federal budget is back in the news. It is a monstrosity that will crush the poor, the elderly, the disabled, children, as well as our environment, in the name of bigger weapons and tax cuts for the rich. If the bill survives as it is, I will face cuts to my Medicaid and to my Social Security Disability benefits. The underlying Darwinian theme in such a budget is that only the lucky and the strong really deserve to survive. What is ironic is that those who defend the budget are mostly Christians .... apparently they never got that Mathew 25 memo.

Here's more detail on the budget from John Oliver ...

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

EEEEKK! Russia!

Those here old enough to remember the Real Cold War may share with me a certain puzzlement over the current hysteria about Russia. Yes, they hacked our 1916 election (to what effect we don't know). Yes, the mighty nuisance Donald Trump made a Russia reset one of his campaign point (for what purpose we don't know). And yes, Congress and the Justice Department should look into  the hacking and the possible collusion between Trump's campaign aides and Russian somebodies (that this may come to nothing, or nothing criminal, is possible but not likely). And then, of course, there's Ukraine, the Crimea, and Russian saber-rattling in its Near European neighbors. So there is cause for concern. Add to that the hot breath of the media (including responsible media) blowing up an anti-Russian storm.

Robert Hunter, former U.S. ambassador to NATO, raises some pointed questions about all of this: "The Foreign Policy Price of Trump's Russia Scandal" at LobLog.  Long but readable. Not wonky. Points to some undiplomatic and inartful moves during the G.W. Bush and Obama Administrations.  What do you make of all of this?

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Channelling My Inner Survivalist

Mad Max The Road Warrior

Stu, my accountant, once told me, “It’s not that people get more eccentric as they get older, they just care less about hiding it”.   Stu is on to something here; one of my own long hidden eccentricities is that I worry a little bit about The End of The World As We Know It.  I’m not talking about the natural disasters that knock out some of our communities for weeks and months, terrible and devastating as those are.   I’m talking about The Big One, the total collapse of civilization, End of Days type stuff.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Nature Notes Redivivus

May 19, 2017: First trip to the cabin in the woods. Electricity. But no Water (maybe tomorrow). Beautiful Day. Started out in the upper 80s, now, 63. 93 in NYC as we left.

We have missed the daffodils. But in exuberant bloom: lilacs (best year ever), a sprinkling of lily of the valley, and the scarce but treasured (by me) Alium (yes, of the onion family). Two of them are bending gently in the breeze. Little violets everywhere. Sweet meadow just budding.

Wasps seemed dazed by the recent heat. So far, no ticks, but it's said to be a banner year east of the Hudson.

Evening June light shimmers through the trees.  What will night bring?

7:45: Two turkeys in the meadow....Gigantic! Mating season, I wager.

May 20: First tic sighting on shirt left overnight on the rocking chair. Doing away with it required grabbing it in a paper towel, getting a hammer, can pounding away on a stone. Still a little leg waving after all of that.

I used to keep track of "nature" appearances here on the dotCommonweal posts. Alas, I have no idea if nature is ahead or behind herself this year. Another great loss!

Adam Schiff for President

I saw in the news that Biden says he never thought Hillary was a good choice for president. I think he's wrong about her qualifications and I don't doubt some of what he holds against her is her support for women's reproductive rights,.

But anyway, for the upcoming election, I'd like to see California Congressman Adam Schiff run for president for the Democrats. He's been visible lately because he's on the House committee investigating Trump/Russia ... you can read more about him and his past experience at the Wikipedia link, but he was in the State Senate and served as a prosecutor in the U.S. Attorney's Office in LA. Here below he has an interview with Bill Maher about all the recent Trump/Russia stuff ....

I like him :)

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Commonweal publishes Paul J; Griffiths' letter of resignation.

Paul J. Griffiths resigned from Duke University because of a flap over his remarks disparaging diversity training as a waste of time.  Given that the professor was learned in other traditions besides Christianity, I'd guess that he was already appreciative of diversity.  But I've been forced to take all kinds of such training:  sexual harassment, human trafficking, AIDS, etc.  As far a I know, the guys like me who found sexual harassment unprofessional before training still did . The unprofessional idiots who sexually harassed women in the workplace did not change after training.  As far as I could tell, it was just a CYA check mark for the management that actually DID merely waste time. Whatever improvements in tolerance I've achieved, it was from reading, not training.  I've always hated the word "training".  There IS something overbearing and totalitarian in the word.  If this was Professor Griffiths' objection, I agree.

Proceed with caution on calls for impeachment

Our breakfast time has always resembled a political analysis briefing. The news of the previous day is rehashed over egg, toast, coffee, and a decent night's sleep.

This morning's insight is that parties het up to impeach President Trump and git-r-done quick (E.J. Dionne, for example) for obstruction of justice, lying, appointing incompetents, bad hairstyling, and general Looney Toons behavior better make sure their case is iron clad. A President Trump who beats an impeachment would be more insufferable than the current version.

Think about it:

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

A Story of "Soft" Slavery

I don't know how many of you have read this story.
To very briefly summarize, "Lola", the Filipina woman who is the subject of the article, lived as a virtual slave in the last half of the 20th century, in America.  I used the term "soft" slavery in the post title because it was different than chattel slavery in which someone could be bought or sold.  This was an example of a poor relation being exploited and mistreated because she could be. I'm sure situations like this have happened countless times to poor and vulnerable people, particularly women who have nowhere else to turn.  The article was heartbreaking, but had a good ending for Lola, whose later life was much happier than her earlier years. It took a great deal of courage for the author, the late Alex Tizon, to tell this story, which did not reflect well on his parents.

Revenge Is Gonna Be Mine

Boy, I really need a break from Trump (the latest scandal: Trump asking Comey to stop investigating Flynn). To distract myself I'm trying to learn a new song, this one sung by Captain Hook (see above photo of him before his pirate days), from Once Upon a Time ...

an American fairy tale television series ... The show takes place in the fictional seaside town of Storybrooke, Maine, whose residents are characters from various fairy tales transported to the "real world" town and robbed of their real memories by a powerful curse .... t borrows elements and characters from the Disney-franchise and popular Western literature, folklore, and fairy tales. Once Upon a Time was created by Lost and Tron: Legacy writers Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz.

Here's Hook's song. He's been approached by Snow White and Prince Charming for help in a quest, but he won't agree because he's fixated on destroying the crocodile, an evil sorcerer also known as the Dark One, who killed the woman he loved and cut off his hand ...

PS - You can watch Snow White and Prince Charming sing their song, Powerful Magic, here :)

Tuesday, May 16, 2017


Everyone remembers the "Bad" kids from grammar school. A smidgen of disapproval from the "good" kids, along with a total fix on what bad thing they might do next.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel knows about that phenomenon and he's not happy that Trump benefits from it:  "Emanuel...thinks everyone in Washington is too focused on the crazy around Trump to see what’s actually going on — and what’s not." Politico.

David Brooks's column in Tuesday's NYTimes works off the same metaphor:  When the World Is Led by a Child.   Brooks writes:  "Trump is an infantalist. There are three tasks that most mature adults have sort of figured out by the time they hit 25. Trump has mastered none of them. Immaturity is becoming the dominant note of his presidency, lack of self-control his leitmotif."

And Dana Milbank at the Washington Post summons a soupcon of pity for Sean Spicer when he points out the many ways Trump has humiliated his chief spokesman. Headline:
"Trump Has Sucked the Lifeblood Out of Sean Spicer."

And now that I have once again focused attention on the Infantalist, what can we do about this?

What the hell; this just in from a friend in DC:  "Pay Trump Bribes Here!" 

Gallup: Record USA Liberal Moral Views. Why?

USA: Why Liberal Morality and Conservative Politics?

Gallup: The Acceptability of Various Moral Behaviors
Year First
Birth Control
Unmarried sex

Gay/lesbian relations
Unmarried pregnancy
Human Stem cell research

The death penalty
Doctor assisted suicide
Animal fur wearing

Animal medical testing


Sex between teens


Extramarital Affairs


Data extracted and rearranged from Americans Hold Record Liberal Views on Most Moral Issues

Liberals have been very successful in spreading their moral views in these first two decades of the twenty first century.  As the above chart indicates, divorce, unmarried sex, gay/lesbian relationships, and unmarried pregnancy have reached new highs this year, have achieved double digit gains since 2001, and now have substantial majorities (60% plus).  This has not been accompanied by sweeping liberal political gains.  No issue shows significant gains in the conservative moral direction; however politically conservatives have taken control of many state governments, the Congress, the Presidency and the Supreme Court..

Andrew Greeley maintained that the sixties sexual revolution was greatly exaggerated.  Acceptance of extramarital affairs, and sex between teens remains low even now. What has happened is that marriage has been redefined to include serial marriage, monogamous sex before marriage, and now gay marriage. Although polygamy and pornography have made some gains now, their acceptability still remains low. The acceptability of abortion has remained essentially the same, the acceptability of suicide remains low.

Is there a good sociological theory that explains how we can be conservative and liberal at the same time? Yes, there is!    

The World Values Study & Liberal Cultural Success

Sunday, May 14, 2017

What are we, chopped liver?

 Over the past few days the self-described leader of what he thinks is the greatest movement in the history of the world, who is serving as our president, has been toying with the idea of abolishing press briefings.

 Press briefings (nee press conferences) are occasions for Sean Spicer or Sarah Huckabee Sanders to stand up to the slings and arrows of scribes. His Leadership tweets that "As a very active President with lots of things happening, it is not possible for my surrogates to stand at podium with perfect accuracy!.." As he explained to Jeanine Pirro of Fox News his mind works too fast for mortals to keep up with it. After the gap I'll explain what's wrong with his musing and why NBC is such an embarrassment.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Ethics of the Allocation of Medical Resources

I opened my newspaper this morning to this heartbreaking story: Healthcare issues have been in our discussions a lot lately.  What we don't want to talk about is the fact that medical resources are to some extent rationed, whether under single payer, or private insurance. Especially something like organ transplants, which are initially very expensive, and are an ongoing expense for the rest of the recipient's life. The trifecta of factors working against this baby getting a liver transplant are the initial $750K cost, the shortage of donated organs (there is always more need than supply), and the lack of medical support for the ongoing care of transplant patients in the family's country of origin, the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
From the article:
"Dr. Art Caplan, a medical ethicist based at New York University, said Ticvah’s case shines a light “into some uncomfortable areas of our attitudes.”
Like: What are our duties to children? Does it matter where in the world they live? And what about the very real costs, which don’t end after surgery? Caplan said anti-rejection drugs can cost $50,000 a year."
When we allocate care to one patient, what happens if that means we are denying it to another?  What do both justice and mercy require us to do?

Reading Trump

Since Donald Trump became president, I have become interested in how his tweets reveal his ideas, thought processes, and responses to the stresses of his office--and what responses to his tweets reveal about us. The last few days have been especially interesting.

On May 8, as CIA Director James Clapper and Sally Yates spoke to senators, Trump tweeted:

Director Clapper reiterated what everybody, including the fake media already knows- there is "no evidence" of collusion w/ Russia and Trump.

This morning "no evidence" of collusion has morphed into total innocence as Trump tweeted:

When James Clapper himself, and virtually everyone else with knowledge of the witch hunt, says there is no collusion, when does it end?

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Trump fires FBI director Comey


- Another piece of the puzzle: Days Before Firing, Comey Asked for More Resources for Russia Inquiry

- And here's Tim Kaine on the situation ...

* * *

In another news video from CNN, it was mentioned that Trump had been wanting to fire Comey for some time, so he tasked Sessions and Rosenstein with coming up with some credible reasons for doing so and then he disingenuously averred that he was acting on their recommendations ....

But the real reason? So obviously because Comey told the House subcommitte that he was investigating the connections between Trump and the Russians hacking the election.

Shades of Nixon and the Saturday Night Massacre!

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Macron wins 65% of the vote! UPDATE

Now let's hope he'll actually be able to govern.

Let's hear from Claire Mathieu from her part of France!

UPDATE 5/9:  A telling addendum to France's election: There was a huge document dump from hackers on Friday, two days before the election. The materials were from Macron's campaign. According to an NYTimes story Tuesday, this seemed to have little impact on the race.  "Why the Macron Hacking Attack Landed with a Thud in France."

First, it was very late in the campaign and second, there is a black-out period before French elections so that voters can think! The candidates fall silent. In this case, so did the media though they were not barred from publishing or discussing the hacked material. Le Monde, France's premier newspaper has said they will report on these when they have been through them, hence no SHOCKING HEADLINES!

Correspondent and commentator David Leonhardt of the Times has an op-ed piece contrasting French and U.S. media practices suggesting he and his colleagues can learn something from the French.  And France does not have an equivalent of Fox News....lucky them.

Mega-Sermon+Entrepreneurs = Clericalism+Consumerism

Sermons and Church-going: Are Non-attenders

Reacting to Clericalism and Consumerism?

Major Reasons Why People Attend Church
Sermons that teach about scripture
Sermons that help connect religion to own life
Spiritual programs for children/teens
Community outreach / volunteer opportunities
Dynamic religious leaders
Social activities
Choir or other spiritual music
Based on those who attend church monthly or more often
People Who Attended Before but Not Now
Was the following a Factor in Non-attendance
You prefer to worship on your own
You don't like organized religion
You aren't very religious

Reactions to Gallup here, here, and here.  Music lovers were not amused!

Both Catholics and Protestants put sermons at the top of their list of reasons for attending church. Is this a good thing? Sermons emphasize the attender’s role as a consumer rather than as a doer. Especially if they are long, they emphasize the clergy’s rather than the laity’s role in worship.

According to the Pew Religious Landscape Study, while 35% of Americans attend church weekly, 55% of Americans pray daily. Among Americans who attend church once or twice monthly or even just a few times a year, 50% still pray daily. Among of those who seldom or never go to church, 25% still pray daily.  Therefore we should not be surprised that many who do not attend church weekly actually prefer to worship on their own.  Are they also reacting to the clericalism and consumerism of worship culture?    

At Commonweal Thomas Baker interviews Chris Lowney on Why We Need an EntrepreneurialChurch  The current issue of America provides a very good article on a large Catholic parish which has adopted much of the Evangelical mega-church model, Lessons on Evangelization From the Largest Parish in the United States.   Is this the Catholic future? I hope not!

Worship Service Data from National Congregations Study