Friday, June 23, 2017

America: The Case Against Oligarchical Philanthropy

It is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. (Mat 19:23 NIV)

In Lords of Charity (its title in the June 26, 2017 print edition of America) Nathan Schneider, a reporter and professor of media studies at the University of Colorado, argues the case against oligarchical philanthropy as we know it, specifically targeting Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg. 

Is Bill Gates giving his money away?  Isn’t he buying control of additional sectors of the economy, setting the agenda in health care and school reform. His foundation rivals the World Health Organization. At least the WHO has some government accountability. He holds influence over the US public school system which his foundation consistently steers toward Microsoft products. He went to private school and was a college dropout; he is a good salesperson of a monopolistic product. Does that qualify him to redirect large areas of the economy outside his expertise, solely because he has money?  Is what he is doing philanthropy, love of humanity?  Schneider compares it to buying indulgences.
Yet long after anyone remembers the misfortune of running Windows Vista, Mr. Gates can expect enduring praise for pouring money into humanitarian pursuits.

What are the alternatives?  Schneider proposes giving it back in several ways:
1. To the employees:
2.To the users of Facebook in the case of Mark Zuckerberg.
3. Direct gifts of cash to accounts of poor people.

Schneider details creative ways of doing all this that would increase democracy by letting employees, users, and the poor decide how the money is to be spent. Against fears that it might be misspent, Schneider quotes Francis “for a homeless man maybe a glass of wine is his only happiness in life.”
If philanthropy means love of others, it must prove itself by entrusting the material of that love to the intended recipients. To believe in the dignity of other human beings is to honor their capacity to choose.

My Comments

Thursday, June 22, 2017

All The President's Minions

We are moving along as if the Supreme Court upheld Richard Nixon's contention that "if the president does it, that means it is not illegal." The novel understanding of the divine right of presidents is necessary because our president -- as Speaker Ryan pointed out -- is not a politician, so he has no knowledge of what is and isn't legal in government.

So OK, an eight-year learning curve for Donald J. Trump.

But now the Supreme Court of the United States has ruled, 4-2, that all the president's men can't be prosecuted for violating people's First, Fourth and Fifth Amendment rights, even though they used to be prosecuted for such things. Because 9-11. A good story from New York magazine is  here.  The SCOTUS opinion is here. More after he break.


Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Georgia 6 and the future of the Republic

What does Democrat Jon Ossof's loss to Republican Karen Handler foretell?

True, he was not a strong candidate, but neither was she.

Millions of dollars were spent by both sides. Didn't make a difference for either.

Are there some districts that are immune to voting for Democrats (even if it was close).

The comforting notion that the Democrats are going to take the House in 2018 looks to me like it's going down the rabbit hole. 

Democrats Seethe After Georgia Loss: ‘Our Brand Is Worse Than Trump’

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/21/us/pelosi-georgia-ossoff-democrats.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=photo-spot-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-news


 

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Otto Warmbier

UPDATE, 6/21: Still no answer on why Otto, who had been stable for over a year in a persistent vegetative state, would suddenly die (What Killed Otto Warmbier? Maybe an Infection or Blood Clot), but today I saw that his family refused to allow an autopsy, which seems a bit suspicious to me. Did they deny him medical care or food/water? That would not have been illegal but I wonder about the ethics.

In the news - Otto Warmbier dies days after release from North Korean detainment. We have all been following the story ... What Happened to Otto Warmbier? ... and it's very sad to see it end this way.

According to Wikipedia, Otto's condition was that of "a state of unresponsive wakefulness"—a condition commonly known as persistent vegetative state, like that of Terri Schiavo. Of course, I don't know the cause of Otto's death, but I recall that when Terri Schiavo died, there was a lot of Catholic press and a lot of questions were raised about end of life stuff.

I'm not sure how I feel about this. If I were in a persistent vegetative state, I'm pretty sure I would want to die, but how do you make that decision for someone else? The closest I've had to come to that was trying to decide at what point my elderly sick cats were suffering so much that they would rather be dead, and I still wonder if my choices were really made for them or for me. What does the church say about this? what do you guys think?

Saturday, June 17, 2017

The Essence of Being

I got into a rather metaphysical conversation with my oldest son the other day.  I forget how the subject came up; but I said that I wished I had finished college before getting married.  It would have been a lot easier when my parents were paying for it, and I didn't have family responsibilities, than it was when I went back to school a lot later. And it certainly would have made things easier financially for us.  He said, rather anguished, "But Mom, I wouldn't exist if you had done it that way!"  I said, "Of course you would.  We would have had kids, it just would have been delayed a bit."  Said my son, "You don't understand.  That kid that you eventually got around to having wouldn't be me.  He or she would have been my alternative reality sibling."  I quickly reassured him that of course, if that were the case, I don't regret anything, I was totally glad I had him.  My theory had been that if the timing of our conceptions had been different, we would still be the same souls, but in a different body.  My son might have been a short blonde male, rather than a tall dark haired one.  He said, "I don't think so, Mom.  I think my one chance for existence was the time it actually happened. I don't think bodies and souls are interchangeable units, they happen together."  Gave me food for thought.  And a headache.  And I have decided that I have no regrets; the butterfly effect and all that. 

Friday, June 16, 2017

More QATAR from someone who knows something

Gary Sick:

Gary Sick, a scholar at Columbia University, served on the National Security Council under Presidents Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan and was the principal White House aide for Iran during the Iranian Revolution and the hostage crisis. 

He writes: "First, as a member of the US policy team that first applied sanctions against Iran when our diplomats were being held hostage in Tehran, we drew the line at food and medicine. That has remained true in the succeeding 37 years. Despite all the onerous sanctions that the US has imposed against Iran over the years, which verge on economic warfare, there has never been a formal restriction on sales of food or medicine, including by US companies. The Saudi-UAE boycott, however, closed off food and medicine shipments to Qatar wherever possible, in the middle of Ramadan. I don’t know if this technically constitutes a breach of international humanitarian law, but it is certainly drastic by modern standards of political conflict."

He goes on to make several other telling points, including the fact that the U.S. military does not seem to be in sync with Donald Trump's pronouncements on the subject.
LobeLog

Thursday, June 15, 2017

RNS: What will future houses of worship look like?

Headlands Beach State Park, Lake County, Ohio

NIV John 4 21, 23-24  Jesus said to the Samaritan woman, "Believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and truth; and indeed the Father seeks such people to worship him. God is Spirit, and those who worship him must worship in Spirit and truth."
Where is the best place to worship?  An old question is being asked in a new form. Architects from Catholic University and the University of Hartford asked architectural students at Catholic University to design a house of worship for millennials. Here are the results; be sure to use the handles to see them all. And read the story to understand their rational.

Some questions for discussion?

Do we need buildings for worship?  In the Old Testament high places and springs were places of worship.

Is your home a house of worship?  House churches were the earliest Christian churches; increasing it is becoming evident they were used long after public places of worship became available.

Should we have multi-use public buildings of worship? In medieval times in some places the nave was considered the responsibility of the laity and used for secular events, e.g. markets.

Multi-faith buildings for worship?  should we have buildings and places for spirituality?

Ecumenical buildings for worship? with Christian symbols but non-denominational. Non-denominational congregations are growing fast.

Some  of My Places for Worship in Lake County


Wednesday, June 14, 2017

First firefly sighted last night!

Normally Margaret Steinfels starts this off, but the fireflies are early in Michigan this year. Just a few last night. They usually peak around July 4. Hopefully mosquito spraying has not decimated them.

Nature observations are an
anodyne to the political idiocy. No matter how bad humans mess up, the creatures do their creature thing and the moon and stars continue their predictable phases.

God has given us a beautiful world to live in that offers perspective and restoration.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Stupid Watergate

"Stupid Watergate" ... "a scandal with all the potential ramifications of Watergate, but where everyone involved is stupid and bad at everything". - John Oliver

Friend Says Trump Is Considering Firing Mueller as Special Counsel

But ...

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein says only he has the power to fire special counsel on Russia

And anyway ...

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Radical Grace: We Are All Nuns UPDATED




Screening of Radical Grace at the Hildegarden, Lake County, Ohio
Radical Grace is a film about three women religious: Sister Jean Hughes who worked with formerly incarcerated felons in Chicago; Sister Chris Schenk who founded FutureChurch here in Cleveland; and Simone Campbell of NETWORK and Nuns on the Bus fame.

Last night Sister Chris did Q & A for a screening here in Lake County at The Hildegard,  "a non-profit facility inspired by the creative genius of the 12th century German visionary Hildegard of Bingen. It is a center focused on holistic health and spirituality offering programs, retreats, speakers, and other activities to grow one’s mind, body, and spirit."

Sister Chris thought this was going to be a few simple interviews when she agreed to be part of it. But the film-making stretched  out over a long period of time, as event after event happened that affected the story. Chris said it was not easy trying to run an organization and a movement in front of the cameras. However she stuck with it because of her admiration for the deep spirituality of its director.

Rebecca Parish opens her Director's Statement with
I’m one of the “nones,” part of a growing demographic of religiously unaffiliated millennials. So I could never have predicted that I’d be making a film about… nuns.
Back in 2011, I didn’t set out to make a film about religion. What became Radical Grace started out as a project documenting unique acts of social justice.
Read  her whole statement here. You will need to scroll down the page!

Facebook.com/RadicalGraceFilm reports

"Our screening with Benzie County Democrats yesterday had over 250 attendees. Huge win for Radical Grace! Continue the conversation with us on Twitter - @RadGraceFilm - and let us know in the comments what city you want us to come to next!"

Could this become a Democratic organizing film?


Thursday, June 8, 2017

Comey testifies

Saw parts of it on-line and read the NYTimes on-line notations. What do we think?

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

More Qatar

Not the biggest question on the agenda, but suddenly Qatar has become a hot spot in the Middle East. At moments, the whole line-up of issues, friends and enemies, potential flash points look to me like the Austria-Hungary/Russia-Serbia mini-conflicts before WWI. Here is a piece by Juan Cole, who sounds a bit like that to, but ends his very informative analysis with this:
The crisis will probably be resolved without such drastic measures. Qatar has the advantage of being the world’s biggest supplier of Liquefied Natural Gas, making it fabulously wealthy and independent. But it suffers from having a tiny citizen population, smaller than that of Cleveland. In military contests, demography is often destiny.
So perhaps this will die down.  Where is Bill de Haas? now when we could use some perspective?

P.S. I am told by my chief pronunciation advisor, it is pr. "Cutter."

Government, Private Prepaid & Out of Pocket Spending

Global Health Financing Patterns 1995-2014


SELECTED
COUNTRIES
RANKED  BY
TOTAL $ PER
PERSON
HEALTH CARE SPENDING 1995-2014
Total
Percent
Government
Prepaid Private
Out of Pocket
Annual
$ Per
Of
% of
$ per
% of
$ per
% of
$ per
%
Person
GDP
Total
Person
Total
Person
Total
Person
Change
USA
9237
16.6%
50%
4600
39%
3584
11%
1053
2.9%
Switzerland
7811
12.8%
60%
4710
15%
1187
25%
1914
3.2%
Luxembourg
7105
6.9%
84%
5961
6%
391
11%
753
3.2%
Norway
6537
10.0%
83%
5432
4%
242
13%
863
3.3%
Austria
5471
11.2%
78%
4267
6%
317
16%
886
2.6%
Sweden
5446
11.8%
85%
4635
1%
33
14%
773
4.0%
Germany
5356
11.2%
77%
4140
9%
503
13%
712
2.6%
Netherlands
5234
10.7%
88%
4627
6%
330
5%
277
3.9%
Denmark
5075
10.8%
85%
4304
2%
96
13%
680
2.8%
Belgium
4751
10.6%
78%
3701
4%
204
18%
846
3.3%
France
4589
11.3%
80%
3667
14%
624
7%
298
2.0%
Canada
4576
10.3%
72%
3299
14%
645
14%
631
2.4%
NewZealand
4050
11.0%
82%
3333
7%
267
11%
446
4.2%
Australia
4032
9.0%
70%
2839
10%
399
20%
794
3.3%
Ireland
4006
7.6%
68%
2708
14%
573
18%
725
4.6%
Iceland
3959
8.7%
82%
3258
0%
0
18%
701
2.3%
Finland
3935
9.3%
78%
3069
3%
122
19%
744
3.1%
UK
3749
9.1%
83%
3115
7%
266
10%
364
3.4%
Italy
3311
9.0%
77%
2563
1%
30
22%
718
1.8%
Spain
3096
9.0%
71%
2201
5%
149
24%
746
2.6%
Portugal
2697
9.3%
67%
1796
6%
159
28%
744
3.3%

Data Selected and Adapted from Global Health Financing: government, prepaid private, and out-of-pocket health spending . You may have to register with them, i.e. create a free account with your e-mail address to access this article.

On the face of it the USA has by far the most expensive health care per person ($9327), and the most expensive among the countries listed in terms of percent of GDP spent on health care (16.6%)

While the USA government provides only 50% of the total funding (all other countries listed provide between 60 to 88%) the amount per person from government funding ($4600) is more than the total spending per person of all but nine countries on this list!

The USA is dramatically different from all the other countries in prepaid private spending, e.g. insurance plans. They provide 39% percent of the spending, which is more than twice the percent of the country with the next highest percent, Switzerland.

The dollars per person of USA prepaid ($3584) is more than three times the next runner up (Switzerland again) at $1187. Obviously shifting the USA market from its present emphasis on prepaid private would be a great undertaking.

The USA percentage of total spending paid by out of pocket expenses (11%) is actually lower than 15 out of 20 of the remaining countries in the list.

However because of our high total spending, American out of pocket spending comes in second $1053 after the highest which is again Switzerland ($1914).  

Hopefully Unagidon will give us some help in understanding this data.

Methodology