Help me Governor McCrory, you’re my only hope

refugee_children_from_syria_at_a_clinic_in_ramtha2c_northern_jordan_28961347726329

image courtesy of wikimedia.org

The Syrian refugees who are currently undergoing a two year vetting process had nothing to do with the attacks in Paris. They are the Albert Einsteins trying to get out of Nazi Germany, and we are stopping them. This is how we lose the war. We burn a whole city to get revenge on two already-dead homicidal maniacs. There are a limited number of brainwashed suicide bombers. Remember Japan. It’s an act of desperation. It’s the hallmark of a General out of options. Continue reading

Land of the free, be brave.

Monticello_Reflection

photo credit commons.wikimedia.org

I am a proud Democrat. I think the Democratic Party started with a Virginia planter and Renaissance man named Thomas Jefferson. I am not proud of TJ for owning slaves. Slavery is an abomination, the antithesis of everything for which the Democratic Party stands. Jefferson himself was an abolitionist, describing slavery as holding “a wolf by the ear, and we can neither hold him, nor safely let him go.” He also believed that emancipation would result in a large scale race war which would destroy America, his beloved experiment in liberty.

I believe otherwise. I believe that if one allows a man to stop being a wolf and become a fellow Renaissance man, he will do exactly that. I believe this has been proven time and again during the intervening centuries. I am not, nor have I ever been, a member of the Communist Party. I have read Max Weber. I understand that every moment is valuable, not only in the present, but also for the fruits it may bear, properly invested, in the future. Continue reading

American Exceptionalism: It’s the economy, stupid

Wage_stagnation

Image courtesy of Pew Research

My grandfather was a union-buster at Hanes Dye and Finishing Company in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. He got his degree on the GI bill after World War Two and worked his way up through the company, all the way to executive vice-president. He was one promotion away from the presidency. He could have made Hanes Dye the best chemical company in the world. Instead they made him the straw boss. Continue reading

Baltimore uprising: food deserts, gas deserts and why the media has it wrong on Freddie Gray

church is open for prayer need to rap come downstairsI took a bunch of rich kids to Baltimore in July of last year. We stayed at The Center, a fortified compound on the property of First & Franklin Presbyterian Church. My primary job was to keep the kids safe. I learned the access codes and the panic buttons. I learned which doors not to open, should anyone knock on them. I learned about the gates, a containment cage designed to prevent my empathy from endangering my fellow Christians.

I also learned about food deserts. Basically, a food desert is an urban environment in which the food is far away and the people have no reliable transport. Forget cars, the buses don’t circulate in the poor sections of Baltimore. We waited for two hours. Some empathetic locals emerged from their possibly condemned town house to warn us that the bus wasn’t coming and that we, positive vibes be damned, should be long gone before the sun went down. There is a metro station less than a mile away, downhill. Get going, children. Continue reading

Too many people + unbridled consumption = trauma for billions

Does disaster loom, brought on by population increases and a governing economic system predicated on ever more growth?

Scratch a problem involving homo sapiens. Smog choking cities. Carbon dioxide and methane warming atmosphere or ocean. Forests rapaciously slashed. No fish where fish used to be. Nuclear waste with no safe home (ever). Pollution everywhere. Children without education. Billions of poor without hope or safe drinking water or adequate food. Disease and death induced by the absence of health care.

And wars. Plenty of wars.

In such examples of human trauma amid conflicts over life-sustaining resources, there’s a centrality rarely discussed.

Too. Many. People.

When I was born, in 1946, America housed just over 141 million people. Today, the 50 states approach 320 million people. Despite a declining birth rate, America gains a person every 16 seconds, thanks largely to the admission of about 1.5 million legal foreign workers each year.

When I was born, the Earth had about 2.5 billion people. The Census Bureau anticipates 9.3 billion people globally in 2050. That would be almost a four-fold increase in the people Earth would seek but likely fail to adequately support.
Continue reading

Roy Spencer attacks Anti-Defamation League for denouncing his use of “global warming Nazis”

The Anti-Defamation League clearly understands that a “denier” is someone who denies the truth of something. Unfortunately for his credibility and legacy, Roy Spencer does not.

IPCC AR5 WG1 Decadal variation in global temperature (IPCC)

IPCC AR5 WG1 Decadal variation in global temperature (IPCC)

Last week, once-respected climate scientist Roy Spencer went off the rails with a rant about how he would start calling unnamed climate scientists and activists “global warming Nazis.” In response, Anti-Defamation League (ADL) Southeast Interim Regional Director Shelley Rose issued a statement that denounced Spencer for “trivializing” both Nazis and the Holocaust. Rather than rethink his position, however, Spencer attacked the ADL for hypocrisy.

Last week I wrote a post cataloguing six significant issues with Spencer’s original rant that sounded “more like paranoid ramblings than the words of someone who should be a respected elder statesman of climate science.” In his attack on the ADL, Spencer took his rant even further, claiming that the “denier” description was a form of character assassination, issuing a blanket defense of anyone and everyone who has been called a denier of climate change/global warming, and implying that only so-called “skeptics” like him really care about the poor. Continue reading

We sell to the rich, to the poor — but not the middle class

My refrigerator is fatigued. Soon, but hopefully not too soon, I’ll need to replace it. Will I be able to buy a modestly priced, well-built but not fancy refrigerator that will last the rest of my life?

I am not rich; I am not poor. I have a middling five-figure annual salary. I am parked firmly in the middle class. But, according to a New York Times story by Nelson D. Schwartz, American business is becoming less interested in selling to me and the rest of us mired in the middle — because the middle class is shrinking. Writes Schwartz:

As politicians and pundits in Washington continue to spar over whether economic inequality is in fact deepening, in corporate America there really is no debate at all. The post-recession reality is that the customer base for businesses that appeal to the middle class is shrinking as the top tier pulls even further away.

Continue reading

Tackling poverty means that there will be more KFCs in Africa

Photo credit: CIMMYT.

Smallholder farmer prepares maize plot for planting with CIMMYT improved varieties, Embu, Kenya

Gates Foundation and KFC initiatives are better news than many understand.

Rural villages in Africa are not just poor, their demography is hollowed out. Continue reading

Scenes from a Tokyo skid row clinic

by Dan Ryan

This is a condensed, reworked excerpt from my recent Amazon Kindle photo essay book “Ningenkusai: A Tokyo Panic Stories Mini-book.” I prepared it for exclusive publication by the Japan Subculture Research Center. But, happily, it was then picked up and republished by Zero Hedge. You can buy a copy of the full book at Amazon.

¥———¥———¥

You’ve probably never heard of Sanya. The Tokyo City Government doesn’t acknowledge its existence, and you won’t find it on any official maps. Sanya is more or less Tokyo’s skid row, where people, mostly men, end up when the other parts of this immense, gleaming city have stopped offering comfort and opportunity.

Sanya is where the Japanese outcasts, food animal butchers, leather tanners, and other professions considered “unclean” by Japan’s traditionally Buddhist ruling class, a.k.a. the burakumin, or dowa, plied their trades for centuries. These tradesmen may mostly be gone, and the smell of the blood they spilled long-since drifted away, but the stigma of what Sanya once was remains, and it clings to the many of the people who live and work here.

Pic 1

Sanya is a blue-collar place, where an aging population of day laborers lingers on the fringe of Tokyo society. Many laborers have drinking problems, and they’ve ended up in Sanya to hide their abuses from their families. Sights like this fellow are pretty common, except in rainy weather.

Pic 2

And even then Sanya has a shōtengai dotted with little bars and liquor stores.

Pic 3

For many men in Sanya, government welfare assistance is available but is a problematic thing. Applying for it requires identity verification by contacting an applicant’s family. Most Sanya men who have fallen on hard times and taken to excessive drinking don’t want this. They would rather their families not know where they are or how they live. Revealing this would mean bringing unbearable shame upon their loved ones.

So when you’re down in Sanya and public assistance isn’t an option for some reason, what do you do? You go private, to a small outfit like Sanyūkai NPO, a non-religious non-profit organization. The Sanyūkai NPO and the free medical clinic within it is run by a couple of foreign missionaries who have been doing charity work in Sanya since the early ‘80s.

Pic 4

Deacon Jean LeBeau, the director of Sanyūkai NPO, is a French-Canadian Catholic with the Quebec Foreign Mission Society. Deacon Jean has been in Japan for 41 years, including 28 years in Sanya. He’s a humble, affable man, who would rather speak Japanese than either English or his native French.

Pic 5

Sister Rita Burdzy, head nurse of Sanyūkai clinic, is an American from St. Louis, Missouri who came to Japan in 1981. She is a nun with the Maryknoll Sisters of St. Dominic of Ossining, New York, a Roman Catholic order whose members devote their lives to service overseas in specialties such as medicine and agriculture. Sister Rita holds a Japanese nursing license and is the nurse in charge of most of the activities at the clinic.

Pic 6

It’s a small facility, with only two beds in the examination room. Hundreds of ailing men have passed through this place since it opened in 1984. And somehow it manages to keep doing the job.

Pic 7

In addition to Sister Rita, medical services are supplied by a volunteer roster of over 30 medical doctors and registered nurses. Doctor Kanade Hagiwara, an urologist at a general hospital in Tokyo, is one of those volunteers. She treats patients at the clinic on the fourth Saturday of each month. The NPO is not a religious organization, and therefore does not insist that either volunteers or clients adhere to any one faith, or have any religious faith at all.

Pic 8

Within the clinic, the one concession to spiritual matters is this hand-made banner and the shrine beside it, which is dedicated to recently-departed clients and patients of the clinic.

Pic 9

Since Sanya does not officially exist, Sanyūkai clinic has an address in Kiyokawa, in Taito-ku ward, on a small street that could easily pass for an alleyway. Outside the clinic, unless it is raining or bitterly cold, men in need of clinic services sit on benches and wait, often with Sister Rita and Deacon Jean (whose back is shown) somewhere nearby.

Pic 10

But the men who gather outside Sanyūkai clinic tend to make it more of a social venue than the dreary medical waiting-room scene you might expect. They’re a diverse group, even though most are older day laborers who get less and less work as they age. The men in the middle and the right fall into that category. The guy on the left is a transplant from nearby Asakusa, whose reasons for ending up in Sanya are not entirely clear.

Pic 11

But this man, who died of a brain hemorrhage in June 2012, used to own a bar next to the clinic.

Pic 12

While this fellow is a professional cook who does not always get daily work.

If the men who frequent the Sanyūkai clinic share one thing, it is a quality Sister Rita calls “ningenkusai” (人間くさい), which she says “is a quality of being very human, of smelling comfortably human. Of being full of human traits.” She adds that this is the best English translation she could offer for a concept that she says is uniquely Japanese.

With obvious fondness, Sister Rita goes on to say that despite their backgrounds and personal secrets “these men have a purity of heart and are very charming. There is no guile in these men.” She sums things up by saying when men come to the clinic off of Sanya’s streets and ask for help “no questions are asked. We’re a family.”

And you can feel the truth of it when she says it.

So, there’s no crime story here, and no breaking scandal. It is surprising, and shameful, that a city like Tokyo has had a problem like this for so long. But at least the phenomenon of homeless and chronically drunk and unemployed street men isn’t being ignored. Good people are on the case. People like Sister Rita and Deacon Jean.

Reporting and photography for this story was done in Sanya, Tokyo in April, 2012.

America's immigration "problem" is "solved" (a story with heavy implications)

You may have noticed this story in the Wall St. Journal several days ago:

Tide Turns on Border Crossing
– Number of Immigrants Arriving From Mexico Now Equaled by Those Going Home

Net migration from Mexico has plummeted to zero thanks to changing demographic and economic conditions on both sides of the border, a new study says, even as political battles over illegal immigration heat up and the issue heads to the U.S. Supreme Court. Continue reading

Andrew Breitbart: no grave-dancing, just sadness…

Andrew Breitbart is dead at 43.

The fair-and-balanced corporate media is in full swing, calling him a “conservative blogger,” which is true; a “conservative activist…[and] an influential voice in US Republican politics known for his attacks on liberals and Democrats,” which is true; and a “US conservative author and activist known for publishing embarrassing sting videos of left-wing groups,” which is at once true and pathologically deceptive.

For instance:

  • In 2010, he posted two videos excerpting a speech by Shirley Sherrod, then Georgia State Director of Rural Development for the USDA, at an NAACP event. The videos were edited together in a way that made it appear Sherrod was saying things she never said or meant, but the result was Sherrod being fired. Once the entire speech was made available, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack was compelled to apologize to Sherrod and offer her a new job. Continue reading

Nota Bene #121: Birds of an Ancient Feather

“Television is an invention whereby you can be entertained in your living room by people you wouldn’t have in your house.” Who said it? The answer is at the end of this post. Now on to the links! Continue reading

End poverty. Attack it. Now.

You know someone who lives in poverty. You may not realize it, but you do. Given that one of every six Americans lives in poverty, someone you know suffers from one of the most punishing and oppressing of all human conditions.

Too many of us blithely consider poverty to be limited to certain geographical locations such as the “inner city.” Too many of us believe poverty is limited to, perhaps, mostly a certain skin color. Too many of us attribute poverty to the lack of an “appropriate” work ethic, a lack of ambition, or a desire to “cheat the system.” The poor live in cities, they’re not white, they’re lazy, and they’re sucking up my tax dollars unfairly.

Discard that attitude. It’s disgusting. Poverty privileges no race, no gender, no occupation, no geography.
Continue reading

The kids are alright

Sometimes the best education is the one found in everyday life. Not a few wide-eyed foreign students in Pennsylvania got more education than they bargained for in signing up for a J-1 visa to the United States. Instead of the land of milk and honey, it looks enough like blood and tears for 200 hundred afternoon shift workers to walk off the job at a Hershey’s facility and be followed by others coming off first shift. Across language and cultural barriers they organized themselves to present a petition of grievances to management; apparently, it did not result in a satisfactory response. And that’s when they left. Such lack of gratitude for the opportunity to see America, earn some money and participate in a cultural exchange.

Except the first two turned out to be false advertising and the third is not the exchange of culture they were expecting.
Continue reading

For a fine thing gone: goodbye to Jamal Place

I am heartbroken.

We just got a letter from a small charity we support in Chicago, Jamal Place. Jamal Place provided social and vocational services for underprivileged young men, many of whom had some level of disability. They are closing their doors due to lack of funding.

Today I am supposed to be doing what I get paid to do these days in my semi-retirement, writing an important speech for an important man. But instead I am sitting here, staring at the keyboard and unable to find a single noun or verb on the topic of “changing business models.” Instead the only words that will come are words of sadness for a little pissant, underfunded charity that I knew was always one bad week away from closing its doors anyway.

Five years ago, my daughter invited us to a fundraiser for Jamal Place. Continue reading

The right isn't wrong, just stupid

Let’s try a little thought experiment here. What if the problem with conservatives isn’t that they are wrong, but rather than even when they are right their logic is so bad we can’t fairly judge the merit of their positions?

What if their logic is so twisted that it simply short circuits our brains? Their arguments send our thoughts careening like pinballs, bouncing from untruth to non sequitur to logic loop to inconsistency to false conclusion. Perhaps we completely forget to ask ourselves whether their positions might be right, because we are entangled like a kitten in their ball of yarn.

It’s certainly possible. Just because you can’t argue doesn’t make you wrong. I remember listening to our local hippie in 1978. Ed took on Henry Kissinger during open mike at a post-speech Q&A. Kissinger mauled Ed. Ed was right, but he couldn’t out-argue Kissinger. Continue reading

Positive freedom vs. negative freedom: what are your dreams on Martin Luther King Day?

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. had a dream, and by now hopefully most of us have heard the famous speech where he explained that magnificent vision. We have dreams, too, every one of us. Not all of our dreams are lofty and worthy, though. Not all of our dreams make the world a better place. Some of our dreams are shallow and selfish, and unfortunately we share this planet with too many whose dreams are hateful, destructive, evil. This is one of the reasons why MLK Day is so important: it’s one day each year where we are reminded of the enlightening, uplifting, ennobling power of a human’s ability to dream.

Today, Scholars & Rogues honors the memory of Dr. King by asking our readers to reflect on their own dreams. What do you dream of? Why do you have this dream? What impact do your dreams have on your family, your friends, your community, your country, your world? Continue reading

What would a progressive society look like? The Tricentennial Manifesto

The Tricentennial ManifestoOne of my lists is currently engaged in a fairly dynamic discussion about “what is a progressive?”

In thinking about the issue, I realized that it might help to ask the question a slightly different way: what would a progressive society look like? Maybe I can better understand what it means to be progressive in 2010 if I reverse-engineer the definition from a vision of the future where things work the way they ought to.

I have argued that the success of the progressive movement hinges on seriously long-term thinking. It’s not about the 2012 elections or the 2016 elections or even the 2020 elections – those fights are about the battle, not the war.

Instead, if we do things properly, if we concentrate on and win the war, what does America look like on our Tricentennial? The following 40 articles suggest some ideas. Continue reading

PhilanthroCapitalism – Why giving won't save the world

You’ll recall how, when George W Bush stood for re-election as US president back in 2004, outraged Europeans organised petitions and marches to demand that Americans vote for someone else.

And then, in 2009, when Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was trying to steal the Iranian presidential elections, millions of people around the world turned their web pages green and fired off thousands of Twitter posts to call for free elections.

Or how about when, in 2007, George Clooney went to Sudan to demand that the international community do something to stop the genocide taking place in Darfur.

As you’ll also remember, Bush lost to John Kerry, Ahmadinejad went into exile and Darfur is now peaceful and prosperous.

Oh, wait, no, none of that happened. Continue reading