Sunday, May 20, 2018

Have We Gone Mad? - The Full Scope of the Mass Shooting Epidemic

In The New York Times, May 19, there was a graphic showing how many mass shootings there have been each month since January 2013.  They defined mass shooting as a single event in which 4 or more people are injured or killed.

I was shocked.  The lowest number of mass shootings in a month was 11; the highest 49.  That’s a total of 1713 mass shootings in 65 months, for an average of 27 per month.  And remember, these are not the number of people injured or killed, but the number of events.

I had no idea there were so many.  I read The New York Times regularly and look at the news online most days.  Yet I was only aware of a small fraction of these mass shootings.  It would appear that unless a mass shooting reaches a threshold of a certain number of people injured or killed the event doesn’t make it into the national media and is just reported locally.

How can we expect a massive public movement to demand more effective gun control measures and the legislatures to respond when the scope of the problem is so underreported?  The ones reported in the national media have been terrible, and there have been enough of them.  But it still felt like these were unusual occurrences.  Not so!

But now that we have that knowledge, how can any parent, how can any gun owner, not say, “This cannot continue.  Congress must pass broadened gun control measures to keep guns out of the hands of people who should not have access to guns.”?  All loopholes should be eliminated.  All purchases must be approved.  And the law should be changed so that in cases like the most recent shooting in Texas, where the student got the guns from his father’s collection, the owner of the gun should be held criminally liable as an accessory to the murders unless the gun was locked in a gun safe

The facts revealed in the Times should be the lead story in every newspaper in the country and on every cable news program.  This is more immediately vital to our security and well-being than anything else going on in the world.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

The Menace of Airbnb and How To Control It

As I’ve traveled this past year, spending time in a variety of places, I’ve discovered that Airbnb is having a very harmful impact on both the availability and affordability of housing stock in both cities and small towns.  

Yearly rents are going up because there are fewer apartments or houses available to rent, as owners discover there is more money to be had in short-term Airbnb rentals.  And housing stock available for sale has diminished, again because owners can make so much money from Airbnb rentals, resulting in higher prices for what is available.   

Airbnb is thus destroying the traditional diversity of communities, their fabric.  Middle class or elderly people find it increasingly difficult to either stay in or move to such areas.  Until recently, the issue of affordable housing was confined to housing for the poor or low-income working class.  Now it includes the middle class and elderly in any place that attracts tourists and thus provides a market for Airbnb rentals.  Additionally, such rentals often cause a nuisance to neighbors.

In most of the communities I’ve visited, local government is concerned about what is happening and is trying to regulate Airbnb.  But they are going at it in an ineffectual way.  They are starting with the presumption that owners have a right to rent out their property in this way. 

But do they?  If an owner, especially a non-resident owner, rents out either his whole house or rooms on a short term basis, how is this different in substance from a bnb or a hotel?  Yet it is being regulated more like the owner who used to live in a house and took in borders to help make ends meet.  Thus they talk about placing a cap on the number of rentals or requiring owners to pay a small annual fee.

I propose instead that zoning ordinances be amended so that Airbnb rentals, where the owner does not continue to reside on the premises during the rental, are regulated similarly to a bnb or a hotel.  Because of the impact on the whole community as well as immediate neighbors, approval of an Airbnb operation should be required by the local government authority before it can begin.  Input from neighbors should be obtained as part of a “special use” application if the area is zoned residential.

This is not a case of regulating the internet or modern technology.  This is a case of government regulating how a property is used, which is the traditional function of zoning. 

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Human Interaction Is Governed by Wounded Children - And How Mothers Can Alter That Dynamic

In my earlier post, “Ever Wonder Why the World Is the Way It Is” (9/4/17), I noted that “the ego-mind is not only filled with the fear, anxiety and self-centeredness (and often aggression) caused by insecurity but through continued wounding has acquired the lack of faith, trust, and cynicism of the Devil, which makes the dysfunction we observe all that more intractable.  And it explains the specter of evil that we see in all corners of the world.

“This is why the world is the way it is.  It’s not because people are bad … there is no such thing as a bad person, just people who do bad things … or that humans are flawed.  [We are born with the God-essence inside us; that is our true self.]  It’s because our life experience has made us insecure and our ego-minds have reacted in a way which makes us a threat to our own well-being and the well-being of those around us.  The greater our insecurity, the more of a threat we become.  At some point we become the Devil incarnate.”

Recently, doing research into the inner child, I learned that our wounded inner child is the avatar of our ego-mind. And that the wounded inner child is very much alive in our adult selves.  So when we react with our emotions, when we see things through the filter of our ego-mind, it is not the adult who is expressing itself but our wounded inner child.

Thus, when two people fight or bond or react to each other in whatever way, it is the one’s wounded inner child interacting with the other.  It is not two adults interacting.  This holds true within the family, in the workplace, in politics, and in international relations.

Is there any wonder then why there is so much dysfunction in the world?  Certainly if one looks at the behavior of our current President and many members of Congress, the image of out-of-control children seems applicable.

The common assumption that as we grow older we mature and assess things differently, more rationally, than we did as a child is wrong.  We grow smarter, we have more knowledge that we apply to situations, but in terms of our emotional reactions we have not grown out of our wounded inner child … unless we have healed that child.

Does this provide more hope for change than the realization in my previous post that our ego-mind has become that personification of the Devil?  Few people would want to self-identify with the Devil.  But perhaps even fewer people would choose to see themselves as out-of-control children.

OK.  But how can we use this knowledge to bring about change in how we, individually and collectively, interact; how do we end the dysfunction?  No one will change their habit-energy unless they are motivated to change.  And what motivates people to change is the awareness that there is a problem that's creating a barrier to achieving some goal.

Here, the problem is that we are suffering.  If you’re aware of that suffering, and assuming that you would rather not suffer … because it disturbs you, agitates you … and instead experience some peace and happiness, you will be motivated to undertake the effort needed to change.

If you then come to accept that your wounded inner child is controlling your emotions and thus is central to that suffering, the process of healing the inner child can take place.  And that process is probably somewhat easier than the spiritual path of freeing ourselves from the control of our ego-mind.

Unfortunately, if you asked Donald Trump or members of Congress or indeed most men if they are suffering they would answer, “no.”  If you asked them if they loved themselves, they would either answer, “yes,” not really understanding the meaning of the question, or look at you blankly, confused.

Women are often said to be more in touch with their feelings and so are more likely to be aware of their suffering.  But women unfortunately don’t control the workings of the world; men do.  And those women who have broken into that circle I have the feeling are not the ones who are more in touch with their feelings.

People who are not open to admitting their innermost feelings are lost, in a spiritual sense. They are in denial.  Any attempt to talk about their wounded inner child, let alone that they are controlled by that child, would just be met with laughter and derision.

So if there is to be a break-through in the human condition, it will come from your “average” not-obsessed-with-overachieving woman.  Women carry the main burden of raising children, regardless whether they are working or not.  If they were able to pursue that task free of their wounded inner child, that would give their children a real chance of getting the nourishment they need and developing into strong adults free of hobbling insecurities, free of being wounded.  

This would be huge.  It would break the cycle I described in my book, Raising a Happy Child, of insecure parents raising insecure children who become insecure adults who ….  It would change the future of human interaction.

Perhaps this suggests the need for a new wave of feminism.  (As a man, this is not a subject for me to touch really, but …)   Look for a future post on this subject.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Scientists Were Asleep at the Wheel

During the ongoing debate about the nature of climate change, I had assumed, as I’m sure most others have, that the revelation both regarding the extent of climate change and the cause of that change being greenhouse gases was relatively recent.  I certainly never remember the subject being raised before the 90s.

I was shocked therefore when I recently came upon the following while reading Rachel Carson’s famous and well-respected book, The Sea Around Us.  The book discusses the origins of the oceans and the evolution of oceans, continents, climate, and human settlement over geologic time into the present.  Writing in 1961, she said:

“It is now established beyond question that a definite change in the arctic climate set in about 1900, that it became astonishingly marked about 1930, and that it is now spreading into sub-arctic and temperate regions.  The frigid top of the world is very clearly warming up.”

She goes on to discuss a resulting dramatic lessening of ice in the arctic, the greater ease of navigation, the retreat of glaciers, the impact on the migration patterns of animals, and the lengthening of growing seasons in sub-arctic regions.  She also notes the rising of the seas.

But she puts this in the context of “we are still in the warming-up stage following the last Pleistocene glaciation - that the world’s climate, over the next thousands of years, will grow considerably warmer before beginning a downward swing into another Ice Age.”  

She states that the dramatic change seen since 1900 is “of a shorter duration, decades or centuries,” perhaps because the change is so much greater than would be expected, and goes on to note the several possible explanations that scientists have proposed … an increase in solar activity or the cycle of the ocean’s deep currents.  She ends with  “the long trend is towards a warmer earth; the pendulum is swinging.”

She does not mention the greenhouse gas effect.  Yet in fact, the theory of the impact of greenhouse gases on global warming from burning fossil fuels was formed and studied by the late 1800s.  But scientists being often ego-driven and slow to accept another’s research, this theory was not taken up again until the 1950s and was not broadly accepted until the 1980s.  Apparently when Rachel Carson wrote, there wasn’t a serious question in scientific minds at that time that this warming was caused by the greenhouse gas effect.

So we have been sitting on a climatic time bomb for more than a century.  And for most of that time, scientists and governments have been asleep at the wheel.  We have virtually lost the opportunity to act so as to prevent future climatic disruptions and disaster for the human race.  Even if the will were to be found.

The question I ask myself is: how many other issues are there that are of vital importance to the future wellbeing of the planet and mankind that we aren’t addressing because no one is paying attention or no one has a confirmed answer.  Just like there is a group that is scanning the skies for asteroids that might strike the Earth, creating havoc, there should be a committee which focuses on evidence of other matters that are of great import to our future and sees to it that they receive appropriate public and scientific airing.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

”They Were Never Going to Let Me Be President.”

Those words, spoken by Hillary Clinton when she was informed that she had lost the election, as recently reported in The New York Times, speak volumes about what was wrong with Hillary as a presidential candidate.  

Who were this “they” that she referred to?  The deplorable people?  The NRA?  No one kept her from being president.  It was her own flawed campaign that caused her to lose the presidency that was hers to lose.  While she has finally admitted some mistakes, she has never owned up to this basic fact.  It was always someone else’s fault … especially James Comey.  And that makes her a weak person, despite all her strengths.

Democrats have a history of losing because of problems with their campaigns, as opposed to the strength of their opponents or shifting demographics.  When Gore lost it was because of problems with his campaign, not the agony over Florida’s “hanging chads.”  When Kerry lost, likewise.  When Hillary lost, ditto.  The recent Democrats who didn’t lose … Bill Clinton and Obama … won because their campaigns did not have major problems.  They were candidates who spoke to the people in a way that the people understood, and the people heard and voted.

Ever since the 2000 election, I have argued that Democrats run flawed campaigns.  To me, the biggest problem is that they do not have a vision and they do not know how to speak to the people in a way that the people get.  So they aren’t able to get someone out of his apathy or change someone’s mind.  And so the people on the margins of life, the people who need to be convinced to cast their vote, just don’t vote; and people leaning to the other side vote that way.  And that’s a lot of people.

In 2004 I wrote We STILL Hold These Truths to show the Party the way to win the hearts and minds of the American people and win the election.  Sadly, despite my repeated efforts to bring the book’s message to the attention of party leaders and candidates, my advice has fallen on deaf ears.  Lucky, Obama didn’t need my advice because he did have a vision.  And he instinctively knew how to speak to the people, just as Bill Clinton did.

Now we are preparing for the 2018 midterm elections and are in the lead-up to the 2020 presidential elections.  Democrats have to be more than the anti-Trump.  They have to be clear on what they are offering the American people, especially the middle class and the poor (they comprise 79% of US households), if they are to win, certainly to win decisively.

So far, all I see is a muddle.  There is no clear voice, anywhere.  

And the DNC is wasting energy and creating more negative political capital than positive with their new lawsuit against the Trump campaign for working with the Russians to defeat Hillary.  I see that as doing more to undermine the Special Counsel’s legitimacy than anything the Republicans have done, because it will appear to many people that Trump has been right in his claim that the issue of collusion is a Democratic-inspired with hunt.

The 2018 and 2020 elections are once again the Democrats to lose.  Whether they win or lose, it will be a result of the strength or weakness of their campaigns, not a problem in the American people.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Towards a Reformed Capitalism

Despite all the laws and regulations that apply to corporations, which for the most part are designed to make corporations more responsive to the greater good, corporations have wreaked great harm on our environment, their workers, their customers, the general public, and other corporations.  Despite all the rules, capitalism has been allowed to run pretty much rampant.

The problem is not that the laws and regulations are not enforced, although that is partly true.  The problem is more that the laws and regulations are weak because of the strong influence corporations have on both Congress (this is true of Democrats as well as Republicans) and those responsible for regulating.

But the more basic, functional, aspect of the problem is that the context has always been corporate interest v public interest.  Corporations are structured in such a way that their only interest is the bottom line, how to constantly increase their profit and so please their shareholders.  That is the source of the problem.  And that is what must be reformed.

People will say that it is the nature of the beast for corporations to be concerned solely with their bottom line.  That is certainly true for the beast as it has been formed.  But there is nothing inherent in the idea of a corporation or capitalism which makes it inimical to factoring in a concern for the public good.  The essence of capitalism is that control of the means of production and the distribution of products lies in private hands; that will remain unchanged.

My point is that we must rethink what a corporation is.  What is its function in our economy and society?

Corporations, all business models, are a creature of the law.  Corporations are allowed the benefits of incorporation because they provide something of value … they are critical to the economic health of the country and of their workers.  They also thus meet a societal need.

So from a governmental/societal perspective, corporations exist to enhance the greater good.  Unfortunately, as we have seen repeatedly ever since the industrial revolution, corporations have been mostly intent on making money and so have done much that harms, that is not in keeping with the greater good.  Often with full knowledge.

The answer to this conundrum is to reform the laws under which corporations are organized by restructuring their governance.  The goal of this effort should be to make consideration of the greater good … the public interest as well as worker interest … an integral part of the corporate decision making process.

I propose that this reform have four primary elements:

  • By law, the primary mission of each corporation should be to enhance the greater good.  To do that, it must be successful and prosper, and so the goal of the corporation to prosper and make money for its shareholders would not be altered by any of the proposed changes.  It would, however, be tempered by this new context, by these changes.  No longer would the only factor be impact on the bottom line.  Now there will be other important factors to be considered.
  • By law, Boards of Directors should include a stated percentage of directors (perhaps 25%) who represent the interests of the greater good and the interests of workers.  
  • By law, all management decisions, whether regarding products, or methods of manufacturing, or personnel, must include a consideration of the impact of the decision on their workers and the greater good.  Any decisions directly impacting workers should be arrived at with worker participation.  This will engage corporations in a more healthy, long-term perspective, rather than the short-term one resulting from the current emphasis on stock price.  
  • By law, there should be a public ombudsman in the hierarchy of each corporation that sees that the law is followed not just in spirit but to the letter.

Most people currently involved in the management of corporations and most shareholders, as well as the broader market, will most likely not react kindly to these proposed changes.  They would involve both a major change in corporate culture as well as a reduction in the financial benefits that accrue to those running and investing in corporations.

But with the passage of time, with the emergence of a new generation of business leaders, these changes will become such a part of the corporate method that it will be hard to imagine that it was ever otherwise.  This is the rational way to manage a business if it is to be not just productive but a good citizen of a reformed society.   

If we are to reduce not just the inequality that is present in America but insure that corporations are working towards a goal that includes the greater good, then this reformation has to take place.  

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

One Race, Many Cultures

There is much societal strife in this world, and the reason comes down to one of two things:  either a country or group has something we want or wants something we have, or we feel threatened by the otherness of the other, that we cannot be safe while the other has potential power over us.

I laid out my thoughts on this issue in a previous post, “The Destructive Impact of Our Us v Them Perspective.”  But the current edition of the National Geographic, which explores the issue of race, affirms the need for another post on this topic.

The us v them perspective, contrary to the thoughts of many, is not human nature.  As with so many things, it is the result of human development; of our life experiences.  We were not born with this perspective.  It is an emotional response by our ego-mind.  We live in a very antagonistic, very competitive world, so that response is not surprising.  It is a vicious circle; a perpetual motion machine.

It is true that we see this same behavior in animals … fighting for territory, food, mates.  There is a fight for survival that is hard-wired into both animals and humans.  That is nature not nurture.  But as with other biological imperatives, man’s ego-mind has morphed these reactions into obsessions, cravings.  

When an animal needs to fight, it fights; otherwise it goes about its life unperturbed.  Humans, however, obsess about their fears, their insecurities, real and imagined.  And those obsessions filter all experiences, making it impossible to see things as they really are.  So we find it almost impossible to break out of the vicious circle.

The fact is, however, that we are all, each and every one of us, descended from a small band of human ancestors that first walked the earth in Africa 300,000 years ago.  Over time, they multiplied and spread throughout Africa.  Perhaps 120,000 years ago, they started crossing into the Middle East.  From 45,000 - 70,000 years ago they moved into Europe and Asia, at which point they interbred with Neanderthals and other species.  Later still, 15,000 - 20,000 years ago, they crossed from Asia over to North America and made their way down into South America.

How can we make such a definitive statement about those events?  The timing comes from anthropological discoveries, and so it will be subject to change from discoveries yet to be made.  That we all have a common ancestor comes from the evidence in our DNA.   

DNA analysis of people from around the world shows irrefutably, that “all non-Africans today are descended from a few thousand humans who left Africa maybe 60,000 years ago.”  DNA also tells us that the different colors of our skin occurred later in response to environmental conditions in different parts of the world where man settled. 

Race is defined as, “a group of persons related by common descent or heredity.”  Or alternatively, “People belonging to the same stock.”  And so, in the broadest sense, there is only one race, and that is the human race.  There are instead many different cultures, each with their own distinguishing characteristics, physical and otherwise, strengths, and weaknesses.  The term “race” has unfortunately been used frequently to imply something that is not based on science; it has been politically/socially motivated.

Many cultures are partly defined by skin color and other physical features.  Often they are connected to a particular geographic region, and even a particular country.  But we are all one race.  

Biologically, there is no evidence whatsoever that a man born into one culture is inherently smarter or more able than a man born into another one.  That is a function of nurture, not nature, which is why within each culture there is such a huge diversity in the abilities of individuals.

Yes, some cultures are intellectually more developed than others, but that is also a function of nurture, not nature.  There is nothing inherent in the intellectual stature of a culture, as seen by the way that aspect has ebbed and flowed over the centuries.  For example, while Europe was in the Dark Ages after the flowering and then demise of the Greek and Roman empires, Asia flourished with intellectual and scientific achievement.  During the Middle Ages, the Muslim world flourished while Europe was still struggling to emerge from its darkness.  Both South America and Africa had highly advanced civilizations before the advent of white men into their territories.

If one claims that one culture is more civilized than another or more God-fearing than another, that depends on how one defines civilization and God.  All cultures are civilizations and all cultures have their God.  And if the Western Judeo-Christian white man is so civilized, why does he consistently act in such uncivilized, inhumane ways both towards his fellow man, even his family members, let alone those of other cultures?

So once and for all we must disabuse ourselves of the idea of race and racial difference.  As to cultural differences, we all suffer from the same human failings.  We each have our aspects of civilization, and yet we each act in decidedly uncivilized, inhumane ways.  We each have had periods of intellectual growth and we each have had periods of intellectual decline or stagnation.  None is inherently superior to the others. .