21 June 2011


SOCIAL SECURITY. In his provocative, persuasive piece in the NYTimes, Thomas Geoghegan proposes that we Get Radical: Raise Social Security. The social welfare and social insurance safety net for older or disabled citizens is a perennial target for attack by Republicans, who view any government expenditure aimed at the health, education or welfare of ordinary people as a waste of funding -- never mind that it is we, the people, who finance government in the first place. Democrats have been deafening in their meek silence when it comes to promoting spending which actually benefits taxpayers. In the case of Social Security, the best one hears is the suggestion to "save" it.

As Geoghegan correctly points out, "Right now Social Security pays out 39 percent of the average worker's preretirement earnings. We could raise that to 50 percent. We'd still be near the bottom of the league of the world's richest countries -- but at least it would be a basement with some food and air. We have elderly people living on less than $10,000 a year. Is that what Democrats want to 'save'?"

Geoghegan goes on to pinpoint exactly how that extra 11 percent would be financed, in ways that would not significantly impact existing programs or raise taxes. It is a compelling argument. He further notes that "34 percent of Americans have nothing saved for retirement -- not even a hundred bucks .... Retirees today are shortchanged on Social Security because they have been shortchanged on wages all their lives. The hourly earnings of workers dropped by 8 percent from 1973 to 2005 while productivity shot up 55 percent or more. The United States is one of the few developed countries where workers are routinely cheated of a share in higher productivity. And where has the money from the extra productivity gone? It's gone right to the top, to the top few percent. If wages had been paid fairly based on productivity, there would have been enough money subject to the payroll tax to avoid even a modest shortfall."

I happen to be one of those who barely stays afloat financially, with Social Security Disability my only source of income. The real Catch-22? If I were able to generate a supplemental source of income, my SSD benefits would be automatically decreased by that amount. One of the many devious penalties for being an American citizen.

HUFFPOST. The Huffington Post is one of my go-to sources for news and information that often doesn't make it into the cookie-cutter mainstream media. The website is rich with interest and detail, on topics both sober and whimsical. The website's header tabs illustrate -- Front Page, Politics, Business, Entertainment, Media, Tech, Comedy, Style, World, Food, Healthy Living, Impact, More, Local. An image of Ariana Huffington may be viewed below. Here is a representative sampling, culled from yesterday's HuffPost collage of articles. Enjoy.

~ Keith Olbermann 'Countdown' Returns on Current TV -- and about time, too. The outspoken and eloquent Olbermann left MSNBC in January, and American lost one of only two or three liberal commentors (another being Rachel Maddow) standing up to the floodtide of vapid and virulent conservative airheads on talk radio. Be sure to click on the video link for Olbermann's brief Special Comment, defining the direction of his new show.

~ State of the Ocean: 'Shocking' Report Warns of Mass Extinctions from Current Rate of Marine Distress. This is not mere hyperbole. The report comes from the International Programme on the State of the Ocean (IPSO), the "first ever interdisciplinary international workshop examining the combined impact of all the stressors currently affecting the oceans, including pollution, warming, acidification, overfishing, and hypoxia." The world ocean is the ultimate source of life on the planet, and its composition is reflected in our very blood. It acts as a buffer and distributor for heat, carbon dioxide, and many other cycles which support this garden planet. As go the oceans, so go we.

~ Miss USA 2011 One of Only Two Contestants who Believe in Evolution. Even though such contests are fluff, could there be a more revealing commentary on the pathetic state of understanding of science among the population at large? Here too, clicking on the videos is instructive as the contestants explain their views (or lack thereof) on evolution.

~ LensCrafters Settles Female-on-Male Sexual Harrassment Case. Yes, it does happen, and no, it is no more welcome than a male supervisor or coworker hitting on a female associate. It's called unprofessional behavior, and besides, flings with coworkers always turn ugly when the affair goes south and you're still stuck with seeing the person every day. Why ask for trouble?

~ Why Not Give 'The Onion' a Pulitzer? Indeed. Satire is a perfectly acceptable form of journalism or literature -- Mark Twain would surely have received a Pulitzer, had the prize existed during his lifetime. Since 1988 The Onion has entertained, informed, and investigated alongside the best news organizations in the business. Why not?

~ Supreme Court Sides with Walmart in Sex Bias Case. What a bitter commentary on the radical conservatism now prevalent in the US Supreme Court. Appointments are for life, and the timing of appointments usually coincides with the death of an aged Justice -- so if you're a Republican President during whose term in office several Supreme Court Justices die or leave office, you can pack the Court with those who conform to your ideology. And if you're a Democratic President during whose term few if any Justices die or leave, you're S.O.L. This decision bodes ill for the future of class-action lawsuits, and bodes extremely well for the mega-corporations who are truly in charge of this country.

~ Christian Faith Requires Accepting Evolution. You may ask (especially if you are an evangelical Christian), "really?" Yes, really. "No amount of talk about 'worldviews' and 'presuppositions' can change a simple fact: creationism has failed to provide an alternative explanation to the vast majority of evidence supplied by evolution. The author, who was raised evangelical and graduated from a seminary, lists example after example proving that anti-evolutionists, far from defending the Christian tradition, are abandoning it.

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