I Hate Racism

Racism is a terrible emotion and a prime topic of discussion these days. White racism against black Americans is the focus. This is an important issue because it has been a core defect of our democracy. Racism is an ugly but natural human trait. We evolved as tribal animals where we hated those outside our group. We also evolved as intelligent, cooperative animals capable of cooperating. This enabled us to enlarge our tribes – eventually to nations, alliances, and hopefully eventually to a peaceful world. But we have been Homo Sapiens for only about 200,000 years which is microseconds in evolutionary time. The old instincts are still in us.

Racism will continue to exist for all our lifetimes. We can’t disinfect it from people’s brains, but we can work to make it a disfavored point of view and make any physical or economic implementation of it illegal. All racism is evil, but for Americans rasism against blacks is the worst because of our history. For the first hundred plus years they were slaves. We fought a great war to free them, but after a brief period of Reconstruction, a long period of Jim Crow (blatant in the South, subtle in the North) began. The civil rights movement started in the 1950’s and accomplished much in confirming and protecting legal rights for blacks. Paralell cultural changes brought blacks more into the mainstream of American life.

So are we done? No. I think claims that there is still wide spread sociatal and system bias are wrong. But there are still pockets of it that need to be cleaned up. There is still inertia from the old days. One example I notice is that police forces in many major cities are still overwelmingly white despite growing black populations. Even years after desegregation I noticed in my home town of Houston there are still schools that are 99% black.

While I think we need to continue work on the mindset work, our main focus should be bringing blacks into mainstream society economically. Part of our success has been bringing many blacks into the middle class, but so many are still left behind. Poverty tends to beget poverty so braking the train is difficult. Now might be a good time to get to work. Changes in society and technology are changing what work is and will require retraining for everyone. Let’s make sure plenty of that training gets to the black community. This will need to be supported by improved school education as much of the new work will involve technical and math skills.

When it comes to employment, the best solution is more jobs. In fact, the job growth just before the COVID19 was slowly diminishing the discrepancy between whites and blacks. The new opportunity zones now being introduced in distressed areas will help bring jobs.

Bringing blacks into the American manstream has taken to long. The Irish, Italians, Germans, and other immigrats came after the blacks. They had their struggles but integrated much faster. Let’s finish this job.

Happening in America

Minneapolis – Look in the Mirror

Minneapolis is known as among the most liberal cities in the country. Their elected officials are diverse and there are many laws, policies, and programs to support the poor and disadvantaged. There is tolerance for cultural diversity. As I have said before, I am on the right, but in these areas, I am with my liberal friends. I want all to participate in the wealth this country has to offer and Minneapolis has more to offer than most cities.

But good intentions are not enough. According to a New York Times article I just read, “disparities in employment, poverty, and education between people of color and white residents are among the worst in the nation.” Black representation in the police force is about half the percentage in the general population. I don’t think any of us in the rest of the country are in a position to cast stones – we have had problems of racial intolerance and inequality everywhere.

While this short article is not the place to come up with the solution to racial inequality that has eluded us for four hundred years, I would like to throw in my support for two of the items mentioned in the Times quote above. Employment and education. We have tried addressing poverty directly through transfer payments (food stamps, welfare, public housing, etc.) and while these have helped address the symptoms, they have not helped solve the core problem.

Education in America is still very unequaal. From the founding of our country we came to a consensus to provide public education to everyone but to this day the difference in quality is dramatic based on the socio-economic make of the neighborhoods. Money is part of the solution but there are many other problems poor neighborhoods have that contribute such as high crime and poor infrastucture. Children learn largely from their parents so the problem is pepetuated from generation to generation. We need special programs with the purpose of raising the educational standard in these neighborhoods.

The first thing to improve employment is to have more jobs. In fact the improved jobs situation of the last few years has decreased the disparity in employment and income between whites and minorities. We can promote this by improving the environment for companies to grow and hire more people such as lowering corporate taxes, especially for small businesses. Improved education can help with employment, but many of the skills needed in today’s economy are not learned in school. Community colleges have become very focused on vocational learning and we might look into other job training programs and apprenticeships. The needs of industry are rapidly changing which means everyone needs more learning, but especially poorer communities.

Ok, the title of this article might not be fair, perhaps it should have been America Look in the Mirror, but I did want to catch your eye.

Covid 19 When You Get Old

The Iceberg Solution

The standard title for a COVID 19 article these days is something like “Open up the Economy while Protecting our Elderly and Vulnerable Population”. That sounds like a plan to me. But then the article then goes on to talk about opening businesses with certain precautions and returning to regular activities then usually contain little about the elderly and vulnerable other than that they should stay shut up. They rarely address the biggest problem for the elderly and vulnerable and that is stopping the spread in nursing homes and other elderly care facilities. These facilities are the perfect spreading ground for the virus and I hear of little concerted effort to address that. 43% of virus deaths have been in homes. Some states have even been forcing nursing homes to accept still infected patients released from hospitals. Why is the nursing home problem not a major component of every opening up plan?

There is an old myth that Eskimos used to abandon their elderly on icebergs so that they would no longer be a burden on society. What I detect in all these articles and plans is what I call the iceberg solution. Let the expendable elderly population die as they will soon anyway. I even saw one comment that many of the people dying are over their life expectancy anyway. Well, I am one of those over their hill folks. I’m not dead yet and still have lots of plans for things I am going to do in life. I fully support my younger friends getting back to normal lives but don’t except being a human sacrifice to get there.

There are many things we could be doing to make nursing homes safe. I am no epidemiologist, but a few things are obviouse to me:

  • 100% COVID 19 testing of residents and employees
  • Frequent temperature checks of everyone
  • Test people before admission
  • No admission for infected people
  • Find or create comfortable facilities to isolate infected patients- most homes will need outside help for these.

I don’t care how much compassion I see for the elderly until concrete plans like these are in place I to believe that the mainstream plan for the elderly is the iceberg solution.

40,600 deaths tied to U.S. nursing homes

When You Get Old

When Your Over 64

When we get to a certain age many of us just start thinking we are waiting out our final years. We lose interest in things that used to thrill us. We fill our time with meaningless activities. We sleep more, go shopping for stuff we don’t need, or watch TV shows that don’t interest us. It doesn’t have to be this way.

I think the reason is that we don’t think we will succeed in any meaningful endeavor because we don’t have enough energy or time left. Unfortunately, there is some truth to those thoughts but not all is lost. First, look at your life expectancy – I read that if you live to your 60s or 70s you still have 15 – 20 years to live. That’s probably not enough to do everything you want to but it’s enough time to do a few important things.

Forget the bucket list concept – who cares if you never make it to Machu Pichu. Pick something that you could enjoy during these years and forget the rest. Pick something that is doable but also challenging. If you get around on a walker, you are not going to run a marathon but learning to play Clair de Lune on the piano is not out of the question. It is amazing what we can get done when we focus.

How do we choose that one thing? Sometimes we think passion to do things is something that comes down from heaven. That might be true for some people, but for many of us a passion is built up with effort and persistence. Small successes and then bigger ones. I have thought about this a lot and I think I could become passionate about any number of things as long as they involved a challenge, a possibility of achievement and some meaning to me and maybe others when I am successful. As a mental experiment pick something you have never really been interested and visualize what it would be like to achieve some level of mastery. Take for me, embroidery. I have never sowed a stitch in my life. But then if I picture myself creating the multicolored image of a fire breathing dragon on the back of my motorcycle jacket, I can see how this is something I could get into.

You can start with a list of things you do now and narrow down to the one that you think will give you the most satisfaction and, though a stretch, is obtainable. Or maybe reach outside of things you do now and grab something you would like to do. Maybe just make a random list of things that take effort but a certain level of achievement is possible. This might take some research but it will be worth it.

Then choose. Maybe through visualization exercises or maybe through some random selection process. Establish objectives and plans to achieve them. Devote your working hours only to this endeavor. What do I mean by working hours? You still might have a family or a social life. Or maybe even one of those things called a job (like me). But it is amazing where the time comes from when you get focused. There is lots of time out there that we waste. How about that TV series you got hooked on because you keep wanting to know what happens next, but you could easily do without. How much time do we spend on reading mindless posts on social media sites? When you catch the fever you will be working away and suddenly realize morning is already dawning.

It will be hard at first. Before you have hit those small successes and maybe even some of the big ones, you will find every excuse to avoid what you need to do. Years ago when my (unsuccessful) focus was writing a novel, I found myself washing dishes to avoid what I needed to do. Use determination, self bribery (for me it was a nice bottle of Belgian beer), or what ever it takes to get past these hesitations. And I hate to give you the bad news, but the resistance will never disappear completely because complete mastery is not achievable. But the exhilaration can be realized when we know we are on the road.

You may have only decades left, but that is time to im·merse youself in something incredible. Something that will brighten your days. Even when you hit frustrations and roadblocks you will feel so alive. These could be some of the best years of you life.


Garlic Shrimp with Garlic

What could be more common place than shrimp cooked in garlic? And yet tonight stands out. A few things that might have made the diference. Shrimp cooked fast and hot. My aluminum pans ( Professional pot and professional pan manufacturer, Ballarini Professionale ) being a big contributor to precise control of temperature. Fist cooked shrimp very hot for only 1 minute added cracked chile pepper flakes and a montain of garlic (more garlic rule applies), salt – one more minute – slightly lower heat. Add some lemon juice and (something I stole from someone on the internet) caper brine. Add butter (I use butter more as a flavoring and sauce conditioner than oil these days). Add chopped Italian parsley simmer for minute or two. Remove shrimp and get sauce just right (added little wine to loosen). When ready to serve add shrimp back to warm and scater more parsley.

Serve on Penne.

Covid 19

Who’s Right About All This

I’m on everyones email list. Left and Right, smart and whaky, serious scientists and conspiracy theorist idiots and sages. I follow them all. Our world is going through the COVID 19 crisis for which there are so many unknowns, I can not categorically say anyone is right or wrong. Even our top experts change their minds and its not because they are stupid. Reliable knowledge can only be built on data and this virus has only been known to the world for a few months. Despite heric efforts, that is just not enough time to gather all the data we need. We are having to make momentus life and death decisions based on best guesses.

Everyday web sites publish authoritative maps and charts showing exactly the number of COVID 19 cases in different locations. But in the U.S. we have only tested about 2% of the population and most of those tests have been focussed mainly on symptomatic people so really we have no idea how many cases there are. I don’t envy our leaders that have to make momentous decisions on fragmentary information. The last thing we need to do is attach political labels to these decisions. Self disclosure – I am politically on the right. But I see no logical reason that should influence how I think about what we should do.

On the one hand, I see the terrible things the disease has done and how little we know about what it might do. As a society we a balance life and death decisions all the time. For example, driving speed limits, whether to release new drugs that have potentially deadly side effects, allow activities – such as sky diving, that are dangerous. Though these decisions can be difficult and contentious, they are usually based on a sound body of data. While we are learning quickly about COVID 19, we are still largely groping in the dark. The worst predictions could come true and the most flippant naysayers could be right. For this reason, I think the more cautionary approach we have taken is justified and we can become more nuanced as we gain more knowledge and tools.

I also see how people are very anxious to get back to normal life – especially people who need to get back to earning a living. So many businesses were shut down to prevent the spread of the virus but many families have been economically devistated. As a generaous society we have taken a number of actions such as the relief checks – but that can only go so far. Over time the wealth of society can only continue if people make things and provided services. The economic impact is hadest on the poorish and least privilaged in out society. For these reasons I am in favor of cautiously returning the work world gradually back to normal.

Some prominent people have said very wise and very stupid things at various times. I don’t see the point in pointing fingers. Both many prominent Republicans and Democrats at first dismissed the danger and later panicked in the other direction. And then, of course, called each other stupid, unsympathetic, evil, or whatever. Sometimes I think one side takes a position only because it is the opposite of the other side’s position. The way I see it, everyone, including me, has had to react with incomplete and in some cases inaccurate information so I place no blame on anyone.

So let’s start discussing like grown ups. We can shout and argue, but it should be about the true issues and the life and death decisions we need to make, not trying to advance our own petty causes.