Friday, April 11, 2014


4/12:An Update from the LA Times.

Here at Humboldt State University we are mourning the deaths and injuries of those caught in a bus and truck collison who were on their way to campus.  The bus was one of three carrying high school students from southern California for a college visit.  The crash happened late afternoon Friday on U.S. highway 5 some 200 miles away. A Federal Express tractor trailer truck crossed the median and collided head-on with the chartered bus.  There were several explosions and both vehicles burned completely. Ten people were killed and 40 or so injured, some with serious burns, others with minor injuries.

Among the ten who died were 5 high school students and the drivers of the bus and the FedEx truck.  Also killed were HSU alum Michael Myvett and his fiancee, Mattison Haywood.  Myvett was a therapist at an autism treatment facility.  They were chaperoning the trip.

Also killed was Arthur Arzola, an HSU Admissions Office staff member who worked primarily with low-income and first-generation students in the Los Angeles area.  Arzola and Myvett were known for their dedication to young people often overlooked or abandoned because of their economic status or health challenges.

That the students on this bus (and the two that made it safely to campus) were low-income students who would have been the first in their families to attend college naturally figured in follow-up news stories, though this approach led to some headlines in questionable taste. Because of that, I'm not linking to any of those stories.

 University and California State University officials however have acted with sensitivity and restraint, but proactively, visiting the injured and looking after the students on the other buses who had arrived before the accident.

A Nation's Thanks

The resignation of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius was handled by most media outlets with headlines that almost uniformly linked it with the initial failure of the website--even though this is May and that was October, and in the end the ACA signups exceeded the predictions made before the website problems, which lasted less than a month.

Almost totally ignored was the dogged determination that Kathleen Sebelius exhibited in bringing to fruition the largest, most comprehensive new social program since the 1960s.  She endured hours of ugly, mean-spirited and politically motivated interrogation by Republicans in Congress--hours amounting to days she could have spent in the real work of administering this complex and unprecedented program, in addition to the many other responsibilities of her office.

For this she has been tarred and feathered by Republicans with the continuing connivance of the media.  Here at least is a fair-minded story, which includes the ultimate successes as well as the failures along the way, which in any case were not only her responsibility. (Update: And here's another.)

This nation owes Kathleen Sebelius more than it can repay for her sacrifices as well as her determined good work.  When this epic change in healthcare insurance has more miles on it, perhaps then the extent and importance of her work as HHS Secretary will be honored, and her name remembered with Frances Perkins and  Hallie Flanagan as forces for good at a crucial time, even in the otherwise thankless and always temporary job of federal administrator.  The nation owes her thanks.

Wednesday, April 09, 2014


Yes, as Obamacare participation numbers go higher with each new study, it's time for GOPers to take their medicine.  But in the states they can still kill people with their obstructions, as in Florida where the failure to take advantage of free support from the federal level for Medicaid expansion has cost this woman her life--and is on track to kill thousands more.  Said the friend of Christine Dill, 32 year old mother of three who was working 3 jobs but couldn't make enough to pay for her heart medicine: “I am burying my best friend because of the policies of the Republican Party. I am burying my best friend because had Medicaid expanded, her needs would have been met.”

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Hunger Games Here and To Come

According to a blistering column by E.J. Dionne, recent Supreme Court cases could all be grouped under the title Rich v Poor, and you can guess who's been winning.  Others have also noted that the current Court is handing over the electoral system to the wealthy, though some of the richest aren't too happy about the attention it's bringing them.  One of the Kochs complained in the Wall Street Journal, which pretty much exists for complaints by the wealthy.  Josh Marshall has an ongoing series about the uber- rich who are amazingly sensitive to criticism if not to the suffering of others or their ongoing destruction of the planet.

The implications for politics suggests to Peter Bienart that mega-donors are now more important than the politicians themselves and ought to be covered by news media more assiduously.  Dionne goes further to pair the pro-wealthy Court decisions with their anti-poor (or everybody else) decisions to suggest we're becoming an oligarchy.  Update 4/18/14: And now according to a Princeton study it's official: the U.S. is an oligarchy.

But it may well be worse than that.  The enormous gap between the wealth of the wealthy and everybody else (that most recently got the full Bill Maher treatment) has been building for decades.  The disappearance of industrial jobs (closing of the steel mills etc.) in the late 70s was perhaps the first conspicuous indication.  Observers like Barbara Ehrenreich and Paul Krugman wrote about it in the 80s.  Cultural historian William Irwin Thompson took the long view, and saw that it could forecast the return of the Middle Ages.

Speaking of which, many apocalyptic or post-apocalyptic stories feature either a fairly stable feudal Middle Ages world of lords and serfs (The Hunger Games) or a Dark Ages organization of war lords and poor (from Shape of Things to Come to The Postman and the Mad Max movie series.)

There could hardly be worse societal preparation for the stresses of climate crisis effects than the current dive into oligarchy.  It might make money available for a few high profile projects in rich cities, for instance, but in general it is one of several current trends that make civilization even more vulnerable.  Food and water shortages are among the serious problems forecast by the latest UN report, as well as by many other studies.  As Elizabeth Kolbert writes of the report in the latest New Yorker: "Composed in a language that might be called High Committee, the report is nevertheless hair-raising. The I.P.C.C.’s list of potential warming-induced disasters—from ecological collapse to famine, flooding, and pestilence—reads like a riff on the ten plagues. Matching the terror is the collective shame of it. “Why should the world pay attention to this report?” the chairman of the I.P.C.C., Rajendra Pachauri, asked the day the update was released. Because “nobody on this planet is going to be untouched by the impacts of climate change.”

Though our media doesn't much say so, we've already seen food shortages and price spikes lead to political violence and chaos in various parts of the world, and very quickly.  Already a study has linked violence to climate crisis effects.

Add the penchant of the most politically active of the uber-wealthy to insist on ideology over even common sense, plus the fundamentalist dogmatism of their unwitting army, and the move back to the Middle Ages is a shockingly short one.

What stands between a Dark Ages anarchy and/or a Middle Ages system of lords who rule over a poor population by means of hired thugs (currently arming themselves) is the civilization that resides in the souls of our citizens.  And by civilization I mean not only enlightened, rational and practical evidence-based thinking and conscious valuing of diversity, but compassion, cooperation and empathy in everyday problem solving.

That the threat of falling into a new feudal Middle Ages or a new Dark Ages exists should be a cautionary tale to the young especially.  They need to be prepared to ward it off, to see the signs, to strengthen the consciousness and the values that may overcome it before it happens.  

Monday, April 07, 2014

The Dreaming Up Daily Weekly Quote

"Such hopelessness can arise, I think, only from an inability to face the present, to live in the present, to live as responsible beings among other beings in this sacred world here and now, which is all we have, and all we need to found our hopes upon.”
Ursula LeGuin

Sunday, April 06, 2014


"The absurdity of a life that may well end before one understands it does not relieve one of live through it as bravely and as generously as possible."

Peter Matthiessen
who died last week at the age of 86
      Pema 4/14  (click for full photo)