Voice of Sanity – June 2017

 

 

 

Piedmont Humanists

Membership: adults $24/year
Seniors/students $15/year
Family: $40/year

Editor: Joyce Bates

All correspondence to:

Email: voice@piedmonthumanists.org 

Regular mail:
Piedmont Humanists
3620 Pelham Rd., Suite 5, #135
Greenville, SC. 29615

June 2017

 

The Voice of Sanity

THE NEWSLETTER OF THE PIEDMONT HUMANISTS

                 Visit our web-site for current issues at:

                         www.piedmonthumanists.org

                          

 

 

CALENDAR

http://www.meetup.com/piedmont-SC-Humanists/

www.piedmonthumanists.org

https://www.facebook.com /groups/piedmonthumanists/

 

The Sunday meeting: There is a meet and greet 10:00AM to 10:45AM

At 11:00AM there is usually a talk, video, or general discussion from 11:00AM to 1:00PM

Location: the Earth Fare 3620 Pelham Road, Greenville.

A review of business done in the board meeting is presented at the 11:00 time on the first Sunday of every month.

Dates for the Sunday meetings are: June 4th, 11th, 18th, and 25th.

 

For those new to Humanism a discussion group will meet 10AM Sunday June 25th. Location: the Earth Fare 3620 Pelham Road, Greenville

 

The Free-Thought group will meet at 7:00PM June 1st, 15th, and 29th (Thursdays) for a meal at California Dreaming restaurant; 40 Beacon Drive; near the Pelham Road exit off I85. 

 

The Freethought trivia and pool group will meet at Friar’s Tavern,

1178 Woodruff Road, Greenville, SC 29607.

Meetings will be held 7:00 to 10:00PM on June 8th and 22nd  (also Thursdays).

 

June 10th: Second Saturday Brunch will be at10AM at the Golden Corral, 3240 North Pleasantburg Dr. Greenville, SC 29609.

 

 

IMMIGRATION IN THE US

 

It is estimated that even before the thirteen colonies unified into the United States this region of North America was more popular for settlement than both Canada and the area of the Caribbean. Between 1760 and 1775 three percent of Scotland and 3.2 percent of Ireland had migrated to the Eastern Seaboard. But no real statistics were kept on immigration until 1820.

 

It is true that the Alien and Sedition Acts passed in 1798 allowed the President to imprison or deport non-citizens who were considered dangerous or came from an enemy nation. At any rate three of the four acts were allowed to sunset by 1801 except for the Alien Enemies Act which was kept active and used during World War II to detain German, Italian and Japanese non-citizens.

 

Most of the 19th century saw immigration from Ireland and Germany with each country contributing well over two-thirds of the immigrant flow by 1890. Half the population of Ireland came because the main source of food was destroyed by the potato blight a plant disease ironically caused by a pathogen native to Mexico. Even today there are more people of Irish descent living in the US than there are Irish in Ireland.  The Germans came because of poverty and political unrest that eventually led to the Revolution of 1848.

 

Chinese immigration was triggered by news of the discovery of gold in California. When the vast majority of poor young men who came here failed to make their fortunes they found work building the railroads, working in coal mines, or they started small businesses like restaurants or laundries. These last were in high demand, easy to set up, and required only a limited English vocabulary. Congress passed the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1882. This act was the culmination of discrimination against race nearly equal to that displayed towards emancipated black slaves at that time. Provisions prevented Chinese from becoming citizens, provided for their deportation, and suspended all Chinese immigration for a period of ten years.

 

The greatest influx of immigrants came at the beginning of the 20th century and continued through WWI. Finally a temporary bill was introduced in 1921 to control the flow of Southern and Eastern Europeans. In 1924 the bill permanently limited immigration to two percent a year from all countries. Unfortunately, the laws also significantly reduced the flood of those escaping from Nazi Germany during the 1930s and 40s.

 

The next major restrictions came during the 1950s to keep out those suspected of supporting Communism and anarchy. The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 continued the ban on those coming from Asia and kept quotas of immigrants confined to relatives of US citizens and permanent residents, and those who had extensive education or exceptional abilities.

 

One exception to these rules was the Mexican Brecero program. This program came into being early in World War II to admit agricultural workers across the border when many Americans left farms to work in factories. After it expired in 1964 illegal immigration from Mexico increased every year until the 1980s when sanctions were again introduced, this time against the employers who hired them. Over the years there has been no evidence that this law was effective. Half of the illegal immigrants in the US in 2014 were Mexicans (about 5.2 million). This figure was lower than peak numbers in 2009, but illegals from other Latin American countries have increased.

 

Before the present travel ban citizens of 38 countries were eligible to be in the US for a period of 90 days under the visa-waiver program as long as they did not have citizenship with Iraq, Iran, Syria, or Sudan. There are many types of visas for those wishing to stay longer. Here are a few examples:

EB-1: are for those who have extraordinary ability, advanced degrees or are highly skilled professionals or investors.

H-1B: are for those with a specific occupation. Spouses of these are also eligible for H-1B but are not free to pursue an occupation.

L: are for employees of US companies abroad who wish to transfer workers in their business to work this country.

TN: these are for professionals from Mexico and Canada under the NAFTA trade agreement.

H-2A: these are for hired workers in agriculture, nurseries and landscaping. Apparently, there are no limits to these except for the very effective one of going through the application process. Additionally countries eligible for this visa are susceptible to change on a yearly basis by the Department of Homeland Security.

 

A US citizen can sponsor a spouse, child, parent, or sibling for a “green card” or permanent residency. One who already has a green card can also be a sponsor. The caveat here is the enormous backlogs for those waiting for permanent residency. For example citizens with siblings seeking permanent residency after the fall of the Berlin wall were still waiting for relatives to join them as of 2010. Here is a short table of wait times for sponsored immigrants of US citizens and permanent residents:

 

Category

China

India

Mexico

Philippines

Others

Unmarried adult children of

US Citizens

6yrs

6yrs

17yrs

16yrs

6yrs

Spouses and minor children of

Permanent residents

4yrs

 

4yrs

 

6yrs

 

4yrs

 

4yrs

 

Unmarried adult children

Permanent residents

8yrs

 

8yrs

 

16yrs

 

10yrs

 

8yrs

 

Married adult children of

US citizens

8yrs

 

8yrs

 

16yrs

 

17yrs

 

8yrs

 

Siblings of US citizens

10yrs

10yrs

14yrs

20yrs

10yrs

 

 

In 1996 rules tightened on the ability of undocumented immigrants to get legal status. In 2001 rules tightened on those from certain foreign countries and foreign nationals in response to 9/11. The Department of Homeland Security took over the management of the US Customs and Border Protection, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and the US Citizens and Immigration Services.

 

As of 2014 there were slightly over eleven million unauthorized immigrants in the US. There is a certain amount of fraud committed in the hiring of these illegals but much depends on the size of companies who practice it. Of those companies that do and have less than $10 million in revenue, over half are small companies with less the 25 employees. Only seven percent of companies worth more than $10 million practice illegal hiring.

 

The employer based H-1B temporary visas were limited to 65,000 per year in 1997. The US raised the limits temporarily starting in 1999 but they were discontinued in 2003 because of the slowing economy and drop in demand for workers. The number of permits now has been raised again to 85,000 and is still being depleted well before the federal fiscal year ends.

 

Last month this newsletter highlighted another problem with H-1B workers. Since 2006 universities have been exempted from the quota and are unlimited in their freedom to hire foreign workers. As of 2016 this ballooned the hiring to 100,000 additional jobs because for-profit companies realized they could use the educational exemption by affiliating their foreign workers with universities.

 

Lastly, any thought that immigrants are taking advantage of federal government benefits is unwarranted. Eligibility for the following went into effect as of August 22nd, 1996:

 

Temporary Assistance for Needy Families: Not eligible until 5 years or more of lawful permanent residence.

Food Stamps: Not eligible until 5 years or more of lawful permanent residence; lawful permanent residents who have worked for 40 quarters.

Supplementary Security Income: Generally not eligible, but lawful permanent residents with 40 quarters of work history after five years

Medicaid: Not eligible until 5 years or more of lawful permanent residence.

Children’s Health Insurance: Not eligible until 5 years or more of lawful permanent residence. There are state options for children under 21 and pregnant women.

JB

 

References:

Immigration, Stuart Anderson, 2010, Greenwood Guides to Business and Economics

Immigrants; Your Country Needs Them, Philippe Legrain, 2006, Princeton Univ. Press

History of Asian Americans, Jonathan H.X. Lee, 2015, ABC-CLIO, LLC

http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2016/11/03/5-facts-about-illegal-immigration-in-the-u-s/

 


FREE SPEECH OR FREE RIDE?

 

The Johnson Amendment was a provision attached to the Internal Revenue Code of 1954. It had been proposed by then Senator Lyndon B. Johnson and was considered non-controversial being included in the body of the bill without discussion or debate. The text of the amendment affects 501(3) (c) organizations for exemption from federal income tax under certain conditions. Those conditions are that no part any such an organization’s earnings will go to shareholders or individuals; no substantial part of its mission will be to carry on propaganda or otherwise influence legislation (except for certain exceptions); and that it “…does not participate in, or intervene in (including the publishing of distributing of statements), any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for public office.”  The amendment applies to both religious and secular 501(c) (3) organizations. An additional benefit is that they are not only tax exempt but their donors can also take tax exemptions.

 

On May 4th the “Presidential Executive Order Promoting Free Speech and Religious Liberty” was signed. This order directs the Department of Treasury that “churches should not be found guilty of implied endorsements where secular organizations would not be.” It is difficult to ascertain what the wording actually means but it implies that secular organizations are allowed more freedom in this respect.

 

Traditional political organizations (501(c)(4)s) must disclose their donors for tax purposes thus making identities available to the Department of Treasury. The 501(c)(3)s are not obligated to disclose on condition that they abide by the Johnson Amendment. All these 501 (c)(3) organizations both religious and secular are prohibited from campaigning for or against political candidates. They are, however, allowed to participate in non-partisan activities such as voter education, registration, and “get-out-the-vote” drives.  As for members, they are not forbidden in any way from free speech and press on their own time.

 

There are two kinds of poor behaviors that could occur if the amendment is repealed. The most worrisome would be an incentive for political donors to shift their contributions away from the traditional partisan 501(c) (4) groups to religious and charity organizations in order to achieve a tax exemption. A second problem would occur because churches and welfare groups do not have to disclose the source of donations. Such donations would not only avoid tax but would be unavailable for public identification forever.

 

Also, most 501 (c) organizations have to file Form 990 on their tax returns to provide information about their groups and activities. Churches are exempted from this requirement. Some religious and secular welfare groups enjoying this exemption are very large. The Salvation Army, for example, posted collections of $3.5 billion for the year 2015. Many major political contributors control large foundations which could be exploited for tax free undisclosed political spending.

 

Although the President can issue an order to the Department of Treasury, only Congress can repeal the Johnson Amendment. Presently, such legislation has been reintroduced by House representatives Walter Jones, Steve Sealize and Jody Hice. This legislation has been backed by the Alliance Defending Freedom, whose reputation has not been known for encouraging the freedom of same sex couples to marry, enter into civil unions, or adopt children. Nor has it been known to rally for the separation of church and state.

 

There are two organizations that feel repealing the Johnson Amendment will take away the protection that makes sure all 501(c) (3) organizations serve the social and public benefits for which they were intended and nothing else. The National Council of Nonprofits recognizes that donors presently want their money to be used to further the missions of their organizations and not the careers of politicians or pockets of political consultants. The Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability has also recommended the amendment not be repealed. While it would be in favor of changing some IRS rules, it also feels that many churches would be too easily co-opted for political activity and possible private gain.

 

Reference:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johnson_Amendment

http://www.salon.com/2017/02/03/trumps-plan-to-totally-destroy-the-johnson-amendment-creates-a-huge-campaign-finance-loophole-for-churches-to-exploit/

http://www.churchlawandtax.com/blog/2016/october/what-would-repealing-johnson-amendment-actually-mean-for-ch.html

https://www.councilofnonprofits.org/article/national-council-of-nonprofits-opposes-latest-efforts-politicize-charitable-nonprofits-and

 

 

REVIEW AND UPDATE OF THE “MONKEY” TRIAL OF 1925

 

The Scopes “Monkey” trial began when the American Civil Liberties Union offered to finance a case that contested the constitutionality of Tennessee’s Butler Law. Their court case would focus on the fact that the Butler law prohibited the teaching of anything other than the Biblical version of human origins in spite of the fact that the state required teachers to use a textbook containing a chapter on evolution. Businessmen thought this an opportunity to bring attention to their town of Dayton. So they, along with the engineer of a local coal company met with a coach and teacher named John Scopes and convinced him to take part in the project.

 

The trial did indeed attract national attention since the lawyers involved were also nationally known. Clarence Darrow was a member of the ACLU and a prominent labor and criminal lawyer. William Jennings Bryan had been a representative from Nebraska, a candidate for the US presidency, but a firm believer in literal translation of the Bible.

 

Regrettably Scopes was found guilty and was obliged to pay a $100 fine. However, the Butler Act remained in effect until 1967 when it was repealed by the Tennessee legislature. Later Scopes admitted to a reporter that he had really skipped that chapter on evolution and he and his lawyers coached the students on what to say at the trial. The reporter did not file the story until Scopes’ appeal was settled in 1927.

 

When Bryan College in Dayton decided to celebrate its 75th anniversary in 2005, it made good on plans to have a bronze statue of the statesman after which it was named placed on the lawn of the historic courthouse. The statue depicted Bryan the age he would have been, 65, while debating for the biblical version of human origins.

 

American Humanist Association member William Dusenberry realized during his visit to Dayton in 2009 that only half of the event was represented on the courthouse lawn. He tried but failed to get funding until in 2014 when he was able to contact Zeno Frudakis, a sculptor famous for his representations of prominent thinkers. Darrow will be depicted jacketless and with suspenders at the age of 68, the way he originally appeared at the trial.

 

Dedication for the bronze statue will be July 14, 2017 in Dayton, Tennessee. The statues will appear facing each other.

 

https://thehumanist.com/arts_entertainment/culture/clarence-darrow-reunite-william-jennings-bryan-dayton-courthouse

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_T._Scopes


Stumbles truths for mature humans:

 

I think part of a best friend’s job should be to immediately clear my computer history if I die.

 

I take back all those times I didn’t want to nap when I was younger.

 

Map Quest really needs to start their directions on #5. I know how to get out of my neighborhood.

 

Obituaries would be a lot more interesting if they told me how the person died.

 

It is always a bit unnerving when I exit out of Word and it asks me if I want to save changes to a lengthy time consuming report in which I don’t remember making any changes.

 

“Do not machine wash or tumble dry” means I will never wash this item.

 

Bad decisions make good stories.

 

Voice of Sanity – May 2017

 

Piedmont Humanists

Membership:
Adults $24/year
Seniors/students $15/year
Family $40/year

Editor: Joyce Bates

All correspondence to:

Email:

voice@piedmonthumanists.org 

Regular mail:

Piedmont Humanists
3620 Pelham Rd., Suite 5, #135
Greenville, SC. 29615

May 2017

 

The Voice of Sanity

THE NEWSLETTER OF THE PIEDMONT HUMANISTS

                 Visit our web-site for current issues at:

                         www.piedmonthumanists.org

                          

 

CALENDAR

http://www.meetup.com/piedmont-SC-Humanists/

www.piedmonthumanists.org

https://www.facebook.com /groups/piedmonthumanists/

 

The Sunday meeting: There is a meet and greet 10:00AM to 10:45AM

At 11:00AM there is usually a talk, video, or general discussion from 11:00AM to 1:00PM

Location: the Earth Fare 3620 Pelham Road, Greenville.

A review of business done in the board meeting is presented at the 11:00 time on the first Sunday of every month.

Dates for the Sunday meetings are: May 7th, 14th, 21st, and 28th.

The meeting on May 21st at 11:00 PM will feature a presentation by Brandis Hartsell entitled “Fossils are Forever”.

 

The Free-Thought group will meet at 7:00 PM May 4th, 18th, and June 1st. (Thursdays) for a meal at California Dreaming restaurant; 40 Beacon Drive; near the Pelham Road exit off I-85. 

 

The Freethought trivia and pool group will meet at Friar’s Tavern, 1178 Woodruff Road, Greenville, SC 29607.

Meetings will be held 7:00 to 10:00 PM on May 11th, and 25th  (also Thursdays)

 May 20th is the next date for the Adopt-a-Highway road cleanup. Time is 9 AM to 12 noon. We will meet at Earth Fare 3620 Pelham Road, Greenville.

 

 

SOME EFFECTS OF MODERN CLIMATE CHANGE

 

In the past fifty years the trend for earlier spring activity has been about 5 days per decade. This means that the daffodils and violets we saw locally the second week of February this year were normally dormant until early March back in the 1960s. Botanists have not been the only ones observing this tendency. Butterfly collectors and bird watchers have documented it for insect activity and seasonal migration.

 

Fifty years is a short time for these changes to take place and the belief is that they are the result of global warming. In the past changes in temperature took much longer. The rise in temperature from the last glacial period to the present era, for example, lasted about 5000 years and amounted to just nine degrees Fahrenheit. But the rise produced marked changes in climate over the world. The Brazilian rain forest increased from a couple of patches pressed against the Andes to an area occupying a third of the South American continent. Canada became a land of forests and grass instead of one of ice. The polar alpine desert of Doggerland between Britain and Europe as well as the Siberian land bridge completely disappeared under water. The dry and arid climate that humans had been living in for scores of thousands of years turned into a comparatively warm and rainy one.

 

At the same time this last change from glacial to warm marked the die out of many megafauna like woolly mammoths, and giant bears, sloths, and armadillos. For years there has been a hypothesis that humans had hunted and eventually exterminated these animals because they seemed always to disappear with the introduction of human activity. However, DNA evidence of fossils and careful examination of many individuals of the same species in different places indicate that stress from changing climate was a better candidate for cause. It was not the temperature per se that gave rise to their extinction but the effect of changing weather patterns on the ecosystems in which they lived. These changes caused prey to become scarce, grasslands to shrink, and new areas to be cut off because of land or water barriers. The result was a plunge in birthrate, and death from starvation and new parasitic diseases. Humans could have accelerated their demise only as opportunists.

 

As an example, the Irish elk were believed for a long time to have been hunted to extinction by human beings. Fossils representing the last of the species were dug up from the Ballybetagh bogs near Dublin and dated 12,500 years old. But the elk had had a wide range of distribution during previous warm periods of the Ice Ages. They occupied Ireland, Great Britain, and much of Europe from Spain to the Black Sea and the Volga River. During the last long cold period their numbers died out in Europe and Russia but expanded west when temperatures got better. One last cold spell, however, finally wiped them out when their last lake habitat at Ballybetagh dried up.

 

Present climate change due to CO2 warming is subtle in that its effect on ecosystems is fast in geologic time but goes virtually unnoticed during the course of human generations. Those born after the 1970s are sure to have less awareness of ecological changes like the earlier start of spring mentioned above than those born earlier. The problem is that this latest warming is even faster than the one that finished the Ice Ages. The nine degree rise in temperature ending 10,000 years ago was gradual over the previous 5000 years. In human terms it happened over the course of 150 generations if one considers one generation as 33 years.

 

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has presented forecasts on temperature change based on 23 climate models from various research institutions throughout the world. These predictions are only probabilities and vary from best and worst case scenarios with temperature increase ranging from 20F to 10.80F by the 22nd century depending on how well we control the use of fossil fuels. NASA has stated that outcomes for the US will be longer growing seasons for agriculture, but not for all areas presently cultivated because of changes in patterns of rainfall. Events of increased heavy rain will continue, even in the Southwest though droughts in that area will intensify. Sea level has risen by about 8 inches since the beginning of record keeping in 1880. It will continue to rise by one to four feet by 2100.

 

The above statistics tell us about how the accelerated warming will affect our society but do not present a picture of what will happen to natural ecosystems in the future. Therefore, we should not expect our national parks, forests, and other protected areas to be immune from change. As an example, Yosemite National Park has average winter temperatures seven degrees warmer than it did when it was put under federal protection over a hundred years ago. Different ecosystems in the park’s mountains change with elevation. The “lapse rate” for this change is a cooling of about 3.60F for every 1000 feet in elevation. Records have shown that during the park’s history small species of animals from the lowland ecosystems have been migrating to higher elevations. Upland species or those usually found in more northerly locations also have been migrating upwards. Some of these last have now reached heights where their livable ecosystem is only about 300 feet wide and will probably disappear as temperatures continue rising.

 

Other places in the world have seen changes in animal populations and location. Reindeer have been tracked for many years. They do not respond well to warmer snowier winters because their food source (lichen) becomes harder to find. Nor do they do well in warmer summers because of increased parasites. Kruger National Park in South Africa includes some of the best large animals on the continent, but has experienced declining populations in grazers such as waterbuck, eland, and antelope. Park biologists found that their numbers began to fall just when rainfall during the dry season was abnormally low and global and local temperatures began to rise reducing the amount of forage when it counted the most for survival.

 

Global warming would not be so bad if it were not enhanced by habitat destruction, introduced species, and human population pressure. Habitat destruction is obvious when we think of strip mining or oil shale extraction but it can also manifest itself in unexpected places. Salmon fish farming is a case in point. Salmon are born in fresh waters, swim to and spend their lives in the ocean; then swim back to fresh water to spawn. Sea lice are a natural parasite of wild salmon and although the fish contend with them in their ocean habitat the lice die on the spawning journey because they cannot tolerate fresh water. Salmon farms subtract the fresh water habitat from the salmon’s life cycle. This has caused massive die outs on the farms because of sea lice epidemics and the sea lice populations have now become elevated in surrounding wild seas.

 

Introduced species are not all evil. Some are able to fit in with an ecosystem without taking it over. The problem is that no one can predict which species will be invasive until it has already done damage and displaced and reduced the number of native species where it was introduced. There is no more apt example of an invasive species than feral pigs. They deplete crops and spread disease to other animals. They eat everything including deer fawn, endangered salamanders, and ground nesting birds and eggs. Hunters and trappers cannot dispatch enough of them to decrease populations because they are prolific breeders.

 

The last of the three helpers of global warming is the pressure of human population. For living things on earth nearly all energy comes from the sun. Plants use solar energy and photosynthesis to manufacture the biomass supporting the bottom of the global food chain. All species occupying living systems (including human beings) owe their lives to this base source of energy. Surprisingly, the total amount of solar energy powering all ecosystems minus the energy that plant cells use to produce it has been calculated and is a finite amount. Also, the ratio of its human consumption compared to the consumption of all other species on the planet has been made. When we look at the ratio we realize that as we increase our population we also increase our percentage of this finite energy total making less available for other species on the planet. In other words our increase in population is actually contributing to a decrease in the richness of other forms of life. 

 

Heatstroke, Anthony D. Barnosky, 2009, Shearwater Books

https://www.newscientist.com/article/dn27952-megafauna-extinction-dna-evidence-pins-blame-on-climate-change/  

http://www.jstor.org/stable/20490444?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents

https://climate.nasa.gov/effects/ 

http://www.thestate.com/news/local/article117248638.html

 

 

POOR FIT JOBS FOR COLLEGE GRADUATES

 

Today about 44 percent of college graduates are working in jobs that do not require college degrees. This is usually seen as a temporary blow for new workers. However, many of those who had the misfortune to graduate from 2007 through 2009 were not able to find suitable jobs as a consequence of the recession and in 2010 and 2011 an additional significant portion of young workers had to take a 19 percent cut in pay. Many now believe that if the Federal Reserve would continue to go slow on raising interest rates more high-wage jobs would become available but since the Fed’s recent increase in rates the quantity of new jobs across all categories has actually increased along with a small elevation in starting wages.

 

The Bureau of Labor Statistics published figures in 2016 indicating the unemployment rate of college graduates was only 2.5 percent, but a full 25 percent of those graduates who did find jobs were working in “poor fit” vocations. These were businesses in which half or less of the positions required college degrees. The jobs in which there was over qualification were in retail sales, customer service, food service management, secretarial, office support, teaching assistance, bar tending, and cashiering.  

 

Labor economist Stephen Rose of the Urban Institute ran a study to determine why in some instances a college degree pays off while in other situations occupations held by college grads are not worth the financial investment in a degree. So, from a list of 400 jobs Rose decided to investigate only those positions that had a higher rate of bachelor-degree holders than the population at large. He then looked at jobs that yielded incomes at or above the median income for college degrees.

 

He found those educated who had opted for non-degree jobs had historically been penalized and the penalties have grown over the years. In 1980 people in “poor fit” jobs earned 35 percent less than their “good-fit” peers. In 2000 it was 41 percent less and in 2016 it was 44 percent less. Unsurprisingly, the hardest hit in the category were African Americans and Hispanics. Another finding supported the growth of economic inequality between 1980 and 2014. In 1980 the median pay for the college educated was $45,000 and for high school grads $42,000. The numbers for 2014 were $70,000 and $50,000, a gap increase of about 15% between the two over nearly 25 years. 

 

Jobs are not well categorized as to which require college and which do not. The Federal Reserve System includes some vocations that do not fit under the “underemployment” heading. These are positions such as real estate brokerage and registered nursing that demand specialized training but not a college degree. Some graduates are filling them. A portion of college graduates are also taking on non-college jobs that pay very well but have less or nothing to do with their original training. They are skilled technical jobs such as electrician, auto mechanic, and dental hygienist. Lastly, there are some employers that can insist on a college degree for positions that never required them in the past even though the qualifications have remained low.

 

Jaison Abel, Richard Deitz, and Yaqin Su, analysts for the New York Federal Reserve Bank found that though statistics are much the same for college under-employment as they were in the 1990s, graduates are now more likely to be in low-wage part time jobs. The better paying non-college jobs (listed in the previous paragraph) are less available. Many grads simply solve the economic problem of earning a living by holding more than one part-time job.

 

Another issue recent grads face is increased competition from H-1B foreign workers. The yearly quota for these guest workers is supposed to be 85,000. Because of a presidential memo signed in 2006 universities have been exempted from this limit. Since there is no yearly quota for universities the number has accelerated and in 2016 over 100,000 additional workers were hired above the 85,000 limit. The situation is problematic for both US grads and H-1Bs. That is because it is legal for for-profit companies to use an educational exemption to hire foreign workers as long as they are affiliated in some way with universities and there is no legal requirement for companies to first offer jobs to Americans. This obviously makes it more difficult for graduates to start work in the private sector or obtain college research positions if they want to stay in academia. Foreign workers suffer as well, because they can be induced to accept lower salaries by the promise of a future green card. They are also legally bound to the same employer for the six year duration of their visas. For them, changing jobs means deportation.

 

Reference:

https://www.forbes.com/sites/jeffreydorfman/2017/01/23/dispelling-the-myth-of-underemployed-college-graduates/#60e2ec9e502c

http://time.com/money/4658059/college-grads-workers-overqualified-jobs/

http://www.marketwatch.com/story/there-really-arent-many-baristas-with-college-degrees-research-finds-2016-01-11

http://educationbythenumbers.org/content/underemployment-college-grads_1589/

http://www.breitbart.com/big-government/2016/01/05/industry-universities-hide-workforce-100000-extra-foreign-white-collar-h-1b-employees/

 

———————————————————————————————————————

 

LOCATING TOP AIR POLLUTERS

 

There are about 100 facilities that produce one-third of the toxic air pollution in the US and another 100 are guilty of producing one-third of the greenhouse gas emissions. These facilities emitted one billion metric tons of CO2 in 2014. This amount is equal to more than a year’s emissions from 219 million passenger vehicles.

 

Mark Fischetti, writer for the Scientific American has compiled the above into a list of 100 of the heaviest air polluters and provided a map of the US showing locations of 22 of the very top polluters. Out of this group all but two were power plants. The two exceptions were Alcoa in Newburgh, Indiana and Exxon Mobile in Baytown, Texas.

 

The vast majority of Fischetti’s 100 are located in the Eastern US with ten of the select 22 in a concentrated area along the Ohio River between Indiana and Kentucky. Another five are situated near Pittsburgh Pennsylvania. From an economic standpoint these locations make sense because they have easy access to the coal resources in Ohio, West Virginia, and Kentucky. It is not surprising that states bordering the river are involved in a suit against the Environmental Protection Agency to stop enforcement of rules to cut greenhouse gases.

 

A recent study on coronary heart disease funded by the Environment Protection Agency and the National Institute of Health has appeared in the Lancet. The research showed a connection between long term exposure to fine particulate matter and traffic related heart disease but West Virginia and Kentucky, states with the highest incidence of coronary heart disease in the in the country, are also states bordering the locations of the highest polluters.   

 

Reference:

Scientific American, January 2017, p72

https://www.publicintegrity.org/2016/09/29/20248/america-s-super-polluters

 

Miscellaneous quotes:

 

 “Wolves are very resourceful. All they need to survive is for people not to shoot them.”                                            —Bob Ferris

 

“Capitalism is the astounding belief that the most wickedest of men will do the most wickedest of things for the greatest good of everyone.” —John Maynard Keynes

 

“A man generally has two reason for doing a thing: one that sounds good , and a real one.                 

—J. P. Morgan

 

“I think that all good, right thinking people in this country are sick and tired of being told that all good, right thinking people in this country are fed up with being told that all good, right thinking people in this country are fed up with being sick and tired. I’m certainly not, and I’m sick and tired of being told that I am.”

—Monty Python

 

Voice of Sanity – April 2017

 

 

Piedmont Humanists

Membership: adults $24/year

Seniors/students $15/year

Family $40/year

Editor: Joyce Bates

All correspondence to:

Email:

voice@piedmonthumanists.org 

Regular mail:

Piedmont Humanists

3620 Pelham Rd., Suite 5, #135

Greenville, SC. 29615

April 2017

The Voice of Sanity

THE NEWSLETTER OF THE PIEDMONT HUMANISTS

                 Visit our web-site for current issues at:

                         www.piedmonthumanists.org

                          

 

 

                                                     CALENDAR

                            http://www.meetup.com/piedmont-SC-Humanists/

                                             www.piedmonthumanists.org

                            https://www.facebook.com /groups/piedmonthumanists/

 

The Sunday meeting: There is a meet and greet 10:00AM to 10:45AM

At 11:00AM there is usually a talk, video, or general discussion from 11:00AM to 1:00PM

Location: the Earth Fare 3620 Pelham Road, Greenville.

A review of business done in the board meeting is presented at the 11:00 time on the first Sunday of every month.

Dates for the Sunday meetings are: April 2nd, 9th, 16th, 23rd, and 30th.

 

For those new to Humanism a discussion group will meet 10:00AM Sunday April 23rd

Location: the Earth Fare 3620 Pelham Road, Greenville

 

The Free-Thought group will meet at 7:00PM April 6th and 20th. (Thursday) for a meal at California Dreaming restaurant; 40 Beacon Drive; near the Pelham Road exit off I85. 

 

The Freethought trivia and pool group will meet at Friar’s Tavern,

1178 Woodruff Road, Greenville, SC 29607.

Meetings will be held 7:00 to 10:00PM on April 13th and 27th.

 

April 8th: Second Saturday Brunch will be at10:00AM at the Golden Corral, 3240 North Pleasantburg Dr. Greenville, SC 29609.

 

April 22nd: Piedmont Humanists is supporting the March for Science Rally that will take place on Saturday between 12 noon and 2PM at 1 City Plaza in downtown Greenville. There will be speakers, and science demonstrations.

 

 

              

 

                    SOME PROBLEMS OF ECONOMIC INEQUALITY IN THE US

 

Although the economy in the US has recovered since 2008 and unemployment fell to about 4.6 percent in November inequality of income still remains an issue for many Americans. The question of how the former two can be positive while the last is an enduring problem puzzles a great many experts. The intent of the following paragraphs will be to focus on certain aspects of income and capital that appear to reinforce the situation rather than improve it.

 

The US ratio of income of the top ten percent to the bottom ten percent is about 5.5 to 1. This does not seem so unfair until one looks at the average yearly income of the top one percent averaging about $863,000 recently. Some of this top payroll is from wages and some is from capital. Those who receive income from wages have done work to earn them. Those who receive income from capital have not. Additionally the top ten percent holds about 75 percent of the country’s wealth, the top one percent holds 43 percent.

 

Historically the 5.5 to 1 ratio has not been seen since the Great Depression. This does not mean that there hasn’t been an overall improvement in the inequality of income since the 19th century because the ratio was higher then. It is just that equality was much greater in the mid-20th century and has since deteriorated.

 

Between 1970 and 1990 US low skilled jobs decreased by a large margin. Many industrial facilities either closed or relocated abroad. As a result there was an increase in unemployment in the industrial sector of the population. During the same time advances in technology were accelerating and for those companies that did remain here automation filled the gap of unskilled jobs. It was this writer’s experience to periodically visit one such facility in South Carolina between 1985 and 2000. Its workers shrank from many employees to only a few due to automation. It is ironic that robots and other forms of technology have replaced dangerous, unhealthy, and tedious jobs done by humans in the past, but alternative forms of work for those displaced have also decreased. 

 

It was predicted in “trickle-down theory” that high interest rates and lower taxes in the 1980s and 1990s would stimulate savings and this in turn would stimulate growth in the economy. Instead savings went down. Credit expanded during this time affording many consumers an option to defer payment on purchases for a fee. In this way credit gradually replaced savings. Additionally, profits of many companies during this time were used to invest globally rather than nationally and much capital that would have decreased the unemployment of unskilled workers evaporated.

 

The preference to invest in low skilled labor abroad rather than new technological advances in the US probably was a cost efficient move on the part of many companies. Such innovation would have required not only a new expenditure for sophisticated machinery in this country but a significant and expensive change in education for workers. At any rate companies that did stay invested in the technology but were unsupported by the educational system. Now, there is a strong need for but shortage of skilled workers. High skill jobs in the US are presently at a premium and companies must pay high wages or lose workers to competitors. These skilled workers wind up working much longer hours than their counterparts in other industrialized countries because of the skilled labor shortage.

 

Many believe that taxing higher incomes and capital can be an answer to the problem of economic inequality. It’s true that since the 1970s the top income tax rate fell from 70 percent to 28 percent in 1986 and then rebounded to the 39 percent we see today. For those who don’t work and live on capital gains alone the tax is still about 28 percent. A 39 percent tax on an upper one percent income of $863,000 mentioned earlier would leave a net yearly income for that individual of $526,430 an amount over ten times the average American income of $52,000 gross. A tax although applied to only ten percent of the population still should affect a more reasonable portion of the 75 percent share of national wealth it controls.

 

Taxation of inheritance is an attractive way to fairly redistribute income especially since it directly taxes capital and not labor. The tax on inheritance has been referred to as the “death tax” in recent years, but actually there is an estate limit below which no tax is levied. This is called the exclusion amount. In 2001 the exclusion amount was $675,000 with a maximum top tax rate of 55 percent. As of 2016 the exclusion amount was $5,450,000 with a maximum top tax of 40 percent.

 

Some would say that a progressive taxation would be unfair to those who have been successful and have worked hard for what they have. No doubt this is true and it is also unfair to support some who are perpetually disinclined to work even though they are quite capable. However, those unskilled laborers and their families who have lost jobs to foreign manufacturing and domestic new technologies in the past were not disinclined to work. Every society has a certain percentage of poor who are there either by their own volition or by tragic circumstances but it is bad for a society to let that percentage grow as it has recently done without looking into the past to see all of the factors leading up to the problem.

 

Education is another of those factors. Even though improvements in technology have demanded skilled labor since the 1970s, education has done little to close the gap between the skilled and unskilled fast enough. The emphasis in many institutions of higher learning has been on vocations limited to a small percentage of the population who already comprise the upper ten percent such as lawyers, managers, and doctors. The rich can afford to send their children to private schools. However, a lack of support for public education denies a large portion of unskilled workers and their families the tools to make an adequate living and provide education in adequate skills for their children. The recent introduction of STEM programs is welcome but only a small part of the solution.

 

The educational lag behind technology is also due to subtle forms of discrimination against minorities and pockets of poor communities in rural areas. Funding for public schools is done mainly on a local basis. Because of this poor communities cannot afford an equal educational infrastructure that will allow training for technological jobs. As a result the children in these communities have little opportunity to improve their standard of living. To make matters worse the communities themselves, because of isolation, tend to negatively feed-back into their own problems. That is why the Colman study in Chicago as early as 1966 showed that improvements in such schools did little to improve the economic levels in their communities. The study initially implied that the students themselves did not have the natural capacity to learn, but this was later disproved because adoptees in families with better education and/or better economic opportunity showed equal improvement to their adopted siblings.

 

The US might do well to look to other countries for solutions to education. In Germany firms invest in training and apprenticeship centers. Students are generally not required to pay for the training or even commit themselves to working for the sponsor. The training is of a general nature and the student is free to go elsewhere for employment.

 

All in all America has been successful in keeping unemployment low in the past 45 years. In the years between 1983 and 1996 the US increased the number of jobs by 25 percent. The percentage of growth for the GDP was a healthy 30 percent. If we look at these statistics closely, though, we find that the actual population of the US increased by about 38 percent and that the increase in jobs to keep up with it was in the unskilled category. The low employment figures we see do not expose the trend away from unskilled labor or the loss of unskilled jobs to other countries.

 

Many suggest a universal basic income to solve the job loss due to increased technology and foreign manufacturing. This could be done through redistribution of income so that those unskilled in the lowest economic rungs could be guaranteed minimum necessities. Implementing this idea would take a lot of practical social engineering. First, one would have to make decisions as to what parts and to what degree the financially successful economy would be able to contribute to such a venture. Second, even if taxation of or automatic transfer from both capital and labor could accumulate government funds to accomplish this there is no insurance that all of those receiving the basic income would automatically put it to the use for which it is intended.

 

Third, there is an optimistic idea that those receiving such income would then be free to pursue their own special interests. To be sure many would be able to contribute their unique talents to the economy and culture, but not all. For those without any special interest there is no reason why they should not work, even though they would not be paid directly by an employer.

 

Nor should anyone be excluded from the opportunity to get back into paid employment if they so wish. Presently, the US has programs such as Aid to Families with Dependent Children, Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income, and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program to support unemployed people. Many times when those people find a job the wage is not enough to support the needs that were supplied previously by the assistance programs. As a result, those seeking employment have to forfeit the opportunity to work because of an economic “cliff” that puts the financial help of the programs well above the financial resources the of the prospective wage. Rather than take a plunge into a worse circumstance the individual chooses to remain without work.

 

There is little doubt that technology as long as it is cost effective will continue to replace unskilled jobs and that unskilled lower cost foreign labor will be attractive for global corporations. It follows that money accrued from choosing cheaper technology and foreign labor over more expensive domestic unskilled labor will continue to increase the gap between capital and labor and consequently the gap between rich and poor in this country. The difficulties listed in the previous paragraphs simply describe the depth of the problem in American society.

JB 

 

References:

The Economics of Inequality, Thomas Piketty, 1997, 2014, Editions La Decouverte, Paris, France

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Welfare#United_States

http://www.mybudget360.com/wealth-inequality-america-top-10-percent-of-us-households-control-75-percent-of-wealth/  

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Estate_tax_in_the_United_States#Estate_and_inheritance_taxes_at_the_state_level

http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2015/07/world-without-work/395294/

http://www.investopedia.com/news/how-much-income-puts-you-top-1-5-10/  

 

———————————————————————————————————————

 

                          A FEW OF MANY PROBLEMS WITH US PRISONS

 

The United States presently incarcerates 25 percent of the world’s prisoners but contains only five percent of the world’s population. Racism is featured in many news headlines as the reason for the high rate of arrests, but the reasons for going to prison are many and subtle at times.

 

Statistically there is no color barrier when it comes to the use of marijuana. Both white and black people use it at similar rates but blacks are ten times as likely to be arrested for it. Also, one in three black men can expect to be in prison at least once during their lives. For whites it is one in seventeen.

 

Latin Americans fair somewhat better with a ratio of one to six for prison but face other problems in metropolitan poor areas where gang activity occurs. Salt Lake City in 2016 was one such place where police marshaled a group of high school students to the local station during a “gang sweep”. Students were questioned, searched, and then made to pose with signs denoting they had gang connections. The outcome was a federal lawsuit brought against the city by the students of West High School. The settlement required police to destroy the records labeling plaintiffs of gang affiliation, destroy the photos, and make no further “gang sweeps”. In addition, school administrators were ordered only to involve police if a situation was a matter of physical safety. An oversight committee was appointed to monitor school intervention every six months.

 

Prison can also become a trap for poor people who get into trouble for minor offenses but cannot afford to pay fees or bail to alleviate their predicament. As a result they wind up in jail. Last year in Maine two thirds of the prison population consisted of pretrial detainees for this reason. In 2005 the legislature there had made it illegal to waiver many fines for criminal offense, regardless whether a person could pay. In the following years thousands were locked up because of not having adequate funds. This caused extra burdens for taxpayers. Arkansas had better laws but a class action had to be taken against the city of Sherwood because four people were put in jail for inability to pay despite well-established laws already there forbidding such police action.

 

Louisiana jails more people per capita than any other place in the world. Many of the detentions are because of parole violation but a good number are simply because of antiquated laws imposing long sentences that no longer fit the crime.

 

In Rhode Island one such out of date law was found unconstitutional when a disabled individual was arrested for standing on a street corner holding a sign that said “disabled, need help, God bless”. The man was exonerated and the fine was waived for two reasons. First, the ordinance was found unconstitutional because it violated freedom of speech. Second the police were found to be selective in its enforcement because they routinely ignored those who displayed signs along the same roadway for fund raising activities.

 

In August of 2016 the Department of Justice announced plans to gradually phase out the use of private federal prisons. Reasons given were that they do not save on government costs and do not maintain the same degree of safety that the government run prisons do. This decision will only affect thirteen federal facilities that house 22,000 out of a total of 193,000 federal prisoners. Presently two-thirds of contracts with private prisons in this country both state and federal have occupancy guarantees and provisions for taxpayers to cover the cost of empty beds in these facilities. This implies a motivation to incarcerate rather rehabilitate because the goal of private penal institutions is to make a profit and filling beds is the only way to improve the profit margin. Additionally, black males between the ages of 17 and 19 are ten times more likely to go to private prisons than older black males. The selection occurs in order that government run prisons absorb and take the financial burden of a less healthy and older population.

 

The Correction Corporation of America has stated publicly that changes to US laws on drugs, controlled substances, or illegal immigration would reduce the demand for private correctional houses. As for state run prisons, Harry Lappin chief corrections officer of the CCA and former director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons has offered arrangements in the past whereby CCA would buy state prisons in exchange for 20 year contracts guaranteeing 90 percent occupancy to increase business.

 

Perhaps it is time to change our laws on drugs, on illegal immigration, and on imprisonment of poor people simply because they cannot pay. It is well past time for us to focus both on the desperation of poverty and the condition of race when it comes to breaking the law.

 

References:

https://www.aclu.org/issues/mass-incarceration/privatization-criminal-justice/private-prisons 

http://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/why-the-u-s-is-right-to-move-away-from-private-prisons

 

 

                             DEMOGRAPHICS OF THE 115TH CONGRESS

 

Surprisingly the percentage of non-white representatives in the new 115th Congress has jumped from 15 to 19 percent.. Minority representation has been gradually increasing over the years. In 1980 approximately 90 percent of Congress was white. Now that number has dropped to 81 percent. There is a caveat, however. The percentage of racial minorities in the US population in 1980 was about 20 percent. In the last census that number grew to 39 percent. So while minority numbers have increased in Congress their ratio of representation remains less when compared to their numbers in the general population.

 

Women have not fared as well in the political makeup. Their numbers fell slightly from 109 in the last Congress to 104. Notables among then are House representative Mazie Hirono ( House D-Hawaii) who also has a Jamaican and Indian background and Cortez Masto (D-Nevada) who is also the first Latina to serve in the Senate. 

 

Black lawmakers have increased from 46 to 49 since the last election. Republicans are among those who won. They are Senator Tim Scott (S.C.) and Representatives Mia Love (Utah) and Will Hurd (Texas). Also of interest is former Orlando Police Chief Val Demings (D-Fla.) who will be the first woman and African American to represent her district in the House.

 

The number of gay and lesbian members of Congress remains the same at seven. Tammy Baldwin is the only openly LGBT in the Senate. The remaining six are serving in the House.

 

The number of non-Christian representatives in Congress has also improved. There are two Muslims and four Hindus all of whom are in the House. Jews have increased in number from 28 to 30 two of which are in the Senate. Buddhists have four representatives this time, one in the Senate and three in the House. Overall, non-Christians compose about seven percent of Congress. 

 

As with representation of racial minorities and women the religiously non-affiliated are ignored congressionally. No representative appears non-affiliated even though population statistics for the US show something very different. A recent Pew Forum religious survey has been made in the US from the years 2007 to 2014. It shows that the percentage of Christians fell from 78.4 percent to 70.6 percent. Non-Christian believers rose from 4.7 percent to 5.9 percent. Lastly, recent Pew surveys of the religiously unaffiliated in the US population rose from 16.1 percent to 22.8 percent but there is no one in Congress reflecting this demographic.

 

Reference:

http://www.pewforum.org/2015/05/12/americas-changing-religious-landscape/

http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/01/24/115th-congress-sets-new-high-for-racial-ethnic-diversity/

http://thehill.com/homenews/house/306480-115th-congress-will-be-most-racially-diverse-in-history

 

 ——————————————————————————————————————–

 

The lighter side of poverty:

 

“Three years ago I came to Florida without a nickel in my pocket. How I’ve got a nickel in my pocket.” Groucho Marx comedian, actor

 

“He who hesitates is poor.” Mel Brooks comedian, director

 

“When I was born I owed twelve dollars.” George S. Kaufman playwright and producer

 

“It was all the wolf could do to keep us away from his door.”

Charles Murray Scottish comedian, actor

 

“Our rabbi is so poor that if he didn’t fast every Monday and Thursday, he’d starve to death.”

Jewish saying

 

“Anyone who has ever struggled with poverty knows how extremely expensive it is to be poor.”

James Baldwin novelist, civil rights activist

 

“I used to sell furniture for a living… the trouble was it was my own.”

Les Dawson English comedian

Voice of Sanity – March 2017

 

 

 

 

Piedmont Humanists

Membership: adults $24/year

Seniors/students $15/year

Editor: Joyce Bates

All correspondence to:

Email:

voice@piedmonthumanists.com 

Regular mail:

Piedmont Humanists

3620 Pelham Rd., Suite 5, #135

Greenville, SC. 29615

March 2017

 

The Voice of Sanity

THE NEWSLETTER OF THE PIEDMONT HUMANISTS

                 Visit our web-site for current issues at:

                         www.piedmonthumanists.org

                          

 

 

                                                     CALENDAR

                            http://www.meetup.com/piedmont-SC-Humanists/

                                             www.piedmonthumanists.org

                            https://www.facebook.com /groups/piedmonthumanists/

 

The Sunday meeting: There is a meet and greet 10:00AM to 10:45AM

At 11:00AM there is usually a talk, video, or general discussion from 11:00AM to 1:00PM

Location: the Earth Fare 3620 Pelham Road, Greenville.

There is a business meeting at the 11:00 time on the first Sunday of every month.

Dates for the Sunday meetings are: March 5th, 12th, 19th. And 26th

 

For those new to Humanism a discussion group will meet 10:00AM Sunday March 19th Location: the Earth Fare 3620 Pelham Road, Greenville

 

The Free-Thought group will meet at 7:00PM March 9th and 23rd. (Thursday) for a meal at California Dreaming restaurant; 40 Beacon Drive; near the Pelham Road exit off I85. 

 

The Freethought trivia and pool group will meet at Friar’s Tavern,

1178 Woodruff Road, Greenville, SC 29607.

Meetings will be held 7:00 to 10:00PM on March 2nd, 16th, and 30th. 

 

March 11th: Second Saturday Brunch will be at10:00AM at the Golden Corral, 3240 North Pleasantburg Dr. Greenville, SC 29609.

 

 

                                   LIFE AND THE TRANSFER OF ENERGY

 

In the early 1800s Nicholas Carnot the son of the Minister of War under Napoleon investigated ways to improve the efficiency of steam engines. During his work he noticed that “fire” invariably progressed to “ice” or more generally that heat always flowed from hot to cold, never in the opposite direction.  This observation was the beginning of exploration of the Second Law of Thermodynamics and how energy changes and degrades from one form to another in only one direction through time.

 

Household heating is an example of energy transfer and the Second Law. Locally, the primary and richest form of energy comes from radioactive sources at the Oconee Nuclear Plant. This form is transferred to turbines which generate electricity as the next form of energy. The electricity flows to the local residence where a heat pump transfers it into heat for distribution in the home. Finally the heat leaks out and is absorbed into cold air outside. Nothing travels in the opposite direction; the “transfers” each “degrade” the original energy until it becomes part of the cold air outside. The total transition down the scale is called an energy gradient.

 

Energy gradients are noticeable everywhere. The flow of water downhill is an example. Our weather patterns are due to energy from the sun combined with earth’s gravity and rotation. So is the circulation of ocean currents. The earth itself is a planet basking in the “goldilocks effect” a unique situation where it is at the right temperature and location in a giant gradient extending from the 58000K of the sun to the 2.70K of outer space. This enables the correct temperature or energy input to permit existence of liquid water and the chemical reactions necessary for life.

 

The most fantastic example of something taking advantage of the energy gradient is the living cell. Cells are incredibly efficient at this. They use a chemical reaction which turns sugar and oxygen into energy. The process performs a kind of molecular magic trick. While it produces the energy needed, it also reproduces the two molecules that initiated the action in the first place. These two molecules go on to use sugar in a future reaction again allowing energy release plus two molecules for another reaction and so on. This type of chemistry is performed by all the cells in our bodies or, for that matter, cells in any form of life that has to metabolize or burn sugar.

 

Many scientists now think that life, in order to have originated, would have had to take advantage of the Second Law as well as use the replication of DNA and RNA. The initial chemical reactions to obtain energy for building protein would have been vital and might have even preceded the means of replication. Indeed, the first living things were probably autotrophic. That is, they maintained life by directly feeding on non-living materials and did not “eat” in the way modern organisms do. This is the way some creatures that live near oceanic vents survive; only they run their metabolism by taking in sulfur instead of food. They manufacture energy and produce hydrogen as the waste product.

 

The first living things probably had access to the amino acids that are necessary for the formation of life. Many of these acids are relatively common even in space. The original organisms would not have been able to use oxygen to live, though. Oxygen did not exist in the atmosphere until about 2.3 billion years ago. Greenland rocks dating to 3.8 billion years show radioactive carbon traces suggesting that life was already well established. The tentative conclusion is that life must have metabolized something other than oxygen for energy but ironically issued it as a waste product. Eventually, too much of it in the atmosphere led to the demise of all but a few of these original organisms.

 

Forms of life have one thing in common and that is despite the variety of items they may burn for energy they all need to burn something. The commonality extends from single cells to complex organisms and beyond to ecological systems.

 

The health in a complex organism can be measured by the stability of its metabolism. In human beings and other mammals we measure the effectiveness of this stability by taking temperature. When someone’s temperature goes up it means that their thermodynamic condition is not normal; they are expending energy to fight infection in addition to the normal maintenance of cells. Even when a person has to run to catch a plane, the sudden effort accelerates an older metabolic process of fermentation instead of steady burning. This is reflected in sore and aching muscles from an accumulation of lactic acid.

 

An ecosystem is also a thermodynamic system. Green plants do their part by taking solar energy and converting it into sugars that can be burned slowly as they transfer from species to species throughout the system before the energy has finally dissipated. A cow eats grass and uses its sugar to maintain its body. The rumen of the cow supports bacteria that maintain themselves by metabolizing parts of the grass the cow cannot digest. At the same time they create sugars that the cow can digest. The cow gives milk during its life to support other animals and when it is finally slaughtered its body will be used as a source of rich protein. The dung that the cow produces during its life is a source of energy for soil bacteria and fungi that break it down to fertilize more grass that the cow can eat.

 

One cannot overestimate the importance of natural forests and grasslands in their ability to provide stable healthy ecosystems. A plant reflects 15 percent of radiation back into the atmosphere, 18 percent into sensible heat (like that reflected off asphalt parking lots), and 66 percent in the transpiration of water from the roots to leaves where it evaporates into the atmosphere. Only one percent is used in biomass production of sugars that support the living fibers, and flesh in the rest of the system.  

 

Mature ecosystems such as temperate and rain forests process energy from the sun more efficiently than those that are less developed. As a system matures its biomass increases and so does its assortment of species and their residency time. Natural disaster and/or human intervention can set them back to an earlier less productive period of development. We know this because disturbed environments lose that energy more easily in the form of heat just like environments that do not have adequate water.

 

Contrary to what one might think this also means that tropical and other climax forests recapture heat to recycle it in the form of rain again and this in turn keeps temperature in the high clouds much cooler than above grasslands and deserts. Also, the disturbed ecosystems mentioned in the previous paragraph radiate heat from the sun out into the atmosphere at a rate comparable to grasslands and deserts. A healthy well developed natural area simply recycles energy longer, supports a greater number of species, and radiates less heat than a poor one and this has been reinforced by satellite data.

 

This is a short and very general history of the roll energy plays in the maintenance of life. Hopefully, it will help us to understand our place in this process and give us the humility to realize how much we depend on all of it for our existence.                              JB

 

References:

Into the Cool, Eric Schneider and Dorian Sagan, 2005, University of Chicago Press.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iron%E2%80%93sulfur_world_hypothesis 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cyanobacteria

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glycine

http://www.bbc.co.uk/science/earth/earth_timeline/first_life

 

 

                                              EIGHT RICHEST MEN

 

At the end of 2015 OXFAM a non-governmental organization founded for the relief of global famine published a list of 62 of the wealthiest people. The select few owned wealth equal to that of half the population of the world. In fact, the aggregate of their worth (over $498 billion) was more than the GDP of any one of 168 countries. Last year the list was shortened to just eight people in order to balance the equation of the previous year. The paragraphs below feature financial statuses and short biographies of the eight richest men in the world. 

 

Larry Ellison: (born 1944, New York City; financial worth January 2017 $43 billion)

Ellison was adopted by a middle class family and spent his early life in Chicago. He attended the University of Chicago where he first learned computer design. Ellison partnered with two others in 1977 to form Oracle, a company specializing in data base management. In 1990 the company almost became bankrupt because of a misleading marketing strategy which involved the overstatement of earnings. The company recovered from this and grew until 2010 when the European Union approved its acquisition of Sun Microsystems. By 2014 Oracle was worth $185 billion with 130,000 employees.

Philanthropy: In 2010 Ellison was one of the 40 billionaires signing the “The Giving Pledge” a campaign to encourage wealthy people to give to charity.

 

Mike Bloomberg: (born 1942, Boston Mass.; financial worth January 2017 $43.9 billion)

Bloomberg has degrees from Johns Hopkins University and the Harvard Business School. He initially worked for a Wall Street investment bank but was laid off when the business was sold. He set up a new company called Market Systems to provide high quality and quickly delivered business information to firms on Wall Street and in the general business community. In 1982 Merrill Lynch became the first customer. By 2015 Market Systems had 325,000 terminal subscribers worldwide. Other technical business products are Bloomberg News, Bloomberg Message and Bloomberg Tradebook. He left the business to serve three mayoral terms in New York City.

Philanthropy: Bloomberg was named the third largest donor in 2015. His donations are too extensive to detail here, but go to various health organizations, art projects, and science foundations.

 

Carlos Slim Helu: (born 1948, Mexico City; financial worth January 2017 $48.2 billion)

This son of a wealthy Lebanese businessman became a billionaire after the economic crash of 1982. He did this by purchasing investments at bargain prices which later became extremely valuable. Later he used the expanding equity to purchase big companies mostly in tobacco and communications.

Philanthropy: He is ranked by Forbes as one of the biggest donators with sponsorship to the Musee Sumaya in Mexico City which contains 60,000 works including those of Da Vinci, Dali, Picasso and Renoir. He has given $100 million to cataract surgery for those Latin Americans unable to afford it.

 

Mark Zuckerberg: (born 1974, New York City; financial worth January 2017 $56.6 billion)

While attending Harvard in 2002, he launched a technical directory where students could enter information and a photo of themselves onto a template that could be shared with others. This soon became available to students across the country. He left Harvard and established an office in Palo Alto, California in 2004 and managed to raise $12.7 million in capital in 2005 and officially named the directory Facebook. More money was made when Microsoft and Digital Sky Technologies bought a small percentage of shares in the company.

Philanthropy: in 2013 the Chronicle of Philanthropy listed him as giving one billion dollars to charity. He has donated 18 million shares of Facebook stock to the Silicon Valley Community.

 

Amancio Ortega: (born 1936, Leon, Spain; financial worth January 2017, $71.3 billion)

Ortega started his career in textiles when he went to work for a shirt maker at age thirteen and remained working for others for about 14 years before going out on his own. In 1963 he opened a company that made bathrobes. His first general clothing retail store opened in 1975 with an emphasis on high-quality design for lower prices. He lowered his costs by keeping factories in Spain, producing smaller quantities and shipping quickly and often. By 1989 his holding company “Inditex” had over 100 stores in Spain. He has been retired since 2011.

Philanthropy: Ortega has a low public profile, but is documented as giving approximately $60 million towards education, culture, and welfare in his country.

 

Jeff Bezos: (born 1964, Albuquerque, New Mexico; financial worth January 2017, $72.5 billion).

He graduated from Princeton with degrees in electrical engineering and computer science. After graduation he worked in computer technology for a number of companies and enjoyed a lucrative career in finance. In 1994 he moved to from New York to Seattle and set up a new company in his garage finally launching it in 1995 as Amazon.com. The virtual book store sold products in the US and 45 foreign countries and in two months reached sales of $20,000 a week. The company went public in 1997. Many similar companies went bust in the 1990s but Amazon thrived with sales in 2011 of over $17 billion. Bezos purchased the Washington Post in 2013 for $250 million. He also sponsors “Blue Origin” a project to make space exploration commercially viable. Its launch pad is in West Texas. 

Philanthropy: He donated $2.5 million to support a same sex marriage referendum in Washington State which was successful; $10 million to the Seattle Museum of History and Industry; and $15 million to the Center for Neural Circuit Dynamics at Princeton.

 

Warren Buffett: (born 1930, Omaha, Neb.; financial worth January 2017, $73.2 billion)

Buffett graduated from the Columbia Business School in 1951. He started out by working at his father’s investment firm. He then used his savings to invest in various partnerships over time in his hometown. After a while he merged them all into one and invested in a textile firm called Berkshire Hathaway. Late in the 1960s he shifted attention from textiles to insurance but his company made acquisitions that were varied in nature. One example was the procurement of seven percent of Coca-Cola stock. His tax return for 2015 was $1.85 million on a gross income of $11.6 million, a tax rate of about 16 percent.

Philanthropy: He has pledged $30.7 billion worth of Berkshire stock to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Other donations include $50 million to the Nuclear Threat Initiative an organization that works to prevent catastrophe from weapons of mass destruction.

 

Bill Gates: (born 1955, Seattle, Wash., financial worth January 2017, $83.9 billion).

Gates started working with programming when a GE computer was made available at his school. Later he wrote his high school’s computer program for scheduling classes. He entered Harvard in 1973 but dropped out in 1975 to start Microsoft along with Paul Allen in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He adapted the DOS system for IBM’s personal computers in 1980. In 1985 he launched Windows and continued to write code until 1989. After that date his role was confined to management. In 2006 he transitioned out of the company to concentrate on humanitarian issues.

Philanthropy: In 2015 The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation spent $4.2 billion in global health and development, US programs, communication, and other charitable programs. Eventually Gates will donate 95 percent of his wealth to charity.

 

References other than Wikipedia:

http://www.biography.com/people/larry-ellison

https://www.britannica.com/biography/Mark-Zuckerberg

https://www.britannica.com/biography/Jeff-Bezos

http://www.biography.com/people/jeff-bezos-9542209#early-life-and-career

http://www.carlosslim.com/biografia_ing.html

http://www.thefamouspeople.com/profiles/warren-edward-buffett-3160.php

https://search.yahoo.com/yhs/search?p=warren+buffett+biography&ei=UTF-8&hspart=mozilla&hsimp=yhs-003

http://www.browsebiography.com/bio-amancio_ortega.html

http://notjustrich.com/amancio-ortega-wiki-net-worth-richest-man-in-spain/

http://www.notablebiographies.com/Fi-Gi/Gates-Bill.html

http://www.gatesfoundation.org/Who-We-Are/Resources-and-Media/Annual-Reports/Annual-Report-2015

 

 

One-liners:

 

“The closest a person ever comes to perfection is when he fills out a job application form.”

Businessman Stanley Randall

 

“When I lost my rifle the Army charged me $85. That’s why in the Navy, the captain goes down with the ship.” Dick Gregory

 

“Whoever named it necking is a poor judge of anatomy.” Groucho Marx

 

“I don’t want to brag, but I do speak pig Latin; I mean, I’m not fluent, but I’m sure if I ever went there, I could get by.” Bonnie McFarlane

 

“The next time I send a damn fool, I go myself” Sgt. Louis Cukela reportedly said at the Battle of Belleau Wood WWI.

 

“A Canadian psychologist is selling a video that teaches you how to test your dog’s IQ. Here’s how it works: If you spend $12.99 for the video, your dog is smarter than you.” Jay Leno

 

“If con is the opposite of pro, then isn’t Congress the opposite of progress?” Jon Stuart

 

Voice of Sanity – February 2017

 

Piedmont Humanists

Membership: adults $24/year

Seniors/students $15/year

Editor: Joyce Bates

All correspondence to:

Email:

voice@piedmonthumanists.org 

Regular mail:

Piedmont Humanists

3620 Pelham Rd., Suite 5, #135

Greenville, SC. 29615

February 2017

 

The Voice of Sanity

THE NEWSLETTER OF THE PIEDMONT HUMANISTS

                 Visit our web-site for current issues at:

                         www.piedmonthumanists.org

                          

 

 

                                                     CALENDAR

                            http://www.meetup.com/piedmont-SC-Humanists/

                                             www.piedmonthumanists.org

                            https://www.facebook.com /groups/piedmonthumanists/

 

The Sunday meeting: There is a meet and greet 10:00AM to 10:45AM

At 11:00AM there is usually a talk, video, or general discussion from 11:00AM to 1:00PM

Location: the Earth Fare 3620 Pelham Road, Greenville.

There is a business meeting at the 11:00 time on the first Sunday of every month.

Dates for the Sunday meetings are: Febuary 5th, 12th, 19th. And 26th

 

For those new to Humanism a discussion group will meet 10:00AM Sunday February 19th Location: the Earth Fare 3620 Pelham Road, Greenville

 

The Free-Thought group will meet at 7:00PM February 9th and 23rd. (Thursday) for a meal at California Dreaming restaurant; 40 Beacon Drive; near the Pelham Road exit off I85. 

 

The Freethought trivia and pool group will meet at Friar’s Tavern,

1178 Woodruff Road, Greenville, SC 29607.

Meetings will be held 7:00 to 10:00PM on February 2nd and 16th. 

 

February 11th: Second Saturday Brunch will be at10:00AM at the Golden Corral, 3240 North Pleasantburg Dr. Greenville, SC 29609.

 

February 11th: DARWIN DAY CELEBRATION will be at 4:00PM at the Canebrake Clubhouse, Kings Mountain Drive at Saratoga Drive, Greer, SC

 

February 25th,   Saturday: Adopt-a-Highway cleanup will start at 9:00AM

Location: the Earth Fare 3620 Pelham Road, Greenville

 

 ——————————————————————————————————————————-

 

 

                                      A BRIEF HISTORY OF SYRIA

 

Since our election in November Syria’s civil war has been relegated to the back pages of most news outlets. The Syrian government and representatives of rebel forces have met in Astana, Kazakhstan to strengthen the cease fire but after opening ceremonies both sides left and did not meet face to face again. Meanwhile, Russia, Turkey, and Iran have announced a plan for continuance of the cease fire and urged Syria to participate in UN talks toward a political solution.

 

A short 100 year history of the region appears below. This background can serve to help us understand the present state of events for Syria. The history describes not just a single country’s struggle for a relatively peaceful and productive existence, but the changing conditions for an entire region of the Middle East over the past century.  

 

ISIS stands for the Islamic State of Sha’am.  Sha’am is the 19th century word for Greater Syria an area that stretched along the Eastern Mediterranean from the Sinai Peninsula to the Turkish border. In 1914 it included the states of Palestine, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria. The common language spoken was Arabic. The religion was predominantly Muslim mostly Sunni with a minority of Shi’a. A Shi’a sect of Alawi existed in the mountains on the Turkish border and in the extreme south. Desert areas were occupied by Bedouins. Otherwise, the territory was about 20 percent Christian located mostly in the Maronite community of Mount Lebanon. There were many Jewish communities as well.

 

In 1918 and at the end of World War I the entire area came under the control of British and French troops and three different factions came into being. The British and French factions were reluctant to allow the territories to obtain their own independence. The two entered into what became known as the Sykes-Picot agreement. This was a secret plan to divide the area into French and British colonial territories.

 

The second faction comprised the Zionists. Zionism came into being in the 1880s and grew as a movement with the goal of establishing a state in Biblical Palestine. At the end of the World War the Jewish population in the area stood at about ten percent. The British were supportive of Zionism and the British foreign secretary to Damascus, Lord Arthur Balfour officially pledged support for the Jewish endeavor.

 

The third group in the trilogy was led by Emir Faisal who was son of Sharif Hussein, the independent ruler of the Hejaz and direct descendent of the Prophet Mohammad. The Hejaz was a domain covering the western Arabian Peninsula, containing the cities of Mecca and Medina, and considered the political and religious center of the Arab world. Faisal’s goal was to establish an Arab state stretching from Turkey to the southern part of the Arabian Peninsula. The Arabs set up a National Congress aiming toward a decentralized constitutional monarchy with Faisal as king.

 

But at the end of the war the Allies set up two mandates in the occupied area. The French Mandate included Syria, Lebanon, part of southern Turkey, and an area bordering the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee known as the Golan Heights. The British were awarded control of Jordan, Palestine, and Iraq. Faisal, after his failure to establish Syrian independence turned his attention to Iraq and sought the help of the British to successfully acquire the throne there.

 

France further divided the Syrian Mandate into districts that reflected their different ethnicities. All these borders impeded trade and split up extended families and their property holdings. Workers were forced to cross them daily to get to their places of employment. There was much migration from rural to urban areas and much Westernization because of the French influence. This was offensive to traditional Sunni Muslims.

 

Meanwhile the Syrian middle classes and landowners pressed again for independence from the French. This was not for a truly democratic government but to have better control of political and trade issues. By 1936 they finally achieved their goal but with concessions. They had to recognize Lebanon as a separate state. They also had to accept a three year probation during which the French would have authority on all decision making and be allowed to maintain garrisons in the Alawi and Southern districts for five years. By the time the three years were up Europe was embroiled in another world war and the constitution was suspended.

 

Ba’athism was born in the aftermath of World War II. It became established as an altruistic movement bringing medicine and education to Syria’s rural areas. It soon turned into a political movement headed by two idealistic Syrians, Michel Aflaq, a Greek Orthodox Christian and Sarah al-Din a Sunni Muslim. Educated abroad they had hoped to gain enough votes to break the power of rich landowners, but failed. Politics would again remain in the hands of monopolies and favored government employees instituted by the French. Syria finally gained independence in 1947 but retained this old elite political structure. Lebanon also became an independent nation at the same time. But both countries had border and ethnic ties with Palestine which would now become a permanent nucleus of unrest.

 

Although the United Nations tried to partition Palestine into Jewish and Arab states it only managed to terminate its British Mandate. The Palestinian Jewish community, the Yishuv was overwhelmingly composed of immigrants from Europe, many of them refugees from Hitler’s Germany and the lands of the Holocaust. Genocide had wiped out European Jewish communities that had dated back centuries, killing a total of six million people. Among the survivors, many Jews who previously had no Zionist sympathies fled to Palestine after other countries- including Britain and the US shut their doors.

 

On the 14th of May in 1948, the same day the last British forces left Palestine and after a great deal of fighting between factions the Jewish People’s Council of the Yishuv met to proclaim the existence of the State of Israel. The fighting escalated into the Israeli/Arab war. In the end Palestine was sectioned into territories following an uneasy armistice in1949. Egypt got control of the Gaza strip bordering the Mediterranean just north of the Sinai Peninsula; Jordan got the West Bank on its border with Palestine; and Syria remained in control of the Golan Heights, the strip of land along the Sea of Galilee that it had originally held. The remainder of Palestine was recognized as Israel.

 

The Cold War became a presence in the Middle East beginning with the 1950s. Syria vacillated between sides seeking to find security where it could. Britain signed pacts with Turkey, Iran, Iraq, and Pakistan in an alignment against the USSR, but Syria was left out. When Abdul Nasser gained control of Egypt and nationalized the Suez Canal to pay the debt for the Aswan Dam, Egypt and Syria united to create the United Arab Republic. Both accepted support from the USSR. Syria experienced its first coup in 1949 and came under military rule. It wasn’t long, however, before the Syrian elite became disillusioned when its communist style five year land reform plan failed, producing more unrest and a second military coup. The UAR was dissolved and the country again realigned itself with the West.

 

Although the Golan Heights was technically part of Syria at this time much of its water flowed into Israel and that country could not tolerate interference or reduction of the supply. Unfortunately, the conduit system became a constant target for guerilla sabotage. At the same time Egypt and Jordan were building their military systems as a show of Arab unity with Syria against Israel. This buildup of force incited rather than suppressed action and in 1967 the Israelis launched the Six Day War immobilizing both Jordan’s and Egypt’s forces and taking control of the Golan Heights. Egypt helped Syria in a second attempt to gain the area in 1973 but this also failed. The US by this time was more interested in hammering out agreements with the oil rich Arab countries but Syria, Iraq, and eventually Iran were left out of the these negotiations.

 

It was in 1970 in the midst of the Israeli/Arab conflicts that the Syrian Minister of Defense Hafez al-Assad saw his opportunity to gain power. He directed the military to occupy all Syrian political party offices and organizations. The next day he assumed control of the government and retained it for the next thirty years. Assad’s new government drifted toward dictatorship. Although he brought running water, electricity, and affordable credit to farmers, his regime declared the Ba’th party the only legal party of Syria and the best government contracts went to those whom he favored. The secret police (mukhabarat) inspired fear everywhere because of its protection from judicial oversight.

 

Hafez interfered frequently with Lebanese affairs of state and both openly and secretly supported the Arab side of the Palestinian/Israeli turmoil. After Israel was established many Palestinians became permanent refugees in Lebanon. The situation worsened when the Palestinian Liberation Organization was driven out of Jordan and settled in the Lebanese immigrant areas making Beirut their center of operations. Hezbollah, a Shi’a Islamist militant group supported by Iran became active at this time also. Fighting erupted again in 1987 over Palestinian protests of Israeli occupation in the West Bank, and Gaza.

 

This time Israel drove the armed conflict deeply back into South Lebanon. Hafez helped broker the peace, tentatively established in 1993 but allowed sanctuary and support of the terrorists in his own country. He also maintained a military presence in Lebanon but he never established an agreement with Israel over the Golan Heights. He died in 2000 and was succeeded by his son Bashar.

 

When the Americans invaded Iraq in 2003 Syria’s trade with Saddam Hussein ended. This trade included several billion dollars obtained from the sale of illegal arms and a steady supply of Iraqi oil. The stoppage severely impeded the Syrian economy. In the same year the Bush administration passed the Syrian Accountability and Lebanese restoration Act. This required Syria to close its terrorist facilities, to stop supplying troops and arms to Iraq, and to withdraw its entire military force from Lebanon.

 

In 2009 sixty-five percent of Syria’s population was under twenty-five. Most had an education but could find no work, and unemployment was growing. The country remained for the most part a cash-based economy. For the first time in fifty years a private bank finally opened its doors. A stock exchange had been nonexistent until 2009.

 

The civil war began in 2011 when some school children were arrested in a southern Syrian town and taken to Damascus where they were interrogated and possibly tortured. Their crime was writing graffiti on the walls of a school that suggested the fall of the regime. They ranged in age from nine to fifteen. Demonstrations were put down with force and the foreign press was banned. Finally all out fighting began when gunfire was directed at the security forces.

 

As the violence spread people fled to other areas of the country and finally abroad. Since 2011 about eleven million have left their homes. Over six and a half million have been displaced internally. Over four and a half million have gone to Turkey, Jordan, Egypt, and Iraq. Lebanon has been host to one million in addition to its permanent population of Palestinian refugees. One million have requested asylum in Europe.

 

The free Syrian Army was established by deserting officers of the National Armed Forces. Their aim was to bring down the Assad government but they were poorly disciplined and riddled with infighting. Other armed militant groups joined in on the fight but the lack of coordination and leadership caused it to lose members to either ISIS or ISIL.

 

References:

Syria, John McHugo, 2014, The New Press

Among the Ruins, Christian C. Sahner, 2014, Oxford University Press

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Six-Day_War

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Golan_Heights 

 

———————————————————————————————————————

 

                          A SURVEY OF SURVEYS IN THE US FOR 2016

 

On January 1st The Washington Spectator a small monthly publication done by the Public Concern Foundation printed a survey of polls of American opinion. The survey was completed about the time of the election in 2016. The resulting statistics from questions asked by the Pew Foundation, the Gallup Poll and other surveys are described below.

 

One was an overall view done by WSJ/NBC taken right after the election. It addressed issues that Americans considered important at that time. Those who expressed no opinion do not appear in the table below:

Lower the cost of student loans: 

For: 82 percent            against: 18 percent

Increase spending on infrastructure

            For: 75 percent            against: 25 percent

Raise the hourly minimum wage to $12

            For: 66 percent            against: 34 percent

Address climate change by eliminating carbon emissions

            For: 59 percent            against: 41 percent

Raise the social security age to 69.

            For: 33 percent            against: 66 percent

 

                    

Further surveys have consistently shown that when it comes to government spending Americans regardless of age, political philosophy, party identification, sex or income level were united in their opinion of campaign spending. Eighty percent of those surveyed by Gallup earlier in 2016 wanted strict limits on this kind of spending. This corresponded with 75 percent found in a New York Times/CBS poll run about the same time.

 

There obviously has been a gigantic turn around in the thinking of Americans about Gay marriage. In 1996 sixty-eight percent of the country was in opposition to gay marriage. As late as 2004, Gay marriage was being used as a “wedge” issue to drive up voting by evangelicals. By 2013 not a decade later 54 percent crossed over to favoring marriage and in 2016 those in favor had risen to 61 percent, a complete swing in attitude from negative to positive.

 

Health care was an issue that produced some peculiar statistics. It is true that the bulk of the Affordable Care Act was opposed by 58 percent of Americans during its debut but the reasons behind the opposition were not explained. In 2013 forty three percent of Americans were against the bill because it was too liberal, but fifteen percent opposed it because it wasn’t complete enough. Then, in 2016 Gallup created a new poll asking about support for the single payer system. In this context 58 percent were in favor of the government supported program.

 

Defense spending has been explored by Pew Research for many years. The 2011 poll occurred in the midst of public pressure for the withdrawal of troops from many of its consignments overseas. Although the chart below shows an increase in percentages in favor of increased spending last year, 64 percent still wanted either to keep spending the same or decrease it.

 

 

2011

2016

Keep spending the same

53 percent

40 percent

Cut back spending

30 percent

24 percent*

Increase spending

13 percent

35 percent

No opinion

4 percent

1 percent

Total

100 percent

100 percent

 

There were other polls during the year, too. They are listed below.

 

Taxes:

 On April 15th, 2016, Gallup released results of a survey finding that 51 percent of those polled thought their taxes were too high, down from 65 percent in 2001.

 

Tax supported childcare:

The latest survey in 2016 by Gallup shows that 59 percent support taxes for universal childcare and pre-K programs with 26 percent opposed.

 

Climate change:

In 2014 fifty-nine percent of those polled by WSJ/NBC supported limiting carbon emissions.

In 2016 Gallup found the 64 percent of their respondents were greatly worried about global warming, while 36 percent worried only a little or not at all.

 

Abortion:

There has been little change in the polls here. In 1996 Pew Research found that 57 percent of Americans thought abortion should be legal either “always” or “in most cases”. In 2016 the figure was 56 percent. There is doubt whether this is a pertinent issue. In 2011 the US abortion rate fell to 16.9 per 1000 women the lowest rate since 1973 when Roe vs Wade was passed.

 

Gun control:

Pew research ran a poll in 2015 in which participants were forced to choose whether it was more important to control gun ownership or protect the right to own a gun. Put in this context 50 percent of participants thought controlling ownership more important and 47 percent thought protecting gun rights was more important.

 

Capital punishment:

In September 2016 Pew released a poll in which 49 percent of respondents favored capital punishment with 42 opposed. In 1995 the numbers were 80 percent favoring and 16 percent opposed.

 

Reference:

The Washington Spectator, January 1st, 2017, page 1.

* Corrected percentage found at: http://www.people-press.org/files/2016/05/05-05-2016-Foreign-policy-APW-release.pdf  page 28.

 

 

More paraprosdokians:

 

1. To steal ideas from one person is plagiarism. To steal from many is
research.
2. I didn’t say it was your fault, I said I was blaming you.
3. In filling out an application, where it says, “In case of emergency,
notify… ” I answered ” a doctor.”
4. Women will never be equal to men until they can walk down the street
with a bald head and a beer gut, and still think they are sexy.
5. You do not need a parachute to skydive. You only need a parachute to
skydive twice.
6. I used to be indecisive, but now I’m not so sure.
7. To be sure of hitting the target, shoot first and call whatever you
hit the target.
8. Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian, any more than standing
in a garage makes you a car.
9. You are never too old to learn something stupid.
10. I’m supposed to respect my elders, but it’s getting harder and
harder for me to find one now.
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