A Cloaked Prosperity

As mentioned in a recent post here at RJsCorner, we in the US have been duped into believing that stock market indexes are the only indicators we need to measure the prosperity of our country.

Since the stock market in the last two years went from 19,700 to 24,000 which is about a 21% increase it sounds like we are living in the age of uber prosperity. But when you look at almost any other measure we fall pretty far behind many far less wealthy countries.

A better index for prosperity would include quality of life measures and that is what the Legatum Prosperity Index does. It was developed by a London think tank. Here is a little about that:

The 2018 Legatum Prosperity Index is based on 104 different variables analyzed across 149 nations around the world…

The 104 variables are grouped into 9 sub-indexes, which are averaged using equal weights. The 9 sub-indexes are:
Economic Quality
Business Environment
Governance
Education
Health
Safety & Security
Personal Freedom
Social Capital
Natural Environment

For example, Personal Freedom includes freedom of speech and religion, national tolerance for immigrants and ethnic and racial minorities. The Social Capital sub-index includes the percentage of citizens who volunteer, give to charity, help strangers, and who feel they can rely on family and friends…

Source: Wikipedia

This index is actually an index of indexes that include:

  • Gallup World Poll
  • World Development Indicators
  • International Telecommunication Union
  • Fragile States Index
  • Worldwide Governance Indicators
  • Freedom House
  • World Health Organization
  • World Values Survey
  • Amnesty International
  • Centre for Systemic Peace

As can be seen from the featured image at the top of this post, the United States comes in 17th on this index. It should be of no surprise that most of the world’s social democracies come in ahead of us as do some very small countries.

Money isn’t everything except maybe to the top 2% in our country who actually controls the majority of it.

I’m Not Supposed To Be Like This.

I am a 70+-year-old white guy who leads a joyous life of a nuanced skeptic. I am not anything like the pollsters describe me:

  • We are supposed to be senile and therefore avid MAGA folks who are crouched in the corner of our basement clutching our guns in utter fear of all the hordes invading our country.
  • We are supposed to believe on faith everything our religious leaders like Jerry Falwell Jr. and Franklin Graham tell us to believe.
  • We are supposed to believe that God is directly responsible for putting the current occupant in the Oval Office and he is doing the job perfectly.
  • We are supposed to fall in line with the idea of fake news and oppose any efforts to combat global warming.
  • We are supposed to be adamantly opposed to providing free healthcare to all our citizens as that will mean the end of our nation.
  • We are supposed to believe that all the news sources except Fox News are the enemy of the people.
  • We are supposed to have Fox New on in our households 24/7.

That is the image that the pollsters use to describe us.

But I kinda think there are a lot of us 70+-year-old white men around who are very contrary to the pollster’s image of us.

  • We spend our retirement years happily pursuing our interests and goals.
  • We don’t fixate on what is happening inside the beltway. We have better ways to use our time than that.
  • We try to stay up on what is happening in the world via several different news sources, and no we don’t believe that suddenly they have become our enemies.
  • We accept what 98% of scientists are telling about global warming and we want our government to lead the way to find solutions before the tipping point passes.
  • We want the world to be better for our children/grandchildren than it was for us, and we are actually doing things to try to make that happen.

Sadly, I do realize that the first scenario is true for more 70+-years-olds than I would like to admit. But they don’t represent all of us and ABSOLUTELY NOT ME.

Rural America – Appalachia

Before I get into the New York Times quote below I want to tell you about my visit to the Museum of Appalachia from a few years ago. I didn’t know what to expect before I went but was blown away by what I found. There seems to be a lot of pride in their folksy past and art. Some would never consider leaving their “holler” and are proud of their Appalachian culture. It showed the light side of Appalachia, the stories below show the dark side.

I’m from Appalachia, where getting into the working class was an aspiration. I was raised “up the holler” and know the culture intimately. You have no idea of the amount of anger, self-righteousness, bigotry and willful ignorance you’re dealing with. I have seen a blighted small town use a corrupt sheriff and judge to run off a business owned by a black man. I have been present when an entire community looked the other way when a gay couple was burned out of their home.
They support Trump and the reason is simple: He acts just like they would if they had money. There is no saving this culture, nor should you want to save it. The people who could have revitalized it have either left for better opportunities or been run off. It’s a breeding ground for hatred and despair, dying with a Bible in one arm and a heroin needle in the other. Let it die. — Peregrinus, Erehwon

Source: New York Times

Here is another story about the dark side:

HERE ARE LOTS of diversions in the Big White Ghetto, the vast moribund matrix of Wonder Bread–hued Appalachian towns and villages stretching from northern Mississippi to southern New York, a slowly dissipating nebula of poverty and misery with its heart in eastern Kentucky…

Thinking about the future here and its bleak prospects is not much fun at all, so instead you have the pills and the dope, the morning beers, the endless scratch-off lotto cards, healing meetings up on the hill, the federally funded ritual of trading cases of food-stamp Pepsi for packs of Kentucky’s Best cigarettes and good old hard currency, tall piles of gas-station nachos, the occasional blast of meth, Narcotics Anonymous meetings, petty crime, the draw, the recreational making and surgical unmaking of teenaged mothers, and death: Life expectancies are short …

There is here a strain of fervid and sometimes apocalyptic Christianity, and visions of the Rapture must have a certain appeal for people who already have been left behind. Like its black urban counterparts, the Big White Ghetto suffers from a whole trainload of social problems, but the most significant among them may be adverse selection: Those who have the required work skills, the academic ability, or the simple desperate native enterprising grit to do so get the hell out as fast as they can, and they have been doing that for decades. As they go, businesses disappear, institutions fall into decline, social networks erode, and there is little or nothing left over for those who remain

Source: The Week – January 2104

A very big part of the current populist movement occurs in Appalachia. 95% of the Appalachian counties voted for Trump in the last election, but what is unclear is just what they expect a “new” version government to do? An even bigger question is can anything be done for areas of the country like this other than to provide an easy exit for those wanting to escape.

The Shift From Country To Party

Up until the last decade or so, if you asked someone which came first country or party, they would almost always say country. The utterly sad reality is that is no longer the case. Far too many of us now say their party affiliation is much more important, in fact they believe that those in the other party or the enemy! How did we get to this condition? That is the topic of this post.

Of course one of the prime causes is the current Oval Office occupant. He has only two things in mind. One is to do whatever Fox News tells him to do. The other is to do nothing that doesn’t glean support from his base. The other 70% of the country be damned, they simply are not part of his compassion if he even has any compassion. To a sane person, this modus operandi is insanity for he knows as a public servant his fate lies with the whole electorate. But I would be the last person to call the Oval Office occupant sane.

Here we are in a temporary stay of the longest shutdown in history and I’m willing to bet that after the stinging comments from Fox News we will have another shutdown in mid-February. Millions are affected by this idiocy. The constitution provides for a way to get around an incompetent Oval Office occupant, it is called a veto. The trouble is that the person who controls the Senate is hellbent on the party-over-country mantra. Nothing can be accomplished while he is still in that position of power. The GOP has the immediate ability to fix both of those problems but they presently are just too cowardly to make that happen. Why don’t they see that they are doing more harm to their party by refusing to use the veto override than linking their future on someone (or maybe two someones) who almost guarantee them to go down in flames in the next election?

Yeah, I continue to be an optimist and foresee the day in the coming years where serious changes will happen to bring us back to some decent level of sanity once again. Just don’t make me tell you which of the many possible scenarios that will cause it.

This N’ That Sunday- About Amazon (and other such things)

I saw an article in the New York Times recently about how a new orthopedic clinic contacted Amazon to find out who bought knee-braces in their area. After paying a fee Amazon sent that info along with names and addresses of the customers. The new clinic then sent mail to just that select group instead of flooding the area with their advertisements. I guess some would consider that an invasion of privacy but I kind of see it as smart advertising and saving a forest of trees.

What do you think? Is Amazon abusing their customers?


I’m a car guy, or at least I enjoy watching TV shows about cars. One of my favorite new shows is “Full Custom Garage”. It is about a very creative guy who doesn’t have all the fancy tools of so many other shows but manages to make beautify creations with very basic tools. The satellite channel he is on used to be called “Velocity” but just recently it was re-named “Motor Trend”.

I think the owner of the channel got a new CEO recently and he had to justify his million dollar contract by renaming the channel. The trouble with this is that on my satellite listing it is tagged MTHD. Is it just me but when I see those initials I think “Meth Head”? I will keep watching it but I will never describe myself as a meth head! 🙂


In_Depth Report Coming Soon…

For the last couple of weeks, I have been working on an In-Depth report on the subject of Autism. I was hoping it would be ready for tomorrow but it just needs more work so I will put it off at least another week. The title is The Positive Side of Autism.  It is about my study of autism concentrating primarily on adults and in particular Asperger’s part of the spectrum. I suspect the title is upsetting to some, especially those who have children with the most severe forms of autism, but there is a positive side for this condition that needs to be explained. The vast majority of work in autism is with children. Since what is now defined as autism has been around for centuries or more we need to know about it at the adult level. That is where perhaps, 98% of the total autism population exists.

Celebration

I will be putting out my 3500th post here at RJsCorner this week! If you don’t believe me, just click on the Archive Calendar on the right side of this and every post. 🙂 I didn’t know I had it in me. This is my 10th year on the corner, but it seems like yesterday!!

Help me celebrate and I hope you keep coming back for more.

Techie Saturday – The Polar Vortex

Techie Saturday is meant to be primarily about computers and such but the current disruption of the Polar Vortex makes this topic of the day, and it does have some pretty neat graphics that I want to show you. 🙂 The source article is one of the best explanations of why we have been having some pretty severe cold snaps the last few years. Let’s start out with a quick quote for the article. Just click on the source to see the entire article.

“This pattern looks much more active, [with] more winter type storms and Arctic outbreaks — I think I would attribute it to definitely being a polar vortex disruption, because it is very consistent with what we’ve seen in the past,” Cohen said.


The northern polar vortex is a fast-flowing stream of air that circles the North Pole in the upper parts of the atmosphere, known as the stratosphere, about 20 miles (32 kilometers) above the surface.
A similar polar vortex exists over the South Pole, but it is the northern polar vortex that can bring severe winter weather to the United States and Europe.

Source: LifeScience

I know there are those who are willfully ignorant on this topic, but I am a scientist so I am definitely not one of them. Up until I read this article I assumed that a polar vortex was the cause of these extreme cold cells moving into my State. I now realize it is the “absence” of a polar vortex that allows the extreme arctic cold to escape. Learn something new every day.