The Growing Inequality

I think this growing inequality should get us all very worried. This post by Lewis J. Bornmann is very thought provoking indeed.

Lew Bornmann's Blog

It seems to me….

The difference between rich and poor is becoming more extreme, and as income inequality widens the wealth gap in major nations, education, health, and social mobility are all threatened.” ~ Helene D. Gayle.

The economic crisis and recession of 2009 failed to weaken the financial sector of our economy which now is stronger than ever. As an industry, the financial sector earns 30 percent of all corporate profits while creating only 6 percent of U.S. jobs. Banks considered “too-big-to-fail” prior to the 2008-2009 financial crisis have grown even larger than prior to that crisis with the eight largest institutions controlling approximately 90 percent of the GSP. Bank lobbyists represent the second largest corporate special-interest bloc; only the healthcare complex is larger.

The financial industry considers securities trading, though riskier, to be more profitable than making loans. The so-called Volcker Rule, part of the Dodd–Frank…

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Wolfowitz Doctrine

Wolfowitz Doctrine
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Paul Wolfowitz, co-author of the doctrine.
Wolfowitz Doctrine is an unofficial name given to the initial version of the Defense Planning Guidance for the 1994–99 fiscal years (dated February 18, 1992) authored by Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Paul Wolfowitz and his deputy Scooter Libby. Not intended for public release, it was leaked to the New York Times on March 7, 1992,[1] and sparked a public controversy about U.S. foreign and defense policy. The document was widely criticized as imperialist as the document outlined a policy of unilateralism and pre-emptive military action to suppress potential threats from other nations and prevent any other nation from rising to superpower status.
Such was the outcry that the document was hastily re-written under the close supervision of U.S. Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Colin Powell before being officially released on April 16, 1992. Many of its tenets re-emerged in the Bush Doctrine,[2] which was described by Senator Edward M. Kennedy as “a call for 21st century American imperialism that no other nation can or should accept.”
Although Wolfowitz was ultimately responsible for the Defense Planning Guidance, as it was released through his office and was reflective of his overall outlook, he did not participate in its drafting, nor saw it before it was publicly released.[4] The task of preparing the document fell to Libby, who delegated the process of writing the new strategy to Zalmay Khalizad, a member of Libby’s staff and longtime aide to Wolfowitz. In the initial phase of drafting the document, Khalizad solicited the opinions of a wide cross-section of Pentagon insiders and outsiders, including Andrew Marshall, Richard Perle, and Wolfowitz’s University of Chicago mentor, the nuclear strategist Albert Wohlstetter.[5] Completing the draft in March of 1992, Khalizad requested permission from Libby to circulate it to other officials within the Pentagon. Libby assented and within three days Khalizad’s draft was released to the New York Times by “an official who believ[ed] this post-cold war strategy debate should be carried out in the public domain.”

There is more on Superpower status, U.S. primacy, Unilateralism, Pre-emptive intervention, Russian threat, Middle East and Southwest Asia:

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

Here is what it says on Russian threat:
The doctrine highlighted the possible threat posed by a resurgent Russia.
We continue to recognize that collectively the conventional forces of the states formerly comprising the Soviet Union retain the most military potential in all of Eurasia; and we do not dismiss the risks to stability in Europe from a nationalist backlash in Russia or efforts to reincorporate into Russia the newly independent republics of Ukraine, Belarus, and possibly others….We must, however, be mindful that democratic change in Russia is not irreversible, and that despite its current travails, Russia will remain the strongest military power in Eurasia and the only power in the world with the capability of destroying the United States.
This was removed from the April 16 release in favour of a more diplomatic approach.
The U.S. has a significant stake in promoting democratic consolidation and peaceful relations between Russia, Ukraine and the other republics of the former Soviet Union.

Meeting with Granddaughters in Melbourne Two Years ago

I copy here a blog that I published two years ago. At the time we had spent a lovely evening with Justine and Lauren. Both their birthdays are in June. They are six years apart. Justine lives in Melbourne and Lauren lives in Newcastle. Because it is their birthday this month, I thought I republish this blog which has a few lovely pictures with the birthday girls.

https://auntyuta.com/2013/04/22/out-and-about-in-melbourne/

Famous sculpture at the Yarra River in Melbourne.

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Peter, granddaughter Lauren and I had been waiting at Flinders Street Station for granddaughter Justine who was going to meet us there after work. It was a happy meeting after not having seen each other for sooo long!

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Uta and granddaughters at the Yarra River
Uta and granddaughters at the Yarra River

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Dinner at Il PRIMO POSTO, Italian Restaurant
Dinner at Il PRIMO POSTO, Italian Restaurant

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After dinner we strolled to a Gelato shop that was still open. We each had a little tub of this delicious gelato and sat down at a large table with a terrific view of the Yarra.

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This was a lovely night out with the granddaughters. Justine caught the train back home from Flinders Street Station. Peter and I went with Lauren by train back to Essendon where our son Martin was waiting with the car to take us home.

More Aunties and Uncles and Cousins

I just reblogged another post. I cannot help myself, I want to reblog this one too. It contains a lot of old pictures and a lot of comments which I did like to have a look at again.

AuntyUta

This picture was taken on a holiday near Lodz
I can be seen with Ursel and Karl-Heinz, my cousins.
An older sister of Dad, Aunt Jenny and her husband, another Uncle Alred, are in the back. On the left is Charlotte, ,my Mum. It is summer 1937

Horst, Karl-Heinz, Uta (with sun-glasses)

Ursel (Ulla) looks after us.
We all love the hammock.
It’s great fun lying in it!

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

This picture was taken in Lodz on the 26th of May 1937
My two year old cousin Horst seems to like me! It’s not summer yet,  but it must be quite warm already.

Enjoying a bath. These small bath-tubs were quite common in those days. But they are really meant for doing the washing.

Oh, what fun it is to look out of the window.!

–…

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Cousins, Aunties and Uncles

The pictures in this blog were taken in 1935!

AuntyUta

Passport from 1935

In June 1935 my parents traveled with me to Lodz, which was in Poland. My father did get a passport for this trip. This one passport was not just for himself, but also for his wife and infant daughter!

I suppose we traveled by train from Berlin to Lodz. I’m sure the journey would have taken something like twelve hours. In Lodz we stayed at the house of Aunt Elisabeth (Tante Lies) and Uncle Alfred. Tante Lies was my father’s younger sister. She was the same age as my mum.  Their son, my cousin Horst, was only four months at the time and I was nine months. I had three older cousins in Lodz. They were Georg, Gerd, and Ursula (Ulla). You can see them with little Horst and my little self in one of the pictures.

Ursel, Gerd, and Georg with Horst and Uta (Ute)

June…

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14 Years After Decriminalizing All Drugs, Here’s What Portugal Looks Like

I COPIED THIS ARTICLE By Zeeshan Aleem February 11, 2015 (I COULD NOT COPY THE PICTURES AND CHARTS)

http://mic.com/articles/110344/14-years-after-portugal-decriminalized-all-drugs-here-s-what-s-happening

14 Years After Decriminalizing All Drugs, Here’s What Portugal Looks Like

By Zeeshan Aleem February 11, 2015

In 2001, the Portuguese government did something that the United States would find entirely alien. After many years of waging a fierce war on drugs, it decided to flip its strategy entirely: It decriminalized them all.

If someone is found in the possession of less than a 10-day supply of anything from marijuana to heroin, he or she is sent to a three-person Commission for the Dissuasion of Drug Addiction, typically made up of a lawyer, a doctor and a social worker. The commission recommends treatment or a minor fine; otherwise, the person is sent off without any penalty. A vast majority of the time, there is no penalty.

Fourteen years after decriminalization, Portugal has not been run into the ground by a nation of drug addicts. In fact, by many measures, it’s doing far better than it was before.

The background: In 1974, the dictatorship that had isolated Portugal from the rest of the world for nearly half a century came to an end. The Carnation Revolution was a bloodless military-led coup that sparked a tumultuous transition from authoritarianism to democracy and a society-wide struggle to define a new Portuguese nation.

The newfound freedom led to a raucous attitude of experimentalism toward politics and economy and, as it turned out, hard drugs.

Portugal’s dictatorship had insulated it from the drug culture that had swept much of the Western world earlier in the 20th century, but the coup changed everything. After the revolution, Portugal gave up its colonies, and colonists and soldiers returned to the country with a variety of drugs. Borders opened up and travel and exchange were made far easier. Located on the westernmost tip of the continent, the country was a natural gateway for trafficking across the continent. Drug use became part of the culture of liberation, and the use of hard narcotics became popular. Eventually, it got out of hand, and drug use became a crisis.

At first, the government responded to it as the United States is all too familiar with: a conservative cultural backlash that vilified drug use and a harsh, punitive set of policies led by the criminal justice system. Throughout the 1980s, Portugal tried this approach, but to no avail: By 1999, nearly 1% of the population was addicted to heroin, and drug-related AIDS deaths in the country were the highest in the European Union, according to the New Yorker.

But by 2001, the country decided to decriminalize possession and use of drugs, and the results have been remarkable.

What’s gotten better? In terms of usage rate and health, the data show that Portugal has by no means plunged into a drug crisis.

Drug use has declined overall among the 15- to 24-year-old population, those most at risk of initiating drug use, according to Transform.

There has also been a decline in the percentage of the population who have ever used a drug and then continue to do so:

Drug-induced deaths have decreased steeply, as this Transform chart shows:

Source: Transform
HIV infection rates among injecting drug users have been reduced at a steady pace, and has become a more manageable problem in the context of other countries with high rates, as can be seen in this chart from a 2014 report by the European Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Addiction Policy:

Source: European Drug Report 2014: Trends and developments/EMCDDA
And a widely cited study published in 2010 in the British Journal of Criminology found that after decriminalization, Portugal saw a decrease in imprisonment on drug-related charges alongside a surge in visits to health clinics that deal with addiction and disease.

Not a cure but certainly not a disaster: Many advocates for decriminalizing or legalizing illicit drugs around the world have gloried in Portugal’s success. They point to its effectiveness as an unambiguous sign that decriminalization works.

But some social scientists have cautioned against attributing all the numbers to decriminalization itself, as there are other factors at play in the national decrease in overdoses, disease and usage.

At the turn of the millennium, Portugal shifted drug control from the Justice Department to the Ministry of Health and instituted a robust public health model for treating hard drug addiction. It also expanded the welfare system in the form of a guaranteed minimum income. Changes in the material and health resources for at-risk populations for the past decade are a major factor in evaluating the evolution of Portugal’s drug situation.

Alex Stevens, a professor of criminal justice at the University of Kent and co-author of the aforementioned criminology article, thinks the global community should be measured in its takeaways from Portugal.

“The main lesson to learn decriminalizing drugs doesn’t necessarily lead to disaster, and it does free up resources for more effective responses to drug-related problems,” Stevens told Mic.

The road ahead: As Portugal faces a precarious financial situation, there are risks that the country could divest from its health services that are so vital in keeping the addicted community as healthy as possible and more likely to re-enter sobriety.

That would be a shame for a country that has illustrated so effectively that treating drug addiction as a moral problem — rather than a health problem — is a dead end.

In a 2011 New Yorker article discussing how Portugal has fared since decriminalizing, the author spoke with a doctor who discussed the vans that patrol cities with chemical alternatives to the hard drugs that addicts are trying to wean themselves off of. The doctor reflected on the spectacle of people lining up at the van, still slaves of addiction, but defended the act: “Perhaps it is a national failing, but I prefer moderate hope and some likelihood of success to the dream of perfection and the promise of failure.”

Zeeshan Aleem
Zeeshan is a Politics staff writer at Mic. He has experience at The Huffington Post, Politico, The Atlantic Wire, and BBC News. He was educated at the Sidwell Friends School, Oxford University, George Washington, and the University of Chicago.

A REAL LIFE POLITICAL THRILLER

http://www.abc.net.au/news/programs/killing-season/

Here is a summary about ABC’s program: The Killing Season.
I did not write this myself. I just copied it!

“THE KILLING SEASON is Sarah Ferguson’s gripping three-part examination of the forces that shaped Labor during the Kevin Rudd / Julia Gillard leadership years.

It is a documentary series like no other. Visually striking, scripted like the best political dramas, The Killing Season is an enthralling account of one of the most turbulent periods of Australian political history.

Packed with political intrigue, strong feelings and frank disclosures, this is a must-watch series for the nation.

For the first time, Kevin Rudd gives his own, full account of the period and relives in vivid detail the events of losing the Prime Ministership – a retelling he found painful.

Julia Gillard is forthright with her recollections and analysis and doesn’t spare her colleagues.

A comprehensive cast of the main players – including many of those still in parliament – speak frankly, providing a dramatic portrait of a party at war with itself.

Episode Two of The Killing Season goes to air on Tuesday 16th June at 8.30pm, on ABC1. You can watch Episode One on ABC iview and at abc.net.au/killingseason.”

It is still Tuesday today. Peter and I just finished watching Episode Two of the above program. Having just watched it, I feel sick to my stomach. I wonder, wonder why on earth politics has to be such a dirty business?
Yesterday was a lot of talk about the Magna Carta, which was written down 800 years ago. The principals that led to the writing down of the Magna Carta have not changed in 800 years. People are still the same. What you own of the land or the wealth of the land determines what class you are in and what your political powers are. All politicians who want to stay in power have to be prepared to do more for the rich than the poor. It is as simple as that.

Why can’t the poor have simple housing, healthy food, clean water, clean air and adequate clothing? And of course a job according to their abilities. Is that too much if the poor expect as much as this? But even this much the rich of this world are not prepared to leave for the poor of this world. Has anything changed since Jesus walked the earth? Ah well, he said we are always going to have the poor with us. But do we need to drive them to desperation or distinction?

We have laws that forbid killing. Still, wars and killings go on and on. Why?

People are capable of heroic acts. They often help other people not counting the costs, sacrificing themselves. A species that can resort to such heroic acts, also needs to kill at times? Why is that so?

As far as politics is concerned, I find it very difficult to reconcile myself with mainstream politics, be it Labor or Liberal. To my mind they are practically the same. How can I like to be governed by back stabbing, scheming people who do everything to support big business at the expense of poorer people?

Correction, personally I don’t really mind that much being governed like this, for I have all my creature comforts. So what do I complain about? Well, I do not like how people through no fault of their own can end up being desperately poor and without a job. And I do not like how politicians constantly do scare all of us and try to keep us in line that way.

Some Reflections

I am very interested in learning to understand how people relate or not relate to each other. With some people there is immediate rapport or so it seems. With others misunderstandings pile up in no time. Trying to resolve some misunderstandings can take a long, long time: Maybe years! And maybe some misunderstandings can never be resolved. It is like living on different planets.

Do some relationships become stressed because of a confusion in the pecking order? Is a pecking order always essential in every life situation? Do childhood experiences play a very important part in a person’s life?

I wished I had it in me to write a novel, creating characters that express some unexplainable things inside me that I cannot express any other way. Sometimes talking to an open minded person can help a lot. Finding a talking partner like this whenever needed is probably not possible. People who can resort to prayer are very lucky in this regard. Having a conviction that God always listens and understands our problems, is enormously consoling. God may understand, no doubt about it. But can we talk about everything that is a puzzle to us? Maybe this puzzle becomes less of a puzzle by writing about it in a novel?

What did we have for Lunch?

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This is our coffee (flat white) after lunch on Sunday. Caroline met us at Central Station. From there we walked to a coffee shop. Caroline and I had the soup of the day, which was a very well spiced tomato soup; Peter had a chicken/veg. pie.

On Sunday we had lunch with Klaus and Tilde at the OAK FLATS BOWLING AND RECREATION CLUB. The lunch special was Roast Meat and Vegetables. Peter, Klaus and Tilde went for the Roast, I chose just Vegetables. I did get a beautifully arranged plate of lots of different vegetables. It was yummy! We each had a glass of beer with our lunch, Tilde had a glass of white wine.

For coffee we chose to sit in a different area of the club. As usual we asked for flat white coffee. Peter had a huge Waggon Wheel with his coffee. I had some yummy cheese cake. I think Tilde chose cheese cake too.