Category Archives: Social Commentary

One in three Africans is now middle class, report finds | Global development | The Guardian

The world is changing….

We just need to change with it…

And adjust our perceptions to the new reality….

We aren’t the only rich consumer society anymore…

From The Guardian:

One in three Africans is middle class, a rising group of consumers to rival those of China and India, researchers have found.

Record numbers of people in Africa own houses and cars, use mobile phones and the internet and send their children to private schools and foreign universities, according to the African Development Bank.

Mthuli Ncube, the bank’s chief economist, said the findings should challenge long-held perceptions of Africa as a continent of famine, poverty and hopelessness.

“Hey you know what, the world please wake up, this is a phenomenon in Africa that we’ve not spent a lot of time thinking about,” Ncube said. “There is a middle class that is driven by specific factors such as education and we should change our view and work with this group to create a new Africa and make sure Africa realises its full potential.”

Ncube said the study used an absolute definition of middle class, meaning people who spend between $2 and $20 a day, which he believed was appropriate given the cost of living for Africa’s nearly 1 billion people.

The study found that, by last year, Africa’s middle class had risen to about 34% of the continent’s population, or about 313m people – up from around 111m (26%) in 1980 and 196m (27%) in 2000.

More:   One in three Africans is now middle class, report finds | Global development | The Guardian.

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Royal Wedding: David Beckham’s last-minute OBE switch

I can’t believe he did this…

I thought everyone knew you wear your OBE Medal on you left lapel….

From the Daily Mail:

He rarely puts a step wrong in the style stakes.

But despite looking groomed to perfection and dapper in his Ralph Lauren morning suit, David Beckham had a very small slip-up today at the Royal Wedding.

The footballer arrived at Westminster Abbey this morning proudly wearing his OBE medal displayed – but unfortunately, David wore it on his right lapel.

via Royal Wedding: David Beckham’s last-minute OBE switch | Mail Online.

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Forever Prep in Virginia

This is for my fellow Virginia Preps…

By that, I mean those of us who went to Washington and Lee, Sweet Briar, Randolph Macon Woman’s College, Mary Baldwin, UVa, Hollins and a few other colleges in Virginia in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s.

We were the preppiest group of people you could ever hope to see…

Those of you who are my friends on FaceBook have seen the pictures…

I referenced the pictures to this “Virginia Living” magazine article last month.  Now the full article is on line.

Here is an excerpt and a link to the full article:

If you happened to attend college in the early 1980s, then you probably remember The Official Preppy Handbook. Izod shirts and pastel sweaters were experiencing a fashion moment at the time, and the book arrived as a wryly affectionate satire of a culture where the house wine was a gin and tonic, “summer” was a verb, and a man could appear in public dressed in wide-wale corduroys embroidered with a repeating motif of Irish setter’s heads, and no one would laugh.

Though the Handbook largely concerned itself with the northeastern preppy, the breed’s Virginia cousin was entirely recognizable in the book’s pages and even accorded the occasional nod. And in fact, though we were much more likely to summer at the River instead of Nantucket, and we considered Princeton about as far north as we’d be willing to go for an Ivy League education (or better yet not go north at all when we had better options right here at home), Virginians were confident that we could out-prep the preppiest Groton grad with one hand tied behind our Lily Pulitzer-clad backs.

For one thing, timelessness and tradition are cornerstones of the prep ethic, and it’s not for nothing we named ourselves the Old Dominion. There have been Virginians with a preference for things the way they used to be since the first Jamestown colonists stole a last fleeting glance backward to the receding shores of England—and in most matters your traditional Virginian has always considered it safe to trust in the principle, “What would Mr. Jefferson do?”

More:   Forever Prep – VirginiaLiving.com.

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The End of Compassionate Conservatism

The House Republicans have done the almost impossible:  Made George W Bush look good compared to themselves…

Most Progressives, like me, always thought the concept of Compassionate Conservatives was Public Relations BS.  And it was…

But we obviously had not anticipated this heartless bunch of new GOP House members…

And of course the Democrats don’t now how to fight this- either in Congress or with a coherent message strategy.

The good news is I think the GOP over reach will eventually be their undoing.  At least for a while…

We will just have to hope they don’t kill too many people in the meantime….

From the New Republic:

House Republicans want to cut funding for health programs abroad and for community clinics here at home. And although the projected savings are small, at least relative to the size of the federal budget, the philosophical shift they signal is big. This is the end of compassionate conservatism.

You remember compassionate conservatism, don’t you? It was George W. Bush’s slogan, going back to the late 1990s, when, as a candidate, he told audiences that “Prosperity without purpose is just materialism” and vowed to “rally the armies of compassion in our communities to fight a very different war against poverty.”

Cynics saw it as empty rhetoric or, worse, a deliberate distraction from policies that were actually quite harsh to the nation’s least fortunate. The cynics had a pretty good point. Bush raided the treasury, in order to give wealthy people huge tax cuts, and the resulting budget crunch has forced all sorts of cuts to vital programs over the years.

Still, Bush never gave up the rhetoric of compassion. And on at least a few occasions he lived up to it. Community clinics were one example: As president, he doubled their funding. According to an account by Kevin Sack in the New York Times, that led to the creation or expansion of more than 1,200 clinics around the country. “This is a really good use of the taxpayers’ money,” Bush said at the time, noting that good primary care helps keep people out of the emergency room

AND

Today, by contrast, Republican leaders are perfectly content to walk away from these programs and many others without so much as acknowledging the consequences, let alone addressing them. Poor people in the U.S. might not be able to get basic medical care? Victims of HIV abroad might lose their life-sustaining drugs? If Republicans have paused even a moment to think about these things, they sure haven’t shown it.

 

via House Republicans Turn Out The Lights On President Bush’s Compassionate Conservatism | The New Republic.

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How Susie Bayer’s T-Shirt Ended Up on Yusuf Mama’s Back

This is a fascinating article about what happens to donated clothing…

We send tons of stuff to Goodwill each year and I wondered what the process was and what happened to all that stuff.

Now I know…..

From the  George Packer at the New Times back in 2002:

If you’ve ever left a bag of clothes outside the Salvation Army or given to a local church drive, chances are that you’ve dressed an African. All over Africa, people are wearing what Americans once wore and no longer want. Visit the continent and you’ll find faded remnants of secondhand clothing in the strangest of places. The ”Let’s Help Make Philadelphia the Fashion Capital of the World” T-shirt on a Malawian laborer. The white bathrobe on a Liberian rebel boy with his wig and automatic rifle. And the muddy orange sweatshirt on the skeleton of a small child, lying on its side in a Rwandan classroom that has become a genocide memorial.

A long chain of charity and commerce binds the world’s richest and poorest people in accidental intimacy. It’s a curious feature of the global age that hardly anyone on either end knows it.

A few years ago, Susie Bayer bought a T-shirt for her workouts with the personal trainer who comes regularly to her apartment on East 65th Street in Manhattan. It was a pale gray cotton shirt, size large, made in the U.S.A. by JanSport, with the red and black logo of the University of Pennsylvania on its front. Over time, it got a few stains on it, and Bayer, who is 72, needed more drawer space, so last fall she decided to get rid of the shirt. She sent it, along with a few other T-shirts and a couple of silk nightgowns, to the thrift shop that she has been donating her clothes to for the past 40 years.

More:  How Susie Bayer’s T-Shirt Ended Up on Yusuf Mama’s Back – New York Times.

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Of the 1%, by the 1%, for the 1%

This is one of the clearest explanations of the income and wealth disparity in American I have read.

It’s written by Joseph Stiglitz, Nobel Prize Winner in Economics and former Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors for Bill Clinton…

There is so much here I want to share that I think the best I can do is ask you to click the link at the bottom of this post and read it for yourself.

It’s really worth your time to read this entire article from Vanity Fair.  It’s not too long….

It’s no use pretending that what has obviously happened has not in fact happened. The upper 1 percent of Americans are now taking in nearly a quarter of the nation’s income every year. In terms of wealth rather than income, the top 1 percent control 40 percent. Their lot in life has improved considerably. Twenty-five years ago, the corresponding figures were 12 percent and 33 percent. One response might be to celebrate the ingenuity and drive that brought good fortune to these people, and to contend that a rising tide lifts all boats. That response would be misguided. While the top 1 percent have seen their incomes rise 18 percent over the past decade, those in the middle have actually seen their incomes fall. For men with only high-school degrees, the decline has been precipitous—12 percent in the last quarter-century alone. All the growth in recent decades—and more—has gone to those at the top. In terms of income equality, America lags behind any country in the old, ossified Europe that President George W. Bush used to deride. Among our closest counterparts are Russia with its oligarchs and Iran. While many of the old centers of inequality in Latin America, such as Brazil, have been striving in recent years, rather successfully, to improve the plight of the poor and reduce gaps in income, America has allowed inequality to grow.

via Of the 1%, by the 1%, for the 1% | Society | Vanity Fair.

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My Thoughts: Life’s Great Mysteries

Just some random wonderings….

  1. Why does Jennifer Anniston still have a career?  Or does she?  Why is she in the news constantly?  Has she ever had a hit movie?  Has she really done anything since that TV series went off the air years ago and Angelina stole her husband?
  2. Is Katherine Heigl the next Jennifer Anniston?
  3. Does anyone really think Tom Cruise and John Travolta are straight?  And who cares besides the Church of Scientology…
  4. Speaking of John Travolta, why do so many movie stars wear such obvious toupees?  Do they really think they are fooling anyone?
  5. Is Meryl Streep getting all those great roles for older women not just because she is a great actress, but because she is the only actress in Hollywood, over 30, who hasn’t had a facelift or been botoxed to death?
  6. Has anyone really ever heard  Britney Spears sing or is she just a mentally unstable dancing lip-stinker?
  7. Is there anything Anne Hathaway can’t do-besides host the Oscars?
  8. How did “Crash” beat “Brokeback Mountain” for the Best Picture Oscar?  Does anyone remember “Crash” besides the entire city of LA who was in it?  Oh, that’s how it won…
  9. Are there any young female “stars” today equal in style and mystique to Audrey Hepburn and Grace Kelly? Or in talent to Bette Davis, Katharine Hepburn and Meryl Streep?  Why not?
  10. Who really cares about Lindsey Lohan?
  11. Does anyone really think Social Security is bad?
  12. Why don’t Democrats fight for their core beliefs and Republicans not have any?
  13. How come the Religious Right still supports Republican candidates who have had two or three marriages and cheated on their wives and husbands?
  14. Does anyone really think Corporations and the Rich should not pay taxes in proportion to their incomes?
  15. What ever happened to the social contract theory?
  16. Why do people wear flip-flops in New York City?
  17. How does Michelle Bachmann keep getting re-elected?
  18. Is watching Fox News a sign of or a cause of Alzheimer’s Disease?
  19. Why does anyone think their life is so important or interesting that they have to text their friends during a live theatrical performance?
  20. Do people really think lighted cell phones are invisible when texting in theatres and really don’t bother anyone?
  21. What makes anyone without a uterus think they have a voice in the abortion debate?
  22. Are commercials dumber and more crass now due to societal change or only because the smart people don’t watch TV anymore?
  23. Will television really be relevant in 10 years or will it be replaced by the internet.
  24. Will people give up the Internet because it has as many commercials as television?
  25. Why are pharmaceutical companies allowed to advertise controlled substances on TV?
  26. Does anyone really think, after all these years, we are winning the “war on drugs” by simply locking everyone up?
  27. Why aren’t there more white people in prison for financial crimes that wrecked the economy?
  28. If the Supreme Court thinks Corporations are people, then why aren’t they taxed at the individual tax rates and rules?
  29. Why does anyone believe anything any politician says anymore?
  30. Is Debbie Reynolds ever going to retire?

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Obesity Rates Higher Among Churchgoers | AlterNet

Another reason I steer clear of organized Religion….

It just isn’t healthy…

Young people who are active in their religion are more likely to become obese by the time they reach middle age, according to a new study. Participants who go to church at least once a week were found to be about twice as likely to have a higher body mass index than those who attended infrequently or not at all.

The LA Times reports:

Young adults age 20 to 32 who were on the high end of religious involvement were 50% more likely to be obese by the time they hit middle age compared with those in the “none” category. This was true even after researchers adjusted for sex, age, race, education, income and the participants’ body mass index at the start of the study.

More about the research, which was presented at an American Heart Association conference, from CNN:

“Churches pay more attention to obvious vices like smoking or drinking,” said Matthew Feinstein, lead author of the research and fourth-year medical student at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. “Our best guess about why is that…more frequent participation in church is associated with good works and people may be rewarding themselves with large meals that are more caloric in nature than we would like.”

The [research] involved 2,433 people enrolled in the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) study. The group was tested – at first between 20 and 32 years old – for various cardiovascular disease risk factors such as diabetes, hypertension, and smoking. Those same tests were repeated in the same group over the next 25 years.

CNN quotes a pastor in Chicago who suggests two factors that may be involved: the disappearance of church-sponsored sports leagues, and that church attendance will often displace involvement in less sedentary activities.

via Obesity Rates Higher Among Churchgoers | AlterNet.

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Many U.S. Blacks Moving to South, Reversing Trend

Fascinating article on the front page of today’s New York Times…

It will be interesting to see the political implications of this new migration…

Hopefully, this will help reduce the GOP’s hold on the South….

The percentage of the nation’s black population living in the South has hit its highest point in half a century, according to census data released Thursday, as younger and more educated black residents move out of declining cities in the Northeast and Midwest in search of better opportunities.

The Rev. Ronald Peters, above, who moved last year from Pittsburgh to Atlanta, said the black middle class was more hopeful in the South than in the Northeast.

The share of black population growth that has occurred in the South over the past decade — the highest since 1910, before the Great Migration of blacks to the North — has upended some long-held assumptions.

Both Michigan and Illinois, whose cities have rich black cultural traditions, showed an overall loss of blacks for the first time, said William Frey, the chief demographer at the Brookings Institution.

And Atlanta, for the first time, has replaced Chicago as the metro area with the largest number of African-Americans after New York. About 17 percent of blacks who moved to the South in the past decade left New York State, far more than from any other state, the census data show.

At the same time, blacks have begun leaving cities for more affluent suburbs in large numbers, much like generations of whites before them.

“The notion of the North and its cities as the promised land has been a powerful part of African-American life, culture and history, and now it all seems to be passing by,” said Clement Price, a professor of history at Rutgers-Newark. “The black urban experience has essentially lost its appeal with blacks in America.”

via Many U.S. Blacks Moving to South, Reversing Trend – NYTimes.com.

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Filed under Elections, Journalism, Social Commentary, The South

My Thoughts: The Rich Are Different

“Let me tell you something about the very rich.  They are different from you and me.” F. Scott Fitzgerald from “The Rich Boy”

I talk a lot about the Rich and post a lot of articles about the Rich.  I think it’s time I defined and clarified my thoughts-even if I speak in generalities.

First of all, I want to differentiate between two categories of wealth.

One, I’ll call simply, The Wealthy.  The other, I’ll call The Rich.

I do not have anything against The Wealthy.  They really aren’t that different from you and me.  This is the social category that we, in the South, used to call “Old Money.”

The Wealthy had enough class and taste that the socio-economic differences are more subtle.  They would be horrified to flaunt their wealth or to think it made them “better” than other people.  This category of the financially blessed was usually better educated and, thus, aware of their privilege and the obligations that went with it.  They understood the concept of “those to whom much is given, much is expected.”

I love the honest Wealthy folks I’ve known or known of in my life.  These are people who gave back and made the world a better place.

The Wealthy usually did not involve themselves actively in Politics.  If they did, it was usually out of a sense of duty or obligation to try to make things better for those less fortunate.  It was kind of like joining the Junior League for them.

They were frequently Democrats.

The Wealthy understood shared responsibility and honor.  There was a time when the Partners of Wall Street firms and Investment Banks were personally financially responsible for any losses.  That is gone with the wind…

In the past, the Rich would try to emulate the Wealthy.  Not today…

The Rich are the ones I can’t stand.  We used to call this social group “New Money.”

These are the ones who, as a rule, are taking over our government.

There are exceptions to the “New Money” condition.  The Koch Brothers, for example, have had money for several generations, but they are Rich, not Wealthy.

No matter how much money the Koch’s donate to the ballet and museums, they have no class or true sense of societal obligation.  They are Rich, not Wealthy because they have no social conscience and only care about money.  No matter how hard they try to seem otherwise, they are vulgar.

People recognize this and that’s why David Koch was booed at the American Ballet Theatre performance of “The Nutcracker” last December even when it was pointed out he gave the ABT $2.5 million.  Money does not buy class or absolve one of all sins- even in New York….

The Rich build their lives around money.  It is all that matters to them.  They never have enough, always want more and are more than willing to do anything immoral, unethical or illegal to get it and keep it.  They get away with this because they use their money to build a parallel world where the rules-and laws- don’t apply to them, but to everyone else.

As the late Leona Helmsley, who was Rich, not Wealthy, said: “Only the little people pay taxes.”

This is the mantra of the Rich.

The Rich have taken precedence over the Wealthy in today’s world.  The Wealthy, being mostly Democrats, didn’t fight back and were over-powered by the Rich on Wall Street and in Washington.  The Rich did away with the concept of individual responsibility for actions within financial firms.  They only want individual responsibility to apply to the poor and middle classes.

The Wealthy who used to be part of the GOP, who were called “Cloth Coat Republicans” or “Country Club Republicans” are now extinct.

The Rich are the new Wall Street Barons and Hedge Fund Kings who made their money manipulating the system and not creating anything.  They turned Wall Street into Las Vegas- both in tone and style.  They manipulate numbers.  Money is a concept to them, not a reality.

They don’t build factories or create jobs.  They never will.   That is too much work.  They are morally bankrupt.  They feel no need to “give back” as they really didn’t work hard to earn anything;  they just took it.

The Rich are the top 1% of the population who own about 35% of the total wealth in this country.  Of all the wealth created in the last 30 years or so, 47% went to this group.  And they don’t want to pay taxes on it.  This alone is enough to make me a socialist.

The Rich are the ones who manipulated the system so CEO’s,who in 1960 made an income of 42 times the average worker’s salary, by 2000 made 531 times the average worker’s salary.  And now pay the lowest tax rate since the 1950’s.

This is the crowd that runs companies into the ground, brings the entire economy to the brink of disaster, destroys jobs and livelihoods for the middle class, then takes a “golden parachute” of millions of dollars for their efforts.  There is no accountability for performance or decision-making within this group.

The New Money crowd, that have become the Rich of Wall Street and the financial powers that drive Washington, focus solely on money.  Getting it, keeping it, making more of it.  They worship money itself, not what it can do.  These people do not drive the economy- or only a small portion of it- as to them money is something to be hoarded and bragged about. Or flashed around with multiple homes, cars, planes, diamonds and wives.  They don’t spend it on creating jobs, as they and the GOP would like you to think.  That will never be their goal or priority.

Money is their God and they want to honor it.

I hate the nouveau and not so nouveau Rich who are determined to destroy the Middle Class and let the poor starve.  I detest the nouveau Rich who want children to grow up in poverty and ignorance and deny Health Care because people can’t afford private insurance.  I abhor the Rich who want to take money from Social Security and leave the elderly to eat cat food so they can keep more money in their Cayman Islands or Swiss Bank accounts.

The Wealthy class of yesterday would never behave this way.

And if they tried, the Government would stop them.

At least for the last 80 years.

Hopefully, this clarifies my position.

_________________________________________________________________________________

Footnote:  You can check my facts from my main point of reference and learn much more about “the numbers” here:

http://sociology.ucsc.edu/whorulesamerica/power/wealth.html

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