Saturday, November 27, 2010

The Economic Oligarchy

Recent data:

  • National unemployment rate: 9.6%
  • Unemployment rate for those with bachelors degree: 4.7%
  • Unemployment rate for those with less than high school: 15%

Headline from New York Times on Tuesday:

Corporate Profits Were the Highest on Record Last Quarter”

Two lessons emerge from this information.

First, when the recession got rough, the financial sector convinced our government to spread their pain among the taxpayers rather than just their shareholders -- the former being a larger base of help than the reluctant latter, of course. So we bailed out the financial sector and a couple of manufacturing companies that made cars people weren't buying.

How does the private sector repay us when the economy climbs off the bottom of the hole? Admittedly, some of them repay the government. But as the economy improves, most corporations pour the benefits into profits rather than spread the wealth by hiring. And then the primary corporate decision-makers hide behind the curtain created by the Supreme Court, and fund candidates who promise to suppress tax rates for the highest earners.

Second lesson: stay in school. If you are not ready for a job that requires higher skills, you will be left behind, living on the fringe of the income stream. Those with bachelors degrees are employed. Those who dropped out of high school might as well be living in 1933.

Monday, November 01, 2010

The Giants Win the World Series

I was only a year old when the Giants last won the World Series in 1954, an important win to the biggest Giants fan I knew -- my Dad.

Since then, the Giants have made the Series four times, and they beat the Texas Rangers tonight for their first championship since that win over Cleveland 56 years ago. This was the most unlikely of teams, compared to the stars on the teams in 1962, 1989, and 2002.

Which makes this World Series win tonight the best of all. And what makes baseball the best of all sports.

I can now stop trying to write the perpetual angst poem about the Giants.

All Saints Day

What does it mean to be human?

Yesterday was All Saints Sunday. Our church sanctuary has 280 paper cranes hanging from the ceiling. Each crane carries the name of someone remembered, a saint. Over the past month, people were invited to inscribe a name of someone who has passed away, but whose life left an indelible mark on the individual. The fine-paper squares were transformed into many-colored cranes.

A key foundation of Christianity is that the risen Christ proves that death is not to be feared. The physical death of the corporal body is a transition, not an end. Death is another marker in our existence. As Craig said, death is a conquered enemy – a comma, not a period.

We can classify our death as a switch, like a light switch on the wall. Whether it is thrown violently, or pushed softly down, our minds cannot comprehend what occurs at the terminal point of that switch.

Death itself is no longer the literal end-all, the big mystery to our physical human life. Now the mystery is the other side of this transition.

Christianity does not hold a monopoly on faith in a post-human existence. Most religions and cultures have upheld a major life-force, or forces, that governs our life and opens the door to life after death. We just do not carry the tools to describe that image.

So, what does it mean to be human? Dunno yet. The cranes might help, though.

Each of the cranes carries a message. The message is carried in a different song, a different word, a different picture. We each hear it, see it, feel it in a different way. If we try to frame the message or give it boundaries, we constrict instead of liberate our lives. Each of the people written on the cranes was human and left footprints, or we would not be naming them. My Dad, Pam’s Mom, Don Troost, Michael Cheslosky are not just black ink that I scratched on rectangles of fine paper. They live. We carry them. They fly. And we try to fly with them.

Click here to read a poem by Morton Marcus.