Friday, September 25, 2009

Anglers Feel Effects Of Ocean Warming

Living between the Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean, I know many sport and commercial fisherman. Those who make their living or free time on the water, they took notice that this summer brought the warmest ocean surface temperatures since statistics were first recorded in 1880, and now local waterman are talking about how it impacted them.

Sport and commerical fisherman tend to be more on the conservative side of politics but are now admitting that global warming is a reality. This past summer when they noticed that tuna and marlin catches became less common this summer and with the documented data showing warmer currents off shore, they are now admitting that the ocean’s temperatures are rising due to climate change. According to the national Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climatic Data Center, Delaware had its eight warmest August since the center first began recording data in 1895.

Sport fish typically congregate in areas with large temperature gradients between warm and cold waters. But because the warm water was everywhere and the lack of colder currents offshore, they all suffered financially.

What to do About the Underclass?

According to Wikipedia:

Potential Answers to the Underclass:

There is no consensus amongst social scientists as to how to solve the problem of the growing underclass... Some philosophers claim that without fundamental structural change, attempting to eliminate this underclass will do more harm than good.

My good friend UptheFlag posted just prior to this a treatise on Black crime statistics. The data is solid and I have no argument with the facts. Yet, it seems to me, these data provide a springboard to the next topic: what to do about it?

This statement by William Julius Wilson, in his book, The Truly Disadvantaged, is dead-on:

"[M]anufacturing industries have always traditionally been a big employer of inner-city African Americans, but are also very responsive to a wavering economy, and the recession-plagued 1970s put a lot of the manufacturing employees out of work. This decentralization of work has not only put a lot of inner-city African-Americans out of work, but has also served as another barrier impeding the impoverished from obtaining work. Without reliable means of transportation, it is unfeasible for the poor to be able to keep a steady job. The shift of jobs out of the inner-cities, paired with the shift of working, lower, and middle-class blacks out of the cities as well, have placed an even more important stress on the value of an education, which just is not a reality for the majority of the underclass. "

Exactly my point.

'Education,' as I said in a recent comment, is not highly valued in the black community and, again my opinion, will not become more valuable in the next 5- 10 years at least. That results in thousands more under-educated black youth attempting to 'survive' in the inner city.

It seems to me that what America needs, and needs to place on 'fast-track' status is a WPA project aimed directly towards this black, urban underclass. The pull-out from Iraq and Afghanistan would immediately free tens of billions of dollars to fund such a massive program. The reactionary right-wing would, needless to say, scream at both ideas, but let them howl all they want. Most don't live in large urban centers anyway so they are not directly involved nor exposed to the distress, drugs, and crime in that neck of the woods. Perhaps some in the right-wing would like to witness a massive black genocide, black-on-black murders, to eliminate 'them' altogether.

Nonetheless, the reality is that, unless a public works program can be assembled and implemented, the growing unrest in the central cities of nation will continue to fester. It doesn't take a grand study to figure out what can be done. Construction jobs with varying degrees of skills could easily put hundreds of thousands inner city black youth to work, giving them a sense of self-worth and financial stability.


Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Afro-American Crime

MURDER IN AMERICA: A HISTORY (Ohio State U. Press) by the Haverford College social scientist/historian Roger Lane:

Lane's MURDER IN AMERICA emphasizes industrialization as a violence-reductive factor in the Western World: the Industrial Revolution required and produced disciplined, orderly work forces.1 Current American murder rates are driven by the very disproportionate murder rates among some Afro-Americans.2 These disproportionate rates may be attributed to the virtual exclusion of Afro-Americans from major sectors of employment during the post-Civil War period which continued through the mid-20th Century. ]


As indicated in my article DO GUNS CAUSE CRIME?, murder rates seem to have diminished across Europe from the period before guns existed. The decline was particularly marked in Europe from the 18th Century on.

The major exception to this has been rates of homicide by blacks which are six to eight times higher than white murder rates in both the US and England. Reader Mark Clark (presumably not the general, who is long deceased) queries the reasons.

It should be noted that some studies have suggested that rates of black homicide and other violence are no greater than those of similarly situated (i.e., economically deprived) whites. See, Brandon S. Centerwall, "Race, Socioeconomic Status and Domestic Homicide, Atlanta, 1971-72," 74 AM. J. PUB. HLTH. 813, 815 (1984) (reporting results of research and discussing prior studies). See also Darnell F. Hawkins, "Inequality, Culture, and Interpersonal Violence," 12 HEALTH AFFAIRS 80 (1993). For a discussion assailing racist theories of the prevalence of violence see Jerome A.Neapolitan, "Cross-National Variation in Homicide; Is Race A Factor?" 36 CRIMINOLOGY 139 (1998).

The only time I have treated this matter at any length was in a never-finished article written a few years ago. Though large parts of it have been published elsewhere, the portion on black homicide has not, nor have I revised it here. In fact it is not my own research, but rather relies almost exclusively on the seminal work of historian Roger Lane (see below).

He emphasizes industrialization as a violence-reductive factor in the Western World: the Industrial Revolution required and produced disciplined, orderly work forces. Current American murder rates are driven by the very disproportionate murder rates among some Afro-Americans. Thus John DiIulio argues that "America does not have a crime problem; inner city America has a crime problem." John J. DiIulio, "The Question of Black Crime," 117 THE PUBLIC INTEREST 3 (1994) also quoting 1969 National Commission on the Causes and Prevention of Violence to the same effect; id. at 5.

We have added emphasis to DiIulio's words to focus attention on the geographic limitation which refutes any notion that race per se is the factor underlying the Afro-American homicide rate. It is not Afro-American homicide per se that makes the American homicide rate so enormous, but rather "inner-city" homicide grossly distorts both American and Afro-American homicide rates. As we shall see, urban blacks actually have far less gun ownership than either whites in general or rural blacks. Yet the gun murder rate among young black urban males is 9.3 times higher than among young black rural males. Lois A. Fingerhut, et al., "Firearm and Non-Firearm Homicide Among Persons 15 Through 19 Years of Age: Differences by Level of Urbanization, U.S. 1979-89," 267 Journal of the American Medical Ass'n. 3048, 3049, Table 1 (1992). Obviously, neither guns nor race can account for the fact of homicide being so much less among the well-armed rural Afro-American population than among their relatively poorly armed urban compeers. The obvious lesson is that, whatever their race, the small fraction of (highly aberrant) people who want to murder find guns regardless of how prevalent guns may be in their general community.

Historically, disproprotionate black homicide rates may be attributed to the virtual exclusion of Afro-Americans from major sectors of employment during the post-Civil War period which continued through the mid-20th Century. Lane's seminal research has documented the role of racism in both promoting murder by Afro-Americans and excluding them from the violence-reductive effects of industrial employment: In the post- Civil War period though black murder rates were high, they were far lower than today ... and lower than those of their immigrant Irish competitors while Italian murder rates [when Italians began immigrating] soared well above those of blacks.

[ A]fter the [Civil W]ar both unions and employers, all over the country, combined to drive [blacks out of high paying trades]... [ F]actory work, all across the country was considered too good for black workers.

[ Black homicide is] another social-psychological [deprivation that] resulted from black exclusion from the regimenting effects of industrial and bureaucratic work. These effects are shown in the relatively rapid decline in homicide rates among Irish and Italian immigrants, two other ethnic groups with high levels of preindustrial violence, as their integration into the industrial work force demanded unprecedented levels of sober, disciplined, orderly behavior, which carried over into their private lives.

[ Later when they were] no longer shut out of the urban-industrial revolution, blacks were instead let in too late. During the 1940s and 1950s blacks in effect were piped aboard a sinking ship, welcomed into the urban industrial age just as that age was dying, with industrial cities losing population and jobs.

[ In late 19th Century Philadelphia] blacks consistently outscored their competitors on written tests of all kinds... [] Even the white press generally agreed that black civil servants (and, a historian would add, blacks as a group) were overqualified for the [low level jobs to which they were confined] in this era, as a result of a general refusal to promote them to positions where they might have authority of any kind over white workers.

[ Blacks were acutely aware of the need for education and struggled heroically to attain it. B]lack literacy in the city soared from roughly 20 percent to 80 percent over the final thirty years of the [19th C]entury ...

[Philadelphia blacks included doctors, lawyers and other professionals -- graduates of Harvard, Yale and the University of Pennsylvania. But] that was no guarantee that they could make a living. As whites would not hire them and blacks could not afford them, licensed black physicians were found working as bellhops.... In the early 20th Century not one of Philadelphia' black attorneys could make a living through his law practice alone.

The lesson blacks learned from this was that for them education had no economic value.

(NOTE: the quotes just given are taken from Lane's MURDER IN AMERICA, pp. 181-85, 298-300 and 327, as well as Roger Lane, "Black Philadelphia, Then and Now" 108 THE PUBLIC INTEREST 35, 42 (Fall, Summer, 1992) and Roger Lane, ROOTS OF VIOLENCE IN BLACK PHILADELPHIA: 1860-1900 (Cambridge, Harvard U.Press, 1986).

Murder / Suicide - 90-Year-Old Man Charged

The Associated Press reports on this sad story.

A 90-year-old retired physician has been charged with killing his terminally ill wife at their Southern California home but remains hospitalized after turning the gun on himself.

Dr. James Fish was charged Monday with voluntary manslaughter and could face 21 years in prison if convicted.

Authorities say Fish apparently wanted to end his wife's suffering when he allegedly shot 88-year-old Phyllis Fish on Sunday at their Leisure World home in Laguna Woods.

District attorney's spokeswoman Susan Schroeder says Fish gave the bedridden woman morphine and first used a gun that didn't fire. A caretaker called 911, but prosecutors claim Fish got another gun and shot both his wife and himself in the head.

There's certainly a big difference between this case and the frequent incidents of abusive male gun owners shooting their wives. I find it almost hard to believe this man will be charged with anything.

On the other hand, I realize we cannot allow people to decide willy-nilly when euthanasia is appropriate. I would never condone people taking guns out of their closets to address medical emergencies, but in this case I feel only sympathy for Dr. Fish.

What's your opinion? Although this is an extreme twist on "doctor assisted suicide," do you think what he did is morally acceptable? Does this present more evidence of my own confused stance? I'm opposed to capital punishment, pro-choice on abortion and pro-euthanasia in certain cases.

What do you think?

(Cross posted on mikeb302000)

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The CCR5 protein or God?

"Now, blessed be God, all our fears are over for none have died of the plague since the eleventh of October and the pest-houses have long been empty," wrote the church leader of the Derbyshire village of Eyam, William Mompesson, in 1666. The plague to which Mompresson referred was the Black Death or bubonic plague which wiped out millions of Europeans during those rat-infested years.

The Science Channel documented the events of that small village outside of London and the startling discovery that was made about the descendants of the villagers of Eyam. In the summer of 1665, the village tailor received a parcel of material from his supplier in London. This parcel contained the fleas that caused the plague. The tailor was dead from the plague within one week of receiving his parcel. By the end of September, five more villagers had died. Twenty three died in October.

Some of the villagers suggested that they should flee the village for the nearby city of Sheffield. Mompesson persuaded them not to do this as he feared that they would spread the plague into the north of England that had more or less escaped the worst of it. In fact, the village decided to cut itself off from the outside would. They effectively agreed to quarantine themselves even though it would mean death for many of them.

The village was supplied with food by those who lived outside of the village. People brought supplies and left them at the parish stones that marked the start of Eyam. The villages left money in a water trough filled with vinegar to sterilize the coins left in them. In this way, Eyam was not left to starve to death. Those who supplied the food did not come into contact with the villagers.

By November 1666, the plague was considered at an end. 260 out of 350 had died in the village but their sacrifice may well have saved many thousands of lives in the north of England, yet the 'sacrifice' has had a marvelous rippling effect into modern times. It is all about DNA, the DNA of the relatives of the villagers of Eyam.

Medical detective Stephen O'Brien, as documented in the Science Channel episode, "Secrets of the Great Plague," wondered why the entire village of Eyam wasn't wiped out, as it quarantined itself and allowed no one to 'escape' the village. Why had 83 'survived' the plague? The village grave-digger even survived despite handling the hundreds of plague-infected corpses. O'Brien suspected that the survivors may have had 'natural' immunity to the disease and so he journeyed to the village to ask the descendants for DNA samples so that he could analyze them. To his great satisfaction, a CCR5 gene mutation called "delta 32," was found in a statistically significant number of the villagers: in 14% of direct descendants of the plague survivors.

O'Brien knew that certain populations have inherited the Delta 32 mutation resulting in the genetic deletion of the CCR5 gene. He also knew that the deletion of a 32-bp segment results in a nonfunctional receptor, thus preventing HIV R5 entry; two copies of this allele provide strong protection against HIV infection. Homozygous carriers of this mutation are resistant to HIV-1 infection, and O'Brien suspected that some of the Eyam villagers of 1665 were homozygous carriers as well. These were the 83 survivors.

O'Brien has further suggested that there are 'survivors' in this world, people who rarely are affected by wide-spread diseases and epidemics. He believes that those with double Delta 32 mutation may, in fact, be the real human survivors of all time, able to withstand bubonic plague, flu epidemics, cancers, and HIV-AIDS. This is yet to be determined and is yet only hypothesis.

One can muse, however, on those Sunday prayer services held by Rev. Mompesson in those dark years of 1665 and 1666. Did he, in fact, ask God to 'bless' the villagers and keep them safe? Did those who lay dying of the plague wonder why God forsook them? Did they believe that their 'sins' had caused the illness? How many abandoned 'God' altogether in the last throes of their illness? Did Mompresson ever doubt that God would 'save' his village, his wife, his children?

A mutant chromosome 3 protein or God? What 'saved' the village?

Catholics Against the Death Penalty

The, which is the official newspaper of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, published an interesting article on the movement to abolish Capital Punishment in Oregon and the role Catholics are playing.

"We need to share our Catholic teaching with courage and clarity," said a memorandum sent to parishes recently by Mary Jo Tully, chancellor of the Archdiocese of Portland. "We need to reach out to our teachers and to our parishioners. We need to form and to persuade. We need to be advocates for change."

Tully has joined other lay Catholics on the board of Oregonians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty.

With statements from the catechism, Pope John Paul II, the U.S. bishops and most recently Portland Archbishop John G. Vlazny, Oregon Catholics are being urged to oppose execution as an affront to the sanctity of life as well as an ineffective and expensive public policy.

According to the article, Catholic leaders believe capital punishment encourages the idea that violence is an appropriate solution to social problems. I agree with this. My view has always been that you can't tell the people don't kill each other and then kill the ones who disobey. It's moral hypocrisy.

The Oregon Catholics are also concerned with the fact that innocent people have probably been executed. Archbishop Vlazny of Portland recently commented on the arbitrary and disproportionate application of the death penalty against the poor and minorities.

One part of the Catholic catechism says state acts of justice are meant in part to improve the offender and allow for possible redemption, even if it occurs within prison walls. The idea is linked to the Christian value of forgiveness, which comes straight from Jesus.

"If punishment is supposed to correct someone, you can't correct them by killing them," says Mary Ryan-Hotchkiss, a member of the peace and justice group at St. Pius X Parish in Portland.

At least these people have a consistent message. We can probably assume they're against abortion for the same reason they're against capital punishment. That's consistent. I'm the first one to point out the inconsistency in the right-wing Christian who is fanatically opposed to abortion yet when it comes to murdering murderers on death row has all kinds of biblical justifications. The Catholics in Oregon are better than that.

The problem is that concerning the death penalty and abortion, I have an inconsistent but opposite belief. I'm opposed to capital punishment in all cases for the same reasons mentioned above. But, when it comes to abortion, I'm pro-choice. I don't even think men should be talking about abortion too much, it's a women's issue, and we certainly shouldn't be trying to legislate it or control it.

Am I guilty of the same hypocrisy I accuse others of? Can a pro-choice stand on abortion be consistent with opposition to capital punishment.

What's our opinion?

Monday, September 21, 2009

Glenn Beck as Fantasy Ringmaster

"Ladies and gentlemen and boys and girls of all ages!" The circus ringmaster calls attention to the next act. Hyperbole generally accompanies the description and the audience eagerly awaits. Fantasy and entertainment- good for the soul from time to time. Like once a year.

Yet, what if one could live in fantasy all-year-round? What if a person could live-out one's fantasies and obsessions daily? Like a circus every day!

Wouldn't that be swell? Well, perhaps but would it promote and encourage illusionary living, aka paranoia? Sort of like being on drugs? Skewed reality. Stupor-living.

Enter the current gaggle of folks often labeled tea-baggers. They are a reactionary lot, heads filled with fantasy. They 'came out' of the closet this summer. It was, to most Americans, a chilling exposure. Most of us didn't know they were in the closet. Most of us wish they would go back and shut the door. It was kind of creepy, an uneasy feeling that gripped this nation. Adult bodies, adolescent behaviors.. The loony bin emptied out. An ugly scene. Embarrassing, too.

The fear is that they melted back into society and are still among us. Like the Sci-Fi fantasy films of the 50's, the living dead. Zombies, pre-programmed to search out intelligent life and zap it at every chance! 'They' are with us still awaiting their next programmed mission.

Enter the master programmer himself, Glenn Back. [why do I always see him with clown makeup?] Glenn Beck- the circus ringmaster! "Ladies and gentlemen...our next fantasy..."

There is a certain personality type, mindset, or predisposition to loving fantasy. Paranoia, OCD, and other mental disorders seem ripe for fantasy-control. Those odd fundamentalists live most of their lives in the religious circus tent, pun intended. Malleable minds. Easily duped. Trudging bags of fear and guilt on their backs.

"Ladies and gentlemen!"

Mr. Beck is a class act, for certain. He loves his role; he loves the attention; and he loves the money rolling in. Daily fantasy. Audience aghast. Fantasy fulfillment. Illusionary living at its best.

"Ladies and gentlemen!"

The Polygamy Tours

The USA Today reports on an interesting idea for domestic travel.

Former members of a polygamous church are offering outsiders a guided tour with promises to answer questions about the history and traditions of the community.

Richard Holm and his brother Heber Holm are among those who are launching "The Polygamy Experience: A Guided Tour of Colorado City." The first tour is Saturday.

Colorado City, Ariz., and Hildale, Utah are twin towns controlled by the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

The four-hour tour will include accounts from those who have lived in the towns. Richard Holm was exiled from the FLDS faith in 2003 by church leader Warren Jeffs. Heber Holm left the community 35 years ago.

I've been quite fascinated by the story of Warren Jeffs. I tend to oppose government intervention in the private lives of citizens, but in his case I came to believe he was abusing women and children and hiding behind the tenets of his religion to justify it.

What's your opinion? Do you think these sects which practice arranged marriage between middle aged men and teenage and sometimes pre-teen girls are legit? Is there a place for polygamy in our society? Even though it violates laws, in the privacy of people's homes, assuming only adults are involved is this practice acceptable.

What do you think?

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