“All you need, you already have”

From Leo Babauta, a few principles worth remembering:

Appreciation. If we have all we need, the problem is that we forget this simple fact. So we can develop the habit of noticing what we already have, being thankful for it, not taking it for granted. We can appreciate the people in our lives (instead of complaining about them), the possessions we already have (instead of thinking we need more), the food we get to eat (which might mitigate our desire for yet more food pleasures), the simple moments that we often take for granted (instead of needing even more entertainment and distraction).

Respect. If we appreciate something or someone, we might treat them with respect. In the Zen tradition, bowing to others and even to your meditation cushion are a deep part of practice. It shows a respect for the world around us, which supports us and which we are deeply a part of. You might not want to bow to everyone you meet, but you can make a mental bow to them, offering respect internally even if you don’t make any sign that you’re bowing. It will show in your other actions.

Turning towards others. If we already have enough … why worry so much about ourselves? Why not see what we can do for others? There are others who are suffering, perhaps starving or facing violence, or perhaps just sick with anxiety or depression. We can’t solve all of these ills alone, of course, but if we do our best to help others as much as possible, perhaps we can contribute towards the betterment of the lives of all beings. This doesn’t mean you need to spend every waking hour devoted to helping other people, but even considering whether your motivations are other-facing or for yourself is a good practice.

Source: All You Need, You Already Have : zen habits

We’re going to miss Muhammad Ali

“I done wrestled with an alligator, I done tussled with a whale; handcuffed lightning, thrown thunder in jail; only last week, I murdered a rock, injured a stone, hospitalised a brick; I’m so mean I make medicine sick.” — Muhammad Ali

This one stings…a lot actually.

It sort of felt like he was going to be around forever…even though we knew he wasn’t…

…and because he seemed to love almost everyone he met, it didn’t seem entirely implausible that you would somehow someway get to meet him someday.

Ali was always my favorite boxer. He was the best, the “greatest of all time,” but really, the greatest of all time. Just re-watching some of those fights on YouTube, you realize that how good his footwork was, how quick and yet powerful he was.

But you can also see how funny he was. And smart. I literally smile every time I hear him speak. How could you not be charmed by him? He just seemed like a beautiful human being.

“I know where I’m going and I know the truth, and I don’t have to be what you want me to be. I’m free to be what I want.”

There’s just certain people whose presence makes the world a bit better and Ali was definitely one of them.

The greatest heroes inspire you because they lift you up to the place where you want to be. And he wanted to lift people up.

Just a great model for living well: treating people with decency, connecting with any person he came across, and standing up for what’s right: not just for himself, but to be an example to others.

“Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.”

CkFWooSWYAApjda

“It isn’t that our beliefs have changed, it’s that the way we feel about people we disagree with has changed”

Some really interesting questions raised by Mark Manson in the post linked below:

So far in human history, technology has been our species’ savior. It’s been responsible for quantum leaps in productivity, infrastructure, medicine, and quality of life. Most people no longer toil away as peasants of feudal land, fewer people than ever are enslaved, there is more education and equal treatment for women, minorities, and the impoverished than at any other point in human history. And much of this can be owed to the surpluses and benefits provided by technological innovation.

Many people believe that technology will continue to liberate us and save us from the world’s problems. People like Mark Zuckerberg speak openly of the ideal of “connecting the world” as if the benefits of this idea are self-explanatory.

But what if technology is advancing beyond the point of our human capacity to leverage and benefit from it? What if dumping infinite information onto humanity, rather than enlightening it, just accentuates its worst instincts?

What if we just don’t have the psychological capacity to handle the new frontiers we’re breaching?

Source: Living In The Age of Outrage

“Nearly half of Americans would have trouble finding $400 to pay for an emergency”

In what is a brave and important piece of writing, Neal Gabler detailed what it’s like to live with financial insecurity. Want to how complicated this issue is? Try reading the comments.

I know what it is like to have to juggle creditors to make it through a week. I know what it is like to have to swallow my pride and constantly dun people to pay me so that I can pay others. I know what it is like to have liens slapped on me and to have my bank account levied by creditors. I know what it is like to be down to my last $5—literally—while I wait for a paycheck to arrive, and I know what it is like to subsist for days on a diet of eggs. I know what it is like to dread going to the mailbox, because there will always be new bills to pay but seldom a check with which to pay them. I know what it is like to have to tell my daughter that I didn’t know if I would be able to pay for her wedding; it all depended on whether something good happened. And I know what it is like to have to borrow money from my adult daughters because my wife and I ran out of heating oil.

You wouldn’t know any of that to look at me. I like to think I appear reasonably prosperous. Nor would you know it to look at my résumé. I have had a passably good career as a writer—five books, hundreds of articles published, a number of awards and fellowships, and a small (very small) but respectable reputation. You wouldn’t even know it to look at my tax return. I am nowhere near rich, but I have typically made a solid middle- or even, at times, upper-middle-class income, which is about all a writer can expect, even a writer who also teaches and lectures and writes television scripts, as I do. And you certainly wouldn’t know it to talk to me, because the last thing I would ever do—until now—is admit to financial insecurity or, as I think of it, “financial impotence,” because it has many of the characteristics of sexual impotence, not least of which is the desperate need to mask it and pretend everything is going swimmingly. In truth, it may be more embarrassing than sexual impotence. “You are more likely to hear from your buddy that he is on Viagra than that he has credit-card problems,” says Brad Klontz, a financial psychologist who teaches at Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska, and ministers to individuals with financial issues. “Much more likely.” America is a country, as Donald Trump has reminded us, of winners and losers, alphas and weaklings. To struggle financially is a source of shame, a daily humiliation—even a form of social suicide. Silence is the only protection.


Source: Many Middle-Class Americans Are Living Paycheck to Paycheck – The Atlantic

“We don’t need to be in our silos fighting for justice”

Some interesting lessons and reminders about

  • managing quick growth
  • investing in your community
  • taking the long view

from the Black Lives Matter movement in this Fast Company article.

“Our leadership is the people on the ground,” Tometi says. “We looked back at our history books and looked to our elders who shared with us lessons about what happens to organizations when all the decisions are made by one or two or three people. If something happens to them, the organization is defunct.”

“America will be saved…Just wait. It will be awesome”

From a reader of The Atlantic:

But America will be saved, and it will be by the generation just now coming of age. They are the best generation we have ever raised. Lacking any hidden prejudices, open to all ideas, embracing technology and genuinely caring for their friends, the environment, the poor, and other societies. In ten years or so they will start having a significant impact. We can muddle along till then. I raised three of these kids and I know them and their friends. They are connected and honest like no generation America has seen. Just wait. It will be awesome.

Source: Everything Is (Almost) Awesome – The Atlantic

What Makes Cities Work?

I’m a sucker for travel journalism. Even better when someone can connect the dots. This piece by James Fallows on what makes cities work is a must-read.

By the time we had been to half a dozen cities, we had developed an informal checklist of the traits that distinguished a place where things seemed to work. These items are obviously different in nature, most of them are subjective, and some of them overlap. But if you tell us how a town measures up based on these standards, we can guess a lot of other things about it. In our experiences, these things were true of the cities, large or small, that were working best:

  1. Divisive national politics seem a distant concern.
  2. You can pick out the local patriots.
  3. “Public-private partnerships” are real.
  4. People know the civic story.
  5. They have a downtown.
  6. They are near a research university.
  7. They have, and care about, a community college.
  8. They have unusual schools.
  9. They make themselves open.
  10. They have big plans.
  11. They have craft breweries.

Source: Eleven Signs a City will Succeed

“People at the bottom in unequal cities also have another problem — they tend to live in places where housing is particularly unaffordable.”

The inequality data here comes from an annual analysis Berube and Holmes conduct comparing the incomes households earn at the 20th and 95th percentile in large American cities. This year, they also looked at the cost a household would pay to rent a home at the 20th percentile of rental units in each city. Then they compared that cost (for instance, $10,286 a year in Washington) to what families earn at the 20th percentile of incomes.

As a rule of thumb, you shouldn’t spend more than 30 percent of your income on housing. So if families in the 20th percentile by income have to spend more than that to get a home in the 20th percentile of available rents, that’s a sign that they’re probably paying more than they can afford. Among the 97 cities Berube and Holmes looked at, poor families in the most unequal cities spend more than half their income on rent.

Source: Unequal cities are also more expensive for the poor – The Washington Post

“Far from trickling down, income and wealth are instead being sucked upwards at an alarming rate”

Pretty interesting new study released from Oxfam, as reported by The Atlantic, worth sharing in (nearly) its entirety below (emphasis mine):

 

There are several reasons for this growing problem according to Deborah Hardoon, Sophia Ayele, and Ricardo Fuentes-Nieva, the study’s authors. The first is the disconnect between work and earnings. The share of national income going to workers has been falling while the share of income given to owners and top executives is rising, a phenomenon that can be seen in the stagnant wage figures of workers around the world despite growing corporate profits and productivity.

Persistent patterns of wage inequality, especially among the poorest workers, can seriously damage global efforts to eradicate poverty.

Taxes also play a pretty big role in the discrepancies, according to the report. Wealthy clients can hire financial advisors, accountants, and other pricey professionals to help them navigate the tax system, using loopholes to sock their money away in tax havens. Such efforts have helped keep nearly $8 trillion of money untaxed in offshore accounts, the study finds. Taxing that money isn’t just a matter of fairness, the report argues: The lost public revenues means less money for government programs that aid the poorest and neediest, allowing gaps in education, health care, and quality of life to persist and even grow. 

To build an economy that distributes its wealth more evenly, the researchers suggest creating a stronger system of taxation that prevents trillions of dollars from being pulled out of circulation via offshore accounts and allows companies to reduce their tax liabilities via loopholes. The report also suggests that politics needs to change, diminishing the power that companies exercise through tools like lobbying and patents, which can decrease competition and raise prices

It’s in everyone’s interest to fix the problem of economic inequality, even those who are thriving amid the increasing inequality. The study notes that prolonged periods of a widening wealth gap are bad for entire countries, as they can stunt overall economic growth. In a still-fragile global economy, that threat’s a problem for everyone, not just those suffering at the bottom.

Source: Oxfam Report Finds 62 Wealthiest People Have as Much Money as Half the World – The Atlantic

Oh, Katrina

This week marked the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina and while it’s clear that progress has been made in New Orleans, it’s also abundantly clear that there is work to be done.

Here are some of the words people spoke and wrote on the topic:

Hurricane Katrina made landfall in the city of New Orleans on the morning of August 29, 2005, swept in by winds traveling at 127 mph. But the true damage came after the levees broke, when about 80 percent of the city flooded. At least 400,000 residents, nearly the entire city, were displaced—some for a few days, some forever.

Ten years later, there is still no single, comprehensive source of information on what happened to displaced New Orleans residents—on where they went, or why. Beyond FEMA and U.S. Census data collected a year or less after the disaster, neither the local nor federal government had systems in place to systematically track Katrina’s castaways.

What we do have are a handful of individual studies, lists, and mapping efforts, that, taken all together, paint a portrait of a decade of dramatic upheaval.

I remember the greatest crime that ever happened, I think, was 10 years ago, when none of the large insurance companies honored the homeowner policies. My parents paid Allstate for 50 years, when they moved into Pontchartrain Park in 1955 up to the day we evacuated, and we’re still paying after the flood, because my mother said it can burn down at any time. And for those 50 years of premiums, they received $400. – Wendell Pierce

If we continue to send this message of recovery and rebuilding to the world and to the rest of the nation, we’re dooming people to live with this kind of scenario after a disaster. And so, there’s a need for corrective action in terms of ensuring that people are able to recover. As we move forward and out of this 10-year cycle and into the years ahead, that needs to be the focus, that recovery hasn’t happened, that the right to recovery needs to happen. And we should not be spending billions of dollars and giving it to people who want to make a city that’s majority-African-American to be a city that’s less—would have fewer African Americans and fewer poor people. – Monique Harden


MATT LAUER: You say you told Laura at the time it was the worst moment of your presidency.

GEORGE W. BUSH: Yes.

MATT LAUER: I wonder if some people are going to read that, and they might give you some heat for that. And the reason is this.

GEORGE W. BUSH: I don’t care.

MATT LAUER: Well, here’s the reason. You’re not saying that the worst moment in your presidency was watching the misery in Louisiana. You’re saying it was when someone insulted you because of that.

GEORGE W. BUSH: No. And I also make it clear that the misery in Louisiana affected me deeply, as well. There’s a lot of tough moments in the book, and it is a disgusting moment, pure and simple.


I mean, when you look at the federal law, all of the decisions come from the president. Once something is declared as a national disaster, this law says all decisions, and the decision to act or not to act, are entirely discretionary and immune from lawsuit. And this is how he chose to exercise that power—to let people wait and suffer in flooded cities on rooftops and convention centers and the Superdome without adequate support and services; to evacuate families without—parents without children in a really inhumane and harsh condition; and to set about this conservative recovery agenda [inaudible] caused displacement of so many people, African Americans, in particular, from New Orleans and the Gulf region, and put money in the hands of folks who are not in need of any recovery but are just profiting from the disaster. He did all of that.- Monique Harden

And to say that it wasn’t about race, I’m sure that—I kept saying to people who finally got in touch with me in the middle of the night, and I would tell them, “We are in great need down here.” And they kept telling me, “Wendell, we’re watching it on television.” And I said, “You can’t be telling me that you’re watching it on television, because there would be some response.” And to find out later, once I got out of Louisiana, to see that it was something that was broadcast around the world live—and those same people we saw at the Convention Center tried to walk out of the city, met on the other side of the bridge by racist cops who shot into the crowd, over their heads, saying, “Go back. We don’t want you to come into our community of Gretna,” which is a white suburban neighborhood and city just across the bridge—I’ll never forget that. I’ll never forget how people responded to people of color. If those had been white American citizens, you would have seen a more immediate response. I doubt that if in the Marina section of San Francisco after the earthquake in the late ’80s, that people would have sat back and done nothing. They knew that was one of the most cherished neighborhoods in America and one of the most cherished and profitable cities in America, and so they responded. It was all about race—the lack of attention, the fact that you saw these images of people in need. – Wendell Pierce

So, it was not an equal opportunity storm. If you were a black homeowner in New Orleans, you were more than three times more likely to have a flooded home than if you were a white homeowner. And it has not been an equal opportunity recovery. You could look at Lakeview, a prosperous white community that was completely flooded. Ten years later, it’s 100 percent back. It’s arguably better than ever. You look at New Orleans East, a black professional-class, middle-class neighborhood, 10 years after the storm, it’s maybe 80 percent back. You look at Seventh Ward, a black working-class neighborhood, 50 percent, 60 percent back.

And the great shame of it is, it’s based on many factors—a lack of wealth, perhaps, in the black community versus the white—but it’s also based on policy. There were policies put in place that got in the way of the recovery, that made for an unequal recovery. New Orleans today has the second-highest rate of—the second-highest gap between rich and poor of any city in the country but one. And it’s not accidental. The website FiveThirtyEight pointed out that in the year 2000 the average black middle-class family was making $30,000. Thirteen years later, 2013, that same family was making $25,000—making less money today. – Gary Rivlin

I’ll start in the words that Dickens gave us centuries ago: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” It’s a tale of two cities. New Orleans, 10 years after Katrina, is definitely coming back. It is definitely thriving. It is definitely bringing in a new generation of entrepreneurial spirit. We’ve got new businesses, new restaurants, reformation of the schools, reformation of the levees and the water protection system and all. So there is a lot to celebrate. But we should never start a discussion about Katrina without remembering the 1,800-plus souls who lost their lives 10 years ago in that great flood of that great city. So we should always remember them. – Wendell Pierce

All one had to do was look out a window in New Orleans in 2009 to see what the housing needs were. And yet the bond commission’s red light was far from the only force at play threatening to undermine the construction of affordable housing. Consider that:

It was bad enough that the city wasn’t bringing back all of the public housing it demolished after Katrina. But now it was in danger of losing funding for whatever affordable housing was stuck in the pipeline.

 

Over the 10 years, you know, New Orleans is still a story of two cities. You know, if you’re white or if you’re part of that privileged black class or free people of color class, then, you know, I mean, it’s recovered. But if you’re poor and part of that African or Maroon class, then it’s like the hurricane just happened last year.

Right now we’re in the midst of some of the most violent times in the history of this city. And it’s only because of the fact that that 10-, that eight-year-old, that six-year-old child, that 12-year-old child, that was in the Convention Center and abandoned in that Superdome, now they are 22, 16, full of rage, because we did not deem—have any trauma counselors there with them through this.

We have unemployment is over 50 percent. And the ones who are blessed with a job, the disparity of wages is that they make three times less than their white counterpart. Public housing is no more. They displaced everyone. The only equal opportunity employer is the drug dealer. So now we’ve been in the midst of a drug war. And the tails of it is just in the last two days there has been maybe six shootings. So, again, you know, by the fact that our administrations—and I’m talking about on all levels—refused to address the real, pertinent issues of the aftermath of Katrina is the reason why we are in this way, in this dilemma now. – Malik Rahim

AMY GOODMAN: What would you say to President Obama today? Will you actually see him?

TRACIE WASHINGTON: I’m supposed to be there, along with a whole lot of other people in the city of New Orleans. And I hope to see him.

I would say to him, number one, “No mission accomplished. You were right five years ago. Don’t come here today and say, ‘Mission accomplished,’ because while you’re at a beautifully rebuilt Sanchez Center, if you go three blocks in from Claiborne Avenue, you’ll see that our mission is far from accomplished.” The lots aren’t overgrown in many instances; they’re just bulldozed over, right? And so, we still need the rebuild. We still need the equitable recovery.

And again, it’s about accountability. It’s about accountability. And 15 years from now, when we do this on the 25th anniversary, we need to be able to go back and say, “President Bush, you know, President Obama, you failed us.” And they need to—and who’s ever in government at that time needs to be able to accept that. I’m still here. I am still hopeful that we won’t be in that situation. But, Amy, I don’t want him to come here and say to that community in the Lower Ninth Ward, “Hercules is all done. Great.”

One thing that New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu wants everybody to remember is that the death and destruction that accompanied Hurricane Katrina wasn’t an act of God or nature.

“This was not a natural disaster—it was an infrastructure failure”

Mayor Mitch Landrieu agreed. “It was the musicians who right away understood that they were the soul of New Orleans,” he told me. “Even though, on average, most of the musicians don’t have any money in their pocket, they did everything they could to make sure that not only did the music live, because they knew the music represented the city, and really nobody was more of an ambassador for us than Terence.” Landrieu, who was serving as the lieutenant governor of Louisiana at the time of the storm, had been in charge of culture, recreation, and tourism. He recalled the first Essence Jazz Fest after Katrina. “Just by showing up and doing what he does, [Blanchard] represents the best that New Orleans has to offer, and has been from our perspective not only a dear friend, but a great ambassador as well.” And what are griots if not the spirit of the city itself? 

“After Katrina, in a unique weird way, everyone became an entrepreneur. The city was closed, so everyone had to start over with tons of uncertainty and limited resources.”

Williamson says the return of small business has come in three waves: Right after the storm, retailers who had existing businesses headed back first. They were followed by former New Orleanians who were drawn back to the city, and opened up new stores or took over family businesses. Finally, there were the outsiders, who saw the opportunity for entrepreneurship as the city healed.

When did we begin to lose faith in our ability to effect change?” Wynton Marsalis said a few hours after Nagin’s comment in a speech at Tulane. “As we have seen our money squandered and stolen, our civil rights trampled, and the politics of polarity become the order of the day, we have held no one accountable.”

“New Orleans is on a path to a better place,” the city’s mayor, Mitch Landrieu, said Saturday. 

“This is a story about resurrection and redemption,” added Landrieu, who also noted that the city would not cease working on behalf of many who are still struggling.

McDonald picked up a black marker and drew a line down its middle. He pointed to the western half. ‘‘That’s the New Orleans you know,’’ he told me: the French Quarter, the Superdome, the Warehouse District, the Garden District, St. Charles Avenue. Those areas had largely remained dry. Then he pointed to the eastern half of the map. ‘‘Where you saw water up to the rooftops?’’ he said. ‘‘That’s where most of the city’s black people lived. That’s where my customer base lived. My employees lived out there.’’ McDonald, who was only a couple of weeks from turning 62, shook his head and gave a rueful laugh. ‘‘Hell, that’s where I lived.’’

When we look at the first 15 years of the 21st century, the most defining moment in black America’s relationship to its country isn’t Election Day 2008; it’s Hurricane Katrina. The events of the storm and its aftermath sparked a profound shift among black Americans toward racial pessimism that persists to today, even with Barack Obama in the White House. Black collective memory of Hurricane Katrina, as much as anything else, informs the present movement against police violence, “Black Lives Matter.”

Repeatedly, reporters refer to white victims clinging to life as “survivors” and “residents,” while African-American victims doing the same things are called “looters” and “criminals.” Disproportionately, the humanizing, “heart-breaker” stories feature white victims and families. Meanwhile, images of African-American crowds are almost invariably in the background during discussions of “criminal activity.”

“It is a mis-education to say that New Orleans is a place of wonderful racial harmony. There’s people that like to perpetuate that idea, so they don’t have to deal with the hard truths.
But I like the fact that you define what happened in Charleston as domestic terrorism. It needs to be defined like that. Not just for the symbolic nature of it, but for the policy that goes with it. The policy in place with federal government, is that when something is declared a terrorist organization, that means all resources go to destroying, dismantling that organization, because they see it as a threat to the security of the United States. When are we gonna make that same threat on the White Citizens’ Council and on the Ku Klux Klan?

I want people to have the right to wave the confederate flag. Wave it. You have every right. I want you to. Now I know where you stand [chuckling]. That’s what America’s all about, freedom, of expression. But no government that I pay tax dollars to should ever fly that flag.” –  Wendell Pierce

CREIGHTON BERNETTE: [played by John Goodman] What hit the Mississippi Gulf Coast was a natural disaster, a hurricane, pure and simple. The flooding of New Orleans was a man-made catastrophe, a federal [bleep]-up of epic proportions and decades in the making.

SOFIA BERNETTE: [played by India Ennenga] Daddy.

REPORTER: We can edit that out. No worries.

CREIGHTON BERNETTE: The levees were not blown, not in ’65 and not three months ago. The flood protection system built by the Army Corps of Engineers, aka the federal government, failed. And we’ve been saying for the last 40 years, since Betsy, that it was going to fail again unless something was done. And guess what. It was not.

SOFIA BERNETTE: Seriously, Daddy, you’re going to stroke out.

CREIGHTON BERNETTE: No worries, sweetheart. Cool as a cucumber up an archbishop’s [bleep]. The levees weren’t blown. The floodgates failed, the canal walls failed, the pumps failed, all of which were supposedly built to withstand a much greater storm.

REPORTER: Are you suggesting criminal liability.

CREIGHTON BERNETTE: Absolutely. Find the responsible parties, and put them on trial—Corps of Engineers, federal, state, local government, the contractors who used substandard materials, and the goddamn sleazebag politicians that they have in their pocket.

“It makes no sense to spend billions of dollars to rebuild a city that’s seven feet under sea level, House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., said of federal assistance for hurricane-devastated New Orleans.” —Associated Press, Sept. 1, 2005

But when Katrina struck, it exposed a kind of institutional rot that went far beyond our warnings. The immediate aftermath is the nightmare everybody remembers, with the White House paralyzed and out of the loop while federal, state, and local agencies tripped over one another. Then, in the days afterward, I remember my growing horror at the emerging evidence that — contrary to the tales spun by Corps officials — floodwalls had simply collapsed long before their maximum tolerances had been reached. The Corps of Engineers (which dates back to George Washington’s army) had made engineering errors that caused the city’s almost-demise. The nation, in the form of the federal government, had a contract to protect New Orleans, and to provide assistance in case of disaster. Sure as any levee, that contract had been breached.

What does that say about a) American technical know-how, which once got us to the moon, built the Interstate Highway System, and destroyed and then rebuilt much of Japan and Europe? Or b) the technocratic systems that we all rely on to protect us, serve our needs, provide a buffer against nature or human capriciousness? – John McQuaid