Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Logical Support for Homeopathy

A sudden epiphany: My daughter Brigitte has been struggling with allergies for most of her life, and during a conversation with her I suddenly realized a simple reason why homeopathy is a valid approach to medicine. Allergies can be set off by minute quantities of a given substance, so minute in fact that a food product that was in contact with machinery used to process peanuts can cause a serious reaction for someone allergic to peanuts even after the machinery has been cleaned. Based on this one can reasonably conclude if the trace of an element of a substance can cause harm in someone in instances of allergies, trace elements of substances in homeopathic remedies can promote cures.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Will the Boomers Go Bust?

What Will Happen When the Baby Boomers Retire?

A retirement avalanche is about to descend. The baby boom began shortly after the end of World War II in 1945 and continued well into the 1950s. Numerically the boomers represent a work force of around 70 million, and those born earliest will be sixty-five in 2010. They are old enough to retire, but will they have the money for a living standard beyond that of the homeless?

The answer is no for most of them. Why not? Their parents for the most part retired in comfort as they could rely on company retirement plans. In those days, whether people worked for large or small companies, employers and employees felt they were part of the same family--employers held the role of ship captains and employees participated as loyal crews.

The picture began to change in the mid-seventies. A new breed of managers took over the leadership of corporations. The new business philosophy was for a company to make greater profits regardless of the means. Where once employees were part of a family engaged in a business venture, they now became nothing more than a cost factor, and costs are there to be cut. Now seen as nothing more than a financial burden, they can be eliminated by shutting down factories where they made a decent living and opening up plants in other countries where slave labor wages are the rule.

If a plant stays open, employees soon get the message that they had better accept cuts in health and pension benefits or lose their jobs. If a union threatens a strike, the employer lets workers walk out. If they don't buckle under, whatever service they provided is outsourced

Simply put, a good part of the baby boomers have by now either lost their jobs and/or retirement benefits, or if they are still working, had their benefits reduced so that they cannot possibly retire at any level above poverty.

Why Did the Baby Boomers Allow Themselves to be Reduced to Cost Factors?

The Cold War had broken out, and the power struggle between the communist authoritarian regimes and the militarily superior regimes of the west brought the world closer and closer to war. War needs anger, greed and hatred to thrive, but an unimaginable turn of events took place. As the east-west conflict heated up and America became increasingly involved in Vietnam, the baby boomers, rather than respond to a patriotic call to arms, answered with a message of love and peace. For a large segment of the population in their twenties and early thirties goals of acquiring wealth and career building were replaced by a quest for a peaceful and harmonious world.

When the Vietnam War was over and most civil rights goals were achieved, the generation that had pushed for change took a rest. This was not true, however, for a minority of boomers who had continued to pursue primarily careers and money. Without the distractions of idealistic goals, the acquisition of wealth for its own sake became fashionable and got increasing support from the media through programs like "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous." While the former hippies and war protesters did not necessarily join in the chase after money, they did not do much of anything to stop the greedy from their ever-greater worship of wealth and power. In a setting of general public complacency, it was easy for the power seekers to climb the corporate ladder by squeezing the incomes of all those on the rungs below them. Once they ruled the corporations, they got salaries and bonuses in the millions while others quietly lost their jobs and were too embarrassed to say or do anything about it.

No Work, No Money, No Retirement: Where Can You Go? How Can You Hide?

People are ashamed of being unemployed. Being broke may get you sympathy, but it won't get you respect. Having no retirement income will leave you either homeless or at the mercy of a relative. Civil servants, teachers or the career military are among the few who survive the race to the economic bottom. But those of the baby boomers who are neither wealthy nor part of a retirement system suddenly find themselves as part of a new underclass having to deal with the contempt of those who are better off. They now find themselves as outcasts much like the racial and ethnic minorities and women were before the civil rights movement.

So it becomes an irony of history that the baby boomers who did so much for the rights of the disadvantaged and in addition stopped a war, are now themselves confronted by a reality that they successfully defeated forty years earlier. Without jobs, no longer part of an "active society," they have little choice but to tap resources they have not drawn on since the early seventies. They cannot fail to recognize and face the fact that they can neither find jobs nor retire because the money they earned over their lifetimes is in the pockets of those addicted to power and greed. Considering that they are a generation of courage and innovation, they will through social and political action find ways to get back what has been taken from them. Given that the baby boomers are far better educated than earlier generations, given the fact that in their youth they were never afraid to challenge gratuitous authority, and given the fact that their personalities were developed in the period of greatest creativity, they will find the way to bring about the change needed for survival with dignity.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Letter to a Friend re Gun Confiscation

Dear D,

Yes, I feel compassion for gun owners. When we had the riots in 92 I drove out to the valley to buy an M1 carbine at a gun shop. They had a seven day waiting period for hand guns, but no waiting period for the M1 because it was considered an antique. Also, I had learned to fire it when I was in the military. A couple of years later it was ripped off when we had a burglary. The cops recovered it some time later, but I never retrieved it because they told me it had been mangled by the burglars.

As to my take on gun ownership, I see both sides of the issue. Guns, like cars, are potentially deadly weapons, and deadly weapons carry with them a grave (no pun intended) responsibility. The problem with car ownership is that cars kill people in accidents, not forgetting that cars can shorten the vehicle owners' life spans because they do not get enough exercise. Similarly, there is a major drawback to gun ownership. While car ownership creates problems by making locomotion all too easy, gun ownership often leads people to solving problems by shooting their opponents rather than calmly communicating with them.

Beyond that, I do consider it a serious problem that the government and big corporations stick their noses into citizens' business to the point where little privacy remains. It is my belief that privacy is a necessary element of freedom.

What's the answer? There needs to be a lot more dialog between those who want to keep guns and those who want to ban them. Underneath it all, I believe most of us want to make this world a better one.