REVIEW OF “THE SPIRIT LEVEL”

Photobucket

This book written by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett explores the question, “Why greater equality makes societies stronger”  – a very interesting idea in the face of the revolts in the Middle East largely based on social and financial inequality. After reading this book, you will be clear that the rich and poor both pay the price.

The authors ask why we never talk about equality. We talk about the deficit. We talk about ending the wars in Iraq and Afganistan. We even talk about health care, but never the fact that 4% of the people have more wealth than the other 96%. This is easy. The people talking are among the wealthy. But why don’t we, the 96% with 96% of the vote talk more about it? Why don’t we demand a bigger share? Why are we letting our attention be diverted?

They suggest there are two kinds of self-esteem. One where people are happy, able to accept criticism, and make friends. The other one where people are actually insecure but good at self-promotion, insensitive to others and bad at personal relationships. As the social classes move further and further apart, anxiety increases, and people become self-conscious and obsessed with how they appear to others. I have spent a large part of this week thinking that there are more and more people with personality disorders.

This book states The United States is second only to Singapore in its inequality. And it’s premise is that inequality causes all manner of problems to society. This being just one. Look around you and see if you are seeing what I am seeing — a lot of posers. Of course, I live in Hollywood, so there’s that. But I can remember a time when this wasn’t the case. Reality shows constantly tell us we’re not living the dream. We’re not enough. And yet if we continue this path of conspicuous consumption, our planet may not make it. We’re running out of resources. And we want to live in a house big enough to park six cars. And most important, there’s no guarantee of jubilation through shopping.

The book goes further than mental health into every other area of our lives. As these issues become more and more diverse, we suffer a loss of happiness as a society. And as the mental health example would suggest, the rich suffer, too, because there is always someone richer. So it’s lose, lose.

So how do we fix this? You’re not going to like the solution, because, secretly, you believe you will be among the wealthy someday. But what if it made your life easier and less stressful? What if you were thinner and had more vacation time? “Rather than simply waiting for the government to do it for us, we have to start making it in our lives and in the institutions of our society… What we need is not one big revolution but a continuous stream of small changes in a consistent direction.”

There are two ways to achieve this goal. One uses taxes and benefits to redistribute income. The other is the distribution of information confirming what a lot of people think, but are afraid to say. We would all be happier if we were more equal. The problems diminish as the society we live in becomes more level. We need to make choices that bring us towards the middle and frown on choices that don’t.

That SUV you are driving is the result of a lack of trust. And it’s destroying the environment. Do you really need it? When you are buying your third pair of sneakers? Do you need them? How soon will they be landfill?

Are the people in power the ones that will vote your conscience? Pay rates at the top could be contained by plugging loopholes in the tax system.

And just as a final, almost humorous, thought. Did you know that people below the poverty line, 80% of them, have air conditioning? My girlfriend in Lousianna lives in a trailer with holes in the floor, but just bought a flat screen TV, and she definitely has air conditioning. She made $13,000 last year. Seventy-five percent of those below the poverty level own at least one car, around 33% have a computer, a dishwasher or a second car. Who are they trying to impress?

I recommend this book. There’s so much more. Once we understand it, we can fix it. And don’t you love that picture?

DEBATE NOT HATE

Photobucket

Maybe it’s time we stop with all the polarization and instead realize that we’re all in this together. And really, we want the same result.

While 2% of the people have all the money, 98% of us have the vote. Let your voice be heard.

Want a free bumper sticker like the one above, click here…

HEALTH INSURANCE REFORM STORIES

Photobucket

My good friend Wendell Potter, a former head of corporate communications for CIGNA — one of California’s largest Photobucket health insurance companies –asked us to share this message with the Courage Campaign community. After many years defending the health insurance industry, Wendell is now an outspoken supporter for health care reform, testifying before Congress and appearing in the media often.

Rick Jacobs
Chair, Courage Campaign

***********************************************************************************************************************************

Dear Friends:

When I worked as head of communications at CIGNA, a large health insurance company, we heard lots of stories from Americans who had problems with their insurance and their health care.

It was my job to spin those stories — or to bury them completely so that the public wouldn’t see the need for health care reform.

While at CIGNA, I learned that these stories have power. And now, after the passage of health care reform earlier this year, these stories matter more than ever before.

Why? Because opponents of health care reform are already organizing to repeal the new law. They’re out gathering signatures right now to support repeal, in an attempt to prove that Californians no longer want better health care. The best way we can immediately counter this threat is to tell Californians that health care reform is already starting to help families.

That’s why I’m helping the Courage Campaign in their urgent mission to collect stories from families in every county in California showing how health care reform is already improving people’s lives — so we can defend these reforms from those who want to go back to the bad old days of health care insecurity.

Will you help me? Even if you don’t think your story matters, trust me, it does. Click here to share your story of how health care reform is helping your family. We’ll feature these stories in upcoming health care actions to inspire Californians to take action to protect and improve our health care reforms. DEADLINE: Monday, September 13, 2010 @ 5 p.m.

Wendell Potter

Here are some questions to help you get started:
Do you have a child with a pre-existing condition who is now covered by health insurance?

Are you a young adult who can now stay on your parents’ health care plan — or are you a parent with a son or daughter who is able to stay on your plan?

Are you a senior who received a rebate check of $250 to make it easier to buy your prescription drugs?

Does your insurance plan have a lifetime limit on the care it will provide — a limit that will become illegal starting on September 23?

Will your small business benefit from the new health insurance tax credits?

There are other parts of the health care law that will be implemented in the coming months and years — and there are other health care reform battles we must fight and win in Sacramento and in Congress. We need to start telling the stories of health care reform if we’re going to protect what we’ve won, and continue reforming our health care system.

If you would like to share your story click here… Look under “What’s Your Story.”

ON A WHIM & A PRAYER — BELIZE

PhotobucketPhotobucketPhotobucket

When I experience a dry spell of invitations and/or opportunities, I spin the globe, so to speak, pick a spot, collect minimal information about the locale and find a cheap flight. A particularly memorable trip of mine that falls into the Globe Spinning Category is my visit to beloved Belize. I knew very little about this Central American gem. I booked a flight (American Airlines, $500 roundtrip through DFW Dallas) ten days before leaving. A friend gave me a travel guide. I packed a backpack. I had no place to stay. I knew no one there, and I set out on this adventure alone.

Within ten minutes of catching a water taxi to an island, or caye (pronounced key), I had met another solo traveler, and we struck up a friendly conversation. We became travel buddies. In no time we had found a $15/night hotel, The Tropics, across the street from the beach. No, it was not four, three or even two star accommodations; however, it had screens in the windows, hot water in the bathroom and a ceiling fan. Bingo! Pay dirt, or pay sand in this case! I don’t go to other countries to stay in my room, so it served its purpose of cheap storage for my belongings whilst I sought a journey of excitement in a strange land.

First stop, The Lazy Lizard, for a drink. This entertaining watering hole is located at the southern end of The Split — a spot that was created by Hurricane Hattie in 1961. For dinner, I’d urge you to visit Wish Willy’s (name of a type of iguana in Belize & nickname of the creative, feisty owner) for a $17 mouth-watering lobster dinner (http://www.wish-willy.com/). This eccentric world-travelling chef is a character and kind soul, as he let me borrow his kayak to search for stunning yellow seahorses near the mangrove trees that grow around Caye Caulker, one of the most popular of the cayes. Be duly warned though, tiny predators hunt exposed human flesh when the sun goes down. After the first evening, my legs were chicken-poxed with itchy, red sand fly bites that only hemp oil seemed to soothe.

Other recommended Belize points of interest include diving the crystal-clear Caribbean waters of The Great Blue Hole, a limestone sinkhole made famous by Jacques Cousteau; Lamanai (which means submerged crocodile), a Mayan ruins boat & jungle tour where you can spot a crazy Jesus Christ lizard skating across the water and brilliant Blue Morpho butterflies who are infamous for the lovemaking longevity; and an unparalleled, challenging cave adventure (pictured at right) called Actun Tunichil Muknal outside of San Ignacio (known locally as ATM cave, which makes it easy to remember since it is money).

The unbelievable stories that trip granted me still seem overwhelming when I conjure a memory or hear anyone speak of Belize. In fact, one of the most amazing and mind-boggling photos from any of my travels was taken on that tropical excursion. I was on an all-day boating trip to see local sights and seek out various marine creatures. Something in the middle of the vast sea caught my eye, and I asked the captain of our tiny water taxi type vessel to slow and subsequently head back to investigate the strange and inexplicable spectacle. There was a small dresser, with drawers askew, clothes dangling, but standing upright on a small sandbar in the middle of nowhere. All six passengers were awestruck, as was the captain.

What is that? I inquired.

The jovial captain with the bail bond T-shirt shrugged, I don’t know. It wasn’t there yesterday. I snapped a shot; we toasted cups of rum punch and were off to find more magical moments.

Whatever comes my way
Wherever the wind takes me
On a Whim and a Prayer

Contributor: Gena Kay

If you want to know how Gena travels on such a small budget:

“Must be nice. Must be nice to be able to go on so many vacations, so many places, whenever you want.” Those are phrases I hear more often than I can say. In fact, as the cliché goes, if I had a dime for every time I heard those statements, I could, well I could afford trips around the world. Resort-style trips. Nevertheless, yep, I gotta agree. As a matter of fact, it is nice, thank you ever so much.

However, when I begin citing the reasons I’m able to do so, divulging the secret information of the lifestyle choices that put me in the position to dare to embark on aforementioned Must Be Nice Travel, most people realize that yeah, maybe THEIR lives are nice for them. They usually choose to stick to their own travel mantras, their — in my opinion — stale, white bread, ho-hum travel doctrines of planned cruises and predictable, all-inclusive resort visits to cookie cutter places that cost a months salary.

So, how do I do it? And on such a small salary, at that? I don’t own a big screen TV, an Ipod, an Iphone, an Ianything. I don’t have a car payment. Haven’t had one in about 13 years. I slept on a couch for four years. Yes, you read that correctly, no misprint, four years.
I don’t have expensive furniture or much furniture at all, to be honest. (see previous lack of bed/slept on a couch statement).If there’s a designer label on any article of clothing in my wardrobe, rest assured, it was a gift, hand-me-downs, or it was purchased at a second-hand store. I don’t have cable TV. I haven’t watched TV for over ten years on a TV set. I’ll catch things online if necessary. I don’t stay at extravagant hotels or eat at fancy restaurants. I don’t go to tarbucks.Or malls.The 99 cent Store is my bastion.

I don’t have a husband. I dont have children. I don’t have pets.

I don’t have credit card debt. None.They are paid off each month, always. I am allergic to paying finance charges and interest.
Besides my house, I don’t have any debt. (The previously mentioned allergy is mildly tolerated for an investment of this stature.)
Until recently, I have had very few finance-depleting health problems.

See what I mean? I probably lost you after, I don’t have cable TV. Or perhaps even before that, at I dont OWN a big screen TV.

I know people in many corners of the world, and I visit them. This simple statement is not intended to sound boastful. It is an explanation, a clarification, one of dire importance to my type of traveling. Many of my friends and family members live and/or visit fascinating and exotic parts of the globe, places that may not necessarily be on my Top Ten Places I Need to Go Before I Die list. But that makes it even more exciting, out of the ordinary and story-worthy. Furthermore, I meet people who invite me places, and I go. Why not? Countless times, a trip I’ve taken has been something that just came up, someone mentioned a desire for a travel companion, someone else was visiting a friend in a country I’d never traveled to, perhaps someone was headed out on a mission or a job that was taking them to some island paradise, and I happily joined in, invited by him or her or I invited myself. I just made it happen.

Stats on Belize:
Belize is an English speaking country
They drive on the right
Central Time (UTC-6)
Calling code 501
One U.S. dollar equals two Belize dollars
The capital of Belize is Belmopan, formerly Belize City
Belize is slightly smaller than Massachusettes
Belize borders Mexico, north, Guatemala, west/south & the Carribean, east
Travelers can only bring a maximum of $5,000

THE BIGGEST THREAT SINCE 911

Share This Pic
Upload PicsMySpace Layouts

Share This Pic
Upload PicsMySpace Layouts

There is no “We The People!” Corporate interest, through lobbies, have taken over our government. On 1/21/2010, The Supreme Court, in one of the most significant rulings in 50 years, has overturned precedent and federal law that bans corporations from directly participating in the political process.

When our politicians are beholden to lobbyists for campaign money, they also have to make laws that please the people that gave them the money. So your congress people can’t work for your interests. The only thing that can change this is Campaign Finance Reform which would give all candidates money from the federal government and eliminate private party money that comes with strings.

But even before that, this ruling must be over-turned. It guarantees the rich will get richer and the poor will get poorer. And you can forget about health insurance, because that is a part of this system. The Psychic Bubble wants to stay out of politics, but we think this is an exception. This is not Republican or Democrat. This is strangling our democracy.

To get a free bumper sticker or make a contribution, click here…

UPDATE:  August, 2010, Target stores are in the news for taking advantage of the new law.

Advertising