correlation does not imply causation (poem)

I was walking in my non-cookie cutter neighborhood

today, the bright light of the not-yet-fading evening

illuminating the individual design artistry of each one

and two story house, when the spring dusk hour wind

started picking up and I heard a rattling sound.

just then I looked up and saw a slender tree with new

buds waving wildly and I knew, I just knew, that the

tree was somehow causing the slightly frightening

rattling in the second story of the house beside it.

it took me half a minute to rise out of this particular

trance, recognizing that the wind was moving the

tree branches and rattling some loose window frame.

the wind was moving both, juxtaposed in the evening sky.

correlation does not imply causation.

The Suicide of My Godson, Age 20, Part 3 of 3

During the wildfires of Northern California in 2017, he and his sister and mother, and their little community, were evacuees. They had been saved by the fortunate interference of a small mountain and a narrow river. His father had told him that he would know the end of the world was coming when the sky was red and filled with smoke. I wish I had known that he’d been told that before he died.

At the memorial, some one described him as “almost Byronesque”. He had such exuberance and willingness to inspire others with insights and joy, but such darkness deep inside himself. He would often retreat to his tiny house, and sleep for hours and hours. But only after building or fixing anything anyone needed. He made little money, but refused to even let me buy him a burrito.

What pains me most is the part about the end of the world. He decided the best thing he could do with impending global ecosystem collapse would be to eradicate his own being. To no longer take space from non-human animals. To no longer consume food or breath. No one told me this. I wish I could have told him, that to every animal he might save or protect, it would seem like the entire world. He could only think in the largest, most 3-dimensional pictures of the world, I guess. I’ll never know for sure.

The Suicide of My Godson, Age 20, Part 2 of 3

And yet he grew up being known as a laughing, affable dude, and very generous with his skills and his time. We lived a couple of hours apart, but I got to really talk to him when he was age 19. We hung out for about half a day, after I got to see him help put in a lighting or heating system. We agreed about so many things; I thought, perhaps the rigidity had disappeared. But the more we talked, I saw it again, his deep conviction that he understood life and people at an exquisite level of correctness.

In the years between his creation story and his carefully carried out death by hanging, he demonstrated he could be a great escape artist. He once walked home four or five miles from school with no shoes on, convinced the lessons that day were not for him. He slipped out of my grip, ran outside, climbed rapidly through a window in his room, and locked the door a few years later, when he didn’t want to go to school again.

The details of his dyslexia had been kept from me, and I was told not to concern myself, even though I seem to have a touch of it myself. His 3-dimensional skills in seeing a chess board and devastating his opponents came in when he was 14 or 15. He was a classic frustrated genius. Playing chess with me bored him instantly. He would win in several moves, and then look disgusted, exasperated. But there was no balance. He was humiliated when he had trouble reading, or writing and expressing his thoughts and feelings, but contemptuously superior when was sure he was right and others were wrong.

Continued …

The Suicide of My Godson, Age 20, Part 1 of 3

A suicide is unlike any other death in the family. I found that out the hard way, just before Thanksgiving in 2018. It’s because they go willingly, by their own hand. It’s horrifying to me that my godson made this choice. The guilt, shame, blame, mystery and bewilderment each compound each other upon the news. The grieving never ends. Even though in his suicide note he promised of missing him that “this too shall pass”. I doubt it ever will. I take some comfort in brain studies that show that a deep suicidal tendency may in fact be every bit as physical as a heart attack. Perhaps he had less choice than I’ve imagined.

It’s been 14 months, more or less to the day, as I write this. There are times I think I’m over it, in fact, so over it that I get more anxious feelings of guilt that I could dare to be. During his earliest years he was the bouncing blonde baby boy in my life. I learned to keep him safe, and let him share himself with me, as he discovered his toys and the world around him. But by the time he was four years old, I saw an early warning sign, that this kid’s going to be trouble.

But not in a malicious way. It’s just that, when he told me about the myth of the scarab beetle, and how it used dung to form the world, he lacked a certain four-year-old’s innocence. He told me, this is the way the heavens and earth began, with a conviction of belief, with a certainty of knowing, that was unsettling to me. There was no room for any other explanation.

His brow was furrowed. He had a dark expression. I have never seen anyone more determined to share what he was beyond sure what was true. He had the fanaticism of a cult leader many years older. He had such a stark rigidity in telling me this, that I saw no room to ask him any questions. I simply listened, in stunned silence, anticipating that this conviction of his own rightness would be an unwavering feature in future years.

Continued …

Did Harry and Meghan Leave? Or Just Realize ….

Imagine being Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, falling head over heels in love, pursuing and marrying a popular American actress, Meghan Markle, and then experience her undergoing clearly undermining and racist scrutiny from much of the press, the nation that you serve, and your own extended family.

Imagine, meanwhile, that your Uncle Andrew has been found out to be part of a tragically and deeply tawdry pedophile ring at an international level, then holding an interview in which he attempts to lie about his involvement in it, then almost certainly participate in a cover-up of his activities, while showing no genuine remorse for the young women who were scarred and manipulated, and then being told to stand down from his royal duties by Her Majesty the Queen.

How could Meghan and Harry not feel it incumbent upon both of them to stand down, as well, especially now that their child, Archie, has been born, with a clear desire to whisk him away from the same shaming and disregard that Meghan had been receiving, before Archie might be old enough to feel the brunt of it.

Imagine also being slighted or shunned by your older brother, Prince William, the actual heir apparent after your father Prince Charles, and your sister-in-law, Princess Kate, for having ideas, styles and behaviors that does not quite match their standards of behavior for being royals, from which they and their children stand to reap much greater focus of attention and personal reward in exchange for providing such services.

Imagine seeing that your wife, the American born Duchess of Sussex, has been performing her royal service with great enthusiasm and intelligence, but that attacks against her for being half black have not abated. Imagine how much you might feel that your family and your royal family are built upon colonialism and racism and extremely antiquated prejudices.

Imagine, also, that your mother was none other than Princess Diana, who had taught you intrinsic values of compassion, equality, and, even, social justice. And that Meghan’s mother Doria has been of a similar mind and heart, a social worker who ran a 5k on behalf of suicide prevention. Harry’s mother’s name and Meghan’s mother’s name, even sound quite the same, and if Diana were still here, we would likely see photos that show Diana and Doria confiding in one another and understanding each other, at least from time to time.

Now imagine if you feel like you’re actually up to it, up to being a standard bearer for something you’re really not a part of, and noticing how strong a pull your wife is feeling for returning to Canada, and to acting, and to making her own way as a modern woman. You might feel torn, of course, between your family and your wife, and between your nation and your duties, and especially between the reality of your situation and your intense loyalty to your comrades in the royal military.

But with just a little bit of soul searching, you can see the writing on the wall, enough to announce your departure, along with your wife, on social media, on Instagram, without further delays once the New Year had arrived.

How can you not at least try to make it on your own as much as possible from this point forward? Because how can you not feel alone, isolated from the rigidity and decay of your family, while still savoring the joy that being a part of it has brought you. One can almost imagine Harry channeling Diana, urging him from somewhere, to cling to his wife and child, and live a bit more modern, a bit more enlightened, though still quite wealthy and privileged life. And how could Meghan put up with another day of racial harassment, now that Archie has joined her and Harry in this mixed up, crazy world.

Focusing in on 4 Democratic Party Presidential Hopefuls (for now, at least) … Sherrod Brown, and why he’s important to mention even though he’s not running, and who else speaks for “just folks” now?

I’m from Ohio, and have long thought of Sherrod Brown as “my senator” even though he no longer can be for geographical reasons. He’s always been for-real in my view. For example, here’s a quote from 2017:

“True populism is looking out for the little guy no matter where she works and no matter who he is; we’ve let them steal that away.”

In the interview subheaded by the above quote, Sen. Brown also stated:

“I think we’re not full-throated enough in our defense of economic policy and demonstrating the value of work. Our paper addresses this. If white working-class people think we look down on them and we use terms like the ‘Rust Belt, which demeans their work and diminishes them in some ways, that’s a problem. You counteract that, in part by empathizing, saying that we value work. That means you fight for minimum wage, you fight for the overtime rule, you fight against misclassification of jobs.”

I’m a midwesterner who moved to one of the Coasts, and I resonate with this statement – full-throatedly and full-heartedly.

Regarding the “paper” he mentioned in the above interview excerpt, that would be “Working Too Hard for Too Little: A Plan for Restoring the Value of Work in America”. You can see an outline and/or download the paper here. To me, it’s at least gratifying that any politician addresses the simple truth of what it’s like to live in this country for many or most of us day to day.

The Democratic Party, for decades, has been based on a coalition of everyday folks. It has become a “centrist” party, whatever that means. Some would say “corporate”. Nancy Pelosi, while from the most liberal city in the US according to popular polls, San Francisco, is characterized as being far to the left, which she is not. The daughter of a former mayor of Baltimore, she grew up in politics, and is as pragmatic as she is gracious and experienced. Her number one skill seems to be fundraising. She told a group of students that the US is fully capitalistic, end of discussion, which is far from a leftist position.

The Democratic Party and Labor Unions have not been on the greatest terms for a long, long time. Right-wing populism and Trump have worked this to their power advantage, at least enough to win the 2016 presidency in the Electoral College. A longer analysis than there is room for here can discuss how labor unions became bloated or corrupt or seemingly irrelevant. The point is that laborers, workers, have not been well represented by the Dems for quite some time, as President Clinton’s own Secretary of Labor has pointed out.

The question is, with Brown deciding not to run for president, which candidate or candidates will seek to win or re-win the trust of America’s workers? And how will they do this? Joe Biden? Andrew Yang? Cory Booker?

Sen. Harris enjoys politics and is inspired and inspiring, but there’s the matter of her letting Steve Mnuchin get away with evicting senior citizens in California and not prosecuting him while Mnuchin donated money to her Attorney General Campaign and then becoming, himself, Trump’s Secretary of Labor.

Cory Booker seems sincere, but he’s long had donations ties with Big Pharma.

Joe Biden, who loves to talk about growing up like a true American in good old Scranton, Pennsylvania, yet he voted to tighten bankruptcy laws that put a stranglehold on folks with debt, and this has fueled a long feud between Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren.

The following is a speech Joe Biden gave in May 2018 about the middle class, income inequality, education, and rebuilding American infrastructure. I’ll take a closer look at these ideas if he announces his candidacy. He might be doing so right after I post this! He’s long been considered the likely frontrunner, without yet running. Here’s a recent analysis of what might happen among Democratic Party hopefuls if Joe Biden announces he’s not running.

Focusing in on 4 Democratic Party Presidential Hopefuls (for now, at least) … Senator Elizabeth Warren

Senator Elizabeth Warren

it just seems super clear to me that if the US government applied the straightforward consumer protections Sen. Warren has proposed since she emerged into the national spotlight that we would not have even had the 2008 mortgage casino meltdown. 
Financial institutions could not have scammed the public with Adjustable Rate Mortgages, which are a euphemism for Pay Less Now Get Extremely Screwed Later and Then We’ll Take Away Everything You’d Thought You’d Bought Plus the Money You’ve Already Given Us.

Nothing would have collapsed. Massive foreclosures would not have taken place. The Tea Party / Freedom Caucus would not have erupted. Right wing populism would not have emerged, at least not in the US. We would likely not have Trump as president.

Even Native Americans who might still feel offended might agree with this. Or not, as they prefer, of course. At least she has apologized, amazingly rare in our candidates or our general culture these days.

I think of Elizabeth Warren every time i talk to Customer Service on the phone, which should instead be called Customer Manipulation, Domination and Exhaustion. 
Adjustable Rate Mortgages were tantalizingly misnamed and that by itself is misrepresentation to consumers. Flat out. On face.

And then all the fine print after that should be regulated and reduced and made understandable. A warning should be included that states in large bold print: Be very careful before you sign this. If you cannot afford this, you may lose everything you own. We strongly advise you to speak to a qualified financial consultant before entering into this agreement. 

Every bit as much as the tobacco warning on packages of cigarettes.

Focusing in on 4 Democratic Party Presidential Hopefuls (for now, at least) … Bernie Sanders

Senator Bernie Sanders

Senator Sanders has shown amazing leadership which has broken through the politics-as-usual doldrums. He was, to the left, what Trump was to the right, and believes he could have defeated Trump in 2016 if he had been given the forum to do so.

Sanders has made “democratic socialism” less of a confusing, dirty, disrespected idea. He has dared to sound other than “American exceptionalist” by simply pointing out that some European countries are able to balance free enterprise with taking care of all of its citizens.

He is accurate about the urgency of global climate change, and he proposes “Medicare for All”, and he is unapologetic about being a truly Progressive candidate. His influence on others who are running, such as Senators Kamala Harris and Cory Booker, is fairly self-evident.

He may still be considered, however, a bit weak on foreign policy. Then again, he might rein in America’s involvement in half a dozen or more wars at any time. He might open fair dialog about Israel and Palestine, but Palestine is home to plenty of right-wing religious fanaticism of its own. Palestinians deserve a decent life, but this is a horribly complicated issue, and peaceniks just have not succeeded there so far (which is awful to admit but true). Mostly, foreign policy does not seem to have been a focus on Sen. Sanders during his political career.

Regarding his calling for college for all as well as health care for all, that’s great. Student debt is obscene. Wealthy people getting their kids into top schools is obscene. But imagining that college for all will solve job and economic problems falls short of giving at least as much emphasis to vocational training to help America’s workforce be nimble for the massive changes that are rolling in like hurricanes or tidal waves. As far as I can tell, only one candidate, so-far-little-known Andrew Yang, is addressing this.

Flight Attendants Unions Ask Carriers to Ground Boeing 737 Max 8 (

  • U.S. flight attendant unions ask their carriers and the U.S. government to ground Boeing 737 Max planes until more is known about the latest crash.
  • Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302, a Boeing 737 Max 8, went down shortly after takeoff on Sunday, killing all 157 on board.
  • It’s the second major crash for the plane and airlines and governments around the world are suspending the aircraft from their skies.

Economics of the Roman Empire

The Roman Empire emerged from an era of multiple city-states in Greece, most notably Athens and Sparta, which expanded beyond their boundaries, and built spheres of influence and empires. Ancient Rome largely copied (as well as conquered) Ancient Greece in religion, culture, and imperial adventures.

The Roman economic system was mostly agrarian, though with a class of elites. The agrarian economy was largely fueled by labor from slaves. Food production was essential the more nations they conquered.

In this regard, much similarity to the American Confederacy, except for one key difference. The Roman Empire enslaved many of those they conquered. They had no focus on race or ethnicity. Bringing in slaves was simply a part of the riches of the spoils of war. The population of these slaves was as diverse as the imperial adventures of Rome in their endless conquests for empire building.

The Southern States found they could not enslave Native American tribes, and followed the example of Dutch, French, Spanish, Portuguese, British and Arab Atlantic slave traders plus some West African kingdoms as well, by capturing Blacks from the West Coast of Africa. In doing so, with whom they had never engaged in battle, and who were miles and miles away, they established a chattel class which they also came to identify as a racial grouping. They owned slaves (which is awful beyond belief), but even more so (and worse), they owned their children, too (several of whom they fathered themselves), and their children’s children (going on for generations).

Race was not always considered a biological category. There is much evidence that racism emerged to justify the enslavement and disruption of black families and individuals.

The movie, Mandingo, while not the greatest film ever made, does have a sadly gripping scene which illustrates this. The white plantation owner handles the very newborn child of a slave and refers to the child as a source of pride and profit for himself and his plantation and family, effectively stealing the child from his actual father, who painfully looks on.

This is not to say that slaves in Rome were not also treated badly; they were. Sexual exploitation of slaves was common, as were torture and execution, although as time moved on, slaves were given certain legal protections in that by the 2nd century AD slaves could complain against slaveholders for excessively cruel treatment. And slaves were, at least minimally, recognized as human beings in ways that differentiated them from other property.

At its core, Rome was a very patriarchal society. There was a single state religion, and worship took place in the home. The role of women was primarily to bear and rear children. The oldest man in a family was the head of the family. Income was made from farming (especially of grains, olives and graps), mining especially in Roman Britain, business, slave labor which included accountants and physicians, merchant trade, and taxes, which started out at reasonable rates during the Republic and early years of the 1,000+ years period of the Roman Empire, but ended up becoming burdensome and a contributing factor in the eventual downfall of Rome.