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Archive for April, 2012

The 20/30 Separation

Posted by heyrandy on April 23, 2012

Coming Apart, Charles Murray, 2012

America is self-dividing according to intelligence. This is Murray’s major thesis. The author thinks that the élite 20%, the new upper middle class, is becoming isolated from the rest of the country. He also thinks that the bottom 30% will sink lower. He is correct on both counts.

Murray uses two fictional towns, Belmont and Fishtown, to illustrate his thesis. These are real places, but he fictionalizes them to make matters clearer. Later he addresses the real Fishtown, a small section of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to show how the matter stands.

Murray notes that the upper middle class is now so isolated that it has no idea of what the rest of the country is like. The new élite live in a bubble. He has a test to take to determine how thick is your bubble. One of the questions: Have you ever gone fishing? Simple, right? The question reveals the difference between the average family and the new élite: you go fishing, they don’t. In fact, they would not dare go fishing. It is too lower class. Nor would they eat at one of those popular table-service restaurants.

The author points to the self-segregation of the new élite. They live in neighborhoods where they are the dominate family type. Murray calls these the “Superzips.” People there are in the 90+ percentile of income. They are almost all graduates of top-tier colleges. They are what David Brooks call “BoBo’s,” Bourgeois Bohemians.

Murray gives the statistical basis for Brooks’ book. What Brooks does with humor, Murray does with numbers. Murray addresses only whites. He says the affirmative action programs have so distorted the minorities that it is impossible to analyze them. Given the heat that he took over The Bell Curve, it is also prudent.

Things do not look good for the bottom 30% of America. The loss of high-paying, low-skill jobs has reduced many to welfare. This is one of the four core principles that distinguish Fishtown from Belmont. The principles, marriage, industry, honesty, and religion, are a large part of the difference between the two classes. In Fishtown all four principles are in decline. The social cost has been enormous. He has the statistics to prove it. In Belmont all the principles are strong and either increasing or holding steady.

Murray’s assessment of America’s future is bleak. The élite will become increasingly isolated. The élite make the policy decisions that affect everyone. They will be working blind. The lower class will become larger, angrier, and more demanding. They vote.

The book’s cover tells the entire story. At the top of the cover we see a wine flute filled with white wine. At the bottom of the cover we see a crumpled cheap-beer can.

Read the book. This is the future. The middle 50% will have to deal with it.

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Lee Was Here Too

Posted by heyrandy on April 19, 2012

Dr. Mary’s Monkey, Edward Haslam,  2007

There is no rest for the dead. Lee Harvey Oswald was a busy guy. Marine, defector, assassin, and now lab technician. The author thinks that in the convoluted world of the CIA Lee played a large role. When he was no longer useful, the Agency set him up to take the blame for JFK’s murder.

Dr. Mary is Mary Sherman, MD. She died of multiple stab wounds. Her body was found in her apartment, badly burned. One arm and part of her rib cage were burned away, completely missing. The fire caused little damage to the apartment. The investigation by the New Orléans Police was shut down the investigation. The crime remains unsolved.

According to Haslam, Sherman and a twice-failed Catholic seminarian, David Ferrie, were running an underground laboratory to develop a cancer-causing virus the CIA would use to kill Castro. Sherman using a liner particle accelerator at the Public Health Service Hospital in New Orléans to modify viruses. An accident badly injured Sherman. In a panic to keep the project secret, the others involved in the project took Sherman to her apartment, stabbed repeatedly, and then set her on fire. The author points out that fire in the apartment could not have burned Sherman so badly.

The author has a point about the fire and the injuries. But what about Oswald? Haslam cites Judy Vary Baker. Baker, author of Me and Lee, claims participation in all this except the death of Sherman. She says she thought she was working on a cancer cure and quit when she found out that she was working on a weapon.

What the book really tells us is that the Warren Commission did a poor job. This is not a surprise. It is common for more details of the assassination to come out. The book gives some points to consider. It is not impossible that the CIA was trying to develop a cancer weapon. The Lone Nut Theory satisfies no one.

There are other points where the book is helpful. It retells the problems with the early polio vaccine. It gives a glimpse of how the cold war was waged and a look at the bizarre world of international espionage. If side-lights of the Kennedy assassination interest you, read the book.

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Rules of Food

Posted by heyrandy on April 4, 2012

Food Rules, 2ed., Michael Pollan, illustrations by Maira Kalman, 2011

In 83 rules, or more accurately guidelines, the author gives a loose framework to guide our eating. He wants us to re-examine our thinking about food. We should.

Polland’s rules make some great sense. We know most of them. In fact, in writing the second edition of the book, Pollan solicited comments from the public. He says that he received a lot of responses, many of which he has included in this edition.

The author gives us a general rule of just seven words: Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants. He says that his publisher wanted more than that. Ergo, the rules.

Pollan wants to make you think, not restrict you. The rules are grouped into the three divisions of the general rule. If you heed the rules you will eat better.

The artwork by Kalman is new to the second edition. I like it. It has folk-art feel. It adds to the book. There are some insightful commentary in the art. My favorite was the box of “Cheesely.” It also said “Less and More.”

The book is brief. The rules usually are only one sentence long with a paragraph or two following.

Read the book, enjoy the art, and follow the rules.

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