The Last Jedi

December 18, 2017 The Last Jedi

The Last Jedi is poised precariously between the past and the future.

The Last Jedi picks up right where The Force Awakens left off. It follows the template laid down by The Empire Strikes back, but with some twists. Rey seeking Luke out for training echoes Luke’s training with Yoda on Dogobah. Instead of a marsh or swamp, we find them on an island. It was filmed on Skelling Michael, an Irish Ireland.  Instead of Sky City, our heroes visit Canta Bight –a cosmic Las Vegas. DJ is the stand in for Lando Calrissian.

Interestingly, the movie makes a social commentary on our current culture. DJ is an opportunistic capitalist whose loyalties lie with whoever pays him the most. And Canto Bight is filled with the rich 1% who made their fortunes off the war machine between the so-called Good and Evil. The Republic giving way to an Empire that eventually crumbles is a very Roman outlook. But the threatened tyranny of the First Order has more in common with Hitler and Trump than Caesar and Nero. However, the Praetorian Guards around Snoke are very much from the Roman Era.

The Red Room and Red Faceless Guards reminded me of Alice in Wonderland for some reason. Snoke was the King of Hearts, hungry to behead someone. Rey surrendering to Kylo Ren and thus Snoke was out of The Return of the Jedi. It was expected that Kylo Ren would kill off Snoke, but what wasn’t expected that he didn’t do it to redeem himself or save Rey. He did it so could over throw his master and blame Rey.

Kylo Ren, or Ben Solo, and Rey do have a connection. Snoke said he forged the connection himself. And Kylo Ren claims that the Rey’s parents are nobody special. And yet, one has to wonder if Ben Solo and Rey aren’t twins.

In the Franchise books of the 1990s and early 2000s, Han and Leia had twins—Jacen and Jaina. Jacen becomes a Sith Lord while Jaina becomes a Jedi Master. It was Luke who had a son named Ben. The movies aren’t following the books exactly, but they do seem to provide inspiration.

What really struck me was Kylo Ren’s line, “Let the past die. Kill it if you have to.” He was obviously talking about his childhood, his Jedi training and even his own father. But you can’t help but feel like he talking about the previous Star Wars movies. The subtext is that they are fighting to keep the franchise fresh. People complain the plots are recycled and boring.

The counter to that claim comes in the form of what Rose says to Finn after the fight on the planet Crait—Crait being the stand in for Hoth.  “That is how we are going to win. Not fighting what we hate, but saving what love.” Though Rose is talking about the Resistance, she is also talking about the franchise. The writers want to keep all the good things from the Star Wars Universe. Instead of destroying the parts they hated, they wanted to celebrate the parts they loved.

The relationship between Luke and Rey and between Finn and Rose underscored the danger we face in meeting our heroes. We want to put them on a pedestal and idolize them, but they are only human. We want them to be perfect, but they are flawed. This is true of the Star Wars franchise as well. We romanticize the past movie and fool ourselves into thinking nothing will ever compare to their perfection. We have to be willing to accept a character, a relationship, a hero or even a movie despite its flaws. It is what it is. Both the good and the bad.

That is why the Jedi Order must come to an end. The Jedi are gone and the Galaxy romanticizes them. They are like the ancient Samurai. We write about them and long for them. But they weren’t perfect. Luke finally recognizes the old ways must change. One master and one apprentice may not be the way to go. But what will be reborn from the ashes of the ancient ways?

The movie ends with a poor boy who is a nobody that is strong with the force. Perhaps he is the future. Perhaps he and others like him will find each other and destroy the First Order together. Rey maybe the Last Jedi, but she isn’t the last one who has the ability to tap into the force! And maybe, just maybe, the movie suggests that the force in all of us—all of the fans and all of humanity even. We all have that potential—that divine nature.

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Lost Girl’s Hybrid Heritage

Lost Girl’s Hybrid Heritage

I recently discovered the Showcase Show Lost Girl and binged watched it on Netflix. The Canadian Urban Fantasy show ran from 2010-2015. It also ran on the SyFy Channel, but I never caught it. While I was watching it, it struck me just how much of the show borrowed from other sources. Having been a fan of the Urban Fantasy and Paranormal Genre’s, it didn’t take much for me to recognize elements from many different sources.

Laurell K Hamilton seems to be the biggest influence on the show. In fact, some fans thought perhaps the show had gone too far in borrowing nearly everything but the names from her books. And it is true that it uses her work as a template, but they eventually found their own footing and put their own spin on the genre.

Bo Dennis is a mash-up of Anita Blake and Meredith Gentry. She is Succubus like Anita, but Fae like Meredith. The Succubus is out of Hebrew or Biblical Mythology, but the Seelie and Unseelie War is straight out of Celtic/Gaelic Mythology. The war between light and dark or Seelie and Unseelie is at the center of the Meredith Gentry series. For a time, the show focused nearly exclusively on Celtic Mythology. It featured Selkies, Red Caps and Brownies.

Bo is short for Ysabeau. Her name may be a reference to the model and actress named Bo Derrick. It may also be a reference to Michelle Pfeiffer’s character in Ladyhawk who was named Isabeau. In addition, the tragic myth of Tristan and Iseult may also be echoed in the character’s name, although Bo acts more like the hero Tristan instead of his love Iseult.

Dyson is first reminded me of Meredith’s lover Doyle, but I realized he was also reminiscent of the Wolf King Richard in the Anita Blake series as well. Shifters played a large role in The Sookie Stackhouse or True Blood series as well. Alcede was Sookie’s lover or boyfriend for awhile in that series.

Hale is a Siren. Sirens come from Greek Mythology. His power is similar to the Celtic Banshee though. Trick, Bo’s Grandfather, is a Blood Mage or Wizard of sorts.

Kenzie had the same spunk as Claudia Donovan on Warehouse 13. Heck, they even dated the same guy—Aaron Ashmore. Aaron played Claudia’s love interest Steve Jinks on Warehouse 13. He was Kenzi’s love interest on Lost Girl as well, but his name was Nate.

The Morrígan’s title may refer to the translation of Phantom Queen or Great queen. The Great Queen Morrigan is a figure from Irish mythology widely considered to be a Goddess or former Goddess. However, Evony Fleurette Marquise acts more like Pam on True Blood. She is elegant, but bitchy. Like Pam, Evony becomes a more sympathetic character by the end of the series though.

Norse Mythology showed in True Blood in the form of Eric Norseman. In Lost Girl, it shows up in the form the Norn and the Yggdrasil Tree first. The artifact the Helskor or Hel Shoes are from Norse Mythology via Jacob Grimm as well.  However, they way they told the tale, it reminded me of the Hans Christian Anderson story The Red Shoes.

Then Norse Mythology takes center stage with Tamsin the Valkyrie. In later seasons, Tamsin visits Valhalla and deals with her boss and teacher Freya. The name Tamsin connects back to Lost Girl’s Celtic Mythology with Peter S Beagle’s novel of the same name. Tamsin, in the novel, is a ghost who reveals the truth about the Scottish/Irish Monmouth Rebellion.

Lost Girl mixes other mythologies in as well. The villain The Geruda is out of Indian Mythology and the Jinn is out of Persian Mythology. The Kitsune are from Japanese Mythology. However, the Kitsune also made an appearance in The Vampire Diaries book The Return: Nightfall.

There are also references to Voodoo and Zombies. The Jumbee, or body jumper, is from Caribbean Mythology and Duppy is the Jamaican word for it. The episode Lovers Apart, Episode 3 of Season 4, reminded me of both the Young Adult Book Anna Dressed in Blood and the movie The Skelton Key for some reason.

In Season 4 and 5 there are references to the Greek Gods. The Modern versions of Zeus, Hera and Hades are a nod to the Percy Jackson Series. Iris and Nyx are wonderful additions. And the gender switching of Hera and Zeus’s Human forms were amusing.  I particularly liked how the Gods, once free of Olympus, live in a penthouse suite. It is not that much unlike Mount Olympus being located on the top of the Empire State Building in Percy Jackson and The Olympians: The Lightening Thief.

The episode Follow The Yellow Trick Road (Season 5 Episode 14) pays homage to the American Fairy Tale The Wizard of Oz and the modern British Fantasy Harry Potter.

Lost Girl is part procedural detective series like the TV show Grimm or the Laurell K Hamilton books, but it is also part Monster of the Week like The X-Files. They even reference The X-Files in Adventures in Fae-bysitting (Season 3 Episode 11). Though it was as much fun as its processors Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Xena, it also moved the femme fatale forward.

As Bo refuses to choose political sides, she also refused to define her sexuality as straight or lesbian. Bo becomes uniquely poised to both unique in the Lost Girl World and in our World both.


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Getting Ahead Of ADHD

Getting Ahead of ADHD:

What The Next Generation of Science Says About Treatments That Work and How You Can Make Them Work For Your Child

 By Joel T Nigg, PhD 2017

ADD and ADHD are caused by both Genetics and Environment. Essentially they are a product of Epigenetics. Genetics, obviously comes from our parents. The Environmental causes are many. Stress, nutrition, exercises, sleep and exposure to chemicals are all part of the picture. ADHD and ADD have to do with self-regulation and exist on a spectrum.

ADHD is connected with obese parents, low birth weight of baby, extreme parent stress, chemical exposure during pregnancy and early childhood, dietary insufficiency, mother consuming alcohol while pregnant and other such things. Food Additives definitely seem to make it worse—particularly Aspartame, BHA, BHT and MSG.

Things that help are: Iron, Magnesium, Zinc, Vitamin D and Omega 3 Fish Oils. Exercise is important for both children and adults with ADHD. Getting more sleep can also help. Violent TV increases aggression, so watch television content.

Some think that ADHD is a lack of dopamine in the brain. That is why stimulants often work. Caffeine, in moderate amounts, may help, but too much will make the ADHD person hyper and hard to deal with! There is also a DNA component. GxE=DNA Susceptibility. Gene editing has been done on CRISPR-COS9.

Self-Regulation, or lack thereof, results in children and adults being impulsive. A person with ADHD may tell themselves that they are NOT going to do something, but then do it anyway. If you have ADHD it is like you can’t help yourself.  It is not a matter of will power.

Anxiety and Anger are connected to ADHD. Kids and Adults who have it are not able to regulate their emotions like other people and therefore, have outbursts of anger and anxiety or panic attacks.

People with ADHD fail to pick up on clues in their surroundings and need more time to process things than others. Most people are relaxed, but alert. A person who has ADHD is NOT relaxed. They are over-stimulated and over-alert—maybe even jumpy. Accumulating and filtering information is a huge problem. People with ADHD can make decisions, but just not as quickly as someone without it. It is more difficult for those with ADHD to filter out distractions and useless information.

Children who have it sometimes grow out of it. Other times, it follows them into adulthood. Is ADHD a disability then? It depends on the severity of it. Children who exhibit symptoms should get tested. Counseling and Medication are currently then only approved treatments right now.


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The Queen of Distraction

The Queen of Distraction:

How Women With ADHD Can Conquer Chaos, Find Focus and Get More Done

By Terry Matlen, MSW

What is ADHD? Well, it is when you get easily distracted, find it difficult to stop behaviors or activities that you find interesting, impulsively make decisions, aren’t able to follow directions or don’t follow through, have trouble following sequences, speed while driving and find it difficult to relax!!!!

My Life Is Buried Under One Of Those Piles! Women with ADHD often have a clutter issue and a messy house.  Why is clutter such an issues? Because of impulsivity, inattention, procrastination and difficulty transitioning from one activity to another. Women with ADHD are often called unmotivated, lazy or selfish, but that is NOT the case.

Matlen suggests a clutter triage where you sort things into three piles: A) Urgent Papers that have a deadline, like bills B) Papers that are Important but not Urgent and C) Papers that can be dealt with at a later time.  Prioritize the papers and try to only handle them once. (Also known as OHIO for Only Handle It Once!) Use a notepad or sticky notes by your phone. White boards and bulletin boards also help!

And There is A Reason It Is Called Housework! It is important to clear kitchen clutter. Make sure the area around your sink is cleared away. Put things in their proper place. If you have a home office, make sure to get lots and lots of filing cabinets. If you can afford it, hire a professional organizer.

Newsflash! Women Has Melt Down in Frozen Food Aisle! Sensory overload in grocery aisle is not unusual for women with ADHD.  There are too many sights, sounds and smells. This often leads to the 7 Bottles of Ketchup and O containers of Milk issue.

Matlen suggests that you make comprehensive grocery lists, maybe even a map of the store and your route to help you. If too many people bother you, choose a smaller market or go at an off time of day—like early morning or late at night on a weekday.  As far as meals are concerned, she talks about POS: Plan or Starve. ADHD women have trouble planning meals, but planning ahead will save lots of headaches. Work out a schedule for meals you like and buy accordingly.

Don’t Entertain or Have People Over If You Don’t Enjoy It!

Tic-Tock Trouble! ADHD women are often chronically late. They dilly dally, dawdle and procrastinate. Why? Fear of failure or success, fearful it will take too long, they are perfectionists, and they find the task at hand boring or unpleasant. They also suffer from a deficit or difficult with their working memory, which makes it difficult to keep everything in their head all at once.

Matlen suggests avoiding falling into the trap of doing “one last thing!”  Plan not for when you have to be some place, but for when you decide is the best time to leave. Include enough time in your travel so that stopping for gas, traffic, etc., does not make you late. And she says when you feel rushed used the STOP method. Stop, Take A Deep Breath, Observe Your Gut Feeling and then SOS. SOS stands for Stop Obsessing Silly!

Clothing Loathing! Many women with ADHD will have cluttered closest and loath picking out outfits for the day. Matlen suggests that women go through and organize closets by season and toss out clothes that haven’t been worn in a year. She talks about how women with ADHD might have sensitivity to scratchy or itchy fabrics. She says we would try to only buy soft fabrics that are tagless and seamless. And when it comes to laundry—create a system so you don’t forget things in the washer or dryer. Keep laundry time organized as well.

So I’m Sensitive, Sue Me! Extreme sensitivity too sight, sound, smell and taste can be a problem. Many women avoid malls, crowded and loud restaurants/bars. Some of them have texture issues as well and appear to have OCD because they can’t stand things that are sticky or gooey. They are often overly sensitive emotions-wise as well. This can be an issue when criticisms from friends, family and co-workers are taken too personally.

Hormonal Humps, Bumps and Flashes! Girls are often quieter than boys, so they don’t have symptoms or get their diagnosis until later. PMS, Pregnancy and Peri-Menopausal Periods can make ADHD worse. Matlen warns that if she is “Homicidal, Weepy and Sweaty, Don’t Mess With Her!”

Working Hard At Working! ADHD can cause poor career decisions and make work difficult. Matlen suggests you don’t disclose your ADHD at work unless you feel it is absolutely necessary. It can make things worse, not better.  At work you will need to focus on keeping your desk or area clutter-free and focus on minimizing distractions. Matlen says to find a quiet meeting room or someplace out of the way to work on projects. She also suggests record meetings to be played back later so you can catch everything that was said. Take lots of breaks and maybe even use noise canceling headphones or music to help you focus.

Conclusion: The Law is on your side with The Americans With Disabilities Act.  Work to get to know yourself and what shortcuts or extra steps will help you function better. Get an assistant, childcare, tutors, therapists, bookkeepers, housekeepers, etc, if you can. If that isn’t a possibility, Delegate responsibility to others in your house. And, above all, learn to RELAX!




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$2.00 A Day: Living on Almost Nothing In America

$2.00 A Day: Living On Almost Nothing In America

By Katheryn J Edin and Luke Schaefer, 2015

After the Civil War in the 1870s, Aid was created for the Windows of the War.  That was about all that was available until the Great Depression in the 1930s.  Then the Aid for Dependent Children was created—also known as ADC.  ADC took a backseat to creation of Social Security for the disabled and elderly in 1935.

The few thousand who received aid rose from a few thousand to 3.6 Million in 1962. However, aid was largely segregated. Blacks didn’t receive near as much aid as their white counterparts. Teen mothers were discouraged from applying.  Then the book The Other America: Poverty in America came out in 1962, bringing attention to all of these issues.

President Lyndon Johnson declared war on Poverty in 1964.  In the 1970s Richard Nixon created the Food Stamp program.  Reduced and Free Lunches Programs were also put in place.  AFDC or Aid to Families of Dependent Children created.  The number of people on Welfare jumped from 4.2 Million to 11.3 Million largely because they were now including more minorities and single mothers. The NWRO or National Welfare Rights Organization was responsible for getting aid for more people.  They did away with stupid White Glove Tests and unfair decisions making processes.

Ronald Regan ran in 1976, but lost.  In 1980, he won the Presidency.  He made a famous speech about The Welfare Queen who was his villain. She was black and decked out in furs and driving a Cadillac to appointments. The truth was that more white families received welfare than black families.  Regan was influenced by Losing Ground by Charles Murry, who was a Libertarian.  He believed that the poor were going to remain poor as long as we kept giving them handouts.  In his opinion, welfare didn’t lift the poor up. It kept them down. It was our duty to help them escape the spider web of dependency. However, studies done in 80s showed that most Welfare users were on Welfare temporarily for two years or so.  They were not lifelong users and abusers of the system.

The book Poor Support by David Ellwood proposed four ways to uplift the poor and keep them from needing Welfare forever.  1) Raise Minimum Wage 2) Earned Income Tax Credit. 3) Education and Training for Jobs 3) Limit on Time To Receive Benefits

Bill Clinton ran for President on the platform of creating Welfare Reform.  This made him more popular and perhaps got him elected.  He wasn’t offering a hand up or handout. Instead, he offered a hand off.  1995 saw the proposal for Welfare Reform. By 1996, it had been approved.  Cuts were made to Medicaid and Food Stamps.  No real money was put into training and education.  Mary Jo Bane and Peter Edelman who were in charge of the programs quit after the bill passed.

At first it seemed Welfare Reform was a good thing. Unemployment rates dropped. TANIF or Temporary Aid For Families in Need programs were going unused. However, other problems began popping up.  Low Wage jobs were not helping the poor get ahead.

By 2014, there were a portion of those in poverty who were surviving on SNAP benefits only. The low wage jobs were hard to find and keep.  Most of these low wage jobs required the employee be flexible with their schedule—working evenings and weekends.  When employees try to ask for time off they are often punished by a reduction in hours.  They aren’t fired, but are often forced to quit.  The up and down hours make SNAP benefits difficult to rely on since they are dependent on income.

The Welfare Reform pushed more people to work, but it didn’t improve working conditions or low wages. Minimum wage is $6 to $9 dollars an hour, which isn’t a livable wage. Many workers hope to find a job that pays at least $12 to $13 an hour.  Conditions border on slave labor sometimes.  Minimum Wage workers don’t get sick days, health insurance or retirement.

Education isn’t always the answer. Those in poverty can afford to go. Those in poverty often have to drop out of high school to work.  There is not enough time in the day to work and go to school—especially if they have children. And an education is NOT a guarantee that they will get a better job.

Many $2 a day families have unstable housing conditions.  They sleep on couches of friends and family members.  Rents have risen faster than inflation.  Wages have dropped while rents have sky rocketed. A Minimum Wage job—even a full time one—is not enough to pay for rent and utilities. Section 8 Housing helps, but only a handful of people. There are waiting lists in bigger cities ranging from 85,000 to 268,000.  Landlords buy up cheap housing, but can’t afford to fix them up and maintain them. Many abandon houses and move on to other houses in the neighborhood.

Abuse is unfortunately common in the USA. However, it is much more common among $2 a day families.  Why? Because if a family stays with friends or families it increases the likelihood of verbal, physical and sexual abuse.

The poor have to employ Survival Strategies. They seek out Public Help other than SNAP or Welfare.  They make use of Private Charities and Food Pantries.  The Salvation Army, Goodwill and Catholic Charities are the major players.  They find School Supply Give Aways and Utilize Public Libraries. The find Medical and Dental Clinics that offer free services, but have to wait in line for hours—sometimes a whole day without being seeing.  They also find creative ways to generate income like collecting scrap metals and selling them or selling their plasma.  In the end, they often just have to find a way to make do with less.

Prostitution is another way to make money, but it isn’t often as cut and dry as selling one’s self for sex on the street corner. It is often doing sexual favors in return for someone allowing you stay with them or in return for them paying a bill or two.

In Poor Support, Ellwood said that any Welfare or Aid Programs must be in alignment with American Values. He says we must not just reform Welfare, but replace it with a better program. Programs must promote Autonomy of the Individual, which means those on Welfare must feel like they have some power over their lives.  Americans must have a program that promotes the Virture of Work. Americans need opportunities not just handouts.  The truth is most Americans want to work. They don’t like taking handouts and feeling dependent on other people.  Family is very important to the American.  This means help should be designed to keep families together, not tear them apart.  Americans also crave a sense of community.  They don’t like feeling isolated by their financial problems.

Although TANIF is still available to poor families, many don’t realize it or don’t think it is worth it. Generally cash benefits require proof of intensive jobs searches—up to 30 hours a week—which can take time out of taking care of their families and making money in other ways.  They may be subjected to job training that doesn’t result in them getting a job at all.  Not Graduating High School or Felony Convictions or even being the wrong race can prevent the poor from getting good jobs or any job at all.

In order to lift up the $2 a day poor Work Support is Key.  Offering help with dependable transportation and childcare is another important way to make sure the impoverished can not only get jobs, but keep them.  Wages need to be raised to at least $10 an hour at least, but $15 an hour is preferable.  Hours should be guaranteed. Employers should be forced to give full time employees at least 35 hours a week and part time employees at least 25 hours a week. Business can still turn a profit and treat their employees well!  Also, creative ways to employee partially disabled workers would be desirable as well.

Solving the housing issues the plague the impoverished is key as well. The poor need a place to call their own that is physically dangerous.  Right now subsidized housing is our best bet. There are already some places available, but more of these would help greatly.

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Why Nations Fail

Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty

Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson, 2012

The book applies insights from institutional economics, development economics and economic history to understand why nations develop differently, with some succeeding in the accumulation of power and prosperity and others failing, via a wide range of historical case studies.

In the first chapter they compare the USA to Mexico and Peru. The USA has been relatively prosperous while Mexico and Peru have not been. Why is that they wonder. When each government was forming, they went through different things. The USA, particularly in the 1800s, gave patents to anyone who had a good idea and land was given to those who claimed it and homesteaded. Patents and Land are examples of Inclusive Economics.  Mexico and Peru, among other countries, only gave opportunities to those who were already rich and powerful. This is an Exclusive type of Economics.

The authors examined the reasons typically given for the divide between rich and poor countries. Geography has been listed as one of the reasons traditionally.  And it is true to that most of the rich countries are in the Northern Hemisphere, while the poor ones are mostly in the Southern Hemisphere.  Other Economists try to argue that it has to do with difficulty with agriculture or poor education, but the authors of Why Nations Fail disagree.

In my Social Work Class about Women and Children in Developing Countries back in 2002, we talked about how Colonialism and Patriarchy were two key factors in keeping poor countries poor. There would be much social unrest, particularly for the first few years that the Colonizing Country pulled out and left the government.  The US won their freedom early on and grew prosperous after a short period of unrest.

Acemoglu and Robinson go on to talk about England and the Glorious Revolution. First came the Magna Carta and then eventually the formation of Parliament.  Soon the Industrial Revolution came and England became the most prosperous country in the world. Becoming Pluralistic and Developing Parliament allowed England to embrace the Industrial Revolution and become an Inclusive Economy. That is why it thrived.

France didn’t thrive until the French Revolution happened. Once the Monarchy was overthrown, the government shifted from Exclusive and Extractive to more Inclusive. The Rich Aristocracy essentially taxed all the poor people and allowed all the rich to just grow richer. This meant they were essentially sucking the life out of the Economy. When more people had opportunities to better themselves and their lives, the Economy rebounded.

Although the Mid-1800s were a time of Growth for the USA, the early 1900s saw a shift in things.  The rich US Barons fought a very public war against the Mudracker Journalists who called them out and called for change.  Eventually monopolies were broken up and things like The New Deal were put in place.  And once again, the Economy rebounded.

Acemoglu and Robinson discuss the idea of the Virtuous Circle Vs the Vicious Circle. A Virtuous Circle will give positive feedback into the Economy and keep thing moving and growing. A Vicious Circle will give negative feedback and keep the poor from ever rising to middle class and beyond.  They use the Mayan City-States in Pre-Colonial Mexico as an example of a Vicious Circle that led to the Failure of the Mayan Civilization.  Other examples they used of Vicious Circles or Negative Feedback were Zimbabwe, Somalia and Sierra Leon in Africa.

Uzbekistan was another example of a country that had benefited from being Colonized by the Soviet Union. When Soviet Union broke-up and then left their colony President Kasimov took over. He held fraudulent elections and kept himself in power indefinitely. He has also forced children in hard labor—harvesting the cotton crop, which is their biggest export. While the thinly veiled Dictatorship has kept Uzbekistan from failing completely, it is floundering.  The short term pay off are already damaging the long term prospects for this country. The effort to grow tea on the land failed due to Kasimov’s unwillingness to give up any power whatsoever.  Uzbekistan will mostly likely collapse in the near future.

Argentina was a peculiar case and unique in many ways. The country was one of the richest back in 1914 when the Peron’s took over.  Elections were bought and sold. Though they appeared to be democratic, they really weren’t.  Eventually, they corralled the money of their citizens, forcing them to exchange their American Dollar for the Peso. This meant they effectively stole money from everyone in the country and deflated the economy. Now their economy is stagnant. It hasn’t collapsed entirely, but hasn’t grown either.

After using many examples to illustrate their theories, the authors concluded their book. They didn’t really make any recommendations for trying to keep your own personal country afloat, however, they did mention that freedom of the press was a key part of keeping an Inclusive Economy.

Overall, I thought they had an interesting theory. The biggest criticism general readers had was how much information they had to wade through to get the basic idea of what the authors were trying to say. And it is not a small book at 556 pages to be sure, but it was a pretty quick read for me. Organization was the other criticism on  And it is true that they did jump around a bit. Taking notes helped me keep their points in order though. It wasn’t too much of a detractor.  Other Economists complained about the lack of graphs and statistics. Adding such things might have improved it.  Still, it was definitely worth a read if you are curious about politics, economics and the like.

For more information you check out the Why Nations Fail Blog at

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July 1, 2017 Gentrification

Gentrification comes from the old French word genterise, which means “of gentle birth.”  The term refers to the process of renovating poor urban neighborhoods. Gentrification can be seen as an attempt to beautify or civilize the lawless inner city.  Essentially, investors buy up cheap falling down homes and businesses. Then they fix them up and flip them.  Although some of the efforts might be altruistic, many are motivated by profit.

The largest problem with gentrification is the displacement of the poor. Once property values go up, so do property taxes and the poor can no longer afford their Ghetto homes.  Starbucks and Yoga Studios may be more pleasing to look at than outdated laundromats and falling down department stores, but they don’t solve any real problems. Pouring the Middle Class back into City Centers doesn’t lift up the Poor. It merely replaces them.

Pouring money into Education and Health Care would produce better long term results. Giving those in poverty opportunities to better themselves is a way to make those of rough birth a chance to become gentler.  Addressing the wage gap, inflation and racism is more important than giving a neighborhood a facelift.

It is sad to drive by boarded up businesses and abandoned homes. Economists talk about deindustrialization, the great white flight from the cities to the suburbs and desegregation, but nobody seems to be willing to admit that cheap land outside the city and a desire for higher profits created the poverty of the inner city.  Gentrification for profit just creates all new problems. True change can only take place when we invest in people, not places.

Anyway, I’d never heard the term Gentrification until I got to Season 5 of Shameless. I thought it was an interesting theme or subtext to the show and I’ve seen it in real life. From Denver to Mansfield, I see efforts to try and improve Urban Decay.  Hell, even Monett and Shelby have continued to evolve and change.

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