Author Archive for



19
Aug
16

get your gay on

Show Tunes from the Archive

I have posted nearly 1,900 selections as “The Groove of the Day,” but surprisingly few have been show tunes. I don’t know what that says about me… but in my opinion, they’re some of the most enjoyable songs I’ve got out there and worth a second listen.

In this post, I’ve purposely excluded the songs from any movies. As the recent post about Marni Nixon noted, over the years there has been a lot of Hollywood trickery with voiceovers—as my son recently reminded me of this scene from Singin’ In the Rain:

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These aren’t even necessarily the best tunes from their respective shows. They’re just some of the “Grooves” I’ve previously run.

By the way, if you enjoy any of these tunes, it doesn’t mean you’re gay. I understand that no less an anti-LGBT politician than Ted Cruz relaxes before stressful events by calling his wife and singing her show tunes.

If Ted can get into them, you can too!

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Grooves of the Day

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Listen to Mary Martin and the cast of Peter Pan performing “I Won’t Grow Up”

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Listen to Robert Morse in How to Succeed In Business performing “I Believe in You”

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Listen to the cast of The Most Happy Fella performing “Oh, There’s the Postman”

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Listen to Josie DeGuzman in Guys and Dolls performing “If I Were a Bell”

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Listen to Shorty Long and Susan Johnson in The Most Happy Fella performing “Big D”

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Listen to the cast of Annie performing “It’s the Hard-Knock Life”

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Listen to Alan Cumming in Cabaret performing “Money, Money”

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Listen to Ron Moody and the London cast of Oliver! performing “You’ve Got to Pick a Pocket or Two”

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Listen to Juanita Hall in South Pacific performing “Bali Ha’i”

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Listen to the cast of Hair performing “Let the Sunshine In”

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By the way, it’s my 44th Wedding Anniversary today.

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18
Aug
16

books: a thing of the past?

reading-under-covers.

One of my fondest childhood memories is the smell of the River Park Library. I was too young at the time to know that the distinctive aroma—described as a sweet smell with notes of vanilla flowers and almonds, and now so nostalgic to me—was caused by the breakdown of chemical compounds in the paper of the books in the library’s collection. It was, in other words, the smell of destruction, but I didn’t realize that at the time. My mother used to take us there every week to get a stack of children’s books, and I loved it. Those books were one of my major windows on the world, but I’m sure few of them, if any, still exist. The River Park Library has long since closed down.

My grandfather was one of the major booksellers of my hometown, and today his books are among the most prized relics of my childhood. His unabridged dictionary, always a feature of his den, commands a prominent presence in my home today. For every “A” I got on my report card, I could pick out a book from my grandfather’s bookshop to keep. Today I still associate books with reward.

I also associate books with redemption from life’s great travails. For fifteen years before she contracted cancer, Holly dealt with Multiple Sclerosis. At one point she was wheelchair-bound, a blind quadriplegic. She would not let the condition defeat her, though, and I still remember being shaken awake at 3:00 in the morning:  “Dan, Dan… I’ve got a great idea for a magazine about children’s books.” And then she went on to describe what eventually became The Five Owls, one of the leading journals about children’s literature for librarians and teachers. For seven years (until she died), Holly directed its publication from the sofa in our living room or from her home office in the next room—whatever she was up for on any particular day. As the publisher of The Five Owls, Holly received a tremendous amount of professional acclaim and personal satisfaction.

By the time she died, her collection of children’s books numbered over 6,000 volumes, and the last months of her life were devoted to the creation of a well-appointed reading room to house them at a local university that specialized in teacher education. But alas, nothing is permanent. Within a couple years of her death that library, too, was disbursed to several schools in the area. I was glad that Holly wasn’t able to witness her library’s ignominious end.

In the end, my only intact libraries were those which existed in our home. It was in that environment that I discovered one of the most useful metaphors for arriving at creative solutions to life’s problems: that I am an author writing a story in which anything is possible, that any book may hold the key to an intractable issue. Unfortunately, my books are still boxed up and in storage, and I feel as though I’m functioning without part of my brain. Since the stroke, what was begun with limited access to books has been intensified by my inability to read books anymore. Usually the type is too small or I can no longer hold them for extended periods of time.

Yet, I still want my books. I want my brain back. Even if I am only able to direct others to key sources and passages, I want to be able to do that.

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17
Aug
16

mendacity

Derek and Alex as kids.

This bothers me more than it should, but it does. A few days ago, my housekeeper told me Derek is putting out the story into the community that I started the altercation that I wrote about in the post, “Playing With Fire.” His version of what happened is ridiculous on its face, but some people will believe anything. If you were to see the balance issues with which I am dealing, you would wonder why I would start anything with an able-bodied young man in his late 20s. It just isn’t plausible.

Derek was here for six months six years ago, but it seems to me that he has learned nothing in those elapsed years. (No, I take that back. He has learned to drive better, in part because of the car we helped him to purchase.) He still holds on to the lessons he learned in his youth before I ever met him. And I am speaking of the fact that if you cannot face the truth of your actions, you can just as easily make something up as a justification, and some people will swallow it.

I know this technique firsthand. Both brothers have accused me of actions and motivations that are entirely false and for which there exists not a shred of evidence. Until Derek assaulted me, I had persisted in believing that Derek was the “sane” brother, more of a victim. But that has changed through experience and my struggle to make sense of both brothers’ acts.

The only thing I can figure is that the two of them had colluded on an elaborate shakedown scheme—an ex-girlfriend of Alex’s told me he had once mentioned my stroking out and his taking over the property. But as both brothers have seen since arriving here, any assets are modest and already tied up. Distasteful though it might seem, the property would require determined work, could never be sold, and would have to be shared with others.

When Derek’s brother Alex was here this spring, Alex told me that Ricky Chavis had nothing to do with the plan to murder Terry King. You will recall that in their trial, Derek and Alex accused Ricky of complicity in Terry’s death. But if Alex is to be believed now, he came up with the murder plan himself and talked Derek into it.

Readers will also recall that there were two murder trials in Florida: one for the King Brothers, and one for Ricky Chavis. This caused troubling confusion on both juries, even if the prosecutor wouldn’t sort it out. The brothers were assigned responsibility for the murder, but they were given relatively short sentences because it was believed that the murder would not have happened without Chavis’ “suggestion.” Chavis was exonerated of the murder by his jury, but he received a long prison sentence because of his post-crime cover-up actions. Now it seems that the murder was as big a surprise to Chavis as anybody, and that lying about his involvement in the murder itself was a successful strategy for the boys.

The lesson this taught to the King Brothers is being applied today in both boys’ lives. The truth doesn’t matter, only what will result in the least amount of pain or inconvenience in the short term.

I want nothing to do with this short-sighted ethic, and I will not knowingly abet its continuation. Derek says that if he hadn’t killed Terry King, Terry would have killed Alex. This “justification” for the crime is, in my opinion, an invention. No matter how strict or misguided Terry King’s parenting was, he did not deserve to die.

Unless each boy faces the truth of what actually happened, healing and redemption are impossible.

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16
Aug
16

tiny houses

tumbleweedhouses2.

One evening last week, I watched a documentary about four young people in Portland OR who are building their own houses and who are supposed to epitomize the “tiny house” movement.

Simply put, it is a social movement where people are choosing to downsize the space they live in. The typical American home is around 2,600 square feet, whereas the typical small or tiny house is between 100 and 400 square feet. Tiny houses come in all shapes, sizes, and forms, but they enable simpler living in a smaller, more efficient space—kind of like living on a yacht without all the money that entails.

People are joining this movement for many reasons: the most popular of which include environmental concerns, affordability, and the desire for more time and freedom. A growing number of Americans have become caregivers to senior family members, so an increasing number of “Granny Units” are being built as Auxiliary Dwelling Units (some of them with tricked-out medical amenities) behind larger homes. For most Americans, a third to half of their income is dedicated to putting a roof over their heads; this translates to 15-30 years of working over your lifetime just to pay the mortgage. Because of this, 76% of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck. Henry complains to me all the time that housing has become unaffordable for most people earning median-to-average incomes.

I like the idea of downsizing into radically smaller quarters—in fact, I have done it—but after researching the market for “tiny houses,” I find most of them so butt-ugly, it would be impossible for an aesthetic like me to live in one of them.

Tiny houses fall into two categories: stationary (attached) and on-wheels (mobile). Stationary homes tend to be more expensive or are in locations where you wouldn’t want to live. On-wheel homes tend to run afoul of the people who build “manufactured” (trailer) homes or, unlike the above illustration, look like something from an Al Capp cartoon. So either way, you’ve usually got to settle for some sort of Dogpatch solution and the social approbation that goes with it. If you can afford to live in a more attractive and popular neighborhood, tiny houses are usually at variance with prevailing zoning restrictions (unless they’re built as auxiliary units).

That’s why it took me so long to find Estrella Vista. It combines a small dwelling-space (343 square feet, plus 170 square feet for the sleeping loft), traditional construction (adobe), cheap land, low taxes, no zoning restrictions, and unbeatable aesthetics. I bought the main property (20 acres) and immediately began buying up the surrounding land so I wouldn’t have to suffer the unknown horrors of neighbors moving in and blighting my views. I love the only neighbors I have. I’ve had Estrella Vista for 7 years, and it is paid for in full. I can add onto the property at my leisure.

If most tiny houses were well-designed, I wouldn’t have a problem with them. But most are do-it-yourself affairs or created by builders who are long on utility and short on taste and imagination. I think that living small and simple is an admirable challenge, one that needs to influence all housing. I only wish that more of the practitioners in the small house movement were up to the requirements of leading the way.

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15
Aug
16

civility

children - civility.

The Decline of Civility

by Walter E. Williams, Townhall

August 10, 2016

One of the unavoidable consequences of youth is the tendency to think behavior we see today has always been. I’d like to dispute that vision, at least as it pertains to black people.

I graduated from Philadelphia’s Benjamin Franklin High School in 1954. Franklin’s predominantly black students were from the poorest North Philadelphia neighborhoods. During those days, there were no policemen patrolling the hallways. Today close to 400 police patrol Philadelphia schools. There were occasional after-school fights—rumbles, as we called them—but within the school, there was order. In contrast with today, students didn’t use foul language to teachers, much less assault them.

Places such as the Richard Allen housing project, where I lived, became some of the most dangerous and dysfunctional places in Philadelphia. Mayhem—in the form of murders, shootings and assaults—became routine. By the 1980s, residents found that they had to have window bars and multiple locks. The 1940s and ’50s Richard Allen project, as well as other projects, bore no relation to what they became. Many people never locked their doors; windows weren’t barred. We did not go to bed with the sound of gunshots. Most of the residents were two-parent families with one or both parents working.

How might one explain the greater civility of Philadelphia and other big-city, predominantly black neighborhoods and schools during earlier periods compared with today? Would anyone argue that during the ’40s and ’50s, there was less racial discrimination and poverty? Was academic performance higher because there were greater opportunities? Was civility in school greater in earlier periods because black students had more black role models in the form of black principals, teachers and guidance counselors? That’s nonsense, at least in northern schools. In my case, I had no more than three black teachers throughout primary and secondary school.

Starting in the 1960s, the values that made for civility came under attack. Corporal punishment was banned. This was the time when the education establishment and liberals launched their agenda that undermined lessons children learned from their parents and the church. Sex education classes undermined family/church strictures against premarital sex. Lessons of abstinence were ridiculed, considered passe, and replaced with lessons about condoms, birth control pills and abortion. Further undermining of parental authority came with legal and extralegal measures to assist teenage abortions, often with neither parental knowledge nor parental consent.

Customs, traditions, moral values and rules of etiquette are behavioral norms, transmitted mostly by example, word of mouth and religious teachings. As such, they represent a body of wisdom distilled through the ages by experience and trial and error. The nation’s liberals—along with the education establishment, pseudo-intellectuals and the courts—have waged war on traditions, customs and moral values. Many people have been counseled to believe that there are no moral absolutes. Instead, what’s moral or immoral is a matter of personal convenience, personal opinion, what feels good or what is or is not criminal.

We no longer condemn or shame self-destructive and rude behavior, such as out-of-wedlock pregnancies, dependency, cheating and lying. We have replaced what worked with what sounds good. The abandonment of traditional values has negatively affected the nation as a whole, but blacks have borne the greater burden. This is seen by the decline in the percentage of black two-parent families. Today a little over 30% of black children live in an intact family, where as early as the late 1800s, over 70% did. Black illegitimacy in 1938 was 11%, and that for whites was 3%. Today it’s respectively 73% and 30%.

It is the height of dishonesty, as far as blacks are concerned, to blame our problems on slavery, how white people behave and racial discrimination. If those lies are not exposed, we will continue to look for external solutions when true solutions are internal. Those of us who are old enough to know better need to expose these lies.

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Walter Edward Williams is an American economist, commentator, and academic. He is the John M. Olin Distinguished Professor of Economics at George Mason University, as well as a syndicated columnist. He writes frequently on the sociology of race and ethnic relations and is black.

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quote-you-ultimately-judge-the-civility-of-a-society-not-by-how-it-treats-the-rich-the-powerful-bryan-stevenson-114-14-75.

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14
Aug
16

derailing?

14TRUMP1-master768.

Inside the Failing Mission to Tame Donald Trump’s Tongue

by Alexander Burns and Maggie Haberman, The New York Times

August 13, 2016

Donald J. Trump was in a state of shock: He had just fired his campaign manager and was watching the man discuss his dismissal at length on CNN. The rattled candidate’s advisers and family seized the moment for an intervention.

Joined by his daughter Ivanka and her husband, Jared Kushner, a cluster of Mr. Trump’s confidants pleaded with him to make that day—June 20—a turning point.

He would have to stick to a teleprompter and end his freestyle digressions and insults, like his repeated attacks on a Hispanic federal judge. Paul Manafort, Mr. Trump’s campaign chairman, and Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey argued that Mr. Trump had an effective message, if only he would deliver it. For now, the campaign’s polling showed, too many voters described him in two words: “unqualified” and “racist.”

Mr. Trump bowed to his team’s entreaties, according to four people with detailed knowledge of the meeting, who described it on the condition of anonymity. It was time, he agreed, to get on track.

Nearly two months later, the effort to save Mr. Trump from himself has plainly failed. He has repeatedly signaled to his advisers and allies his willingness to change and adapt, but has grown only more volatile and prone to provocation since then, clashing with a Gold Star family, making comments that have been seen as inciting violence and linking his political opponents to terrorism.

Advisers who once hoped a Pygmalion-like transformation would refashion a crudely effective political showman into a plausible American president now increasingly concede that Mr. Trump may be beyond coaching. He has ignored their pleas and counsel as his poll numbers have dropped, boasting to friends about the size of his crowds and maintaining that he can read surveys better than the professionals.

In private, Mr. Trump’s mood is often sullen and erratic, his associates say. He veers from barking at members of his staff to grumbling about how he was better off following his own instincts during the primaries and suggesting he should not have heeded their calls for change.

He broods about his souring relationship with the news media, calling Mr. Manafort several times a day to talk about specific stories. Occasionally, Mr. Trump blows off steam in bursts of boyish exuberance: At the end of a fund-raiser on Long Island last week, he playfully buzzed the crowd twice with his helicopter.

But in interviews with more than 20 Republicans who are close to Mr. Trump or in communication with his campaign, many of whom insisted on anonymity to avoid clashing with him, they described their nominee as exhausted, frustrated and still bewildered by fine points of the political process and why his incendiary approach seems to be sputtering.

He is routinely preoccupied with perceived slights, for example raging to aides after Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, in his re-election announcement, said he would stand up to the next president regardless of party. In a visit to Capitol Hill in early July, Mr. Trump bickered with two Republican senators who had not endorsed him; he needled Representative Peter T. King of New York for having taken donations from him over the years only to criticize him on television now.

And Mr. Trump has begun to acknowledge to associates and even in public that he might lose. In an interview on CNBC on Thursday, he said he was prepared to face defeat.

“I’ll just keep doing the same thing I’m doing right now,” he said. “And at the end, it’s either going to work, or I’m going to, you know, I’m going to have a very, very nice, long vacation.”

Jason Miller, a spokesman for Mr. Trump, said the Republican nominee was still determined to win, and dismissed accounts that he was downcast. Mr. Miller pointed to the crowds Mr. Trump attracts as a sign of strength.

“Behind the scenes we have a very motivated and very focused candidate in Donald Trump, who knows what he needs to do to win this race,” Mr. Miller said.

People around Mr. Trump and his operation say they are not ready to abandon hope of a turnaround. But he is in a dire predicament, Republicans say, because he is profoundly uncomfortable in the role of a typical general election candidate, disoriented by the crosscurrents he must now navigate and still relying impulsively on a pugilistic formula that guided him to the nomination.

His advisers are still convinced of the basic potency of a sales pitch about economic growth and a shake-up in Washington, and they aspire to compete in as many as 21 states, despite Mr. Trump’s perilous standing in the four states—Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania and North Carolina—likely to decide the election.

Charles R. Black Jr., an influential Republican lobbyist supporting Mr. Trump, said the campaign was in a continuing struggle to tame him.

“He has three or four good days and then makes another gaffe,” Mr. Black said. “Hopefully, he can have some more good days.” Of Mr. Trump’s advisers, Mr. Black said, “They think he is making progress in terms of being able to make set speeches and not take the bait on every attack somebody makes on him.”

Mr. Trump’s advisers now hope to steady him by pairing him on the trail with familiar, more seasoned figures—people he views as peers and enjoys spending time with, like former Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani of New York and former Gov. Mike Huckabee of Arkansas.

Mr. Giuliani, who campaigned with Mr. Trump early in the week, said he did not see the candidate as unmoored or unhappy. If anyone was disconcerted, Mr. Giuliani suggested, it was the people steering his campaign.

“He doesn’t seem to be as unnerved by these things that go wrong as the people around him,” Mr. Giuliani said. Still, he allowed, “I think it is true that maybe it took him a little while to realize that we’re moving from a primary campaign to a presidential campaign.”

Mr. Trump, he said, had become “a little bit more realizing there are certain days left and you’ve got to get messages out on those days.”

Even before Mr. Trump’s most recent spate of incendiary comments, Republicans who dealt with him after the primaries came away alarmed by his obvious unease as the de facto party leader. After a meeting in late May between Mr. Trump and Karl Rove, the architect of George W. Bush’s presidential victories, Mr. Rove told associates he was stunned by Mr. Trump’s poor grasp of campaign basics, including how to map out a schedule and use data to reach voters.

Sitting with Mr. Rove in the Manhattan apartment of a mutual friend, the casino magnate Steve Wynn, Mr. Trump said he would compete in states like Oregon, which has not voted Republican since Ronald Reagan’s 1984 landslide. Mr. Rove later told people he believed Mr. Trump was confused and scared in anticipation of the general election, according to people who have heard Mr. Rove’s account.

A few weeks later, when Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey brokered a meeting at Trump Tower between Mr. Trump and governors from around the country, Mr. Trump offered a desultory performance, bragging about his poll numbers, listening passively as the governors talked about their states and then sending them on their way.

Mr. Trump never asked them for their support, three people briefed on the meeting said.

With donors, Mr. Trump has been an indifferent ambassador for his campaign. He has resisted making fund-raising calls and, during at least two major events in July, in New York and Chicago, burned valuable hours with potential contributors by asking them to go around the room, one by one, giving him their thoughts on whom he should pick as his running mate.

That left little time for the donors to query Mr. Trump about policy or strategy, or for him to reassure them about his campaign. Jay Bergman, an Illinois oil executive who attended the event in Chicago, said he wondered if Mr. Trump had taken that approach “to avoid answering questions.”

On matters of policy, too, Mr. Trump has engaged only fleetingly, and idiosyncratically. Before delivering a policy speech in Detroit on Monday, he delegated the formation of an economic plan to a few conservative economists outside his campaign, who consulted him from time to time and ultimately haggled over the details in his office as he followed their conversation.

Stephen Moore, a Heritage Foundation fellow, said he and Arthur Laffer, the supply-side economist, had tangled over the top tax bracket while Mr. Trump observed from behind his desk, eventually siding with Mr. Moore. Mr. Trump, he said, also expressed strong views about the taxation of interest on business loans, citing his experience as a developer.

“He’s a typical businessman, right?” Mr. Moore said. “He lets people argue it out, and Arthur made his case and others made their case.”

“He’s not the world’s expert on the tax code,” Mr. Moore added, “but he has very good intuition about how these things will affect real people.”

At the last minute, Mr. Trump interjected to direct his advisers to incorporate a tax deduction for the cost of child care in his economic plan. The issue, which Mr. Trump had not discussed on the campaign trail, is a favorite of his daughter Ivanka.

Mr. Trump’s reliance on his family has only grown more pronounced. Mr. Kushner, Mr. Trump’s son-in-law, who has no background in politics, has expanded his role: He now has broad oversight over areas including the campaign’s budget, messaging and strategy, with the power to approve spending. Mr. Trump has also continued to seek advice from Corey Lewandowski, the campaign manager whom Mr. Trump ousted in June at his children’s urging.

Efforts to bring in high-profile, experienced hands have been fruitless. Mr. Kushner had suggested enlisting Steve Schmidt, Senator John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign manager, but despite having met once with Mr. Trump during the primaries and speaking with him a few times, Mr. Schmidt never signed on.

Mr. Trump’s advisers believe he is nearly out of time to right his campaign. On Tuesday, hours before his explosive comment about “Second Amendment people” taking action if Mrs. Clinton is elected, his brain trust reassembled again at Trump Tower in a reprise of their stern meeting in June.

They again urged Mr. Trump to adjust his tone and comportment. The top pollster, Tony Fabrizio, gave an unvarnished assessment, warning that Mr. Trump’s numbers would only move in one direction, absent a major change.

Mr. Trump, people briefed on the meeting said, digested the advice and responded receptively.

It was time, he agreed, to get on track.

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Alexander Burns is the Metro reporter covering politics for The Times. Maggie Haberman is a political correspondent for The Times and a political analyst for CNN. Both are based in New York City and were formerly employed by Politico.

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13
Aug
16

living on credit

clear cutting.

Last month I screwed up. One of the kids had a tuition payment in July, and I’d forgotten to deduct it.

If Rick at the General Store hadn’t agreed to hold my last check in the pay period for a couple of days, I would have had to go without food. But his generosity didn’t make that necessary. Karen, too, agreed to let me write a check for her housekeeping services, and hold it for a couple days. So that’s how I squeaked by.

A couple days ago, Amazon told me they couldn’t process a $1.29 payment for digital music, and I thought I’d done it again. But I called the bank, discovered I still had money in my account, and had simply forgotten to update new credit card information with Amazon.

So I wasn’t at rock bottom, after all.

Around this same time, a reader sent me a link to the video below, saying that maybe it would make a good post. Unlike my personal experience, the world is living on credit and sinking deeper in “debt” every year.

As of Monday, August 8, humanity has consumed all the resources that the planet can renew in a year. So she lives on “credit” until December 31, according to calculations by the NGO Global Footprint Network. This day occurs more and earlier each year. In 2015, the “day of tolerance” had occurred on August 13. The date has been moving up inexorably since the 1970s.

The time for restraint is yesterday, if not sooner.

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