Decline and Fall of The U.S. Empire

Back when typewriters dotted the earth, I read Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, but I can’t remember, when did they realize the end was near? Probably between the bottom of the eighth and the top of the ninth. Can’t remember whether they played baseball either.

I’m not sure what inning we’re in, but if Dayton, Ohio is our frame of reference, a few pitchers and catchers are stirring in the bullpen.

Recently, in the deep recesses of my pea brain, I’ve been outlining a course that explores our nation’s decline. This intellectual exercise was prompted by an incredibly tight and excellent 55 minute long ProPublica/Frontline documentary that I highly recommend on Dayton, Ohio titled, “Left Behind America”.

Other likely resources include:

One question we will consider is how does our country improve the life prospects of young impoverished boys and girls in Dayton, Ohio; Janesville, Wisconsin; and Troy, New York, especially when addiction and mental illness are so common in their families?

We’ll also ask whether the challenges are best understood through the lens of psychology and concepts such as “internal locus of control” or sociology with its emphasis on systemic impediments to upward mobility like institutional racism, the loss of manufacturing jobs and the associated dismantling of labor unions, and educational inequities. Related to that, we’ll debate what roles local, state, and/or our federal government should play in providing Dayton’s youngest residents more equal opportunities in life.

We’ll also read two books that broaden our frame of reference to include rural America:

And given the President’s incessant demonizing of immigrants, I need your help finding materials, beyond the segment in Left Behind, that examine the important role immigrants are playing in reviving places like Dayton. Or any other materials that offer hope if not practical solutions.

Who is in? What other literary, artistic, non-fiction, and/or multimedia resources should we consider and what other ideas do you have for strengthening our course?

Globalization is Alive and Well

For good and bad. From Overdose Fatalities From Opioids Hit New Peaks:

Fentanyl is the culprit.

The U.S. opioid crisis shows no sign of receding as a new year begins, with the latest data from several hard-hit cities and states showing overdose fatalities reaching new peaks as authorities scramble to stem the tide.

The synthetic opioid fentanyl, which has up to 50 times the potency of heroin, remains the chief culprit driving the increase in fatalities, according to medical examiners and health and law-enforcement authorities in abuse hot spots, such as Ohio, Maryland and New England.

Federal data for 2015 deaths came out only last month, showing a nearly 16% climb to 33,091 opioid deaths in the year. Many jurisdictions are still compiling the grim tallies for 2016.

Where does it come from?

Fentanyl is a potent painkiller often used by cancer patients, but a bootleg version commonly made in China has become the major problem behind overdose deaths, according to law-enforcement and health authorities. Chemical cousins known as analogs are also on the rise, authorities said, sometimes as overseas labs switch recipes to keep ahead of law enforcement.

The President-elect will probably clean this up.

Paragraph to Ponder

From David Denby in the New Yorker

I’m . . . angry about the talk of artists inevitably dying of drug overdoses. Some of this talk may be cant. Fifty years ago the same was said about jazz musicians—they lived out at the edge, baring their souls as well as their craft every time they played, and it took the life out of them, so they had to turn to heroin. Really? But Miles Davis and Dizzy Gillespie had very long runs, and heroic actors like Al Pacino and Robert De Niro, both in their seventies, are still alive and working very hard. Beethoven did not become an alcoholic, and neither did Picasso nor Matisse. On the other hand, anonymous men die in the street every week from heroin. There’s no necessary connection between artistic talent and drugs and alcohol. We don’t really know what Philip Seymour Hoffman’s demons were, but he was a man acquainted with despair, and now some of us are feeling a little of that, too.

Hoffman’s genius illustrated.

And why Philip Seymour Hoffman’s death is so scary. “Regardless of how much time clean you have, relapsing is always as easy as moving your hand to your mouth.”