Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Meaning of Bad Luck: Shit Happens

By Tom Kando

I was biking in the beautiful California Gold Country. The Green Valley Road meanders up and down 2,000 to 3,000-foot hills, through wild, scenic, wooded areas, occasionally flanked by a ranch. Very little traffic, clear blue winter sky. It’s 4:00 PM, the sun is already low in the West. I have just climbed up to the tiny town of Rescue, 35 miles East of Sacramento. I turn around for the return trip, which shouldn’t take much more than an hour, since most of it is steeply downhill.

Just as I put the pedal to the metal on one of the few uphills on the way home, a terrific BANG! Before I realize what’s going on, I am briefly airborne, and then I crash on the pavement, painfully, where I roll onto my left side.
Through sheer survival instinct, I immediately jump up, almost spring-like, and I run to the side of the road. I see the red Jetta which has just run me over. It drives away and disappears in a right-hand turn a few hundred yards up the road. I think, “hit-and-run.” I sit down in the gravel, in shock, my left arm pulsating with excruciating pain.
A few minutes later, the driver of the red Jetta walks down to help me. Not a hit-and-run after all. My arm is broken and I have multiple lacerations. My helmet is fractured, but it saved me. My bicycle is mangled, my tights and my parka are bloody and torn.
I spend the rest of the day in the ER, and the next weeks navigating the bureaucracy - insurance companies, police reports, doctors’ offices. Plus weeks of discomfort. Trying to live, to get dressed, to go places, to type and get things done with the one hand and one arm that are not in a cast.

So the question is: what is the meaning of this painful experience?

! Humans have a natural tendency to believe that their own agency determines the outcomes which befall them. This gives us the illusion of power and control. Thus, my first thought is: What did I do to cause this? Obviously, I went biking on the Green Valley Road, where cyclists can get hit by cars.

! A second natural tendency is to believe in “learning experiences,” “teachable moments.” The obvious lesson here is that I should be more prudent. But what if I am already very prudent? I ride safely, I always wear a helmet, I never ride my bike at night. The only way to be more careful is to no longer go out on such roads, and to stay on bike trails with few or no automobiles.

! There is also the widespread belief that we gain strength and wisdom from adversity. This is called rationalization. I can assure you that I did not gain strength from this accident!

! Then there are those - this gets really silly - who feel that they deserve pain. They feel guilty. They feel that misfortune is their just punishment. Even though I am Jewish and I was raised Catholic, I am not aware of harboring such feelings - unless they are subconscious.

! Related to the last two, above, is the notion of “test,” - God, or someone, is testing you. The story of Job, sort of. An equally absurd theory.

! Another thing people say is, ”it could have been worse.” True, cyclists get killed every day. But should I consider myself lucky for having been practically run over, even though I lived?

! I had another theory: I recently received a chain letter - you know, the kind which says that if you don’t forward it, bad luck will befall you, and if you do, you’ll make a million. Well, I did forward it. And look what happened! This is called superstition.

! A more intelligent observation: Each year, slightly over 700 cyclists are killed on US roads, and 52,000 are injured. I have been road biking for many years, going out for a fifty-miler at least twice a week. This week, the statistical probabilities finally caught up with me.

! My final point is the most meaningful one: When taking into account population size and biking frequency, the US rate of bicycle deaths and injuries is six times higher than in the Netherlands. Granted, Holland is THE most bicycle-friendly country in the world. Still, the US is relatively bicycle-unfriendly. Bicycling in America is dangerous, and something should be done about this (See Sam McManis’ articles in the Sacramento Bee, January 30) Sorry for the America-bashing, guys, but this is a reasonable argument.

So what does my accident mean? Most of all, it means that shit happens. It would be nice if biking here were as safe as it is in Holland, but it isn’t. So there is no lesson. No teaching moment. No self-blame. No superstition. No meaning. No guilt. No fury against God. Just statistics and bad luck.leave comment here
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Thursday, January 27, 2011

To Bee or not To Bee

by Madeleine Kando

Once upon a time there was a colony of beautiful, healthy and admirable bees. They lived together peacefully, each little worker bee content with her lot of gathering nectar for their graceful and fecund queen bee. All summer long they enjoyed the sunshine and the intoxicating scent of flowers, feeling the warmth of the sun on their furry backs and the ever growing weight of the pollen on their strong little thighs. Life was good and if they had been inclined to believe in a God they would have knelt and preyed in gratitude for their short but blissful life.

They didn't mind working hard. Feeding the queen was their duty but also their salvation. They knew that it was in their power to withhold food, by which act the queen would die. This, the queen was also keenly aware of and demanded but also gave. Gave many many eggs, day in and day out.

The worker bees had been told to feed a few of their larvae a very special diet so that these annointed individuals would become the chosen ones, the ones that would fertilize their adored queen in order to produce even more sisters, who in turn would feed more larvae, etc, etc. ad beefenitum.

This particular summer the weather was unusually cold and grey and many of the flowers died. Our friends in the hive searched for pollen but there were just not enough flowers. Life became hard for our poor bees. They began to wonder why they put up with all this flying back and forth, cleaning the hive, feeding the young, giving in to every whim of their demanding queen.

One very charismatic worker bee that went by the name of ‘Barbee’ (which rhymes with ‘Sara-Lee’) who previously had won a beauty contest, began to send out beemails to her sisters: 'Listen' she said 'Why do we work so hard all our lives? Why should we feed those lazy drones and our overbloated queen? I say to you: let's take matters in out own hands, every bee for herself!'

So many of the previously slim and industrious worker bees started to put on weight, lost their ability to fly, and there was a mass stampede to the royal chamber. The poor queen couldn’t handle all the attention. Bags started to appear under her big brown eyes from lack of sleep.

The beebies (I mean babies) were malnourished and started to die off. The queen, who was supposed to get fed every minute, only got fed once a day. She started to loose weight and lost her ability to lay eggs.

Soon the hive began to smell pretty bad. The remaining loyal worker bees who protested against these new developments were called traitors and maps were handed out with crosshairs to target them.

The converted worker bees turned to their newly apppointed leader and said: 'Barbee, we have done what you told us to do. We looked out for ourselves. Now what do we do? We don't particularly like the smell around here. Are we better off than before?' Barbee, who was very good at stirring up trouble but didn't have the brains to rule a hive, was at a loss for words. Even so she said: 'I know someone who might help us'.

She beemailed her distant cousin twice removed in Africa. Her name was ‘Killemall’. As soon as Killemal arrived she declared herself the new queen. She beemailed all her African sisters to join her and as you might expect they formed the new ruling class of the colony. All the worker bees were put on a restricted diet. They had to work twice as hard as before and the ones that protested were killed. Since these twice removed relatives were lazy, aggressive and mean by nature, they didn’t take good care of the hive. No new beebies were born. Soon, there wasn’t much left of the beautiful and healthy colony. The cells were empty and neglected. As they had done so often in the past, the Killemalls looked around, decided it was time for them to take up the offer of yet another gullible twice removed relative who had beemailed them for help.

Off they went leaving the empty hive to dangle from a branch, soon to be covered with snow, never to be inhabited again. leave comment here
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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

EQUIVOCATION

By Tom Kando

Because of the January 8 Tucson massacre, everyone is now advocating - or at least paying lip service to - toning down inflammatory political rhetoric. With this comes political equivocation, buzzwords like “bipartisanship,” “compromise,” “centrism,” “pragmatism,” “national unity.”

Pundits and the media are desperate to appear mature and reasonable, so there is near unanimous agreement:

(1) that the heated rhetoric on the Right by people like Sarah Palin (using crosshair imagery to target legislators) and Michele Bachmann (“I want people to be armed and dangerous”) did NOT cause the Tucson massacre;

(2) that “BOTH sides” of the political spectrum are guilty of inflammatory rhetoric. For example, on the Left, Keith Olberman spoke on national TV of “the worst person in the world” and President Obama once called his opponents “enemies.” So that makes the two sides even;

(3) that both sides should tone down violent and provocative speech, and learn to get along better. For example, Republicans and Democrats sat together during the State of the Union, not on separate sides of the aisle. As the great folk philosopher from South Central LA said, “Can we all get along?”

(See for example Leonard Pitts’s Jan. 23 column in the Miami Herald, or the Jan. 23 articles by Jackie Calmes and David Goldstein in the Sacramento Bee).

So, in the spirit of Rodney King, here is my contribution to Kumbaya:

Nazis, the KKK, the Mafia, AlQaida and Wall Street kleptocrats like Bernie Madoff also make important points. We should not rush to judgment and blindly condemn everything these folks say or do. Even if we disagree with their message and their means (e.g. concentration camps, lynchings, suicide bombings, giga theft), we should not condemn the messengers or their goals. We should try to understand their perspective, and the points they are trying to convey, however clumsily and imperfectly. After all who are we to judge others? Nobody is perfect. Working-class American society has many flaws, too. President Obama’s policies are far from perfect.

Communication and mutual understanding are the key. If the President would just sit down at the negotiating table with all such groups, and try to arrive at mutually acceptable compromises without demonizing his opponents, the world would be a better place.

Really?
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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Will America break up?

By Tom Kando

Today, you get a lecture on social structure.

Sometimes I worry that America could fall apart. Countries do fall apart. A society falls apart when private interests overtake the public good.

I went biking through the gorgeous California Gold Country this afternoon. Once again I rode by some enormous estates. 9000 square-ft mansions in the wilderness, perched on hilltops and overlooking 300-acre fenced-in properties, guarded by fierce dogs and no doubt plenty of guns.

If you have a few million dollars, you want to build yourself a fortress, a compound. Walls behind which to protect yourself and your family. The outside society is your enemy.

During their declining centuries, the Romans did the same thing. Those who could afford it built themselves lavish and well-protected latifundiae in the country side.
Later, social disintegration became total. Feudal Europe was a collection of private fiefdoms, and life was Hobbesian - short, nasty and brutish. Throughout history, in times of regression, societies disintegrate. There is a return to tribalism.

I remember an excellent study by Harvard political scientist Edward Banfield, The Moral Basis of a Backward Society. Banfield studied the impoverished Southern Italian town of Montegrano. He found that the dominant attitude of Montegranan families was one of distrust and envy of each other. Cooperation and mutual help were totally absent. Nepotism ruled. Every family was out for itself, and only for itself - a mafia mentality. Banfield called this “amoral familism” and he attributed much of Southern Italy’s backwardness to it.

Back when Banfield wrote his book, American sociology was in the forefront. American society was the envy of the world. It was appropriate for American social scientists to diagnose and to try to cure the ailments of other countries. We were the doctor; Italy and most other parts of the world were the patients.

I don’t want the US to become the patient. But what happens if the Tea Party and other conservative Republicans have their way, and they dismantle the welfare state, starve the government (Ronald Reagan’s words: “starve the beast”), eliminate the safety net, undermine public education, let the infrastructure rot? What happens if the common good takes a backseat to private profit? If local “autonomy” takes precedence over federal responsibility?

America has always been leery of central authority. Today, the centrifugal forces are once again on the march. “States Rights” and the 10th Amendment are very popular. At the wacky end of the spectrum, there are survivalists and secessionists.

Don’t misunderstand me: We have a long, long way before we become like Montegrano. But I do worry about the centrifugal forces unleashed by the virulent anti-government rhetoric of Tea-Partiers and other conservatives.

When I bring up analogies with Roman Latifundiae, feudalism, tribalism and amoral familism, I realize that, today, they can only be applied to America in science fiction novels such as Walter Miller’s A Canticle for Leibowitz.

Nevertheless, we should remind ourselves of society’s need to hang together, and of the benefits of a strongly united country where the public good trumps localism and particularism. Let’s be less Jeffersonian and more Hamiltonian. The federal government is your friend, not your enemy. leave comment here
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Sunday, January 16, 2011

Swimming

by Madeleine Kando

When I first joined my health club, I thought: 'Oh, now I can meet lots of people, why else would it be called a 'club'?' But I soon learned that health clubs are not places to socialize. They are half-way points to an imaginary heaven called 'being in shape'. They are like purgatory.

The women that I see at my club are all very serious about their 'health'. Their relationship is not so much with each other as with the machines. Humans are creatures of habit and, just like I have my favorite locker, my favorite shower cell and my favorite spot in the hot tub, they too, must have their favorite spot on the treadmills, the bikes or the ellipticals..

When I go to the club I don't use the machines because I am a coward. I don't like steel and I don't like mechanical motions. So the only connection I have with the fitness room is when I walk by it on my way to the swimming pool.

Of all the activites at the club, swimming is probably the least social because having a conversation with a co-swimmer is pretty hard when you are trying to keep water from going up your nose.

When you swim, it is not only your body that is immersed in a liquid medium. Your mind also begins to float. Swimming is monotonous and you soon enter a state of trance. Up and down, up and down the swimming pool, counting your laps, listening to your own labored breathing, trying to improve your stroke..

It's just you and the water. No-one else. After four or five laps, as you gather momentum, you think you are real hot stuff, frees-tyling like the pro's. Until this Michael Phelps look-alike suddenly zooms by and makes you feel like a turtle again. But that's ok. It brings you back to reality.

I can handle the speed freaks, I have resigned myself to my own mediocrity in that regard. But it's the other kind of swimmers that I have a problem with. So, when I first enter the pool area, I have gotten into the habit of scanning the lanes to see if there are any 'splashers', 'flappers', 'kickers' or 'sinkers'.

Sharing a lane with a 'splasher' is probably the worst. It's idiotic because you are already wet from head to toe, but every time you pass the splasher in your lane, you are subjected to an unwelcome and unnecessary shower.

The 'flappers' are one grade up from the 'splashers' but they are more lethal. Their shoulder joints are so tight that they flap their arms out to the side instead of overhead, and you risk being slapped in the face every time you pass them.

The 'kickers' are the ones that like to swim the breast stroke. They kick their legs out side-ways, like arthritic frogs. Since the lanes at my club are quite narrow, a single kick can send you home with a nasty bruise, sometimes on a very private body part, which won't disappear for a week.

The 'sinkers' are not really threatening to do you bodily harm, but they sure are unsightly. They swim with their lower body sunk to the bottom of the pool, as if they had big heavy bowling balls attached to their ankles.

I have become an expert at spotting the best candidates for lane-sharing. I look for a petite female with short arms, short legs and small feet. Arms that cannot slap me in the face, legs that won't kick me in the groin and feet that won't have enough foot-surface to splash.

When I look at the variety of body types and styles of swimming, there is one thing I have come to understand over the years. People are not made to be in the water. It is rare to see someone swim with grace, speed and strength. Most of us, poor humans, should really stay on land and not pretend to be at ease anywhere else.

We are not built to swim, just like ducks aren't built to walk and worms aren't built to dance the salsa. That does not prevent me from being addicted to the water. In fact, my secret wish is to come back as a dolfin or a killer whale in a future life. But knowing my luck I will probably come back as a clam, unable to move from my spot in the blue vastness that will surround me. At the mercy of other creatures, being splashed, slapped and kicked…. Aahh!
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Saturday, January 15, 2011

Why do I wish that these were the 1930s?

By Tom Kando

I have been re-reading American history. When I got to the 1920s and 1930s, it occurred to me how many similarities there were between that era and today: The 1920s were an extremely conservative period, which is understandable since it was also a very prosperous time.

Not that everyone benefitted equally from the great economic advances made by the United States at that time. The robber barons were still very much at it. Corruption (the Tea-pot Dome scandal, etc.), business concentration and monopoly continued unabated. All these things were supported by conservative Republican Presidents - Harding, Coolidge, Hoover - and by a reactionary Supreme Court. Unions were losing membership.

All of this was in contrast with the preceding Progressive Era associated with such Presidents as Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson. By the 1920s, America had returned to all-out materialism. There was no place for idealism any more. President Wilson’s marvelous invention - World Government in the form of the League of Nations - was rejected by the Senate, and the American people couldn’t care less.

BUT: This somehow made sense, because America was doing pretty good. The roaring 20s might not have been fabulous for everyone, but they were pretty good for most.

Then came the 1929 crash. The party was over, as were Wall Street extravagance, irresponsibility and mindless greed. By 1932, in the middle of the great Depression, Americans elected Franklin Roosevelt, and there followed more than a decade of the greatest social and economic activism in this country’s history. It was “Socialism to save Capitalism.”

President Roosevelt’s election reflected Americans’ realization that only collective action could repair the country and create a more just society, an economy for the people, not for the plutocracy. A social-Darwinist dog-eat-dog “free enterprise” system was no longer appealing to the public. There was social awareness. Frank Capra’s movies were popular.

The link between economic distress and social awareness is obvious and logical. All the great egalitarian revolutions were rooted in economic distress - the French, the Russian, even the American. (And I wont go into the bloody mess which most revolutions turn into). So my main question today is:

What on earth has happened in this country of late?

The first decade of the millennium were a repeat of the 1920s - the phony prosperity of the Dot.Com and housing bubbles, Wall Street excesses, Bush’s conservative and corrupt government, etc. 2007 was a repeat of the 1929 crash, and the following years have been a repeat of the 1930s - muddling along in a depressed economy with very high unemployment, fiscal crises at every level of government, deep indebtedness, and the federal government’s Keynesian stimulus efforts.
Shouldn’t we expect America to have experienced a great upsurge of social consciousness, leading to progressive policies, just as in the 1930s?

True, we elected Obama in 2007 (thank God!). But since then, public opinion has been more reactionary than progressive.

This absolutely amazes me! There is now a dominant, vociferous ideology which blames the government for everything, which says that taxes are the source of all evil and that privatization is the solution to all problems. Meanwhile, the gap between rich and poor keeps growing.
Just the other day, the Sacramento Bee wrote that in our region, the average CEO’s compensation rose by 11.1% last year - people already making millions! Meanwhile, the average workers’ compensation is down 3% nationwide, not to mention the 12% who have no job at all.

What is going on? Have the millions of little old ladies who live on $20,000 a year and flock to the Tea Party lost their senses? I’ll tell you what’s going on:

The Right-wing ideological machinery has done an incredibly efficient job. It has distracted the people’s attention with pseudo-issues like gay marriage, illegal immigrants, terrorists, gun rights and “culture wars.” This tactic has worked.

In the 1930s, economic conditions were similar to today, and the American people responded wisely, electing progressive politicians who enacted progressive policies. That’s why I wish that these were the 1930s. leave comment here
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Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Banality of Guns

By Tom Kando

The mass murder and attempted assassination of congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords by Jared Loughner in Arizona has the whole country caught in an orgy of finger-pointing (Sarah Palin, the NRA, etc.).

And there is a secondary mass reaction among pundits and letter-writers: “Above all, don’t rush to judgment!” (this suits the Right on this occasion, as it suited the Left when Malik Hassan murdered 13 people at Ford Hood). The issue of gun control comes up once again, ad nauseam.

Gun control is something I have spent years researching and publishing articles about. And you know what?

After all these years, I don’t have a clear position on it. On the one hand yes, common sense and some data tell us that the more guns there are, the more people get killed by guns. But the correlation is weak. There are many examples of countries (Switzerland, Israel, etc.) and states (Florida, Arizona, etc.) with high per capita gun ownership and low murder rates.

And even if gun control is desirable (and I absolutely agree that it is), it’s not clear that it is feasible. Some jurisdictions with the strictest gun control laws (Washington D.C., New York City) have at times had astronomical murder rates. Etc. Etc. The two sides in the gun control debate will for ever be stalemated.

I do not wish to minimize the horror and suffering that this madman has caused, but my take on guns is the one stated in the title of this essay - paraphrasing Hannah Arendt:

What I find really disgusting is the glorification of guns. The fact that inner-city gang-bangers and others, most of them in the lower class, use guns to murder each other in large numbers is tragic, and it has too many causes to discuss here.

What is truly aggravating, are the puerile culture and politics which see guns and gun-related activities as things of beauty, and the 2nd amendment as a noble and sacrosanct law which trumps the public interest. This is a cultural phenomenon, and it is strongest among upper-middle class folks, most of them white.

Yes, we live in an infantile culture of violence. I can forgive my 8-year old grand-son for his fascination with toy guns, with Darth Vader and with violence. He will outgrow this, as I did. As a normal boy I, too, liked toy guns and cowboy-and-Indian movies when I was 8.

But grown-ups should understand that guns are banal. Guns are pieces of metal which shoot explosives into living flesh. Is it surprising that flesh doesn’t have a chance against steel and explosives? This is not fascinating, it is dumb. Any imbecile can shoot a gun and kill a person (or a moose). If it weren’t for the tragedy of the loss of life, I’d say that shooting off a gun is just plain boring. Banal.
The NRA’s single-minded purpose is to advocate for guns. This is not a lofty ideal, a sacred right valiantly defended. It is a lobby for one industrial product. Banal.

What’s so great about guns? Nothing. Cops and soldiers need them, and that’s about it. It is sick to see them as things of beauty. It is moronic to define gun ownership as a sacrosanct human right. Guns are banal.

As to my personal opinion about this latest act of insanity: The News Media’s editorial equivocations about “all” hate speech being equivalent are inane. When Keith Olberman speaks of “the worst person in the world” and President Obama uses the word “enemy” instead of “opponent,” this is in no way as noxious as when Michelle Backman says that she wants the people to be “armed and dangerous.” Today, the Right is far more guilty of incendiary speech than the Left. leave comment here
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Monday, January 10, 2011

Noise, Noise Everywhere

by Madeleine Kando

I am in the habit of wearing earplugs when I sleep. Not because I like having these bulky things shoved into a very sensitive part of my body, but because the Dunkin Doughnut store next door does not care about my beauty sleep when it starts blaring out it’s ‘hello, may I help you’ intercom announcement at four o'clock in the morning.

On the rare occasions that I spend a quiet week-end in beautiful rural Vermont or in the pristine White Mountains of New Hampshire, I realize that it is a fundamentally unnatural custom to wear earplugs. I much prefer waking up to the sound of early bird song and a distant waterfall. The muffled sound of a rooster on a far away farm, cows calling out to be milked.

If I were to metamorphosize every sound that enters my sensitive ears into a physical touch, let’s say a shove or a push instead of a sound wave, I would be tossed about like a lottery ball in a lottery machine. Thank God for those little plugs. Without them, I would be a wreck.

But now I am seriously considering wearing earplugs during my waking hours as well. I can handle babies crying on an airplane, the 'attention shoppers' announcements in a supermarket, the arguments overheard on a bus. Those are noises that serve a function. After all, a noise is made with the purpose of conveying some information, something that you, as the recipient, is expected to pay attention to. The baby crying on an airplane wants to be fed or comforted. The shopper at the supermarket is reminded of good deals. The argument on the bus is meant to resolve a conflict.

But much of today's noise can simply be classified as unnecessary. Devoid of useful content. Noise that does not contribute to the betterment of society or at the very least my own enrichment or entertainment. That's what I need my earplugs for, this ever increasingly unnecessary 'social noise'.

Take Facebook, for instance. What percentage of the noise content of all those millions of pages truly matters? Does it solve world hunger? Does it contribute to a better, more just world? Let's face it, it is like the sound of passing wind after a huge meal. The only person that benefits from it is the person doing the deed.

What about the noise generated by people whose sole purpose is to self-aggrandize themselves? There is no place to shield yourself from these noise-makers, they have plugged the airwaves: tv, radio, newspapers. Take noise-makers like Martha Stewart, Oprah and many other celbretards. The ratio between what they are truly worth (talent, humor, intelligence etc.) and their ability to make noise, reminds me of a nursery school: the toddlers that get the most attention are the ones that cry the loudest, not because they deserve it or need it, but because they happen to have stronger lungs.

What if we all put it in our earplugs as we go about our day? The problem with this approach is that you also drown out the occasional bird song, the rare sound of a majestic waterfall, the sound of crickets on a balmy summer evening. These hard to find noises have to be cherished like the rare gemstones thrown into a landfill. But it is becoming more and more time consuming to sift through the garbage to find any sound worth listening to.

They say that dogs are very sensitive to complete silence, taking this as a warning sign of impending threat. This sensitivity to silence is found in almost all animals. Is it possible that humans (we are animals, after all) are unable to tolerate silence? Is this deafening barrage of unnecessary noise an attempt to shield ourselves from the truly horrible questions that humanity faces and is powerless to answer? leave comment here
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Sunday, January 2, 2011

Nine-Eleven: Survivors, Victims and Compensation

By Tom Kando

On December 22, Congress approved a $4.2 billion compensation package for 9-11 survivors and for responders who became ill while working in the ruins after the attack. I have long been confused about this issue, so I tried to catalogue some of the facts:

1.The 9/11 Responders Health Bill:This is the $4.2 billion federal package just approved, to pay for police officers’, fire fighters,’ and other responders’ health care and illnesses caused by toxic fumes and other conditions at ground zero. Over 400 police officers and fire fighters died on the day of the attack, and nearly 1000 responders have died from related illnesses since then. September 11 attacks

2. The WTC Workers’ Settlement with NYC for Dust Exposure:
This is another fund of 625-725 million, to be divided among 10,000 or 11,000 members of clean up crews, police, firemen, etc. for an average of 65K per person, and ranging from a few thousand to over a million. This was under litigation for nearly a decade, but it was finalized in Nov 2010. This money comes from New York City.
9/11 Workers Approve Settlement With New York City
WTC workers agree to $625 million settlement for toxic dust exposure

3. The September 11th Victim Compensation Fund:Separately of course, the families of the people who died on 9-11 received $7 billion, for an average of 1.8 million per family. September 11th Victim Compensation Fund

4. The September 11th Fund:A privately collected $528 million Fund, to help affected businesses and other parties.
September 11th Fund

5.The World Trade Center Captive Insurance Company:By June 10, 2010, this group had paid out $712.5 million in 9-11 related settlements to survivors for medical and other claims. The money came from New York City, FEMA and other sources. World Trade Center Captive Insurance Company

6. There is a Marriott Compensation Fund.

7. No doubt there are funds for the survivors of flight 77 which crash into the Pentagon (184 people died there), and...

8. Same for flight 93 which crashed in rural Pennsylvania (40 dead)

9. There must be other 9-11 victims compensation programs.

Things look messy.

For one thing, how many people qualify for these various programs? For example, Plan #2, above, ended up disbursing money to about 10,000 people, although initially 70,000 applied.

And how much does each survivor-applicant deserve? For example, many of the dead were highly compensated employees (stock brokers, financial consultants, etc.). Their families argued that they should be reimbursed for the very high lifetime income which the dead victims would have earned. This led to years of litigation.

Lawyers’ fees have also been a bone of contention. For example, in plan #5, above, at one time 95% of disbursements went to lawyers. More recently, I vaguely recall a judge ordering a limit to lawyers’ fees.

Here are my three hopes: (1) that the real victims get what they are entitled to, (2) that only true victims get compensation, and (3) that this business emerges out of the legal and bureaucratic morass in which it has been for nearly a decade. leave comment here
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