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Posted by on Sep 6, 2020 in Blog, Essays, Politics, What's Left | 0 comments

What I Miss Most

 

 

America’s political crevasse has wrecked families and ruined friendships.

It’s tested our patience, made us question our values, caused us to rethink priorities, and utterly dominated every sector of our lives nearly to the breaking point of exhaustion.

This comes as a non-partisan observation. As you read on, I think people on the Left and the Right will be somewhat in agreement.

In recent years, I’ve witnessed friends and colleagues, who never expressed their political opinions before, becoming both outspoken and active. It’s as though fuses were lit. Passions exploded. This is true for Trump’s defenders and his critics.

I never thought before this ordeal that I’d ponder, let alone scribe, the statement which I’m about to make: I AM SICK OF POLITICS.

Now, to understand the gravity of that comment, you must understand that I have lived and breathed and inhaled and expectorated politics for all of my adult life. 36 years ago, I earned a degree in political science and later, worked in government for more than a decade. No matter which party ruled, or who was elected, my enthusiasm for the American political process, even with its many shortcomings, was heartfelt and genuine. And even after leaving politics in pursuit of other interests, in my spare time, I continued to read about current events and explore ideas. That was my hobby, but even that description doesn’t do the devotion justice.

Hence, I never thought I’d finally reach the stage of fatigue where I dreaded turning on the television each morning, for fear of the next and newest shock and scandal and the inevitability of another galactic battle between alternative universes of an opposite reality. I never thought I’d come to the point of reading books on political and social philosophy as nauseating. I never thought I’d reach the end of the path of what had been a roadway of insatiable curiosity to slamming into a cul-de-sac.

But now, here I am.

Over the next eight weeks, I am determined to work as hard as I possibly can and put everything within my soul into electing the people and party who I believe can best deliver something that’s vanished in recent years.

And that is — normalcy.

What I miss most is — normalcy.

Yeah, I want a revolution. I want big changes. I want the ideas I believe in to win. But this election isn’t about ideas or issues or ideology so much as it’s about normalcy versus pandamonium. Sanity versus chaos. Normal daily activities for ourselves versus fighting in the streets and ceaseless wars on social media.

If my preferred candidates win, does that mean the nation’s deep fissure of division will heal? Of course not. Division and arguments and debate and pain, perhaps lots of pain given the hole we’re in, will continue.

But for a few years, we might also get a break. A breather. A little normalcy. A bit more kindness. Fewer scandals. Less cruelty. More civility. I’m voting for that.

On or before Nov. 3rd, I’m voting for the thing I miss most — normalcy.

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Posted by on Aug 28, 2020 in Blog, Essays, Politics, What's Left | 0 comments

Who is This Man?

 

 

CAN YOU IDENTIFY THIS MAN?

Here are a few hints:

— He born on May 18, 1855, in Mount Morris, NY. He lived much of his life in Rome, NY.

— He became an active member of the First Baptist Church, where his father was a minister. He also became a minister and author.

— He once ran for the office of Governor of New York State, but lost.

— He was a self-described “Christian Socialist” who (in his own words) championed “the rights of working people and the equal distribution of economic resources,” which he believed was inherent in the teachings of Jesus.

— While speaking as a minister, he was once removed from the pulpit in Boston for preaching out against the evils of capitalism.

— Later in his life, he left the ministry and stopped attending church altogether, reportedly because of the racism he witnessed there.

— His career as a preacher ended because of his tendency to describe Jesus as a socialist. He taught classes with topics such as “Jesus the socialist,” “What is Christian Socialism?”, and “Socialism versus anarchy.”

— Today, he’s widely regarded as one of the most influential figures in the early American socialist movement.

 

So, who is this person?

His name is Francis Bellamy.

Who? So, what was he best known for?

FRANCIS BELLAMY wrote THE PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE. *

So, next time you think the principles of democratic socialism are anti-American, try this:  Say your pledge and remember the words and wisdom of its author.

 

Footnote:  Bellamy wrote the original Pledge of Allegiance, which did not contain the words, “under God.”  He believed in the absolute separation of church and state and did not include the phrase “under God” in his pledge, which was added in the 1950s, 25 years after Bellamy’s death.

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Posted by on Aug 21, 2020 in Blog, Essays, Politics, Travel, What's Left | 2 comments

Blame Republicans and Conservatives for the Death of Small Town America

 

 

Here’s a fact?  97 out of the 100 poorest counties in America are in red states — i.e. Republican states.

 

Democrats often get blamed for the collapse of many American cities, particularly inner-city neighborhoods where stores and shops are boarded up and poverty is a daily way of life for the people who live there.

The ruse goes something like this:  Big cities are mostly run by Democrats, who comprise a majority of mayors and city councils.  Accordingly, Democrats are at fault for slums, crime, and a pervasive diseased culture of hopelessness.

The accusation does seem to have considerable merit to those with little or no grasp of history nor an understanding of urban affairs.  The accusation appears to ring true to those stuck inside echo chambers of hyperpartisan disinformation, which is a deliberate and constant toxicity brewed on right-wing media.  The accusation does look factual to someone who’s spent no time actually working in big cities nor ever comes into direct contact with people who born and live most of their lives poverty.  It’s attractive clickbait to those susceptible to the mindlessness of memes, those who don’t really give a damn at all about their fellow brothers and sisters struggling to make ends meet in the ghetto.

Indeed, there’s a lot of blame floating around out there and most of it is aimed at Democrats.

Now, let’s look at the truth.

 

 

Oddly enough, for reasons I can’t quite comprehend, no one blames Republicans for the collapse of small-town America.  I mean, wait-just-a-minute here:  Aren’t most small towns run by conservative Republicans?

The fact is, small-town America has been in a tailspin for several decades.  The evidence is overwhelming.  Despite a so-called “boom economy,” many town squares, once thriving centers of commerce packed with locals who shopped and ate lunch and conducted most of their business with people they knew, now resemble snapshots of what things were like during the Great Depression.  Boarded up stores.  Broken windows.  Vacancy signs.  Buildings completely deserted.  You know, just like in the big cities.

Look at some of these pictures.  You can’t tell if these buildings are in Detroit or Dixie.

Things are at their very worst — in other words, the economy really sucks — in small towns in the South and the West.  Many towns have quite simply vanished.  They are de facto ghost towns — places with signs and spots on a map — and they number in the hundreds, if not thousands.  And they’re vanishing.

Why is this happening?  Many reasons.  One is that Walmart has steamrolled over more businesses and led to the shutdown more factories in America, due to outsourcing its suppliers and manufacturing overseas, than any company in history.

Looking for a culprit to blame for all the stores in the town being vacant?

Here’s something you won’t read on the right-wing rags.  Thank giant corporations, industrial farming, conservative economic policies pushed by Republicans, union-busting, and the insatiable greed of the market greased by company shareholders who consistently demand profits over people.  If a product can be made cheaper in China, fuck it — close the doors and move the plant.  Capitalism 101.

And so, small towns and the people who live in them became the victims of bad economics.

 

 

Yet, no one points a finger at any of the Republican mayors of these deserted towns, nor the Republican congressional representatives who dominate these districts, nor the state and local officials who are mostly Republicans, nor the Governors of states like Mississippi, Arkansas, Tennessee, Alabama, Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Georgia, South Carolina, or Kentucky who are all Republicans

Why is that?

Why are Democrats to blame for boarded up windows in Baltimore, but Republicans get a free pass for creating the thousands of shitholes in their own backyards?

Here’s a fact?  97 OUT OF 100 OF THE NATION’S POOREST COUNTIES ARE IN RED STATES.

Take a moment.  Let that sink in.  Republicans are in charge of 97 percent of America’s shitholes.

 

So now, let’s get back to inner cities.  Yeah, many of those areas suck.  Things are awful.  And someone should take responsibility.

But what are the factors that led to slums?  Who’s to blame for that?

I have a theory, and I’m convinced that I’m correct.  Let’s see if you agree.

In the 1950s, a phenomenon social scientists later came to term as “White Flight” began happening.  Whites began fleeing inner cities and moved to the suburbs.  Since White people owned most of the wealth and held all the political and economic power, most cities were left devastated by the mass departure which took place over a long period, generally between 1950 and 1985.  Fewer people with wealth paying taxes meant cities didn’t have as much money.  Stores fell into disrepair.  Sections of cities began collapsing.

During this time, factories closed down or moved to other parts of the country, but more often overseas.  Thousands of them.  Cities that once were home to millions of factory workers who spent their paychecks in town, were left deserted.  Who is to blame for this?  Liberals?

Think again.

Then, neighborhoods were carved up.  People with no power became pawns.  Highways were built, highways mostly intended for commuters and companies making deliveries, and inner cities became reduced to the dark recesses of an off-ramp, an area of town we were instructed not to go into.  Stay away, we were told.  It’s dangerous.  Inner cities didn’t get that way all by themselves.  They were starved.  They were choked.  They were bled dry.  And the skeletons of today are the remnants of centuries of racism and the grotesque failure of an economic system tailored to wealth and power and privilege, while indifferent to its victims.

Yes, conservative economics ruined cities.  Greed ruined cities.  Democrats, who have inherited the messes caused by the past, now get blamed for conditions they couldn’t possibly have prevented.  If you don’t feed something that’s living, eventually it dies.  That holds true for inner-city Baltimore.  It holds true for Dixie, West Virginia (population 315).

It’s conservative economic philosophies and Republicans’ distorted policies that have created the squalor of many inner cities, just as it’s conservative economic philosophies and Republicans’ distorted policies that have destroyed small towns.

We and they are one and the same.

 

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Posted by on Aug 17, 2020 in Blog, Essays, Politics, What's Left | 0 comments

Ten Thoughts on the Eve of the 2020 Democratic National Convention

 

2020 Democratic National Convention

 

Here are my thoughts on the eve of the (virtual) 2020 Democratic National Convention.

Ten bits of advice for speakers:

 

1. IDEAS: Make the convention a broad showcase for fresh ideas and celebration of America’s renewed hope. Stress positivity over negativity.

2. INCLUSION: Stress that the Democratic Party is (or should be) the big tent of inclusion, where Americans of virtually all beliefs are welcome and can freely express themselves. Hit on the fact that Republicans have litmus tests. Hammer home the idea that Democrats, while often disorganized and in disagreement, believe in compromise and working together as one. Yes, we are the party of progressives. But we also welcome moderates and even conservatives who are disillusioned by the horrors of the current regime.

3. THE FUTURE: Minimize and marginalize Donald Trump. He doesn’t deserve to be the focal point. While it’s impossible to ignore Trump as a factor, look forward, not backward. This convention is not about the past. It’s about the future.

4. MAKE THIS ABOUT THE WORKING CLASS: Talk straight to the working class. Speak to the desperation of struggling families sick and tired of fearing for their jobs and struggling to make ends meet, despite the so-called boom on Wall Street. Make this election about Main Street and the cul de sac and the apartment complex that’s raising the rent again. People are scared. Half the country is close to being bankrupt. Talk to THEM.

5. SCALE BACK DIVISIVENESS AND REPETITION #1: Black Lives Matter is an important cause, worth fighting for. But it’s not the only cause worth fighting for. Let’s keep this issue in perspective. Democrats will be squandering an opportunity if BLM becomes the centerpiece of the message. Political Fact 101: Pragmatism works. Rigid ideological lectures turn off (most) voters, especially undecideds.  [A comment sure to upset some people:  Yes, Kamala Harris is the first woman of color ever on a national presidential ticket.  That’s awesome!  But we don’t need 45 speakers to tell us this in every speech.  Let’s celebrate this historic occasion.  Let’s not play the same recording over and over again at the expense of other vital issues.

6. SCALE BACK DIVISIVENESS AND REPETITION #2: LGBTQ issues are an important cause, worth fighting for. But it’s not the only cause worth fighting for. Let’s keep this issue in perspective. Democrats will be squandering an opportunity if LGBTQ becomes another centerpiece of the message. Political Fact 101: Pragmatism works. Rigid ideological lectures turn off (most) voters, especially undecideds. Yes, I intentionally copied the text from #5. The point is — winning swing states isn’t going to come down to making a stand on transgender bathrooms. Let’s get real, people.

7. IT’S HOTTER THAN HELL, AND THERE’S A REASON:  August 2020 is turning out to perhaps be the hottest month ever recorded. Let’s spend more time on the issue of Man-Made Climate Change, which is very scary and very real. Every DNC speaker should at least mention this, as it’s the most important long-term issue we face collectively, as a nation and as a planet.

8. OPPORTUNITY: Make this election about OPPORTUNITY. Which party’s candidates provide the majority of Americans the greatest opportunity for safety, prosperity, and happiness? Trump has demolished each of these aspirations. Tell us what we can expect to be built in place of the shambles left by Trump and the Republicans.

9. STRAIGHT TALK: Talk straight and be honest with the American people. Whoever wins in November and which party controls the House and Senate are going to be left with a massive cleanup project that will take several years. There are no easy fixes. This is a time for real leadership, not faux-patriotism and phony flag-waving.

10. “WOW” US: Finally, make the speeches fun. Use humor. Entertain us. Make us laugh in jubilation and cry with joy at the aspiration of what we might be with a better government with good people running it. As a policy wonk, I usually prefer substance over style and details rather than generalization, but I’m not the target demographic. The struggling family in Toldeo, OH is the target. The single mother in a Phila. suburb is the target. The senior citizen in Florida fearful of what will happen to Social Security is the target.. Make it about THEM. This election and this convention, being mostly online and virtual, is very different. So, ADAPT. CHANGE with the times. Use the unusual occasion to our BENEFIT. Make us feel better and smarter and more hopeful after watching the convention. Speaking to the DNC, that’s entirely on YOU.

I’ll be watching, anticipating, and hoping.

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Posted by on Aug 6, 2020 in Blog, Essays, Politics, What's Left | 1 comment

Will You Trust a New COVID Vaccine?

 

 

There’s a false assumption that a COVID vaccine is the cure to our problems.

Not so fast.

There’s growing concern that *if* and *when* a vaccine becomes available, it might not be as effective as we’re inclined to think.

What if a quarter of the population refuses to get vaccinated? Think that’s unrealistic? Read on.

A few points for discussion:

1. Trump’s recent pronouncements that he’s confident a new vaccine will be available “by the end of this year” are preposterous. Science (infections) doesn’t bow to political pressures nor is it concerned about the outcome of an election. The correct response to the question about a vaccine timeline from a non-scientific source and voice of authority (the President) should be, “it will be ready when we’re convinced it’s effective and it’s safe.” THAT should be the timeline.

2. Being wary of a new COVID vaccine isn’t the same as being anti-VAX, though there’s probably some crossover within this otherwise disparite demographic. Many of us who are strongly *pro-vax* also have (legitimate) concerns about a new drug that might be cutting corners during the research and trial phases.

3. I don’t trust anything that comes from this Administration. Not a word. Trump knows his re-election chances likely hinge on finding a “cure,” so all the stops have been pulled out on normal protocols. While a compelling case can be made that some short cuts do need to be made to get a vaccine out, based on the Trump Administration’s appalling track record of deflection, disastrous predictions, absurd statements, and misplaced priorities, I simply don’t trust the safety of a drug that’s been rushed to market.

4. Vaccine Origins: I am divided on the factor of the source of the prospective vaccine discovery. I would feel somewhat safer if the vaccine came from labs in Europe, where public/private cooperation has been in place for decades and there’s a long history of success. I am uncertain about the safety of a vaccine if it were discovered in China (certainly a possibility). China’s research capabilities rival our own and we better prepare ourselves for the possibility we could be forced to make some decisions. I’m also wary of a vaccine created by the US pharmaceutical industry, which is under enormous pressure from government (overseeing and financing) and is financially incentivized to cut corners to be first to get a drug to market to shaft the competition. I’d be very concerned if any pharma company that releases a vaccine is also given legal indemnification against damages (which I think is very possible).

5. The biggest fear as I understand it (and I am admittedly a layperson with no scientific knowledge) is a possible repeat of the Thalidomide disaster, when 60 years ago thousands of women mostly in the UK took a drug which later resulted in widespread birth defects. That might be an overreaction and fearmongering. But there is some chance that the recklessness of an untested medication rushed to market under intense political pressures could be problematic later on.

Curious to know the public sentiment on this question, I posted a poll on Twitter yesterday, which produced some interesting results. By about a 3:1 margin, most respondents stated they would agree to a vaccine. What this means is — 25 percent of the population say they will not get the vaccine (see my opening comments).

Note that I tinkered with this question just a bit by asking, what if the vaccine were released “this fall.” One presumes that if any vaccine were released under normal trial and testing the trust factor would be much higher.

 

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