Sunday, February 19, 2017

#50 / Deep Cover

It is hard to add much, with more words, to this Tim Eagan (Deep Cover) cartoon. It presents, so clearly, the essence and fundamental reality of our "two-party" system. It's the "We" party versus the "Me" party. 

Each one of us, of course, is an individual first, and we do need to protect, and elevate, and celebrate each individual, in all our multitudinous, rainbow diversity. Everything that exists within our human world begins in the heart, and mind, and will of an individual human being.

In the end, though, we are more than a collection of mere individuals. We are in this life together, and only when we  act together can we build and sustain a world worth having, a world that is worthy of our deepest aspirations.

Image Credit: (January 3 - February 6, 2017)

Saturday, February 18, 2017

#49 / Johnny Depp And The Umbrella Revolution

Johnny Depp has been having some problems with money management. At least, that's what I have gathered from an article in the February 1, 2017, edition of The New York Times. The article was titled, "The Depp Riddle: Who Should Watch the Money?"

On that very same day, a column by Trudy Rubin appeared in the print edition of The (San Jose) Mercury News, headlined, "Hong Kong informs protesters in the U.S." Rubin is generally considered to be a largely right-wing pundit, though she is showing some exasperation with respect to the presidency of Donald J. Trump. She writes for The Philadelphia Inquirer, which had published her column a few days earlier.

I was struck by an underlying theme, common to both The Times' article on Johnny Depp and Rubin's opinion column on the 2014 political protests in Hong Kong, probably best known as "The Umbrella Revolution."

Depp's problem was that he trusted other persons to "take care of him," with respect to the management of his money. Bad idea! According to Mr. Depp, his financial advisors didn't actually put his interests first, thinking mainly of themselves. There is probably some truth to that, I'd say, based on the article, but The Times writer did have this comment, which also seems pertinent:

Mr. Depp should ... have paid at least a little attention to what was going on.

Rubin explores the case of the Hong Kong protestors as a possible model for actions in the United States. "Can the energy of last weekend's post-inaugural march be channeled into electoral politics?" That is the question that Rubin is exploring, a question that she notes has become "more urgent as President Trump lays the ground for wrecking-ball policies that will weaken America at home and abroad."

More or less agreeing with Zeynep Tufekci, Rubin is skeptical of the ability of marches and demonstrations to change political realities. She cites to "The Umbrella Revolution" as proving her point: 

Beijing's advance rejection of fully democratic elections for the chief executive in 2017 led tens of thousands of Hong Kong students and other pro-democracy activists to take to the streets in the 2014 Umbrella Revolution. For 79 days the activists peacefully occupied major thoroughfares, clearing their trash each day and using umbrellas to fend off tear gas and rain. 
Ultimately, the activists lost. China stood firm, the protesters dispersed, and Beijing further curbed Hong Kong freedoms.

Rubin, though, is actually heartened by what happened in Hong Kong, for one reason: 

"After the Umbrella Revolution, people were discouraged. They felt helpless," recalled Nathan Law, a slim, bespectacled 23-year-old. Then head of the Hong Kong student union, he was a key protest organizer. "Support for the democratic movement had grown, but people were tired of expressing that by protesting," he said. 
Distraught, divided among themselves, the organizers could have given up. There was much finger-pointing between more radical elements and traditional democracy activists. But finally, says Law, the various factions took the long view - they would try to change the system from within. 
"A core group of people became very active in electoral politics," Law told me. They organized new pro-democracy parties (including Demosisto, which Law chairs) in order to run for seats for Hong Kong's Legislative Council last September. "This was David vs. Goliath without the slingshot," says Margaret Ng, a Hong Kong lawyer and longtime democracy activist. 
The young people helped organize the largest voter turnout since 1997, which handed pro-democracy forces 55 percent of the popular vote. Beijing-imposed rules prevented them from gaining a majority of the 70 seats, but the 29 they won are sufficient to block government changes to parliamentary rules or Hong Kong's constitution.

Getting involved in electoral politics! There is the key to turning a street protest into real change. I think that Rubin is right on target. It's the same principle that applies when you think about who is going to manage your money: 

Better pay attention and get personally engaged in the effort. We can't have self-government if we don't get involved ourselves.

Image Credits:
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Friday, February 17, 2017

#48 / Who Profits From A Multi-Planet Civilization?

Pictured above, twice, is Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla, Inc. Tesla builds motor cars. Musk is also the CEO of SolarCity, which fabricates photovoltaic panels, and SpaceX, which builds rockets. 

Last December, Musk joined President Donald Trump’s Business Advisory Council, and he's sticking with it. Some business leaders aren't. 

Travis Kalanick, for instance, the CEO of Uber, announced that he would be leaving the President's Business Advisory Council in reaction to the President's anti-Muslim/anti-immigration Executive Order. Here is a memo Kalanick sent to his staff on February 2nd: 

Dear Team, 
Earlier today I spoke briefly with the President about the immigration executive order and its issues for our community. I also let him know that I would not be able to participate on his economic council. Joining the group was not meant to be an endorsement of the President or his agenda but unfortunately it has been misinterpreted to be exactly that. 
I spent a lot of time thinking about this and mapping it to our values. There are a couple that are particularly relevant: 
Inside Out - The implicit assumption that Uber (or I) was somehow endorsing the Administration’s agenda has created a perception-reality gap between who people think we are, and who we actually are. 
Just Change - We must believe that the actions we take ultimately move the ball forward. There are many ways we will continue to advocate for just change on immigration but staying on the council was going to get in the way of that. The executive order is hurting many people in communities all across America. Families are being separated, people are stranded overseas and there’s a growing fear the U.S. is no longer a place that welcomes immigrants. 
Immigration and openness to refugees is an important part of our country’s success and quite honestly to Uber’s. I am incredibly proud to work directly with people like Thuan and Emil, both of whom were refugees who came here to build a better life for themselves. I know it has been a tough week for many of you and your families, as well as many thousands of drivers whose stories are heartfelt and heart-wrenching. 
Please know, your questions and stories on Tuesday, along with what I heard from drivers, have kept me resilient and reminded me of one of our most essential cultural values, Be Yourself. We will fight for the rights of immigrants in our communities so that each of us can be who we are with optimism and hope for the future. 

In a prompt follow-up to Kalanick's statement, Elon Musk tweeted that he would not be quitting. Musk says he doesn’t agree with all of Trump’s policies, but he really wants to help the president “make humanity a multi-planet civilization.”

Kalanick's communication to Uber employees focused on the impact of the Trump Executive Order on people located right here on Planet Earth. That actually seems like a pretty good priority. Musk is more concerned about some hypothetical "other planet" that could support human civilization, and I think there is a little problem there. Spending lots of money on trying to create a "multi-planet civilization," when civilization still has quite a ways to go right here, strikes me as a major distraction.

Heading for outer space, in other words, as part of a quest to create a "multi-planet civilization," is just a waste of talent and money.

However, I do think I know what's going on with Musk. I may be getting just a bit cynical, as I get older, but since we know he is in the rocket business, I think Musk is just looking for one more profit center. 

Image Credits:
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Thursday, February 16, 2017

#47 / Doing Some Reading In The Arctic News

The year 2026 has been drawing some attention. In case you missed it, 2026 is the year that some are now proclaiming will be the final year for human life on Earth.

I first saw the story in Counterpunch, the home of "fearless muckraking." At least, that's the way the website bills itself. Counterpunch "Tells The Facts. Names The Names.

A story that Counterpunch ran on February 3, 2017, by Robert Hunziker, was titled, "Human Extinction 2026." Despite the title, the article did not make any hard and fast predictions. It contained appropriate disclaimers about that 2026 date. Hunziker and Counterpunch, however, clearly don't think the 2026 date can be "dismissed as balderdash." Quite the contrary: 

The scientific model that leads to a conclusion that human extinction happens by 2026 is based upon facts, not fiction. Scientists simply extrapolate current data about the rate of climate change into the future. Voila, extinction is right around the corner. Ten years comes fast. Thus, the scientific modeling is credible...

An earlier article, from the November 25, 2016, edition of The Daily Caller, was titled, "Biologist Says Humanity Won’t Survive To See Thanksgiving 2026. The scientist quoted in The Daily Caller article is Guy McPherson. According to Wikipedia, The New York Times has called McPherson "an apocalyptic ecologist," and he definitely lives up to this designation. McPherson is not "pulling his punches" on the 2026 prediction: 

“It’s locked down, it’s been locked in for a long time – we’re in the midst of our sixth mass extinction,” McPherson told New Zealand’s Newshub. 
McPherson believes current efforts to fight global warming are a waste of time since humanity will be gone within a decade. Instead, the biologist wants us to focus on living life to its fullest. 
“I can’t imagine there will be a human on the planet in 10 years,” he said. “We don’t have 10 years.”

The more recent article in Counterpunch did not mention McPherson. It cited, instead, to an article on "Extinction" in The Arctic News. That article puts the 2026 prediction in the form of a question, not an assertion: 

While not so declamatory, The Arctic News' analysis is actually more persuasive than McPherson's bare assertions. As Counterpunch says, The Arctic News' analysis is "based on facts." It is also the result of work by a whole set of scientists, none of whom appears to have made his or her career on the basis of "apocalyptic predictions." It's an article worth reading

It's an article worth thinking about!

Image Credits:
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Wednesday, February 15, 2017

#46 / No Questions! Got It?

The Washington Post published an article on February 13th under the following headline:

Stephen Miller’s authoritarian declaration: Trump’s national security actions "will not be questioned"

Miller, in case the name escapes you, is pictured above. He is identified by CNN as "President Donald Trump's speechwriter, confidante and the author of his controversial immigration ban." Even if you don't remember Miller's name, you probably remember that ban. 

That's the ban that was not discussed in advance with almost anyone but "inner circle" types in the White House. That's the ban that led to amazing, spontaneous protests at airports all across the country. That's the ban that was stayed by a federal court judge. And that's the ban that was unanimously upheld, when the stay was reviewed by a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. The Ninth Circuit decided that the stay was proper because it seemed likely that the ban was unconstitutional, and because the President could show no compelling reason that the ban had to be implemented immediately. I wrote about that ban earlier

On Sunday, February 12th, Miller appeared on Face The Nation, to discuss the ban, and here's a key exchange, with Face the Nation's John Dickerson (emphasis added):

DICKERSON: When I talked to Republicans on the Hill, they wonder what ... have you all learned from this experience with the executive order? 
MILLER: Well, I think that it's been an important reminder to all Americans that we have a judiciary that has taken far too much power and become, in many cases, a supreme branch of government. One unelected judge in Seattle cannot remake laws for the entire country. I mean this is just crazy, John, the idea that you have a judge in Seattle say that a foreign national living in Libya has an effective right to enter the United States is -- is -- is beyond anything we've ever seen before. 
The end result of this, though, is that our opponents, the media and the whole world will soon see as we begin to take further actions, that the powers of the president to protect our country are very substantial and will not be questioned. 

As The Washington Post noted, "Miller's statement that the exercise of presidential powers 'will not be questioned' is an incredible claim to executive authority -- and one we can expect to hear plenty more about. Trump has beaten around this bush plenty, yes. But Miller just came out and said it: that the White House doesn't recognize judges' authority to review things such as his travel ban."

That's not the way the Constitution says it works. In fact, when people want to question a presidential order, the courts stand ready to consider the question, and hear what response, if any, the president has. The courts do tend to defer to the president, when he claims to act to protect the country. But that doesn't mean that questions can't be raised. The problem for Miler, and the president, where this "ban" of his was concerned, is that the "ban" was not well thought through, and appeared to violate due process and other guarantees found in the Constitution. 

And let's remember the first words of the Constitution: "We the people." 

The president works for us, not the other way around. We can question anything, and with this president, we really need to be ready to do just that!

Image Credit:

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

#45 / Autocracy On Autopilot?

The March 2017 edition of The Atlantic carried an article with this title: "How To Build An Autocracy." It is worth reading. The article, framed as a cautionary fable, quoted James Russell Lowell, one of the founders of The Atlantic. In 1888, Lowell warned that the Constitution was not a “machine that would go of itself.” As the article said: 

Checks and balances is a metaphor, not a mechanism.

Expecting that our lives can continue "normally," while our Chief Executive steers us towards autocracy, is to ignore both physics and our common experience. 

Newton's First Law of Motion informs us that an object in motion stays in motion with the same speed and in the same direction, unless acted upon by another force. This translates, in our experience, to an observation that things are going to go on just the way they are, unless someone changes them. 

We have been able to take for granted that we were always on the way, as a nation, to a future of freedom and fulfillment. The Atlantic is wise to warn us that our current politics may have placed us on autopilot towards autocracy. 

If checks and balances is not a "mechanism," something that will automatically steer the ship of government back to within the boundaries delimited by the Constitution (and I think Lowell is right), then what will be needed to shift sails, turn the helm and set a new direction?

The Atlantic article suggests that waiting around for someone else to do it is to capitulate to the new "Captain." I like Bob Dylan, and what he says, and I think that last line is an advisory that he directs to each one of us: 

Everything went from bad to worse,
Money never changed a thing 
Death kept followin', trackin’ us down, 
At least I heard your bluebird sing
Now somebody’s got to show their hand,
Time is an enemy 
I know you’re long gone,
I guess it must be up to me.

Image Credit:

Monday, February 13, 2017

#44 / (Re) Occupy Government

"If the 230-year American democratic experiment unravels - no longer an unthinkable possibility ... "

This is how Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank begins a column published on February 2, 2017 in The (San Jose) Mercury News. An online version of the column bears this title: "The GOP senators who spoke up against Trump’s ban are all talk."

Milbank's point is that the majority Republicans in the Congress "could have put the brakes on President Trump ... They didn't." 

In other words, our elected representatives fundamentally failed to exercise the powers granted to them by the voters, and thus made it more likely that we are, indeed, witnessing the dissolution of the "American democratic experiment." 

If our democracy does unravel, Milbank says, "the postmortem should focus on what happened in the Senate..." during the week following the President's so-called travel ban (i.e., nothing).

Presented above is a photo of the "Occupy Movement," a street and demonstration-based effort to compel the government to act for the "99%," not the "1%." The failure of the government to respond positively to the "Occupy" effort may well have helped President Trump and his cohorts gain control of the White House. Ironically, with Trump's election by voters who wanted more attention paid to the "99%," we may, as Milbank warns, have taken steps towards the end of democracy in the United States (not the result the voters expected, or desired, of course).

That hypothetical "end of democracy in the United States" is still hypothetical, but Milbank is certainly correct that this possibility is no longer "unthinkable." In fact, we had all better start thinking about that possibility quite seriously, and thinking about what to do about it, too. If we don't do something (if we emulate the Republican majority in Congress who didn't "like" the President's Muslim ban, but did nothing to stop it), then what is now only "possible" can ripen into the "actual," while we watch and wait for somebody else, somewhere, to do something. 

Zeynep Tufekci tells us that demonstrations, in and of themselves, are not likely to produce actual political change. The results achieved by the "Occupy" movement certainly provide an example that confirms her observations. 

My belief is that voters across the country will need to "Reoccupy" our government. That means getting personally involved in electoral change. Lots of people are going to need to do that. In November 2018, there will be another opportunity to decide to whom our government will respond. 

The Brand New Congress movement suggests that we need to throw out those who have done nothing to respond to the demands that our government produce  benefits for the "99%," instead of only for the "1%." An obvious deduction from what Milbank says is that we also need to throw out those who have done nothing to counteract ill-considered, probably unconstitutional, and authoritarian actions by the President. 

Whatever the mechanism, we will either "Reoccupy" our democracy, and make it work for us, or we will, as Milbank warns, watch our democratic experiment continue to come undone. 

Image Credit:

Sunday, February 12, 2017

#43 / Tell Us About All These Tremendous Things

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has determined that the courts have the right to review orders relating to immigration that are allegedly unconstitutional. To be more specific, the court said that those who believe that a particular presidential order is unconstitutional have the right to have their assertions heard and decided upon by a federal judge. Furthermore, the Ninth Circuit held that federal judges are well within their rights to "stay" an order under challenge, if it appears that the order is, in fact, unconstitutional, and if the president cannot demonstrate an urgent need to keep the order in place pending judicial review. Click right here for a copy of the court's well-reasoned decision. 

President Trump has said that the court is simply wrong about the basic propositions stated above. He denigrated the Ninth Circuit, and said it was acting "politically," and that the judges' decision was "disgraceful." President Trump's claim is that when the president acts on a matter relating to immigration, whatever the president says is just the way it's going to be, and no judge should ever be able to stay or countermand any such order; the "constitutionality" of the order is simply not relevant.

As I read The New York Times on Saturday, February 11th, I found a news article outlining these views. Addressing his contention that the courts should simply step aside when the president issues an order relating to immigration, President Trump said this:

While I’ve been president, which is just for a very short period of time, I’ve learned tremendous things that you could only learn, frankly, if you were in a certain position, namely president ... And there are tremendous threats to our country. We will not allow that to happen. I can tell you that right now. We will not allow that to happen.

In short, President Trump is telling us that he knows "tremendous things" about our national security that, if we only knew them, would convince us that his apparently ill-considered and arbitrary "travel ban" order is perfectly justified. 


How about you just share those "tremendous things" with us, Mr. President? How about you provide some evidence to the court, which in fact invited exactly that kind of justification for your currently unsupported immigration ban?

We are a "tremendous" country. If there are "tremendous" threats out there, which make it appropriate to prevent those with permanent resident status in our country from coming back here, when they have been traveling overseas, then why don't you let us know?

We can take it. We can handle "tremendous" problems. We can understand.

And if you don't want to share with the American people the alleged "tremendous" threats to our national security, then sit down and shut up. 

Of course, the Ninth Circuit put it more politely!

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Saturday, February 11, 2017

#42 / Predictions Are Not The Same As Destiny

David Talbot is pictured to the right. Politically speaking, Talbot's on the left. 

Talbot is a longtime San Franciscan, journalist and author. His book, Season of the Witch, is a history of San Francisco from the 1960s to the 1980s. Talbot is also the author of The Devil’s Chessboard: Allen Dulles, the CIA and the Rise of America’s Secret Government

Talbot founded the pioneering online news site Salon, and was an editor at the Hearst-owned San Francisco Examiner. He has been published in The New Yorker, Time, The Guardian, The Los Angeles Times, and many other publications.

Talbot's columns are now running three times a week in The Chronicle, found online at That's where I got this biographical information.

On February 9th, the print edition of the Chronicle put the following headline on Talbot's column: "The case for calm in resistance to Trump." I appreciate the sentiment, and recommend the column. "Calm" resistance seems like a good strategy to me. "Resistance," per se, is what many have identified as the appropriate response to the actions and statements of our current president, but without the modifier, "resistance" could quickly get out of hand. The idea that "resistance" to ill-considered and unconstitutional actions ought to be carried out "calmly" seems like very good advice.

In making his case for "calm," Talbot specifically references a recent article by Chris Hedges, as distributed by Nation of Change. Hedges, who is also a journalist (and a very good one, in my opinion), headlined  his recent article this way: "Make America ungovernable." Here is Hedges' pitch for what might be called the "non-calm" form of resistance:

Donald Trump’s regime is rapidly reconfiguring the United States into an authoritarian state. All forms of dissent will soon be criminalized. Civil liberties will no longer exist. Corporate exploitation, through the abolition of regulations and laws, will be unimpeded. Global warming will accelerate. A repugnant nationalism, amplified by government propaganda, will promote bigotry and racism. Hate crimes will explode. New wars will be launched or expanded. 
Americans who remain passive will be complicit.

As you will note, Hedges suggests that our worst fears will be realized. We are already cooked. Are we actually willing to concede that?

Talbot not only refers to Hedges. He also refers to a suggestion by Rosa Brooks, a law professor at Georgetown University Law Center who served as a human rights counselor to the Clinton State Department and the Obama Defense Department. Without directly advocating this, Brooks observes that "a military coup" could be a solution to the bad Executive Orders and other "crazy" policies being advanced by President Trump and his cohorts.

So, Hedges says we should be trying to make our nation "ungovernable," if we don't like the person elected to be our chief executive. Brooks suggests that we should (implicitly) admit that we can't govern ourselves, and turn the job over to the military.

I'm with Talbot in wanting to discourage this approach. I don't think that making the nation "ungovernable" will lead to a good result. I am also with Talbot in thinking that our government is not going to get better if the military takes it upon itself to carry out a "military coup," and to decide what's good policy and what's bad policy for all of us civilian types.

Instead of "calm" resistance, those suggestions sound like "hysterical" resistance to me, and I don't think that public hysteria is going to make our government better. Quite the opposite. It is precisely when civil life appears to become "ungovernable" that authoritarian dictatorships arise, and these are all too often fronted by military men who promptly put everyone under their military command.

Let's be honest. We are facing terrible times ahead. Our president is, in many ways, "crazy," a word employed by Talbot. The President's policies, are, in a very large part, wrong-headed and of dubious constitutionality. What should we do? Let's "keep calm and carry on," as the Brits aspired to do just prior to World War II.

It is important to take seriously predictions about all the bad things that can happen to us (and that are being threatened - no doubt about that). But predictions are not the same as destiny. What actually happens to our nation in the future will depend on what we do. "Resistance" to authoritarianism is absolutely required. But let's demonstrate that the United States can govern itself, even with Caligula in The White House.

That's what maintaining a government "of the people, and by the people, and for the people" requires of us right now.

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Friday, February 10, 2017

#41 / Dear Mr. President, Check Out Agreement #2

Tom Brady (pictured in the center; he's Number 12) is the Quarterback of the New England Patriots professional football team. That's the outfit that won the Super Bowl last Sunday. It was a fifth Super Bowl victory for Brady. I don't follow sports much, but even I recognized Brady's name, when I saw a headline in the February 1, 2017 edition of The Wall Street Journal. The article was titled, "Meet Tom Brady's Shaman." 

The "Shaman" in question is Don Miguel Ruiz, author of The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide  To Personal Freedom. According to the column, Brady "takes everything" from this book. "There isn't a wrong word in that book," according to Tom Brady.

So, what are these Four Agreements? Here you go:

1. Be impeccable with your word.
2. Don’t take anything personally.
3. Don’t make assumptions.
4. Always do your best.

This all seems like good advice to me (even though I haven't read the book itself). I couldn't help but think, though, that Tom Brady could do everyone a big favor by sending a copy of the book, with Brady's recommendation, to our recently-elected President. 

"Hey, Mr. President," I can see Tom Brady saying: "Check out Agreement #2." 

The headline on the article from which I snagged the picture at the top of this blog posting says this: "Tom Brady refuses to discuss Donald Trump: ‘Let’s talk about football stuff.’" That's an admirable sentiment, and probably wise, but Tom, your country needs you now. 

If President Trump doesn't get the message on Agreement #2 (and let's throw in Agreement #1, as well; that seems applicable), we are in for some very bad times!

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Thursday, February 9, 2017

#40 / In A Land Called Hanalei

I found myself, awhile back, in Hanalei, Hawaii, at the Tahiti Nui Bar and Restaurant (pictured below). The Tahiti Nui got pretty good reviews on Trip Advisor, as I recall, and I showed up on a rainy day, looking for lunch. It was definitely a "locals" hangout, particularly the Bar. 

The young server (who is pictured in the middle, above) let me know that the Mai Tai cocktails served from the Bar were the speciality of the house. Since I don't drink, I stuck with water. 

I am able to attest that the burger I ordered was very good. The pizza seemed great, too, based on what I could see from guests at an adjacent table. Those drinking the Mai Tais (and almost everybody was) also appeared to be more than happy! 

Why, though, was I in Hanalei, Hawaii in the first place? Good question!

For someone my age, "Hanalei" conjures up Peter, Paul and Mary, and their song, "Puff The Magic Dragon." For those not familiar with it, the song includes the following chorus: 

Puff, the magic dragon, lived by the sea
And frolicked in the autumn mist
In a land called Hanalei

"Puff The Magic Dragon" is generally thought to have been composed as a musical celebration of the joys of marijuana use. Since I went beyond former President Bill Clinton, and not only didn't "inhale," but never even came close to a position in which that could be a question, I always had more of a geographic idea about the song, as opposed to an understanding based on a possibly mystic derangement of my ordinary perceptions, just by taking a few little "puffs." 

In other words, I always understood the song to refer to Hanalei, Hawaii. So, visiting Hanalei, this reportedly magical and mystical place (though without the benefit of marijuana), was prompted, at least in some part, by my recollection of that "Puff The Magic Dragon" song.

Imagine my surprise, when I looked it up later, to find that the online lyrics never actually used a spelling that tracked the name of the town. One version had it Honahlee. One had it Honnah Lee, and another had it Honali. Good to know, I guess. I liked Hanalei (the town), anyway.

The picture at the top of this blog posting hangs in the Tahiti Nui Restaurant and Bar, located in Hanalei, Hawaii. When I was almost done with lunch, asking for the check, I inquired of the young server who the woman was. I had decided that she must be dead, and it grieved me to think so, so full of life she appeared in the wonderful photo on the wall. 

"She was a real cool lady who worked here," I was told. "She's passed. I didn't know her, and I don't even know her name, but she was really cool. Everyone loved her."

It has been more than fifty years since I first heard Peter, Paul and Mary sing their cheery song. Now I have been to Hanalei. Now I have seen that picture, too. Now I am thinking of the wonderful, magical, mystical, ephemeral life that we each are given, in whatever measure, great or small. 

Tears among the raindrops, in a land called Hanalei.

Image Credits:
Gary A. Patton, personal photos

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

#39 / Should You Send This Guy $49?

Pictured is James Altucher. Altucher promises that if you'll just send him $49, you'll get his Choose Yourself Guide To Wealth, and you will never again actually have to work for a living! 

Here is the link you need to click if you want $175 worth of great advice from Mr. Altucher, pictured to the right, all for only $49! Just remember, you not only get the book, you get all this: 

  • Electronic copy of The Choose Yourself Guide to Wealth  
  • Electronic copy of James's previous best-selling book Choose Yourself  
  • 1 year subscription to The James Altucher Report  
  • Special Report: The 5 Best Retirement Jobs in America  
  • Special Report: The Ultimate Guide to Self-Publishing Your Bestselling Book

I do note that the guidebook materials that Mr. Altucher is promising are online digital versions, so no messy paper products are involved. Also, no actual printing or production costs to Mr. Altucher. 

Mr. Altucher's insight is that those who work for a living (and receive a salary) are not really moving ahead, economically. Those who are moving ahead, economically, are on the "investment" side of the economy, not on the "working" side of the economy. Since Mr. Altucher runs a hedge fund, you can bet he knows what he is talking about.

In case you aren't that confident you can make that "choose yourself to wealth" thing work for you, and are, therefore, reluctant to increase Mr. Altucher's wealth, by sending him $49,* I have another idea. This idea involves utilizing the political process to change the rules of our economy so that the "hedge fund" types get less benefit, and so those who work for a living get more. 

That approach, which might be called the "political" approach, does require collaboration and cooperation among the workers. It cannot be accomplished on an "individualistic" basis, which is the way forward suggested by Mr. Altucher. It is also not all that easy to make the "political" approach work, as history tells us, and it is certainly subject to error (check out our recent pick for President). 

Nonetheless, while it may be hard, history does tell us that collective political action to benefit working men and women CAN be made to work, and that it HAS WORKED in the past. 

You might want to give that political thing a try, before increasing Mr. Altucher's wealth by sending him that $49.

*In reading through Mr. Altucher's pitch, I discovered that you can make $40,000 per week by simply  writing "short little books" and "selling them for a few bucks on Amazon." Obviously, he is following his own advice!

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Tuesday, February 7, 2017

#38 / You Matter To Me

Now, there's a cool tee-shirt! And so on target, scientifically speaking! Click the link to order one (I get no royalties or percentage).

Starting back in 2010, I have written in this blog about physics on a number of occasions. In fact, as my several postings on the topic have revealed, I am kind of a sucker for physics. That is, I would REALLY like to understand physics (and I really don't).

That doesn't mean that I don't keep trying. I do keep trying, and my latest effort involved reading a book called The Dancing Wu Li Masters: An Overview of the New Physics, by Gary Zukav. Zukav hangs out with friends like Oprah Winfrey and Maya Angelou, as he makes clear in The Seat of the Soul, a book he wrote after The Dancing Wu Li Masters.

I found The Dancing Wu Li Masters to be a compelling presentation of our modern understanding of the physical reality in which we live. I recommend it. It is a book that provides succor for those who are very uncomfortable with the purely "materialist" approach to how we understand the reality we inhabit. Zukav, using physics, not mysticism, to back his conclusion, ultimately presents our reality not as "matter-based," but as "energy-based" (and we do all know about Einstein's E = MC squared equation, so what Zukav says is credible).

In fact, even better for those with "religious" impulses (and Quakers, specifically), Zukav sees human beings as "composed of light."

I am going to be working on the implications of what Zukav says.

I'm a sucker for physics! I figure it has some important lessons to teach us, and I do think Zukav's book is a worthwhile effort to make sense of who we are, and what we're doing here.

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Monday, February 6, 2017

#37 / Afterward, V

It is "Afterward," so what do we do now? In general, a one word answer appears above. The word "resist" seems to summarize the prescriptions coming from many organizations and individuals who are active in our political life.

The "RESIST" banner shown above was placed by Greenpeace activists on a crane near the White House, within one week after the Inauguration. Here's another photo, to show the banner in context:

I am completely on board with the need to "resist" unconstitutional, illegal, and unfair actions by our new President and the Congress, and I was heartened by the spirited and spontaneous outpouring of direct action at airports around the country, when the President issued his probably unconstitutional, and definitely unfair and outrageous, ban on immigration from certain Muslim-majority nations. Those demonstrations are surely representative of the kind of "resistance" that is, and will continue to be, required.

I do want to say, however, that the suggestion of Angela Davis, outlined below, which resonates with me, and I think with many, requires something that goes beyond a "resistance" that can be defined as "opposition" and "response."

Now that it is "Afterward," and we need to decide, individually, but above all collectively, what we must do, we must not think that simple "opposition" to unfair, illegal, and unconstitutional actions, however necessary, is going to be sufficient.

"Resistance" to our current political situation must not be accomplished by simple objection to the proposals and actions of President Trump and the Republicans in Congress. As Beverly Gage says in an article titled, "Negative Energy," which appeared under that title in the print edition of The New York Times Magazine on Sunday, February 5th, opponents will have no problem finding things to "stand against." The challenge will be in "figuring out what they'll be for."

If we are serious about "changing the things we cannot accept," that means we must be affirmative, not reactive. Not only do large demonstrations not accomplish political change, as Zeynep Tufekci has warned us, "fighting back" against bad actions puts all the initiative on the side of the oppressors and opponents. If "resistance" simply means our response to the actions and proposals of others, then those against whom we are fighting will set the terms of the debate and the conflict. If that is what "resistance" means, that puts those who want to create a different reality at a distinct disadvantage. 

One blogger, commenting on the "Muslim Ban" promulgated by President Trump, called it a "head fake," and said that we were "falling for it." Jake Fuentes argued that what was really going on was an effort to test the strength of the checks and balances within the government that we have always assumed can protect us against arbitrary actions by the Executive. 

Fuentes argument makes sense to me. "Resistance," in the face of a President who is seeking, systematically, to increase his ability to act with arbitrary power, demands that our opposition  recreate the conditions of a genuine democracy. This will require much more than responding to the actions of Donald Trump, because what the past presidential campaign, and Trump's election victory, has revealed, is that American government is facing a fundamental challenge, and that our system of democratic self-government is in imminent peril. 

George Lakey, responding to the political and governmental crisis that the President's "Muslim Ban" has revealed (even more than created) has also said something worthy of attention. Lakey is a longtime nonviolent activist, and his "10-point plan to stop Trump and make gains in justice and equality" defines how "resistance" must actually operate. It is well worth reading, and his point #3 is key:

3. Play offense, not defense  
The last time progressives in the United States faced this degree of danger was when Ronald Reagan became president. One of Reagan’s first acts was to fire the air traffic controllers when they went on strike, putting into question national air safety. Strategically, he chose “shock and awe,” and it worked – most of the U.S. movements for change went on the defensive. 
Gandhi and military generals agree: No one wins anything of consequence on the defensive. I define “defensive” as trying to maintain previous gains. U.S. movements in 1980 made many gains in the previous two decades. Understandably, they tried to defend them. As Gandhi and generals would predict, the movements instead lost ground to the “Reagan Revolution” and, for the most part, have lost ground ever since. 
One exception stands out: the LGBT movement. Instead of defending, for example, local gains in city human relations commissions, LGBT people escalated in the 1980s with ACT-UP leading the way. They followed up with the campaign for equal marriage and escalated again with the demand for equality in the military. 
LBGT people proved that Gandhi and the generals are right: The best defense is an offense. 
I hear many American progressives unconsciously talking about Trump defensively, preparing to make precisely the same mistake as an older generation did with Reagan. The LGBT’s lesson is obvious: heighten nonviolent direct action campaigns and start new ones. Instead of defending Obamacare, let’s push for an even more comprehensive health solution, like Medicare for all.

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Sunday, February 5, 2017

#36 / Afterward, IV

The Wall Street Journal thinks that the Trump Administration and the current Congress will soon make use of what one of its columnists calls "A GOP Regulatory Game Changer." 

Those who care about the environment are closely following reports that Republicans in Congress are hoping to repeal the Endangered Species Act. Clearly, repealing a law, when you have the votes to do it, changes things in a big way. There is no doubt in my mind that the Endangered Species Act is very much "endangered" itself. 

As it turns out, corporate powers believe that the "Congressional Review Act" can be mobilized to eliminate not only recently-enacted regulations left behind by the Obama Administration but regulations that date from the very beginnings of the Obama Administration, in 2009. Read Kimberley Strassel's column to see an outline of how that might be accomplished. Eliminating the regulations that currently govern how the world works, because we do live in a "regulatory world," would definitely be game-changing in its implications. 

The fact that this is possible, and even likely, demonstrates, I think, how profoundly changed all things political now find themselves in our "afterward." 

And, yes, the question remains: What must we do about it?

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Saturday, February 4, 2017

#35 / Afterward, III

President Trump meeting with the International Brotherhood of Carpenters at the White House.
Prior to the November 8, 2016, presidential election, many pundits predicted that the Republican Party was in disarray, and would quite possibly cease to exist in the aftermath of the upcoming election. 

As it turns out, it is the Democratic Party whose future is now most in doubt. The Republicans seem to be in rare good health.

According to one leading right-wing pundit, The Wall Street Journal's Peggy Noonan, President Donald Trump is on his way to building a different Republican Party, a "worker's party," a "populist" party. The picture above shows President Trump, meeting with union leaders in the White House. It might be that Noonan is on to something.

If Noonan is right, the Republican Party is grappling with its own approach to "afterward," and is attempting to strengthen up its "broken places" by redesigning what it stands for. 

We will see how that works out, but this kind of effort will have to be made by the Democratic Party, too, if the Democratic Party wants to continue to exist as a political force. 

And, let's not forget, whatever the parties do, each one of us still has our own "afterward" to construct. 

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Friday, February 3, 2017

#34 / Afterward, II

Before anyone gets too comfortable with the inspiring quotation captured in the image above, I suppose I should complete Hemingway's observation

But those that will not break it kills. It kills the very good and the very gentle and the very brave impartially. If you are none of these you can be sure it will kill you too but there will be no special hurry.

Yesterday, speaking of our politics, I cited to Zeynep Tufekci, who advises us that political "protests," as manifested by large demonstrations in the street and public square, are not, in and of themselves, going to change our current political reality. It is what happens "afterward," after the protest, and not the size of the protest, that will make the difference. 

Our new President is Donald Trump. The election is over. "Afterward" is now. So, what shall we do?

This is not an easy question, because it is clear that our political world has been "broken" in a very fundamental way, and that the repair of our political world is not going to be easily accomplished. It will certainly not be repaired by marches and protests, as Tufekci tells us.

I think it is fair to admit that it was not the election of Donald Trump, alone, that "broke" our politics, but the election of Donald Trump most definitely revealed how broken our politics has become.

The "break" in our politics MUST break "us," too, or we will suffer the fate outlined in the second part of the Hemingway quote. 

If our routines, our normal lives, are not "broken" by what has happened in our political world, then our politics will die. There may be no special hurry, but that is what the fate of self-government in the United States will be if what has happened in the November 2016 presidential election does not break us out of our current lives and current routines, and by doing so, provide us an opportunity to rebuild our fractured politics with the strength that can survive any subsequent assault. 

I pull no punches. Hemingway didn't either. "Death" will be the fate of our democracy unless we take Hemingway's advice and "break" ourselves, break our routines, break free from the lives we have led, the lives we have loved. If we do nothing new, now, we know what happens "afterward." 

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Thursday, February 2, 2017

#33 / Afterward

Zeynep Tufekci, pictured above, is an assistant professor at the School of Information and Library Science at the University of North Carolina. She has a new book coming out soon, the title of which includes this phrase: "The Power and Fragility of Networked Protest."

In a recent column in The New York Times, Tufekci commented on the Women's March on Washington, pictured below. The March was impressive, and may have been, as Tufekci says, "the largest protest in American history," with an estimated 3.5 million participants in various locations throughout the United States.

So....does size matter?

Tufekci delivers what she calls, "bad news." 

In the digital age, the size of a protest is no longer a reliable indicator of a movement’s strength. Comparisons to the number of people in previous marches are especially misleading....
This doesn’t mean that protests no longer matter — they do. Nowadays, however, protests should be seen not as the culmination of an organizing effort, but as a first, potential step. A large protest today is less like the March on Washington in 1963 and more like Rosa Parks’s refusal to move to the back of the bus. What used to be an endpoint is now an initial spark. 
More than ever before, the significance of a protest depends on what happens afterward.

Read Tufekci's column. I think you'll agree. Marching, and getting a lot of people to a big demonstration, does not change history. President George W. Bush called the marchers against the war in Iraq a "focus group." We didn't stop the war.

"Afterward" is, in fact, what counts, and it's already "afterward" now.

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Wednesday, February 1, 2017

#32 / First, Last, And Always (And Alone)

The President's Inaugural Address made it official. Our national policy, under President Trump, is going to be "America First." 

The President's speech echoed (who knows if intentionally) the infamous racist and anti-semite, David Duke, former Imperial Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan. Duke identified his philosophy as one of "America First, Last, and Always!"

In a column published in the Mercury News on Sunday, January 29, 2017, Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson told us that we would be ill-advised to ignore the president's "verbal eruptions." This "verbal eruptions" phrase was translated by the Bay Area News Group, in its print edition headline on Robinson's column, into the word "rants." Oddly enough, as others have noted, the President's first official proclamation as President, his Inaugural Address, does seem to qualify as a "rant," in many ways. 

Subsequent events confirm the validity of Robinson's cautionary suggestion that we should take the President's words very seriously. One of the President's first official actions, following up on his first official speech, was to order a closing of the borders of the United States of America to various persons who might qualify as Muslims. 

As noted in a front-page article in the Sunday New York Times, the Executive Order titled, "Protecting The Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into The United States," is hardly likely to accomplish this objective. Even if forbidding entry to "Muslims" would actually be protective (the opposite is likely to be the case), The Times' story properly noted:

There was a random quality to the list of countries: It excluded Saudi Arabia and Egypt, where the founders of Al Qaeda and many other jihadist groups have originated. Also excluded are Pakistan and Afghanistan, where persistent extremism and decades of war have produced militants who have occasionally reached the United States. Notably, perhaps, the list avoided Muslim countries where Mr. Trump has major business ventures.

The front page of the print edition of The New York Times on Sunday, January 29th, has three stories on the impacts of, and reactions to, the President's Executive Order on "Foreign Terrorist Entry Into The United States." One headline said, "Confusion at Airports Ends With a Partial Stay Favoring Detainees." Another was titled, "Ban Prompts Deep Anger, Muted Praise." The Scott Shane article, already quoted, was a "News Analysis" headlined as follows: "Visceral Fear, Dubious Cure."

For those who think that we do need to be prepared to take action, to demonstrate against the actions that will clearly follow upon the President's words, it was heartening to see large and spontaneous demonstrations at airports on both the East and West Coasts that immediately followed upon the President's travel ban:

Protestors at San Francisco International Airport

Protestors at Kennedy International Airport in New York

We (the people) must be prepared to act! That is good advice, and Eugene Robinson is not the only one giving it. But let's not forget to think about the more abstract or theoretical implications of the "America First" approach. 

Perhaps the very greatest thing about the United States of America has been its welcome to the world. Often rather arrogantly, the United States presumes that it "leads" or should lead the world, but whatever legitimacy that kind of claim might have comes from our willingness to have an "open door" to all those who wish to come here, and to maintain a society that discriminates not at all on the basis of race or religion. This is our proclaimed intention, however poorly executed it has been in the past, and continues to be. If we give it up, and deny our ties, of every kind, to the world at large, we will be (first, last, and always) completely and utterly alone. 

The New Colossus 
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
"Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!" 

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