Thursday, January 31, 2013

#31 / Malignancy

Examining the body politic.

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I saw this cartoon in The Comic News. You can subscribe to The Comic News by clicking the link.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

#30 / We The Government

I am still thinking about President Obama's inauguration, and about reactions to it. The Wall Street Journal didn't like his speech. No surprise there, of course. They don't like anything related to government in general, and to President Obama, specifically. Their editorial, in the January 22nd edition, was titled, "We the Government." The editors denounced Obama's references in his inaugural speech to that famous phrase, "We the People," from the Preamble to the Constitution

The President borrowed the Constitution's opening words of "we the people" numerous times, but his main theme was that the people are fundamentally defined through government action, and his government is here to help you.
In fact, since any nation is composed of numerous individuals, and since this is particularly true of our "nation of immigrants," where we are not defined by any commonality of "the colors of our skin, or the tenets of our faith, or the origins of our names," as the President put it, a real question is posed: who or what is the nation?

The President's speech states his conclusion: "What makes us American is our allegiance to an idea, articulated in a Declaration made more than two centuries ago."

In other words, unless we going to define ourselves only as a group of unrelated individuals, we are defined, collectively and as a "nation," by our political process. The fact that we can say "we are the government," and make it stick, is the greatest privilege of our citizenship. It is a gift we need to transmit, without amendment, to our posterity. And it is a light to the world. 

(As a fun digression, track down the Florida Keys Tea Party website, from which the illustration comes. There, you will find that the Florida Keys Tea Party group is upset with Obama for another reason. They don't want "leadership." That's right! They say: "It’s time to end all leadership in government." Somehow, though I am definitely a "we the people" guy, that doesn't seem quite right to me.)

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Tuesday, January 29, 2013

#29 / Made For This Moment

At the inauguration ceremonies on Monday, January 21, 2013, President Barack Obama said in his inaugural speech that the nation must come together to meet the challenges of the day: "We are made for this moment, and we will seize it -- so long as we seize it together." 

The challenges are real. They seem like doom. But the President is right, and so is George Fox

You have no time but this present time; therefore prize your time for your soul's sake.

Monday, January 28, 2013

#28 / Doom

doom noun
  1. Fate or destiny, especially adverse fate; unavoidable ill fortune: In exile and poverty, he met his doom.
  2. Ruin; death: to fall to one's doom.
  3. A judgment, decision, or sentence, especially an unfavorable one: The judge pronounced the defendant's doom.
  4. The Last Judgment, at the end of the world.
  5. Obsolete: a statute, enactment, or legal judgment.
Within the world that we create, nothing is inevitable. Nothing is "unavoidable." Cold comfort if we act as though we can keep doing the same things, and expect some different result!

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Sunday, January 27, 2013

#27 / The Progress Myth

An article by Chris Hedges, attached to this picture, makes this statement:

The technical and scientific forces that created a life of unparalleled luxury—as well as unrivaled military and economic power—for the industrial elites are the forces that now doom us.
Just for the record, I don't agree with "doom."

Human beings have put into motion processes of incredible power that are leading to the destruction of the civilization that we have constructed within the World of Nature, a world that is being threatened by our human actions and activities. 

The article is bleak. "Progress" is not good. Progress is "bad." The pursuit of what we have been calling "progress" is destroying us.

All agreed. But "doom" is defeatist. 

Change is a possibility. 

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Saturday, January 26, 2013

#26 / The Social Graph

Larry Magid has written a column arguing that Facebook's new "social graph" tool can "open up the network." I think he is persuasive.

In fact, maybe this new Facebook tool (not yet generally available, but on the way) is a "tool we can use" for a new kind of politics. As I have said before, I am convinced that our existence is essentially collective in nature. A key question is whether we find the tools to deploy our collective wisdom and collective power to recalibrate and recreate the reality we have managed to construct to date.

Stand by.

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Friday, January 25, 2013

#25 / I'm A Poet ...

And I know it
Hope I don't blow it

   - Bob Dylan

For denizens of Santa Cruz, be aware that there will  be a tribute to Bob Dylan tonight, at 7:00 p.m., at the Kuumbwa Jazz Center.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

#24 / Soon

Autocide (2012) Nate Lowman

There is a statement
That brooks no disagreement

Even the young

Has such a way
Of Slipping by

Long we have

Till the end

It comes



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Wednesday, January 23, 2013

#23 / Folding Water

Rising sea levels might occur because of naturally-caused changes in the processes that control and determine the character of the natural world. It is widely accepted, however, that the rising sea levels that we are currently witnessing, and that we anticipate in the future, are the result of our failure, collectively, to understand that the laws of nature can't be broken. The actions that we have undertaken (and are continuing to undertake) that increase the level of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere have led, inevitably, to the phenomenon of global warming, and warmer global temperatures have led, inevitably, to rising sea levels.

Now the question is, what do we do about it? 

One approach would be to adapt to the world of nature in its latest iteration, a world in which sea levels will rise. That approach would mean moving the vital structures of our civilization back and away from the current shoreline, and from the places where we expect the shoreline to be in the future, as both global warming and rising sea levels continue. That approach, philosophically, suggests that we should adapt to and live within the natural world, instead of trying to engineer a different, human-built world that we might prefer. 

Of course, human beings can, and always have, gloried in their power to build a human world that is different from, and that they find preferable to, the world provided by Nature. Last June, I published a "Two Worlds Picture" that illustrates the phenomenon. 

In the Sunday, January 20th edition of the San Francisco Chronicle, news stories featured a plan that might protect existing human developments around the Bay from the results of rising sea levels. A contest has been held, in fact, to find ways to protect "our turf." One elegant solution, pictured above, is called "Folding Water." It would cost billions to implement, and it might or might not actually work. It is worth reading about.

It is also worth thinking about that "other" solution: getting out of the way of nature, and living within that Natural World that is the ultimate support for all life, including our own.

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Tuesday, January 22, 2013

#22 / Self-Evident

President Obama went back to basics in his inaugural speech yesterday. You can read the whole speech right here

What makes us exceptional, what makes us America is our allegiance to an idea articulated in a declaration made more than two centuries ago. We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.


That they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, and among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Today we continue a never ending journey to bridge the meaning of those words with the realities of our time. For history tells us that while these truths may be self-evident, they’ve never been self-executing.

On target, Mr. President. 

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Monday, January 21, 2013

#21 / Preamble

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

The blessings of liberty. For ourselves, and our posterity. Secured by politics.

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Sunday, January 20, 2013

#20 / Beloved World

United States Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor has written a personal biography, which she has entitled, Beloved World. Here is a link to an article about the book, and another link to a review

I want to comment on the title. That title is not so different, it seems to me, from the title of Alice Munro's most recent book of stories, Dear Life. The title story in Munro's book is one of four stories that are "autobiographical in feeling, though not, sometimes, entirely so in fact." In a little explantation called "Finale," Munro says that the final four stories in Dear Life, including the title story, which is the last story in the book, are the "first and last - and the closest - things I have to say about my own life." 

The Sotomayor title also resonates with the title of a biography of my favorite political philosopher, Hannah Arendt, For The Love of the World

It is, in the end, our love of this world that mobilizes the action that allows us to create the world itself - that "human world" that we most immediately inhabit. This human world, our "political" world, is the "beloved world" that blesses us, and that is our blessing to our children, and their children, who come after us, and who then must mobilize such love again.

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Saturday, January 19, 2013

#19 / Front Page

Joan Blade (MoveOn) and Mark Meckler (Tea Party)
Yesterday, it was "mind blowing," front page news in the San Francisco Chronicle that the co-founder of the "liberal" group, MoveOn, actually met personally, and talked politics, with a representative of the  "conservative" Tea Party.

I am sorry to be less than overwhelmed at what the participants are calling "transpartianship." The essence of any viable "politics" is the debate and discussion, conflict and controversy, that leads, ultimately, to the decisions that represent our political choices, and that creates, as we make those choices, the "political" world in which we most immediately live.

In other words, if we are not talking to those with whom we disagree, we are retreating from the most basic part of what democratic self-government is all about. 

On the other hand, the fact that there are people from both the "liberal" and "conservative" sides that are actually engaged in that democratic debate may be "big news," after all. It doesn't seem to be happening too often. If we talk, we still have a chance to make the changes we need to make for "our" world to survive!

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Friday, January 18, 2013

#18 / The Great Rotation

The Wall Street Journal is talking about the "Great Rotation," per an article in the January 14, 2013 edition, and in articles appearing subsequently. The phrase refers to the movement of money from bonds to stocks, as investors begin to believe, once again, in the "upside of equities."

I like to keep abreast of what The Wall Street Journal has to say, but if you want some good advice about finance, I'd direct you to The Intellectual Origins of the Global Financial Crisis. This book, edited by Roger Berkowitz and Taun N. Toay, was inspired by the thinking of Hannah Arendt. I have mentioned the book before. In fact, more than once

The "rotation" metaphor would seem to suggest that our world (and the world of finance is definitely part of "our" world) operates on the basis of laws like those that steer the planets. Not so. Our financial system is subject to human direction. Those gaming the system, for their profit, want us to think that there is some inevitability we can predict, so we will put our money to work for them.

Check out The Intellectual Origins of the Global Financial Crisis. Then think about investments.

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Thursday, January 17, 2013

#17 / Dear Life

Alice Munro
I received Alice Munro's newest book of stories, Dear Life, as a birthday present. In fact, I got it twice, and feel doubly blessed to have read it. 

Maybe it's particularly appropriate for those in the "older set." I qualify. But I actually think that this newest book is a great collection of stories for anyone; age not a factor. Still juicy. Still very good.


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Wednesday, January 16, 2013

#16 / Suicide

Aaron Swartz
Aaron Swartz, twenty-six years old and an extremely accomplished innovator, took his own life on Friday, January 11th. His suicide has received widespread news coverage. An editorial in yesterday's San Francisco Chronicle questioned the appropriateness of the federal criminal charges pending against Swartz at the time of his death. 

The fact that Swartz was facing a possible thirty-five years in prison for the crime of hacking into a private website, and making public on the internet various academic documents that were, admittedly, owned by someone else, is generally thought to be a reason, or even the reason, for his suicide. It does seem to me that the Chronicle is right, and that this kind of penalty would be an unfairness.

I doubt that suicide can ever really be understood through some sort of "rational" analysis, but if analyzed in rational terms, does it actually make sense for a person to commit suicide when faced with facts that are overwhelmingly "unfair," daunting, and discouraging, and that understandably lead those  who are experiencing them towards despair? 

"Life," the fact that we are "alive," and not dead, that we "exist" rather than not existing, is an attribute of what I call the World of Nature. We do not create our own lives; we receive them (some would say as a gift; others might say as a burden or curse). In a very real way, it seems to me, when events within the world we most immediately inhabit, the "human" world, make us decide to take our own lives, we implicitly are choosing to elevate the importance of "our" world over the significance of the World of Nature, the world we don't create. 

Facing thirty-five years of an unfair imprisonment (or facing extreme poverty, or the loss of one's children, or physical disability, to provide some other examples) can be both daunting and discouraging. Truly, life is not "fair." But the conditions of our lives are, in fact, a "human" reality. "Life" itself is something different. "Life" is part of that world we do not create ourselves, and that is, ultimately, though not immediately, the foundation of our existence. 

We all know the saying, "where there is life, there is hope."

If that is an "accurate" statement, and I believe it is, then what it means is that in "our" world, whatever exists can be changed. Unfairnesses can be remedied. Limitations can be overcome. "Realities" can be modified.

This realization can be, and I believe it should be, a counsel against despair.

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Tuesday, January 15, 2013

#15 / Three Worlds

"Three worlds" an hommage to Escher
My postings in this Two Worlds blog focus, for the most part, on interactions between the World of Nature, which we did not and do not create, and the "human" or "political" world that we do create, and that we most immediately inhabit. 

I continue to think that it is helpful to keep these "two worlds" in mind as we confront the opportunities and the challenges inherent in being alive, and as we consider what I often call the Stockdale questions: who am I and what am I doing here? 

It is helpful not to get confused by what we can do in "our" world, our "political" world (anything is possible) and what we can do in the World of Nature, which ultimately supports all life, and which imposes constraints that are absolute, though we constantly try to pretend they aren't. 

All that said, and not repudiating a word I've spoken in favor of this "two worlds hypothesis," I do want to confess that I am aware that there is also some kind of "third dimension," a "third world," a world of the spirit, something that encompasses and surrounds both the World of Nature and the human world.

Blessed are we when we feel its presence.

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Monday, January 14, 2013

#14 / Infidel

Ayaan Hirsi Ali

French warplanes have bombed Gao, a city located in the one-time French colony of Mali. It would appear, from the news report I read, that the hostilities in Mali are essentially religious in origin, and that France's military intervention is in opposition to "a radical Islamist group" that the news report says is attempting "to enforce an extreme interpretation of Islamic law in northern Mali."

I recently finished reading Infidel, the autobiography of Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who is pictured above. Ayaan Hirsi Ali was born in Mogadishu, Somalia, and lived thereafter in Saudi Arabia, Ethiopia, and Kenya. Her life is a testimony to what is implied by a strict or "extreme" interpretation of Islamic law. She was subjected to genital mutilation while a young girl, and while she was a devout follower of Islam in her youth, she ultimately fled Kenya to escape an arranged marriage, demanded by her father and sanctioned by Islamic law. She was given asylum in the Netherlands, and she then rejected Islam, ultimately becoming an atheist. After obtaining citizenship in the Netherlands, she was elected to the Dutch Parliament. Currently, Ali lives in the United States, where she is a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. Her story is an exciting and informative one, and I recommend the book.

Recommending Ali's book is different from agreeing with all the judgments contained in the book. Here is Ali on Islam, in the final few pages of Infidel:

People often imply that I am angry because I was excised, or because my father married me off. They never fail to add that such things are rare in the modern Muslim world. The fact is that hundreds of millions of women around the world live in forced marriages, and six thousand small girls are excised every day.... When people say that the values of Islam are compassion, tolerance, and freedom, I look at the reality, at real cultures and governments, and I see that it simply isn't so. People in the West swallow this sort of thing because they have learned not to examine the religions or cultures of minorities too critically, for fear of being called racist. It fascinates them that I am not afraid to do so. In [Islamic] societies, cruelty is implacable and inequality is the law of the land. Dissidents are tortured. Women are policed both by the state and by their families to whom the state gives the power to rule their lives....
In July 2010, Ali gave an interview to the Sydney Daily Telegram in which she is quoted as claiming that Christianity can, and presumably should, "combat the rise of conservative Islam."

Churches should do all in their power to win this battle for the souls of humans in search of a compassionate God, who now find that a fierce Allah is closer to hand.
Having read her story, (and I read it sympathetically), it seems to me that Ali is calling for what amounts to a religious war between Islam and Christianity - and she is doing that as an atheist,  who abjures all religion. Even if Islam in the "real world" rejects the values of compassion, tolerance, and freedom, as Ali claims, initiating a religiously-based conflict to oppose Islam seems to me to be a poor prescription for the ultimate triumph of these values for humankind. 

We have to find a better way. In the United States, the Founding Fathers thought they found it, in a demand that political action be totally separated from religious doctrine. This is an approach I continue to endorse. Not only freedom of religion, but freedom from religion is what our First Amendment guarantees.

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Sunday, January 13, 2013

# 13 / All Of The Above #2

President Barack Obama and California Governor Jerry Brown pretty much share an "all of the above" approach to the development of new energy sources. I provided a link to an excellent New Yorker article on the fallacies of this approach in an earlier posting. One of the underlying concepts in the "all of the above" approach is that "more" is "better." 

A recent critique of natural gas as a new energy source, published by AlterNetmakes the point with respect to that energy source. While using natural gas is arguably "better" than using coal, or tar sands, or oil, including oil produced from ever more dangerous offshore production facilities, including offshore facilities located in the Arctic, there are so many "downsides" that any putative positives are actually overridden. 

The right approach to a world worth having, a world that is sometimes euphemistically called a "sustainable" world, is "less is more." 

More isn't "better." It's worse. 

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Saturday, January 12, 2013

#12 / Air Capture

In November 2012, the World Bank released a report it titled, Turn Down The Heat: Why A Four Degree Warmer World Must Be Avoided

Truthout, which advertises itself as a source of "fearless, independent news and opinion," has now informed its readers, in an article published on January 11, 2013, that things are indeed as bad as the World Bank says, and probably worse. However, Truthout couples its dire warning with a contradictory message: 

Impacts are already worse than stated, but fortunately, solutions could be easier than are commonly understood.
What solutions might they be talking about? Check the image above. It's called "air capture," and this means sucking carbon dioxide directly out of the air, and then sequestering it. This is the new technology that Truthout thinks can save us. Technology (once again) rides to the rescue:

Billionaires across the globe are investing in carbon capture and sequestration technologies to meet the climate change challenge. Outfits like SRI in California are looking to capitalize on the vast amount of money soon to be spent on cleaning up climate pollution by sucking CO2 straight out of the air. The future could be brighter than we think.

To be fair to Truthout, the article to which I am citing also talks about ways we can use energy more efficiently, and "conserve" our way towards a solution to the climate crisis. But you can sense the hope being placed in billionaires and new technology. That's the real "excitement" in the Truthout presentation. 

My reaction is not positive. In my opinion, whenever human beings (even the "good guy" intellectuals like those at Truthout, those who consider themselves apostles of "fearless, independent news and opinion") start believing that human beings can assume responsibility for World of Nature, and operate its processes the way we operate the machines that we have brought into being ourselves, they are engaging in wishful thinking. 

Pardon my skepticism about the idea that "billionaires" will save the world. And pardon my skepticism about "solutions" to our climate crisis that are premised on the idea that we can run the Natural World as though it were like one of our human-created industrial processes. Our creative abilities are boundless, as long as these energies focus on the world that we create, and for which we bear complete responsibility. But when we start assuming that we can run the World of Nature, too, a world that we did not create, we get outside the "bounds" of what we can actually accomplish.

That's the truth, as I see it.

Over and out.

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Friday, January 11, 2013

#11 / Build A Smarter Planet?

The image above is from the January 8, 2013 online edition of the San Francisco Chronicle. It depicts Armand Neukermans at work in his Sunnyvale laboratory, where he is doing research to find out how to make clouds reflect more heat and light. Neukermans is thinking that he can "engineer" a solution to global warming, by reworking some of the the planet's most basic operating principles.

I liked the letters to the editor submitted after the initial publication of the article about Neukermans' efforts. In particular, I applaud the comment of Jim McDannold, of Fort Bragg, who says that "we cannot, as IBM states, 'Build a smarter planet.'"

The premise of my "Two Worlds" thinking is that while human beings are absolutely able to construct a "human world," which is the result of human activity, we cannot (and should not try) to be in charge of the World of Nature, upon which we ultimately depend.

I doubt that either Jim McDannold or the other letter writers have been reading my Two Worlds blog. But they could have been writing it!

When will we learn the lesson so well articulated by McDannold?

Wouldn't it be better to use all that expertise, money and intelligence to find ways to minimize our footprint rather than trying to alter a system of which we have little knowledge? 
I also find it egregious that clinical trials would be dependent upon consultations with the "stakeholders." Who are these stakeholders? It seems to me that each and every living creature on this planet are the real stakeholders here and should have more of a say than a bunch of investors. 
I believe that the planet is a lot smarter than we are and that, when it gets right down to it, if we do not throw or resources into shrinking our foot print, the planet will simply kick our asses out into space and recover just fine without us.

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Thursday, January 10, 2013

#10 / The Fund Industry

I read an article in The Wall Street Journal on Monday, January 7th, that talked about "the fund industry." As you can see from the image, the idea that the world of Wall Street is an actual "industry" is widely-accepted. The "finance" sector of our economy, in fact, sometimes called FIRE, because it is composed of the finance, insurance and real estate sectors, has experienced an unprecedented and continued growth. This growth has come at the expense of real production, i.e., manufacturing. Since 1950, the finance "industry" has grown from 10 percent of our Gross Domestic Product to over 20 percent. During the same time period, manufacturing has declined from 25 percent of GDP to only 11 percent.

The facts just quoted come from an article entitled "Turning The Economy Into A Casino," authored by David B. Matias and Sophia V. Burress. This article is found in a fascinating book called The Intellectual Origins of the Global Financial Crisis, edited by Roger Berkowitz and Taun N. Toay. I have mentioned this book before, in an earlier posting, quoting from a review. Now, I have had the opportunity to read the actual book.

The Intellectual Origins of the Global Financial Crisis is a book worth reading: Hannah Arendt does economic analysis. That is pretty much the idea that has motivated the book. I recommend it.

Oh, and I don't think that the so-called "fund industry" is any kind of real "industry" at all. Names seem to refer to real things, but George Orwell wasn't the first to note that names can be misleading - and intentionally so. Think about that "Defense Department" we keep hearing so much about! 

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Wednesday, January 9, 2013

#9 / Word Of The Year

That "Word of the Day" exercise is a good way to build vocabulary. Here's my nomination for "Word of the Year," with credit to

1. of, showing, or characterized by deep thought.
2. of grave or somber disposition, character, or manner: a serious occasion; a serious man.
3. being in earnest; sincere; not trifling: His interest was serious.
4. requiring thought, concentration, or application: serious reading; a serious task.
5. weighty or important: a serious book; marriage is a serious matter.
6. giving cause for apprehension; critical: The plan has one serious flaw.
7. Medicine/Medical. (of a patient's condition) having unstable or otherwise abnormal vital signs and other unfavorable indicators, as loss of appetite and poor mobility: patient is acutely ill.

That is about where I am headed. I think it's a serious year coming up!

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Tuesday, January 8, 2013

#8 / O Cursed Spite

In Act One, Scene Five, Hamlet hears from the ghost of his father, and then complains: "The time is out of joint. O cursed spite! That ever I was born to set it right!"

As a character from one of my favorite Bob Dylan songs said: "Hey, I've been having the same old dreams..."

Guess here's one more for the New Year's Resolution list!

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Monday, January 7, 2013

#7 / The Liberalism Blues

I am subscribed to a blog published by The Hannah Arendt Center For Politics and Humanities at Bard College. You can subscribe, too. 

On January 1st, the blog was titled "The Once And Future Liberalism," and discussed an article with that same title, authored by Walter Russell Mead. I read the article, and I recommend it. As is so often the case, however, I found that the article's analysis of "the problem" was quite good, while the "remedy" proposed was less so. Don't we all have that experience? It is usually easier to know what's "wrong" with the world than to know exactly what we should do to make things "right."

I have always been proud to think of myself as a "liberal." Mead's main point is that "liberalism" is dead, and that it cannot be and will not be resuscitated. According to Mead, the governmental gridlock that is driving everyone crazy, here in the United States, significantly stems from the unwillingness of "blue state liberals" to recognize that the essential elements of what has come to be called "liberalism" are no longer functional: 

“Liberal” and “progressive” are two of the noblest and most important words in the English dictionary. They describe essential qualities of the American mind and essential values in American politics in a country born in reaction against oligarchy and concentrated autocracy. They sum up in a nutshell what this country is all about. A liberal is someone who seeks ordered liberty through politics—namely, the reconciliation of humanity’s need for governance with its drive for freedom in such a way as to give us all the order we need (but no more) with as much liberty as possible. In this sense, liberty isn’t divided or divisible into freedoms of speech, religion, economic activity or personal conduct: Genuine liberals care about all of the above and seek a society in which individuals enjoy increasing liberty in each of these dimensions while continuing to cultivate the virtues and the institutions that give us the order without which there can be no freedom. 
But today the words liberal and progressive have been hijacked and turned into their opposites: A “liberal” today is somebody who defends the 20th-century blue social model; a “progressive” is now somebody who thinks history has gone wrong and that we must restore the Iron Triangle of yesteryear to make things better. Most of what passes for liberal and progressive politics these days is a conservative reaction against economic and social changes the Left doesn’t like. The people who call themselves liberal in the United States today are fighting rearguard actions to save old policies and established institutions that once served noble purposes but that now need fundamental reform (and in some cases abolition), lest they thwart the very purposes for which they were created.

Frankly, it's pretty hard to disagree with Mead's presentation, as you go through it, with respect to the problems of "liberalism" in the modern day. But his policy recommendations don't seem to me to provide solutions: 

Developing a politically successful liberalism 5.0 must start with an understanding of what the people want. Americans may be conflicted, but we are not particularly complicated. In a big-picture sort of way, the American people have a Maslovian hierarchy of needs, and we want our political leaders to meet them all. By and large, American voters want five things. First, above and before all else, they want physical safety for themselves, their loved ones and their property. Americans generally expect American politicians to pass a credibility test on this issue before hearing them out on other issues. That is unlikely to change.
Second, Americans want and expect rising standards of living. Times when the economy fails to deliver the growth Americans expect tend to be politically tough: like the depressed years of the 1880s and early 1890s and, of course, the Great Depression. And now.
Third, Americans want honor. We don’t want to be dissed by foreigners and we want to be free, equal and in charge of our own lives at home. We don’t like plutocrats, snooty social hierarchies, privileged hereditary ruling elites, or intellectual and moral poobahs telling us how to live. We despise being at the mercy of large, unfeeling corporations. We don’t like having our privacy violated by public or private snoops. We hate standing at the DMV line like humble peasants as officious bureaucrats abuse their authority. We also believe, deeply and viscerally, that the commonsense reasoning of the average person is enough to resolve political and moral questions, and we don’t like experts who try to impose counterintuitive policy ideas (that deficits are good for you, for example).
Fourth, Americans want to feel that the United States of America is on track to fulfill its global mission, whatever that is (and our thinking here lately tends toward the fuzzy). But Americans generally feel that this exceptional country has some kind of unique world role, and they want their political leaders to keep the country on the right course.
Finally, Americans want to believe that all four goals work together: that defending their security, promoting their prosperity, preserving their freedom and equality and fulfilling their global mission are all part of an integrated package and worldview—and that the commonsense reasoning of the average American can understand the way the pieces fit together. They are, in other words, looking for more than a set of unrelated policies that accomplish certain discrete goals: They want those policies to proceed from an integrated and accessible vision that meshes with their understanding of traditional American values and concerns.

What I am hearing from Mead, in terms of an agenda for the future, is as follows. We need to do what Americans "want," and what Americans "want" is: (1) "security" (as in TSA inspections at the airports); (2) ever continuing economic expansion; (3) governmental programs that don't expose us to bureaucratic indignities; (4) a continuation of hegemonic American domination of global commerce and conflict, presumably including lots more of those drones, everywhere - or something else that lets Americans experience "manifest destiny" on a global scale; and (5) integration of all of these elements in a package that makes us think that "all's right with the world," the way we used to feel in the 1950's, and the 1960's (until the Vietnam War came along). 

Well, let me just disagree. Mead may be completely right about "what Americans want," but the "what Americans want world" is exactly the world that is disappearing, in my opinion.

And I say, good riddance!

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Sunday, January 6, 2013

#6 / Forget Yourself

Apropos of the "just do it" concept, a musical phrase, transmogrified, has been coursing through my brain. I keep hearing something that sounds like a modified version of "Respect Yourself." I am referring, of course, to the song with that title. Click the "Respect Yourself" link to hear a live performance by The Staple Singers. The lyrics of the refrain go like this: 

Respect yourself, respect yourself
If you don't respect yourself
Ain't nobody gonna give a good cahoot, na, na, na, na
Respect yourself, respect yourself

I keep hearing "Forget Yourself," which is a related but different concept. The Urban Dictionary website says that the phrase "forget yourself" means to "act boldly or arrogantly." 

With most of the emphasis being on the "boldly," as opposed to the "arrogantly," that's not so different from that "just do it" Nike slogan.

Seems like good advice.

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Saturday, January 5, 2013

#5 / Just Do It

I am no big fan of advertising, and I have mentioned that before, and in fact more than once, here on this Two Worlds blog. 

Advertising signs they con
You into thinking you’re the one
That can do what’s never been done
That can win what’s never been won
Meantime life outside goes on
All around you
Bob Dylan - It's Alright Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)

Despite my philosophical reluctance, I am finding myself attracted to the "Just Do It" trademark slogan of the Nike footwear company.

Too much thinking about that New Year's Resolution thing is pushing me in that "just do it" direction. 

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Friday, January 4, 2013

#4 / Civic Engagement

Ralph Nader has some good advice for those still thinking about New Year's Resolutions: resolve to get engaged in civic life!

P.S. - That means "politics."

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Thursday, January 3, 2013

#3 / A Possible Life

Sebastian Faulks
Sebastian Faulks' newest novel, A Possible Life, was a Christmas gift book that I read on New Year's Eve. It was perfect for the occasion, since "possibility" is the category I am grappling with, as we enter this New Year.

Wrenching stories.

Recommended book. 

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Wednesday, January 2, 2013

#2 / Abrazos

Eduardo Galeano
I began writing this blog in January 2009, with a title that was an homage to Eduardo Galeano, author of El Libro de los Abrazos (The Book of Embraces). If you are not familiar with Galeano and his writings, I recommend all his books, specifically including El Libro de los Abrazos!

En español, an "abrazo" is more than just an embrace; it is a statement of best wishes. And that statement comes in the context of what might be called "solidarity." We are together in this. We are embrazados todos!

Abrazos a todos, hoy y en el año que viene.

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Tuesday, January 1, 2013

#1 / Predicting The Future

Typically, we “predict” the future by extrapolating current trends. That system has its place, but there is a problem. An extrapolation of current trends fails to predict “new” actions, things that we or someone else does that are not being done now. We can, in other words, always change what we are doing, and transform the trends.

When I first got involved in public life in Santa Cruz County, in the early 1970’s, Santa Cruz County was the fastest growing county in California, and the fifth fastest growing county in the entire nation. Predictions based on then current trends forecast a population of half a million people by the year 2000. A massive residential development was being proposed for the Santa Cruz County North Coast. It was predicted that almost all our prime farmland would be paved over, and that there would be urban development from Santa Cruz to Watsonville, along Highway One; from Santa Cruz to the Summit, along Highway 17; and from Santa Cruz to Boulder Creek, along Highway 9. That didn’t happen because Santa Cruz voters changed the land use policies that governed growth and development. 

Our individual and collective freedom to choose what we are going to do is an undeniable reality, however often ignored. 

As we enter a New Year, I suggest that instead of predicting what will happen to us, we should decide, instead, what we want to happen, and then make our ideas into a reality. 

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