What Are We Looking At?

The Jigsaw Puzzle of Modern American Life.

Have you ever done a large jigsaw puzzle without ever seeing what it looked like before you even began?

It is an apt metaphor for what we are doing today in the political and social landscape and in the economic and investment world.

All we have to go by are hundreds of different, strangely shaped pieces.  

As with jigsaw puzzles, different people naturally pursue different strategies for solving them.

Some favor a “find the edges” approach that quickly gets them the contours of a picture, but does little to fill it in. Others diligently sort pieces by color, shape, size and comparability. They learn little or nothing from any single piece or even a few, but their brute force methodology ensures that, slowly, eventually and laboriously, the picture will be filled in.

In solving any puzzle, one has to fight the tendency to superimpose their own imagination on the picture, lest they be led into canyons of confusion.

We think we know more than we actually do.

The world today strikes me as a hugely complex jigsaw puzzle.

A pandemic occurs rarely and when it does it upends many, if not most, historic givens. Allowing it to rage unimpeded across the country has upended millions of pieces (in this case, human lives) in ways that have yet to be fully understood. And, nearly 300,000 lost souls (so far) will never know how the picture turns out.

We have also suffered for four years under an unhinged and almost certainly insane President who has trampled democratic norms at every turn and unleashed hordes of equally unhinged extremists. He is leaving us with about a quarter of our population transfixed by his ‘genius.’ Apparently, our puzzle includes a section dedicated to democracy; whether we’ll be able to find the right pieces for it remains to be seen.

Economically, it’s not even clear we’re all working on the same puzzle. The stock market sees the arrival of a vaccine as a certain panacea which will put us back on track economically within the year. Let’s hope they’re right. But continued lockdowns, a pending massive wave of evictions, and the continued decimation of small businesses across the country suggest some of our pieces may be irretrievably lost.

I urge all of us to go back to the puzzle board and keep working through the combinations and shapes. We have to keep adding to the picture of reality that Trump has tried to steal from us. We must find a way to make the many pieces fit back together in a way that reveals the picture: the great American promise.

Is Our World Really Crazy?

What does that mean?

Oversimplified, it means that unreality has largely displaced reality. 

Perhaps the virility and contagion of the virus has escaped from our lungs and entered our brains. 

Trump’s denial of reality has drawn over 50,000,000 acolytes and it is spreading fast.  

Even the most die-hard realists among us are beginning to feel the ground beneath us tremble and shudder with uncertainty. 

As I wake from a fitful sleep filled with dreams that are proxies of real life, I feel like I am being pulled against my will into a world that I hate but can’t fight.  

I roll over, and wish to stay asleep until January 20, when hopefully, the crazy and virus filled world will suddenly, joyously disappear and in its place will be the good old world of reality. 

If that does NOT happen, I fear we may have let nature’s environmental devolution go on too long and too far to be reversed in time to save our planet. 

If there ever was a right person to build a new dam against the destruction of mankind, Joe Biden may be our FDR/CHURCHILL rolled into one. Only his brain –not his tongue—will be the instrument of salvation. 

As I have said often about my youthful experience as a student in a hospital for crazy people, it was often very difficult to recognize insanity from normality. Today the walls of that hospital have expanded exponentially. 

Most normal people still see Trump as, in fact, crazy. BUT given the fact that he has only two more months in power hardly anyone sees a need to deal with the problem NOW! 

If we are very lucky, we may escape alive.  

But we will be left with a society that has for four years succumbed to a sort of mass hysteria. How long will it take to purge that insane unreality from the minds of so many Americans? 

There is no way to know. 

Yet, is clear that unreality can and will give way reality, if we give it a chance. 

Trump may want to try to take all of us into his loser’s world as his way of getting even. 

That we cannot allow! 

Our New World

Why We Must Collaborate in the New Era

When ‘relationship to a political party’ is in question, people often ask is it better to be partisan or bipartisan.

The answer is neither.

Those words have been abused and misused.

Partisanship has had its day. It is fine for ‘the parties’ to recognize their existence and organize how to work, BUT it is NOT fine, or productive, for partisanship to dominate our lives and political processes to the exclusion of making pragmatic compromises.

The recent election seemingly turned on the obvious idea and term ‘reunite’ us as a people.  We have become disunited in pursuit of partisanship.

The simplest way to resolve that problem is to COLLABORATE. That means understanding the other points of view and communicating with other parties to look for common ground.

I have been working for a decade to explain the need for an INTERSECTOR, which is a notional space where the three basic sectors- [government, business and non-profit] must come together to make our society work effectively to get people’s ‘business’ done.

Business, government and not-for-profits are separate and distinct for appropriate reasons [because they have different purposes and goals]. But, they have failed to collaborate because they either do not understand that is a key function, AND/OR they avoid it, for fear of being seen as too cooperative.

What now begins to emerge, from the 2020 election, is that what we see and call a divided nation is really in fact simply a nation that has failed—deliberately or unwittingly — to understand the need for COLLBORATION.

In the very simplest terms, collaboration should not expect or require capitulation, BUT it does require engagement to seek ways to work together to make the competing elements of our society functioning.

When we ditch the term partisanship and replace it with ‘collaboration’, as the cornerstone of modern democratic PROCESS, we are very likely to unlock productive new forces that will greatly improve governance and allow us to resolve our biggest challenges.

“Ah Ha” or Just “Ugh?”

The Meaning of the General Election

A good Democratic friend of mine explained to me recently his “ah ha moment” about the November election.

He concluded that though Trump was beaten, many Republican down-ballot candidates across the whole country won because the voters –finished with Trump—still supported Trump’s view that jobs were more important than lives. And his “ah ha” was that was understandable, and we Democrats should heed that reality.

In my opinion, his thinking fell short in not questioning whether Trump’s view was correct or NOT! In fact, it was just plain wrong!

There need not – CANNOT — be a trade-off between jobs and lives because the only real solution to the jobs problem is to stop the virus.

There are three possible ways for that to happen. (1) One or more vaccines plus masks and social distance; (2) Wait for 150 MILLION people to contract the disease for herd immunity to take effect, suffering millions of deaths along the way; or (3) combine curbing the virus with phased reactivation of the economy in places where one or both of the above have proven effective.

Unspoken in all that is an implied judgment about who in society to favor. The Trump view clearly favors young, healthy people [he hoped to vote for his reelection] at the expense of the old ‘almost-finished’ folks who were going to die soon anyway.

In a strict literal sense, there may be something in that (which I believe was my friend’s point). But it is totally in conflict with basic democratic principles and societal beliefs. That is where UGH comes in BIG!

Trump may be gone but his nonsense lives on.

We have to be very careful to wipe Trump’s crazy ideas from our world ahead!

The Half-Life of Lies

Is Longer Than Lives!

“Half-life” is a scientific term that tells us, basically, how long something can last. The half-life of radium – the length of time before at least half of its nuclei decay – is 1,602 years; hence, radium can continue to radiate its dangerous beams for a very long time.

Strangely, the half-life of flat-out lies appears to outlive truth by wide margins. Why that might be is a very hard question to plumb.

We may be done with Trump himself, but we are surely not done with his lies.

It now appears that 70 percent of Republicans actually believe Trump won the election, and that fraud is wrongly depriving him of a second term. As a result, a very significant part of our population will greet President Biden as an interloper. That’s not good for anybody, and especially the country

I have been asking four years: Who are these Trump lovers who unquestioningly embrace such blatant lies, and what is it that binds them so tightly to his coattails? The question remains, even when there are no longer coattails.

Before we can ask what might be done to bring some 70 million people back into reality, we have to answer how it is possible that so many cannot see with their very own eyes and ears what the facts are.

Trump famously declared during the 2016 campaign that he could shoot a person dead on Fifth Avenue and still win the election. He truly meant it then and it is perhaps still true. Metaphorically, at least, that is what is happening now. His ability to ‘capture the imagination’ of people is unimaginable to the less credulous among us. It is based on a form of ‘wish fulfillment’ where the wish in fact becomes the reality.

This ‘wish fulfillment’ process is something almost all people engage in. We might convince ourselves that we’re better looking than we really are, or smarter. Confronted with our own shortcomings, we have a tendency to emphasize the portions of reality that reflect more favorably on us, and to dismiss or dispute any evidence that might impede our glorified (falsified) self-image.

Trump, of course, takes this very human tendency to dangerous extremes. Indeed, Trump’s whole life has been a lie – a series of sputtering failures glossed over by inherited wealth and an endless stream of boastful mendacity about his talent, taste and brilliance. In this way, Trump appeals to peoples’ wish to create their own reality. He turns out to be a key to other peoples’ ability to deceive themselves into believing him because that lets them distort their own lives the way he has.

It is a rare to experience this phenomenon on such a massive scale. History, however, does offer examples: Hitler and Napoleon or, on the good side, Jesus, Abraham and Mohammed.

In normal ways and times, this ability to bend reality to one’s will is called ‘leadership.’ It starts intuitively and grows stronger with use and feedback. But it is a dangerous skill in the hands of crazy people.

So, to be very generous to Trump, our sad state of affairs may not be his fault (in the sense that he probably didn’t actually plan it); rather, the fault begins with his intuitive sense that he could get whatever he wanted simply BECAUSE he wanted it and his parents reinforced it by going along.

So, what can be done?

The chants of ‘lock her/him up’ at Trump’s rallies highlight the effectiveness of his counter-factual instincts. It may also point the way out of this problem. Perhaps if Trump were locked up and could no longer communicate at large (one cannot tweet from jail!) he would soon cease to be a force in millions of imaginations.

Therefore, the answer we are looking for is in fact to ‘lock him up’ immediately after January 20. Trying to overturn the results of a free and fair election sure looks like “treason” to me.

He may be anticipating that possibility and is probably already planning to get out of reach of the US legal system IMMEDIATELY.

Therefore, as he leaves the Capitol on Inauguration Day, (if he shows up) he should be arrested and taken directly to jail—for his many crimes already on the record.

May we all rest in peace – and reality — thereafter!

Joy and Happiness

Are Not Dead and Gone!

Though the world around us is dim and grim, a lucky few have found a new life. 

We have two friends, a man and woman in their late 80s who each recently lost a lifetime super spouse and had known each other throughout their respective marriages.  They discovered each other, threw convention to the wind and became a couple. 

Not only do their children and grandchildren approve; they love the chance to have respectively found two new ancestors. 

Watching them entertain –which they have both done for a lifetime—with grace, ease and confidence in which they respectfully observe each other’s strengths and weaknesses –demonstrates that they have not had to relearn how to collaborate as a couple—it simply comes again naturally. 

This gives confidence to all observers who rejoice in the happiness and joy they have found and come again to believe that not all is bad in our world.  

Evolution

What’s Next?

The reign of Trumpian terror is shortly to be behind us.

We still face a pandemic, an economic crisis and all sorts of other inter-related challenges. In that sense, just surviving might be all we can handle.

BUT, there also may be an opportunity, if we can seize it, to use this moment to foresee the future course of human evolution, over which we have no control but which we will have to adapt to.

We all, sort of, know that our most ancient ancestors crawled out the sea and learned to breathe. They could NOT have been thinking about a future because they did not even know what that was.

Evolution is NOT PLANNED; It just happens!!

Our most recent 100 years illuminates that reality.

–The industrial revolution started before the end of the 19th Century and lasted beyond WWII, ushering in an era of incredible global prosperity. It took people a long time to see it and call it an industrial revolution/evolution.

–The great struggles of the 20th Century centered on securing freedom around the globe. The two violent world wars left much of the globe ostensibly “free,” but at an incredible cost. Very few people at the time grasped that war was perversely the route to freedom.

–Then the information revolution launched a massive, digital world where none had existed before, and is busily rewriting the rules of the globe. Social media gave us Trump as well as WIFI and email.

So, where/what might the next century have in store for us? As important, where should we want it to take us?

–Perhaps we are on the cusp of reaching out to another world.

–Climate change will either change/kill us or we will have to adapt, perhaps by going elsewhere?

There is no denying that the stars beckon with all their mysteries, but that is surely much later.

–Our problem of overpopulation is only getting worse. We are reaching a point of maximum human density. That raises terrifying questions about how to “cull the herd” to ensure our survival.

–The racial, religious and ethnic conflicts that have caused so much suffering recently show that our sense of the human “family” is failing us. The tribalism that separates has grown more with time.  

–We are an infinitesimal manifestation of evolutionary potential in the grand scheme of the Universe.

–If our future lies in the stars, we will have to learn to think of all Earthlings as family, lest our divisions leave us unprepared to deal with foreign (alien) worlds that might greet us as we have greeted, say, immigrants.

–Or, maybe we are reaching a point where the oceans will swallow us again, forcing us all to adapt back to life under water? At times that appeals!

There are little signs, here and there, that suggest all the above, but where/what remains a mystery.

Prior to Trump and Covid, and all the other disruptive things during that period, some systemic changes in our lives began to appear:

–people everywhere began to pick sides – red or blue.

–general distrust of governments everywhere rose dramatically.

–the historic sense of an optimistic future diminished.

Then the wickedness of Covid, coupled with the economic consequences of the inevitable loss of jobs etc., speeded up most changes in a post-Covid world without supplying any ideas about what next.

The next world is likely to presage a new stage in the general evolution of human progress.

That will include a global mad scramble for work/jobs; also there will be a similar scramble for access to medical developments for future pandemics.

Both those factors will give people with more education great advantages over those with less. So far that has supported our evolution to a world of increased digitization.

The world that is beginning to arrive is the world beyond earth.

That next stage of evolution will exert great pressures on reducing the number of people on earth. Fewer and fewer people will be needed – to make things, to move things, to do everything.

That is the intuited base of the fears of the undereducated. They already see it and feel it coming, which is why those people saw Trump as their savior. From their perspective, those are fairly reasonable thoughts, which is why we all have been so confused.

Humans’ adaption to the next stage of evolution will be a shrinking number of super educated people.

Get ready as soon as you can to lay a foundation for your grand- and great-grandchildren.

The Truth is Now Clear

Trump Has Been Literally Crazy Since Day One

There are degrees of craziness which culminate in a person acting severely against their own interests.

A lady in the middle west recently announced that she had switched away from Trump because she finally saw that he is and has been crazy. She added that she had favored him four years ago ‘just because he was NOT a politician.’

Politicians live in a fishbowl and for better or worse a lot of people who are also in that fishbowl know the reality of all the other persons in that bowl. England has the arrangement where to become Prime Minister you must be selected by your colleagues, who know you very well and up close.  Craziness rarely rises through that sieve. Boris Johnson may be the exception that proves the rule.

The lesson may be that the way to avoid another Trump mistake is to put up obstacles to run, instead of seeking an easier way to get rid of a mistake. It is always harder systemically to get rid of a President than not initially take the chance, if the people who know that person best say BEWARE!

A lot of us who knew Trump from his New York days had a strong concern that he was in fact some degree of truly bonkers from the very outset. Members of his own family are now writing publicly about that.

What kind of obstacles could help and NOT at the same time rule out exceptional talent?

Perhaps to start with, prospective candidates should have been one or more of: a State Governor, Congressman for at least three terms, a Senator, a CEO of a Fortune 500 Company, or head of a large university for at least five years, etc.?

That is to say, candidates should have relevant experience during which quite a lot of knowledgeable people could see the person in action. IF that person were widely deemed ‘off’ in important ways, the public should be sure to hear about it.

The rules about FULL DISCLOSURE should become formal and extensive: tax returns, foreign entanglements (debts, ownership and dependencies) and corporate debt.

For unexplained reasons we have never gotten around to codifying all these matters and making them MANDATORY by appropriate dates BEFORE a candidate can even compete in primaries.

Prospective candidates should agree to have annual mental and medical reports from independent doctors/hospitals about their physical and mental health which must be made public.

We have been put through four –yes 4—tortuous years because we have been deprived of virtually all the above.

My point is quite simple: it is easier to avoid a coming problem than to get rid of it.

This piece is obviously nowhere near the last/best word on how to do that BUT it sure would help, if we could launch such a process before we forget again, as we have in the past!

Questions on Top of Questions

And Puzzles on Top of Puzzles…

My sister told me about a friend of hers who HATES Trump as a person AND voted for him because he was good for her pocketbook?!

That may explain a big part of the election.

Trump said at a Michigan rally recently that he had brought four new auto plants to Michigan and the crowd roared approval. There have been no new auto plants in Michigan since 2016. A number have shut down.

That too might explain another part of the election.

Trump won Wisconsin in 2016 by 10,000 votes. No one sued.

Biden won Wisconsin by 20,000 votes; in Trump’s mind, that’s theft.

Like it or not there are two teams on the field and only one can win!

Are we living in a world of fantasy or reality?

Perhaps we are all in suspended animation?

But what happens when we wake up?

A Note to Readers: I had the pleasure earlier this week of being interviewed about the election by my eldest daughter, Debbie, for her podcast, “The Gap Year Podcast.” Click here if you’d like to listen.  

The Result Will Not Be Too Different from Expectations

And, voters like a divided government.

The first impressions on Tuesday evening were, to us Blues, stupefying!

As the night gave way to morning light, it became clearer that the confusion was due mainly to the timing of counting the different categories of ballots. Tuesday’s in person votes were largely the first to be counted and announced. That was always expected to be heavily Red. A lot of people expected that the earlier voting would have been first to be counted. Not so!

The result is that today—Wednesday –the numbers are more like original expectations and that Biden with hindsight will have won cleanly.

That said, it is also beginning to be clear that the Senate probably will be evenly split and that there will be no actual majority leader (in the absence of a majority) and the VP will be the deciding vote, which should have the salutary effect of forcing the Senate to compromise.

The House lost a few seats, but the Speaker will still have a pivotal role to play.

The overall results thus are likely to be President Biden without a decisive mandate, a Senate that can no longer block anything and everything and a House that will have to be moderate.

As part of the hidden genius of our Democracy, that is no doubt what the electorate wants and wanted.

A divided government has some advantages. It is forced to negotiate to find and make compromises. That ultimately is what our overall population wants; they figure that is what those folks are paid to do.

And as a divided population, that process of compromises is what protects all our ‘parts’ from the excesses of other parts.

So overall, we can, if we try hard, see a great success in the election outcome.

The result should force all elements in our society to work better on coming together.

That has been our biggest failure in the past twenty years, capped by the last four.

So, let’s breathe a sigh of relief and get back to beating the hell out of Covid!