Tom Stoppard

“The Hard Problem”

No – I am NOT bucking for the NYT theater critic job.

But I feel a need to pass along a tip to the best of theater I have seen in a LONG time currently at Lincoln Center in NYC.

Stoppard has been a consistent winner for 30 years. In this one he takes on a real tough one in the difference between humans [humanity] and computers [artificial intelligence].

He does it through and with real peoples’ stories, brilliantly staged and played by attractive and engaging people who find themselves enmeshed in ‘the hard problem’ personally and professionally.

I do not want to give you so much that you opt to miss the play. But, I do recommend that you see it if possible.

If you cannot get there and want to ask more, just ping me and I will try to help.

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Thanks For Reading – And Giving Feedback!

You all have been a perfect audience.

You rarely complain and often compliment.

My blogs have become a real part of my life and perhaps yours too?

With age comes less physical activity. So far that has not affected my fingers.

My fingers do my walking which is how I get onto your doorstep.

So thank you for being patient with my words and foibles.

As I am 87 you needn’t worry – I am planning my 100th birthday.

Have a great turkey!

Next Steps For Dems

New leadership is critical!

The mid-term elections handed Democrats a good start to getting the country back on track. It remains to be seen what they will make of the opportunity. Perhaps their biggest challenge? The formal leadership of the party is either way over age or way out of new ideas and thinking. While Election Day was kinder to more moderate Democrats, overall, than the liberal firebrands who enjoyed much media attention in the run-up to November 6, 2018 was, more than anything else, a coming out party for the power of youth.

At 87 years, I have nothing against being over age. But I know from experience that even if I wanted to be a real leader at my age the idea is not remotely credible!

That said, I think Joe Biden remains a viable politician but more as a shepherd than as a leading sheep. Hillary Clinton may still have ambitions. But we have been down her road once too often. Our current crop of Congressional leaders is both over-age and over-ambitious.

What can we do?

We must get a message to Pelosi – who is the least popular Democratic politician in Congress but also highly respected by her peers for her leadership abilities.

That message should be “Agree to continue as Speaker for at most two more years on the ironclad condition that you will IMMEDIATELY replace all your senior co-leaders with the best of a new generation of leaders to lead both the country and the Congress to 2020 and beyond”.

We already should see and anticipate that new leadership, but they have been stifled and held back. It takes time to reveal and get to know new leaders.

We have to start NOW!!!!!!

What Is A Wave and How?

And not only with fingers and hands!

Last week’s election has evidently left a lot of people somewhat confused. The results appear in some ways to be distorted and less decisive than many had hoped.

That suggests a bit of analysis and discussion to help clarify the subject for the world at large.

The overall popular vote at this point in all the House elections was 54% Democrat and 46% Republican. And, the Democrats have flipped 35 seats so far.

The overall popular vote in the Democrat/Republican Senate races in 35 States was 54% Democrat, 46% Republican – and the Republicans gained 2 seats???

That has to take us back to the almost unbelievable reality that one half of all States (25), with only 15% of our overall population, elect 50 Senators – one half the total!

AND as luck and randomness ALONE are responsible, this year, of the 35 Senate seats in contention, 16 of those seats were from those less densely populated 25 States. (Thus the disproportionately of Senate seats to population was again magnified in a further distortion of the Senate result in which the Democrats had an overall 10% margin of the population in all the votes for all Senate seats in contention all over the country.)

Then, when you look further and overall at the races for Governor in 36 States and for the States legislatures, you see even greater blue Democratic results than in the Federal elections.

Overall, whatever a wave may be, at minimum a very strong current appears to have occurred and has already set the stage for 2020, IF the Democratic leadership can avoid its own traditional scramble and confusion and start again to lead the country where, it has indicated this year, it wants us to head.

A wave can indicate ‘hello’, ‘goodbye’, or ‘have a good trip’.

We cannot know yet what all this portends, but it sure looks most likely to mean ‘have a good trip’.

Infrastructure

Tangible and Intangible

Tangible infrastructure enables a society to come, get and stay together. Think back on the last couple of hundred of years. Around 1850, the railroads began to spread everywhere. It took about 50 years until they began to go underground as well. Along with that, there was telegraph and then telephones followed by radio and TV, followed by cable TV, the Internet and WIFI. After WWII the interstate highway system began and continues today. Bridges, tunnels and aqueducts also were built everywhere.

Note that in today’s dollars all that construction would amount to many trillions of dollars. And also note that it was paid for by combinations of public and private dollars over many years.

Almost all of that construction by definition would need in due course some combination of updating, renewal and replacement.

With very few exceptions, virtually no provision was made for keeping these systems modern and up to date.

If that was not SIMPLY nationwide stupidity, it is hard to give it a name. But, that is where we are now!

Intangible infrastructure is how our population related to one another and worked together or not.

We had ups and downs in the first half of the 19th Century over State’s rights, national banking and commerce – and slavery which had been finessed in 1800, then simmered until we fought our bloodiest war ever, which still today reminds us occasionally that we have not always gotten along as one nation undivided.

Then came wide public use of telegraph, telephone; then radio; then TV. AND THEN the biggest revolution of all, the Internet and social media with its echo chambers, etc.  That has rendered a lot of the earlier intangible infrastructures both obsolete and even counterproductive.

And, that is where we are NOW.

So, we find ourselves with twin infrastructure problems. Our roads, bridges, tunnels, subways and more – which once brought the country closer together – are rotting in place due to neglect (and lack of funds), while the Internet, social media and other modern marvels seem to be driving us further apart, and giving our enemies the ability to undermine us.

Both will take a long time to fix; they both took a long time coming.

They can only be fixed slowly and incrementally, which is originally how they came to be.

Neither will be fixed IF we cannot first agree that they really are problems that MUST be fixed.

Neither can be fixed if we simply decide to throw an exciting snowball in their direction.

We need a new big and basic national strategy built on fixing these two problems over time slowly and steadily.

If I were 30 years younger, I would be tempted to seek public office with that goal as my program.

It would address all our historic needs as well, jobs and peace and good will at home and abroad.

Let’s call it “Manage the Future” or it will shrink us.

‘Youth’

Young and Old Usually Think Happily

As the days and hours to next Tuesday’s election drag by, most of us are in agony over the uncertainty. There can be no doubt that this really is the most important election of all our lifetimes – all hyperbole aside.

If Trump’s ability to divide and conquer prevails, to his credit he will have been successful as one man versus 317 odd million people who never could have dreamt his wild dream, any more than 60 million people in Germany in 1932 could have dreamt Hitler’s comparable dream – leaving all guns aside.

We grumble about our Constitutional system having gone awry. We worry that too many of Hillary’s ‘deplorable’ enemies have bonded against a significant majority of Americans in what it really is to be an American.

Anticipating this election with all the distortions of our current election system – voter suppression, gerrymandering, and ongoing efforts to use social media as a weapon, to name a few – there are legitimate reasons to be fearful.

But, there is one BIG glimmer of hope peeking over the obscure horizon.

Obviously the future means more to the young; they will have to live with it longer than us oldies. But we do share a bond with them in protecting our so-called golden years.

The news happily may be that we will help each other.

Young people under 29 have traditionally been weak voters particularly in non-presidential years. Fewer than 20 percent of eligible voters under 30 cast ballots in the 2014 mid-term election, and historically runs about 38 points below the participation of those 60 and older, according to the U.S. Elections Project.  At the moment a very recent poll suggests that they are planning to come out in droves way larger than ever before, with 51% saying they will “definitely” vote. And while far fewer ultimately do cast ballots, the increase in enthusiasm has a direct increase on turnout.

And a similar movement appears to be underway for people over 70, with even more seniors saying they “definitely” plan to vote than made similar claims in the 2016 Presidential election. The combination of the two groups strongly suggests in close races that they may produce 3-5% additional democratic votes, which could result in a young/old undertow that might be a big surprise for Trump next Tuesday.

The angst between now and then will persist – hopefully productively before midnight.

Pin Drop

Once upon a time when our politicians did not tend to apologize for our country’s prior actions, here’s a refresher on how some of our former patriots handled negative comments about our great country.

These are good…

Secretary of State, Dean Rusk, was in France in the early 60’s when De Gaulle decided to pull out of NATO.

De Gaulle said he wanted all US military out of France as soon as possible.

Rusk responded, “Does that include those who are buried here?”

De Gaulle did not respond.

You could have heard a pin drop.


When in England, at a fairly large conference, Colin Powell was asked by the Archbishop of Canterbury if our plans for Iraq were just an example of ’empire building’ by George Bush.

He answered by saying, “Over the years, the United States has sent many of its fine young men and women into great peril to fight for freedom beyond our borders. The only amount of land we have ever asked for in return is enough to bury those that did not return.”

You could have heard a pin drop.


There was a conference in France where a number of international engineers were taking part, including French and American.

During a break, one of the French engineers came back into the room saying, “Have you heard the latest dumb stunt Bush has done? He has sent an aircraft carrier to Indonesia to help the tsunami victims. What does he intend to do, bomb them?”

A Boeing engineer stood up and replied quietly:

“Our carriers have three hospitals on board that can treat several hundred people; they are nuclear powered and can supply emergency electrical power to shore facilities; they have three cafeterias with the capacity to feed 3,000 people three meals a day, they can produce several thousand gallons of fresh water from sea water each day, and they carry half a dozen helicopters for use in transporting victims and injured to and from their flight deck. We have eleven such ships; how many does France have?”

You could have heard a pin drop.


A U.S. Navy Admiral was attending a naval conference that included Admirals from the U.S., English, Canadian, Australian and French Navies.

At a cocktail reception, he found himself standing with a large group of officers that included personnel from most of those countries.

Everyone was chatting away in English as they sipped their drinks, but a French admiral suddenly complained that, whereas Europeans learn many languages, Americans learn only English. He then asked, “Why is it that we always have to speak English in these conferences rather than speaking French?”

Without hesitating the American Admiral replied, “Maybe it’s because the Brit’s, Canadians, Aussie’s and Americans arranged it so you wouldn’t have to speak German.”

You could have heard a pin drop.


AND THIS STORY FITS RIGHT IN WITH THE ABOVE.

Robert Whiting, an elderly gentleman of 83, arrived in Paris by plane.

At French Customs, he took a few minutes to locate his passport in his carry on.

“You have been to France before, monsieur?” the customs officer asked sarcastically.

Mr. Whiting admitted that he had been to France previously.

“Then you should know enough to have your passport ready.”

The American said, “The last time I was here, I didn’t have to show it.”

“Impossible. Americans always have to show their passports on arrival in France!”

The American senior gave the Frenchman a long hard look.

Then, he quietly explained, ”Well, when I came ashore at Omaha Beach on, D-Day in 1944 to help liberate this country, I couldn’t find a single Frenchman to show a passport to.”

You could have heard a pin drop.