Earth’s Orbit

Seems to be jiggling?

The last few thousand years of the evolution of nature and humanity have been relatively smooth, with understanding among humans steadily increasing. 

Now suddenly we’ve switched to less and worse understanding. We do nothing but look for what we don’t like in others or, if we’re feeling generous, what we can get out of them. 

What could be happening? And what can we do about it? 

We know as a scientific fact that global warming is increasing and is likely to bring with it massive changes — some terrible, some merely bad, virtually no good — in man’s existence.  

We know that survival of the fittest is a bedrock truth of science that is especially hard on weaker or oppressed people. 

When humans are faced with large-scale reduction in population or resources, they tend to protect themselves by attacking their competitors. 

Hence, we are all complete for less and less. 

This process is insidious and has less to do with our wobbly orbit than our misuse of limited resources. 

Thus, perhaps for the first time since the beginning of human history, the world is facing a period of reduction — less than before, shared among ever more people. 

And, as when we are in a line at a store waiting to get mittens at the approach of winter and we can see the pile of mittens rapidly shrinking, we try to become creative in getting people to give up waiting in line! 

We have been accustomed to using our fellow man to get more for ourselves. 

Now we seem to be learning how get our fellow humans out of our way. 

And, though most of us probably deny this, we do it out of innate selfishness to enhance our own opportunity and security. 

Therefore, we should study in detail and illuminate the reality that the right solution is to be more creative overall, rather than seek to increase our share of a smaller pie. 

That is not an impossible goal if it seen as a productive AND realistic one! 


Protect All the People All the Time

And that includes from themselves…

“The most basic duty of government is to defend the lives of its own citizens.”

It’snot often that I quote Donald Trump – and I don’t believe I’ve previously done so approvingly. Those words above, spoken in his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention, highlight, as nothing else the man ever did, that the first and foremost duty of government is to protect ALL its people from all its enemies both foreign and domestic.

Every US person – like it or not, believe it or not—is threatened in some ways by the covid virus and its emerging variants.

The many arguments quibbling about that are pure nonsense.

The ONLY fully effective remedy to the covid virus is HERD immunity which requires over 75 percent of the population to become immune. Knowledge of that fact by itself should be enough incentive for enough of our whole population to voluntarily get vaccinated.

For many reasons that is not happening.

That being the case our government has THE ULTIMATE DUTY to pass a LAW requiring ALL the people in the USA to get vaccinated for the benefit of ALL.

The House and Senate should do just that IMMEDIATELY, requiring vaccination within 60 days or be subject to a year in jail and/or a fine of $10,000.

And, the President should forthwith instruct the Justice Department and any other relevant federal agencies to enforce the law immediately.

Let’s stop blabbering and start jabbing.


Might Just Break the Bank

I wrote on this subject recently but then overlooked an important point which might be decisive to understanding the subject.

The meaning of money just might be on the brink of a disaster.

Hundreds of years ago people figured out that it was too difficult and complicated to pay for a cow with tens of thousands of peas. Out of that came metal coins worth their value as metal. Finally came what we still use successfully today –various currencies –dollars, pounds and now euros – which governments recognize and accept at stipulated values.

NOW so-called Bitcoins have been CREATED and on their own have multiplied in value simply because their issuers have promised they will always be limited in number and therefore hard to get. Just because a cow turd may be hard to get does not change even its smell, much less its value!

Bitcoin is designed so that there will allegedly never be more than x number of coins issued. Artificial rareness is intended to create a premium over any underlying value – and, surprisingly, has succeeded amazingly.

When something with a unique and intrinsic value – say a Rembrandt painting – gets older and rarer, its price WILL rise because demand for unique, rare and irreproducible objects grows faster than the fixed number of such objects. So, the bitcoin ‘evil genius’ appears to be that simply if an object is in limited supply, its value also will automatically rise.

BUT why would/should a canvas with nothing on it change in value at all?

A Bitcoin is truly just a canvas with nothing on it.

Consequently, any increase in the value of such a canvas can only be based on pure imagination, hope and illusion.


Have we gone NUTS?

One Dirty Word


“COVID” has become a shorthand word for what is causing ALL of today’s problems – and thus is preventing us from recognizing those problems and addressing them appropriately and directly.

I have been sensing this for some time and a sudden trip this week to see my older sister in Atlanta provided ample supporting evidence.

Getting from Bangor to Atlanta and back in three days is no ‘piece of cake’ under the best of circumstances. One’s only choice is Delta, which monopolizes the route – and boy, do they abuse that monopoly!

It takes the better part of a day each way. My wife and are both 90 so we opted to splurge and go first class. In round numbers it cost us together $4000.

And it was the trip from HELL! It was worth it to see my sister, and I would do it again despite what I know now. But I can’t help thinking that, 16 months in, COVID isn’t really to blame for the suffering we endured in Delta’s hands.

My seat in first class did NOT work at all – it could not be moved in any direction, so I spent the duration of that leg in the upright position, much to the detriment of my back – and my mood.  The crew was very nice BUT helpless.

That is when we began to hear “COVID” this and “COVID” that. “COVID” somehow precluded Delta from repairing my seat before selling it to me. “COVID” was at fault when we were left stranded at the gate, because the airline is short-handed after laying off people who, given a year to reflect on the experience of working for Delta, are electing to not come back in droves.

COVID was plenty bad enough before it came the bogeyman behind all manner of human failings.

Now, it is THE excuse for shrugging off the other real problems that are plaguing us at the same time.

The lesson in all this is that if one hasn’t figured out how to make a company run in the COVID world, perhaps they have no business being in business at all.  We cannot ignore COVID, but neither can we ignore the other, everyday problems that still exist.

Perhaps this illuminates the underlying problem of a society that increasingly cannot stand itself?

Rules of the Road

Vaccines are the simple equivalent of “Stop” signs.

The current ‘debate’ about the COVID vaccine has become an absurd argument about “freedom.”

Vaccine hesitancy is real and is, in many cases, understandable — many people of color distrust a medical community that has alternately exploited and neglected them; others may simply distrust medications still operating under emergency authorizations, or be particularly susceptible to side effects, or have other medically-based qualms.

Those are valid subjects for debate among people and policymakers alike, but you’re not likely to hear them. Instead, we are relentlessly subjected to insane arguments equating vaccination efforts to the Holocaust, with proponents labelled “brownshirts” and opponents screaming about their freedom to resist masks, vaccinations, or any other considerations of the greater public health.

 The emergence of the “delta” variant now sweeping this country and many others shows how quickly the course of a pandemic can shift. The longer we let the virus persist, the more likely it is to mutate into something much more deadly. It wasn’t the initial “wave” of influenza in 1918 that killed so many people – it was the second and third waves that followed. We have just finished our first wave.

The 40 percent of the country not yet fully inoculated, therefore, are defining their freedom as the right to be free to put the rest of us at real risk!

So, we are at an impasse between democratic FREEDOM and public SAFETY.

But the right of government – at all levels – to prioritize safety over freedom is virtually UNCHALLENGED in every other area. Stop signs, red lights and speed limits on our highways impede the freedom of individual drivers to protect EVERYBODY.  Prescriptions for certain drugs and building codes are two other examples where safety trumps absolute freedom.  

The rules of the road for drivers recognize a trade-off in everyone’s interest – and generate hardly a whiff of disagreement.

The rules of the road for pandemics should be just the same. REQUIRING people to get vaccinated –to protect themselves and all others—is essentially no more intrusive to OUR FREEDOMS than requiring people to observe and obey traffic laws.

The simple scientific fact is that to truly eliminate COVID-19, we have to prevent it the opportunity to replicate and mutate.  That happens when we reach the “herd immunity” tipping point where a substantial majority of ALL people have been immunized.

But so many people are resisting the vaccine –for whatever reason– that now appears to be impossible.

That is where the role of government comes into play.

The Congress should pass a law requiring EVERYONE to promptly get a FREE vaccination OR be liable for a $5,000 fine and/or a year in jail.

There may be a moment or two of legal screeching but trust my Harvard Law School education that the howls of protest will end quickly. The government exists for the express purpose of protecting all Americans, and vaccine mandates fall squarely within its authority.  The phony excuses and protestations to the contrary are just plain baloney.

So, let’s go full speed ahead and mandate vaccinations for all U.S. residents. And please continue stop at red lights – freedom is important, but so is life.

When Buildings Fall

It’s time for serious questions – and actions.

VERY FEW tall buildings have collapsed in this country in the last 100 years. While we’ve had our share of elevated walkways, snow-bombarded roofs, balconies and other pieces of buildings fall, the wholesale collapse of a building without warning, in the dead of night, is firmly in the category of things we think “can’t happen here.”

Until it does.

That the tragedy in Surfside, Florida is exceedingly rare, while no comfort to the victims or their families, does suggest the design, engineering and construction processes for multi-story dwellings have been solid, and maintenance regimes well administered, since Louis Sullivan first reached for the sky in St. Louis to create the Wainwright Building in 1891.

The disaster reminds us that past is not prologue. We should be paying close attention and asking a lot of questions, because millions of us spend many hours every year in tall buildings and simply give it ZERO thought.

That being the case, what should we be on the lookout for?

Perhaps tall buildings should be inspected every 10 or 20 years (instead of the common standard of 40 years). Such reports should be made public and, taking a cue from the wildly successful restaurant grading system now used virtually everywhere, a one-page, color-coded summary report should be printed and displayed at the front entrance. One imagines using green if the report is truly CLEAN, yellow if there is work that should done soon and RED if there are problems requiring immediate attention.

Color signage should cause the owners and their employees to WORK HARD and FAST to get a green sign, because public notice of a building’s sub-par condition would make it more difficult to sell, sublet, or Airbnb units in such buildings. The impetus to avoid massive costs is understandable, even as the consequences are readily underestimated. Right now, such topics rarely see the light of day, discussed only in meetings of the condo board or among that subset of residents that pays attention to the condo board.

COLOR coding would go a long way to solving an incipient problem by creating an immediate incentive TO DO SOMETHING!

That would be a BIG first step in the right direction for everybody.

A Simple Experiment

Pick Two People at Random — One Red, One Blue.

The way to start is to pick, as randomly as you can, two people you can identify as having conflicting political perspectives – one conservative and one liberal. Ask them to join you for an hour to engage in a simple experiment to save democracy.

(Ironically, “saving” American democracy is the only common ground many liberals and conservatives share, although their prescriptions for doing so vary widely.)

Ask them to help identify a third person, sort of in the middle, neither fiercely ideological nor deeply engaged. Invite that person to join your experiment.

After that, get all the parties to agree to forget the political labels as you begin to have a real conversation about several questions you hope to discuss calmly and quietly.

The questions are:

Masks do a mediocre job of protecting you from disease but are quite effective at stopping a sick person from spreading an infection to others. Why are so many people resistant to wearing them?

Does the American political system protect your rights and privileges, or is it designed to benefit others? Why?

When you discuss these questions be sure to get each person speak at least once.

Your job as the promoter of this process is to try, as best you can, to keep things moving and on track.

You should NOT provoke controversy, but you should promote candor.

Not every meeting will be earth-shattering, but you may learn some interesting things.

And lastly, hopefully, you will send me some feedback on what take away you find?

Whither Tribalism


Since the beginning of human time, we have experienced tribalism. And, we have been living with something of an assumption that we never go back and repeat former ways of managing our selves.

That does make common sense – shouldn’t a global community aim for a broader sense of both the self and the collective?

Now, though, we seem to be receding, reverting to social strife built around differences. Why is that happening?

Humans are naturally social creatures. Our “home base,” of course, is still families, immediate and extended. Next comes geography, with loyalties to villages and towns.

From there we evolved into states and nation states.

Not surprisingly, as the pieces grew larger, the connective tissues among them weakened.

Perhaps that is why we seem to have inadvertently moved back into an earlier state of tribalism?

Moving from families to villages to tribes to states was a loose process of organizing people into manageable groups for the purpose of allocating resources and responsibilities alike fairly and properly.

This has not, of course, always been a fair or proper process, with women, children, immigrants and people of color long forced into “tribes” not of their own making or benefit.

We have spent much of the last 150 years seeking (or not) the right balance. Some of the misallocations could be addressed on a one-off basis – the women’s’ suffrage and civil rights movements have at least shorn the roughest edges off the American version of tribalism.

Some, though, are more systemic. Efforts to tackle them often spur a resurgent tribalism among the groups who see resource allocation and rights as a zero-sum game in which gains by one group require losses by another.

One challenge is that tribal imperatives can be significantly different from State imperatives, creating a situation in which a tribe is fighting its own members.

And that is largely where we stand today. Riven by politics, economics, crime and, yes, systemic racism, the American tribe is at risk of reverting to a more primitive condition.

Perhaps the only just solution is to treat tribes as personal entities, rather than economic or political ones, within which everyone has the same basic guarantees of a livable income, health care, education, and safety – regardless of what tribe you claim as your own. Yes, the fifty States have the last word on how to tax and spend, but the federal government can withhold its own support if it does not like what and how the States do what they do.

If we could find a way to deal with that, we might get back on track?

The End of the World

Where, When, and Why?

For an unscientific guy I have an insatiable curiosity for knowing more about the universe. 

The magazine Astronomy is an amazing source for my imagination. It almost seems to me to have been written just for me. Perhaps there are more folks out there with similar fascinations than I had imagined? 

In all events—thanks, Astronomy! 

The TWO biggest questions are —how did it begin and how will it end? The answers are, of course, unknown, but theories abound. My own personal favorite is that there was no “beginning” and there will be no “end” — at least in the ways we’re accustomed to thinking about those words. 

Instead, the universe is speculated to consist of an endless cycle of self-renewal. A “big bang” to kick things off, followed, eons later, by a “big crunch” that wipes the slate clean – a cosmic “reset” button, as it were. WHEN might that happen?  When it is least expected – if we are even still around to see it. So, beware on ‘the best day in years!’ 

Why do we make such a big deal about beginnings and endings? The time in between so much longer and more important!  

Why do things ever have to end? To make way for what needs and wants to follow!  

If people and galaxies alike could go on forever, the people would destroy themselves through resource overconsumption or environmental degradation. Galaxies and the solar system they contain, meanwhile, would drift ever further from one another until each became a lonely island, unable to see or even imagine anything else “out there.” 

Humankind has pursued progress to the point of potential self-extinction. Our own end is easily predicted given our current course. Perhaps we, too, are in an endless cycle, destined to keep starting over until we get it right! How thoughtful people can be!!!! 

When we try…? 

The Best Downtown Neighborhood

In a Major Urban Setting.

I have had the opportunity and privilege of living in several of the world’s greatest cities and visiting many others. I have found that I, and many others, take it for granted to the point that we often forget what is soooo great about these places. 

Urban living keeps all of us living in THE MIX. The mix is a mélange of people from many places with many languages, cultures, habits and likes and dislikes. The pleasant result is an endless variety of restaurants, exhibits, and friends. 

Within the mélange, there are bound to be people we will like, some we may dislike, and a few we may despise. 

The buildings are various and often splendid, but still compact enough to make strolls through a neighborhood breathtaking. 

Best of all, our forebearers liked trees and flowers and we all still enjoy the abundance of greens, colors and shade with front, side and back gardens. 

 For all its benefits though, urban living imposes hardships – roads and traffic being prominent among them. 

Today two cars, moving in opposite directions, can barely navigate crowded two-way streets without touching. And one inexperienced driver can wreak havoc in seconds. 

Most urban streets were designed and laid out when cars were narrower and did not have two side view mirrors. (A Honda Civic was 59.3 inches wide in 1973; by 2008, it’s width had increased to 70.3 inches – ballooning, like many Americans themselves, by nearly 20% over the years.)   

We cannot be more than a few years away from having to have ALL one-way streets. Such solutions are the sort of civic rigidity that bleeds the life out of cities, imposing a frustrating series of right turns to overcome the negligence of drivers and the still growing popularity of behemoth, gas-guzzling SUVs. 

While side-view mirrors undoubtedly increase safety, the overall growth in vehicles is a simple matter of consumer tastes. Since that is not likely to change, perhaps it is time to eliminate side view mirrors entirely and replace them with on-board cameras and sensors that can provide information about nearby vehicles without the bulk of physical mirrors that many people fail to set properly.  

Absent a dramatic change, the charm and beauty of Georgetown (where I live) is about to slide into history! 

Please, somebody, DO SOMETHING! SOON!!