In respect for the life of Ahmaud Arbery

A true story: On a dark and stormy spring night 17 years ago (May 2003) I was chased down and tackled in my own neighborhood of Ocean City by undercover police officers who were following me in an unmarked car. I lived alone then as a divorced bachelor and walked two blocks around midnight from my house to Wawa to get milk and cookies after watching a violent gangster movie on TV. So I was already in a fearful mindset from the movie. When I saw them following me slowly in a black sedan with windows rolled down in the rain, I ran as fast as I could. In those days I was still pretty athletic. I would have outrun them but I tripped over landscaping near my house and came down hard on the pavement. If I had not landed on top on the gallon of milk and the box of cookies then I might have been injured by the hard fall.

The two men caught up and jumped on top of me a couple of seconds later. I was terrified since they looked and acted like mobsters. It was pretty well known in that community back then that I was one of the accountants providing evidence in the local business owners’ fraud prosecution cases against Donald Trump, who was reportedly mob connected. I had good reason to be scared.

I made them show me a police badge (which was odd that I even had to ask for proof) and then I calmed down. They said I looked like a burglar who was reported in the neighborhood. That was odd because I was one of the few white people living in that neighborhood of 4th And West Avenue. (I moved there to the modest working class neighborhood after being forced to sell our beach block house after divorce and it turned out to be an amazing blessing). I said “Really!? I wouldn’t think that a report of a 40 year old short white stocky Jewish accountant house burglar is all that common!”

Anyway, today I remember that story because if I was black, I might have been shot and not be alive today.

This post is written with respect for Ahmaud Arbery, just 25 years old, who was hunted down and killed while jogging in his own neighborhood in Georgia. Despite the existence of shocking 911 audio and video, neither of his white killers has been arrested or charged. Everyone deserves justice under the law. Ahmaud’s life matters.

Writing this blog post made me think of my former neighbor, Antwan McClellan, a neighborhood kid then who is now our state senator. He lived a few houses away. It was my interactions with the strong black community activists in this specific neighborhood, more than any other life experience, that led me to the activist roles I pursue today.

(The photo is my last Ocean City house that I loved, torn down for redevelopment a few years later).

#blacklivesmatter

Thanks Miley Cyrus

Thanks for the haunting performance on SNL of “Wish You Were Here”

So, so you think you can tell Heaven from Hell, blue skies from pain.
Can you tell a green field from a cold steel rail?
A smile from a veil?
Do you think you can tell?

Did they get you to trade your heroes for ghosts?
Hot ashes for trees?
Hot air for a cool breeze?
Cold comfort for change?
Did you exchange
A walk-on part in the war for a lead role in a cage?

How I wish, how I wish you were here.
We’re just two lost souls swimming in a fish bowl, year after year,
Running over the same old ground.
What have we found?
The same old fears.
Wish you were here.

Blink Review: “The Un-Trumping of America: A plan to make America a democracy again” by Dan Pfeiffer

This is a review of the Blinkist text and audio of “The Un-Trumping of America: A plan to make America a democracy again” by Dan Pfeiffer. This is the summary excerpt:

“Despite everything that Donald Trump has done during his time in the White House, he’s not the biggest threat to American democracy. Dan Pfeiffer believes that the Republican party as a whole – now thoroughly shot through with “Trumpism” – is a much greater and longer-term threat. The Democratic party needs to respond to this threat with fresh energy and ambitious, visionary plans.

Actionable advice: 

Get involved in politics.

It’s tempting to feel disillusioned by politics – or that you’re too insignificant to make a difference. Well, now is frankly not the time to feel like that. There are all sorts of steps you can do to support change in the political process, from proudly expressing your political affiliations online to donating money. Don’t forget – the presidency isn’t the only show in town. So much politics happens on a smaller scale than that: there’s always something to get involved with. Could you even run for office yourself?”

One of the author’s strongest positions is that the damage done to the Supreme Court by denying Justice Garland will cause a loss of public respect and support by Americans for decades to come. He feels this requires a retaliatory and corrective action. He lists possible corrections for this and the other damaging actions to ensure that this cannot ever happen to us again.

I am now clear that my most effective contribution is offering accounting and governance services to organizations that can make a difference. I helped launch a handful of new nonprofit groups this past year, also launched a political action committee and acted as campaign treasurer to three candidates. I’ve ruled out running as a candidate myself. The projects I’m most concerned about focus on educating and registering voters for mail-in balloting. I’ve distanced myself from Trump supporters and would not knowingly support, serve, hire or allow a Trump supporter as a guest in my home or businesses.

Making sure that my Republican Party can never allow this to happen again by registering and enrolling more voters in mail-in voting options is the best thing I can do as the first step on this long road to recovery.

An opportunity to change the community conversation

Recent news has rocked our world. We don’t know where it is headed. We don’t know how it will affect our future. We don’t know when it will end. We simply know that this is not normal. Yet, even right now, I see at least one clear possibility for channeling this into positive energy. Yes, this crisis is an opportunity. Right now we have an opportunity to change the public conversation, we have a rare opportunity to come together in our communities in a unified voice, to show our true human strengths, and seize this a unique opportunity for progressive change toward our shared goals.

My business focuses on sustainable business redevelopment in a rural community at the New Jersey bayshore. This field is typically divisive and partisan. I have regrettably become notorious as a divisive force for progressive change over several decades. I’ve made plenty of conservative enemies. My community activism even triggered death threats that snowballed into an attempted political assassination fourteen years ago. Recovery from those injuries cost me many years in recovery. The risks of political fighting within the community are all too real for me. My family and I certainly have good cause to fear politics and activism.

Yet despite this bitter experience, six years after the attack we were forced to learn an entirely new lesson. Superstorm Sandy wiped out my home and business in late 2012. In that time of community crisis, we all set down our weapons and come together for our own survival. Partisan bickering disappeared. We worked side by side to pull ourselves out of the mud and gradually rebuild out community. Our community of Money Island eventually rebuilt from within with virtually no support from government, even in the face of obvious FEMA fraud and maligned government forces working against us.

Over the past few days, I see signs that we will repeat many of the same social patterns. Even our normally impotent in Washington DC proved this weekend that people can come together for the common good. Rahm Emanuel is credited for saying “You never let a serious crisis go to waste”. The line gained notoriety. But over time we have learned that the ‘crisis management approach’ to community action has proven to be the most effective method we have available to unify our diverse communities. Those who can see this opportunity hold the keys to moving our communities forward. I urge each person reading this to recognize the opportunity, to take a lead role, and be a positive force in leadership through the crisis.

Someday this crisis will be over. But we have good reason to believe that positive measures adapted in an emergency become part of the mainstream of our lives going forward afterwards. Namaste.

Refuze Bees Wing

“I was nineteen when I came to town
They called in the Summer of Love
They were burningbabies, burning flags
The Hawks against the DovesI took a job in the STeamie
Down on Cauldrum Street
I fell in love with a laundry girl
Was working next to meShe was a rare thing
Fine as a beeswing
So fine a breath of wind might blow her away
She was a lost child
She was running wild, she said
As long as there’s no price on love, I’ll stay
And you wouldn’t want me any other wayBrown hair zig-zag round her face
And a look of half-surprise
Like a fox caught in the headlights
There was an animal in her eyesShe said, young man, O can’t you see
I’m not the factory kind
If you don’t take me out of here
I’ll surely lose my miindShe was a rare thing
Fine as a beeswing
So fine a breath of wind might blow her away
She was a lost child
She was running wild, she said
As long as there’s no price on love, I’ll stay
And you wouldn’t want me any other wayWe busked around the market towns
And picked fruit down in Kent
And we could tinker lamps and pots
And knives wherever we wentAnd I said that we might settle down
Get a few acres dug
Fire burning in the hearth
And babies on the rugShe said O man, you foolish man
It surely sounds like hell
You might be lord of half the world
You’ll not own me as wellShe was a rare thing
Fine as a beeswing
So fine a breath of wind might blow her away
She was a lost child
She was running wild, she said
As long as there’s no price on love, I’ll stay
And you wouldn’t want me any other wayWe was camping down the Gower one time
The work was pretty good
She thought we shouldn’t wait for frost
And I thought maybe we shouldWe were drinking more in those days
And tempers reached a pitch
Like a fool I let her run
With the rambling itchLast I hear she’s sleeping out
Back on Derby beat
White Horse in her hip pocket
And a wolfhound at her feetAnd they say she even marriend once
A man named Romany Brown
But even a Gypsy caravan
Was too much settliing downAnd they say her flower is faded now
Hard weather and hard booze
But maybe that’s just the price you pay
For the chains you refuseShe was a rare thing
Fine as a beeswing
And I missher more than ever words could say
If I could just taste
All of her wildness now
If I could hold her in my arms today
Then I wouldn’t want her any other way”

  • Richard Thompson performed this at Philadelphia Folk Festival. I don’t remember what year.

Blink Review: “Death of the Liberal Class”

“Death of the Liberal Class” by Chris Hedges, 2015
Notes are from Blinkist

Modern society’s liberal thinkers have failed in promoting and developing the ideals they supposedly hold dear: protecting the meek and regulating government. The consequences for this failure are far greater than dysfunctional government; indeed, they may be catastrophic.

Liberalism is dying a slow death, and importantly, highlights the awful consequences to come in the United States of a one-sided political and cultural system.

The American media isn’t really free anymore;
No one is interested in “standing up for the little guy”.
The United States went to war against liberalism.

The liberal class has failed to protect American workers from exploitation.

The liberal class has purged itself of radicals and unconventional thinkers to its detriment.

The arts have abandoned liberal values; money has taken the place of political expression.

The media is no longer free and independent, as corporations have taken over a majority of papers.

We live in a world of total corporate control, where wars are endless because profits are high.

“The corporations that profit from permanent war need is to be afraid”.

Many liberals have blindly hoped that technology and a free market would bring about utopia.

We are just as uncritical of science as many years ago people were uncritical of god.

Many of today’s liberals have been bought off with wages or promises of a luxurious life.

The death of the liberal class can destabilize the entire democratic system.

With their needs unmet, the public turned to extremists on both sides of the political spectrum for support, which eventually allowed the Nazi party to rise significantly in power.

Society as we know it will collapse unless we institute the necessary liberal reforms.

Climate change, spurred by unregulated production and consumption, will drastically alter the living conditions on earth.

Moreover, there is a revolution in our future, and one that will be born at the far-right end of the American political spectrum.

Revolt is necessary, as it is our only means of toppling corrupt government. However, this revolt won’t come from the middle classes or be inspired by moderate politicians.

The only solution is a complete restructuring of human society into small communities, in which small groups of people can rebuild their lives.

These communities will have to be modest and self-sufficient, growing and building everything they need themselves. To live within their means, these groups can’t be much larger than a few families, otherwise they risk becoming reliant on larger industrial producers.

Notes from: “Inventing the Future: Postcapitalism and a World Without Work”

“Inventing the Future: Postcapitalism and a World Without Work”
book by Alex Williams and Nick Srnicek, 2015

notes from Blinkist

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inventing_the_Future:_Postcapitalism_and_a_World_Without_Work

PostCapitalism by Paul Mason (2015) offers a close examination of the failures of current economic systems. The 2008 financial crisis showed us that neoliberal capitalism is falling apart, and these blinks outline the reasons why we’re at the start of capitalism’s downfall, while giving an idea of what our transition into postcapitalism will be like.

The book begins (chapters 1–2) by critiquing dominant left-wing thinking in the West.

Contrasts left-wing folk politics with the success of neoliberalism in achieving global cultural hegemony.

Folk politics isn’t working.

Most people don’t distinguish between Liberalism vs. neoliberalism.

The current political tactics of the left are failing for working people. To succeed in transforming society, the left must take a page out of the right-wing playbook and build a long-term, strategic vision that offers an alternative to the current neoliberal, capitalist world order.

The most important takeaway is that the left needs to build a similarly long-term, strategic vision. To do so, the left will need to abandon its fear of organizational secrecy, hierarchy and rationality. Such changes are essential if we are to build and sustain a comparably hegemonic position.

Automation and unemployment are increasingly likely.

Universal basic income is the key to creating a world after capitalism.

In the 1960s and 70s, basic income was a core proposal of the US welfare system. Economists, NGOs and policymakers were all exploring the idea in great detail. In fact, 1,300 economists signed a petition urging the US Congress to pass UBI, and two presidents, Richard Nixon and Jimmy Carter, attempted to pass it as legislation.

Support has come from writers like Paul Krugman and Martin Wolf, and news outlets like the New York Times and the Economist.

“The goal of the future is full unemployment” – Arthur C. Clark

Orwell wrote, “the job of the thinking person is not to reject socialism but to make up his mind to humanise it”

What happened to Occupy?
https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/08/21/is-there-any-point-to-protesting

The emotional rural response to the disarmament trend

The majority of people nationally and locally support the slow tending changes of U.S. gun laws moving toward disarmament. Yet a number of rural New Jersey communities are resisting and acting out against the long term trend of change in our gun culture by asking local governments to declare themselves “second amendment sanctuaries” and to oppose any new restrictions on guns which they deem to be unconstitutional. Local governments comply because these measures are popular with the voters and cost nothing now. In a sense, the sanctuary measures are harmless. But even if they have no legal impact, I’m concerned that they set the stage for wasting taxpayer money ahead. The reality is that gun regulations laws fall under state and federal jurisdiction, not local governments. No matter how much a local community “resists”, they won’t change that. Compliance, as a practical matter is an individual choice with little to no local community impact. Despite the emotional discussions, gun law compliance will be based on simple economics, not an emotional or values-based position.

IMO these sanctuary measures only “kick the can down the road” by continuing the division between rural community residents and the much larger rest of the state population. The overall state population overwhelmingly support change in gun culture. It would be better, IMO, for governments to engage and empower local rural residents to get involved if state-level gun culture efforts.

Some proponents of the gun sanctuary movement have even resurrected words like “nullification” and “interposition”from Southern secessionists during the Civil War and opposing desegregation in the 1960s. That’s scary, but probably not meaningful.

In the end, I predict that these social tensions will fade away without much excitement. Evolving gun regulations will be crafted in a way to dissipate emotional reactions as an important integral component of their design. Technology and finances will effect the change in an unemotional manner. Future regulations about gun insurance, taxation and registration will wisely avoid confrontation and allow the resisters to voluntarily comply with changes as the financially and legally logical choice. I’ve covered those from a revenue and tax perspective in other blog posts.

Goodbye to the decade of disillusion

I am happy to say goodbye to the decade that lowered my expectations of the future of humanity.

I had allowed past events to create the illusion that we were advancing beyond ignorance as the standard of society. Ten years ago I believed that more information would inevitably lead to enlightenment. That proved wrong.

We are reminded of the incredible power of ignorance, bigotry, greed and hate fueled by anti-social media powers. We aren’t out of the woods yet, but at least we have some strategies. We know that deep-fake propaganda is the next wave to hit us. It will be difficult to learn that we cannot trust what we see with our eyes, hear with our own ears. Instead, we will need to learn to apply a cognitive mental process, probably combined with machine-driven algorithms to learn the truth. It won’t be easy.

It’s sad to end my blog this decade on such a sour note. But I remain committed

 

“Dickensian lens”

Early this morning I was driven to understand the meaning of the common phrase “Dickensian lens”. I get the feeling when I read this term in print that some who use it don’t have much depth of understanding as to what it means. I have no idea what it means. After doing a little research it is still unclear.

I found this definition of “Dickensian” in “Masterpiece Classic”. The source and purpose of this publication is not clear.

“Charles Dickens’ work continues to be so influential that the adjective
“Dickensian” is used today to describe something “of or like the novels
of Charles Dickens (especially with regard to poor social and economic
conditions),” according to WordNet at http://wordnetweb.princeton.edu/
perl/webwn?s=dickensian.

Search for current usages of the word in The New York Times archive at nytimes.com (put the term “Dickensian” in the search bar) or other newspapers in order to understand how “Dickensian” is used in different contexts. For example, a 2008 article in The New York Times describes Mumbai, India this way: “For the writer, the Dickensian lens offers an easy view of Mumbai: wealthy and poor, apartment-dwelling and slumdwelling, bulbous and malnourished.” (www.nytimes.com/2008/11/09/”.
weekinreview/09giridharadas.html).

It is clear that the term refers to social commentary. But that’s all I see so far. Is Dickens still relevant today? I don’t see it. English literature professors do. In either case, does looking at a current situation in comparison to the way Dickens would describe it add any insight now? Again, I don’t see it, except perhaps in reinforcing that the human condition has always involved suffering.

I still don’t see why the trendiness of the term “Dickensian lens”.