“and forgive them their debts”

Debt forgiveness has been a core economic principle of our Judeo-Christian societies, as well as other cultures, for thousands of years. We studied why it was important to the economy in business schools, in churches, and in synagogues for all our lives. Yet to listen to today’s radicalized Republicans, you would think that the concept was just invented by woke progressives. I can only assume that this is yet another example of the social failure resulting from lack of liberal arts education.

Michael Hudson’s 2018 book “and forgive them their debts” is getting renewed attention now. The page linked here contains a brief cited summary of the biblical history.

Truth

There is a growing belief that truth is a matter of perception. It is not that simple.

The professional field of coaching deals extensively with the issue of truth. The coaching approach is purely practical; useful for soliciting results, not a philosophical approach to the topic. A common approach is to introduce new terminology: “truth” with a “little t” and “Truth” with a “big T”. The sole purpose is to allow further discussion in dissecting the practicality of the topic of truth. The common usage is that little t is what is true for you and big T is what is true by another standard that commands some level of authority. For example, “Truth” might be the facts that withstand vigorous challenge in court. In contrast, “truth” might turn out to be a limiting belief held only by you.

The main benefit of taking this practical approach is to realize that we get to define “truth” for ourselves as we see fit. We do not get to define “Truth” as defined by social forces that are perhaps more forceful than our own beliefs.

West Virginia vs. EPA

“It is not plausible that Congress gave EPA the authority to adopt on its own such a regulatory scheme,’’- Justice Roberts for the majority.

“The court appoints itself — instead of Congress or the expert agency — the decision maker on climate policy. I cannot think of many things more frightening.’’ – Justice Kagan for the dissent.

This failure of United States government appears likely to be the most proximate direct cause of unprecedented misery and mass death ahead for humans on planet earth.

Reflecting on ESG progress in 2021: lack of diversification of leadership

In reviewing and reflecting on 2021, I see little progress in South Jersey on diversification of power. The bulk of our institutions are still controlled by old white men. My own efforts to support diversity of leadership in government, nonprofit and business sectors has been frustrating; riddled with Dunning Kruger effect. Would-be leaders don’t know what they don’t know and therefore overestimate their own capabilities.

This year I supported a number of unsuccessful non-traditional younger and minority candidates for elected office, served several young minority business owners who ultimately closed their operations, and advised a number of volunteer-based nonprofit organizations that went from large expectations to gasping for life.

Our region failed to re-elect our region’s most powerful and well-connected state Senator (in center of photo of old white men below). He had some reputation of sharing our goals and, at least, had an open mind to diversification of leadership. Instead, we elected an inexperienced and loudly bigoted truck driver in his place. My white male neighbors celebrated their success in electing someone “just like me”. It was a discouraging tough year.

Meanwhile, my traditional clients had a banner year. Most added millions to their net worth. Some launched new businesses into areas of promising technology. I had a strong financial performance year myself, even in less glamorous ESG-focused business segments of aquaculture, environmental education and food distribution. Clearly this year was another perfect example of “the rich got richer”.

I really don’t have any great success stories to share this year. As we end 2021, I see that our community power base and financial control remains mostly unchanged. Perhaps the only progress I can see is that our small city of Millville will have its first female mayor next month.

We have much work ahead.

A tougher 2022 ahead?

I just listened to Preet Bharara’s short weekly podcast comment on Cafe Insider. He forecasts a much tougher year ahead for national governance than we had for 2021. He uses the term “fight” to refer to our required action. My own action is specifically focused on rebuilding community by focusing on what we have in common (investing, love of fishing and the outdoors, for example) but I can imagine how a heightened environment of hostility could spoil those plans.

Excerpt from Bharara yesterday:
“I am not going to make any blithe predictions about next year, save one. I don’t know for a fact what will happen with Roe v. Wade, but I’m worried. I don’t know for a fact what will happen in the midterms, but I’m worried. I don’t know for a fact that the pandemic will persist, but I’m worried. I could go on and on.

What I do know for a fact is that for everyone who cares about the future of the country and who values democracy, the vacation is over. Whatever respite people took in 2021, whatever turning away from the news, whatever comfort in Biden’s stewardship, whatever head-in-the-sand posture about fair elections or Trumpism or the Supreme Court or increasing minority rule, the fact is that in 2022 the fight will be on.

So drink your eggnog. Tear open your presents. Kiss under the mistletoe. Hug your families. Enjoy some time off. But come back in 2022 ready to fight.”

Regulation of social media

In a world that both democratizes personal opinion and deteriorates the truth, there are inevitably acceptable differences of opinion and unacceptable differences of opinion. For example, the distortion of truth that we read in WSJ editorials are acceptable differences of opinion. Denial of foreign aggressors’ influence in financing the radicalizing hostility among Americans is an unacceptable difference in opinion. That raises immense challenge of referring between the two types of disinformation.

My opinion and forecast are different on this important issue:

Opinion: I personally do not see much social value in democratizing opinion since there is no indication, throughout human history, that the majority of population will bother to discern truth.

Forecast: we will regulate supersized opinion platforms as monopolies in anti-trust actions that will not significantly address the misinformation, disinformation and malinformation.

Kabul

“If you love this land of the free
Bring ’em home, bring ’em home
Bring them back from overseas
Bring ’em home, bring ’em home
It will make the politicians sad, I know
Bring ’em home, bring ’em home
They wanna tangle with their foe
Bring ’em home, bring ’em home
They wanna test their grand theories
Bring ’em home, bring ’em home
With the blood of you and me
Bring ’em home, bring ’em home
We’ll give no more brave young lives
Bring ’em home, bring ’em home
For the gleam in someone’s eyes
Bring ’em home, bring ’em home
The men will cheer and the boys will shout
Bring ’em home, bring ’em home
And we will all turn out
Bring ’em home, bring ’em home
The church bells will ring with joy
Bring ’em home, bring ’em home
To welcome our darling girls and boys
Bring ’em home, bring ’em home
We will lift their voice in song
Bring ’em home, bring ’em home
When Johnny comes marching home
Bring ’em home, bring ’em home
Bring ’em home, bring ’em home
Bring ’em home, bring ’em home
Bring ’em home, bring ’em home
Bring ’em home, bring ’em home
Bring ’em home, bring ’em home
Bring ’em home, bring ’em home
Bring them back from the overseas
Bring ’em home, bring ’em home
Bring ’em home, bring ’em home
Bring ’em home, bring ’em home
If you love this land of free
Bring ’em home, bring ’em home
Bring ’em home, bring ’em home
Bring ’em home, bring ’em home
Bring them back from the overseas
Bring ’em home, bring ’em home”

– Bruce Springsteen

Old Dogs, Children, and Watermelon Wine

Storyteller Tom T. Hall died yesterday. RIP. He was best known for the song “Harper Valley PTA” that captured the soul of the 1960s and has been kept alive by so many performers over the years. Still a hit every time.

In this introduction to “Old Dogs, Children and Watermelon Wine” he talks about performing at the contentious 1972 Democratic National Convention in Miami Beach. That ultimately disastrous event was also covered by Hunter S. Thompson in “Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72”. This followed the earthshaking 1968 convention recently re-enacted for us in the movie “Trial of the Chicago 7” last year. I never heard Tom T. Hall perform live but heard many musicians express their admiration of his poise and style.

The recording is worth a listen.

How old do you think I am?” he said
I said, well, I didn’t know
He said, “I turned 65 about 11 months ago”


I was sittin’ in miami pourin’ blended whiskey down
When this old gray black gentleman was cleanin’ up the lounge

There wasn’t anyone around ‘cept this old man and me
The guy who ran the bar was watchin’ Ironsides on tv
Uninvited, he sat down and opened up his mind
On old dogs and children and watermelon wine

“Ever had a drink of watermelon wine?” he asked
He told me all about it, though I didn’t answer back
“Ain’t but three things in this world that’s worth a solitary dime
But old dogs and children and watermelon wine”

He said, “Women think about they-selves, when menfolk ain’t around
And friends are hard to find when they discover that you’re down”
He said, “I tried it all when I was young and in my natural prime
Now it’s old dogs and children and watermelon wine”

“Old dogs care about you even when you make mistakes
God bless little children while they’re still too young to hate”
When he moved away I found my pen and copied down that line
‘Bout old dogs and children and watermelon wine

I had to catch a plane up to atlanta that next day
As I left for my room I saw him pickin’ up my change
That night I dreamed in peaceful sleep of shady summertime
Of old dogs and children and watermelon wine

This is perhaps the most famous performance of “Harper Valley PTA”: https://youtu.be/B4uJ8QV-8R8

A portrait in honor of a seagull

I photographed this seagull with a broken wing in front of my home today about half hour before it died.

Johnathan Livingston

I thought about the lessons of the book by Richard Bach that was so popular when I was a young teen. Johnathan Livingston Seagull was probably the first book I read at age 12 or 13 after my mother died. It would not be an exaggeration to say that book had more influence on my spiritual life than the Bible. The music of Neil Diamond reinforced those messages as I must have listened to hundreds of times as a teenager and into my 20s.

In honor of this seagull , I will pull the book off the shelf and listen to the music once again.

The meaning of Apollo 11, 1969

On this weekend in 1969, 52 years ago, the Sunday edition of The Philadelphia Inquirer, our local newspaper, included in its special edition, a large glossy color print of the astronauts landing on the moon on July 20. I taped that photo high on the wall, almost touching the ceiling of the farmhouse bedroom wall where brother John and I had our bunk beds. The unwritten but well understood message of that event and that era was that we, as a nation, could do anything we set our minds on. 

We saw that photo every day. The message of its meaning confronted us as we climbed out of bed each morning. We were the rural middle income kids of a single father, without any noticable social advantage or predictor of notable future achievement. But as I look back on that era and the parenting and societal mentorship of that era it could be encapsulated in that photo:
We, as individuals, can do anything that we set our minds on. 

As far as I know, that photo remained on the bedroom wall of the farm house until the farm was sold when I was in graduate school more than a decade later. Coincidently or not, both John and I went on to become national champion athletes in our own different sports and each of us launched separate businesses that were recognized as national leaders in their respective fields. Anecdotal coincidence? Perhaps, but it still feels like a compelling connection all these years later.

For younger generations who may not understand the psychological impact of this moon landing event had on millions of us then, I feel sad to think that their memories will be of multibillionaires efforts to exploit space. I feel sad that the nation has lost its way and ability to commit to common goals. I feel sad that the abilities of individuals to accomplish great things are limited by the widened gaps in wealth, income and community influence compared to our world of decades ago. 

Today we continue to march forward with the same values, influences and sense of determination. But my perception of the world’s opportunities has clearly changed.