America’s New (un)Civil War – Part II

The furor over Donald Trump’s increasingly pitiful, dangerous insistence that the election is being “stolen” from him by the evil forces of tyranny abetted by a corrupted media, should be an early warning call.  The spirit of violent rebellion is rising again against the injustice and corruption of a government that has stopped listening to, serving, and respecting its people. Rebellion is deeply woven into the fabric of America’s existence. We are, as the ancient Romans would have understood, Janus-faced: one part of our instinctive, permanent character is loyalty, the other rebellion. But our survival as a democracy “of the people, by the people, and for the people,” depends on our ability to manage that inner conflict without ripping ourselves apart as a nation. It’s a daunting challenge. We were born in an act of rebellion against the legally-constituted government of Great Britain. But it was also a civil war between “Loyalists” (or Tories) against “Rebels” (or Patriots). It divided families and, pitted brothers against brothers and friends against friends. Eighty-two years later, the tensions that divide us erupted again in a frightful, tragic civil war. In my family on my mother’s side, it was called “The War Between the States,” or, more bitterly, “The War of Northern Aggression.” The Thomas family emigrated to America from Scotland in 1651 and settled in Virginia. My great grandfather, Lovick Thomas II, lived in Decatur, Georgia. He served as Colonel of the 42nd Georgia Infantry. I’ve read the diary kept by his wife, Jane Peeples Thomas and the letters they exchanged during the war. What emerges, roughly 150 years later, is a...

The Big Lie

From the authors of the Big Lie “…In the big lie there is always a certain force of credibility; because the broad masses of a nation are always more easily corrupted in the deeper strata of their emotional nature than consciously or voluntarily; and thus in the primitive simplicity of their minds they more readily fall victims to the big lie than the small lie, since they themselves often tell small lies in little matters but would be ashamed to resort to large-scale falsehoods. Even though the facts which prove this to be so may be brought clearly to their minds, they will still doubt and waver and will continue to think that there may be some other explanation.” “The receptivity of the great masses is very limited, their intelligence is small, but their power of forgetting is enormous. In consequence of these facts, all effective propaganda must be limited to a very few points and must harp on these slogans until the last member of the public understands what you want him to understand by your slogan.” —Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.” Joseph Goebbels, 12...

Global Warming: Are You Smarter than a 5th Grader?

It shouldn’t be that hard to get. Republicans who cling to the Koch Brothers’ and the oil industry’s denial of global warming offer the excuse “I’m not a scientist.” Well, OK. Asking members of Congress (of both parties) to make logical decisions based on impartial, empirical observation of facts is asking too much. But try this 5th grade experiment: Fill a glass with water and an ice cube almost to the brim. Place it in the hot sun (we’re getting a lot more of that these days, if you hadn’t noticed…).  If you’re in a hurry, put it in a microwave  What happens? Next question: Are the polar icecaps and glaciers around the world melting?  You can check that by looking at photos – unless you believe there’s a world-wide conspiracy by some all-powerful nefarious group like the Trilateral Commission, The Illuminati, The U.N. , or the new World Order to doctor ALL the satellite photographs we see (the way they did with the Apollo moon landings LOL). Or you could actually ask a scientist (not the ones paid by the Koch Brothers and Mobil/Exxon).  97% of them would tell you that global warming is happening, its consequences can be destructive to all life on the planet (including ours), and that current human behavior is making it worse. So why does this matter on November 8th? By then it will have cost over 7 billion dollars (that’s $7,000,000,000, incidentally) to decide between two presidential candidates neither of whom many of us really trust, or like.  In fact, because of today’s politics of lies, leaks, and character assassination, the only...

Living in Crazy World

Living in Crazy World JoAnn and I were on our way home yesterday from a gathering with friends when this news feed showed up on her IPhone: “ABC reports that President Obama has just signed an Executive Order outlawing the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools.” I almost drove of the road in shock. “How could he do that?” “Why would he do that?”  “Has his mind been taken over by Extraterrestrial Aliens (or the Koch brothers?)” That was followed by the conviction “This is crazy, President Obama wouldn’t do that.” Of course it was crazy. When I got home and raced to fire up my laptop to find out what was really going on, I discovered it was all a hoax.  But tellingly, my first reaction was to treat this report as “news.” I think about this hoax now, which might be just an irresponsibly stupid prank but could as easily be a malicious attack of politically-driven misinformation. I can easily imagine Obama’s and Hillary’s detractors repeating it as gospel. “Have you heard what they’re doing now!  We need to put both of them in jail!” We have  serious drug problems in this country. But the most dangerous, in terms of the largest number of existing and potential addicts, is the narcotic of fear.  We shoot up every time we turn on the “news,”  respond to “anti-Social Media,” or pass along rumors with people who share our beliefs.  “Trump is going to destroy American democracy and turn us into a dictatorship.” “Hillary is in league with the World Bank, the Trilateral Commission, and the Bilderberg Group to destroy...

A Crippled Ship of State

Once or twice a day, JoAnn I can sit on the front porch of our Raspberry Island cottage in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, and enjoy the sight of Bluenose, Canada’s national tall ship, sailing majestically by, her huge, sweeping sails gleaming in the bright sunlight. Except — it’s a just a mirage — a smoke and mirrors national embarrassment. And the tragedy of the Bluenose — what happens when incompetent and self-serving government leaders and bureaucrats make important decisions — has lessons for all Canadians and Americans. By the early 2000s, it had become clear that Bluenose II, the replica built in 1963 of Canada’s famed racing schooner, was feeling her age. Like most wooden boats over time, she had become “hogged.” The stress of winds and ocean seas on her timbers had weakened her structure in the bow and stern. The proud ship that had served her country so well was no longer truly seaworthy. Had the Canadian Federal and Nova Scotia Provincial governments turned the construction of a new Bluenose over to the shipwrights of Lunenburg, builders for generations of wooden ships, including both the original Bluenose and her 1963 replacement, they would have created a beautiful, seagoing ship, in all likelihood on time and on budget. What Canada has instead, is a construction cost budgeted at $14.4 million that has escalated to $25 million and is still climbing, a project that has suffered years of delays, and a ship that may never be able to do more than sail back and forth in a safe harbor. What are the lessons we should learn from this sad debacle?...