Social Criticism

Social Criticism


Wisdom is the Key to Leadership

leadership April 20th, 2020

What makes for good leadership? Effective leadership? Ethical leadership? You guessed it: Wisdom.
Unfortunately, Piers Morgan, the journalist/celebrity apprentice/anchorman missed it. What follows is what he said about both Trump and Boris Johnson (Prime Minister of the United Kingdom) on the journalistic critique program, Reliable Sources on 4/20/2020. He lambasted Trump as being a self-serving man who is really screwing up his leadership during the time of the worst pandemic in decades and the worst economic contraction in a century, but again, when listing qualities he sees lacking in Trump and Johnson, wisdom somehow comes up missing.

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America’s Social Safety Net Is Embarrassingly Inadequate

social safety net April 17th, 2020

America was cruising along in the early part of the year, Trump touting the amazingly low unemployment and extremely high Dow Jones Industrial Average. Companies were making profits, and things were moving in that generally-optimistic direction. Infrastructure was being neglected, health insurance was a damnable mess, and Americans were probably more divided that any time since the tumultuous 1960s. Then, a bat’s DNA and some other animal’s DNA combined in a pernicious and horrifying way in some God-forsaken food market in Wuhan, China. All hell broke loose.
Instead of landing in a well-constructed and life-saving social safety net, millions of Americans are out of work, depressed, socially strained, and terribly pessimistic.
This blog features some markers of where we are, economically, in this, the worst economic disaster since the Great Depression.

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Politically Progressive Quotes from African Americans

african americans April 11th, 2020

African Americans are an integral part of the United States of America. 95% were brought against their will from Africa (or born to recently-arrived African slaves). They have had to struggle to find even a basic fair treatment from the majority-white populace, and it is incomplete. As a case in point, more black Americans are dying from the coronavirus, proportionally, than whites. Some of this might be able to be attributed to the larger number of premorbid conditions that tend to plague African Americans to a greater degree than other races, but even that leads to the recognition that there must be much about the American experience for black people that is significantly worse than for whites. Asian Americans have pretty decent outcomes in American society, and so it’s hard to tease apart the legacy of slavery from cultural mores and personal choices that are salubrious and prudent. At bottom, though, what is not in dispute is that the African American experience in America has been rough, and that has something to do with racism. I won’t chase every tangent that this introductory paragraph logically leads to — for example, the fact that African Americans are less economically advanced than whites. I will simply sample some politically progressive quotes from African Americans. Who better but these Americans themselves to share their experience?

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A Rich Vein of Quotes About Public Health

quotes about public health April 9th, 2020

I often will sit at my computer, kind of bored and idle and unstimulated. I suppose some of that is not only the life of a writer, but as a mostly-unsuccessful blogger, it’s pretty much the bottom of the barrel of the writing profession. So whereas a writer such as Hemingway or Woolf or Nietzsche, whom you could imagine sitting at the typewriter (or chewing mindlessly on their quill), might experience writer’s block (or a manic work-spree), at least they have the highest-caliber brains and publishers awaiting a quality product. Now, with 1,000,000 books published in any given year, and folks being mostly resistant to being marketed to, the number of writers who probably sit and suffer day in and day out must be legion. But, today, I fell into a rich vein of political, philosophical, and written gold, and I want to share it here. The medium: quotes. The subject: America’s characteristic, predictable, and mixed response to the biggest crisis in a century: the coronavirus pandemic. It is stretching each of us, and our social fabric, and our institutions, to the limit. Here are some trenchant thoughts by three sources that all cohere nicely.

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The Virtues of Heroism and Self-Sacrifice

heroism April 7th, 2020

I just watched the movie 300, based on the graphic novel by Frank Miller. If you haven’t seen it, you may want to go for it. It is bloody; savage even; but it tells a story of solidarity that is compelling in any time and place, but particularly so now that America is facing down a mortal enemy: the virus, COVID-19. This blog is a paean to first responders, doctors, and parents who have to now teach their kids; it is in praise of those who lost a job due to no fault of their own; it is a criticism of the federal government; it is a recounting of some of the tough spots Americans have been in since the tumultuous colonial era which led to war with England. Heroism and self-sacrifice are called for during these dark days.

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Coronavirus Stretches America to the Limit

March 29th, 2020

I took a much-needed break from the media, politicians, and the disease COVID-19 last week. It felt pretty good! Perhaps because I’m lucky, because I chose not to have children, because I work from home, and because of the house my wife and I occupy, I can pull off “unplugging” from the Internet, phone, and cable news (mostly) for four or five straight days. I told my wife, “If we get a shelter-in-place order, hopefully you find out, because I won’t!” I was listening to the radio, watching movies and inane TV, reading, going to the gym (when it was still open), volunteering for Meals on Wheels, and so on. Gone was the “the sky is falling!” feeling that results from watching my wealth manager, whom I pay 1% of my stock assets to every year, having chose stocks that lost 30% in value in twenty days, hearing Donald Trump speak, and thinking of what the virus is doing to Italy and Spain. Now that I’m back, I feel like I’m back up on the cross, not only enduring raw facts about the disease, but all manner of bullshit from the land that invented steel-cage wrestling matches, Cheese-Puffs, and The Apprentice. Here are ten examples on my mind today:

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A New New Deal for the New Millennium

a new new deal March 21st, 2020

As of this writing, the economy—as well as society in many other ways— is melting down. The coronavirus is the pandemic we have long-feared. We are unfortunately seeing the chickens come home to roost in regard to things such as infrastructure neglect, economic insecurity, wealth disparities not seen since 1928, and a government that has been pared down by decades of misinformation campaigns, tax cuts, misplaced priorities, and demagogues in blue suits. It is a very hard time for America. In this blog, I go through a little historical perspective and then call for a major change in the very fabric of American society: a new New Deal for the new millennium.

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Trump Faces Demanding Test of Responsibility and Prudence

Trump February 28th, 2020

The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 10% of its value this week, probably two or three trillion dollars of wealth evaporated. Now, I think that the stock market is a foolish “bet” but I do have all of my retirement income tied up in it (for some complicated reasons I shouldn’t get into). I feel this very keenly since I lost $100,000 in the time it took my orchid to put out a flower. However, now we know what is causing the global contraction and the loss of profit. Commentator Joe Scarborough talked of the market usually as being “like witchcraft” – capricious – but there is a clear cause for all this volatility and fear: Supply chains have been shattered. Conferences being cancelled. “This terrifies investors,” he said. It’s much about loss of profits and uncertainty – will this slow-moving and hard-to-contain disease last for longer than 6 or 9 months? Scarborough said, “the snowball is just starting to roll down the hill.” I think the major reason America is in jeopardy is that Donald Trump leading America during a major crisis. This is more or less the chickens coming home to roost when it comes to Republicans in power, though. At bottom, this crisis is both an opportunity and a danger, one in which Trump faces a demanding test of his responsibility and prudence. It is about wisdom and virtue and character. Don’t hold your breath. 

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A Millennial’s Political View of America

political February 24th, 2020

Millennial’s typically don’t have much political power. Whether this is because the “old guard” of mostly “baby boomers” is slow to relinquish control, or “Gen X’ers” are ahead of Millennials in the slow-to-change power structure is not clear to me. It’s becoming increasingly clear, though, that the old needs to make way for the new. I know, it causes the grey-haired, well-heeled set heartburn to think of letting a new generation of Americans take a shot at holding political power, but let’s face it: we’re not in a great position in 2020. Some would say we are looking at the mid- to final-stages of a long, grueling decline from cultural and ideological dominance of the world. From China to climate change to big money granting political power, the future is not necessarily going to be brighter than our past. And this might be the first time since maybe 1929-1945 that Americans have felt this way. Certainly, we have come a long way from union jobs, putting a man on the moon, virtually inventing the Internet, and little national debt! What follows is a personal political philosophy I think is characteristic of Millennials, those who were born in approximately 1990 to 2000. Think of it as a possible answer if I were to have asked a 25-year-old what they think of the United States, “socialism”, why they like Bernie Sanders more often than not, and where they see us going in the short term: 

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Progressive Economics: Bernstein & Herman (V&E-4)

progressive economics February 19th, 2020

Unless you’re quite wealthy, you probably feel an economic pinch— a job that’s not keeping pace, a fair amount of debt, insecurity about Social Security. The economic priorities of the Bush administration and Congress are fairly plain to see; the road to fiscal propriety in a more progressive America is not rocket science— it comes down to priorities and discipline. I’m happy to speak with two guests today who have decades of combined experience watching the economy, the media, and the rest of the factors that support it. Thank you for listening; we have to take a quick break, but when I return I will tell you about Jared Bernstein, Ph.D. and, then at the bottom of the hour, I will be speaking with Professor Edward Herman.

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