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Jack is a graduate of Rutgers University where he majored in history. His career in the life and health insurance industry involved medical risk selection and brokerage management. Retired in Florida for over two decades after many years in NJ and NY, he occasionally writes, paints, plays poker, participates in play readings and is catching up on Shakespeare, Melville and Joyce, etc.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

The B.I.G. Party Defined, The Death of Civility, "Teach Me Tonight" and Vice Presidential Choices


The B.I.G. Party and Democracy

The acronym ““B.I.G.” Party,” it turns out, is not exclusively applicable to what we used to refer to as the Republican Party.  Let’s examine the components of being part of “any” “B.I.G.” party.

The “B” stands for bigotry.  Like it or not, all of us have some duality in our psychological make-up.  We have thoughts which are directed by angels, or whatever bastion of goodness we recognize, and we also have some thoughts which are not so nice.  When we choose to move from a perfectly nice home in a nice neighborhood to one which enables us to send our kids to a public school populated by students just like our kids … rather than to one to which kids are bussed from less blessed neighborhoods, or decide to send the kids to a private school to avoid facing the issue, are we following our “good’ instincts, or paths we know deep down are wrong?  
 Image result for good angels vs evil angels

We all make decisions like this every day.  You’re walking across a movie parking lot after the evening show and see a group of teen age boys coming your way.  Is whether you change direction or keep on walking toward them governed by their skin color?  We all have a bit of that “bigotry” within us.  Many of us, fortunately, follow our better instincts sufficiently often to easily outweigh those occasions where we go ahead and do what we know is morally wrong.  But those who ignore the voices of those good angels most of the time, I suppose qualify as bigots.  And this applies to views on such issues as immigration, our “socio-economic” safety net and even the nation’s economy.

The “I” stands for ignorance.  Governance is complicated.  Our own economy is complicated and maintaining order in the globalized economy is even more difficult to understand.  But that’s why we have lawyers, economists and experts in global trade and foreign relations to master the complexities of these things.  They really are too “heavy” for lay people to understand, despite the mostly honest efforts of journalists in both print and electronic media to explain what is going on. 

 Image result for complicated ideas   What is important, however, is that individuals should recognize that there are things which they just don’t have the background to understand as well as some things they believe they do understand.  Recognizing that difference is the antithesis of ignorance.  And the handmaidens of ignorance are the rampant simplistic explanations for “hard to understand” things.

Which brings us to “G” which stands for gullibility.  There’s an old saying that “figures lie and liars figure” which can be applied to the deluge of survey and poll results about social, economic and political issues as well as how voters feel about the upcoming General elections in November.  They are to be taken with more than a grain of salt.  Similarly, a lot of what passes for news or important issues are neither.  We are asked to make judgements about our Presidential candidates based on how one behaved in the face of a single terrorist attack, maintained their electronic mail systems, ran a fraudulent “university,” or successfully came out of financial adversity through totally legal business bankruptcy procedures.  Not only do we not know what to believe, but what we ultimately choose to believe may be based on innuendo, half-truth or outright lies.  In leading people into this ”trap of gullibility,” the media bears a share of guilt, for passing this material on as news or as paid-for advertisements.  (Have you seen the Koch Company's ads, making their enterprises seem like heaven on earth for employees and customers?)   The bait, leading people into this “gullibility trap,” are simplistic explanations of, and vague solutions to, the “hard to understand” things of which people are usually ignorant.

The “B.I.G.” Party is not limited to the United States, either.  The recent referendum in the United Kingdom, where the majority voted to leave the European Economic Community, was a “B.I.G.” triumph.  Bigots disliked immigrants and blamed economic problems on Europeans.  Most were deeply ignorant of the ramifications of leaving the European economic group and finally, most voters in the campaign were swayed by simplistic slogans, implying breaking away from Europe would solve everything, and many voters swallowed this, hook, line and sinker.  The prospects for the United States’ upcoming Presidential election very well may be foreshadowed by what happened last week in the United Kingdom.  I certainly hope not, but so did British Prime Minister David Cameron in regard to the “Brexit” vote.
Image result for david cameron  Cameron

So what is the answer.

The sad answer may point to having less democracy in our country, and interpose supposedly more educated and qualified representatives between the voters and the highest offices in the land.  This is already true of the Supreme Court, now nominated by Presidents and confirmed by Senators.  This is already true of the Presidency, now decided by a vote of 538 electors originally selected by State Legislatures but now by popular voting within states.  (If no candidate gets a majority of them, the Presidency is undemocratically decided in the House of Representatives with each State getting one vote.)  The two Houses of Congress are, if you ignore gerrymandering, the most democratically elected parts of our Federal government, even though the Senate is apportioned in a very undemocratic manner.  In our republican form of government, these are anti-democratic (small “d”) safeguards against the bigotry, ignorance and gullibility  which might influence unfettered democracy.

Image result for founding fathers 
Founding fathers were not fans of unlimited democracy 

Now that the popular vote in the United Kingdom has expressed a desire to exit the European Community, it is up to the elected members of Parliament there to effect that exiting with appropriate legislation.  Just because the voters wanted it, does not automatically make it happen.  Solutions are not that simplistic.  We anxiously await what actually happens when the Members of Parliament try to act on the mandate handed to them by the UK's voters..

Fortunately, the United States of America is a republic, where the will of the people is refined and sculpted by the Senators and Representatives, and a President who they indirectly elect.  More democracy is not necessarily better.  The Republican primaries and caucuses were excellent examples of where unfettered democracy leads:  the nomination of a candidate with whom most of the G.O.P. is uncomfortable.  That's what happens when a Party trusts the people too much.  They risk becoming a "B.I.G." party, and that is exactly what happened..  So too much democracy can be dangerous, but certainly,  in the final analysis, we do not need less.  
Jack Lippman


The Death of Civility

 (This piece was forwarded to us by a friend.  And it is indeed an original piece, first posted by the author on her own blog.  An interesting historical comment is that the person who passed it  on via the internet identified Ms. Woodruff as the spouse of Bob Woodward, "the TV correspondent” in the accompanying email.   I suppose that person was too young to remember Watergate and Bob’s role in writing about it.  Gee, how time flies.)  

By Lee Woodruff, on her blog     


It was the end of an "embrace the suck" kind of day. I blew a gasket at our house painter, who had worked my last nerve after four weeks, breaking a window, destroying part of the lawn and splattering more paint on the glass and deck than to the exterior of the house. I'd heard a million excuses, but not one "I'm sorry."

Riding the train into New York after my unexpected tirade, I landed in a car with two middle school-aged Justin Beiber clones screaming at cell phone video games. And I mean screaming. Their babysitter gazed on with mild amusement.

All around me, other weary passengers were trundling into the city for 100 different reasons. Two rows of day laborers, covered in dry wall dust, were no doubt headed home after working in 85 degree heat. The train is a great place to recharge your batteries. Unless people are screaming.

I finally popped my head over the seat and shot the sitter an exasperated look. She glanced up, surprised, and half-heartedly admonished them. They continued screaming.

Right about now you're imagining me with pink foam curlers and a cane, working my support hose up over my varicose veins. I sound like a grumpy grandma, and maybe that's what I'm becoming. But I'm worried.

All around us, in every corner of American life, we're witnessing the death of civility. It's a cocky sense of entitlement, a tone-deafness to rude behavior that has been growing in strength like a tumor. The current political landscape, more slinging mud than talking solutions, feels like another tentacle wrapping itself around our collective conscious, cutting off the blood supply of decency.

But here's the thing. When you cease being able to stand in someone else's shoes, you lose the ability to feel compassion. And that's where it gets a little dicey as a culture.

We're all weary of hearing about the "me" generation millennials, snow plow parents, and how social media is creating entitled, self-absorbed, narcissists. Oh, and haters. But if we all just sit around and expect someone else to take matters into their own hands, isn't that how Hitler moved from a small beer hall to exterminating parts of the human race?

Right about now, you're imagining me in a girl scout uniform, selling World Peace and Thin Mints door to door. You're nodding. Maybe you've even stopped reading.

But what if each of us decided to do something about it, took some tiny action, like a citizen's-arrest-for-good kind of thing? The next leg of my "embrace the suck" day was about to hand me an opportunity.

I exited the train with the two entitled suburban screamers and hit the subway at rush hour, flooding my senses with cheap cologne and body odor. A trio of summer interns chomped gum and flipped their hair, talking at the top of their lungs about their "a-hole" boss as they stared at their phones. Every sentence ended in a question. Thank you Kardashians.

At the next stop, an elderly Hispanic man with a limp and a cane carefully worked his way into the subway car. The seat next to me was miraculously empty, so I placed my hand down to save it, gesturing for him to sit. He looked tentatively at the man standing in his way, and shrugged his shoulders in a "too much effort" gesture.

Image result for Old Guy subway stairs

When I politely asked the man if he would move for the older gentleman, he shot me a disgusted look as if I had just shat on his Tom's shoes (the ones that you buy so an underprivileged child gets a pair.) I kept staring until he yielded with a disgusted grunt. Small victory.

The older man lowered himself slowly. He was in obvious pain, his arms covered with bruises and welts. Somewhere within him, he had a story; maybe he was a war veteran, or had been a fireman or poet. Perhaps he was battling a disease while putting his grandkids through college. Each one of has a story, if we cared to listen, which is why it's even more important to lead with kindness. Or at least try.

"You OK?" I asked loudly enough for the offender to hear. "I can't believe that guy didn't want to move." 

"Happens all the time," he said without rancor. "Yesterday, I was walking down the subway stairs and two kids yelled at me to get out of the way." He shook his head in disbelief, accepting it.

"When I was a kid, I used to get the strap if I was disrespectful," he said gravely. I thought about the kids on the train. Going a little knucklehead nuts with a bullwhip might have done the trick.

"Maybe we just ought to carry around our own personal straps," I joked. "Rambo style." And we both shared a laugh. We felt lighter.

My twins will leave the nest in two years. I think I've done a decent job of trying to make all four of my children aware of their fellow humans, conscious that they are fortunate people who have more than enough. I'm confident that they understand that the world doesn't revolve around them.

Some of my most important and trying times as a mother have been travelling with my children. There is no greater hell than being trapped in an airplane seat with newly walking twins and no Benedryl.

But those experiences together on planes, trains and automobiles were giant lessons in factoring in your fellow man. Every horrific transportation moment was also a chance to reinforce the basic rules of civility.

This planet is only getting more crowded. As far as I can tell, they aren't manufacturing any more land (other than islands off China) so we'd better get a handle on this co-existence thing before we go all "Hunger Games."

What if everyone woke up tomorrow and did one nice thing? Give an older person your seat or pick up a piece of trash you didn't create. Say hello to a stranger, hold the elevator with a smile, help someone with their bags.

If we don't start small, how will we ever start at all? And who knows, maybe we really can make America great again. Without the yelling and the shaming. But it has to begin with the basics. All that stuff we were supposed to learn in kindergarten.


Should "Teach Me Tonight" Teacher Have Been Fired?

Just listened to Jo Stafford singing “Teach Me Tonight.”  Wonderful song, as are some of the other renditions of that classic by other artists of the 1950s.  The lyrics really get me though.  Is this about a teen age girl fantasizing about having an affair with her teacher or is something really going on?  (“One thing isn’t very clear, my love; Shoud the teacher stand so near, my love?”)  If there was something going on beyond what was in the girl’s head, the teacher would be fired and probably arrested by today’s standards.  Were things different in 1954?    Listen to it!    What do you think?  In her mind, or for real?

Image result for Teach Me Tonight


The Vice Presidential Sweepstakes

The Democrats are reluctant to choose sitting Senators as their Vice Presidential candidate because some of them come from states with Republican governors, who would obviously choose a Republican replacement, until another election for the seat could take place, and that might not be until 2017.  This rules out New Jersey’s Cory Booker, Ohio’s Sherrod Brown or Massachusetts’ Elizabeth Warren as VP candidates, unless the election laws in those States can be twisted into requiring an election sooner than next year.  Hence, Tim Kaine seems to be the logical choice to be Hillary Clinton’s running mate.  Kaine, a Senator since 2012, previously served as Virginia’s governor, and his resignation would result in a Democratic temporary appointee.   
   Tim Kaine
As for the G,O.P.’s choice to be Donald Trump’s running mate, a more “establishment” selection is likely.  Even though the subject of personal insults from the Donald, and earlier agreeing to be Ted Cruz’s running mate, I suspect Carly Fiorina may be the choice.  Other possibilities are Mike Huckabee and Ben Carson, neither of whom was particularly brutally savaged by Trump during the campaign.  Usually, the Vice Presidential nominee is an “attack dog” type (like New Jersey Governor Chris Christie), but Trump fills that role himself, so the Republicans will seek out someone more sedate.  The final choice will be Trump’s, who will  successfully withstand efforts to deny him the nomination at the Convention in July.


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Jack Lippman