Sunday, September 24, 2017

All the years of near constant competition have taken a toll. I would not say my body is worn out, but there is no doubt that I feel my body in ways, everyday, that I never imagined possible even at 40, much less at 18. This is the nature of things, of course, and better than the alternative. If I were to do it again, I would likely play more games, more intensively, so this post is not me complaining. I still love games and competition and working up a great sweat. Love it.

But at 57 I also feel it during and afterwards. Growing up I was always outside playing. Usually a sport, though often a made-up game because we did not have enough people or the right equipment for a legit game of whatever. In high school I loved the classroom stuff but looked forward to practice (or game) after school, just about every day. I always slept well, falling asleep immediately.

In college, I substituted a combination of intramurals (softball, flag football, hoops, ultimate) with lots of time spent on spontaneous playing as well. College included two years in China, where I played on the university hoops team--so practice daily, as I like it. This continued at Fletcher and UW as I (shockingly) earned a PhD. My time in Seattle added intensive hiking and camping to my list of things I love to do.

So, when I moved to Akron at age 35 I was still playing some sort of intense competitive game or hike daily. Every day. Without exception. It was my foundation stone. My coping mechanism. Even though I did not construct it that way or think about it that way at the time. For 15 years in Akron I played hoops at least three times a week (lunch game at school), plus volleyball weekly, added golf and continue hiking.

I cannot remember when now, but sometime around when I turned 52 or so, I began to feel lots of pain in my back after hoops. By 54 I had to stop. By 56 I stopped playing volleyball and golf too. Now I play intensive ping pong 3 times a week. Love it. Not the same, but love it. It fits 57.

Anyway, I note all of this because I am noticing it. Prior to stopping hoops my daily decisions were routine, go out and do what you love. It was mostly hoops, but it could have been anything active. Then I had to consider my back. Since then I now have to consider my sugar intake and weight as well. There is no time I am not in pain. Not to the point of distraction, but if I sit down and do inventory I can list lower back as nearly always at a low level of pain. Feet, particularly ball of my right foot, also. Knees. Right elbow. too. Upper back often as well. Neck comes and goes.

This may sound like a complaint list but it is not. I am marveling at how much more I notice at 57, about myself and others and the world. A lot more. It is cool to notice more, but disturbing to recognize how many years I live in some sort of fog.

More important than all of this, however, at 57 I am seeing and appreciating the people in my life as I never did before. All that matters to me circles the hub that is Julie...Philip and Brian...Mom & Dad, Tom, Ray and Lori...friends. It is a great feeling to be 57 and celebrate life like this, to come to a place where I daily appreciate the simple things and the people I love. It also makes life feel a lot more fragile, in a mostly good way, but still feel vulnerable in ways I never have before. So, 57 is great. Awesome. Real. I never imagined life and love would be like this or could be so amazing.
Presidential Skattershot Amplifies Right-Wing PC?
Why would our president take time out from his busy schedule solving problems for American families to fabricate reasons to be outraged at some of our most beloved athletes?

The president attacked football players who take a knee during the anthem. ESPN reports that the first baseball player took a knee last night.

The president also uninvited the Golden State Warriors to the White House (despite the fact that no invitation had been made yet, but we cannot let factual errors distract us when we are discussing a president with more than a 1000 lies to his credit after only six months in office). ESPN reports a response from Curry, Kerr, and LeBron demonstrating that all three are more thoughtful and better leaders than our president.

Like most stories about being unfit, indecent, and dangerous...all we need is the president's own words and actions to persuade us...but it is worth reading what our athletes have said in response this time. Role models.

Because the president's own words and actions are enough...and because his loudest critics include many leading Republicans...we know that these are not partisan attacks, this is not fake news, and cries calling for 'the media to give him a chance' are just about as clueless as the president himself. Bubble talk.

I am a life-long athlete and sports fan. I have been to countless games. I have seen many, many average American men in these crowds drinking beer, sitting down, facing each other to high five or talk during the anthem. And these guys now see taking a knee as disrespectful?

Taking a knee has never been a sign of disrespect. Quite the opposite. It is well chosen because it is a sign of respect & protest at the same time. Because I love my country, my protest about the ways we fall short of our shared aspirations is best expressed by taking a knee as a sign of loving and respectful protest.

And our president misses all of this to, instead, amplify the stupidest voices in the room. To put the knee-jerk old resentments of an angry and misinformed old man in a place of prominence rather than treating them as the merely cringe-worthy ravings of elders we know have, very sadly, lost their marbles.

It may not happen, but I hope all players in the NFL today take a knee in response to the president's ill-advised attack on the league's players.

Finally, is the odd response here some sort of Right-Wing PC? It is like the outrage about a non-existent war on Christmas. Manufactured outrage, as if we don't have enough things to actually be concerned about already.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Ambush or Alternative Perspective
Yesterday I was feeling ambushed. My younger self would have fought back, likely with passion and self-righteousness. Yesterday, however, I thought 'I trust these folks, so there must be something I am missing here.' Instead of digging in, I simply said 'okay.'

Immediately afterwards, I still felt like I was ambushed. But following some reflection I believe that this was an illustration of two competing perspectives coming into conflict. There was certainly a disagreement. I was not being attacked as much as my perspective was being challenged by an alternative view.

I still think my own approach is the path we should have taken. But I now see that the alternative path also has its merits and, further, those advocating for this alternative path know more about the context and consequences surrounding this decision.

So, it turns out to have been a normal disagreement where a clash led to an agreement, involving some compromise on both sides, on how to move forward. My younger self would have behaved in ways that would have blocked both the better outcome and the insight that results. We can be right or we can be in relationships.

Sometimes, though not in the situation I just described, the competing perspectives can be both miles apart and framed in ways to amplify the chasm. When perspectives clash, this is both an everyday routine occurrence, and a challenge and call to become leaders in our own lives.

My colleagues yesterday were open and honest and loving and candid in bringing their disagreement to my attention. I am happy to say I was more loving and open and honest and candid in my response than my younger self would likely have been. Allowing me to learn from them and to get us to an improved outcome.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Speak up to Support Ohio Families
Contact Senator Portman. Ask him to vote no on Graham-Cassidy.
Call him at (216) 522-7095.
You can also use Resistbot:
Text 'resist' to 504-09, follow the prompts, and quickly compose a short fax that will go to both of your Senators.
"Please support Ohio families by voting no on Graham-Cassidy."
It is easy. I just did it and it took less than one minute. Thanks.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

An Incapacity for Measured Judgment
The complex larger cultural forces propelling Trump to the presidency, fueling his leadership style, and connecting his strongest supporters to him include ‘a check that has come back marked “insufficient funds” and an anti-intellectual celebration of an incapacity for measured judgment.

Conservative columnist George Will calls Ken Burns’ new documentary on the Vietnam War a “masterpiece.” He begins his review with this statement:

‘Many Americans’ moral vanity is expressed nowadays in their rage to disparage. They are incapable of measured judgments about past politics — about flawed historical figures who were forced by cascading circumstances to make difficult decisions on the basis of imperfect information. So, the nation now needs an example of how to calmly assess episodes fraught with passion and sorrow. An example arrives Sunday night.’

He then suggests we watch The Vietnam War, an 18 hour documentary starting on PBS tonight, because as Will sees it Ken Burns’ documentary is an illustration of ‘measured judgments about past politics’ and ‘flawed figures’ in difficult circumstances.

I plan to watch the Burns documentary.

Will’s observation interests me for another reason as well. As I watch with approval the momentum toward pulling down confederate memorials, and cringe at my president’s white supremacist roots driving him to oppose this trend with hysterical notions like ‘will Thomas Jefferson be next,’ I am struck by Will’s observation that our current wave of incivility in marked by a common incapacity for measured judgment. Perhaps the intersection of riding a culture war wave that elected President Trump and the ‘role model’ impact of a president suggesting that this incapacity be seen as a sign of his leadership.

But, separate from the roots of this incapacity, is the importance of seeing the trend so we might move the needle ever so slightly back toward reasonable disagreements, since these are the foundation for problem solving. An incapacity for measured judgment is the foundation for demagoguery and a threat to democracy.

Will’s review also takes us through the horror that was the Vietnam War and he concludes with this comment from a Lieutenant Marlantes who fought in that war…

‘Weary of hearing the prudence that was so painfully learned in Indochina derided as the “Vietnam syndrome,” Marlantes says (in his Wall Street Journal review of Mark Bowden’s book “Hue 1968”):

“If by Vietnam syndrome we mean the belief that the U.S. should never again engage in (a) military interventions in foreign civil wars without clear objectives and a clear exit strategy, (b) ‘nation building’ in countries about whose history and culture we are ignorant, and (c) sacrificing our children when our lives, way of life, or ‘government of, by, and for the people’ are not directly threatened, then we should never get over Vietnam syndrome. It’s not an illness; it’s a vaccination.”’

So, I pull out these nuggets from Will and my response is two-fold. Thoughtful, thanks. And my recollection of you, George, is that your columns in the past have often been among the worst illustrations of an incapacity for measured judgment. I feel an urge to search the archives and document this, but then I return to the insight, even if he often ignores it himself: when the urge to crush your opponent, exposing him as a hypocrite and demon, becomes the tail wagging the dog that should be our impulse to solve problems…reconsider.

Michael Gerson fails to reconsider in his column today.

He writes a very thoughtful analysis of how Democrats in the Senate appear to be using a religious test to ridicule and oppose a judicial nominee who, by all accounts, is otherwise exceedingly qualified.

I enjoyed the read and appreciate his efforts, but he frames his own analysis around ridiculing these Democratic Senators. Feinstein’s line of questioning is arguably a religious test. Ok. Feinstein is “indifferent to the sordid history of anti-Catholic bias.” Likely an exaggeration, but with an unusually narrow lens perhaps not entirely out of line.

“How about Feinstein’s ignorance of religion itself?” This unhelpful frame starts the final third of his column (where he makes a good point about the dangers of a “thin and sickly sort of pluralism” but ends up enacting precisely that at the same time), which concludes with him calling Feinstein the “grand inquisitor.”

This high-profile demonstration of his incapacity for measured judgment undermines his own (otherwise thoughtful) argument. And as a sliver of our public pedagogy this contributes to both the rise and now the flourishing of Trumpism as an approach to leadership premised on celebrating willfully ignorant, and dangerously unhinged, angry rants as a form of leadership, where an incapacity for measure judgment is mistaken for ‘speaking the truth.’

Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan did reconsider.

He could have ridiculed city council and many would likely have applauded because it was a sordid display. But instead he chose to lead and leadership is a choice, not a status.

So, building on 'reconsider,' and using the mayor's contributions to do so...when we feel the urge to crush an opponent (particularly one whom we see as dangerously wrong-headed), reconsider means to step back and make a choice to become a leader in our own lives and...

“listen first, speak truthfully without accusation, respect dissent and partner with diverse community groups to accomplish shared goals.”

This is one antidote to both episodic failures to exercise judgment as well as larger cultural tendencies toward an incapacity for measured judgment.

James O’Brien reconsidered…noting it is not bad to try not to offend people…in this great response to the charge that ‘this is just political correctness.’ This is a GREAT illustration of a capacity for measured judgment, in the heat of the moment, when the pressure is on.

This six-minute conversation is well worth listening to, because it helps us understand the deeper conflicts we usually skip over in the usual 'PC' claim and counter-claim exercise. And, while O'Brien is brilliant here, the caller also weighs in as a thoughtful contributor worthy of praise (in the end).

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Does Anything Unite Democrats?
It seems that even suffering through the daily ignorance and bigotry and disastrous policy of a Trump presidency is still not enough to unite Democrats.
I voted for Hillary Clinton in the primary and general election because, as President Obama put it, no one has ever been more prepared to serve as our president. At the same time, I wish my preferred candidate had not written a book about the 2016 election.
Re-hashing that defeat, in my view (and mine is just one perspective) is likely to make it more difficult to bring Democrats together. I will likely read the book, but I think publishing it now is, as Doyle McManus puts it, “a gift to Trump and his conservative allies.”
“It would be one thing if Clinton’s book delivered new insights about what went wrong. But it doesn’t. Every one of her explanations has been hashed out already.
Here’s the pity: She could have written a different book — a book that briskly summarized the lessons of her loss and suggested a path forward for the causes she loves. It wouldn’t have been a bestseller, but it might have been more useful. Needless to say, the relatively brief, forward-looking part of Clinton’s message has been swamped in media coverage by all the juicy score-settling.”
It is possible that other Hillary supporters will read this as a betrayal. It is also possible that my friends who supported Bernie will misread this as me seeing the light and finally recognizing that HRC is the problem. Neither captures my message. My message to try to be the change.
In this case, to criticize my own ‘side’ when we behave in ways that make it likely we will fail to regain the House in the midterms. We need to give up all hope of a better past and move on from the 2016 election.
Continuing to rehash that painful intramural squabbling will extend the 2016 legacy of defeat. We all need to step back and focus our fury on the opponent who denies climate change and reserve our intramural critiques for finding ways for our own ‘side’ within the party to contribute to strengthening party unity.
So, even though it does not fit into the ‘war’ metaphor—my position is that I think my side is making a mistake here. My position rejects the either/or, sucker’s choice, framing of ‘you are either with us or against us,’ either with Bernie or with Hillary. Yes, I am criticizing HRC but not to side with Bernie against HRC, rather to make coming together more likely.

She doesn't spare herself, or anyone else, from blame.

She needed to write the book, but we don't have to read it now or let it dominate every news cycle. We did and still do not need to get distracted by every titillating Trump tweet or outburst- that got him elected. I believe this is another opportunity to decide as a society which conversation we want to be having, not to decide who can speak and who cannot.

Fair point. We certainly need to combat the daily distraction that is Trumpisms bait n switch while real policy damage continues unseen. And it is true that we could individually choose to ignore this book. But it is hard to imagine a scenario when a person of this stature writes a book about an important moment in our recent history and the media ignores it. The key agent here is HRC: she knew the book would dominate the news cycle (and eventually Republican attack ads) and she wrote this book anyway, rather than a blueprint for how to bring us together to win the midterms and writing this book later.

It occurs to me while reading this that she may have fallen into the trap where women feel they need to explain themselves. We do not. Whatever course this woman takes, she will be criticized for. She's damned if she does and damned if she doesn't.

Also a fair point. HRC carries baggage like none in history. The far-right has spent billions on a 20 year campaign to smear her and it clearly had a huge impact on the election. And even without this very specific baggage, she was treated differently in ways that impacted the outcome, just because she is a woman. I want to hear her voice; just want to her to help us move forward.

We will lose the midterms because of gerrymandering more than anything else but we will think it's because of our message or infighting or Clinton or whatever.

Gerrymandering is just the outcome of decades of political activity on the right at the state level—an arena where Democrats have been soundly defeated and could be seen as MIA, which is one of many mistakes (under the leadership of the Clinton wing) to correct moving forward. For now, it is the rule of the game and we have to succeed within that framework.

Agree - she could have written a suggested path for the Democratic Party and democracy... and it could have opened new doors instead of rehashing old news cycles...
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Friday, September 8, 2017

Self-Interested deniers with political intent are not new, just expanding to new territory.

And getting significantly more shameless.

While I long for the old school denier whose only sin is to think 'the older I get the better I was!'