A Few Random Observations. Do They Seem the same to you, too?

Four Short Reflections on Some Widely Different Topics


Seen Much News Lately?

Last week was one of those (another one!) that just seemed all over the board in terms of news and matters of interest. Here are my takeaways for your consideration. By the way, I find the process of looking back over the week as the weekend dawns a useful thing to do. So much happens in so many directions these days, it is helpful to look in the rear view mirror to assure ourselves, as much as we can, that (A) We didn’t miss anything really important and (B) We take the opportunity to assess the priorities – decide what out of all this mess really counts.

Schools Opening?

It is difficult for me to imagine what it must be like to be a parent or a teacher now. Even harder to imagine what it must be like to be on a kid or to be on a school board (even in the best of times, this is a job wherein no good deed goes unpunished and no solution will ever be universally praised).

Two things really struck me this week.

One, although Major League Baseball has not created the bubble that basketball has, they still have gone to great lengths to avoid Covid infections. Much effort and money has been invested to minimize pandemic impact. And yet, outbreaks are occurring. They are on the verge of a canceled season.

Given all their planning and resources still were met with failure, how the heck are schools in small towns and large cities supposed to pull of safe gatherings in the schoolhouse? The short answer of course, is that they cannot.

Two, related to the first, is just how callous and blind some officials seem to be to this reality. We know with increasingly accurate data that children, even young ones, are effective carriers of the disease. Are we just to disregard all those adults around them at school and the ones waiting for them to come home?

On top of that, we are slowly learning of potentially serious, life changing aftereffects of the disease in many of those who seemed to have mild symptoms initially. The only thing all those pushing to reopen schools completely are that they are Republicans. This has truly become not a political party but some weird death cult, immune to common sense or actual knowledge. More on that in our last observation today.

And Speaking of the Republican Party….

Last Week in the US Congress

Over the space of last week, millions of people lost their protection from evictions and then millions more lost their unemployment supplements. What has been the response in Congress? The Democrats passed a comprehensive package back in May. One may argue with any number of that legislation’s content, but it was focused, relevant, and timely.

The Republicans? They finally came out with a half-baked plan on MONDAY OF LAST WEEK. And a significant number of their own members rejected this as too much. Cries went up that people were “making too much with the supplements and thus were not coming back to work when they should.” Surely there are some cases of that out there, but where is the data showing this is really something significant? There is none, of course. This is simply a rehash of Regan’s old stories about “welfare queens.”

People are going hungry and homeless while Ted Cruz rants about “reopening the economy.”  The pandemic is raging all over the country, everywhere that chose to “open their economy” early have deaths piling up. Given all this, the economy is the worst it has been, depending on the metric you choose, it has been since we started these types of measurements in 1947, or the worst since the Great Depression.

What the Republicans offer is wholly inadequate and ill-suited to the times. A small taste of the real world in Sunday’s Washington Post article headline:

Ten bucks left, no place to go: How the pandemic and a broken unemployment system are upending people’s lives. In D.C., hundreds of people have waited months for unemployment payments.”

A Brief Note on John Lewis

More has been said, and more eloquently than I could say it, about the passing of John Lewis. I would just note that I rarely, rarely use the word hero and generally consider the term saint to be a bit of mythological fiction. John Lewis was the exception to both caveats.

I don’t know that we will ever know another man so determined, so open of heart, so hopeful of our capacity as a nation. He was better than we deserved. His memorial service was a reminder of what we could be if we only chose that path as a nation. Let’s hope that someday we meet the standards he set for us. What a remarkable human being, even from his earliest years as an adult.

Read This

I read two articles this past week that caught my eye. Enough so that I will comment on them briefly here and offer you links. They are worth the time to read and reflect up.

The first one I actually disagree with almost completely, but it is part of an important debate now underway. Peggy Noonan, the former Reagan speechwriter and frequent commentator on things Republican, often gets it right. I almost always read when I see her byline, and often begrudgingly admit she has a point. Not this time. This time I think she missed the mark completely, but we should all be a part of this discussion.

The gist of the discussion is what next for the Republican party. One school, advocates for which include no small number of Republicans, posits that the party has been so corrupt, so inept, so devoid of character or purpose, that it cannot be repaired. Time for a new right of center party. When you look at who has left the party and who has declared as Never Trumpers, the case can be made that a new entity is called for. Put me in that camp.

Noonan says that gives the Democrats and liberals too much maneuvering room for mischief. Surprisingly for her, she seems more concerned about tactical advantage than anything else. For their own good, I hope the center right decides to take a couple of years in the wilderness.

Start something new with a clarion call for values and leadership. I think it would do well. Perhaps not in time for the midterms, but certainly in time for 2024. Seems a small price to get it right. Putting band aids on the current entity is a looser for all. Read for yourself: https://peggynoonan.com/burn-the-republican-party-down/

The second article is completely different, and a joy to read. Its title says it all. “Before Zuckerberg, there was Guttenberg.” It is a delightful bit of research and analysis, all wrapped up excellent writing.  This was published back in January by The Atlantic. I set it aside as something that looked worth going over slowly. I did not mean to take this long to pick it up. but it was worth the wait. Cullen Murphy is a heck of a good writer, which is a handy thing since he is also The Atlantic’s editor at large.

We have all heard about how disruptive – in both good and bad sense- the printing press was almost immediately upon its invention. This article does a wonderful job of explaining just what that meant and how analogous this is to what we see with the internet and social media today.

He also introduces us to the late Elizabeth Eisenstein, a superb historian of the written word. It was she who put Murphy on the path that resulted in, among other things, this article. It is a short, light read, but informative and thought provoking. Have a good time: https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2020/01/before-zuckerberg-gutenberg/603034/  

Have a good week. Coming up: The political conventions.

     Bill Clontz

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3 replies to A Few Random Observations. Do They Seem the same to you, too?

  1. Excellent survey of recent issues…and one not so recent, the history of the printing press in “Before Zuckerberg, there was Guttenberg.” I come from a printing family. Father started business in 1929 using a Multigraph (moveable type mounted to small drum) by-passing the “old” letterpress. Went on to buy the third Offset Printing press in Detroit 1940 and several after, and stayed a small community print & Lettershop until I joined the operation in 1963. I owned it from 1964 to dissolution in 1973. I could not adapt fast enough after the the invention of “Instant Printing” and “while you wait” duplication. Later, Zerox invented the copy machine and within a generation every household was doing their own printing. Guttenberg would be amazed at this 500 year history, which we know was really started by the Chinese.much earlier.

  2. Bill: I read The Atlantic article, Before Zuckerberg-Gutenberg and old memories came flooding back. I’m 61yo, which I do not consider “very” old, and in 1996 had just finished my medical residency in Savannah, GA. That was only 24 years ago but at that time there was very little use of computers in most medical training away from large universities.

    I moved to South Texas to work in a rural community and there was no computers being used in that area. I had been reading about the “Web” but had not really experienced it myself. We lived in the middle of nowhere and the only way we had access to the “web” was through dial-up. Remember that—dial-up??

    I bought a PC and hooked up. Once I finally got a connection, which could take some time, I can still remember the sheer awe and amazement I felt at being able to go from one page to the next link to the next link, etc, etc, down the rabbit hole, for HOURS! I had never experienced anything like this! I can still feel that amazement when I think about it! I’m still in awe of just how far reaching and almost fairy-tale like computers and the Internet can be. That was only 24 years ago, just a snap of the fingers! I cannot really fathom the changes the next 24 years will surely bring.

    And by the way, about a month after I bought that first computer, I started having terrible headaches. Fresh out of residency I imagined I must surely have a brain tumor. But, no, cutting back from my several hours/day computer time fixed the HA. As I learned, you can also get too much of anything!

    Love your blog, keep it coming, please.

    Rebecca Hammond, MD

    • Mirrors much of my experience. So much changing so rapidly. I not only remember dialing in, but having to enter a long line of code
      To get to a site before the web. One
      character wrong, and you had to start over!

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