In this article by Roberto Stefan and Jonathan Wilmot in Foreign Policy, the case is made that resentment of rural populations vs urban “elite” is what creates the tribalism that drives today’s politics, and populism. And they claim that if we simply vote Trump or other populists out of office, those we vote out will be replaced by others. Others who give voice to the growing economic divide.
By itself, there’s nothing new about the concept of us vs. them politics, with the differences being economic well-being. And it’s not new that “progressive” America forms an archipelago of cities, scattered across the East and the West coasts. You can drive from NYC to LA and not leave Trump country. But explaining this with “liberal vs. “conservative” misses the mark.
They write that while much attention has focused on differences in values between progressive cosmopolitanism and provincial conservativism, the fact remains that conservative values, at least on matters of lifestyle and religion, are either stable or in decline. This makes the populist insurgency an anomaly, for a constant cannot explain a change. What has changed is the level of economic and wealth inequality between regions. This creates resentment and that drives the populist movement.
The combination of rising urban wealth with government neglect for peripheral regions has fueled populist resentment by combining material hardship with a sense of injustice. While prosperous cities were bailed out, poorer regions have been subject to death by a thousand cuts as government belt-tightening has slashed local budgets and starved regions of capital investment. Rural citizens are expected to pay for things like repairing burned out cities, like the recent request from Minneapolis for $500M to repair damage done by looters who were enabled by the incompetent Minneapolis government. Trump denied the request; I wonder how many rural votes we won around the country with that?
One solution is obvious, the government should reinvest in rural American infrastructure and develop policies which do more than make urban Americans rich.
We had trouble running a Zoom session at the other end of our house from our router. The video and audio failed constantly. Clearly a bandwidth issue; it was unusable. So we tried a WIFI extender. I purchased a “renewed” version of the Netgear AC1200 from Amazon. It was simple to install; the directions were clear, and I was up and running in 20 minutes. It’s not as easy as falling off a log and I would not ask a complete networking newbie to install it, but it’s pretty easy. As expected, it halves the download performance, so in my case, a 200 Mbps link turned into a 100 Mbps link, which I tested with Zoom and Google Hangouts. It was plenty fast with no performance issues at all.
Our Verizon cell signal varies between barely acceptable and not acceptable at our house. With all the time being spent at home, good service has become more important, so I took a chance and purchased the Samsung 4G LTE Network Extender 2. It’s $250 through Verizon, which seems like a steep price until I considered the aggravation of dropped calls, no calls, missed calls, etc. So, I’m able to report that it was a snap to install … probably 15 minutes including stringing the GPS antenna, and it works like a champ. We’re getting 4 – 5 bars anywhere in the house. Verizon lists the compatible phones (doesn’t have to be a Samsung) and even though mine wasn’t on the list, it works, because it supports HD Voice.
This is a pretty interesting article on the likelihood of contactable, intelligent life. The article, a summary from the full report in the Astrophysical Journal, suggests that there are 36 intelligent civilizations in our galaxy capable of communicating with others, today. And the likely furthest distance to the nearest one is 17,000 light years away. By comparison, the Orion Nebula is 1,300 light years away, Alpha Centauri is the nearest star to our Sun at 4 light years, the Andromeda galaxy is 2.5 million light years away, and our entire galaxy is 100,000 light years from end-to-end. Note that this estimate of 36 is just for our galaxy and there are an estimated 100 – 200 billion galaxies in the universe.
One of the keys is the word “today”. Civilizations come and go, and there’s plenty of time for more of them to have existed previously. The report also asserts that, while it is a speculative theory, alien life would have similarities in appearance to life on Earth and that we wouldn’t be super shocked by seeing them.
A few years ago, I wrote a glowing review of a book called “In Defense of the American Teen” by Ryan Teves. Fast forward to today, and Ryan has started a company, Nexbooks, dedicated to fixing at least ONE of the issues he brought up: kids do better when allowed to learn things that interest them.
We all remember the choices of electives we were given … choir, band, shop, a language, and maybe a couple more. A little has changed, but school districts, already under fiscal pressure, still do not offer a wide range of electives. In the meantime, kids are spending countless hours learning what they WANT to learn via YouTube. Martial arts, drums, wealth-building, fixing a car … the options are nearly limitless.
What if kids could follow their passions, but as part of a school curriculum, following standardized methodologies, but in a format they prefer? Well, Nexbooks is building a library of video-based, self-paced, internet-enabled courses, complete with a self-grading capability. So those school districts don’t have to hire a hundred specialists to offer a hundred electives. Or those home-school parents can offer things they themselves have no expertise in. When I talk about this with my friends, they all slap their foreheads and say “why didn’t I think of that”? Well Ryan and his team at Nexbooks are doing it. Bravo.
In a recent article in the Atlantic, McKay Coppins calls out President Cheeto-head’s disinformation campaign, designed to hide the number of people he’s responsible for killing. He points out that on February 28, Donald Trump stood before a crowd of supporters in South Carolina and told them to pay no attention to the growing warnings of a coronavirus outbreak in America. The press was “in hysteria mode,” the president said. The Democrats were playing politics. This new virus was nothing compared with the seasonal flu—and anyone who said otherwise was just trying to hurt him. “This is their new hoax,” Trump proclaimed. Six weeks later, the coronavirus has killed more than 25,000 Americans, the U.S. economy has been crippled—and Trump is recasting himself as a pandemic prophet. More recently, Trump said “I knew it was a pandemic long before it was called a pandemic.” “I knew everything,” he reiterated a couple of weeks later. Asked to assess his response to the virus, he says, “I’d rate it at 10.” Whoa. I’d encourage you to look at what Taiwan did and when they did it. Surely, it shows that we have a 2nd rate federal government and a train wreck of a chief executive.
When the pandemic subsides, I recommend visiting the Capitola Museum, in downtown Capitola. It’s chock full of historical artifacts of the area; and the exhibits are first-rate. It’s a 5 minute walk from the beach and you can expect to spend 30 minutes at least.
Museum has this photo of the SS Palo Alto, aka the “cement ship” in better days.
I have nothing profound to write; my sadness leaves me without energy. But I can’t let this great man’s passing without writing something. If you are not a fan of John Prine’s music, it’s because you haven’t heard it. But it’s never too late. Many have published a list of his best, but I prefer this Billboard list. If you want to start somewhere, his Sweet Revenge album is my fave. Or find “Hello in There”, “Grandpa was a Carpenter”, “Please Don’t Bury Me” and Bonnie Raitt’s rendition of “Angel from Montgomery”. If you don’t laugh and cry at John’s songs, you don’t have a heart.
I have to thank and offer sympathy to those people who were John’s friends and family. Thank you for helping make his life rich. He made the world a better place; how many of us can say that.
I last saw John in 2016 at the Mountain Winery in Saratoga. Photo by JBahn.
It’s no secret why Americans don’t trust our politicians, and like them less than cockroaches. This New York Times article explains how the $2 trillion stimulus relief bill just passed includes a provision that’s likely to give a $170 billion tax break to the top 1% of taxpayers. Specifically, real estate speculators like Donald Trump and his henchman Jared Kushner. Even without this giveaway, we subsidize the ultra-rich. Portions of Trump’s 1995 tax return published by The Times showed nearly $916 million in losses, which could have permitted him to avoid paying any federal income taxes for almost two decades. This new rule is judged to be the 2nd biggest tax giveaway in the $2 trillion legislation.
Professor Christensen passed on Jan 23, 2020 at age 67. I note his passing in this blog because his insight helped me to become a better marketer, a more useful employee, and helped me to see that “common wisdom” is often not useful. Along with gurus like Seth Godin, Al Reis, and Geoffrey Moore, Professor Christensen provided guidance for actual strategic marketing thinking. This NY Times byline says it well: “He broke ground with his assertion that the factors that helped the best companies succeed were also the reasons some of those same companies failed.” He was an inspiration and I cannot recommend his books “The Innovators Dilemma” and “The Innovators Solution” more highly.