In this great article in the Atlantic, on How the Government Lost its Mind, author Deborah Pearlstein describes how we’ve built a government unable to cope with a pandemic, and suggests how we can fix it. Core to her observations is the point that over time, we’ve failed to preserve the “tools essential to enlightened governance”. In my own words, the government has gotten stupid. Tellingly, she claims that this problem preceded Trump, and “cannot be fixed solely by his removal”. Ouch; that got my attention.
A major assertion is that, over time, “Congress has delegated increasing amounts of regulatory authority to expert executive-branch agencies”, and it’s become easier for those agencies to get packed with unqualified political-appointees. She also points to the sharp politicization of the federal courts, where extremist organizations “have become influential players in championing alternative channels of legal professionalization, up to and including the selection of judges to the federal bench”. So you have hacks and chumps running the business of governing.
In the article, the author suggests several concrete steps to re-establishing a working government, and it’s well worth a read. But as a “final step”, she points out that a fundamental problem is that the electorate itself is tragically ignorant. For example, recent surveys reveal nearly “75 percent of respondents could not name the three branches of the federal government at all. As long as ours is a representative government, this staggering degree of basic incapacity will be represented among our elected officials and their staff. Part of the correction here will require improved civic education in elementary and secondary schools; one in five states, for example, currently has no civics requirement for graduation at all.”
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.
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.
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.
This is a recommendation for one of Ike’s sandwiches, #339, the James Bahn. No kidding. It’s got Steak, Cucumbers, Sriracha, Jalapenos, and Pepper Jack cheese. Other sandwiches include the Michael Jordan, Joe Montana, and Steve Jobs. Their ENTIRE menu has 400 sandwiches, and any given Ike’s may only list a dozen, so you have to ask for it.#339 James Bahn sandwich
It’s great to see someone writing about excessive noise in restaurants. My days of screaming to be heard are over; I simply won’t do business with loud establishments. Someone has developed an app (of course), but it doesn’t appear to be on Android yet and it only covers a small fraction of restaurants, but it’s a start!
I’m trying to substitute “fast food” quality reading with mind-provoking, consciousness-expanding material. I’m replacing news about the Kardashians and Cheeto-head tweets with stuff that’s really interesting, to me. A few months ago I stumbled onto getpocket.com, and I’d like to recommend it.
Every day, I get an email from getpocket, with links to a few interesting articles. The articles might be from The Atlantic, NPR, Vox, Lifehacker, NY Times, or any source, really. They are articles that other getpocket users have selected as interesting. If you’re a Firefox user, it’s also integrated with that browser, and how I joined.
Most of what passes for news is not useful; it’s meant to get you to consume advertising. And really, how many times do you need to read that Trump has said something stupid?
I learned this lesson in a time management course at HP decades ago, but was reminded last year when taking care of my dad’s funeral and estate details. I was too busy doing useful stuff to read about the Kardashians. It’s nice to see someone writing about this.
I spend less time reading about the latest warehouse fire in Oakland, politician lies, and other things that don’t mean anything to my life, than I used to. Frees up time, our most precious commodity.