Fifth Risk

Although Michael Lewis’ “The Fifth Risk” is about some big problems in government, it contains some great interviews with many career federal employees I used to work with at the U.S. Department of Energy. It does a great job conveying how so many federal bureaucrats have a real sense of mission – no less than police officers or soldiers and sailors. Contrary to popular belief, the American federal bureaucracy is an asset, not a liability.

What Did You Do On Saturday Morning?

Last week over a dozen friends sent me amazing videos from around the world to show what they were doing on their Saturdays.

First, I want to say thank you for taking a risk and getting in front of the camera. It’s scary! But it was great to see your faces. You sent in great stuff!

Second, it was just amazing to see so many scenes from so many places. Many of you sent much more video than I could use.

If there’s anything I got from your submissions, it’s that regardless of the political moment, the world is a big and wonderful place. Your videos allow us to peer into your personal worlds. It was a reminder that, when we think about ourselves, in these mortal coils, our lives may seem humdrum, normal, maybe even boring. But the truth is that we each have wondrous, fantastic existences. Even the most boring, regular things we do can be interesting to someone else.

Thank you for letting us in and giving us a glimpse of your day.

The End of Sympathy And Compromise

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I was raised in a decidedly left-wing family. My mother and father both marched on Washington in 1963 with Martin Luther King, Jr., and when I was a kid, my father practiced an annual ritual of yelling at the TV during President Ronald Reagan’s State of the Union address.

But my parents, both psychologists, were empathic souls, constantly trying to understand why someone felt a certain way. At the dinner table we spent a great deal of time talking about why people might feel they way they do. Since conversations about politics when I was a kid were less about tactics and more about motivation, I learned my parents’ empathy, so as an adult I often feel as much for political opponents as with those I agree.

This week has been toxic for everyone in America. None of us have been left untouched by the Brett Kavanaugh Supreme Court nomination fight, and the race to declare our own side more aggrieved – regardless of what side we may claim – has left us all wounded and raw. Kavanaugh’s confirmation is our era’s Bleeding Kansas, with no winners, only losers and survivors more committed to scarring the opposition more than ever before.

Incredibly, we all recognize that the partisanship will only get worse. Like Kansas in the 1850’s, and the European military build up in the 1930’s, a perverse gravity pulls us towards more conflict fueled by the appropriate righteousness of our leaders, colleagues and loved ones injured by wounds both material and spiritual.

The ideologies of our political combat inhabit totally different frames of reference: the army of collective well-being versus the church of personal responsibility. Everything can be viewed through our nation’s First Conflict, where Hamiltonians governed to level the playing field while Jeffersonians pushed government aside to celebrate the triumph of the individual.

Each American era has been caught up in this conflict, from the Whiskey Rebellion, to the Civil War to the Progressive Era battles between unions and Pinkerton agents and the fights between Nixon’s “moral majority” and anti-war protestors.

Our First Conflict will never be resolved. Not because of pettiness or ignorance, but because each viewpoint is propelled by a deep moral philosophy. Gender complementarianism is inherently incompatible with gender workplace equity. Socialized health care and calls for a basic income conflicts with a conservative government of non-interference. Everyone can agree that racism and misogyny is abhorrent, but who is responsible for stopping it? The individual, or the collective?

“It will only get worse,” we all say, with no clear idea of what “worse” really means. We are all aggrieved now, with the most strident among us demanding we “stomp”, “destroy” or “obliterate” our political opposition. Sampling political Twitter, talk radio or cable news is like sampling heroin: The first jolt is exhilarating, but subsequent tastes leave us craving more righteousness, gradually obliterating equanimity, viewing America as nothing more than “us” and “them”. We are all addicts now.

My political beliefs have never been clearer to me, but today I weep for all Americans. Justice Kavanaugh’s confirmation is emblematic of our new political reality: Although his ascension is a victory for conservatives, the manner of his confirmation has de-legitimized the new Supreme Court for a wide swath of America, making justice seem unattainable for those who opposed his confirmation.

American political conflict no longer allows for compromise. The Kavanaugh fight has instead told us that we must choose sides and fight to the end, no matter how terrible the result.

Saturday Morning Around The World

If you’ve been paying attention to the news, you know that the American world fell into a shitstorm this week. Rather than write about the big topic we’re all talking about, I want to invite you to be part of something positive, demonstrating togetherness.

Please help make our Saturday Morning Around The World video. Already people from half a dozen countries and from all over the United States have volunteered to be a part of it.

You can get details here. It really shouldn’t take you more than three minutes on Saturday between 9:00 a.m. and 10:00 a.m. your time, and dang, it would be great to see your face along with all the others. With your help, I’d like to help show that people all around the world, are pretty much the same.

Yes, it’s quaint. And, no, it won’t alter world history. But it will feel good. And it will be cool to show so many great people be a part of it. If you know someone overseas or somewhere in the U.S. that might want to be part of it, please forward this message!

After I get everyone’s clips, I’ll edit it all together and release to you next Friday, October 5.

I can’t wait to see your video! [Here’s the details again.]

iPhone XS

I’m not excited about getting a new iPhone, but then the new XS camera seems amazing. This brief video, shot by “Crazy Rich Asians” director Jon M. Chu with a handheld iPhone XS in very challenging light, is drool-worthy. It totally changes the game.