A conference in Oracle, Arizona

A postcard from Sue & Jerry’s Trading Post in the center of Oracle

From Oracle’s Visitor’s Center

El Rancho Robles — the ranch where I stayed during the conference. Robles in Spanish means oaks.

The ranch’s office

The Stables — cosy rooms

I recently attended a weekend interfaith conference in Oracle, Arizona. The postcard at the top is apt since it snowed on the Sunday morning of the conference. About an inch accumulated but began to melt at midday. This is the first snow that I’ve touched in four years. Besides walking on it, I held some in my hands. The last time that I was in a snowy and icy storm was in Oklahoma City in early March 2019 when I was in the process of moving from Kansas City to Phoenix.

Oracle is not too far northeast of central Tucson — 33 miles or so. It lies along the northern foothills of the Catalina Mountains of Arizona. Biosphere 2 is just outside Oracle to the west. To the east lies Oracle State Park.

The Triangle Y Ranch Camp was where the conference was held. Only several miles from Oracle, it’s already in the foothills of Mt. Lemmon, the highest peak in the Catalina mountain range. The Triangle Y is either in the Coronado National Forest or just adjacent. This part of the national forest is in the Santa Catalina District.

The center’s main building. Sleeping facilities are scattered around the ranch.

The Triangle Y is primarily a summer camp for young people. Sleeping facilities for the men who came alone to the conference included all-year cabins, each with bunk beds, where you bring your own bedroll. Six men shared one washroom. This for grown men on a budget! (We all paid a fee to cover the expenses of the conference including three meals a day. I brought my own kosher food, as did another Jewish attendee.)

It’s a far cry from the summer camp in Wisconsin that I attended in the mid 60s. Same bunk beds. Bedding was supplied, though, at my Wisconsin camp. Washing and toilet facilities were in a separate cabin. The cabins weren’t heated, so when counselors came before the campers came, a rough wool blanket didn’t serve to dispel the Wisconsin early morning chill.

A gushing mountain stream ran alongside the Triangle Y’s parking lot. At this time of year, the water is snow melt from Mt. Lemmon and its rain runoff. It had rained not long before the conference.

From the parking lot

Looking upstream, but downstream from the previous picture. Against the sky toward the left you can barely see a flag pole. The flag marks the ranch’s entrance.

Further downstream, looking out from the ranch’s entrance road

You see that most of the trees and shrubs have shed their leaves for the winter. No so in Phoenix. Some do, some don’t. At the same time, trees and shrubs that grow in the foothills of Mt. Lemmon don’t necessarily grow in Phoenix.

In two of these pictures, you can see Prickly Pear cactuses. I thought that they would grow in a colder climate so long as the freezes are not too long, only overnight for example. Someone I met in the Chicago area, though, had a Prickly Pear in his front yard where it would catch the sun all day long! He created a microclimate with flagstones around the plant to capture the heat of the sun. Even so, the temperature in Chicago gets bitterly cold, and the sun doesn’t shine for days on end. However, according to Wikipedia, the Prickly Pear “also occurs naturally in … sandy or rocky areas of northern Illinois.” But there are a number of species and varieties of Prickly Pear according to Wikipedia. What was growing in this man’s yard wasn’t necessarily the same variety that you see in the picture.

By the way, the Triangle Y served brewed tea in an urn on Shabbat morning. I sweetened it with sugar. So, I had a cup of hot tea with sugar to begin my morning!

Are American Jews assimilated?

Perhaps you’ve heard of Jewish assimilation in the United States. Jews are supposedly becoming indistinguishable from their non-Jewish neighbors. Supposedly, many Jews have lost their Jewish identity and others have reduced their Jewishness to a receding ethnic background.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

A large number of Jews celebrate Passover in some way. Perhaps only by eating some matzah. When we were young, we loved matza slathered with butter. Then there’s matzah brei (BRIE). Matzah is softened by being soaked in water. Then the water is drained and the matzah soaked in egg. The mixture is fried in oil.

Jews I know buy matzah only for Passover and finish the box and don’t have matzah in the house the rest of the year.

This may sound trivial — what some call “gastronomic Judaism.” But Jewishness in primarily in the home and only secondarily in the synagogue. Pollsters don’t investigate what the home is like.

The big observance of Passover is the Seder (SAY der) on Passover night. This is a recital of the Exodus from Egypt of our long-ago ancestors. It’s accompanied by eating matzah with bitter herbs and drinking four cups of wine besides eating a holiday meal. A large number of Jews participate in a Seder. Many make one themselves. Others are invited to the homes of those who make Seder. With electronics the way they are, there are even virtual Seders. There are also community Seders that are well publicized in advance.

Once again, observance is at home. Any number of these Jews don’t show up in a synagogue except for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, if even then.

There’s one more home-based expression of Jewishness. It’s the winter holiday of Chanukah (KHAH noo ka). The eight-day holiday commemorates regaining the Holy Temple in Jerusalem from the hands of the Syrian-Greeks who defiled it. The first touch of normality was to light the seven-branch Menorah candelabrum with pure, untainted olive oil. The Greeks had gone out of their way to defile all of the oil. The priests in the Temple did find one cruse of oil that escaped the attention of the Greeks. It was enough to last one day. G-d made a miracle that it burned for eight days until new, pure oil could be procured. So we light candles for eight days in our homes.

An untold number of Jews light Chanukah candles. Standard-sized candles are sold wherever there’s a Jewish market, even a small one. In the town where my synagogue is, there are 25,000 souls. An insignificant number of Jews live in town. Yet the local supermarket carries candles and holiday related paraphernalia.

You can believe that there’s a gastronomic dimension to the holiday. We try to eat latkes (LOT keez), potato pancakes fried in oil, not fat. The key here is the oil element. Since the miracle came about through oil, we are recalling the miracle when we latkes. People who are friendly with the kitchen grate their own potatoes — and maybe onions too — and fry them. And what better oil to use than olive oil?

Back to the supermarket. There are frozen, ready-made potato pancakes, which I bought this year and shared with my sister. Neither of us needed the empty calories of the eight latkes that make up the package. Then there are also mixes on the store shelves especially for Chanukah.

One dimension of Chanukah that is not in the home is the public menorah lightings across the country, even the world, wherever there might be a few Jews. A rabbi friend of mine in Cochise county, Arizona, sponsored celebrations around public lightings around the county and in, of all places, Tombstone, Arizona.

The Chabad synagogue where I said that I go lit a 12 foot menorah with lamp oil in the garden parkway across from the newish synagogue. The congregation moved into a vacant storefront across from where the menorah had been lit for a number of years before! Consequentially, the lighting was only yards away from the synagogue with its prominent signage that it belongs to the Chabad movement.

I would estimate that about 100 people — I wouldn’t know how many were Jewish — turned out around sundown. Hot latkes were served after the short prayers and menorah lighting — why not — and you had a choice of doughnuts, something else fried in oil.

So now we have moved into the realm of public, countable Jewishness.

Many American Jews do not enter a synagogue all year long. They say that they’re not religious, maybe even agnostics, so worship does nothing for them. They’re Jewish in their hearts. (You hear this a lot.) They aren’t asked by pollsters whether they’re Jewish at home sometime during the year.

Along come the Jewish high holy days (Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur), and Jews flock to synagogues. These folks are often derided as “twice-a-year Jews.” As I’ve shown, nothing could be further from the truth. They’re “twice-a-year” worshipers.

Please note that Judaism is more than a religion, more than worship attendance. It’s a way of life. American Jews punctuate their lives with Jewish ways.

Which brings up the cases when I am greeted with the expression shalom when as I pass by another person on my walks — sometimes a walker him/herself, sometimes a cyclist. I’m visibly Jewish, wearing a kipah (yarmulke) all the time, and that prompts their Jewish awareness to come out. Sometimes such a greeting comes from a non-Jew, though. But, what doesn’t come from a non-Jew is the greeting Shabbat shalom — literally “Sabbath peace.” This is a traditional greeting on the Jewish Sabbath, from Friday evening until dark on Saturday night. One does not say “good morning” (and so on) on the Sabbath. For those with a Sabbath awareness, it’s always Shabbat shalom.

Then there is Israel. Most American Jews are sympathetic to the welfare of the Jewish State. Many have gone or will go to Israel to see how a Jewish majority lives and to visit historical sites.

Parents send their children to Israel on programs specially geared to the interests of young people. Admittedly, some Jewish young people go to Britain, France, or Italy on programs, but how many? In what numbers? And going on these programs does not preclude going to Israel.

Some Jews on the left are obsessed with the Palestinians and how Israel treats them. This is still a Jewish identity. I’m sure that they’re indifferent to the way Russia has colonized South Ossetia, if they even know about it.

Still there is more public Jewishness than public menorahs. Some Jews make it a point of commemorating the Holocaust in public ways. This is a part of a distinct Jewish identity.

Some large universities have departments of Jewish Studies. There’s no telling how much of a Jewish consciousness students in these departments have (or if they’re even Jewish). When I returned to college — University of Missouri – Kansas City (UMKC) — I took a course entitled Medieval Jewish History. While the professor had a Jewish identity, I’m not sure whether any of the students were even Jewish. The university also offered a course entitled Modern Jewish History. UMKC didn’t have a Jewish Studies department as of 2011.

Then there’s a tony high school in Chicago’s northern suburbs that offers Hebrew as a foreign language. I can’t say whether this is the only Jewish awareness for any students, but for Jews in the class, it is a public expression of not being assimilated.

Where there are concentrations of Jews, there are Jewish Community Centers. Funded by donations and membership dues, they serve the surrounding community, not just Jews. The JCC near Kansas City is equipped with a gym and a theater. Not so many JCCs are not so elaborate. But the JCC is primarily a venue for Jewish events. It also houses a Holocaust remembrance center.

What American Jews are is acculturated. This is a sociological description of describing a feature of immigrants to the U.S. and their children and grandchildren. The first generation has to learn English and navigate how to earn a living. The second generation goes to public schools and speaks and reads and writes fluently in English. The third generation of other immigrants to the U.S. assimilates, in this case to American ways and mores. But third generation Jews have rarely assimilated. They didn’t enter the melting pot.

Some sociologists liken the product of the American assimilation of immigrants as a cooking pot where all the ingredients come apart and meld and eventually become a puree. But, for the most part, Jews didn’t come apart and “melt” into American society.

Jews are acculturated. They know their way around American society. They’ve opened doors for themselves that were closed. The U.S. Supreme Court issued decisions that broke up residential segregation. Along came the civil rights acts and more barriers crumbled. But even though the doors to assimilation are wide open, most Jews have retained a measure of Jewishness that may only come out at home.

Indeed there are assimilated Jews. Many of these have married non-Jews. Still there are cases where the non-Jewish spouse agrees to raise their children as Jews. No one knows how frequent this is. People only hear about alarming statistics of how many intermarriages there are. I do find it alarming, but it’s anyone’s guess how much Jewish identity these families really have, especially the Jewish partner. In one case that I know of, the Jewish husband of a non-Jewish wife told me, “She made me Jewish.” If he was assimilated before, he now had a Jewish awareness when he lit the Chanukah menorah. He was acculturated.

Jewish assimilation and intermarriage are Jewish tragedies. No doubt. But my point is that there is less assimilation than the pundits say. And poll takers don’t do in depth interviews. Such interviews are the realm of sociologists. How many have received grants to undertake such research about the extent of Jewish assimilation? How many want to undertake such research? It’s not politically correct to diminish the magnitude of Jewish assimilation.

I don’t want to fail to mention of small groups of Jews in the United States, Israel, and around the world who shun acculturation. They embrace parts of contemporary technology but not any American culture. They are determined to live lives that duplicate the ways of their forebears in Europe. There is no compromise on their part. They also don’t reach out to their fellow Jews who are unlike them, whom they deem as non-Jews, to increase their Jewish awareness. Is this also a Jewish tragedy? I’m not sure.

I admit that there is nothing scientific about what I have written. Notice how many times I write “many,” “often,” and the vague “sometimes.”

What I have done is introduce the sociological concept of “acculturation” to describe what I believe to be the majority of American Jews. I want to change the discourse.

But who picks up after their humans?

People around here are pretty good about picking up dog poop, especially in the parks. They rarely go out without a bag to scoop up the poop.

I’m posting pictures of a few signs that you see around the neighborhood that serve as reminders.

The first sign is vehement and tells people that to not pick up their dog’s poop is nothing less than a crime. And such criminals are guilty of creating a health hazard — that could come back to hit them.

The second sign is explicit but polite. It appeals to neighborliness and refrains from making scofflaws feel guilty of a crime or a social infraction.

One of the local park districts is earnest about helping the unfortunate soul who forgot a bag. By providing bags, no one has an excuse. The notice is polite — a kind reminder. This sign also has icons to teach dog owners how to use the bags. I really don’t know how many newbies there are, but anyone who has a dog has probably long ago figured out how to pick up the the poop in their own backyards.

So now on to my question. Who picks up after the human owners of the dogs? Human “excrement” is not literally poop of course. Americans are toilet trained long before they acquire trash to toss on the roadside.

The next sign is subtle about notifying humans that their littering is also a crime. It’s in legal code that the conscientious sign reader can figure out. “Here are two laws that you’re violating if you dump or litter! Just say NO!” This sign is on public open land which seems to be an inviting place for would-be criminals.

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you’ve noticed that I’m a person who picks up human waste (sometimes). When I take a shopping bag with me and pass along public or undeveloped land, I can usually fill it. When I take a thirteen-gallon trash bag, in the course of my forty-minute walk I can usually fill it if a few days have passed since I last passed that way with a bag.

I earn cups of hot tea with sugar for my public service.

Hamas in Gaza gets what it wants

Hamas, the political arm of the terrorist group Islamic Jihad, governs Gaza. They’ve engaged in a massive attack on Israel with rockets that reached population centers. They launched roughly 4,000 rockets, without guidance, for 11 days at Israel’s civilian population. Most were intercepted and destroyed in the air.

Hamas says that it wants Israel to withdraw from the West Bank, an end to the blockade of Gaza, a Palestinian state with its capital in Eastern Jerusalem, as well as a return of 1948’s refugees to Israel. But, this is only their rallying cry.

What Hamas and Islamic Jihad really want is fourfold: to terrorize Jews in Israel, to create martyrs, to get international attention and sympathy, and to cause international pressure to bear down on Israel. Each Gazan killed in Israeli air strikes is accorded a martyr’s funeral, and by their reckoning there are 248 dead — 248 fresh martyrs. (Let’s see if there are really 248 funerals.)

Hamas and Islamic Jihad have also succeeded in terrorizing Jews in the south and in central Israel, the largest part of Israel’s population. Rockets even reached near Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. Foreign carriers ceased to fly into and out of Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion International Airport, seriously interfering with the tourism industry.

Hamas has gotten international attention. The situation in Gaza has aroused the concern of the United Nations. Egypt and Qatar brokered a ceasefire. U.S. President Joe Biden mildly chastised Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

By my reckoning, Hamas and Islamic Jihad have succeeded. They’ve achieved their goals. Israel can’t win. All Israel can do is bide time until the next attack and put up with sporadic rocket attacks that anywhere else would be considered acts of war.

Can Gazans be so irrational? They’re no closer to a Palestinian state than before — even farther away. Is terrorism really an effective tool to get Israel to withdraw from the West Bank? (Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005 and look at what they got in return.)

But, is it actually irrational to get what you really want?

Bad religion according to Benjamin Franklin

Concerning religion and the state, American Founder and statesman Benjamin Franklin said:

“When a religion is good, I conceive that it will support itself; and, when it cannot support itself, and G-d does not take care to support [it], so that its professors are obliged to call for help of the civil power, it is a sign, I apprehend, of its being a bad one.”

In Jon Meacham, American Gospel: G-d, the Founding Fathers, and the Making of a Nation (New York: Random House, 2006) p. 60.

Franklin said it all. Now check out America’s denominations.

So the economy is recovering, or is it?

Perhaps your economy is improving. Maybe it’s as good or even better than before the pandemic. My economy didn’t change. I receive Social Security benefits and don’t pursue a paying job.

But, Politico reports:

The problem for many Americans isn’t getting a job, it’s getting enough hours at decent wages. Our topline numbers obscure that reality.

This doesn’t even look at how many people have given up looking for a job. This figure, if it’s even available (which it may not be), is rarely reported.

Then there is the housing crisis in the United States. Ten million tenants can’t make their rent payments, according to Moody’s Analytics.

So, you’re making your rent or mortgage payments. So am I. The so-called experts are talking about us when they claim that the economy is recovering. But tell that to millions of Americans who are not feeling any recovery.

The common objects of our American love

In his inaugural address January 20, 2021, U.S President Joseph R. Biden shared a definition of a nation:

“Many centuries ago, Saint Augustine, a saint of my church, wrote that a people was a multitude defined by the common objects of their love.” See: whitehouse.gov’s Briefing Room.

Several years before, Jon Meacham, one of America’s leading historians, had brought his insight to a commencement address for the 2017 graduates of Middlebury College. The author of The Soul of America referred to St. Augustine who defined a nation as “a multitude of rational beings united by the common objects of [their] love.”

My thoughts:

Note the phrase “rational beings.”

Who was Augustine thinking about? When and where have there been a multitude of rational humans?

Think about the United States. Millions here believe any number of conspiracy theories. Some are so illogical that they could never be true. Some have been debunked more than once and yet some Americans believe them anyway.

Consider the idea that there’s a wide-ranging pedophile ring of Democrats. Secrets can’t be kept. How is it that there’s never been a whistleblower? I could go on, but I’d be wasting your time and mine.

Then consider the American 2020 presidential election. In certain circles, accusations fly that Democrats stole the vote — “it was rigged.” Time and again, there’s been no evidence. And these firm believers are rational human beings?

Regardless, some or most Americans seem to have common objects that they love. These Americans seem to predominate, also.

Many have called attention to how religious Americans are — a majority anyway. Americans stand out in this regard compared to Europeans. Even so, there are a proliferation of religious denominations in the United States. Several have tens of millions of adherents. Some are much smaller. So many Americans love religion. Nevertheless, the belief systems are different. Some denominations consider others to be nothing less than heresy. So does unity predominate or diversity?

Most Americans acknowledge the Thanksgiving holiday. Family and friends try to get together. The traditional foods are popular. So, Americans are united in their love for Thanksgiving. Unfortunately, business enterprises keep their stores open all afternoon. They love money more than the welfare of those who work for them.

Football is a beloved pastime. I am writing this on Super Bowl Sunday when millions of Americans are watching the game. But some Americans — Latinos in particular — prefer soccer. Are they not also Americans?

Most Americans say that they love the Constitution. At least they prefer it to systems of government elsewhere. They have different interpretations of parts of it from one extreme to another, though.

But neither love of religion or of the Constitution, for instance, are rational. Over the years, the Constitution has shown defects that had to be corrected. Some of the corrections — the amendments — violate the spirit of what the Founders intended.

The Founders didn’t trust most men to vote rationally, so they advocated that only “men of substance” be allowed to vote — property owners. The Founders feared the mass of Americans, that they were susceptible to following a demagogue. They didn’t trust women at all.

Senators weren’t elected by popular vote originally. They were chosen by state legislatures. The Founders didn’t even trust each state’s men of substance to vote in favor of the interests of their own state. Supposedly, legislators in the states would be more rational than the men who elected them.

President Biden’s paraphrase of Augustine is more apt to the contemporary American situation. As president, he wants to unite a fractured nation, many of us who are not rational. So, it’s sensible for him to have edited Augustine’s definition. However, I think that he is naive if he fully believes what he is saying.

What brings Americans together is an enemy. It was communism and Russia from the 1950s until the fall of the Berlin War. There was a burst of unity during the short Gulf War. Then an interlude until 9/11. Terrorists became the enemy to unite us. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan started to become unpopular as they petered out in the nation’s consciousness. Then only one side of the divide developed an enemy: for the Right, President Obama was the arch-enemy.

For the Trump era, people on the Right saw migrants, asylum seekers, and illegal aliens as well as Muslims as the enemy. The Left, for its part only had Trump as their enemy and derision of his followers.

So do Americans have common objects that they love? Not really enough to make a unified nation. Without a doubt, we have a fractured country and there’s no middle ground. People on the Right who are susceptible to an authoritarian leader are not rational. People in the middle and on the Left are more rational, though. As much as they may want to reason with the Right, it won’t work.

I would like to finish on an optimistic note, but I’m not optimistic.

We Americans have had a storm brewing for awhile, and it looks like more of the same.

What I didn’t know about Republican voters until recently

Republican voters (U.S.) are generally susceptible to, look for, and vote for authoritarian leaders like Donald Trump.

They score higher on a checklist of authoritarian susceptible personality characteristics than self-identified Democrats do.

1) Their thinking is highly compartmentalized. They can easily flip-flop between conflicting thoughts and opinions.
2) They use a lot of double standards.
3) They believe many conflicting and even contradictory things.
4) They have a lot of trouble deciding what is sound evidence and what is not. They have poor critical thinking skills.
5) Their thinking is highly ethnocentric.
6) They are decidedly prejudiced in what they believe about others.
7) For all the difficulties they have getting their thinking cap on right, they are very dogmatic about what they believe.

These people constitute America’s Right Wing. Americans who identify as Democrats and independents who lean Democratic tend to score low on the checklist.

Which groups vote Democratic?

American Blacks consistently vote Democratic. They are the descendants of slaves who were subjected to the authority of slave owners and slave masters. They understandably want no part of authoritarianism.

American Jews consistently vote Democratic. Traditional Jewish culture is rather egalitarian. Jews who have moved away from tradition still tend to feel egalitarian. Certainly, Jewish life in the U.S. today has no hierarchy, even in worship. There’s no room in Jewish culture for an authoritarian leader.

The founders of the United States generally subscribed to a humanistic tradition. And they led a rebellion against a heavy-handed British king. They had no authoritarian tendencies and composed the Constitution accordingly.

American humanists follow this European, enlightenment tradition. Also, they tend not to have trouble deciding what is sound evidence and what is not, for instance. (My criticism of them is that sometimes science for them has become something like a religion, what I call “scientism,” but this has nothing to do with authoritarianism.)

I’m not familiar with the society of liberal Christians. From what I know from the media, they seem to to be socially liberal. The Social Gospel seems to be anything but dogmatic, judgemental, or ethnocentric.

At the same time, some Americans who are not susceptible to authoritarianism “vote their pocketbooks” if they feel that Republican policies are good for their personal economy. According to Dean and Altemeyer (my source), these Republican voters make up about 30% of the Republican electorate. This mostly corresponds to Dean and Altemeyer’s measurements that indicate that this number of Republican voters are not susceptible to authoritarian leaders like Donald Trump.

I recently posted that, “Today’s Right and Left are not symmetrical” — Right corresponding to Republicans and Left corresponding to Democrats (“Zombie Apocalypse”). We see from all this the lack of symmetry. Republicans are mostly susceptible to authoritarian leaders while most Democrats are not. The general characterization of liberal versus conservative doesn’t tell the whole story.

For me, the whole story is that another authoritarian president could be elected. Every indication is that Donald Trump will run again. He doesn’t accept defeat. It depends more on which way the wind blows. In four years, what will be the verdict on the Biden administration? Will a Biden victory today pave the way for Vice-President elect Kamala Harris to gain the presidency in 2024? (Right now, Joe Biden insists that he won’t run again for the presidency.)

I’m going to sit back and enjoy cups of hot tea with sugar for the next couple of years while we have no authoritarian in the White House. If I’m smart, I won’t pay attention to politics until the next election.


See: John W. Dean and Bob (Robert A.) Altemeyer. Authoritarian Nightmare: Trump and His Followers. Brooklyn and London: Melville House Publishing, 2020.

Why do Republicans want to overhaul Social Security?

No government program works optimally. So the U.S. Congress solicits information and conducts hearings, and policy wonks – some of whom serve in Congress themselves – get to work crafting a plan. Interest groups give feedback, and finally aides write up a bill to present to the House and the Senate for a compromise. Then it’s voted on. If it passes – which it should when all the political groundwork has been covered – it goes to the president for his or her signature.

Both Democrats and Republicans would support changes to Social Security for the purpose of lengthening the solvency period of the trust funds. In 2010, it was projected by the Social Security Administration that the program would be able to pay out 100 percent of today’s benefits through 2037. Then it would be able to pay out 76 percent of current benefits.

More recently, AARP (American Association of Retired Persons) reports that the tipping point will be in 2035. Starting then, Social Security will begin to pay out 79 percent of what retirees are due if the Social Security program is revised.

A word of caution here about forecasts. It stretches credulity to believe that a forecast for a situation 27 – or even 15 – years out would be fairly accurate. Weather forecasts, for example, are good enough for five days. The ten-day forecast is a bit shaky. Then forget about much of a detailed forecast for a longer period. But that is physical science. Weather is subject to the laws of physics and chemistry.

Contrast this with predicting human behavior over the next 15 years. The variables are enormous. Consider just the underground economy. Traffickers in illicit substances don’t pay taxes. They don’t contribute payroll tax deductions for Social Security or for Medicare. If the Internal Revenue Service were doing its job, someone would be chasing after these scofflaws.

The fiscal picture of Social Security would look a lot different.

So Democrats and Republican should agree that a remedy needs to be found. But Republicans disagree. When it comes to the Social Security program, Medicare, and Medicaid, Republicans don’t want to tweak around the edges of these programs, though. They don’t want just a remedy to cure the illness. They want to redo the Social Security program. According to them, the program will be better off if Social Security trust funds are invested in financial markets. This talk has been going on for at least 20 years. Republicans also talk about privatizing the program, whatever that means. So, what Republicans are proposing is an overhaul for something that isn’t broken and will function fine for quite a while.

However, investing in volatile markets is risky. Yes, the markets may be flying high today, but it won’t last. You don’t have to be especially old to realize that “what goes up must come down.” The U.S. economy has had booms and busts since at least the Panic of 1819. Recessions occur every so often, and the markets reflect this. Markets are not predictable since they fluctuate according to the psyches of unpredictable flesh and blood. It’s largely a matter of psychology.

So Republicans must want to overhaul the Social Security system for selfish reasons. The moneyed class wants to play around with someone else’s money. They want livelier financial markets, more liquidity. They don’t care about ordinary retirees.

Republicans are responding to the interests of these well-to-do people, not to the welfare of most Americans. Those who stand to benefit from overhauling Social Security don’t need its benefits. Those who do are liable to suffer.

Frankly, I believe that Republicans have become cruel, mean, and nasty. What else explains the risks that they want to take with the money of my children and grandchildren?


Sources for facts:

AARP. “How much longer will Social Security be around?” Social Security Resource Center. April 28, 2020. Retrieved August 31, 2020.

Stephen C. Goss. “The Future Financial Status of the Social Security Program.”
Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 70, No. 3, 2010. Retrieved August 31, 2020.

What was unacceptable can become acceptable

from: Marantz, Andrew. 2019. Anti-Social: Online Extremists, Techno-Utopians, and the Hijacking of the American Conversation. New York: Viking.

Marantz writes –

After Trump won, the late professor Richard Rorty enjoyed a posthumous moment of mini-virality. My [Marantz’s] Facebook feed was full of people posting an eerily prescient excerpt from Rorty’s Achieving Our Country, a collection of political lectures published in 1998. With the left wing of the Democratic Party in decline [during Clinton’s years, presumably], Rorty argued, the only politicians “channeling the mounting rage of the newly dispossessed” were right-wing populists. If this continued, he wrote, then, sooner or later,

“something will crack. The nonsuburban electorate will decide that the system has failed and start looking for a strongman to vote for [both Trump and Sanders, although for Sanders primarily urban and suburban]…. One thing that is very likely to happen is that gains made in the past forty years by black and brown Americans, and by homosexuals, will be wiped out [Trump only]. Jocular contempt for women will come back in fashion…. All the sadism which the academic Left has tried to make unacceptable to its students will come flooding back.”

What was unacceptable can become acceptable. Acceptability is just a norm, and norms can change for the better or for the worse.

Whenever this passage was posted on Facebook, commenters tended to treat Rorty’s words like a prophecy, a revelation of the fact that the American experience had always been doomed to fail. But Rorty put no stock in revelation. “We should face up to unpleasant truths about ourselves,” he continued, “but we should not take those truths to be the last word about our chances for happiness, or about our national character. Our national character is still in the making.” As the title of this book suggests, he did not believe that we are doomed or that we are saved. He did not believe that We Are Good or that We Are Bad. He believed something more liberating and also more terrifying: that history is contingent, that the arc bends the way people bend it. The American attitude toward fascism has long been an article of faith: it can’t happen here. But if history is contingent – if anything can happen – then our worst fears are not impossible but improbable, which is not at all the same thing. (59-60)

According to Rorty, the way a society talks to itself – through books, through popular films, through schools and universities, through mass media – determines that society’s beliefs, its politics, its very culture. (60)

Rorty argued that a transition from one moral vocabulary [a broad system of thought; how a society talks to itself] to another happens roughly the way a paradigm shift happens in science. (60)

“The world does not speak,” Rorty wrote. “Only we do.” To change how we talk is to change who we are. (61)