Wednesday, May 25, 2016

"Hands Across America": Note for a discussion, "E Pluribus Unum? What Keeps the United States United"

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

The New York TimesThe New York Times

image from

Americans united on this day 30 years ago like never before. Six and a half million people formed a chain called “Hands Across America” to raise money for the nation’s hungry and homeless.
It was planned by U.S.A. for Africa, the charity known for recording the song “We Are the World” in 1985.
The human chain began in Lower Manhattan, with views of the Statue of Liberty, continued across New Jersey and to Washington, Chicago, Memphis, Dallas, Phoenix, ending in Long Beach, Calif.
It crossed through about 500 communities across four time zones.
At 3 p.m. in New York and noon in Los Angeles, they joined hands for 15 minutes, enough time to sing “We Are The World,” “America the Beautiful” and the “Hands Across America” theme.
The chain included fans at baseball games, staff members at the White House, scuba divers in rivers, and Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck at Disneyland.
One honorary chairman, the singer Kenny Rogers, delivered on his promise of a concert to get people to stand in the desert at the Texas-New Mexico border.
Still, there were some gaps in the line, which were filled with a chain of paper dolls, made by children, and rope.
After costs, only about $15 million was distributed, but it remains a spectacle like no other.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

The Fragmented Society - Note for a discussion, "E Pluribus Unum? What Keeps the United States United"

David Brooks MAY 20, 2016, New York Times

image from

There are just a few essential reads if you want to understand the American
social and political landscape today. Robert Putnam’s “Our Kids,” Charles
Murray’s “Coming Apart” and a few other books deserve to be on that list.
Today, I’d add Yuval Levin’s fantastic new book, “The Fractured Republic.”

Levin starts with the observation that our politics and much of our
thinking is drenched in nostalgia for the 1950s and early 1960s. The left is
nostalgic for the relative economic equality of that era. The right is nostalgic
for the cultural cohesion. The postwar era has become our unconscious ideal of
what successful America looks like. It was, Levin notes, an age of cohesion and

But we have now moved to an age of decentralization and fragmentation.
At one point in the book he presents a series of U­-shaped graphs showing this

Party polarization in Congress declined steadily from 1910 to 1940, but it
has risen steadily since. We are a less politically cohesive nation.
The share of national income that went to the top 1 percent declined
steadily from 1925 to about 1975, but has risen steadily since. We are a less
economically cohesive nation.

The share of Americans who were born abroad dropped steadily from
1910 to 1970. But the share of immigrants has risen steadily ever since, from
4.7 percent of the population to nearly 14 percent. We are a more diverse and
less demographically cohesive nation.

In case after case we’ve replaced attachments to large established
institutions with commitments to looser and more flexible networks. Levin
argues that the Internet did not cause this shift but embodies today’s
individualistic, diffuse society.

This shift has created some unpleasant realities. Levin makes a nice
distinction between centralization and consolidation. In economic, cultural
and social terms, America is less centralized. But people have simultaneously
concentrated off on the edges —­ separated into areas of, say, concentrated
wealth and concentrated poverty. The middle has hollowed out in sphere after
sphere. Socially, politically and economically we’re living within “bifurcated

For example, religious life has bifurcated. Church attendance has declined
twice as fast among people without high school diplomas as among people
with college degrees. With each additional year of education, the likelihood of
attending religious services rises by 15 percent.

We’re also less embedded in tight, soul­-forming institutions. Levin makes
another distinction between community — being part of a congregation — and
identity — being, say, Jewish. Being part of community takes time and involves
restrictions. Merely having an identity doesn’t. In our cultural emphasis and
life, we’ve gone from a community focus to an identity focus.

Our politicians try to find someone to blame for these problems: banks,
immigrants or, for Donald Trump, morons generally. But that older
consolidated life could not have survived modernity and is never coming back.
It couldn’t have survived globalization, feminism and the sexual revolution,
the rising tide of immigration and the greater freedom consumers now enjoy.

Our fundamental problems are the downsides of transitions we have
made for good reasons: to enjoy more flexibility, creativity and individual
choice. For example, we like buying cheap products from around the world.
But the choices we make as consumers make life less stable for us as

Levin says the answer is not to dwell in confusing, frustrating nostalgia.
It’s through a big push toward subsidiarity, devolving choice and power down
to the local face­-to-­face community level, and thus avoiding the excesses both
of rigid centralization and alienating individualism. A society of empowered
local neighborhood organizations is a learning society. Experiments happen
and information about how to solve problems flows from the bottom up.

I’m acknowledged in the book, but I learned something new on every
page. Nonetheless, I’d say Levin’s emphasis on subsidiarity and local
community is important but insufficient. We live within a golden chain,
connecting self, family, village, nation and world. The bonds of that chain have
to be repaired at every point, not just the local one.

It’s not 1830. We Americans have a national consciousness. People who
start local groups are often motivated by a dream of scaling up and changing
the nation and the world. Our distemper is not only caused by local
fragmentation but by national dysfunction. Even Levin writes and thinks in
nation­state terms (his prescription is Wendell Berry, but his intellectual and
moral sources are closer to a nationalist like Abraham Lincoln).

That means there will have to be a bigger role for Washington than he or
current Republican orthodoxy allows, with more radical ideas, like national
service, or a national effort to seed locally run early education and
infrastructure projects.

As in ancient Greece and Rome, local communities won’t survive if the
national project disintegrates. Our structural problems are national and global
and require big as well as little reforms.

The literature of fragmentation -- Note for a discussion, "E Pluribus Unum? What Keeps the United States United"

image from
Technology makes it much easier for us to connect to people who share some single common interest,” said Marc Dunkelman, adding that it also makes it easier for us to avoid “face-­to-­face interactions with diverse ideas.” He touched on this in an incisive 2014 book, “The Vanishing Neighbor,” which belongs with Haidt’s work ["The Righteous Mind"] and with “Bowling Alone,” “Coming Apart” and The Fractured Republic” in the literature of modern American fragmentationa booming genre all its own.
--Frank Bruni, "How Facebook Warps Our Worlds," New York Times

Disunited We Stand - Note for a discussion, "E Pluribus Unum? What Keeps the United States United"

By indulging in ‘competing nostalgias’ for the 1950s, conservatives and liberals ignore our hyper-individualistic culture and economy. 

BARTON SWAIM, Wall Street Journal 

May 23, 2016 7:19 p.m. ET 

‘Say not, Why were the former days better than these? For it is not from wisdom that you ask this.” That injunction, from the Book of Ecclesiastes, is hard to follow for conservatives like me. Looking backward is what we do. But as Yuval Levin explains in “The Fractured Republic: Renewing America’s Social Contract in the Age of Individualism,” longing for a return to the past isn’t just futile: It’s dangerous. And both conservatives and liberals have indulged in it for a generation.
Most Americans, and not just baby boomers, idealize the 1950s and early ’60s. Mr. Levin finds an ideologically disparate array of observers—from Charles Murray to President Barack Obama—defining the decade or two immediately after World War II in more or less the same nostalgic terms. What they see are different components of midcentury America’s consolidation. Liberals see an era of high taxes and intrusive economic policies, but also high employment levels and economic stability; conservatives see a time of cultural unity around a set of shared values. Thus both liberals and conservatives tend to see present-day realities—economic stagnation and uncertainty for liberals; cultural dissolution and fragmentation for conservatives—primarily as aberrations from an ideal. And so, writes Mr. Levin, “we have spent the past decade and more waiting for a return to normal that has refused to come.”
The trouble with viewing the decade after World War II in this way, he contends, is that the decade’s prosperity and cultural stability were the result of a set of historical circumstances that cannot be duplicated. Midcentury America’s economy, governed by an intrusive federal government and sustained by a few gigantic employers, was able to thrive primarily because the U.S. had so little foreign competition—Europe, remember, still lay in ruins. At the same time, American society was reaching the end of a long period of cultural consolidation: We read the same books and magazines, and watched the same television shows.


By Yuval Levin
Basic Books, 262 pages, $27.50
But centrifugal urges we commonly associate with the later 1960s were already evident. Consider the sheer cultural heterogeneity of the film “Rear Window” (1954), or the incipient countercultural waywardness of the novel “Catcher in the Rye” (1951), or the beginnings of the civil-rights movement, when Rosa Parks and others orchestrated the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1955 and 1956. The postwar era’s consolidation was leavened by an openness that blunted some of the ugliest cultural constraints.
The desire to recreate or return to midcentury America’s virtues has led us into a kind of ideological stalemate. Liberals clamor for a return to the era’s high taxation and a doubling down on entitlement spending, while conservatives demand a return to the 1950s’ cultural solidarity. The result is what Mr. Levin calls “bifurcated concentration”: In personal income, in education, in political affiliation and in cultural identity, Americans are clustering at the extremities and vacating the center—rich and poor, right-wing and left-wing, educated and uneducated. 
The “politics of competing nostalgias,” as Mr. Levin aptly terms it, fails to acknowledge the irreversibility of “diffusion” in both the economy and the culture. The hyper-individualism animating American society shows no signs of slowing, and a more or less free-market economy is necessary to pay for our welfare state. The only question is, What can we do about it? How can both conservatives and liberals advance their aims in light of the decentralizing forces of American life?
This is where so many books of cultural and political criticism go wrong. Their critiques may be reasonable, but their proposals depend largely on people of one ideology or viewpoint persuading everybody else, or at least a majority, of the truth. A book by a conservative or liberal author treats ideological adversaries as obstacles to be persuaded or displaced, as if winning some metaphorical “war of ideas” will somehow get us back on the equally metaphorical “right track.”
Here is what makes “Fractured Republic” so compelling. Though he is a conservative, Mr. Levin’s overarching proposal does not presuppose the reader’s conservatism. What he calls for, in essence, is a return to the proximate. Americans must find ways, he says, to strengthen our mediating institutions that stand between the individual and government, and especially the national government—families, churches, civic organizations and so on.
Mr. Levin is realistic about what this will require. “There is not much that public policy can do to create communities that do a better job of encouraging constructive behavior,” he admits. “It could, however, do less harm.” Many of our most acute problems have arisen because for over half a century we have nationalized every political question. 
The results are before us. Welfare and health-care policies are decided in Washington. Decisions at local school boards are driven in part by federal regulations and funding. State and local governments, Mr. Levin correctly observes, “have increasingly become mere federal agents.” And in the cultural sphere, deeply complicated social and moral questions—abortion, the definition of marriage—are routinely decided for the entire nation by peremptory court rulings.
The task is to denationalize our mindset. Social conservatives, as Mr. Levin explains in a brilliant chapter titled “Subculture Wars,” have already started to do this. They’ve begun to drop the pretense that America somehow belongs to them and instead sought to make the positive case for the attractiveness of their own communities. It’s a slow transition, however, and it’s not helped by the fact that lately emboldened liberals sound as if the culture belongs exclusively to them.
Yuval Levin has written an incisive and irenic critique of contemporary American society, together with a series of reflections that offer a way forward without trafficking in the false hope of “solutions.” That he has done so in fewer than 250 pages of clear, well-organized prose ought to make the book famous for a generation. Maybe, in time, we can stop asking why the former days were better than these.
Mr. Swaim is the author of “The Speechwriter: A Brief Education in Politics.”

Trump Taps Into the Anxiety of American White Males - Note for a diccussion, "E Puribus Unum? What Keeps the United States United"

By ANAND GIRIDHARADAS MAY 23, 2016, New York Times

Image from article: Supporters of Donad Trump at a fund-raiser in Lawrenceville, New Jersey

It has been a cold spring for the forces militating against a Donald J. Trump

The closer the real estate mogul draws to the Republican Party
nomination, the fewer the remaining sources of solace. But one consistent
theme has been the notion that the primary and the general election are as
different as night and day.

“I could be wrong, but I’d be willing to make a pretty major bet that
Trump’s not going to win,” Mike Murphy, a veteran Republican political
strategist, said on MSNBC last week.

About 28 million people will vote in the Republican primaries, Mr.
Murphy said in dismissing the “winning hype” surrounding Mr. Trump,
compared with the 125 million expected to cast ballots in the general election.
“He’s entering a whole different world of voter demography,” he said.

It may be worth noting that Mr. Murphy has long had ties to the
Republican establishment, which has struggled to come to terms with Mr.
Trump’s ascendancy. His last “major bet” involved the failed candidacy of Jeb
Bush, the former Florida governor, and he ran the $100-­million­-plus “super
PAC” that supported his run.

A New York Times/CBS News poll released last week undercut Mr.
Murphy’s argument, showing a close match-up between Mr. Trump and Hillary
Clinton, the former senator and secretary of state, should she win the
Democratic Party nomination.

Over all, Mrs. Clinton leads Mr. Trump 47 percent to 41 percent,
according to the Times poll.

But far more telling is how each candidate forms a coalition. Mrs. Clinton
wins majorities of groups that have seen their freedoms and share of the
nation’s resources grow in recent decades — women, African­-Americans,

Mr. Trump wins majorities of groups that have experienced a relative
decline — whites and men.

The anxiety of white men may not be a viable long­-term fuel source for the
political right, but, in the polls’ telling, it may be good enough for right now.
The polls offer a way of framing the election: as a referendum on how
white men see their place in a changing country; and, one layer beneath, on
whether they perceive themselves as being joined by women and minorities or
rather as being replaced by them.

In those parts of the country where change has advanced the furthest,
people speak often about “diversity” and “multiculturalism” and “inclusion,”
and they think of themselves as speaking about a great joining: the formerly
marginal coming up onstage with those who were once dominant.
Yet there is some evidence that a sizable number of white men see the
push toward diversity, along with the larger changes it telegraphs, as less
about joining and more about replacement, and a country that is less
hospitable to them.

That sentiment is perhaps expressed in a quote widely circulated online in
these discussions, though the origin is unknown: “When you’re accustomed to
privilege, equality feels like oppression.”

For instance, half of American men, a plurality in this case, believed that
society had grown “too soft and feminine,” the Public Religion Research
Institute found. More than two-­thirds of Trump supporters felt this way,
according to the poll.

Similarly, 64 percent of Trump supporters reported feeling “bothered
when dealing with immigrants who speak little or no English” — even as 64
percent of Americans over all said they felt the opposite.

And when it comes to the focus of their government, a majority of Trump
supporters believed that the needs of African­-Americans and other minorities
commandeered too much attention — even as 63 percent of Americans over all

Together, such numbers point to a feeling among many white men of
being shoved aside: A sense that society is growing more feminine, increasing
numbers of people speak a different language, immigrants are pouring in
unchecked, and the government is more concerned about other demographic

Arguments of this kind have floated around on white­-supremacist
websites for years, but watered­-down versions of that sentiment are now
swirling in the mainstream of American politics.

Which vision will most animate the white men who are at the center of
this election: the feeling of being joined or of being replaced?

Monday, May 23, 2016

Urgent Press Release: Donald Trump to receive Hands-enhancement Operation

image from

Urgent Press Release 

Mr. Trump has decided that, given how criticized his hands' size are (see below), he will receive a hands-enhancement operation.

He soon will be undergoing a minor surgical intervention that will allow him to shake hands with a greater number of his millions of supporters who faithfully believe he should be so handled.

The operation will be performed in Moscow, courtesy of Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin, a sincere admirer of our hand-some billionaire mogul.

Thanks to the wonders of post-Soviet medicine, Mr. "new-hands" Trump will implement his desire be a "hands-on" president.

Meanwhile, please take note of the Trump family's sincere, humanitarian concern with protecting our hands from inclement weather:

Faux-Fur Knit Gloves, Black

Online Inquiries: LCS16_D14E6   |  Store Inquiries: #26714281

  • Ivanka Trump knit gloves.
  • Faux-fur (acrylic/polyester) cuff.
  • Acrylic; hand wash.
  • Imported.

Why Donald Trump Will Always Be a "Short-Fingered ... - Vanity Fair

Vanity Fair
The myriad vulgarities of Donald Trump—examples of which are retailed daily on ... On all of them he has circled his hand in gold Sharpie in a valiant effort to ...

The History Behind the Donald Trump 'Small Hands' Insult - ABC News
Mar 4, 2016 - Trump Still Riled Up Over 'Little Hands' Insult From Years Ago.

Haha Look at Donald Trump's Tiny Hands | GQ

Mar 22, 2016 - Donald "The Donald" Trump is probably going to be the Republican nominee. To a liberal, this is one of those things that seems like it might be ...

Seven Things About Trump Even Smaller Than His Tiny Hands

The Huffington Post
Mar 27, 2016 - “People tell me all the time,” he told reporters, “how big and lovely my hands are.” Trump seems to be overly sensitive about his mitts, and it got ...

Donald Trump: 'My hands are normal hands' - The Washington Post
The Washington Post
Mar 21, 2016 - Trump was asked whether he regretted talking about the size of his hands -- and making an unmistakable allusion to his genitalia -- at a recent ...

Trump: Do small hands equal small penis, or a myth? -

Mar 8, 2016 - Is there a real connection between hand size and penis size? Science says it's something a little more specific about your fingers that ...