Three men in conversation as 2017 ends:

Picture an eagle flying with only a single wing, or with simply a head…. photo by Dick Bernard, October, 2008, at dedication of gift by Mary Lou Nelson at Minnesota Landscape Arboretum

Dec. 22 I posted about Gratitude. In short order, long-time friend SAK, “across the pond” in Europe, responded in his usual eloquent way:

“To be sure, Mr. Bernard, very discouraging indeed but thanks for “keeping on keeping on”! (his comment continues at end of this post)…


Later the same day, three of us, relatives, all men, sat in conversation. One (not I) brought up “Tax Reform”, which had just passed the U.S. Congress.

The initiator, mid-40s, Husband and Dad, works for a major U.S. Corporation, progressing in his corporation in the usual way. Almost immediately on Tax Reform passage a memo had come to employees in his corporation: they would all receive a $1,000 bonus; the employee minimum wage would be increased to $15 an hour.

The second in the conversation, mid-50s, single Dad, is out of work. He had a contract job with a major international corporation which recently ended after one year. There were no performance deficiencies, and the need for his job continued. He was best qualified for it. Regulations, he said, terminated him. They don’t wish to be stuck with a permanent employee. He can reapply in six months for another temporary contract, if there is a position available, which doesn’t help him. His options are very limited. So his mood was not upbeat. I think “depressed” might be the best descriptor.

I was the third person. So, what do I say? We’re middle class, retired, pensions. medicare, social security. My pension was negotiated by my union and management years ago. It is fully funded and presumably secure. It happened in the 1970s, when such things were possible. A mutual fund I hold which has a few dollars in it increased in value by 22% in the last twelve months. This kind of performance is very pleasing to the Mar-a-Lago constituency, along with major league cuts in taxes….

If you’re a “lucky ducky” in the market, including retirement funds these are good days, indeed. Most pensions and 401ks and the like are in the stock market.

These can also be very deceptive days.


Just in my circle of three people on Dec. 22, there were three very different stories. I could relate other stories as I keep hearing them. We don’t have to listen or observe carefully to know them. The gap between the haves and the have nots is alarming, and will get worse.


How do the three of us who had that conversation see the dawn of a New Year, Jan. 1, 2018? Not the same way, I can guarantee.

How do you? How do tens of millions of others?

There are a million ways to engage in the New Year. Those of us in the “haves” have to engage in behalf of those who have little, and no extra financial or psychological or physical energy to do what needs to be done.

Happy New Year.


(continued from beginning of post):
Aneurin, known as Nye, Bevan (UK politician, member of parliament & holder of various cabinet positions) said: “The whole art of Conservative politics in the 20th century, is being deployed to enable wealth to persuade poverty to use its political freedom to keep wealth in power.”

That art has been further advanced by the U.S. in the 21st century. Many have pondered why so many are so easily persuaded to vote against their own interest.

The question is not new. In his essay, “The Discourse of Voluntary Servitude of 1576”, Etienne de la Boetie wrote: “Plays, farces, spectacles, gladiators, strange beasts, medals, pictures, and other such opiates, these were for ancient people the bait toward slavery, the price of their liberty, the instruments of tyranny“.

Today, it’s smart phones, celebrities, bogey (N. Korea, Russia . . .), TV series and opioids etc. We should also add: lies.

Trump promised to drain the swamp and that’s exactly the opposite of what he is doing – indeed I don’t even think he can do otherwise.

There is hope though (de la Boetie again): “Resolve to serve no more, and you are at once freed. I do not ask that you place hands upon the tyrant to topple him over, but simply that you support him no longer; then you will behold him, like a great Colossus whose pedestal has been pulled away, fall of his own weight and break in pieces.

Another year is going by so may I wish you a Merry Christmas and Happy and Healthy New one.”

Seeing this, Fred responded:
It reminds me of two direct American corollaries. In the wake of the Andrew Jackson revolution (1828–1836) and his VP Martin Van Buren (1836-1840) and the slight but scary elevation of the common man, conservatives wondered how they would ever again convince the masses to vote against their own interests. In 1840 the Whigs chose their own version of General Andy Jackson: William Henry Harrison also a hero of the Indian Wars and the War of 1812. The Depression of 1837 hurt Van Buren (chanted the Whigs, “Van, Van is a Used up Man”).

Whigs presented the hero of Battle of Tippecanoe as a commoner who lived in a log cabin, a simple guy also advertised as a “hard cider” drinker (the quaff of the common man). In reality he was the son of a wealthy, prominent Virginia Planter and signer of the Declaration of Independence who had bequeathed WHH slaves. His VP, John Tyler, also Virginia-born scion from a leading family, was a States Rights man and conservative dream candidate. “Tippecanoe and Tyler Too” won the popular vote narrowly but took the electoral vote resoundingly, 234-60. Of course, Harrison died a month after taking the oath of office and Tyler served out his term. Later, during the Civil War, Tyler served in the Confederate Congress. This was one of the most successful political frauds in American history and it put two of the American elite in office.

Then there was the incredible 1876 campaign. Post-Civil War Reconstruction continued with US troops still remaining in the South. The Republican U.S. Grant administration, along with its lingering taint of corruption, was leaving office. The GOP ran Rutherford B. Hayes and the Dems, after 26 years out of the White House, responded with Samuel Tilden. Tilden won the popular vote but garnered an electoral vote lead, 184-165, just one vote short of victory. There was a major problem with the 20 remaining electors. Both parties claimed all 20.

Congress, which was charged with authorizing vote authenticity, couldn’t reach agreement. To settle the issue, a supposedly bipartisan commission was appointed—eight GOP members to seven for the Dems. Republicans prevailed (who could have figured) and recognized GOP electors. The House of Reps, in control of Democrats, refused to accept the decision; the Republican Senate found it eminently fair. A behind-the-scenes compromise was reached. The solid Democratic South, with northern Dem acquiescence, agreed to accept Hayes as president and US soldiers in the South were withdrawn. Reconstruction would end and the rights African-Americans put in jeopardy. We all know how that turned out.

from David: To quote an old saw, “The more things change, the more they stay the same.” I think people will support/vote for policies that seem to go against their own self interest for a few reasons. One, they think they are the right thing to do. An example would be progressives such as Bill Gates or Warren Buffet supporting higher taxes on the wealthy. Or peons like me, voting “Yes” in the last school bond election.

Another example would be poor folks supporting policies such as reduction/elimination of the “death tax,” aka, inheritance tax. They know that they aren’t subject to it but in their dreams, when they win the lottery, etc., they don’t want it to affect them.

I also think that a whole lot of people have bought into the idea that “big gummint” is the reason for their ills. It’s easier than looking in a mirror.

Then, of course, are the idiots who just believe the simplistic bullshit coming from the likes of Trump, Joe McCarthy, Huey Long, Joe Soucheray, Juan Peron, etc.

The country’s survived worse ( I think) than the current craziness. Let’s hope for continues resilience.

And TV Host Joe Scarborough, in a column in the Washington Post 12/28/17, passes on a recommendation from Republican strategist Steve Schmidt, here.

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