The dismantling of civility

Perhaps the greatest injury to the body politic in the Trump era has been the decline, no, the dismantling of, simple civility. Eroding civility was the first link in a chain of events that resulted in enabling dismantling of many social norms, especially those governing the actions of a president.

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Matched dueling pistols, necessary equipment for any gentleman of the 18th or 19th century?

I’d always wondered why in the 19th century there was so much formality in our interactions for example, addressing people by titles even if the title was only Mister of Miss or why people seemed to ask for permission when none was needed, By your leave, Sir. Things like that. …


In 1790, at about the inception of the US Constitution, the American lumber industry was centered in Maine, then part of Massachusetts. Overharvesting timber to meet the demands of a growing domestic market as well as a robust international market for ship masts, planking and other naval stores eventually started the industry’s westward migration, first to the Mid-west and ultimately to the Pacific Northwest.

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A lifeboat from the Edmund Fitzgerald.

Packing up and moving west was a staple story, an origin myth, of America long before Horace Greeley advised Civil War veterans in 1865 to “Go West, young man, go West and grow up with the country.” If you were a lumber producer in those days, moving simply meant packing up the movable components of your sawmill and following the setting sun. …


Corporations are recognizing new duties in areas that are not strictly related to their financials. Succeeding in these non-financial pursuits requires the same efforts and the same kind of accountability as in formal finance though.

It is an old truism that continues to be invoked because of its wisdom: you can’t manage what you don’t measure. We need to measure because we need to manage and the number of things we need to manage is only increasing. Where businesses were once content with reporting on financial issues for a long time, a new trend in non-financial reporting is just beginning.

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The Business Roundtable’s declaration of corporate purpose has changed the landscape.

Perhaps the biggest milestone came in 2019 when the Business Roundtable, a group of big company CEOs that tries to guide the imperatives of global business and economics, said that the era of shareholder capitalism was giving way to stakeholder capitalism. Stakeholder seems an odd construction, even somewhat foreign, and the concept of replacing the shareholder at the center of finance and economics seems odder still. …


Moving the needle on our public life need not be a huge exercise

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I got this from Forbes.com via Google Images. Please don’t sue me.

The collective sigh expressed in the streets of many cities when Joe Biden was confirmed as the next president quickly gave way to a new challenge that’s been percolating for a long time — certainly longer than just the last four years. How far apart are Americans in our outlooks and beliefs and of our opinions about the direction of the country? Can we pull it back together? Prognosticators all say, sure, we can do that because we’ve done similar things before.

But the details each time are different and finding common ground this time requires that we avoid looking for cookie-cutter approaches. …


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The data clusters tell us important things.

There’s a serious discussion of the next normal, whatever that is, as we await a corona virus vaccine. The large number of us working from home plus the extended timeframe we’ve been locked in suggests new ruts are already forming. One thing few of us have considered is changing the nature of the weekend, specifically enabling more people to decide which two days off to take during a seven-day week. But there are good reasons to look closely at weekend activities.

There are a lot of moving parts to consider as many people are locked into a traditional Monday through Friday work-routine that importantly includes sending kids to school. But that’s not everybody. As a method for knocking down the Corona virus, it’s worth considering a rolling weekend because there is a sizeable enough cohort of people who could entertain the idea with positive results for society. …


Social media’s strength, its ability to intuit the desires and motives of its users and to connect with them, is also its main weakness. For it to become a mainstay of modern civilization and not a simple toy, vendors need to develop a set of ethical standards.

Public acceptance of a new technology is not automatic. Usually new tech stems from a disruptive innovation and it takes time for the public to become accustomed to it and then trust it. Social media has been through this gantlet though as it morphed from a personal communications medium to become a part of public life and it has attempted to transfer the earlier trust to a different dynamic. …


It is said that the times make a president and there’s anecdotal proof. Good times have yielded mediocrities while some of our gravest crises have summoned giants. The early 21st century has given us both, some lightweights and one who might rank with the second tier of greats. My thesis follows.

Abraham Lincoln stepped onto the world stage like someone from Greek mythology or ordered up from central casting. “Send us a president. A real president. Someone with intelligence and a logical demeanor, and, please, tell him he’ll need to check his ego at the door.”

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Abraham Lincoln, 16th president.

And voila, an excessively tall, self-educated lawyer raised on the frontier seemingly came out of nowhere leapfrogging better known aristocrats. The public broke for Lincoln and he made his way to Washington knowing if he survived (there were death threats) he’d have to deal with saving a Union that was coming apart at the seams. …


Raging fires and extreme temperatures in the West plus rising sea levels impacting the East Coast and Gulf of Mexico and a hyperactive hurricane season in the Atlantic basin are enough to make a sane observer wonder if we’ve tipped over the climate edge.

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Source OregonLive.com

We have, but in a good way. That might seem like so much whistling past the graveyard on a moonless night. But climate now has our attention and we can begin to take action.

Americans have often waited for the worst to happen before mobilizing to combat a mortal threat and this time is no different. …


Back in March I wrote a piece advocating taking antibodies from patients recovering from Covid-19 and giving them to sick patients. The technique has been around in one form or another for over 100 years and the doctor who pioneered the treatment for diphtheria patients, Emil von Behring, won the first Nobel Prize in Medicine for it. At the time it seemed a safe emergency procedure that could be built out to be a real therapy, though not a cure.

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This antiserum was raised in rabbits.

Plasma transfusion is a regular part of blood banking in the modern hospital. I know because I was once a blood banker. Just like any transfusion of blood products, you need to crossmatch donor product and recipient because the plasma also contains naturally occurring antibodies that can reject a transfusion and make a patient very ill or even kill. …


We all know that the world is changing before us, but that’s a given and even a cliché. The big question is how is it changing? We’ve got a pandemic, social unrest, and an economy that looks like it’s being held together with chewing gum and bungee cords. In all of this there is a business world trying to right itself and at least restore some semblance of prosperity to prevent a years-long catastrophe.

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We have many man-made problems that are repairable by ourselves.

It is wrong to say that a rebounding economy is all we need but it would solve a lot of problems; however, the challenges we face are not exclusively of the economic kind. That said, a paycheck can buy groceries, pay the rent and begin the process of building the next normal. The challenge is to avoid being lulled into a false sense of security that reverting to the old normal would be good enough, because it never was. …

About

Denis Pombriant

Researcher, author of multiple books including “The Age of Sustainability” about solutions for climate change. Technology, business, economics.

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