Dean Clough

September 17, 2021

Portico Darwin: Nattering Nabob of Negativity?

(For my many younger readers:  today's title is a quote from Spiro Agnew, who was Richard Nixon's vice president.  Until he resigned in disgrace over . . . corruption.  Read on to see why I chose that for today's post title.)

As part of his big push to get me to open up a proper reader's forum for this newsletter (done!), the young genius Raymond Michaels alluded to the negativity he sees as a nearly permanent feature of this newsletter.  I believe this literal lifesaver's words were:
". . . a little more cool $HIT and less negativity, please???" 

Fair enough and you have no idea how much I appreciate this kind of feedback.   

And Raymond's right.  I am very aware of the potential for this newsletter to devolve into a morass of the whines, moans, and complaints of an old white man.  And a lucky and privileged one at that. 

So I actively try to strike some kind of informal balance, between the ugly reality of real life and the fun of my actual life.  Raymond perhaps missed my childhood car post, my scathing expose on the plethora of hotel brands, or my endless brags on travel?

In all seriousness:  I wonder if this is just a typical generational thing, or if now a surly attitude isn't justified, at any age?  Here's why I fear it's the latter, at least to this Gran Torino fan.  This time it's worse and I just don't know how we get out of the mess we're in. 

Because I don't remember ever seeing this much disfunction in 40+ years of paying attention.  But for a change, I will propose a magic-wand solution for each malady I list, with some real doozies at the end.

America is famously corrupt.  In fact, some day I will present my argument for how, when the downstream impacts are considered, we are the most corrupt of any nation on Earth, bar none.  But that's for another time.

For now, I lead with corruption because the corporate and special interest money taps have, with the disastrous Citizens United decision in 2010, been permanently turned on.  And that stops our government from doing much of anything for anyone except those with access, which is bought.  Here's a case in point.

Portico Darwin to The Rescue:  federally funded federal election campaigns. 

One-Party System
One party has ceased to exist, in terms of presenting alternative, rational ideas for what ails us as a nation.  If you are a proud Republican that is still a believer, please share with me the 5 major national policy ideas for which the party now stands.  Lower taxes?  Less regulation?  More guns?  More religion?  A big, strong military? 

How's that all working out?  But the Democrats certainly, absolutely don't have all of the answers.  I want market- and libertarian-based rational proposals for our problems from thoughtful conservatives and Republicans.  But where are they?

Portico Darwin to The Rescue:  Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger as the Republican Pres/VP ticket in 2024; intensive shock treatment for people like Ted Cruz, Mitch McConnell, Josh Hawley, Marjorie Taylor Greene and anyone else that refuses to stand in front of the cameras and say "I may disagree with him.  But Joe Biden is our president, and he won the 2020 election fair and square.  Further, I disavow Donald Tr*** as the leader of the Republican party."

The Credit Card
We can't keep loading up future generations with norm-shattering levels of debt.  We can't cut taxes any longer, in fact, they must go up.  Quantitative Easing?  Let's call it what it is:  printing money for those with connections.  We can't just keep spending, reserve currency or not.  We can't flush anywhere near as much money on defense.  While I don't advocate a balanced budget amendment per se, something's gotta give. 

Portico Darwin to The Rescue:  been there, done that.

Democracy, Shmocracy
Once more:  there has never - ever -  been credible evidence presented in a court of law or anywhere else that any election in this country was ever been materially impacted by voter fraud.  The end.

But now, some (OK, quite a few truly dangerous Republicans) see a stolen election whenever their guy or gal doesn't win.  No matter how free and fair the underlying election.  A Republican wins, fine.  A Democrat wins?  The election was stolen.  They just played that dangerous game again here after Newsom blew it out in Tuesday's stupid gubernatorial recall election.   

(Fun fact:  Tr*** won a LARGER percentage of the vote in Republican states that allow mail-in balloting, than those that do not.)

And the attempt to overthrow the government on 1/6/21?  Nothing to see here - move along.

Portico Darwin to The Rescue:  immediate enactment into law of HR 1 and a no-holds-barred inquiry into 1/6.  I also like "Polly's" idea that your name can't appear on a ballot unless you sign a declaration agreeing to accept the outcome of the election in which you're participating.

Facts On Life Support
You are entitled to your own opinion, not your own facts.  See my Flat Earth post, linked below.  Some things that some argue about prove only how malinformed (not a word but it should be) they are.

Portico Darwin to The Rescue:  been there, done that.

20 Years Gone
I fear Bin Laden and his pals kind of won.  Consider America before and after 9/11.  Our unity as a nation was (maybe permanently) wrecked by the response chosen by Bush, and the subsequent failures of Obama and Trump to do any better or get us out.  And with trillions spent and every asset in our arsenal at his disposal, Biden still couldn't lose gracefully for us in Afghanistan.

Portico Darwin to The Rescue:  weekly double features for the Joint Chiefs of Staff of "Fog of War" and this recent, devastating Frontline documentary (thanks, Arthur!).  Make them watch them both each and every week until it sinks in that American hard power is rarely the answer.  Also, re-institute the draft.

The Climate Crisis
Best for last!  Completely existential!  Worse than we ever thought!  Evidence all around us!  Science is fun!

But we can't agree on mask wearing and the value of vaccines, yet, all together, we're gonna put our shoulder to the wheel and tackle the biggest problem yet faced by mankind?

Portico Darwin to The Rescue:  the answer is so simple, and below.

The Bright Side
In the interest of becoming a Pleading Patron of Positivity, much of my gloom could end with just a few really easy things, apart from my magic wand solutions above:

  • We solve the energy storage problem, i.e., batteries
  • We make desalination a national priority
  • We rebalance wealth and bring things back to historical norms
  • We make it fair for everybody and dump the identity politics
  • We remember we're a community and not just an economy

Simple!  Sunshine, rainbows, daisies, and unicorns for everyone!


Your opinion counts!  Sometimes!  Be sure to share your thoughts on who and what should be nominated in this year's annual Portico Darwin Awards.

Next, I want to sincerely thank Raymond Michaels for his friendship and great input recently.  I am leaving out the great question he asked me, and his own thoughtful response, in the hope he'll use the new Forum.  After all, he was instrumental in its creation.

But I will share his en fuego take on his jet-setting mother's gratuitous begging regarding the National Park contest:

"Nice.  Good shutdown on 'Polly' and Primo.  'Community and brotherhood of national parks'?  'International cooperation'??  I'm nauseous."

I couldn't have said it better.  

Steven Simon, in a reaction to something in America that sure could use a Nudge - that being the adoption of traffic roundabouts - could not be more spot-on:

"I know you're a 'Freakonomics' fan, so I just wanted to make sure you have listened to this episode about Roundabouts.  I heard it in the car the other day and didn't get to listen to the whole thing. 

But what had me shaking my head in disbelief of how lazy we are as a society (I mean we need foam spewing from the soap dispenser now because we're too fucking lazy to rub our hands together) is this: Roundabouts win on every measure they tested (cost, safety, environment, etc.).  However, a roundabout requires you to make a decision (go or wait).  It's a bit tricky at first, but people get used to it.  

(But) we won't adopt them here because we need a light to make the decision for us. Funny how we all like to say that we 'think for ourselves'.

In my business, it's well known that a 'dollars off' offer ($10 Off) beats a 'percent off' offer (25% Off), assuming the value is roughly equal.  The reason is simply that people don't want to have to think (i.e., do the math)."

Cheers to that, Mr. Simon!  And there's a new roundabout in The Presidio!


Thank you to any one that is reading this blog newsletter.

I do, really truly, wish I could fly like Superman and then make all of America's ills go away.  Here, on an album considered a benchmark in high resolution, are the underappreciated Kinks and the Killer live album "One For The Road".

(Fun fact:  during my first semester in college, I saw The Kinks at the Lakeland Civic Center outside Orlando on October 16, 1981.  Really great show.)

(Fun fact #2:  17 years later, while working in London in 1998, I was having lunch with some colleagues at a pub near my office.  The pub was itself across from a big British network TV studio.  Fresh from an interview, out walks Ray Davies, who to this writer has almost the musical stature of a Mick Jagger or a Steven Tyler.  So I start pointing and yelping and generally carrying on as Davies got into the back of his chauffeured saloon and sped off.  Yet, one of my British work pals, who was in his mid 20's at the time, said to everyone, "Who is Ray Davies?")


About Dean Clough

Plans To Enjoy Life.