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The power of “AND” once again…

“The fundamental problem that we’ve got in America today – apart from the economics – is that conflict makes good politics. Sharp ideology and all this stuff that’s been very successful politically, but it’s lousy for economic policy making. If you look at the places that are really successful in America today – look at Silicon Valley, look at the computer simulation boom in Orlando and lots of other examples – those places without exception you have cooperation between a vibrant private sector and a smart government. And cooperation is great for the economy, but it doesn’t work as well politically. So we’ve got this big disconnect between politics and economics and until we close it, we’re going to have a hard time coming back.” — Bill Clinton, Meet the Press on Sunday. (Check out this great essay by Lea Marshall on “The Power of And” on our We the Wiki)

Using the words that make you feel good

Thomas Jefferson doorstop

I promised commentary on the post two down on a Wall Street Journal piece about why America might just split up.

First, I have to confess that I give the piece good marks on a couple of points:

    1. It is civil. Forgiving the “King Obama” reference, on the whole, it is serious and thoughtful writing. By being (mostly) civil, it is light years ahead of the standard rant-fest.
    2. It gives due deference to the concept of governance closest to the people being the best governance. So fundamental is this belief to what we have built as Americans, I can’t help but like part of what he says.

But – borrowing from Mr. Shakespeare – “therein lies the rub.” I suspect that this too is what many movement conservatives – a la the tea parties – might find appealing about the secession movement… the surety that they are recapturing the real America, the Founders, the roots.

I too, as a middle-ish Democrat, love the roots. I revere the Founders in ways that defy mere words. But I think that in the political right’s stampede to give the Founders their due, they’re running right over them.

Chief among my concerns is that we have entirely stopped trying to communicate with each other. We’ve replaced this old fashioned concept with a self-stimulatory feedback loop of just how gosh darn right we are.

Last I knew, communication was the art of trying to make your perspective heard. (How quaint.)

Our Founders – if they believed nothing else – believed in the world of ideas, the world of knowledge. They stretched. They had to.

Our long tradition of a capacity to maintain connection despite straining disagreement, I believe, is what America has to offer this broken world of ours. That these 250 years later we’re still a nation speaks to the power of their legacy, the very legacy secessionists are ready to blow up in their determination to honor it?


Photo credit.

“It can’t be about arguing. If you win, you lose.”

Join filmmaker Craig Detweiler and journalist John Marks in “Purple State of Mind: Finding Middle Ground in a Divided Culture” on Tuesday April 21. Details HERE.



Thanks to my conservative friend Lea for finding Duck!Rabbit! (we’ll leave it to your imagination as to how she found such a thing).

Co-author Tom Lichtenheld describes the first incarnation of DuckRabbit – before it was a children’s book – as the most memorable concept from his college career, first introduced by a professor in a lecture on Freud and Zen:

‘…the simultaneous presence of two seemingly contradictory realities in one space challenges our instinct for rational perception. to wit, the “duck rabbit.” ‘

The children they drew the DuckRabbit for thought it was really “coooool.” Perhaps adults might gain from enjoying rather than gnashing teeth about what Lea has dubbed (and I’m smart enough to jump onboard for) “the power of &.”

The DuckRabbit. Now officially the mascot of The Village Square.

Who’s the culprit in the financial meltdown?


“It’s like Murder on the Orient Express. At the end, every single person stuck a knife in the victim.”
Susie Welch, BusinessWeek

“There are 300 million villains here and they are the great American people who went on a shopping spree they couldn’t afford.”
— Conservative commentator George Will

From today’s This Week with George Stephanopoulos

Liz Joyner: The Darwin bicentennial and shades of gray

darwin-large On a recent London holiday (my mini-tribute to Mother England for her role in providing me so fine a vacation experience), my Westminster Abbey tour found me standing directly atop the grave of Charles Darwin right when our quirky bird “London Walks” tour guide first mentioned the notables buried there. It was actually a bit of a shock, seeing his name right at the tips of my tennies.

Quickly moving on to be wowed by the likes of Chaucer, Newton, and Churchill, I didn’t give a whole lot of vacation thought over to Darwin’s place of rest until I rested my own Yankee arse back at my computer sorting through the snaps (still tributing).

Then it finally dawned. (I am a quick study.) Ironic, isn’t it, that the scientist most thoroughly associated with the irreligious occupies such a high place of Christian burial.

As an enthusiastic lover of irony (I’d be a groupie if irony had groupies), I felt it my duty to investigate.

Turns out that most characterize Darwin (who was actually the Chaplain on board the HMS Beagle before being drawn, on the same voyage, to his signature naturalism) as having died an agnostic. He lost a lifelong mooring in his Christian faith not with his famed discoveries but when his daughter Annie died tragically at age ten. That he might has succumbed to doubt seems understandably human in reading his eulogy to Annie:

…the main feature in her disposition which at once rises before me is her buoyant joyousness. Her joyousness and animal spirits radiated from her whole countenance and rendered every movement elastic and full of life and vigor. It was delightful and cheerful to behold her. We have lost the joy of the household, and the solace of our old age.”

Apparently Darwin’s wife remained a woman of deep faith who he, as a consummate family man, was seriously disinclined to want to ever offend.

A memorial sermon on Darwin’s passing was preached in the Abbey on the Sunday following the funeral by the Bishop of Carlisle:

“I think that the interment of the remains of Mr. Darwin in Westminster Abbey is in accordance with the judgment of the wisest of his countrymen; It would have been unfortunate if anything had occurred to give weight and currency to the foolish notion which some have diligently propagated, but for which Mr. Darwin was not responsible, that there is a necessary conflict between a knowledge of Nature and a belief in God.”

Some one hundred and twenty-ish years after his death (and exactly 200 after his birth), we clearly haven’t sorted through that can of worms.

But with this bicentennial blurb, I wish to hereby serve notice that our subconsciously-drawn generalizations about people tend to be pretty half-baked, if baked at all.


Liz Joyner is the Executive Director of the Village Square. You can reach her at liz@tothevillagesquare.org.

Friedman: All Fall Down

Thomas Friedman, from yesterday’s New York Times:

“So many people were in on it: People who had no business buying a home, with nothing down and nothing to pay for two years; people who had no business pushing such mortgages, but made fortunes doing so; people who had no business bundling those loans into securities and selling them to third parties, as if they were AAA bonds, but made fortunes doing so; people who had no business rating those loans as AAA, but made a fortunes doing so; and people who had no business buying those bonds and putting them on their balance sheets so they could earn a little better yield, but made fortunes doing so.”

Can’t they both be right?

An interesting conversation last night between liberal talk show host Rachel Maddow and conservative former Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee relevant to our upcoming January 13 “Faith in the Public Square” Dinner at the Square (they were discussing GOP loyalists currently suggesting that the party needed to move away from the religious right):

MADDOW: Governor I don’t think the argument is that people who are religious shouldn’t be part of the party or shouldn’t even be activists. I think the reaction is in part some of what you’ve articulated about how to explain your values. You got a lot of heat and a lot of controversy for saying that you hope the Constitution could be altered to be more like the Word of God and that the Constitution was more easily alterable than the Word of God and so that’s the one we should want to change. Making an overtly religious argument for how the country should be governed is I think what some of the reaction is against. Not that you shouldn’t have your heartfelt religious beliefs but that you want to make the country more like your theological vision.

HUCKABEE: Well I don’t have any intention that we would force people to pray, or force them to go to church or tithe their income. That’s not a government function. What I do think people want is to know that there is a connection between the economy of our nation and the morality of our nation. Let me give you an example. Why is Wall Street melting down? Is it just because we have some bad decisions? It’s because greed and avarice and unbridled intention to profit at the top without any regard to how it’s going to affect workers at the bottom has driven the market. We really don’t have a market that’s based on investing in products and services. We have people investing in what the products and services may be worth. In other words, they’re really just gambling. Wall Street has become Las Vegas East. But the difference is when you lose in Las Vegas you pay your own debt or you get your own legs broken. On Wall Street you don’t pay your debt, you just ask the taxpayers to stand in line and bail you out with a big ole tax burden that’s gonna be passed onto your grandkids. I think this is what makes Americans crazy. It has nothing to do with faith, but people of faith ought to still be responsible and they ought to show that they have issues that they care about but they ought to deal with them in a way that doesn’t threaten people and make them feel they’re going to have to join somebody’s church in order to be affected by the positive outcomes.

MADDOW: See I think where we end up on common ground if we both agree that nobody should be that greedy but that government ought to stop people who are that greedy from getting their way.

You might want to look at this post in assessing their points.

The “Power of &” goes economic

Are you like me and horribly confused by just how we got to this economic precipice? Have you noticed two distinctly different versions of the story from each political campaign? Well, as usual, the operating principle – when seeking truth – is to find the AND rather than the EITHER/OR. Thanks to Fact Check.org and Time Magazine for this exercise in AND.

So, who’s responsible, using the “Power of &”?

The Federal Reserve, which slashed interest rates after the dot-com bubble burst, making credit cheap.

Home buyers, who took advantage of easy credit to bid up the prices of homes excessively.

Congress, which continues to support a mortgage tax deduction that gives consumers a tax incentive to buy more expensive houses.

Real estate agents, most of whom work for the sellers rather than the buyers and who earned higher commissions from selling more expensive homes.

The Clinton administration, which pushed for less stringent credit and downpayment requirements for working- and middle-class families.

Mortgage brokers, who offered less-credit-worthy home buyers subprime, adjustable rate loans with low initial payments, but exploding interest rates.

Former Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan, who in 2004, near the peak of the housing bubble, encouraged Americans to take out adjustable rate mortgages.

Wall Street firms, who paid too little attention to the quality of the risky loans that they bundled into Mortgage Backed Securities (MBS), and issued bonds using those securities as collateral.

The Bush administration, which failed to provide needed government oversight of the increasingly dicey mortgage-backed securities market.

An obscure accounting rule called mark-to-market, which can have the paradoxical result of making assets be worth less on paper than they are in reality during times of panic.

Collective delusion, or a belief on the part of all parties that home prices would keep rising forever, no matter how high or how fast they had already gone up.