The Attack on Nancy Pelosi’s Husband

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There were many expressions of outrage at the attack, the assailant using a hammer that Mr Pelosi, 82, was able to fend off until he was overwhelmed by the younger man and suffered serious injuries from the blows, including a skull fracture. Mr Pelosi was very clever when, upon encountering the intruder who was searching for his wife, Nancy, said he needed to go to the bathroom where his phone was charging. From there he called 911.
If the police had not been so prompt in responding, Mr Pelosi would probably have been killed. Nancy Pelosi, speaker of the House of Representatives, was not at home. Otherwise, she would have been dead.
Some of the condemnations of the attack called for a ‘lowering of the temperature’ in our heated political exchanges.
I am in full agreement but would like to suggest a more urgent language be used. Managing our emotions.
So who should ask us to do this and keep it on the forefront of our psyches?
Those with access to the media.
Since the goal is to rein in uncontrolled rage at political figures, it falls to our leaders of Right and Left to take the initiative.
Every speech by a political leader should now be calling for restraint in expressing our political views. But they won’t. They figure that keeping the emotions raw will be to their advantage.
Sadly, these ‘leaders’ probably can’t manage their own emotions.
It’s not easy to learn how to do it. It calls for a strong dose of self awareness which comes from introspection and compassion.
Lamentably, today, you don’t need these attributes to rise politically. Some of our current leaders have become prominent precisely because they stir lots of rage in their followers. They perceive, accurately, that rage gives some people a sense of competence they may never have had. That sense of competence can’t last because it’s not rooted on substance but the point is to get it to last long enough to get them to the ballot box.
Never mind the ones that get unhinged by the rage, like the assailant of Mr Pelosi.
For a moment, holding that hammer, gave the man a sense that he was worth something.
Holding the hammer and striking the blows took him to a higher level or so he thought. He was doing something for his life. Finally. And he would be a hero to all those who might have felt like doing the same but were aware enough to curb their emotions.
It is not too much to ask from our present political leaders to call for restraint in their followers and do so at every turn.
But the money is not there. The money is in stirring up discontent to get more followers.
The money is in giving them the illusion that they are stronger because they scream louder, indulging their hatred rather than examining it.
As a nation we won’t go far if we keep this up, which is a grave concern because the world is changing at a rapid pace and this is a time to be very sober and smart about our choices.
In the war now raging in Ukraine, Putin keeps massacring people. He, too, is a man with little depth as a human being but clever enough to know how to manipulate others.
Beware of being manipulated. Beware who stirs your rage.
By the way, has Trump condemned the attack on Pelosi? If not, why not?

Yes, America, We Must Talk!

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We have to. It is a matter of survival.

We are being pressured and challenged by Russia on one side, by China on the other.

They are both betting that we can’t pull together.

They are both convinced we’re in decline, that we have forgotten to compromise, that animosities will keep us apart and we won’t be able to build bridges.

We have scientists. We have builders. We have artists. We have technology. We have drive. We have natural resources. We have good people.

And yet, we have fallen on hard times because we have stopped talking. And when that happens then the hope for compromise fades.

The majority of the nation agrees that democracy is worth defending and affirming.

And at the heart of democracy lies the need to give and take. So, yes, the pace of change is slower when we compromise but the prize is freedom. Justice. Equality of opportunity.

Extremes are toxic. We have to avoid them.

The next time you come across someone with a different viewpoint, do not shirk from expressing your own. Fear not their anger. Express your view.

And if you find the opposing view absurd or outlandish remind yourself that most issues are complex, and that varying circumstances have shaped our views, and that it is absolutely essential that, regardless of how irritated we may be with the opposing view, we must retain our calm and composure and so avoid that our anger leads us to judging the person.

Let us keep our minds open.

China and Russia both have powers that can harm us. They are both dictatorships that severely restrict freedom of speech. If a person living there challenges the system they end up in jail or eliminated.

Their leaders fear freedom of speech for it can spread to others and endanger their hold on power. Xi Jinping has been president since 2013 and has arranged to change the rules so he can stay in command. He even arranged for their legislative body to designate him ‘Historical Figure,’ like Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping before him.

And so with Putin, who’s been in control of Russia since 1999 and has intimidated his nation to extend his term til 2036.

There are reasons why we have term limits for President in America. It prevents corruption. It allows for other views to emerge and be considered.

Today, Russia is threatening to invade the Ukraine. Is Ukraine a threat to Russia? No. But Putin fears that if Ukraine veers toward freedom, then other countries under his thumb will also try to better themselves.

China has squashed democracy in Hong Kong. They can’t stand the fact that Taiwan, after much struggle, has become a free nation. So they aim to invade it and bring it under their control.

We, in America, have freedom. Talking to each other, making the effort, is essential to keeping it. Anyone who refuses to reach out to others is toxic to our system.

Freedom is based on dialogue, compromise and bridge building. And all of us, every one of us, needs to do their part to preserve it.

Oscar Valdes    oscarvaldes.net.  also on anchor.fm, apple, google podcasts and buzzsprout

The Urgent Need for Civil Discourse.

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A few days ago, Mr Gosar, a Republican representative from Arizona, tweeted an anime video of himself ‘attacking a character with the face of Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and swinging a sword at a character with President Biden’s face,’ as reported by the WSJ.

This last Wednesday, the democratic majority in congress voted to censure Mr Gosar and remove him from his two committee assignments.

In his defense, Mr Gosar stated that the video ‘was not intended to depict any harm or violence against anyone portrayed in the anime. The video is truly a symbolic portrayal of a fight over immigration policy.’

The WSJ goes on to say that the congressman deserved ridicule more than censure, since the   video was ‘a stupid cartoon, not an actual incitement to violence,’ and that censure ‘should be reserved for serious offenses.’

This is minimizing the transgression and shows to what extent the quality of the political dialogue in our nation has deteriorated. The Journal, along with the entirety of our national media, have played a role in the lowering of standards.

Just where do we think this is going to end if we don’t halt this civic decline? Punching each other out? Is that where we want to go? Does any one side really believe they can out shout the other?

The better integrated people on either side, will eventually sense the limits of aggressive discourse, but the less integrated will not, and it is these people who will end up inflicting physical harm on others. It would be easy then to blame them for not knowing their limits but that won’t do. It should not absolve us from our role in egging them on.

The unrestrained media bashing of each other has consequences. Words and pictures harm. They injure, and those injuries leave scars.

There are many people in our nation who lack the capacity to process psychological discomfort or pain and, feeling threatened, will believe they must lash out at perceived injustices. These same people look to others, who are better integrated, to find guidance. And that is a responsibility that the educated must not shirk.

It is a fundamental responsibility in a free society. And more so in a free society that as of now, has not dealt fairly with the problems of inequality, racism and immigration.

To remain free requires a continued effort to educate, to develop our intellects and emotional temperance, and so better judge the impact of our words and actions.

At a time when our system is being challenged by China, it is of the greatest importance that we adhere to high standards in how we treat others. Or else we will waste precious time needed to renew ourselves and grow stronger as a nation.

This should be a land where everyone has a chance to be the best they can be. We are not there yet. And if we want to lead the world that is where we must go. Or else we will end up being led by others.

Mr Gosar needs to apologize to both Alexandria Ocasio Cortez and to Mr Biden. He needs to do so publicly. He does not need to agree on anything with either person and he could state so. But the issuing of an apology for his video will be a mark of maturity, of decency, and of taking responsibility for the potential harm that words and graphics may lead to.

Oscar Valdes.     Oscarvaldes.net. Also available in anchor.fm, apple podcasts and buzzsprout.

What’s Holding us Back?

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Not passing the budget has become an onerous drag on the economic recovery, lowering projections of GDP for this and the next year.

The perception of legislative gridlock in Capitol Hill is unwelcome news, coming as it does right after a period of severely dysfunctional government under Mr Trump.

For most of us, the expectation from the new administration was that we would be looking at government proposing meaningful legislation that could pass, and that even in the face of fierce opposition, there would be dialogue with the minority party.

But we do not have that.

What we’re getting, instead, is political polarization that is here to stay.

We cannot put that only on republicans, because in the democratic party itself, divisions have grown more and more bitter, as if this moment were missed then legislation proposed would never, ever, get another chance.

It that is the case, then legislation of that type should not pass.

The fact that 50 republican senators are consistently opposing democratic initiatives has to be telling us something, for those legislators represent just under half of the nation and we need most people aboard our ship to move ahead.

Mind you, not all those republicans are princes for many remain beholden to Trumpism, but even then, for democrats to not reach out and find compromise is missing out on a great opportunity to show that polarization can be overcome and must.

And just maybe some republicans have good points.

Why should community college be free for those who have the means to pay for it? Because they do it in Europe? Well, we are not Europeans and their productivity is not on a par with ours, even with all our flaws.

Why should the child tax credit be extended to families who can pay?

Why should child care be extended to those who can afford it?

Generous benefits to workers during the pandemic made a difference for our economic recovery but continuing them may well be keeping people from returning to work.

The debt ceiling needs to be lifted and republicans have been obstructionistic on that count but limits are necessary. We can’t spend without restraint.

There is much necessary spending that has been neglected – to renew our infrastructure and support our scientific research and development and so bolster innovation.

And taxes – always a divisive issue – need to be made fairer, as in not permitting the super wealthy to channel their earnings through corporations instead of having it taxed as personal income, or fund managers getting taxed at the lower rate of capital gains.  

But not all of it has to be done this moment. It can be phased in.

Pulling out of Afghanistan was a huge step and I remain supportive of that action.

That president Biden’s polls are down have more to do with gridlock in Capitol Hill than with Afghanistan. More to do with his reluctance to confront the progressive wing of the party and moderate their demands.

Inflation is predicted to be manageable and maybe it will be, but it could prove tougher to deal with, particularly with people not returning to work.

The lingering pandemic, now finally easing thanks to science, remains an obstacle to our economic recovery but so is wavering leadership.

Gradualism and compromise have been crucial factors in our history. We are always better off when we let the other side feel part of our forward movement.

Keep gridlock up and democrats will lose both chambers next year.

Oscar Valdes      Oscarvaldes.net

Guns and Abortion. Deep in Texas

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They’re sitting at a bench in a park. Pete and Joe, old friends who hadn’t seen each other in a while and met up at a nearby store.

Pete – I don’t get it.

Joe  – What’s that?

Pete – You are a staunch supporter of the right to bear arms, to be able to carry without a permit.

Joe – Got that right. Mark of my freedom. There isn’t a dark alley I can’t go into. There’s no man stronger than me. No man taller than me. No man meaner than me. So long as I have my gun at my side.

Pete – The equalizer?

Joe – That’s it.

Pete – Of course, I know you, Joe, and you wouldn’t hurt a fly.

Joe – Unless it decided to mess with me.

Pete – Right.

Joe – Freedom, Pete, that’s what it’s all about.

Pete – But Joe, I feel free and yet, I don’t feel the need to have a gun with me at all times. I mean, I keep one at home, just in case some nut wants to break in for whatever reason.

Joe – You ever fired it?

Pete – I haven’t.

Joe – You’d better practice or you’re liable to hurt yourself instead when the time comes to use it.

Pete – You’re right. I keep putting it off. But back to the main question. I don’t feel the need to have a gun when I’m out and about… not like you do.

Joe – Well, you and me are different. I like to cover every possibility.

Pete – Aren’t you being paranoid when you insist on always being armed?

Joe – I’ve thought about that. And maybe I am… a little… but stuff happens when you least expect it and that’s no paranoia. It’s the freedom, Pete, that’s what it’s all about. Freedom. Personal boundaries. No one bothers me. You should try it sometime. Clears your mind.

Pete – I’d be worried I’d overreact.

Joe – I don’t overreact. How do I know the other guy is not carrying too?

Pete – You have a lot of control.

Joe – Gun at my side reminds me of it.

Pete – Not carrying a gun reminds me to think of alternatives. Are there men, or women, meaner than me, stronger than me? Yes. And so be it. Every person, man or woman, has their power. I have mine.

Joe – You say it to yourself every day?

Pete – I do. I say it to myself all the time. And it helps me be more tolerant of others. More compassionate. And more careful.

Joe – I can do the exact same thing and still have the gun for insurance. Just in case the mental exercise doesn’t work. You said it before. Guns are the equalizer. I’m the master of my life.

Pete – I know you and I know you as a man of restraint. But not everyone with the right to carry a weapon is.

Joe – That’s true.

Pete – What about those who take advantage of the right to carry a gun and then go on to kill innocent people?

Joe – Messed up. Really messed up. But there are other ways to keep people from doing that.

Pete – There are, but it takes time and effort to spot and work with them and it’s so much easier to buy a gun and shoot away.

Joe – Pete… I understand it’s not fair… all those shootings… in fact it’s pretty messed up… but that’s not enough to justify depriving the rest of us law abiding citizens of the privilege to carry.

Pete – The cost in lives is huge. How many people died in Vegas in 2017?

Joe – Nearly 60 and over 500 injured. It pained me deeply to see that happen.

Pete – Freedom has a price?

Joe – Yes.

Pete – Did you ask yourself where was god in Vegas?

Joe shakes his head slowly as he looks down at the ground.

Joe – It could be… that my children will grow up not to think the same way I do. I mean, they will go to college in other states where the laws are different… but there’ll always be Texas. And if you don’t want to carry you don’t have to, but it’s there if you do. I don’t have the answer. I don’t think we should be selling guns to people we know will be using them to coerce or kill others. It’s messed up. I’m against that. Free enterprise ought to have some limits.

They look at each other.

Pete – You believe in abortion?

Joe – No. It’s not right to take a life God created.

Pete – But it’s not god creating the life, it’s a man and a woman coming together.

Joe – If they came together and she conceived it’s because God wanted it.

Pete – Didn’t you say a little while ago that you were the master of your life, that having a gun gave you that feeling?

Joe – Yes, I did.

Pete – Where does god come into it? Well, it’s the same with a woman. If she has sex with a man of her own free will, then she’s opening up the possibility of creating a life. She is. Not god.

Joe – But once you create it, that’s it. It should stay that way.

Pete – Wait up. When you carry a weapon, you’re giving yourself the right to end a life that threatens yours. You are acting as the master of your life. Why doesn’t that apply to a woman?
Maybe she just changed her mind, or didn’t intend to get pregnant and an accident happened. She has her right over the life creating capacities of her body, just like you have the right to put a stop to anything that threatens your life. No different.

Joe – Hmm.

Pete – You will fight for the right to deter or end the life of anyone threatening yours, but you don’t allow women the same choice.

Joe – How’s pregnancy threatening a woman’s life?

Pete – It’s a life altering condition for a woman. Significantly so. Anything can happen. To their health or the baby can be deformed.

Joe -They can always give the baby away.

Pete – Don’t think that’s easy to do. But we should ask a woman. I find it difficult to comprehend that people can be so insistent on depriving others of the right to their bodies. And that those same people may be ardent believers in the right to bear weapons, which means the right to fire them and to injure or kill others. Those who oppose abortion are saying that women don’t have the right to enjoy the fullest of freedoms, the right to own their bodies, which you so proudly assert when you insist on the right to bear arms.

They are silent for a moment

Joe – Women can bear arms, too…

Pete – Yes… but can’t fire them to stop a law that forbids abortions.

They turn to look at each other.

Joe (cracking a smile) – There’s work to do.

They laugh.

Pete – Now, there are politicians… and other leaders… who will stir up feelings just to get elected… and do the least possible to make us think.

Joe – I can think of a few. I even fell for it, once or twice. Not proud of it, either.

Pete – But you’re willing to reflect, Joe… imagine all those who don’t bother. And if their numbers add up enough, they get to rule us.

Joe – It’s happened.

Joe takes off his hat. Holds it in his hands, looks at it.

Joe – How’s the wife?

Pete – We’re separated right now.

Joe – What?

Pete – Been together 25 years… only man she’s ever known. She’s a good woman. We love each other. But the kids are all grown and on their own… and she said she wanted to try something different.

Joe – I’m sorry, man. But that’s freedom for you.

Pete – Twenty five years is a long time…

Joe – The world is vast… and worth exploring.

Pete – Very true.

Joe – When did this happen?

Pete – 6 months ago.

Joe – You miss her?

Pete – Yes. I figure we get to learn how deep we went into each other.

Joe nods, puts his hat back on as he looks off.

Joe – It can happen to any of us. Hope she finds what she’s looking for. You ever need me, just give a holler.

Pete – Thanks.

Oscar Valdes.      Oscarvaldes.net

Chairman Xi Speaks to a Group of University Students

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It is a fair sized room in the university’s theatre – and it is packed with 500 elite students.

Xi begins. ‘If you have any doubts that we will defeat America, consider this: how many people have died from the coronavirus in China?’

Pause.

‘A little over 96 thousand. That is a lot, but we will do better next time if there is a next time. I say if, because we’re already working on preventing the spread of any other viral disease the moment it arrives.

Applause.

‘How many people have died in America because of the coronavirus?’

Silence.

‘Over 706 thousand… and counting’.

Gasp from the audience.

‘Which shows the ineptitude of that system. Put simply, the government in America lacks the capacity to persuade its citizens to do what needs to be done. And just what do some Americans say when they object to getting vaccinated?

“Oh, I have a right to my beliefs…”

Laughter from the audience.

“I have my principles…”

More laughter.

‘But no, you don’t – continues the chairman – because your not getting vaccinated puts a burden on all other citizens and the entire system, and if you become infected then you may transmit the virus to them. Plus the additional health costs that could be prevented.

Here in China we say No. No to anyone claiming the so called privilege of infecting anyone else.

So there it is. We, Chinese, believe strongly in the power of the collective, in the power of caring and respecting each other.

To do that we must surrender some of our individuality – not all – but most of it in the interest of the greater good.

While in America people are seen in the streets of every city lying on the sidewalk begging, hungry and ill, or abusing themselves with drugs as well dressed and well fed passersby don’t even glance at them, here in China we pick them up and give them shelter and medical care. And if they answer that it’s their right to lie there and kill themselves, we say no.’

Applause.

‘In the state of Texas in America, a very rich state, people over 21 years old now have the right to buy and carry a gun, concealed if they wish, no permit necessary, and go around all day doing so. And the thing is, they are very proud of that so called right. But I ask you, what is the purpose of it? To say to others “don’t look at me the wrong way because I may have a gun?”

Laughter.

‘I think people from Texas that do that must have very fragile egos…’

Laughter and applause.

‘… and are paranoid.’

More applause.

‘By the way, that state voted heavily for Donald Trump… one of their own.’

Laughter and applause.

‘And after Trump’s defeat, they complained loudly that the election was fraudulent.’

Silence.

‘In no developed country in the world is there such high number of mass killings as in America, people who are unhappy with their lives for one reason or another, deciding to buy a gun or machine gun or a cannon to fire on innocent people. And they can do it because all those weapons are for sale. Everything is for sale in America. Everything. There is no morality in America. Except for the one the dollar buys. Because if you make a lot of money, then you have arrived. Then you are a saint or a god. Never mind who you trampled on.

Silence.

Xi looks around the room. ‘There are a lot of women students here. But if you were in Texas, you would not have the right to have an abortion. That’s right. You would have to go to another state to have it done. So the same state that insists on the right to carry a gun to defend themselves from who knows what, denies women the right to their bodies.’

Boos from the audience.

‘There was an article in the American press the other day about judges who did not recuse themselves when hearing cases between parties when they had a financial interest in one of them. In most cases where they had a financial interest, they made a decision that favored their side. So corruption is everywhere, even in the courts.’

Boos from the audience.

‘So why do I say all of this? I do so to remind you that we are better than Americans.

That we will defeat them when the time comes. We are fighting that good fight as we speak. Their military and technology are presently better than ours, but we will soon surpass them. We will surpass them in science and technology and social organization, and we will because their individualism will keep them from organizing effectively.

We will defeat them while they play Tik Tok.’

Laughter

‘We will defeat them because they do not wish to learn to speak to each other.

If they did, then they would be harder to beat because they are a strong people. But we in the Communist Party believe Americans will fail to unite, and that alone will give us the power to surpass and conquer them.’

Standing applause.

‘Thank you. Thank you very much. Let us not take time for a few questions,’ continues Xi.

Student – Chairman, we here in China, have surrendered some of our personal freedom in the interest of the nation. In matters political we have to defer to the party at all times. How long is that to last?’

Xi – Good question. We must first dominate America. We must first be the uncontested leader of the world.

Other Student – Chairman, do you think we will need to go to war with America?

Xi – No. We will beat America with our markets, with our creativity and daring, with our superior intelligence, while they play video games. I am confident that America will implode from within. The Right and Left will not learn to speak to one another and slowly crumble as they kill each other.

Another Student – Chairman, how long do you think that will take?

Xi – 20 years. Maybe less. Our weapons to victory are our economic and scientific might. Though we keep strengthening our army and developing nuclear weapons to act as deterrent, our victory will be economic and scientific. Consider this, we have been able to send spacecraft to the other side of the moon entirely on our own. We were the first to do so.

America rejected our request to be part of the international space station, and yet, there we are in space. And we will keep building. And we will build a space station that will be the envy of the world.

Applause.

Xi – There is no need to hate America. They have helped us get started. So we are grateful for that, but we must rise to our rightful place as the most capable people on earth.

Here I add a historical note. If the Germans during WWII had not targeted the Jews, if they had left them alone and instead made them their own, they would have conquered all of Europe, and the United States would not have prospered from European markets as they did and a different balance of power would now exist.

If the Japanese would have done business with us instead of trying to slaughter and rape us all, then it would not have ignited in us the rage to fight back and Mao may not have had the strength to form the Communist Party.

So we must avoid the hate of others as a motivator, and instead let our markets conquer the world.

Another student – Chairman, which do you think will be better to negotiate with in America, a Democratic or Republican administration?

Xi – Democratic. Republicans are too elitist. And they still think of Ronald Reagan as the Second Coming.

Laughter.

Xi – The best president they have ever had was Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who guided them during the depression and WWII and started much needed social programs.

Other student – Chairman, what about President Biden?

Xi – We’re still trying to figure him out.

Other Student – Chairman, you really think we are destined to rule the world?

Xi – Yes. And do so by example, not by force.

Student – Chairman, president Biden is saying the same thing to Americans, ‘Let us rule by the power of our example and not the example of our power.’

Xi – Yes, but to do that you must be able to speak to each other, and Republicans and Democrats are unable to do so and they will sink their nation. Which will help China rise faster.

So be patient and work hard. This is our time. This is China’s time.

All the students stand and give Chairman Xi a standing ovation.

All Students – in unison – Long Live China! Long Live Chairman Xi!’

Oscar Valdes       oscarvaldes.net