Eisenhower v. Trump & Biden

To understand how far the modern Republican Party has fallen, please read this famous speech by President Dwight Eisenhower. Ike’s thoughtful reflection is a breathtaking contrast with the bombastic idiocy of the most recent Republican to live in the White House. (Eisenhower would likely take Joe Biden to task, too, for the current president’s strike in the Middle East, and for the escalation of violence in a region already suffering from reckless, costly, and inhumane militarism.) For context, compare this short excerpt with anything you’ve heard said by Donald Trump:

“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone.

“It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children.”

Dwight D. Eisenhower, The Chance for Peace

Eisenhower was a general who understood the need for diplomacy, and he was the last great Republican president. The steady decline in that party began with Richard Nixon and reached its nadir under the regime of Donald Trump.

The link to Eisenhower’s speech came to me via Jason Kottke

Posted 9 January 2024 by Mark ·

Legacy Tech

As I was walking to the hardware store this morning I passed this telephone wiring interface box. It dawned on me that there must be thousands of miles of mostly unused copper wires buried in sidewalks and hanging on utility poles in this country. It’s a pretty safe bet that most people are engaged in the transition from wired land-line phones to mobile technology. The last time we had an actual landline phone was about 15 years ago, and even then our phone came in as VOIP technology via our coaxial cable internet service.

Our local cable company discontinued traditional cable television service as of the first of the year. Ashland owns a municipal fiber network and the company that operates the network has announced that they will be transitioning from a fiber/cable hybrid system to a fiber-to-the-home service over the next couple of years. (It may be too little too late if the latest 5G and faster wireless technology continues to advance to sufficient bandwidth levels to support home internet.)

It’s pretty amazing to look back over my life and recognize the advancement in technology since the days when I was in high school. My first introduction to a computer was when students in my typing class were given a few minutes to load punch cards we had manually punched into a terminal in the closet of our classroom that connected with a computer at Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory by a 300 baud modem (we dialed a telephone number of the remote computer and then dropped the handset into a special cradle in the modem). The punch cards ran a program that returned codes that printed a bunch of Xs on a tractor feed printer, producing a poster sized image of Snoopy.

Posted 5 January 2024 by Mark ·

Look to 1948

The handwringing about early polls showing that Americans may give Donald Trump a second chance because they are underwhelmed by the outcome of Joe Biden’s first term has a parallel in the mid 20th century. Nate Cohn reflects in his NYTimes newsletter on the similarities between perceptions of Joe Biden and Harry S. Truman at the ends of their respective first terms in the White House. Like Biden, Truman was dealing with low unemployment and high inflation, and Americans were not enthusiastic about their president.

The source of postwar inflation was fundamentally similar to post-pandemic inflation. The end of wartime rationing unleashed years of pent-up consumer demand in an economy that hadn’t fully transitioned back to producing butter instead of guns. A year after the war, wartime price controls ended and inflation skyrocketed. A great housing crisis gripped the nation’s cities as millions of troops returned from overseas after 15 years of limited housing construction. Labor unrest roiled the nation and exacerbated production shortages. The most severe inflation of the last 100 years wasn’t in the 1970s, but in 1947, reaching around 20 percent.

Mr. Truman’s popularity collapsed. By spring in 1948, an election year, his approval rating had fallen to 36 percent, down from over 90 percent at the end of World War II. He fell behind the Republican Thomas Dewey in the early head-to-head polling. He was seen as in over his head. The New Republic ran a front-page editorial titled: “As a candidate for president, Harry Truman should quit.”

Democrats calling on Biden to quit would do well to read all of Cohn’s article. And, of course, Truman went on to beat Thomas Dewey, though famously, not as everyone expected.

Posted 4 January 2024 by Mark ·