Changing The World

Cover of

Cover of The Elements of Style, Fourth Edition

The Joplin Globe editorial page always has a quote of some kind and today’s, which is from one of my heroes, struck me as particularly descriptive of . . . me.

I get up every morning determined to both change the world and have one hell of a good time.  Sometimes this makes planning my day difficult.  — E.B White

I’ve been blogging for about 16 months now, on politics, economics and culture, and I still don’t know if I have ever changed a mind on anything.  Why do I do it?  I guess at bottom I simply like contact with other minds.  I am curious about people.  So, as long as there is just a chance that together, others and I might have some positive effect, I will probably just keep on keeping on.

I even indulged my compulsive nature by submitting a comment to a blog under a USA Today news item, in response to an article about the budget crisis impasse in Washington. Just imagine how fast that will get buried as the opinions scroll! So, I decided to offer the same to my own tiny readership.

Hey, if anyone’s mind gets changed out there, please let me know. I will mark it on my calendar and take a vacation in celebration! Here in reprise, and in tribute to E. B. White’s passion for simplifying the complex, is my submission.

Remarkably, while the divide between the parties is historically deep and each side ideologically intransigent, we happen to have a President who takes the long view and is willing to compromise. Abraham Lincoln too was vilified in his time for compromising, but history shows that his vision was the right path for the country.

Democrats who refuse any adjustment to entitlements and Republicans who have forfeited their brains to pledges are all doing a disservice to their country. In a representative democracy, politicians are supposed to do the wise thing and not simply indulge their constituents’ short-term wants.

If we get a different kind of President in 2012, the situation will only get worse and the opportunity to wean ourselves from entitlement self-indulgence will be lost.

About Jim Wheeler

U. S. Naval Academy, BS, Engineering, 1959; Naval line officer and submariner, 1959 -1981, Commander, USN; The George Washington U., MSA, Management Eng.; Aerospace Engineer, 1981-1999; Resident Gadfly, 1999 - present. Political affiliation: Democratic.
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11 Responses to Changing The World

  1. Jim Wheeler says:

    I am sorry to tell you, Dear Reader, what a noted political moderate now has to say about the debt/deficit standoff, this being posted only some 3 hours after the original:


  2. johncerickson says:

    Maybe I’m a bit more of an optimist (I’d rather call it being a cynic), but I think there’s still a pretty good chance of a last-minute compromise. It won’t be great (or even good), and it’ll push any real cuts and/or revenue increases down the line for some other Congress and President to deal with, but I still think we’ll get SOMETHING. Normally I’d say the GOP is playing brinksmanship, and will fold literally at the last minute. But with the silliness of the Tea Party “believers”, I have an uneasy feeling that Mr. Gergen may just prove to be correct. If that happens, I just pray the GOP is correct in that the rating agencies’ downgrades won’t mean a thing. Otherwise, things are gonna get a whole lot worse when our rating goes down the drain and we have to borrow money with rates more like Greece’s than ours.
    And I’d really like to say you’ve changed my mind, just so you can have your vacation! But I have to be honest with you. Can we compromise, and go out and get drunk together? 😀


  3. ansonburlingame says:

    To both,

    Again, I have been “gone” for a week. Interesting to see that little has changed over that week. Recall the Globe edit saying CCB would pass the House and then die. It also said that maybe a compromise for a short term deal along the line of the originial McConnell plan would pass. That still may happen. I seriously doubt a “grand plan” will pass before Aug 2 however and thus we will have once again, “kicked the can down the road”.

    I have no idea what will happen to our “ratings”. I also seriously doubt that we will default in debt payments or SS or even Medicare. But we will cut “big” things like massive federal furloughs if we cannot borrow money come Aug 2. Lot’s of “stuff” will immediately grind to a halt then because no paper pushers will be working in DC for a while, short while probably.

    I have yet to read the EC blogs over the last week but have a good idea what I will see therein. EVERYTHING will be the fault of Republicans, for sure. Groan!

    I also not with interest, Jim, that you used “my” word in a comment above, “the cliff”. Have I changed “your mind”? I wonder.

    I also note John’s use of the phrase “American decline”?

    I sure have not seen anyone declaring “victory” however and doubt that I will in the coming months or even years. I also see no curves “bending” anywhere in the upward direction. (upps, not so. Unemployment is going back “up” it seems)



    • johncerickson says:

      Anson- Sorry, I’m a bit thick today. What of my comment did you refer to with the phrase “American decline”? I just want to be on the same page as everybody else! 🙂


  4. Maybe you don’t need to change minds to do good. If we can just get someone to think about something for a minute it is a good thing. No?


    • Jim Wheeler says:

      Good point. Given that voter turnout is often less than a third of eligibles, any thought has to be a good thing doesn’t it? Thanks for reading, Kaye. And for thinking.



  5. hlgaskins says:

    “I am sorry to tell you, Dear Reader, what a noted political moderate now has to say about the debt/deficit standoff, this being posted only some 3 hours after the original:”

    I’m afraid that David Gergen may well be right. The current political strategy among republicans is to play a non-compromise “take-all win or lose game.” Democrats can’t win with any hand so why play? And the republicans can win either because the deck isn’t completely stacked in their favor. What’s interesting is that if we default, all those tax dollars they’re bent on saving for the wealthy won’t cover what they’re about to lose in revenue. The country will be left to turn and “feed on its own starving body with no supplies coming in to replenish them.”


  6. Being an avid reader of your blog has opened my mind to a few things (I don’t know if that is the same thing as changing it, but it is close). I owe you a good 1,000 thank yous for turning me on to William Manchester. What a writer! I am currently, slowly working my way through his stuff. I’m in his book on Mencken right now and couldn’t be more captivated. EB White is tremendous as well. His essay on Thoreau is one of my favorites.

    My experience of your writing has been that I find myself questioning strongly held beliefs. Your style is balanced and very subtle, but powerful nonetheless. I continue to read your work because it is valuable in helping me to understand the world with depth and clarity. You seem to really be struggling to comprehend life and politics and that battle is one that I am part of when I read your work. Keep doing great, meaningful work! You have a genuine gift at this.


    • Jim Wheeler says:

      Many thanks for your kind comments, Keith. Now in my seventh decade I find myself aspiring to be what Manchester called “autodidactic”. By trying to be open minded I occasionally shock myself by finding former convictions to be shaky or downright wrong. When I do, it is both humbling and exciting, and rare comments like yours please me no end. It is a genuine pleasure to discover honest, articulate and enquiring minds like your own.

      Speaking of great writers, I am currently reading David McCullough’s “The Greater Journey”. It is good stuff, the history of young, bright Americans who went to Paris for experience and education in the mid nineteenth century. That was in my and some authors’ opinions the time when the rate of technological change was the greatest. Ever. The steam engine, telegraph, electricity, books, travel. The book starts somewhat dryly, but do not be discouraged. Caveat: I am only about 15% into it, but McCullough’s reputation is enough to make me think the rest is as good. Bon appetite.




  7. Jim Wheeler says:

    For any readers, I made an error in the title of David McCullough’s latest book in my recent comment to Keith Spillett. The title is “The Greater Journey”, not “The Way Back”. (Where did I get that?)

    Maybe the way back is to read it. He who does not study history is doomed . . .


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