Jeff Greenfield likes to say, “History doesn’t turn on a dime; it turns on a plugged nickel.” As a veteran political commentator for ABC, CBS, and CNN, Greenfield makes the case that we underplay the role of dumb luck and random chance in current events.
In his new book “Then Everything Changed,”Greenfield builds three very plausible scenarios of how minor shifts could generate far reaching results in American politics.
We tend to look at history from the resultant first and walk backwards to explain events in rational detail; C = A + B. However, the events are so fluid and so ever-changing that a close election could go in several different directions because of movements that take place below the waterline.
Kennedy vs. Nixon; Nixon vs. Kennedy. When we look back to the race between Nixon and Kennedy, the narrative always favors the Massachusetts Senator because he won. However, a simple trip here or a stumble there and John Kennedy would have returned to the Senate; his narrative would have been “too much, too soon.”
Likewise, President-Elect Franklin D. Roosevelt survived an assassination attempt in Miami Beach in early 1933, a month prior to taking his oath of office. Had he stood a foot to either side of the microphone while giving an impromptu speech, he would have been shot and killed before delivering his first oath of office. Instead the bullet found its way into Chicago Mayor Anton Cermak’s chest, who was in town and shaking FDR’s hand. Cermak died en route to the hospital; his last words to FDR were, “I am glad it was me and not you.” Had FDR died, his Vice President—a very conservative John Nance Garner —would have been a very different leader and would have killed any New Deal legislation. The Great Reforms that built The Greatest Generation would have died stillborn. Continue reading
Posted in Books, The Luncheon Society
Tagged ABC, and political commentator, Anton Cermak, CBS, CNN, Franklin Roosevelt, jeff Greenfield, John Lindsay, John Nance Garner, Lyndon Johnson, plausible scenarios, Robert Kennedy, Roger Ailes, The Luncheon Society, Then Everything Changed
It is the most amazing cell phone; it gives the term “long distance” a whole new meaning. Each morning, Opportunity the remaining Mars Rover, sends a text to John Callas’s cell phone that shows its movements during the previous Martian day or “sol.” Even though the two planets are separated by an average distance of 142 million miles and the rover crawls at a speed of 1 cm per minute, it is always good to keep a close eye on your children.
Callas, who has been the Project Manager of the Rovers since 2006, continues to drive breathtaking discoveries on only a shoestring budget. Opportunity and the now-silent Spirit have revolutionized unmanned spacecraft and robotic exploration in ways few could have imagined a decade earlier. It was always understood that man would have to step foot on Mars to be able to grasp its terra firma, but no more. Thanks to these two rovers, we now know that Mars is not the dead rock concluded by both Viking missions in the 1970’s. Not only was Mars alive with oceans of ancient water, but thanks to the subsequent Phoenix lander, samples of the polar ice cap were melted and water vapor appeared; where there is water, there is often life. We also know that the real action surrounding life on Mars might take below the surface, something that only patient and sustained exploration could unearth.
Space flight has long been a fixture of The Luncheon Society. Apollo Astronaut Rusty Schweickart has joined us on several occasions for conversations about Near Earth Objects and in January 2007 brought along Mercury Astronauts Wally Schirra, Scott Carpenter, and Soviet space pioneer Alexei Leonov, the first man to walk in space. Mission Control head Christopher Kraft talked about the challenges of a manned space flight to the Moon and the herculean challenges to Mars. Former NASA Ames head Scott Hubbard joined us twice, first for a conversation about rebuilding the Mars programs after the failure of the late 1990’s and later with Nobel laureate Doug Osheroff, to help us understand the managerial failures that took place as members of the Columbia Accident Investigation Board after the shuttle disintegrated in the upper atmosphere. The Principal Scientist of the Mars Rovers, Steven Squyres joined us in San Francisco and most famously in Los Angeles where Buzz Aldrin, the second man to walk on the moon, sat with us around the table. A longtime friend of The Luncheon Society, John Callas has joined us at two intervals during the Rover’s time on Mars, first in 2006 and now in July 2011. Continue reading
Posted in NASA, Space, The Luncheon Society
Tagged ALH84001, and Apollo astronaut, Buzz Aldrin, Curiosity, first man to walk in space, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, John Callas, JPL, Life on Mars, manned space flight, Mars Rovers, Mars Science Laboratory, NASA, near earth objects, Opportunity, Phoenix Lander, Project Manager, Rovers, Rusty Schweikart, sample return, Spirit, The Luncheon Society, Viking Program, Wally Schirra, Water on Mars