Please Pay Attention

Immediately after Donald Trump announced that the U.S. would withdraw its military troops from Syria, another chemical attack occurred in within the country.

 

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A picture said to show victims of the attack in a building in Douma. Credit Syrian Civil Defense White Helmets, via Associated Press

 

In response, Israeli fighters used Lebanese airspace to launch missiles at an Iranian base in Russian and Turkish supported Syria, using the chemical attacks on Syrian citizens as their justification.

All while a blustering United States President –with no understanding of diplomacy or conflict resolution — refuses to stand against Russia or Syria in any substantive way because he hero worships the leaders of Russia and Turkey.

Meanwhile, that same United States President is engaged in a trade war with China undermining any incentive for them to help with North Korean negotiations.

At the same time he’s escalating a border conflict with Mexico.

Then there is the domestic front, where The United States President’s Administration is inciting racial and religious discord, sowing distrust in the free press, dismantling our educational systems as well as our environmental and civil rights protections for personal gain, using his office to attack a business rival (who wouldn’t be a rival if the President had properly divested from his businesses when elected), and tanking the stock market with ill-thought social media commentary.

All this happens as the president is facing impeachment, civil, and criminal legal issues ranging from violations of Federal Elections Commissions regulations during his campaign, to conspiracy against the United States in the election, to obstruction of justice and abuse of power, to sexual harassment, to witness tampering.

If you don’t see where all this combined international and domestic designed incompetence and conflict is headed, you really need to start paying better attention.

Pluralistic Ignorance – Overcoming #Culturalinertia Part 7.

A recurring theme on the blog, the corresponding Facebook page and Twitter feed, over the course of the year has been exposing #Culturalinertia and discussing how it affects us.  You can read those previous entries here:  Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, and Part 6.

Today, as the year nears its end, I’d like to put forth for specific consideration a slightly different type of message.

Instead of looking at specific examples of the phenomenon, let’s look at the major cause of it and the best tool available to us to over come it.

One of the major causes of Cultural Inertia is termed “Pluralistic Ignorance.”

 

Pluralistic ignorance occurs when people erroneously infer that they feel differently from their peers, even though they are behaving similarly.

 

This ignorance can be reinforced or overcome by properly applying the concepts of “Social Proof.”

 

Social proof is based on the idea of normative social influence, which states that people will conform in order to be liked by, [people] similar to [them] or accepted by the influencer (or society).

 

The combination of these concepts indicates that people, when unsure of how to behave, will look to those around them who are similiar to them, or people they respect, and mirror that behavior.

The need to conform to the social proof can even force a behavioral change in someone who knows the actions they are observing to be morally incorrect so as not to be seen as different and made an outcast.

Now, consider a Person of Color being verbally abused by a White racist, if nobody stops to intervene, the social proof for those walking by is that the behavior is acceptable enough that they are not supposed to do anything about it, even if they disagree with it.  Especially if they are physically similar in appearance to the attacker instead of the victim.

If there are mutliple attackers the social norm could drive enough pluralistic ignorance to compel those passing by to join in the attack instead of help the victim, even if they themselves would not normally initiate such an incident on their own.

However, if another similar looking White person stops to intervene, another will follow their lead instead of that of the attacker.   This proof of proper behavior will spur more to choose the role of protectors.

When it comes to this bigotry and racism, we need to change the social proof to indicate without question that such behavior is unacceptable.   We cannot allow the normal accepted response to such behavior to be apathetic indifference or a mob mentality attack.

Until we do so, we condemn ourselves to having to constantly wonder why this is still continuing, why we must keep having the same battles.   And worse, we condemn those victims of it to the choice of either remaining victims or aggressively reversing the situation on their own, and then we’ll complain about their methodology instead of helping them specifically because they violated the social norms of acceptable behavior themselves.

The social proof of pluralistic ignorance becomes even harder, but more vital, to overcome when those in positions of great power and authority are openly displaying and calling for behavior we know to be abhorrent and unacceptable.

When that happens admissions of sexual assault become “locker room talk,” and secretly conspiring with adversarial governments to undermine and overthrow our own becomes “partisan disagreement.”

If you want to break the momentum of this, or any, Cultural Inertia, you must be willing to be an agent of change.  You must step up and help provide the social proof that the behavior you want to see is behavior that others should mirror.

You need to be the shining light allowing those lost in the dark to see.

If you aren’t willing to do that, you have become one of those lost to the pluralistic ignorance, reinforced by the social proof you see around you, that has led you to believe that it is too late to do anything or that anything you do won’t be enough.

As long as enough people believe that, they’ll continue to be right.

It is time to change the norms.

We must, each of us, be willing to be the one that makes the change.

Drain The Swamp

It wasn’t so long ago, that the Republican president was screaming about fixing the issues with foreign collusion, pay-to-play access, cover-ups, and bribery.

He claimed he would be the one to end all of that.

 

 

If you’ve been paying attention, you know that if he drained a swamp, he pumped all that sludge and even a few creatures from that black lagoon right into the White House offices.

Just so we’re clear on the sequence of events over the last two days:

Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates just pledged $100 million to Ivanka Trump’s fund for women entrepreneurs.

 

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In return Saudi Arabia received a $110B arms deal from the United States, and they get to purchase — through the Blackstone Group —  a significant ownership of the infrastructure work Trump promised his voters during his campaign, which will mostly involve toll roads and other services that American citizens will have to pay to use, on top of paying their taxes to support and supposedly fund.

 

 

 

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So the Trump’s family gets a massive personal payout, Saudi Arabia gets a tremendous amount of weapons while not addressing any of their long list of Human Rights violations, and they receive control over a substantial segment of American infrastructure system.

Robert Reich has some raised some additional concerns specifically about that last point:

 

 

“Saudi Arabia just joined the parade of investors into U.S. public works by pledging a record $20 billion investment with Blackstone Group’s new infrastructure fund.
It’s the latest push around the world by large investors to buy up U.S. airports, roads, bridges, water systems, and other public projects.
Rather than taxing the wealthy and then using the money to fix our dangerously outdated infrastructure, the states and the federal government increasingly are giving rich investors tax credits to encourage them to do it.
The investors then charge tolls and user fees, and earn big profits.
So the public pays twice – once when we subsidize the investors with our tax dollars, and then again when we pay the tolls and user fees that also go into their pockets.
We don’t even get the infrastructure that’s most needed. Projects most attractive to investors are those whose tolls and fees bring in the biggest bucks – giant mega-projects like major new throughways and new bridges.
Not the thousands of smaller bridges, airports, pipes, and water treatment facilities most in need of repair. Not the needs of rural communities and smaller cities and towns too small to generate the tolls and other user fees equity investors want. Not clean energy.
To really make America great again we need more and better infrastructure that’s for the public – not for big developers and investors. And the only way we get that is if corporations and the wealthy pay their fair share of taxes.”

Do We Deserve Better?

I’ve chosen to launch this site with an honest essay that is going to anger many, regardless of political alignment, as they read it.  If you are one of them, hopefully you’ll stay with it to the end, and join us in an honest discussion of how we address the issues presented that have angered you.

I’ve recently said “We deserve better,” but do we?   Really?

I am going to use our two primary current Presidential candidates’ campaigns to evaluate a problem within our political discourse, society, media reporting, news presentation, and governmental process that we ourselves have allowed to be created.

We may not deserve better, we may be reaping what we’ve sowed, and it may be exactly what we deserve.

But our future generations deserve better, and we owe it to them to correct our mistakes before they inherit an even bigger mess as a result.

Recently on my social media discussion page (Tim’s Timely Topics), I pointed out that a recent statement by one of the candidates was an indication of poor campaigning because regardless of the underlying intent of the commentary, the wording offered a self-destructive sound bite opportunity for the opposition to run with in attack advertisements.   And both these candidates are building their campaigns on attacking each other at lower and lower levels with their own words instead of campaigning upon their own merits.   They are both running fear mongering campaigns in which, despite their own failings, they are our only hope of defeating the evil other.

By pointing out this flaw in campaign strategy, I was condemned in the commentary for propagating support for the evil other.  So before we go further, let me be clear.

Despite my desire for third party candidates to be seriously involved in the selection process for the voters, it isn’t going to happen during this election cycle.  Barring some catastrophic mythical “October Surprise” that is so devastating it puts one or both of them in jail (not on trial, but actually convicted) prior to Tuesday, November 8, one of these two people will be our next President – for better or worse.

While many consider Donald Trump to be an anomaly in modern politics — is he? Really?

In his recent essay for Truthdig, former Clinton cabinet member and longtime family friend and supporter, Robert Reich explained:

“The reality is that Trump’s proposals aren’t far removed from what the Republican Party has been trying to achieve for years – cutting taxes on the rich and on corporations; gutting health, safety, and environmental regulations; repealing Obamacare; spending more on defense; blocking immigration and sending more undocumented workers packing; imposing “law and order” in black communities; and preventing an increase in the minimum wage.

Focusing on Trump’s character flaws instead of the flawed Republican agenda is appropriate – up to a point. Donald Trump is dangerous. And, yes, the first priority must be to stop him.”

While both candidates are focusing so much on smear campaigns of the other to distract from the need to honestly address their own flaws and actual platform policy initiatives and plans, they are doing considerable damage to their down ballot candidates in the struggle for both State and Federal legislature.

So what did we do?  How did we get here?

We have created, enabled, and supported a society in which negative attack advertisements instead of focus on individual personal merit have become the norm.

We have created, enabled, and supported an always-on opinion presentation infotainment industry disguised as “News reporting and analysis” which is so driven by ratings and internet link click counts that the headline has become more important than the information, and being first with the story has become more important than being first with the facts.   In reality, facts have become mostly irrelevant in our political process.    Scientific data and research is ignored, and in some cases even prevented from being collected and compiled.    As a result, we have a system where even obviously disproven theories can be repeatedly presented as worthy counterpoint in an attempt to appear “fair and balanced.”

We have created, enabled, and supported a two party political structure, and we have given it so much power it has created laws, rules, and regulations that very effectively prevent any third party from challenging their stranglehold on our government.   And then we let them make it worse.

Over the last few generations we have let these two parties, present us with consistently worse and worse options from both sides, with the argument that it is imperative that we must stop one of these two from obtaining power at all cost.   The cost, invariably is further erosion of personal Constitutional and Human rights in favor of greater rights of “personhood” for large corporations and an ever widening income opportunity gap.   With each election we stop the immediate threat and drift one step closer to the re-establishment of a modern Robber Baron society, or worse, the eventual serf/Lord society of old.

Which brings us to where we are right now, a point where the optics of the campaign are more important than the content of the campaign message.   With two candidates who have spent the last 30 years developing both their message and their optics, one in the political arena and one in the entertainment arena.   Both should be masters of the craft now, which makes the obvious gaffes even that much more inexcusable.

Let us look at couple very good examples from the last few days.

A recording from a February fund raiser has been leaked which opponents of Hillary Clinton are attempting to spin in a manner that claims Clinton has called all of the Millennial generation Sanders supporters losers who live in their parent’s basements and who are too naïve and ignorant to understand how politics work.

The Clinton campaign is claiming that in full context the message is really “Educated millennial voters have been disenfranchised by our governmental representation to the extent that in our current economy even the hope of the ‘American Dream’ is being denied them, and that we must understand that in order to win over their support.”   Taken in full context, the latter is absolutely how the message should be interpreted.

However, if we take that correct context and apply it to everything the campaign has said and done in reference to that understanding and millennial reach out since the statement, it is clear that she hasn’t taken her own advice.   The campaign and its surrogates have been nothing but condescending and derisive towards those millennial voters since.  Even those asking remarkably good, important, and valid questions that disprove the theory that they are naïve and inexperienced.

We have to keep in mind, all of us, that for those voters under the age of 35, we have been at war in the Middle Eastern region of the world for roughly half of their life, and all but the last four years of their lives have been lived with either a member of the Bush or Clinton family in the office of the President, Vice President, or Secretary of State.      These people represent to those voters the very heart of the established and deeply entrenched problems that we face today and hold specific responsibility for getting us to the point we are at now.

No attempt to reach out to them and secure their support will be a success without considering those things.

At roughly the same time as the Clinton recording being released, Trump made a statement at a presentation to veterans that is being spun by his opponents as “Trump claims veterans in need of mental or emotional support and assistance as a result of their service are weak or ‘not strong.’”

The campaign is claiming that the intent of the message, delivered as part of a call for improved veteran support was that the trials and tribulations of war can create mental and emotional stress and problems that even the strongest of our veterans can have a hard time handling it.

However, if we put it in context with all the things he has said during this campaign cycle about preferring soldiers who weren’t captured, mocking the physically disabled, and the repeated issues with his promises of charitable donations and funds from fundraisers for veterans’ organizations not being delivered, it is clear that he not only does view it as weakness, but a weakness to be exploited and used to his personal advantage.

With the advent of personal recording devices available to everyone, every politician should assume they are being recorded every time they are speaking.  At this point, in today’s political environment they should assume even their chosen aides and supporters are recording for the opportunity to further their own personal political agendas.   For people who have made careers out of controlling the optics of their images and personas, these gaffes are troublesome, as they appear to be a slip in the mask more than a true accident of phrasing.

All of this brings us back to the fear mongering approach of both campaigns as they attempt to convince us how bad a vote for the other would be, instead of campaigning on how good they would be.

If we set aside the divisive social commentary, there is little difference between the candidates and their “disconnect” from the average voter.

Trump has bankrupted many companies while profiting from the failure.  Clinton claimed in her own biography that she and her husband were absolutely broke when they left the White House despite being much more well off than most of the upper middle class of our nation and in possession of multiple homes.

So instead let us look at those other issues of substantive policy.

Clinton has done considerable work for both women and children throughout her life.   She also has a history of making mistakes she would later regret and have to spend a great deal of time apologizing for having made.   She is deeply entrenched with both the Wall Street elite and the industrial war machine economy.   She was aggressively responsible for pushing the expansion of Fracking on a global scale as Secretary of State.   There are some serious issues with the economic status she is personally directly responsible for helping create in Puerto Rico.  She advocates for a higher minimum wage, but has frequently advocating against the establishment of a living wage minimum.    She claims to advocate pragmatism, while appearing to give up negotiating ground before even agreeing to sit down to discuss terms.

Trump has proven to be successful in terms of maintaining and possibly even increasing his own personal fortune, and building a bit of an entertainment empire, but has a record of doing so by destroying businesses (and the lives of the employees of those businesses) through poor management and then using the available laws to shelter his personal fortune from the aftermath.   He has a proven track record of refusing to pay money he owes other companies, until they either give up completely or settle for a smaller payment and loss to themselves just to receive something at all.   He has been proven to use his own charity to funnel money to himself and launder it from one business to another to avoid taxation.   The actual charitable work meant so little to him that he’s just been ordered to cease and desist fund raising because he never properly established the charity, something completely inexcusable for a man who employs a battery of lawyers to maintain his businesses and their legitimacy.  If the 1995, tax returns were accurate, he lost roughly a billion dollars in a single year, and has been recouping that money over two decades by claiming the loss as a tax deduction.    This means that the government has been paying back his laws from the tax dollars of those of us that do pay during that time, instead of using those funds for support of things like education and veterans’ care.

And while, Clinton has claimed that she made the wrong choice when making some of the ‘tough choices,’ at least she has had the capability to learn from many of them and adjust.   Trump isn’t just incapable of learning from his mistakes, he appears to be incapable of admitting or acknowledging them.   That inability to recognize and learn from mistakes is a remarkably dangerous quality in a world leader.

Now, if we add back in the social reform issues, Trump is campaigning on a return to “law and order” by allowing police to violate our constitutional rights on a selective and arbitrary basis.   Clinton is on record for having been in great support of establishment of the laws by the former President Clinton which have helped lay the foundation of our school to prison pipelines and the over-incarceration of our citizens for non-violent offenses, and the privatized corporate prisons that profit by it.

Over all, Clinton has done better work.   She is beyond a doubt the less bad option of the two to lead our country for the next four years.

All hyperbole aside is absolutely imperative that we not allow Donald Trump to become the President of the United States.   His inability to learn from mistakes, or admit that others may be more knowledgeable on any subject, will lead to an international incident that could easily spark another world war.  His embrace of White Nationalism (whether he believes it or not) and willingness to propagate it could easily lead us into another civil war.   His economic policies could very easily result in a full scale economic class revolt.  In all aspects, domestic and foreign, a Trump presidency would be disastrous.

Many of the blindly devoted Clinton supporters have made the claim that if you don’t vote for her, you must be anti-woman.

Not voting for Clinton doesn’t make you anti-woman.

Advocating support for someone who is as clearly anti-woman as Trump certainly might. By supporting him, even if you are not anti-woman you are condoning and enabling a person who is and attempting to place them in a position of power.

You can substitute many things for “woman” in that statement and it will still hold true.

Blacks
Muslims
Mentally ill
Physically Disabled
Non-rich
Constitutional Rights

Trump is against them all, and if you support him, you are pushing those agendas as legitimate and enabling their continuation.

He must not only be defeated, but he must be defeated in a devastating fashion.   We must send the message that his misogynistic, racist, xenophobic hate and fear filled rhetoric has no credibility and no further place in our political discourse.   If he is not crushed, the next candidate put forth may very well be worse, because Trump’s efforts, and the media’s morbid ratings-driven embrace of it, will have given it credence and legitimacy.    We cannot, must not, allow that.

In order to create that defeat, with the necessary margins, we’ll have to vote for Hillary Clinton.

We must also make it clear, that that margin of victory is not a mandated endorsement of her own political agenda so much as a condemnation of her opponents.

We must make it clear that it is not a vote of blind acceptance. She will be held accountable for the people to continue forward progress on health care reform, social reform, economic reform, educational reform, student loan restructuring, bringing our military personal and their support staff home and taking care of them after they return, rebuilding our infrastructure and then making the commitment to maintain it, addressing climate change issues (man-made or not, we must begin making plans for the national and international issues it is going to create, we are too far behind already).   We must make it clear that if instead of addressing these things, she continues to drive to the Democratic party further to the political right and erode our individual rights in favor of corporate rights she will not be returning for a second term.

As long as we continue to embrace the “lesser evil” without holding it accountable, our efforts to prevent the immediate disaster are doing nothing more than delaying the inevitable.

We can’t consider it a win to take a few small steps in the wrong direction over and over again to prevent bigger steps in the wrong direction.

A death by a thousand cuts, is still a painful, unpleasant death.

In addition to all of that, neither candidate will be able to accomplish anything beyond what is available to our President through the use of Executive Orders and Executive Actions with a divided, partisan, obstructionist congress.

So vote for Clinton, but don’t stop protesting, don’t stop campaigning, don’t stop researching and discussing the important issues.

Vote the down ballot races accordingly, to provide the candidate who must win the congressional support necessary to accomplish what we need them to accomplish.

We must vote on the ballot initiatives for establishing or repealing laws especially state constitutional amendments.   We must vote for the local candidates in our city, county and state government races, as the people in these offices that are successful will be the ones to rise to higher positions in a few years.

We must stop supporting news agencies that propagate lies and false information as factual data, and hold them accountable for the truth.

We must drive reform that breaks the two party control of our government apart and allows for the rise of other options.

We must break the cycle.

If not us?  Who?

If not now?  When?