Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Let's Take A Lesson From General Musharaf

Pakistan's General Pervez Musharaf has this week assaulted Pakistan's judiciary, lawyers, and media, imprisoning many and shutting down or limiting access and content of TV broadcasts. He's fighting those who are fighting him. And his methods aren't that nice.

We could take a lesson from the General -- not by sending people to jail; but by firing them and bringing in a new group of players.

Throughout this campaign I've been waiting for any of the candidates to speak about corruption, temptation, campaign financing, the complacency of the Congress, the fact that Congress cares more about political gain and reelection than it does about the rule of law, the protection of our Constitution, and common-sense accountability. And the media who have complacently gone along with converting an altruistic news organization paid for by all the other venues, to the news groups becoming profit centers owned and operated by entertainment conglomerates.

Well . . . in the footsteps of a recent and very powerful speech by Salt Lake City's Mayor Ross Anderson, let's fire the bums.
You have failed us miserably and we won’t take it any more.

While we had every reason to expect far more of you, you have been pompous, greedy, cruel, and incompetent as you have led this great nation to a moral, military, and national security abyss.

You have breached trust with the American people in the most egregious ways. You have utterly failed in the performance of your jobs. You have undermined our Constitution, permitted the violation of the most fundamental treaty obligations, and betrayed the rule of law.

You have engaged in, or permitted, heinous human rights abuses of the sort never before countenanced in our nation’s history as a matter of official policy. You have sent American men and women to kill and be killed on the basis of lies, on the basis of shifting justifications, without competent leadership, and without even a coherent plan for this monumental blunder.

We are here to tell you: We won’t take it any more!
I spent three hours researching the news to see how Mayor Anderson's speech was reviewed. In America, not a single major media outlet covered it but a few online services reported it with the full text of the speech. It appeared on a few independent blogs and news feeds. Overseas however, it got more play. New Zealand and Australia particularly.

Again, from Mayor Anderson's speech:
We must avoid the trap of focusing the blame solely upon President Bush and Vice-President Cheney. This is not just about a few people who have wronged our country – and the world. They were enabled by members of both parties in Congress, they were enabled by the pathetic mainstream news media, and, ultimately, they have been enabled by the American people – 40% of whom are so ill-informed they still think Iraq was behind the 9/11 attacks – a people who know and care more about baseball statistics and which drunken starlets are wearing underwear than they know and care about the atrocities being committed every single day in our name by a government for which we need to take responsibility.
One of the first few acts of the new team at the AG's office would be to enforce the FCC standards that are being flagrantly violated so that the media will do what we chartered them to do: fairly report the news in return for the use of the public's airwaves, and to end torture and rendition. I can't see either happening with our newly appointed AG.

One of the first acts of a new team of legislators will be to free themselves from funding outrageously expensive campaigns that require huge amounts of time fundraising to the detriment of hours that could be better spent doing the job they were elected to do. Whether it be federally financed campaigns or some other alternative, we cannot afford for our legislators to abrogate their duties to spend time fundraising and also spend face time with big contributors with an axe to grind. Since this topic hasn't appeared too often in the debates - and when it has there's been lip service instead of serious proclamations - I don't foresee a major change in this area either.

And one of the first steps from a new President will be to perform a serious house-cleaning (de-Baath-ification-like) within the top echelon of our government's bureaucracy to rid us of those who have been tempted and those who close their eyes to it.

There are a thousand other activities that need to happen to bring us back down to earth and get the various arms of our government functioning full-time again.

What say you?

Certainly the public senses all these things. Otherwise why would Congress' approval rating be so low? People know but they don't know what to do. The answer is simple: draw a line and say "I'm not going to take it anymore" and then vote to throw the bums out. More importantly, research who's running and select only those that meet your standards. YOUR standards.

What say you?

Saturday, August 04, 2007

I'm still vacationing but . . .

I'm still vacationing but I came across this quote from Carl Bernstein in an interview with The Financial Times about his book A Woman in Charge that I wanted to share.

FT: Do you think Hillary will bring the same kind of tough image that America currently has under the Bush presidency?

CB: I think your description of a "kind of tough image" mis-states the actual facts in terms of the Bush presidency. A more common and widely held image, I believe, is one of arrogance, mendacity, incompetence, and secrecy bordering on, or crossing into, the extra-constitutional.

Bravo! and pass the sunscreen.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Gone Fish'in

Actually, I don't fish. But as you may have noticed, I'm on vacation until mid-September sailing throughout the Med and driving all over Europe and the UK. I'll write if the occasion arises but otherwise... I'm on vacation.

Thanks very much for being a reader.

Ex-Politico (Frank)

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Who are we as a people? Where is our soul?

Michael Moore told reporters after a press preview the other day:
I'm trying to explore bigger ideas and bigger issues, and in this case the bigger issue in this film [SiCKO] is who are we as a people? Why do we behave the way we behave? What has become of us? Where is our soul?
So began the hoopla at this year's Cannes Film Festival. Moore's movie portrays the American medical industry as driven by greed.

SiCKO, which has taken Cannes by storm, goes further than just the health care industry by depicting a country where the government is more interested in personal profit and protecting big business than caring for its citizens, many of whom cannot afford health insurance.

Where is our soul is a serious question as we ponder candidates for our next President. What have we become as a people - and how can we get back on tract - are questions that beg to be answered. The recent Republican debate was such an example of spirit being derailed that it was disheartening to me. Every candidate wanted to be seen as the strongest fighter against terrorism, the most ballsy, the most "manly." Not one of the candidates attempted to answer these questions - or even acknowledged that a good majority of Americans believe them to be our primary issues in this campaign.

I saw Farenheit 9/11 at theaters in Europe and America and the reactions, poignant tearful spots, laugh lines and murmurs were the same - which surprised me. That's why I'm anxious to see this new movie and see it in large theaters at various places in my travels so I can watch the various responses as they occur.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

A New Book by Al Gore

Time Magazine calls Al Gore "the perfect stealth candidate for 2008" in their article which excerpts from his new book The Assault on Reason. I've read the excerpts but the book won't be available until next week. Gore says some wonderful things toward developing an understanding of how the media has failed us and what we can do to change the process.
It is simply no longer possible to ignore the strangeness of our public discourse. I know I am not alone in feeling that something has gone fundamentally wrong.
One-way media, TV, enables manipulation of public debate which leads to cynicism, doubt and lack of participation.
Unfortunately [there is] a new cynicism about reason itself — because reason was so easily used by propagandists to disguise their impulse to power by cloaking it in clever and seductive intellectual formulations. When people don't have an opportunity to interact on equal terms and test the validity of what they're being "taught" in the light of their own experience and robust, shared dialogue, they naturally begin to resist the assumption that the experts know best.

So the remedy for what ails our democracy is not simply better education (as important as that is) or civic education (as important as that can be), but the re-establishment of a genuine democratic discourse in which individuals can participate in a meaningful way—a conversation of democracy in which meritorious ideas and opinions from individuals do, in fact, evoke a meaningful response.
I've blogged many times about Gore's point of view (which I share) on this subject. In the area of political dialogue, it might be called the “pollster-consultant industrial complex” [coined by Joe Klein] that has had the same effect in political dialogue as manipulative commercial advertising has on the buying public: lack of spontaneity, test-tube bromides, insipid photo ops, and idiotic advertising combined to pass for political discourse. In the current Time excerpt Gore is less dramatic and confrontational than he was last year when he said:
The conversation of democracy has been desiccated [pulverized; lacking in energy or vitality]. To bring it back to life, break the monopoly of broadcast and cable television.
Is there hope in what he writes? Does he propose a plan to take back the airwaves and enable real awareness and discourse? Here's what he writes:
...broadband interconnection is supporting decentralized processes that reinvigorate democracy. We can see it happening before our eyes: As a society, we are getting smarter. Networked democracy is taking hold. You can feel it. We the people—as Lincoln put it, "even we here"—are collectively still the key to the survival of America's democracy.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Cutting Carbon Emissions

First, a rant: most members of Congress are either lawyers or businesspeople. They know what “fiduciary responsibility” is. It means reading and understanding each and every bill that they vote upon.

Congress has not met this duty for a long time. Instead . . .
  • They carelessly pass mammoth bills that none of them have read. Sometimes printed copies aren't even available when they vote.

  • Often no one knows what these bills contain, or what they really do, or what they will cost.

  • Additions and deletions are made at the last minute, often in secrecy.

  • They combine unpopular proposals with popular measures that few in Congress want to oppose.
Once these bills are passed, and one of these unpopular proposals comes to light, they pretend to be shocked. “How did that get in there?”

America was founded on the slogan: “No taxation without representation.” It's not as catchy but perhaps we need another slogan: “No legislation without representation.”

Now, for cutting carbon emissions: the legislative process - to debate a strategic issue and negotiate a legal solution - involves fact gathering and discussion. The process includes sifting through biased and often selfish information sources and involves the art of persuasion, creative thinking, and manipulation as well as strength of character, due diligence and altruism.

Cutting carbon emissions - a world-wide issue of momentous magnitude - is a perfect example of how things are supposed to work.

There are thousands of industry groups. The automotive industry is one case in point. The industry has almost one hundred groups representing the various types of labor, parts suppliers, steel makers, the car manufactures, the truckers, shippers and other transportation industries, the sellers and dealerships, the engineers, the computer people, etc. And they each have a different point of view regarding what to do about reducing carbon emissions and how so doing will effect their group.

Each industry group attempts to present their point of view to the congressional committee members that might have influence on the development of a legislative proposal to address the problem. They also lobby staffers and reporters as well. Most such groups hire paid lobbyists to target and approach key legislators and staff members. Many of these paid lobbyists are ex- (or present) political consultants or ex-members or staff of the very Congress they are lobbying. Their very familiarity with the players gives them a bit more access than anyone else.

How does each group make it's point of view known, heard and favorably received? In caustic terms, one might say that cash opens the door and long-term economic promises keep them open for comments and rebuttals. Even if cash were taken out of the equation, it's still in everyone's interest to gather and hear information from every source before negotiating a solution.

Here's where integrity enters the picture. In recent years many committees and committee members have actually let industry groups draft the legislation that is then proposed by the committee.

Where did the due diligence go? The fiduciary responsibility?

Although extremely partisan members of congress might say that no money changed hands, how much does one favor his "friends" versus doing what's right for his country and constituents?

Only a new slate of players - elected officials with ethics, responsibility, and a passion for change - can sift through the partisanship, one sidedness and unfairness to craft a solution to cutting carbon emissions.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Ability vs. likeability

A friend of mine - a reporter - asked whether Obama was my type of guy.

My kind of candidate is the rare breed of person who is good at getting things done. He's a practical type - good with his hands and also good at inspiring and encouraging others to use their's wisely AND with conviction and efficiency. Ability to win elections isn't necessarily indicative of ability to make practical changes happen [particularly these days where the process of politics is a study in misuse of power]. Both Bush's have proven this to be true.

Is Obama that kind of guy? How can one know. Is Gore? There's a better chance with him than almost anywhere else. But Obama can bring tears to ones eyes. So could Mario Cuomo and Cuomo also got things done.

I'm not a happy camper with ANY of the present candidates. I've signed petitions to draft Cuomo and Gore.

There was a story caption in last week's BusinessWeek that read: Investing in Russia's People. It caught my attention because Russia needs that kind of investment and Putin is making it happen.

Whichever candidate convinces me that this will actually happen here in America - that he or she is dedicated and has the will to make it happen - will get my vote.

More than ever I'm interested in:
  • Ability rather than like-ability.

  • A change of direction from politics as spin, bicker and manipulate to negotiate and solve.

  • Strategic investments in education, welfare, health care, physical infrastructure and honest communication.

  • Changing our posture in world relationships from braggart/bully to willing participant.

  • In rewarding those who educate our children instead of those who sell to them.

  • And in reducing fear on three levels: lowering the rhetoric, cooperating in a world-wide fight against terrorist activities and helping lower worldwide poverty so that there are fewer breeding grounds for terrorist incubation.
Is Obama that kind of guy? He certainly says that he is. We'll have to wait and see.

Saturday, March 31, 2007

U.S. Child Well-Being Report Says We're Not Doing Well

This woman walks into a butcher shop and asks to see a whole chicken. The butcher hands her one and the woman proceeds to inspect it up, down, sideways, and every which way. She even sniffs it. She hands it back and says no thanks.

The butcher responds: "Madam, could you pass a test like that?"

UNICEF had such a test that the US didn't pass. In fact, we flunked terribly. We came in 20th out of 21.

UNICEF reviewed various tests and performed surveys within the member countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development and compiled a report entitled ‘Children’s Welfare in Rich Countries.’

According to the report, there are six indicators of well-being for children: health and safety; education; economic well-being; family and social relationships; conduct and risk; and the child’s own perception of well-being in addition to traditional measures or mortality rates, poverty levels, school achievement and health and immunization statistics.

The US scored poorly in every category:
  • Health and safety = 21st out of 21
  • Educational well-being = 12th
  • Family and peer relationships = 20th
  • Behavior and risks = 20th
  • Material well-being = 17th
The UK and the US are in the bottom third of the rankings for five of the six dimensions reviewed.
The true measure of a nation’s standing is
how well it attends to its children – their
health and safety, their material security,
their education and socialization, and
their sense of being loved, valued, and
included in the families and societies into
which they are born.
We've been sidetracked for too long from providing meaningful services and support to Americans in general and our children in particular. It's time to repair the infrastructure that has made America a great country. This isn't family values nonsense; it's necessary for our future well-being. Each measure on UNICEF's scale needs our attention and investment.

Download the full report.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Fear Mongering Is A Provocation

Deliberate action or speech that makes someone fearful or angry, such as the recent (and regular) gems by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, perpetuates fear, most often existential fear.

There are numerous psychological studies establishing the power of fear:
  • Groups of strangers could persuade people to believe statements that were obviously false.
  • People were often willing to obey authority figures even when doing so violated their personal beliefs.
  • Ordinary citizens could continually shock an innocent man, even up to near-lethal levels, if commanded to do so by someone acting as an authority.
  • Cognitive dissonance often causes illogical and nonsensical mental constraints.
  • Heightened patriotic urge, for example right after 9/11, was an attempt to counterbalance the scary thought of ones own mortality brought on by those attacks.
  • When people are reminded of their own deaths, they become more conservative, more family oriented, more security-minded and more patriotic.
  • Fear of death provokes a need to feel connected to others, to have a clear sense of identity, to know how one fits into the world, and to feel one has free will.
  • People have different versions of God, thus they have different versions of evil.
In each of us there's a tug of war between our primitive instinct to survive at all costs and a brain that is not only conscious of its own existence but also is aware that our lives are finite -- our existential plight.

Social psychologists, philosophers -- and recently existential and terror management psychologists -- know and have proven these facts. Intuitively we all know them to be true. But very few of us ever leap beyond our own discomfort to figure out how to make use of this information -- to manipulate others based on knowledge of these principles.

Karl Rove and Lee Atwater are a examples of political operatives that have waged fear campaigns taking advantage of these psychological axioms. They have carefully crafted campaigns that create a longing for a protector/authority figure [in the form of their candidate(s)]. Even though in my book those tactics are blatantly immoral and unethical, they have repeatedly used them with great success.

With less knowledge but equal effect are bullies like Chavez, Ahmadinejad and Bush who wage similar campaigns through the airwaves of our daily news instilling fear and repugnance in all who read or hear the news. These are crippled people but unfortunately in powerful places. In Bush's case, he's both an addict (albeit reformed) and an effeminate man who masquerades as a macho man by bravado. The result is his stubborn belligerence to reality and his inability to act as a President should: pragmatically resolving the hard-to-resolve problems affecting America and Americans. Who knows why the other two play the game, but game it is and play it they do with you and I in the way of their friendly fire.

Ahmadinejad is playing that game today (provocation, bullying gestures in the press), expressing his anger at the US's denial of some of his UN visas by capturing and holding for trial 15 British sailors. Some of the incidental consequences are that oil prices are skyrocketing, British Prime Minister Blair is thwarted from using normal diplomacy, the British public are going ballistic, and we're all worried that Bush or Israel will do something quick and terrible that will blow up the situation even further.

[PS: You may wonder why Howard Dean is included in my rogues gallery above. I like the guy and what he's doing for the Democratic Party. But calling Reps "brain dead" and saying that "a lot of them never made an honest living in their lives" is equally provoking. His words define opponents as beyond the reach of reason which is no different than the polemics of extreme religious thought and the bullying back and forth of Ahmadinejad, Bush and Chavez.]

Friday, March 23, 2007

A More Socially Conscious Electorate

There's been a steady measurable trend since the early '90s that is directly antithetical to the policies of the Bush administration.

In a just-released study by the Pew Charitable Trust about trends in political values and core attitudes the numbers show that the electorate is gradually getting fed up with socially conservative ideology and religious intensity.

The numbers are quite clear:
  • Government should care for those who can't care for themselves - up 12% to 69%
  • Government should help the needy even if it means greater debt - up 13% to 54%
  • Old fashioned values about family and marriage - down 8% to 76%
  • School boards should have the right to fire homosexual teachers - down 11% to 28%
  • Prayer is an important part of my daily life - down 7% to 45%
  • I never doubt the existence of God - down 11% to 61%
  • People believe that the rich are getting richer and the poor poorer - up 8% to 73%
The new survey still shows deep rifts in partisan views on core subjects like national security, social values, personal finances and the role of government as well as increasingly negativity about America and being American:
  • Americans feel increasingly estranged from their government. Barely a third (34%) agree with the statement, "most elected officials care what people like me think," nearly matching the 20-year low of 33% recorded in 1994 and a 10-point drop since 2002.
  • The public is losing confidence in itself. A dwindling majority (57%) say they have a good deal of confidence in the wisdom of the American people when it comes to making political decisions. Similarly, the proportion who agrees that Americans "can always find a way to solve our problems" has dropped 16 points in the past five years.
  • Young people continue to hold a more favorable view of government than do other Americans. At the same time, young adults express the least interest in voting and other forms of political participation.
The Pew Research Center concludes:
Increased public support for the social safety net, signs of growing public concern about income inequality, and a diminished appetite for assertive national security policies have improved the political landscape for the Democrats as the 2008 presidential campaign gets underway.
I am heartened by this information. It correlates to my intuition, observations and other resources. And it bodes well for Democrats in the next election unless we shoot ourselves in the foot like we've done so many times before.

We all have the right to hope (so long as we are active in the pursuit of our goals).

Monday, March 19, 2007

We're All The Same

In the movie "Letters from Iwo Jima" there's a scene where a Japanese soldier translates aloud a letter from an American soldier's mother and everyone in the movie (and in the audience) could see that it was the same as letters they had received from their mothers and loved ones... because we're all the same.

That lesson is NOT taught in schools or from the pulpits of our lives. In fact, the opposite is being taught. Our parents tell us to watch out for those people; our churches say that their religion is the only true avenue to a fulfilling life; our government says that it's form of cracy is the only one for the world to emulate. Worse, we're taught that everyone that doesn't agree is an infidel, barbarian, third world ignorant or a heathen.

Hillary Clinton says that we have a basic bargain with our government that it will provide a structure for us so that we can build a good life. And that our founding fathers set up a representational form government to do just that.

Presently that government is failing because it has politicized every aspect of government and that is not in the public interest. Hence the need for real change.

Barack Obama said on one of the Sunday talk shows that: of the larger problems in this administration is that it is politicizing issues that should be guided by competence, practicality, common sense. That's part of what I think the American people really want to see changed in the next president.
Obama suggests that we need to change politics and it's rhetoric so that the lessons come from us, from the grassroots upwards, from an engaged citizenship discussing the issues of our day so that we can all be part of the solution.

I wholeheartedly agree and like the way Obama speaks what's on my mind. I wish him well.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Engaging rather than interrupting; reasoning rather than rabble-rousing

It seems like the pendulum of political discourse is swinging back to reality instead of sarcastic, provocative entertainment.
  • When Ann Coulter said what she did about John Edwards, the backlash was swift and across the board non-partisan. Republicans, Democrats, gays, straights, they all reacted similarly suggesting that Coulter wasn't just out of line, but instead making a desperate attempt for self promotion at the expense of Edwards.

  • When the Attorney General fired the eight Federal attornies and it became apparent that they were all political firings - that there was nothing negative on any of their records (in fact, quite the opposite) - the press, the attorneys themselves, and the public all reacted quickly with dismay that Gonzalez could be so petty and robotically following the whims of President Bush and that the lies coming out daily from Rove's office, Gonzales', and the White House were so blatant that it's become painfully clear that there's total disorganization at the top of our government.

  • Valerie Plame-Wilson made the clearest statement of how she and her husband were misused for purely vindictive political purposes while public sentiment suggests that Libby (who was found guilty for the leak that harmed Plame-Wilson) was the Vice President's fall guy and should get pardoned.

  • NBC News recently reported that 73% of Americans say they are following the Presidential election process closely - "an astounding figure in a country in which it's a big deal if more than half the electorate votes. Everywhere there's talk that this may be the most momentous race in our lifetime, that it's clear that the country is teetering on the cusp of something good, bad or cataclysmic" says Anna Quindlen in a Newsweek editorial.
Finally the blinders are off and we're all seeing what has been happening and the harm that's been done: that the bias has been so unfriendly and unwavering, that there's a backlash wanting silence (or at least the toning down of the rhetoric), that issues have gone wanting, and that partisan politics - particularly President Bush's brand of politics - has abandoned the will and wishes of the bill-paying electorate.

Quoting again from Anna Quindlen: "If, as many suspect, this is either a moment for the United States to prevail or to implode, a radio program, a column, or a TV talk show really matters. It's a valuable piece of public real estate that should be earned every day, by engaging rather than interrupting, by reasoning rather than rabble rousing. Maybe even by doing the really unthinkable in the civic auditorium and trying to move the conversation in fruitful directions."

I fervently hope that this is the case!

Monday, February 26, 2007

Change the System: Make Strategic Investments

I was riding in a taxi in Washington, DC talking with my companion about morality and moral dilemma when the taxi driver interrupted:
Moral dilemma? I'll tell you about a moral dilemma that the City of Washington, DC is putting me through right this moment.

I make my basic living as a taxi driver. But during the day, when things are slow, I supplement my income by taking patients to get their dialysis treatments. The City pays as part of it's program to assist poor people get needed medical care.

So here's the dilemma I'm in. I need the extra money. The people need to get to the care centers. But the City hasn't paid me in five months! That's right... five months. It's not a billing discrepancy. Everyone agrees that I'm supposed to get the money. They just don't have the money to pay us.

So what am I to do? Stop picking up and delivering patients who need my service to get their medical help?
Now that's a moral dilemma.

Problems like that haven't gone away. A recent Washington Post editorial exposed very similar circumstances: promises made, good intentions put into governmental programs, and no (or slow) actions or funding. Think Katrina.

Or think about all the other major problems that could be remedied with foresight and preventative investments which I like to think of as strategic investments [an investment now into remedying a social problem to save a larger amount at a later date. Think Head Start programs. In venture capital terminology, strategic investors are distinguished from venture capitalists and others who invest primarily with the aim of generating a large return on their investment.]
  • Alzheimer's will shortly become our biggest and costliest killer. The medical costs for a patient are phenomenally high as they become more and more incapacitated. As baby boomers age and other diseases find cures, Alzheimer's is moving quickly up the ladder to the number one spot. The numbers and costs are against us and NIH knows this as does every major health organization -- yet funding for Alzheimer's research is still meager and disorganized. There's no reason why a strategic investment today won't reap cost-saving benefits in the future. Yet... it's not happening.

  • Mental health is another serious concern. In Congress they're talking about "parity" which is a spin word to defuse the issue. [Disparity between full medical coverage versus limited mental health coverage (if any).] Yet today's military can't cope with their present load (as evidenced by recent articles about an APA Task Force studying the subject). Returning Vets from Iraq and Afghanistan's have mental health issues AND head injuries that are causing VA costs to skyrocket out of budget with future years even worse. As life becomes more complex and people live longer, mental health issues become more prevalent. Yet they are still treated primitively when it comes to insurance coverage. Limited treatments, if any, may alleviate pain temporarily, but don't provide life-changing help. Other than cost, there's no reason why a strategic investment here won't reap long-term benefits. Yet... it's not happening.

  • Educational changes are also strategic investments. Educating doesn't just happen in schools. Think Surgeon General Koop's condom and anti-smoking messages. Complexity, ethnic diversity, religious tolerance, compassion, and developing an understanding that we're all the same AND in the same boat are teachable and could have significant cost savings (think no wars).

  • Treating addictions as a mental health issue through early education and exposure to and emancipation from the underlying causes is another cost-saver.
The list goes on (the climate crisis, immigration, stem cell research, biotechnology, etc.) but the bottom line is the same: an altruistic strategic investment today will save what we'll have to pay down the road.

We all know that government is innefficient. Ours is. But this is an area that they (we) are charged to provide. Let's get the new Congress and the next administration to do their job - particularly in the area of strategic investing.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Psychology and Politics

"Fear of death has the highest correlation with being conservative" says scholar and author Frank Sulloway.

Many recent studies prove that the fear of death drives people to demonize those who hold different world views or beliefs about life and death. Tragically, most people are willing to sacrifice themselves in war to preserve their nation’s or religion’s particular symbols of immortality in a desperate attempt to achieve a sense of mastery over death. On a lesser scale, people can be – and are – manipulated using pseudo fears that elicit the same psychological reaction(s). Thus the title of this message: Psychology and Politics.

There are many studies, and many government-funded ones after 9/11, that delve into the psychology of politics. Particularly, that identify characteristics which differentiate between liberal and conservative ideologies.
  • Three books by George Lakoff: Moral Politics: How Liberals and Conservatives Think; Metaphors We Live By; and Don't Think of an Elephant: Know Your Values and Frame the Debate--The Essential Guide for Progressives.

  • Other books by Jost (Political Psychology: Key Readings (Key Readings in Social Psychology)), Kruglansky (The Psychology of Closed Mindedness (Essays in Socialpsychology)) and Sulloway (Born to Rebel) provide in-depth research useful to identify distinguishing characteristics of conservative and liberal personalities.

  • The Origins of Ethic Strife, Mind and Human Interaction, Vol 7, #4, 1996, Robert W. Firestone.

  • In the Wake of 9/11: The Psychology of Terror, Pysczynski, Solomon, Greenberg.
Consider these examples from a NY Times article by Patricia Cohen:
  • Most liberals think about morality in terms of two categories: how someone's welfare is affected, and whether it is fair. Conservatives, by contrast, broden that definition to include loyalty, respect for authority, and purity or sanctity.

  • There is a whole dimension to human experience best described as divinity or sacredness that conservatives are more attuned to.

  • Offices and bedrooms of conservatives tended to be neat and contain cleaning supplies, calendars, postage stamps and sports-related posters; bold-colored, cluttered rooms with art supplies, lots of books, jazz CDs and travel documents tended to belong to Democrats.
Thinking cynically, this is wonderful material for political strategists. Imagine what they could do with a presidential campaign budget and these targeting tidbits. They could slice and dice messages that would inflame religious fervor, patriotism, fear of terrorism, and loyalty to either enlist the conservatives or provoke the liberals (depending on who the consultant was working for). And they could match their voter and cable channel databases against consumer purchasers of jazz CDs, members of book clubs, etc. to further enable accurate demographic targeting.

I wasn't always this cynical. I used to be a believer, particularly in Democrats and their social consciousness. But dirty politics has bred dirty politicians on both sides making them indistinguishable in their infighting and fundraising; only in their positioning are they different -- they are still Democrats and Republicans with major differences in beliefs and wants and an inability to compromise for the common good.

When people are fearful or exasperated, they forget that we're all just like one another. They forget that if other people have different colored skins or religious practices that, nevertheless, they are human and have human desires and aspirations, that they're fragile, hurting, have a limited life span - that they're just like us.

As psychologist Robert Firestone said in his interview with Fred Branfman, "It's madness to be rigid: to define God in your own terms in a way that excludes other people's beliefs. It's madness to think that our way is right and everybody else is wrong. It's even the definition of insanity where you think everybody's wrong and you're right."

Click to see the 5-minute video clip from the interview:

It's time to remember that we're all the same. It's time to teach it in our schools and secondary media (like movies and commentaries) and from our pulpits and bully pulpits. It's time to teach people a world view full of complexities yet that we're all the same, that to be at odds about belief systems and to be defensive is criminal when it leads to destroying other people. This I believe and this I hope will happen when we get a different administration.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Let me introduce myself

For the past six months I've jotted down my thoughts about various political issues, particularly those involving the campaign process. All the while I've hidden my identity and wondered what right I had to put my thoughts out on the Internet, what credibility I had, even what value my ideas and opinions might have, and that it was naive of me to think otherwise. But a few things happened these last six months which have caused me to rethink my situation. In addition to developing a small but regular group of readers, I've come to believe that silence is an endemic problem gripping our society, country and global leadership, and I value my opinions and comments and want them to be heard and read.

So let me introduce myself: Frank Tobe, partner and then owner of the firm Below, Tobe & Associates, Inc., and founder/owner of APT (Applied Political Technologies) Inc. Both developed and segmented political databases somewhat similar to what Karl Rove has done, and both provided political direct mail of all types. Ten years ago I sold or dissolved both.

Vanity Fair's December issue had an article about Rove in which the author described Rove's process of splitting versus lumping -- discriminating versus celebrating inherent similarities -- indicating that Rove was a divider and FDR and Ronald Reagan were lumpers (consolidators).

For 25 years I was in the same business as Rove but never went as far as him in the splitting process because part of his process was to also use his information as a wedge to widen the divisiveness and inflame the fears of that split rather than try to unite around some issue or candidate that could help provide a real solution.

I wanted to differentiate my activities from Rove's and say that my companies and the clients that we worked with, mostly attempted to use niche targeting to get people's attention but then to talk about generic, consolidating, real issues. Although I've been out and away from the business for the last 10 years, I've followed the process and the players with interest and recently, with dismay. Today's extensive national databases and slice-and-dice software are so enabling, and the temptations so great to inflame divisiveness to get the results wanted, that altruism and the pursuit of fairness in politics are almost lost in the process. Although I'm glad I'm no longer part of that business and have no desire to reenter, I think it important to speak out -- because silence is part of the problem and I want to be part of the solution... and to consolidate and unite my friends and readers in the process.

So . . . welcome to my blog.