A new era of truth seeking

Yesterday was a day of relief and even a day of joy. We survived a president without shame, a political party without spine, and an entertainment network without integrity*. But we are left a sicker, weaker and more indebted nation than ever before. Our financial position is weak, our cultural and political capital exhausted. China gained significantly in its global power over us in the past few years and our standing in global leadership and influence has dropped to previously unimaginable lows. It is absurd to continue to think of our selves as the greatest nation on earth – a concept engrained in our collective psychologies. Our world and our nation is suffering and in serious trouble.

The affluent mostly white class has been able to claim plausible deniability for our role in allowing this to happen. Too many among us lost the basic capability to discern data-based fact from emotion-based opinion. That era is past. As individuals, we have choices to make. Right now we can choose to acknowledge how we got here to this position today or we can choose to believe that our 401(k) account balance indicates that all will be OK. We can choose to acknowledge that our belief systems don’t stand up to scrutiny or we can continue to fight for ‘our way of life’.

Yesterday Amanda Gorman reminded us “Somehow we’ve weathered and witnessed a nation that isn’t broken, but simply unfinished”. We may not have the answers to save ourselves but we certainly do know what makes the problems worse. We see the risks and cannot afford the luxury of giving stage time to those who deny this world view and the work ahead of us. “There is always light if we are brave enough to see it”. We must follow that light.**

I know that going forward I will be more vigilant and less tolerant of those who seek to follow belief systems that weaken and divide us. My actions to distance, dismiss, disengage, non-renew and disassociate with those on this dark path will be accelerated.

While we work toward finding a way forward it does not make sense to be dragged down by the uninformed, the tragically misled cult followers and the conspiracists. That misguided era ended yesterday.

We must recommit to a new era of seeking facts and upholding truth,

*Paraphrased from the NYT editorial yesterday by Thomas Friedman. **Thanks to Heather Cox Richardson for inspirations used in this post.

Community mental health

“This is one of those nights when you can feel your emotions shared by millions of other people. Together we endured a trauma and avoided a calamity. Relief, gratitude and love are in the air.” – Marianne Williamson

Yet that’s certainly not what everyone is feeling. Many others among us are still feeling the crippling effect of psychological trauma. Within my own circle of close friends who I love and support, I’ve heard a range of comments this week indicating the deep effects of this traumatic stress: that China is now invading us, that the “negro woman” is coming to take our guns, that their are legions of foreign military already installed throughout the nation ready to spring to action to lead the insurrection, that the election was stolen, that immigrants are causing crime to spike and stealing jobs, that the stock market will crash because of the change in political leaders and they will lose what they have, that God is on Trump’s side, that rising taxes will destroy them, that they can’t buy enough ammunition for the revolution, that Trump will pull this off (being inaugurated again) at the last minute and that they are losing “their way of life”.

The one common symptom shared effect of all psychological disorders like this is that other people can plainly see that it is a state of belief and fear created within your own mind, but you cannot imagine that possibility yourself. The belief is as real to you as solid earth, your fear and rage is justified, and nothing will change your mind. Traumatic stress syndrome often shows up as inability to be effective in your job or community roles and is a serious problem for health, relationships, productivity and for society overall. Widespread traumatic stress is a public heath crisis.

This is a day to consider community mental health, our role as a positive force as well as the limitations that we may face.

Wishlist for my planet

Wishlist for my planet:

  1. We lose our nationalist and tribal attitudes and see that we are all in this together.
  2. That a third US political party emerges to break the lock jam of our government.
  3. That government incentivize sustainability above all else. (Yes, even above “constitutional rights”)!
  4. We reinvent the concept of corporations.

Thank you Heather Cox Richardson

“the most successful independent journalist in America” – NYT

The curse of learning history is that we can’t go back and correct the past, no matter how obvious that a corrective course is needed. But we can change the future. America owes much to Boston College historian Heather Cox Richardson for her valuable contributions documenting the facts over this recent past when our society overall has lost the skill of separating fact from propaganda. Kudos to New York Times for their article today. She’s the most clear-headed and prolific voice in contemporary history and has been a huge personal blessing to me.

Thank you and congratulations Heather Cox Richardson!

The proliferation of lies and ignorance

Each passing day and each occurring event brings out more revelations of ignorance and wildly successful intentional propaganda. It seems ridiculously easier to get the majority of people to believe a falsehood than it is to encourage them to learn facts. The desire to distinguish facts from opinion seems to be critically low, an understanding of the value of doing so minimized, while the desire to promote one’s opinion seems to be at an incredibly high level.

We are seeing this effect again right now today and this week over the National Defense Authorization Act, the COVID relief act and the Consolidated Appropriations Act where you’ll find a wide range of misinformation today. It is especially frustrating to me when a media calls themselves “news” but actually allows unedited and incorrect commentary by anchors. Likewise, people who call themselves “professionals” who have apparently not evolved past the point of having a process to differentiate reliable from unreliable information. It seems clear that commercial media understands the economic value of disinformation. Of course, those aspiring to political power understand the power of propaganda.

That’s not to say that we don’t all occasionally make a mistake. Nor does it mean that we don’t all sometimes engage in deliberate propaganda. But that’s entirely different from not having developed an internal cognitive process that will lead to differentiating facts from propaganda or opinion and recognize the importance and value of doing so.

It is normal to wonder if this problem always existed and how we handled it before. Virtually all of recorded history indicates that ignorance of the masses was a constant force in society. But nowhere in mankind’s history has the democratization of free information flow through the internet raised the power of ignorance and propaganda to the level it is today. in the past we could easily ignore and step over the smelly problem. That’s not so easy today.

I conclude that thee future of mankind looks dimmer because of the empowerment f this form of widespread mental laziness.

Spirituality of Spinoza

The following is either compiled or copied. I do not know the source.

When Einstein gave lectures at U.S. universities, the question students asked him most was: Do you believe in God? And he always answered: I believe in the God of Spinoza.

Baruch de Spinoza was a Dutch philosopher considered one of the great rationalists of 17th century philosophy, along with Descartes.

According to Spinoza, God would say: “Stop praying. I want you to go out into the world and enjoy your life. I want you to sing, have fun and enjoy everything I’ve made for you.

“Stop going into those dark, cold temples that you built yourself and saying they are my house. My house is in the mountains, in the woods, rivers, lakes, beaches. That’s where I live and there I express my love for you.

“Stop blaming me for your miserable life; I never told you there was anything wrong with you or that you were a sinner, or that your sexuality was a bad thing. Sex is a gift I have given you and with which you can express your love, your ecstasy, your joy. So don’t blame me for everything that others made you believe.

“Stop reading alleged sacred scriptures that have nothing to do with me. If you can’t read me in a sunrise, in a landscape, in the look of your friends, in your son’s eyes—you will find me in no book!

“Stop asking me, ‘Will you tell me how to do my job?’ Stop being so scared of me. I do not judge you or criticize you, nor get angry or bothered. I am pure love.

“Stop asking for forgiveness, there’s nothing to forgive. If I made you, I filled you with passions, limitations, pleasures, feelings, needs, inconsistencies, and best of all, free will. Why would I blame you if you respond to something I put in you? How could I punish you for being the way you are, if I’m the one who made you? Do you think I could create a place to burn all my children who behave badly for the rest of eternity? What kind of god would do that?

“Respect your peers, and don’t give what you don’t want for yourself. All I ask is that you pay attention in your life—alertness is your guide.

“My beloved, this life is not a test, not a step on the way, not a rehearsal, not a prelude to paradise. This life is the only thing here and now—and it is all you need.

“I have set you absolutely free, no prizes or punishments, no sins or virtues, no one carries a marker, no one keeps a record.
You are absolutely free to create in your life. It’s you who creates heaven or hell.

“Live as if there is nothing beyond this life, as if this is your only chance to enjoy, to love, to exist. Then you will have enjoyed the opportunity I gave you. And if there is an afterlife, rest assured that I won’t ask if you behaved right or wrong, I’ll ask, ‘Did you like it? Did you have fun? What did you enjoy the most? What did you learn?’

“Stop believing in me; believing is assuming, guessing, imagining. I don’t want you to believe in me, I want you to believe in you. I want you to feel me in you when you kiss your beloved, when you tuck in your little girl, when you caress your dog, when you bathe in the sea.

“Stop praising me. What kind of egomaniac God do you think I am? I’m bored with being praised. I’m tired of being thanked. Feeling grateful? Prove it by taking care of yourself, your health, your relationships, the world. Express your joy! That’s the way to praise me.

“Stop complicating things and repeating as a parrot what you’ve been taught about me. Why do you need more miracles? So many explanations?

“The only thing for sure is that you are here, that you are alive, that this world is full of wonders.”

The New Finances of Politics

Turning lies into profits has proved hugely successful. New federal financial reports show that the pressures of losing have actually helped Trump raise $13 million per day over the past two months. What are the long term financial implication on other elections?

The MAGA movement fundamentally changed the finances of American politics. Since the time two months ago when it appeared highly likely to independent observers that he would lose the election, Trump and his fundraisers have raised $13 million per day primarily through text message appeals to the MAGA crowd. Yesterday the Trump campaign, the RNC, Trump Victory, and Trump Make America Great Again Committee, filed reports with the Federal Election Commission for the reporting period of Oct. 15 to Nov. 23 disclosing that they collectively raised a total of $495 million in tis short time.

Since there are no laws that the text message appeals to donors need to be factual or honest, the people solicited have been misled with false statements and sophisticated appeals to their emotions. It is easy to argue that election finance laws are specifically designed to allow legalized fraud. The fundraisers target the cognitive weaknesses in potential donors through brilliantly designed fundraising messages. This explains why most MAGA individuals believed that he would certainly win the election despite other more credible data, will still win the election through post-election maneuvers despite all other sources, will be president despite losing the election based on speculator fantasies, and will be president again in the future. There are no signs that this unprecedented financial campaign will slow down.

In fact, the financial appeals for Trump’s 2024 campaign are expected to begin soon and will likely be the strongest early financial campaign in our country’s history. Trump is clearly able to leverage his folk hero status and polished TV image as a successful businessman among the MAGA crowd into an extremely profitable cash generating machine. The money is funneled through a Political Action Committee, better known as a “PAC”, a type of organization authorized by federal law that bypasses the limits of campaign contributions and allows Trump to use the money without the usual restrictions imposed on campaign funds.

What effect will this have on other federal, state and local political fundraising? The Republican National Committee has indicated that it is willing to consider backing other candidates outside of Trump and the MAGA circle. Will this fragment the parties’ fundraising?

My own role is focused and limited to the required accounting and legal compliance of political campaigns, including a PAC. I have set up the mechanics of text message based donation campaigns. I know that this relatively new technology is a mechanically efficient process. Most of my campaign clients have been independents or Democrats. Only two were Republicans. I understand that it would be expensive but still highly profitable to run a text message based fundraising campaign like Trump is doing. It is not clear to me, in my limited capacity as an accountant, whether others will be able to be as successful following this newly proven strategy. My observation and personal opinion is that other candidates of both parties are light years behind in their ability to manipulate voters into this type of cash-generating machine. Yet I do not doubt that Trump’s fundraising success will cause future fundraising campaigns to copy this proven strategy of appealing to the ‘dark side’ of voters. I regret to conclude that fundraising based on fantasy – storied completely separated from facts and reality – will increase in the future. I’ll be watching for other Republicans who follow this same financial strategy. Some observers write that it is unlikely that Democrats or independent candidates would be as successful in this type of strategy. I tend to agree but that’s well outside my area of expertise.

In summary, I see huge financial potential ahead for this completely legal method of turning lies into a profitable long term business model. While it isn’t clear who will do this, I have no doubt that others will follow.

National To Do List

  • Recommit to the Paris Accord
  • Rejoin WHO
  • Reinstate DACA
  • Reuinite refugee families
  • Support and strengthen ACA
  • Raise highest bracket corporate tax rates
  • Add higher individual tax bracket over $400,000
  • Supported and coordinated coronavirus task force based on science not politics
  • Expand Supreme Court so that one president’s appointments does not have undue influence
  • End drilling on national lands
  • Strengthen Clean Water Act

That’s good enough for day one.

How to end minority rule government in the United States

I’m writing this hours after the minority government packed the Supreme Court with a Justice who is not supported by the majority of Americans. We had one simple and effective tool to use to prevent minority rule government that does these despicable things. We failed to use our right to vote effectively in 2016 and 2018. Our failure as U.S. voters directly led to this poor result. Legal scholars predict this will hurt the average American, especially women and non-white people, for generations to come.

Will we fail to use our power to vote in preventing minority rule government again in 2020? This is how U.S. voting looks by the numbers:

257 million are eligible to vote

240 million are registered to vote

150 million are likely to vote (a high side estimate)

60 million have already voted (a week before the deadline)*

It’s easy to conclude that the 90 million who do not vote (registered but not voting) who are primarily responsible for enabling the minority party to continue to control the majority of us and govern in ways that harm the majority of us. The encouraging thing, statisticians tell us, is that we don’t need to change the behavior of all 90 million. Just getting 1 in 100 of these non-voters to cast a ballot would end minority rule government in the United States federal government. Even in the most lopsided local voting districts, getting 1 in 10 non-voters to cast a ballot would displace most minority governments.

The big unanswered question is whether this year’s final vote count will still result in the over-representation of older white voters relative to their share of the population or whether we see more equal rates of voter turnout across all voter groups. I’m guessing that nothing has really changed and that minority rule will continue in many parts of the country.

My own work and financial support in recent years has focused on supporting increasing the number of votes, rather than support parties or candidates. We’ve made some progress but we must do better.

Only by increasing voter participation can we get rid of this destructive and cruel system of minority rule in government. Few things in our lives are this simple and this clear. We are sick of government by rich old white men. I will continue to do my best to end this broken system by encouraging more people to vote. That’s our only hope.


* early voting number per Axios estimate yesterday. Other voter data was reported by USA Today this week.