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.

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.

Why I conclude that the 2016 Election Result is Invalid Based on the Republican Senate Intelligence Report on Russian Interference

The Senate Intelligence Committee conducted an investigation on Russian interference in the 2016 election. At the conclusion of the investigation the Republican Senators issued a five volume report in pieces and at various dates over the past few years. The report received relatively little attention due to the busy news cycle headlines.

Because Republicans control the Senate, the Senate Intelligence Committee is led by Republicans who controlled the release of the report. We presume that Republicans have no motivation to publicize the report findings or act on their findings in a way that might hurt Trump’s chances of re-election.

The full text of the first volume of the Senate report is available online here. Volume 2 is here. Volume 3 is here. Volume 4 is here. Volume 5 is available here.

This blog post summarizes the findings of the report. I wrote this summary so that I would have a clear basis of recall the findings of the Senate report. In this age where facts are deliberately blurred for political purposes and memory is less than perfect, this is important. My notes and quotations are based almost entirely on writings of Heather Cox Richardson. The notes support my overall conclusion.

VOLUME 1 – RUSSIA DID ACCESS THE U.S. ELECTION SYSTEM

Russians successfully breached U.S. election system security in 2016. “Russian intelligence obtained and maintained access to elements of multiple U.S. state or local electoral boards,” but the Department of Homeland Security “assesses that the types of systems Russian actors targeted or compromised were not involved in vote tallying.” The section on Russian attacks on voting machines is almost entirely redacted so we still do not know those details.

VOLUME 2 – RUSSIAN GOALS TO HELP TRUMP AND THE OTHER METHODS OF INTERFERENCE USED

Russians “sought to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election by harming Hillary Clinton’s chances of success and supporting Donald Trump at the direction of the Kremlin” and “in 2016, Russian operatives… used social media to conduct an information warfare campaign designed to spread disinformation and societal division in the United States. Masquerading as Americans, these operatives used targeted advertisements, intentionally falsified news articles, self-generated content, and social media platform tools to interact with and attempt to deceive tens of millions of social media users in the United States. This campaign sought to polarize Americans on the basis of societal, ideological, and racial differences, provoked real world events, and was part of a foreign government’s covert support of Russia’s favored candidate in the U.S. presidential election.”

VOLUME 3 – U.S. GOVERNMENT RESPONSE TO ELECTION INTERFERENCE

How the elected U.S. government responded to the intelligence reports of Russian attacks on our election.

VOLUME 4 – U.S. INTELLIGENCE AGENCY RESPONSE

The methods and findings of the Intelligence Community are investigated, supported and justified.

VOLUME 5 – RUSSIAN CONNECTIONS WITHIN THE TRUMP CAMPAIGN

Trump’s campaign manager Paul Manafort was actively working with a Russian intelligence officer who was a longtime business associate in Ukraine.

CONCLUSION

The Republican Senate report does not conclude that the results of the 2016 presidential election are invalid. As a user of the Senate report, I do reach that conclusion that the result was invalid.

8 anti-racism actions to take now

These eight action steps are written by Catrice M. Jackson and published in Bazaar on June, 8, 2020.

“1. Resist the urge to withdraw, lash out, and become defensive or emotionally brittle when black people speak the unfiltered truth about racism.
2. Refuse to be a co-conspirator with white terrorism by breaking the intergenerational legacy of white silence and complacency.
3. Recommit in every moment to be extremely uncomfortable and uncertain while on your anti-racism journey.
4. Stop being afraid to talk openly and directly about racism in general and your own racism in particular. White people always think it is “those other white people” who are the problem.
5. Grab a seat, sit down, and be quiet. White people are not the experts on racism. Listen much more than you speak.
6. Listen to black women, and if they’re willing to teach you, pay them for their labour.
7. Accept that there are no exceptional white people, but there are white people who do good things.
8. Understand that there is no perfect formula for becoming anti-racist, and that the work ends only when you take your last breath. Learn what the Weapons of Whiteness are, discover which ones are your go-to weapons, and be ready and willing to disarm yourself.”

Immorality of Soldiers and Police

Soldiers and police (I’ll just call them “militants” because it’s hard to distinguish when they are in combat gear) who were “just following orders” to side with this criminal federal government regime against the majority of the American people have a serious moral issue to deal with, and maybe more. In the worst cases police and soldiers committed atrocities against peaceful unarmed citizens carrying it their civic responsibilities this week. There are many well documented cases of unprovoked attacks on citizens and journalists. It is unacceptable and these people must be held accountable.

Protesting criminal government is a moral civic responsibility. Protecting the status quo of social inequality is not. No justice, no peace. These militants are on the wrong side of the moral divide.

Militants ironically stand between protesters and a well known symbol of our democratic system of government.

Actions have consequences. These militants are too young to remember society’s reaction against what was politicized as “baby killers” returning from Vietnam. Soldiers were shunned, couldn’t be hired, and faced social condemnation for at least a decade of the 1970s. “Just following orders” carriers even less respect today.

Militants reportedly attacked peaceful protesters and clergy on church grounds in Washington DC.

“First they came for the Communists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Communist

Then they came for the Socialists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Socialist

Then they came for the trade unionists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a trade unionist

Then they came for the Jews
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Jew

Then they came for me
And there was no one left
To speak out for me”

~ Friedrich Gustav Emil Martin Niemöller Lutheran Pastor.

We must speak out. We must take action. And we will always seek justice.

Note: Of course I know that this blog post does not consider the many soldiers and police who act honorably. That’s the point. It’s not about them.

Police policy: what works, what does not

In the midst of horrible an reprehensible behavior by some police officers this week gassing, beating, arresting and shooting peaceful citizens elsewhere, I want to acknowledge that our Millville police walked peacefully with the community over the weekend and yesterday a New Jersey State Police officer from Port Norris stopped at my rural home and Baysave business just to ask if everything was OK. I really appreciated it. Thank you to all those officers! My family member in law enforcement are embarrassed and horrified by the aggressive actions by some police against peaceful protesters. Some police chiefs ‘get it’ and others just do not. The days of tough guy law and order mentality of “dominate the streets” being touted publicly by the president will just not work anymore. I appreciate president Obama’s statement yesterday that police policy happens at the local level, not by national policy. But why is it that some police chiefs ‘get it’ while others do not? Why is it that some understand the underlying the massively powerful force of resentment against government and others think they can maintain a ‘business as usual’ approach to law enforcement?

I didn’t know much about the topic of policing until my son was in law school focusing on criminal law and policing policies. (He won the school’s recognition award for exceptional performance in that area and had several great criminal law internships). In addition to conversations with the young lawyers, At first I was surprised that young lawyers are so opposed to traditional policing and criminal law tactics. Then I read a few books and resources on the topic to get a real education. I learned that we’ve been handling our policing and criminal law wrong for a very long time. It’s just like learning that spanking our kids was wrong and ineffective for all those generations. Unfortunately it is not reasonable to expect that the average person will educate themselves. The belief in outdated and ineffective policing persists in the minds of the majority of undereducated population (and especially politicians who think they know better). We are well familiar with “The Myth of the Rational Voter” concept as explained by author Bryan Caplan that a democratic process cannot be relied on for good public policy.

Those of us who study social policy and effective policing know that looting and rioting is an inevitable result of the decades of the widening gap in economic and social policies that are enforced by our government. Ultimately, we can’t fix police policy until we begin to address these other inequities. But no matter what, the policing policies of the past are wrong and ineffective and will only lead to more bad results.