The Widdershins

Happy Friday, Widdershins.  And has this not been a fascinating week?  The news has been grim – biker gang shootouts in Waco (what is it about Waco that gives so many iterations of Waco Wackos to the world?), worsening news in the Middle East (while democracy is messy, this is way past messy), while Jeb Bush looks like he has never even run for President of the Stamp Club. Fascinating though it might be, I’m ready to leave it all behind and spend the weekend listening to music.

Last week we made many helpful suggestions for campaign music to the Republicans, and today we should give equal time to the Democrats. To be completely fair, the Democratic nomination is not a done deal.  Feel free to post suggestions for Martin O’Malley and Bernie Sanders, as well as your thoughts for Hillary Clinton in this open thread.

(1) To Martin O’Malley, former Mayor of Baltimore/Governor of Maryland:  This Is My Town, by Montgomery Gentry

(2) To Bernie Sanders, Senator : Share the Land, by The Guess Who

And now, for Hillary Clinton:

(3) Roar, by Katy Perry (suggested by the artist herself)

(4) What Doesn’t Kill You, by Kelly Clarkson

(5) I Am Woman, by Helen Reddy

Sunday evening was the final installment of Mad Men.  I admit to being an aficionado of the show and the era, but mostly of the women portrayed.  Peggy and Joan were the only characters who passed the beer test for me – people with whom I would have liked to spend time.  Their success was never doubtful, both professionally and more importantly, personally.Mad Men

Those are two things you can’t say about any of the male characters.  Peter Campbell would have looked good strapped to a Firestone test tire on a very fast car.  Roger Sterling, as glib and entertaining as the character was, put the “d” in debauchery and was morally agnostic except when it came to his personal pleasure.  Bert Cooper’s grandfatherly facade hid a heart only stirred by the aroma of cold, hard cash.

And then there was Don Draper – an amoral drunk whose behavior described the term “man whore” before there was such a term.  Don’s efforts at being authentic were defined around his success at being a fraud.  Whether as a father, husband, soldier, or just an average human, Don’s endeavors at being genuine were merely artifices of fraud.

There’s a learning there and I’m reminded of what John Lennon said, “I don’t want to be a loud-mouthed, poet musician, but I can’t be what I’m not.”  This has always been a hard lesson for me particularly when it is a teaching tenet in leadership development.  Translated, the rule means:  Be authentic even if authenticity is grossly unappealing.  Being inauthentic fools no one and is just one colossus waste of energy.  You can’t be what you’re not, even if what you are is a fraud.

John LennonThat lesson came to mind with the difficulty the Republican candidates are having with what ought to be the simple question of, “If you knew then what we know now, would you have authorized the Iraq invasion?”  A question first posed by Fox – not exactly a forum for Republican “gotcha questions”.

Invading Iraq has been soundly rejected by conservative opinion leaders like George Will as the single worst foreign policy decision in the history of the nation, but there are others who believe, like Bill Kristol, the Iraq invasion was the right thing to do.  Both Will and Kristol can’t be what they’re not – one grasping at logical congruence, the other unable to admit one of many, many errors about – well, just about everything.

Jeb Bush, at first in answering the question, couldn’t be disloyal to his brother, Marco Rubio couldn’t be disloyal to his potential billionaire funder, and Rand Paul, the only candidate on the other side of the Iraq War issue, would never disregard his father’s philosophy – unless it was first politically expedient to do so.  They can’t be what they’re not – Jeb, a loyal brother stained with the taint of family, Marco, a pandering, political man-child looking for a sugar daddy, and Rand, the inheritor of basement-dwelling anarchists pining for the chaos libertarianism would loose on society.

Then there’s John McCain who never saw a war that didn’t titillate or Lady Lindsey who parrots him with great pleasure and almost a genetic consistency, “me too John” – they can’t be what they’re not.Authenticity

For these people and others like them, authenticity means ignoring the lessons of thirteen-years, trillions of dollars, and the utter waste of hundreds of thousands of lives from the Iraq folly of conservative adventurism masquerading as foreign policy.  Being genuine for those romanticizing American colonialism is an exercise in disguising the motives of their foreign policy advisers, many of whom were the architects masterminding the Iraq War – resurrected like cicadas awakening to again plague us with their very existence.

As much as we would like to believe the Iraq War and the new threat of ISIS is purely and exclusively attributable to Republicans, no one in the world-at-large draws such a fine distinction.  The scourge of the Iraq War is an American badge of dishonor and failure — equally shared and worn by all of us for what was done in our name.

Of this I’m sure:  There is only one thing worse than being lied into a war and that is ignoring the truth when someone says they didn’t learn anything from it and they would do it all over again — only this time in Iran.  They just can’t be what they’re not.

Have a great Wednesday and take this conversation in any direction you might like.

 

Good Monday, all! The Republicans likely to run for President were in rare form this weekend. The American election cycle is clearly too long for them; it allows their limited brainpower and unlimited egos multiple opportunities to open mouths, insert feet.

Witness what happens when unpopular union-busting Governor Scott Walker attempts to make an argument for why Americans should elect him President of the United States.

After noting that Walker had recently visited Israel, a trip partially paid for by billionaire Sheldon Adelson, Schieffer wondered what made the Wisconsin governor qualified to lead the county’s foreign policy.

“As a governor, I’ve been, just recently in Germany, in Spain and France,” Walker explained. “Earlier in the year, it was the United Kingdom on trade related missions. A few years back in China and Japan. So, that’s probably the most of any governor of either party has is that experience in terms of trade relations.”

Well, uh….I do appreciate the weasel words about “governors” of either Party, but…does Scott Walker really think that people are going to forget Hillary Clinton’s tenure as Secretary of State, and be impressed by his measly six trips on “trade-related missions,” whatever those were? (Another notable set of weasel-words, Scottie boy).

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Happy Friday, Widdershin!  The end of the week is upon us, and that means that it’s time to escape reality and bury ourselves in nicer things.   I propose that we spend the weekend trying to assist the Republican candidates – and there’s a busload from which to choose – with a suitable theme song.   After all, look how far Jay-Z and “99 Problems” took Obama in ’08.

You can find an exhaustive list of candidates here.   No, I have never, ever heard of some of these people, either.  Feel free to chose any/all of them to gift with a proper background song, and please feel free to select any of my choices to better with one of your own.

It took all of 15 minutes for me to find suitable tunes, and y’all are younger, smarter, faster, and undoubtedly much better with computers than I.  So post your favorites here, along with anything else that you might like to discuss in this otherwise wide open thread.

*  A quick memo to the aforementioned candidates:  Please remember to ask the artist if you can use his song before adopting any of the wonderfully helpful suggestions that you may find here.

(1)  To Jeb Bush:  He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother by the Hollies

(2) To Marco Rubio:  New Kid In Town by the Eagles

(3) To Rand Paul:  My Father’s Son by Joe Cocker

(4) To Ted Cruz:  Hello, Calgary (unknown vocalist)

(5) To Chris Christie:  Friends In Low Places

(6) To Carly Fiorina:  Sheep, by Pink Floyd

While I’m relatively certain with a 99.9999999% assurance factor the writers for The Daily Show have not yet discovered our little Widdershin world, their writing and video selection could not have been more apropos as a follow-up to Tuesday.

This video lays bare the philosophical quagmire associated with the “zero-sum” thinking.  Jon Stewart calls it out with the simple words of believing being poor is not a condition, but character.  In other words, being poor is attributable to a lack of character and if just the poor had more “character” they would no longer be poor.

Contrary to all the inflammatory rhetoric nine-tenths, that is 9/10, or 90%, or 9 out of 10 people receiving benefits are elderly, disabled, or working households.  This whole crap-fest began after the Georgetown University poverty summit when the President, in a twenty-second throwaway comment about Fox, made mention of the demonizing of the poor.  It’s not like the conservative viewpoint wasn’t represented since right there on the stage was a conservodroid from one of the “shrink tanks” in DC.

This demonization of the poor isn’t new, but it has been particularly potent of late:

There’s a deep tradition in America of agitating those who aren’t well-off against people who have it even worse (picture poor whites in the pre-Civil Rights South directing their ire at blacks who had even less).

Whatever the cause of this resurgence of poor hatred, be it the Tea Party or political wedge-driving, Jon Stewart perfectly captured it last evening.  The video might not embed, but follow the trail, it is well worth the effort:

http://thedailyshow.cc.com/videos/q5tmo2/the-poor-you-know—did-you-even-try-to-research-this-

What are we going to do without Jon Stewart?  Who will subject themselves to Fox in order to demonstrate their rank hypocrisy?

Take the conversation in any direction you might like.

 

What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.  How many times have you heard that tired old saw?  Surprisingly, there is a good bit of truth in that statement especially if the goose is a poor child and the gander is a rich child. Who knew?Seesaw

Through the study of some 5 million families a truth has emerged from the mountain of data.  Some of the findings are not earth-shattering pearls of wisdom.   Cities like Baltimore, Detroit, Orlando, and Chicago are inherently problematic for a poor child to have any hope of upward social mobility.  These cities are highly segregated and unequal.  They have a higher crime rate and worse schools.  They are also more likely than not to have a lot of single-parent families.

Courtesy of this study, we now know that poor children have better odds if they moved to places with more economic mobility like Fairfax County, Virginia, Bergen County, N.J., Seattle, Cedar County, Iowa, or any number of other communities.

So what’s the big deal?  What is the learning from this study?

The learning is that rich kids, with all the built-in advantages of economic freedom and stability, also fare better when they live in these very same communities as compared to just average communities.  In other words, whether you are a poor or a rich child, you benefit in your adult years from living in a community where economic mobility is embraced.

Bigger ladderAgain, not that earth-shattering – not until you consider the fear that permeates any effort to positively leverage social mobility.  That fear:  Any increase in economic mobility comes at the expense of those who already enjoy it.  Simply put, doing good things for some means equal or greater bad things for others.  It’s this fear that has stymied progress on health care, food stamps, child care, or crumbling roads and bridges for the past thirty-years.  The damage from this fear continues to this day.  It is at the heart of “I got mine, sorry about your luck.”

The code words for this fear in all things economic are “zero-sum gains” – meaning if we put struggling, poor children in classrooms with rich children, the rich kids will be worse off and suffer.  We worry if we contaminate “nice” neighborhoods with the occasional poor family, the nice neighborhood won’t be nice any more.

I’ve written about this often since, in my opinion, this is the greatest obstacle to anti-poverty programs.  You can see this fear playing out – cut food stamps before they affect social security, we can’t afford Obamacare because it might affect Medicare, or we can’t repair our deteriorating bridges and roads because it might mean closing some sacrosanct corporate tax loophole.

Anti-poverty programs to the poor are the anemic twenty-third cousin to the perpetual generational endowment of the one-percenters.  Without some positive governmental influence through boot-strapping, what hope is there for the neighborhoods of the generational poor and their children?  For most of these communities, hope is as rare a commodity as fresh produce at the corner market.

Helping poor kids won’t harm rich kids.  Helping poor sick people get medical care won’t impact Medicare recipients.  The jobs created from repairing our infrastructure pay for themselves.  If, and only if, we overcome the zero-sum fear underpinning bogus economic slogans perpetuated by the conservative media’s echo chamber.Social mobility ladder

Remarkably, instead of matching action with the mantra of “a rising tide raises all ships,” conservative energies always seem to be solely focused upon elevating the pier just beyond reach.

If we step back and think about it, the only legitimate zero-sum fear is one that extinguishes hope.  Poor kids and rich kids need essentially the same thing to insure their success.  Instead of cities withering in inequality, future generations need communities embracing institutions promoting social and economic mobility.  Now we have a study proving it.

I hope your Tuesday is a good one.  Any direction you might want to take this conversation is, as always, encouraged.

 

Good morning, all! I hope you enjoyed your weekend. Bernie Sanders, the newest “Democratic” candidate for President, sure did, as he made the case for his candidacy on “Face the Nation.”

During an interview on Face the Nation, CBS host Bob Schieffer asked Sanders if he really thought he could defeat former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination.

“The answer is yes,” Sanders replied. “Because there is massive dissatisfaction in this country today with corporate establishment and the greed of corporate America, and the incredibly unequal distribution of wealth and income which currently exists.”

“As a result of this disastrous Supreme Court Citizens United decisions, clearly, the billionaires — Koch brothers and others — are owning the political process,” the Vermont senator explained. “They will determine the political process.”

Sanders pointed out that if Americans put him the White House, this could be the last election controlled by the billionaire class.

“If elected president, I will have a litmus test in terms of my nominee to be a Supreme Court justice,” he remarked. “And that nominee will say that we are going to overturn this disastrous Supreme Court decision on Citizens United. Because that decision is undermining American democracy. I do not believe that billionaires should be able to buy politicians.”

I have to say, I could not agree with him more. I am definitely enjoying Bernie’s candidacy so far, although I don’t like the implication that the billionaires are buying Hillary. If they could buy Hillary, they wouldn’t have been attacking her for the past 20 years, trying to keep her from influencing American and world politics. They’d be backing her, the way they backed Obama…and her press would reflect it.

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