Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Via TED Talks / Pico Iyer: The talk that changed my life

The talk that changed my life

By Pico Iyer
Thirty-four years of working in the mass media have taught me one thing: never to trust the mass media. Not because of any hidden agenda or conspiracy but simply because the media is in the business of giving us what we want. And what we seem to want these days is wild gossip, distraction and entertainment 'round the clock. The only way to follow what's going on in the world is to never pick up a newspaper or turn on the TV, but merely to try to observe it on the human level first-hand, unmediated by screens.

So you're probably not surprised that I was liberated, blown open, when I heard Ricardo Semler’s TED Talk, "How to run a company with (almost) no rules." Really, its title should be, "How to live with the exactly right, emancipating rules." The minute the Brazilian CEO walks onto the red circle and says, as easily as hello, "On Mondays and Thursdays I learn how to die," I know I'm in the presence of a line of thinking that can change my life.

Mr. Semler’s not young, and melanoma runs in his family, so he has reason to think about the end, perhaps. But as he begins to unfold his vision of how to transform a company -- by encouraging workers to come and go as they please -- and then extends that vision to our schools, I realize that this highly practical, successful man of the very real world is simply challenging us to think about what’s difficult, and therefore necessary.

I haven't occupied a company setting since 1986; nothing could interest me less than profit curves or office management. But the grace of Mr. Semler's talk is that he's speaking about the "graph" of existence more than of spreadsheets; about making a life as much as making a living. And there's something invigorating about seeing this wisdom brought to us not by monk or formal philosopher or saint, but by elegant company director in black jacket. Leading a good and considered life, he shows us, need not be incompatible with laboring in an office block.

As those of us lucky enough to listen to the talk live, in a tent on the beach in Rio, heard Ricardo Semler at the end of a long day, after maybe sixty talks over the previous three days, many were stunned by single lines. He wasn't asking himself, "What do I want to be remembered for?" but "Why do I want to be remembered at all?" He was reminding us that we're always ready to turn to our work-related e-mails on Sunday evening yet slow to go to the movies on Monday afternoon. He kept taking us back to how "we measure ourselves, as humans," knowing that such a measure has to do with something deeper than the rocket fuel propellant systems, income-tax preparations and M.I.T. classes by which he’s long gained his livelihood.

It's the same message that the Buddha and Marcus Aurelius and Montaigne pass along, because Mr. Semler goes to cemeteries even on his birthday, as they might have done, thinking about what he'd do if he had only a few months to live. But he brings such ideas to the boardroom, the bedroom and the classroom, exactly the places where we’re most inclined to overlook them.

And nothing could be more urgent in an age when we spend less and less time addressing what's lasting and what’s real. We're always being told, rightly, to tend to our forests and to clean up our air; but we’re less often reminded to try to protect the wild spaces inside our imaginations (where the future will get made) or to clean up the skies in our souls (where toxins can be more poisonous than any external pollution). Even as we're so proud of filling our bodies with locally sourced, farm-to-table, organic food, we fill our minds with junk.

The world is as full of beauty and wisdom and hope as ever; I've seen that everywhere from Burma to New York City these past few months (and, in the past few weeks, in Bhutan and Alberta and Varanasi and rural Japan). Humans are no worse than we've ever been, even if we're not necessarily any better. And the only way we can imagine a better world is by going within. The only way we can make it happen is by bringing that imagining out into the world. Ricardo Semler inspires me as only a wise man can, and he gives me hope about translating his bracing wisdom into real life as only an accomplished master of the corporate sphere can do.
Watch "How to run a company with (almost) no rules"

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Via FB:(copied and pasted verbatim) important read.

Yale historian and Holocaust expert Timothy Snyder wrote: "Americans are no wiser than the Europeans who saw democracy yield to fascism, Nazism, or communism. Our one advantage is that we might learn from their experience. Now is a good time to do so." Snyder's a member of the Council on Foreign Relations (which includes former Secretaries of State), and consults on political situations around the globe. He says, "Here are twenty lessons from the twentieth century, adapted to the circumstances of today.

1. Do not obey in advance. Much of the power of authoritarianism is freely given. In times like these, individuals think ahead about what a more repressive government will want, and then start to do it without being asked. You've already done this, haven't you? Stop. Anticipatory obedience teaches authorities what is possible and accelerates unfreedom.

2. Defend an institution. Follow the courts or the media, or a court or a newspaper. Do not speak of "our institutions" unless you are making them yours by acting on their behalf. Institutions don't protect themselves. They go down like dominoes unless each is defended from the beginning.

3. Recall professional ethics. When the leaders of state set a negative example, professional commitments to just practice become much more important. It is hard to break a rule-of-law state without lawyers, and it is hard to have show trials without judges.

4. When listening to politicians, distinguish certain words. Look out for the expansive use of "terrorism" and "extremism." Be alive to the fatal notions of "exception" and "emergency." Be angry about the treacherous use of patriotic vocabulary.

5. Be calm when the unthinkable arrives. When the terrorist attack comes, remember that all authoritarians at all times either await or plan such events in order to consolidate power. Think of the Reichstag fire. The sudden disaster that requires the end of the balance of power, the end of opposition parties, and so on, is the oldest trick in the Hitlerian book. Don't fall for it.

6. Be kind to our language. Avoid pronouncing the phrases everyone else does. Think up your own way of speaking, even if only to convey that thing you think everyone is saying. (Don't use the internet before bed. Charge your gadgets away from your bedroom, and read.) What to read? Perhaps "The Power of the Powerless" by Václav Havel, 1984 by George Orwell, The Captive Mind by Czesław Milosz, The Rebel by Albert Camus, The Origins of Totalitarianism by Hannah Arendt, or Nothing is True and Everything is Possible by Peter Pomerantsev.

7. Stand out. Someone has to. It is easy, in words and deeds, to follow along. It can feel strange to do or say something different. But without that unease, there is no freedom. And the moment you set an example, the spell of the status quo is broken, and others will follow.

8. Believe in truth. To abandon facts is to abandon freedom. If nothing is true, then no one can criticize power, because there is no basis upon which to do so. If nothing is true, then all is spectacle. The biggest wallet pays for the most blinding lights.

9. Investigate. Figure things out for yourself. Spend more time with long articles. Subsidize investigative journalism by subscribing to print media. Realize that some of what is on your screen is there to harm you. Bookmark PropOrNot or other sites that investigate foreign propaganda pushes.

10. Practice corporeal politics. Power wants your body softening in your chair and your emotions dissipating on the screen. Get outside. Put your body in unfamiliar places with unfamiliar people. Make new friends and march with them.

11. Make eye contact and small talk. This is not just polite. It is a way to stay in touch with your surroundings, break down unnecessary social barriers, and come to understand whom you should and should not trust. If we enter a culture of denunciation, you will want to know the psychological landscape of your daily life.

12. Take responsibility for the face of the world. Notice the swastikas and the other signs of hate. Do not look away and do not get used to them. Remove them yourself and set an example for others to do so.

13. Hinder the one-party state. The parties that took over states were once something else. They exploited a historical moment to make political life impossible for their rivals. Vote in local and state elections while you can.

14. Give regularly to good causes, if you can. Pick a charity and set up autopay. Then you will know that you have made a free choice that is supporting civil society helping others doing something good.

15. Establish a private life. Nastier rulers will use what they know about you to push you around. Scrub your computer of malware. Remember that email is skywriting. Consider using alternative forms of the internet, or simply using it less. Have personal exchanges in person. For the same reason, resolve any legal trouble. Authoritarianism works as a blackmail state, looking for the hook on which to hang you. Try not to have too many hooks.

16. Learn from others in other countries. Keep up your friendships abroad, or make new friends abroad. The present difficulties here are an element of a general trend. And no country is going to find a solution by itself. Make sure you and your family have passports.

17. Watch out for the paramilitaries. When the men with guns who have always claimed to be against the system start wearing uniforms and marching around with torches and pictures of a Leader, the end is nigh. When the pro-Leader paramilitary and the official police and military intermingle, the game is over.

18. Be reflective if you must be armed. If you carry a weapon in public service, God bless you and keep you. But know that evils of the past involved policemen and soldiers finding themselves, one day, doing irregular things. Be ready to say no. (If you do not know what this means, contact the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and ask about training in professional ethics.)

19. Be as courageous as you can. If none of us is prepared to die for freedom, then all of us will die in unfreedom.

20. Be a patriot. The incoming president is not. Set a good example of what America means for the generations to come. They will need it."

ETA: Feel free to share, but please copy+ paste into your own status or else it will not be viewable to all of your friends.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Via Occupy Democrats: Dan Rather Just Demanded Americans Choose Sides Against Trump’s Nazis In Viral Post

Legendary journalist Dan Rather took to Facebook today to address the shocking rise of right-wing extremism in the American government and in American political circles. After video surfaced yesterday of white supremacists quoting Nazi propaganda in German and giving the Nazi salute while shouting “Hail (heil) Trump,” Rather could no longer stay silent. He has penned a powerful warning for the American people while condemning the potential President-elect and the media for staying complicitly silent as these horrifying events unfold.
Now is a time when none of us can afford to remain seated or silent. We must all stand up to be counted.
History will demand to know which side were you on. This is not a question of politics or party or even policy. This is a question about the very fundamentals of our beautiful experiment in a pluralistic democracy ruled by law.
When I see neo-Nazis raise their hands in terrifying solute, in public, in our nation’s capital, I shudder in horror. When I see that action mildly rebuked by a boilerplate statement from the President-elect whom these bigots have praised, the anger in me grows. And when I see some in a pliant press turn that mild statement into what they call a denunciation I cannot hold back any longer.
Our Declaration of Independence bequeaths us our cherished foundational principle: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
These truths may be self-evident but they are not self-replicating. Each generation has to renew these vows. This nation was founded as an opposite pole to the capriciousness of an authoritarian monarch. We set up institutions like a free press and an independent court system to protect our fragile rights. We have survived through bloody spasms of a Civil War and a Civil Rights Movement to extend more of these rights to more of our citizens. But the direction of our ship of state has not always been one of progress. We interned Japanese Americans, Red Baited during the McCarthy era, and more. I feel the rip tide of regression once again swelling under my feet. But I intend to remain standing.
In normal times of a transition in our presidency between an incoming and outgoing administration of differing political parties, there is a certain amount of fretting on one side and gloating on the other. And the press usually takes a stance that the new administration at least deserves to have a chance to get started – a honeymoon period. But these are not normal times. This is not about tax policy, health care, or education – even though all those and more are so important. This is about racism, bigotry, intimidation and the specter of corruption.
But as I stand I do not despair, because I believe the vast majority of Americans stand with me. To all those in Congress of both political parties, to all those in the press, to religious and civic leaders around the country. your voices must be heard. I hope that the President-elect can learn to rise above this and see the dangers that are brewing. If he does and speaks forcibly, and with action, we should be ready to welcome his voice. But of course I am deeply worried that his selections of advisors and cabinet posts suggests otherwise.
To all of you I say, stay vigilant. The great Martin Luther King, Jr. knew that even as a minority, there was strength in numbers in fighting tyranny. Holding hands and marching forward, raising your voice above the din of complacency, can move mountains. And in this case, I believe there is a vast majority who wants to see this nation continue in tolerance and freedom. But it will require speaking. Engage in your civic government. Flood newsrooms or TV networks with your calls if you feel they are slipping into the normalization of extremism. Donate your time and money to causes who will fight to protect our liberties.
We are a great nation. We have survived deep challenges in our past. We can and will do so again. But we cannot be afraid to speak and act to ensure the future we want for our children and grandchildren.
Once again, Rather has made it very clear what we need to do. The American left cannot simply weather this storm like we did the Bush years, for this is a very different kind of storm. It’s going to take dedicated social activism and unity; mass engagement and mobilization to stand up and fight for our rights and to protect the values that this nation was founded on. It is our civic duty to defend every American, no matter their race, ethnicity, sexuality, or gender, from the pernicious machinations of fascists and the greedy schemes of corrupt politicians. 

All that we have taken for granted is now in question, our most basic rights under assault. Free speech, the right to peacefully protest, the right to an abortion, the right to vote, the right to privacy and freedom of religion are all under siege from an increasingly authoritarian oligarch and his white supremacist allies. We’ve fought too long and too hard to see it undone now by a rabble-rousing reality star and some goose-stepping punks.

Make the jump here to read the original and more

Via Huffington Post CONTRIBUTOR: Post-Truth Nation

“Liberty Weeps” sculpture by Joseph DeLappe; photograph by Samuel C. Spitale

By now countless journalists, academics, and luminaries have expressed serious concern over the election of Donald Trump. To put it simply, the only ones celebrating his victory are the KKK, Russia, ISIS, and American conservatives.

This fact alone should disturb anyone who voted for him, but the magnitude of this election, and its inevitable repercussions, are not registering with the populace.

Make no mistake, the Trump presidency is a national tragedy.

It’s not just because he’s racist and sexist and xenophobic. It’s not just because the country seems more racist and sexist and xenophobic than ever before.

It’s not because the first female candidate for president lost the election, even though she won the popular vote by more than 1.7 million, a number larger than anyone in history who did not go on to become president.

It’s not because a political party who has campaigned for half a century on family values compromised them all by supporting Trump.

Trump’s election to the presidency is tragic because it marks a turning point in world politics. November 8, 2016 is the day that proved Americans could no longer differentiate between fact and fiction.

We are living in a “post-truth” nation.

For those who think people are overreacting, for those who think Trump can improve this country, and for those who think this is merely a political disagreement: this is for you.

It’s not about red versus blue, or liberal versus conservative, or Democrat versus Republican. This is not a disagreement about policy or ideology. It is much more complex than being on a certain side of an issue.

It’s about the ability to differentiate news from noise.

First, let me say, I am not a Democrat. I’ve been registered independent since I was 18. I’ve voted for as many Republican presidential candidates as I have Democrat. Party affiliation used to mean nothing to me, and I still pledge allegiance to neither. My allegiance is only to the truth, to the facts, and to justice, like most journalists, writers, and storytellers.

This is why I say in no uncertain terms that if you voted for Trump, you have been manipulated by the same power structure you thought you were overturning.

If you voted against Hillary Clinton because you think she’s crooked, untrustworthy, or just unlikable, then congratulations – you’ve been manipulated.

A visceral, negative hostility toward someone we’ve never met is more than likely manufactured. If you can’t point to specific reasons for your dislike, then it’s definitely manufactured.

I’ve encountered this repeatedly over the last year, and it’s not limited to conservatives. The majority of Americans have a negative view of Hillary, but it’s only the minority who can support their emotional reaction with valid reasons.

If someone were to ask me why I might not like Hillary, I would quickly answer:
  • Because she’s been known to change her stance on issues to appeal to different voters.
  • Because she cozies up to Wall Street and makes us doubt there could be any real financial regulation. Same with her ties to Big Pharma
  • Because she and her husband helped strike down the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933, which led to the financial crisis of 2008.
  • Because she and her husband’s welfare reform bill sent more people into poverty.
However, if you happen to dislike Hillary for any of the following reasons, you’ve been conned:
  • Benghazi
  • Private emails
  • Whitewater
  • “I just don’t trust her.”
One of the oldest political tricks is to undermine the messenger, especially when you can’t disagree with the message. Republican strategists have perfected this, and Karl Rove has made a career out of it. 

For Hillary, right-wing columnist William Safire first launched the smear campaign back in 1996, Maureen Dowd continued it, and the Republican establishment made it part of their platform. 

With more than a little help from Newt Gingrich, the Clinton smear campaign undermined much of the Clinton presidency. Instead of battling the Clintons on issues, Gingrich led Congressional Republicans to play dirty and tarnish their reputations instead. Some may call his attacks on Hillary sexist, and they very well may be, but he was successful in souring her name with the voting public, a campaign stretching more than 25 years and ultimately cost her the presidency.

The truth is that Clinton is one of the most honest politicians in America, regardless of popular opinion.

By comparison, Donald Trump lies more than he tells the truth, regardless of whatever image he sells.

But that hypocrisy doesn’t register with the average voter. All that seems to matter is selling the smear. And if you’re guilty of the very thing you accuse someone else of – like Trump often is – the American public is complacent in its ignorance.

If you need further proof of our willingness to tolerate such hypocrisy, consider the Clinton email scandal. Newsweek:
Clinton’s email habits look positively transparent when compared with the subpoena-dodging, email-hiding, private-server-using George W. Bush administration. Between 2003 and 2009, the Bush White House “lost” 22 million emails.
By comparison, Clinton lost 33,000 emails, most of which were private. She was exonerated by the investigation, but the myth of her corruption prevails.

How do we know this is a smear tactic?

Because Donald Trump’s companies regularly destroy or hide documents, including thousands of emails, directly defying court orders. His personal and private life is so shady, he racked up over 4,000 lawsuits in three decades, and currently has 75 lawsuits against him at the time of the election.

Despite the Bush Administration’s deception that involves an act of war, war profiteering, and the sacrifice of thousands of American lives, Republicans gain no political power by holding their own party accountable. They are far more interested in wasting money and resources attacking opponents.
How flagrant is this Republican hypocrisy?

During only the first two years after Sept 11, 2001, President George W. Bush and seven of his administration’s top officials knowingly made at least 935 false statements about the national security threat posed by Iraq. And for the most part, the media and the Democrats willingly played along.

By comparison, the Benghazi smear campaign cost the American taxpayers 7 million dollars, and it was nothing but political theater.
But there’s no end to Republican hypocrisy.

Remember Newt Gingrich’s impeachment trials of Bill Clinton over the Monica Lewinsky scandal? Gingrich didn’t care Clinton had an affair – he was only scoring political points with his party and playing to the Christian values of his conservative base. Meanwhile, Gingrich showed utter disdain for those same values and his own gullible voters by cheating on both his first and second wife, one during the impeachment period.

This is how successful the Republican noise machine is – everyone connects Clinton to extra marital affairs, but no one thinks of adultery when they hear Gingrich’s name.

Several conservative attack dogs have renounced their own party to expose such deceit, like David Brock, who founded the media watchdog group Media Matters, and former Congressman Mike Lofgren.

The idea that Hillary is crooked – or at least more so than other politicians – is a myth repeated so many times, it clearly no longer matters if it’s true.

This effect is known as the “illusion of truth” – when you hear certain information so many times, you believe it, regardless of its accuracy. Political lies stay with us not because of their authenticity, but because manipulative campaign strategists understand psychology.

The majority of the time, this information works against our best interest.

For instance, if you believe Democrats tax and spend more, then congratulations – you’ve been manipulated.

This is little more than another campaign strategy used to mislead voters.

Consider the reality: Almost every Democrat since World War II has decreased the debt, whereas all the Republicans since Richard Nixon have increased the debt. 

Furthermore, if you think Democrats increase the size of government, while Republicans reduce it, then congratulations – you’ve been manipulated yet again.

The reality is that Reagan and Bush Jr. are the worst offenders and increased both spending and size of government the most. The notion that Reagan cut the size of government was propaganda used to mislead the nation – and it worked. The singular reason we have so much debt today is because of Reagan. And then because of Bush’s wars fought on credit.

Need further proof Republicans waste more of your tax dollars? How about the Star Wars Missile Defense System no one ever talks about: After two decades and $100 billion of taxpayer money, it still cannot stop a single damn missile. The only thing accomplished was to transfer money from the government to defense contractors, many of whom work in government (I’m talking to you, Dick Cheney).

So why do our Republican representatives bash Planned Parenthood’s meager $540 million and PBS’s paltry $445 million budgets, while $12 billion in public funds were given to big business to subsidize over 50 new sports stadiums between 2001 and 2010 alone?

Furthermore, how can Fox News find the one individual who bought lobster with welfare money, yet ignore the $90 billion earmarked for a Navy submarine fleet, or the $400 billion spent developing the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, whose cost doesn’t even include building and maintaining them. (Oh, and by the way, they can’t even fly in bad weather, or at night, and none have yet been used in combat.)
If you voted for Trump because he pledged to lower taxes on the wealthy in order to create jobs and return industry to Middle America, then congratulations again – you’ve been manipulated.

The OECD, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, disproves the myth of trickle-down economics, also known as Reaganomics. Cutting taxes on the wealthy has not fostered economic growth as promised, but stymied economic growth significantly, and only made the rich richer.

Reaganomics is now widely recognized for increasing levels of inequality, stagnating wages, and hollowing out decent, middle-income jobs, as reported by the Center for American Progress. Sadly, the American Dream died circa 1980, but we are still so deluded, we praise the very puppet who killed it. That is the power of propaganda and manipulation. 

Why do we celebrate Reagan when his policies helped make American wages as a percentage of GDP an all-time low, yet corporate profits as a percentage of GDP an all-time high?

Trickle-down economics did nothing but transfer all economic gains to the 1% and business class at the expense of the Middle Class. The sooner we acknowledge this, the sooner we can address our country’s economic woes.

Can Donald Trump fix this? No, because he does not understand this, acknowledge this, nor care. He is the 1% we transfer our economic gains to.

Let me be clear: BOTH the Democrats and the Republicans have failed us immensely. However, they do not share equal responsibility. The majority of the blame, if not all of the blame, lies with Republicans’ pro-big-business, conservative economic agenda. (You can check out my extensively detailed, referenced, and data-driven 40,000-word blog series on inequality and the dwindling middle class to understand the specifics. I spent twice as much time on this as my college thesis, so please, give it a read.) 

America is right to be angry at decreasing wages, diminishing opportunity, a do-nothing Congress, a dying heartland, out-of-touch politicians, and the corporate takeover of our country. We are all angry. But we do not all understand whom to be angry with.

Instead of directing our ire at the real culprits, Donald Trump fueled the flames until a fire of racism and resentment spun out of control and consumed the election cycle.

Our seeds of dissent have been sowed to manipulate us instead of helping us. This same situation happened in the UK. Brexit was the result of the 1% riling up the poor white poverty class to hate immigrants and minorities, and funnel that hatred into voting them out of the EU, which worked against their own self-interest.

Our politicians are responsible for our economic decline – but let’s put the blame where it belongs.

1. The reason our income taxes are so high is because the 1% pay so little. The majority of the 1% who do not work or earn a paycheck live off of capital gains and dividends. Before Reagan took office, this type of money – the kind you do not work for (i.e., trust funds) – was taxed at 70%. The logic was: the harder you work for your money, the less it should be taxed. In other words, if you didn’t do anything to earn the money, you should pay more for it. When Reagan and other Republican presidents slashed this rate down to 15%, our nation’s debt was created, and we have never recovered. It is because the leisure class pays such low tax rates that those who pay income taxes from actual jobs are overburdened. And now, this leisure class, or 1%, enabled by Republicans, and Democrats to a lesser degree, have reengineered our political system to work only for them. The election of Trump put the very beneficiary of such corruption into the highest position. Wait till he makes even more money from his executive privilege.

2. The reason so much of the country is out of work is because of the free trade policies that allowed American businesses to outsource, downsize, and offshore. Pleasing Wall Street became a bigger priority than employing local communities and keeping Americans employed. To put it simply, the 1%’s pockets are more important than American jobs. This includes Trump’s pockets, as he profits from foreign labor, himself.

3. The more mergers and acquisitions, the fewer jobs, and less competition. The U.S. has now deregulated so many industries, and stopped enforcing anti-trust laws, that we now allow monopolies, oligopolies, and conglomerates that were once illegal. We removed countless regulations that our forefathers put in place to prevent another Great Depression, like Glass Steagall, and as a result, we got the Great Recession. The idea that business can regulate itself is farcical. Greed must be regulated. This is the root cause of our healthcare problems, the skyrocketing of pharmaceutical prices, and our credit debt that preys on the poorest in our society.

The clearest marker of our dire straits, besides staggering inequality, is that culpability is mostly with the 1 percent and the business class, and as it is often throughout history.

Demagogues like Donald Trump have helped focus resentment, fear, uncertainty and anger by blaming the poor and immigrants, who are in no way responsible for any of our predicaments. Instead of focusing anger at the REAL culprits - the business class, Republicans, Wall Street, the 1 percent - Trump chose to demonize the most helpless members of society.

And we rewarded his behavior with the presidency.

This is what’s scaring everyone around the globe. This is why other countries are freaking out. To them, we have just elected the very people who have screwed us over. 

What will bring back jobs and spur economic growth? Billionaire entrepreneur Nick Hanauer says it best in his TED Talk on the subject. He explains why rich people aren’t job creators:
“There can never be enough superrich people to power a great economy. The annual earnings of people like me are hundreds if not thousands of times greater than those of median Americans. But we don’t buy hundreds or thousands of times more stuff. If the 400 richest billionaires in America could generate just as much economic activity alone than the rest of us can, then maybe they’d be an argument for such vast wealth, but they can’t. The typical billionaire doesn’t buy thousands more pairs of pants or thousands more ties, or thousands more cars than the typical working class American... I can’t buy enough of anything that the millions of unemployed and underemployed Americans can buy – any new clothes or cars or enjoy any meals out to make up for the decreasing consumption of the vast majority of American families that are barely squeaking by, buried by spiraling costs and trapped by stagnant or declining wages.”
In other words, when high concentrations of wealth accumulate at the top, as Republicans continually pursue, the economy suffers. The billions that sit in offshore accounts in the Caymans are not funneled back into the U.S. economy. If this money were put into the hands of the lower class, it would be used immediately at malls, grocery stores, and car dealerships. When everyone has disposable income, the economy soars. When only the 1% has disposable income, money sits and accumulates, creating dynasties with unparalleled power and influence. (I’m talking about you, Donald Trump.)

This is why petty welfare abuse is akin to telling employees to keep an eye on the supply closet while the CEO embezzles millions. (And why if you vote based on petty welfare abuse, you are once again being manipulated by the embezzlers, i.e. the 1%.)

Furthermore, if you think Trump has any ideas on how to bring back jobs to the rust belt, you are in for a rude awakening. You can read all about his business failures HERE. And HERE.

Trump has never held public office in his life, and you can be certain he has neither the economic understanding nor business acumen to return jobs to any sector of the economy. And if we allow his Republican Congress to manage the country, we won’t have much of a country left.

To understand just how bad conservatives have screwed the individual states they’ve governed, look no further than Kansas and my home state of Louisiana.
In 2010, Republican Governor Sam Brownback, with majorities in both houses of legislature, enacted the standard conservative failed policies: he repealed income taxes on more than 100,000 businesses, signed the largest tax cut in the state’s history, tightened welfare requirements, privatized Medicaid, cut funding to education, reduced the size of government by laying off 2,000 employees and closing four government agencies. Proving for the millionth time that tax cuts do not – and have not ever – created economic growth, but resulted in a nearly $700 million deficit. In Louisiana, the failed governorship of Bobby Jindal mirrored Kansas. When he began his term, he inherited a $1 billion surplus (yes, that’s billion with a ‘b’), and he left the state in utter disrepair with a $1.6 billion deficit. In the process he slashed social services, denied the Medicaid expansion, depleted the rainy day fund, defunded education (by 44%) and hospitals (by $64 million). The futility of my Republican friends who continued to vote for Jindal, but who also worked in higher education and complained of continual budget cuts, confounded me. Do they not understand that their jobs equaled wasteful government spending to Republican leadership?
Finally, let’s not forget California, the state with the sixth largest economy in the world, which recently surpassed that of France. It had a deficit under Arnold Schwarzenegger of $34 billion when he entered office, and tripled to $91 billion when he left. Under Jerry Brown, California now has a budget surplus of $2.8 billion.

A reminder: this is not partisan preference; this is merely the facts.

And the fact that Republicans continue to prescribe the same failed policies that have wrecked the nation, without a single media outlet holding them accountable, is an indictment to just how biased the media is toward conservative governing. And just how susceptible we are to the noise, distortions and lies that continue to deceive us, keeping us from voting in our best interests.

Why do we continue to trust Republicans to steer the economy when Republican presidents and governors leave us in worst shape?

Because in this day and age, we can no longer differentiate between fact and fiction.
​Political lies and smearing have been around for centuries. What is worrisome is that in the Information Age, they are not debunked, but disseminated.

It is because of the lies and distortions that liberals and conservatives can no longer reach common ground, as only one group is grounded in reality. 

In 2002, Karl Rove dismissed journalists as being part of the “reality-based community.” He explained:

“That’s not the way the world works anymore. We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality.” 

Rove would know, as he’s spent the majority of his life constructing false narratives and selling them to the public like an ad agency shills laundry detergent. His words go a long way to explaining why so many Americans are so misinformed – because that’s exactly how conservatives want it.

Fox News and Rush Limbaugh have poisoned their audience past the point of contributing positively to society. They have been brainwashed, and their loyalty to the Republicans is basically Stockholm syndrome – irrational and manipulative, and they are left none the wiser.

This is why Big Business and Republicans dismantled The Fairness Doctrine, which required news outlets to show equal sides of an argument. Conservatives targeted this legislation because they wanted to fight facts they didn’t like. In other words, they wanted to sell and market their free-market ideology. It was the Nixon administration that coined the term “liberal media” during the Vietnam War. The news stations for the first time had live footage of the carnage, and that was changing American perceptions about the war. Not happy about this shift in support, Nixon’s war propagandists began blaming the messenger, i.e., the “liberal media”. (Remember, when you cannot counter a message or refute the evidence, you must attack the messenger - hence the use of the terms, “liberal elites,” “liberal media”, “gotcha questions,” etc.) Nixon’s chief propagandist was Roger Ailes, who was responsible for blurring the lines between news and propaganda in regards to the Vietnam War. This is why he was hired to run Fox News.

Reality has been debatable ever since, as outlets like Fox News turn smearing the opposition into a full-time job. (Yes, I realize MSNBC is also agenda-driven – but there is no competition when it comes to down-right deceit.)

Part of the reason for this demonization of the left is that Democrats have been moving further and further to the right since the Reagan era in an attempt to find common ground. In response, instead of reaching across the aisle, Republicans decided to campaign by attacking the Democrats, and going further to the right in defiance. Instead of being for something, their strategy changed to undermining Democrats.

Enter the smear campaign that follows the Clintons to this very day. To reiterate: this is the real reason Hillary lost the electionit’s hard to beat a 25-year long attack of indoctrination blurring the lines between fact and fiction.

In a capitalist culture, information should not be a commodity. Truth should not be a brand. Disinformation should not be a product.

This is not a debate between two ideologies. This is a showdown between myth and reality. And last week, reality lost.

If you are not terrified for our country’s future, then you are not well enough informed to even be part of the conversation. And by the time everyone grasps the magnitude of our disaster, it will be too late.
Trump has taken Rush Limbaugh’s outrage and Fox News’ fabrications and manipulated the American people into voting into office the very people responsible for their economic decline. In doing so, Trump has targeted and enflamed the worst of our humanity, inciting violence, legitimizing white supremacists, inspiring hate crimes, and dividing the nation.

If you refuse to accept the truth and refuse to hear the pleas of every Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, Nobel laureate, and national commentator with a keyboard and a wifi connection, then we as a nation have already lost.

We lost when you chose to believe Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, even when our own administration didn’t believe it.

We lost when you chose to discredit a black president for basically continuing the same policies of the previous four presidents.

We lost when you refused to see Fox News as a modern-day equivalent to Nazi propaganda, indoctrinating a public into voting against its self-interest.

Just this week, The Oxford Dictionary sealed our fate by naming “post-truth” the word of the year, defining it as:

“Relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.”

The greatest problem of our future is not political; it is not economic; it is not even rational. It’s the battle of fact versus fiction. 

Sadly, a Trump victory illustrates that we are no longer able to distinguish between the two.

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