Blog, Politics

“Make America Intelligent and Sane Again!”

Originally published October 25th, 2016 on The Huffington Post

“Make America Intelligent and Sane Again!”
Hillary has been criticized, among many things, for not having a punchy, one-liner that defines her campaign. I have one: “Make America Intelligent and Sane Again!”

But beyond one-liners, the most daunting task facing Hillary, assuming of course that she wins—which seems very likely—is what she can do to heal the rift that threatens to plunge us into an even deeper cultural war, one from which we may never recover.

For a starter, she needs to travel weekly to the Hill to meet with both Republican and Democratic lawmakers. They should not travel to her. That sends the wrong signal.

Much more important, she needs to appoint prominent Republicans to major Cabinet posts. Given their heavy criticism, a Republican as The Head off Veterans Affairs makes perfect sense. More significantly, given the even more intense criticism and bitter opposition to the Affordable Care Act, appointing a “sensible” Republican as the Head of Health and Human Services also makes sense. By “sensible,” I mean someone who wants to make good health care affordable and accessible to all, and not just rip the Affordable Care Act to shreds. Because it’s so daunting is precisely why it needs to be done.

Finally, I don’t know what to call it, but we desperately need to foster dialogue through a nation-wide series of associations, clubs, forums, etc. that will bring us together by discussing what we share in common, however little it may be.

In sum, we need to “Make America Intelligent and Sane Again!”

Blog, Media + Politics, Politics

Getting Beyond The False Contentions That Keep People From Voting For Hillary

Originally Published October, 10, 2016 on The Huffington Post

I am astounded by the reasons (more accurately, “raw feelings!”) that people give for not being able to vote for Hillary Clinton. Basically, they boil down to four.

The first and most pernicious—a lie actually—is that not only is she untrustworthy, but even worse, she’s totally corrupt. For this reason alone, she is basically unfit to be President. As Trump’s supporters never tire of shouting, “Lock Her Up!”

The second follows almost automatically from the first. She is too guarded and therefore not authentic. In brief, she’s unlikeable. She’s unable to show her true feelings and thus connect with larger audiences. Once again, this makes her untrustworthy.

The third is that voting for her is merely a vote for the lesser of two evils.

A fourth is that a vote for a third party candidate is a vote for someone better who can live up to one’s ideals.

Let me respond very briefly to each with the clear recognition that if one is committed fervently, then there is little that I or anyone else can say that will cause them to abandon their beliefs.

If Hillary were as corrupt as she’s alleged, wouldn’t 30 years be enough time to convict her? Haven’t enough parties tried their damnedest to do exactly this to no avail?

Making mistakes and lapses of judgment do not make one evil. Lack of perfection is not equivalent to being evil.

Hillary is not the lesser of two evils. By virtue of her intelligence, long years of public service, depth of knowledge and experience, she is eminently qualified to be President. The same coolness and reserve for which she is so roundly criticized are the very attributes that, unlike her opponent, make her temperamentally fit to be President.

There is too much riding in this election to throw one’s vote away. And sadly, that’s exactly what a vote for a third-party candidate is, especially for someone who is supremely ignorant of world affairs.

I will never forgive Ralph Nader for allowing George W Bush to be elected under the false contention that there were, and are, no real differences between the two major parties. There certainly were and there are now between the two candidates.

Unfortunately, a quote—and I paraphrase— that is attributed to Jonathan Swift sums up the matter, “You cannot reason a man out of that he was not reasoned into in the first place.”

I hope fervently that there are enough people who can be reasoned beyond the falsehoods that are attributed to Hillary.

Blog, Politics

Immediate Release from Donald J. Trump: I’m Resigning the Nomination

Originally published August 5, 2016 on The Huffington Post

Today I have decided not to run for President. Although I would have made the most marvelous President you wouldn’t believe, Ted Cruz, the Kahn family, and the liberal media have launched such vicious attacks and lies against me that I am forced to devote all my energy to fighting back. And, fight back I must and I will!

In not allowing the attacks to go unanswered, I am fighting for all of you that believe in me and America. Only I can still save America from my new TV network that I am starting immediately. It will be the biggest success you have never seen.

Besides, boring Mike, what’s his name, can do the most marvelous inadequate job better than I can, although I would be great at it.

To all my loyal, patriotic followers, we will Make America Great Again by your watching me watch TV.

Blog, Politics

From One Cranky Old White Guy To Another Cranky Old White Guy: Why I’m Not Voting For You Bernie

Originally published June 6th, 2016 on Huffington Post

I admit it. I’m a cranky old white guy.

I’m used to getting my way. All the time! And when I don’t, I become visibly nasty.

I’m used to being the “smartest guy in the room.” Which of course, I always am! All rooms, any room!

I’m not voting for you Bernie principally because I don’t want another cranky old white guy pretending to be charge of things when he really isn’t and won’t be in charge of anything. You’ll just further the dysfunction.

It’s easy to make all kinds of pronouncements, many with which I happen to agree, but have no hope whatsoever of ever getting implemented, at least not in my remaining lifetime, or yours for that matter. This is especially true of someone who hasn’t accomplished much in Congress despite being there for an awfully long time. You just plain alienate too many people. We already have too much acrimony. We don’t need more.

I especially don’t like it that in your debates with Hillary, all the while she is speaking, you constantly wag your hands distractingly and even make faces when she says something that you don’t like. This really shows what a cranky old white guy that you really are.

In short, you get on my nerves!

Yes, I’m a Hillary supporter. I think she’s smart (actually smarter than Bill), extremely knowledgeable about national and international affairs, has well thought-out policy positions, was well liked as a Senator by both sides of the aisle, and performed well under very difficult conditions as Secretary of State. This is spite of the fact that the Republican hate machine has for years done everything they could to destroy her. By not taking their bait on the Benghazi hearings, she literally drove the Senate Republicans crazy. Unlike us, she can be cool under pressure.

I give you enormous credit for promoting a Progressive agenda that this country needs desperately and for pushing Hillary to the Left. But I worry that if you and your supporters don’t get behind her as soon as possible—indeed, starting right now!—you will help elect Donald Trump, one of the worst nightmares imaginable.

I know that it’s hard for cranky old white guys to listen and to take advice from one another. Maybe we could learn to do it. It’s never too late to change. But then we wouldn’t be so cranky.

It’s really hard to give up something that has served us well for so long. But has it really?

Blog, Media + Politics, Politics

The Donald: An Incredible WWE Star

Originally published May 24th, 2016 on the Huffington Post

Everything about Donald Trump is straight out of the World Wresting Entertainment (WWE). To use his own language, he fits the bill “tremendously.”

First of all, he struts around the “ring” (uh “stage”) continually pumped up on steroids. He constantly flexes his muscles by saying how “great” and “fantastic” he is. His proclamations to make “America great again” and to build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico is just part of his “manliness,” along with the “size of his you-know-what!”

Second, he whips the crowd up into a constant frenzy. They and he are and must be excited all the time. They embody the energy that is a sure sign of American greatness.

Third, his ridiculous hair, general appearance, facial contortions, the endless waving of his hands, etc. are all part of his costume and act, which of course he flouts constantly.

Fourth, there are no doubts whatsoever who the real heroes versus the villains are. The differences are clear-cut for all “good, God fearing, true Americans to see.” Under no circumstances must the villains be let in, and those who are already here by nefarious means must be thrown out of the ring by any means. The villains have nobody to blame but themselves. They must be thrown to the mat and pummeled mercilessly. No wonder he leads the chants to “throw them all out!”

Fifth, racism and sexism play are major players. Thus, whites against blacks, whites against latinos, and latinos against blacks are mainstays. But so are the divas, over sexualized women in skimpy costumes who trot around endlessly displaying their big t**s and shaking their a$$*s.

Sixth, the crowd knows that it’s all an act. None of it is “true,” because “truth doesn’t matter.” It’s completely beside the point. Performance is the main draw. Indeed, everybody is “in on the secret!”

The crowd doesn’t mind any of this because the spectacle itself is immensely comforting. Predictability is the key. Trump’s unpredictability has become predictable. He’ll say anything to get and hold attention. Most important, he says the very things that others have been punished their whole lives for even thinking, let alone actually saying. PC is for Wimps and Pussies!!
He’s the biggest, baddest, meanest dude around. He can’t be bought and thereby forced to shut up. His powers are unlimited.

It’s tailor made for those who have been made powerless and useless by a world that doesn’t need or want them anymore.

It’s a match made in heaven!

What happens though if Trump actually gets elected President but cannot possibly deliver on his and the crowd’s shared fantasies? What happens when people finally see he’s a clown and not a “real phony WWE star?” What do they do after the show is closed down for failing to deliver? Who and what’s the follow-up act? Will real violence then erupt?

Blog, Media + Politics, Politics

The Donald’s Incredibly Poor Record of Damage Control

Originally published April 8th, 2016 on the Huffington Post

Since the 1982 Tylenol poisonings, I am one of the early founders/workers in the modern field of crisis management. Since that time, no one even comes close to the sheer number of hateful, inflammatory, and downright ugly statements than those that have been uttered consistently by Donald Trump. If any other person had made just one or two of them, in all likelihood they would have resulted in major crises such that the person would not have survived.

Compounding the problem is that with the possible exception of backing off from his utterly irresponsible assertion that women who have abortions should be punished in some way, his record in damage control is abysmal. In virtually all cases, offering “no apology” and “doubling down,” i.e., saying and doing more of the same, have been his overwhelming responses. It’s bad enough just to create or to have a crisis, but poor damage control only multiplies the harm even more.

Below is a brief list of The Donald’s many insults and his resulting attempts at damage control. In virtually all cases, The Donald’s preferred form is to offer no apology (NA) and to double down (DD) by repeating the assertion/insult.

1. Insult: Criminalize Mexicans
“They’re criminals and rapists!” “I will deport all 12 million of them. I will
have Mexico pay for a wall to keep them out.”
Damage Control: NA, DD.

2. Insult: Disparage John McCain
, “He’s not a war hero! Heroes don’t get caught!”
Damage Control: NA, DD.

3. Insult: Mock the disabled, mock impression of Serge Kovaleski — a reporter who suffers
from a congenital joint condition — at a Trump rally.
Damage Control: NA, DD.

4. Insult: Criminalize Muslims, “I saw thousands of them applauding the fall
of the Twin Towers.” “We can’t allow them into the U.S.”
Damage Control: NA, DD.

5. Insult: Megyn Kelly, “She had blood coming out of her.”
Damage Control: NA, DD.

6. Condone Violence, “The Media are awful. They pick on me more than they
do others.” “They attempted to hit me first.” “I will pay for the lawyers of those falsely
accused of roughing up the Media.”
Damage Control: NA, DD.

7. Insult: Marco Rubio, “He’s such a little man.” “My ‘hand’ is bigger than his.”
Damage Control: NA, DD.

8. Insult: Ted Cruz’s wife, “He did it first. He showed a nasty picture of my
Damage Control: NA, DD.

9. Failure to Reprimand His Campaign Manager for Battering a Reporter
“He’s an excellent person.”
Damage Control: NA, DD.

10. Failure to disavow David Duke, “I don’t know much about him.”
Damage Control: NA, DD.

11. Punish women, “There has to be some form of punishment for women
who have had abortions.”
Damage Control: Belated Apology after howls of protest from both Pro-
life and Pro-choice groups condemned Trump.

Since insults feature prominently in nearly all of The Donald’s outbursts, I can only surmise that he is appealing to people who have been deeply insulted in some form or another throughout their lives.

The biggest insult is being fired with no future prospects. In essence, one is relegated to the junk heap. The message is that one is entirely useless, that society doesn’t care at all.

By insulting everyone and everything freely and repeatedly, The Donald is acting out what others would like to do but can’t.

His candidacy is the biggest insult of all.

Blog, Media + Politics, Politics

Shamelessly Selling Themselves: When the Media Is Its Own Worst Enemy

Originally published March 17, 2016 on Huffington Post

We’ve known for years that the news media is part and parcel of the entertainment industry. What else is new? It thus comes as no big surprise that in this season’sHouse of Cards, CNN’s John King and Wolf Blitzer play cameo roles in “covering” President Underwood’s continuing shenanigans. Still, my wife and I were surprised to find Gwen Ifill of the PBS Newshour appearing in the show as well.

In a time when the media have come under more attacks than ever, especially given Donald Trump’s scandalous contempt for the media, one would think that serious newscasters would have the sense to avoid anything that would put them in a dubious light. Apparently not!

In watching House of Cards, my wife and I speculated on the assumptions that John King, Wolf Blitzer, and Gwen Ifill might have made, both consciously and unconsciously, in agreeing to appear on such a show. (Yes, my wife and I are hooked on House of Cards as much as anyone.) The assumption that most readily comes to mind is that their agents said “appearing on the show is good for your career; it keeps you in the public eye.”

One of the most critical assumptions is that appearing on House of Cards will not damage their credibility as “serious newscasters.” Another is that viewers will both accept and can separate newscasters when they are playing dramatic roles from their formal roles as real newscasters.

But did they ever consider what if any of the assumptions were false? I doubt it, or at least not seriously enough to prevent them from taking such an “assignment.”

As someone who has worked in the field of crisis management for over 30 years, one of the surest ways that individuals, organizations, and whole societies get into crises is by not raising up to the surface and challenging critical, taken-for-granted assumptions.

Yes, we will continue to watch CNN and the PBS Newshour, but with much more cynicism. In times when all established institutions are under attack, we and they need to do more to support them, not work against them.

Blog, Media + Politics, Politics

The Age Factor: Gauging the Candidates by the Development of the Audience to Whom They Appeal

Originally published March 14, 2016 on the Huffington Post

One of the most powerful ways by which to gauge the candidates vying for their party’s nomination for President is in terms of the developmental ages of the primary audiences to whom their appeals are addressed. First of all, developmental age is very different from chronological age. Psychologically, one can be much older or younger than one’s actual age.

A number of analysts have noted that Donald Trump’s use of language is at the level of two-year olds. His constant use and repetition of simple words and phrases–“I’m terrific; I will be so good you won’t believe it; etc.”–are exactly how two-year olds speak and puff themselves up. Two-year olds are also continually prone to temper tantrums and the use of unsightly gestures and facial ticks when others are speaking, and especially when they don’t get their own way. In short, they are not yet socialized, let alone civilized. What’s frightening of course is that so many are also at the level of two-year olds. Trump appeals directly to two-year olds because he vents their raw emotions.

While certainly not young himself, Senator Bernie Sanders is speaking directly to 20 and 30 year-olds. More accurately, he is speaking to the idealism that is a prominent characteristic of young people. To this group, or to that part of everyone that is eternally young, it’s completely irrelevant whether Senator Sanders could ever actually accomplish all of his admirable ideals. All that matters is that he not only articulates deeply humane and just goals, but that he remains true to them.

As an important aside, in Senator Sanders’ debates with Secretary Clinton, his frequent, disconcerting gestures of disapproval reveals that there is a prominent two-year old side to him as well.

In many ways, Secretary Clinton faces the hardest task of all. She is appealing to more mature adults. In the spirit of actually getting things done, she knows that one needs to set tough priorities and to compromise when need be. As an adult appealing to other adults, she does not shy away from complexity. But that’s precisely why it’s so difficult to “package” her policies and programs in simple one-liners that stir passion.

Developmental psychology also helps to explain why President Obama has faced such enormous hostility throughout his entire two terms in office. There is no question that out-and-out racism is a big part of the story, but so is the fact that he thinks and speaks like a professor. In particular, two-year olds and young people don’t like the “know-it-all” attitudes of older wiser adults, especially professors.

Instead of turning to demagogues who amplify our anxieties and fears, and thus use them to their advantage, one needs adults who can reassure us in times of overwhelming change and enormous threats. But this means that we need adults who can use reassuring language while not talking down to us. It also means we need adults who not only understand the idealism of youth, but can incorporate it into appeals for more adult approaches to the great challenges and issues of our times.

Blog, Politics, Psychology

Melanie Klein and Today’s Highly Fractured Politics

Originally published February 22, 2016 on the Huffington Post

If she were alive today, Melanie Klein, the highly influential child psychoanalyst, would have a field day analyzing the blithering pronouncements of the current crop of Republican and Democratic candidates for President. Klein’s ideas are indispensible in understanding the phenomenon known as Splitting. Splitting is important because it’s responsible for the basic division of the world into “good versus bad guys.” Needless to say, Splitting is a major component in the campaign statements of all the Republican candidates as well as Senator Sanders.

By means of play therapy, which she literally invented, Klein was able to get at the earliest, preverbal, unconscious fantasies of children during the first two to three years of their lives. In this regard, it is said that if Freud discovered the child in the adult, then Klein discovered the infant in the child. Klein thus pushed back even further our understanding of the roots of human behavior.

One of Klein’s earliest discoveries was that the fantasies of very young children revealed that there is an extremely powerful and destructive side to humans during the first years of their lives. The fantasies were basically due to the fact that very young children experienced extreme anger and frustration over the fact that they didn’t have complete control over the primary caretaker who was responsible for feeding them both physically and emotionally. When Klein wrote early in the 20th century, this was primarily the mother.

Klein established that under the age of three, children split the image of the mother into a “good mother” who cared and administered to the child’s every need exactly when the child wanted it and a ” bad mother” who had to discipline the child and couldn’t be there exactly on the child’s schedule. Because the child’s mind was not yet mature enough, it couldn’t comprehend that the “good” and the “bad mother” were one and the same. In other words, to the young child, there were two separate mothers.

This helps to explain why fairytales are so appealing to young children. The “good witch” and “bad witch” help young children cope psychologically with the issues they are struggling to comprehend. Namely, how can young children reconcile that the good and the bad mother are one and the same? Thus, fairytales allow children to “act out” safely the emotional conflicts they are experiencing. That’s why the “bad witch” is always killed–indeed, has to die–and the “good witch” eventually triumphs.

One of the critical functions of the parents is to provide a “healthy container” to help the young child literally “contain” the raging emotions that pulse through them uncontrollably. If the parents do not either over or under react to the child’s emotions, verbal outbursts, and fantasies, then the child eventually learns to contain his or her emotions and hence heal the split images between the “good” and the “bad” parents. The child eventually comes to accept emotionally that the “good” and the “bad” aspects of the parents are located in the same person. He or she also eventually comes to accept that there are good and bad sides to everyone, especially themselves. Nonetheless, even under the best of circumstances, Splitting lasts for a lifetime.

Klein termed the earliest stage of human development “the paranoid-schizoid position.” It was “paranoid” because the young child feared that the parent would either hurt or abandon him or her; “schizoid” because of the phenomenon of Splitting.

Most children naturally develop out of this earlier stage, but some form of Splitting stays with us our entire lives. Indeed, in times of extreme stress or threat, we shouldn’t be surprised at all to find people regressing or reverting back to the paranoid-schizoid position. Thus, I’m not surprised in the least that Splitting plays a major role in the campaigns of the Republican candidates, but especially that of Donald Trump with his constant denigration of blacks, Hispanics, women, Muslims, etc. But sadly, it also plays a major role in Senator Sanders’ campaign as well with his constant, unrelenting attacks on Wall Street, and his near inability to see anything positive in Capitalism.

In brief, both Trump and Sanders are playing handily to one of the primary fears associated with Splitting, i.e., the feeling that “they are out to get us.” This is not to say that there are not legitimate fears and things that deserve justifiable anger, but to deal with those that are legitimate, one first has to root out those that the product of irrational, unconscious fears.

Klein also identified a subsequent, follow-on stage of human development that she termed the “Depressive Position.” In this stage, the child finally accepts that the “bad” and the “good” mother are one and the same. At lest for the time being, the child moves beyond Splitting. Klein termed this stage “Depressive” because the child feels sad for his or her previous hostility towards its mother.

Above all, it’s important to understand that all of this takes place unconsciously. One certainly cannot explain this to the undeveloped minds of children. And, one cannot necessarily explain it as well to adults who are under the grips of Splitting. More than ever, we need friendly, nonthreatening adult figures who can provide desperately needed hope and reassurance that the world is not breaking asunder.

Blog, Media + Politics, Politics

GOP: Nothing But a Bunch of Two-year Olds

Originally published 09/21/15 on the Huffington Post

Here’s my take on what’s going on with the Republican candidates. With very few exceptions (at times Rand Paul, Jeb Bush, and John Kasich act to the contrary), they are behaving like complete two-year olds.

Two-year olds just say whatever pops into their heads at the moment with no concern whatsoever for the consequences. They never apologize for anything they’ve said or done because in their minds they’ve never done anything wrong. Complete egotism!

They have virtually no awareness that what they’ve just said directly contradicts what they said a moment ago. But then, you have to be mature enough to appreciate the concept of contradiction.

All of the Republicans, save Rand Paul, and maybe John Kasich, engage in magical thinking. For example, they assert with great bluster that the US can use whatever military force it wants to solve political problems without any concern for what the rest of the world thinks and would do in response, if not in retaliation. Again, absolutely no thinking whatsoever about consequences!

In times of great stress, it’s well known that people revert to earlier, primitive stages of development. That is to be expected. Nonetheless, the extent to which the Republican candidates and voters have regressed to primitive stages is absolutely scary. It’s nothing less than mind-boggling.

Another prime characteristic of two-year olds is their feelings of omnipotence. Notice how much over and over again the Republican candidates harped on the need for America to regain its standing in the world. What they were really saying is that we need to be omnipotent once again. How scary is this with those who would have their fingers on the “button?” Start a war in order to shore up of one’s feeling of powerlessness?!

Without acknowledging in any way the mess that he inherited and giving him any credit for the recovery, in casting President Obama as completely responsible for all our problems, the Republicans are enacting another of the prime features of two-year olds. They are splitting the world sharply into Good Guys versus Bad Guys with President Obama as the Supreme Bad Guy!

My deepest fear is that we’re not just dealing with two-year olds, but with severely disturbed children. For instance, the fact that Donald Trump did not correct a man when he charged that President Obama was a Muslim is unforgivable.

I’m perilously close to doing something one should never do: casting all Republicans as Bad Guys!