Las Vegas: Why Money Beats Mass Murder. Every Time.

Sunday was an ordinary evening. The Seahawks beat the Colts on Sunday Night Football.

It was 10:30 PM. Could I squeeze in my recorded episode of Blue Bloods before the 11 o’clock news and bed?

I turned the television back to a breaking news story: A mass shooting at a concert in Las Vegas.

By the time I went to bed at 1:45 AM, the Clark County Sheriff had given the first casualty report: 2 dead and 50 some odd injured.

When I woke at 7:30 AM the numbers had changed as the gun smoke cleared: 59 dead and 527 (plus) injured.

The massacre at the Highway 91 Concert is the worst mass shooting in American history.

Perhaps country star Blake Shelton expressed it best – ending an early Monday morning tweet with one word: Why?

Uniquely American

There’s nothing more uniquely American than country music. Music descendent directly from the folk traditions of Appalachia –family stories and legends set to a tune and sung so that they could be remembered and passed down generation upon generation.

People from all walks of life were in Las Vegas because they love their families, they love country music, and they enjoy the party atmosphere of a music festival.

And then gun fire broke out. In less than 10 minutes 59 innocent Americans were dead – killed by an enigma hiding in a hotel suite nearly a third of mile away from his victims.

It happened because there is, also, nothing as unique as America’s fascination with guns.

More specifically: Semi-automatic guns.

Begging the questions:

Why Do Americans need Semi-Automatic Weapons?

  • Why do sportsmen (hunters) need or want guns (semi-automatic assault rifles) manufactured for the sole purpose of killing human beings?
  • Why didn’t Congress renew the Assault Rifle Ban in 2004 – when it expired?
  • Why didn’t Congress act after the shooting at Fort Hood in 2009 when 13 service members and law enforcement personnel were killed?

Between 2009 and 2014 9 more mass casualty events caused by semi-automatic rifle fire took innocent 209 lives including 20 children under the age of 7 at Sandy Hook (Connecticut). http://www.marketwatch.com/story/these-are-the-10-deadliest-mass-shootings-in-us-history-2017-10-02

In 2011 Congresswoman Gabby Gifford was shot and nearly killed by a semi-automatic rifle at a constituent meeting in Arizona.

Or what about Congressman Steve Scalise who was shot and nearly killed on a baseball practice field in Arlington, Virginia early this summer?

Why isn’t it alarming enough – horrific enough — that 93 people die by gunfire in this country every day?

The answer is simple: Money.

Here’s Why Money Wins Over Mass Murder

The National Rifle Association (NRA) has made millions for its officers, executives, and lobbyists over the years by claiming that any limits on gun rights would inevitably lead to the revocation of the 2nd Amendment to the US Constitution – the right to bear arms.

The NRA collects $350 million in member dues by promoting the idea if citizens cannot buy semi-automatic assault weapons, the government is going to come into their homes and take their guns or worse.

The NRA uses their member’s contributions to bribe (campaign contributions), scare, and cajole members of Congress into supporting their nonsensical argument – even when the bullets are whizzing over the heads of Congress members!

But lobbying and campaign contributions are not limited only to the NRA, there are, also, the manufacturers of assault rifles and ammunition. Those weapons start at $1000 – they can be really expensive.

All that money is drowning out the 90 percent of Americans who support both stronger background checks and limits on the sale of semi-automatic rifles and armor piercing bullets — including a majority of members of the NRA.

Time for Voters to Mobilize

Based on precedent, the deaths of 59 innocent people in Las Vegas and the injury of some 500 more will not move Congress very far.

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan has said it is likely that Congress will not now bring up legislation to allow “silencing” of automatic weapons but that is little comfort to the families of the dead and wounded.

What is needed a national mobilization of voters. It is time that the voices of innocent Americans are heard more loudly on Capitol Hill than the voices of lobbyists.

It is time to call or write – or do both – your Congress member and your Senators and demand a debate on and passage of legislation to ban the sale and manufacturing of semi-automatic assault rifles, armor piercing bullets, and the kits that convert semi to fully automatic rifles – banned since 1934.

It must be made clear to every member that a failure to vote for reasonable gun safety legislation means that you will not vote to re-elect that member in November 2018 – it’s a matter of your life and safety.

 

Bump stock image courtesy of CNBC

Trump versus the People

4th of July weekend – the time we commemorate the moment American patriots threw off the shackles of a crazy English King George III and began the world’s longest experiment in democratic republican government.

While the rockets are firing into the sky, we should take a moment to wonder much longer we can claim to be a functioning democratic republic unless our elected officials turn from fighting each other to fighting for us.

Average earnings of Americans have continuously declined since the late 1970s.

The health care industry puts profits over the quality and quantity of American lives.

Our tax system favors the richest among us against everyone else.

Our infrastructure is decaying and crumbling:

  • Water Supplies
  • Flood Control
  • Power Grid
  • Roads
  • Bridges
  • Public Transit
  • Airports
  • Sea Ports

Good, middle class American industrial jobs are disappearing faster than innovation can replace them.

Immigration is flooding the top and bottom of our society sandwiching and compressing the middle class – upon which the fabric of democratic government depends.

Our nation is not secure – not from foreign adversaries, not from domestic terrorism, not from a debt crisis much worse than 2008.

Enter King Donald

In complete frustration the American people took a chance – electing a businessman/TV personality best known for the phrase “you’re fired” to occupy the highest office in the land.

A business person, voters reasoned, would shake up the impenetrable institutional government – Washington, D.C. – and might bring opportunity back to the American heartland.

Hillary Clinton was the epitome of that fossilized, institutional government – explaining why Donald Trump is now residing at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

Accepting the Republican nomination, Donald Trump promised to be the “voice of the forgotten” American.

But he has forgotten that promise.

This man — whose actions have the potential to impact every person on earth — listens only to the voice of accolades and acolytes.

Fail to flatter and you will be fired. Ask James Comey!

Personal presidential loyalty tests have stalled State Department policy nominees denying Secretary Tillerson the staff he needs to navigate a world fraught with challenges – several of which could easily erupt into shooting wars involving the United States.

Presidential briefings must be kept short because the president has a “limited attention span” – when he listens to his advisers at all.

The Trump Cabinet agenda includes some praise worthy ideas and initiatives but they are completely subsumed by President’s impetus behavior, incoherent tweets, and blatant nepotism.

This Form of Governance Can’t Continue

The President’s tweets demonstrate the significant mismatch between the skills the President gained as the “boss” of a small, family-owned business with a deceptively large bottom-line and those needed by the Chief-Executive-Officer of the United States – the titular “leader of the free world”.

The celebrity business man had a reputation for personal charm that masked unethical business practices and a penchant for “getting even”.

His tweets attacking the press call into question his understanding of the roll of the press. As far back as the 1763 Tea Party the press has been an institutional “opponent” intended to keep the government honest.

Following his Inauguration, @realDonaldTrump tweets demonstrated the depth of the President’s narcissism and how much of that narcissism is driven by deep seated insecurity. Something that voters did not expect!

Some tweets have been simply self-destructive, while others demonstrate a lack of impulse control. The tweeted potential of White House tapes gave James Comey the idea to leak a contemporaneous memo to New York Times (via a cutout).

Voila – instead of suppressing the “Russia investigation” those tweets prompted the appointment of a special counsel more interested in determining whether the President “obstructed justice” than clearing him of charges of “collusion” in the 2016 election.

This week’s tweets concerning the hosts of MSNBC’s Morning Joe are further evidence of the President’s lack of self-discipline, lack of self-awareness, misogyny, bullying and limited acquaintance with the truth.

Those are not the skills of a national leader. Leaders accept the role of criticism as part of the job! Criticism forces self-awareness, begs the question “what-if”.

History demonstrates criticism becomes the genesis of consensus – which has been the life’s blood of the American experiment with representative democracy.

Criticism forces our leaders to re-examine their own beliefs and – perhaps — to alter them. They are not, after all, infallible.

American democracy flourishes when our leaders acknowledge their own fallibility and, as a result, are able to listen, facilitate and bring together the people and their representatives — whose disparate ideas and experiences hold the common kernel of solution.

Instead, this President’s tweets have, sadly, become the “bright shiny object” sowing confrontation and confusion instead of building consensus.

Donald Trump has no real beliefs and no grasp of policy. For example – one day championing a Republican health care plan and the next day calling it cruel and on day three championing total repeal of the law it claims to “fix”.

Convene the President’s Club

It is time for the Presidents’ Club to convene a meeting with their latest member. These five former Presidents are best positioned to evaluate the potential of this President to grow into the office he now inhabits.

They will put the best interests of the nation before all other considerations.

If they conclude the President is “unfit” – that he lacks the skills and personality characteristics needed to learn to lead the nation and is unwilling to learn – he must go.

The 25th Amendment to the Constitution was ratified for just such a situation.

Some Democrats in the House of Representatives have formed a committee to investigate invoking the 25th Amendment against President Trump. They should stand down – their efforts are blatantly political and this is not a time for politics – but for patriotism.

In this case, if the five members of the Presidents’ Club were to find Mr. Trump “unfit” to discharge the duties of the office of President of the United States, they could petition the Congress to create a law to empower them to petition for the President’s removal.

Such a law would have to have some stringent requirements for removal that would protect the process from accusations that the motives were political.

And the five former Presidents (3 Democrats and 2 Republicans) would need to meet directly with the American people and make a detailed, objective and impartial case for removal.

Then Congress would need to vote yes or no to remove the President

in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity

Fireworks photo courtesy of mountvernon.org

Good Grief President Trump!!

Good Grief President Trump!!

Since your Inauguration barely a week ago – President Trump – you have managed to upset important allies and trading partners, blindsided your national security team, frightened legal immigrants, and angered your own GOP majority in the Congress.

The majority of voters in over 30 states voted for you because they believed you would create jobs — not nationwide and global chaos!

I am troubled by both the pace of activity and the lack of strategic direction in your early actions. What’s the goal?

I was troubled enough to throw down $12.95 for a Kindle copy of your oft referenced “Art of the Deal” to see if I could make sense of the chaos.

Any Art in Your Executive Orders?

So far I’ve learned that Trump, the builder, sees himself as an “idea machine”; an entrepreneur who leaves the details to other people. He dislikes structure. He sometimes enjoys playing the “bad cop”.

His “bad cop” has stirred more global protest in just one week than the United States has seen since the end of the Vietnam War – over 40 years ago.

For a year and half you talked about all the “good deals” you were going to make for America.

It is time to stop stirring up the pot and start delivering DEALS that will keep Americans safe and prosperous at home and abroad.

Those are deals that heal the divisions within the United States as well as between the United States and its allies and “friendenemies” around the world.

Confrontation Does Not Lead to Good Deals

Good deals can be defined as deals where both sides in a negotiation get something they need by giving up something they want.

In my world we call it “finding the win/win”.

In the senior ranks of management consulting firms, my performance was judged on the ability to develop new business and manage executive relationships (i.e. new clients and new projects with existing clients). Execution – getting results – was always the foundation of success but revenue and relationships were the bottom-line.

Building a good deal does not start with a confrontation – as have so many of your actions in the last 10 days.

The art of building relationships and negotiating good deals starts with being a good listener and empathizer – not a frenetic actor!

Robert Gates, the highly respected former CIA Chief and Defense Secretary to both Presidents Bush and Obama, did not support you before the election. But – a patriot – he met with you at Trump Tower after the election.

Gates has generously described you as “thoughtful” and “open to advice”.

I found that description comforting – those are absolutely necessary characteristics in the President of the United States.

But, if you are a good listener, then the next two questions should raise alarm: Who have you asked for advice and – more importantly — who should you ask for advice as the “leader of the free world”?

Why Experience Matters

Based on the public evidence, you appear to be listening less to the experienced generals you’ve appointed to lead your national security team and more to the under skilled sycophants in the White House.

Is proximity the only source of power in your White House?

Press reports and the actions of General Kelly suggest that Homeland Security was not consulted before you issued new travel and immigration restrictions on Muslims from seven countries already under strict review.

Who persuaded you that announcing Mexico would pay for the southern border wall “one way or another” was the way to open negotiations or improve our relationship with Mexico?

Humiliating the Mexican president publicly instead of meeting with him privately this week in Washington makes NO sense!

Your actions and words will make it more difficult from Rex Tillerson (when he is confirmed) and General Kelly to negotiate a border security deal that serves the interests of both Mexico and the United States:

  • Stop illegal immigration transiting Mexico into the United States whether Mexican, Central American, Chinese or would-be terrorists and
  • Stop the drug smuggling that has cost countless lives on both sides of the border.

The reaction by the Mexican people and their political establishment to those words will, also, complicate renegotiation of NAFTA.

Nothing was gained. You can’t even check-off a campaign promise kept.

Start Firing the Right People

This week, President Trump, you need to restart your administration. The success of your Presidency hangs in the balance.

Bold action is required.

You’ve got to eliminate the people who have proven their advice is bad advice.

Time to tell physically and intellectually over-inflated Steven Bannon and the self-aggrandizing political errand boy Stephen Miller “you’re fired”.

Next ask the “4 Stars” what to do with “3 Star” General Michael Flynn. Then follow their advice!

Good luck – the nation is counting on you not to screw this up beyond repair in just two weeks.

Modernize the Electoral College and Revitalize Democracy

Modernize the Electoral College and Revitalize Democracy

I am officially sick of the media drumbeat for dumping the Electoral College after Hillary Clinton’s loss.

A one-time divergence between the popular and Electoral College votes of a couple million is not a reason to dump an institution that has insured the peaceful transfer of presidential power for more than two centuries. http://www.reimagineamerica.org/2016-electoral-college-worked-as-designed/

The actual difference turns out to be a 2 percent advantage for Mrs. Clinton nationwide in a total of 126 million votes cast — concentrated in Southern California.

Coincidentally that’s the margin of victory Mr. Trump enjoyed in the 13 so-called “battleground” states.

These facts do not make a compelling case against the continuing utility of the Electoral College.

Dragging Electoral College into 21st Century

Amending the Constitution to eliminate the Electoral College won’t happen. It is obvious that the small states in the country’s center would not ratify any proposed constitution amendment.

Modernization must retain the original rhythm written into the Constitution –checks and balances

Happily there’s a lot of room for improvement – changes — the large and small states can agree to.

First, we must minimize the ability of state legislatures to interfere with the voters’ freedom to directly select the electors from their state.

Second, we can increase voter participation by showing each voter how their individual vote matters.

Third, a revitalized system may encourage better candidates to run by re-engaging the center of the American body politic – which is turned off by expensive media campaigns dominated by negative advertising and fear mongering.

Let’s Have a 50 State Election

The Electoral College is made up of 538 members:

Each state is awarded a number of electors equal to the number of their House members. Based on the most recent national census, each House member represents 720,000 people – or less.

Additionally, each state is awarded the same two additional electors.

The total electors representing the 50 states total 535. The remaining three electors represent the District of Columbia.

Currently, the states’ electors are “block-granted” to the candidate who wins the statewide popular vote in that state. The votes cast in one or two large urban areas in the state drowning all other voters in the state. This tends to decrease the incentive of suburban or rural voters to go to the polls.

What if –

State officials apportioned their state’s Electoral College votes – one elector to each House District in that state. The elector would be awarded to the candidate who won the most votes in that House District. The last two electors would be awarded to the winner of the statewide popular vote.

For example: California would apportion our 55 electoral votes 41D/14R based on the votes cast in 2016.

  • 39 urban votes to the Democratic candidate
  • 14 suburban/rural votes to the Republican candidate
  • 02 statewide Democratic majority popular vote

The Democratic candidate would need to make-up 14 votes from another state. Perhaps they would come from – predictably Republican – Texas (11 Democratic House Districts)?

One of the lessons learned from the 2016 election is that nothing is guaranteed. In Michigan at least one district re-elected their Democratic House member even though her district voted majority Trump in the Presidential race. Voters do “ticket split”.

Winning would require a 435 district campaign — the 21st century version of the Truman whistle stop campaign of 1948.

Like 1948, the 2016 election defied all polls and predictions for the same reason – President Truman and Donald Trump both “went over the heads” of the political and media elites with a direct appeal to voters.

The heart of America beats in what coastal elites deride as “flyover country” while rushing from one big donor meeting to another – New York to Los Angeles or San Francisco to Washington.

The “30 thousand foot candidate” should not be surprised when these states’ voters don’t embrace him/her.

Reaching the Voter through Retail Politics

The more suburban political culture in the United States depends less on Facebook and television and more on retail politics – the Jefferson Day or Lincoln Day dinner, the Town Hall meeting, etc..

The folks who attend these events are not big donors to the party – Hollywood movie stars or Wall Street bankers.

The people who attend these functions are middle class Americans who worked — all day before coming to the event –to earn the $100 it costs to buy a ticket.

The presidential candidates themselves – not their surrogates — would need to convince a lot of individual voters they care about the individual and not just the statistic –less black or white or Hispanic, male or female –more as a three dimensional human being with real dreams, fears, and possibilities.

To win the Presidency, a candidate would have to be a great retail politician with high energy as well as 21st century media skills. Relative youth would be a distinct advantage.

Policy positions and proposed solutions might change as a result of meeting the people they’d impact.

Better government could be one potential result of this modernization.

Leveling the Playing Field Will Increase Voter Participation

The Constitution places no limit on the number of Presidential candidates who can compete for Electoral Votes.

The limitations are imposed by the cost and infrastructure required to mount a campaign based on the current major media market, winner-take-all model.

The 50 State Electoral College Model could, over time, level the playing field for third party candidates who lack the $1 billion available to our current political duopoly.

Retail politics are less costly to conduct. Don’t need big hotels or stadiums or celebrity “opening acts” – just a Facebook post, a few Tweets and a corner Starbucks.

Reporters for local media will show up to cover the story free – “earned media” is just that – earned by action not paid for as advertising.

Citizens inspired by a handshake could grow into an army of volunteers to post on Facebook, share on Instagram, knock on doors, recruiting their friends and families.

Inspiration would lead to higher rates of voter participation – perhaps bringing back balance between the unofficial popular vote and the official Electoral College vote.

Photo Courtesy JeffersonheritageTrail.com

2016 Electoral College Worked as Designed

2016 Electoral College Worked as Designed

Ever since it became clear that President-Elect Trump had a commanding lead in the Electoral College (306 votes to 232 for Mrs. Clinton) the main stream media has been focused on the “growing Hillary Clinton advantage in the 2016 Presidential Election popular vote”.

Look a little deeper and it becomes clear the advantage is coming from entirely from Southern California where we are still counting ballots today.

Trump’s voter tally exceeds Mrs. Clinton’s in the 13 battleground states where the Electoral College was won and lost.

Why We Still Need the Electoral College

The Founding Fathers designed the Electoral College to assuage the fears of the smaller states that they would be reduced to serfdom by the big states – New York and Virginia at that time.

Without those assurances the US Constitution would never have been ratified by 9 of the original 13 states.

In the 2016 Election, the Electoral College worked exactly as it was designed.

It balanced the interests of the large coastal, consumer-driven cities — for example Los Angeles and New York — with the interests of the smaller, producer cities and rural farming and industrial populations — for example the Southern Appalachian Mountain region.

But the founders had a second purpose in fashioning the Electoral College: establishing an “institution” that would blunt an impulse toward “mob rule”.

Fact is – setting aside nearly a century of revisionist history — the Founding Fathers did not believe in universal suffrage. In the earliest days of the Republic not everyone could read or write – i.e. participate in the political debate.

Even Thomas Jefferson, the original Democrat, believed only a white man who owned property – i.e. a doctor/lawyer, a shop keeper or a farmer owning at least 5 acres — should be eligible to vote.

States Elect President

The Founding Fathers believed the job of electing a President was too important to be left to the people.

Both under the original Constitution and the 12th Amendment, that task was delegated to states – not the citizenry.

Popularly elected members of the state legislatures — the more respectable, reasonable men of substance and public repute – were given the responsibility to select electors to the Electoral College.

The practice of pledging an individual state’s Electoral College electors to a candidate based on a popular vote of that state’s citizens evolved as the nation matured. Literacy became common place and the right to vote expanded.

The various state legislatures passed laws that updated how their electors are chosen.

Each state, also, specifies whether the electors have any flexibility to cast their votes in any way other than as instructed by the popular vote of the people of that state.

The (aggregated national) people’s popular vote for President – still today – has no meaning under the Constitution – the states elect the President.

Subverting the Founders Intent

Disgruntled Democrats, along with Green Party Candidate Jill Stein, are attempting to use the Electoral College as a Constitutional Alamo – a fight to the death to deny Donald Trump the Presidency – whatever the consequences to Constitutional principles.

Since the polls closed on November 8th, disgruntled Democrats have tried to use Clinton’s lead in the popular vote as an argument to persuade and, in some cases harass, Trump Electors. They argue these electors should ignore their states’ voters and vote for Clinton when the Electoral College meets in December to formally elect the 45th President.

The argument they make is commonly called the National Voter Plan. It’s not a new proposal.

The argument in favor: The value of every individual vote should be the same in every state.

The counter argument: one state or one portion of one large state should not have greater weight than the votes of any other geography – is illustrated by Mrs. Clinton’s plurality coming entirely from Los Angeles County, California.

The counter argument gains strength when no candidate has a national majority (50 percent plus one vote).

If the National Voter Plan were ever enacted into law – the President would be the absolute choice of only the six large bi-coastal urban media markets including New York and Los Angeles – exactly the circumstance the Founding Fathers sought to avoid in crafting the Electoral College.

Room for Reform

The wide divergence between the popular and electoral votes — and the unseemly attempt the thwart the Electoral College — at the end of a bitter and divisive 2016 campaign underscores the urgent need to modernize the Electoral College.

We can agree at the outset, amending the Constitution to eliminate the Electoral College won’t happen. It is obvious that the small states would not support such an effort.

Reform must honor the original intent of the Founding Fathers – to insure a balance between large and small states is maintained.

Reform must block the National Voter Plan – it would legitimize the “mob” our Founders feared.

Reform begins with the question why did 90 million registered voters not go to the polls and vote?

  • Were they discouraged by the barrage of polls predicting a certain outcome?
  • Were they discouraged by the quality of the candidates and the polarizing campaign rhetoric they used?

More likely, no candidate asked for their vote in a persuasive manner?

No candidate offered them an affirmative case to vote for?

That is the point at which Electoral College reform must begin.

Main Stream Media Needs Reform After 2016 Election Debacle

Main Stream Media Needs Reform After 2016 Election Debacle

The day before the November 8 election I thought “the election would either be over at 8:03 PM when California’s 55 electoral votes go to Hillary” – as we all knew they would – “or it will be a very long night”.

What made me think the latter possible? It was just a feeling that it would be closer than the media polling suggested. http://www.reimagineamerica.org/poll-counts-election-day/

It Started with Florida

On Election Day I waited to turn on the TV until the polls closed in Western Florida – 4:30 PM in California.

I was monitoring the computer as the first returns came in. Mr. Trump had a small but sustained lead.

Wait a minute, I thought, “These are the early votes and mail-in votes.” The media had shown long lines of early voters the previous week — reporting Hillary Clinton was “banking” these votes.

“These numbers do not include any of Western Florida – the “red neck Riviera”—heavily Republican.

Something is happening here.”

I turned off the computer, moved to the living room and there I remained – transfixed – until I sent my son a text during President Elect Trump’s acceptance speech reading simply – “I’m STUNNED”. He replied – “I know, I am watching it”

Main Stream Media Stunned

As I sat down, the major network anchors were cheerfully reporting — despite early vote counts in Florida and North Carolina — “battleground states” – Hillary had a “comfortable lead” based on exit polls. Turns out the polls had no resemblance to reality.

The main stream media was so certain of Hillary Clinton’s victory that they lost their objectivity – reporting what they wished and expected rather than acknowledging and examining what was happening.

How many potential voters outside the Eastern Time Zone believed the media pronouncements and decided they didn’t need to bother to vote – i.e. outcome was already certain?

Only the elder statesman of the establishment media, Tom Brokaw, cautioned the media needed to wait for the American people to vote before declaring the era of the first woman President of the United States.

Role of the Media

It is the job of the media to inform the electorate not to inflame or manipulate it.

I watch three nightly news programs every day — NBC Nightly News, ABC Nightly News and Fox’s Special Report.

Some days, I appear to be living in three separate countries.

What each network considers the “news of the day” is vastly different.

  • Sometimes they don’t cover the same stories.
  • Other nights the priority each network gives to the same story is vastly different.
  • Often the “facts” reported are substantively different.

On a normal night, to figure out what’s really happening, I have to compare the reports to glean the factoids. I define a factoid as a “fact” that remains consistent over two or more reports.

The rest is opinion, editorial bias and just plain hype – the stuff that drives ratings. Ratings drive advertising revenue but they do very little to improve our democracy.

Proliferation of Tribal Media

The proliferation of news media – including cable television, social media, and the “old grey ladies” of the print newspaper and magazine world – has allowed viewers and readers to tailor their consumption to only the news they want to read or hear.

We’ve transformed our media into a whole host of parallel echo chambers – philosophic tribes to use the vernacular of the last two weeks.

Too often, reporters — consciously or unconsciously – censor themselves by selecting the facts they report and – in so doing surrender their journalistic integrity to the network’s chosen narrative.

When a federal civil rights law suit filed in San Jose, California, and Wikileaks revealed that many of the “protesters” at Trump rallies were – in fact – Democratic “dirty tricks” operatives – only Fox Network covered the news.

The narrative was that Trump supporters were violent racists. They initiated a riot that police could not control.

The video introduced in the law suit – and later showed on local TV — shows the opposite. The Trump supporters walking out of SAP Arena were met by a mob punching men and women indiscriminately, kicking them, throwing eggs and other missiles while the San Jose Police Department stood by and watched.

The facts of violence against Trump supporters did not agree with the major networks’ narrative of Trump supporters as violent racists – so they hushed up the facts.

Recommit to the Basics of Journalism

It is time the press recommits to the basics of journalism: reporting the facts of the case (who, what, where, when, why and how).

Facts are verifiable, documented events, comments, and actions.

Facts are objective, black and white – not what the reporter may wish them to be.

It’s, also, part of a reporter’s responsibility to opine — but only after they’ve reported the facts and with a clear statement of delineation between the two.

The traditional role of the media to engage in healthy debate, questioning authority, is vital to the functioning of a healthy democracy.

An Inquiring Press

America needs a free, independent, unbiased press corps more today than ever before.

If we can’t trust our politicians – then we must be able to trust our press to be the ever vigilant guardians of our freedom.

Guarding our liberty begins with objective reporting that the citizen of any persuasion can rely on.

Only after there is agreement on what the facts actually are — can the citizen begin to take seriously the debate between competing solutions.

If I am not sure what the problem is – how can I evaluate the potential solutions? How can I participate in the public debate, counsel my representatives or vote smartly?

Until that lesson is internalized by the press – the average American will continue to despair of “politics as usual” — an unholy alliance between political partisans and media elites more interested in their own success than ours.

The consequence of the status quo: an erosion of confidence in the fundamental institutions of our republic.

Graphic Courtesy of the Washington Post

I Am Sick of Talking About This Election

I Am Sick of Talking About This Election

I woke to a text from one of my closest friends Wednesday, November 9.

She was not speaking to me because Donald Trump won the Presidential Election.

I am bewildered – I did not support Trump and I didn’t vote for him.

California’s 55 electoral votes went to Hillary Clinton at 8:03 PM Pacific Time. The outcome was never in doubt – regardless of how I voted. So I voted my conscience.

Why is she mad at me?

Julie’s text illustrates the depth of the divisions in this country.

Those divisions are both human and institutional.

Reform, renovation and rebirth are urgently needed.

But before we turn our attention to the future – let’s take a moment to summarize what went right and what went wrong on Election Day, November 8.

What Went Wrong?

The main stream media was so certain of Hillary Clinton’s victory that they lost their objectivity.

Only the elder statesman of the establishment media, Tom Brokaw, cautioned the media talking heads needed to wait for the American people to vote before declaring the era of the first woman President of the United States.

Tuesday afternoon, as I channel surfed, the major network anchors were all reporting — despite early vote counts in the “battleground states” — Hillary had a “comfortable lead” based on exit polls. Turns out the polls had no resemblance to reality.

In the aftermath of this election, the media needs to do some soul searching. It is time to reconfirm their commitment to the basics of journalism: reporting the facts of the case (who, what, where, when, why and how).

The Polls

Voters lie to pollsters!

We were reminded last Tuesday that the only poll that matters is voting!

55 percent of eligible voters went to the polls in 2016 – down five percentage points from 2012.

When newscasters on November 7 on every major network told their viewers “Hillary Clinton goes into the election with 272 Electoral College votes to Trump’s +/- 150 — some unknown number of voters heard the election was over and they didn’t need to both to vote.

We will never know how many people didn’t vote because they believed those polls and saw voting as either unnecessary because their candidate was certain to win or futile because their candidate was going to lose.

Would accurate reporting have changed the outcome either in the Electoral College or the popular vote? We will never know.

The Political Establishment

The American people are angry.

Voters decided to take a chance on the “bad-boy” “new-devil-in-town” rather than the “devil-they -thought-they-already-knew” –

Terms like conservative or liberal lost their meaning in the 21st century.

James Carville, the acerbic 1992 Clinton Campaign Manager, was correct then and remained correct in 2016 – “it’s the economy, stupid”.

The struggling middle class in the heartland of America have had enough of political promises. They’re out of hope – so they voted for CHANGE!

Barack Obama. George W. Bush and Bill Clinton promised them a new global economy that turned out to be worse than the one they had before. Maybe a brash, successful businessman would do better?

Populism broke with the professional politicians and the so-called political establishment.

The average voter in the so-called “rust belt” – black and white as it turns out – finally realized that all those political promises repeated every two years were empty — more about helping the incumbent politician pay his/her mortgage than the voter paying his/hers!

The people want economic and political reform – NOW! The American people are sick and tired of:

  • BIG – government
  • Public employee UNIONS
  • BIG banks
  • And BIG multi-national businesses!

And, yes, they are sick of BIG political parties – which are nothing but BIG corporations. They exist for the betterment of their shareholders – ops, I mean donors and politicians.

What Went Right?

After 228 years the American Constitution is still a vibrant as when it was ratified 288 years ago. We are the envy of the world!

Every eligible voter who wanted to participate in the process voted and saw their vote counted carefully and accurately.

The Bill of Rights protected the speech of the protagonists and their supporters.

The Electoral College worked as designed — each state is assigned electors equal to their Congressional representation.

It’s a check to insure the votes from America’s smaller states mattered just as much as the urban elites in our large coastal cities.

Every four years the losing party suggests abolishing the Electoral College but the small states will never vote to ratify an amendment that would reduce them to serfdom at the hands of their urban brothers and sisters.

But there’s room to reform the process of selecting and awarding electors.

Looking Forward

We must stop fearing and vilifying one another. Throughout our history – our diversity has been one of our greatest strengths.

But in recent years diversity has been subsumed into what MSNBC’s morning host, Joe Scarborough describes as the
politics of “tribalism” – the “black vote”, the “latino vote”, the “LGPD vote”, “a special place in hell for women who don’t support women”.

Tribalism is the antithesis of the traditional American melting pot. Hyphenation of your Americanism is the first step toward abandoning what made us a great nation – the belief in the potential of the greater many to do the greater good for ourselves and the rest of the world.

This schism is largely a result of the cynical professional politician’s obsession with winning at whatever cost to the nation.

Over 240 years we, the people, have stuck together through thick and thin – let’s not lose that important pillar of American democracy now!

Each of us must be willing to allow the 45th President of the United States the room to learn to be the President of all the people. Let’s give him the benefit of the doubt.

Like President Obama and the other members of the (former) Presidents’ Club who have reached out to help – if Mr. Trump succeeds – all of us succeed!

Isn’t that the objective after all?

The Only Poll that Counts Is Election Day

The Only Poll that Counts Is Election Day

Before the major networks ended their 30 minute analysis of the Third Presidential Debate – CNN was pushing a headline saying polling showed Hillary Clinton won the debate 52 to 38 percent.

The numbers are offered as fact without context – opinion reported as NEWS!

That poll means absolutely nothing!

52 percent to 38 percent of how big a population – the first one hundred responders to an online poll conducted during or in the first five minutes following the debate? Or, was it the first 1000 respondents?

Polling is Increasingly Unreliable

I listened to a No Labels telephone town hall on the morning after the final Presidential Debate.

The guest speaker was Jennifer Duffy, a Senior Editor with the well-respected Cook Political Report.

Ms. Duffy opened her remarks by declaring:

  • Cook Political Report projects Clinton goes into election with 278 electoral college votes (8 more than she needs to win).
  • Trump goes in with 179 votes, though he needs 270 to win.
  • It’s almost impossible to find a path to victory for Trump right now”.

The problem with this statement is that it’s purely based on a set of assumptions!

Neither the Cook Political Report – nor any other living person really knows for whom the first vote in early voting was cast or who will accumulate the largest number of votes on November 8.

As recently as 2000, 2004, 2008 and 2012 – events occurring in the last moments of the campaign had profound impact on the outcome!

  • Weeks before the 2000 election, the release of court records of George W. Bush’s driving case 25 years earlier tighten an already close race
  • The September 2008 financial crisis doomed the McCain campaign
  • Super Storm Sandy gave Barack Obama a chance to show himself as a “bi-partisan crisis manager” in weeks before the 2012 election.

Ms. Duffy later acknowledged, in response to a listener question about polling results in Southern California:

“Polling has gotten difficult for a number of reasons and simply, response rates are very low. It forces pollsters to make some assumptions about turnout and weight populations (i.e. multiply the impact of populations to make them more representative)”.

Seeming not to realize that she had contradicted herself, she did not qualify her opening statement.

Campaigns pay pollsters a lot of money to conduct polls that show their candidate winning by such a margin that your candidate has no chance. Why waste your time voting if you know in advance that your candidate is going to lose?

Hillary Clinton outspent all the GOP 2016 Presidential Primary candidates combined for polling during her race against Bernie Sanders.

No surprise — polling is used to suppress the opposition candidate’s vote.

Public Unease About 2016 Polling

I participate in a quick online YouGov poll every morning. About 3000 people participate and the results are posted – comparing individual answers to the group.

The question today: “We’re just 14 days away from finals at the Electoral College. Currently almost all of the polls suggest Hillary Clinton has most chances to win. Do you trust the polls?

  • Yes 43%
  • No 47%
  • No sure 10%

More than half of the 3216 respondents question the accuracy of the current polling results. That’s news!

Don’t Let any Poll Deter You from Voting

There is no substitute for counting the ballots. Every vote matters.

In 1948 all the polls showed Governor Dewey of New York beating President Harry Truman in a landslide. But the final results were not even close – Truman won by a commanding 303 Electoral College Votes to Dewey’s 189. The last 39 votes were won by Dixiecrat Strom Thurmond.

In the 2000 election, polls predicted an electoral majority for Al Gore. George W. Bush’s official margin of victory was less than 700 votes in the state of Florida.

Voting has never been easier. At least four western states are conducting their statewide 2016 general election entirely by mail.

Undoubtedly, better candidates would spur higher voter turnout but even absent that – voting is about the mystery. We won’t know the winner until the votes are counted ballot by ballot!

Remove Polling for the Election Equation

I would favor a law banning public announcements of poll results in the last 30 days before an election. The mystery would deepen. “What if I don’t vote and my candidate loses by one vote”?

Put the pollsters in their place – do your duty, vote!

What if the 2016 polls are wrong and your candidate either wins or loses by only one vote – and you didn’t vote?

What if the 60 percent of voters who don’t favor any Presidential candidate skipped the Presidential vote (for their assessed “lesser of two evils”) but voted down ballot?

  • The “winner” could claim no mandate to make a bad situation worse.
  • The power would be returned to Congress – where the Founding Fathers wanted it to be!
  • Every member of Congress would be on notice that if they didn’t get results for the majority of Americans, they would be fired in two years!

Best of all — if 100% of eligible voters voted, no one could dispute the result.

Photo Courtesy of Whaleoil Media

John Kennedy Couldn't Run for President in 2016!

John Kennedy Couldn’t Run for President in 2016!

I vividly remember my first Presidential Election Night.

It was 1960. My family’s first television set had been delivered that afternoon. Just kids, my brother and I would have watched a test pattern!!

I remember watching Inauguration Day 1961. Our handsome young President exhorted us to “think not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country”.

Like so many preteen girls of my generation, John Kennedy was my first crush – after my dad, of course.

Kennedy’s challenge to the American people still drives my political philosophy.

ReimagineAmerica exists because I fiercely believe that our national future lies in the embrace of common national purpose.

Despite his youth, charisma, and oratorical skills; it is unlikely that John Kennedy would have put himself forward as a candidate in 2016.

His personal life was just too messy. The man was a documented philander — as early as high school and continuing even in the White House.

But 1960 journalism was still the province of ideas and solutions – not salacious gossip.

There was no National Inquirer at every grocery checkout counter.

“Playing the infidelity card in 1960” would, potentially, have brought as much scorn on Nixon as it did shame on Kennedy.

Journalists would have been more repelled at the pain they would cause Mrs. Kennedy than they would have been attracted by the opportunity to sell more papers or TV advertisements.

Sensationalism Discourages Voting

Magazines and newspapers are, sadly, no longer a place to debate competing ideas.

Reporters no longer challenge the candidates’ rehearsed 30 second sound bites with words like when, how, how much, where and why.

The “news” has been transformed into a place where entertainment trumps substance.

Gossip and innuendo has become the substance of this campaign.

The 7 by 24 television news cycle is an endless stream of sleaze:

  • Wikileaks email dumps exposing Democratic Committee peccadillos
  • Hillary Clinton’s email scandal
  • Disgusting (11 year old) Access Hollywood tapes
  • 30 plus year old sexual allegations against both Donald Trump and Bill Clinton.

Irrelevant sensationalism discourages the average voter — concerned about the economic security and physical safety of his/her own family — from participating.

When was the last time you, as an average and interested voter, heard or read a front page story about America’s almost $20 trillion dollar debt or the $200 trillion unfunded liabilities our future generations face?

Yemini rebels have fired on American warships. Iranian ships began shadowing our naval vessels off the coast of Yemen. More people died in Aleppo yesterday. All these important facts are barely mentioned on the evening “news” – after the daily dose of sleaze.

The more sleaze, the less popular the two major party candidates become.

The more their character flaws become the focus of the election – the less opportunity there is for either the Libertarian or Green Party candidates to “break through” and connect with the electorate.

Small “d” Democracy is Threatened

In 1960 63 percent of registered voters (89 million) voted in the presidential election. The major issues were front and center – not on the sidelines of the campaign:

  • Expanding economic opportunity to all
  • Civil rights
  • Defending the nation from enemies abroad (Russian Cold War)

The outcome of the election was determined by two unexpected states – Texas and Illinois — flipping from Republican to Democrat.

A half century later — 2012 – registered voters had grown by one third (120 million). The major issues were:

  • Expanding economic opportunity to all
  • Immigration Reform
  • Defending the nation from enemies domestic and abroad

The percentage of eligible voters who voted fell to 53 percent. That’s actually a drop of 25 percent in voter participation. http://www.270towin.com/historical-presidential-elections/

The issues that drove 2008 and 2012 election have not been resolved. They are the same issues that should be driving the 2016 election:

  • Expanding economic opportunity to all
  • Immigration Reform
  • Defending the nation from enemies domestic and abroad

Plus:

  • Out-of-control National Debt
  • Entitlement (Social Security, Medicare) Reform

But, instead, the candidates — who have no solutions – are burying us in an avalanche of tawdriness.

Incessant Polling Discourages Voting

The already disheartened voter is subject to an incessant barrage of polls and pollsters – who extrapolate phone calls and/or online surveys answered by some 500 or 1000 people — over an entire state voter population. These pollsters have declared the outcome in 46 of our 50 states three weeks before the election.

Does that mean there’s no need for you to actual vote?

Heck no! Polls are not votes – but each side wants to use those polls to discourage their opponent’s voters from voting.

Anticipating a low voter turnout, the polls claim this will be a base election – only the most extreme partisans will actual vote. The result will be more gridlock – more government by Executive Order and (Supreme) Court Decisions.

Don’t let that happen. Small “d” democracy can only flourish when we, the people, manage our democracy by informing ourselves about the issues and by voting.

If you can’t, in good conscience, vote for either Trump or Clinton; vote for the Libertarian or Green Party candidate. Write in a name – Abraham Lincoln? Yourself? No vote is “wasted”.

The opposite is true. The more of us vote against sleaze, sensationalism, politics as usual and media bias – the stronger will be the mandate for government of the people, by the people and for the people.

VOTING is a HIRING DECISION

VOTING is a HIRING DECISION

During my long corporate career, I hired a lot of senior level individuals. I’ve fired a few, too.

As a consultant, I have advised a number of Fortune 100 clients on key executive hiring, internal executive promotion, and succession planning decisions.

In any of those situations, if a Human Resources (HR) Department sent me a selected few resumes to choose from which included candidates:

  • With no relevant work experience
  • A potential to act first and think later
  • A record of questionable decisions
  • A loose relationship with the truth
  • Racial insensitivity
  • A track record of pandering to every potentially aggrieved person or group
  • An acknowledged affection for marijuana

I would pick up the phone and tell the HR folks to reread the job description before continuing the search for a suitable candidate.

In the case of the 2016 Presidential Election, 62 percent of likely voters agree with me but that’s not an option.

To quote Former CIA Director and Defense Secretary, Robert Gates, “we are where we are – not where we want to be.”

Imperfect though the 2016 Presidential candidates all are – we, the people, will have to make a decision on November 8, 2016. We’re going to vote to hire one of them to manage our economy and national security for the next four years.

Nine Percent of Americans Nominated Clinton and Trump

Barring a cataclysmic event, either Hillary Clinton will be elected the first woman President of the United States or Donald Trump will be the first business billionaire elected President of the United States.

These are the two most unpopular, mistrusted major political party nominees in the history of the United States.

How did we get here?

It is easy – only 28.5 percent of the eligible voters cast a ballot in the 2016 primary contests (14.4 percent of Democrats and 14 percent of Republicans). That amounts to only nine percent of the total population of the country.

It’s a sad commentary on the quality and quantity of civic engagement and political participation in our country.

Even more disconcerting, those voters – from both political parties – are zealous partisans unwilling to consider the legitimacy of the other side’s argument.

The major political parties love these voters. Their zealotry energizes them. It gets them to the polls in disproportionate numbers.

But that zealotry is the root of partisan gridlock in Washington.

Political zealots see politics as a “zero sum” game, where only one correct position exists, and therefore there can’t be compromise – no meeting in the middle.

The result has been more government by Executive Order and (Supreme) Court Order and less government by the people’s most direct representatives – Congress.

NOT VOTING is NOT AN OPTION

Broad citizen participation is the bedrock of “government of the people, by the people and for the people.”

The fewer people vote the less democracy we have. Lower and lower voter turnout has been the trend for the last two decades.

When 71.5 percent of registered voters (including the forty-two percent of voters who identify themselves as independents) do not vote in primary elections –- well, then, we end up where we are.

To keep the promise of America alive, we’ve all got to be part of the decision-making.

How to Make the Least Bad Decision

Use the ReimagineAmerica
2016 Presidential Scorecard

To date, the two leading candidates have spent more than $100 million on 30 second television commercials aimed at getting an emotional (gut) voter reaction – ‘vote for me or, at least, don’t vote for the other (unacceptable) candidate’.

Voting on just your gut in this election is akin to eloping with a beautiful blonde only to learn on your wedding night that she is bald and has a glass eye!!

Like one-third of voters I’ll hold my decision in abeyance until at least after the first Presidential Debate.

It’s my standard practice in hiring or advising a client on hiring decisions to craft a job-specific-scorecard.

I use the same process in voting. I want to be persuaded objectively – independent of my emotions and against a common standard which candidate is at least not going to make a bad situation worse.

The scorecard I developed for the 2016 Presidential Election is divided into three broad categories intuitive, policy and “follow the money”.

  • Section 1 scores how you react to each candidate. For example, how do you think each candidate will react to criticism? How will that effect their ability to govern?
  • Section 2 scores the candidates’ policy positions. Do you think their policy positions will move the country away from the fiscal precipice, improve your lives and the lives of your children and, most importantly, can be executed with Congress?
  • Section 3 “follows the money”. Who are the campaign contributors each candidate will be indebted to? Are their interests the same as your interests?
  • Add all three scores together, for each candidate, and there’s your answer.

The Scorecard includes all Four (4) Presidential Candidates
who have qualified for 50 state ballots.

Visit the 2016 Presidential Scorecard

If you have 15 minutes, please download your own copy of the Scorecard and use it to make your own voter decision objectively – by the numbers.

Once you download the form, it is completely yours, completely private and not accessible by any other person, candidate or Reimagineamerica.org.

In return for making this powerful tool available, we ask only one thing — VOTE on November 8!

Graphic courtesy of city of New Haven.Conn.

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