All posts by Dr. ESP

The Conversation

 

Millions of Americans are in danger of being infected by a rampant contagion which is spreading rapidly throughout the country–polling fatigue.  Almost every website includes a paid banner or pop-up asking your opinion about the presidential race, which issue is most important to you, would you take a COVID-19 vaccine, do you feel safe sending your children to school, etc.  I have received three phone calls this month from survey research firms (or so they say) wanting my opinion on similar issues. A clearly biased group texted me on Monday asking if I approved of the violence in cities like Portland, Kenosha and Minneapolis to which I responded… (My wife would not have approved of my finishing the sentence.) The people conducting this last survey must also believe the “scientific method” is a form of birth control.

Yet, no one has asked me the two questions about which I am most curious.

  • Have you and your family had a conversation about leaving the country if Donald Trump is elected to a second term in office ?
  • Does it matter whether you believe his victory was legitimate or not?

The only statistically valid data related to these questions come from a January 2019 Gallup report which compared the propensity of Americans to permanently leave the U.S. under the last three presidents.

George W. Bush/11 percent
Barack Obama/10 percent
Donald Trump/16 percent

Among those potential emigrants, the largest demographic subset was women under the age of 30.  And the number one desired destination was Canada.  In the case of Donald Trump, the percentage jumps to 22 percent for those who disapprove of his performance in office.

My own research, admittedly anecdotal based on discussions with family and friends, suggests those who would answer yes to the first question is consistent with the Gallup findings, if not higher.  And of course, there is a difference between those who would act on their preference and others who make idle threats.  For example, Susan Sarandon infamously said she would emigrate if George W. Bush won re-election.  Sadly, she did not.

When I receive a positive response, the obvious next question is, “Where would you go?”  On this matter there is a wide range of opinion.  Canada. The Cayman Islands. Costa Rica.  Portugal.  Israel. The reasons also vary.  We already have friends or family there.  Such and such website says it is one of the top choices for American ex-pats.  The cost of living and amenities make it a great place for retirees.

The FRONTLINE Interview: Barton Gellman | United States of Secrets | FRONTLINE | PBSHowever, we never get to the second question for which I take personal responsibility.  Probably because I had not given it much thought until Trump’s recent comments and Barton Gellman’s article in The Atlantic, “The Election That Could Break America,” which documents the ways Trump and the GOP might claim victory despite a vote tally in which Joe Biden wins both the popular and electoral votes.  These new data points make the nature of Trump’s continued occupancy of the Oval Office a legitimate criterion in the conversation about staying or leaving the country.  And perhaps, the one deserving the most weight.

Why?  Because a legitimate Trump victory is not an indictment of Trump who we know does not care about democracy or the Constitution.  It would be the American people who are guilty of the crime of violating their oath of citizenship.  Renunciation of their pledge of allegiance to the flag.  If a majority of Americans either vote for Donald Trump or sit out the election enabling his re-election, those individuals are signaling, in the strongest of terms, they too do not care about democracy, the Constitution or the rule of law.

Like many, I fear if Trump circumvents the will of the people in November, there will be chaos, mass protests and the inevitable violence that accompanies societal unrest.  If a meaningful majority of Americans feel the cause is just, I would be proud to stand with them.  However, if Trump and Trumpism is the will of the people, one must seriously re-evaluate the options.  The proposition becomes, “Do I want to live in a country where a majority of the citizenry no longer is willing to stand up for the ideals on which the union was founded?”

Sadly, that makes the choice unquestionably easier.  It’s time to pack the belongings and start combing the MIS listings outside the U.S.  I am optimistic the voters will not let us down.  But we do not need 20/20 hindsight to know it is a possibility.  We have 2020 experience.

For what it’s worth.
Dr. ESP

 

#600

DEPROGRAMMING 101 is one person’s attempt to encourage others to open their minds and challenge the status quo. I do not pretend I have all the answers nor do I want you to take my positions as gospel. The blogs on each topic are presented as food for thought and stimuli. Each ends with the tagline, “For what it’s worth,” which in some cases may be zero. The ultimate goal is not to find RIGHT answers, it is to promote the asking of BETTER questions.

Dr. ESP/October 28, 2015

John W. Gardner - WikipediaGo into any bookstore.  There are shelves upon shelves of volumes in the “Self Help” section encouraging individuals to “reinvent themselves.”  My personal favorite is Self-Renewal by John W. Gardner, founder of Common Cause and former secretary of Health, Education and Welfare under Lyndon Johnson.  The main thesis centers on the impact of change on individuals and societies.  Gardner observes, throughout history, failure to recognize and respond to natural and man-made metamorphoses has led to the decline and fall of great civilizations, but such outcomes are not inevitable.

However, there is an alternative route to survival in difficult times.  I became aware of this option as the result of a marketing exercise I began in 2012 to find potential clients for The ImagineIt Project, a company I joined in 2005 and took over as CEO in 2011.  I Googled the term “reinvent” in corporate annual reports and in CEO presentations to stockholders.  While this research identified several potential targets, the source documents contained another equally intriguing phrase.  “We need to go back to our entrepreneurial roots.”  In other words, what did we do at the outset which made us successful?  And where might we have gone astray?

Which is why I began this post with the first words I ever wrote about the philosophy and mission associated with this endeavor.  But more importantly, I wanted to assess whether I had violated them, spending more time trying to explain what was happening rather than looking for “better questions” which would encourage others to join in the search for new knowledge and enlightenment.  Therefore, on the the occasion of this milestone, post #600, I decided to circle back to the roots of Deprogramming101 and present a series of questions which deserve more thought and new perspectives.

  1. Why do politicians and the people who vote for them have such short memories?  Example : In a monologue about mascots, comedian Costaki Economopoulos (real name) reminds us, “The Republicans have the elephant, who never forgets.  But Republicans can’t seem to remember what a bad idea supply side economics is.”
  2. Why do Catholics who represent 22 percent of the U.S. population currently hold five out of nine seats on the Supreme Court, soon to be six?  One would think white Evangelicals, who are the most loyal Republican voters beginning with Ronald Reagan, might ask, “When are you going to appoint one of us?”
  3. If the 1962 Supreme Court decision in Baker v. Carr affirmed the concept of one-person-one-vote, why shouldn’t that apply to the election of the president?  Prior to the decision, states could apportion seats in their legislature’s upper chamber based on geo-political boundaries (i.e. counties) which gave undue power to voters in rural, less populated jurisdictions.  You know, the equivalent of Wyoming having one electoral vote per 195,000 residents while Florida has one electoral vote per 741,000 residents.
  4. Why is there still no available ala carte cable or streaming television service?  A related question:  Why don’t the major broadcast networks and their affiliates stream programming for free since their main source of revenue, advertising fees, increases based on the number of viewers?
  5. What if black lung disease prevents COVID-19 related fatalities?  West Virginia ranks 44th among the states and Washington, D.C. in number of COVID-19 deaths (Reuters) although residents have the highest rates of obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure in the United States (AP News/December 18, 2018).
  6. Why was only one American (Kareem Serageldin) sentenced to prison for his role in the 2008 financial crisis?  According to the Financial Times, 47 bank employees and directors worldwide received jail terms, led by Iceland with 25 convictions.  Serageldin was sentenced in 2013 to a term of two years and six months. In 2011, Oklahoman Patricia Spottedcrow was sentenced to 12 years in prison for selling $31 worth of cannabis (Source: Tulsa World).  Justice may be blind, but she has not lost her sense of smell.
  7. Why does a single Ace pocket comb at Walmart cost $2.22 and the 2-pack costs $6.98?  Perhaps this is a means of assessing the quality of math instruction in K-12 education.
  8. Why do successful young golfers feel the urge to change their swing when the old one is still working?  Cases in point, Jordan Spieth and Ricky Fowler.
  9. Why would director Gus Van Sant and Universal Pictures think Americans would pay to see Anne Heche instead of Janet Leigh in the shower scene in the 1998 remake of Psycho The same goes for updated versions of The In-Laws, The Out-of-Towners, King Kong (1976), Death Wish and Footloose.
  10. And finally, a question raised by the late Glenn Brenner, sportscaster on WTOP television in Washington, D.C from 1977 to 1991.  Why do squirrels risk getting run over to gather acorns on the other side of the street when there are just as many on the side where they already are?

This list is far from exhaustive.  I encourage readers to add their own.  Who knows?  Maybe some of them will be  topics of the next 600 posts on this site.

Thank you for being there for the past five years.  For what it’s worth.
Dr. ESP

 

Timber Land

NOTE:  Today’s post is the 599th since I started this project in October, 2015.  I have spent much too much time thinking about the focus or subject of #600.  I want it to be memorable, if not monumental.  Maybe an update on past topics.  Or a mea culpa reminding readers “FWIW” was occasionally zero, considering all the things I got it wrong over the past five years.  Or a philosophical piece questioning whether there is blog-life after Trump.  Or even an announcement that I am passing the torch to a new generation of bloggers when my GoDaddy hosting contract expires next spring.

But today I am inspired by former RNC chair Michael Steele, who yesterday reminded us the key to November 3rd is focus.  Make the election about Trump’s apocalyptic failure to address the pandemic.  All his “dumb ass comments” are noise which do not deserve our attention.  They should be ignored by Joe Biden and the media.  A clarion call to a frustrated satirist turned blogger.  If not Trump, someone else needs to step into the arena and produce “dumb ass statements” worthy of note.  Challenge accepted.

Do you have any sense that that privilege has isolated and put you in a cave to a certain extent, as it put me, and I think lots of White, privileged people in a cave?

~Bob Woodward/Rage

In the ultimate example of Donald Trump’s ability to project his own attitudes and behavior, he responded to Woodward’s question by accusing the Pultizer Prize winning author of being a captive of the “woke” movement.  “You really drank the Kool-Aid, didn’t you  Just listen to you.  Wow.”

Certainly not what I would have said.  But Woodward’s question made me wonder if I too sported a pair of white privilege blinders.  While I have yet to come up with a definitive answer to that specific query, I did learn something else this week.  I definitely have a mental blind spot which demonstrates how cultural experience and references affect how black and white Americans might view the same situation differently.

This epiphany followed a September 17, 2020 story in Footwear News about Kamala Harris’ choice of (drum roll) footwear during a trip to California to observe the wildfire damage and efforts to bring the disaster under control.

For a visit to one of the sites of California’s wildfires near Fresno on Tuesday, Harris was seen talking with Governor Gavin Newsom wearing a pair of Timberland boots.

The TwittterSphere and other social media sites heralded the story as an iconic cultural moment, something I did not understand until reading Brooke Leigh Howard’s column in The Daily Beast.

Timberland boots have come to be an emblem of the Black community, and this week—after a much-buzzed-about photograph of her stepping off a plane in California—vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris has owned that statement.

The move was unapologetically Black. For me, it is the kind of move that signals that I can be Black without having to code-switch.

NOTE:  Code-switch is a term used to describe the need for a person of color to tone done appearance or behavior in the company of whites.  Example:  Switching from urban radio to a Top 40 station when carpooling with white co-workers.

I had no idea.  My first inclination?  What was she supposed to wear to a wild fire?  Stilettos?  But it did not take long before I came to the conclusion this fashion statement fell within a more familiar cultural context.  As I so often do, I reverted back to the white person’s handbook Everything I Need to Know I Learned from Seinfeld.

Of course, my last cultural recollection of Timberlands was from the November 20, 1997  Seinfeld episode “The Betrayal.”  Seinfeld fans often refer to this unique story about the gang traveling to a wedding in India as “The Backward Episode.”  Jerry introduces George to his platonic friend Nina, after which George asks Jerry to “fix me up with her.”  There is only one hitch. George is wearing a new pair of Timberlands when he first meets Nina, which make him look taller. The following conversation ensues.

GEORGE:  Wait a minute.  Nina just saw me in my Timberlands!  Now I have to wear them every time I see her.

JERRY: Why?

GEORGE:  In any other shoe, I lose two inches.  I can’t have a drop down.  We were eye to eye.  I can’t go eye to chin.

Kamala Harris and her trending shoes: VP candidate makes Timbs trendThat must be it.  Kamala Harris is five feet two inches tall.  Her Timberlands make her look taller, especially knowing she would be photographed with California governor Gavin Newsom (6’3″).

Except it wasn’t.  So let me take this opportunity to thank Ms. Howard for this moment of cultural sensitivity training.  The only question left is how Donald Trump or his campaign will use this information to smear Harris.  I expect they will flood social media with ads suggesting Senator Harris is unfit to be vice-president because she is “lifting.”*

*For non-Seinfeld aficionados who may not understand this reference, check out the Wikipedia article titled, “The Stand In (Seinfeld).”

For what it’s worth.
Dr. ESP

TrumpTown

Let’s be clear.  You’re witnessing a homicidal president conveying, purposefully, a homicidal assembly to help him get reelected as President of the United States instead of protecting the health and welfare of the United States including supporters whose lives he’s willing to sacrifice.

~Carl Bernstein/CNN/September 14, 2020

Bernstein’s comment was in reference to the revelation in Bob Woodward’s book Rage that Donald Trump was quite aware he was lying to the American people when he downplayed the severity of the coronavirus pandemic in the winter and spring of 2020.  But Bernstein is only half right.  Certainly, Trump’s own words affirmed he knew such events were a high-level health risk to those who attended attended his rallies or rejected CDC guidelines.  His error is describing Trump’s behavior as homicidal.  Homicides usually do not involve willing victims.

To understand the mindset of those who still attended the rallies after hearing Trump describe how the virus is “deadly stuff” and is “passed by breathing air,” one can draw on past examples where individuals have blindly followed a leader at their own risk.  Remember, rally attendees are even warned of the danger, having to sign a waiver releasing Trump, the campaign and the host facility of liability in case of illness or death resulting from their presence at the event.

Finding an appropriate analogy was the easiest part of this post, when the projecter-in-chief triggered the obvious comparison during a taped conversation with Woodward about white privilege.  Woodward suggested both he and Trump might not fully understand the pain and anger of Black Americans, being somewhat blinded by their own privileged upbringing. To which Trump responded, “You really drank the Kool-Aid, didn’t you?  Just listen to you.  Wow.”

Deborah Layton – Author WebsiteNo, I am not comparing a Trump rally to November 18, 1978, when 918 members of Jim Jone’s Peoples Temple Agricultural Project, better know as Jonestown, Guyana, died in what Jones called a “revolutionary suicide.”  But a Trump rally sounds a lot like two earlier Jonestown ceremonies labeled “White Night Rehearsals.”  These rites of passage were described in a sworn affidavit by Deborah Layton, a Jonestown defector.

Everyone, including the children, was told to line up. As we passed through the line, we were given a small glass of red liquid to drink. We were told that the liquid contained poison and that we would die within 45 minutes. We all did as we were told. When the time came when we should have dropped dead, Rev. Jones explained that the poison was not real and that we had just been through a loyalty test. He warned us that the time was not far off when it would become necessary for us to die by our own hands.

I would have thought twice about making such a damning charge until Trump’s appearance last night at an ABC-sponsored Town Hall.  Once again, Trump stated the virus would eventually go away “with or without a vaccine.”  Moderator George Stephanopoulos pushed back on this assertion, to which Trump inexplicably pivoted in a direction that had been dismissed by U.S. experts and had proved ineffective in countries in which it had already been attempted.

And you’ll develop, you’ll develop herd — like a herd mentality. It’s going to be — it’s going to be herd developed – and that’s going to happen. That will all happen.

[NOTE:  Trump probably meant to say “herd immunity” rather than “herd mentality,” a slip of the tongue of Freudian proportions.]

The theory and practice of herd immunity is based on science (yes, science) that suggests when a certain percentage of a population becomes infected, the virus eventually runs out of people to taint and dissipates.  There is only one problem, a certain percentage of the target population especially the elderly and those with underlying conditions, will succumb to the disease in the process.  Dr. Anthony Fauci has stated between 60 to 80 percent of the U.S. population would need to be infected to reach what is called “the herd immunity threshold.”   Using the lower 60 percent figure and the current mortality rate for infected individuals (approximately one percent), the total number of COVID-19 deaths would total 1.92 million Americans.

Which brings me back to Deborah Layton’s testimony about “White Night Rehearsals.”  Tulsa, Henderson and Phoenix are exactly that.  Instead of a small cup of powered liquid with a dose of cyanide, each attendee was asked to breathe potentially lethal air.  And, urging attendees to not wear masks and sit in close quarters is no different from the “trust me” loyalty test Jim Jones required of his followers.  Therefore, last night’s quasi-endorsement of herd mentality should be a warning.

…the time was not far off when it would become necessary for us to die by our own hands.

Welcome to TrumpTown!

For what it’s worth.
Dr. ESP

 

The Bone Spur Pandemic

I’ve talked to many [Republicans], as I know you have, and asked them, “Why are you silent?  You know this is wrong.  You know that you should speak out.  You know what he is doing to the military.”  And the answer I almost always get is, “If I do, I will lose any possibility of being an effective legislator.  They’ll come after me.”

David Ignatius, September 11, 2020

David Ignatius: FBI/DOJ Abuse Story Are Top 4 Most Read Articles on RealClearPolitics | Video | RealClearPoliticsIgnatius, an associate editor of the Washington Post, was responding to Joe Scarborough’s own frustration with the Republican Party, for which unconditional support for the military had been a third rail since the “Hard Hat Riot of 1970.”  [See Scarborough’s op-ed in this morning’s Post, “Trump is destroying the Republican Party.  Why won’t any of his peers speak up?”]

As is so often the case in politics, efforts to explain or excuse behavior often pale in comparison to the original offense.  Let me translate their response into plain English.

  • “I will lose any possibility of being an effective legislator,” sounds a lot like Governor William J. Le Petomane (Mel Brooks) in Blazing Saddles, “We’ve got to protect our phony baloney jobs, gentlemen!”
  • “They’ll come after me,” evokes Mark Twain, “The human race is a race of cowards; and I am not only marching in that procession but carrying a banner.”

And as is also true, the explanations raise more questions than they answer. What do Lindsay Graham, Ted Cruz, Susan Collins, etc., etc., etc., believe constitutes being “an effective legislator?”  And who are the “they” who are coming after you?

But what I find most damning is the sheer lack of curiosity.  Republican senators and representatives are back in “Trump Impeachment” defense mode.  “I didn’t have time to read The Atlantic article.”  “It relies on anonymous sources.”  As though they would have a change of heart if John Kelly or James Mattis stepped before microphones and quoted Lili von Shtrupp (Madeline Kahn), “It’s twue! It’s twue.”  [I apologize for all the Blazing Saddles references.]

I do not understand why individuals with first-hand knowledge of Trump’s lack of respect for military personnel, past and present, alive and dead will not publicly come forward, either way.  If Jeffrey Goldberg misquoted Trump or misrepresented his behavior, those in attendance need to correct the record.  But if their silence is implied confirmation, it is not enough, as it leaves the door open for deniers to question the accounts.

However, if I am Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton, a decorated veteran and member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, would I not be interested in the truth?  Cotton has a professional or personal relationship with each one of the military leaders whom Goldberg identifies as having been in the room (or the cemetery).  How hard would it be to call them and ask, “I understand your allegiance to the armed forces code of honor and the chain of command, so I know it might be tough for you to go public about the Atlantic article.  But I need to know the truth.  So between the two of us, is it true?”

Why doesn’t Tom Cotton make that call?  Because he already knows the answer. So he seeks a deferment from his oath of office.  He needs a letter from a doctor, similar to the one Fred Trump secured for his son, that states he would serve his country but for the bone spurs (even if he could remember on which foot they were) which are too painful to allow him to be of use as soldier in the pursuit of the truth.  And, he is not alone, he has 52 comrades-in-arms in the Senate and many more in the House.

Sadly, there will be no treatment or “warp speed” vaccine on November 1st for this pandemic for which the symptoms are silence and complicity.   It will not go away until the root cause, cowardice and lack of character, are addressed head on.

For what it’s worth.
Dr. ESP