We’ve Been So Shocked By Trump’s Rise, There’s Been No Time To Bid The G.O.P. Adieu

It’s an interesting time in America. We’re facing our demons as a nation right now, and this can make for an unstable and sometimes frightening situation on the ground. For instance, hating people of color and women is now an acceptable form of protest. The Donald has released the masses to take vile language and behavior to a new national low.


Sadly, this problem is here to stay. Whoever ends up in the White House will be vilified and hated, just as Obama is and Bush before him. Therefore, we’ve already lost. We lost because we no longer know how to be kind to strangers, or even to friends should they dare to disagree.

Our insistence on inflexible political identities, fueled by an unconscious and unregulated media, is dividing us more efficiently than ever before. If members of the professional media will not help clarify the facts and tell the truth, our center of gravity is unmoored. Our democracy, if we dare call it that, is floating on a sea of lies, and that’s a precarious situation if there ever was one.

Willful Ignorance Is The Ultimate Culture Jam

President Obama recently said, “When our leaders express a disdain for facts, when they’re not held accountable for repeating falsehoods and just making stuff up, when actual experts are dismissed as elitists, then we’ve got a problem.”

Yes, and the problem is a pox on the American house. When facts fail to match up with one’s worldview, the facts too often get tossed aside. What else do we lose with the discarding of reason? In my view, we lose the nation. We can’t successfully manage a complicated multi-cultural society with this kind of anti-intellectual hostility in the air.

It’s clear that our lack of investment in education is now a massive issue, as too many people lack both curiosity and knowledge.

  • Did you know that the U.S. ranked 16th out of 23 countries in literacy proficiency, 21st in numeracy proficiency and 14th in problem-solving in technology-rich environments?
  • Did you know that 32,000,000 Americans can’t read?
  • Did you know that 42% of college graduates don’t plan to read another book after graduation?

Funny how the stats above do nothing to support the idea of American exceptionalism. That concept is dying fast, especially as the rest of the world looks in on our Presidential race in horror. What’s horrible to me is the fact that this election may not be decided on merit. We live in a culture addicted to TV and other forms of media. Whoever entertains the audience best, wins. And no politician can touch The Donald on this.

I know people are going to fight this idea and refuse to believe Trump could soon be President. That’s the real danger, that we don’t take him or his run for office seriously. As a media professional, I see how he can win. Do you think Hillary will turn on the charm and compete in this reality program? Not going to happen. Which means people will be left to choose between a seasoned policy wonk and a TV-savvy showman.

Hillary is a smart, practical, problem-solver. She makes great policy, but lousy television. Which is frightening, because policy, while the backbone of governing, isn’t something that moves people at the ballot box.

Thankfully, the Numbers Point to Support for Diversity and Inclusion

Nearly one-in-three eligible voters on Election Day (31%) will be Hispanic, black, Asian or another racial or ethnic minority.

I’m far from a data freak, but this particular data point is the most comforting thing I’ve read in weeks. Whatever your political POV, the numbers do not lie and the numbers are squarely on the side of inclusion and diversity.

To win the White House, The Donald will need to secure every Republican’s vote, which is highly unlikely. He will also need to win a majority of independents, as 43% of the nation’s eligible voters are not affiliated with a political party. In short, there are not enough Republican voters for any candidate from that decaying party to win a national election. You appeal to the middle or you lose.

Winning either party’s nomination requires niche marketing. Winning the White House requires mass appeal across a wide demographic swath of voters. Trump used reality TV tactics to gain the nomination, but his made-for-TV sensationalism won’t be sensational forever. In fact, the sting of his comments is weakening by the day, as more and more people conclude that Trump is a danger precisely because he’s a fraud. He may also be a fascist intent on authoritarian rule, but, for now, that’s mostly a fantasy he shares with his racist, xenophobic, homophobic and sexist friends.

More Local Action And Extra Doses of Compassion

One of the biggest stories of the political season is how little things are truly changing at the state and local level. The nation might be ready for a new administration in the White House, but the desire seems to end there.

The reality is just one incumbent in Congress—Rep. Chaka Fattah (D-Pa.)—lost his or her primary race this year. Just one, and he is indicted on bribery and money laundering charges.

Politics, despite the media parade at the top, is entrenched. From the left and the right, people are clamoring for change and it seems unlikely that the change is coming. This fact, more than any other, is disturbing to me. All the Presidential candidates promise a vision of America that won’t happen because their vision requires compromise, and negotiating difficult legislation (like gun control) through the muck of the Capitol. It’s an explosive situation because people of every political stripe are looking for answers right now, and the answers people need are unlikely to come from Washington, DC or from anyone on television.

Working for change is something we all need to take responsibility for. Maybe, we run for local office, volunteer our time in the community or simply spend more time in the community garden (helping to feed people!). Whatever it is that helps us maintain our balance, I think we are all going to be called on to reach deeper into our hearts and remember that political enemies are also fellow Americans and quite literally our family, friends, neighbors, and coworkers. Let’s commit to a deeper degree of personal patience and remember to express gratitude for the fact that civil debate and peaceful elections are the American way.

The scary fact is two-thirds of Americans would have difficulty coming up with the money to cover a $1,000 emergency. This says all there is to know about conditions on the ground. The majority of people are scared and in many cases justifiably angry. The billionaire class has moved manufacturing offshore and their untaxed profits too. Meanwhile, the people of Flint, Michigan are being poisoned with tainted water and the poor, black children of Chicago live in a war zone. At the same time, we’re finding new cures for cancer, discovering signs of life on Mars and making beautiful music, literature, food and so on. Dark and light dance. As things fall apart, we work to replace them with even better solutions. It doesn’t mean everything new is necessarily better, it means there’s always room for improvement and that collectively we can raise the bar on education, infrastructure, and common decency.

It’s far from time to “Make America Great Again,” rather it’s high time to help Americans believe in themselves and in each other again. It’s time to stop bitching and start pitching in.

Top 10 Reasons I Am Voting For Hillary in 2016

Several people have asked me who I like for President. My answer has caught both friends and strangers off guard. One possible reason for their surprise is the fact that I have voted for third party candidates like Ralph Nader in the past, and I continue to advocate for reconstruction of the two-party system.

Nevertheless, I like Hillary, and not in some lame “I guess she’s okay” way. I like her a lot, and for me the choice this year is stark. There’s Hillary, and there’s everybody else. Because I feel this way, I thought it might be helpful to write down why I am voting for Hillary, not Bernie, in the Oregon primary and again in November.

I don’t expect Sanders’s or Trump’s supporters for that matter to buy my arguments, but here they are for better or worse…

    1) Hillary is a progressive at heart and a tactical realist in practice. We’ve seen just how effective this model is during the Obama Presidency, and to a lesser degree during Bill Clinton’s eight years in the White House.

    2) Hillary is a strong advocate for gun control. I’m not a one-issue voter, but if I were this is the one issue that makes all the difference to me. Bernie’s record on this issue and his current position on gun control is hugely problematic.

    3) Hillary is a strong woman and it’s time for a strong, incredibly qualified woman to lead the nation and the world toward greater equality and rights for women everywhere.

    4) Hillary is formerly our nation’s top diplomat, and in a dangerous world gone mad, I trust her more than most in Washington to use the power of the U.S. military judiciously.*

    5) Hillary is the original gangsta when it comes to healthcare reform, and as President she will have the power to make the Affordable Care Act better than it currently is.

    6) Hillary is a feminist icon who will work hard to protect women’s right to choose, equal pay for equal work and family leave.

    7) Hillary will appoint several sensible Supreme Court justices who respect the Constitution and enlightened applications of the law.

    8) Hillary has lots of friends up and down the aisle, which is what makes organizations run smoothly and what will make it possible for Hillary to create an incredible team of smart, savvy Americans dedicated to forwarding her agenda.

    9) Hillary knows how Washington and the world works and is practical enough to compromise when she needs to and to hold her ground when that’s the best play.

    10) Hillary is a tough fighter and the kind of ball-buster capable of putting Trump’s bombastic balls in a permanent vice, and following that, Putin’s.

Are you cool with that? Great, now let’s watch a video.

* This week, legendary basketball coach Bobby Knight celebrated Herbert Hoover’s decision to drop atomic bombs on Japan. He called it a heroic act and plainly suggested that Trump is “brave enough” to do the same.

Sad Clowns And Vampires Keep Reality TV and News Crews Busy

If you’re a clown today, there’s a good chance the media will eat your act for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Trump proves this every day. Now, more angry white men with few facts on their side are stepping forward to follow his boisterous lead.

Take the invading circus of clowns from Nevada (and Idaho) presently occupying The Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in rural southeast Oregon. Apparently, they want the refuge land to be liberated for use by local ranchers. It’s as preposterous as it sounds, and so is the inept response from a federal government, which seems intent on not taking the threat seriously.

Harney Country’s Sherriff and other locals are taking the threat seriously and have asked the militants to leave Burns peacefully. Thus far, the poseurs have refused to do so.

Of course, the idea that any white people anywhere have any rights whatsoever to this land is in dispute. It’s a question we thought was answered a century ago, but the question is far from settled. Although the wildlife refuge is not part of the Burns Paiute reservation, tribe members consider it sacred ancestral land.

The Paiute are guaranteed access to the refuge for activities important to their heritage — hunting, fishing, gathering reeds for basket weaving and precious seeds. The tribe is also working with the Bureau of Land Management to preserve its archeological sites, according to The Washington Post.

Speaking of the sacred, members of the occupying militia say they were sent by God. One militant interviewed by Oregon Public Broadcasting identified himself as “Captain Moroni,” a historic general who, according to Latter Day Saints scripture, threatened to “stir up insurrections” and fight “until those who have desires to usurp power and authority shall become extinct” because he felt the government did not care about the country’s freedom.

It’s funny how different our concepts of freedom can be. We are not free to visit the refuge at this time. That’s clearly freedom denied. Also, please ask yourself what would happen if a group of armed brown or black men took over a federal building anywhere in these United States. We all know what would happen. Their resistance would be met at once with insurmountable force. This obvious form of racial injustice angers liberal Portland and Seattle residents who are following this story.

Nevertheless, these mini-dramas have been playing out in rural communities for years. Rural and urban residents of the American West have long been at odds over public lands and other important issues. The Sagebrush Rebellion of the 1970s and ’80s was a movement to transfer more control of federally owned Western lands to state and local authorities. This was meant to increase the growth of Western economies. In other words, Sagebrush Rebels want to mine for profits, turn forests into tree farms and so on. And they deeply resent city dwellers (inside and outside of their state) telling them that those activities are prohibited by law.

What’s truly sad is how focused we are on the mini-dramas while missing the larger play altogether. The West is abundant in land and open space but the region lacks the most essential natural resource of all—water. Until we wake up to this real shortage and change our water consumption habits as a nation, everyone’s prosperity is at risk.

A Flexible Strategic Framework Allows You Room To Bend And Move

In business, as in politics, it is wise to build for seismic events. The terror attacks in Paris, for instance, required a flexibile response from The White House that was largely lacking.

Conservative columnist, Ron Fournier says, “For all his skills as an orator, Obama is a lousy com­mu­nic­at­or. He doesn’t lead, he lec­tures. He ar­gues rather than edu­cates.”

I am a big fan of the President, yet I see merit in Fournier’s points (primarily because Obama’s discourse is too weighty for a media world consisting of little more than sound bites). I also see what the President’s tone deafness following Paris means for the business of persuasion, in general.

One thing we know by now…facts do not move people to buy, or to believe. It would be wonderful if presenting the facts did the job, but the facts alone rarely do the trick without also appealing to people on a base, or emotional, level.

The fact is bacon is bad for our health. The fact is we still love bacon. Real and long-lasting persuasion requires a trip to the farm, and then another to the butcher.

The fact is American boots on the ground in Syria is not a good plan. The fact is Western powers need to eliminate murderous idealogues who strike indiscriminately in the heart of our cities.

It has been reported that President Obama’s foreign policy strategy is, “Don’t Do Stupid Shit.” I like that, and I like POTUS holding firm in the wake of some other peoples’ stupid shit. But too firm is not good—too firm turns an otherwise solid foundation into mush.

President Obama Delivers Beautiful Speech In Selma

President Obama’s speech in Selma, Alabama on Saturday—commemorating the 50th anniversary of “Bloody Sunday”—was a major moment in his presidency, and a reminder to all how far we have come as a nation in 50 years.

The context and setting of the speech helped to amplify the power of the President’s words, which ring poetic throughout.

We broke the old aristocracies, declaring ourselves entitled not by bloodline, but endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights. We secure our rights and responsibilities through a system of self-government, of and by and for the people. That’s why we argue and fight with so much passion and conviction, because we know our efforts matter. We know America is what we make of it.

The speech contains passage after passage of language artfully rendered. President Obama has a strong vision for America—and his own place in it—which is both remarkable, and proof that we have indeed “broke the old aristocracies,” at least to some degree.

Yet, racism is not gone from the American scene. It is still a daily reality for many Americans. Pick any headline (or personal incident) you want. For instance, David Boren, the President of University of Oklahoma, banned a fraternity from campus on Monday and declared the students “a disgrace” and “not real Sooners”, for singing a racist chant at a frat function.

Hats off to David Boren in Norman, OK. “We know America is what we make of it.” The struggle to make ourselves and our nation better is not easy, nor will it be easy going forward, but it is a struggle worthy of our energy and full attention.

As President Obama said on Saturday, “We are the people Emerson wrote of, ‘who for truth and honor’s sake stand fast and suffer long; who are ‘never tired,’ so long as we can see far enough.”

TransCanada Calls Upon American Law To Take Land Away From Americans

TransCanada Calls Upon American Law To Take Land Away From Americans

Eminent domain seems unfair and un-American. Particularly, when called upon by a Canadian multi-national oil company to wrestle a rag tag group of ranchers for the last bit of right-of-way for its heinous oil snake pipeline.

TransCanada 20110120

According to The Guardian, by law, TransCanada can use the courts to force Nebraska landowners to sell access to their land. Company officials say they still need to acquire 12% of the total land easements from owners who have not yet reached a deal. Some holdouts have said they will not negotiate no matter how much TransCanada offers.

In an unexpected twist, Nebraska state senator, Ernie Chambers introduced a bill on Tuesday that would repeal the pipeline-siting law and bring the project “to a virtual standstill”.

Chambers is the only African-American serving in the Nebraska state Senate. He’s also famously contentious. Frequently employing legislative rules and filibusters to block proposals, his legislative opposition has caused friction with some of his colleagues in the Legislature.

“The pipeline is like King Kong, and the people and farms are like ants and grasshoppers,” Chambers said. “If they get in the way, they will be crushed with no redress.”

“The Great Plains has a rich history of this sort of rabble-rousing individual,” says Gary Moulton, professor emeritus of history at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Chambers’ detractors should take heed of the state’s populist legacy, he says, one that includes William Jennings Bryan and other advocates for the ignored and voiceless. “Ernie comes out of the ’60s, but if you take a step back you can see that it’s another aspect in the same populist vein,” Moulton says.


Let’s hope Chambers’ penchant for obstructionism pays off for the ranchers in the way of this pipeline. The concept of eminent domain makes sense on paper. Private property owners must give up their rights for the good of the larger community. The problem here is the Keystone pipeline is not clearly a seen as a benefit to the community or to the country. In fact, it’s not hard to see the project as the snake it is, carrying 800,000 barrels of crude oil a day through sensitive Ogallala Aquifer-fed habitat.

Everyone knows some of this 800,000 barrels of crude is going to leak into the sandy soil and infect the life-sustaining water underneath. It’s a matter of when, not if.

Could there be armed conflict and sabotage on the horizon? Most Nebraskans are prudent people. At the same time, I’ve always thought of my home state as a Midwestern version of New Hampshire. “Live free or die” is an expression of the granite state’s native extremism. There’s no such expression in Nebraska, but there is a pervasive live-and-let-live/don’t tread on me mentality.

Terms like “patriot” get bandied about in debates like this. The right wing wants to own the term patriot. But who are the patriots in this conflict? Are the politicians with oil money stuffed in their suit pockets patriots? Or are the people of Nebraska and America who say no to another short-sighted fossil fuels scheme that creates virtually no local jobs patriots?

The odd thing is many of the people in rural Nebraska fighting for their land might present as conservatives, but they’re now allied with populists Ernie Chambers and Barack Obama and a bunch of leftist environmentalists.

Political terminology and ideology doesn’t mean much at a time of crisis. It’s all so much simpler than that. “I’m an American, this is my land, and you’re not going to destroy it,” is about all there is to it.

I Vote Yes On Measure 92

On Nov. 4, Oregon voters will decide the fate of Measure 92, which would make the state one of the few in the country to require labeling of GMO foods.

Opponents of the measure, mainly food manufacturers and chemical companies, have pumped more than $7 million into the No on 92 Coalition effort. If you watch TV in the Portland area, the following spot is running regularly:


Proponents of the measure so far have raised about $4.5 million, according to Oregon Secretary of State financial filings. I have not seen this spot on TV:

Meanwhile, The Oregonian reports that Measure 92 is on track to become the costliest in Oregon history in terms of campaign contributions.

Interestingly, Ben & Jerry’s is one food manufacturer that is solidly for the measure. In fact, Jerry Greenfiled, CEO and co-founder of Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream, flew to Portland for a “ceremonial” rebranding of Fudge Brownie to Food Fight Fudge Brownie.

We live in an information-rich society. Honestly, a shopper today may want to scan any and every grocery store item for nutritional data, menu ideas and sourcing, packaging and transit information.

Knowledge is power, and transparency is the reality of our time. Food growers, manufacturers and retailers can sway shoppers with rich information (a truer form of marketing). Provide the food, and the facts about the food—that’s the recipe for eat and repeat.

Dems Nurse Nation’s Economy Back to Health After Bush/Cheney Disaster

Rich Saperstein is conversant in Italian and is an avid salt and freshwater fisherman. He’s also Chief Investment Officer at Treasury Partners in New York City and one of the nation’s top financial advisors, according to Baron’s.

Here he is speaking in optimistic terms today about the growting strength of the American economy.

To repeat, “We have no inflation, we have a budget deficit that’s shrinking. There’s tremendous demand (for stocks), and lack of supply.”

Saperstein didn’t say a word about President Obama’s hand in the economic recovery. Maybe there is no need to say anything. We all know who the President is and increasingly Americans know which party is pro-business and pro-labor at the same time.

Fast Food Wages And Angry Idealogues Are Hurting The American Economy

I think every American can agree that wasteful spending by the federal government needs to be corrected. The problem is we can’t seem to agree on the “wasteful” part.

As we have seen, people with radical views on the right want to slash and burn any shred of a safety net for our nation’s most vulnerable citizens. Are they doing this because the most vulnerable among us have little or no voice, and thus can’t fight back? Or are Tea Party anti-populists actually heartless and delusional?

If it is the former, at least I understand the strategy. If it’s the latter, we have a sickness in our land that needs a strong remedy.

Let’s take a closer look at the human side of this problem. According to Fortune, the median wage for fast-food workers nationally is $8.69 per hour, and only 13% of these jobs offer health benefits, compared to 59% of jobs overall in the U.S. Thus, it comes as no surprise that 52% of cooks, servers and other fast-food workers receive public aid — nearly twice the percentage of the overall workforce.

Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), said that “anyone concerned about the federal deficit only needs to look at the numbers to understand a major source of the problem: multi-billion dollar companies that pay poverty wages and then rely on taxpayers to pick up the slack, to the tune of a quarter of a trillion dollars every year in the form of public assistance to working families.”

McDonald’s alone accounts for $1.2 billion of the cost to taxpayers. The massive burger chain and others use a low-wage, no benefits model that forces workers to turn to the public safety net.

Any student of American history knows that labor-management disputes are commonplace, particularly since industrialization. And fast food workers have been busy protesting and asking for fair wages. I hope they keep the pressure on their employers, and I hope consumers will refrain from supporting companies with questionable labor practices. But resisting a cheap burger isn’t easy, especially when you consider the advertising budgets fast feeders have at their disposal. Hell, Carl’s Jr. even makes salad look good.

Jonathan Heller, president of KEJ Financial Advisors, believes it is the wrong time for fast food workers to ask for $15/hour, as protestors have done recently. “If the economy was booming, and labor markets were tighter, wages would rise naturally as there would be greater competition for labor. But not in this tepid economy.”

Wages would rise naturally? Get the hell out of here. Wages do not rise naturally, no matter how strong the overall economy. Owners and operators want to keep costs down, so they can earn more. It’s the name of the game, and we all play it to some degree. But at what cost?

By paying shit wages a company engenders no loyalty from its staff, and this lack of concern then gets passed on to the consumer in the form of poor customer service and a host of other problems. Therefore, paying low wages is un-American — it hurts American consumers directly, and it hurts American taxpayers directly.

Asking American corporations and employers to help fuel the economy via investment in its people is not asking too much. We have all the money in the world in this nation, we simply do a very poor job of distributing it. Partly due to greed, but it’s not greed alone that holds us in this trap of our own making. It’s also the idea that the owner and investor class is a better class of people.

Class, race, income, education, location and political leanings can all be used to stratify and separate us. It happens all the time, and no group is free of this pack-making tendency. We feel more secure when we belong to a pack. In Portland, for instance, one might belong to the rich white liberal Prius-driving pack. Once upon a time, we saw ourselves as Americans. That was the pack we all belonged to, but no more. Now we belong to a subset. Now we’re Christian conservatives or secular humanists or a hundred other labeled things.

The crisis in Washington, DC is merely a mirror onto the larger national identity crisis. We don’t know who we are as Americans any more, and it shows in ugly ways: tragic gun deaths every day, pointless foreign wars, media illiteracy and so on. It can be terribly depressing to look at and consider, but we need to look at it and consider it, if we intend to fix it.

Prisoners of An Artificial Reality Want Hostages, Americans Want Something Else

When I make time for broadcast news, I am appalled. The product is increasingly unwatchable at a time when the need for insightful and brave analysis is at a premium.

I feel like a lot of people are shrugging their shoulders these days, and asking what the hell is wrong, and what can we do to fix it?

I had an interesting exchange about one thing that is wrong on Twitter today with writer, speaker and social media strategist Tara Hunt. She rightly noted how narcissism is a problem in brand communications.

Clearly, one big brand with a toxic level of narcissism running through its icy veins is the Republican Party. David Frum, writing for The Daily Beast neatly identifies “self-reinforcing media” as one reason why.

Politicians sooner or later arrive at the point where they believe what they say. They have become prisoners of their own artificial reality, with no easy access to the larger truths outside.

Swap the word “politicians” for “brands” and you get the same results. That’s why it’s key to have people with an outside perspective in positions of power both inside and outside your organization. Of course, culturally we don’t want to reward the truth-to-power speaker, do we? We want to banish him and belittle him. But that is wrong. Instead, we need to celebrate and elevate the truth carriers in our midst.

My hero of all artisan heroes, Frank Lloyd Wright, faced banishment and several personal and professional hardships in his day. But do you know what Wright’s personal motto was? Truth against the world. His contentiousness is right there on the surface. Along with his righteousness.

Wright was a difficult man, a complex man. He was also a genius who remade architecture, and he did some of his best work in his 80s. In fact, Wright was 76 when he landed the Guggenheim Museum commission, a project which occupied his next 16 years. Wright died a short time before the museum’s opening in 1959.

Wright was a man of faith and conviction, and you have to be to fight the rising tide of shit. There’s no question we are drowning in bullshit today. The noise is deafening. And our ability to concentrate is weakened. But it’s not the first time, and it won’t be the last. Let’s turn to Yeats and his astute poetic observations in 1919, as Europe emerged from WWI.

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

The worst are full of passionate intensity. Interesting how a century does nothing to dent the fundamental nature of things — fundamentalists are terribly offensive blowhards who lack the substance their own ideas. It’s enough to make “the best lack all conviction.”

The thing is, the best don’t give up easily. Wright did not give up. Ever. He had an abiding faith, in nature, truth and beauty. I think President Obama has this same abiding faith. I have been disappointed by some of his more conciliatory and conservative moves, yet I am continually amazed at his resolve. Obama is more than a good man, he is a good leader. U.S. Citizens may not realize, and may never realize, just how fortunate we are to have a man of his intelligence, grace and patience in the White House today.