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Playlist: The Citizens' Guides

Compiled By: Susan Cook

sustaining participation, in this time... Credit:
sustaining participation, in this time...

If we tell each other what we know about being citizens in this great country, maybe more of us will take part and help sustain participation. The Citizens' Guides are a collection of how-to, what-for and where-with-all commentaries, based on the experience of this writer as she negotiates the passage through being a citizen in this time, in this country, from her neck of the woods..

Teaching A Computer to Find You- A Citizen's Guide

From Susan Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 06:29

Internet anonymity now is presented as ‘the standard’ . But being anonymous when online really is optional . If like many other human activities, anonymous engagement on the Internet required mutual consent, many of our new Internet ‘problems’ might soon end.

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Teaching A Computer to Find You
-Susan Cook-
I’ve been thinking that every problem that communicating using the Internet has created might be solved by making anonymity online something you have to ask to be given, not automatically receive.  Anonymity, right now, on the web,  has become something users must struggle to overcome- to find out the identity of the other person who has written a post, emailed you, designed and created a website, or put on the cloud. Two simple choices would be made up front. First, the user chooses yes, I would like to communicate and receive information anonymously . Second, the person who is receiving on the other end  must answer, ‘Will you accept this transmission anonymously? ‘ Adults can pick anonymous if that’s how they would like to receive or transmit information. Parents can make that choice for their children.  There are no technological barriers to making the standard for Internet complete clarity about location and identity. Anonymity has been the standard because Internet designers and users quickly learned they can exploit it.
I first started interacting with an IBM 370 mainframe in 1978. There was no question about who was receiving or sending information because the equipment used to do such a thing had to be interacted with directly. At first, I sat at a teletype printer kind of a thing that was connected to a phone modem and  after the phone line connected , I typed in commands including- don’t ask me how I remember this- ‘512K’ which meant that the mainframe had to increase the space allocated to the teletype kind-of-thing so as to accommodate the SPSS program I was using to do statistics. Just to zone in on how technology has progressed. That’s the same ‘512K’ that one little document in your ‘My Documents’ file eats for a snack when you open it.  Around that time, the little ‘teletype kind of thing’ progressed to a video screen which connected directly to the IBM 370 but in order to use the video screen I had to travel to the same building the IBM 370 was housed in. There, others in the ‘user room’ used video screens too. And what everyone was doing got ‘queued up’. When  ‘batch jobs’ as they were called were submitted- some via the commands on the video screens and some on- yes, IBM cards with punched out holes at the top that held the code that the card reader passed on that then got processed by the IBM 370.
No one was anonymous. Everybody knew who everybody was and they had to because if they didn’t the output, the printout, the new set of IBM cards, whatever it was would get lost or deleted or could disappear. And nobody sat there seeking idle entertainment. They were doing some task that required an IBM 370 to do. Well, there was not much idle entertainment except for the one guy who had programmed his video screen - which did not belong to him- he paid a fee to use it- so when he was logged on , if someone came by and happened to touch the keypad once, a large digital image of a middle finger came up. Early, primitive trolling I guess, but you knew exactly who it was that was doing the trolling.
But now the Internet-which existed in a very primitive form beginning around 1982 in exactly that User Room- is anonymous. Internet anonymity now is presented as ‘the standard’ . But being anonymous really is optional . If like many other human activities anonymous engagement on the Internet had to be mutually consensual, Internet ‘problems’ like the following would very soon end-
Fake News
Misinformation
Unsolicited Pornography
Dangerous Chat Rooms
Trolling and Smearing
Financial Scams
Spam
Bullying
False Information
Computer Viruses, Worms, Bots
Identify Theft
because unless you agreed to be anonymous too, the other person would know exactly where you are- just like GPS- and who you are. A name and  a place  which by the way is the only way the Internet finds you in the first place- through your IP address. Your computer and the Internet Service Provider know that to find you as soon as you connect. In a way, the little smart phone you carry is ‘located’ in relation to some big processor just like the video screen in the user room used to be to the IBM 370 at the Office of Information Technology at Harvard which is where I was at the time.  It was Bill Gates, I believe, who not too much later had the building torn down and donated millions of dollars to replace it.

The Narcissist-In-Chief: A Citizen's Guide

From Susan Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 05:28

From the Trump White House, the latest justification for dismissing legal challenges to the Muslim travel ban is that the Constitution makes the United States look weak. The Trump White House references to the past are largely believed to be manufactured- the well-oiled transition team machine, for example. Obama alleged to have 'wiretapped’ Trump Tower, for instance. And then there’s the 'bourgeois individualism' driving the Trump cabinet members who deny climate change, the need for national affordable health care, threaten world stability for the sake of oil profits, and whose spokesperson claims ’ alternative facts’ which I guess if history is denied are as good as any.

Donald Trump embodies the Culture of Narcissism, a term used in the 1979 best seller by Christopher Lasch. That is the culture after all, which born and reared Trump, the new President. But why didn’t anyone successfully call him out on the limitations of narcissism during the campaign or at the least- every narcissist‘s nightmare, shame and humiliate him. Yes, his competition included some of the most boring and self-absorbed Republicans ever, diminished expectations right before our eyes. But why didn’t anyone know how to explain what he was about so as to diminish his appeal?

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The Narcissist in Chief  A Citizen’s  Guide
-Susan Cook-
In 1979, Christopher Lasch  warned us our society might someday  ‘surround us with manufactured images of total gratification…encouraging grandiose dreams of total omnipotence…’, all of this coming out of a fear of powerlessness and dependence that ignores every aspect of our human social and historical need for others. Who imagined that the culture of narcissism would some 37 years later be embodied in a President of the United States?  ‘The  narcissist’s inner psychological poverty’ he wrote ,  brings a refusal to acknowledge the past. ’The denial of the past,’ Mr. Lasch wrote, ’[is]  superficially progressive and optimistic, [but] proves on closer analysis to embody the despair of a society that cannot face the future.’ This ‘final product of bourgeois individualism’,  as Mr. Lasch called it- ‘the Go-West young man’ thing is the focus of  his best seller, The Culture of Narcissism- Living in the Age of Diminishing Expectations.
And here we are today. From the Trump White House, the latest justification for dismissing legal challenges to the Muslim travel ban is that the Constitution makes the United States look weak.  The Trump White House historical references are largely manufactured- the well-oiled transition machine.  Obama ‘wiretapping’ for instance. And then there’s  the bourgeois individualism driving the Trump cabinet members who deny climate change, the need for national affordable health care, threaten world stability for the sake of oil profits, and whose spokesperson claims ’ alternative facts’ which I guess if history is denied are as good as any.
Donald Trump embodies the Culture of Narcissism, a term used in the 1979 best seller by Christopher Lasch. That is the culture after all,  which born and reared the new President. But why didn’t anyone successfully call him out on the limitations of narcissism during the campaign or at the least- every narcissist‘s nightmare, shame and humiliate him.Yes, his competition included some of the most boring and self-absorbed Republicans ever,  diminished expectations right before our eyes. But why didn’t anyone know what to do?
After all, Mr. Trump’s narcissism is not just his problem, anymore. At times, his condition feels like an impending international crisis.  The cultural grooming of  the appeal of his grandiosity - Make America Great Again- Mr Lasch suggests, has been a cultural facet all along, waiting to burst into its diamond cut Presidential spectacle.
And it was not just Mr. Trump’s grandiosity that went unnoticed. There is the campaign of Hillary Clinton with her own narcissistic blind spots entrusted to campaign staff who must have had their own reverie  at the thought of they themselves catching a little stardust from the national spotlight .  Why else would Huma Abedin have stayed on while her husband’s ongoing sexual exhibitionism again surfaced- again - unless she too was captivated by her very own self-gloating identification with Hillary ‘Man Problem' Clinton.
Narcissists - including Donald Trump- don’t understand that if the accusations are true- they will have to resign- if the country, the press, the rest of the political establishment can pry its eyes open- with toothpicks if need be. The clout of Hilary’s feminist take down of Donald Trump- was undermined because Hilary was the only one who did not publicly acknowledge Bill Clinton’s abusive treatment of women. That criticism leveled at her was true. Perhaps it was Hilary’s own grandiosity that led her to think that  ignoring that past makes it insignificant.
So, as we now witness the denial, distortion and grandiosity of the leadership that has risen to the top in this Culture of  Narcissism and the Age of Diminishing Expectations, let us remember its antidote- compassion, cherished childhoods, the comfort of human dependence that will not abandon us and the truth- the regular flawed human kind.

How to Have A Social Conscience: A Citizen's Guide to the Psychology of "Less Than"

From Susan Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 03:09

Millions of women all over this country are protesting the denial and exclusion of women’s rights by the new Washington, DC throne holder. So to explore Social conscience- or at least understand what a Social conscience is when it comes up in the media, you might ask yourself these questions:
If my experience is different than someone else’s, do I believe the person is ‘less than’ me otherwise the person would not have has those experiences? And there are more to ask.

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How to Have A Social Conscience:
A Citizen’s Guide To The Psychology of ‘Less Than‘
-Susan Cook-
There are times in this country when conscience seems to have retreated right back into its most egocentric, self-serving form. You know, the ‘what I do is ok but what you do is not ok‘ view. Conscience as a grand opportunity to make judgments about who is ‘less than’. ‘Less than’ who we ask? ‘Less than’ you, of course.
There are long and lengthy psychology arguments about where conscience begins: if it begins out of personal pain or if it begins in watching people you love be in pain and then gradually becomes a ‘social conscience’. Then your primary focus is not just yourself but how the world is for people who are different than you, that is, empathy, moral awareness, or a social conscience. Millions of women all over this country are protesting the denial and exclusion of women’s rights by the new  Washington, DC throne holder. So to explore Social conscience- or at least understand what a Social conscience is  when it comes up in the media, you might ask yourself these questions-

If my experience is different than someone else’s,  do I believe the person  is ‘less than’ me otherwise the person would not have has those experiences?
Do I believe that because I have not had those experiences, I am better than the other person and thus I am empowered to pass judgment on them and do not have to pass laws to protect people because that would never happen to ‘my kind’? Do I believe that some people are just better than others or at least ‘the way they do’ things is better than the way other people ‘do things‘, so when someone does something you don’t like, you can blame them? You can feel morally superior and you can even express contempt toward the other or pass judgment or look down on them because you are entitled to act as if you are superior?
When all is said and done , and someone says, ‘Don’t you have a social conscience?’ do you avoid answering because you are- remember where we started with this- better than the other people and don’t need to have empathy or a need to protect their well-being because the most important person is you?

If Power Is An Aphrodisiac, Unethical Staff Are Surgical Implants

From Susan Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 03:39

The Presidency and being Presidential staff are not power pills that work their way out in sweat and perspiration after swallowing. They are power pills that cause genetic and believe it or not historical mutations. How do we remind ourselves and the public that the newly Powerful may give themselves permission to deceive? How do we hold a new President and his staff accountable?

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If Power Is An Aphrodisiac,  Unethical Staff are Surgical Implants
-Susan Cook-
You may remember a Democrat who got into a compromising (or rather compromised, re-negotiated, compromised again and finally blackmailed) circumstance and lied, distorted and  had his staff lie for him. That would be former Presidential candidate John Edwards and his circumstance with videographer Rielle Hunter.  His  staff's deception in personal , professional and public relationships,  however, zoom us to another level in viewing the journey of that substance called power through the human body. As Donald Trump takes The Oath, his staff’s willingness to lie for him  must also be a focus of our concern.
The Presidency and being Presidential staff are not power pills that work their way out in sweat and perspiration after swallowing. They are power pills that cause genetic and believe it or not historical mutations. Was it really just John Edwards’ staffer  Andrew  Young  not wanting to lose his  job by not pleasing the boss that led him to lie that he had fathered Rielle Hunter’s child? Too hard to let go of the vision of Himself- capital H- standing in the White House as Presidential staff - if Edwards won?
Whatever happened to that other White House luminary who said  "I cannot tell a lie" whose food must have had a really tough journey through his body because he only had wooden teeth to chew it.  I'm talking about George Washington.
Deception is deception is deception.  It is very, very sad. Telling people things that are not true is deception. Putting your name over things you have not written, done or stayed in a hotel with, is deception. Claiming  you did, wrote or fathered  what you have not is deception.
It does not become deception only when you get found out or it is recognized as Internet plagiarism. It is deception when you do it.  It says then, what it says after you are found out: that you really do not value people for their own sake, that you really think they are just something you swallow and suck nutrients from and then just let go, you know where.
People are not just players in a lie, however elaborate. They are not a means to an end. They are the end. Deception is something we need to claim as what  we do not like in political life. This is not  claiming the moral high ground. This is taking our vitamins,  believing they work and hoping they do.

This Political Year of Women: Smears, Cheap Shots and Character- A Citizen's Guide

From Susan Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 08:11

If you missed the smearing, cheap shots and character assassination against women this year, and one woman in particular, maybe you were cut off from earth-bound communication. This year was ‘proof’ strategies flourish, to undermine the credibility and judgment of women- no matter how many credentials she’s acquired, critical responsibilities she’s taken on or professional advances she’s made. If someone wants to reduce her through name-calling, lie invention, Facebook reputation smearing that she has poor judgment, is a crook, a controlling bitch, a substance abuser, is a 'no filter' big mouth, or indifferent to sexual assault, all they have to do is start saying it. Put it on Twitter, editorialize it in the local newspaper, or post it on Facebook. There you have it. Like a public offering traded on the stock market, the smearing gains value the more it’s traded. It is doesn’t matter if you are Hillary Clinton. Or Madeline Albright. It could be you. It could be me.
Stunningly though, permission for smearing and discrediting of a woman- ‘trial by the court of public opinion’ one Party chair called it to justify a smear campaign he actively took part in- ’taking out to the woodshed’ another Party Chair called it- is shored up by gender-bias. Stereotypes that demean women and give others- including men -permission to keep her in her place, discredit her or not trust her are the archetypes summoned by the fury of the smearing. Even though 59 percent of women in this country identify themselves as feminists, there is a blind spot that hides the spontaneous and willing engagement in sexist smearing- if you are a woman -as not feminism. This is what Madeline Albright meant when she said there is a special spot in hell for women who do not support other women.

Smearscheapshotsandcharacterassassination_small This Political Year of Women: Smears, Cheap Shots and Character -Susan Cook- If you missed the smearing, cheap shots and character assassination against women this year, and one woman in particular, maybe you were cut off from earth-bound communication. This year was ‘proof’ strategies flourish, to undermine the credibility and judgment of women- no matter how many credentials she’s acquired, critical responsibilities she’s taken on or professional advances she’s made. If someone wants to reduce her through name-calling, lie invention, Facebook reputation smearing that she has poor judgment, is a crook, controlling, a substance abuser, indifferent to sexual assault, all they have to do is start saying it. Put it on Twitter, editorialize it in the local newspaper, or post it on Facebook. There you have it. Like a public offering traded on the stock market, the smearing gains value the more it’s traded. It is doesn’t matter if you are Hillary Clinton. Or Madeline Albright or it could be you or it could be me. The G-force is heightened when other women take part in it. If you are a woman who criticizes the prevailing regime in this country, that only men become President- you are an attacker. If women join in, it amplifies the case that you are. Stunningly though, permission for smearing and discrediting of a woman- ‘trial by the court of public opinion’ one Party chair called it to justify a smear campaign he actively took part in- ’taking out to the woodshed’ another Party Chair called it- is shored up by gender-bias. Stereotypes that demean women and give others- including men -permission to keep her in her place, discredit her or not trust her are the archetypes summoned by the fury of the smearing. Even though 59 percent of women in this country identify themselves as feminists, there is a blind spot that hides the fact that spontaneous and willing engagement in sexist smearing- if you are a woman -is not feminism. This is what Madeline Albright meant when she said there is a special spot in hell for women who do not support other women. If only permission to smear women was old news. It is not. What is still news is the lack of protest against it by other women. Few labeled what we saw this political year as sexist. Few labeled the women who freely engaged in it- many being paid to do so by through their political jobs- as Not Feminist, Traitors to the Core of Feminist Achievement and Belief, and yes, the progenitors of a return to no reproductive rights, more gender pay inequity, and every other public policy that demeans women‘s judgment and her capacity to choose. Feminist political ideology becomes just so much loose cannon talk and no-filter thinking. You know how women are. Directors of Communication, lofty members of the Judicial branch of Government, - an FBI Director, Attorney General and yes members of the Democratic Party either joined in or couldn‘t really think of anything to say. They said nothing. Where have feminists gone and more importantly why did they go. Sometimes I think it is just a time warp because of all the advancement the women‘s movement has brought and everybody‘s forgotten that the necessary condition for feminism to exists acknowledging that gender makes a difference. I was on a train to the Democratic National Convention and spoke with the leader of a very large Feminist organization. I decried the Democratic Party for openly supporting the Independent man instead of the bright, capable female candidate. ‘It‘s ok, ’ she said. ’He’ll still vote with the Democrats.’ It was not, then, nor is it now ok to ignore the gender of a female political candidate. Femaleness still brings a different voice systematically devalued and overlooked in male-dominated cultures. . Female Genital Mutilation remains a culturally accepted practice in Muslim countries. Women still experience gross economic inequity. Carol Gilligan, the Harvard psychologist, who wrote ‘In a Different Voice-’ openly questioned the exclusion of female subjects from studies used to define human development- from National Institute of Health studies of heart disease to studies of moral development, male experience was routinely seen as equivalent to human. Women’s decision-making about right and wrong is often defined by violations of care for others and one’s self and connection as central to moral awareness. This political year brought back exclusion of women by women . They overlooked gender as a critical political consideration. Carol Gilligan was chosen the first Ms. Magazine ‘Woman of the Year’. She quoted a student of hers who said women become the float in relationship to men-and male culture- the variation in what they think and choose dependent on what males think and choose. Of course, we tend to think women have come a long way from the days when women were humiliated or shamed or bullied into accommodating male beliefs and thinking. I am afraid we have returned to a time when bullying and shaming is the preferred cultural tool for changing what women think. A New York Times columnist editorialized about ‘What Women Lost’ in this political year. I’m not sure that we’ve lost anything. Rather the permission to bully and discredit women has been there all along. This year we had a National stage for it and a male candidate and his team particularly well-versed in pursuing it. And maybe we’ve all just returned to not noticing the women are missing. And women becoming ‘the float’ - bullied, called out as untrustworthy loose cannons and liars, - who change their minds depending on male decisions- like the student Carol Gilligan quoted- that was me - said.

Love In A Time Of Hatred: A Citizen's Guide

From Susan Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 04:59

Possibilities for a suppression of the Electoral College vote results are gone. We now come to terms with the reality that at least for the next four years, we will be living in a time of hatred. Or at the very least, complete disdain for the interests of millions of American constituents trussed up by hatred. So, the long list begins to form of those whose credibility, work and well-being and safety will be de-legitimized. There are the climate change scientists, those who have health insurance because of the Affordable Care Act, countries whose citizens happen to sit on a large trove of oil or other natural resources that the CEO of Exxon/Mobil or any other large oil company covets, immigrants and asylum seekers who have come here to escape oppression in other countries, polar bears, the Middle East, Ukrainians who fear more invasions by Putin, constituents who depend on social policy supported by Federal funding, respect for women’s bodies and their intelligence, Reproductive Rights and the press that the new administration has special vengeance for. Hatred of course also shows up as withholding and exclusion, for example the gutting of Medicare and Social Security.

What saves love? What prevents the ‘normalization’ of hatred? What sustains belief that asking for more from the government of the richest country in the world is not asking too much, that selfish greed is selfish greed is selfish greed no matter who pretends they are not just filling their own pockets?.

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Love in a Time of Hatred: A Citizen's Guide
-Susan Cook-

Possibilities for a suppression of the Electoral College vote results are gone. We now come to terms with the reality that at least for the next four years, we will be living in a time of hatred. Or at the very least, complete disdain for the interests of millions of American constituents, trussed up by hatred. So, the long list begins to form of those whose credibility, work and well-being and safety will be de-legitimized. There are the climate change scientists, those who have health insurance because of the Affordable Care Act, countries whose citizens happen to sit on a large trove of oil or other natural resources that the CEO of Exxon/Mobil or any other large oil company  covets,  immigrants and asylum seekers who have come here to escape oppression in other countries, polar bears, the Middle East, Ukrainians who fear more invasions by Putin, constituents  who depend on social policy supported by Federal funding, respect for women’s bodies and their intelligence, Reproductive Rights and the press that the new administration has special vengeance for.

Hatred of course also shows up as withholding and exclusion, for example the gutting of Medicare and Social Security.
What saves love, what prevents the ‘normalization’ of hatred, what sustains belief that asking for more from the government of the richest country in the world is not asking too much, that selfish greed is selfish greed is selfish greed no matter who pretends they are not just filling their own pockets. 
We know more about sustaining love in times of hatred than we realize. Many experience fiercely conflicted divorces in which children witness endless warring and withholding. Somehow, the children uphold the guise of love towards  parents whose hatred toward each other has reached astronomical levels.  One in four women, one in six men, in this country have been victimized by sexual abuse.  In many households, there’s a persistent refusal to claim the breadth of its damage.  Six out of 10 sexual assaults occur in the victim’s home or that of a neighbor or a friend. But the commitment to the idea of love , its possibility, and its celebration,  is sustained, at least among some.
During any armed conflicts, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Vietnam- times of violence escalated-  the wounded return with their belief in love severely taxed. But they sustain a capacity to love. One in four children experience abuse and neglect in their lifetime. But just one  adult committed to a child’s well-being can help that child find the resilience to flourish despite physical, emotional and sexual abuse and neglect. And somehow sustain love.
Yes, maybe we feel overwhelmed by a Constitution that failed to protect constituents from a President-elect who lost by 2.8 million votes , from the specter of greed now written into public policies. But, still, love begins in a single gesture, a response, an action, a refusal to tolerate indifference . Single acts and responses. So act with love- not hatred. Convince someone that kindness not control is necessary. Guide someone who won’t have any health insurance at all when the Affordable Care Act is gutted. Give something to someone else who has just become disabled or unable to work. Most of us have way way too much.  Adopt a cat from an animal shelter. Be a foster parent. Be grateful for what you have. Adopt an elderly person. There is always something more important than the person currently basking on their own power. Feed the birds and the polar bears.

Going Through the Checkout Line Alone, Anonymously Listening to Public Radio- A Citizen's Guide

From Susan Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 07:13

Amazon has announced they will soon launch an attempt to eliminate that pesky feature of day-to-day life- ‘the grocery store check-out employee’. Along with that, you will receive the pleasure of the barcode and the brief electronic sound to let you know your transaction has been successful.

This news comes not long after the public radio station in my state actually took away from the northern most part of the state classical music and poetry programming from the Public radio FM airwaves. They now are available only on something called HD radio or the Internet or a smartphone. They did not ask the anonymous population of listeners beforehand. On one morning in Maine in May, suddenly classical music and the enormously popular 5 minute Garrison Keillor's ‘The Writer’s Almanac’ disappeared from the used car’s FM radio and the household one.

Anonymous grocery checkout lines and yes, my state’s public radio pretense that the Internet is just as good for listening ignores the danger of anonymity. We are only anonymous when we let others treat us that way or we choose it for ourselves to protect ourselves. Shared human experience is human, after all, and sharing it is one way we learn how to be human.

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Going Through the Checkout line Alone; Anonymously Listening to Public Radio- A Citizen’s Guide
-Susan Cook-
Amazon has announced they will soon  launch an attempt to eliminate that pesky feature of day-to-day life- ‘the grocery store check-out employee’. Along with that, you will receive the pleasure of the barcode and the brief electronic sound to let you know your transaction has been scanned  successfully.
This news comes not long after the public radio station in my state actually took away from the northern most part of the state classical music and poetry programming from the Public radio FM airwaves. These programs  now are available only on  something called HD radio or the Internet or a smartphone. They did not ask the anonymous population of listeners beforehand. On one morning in Maine in May, suddenly classical music and the enormously popular 5 minute Garrison Keillor ‘The Writer’s Almanac’ disappeared from the used car’s FM radio and  the household one.
Between  Aroostock,  Washington and Somerset counties which comprise the northern part of the state, 150000 people- more or less- live on about 14,000 square miles.  In other words, they have plenty of alone time. They now have to buy a special HD radio or have high speed internet access to hear these programs. Smartphones do not consistently reach all areas of these rural areas. You could take your Chinese-made I-phone to the highest Himalyan peaks in Tibet and probably have better smartphone cellular service than you will on part of Rte 9 in Washington County.  Or buy a brand-spanking new car with HD radio in counties where used cars prevail because the median income is 41,000 dollars a year.
But why would a public radio station do this?  For a public radio station that has received 58 million dollars- over 90 percent in public funds- over the last 5 years, paying the transmission tower maintenance workers is an expense.  To send FM signals to those 14,000 square miles requires transmission towers which cost  money to maintain. Probably one or two maintenance workers- one to hold the ladder- 20 dollars an hour.  During the most  recent heralded one day Pledge drive, the public radio station took in about 206,000 dollars. Alas, if we only had an electronic device to quickly do the math and alert us that this only puts a small dent in the annual salary and compensation of the top CEO.  The top 4 managers who made this decision are paid about 600,000 dollars a year in salary and compensation.  Paying to maintain those transmission towers- is extra.

What this public radio station and now Amazon  celebrate with these Person-free experiences are- well- person-free experiences.   Public radio  offered by FM radio signal is an experience shared with other people.  The shared experience creates- well, let’s just go back to something we probably learned from Classical music on public radio. It creates ‘A Fanfare for the Common Man’ or person. Like Aaron Copeland celebrated. With public radio, the Fanfare is made up of 150,000 people- in these rural counties even if they’re  not all listening. The fanfare’s creation is probably what inspired public radio in the first place.
At the grocery store, the Fanfare is with just one- sometimes two- the checkout worker and the bagger. Then, of course, if there’ s a line, the other Proletariat members are also waiting with you.
When I go through the grocery checkout line, I always experience it with these one if not two others- the checkout worker and the bagger. I notice their tattoos, their piercing, Their gray hair, their not gray hair, the speed of their movements, their fixation on the scanner, their eye contact. I wonder how much they are paid each hour, let alone annually, if they have benefits, how long they’ve worked there, if they’re retired and have a 401 K , if they go to school or not. I am grateful when they know which aisle holds the sardines, the Chai tea, the dried cranberries. They moved them recently.
I am a psychologist and I sometimes see- oh, I worked with this person- and I honor their privacy. Only then, I try to be as anonymous as possible and let the person - who I may know more about than anyone else has ever known- be completely anonymous. I know at that moment the meaning and value of anonymity. Because that anonymity exists, a former client was allowed to grow and change something in their lives they didn’t like.  But the meaning of anonymity is lost on a public radio station and Amazon when they choose it because it is the cheaper- and to them- better alternative. No radio audience sharing the listening experience. No Garrison Keillor reading Robert Frost’s poem about bending birch trees. No wondering if some small child is hearing ‘The Fanfare for the Common Man for the very first time. No going through the checkout line and noticing the checkout person’s pallor. Just a machine’s glassy surface that mirror’s an image- just yours- no one else’s - just you.
There is danger in anonymous experiences misused. We only need to look  to history. The executioners’ faces are covered and there is always more than one.
Anonymous grocery checkout lines and yes my state’s public radio pretense that the Internet is just as good for listening ignores the danger of anonymity. We are only anonymous when we let others treat us that way or we choose it for ourselves to protect ourselves. Shared human experience is human, after all, and sharing it is one way we learn how to be human.

Anonymous grocery checkout lines and yes my state’s public radio pretense that the Internet is just as good for listening ignores the danger of anonymity. We are only anonymous when we let others treat us that way or we choose it for ourselves to protect ourselves. Shared human experience is human, after all, and sharing it is one way we learn how to be human.There is danger in anonymous experiences misused. We only need to look  to history. The executioners’ faces are covered and there is always more than one. I am a psychologist and I sometimes see- oh, I worked with this person- and I honor their privacy. Only then, I try to be as anonymous as possible and let the person - who I may know more about than anyone else has ever known- be completely anonymous. I know at that moment the meaning and value of anonymity. Because that anonymity exists, a former client was allowed to grow and change something in their lives they didn’t like.  But the meaning of anonymity is lost on a public radio station and Amazon when they choose it because it is the cheaper- and to them- better alternative. No radio audience sharing the listening experience. No Garrison Keillor reading Robert Frost’s poem about bending birch trees. No wondering if some small child is hearing ‘The Fanfare for the Common Man for the very first time. No going through the checkout line and noticing the checkout person’s pallor. Just a machine’s glassy surface that mirror’s an image- just yours- no one else’s - just you.When I go through the grocery checkout line, I always experience it with these one if not two others- the checkout worker and the bagger. I notice their tattoos, their piercing, Their gray hair, their not gray hair, the speed of their movements, their fixation on the scanner, their eye contact. I wonder how much they are paid each hour, let alone annually, if they have benefits, how long they’ve worked there, if they’re retired and have a 401 K , if they go to school or not. I am grateful when they know which aisle holds the sardines, the Chai tea, the dried cranberries. They moved them recently. At the grocery store, the Fanfare is with just one- sometimes two- the checkout worker and the bagger. Then, of course, if there’ s a line, the other Proletariat members are also waiting with you.What this public radio station and now Amazon  celebrate with these Person-free experiences are- well- person-free experiences.   Public radio  offered by FM radio signal is an experience shared with other people.  The shared experience creates- well, let’s just go back to something we probably learned from Classical music on public radio. It creates ‘A Fanfare for the Common Man’ or person. Like Aaron Copeland celebrated. With public radio, the Fanfare is made up of 150,000 people- in these rural counties even if they’re  not all listening. The fanfare’s creation is probably what inspired public radio in the first place. But why would a public radio station do this?  For a public radio station that has received 58 million dollars- over 90 percent in public funds- over the last 5 years, paying the transmission tower maintenance workers is an expense.  To send FM signals to those 14,000 square miles requires transmission towers which cost  money to maintain. Probably one or two maintenance workers- one to hold the ladder- 20 dollars an hour.  During the most  recent heralded one day Pledge drive, the public radio station took in about 206,000 dollars. Alas, if we only had an electronic device to quickly do the math and alert us that this only puts a small dent in the annual salary and compensation of the top CEO.  The top 4 managers who made this decision are paid about 600,000 dollars a year in salary and compensation.  Paying to maintain those transmission towers- is extra. Between  Aroostock,  Washington and Somerset counties which comprise the northern part of the state, 150000 people- more or less- live on about 14,000 square miles.  In other words, they have plenty of alone time. They now have to buy a special HD radio or have high speed internet access to hear these programs. Smartphones do not consistently reach all areas of these rural areas. You could take your Chinese-made I-phone to the highest Himalyan peaks in Tibet and probably have better smartphone cellular service than you will on part of Rte 9 in Washington County.  Or buy a brand-spanking new car with HD radio in counties where used cars prevail because the median income is 41,000 dollars a year. This news comes not long after the public radio station in my state actually took away from the northern most part of the state classical music and poetry programming from the Public radio FM airwaves. These programs  now are available only on  something called HD radio or the Internet or a smartphone. They did not ask the anonymous population of listeners beforehand. On one morning in Maine in May, suddenly classical music and the enormously popular 5 minute Garrison Keillor ‘The Writer’s Almanac’ disappeared from the used car’s FM radio and  the household one. Amazon has announced they will soon  launch an attempt to eliminate that pesky feature of day-to-day life- ‘the grocery store check-out employee’. Along with that, you will receive the pleasure of the barcode and the brief electronic sound to let you know your transaction has been scanned  successfully.        

A Citizen’s Guide to Small-minded Denigration: A Sixty Second Moral Inquiry, Two and ½ Minute Conspiracy Theory presented in a Sonnet for The Department of Poetic Justice

From Susan Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 01:34

In honor of the upcoming Presidential race, The River Is Wide presents a melding of our favorite features. A Citizen's Guide, A Sixty Second Moral Inquiry and Two and 1/2 Minute Conspiracy Theory presented in a Sonnet to place In the Department of Poetic Justice. Random The River Is Wide Series is not.
The topic:
A Citizen’s Guide to Small-minded Denigration (or a Conspiracy to Throw the Ethical Female Presidential Candidate Under the Bus for what She has Never Done).

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A Citizen’s Guide to Small-minded Denigration  (or a Conspiracy to Throw the Ethical Female Presidential Candidate Under the Bus for what She has Never Done):
A Sixty Second Moral Inquiry, Two and ½ Minute Conspiracy Theory presented in a Sonnet for The Department of Poetic Justice
Diligent Presidents also can be
women. Intelligent, insightful,
reliable, prestigious, humanly
accomplished, with sound judgment? Delightful!
What will have nothing to do with the job
she will do is the employee who lacked
judgment and chose a sick ex-husband, robbed 
sense.  The staffer, small-minded, at the back
of the  bus, the Opponent now sinks to
say, should be used to run out the admired
Woman, who should be President, linked to
small mindeds just because of who she hired.
Hostile cruel minds Either sex can be numb.
Formidable President?  She’s the one.

What We Don't Get About Violence: The Choreography of Its Aftermath

From Susan Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 07:17

I went to a performance ‘designed to raise awareness surrounding gun violence and its victims’ the program said. The Colorado-based modern dance company, Lemon Sponge Cake Ballet performed a 45-minute section of a longer dance, White Fields, Throughout, a man and a younger woman, danced dying. They dance dying, she over and over, small, miniscule, subtle movements, falling itself, movement in its final moments, moving caught in agonizingly slow time, like a web a gun-shot victim must crawl through. Accompanied by music to accentuate what we see, and finally Bach, the dancers danced the verb- dying- not the noun.

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What Is It That We Don’t Get About Violence:
The Choreography of Its Aftermath
-Susan Cook-
I went to a  performance by a Colorado modern dance company, Lemon Sponge Cake Ballet. They performed a section of  a longer dance, White Fields,  ‘designed to raise awareness surrounding gun violence and its victims’ the program said. Throughout, a man and a younger woman, danced dying. They dance dying, she over and over, in small, miniscule, subtle movements, falling itself, movement in its final moments, moving caught in agonizingly slow time, like a web a gun-shot victim must crawl through. Accompanied by music to accentuate what we see, the dancers danced the verb- dying- not the noun.
“Dying annuls the power to kill”, Emily Dickinson wrote. She meant of course the noun.  In White Fields we see the verb, dying, choreographed. A leanly muscular dancer’s diminished step, reach, pull, and lost swagger. The male partner picks her up, catches her, walks like her, just like her, just like another human being. She does not die eventually, even though there is a gun shot at the beginning.
At the end, the performers held an audience discussion. The dancer, the woman, asked, rhetorically, wistfully,  ‘What is it that we don’t get about relationships’. I’m a psychologist, and I  thought “Oh, we work on that. Psychotherapy, post divorce treatment, marital counseling are now accepted interventions.  The murmured conversation is the one about what we don’t get about violence.   Dying- the noun- annuls the power to kill-  the power that guns give to kill- quickly- instantly- time it takes to lick a postage stamp- kill. The choreography of dying- the verb-  is long and slow. That’s  White Fields shows.
So, in the program, dying, the verb, made visible in dance, over and over was the center of attention. Dying made visible through moving bodies, choreographed.
When discussion of violence comes up, accountability  by the living and its avoidance quickly surfaces. I went to a  day long seminar for judges, lawyers, guardian ad litem, and mental  health professionals about evaluating child abuse. The state had developed a structured program for evaluators appointed by courts to assess childhood  victims of violence and their parental caretakers. The seminar took place not too long after the murder of a child by a foster mother, a former Department of Human Services caseworker. The child had been taken into custody by the state because the mother’s ‘life style negligence’ led to the neglect of  the child. In the foster home, duck tape was placed across the four year old’s mouth.  She was then placed in the home’s basement where she suffocated.  After  the state’s  Child Welfare administrator spoke , I asked what I thought was a question on many people’s minds: “What changes has the Department  made in the foster care program since the child died?“   She was visibly indignant that I had asked the question. And didn’t answer.  Instead she said “Well, may be you can tell me what changes you think need to be made.”  Even in the context of understanding and evaluating violence toward children and its perpetrators,  the question I asked was the wrong question. “What we don’t we get about violence” is that its consequences annul the power of the human beings to avoid accountability.
Some months later, I went to a meditation retreat led by monastics from one of Thich Naht Hahn’s spiritual centers.  I was surprised to see that the person registering people was one of the judicial system representatives who attended that day-long child abuse and neglect seminar . She  recognized me and then rolled her eyes. I am not sure why but I knew at that moment what we don’t get about  violence, is that it origins are human. Its consequences are the slow, anguished dying, the verb:  the child’s fear when  a familiar voice speaks, the body that stiffens at the site of a raised arm, the unasked question ‘Are there guns in your home’, unasked so the mental health professional never knows that the college student about to drop out has an arsenal of assault weapons and hundreds of rounds of ammunition.  The police officer wrapping his hand around the weapon who does not  realize he holds, single-handedly,  the power to kill.
At the end of the audience discussion of ‘White Fields‘, one man in the audience said, “Shooters are lonely and just want attention.” As if  accountability for violence is reduced to an FBI profiler’s projection and conclusion,  the verb- dying and all of its  components- those slow torturous movements of the consequence of violence ignored.  And even, before a roomful of professionals attending to the matter of child abuse, a resistance to address the question: what was the choreography of dying for that child?
In those moments , the human origins of  what we don’t get about violence can be seen.  Lemon Sponge Cake Ballet’s White Fields  shows us: how dying looks, this is how it moves, the power to kill not yet annulled by the death itself. What we don’t get about violence is right there- in the smallest flick of the dancer‘s hand or the agitated walking and stance of the male dancer, the choreography of dying holding enormous power, just then.

A Citizen's Guide to the Public Trust: What Donald Trump Has Done for Me

From Susan Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 07:13

When Mitch McConnell and the Republicans snub a duly elected President and the American people who want a Supreme Court nominee to be vetted through public hearings, it always feels hostile and mean-spirited. It’s hard to put your finger on because they’re leaders after all and they learned don’t obviously slander people. But it feels slanderous. And what Donald Trump has done for me is this. He has been so overtly aggressive, hostile and mean that I finally realized. The shut-it-down Paul Ryans and Mitch McConnels are just as bad. They don’t use words to offend us. They use ignoring and withholding what the citizens need and are owed- a fully functioning supreme court. Kind of like Donald Trump going bankrupt and stiffing all the low-ranking plumbers and contractors and carpenters knowing full well they don’t have deep lawyer fees available to fight him. Just like Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan know citizens’ cannot automatically have the political clout to remove them from office . So they exploit the moment. Pat themselves on the back, kind of like Donald Trump did to his wife with her moment in the national spotlight to do what she would with the public trust. And that’s what Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan have done with the public trust, thinking American citizens will be their fools. I never would have known that a plagiarizing wife for a hostile candidate values the public trust in exactly the same way two elected members of Congress do- before Donald Trump. And now I do. And that’s what Donald Trump has done for me.

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A Citizen’s Guide to Violating the Public Trust:What Donald Trump Has Done for Me
-Susan Cook-
I’ve never met Donald Trump. I don‘t know how many people actually do in their day-to-day careening and carousing in New York City where I understand he actually lives.
I have only come to know the man during his recent foray into multiple public appearances, broad generalizations about public policy and fantasy sharing about what he thinks a President of the United States does everyday which by the way does not sound anything like any President of the United States I’ve ever read about. I suppose you are wondering how he could have done things for me. Well, he has.
So this is a partial list.
He has made feel ill because the one time his wife could be presented as articulate and intelligent he hired a staffer who he paid $350 to write a speech that she plagiarized from Michele Obama’s speech at the Democratic Convention in 2008.  Michelle Obama probably not only wrote her own speech- for free- Presidential candidate’s wives are not paid to follow around and give speeches. But it was also true. I was sickened by the exploitation of that national moment for the entire voting citizenry of this country to trust the person allegedly closest to Donald Trump would tell the truth. And she lied.  His wife didn’t really think that. Someone told her to think them and she dutifully followed course. If a person can’t tell the truth that the thoughts they are sharing are really their own, what does the person have? All current evidence indicates that no body has perfected the technique of zapping the human mind and grafting on thoughts- unless you are a go-long-to-get-along politician. But Donald Trump’s wife did it in the only venue for what the whole country was hoping would be an opportunity to trust somebody. She mimicked the words someone else implanted. Thoughtless politicians do that  who assume they won’t get caught. I’ve caught more than one- prx.org/p/144302.      
So what Donald Trump has done for me is brought it right out front- this is what a go-along-to-get-along thought-implanted person does with the public trust. And it happens right there on national television.
Then there’s calling an extremely intelligent Hillary Clinton a bigot, a thief; calling Mexicans who have come here rapists and thieves;  calling women who want to pump breast milk in public disgusting; saying John McCain is not a hero because he got caught. Open slander and its verbal violence has not been a strategy used to win votes and influence people in the past. But we all have felt the frightening shockwaves of Donald Trump- now and like the aftershock of earthquakes- been re-traumatized by it.
All of the slander and violation of the public trust has brought the hostility of American politics and the disregard for the listener out of its subterranean hovel so now we can see what it is. Like when Saddam Hussain was found and taken out of the rabbit hole- and we finally saw who it was that billions of dollars and thousands of American lives had been sacrificed to restrain- a disheveled stunned man. And Donald Trump has shown me this dirty nasty alienating malicious language is what it all comes down to. And someone calling a woman who has given years of public service a common criminal, a man who suffered enormously as a prisoner-of-war not ‘good enough’ because he was shot down, a mother juggling work and childrearing dirty and shameful, is extremely hostile. Now, when Mitch McConnell and the Republicans snub a duly elected President and the American people who want a Supreme Court nominee to be vetted through public hearings, it always feels hostile and mean-spirited. It’s hard to put your finger on because they’re leaders after all and they learned don’t obviously slander people. But it feels slanderous. And what Donald Trump has done for me is this. He has been so overtly aggressive, hostile and mean that I finally realized. The shut-it-down, blow it off Paul Ryans and Mitch McConnels are just as bad. They don’t use words to offend us. They use ignoring  and withholding what the citizens need and are owed- a fully functioning supreme court. Kind of like Donald Trump going bankrupt and stiffing all the low-ranking plumbers and contractors and carpenters knowing full well they don’t have deep lawyer fees available to fight him. Just like Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan know citizens’ cannot automatically have the political clout to remove them from office . So they exploit the moment. Pat themselves on the back, kind of like Donald Trump did to his wife with her moment in the national spotlight to do what she would with the public trust. And that’s what Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan have done with the public trust, thinking American citizens will be their fools. I never would have known that a plagiarizing  mouthpiece for a hostile candidate values the public trust in exactly the same way two elected members of Congress do- before Donald Trump. And now I do. And that’s  what Donald Trump has done for me.

Fight Like A Girl: A Citizen's Advanced Guide

From Susan Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 05:32

In my state, a few years ago a bright, articulate local woman ran for the state House of Representatives. Her campaign slogan was ‘Fight Like A Girl.’ I’m not sure the local populace knew exactly what that meant. We are mostly use to the “climb-to-the-top-of-the-hill’ and delegate those who disagree with you to an anonymous, invisible heap at the bottom” political mindset. The New York Times whetted the country’s awareness of that approach on the front page this week. They cited a Presidential candidate’s indignation because a Muslim father of a war causality suggested the candidate had not made sacrifices [like the father’s deceased son had] . The candidate said it was inaccurate because he had created “thousands of jobs“. Any remark that implies the candidate’s opponents are ‘less than’ is fodder for the campaign trail. Winning means bigger, better, entitled to claim supremacy over the other. It doesn’t really matter in the long run as long as you get what you want.

This is pretty much the opposite of how you fight like a girl. Fighting like a girl means you know who you’ve left behind and you try to include them in the long Sisyphus-like climb to the top- but there‘s no rock involved- just other people. The candidate implied that leaving Muslims, any Muslim behind is justified.

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Fight Like A Girl: A Citizen’s Advanced Guide
-Susan Cook-
In my state, a few years ago a bright, articulate local woman ran for the state House of Representatives.  Her campaign slogan was ‘Fight Like A Girl.’ I’m not sure the local populace knew exactly what that meant. We are mostly use to the  “climb-to-the-top-of-the-hill’  and delegate those who disagree with you to an anonymous, invisible heap at the bottom” political mindset. The New York Times whetted the country’s awareness of that approach on the front page this week. They cited  a Presidential candidate’s indignation because a Muslim father of a war causality had  suggested the candidate  had not made sacrifices [like the father’s deceased son had]. The candidate’s retort was that he  had created “thousands of jobs“. Winning means bigger, better, more entitled to claim supremacy over the other. Any remark that implies the candidate’s opponents are ‘less than’ is fodder for the campaign trail. It doesn’t really matter in the long run as long as you get what you want.
This is pretty much the opposite of how you fight like a girl. Fighting like a girl means you know who you’ve left behind and you try to include them in the long Sisyphus-like climb to the top- but there‘s no rock involved- just other people. The candidate implied that leaving Muslims, any Muslim behind is justified. 
A legendary feminist Peggy McIntosh wrote an article called ‘Feeling Like A Fraud’ about the quality of seeing the world as an interconnected web not a series of hierarchies where one uniquely extraordinary individual climbs to the top because he is supremely better than everyone else.  Many women see the world that way. Women who excel entertain self-doubt not because they’re not skilled but because they  know many, many others have talent too and they fear the exclusion a social propensity for hierarchy not web creates. Fighting like a girl means the political fight is not to reign superior but to be included. Fourth grade girls know the cruelest strategy is to exclude- with no explanation-  the passive aggressive ‘whisper campaign’  the silent weapon in such divisions by demeaning one’s opponents.
Much of what has happened so far in this Presidential campaign fits rather disturbingly these two world views in complete contrast to each other. One glorifies hierarchy where the vanquished are left behind, mocked and derided - even in the choice of the closing song at his party’s convention - “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” from the Rolling Stones’ Let It Bleed album was played. 
In contrast, the other world view  where former competitors are brought into the circle- the shared circle which of course in Presidential politics means shared power-  prevailed at the other convention. Everybody has something to enhance the value of the whole. That does not mean that women who acquire power and credibility don’t understand slash and burn politics. Women remain suspect  in a world in which 74 cents is paid to women for every dollar men make and  where men in Congress consider themselves inherently privileged to make decisions about women’s private medical circumstances.  The first attempts to silence outspoken credible women are  always slash and burn-  the Salem witch trials resuscitated now in a forthcoming JK Rowling literary creation. 
The most conspicuous “Fight like a Girl” strategy has not received  much mention in the campaign so far. It’s a strategy that may be the bridge between right-wing evangelicals and left-leaning liberals. That is to find a way to forge forgiveness. Slash- and -burn has left the American Family in ribbons- not blue ones. The American Psychological Association says between forty and fifty percent  of married couples divorce. Forgiveness is not the solution for every troubled marriage. But Fight Like A Girl means it is in the armamentarium- the international, national and interpersonal one. It is not  an outdated failed approach and brings the possibility of resolution in a world hungry to pick the next fight. 

Gun Control and This Republic of Suffering: A Citizen's Guide

From Susan Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 05:19

As the battle wages on between the unarmed and the armed, the armed and the armed, the open carry armed and the concealed carry armed, the problem of common sense gun control has not been solved. Guns handled with an excessive quota of fear, guns in the hands of people with known mental illness, guns far, far, far too easily accessed through online sales, assault weapons far too easily accessed, kill people. Not at war. Living their daily lives.

Our governing bodies persist in polarizing the need for gun control. In the House of Representatives, men and women drew from strategies of disempowered civil rights activists in the 1960’s to convince GOP leadership of the urgency and need to act. It did not work.

Since the beginning of human conflict, battle is followed by a time of armistice, however brief, when each side claim their dead. In This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War, Drew Faust wrote of that time.

When the fight for common sense gun control makes room- for claiming the dead not by just one side, but by all of us, perhaps then the NRA and this Congress will change their minds because their humanity too has had a chance to surface

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Gun Control and This Republic of Suffering: Who the Dead Belong To:
                                   A Citizen’s Guide
                                     -Susan Cook-
As the battle wages on  between the unarmed and the armed, the armed and the armed, the  open carry armed and the concealed carry armed, the problem of common sense gun control has not been solved. Guns handled with an excessive quota of fear, guns in the hands of people with known mental illness, guns far, far, far too easily accessed through online sales, assault weapons far too easily accessed, kill people. Not at war. Living their daily lives.
Our governing bodies persist in polarizing the need for gun control. In the House of Representatives, men and women drew from strategies of disempowered  civil rights activists in the 1960’s to convince GOP leadership of the urgency and need to act.  It did not work.
When gun legislation advocates, passionately decry the violence, and they are dismissed, it is almost as if they alone are claiming the dead as their own.
Since the beginning of human conflict, battle is followed by a time of  armistice, however brief, when each side claim their dead. In This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil  War, Drew Faust wrote of that time:
[They] tried to make sense of what they had wrought. As they surveyed the scene at battle’s end, they became different men  For a moment, they were relieved of the demand to kill; other imperatives- of Christianity, of humanity, of survival rather than duty or courage - could come again to the fore. And now they had time to look again at what was around them. (p.56)
She quotes an 1862 Emily Dickinson poem: “Dying- annuls the power to kill.”
In our time, gun control advocates openly demonstrate their despair for the dead lost at Sandy Hook, in a suburban Colorado movie theater,  after every other episode of random gun violence. But observing the debate on gun control, one would think the dead are only theirs to grieve, mourn and bury.  
These  dead belong to the NRA too. One would think that there would be no stark separation of grief after an atrocity into political posturing of power.  It is , after all, human nature  to acknowledge death. These dead are theirs, too. Every fluctuation of our mutual human development prepares us for this task-unless our path of growth is so badly detoured as to compromise any comprehension we might have. The almost intolerable grief, the daily resurfacing of the loss of these dead  are experiences simply being human prepares us to take on.  But, instead in the wake of these atrocities, death does not annul the power of killing- the NRA  grabs the inopportune moment as if it were one of greater power, more political polarization - not annulment.
This country is becoming a Republic of Suffering in our own peculiar civil war where citizens kill each other once more; dying as always annulling the power to kill, moment by moment, until it happens again.
Conflicts are resolved sometimes when the humanity of the combatants is given place and time to surface. The members staunchly refusing to claim the dead as their own, the NRA and their lobbyists are friends, fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, family too, who must, like everyone else, experience the haunting insistence that these dead be claimed. There is no dark mysterious underside to it. It is when, as it did during the Civil War and all other wars, our humanity surfaces with the least resistance.  When the fight for common sense gun control  makes room- for claiming  the dead not by just  one side, but by all of us, perhaps then the NRA and this Congress will change their minds because their humanity too has had a chance to surface.

Stochastically Yours: Loving Your Vote and Ignoring Poll Seductions- A Citizen's Guide

From Susan Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 08:01

The American voting public has become as gullible about Election polls as they are about quick weight loss plans. In Maine, Election eve, 2010, the Times Record newspaper published below page one's masthead, an AP reporter’s article on Rasmussen Reports polls. They showed the Gubernatorial Republican Tea Party candidate Paul LePage polling up. No mention that Rasmussen polls have the highest bias (chance of inaccuracy )of polls and are least respected by other pollsters.

Poll bias is measured by a statistic called "stochastic bias". Rasmussen Reports have the highest Stochastic Bias among pollsters- the most biased. At Princeton University, the Stochastic Democracy Group studies this at length .

All of this suggests, as we move toward November 2016, we all need to make a collective plea to media outlets to never publish polls without explanation of their stochastic bias. Statistics do not predict the future. They are a mathematical model that explains the likelihood of things that have already happened. Not ones that haven’t happened yet.

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Stochastically Yours: Loving Your Vote and Ignoring  Poll Seductions - A Citizen’s Guide
-Susan Cook-
The American voting public has become as gullible about Election polls as they are about quick weight loss plans.  In Maine, Election eve, 2010,  the Times Record  newspaper published below page one's masthead, an AP reporter’s article on Rasmussen Reports polls. They showed the Gubernatorial Republican Tea Party candidate Paul LePage polling up. No mention that Rasmussen polls have  the highest bias (chance of inaccuracy )of polls and are least  respected by other pollsters.
Poll bias is measured by a statistic called "stochastic bias". Rasmussen Reports have the highest Stochastic Bias among pollsters- the most biased.  At Princeton University, the  Stochastic Democracy Group studies this at length . 
Now, hold your breath, here. This is the Princeton University Stochastic Bias  Group explanation of what Rasmussen polls do. They over sample for Republicans by "weighting [results]  by self reported party affiliation, using  average party affiliation from Rasmussen polls in the preceding month [replicating previous distortion] which  doesn't remove any over sampling of Republicans which is undoubtedly there. [He] could weight using proportions from polls by reputable pollsters. [He chooses] not to. This is a deliberate effort to bias results." In addition to weighting to make pools look like their sample contains numbers of Republicans equal to the general population, [when it does not], his sample collection is biased by not calling back "no answers" which means he over samples  people who are home a lot. [He]  then adds "definite supporter" to "probable supporter" inflating "definite supporter" results. 
For those cringing because you don’t know what  Stochastic Bias is, an explanation from a statistics wonk.
"...A pollster will be above  the average 50% of  the time and below the average 50% of the time if the pollster is unbiased and the average is unbiased. ..By looking at how individual polls diverge from average polls, we can take the  average of the [pollster’s]  divergence.  If the poll is fair then the average gap will be close to zero.  If this gap is positive then it means on average the pollster reports poll levels of either approval or disapproval above the average poll value for a period.  If  the average is negative  then it means the pollster reported average is less than the polling average .Looking at Rasmussen Reports it is clear that there is something fishy going on.  In 2008,  Rasmussen’s average disapproval rating report [of Obama] was nearly 7 points above those of other polling locations while the approval rating was under-reported by nearly 2 points.  In addition, every poll that [was] put out by Rasmussen  reported 100% of  the time[s] disapproval rates above  the average. This is an astounding number since it is clearly highly unlikely. " 
In other words, yes, you flip a coin and  heads and tails have a 50-50 chance of coming up. But some days you flip it ten times in a row and it comes up tails ten times in a row.  However, if somebody has ut a tiny drop of lead on one side of the coin, that side will come up more often.
Rasmussen has cleverly tied the ridiculous influence polls have to suppress or enhance voter turnout to the numbers he reports.  And there are many naïve media outlets that suck them up like Aedes mosquitoes and the Zika virus. 
In Maine, in the Governor’s race in 2010,  an article by a  statistically naïve AP reporter was chosen by a newspaper which then put out the “Fire, fire” call above the masthead on Election Eve.  The race was a 3-way. The Editorial Page editor favored the Independent candidate- he had just chastised me for writing about that candidate’s Chinese human rights blind spot. Since the editorial page editor had his own bias toward the Independent Candidate, he was happy to scare the public with a Rasmussen Poll- stochastically biased Rasmussen Poll- indicating that the Right-wing Tea Party candidate just might win and that the Third Party Independent was polling higher thus had a better chance of beating him then the Democratic candidate.  Many Democratic voters, including the advocates focusing on passing Gay Marriage Bills, switched their vote to the Independent. One advocacy group - Equality Maine- sent an email urging their followers to do just that -influenced by corrupted Rasmussen polling data with excessive Stochastic Bias. Because as Rasmussen does, Republicans were over-weighted in his sample thus had greater statistical torque in his poll than they actually did. 
As we move toward November 2016, we all need to make a collective plea to media outlets to never publish polls without explanation of their stochastic bias. Statistics do not predict the future. They are a mathematical model that explains  the likelihood of things that have already happened. Not ones that haven’t happened yet. There is no reason why the outliers- the events the model says are less likely to happen- won’t. The world works  that way too- unless someone is using polls to make someone do something they would not have done otherwise. Like vote for the Independent candidate which ultimately gave Maine a Tea Party Governor.
Pollsters don’t take ethics oaths before they sit down at their laptops or design their sample procedures. The media needs to remember that and dig out their Stochastic Bias Manuals before they publish poll results.

Political Party Karma: A Citizen's Guide

From Susan Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 04:49

The real meaning of the Buddhist concept of karma is murky, but the Republican Presidential campaign has become an explanatory sponge for it- fully soaked with karma. That may be where the campaign’s real substance lies- if nowhere else. Every time Donald Trump squeezes out another derisive, degrading insult, flagrantly nullifying any need for the Republican Party’s blessing, he reminds us that the unity ‘they’ espoused in opposition to the last 8 years of the Obama presidency is gone. For every tight lipped, tight jawed, and tight jowled refusal by Mitch McConnell to schedule a hearing for President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee- Republican Senators -like prisoner-of-war camp detainees numbly plodding along behind him, there is a loose-lipped remark from Donald Trump.

This is karma proving itself phylogenetically superior to intelligence. Just like the Buddhists say it does. In other words, it’s not what you’re given, it’s what your karma is.

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Political Party Karma: A Citizen’s Guide
-Susan Cook-
For the last 25 years or so I have mingled with Buddhists, some more closely than others, enough to consider myself one of them. Karma, one of the more easily misinterpreted Buddhist Divinity School concepts has fallen into the cultural vernacular. It’s real meaning is murky, but the Republican Presidential campaign has become an explanatory  sponge for it- fully soaked with karma. That may be where the campaign’s real substance lies- if nowhere else. Every time Donald Trump squeezes out another derisive, degrading insult, flagrantly nullifying any  need for the Republican Party’s blessing, he  reminds us that the unity ‘they’ espoused in opposition to the last 8 years of the Obama presidency is gone. For every tight lipped, jawed, and jowled refusal by Mitch McConnell to schedule a hearing for President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee- Republican Senators -like prisoner-of-war  camp detainees  numbly  plodding along behind him, there is a loose-lipped remark from Donald Trump.
This is karma proving itself phylogenetically superior to intelligence. Just like the Buddhists say it does. In other words, it’s not what you’re given, it’s what your karma is. The Republican party offers ‘proof’ of that every time House Speaker Paul Ryan blocks- in the land of unified Republican mind-think- an Obama proposal and thus undermines the entire legislative process that upholds this democracy. And then  Donald Trump says ‘We are not dealing with a five-star general’.  You do not necessarily get what you pay for. Karma says you get what you get in consequences not in the good old ‘ sins of our fathers Evangelical Christian way or even the wrath of God raining down, even if  Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan proceed as if that’s where they get their authority. Karma is everything has its consequence in completely unanticipated ways, and that is what you are left with .
There may be more than a few Republicans who seek Buddhist counsel if not conversion during this election cycle.  ‘It could be a great moment or it could be a bad moment but it’s going to be a moment,‘ Reince Priebus the Republican National Party chair  was quoted as saying in a recent New York Sunday Times magazine article about an upcoming shared appearance with Trump.  Which sounds Buddhist-inspired to me.
Within the Republican enclave, the unthinkable has happened. Someone who out-stonewalls them, out-blusters, out-hyperboles has come along- with one  fearless catapult of insult at a time, aimed at each of them.  Now, the Republican party has never deigned to use insult in word or deed. They’ve just  relied on their anonymous chain of staffers - to whit Richard Nixon’s Haldeman and Erlichman and the Watergate plumbers and  Senator Susan Collins’ Director of New Media Matthew Gagnon to do it for them- Mr Gagnon’s description of a citizen speaking at a public hearing about Congressional Re-districting as ‘rambling, slurring‘ on his website ‘pinetreepolitics.com‘, the distinguished Senator hoping noone would ever be able to trace his remarks back to her payroll.  Of course, they could, intelligence prevailing over human attempts to invent karma. That citizen, me, was neither, but the event forever impresses  now that the real loose cannon Donald Trump is using insult in ways that  Republicans - and for that matter Democrats-  could never own up to , unless it was under Congressional subpoena   That is substantially closer to the Buddhist meaning of karma than any party go-along-to-get-along,  could ever invent, no matter how mean-spirited. 

On Being Sane In Insane Places: A Citizen's Guide

From Susan Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 07:32

The lessons of D.L. Rosenhan's study of imposters pretending to have psychiatric illness on psychiatric units have not been lost on the world of mental health diagnosis. The fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders was published last year and is continuously upgraded by mental health professionals . But for anyone who feels immersed in a system that fails to recognize fakers who are not really suffering from the same despair as everyone else, there are many lessons from Rosenhan’s study.

Enter the United State Congress and the impaired judgment in their decision making.

How does impaired decision-making in an institution happen? How do the sane come to be labeled insane, diagnostic labels misapplied? What lessons are to be learned about Congress where the power to make decisions and impaired decision making are rarely examined? And in the wake of the Orlando tragedy and the failure of Congress to pass gun control legislation, many ask when will sane voices recognizing the impairment in decision-making by the Senate and House be heard.

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On  Being Sane in Insane Places: A Citizen’s Guide
-Susan Cook-
"On Being Sane in Insane Places", D.L. Rosenhan’s study of how judgment becomes impaired in social institutions was published over 40 years ago. He designed  clever, although now unethical studies  of how organizational systems fail to identify fakers. The fakers in this case were Rosenhan‘s confederates - who willingly sought admission to psychiatric hospitals, lying to admitting staff, telling them  they were  "hearing voices" when the fakers did not.  Rosenhan then looked to  see how many of  the imposter patients’, those faking symptoms of schizophrenia were discovered.
None of his confederates- the fakers-  were identified as imposters by the higher-ups in the psychiatric unit hierarchy, the  mental health professionals.
The lessons of the work have not been lost on the world of mental health diagnosis. The fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders was published last year and  is  continuously  upgraded by mental health professionals - all toward the end of elevating diagnosis beyond the simple dichotomy of sane/insane that Rosenhan  used.
But for anyone who feels immersed in a system that fails to recognize fakers who are not really suffering from the same despair as everyone else, there are many lessons from Rosenhan’s study.
Enter the United State Congress and the impaired judgment in their decision making.
To better understand impaired decision-making, Rosenhan created a second study. .
In that study, Rosenhan told mental health professionals on psychiatric units that over the next 3 month period, ‘diagnosis imposters’ would be admitted to their psychiatric unit.  The psychiatrists and other mental health professionals  were then asked to rate their confidence in each patient's presenting diagnosis. Of 193  patients assessed, 83 were rated with some degree of confidence to be imposters. 
In fact, Rosenhan had enlisted no confederates or imposters who were admitted to the psychiatric hospitals.
How does this impaired decision-making in an institution happen? How do the sane come to be labeled insane, diagnosis labels misapplied? What lessons are to be learned about Congress where the power to make decisions and impaired decision making is rarely examined?
First, very importantly, the only people in the psychiatric units who voiced suspicion that there were imposters among them, ’faking’  patients were those low in the social hierarchy, that is the other patients. The lesson ? Those low in the power apparatus who "live it" know best. Their credibility deserves  far more acceptance and opportunity to be believed  by the power brokers. Undermining "We the People" leads to lousy decisions. You may have noticed that following 911, getting a message to a member of Congress,  through the multiple filters of staff members is like- well,  a patient in a psychiatric unit trying to tell the Chief Psychiatrist on  staff  that  another patient is not really a schizophrenic and is probably a journalist or a researcher  because he is always taking notes.  Those events were often reported to unit staffers in Rosenhan's study and  were dismissed or ignored.
Staffers’ low in the Congressional power food chain are just as likely to dismiss relevant information  as the elected officeholders are. Responsibility for impaired decision is top-down and bottom-up.
Second, as Rosenhan wrote, "There is a massive role of labeling in psychiatric assessment." Again, enter the US  Congress. The labels there are Republican, Democrat or the trendy Independents, where  they are used  to diminish the speaker’s value. To paraphrase Rosenhan, "Once a person is designated (Republican or Democrat), all of his behaviors  and characteristics are colored by that label." "Labels" are so powerful that, in the study, many of the imposter patients' reasonable behaviors were profoundly misinterpreted or ignored .
In Rosenhan's time, psychiatric diagnosis located psychological  aberrations as entirely within the patient- with little recognition that the patient’s behaviors might be a very functional adaptation for survival. The person had found a way to be sane in an insane place.
When election time comes up, officeholders scramble to distort the facts to fit their own their diagnostic categories-  in this case diagnosing themselves- as sound decision-makers. Then they start in . Gridlock, they will say, ( and some may call it insanity) is the result of those other insane Congressional members.
The imposters in Rosenhan’s study felt powerless and depersonalized ,within the psychiatric unit hierarchy. In Congress, though powerlessness and depersonalization  are not seen as a problem, rather they are seen as goals- handy pocket -sized tools to ignore relevant information and stick to rigid party strategies.  Supported by know-towing staff, arguments that don’t support their decisions are censored. The criticizers and nay Sayers are depersonalized and made powerless just like in Rosenhan‘s study. The patient confiding to  staff that another patient was probably not schizophrenic was ignored.
The most recent gun control vote in the Senate is yet another example of impaired  Congressional decision-making. There is the  suppression of facts, Orlando survivors and victims depersonalized, ignoring of the powerless and misleading claims that   assault weapons give the powerless victims power,. Then, ultimately Congress defers to power hierarchy and labels, Senator Collins  exploiting the tragedy to glorify herself as a ‘unimpaired decision maker’.  All of which leads the rest of the country to wonder when the sane desperately trying to recognize insanity  for what it is will be believed and given credibility.

The Cheap Shot in American Politics- A Citizen's Guide

From Susan Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 04:26

We live in extremely violent times. Words can provoke aggression, insult and personal harm very quickly. Politicians spend much time trying to reassure us that they will protect our enormous bodily and psychological fragility with their policies and bravado. But the Cheap Shot gives it all away. And Bernie Sanders has quickly joined the fray- filling his pockets as best he can with what he hopes is political capital.

Then there’s, Donald Trump, who has used every form of cheap shot making known to polarize the electorate- i.e. ‘earn’ votes. He has nationalized cheap shot taking like we have never seen before. It kind of takes your breath away because there used to be a baseline assumption that overt disrespect was not silently accepted as kind of a political asthma we just had to get used to. It’s hard to find a one word slur he has not used to reduce his critics to objects- implying they are not worthy of any respect at all. ‘Pocahontas’ he called a tenured Harvard Law School Professor and United States Senator. As if the anonymity that word cast on Native American women for generations was deserved- they worthy of no mark of distinction or individuality for us to know who they are.
I am making a larger call is for us to stop the Cheap Shot making that now plagues American politics. Cheap shots always say more about the politician who makes them than they do about the person it’s tossed toward whether you are the Bernie Sanders supporter screaming them out at Hillary rallies or Sanders banking on the good will of American liberals to cover him while his rhetoric becomes increasingly hostile. Or Donald Trump banking on the limited attention span of the angry and cash strapped to ignore that the hostility he speaks of is generated by himself.
#Stopthecheapshots I say. Now.

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The Cheap Shot in American Politics: A Citizen’s Guide
-Susan Cook-
There’s a Maine office holder who I’ve privately given  a new last name. It’s ‘Cheap Shot.’ If the opportunity arises to take a Cheat Shot, this one will take it. You can call it verbal abuse, an abuse of another person’s attention, the public’s attention or the bully pulpit. Or an abuse of power. Or call it what it is-  a Cheap Shot when really the matter at hand is the responsibility of holding office- not using words to grab what you can of respect for other people.
Then there’s Bernie Sanders, gloating and baiting in the wake of the report calling Hillary Clinton’s use of a personal computer server to receive 30000 emails- none of which were identified as classified when they were sent- four- four of which have been classified subsequently.
The biggest revelation out of this non-scandal may be that Bernie Sanders takes Cheap Shots. It’s certainly true that Bernie’s supporters and the Republican Party are doing what they can to dig a deeper and deeper trench hoping it will not be them who falls in it come  November. There’s a good chance it won’t be Hillary.
I have never heard Hillary Clinton take a Cheap Shot. Even in the worst of her family’s very public, political times, she hasn’t done it. She’s tried to keep the facts straight- or at least find them.
We live in extremely violent times. Words can provoke aggression,  insult and personal harm  very quickly. Politicians  spend much time trying to reassure us that they will protect our enormous bodily and psychological fragility with their policies and bravado. But the Cheap Shot gives it all away. And Bernie Sanders has quickly joined the fray- filling his pockets as best he can with what he hopes is political capital.
Then there’s, Donald Trump, who has used every form of cheap shot making known to polarize the electorate- i.e. ‘earn’ votes. He has nationalized cheap shot taking like we have never seen before. It kind of takes your breath away because there used to be a baseline assumption that overt disrespect was not silently accepted as kind of a political  asthma we  just had to get used to.  It’s hard to find a one word slur he has not used to reduce his critics to objects- implying they are not worthy of any respect at all. ‘Pocahontas’ he called a tenured Harvard Law School Professor and United States Senator. As if the anonymity that word cast on Native American women for generations was deserved- they worthy of no  mark of distinction or individuality for us to know who they are.
It is tempting to call him  a stupid racist. That would be using cheap shots of course. I  am making a larger call is for us to stop the Cheap Shot making that now plagues American politics. Cheap shots always say more about the politician who makes them than they do about the person it’s tossed toward whether you are the Bernie Sanders supporter screaming them out at Hillary rallies or Sanders banking on the good will of American liberals to cover him while his rhetoric becomes increasingly hostile. Or  Donald Trump banking  on the limited attention span of the angry and cash strapped to ignore that the hostility he speaks of  is generated by himself.
#Stopthecheapshots I say. Now.

Big Fish, Small Pond; Small Fish, Big Pond: A Memorial Day Conscience

From Susan Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 06:42

The Moving Wall, a half scale version of the smooth black granite Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC which names the 58228 who died in that war, chronologically, from the first in 1959 to the last in 1975 came to Maine last year. I found my first date’s name- John Leo Murdock, who had just turned 20 when he died. I found his name just days after President Obama visited Vietnam and lifted the decades old arms embargo there. We are friends now, in other words.

I knew long ago that conscience was a big word, not to be thrown around by political office-holders looking for a brand, a legacy. I think President Obama was sincere in his hope to earn us moral lessons from that war. He too, like my first date ‘Jack ’Mad’ Murdock - my mother didn’t know that was his nickname- was once a small fish thrown into the big pond. Obama became a big fish, big power not small, who never quite put aside his small fish priorities which may be what sustains our conscience after all.

I just know I wish I had kissed ‘Mad’ more than once.

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Big Fish, Small Pond; Small Pond, Big Fish: A Memorial DayConscience
-Susan Cook-
At a jazz performance, the lady next to me and I struck up a conversation. During World War II, she, a Czechoslovakian, and her family were exiled to Latvia. They were sent to an American-occupied section of Germany at war's end, and lived in Displaced Persons Camps for six years. "Then we came to America", she said. She, her husband and their daughter were there listening to the daughter's boyfriend play saxophone in a jazz quintet. She was, I knew, a woman who knows what it is to be a small fish in the very large pond called the world.
Dutifully, as mothers in every pond since the beginning of time have done, she took a sip of her daughter's just purchased martini. Turning in my direction, the mother grimaced as if she had just tasted 1000 proof alcohol retrieved from an ancient civilization where it was a fire substitute. Here was the mother as the forever big fish in the small pond in which her adult daughter still swam in which no martini eludes the mother's discriminating tongue to see how strong the drink.
These are the life experiences of which conscience is made, if we remember them: that we are always small fish in very big ponds and large fish in the very small pond of our home, our lives, our communities, our quotidian routines. It is the tension between keeping both in mind at the same time, the remembering the two- going back and forth as we live- that makes conscience available but also elusive to us all.
To be in a small pond is to know, if we are lucky, compassion that comes from the indelible ink of human concern, the mother taking one sip of her daughter's martini.
And when we are small fish in big ponds, as we always are, conscience brings the indelible imprint of compassion, the do-unto-others-as-you-would-have-them-do-unto-you, and on and on. The inability to do that is what distinguishes having a conscience from not having one at all.
It is extremely difficult to hold both in mind.  A small fish can have big fish consequences. Someone called it small power.
We have many distinguished office holders who forget that they are both- who abuse the bully pulpit - their big fish status and big fish privilege in ways that have a profound impact on the small fish of the world. The big fish American politician acting very much like it all- the whole democratic process - is his pond now.  The small fish who carry out their personal agendas-without conscience- to keep their own jobs. History is written by the big and the small.
Not everyone has the privilege of knowing they are both. Sometimes the events of the time make it impossible to ignore. When I was a 17 year old university freshman, I joined the nationwide student moratorium in protest of the American bombing of Cambodia and the shooting of 4 Kent State students protesting the Vietnam War.  I spent my days writing letters to small Maine newspapers saying that the moratorium was a “question of conscience” because we could not continue to attend classes while thousands of soldiers (almost 50,000 at that point) died in an unfair, unjust war that was never approved by the American public. I know I didn’t know what conscience really meant. I did know that the first boy my mother allowed me to go to the movies with, him driving his 1967 Ford LTD, died in that war, plucked off our local street corner by the Marine recruiter next to our ice cream shop hangout. He died in Vietnam on June 21, 1969, the first day of summer.  So I did know there was a big pond, in my small fish way.
I was reminded of that when The Moving Wall, a half scale version of the smooth black granite Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC  which names the 58228  who died in that war, chronologically, from the first in 1959 to the last in 1975, came to Maine.  I found my first date’s name- John Leo Murdock,  who had just turned 20 when he died, found his name just days after President Obama visited Vietnam and lifted the decades old arms embargo there. We are friends now, in other words.
I knew long ago that conscience was a big word, not to be thrown around by political office-holders looking for a brand, a legacy. I think President Obama was sincere in his hope to earn us moral lessons from that war. He too, like my first date ‘Jack ’Mad’ Murdock - my mother didn’t know that was his nickname- was once a small fish thrown into the big pond. Obama  became a big fish, big power not small, who never quite put aside his small fish priorities which may be what sustains our conscience after all.
I wish I had kissed ‘Mad’ more than once.

Republicanese and Democratese- A Citizen's Guide to Your Hostility Curriculum

From Susan Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 04:04

Seventy thousand Google responses to ''Republicans Refuse'' or 37000 responses to ''Democrats Refuse'' say Donald Trump is not the first to bring hostile opposition into Presidential politics. We have been trained to hear it by politicians who thought it made them sound strong. Instead it sounds hostile. And has given some permission to act with hostility. ‘Yes’ in Republicanese or Democratese is translated ''Donald Trumpese''. Google ‘Trump Refuses‘ 481,000 choices come up but at least he‘s not pretending to govern down in Washington.

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Republicanese and Democratese- A Citizen's Guide to Your Training In Hearing Hostility

-Susan Cook-

 

Maybe it’s time for the Republicans and Democrats to drop their astonishment at the hostility within the Presidential primary race. The public, after all, has honed their auditory and emotional chops for hearing hostility by listening to a language called Republicanese. If you Google ‘Republicans Refuse’ 70,200 choices come up. Do Senate and House Republicans think the public doesn’t hear the hostility and not like it before they choose their favorite Presidential candidate. Yes, there’s Democratese too. But Google ‘Democrats Refuse’ and for some reason you come up with 37,900 choices. Sounds like more on one side than another to me

I quote here from several news outlets to sample some ‘Refusing’ Republicanese that has trained the public to not like hostile oppositional Washington politicians.

There’s the Supreme Court Nominee process.

In a swift statement designed to warn Barack Obama against even nominating a replacement, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) pledged to sit on his hands for the remaining 11 months of the president's term.

In Republicanese this means ‘I refuse.‘

And then there’s this 3 years ago-

‘After finally passing the Senate’s bill to narrowly avoid the fiscal cliff Republicans put an end to the do-nothing 112th Congress by refusing to hold a vote on Hurricane Sandy disaster.’

Then there’s refusing to talk

With the U.S. government teetering on the brink of partial shutdown, congressional Republicans vowed Sunday to keep using an otherwise routine federal funding bill to try to attack the president's health-care law. 'I refuse even to talk,'" said Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who led a 21-hour broadside against allowing the temporary funding bill ..of Obamacare.

Then there’s lead contaminated water.

Senate Democrats have blocked an…energy bill after majority Republicans rejected hundreds of millions of dollars in emergency federal aid to Flint, to fix and replace the city's lead-contaminated pipes.

Next refusing to pass equal pay for women

President Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act, the first sweeping gender pay equity law, in 1963... June 5, all Senate Republicans voted against the Paycheck Fairness Act as one.

Then there’s refusing each other

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas …refused to call Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., a "true conservative" …when he was asked about the race for Speaker of the House…

And then of course immigration.

Ted Cruz adamantly rejects what he calls “amnesty” pushed by Marco Rubio as part of the bill passed by the Senate in 2013 that would have opened up a pathway to citizenship for some …immigrants .

Refusing veterans benefits

Senate Republicans have blocked a Democratic bill that would enrich health, education and job-training programs for the nation's 22 million veterans.

Seventy thousand Google responses to Republicans Refuse or 37000 Democrats Refuse says Donald Trump is not the first to bring hostile opposition into Presidential politics. We have been trained to hear it by politicians who thought it made them sound strong to us. Instead it sounds hostile. And has given some permission to act with hostility. ‘Yes’ in Republicanese or Democratese is pronounced Donald Trumpese-. Google ‘Trump Refuses‘ 481,000 choices come up but at least he‘s not pretending to govern down in Washington..

A Citizen's Guide to the Odds of Irresponsibility: Get Thee to A Racetrack

From Susan Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 05:17

I was reading the New York Times article about the last batch of the 30000 emails released that Hillary Clinton received on her private server- while Secretary of State. Out of the 30,000, four ‘prompted intensified scrutiny of the emails for classified information and a referral to the F.B.I. for a review of the handling of classified information by Mrs. Clinton, her aides and state department officials when she was Secretary of State. ‘ Some of the information in those 4 emails out of 30,000 was classified as ‘secret’ not ’top secret’ - the higher classification. Four out of 30,00. Now, in addition to that four, none were marked as classified when they were sent- and only have subsequently been upgraded to a higher level of security by those doing the investigating.

Reading that 4 out of 30,000 emails had some ‘secret’ information and knowing race tracks in this country are struggling to survive financially what with internet gambling and all- my first thought was ‘Send those investigator folk to the horse racing track’. ‘Let us build up the coffers of the small seasonal race tracks across the country because anybody who is going to go with 4 out of 30,000 as an indication of a larger pattern of irresponsible behavior handling state department emails better have a big fat government pension to fall back on because they are going to be wasting a lot of money at the track. Which is how these race tracks thrive. They would be perfectly comfortable with a horse with 50 to 1 odds.
I wondered what the odds are of haphazard handling secret material if it’s happened 4 out of 30,000 times. I’d like you to sit down now because it might help you out with some of the other odds I’m going to give you.

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A Citizen’s Guide to the  Odds Of Irresponsibility : Get Thee to A Racetrack

-Susan Cook-

 

Thinking ahead to the Kentucky Derby and who’ll win- maybe a woman- I mean a filly and maybe a female jockey atop her or a female atop a colt or a gelding - I was reminded about the odds of picking the right horse in that race. If there are 20 horses in the field- the odds are 1 in 20 or .05. You have to know more than just the odds because if all you have to go on are odds of 1 in 20, you probably won’t pick a winner, even though in 2009 ’Mine that Bird’ won with odds of 50 to 1, or .02, he a gelding - 3 year old stay-home-on-Friday night kind of horse.

I was reading the New York Times article about the last batch of the 30000 emails released that Hillary Clinton received on her private server- while Secretary of State. Out of the 30,000, 4 - ‘prompted intensified scrutiny of the emails for classified information and a referral to the F.B.I. for a review of the handling of classified information by Mrs. Clinton, her aides and state department officials when she was Secretary of State. ‘ Some of the information in those 4 emails out of 30,000 was classified as ‘secret’ not ’top secret’ - the higher classification. Four out of 30,00. Now, in addition to that four, none were marked as classified when they were sent- and only have subsequently been upgraded to a higher level of security by those doing the investigating.

Reading that 4 out of 30,000 emails had some ‘secret’ information and knowing race tracks in this country are struggling to survive financially what with internet gambling and all- my first thought was ‘Send those investigator folk to the horse racing track’. ‘Let us build up the coffers of the small seasonal race tracks across the country because anybody who is going to go with 4 out of 30,000 as an indication of a larger pattern of irresponsible behavior handling state department emails better have a big fat government pension to fall back on because they are going to be wasting a lot of money at the track. Which is how these race tracks thrive. They would be perfectly comfortable with a horse with 50 to 1 odds.

I wondered what the odds are of haphazard handling secret material if it’s happened 4 out of 30,000 times. I’d like you to sit down now because it might help you out with some of the other odds I’m going to give you.

The odds of living to be 100 are .4 - point 4 out of 100 percent or .004.

Let us go to the odds of picking six right numbers in a lottery when you can choose from 1 to 44 and one number out of the 44 is eliminated as soon as you pick it (just like the You-Know-What) -

For the first number- the odds are .022

For the second number- .0232

For the third number- .0238 lower because now you’re picking from 42 numbers.

For the fourth number- the odds are .0243

For the fifth number- .025

For the sixth number- .0256.

The odds you’ll pick all 6 are over one in 5 billion. Sounds like the kind of odds those raising red flags about Secretary of State Hillary Clinton track record on handling ‘secret’ material would go for . Because the odds created when you find 4 emails out of 30,000 which contain ‘secret’ material in those emails are .00013. Point zero, zero, zero one three.

Get thee to the race track and save those little small race tracks if you think those are odds worthy of the big bill taxpayers foot for the investigation. Of course, numbers do not predict the future. Probability and odds are a guess. Think ‘Mine That Bird’. Getting back to the Kentucky Derby, ‘Mine That Bird’ was ridden by Calvin Borel- who knows the Churchill Downs race track better than - I’ll just say it- Hillary Clinton knows the flaws in the security of the government computer system. Which is probably why she got the private server in the first place.

For those who don’t like numbers, it’s simple. Get thee to a race track if you are a retiring government secret discoverer but make sure you know who the rider is.

A Citizen's Guide to Tailoring Moral Outrage

From Susan Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 05:38

I read a column in which the author tried to express what I’m guessing is her moral outrage. I am all for expressing moral outrage. At least it puts it on the table for a free speech kind of discussion. Thinly masked hatred or an incendiary invitation to violence is hate speech and hate speech is hate speech . Expression of moral outrage used for hatred defeats the purpose. The writer linked a congressional representative’s boycott of Prime Minister Netanyahu speech to a joint session of Congress to shunning of Elie Weisel, the author of a twentieth century indictment of the Holocaust who attended the talk and then to pro-choice health policy, abortion, and the Holocaust.

What shapes this kind of moral outrage ?How do we distinguish it from moral outrage never updated by the day-to-day awareness of the moral emotions, shame and empathy? Hatred driven actions -those locked into political policy and the political gamesmanship that goes along with it become hypocrisy- the gap between moral outrage and what actually happens. Expressions of moral outrage that become political hypocrisy tap into a very shameful truth in this country- broad disgust with the political process and complete lack of trust by the public in voting - which some see as our only opportunity to tailor some of that outrage.

The piece excluded any mention of the violence of Israel, how children are treated pre-natally, after birth, or during childhood, in utero, in daycare, in their mothers’ arms, at the grocery store, the fact that Elie Weisel’s attendance at the talk was maybe not out of agreement with everything Netanyahu says but -true progenitor of moral outrage that he is- Weisel’s effort to update his own. To be true to intention, moral outrage needs daily updating.

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A Citizen’s Guide to Tailoring Moral Outrage
-Susan Cook-
 
When I was 15, my Aunt gave me a Singer sewing machine that she saved long and diligently to buy. I still have it and use it. It has never broken.  She gave me a privilege I wouldn’t have without it: the privilege to tailor.  She taught me there is pride in tailoring - something  humanity has always known. 
 
Moral outrage is one of things we humans tailor.  You could spend years studying the developmental origins of moral outrage. How it gets tailored by the person - in degree or presence- is influenced by many things- before birth and after. Trauma during childhood , psychological cruelty, witnessing violence, and experiencing  physical violence play a role.  Moral emotions like shame, empathy and love enter . Pre-natal development  tampered with by drugs , alcohol and malnutrition that change neurological and physical development all have an influence. Abandonment and warehousing of children in multiple poorly supervised  foster home placements play a role. And this only the beginning of the tailoring of moral outrage. 
 
Newspapers daily display how moral outrage is tailored these days. I read a column in which the author tried to express what I’m guessing is  her moral outrage. I am all for expressing moral outrage. At least it puts it on the table for a free speech kind of discussion. Thinly masked hatred or an incendiary invitation to violence is hate speech and hate speech is hate speech . Expression of moral outrage used for hatred defeats the purpose.  The writer linked a congressional representative’s boycott of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s speech to a joint session of Congress to shunning of Elie Weisel, the author of a twentieth century indictment of the Holocaust who attended the talk  and then to pro-choice health policy, abortion, and the Holocaust. 
 
The piece excluded any mention of the  violence of Israel,  how children  are treated pre-natally, after birth,  or during childhood,  in utero, in daycare, in their mothers’ arms, at the grocery store, the fact that Elie Weisel’s attendance at the talk was maybe not out of agreement with everything Netanyahu says but -true progenitor of moral outrage that he is- Weisel’s effort to update his own. To be true to intention, moral outrage needs daily updating. 
 
Moral outrage never updated by the  day-to-day awareness of the moral emotions, shame and empathy and  hatred driven actions-  but  locked into political policy and the political gamesmanship that goes along with it becomes hypocrisy.- the gap between moral outrage and what actually happens.  Expressions of moral outrage that become political hypocrisy tap into a very shameful truth in this country- broad disgust with the political process and complete lack of trust by the public in voting - which some see as our only opportunity to tailor some of that outrage.
 
In my state,  18 to 25 year olds- protectors of moral outrage for future generations- are denied access to government health care- for themselves or pre-natally, at birth and after- or for their children.  There is political hypocrisy  in denying anyone affordable health care this is where moral outrage gets torqued beyond recognition, to lower the state budget or because of money making  profit-driven insurance companies that continue to pay management millions in compensation each year. The obvious exclusions of concern for breathing beings is extensive. Pretending that just because you have signed on to one party or another you  and are thus by association driven by moral emotions- not hatred- and are worthy of the public trust., becomes hypocrisy too. That signing on threatens to send moral outrage the way of public trust in voting-  with a commensurate decline in voicing it . That  interrupts a fundamental  age-old protector of humanity  in this country in very large irreversible ways.

A Citizen's Guide to the Surgical Inoperability of Self-interest from the Political Body

From Susan Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 07:04

The Supreme Court of the United States has decided that Arizona’s 2000 law which created an Independent Commission to determine Congressional Re-districting boundaries is constitutional. Arizona ‘s Legislature wanted it the old way: elected legislators deciding who would be in the pool of voters who elect them by defining the boundaries of voting districts.

The attorneys for the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission argued that returning redistricting to the legislature would be “the loss of the last great hope for addressing partisan gerrymandering.” The attorneys who wanted re-districting to return to the Legislature wrote that “Plenty of options remain for addressing partisan gerrymandering with the ultimate backstop being the ability to vote the gerrymanderers out.” The last great hope in this case is that respect for constituents- citizens- not the injured Arizona Legislature- is what the Supreme Court would protect and they did.

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A Citizen’s Guide to the Surgical Inoperability of Self-interest from the Political Body 
 
The Supreme Court of the United States has decided that Arizona’s 2000 law which created an Independent Commission to determine Congressional Re-districting boundaries  is constitutional. It took a task in running elections away from the Arizona State Legislature. Arizona ‘s  Legislature wanted it  the old way: elected legislators deciding who  would be in the pool of voters who elect them by defining the boundaries of districts.  
The attorneys for the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission argued , among all their other legal arguments,  that returning redistricting to the legislature  would be “the loss of the last great hope for addressing partisan gerrymandering.”  The attorneys who wanted re-districting  to return to the Legislature wrote that “Plenty of options remain for addressing partisan gerrymandering with the ultimate backstop being the ability to vote the gerrymanderers out.” 
The  big question here is: “Is Partisan self-interest surgically inoperable from the partisan political body ?” In Maine, in 2011,  the decision-making of the Re-districting Commission  answered that question with a resounding Yes. 
There are only 2 congressional districts in Maine which makes it easier and more transparent when a redistricting proposal deliberately shifts a district majority for partisan self-serving.  In 2011, the “Republican” commission members suggested a plan to give the Second Congressional District a Republican majority, which happened to equal the number of votes by which the Republican candidate for that Congressional seat lost in  the previous election. 
I confess hear to inadvertently throwing  bait into the constituent feeding frenzy by testifying before the Committee that their efforts to control were like telling the populace, “We didn’t like who you voted for last time so we’re going to give you someone else to vote for”, particularly since their manipulations would move the sitting Congressional Representative for the First Congressional District out of her own district.  This being an international  tactic used by non-democracies.  I chastised  them for disregarding constituents- in  bills to remove same day voter registration- and by electing a Senate President who recorded constituent phone calls intimidating  anyone who thought they  had a legislator to call about legislative matters.  Because I held a minor party officer,  any defense of constituents was suspect. 
Hell hath no fury or dirty behind the scenes activities than a legislator, political operative or  communications director who fears a job loss. If her party gets voted out of office.  “Scurrilious!” “If she can’t give us proof, she has to resign”, the Republicans sputtered. But sniffing some deal making opportunities the Democrats joined in - forgetting that they simultaneously were sending a message to constituents that they were not the most important issue at stake in re-districting.  “She is of no use  to anyone if she can’t prove it.” I was not about to add more targeted bait by disclosing that a Republican forty year friend  had warned me- to protect me-  about calling a certain legislator about a local source of environmental contamination.  
But alas- there is no constituent more important to a politician than him or herself - caught gerrymandering -or criticized- or a party staffer who might lose a job.  Political plums were handed out- one fat salaried federal job for the Commission Chair who had joined in the cry of scurrilious. Which leads me to the serendipitous CAT scan of how Redistricting Commissions really work that this event  revealed. Aside and apart from how the Supreme Court rules on the Arizona  State Legislature vs. the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission case. There is no surgical instrument known to remove the inoperable mass called  self-serving political interest. I waited before I called one of the Democratic legislators who publicly editorialized that I should resign from my volunteer party office if I couldn’t  give proof  for my remarks.  Speed dialing, I said “Do you think I should resign? “ “No“, the legislator said. “You know my proof was corroborated by a respected Republican, don’t you?”. “Yes, I know.”  I didn’t  say “Then why waste the ink, time, public trust  and flagrant libel of me if that you didn’t think I should resign.” Yes, please answer for yourself this question : for the political capital which is cashed in for self-interest at a time of the politician’s choosing. The fury of the gerrymanderer caught gerrymandered is a case study  for the medical annals of what is really going on inside the political body. There are very few constituents in there.
Partisanship as inoperably tied to political self-interest has stayed with me though, after this reality CAT scan of  both kinds of  political bodies because it  showed that  vote grabbing is far more important than regard for constituents.  Thus,  the  last great hope in this case is that respect for constituents- citizens-  not the injured Arizona Legislature- is what the Supreme Court would protect.  And they did.

A Citizen's Guide to the Difference Between Telling the Truth and an Attack

From Susan Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 04:51

I heard Jill Abramson , the former executive editor of the New York Times say recently that since the George W. Bush administration, there have been no less than eight lawsuits against members of the press for disclosing truth from information held in government documents.

Because the truth can change people’s beliefs, we are now in a time when telling it has been raised to the “orange alert” stage- the now unused system for alerting the public to danger. Fourth grade girls knew the truth is threatening in this way all along anyway. But as citizens, we have to ask what we lose when telling the truth is called an attack, something to prevent at all costs and thus beyond the reach of our beliefs because the powers that be don’t want us to hear it. The inner fourth grade girl in all of us is silenced and we are left with whatever the real consequences of the abuse of power are- which getting back to the outcomes history has displayed are often far worse, more damaging because the observers and the people in power who could have stopped those dangers did not have truth on their side or chose to ignore it or pretend that truth telling was an attack rather than act of protection.

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A Citizens Guide to the Difference between Telling the Truth and an “Attack”
-Susan Cook-
Much of the harm that has fallen to the  human race might have been prevented if people had told the truth. Cigarette smoking and lung cancer , carbon emissions and global warming, agent orange and cancer among Vietnam Veterans, and the Holocaust, the Rwandan genocide,  the Armenian genocide and on and on. This does not include truth  telling on the Bernie Madoff scale of course credit swap default derivatives and the economic collapse of 2008.
I suppose we could turn to the Chinese philosophies of Sun Tze for the origins of the belief that deception is central to the art of war which presumes that telling the truth is contrary to successful aggression,  if in fact there is a war in progress. But these days, telling the truth can be cited in the media as an attack. To use the  word “attack” to describe telling the truth is a twenty first century twist on Sun Tze’s fondness for deception.  What do we have on our side if we don’t have the truth? 
But telling the truth as “attack”?  I heard Jill Abramson , the former executive editor of the New York Times  say recently that since the George W. Bush administration, there have been no less than eight lawsuits against members of the press for disclosing truth from information held in government documents.
I suppose on the one hand we could say that national security has now caught up with the social intelligence that fourth and fifth grade girls have mastered.  Paying attention to what is really going on,  telling the truth is very threatening to people in positions of power because part of what power subjugates is what you are willing to believe. How else would women have put up with being paid 69 cents for every dollar than men make for so long unless someone  had led them to believe that discrepancy was justified? Who would ever buy into the idea that one political party or leader or pubic policy is any better than another if belief systems were not what political power holds sway over? Who would ever believe that insurance company CEOs should be paid millions dollars annually unless people in positions of power had led  others to believe it was justified? Belief  levels the power playing field. Believing in the democratic process what keeps people voting and what makes people stop. Without it, unless there are weapons  and physical aggression involved,  power loses its scaffold- the story, the structure that justifies it.
Because the truth can change people’s beliefs, we are now in a time when telling it has been raised to the “orange alert” stage- the now unused system for alerting the public to danger. Fourth grade girls knew the truth is threatening in this way all along anyway. But as citizens, we have to ask  what we lose when telling the truth is called an attack, something to prevent at all costs and thus beyond the reach of our belief s because the powers that be don’t want us to hear it. The inner fourth grade girl in all of us is silenced and we are left with whatever the real consequences of the abuse of power are- which getting back to the outcomes history has displayed are often far worse, more damaging because the observers and the people in power who could have stopped those dangers did not have truth on their side or chose to ignore it or pretend that truth telling was an attack rather than act of protection.

A Citizen's Guide to Voter Fraud

From Susan Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 05:22

Well, we have an enigmatic scandal brewing in my state. Twenty-one ballots- all for a state Senate Republican candidate surfaced inside a sealed ballot box during a recount. In which- before the recount - the Democrat held a slight edge. Now a committee convened by the Republican majority State Senate is to determine if voter fraud happened and who should hold the seat. The naïve assume that only a Republican could do the ballot box stuffing since the ballots would give the Republican a victory. But reality says that winning that one Republican seat would not change the party with the Senate majority and thus leadership power.

Perhaps the committee will consider that this is another favored Democratic strategy- or at least one that’s been used before- called immunization- trying to introduce tarnishing- that can be useful later on.- a strategy at least one Democratic lawyer thought “brilliant.” Republican ballots could have just as easily been placed -post election- in the ballot box by Democrats gloved fingers, to embarrass Republicans by making it look like those old anti-voter fraud Republicans were doing it themselves.

It would not be the first time a political party used deception to create the opposite pubic perception of what has actually happened. In other words, Democrats creating voter fraud to make it look like the kind of voter fraud only Republicans would commit- since the phony votes would make a Republican win. Some things are more important than winning.

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A Citizen’s Guide to Voter  Fraud
Well, we have an enigmatic scandal brewing in my state. Twenty-one ballots- all for a state Senate Republican candidate surfaced inside a sealed ballot box during a recount. In which- before the recount - the Democrat held a slight  edge. Now a committee convened by the Republican majority State Senate is to determine if voter fraud happened and who should hold the seat. The naïve assume that only a Republican could do the ballot box stuffing since the ballots would give the Republican a victory. But reality says that winning that one Republican seat would not change the party with the Senate majority and thus leadership power. 
Perhaps the committee will consider that this is another favored Democratic strategy-  or at least one that’s been used before- called immunization- trying to introduce tarnishing- that can be useful later on.- a strategy at least one Democratic lawyer thought “brilliant.” Republican ballots could have just as easily been placed -post election- in the ballot box by Democrats gloved fingers, to embarrass Republicans by making it look like those old anti-voter fraud Republicans were doing it themselves. 
It would not be the first time  a political party used deception to create the opposite pubic perception of what  has actually happened.  In other words, Democrats creating voter fraud to make it look like the kind of voter fraud only Republicans would commit- since the phony votes would make a Republican win. Some things are more important than winning. 
Undermining the public trust? You bet. But the same strategy of creating a false public perception was heartily suggested by the Communication staff of the Democrats to tarnish a Democratic officer the Republicans were annoyed with. If the Democratic staff sent damaging editorial letters about the Democrat- who would guess they were the product of the staff of the Democrats? As was said at the time, if the Democrat staff starts  demeaning at the same time as the Republicans, who would know where it came from? The only problem was, the Republicans stopped. The Democrats’ staffers didn’t. 
Deception of the public trust is on a continuum. Plagiarism-  taking something off the Internet and pretending you wrote it- is on one end. At the other- end is  voter fraud- stuffing ballot boxes. Stuffing ballot boxes to give the perception that only a Republican could  do it is another level of corruption entirely.  Deception corrupts one deception at a time. Even  the one-size-fits-all blanket for covering up deception - the hush job or spousal hush job -this being where the person who knows the most ( or rather can embarrass the most) )is suddenly the best candidate for the job- does not make the corruptive influence of deception go away. 
In my state, some 20 years ago, voter fraud  and deception of the public trust was committed the old-fashioned way by two staffers climbing in through a state house window during  recount and stuffing ballots with their party‘s candidate in the box. Those staffers had the most to gain if their party stayed in power- their jobs..
Let us not forget the immunization called Watergate when burglars entered the Democratic National Headquarters to steal information. Deceptively- yes- but in a straightforward way. They worked for the Republicans. 
But times have changed . Public relations isn’t just about creating a public image now. The internet allows manipulation of public image to make it look like it came from someplace else entirely. That’s a new level of deception of the public. Like creating the perception of Republican fraudsters who are in fact Democrats who sacrifice the win for -even better- the deceit.  That’s what internet-age communication staffers do.
It is just as deceitful. And dishonest as the old Watergate-kind. And just as much de-frauding the public trust and our democracy as ever.

How Corporations Become People: A Citizen's Guide

From Susan Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 03:50

There is a demand in this country that corporations acknowledge that they are not people. Until corporations wake up one morning, and say, “I‘m really not a person“ ,they can begin acting like a good person. Here are just some of the many ways: bringing milk to all of Coca Cola's existing ends of the earth distribution spots, calm to shopping in Wal-mart, and the nutrition of parsley at McDonald's to children’s skin and bones.

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When Corporations Become People: A Citizen's Guide
-Susan Cook-
There is a demand in this country that corporations acknowledge  that they are not people.  Until that happens, how  about corporations acting like a person. 
Coca-Cola may be trying to act like a person by selling their new, lactose-free, protein supplemented  milk. Anyone who has ever had the opportunity to travel to the extreme ends of the earth knows that just before you get there, there will be a building with an emaciated flea-bitten dog lying on the steps, and some barefoot, wide-eyed skin and bones children watching you go by,  that has a very visible Coca-cola sign. 
Now, maybe, Coca-cola as a person sees they might  help reduce world malnutrition by replacing the sugar-loaded, empty-calorie,  brown liquid available in almost every single country in the world with  high-protein, high calcium, easy to digest milk. That‘s  a good person, worrying about world-wide malnutrition.
McDonald’s could be a good person - for human nutrition if they added one quarter cup of parsley or carrots or vegetables to every meat and poultry product they sell. With Vitamin A and calcium, McDonald’s could address the vegetable eating problem among growing children and nutritionally bankrupt adults.  By now, McDonald’s the person must realize the food served there shapes what children who eat there think tastes good or bad. That’s a good person, worrying about children eating vegetables which parsley is. 
At Wal-mart  there is a live demonstration of the fractured politics of this country.  Where else can you see people kept poor by paying them so little but made to  them feel better by selling them cheaply almost everything they want- besides financial stability. Among other things, when you go to Wal-mart there is also  a good chance you’ll  see example after example of parent-child interactions at their worst. Many children refuse to sit silently in an uncomfortable metal shopping cart while their parents spend a long time shopping. Often you’ll see parents make them more distressed by threatening punishment in the car or at home for not sitting quietly.
Wal-mart the person can help.  On the handle or side of  every  shopping cart, Wal-mart could display parenting tips for entertaining children while shopping.  Children like to do many, many things beside sitting in shopping carts.  Here is a starter list for Wal-mart the person: Songs to sing with child, Recommendations: like count things, watch for colors, tell stories. This doesn’t include slight shopping cart adaptations. Why not little picture  or puzzle books? Made from plastic, like Wal-mart the corporation likes.
Horrible parent-child shopping experiences are as preventable, as malnutrition and vegetable avoidance. While we wait for corporations to wake up one morning, and say, “I‘m really not a person“ ,they can begin acting like a good person, bringing milk to all their existing ends of the earth distribution spots, calm to shopping, and the nutrition of parsley to children’s skin and bones.

A Citizen's Guide to the Ethics of Facebook

From Susan Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 04:57

The ethical challenge for Facebook has been to re-create the ethics of community where there are real consequences for using information in a destructive way within the community. Facebook as not yet figured out what those should be and why they are not trivial to prevent.

The cyber person is not the same as the real person in the real community who knows the translation of “do unto others” .

Facebook is a long way from translating these ethics of community into ethics for the cyber world.

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The Ethics of Facebook
-Susan Cook-
I went on Facebook today to try  to block information sharing, what people can acquire and take with them in their apps if  you are linked to them. I wanted nothing to be shared. The instructions to do that are the most ambiguous  blocking instructions ever- in a section where there are a series of “categories” of information that you do not want someone who has an app linked to your account to share. What is left out of the instruction is whether you have to check the box or leave it unchecked to not have the information shared. Wouldn’t you think the first verb in the instructions  would be “check” or “uncheck”?
My thought is do not put the person who wrote that sentence in charge of nuclear war button instructions. But that brought to mind the ethics of Face book and their problems. Information can be nuclear war  in fact,  these days- it is the preferred approach or deterrent. Mark Zuckerberg and his friends  seem to have a short-sightedness kind of like  the physicists who invented the atomic bomb who did not see its capacity for unparalleled destructiveness. Einstein did. 
The unethical destructiveness of information used to be tempered by  community or in the absence of community an understanding that even the people who wrote the Bill of Rights had. People have a right to privacy.
Facebook by using the word” friends” to describe those you let in gives the illusion of community but it lacks the ability to temper or provide the ethical mediation that a real community has. Because it’s cyber- not real-  it doesn’t really temper. 
The ethical challenge for Facebook has been to re-create the ethics of community where there are real consequences for using information in a destructive way. within the community.  Facebook certainly doesn’t get harmed or feel the consequences. They have not yet figured out  what those should be and why they are not trivial to prevent.  We can’t just blame the Mark Zuckerbergs of the world because using information destructively is glibly accepted as part of our culture, certainly our political culture,  in “gotcha politics”. 
In a recent Congressional race, the candidate hired as a spokesperson a staffer who at one point had made her primary agenda searching for destructive information she could use to harm another person. She stood in front of a major gathering of possible supporters of the candidate and mentioned trying to find the married name of an individual she was focused on tarnishing. And the political party paid her to do it. No one batted an eye. 
So if Facebook has a big blind spot so don’t “gotcha” politicians and their hired hands. who do not see how using information destructively( to tarnish, harm, humiliate) undermines community and certainly at times,  destroys it. 
In rural areas, community is a saving grace because the people you are trying to harm today may be the people who you need to stop and help when you have a flat tire, tomorrow, when emergency road-side services are one hundred miles away. Cyber communities will never do that . Yes they can send a message but the members of them can disappear in a second and will not be driving by you the next day.  They can be as far away as they like. 
The cyber person stopping to help if is not the same as the real person in the real community who knows the translation of “do unto others” is they might need roadside assistance tomorrow.
Facebook is a long way from translating these ethics of community into ethics for the cyber world. 
Let’s hope Facebook and “gotcha politics” for that matter catch up with the ethics of community, and stop pretending they are good candidates to be the “spokesperson” . Their blind spot about the  destructive use of information undermines  communities and  the privacy the game-changer politicians who wrote the Bill of Rights were talking about.

A Citizen's Guide to Political Amnesia

From Susan Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 04:30

Political amnesia comes on when political polarization begins as it has with President Obama’s recent executive order about immigration. So, President Obama reminded everyone that changing Immigration policy has been on the table for many, many years and Congress, has preferred to dicker rather than pass a bill. So, the President chose to use Presidential authority, to selectively decide which undocumented immigrants will or will not be the focus of deportation. He has been met with arrogant partisan finger-pointing and bullying which we all now have to listen to.

Here’s where the political amnesia comes in. According to the New York Times, the venerable Ronald Reagan granted amnesty to selectively not deport about 3 million then 100,000 more undocumented immigrants by executive order. In 1990, George Bush granted amnesty to 40% of the undocumented immigrants in this country by executive order. President Obama’s action gives safety to 45% of the undocumented immigrants here. So, what’s with the political amnesia that makes his executive amnesty a target of arrogant Republican bullying?

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Citizen’s Guide to Political Amnesia
-Susan Cook-
Political amnesia comes on when political polarization  begins as it has with President Obama’s recent executive order about immigration. So, President Obama reminded everyone that changing Immigration policy has been on the table for many, many years and Congress, has preferred to dicker rather than pass a bill. So, the President chose to use Presidential authority, to selectively decide which undocumented immigrants will or will not be the focus of deportation. He has been met with arrogant partisan finger-pointing and bullying which we all now have to listen to. 
Here’s where the political amnesia comes in. According to the New Yor k Times, the venerable Ronald Reagan granted amnesty  to selectively not deport about 3 million then by executive order 100,000 more undocumented immigrants. In 1990, George Bush granted amnesty to 40% of the undocumented immigrants in this country by executive order. President Obama’s action gives safety to 45% of the undocumented immigrants here. So, what’s with the political amnesia that makes his executive amnesty a target of arrogant Republican bullying?
Political amnesia only exists when we the public let it, by, um, not saying anything. And it exists at all levels of the political structure.
I almost fell off my leftist perch when I read in the newspaper that the newly elected chair of one of my state’s political party’s said he would return the party to is progressive grass roots. Political amnesia raised its sad  head when he banked  on everyone forgetting  the actions of the same party during the Iraq War. Wars bring anti-war activists back into the mainstream political party folds in the hopes that someone will do something, like end the war.
Political amnesia has set in because what has been forgotten is that the cream of the progressive, intelligent anti-war activists were unceremoniously gutted from their committee memberships just a few short years ago. They had dared- remember they didn’t like the Iraq War- to collect signatures to put an anti-Iraq War candidate on the ballot for a Congressional seat. After years of Democrats trying to convince the Green Party that really the Democrats were their proper place, the Green party founder who had given this political party a good try- and the national field representative for the most progressive Presidential candidate in years were both publicly and summarily thrown off the leadership committee. 
There was political amnesia big time then. But it is now, with this new vision of inclusion that political amnesia brings on forgetting what was all too recently done away with. Political amnesia is not the same as “gotcha” in politics because in “gotcha” everything that can possibly be remembered is. It really does fall to the public to speak- I suppose you can call it speaking truth to power- to ask and announce if need be. Don’t you remember what your predecessor did ? The Ronald Reagan, the George Bush, the party chair publicly creating what you now have to imagine never happened  and by virtue of that undoing  the profound good already done about immigration and undoing the profound ridiculousness of ousting a Green Party founder and a progressive leader  who just may not now have political amnesia or crave it quite as  badly as you do at this moment. 

Referendums on Arrogance- A Citizen's Guide

From Susan Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 05:14

In politics, arrogance can be hired, purchased or -in volunteer organizations- a gratuity that comes with volunteer labor.- or elected. In Maine , the incumbent Governor who was re-elected on Tuesday certainly had very public moments of arrogance. But voters decided - on Tuesday-alongside their bond referendums- who had less arrogance. They decided he had less- 48 to 44%.

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In my state, there will be vast humming and hah-ing and ahem-ing about the  failure of millions of dollars spent by Democrats to elect a Governor, a 2nd CD House of Representatives member, to keep the State Senate majority and the previously  solid majority in the Maine House. So  exactly what referendum did the millions spent convince voters to pass? It was a referendum on arrogance.
Not the arrogance of  big ostentatious displays of wealth or aloof elitism. We don’t really have that here in Maine. Let us not forget the down-to-earth unpretentious  humanitarian care of the late physician and philanthropist Richard Rockefeller and  of course, you-know-who’s husband. 
No, this referendum was about the arrogance  communicated in 140 characters, sound bites, face book entries and video-tape, when available. 
Maine legislature members seem to have forgotten that while they were busy trying to read, grasp and vote on bills, their activities were televised every evening on public broadcasting. So, when a representative sheepishly presented a bill to give the attorney general (instead of the Executive branch) the power to set the salaries of Assistant Attorney Generals, we all could watch it  and other bills in the evening.  
They seem to forget that their campaign for office was ongoing and summarized on twitter feeds  by the State House Communications staff in 140 characters. On those State House  twitter feeds, negativity, the contemptuous dismissive, lack of consideration for the other side’s view are common.  That’s the campaigning that was being done for legislators while they were busy doing other things. “Bad CEO” one tweet’s hash tag.
Which arrogance? The kind in the decision by the Democrats to hire an expensive videographer to follow the Governor around so they would have “proof” if he made a  gaffe.  No political party “owns“ civil liberties. The Governor stood up for his right to be free from intrusive surveillance.  He refused to meet with Legislative leaders until they stopped. Then more arrogance in the Senate President’s offer to “break bread” with the Governor and his wife to sort things out- as if the insult from the videotaping was just a matter of filling tummies. Even the solidly anti-Lepage-ists found the video-taped surveillance over-reaching.  It didn’t matter whose Democratic frontal lobe the idea came from. Every single Democratic legislator carried a chip of that arrogance on the shoulder  by their silent acceptance. 
Then there was the violation of the ancient Stonehenge-era ritual of never, ever taking sides in a Democratic party primary because the rules that the party grass roots spend hours and hours making regulate fairness. The rule was ignored in the 2nd Congressional primary race and probably was paid for in the loss of Democratic base voters. 
Words from Washington were also tinged with arrogance- in their disregard for substance, sensitivity and respect.
The day after the Aurora Colorado tragedy one Congressional chief-of-staff posted: “I just got a pedicure!”  Many, many Americans sent the day, night, weeks ahead  praying. After the Newtowne school tragedy, one Congressman publicly pronounced that he  didn’t think it was time to talk about gun control.
Entitlement to arrogance can be hired, purchased or -in volunteer organizations- a gratuity that comes with volunteer labor.  Did the incumbent Governor who was re-elected have arrogant moments? He certainly did.  But voters decided - on Tuesday-alongside their bond referendums- who had less arrogance. They decided he had less- 48 to 44%. 

A Citizen's Guide to the "Fear of Gotcha" in American Political Life

From Susan Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 06:04

In the 1950’s and 1960’s American citizens and the stalwart among them who were brave enough to run for political office had to learn to live with the “red scare”. The “red scare” was a manufactured and sometimes elaborately embellished accusation that a politician or a citizen was a communist. In a word that meant “horrible” and willing to sacrifice every liberty and freedom we enjoyed. These days, “red scare-ing” has been replaced in political life by “gotcha” and “fear of gotcha” ”Gotcha” you may remember is the “fruit” of the intensive effort in politics to identify -hey, in the information age, “information” about a candidate or officeholder or political operative that can be cast as dirty, nefarious, some tiny window into the heart of darkness that beats inside an individual previously seen as pure and good who also happens to be in or running for office or working for someone who is. Usually, the “gotcha” obtained has nothing to do with or is irrelevant to the tasks or dignity and respect involved in holding political office.

Red-scare-ing changed the political landscape and turned political life into far more of a looking over one’s shoulder activity than was necessary or productive or useful on the taxpayer’s dollar. These days “gotcha” or rather “fear of gotcha” threatens to do the same thing- if it has not already.
What remains most important is how the officeholders do the job, their respect for this democracy and their constituents and their ability to resist the temptations of power- i.e. the abuse of it.

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A Citizen’s Guide to  “Fear of Gotcha” in American Political Life
-Susan Cook-
In the 1950’s and 1960’s  American citizens and the stalwart among them who were brave enough to run for political office had to learn with to live with the “red scare”. The “red scare” was a manufactured and sometimes elaborately embellished accusation that a politician or a citizen was a communist. In a word  that meant “horrible” and willing to sacrifice every liberty and freedom we enjoyed. The close ally of red-scare-ing was that the person was a spy for the communists.  The culmination, perhaps, of this red scare-ing  were the televised “McCarthy hearings in which the viewing public was brought in  on the fear-mongering to watch American citizens be questioned during Senate hearings as to their “red-ness” by Senator Joseph McCarthy. 
These days, “red scare-ing” has been replaced in political life by “gotcha” and  “fear of gotcha” ”Gotcha” you may remember  is the “fruit” of the intensive effort in politics to identify -hey, in the information age, “information” about a candidate or officeholder or political operative that can be cast as dirty, nefarious, some tiny window into the heart of darkness that beats inside an individual previously seen as  pure and good who also happens to be in or running for office or working for someone who is. Usually, the “gotcha”  obtained has nothing to do  with or is irrelevant to the tasks or dignity and respect involved in holding political office.
Red-scare-ing changed the political landscape and turned political life into far more of a looking over one’s shoulder activity than was necessary or productive or useful  on the  taxpayer’s  dollar. These days  “gotcha” or rather “fear of gotcha” threatens to do the same thing- if it has not already. Politicians, elected or running are not terrorists. But  the prevalence of “fear of gotcha” would lead one to think they are- hearkening back to another day they are communists.
What remains most important is how the officeholders do the job, their respect for this democracy and their constituents and their ability to resist the temptations of power- i.e. the abuse of it.
But “fear of gotcha”  and preemptive gotcha has probably distracted  and diverted more or as much money and attention from the real business of holding office than  well- the “red scare-ing” did in the 50’s. 
The disturbing reality is no one’s complaining about the pursuer of the “gotcha“. No one’s complaining that the inalienable truths of office holding are put on the back burner because staffers are busy trying to find  “gotcha”- information spun in a nefarious way. Fear of gotcha is the accepted mindless mindset.  As a matter of fact, there is even an air of entitlement to the production of “fear of gotcha” After all, the “gotcha” information producer is…producing.. Um.. What…um.  Yeah, what does “fear of gotcha” produce? Well , it undermines community- Who can you trust-  it infuses politics with suspicion and yes maliciousness, entitlement to hate or strongly dislike, just because somebody got involved with the political process and  became the target of someone else’s “gotcha”. In other words, it does nothing but create more fear of gotcha. 
Putting an end to fear of gotcha means stepping up and doing something unusual in American politics which might just stop the corrupting influence of fear of gotcha. And what would that be? First of all, don’t pay staff  to do it or do it yourself. Second,  re-direct re-direct  back to the truth about the character and skills politicians need to be good officeholders  who don’t abuse power . If politicians sign onto that and do it, fear of gotcha might become like red-scare-ing : a historical artifact, quaint, legal, but completely obsolete . 

A Citizen's Guide to the Difference Between the Truth and "Gotcha" in "Gotcha politics"

From Susan Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 04:45

If Woodward and Bernstein and Ben Bradlee had gone for the “gotcha” instead of the truth, the cost would have been the truth. The integrity that Watergate returned to American politics might never happened. There’s no “gotcha” in that. That’s history and the story of the disappearance of candidates with integrity who fall by the wayside because of a Director of New Media, short-sighted journalist or political party operative who are best versed in the “gotcha” and not in the integrity that the truth bring. Let' us pay a little more attention to the difference between the truth and the “gotcha” in “gotcha” politics.

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A Citizens’ Guide to the Difference Between the Truth and “Gotcha Politics”
Recently, a Maine newspaper published an article  reporting that  a legislative candidate  who wrote on the occupation line “physician” and signed  her name  with an MD after it was  “not licensed as a Physician in the state of Maine”.  Even “Ask.com"   clarifies  that graduating from medical school allows the person the designation “physician” and  an MD after her name even  if she does not  choose to become or remain licensed.  
This individual is not  currently licensed in Maine but graduated from a reputable medical school, completed an internship and a residency. There are thousands of retired MDs in Maine who have retired and are not or have never been licensed here or have had their licenses not renewed because of an illness or disability but would still say their occupation is “Physician”  and use MD after their name. who would  not claim to be “licensed physicians”. After all, taking the Hippocratic Oath  implies, but doesn’t insure, integrity. 
After several exchanges, the journalist  refused to acknowledge that the candidate was not “purporting” to be an MD physician but actually  had earned that designation. Or that writing next to “Occupation”, “physician “ is substantially different than publicly claiming to be employed  as a licensed physician. She refused to publish my public rebuttal . The journalist appeared to be playing  “Gotcha” politics. 
“Gotcha politics “are those where political party caucus directors  or political parties  pay “as much as they have to” to do background checks on or track and videotape candidates, opponents or other  suspected  decriers of their agenda so , you know, if there’s a “gotcha” moment, they’ll be the first to get it.  At times, they’ll even join forces with the “other” party to amp up the “gotcha”.   All toward the end of  meeting political goals, “throwing out” or “throwing in”  or  for paid staffers, keeping their jobs.
“Gotcha politics” grab the nefarious  meaning from a fact before they even know the facts.  There are political writers everywhere who live for the “gotcha“. “A  rambling, slurring..lunatic” the New Media Director on the payroll of a prominent Senator  wrote about a woman testifying at a public hearing, none of which as true. 
In the days of Watergate,  the late  Ben Bradlee, the editor of the Washington Post, and the  two young reporters  Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein uncovered the truth about the presidency of Richard Nixon  and resisted the  “gotcha” political moment.  There was no leaping to the chase scene in the reporting with a “gotcha agenda“. The truth unfolded over time that, yes,  the presidency of Richard Nixon was brimming with a completely  inappropriate intermingling of political financing and  government responsibility.
If  Woodward and Bernstein and Ben Bradlee had gone for the “gotcha” instead of the truth, the cost would have been the truth.  The integrity that Watergate returned to American politics  might never happened. There’s no “gotcha” in that. That’s history and the story of the disappearance of candidates with integrity who fall by the wayside because of  a Director of New Media,  short-sighted journalist  or political party operative who are best versed in the “gotcha” and not in the integrity that the truth bring. That’s the difference between the truth and the “gotcha” in “gotcha politics".

What the Truth Costs: An Advanced Citizen's Guide

From Susan Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 11:09

When we see the tools of discrediting the truth happily taken on, now or in history- we might say this. The cost of the truth is, it turns out, the truth.

I attended a conference recently about “Exploring Women’s Testimony: Genocide, War, revolution, The Holocaust and Human Rights”. After hearing how those things might be connected, it occurred to me hat maybe an advanced Citizens Guide to what the truth costs would be helpful. The truth comes at a high cost but the cost exacted varies from culture to culture, person to person, time, and context. The cost can be measured by its consequence. It can be measured by the intricacy, the arduous effort put into discrediting the speaker. This is what the conference was about.

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What the Truth Costs: An Advanced Citizen's Guide

I attended a conference recently about “Exploring Women’s Testimony: Genocide, War, revolution, The Holocaust and Human Rights”. After hearing how those things might be connected, it occurred to me hat maybe an advanced Citizens Guide to what the truth costs would be helpful.  The truth comes at a high cost but the cost exacted varies from culture to culture, person to person, time, and context.  The cost can be measured by its consequence. It can be measured by the intricacy, the arduous effort put into discrediting the speaker. This is what the conerence was about.
A notable cost of telling the truth with broad humanitarian consequence came from  Sigmund Freud. In the late 19th century when he was developing his psychoanalytic techniques, he saw many women who were diagnosed as “hysterics” (what would know be diagnosed as an anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder). Almost all, disclosed that they had been sexually abused by a close relative. “Blame was laid on perverse acts by the father” Freud wrote to his confidante. He wrote a paper called “The Aetiology of Hysteria” in 1896 which he also presented at his “local” Society of Psychiatry and Neurology”. His colleagues were unimpressed by what Freud called the Seduction Theory because it implied that sexual abuse of female children was widespread in Victorian culture. Freud wrote “Perversion would have to immeasurably more frequent than hysteria.” A big-wig colleague Kraft-Ebbing called it a “scientific fairy tale”. Some months later, Freud  wrote that he had caved to the opinion of his male contemporaries  and abandoned his theory based  on his previous view that women were telling him the truth. Instead, he wrote  that they couldn’t tell the difference between truth and emotionally charged fiction because what the sexually abused women were telling him was a product of his new concept “the unconscious”.
Thus, the credibility of the patient in psychotherapy was handed over to the therapist whose job became distinguishing fact from fiction (or fantasy) rather than accompanying the patient in disclosure.
It took many years for psychotherapy to regain in its footing as a process in which credibility and authenticity of of the patient was acknowledged. Michael White the Austrailian theorist developed Narrative Therapy in which re-authoring by the patient of the personal narrative and thus the restoration of the truth of the person’s life is key. But, “passion” or “unconscious feeling”, the vocabulary of the fairy-tale, stirred up in the unconscious had entered the language, the culture. Emotion as coming from a part of the person separate from the part of the person who tells the truth had  been established. The idea that passion was something not compatible with the continuum of truth had begun if not validated by Freud’s work. 
The cost to the women whose truth Freud abandoned is not known. How many died or spent their lives in institutions is lost to history. Sigmund Freud himself refused to absorb the cost of their truth. He made a theory more palatable to his colleagues in which  women were not believed and the prevalence of sexual abuse in his culture ignored.
The cost of telling the truth is unpredictable. It is also dependent on  the time. At the 1964 Democratic National Convention, an all white Credentials Committee held a hearing to decide whether to seat an alternate Mississippi delegation instead of the white delegation the state Democratic Party had elected. The Mississippi Independence party had elected an African-American delegation that reflected the concerns and momentum of the civil rights movement. Fanny Lou Hamer the Mississippi Civil Rights leader testified and told the truth about police brutality toward civil rights protesters and the denigration of African-Americans through racial segregation. She described  her beating at the hands of law enforcement. Before this white prim, proper committee, her testimony was eloquent, compelling, graphic and true. But for those who did not like what she said, the seeds of the stereotype of emotion overtaking truth-telling, a woman with no filter, brassy, attention-seeking, and of course, harkening back to Freud,  possibly lying and thus lacking credibility.
Even President Lyndon Johnson was nervous about the truth of Fanny Lou Hamer and promptly called a press conference about a very minor legislative issue, to distract the television network  who then interrupted their broadcast of the Convention and her testimony to broadcast the Presidents remarks. The Credentials Committee voted not to seat the Mississippi Independence Committee and yes, some blamed Fanny Lou Hamer not because she told the truth. She told it too well, with passion.  But she was out-of-turn.  She had too much brass. She was an African-American woman. Looking for attention. The truth’s cost was what Fanny Lou Hamer endured . 
Passion remains a subtle underground code word in political circles for dismissing someone’s credibility - and to put the brakes on further inquiry of whether or not its true. (Yes, please hearken back to  Professor Freud  to remind us that what  passion really means is the words spoken  may be the prelude to fantasy or fiction).
In my state, recently in our revered tourist-enticing national publication Downeast  in an issue  with a cover photo of Martha Stewart (aka convicted felon), they re-published an editorial from a small local newspaper. The editorial appeared over a Labor  Day weekend and was a collaborative effort from the local Democrats, and one miffed independent at the urging of the party chair’s paid staff. There was no claim of authorship . It was after all Labor Day weekend and the usual filters of  “civility” weren’t in place. 
The editorial denounced the testimony of a Democratic party officer at a Congressional re-districting hearing because she criticized the committee as part of a larger effort to discredit constituents by moving entire voting districts, eliminating same-day voter registration and  exemplified by a higher up operative from the “other” party who intimidated constituents’  by recording their phone calls. The editorial denounced the testimony as an “antic”, demanding her resignation unless she showed proof. The editorial accused her of flouting  conspiracy theories, “unfounded imputations”  “her loose cannon” damaging her party “ by “impugning others”, dragging her party into “a sandbox spat”, “”sullying the discussion with “inappropriate mudslinging.”  All in  these big Ivy League words  (Anybody know what impugn means?) The Editorial demanded her resignation unless she provided “proof”.  The male “higher up” was never asked for proof. 
It takes  a lot more than proof to undo what the truth costs.  History has shown that the truth’s cost- born for generations- beginning with the sexually abused female patients of Freud and continuing  with the welts and broken bones and scars of Fanny Lou Hamer- has never been paid off simply by providing proof.
In the Downeast reprint case, the woman did not resign her volunteer position or show more proof. And sure enough one and one half years later when her tenure in the volunteer officer position ended, the leader of the party extended gratitude  prefacing remarks  by saying “I know you bring a lot of passion to this work…”
Clearly, these  3 incidents are in totally different times and contexts. The Editorial and the Downeast reprint intended a bigger consequence then the situation in any way, shape or form warranted. But when we see the tools of discrediting the truth happily taken on,  now or in history- we might say this. The cost of the truth is, it turns out, the truth. If you listen hard enough, you can hear today the consequence of Freud’s  failure to believe his female sexually abused patients, you can feel  Fanny Lou Hamer’s wounds without demanding proof that her scars were a result of beatings from law enforcement.
And if you have any questions about the Editorial Downeast Magazine reprinted, you can leave a message, because the person the editorial was written about was me.

What the Truth Costs: A Citizen's Guide

From Susan Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 04:23

The truth can be our moral antidote, our moral medicine, the vitamin that- yes, if someone is trying to tell us that nine dollars and something is a living wage when it's really ten dollars and something that is a living wage- keeps us alive and human.

The recent deaths of journalists James Foley and Stephen Sotloff reminds us that the truth remains very, very powerful. It can be exploited, spun, distorted and taken away . No truth is self-evident . These fallen journalists were its witness and prover, its protector, its deeply aggrieved mourner because someone was trying to diminish it and yes, we too are all of things.

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What the Truth Costs: A Citizen’s Guide
-Susan Cook-
The cost of the truth is not tied to inflation. It’s tied to tolerance, inversely. The more tolerance that exists, the lower the price paid for the truth. In places where there is little tolerance, the price of the truth is very, very high, impossibly high at times. Witness the beheading of James Foley and Stephen Sotloff, whose exclusive purpose was to bear witness to the truth where it lives. Nazi death camps would not have been tolerated if there were journalists who could bear witness to what happened in them. There would not be thousands of children whose history of molestation by religious clergy was kept secret if there were journalists bear witness. Yes, there are many many examples of loss, exploitation, tragedy that would have been avoided or made less harmful by journalists telling others about them. Yes, there are shades of gray.  Yes, sometimes it is personal. The truth is an antidote to inhumanity but it is only an antidote if it is valued.  
Creating a culture, a conversation, an organization, a context, even a family in which telling the truth is available to everyone or given a chance to surface  is extremely difficult. We see liberties taken with the truth  words create every single day. When politicians hire spokespersons, they don’t hire the one who is best at telling the truth. They hire the best spinner, the one who will distort until everyone in the room has spinning nystagmus. I heard  a politician (and a lawyer) call a gross spinner  brilliant one time. How is it that this culture has forgotten that it is very very easy to lie? How is it that the liar and the distorter are more highly valued in Congress and political circles than the person who says this is what happened, this is what it‘s like. I heard a politician  talking about raising the minimum wage and complaining that the other politicians wouldn’t accept nine  dollars and something an hour “to compromise”  instead of the ten dollars and something  cents that other legislators want since that’s the truth about what it needs to be to cover costs of living. She wanted the other politicians to  compromise the truth. We are a culture in which politicians tout compromise in Congress as valuable but really what they value is no one noticing when they compromise the truth.
Former President Bill Clinton is still seen favorably by the American public, despite his very public lying. He then very publicly demonstrated  that the truth would be his personal antidote not to everything but  to the offensive. The truth can be our moral medicine, the vitamin that- yes, if it’s ten something per hour that is a living wage- not nine - keeps us alive and human. 
The animalistic killing of these journalists reminds us that the truth remains very, very powerful. It can be exploited, spun, distorted and taken away . No truth is self-evident . These fallen journalists were its witness and prover, its protector, its deeply aggrieved mourner because someone was trying to  diminish it and yes,  we too are all of things. 

What the Truth Costs : A Citizen's Guide

From Susan Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 04:23

The cost of the truth is not tied to inflation. It’s tied to tolerance, inversely. The more tolerance that exists, the lower the price paid for the truth. In places where there is little tolerance, the price of the truth is very, very high, impossibly high at times. Witness the beheading of James Foley and Stephen Sotloff, whose exclusive purpose was to bear witness to the truth where it lives. The truth can be our moral antidote, a medicine, the vitamin that- yes, keeps us alive and human.

The truth remains very, very powerful. It can be exploited, spun, distorted and taken away . No truth is self-evident . These fallen journalists were its witness and prover, its protector, its deeply aggrieved mourner because someone was trying to diminish it and yes, we too are all of things.

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What the Truth Costs: A Citizen’s Guide
-Susan Cook-
The cost of the truth is not tied to inflation. It’s tied to tolerance, inversely. The more tolerance that exists, the lower the price paid for the truth. In places where there is little tolerance, the price of the truth is very, very high, impossibly high at times. Witness the beheading of James Foley and Stephen Sotloff, whose exclusive purpose was to bear witness to the truth where it lives. Nazi death camps would not have been tolerated if there were journalists who could bear witness to what happened in them. There would not be thousands of children whose history of molestation by religious clergy was kept secret if there were journalists bear witness. Yes, there are many many examples of loss, exploitation, tragedy that would have been avoided or made less harmful by journalists telling others about them. Yes, there are shades of gray.  Yes, sometimes it is personal. The truth is an antidote to inhumanity but it is only an antidote if it is valued.  
Creating a culture, a conversation, an organization, a context, even a family in which telling the truth is available to everyone or given a chance to surface  is extremely difficult. We see liberties taken with the truth  words create every single day. When politicians hire spokespersons, they don’t hire the one who is best at telling the truth. They hire the best spinner, the one who will distort until everyone in the room has spinning nystagmus. I heard  a politician (and a lawyer) call a gross spinner  brilliant one time. How is it that this culture has forgotten that it is very very easy to lie? How is it that the liar and the distorter are more highly valued in Congress and political circles than the person who says this is what happened, this is what it‘s like. I heard a politician  talking about raising the minimum wage and complaining that the other politicians wouldn’t accept nine  dollars and something an hour “to compromise”  instead of the ten dollars and something  cents that other legislators want since that’s the truth about what it needs to be to cover costs of living. She wanted the other politicians to  compromise the truth. We are a culture in which politicians tout compromise in Congress as valuable but really what they value is no one noticing when they compromise the truth.
Former President Bill Clinton is still seen favorably by the American public, despite his very public lying. He then very publicly demonstrated  that the truth would be his personal antidote not to everything but  to the offensive. The truth can be our moral medicine, the vitamin that- yes, if it’s ten something per hour that is a living wage- not nine - keeps us alive and human. 
The animalistic killing of these journalists reminds us that the truth remains very, very powerful. It can be exploited, spun, distorted and taken away . No truth is self-evident . These fallen journalists were its witness and prover, its protector, its deeply aggrieved mourner because someone was trying to  diminish it and yes,  we too are all of things. 

A Citizen's Guide to the Shallow and Inconsiderate in American Public Political Discourse

From Susan Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 04:21

The public officials and the political candidates who shape public discourse through the impulsive and shallow convey far more about their ethics than any policy platform could. When their messaging offends and its shallowness is revealed, recognizing it is a first step in returning some level of trust in public officials and political process. Come to think of it, the shallow, the quick, the inconsiderate may have a lot to do with the depletion of trust in our government structures that we currently live with. Thus, this citizen's guide.

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A Citizen’s Guide to the Shallow and Inconsiderate in Public Political Discourse
-Susan Cook-
We all know the shallow and inconsiderate in American public political discourse when we hear it . It’s not a sound bite. It is a choice of words, a comment or retort made by a public official or candidate for office, either spontaneously or  because someone is trying to satisfy the media’s demand for reply. There are many column inches to fill with the quick, shallow and inconsiderate utterances by public officials or candidates for two reasons: an abundance and a deprivation in American political discourse. There is an abundance of entitlement to fill  the public’s appetite with whatever thoughtless impulsiveness pops into mind. There is a deprivation of careful, considered , um, thinking about the issue at hand in favor of impulsive thoughtlessness that pops into their minds. Either of these can pinch hit for the other and deliver the quick, shallow and inconsiderate.  
After the recent devastating gun related tragedies in this country, sensitivity in using words about gun use is a priority. After the Aurora, Colorado shootings, the Newtown, Connecticut massacre,  the Ferguson, Missouri shooting of an unarmed African-American and indeed any of the episodes of gun related devastation, public political figures using the quick and shallow about guns to grasp for the cute sound bite is entitled and uniquely lacking in consideration.
Use of guns, not to provide food for the family table or protection is far far different from random “shoot first, aim later” gun violence. There is no redeeming value in it. 
 In my state, the current Governor’s “gaffes” are, in fact, offensive abuses of the power of the office as an ethical center of political discourse. We see the same disregard for public office as an ethical center in the messaging of candidates for public office. One political party accused  the other political party’s candidate of causing the loss of jobs. The accusation was  met with  a message completely insensitive to random gun violence. The message the candidate came up with? “[The other party] has reached a whole new level of hypocrisy proving that they’re running a ‘shoot first- aim later’ campaign.” (Portland Press Herald,  August 22, 2014, p. B4”)   Remember? Shooting first, aiming later is not just word play but real devastation. There are ethical standards in this society in which, even if everyone starts shooting at the same time, conscience insists we find out where the bullets came from.
The public officials and the political candidates who shape public discourse through the impulsive and shallow convey far more about their ethics than any policy platform could. When their messaging offends and its shallowness is revealed, recognizing it is a first step in returning some level of trust in public officials and political process. Come to think of it, the shallow, the quick, the inconsiderate may have a lot to do with the depletion of trust in our government structures that we currently live with.

A Citizen's Guide to Silence

From Susan Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 10:07

Legislative ethics exist to put the brakes on political gamesmanship- whether it’s trading votes to pass a bill, get a fat salaried new Federal job, or for financial gain, all placed ahead of making good governance. But they didn’t work in this case. Congress is at its lowest public approval rating ever. Congressional candidates flaunt “working across the aisle” as a goal. But really they mean “political gamesmanship.” This is not a mystery buried right next to the Gnostic Gospels beside the Tigris River. Just read the daily newspaper.

What is the price of political gamesmanship by legislators and Congressional Representatives and Senators? Five years ago, I - one person- tried to engage legislators in finding proof that a rural asphalt plant would harm the migratory bird population- and the environment because of the noise and pollutants it creates. Let us- now 5 years later - go the migratory bird site. It does not take many years before migrating birds go elsewhere or die because they can‘t find another place. Birds must hear each other to breed and survive. This is why the music of birdsong evolved. It kept them alive. Without them, and citizens who can voice their concern, there is silence. Here is one citizen's guide to that silence.

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A Citizen’s Guide to Silence
Just five years ago, I woke up to hear industrial- size noise, out in the woods where a factory to create such noise had never before been. The noise was louder than I’d ever heard outside a city. But this was a rural pristine place, a  destination for migratory birds. My first thought was for the birds. It was far too noisy for them.  My next thought was to call the local legislator and ask for help with this environmental problem.
You would think that legislators know each voter has one vote cast one vote at a time. But I don’t think they do. Maybe this legislator didn’t like people bothering him at home by calling. The local populace had been intimidated away from calling a long time.  
In my state, there are “Legislative Ethics”, the morays of being a legislator, kind of a “What To Do When A Constituent Asks You To Address A Legislative Issue” booklet. ”Do not  intimidate the constituent” is implicit and actually explicit in these ethics. Do not do anything to make the constituent think or believe or feel that it is unacceptable to call, write, ask or seek relief through the legislative process. 
These legislative ethics might as well be ancient Gnostic gospels written on pretty much illegible papyrus left  by the Tigris River. I don’t think many legislators read them. When I tried to present the issue of a factory (an asphalt plant inside a gravel pit) that had multiple exemptions from the Department of Environmental Protection for violations of  air, water, noise, federal marsh protection, I received either no reply or a reply months later. The Mining Coordinator 300 hundred miles away who approved the factory called 6 months later. He had never- never been to the destination migratory bird site he approved for destruction. 
The DEP field visitor told me  he had been there many times and only later told the local newspaper he hadn’t been there at all. 
The area DEP coordinator was “indignant” that I complained at all.  The DEP commissioner did nothing. The environmental advocacy group director did not reply.
When I brought up the asphalt factory in the gravel pit to the Chair of the Committee overseeing Natural Resources, the legislator said “Well, that won’t make me popular with the gravel pit owners.” 
Two years later, after multiple times saying in many venues and  2 different public hearings that the legislator intimidated constituents from voicing their complaints and taking part in the legislative process through his lets-just-say  “telephone” approach,  I once again- out loud- said that constituents were being intimidated. Many of the other legislators’ eyebrows  raised so high stuck to the napes of their necks.  How could she say such a thing? At a legislative hearing?  That a legislator is intimidating constituents so they have no safe way to protest ? 
Now before I raise the ancient Gnostic gospel- I mean the Legislative Ethics- that make intimidation of constituents a concern, please find a good solid chair with a strong back and strong arm rests, this so you won’t fall off it.
The other legislators decided to publicly demand that I give “proof” that the legislator was using techniques when constituents called that intimidated them . Nobody demanded proof from the out-of-state multi-million dollar asphalt plant owner, or from the statewide mining coordinator or from the Department of Environmental coordinator or field rep or commissioner that the environment was being harmed but, they demanded proof from me that this public office holder was intimidating constituents. The other legislators contacted  editorial page writers to publicly demand that I give proof. They knew full well the whole thing started because I raised an environmental issue that I hoped would be addressed in the   Legislature.
So the editorials or shall I say “Intimidate-orials” ran quoting the legislators demanding my “proof”. I did not get out the ancient Legislative Ethics or ask my friends to share their experience of  intimidation.   I said nothing because I told the truth.
Some of these legislators even got the idea that the next best place to ply their governing gifts is- hang onto that chair- Congress.
Legislative ethics exist to put the brakes on political gamesmanship- whether it’s trading votes to pass a bill, get a fat federal job, or for  financial gain placed ahead of making good governance. But they didn’t work in this case.
Congress is at its lowest public approval rating ever. Congressional candidates flaunt “working across the aisle” as a goal. But really they mean “political gamesmanship.” This is not a mystery buried beside the Tigris River. Just read the daily newspaper.
What is the price of political gamesmanship by legislators and Congressional Representatives and Senators?  Let us- now 5 years later go the migratory bird site. It does not take many years before migrating birds go elsewhere or die because they can‘t find another place. Birds must hear each other to breed and survive. This  is why the music of birdsong evolved. It kept them alive. 
There is no longer an early morning cacophony of bird songs in the woods there that used to be so loud - with windows open- alarm clocks weren’t necessary. There are no loons on the lake. The migratory bird population is not very visible or audible .  
Five years later, that’s the way it is. This aside from the changes in the nearby lake’s ground water table that a hydro-geologist could identify, the emission of toxic heavy metals into the air and water, the damage to marsh life .
I tried very hard to find a legislator who would ask for proof that the environment wouldn’t be damaged, that the 4 jobs created and the multi-million dollar out-of-state company that built it were not more important than political gamesmanship.  That - without a second thought- recognized how intimidation of constituents shuts down voice. But instead the public message was do not- do not- criticize how legislators play their gamesmanship or we will take you out and publicly demand proof so all your young just-learning-about-civics relatives see it in newspaper editorials-  along with the rest of the citizenry. The message to citizens ? Take part in the legislative process and we’ll intimidate you too.
Five years later, what has happened ? The long view? Less and less trust that the public’s voice is more important than political gamesmanship by legislators in Congress or at home.  That  'proof' of no environmental impact from an asphalt plant owner or the DEP is of low priority. That citizen intimidation is just political gamesmanship. And no bird songs or sounds That is also called silence. 

The Problem with Internet Search Engines: A Citizen's Guide

From Susan Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 06:37

Internet search engines have no way of taking context into consideration. The closest Google has come is to hone the search by user’s zip code, which is none of their business anyway. They have not, and probably won’t ever, come up with an algorithm able to take into account all the contextual features of the above scenario that would make the results as useful or irrelevant as possible. We have no way of knowing absolutely what is like for another person in their context but being a good observer of context and sorting through its relevance to our thinking is probably one of the things that has brought us to the top of the food chain. Thus this Citizen's Guide.

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The Problem with Search Engines: A Citizen’s Guide
-Susan Cook-
I was with my niece recently when she stepped out of the truck onto the curb and suddenly made an X-generation exclamation indicating something unexpected had happened. I said “What’s wrong?” “I stepped on something sharp.” At this point, she had her ankle curved to one side so she could look at the bottom of her flip-flop. Using her pincer grasp, she pulled a slightly curved pushpin that had stuck in its bottom. “Great,” she said, “Now I’m going to get tetanus. ” 
“This was on the floor of your truck,” she said, me having failed to hazard-proof the vehicle before picking her up.   
Us not living in a country where Ebola or Typhus await, I tried to reassure her that any pushpin on the passenger side of my truck would have gone directly from its bacteria-free plastic Staples packaging to the truck floor without first going through a river in Benares. The spray can of anti-bacterial first-aid that I also happened to have on hand only seemed to heighten her fears. “The damage is already done plus this expired 3 months ago, “ she said, with an ever-sharpening edge in her voice that implied she was getting to what her mother (my older sister) had been telling her since childhood about the condition of the vehicles of her aunt (me). “I hope my tetanus shots are up-to-date.”  
My appeasement wasn’t working so I tried something else.  “Why don’t you look up ‘tetanus’ on your I-phone?”
At that moment, that was probably not the best thing she could do because of the problem with Internet search engines. They have no way of taking context into consideration. The closest Google has come is to hone the search by user’s zip code, which is none of their business anyway. They have not, and probably won’t ever, come up with an algorithm able to take into account all the contextual features of the above scenario that would make the results as useful or irrelevant as possible. We have no way of knowing absolutely what is like for another person in their context but being a good observer of context and sorting through its relevance to our thinking is probably one of the things that has brought us to the top of the food chain. If we focused on the same things as someone in a context completely different than our own, our fight/flight skills would never evolve to tell us what we need to know to make the best of things (a.k.a. survival).
I remember writing about all the things children weren’t doing when they watched television to help them grow. Let us think about the important skills in reading context (first of all, that it’s important) that we don’t exercise when we use our search engines instead of our own fight/flight tools. There is color, size, shape. There is hearing, smelling, touching, tasting, seeing. There is the weather. There is the irrelevance of data from a sample of 10,000 pushpin sticks receivers, when we have an “N of One” before us. There is the curiosity that an N of One prompts.
Another example of what happen when context is disregarded took place in rural Maine. There is an ongoing controversy about the re-introduction of alewives (a migratory salt-to-fresh water fish) into the upper reaches of a river that the local fishermen maintain has never been their habitat because of the underwater topography which has natural barriers to their progression upriver. They have witnessed and worry that introduction of this non-native species to the upper reaches will destroy the economically valuable Bass population. Very worried.
I had a conversation with the constituency advocate of a national environmental non-governmental organization that made this re-introduction a legislative priority, despite the arguments against it from those who fish there. He has never seen the upper river’s underwater topography there let alone fished it everyday. But he will give you Internet numbers. “Oh, yeah, what was it they were worried about?” he asked. “Oh, yeah, the Bass.”
Shall we settle on the observations of the people who fish the upriver water bodies everyday -the context- or the former congressional aide whose got good Internet numbers? What do we lose when we disregard context- the real place, what really happens, the real fish numbers going down or up?  Our fight-flight signals?  An immune system that can’t figure out what to look out for?   Everything - the context- all the details- will never ever be on the Internet. Everything we individually know from being in a certain context will never come up on a search engine. Where will our context  recognition skills be?  Gone the way of the telephone book, the analog clock? How to find your way when alas the I-phone is busted, the Internet service provider unavailable, no matter how hard you search? By the way, don’t forgot how to ride a horse.

My 500 Pound Gorilla: A Citizen's Guide

From Susan Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 04:11

I watched a program the other night about a 500 pound gorilla, or maybe it was a monkey whose owner taught him sign language. Whatever. I am beginning to think that maybe it was the gorilla who taught the owner to sign. That gorilla, all grown up- would move his finger an inch off his massive thigh- and that owner would coo and delight with immediate recognition. “Oh, that’s his sign when he’s whispering- kind of like at a cocktail party when you tell someone something from across the room so no one else will know.“ I would prefer a gorilla- any day- his place or mine- who was more straightforward. Or maybe- since I don’t know any gorillas personally- people who are straightforward.

This reminds of many things in life, but since the political season is upon us let’s start there. We have become a populace that will fill in the rest of the sentence, thought, public policy and legislative document for any gorilla. The gorilla gestures “gun control”, we fill in the sentence. The gorilla says “pro-life”, we fill in the rest. The gorilla says “fiscal irresponsibility”, we know what he means. I take this opportunity to remind you, we don’t know what the gorilla actually thinks. This is worse than sound bites. This is human beings reading gorilla’s minds.

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My 500 pound Gorilla- A Citizen’s Guide
-Susan Cook-
I watched a program the other night about a 500 pound gorilla, or maybe it was a  monkey whose owner taught him sign language. Whatever. I am beginning to think that maybe it was the gorilla who taught the owner to sign.  That gorilla, all grown up- would move his finger an inch off his massive thigh- and that owner would coo and delight with immediate recognition. “Oh, that’s his sign when he’s whispering- kind of like at a cocktail party when you tell someone something from across the room so no one else will know.“ I would prefer a gorilla- any day- his place or mine- who was more straightforward. 
Or maybe- since I don’t know any gorillas personally-  people who are straightforward. 
This reminds of many things in life, but since the political season is upon us let’s start there.  We have become a populace that will fill in the rest of the sentence, thought, public policy and legislative document for any gorilla. The gorilla gestures “gun control”, we fill in the sentence. The gorilla says “pro-life”, we fill in the rest. The gorilla says “fiscal irresponsibility”, we know what he means. I take this opportunity to remind you, we don’t know what the gorilla actually thinks. This is worse than  sound bites. This is human beings reading gorilla’s minds. Cooing excitedly when the 500 pound gorilla tosses out a small gesture is mind reading.  It is not a “sign” of anything  other than that the gorilla tapped his thigh. I don’t mean to be cynical but clear communication does not rely on mind reading, channeling or crossed fingers. I’d love to know what it means when the 500 pound gorilla crosses his fingers.  It’s one good thing you can say about the legal profession has over  the rest of the world- at least they require details. 
What is it with 500 pound gorillas  who have managed to captivate our belief systems with one gesture that we seize upon as a sign of- what- liberal, conservative, pro-, con-, NRA, non-NRA, Obama care disaster, Obama care miracle? And remember this gorilla throwing out signs never wrote for the New York Times, Fox news or PBS  or made a movie. But he’s got people thinking he just might- and this 
500 pound gorilla keeps on keeping on- a little sign here, one little  tap on the thigh there. I am not calling the gorilla a liar. But let is return to whatever more the highly evolved actions - the moral imperative to keep the lawn mowed-  and demand from the gorilla such that if there comes a day when it’s just me and the Gorilla  who have to fill in the blanks or the legislative policy or the contract , I’ll know what I was thinking even if the gorilla comes up blank. And I’ll leave the meeting knowing what I know and the gorilla can go back to tapping his thigh and I am not going to be there reading  the “signs”  as indicative of anything other than that I have been watching a 500 pound gorilla-  a very nice, genial well-funded gorilla with deep deep pockets- but it’s still a gorilla tapping- hey- maybe it was a mosquito.  

My Bi-partisan Family: A Citizen's Guide

From Susan Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 05:19

I have a bi -partisan family. Maybe you do too. It makes understanding politics all the more difficult because sometimes people don’t agree. When there's a policy at the state level of government or something comes up the pike from Washington, DC where all those distinguished office-holders are in Congress, there's always the possibility that someone won 't like it, in the family, I mean. Sometimes it's not just that someone in the family doesn't like a political policy or a plan. Sometimes it makes the person feel bad.The details, I mean. In a bi-partisan family, maybe the details one person misses, are the ones someone else in the family is paying attention to and maybe that’s the good thing about a bi-partisan family. They keep each other honest. A lot of people in this country think politicians have a long long way before they keep each other as honest as a bi-partisan family will.

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The Bi-partisan Family: A Citizen’s Guide

-Susan Cook-

I have a bi -partisan family. Maybe you do too. It makes understanding politics all the more difficult because sometimes people don’t agree. When there's a policy at the state level of government or something comes up the pike from Washington, DC where all those distinguished office-holders are in Congress, there's always the possibility that someone won 't like it, in the family, I mean. Sometimes it's not just that someone in the family doesn't like a political policy or a plan. Sometimes it makes the person feel bad.

Like maybe they live down in New Jersey and the mom is late picking up the child from daycare because she gets caught in gridlock. Maybe the child starts crying and starts getting nervous and the child starts worrying that something happened to Mom and that's why the parent isn't there yet to pick up the child. Maybe couple weeks after that the child wakes up in the middle of the night from a nightmare he’s had about the day the parent didn't show up to daycare on time. Then the parent finds out the reason all that gridlock was there because somebody had a political agenda and threw up some orange to make one lane of traffic where there was no reason on earth why there couldn't be two lanes. Then the parent finds out that it's a certain political party that’s responsible for that. Now, that parent may decide- since the child isn't of voting age- that the political party will never get a vote from that Mom again.

But then the grandmother finds out and the Mom tells her about the boy waking up and having a bad dream about waiting and waiting at daycare and the grandmother feels angry too because she - well, you know how grandparents are about grandchildren. They don’t want anything to ever make them feel bad ever. So the grandmother feels hurt for the grandchild and she might have been the most loyal Republican in the world and she will never let her pencil go near a Republican name on the ballot because her grandchild suffered because of a political trick. It doesn’t even have to be a big political trick. It can be just a little one and the grandmother is done.

Now, it could be a Democrat’s trick or a Republican’s trick or even an Independent who is playing out some kind of political vendetta that has nothing to do with good government or democracy. It has to do with the smallness that forgets about the small, the children in daycare waiting for their parent to come get them. If you have a bi-partisan family and something makes the grandfather feel bad, say, then it also may make the uncle feel bad and then because the uncle feels bad, it might hurt the nephew who feels bad because his father feels bad and then pretty soon, because they’re bi-partisan, nobody in the family can pretend that it’s only one party that does nasty things because they watch one party do it to someone on the other party and then they watch the other party do it to someone in the other party or to the Independent.

One day, let’s say, one of the uncles says, “Oh that other party does terrible things. My political party would never do that.” And the niece says, “Oh yes they do. Look what they did to your wife.” And the uncle doesn’t say a word, because he knows it’s true. Then one day, nobody in the bi-partisan family can get anybody to be active in politics anymore because they know either side would leave the child at the daycare and they’ve seen it happen. Details, details details! In a bi-partisan family, maybe the details one person misses, are the ones someone else in the family is paying attention to and maybe that’s the good thing about a bi-partisan family. They keep each other honest. A lot of people in this country think politicians have a long long way before they keep each other as honest as a bi-partisan family will.

Big Fish, Small Pond; Small Fish, Big Pond: A Citizen's Guide to Conscience

From Susan Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 06:50

At a jazz performance, the lady next to me and I struck up a conversation. During World War II, she, a Czechoslovakian, and her family were exiled to Latvia. They were sent to an American-occupied section of Germany at war's end, and lived in Displaced Persons Camps for six years. "Then we came to America", she said. She, her husband and their daughter were there listening to the daughter's boyfriend play saxophone in a jazz quintet. She was, I knew, a woman who knows what it is to be a small fish in the very large pond called the world.
Dutifully, as mothers in every pond since the beginning of time have done, she took a sip of her daughter's just purchased martini. Turning in my direction, the mother grimaced as if she had just tasted 1000 proof alcohol retrieved from an ancient civilization where it was a fire substitute. Here was the mother as the forever big fish in the small pond in which her adult daughter still swam in which no martini eludes the mother's discriminating tongue to see how strong the drink.
These are the life experiences of which conscience is made, if we remember them: that we are always small fish in very big ponds and large fish in the very small pond of our home, our lives, our communities, our quotidian routines. It is the tension between keeping both in mind at the same time, the remembering the two- going back and forth as we live- that makes conscience available but also elusive to us all.

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Big Fish, Small Pond; Small Fish, Big Pond: A Citizen's Guide to Conscience
                                           -Susan Cook-
At a jazz performance, the lady next to me and I struck up a conversation. During World War II, she, a Czechoslovakian, and her family were exiled to Latvia. They were sent to an American-occupied section of Germany at war's end, and lived in Displaced Persons Camps for six years. "Then we came to America", she said. She, her husband and their daughter were there listening to the daughter's boyfriend play saxophone in a jazz quintet. She was, I knew, a woman who knows what it is to be a small fish in the very large pond called the world. 
Dutifully, as mothers in every pond since the beginning of time have done, she took a sip of her daughter's just purchased martini. Turning in my direction, the mother grimaced as if she had just tasted 1000 proof alcohol retrieved from an ancient civilization where it was a fire substitute. Here was the mother as the forever big fish in the small pond in which her adult daughter still swam in which no martini eludes the mother's discriminating tongue to see how strong the drink.
These are the life experiences of which conscience is made, if we remember them: that we are always small fish in very big ponds and large fish in the very small pond of our home, our lives, our communities, our quotidian routines. It is the tension between keeping both in mind at the same time, the remembering the two- going back and forth as we live- that makes conscience available but also elusive to us all.
To be in a small pond is to know, if we are lucky, compassion that comes from the indelible ink of human concern, the mother taking one sip of her daughter's martini.
And when we are small fish in big ponds, as we always are, conscience brings the indelible imprint of compassion, the do-unto-others-as-you-would-have-them-do-unto-you, and on and on. The inability to do that is what distinguishes having a conscience from not having one at all.
It is extremely difficult to hold both in mind. In the time of the World Wide Web, we all have access to a big pond, at times, but that doesn't mean we grasp what that means. A small fish can have big fish consequences. Someone called it small power. But one man posting directions for making a noose is big fish power over the suicidal adolescent who follows them. 
The small fish misusing and exploiting the word “attack” to describe a public criticism that then signals and places the criticizer on the terrorist watch list of the FBI and National Security Agency is no conscience- small fish not knowing there is a big pond that the internet provides access to - to the wrong people. 
The big fish/small fish; big pond/small pond distinction isn’t about vanity, narcissism or inflated self importance or even about small fish clamoring to be heard. Having a conscience means the struggle to know (or remind yourself) you are and will always be both, both forms, both places at different times.
We have many distinguished office holders who forget that they are both- who abuse the bully pulpit - their big fish status and big fish privilege in ways that have a profound impact on the small fish of the world. The runner in some African country preparing for the Olympics who hear that an American politician fears the security preparations for the event so won't send his family. The big fish American politician who hires a Director of New Media who abuses the World Wide Web to demean critics. The small fish who carry out their personal agendas-without conscience- to keep their own jobs. History is written by the big and the small. 
Not everyone has the privilege of knowing they are both. Sometimes the events of the time make it impossible to ignore. When I was a 17 year old university freshman, I joined the nationwide student moratorium criticizing in protest the American bombing of Cambodia and the shooting of 4 Kent State students protesting the Vietnam War.  I spent my days writing letters to small Maine newspapers saying that the moratorium was a “question of conscience” because we could not continue to attend classes while thousands of soldiers (almost 50,000 at that point) died in an unfair, unjust war that was never approved by the American public. 
The first boy my mother allowed me to go to the movies with, him driving his Ford LTD, died in that war, plucked off our local street corner by the Marine recruiter next to our ice cream shop hangout.  I already knew there was a big pond, in my small fish way
I knew then conscience was a big word, not to be thrown around by political office-holders looking for a brand. I don’t think I ever heard Richard Nixon use that word. The small fish thrown into the big pond, who became a big fish, big power not soft, who never quite put aside his small fish priorities.

A Citizen's Guide to Entitled Derision

From Susan Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 07:04

When politicians talk about "working across the aisle", they talk about it as if they are endorsing a great ethic. But working across the aisle is not an ethic. It's a carpentry essential. Its absence contributes to a structural failure of the institutional structure . We witness how badly the legislative process in Congress now sags.

But if working across the aisle isn’t an ethic, where are the real ethics in contemporary politics? When did entitled derision - the disrespectful messaging politicians daily speak- written for them by their Communications Directors and Directors of New Media- replace an ethic of respect?

Of course you might ask "What's wrong with entitled derision?" “Doesn‘t it“, as I heard one party hack say, a law school student nodding her head in agreement- "depend on what they did." Entitled derision is - after all- the belief that you are entitled to demean, insult or degrade the other because of what the person believes, says, does or votes. Distinguished candidates, senators and representatives using the language their Communication Directors and Directors of New Media write for them do it. Just taking part in the democratic process, in someone else’s view, justifies entitled derision and justifies making the candidate or the other legislator a target.

We see it in state, local and national government and politics. At all levels. We have also seen it in Northern Ireland, in Cambodia, in Tibet, in Vietnam, at Abu Grabh, and yes we saw it in Nazi Germany because someone convinced someone else the insulted, demeaned, derided "deserved" it. Entitled derision.

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A Citizen's Guide to Entitled Derision
-Susan Cook-
When politicians talk about "working across the aisle", they talk about it as if they are endorsing a great ethic.  But working across the aisle is not an ethic. It's a carpentry essential.  Its absence contributes to a structural failure of the institutional structure . We witness how badly  the legislative process in Congress now sags. 
But if  working across the aisle isn’t an ethic, where are the real ethics in contemporary politics?  When did entitled derision - the disrespectful messaging politicians daily  speak- written for them by their Communications Directors and Directors of New Media- replace an ethic of respect?
Of course you might ask "What's wrong with entitled derision?" “Doesn‘t it“, as I heard one party hack say, a law school student nodding her head in agreement- "depend on what they did." Entitled derision is - after all- the belief that you are entitled to demean, insult or degrade the other because of  what the person believes, says, does or votes.   Distinguished candidates, senators and representatives using the language their Communication Directors and Directors of New Media write for them do it. Just taking part in the democratic process, in someone else’s view, justifies entitled derision and justifies making the candidate or the other legislator a target. 
We see it in state, local and national government and politics. At all levels. We have also seen it in Northern Ireland, in Cambodia, in Tibet, in Vietnam, at Abu Grabh, and yes we saw it in Nazi Germany because someone convinced someone else the insulted, demeaned, derided "deserved" it.  Entitled derision.
Entitled derision sits on  continuum. I’ve  listened to the weekly radio addresses that the "opposing parties" in my state’s government back when they were broadcast on Saturday mornings before the sun rises. The  entitled derision from the Governor or the "legislator of the Day", words  their “messaging" staff write for them, is abundant. Who they direct it toward varies. One morning the State Senator giving the address said  "studies have shown that domestic violence victims are more comfortable disclosing to a doctor than a counselor " or other domestic violence worker.  I have written and published about 
domestic violence so  I know  empirical studies show race and social class strongly influence who is or is not believed and thus identified when a patient tells a health care professional about abuse. So there were no studies. Rather, that week, a State Senator used her ‘entitled derision’ to demean domestic violence workers.
The entitled derision we see locally is of course widespread among national political candidates. This is not the roller coaster of politics. It is a continuum that leads to a place of no ethics in government service whatsoever. It is a train ride that at its far end leads to Cambodia, Northern Ireland and the concentration camps of Germany in World War II.  It is entitled derision.
The Third Reich was very very good at engaging and working their local political arms. They didn't control what happened locally by instilling fear of a distant abstract "power". They chose carefully at the local level, "messaged  carefully", to their local leaders. They chose individuals to empower who thirsted for power by association with some higher up. They turned to those local people who were hoping for some personal gain, a job, a moment with a big wig, an invitation to a special event. They relied on them to carry out the entitled derision for them, to degrade, to stigmatize others or to give an air of "acceptability" to what they were doing: locally-sourced derision using imported "messages" from a distant government.
During World War II, in Amsterdam, the Nazis created a Jewish Council selecting a "staff" of 60 Jews and giving them job titles. Etty Hillesum, the Dutch writer whose book "An Interrupted Life" documents her life  before her death at Auchwitz-Berkenau was given a job in the Cultural Affairs Department of the Jewish Council. The Council was the air of "legitimacy" the Nazis gave to the deportation of Jews and the absence of ethical consideration of what was being done. The strategy was to place the local mouse  in a pot of water, the temperature  raised one degree at a time  until it boiled.
If you claim not to recognize entitled derision in contemporary politics you are not telling the truth. Passively accepting entitled derision  in politics threatens  that some day we’ll stop asking why when atrocities are committed- because entitled derision - insult by insult- relies on the belief that the person or group derided deserves it. Of course, no one ever does.  “Working across the aisle” isn’t an "ethic". It’s a carpentry essential. Entitled derision pulls out each  nail - insult by insult- and will - over time-  take the fragile building of the Democratic Process and human rights down, once and for all.

A Citizen's Guide to Gunnel Grabbing in American Politics

From Susan Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 06:03

Expert canoe paddlers know that a predictable sign that swimming is imminent when the canoe starts to tip in rough water is the grabbing of the canoe's gunnels by the resident paddlers. "Swimming" is the euphemism for what occupants do in the water after the canoe tips over. The gunnels are the railings that hold the canoe together. More experienced paddlers know that there's a far better chance of staying afloat if the paddler holds firmly to the paddle and leans in the opposite direction of the tipping.

If you are hearing an extremely helpful metaphor for understanding the political process in this country, you are thinking clearly.
The gunnel grabbers in political life are never the candidates or elected officials themselves. "Gunnel grabber" is a delegated position taken on by the Directors of new media or communications or the chiefs of staff or director of some other important activity to control how that the office holder or candidate is presented to the public or their fellow "team players" in the legislature or Congress.

Understanding some of the historical problems with gunnel grabbing in American politics just might help us understand how things get, well, turned on their sides in government and what might help righ them.

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Expert canoe paddlers know that a predictable sign that swimming is imminent when the canoe starts to tip in rough water is the grabbing of the canoe's gunnells by the resident paddlers. "Swimming" is the euphemism for what occupants do in the water after the canoe tips over.  The gunnels are the railings that hold the canoe together. More experienced paddlers know that there's a far better chance of staying afloat if the paddler holds firmly to the paddle and leans in the opposite direction of the tipping.
If you are hearing an extremely helpful metaphor for understanding the political process in this country, you are thinking clearly.
The gunnel grabbers in political life are never the candidates or elected officials themselves. "Gunnel grabber" is a delegated position taken on by the Directors of new media or communications or the chiefs of staff or director of some other important activity to control how that the office holder or candidate is presented to the public or their fellow "team players" in the legislature or Congress. 
If the metaphor still isn't clear, think Karl Rove, gunnel grabber for former President  George W. Bush or Matthew Gagnon, former Director of New Media for Maine's Senator Susan Collins he who in the virtual world writes the website "As Maine Goes", now overseeing the Maine Republican party’s website. (See his August 2011 “asmainegoes” website offerings for his gunnel grabbing on his party's behalf.)  They are the Congressional Chiefs of staff, the Peter Chandlers of Congress. Gunnel grabbers are not limited to political parties.  Even Maine's independent US senator Angus King has his gunnel grabber, Chief of Staff Kay Ryan. Lest we forget, Governor Chris Christie's gunnel grabber Bridget Anne Kelly. 
Gunnel grabbers are staff who when the canoe hits rough rapids  or becomes unbalanced in still water and starts to tip, turn to political gamesmanship tactics which takes precedence over all else. In desperation, they grab the gunnels which- as expert paddlers tell us- often precedes an unwelcome swim. The gunnel grabbers don't like to draw attention to themselves but hey, if they think the canoe's going over, they grab whatever they can. In less frantic moments, when what intelligence is there prevails, the tactics are less extreme. Now, the issue of whether the “elected“ or the candidate know what the gunnel grab actually does is less important than the fact that it’s the elected’s or candidate’s  judgment which brings the person on staff in the first place.  That’s who ultimately assesses the canoe paddler’s approach.
And what might go in the water with the canoe when the gunnel grabber grabs? In the political process in Congress or Legislatures or during a heated campaign? 
What might very well go in the water with the soon-destined to be swimmer and the canoe? 
Civil liberties, the Constitution and criminal or civil law can go right in the water with them. Remember the Watergate plumbers and that now 42 year old burglary of the Democratic National Party headquarters in the Watergate complex in Washington, DC  which led all the way back to gunnell grabbers Erhlichman and Haldeman? That was gunnel grabbing in the extreme, and all for the sake of political gamesmanship. 
Those gunnel grabbers were White House chiefs of staff  for a nervous up-for-re-election President Richard Nixon. The burglary led to his resignation. Americans  would not tolerate throwing the Constitution, Civil Liberties and the right of citizens to participate in our democracy free of harassment and intimidation  in the water.
We should not tolerate gunnel grabbers in politics who think tossing civil liberties, the Constitution and the right to participate in democracy without harassment are all part of political gamesmanship. Gunnel grabbers in politics, remember,  are paid employees, part of their desperation when the canoe starts tipping. In fact, they are just not good paddlers who‘ve been hired for jobs that at the ultimate test, they cannot do well.
Let us encourage our elected officials and candidates for office to hire the good paddlers who when the rough water only take themselves in and turn to that basic phylogenetic skill, swimming ability, to stay afloat.

A Citizen's Guide to the Civil Liberty Called Freedom of the Press

From Susan Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 05:36

The civil liberties of the Constitution are wholesome, pure, and good. They sometimes require holding two ideas in the mind at the same time, not easy some days. And they can be exploited. Freedom of the press, our reliable civil liberties vacuum for the unseemly and dirty then placed on public display can be exploited very easily. The exploitation is non-partisan, can come from either side because civil liberties are non-partisan.

Even the venerable newspaper editor Abe Rosenthal at the even more venerable New York Times distorted facts about the iconic example of urban social decay, the Kitty Genovese murder, by claiming that more than a dozen passive bystanders listened for a very long time to her screams and did not call the police. In fact, there were only two, who thought it was a domestic dispute, a man beating a woman, which was not then and yes even to this day is often not- considered an entirely atrocious act calling for police intervention.

Here in Maine, what does the civil liberty "freedom of the press" mean in the wake of revelations that the upper echelons of state government with held and then shredded public information about the rating system for giving out "Healthy Maine Partnership" fund. Shall we soon expect some chest-thumping about which party civil liberties truly belong to?

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A Citizen's Guide to the Civil Liberty called Freedom of the Press
                               -Susan Cook-
The civil liberties of the Constitution are wholesome, pure, and good. They sometimes require holding two ideas in the mind at the same time, not easy some days. And they can be exploited. Freedom of the press, our reliable civil liberties vacuum for the unseemly and dirty then placed on public display can be exploited very easily. The exploitation is non-partisan, can come from either side because civil liberties are non-partisan.
Even the venerable newspaper editor Abe Rosenthal at the even more venerable New York Times distorted facts about the iconic example of urban social decay, the Kitty Genovese murder, by claiming that more than a dozen passive bystanders listened for a very long time to her screams and did not call the police. In fact, there were only two, who thought it was a domestic dispute, a man beating a woman, which was not then and yes even to this day is often not- considered an entirely atrocious act calling for police intervention. The public bearing witness to degradation of a woman is still often fair game. 
Here in Maine, what does the civil liberty "freedom of the press" mean in the wake of revelations that the upper echelons of state government with held and then shredded public information about the rating system for giving out "Healthy Maine Partnership" funds, you got it, money. Shall we soon expect some chest-thumping about which party civil liberties truly belong to?
With holding the public facts, sitting on them, or shredding them, is exploiting freedom of the press because public facts go out to the press. If there was no difference between truth and fiction, freedom of the press might not uphold democracy as it does. Not sit on the facts is a good place to begin to protect it.  There is plenty of room behind freedom of the press to create fake negative press. This isn't fake traffic jams, New Jersey-style "civil liberties". At least there, y had the good sense to not rehire the exploiters. No, it's fake negative press proxy-style. There is plenty of room behind the civil liberty called "freedom of the press" to send complete falsehoods to the press,  generating fake buzz, using strong, inappropriate words to deliberately distort.  There is plenty of room to believe that communication means selective distortion sent to the media for the sake of the buzz.
And the civil liberty called freedom of the press offers quite good camouflage to protect you from being discovered- until- yes, often times it's because of freedom of the press- the truth is told. 
So how do we protect freedom of the press from shredders and deliberate distorters? How do we select for the complex ability to hold two ideas in the mind at the same time? For example that freedom of press means the message goes out AND that fake proxies, selective, "sitting on" or shredding or destroying key information or "facts" violate the civil liberty called freedom of the press.  Period. Civil liberties are non-partisan. When someone tries to claim that civil liberties belong to one political party more than another, another complex problem of holding of two ideas in the mind at the same time comes up. While one party is busy sending false proxies out to the media, at the expense of the civil liberty called freedom of the press, the other party may just be acting with the decency we expect from partisans who also uphold civil liberties. The other party might be the bystanders who say "Back off. Enough. You are violating civil liberties."  If  the partisan chest-thumping begins about the top government officials distorting facts or shredding them, here in Maine, "the other party does it too" is nobody's good reason for violating the civil liberty called freedom of the press.  Civil liberties are non-partisan. And exploiting them on either side is an equal "attack" on democracy.

A Citizen's Guide to Passion and Political Gamesmanship in Democracies

From Susan Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 06:47

The protesters in Ukraine are showing us on a very public stage that criticism free from harassment and ridicule of the actions of public elected officials is or should be what a democracy allows. The protesters in Ukraine, those who we memorialize for their passion and those who stand and testify through their actions remind us that what we have in this country is always up for grabs- if not from foreign threat but from each other. We really do not know how democracy sustains itself here. Speaking up is dismissed as “passion”. Passion is the code word for somebody who doesn’t know that the preferred approach is Political gamesmanship even as it erodes- day in, day out, as we see in Congress and state governments the democracy we live in.

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A Citizen's Guide to Passion and Political Gamesmanship
-Susan Cook-
In 2011, a Congressional Re-districting hearing was held in Maine. The public was asked to testify about a proposed plan to shift 350,000 voters from one Congressional District to another, a plan clearly intended to create a majority of registered Republican voters in one district.
And this is what I said:
The plan to shift 350,000 citizens from one Congressional district to another represents a disregard for constituents right to participate in this Democracy and indeed disregard for democracy itself. This is more of a disturbing trend we have seen of inflated partisanship at the cost of fairness and balance, more disregard for the voice of citizens.
Other examples are the recent passage to eliminate same day voter registration making it far more difficult for citizens to vote, a concern  I have heard throughout the collection of signatures to give participants in our democracy a chance to be heard on their desire for same day registration.
The most disturbing example is the fact that the [then] President of the Maine Senate records constituents' phone calls- without their consent and indeed without even announcing... that the call will be recorded. The consequence? Intimidation of constituents so they dare not call.
This re-districting proposal is yet another effort to intimidate  voters, to say, we don't like how you vote so we are going to force you to vote for someone else.
Sound familiar? Sound like democracy disregarded? You bet. Like Ukraine, like any other country where democracy is not respected- where the consequence of voting is imposition of all possible obstacles- like the elimination of Congressional districts to suit the party in power.
Do I have to say it? Shame on you for trying to move 350,000 voters because you don't like the way they voted. Shame on lawmakers who record constituents' phone calls to intimidate them and make them fearful of voicing their views. Democracy deserves our best not manipulation. The people here who speak against moving 350,000 citizens to accommodate your manufactured district deserve far, far better.
Fast forward to February of 2014. Upwards of 200 protesters have been killed by Ukrainian police at the Independence Square protest site in Kiev because of their ongoing protest of President Victor Yanokovitch and his efforts to ally Ukraine with Vladimir Putin’s Russia . Yanokovitch has steadfastly refused to follow his promise to ally Ukraine with the European Union.  Upwards of 200 protesters have been killed, protesters who- yes - with passion- no vast political tactics and gamesmanship- who have  very clearly rejected the Putin alliance Yanokovitch proposes.
It is not very often we see passion taking the lead over political gamesmanship or rather the two working hand-in-hand. It is not very often that democratic protest is thwarted on the world stage- in such a public way.  More often, another country’s problem with maintaining democracy is their problem. Political gamesmanship is chosen over principle, ethics and values.
We  have arrived at the “Who Wants to be a Millionaire” question in this very brief commentary. Here it is, a multiple choice:
which statement in my 2011 testimony grew cries of “scurrilous”,  “a personal attack“, “what planet is she on?”,  demands of “Proof! Proof!“, “A Tactic without strategy” and indeed a petition sent to the local newspaper editor by our party go-alongs demanding my resignation from volunteer political office?  Was it- renunciation of efforts to make it harder for voters to register? Was it- disregard for constituents’ right to participate in democracy? Was it  the statement that in Ukraine  if they don’t like who you vote for they will give you someone else to vote fo- that a plan moving 350,000 voters in a state with only 2 congressional districts is kind of like that? 
Give up?  The statement that was called scurrilous, a “personal attack” was the criticism of the elected public official not his private life- his approach to public duties. The protesters in Ukraine are showing us on a very public stage that criticism  free from harassment and ridicule of the actions of public elected officials is  or should be what a democracy allows. The protesters in Ukraine, those who we memorialize for their passion and those  who stand and testify through their actions remind us that what we have in this country is always up for grabs- if not  from foreign threat but from each other. We really do not know how democracy sustains itself here. Speaking up is  dismissed as  “passion”. Passion is the code word for somebody who doesn’t know that the preferred approach is Political gamesmanship even as it erodes- day in, day out, as we see in Congress and state governments the democracy we live in. 

A Citizen's Guide to Political Gamesmanship and Environmental Contamination

From Susan Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 07:50

Winning is the short view of Political gamesmanship.Fake news creation is part and parcel of it. Environmental contamination is the long view when environmental policy is on the table. In many environmental policy decisions, the environment takes a back seat to the political gamesmanship at play, including creation of fake news. Recently 2 examples of environmental issues tainted by fake news in Maine showed up.

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Pennamaquann Lake is the largest watershed in Washington County. In 2009, an out-of-state construction company, with no Department of Environmental Protection regulation set up an asphalt plant in the center of a gravel "mining" operation. Gravel pits, by geologic definition sit over water aquifers. Asphalt plants emit, by industrial definition, arsenic, mercury, lead and other heavy metal toxins. Asphalt plants also smell and are extremely loud, thus, migratory songbirds which, by definition, make and hear songs to survive, suffer in their presence.  The Department of Environmental Protection exempts gravel pits that have not expanded more than 10 acres since 1970 from regulation. This is an environmental loophole.
It does not matter if the gravel pit, which holds the asphalt plant, which by definition needs gravel to make asphalt, sits across from wetlands, is near federally-protected wildlife preserves, violates a local comprehensive plan, or is a destination for rare, endangered wildlife, all of which apply to the gravel pit on Pennamaquann. There is no DEP oversight. 
The environmental contamination of natural resources that go along with an asphalt plants' construction are not exempt from the other loophole that can rise in regulation.  Political Gamesmanship. 
Political gamesmanship is the trading of votes,  support for an issue, jobs or  advocacy for personal gain or election or re-election to a position by those you are trying to gain favor with- who can be any one who can help you secure the vote or the job or the personal gain. It can include citizens. It also can limited to the insiders in the political world. Please don't tell me this comes as a surprise.
Like environmental contamination, it can be a toxin producing process, with no oversight. In political structures, the state legislature, Congress, the organization of political parties, those who have a vote or those who have gained enough influence are those who provide oversight of the political gamesmanship that may be taking place. 
Let's say, one of the political gamesmanship players, a legislator, has effectively silenced those "voters" by intimidation, for example, allowing the common knowledge to prevail that if citizens call to complain about an issue, their calls will be recorded.  That'll stop the complaining or at least the phone calls, so if let's say a citizen ignorant of the "common knowledge" calls, the legislator can say "No one else called me", and thus justify not doing anything.
Let's say, one of the political gamesmanship players decides to sit on facts or information so they can better use the situation for their own gain, a job, for example or election to a position by those insiders. That’s a very effective political gamesmanship technique for disregarding the complainer's "vote" or voice. And yes, use the opportunity for personal gain if for no other reason to demonstrate, my, my, my, what a good political gamesmanship player you are. 
The asphalt plant, on the edge of Pennamaquann Lake, the largest watershed in Washington County, emitting toxins, including arsenic, which is scientifically linked to bladder cancer, which is the most prevalent kind of cancer in Maine, continues to contaminate.
At every turn, political gamesmanship has stopped action. (See: www.birdsnotlane.com)
Gravel pits and asphalt plant construction fall to one decision-maker ultimately in Maine- one- the state mining Coordinator.  The Mining Coordinator who automatically approved the Pennamaquann Lake asphalt plant has never been there.
The Political Gamesmanship that has stalled any action on Pennamaquann Lake could be called a missed opportunity to prevent environmental damage at a new mining site proposed by the Irving Corporation in Aroostock County.
Rural, pristine parts of the state, like Aroostock County where the "open-pit mining" project at Bald Mountain is proposed depend on local citizens to speak up. There are many ways to intimidate citizens in rural areas. One way is by demanding “proof“ for any statements they make. The person you disagree with may be the person  who could help you fix a flat tire on a remote  rural road. Taking a stand against an industrial project that promises economic development means taking a stand against your neighbor who doesn't have a job. Rural citizens rely on the honest non-gamesmanship of representatives. 
The Bald Mountain open-pit mining project will be reviewed t a legislative hearing in a few weeks. This project is  just as vulnerable to political gamesmanship as any other environmental threat.  The drainage into water aquifers and water sources from that mine will eventually acidify, thus contaminate the Fish River, Eagle Lake and major water supplies there, with the ancillary cost to wildlife and tourism. Eventually. "Eventually", by definition, means our children's children's children; our nephew's children's children and on and on. 
Political gamesmanship has already come to play in the environmental  contamination that Bald Mountain promises. Election, re-election and jobs not for citizens but for the insiders are  already on the table. Whether they will remain true to their job definitions, which by definition means respecting constituents, to not demand “proof“ but respect commitment to the environment, we don’t know. The card in any Political gamesmanship player's pocket is to attack the credibility of the complainer. That is up to each and every one of us to refuse. Winning is the short view of Political gamesmanship. Environmental contamination is the long view.

A Citizen's Guide to Limiting the Influence of the Internet and the Digital Age

From Susan Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 03:03

Are you concerned about your child emailing too much? Are you concerned about the effect on a child's spine of a head bent over a gaming system for hours on end? Are you concerned about the constant checking and re-checking of text messages or people who don't talk to each other anymore, just text?

Parents- any parent- has the skill to combat this proliferation of the Internet and the Digital Age. First, you say, "Give me your phone, please."

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A Citizen's Guide to Limiting the Influence of the Internet and the Digital Age
Are you concerned about your child emailing too much? Are you concerned about the effect on a child's spine of a head bent over a gaming system for hours on end? Are you concerned about the constant checking and re-checking of text messages or people who don't talk to each other anymore, just text? 
Parents- any parent- has the skill to combat this proliferation of the Internet and the Digital Age. First, you say, "Give me your phone, please." If the child buries it in the seat cushion or throws the body over it, the parent says, "If you don't give it to me by the time I count to ten, you will not (pick one) 1) go to your friend's house after school 2) go to the movie on Saturday or the sleepover or the dance, etc. etc., etc.
If the child still doesn't give you the phone, you say "Please, give me the phone." You reach for the phone and take it. And then, without giving thought to whether you are the perfect parent  raising the perfect child to have a perfect life and yes, we know, be famous, you use a skill that parents have developed through evolution (ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny, for the scientific-minded), highly adapted to  cultural norms. You hide it. This parental skill has reliably kept culturally necessary skills intact, specifically, belief in Santa Claus, the tooth fairy and the Easter Bunny and yes, sometimes, God.
Now, hiding comes up because there are parents who say “If I take the phone or the laptop my child will find it and use it anyway.”
There is another extremely important option to consider. Pre-requisite to this parents cannot- cannot be fixed on their own internet imprint- hoping with that same skill mentioned above that they will go viral and be digitally important.
This last option is to cancel the Internet access at your home or disable it. You give yourself permission to blissfully acknowledge that this is a piece of cultural technology not hard-wired into human beings- and thus, as is said here in Maine, once you use it up, then you make do, and then you do without. And you certainly can do that in the place called home and leave it to the cultural institutions- schools, libraries, Congress and coffee shops to keep it there for you. 

A Congressional Guide to Ending Gridlock

From Susan Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 03:26

Having survived the most recent episode of Gridlock by the skin of the Nation's teeth, we beyond the Beltway need to put our collective relational conscience together to find a way to eliminate gridlock in Congress.

Any practicing psychotherapist knows that the language you use can be the basis for interpersonal remediation because the heart and mind may follow the words that are used. This is what we're going to be talking about today: new rules for the language Congress uses when they talk about each other.

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A Congressional Guide to Ending Gridlock
-Susan Cook-
Having survived the most recent episode of Gridlock by the skin of the Nation's teeth, we beyond the Beltway need to put our collective relational conscience together to find a way to eliminate gridlock in Congress.
Any practicing psychotherapist knows that the language you use can be the basis for interpersonal remediation because the heart and mind may follow the words that are used. This is what we're going to be talking about today. Congress is a grand example of the heart and mind not being the leader in defining what is said because  Washington DC is filled with spin-shaping wordsmiths who have not looked at the guiding ethical principles behind government since 9th grade civics class. Just listen to the things they write  about the other party. The spinners follow one rule: Sound like you're right and the other side is wrong. Then they give the words to Nancy Pelosi and John Boehner who say them. 
Here is rule number one to follow to eliminate Gridlock in Congress. Rule number one  just requires a little bite inhibition, to borrow from the dog training world. 
The Republicans cannot under any circumstances say the word Democrat or the plural form Democrats AND the Democrats cannot under any circumstances mention the word Republican or Republicans. 
Here's the principle:
Each party or the spokesperson gets to be the expert on what their party thinks or feels or wants. No Mind reading about the other party thinks, feels or wants. The person  might have observations about what the other party thinks or feels but those are only observations. So if someone has an observation they’d like to make about the other party, the  way the observation is said is this" "It seems like Mr. Boehner wants..." or "It seems like Ms. Pelosi wants..." but ultimately Ms. Pelosi is the expert on what her party thinks, feels or wants and Mr. Boehner is the expert on what his party thinks, feels or wants. No mind-reading of the other party's thinking or actions - ever.
As we have all witnessed in the past weeks, each party gets very very very irritated when the spinners and the unethical public relations at staff start talking like they are the expert on what the other party thinks or feels.
From here on out, these are the communication rules for Congress. It also goes for Independents. Oh and there's one other big rule. No talking about the past.
We are almost out of time. 

Who Rules The World and Why It Matters

From Susan Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 06:00

In the wake of the tragedy of the cooption of the democratic process by a new administration that has left us all wondering what do they do down there in Washington, past incidents in which respect for opinion and constituents went by the wayside seem minor but relevant. Using political party membership as a sledgehammer to force agreement is a scary scary technique. A democratic process stolen by a small number of Senators or Representatives or Presidential executive order - those who want their opinion to count more than anyone else's matters enormously.
This incident happened about 10 years ago but it raises some of the same questions the current undermining of the Democratic process by the new administration does . So we re-visit: Who Rules the World and Why It Matters.

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Who Rules the World and Why It Matters
-Susan Cook-

 
This incident happened about 10 years ago but it raises some of the same questions the government shutdown  did and so we re-visit: Who Rules the World and Why It Matters.
Some summers ago, I had the opportunity to swing on a hammock with my two young grandnephews, one five and the other a summer away from turning 4. They had gathered up from the sandpits two or three Power Rangers, two R2-D2s and several 3 inch tall good and bad guys and placed them in the hammock's webbing so we could all ride together.
After a moment or two, the five year old leaned back in the hammock's arch and gazed up at the canopy of oak leaves. he asked "Who rules the world?"
With the Power Rangers, the R2-D2s, the good and bad guys up on the hammock with us, I sensed the gravity of his question,. I asked, "Well, who do you think rules the world?"
"Queens and kings and presidents and the news," he said.
On a warm day, to listen to the honest musings of a five year old about the world is to be reminded that everyone's opinion matters, that we all have a responsibility to protect this opinion sharing, to protect what matters.
How does he know that already? Does he know how intensely kings, queens,, presidents and the "news" go about trying to rule the world? More than all the Power Rangers, R2-D 2s, the good guys and the bad guys combined, let alone what happens when Darth Vader rises out of the sand pile to once more have a go of it?
This brought to mind the firing of Maine's "Humble Farmer," Robert Skoglund by Maine Public Broadcasting."Humble". as his friends call him, was fired because he ventured, one sentence at a time, to share his honest musings about the way the world works, mixed into his extraordinary selection of our American musical treasure, jazz.
Why does this firing matter? Why has the American Association Against Censorship and hundreds of "Humble farmer" radio listeners protested, first to the Maine Public Broadcasting Board of trustees, then to Governor Baldacci and the Legislature and later to a Federal Communications Commission? Why have 60 legislators voiced their protest about the firing?
If the "news" is ruled by just a small group of people, say, a Public Radio Board of Trustees who have given big donation- of, say, more than $160,000 to kings, queens or presidents- it means their opinions count more than those of everyone else.
Thos of us who can't donate that much money will have our opinions left out. It means a "public radio" that pretends to be open and diverse is not, because the only opinions that really matter are those of the wealthy, white donors who are appointed to the Board by Republican politicians who received their donations.
That is not diversity. That is personal influence peddling that somebody has bought.
It leaves out the opinions of everybody else: the poor, people of color, of different ethnicity and culture, single parents, whose who won't earn $160,000 in their entire lives. And yes, it leaves out the 5 year-olds too or at least their first advocates whom in Maine are often working two or three jobs just to support their families.
There are places in Maine where there no cell phone service, no cable, no high-speed Internet access and very poor television reception. The only free radio and television programs are available on Maine Public Broadcasting.
When the rest of us are left out, the "news" that is ruling the world becomes very distorted. What is entertaining in their opinion may not reflect our opinion at all. What we thought was free and open, becomes something sold to a rich person.
What five year olds have taught me- that everybody's opinion matters- gets sold to a wealthy donor who - even five year-olds know- just might be using it to rule the world.
That's why the firing of the "Humble Farmer" matters.
And that's why a democracy that is not stolen by a small number of Senators or Representatives who want their opinion to count more than anyone else's matters and why a government shutdown because of it should never ever happen again.

A Citizen's Guide to What to Eat During a Government Shutdown

From Susan Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 03:41

Citizens are being reminded these days of everything they don't have control over. Any nutritionist will tell you that the one thing you always have control over is the food you put into your mouth. Times like these require food with substance and comfort.You would be surprised at the comfort and substance found in the grocery store (as long there were not federal dollars involved in getting it there because of the You-Know-What.) A Citizen's Guide is here today about what to eat during a government shutdown.

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A Citizen's Guide to What To Eat During A Government Shutdown
-Susan Cook-
 
Well, citizens are being reminded these days of everything they don't have control over. Any nutritionist will tell you that the one thing  you always have control over is the food you put into your mouth. Times like this require food with substance and comfort.You would be surprised at the comfort and substance found in the grocery store (as long there were not federal dollars involved in getting it there because of the You-Know-What.)
Some suggestions:
Believe it or not, wild boar, organically fed, no pesticides or antibiotics, is right there in the freezer section. A little more expensive than hamburger but far more satisfying.
Moving down to the fish section, you can shop both locally and nationally if you choose the Crappie- an abundant fresh water fish. Just to make sure, if you shop alphabetically, that you find the Crappie, it is spelled C-R-A-P-P-I-E. Again C-R-A-P-P-I-E. Like what you vote for, sometimes how things are spelled is not how they sound or what you actually get.
Still in the mood to shop local, you could try some of the tender, locally caught trout. Innocent. Easy to fool, easy to catch.  Or bass, well-intentioned, dominant but well-intentioned. Salmon, always virtuous, even the farm-raised. Spelled just almost like it sounds. What you see (or voted for) is what you get. 
Moving over to Produce, ripe and ready for storage for future use or current consumption, the Squash which contain thousands of something the government has no control over, units of Vitamin A which as you remember helps vision, seeing from A to B, B to C, the Big Picture, the forest and the trees. Plus it has a pro-active taste and feel.
Of course, there's dessert waiting to be decided. Well, rescued with no help from You-Know-Who are Sno-balls whose company went under but came back- thank goodness because it would never happen now during the You-Know-What. A Sno-ball, pink, covered in coconut over devil's food cake, has marsh mellow inside. Sno-balls may not be loaded with vitamins but they are substantive now because they are symbolic. When the marsh mellows Sno-balls are made from  are rolled over each other and then covered with the devil's food and the pink stuff and the coconut ( which is the food of gorillas) what is in the center has little to do with what's on the outside. The marsh mellows that began the Sno-ball have nothing to do with the potentially gooey mess on the outside. But there they are. Be careful eating these. Too much swallowed too rapidly can get stuck in the throat and could choke you.

A Citizen's Guide to Civility

From Susan Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 02:36

To understand what civility is these days in times of tweets, smart phones, blogs and Facebook, we first have to look at "uncivil" and how "uncivil" comes to be.

There are three ways :
There's uncivil by you, yourself; uncivil by Chief of Staff or staff and Uncivil by Lawyer.

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A Citizen's Guide to Civility
-Susan Cook-
To understand what civility is these days in times of tweets, smart phones, blogs and Facebook, we first have to look at "uncivil" and how "uncivil"  comes to be.
There are three ways :
There's uncivil by  you, yourself, saying something offensiveness. No, we're not talking about the truth here, we're talking about descriptive terms about a person or situation that are offensiveness,  words you would be uncomfortable explaining the meaning of to- say- a child under ten. 
Then there's "Uncivil by Chief of Staff or Staff". "Uncivil by Chief of Staff or Staff"  means you don't say or do it yourself. Your Chief of Staff or Staff do it for you.   Your Chief of Staff or Staff call their contact and "Voila", whatever humiliating, degrading thing you want put in the newspaper or said or done, is done. Did I say blindly loyal contact? Oh yeah, blindly loyal contact. This can be pulled off with such detached but entitled derision that no one will ever know it was you, that say, caused the  target of the humiliation or derision who maybe even suffered a stroke afterwards to become permanently disabled.  You will never have to say "Good job!" to your Staff or Chief of Staff. All you have to do is re-hire them over and over, as if you didn't know.
Then there's "Uncivil by lawyer". "Uncivil by lawyer" means you hire lawyers to do it for you. You know how the justice system works here. If someone has to hire a lawyer, they have to have the money to pay the lawyer otherwise you win and thereby have success by having your "Uncivil  by lawyer" mudslinging, shall we say, completed.
"Uncivil", "Uncivil by Chief of Staff or Staff", and "Uncivil by lawyer" mean that if you ever decide you want to seek higher office, you cannot run on a platform with "Civility" as a plank because, surprise, surprise, that plank will not hold you up because it is worn, chewed up, the wood is rotten and about to give way. That's how we know what civility really is.

A Citizen's Guide to Freedom

From Susan Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 03:58

The parades and camaraderie of the Fourth of July celebrate freedom.

This nation-wide celebration doesn't mean that the freedoms we have can’t be corrupted. Just this week, the Supreme Court eliminated laws originally intended to prevent states from interfering with the right to vote that has been broadly criticized as a corruption of our freedom to vote. What are the freedoms and rights of citizens?

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The parades and camaraderie of the Fourth of July celebrate freedom
This nation-wide celebration doesn't mean that the freedoms we have can’t  be corrupted. Just this week, the Supreme Court eliminated laws originally intended to prevent states from interfering with the right to vote that was broadly criticized as a corruption of our freedom to vote. 
What  are the freedoms and rights of citizens?
 -Freedom of speech, association and assembly. Freedom of the press, and freedom of religion supported by the separation of church and state.
 -The right to equal protection under the law: equal treatment regardless of race, religion  or national origin.
 -Right to due process: fair treatment  by the government whenever the loss of your liberty or property is at stake.
 -Right to privacy: freedom from unwarranted government intrusion into your personal or private affairs.
 
Our  government and political infrastructure exist to uphold those civil liberties, including , freedom of speech.  When  citizens peaceably assemble to exercise freedom of speech, government officials or employees or elected politicians   who limit or threaten or intimidate or harass citizens  through “the court of public opinion” from exercising that basic right, are potentially corrupting that freedom. 
In my state, the Governor made comments recently that very crassly and almost pornographically defamed a legislator. While he was criticized as offensive, not one legislator called for his resignation. He was exercising his freedom of speech, albeit offensively.
Another citizen, at a public hearing criticized an elected  government official for a practice that intimidated constituents and through intimidation threatened their right to participate in this democracy.  Government  employees, political insiders and legislators orchestrated a media campaign demanding the citizen resign from a volunteer position within the political structure unless the citizen could provide "proof" of the practice, even though a small group of them had already been told what the proof  was
Freedom's infrastructure is  the government, political parties, elected politicians . That infrastructure exists to protect our  freedom not for self-gain or  to be on the team that wins with a hope of further self-gain down the road. In our country, it is ultimately our Constitution that holds that infrastructure to a higher standard if it falters in its own protection of freedom.
Chinese  Nobel Peace prize winner Liu Xiabo is serving an 11 year jail term for putting  a petition on the Internet, called "Charter 08". It is an eloquent  and wistful re-statement of the principles and freedoms of our very own Constitution.  Liu Xiabo writes "We should end the practice of viewing words as crimes." He says freedom of speech fundamentally prevents the corruption of freedom through the government infrastructure because when you have it, you can complain about the government  publicly.  On the Fourth of July, reading  Charter 08 might bring the celebration of freedom not corrupted a little closer to home. 

A Citizen's Guide to Updating Your Truth

From Susan Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 04:07

"Updating your truth" is a term not much used these days. We read that somebody "denied", "vetoed", "denounced", "maintained", "refused to consider", "filibustered", "opposed", "fended off", or "attacked". But we never hear that someone has "upgraded their truth".

"Updating the truth" might lead us all to be in better service to the truth, less frightened of the real information that presents itself and says "Give this some real consideration". We know that currently, people often don't seriously consider new information because there is no safe way for them to change their mind. In psychotherapy, its called "resistance". In developmental psychology, "updating your truth" is what children and adolescents do, profoundly, albeit with subtlety, when they reach 2, 5, 8, 10, 13, 18,- whenever a great developmental epoch begins or ends. Isn't "updating your truth" what human experience is anyway?

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"Updating your truth" is a term not much used these days. We read that somebody "denied", "vetoed", "denounced", "maintained", "refused to consider", "filibustered", "opposed", "fended off", or "attacked". But we  never hear that someone has "upgraded their truth".
Each of the political parties present their positions  as "the truth", or near enough. Each and every one of us is often drawn in to the mire with them that "the truth" of these positions is incorrigible and irreversible and what the voters should vote for as "the truth".
A minister used the term "updating  your truth", to describe the times in her life when she did. How about that everyone - in either political party and those who would not go near a "political party" because they don't like their "truth" mongering -  is openly invited to "update their truth" as needed?
Of course, we know that even the idea of "updating the truth" these days implies that the person was lying or a weakling or indecisive and a sheep or a flip-flopper. 
How about that we all claim "updating the truth" as perfectly acceptable? Changing circumstances,  reality and what works in the world require that- the truth be updated. It usually isn't seized as  "failing", rather, it's seen as  adult wisdom.
The most frightening example of a truth sorely in need of updating is global warming. For those who have staunchly held to "their truth" that tornadoes, forty degree temperature shifts, hurricanes in places they never used to be,  are just part of a natural cycle, not a fore warning of the end of habitable earth, or much of what grows here,  how about encouraging them to update their truth? And maybe we could all make that  more palatable by not  bringing  down a whole raft of accusations when they do: flip-flopping, spinelessness, and generally threatening to amputate their credibility.
"Updating the truth" might lead us all to be in better service to the truth, less frightened of the real information  that presents itself and says "Give this some real consideration". We know that currently, people often don't seriously consider new information because there is no safe way for them to change their mind.  In psychotherapy, it's calls resistance. In developmental psychology, "updating your truth" is what children and adolescents do, profoundly, albeit with subtlety, when they  reach 2, 5, 8, 10, 13, 18,- whenever a great developmental epoch begins or ends.  Isn't "updating your truth" what human experience is anyway? It starts out very personally. 
"Updating your truth" about God, Privacy and the Constitution, the Patriots' Act,  marriage, nutrition, broccoli, war,  any part of the world.  might lead to great changes. The  acceptance of "updating your truth" might get rid of gridlock and introduce a new voting category- yes, no or "maybe" without anybody calling out "flip-flopper", with gratitude that finally someone is truly interested in what is true.  

A Citizen's Guide To Being Sane In Insane Places

From Susan Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 06:18

The lessons of D.L. Rosenhan's 40 year old study of psychiatric patients "plagerised" psychiatric diagnosis to see if they would be detected as frauds on psychiatric units have not been lost on the world of psychiatric diagnosis. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders is soon to be published in its 5th version, a continuous upgrading used by mental health professionals to elevate diagnosis beyond the simple dichotomy of sane-insane that Rosenhan presented.

How have the observations of this ground-breaking study been generalized to every day life? Enter the United State Congress and the legislative process.Can Rosenhan's observations help make sense of that decision-making process? Position in the psychiatric hierarchy in no way insured judgment that is ethical, rational, sound or true. Might that be true of Congress?

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"On Being Sane in Insane Places", the transforming study by D.L. Rosenhan has reached its 40th anniversary of publication. 
 
Rosenhan's study asked how  impairment in judgment happens in this case,  the failure of the system to identify confederates-fakers- who willingly sought admission to psychiatric hospitals, fraudulently describing themselves as "hearing voices". Following admission, the study looked at whether  their imposter status, their self- relegation to the diagnostic category of schizophrenic would be found out. 
None of the imposters on the psychiatric unit were identified as "diagnosis plagiarists" by the higher-ups in the psychiatric unit hierarchy, the  mental health professionals.
The lessons of the work have not been lost on the world of psychiatric diagnosis. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders is soon to be published in its 5th version, a continuous upgrading used by mental health professionals  to elevate diagnosis beyond the simple dichotomy of sane-insane that Rosenhan  presented. 
How have the observations of this ground-breaking study been generalized to every day life? 
Enter the United State Congress and the legislative process. How can Rosenhan's observations help make sense of  that decision-making process? Position in the psychiatric hierarchy in no way insured judgment that is ethical, rational, sound or true.  Might that be true of Congress? 
Rosenhan's  subsequent study  involved mental health professionals on psychiatric units who were told that over the next 3 month period, diagnosis plagiarism would be entering the psychiatric population in their unit.  Psychiatrists and others were asked to rate their confidence in each patient's presenting diagnosis. Of 193  patients assessed, 83 were rated with some degree of confidence to be imposters.   Rosenhan had in fact enlisted no confederates or imposters for admission to the hospitals. 
What might this impaired decision-making process, where the sane are dubbed insane and diagnosis useless,  teach about US Congress where decision-making power within the political hierarchy is presumed both deserved and trustworthy?
Foremost, the only people in the psychiatric units who voiced suspicion that Rosenhan's  confederate patients were imposters and not really insane were those low in the hierarchy: the other patients. The lesson? People low in the power hierarchy who "live it" know best and their credibility warrants far more acceptance and opportunity to be heard by the power brokers- the decision-makers. Undermining "We the People" in the legislative process leads to lousy decisions. Following 911, getting a message to a member of Congress,  through the multiple filters of staff members is like- well,  a patient in a psychiatric unit trying to tell the Chief Psychiatrist on  staff  that  another patient is not really a schizophrenic and is probably a journalist or a researcher  because he is always taking notes.  (Events that the unit staffers in Rosenhan's study dismissed or ignored). The message often did not get through or is dismissed as a "personal" agenda. Why are the messages of those low in the power food chain found suspect so easily, in Congress, that is.
Rosenhan said "There is a massive role of labeling in psychiatric assessment." Surely, the same can be said for Congress- the  labels being Republican, Democrat or the trendy Independent.  Those labels are justification- in and of themselves- to diminish the value of the speaker's contribution.  Political parties are the cost-free way in which bottom feeders  gain voice if staff filters and  the labels don't siphon them off first. To Paraphrase Rosenhan, "Once a person is designated (Republican or Democrat), all of his behaviors  and characteristics are colored by that label." The "label" is so powerful that, in the study, many of the pseudo-patients' perfectly normal behaviors were overlooked or profoundly misinterpreted. 
In Rosenhan's time, psychiatric diagnosis "located the aberration as emanating from the patient; rarely as a product" of a rigid unexamined power structure or diffusion of responsibility in  a chaotic environment. In Congress, though, when election time comes up, there is a persistent rapid scrambling by many to distort the facts to fit their own their diagnosis-  in this case of themselves- as sound decision-makers. Gridlock, they will say, ( and some may call it insanity) is the result of those other insane Congressional members. 
Powerlessness and depersonalization were central to the pseudo patients' experience. In Congress, powerlessness and depersonalization  are not seen as a problem, rather they are seen as handy snap-on tools to diminish others.  These tools, in Rosenhan's study, led to impaired decision-making. Senators and representatives and their staff who embracing them contribute to the same distortion in  seeking and speaking truth- and making decisions- in Congress.
The truth might be served better in a process and political food chain where, to quote that other Biblical source, "the first shall be last and the last shall be first."

Welcome to "Me Radio": A Citizen's Guide to Why We Need A Solid Political Party Structure

From Susan Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 01:37

A solid political party structure broadens the focus of campaigns from the "me' to the "we", the electorate. Me Radio is an example of how that might not happen.

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I would like to welcome you to Me Radio. I had this idea that Me Radio would work because I thought it up myself and I thought it would be a good idea. I knew it would be a good way to explain what I have been thinking about. Me Radio is primarily going to be about important issues I have been thinking about that I want to say. and this is one of the big ones.  I woke up the other morning and decided or at least I am seriously, seriously telling myself that I should run for Governor. No, no, I 'm not asking for money. I'll do that later.  I have had a lot of ideas and thoughts which I think are very good and I am really anxious to see if any of them that I would do as Governor would work. I have had a lot of them (the ideas, I mean) for a long long time and that's probably why I got the idea when I woke up the other morning that I would run for Governor. When I look in the mirror, I know, I am the one. I know I will have to figure out  who my enemies are and who my friends are so I can treat them accordingly but I'll get to that later. Meanwhile, I am going to keep thinking about what I am pretty sure I should do, which is that I am pretty sure as I have been thinking about this that I should run for Governor because  I believe I know what end is up and I have seen myself many many times say "Hey, that's the wrong end." Well, that's all for now from Me Radio. Goodbye.

Where Mean Spiritedness Hides- A Citizen's Guide

From Susan Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 01:48

Spirits are invisible, never caught in the flesh, imaginary presence usually. Children think they hide under the bed, in dark places, the darkness a perfect place for mean spiritedness to hide. Unseen, mean spiritedness is accountable to no one.

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Where Mean Spiritedness Hides
-Susan Cook-
Spirits are invisible, never caught in the flesh, imaginary presence usually. Children think they hide under the bed, in dark places, the darkness a  perfect place for mean spiritedness to hide. Unseen, the mean spiritedness is accountable to no one.
Electronically, of course, there's spam and stolen passwords where the true writer of a message can lurk, saying mean things. Software can bring that mean spirit to light.
Then there are editorial pages, always anonymous, the Photoshop of accountability. Journalism ethics sometimes bring those mean spirits forth.
There are violent video game and violent television program producers. Nobody has really really ever able to get the mean spirit to come forth.
Then we listen to excuse after excuse from the Republican and Democratic Caucuses, about why they can't come to agreements. The mean spiritedness there hovers like monsters in the darkness, their paid staff feigning concern, as if they cannot see them.  
There are the gun sellers: the Wal-Mart gun procurers and all the gun stores who think the mean spiritedness will never come to light.
Until, some sunny morning, in the most unlikely place, it comes out of the darkness, all that mean spiritedness that everybody works hard to hide, comes out though the muzzle of a gun. And we wonder whether  there will ever be any light again and where that light will be found.  

The Bad Guy View of the World- A Citizen's Guide

From Susan Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 03:40

Many six year olds believe that the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun. Mr. LaPierre, the President of the NRA, is of the same mind, or at least that's what he says. The offensiveness of his use of a child's view of the world to discuss the Newtowne massacre stands beside the reality that many aspects of the real world prove him wrong. Drone attacks, Mahatma Gandhi and the Tarasoff Law that mandates that mental health professionals must inform potential victims of a mentally ill patient with intent to kill all suggest that Mr. LaPierre is incorrect. Many things stop homicidal people from killing.

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                                                        -Susan Cook-

Many six year olds believe that the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun. Mr. LaPierre, the President  of the NRA, is of the same mind, or at least that's what he says. The offensiveness of his use of a  child's view of the world  to discuss the Newtowne massacre  stands beside the reality that many aspects of the real world prove him wrong. Drone attacks, Mahatma Gandhi and the Tarasoff Law that mandates that  mental health professionals  must inform potential victims of a mentally ill patient with intent to kill all suggest that Mr. LaPierre  is incorrect. Many things stop homicidal people from killing.

Oddly,  even the cry for genetic testing of Adam Lanza  who carried out the Newtowne atrocity argues against Mr.  LaPierre's belief. After all, if genetic testing found a gene that is linked to killing then all the good guys on earth with guns won't  ever  stop the bad guys with guns.  Adolf Hitler and the many wars in which thousands have died suggest that one bad guy with a gun and one good guy with a gun lead to two bad guys with guns and two good guys with guns and on and on and on.

If there is a gene ( and we know that a gene is only  important as a phenotype- that is- how it plays out in the real world) then guns wouldn't help. Gene therapy would. Many geneticists don't  believe there is such a gene in the first place.

In our nationwide speculation about what stops one mentally ill person who has been given access to a gun from killing people,  the pharmaceutical industry has been oddly silent. There is always the possibility that  they have a drug on their back burner that stops bad guys from killing, if the drug is prescribed and taken. The pharmaceutical industry already has many drugs that assuage homicidal or suicidal  impulses. They also have psychotropic drugs that carry the potential side effect of intensifying agitation and impulsive aggression. It would be the drug industry's ethical responsibility to tell  us which of their kitchen cabinet of psychotropic drugs has the potential for creating this agitated aggressive side effect in patients.  Doesn't it make sense that before we conclude that every school in the country have its own  arsenal, that we ask about the psychotropic medications that Mr. Lanza and  the young man in Denver and  the one in Tucson, and all the other bad guys who had regular contact with mental health professionals were prescribed? And if impulsive aggression and agitation that some of these drugs have as potential side effects contributed to their behavior that Mr. LaPierre attributes to their "bad guy" side?  Isn't that a question we need to ask?

A Citizen's Guide: How To Gut A Fish

From Susan Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 03:12

When people say things like the quote published in the newspaper the other day, they don't seem to realize what's at stake. So, this Citizen's Guide on how to gut a fish might help people realize what is involved in gutting a fish. Oh, the quote in the newspaper was this:
"There's a general realization that if we're going to solve the public's problems, we've got to get over this idea of party."

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There are now and have always been and will be forevermore, fish. The last part we don't know for sure. Fish are not as stalwart, as impenetrable,  as one might think. To witness what happens after a fish is caught teaches you that.  The learning curve for how to gut a fish  shallow. 

This is how you gut a fish. 
First, you find the tiny, dusty-rose colored, nickel-sized pulsing heart, located somewhere between the dorsal fins and the spine. It is the heart that, even though it is nickel-sized- holds the belief that people are basically good and worthy of being heard.  Pull out the spoon section of your Swiss army knife that the bank gave you when you opened your account there in Switzerland and lift it out. Put it in the freezer- you might be able to sell it later.

Next, you grab the fish by the fins,  the dorsal fins. It is these fins that move the fish from left to right. They have- since the beginning of political advertising on television- allowed the fish to get away ( among flying fish, to fly) and not hear the constant hostility and negativity.  Away, they can make up their own minds, based on support for the issues. Rip out the dorsal fins and the fish’s sway  from left to right or right to left is entirely dependent on the prodding of polls: poking, jabbing in a taunting, merciless way. Remember, you have already removed the heart.
There are a few ancillary organs inside, now, of no use without a heart or fins to flee: the intestines, the tiny lower digestive tract, which we won't get into. The only hope left, this far along in the gutting, is the spine. Gutted properly, as only the relentless do,  all the bones will be ripped out when the spine is pulled, the fortitude of the fish gone. 
Without the spine, all that's left, really, is a mound of flesh, scales no longer  serving any protective purpose. What was once a fine, self-determining, self-respecting fish, now  looks like  a pile of melted  silver, spineless, no heart, no fins to flee the intrusive polls.
You take what you have gutted, wrap it in newspaper. which, as you glance down, may say, as my newspaper did:
"There's a general realization that if we're going to solve the public's problems, we've got to get over this idea of party."

A Citizen's Guide to the Difference Between Before and After

From Susan Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 04:34

Party structure has always provided the legs for a candidate to stand on- supporting and staying in touch with a candidate's focus: the voters. Participation in that party structure has always been absolutely free- participation the only "dues" anyone pays. There are no oaths of loyalty. Voting by poll result, not grasping the difference between before and after and the reality that some people change their vote based on what a poll says, endangers fully this free enterprise- a party system. Without a standing party structure, that exists before, after and even without the highs and lows of the election season, candidates- so-called- "independents"- will re-invent that structure every time- or rather "buy" it. Electing candidates will become a matter of capturing- guess what- the most money- not the most voter credibility and trust.

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During the last two statewide elections, in my state,  polls taken ahead of time  probably suppressed voter turnout. This isn't because the polls predicted the future.  When the television networks predicted winners nationwide, before the polls closed in the Pacific Time zone, it finally dawned on someone that those announcements  probably suppressed voter turnout and therefore influenced  elections. Here in my state, polls published two days before the election, probably functioned in much the same way: suppressing voter turnout and therefore influencing elections.  More than one person told me that they were going to vote  for the candidate with the highest polling numbers and the least offensive policies, to avoid electing, in a 3 way race, the candidate they didn't like.  If that isn't trusting polls, the validity of which were entirely unquestioned, I do not know what would be, certainly effecting  candidate tallies. At the very least, since these commenters  were all men, it suggests a profound lack of understanding of the difference between "before" and "after",  a complaint women have always made about men.
In the age of instant message creation, the question is what do we do to keep our vote choice our own and not pawned off to pollsters whose credentials are unknown, whose credibility is accepted  as casually as we pick up  bumpers stickers.   If pollsters and  their results remain as unregulated as they are,  anyone can  buy and use polls to change an election's turnout.  Historically, the party structure has  always provided the legs for a candidate to stand on- supporting and staying in touch with a candidate's focus: the  voters.  Participation in that party structure has always been - by the way- absolutely free- participation  the only "dues" anyone pays.  There are no oaths of loyalty. Voting by poll result, not grasping the difference between before and after and the reality that some people abandon party  and change their vote based on what a poll says,  endangers fully this free enterprise- a party system. Without a standing party structure, that exists before, after and even without the highs and lows of the election season,  candidates- so-called- "independents"- will re-invent that structure every time- or rather "buy" it.  Electing candidates will become a matter of capturing- guess what- the most money- not the most voter credibility and trust.
In my state, the candidate who benefited most from these polls created  by individuals whose credentials  are totally unknown-  without any known  professional standard to which they are held,  was  also the wealthiest candidate and the one who received the largest amount of money to buy the structure.  The candidate - who benefited all along from these polls whose creators no one investigated-  said after his conquest:
"There's a general realization that if we're going to solve the public's problems, we've got to get over this idea of 'party'". 
To many, many people, “party” has never been an idea. “Party”  is activity. It is going to meetings that build coalitions, that make rules to govern how we treat each other, to stay in touch with voters, to embrace the principles we are loyal to,  not two days or two months before an election- but during, before and after. That reality of “party”- that is free and exists  before, during and after-  is something we should never give away for free to no-credentialed pollsters,  the agenda-holding wealthy  who wake up one morning and say “I think I’ll  run for office” or anyone who thinks elected office is for sale.

Buying Up Democracy One Hybrid Lobbyist At A Time

From Susan Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 03:52

The Mayor of New York held a big fundraiser in New York recently to support candidates who want consensus in Washington. As we listen to Mr. Bloomberg's approach to "finding consensus in Washington" by paying millions to candidates that agree with him- oh, I mean, want consensus- let us pause and anticipate- like water that someday will not be free- what we lose when we hand over to Mr. Bloomberg and his wealthy allies the nitty-gritty ground game of the political process in our democracy.

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The mayor of New York held a big fundraiser recently, allegedly, a new "approach" to support candidates who want consensus in Washington - money!! Now,  he along with the entire country are tired of partisan gridlock - which - not coincidently- has been Page One of the Republican Playbook for limiting President Obama to one term. Mayor Bloomberg has decided that rather than fool with our two party system that anyone can take part in and potentially muck up his agenda, he will target a group where the currency is not the sweat and tears and lack of appreciation of millions of volunteers. No, the currency Mr. Bloomberg raised in  millions is the good old dollar bill. I bet there was not a sliding scale for admission.
I have never kept track of the many hours me and my politically engaged friends have logged- for free- putting up signs, making phone calls, canvassing, cooking stews and baking muffins for Harvest suppers where the gold required for admission is 25 bucks (and of course there is a sliding scale). We now sit back waiting to be made speechless as Mr. Bloomberg and his wealthy friends set out to buy what has always been free- our engagement in the political process. I forgot too mention voting- which I don't believe Mr. Bloomberg has established a dollar-to-dollar direct exchange for- yet.
As we listen to Mr. Bloomberg's approach to "finding consensus in Washington"  by paying millions to candidates  that agree with him- oh, I mean, want consensus-   let us pause and anticipate- like water that someday will not be free- what we lose when we hand over to Mr. Bloomberg and his wealthy allies the nitty-gritty ground game of the political process in our democracy.   
First of all, the jobs of phone call making, putting up signs, tracking down signs that have been taken down, and on and on, will not be open to everyone. You will either have to want to get paid for it or  have a lots of money to plunk down as a "donation". Mr. Bloomberg, after all, is creating "hybrid lobbyists"- ones who do the drudge work that we do now-  propelled forward by the motivational engine called democracy- the fuel called "the belief that it all works" - the rare gratification of a candidate winning who ran not because someone would donate millions to help her- but because she knew she had a big anonymous crowd out there who would help without a paycheck. Mr. Bloomberg claims that the new "consensus" candidate in the political process will come out of the millions his wealthy friends are donating. In fact, his hybrid lobbyist- this one by the roadside, on the telephone,  ladling soup-  and getting paid for it- is yet another effort to buy democracy- out from under us. Oh, I know that Washington is full of the highly paid regular lobbyists who every day try to steer the democratic process toward their own special agenda. Watching my unpaid friends - once again- this election cycle- do what they have always done to get candidates elected in this our free-for-the-taking democracy- you could not prove that by me.

A Citizens' Guide to The Brand: Democracy By Fear and Branding

From Susan Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 03:55

The Constitution does not say "We, the Brand Consumer". It says "We, the... thinking , questioning, remembering, mind-changing, advocating and yes, voting... People". We are Constituents. But The Brand has become the new approach to getting a candidate elected.
Getting The Brand off the ballot, and the Candidate back on, is what we the People do simply by doing what we do: asking, questioning, remembering, trusting our perceptions, telling the truth and yes, voting.

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There is a suspicious-looking growth on that weed-tolerant perennial Democracy- sprouted from  some unknown air-borne spore. The growth is called "The Brand". "The Brand" is what  some candidates for public office seek to be- out of the belief that if their public image does not stick to your fingers, smells good  and doesn't require a long attention-span, they are elect able- without all the dense, cloying, sugary after-taste or vinegar-bite of our partisan-based political process.  In effect, they are candidates who are easy to swallow. With an ingredient-list that defies short sentences, reduced to a Brand:  Avuncular,  an RV-er who just wants to be friends who doesn't  really have any opinions about public policy except what’s in  his/her deeply opinionated but pensive-mind (which has been put on hold until after the election) and he/she only tells you then. 
Any Brand up-close is False. Ivory soap is not 99.9% pure. Pages of public policy lie behind every Wheaties box. What is the price of wheat these days? Is there still wheat in Wheaties?  How come? Organic? McDonald's adding fruit  and eliminating trans-fat  which most eaters could not define tells us that any brand is complex- when questioned.
When the  thought of telling the truth brings a feeling of fear and nausea, when Brand-mongerers call the Truth "going negative",  when what actually happened, what the candidate really left in his wake  is called "untrustworthy"- when we cannot trust our  perceptions  of  what the candidate is really like,  our Democracy is in big trouble. The Constitution does not say "We, the Brand Consumer". It says "We, the... thinking , questioning, remembering, mind-changing, advocating  and yes,  voting... People". We are Constituents. If you remember that a candidate was grouchy, it is because he was.  If you remember that someone's chief negotiating strategy was stone-walling and intimidation, it was.  The only thing Branders can do when The Brand starts to swerve off the taste-chart, is add water. That is not Democracy. Democracy is rich , salty, spicy, sometimes  sour, many tastes.  
Getting the Brand off the ballot, and the Candidate back on, is what we the People  do simply by doing what we do:  asking, questioning, remembering, trusting our perceptions, telling the truth and yes, voting.  Our political parties are not Brands- they are organizations. Top-down? Sometimes. Accountable to the people who- free of charge- by the way- join them?  Always. That  these free-to-join political parties persist- despite the best efforts of Branders to "buy" what political parties get their millions of  Grass-roots volunteers to do for free - says that the party-structured election process  still works. Brands are only what you see on the outside of the box. The grassroots of real Democracy are  what teems and  squirms and tunnels around inside. 

Credibility in Business Casual: Sexism Wears a New Outfit

From Susan Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 04:46

Much is heard about the new Republican attack on women, a not- so thinly veiled attack on credibility, the females’ , that is. Women, you may remember, require more “proof” that they are telling the truth than men do. Women’s credibility remains the non-credentialed, not appropriately dressed, inarticulate sweetspot where, when hit just right, sexism implants its tendrils and goes viral, its derision entitled, origin unknown, because we are talking abut women.

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Much is heard about the "new" Republican attack on women,  a  not so thinly veiled attack on credibility, the females’, that is. Women, you may remember require more “proof” that they are telling the truth than men do. Women’s credibility remains the non-credentialed, not appropriately dressed, inarticulate sweetspot where, when hit just right, sexism implants its tendrils and goes viral, its derision entitled, origin unknown, because we are talking abut women. Many women don’t realize that today’s war on women’s credibility is like that faced by Anita Hill during the Clarence Thomas hearing either because they now have credentials that they hope protect their credibility or they were not old enough or not allowed to watch that spectacle as it unfolded on national television in the early 1990’s. During the hearings to admit Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court, Anita Hill, an African-American attorney was subpoenaed to testify about the sexual harassment she endured at his hands at his previous job.

I still have my “I Believe Anita Hill” button. Many women don’t. Many men never got one in the first place. The smug confidence that Clarence Thomas evinced during those hearings has metastasized into complete silence, as he now sits on the Court.  He perhaps  now believes he doesn’t have to say anything  to have credibility as he has not said or asked any questions during the oral arguments for something like 6 years.  

Some believe that blatantly different standards for male and female credibility have gone away. We need go no further than the recent trial of John Edwards for federal campaign law violations for “proof” that sexism’s new  business casual dress does not mean standards have changed. 

Criminal law trials are about credibility. The “designer” proof presented by John Edwards that he was telling the truth was this: A video of his nationally-televised appearance lauded as his moment of truth-telling, the “tell-all” in which he stated that he had a brief affair with Rielle Hunter but it had ended and his unethical staffer had fathered her child.

 This “truth telling” explique was presented  to the jury as evidence that the man before them was really not telling the truth then, even though he said he was before a national television audience, but he was telling the truth now. This, strategized his defense team, was, yes, a wardrobe failure in credibility that would now be restored with that ever-trustworthy safety pin- the fact that John Edwards is a man. They knew that would hold up better than the fact that Edwards is a lawyer. One word captures how a woman engaging in such tactics would be characterized: Flighty!

The Credibility dress standard  is not the same for men and women.  Credibility remains an icon of sexism that presumes that women have to meet different standards of proof than men do.  There are cultural and social questions that we all must ask about the different standards for “proof” that apply to men and women, that are as unfair and unequal now as they were when Anita Hill was subpoenaed to testify about  Clarence Thomas. 

When we ask for proof from men and women, do we ask each of them, equally, no matter what the context, no matter who has been  privileged with the presumptive “truth-teller” status?  When the ” court of public opinion” is courted, really deep down, don't you think you can overlook what she says is true? That what everybody else thinks is better proof?  That any  other truth that she might offer is really just her reaching for a safety pin- when really- there isn’t one big enough to fill the gap?

 

A Citizen's Advanced Guide to Political Hostage Taking

From Susan Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 05:49

Seldom do citizens witness the workings of that Refinery known as Political Hostage Taking. There is much to learn from the John Edwards' trial about how to recognize Political Hostage Taking when it is happening. There is hope that this Refinery in which what goes in at the beginning comes out at the end, cruder, dirtier and more likely to cause disease will be shut out of politics some day.

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                                 A Citizen's Advanced Guide to Political Hostage Taking
                                                                 -Susan Cook-
 
Seldom are citizens privy to the Refinery of political hostage-taking. It is an industrial process, which defies any environmental regulation because what you end with is dirtier than the crude you started with.  In the trial of John Edwards, we witness the political hostage taking of not John Edwards, not his unethical staff member Andrew Young. No, we are talking about Mr. Young's wife, Cheri Young.  
 
Let us not lose sight of the invaluable information this trial offers  about this Refinery process: the pith of creating political hostages, where someone who seems good and decent and loyal is turned into the conniving and self-serving.  
Step A:  First, someone in a "Leadership" position pretends there is a connection between two events, preferably with moistened  or tearing eyes or patriotic passion, flaring nostrils if at all possible. I say pretend there is a causal link between two events, even though there is absolutely no cause-effect connection between the two. This is accomplished  -again- with flared nostrils- tearing eyes- by declaring that a  possible election defeat, future of the country or actual or pending death or recent experience of near death are  intimately connected to the actions of a single person. It's  the Outside-Inside strategy or in Cheri Young's case the Inside-Inside strategy because she probably thought she was on  the Inside. Lo and behold the people who you'd  think she was on the  Inside with , like her husband, turned out to actually be on the Outside. I am glad they don't design airplanes this way.  
Enter  John Edwards asking  the wife of his staff member Andrew Young  to give the ultimate to her country, this being in John Edward's  eyes  synonymous with his Presidential bid-  "mirror mirror on the wall" kind of thing. What is the ultimate that Edwards asked her to give to her country? Not  a mere psychological transgression like "lusting in the heart" .   No, laid on the sacrificial altar of higher principle called John Edward's Presidential delusion  was a  permanent  sacrifice of Cheri Young's belief  that her husband would never do her wrong because Cheri Young would pretend that her husband had already laid something on the sacrificial altar when he really hadn't.  I think you know the rest.   I am glad they don't design airplanes this way.  
Here is John Edwards encouraging Cheri Young to fake her husband's betrayal: "It is good for America." "This is our time." And here comes the tearing of the eye: he did not want his wife Elizabeth to know about his affair  because "she was going to die soon", this 3 years before she died.
And so, a birth that Mrs. Young is actually involved in takes place: the birth of the Political Hostage.  Mrs.  Young says, "I did not want the campaign to explode and for it to be my fault. I  ultimately decided to live with a lie",  the Stockholm Syndrome creeps  victorious- the creeps being John Edwards and Mr. Young. They were now willing to imprison Mrs. Young by making her a prisoner of her own lies and charging her with responsibility for wounding Elizabeth Edwards and ruining John Edwards' campaign if she did not agree to step into the prison cell- all this for something she had absolutely nothing to do with.  
Step Two of Political Hostage taking is "Find Important Collaborators." Enter Lisa Blue,  John Edward's wealthy contributor, who as an "An Important Collaborator" taps into  Mrs. Young's somehow untainted loyalty to the protection of her children.  Lisa Blue says, "I am a doctor. Mrs. Edwards  is  not well. She is not mentally healthy and there is a great chance she would be a harm  to you or your family if you return to North Carolina."  The  additional threat  to Mrs. Young's children family is finally made by The Important Collaborator delivering once and for all the Political Hostage. 
Taking Political Hostages is really quite simple-  two  steps.  Or  three. The third is the person who caves and say "OK", sometimes their life or quality of life on the line.   Let us all hope that political organizations in their hiring find a way to weed out the unethical, the  mid and late-stage alcoholics,  to  find criteria that doesn't  end up with something cruder than what you started with. That is the person who says  "No,  I am not going to lie."  Maybe using those same criteria when  vetting candidates for office would also be ok in designing airplanes. 

If Power Is An Aphrodisiac Than Unethical Staff Are Surgeons

From Susan Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 02:30

Deception is something we need to claim as what we do not like in politics and political life. This is not claiming the moral high ground. This is seeking to return politics and politicians to a respectable level of credibility with the public. But their staff members have to be equally accountable.

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We may never know why John Edwards got into a compromising (or rather compromised, re-negotiated, compromised again and finally blackmailed) circumstance with Rielle Hunter.  His  staff's deception in personal , professional and public relationships,  however, zoom us to another level in viewing the journey of that substance called power through the human body. 
This is not a power pill that works its way out in sweat and perspiration when  staff man Andrew Young swallows it. This is a power pill that causes genetic and believe it or not historical mutations. Was it really just Andrew  Young  not wanting to lose his  job by not pleasing the boss or rather not pleasing the boss enough? Letting go of the vision of Himself- capital H- standing in the White House being important? 
Whatever happened to that other White House luminary who said  "I cannot tell a lie" whose food must have had a really tough journey through his body because he only had wooden teeth to chew it.  I'm talking about George Washington. 
Deception is deception is deception.  It is very, very sad. Telling people things that are not true is deception. Putting your name over things you have not written, done or stayed in a hotel with, is deception. Claiming  you did, wrote or fathered  what you have not is deception. 
It is not just deception when you get found out or it is recognized as Internet plagiarism. It is deception when you do it.  It says then, what it says after you are found out: that you really do not value people for their own sake, that you really think they are just something you swallow and suck nutrients from and then just let go, you know where. 
People are not just players in a lie, however elaborate. They are not a means to an end. They are the end. Deception is something we need to claim as what  we do not like in political life. This is not  claiming the moral high ground. This is taking our vitamins,  believing they work and hoping they do. 

A Citizen's Guide to The Limiting Principle that Makes Buying Health Insurance Different

From Susan Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 06:45

As the Supreme Court Justices listen to lawyers try to find the legal logic in requiring people to buy health insurance, let us remember that people do not always use logic in making sense of the world. Thinking that logic will bring people to buy health insurance without a law is, well, not logical.

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A Citizen's Guide to the Limiting Principle that makes Buying Health Insurance Different
-Susan Cook-
You don’t need to be a Supreme Court justice to know that sometimes lawyers say  stupid things. I am grateful for the Supreme Court justice who introduced the word stupid  into the current debate about the Affordable Care Act. He said that young people are not stupid and will buy insurance when they need it which is why they do not need a law requiring them to buy health insurance- along with everyone else.  By using the word stupid, he stumbles on the Limiting Principle that makes buying health insurance different than buying broccoli and why the Affordable Health Care Act requirement that everyone have health insurance is acceptable. Young people- may not be stupid- but they frequently do not use logic. 
Legal stupidity is defined as lawyers applying logical reasoning to situations where it doesn’t work.  And when is that? First,  we have to look at the limits of logical thinking (also known as legal reasoning)  explaining what human beings will do- who - by the way- are  like the Mariana Trench-  not well understood. 
A French psychologist, Gisella Labouvie-Vief- has written at length about the limits of logic applied to real life.  She calls this Post-formal operational thinking.  Formal operational thinking is the kind of reasoning lawyers  try to do: where they use logic and the legal precedents that have piled up out of it to make decisions. Dr. Labouvie-Vief  says that there are many situations  in which human beings throw their ability to reason out the window.  
Here is an example of when people throw logic away:
1)Bob is an alcoholic.
2)His wife told him: If you get drunk one more time, I am leaving you.
3)Bob goes to a party and gets drunk. Does Bob's wife leave him?
It is in their early 20’s that  young people begin to abandon their proudly acquired ability to use logic to prove flaws in arguments. When presented with this example of the application of logical thinking, Dr. Labouvie-Vief found they say that Bob's wife would not leave him.
Logic does not explain what Bob's wife do. For some Mariana Trench reason, Bob not leaving is more important to her than logical reasoning.
Another explorer of the depths of logic was the great Swiss genetic epistemologist Jean Piaget. Piaget studied the development of children's ability to use ideas to make sense of the world, also known as logic.  In one of his studies, Piaget attempted to trace logical thinking applied to children's understanding of the meaning of family. 
When Piaget asked very young children for the meaning of family, he said- they did not give definitions that are independent of time and place. This means , he said, that very young children give meanings of family as the people they are with  at the moment- not people they are connected to beyond the moment. And - I am not making this up- that it is not until late childhood that children can see how 2 ideas at the same time effect each other and thus give a meaning of family that is "independent of time and place."
This is an example of the Limiting Principle of applying logic to human experience. Any lawyer  who has observed a three year old in utter distress because the father has left them at day-care knows  that three year old’s have a meaning of family as existing  beyond time and place.  Family does  not become the people they are with in the moment, which is why the child wails against Dad leaving and at the end of the day- anticipates his return. 
In my Harvard dissertation, like Piaget, I explored how children use logic to understand the world . In 4 different studies- one of which was  longitudinal. I asked children between the ages of 6 and 18, a group of which I studied until they were in their early 20's, that  prime time for application of logic - according to the Supreme  Court Justice:  "Does a family ever stop being a family?" “When you’re in your fifties, will you still be a family?“ 
Guess what ? Exit logic when applied to real life .  When I re-interviewed children that I first talked to when then were 7 in their early 20's, they tenaciously hung onto the meaning of family that they graciously struggled to articulate at age 7 or  8. Even if their families had broken into a million barely recognizable tiny creatures, they told me- without knowing what they had said at age 7 or 8, that families do not stop being families, no matter what.
This is the Limiting Principle where logic applied to human experience falls into a deep Mariana Trench, where logic does not explain action. It is also where lawyers start say stupid things about what they "think"  young people will do when when buying health insurance: their logic does not explain what people will do.  The application of logic to real life where lawyers can hold their own is this one:
1) Bob does not have health insurance.
2) It is illegal in the United States to not carry health insurance.
3) Bob will face legal sanctions  for not having health insurance.
Will Bob buy health insurance?
Yes. That's not stupid. That is logic. That’s why the Affordable Health Care requirement that people buy insurance is not stupid.
Cook, Susan. "A Sense of Belonging, A Sense of Place: The Child in The Family and the Perspective Taken", Unpublished Doctoral Dissertation, Harvard University, 1986.
Cook, Susan (June 3, 1993). Children's Recognition of Context in FamilyRelationship. Presented at the Annual Meeting of the Jean Piaget Society. Philadephia, Pa.

A Citizen's Guide to Organically Grown Political Influence: How to Experience Being One Vote

From Susan Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 04:30

No matter how many lawsuits are filed to make political influence available to the highest bidder, there is one kind that you can't pay for or create with your debit card. It's organic, it's free, and you have to show up to make it.

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I heard Mr. What's-His-Name, the fellow who initiated the Citizen's United Lawsuit explain why he thinks we should be able to give as much money as possible to political candidates- almost anonymously. It seems that Mr. What's-His-Name would only recognize a fellow citizen if the person was also a member of - say- Sam's Club. Mr. What's-His-Name  wants political influence you can buy- in large quantities- as much as you want. Mr. What's-His-Name managed to argue that money  in politics is both relevant (which is why it's so, so, so  important for donors to give as much as they want- anonymously) AND irrelevant, which is why all the money that wealthy Mr. and Mrs. So-and-So gave Newt Gingrich couldn't save him. Mr.  What's-His-Name might think that really what he's doing is making One vote irrelevant. Thanks to Good Old "2+2= 4", one vote is still important. Ask my friend who ran for County Commissioner and won by One, yes One vote. And so, Mr. What's-His-Name and Mr. and Mrs. So-and-So, did you stay home from the polls that day? Are you not having enough experiences of Being Just One Vote? Because you seem to have forgotten that there is much political influence that money cannot buy. 
Here in Maine, Organically-grown Political Influence is fed by the decomposing fumes of  every-day citizens when they start thinking about the government policies that elected officials make. It is ripest at our political  caucuses. This kind of political influence cannot be bought with the measly $25 contribution that Mr. What's-His-Name called insignificant:  Concern about how human beings,  animals, trees, birds, squirrels, rivers and even the Ozone layer- are treated by government policy. Mr. and Mrs. So-and-So cannot stay home and buy it with their debit card. They have to leave home and show up- in this case at a Caucus where every one still has just one vote. The purpose is for each of those people- with one vote each- to elect delegates who will then vote for their nominee for President of the United States.  Now- other states have primaries where citizens- just like on election day- one at a time vote for who they want to be the nominee.  But listen up Mr. What-His-Name- each person only gets one vote. That's the irreplaceable nutritional value of organically grown political influence. It is measured not by millions of dollars or even  those lousy little $25 increments- but by one vote at a time. Multi-million dollar political ads take back seat to how well this organically grown political influence has been fed by- not just your decomposing fumes, Mr. What-His-Name and Mr. and Mrs. So-and-So- but by the guy standing next  to you- and the woman across the room- and next to her and him and him.  Meanwhile,  Mr. What's-His-Name is busy trying to make it legal for anybody with a lot of money to pay for ads and bumper stickers and lunches and everything else that is supposed to convince people to give that one vote to a candidate. It's that experience of being one vote that going to a caucus gives for free to those who show up. That is, as long as nobody starts to feel irrelevant or thinks that real political influence  the kind on multi-million dollar political ads - paid for by the friends of Mr. What's-His-Name, who still only have one vote. But as long as each us keep showing up at Caucuses and primaries and the ballot box- doing what is free- that will never happen. 

A Citizen's Guide To The Truly Presidential: Candidates Caught Without Their Meetings

From Susan Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 02:33

We listen to the billow of candidate debates to answer bigger questions: who among them truly has the character and qualities to be President of the United States. But perhaps there is a better format for exploring this question: The Meeting or rather the Meeting they missed. To become President of this country, the truly Presidential have attended many meetings. But what happens if they are denied? A meeting, I mean.

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A Citizen's Guide To The Truly Presidential: Candidates Caught Without Their Meetings
-Susan Cook-
We listen to the billow of candidate debates to answer bigger questions: who among them  truly has the character and qualities to be President of the United States. But perhaps there is a better format for exploring this question: The Meeting or rather the Meeting they  missed. To become President of this country,  the truly Presidential have attended many meetings. But what happens if they are denied? A meeting, I mean.
Scenario 1: The candidates show up for a meeting. An anonymous Someone has changed the time of the meeting.  Wrong time. No meeting. Or worse the meeting  begins just after the  last SUV has pulled out of the parking lot. And how does their Presidential forebearance hold up then?
Scenario 2: The candidates show up for a meeting. An anonymous Someone changes the place where the meeting will be held. And keeps it to himself. You voters out there observe:  Any  almost tearful statements: "This is despicable at the onset of a Presidential candidate meeting". Can they remember which Federal agency they want closed?
And Scenario 3: The anaerobic challenge for the candidate who is truly able to think on his feet, who will not stammer or evade even when asked for his tax returns. The candidate shows up for a meeting, encounters his fellow candidates and announces loudly: "Oh, we already had that meeting and decided that we're not going to have any more meetings."
What? Meltdowns, near tears, rage. Some may walk away muttering words that end in "ck" or those words with "er" at the end too.  Not just candidates. Their staff. Their worst fears realized: all  meetings out of reach. The truly non-Presidential caught without meetings being, well, non-Presidential. Just think of all the posturing, the flimsy rhetoric, let alone, the air time saved just to see if the non-Presidential will strut their stuff, I mean stuffing. 

A Citizen's Guide to the Petty and Small-minded

From Susan Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 01:29

As the dust settles from the Iowa Caucuses , it is time to sniff, dig and if necessary chew and swallow pettiness and small-mindedness where found. How to distinguish the petty and small-minded from the profound and truly significant? And yes, I am taking a lead from the dogs in creating this Citizen's Guide, specifically as they explore the yard.

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A Citizen's Guide to the Petty and Small-minded
-Susan Cook-
As the dust settles from the Iowa Caucuses , it is time to sniff, dig and if necessary chew and swallow pettiness and small-mindedness where found.  How to distinguish the petty and small-minded from the profound and truly significant?  And yes, I am taking  a lead from the dogs in creating this Citizen's Guide, specifically as they explore the  yard. If they chew it and it is still writhing, continuing to chew is profound. If they swallow  it and they can die after ingestion, it is profound and significant. It is or should be protected by higher  laws and principles beyond those of the  wrestling match  between what is lying out in the yard and what the dogs believe might be edible.  In fact,  the principled thought found in the Constitution probably applies. And the appropriate  action? Drop it. Leave it .  So what characterizes  petty and small-minded? That would be all the rest of what they  sniff, chew and feel obligated to swallow that is never missed  but may  surface again in a transformed, unrecognizable state or completely intact, ready for another go.

The Abuse of Power Department

From Susan Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 03:12

A new collection of observations from E.B. White, the Brooklin, Maine writer, has been culled by his granddaughter, Martha White. He was once described as a man who never "wrote a mean or careless sentence". That distinction falls to few in good times; during the Iraq War, more fell out of contention. Many saw the invasion of Iraq, as premised on a falsehood: that Weapons of Mass Destruction were hidden there, an evening of a political score tallied by one President, settled in the wrong country.
The enormous human suffering and sacrifice of Iraq will leave many granddaughters whose grandparents will never be known to them...

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The Abuse of Power  Department
-Susan Cook-
The departure of the last American troops from Iraq, thus ends  the Iraq War. 
Coincident  with this event, a new collection of  observations  from E.B. White, the Brooklin writer,  has been culled by his granddaughter, Martha White. He  was once described as a man who  never "wrote a mean or careless sentence".  That distinction falls to few in good times;  during the Iraq War, more fell out of contention. Many saw the invasion of Iraq, as premised on a falsehood:  that Weapons of Mass Destruction were hidden there,  an  evening of a political score tallied by one President,  settled in the wrong country. 
The enormous human suffering and sacrifice of Iraq will leave many granddaughters whose  grandparents will never be known to them. 
E.B. White regularly wrote  The  New Yorker  Newsbreak Department Heads,  in which itemized   life and world events  were placed in  "Departments".   For many, the Iraq War will always belong to  The Abuse of Power Department."
Abuse of power is certainly not limited to multi-billion dollar wars.  Anybody in a position to secretly or more flagrantly  hold someone else hostage to a belief, a misdeed or a perverse sense of entitlement  to  physically, sexually or emotionally exploit can take part. Mistruth and, yes, mean, careless sentences in the service of marshalling  the court of public opinion to one side or the other, falls into this department. People are always more interested in what is true but the truth we all know  is easily held hostage and abused by those in power.  The truth-teller can be four or forty. The hostage taker Saddam Hussein, a liar trying not to be found out or a local  newspaper. 
The Abuse of Power Department is one that our Constitution and Bill of Rights intend to close down. Those documents hinge on the belief that no one person or group can  abuse the rights of others or persecute them for acting on them, no matter how the thick the closed door to the conference room,  no matter how variegated the veins of the special interests leading to the real reason  an agenda is pushed so vigorously. The  documents say nothing about requiring big consequences before  we are awarded their protection. 
We don't  need to wait for the end of a war to see  or miss  daily opportunities to close down the Abuse of Power Department. White didn't like to leave Maine, once he got here. We don't need to travel all the way around the world before we pull out our pocket version of the Bill of Rights - a department closer if there ever was one- the maker of irrelevance and obsolecence and the best guide for speaking and acting, followed closely by one favored by White,  "A Basic Chicken Guide for the Small Flock Owner."

Is My One Marshmallow Better Quality Than Your Two: A Citizens' Guide to the Occupy Movement

From Susan Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 02:57

Delayed gratification has changed. Social science experiments often mirror cultural values and our best learners absorb them well. They do what the advisor recommends. The children in the Marshmallow study are told to wait before they eat one marshmallow, and they will then earn two. Those marshmallow waiters sit and think, “Oh but the next one will be worth it. “ In the study, those kids who waited went to college, took out student loans, on good faith that they would be able to get jobs with health insurance when they finished. Occupy Wall Street says that is the wrong lesson. We do not teach kids to ask- “How many marshmallows are there? Why 2? Is anybody getting 3? Show me the whole bag.” These are the questions of our time. Not- “Can you wait for the second marshmallow?”

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Is My One Marshmallow Better Quality Than Your  Two: A Citizens’ Guide  to "Occupy Wall Street"

I was at a meditation workshop when the teacher  mentioned the marshmallow  experiment reported on NPR as a reason why these new meditators should stick out the day focusing on the breath, in order to learn to meditate. The children in the reported study who could wait until the experimenter came back before eating  one marshmallow sitting in front of them would get two, while those who wolfed down the first one wouldn't get anymore. 
Sounds like the myth that if you put $5 in a savings bank when you're 20, it will grow to be $50,000 by the time you retire, compounded interest. Not any more. There are bank “inactivity fees” and by the way- almost no interest in bank savings accounts: all because the financial system says “No, we’re going to get that money away from you one way or the other and pay ourselves with it. ” Delayed gratification has changed.  Social science experiments often mirror cultural values and our best learners absorb them well. They do what the advisor recommends and wait for the marshmallow.  Those marshmallow waiters sit and think,  “Oh but the next one will be worth it. “ In the study, those  kids who waited  went to college, took out student loans, on good faith that they would be able to get jobs with health insurance when they finished.   Occupy Wall Street says that is the wrong lesson. 
We do not teach kids to ask- “How many marshmallows are there? Why 2? Is anybody getting 3? Show me the whole bag.”  These are the questions of our time. Not- “Can you wait for the second marshmallow?”  Of course we can wait. It is in the human genome. Manjushree, one of several incarnate Buddhas, it is said, took one breath his whole life. Of course,  we can savor one marshmallow.  But asking where the whole bag of marshmallows is and what a fair share is?   We only ask those questions when those  who took the whole bag and make us wait for two destroy the financial system. For most of us, getting the whole bag is not based on merit  or delaying gratification.  It is based on believing there is nothing wrong with taking the whole bag, or with health insurance companies paying  CEOs multi-million dollar salaries while the entire country ‘s economy goes under because health insurance premiums are unaffordable.  Our children need to be taught to ask where the rest of the marshmallows are and claim the moral  statement: “It is unethical for Wall Street to thrive at our expense.“ And then do something like occupy Wall Street. 

A Citizen's Guide to Acupuncture

From Susan Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 02:54

Acupuncture is an ancient intervention for helping
raise "chi"- pronounced "GEE" in English. For those for whom acupuncture treatments have enhanced the "Gee", whose pain is freed, who feel better when their energy finally runs true, what a discovery! Well, re-discovery because it's been around 5000 years. But, once they try it, reality seems clearer! And who is not made better by a genuine, legitimate, valid check with reality?

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A Citizen's Guide to Acupuncture
-Susan Cook-
I love acupuncture. It's not one of those topics that show up in an online newspaper survey of  public opinion but acupuncture has been around for 5000 years. 
 
What is acupuncture?  It is an ancient Chinese medicine practice in which thin, thin, thin needles are inserted at points in the human body called "acupuncture points".  No, these very, very, very thin needles with razor-sharp points are not inserted deeply. Rather, they  reach only the special point which, with the provocation of the tiny needle's point,  smoothes the flow  of - I'll spell it out- "c-h-i". The English pronunciation of "c-h-i" is like the word "Gee" but the actual spelling is "c-h-i". 
When "chi" is stimulated by the tiny, very sharp points of the acupuncture needles, an invisible roadway that stretches from the northernmost part of the body all they way to the south, and from the farthest eastern points to the west, lights up.   What was once blocked, becomes  a river of insights, as the energy that was stuck and clogged up begins to run true. And this all because of a tiny, thin, thin needle inserted at the right place. Imagine! People become more clear-headed,  snapping back to reality. Insomniacs sleep. Back pain  lessens and the dizzy and unbalanced find their footing.
Now, some acupuncture treatment is covered by health insurance, for those who have it, because its healing benefits are well researched  for some illnesses.  But westerners are slow to accept the unknown- so not everybody is ready to try acupuncture - relying on pharmaceuticals and surgery. But for those for whom acupuncture treatments  have enhanced the "Gee", whose pain is freed,  who feel better when their energy finally runs true, what a discovery! Well, re-discovery because it's been around  5000 years.  But, once they try it,  reality seems clearer! And who is not made better by a genuine, legitimate, valid check with reality? 

Is My Thirty Bucks Better Quality Than Your 2.4 Trillion: A Congressional Guide to "The Quality of Money"

From Susan Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 03:12

As our Elected Officials struggle with Debt Ceiling Reduction, perhaps some homework on how my 30 bucks can be better quality than their 2.4 trillion would help

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Is My Thirty Bucks Better Quality Than Your 2.4 Trillion?
A Congressional Guide To "The Quality of Money"
-Susan Cook-
Our Congressional Guide to "The Quality of Money" comes as both parties  argue  over how much more money than we actually have we should spend and how much money to cut from what we are already spending that we don't actually have. So, some recommended homework for all of them to get in touch with “quality” not “quantity” in the area of money. 
I do it myself every so often. I give myself 30 dollars that, for one week, pays for everything I eat, putting in the gas tank.  Just to see what it really is - the thirty dollars, I mean. 
Each Congress member and the President and his staff get thirty bucks to cover- for one week, food, entertainment, travel No credit card charges allowed. And if they run out before the week is over, as a  Buddhist llama once said, "Oh, well."
At week's end,   important bi-partisan changes might happen.  Run out of money? Need to ask your neighbor if he has any more sardines? This is called "Taking care of each other",  a reminder that the river is indeed wide.
We might see a tidal wave of community awareness- some might pool their money and suddenly have three hundred dollars where thirty once lay. This is called Abundance.  More sardines, navy beans, lentils and oatmeal (all excellent foods) than you could imagine. 
There is a danger that the 535 members of Congress might pool their 30 dollars to make $16,050. And someone might say, "Hey, let's have a big old buffet"  half of which will get thrown away and not eaten. This is called Waste, like we have in government.  But if they have to do  without  until Sunday, they'll vote against the old "big old buffet" idea. Which is kind of why they need this homework in the first place.
Doing The Thirty Bucks a Week homework will never be a requirement of elected office. But those making these debt ceiling decisions might mull over how lousy 2.4 Trillion dollars can be when you don't really know what it buys and you don't really have it in your pocket and you just waste it and  you don't really know how it got there and that it now threatens your existence. And that  thirty bucks can feel like a million, like we all should in this still very, very, very rich United States of America. And that my thirty bucks IS better quality than your 2.4 trillion.

A Citizens' Advanced Guide To Cynicism

From Susan Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 02:08

We now know that Rupert Murdoch and his "gang" have an ability to grasp the difference between the imaginary and the real similar to that of many two year olds. And so we recruit them- one and all- for a new scientific study called "Violence in Media Changes Perception of Reality."

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The Citizens' Advanced Guide To Cynicism
-Susan Cook- 
     Well, well, well. All these years those media bigwigs have said , "Oh no, we don't change how people see reality. Kids watching 200,000 violent acts on TV by age 18 doesn't make them think killing people is entertainment!"   Those of us  who say that the tragedy of violence is lost when the media  treats murder as entertainment-   would like to ask  Mr. Rupert Murdoch  and "the gang" at his London newspaper to sign up for a scientific study called "Violence in  Media Changes Perception of Reality."   Because he and his "News of the World" employees  are living proof of it.   They have caught the disorder. And what disorder is that? The confusion of reality with the imaginary. 
     Now, Confusion of Reality with Imagination is normal for very young children. They  confuse reality with the imaginary all the time.  
But for Mr. Murdoch and his  "News of the World" staff  it is a disorder . They clearly   confuse reality with the imaginary when stealing information from a murdered child's   cell phone -and changing it- is just making entertainment. A human disorder.    
     And  of course,  Mr. Murdoch  is doing this because the public’s imagination is free for the taking ! There is money to be made! 
     It is unethical for someone to grab our imagination by fooling us into thinking it's the Truth.  It is how we lose  that  precious  human  belief that someone somewhere is trying to find out  The Truth. That there is a way to tell what is real from what is imaginary that will keep us sane. No matter how sad or tragic the human event.  It is what keeps us from cynicism . And what Rupert Murdoch thinks is free for the taking.  Maybe it is time to dust off the scientific method and fund those big government studies that seek  the truth called "Violence in Media Changes Perception of Reality."

A Congressional Guide to The Problem of Pretending To Be Someone That You Are Not

From Susan Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 01:36

Thank Former Congressman Weiner for reminding us of what civilization loses when we pretend to be someone that we are not- online or in life.

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A Congressional Guide to the Problem of Pretending To Be Someone You Are Not
-Susan Cook-
I want to thank Former Congressman Weiner for casting "pretending to be someone you are not" into the media's glare- as ethically offensive and in his case- perverse , i.e. "willfully persisting in actions that seem contrary to good sense or your own best interests".
 
Yes, the guy  has been burdened by the chains of instant recognizability  With that Holy Grail of invisibility- The Internet- now offering "cover" - modern times makes not letting others know who you really are  "in one's best interest", right? 
Not if you really want to be somebody.  Not if you want to take part in that  human "best interest" called ethics.  
Maybe those who are the easiest bait for Civilization's newest  inventions  are the most despairing among us-because they don't think about what's at stake.  Think how long it took to realize that cars can  easily kill you. Internet "cover" makes you nobody.  
Maybe civilization's advance should be measured by our  disdain for those who pretend to be something they are not.  And people's freedom to be who they really are . Because being who you really are, for example, not communicating with someone by letting them think you are someone else, is  being somebody.   Ethics are us- our own invention- our genuineness. They have no smoke and mirrors. To have them, we have to be there- who we are - really. Thanks, Mr. Weiner. Now we know who you are, and a  little more about who we are. 

A Citizen's Guide to Cynicism

From Susan Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 03:04

Speaking and seeking the truth is not cynical.

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The editor of my local newspaper refused to publish two letters I wrote criticizing a political candidate who flaunted the Chinese as fertile potential investors in our state because China has a horrendous human rights record which includes Tibetan genocide.  “You”, he said, “are doing the dirty work” for another "candidate's campaign" by "taking the moral high ground" which he questioned because of my "known" party activism. 
I reminded him that the Nobel Committee acknowledged the severity of China's violation of human rights by giving the Nobel Peace prize to the Chinese jailed  dissident Liu Xiaobo. “I’ve been a Tibetan Buddhist far longer than I have been a Democrat,” I said, “My Buddhist teacher's monastery in Tibet has been destroyed. I support a child’s education whose ancestors fled Tibet because of religious persecution.” He said "Well, now I know where you're coming from."
Outrage about atrocity has to be All About Me in order to be genuine? Talk about moral high ground is no longer valuable in and of itself and dismissed if the speaker also actively takes part in our Democracy? Speaking - seeking- truth means doing someone's dirty work? 
"Really?" as my 20-something friends say.
And we wonder where cynicism begins? Where motivation to speak and take part in this democracy  gets lost? How  " All About Me" becomes the only voice people recognize and listen to? 
Cynicism is a ball of dust that stays in the crevices- until we stop seeking and speaking truth because we no longer believe that someone somewhere is,  everyday, little by little, seeking the moral high  ground, where Liu Xiaobo is a media creation. Where taking part in our Democracy and political process is  "doing a campaign's dirty work".  Cynicism all by itself takes the prospect of truth- truth- not fiction- and chews it into tiny pieces that nobody can recognize and metaphor can’t help and that everybody is afraid to believe. When we don't have truth to seek and  speak about, we have nothing, and nothing  is not cynical, it is nothing.

The Loneliness of the Long Distance Government Critic and the Anonymity of Fake News Creators

From Susan Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 06:53

Ten years ago this month, Maine Public Radio fired the host of a 30 year popular jazz program, The humble Farmer because he criticized the Iraq War and the decision of President George W. Bush to start it in retribution for the terrorist attacks of September 2001. His criticism of Real News led to Maine Public Radio demanding he sign Guidelines to not make ‘political statements’ on air. He refused.Fast forward 3650 days, and we now see Fake News displacing Real News. Fake news is prevalent and a growing scourge of the free press and free speech. But it turns out Fake News has been around for quite a awhile.

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The Loneliness of the  Long-Distance Criticizer of Public Officials and the Anonymity of Fake News
-Susan Cook-
Ten years ago this month, Maine Public Radio fired the host of a 30 year popular jazz program, The humble Farmer because he criticized the Iraq War and the decision of President George W. Bush to start it in retribution for -stop me if you already know this- the terrorist attacks of September 2001. His criticism of Real News led to Maine Public Radio demanding he  sign Guidelines to not make ‘political statements’  on air. He refused. His firing preceded other Real News- that Iraq had nothing to do with the terrorist attacks, the real perpetrators were in Pakistan and many, many, many now criticize the fake premise of the Iraq War. The other Real News that emerged  was that heavy  Republican Donors populated the Maine Public Broadcasting Board of Trustees- 160000 dollar category donors who then influenced humble‘s firing. The Fake news  was Maine Public Radio was non-partisan and truly public. It was neither.
Fast forward 3650 days, and we now see Fake News is not only prevalent but a growing scourge of the free press and free speech. But it turns out Fake News has been around for quite a awhile.
Rewind about 5 years and we see Senator Susan Collins’ then Director of New Media Matthew Gagnon responding to my- yes, me- testimony during the congressional Redistricting Hearings that a Maine Legislator was disrespectful of constituents by recording constituent phone calls. In small communities, that means people stop calling and thus have no voice representing them. Mr. Gagnon in his Bangor Daily News column immediately started creating Fake News about me and what happened at the hearing. ‘Susan Cook is a Lunatic‘, he titled it. ‘A rambling, slurring‘ Susan Cook, he went on to say- garbage then and garbage now.  Now Mr. Gagnon admires his Fake News so much that he not only put it on the Internet-it is still there- even after at least one phone call from a police officer and the Internet Service Provider. The stellar example of New Jersey’s US Attorney General in indicting and convicting the staff of Governor Chris Christie - remember Mr. Gagnon was still on Senator Susan Collin’s payroll in 2011-  found that political retribution violates civil rights. In New Jersey, the rights of those stuck in hours of Fake Traffic Jams were created as retribution toward a critic of Governor Christie.
But the Fake News Mr. Gagnon created after my testimony at the Redistricting Hearing remains part of his media strategy. He is now a talk radio host and recently tried very hard to generate Fake News about the suicide of a local meteorologist . Mr. Gagnon told the local newspaper that ‘the investigation of a sexual assault’ that has not been shown linked to the suicided meteorologist  is worth ‘some air time’. In other words, creating ‘fake news’ before the 2 events are linked.
Suicides are always lonely situations. Mr. Gagnon’ air-time is seizing a one-sided circumstance- a suicide cannot speak after all- to inflate and amplify two situations that may have no connection whatsoever. But Fake News thrives on loneliness and isolation- human information that exists in isolation with no human anchoring other than the gossipy passive aggression one-sidedness of the Internet and the anonymous permission of social media. Anonymity is the single lubricant upon which social media runs. You do not know if who you think you are communicating with who they say they are, let alone, if you know them at all when a post is made public.
Fake news creators like Mr. Gagnon, and the Governor Chris Christies and Senator Susan Collins of the political world that hire them support exploitation of anonymity to deceive. Ten years ago, the firing of ‘The humble Farmer’ for criticizing the real news of the Iraq war and the President who started it was not anonymous not were his hundreds of friends who stepped up- real face, real person, real words- to decry the Republican money-backed decision. Senator Susan Collins’ then Director of New Media did not know me, was not at the hearing and in his anonymous long-distance Virginia home tapped out his Fake News. It took a certain amount of IT sophistication on my part to identify him, his location and his then- on-the-payroll position with the Distinguished Ms. Collins.

Anonymity and loneliness drive many social ills- including suicide. If every ethical journalist and public radio station in this country responds to the Fake News threats by not tolerating anonymity then we might see those who create ‘air time’  for it- what they are- unethical. And we might see Government legislators who hire them taking the long distance view of violation of civil liberties.

The Loneliness of the Long Distance Government Critic and the Anonymity of Fake News Creators

From Susan Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 06:53

Ten years ago this month, Maine Public Radio fired the host of a 30 year popular jazz program, The humble Farmer because he criticized the Iraq War and the decision of President George W. Bush to start it in retribution for the terrorist attacks of September 2001. His criticism of Real News led to Maine Public Radio demanding he sign Guidelines to not make ‘political statements’ on air. He refused.Fast forward 3650 days, and we now see Fake News displacing Real News. Fake news is prevalent and a growing scourge of the free press and free speech. But it turns out Fake News has been around for quite a awhile.

0411105039_small

The Loneliness of the  Long-Distance Criticizer of Public Officials and the Anonymity of Fake News
-Susan Cook-
Ten years ago this month, Maine Public Radio fired the host of a 30 year popular jazz program, The humble Farmer because he criticized the Iraq War and the decision of President George W. Bush to start it in retribution for -stop me if you already know this- the terrorist attacks of September 2001. His criticism of Real News led to Maine Public Radio demanding he  sign Guidelines to not make ‘political statements’  on air. He refused. His firing preceded other Real News- that Iraq had nothing to do with the terrorist attacks, the real perpetrators were in Pakistan and many, many, many now criticize the fake premise of the Iraq War. The other Real News that emerged  was that heavy  Republican Donors populated the Maine Public Broadcasting Board of Trustees- 160000 dollar category donors who then influenced humble‘s firing. The Fake news  was Maine Public Radio was non-partisan and truly public. It was neither.
Fast forward 3650 days, and we now see Fake News is not only prevalent but a growing scourge of the free press and free speech. But it turns out Fake News has been around for quite a awhile.
Rewind about 5 years and we see Senator Susan Collins’ then Director of New Media Matthew Gagnon responding to my- yes, me- testimony during the congressional Redistricting Hearings that a Maine Legislator was disrespectful of constituents by recording constituent phone calls. In small communities, that means people stop calling and thus have no voice representing them. Mr. Gagnon in his Bangor Daily News column immediately started creating Fake News about me and what happened at the hearing. ‘Susan Cook is a Lunatic‘, he titled it. ‘A rambling, slurring‘ Susan Cook, he went on to say- garbage then and garbage now.  Now Mr. Gagnon admires his Fake News so much that he not only put it on the Internet-it is still there- even after at least one phone call from a police officer and the Internet Service Provider. The stellar example of New Jersey’s US Attorney General in indicting and convicting the staff of Governor Chris Christie - remember Mr. Gagnon was still on Senator Susan Collin’s payroll in 2011-  found that political retribution violates civil rights. In New Jersey, the rights of those stuck in hours of Fake Traffic Jams were created as retribution toward a critic of Governor Christie.
But the Fake News Mr. Gagnon created after my testimony at the Redistricting Hearing remains part of his media strategy. He is now a talk radio host and recently tried very hard to generate Fake News about the suicide of a local meteorologist . Mr. Gagnon told the local newspaper that ‘the investigation of a sexual assault’ that has not been shown linked to the suicided meteorologist  is worth ‘some air time’. In other words, creating ‘fake news’ before the 2 events are linked.
Suicides are always lonely situations. Mr. Gagnon’ air-time is seizing a one-sided circumstance- a suicide cannot speak after all- to inflate and amplify two situations that may have no connection whatsoever. But Fake News thrives on loneliness and isolation- human information that exists in isolation with no human anchoring other than the gossipy passive aggression one-sidedness of the Internet and the anonymous permission of social media. Anonymity is the single lubricant upon which social media runs. You do not know if who you think you are communicating with who they say they are, let alone, if you know them at all when a post is made public.
Fake news creators like Mr. Gagnon, and the Governor Chris Christies and Senator Susan Collins of the political world that hire them support exploitation of anonymity to deceive. Ten years ago, the firing of ‘The humble Farmer’ for criticizing the real news of the Iraq war and the President who started it was not anonymous not were his hundreds of friends who stepped up- real face, real person, real words- to decry the Republican money-backed decision. Senator Susan Collins’ then Director of New Media did not know me, was not at the hearing and in his anonymous long-distance Virginia home tapped out his Fake News. It took a certain amount of IT sophistication on my part to identify him, his location and his then- on-the-payroll position with the Distinguished Ms. Collins.

Anonymity and loneliness drive many social ills- including suicide. If every ethical journalist and public radio station in this country responds to the Fake News threats by not tolerating anonymity then we might see those who create ‘air time’  for it- what they are- unethical. And we might see Government legislators who hire them taking the long distance view of violation of civil liberties.

The Kindness of Strangers: What Fools These Mortals Be

From Susan Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 06:03

There is not a single insurance company in the country that has gone out of business because of the ACA . They’ve created new alliances, to wit Optum; the United Health Care, Harvard Pilgrim Health, Aetna creation to oversee and dole out mental health services. I would ask the reputable journalists at the New York Times to show me a list of Insurance Executives who have taken a pay cut because of the ACA. I don’t think any have. They claim to lose money on the Health Exchanges, but since every insurance company receives their full premium from the kind stranger known as the US Dept of Health and Human Services, tell me how have they lost money.

Now that President Donald Trump has fired 47 United States Attorney Generals, this bizarre effort to seize power probably has something to do with the current Republican effort to dismantle the greatest kindness by strangers this country has seen in many many years. By that I mean, the Affordable Care Act, the creation of which is not unlike the creation of the New York City subway system . In 1891, the possibility of a subway was described ‘as vital to the body politic’ ‘as [it is] for the body physical‘. The Affordable Care Act has been described as vital now. Both provided something that the wealthy did not need that opened well-being to the great anonymous mass of humanity, inexpensively. Both came out of the kindness of strangers, easily foiled by Attorney Generals.
Reducing health care to a privilege for the economically stable is like making the New York City subway system available only to the elite. If it’s too great a stretch to think of the benefits of kindness to strangers, think for a minute about many, many Days Without the New York City Subway. The cost- is almost unimaginable. The Affordable Care Act’s benefits are not replaced by tax benefits for the economically stable.

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The Kindness of Strangers- What Fools These Mortals Be
-Susan Cook-
From March 11 to March 14, 1888, the ‘Great White Hurricane’ whipped across the Northeast, dumping 60 inches of snow, fierce wind, upending locomotives, paralyzing train travel, some ships lost at sea. In my 1850’s house, un-ruined- as I like to call it- a previous owner gave shelter to some of those stranded on the Atlantic Coast.  In the eaves I found some remnants of their stay; the March 14, 1888 copy of ‘Puck’ stuffed there.
New York printing presses churned out their publications but the trains and coastal traffic ground to a halt , which must be why whoever it was sequestered himself in the attic, at the generosity of my home’s prior owners. 
The Puck masthead with the byline ‘What fools these mortals be’  sits above that week’s  cover cartoon, titled ‘The Simple Christian In Hard Luck’. A messenger for the ‘District Attorney fellows’ carries a note to then New York City Mayor Hewitt.  ‘For goodness’ sake, give me another letter of recommendation quick. This one is all played out.‘  The Mayor, in the wake of the storm’s paralysis   was again seeking to build a subway system. Construction began 12 years later.
My very worn issue of Puck came to mind now that President Donald Trump has fired 47 United States Attorney Generals. In a bizarre effort to seize power , that probably has something to do with the current Republican effort to dismantle the greatest kindness of strangers this country has seen in many many years. By that I mean, the Affordable Care Act, the creation of which is not unlike the creation of the New York City subway system . In 1891, the possibility of a subway was described ‘as vital to the body politic’  ‘as [it is] for the body physical‘. The ACA  has been described as vital now. Both provided something that the wealthy did not need that opened well-being to the great anonymous mass of humanity, inexpensively. Both came out of the kindness of strangers, easily foiled by Attorney Generals.
As an in-network health care provider for every insurer in my state, it  is disturbing to me to see the kindness of strangers that the ACA is be reduced to tax credits, which only benefit those who have enough money to put up for the insurance premium in the first place. I was heartened by the opposition of hospital associations to the plan. I am disheartened to see Anthem come out in support of the GOP Tax Cut Version.
There is not a single insurance company in the country that has gone out of business because of the ACA .  They’ve created new alliances, to wit Optum; the United Health Care, Harvard Pilgrim Health, Aetna creation to oversee and dole out mental health services. I would ask the reputable journalists at the New York Times to show me a list of Insurance Executives who have taken a pay cut because of the ACA.  I don’t think any have. They claim to lose money on the Health Exchanges, but since every insurance company receives their full premium from the kind stranger known as the US Dept of Health and Human Services, tell me how have they lost money.
Insurance companies still employ expensive money-wasting  strategies to save money - instead of trusting the judgment of providers who undergo years and years of training to meet professional licensure standards. I recently spent a half hour on the phone justifying to a six figure salaried insurance employee in a high rent office why I continue to see a patient every other week to be re-imbursed 59 dollars for 40 minute meetings. That does not include the lower echeloned employees calling me 6 times to set up the phone call.
Reducing health care to a privilege for the economically stable is like making the New York City subway system available only to the elite. If  it’s too great a stretch to think of the benefits of kindness to strangers, think for a minute about many, many Days Without the New York City Subway. The cost- is almost unimaginable. The Affordable Care Act’s benefits are not replaced by tax benefits for the economically stable. The benefits relieve burdens- if only the unimaginative can manage to think of them-  not unlike housing a snowbound traveler who can’t get out of town -out of the kindness of a stranger- which it turns out may have been life-saving.

Never Take Money For What You Love Deeply: Money Hustlin' in D.C.

From Susan Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 07:05

Selling whatever this country has, for money, of course, at every turn, even at the highest echelons of government, has become the highest priority in the new administration.

Even the President's daughter- who you would think had all the money she needs- tries to sell more of her clothes so she can make money too. I re-watched ‘Madame Rosa’ the 1977 French film in which Simone Signoret stars as an Auschwitz survivor now an aging or aged-out prostitute who earns her living as a foster parent to the children of Paris prostitutes. From her sixth floor walk-up on Place Pigalle, she is the magistrate of care and mediates between the harsh indulgences of Paris street-life and the tender vulnerabilities of the children she gives harbor to.

While the pimps and ladies and men of the night, transgendered and otherwise come in and out, she tends to all of them and sees to the things that will make their lives their own in a world that- in its own indifference- or for the sake of what others will pay money for- lust, indulgence, sex, earthly pleasures- has left them at her door. She makes room for them all- even the immigrant Nigerian who has become ‘the King of Kings’ on Pigalle- the most influential pimp of them all who she can influence to put an end to the cruelties other pimps mete out. The King of Kings dictates letters to Madame Rosa that he will send to his Nigerian village- letters touting his success and his promise to return home with lots of money to build roads, bridges and make infrastructure improvements.

Like on the streets of Pigalle, in this country hustling to make a buck- and better yet getting it- seems more important than love- love of morality, ethics, human decency, human integrity, respect. Money the cure-all and not having enough the problem. Even worth selling your ass for, as Madame Rosa acknowledged doing. But never ever ever ever take money for what you love deeply and best. It is the only way to keep it.

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Never Take Money for What You Love Deeply- Money Hustlin' in D.C.
I re-watched one of the greatest movies about love ever made. No, it’s not the one with the slogan  ‘Love Means Never  Having to Say You’re Sorry’ - because that’s not true we all figure out sooner or later.  Love is often being able to say ‘I’m sorry’ when every bodily instinct of more dominant emotions in tidal waves move  in the opposite direction.  I’m talking about ‘Madame Rosa’ the 1977 French film in which Simone Signoret stars as an  Auschwitz survivor now an aging or aged-out prostitute who earns her living as a  foster parent to the children of Paris prostitutes. From her sixth floor walk-up on Place Pigalle, she is the magistrate of care and mediates between the harsh indulgences of Paris street-life and the tender vulnerabilities of the children she gives harbor  to.
While the pimps and ladies and men of  the night, transgendered and otherwise come in and out, she tends to all of them and sees to the things that will make their lives their own in a world that- in its own indifference- or for the sake of what others will pay money for- lust, indulgence, sex, earthly pleasures- has left them at her door. She makes room for them all- even the immigrant Nigerian who has become ‘the King of Kings’ on Pigalle- the most influential pimp of them all who she can influence to put an end to the cruelties other pimps mete out.  The King of Kings dictates letters to Madame Rosa  that he will send to his Nigerian village- letters touting his success and his promise to return home with lots of money to build roads, bridges and make infrastructure improvements.
She even ensures that her oldest foster child, Mohammed,  an Arabic child left behind many years before, receives the teachings of the Koran from an aging Mullah who is becoming blind. She gives him an education that will give him an adult future where, as she admonishes, ‘you will never peddle your ass’ when you grow up’.  ‘Momo’ as she calls him,  sees what happens when the silt of her Auschwitz past unsettles.  He witnesses  her, awakened by nightmares, finding her way down the six flights to her basement shrine, where her she lights a Menorrah and finds respite from her dissociative episodes . There, clear as day, she relives the Nazis coming to take her. Her basement hideaway she tells him is her ’country home’.  Again, there are some things she can only seek respite from because there is no saying you are sorry for them.
In Madame Rosa’s world, trading anything for money is ’worth it’, the things people mistake for love- desire, lust, a wish to feel better than someone else. Except for one thing. Over and over, many in the film are  stashing their 100 franc notes in purses or uncrumpling them to gather change to buy bread and other necessities. But  twice  bills are ripped in small pieces. It takes the viewer by surprise- even drawing a gasp . Money is hard to come by for these people. They will even sell their bodies for it.  But  Momo rips up the money he’s given when he sells the dog he loves more than anything to a stranger. Madame Rosa - when he gives her a large sum  a prostitute trying to seduce him into the trade gives him, rips it to shreds. You do not take or hoard money for the things that you love.  Money is not more important than love.
There is some love that gets sold off all the time- for a trick, to the highest bidder, to more overbearing emotions- to jealousy, to hatred, to resentment,  entitlement. Momo’s father- who murdered Momo’s prostitute mother in a fit of rage- is released from a psychiatric hospital and appears at Madame Rosa’s door looking for his son- who  he had left in her care years before. ’I have the receipt’ he says .  Street-wise as she is, Madame Rosa deliberately and coyly summons in the Arabic father what she knows will drive away this unwelcome intruder who stopped giving her money for Moma’s care years before. She summons the father’s hatred of Jews and tells him she named the boy ‘Moshe’ and raised him as a Jew- a bar mitzvah, Hebrew lessons, all of it. Sure enough, the Arabic father recoils. The love that drove his search for his son is gone. He actually dies.
You don’t take money for what you truly love-.  You rip the 100 sometimes 500 franc bills in small pieces. You toss them in the sewer.  This is not crazy. It is how true  love stays alive.
This Valentine’s Day comes at a time when selling whatever there is for money, at every turn, even at the highest echelons of government, prevails.
Even the President's daughter- who you would think had all the money she needs- tries to sell more of her clothes so she can  make money too. Like on the streets of Pigalle,  in this country hustling to make a buck- and better yet getting it- seems more  important than love- love of morality, ethics, human decency, human integrity, respect. Money the cure-all and not having enough the problem. Even worth selling your ass for, as Madame Rosa  acknowledged doing. But never ever ever ever take money for what you love deeply and best. It is the only way to keep it.

Finding the Better Angels of Human Nature:How Congress Will Take Away Health Insurance

From Susan Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 07:11

How does a whole country find its better angels. We hear that this new administration’s policies will deny care to the most vulnerable, escalate nuclear tensions, at a very large human cost, for those who have little to spare anyway. There are many nominated for cabinet posts in this administration who seem to have little interest in human angels let alone benevolence toward all Americans. Department of Health and Human Services nominee, Georgia Rep. Tom Price, has a record, ‘demonstrating less concern for the sick, the poor, and the health of the public, and much greater concern for the economic well-being of physicians.’ He would end the subsidies that make health insurance affordable which are now based on income and the price of the health insurance.

The secret beneficiary of the Affordable Care Act has always been private insurance companies because no matter how much they raise insurance premium costs, the cost is subsidized for those who cannot afford the premium. Private insurance companies get their premium money anyway- even if they raise deductible levels.

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Finding the Better Angels of Human Nature: 
 A Citizen’s Guide to Secretary of Health and Human Services nominee Tom Price and Health Care
-Susan Cook-
Christmas  plumbs the depths of human  wistfulness. Sometimes, it’s one person by one person, one family by one family. Then sometimes, a whole country experiences Christmas wistfulness that way. It was that way, in my country, this year, for the 48 million,  864 thousand who voted for Hillary Clinton. Even though almost 3 million more voted for her than for the other candidate, their votes still failed to give her the Presidency.
 Christmas plumbs other aspects of human nature too-  vanity, self-indulgence and excess, withholding and exclusion , money - the doppelganger for human goodness.  Please witness, as many children of divorced parents do, the bitter, blood thirsty legal battles parents pay lawyers to seize the ultimate love-turned-to-hate Christmas prize- ‘getting the kids for Christmas’.
Where are the better angels of human nature at times like this. For some, those angels only become visible after they embark on a personal inner odyssey  to find them. But how does a whole country find its better angels. We hear that this new administration’s  policies  will deny care to the most vulnerable, escalate nuclear tensions,  at a very large human cost, for those who have little to spare anyway. There are many nominated for cabinet posts in this administration who seem to have little interest in human angels let alone benevolence toward all Americans.
But let’s just focus on one-the  Department of Health and Human Services, nominee, Georgia Rep. Tom Price. Let’s look at how he plans to change health care and the Affordable Care Act.
Just before Christmas, The New England Journal of Medicine in an editorial by Dr. Sherry Glied, PhD and Dr. Richard Frank PhD described this administration’s cabinet nominee's plan to thwart the better angels in this country who sought to give to all of us affordable health insurance coverage. Department of Health and Human Services nominee, Georgia Rep. Tom Price, has a record, they wrote, ‘demonstrating less concern for the sick, the poor, and the health of the public, and much greater concern for the economic well-being of physicians.’ He would  end the subsidies that make health insurance affordable which are now based on income and the price of the health insurance. In other words, now, individuals benefit because income levels determine the subsidy for health insurance premium. Insurance companies benefit because no matter how much they increase the premium, they still are paid the balance for the amount the low income person can not afford. Rep. Price would replace that with a flat tax credit for health insurance based on age, not income. This means that both a 30 year old and a 60 year old would receive a fixed subsidy and would have far higher premiums because the subsidy is not connected to how much the insurance company raises the price of premium.
The secret beneficiary of the Affordable Care Act has always been private insurance companies because no matter how much they raise  insurance premium costs, the cost is subsidized for those who cannot afford the premium. Private insurance companies get their premium money anyway- even if they raise deductible levels. Health care providers of course may left in the lurch because  if someone cannot afford a premium with a low deductible plan, they likely cannot afford the out-of-pocket payment to the provider. Those who can afford a premium with a lower deductible may put money in a Health Savings Account to pay costs which return to their own pocket if not spent by year end.  The lower-premium, high deductible buyer can make that happen with no penalty to themselves- by simply not paying the health care provider what they are owed. This by the way, also drives up the cost of health care because health care providers have to absorb that loss elsewhere.
It turns out devising sound fair compassionate health insurance policy requires an ability to hold more than one thought in mind at a time.  Rep. Price also supports allowing physicians to bill patients when  Medicare pays less than the physician bills. The number of better angels in Emergency Rooms would decrease because  Rep. Price as Health  and Human Service Secretary  would eliminate the requirement that all Medicare and Medicaid patients receive non-emergency care even if they cannot pay the co-payments.  Health insurance coverage for children under age 18 would not be expanded.
The better angels of our nature - there are always more than one- wait for all of us to find them. Let’s hope they’re found quickly- before too many start to think they’re just an imaginary creation.

Like A Bird on the Wire: Human Rights and the Asylum Network

From Susan Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 07:40

There is always, someone, somewhere who "like a bird on the wire" from Leonard Cohen's song, is trying “in [his or her] way to be free“.

Since 1989, Nobel Peace Prize winner Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) has provided to asylum seekers medical and psychological assessment of injuries from past victimization and its persistent symptoms. Asylum seekers are those in the U.S. with temporary legal documentation who have a well-founded fear of scorn and harm through any number of methods, including torture, if sent home. The culturally, if not government endorsed, perception that they are of no use to anyone gives tacit if not explicit permission to harm, an entitled stance taken on by their adversaries in their country of origin. PHR's Asylum Network of volunteer health care providers then write affidavits to accompany lawyers' presentation of the Asylum Seeker's request to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services or the Dept. of Justice Executive Office for Immigration Review. It is a long and complex process.

We- yes, we- do not understand that in many countries, political activism is a privilege not a right. I cringe when I see individuals- on both sides of the aisle- here in Maine and now in a Donald Trump administration turn political activism back into a privilege- not a right. The LePage plan and the Donald Trump immigration stance that withholds basic food and shelter from asylum seekers kicks in the shins this protection of political activism for its own sake and treats it like a special privilege that only those who can run fast enough to get away deserve. Our entire country exists by virtue of and to protect that right. It’s how Mr. Lepage and Donald Trump got where they are- through the right of political activism that did not lead to their persecution, arrest, sexual assault, starvation, homelessness or the disappearance or murder of friends or family.

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Like a Bird on A Wire: Human Rights and The Asylum Network.
In Memory of Leonard Cohen
-Susan Cook-

Here, we assume that  individuals won't be publicly scorned or physically or mentally harmed for criticizing  government leaders or by  belonging to a religion, race, gender, political party or social group fallen from favor. Asylum from sanctioned harm is what our ancestors emigrated toward.  In their countries of origin, they were often candidates for persecution that leadership felt entitled to bestow.
Since 1989, Nobel Peace Prize winner Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) has provided to asylum seekers  medical and psychological assessment of injuries from past victimization and its persistent symptoms. Asylum seekers are those in the U.S. with temporary legal documentation who have a well-founded fear of scorn and harm through any number of methods, including torture, if sent home.  The culturally, if not government endorsed, perception that they are of no use to anyone gives tacit if not explicit permission to harm,  an entitled stance taken on by their adversaries  in their country of origin.  PHR's Asylum Network of volunteer health care providers then write affidavits to accompany lawyers' presentation of the Asylum Seeker's  request to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services  or the Dept. of Justice Executive Office for Immigration Review.  It is  long and complex process.
Our own country’s status as an asylum, is itself always under threat. In many countries, the entitled view that some people are of no use to anyone legitimizes  permission to persecute. There are many examples to draw from, one being the Rwandan genocide in which one million people were murdered within 100 days.
 
Persecution comes in many forms, as the following excerpt from an asylum seeker's  de-identified PHR affidavit  validates. S states that his work as a journalist in Iran has led to his alleged arrests and detention...In 2000, S was ordered by the Iranian Ministry of Information to engage in no further publishing of any newspapers or magazines...In 2001, he published an article about a reformist Mullah who resigned from the government in protest, despite warning from the National Security Council that he could not print this article. In summer of  2002, the Iranian government shut down his newspaper. S also gave a BBC Persia interview about the shutdown of the paper...[He was subsequently detained 4 times where he was repeatedly tortured.]  In February 2012, Iranian colleagues (an Iranian human rights activist living in the US) asked S to attend and report on an opposition  rally planned by...a reformist group. S did publish an anonymous account...S was arrested again… He was severely beaten and told to confess to the authorship of his articles...He refused to confess, and in fact, denied that he had written the articles...After the beatings, [the interrogator] threw him in the hallway...and called his family...who took him to the hospital...[The interrogator] and another official came to his  bedside  to warn S that if he kept writing, he would be referred to a higher-ranking prosecutor who would tie him up and cause him further pain and suffering." (pp. 85-87. "Aiding Survivors of Torture and other Human Rights Abuses: Physical and Psychological Documentation of Individuals Seeking  Humanitarian Protection in the United States",  Physicians for Human  Rights' Asylum Program,  Boston, MA., March 2012.)
Many PHR affadavits document the persecution of Asylum Seekers.  Entitled harm to individuals, political activists and others, who write, speak, or  present discredited views  or  in some cases,  just belong to a group out of favor, can be a pen stroke or  one legislative vote away, anywhere.  
 
We- yes, we- do not understand that in many countries, political activism is a privilege not a right. I cringe when I see individuals- on both sides of the aisle- here in Maine and elsewhere turn political activism back into a privilege- not a right. The LePage plan and the Donald Trump immigration stance  that withholds basic food and shelter from asylum seekers kicks in the shins this protection of political activism for its own sake and  treats it like a special  privilege that only those who can run fast enough to get away deserve. Our entire country exists by virtue of and to protect that right. It’s how Mr. Lepage and Donald Trump got where they are- through the right of  political activism that did not lead to their persecution, arrest, sexual assault, starvation, homelessness or the  disappearance or murder of friends or family. 
So, now, well-fed, sheltered and free from persecution, Mr. Lepage and Donald Trump say “Well, only the privileged who can find their own food and shelter are welcome here where political activism is protected by asylum from the fists  of government oppression. The rest can just  slowly starve and be driven back to persecution."
Remember, please (since they seem to have forgotten that these are human stories, not political antics)  what  "S" and Physicians for Human Rights hold in mind. There is always, someone, somewhere who "like a bird on the wire" from Leonard Cohen's song,  is trying “in [his or her] way  to be free“.

So I Guess Donald Trump's Sexploitation of Women Really Didn't Matter

From Susan Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 05:11

As women in this country grieve the lost opportunity to elect a woman President, the widespread sanctioning of Donald Trump’s sexploitation is there to haunt us. As we struggle to regain our footing, it might serve us to remember that where this particular kind of human rights violation lives, at least in my state, is no further away than the largest newspaper.

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So I Guess Trump’s Sexploitation of Women Really Didn’t Matter
-Susan Cook-
As we enter into this country’s experiment in electing President by social media poll, instead of by deep thoughtful contemplation of the candidate‘s experience and credential,  a first question is- why didn’t most of the public seem to care about his demeaning treatment of women- as objects without feelings, without any really concern about invasion of their bodies,  and then there’s the  psychological prostitution- “You look the way I tell you to look.” Where does such profound indifference  and insensitivity to women come from?  Arkansas? Muslim countries? And the repeated denigration of her credibility  and skill in being able to get things done.
In 2013, during a Maine prostitution trial , an indifference very similar to that the voting public demonstrated in ignoring Donald Trump’s sexploitation of women prevailed. The exploitation of a young woman by 140 men, her feelings, her body, her intelligence  were pretty much ignored as the media devoured the events. The newspaper focused on the “dilemma” of men who paid for sex with the woman trying to prevent the embarrassment of publicity about their crime. And then there was  the Maine Press Herald columnist  who  wrote of the young woman  ‘oh yes, having sex with well over 140 men who paid dearly for an hour of her precious time’ and questioned how contrite she was  when she said “These actions were not taken because I wanted to. I did not feel like I was in a position to choose.” Bill Nemitz, the columnist wrote, “Come again?” ‘The Madam glides from the spotlight insisting she'd been tricked into turning tricks,’ he wrote.

The young woman who was held in sex slavery  (the human rights term for prostitution)  by Mark Strong, the Thomaston insurance agent barely mentioned by Mr. Nemitz or his newspaper. After her trial, in which she was sentenced to 10 months in jail, she announced that she ‘was feeling free’.  Few grasped that anyone who says she is ‘feeling free’ after being sentenced to 10 months in jail has been  imprisoned by far worse jailers.
Just one year before that, a bright, articulate candidate for the 2012 US Senate seat, was called out by the same newspaper  for her “stridency” . They speculated that her stridency ..“has cost her party’s chances of winning in a three-way race. “ This happened  right around the time, a young Pakistani girl was struggling for her life after being shot for “blogging” about female education.   I think her name was Malawi.
There are millions of women- young, old and pre-pubescent- in this country, who are now horrified that someone who treats women as if they are sex objects- someone who publicly- freely and openly displays sexually offensive behavior- walking into the Miss Universe contestants’ dressing room before the bikini ‘competition’, has been elected to the White House. Someone they would not trust alone with their daughters or themselves.
Human rights atrocities- yes, sex slavery and the sexploitation that sits on its same continuum- only end when we recognize where they live. As women in this country grieve the lost opportunity to elect a woman President, the widespread sanctioning of Donald Trump’s sexploitation is there to haunt us. As we struggle to regain our footing, it might serve us to remember that where this particular kind of human rights violation lives, at least in my state, is no further away than the largest newspaper.

Making Water Visible at Standing Rock : Ecotourism and Environmental Genocide

From Susan Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 06:15

The Standing Rock Sioux are protesting the construction of the 1200 mile Dakota Access oil pipeline because it threatens and places at enormous risk a major water resource. It abuts Lake Oahe, a Missouri River wide spot. Three federal agencies have now stepped in to stop construction near the water resource. The Sioux have been joined by many many other Native Americans and environmentalists. Most recently, 141 of them were arrested because the Texas company building the pipeline, Energy Transfers said they had trespassed on private property. Loud, visible Native American protests have risen and disappeared in the past- Wounded Knee, the site of the 1973 American Indian Movement rising comes to mind. Will the protesters at Standing Rock succeed in maintaining the visibility they have given environmental genocide- the death of natural resources on their land?

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Making Water Visible at Standing Rock : Ecotourism and Environmental Genocide
 -Susan Cook-
I was at  a memorial service for a Holocaust survivor-  a gentile man whose arc of justice finally had reached the  limits of its geometry. As I waited in line to greet his widow, chatting lightly with those around me, a former legislator joined in the conversation and  came around to a topic that I had tried to support for in a prior legislative session. ‘Ecotourism,’ she said cynically, as if the moments of casual conversation at a memorial service  were a fine time to express whatever residual contempt she carried on behalf of her  party about an issue they had paid no attention to- the one I had rallied for coincidentally.
This comes to mind as I read about the Standing Rock Sioux protesting the construction of a 1200 mile oil pipeline because  it threatens and places at enormous risk a major water resource. It abuts Lake Oahe,  a  Missouri River wide spot. Three federal agencies have now stepped in to stop construction near the water resource. The Sioux have been joined by many many other Native Americans and environmental protesters. Most recently, 141 of them were arrested because the Texas company building the pipeline, Energy Transfers said they had trespassed on private property.
Water is our lifeblood, everyone’s life blood and its sources are invisible - because water comes from underground water aquifers, because water is re-plenished by rain. No one sees where rain comes from. The Standing Rock Sioux are making water visible in their protest. The oil pipeline company hasn’t seen it or not seen it enough to ask the  question  ‘Could transfer and transmission of oil over these pristine places contaminate them including the waters of the Missouri River at its wide place
Water only becomes visible - clear uncontaminated water- its importance to our well-being and the well-being of future generations through something like eco-tourism- where people from far way who live in congested contaminated places can come and see- this is a lake you can drink from- this is a river you can swim in. Those whose water is invisible to them are also often the most powerful. And only then do they understand why keeping water uncontaminated and protecting the pristine lands around it effects them.
The protest at Standing Rock is becoming increasingly visible- not through ecotourism . Others see what is at stake now that the historical oblivion toward Native American rights surfaces again as a Texas energy company plow their way through native lands. The time worn American story of Native American exploitation. Right now, it’s hard to imagine that the protest will end and be forgotten- let alone trivialized in casual chatting. But it can. Sometime back, on a road trip to California, I drove -  intentionally- to Wounded Knee, South Dakota on the Lakota Pine Creek Indian Reservation.  Wounded Knee, the site of the astonishing slaughter of  over 144 Native Americans by the United States Military in 1890. Driving along the approach road, I remember thinking, ‘Oh, it’s probably really touristy now- gift shops- hotels, kind of like people say Auschwitz is now. I don’t know. I’ve never been.  There had been a large protest by the American Indian Movement in 1973 against Native American genocide. There had  been a 1970 book ‘Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee‘ and a wave of resurrected consciousness about the role genocide had played in the Conquering of the West by white settlers. My imaginings gave way to the reality of Pine Creek- on its borders, a liquor store with iron barred windows on the perimeter. And the site of the graveyard honoring the Native American dead barely marked- few signs- no admission fee- no lines of cars - nothing but a slight whisper of the Plains winds. My friend and I were the only ones there.  Crossing the reservation line boundary, another store by the roadside- two young men- lying on the porch- passed out it looked like. The only way to see Wounded Knee is to actually go there and crowds will not be there with you.
Will the Standing Rock Sioux become invisible too? Will the waters at the wide spot in the Missouri River become invisible too let alone water aquifers that oil spills seep down into and contaminate. Will loud protest be reduced to cynical comment?  Ecotourism in its way prevents environmental genocide-  the one the Standing Rock Sioux are trying to make visible before it happens.

The Little Prince and His Imaginary Rose: Her Imaginary Care and The Proprietary Life

From Susan Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 06:56

When Hillary Clinton said ‘It Takes a Village” to raise a child, she knew that the sole proprietorship of claims like ‘I give my children the right to life’ ignore the larger reality that we are not a society that takes care of children or their mother s. Nor are they guaranteed good care if the state enters into the home because neglect or abuse has been recognized. The foster care system is miserably under funded and inadequate.

If we listen to Donald Trump many children in need do not exist. A woman offered maternity leave at 1/3 her prior salary is inadequately paid. There is certainly no wish to extend any care or bounty to chilldren of illegal immigrants, asylum seekers or legal immigrants. Donald Trump wants to spend several billion dollars for a wall to keep them out of sight.

I’m not sure how one marries the proprietary ‘” I give the right to life” to the “I give the right to life free from emotional and physical torment”, separated in so many ways, n the richest country in the world. Like “The Little Prince” in St. Exupery’s book, the rose the Donald Trumps of the world imagine they “give the right to life” becomes even more imaginary, when it comes to her care, drawn only on paper. And even when the roses are real, a judicial system that thinks a verbal warning to an alleged sexual abuser to have no contact with children gives only imaginary protection to them.

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The ‘Little Prince”  and His Imaginary Rose:
Her Imaginary Care and  the Proprietary Life
-Susan Cook-
“I gave my children the right to life“,  a friend said to me recently.  I was struck by how proprietary that view- that who conceives a child owns the right to life. I had never quite heard it put that way. There is much more to owning life and children than conception .
I’m reminded of that conversation  with the recent news that the founder of a local youth theater group is under indictment for sexual exploitation, unlawful sexual contact with children under the age of 12 and violation of their privacy. The accused’s attorney  sought 500 dollars cash bail . The judge raised it to 5000 dollars cash bail and 50,000 dollars real estate surety and ‘banned’ the alleged perpetrator from having contact with children under the age of 16.  Sexual abuse and molestation undermine and damage the right to a life free from emotional and physical torment , and life-long impaired functioning .  I am always astonished by the failure of this society and its members to take measures that will give the right to children’s lives to be safe and cared for ,by protecting them from abuse or neglect . One does not have to go far, either,  to see atrocious examples of deprivation of care for their mothers who in utero or after birth influence a child’s quality of life.
I often wonder why the same  logic used by Second Amendment proponents ‘If guns are outlawed, only  outlaws will have guns’ is not also seen as applicable to someone who has been indicted on sexual abuse charges who has successfully deceived caretakers. Why wouldn’t that same deception apply to his agreement to ban himself from harming them. Why would a judge believe that sexual abuse indictments bring some magical restoration of a conscience which says do not hurt children.  Again, the bar is set low by the legal system for proof required before they take seriously the right to a life lived without emotional torment and thus the need to protect children from alleged sexual exploiters .  All the indicted has to do is nod his head ‘Yes‘. The  protesters outside Planned Parenthood clinics holding pictures of fetuses, directed toward those who see parenthood as needing planning are lawfully permitted to engage in far more shaming and hostility than this man indicted on sexual abuse charges will witness. 
Still, this “sole proprietorship” claim -“I give them the right to life”- with no ownership or accountability, personally, or by society, of life damaged by   neglect and abuse, dangerous parenting, poverty, non-vigilant child care or a legal system that relies on a verbal caveat to alleged sexual abusers to avoid children under 16’  does not  protect children. Where are the sole  proprietor s of the responsibility to take care of the young  then ? I am reminded of the Portland Press Herald report that the average number of years spent in jail by people  convicted of murdering a child in Maine is six years. I am reminded of the Maine Children’s Death Study (1980, Maine Bureau of Health) which found that the co-occurring factor for most  children who die by any means between birth and age 18  is the family’s receipt of food stamps. In other words, poverty. Then there are the more recent reports that children of incarcerated parents do not face a bountiful life.
At the same time, personal choice after conception to continue a pregnancy - or not- what an individual can claim as theirs to decide- is always being contested. Nobody contests the average 6 year sentence in Maine of murderers of young children. Nobody contests the gross inadequacy of a judicial system giving a verbal warning to an alleged abuser to have no contact with children under the age of 16  or says that is not  giving children the right to life without emotional torment. Ownership of the damage and suffering children experience  when raised by parents whose reckless self indulgence or deprivation take precedence over a child’s well-being does not freely follow from the “I give the right to life‘ claim.
When Hillary Clinton said  ‘It Takes a Village” to raise a child, she knew that the sole proprietorship of claims like ‘I gave my children the right to life’  ignore the larger reality that we are not a society that takes care of children or their mother s. Nor are they guaranteed good care if the state enters into the home because neglect or abuse has been recognized. The foster care system is miserably under funded and inadequate.
If we listen to Donald Trump many  children in need do not exist. A woman  offered maternity leave at 1/3 her prior salary is inadequately paid. There is certainly no wish to extend any care or bounty to chilldren of illegal immigrants, asylum seekers or legal immigrants. Donald Trump wants to spend several billion dollars for a wall to keep them out of sight.
I’m not sure how one marries the  proprietary ‘” I give the right to life”  to the “I give the right to life free from emotional and physical torment”,  separated in so many ways, n the richest country in the world. Like “The Little Prince” in St. Exupery’s book, the rose the Donald Trumps of the world imagine they “give the right to life” becomes even more imaginary, when it comes to her care, drawn only on paper. And even when the roses are real, a judicial system that thinks a verbal warning to an alleged sexual abuser to have no contact with children gives only imaginary protection to them.

Seeing Things As They Are, Updated

From Susan Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 07:05

This US Presidential campaign has been characterized by a striking absence of empathy. No empathy between candidates and a Social Code that defines appropriate behavior focused on exaggeration of flaws and differences between them. When Hillary Clinton withholds information- a minor 2 day delay in announcing to the world she has pneumonia , it becomes news, a possible indication of inferiority, her physical well-being repeatedly bandied about. The empathy-impoverished hate speech of Donald Trump continues unabated. Empathy for others intends to make us equals. Democracy the great progenitor of the Social Code of what’s acceptable intends to make us equals too. In this election, one has to wonder which Social Code has taken over as an influence on voters, which group’s social code they now align themselves with.

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 Seeing Things As They Are, Updated
-Susan Cook-
This US Presidential campaign has been characterized by a striking absence of empathy. No empathy between candidates and a Social Code that defines appropriate behavior focused on exaggeration of flaws and differences between them. When Hillary Clinton withholds information- a  minor 2 day delay in announcing to the world she has pneumonia , it becomes news, a possible indication of inferiority, her physical well-being repeatedly bandied about.  The empathy-impoverished hate speech of Donald Trump continues unabated. Empathy for others intends to make us equals. Democracy the great progenitor of the Social Code of what’s acceptable intends to make us equals too.  In this election, one has to wonder which Social Code has taken over as an influence on voters, which group’s social code they now  align themselves with.
Research on what it’s like to be an individual who thinks or holds independent opinions in a Group suggests  it is very difficult to do. to . How groups treat individuals trying to hold their own view suggest it is cheesily easy to create the Social Code- and it gets re-invented all the time. Stanley Milgram, in his classic work, at  Yale, studied subjects who consented to shock - or were led to believe they gave electric shocks- to other people-  because "an authority" - in this case the experimenter- told them to. Before Milgram, psychologist Solomon Asch studied  leaderless groups .  He studied the power of groups to make individuals abandon independent thinking and fall into tacit agreement with the group's  opinion.
Asch studied small groups, usually with nine members, all given the common task of reaching consensus about whether 2 observed lines were of  equal length. Person after person abandoned their accurate assessment about the equal length of  2 lines when the rest of the group (stacked with the experimenter's confederates)  disagreed with the individual. There were very few holdouts who insisted that the 2 lines were equal no matter what anyone else said.  All of this in 20th century democratic America.
So what is the Social Code that forms a reference during the 2016 Presidential election. The usual fall-back- Party membership offers a shaky reference point for many. Might it be political polls - the 21st century version of the influence a group of confederates have when they tell a naïve subject the lines are not equal when in fact they are.
For example, what is the influence of the  Washington Post poll that reported that  43% of Trump’s supporters are  racists, racial anxiety high on the list of things that they worry about. I wondered who had done the study,  thinking it could not be Rasmussen, a conservative pollster, because it cast the Republican candidate in a bad light.  The stochastic bias in Mr. Rasmussen’s polls has led to suspicion that, his polls are quietly rigged, as Donald Trump says, the poll numbers changing as Election Day nears influencing voters . Because Hillary Clinton quoted the Washington Post  numbers  at length, in this Election, one wouldn’t be surprised to see results rigged so the prevalence of racist  Trump supporters would seem to decrease by Election Day . That  would allow Republicans to call Hillary Clinton a liar.  Targetting individuals flaws - not  racist anxiety in need of intervention-  has emerged as the Social Code. 
In all, it has been very difficult to stay alert to what is actually being said and the facts at hand. The Harvard psychologist Ellen Langer  (preceded by centuries of Buddhists) calls this quality of thinking, and the resistance it brings to following any group Code,  Mindfulness. Buddhists call it "seeing things as they are". 
During the Third Reich, those who disagreed with what truth could be gathered, were shunned and excluded, not in a vast crowd, but  in close quarters, by individuals they thought were allies. The Nazis mastered climbing the hierarchy of power , undermining trust in the social fabric. Shaming for speaking out was perpetrated locally .  In Treasures from the Attic, the memoir about Anne Frank's surviving relatives, one is stunned to read that the members of her close family stopped trying to find out the truth about where the family was- this how successful the Nazis in silencing both the truth and questions about it,  a paralysis of mindfulness about the where the disappeared family had gone.
Pollsters, organized party politics, the media’s own tendency to follow the Social Code- what Rush Limbo calls ‘The Drive-by Media’ - pressure  voters to follow the Code, the ’Party Line’, the Asch Confederates, what the political polls say you should do. But the pressure fails  when the individual refuses to accept  or take it on.  Tibetan Buddhists often say that losing compassion for their Chinese jailers would be their greatest failure . As this election’s   bumper sticker it might say- ‘Be mindful. When this is all over we still live in the same country. After all, Mindfulness, seeing things as they are is what a democracy intends as well.

The Beginning of Mean: This Country's Epidemic of Permission For Meanness

From Susan Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 07:01

The widespread permission in this country to be mean, to arm oneself to be as mean as possible is deeply alarming. The beginning of this permission to be mean, to use language to demean, to arm oneself with weapons, to act impulsively on meanness came from somewhere. No one would disagree that meanness in this country is rampant- violence and retribution over and over. Where the entitlement to be mean, to use mean to control , to act as if the meanness need not be accountable to any authority is a question we have a moral imperative in this country to answer.

Moral imperatives I think can be fostered by human experience. So my question becomes how does this country tell the truth about the meanness we find ourselves in and how do we use the truth to stop it.

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The Beginning of Mean: This Country’s Epidemic of Permission to Be Mean 
-Susan Cook-
 
I watched a young mother who was about to take a walk with me on a stony beach carefully put her own sneakers on. The rocks were rough and dangerous to human skin. Her child, who had not too long before learned to walk was coming with us, but the child was shoeless. I waited for the mom to put the shoes on her own child. She did not until finally I said ‘If she has no shoes. She’ll hurt her feet. Let’s put her shoes on.‘ The spontaneity one might expect a child’s caretaker to have- to see and care for the child first was not there. I was perplexed by that, and thought, then and now, that what I saw was the beginning of meanness, for this child in her life, that somehow this mom had not developed, a quality of tender response we expect to spontaneously flow after birth.   
Forty years later,  I have not forgotten that day, and how easily a child’s experience is ignored and left to the fallout of one mean action or another by parents who are unintentionally or intentionally insensitive to what it might be like for a child. Meanness, some parents say, teaches children lessons, the least compassionate section of the Bible says.
Watching that mother was, for me, the beginning of a long inquiry that became a Master’s Thesis, several peer-reviewed presentations  and a research study published in a peer-reviewed journal. The focus of all that inquiry was shaped by a day on a beach in Maine and the question of how parents ignore their children’s experience. I am a practicing psychologist now which has led me to recognize that there are   parents who seldom deeply and earnestly welcome others’ observations of  their interactions that can only be described as mean. 
Kindness, like the recognition of mean, requires thinking  about the other person’s experience. Including the other in a spontaneous act of kindness is, for many an acquired response.
For children whose caretakers have not acquired it, their daily experience is one of insensitivity, witnessing parents abuse alcohol or drugs, ignoring or incapable of putting their children first. 
These are the experiences where permission to be mean begins and where awareness of meanness can co-exist with a need for love  and no one will notice. The deprivation and the denial of mean damages children on a cellular level- bone, body and brain cell because it is traumatic. We know this now because of the work of Bessel Van der Kolk and others. 
Mean creates trauma . Mean grown up will have difficulty knowing love is not and should not be its companion , silent or otherwise. 
The widespread permission in this country to be mean, to arm oneself to be as mean as possible brings to mind that shoeless child and her mother on the beach that day.  The beginning of this permission to be mean, to arm oneself to be as mean as possible, to use language to demean, to arm oneself with weapons, to act impulsively on  meanness came from somewhere. No one would disagree that meanness in this country is rampant- violence and retribution over and over. Where the  entitlement to be mean, to use mean to control , to act as if the meanness need not be accountable to any authority is a question we have a moral imperative in this country to answer.  
Moral imperatives I think can be fostered by human experience. People become parents when they are not ready or capable of putting themselves in another’s shoes. I grew with a father who thought about his child’s experience when he didn’t have to. Suffice it to say, my father became a father unintentionally. He and my brother’s mother married and very shortly thereafter divorced. A single mom in those days had little choice but to place her baby- who she could not care for alone- in foster care. My father had gone on to marry my mother. One Sunday, he went to visit my oldest brother in the foster care home. Foster homes were then and yes, still are, often places of neglect, abuse and deprivation for children, where they languish for years, ignored and unseen. He came home from the visit and told my mother, ‘ I can’t leave him there.‘ And thus my brother came to live with them and as their children came along, with me. I still remember my astonishment as a 7 year old being told my brother was a half brother, he who had always been just a kind brother, to me.
That kindness toward an  uncared child remains for me an astonishing undoing of mean. Yes, life delivers meanness sometimes,  but some can be undone. 
People are all different but it doesn’t matter if you’re rich or poor , rural or urban, of what color. It doesn’t matter if it’s Donald Trump, Mitch McConnell or John F. Kennedy or a young mother living in poverty, taking her shoeless child for a  walk on the beach. Pain under the guise of love gives, sometimes, hand in hand,  permission to be mean. Mean, left alone, makes more mean and does nothing to eliminate mean . So my question becomes how does this country tell the truth about the meanness we find ourselves in and how do we use the truth to stop it.

Bringing The Truck To Yoga

From Susan Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 01:00

I am trying to care for the health of someone special by bringing him to my yoga class and his insurance is required!!..

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I have been bringing a special part of my life to yoga class.  I bring him to yoga for flexibility  and strength as  he ages . He gets a little winded when he does VINyasa.  I don't want him in an early grave. What yoga won't help is covered by his required insurance.  There's a hefty fine if he gets caught in a catastrophic situation without it. Yes, he gets some  funny looks at yoga class. Noone  else  brings their truck to yoga. Even the government thinks my truck's health is worth it. Why else would they make me pay a penalty without truck insurance and not even let me take him on the road without it? I don't know where they got the  idea but my truck thanks them  whenever he skids on ice. Maybe they'll do the same for that other special part of my live, my body. 

And Always From Behind: Where Women Are Now

From Susan Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 04:00

On International Women's Day, women must acknowledge how women are discredited by others and by ourselves. And that the character ceiling for women lies much lower than the one for men.

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"And Always  From Behind: Where Women Are Now"
-Susan Cook-
I found  notes I  wrote-not  after I received a doctorate or  jobs at prestigious places.  I wrote them after being  denied jobs that would have been promotions for jobs I was already doing very well, at lower wages, with less job security. 
Twenty years later, my notes don't qualify as  "sour grapes".  They qualify as the truth. In honor of  this International Women's Day, let us recognize the  ways in which  women are still  discredited. That cultural scion, Shakespeare, started it. They persist today: The Shrew, The Loose Woman and The Sot.
When I applied for these job promotions, accusations were  always made from behind. Passive aggression, where one feels the stab in back but cannot see who  holds the knife is acknowledged practice among  4th  grade girls. Among College Deans too. 
"Feedback" is how women learn what is really going on through what is unsaid: body language and the social signals. 
Twenty  years ago, I sat down  for feedback   with a woman in a  white suit who leaned against her desk, with arms folded and glared as I asked questions.
What happened?
"The other person", she said "had  stronger interdisciplinary  teaching and  research  with many perspectives. " "My degree is   interdisciplinary, I've taught interdisciplinary  courses. I've published about interdisciplinary education."  "Yes", she said, "but  the other person had a broader social science background. There really isn't anything else I can say." 
I gave the Job Reviewers my  teaching evaluations- The average of my overall rating was 3.9 on a 1 to 5 scale, for the 40 courses I had taught.  "But the clarity of presentation  was lower", she said.    "That overshadowed all the other ratings?"  "Well, in your presentation, you might want to do a literature review to investigate the area you are presenting on- rather than present and put it back to the group. Since there is so much work that's been done in this area, you might have wanted to research it." At that moment,  I think,  she remembered that I had written an entire dissertation about the 15 minutes I was given to speak "like I would to an undergraduate class."   "I am struck by the myopia brought to this job process."  "In every area the person was more widely read. You mentioned one book.." And she said, "What stayed with me was when you said, 'and 'The book's premise is  'a happy thought is a happy molecule' [I was quoting Deepak Chopra's  book about mind/body connections, whose work she had not read.] I said "After 2 1/2 hours?" And she said, "Well, the other person was just more well read in all areas- history, political science, etc." And then , she said, "It's done and you should just let go of it. And frankly, you're making me angry."
 
After 2 years of false promises, and turning down better jobs,  like a woman taking a disproportionate share of responsibility for a job description that said nothing about history or political science, but focused on the content of 40 courses I had already taught, I said , "Well,  I am sorry you're angry."
No one told me directly that the shrew, the loose woman, or the sot which weren't me then or now,  limited my reading in political science.   When I asked to look at the job search file, it could not be found. Twenty years later, these kinds of events comprise women's history.
Four years  before that,  a woman in a different color suit told me that the job committee thought I might be a shrew.  I had never met the secretaries who made this claim.   When I asked for the student evaluations from  a course I taught later that summer that I knew were excellent,  the Dean couldn't find the evaluations.  They never called the secretaries of  the man who got the job to see if he was  a shrew. Search committees have a hard time summoning  nerve to ask if  a man is " a shrew or loose or a sot." Think Clarence Thomas and Anita Hill here.
Women make women's history. The glass ceiling from the  women's museum of aspiration  has been  shattered and replaced by a character ceiling. Behind it, out of site, there are calls of "shrew... loose woman ... sot" from the underground female voice called passive aggression. Shakespeare and Anita Hill were  upfront about it . Women need to be.

My We-Contained Democrat

From Susan Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | :59

If we live in a we-contained world, shouldn't we all be Democrats?

Wecontainedem_small David Brooks' new book raises a big question: When is he going to be a Democrat?

75 seconds on When The Wind Blew:Reading the Constitution With The Representative From Tennessee

From Susan Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 04:00

How NPR Lost Funding

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While reading the Constitution recently, the wind blew a page over.                                                                                    The first article of the Bill of Rights was no longer at the top.  Instead, the Right to Bear Arms sat there- as if Freedom of Speech was gone.   I think that happened to the Tennessee Representative who  voted to end  NPR's Federal dollars so taxpayers don't pay to  broadcast views they don't like.  
That contradicts Freedom of Speech and reality . Taxpayers pay for many things they don't like,  like war. 
NPR has never said only likable things.   They have always said  things others don't  notice. Occasionally,  local stations toss someone off the truck for rankling  Trustees-  a scary precendent  this firing  humble truth-tellers. Everything changes.
Impartiality means  leaving in the dislikes of the Tennessee Representative and mine. Together that rough beast, its hour come round at last, also known as the truth, begins to move.  We all create the truth, even when the wind blows the page over. What if National Public Radio is not there to notice?

Behind the Counter: What Labor Really Looks Like

From Susan Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | :57

See what Labor looks like and does at your local convenience store.

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Behind the Counter:What Management Does
-Susan Cook-
I  stop at convenience  stores driving from work,  usually tired, a little tense from Maine’s  winter roads.  My travel to the counter, pales with that  of the store clerk , paid  minimum wage (or a little more), for 10 hour shifts, with no benefits,  no option of closing early when Maine winter bears down. These clerks are "labor", people that unions can’t  help because "Management" skillfully exploits them. . No one could ever support a family on the money they  earn, at these often second jobs, with  no overtime pay  required. 
We  all suffer here as Maine Governor Lepage embarrassingly slips  on  the learning curve called what labor is and what management has done for them by Maine government (hint: Management  problems are addressed through the Department of Business and Financial Regulation).    Meanwhile, please visit your local convenience chain . Witness "labor"-  when the Union  cannot stop what  Management often does: exploit. 

Managed Car:210 Seconds on How To Triple Car Insurance Premiums

From Susan Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 04:16

Think Managed Care has changed health care? Wait until your car insurance company switches to Managed Car!

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Managed Car: 210 Seconds on How to Triple Your Car Insurance Premium
Automobile insurance companies - tired of paying so  much  when  a vehicle needs repairs or gets totaled- are bringing managed care- make that managed car-  to the out-of-control automobile repair industry. Managed car is here. No more calling up your local garage or VIP and saying-"Hey, I have a funny noise. Can you fix it?" and getting an automatic go-ahead like "Oh sure. When would you like to bring it in?" 
 
Before that repair gets made you will  require prior authorization from a car manager who your automobile insurance company  has hired . Her job- yes- she does have some automotive training- is to determine if  the repair is really necessary  and how much you will be able to have done without your car insurance premium going up. 
 
After your insurer has paid millions to set up the bureaucracy of thousands of customer car representatives to take calls, in high rent districts in  major call centers from east to west, a sample call to your automobile insurer managed car 1-800 line might go like this:
Welcome to Automobile Behavioral Health. Please be advised this call may be recorded for quality assurance. Please press one if you are a member and two if you are a car mechanic. BING. Please enter your Car Mechanic provider ID or your Automobile Behavioral Health member ID. BING.For eligible repairs,  press one. For prior car authorization , press two. If this is an emergency and you are calling after hours, please call your local  emergency tow truck number. Please be advised that may not be covered under your policy. 
Twenty short minutes later, your managed car customer service representative answers.
"I'd like to get my front end aligned."
"I'm sorry. Your policy only allows 1 alignment per year. You already had that done this year." 
"Well, I hit a big pothole. The steering's off."
"We can't authorize that. "
"I need to have this done. You are placing my vehicle at risk by not authorizing this."
"You can appeal this decision by contacting one of our appeal boards. If you'd like I'll send you a form. If they refuse, your insurance premium may increase  because of unnecessary repairs."
"But what I do with my car mechanic is none of your business. 
"Is there anything else I can help you with today?"
" Who are you to tell me how to take care of my vehicle? And why should what my mechanic decides have anything to do with my car insurance? "
"Your mechanic is on our Preferred Provider panel and he knows that if he provides the service without authorization, we won't send him anymore cars to repair  and possibly remove him from the panel. Has he hired a staff to consult with us about  prior authorization? 
"Then I'll go some place else. "
"Is automobile insurance required in your state?'
"Of course it is."
"All insurance companies now require that you see car mechanics on their provider panels. Is there anything else I can help you with?"
 Click.
She goes back to taking calls; that's why she's paid $35000 a year. 
You go back to your  vehicle, listen to the "thump, thump, thump" and think, "This car will be a piece of junk. And if I happen to get in an accident and it gets totaled, the insurance company won't pay me enough to buy another one."
Exactly.

The Joy of Derequiring: A New Word for New Health Care Policy

From Susan Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | :57

We need a new word for those who think "required" health care coverage is pesky and unconstitutional.

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"The Joy of Dequiring"
-Susan Cook-
Please welcome "derequire" , a new verb invented for our  language by all those people who think the new  Health Insurance law is "Unconstitutional". Why is it unconstitutional? They say because the health care bill requires you to buy insurance! 
So, some examples of  the new verb "derequire": 
"Automobile insurance will be derequired from now on. If your new car gets creamed during a snow storm, oh well! At least you didn't have to buy insurance!
OR: Home insurance is derequired. Still have a mortgage  on your house that burned down? Oh well!  At least you didn't have to  buy insurance!
And a favorite!  The Joy of Derequire! You  may be homeless, broke  and have no vehicle ! But you didn't have to buy insurance!
And finally! There is a lot of derequiring to do for those people  who think that requiring health insurance is unconstitutional!

The Birth of Managed Care: An Historical Allegory

From Susan Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 01:00

The birth of managed care was surrounded by sounds called Click and Clack coming from an AM car radio.

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 "The Birth of Managed Care: An Historical Allegory"
-Susan  Cook-
Long ago,  an Insurance executive  sulked as he drove his slant-six Plymouth Valiant  along Mass. Ave listening to his AM radio.   An obstetrician-gynecologist had been paid over $100,000 in insurance payments to give   psychotherapy to his patients and he had no psychotherapy training. 
"No, you don't need a valve job. You are losing all that oil because your valve ring seals are worn out."  the radio guy said to a caller. 
"Wow," he  thought "If only we could tell people what to do  like these guys do. They are managing cars without actually seeing them.  "I know!  We'll do   "Managed Care".  Insurance companies telling people what to do to their bodies.”
"You might want to get rid of the Pinto ...", the radio guy said.  
Then he thought, "Who in their right mind  would ruin their car by actually doing what these radio guys Click and Clack say?  But it’ll be easy to get everyone to do what  we say. People let their bodies fall apart everyday.“

Seeing Things As They Are

From Susan Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 04:53

David Brooks excels when his vast analytic abilities are brought to his fondness for Republicans. In the New York Times, he ventured into an area he has not devoted a lifetime of thought to: specifically, writing about "The Limits of Empathy" and its failure to create acts of human kindness.

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Seeing Things As They Are
-Susan Cook-
David Brooks excels when his  vast  analytic abilities are brought to his fondness for Republicans. In the New York Times, he  ventured into an area he has not devoted a lifetime of thought to: specifically, writing about "The Limits of Empathy" and its failure to create acts of human kindness. 
Psychologically, Empathy never acts alone - we live in groups. Groups do many things to individuals who hold independent observations - shame, mock, publicly or privately humiliate or these days use the Internet to "defame", all the while bringing a sense of permission  to ignore the  question of what is true.  
Before the Milgram studies of subjects shocking others just because "an authority" said to, psychologist Solomon Asch created leaderless groups with no previously established "consensus". He studied the power of groups to make individuals abandon independence and fall into tacit agreement with the group's  opinion. 
In groups of nine, varied up or down in size , person after person abandoned their accurate assessment about the equal length of  2 lines when the rest of the group (stacked with the experimenter's confederates)  disagreed with the individual. 
When empathy fails, Mr. Brooks  says, people are following the Social Code,  which he also drops into the domain of  Morality.  I think morality is about nothing if not moving toward and seeking truth in one's thoughts.   The Harvard psychologist Ellen Langer  (preceded by centuries of Buddhists) calls this quality of thinking, and the resistance it brings to following any group's Code,  Mindfulness. Buddhists call it "seeing things as they are".  
Mr. Brooks remembers the Germans who wept as they slayed their victims as more evidence that empathy is no fireproof influence on kindness. During the Third Reich, those who disagreed, who told what truth they could gather, were shunned and excluded, not in a vast crowd, but  in close quarters, by individuals they believed were allies. The Nazis mastered climbing the hierarchy of power. They also  infiltrated local networks and media, undermining trust in the social fabric. Shaming for speaking out was  not  a distant threat but rather a local one,  perpetrated locally at the beckoning of a nearby confederate of some distant political caucus. In Treasures from the Attic, the memoir about Anne Frank's surviving relatives, one is stunned to read that the members of her close family not only did nothing, but stopped trying to find out what was true - this how successful the Nazis in silencing both the truth and any hint that there was a truth to be told. There was not only a failure of empathy but a paralysis of mindfulness about the whereabouts of  this family that had  disappeared.  
Shaming for not following the Code fails when the individual refuses  to accept it-  which may or may not feel "delicious"- or be seen as "good".  Empathy is strained when resistance to a group's Code is stripped away by the close-at-hand burden of public humiliation-  carried out equally well in small close groups- like those of Solomon Asch- and the large screaming rallies of the Nazis. This does not mean that the affirmation of humanity that we hope empathy offers is lost. Seeing things as they are and seeking the truth while not necessarily delicious may affirm humanity in  ways that Ellen Langer and Tibetan Buddhists agree upon. Tibetan Buddhists believe that losing compassion for their Chinese jailers would be the greatest failure.  Mindfulness has everything to do with whether one is aware of what is happening in one’s surroundings and then either calls its bluff or falls victim or victimizes within it. Mindfulness of what is happening can be both delicious and nasty. But seeing things as they are is like that. 

Emotionally Shallow Waters: Drowning In Two Inches of Water

From Susan Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 02:31

We wade into emotionally shallow waters when we look at the media's recent coverage of the important consequences of the Penn State revelation that sexual assaults of children by their sports administrators were visually observed. And nothing done to prevent future incidents by the perpetrator (or any others) or treat the damage to the children.

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Emotionally Shallow Waters: Drowning in Two Inches of Water
-Susan Cook-
We wade into emotionally shallow waters when we look at the media's recent coverage  of the "important consequences" of the Penn State revelation that sexual assaults of children by their sports administrators were visually observed. And nothing  done to prevent future incidents by the perpetrator (or any others) or treat the damage to the children. 
Let's start with  David Brooks' New York Times commentary "Let's Feel Superior", calling us out on our tendency for self-importance . He  glibly cites study-after-study of  urban residents ignoring  those who need help.  Because they're afraid the guy will turn on them? Because they thought someone was making a movie?  Who knows. Self-importance has many justifications.
It could be you or me, Mr. Brooks says. So, let's take a hard look at the  Self-Importance now floating to the top- ours- as we judge the many authorities  at Penn State who by the way didn't need weapons to protect themselves- just  human decency and a telephone to recognize atrocity when it hit them in the eye. Atrocity , according to Mr. Brooks, depends on which rung of the moral hierarchical ladder you happen to be standing on when it happens: the higher the rung, the more self-importance that goes with it, hence the downward glance now on those who did not report these incidents. Sounds like the same justification the Big Men at Penn State might use to explain  their own failure to report these atrocities. 
Mine is still here. It is the emotional shallowness of the water in which Penn State administrators stand that keeps them and all those who just keep on playing football oblivious to the  ravages and psychological damage of sexual abuse. Atrocity is always in the eye of the beholder and it is my eye- or yours or yours or yours - no matter how low or high your  rung on the moral ladder-  and that’s what keeps us and will always help us see how children can drown in just two inches of water. 

Casting A Blind Eye, Silencing Unspoken Words

From Susan Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 04:17

The peculiar thing about the News is that very often events of senseless tragedy and despair are juxtaposed with News of hope and compassion. Sometimes, the two kinds of News are on the very same page in the newspaper.

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Casting A Blind Eye, Silencing  Unspoken Words
-Susan Cook-
The peculiar thing about the News is that very often events of senseless tragedy and despair are juxtaposed with  News of hope and compassion. Sometimes, the two kinds of News are on the very same page in the newspaper. 
The News this week reports the tragic consequence of the psychotic delusion, or  undiagnosed schizophrenia or psychopathy or profound depression with psychotic thoughts of the young man who ordered thousands of bullets, stockpiled guns and assault weapons for the Aurora shootings. In his many wanderings, in his Neuroscience classes, in his large Internet purchases, someone must have cast a blind eye to what was right before them- a mentally ill individual falling into the throws of psychosis, actively delusional, over the course of months not days, participating in the intensity of a graduate program where scrutiny by others is part and parcel of the curriculum. Once you see it, it's not that hard to miss. Somebody must have cast a blind eye. 
It is easy to do, casting a blind eye. Seeing things as they are does not come easily to us. Shallow consideration of what's  before us is very common.  Shallowness in belief: if you don't believe in God, there isn't one.  Shallowness in action: if you don't think sexual abuse is a traumatic injury that requires treatment, it isn't. Mental health professionals miss it: people whose job, first and foremost, is to recognize when homicidal or suicidal ideation emerges, when ideation turns to intent, intent to plan, plan to action.  Seeing things as they are is very hard to do, enduring human tragedy sometimes follows in its wake. 
And then there is the News of blind eyes opened, of words finally spoken. The News came that the powerful icon of collegiate manhood, the N.C.A.A. leveled major sanctions against Penn State for the consequences of the actions of the many, not the few, who silenced unspoken words about the sexual assaults of coach Jerry Sandusky. They will still keep playing football, but they will play knowing that the abuse of power that sexual abuse acted out and ignored by others is just that: abuse. 
And the News came that Monsignor William J. Lynn of Philadelphia will serve time in prison for  repeatedly casting a blind eye to the known sexual predators among the Priests he assigned to parishes- never speaking the words he well knew, that some of them were a danger to children. 
Shallowness is not uncommon when we only call upon our own experience or our own self-serving priorities to inform our actions. It leads to blind eyes cast; the silencing of unspoken words and not seeing things as they are. All of which can lead to the abuse of a power that no one dares to question.
But the News in its daily humdrum drone of spewing forth what's actually happening brings a peculiar hope. Sometimes people acknowledge that casting the blind eye, being silent by not speaking words that are very well known, is wrong. Reality it turns out, even it's just read about in the Newspaper, can lead us to see things as they are.

Here, There and Everywhere: Locally Upholding Human Rights

From Susan Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 03:28

In this season of gratitude, speak. Uphold civil liberties, the human rights that we have, that others will travel thousands of miles for, and when you see them violated, no matter what the justification others may offer, speak up. Here, there and everywhere.

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Here, There and Everywhere: Locally Upholding Human Rights

"Civil Liberties is a product delivered locally", page 49 of my American Civil Liberties Union copy of the Constitution of the United States. These are our human rights.

We do not need to travel far to find countries where winning an election holds priority over upholding Civil Liberties. The New York Times tells about a Russian political critic Leonid Razvozzhayev- of Russia’s Vladimir Putin. who last week traveled to Ukraine seeking political asylum, “somewhere in the West” for a lawyer to file on behalf of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. He was tracked, stalked, finally abducted and is now in jail. A political critic of Vladimir Putin- not a terrorist.

No one in this country- here, there and everywhere- should have to live in fear that they will be intimidated, derided when they exercise the right to free speech because of Amendment 1 which says "Congress shall make no law ...prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or the right of people to peacably assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

No one in this country- here, there and everywhere- should have to live in fear that they will be subject to surveillance, search or intrusive "background checks" because "the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects, against unreasonable searchs and seizures shall not be violated."

Held together in the mind at the same time, this means: no one anywhere in this country should live in fear that if they speak freely in a peacably assembled group, they will have their privacy invaded by tracking, intrusive background checks, be intimidated, have the freedom of the press of this country harnessed to publicly invite others to embarrass or deride them or cast the person or their human rights as throw-aways".

That goes for the people you disagree with, for people who like what a Governor says and does, for the people who don't like what he says and does, for his staff and the public who attend any of his events, here, there and everywhere, in this country. People enrolled in a particular party want their candidate to win. I say never at the expense of Civil Liberties and the Constitution.

In this season of gratitude, speak. Uphold civil liberties, the human rights that we have, that others will travel thousands of miles for, and when you see them violated, no matter what the "entitled" justification of others, speak up. Here, there and everywhere.

No Reason: Asking Questions About Using Guns

From Susan Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 02:46

I am a licensed psychologist. Every parent or adult who comes into my practice is asked, sooner or later, "Do you have guns in your home?" If they say yes, I ask, "Are they in a locked cabinet? Do you use gun locks?" When there is some one in the home that has a mental illness diagnosis, I say, "I recommend that you either remove the guns from your home or lock them and keep the key with you." I ask the question because children, adolescents and adults who kill or maim with a gun have had access to a gun, very often owned by someone they know. Why don't we all ask these questions?

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No Reason: Asking Questions About Using Guns

-Susan Cook-

 

I am a licensed psychologist. Every parent or adult who comes into my practice is asked, sooner or later, "Do you have guns in your home?" If they say yes, I ask, "Are they in a locked cabinet? Do you use gun locks?" When there is some one in the home that has a mental illness diagnosis, I say, "I recommend that you either remove the guns from your home or lock them and keep the key with you." I ask the question because children, adolescents and adults who kill or maim with a gun have had access to a gun, very often owned by someone they know.

The question addresses the use of guns by people who have a mental illness diagnosis, not whether there is a Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms. There is no reason not to ask the question. No reason.

There is no reason why, when people register guns, they shouldn't be required to answer: "Will this gun be accessible by children, adolescents or adults who have a mental illness diagnosis?" "Will this firearm be kept in a locked gun closet or have a gun lock when it is not in use?" When people apply for a driver's license they must answer whether they take prescription medications. There is no reason not to ask these questions. No reason.

Registering a gun once, registers a gun once. We re-register cars, trucks, boats and dogs annually. There is no reason why we shouldn't re-register guns annually. No reason.

Children in my state can get a Junior Hunter's License that allows them,. at age 10, to hunt with an adult. Do we really need to begin teaching children at age 10 what firearms do? Why not wait until they are the same age that they begin to drive? Or vote?

None of these questions eliminates the Second Amendment. None of them control the use of firearms by responsible adults. We limit access to vehicles by people who are not responsible, who are impaired by alcohol or drugs or medications or a history of bad driving. These questions address how guns are used and the creation of regulations about their use. We as a society often create regulations when we finally realize that not having the regulations is dangerous, that there is no reason not to ask for them. No reason.

Managed Car: Another 210 Seconds On How To Triple Car Insurance Premiums

From Susan Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 03:38

The last we checked on managed car , a disappointed car owner was unable to receive prior authorization from his Automobile Behavioral Health customer service representative for a front end alignment. Managed Car you may remember is the automobile insurance industry's version of managed care. Now, he would like to get the car's oil changed.

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The last we checked  on managed car , a disappointed car owner  was unable to receive prior authorization from his Automobile Behavioral Health customer service representative for a front end alignment. Managed Car you may remember is the automobile insurance industry's version of managed care. His automobile limped through the rest of the year, going "thump, thump, thump " until his new benefit year began almost a year later. He rushed right out and his In-network car mechanic completed the front-end alignment. Yes, his tires wore prematurely in the wrong places because he needed the alignment but it was finally done. Now, very nervous about getting repairs done without  calling the insurance car manager for authorization first, he dialed the Automobile Behavioral Health 800 number.

"Welcome to Automobile Behavioral Health. Please be advised this call may be recorded for quality assurance. Please press one if you are a member and two if you are a car mechanic. BING. Please enter your Car Mechanic provider ID or your Automobile Behavioral Health member ID. BING. For eligible repairs,  press one. For prior car authorization , press two. Please be advised that prior authorization of car service or repair does not  guarantee coverage. Please hold for our next managed car representative."
 
Twenty short minutes later, your managed car customer service representative answers.
"I'd like to get my car's oil changed. "
"Are you enrolled in our Car Wellness program?"
"No, I'd just like to get the oil changed."
"That will be an out-of-pocket expense and you will not be able to bill your insurance company to include it in your annual deductible. Have you contacted your car mechanic and is he one of our In-network car care mechanics?" 
"I did and he told me it would cost me $300. He told me I should call you and see if my managed car insurance policy covers oil changes."
"It would not be covered under your managed car insurance policy."
"Why not? My insurance premium went up. It should cover it. An oil change used to cost me 19.95 plus 7 dollars extra if I got synthetic oil. Why has the cost of an oil change gone up so much?"
"Would like to enroll in our Car Wellness Insurance program? You are currently in the Car Catastrophic Insurance program which only covers major accidents and windshield breakage. "
"I have always had  Car Catastrophic Insurance and I've always decided when I was going to get care for my car. Why would I want to pay  for a managed car insurance policy to cover oil changes?"
"You just told me your oil changes cost $300 now. Car care  costs have gone up and  gotten very very expensive. That's why we only we pay for certain  procedures  with car care  mechanics who are in our network of car mechanics.  And your car care  mechanic  can not provide this service without our authorization or he may be removed from our car mechanic  panel and we won't refer any more cars to him to fix."
"Listen, I'm not asking  you to pay for major surgery on the human body or anything on the human body. I just want to get the oil changed."
"Thank you again for calling Automobile Behavioral Health. Is there anything else I can help you with today?"
Click.

The Sixty Second Moral Inquiry: How Can You Tell When Political and Moral Ground Are Too Different From Each Other?

From Susan Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 01:04

With the election season over, the next phase of elected politics has settled on our plates like a bowl of jello. How can you tell when the age-old moral question “What is right or wrong- civil liberties-style-?” is still high on the legislative agenda? When it’s camouflaged under a political party claim “You are us and we are you and…“ thus leaving you to complete in your own mind the sentence the party wants you to fill in without you first asking “How so?“

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The Sixty-Second Moral Inquiry:  How can you tell when political and moral ground are too dofferent from each other? 
 
 Today’s Sixty-Second moral inquiry asks ”How can you tell when political ground is so different from moral ground that they can no l onger be in the same legislative caucus room?”  The next phase of elected politics has settled on our plates like a bowl of jello. How can you tell when the age-old moral question “What is right or wrong- civil  liberties-style-?” is still high on the legislative agenda? When it’s camouflaged under a political party claim  “You are us and we are you  and…“ thus leaving you to complete in your own mind the sentence the party wants you to fill in without you first asking “How so?“ When all the cry  “We need to be on the same team” is just a way to stop anyone from asking questions that might lead them to discover they don‘t want to be because the team does not ask “Is this right or morally wrong?“

The Sixty Second Moral Inquiry: What's Wrong With Targetting Individuals?

From Susan Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 01:11

In many parts of the world, torture, harassment and persecution are used to target individuals who criticize , believe, have secrets or religions (like Tibetan Buddhism by the Chinese ) disliked by those in power. It happens everywhere even in this country. Thus the Sixty Second Moral Inquiry asks: What’s wrong with targeting individuals because of what the individual criticizes or believes?

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The Sixty Second Moral Inquiry: What’s Wrong with Targeting Individuals?
Torture,  harassment and persecution are used to target individuals who  criticize , believe, have secrets  or religions (like Tibetan Buddhism by the Chinese )  disliked by those in power.  Thus the  Sixty Second Moral Inquiry asks:  What’s wrong with targeting individuals  because of what the individual  criticizes or believes? Not convicted criminals but individuals ?  What is dehumanizing about demanding people do and think what you tell them to, or suffer physically ,  psychologically or be held up for public humiliation in the media? Doesn’t the consequence of targeting  start with the entitlement to target the individual in the first place ? Just because one party or executive  or government has power today,  if the entitlement and permission to target an individual is there doesn’t that  mean that tomorrow  if the power shifts that individual  could be you  unless the utmost priority is treating the individual with dignity and respect  also known as human rights? 

The Sixty Second Moral Inquiry: What's Wrong With Politicians Placing Political Gamesmanship Above Honoring the Public Trust?

From Susan Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 01:03

TheSixty Second Moral Inquiry asks questions about what is right and what is wrong. Today's Sixty Secnd Moral Inquiry asks what is wrong with politicians placing political gamesmanship above honoring the public's trust? When did political gamesmanship become more important to Senators, Congressional representatives and state legislators than respecting the public trust? Is it wrong, as Gallup polls tell us has happened, to destroy the public trust just so the “politicians” will be winner of the day at political gamesmanship?

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The Sixty Second Moral Inquiry: What’s wrong with politicians placing political gamesmanship above honoring the public’s trust?
-Susan Cook_ 
Today’s sixty- second moral inquiry asks what is wrong with politicians in Congress and  state legislatures  placing  political gamesmanship above upholding the public trust?  What’s wrong with the Senate President or the Speaker of the House telling legislators or  Senators and Congressional representatives they have to  vote the way the leadership tells them. What’s wrong with politicians deciding to deceive the public and undermine trust by going along with what their Caucus wants instead of remembering that the public voted them into office because the public  wants them to be trustworthy? When did political gamesmanship become more important to legislators than respecting the public trust?  Is it wrong , as Gallup polls tell us has happened, to destroy the public trust just so the “politician” be winner of the day at political  gamesmanship? 

The Nepal Earthquake and An American Mothers Day Dime

From Susan Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 05:51

Not long before the earthquake in Nepal, I drove by yet another SUV with the bumper sticker “No child left a dime.” As I respond to the earthquake, I am reminded again of the deceitfulness of that slogan. It is simply not true that we do not have enough money in this country to take care of people and it is certainly not true that it will bankrupt us.

But, the slogan brings to mind how enormous a United States dime is in Nepal. I know this because for some time, I sponsored Buddhist’s child education, I never for one single minute thought it was some grand act of generosity because I knew it wasn’t. Money is very very easy to come by in my country for many, many people and a dime-is almost negligible. I will tell you that the waves of appreciation from Sonam, the boy, who’s now an adult, and the drawings of the yaks, the prayer flags, the stupas (a Buddhist monument), the lotuses, he’s sent me over the years put my American Buddhist teaching that it’s not about me to the maximum test. On Mothers Day, it tells me there are many ways to mother.

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The Nepal Earthquake and an American Mothers Day Dime
-Susan Cook-
Not long before the earthquake in Nepal, I drove by yet another SUV with the bumper sticker “No child left a dime.” As I respond to the earthquake, I am reminded again of the deceitfulness of that slogan. It is simply not true that we do not have enough money in this country to take care of people and it is certainly not true that it will bankrupt us.
But, the slogan brings  to mind how enormous a United States dime is in Nepal. In my state, Maine, many Maine Buddhists, myself included, know just how far a US dime goes to feed, cloth, shelter  and educate children and adults in Nepal. We have  had the good fortune to be taught by Thrangu Rinpoche, a genial seventy-something  modern Tibetan Buddhist meditation master  who visited to teach here for 12 years. Buddhism teaches how to generate human compassion and put on hold Me, Me and Me. 
After fleeing Tibet in the 1950’s, Thrangu Rinpoche built his religious centers in the Kathmandu valley. They have  become survival centers of sorts for Dharma teachings. There, monastics  practice Tibetan Buddhism. At a Kathmandu private school, Buddhist children from the northwestern Himalayas in Nepal whose families are ethnically Tibetan  are educated in the Buddhist ritual and liturgy. 
In the wake of the Nepal earthquake, the school in Boudanath, the monastic retreat center at Namo Buddha close to the epicenter , the nunnery in Swyambunath and the Thrangu Rinpoche Monastery in Tibet have been severely damaged or destroyed. Google Earth gives you a good idea of what these places looked like before the earthquake. 
Many Buddhists in Maine have done exactly as I have  and sponsored a child’s education or the care of a nun or monk. The sponsoring has taught us  it takes a very small amount of American money to change a life in Nepal. The cost of one SUV’s 3000-mile oil change, here, keeps a child fed, clothed, sheltered and taught at Thrangu Rinpoche’s school for one month. After the earthquake, the economy of scale- as it’s called- remains the same. It will of course take much, much, much more money. 
In sponsoring a Buddhist’s child education, I never for one single minute thought it was some grand act of generosity because I knew it wasn’t. Money is very very easy to come by in my country for many, many people and a dime- to get back to the bumper sticker- is almost negligible. I will tell you that the waves of appreciation from Sonam, the boy, who’s now an adult, and the drawings of the yaks, the prayer flags, the stupas (a Buddhist monument), the lotuses, he’s sent me over the years put my American Buddhist teaching that it’s not about me to the test.  Then there are his letters.
Dear Susan Cook,
Tashi Delek! Hi!  …My percentage is 61-82%. In this year, I had participated in dance competition and also in football team… I have got lots of friend as well as learned many things till now. This is all because of you. I will never forget you in my life. I will pray for your long life. Your loving son, Sonam. Always keep smile.
As he became a teenager: 
My motivation is to become a successful man where I want to make feel proud [of] my dear Mom, help some sufferers overcome the needy ones it is facing, where I do achieve  in category of science field where there is lack of health facilities and not proper knowledge of health in my village.
And, writing about what he missed most about his village:
I always remember my first and most beautiful day when the water fall were falling from the between of two snowcapped mountains and beside them the beautiful garden which is full of different flowers with the farmers working in the fields.
I do not know where Sonam is now- if he is in his village or is a monastic in a dharma center or elsewhere. I do know that an American dime- to get back to the bumper sticker- is very very valuable in Nepal. And we all know, we have more and more and then billions more after that to go around. And we know that after giving, there will be plenty dimes left over after that for Americans.

The Conscience of Anonymity:Naming Native American Artists

From Susan Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 05:25

I went to an exhibit of Native American basketry recently- made by Maine Penobscots and Passamaquoddies. The reception was as polished as any other art exhibit opening- except in one respect . None of the artists whose work was displayed were named. No brass plate. No calligraphy on an ivory placard. The artists- all of whom- were Maine Indians -were anonymous. With the exception of the one Indian artist whose talk explained the origin and lineage of the art of basket making, none were named- no birth date- no home town- no tribal affiliation. At an exhibit intended to warmly acknowledge, they were excluded by being made anonymous. What is it that lingers when gifted artists of a brilliant tradition are not given the recognition any artist in any art gallery or museum in the country is given- a name? The consequence of cultural anonymity is often indifference . Immigrants arriving at Ellis Island given different names as they left, Jews with their identity papers taken as they board a train, young men first targeted because of race . Making people anonymous makes it easier to hurt them. I wonder if that consequence has made its mark in the national conscience, the one summoned on holidays, like Memorial Day, or the one we privately guard in our thoughts before we fall asleep at night or wake too early to rise.

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The Conscience of Anonymity: Naming Native American Artists
-Susan Cook- 
I went to a reception for an exhibit of baskets made by Maine Penobscots and Passamaquoddies recently. Made from ash and sweet grass, some cedar, these baskets  held - and hold- belongings - treasures and the more mundane necessities of the day-to-day, made from the near-at-hand in the natural world- into the necessary, into beauty,  strength woven from thin slats of ash ,  gifts made from the freely available.
The reception was as polished as any other art exhibit opening- except in one respect .  None of the artists whose work was displayed were named. No brass plate. No calligraphy on an ivory placard.  The artists- all of whom- were Maine Indians -were anonymous. With the exception of the one Indian artist whose talk  explained the origin and lineage of the art of basket making, none were named- no birth date- no home town- no tribal affiliation. At an exhibit intended to warmly acknowledge, they were excluded by being made anonymous.
Native American Indians have so often been anonymous to popular culture, except through stereotype.   The ones history gives names to are those who fought back- and died- or the ones who provided some indispensable service to white men.   Most are anonymous. Not in the graveyards of tribal reservations. I remember walking through one, at Peter Dana Point,   in Maine, one time, and reading  the names- of Indian men whose dates of death subtracted from their dates of birth- for many- meant they died at age 45, 38, 49.  By 2000 the average age of death among  Native American Indians in Maine was 60.  The average age of death among whites in Maine was 74.1 years then. Now in 2012, for whites it is 79.  (https://www1.maine.gov/dhhs/mecdc/files/nar/nar.htm)
I found no current life expectancy data for Maine Native Americans.  I wonder if the 14 year difference still exists.
People having and holding each other and their own cultures is a value-  not one always afforded by life. Living life means people may be lost to each through  death, broken relationships,  conflict . There are many Native  Americans lost to each other because names were changed after adoption or foster care or orphanage placement.  Several people in my family- myself included- bear hauntingly similar physical  appearance to Canadian Micmacs at the end of the nineteenth and early twentieth century.  Some forward thinking Canadian photographers captured their images and named them, so  now they’re available for me to compare with  contemporary photos. My paternal grandmother was adopted by a white family in the 1860’s  at age 3 when her mother died of smallpox. If she was, if my grandmother, my father, all of my family carry that Indian lineage, I don’t know. We have their names, nothing like our own.  I am deeply grateful they were all named. It is a place to start. And yes, I admit that a little of my dismay at seeing no names next to the baskets exhibited came from knowing  I wouldn’t be able to wonder if maybe the artist was a distant relative.
What is it that  lingers when gifted artists of a brilliant tradition are not given the recognition any artist in any art gallery or museum in the country is  given- a name?  The consequence of cultural anonymity is often indifference . Immigrants arriving at Ellis Island given different names as they left,  Jews with their identity papers taken as they board a train, young men first targeted because of race . Making people anonymous makes it easier to hurt them.  I wonder if that consequence  has  made its mark in the national conscience, the one summoned on holidays, like Memorial Day, or the one we privately guard  in our thoughts before we fall asleep at night or wake too early to rise.  We take from each other the wealth that precedes us- in  art, culture, in the sense of belonging and protection that biological connection offers, when even in honoring art- a name is left out- the simplest  cultural tool, the first joining of people  to each other and all that’s come before. 

Harper Lee' s American Mirror

From Susan Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 04:07

Twenty four hours or so have passed since a portrait of the older Atticus Finch as a bigot, complaining about the integration of “Negroes” into the culture, has been given to us by Harper Lee in the newly published "Go Set a Watchman". She has given us a mirror of the struggle to sustain and protect deep compassion, that is, in many, many ways a uniquely American mirror.To Kill a Mockingbird could not have been published when it was in many other countries. And in another country, or culture- maybe this Atticus Finch in Go Set a Watchman wouldn’t have stung quite as much - because the good one is no longer purely good. But so many people here feeling the sting- recognizing that is part of this country too. We all are the watchman in our own way.

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Harper Lee’s American Mirror
-Susan Cook
Twenty four hours or so have passed since a portrait of the older  Atticus Finch as a bigot, complaining about the integration of “Negroes” into the culture, has been given to us by Harper Lee.  She has given us  a mirror of the struggle to sustain and protect deep compassion, that is, in many , many ways an American mirror.
We long for the good one to be the good one and the bad one to be the bad one. Deep compassion like that of the  father of the 8 year old boy who died at the finish line of the Boston Marathon is rare and very difficult to sustain. He said  his  family did not want the death penalty  for the bomber . The child’s father said the bomber chose hate in his actions. The death penalty is about hate. The child’s father said  “We chose love. We choose kindness. We choose peace.” And that is what makes us different from him.
Sometimes the bad one cannot be sacrificed because if you sacrifice the bad one, compassion and love are also sacrificed. Harper Lee’s mirror in Go Set a Watchman tells us sometimes the good one is not all good and the bad one is not all bad and not worthy of compassion.
It is far easier to kill the mockingbird than to tolerate its imitation - mirroring- and yes- being fooled- over and over- because you cannot tell if it is what it really is- which  bird the real one- which one not.  The truth saves us from that or saves our trust in what we hear and see. And so, as an older man, the truer Atticus Finch is not who we thought he was- or not completely.  He is a portrait of the difficulty of sustaining compassion. It is not  impossible- an eight year’s old grieving father shows that- but difficult, taxed out of us by an intrusive culture  or media or a political system that insists- and will lie if it has to- that good ones are good and bad ones are bad. 
There are many examples of  us being fooled, compassion lost when we thought it would be, there,  the good one being the bad one , the bad one turning out to be a delusional schizophrenic - who maybe was never asked about his delusional fixation- guns- if he had guns, where he kept them, where he bought them and why he wanted them.  And sometimes, the good one being inexplicably mean, greedy, completely ignoring the stark cruelty of what’s been done, running fast and furiously away from any mirror someone might hold up. 
Harper Lee’s mirror is an American mirror- though.  To Kill a Mockingbird could not have been published when it was in many other countries. And in another country, or culture-  maybe this Atticus Finch in Go Set a Watchman wouldn’t have stung quite as much - because the good one is no longer purely good.  But so many people here feeling the sting- recognizing that is part of this country too. We all are the watchman in our own way.

"It's Not What You're Given, It's What You Do With What You Get: An Antidote to Donald Trump World"

From Susan Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 05:57

Recently, two Washington Post reporters looked at how human beings are valued in Donald Trump world, now, and as he turned the $200000 his father gave him into billions. The values of Trump world are very different from a rural state like Maine where deer, beavers, fish, rare endangered wildlife , serene forests, trucks that work, no traffic and enduring cold, long winters well have special value. There are Maine virtuosos who celebrate the values of rural life. Listening to them is an antidote, to the queasy feeling left in the stomach by the lip-smacking exclusionary greed of Donald Trump world.

"It's not what you're given. It's what you do with what you get," the bootstrapping virtuoso blues singer, Pat Pepin, sings. She riffs about free Wal-mart’ overnight parking for campers and RVs , and cherishes her “long-haul trucker”. Another virtuoso is Robert Skoglund, The humble Farmer, whose oldtime jazz radio program is now making its way into New York City radio air waves. Humble’s program was removed from Maine public radio for - I guess you could call it - political insubordination - for criticizing the Iraq War. Humble has all the qualities necessary for a Donald Trump world antidote because humble really does value money, not quantity, but every breathing atom and neutron and ounce of chemical valence on its surface.

We hope his listeners will drink deeply of this antidote, the radio detox- for the money culture-the Donald Trump world that’s forgotten that $.99 can be far far better quality than several billion because, as Pat Pepin sings, it isn’t what you’re given. It’ s what you do with what you get.

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"It's Not What You'reGiven, Its What You Do With Wat You Get: An Antidote to Donald Trump World""
-Susan Cook-

Two Washington Post reporters recently looked at how human beings are valued in Donald Trump world, now and as he carried on while turning the first $200000 his father gave him into billions.

In Donald Trump world, quantity of money takes precedence over quality of money . Thus the welfare tenants of his New York apartments and Mexican immigrants are devalued because they don’t have any money. If he allowed welfare tenants into his apartments, Trump said , “there would be a massive fleeing from the city, not only our tenants but the community as a whole.“ In Donald Trump world, people shouldn‘t get caught. Thus, he said Senator John McCain is not a hero because, as Trump said, he likes people who don’t get caught. The measure of the man is his money, no matter how he got it; the woman, her physical appearance, no matter the cost in self-devaluation or sexual exploitation. After all, he told the reporters, as a young man, he dated often. “These were beautiful women. but many of them couldn’t carry on a normal conversation.“ One might ask, why then seek their company, because in Trump world, the true measure of success is not getting caught -without physical attractiveness, money or by the atrocities of war, or I suppose, a good lie.

The values of Trump world are very different from a  rural state like Maine where deer, beavers, fish, rare endangered wildlife , serene forests, trucks that work, no traffic and enduring cold, long winters well have special value. There are Maine virtuosos who celebrate the values of rural life. Listening to them is an antidote, to the queasy feeling left in the stomach by the lip-smacking exclusionary greed of Donald Trump world.

“It’s not what you’re given, it’s what you do with what you get” Maine’s bootstrapping virtuoso blues singer, Pat Pepin sings. She riffs about free Wal-mart’ overnight parking for campers and RVs and cherishes her “long-haul trucker” who’s in it for the “long haul” Another Maine virtuoso is Robert Skoglund, The humble Farmer, whose oldtime jazz radio program was removed from Maine public radio for - I guess you could call it - political insubordination - for criticizing the Iraq War. Like Donald Trump world, “humble” values money, every breathing atom and neutron and ounce of chemical valence on its surface, but he goes for quality. On his early American jazz program, humble, immodestly complains about how expensive Goodwill stores have become- what with shirts that used to cost $.99 now going for over seven dollars. And his gustatory taste well satisfied by a can of spaghetti uncooked. Eaten. And then there is his trademark reference to his wife Marsha as “the almost perfect woman” which - raised the hackles of our assertiveness trained Maine feminists who assumed his remarks were drawn from the one to ten scale of physical attractiveness of Donald Trump world. And yes, Donald Trump regaled the days when he observed several “well-known super models” in a fast-track New York night club engaging in let’s say- physical actions on a bench in the center of the room “each one with a different guy”. But, no, “humble” wasn’t referring to a Donald Trump world one to ten rating. When finally asked what would make his wife perfect, humble said, “If I was 19.“

And thus an 80 something man valuing a woman in the same way Adam and Eve did is an antidote to the Donald Trump world, which is not exactly like the garden of Eden- even if he was only watching.

Recently, The humble Farmer has announced that his radio show is indeed bound for the New York City radio waves. On WFDU at 89.1FM . There we hope his listeners will drink deeply of this antidote, the public radio detox- for the money culture-the Donald Trump world that’s forgotten that $.99 can be far far better quality than several billion because as Pat Pepin sings, it isn’t what you’re given. It’ s what you do with what you get.

Carrying Stuff Up Mt. Everest: Spirituality and Job Definitions

From Susan Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 04:13

A Town Clerk in Kentucky has refused to give out a marriage license to a gay couple, risking jail time, because the two of them marrying “does not fit God’s definition of marriage“, which presumes that there are job definitions , including for civil and government jobs, that go along with her religious beliefs.

Now, we can get out our Constitutions and re-visit the part that separates the power of the church from the power of the state. But then there’s the issue of separating the individual’s perception of their own power from the government job they do- in this case a town clerk whose whole beating spiritual heart has infused her job, or visa- versa. But politicians and government officials do that all the time and never get called out on it because they neatly avoid public displays of how much their own beliefs infuse their perception of their personal power- thus the job they do- the communication directors adding a tone of derision and insult against someone who does something she doesn’t like, the government lawyer giving out favors to someone who will return the favor later on. Town Clerks do the nitty-gritty of daily life so when one of them confuses her personal power - in this case- a heart laden with spiritual belief- with a paying job- well, the abuse of power becomes more obvious. But, this particular form of the abuse of power likely happens far more often than we notice.

This all came to mind when I told my grand-nephew I'm a Buddhist and then said "You probably don't know what a Buddhist is." "Yes, I do. They help people carry stuff up Mt. Everest." Thus a need for clarification between the personal power spirituality brings and infusing one's work with it.

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"Carrying Stuff Up Mount Everest: Spirituality and Job Definitions"

 

I was driving with my 13 year old grand-nephew the other day when he picked up a little Buddha I have on my dashboard.

“Where did you get this?“, he asked.

“Somebody gave it to me.” I said. “I’m a Buddhist.”

“You are? I didn’t know that,” he said.

I said, “You probably don’t know what a Buddhist is.”

“Yes, I do. They help people carry stuff up Mt. Everest.”

For just a minute, I wanted to say yes, a part of me self-serving, imagining, someday, Buddhism might give me an in- to go and sit in a nice little nylon folding chair and watch these powerful, remarkably muscular Sherpas helping wealthy foreigners accomplish something. One never hears the Sherpas trying to lift a little turbo charge of power from their role as they do their work: allowing wealthy foreigners to stand atop Mt. Everest as if they did it all by themselves.

“No, those are Nepali Sherpas. They live in Nepal. They might be Buddhists but that’s not what all Buddhists do. The Buddha was a very very nice guy who tried to care. “

This brings to mind the Town Clerk in Kentucky who refused to give out a marriage license to a gay couple, risking jail time, because the two of them marrying “does not fit God’s definition of marriage“, which presumes that there are job definitions , including for civil and government jobs, that go along with her religious beliefs.

Now, we can get out our Constitutions and re-visit the part that separates the power of the church from the power of the state. But then there’s the issue of separating the individual’s perception of their own power from the government job they do- in this case a town clerk whose whole beating spiritual heart has infused her job, or visa- versa. But politicians and government officials do that all the time and never get called out on it because they neatly avoid public displays of how much their own beliefs infuse their perception of their personal power- thus the job they do- the communication directors adding a tone of derision and insult against someone who does something she doesn’t like, the government lawyer giving out favors to someone who will return the favor later on. Town Clerks do the nitty-gritty- of daily life so when one of them confuses her personal power - in this case- a heart laden with spiritual belief- with a paying job- well, the abuse of power becomes more obvious. But, this particular form of the abuse of power likely happens far more often than we notice.

If Nepali Sherpas- with their spiritually-laden hearts- this time with Buddhism - abused that power in doing their job-there would probably be many non-compassionate foreigners, disrespectful of the environment and others, carrying their own stuff, or not going up Mt. Everest at all. If we were better at recognizing that kind of abuse of power among our government staffers and officials, we might end up with government at all levels that’s more respectful of others or less likely to abuse power when they feel slighted because someone else does not equate their personal sense of slighting with climbing the Mountain or having a Mountain to admire at all.

The Nutritional Requirements of Hatred: Food Stamps and Reproductive Rights

From Susan Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 04:32

In my state the Governor has decided that any childless adult who owns more than $5000 in cash or leisure vehicle assets cannot receive food stamps. Who he is targeting is difficult to say. Many pregnant women in this state eat because they receive food stamps. Previously, he has made every effort to drive away asylum seekers who cannot work for six months after applying for asylum. Then there are the elderly, the disabled, the unemployed, and unemployed women who then become pregnant. This Governor refusing to allow any single pregnant woman who has put away more than $5000 in assets from keeping it, if she wants to feed herself and her unborn child is a withholding that is yet another example of hatred, now accepted as a political fuse in this country. If you read what a pregnant woman needs to eat- to bath the baby- once born- in love and health, you'll see that the nutritional requirements of hatred are not enough and never have been.

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The Nutritional Requirements of Hatred: Food Stamps and Reproductive Rights

 

In my state the Governor has decided that any childless adult who owns more than $5000 in cash or leisure vehicle assets cannot receive food stamps. Who he is targeting is difficult to say. Many pregnant women in this state eat because they receive food stamps. Previously, he has made every effort to drive asylum seekers who cannot work for six months after applying for asylum, away. Then there are the elderly, the disabled, the unemployed, unemployed women who then become pregnant.

Actions that withhold can carry as much hatred as any other. But this policy is yet another example of the permission politicians in our country have to infuse policy discourse with hatred. Many of this Governor’s actions have gone hand in hand with hatred - public shaming by insisting people have photos on their food stamp cards- and now a kind of public strip search - If a childless person has more than $5000 worth of anything this Governor will make the person remove it or lose food stamps.

But hatred is now a nationally accepted political fuse, can come from both the far right and far left. To see hatred in political discourse, one does not need to travel too much farther - in my state- than the weekly free community newspapers . In one local free community newspaper, there is one columnist who every time she writes about abortion and reproductive control, laces her remarks with accusatory, demeaning , insulting a hateful tone. Then there are the protesters jeering and insulting women entering Planned Parenthood clinics. Hatred fused by what another human being is afraid to do, cannot do, or refuses to do is now accepted as just another part of the political discussion around reproductive rights and pregnancy.

Of course, when political debate about reproductive rights and abortion is laced with hatred its louder message to childbearing age women is that the prospect of the birth of a child is not  bathed in love and nurturance. Women have always been the target of whatever hatred has existed around unwanted pregnancy- shaming, physical abuse, anonymous sequestering until a child is born only to lose any identity connected with the child after birth. In fact recognition of hatred around unwanted pregnancy since Margaret Sanger’s time (and before) has always been a driving force behind the Reproductive Rights and Choice movement.

All that hatred attached to reproductive rights does nothing to address unwanted pregnancy as a social problem that must be addressed. Which brings us back to this Governor refusing to allow any single pregnant woman who has put away more than $5000 in assets from keeping it, if she wants to feed herself and her unborn child. If that withholding doesn’t make clear how hatred is now accepted as a political fuse, then please get out your Human Development books and read what a pregnant woman needs to eat- to bath the baby- once born- in love of health. The nutritional requirements of hatred are not enough and never have been.

Disguising Hatred- The ACLU Lawsuit Against Torture

From Susan Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 04:10

The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a lawsuit against two psychologists who developed a program to pair torture with interrogation of “suspected” terrorists held in the CIA’s Afghanistan prison, code named COBALT. The psychologist defendants created practices that intricately examined every aspect of human suffering , then made a program to pair torture with interrogation.The practice of Psychology is premised on compassion, not hatred. The discovery of human tools to sustain compassion in the face of atrocity, is one of its accomplishments. The ethics of the field are, as always, a work in progress because the actions human beings come up with to deny compassion and manifest hatred change all the time .The violations cited by the ACLU suggest that the professional guilds of psychology have not been vigilant or vociferous enough in rejecting exploitation of psychology’s mantle to mask political intentions. Hatred manifests differently all the time. And there is no question that finding sustenance for compassion in time of great violation is very difficult to do. But hatred disguised as compassion is still hatred. I am a psychologist who provides intervention. If psychology and its professional guilds cannot provide sustenance for compassion- in the face of great human atrocities- then we should all just go home and get different jobs. Because understanding why people disguise hatred is an ethical use of psychology. Making up and selling techniques up to do it is not anything other than more hatred.

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Disguising Hatred- The ACLU Lawsuit Against Torture

-Susan Cook-

 

The practice of Psychology is premised on compassion, not hatred. The discovery of human tools to sustain compassion in the face of atrocity, is one of its accomplishments. The ethics of the field are, as always, a work in progress because the actions human beings come up with to deny compassion and manifest hatred change all the time . Internet harassment, for example, is not a kind of hatred we witnessed 20 years ago. The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a lawsuit against two psychologists who developed a program to pair torture with interrogation of “suspected” terrorists held in the CIA’s Afghanistan prison, code named COBALT, during the post-911 terrorist vendetta.

The psychologist defendants created practices that intricately examined every aspect of human suffering , then made a program to pair torture with interrogation, waterboarding, for example, an experience in which the victim is lead to believe he will drown. The CIA spent 81 million dollars to fund these atrocities to extort “truth” from the 3 plaintiffs in the ACLU case, detained at COBALT. All 3, Suleiman Abdullah Salam, Mohamed Ahmed Ben Soud and Gul Rahman (who died because of the hypothermia caused by the torture), were later proven to have no affiliation with Al -Qa’ida.

Psychology has always

The atrocities described are like those of any setting where war , prejudice and indifference are seen as justification for suppression of compassion. The activities explicitly violate the American Psychological Association Ethics Code which mandates respect for others, non-discrimination, avoidance of harm, or misuse of influence , avoidance of exploitive relationships, research competently conducted with due concern for the dignity and welfare of participants and then there is the larger mandate to first do no harm. Psychological inquiry and intervention is completely undermined by any subversion of the intent to understand human beings for the betterment of all. Martin Seligman the psychologist who developed the theory of learned helplessness did so to grasp how people become dis-empowered. The CIA psychologists

exploited the term to claim that science justified their cruel tactics to make prisoners completely powerless.

The violations cited by the ACLU suggest that the professional guilds of psychology have not been vigilant or vociferous enough in rejecting exploitation of psychology’s mantle to mask political intentions. Hatred manifests differently all the time. And there is no question that finding sustenance for compassion in time of great violation is very difficult to do. But hatred disguised as compassion is still hatred. I am a psychologist who provides intervention. If psychology and its professional guilds cannot provide sustenance for compassion- in the face of great human atrocities- then we should all just go home and get different jobs. Because understanding why people disguise hatred is an ethical use of psychology. Making up and selling techniques up to do it is not anything other than more hatred.

Clean Elections and the Credibility of History

From Susan Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 05:44

Clean elections protect constituent rights so wealthy individuals or self-serving personal interests or six-figure job candidates don’t exploit the election process - and constituents- to influence elections.This month, on Election Day, voters in Maine will vote on a Clean Elections referendum to fund campaigns of legislative candidates.

If those now speaking out about Clean Elections, don’t understand how clean elections protect civil liberties or are communicating out of both sides of the mouth, by disrespecting constituents while making up cute phrases about clean elections, well, that ‘s the historical track record- spoken , written, and available on-line. That does not add credibility to arguments for clean elections and all we're left with to understand why constituents are or are not respected by clean elections legislation is history- which it turns out- is often the most credible of all.

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Clean Elections- the Credibility of History

A Clean Elections referendum to fund campaigns of candidates for public office will be on Maine ballots this month. Both sides have spokespeople who some years back led a fierce negative media campaign against a constituent criticizing a legislator for disrespect of constituents. Spokespeople whose track records don’t respect constituents in the first place doesn’t legitimize clean elections.

On August 23, 2011, I testified before Maine’s Congressional Re-districting Commission. There were big stakes. The chair of the Redistricting Committee was up for a six figure politically appointed job as head of the Small Business Administration New England Region. The ousted Democratic attorney general wanted a Democrat legislative majority the next year to re-elect her. The Legislature’s partisan staffers and the Chief of Staff for the Second District Congressional District wanted to keep their jobs. None of them wanted districts redrawn so Republican voters held majorities. The usual gerrymandering of redistricting was replaced by fat salary jobmandering.

There was little or no focus on constituents.

My testimony protested the Republican proposal to move the first congressional representative out of her own district and Maine’s climate of disregard for constituents - a referendum to eliminate same-day voter registration and a State Senate President who recorded constituents calling him.

Civil liberties protect critics of public officials from being deemed enemies of the state. All the government-paid job seekers and holders became angry that my “irritation” of the Republican party leader might make the other side less cooperative or create election losses two years later. The party chair gave permission to coordinate a negative media campaign against me for criticizing the legislator. I was defending constituents.

In 2015, a Clean Elections referendum is here. Supporters say this is not welfare for legislators but fairness for constituents. But the spokesperson for clean elections supporters, Liz Reinholt told the media following my 2011 testimony that I had no proof for my criticism of the legislator, circulated high-tech like that my testimony was an ‘antic‘. Now, she never asked me about my proof- an important Republican warning me that calling the aforesaid legislator about local environmental pollution would result in a recorded phone call- after- I already made that observation. Freedom of the press is helpless to protect civil liberties if the media is not told the truth.

Then there’s the new spokesperson for the Maine Heritage Foundation. On August 23, 2011, still on Senator Susan Collins’ payroll but just two weeks after leaving his job as her Director of New Media, Matthew Gagnon wrote on his website Pinetreepolitics.com, a series of lies, slandering me about my two minutes of testimony defending constituents. ’She’s a lunatic’ he wrote on his blog. ’Rambling, slurring’… he wrote about my testimony defending constituents on his website. Lies. Not a word from him about constituent respect.

Last week, the Maine Sunday Telegram quoted Matthew Gagnon as complaining that Clean Election supporters are hypocrites because they take money from the outside sources the referendum will forbid.

The problem here is not hypocrisy- the problem is no respect for constituents and the civil liberties that aim to protect them- the right to criticize government officials without enduring harassment or public slander as an enemy of the state. Mr. Gagnon’s record of constituent disrespect when constituents exercise civil liberties is there for the reading.

Clean elections protect constituent rights so wealthy individuals or self-serving personal interests or six-figure job candidates don’t exploit the election process - and constituents. But targeting government critics because someone wants the fat government salaried job does what clean elections are supposed to prevent. It exploits constituents one person at a time.

If those now speaking about Clean Elections, don’t understand how clean elections protect civil liberties or are communicating out of both sides of the mouth, by disrespecting constituents while making up cute phrases about clean elections, well, that ‘s the track record- spoken , written, and available on-line. That is history which is often the most credible of all.

 

The Sixty Second Moral Inquiry:What's the Difference Between the Political Candidate as Demigogue and the Political Candidate as Demigod?

From Susan Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 01:21

Today’s Sixty Second Moral Inquiry asks :As politicians one-up each other, what’s the difference between the candidate as demagogue- who openly appeals to popular passions and the demi-god -the candidate who implies right-hand access to God?

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The Sixty Second Moral Inquiry : What is the Difference Between the Political Candidate as Demagogue and the Politica Candidate as Demi-god

 

-Susan Cook-

Today’s Sixty Second Moral Inquiry asks : As politicians one-up each other, what’s the difference between the candidate as demagogue- who openly appeals to popular passions and the demi-god -the candidate implying right-hand access to God?

Does the candidate claim God’s direct influence on their candidacy- saying the candidate will be the best President of the United States God ever created- as if God creates with one eye on the ballot box? Does the candidate exaggerate events in their own lives by affiliating them with God’s intervention- for example- the timing or place of either their own birth or that of offspring - like the influence God had on Jesus being born in Bethlehem? Does the candidate promise direct policy-making by God in the Presidential cabinet - through the federal executive branch that is the demi-god President -elect . Or is the candidate a strongly spiritual human being but one who does not imply direct electrical stimulation of the brain from God like a demi-god would?

Where Have All the Women Gone: Forgetting How She Got to Where She's Gotten

From Susan Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 05:03

Riding on the train to the Democratic National Convention one year, I had the good fortune to talk with a former president of N.O.W. For young twenty-something women, that stands for the National Organization for Women, the 1970’s political machine that galvanized women’s rights. As we talked, I mentioned my state’s US Senate race and my support for the bright, articulate, ethical woman on the ballot- and that her opposition- a wealthy independent former Governor -would be difficult to overcome.

‘It’s ok, though,’ she said. ‘If he wins, he’ll vote with the Democrats.’

We now come to 2016 and Hillary Clinton ‘s womanhood threatened with invisibility in her 2016 Presidential race. In New Hampshire, she came in second by 20 points, losing to a kindly liberal 70-something man. Where have all the women gone- Is the grand opportunity to validate women like never before by electing an ethical woman as President an after thought?

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Where Have All the Women Have Gone: Forgotting How She Got to Where She's Gotten

-Susan Cook-

 

Riding on the train to the Democratic National Convention one year, I had the good fortune to talk with a former president of N.O.W. For young twenty-something women, that stands for the National Organization for Women, the 1970’s political machine that galvanized women’s rights. As we talked, I mentioned my state’s US Senate race and my support for the bright, articulate, ethical woman on the ballot- and that her opposition- a wealthy independent former Governor -would be difficult to overcome.

‘It’s ok, though,’ she said. ‘If he wins, he’ll vote with the Democrats.’

At that point, my inner 108,000 prostrations - Buddhist-style- to a former President of an organization that I see as giving women opportunity beyond the kitchen- and the bedroom- went on hold.

That the honest, skilled, ethical candidate is a woman was not a minor matter. Let alone that she was running against a former Governor who had profited financially- or seen the opportunity to profit - at every turn- from his public service. The media had scrupulously avoided any mention of the turning-his-own-dollar decisions he had made. So I later did-. In a lengthy- but accurate re-write to a familiar patriotic tune whose refrain I changed to ‘Oh Beautiful for Spacious Me‘. The lyrics recalled the former male Governor purchasing a waterfront property at bargain basement prices after the state agreed to sell it to him. The song spoke of his receipt of TARP funds - he a multi-millionaire- for his wind power business,. Then there was the memorable money the state of Maine paid for improvements to his primary residence because he didn’t want to live in the official Governor’s residence. The media put all that on the back burner. And the fact that my candidate was an ethical, not-a-go-along-to -get- along- self-serving woman, was put of course on the back seat too- and casually by a former President of NOW.

We now come to 2016 and Hillary Clinton ‘s womanhood threatened with invisibility in her 2016 Presidential race. In New Hampshire, she came in second by 20 points, losing to a kindly liberal 70-something man. Where have all the women gone- Is the grand opportunity to validate women like never before by electing an ethical woman as President an after thought?

Who is doing the invalidating? Not men. ‘Don’t diss her because she’s a girl’ may be one of the enduring NOW lessons. That leaves one other gender- female. The ones who are ignoring Hillary’s womanhood - appear to be young females. Most of them voted for the 70-something genial progressive male. So maybe it’s because Hillary has downplayed her womanhood herself in achievement after achievement. Or maybe it’s because- as any woman who lives in this time knows- yes- women turn on each other. Sisterhood is not equivalent to unconditional loyalty. All the passive aggressive techniques are the fallback- the ones women used to survive prior to NOW. You know what passive aggression is- anonymous, behind-the-scenes, almost invisible- but aggressive actions- undermining, smearing, stealing reputation and the golden apple- of course- credibility. The ancient code words for woman as threat- readily recognizable to men- controlling, aggressive and of course- flighty and unpredictable are there in a pinch.

The voice and stature women have now was not easily acquired. Like non-cancer producing birth control , affordable, it took years and tears and years. Election of an ethical woman President would not be a minor accomplishment- it would turn the validation N.O.W sought into an accomplishment never seen before.

A Hackle o' Meter in Every Home, A Not-Politically Fit bit On Every Wrist

From Susan Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 03:19

Elected officials or politicians aspiring to be elected officials say things that would register on our Hackle o’ meters and our Politically Unfit Bits- if someone would just invent these tools. Our Hackle o’ meters would go up because well, our hackles would go up. And our Politically Unfit bits would practically fall off our wrists because of all the calculations of political unfitness they’d be making.

I am not taking about You-Know-Who. I think You-Know-Who, for some people, raises adrenaline by stimulating the amygdala- the part of the brain which raises adrenaline and fight-or-flight hormones because something feels dangerous. Dr. Joseph Ledoux , a neuroscientist says the path signals take to the amygdala is fast and spontaneous, thus he calls it the Low Road. We also respond to danger, he says, by signals sent to the Frontal Cortex when we sense danger but those signals are slower so he calls that path the High Road.
A Hackle O’ Meter or a Politically Unfit Bit works very differently. Both work from subtle, subtle visual and auditory cues. And they might be good for the country.

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A Hackle o’ meter In Every Home; A Not Politically Fit Bit On Every Wrist

-Susan Cook-

 

Elected officials or politicians aspiring to be elected officials say things that would register on our Hackle o’ meters and our Politically Unfit Bits- if someone would just invent these tools. Our Hackle o’ meters would go up because well, our hackles would go up. And our Politically Unfit bits would practically fall off our wrists because of all the calculations of political unfitness they’d be making.

I am not taking about You-Know-Who. I think You-Know-Who, for some people, raises adrenaline by stimulating the amygdala- the part of the brain which raises adrenaline and fight-or-flight hormones because something feels dangerous. Dr. Joseph Ledoux , a neuroscientist says the path signals take to the amygdala is fast and spontaneous, thus he calls it the Low Road. We also respond to danger, he says, by signals sent to the Frontal Cortex when we sense danger but those signals are slower so he calls that path the High Road. So when we listen to You Know Who, your amygdala might get revved up and you turn off the television, radio or click ‘Power Shutdown’ on the PC. If your Frontal Lobes start firing, you just say ‘I am not voting for him.’

A Hackle O’ Meter or a Politically Unfit Bit works very differently. Both work from subtle, subtle visual and auditory cues. We Observe Mitch McConnell for the 450th time say he will not give President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee the time of day. We see the visual image of his clamped shut jaw, creating a glacier of pale skin beneath that jaw. I hope he has a sense of humor because really, landscape metaphors work best. I am not saying the man is dangerous ala’ Gorilla walking into your living room. But he may well get your Hackle o’ Meter going and if you had a Not-Politically Fitbit, it might fall off your wrist with its calculations going wild.

Now, there are Democrats who effect Hackle o’ Meters and Non-Politically Fit Bit. Some of the ones in my state register so strongly on the Non-Politically Fit Bit, I had to take mine off.

If only someone would invent these tools. It would be good for the country. Someone could slip one on Mitch McConnell’s wrist or one of the Politically Unfit Bit high registerers in my state and very gradually- it’s better to go slow- the Hackle o’Meters and the Politically Unfit Bits would convince them. Not their job to undo the US Constitution, not their job to use Internet Bullying to trade votes with Republicans, no amnesia about policy positions and no blocking duly nominated Supreme Court nominees.

Sexism at the Five-and-Dime: Discrediting Women for a Dollar or A Dime

From Susan Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 05:42

In my state, this week, leaping off the lower right hand corner of the Front Page of the state’s largest newspaper was this “Educator who won one million dollars denies stealing $14.99 blouse“.

One of the state’s most gifted educators who against many, many odds started her own successful school, has written textbook ‘best-sellers’ on teaching children the literary arts went to the local expanded Five and Dime store to return a blouse. Having done so, the sales associate told her to go to the clothing rack and take another one to replace the one she returned. She did.

End of the story? No. The security personnel, who were watching, saw her take the replacement and put it in her bag. Immediately alerted, the ‘guard’ called the local police chief who came over and watched the store’s security camera and, unable to identify the woman in the film, placed the picture on the department’s Facebook page. Within an hour, the gifted educator called the police department and explained the situation. End of story? Believe her? No. She was charged with a misdemeanor crime and given a court date. The exchange with the clerk who took the returned item was not on the camera. End of story? No. The Portland Press Herald deemed it worthy of Front Page lower right hand corner announcement.

The school spokesperson said it is a misunderstanding.

Why does this “misunderstanding” not get resolved by the woman who just received a one million dollar prize presenting her proof that she was not shoplifting a $14.99 blouse? The story tells us - once again- that sexism is alive and when a woman’s credibility is questioned the first and primary place the media, this culture, lawyers and yes, many women go, is that her proof is not good enough and there just might possible be something wrong with her to have committed whatever it is she committed.

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Sexism at the Five and Dime: Discrediting Women For a Dollar or a Dime

-Susan Cook

 

In my state, this week, leaping off the lower right hand corner of the Front Page of the state’s largest newspaper was this “Educator who won one million dollars denies stealing $14.99 blouse“.

Whew. Front Page. Lower right hand corner. One of the state’s most gifted educators who against many, many odds started her own successful school, has written textbook ‘best-sellers’ on teaching children the literary arts went to the local expanded Five and Dime store to return a blouse. Having done so, the sales associate told her to go to the clothing rack and take another one to replace the one she returned. She did.

End of the story?. No. The security personnel, who were watching, saw her take the replacement and put it in her bag. Immediately alerted, the ‘guard’ called the local police chief who came over and watched the store’s security camera and, unable to identify the woman in the film, placed the picture on the department’s Facebook page. Within an hour, the gifted educator called the police department and explained the situation. End of story? Believe her? No. She was charged with a misdemeanor crime and given a court date. The exchange with the clerk who took the returned item was not on the camera. End of story? No. The Portland Press Herald deemed it worthy of Front Page lower right hand corner announcement.

The school spokesperson said it is a misunderstanding.

Why does this “misunderstanding” not get resolved by the woman who just received a one million dollar prize presenting her proof that she was not shoplifting a $14.99 blouse?

Because sexism is alive and when a woman’s credibility is questioned the first and primary place the media, this culture, lawyers and yes, many women go, is that her proof is not good enough and there just might possible be something wrong with her to have committed whatever it is she committed. No filter. No impulse control. Under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Suffering from a deep irreversible character disorder that must have showed up earlier in life. Or maybe she - you know women- spent the one million already.

Please bear in mind that even a woman claiming sexist treatment since men were made more aware of sexism thanks to the Gloria Steinems of the world- is also often considered suspect . Her proof is not good enough. She is making excuses. Thus a misdemeanor charge which should not have been placed in the first place is made. Because her proof was disregarded- readily available- but disregarded -despite all the evidence in the world- in this case literally- that her character, exceptional intelligence and gifts and reputation are sterling. And why discredit her proof without even questioning the recklessness of the police chief charging her? Because she is a woman and the reputation on the line is that of a man or men who failed to ask if the practice in this store was followed. “Go get another one from the rack“ the clerk says.

What might be left to do? Well, I suppose a civil liberties numb lawyer now as prosecutor could do whatever could be done to tarnish her reputation further by investigating deeply to see if this remarkably gifted educator had some hidden character flaw or secret substance abuse problem rearing ugly blemishes now as shoplifting. Or maybe the man whose reputation is on the line could hire a communications person- a new young one who knows Twitter and New Media to tarnish her further. Or dig around in the community. Outlandish? Unheard of for a man whose unethical if not criminal activity because his reputation is on the line would go to such lengths? No. Because sexism is alive and well, and the first ‘read’ of this situation will not be - repeat not be- to question the man’s credibility. The suspect is a woman. And even a Senator- even the girl ones- remain oblivious to the corrupting influence of that particular variation of sexism. The proof is right there on the front page of the biggest newspaper in the state. If you care to read it.

Still a Fried Mosquito and A Black-eyed Pea: Froggy Still A-Courting to Take Down the Affordable Healthcare Act

From Susan Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 07:02

Back in 2005, Dana Connors, Maine State Chamber of Commerce president said, "This is not the time or place to expand Maine care coverage to more uninsured. “ He ignored that covering uninsured lowers health costs then. And 10 years later, United Health Care ignores that fact as well.

In 2005, Dana Connors, said people just didn’t “shop enough” to find affordable health insurance. In 2016, insurance companies limit those options further by pulling out of the Health insurance Marketplace created to help consumers shop around.

And United Health Care- with 11 billion dollars in profits last year- complains that Community Health Exchanges are unaffordable and unprofitable- so they‘ll be pulling out. In 2016, filling pockets- insurance companies pockets comes at the expense of providing healthcare.

A recent New York Times poll reported the highest paid individuals in healthcare are insurance executives. “The base pay of insurance executives, hospital executives and even hospital administrators often far outstrips doctors’ salaries: $584,000 on average for an insurance chief executive officer, compared with $306,000 for a surgeon and $185,000 for a general doctor.. The chief executive of Aetna had total compensation of over $36 million…A former president of a midsize health system in New Jersey, received total compensation of $21.7 million..”

In 2016, it is still true that insurance companies executives are paid outrageously. United Health Care paid its CEO 102 million dollars.

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Still A Fried Mosquito and a Black-Eyed Pea: Froggy  Still A-courting To Take the Affordable Health Care Act Down 
-Susan Cook-
In 2005, I wrote to the local newspaper after someone said Maine's  Dirigo Health, a model for the  Affordable Care Act was a Socialist plot to give insurance to Uninsured who don’t want to pay  for premiums, . Quoting Bob Dylan’s cover of  “Froggy Went A' Courting", I said  Dirigo Health was not unaffordable . It was under funded. Like  the couple  in  the song, the government was trying to feed a whole crowd with the equivalent political and financial support of a fried mosquito and a black-eyed pea. 
And now United Health Care- with 11 billion dollars in profits last year- complains that Community Health Exchanges are unaffordable and unprofitable- so they‘ll be pulling out. In 2016, filling pockets- insurance companies pockets comes at the expense of  providing healthcare. 
A recent New York Times poll reported the highest paid individuals in healthcare are insurance executives. “The base pay of insurance executives, hospital executives and even hospital administrators often far outstrips doctors’ salaries: $584,000 on average for an insurance chief executive officer,  compared with $306,000 for a surgeon and $185,000 for a general doctor.. The chief executive of Aetna had total compensation of over $36 million…A former president of  a midsize health system in New Jersey, received total compensation of $21.7 million..”
In 2016, it is still true that insurance companies executives are paid  outrageously. United Health Care paid its CEO 102 million dollars. Molina Healthcare paid their CEO 10 million dollars. 
United Health Care  and Molina Healthcare, which has taken over Medicare in many states, reimburse behavioral health providers at about the same rate psychologists billed in 2005. I know this. I’m a network provider for every insurance company in my state. 
So in 2005, who were the people avoiding insurance premiums  looking for a Socialist handout? In Maine,  131,000 were uninsured . 18590 children under the age of 18  were uninsured.  Of those 131,000 who had no insurance, fully 86% worked  fulltime (69%) or part-time (17%) and their employers did not provide affordable insurance.  18,930 had no work at all- the same number as the number of uninsured children and according to the anti-affordable health care logic- just wanted someone else to pay their insurance premiums. 
One full year after the Affordable Care Act was in place,  Maine’s uninsured rate dropped by more than one-fourth. Nationally, the number fell from 17.3 percent to 13.8 percent of the population.
In 2016, all of Maine’s children are insured through Mainecare.  
But back in 2005, Dana Connors, Maine State Chamber of Commerce president said, "This is not  the time or place to expand Maine care coverage to more uninsured. “ He ignored that covering  uninsured lowers health costs then. And 10 years later, United Health Care ignores that fact as well. 
In 2005, Dana Connors,  said people just didn’t “shop enough” to find affordable health insurance. In 2016,  insurance companies limit those options further by pulling out of the Health insurance Marketplace created to help consumers shop around. 
Remarkably, in 10 years, insurance companies have not been able to sabotage the Affordable Care Act using logic. But they persist in trying to sabotage it- this time using ‘computer logic’ . Please remember that the ACA encourages electronic claims processing to lower administrative costs. Molina Healthcare, the company that now runs Medicaid in many states- for one- and United Healthcare have had a field day sabotaging electronically processed claims.  United Healthcare created a company - along with Harvard Pilgrim Health and Aetna- called  OPTUM to process claims. United Health Care went for months by rejecting claims not submitted directly to OPTUM-  'innocent computer  processing errors? I  have  doubt.  Molina Healthcare- using Information Technology as their companion saboteur - uses website and software that over and over rejects perfectly legitimate claims. 
Now 10 years later, with Google prominently part of the quest to find healthcare, I was amazed to discover that Googling  Maine’s community health insurance -  brought me to a link to the Portland (ME) Chamber of Commerce which then brought me to a Maine Community Options page where paying the insurance premium was impossible. Click my keypad to death, it would not allow me to pay the premium. Oh I know there could be many factors in play. But don’t you think it’s odd that the same  Chambers of Commerce seeking to undermine affordable health insurance in 2005 would now be the first Google link to come up- and one that won’t let the consumer pay the premium at that? Mr. Rat shaking his fat sides just like in “Froggy Went A-courting”  and insurance companies still - claiming deficits- while we are all left with a fried mosquito and a black-eyed pea, Health Insurance Companies still hope to make that just a little bit of cornbread sitting on the shelf. 

Dad Donald- A Parenting Guide to the 2016 Presidential Race

From Susan Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 04:52

Human Growth and Development textbooks may be the ‘go to’ reference to explain ‘what the hell is going on’ as the new Republican opponent apparent, Mr. Trump has said, in this 2016 Presidential race.

You may remember from your Human Growth and Development class the different kinds of parenting power and decision-making that Gerald Lesser, Diana Baumrind, Carolyn Newberger and others have identified. There’s the egalitarian parent’s power- the child has more influence in decision-making than the parent. Then there’s the democratic parent’s approach to power- decisions are made collaboratively. Finally, entering the room via the gold escalators, just to remind you who brings the bacon home, there’s the absolute authoritarian parent- What Dad says goes. Dad makes all the decisions. If Dad says we’re building a wall, we’re building a wall. Dad divys out praise or shame or warmth depending on whether Dad thinks you need it. Dad’s power, after all, controls the resources- financial, emotional and physical . If Dad thinks public humiliation and shaming is in order- well, this is just what Dad has to do. He doesn‘t have to apologize for injustice, crudeness or even the psychological violence of what he says or does. He is Dad.

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Dad Donald- A Parenting Guide to the 2016 Presidential Race

-Susan Cook-

Human Growth and Development textbooks may be the ‘go to’ reference to explain ‘what the hell is going on’ as the new Republican opponent apparent, Mr. Trump has said, in this 2016 Presidential race.

You may remember from your Human Growth and Development class the different kinds of parenting power and decision-making that Gerald Lesser, Diana Baumrind, Carolyn Newberger and others have identified. There’s the egalitarian parent’s power- the child has more influence in decision-making than the parent. Then there’s the democratic parent’s approach to power- decisions are made collaboratively. Finally, entering the room via the gold escalators, just to remind you who brings the bacon home, there’s the absolute authoritarian parent- What Dad says goes. Dad makes all the decisions. If Dad says we’re building a wall, we’re building a wall. Dad divys out praise or shame or warmth depending on whether Dad thinks you need it. Dad’s power, after all, controls the resources- financial, emotional and physical . If Dad thinks public humiliation and shaming is in order- well, this is just what Dad has to do. He doesn‘t have to apologize for injustice, crudeness or even the psychological violence of what he says or does. He is Dad.

In this and many cultures , The Dad persona- and the person assuming it- is given broad license to do what Dad will. Parenting is an innate, developmentally and culturally defined mindset. I wrote an entire Masters’ Thesis about its intricacies. When someone subtly or overtly begins to play ‘the parental power card’ and exercise parental power over you, it’s hard to immediately recognize because - well, we all there at one time. None of us become our own parents- or parents ourselves- until we grow up or had to. Which is part of the reason it has been so hard to hear what Mr. Trump has been doing. He will parent us, or treat us and the problems of this country as if is he were the authoritarian parent yielding his absolute power like authoritarian parents do. And those of us who never rebelled - whether our parents liked it or not- and became our own parents can really be kowtowed. A turning point in human development is telling Dad- up front- “You can’t tell me what to do. “ Or some variation of questioning Dad’s omniscience. That power shift forever more changes human development.

This is Donald Dad Trump. He doles out humiliation as needed- he threatens to take the car keys or build a wall- and once he comes down the gold escalator- Dad built that-you know-he will tell Mr. Cruz he’s smart. He will tell Reince Pribus what a big boy he is doing his job as Republican Party chair. And on and on.

Great dads are a wonder to behold. My father was a great father. He held leadership positions of influence. He was the President of the Automobile Dealers Association in the state I grew up in the 1950’s- the automobile’s heyday. He knew parenting is also about knowing what you don’t know- and respecting that every child- every child- has something to teach a parent about how to be a parent. And to be President you have to listen to the economist , the defense and state department , the Supreme Court, and the Congress children. And I do not believe Dad Donald gets that not doing that is the end of the house of Dad Donald’s power. Many a three year old has told a shocked parent, ‘You’re not the boss of me.‘ Dad Donald doesn’t remember that .