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Playlist: Bad Internet 101: Moral Development for Cyberspace

Compiled By: Susan Cook

The Importance of Cyperspace Morality Credit: Susan Cook
Image by: Susan Cook 
The Importance of Cyperspace Morality

The ethical problems of the Internet are not new to humankind. We just need to recognize they've found a new petri dish.Essays and insights for everyday use.

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 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.

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.        

Apple and The 15 Year old's Myopic World View

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

So we now know that Apple has made the extraordinary contribution called ‘Enter the wrong password 10 times and all the data on your way-too-expensive made in human-rights-violating China I-phone' disappears.

This leads me to believe that yes, Apple is run by and its products designed by those with worldviews like 15 year old Information Technology hackers who live with their parents but stay in their rooms most of the time and have never actually read a newspaper printed on actual paper held in their hands, not even The New York Times.

There are worse things in life than having your parents know what’s on your I-phone. Finding out who mass murderers have contacted is important for the whole world. Many 15 year olds don’t realize that.

Apple doesn’t seem to see that clever 15 year old hacker privacy features which they use to promote faith in the I-phone is as damaging as any privacy breach. Eliminating all the data on an I-phone can be as damaging and terrorist-like as reading what’s on the I-phone in the first place- depending on whose I-phone it is. And you don’t even need a password to do it. You just need to enter the wrong one ten times. I don’t see too many I-phones being carried around in armored vehicles- more usually in back pockets.

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Apple and The Fifteen Year Old ‘s Myopic World View

-Susan Cook-

 

So we now know that Apple has made the extraordinary contribution called ‘Enter the wrong password 10 times and all the data on your way-too-expensive made in human-rights-violating China I-phone' disappears.

Which leads me to believe that yes, Apple is run by and its products designed by those with minds like 15 year old Information Technology hackers who live with their parents but stay in their rooms most of the time and have never actually read a newspaper printed on actual paper held in their hands, not even The New York Times.

There are worse things in life than having your parents know what’s on your I-phone. Finding out who mass murderers have contacted is important for the whole world. Many 15 year olds don’t realize that.

Apple doesn’t seem to see that clever 15 year old hacker privacy features which they use to promote faith in the I-phone is as damaging as any privacy breach. Eliminating all the data on an I-phone can be as damaging and terrorist-like as reading what’s on the I-phone in the first place- depending on whose I-phone it is. And you don’t even need a password to do it. You just need to enter the wrong one ten times. I don’t see too many I-phones being carried around in armored vehicles- more usually in back pockets. Eliminating all the data from a 15 year old’s phone so parents can’t see it may be absolutely inconsequential- depending on the health and well-being of the 15 year old. If the I-phone belongs to a Chief of Staff or an Airlines executive, that amplifies the consequence. But the 15 year old hacker is often the most important person in the 15 year old’s world. Which brings us to the difference between a visionary world view and the myopic one of Apple’s 15 year old worldview.

Making products in China with no acknowledgement that China remains one of the worst violators of human rights in the world is a passive acceptance of human rights violations. In China, the government Mom and Dad get your information and you are in jail like Liu Xiaobo- but of course they don’t need your password to do that. Publish a paper very similar in content to the political platforms of the Democratic or Republican parties and the Chinese government will eliminate access to paper, pens, and yes, I-phones by putting you in jail. Ask Nobel Peace Prize winner Lui Xiaobo when they let him out of jail.

Apple’s 15 year old world view brings it to make products in China which ties this enormous American company to Chinese workers whose human rights survive by a string. It ties Apple to the Chinese economy which is kind of how the Chinese like it, of course. And the Chinese figured out a long time ago that accessing your private data by figuring out your password is old school. They will tae that I-phone completely and eliminate any data making- privacy feature or not- and sentence you the other way- in a court. Apple in its 15 year old worldview has not yet realized parents do that kind of thing which - by making I-phones in China- Apple makes itself vulnerable to- the parent Chinese government taking things away. That only changes when China has civil liberties - not just an I-phone privacy feature. Which brings us back to having an easy way to eliminate I-phone data that does not even require a password- just 10 wrong ones- is as damaging as being able to read the data itself.

Apple could solve the problem by getting rid of the eliminate data feature. If Apple could just get over itself- and realize there is a big human rights violating world out there- which a psychologist could lain is extremely difficult for most 15 year olds who stay on their I-phones all day to do.

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 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 . 

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.

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.

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.

"My Funny I.T. Guy" To the Tune of "My Funny Valentine'' (The song and dance genre)

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

A musical tribute to "My Funny I.T. Guy" . Blackberry phones - like former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had- used to be considered difficult to hack. The F.B.I. - having revealed their lack of technological competence very recently- now claims with conviction that her emails could have been hacked even though they have found no evidence of that and found fewer than 10 out of 30,000 emails worthy of a higher level of security- afterwards.

If the FBI now has new information technology sophistication, why don't they spend our taxpayer dollars on getting rid of truly offensive material anonymously sent in emails.

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'My Funny I.T. Guy'
to the tune of My Funny Valentine
-Susan Cook- 

 
My Funny I.T.  guy
now at the F.B.I. ,
Blackberries are hackable ?
I've  always  read they weren't
I.T. guy, now it hurts.
You said they are. Are you sure?
They're made in Can-
ada. They are our biggest fan.
Thank God it's  not an I-phone.
You'd be back at Square One 
If Hillary won't come
clean about  her password then.
My funny I.T. guy
you'd  only have 10 tries.
Then there'd be  nothing  to hide.
What were there  5 or 6   
of 30, 000 mixed 
in ambiguously?
Oh Funny I.T. guy,
you seem cyber-deprived.
Mr.Tech  That's what you got.
Haven't you ever read
what Sherlock Holmes once said
the apparent's hard to find.  
Now you're not trying to bump
you-know-who, tiny jump
so he'll keep you on the job.
So much for McAfee, Norton
catastrophes,
why wasn't Bill back at home
clicking on  Update Now,
Power Eraser wow, 
to pick off those sneaky bugs.
The ones the Ruskis left 
inside the server, heck,
most likely women so  hot,
I mean the Russian ones, waiting for 
what you've been looking for.
Where were you, I.T. guy.
My funny I.T. guy
why can't you 
find out why
The F.B.I. 
can't dissolve 
emails for enhancement,
enlargement, 
romance meant,
for real, our time, by cupid sent. 
Since you can't seem to find 
Hillary undermined
or got hacked for anything, 
My funny I.T. guy,
now at the  F.B.I.
why can't you  try to find
Who's struggling to find
who's cheating 
on your time
my funny I.T. guy. 

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.

The Sixty Second Moral Inquiry: Is Apple's Refusal to Open the I-phone An Egocentric Worldview

From Susan Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 01:14

Today's Sixty Second Moral Inquiry asks 'Since Apple claims they refuse the order to open the San Bernadino murderer's I-phone to respect the civil liberty privacy, has Apple noticed they ignore civil liberties by anchoring their business firmly in China- one of the world’s worst human rights violators and Apple doesn’t say a word to protest Chinese violations ? .Does Apple get it that because they don’t say a word about Chinese human rights violations, they passively support a government that doesn’t let adolescents refuse orders to open I-phones? If the order were in China , Apple’s big boss, little boss and medium bosses would be in jail by now, and wouldn’t have an I-phone or its software in their pocket to worry about until their jail sentences end?'

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The Sixty Second Moral Inquiry- Is Apple's Refusan to Open the I-phone an Egocentric Worldview

-Susan Cook-

As Apple refuses to open the San Bernadino murderer’s I-phone , is Apple seeing right and wrong like a 15 year old egocentric adolescent ? Doesn’t Apple’s argument ’We can make the software for just this case, but hackers will steal it and make it viral‘ sound like moral bankruptcy where right and wrong are all about what the adolescent wants when he wants it ? Since Apple claims they refuse the order to respect the civil liberty privacy, has Apple noticed they ignore civil liberties by anchoring their business firmly in China- one of the world’s worst human rights violators and Apple doesn’t say a word to protest Chinese violations ? .Does Apple get it that because they don’t say a word about Chinese human rights violations, they passively support a government that doesn’t let adolescents refuse orders to open I-phones? If the order were in China , Apple’s big boss, little boss and medium bosses would be in jail by now, and wouldn’t have an I-phone or its software in their pocket to worry about until their jail sentences end?

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 Sixty Second Moral Inquiry: How To Tell The Difference Between Mudslinging and a Reality Check

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

The Sixty Second Moral Inquiry asks questions about what is right. Thinking about what is right sometimes means finding the question that needs to be asked. Today's moral inquiry asks: How do you the tell the difference between mud-slinging and a reality check when criticizing a politician's' actions? Daily, political life begs this question, and certainly former Congressman Weiner's cyber-sex (that's what it is called) activities do. So, what questions might we ask in our moral inquiry?

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The Sixty Second Moral Inquiry: How To Tell The Difference Between Mud-slinging and  A Reality Check
                                                           -Susan Cook-
Asking questions about what is right , today's moral inquiry asks: How do you the tell the difference between  Mud-slinging and a reality check when criticizing a politician's' actions? Daily,  political life begs this moral question, and certainly former Congressman Weiner's  cyber-sex (that's what it is called) activities do. First of all, are the politician's  critics telling him something about reality that he might have missed or didn't know that the public already knows?  Are Mr. Weiner's critics referring to facts about what he's done that both political party's know of and can corroborate? Is there a reality about the offensiveness in his actions? Offensiveness as something that one would feel very very uncomfortable explaining to children under, say, the age of 10 or wouldn't want them to know. Is the criticism because the politician's actions are  just plain disrespectful to the public who first and foremost hired him  and the politician seems to have forgotten? 

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.  

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. 

Speaking Truth To Power in the Kingdom Called Home

From Susan Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 04:39

Those who grew up in the era of Richard Nixon knew a time when "The Kingdom" took an especially frightening aura of power and glory. One speaking truth to power persisted only with great difficulty. It was called stone-walling. Really, it was just that the glass doors of transparency in government had long been replaced by big prison-like steel-bolted ones.

Then there's my local city government and its manager who waited months and months watching one (or was it two) petition drives to recall every city councilor, plus thousands of dollars spent on a "credible" independent report written by a judge to let's see, discover a cure for cancer? Find the new best thing since sliced bread? Invent shoes that would let you fly home like Dorothy's did in the Wizard of Oz?

No. It was to tell the truth.

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Speaking Truth to Power in the Kingdom Called Home
Those who grew up in the era of Richard Nixon knew a time when "The Kingdom" took an especially frightening aura of power and glory. One speaking truth to power persisted only with great difficulty. It was called stone-walling. Really, it was just that the glass doors of transparency in government had long been replaced by big prison-like steel-bolted ones. 
Then there's my local city government and its manager who waited months and months  watching one (or was it two) petition drives to recall  every city councilor, plus thousands of dollars spent on a "credible" independent report written by a judge to let's see, discover a cure for cancer? Find the new best thing since sliced bread?  Invent shoes that would let you fly home like Dorothy's did in the Wizard of Oz?
No. It was to tell the truth about what actually happened in the mysterious designation of a sale price of $750000 for a city property valued at 6 million dollars, and completion of the sale, well below the public radar. 
Kingdom sprouting is not unusual, little kingdoms sprouting up or kingdom mindsets over-taking what should be little places. There are the political parties Kingdoms, with their seemingly endless stream of entrenched political leaders that won't retire. There's the Kingdom of the IRS. There's the Kingdom of Congress, of course. And the Kingdom of Wall Street. There's the Kingdom of the state Legislatures and their appointed Government job holders, the Clerk of the House, the communications staff and others. And yes there are media Kingdoms, even a Kingdom of your local newspapers' editorial page. 
What is a kingdom? A place with its own ethical eco-system, or one that, at times, seems to have its own ethical eco-system that has nothing to do with the moral indignation or morays of the rest of the world. There within flourish entitlement, arrogance and the power and glory that follow.
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When I was a teaching assistant in the Moral Development class at Harvard, the prime contender for Ruler of the Moral Development Theory world was Dr. Lawrence Kohlberg . His theory thinking about these issues began when he worked on a ship bringing Holocaust survivors to Palestine and - because there were quotas, decisions had to be made about who would and would not be let in. What endears forever about Kohlberg's theory is  that an ethical society is one in which it doesn't matter what one's position in the social, political, economic, or intellectual hierarchy or how easy it is to discredit the person. . Each individual is treated equally, with fairness and justice. 
One person speaking truth to power no matter what the forces to intimidate, humiliate, silence, or damage reputation or dismiss “their antics” will be  heard and treated fairly. The misuse of the power and the glory of the Kingdom to deny fair and just  hearing  for speaking truth to power becomes unethical.  Ethical societies create conditions which encourage  that one person stepping up. A city might not have to go through months and months of yes, honest, but time and money draining democratic process to have one person tell the truth. It may be that one individual who will speak truth to power brings the Kingdom to say "Our ethics eco-system is out of whack. We are going for the power and glory only for ourselves."  And because somebody could tell the truth, that one person unlike Dorothy, won't need the magic shoes to go to that ethical place called home.  

The Sixty Second Moral Inquiry: Why Not Mangle the Information If You Can?

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

The Sixty-Second Moral Inquiry asks questions about what is right and wrong. Today's Sixty-Second Moral Inquiry asks: Why not mangle,`distort the information, if you can? If we all have the ability to think, isn't it each person's responsibility to find out for themselves? Why not pick and choose the facts you like and the facts you don't, selectively leaving out the ones you don't?

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The Sixty-Second Moral Inquiry asks questions about what is right and wrong. Today's Sixty-Second Moral Inquiry asks: Why not mangle,`distort the information, if you can?
If we all have the ability to think, isn't it each person's responsibility to find out for themselves? Why not pick and choose the facts you like and the facts you don't, selectively leaving out the ones you don't? Why not act like they're the only facts in town? Why bother getting the whole story, asking, calling "So what is this about?" Why bother looking at the past if it means that the facts show a reality that you prefer not to acknowledge? Even if the facts (if you're not told to keep it to yourself) give a picture like one you never ever saw before, one you'd rather not see, even if it's your job to come as close as you can to the truth, that wild horse that once you catch him, see that the world is a far better place with that wild horse, truth in it?

Today's 2 and 1/2 Minute Conspiracy Theory: How to Be a Truer Truth-teller

From Susan Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 02:40

Here we are just weeks before the 2016 Presidential election and what seems to be on the line- still- is whether or not Hillary Clinton is a truth-teller or not. I mean a real, card-carrying genuine, civil liberties respecting world-wise, intelligent Truth-teller. So what makes a person into a Truth-Teller, even a truer Truth-teller?
Today’s 2 ½ minute Conspiracy Theory ponders. Hillary Clinton has released her tax returns, her medical records, spent 11 hours in front of a Congressional Committee being questioned about the Benghazi incident during her job as Secretary of State, which by the way also included extensive vetting about her background, her integrity and her grasp of world affairs, the understanding of where different countries are located- stuff like that, and been persistently and relentlessly investigated for 24 years because she was married to someone who was a President. If all that scrutiny doesn’t make her a Truth-teller- a truer truth-teller, what would? So today’s 2 ½ minute conspiracy theory ponders:

What could the standard for being a truer Truth-teller possibly be if it isn’t all the vetting Hillary Clinton has experienced and Donald Trump has not?

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Today’s 2 ½ Minute Conspiracy Theory- How to be a Truer Truth Teller
-Susan Cook-
Here we are just  weeks before the 2016 Presidential election and what seems to be on the line- still- is whether or not Hillary Clinton is a truth-teller or not. I mean a real, card-carrying genuine, civil liberties respecting world-wise, intelligent Truth-teller. So what makes a person into a Truth-Teller, even a truer Truth-teller?
Today’s 2 ½ minute Conspiracy Theory ponders.  Hillary Clinton has released her tax returns, her medical records, spent 11 hours in front of a Congressional Committee being questioned about the Benghazi incident during her  job as Secretary of State,  which by the way also included extensive vetting about her background, her integrity and her grasp of world affairs, the understanding of where different countries are located- stuff like that,
 and been persistently  and relentlessly investigated for 24 years because she was married to someone who was a President.  Did I mention the ’Whitewater’ investigation of a failed Arkansas real estate project which cost tax payers millions of dollars to fund? I think the only thing she hasn’t done  is give a strand of her hair or a urine or blood sample to test for cocaine or opiod  or illegal drug use.
But of course, neither has her opponent Mr. Trump. And he has of course not been subject
to the  relentless  scrutiny or analysis because he hasn‘t been  US Senator, a Secretary of State, the spouse of a President or a lawyer.  Watergate-style stone walling. or sand bagging, the  hiring of surrogates to do your lying for you or the rapid construction of barriers gets old after awhile.
If all that scrutiny doesn’t make her a Truth-teller- a truer truth-teller, what would?
 So today’s 2 ½ minute conspiracy theory ponders if there is prejudice in the United States about who is and isn’t seen as a Truth-teller ?
What could the standard for being a truer Truth-teller possibly be if it isn’t all the vetting Hillary Clinton has experienced and Donald Trump has not?
Here’s the conspiracy theory: Is the only legitimate unbiased, non-sexist non-racist way to identify the Truth-teller   medical testing? Testing of a single strand of hair for chemicals and pharmaceuticals,
 a functional MRI while answering questions about Benghazi or Whitewater or using private foundations to hide income to avoid paying taxes on it.
Science. The last refuge of a Truth teller. A truer Truth teller.