Alas, it’s time to admit it.  I don’t have the time to keep this blog running right now.

Although I began Don’t Push Send with the best of intentions, the reality of my professional responsibilities and the reality of what is happening in this country and the world which distracted me from my original concept mean that I’m going to have to put this project on hold until such a time as I can devote the energy and thought required to make it happen.

To those who have visited and encouraged me along the way, thank you – and perhaps I will get back to this site at a future time when the phone calls and emails calm down.

DPS

 

Yes, here we are again.

Another mass shooting, at last count almost 60 are dead, and hundreds are wounded.  Unbelievably it all is starting to become routine.  The inevitability of these events is becoming routine.  The media hysteria and non-stop replay of cell-phone video of the massacre is becoming routine.  The calls from gun opponents to do something in the immediate aftermath is becoming routine.  The responses of gun-rights advocates are becoming routine.  The speculation of whether the shooter was aligned with some international terrorist organization, some right-wing cause, some left-wing cause, “their side”, “some side”, or any side, as long as it’s “the other side” . . . all of this is becoming routine.

There have been stupid, insensitive public remarks by people who should know better, and of course the endless stream of requests for “thoughts and prayers.”  This too, is becoming routine, and if prayer helps you cope, so be it.  The fact is, until we as a nation decide that we are not going to sit around waiting for the next deranged individual with an arsenal of assault weapons and an axe to grind to reach the breaking point, it’s only a matter of time.

Let’s not pretend that we as a nation are suddenly going to come to our senses and get serious about restricting private ownership of assault weapons or any other firearms.  If the massacre of 21 six-year old children in Newtown Connecticut didn’t get us there the only logical conclusion is that we really don’t care about anything more than our supposed right to equip ourselves with firepower designed for no other purpose than the mass slaughter of our fellow human beings.  If Newtown didn’t do it, we’re just too stupid and selfish for anything to do it.  This is just how it’s going to be.  We might as well get used to it.

And for God’s sake please knock off searching for some way of using this atrocity or stupid things said by politicians or celebrities about this act of unspeakable brutality to bolster your political agenda, whatever that agenda is.  Don’t blame Republicans, or Democrats, or Liberals, or Conservatives, or whatever group you think causes all of the problems in this country.  An unhinged person with bottled-up anger issues and no sense of empathy for his fellow human beings decided to take out his pent-up rage on a crowd of thousands of strangers. 

We’re all to blame because we are just going to ignore the obvious and sit on our hands until the next time it happens, then we will pull our hands out from under our rear-ends, wring them again, pray for the victims and survivors, look for someone else to blame, and when all is said and done we’ll stick our hands back under our respective butts and go on doing the same old thing which is essentially nothing.

Lather, rinse, and repeat.

The answer is obvious.  We’ve just got to get pissed enough.  Newtown didn’t do it.  Orlando didn’t do it.  Virginia Tech didn’t do it, and Las Vegas isn’t going to do it either.

How bad does the next one have to be?

October 4, 2017

This morning an article in The Daily Record mistakenly referenced this site in an article about how Cyberbullying is being addressed in the Rockaway NJ school system in the aftermath of a suicide.  The reference was actually to an organization known as Don’t Press Send founded by TED speaker Katie Schumacher.  

Dedicated to providing resources to children and their parents to deal with the challenges of our technology immersed world, and promoting kind and careful on-line communications, Dont PRESS send is doing vital work, which I fully support.  You can reach the site HERE

I did inform The Daily Record of the error, which they have corrected.

When sharing a meme or an article you believe supports your view on a subject, it is always a good idea to pretend that you are someone on the other side of the issue, and find the holes from that persons perspective first.  Oh yes, and if you are going to share it, try reading beyond the headline.

Believe it or not . . . but probably not.

I’ve been getting myself in trouble quite a bit lately.  I’ve become an “equal opportunity debunker”.   I can’t help myself, I’m just so fed up with the noise and nonsense that goes into viral sharing on social media that when I see a meme or shared article that is egregiously false or misleading I find myself forced to respond – sometimes with my own explanation of why the story is false, and sometimes with a link to a “fact-check” site like Snopes or Politifact

It doesn’t matter the political perspective – or whether it’s political or not.   From fallacies of logic having nothing to do with the question being debated or memes citing laws that were never enacted to sensational “news” stories that are several years old filled with stale “facts”, this garbage adds nothing to the discourse we need to be having right now.

I’ve been called a “libtard” by people on the right and had my progressive bonafides questioned by those on the left.  I don’t care.  I’ve adopted a zero-tolerance policy for bullshit, and if more of us did this I’m guessing we would all be more careful to check our sources before clicking that seductive “share” button.

 

tsar-bomba

“If we have them, why can’t we use them?”

This widely reported question from Donald Trump to national security advisers on the subject of nuclear weapons was chilling when Trump was an unlikely candidate.  It became alarming when he was elected.

A few short months later, with this oblivious man-child  in charge of the power to destroy all life on this planet, the idea of an actual nuclear war on the Korean peninsula – however improbable,  is now being held out as a possibility.

That this mentally challenged reality TV personality / real-estate branding tycoon has his finger on the trigger of mass destruction, and just weeks into his administration has moved us closer to the point where we are even having to think about this is . . .

is . . .

is . . .

There are no words.

There are no words.

We need to stop this now.

 

 

 

Remember when “Fly the Friendly Skies”  was the motto of United Airlines, when American Airlines was “Something Special in the Air”, or when Delta touted “We love to fly, and it shows.”?

The horrific treatment of a United passenger this past week shown in a viral video that took social media by storm and resulted in enormous losses for the airline and its stock holders may just be the wake-up call needed by the industry.   A friend of mine posted in his social media feed today:

“In today’s Wall Street Journal there is an article about United. One of their board members who is the former CEO of Air Canada is quoted saying that ‘United employees need to craft a friendly policy and make customers smile.’  What United should do is hire all of Southwest’s employees and fire theirs.”

Among the contributing factors to the sorry state of customer service in the sky is undoubtedly the massive consolidation of the airline industry over the last decade. This has seen the number of major carriers[1] drop from nine in 2005 to just four today, American, Delta, Southwest, and United – in that order.   (The fifth place carrier, Alaska Airlines, carries less than 30% of the passengers of United, the #4 carrier on the list.)  The result is an industry which no longer feels it needs to appeal to customers.  On many routes that used to be served by multiple carriers there are only one or two choices that don’t involve three or more connections.  When choices are limited the need to make customers happy takes a back seat, typically a three-across seat with limited legroom.   Furthermore travelers, already accustomed to the hassle and indignity of airport security procedures, typically arrive fully expecting to be mentally beaten down by the experience – and after stripping off belts and shoes, being x-rayed, dog sniffed, e-sniffed and patted down the treatment by the airlines is just one more abuse we have come to expect.

Perhaps, just perhaps the airlines can take a lesson from what just happened to United.  Perhaps it starts with using Southwest – alone among the major airlines with a good reputation for customer satisfaction – as an example.   Their employees, unusually well-treated and therefore loyal to the company, are friendly and easy to deal with. They go out of their way to make the flying experience as positive as possible, they make it easy to do business with them, and take care of you when something goes wrong.  In light of the now almost universal industry practice of charging a premium for everything and taking responsibility for nothing, Southwest is a refreshing change – even including your first two checked bags at no additional cost.

I’m betting United could quickly recover from its public image nightmare by adopting Southwest’s policies and changing the way they treat their employees – and the way their employees treat customers.  Then they should advertise the hell out of what they have done . . .  “We’re going out of our way to be the friendliest airline in the sky.” perhaps forcing the rest of the industry to follow suit.

What a great end to the unfortunate story of David Dao and United this would be.

 

  [1] Major US carriers are domestic airlines with 2,500 or more daily departures and carrying 100 million or more passengers each year.

 

“Gee mom, you were right, all those people down there really do look like ants.”

“They are ants Bobby, we haven’t left the ground yet.”

About a month ago I was flying over the rocky mountains of  Colorado on my way to a business  event and a few days of r&r in southern California.  From 39,000 feet the sight of the awesome snow-caps, while impressive, could not even have approached the experience of looking up on 30+ foot deep walls of snow from the valleys below.

Had I been caught in an avalanche of that same snow, tumbling out of control, along for the ride and perhaps finding myself, still alive, buried under that same snow my experience . . . perhaps my last living experience . . . of that same snow would have been quite different.

Perspective is like that.  It’s like the story of the two friends, a chicken and a pig, walking down the road.  The chicken says to the pig, “we really do work well together, perhaps we should go into business.”  The pig replies, “What kind of business?”  “How about a restaurant?” responds the chicken, “We could call it ‘Ham and Eggs'”.  The pig thinks about this for a second and says, “It wouldn’t work . . .  I would be committed, you would only be involved.”

How one sees the now viral story of United Airlines and Dr. David Dao is all about the lens you choose and where you point it.   The lens each of us chooses, where we point it and how we focus is largely a matter of our existing biases which we would all rather have confirmed than have challenged.  This dynamic applies in almost every area of our lives from pastime preferences to politics, but the story of United and Dr. Dao is a great illustration of how it works.

Perhaps you identify with Dr. Dao and turn your closeup lens to his perspective.  Your likely position is outrage at how this could have happened.  He bought and paid for a ticket. He had already boarded the aircraft. He had done nothing wrong, was being denied the carriage he had paid for, and the root cause was what looks like the convenience of the airline in moving a flight crew where they were needed.  He was then violently dragged off the plane and sustained serious injuries.  How could this happen in America?

On the other hand, if you take that same lens and focus in on the letter of the law United did nothing wrong. Their policy – which you agree to when you purchase a ticket whether you read it or not, and which they followed – is United’s implementation of the federal regulations on the subject in 14-CFR-250(c). Read any other airline’s policy on denied carriage and it’s pretty much the same with very minor nuances. In this view it was the passenger who was at fault. He had a contract with the airline. The airline exercised their rights under the terms of the contract (“Rule 25”) and he failed to abide by those terms. The airline called security, the passenger resisted, he was removed from the plane.  His injuries were the result of his resisting the security personnel.

Move the same lens just a little bit and the actions of airport security become questionable. Did they really have to rough the guy up so much to get him off the plane? In situations like this should people skilled in defusing emotional encounters be used rather than brute-force personnel who are trained to deal with serious security threats and potential terrorists? Same lens, different focus . . . suddenly airport security doesn’t look so good. Unnecessary roughness. Five-yard penalty . . . first down.

Focused on the airline’s perspective we see an aircraft on the ground in Louisville that needs to take off in the morning.  There is no flight crew in place. Without a flight crew the plane doesn’t leave the ground, and depending on the type of plane this could impact 200 or more passengers. Does United inconvenience three or four passengers, or inconvenience 150, 200, or even more as the ripple-effect of a flight cancellation works its way through the intensely complex aircraft scheduling system.   Most of the time this flight has enough available seats for the deadheading crew, tonight it doesn’t.  This has happened before, and it has always been taken care of without creating an international incident.  Why should the airline not be able to enforce its contract?

Let’s snap a wider angle lens on the subject.  A somewhat less myopic United could have done any number of things to prevent this from happening. They could have seen the possibility of an overbooking problem (particularly knowing they needed seats for crew alignment) and asked for volunteers prior to boarding – contingent on actually needing the seats. They could have increased their compensation offer, and at some point they would have gotten the required volunteers. They could, upon learning that this particular passenger was a physician, have made an exception and moved to the next person in the list. They could have used any number of methods to deescalate the situation prior to having to call in the storm troopers. From this view United bears at least a degree of culpability for their own self-inflicted injury, if not directly for what happened to Dr. Dow.

This wide angle view opens up a whole pile of questions. Title 14 of the federal regulations which govern civil aviation is more than a little lopsided in favor of the airlines. Do airlines really need to overbook in order to insure sufficient revenue?   Most no-show seats are reserved by customers using non-refundable tickets.  They are paid for, occupied or not.  How about a mandatory compensation for customers denied boarding that is high enough to discourage the practice in all but the most dire of emergencies. Airline deregulation was supposed to increase competition and make air travel a better and more affordable experience, but mergers have cut the number of U.S. airlines down from 15 significant players a decade ago to only 5 major carriers today.

Then there are the forces that keep trying to pull our lenses wildly around, screaming “focus on me, focus on me!”  It turns out that Dr. Dao was convicted of some particularly unsavory behavior involving sex and drugs a few years back.  Or was he?   Reports circulated in both conventional and social media suggested that there were two Dr. David Daos – a common name in Vietnam.  Before those reports were debunked they had made the rounds of social media and, confirmation bias being what it is, those on one side or the other of the growing debate seized on the story to support their side of the argument.  Then there is the matter of the security team at O’Hare who were wearing “Police” jackets even though they were not police officers and had been told to stop wearing those jackets as recently as this past January.

Some hold that the drubbing UAL stock has endured – down 1.4 billion in market cap last time I looked, and still falling, is evidence of United being at fault.  Chicagoan’s are looking at almost certain multi-million dollar lawsuit against the city which employs the security service involved, and to many of them the issue of who is right and who is wrong comes down to dollars and cents.

So many lenses.

So many places to focus.

So many questions.

So few clear answers.

One thing is certain, going forward the airlines (and not just United) are more likely to remember that those ants are really people, regardless of how tiny they might look from high up in the corporate tower.


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A Thanksgiving offering . . .

We have much to be thankful for, and despite our current struggles, in the end we move forward, haltingly at times, but the future lies not in the mirror but on the road before us.

In 1853 Theodore Parker said,

“We cannot understand the moral Universe. The arc is a long one, and our eyes reach but a little way; we cannot calculate the curve and complete the figure by the experience of sight; but we can divine it by conscience, and we surely know that it bends toward justice. Justice will not fail, though wickedness appears strong, and has on its side the armies and thrones of power, the riches that and the glory of the world, and though poor men crouch down in despair. Justice will not fail and perish out from the world of men, nor will what is really wrong and contrary to God’s real law of justice continually endure.”

May it ever be so.

Amen.

  Republicans are now waking up to the worst hangover imaginable in the aftermath of their rather unconventional “convention” in Cleveland last month.  The brain-fog may be clearing but the terrible pounding headache resulting from the bizarre party “party”, the likes of which could only be attributed to a combination of cheap moonshine bourbon, kitchen-sink amphetamines, and some form of really weird acid, will linger for the rest of this election cycle.

With his poll numbers falling faster than a ball-bearing in the vacuum of his vapid policy proclamations and Putin pandering it is becoming increasingly obvious that Donald Trump has little chance of victory in November.  Real Clear Politics numbers show Clinton having a comfortable and growing lead in every battleground state, and the books in Vegas are now giving Clinton 76 / 24 odds.   Most polls are also pointing to at least a 50/50 split in the Senate (Vermont independent Bernie Sanders and Maine’s Angus King caucus with the Democrats) and the very strong possibility of this becoming a 51 or 52 seat majority.  Only the House seems safe for the party with the Republicans securely gerrymandered into control until at least after the next census in 2020.  The GOP itself is in disarray with some leaders still offering a tepid support of Trump’s candidacy for the sake of whatever semblance of “party unity” remains as they try to seize control of their speeding locomotive rapidly approaching its inevitable head-on collision with reality.  Others have distanced themselves or outright declared that they will not vote for the party’s standard-bearer in November.   Only the true-believer neoconservative lunatic fringe remain as his actual allies, and the question becomes one of what happens to the GOP come January now that the most fractious election in modern times has laid bare the wide gulf between pragmatic party regulars and the various far-right factions.

One beneficiary of the looming Republican train-wreck is Gary Johnson and the Libertarian movement.  With no real chance of victory this November despite his beyond-unlikely strategy to seize sufficient electoral votes to throw the election to the House, Johnson and the Libertarians may be the new face of a viable center-right party in the future.  Some have suggested that Johnson might actually capture the six electoral votes in Mormon dominated Utah this year, a normally solid red-state where The Donald is as popular as a chlamydia outbreak in a monastery, and perhaps a couple more in Nebraska, one of two states which allocate electors by Congressional district.

With its philosophy of individual liberty and small-government friendly politics, the Libertarians are a natural refuge for disaffected GOP voters and center-right independents fed up by the party’s pandering to social conservatives and race-baiting xenophobes spouting anti-immigrant rhetoric.  If many disaffected Democrats are “feelin’ the Bern” in the aftermath of revelations that the DNC rigged its nomination process in favor of the establishment candidate, even more Republicans and center-right independents are fried to a crisp over the meltdown of the GOP and its complete abandonment of principle for the sake of pandering to the worst instincts of its most extreme elements.

Political historians are not in solid agreement as to whether the party alignment we have been working with since the mid 1960s represents a “sixth party system” or a continuation of the “fifth party system” that emerged with FDRs New Deal, but by whatever designation it becomes known it is almost certain that a new party alignment will emerge in the aftermath of what is clearly the most disruptive election since the end of the gilded era and perhaps since reconstruction.

The Democratic Party has some serious soul-searching to do, and its leadership and direction will doubtlessly be shaken up in the wake of the duplicitous behavior confirmed in the recent email leaks. That being said, the Democrats will emerge in an evolved form as they heal the internal infection and work on the long overdue integration of  the more progressive stance represented by  the ongoing Bernie Sanders revolution.

The GOP faces a far more existential challenge, and who ends up owning the Republican brand remains to be seen as does how much that brand continues to look like the elephant we have come to know or how much it begins to resemble the staunchly independent and individual-affirming Libertarian porcupine.

This will be a story for the history books.

Stay tuned.

trumpistparty-dino

 

Now that the Republican and Democratic conventions are behind us we begin gearing up for the general election.  The tone and tenor of this election has, up to now, been disturbingly substance-free.   Focused on personalities rather than policies and minutiae instead of the crux of the issues at hand, the primaries consisted almost entirely of inter-party and intra-party ad-hominem attacks, dirty tricks, and manipulation.

The Republicans have, on the surface, been fighting a Trump vs. “anybody else” battle where Trump has emerged as an icon for everything wrong with the GOP.  While the Democrats are fighting for the soul of their party, the Republican Party has already lost its soul.  That struggle is over.  The zombie party that remains may be reincarnated as something else – but clearly it now exists in the land of the undead with Trump serving as a placeholder candidate for a party unable to nominate their own from deep inside a mausoleum of their own creation.  Torn apart by the internal power struggle between the party establishment, tea party conservatives, economic libertarians, and the religious right, these factions dug their own graves and in the final abandonment of principle have unleashed a political Jacob Marley to wander the earth dragging their chains behind them.

Donald Trump is not undead, he is very much alive.

Donald Trump is not really a Republican.

Donald Trump is not a conservative.

Donald Trump is something different.  Donald Trump is the first candidate of the “Trumpist” Party.  What will be left of the Republican Party in the aftermath of this is anybody’s guess – but it will look nothing like the GOP of the past.  Regan’s big tent is down and the elephants are being retired from show biz, no longer useful in the one-ring circus that is the party of Trump.

It’s certainly not lost on anybody who doesn’t have their head firmly up Donald’s derriere that Trump doesn’t have anything resembling a developed philosophy of governance, a handle on policy, a fundamental grasp of economics, or the basic understanding of international affairs we would expect of an eighth-grade schoolchild.  He does not understand the Constitution nor the separation of powers that lie at the very core of our system of government.  He lacks any respect for an independent judiciary, freedom of the press, due process, or the rule of law itself.  He also has no regard for facts and doesn’t care if anything he says is true.  Just Google “factcheck trump” for confirmation of this.  None of these assertions are idle conjecture on my part, they are clearly evidenced in statements he has made and continues to make on an almost daily basis.   His recent call for the Russians to hack into Hillary Clinton’s email which has brought his deep ties to the Russian oligarchy into focus is just the latest example.  There will undoubtedly be more.

One of the first orders of business at party conventions is the passing of the party platform.  The platform of a political party states its undergirding philosophy, aspirational goals, and sets forth its intended policy initiatives.   While it is not uncommon for a party’s nominee to pay little more than lip-service to some of the platform, typically the standard-bearer will at least sign on to its core initiatives.  If you have read the platform passed at the RNC which calls for turning back the clock on just about every social initiative and advancement in economic justice you might consider this a good thing.  Rebranding “trickle-down” as “economic freedom”, calls to once again deregulate Wall Street (“freeing financial markets”) and selling LGBT+ discrimination as “religious liberty” among other outrageous positions, one might consider Donald’s overall lack of interest in this platform to be a good thing although that may be more due to the fact that his now infamously short attention span would likely prevent him from getting past the second paragraph of this ponderous 58 page prescription for returning America to the stone age.

Donald Trump has his own platform.  It’s not written down anywhere because much if not all of it comes from his head as he thinks about it, but Trump’s platform is not the Republican Party’s platform.  It’s the Trumpist platform.

Welcome to the age of the Trumpist Party.  Formed by the genetic engineering of the Tea Party with a desire to return to a bygone age of simplicity and lack of structure, the Trumpist party is in the process of procreating in a political Jurassic Park of fearsome creatures long thought to be extinct.

The Trumpist party doesn’t have a written platform because writing things down makes your positions less fungible. The ability to change ones stance for the audience you are trying to please is far more difficult if you have to answer to a written statement making it much harder to claim that you were just joking.  The Trumpist Party doesn’t have a written platform because writing things down holds one accountable.  A quick review of Mr. Trump’s history shows just how much he believes in accountability – at least for himself.

The Trumpist party doesn’t have a written platform because writing a platform requires that you have a plausible philosophy that will withstand logical scrutiny and is somehow based on facts.

Most of all, the Trumpist party doesn’t have a written platform because Trumpism appeals to people who only care that someone is telling them what they want to hear.  That what you are saying has absolutely no basis in truth doesn’t matter, and the bigger the lie and the more frequently repeated the more likely the masses are to believe you because, in the words of one of the most notorious demagogues in history . . .

“All this was inspired by the principle—which is quite true within itself—that in the big lie there is always a certain force of credibility; because the broad masses of a nation are always more easily corrupted in the deeper strata of their emotional nature than consciously or voluntarily; and thus in the primitive simplicity of their minds they more readily fall victims to the big lie than the small lie, since they themselves often tell small lies in little matters but would be ashamed to resort to large-scale falsehoods. It would never come into their heads to fabricate colossal untruths, and they would not believe that others could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously. Even though the facts which prove this to be so may be brought clearly to their minds, they will still doubt and waver and will continue to think that there may be some other explanation.”     – Adolph Hitler . . . Mein Kampf (Vol I, Chapter X)

We have clearly seen that the Trumpist Party has fully adopted this philosophy and used it to its advantage, and like the party created by the despot who defined “the big lie” the Trumpist party appeals to the masses by validating their fears, providing an object for those fears, and offering itself up as the only salvation from being assimilated.  It extols the virtues of nationalism and national exceptionalism while promising to make a once proud nation “great again”.

Where will the Trumpist Party take us?  With any luck we will never find out, but with a compliant congress and the ability to nominate multiple justices to the Supreme Court we might find liberties we take for granted impotent to save us from the intentions of a leader whose only aim is power and control.