Category Archives: Politics

We Need To Wake Up To ‘The Next America’

Screen shot 2014-04-17 at 2.22.27 PMThe new report from the Pew Research Center describes significant shifts and ongoing evolution in American culture. This emerging face of “the next America” will have profound impact upon our lives, work and politics. I plan to write a longer piece about the implications of the Pew report as they relate to new challenges for personal relationships, careers and public policy. But among the basic findings are that America is becoming less white, more diverse and older.

The Washington Post‘s Chris Cillizza has summarized the key findings and their implications, writing, ” The America of today bears little resemblance to the country of 50 years ago. It is older. It is less white. And those two demographic trends will only accelerate over the next 50 years.” Cillizza quotes Paul Taylor of the Pew Research Center: “Each of these shifts would by itself be the defining demographic story of its era,” writes “The fact that both are unfolding simultaneously has generated big generation gaps that will put stress on our politics, families, pocketbooks, entitlement programs and social cohesion.”

For Cillizza’s full article, click here.

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Why Does The Public Believe Political Falsehoods?

Screen shot 2013-08-20 at 11.02.39 AMIn a recent New York Times column, Paul Krugman highlights the rise of politically-motivated, outright falsehoods that are increasingly accepted as truths by the public. They are tacitly supported by politicians who know better; and by the public, which tends to accept what it hears. He writes, “(people) rely on what they hear from authority figures. The problem is that much of what they hear is misleading if not outright false.”

He asks, “..aren’t there umpires for this sort of thing — trusted, nonpartisan authorities who can and will call out purveyors of falsehood? Once upon a time, I think, there were. But these days the partisan divide runs very deep, and even those who try to play umpire seem afraid to call out falsehood.”

And, “Put it all together, and it’s a discouraging picture. We have an ill-informed or misinformed electorate, politicians who gleefully add to the misinformation and watchdogs who are afraid to bark. And to the extent that there are widely respected, not-too-partisan players, they seem to be fostering, not fixing, the public’s false impressions.”

Discouraging, indeed. It’s also visible in the attack on scientific facts, especially the overwhelming evidence about man-made climate change, which some continue to deny outright, and question the validity of science, itself. Here’s the full piece.

 

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Having Power Diminishes Your Empathy For Others

Screen shot 2013-08-13 at 10.51.47 AMSeveral research studies have shown that increasing power in an organization (or in any kind of relationship) tends to diminish capacity for empathy, compassion, and seeing another person’s perspective. This is especially damaging to effective leadership of people subordinate to those in power. Studies have shown that increased power diminishes activity of your “mirror neurons,” which provide the sense of connection with another person’s experience, and fuels empathy. Here’s the latest study that sheds more light on what happens. It shows the need for helping leaders develop and strengthen their capacity to connect with others’ reality and experience, which helps counter the tendency towards self-absorption in one’s own perspective, when one is in a higher-power status.

From the study, summarized in Digital Journal:

Researchers have some new insights into how power diminishes a person’s capacity for empathy. According to scientists, a sense of power shuts down a part of the brain that helps us connect with others. For their study that builds on past information about how the brain operates, the researchers found that even the smallest bit of power – for instance from a job promotion or more money – can shut down our ability to empathize with others. Continue reading
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The Republican Party’s Descent Into Unreality Undermines Our Two-Party System

Screen shot 2013-08-06 at 10.33.14 AMThat we lack an effective two-party political system today is a significant loss. The Republican Party has been on a downward slope towards unreality and irrelevancy, thanks to the right-wing element that’s taken over the party and marginalized the remnants of the GOP of Dole, Bush the elder; even Reagan. In his recent New York Times column, Paul Krugman writes, “The sad truth is that the modern G.O.P. is lost in fantasy, unable to participate in actual governing.” He adds, “I’m not talking about policy substance. I may believe that Republicans have their priorities all wrong, but that’s not the issue here. Instead, I’m talking about their apparent inability to accept very basic reality constraints, like the fact that you can’t cut overall spending without cutting spending on particular programs, or the fact that voting to repeal legislation doesn’t change the law when the other party controls the Senate and the White House.”

Krugman highlights a serious and sad condition that exists, today — with yet-to-be-seen consequences. Click here for his complete essay, “Republicans Against Reality.”

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A Rare Example of Political Disagreement and Mutual Respect

Screen shot 2013-07-11 at 11.05.15 AMWriting in the New York Times, Harvard economist N. Gregory Mankiw, who served as chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers under President George W. Bush, praised his former student Jason Furman, recently appointed by President Obama to the same position. Mankiw points out that “In Washington these days, comity between Republicans and Democrats is rare. Yet my relationship with Jason has never been hampered by our differing political affiliations.”

While pointing out their political differences, Mankiw offers a description of how two people can come from a similar base of intellectual knowledge and tradition, and yet end up aligned with different political parties — while respecting and valuing each other’s point of view.

Mankiw provides three ways in which differing perspectives can lead to a more left-oriented vs. a right-oriented political position. His commentary is a clear, concise portrayal of how people’s sensibilities, values and perhaps temperament can lead to different positions. He writes:

“…I doubt that there is a simple answer. So let me suggest three. Continue reading

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The Rise of McCarthy Tactics From Some Republicans

Screen shot 2013-07-01 at 10.47.11 AMWhen an elder politician like “Mr. Republican” Bob Dole says “I think they ought to put a sign on the national committee doors that says closed for repairs…” you know we’ve entered Bizarro World. Especially when he added, in that same FOX interview, that neither Reagan, Nixon nor himself could “make it in today’s GOP.”

it’s worth examining what’s driving that trend, and a more serious one: A group of influential Republicans are creating a new norm of juvenile, schoolyard-name-calling behavior. And they’ve been churning out innuendos about Democrats consorting with the enemy — such déjà vu tactics harking back to the days of Joe McCarthy. There are political motives for this oddly, self-destructive path. But there’s another source worth considering as well: The mental and emotional drivers that may underlie the resurgence of McCarthyism at this particular point in our culture. It amounts to a kind of arrested development, borne of a crumbling identity of manhood; one that has always linked class status, power to control and dominate, and self-interest with a righteous sense of high moral stature.

I’ll explain below, but first take a look at some recent examples of the slurs and innuendos reminiscent of McCarthyism:

After attacking Chuck Hagel’s character during his Senate confirmation, Rep. Daniel Issa went on to call Obama’s press secretary a “paid liar.” And discussing the IRS scandal, he implied — in a typical McCarthy innuendo, that it’s “a problem that was coordinated in all likelihood right out of Washington headquarters — and we’re getting to proving it.” (My italics, to illustrate the deliberate suggestion of associations). Despite these insinuations of high-level corruption, the originator was revealed to be a conservative Republican who sought greater clarification of the criteria for granting tax-exempt status. Continue reading

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The Life and Work of Albert Hirschman

Screen shot 2013-04-29 at 11.59.46 AMI’ve long-admired the writings of economist and public intellectual Albert O. Hirschman, who died a few months ago at 97. In addition to his ideas, he had a remarkable, little publicized and heroic life during World War II, as this New York Times obituary reveals. And this essay by Roger Lowenstein in the Wall Street Journal shows how Hirschman offered some interesting perspectives about the role of dissent, relevant to politics and organizations. Lowenstein writes, “Once you start looking at the world through the Hirschman lens, the paradigm of exit and voice is all around. Suppose you are unhappy at work: Should you complain to the boss or simply quit? Or maybe you are the boss: How much should you mollify employees—or customers—to keep them from leaving? It might depend on the presence of a third Hirschman factor: loyalty. Broadly speaking, markets are all about exit, while politics deals in voice. What Hirschman grasped is that the strongest organizations (in either sphere) foster exit as well as voice.”

The complete essay: Continue reading

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Two Voices Of Sanity In Our Political Culture

Screen shot 2013-04-22 at 10.07.26 AMIn their recent join writings, the American Enterprise Institute’s Normal Ornstein and the Brookings Institution’s Thomas Mann, reflecting a center-right and center-left perspective, offer thoughtful critiques and analyses regarding the drift towards irrational and extremist positions in politics today. In a recent op-ed piece in the Washington Post, they examine the roots of the current, continuing gridlock. In it, they point out that “…serious debates about policy avenues in these areas are impossible if half the political arena believes that climate change is a hoax, and if one political party is animated by the Grover Norquist no-tax pledge and the Mitt Romney vision of a nation of 53 percent makers and 47 percent takers.” And, that “…the broader pathologies in our politics remain. For all the problems that existed in previous decades, in a system designed not to act with dispatch, there was a strong political center, with responsible bipartisan leadership. The same cannot be said today.”

For the complete article, click here.

 

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What Does Having Power in Your Organization Do to You?

Screen shot 2013-04-11 at 10.10.11 AMCompanies are evolving and adapting to ongoing, often unpredictable business challenges today. in the context of teamwork and collaboration needs, leaders and the management cultures they build are rethinking the meaning and impact of power. Several new research studies have examined the impact of power and authority upon the behavior and emotional attitudes of people in their career and leadership roles. Much of this research yields useful findings for companies. But some contains significant limitations — and distortions.

Among the latter are many academic studies, based on controlled experiments in which college students are the participants. They construct artificial, experimental conditions, and then draw broad conclusions from the findings. Most seriously, they often neglect to study actual people in business environments. Moreover, some of the studies use definitions of “power” that don’t fit the realities of today’s organizations. Those flaws affect their conclusions.

For example, recent research found that “powerful” people are more likely to Continue reading

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Does Meditation Make You More Politically Liberal?

Screen shot 2013-03-13 at 10.11.16 AMA new research study finds that people become more politically liberal following meditation or other spiritually oriented experiences. The findings concerning political orientation can be questioned because of how the researchers constructed the study, but I think they reveal something of broader significance: that meditation and developing one’s inner life has a transformative effect upon emotions, mental perspectives and behavior, in general. And that can lead to politically liberal positions in our current political culture.

First, the research findings: In a series of studies, researchers at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management initially assessed people’s differences regarding their “religious” vs. “spiritual” orientations. The researchers defined “spirituality” in terms of direct experience of self-transcendence and the feeling that we’re all connected. In contrast, “religiousness” was defined as a code of conduct that’s part of a tradition.

In my view, the two definitions are not at all mutually exclusive, and that contaminates, somewhat, the findings associating political conservatism with religiousness, and spirituality with political liberalism. The researchers explained those in terms of underlying values, that conservatism and religiousness both emphasize the importance of tradition, while liberalism and spirituality both emphasize the importance of equality and social harmony.

The Key Finding
When participants in the study meditated they subsequently reported significantly higher levels of spirituality, and they expressed more liberal political attitudes. That is, meditation led both liberals andconservatives to endorse more liberal political positions. Continue reading

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Gun Violence, Mental Illness and Their Hidden Roots

Screen shot 2012-12-23 at 1.40.33 PMI expanded my previous post for this Huffington Post article, as follows:

Much of the discussion about gun violence, mental illness and public policy is like looking at the branches of the tree and its trunk. But we don’t consider the roots, which fuel how the tree grows. Those roots lie within some of our cultural values and aspirations that we absorb as we grow through our families, schools, and into adult relationships and careers. They are murky, hard to see. But here I suggest some worthy of facing and dealing with.

First, it’s quite likely that not much will happen following the Newtown elementary school killings, in terms of curbing gun violence. As Dana Milbank recently wrote inThe Washington Post, the tendency has been to “slow-walk” discussion about change. And then it never occurs. But if a sea change of attitude and action does result, it would require a critical mass of Democrats and Republicans to summon the courage to confront the political power of the NRA, and enact reasonable gun laws, one’s that would be enforced. Such laws would respect the rights of sportsmen, target-shooters, and hunters, as well as those who want firearms to protect their homes. But they would also limit the availability of assault-type weapons that serve none of those purposes. Protecting the public from the danger of being killed by people wielding assault weapons with multiple rounds of ammunition is no less a “right” than that of possessing a gun.

At the same time, Continue reading

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Gun Violence And Its Social Roots

Screen shot 2012-12-19 at 11.54.15 AMIt’s quite likely that nothing at all will happen following the Newtown elementary school killings, in terms of curbing gun violence. But if there is a sea change of attitude and action, it would result from a critical mass of Democrats and Republicans who summon the courage to oppose the NRA’s threats to defeat their reelection campaigns, and then enact and enforce reasonable gun laws. Such laws would occupy the “middle ground” that respects the rights of sportsmen, target-shooters, and hunters, as well as those who want to possess firearms for protection of their homes; and yet, limits the availability of assault-type weapons that serve none of those purposes. At the same time, legislators’ actions would also include creating additional resources for mentally disturbed people, including helping families, schools, and the general public recognize potential signs of disturbance and greater sources of help. Legislation that protects the public from the easy availability of assault weapons and multiple rounds of ammunition would recognize the rights of people to be protected from the use of such weapons for killing.

But keep this in mind: Most mentally disturbed people never become violent. In fact, most killings aren’t committed by the severely mentally disturbed. Moreover, we can’t predict who might become violent. We know that certain combinations of emotions, such as intense anger, fueled by alcohol or drugs, may result in violence. But many people fit that profile and never commit a violent act, let alone murder anyone.

A deeper, more complex issue is harder to address. It concerns underlying cultural attitudes and norms within American society that Continue reading

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In Northern Mali, Extremists Silence Music And Drive Out Artists

This is a sad, destructive situation for both people and culture. Sudarsan Raghavan’s story in the Washington Post describes the efforts by extremists in Mali to attack and destroy all forms of music. He writes, “Northern Mali, one of the richest reservoirs of music on the continent, is now an artistic wasteland. Hundreds of musicians have fled south to Bamako, the capital, and to other towns and neighboring countries, driven out by hard-liners who have decreed any form of music — save for the tunes set to Koranic verses — as being against their religion.”

And yet, within the range of Islamic traditions, music is highly regarded and a vital resource for spiritual development. The form of Sufism that is more closely linked with Islam is a good example. Raghavan points out that “playing music brings lashes with whips, even prison time, and MP3 and cassette players are seized and destroyed.” For the full article click here, or read on: Continue reading

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The Fallen Generals…And Our Own Private Truths

Reading about General Petraeus’ affair with Paula Broadwell and General Allen’s voluminous correspondence with Jill Kelley – and their ignominious fall from grace – brings to mind the Egyptian myth, Osiris. He was killed and dismembered, and each of the 14 pieces of his body was buried in a different place. His wife Isis found all the parts and put them back together. Then Osiris came back to life, and they conceived a child together.

Later, I’ll explain what this myth can teach us about this latest “sex and power” scandal, which signifies more than just different views about affairs and adultery among high-profile people. One the one hand, some contend that adultery among military personnel is a personal matter, as foreign policy and military analyst Thomas Ricks said in a recent interview. In fact, Ricks argues in The Gamble that the significant issue for the military is the failure and decline of leadership. But others are morally offended by what they see as personal character flaws behind the sex scandal, and that such behavior indicates poor judgment on the part of leaders, as well.

But step back: I think this scandal is just a more extreme, titillating version of deceptions and lies that many people maintain in their public behavior, at the expense of private truths. For some, the chasm between public lies and private truths is driven by Continue reading

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Why Shifting Your Thinking Can Make You More Politically Moderate

Some new research has found that people tend to become more moderate in their views about otherwise polarizing issues, when they answer three “why” questions. This study, reported in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science,  asked people to think broadly, more abstractly, about an issue, by asking them “why” rather than “how.” The research indicates that engaging in abstract thinking generated more open-mindedness with respect to political beliefs. Here’s the summary of the findings from Science Daily:

Partisans beware! Some of your most cherished political attitudes may be malleable! Researchers report that simply answering three “why” questions on an innocuous topic leads people to be more moderate in their views on an otherwise polarizing political issue.

The research, described in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science, explored attitudes toward what some people refer to as the ground zero mosque, an Islamic community center and mosque built two blocks from the site of the former World Trade Center in New York City. Continue reading

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Understanding The Disappointment Of “Red America”

It’s crucial for our own personal growth and development to be able to step outside ourselves, our own perspectives, and experience the world through the eyes of those who see it differently. Seeing and understanding through the lens of others – especially those with whom we disagree — builds empathy and compassion. And that’s vital for strengthening that which is shared, and for working towards common goals – beyond differences. Bill Clinton is a master at conveying understanding to those who feel scared and angry about changes occurring in our country. And Eli Saslow’s recent portrayal of the disappointment felt by Romney supporters in the Washington Post does a good job at that, as well. He writes:

She arrived early to take apart the campaign office piece by piece, just as she felt so many other things about her life were being dismantled. Beth Cox wore a Mitt Romney T-shirt, a cross around her neck and fresh eyeliner, even though she had been crying on and off and knew her makeup was likely to run….Her calendar read “Victory Day!!” and she had planned to celebrate in the office by hosting a dance party and selling Romney souvenirs. But instead she was packing those souvenirs into boxes…Here in the heart of Red America, Cox and many others spent last week grieving not only for themselves and their candidate but also for a country they now believe has gone wildly off track.

For the complete article, click here.

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Why We May See the Return of Mainstream Republicans

A few decades ago I asked my father why he had voted for Eisenhower in both the ’52 and ’56 elections. It puzzled me because my father was a lifelong Roosevelt-New-Dealer Democrat who had founded and led for many years the labor union local at his factory. There, the management regularly accused him of being a Communist and sometimes threatened his life. Not a person you’d expect to support a Republican, he fought for worker’s rights and benefits. That included, humorously, distributing readings to workers by Spinoza, Freud and Aristotle. The company decreed that to be subversive activity and tried to ban it. But he brought the case to the NLRB — and won a celebrated victory.

So why did he support Eisenhower, a Republican? His answer was short and simple: “Because he beat the Nazis.” To his thinking, that trumped politics, period.

I’m reminded of that perspective as I reflect on the outcome of the 2012 presidential election. I’m wondering if we might start to see a swing of the pendulum Continue reading

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Why People Are Likely To Believe Political Lies

Have you ever wondered why people are persuaded by outright lies during political campaigns? And why lies tend to “stick” even after they’re debunked by facts? Some new research sheds light on why this happens, at least in terms of people’s thought processes, if not their underlying emotional drives.

It’s a major phenomena: Prior to the 2012 election campaign, the most glaring lies in the political arena were that Obama is a Muslim and that global warming is a big hoax. For example, a Pew Research poll found that 30 percent of all Republicans described the president as Muslim. And others, such as Sen. James Inhofe have regularly called climate change “the greatest hoax” of all. And recently, Rep. Paul Broun — who sits on the House Science Committee, ironically — argued that evolution and the big bang are “lies from hell.”

Currently, as the presidential campaign went into high gear after Labor Day, both sides regularly accuse each other of engaging in outright lies and extreme exaggeration about their positions and “facts,” while insisting on the truthfulness of their own. Media outlets such as the Washington Post, the New York Times and NPR have been providing fact-checking analyses about statements from President Obama and Gov. Romney as a means to restore some degree of truth.

Lies tend to stick in people’s minds, and can sway the outcome of elections, as well as public opinion in many arenas. So, what happens within our minds and emotions that make us receptive to lies, and then resistant to information that exposes the truth? Continue reading

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Richard Branson Calls For A “B Team” Of Business Leaders

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sir Richard Branson’s ideas are always worth attention. Here, he calls for a “B Team:” A small group of business leaders who will campaign for reforms to make capitalism more oriented to the long term and socially more responsible. He’s always been on the forefront of ideas and actions that promote joining successful business enterprises with contributing to the social good. In this article from The Economist, he describes a new venture that he calls the “B Team:”

SLOWING down seems to be the last thing on Sir Richard Branson’s mind. Since turning 62 in July, the bearded British entrepreneur has as usual been making headlines around the world. On October 3rd he celebrated victory in a campaign to overturn the British government’s decision to strip Virgin Trains, of which his Virgin Group owns 51%, of the West Coast main-line rail franchise. The government now admits it got its sums wrong, as Sir Richard had claimed, and the bidding process will be rerun (see article). Recently Sir Richard has also been in the news for (among other things) urging Barack Obama and Mitt Romney to end America’s war on drugs; declaring his intention to visit Mars; and parking a mock-up of the new Upper Class bar from his transatlantic aircraft outside the New York Stock Exchange. From there he promoted his latest book (“Like A Virgin: Secrets They Won’t Teach You at Business School”) and led a discussion with his Twitter followers. The subject under discussion was: “How can business change the world for the better?”

This last topic has become increasingly central to Brand Branson in the past few years—although social activism has been part of Sir Richard’s repertoire since he opened advice centres for students in the 1960s. Under Virgin Unite, its charitable arm, his corporate empire has become a leader in the booming business of “cause marketing” (aligning brands with charities). Continue reading

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Why People Are Likely To Believe Falsehoods And Misinformation

Do you wonder why misinformation and outright lies about known facts often take root in people’s minds? What may come to mind immediately are recent examples: the claim that President Obama wasn’t born in the U.S., and that climate change is a hoax. Some recent research sheds light on what happens cognitively, that may underlie believing falsehoods.

Researchers led by Stephan Lewandowsky of the University of Western Australia, reported in the journal Psychological Science, found that “Weighing the plausibility and the source of a message is cognitively more difficult than simply accepting that the message is true — it requires additional motivational and cognitive resources,” according to a summary of the research reported in Science Today. Moreover, If the topic isn’t very important to you or you have other things on your mind, misinformation is more likely to take hold.

For the research findings, as summarized in Science, Continue reading

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The 2012 Campaign Reveals Two Contrasting Views of Personal Success

The 2012 presidential campaign exposes a clash between an older, narrowly focused — and declining — view of success, and one that’s both broader and steadily rising. It has both social and political implications worth our attention.

The view that Mitt Romney conveys is the older one. It’s essentially that success means achieving power, money and career position for oneself and family. Period. It’s a traditional, self-focused vision of a successful life. It’s also embodied in Paul Ryan’s positions about the “makers” and the “takers.”

The other view, conveyed by President Obama, is closer to what I call “whole life” success. That’s a growing shift towards viewing a successful life as one that includes personal achievement, but extends beyond it to supporting and helping others elevate their own lives. It’s based on awareness that we’re all interdependent and interconnected in today’s world. And, that your own life course – including your financial and career success — is highly interwoven with everyone else’s.

The latter perspective is not new, of course. But it’s been steadily rising in our culture; increasingly visible in the values and actions of younger generations, in particular. Let’s look at some statements that contrast the older, traditional view of success with the broader, whole life view. Then, let’s look at where the latter is taking root, and why President Obama retains one foot in the older view when he describes the path to success, today.

First, Romney emphasizes that Americans should be Continue reading

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Wealthy People Less Likely To Help Others In Times Of Trouble

 

Some new research finds that less well-off people tend to reach out to each other in times of trouble, but the more affluent opt for comfort in their material wealth and possessions. In a study conducted at UC Berkeley, and published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, researchers found that the rich are ” more focused on holding onto and attaining wealth and the poor spending more time with friends and loved ones,” according to the lead author, Paul Piff. One interpretation is that the more wealthy take comfort in material possessions when threatened by feelings of chaos, crisis or disruption in their environment. The study was described in this Science Daily summary:

Crises are said to bring people closer together. But a new study from UC Berkeley suggests that while the have-nots reach out to one another in times of trouble, the wealthy are more apt to find comfort in material possessions. “In times of uncertainty, we see a dramatic polarization, with the rich more focused on holding onto and attaining wealth and the poor spending more time with friends and loved ones,” said Paul Piff, a post-doctoral scholar in psychology at UC Berkeley and lead author of the paper published online this month in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. These new findings add to a growing body of scholarship at UC Berkeley on socio-economic class — defined by both household income and education — and social behavior. Results from five separate experiments shed new light on how humans from varying socio-economic backgrounds may respond to both natural and human-made disasters, including economic recessions, political instability, earthquakes and hurricanes. Continue reading

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Green Leadership: Learning It And Doing It

A previous post described what a green business leadership mindset consists of. I argued personal buy-in among leaders is essential to establish, communicate and enact sustainable and socially responsible practices. Here, I describe how leaders can learn to build that mindset, and how that underlies successful and innovative practices.

I see two linked pathways to developing and applying green leadership: First, acquiring and learning relevant facts and evidence-based understanding about emerging global and workforce realities. These require new actions for long-term survival and success. The second is leadership self-development, through self-awareness awareness and other sources of learning. Both must become part of the leader’s “DNA” in order for sustainable practices to be successful.

Two Pathways To A Green Leadership Mentality

Learning Facts and Information

This includes acquiring information: Documented research findings; related, science-derived data; and evidence-based understanding and interpretation of current environmental and workforce realities. For example: Continue reading

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Green Leadership — What Is It?

Politically motivated politicians continue denying man-made climate change and it’s devastating harm. They reject the need for alternative energy sources that could stem the impact of greenhouse gas emissions. They gasp when hearing the word “sustainability.” They block efforts to deal with these or other significant challenges. Nevertheless, many businesses and even the military are seeking solutions to these threats to our economy, way of life, and our national security.

But creating successful, sustainable practices and policies, and the long-term vision they require is complex. The above challenges are interwoven with vested interests of those seeking deregulation or new tax laws that enables continued profit for themselves, at the expense of the larger society. Investment in infrastructure or human capital is ignored.

Positive solutions call for “green leadership.” In business, successful, sustainable practices rest upon an internal foundation, a mindset of emotional and mental perspectives, values and capacities. This mindset helps create sustainable, growth-oriented practices that contribute to long-term security and development for all.

In this post I describe what a green leadership mindset consists of. Part 2 describes what it looks like in practice, and how leaders can learn to build it.

Business and Military Organizations Embrace Reality

To better understand the rise of green leadership, consider that climate change is recognized and being addressed by many decision-makers, despite the deniers. For example, The Economist and others recently focused on the melting Arctic, the sea level rise and ways to deal with long-term implications. Companies research and invest in alternative energy technologies, and receive federal support, though the latter is opposed by fossil fuel-funded politicians, including Mitt Romney, who has called wind and solar power “…two of the most ballyhooed forms of alternative energy.” Nevertheless, research abounds. Companies continue to explore innovations for increasing solar energy efficiency, for example.

The military recognizes the national security threat Continue reading

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Why Obama and Romney Both Misunderstand “The American Dream”

As Romney begins his pivot, he and President Obama are highlighting their competing visions for growing prosperity and riches: One, building from the bottom up; the other, trickling from the top down. The data show that Obama’s argument is more correct, but don’t look for any bipartisan compromise towards creating a sane fiscal policy. Nor, for that matter, towards progress on any other major issues. From a political psychology perspective, one can interpret the policies adovcated by the Republicans as increasingly extreme and reactionary. They are likely to create suffering for large segments of society. At the same time, the party is resuscitating social issues from decades ago.

These have dangerous consequences, and you can’t help wondering what’s driving their positions with such zeal. There are many sources, but a major one is psychological. It has three strands which culminate in policies that pervert what politicians like to call The American Dream the possibility for all members of society to build a successful and fulfilling life. But that dream is increasingly pointed towards the few who can become rich, at the expense of the many. Let’s look at the three psychological strands that underlie that twist, and how they impact peoples work and lives.

Little Boys Play-Acting As Grown-Ups

The younger Republicans often sound like little boys making demands and arguments that they imagine big, grown-up men do and say when they have power, like I will have my way, and you must obey me. Interestingly, most of them are baby boomers now in their midlife years. Perhaps this reflects a psychological and cultural theme of this generation worth exploring. But their posturing does appear to reflect a twisted sense of what it means to be a psychologically mature adult man, who — in reality — must be able to engage with collaboratively to achieve anything. Continue reading

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Study Finds That Liberals Remember Dreams More Than Conservatives

Here’s some interesting research: A study has found that self-described liberals remember their dreams more than self-described conservatives. In addition, they have more frequent lucid dreams. It occurs to me that those whose world view and ideology are more traditionally liberal are more tuned into their inner life – their sense of interconnection, and empathy for others; able to see other’s needs and points of view. It’s not that conservatives lack an inner life; but it might have become more repressed or smothered by their embrace of values and ideology that promote and reinforce self-interest. Here’s the link to the research, as reported in the Wall Street Journal:

 

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Romney and Gingrich Share an “Inner Life” Problem

Both liberal and conservative political writers have been commenting on the negative public reactions to Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich, despite their being the leading Republican contenders for their party’s nomination. For example, conservative George Will portrays Romney as the personwe don’t trustwritingof the“… impression many Republicans seem to have of his slipperiness…(and) the suspicion that there is something synthetic about him.”Liberal Eugene Robinson describes Gingrich as the personwe don’t like, citing bothFox and CNN pollsshowing that Gingrich has about a 57% disapproval rating.

But there’s something both Gingrich and Romney share — though in opposite ways — that contributes to these negative perceptions: It’s a problem within theinner lifeof each, as it drives their outer life personas and behavior.

In essence, Mitt Romney is perceived by many as stiff and too scripted; unable to connect with ordinary people or be spontaneous in his interactions with them, even when trying to be humorous. Writing in theNational Review,Jonah Goldbergrefers to Romney’s“… 2 percent milk personality… his authentic inauthenticity problem isn’t going away. And it’s sapping enthusiasm from the rank and file.”I don’t think Romney’s patrician background can account for this. The Kennedys, for example, generated a strong sense of connection with the lives of ordinary people, despite their wealth.

On the other hand, Newt Gingrich has, in fact, aroused a strong connection with Republican voters, who seem to feel a shared anger and resentment about current problems. And yet, he’s simultaneously perceived as arrogant, grandiose and unstable — both by the very voters who support him as well as by conservatives. For example,Wall Street Journalcolumnist Peggy Noonandescribes himas“… a human hand grenade who walks around with his hand on the pin, saying, ‘Watch this!'”and Charles Krauthammerwritesthat“Gingrich has a self-regard so immense that it rivals Obama’s — but, unlike Obama’s, is untamed by self-discipline.”

So, what’s their inner life problem? To explain, your inner life is Continue reading

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Why the Republicans’ View of “Success” Is a Path to Self-Destruction

After watching the recent Republican debates, last week’s New Hampshire primary and the campaigning since then, I’m convinced that the GOP is on a path to self-destruction. And that’s regrettable. It deprives the country of a serious debate over different views about the roles of government, business, labor and citizens in general in dealing with the problems we face. Of course, that debate would assume that there’s an agreed-upon set of realities about the current world.

Unfortunately, that’s a tall order. It’s more likely that Mitt Romney, if he’s the candidate, and his party will present a vision that’s largely disconnected from — even denies — facts and realities about today’s world. Therefore, they’re likely to offer solutions to problems that derive from their alternate reality.

One way to explain this oddity is from a political psychology perspective. That is, let’s examine the emotional attitudes and beliefs that may underlie the Republican Party’s view of reality and the solutions they offer to problems as they define them. For example, the party appears wedded to a singular view of what “success” in life is, and should be. And yet, that vision is increasingly disconnected from emerging new realities. Those point to the need for a broader, more inclusive view of success in today’s world, and how to achieve it.

The New Normal

You’ve probably noticed the following: Continue reading

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Why Our Political Culture Looks Insane

The ugly spectacle of political gridlock reflects a political culture best described as insane. It’s increasingly disconnected from realities of our current world. We’re living in the midst of massive, worldwide transformation towards a highly intertwined and increasingly transparent world. The impact of this transformation is visible in economic shifts, new political movements, changing social norms and personal values, business practices and in individual behavior.

The products of this transformation call for policies and actions that respond to them in pragmatic, positive ways. But here in the U.S., our political culture of both left and right operates as though these new realities either don’t exist or don’t matter; as though the old order still prevails.

Examples of the political insanity include:

  • From the left, President Obama is attacked for not achieving and pushing for a more progressive agenda, despite a range of accomplishments that he’s achieved. But the greater insanity is that he’s operating with the new “requirement” instituted by Republicans: That every piece of legislation must now be able to overcome a filibuster threat, rather than be hammered out through compromise and then subjected to a majority vote.
  • On the right, the Republican/Tea Party vilifies Obama’s “socialist,” “anti-American” or — in Newt Gingrich’s description — “Kenyan, anti-colonialist” agenda, despite an ironic reality to the contrary: President Obama’s policies and behavior are much closer to those of a moderate Republican of yore; the kind that doesn’t exist anymore.
  • Then there’s the ongoing clown show — Republican presidential hopefuls who argue for returning to policies that — as data show — have created the economic mess we’re now in. Moreover, they try to outdo each other to embrace anti-science, anti-knowledge positions, whether about climate change or evolution; and they vocally embrace anti-human rights positions when those rights concern gays and lesbians.

Contrast the above positions and policy objectives with some of the transformations whose impact is increasingly visible in everyone’s lives. On the surface, they appear disparate; unrelated. But collectively, you can see a theme: A rising change of mentality. That is, a mixture of values, world outlook, emotional attitudes, and conduct. It’s simultaneously a response to and a driver of the rise of interconnection and interdependency. And it has cascading political, economic and social implications.

Here are some of the seemingly unrelated shifts that reflect the reality of today’s world: Continue reading

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What Are The Emotional Drivers Of Our National Unraveling?

The S&P downgrade of the U.S. credit rating has spawned increased criticism and analysis of President Obama’s apparent reluctance — or inability — to confront the Republican opposition or push for major investment in infrastructure and jobs. Among the most vocal are Labor Secretary Robert Reich, psychologist Drew Westen, and MSNBC’s Chris Matthews.

All of them offer good, concrete recommendations for how Obama could demonstrate the leadership and a clear action program that his supporters have been waiting and longing for. They offer plausible explanations of why he isn’t doing that. More broadly, it’s also useful to understand what fuels a growing sense of unraveling throughout our country (a current poll finds 79% dissatisfied with our political system); and, increasingly, around the globe.

One way to do that is by recognizing some psychological drivers of the polarization — around the role of government, and in the opposition to forging reasonable, compromise-based solutions to problems. I think a major psychological source originates in people’s responses to the crumbling of an overall way of life that’s pretty much predominated throughout the 20th Century — in business and at work; in personal life goals and relationships; and in social and public policy. It’s themes are embracing self-interest and selfishness; domination of some groups by others; and control of resources by the few at the expense of the larger society’s needs.

That worked fairly well in the 20th Century; or at least it was accepted, with all its inequities. But today, people sense that their old way of life just isn’t working. And it’s not. Today, we’re plunging headfirst into a new reality — and no leader has really articulated it or helped people understand how to deal with it.

That is, the world is transforming in ways that require Continue reading

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Why People Are Caught Between Public Lies And Private Truths

The latest “sex and power” scandals flashing across the media in the last few weeks underscore just how commonplace, even repetitive, they’ve become. Some are new, like the sexual assault charges against former IMF President Dominique Strauss-Kahn, or Arnold Schwarzenegger’s revelation that he had fathered a child with a former member of the household staff. Some are recycling, like John Edwards’ indictment or Newt Gingrich’s presidential aspirations, which revivememories about hislying about an affair while impeaching President Clinton for lying about an affair.

The list goes on, the latest being the Anthony Weiner’s “rolling disclosure” episode. TheWashington Post recently compiled may of the scandals into anice summary –for those who are interested in keeping track.

But I think this steady stream of sex-related scandals is just the most titillating and graphic part of something more widespread and troublesome in the lives of many men and women today: the gap between people’spublic lies andprivate truths.

That is, many people live with contradictions between their inner lives (the truths about their desires, emotional experience,self-image and ideals) and what they do with those truths behind the scenes, hidden from view (their private selves), and the lives they conduct publically, in theircareer paths, their relationships with their families or others they deal with and the positions they espouse or advocate (their public selves).

Public lies that contradict private truths have been part of our culture for some time. But in my work with people over the last few decades, I’ve seen it grow more rapidly since 9/11 and the economic/political events of the last few years. As I reflected on the reasons for this gap, how it damages people and our society, Continue reading

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Why The Tea Party/Republicans Fear A Transforming America

In the aftermath of the interim budget agreement, it’s clear that a new reactionary ideology has taken root in Tea Party/GOP policies. Psychological drivers are always present in political or personal ideologies and policies. I think it’s useful to expose and understand those within the positions of this new incarnation of the Republican Party, in order to order to counter them with constructive, positive alternatives.

In brief, the Tea Party/GOP is pushing for economic and social policies based onfears: Fears of massive transformation, turmoil and chaos underway in our society. And, fears about how those transformations will impact lives largely defined by self-interest, power and money. Some fear-generated policies are consciously created; others,unconscious. That is, some reflect a yearning for restoration of a way of life that no longer works in today’s changing society and globalized world. Other policy positions reflect conscious manipulation of those fears; But all driving the positions the Tea Party/GOP demands and is determined to enact.

I call their ideology and policies “reactionary” because they are a retreat away from creating positive,resilient responses to large-scale upheaval and change; and towards objectives that fail to address the sources of problems they aim to fix. Worse, their view of the impact their policies would have upon society doesn’t correspond to factual reality – as a broad range of commentators, bothconservative andliberal, have pointed out.

For both reasons, one may describe the policies and ideology of the current Republicans as, psychologically speaking, delusional.

Understanding What The New ReactionariesFear

We’re living through Continue reading

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Obama’s Call to “Win the Future” Requires a New Definition of “Success”

When President Obama urged Americans to “win the future” in his recent SOTU address, he called upon the innovative, communal spirit that’s enabled us to “do great things.” Ironically, that part of his message exposes a glaring contradiction: How we’ve defined achieving “success” in our lives has become outmoded and maladaptive in our 21st Century world. To meet the challenges of our “Sputnik moment,” we need to revamp our thinking about what success is, as well as what psychological orientation is necessary to achieve it.

Consider this: The old, conventional view of a successful life is mostly defined by financial and self-interested criteria — getting, consuming and possessing for oneself. As Ronald Reagan once said about pursuing the “American dream” everyone “...wants to see an America in which people can get rich.”

But as President Obama pointed out in his address, “That world has changed. And for many, the change has been painful.” The reality of today’s interconnected, highly interdependent world, greed is not good. It’s psychologically unhealthy; it undermines the values, mindset and actions people need to strengthen in order to meet the challenges we face as individuals and as a nation.

That is, our security, success and well-being now require strengthening communal values and behavior; working towards common goals, the common good. Acting on self-interest alone, especially in the pursuit of personal power, steady career advancement and money Continue reading

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The Rise of the New Global Elite

Chrystia Freeland has a very insightful, well-documented and researched analysis in The Atlantic about how the super-affluence of recent years has changed the meaning of wealth…and the implications for all of us. I’m posting it here for Progressive Impact readers.

She writes:

F. Scott Fitzgerald was right when he declared the rich different from you and me. But todays super-rich are also different from yesterdays: more hardworking and meritocratic, but less connected to the nations that granted them opportunityand the countrymen they are leaving ever further behind.

If you happened to be watching NBC on the first Sunday morning in August last summer, you would have seen something curious. There, on the set ofMeet the Press, the host, David Gregory, was interviewing a guest who made a forceful case that the U.S. economy had become very distorted. In the wake of the recession, this guest explained, high-income individuals, large banks, and major corporations had experienced a significant recovery; the rest of the economy, by contrastincluding small businesses and a very significant amount of the labor forcewas stuck and still struggling. What we were seeing, he argued, was not a single economy at all, but rather fundamentally two separate types of economy, increasingly distinct and divergent.

This diagnosis, though alarming, was hardly unique: drawing attention to the divide….

Clickhere for the full article.

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Is Serving The Common Good An “Un-American” Activity?

One likely spin-off from the recent election will be a creeping redefinition of programs and policies that serve the common good as “un-American.” Some of the Tea Party’s most vocal members, including Rand Paul, Michele Bachmann, and others have already suggested having a “conversation” about privatizing or phasing out medicare, social security and even abolishing the Department of Education.

So I’d like to move the “conversation” along and state outright that, yes, promoting the common good is, indeed, un-American. And, that recognizing it as such is a good thing. Here’s why: The Republican/Tea Party’s stated vision for “taking America back” is a doctrine of extreme self-interest and greed. It both reflects and fuels what I described in a recent post as a “social psychosis” in personal and public life.

This “pro-American” vision is maladaptive to the realities of today’s world and our own changing society. Self-interest and the pursuit of individual power are twin agents for subversively undermining a healthy, thriving society. But that vision is likely to be with us for some time, with potentially devastating consequences.

However, there’s also a rising shift towards serving the larger common good throughout our society. I described the evidence for this in a subsequent post. And it is, indeed, un-American, with respect to the extreme Republican/Tea Party doctrine.

That is, serving the common good goes against grain of thinking that Continue reading

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How Positive vs. Adversarial Relations Help Solve Problems: Politicians Should Heed New Research

Some interesting new research indicates that when people are faced with solving problems — and those facing the country right now are among the most severe — their “executive functioning” capacities improve after they engage in sociable, positive interactions. But they don’t improve after competitive interactions — those likely to generate adversarial feelings. Politicians would do well to learn from this, as an aid to building the kind of mentality needed for solutions to our current problems. But it’s unlikely that they will.

Here’s what researchers at the University of Michigan found. They looked at the impact of brief episodes of social contact upon the capacity known as executive functioning. That’s the capacity for having an overview of the elements of a situation or problem; seeing how the parts connect, in what relation to each other; and what kinds of actions lead to effective outcomes. Included are the abilities for self-regulation, for staying on task, for focus and keeping relevant information in mind – much like the “memory” in a computer program that holds the information while you’re using it or working with it.

The researchers found that after a period of positive conversation and connection with another person, the participant’s performance on cognitive tasks improved. Performance on these tasks reflected the degree of executive functioning capacity of the participants. However, participants whose interactions were marked by adversarial, competitive engagement did not improve on the performance of those tasks. According to Oscar Ybarra, the lead author of the study, forthcoming in Social Psychological and Personality Science,

“…simply talking to other people, the way you do when you’re making friends, can provide mental benefits…” And, that “…performance boosts come about because some social interactions induce people to try to read others’ minds and take their perspectives on things…trying to put yourself in the other person’s shoes, there is a boost in executive functioning as a result”

In other words, when people build empathy towards each other — seeing the other’s perspective from the “inside” of the other person’s world, so to speak, their capacity for more effective thinking and problem solving increases. If only our politicians could recognize that reality and use it to create the collaborations that enhance their own brain-power for finding compromise-based solutions, rather than perpetuating adversarialness, all of us would benefiit. Unfortunately, that doesn’t appear very likely now, in the aftermath of this week’s election.

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The Steady Rise of Serving the Common Good

In my previous post I wrote about a rising “social psychosis” that’s visible in three areas of our society. It’s likely to prevail for some time, but I think it’s like a wave that’s crested and will crash to the shore. The reason is that the “social psychosis” is a backlash against a steadily growing consciousness and behavior that refocuses personal lives and public policies towards promoting the common good.

By the “common good,” I’m referring to a broad evolution beyond values and actions that serve narrow, self-interests; and towards those guided by inclusiveness — supporting well-being, economic success, security, human rights and stewardship of resources for the benefit of all, rather than just for some.

It’s like a stealth operation, because it hasn’t become highly visible yet. But polls, surveys and research data reveal several strands of change that are coalescing in this overall direction. I describe each of them below, and they may appear to be unrelated. Yet I think they’re driven by an underlying perspective — that we’re all like organs of the same body, and the body doesn’t thrive if any of the organs are neglected or diseased.

It’s an awareness of interconnection of all lives on this planet, and a pull towards acting upon that reality in a range of ways. They include rethinking personal relationships, the responsibility of business to society, the role of government in an interdependent world.

A 21st Century Mindset

The rise of the common good reflects a sense of “global citizenship” and an obligation to be a “good ancestor” to future generations who inhabit this planet. In fact, it embodies behavior and policies that fit the needs for effective functioning — both personal and political — in our post-9-11, post-economic meltdown world.

That is, in previous posts I’ve argued that this new era of unpredictable change in a non-equilibrium world requires Continue reading

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A “Social Psychosis” Rises In Our Culture

Much of the ongoing debate in political, business and social/cultural arenas is rooted in an underlying disagreement about what best serves national interests and individual lives. Is it promoting the common good, or serving self-interest?

As interdependence and interconnection on this planet become ever-more apparent, new challenges and conflicts arise for personal life, the role of government and the conduct of business leadership. In response to these new realities, people’s attitudes and behavior are shifting more towards serving the larger common good; now necessary for successful, flexible and psychologically resilient functioning.

However, these shifts clash with a long-prevailing ideology, that the primary pursuit ofself-interest best serves the public interest and personal success. That ideology has also prevailed in our views of adult psychological health and maturity. In essence, the pursuit of greed, self-centeredness and materialism have become the holy trinity of public and private conduct. And it’s generating a growing “social psychosis.”

That is, the benefits of self-interest in personal lives and public policy supposedly trump any that accrue from serving the common good; the latter would undermine the former, if put into practice. For example, the argument against helping the unemployed, extending health insurance for all Americans or addressing climate change is that they would hurt the economy and therefore negatively impact your well-being and life success.

To question or critique this ideology might even be called “un-American.” That would be correct; a good thing, actually, because the values and conduct that seem to have “worked” for so long now falter in today’s rapidly changing world. No longer do they ensure long-term success, well-being or security. Several observers have written about the faltering of the old system in today’s world. For example, Jeff Jarvis of CUNY, who haswritten about a

…great restructuring’ of the economy and society, starting with a fundamental change in our relationships — how we are linked and intertwined and how we act.

Or Umair Haque, who has been describing

…the new principles of a new economy, built around stewardship, trusteeship, guardianship, leadership, partnership.

in his Harvard Business Schoolblog posts.

The Social Psychosis Backlash
The reaction to the growing interconnection is a creeping “social psychosis.” Like the frog in the pot of water who doesn’t notice the slowly rising temperature Continue reading

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Reasons Behind The Need To Portray Obama As Anti-American

Newt Gingrichs recent comments alleging that Obama’s is driven by “Kenyan anti-colonial” attitudes, when combined with increasingly bizarre statements from Tea Party candidates, suggest something that isnt apparent on the surface: That were witnessing the last gasp of a dying, descending set of attitudes and values regarding individual and public policy, including what it is to be an American.

I think these kinds of statements reflect growing desperation about sweeping changes in our society. That is, the country is steadily shifting towards a diverse population, and acceptance of that diversity. And, towards growing recognition of the need to serve the larger common good; that were all in the same boat in this globalized world, and we will stand or fall together, as President Obama recently stated.

But it just doesn’t look like that shift is happening at present, because the period we’re living through is one of a growing but temporary backlash against those changes, from people who view them with fears and a sense of loss. They should be understood, but not condoned or excused.

A good illustration of the reactionary thinking in response to steadily growing social change is the essay that Gingrich based his comments on A Forbes cover story on How Obama Thinks by Dinesh DSouza. A Columbia Journalism Review article by Ryan Chittum calls it a shameful piece on Obama as the Other, and The worst kind of smear journalism.

Chittum writes, How Obama Thinks is a gross piece of innuendoa fact-twisting, error-laden piece of paranoia. Forbes for some reason gives Dinesh DSouza the cover and lots of space to froth about the notion popular in the right-wing fever swamps that Obama is an other; that he doesnt think like an American, that his actions benefit foreigners rather than Amurricans. Its too kind to call this innuendo. Its far too overt for that.

DSouzas distortions and lies are clearly designed to make Obama appear to be anti-American, and anti-white; someone different from us whos bent on carrying out the African tribal mission of his father (whom he met one time, briefly, at age 10). Chittums analysis and dissection of DSouzas story is worth reading. Heres the full article from the Columbia Journalism Review.

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Why Some Believe Obama is a Muslim – New Research

Here’s some interesting new research from a study of the psychology behind smear campaigns, led by Michigan State. It examined the rising numbers of people who believe the falsehood that President Obama is a Muslim. The findings indicate that people are more likely to accept such false representations, both consciously and unconsciously, when they are reminded of ways in which Obama is different from them — whether from racial, social class or other differences, according to Spee Kosloff and his colleagues from several other universities, who conducted the study.

“Careless or biased media outlets are largely responsible for the propagation of these falsehoods, which catch on like wildfire,” said Kosloff. ”And then social differences can motivate acceptance of these lies.”

“When people are unsatisfied with the president — whether it’s the way he’s handling the economy, health care or Afghanistan — our research suggests that this only fuels their readiness to accept untrue rumors,” Kosloff said. ”As his job rating goes down, suggesting that people feel like he’s not ideologically on their side, we see an increase in this irrational belief that he’s a Muslim,” he added. “Unfortunately, in America, many people dislike Muslims so they’ll label Obama as Muslim when they feel different from him.”

The findings are reported in the American Psychological Association’sJournal of Experimental Psychology: General. The acceptance of falsehoods is particularly relevant because a Pew Research Center poll in August found that 18 percent of Americans believe Obama is a Muslim — up from 11 percent in March 2009 — even though he’s a practicing Christian.

A complete summary of the research is available in Science Daily.

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Fooling “All of the People….”

Its quite an achievement: Todays Republicans members of the Party of Abraham Lincoln, after all — are steadily disproving one of Lincolns most quoted lines: You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can not fool all of the people all of the time.

The current version of the GOP is doing a good job at trying to fool all of the people, all of the time. And, with the help of many Democrats, who give new meaning to the term, fellow travelers.

Case in point: The issue of the soon-to-expire tax cuts for the rich. The Bush tax cut legislation of 2001 included a provision that they would expire at the end of 2010, and tax rates would then revert to 2000 levels. The Obama administration wants to keep the tax cuts in place for the middle class, who would benefit from them during this continued economic near-depression; but let them revert back to previous levels for those with very high incomes, when they expire at the end of this year.

But guess what? The Republicans, together with a number of Democrats, are fighting vigorously to preserve the tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans. Republicans and their Democratic allies argue that its more beneficial to the economy to preserve the tax cuts for the wealthy those making over $2 million a year — because that would help small business.

Tell me, how many small business owners make that kind of income? And how would we make up for the loss of revenue? By taking away benefits for the middle and lower classes, in the form of food stamps and other benefits or services.

This is where trying to fool all of the people all of the time comes in: The entire argument is disguised in Orwellian terms, as necessary and good way to benefit everyone. Writing in the New York Times, Paul Krugman exposes this with a good analysis of the deception and corruption behind it all.

For example, he points out that continuing the tax cuts for the rich would cost the federal government $680 billion in revenue over the next 10 years.

And where would this $680 billion go? Nearly all of it would go to the richest 1 percent of Americans, people with incomes of more than $500,000 a year. But thats the least of it: estimates are the majority of the tax cuts would go to the richest one-tenth of 1 percent. (and) the average tax break for those lucky few the poorest members of the group have annual incomes of more than $2 million, and the average member makes more than $7 million a year would be $3 million over the course of the next decade.

Krugman is right on target when he points out that

its hard to think of a less cost-effective way to help the economy than giving money to people who already have plenty, and arent likely to spend a windfall. No, this has nothing to do with sound economic policy.

He also points out that this reflects our corrupt political culture,

in which Congress wont take action to revive the economy, pleads poverty when it comes to protecting the jobs of schoolteachers and firefighters, but declares cost no object when it comes to sparing the already wealthy even the slightest financial inconvenience.

So, what will prevail: The corruption, deception increasingly rampant in our culture disguised in Orwellian terms, as helping you, the average American? Or Lincolns observation?

Stay tuned.

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The Unspoken Source of Opposition to the Proposed Islamic Center

There’s one glaring omission in the stated opposition to the proposed Islamic Center near Ground Zero. It’s the unspoken implication that Islam is, by definition, a fanatical, terrorist religion.

As I read and hear about the reasons offered by those opposing the Center, they usually conclude with such descriptions as ”insensitive,” “inappropriate,” or “insulting” to the memory of those whose lives were lost in the 9-11 attacks. And yet, I haven’t heard any real explanation of what, exactly, would be ”insensitive,” and so forth, about the proposed presence of an Islamic Center in the vicinity of Ground Zero? The most they say or imply is that its presence would be wrong, by definition, because of its location. But those opposed don’t really say what that connection is, in their minds, that makes its location wrong or “unwise.”

To put this in a broader context, look at the recent speech by New York Mayor Bloomberg. He presented both a passionate and reasoned, principled explanation why it should be allowed; and why doing so is fully consistent with American values and history. Following that, President Obama affirmed much of the same set of principles in support of the Center — until he backtracked the next day, under the not-unexpected Republican and right-wing opposition.

Here’s what I believe is the unspoken source of the opposition: Equating fanatical, extremist Muslims with Muslims, per se. That’s why some have used the analogy of erecting a Nazi center next to a concentration camp. Or a monument to the KKK next to a civil rights memorial. The analogies are bizarre, and reveal the bigotry and ignorance behind them. That is, the heart of the argument against the presence of the Islamic Center is that it would be “insensitive” because the perpetrators of the 9-11 attacks were Muslims. Now take that link to it’s conclusion. Aside from the fact that Muslims were among those killed in the attack, the opponents seem reluctant to state that they are arguing that Islam, as a faith, is embodied in the terrorist attacks. This would be like saying that because some Christians are fanatics, and some of those support killing of doctors who perform abortions, that therefore Christianity, per se, is a fanatical religion.

The triumph of emotional reactiveness and sentiment over our professed American values is very troubling. If the opponents to the Center acknowledged outright that they’re equating fanatical Muslims and the Muslim faith in general, at least they would demonstrate logical integrity — along, of course, with outright bigotry. But we would see what their true position is, rather than hearing them evade explaining just why they believe the presence of the Center would be “insensitive.” This closet prejudice reminds me of Colin Powell’s retort to those claiming that Obama was a secret Muslim, during the 2008 campaign. Powell asked what if Obama was, in fact, a Muslim? So what? What’s the point? The same questions should be asked today of those who couch their opposition in words that don’t make explicit their implied conclusion.

Mayor Bloomberg was right on target when he explained the higher principles and context of this issue. It’s worth reading. Click here for the full speech. Here’s a small portion of what he said.

Let us not forget that Muslims were among those murdered on 9/11, and that our Muslim neighbors grieved with us as New Yorkers and as Americans. We would betray our values and play into our enemies’ hands if we were to treat Muslims differently than anyone else. In fact, to cave to popular sentiment would be to hand a victory to the terrorists, and we should not stand for that.

For that reason, I believe that this is an important test of the separation of church and state as we may see in our lifetimes, as important a test. And it is critically important that we get it right.

On Sept. 11, 2001, thousands of first responders heroically rushed to the scene and saved tens of thousands of lives. More than 400 of those first responders did not make it out alive. In rushing into those burning buildings, not one of them asked, ‘What God do you pray to?’ ’What beliefs do you hold?’

The attack was an act of war, and our first responders defended not only our city, but our country and our constitution. We do not honor their lives by denying the very constitutional rights they died protecting. We honor their lives by defending those rights and the freedoms that the terrorists attacked.

Well said, Mayor Bloomberg.

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