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You need critical thinking: Beyond politics and slogans

Critical thinking. It’s something that is not popular now and may never has been popular for most people. Ever since the renaissance and what was called the “age of reason” there has been backlash to the idea of intellectual analysis, almost as if it’s a betrayal of faith and “real” values. As though thought and the truth is an annoying invader to life as it should be.

In an article in Psychology Today David Niose, discusses the dangers of embracing the emotional over the quest for the truth. He blames everything from the racism of Dylan Roof, the Charleston shooter, to gun violence on anti-intellectualism and an aversion to critical thinking in our country. Niose says:

“In a country where a sitting congressman told a crowd that evolution and the Big Bang are “lies straight from the pit of hell,” where the chairman of a Senate environmental panel –brought a snowball into the chamber as evidence that climate change is a hoax, where almost one in three citizens can’t name the vice president, it is beyond dispute that critical thinking has been abandoned as a cultural value. Our failure as a society to connect the dots, to see that such anti-intellectualism comes with a huge price, could eventually be our downfall.”

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I can almost hear you yawn. Critical thinking, at first glance, is boring and doesn’t get the blood moving; it sounds like a nerdy course at a public institute of learning.  As a result it really isn’t appealing. It’s more satisfying to get the rush emotion coming from a political cause or baseless hatred than it is to actually look clearly at the world around us. There are a many reasons for this. People tend to be impatient, even when it comes to deciding what is right or wrong. It’s fast and satisfying to listen to a Sarah Palin and to connect to an emotion-ready theory of the world than it is to actually show the discipline it takes to think and come up with solutions that actually help everyone. For some people attaching themselves to an emotional cause is a quick and false solution to real problems.

And that is where critical thinking really would fool the same emotion and rhetoric seekers if they took the time to take embrace it: the solutions they seek are only found through critical thinking. Justice and constitutional values are served when the best result is found and you are looking for a solution to problems you can’t avoid. If you don’t have a job, does anger and emotional blowback create jobs? Is pointing the finger at someone else the same as proving that you can deliver the goods? Why is critical thinking..critical? Because the devil is in the details and if  you fall prey to some set of slogans that seem to embody what you’re looking for, you will fail every time. Boring as it is, solving complex problems requires juggling a bunch of facts both present and historical. Why else have so many presidents fallen horribly short of their campaign promises. Once reality rears its ugly head, it’s full analysis that will see you through; nothing else will come close. People are not hired as cabinet secretaries, of state, of defense, because they are able to sway a crowd with slogans and hatred. No one allows someone to perform brain surgery on them because they are can get a group of people riled up emotionally. In the end complex problems need complex answers, provided by experts and researchers.

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For most people this philosophy of critical thinking is a sign of an overactive mind, a mind that can’t embrace the “real” populist goals of passion, anger and finger-pointing. We are a tribal race and we are never more satisfied then when we can separate ourselves into two polarities: the right side which, of course, we inhabit and the wrong side which includes people who are on the opposite end of some hot button issue or partisan affiliation.

My favorite of the modern political thinkers is Fareed Zakaria. His weekly GPS shows are informative and helpful in terms of gaining information. What I’ve found most striking about him is that he will take commonly held beliefs, beliefs often fueled by emotion and rhetoric, and break them down in terms of statistics and historical trends. He offers information that allow his audience to make informed decisions because he has done the legwork himself in terms of research. For reasons any Fareed fan can understand, he has gained an international reputation as a star intellectual and analyst. We are lucky to have him in my opinion.

Fareed brings up another very important point when it comes to analysis and critical thinking. Despite what the fans of emotion and anger want to think, the gems of critical thinking, the ones who can get us over the hump if we will just listen to them, are rare and, being rare, you will have no idea of where they come from and what their ethnicity is. You don’t get to choose geniuses and, sorry, they are likely not to come from your favorite local ethnic or cultural group. They are basically, to my mind, genetic flukes that are worth their weight in gold. Fareed will get some of the non-critical thinkers in an uproar. He was born in another country, does not look like the standard issue American. He was also born Muslim. Game over for those that can’t see the truth.

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The truth is that Fareed does not make an issue of his religion and, in fact, has made it clear that he is not a practicing Muslim and is raising his children as Christians. He has said that he is not passionate about his religion; he considers himself an American first. This is true of many immigrants, including my father who put his Jewish heritage on the back burner in an attempt to be an American, first and foremost; When he was a child he wanted most to be an outfielder for the Yankees.

Fareed portrays Jihadis  as disturbing, homicidal, and without real religious motivations. He is one of the first reporters to point out that most of the recent jihadis are not devout Muslims but criminal elements who violate basic Muslim tenets such as prohibiting the use of drugs and alcohol. His most important new presentation on Jihadis is called, “Why do they hate us?” Fareed clearly does not see himself as anything but an American.

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Perhaps not so ironically, it will require critical thinking to evaluate Fareed’s value as an analyst. You’ll have to avoid emotion and anger and see Fareed for what he is: A man who has a better than average ability to analyze and disseminate information that is critical to our lives. If you’re going to wait for a Fareed that is blond and blue eyed, don’t hold your breath.

We need to give our support to any critical thinker who shows his or her skills. And the power and effectiveness of this small group of thinkers will grow in its effectiveness if they form a collation, wherever they come from. Recently I was happy to be introduced to Archduke, a pair of young men who, in addition to being musicians, are crack critical thinkers. Whether you like Trump or not, the following video shows and excellent example of analysis and critical thinking.

https://www.facebook.com/archdukedostuff/videos/1316448935049630/

ArchDuke reprents the next generation in valuable thinkers that represent true solutions, not flavor of the month emotional trends. In the end ArchDuke is giving you valuable information that can be used. They show their morality and their concern for people around them by telling their audience that their goal isn’t to stop people from voting against Donald Trump, but just to allow people to think for themselves. The truth, in this case, not only sets you free but provides the only chance you have to make critical choices. Applied consistently, this type of thinking will allow us to get ahead of problems before they develop. That is if you listen to people like ArchDuke.

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What would a coalition of critical thinkers look like? They would be from varying backgrounds and they would stand for moral principles over partisan concerns. Because of that they would  have a place on the national stage as true reformers. Despite appearances, critical thinkers don’t stand for dry intellectualism; they stand for a morality born of a desire to fix what is broken and improve the lives of people around them, regardless of whether those people fit the mold of the particular critical thinker. If we are an intelligent nation, we can look forward to an age of thinkers who follow this tradition.

A final note: there has always been a conflict between critical thought and religion, the idea being that people who embrace thought cannot embrace faith. If faith involves helping the needy and lending a hand to our fellow man, there is nothing more important in finding solutions for problems like this than critical thinking. Our minds and our ability to think effectively were given to us by God. They have made us what we are today and can be considered gifts. Can reason be over emphasized? Certainly. But it seems we have been fooled into thinking that any element of reason separates us from God and faith and this is simply not true.

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Randa Fox and “Not On Our Watch”. Working to end the shame and devastation of child sexual abuse.

“Please consider joining me in finding your voice.  Through poetry, art, music, or any other outlet you choose, we want to give you a place where you can tell your truth and let others hear your story.   Once we break our silence, others will know finally that they are not alone, and you will find that you are able to let go of any shame, guilt, or any stigma society has placed on us.”

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With these words Randa Fox throws down the gauntlet in a well past due effort to address a plague that has existed for years. It is estimated that there are forty-two million adult survivors of child sexual abuse in the United States. That could simply be just another statistic. But what Randa Fox knows is that the effects of this abuse do not end when the abuse does. For years the cancer of abuse eats at its victims. The statistics are there; sexual abuse survivors are far more likely to become substance abusers, experience depression, anxiety and PTSD, become involved in crime and to be incarcerated. These symptoms of childhood brutalization are not isolated cases; they involve millions of adults who walk among us today.

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But Randa Fox’s message is not simply a litany of disturbing stories that we hear in the occasional  PSA on television. She is beginning her reformation of the landscape of abuse by urging abuse victims to shed the shackles of the devastating after effects of growing up as an abuse victim. She urges them to “find their voice”. For those of you who are not abuse victims this may seem like a laudable and pleasant idea, but not one of any real consequence. But look at it this way: there are forty-two million child abuse survivors who are suffering. Wasted lives, depression, and unrealized potential. From a moral point of view, it would seem that anyone would want to aid Randa in reaching her goals. From a practical point of view there is spillover of this widespread travesty in the form of money spent on medical care for victims of severe depression and public monies spent on the criminal justice system, both in terms of law enforcement and penal institutions.

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And there is more that is unique about Randa and her goals. In most cases, charitable organizations that fight child abuse work mostly within their own purview. That this is inefficient and less effective seems obvious. Yet one of Randa’s most fundamental ideas is that fighting abuse requires a coalition of all survivors and, more to the point, all organizations that deal with child sexual abuse. Randa has set into motion a program of grants, raising money for other organizations, working to fund any organization that can contribute to a solution. The long-term goal is to create synergy in the efforts to fight child sexual abuse, a synergy that will increase in magnitude and effectiveness as more organization join the effort.

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Randa has developed a 5013c that I feel takes on the most difficult aspects of the battle against child sexual abuse. I can personally attest to her ability, through her genuine desire to free people from their chains, to gently convince me that I am a survivor of neglect, something that never would have occurred to me to consider. In addition to being an excellent planner, Randa has the soul of a counselor. This is probably the most important quality in her arsenal, giving rise to her instincts in creating the mission statement of her organization; the goal of Not on Our Watch is nothing less than erasing the horrifying effects of child sexual abuse.

I am not the only one who sings the Praises of Randa Fox. ID Discovery recently awarded her “Hero of the month”. It is obvious that Randa’s potential can be seen by people who are not directly connected to her; quite a number of candidates are submitted to ID discovery for this honor.

If you want to be part of the true solution for child sexual abuse visit http://notonourwatch.net/. It will be worth your time and effort. You can be part of the solution.

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What has Donald Trump done to make you think he will deliver on his promises?

Neil Newton: Author of “The Railroad” on Amazon
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I will start by doing my best to take this out of the realm of partisan politics or the realm of establishment candidates vs. non-establishment candidates. The reality that applies to Trump AND all candidates is that most of them will not deliver on most of their important promises. All of them. Regardless of what you think of Gays in the military, one of the first reversals that Bill Clinton experienced shortly after his first Presidential win, was a failure to implement a comprehensive policy to force the Army to recognize and encourage Gay’s participation in our armed forces. This was something that Clinton had made an important part of his political platform. Yet, despite his best efforts, he was forced to bow to the pressures of political infighting.

This is not about LGBT rights; I say that because these days mentioning any hot button issue immediately suggests that the person mentioning it is picking a side and picking a side has become the driver for politics these days. Or should I say, picking a side to hate. A surprising number of Americans are voting AGAINST candidates. What I recently heard on CNN drives that home. One editorial in a major newspaper started by saying “I hate Donald Trump but I may vote for him”. This is a disturbing statement; if we vote against candidates, the ones we do vote for are never vetted and, as I‘ve said in other blogs, we are being less critical of our accepted candidate than we are of a car that we are considering buying. If we bought a lemon, we would kick ourselves and live through the horrors of repeated, expensive, repairs. Yet when it comes to a candidate, we are less than careful. Let the buyer beware will mean more when it comes to a presidential candidate.

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What does that have to do with Trump? Trump, in my opinion and my experience, is less likely to even try to deliver on his promises than the average candidate who usually is piss poor at delivering on promises. Let’s consider the claim that Trump will “Make America Great Again”. This claim has translated into “we will go back to when the country was powerful and healthy”. Others have begun to see the claim as meaning that we will return to a country where our national culture and national ethnicities will be dominant. This last interpretation is ugly if you believe that the constitution is the only foundation for our political system but that is for another blog.

Trump has said things and has never explained them. He has never explained what making America great actually means. And I think that this has been deliberate as he is a salesman. He has allowed people to think that he will be a “man for the people” simply because he is not for corporate interests and the RNC establishment. If you watch the news, talking heads and even Hillary Clinton have rushed in to provide meaning for slogans that Trump has no intention of explaining. In sales, and sales is what Trump is all about, setting a mood or manipulating an emotion is not only enough to get you where you want to go, it is superior to making a statement and explaining it completely. It is manipulation pure and simple.

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For the “angry and previously silent” in this country, Trump is the man to embrace because they have been left thirsty by years of neglect by establishment politics. Hence, Trump, a salesman and advertiser, has relied on tried and true techniques used to sell “product”. Buzz words such as “establishment”, “great”, “people”, “muslims”, etc. immediately affect our emotions and start us down the path to “buy” trump. This is a dangerous trend because we really don’t know what Trump will do.

So let’s assume that, at worst, we can assume that we don’t know what Trump will do. Does that mean that he will still be “better than Hillary” and at least deliver some of what the “angry and previously silent” in America want: “America first”, “bringing back companies that have bailed on the America by moving to other countries”, “Emphasizing the culture and ethnicity of Americans who grew up in sixties and seventies”, “Shrinking the role of government in running our Country”. I will suggest that Trump is the person least likely to deliver on any of these promises. And here’s why:

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Donald Trump has no passions. If you watch old videos of him establishing his reason for being, he boils down his philosophy to sound bites like “I only want to win”. Many have interpreted this seeming competency to mean that he will want America to win as well. Donald Trump has never expressed an interest in helping anyone but himself, except in situations where helping others helps him. He is a man who is about himself.

I am from New York and grew up only miles from where Trump did. Trump has a long and consistent history in New York, the place where he began his business career and the place where most of his early business activities took place. He has never shown any interest in anything but himself and, as odd as it may seem to American’s outside of New York, he has been considered a comical person. His swaggering and unfounded arrogance has made him a joke in New York, not because New York is an “elite” place where the elite look down on Trump, but because he behaves like a bully on the school yard, blows his own horn and has had four bankruptcies to his credit, making his boasts seem all the more ridiculous. The point of all this is that Trump is an insecure man who thinks only of himself. He has actively made that clear in the bubble of New York City, all through his own words and his unfounded boasts.

Trump is inconsistent. He has blasted the airwaves with a strong man’s claims of “building a wall” and  “keeping Muslims out of America” . In these platform issues, his most important to date, he has spectacularly reversed himself for the sake of political success. The “wall” is no longer mentioned (and it’s clear that it is financially impossible) and he has waffled on the Muslim issue, lately limiting it to only “some Muslims”. The disturbing conclusion is that, even the things that have attracted his voting base are not passions for Trump; they are simply advertising for the “Trump for President” campaign.

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Trump IS the establishment and IS the elite. He has shown his preference for winners and people who make their mark on the world. He has criticized John McCain who is a hero because “he got captured.”. He has never shown any interest in doing anything but being a conspicuous consumer, spending money and accepting only the best in life and flaunting his success. He has no interest in helping anyone, especially his base of blue collar voters who are the opposite of what he considers himself to be: a high roller who can shake the world.

Trump is scathing about companies who have taken their business and jobs out of the country. Yet he has products manufactured in China, Japan, Honduras and Brazil as well as the European countries of Norway, Italy, Germany, and… wait for it…Mexico. The last one, Mexico, is outrageous for reasons that don’t need to be explained. It is also a country that Trump admits is one of the foreign nations where he has business interests. Mexico? What does that say about Trumps firm convictions about his political platform?

Let’s be clear. You, and in this case you means his base, blue collar, mostly white man, you don’t matter to Trump. He will dump you in a second if it serves his purposes. He has already started to do just that, turning back on his promises to block Muslim immigration, building a wall across the Mexican border, blocking Mexican immigration. He is playing fast and loose with our economic health by criticizing companies that bail on America while he maintains the same economic cancer in his business portfolio.

You hate Hillary. You hate the Republican establishment. I get that. I think the two party system is major failure. This elections has shown us that the two parties aren’t as different as they used to be; if Hillary is establishment then she is part of the “American” establishment and her political affiliations mean nothing in terms of her perceived dishonesty and her major connections to the rich and powerful.

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Back to my favorite metaphor: the car. I offer to sell you a car. It’s not a ford. You hate fords so you are leaning toward buying my car. You want the car because it’s not a ford. You once owned a ford and it ruined your life.

So what do you do? If you are a mechanic, you drive the car, looking for sounds that indicate the car has problems. And then you give the car a thorough going over.

And if you aren’t a mechanic? You hire one you trust. And he or she does what has to be done. And in either case, mechanic or not, you buy the car only if it will give you years of reasonably maintenance free driving. Because having a working car is critical to your life; it gets you to your job and back home.

Don’t like Hillary? Don’t like the Republican establishment? Give Trump a drive and then ask yourself, honestly, if he isn’t going to ruin your life and your country. Will he follow the constitution? Will he bring to fruition the dreams of our founding fathers? Or will he make our country into a playground for his ambitions, destroying the financial and political health of our nation.

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The Enemy of my Enemy might just be a “jerk”. Voting “against” vs. voting “for” in American politics

Neil Newton: Author of “The Railroad” on Amazon
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There is a very old saying dating back to Sanskrit writings in the 4th century BC: “The enemy of my enemy is my friend”. It appears in the occasional movie or book. And now it seems to be a description of politics in our country.

This message of this saying is that two parties should work together against a common enemy. A variation of this philosophy has taken hold in American politics where were vote against candidates instead of voting for a candidate. This has been a trend longer than it should be.

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For some reason people believe that anyone who is not what they hate must be okay. I think it’s logical to consider the possibility that the person who is not what you hate could just as easily be worse than what you hate a surprising number of Americans never consider this and it would seem like something that anybody would want to consider. What is the phrase? Trust but verify. I guess we can chalk it up to desperation but we don’t deal with the least important aspects of our lives with that much carelessness.  If you were buying a house, you’d call an appraiser. Yet many people are far less critical about choosing a candidate. You might say that the implications of voting for president are far graver than the process of buying a house.

What we are seeing now is that anyone who doesn’t like, say, Hillary, or the GOP establishment will decide that Donald Trump is the man. And, conversely, anyone who doesn’t like Trump will look toward Hillary. I won’t mention what my politics are. My point is that NOT being who you don’t like (who seems to be the major appeal of Donald Trump) is far from being who do you do like.

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Is it true that Hillary Clinton, an establishment candidate with an enormous war chest and incredibly powerful political connections, is good medicine for the failings of Donald Trump and is a valid  candidate for any “never trump” voter? Or can you say that Donald Trump makes up for the blindness of Mitch Mcconnell or Paul Ryan in terms of how they address the issues of working class and years of abuse of power in the Republican Party? Or does he necessarily make up for the establishment nature of Hillary Clinton’s campaign. Much of Trump’s appeal has been that he’s not a politician. But do we risk our nation’s security if Trump is, in addition to being different to his predecessors, not a skilled politician in terms of foreign policy or domestic economic policy. He has done little to prove that he has those skills.

If we are voting “against” candidates then we are not going to get what we want because we have little reason to critically evaluate the people we vote for; it’s enough that they are NOT what we don’t want. That allows them to get away with murder and prevents them from having to prove themselves as viable candidates.

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Voting “against” has been the trend in the U.S. for years. As Jamie Diamond, CEO of J.P Morgan said, we scapegoat and denigrate other people but we never take stock of the candidates we are “for”. As Americans we need to look at issues and not be swayed by emotional arguments. In a sense, we become suckers for slogans and glib speech from both sides of the aisle. Can I sell you a used carJ?

It seems clear that we all want someone to “make it all better for us” without any effort on our part. But in a country of 350 million people it seems clear that we can’t just listen to a few arguments. Are we so desperate to find a candidate who will give us what we want that we would spend less time vetting them than we would in evaluating a car to see if we want to buy it? It seems that we would. And that would destroy our country as easily as having a lemon of a car would destroy our lives.

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Donald J Trump, Presidential Campaigns

If Donald Trump spoke to Donald Trump about his candidacy. Trust but verify.

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(All graphics courtesy of Elizabeth Horton Newon-elizabethnnewton@outlook.com-contact for assignments and rates)

Neil Newton: Author of “The Railroad” on Amazon
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Recently I read a rather ugly argument that took place, of all places on Linkedin. It seemed to start as a discussion of Donald Trump and his…character, such as it is. Like any argument it became heated, though I did notice that the serious Trump types were more interested in arguing and calling names than in discussing what I would hope people think about how his character might literally affect his presidency. What struck me most was an admonishment from one person that went something like this. “What do you mean you have doubts about Trump. He’s a businessman. So he can create jobs and he can make trade deals. Do your research!”

It was probably the “do your research” line that really made me shake my head. You’d hope, under any circumstances that people wouldn’t be quite so gullible. Meaning that most of the world that makes vague promises that are not to be trusted; why do we have any reason to exempt trump from this universal standard; he is not a business paragon and certainly he has lived to increase his advantages at other people’s expense, like any businessman. What has he done that would make him “trustable” as opposed to absolutely anyone else who comes out of nowhere and offers something you have no reason to believe in? I imagine one of Trump’s followers, most of who are supposed to be blue collar types, having Trump coming up to them and telling them that he has  the greatest auto in the universe and that he’s  going to sell it to them. No one will ever have as good an auto, ever, and he’s doing them a favor by selling it to them. I think I can be certain that the first reaction would be a string of words that can’t be printed here. In fact, as you’re about to find out, coming from where I come from, my first reaction would be the same string of obscene words. And yet a man who is rich, privileged, full of failures in his businesses, best known for reality T.V. comes and slings a few slogans and offers them a car that they’ve never seen and they line up, pens in hand to sign the papers.

What is weirder is that as he turns towards the general election and begins to waffle on all of the platform issues that got him the votes he’s gotten, the wall, stopping Muslims from entering the U.S., he seems to have even less and less to offer his own followers; even they can’t be sure he’s going to have their backs.  As we’d say where I come from, I have a bridge I want to sell you.

 

Which brings us to another dimension that in this whole Trump phenomenon for me. Donald and I share certain cultural characteristics that are known throughout the world: one of the most important of those characteristics is skepticism. Yes, I am a New Yorker, and not just any New Yorker; I grew up in Queens only miles away from Donald Trump. As a result I find the entire issue of accepting Trump at face value based on his slogans extremely ironic. Believe me when I say that I know that Trump would never take anything Donald trump says at face value. The people that do accept a pig in a poke, if they exist in any part of New York, are called suckers and people Donald Trump would laugh at long and hard at all of them. If you accept this then you will have to consider that Trump is playing people, even his own base, by using their emotions against them. Yes, the establishment has screwed the little man for years and they deserve to be fired for that. But “not being what you hate” doesn’t mean that someone, Trump included, is what you want. If you hate Hillary and think she’s a crook, then the fact that Donald Trump isn’t Hillary doesn’t come close to make him a reputable candidate. There are too many things that an inexperienced newbie, self-absorbed politician like Trump could mess up, regardless of Mitch McConnel, Hillary Clinton and just about anyone you might consider “establishment”.

I can’t prove this, though I would think that much of what Trump says proves my point. But, to make my point I have created a fictitious dialogue between Donald Trump the candidate and Donald Trump the financier. Donald Trump the candidate wants campaign money from Donald Trump. Donald Trump the financier is all bottom line: can you deliver what you offer to meet my needs. Don’t trust anything that can’t be verified. If you are perceptive, and maybe if you’re not, you will see that Donald trump is as he’s portrayed here; a man who would never would take anything that affects him profoundly for granted. Even if he was the one making the pitch.

Trump Candidate: So I wanted to meet with you. I feel that we have a lot of things in common. I think that I could be the kind of candidate that, as president, would represent your needs and values. I am hoping that you can provide ten million yourself and help me raise another ninety million through your contacts.

Trump Financier: That’s asking a lot. What would I get in return? And why do I believe you can…or will deliver what you offer. You’ve already waffled on a number of issues, so I’ve heard.

Trump Candidate: I think that’s something we can talk about, at least. I really love your hair by the way.

Trump Financier: Thank you! I have gotten some flak about it.

Trump Candidate: Some people are threatened by confidence and personal style.

Trump Financier: I agree completely. And you may have noticed I never have to carry an umbrella. This takes care of it.

Trump Candidate: I’ve noticed the same thing

Trump Financier: I wonder if that’s something I can sell. The Trump “HeadBrealla”.

Both Trumps laugh.

Trump Financier: You want a beer.”

Trump Candidate: German please.”

Trump Financier: Of course.”

Trump Candidate: So I think that as a candidate I can work toward your agenda as a businessman.”

Trump Financier (waving his hands): That remains to be seen.

Trump Candidate: I thought we saw things the same way.

Trump Financier: Are you going to try to play me? I agree that we have a lot in common. But all you’ve done is come and say some things to try to make me trust you. I’m not much for flattery. If I was I’d have been scammed over and over again. That’s for suckers. If anyone is going to do the scamming, it’s me.  Do you think I’ve gotten where I have by listening to people who say things they think I want to hear. Do you know how many times people have tried to sell me crappy deals that way?

Trump Candidate: You don’t trust me? I thought we were on the same page

Trump Financier: Of course not. I just met you, though I’ve heard what you’ve said. Only a fool trusts someone right off the bat. Looking at you I would think you would know that. You’re going to think of yourself first. And, as a businessman, you’ll step on anyone who gets in your way. So as a seasoned businessman, I require that you prove your case.

Trump Candidate: Well…frankly I do understand that; it’s how you develop commitments. I’ve spent my life negotiating. But for some reason I haven’t had to worry about it lately. Maybe I thought it would work with you. I’m not experienced at this.

Trump Financier: Wait. You’re saying you don’t have to worry about getting people you don’t know to trust you? Are you serious? People just took you at your word? Who?

Trump Candidate: My political base.

Trump Financier: How did you do that?

Trump Candidate: I’m not really sure. I said some things. And some people reacted well. I thought I’d have to prove myself, just the way you said. But it didn’t work out that way. I think it’s because I’m not the people they hate. They assume I’ll be different.

Trump Financier: Who do they hate?

Trump Candidate: Politicians. GOP politicians to be exact. You know, the establishment.

Trump financier: The establishment? You are the establishment. You’ve given money to whoever you thought would give you the greatest advantage. You’ve been a businessman. Is it like these people think you care about them? That’s not business.

Trump Candidate: It seems that way.

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Trump Financier: But you’ve never acted in any way that would make people think that you’d look out for them. Especially to your own disadvantage!

Trump Candidate: I don’t understand it any more than you do.

Trump Financier: Are these people who trust you from New York?

Trump Candidate: Some of them.

Trump Financier: Amazing.

Trump Candidate: I was surprised too to be honest.

Trump Financier: I’ll have to find out more about this. But since I haven’t fallen under your spell you’re going to have to prove to me that you be useful to me before I give you a dime.

Trump Candidate: (Pauses) But I’m going to make America great again.

Trump Financier: (Laughs) I think I’ve heard that before. In elections for the past fifty years. Let me put it this way. What is the per centage of politicians who actually follow through with the most important of their promises regardless of party affiliation?

Trump Candidate: Well…I’m not sure why that’s relevant. I developed a relationship with my base. What I can promise you is-“

Trump Financier: Bottom line for anyone with a brain. Never assume someone is going to do what they say they will. No politician has ever delivered on most of what they claim they’ll do. Especially if they have a business agenda. No one is going to screw themselves over. At least not any businessmen from this city.

Trump Candidate: I’ve been able to get people to trust me to improve this country, to look out for their interests. I can become president. Does it matter how I can do that if I can help you in the long run?

Trump Financier: Ah. Now we get down to it. Quid Pro Quo.

Trump Candidate: I didn’t think anything else would interest you. You don’t strike me as the do-gooder type.

Trump Financier: (smiles) I never claimed I was. So, really, how did you get your…base to believe you’d represent their interests?

Trump Candidate: Um…I said things.

Trump Fiancier: You said things. What kind of things?

Trump Candidate: I told them that I would make America great again.

Trump Financier: Yeah, I heard that. You said it before. That’s it?

Trump Candidate: I told them that Mexicans were rapists. And that I’d build a wall to keep them out.

Trump Financier: (Laughs) A wall. Do you mean a wall all across the entire Mexican border?

Trump Candidate: (Embarrassed). Yes.

Trump Financier: Are you saying you believe this is possible?

Trump Candidate: Well not necessarily.

Trump Financier: Do you know how much that would cost. All of the legalities involved. The structural issues alone would stretch this project out by twenty years. I know you’ve done construction. It would cost more than fixing our infrastructure for the entire country as it is. Ridiculous.

Trump Candidate: So it might not be a perfect plan. But people believe it.

Trump Financier: (Laughs). You’re lucky you’ve moved from development to politics. If you brought that proposal to any developer…well you’re bringing it to me. Ridiculous. I’m not getting the best feelings from this. You’re all over the map.

Trump Candidate: (Eyes widen) You’re not interested?

Trump Financier: As long as I have guarantees that you’d look out for my interests. If you tell me, say, that you’re going to back trade agreements that will support some of my business interests I’m not going to believe you right of the bat. I have factories outside of the U.S. and I’m want to keep them. If you tell me something like your “wall” story, I’m going to laugh and tell you leave my office. The point is that if your base wants something that goes against my business agenda, you won’t be able to give me what I want. Or you won’t be able to give them what they want. You have to decide where your loyalties lie. Of course you don’t have to tell them that. (Laughs)

Trump Candidate: Well I’ve got some policies that will protect American business interests. I’ve said that I’m going to bring all the jobs back to the U.S. But I’ve already backed off on the wall-

Trump Financier: Very smart! So you don’t believe you can do it!

Trump Candidate: (Shrugs) Everything is negotiable.

Trump Financier: Unless you’re going to get screwed because you have to have things a certain way. If I lose money, nothing is negotiable.

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Trump Candidate: Well anyway, I’ve pulled back on the wall a little and even on stopping Muslims from emigrating to the U.S. So I can negotiate with you about jobs overseas. If it’s something you need then we can tweak my policy to make it work for you. Of course I may not announce that for while. You understand.

Trump Financier: Perfectly. Always give people what they want.

Trump Candidate: (Nodding). Very sound idea.

Trump Financier: How did the people who voted for you react to the fact that you’re backing off on the wall and Muslims entering the U.S.?

Trump Candidate: Honestly, I wouldn’t know. I don’t ask them.

Trump Financier: That seems like it could be dangerous but that’s not my problem.

Trump Candidate: I never really considered it. Remember I’m going to make America great again.

Trump Fincancier: Uh…yeah. I get it. So let’s get back to the overseas businesses. Will I be able to keep the businesses that are under my name in foreign countries? I have hotels everywhere and some clothing concerns in China for instance.

Trump Candidate: I would say so.

Trump Financier: What does that mean?

Trump Candidate: Well, I think a man in your position understands I can’t give away the store. Or be predictable. Let’s say my base decided that having any businesses going abroad is not tolerable. It happens to be one of the policy areas that I haven’t said I’d negotiate about. It’s probably one of my most effective.

Trump Financier: Did you hear me when I spoke about loyalty. You’re trying to have your cake and eat it to. So you can’t guarantee that you’ll back me even though you said you would. And you’ve promised to build a wall which we know you can’t build but you’re starting to waffle on that. And you’re starting to waffle about Muslims entering the U.S. So why should I give you my trust. Or my money?

Trump Candidate: Okay. I get it. I can guarantee that your overseas factories. I’ll have to modify my policy. Or I’ll just have to lie.

Trump Fanancier: That’s one way to get what you want. There will be other things I want as well.

Trump Candidate: (Sighs) Let’s leave the businesses overseas issue on the table. Let me get my staff…well they aren’t always on top of things but let me ask them to see what walking back on this issue might do to my chances to get elected. Either way, I’m sure we can find somethings that I can do that will help you.

Trump Financier: Possibly. So far you don’t seem like you can make any consistent commitments to anyone. Or even find out if you can.

Trump Candidate: Wait! I will speak to my staff and come up with a proposal that I’m sure will satisfy you. That’s a promise.

Trump Financier: I’m open to that. Just keep in mind that I value loyalty very highly. If you’re going to leave me holding the bag because you will waffle on something because it’s to your advantage I’ll make your life miserable. What will your base do when you screw them on your wall or whatever?

Trump Candidate: Let’s just stick to what we can do for each other. You don’t need to worry about them.

Trump Financier: Well actually I do. If you don’t keep your voters and you don’t become president you won’t be able to do anything for me. Rock and hard place, eh? And, as I’ve said, there are other things I’ll want for giving you my money.

Trump Candidate: Honestly they aren’t exactly brain surgeons. I’ve looked at the demographics. They wouldn’t know they’re ass from their elbows.

Trump Financier: Maybe. But they are very angry as you’ve pointed out. Think of what happens if they get angry at you. Look I have a phone meeting in twenty minutes with my Chinese employees. I’ll have to end this. But I suggest you get that proposal set up quickly. Then we can talk about the other things I want. I won’t wait forever. I don’t have the time.

Trump Candidate: Okay. I’ll do that. You won’t be disappointed.

Trump Financier: I don’t get disappointed, I get gone.

Trump Candidate: Well I-

Trump Financier: My assistant will show you out. Thanks for your time.

Trump Candidate: (Fumbling out of his seat). Of course. I’ll do what you said. I promise.

Trump Financier: (Smiles). Try the Dim Sum down stairs. It’s the best outside of China Town.

Trump Candidate: Uh…sure. I’ll get that agreement set up in the next couple of days.  I promise.

Trump Financier: Sure. I believe you.

Trump Candidate: Okay, see you in a couple of days.

Trump Financier: (Smiles. Stands as the Candidate Leaves). Asshole.

Trump Candidate: (Out in the hall). But I can make America great again.

Make America Great Again-Ha Ha HA

 

 

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Is Lee McCullum’s death part of pattern of abuse in this country?

Neil Newton: Author of “The Railroad” on Amazon
http://amzn.to/1IDMjwm
http://bit.ly/1QYag3l
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While I realize that I am not a star blogger and my reach may not be great, some of you who have read my blogs may notice a pattern; I call a lot of things abuse. I suppose that if I was looking in at me, the blogger, I might invoke the phrase “To a hammer, everything looks like a nail”.

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To me abuse is what other people would call injustice. Or unconstitutional behavior. The link I see is between these various types of “abuse” is that all of these horrible phenomena, domestic violence, the killing of unarmed young black men, child abuse, etc. is that in each case, there is a psychopath or sociopath who is illegally pushing their agenda, destroying someone’s life, terrororizing men women and children, taking people’s choices away from them and really emulating dictators like Qadafi and Assad, even if they only control a household. Having these little fascist empires in our country, if you open your eyes to the reality, is enough to make any real American’s blood boil.
Understanding this I can only make a case that I think is important to make, both for people who consider the effects of injustice and also those who may be less concerned about protecting people at risk who are the victims of these psychopaths and sociopaths. Those who are less concerned, in my opinion, are having their society and economy destroyed by the collateral effects of social issues in our country that end up costing us in terms of social instability, crime, and a number of other problems that cost us money and promote the deterioration our society.
So what does Lee McCullum’s death have to do with abuse and your society and your pocket book? First, if you haven’t heard about the Chicagoland incident, McCullum was a young black man in Chicago who was featured in a CNN documentary. Involved in gang activity and homeless for quite a while, McCullum tried to turn his life around by throwing himself into his studies and his improving his grades. The result was the he was voted prom king and was accepted to a university that he never was able to attend.
The fact that Lee became a target because he wanted to change his life cuts right to basis of what Abuse is. I will ask you to imagine, as an example, a woman who is in a domestic abuse situation. She is subject to a situation that flies in the face of what we say our country is. She is not able to make her own decisions and she is subject to terror and threats of death if she exercises her constitutional rights. I bring this up because I know that most of you will accept this situation as an abusive situation. McCullum is weak in the face of enemies who are able to control his life and, in the end his death; it’s their decision, not his.

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For some of you the idea that Lee McCullum is a black man in a violent city is the whole story and it ends there. I have to wonder if some people might see this as the outcome of already bad situation: a damaged city and damaged neighborhood that is pretty much standard for the inner city. In other words, people who are cursed by having the bad luck or bad sense to be part of a poor minority in a bad place. End of story. Not our problem and not something that we can be asked to worry about. It’s such a big entrenched problem, how could anyone possibly be asked to consider it a social issue that can effectively be addressed. Easier to attack problems like the deterioration of American Eagle Habitats; Eagles don’t have gangs and drugs.
I will continue to assert that our constitution and our culture does not allow for these “they asked for it” conclusions that seems to mass around abuse issues like flies. No one asks for these things to happen. And I they don’t, they deserve our support and protection. That it has become “institutionalized” in the form of a criminal society such as a gang, in this case, doesn’t justify it.

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Lee McCullum had dreams which, from the word go, should have caused us to jump on the bandwagon. This is not just about a disadvantaged black youth who tried to pull himself up by his bootstrap. This is a story about an American who wanted to get himself together and go to college. And, as little as some people would like to consider it, he wanted to live. Not jumping on that bandwagon and allowing this to happen over and over again is part of our path to ruin. It is tacit support of abuse and terrorism at its most fundamental level.
Do our bold words in the bill of rights serve as a nice talking point but become inconvenient when we are called to act on them? For those who really don’t care I will offer up these facts. Hundreds of domestic violence victims die at the hand of their abusers each year. This from the Huffington Post: “Black Americans are four times more likely to be murdered than the national average. What’s more, four out of five black homicide victims are killed with guns.” Adult survivors of sexual abuse run into more than 40 million in number in this country.

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Really don’t care? The ACES study and other studies document a striking connection between even relatively mild negative childhood experiences with crime and incarceration. There have also been a surprising number of studies that deal with prison populations; these studies show a major connection between adult criminals being in prison and child abuse. So the behemoth prison population that we have in this country and we all pay an immense amount for, is likely driven by pointless abuse in childhood. While not as well documented, the depression, mental and physical problems that are part and parcel of the collateral damage of any form of abuse and neglect, costs us dearly in the form of disability payments, insurance, and decreased productivity in the job force. While not measurable, I can’t help but wonder what Einsteins and Teslas have been lost to us through this senseless destruction of human beings in abusive situations.
Back to Lee McCullum, who will never have a chance to make another choice about his life, I don’t see gang tats and videos. I see Lee’s parents depressed and helpless. I see children and adults walking scared in their own neighborhoods, a perfect manifestation of hopelessness filling their minds in the form of Lee’s death. I see his daughter growing up without him, knowing that power and terror won the day and ruined her life. I see that people will see that no one cares enough to intervene. Abuse won the day Lee and his girlfriend were killed and what makes it worse is that he knew it was coming, as unstoppable as an avalanche. Can you blame some people for not embracing the American dream and sharing your flag waving enthusiasm for the boot-strap theory, the Horatio Alger story?

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Suck it up: Blog Version 2

Neil Newton: Author of “The Railroad” on Amazon
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A while back I wrote a blog called Suck it up. The blog can be seen here.

Why would I revisit the same blog. As we write, we learn. The original blog was important for me in that it pitted me as a writer against the idea of weakness. As Americans, especially as males, we are taught to suck it up. It’s a fierce and indomitable force in male psychology.

But what is lost through abuse? It’s life. When you get beyond the original damage, damage that is not a choice but is a programmed reaction to certain experiences as infants and children, you get to the crime: the theft of the living of life on a level playing field. If life is difficult enough, wearing a yoke of stone that prevents you from seeing the world clearly simply makes the task of daily life much like treading water.

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For those of us who are the victims of abuse of any kind, there is always a temptation to find a way to muscle our way out of the demons that eat at our soul. “Muscle” is a perfect word because you are always supposed to be able to find a way to overcome your fears and the obstacles to living up to your full potential by punching your way out of the box you’re in; it’s part of our heritage to be “warriors”. The sad part is muscling is the last thing that you need to do. To understand what you are trying to “suck up” is really the key.

What the original blog discusses that is important, important for abuse victims and the purveyors of the “suck it up” mentality, is that we are not, by nature, glorious warriors who gird their loins and go into battle. As babies we are empty vessels who respond to a specific set of actions by adults. What that means is NOT that if you are genetically weak in some way that you will be adversely affected by less than optimal parenting. It means that the equipment you are given as an infant will create issues immediately and in later life if you are not nurtured correctly. This is not an issue of character or “good upbringing” but a biologically programmed reaction.

This will upset many people who would like to think of humans as the masters of our own destiny but it shouldn’t. In the long run, we are masters of our own destiny. But what happens in the case of children lacking decent care as babies is what is called “failure to thrive”. Babies don’t and can’t decide to have this happen in a fit of weakness; their perceptual abilities are not up to the task of making that kind of decision. And what occurs over time are symptoms such as a predilection for substance abuse, health issues, a tendency toward involvement in crime and recidivism. What is worst of all is that many of these horrors are based on an altered perception that comes with a failure to thrive. I’ve come to call this perception “shit colored glasses”.

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And here is where the rubber definitely meets the road. If you have a synthetically produced perception of failure, persecution, paranoia, etc that follows you around and refuses to exit the premises, you will approach every situation, new and old, with all those monkey’s on you back. The horrible kicker is that, more often than not, these perception are not seen as “wrong” but normal. If reality is an internal trench war, then how can you see your way clear to “the light” that people speak so freely about? The deck is stacked against you and you aren’t fully aware it’s happening.

So why a second version of this blog? After all, I could have written a new one J. What has become obvious to me is that all types of abuse, and there are many of them, result in this same long term live in demons. Some people can get past this…to some extent, but there is always wrestling with damaged perception.

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What brought this to my attention and, perhaps a more critical reason to re-write this blog, is my particular form of abuse. Not having experienced one of the more sensationalistic forms of abuse, I had myself convinced that what I had experienced was not abuse, just perhaps some bad parenting that could be ignored with enough sucking it up. The problem is that my life has been characterized by a rather rabid desire to avoid just about anything positive that wasn’t absolutely necessary even if it meant a sub-standard life. No risks, no noticeable achievements, being trapped in dead end jobs, staying in toxic situations long after it was obvious it was time to go. A life controlled by fear and ruled by the hope that nothing threatening would happen to me, ever. All this was a trade off for a false sense of safety which became my holy grai. From certain points of view a silly, unworthy life.

And, more to the point, there has been a sort of odd “fog” that has characterized my perception since I was a child. The fog itself has helped block any sense of initiative or ambition and also has kept me anesthetized from a sort of a knee jerk anxiety that is always present. Lacing the fog is an insidious “fear” of getting shafted. The creepy thing about this fear is that, more often than not, there has always been a real-life manifestation of the “threat” actually appearing in the form of hostile or neglectful figures in my life. Over and over again.

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I don’t feel sorry for myself. But that last part is the creepiest part; I am not one for mysticism. And yet, like many people I have encountered the same “people” and “situations” over and over again with enough variation to initially convince me that history isn’t repeating itself, at least at the beginning. This underscores the power of the “shit-colored glasses” to do an incredibly effective job keeping you off balance and ruining your life.

The result of living this kind of life is a loss of life. At the age of 57 I can definitely attest to the fact that I have lost ground that I will never regain. And I mourn the losses that coming generation will experience; that is the reason to blog and to keep beating the drum, not matter what. As I often do, I dwell on the sadness of what is lost by quoting a poem that puts the experience into perspective. It’s the poem “Maud Muller” by John Greenleaf Whittier. The quote is as follows:

“Of all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these, ‘It might have been.”

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