Wow! Daniel Biss for Governor!

Daniel Biss just keeps growing, and so does his support base. He has a real chance of winning the Democratic primary and if he does, polls show he will beat Bruce Rauner. See the latest  gubernatorial debate on March 2, 2018.

Tonight Daniel Biss addressed questions from a crowded house full of people asking him about how to solve Illinois’ financial and economic woes, creating efficiencies in government, supporting teacher’s pensions, fixing our judicial system, prison reform, redistricting, and even how he intends to work with legislative heavy weight Mike Madigan. The depth and thoughtfulness of Daniel’s answers were fantastic and forthright.

Daniel is leading us into “what is possible”, not settling for what is business as usual in Illinois politics. The lasting impressions were that he is a leader who knows how government works. He listens and he learns. Not only has he contributed to many advancements already, he also admits to mistakes and grows because of them.

His leading democratic opponent seems to have peaked in support despite spending over $60 million in personal funding and blanketing the airwaves and stuffing mailboxes with ads. Meanwhile Biss keeps attracting more endorsements and followers.

This guy is for real. I saw him speak in a home setting almost a year ago, impressive then, but unstoppable now. He not only articulates a clear vision for solving our problems– by restructuring our tax base, school funding, and fiscal accountability–he also has the gall to suggest that we need to be a part of the solution, and I found myself leaning in!

This is the moment,  in this primary, that we get the candidates we deserve. We can simply elect someone better than Bruce Rauner, a low bar, or we can elect Daniel Biss, a leader who knows how to use the levers of government to restore our competitive edge, our integrity, and our faith in self-government.

Please join me in supporting Daniel Biss. Donate, Volunteer, Vote.

 

 

What do Hurricanes, Hunger Games, and Trump Have in Common?

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While we awaited official word this weekend about the state of emergency in Puerto Rico, what we got instead from our President was distracting and hateful comments about the NFL and players brave enough to address injustice.

Our NFL responded with an unprecedented show of unity on Sunday, essentially out-classing our President. We even experienced the irony of Charles Barkley calling out the President for swearing.

But some lingering words from Trump remain to be addressed.

  • His complete disregard for players who are peacefully protesting unchecked police brutality
  • Trump’s call for unquestioning fealty to the flag and national anthem is un-American, not the peaceful protest of the players. We are in a free country and no one can make us bow to the flag or the president.
  • Suggesting that players should feel “privileged to be in the league” mistakes the fact that the League should feel privileged to have such talent on the field. The League is its players and they’ve earned their stripes.
  • His reckless call for viewers to walk out or stop supporting the NFL until owners make the players stand for the anthem. That doesn’t support his supposed friends among NFL owners. And how does that grow our economy?
  • Yes, his swearing which remains a disturbing pattern in this White House
  • And most alarming, his desire to return to a more violent game by saying “it’s a different game” now that there are penalties for hard hitting, despite modern understanding of the danger of concussions

The problem with Trump’s comments, when viewed together, is that they reveal an utter disregard for people (and really he is targeting people of color). They imply that people should feel privileged for jobs they’ve actually earned (because as people of color you are lucky we let you in at all?), even dangerous jobs, and they must perform with a smile on their faces at all times. Sing for your supper!  His comments conjured images of gladiators fighting to the death, or “honored” youth fighting in the Hunger Games. I could imagine him saying, “look how hard they hit, they like it!”  And I could see him forcing these gladiators to salute him and the Roman Empire, or suffer the consequences! His joy in the pomp, and his pleasure in the pain, is so President Snow.

Meanwhile, I fear that real-life hunger games are underway on an island of 3.5 million people hit by Hurricane Maria. Power will be out for months, flooding persists, and water, medicine, and other critical resources are scarce in Puerto Rico right now. These are fellow Americans. Shall we send them flags or sing the anthem to them? Or shall we actually show them what it means to be American by helping them? If you know how best to help, please comment below.

Trump’s rants stir the pot of racial discord, like Hurricanes stir winds of destruction. And just like a hurricane, Trump’s damage starts with a lot of hot air, rapidly rising in our collective consciousness to create friction. What results is a vacuum, swelled by the vacuum in moral leadership in our country. The resulting swirl leaves broad scale damage, unintended consequences, and needless despair.

We may not be able to control for Hurricanes (though we can each take steps to slow global warming from human activity that is feeding them), but we can control for who is elected to lead our great nation. Whether it is Congressional and legislative elections, gubernatorial elections, or the presidency, let’s do our best this time to steer clear of President Snow, Hurricane Trump, and any other man-made disasters.

Move Over Fox News, MSNBC is gaining, but Sinclair Broadcast Group will Trump them all!

A line I often quote from Mr. Mom, the 1980’s comedy movie, “No, lie to him, he likes it.” is funny, but possibly true.

Voters apparently don’t mind being lied to (again and again). Notably Trump’s national political ascent sprang from his destructive and baseless lie about President Obama’s place of birth.

Research suggests that people will believe lies if they support our biases. In fact people get a dopamine rush every time they hear something that supports what they believe, and they tend to disregard all else. And when confronted with facts to remove the basis for that belief, they will usually still cling to their originally formed belief even if there is no longer a reason to. Read this thorough New Yorker article for research on this phenomenon.

The lesson here is to form your beliefs cautiously, using good information in the first place. But that is getting harder.

The thing is, the news industry has become more conservative and  manipulative in recent decades.  The American myth of “The Liberal Media”, based on a couple misinterpreted studies in the 1980s, helped Conservatives carve a niche for opinion-based reporting which has grown and undermined fact-based reporting. This has resulted in both conservative, liberal, and fringe “news” outlets. For a solid understanding of this I recommend you read The Republican Noise Machine: Right-Wing Media and How it Corrupts Democracy written by former Republican David Brock in 2004, but eerily and urgently relevant today.

We already know how much Fox News correlates with less informed viewers (in study after study). One study even found that Fox viewers may be less informed than those who consume no news at all. Yet Fox wields power in the public consciousness and can force other networks to cover stories differently. Recall Fox’s premature call for Bush in the 2000 election creating a chain of events which disenfranchised voters across the state of Florida and affected the nation’s leadership at a pivotal time.

That is why it is noteworthy that MSNBC recently surpassed Fox news in weeknight prime-time viewer ratings. I attribute much of that to Rachel Maddow whose ratings have soared since the Presidential election. She may repeat herself like a Kindergarten teacher, but she reports well-researched and relevant news to you like you are a grown-up, without screaming/streaming talking heads. Her interest in discovering the truth through actual investigative reporting reveals real journalism. Thank you, Rachel.

But watch out for Sinclair Broadcast Group, a penny-pinching Trump-supporting propaganda news outlet poised to take over Tribune Media and become the largest TV news outlet in the nation, thwarting monopoly rules all thanks to the Trump administration recently paving the way for the merger. This news company forces content onto local news outlets, the ones you trust because they are from your community. Watch John Oliver’s piece on Sinclair Broadcast Group in “Last Week Tonight” and cringe at the middle of the segment when he shows the scripted news clips echoing from stations around the country using the exact same propaganda language to brainwash people into thinking the FBI has a vendetta against Mike Flynn. Incidentally, “Last Week Tonight” correlates with the most informed viewers (as does NPR).

Complicating matters further, our news sources have also been corrupted by an unholy alliance between the alt-right and Russia, and an army of Russian bots and trolls, ushering in the modern era of fake news.  This includes targeted campaigns that push propaganda messages to U.S. military personnel and their families. Our technologies in social media–Facebook, Twitter–presumptuously and relentlessly push extreme and fake news in front of you, allowing lies and hatred to spread like viruses (SEE: This Video Will make You Angry and its sequel).

Many Americans respond to all this by ignoring news, instead of taking the effort to sort it out and find reliable sources. Instead they focus on their jobs, their families, their biases. Sounds fair until you consider that the upshot of that approach chills democracy. If we all put our heads in the sand, it will allow the corrupt and power-hungry to constantly manipulate us and take over completely. It will make us all only slightly more informed than Fox viewers.

History has its eyes on you… Hamilton, Candide, and Wonder Woman

The last couple months were packed with entertainments and philosophical exchanges with family and friends. The upshot is that we cannot escape from politics right now, even when we are enjoying ourselves. Here are some highlights.

We enjoyed an excellent musical production of Candide produced by the Musical Theater Works company in Evanston. Yet there was a nagging something that tarnished enjoyment, for me at least. This story reminds us that good art is timeless. Voltaire could not have predicted Trumpians any better. How impossible it was not to picture Trump in the vain brother, Melania in the shallow jewelry-loving Cunegonde, etc. Ultimately the main characters were revolting, even Candide whose professed innocence belied his murdering selfishness.

Similarly, we finally got our family to Hamilton in Chicago. This was so well done and anticipated that people were laughing at jokes before they finished, and singing along in certain spots. Yet, my experience of it was filtered through my awareness of current political events. You are supposed to weep at the loss of a character toward the end. I did, a little. But my sobbing moment was when Washington revealed his haunting awareness that, “History has its eyes on me”. I took this to heart. I took it personally. This is the moment we will answer to later in our lives.

We have choices in what we believe and what ideas we surround ourselves with, even what ideas we entertain ourselves with.

Do we entertain ourselves by reading dystopian Atlas Shrugged as Paul Ryan recommends to inform our world view? Or do we read Steve Bannon’s apocalyptic obsessions?

Or do we choose the messaging that typifies us as Americans, uplifting, promising, liberating and empowering?

My top pick this summer is Wonder Woman  (a must see movie, though you will cringe at Steve Mnuchin’s name in the credits) which captured the essence of our modern-day conflicts in our quest to save humanity, “It’s not about what they deserve, it’s about what you believe”.  And also, “If you see something in the world that isn’t right, you can either do nothing, or you can do something about it.”

Help an immigrant who might help you one day–the world is round

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It was during the Science March in April that we proudly waved our “Einstein was an immigrant” sign. I could not stop thinking about how lucky we are that our country attracts brave and brilliant people who flock to us from around the world. But that could be changing under the Trump administration.

In January, Trump’s Travel/Muslim Ban, had an immediate chilling effect, contrary to our Constitution, and also contrary to the goal of making America great. Universities reported drops in foreign applications to University programs, with likely negative impacts on our economy and innovation. Students have choices about where to go in the world. After Trump announced his decision to pull out of the Paris Climate Agreement, President Emmanuel Marcon of France made a direct appeal for scientists to “consider France [their] second homeland”. Do we really want other countries to compete against us for, and win market share of, hard workers and innovators?

Meanwhile, we need immigrants to fill the numbers gap (or Generation X, Y and millennials) left behind by the Baby Boomers. This is not a time to turn away consumers and producers who boost our economy. We need them to make America great, we always have.

If you want to help immigrants, I recommend that you take a peak at the organizations listed in these Free Research Resources on Immigration presented recently at our local Library by two attorneys/librarians. Perhaps something in here may be useful to you or someone you know.

 

Victory Today, March on Saturday, and No Work on May Day

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Today roughly 2,000 women, men and some children, gathered at the Women’s Rally in the state Capitol Building in Springfield, Illinois. It is a long haul to make it to Springfield from most of the state. Many people, like me and my son, took the day off from work and school. It was worth it. Unlike the Science March Chicago  and the Tax Day March Chicago (which were awesome by the way) this rally was directly aligned for legislative impact. Today HB40 was passed in the House 62-55. This bill is intended to protect women and doctors from an automatic trigger to criminalize abortion and abortion counseling the moment Roe v, Wade is overturned (a real possibility now that Gorsuuch was confirmed for the US Supreme Court). The Senate will likely pass it, but Governor Rauner flipped his position, balking at one piece on state employee and insurance coverage for abortions, even though he has personally donated thousands to Planned Parenthood. Please put pressure on Rauner to sign.

Meanwhile, there are many other bills pending that deserve attention, such as the Equal Rights Amendment, important language changes to Equal Pay Act (to stop the common practice of employers to ask job candidates to disclose past salary), Learning with Dignity (feminine products in schools), etc.

I met Daniel Biss at the rally today, a state senator who spoke eloquently at the Tax Day March, and again today. Based in near north suburbs of Chicago, he seems to have the right mix of integrity, compassion and political savvy and activism. He is one to watch in the next race for Governor.

Coming up: This Saturday, April 29 at Noon in Federal PLaza, Chicago is the People’s Climate March. Spread the word, people don’t know much about this one. We are going after all. Hope to see you there!  Also May 1 is the Labor March.

Keep writing to your US Senators and Congressmen to demand an independent investigation of Trump-Russia collusion. This is criminal to the point of high treason, way beyond the “lock her up” pay for play Trump activities. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you are watching Fox propaganda/whitewashing or not reading news at all, so get busy triangulating your news sources or give me a ring for a jumpstart.

Greed, Fear and Racism, or Something Worse

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National Republicans, and the national conversation during the 2016 Presidential Election, have already led me to the conclusion that greed, fear and racism were driving principles in the new Republicanism (and old conservatism).

These driving principles fuel things like white flight that create self-fulfilling prophecies in now hurting neighborhoods. After having experienced that myself in Chicagoland, I was interested to learn about old Louisville in Kentucky from a resident when we traveled for spring break. These principles allow white people to pull the ladder up behind themselves on immigration under the guise that “I just want them to obey the laws of entering our country” while ignoring our own history. Also, these driving principles allowed people to be easily cowed and manipulated by lies and misleading information and regime-toppling propaganda (enter Russian internet trolls retweeted by Trump).

Bill Maher expressed the same exact thing–greed, fear and racism–so it caught my attention. But he goes further to explain the otherwise inexplicable behavior of the current White House leadership. Would be funnier if it weren’t true.

  • Click Here (late night language)  My teen tells me this is trending on YouTube. Maher doesn’t even mention all the examples he could, like rolling back clean water rules, but he sums it up with the simple truth.

Let’s break free of the ugly instincts driving current politics and foreign influencers, I prefer rhetoric and policies that stand for generosity, bravery, and love. Let’s rise above our base instincts so we can be the Americans we are supposed to be and “Fly like an Eagle…”