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Playlist: Susan J. Cook's Portfolio

"Breathing: American Sonnets" from Susan Cook of "The River Is Wide" Credit: Susan Cook
Image by: Susan Cook 
"Breathing: American Sonnets" from Susan Cook of "The River Is Wide"

The essays from "The River Is Wide" series collected here represent the thoughts of a political activist and psychologist who considers this question, daily, in her work and life, "What has the world brought to me today, who got left out, who got hurt, how could this be orchestrated differently, and who is next?"

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Remembering We Have Already Said Farewell: "Epilogue: To a Fire Gone" from "Breathing: American Sonnets"

From Susan J. Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 01:42

An American Sonnet to those to whom we have said "Farewell".

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From "Breathing: American Sonnets"
by Susan Cook
(available from  GulfofMainebooks@gmail.com)

 

Epilogue

 

To a Fire Gone

 

After "Reluctance: by Robert Frost

Ah, when to the heart of man

Was it ever less than treason

To go with the drift of things,

To yield with a grace to reason

And bow and accept the end

Of a love or a season?

 

 

When was it less than treason? But what do

you mean, Mr. Frost? That’s for countries to

feel short-changed by. Loss happens to those who

see the passing on of days, years, one blue

time in life, one breaking, undoing a

treacherous rope they have been tied onto,

its deep burn. In the coldest time of day

or night, fires started that you thought grew

larger instead were, licked back into their

own intensity, remained confined on

one small patch of earth. You did not see where

the fire, some time later, died. You were gone.

Big difference, see, between countries resigned

to losing, small unfed fires, gone in time.

Still a Fried Mosquito and A Black-eyed Pea: Froggy Still A-Courting to Take Down the Affordable Healthcare Act

From Susan J. Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 07:02

Back in 2005, Dana Connors, Maine State Chamber of Commerce president said, "This is not the time or place to expand Maine care coverage to more uninsured. “ He ignored that covering uninsured lowers health costs then. And 10 years later, United Health Care ignores that fact as well.

In 2005, Dana Connors, said people just didn’t “shop enough” to find affordable health insurance. In 2016, insurance companies limit those options further by pulling out of the Health insurance Marketplace created to help consumers shop around.

And United Health Care- with 11 billion dollars in profits last year- complains that Community Health Exchanges are unaffordable and unprofitable- so they‘ll be pulling out. In 2016, filling pockets- insurance companies pockets comes at the expense of providing healthcare.

A recent New York Times poll reported the highest paid individuals in healthcare are insurance executives. “The base pay of insurance executives, hospital executives and even hospital administrators often far outstrips doctors’ salaries: $584,000 on average for an insurance chief executive officer, compared with $306,000 for a surgeon and $185,000 for a general doctor.. The chief executive of Aetna had total compensation of over $36 million…A former president of a midsize health system in New Jersey, received total compensation of $21.7 million..”

In 2016, it is still true that insurance companies executives are paid outrageously. United Health Care paid its CEO 102 million dollars.

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Still A Fried Mosquito and a Black-Eyed Pea: Froggy  Still A-courting To Take the Affordable Health Care Act Down 
-Susan Cook-
In 2005, I wrote to the local newspaper after someone said Maine's  Dirigo Health, a model for the  Affordable Care Act was a Socialist plot to give insurance to Uninsured who don’t want to pay  for premiums, . Quoting Bob Dylan’s cover of  “Froggy Went A' Courting", I said  Dirigo Health was not unaffordable . It was under funded. Like  the couple  in  the song, the government was trying to feed a whole crowd with the equivalent political and financial support of a fried mosquito and a black-eyed pea. 
And now United Health Care- with 11 billion dollars in profits last year- complains that Community Health Exchanges are unaffordable and unprofitable- so they‘ll be pulling out. In 2016, filling pockets- insurance companies pockets comes at the expense of  providing healthcare. 
A recent New York Times poll reported the highest paid individuals in healthcare are insurance executives. “The base pay of insurance executives, hospital executives and even hospital administrators often far outstrips doctors’ salaries: $584,000 on average for an insurance chief executive officer,  compared with $306,000 for a surgeon and $185,000 for a general doctor.. The chief executive of Aetna had total compensation of over $36 million…A former president of  a midsize health system in New Jersey, received total compensation of $21.7 million..”
In 2016, it is still true that insurance companies executives are paid  outrageously. United Health Care paid its CEO 102 million dollars. Molina Healthcare paid their CEO 10 million dollars. 
United Health Care  and Molina Healthcare, which has taken over Medicare in many states, reimburse behavioral health providers at about the same rate psychologists billed in 2005. I know this. I’m a network provider for every insurance company in my state. 
So in 2005, who were the people avoiding insurance premiums  looking for a Socialist handout? In Maine,  131,000 were uninsured . 18590 children under the age of 18  were uninsured.  Of those 131,000 who had no insurance, fully 86% worked  fulltime (69%) or part-time (17%) and their employers did not provide affordable insurance.  18,930 had no work at all- the same number as the number of uninsured children and according to the anti-affordable health care logic- just wanted someone else to pay their insurance premiums. 
One full year after the Affordable Care Act was in place,  Maine’s uninsured rate dropped by more than one-fourth. Nationally, the number fell from 17.3 percent to 13.8 percent of the population.
In 2016, all of Maine’s children are insured through Mainecare.  
But back in 2005, Dana Connors, Maine State Chamber of Commerce president said, "This is not  the time or place to expand Maine care coverage to more uninsured. “ He ignored that covering  uninsured lowers health costs then. And 10 years later, United Health Care ignores that fact as well. 
In 2005, Dana Connors,  said people just didn’t “shop enough” to find affordable health insurance. In 2016,  insurance companies limit those options further by pulling out of the Health insurance Marketplace created to help consumers shop around. 
Remarkably, in 10 years, insurance companies have not been able to sabotage the Affordable Care Act using logic. But they persist in trying to sabotage it- this time using ‘computer logic’ . Please remember that the ACA encourages electronic claims processing to lower administrative costs. Molina Healthcare, the company that now runs Medicaid in many states- for one- and United Healthcare have had a field day sabotaging electronically processed claims.  United Healthcare created a company - along with Harvard Pilgrim Health and Aetna- called  OPTUM to process claims. United Health Care went for months by rejecting claims not submitted directly to OPTUM-  'innocent computer  processing errors? I  have  doubt.  Molina Healthcare- using Information Technology as their companion saboteur - uses website and software that over and over rejects perfectly legitimate claims. 
Now 10 years later, with Google prominently part of the quest to find healthcare, I was amazed to discover that Googling  Maine’s community health insurance -  brought me to a link to the Portland (ME) Chamber of Commerce which then brought me to a Maine Community Options page where paying the insurance premium was impossible. Click my keypad to death, it would not allow me to pay the premium. Oh I know there could be many factors in play. But don’t you think it’s odd that the same  Chambers of Commerce seeking to undermine affordable health insurance in 2005 would now be the first Google link to come up- and one that won’t let the consumer pay the premium at that? Mr. Rat shaking his fat sides just like in “Froggy Went A-courting”  and insurance companies still - claiming deficits- while we are all left with a fried mosquito and a black-eyed pea, Health Insurance Companies still hope to make that just a little bit of cornbread sitting on the shelf. 

A Citizen's Guide to Cynicism

From Susan J. Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 03:04

Eleven years after I posted the first commentary for The River is Wide series, this remains true: Speaking and seeking the truth is not cynical.

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The editor of my local newspaper refused to publish two letters I wrote criticizing a political candidate who flaunted the Chinese as fertile potential investors in our state.  China has a horrendous human rights record which includes Tibetan genocide.  “You”, he said, “are doing the dirty work” for another "candidate's campaign" by "taking the moral high ground" which he questioned because of my "known" party activism. 
I reminded him that the Nobel Committee acknowledged the severity of China's violation of human rights by giving the Nobel Peace prize to the Chinese jailed  dissident Liu Xiaobo. “I’ve been a Tibetan Buddhist far longer than I have been a Democrat,” I said, “My Buddhist teacher's monastery in Tibet has been destroyed. I support a child’s education whose ancestors fled Tibet because of religious persecution.” He said "Well, now I know where you're coming from."
Outrage about atrocity has to be All About Me in order to be genuine? Talk about moral high ground is no longer valuable in and of itself and dismissed if the speaker also actively takes part in our Democracy? Speaking - seeking- truth means doing someone's dirty work? 
"Really?" as my 20-something friends say.
And we wonder where cynicism begins? Where motivation to speak and take part in this democracy  gets lost? How  " All About Me" becomes the only voice people recognize and listen to? 
Cynicism is a ball of dust that stays in the crevices- until we stop seeking and speaking truth because we no longer believe that someone somewhere is,  everyday, little by little, seeking the moral high  ground, where Liu Xiaobo is a media creation. Where taking part in our Democracy and political process is  "doing a campaign's dirty work".  Cynicism all by itself takes the prospect of truth- truth- not fiction- and chews it into tiny pieces that nobody can recognize and metaphor can’t help and that everybody is afraid to believe. When we don't have truth to seek and  speak about, we have nothing, and nothing  is not cynical, it is nothing.

Bringing The Truck To Yoga

From Susan J. Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 01:00

I am trying to care for the health of someone special by bringing him to my yoga class and his insurance is required!!..

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I have been bringing a special part of my life to yoga class.  I bring him to yoga for flexibility  and strength as  he ages . He gets a little winded when he does VINyasa.  I don't want him in an early grave. What yoga won't help is covered by his required insurance.  There's a hefty fine if he gets caught in a catastrophic situation without it. Yes, he gets some  funny looks at yoga class. Noone  else  brings their truck to yoga. Even the government thinks my truck's health is worth it. Why else would they make me pay a penalty without truck insurance and not even let me take him on the road without it? I don't know where they got the  idea but my truck thanks them  whenever he skids on ice. Maybe they'll do the same for that other special part of my live, my body. 

Behind the Counter: What Labor Really Looks Like

From Susan J. Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | :57

See what Labor looks like and does at your local convenience store.

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Behind the Counter:What Management Does
-Susan Cook-
I  stop at convenience  stores driving from work,  usually tired, a little tense from Maine’s  winter roads.  My travel to the counter, pales with that  of the store clerk , paid  minimum wage (or a little more), for 10 hour shifts, with no benefits,  no option of closing early when Maine winter bears down. These clerks are "labor", people that unions can’t  help because "Management" skillfully exploits them. . No one could ever support a family on the money they  earn, at these often second jobs, with  no overtime pay  required. 
We  all suffer here as Maine Governor Lepage embarrassingly slips  on  the learning curve called what labor is and what management has done for them by Maine government (hint: Management  problems are addressed through the Department of Business and Financial Regulation).    Meanwhile, please visit your local convenience chain . Witness "labor"-  when the Union  cannot stop what  Management often does: exploit. 

Managed Car:210 Seconds on How To Triple Car Insurance Premiums

From Susan J. Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 04:16

Think Managed Care has changed health care? Wait until your car insurance company switches to Managed Car!

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Managed Car: 210 Seconds on How to Triple Your Car Insurance Premium
Automobile insurance companies - tired of paying so  much  when  a vehicle needs repairs or gets totaled- are bringing managed care- make that managed car-  to the out-of-control automobile repair industry. Managed car is here. No more calling up your local garage or VIP and saying-"Hey, I have a funny noise. Can you fix it?" and getting an automatic go-ahead like "Oh sure. When would you like to bring it in?" 
 
Before that repair gets made you will  require prior authorization from a car manager who your automobile insurance company  has hired . Her job- yes- she does have some automotive training- is to determine if  the repair is really necessary  and how much you will be able to have done without your car insurance premium going up. 
 
After your insurer has paid millions to set up the bureaucracy of thousands of customer car representatives to take calls, in high rent districts in  major call centers from east to west, a sample call to your automobile insurer managed car 1-800 line might go like this:
Welcome to Automobile Behavioral Health. Please be advised this call may be recorded for quality assurance. Please press one if you are a member and two if you are a car mechanic. BING. Please enter your Car Mechanic provider ID or your Automobile Behavioral Health member ID. BING.For eligible repairs,  press one. For prior car authorization , press two. If this is an emergency and you are calling after hours, please call your local  emergency tow truck number. Please be advised that may not be covered under your policy. 
Twenty short minutes later, your managed car customer service representative answers.
"I'd like to get my front end aligned."
"I'm sorry. Your policy only allows 1 alignment per year. You already had that done this year." 
"Well, I hit a big pothole. The steering's off."
"We can't authorize that. "
"I need to have this done. You are placing my vehicle at risk by not authorizing this."
"You can appeal this decision by contacting one of our appeal boards. If you'd like I'll send you a form. If they refuse, your insurance premium may increase  because of unnecessary repairs."
"But what I do with my car mechanic is none of your business. 
"Is there anything else I can help you with today?"
" Who are you to tell me how to take care of my vehicle? And why should what my mechanic decides have anything to do with my car insurance? "
"Your mechanic is on our Preferred Provider panel and he knows that if he provides the service without authorization, we won't send him anymore cars to repair  and possibly remove him from the panel. Has he hired a staff to consult with us about  prior authorization? 
"Then I'll go some place else. "
"Is automobile insurance required in your state?'
"Of course it is."
"All insurance companies now require that you see car mechanics on their provider panels. Is there anything else I can help you with?"
 Click.
She goes back to taking calls; that's why she's paid $35000 a year. 
You go back to your  vehicle, listen to the "thump, thump, thump" and think, "This car will be a piece of junk. And if I happen to get in an accident and it gets totaled, the insurance company won't pay me enough to buy another one."
Exactly.

"In Wildness Is The Preservation of The World, or Not:An Historical Allegory

From Susan J. Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 03:06

Long ago, a group of Economists went on retreat to fish and talk to journalists, some wearing sweatshirts that read "In Economists Are The Preservation of the World." They relied on Fishing Guides to show them how to navigate the Wildness. And they all had a question in common: How will we be preserved?

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"In Wildness Is The Preservation of the World Or Possibly Not: An Historical Allegory"
-Susan Cook-
Long ago, in the pristine woods of the North, a small elite group of economists held a retreat. Their heads were filled with urban soot and smog, in addition to sinus problems caused by swallowing too hard while thinking about whether the United States government really could pay off its multi-trillion dollar debt and still have wars, without making wealthy retirees pay premiums for Medicare.
They came to swim, to fish and talk to journalists. The Economists could not afford to clutter their number-laden brains with important information like how to find fish, catch fish and -most critically- reach the fish in small boats without tipping over and drowning. Some of them wore sweatshirts that said, "In Economists Are the Preservation of the World."-  this being the ecological justification for all of that information.
This meant that the economists and the journalists had to rely on Fishing Guides to find the fish and bring them out to catch them without tipping over. The fish were after all- wild- and the Guides understood wildness like the Economists wished they understood the Euro.  
Yes, there was a gap in mastery of their respective fields but the one thing the Guides and the Economists and the Journalists shared was this: they all got paid for what they do. Deep in the minds of the Economists and the Journalists was a small section devoted to: "Can the Fishing Guides earn a decent living while we are here and after we leave?" They  had special neurons where they stored the fact that a decent living has a lot to do with the Economy. 
All of them did except a remarkable figure, her pseudonym here: "Kate". Now, when Kate visited her psychoanalyst in New York City, she dared not wince when the analyst said, "You are required to pay me $200 even if you leave half way through." Kate just paid. 
But her resentment lingered. And when she reserved a whole day with the fishing guide and after a half day she said, "I want to leave now", he didn't get paid his usual fee.
Her psychoanalyst referred to this "I want to leave now" tendency as a failure to inhibit an impulse called "Tight Wad". This same impulse led to an adult fantasy that Economists and Psychoanalysts know everything and  that Fishing Guides who preserve the ancient tradition of fishing in the wild, have jobs as museum docents- in real life. 
All of the Economists and Journalists returned from the retreat to their cubbies overlooking the Hudson River or the bull on Wall Street. The Fishing Guides kept fishing in the wild, although the economic downturn  meant there was little heavily processed tartar sauce to put on the fish and the supply of imported iceberg lettuce virtually disappeared. But Katy never left her psychoanalyst's appointment at the half-hour again- after  the psychoanalyst mounted a poster on the office door that said, "In Wildness Is the Preservation of the World."

My We-Contained Democrat

From Susan J. Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | :59

If we live in a we-contained world, shouldn't we all be Democrats?

Wecontainedem_small David Brooks' new book raises a big question: When is he going to be a Democrat?

A Citizens' Advanced Guide To Cynicism

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

We now know that Rupert Murdoch and his "gang" have an ability to grasp the difference between the imaginary and the real similar to that of many two year olds. And so we recruit them- one and all- for a new scientific study called "Violence in Media Changes Perception of Reality."

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The Citizens' Advanced Guide To Cynicism
-Susan Cook- 
     Well, well, well. All these years those media bigwigs have said , "Oh no, we don't change how people see reality. Kids watching 200,000 violent acts on TV by age 18 doesn't make them think killing people is entertainment!"   Those of us  who say that the tragedy of violence is lost when the media  treats murder as entertainment-   would like to ask  Mr. Rupert Murdoch  and "the gang" at his London newspaper to sign up for a scientific study called "Violence in  Media Changes Perception of Reality."   Because he and his "News of the World" employees  are living proof of it.   They have caught the disorder. And what disorder is that? The confusion of reality with the imaginary. 
     Now, Confusion of Reality with Imagination is normal for very young children. They  confuse reality with the imaginary all the time.  
But for Mr. Murdoch and his  "News of the World" staff  it is a disorder . They clearly   confuse reality with the imaginary when stealing information from a murdered child's   cell phone -and changing it- is just making entertainment. A human disorder.    
     And  of course,  Mr. Murdoch  is doing this because the public’s imagination is free for the taking ! There is money to be made! 
     It is unethical for someone to grab our imagination by fooling us into thinking it's the Truth.  It is how we lose  that  precious  human  belief that someone somewhere is trying to find out  The Truth. That there is a way to tell what is real from what is imaginary that will keep us sane. No matter how sad or tragic the human event.  It is what keeps us from cynicism . And what Rupert Murdoch thinks is free for the taking.  Maybe it is time to dust off the scientific method and fund those big government studies that seek  the truth called "Violence in Media Changes Perception of Reality."

The Birth of Managed Care: An Historical Allegory

From Susan J. Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 01:00

The birth of managed care was surrounded by sounds called Click and Clack coming from an AM car radio.

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 "The Birth of Managed Care: An Historical Allegory"
-Susan  Cook-
Long ago,  an Insurance executive  sulked as he drove his slant-six Plymouth Valiant  along Mass. Ave listening to his AM radio.   An obstetrician-gynecologist had been paid over $100,000 in insurance payments to give   psychotherapy to his patients and he had no psychotherapy training. 
"No, you don't need a valve job. You are losing all that oil because your valve ring seals are worn out."  the radio guy said to a caller. 
"Wow," he  thought "If only we could tell people what to do  like these guys do. They are managing cars without actually seeing them.  "I know!  We'll do   "Managed Care".  Insurance companies telling people what to do to their bodies.”
"You might want to get rid of the Pinto ...", the radio guy said.  
Then he thought, "Who in their right mind  would ruin their car by actually doing what these radio guys Click and Clack say?  But it’ll be easy to get everyone to do what  we say. People let their bodies fall apart everyday.“

Seeing Things As They Are

From Susan J. Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 04:53

David Brooks excels when his vast analytic abilities are brought to his fondness for Republicans. In the New York Times, he ventured into an area he has not devoted a lifetime of thought to: specifically, writing about "The Limits of Empathy" and its failure to create acts of human kindness.

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Seeing Things As They Are
-Susan Cook-
David Brooks excels when his  vast  analytic abilities are brought to his fondness for Republicans. In the New York Times, he  ventured into an area he has not devoted a lifetime of thought to: specifically, writing about "The Limits of Empathy" and its failure to create acts of human kindness. 
Psychologically, Empathy never acts alone - we live in groups. Groups do many things to individuals who hold independent observations - shame, mock, publicly or privately humiliate or these days use the Internet to "defame", all the while bringing a sense of permission  to ignore the  question of what is true.  
Before the Milgram studies of subjects shocking others just because "an authority" said to, psychologist Solomon Asch created leaderless groups with no previously established "consensus". He studied the power of groups to make individuals abandon independence and fall into tacit agreement with the group's  opinion. 
In groups of nine, varied up or down in size , person after person abandoned their accurate assessment about the equal length of  2 lines when the rest of the group (stacked with the experimenter's confederates)  disagreed with the individual. 
When empathy fails, Mr. Brooks  says, people are following the Social Code,  which he also drops into the domain of  Morality.  I think morality is about nothing if not moving toward and seeking truth in one's thoughts.   The Harvard psychologist Ellen Langer  (preceded by centuries of Buddhists) calls this quality of thinking, and the resistance it brings to following any group's Code,  Mindfulness. Buddhists call it "seeing things as they are".  
Mr. Brooks remembers the Germans who wept as they slayed their victims as more evidence that empathy is no fireproof influence on kindness. During the Third Reich, those who disagreed, who told what truth they could gather, were shunned and excluded, not in a vast crowd, but  in close quarters, by individuals they believed were allies. The Nazis mastered climbing the hierarchy of power. They also  infiltrated local networks and media, undermining trust in the social fabric. Shaming for speaking out was  not  a distant threat but rather a local one,  perpetrated locally at the beckoning of a nearby confederate of some distant political caucus. In Treasures from the Attic, the memoir about Anne Frank's surviving relatives, one is stunned to read that the members of her close family not only did nothing, but stopped trying to find out what was true - this how successful the Nazis in silencing both the truth and any hint that there was a truth to be told. There was not only a failure of empathy but a paralysis of mindfulness about the whereabouts of  this family that had  disappeared.  
Shaming for not following the Code fails when the individual refuses  to accept it-  which may or may not feel "delicious"- or be seen as "good".  Empathy is strained when resistance to a group's Code is stripped away by the close-at-hand burden of public humiliation-  carried out equally well in small close groups- like those of Solomon Asch- and the large screaming rallies of the Nazis. This does not mean that the affirmation of humanity that we hope empathy offers is lost. Seeing things as they are and seeking the truth while not necessarily delicious may affirm humanity in  ways that Ellen Langer and Tibetan Buddhists agree upon. Tibetan Buddhists believe that losing compassion for their Chinese jailers would be the greatest failure.  Mindfulness has everything to do with whether one is aware of what is happening in one’s surroundings and then either calls its bluff or falls victim or victimizes within it. Mindfulness of what is happening can be both delicious and nasty. But seeing things as they are is like that. 

Is My One Marshmallow Better Quality Than Your Two: You-Know-Who Era Lessons for GEN X, Y and Z

From Susan J. Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 02:57

Delayed gratification has changed. Social science experiments often mirror cultural values and our best learners absorb them well. They do what the advisor recommends. The children in the Marshmallow study are told to wait before they eat one marshmallow, and they will then earn two. Those marshmallow waiters sit and think, “Oh but the next one will be worth it. “ In the study, those kids who waited went to college, took out student loans, on good faith that they would be able to get jobs with health insurance when they finished. Occupy Wall Street told us that is the wrong lesson. We do not teach kids to ask- “How many marshmallows are there? Why 2? Is anybody getting 3? Show me the whole bag.” These are the questions of our time. Not- “Can you wait for the second marshmallow?”

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Is My One Marshmallow Better Quality Than Your  Two: A Citizens’ Guide  to "Occupy Wall Street"

I was at a meditation workshop when the teacher  mentioned the marshmallow  experiment reported on NPR as a reason why these new meditators should stick out the day focusing on the breath, in order to learn to meditate. The children in the reported study who could wait until the experimenter came back before eating  one marshmallow sitting in front of them would get two, while those who wolfed down the first one wouldn't get anymore. 
Sounds like the myth that if you put $5 in a savings bank when you're 20, it will grow to be $50,000 by the time you retire, compounded interest. Not any more. There are bank “inactivity fees” and by the way- almost no interest in bank savings accounts: all because the financial system says “No, we’re going to get that money away from you one way or the other and pay ourselves with it. ”


Delayed gratification has changed.  Social science experiments often mirror cultural values and our best learners absorb them well. They do what the advisor recommends and wait for the marshmallow.  Those marshmallow waiters sit and think,  “Oh but the next one will be worth it. “ In the study, those  kids who waited  went to college, took out student loans, on good faith that they would be able to get jobs with health insurance when they finished.   Occupy Wall Street says that is the wrong lesson. 
We do not teach kids to ask- “How many marshmallows are there? Why 2? Is anybody getting 3? Show me the whole bag.”  These are the questions of our time. Not- “Can you wait for the second marshmallow?”  


Of course we can wait. It is in the human genome. Manjushree, one of several incarnate Buddhas, it is said, took one breath his whole life. Of course,  we can savor one marshmallow.  But asking where the whole bag of marshmallows is and what a fair share is?   We only ask those questions when those  who took the whole bag and make us wait for two destroy the financial system. For most of us, getting the whole bag is not based on merit  or delaying gratification.  It is based on believing there is nothing wrong with taking the whole bag, or with health insurance companies paying  CEOs multi-million dollar salaries while the entire country ‘s economy goes under because health insurance premiums are unaffordable.  Our children need to be taught to ask where the rest of the marshmallows are and claim the moral  statement: “It is unethical for Wall Street to thrive at our expense.“ And then do something like occupy Wall Street. 

Emotionally Shallow Waters: Drowning In Two Inches of Water

From Susan J. Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 02:31

We wade into emotionally shallow waters when we look at the media's recent coverage of the important consequences of the Penn State revelation that sexual assaults of children by their sports administrators were visually observed. And nothing done to prevent future incidents by the perpetrator (or any others) or treat the damage to the children.

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Emotionally Shallow Waters: Drowning in Two Inches of Water
-Susan Cook-
We wade into emotionally shallow waters when we look at the media's recent coverage  of the "important consequences" of the Penn State revelation that sexual assaults of children by their sports administrators were visually observed. And nothing  done to prevent future incidents by the perpetrator (or any others) or treat the damage to the children. 
Let's start with  David Brooks' New York Times commentary "Let's Feel Superior", calling us out on our tendency for self-importance . He  glibly cites study-after-study of  urban residents ignoring  those who need help.  Because they're afraid the guy will turn on them? Because they thought someone was making a movie?  Who knows. Self-importance has many justifications.
It could be you or me, Mr. Brooks says. So, let's take a hard look at the  Self-Importance now floating to the top- ours- as we judge the many authorities  at Penn State who by the way didn't need weapons to protect themselves- just  human decency and a telephone to recognize atrocity when it hit them in the eye. Atrocity , according to Mr. Brooks, depends on which rung of the moral hierarchical ladder you happen to be standing on when it happens: the higher the rung, the more self-importance that goes with it, hence the downward glance now on those who did not report these incidents. Sounds like the same justification the Big Men at Penn State might use to explain  their own failure to report these atrocities. 
Mine is still here. It is the emotional shallowness of the water in which Penn State administrators stand that keeps them and all those who just keep on playing football oblivious to the  ravages and psychological damage of sexual abuse. Atrocity is always in the eye of the beholder and it is my eye- or yours or yours or yours - no matter how low or high your  rung on the moral ladder-  and that’s what keeps us and will always help us see how children can drown in just two inches of water. 

The Abuse of Power Department

From Susan J. Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 03:12

A new collection of observations from E.B. White, the Brooklin, Maine writer, has been culled by his granddaughter, Martha White. He was once described as a man who never "wrote a mean or careless sentence". That distinction falls to few in good times; during the Iraq War, more fell out of contention. Many saw the invasion of Iraq, as premised on a falsehood: that Weapons of Mass Destruction were hidden there, an evening of a political score tallied by one President, settled in the wrong country.
The enormous human suffering and sacrifice of Iraq will leave many granddaughters whose grandparents will never be known to them...

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The Abuse of Power  Department
-Susan Cook-
The departure of the last American troops from Iraq, thus ends  the Iraq War. 
Coincident  with this event, a new collection of  observations  from E.B. White, the Brooklin writer,  has been culled by his granddaughter, Martha White. He  was once described as a man who  never "wrote a mean or careless sentence".  That distinction falls to few in good times;  during the Iraq War, more fell out of contention. Many saw the invasion of Iraq, as premised on a falsehood:  that Weapons of Mass Destruction were hidden there,  an  evening of a political score tallied by one President,  settled in the wrong country. 
The enormous human suffering and sacrifice of Iraq will leave many granddaughters whose  grandparents will never be known to them. 
E.B. White regularly wrote  The  New Yorker  Newsbreak Department Heads,  in which itemized   life and world events  were placed in  "Departments".   For many, the Iraq War will always belong to  The Abuse of Power Department."
Abuse of power is certainly not limited to multi-billion dollar wars.  Anybody in a position to secretly or more flagrantly  hold someone else hostage to a belief, a misdeed or a perverse sense of entitlement  to  physically, sexually or emotionally exploit can take part. Mistruth and, yes, mean, careless sentences in the service of marshalling  the court of public opinion to one side or the other, falls into this department. People are always more interested in what is true but the truth we all know  is easily held hostage and abused by those in power.  The truth-teller can be four or forty. The hostage taker Saddam Hussein, a liar trying not to be found out or a local  newspaper. 
The Abuse of Power Department is one that our Constitution and Bill of Rights intend to close down. Those documents hinge on the belief that no one person or group can  abuse the rights of others or persecute them for acting on them, no matter how the thick the closed door to the conference room,  no matter how variegated the veins of the special interests leading to the real reason  an agenda is pushed so vigorously. The  documents say nothing about requiring big consequences before  we are awarded their protection. 
We don't  need to wait for the end of a war to see  or miss  daily opportunities to close down the Abuse of Power Department. White didn't like to leave Maine, once he got here. We don't need to travel all the way around the world before we pull out our pocket version of the Bill of Rights - a department closer if there ever was one- the maker of irrelevance and obsolecence and the best guide for speaking and acting, followed closely by one favored by White,  "A Basic Chicken Guide for the Small Flock Owner."

A Sense of Belonging and Health: The Limits of Logic in Creating Well-being

From Susan J. Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 06:45

As the Supreme Court Justices listen to lawyers try to find the legal logic in requiring people to buy health insurance, let us remember that people do not always use logic in making sense of the world. Thinking that logic will bring people to buy health insurance without a law is, well, not logical.

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A Sense of Belonging and Health: The Limits of Logic in Creating Well-being 
-Susan Cook-
You don’t need to be a Supreme Court justice to know that sometimes lawyers say  stupid things. I am grateful for the Supreme Court justice who introduced the word stupid  into the current debate about the Affordable Care Act. He said that young people are not stupid and will buy insurance when they need it which is why they do not need a law requiring them to buy health insurance- along with everyone else.  By using the word stupid, he stumbles on the Limiting Principle that makes buying health insurance different than buying broccoli and why the Affordable Health Care Act requirement that everyone have health insurance is acceptable. Young people- may not be stupid- but they frequently do not use logic. 
Legal stupidity is defined as lawyers applying logical reasoning to situations where it doesn’t work.  And when is that? First,  we have to look at the limits of logical thinking (also known as legal reasoning)  explaining what human beings will do- who - by the way- are  like the Mariana Trench-  not well understood. 
A French psychologist, Gisella Labouvie-Vief- has written at length about the limits of logic applied to real life.  She calls this Post-formal operational thinking.  Formal operational thinking is the kind of reasoning lawyers  try to do: where they use logic and the legal precedents that have piled up out of it to make decisions. Dr. Labouvie-Vief  says that there are many situations  in which human beings throw their ability to reason out the window.  
Here is an example of when people throw logic away:
1)Bob is an alcoholic.
2)His wife told him: If you get drunk one more time, I am leaving you.
3)Bob goes to a party and gets drunk. Does Bob's wife leave him?
It is in their early 20’s that  young people begin to abandon their proudly acquired ability to use logic to prove flaws in arguments. When presented with this example of the application of logical thinking, Dr. Labouvie-Vief found they say that Bob's wife would not leave him.
Logic does not explain what Bob's wife do. For some Mariana Trench reason, Bob not leaving is more important to her than logical reasoning.
Another explorer of the depths of logic was the great Swiss genetic epistemologist Jean Piaget. Piaget studied the development of children's ability to use ideas to make sense of the world, also known as logic.  In one of his studies, Piaget attempted to trace logical thinking applied to children's understanding of the meaning of family. 
When Piaget asked very young children for the meaning of family, he said- they did not give definitions that are independent of time and place. This means , he said, that very young children give meanings of family as the people they are with  at the moment- not people they are connected to beyond the moment. And - I am not making this up- that it is not until late childhood that children can see how 2 ideas at the same time effect each other and thus give a meaning of family that is "independent of time and place."
This is an example of the Limiting Principle of applying logic to human experience. Any lawyer  who has observed a three year old in utter distress because the father has left them at day-care knows  that three year old’s have a meaning of family as existing  beyond time and place.  Family does  not become the people they are with in the moment, which is why the child wails against Dad leaving and at the end of the day- anticipates his return. 
In my Harvard dissertation, like Piaget, I explored how children use logic to understand the world . In 4 different studies- one of which was  longitudinal. I asked children between the ages of 6 and 18, a group of which I studied until they were in their early 20's, that  prime time for application of logic - according to the Supreme  Court Justice:  "Does a family ever stop being a family?" “When you’re in your fifties, will you still be a family?“ 
Guess what ? Exit logic when applied to real life .  When I re-interviewed children that I first talked to when then were 7 in their early 20's, they tenaciously hung onto the meaning of family that they graciously struggled to articulate at age 7 or  8. Even if their families had broken into a million barely recognizable tiny creatures, they told me- without knowing what they had said at age 7 or 8, that families do not stop being families, no matter what.
This is the Limiting Principle where logic applied to human experience falls into a deep Mariana Trench, where logic does not explain action. It is also where lawyers start say stupid things about what they "think"  young people will do when when buying health insurance: their logic does not explain what people will do.  The application of logic to real life where lawyers can hold their own is this one:
1) Bob does not have health insurance.
2) It is illegal in the United States to not carry health insurance.
3) Bob will face legal sanctions  for not having health insurance.
Will Bob buy health insurance?
Yes. That's not stupid. That is logic. That’s why the Affordable Health Care requirement that people buy insurance is not stupid.
Cook, Susan. "A Sense of Belonging, A Sense of Place: The Child in The Family and the Perspective Taken", Unpublished Doctoral Dissertation, Harvard University, 1986.
Cook, Susan (June 3, 1993). Children's Recognition of Context in FamilyRelationship. Presented at the Annual Meeting of the Jean Piaget Society. Philadephia, Pa.

If Power Is An Aphrodisiac Than Unethical Staff Are Surgeons

From Susan J. Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 02:30

Deception is something we need to claim as what we do not like in politics and political life. This is not claiming the moral high ground. This is seeking to return politics and politicians to a respectable level of credibility with the public. But their staff members have to be equally accountable.

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We may never know why John Edwards got into a compromising (or rather compromised, re-negotiated, compromised again and finally blackmailed) circumstance with Rielle Hunter.  His  staff's deception in personal , professional and public relationships,  however, zoom us to another level in viewing the journey of that substance called power through the human body. 
This is not a power pill that works its way out in sweat and perspiration when  staff man Andrew Young swallows it. This is a power pill that causes genetic and believe it or not historical mutations. Was it really just Andrew  Young  not wanting to lose his  job by not pleasing the boss or rather not pleasing the boss enough? Letting go of the vision of Himself- capital H- standing in the White House being important? 
Whatever happened to that other White House luminary who said  "I cannot tell a lie" whose food must have had a really tough journey through his body because he only had wooden teeth to chew it.  I'm talking about George Washington. 
Deception is deception is deception.  It is very, very sad. Telling people things that are not true is deception. Putting your name over things you have not written, done or stayed in a hotel with, is deception. Claiming  you did, wrote or fathered  what you have not is deception. 
It is not just deception when you get found out or it is recognized as Internet plagiarism. It is deception when you do it.  It says then, what it says after you are found out: that you really do not value people for their own sake, that you really think they are just something you swallow and suck nutrients from and then just let go, you know where. 
People are not just players in a lie, however elaborate. They are not a means to an end. They are the end. Deception is something we need to claim as what  we do not like in political life. This is not  claiming the moral high ground. This is taking our vitamins,  believing they work and hoping they do. 

Credibility in Business Casual: Sexism Wears a New Outfit

From Susan J. Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 04:46

The Republican attack on women, a not- so thinly veiled attack on credibility, the females, that is, is not new. Women, you may remember, require more “proof” that they are telling the truth than men do. Women’s credibility remains the non-credentialed, not appropriately dressed, inarticulate sweetspot where, when hit just right, sexism implants its tendrils and goes viral, its derision entitled, origin unknown, because we are talking about women.

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Much is heard about the "new" Republican attack on women,  a  not so thinly veiled attack on credibility, the females’, that is. Women, you may remember require more “proof” that they are telling the truth than men do. Women’s credibility remains the non-credentialed, not appropriately dressed, inarticulate sweetspot where, when hit just right, sexism implants its tendrils and goes viral, its derision entitled, origin unknown, because we are talking abut women.

Many women don’t realize that today’s war on women’s credibility is like that faced by Anita Hill during the Clarence Thomas hearing either because they now have credentials that they hope protect their credibility or they were not old enough or not allowed to watch that spectacle as it unfolded on national television in the early 1990’s. During the hearings to admit Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court, Anita Hill, an African-American attorney was subpoenaed to testify about the sexual harassment she endured at his hands at his previous job.

I still have my “I Believe Anita Hill” button. Many women don’t. Many men never got one in the first place. The smug confidence that Clarence Thomas evinced during those hearings has metastasized into complete silence, as he now sits on the Court.  He perhaps  now believes he doesn’t have to say anything  to have credibility as he has not said or asked any questions during the oral arguments for something like 6 years.  

Some believe that blatantly different standards for male and female credibility have gone away. We need go no further than the recent trial of John Edwards for federal campaign law violations for “proof” that sexism’s new  business casual dress does not mean standards have changed. 

Criminal law trials are about credibility. The “designer” proof presented by John Edwards that he was telling the truth was this: A video of his nationally-televised appearance lauded as his moment of truth-telling, the “tell-all” in which he stated that he had a brief affair with Rielle Hunter but it had ended and his unethical staffer had fathered her child.

 This “truth telling” explique was presented  to the jury as evidence that the man before them was really not telling the truth then, even though he said he was before a national television audience, but he was telling the truth now. This, strategized his defense team, was, yes, a wardrobe failure in credibility that would now be restored with that ever-trustworthy safety pin- the fact that John Edwards is a man. They knew that would hold up better than the fact that Edwards is a lawyer. One word captures how a woman engaging in such tactics would be characterized: Flighty!

The Credibility dress standard  is not the same for men and women.  Credibility remains an icon of sexism that presumes that women have to meet different standards of proof than men do.  There are cultural and social questions that we all must ask about the different standards for “proof” that apply to men and women, that are as unfair and unequal now as they were when Anita Hill was subpoenaed to testify about  Clarence Thomas. 

When we ask for proof from men and women, do we ask each of them, equally, no matter what the context, no matter who has been  privileged with the presumptive “truth-teller” status?  When the ” court of public opinion” is courted, really deep down, don't you think you can overlook what she says is true? That what everybody else thinks is better proof?  That any  other truth that she might offer is really just her reaching for a safety pin- when really- there isn’t one big enough to fill the gap?

 

Casting A Blind Eye, Silencing Unspoken Words

From Susan J. Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 04:17

The peculiar thing about the News is that very often events of senseless tragedy and despair are juxtaposed with News of hope and compassion. Sometimes, the two kinds of News are on the very same page in the newspaper.

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Casting A Blind Eye, Silencing  Unspoken Words
-Susan Cook-
The peculiar thing about the News is that very often events of senseless tragedy and despair are juxtaposed with  News of hope and compassion. Sometimes, the two kinds of News are on the very same page in the newspaper. 
The News this week reports the tragic consequence of the psychotic delusion, or  undiagnosed schizophrenia or psychopathy or profound depression with psychotic thoughts of the young man who ordered thousands of bullets, stockpiled guns and assault weapons for the Aurora shootings. In his many wanderings, in his Neuroscience classes, in his large Internet purchases, someone must have cast a blind eye to what was right before them- a mentally ill individual falling into the throws of psychosis, actively delusional, over the course of months not days, participating in the intensity of a graduate program where scrutiny by others is part and parcel of the curriculum. Once you see it, it's not that hard to miss. Somebody must have cast a blind eye. 
It is easy to do, casting a blind eye. Seeing things as they are does not come easily to us. Shallow consideration of what's  before us is very common.  Shallowness in belief: if you don't believe in God, there isn't one.  Shallowness in action: if you don't think sexual abuse is a traumatic injury that requires treatment, it isn't. Mental health professionals miss it: people whose job, first and foremost, is to recognize when homicidal or suicidal ideation emerges, when ideation turns to intent, intent to plan, plan to action.  Seeing things as they are is very hard to do, enduring human tragedy sometimes follows in its wake. 
And then there is the News of blind eyes opened, of words finally spoken. The News came that the powerful icon of collegiate manhood, the N.C.A.A. leveled major sanctions against Penn State for the consequences of the actions of the many, not the few, who silenced unspoken words about the sexual assaults of coach Jerry Sandusky. They will still keep playing football, but they will play knowing that the abuse of power that sexual abuse acted out and ignored by others is just that: abuse. 
And the News came that Monsignor William J. Lynn of Philadelphia will serve time in prison for  repeatedly casting a blind eye to the known sexual predators among the Priests he assigned to parishes- never speaking the words he well knew, that some of them were a danger to children. 
Shallowness is not uncommon when we only call upon our own experience or our own self-serving priorities to inform our actions. It leads to blind eyes cast; the silencing of unspoken words and not seeing things as they are. All of which can lead to the abuse of a power that no one dares to question.
But the News in its daily humdrum drone of spewing forth what's actually happening brings a peculiar hope. Sometimes people acknowledge that casting the blind eye, being silent by not speaking words that are very well known, is wrong. Reality it turns out, even it's just read about in the Newspaper, can lead us to see things as they are.

Not A New Question, Still Privately Answered

From Susan J. Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 04:06

It is the question all of them ask over and over, the one that Rep. Todd Aken brought up. Was it a legitimate rape? It's not just the question adult rape victims ask. It is the question every sexual assault victim asks: the seven year old, the ten year old, the fourteen year old. There is nothing new about the question or about the answer victims privately provide. "Was this a legitimate rape?"

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                                Not a New Question; Still Privately  Answered
It is the question all of them ask over and over, the one that Rep. Todd Aken brought up.   Was it a legitimate rape? It's not just the question adult rape victims ask.  It is the question every sexual assault victim asks: the seven year old, the ten year old, the fourteen year old.  There is nothing new about the question or about the answer victims privately provide.  "Was this a legitimate rape?   Couldn't I have done something to stop it?"  The seven year old who says: "I don't  know why I didn't tell my grandfather to stop" has  answered that question,  The ten year old who  says, "I wanted him to stop but I didn't tell  him because I was afraid." The fourteen year old who says "If I couldn't stop him, that means it was just sex, right?"
Sexual assault victims answer the question that they seldom ask out loud, privately, silently. "It is my fault. I didn't tell him to stop. It is my fault."  Self loathing, the assault on one's self begins. " So I was not really raped. It was not legitimate rape". These victims: their sexuality, their development, their freedom to live without self-loathing and fear are imprisoned by the answer they privately provide. " I was not really raped." Or in Rep. Aken’s words, “It was not legitimate rape.”
The victim’s private answer to this question scaffolds the prison that sexual assault victims live in; a consequence of sexual assault  that outlives any other brick and mortar building  a man or woman could build.  Rep. Todd Aken’s  statement that  there is such a thing as "not really" rape, that the extremely disturbing consequence of an unwanted pregnancy is a consequence of a failure of the body‘s "will" by the female amplifies the self-loathing of sexual assault victims. It violently  invades their private experience,   Rep. Aken answering for them a deeply painful private despair. “It wasn’t really rape.“ The seizure of what is private that the Bill of Rights protects against lost at the hands of a political candidate who reveals that nothing within the human body, nothing within human experience is off limits to Rep. Aken's grope, at least if you are a woman.  Every aspect of human beings can be the target of a glib intrusion for someone's political advantage. The privacy of our experience and our ownership of it gone in a moment's notice. There are those of us who really are of no use to anyone, or only of use because someone else can use us for their own  purpose. Every holocaust in history has been premised on that view; every war justified by it.  It is what rape means.  Since I haven't heard anyone else say it, I'm going to say it. Beneath Rep.  Aken’s  violent invasion of private experience is the  belief that people are a means to an end: different ends on different days; different  takes for different political agendas. That is  why his remark   offends everyone;  where humanity  stands  or falls. No one  is ever of no use to anyone. People are not a means to an end. That’s  pro-life.  

A Citizen's Guide to the Difference Between Before and After

From Susan J. Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 04:34

Party structure has always provided the legs for a candidate to stand on- supporting and staying in touch with a candidate's focus: the voters. Participation in that party structure has always been absolutely free- participation the only "dues" anyone pays. There are no oaths of loyalty. Voting by poll result, not grasping the difference between before and after and the reality that some people change their vote based on what a poll says, endangers fully this free enterprise- a party system. Without a standing party structure, that exists before, after and even without the highs and lows of the election season, candidates- so-called- "independents"- will re-invent that structure every time- or rather "buy" it. Electing candidates will become a matter of capturing- guess what- the most money- not the most voter credibility and trust.

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During the last two statewide elections, in my state,  polls taken ahead of time  probably suppressed voter turnout. This isn't because the polls predicted the future.  When the television networks predicted winners nationwide, before the polls closed in the Pacific Time zone, it finally dawned on someone that those announcements  probably suppressed voter turnout and therefore influenced  elections. Here in my state, polls published two days before the election, probably functioned in much the same way: suppressing voter turnout and therefore influencing elections.  More than one person told me that they were going to vote  for the candidate with the highest polling numbers and the least offensive policies, to avoid electing, in a 3 way race, the candidate they didn't like.  If that isn't trusting polls, the validity of which were entirely unquestioned, I do not know what would be, certainly effecting  candidate tallies. At the very least, since these commenters  were all men, it suggests a profound lack of understanding of the difference between "before" and "after",  a complaint women have always made about men.
In the age of instant message creation, the question is what do we do to keep our vote choice our own and not pawned off to pollsters whose credentials are unknown, whose credibility is accepted  as casually as we pick up  bumpers stickers.   If pollsters and  their results remain as unregulated as they are,  anyone can  buy and use polls to change an election's turnout.  Historically, the party structure has  always provided the legs for a candidate to stand on- supporting and staying in touch with a candidate's focus: the  voters.  Participation in that party structure has always been - by the way- absolutely free- participation  the only "dues" anyone pays.  There are no oaths of loyalty. Voting by poll result, not grasping the difference between before and after and the reality that some people abandon party  and change their vote based on what a poll says,  endangers fully this free enterprise- a party system. Without a standing party structure, that exists before, after and even without the highs and lows of the election season,  candidates- so-called- "independents"- will re-invent that structure every time- or rather "buy" it.  Electing candidates will become a matter of capturing- guess what- the most money- not the most voter credibility and trust.
In my state, the candidate who benefited most from these polls created  by individuals whose credentials  are totally unknown-  without any known  professional standard to which they are held,  was  also the wealthiest candidate and the one who received the largest amount of money to buy the structure.  The candidate - who benefited all along from these polls whose creators no one investigated-  said after his conquest:
"There's a general realization that if we're going to solve the public's problems, we've got to get over this idea of 'party'". 
To many, many people, “party” has never been an idea. “Party”  is activity. It is going to meetings that build coalitions, that make rules to govern how we treat each other, to stay in touch with voters, to embrace the principles we are loyal to,  not two days or two months before an election- but during, before and after. That reality of “party”- that is free and exists  before, during and after-  is something we should never give away for free to no-credentialed pollsters,  the agenda-holding wealthy  who wake up one morning and say “I think I’ll  run for office” or anyone who thinks elected office is for sale.

A Citizen's Guide: How To Gut A Fish

From Susan J. Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 03:12

When people say things like the quote published in the newspaper the other day, they don't seem to realize what's at stake. So, this Citizen's Guide on how to gut a fish might help people realize what is involved in gutting a fish. Oh, the quote in the newspaper was this:
"There's a general realization that if we're going to solve the public's problems, we've got to get over this idea of party."

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There are now and have always been and will be forevermore, fish. The last part we don't know for sure. Fish are not as stalwart, as impenetrable,  as one might think. To witness what happens after a fish is caught teaches you that.  The learning curve for how to gut a fish  shallow. 

This is how you gut a fish. 
First, you find the tiny, dusty-rose colored, nickel-sized pulsing heart, located somewhere between the dorsal fins and the spine. It is the heart that, even though it is nickel-sized- holds the belief that people are basically good and worthy of being heard.  Pull out the spoon section of your Swiss army knife that the bank gave you when you opened your account there in Switzerland and lift it out. Put it in the freezer- you might be able to sell it later.

Next, you grab the fish by the fins,  the dorsal fins. It is these fins that move the fish from left to right. They have- since the beginning of political advertising on television- allowed the fish to get away ( among flying fish, to fly) and not hear the constant hostility and negativity.  Away, they can make up their own minds, based on support for the issues. Rip out the dorsal fins and the fish’s sway  from left to right or right to left is entirely dependent on the prodding of polls: poking, jabbing in a taunting, merciless way. Remember, you have already removed the heart.
There are a few ancillary organs inside, now, of no use without a heart or fins to flee: the intestines, the tiny lower digestive tract, which we won't get into. The only hope left, this far along in the gutting, is the spine. Gutted properly, as only the relentless do,  all the bones will be ripped out when the spine is pulled, the fortitude of the fish gone. 
Without the spine, all that's left, really, is a mound of flesh, scales no longer  serving any protective purpose. What was once a fine, self-determining, self-respecting fish, now  looks like  a pile of melted  silver, spineless, no heart, no fins to flee the intrusive polls.
You take what you have gutted, wrap it in newspaper. which, as you glance down, may say, as my newspaper did:
"There's a general realization that if we're going to solve the public's problems, we've got to get over this idea of party."

Here, There and Everywhere: Locally Upholding Human Rights

From Susan J. Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 03:28

In this season of gratitude, speak. Uphold civil liberties, the human rights that we have, that others will travel thousands of miles for, and when you see them violated, no matter what the justification others may offer, speak up. Here, there and everywhere.

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Here, There and Everywhere: Locally Upholding Human Rights

"Civil Liberties is a product delivered locally", page 49 of my American Civil Liberties Union copy of the Constitution of the United States. These are our human rights.

We do not need to travel far to find countries where winning an election holds priority over upholding Civil Liberties. The New York Times tells about a Russian political critic Leonid Razvozzhayev- of Russia’s Vladimir Putin. who last week traveled to Ukraine seeking political asylum, “somewhere in the West” for a lawyer to file on behalf of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. He was tracked, stalked, finally abducted and is now in jail. A political critic of Vladimir Putin- not a terrorist.

No one in this country- here, there and everywhere- should have to live in fear that they will be intimidated, derided when they exercise the right to free speech because of Amendment 1 which says "Congress shall make no law ...prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or the right of people to peacably assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

No one in this country- here, there and everywhere- should have to live in fear that they will be subject to surveillance, search or intrusive "background checks" because "the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects, against unreasonable searchs and seizures shall not be violated."

Held together in the mind at the same time, this means: no one anywhere in this country should live in fear that if they speak freely in a peacably assembled group, they will have their privacy invaded by tracking, intrusive background checks, be intimidated, have the freedom of the press of this country harnessed to publicly invite others to embarrass or deride them or cast the person or their human rights as throw-aways".

That goes for the people you disagree with, for people who like what a Governor says and does, for the people who don't like what he says and does, for his staff and the public who attend any of his events, here, there and everywhere, in this country. People enrolled in a particular party want their candidate to win. I say never at the expense of Civil Liberties and the Constitution.

In this season of gratitude, speak. Uphold civil liberties, the human rights that we have, that others will travel thousands of miles for, and when you see them violated, no matter what the "entitled" justification of others, speak up. Here, there and everywhere.

Where Mean Spiritedness Hides- A Citizen's Guide

From Susan J. Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 01:48

Spirits are invisible, never caught in the flesh, imaginary presence usually. Children think they hide under the bed, in dark places, the darkness a perfect place for mean spiritedness to hide. Unseen, mean spiritedness is accountable to no one.

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Where Mean Spiritedness Hides
-Susan Cook-
Spirits are invisible, never caught in the flesh, imaginary presence usually. Children think they hide under the bed, in dark places, the darkness a  perfect place for mean spiritedness to hide. Unseen, the mean spiritedness is accountable to no one.
Electronically, of course, there's spam and stolen passwords where the true writer of a message can lurk, saying mean things. Software can bring that mean spirit to light.
Then there are editorial pages, always anonymous, the Photoshop of accountability. Journalism ethics sometimes bring those mean spirits forth.
There are violent video game and violent television program producers. Nobody has really really ever able to get the mean spirit to come forth.
Then we listen to excuse after excuse from the Republican and Democratic Caucuses, about why they can't come to agreements. The mean spiritedness there hovers like monsters in the darkness, their paid staff feigning concern, as if they cannot see them.  
There are the gun sellers: the Wal-Mart gun procurers and all the gun stores who think the mean spiritedness will never come to light.
Until, some sunny morning, in the most unlikely place, it comes out of the darkness, all that mean spiritedness that everybody works hard to hide, comes out though the muzzle of a gun. And we wonder whether  there will ever be any light again and where that light will be found.  

Managed Car: Another 210 Seconds On How To Triple Car Insurance Premiums

From Susan J. Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 03:38

The last we checked on managed car , a disappointed car owner was unable to receive prior authorization from his Automobile Behavioral Health customer service representative for a front end alignment. Managed Car you may remember is the automobile insurance industry's version of managed care. Now, he would like to get the car's oil changed.

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The last we checked  on managed car , a disappointed car owner  was unable to receive prior authorization from his Automobile Behavioral Health customer service representative for a front end alignment. Managed Car you may remember is the automobile insurance industry's version of managed care. His automobile limped through the rest of the year, going "thump, thump, thump " until his new benefit year began almost a year later. He rushed right out and his In-network car mechanic completed the front-end alignment. Yes, his tires wore prematurely in the wrong places because he needed the alignment but it was finally done. Now, very nervous about getting repairs done without  calling the insurance car manager for authorization first, he dialed the Automobile Behavioral Health 800 number.

"Welcome to Automobile Behavioral Health. Please be advised this call may be recorded for quality assurance. Please press one if you are a member and two if you are a car mechanic. BING. Please enter your Car Mechanic provider ID or your Automobile Behavioral Health member ID. BING. For eligible repairs,  press one. For prior car authorization , press two. Please be advised that prior authorization of car service or repair does not  guarantee coverage. Please hold for our next managed car representative."
 
Twenty short minutes later, your managed car customer service representative answers.
"I'd like to get my car's oil changed. "
"Are you enrolled in our Car Wellness program?"
"No, I'd just like to get the oil changed."
"That will be an out-of-pocket expense and you will not be able to bill your insurance company to include it in your annual deductible. Have you contacted your car mechanic and is he one of our In-network car care mechanics?" 
"I did and he told me it would cost me $300. He told me I should call you and see if my managed car insurance policy covers oil changes."
"It would not be covered under your managed car insurance policy."
"Why not? My insurance premium went up. It should cover it. An oil change used to cost me 19.95 plus 7 dollars extra if I got synthetic oil. Why has the cost of an oil change gone up so much?"
"Would like to enroll in our Car Wellness Insurance program? You are currently in the Car Catastrophic Insurance program which only covers major accidents and windshield breakage. "
"I have always had  Car Catastrophic Insurance and I've always decided when I was going to get care for my car. Why would I want to pay  for a managed car insurance policy to cover oil changes?"
"You just told me your oil changes cost $300 now. Car care  costs have gone up and  gotten very very expensive. That's why we only we pay for certain  procedures  with car care  mechanics who are in our network of car mechanics.  And your car care  mechanic  can not provide this service without our authorization or he may be removed from our car mechanic  panel and we won't refer any more cars to him to fix."
"Listen, I'm not asking  you to pay for major surgery on the human body or anything on the human body. I just want to get the oil changed."
"Thank you again for calling Automobile Behavioral Health. Is there anything else I can help you with today?"
Click.

The Maine Sniff Test

From Susan J. Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 01:36

Let us pause and pine for those deeply scented pine-tree shaped air fresheners that hung from the rear view mirror, just small enough to avoid obstruction of the view but large enough to lend a rich aroma to the roomiest vehicle. One deep breath and you were transported to a clean, crisp, true Maine. They were a portable, pocket-sized IPOD of Maine goodness for all who speak, see or smell, the authentic Maine sniff test.

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Remember those deeply scented pine-tree shaped air fresheners that hung from the rear view mirror, just small enough to avoid obstruction of the view but large enough to lend a rich aroma to the roomiest vehicle?
One aromatic deep breath and you were transported to a clean, crisp, true Maine. They were a portable, pocket-sized IPOD of Maine goodness: a Maine Sniff Test. Where are they now, these reminders of the good outdoorsy odors of Maine? No olfactory camouflage of something that smells really foul as actually really fragrant- the opposite of what the thing really smells like.  No rapid switch- claiming that the backyard stench must be in- well- someone's else's backyard- not your own. Those little Pine Tree icons really smelled clean and good - to be hung from the rear-view mirror for all to see- not stuff under the car seat so no one would be misled as to where the smell was really coming from.
No, they were the Maine Sniff Test- a nice pine-knot above all the imported imitations that soon lost their fragrance because they were- really- poor imitators of clean Maine air. Let us pause and pine for those authentic Maine Sniff tests- the smell for the common, for all who speak, see or smell.  

Corrupting the Message: Remembering the Iraq War

From Susan J. Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 03:48

Corrupting the Message: Remembering the Iraq War

Ten years ago this week, the Iraq War began. Like every other atrocity in history, or let's limit it to the twentieth century, it began with a corrupted message. Many knew that after September 11, 2001, the weapons and muscle of war would be flexed. We were horrified when we heard that one man, Saddam Hussein, had put together something the mass media had not openly expressed fear of since the invention of the atom bomb, weapons of mass destruction. What muscle they flexed with that corrupted message or rather what atrocity committed. There were no weapons of mass destruction.
Ten years later, what we are left with is this: the names of the dead Americans and Iraqis.
This all brings back to the truth. We should treat it better than that.

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Corrupting the Message: Remembering the Iraq War
Ten years ago this week, the Iraq War began.  Like every other atrocity in history, or let's limit it to the twentieth century, it began with a corrupted message. Many knew that after September 11, 2001, the weapons and muscle of war would be flexed. We were horrified when we heard that one man, Saddam Hussein, had put together something the mass media had not openly expressed fear of since the invention of  the atom bomb, weapons of mass destruction.
What muscle they flexed with that corrupted message or rather what atrocity committed. There were no weapons of mass destruction.  Uncovering who corrupts the message is always difficult. History must first be moved off the remains of the truth. It is only now, for example, that the historians are uncovering accurate numbers of World War II concentration camps. Those willing to mislead the world about weapons are hoping that  now history will hide them too. 
Ten years later, what we are left with is this: the names of the dead  Americans and Iraqis.
Yesterday, on a bluster-laden, uncommonly cold day, I went, yet again, to a war dead remembrance, where the names of the dead are read.
No war, no atrocity was ever carried out by just one person, not "one" Saddam Hussein, not "one" Adolf Hitler, not "one" Pol Pot", not "one Joseph
 Stalin, not "one" George W. Bush. The message was the collective effort of the influential, their influence successfully peddled, this time to purchase words that inflamed, frightened, and polarized the fear and retaliatory tendency of at least some of the American people. The corrupted message was the fuse they carried. 
This all brings back to the truth. We should treat it better than that. Those who have successfully peddled  their influence give speaking the truth an arduous run because it is what they do best: silence it.  They can use their influence to silence those who are saying tings they do not want to be said. Maybe they are just trying to keep their jobs or get a better one. The truly silent, those who have died or been murdered in any atrocity, have no one to influence and no truth left to tell. Their names are the standard for a message that cannot be corrupted and why corrupting  the message is unethical.
I remember one lawmaker telling me, once the war had started that the reason we could not leave Iraq because if we did a civil war would break out, as if one had not already been there before we went.
The reading of the war dead was shorter than others I've attended. The list only included people from our state who had died. The list of the Iraqi dead was very short. Reliable, complete lists of the Iraqi dead are hard to come by. If we had read all the names of the Iraq war dead, we would be there still.

Where Have You Been My Blue-Eyed Son: The Problem With Term Limits

From Susan J. Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 03:46

Mandated term limits for Congressional members gets batted around now and then as a possible solution for gridlock which some say is driven by the entitlement of power- not money- a perennially electable Congress acquires. Ok, maybe money, too.

In my state, term limits for the State Legislature and Constitutional officers, elected by the Legislators, were passed by an independently funded referendum in the early 90's. Two Legislative staff had been convicted of climbing through a State House window to deposit completed ballots in voting boxes during a special election for Legislative seats to keep their party in power. They were convicted and served jail terms. If power corrupts, absolute power will do whatever it has to, to stay where it is.
A major argument against term limits is that those who become the most influential in the law-making process are Legislative employees and paid officials and lobbyists.
So, how's it going?

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Mandated term limits for Congressional members  gets batted around now and then as a possible solution for gridlock which some say is driven by the entitlement of power- not money- a perennially electable Congress acquires. Ok, maybe money, too.
In my state, term limits for the State Legislature and Constitutional officers, elected by the Legislators, were passed by an independently funded referendum in the early 90's. Two Legislative  staff had been  convicted of  climbing through a State House window to deposit completed ballots in voting boxes during a special election for Legislative seats to keep their party in power.  They were convicted and served jail terms.  If power corrupts, absolute power will do whatever it has to, to stay where it is. 
A major argument against term limits is  that those who become the most influential in the law-making process are Legislative employees and paid officials and lobbyists.
So, how's it going? The current legislature has had a preponderance  of legislative efforts focused on  raising the salaries of those self-same legislative employees and officials, sprinkled with other legislators  dutifully falling in line  to support them.  It's not Gridlock, yet.  It's the parts you buy at the automotive store to install Gridlock. You scratch my back, I'll scratch your back and eventually, hey, you will be scratching my back again, whether you want to or think it's ethical or respectful or democratic or not. 
The session began with the newly- re-appointed officials and re-elected Constitutional Officers  (their party back in power)  who had been out-of-office for 2 years attempting to over-ride their now entry-level salaries by rolling them back to their $10,000 plus level of two years ago. Their  spokesperson announced "The Republicans did the same thing".
And now a  blurring of the constitutional distinction between the Judicial Branch and the Executive Branch. The Attorney General enlisted a legislator to amend a bill to allow the Attorney General to take over an Executive Branch function: setting  Assistant Attorney Generals' salaries.  You tell me- who will be scratching whose back, if not now, later?
If  salary-hyping seems self-serving, a  lack of respect of constituents is also present. 
A  Committee Co-chair mocked  a constituent by saying he was not a physicist but he didn't think Martians are going to invading Earth soon, this  in response to the constituent saying he was just a  Maine Guide offering what he saw from his point of view. Another  Committee Co-chair  refused to give the Governor of the State an opportunity to speak when he came to a Legislative hearing.
What will  remind legislators of how they got there and where they've been? And where have you been my blue-eyed son? 

A Citizen's Guide to Updating Your Truth

From Susan J. Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 04:07

"Updating your truth" is a term not much used these days. We read that somebody "denied", "vetoed", "denounced", "maintained", "refused to consider", "filibustered", "opposed", "fended off", or "attacked". But we never hear that someone has "upgraded their truth".

"Updating the truth" might lead us all to be in better service to the truth, less frightened of the real information that presents itself and says "Give this some real consideration". We know that currently, people often don't seriously consider new information because there is no safe way for them to change their mind. In psychotherapy, its called "resistance". In developmental psychology, "updating your truth" is what children and adolescents do, profoundly, albeit with subtlety, when they reach 2, 5, 8, 10, 13, 18,- whenever a great developmental epoch begins or ends. Isn't "updating your truth" what human experience is anyway?

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"Updating your truth" is a term not much used these days. We read that somebody "denied", "vetoed", "denounced", "maintained", "refused to consider", "filibustered", "opposed", "fended off", or "attacked". But we  never hear that someone has "upgraded their truth".
Each of the political parties present their positions  as "the truth", or near enough. Each and every one of us is often drawn in to the mire with them that "the truth" of these positions is incorrigible and irreversible and what the voters should vote for as "the truth".
A minister used the term "updating  your truth", to describe the times in her life when she did. How about that everyone - in either political party and those who would not go near a "political party" because they don't like their "truth" mongering -  is openly invited to "update their truth" as needed?
Of course, we know that even the idea of "updating the truth" these days implies that the person was lying or a weakling or indecisive and a sheep or a flip-flopper. 
How about that we all claim "updating the truth" as perfectly acceptable? Changing circumstances,  reality and what works in the world require that- the truth be updated. It usually isn't seized as  "failing", rather, it's seen as  adult wisdom.
The most frightening example of a truth sorely in need of updating is global warming. For those who have staunchly held to "their truth" that tornadoes, forty degree temperature shifts, hurricanes in places they never used to be,  are just part of a natural cycle, not a fore warning of the end of habitable earth, or much of what grows here,  how about encouraging them to update their truth? And maybe we could all make that  more palatable by not  bringing  down a whole raft of accusations when they do: flip-flopping, spinelessness, and generally threatening to amputate their credibility.
"Updating the truth" might lead us all to be in better service to the truth, less frightened of the real information  that presents itself and says "Give this some real consideration". We know that currently, people often don't seriously consider new information because there is no safe way for them to change their mind.  In psychotherapy, it's calls resistance. In developmental psychology, "updating your truth" is what children and adolescents do, profoundly, albeit with subtlety, when they  reach 2, 5, 8, 10, 13, 18,- whenever a great developmental epoch begins or ends.  Isn't "updating your truth" what human experience is anyway? It starts out very personally. 
"Updating your truth" about God, Privacy and the Constitution, the Patriots' Act,  marriage, nutrition, broccoli, war,  any part of the world.  might lead to great changes. The  acceptance of "updating your truth" might get rid of gridlock and introduce a new voting category- yes, no or "maybe" without anybody calling out "flip-flopper", with gratitude that finally someone is truly interested in what is true.  

The River Is Wide (Series)

Produced by Susan J. Cook

Most recent piece in this series:

Why Women Don't Tell, Part 4: What the Media Leaves Out

From Susan J. Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 08:21

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Why Women Don't Tell, Part 4: What the Media Leaves Out

 

In the PBS Newshour Friday night left/right voice section, a substitute journalist, Eliana Johnson from the Washington, DC-based Free Beacon, sat in for the conservative David Brooks.

 

The moderator moved the topics along to the Trump Criminal trial. As almost an aside, Journalist Johnson observed that “Stormy Daniels was up there talking about things that are not appropriate to say on this network.”

 

And thus, she (Johnson, not Daniels) presented the perspective which most of the trial coverage has clung to and, by default, to what's been left out. For a second, I wondered if the “not appropriate” she referenced is Stormy Daniels' rape history, the time from age 9 to about 11, when she was repeatedly sexually assaulted by a next door neighbor, who also raped her childhood best friend. When the friend finally disclosed to the school guidance counselor her rape experience, Stormy then known as Stephanie, told him the neighbor had assaulted her- repeatedly. The Guidance Counselor told her she was lying. She just said that, he said, because she wanted the attention her friend began to receive. Ms. Daniels' did not remember this incident until she was vabout 23. The amnesic relationship to abuse and the silencing of disclosure is not at all unusual, any trauma therapist would validate.

 

The posture of that Guidance Counselor uniquely and disturbingly parallels- no surprise- the defense attorneys' questioning of Ms. Daniels. It also parallels the trivialization of the sexual exploitation she experienced by the then 60 year old Donald Trump which Eliana Johnson presents- as does much of the media- as trivial- and sees as secondary to her occupation as a stripper and “adult” film actress , “adult” film director and producer. Add to this the designation as “the smart one”, which Trump applied to the then 27 year old Daniels as a pretense for his request to have dinner with her- communicated to her by Trump's body guard.

 

I read the “liberal” New York Times' supplied transcript of Ms. Daniels' testimony which motivated me to read her book “Full Disclosure”, her second more widely known effort to tell the truth.

 

I speculate but my guess is Eliana Johnson hasn't read it, what with the focus on the words that can't be said on Public broadcasting. Exclusion of the facts about what really happened to Stormy Daniels means that Eliana and the other journalists collude in ignoring  “grooming”, the hallmark of a predator before the exploitation actually takes place. It shifts the focus to the teller's credibility, the teller's sexualization- your dirty mind- of what is taking place. After all, the predator grooming the object hasn't acted yet on his intention.

 

Exclusion of her childhood sexual assault, in this case, leaves Ms. Daniels' to be characterized as the one with the licentious sex life, ignoring Donald Trump's grooming of Ms. Daniels with the offer of a Celebrity Apprentice appearance. Sex as the outcome of her meeting him in his Penthouse Suite was not what she anticipated. After going to the restroom and finding Trump standing between her and the bedroom door, his bodyguard shielding the entry to the suite as he was when she arrived, she describes an episode of derealization. Look it up.

 

Eliana Johnson having a pat phrase to the signify the witness with the dirty mouth speaks to the rubric the media has taken on. Yes, the substitution of the word “adult film” actress for “porn star” mitigates the sullying. But it does nothing to tag Trump's grooming as predatory, his baiting with a Celebrity Apprentice appearance. Harvey Weinstein used similar tactics.

 

An outcome of this trial could be that the 60-something Trumps of the world- along with the Harvey Weinsteins- would be more easily held accountable. A higher paying job, a good paycheck, a reliable living for someone like Daniels who grew up with a single mother who had to work more than one minimum wage job at a time is- even Eliana Johnson might agree- motivation. For the adolescent Daniels, a Baton Rouge , Louisiana Ballet dancer, and dressage horsewoman who taught riding lessons to handicapped children, her foray as a teenager into “exotic dancer” stripping meant she tripled her income. She testified that her whole life she had supported herself financially. Women earn 84 cents to a man's dollar, which was far lower the early 2000s.

 

Left out of the narrative, as well, has been the threat leveled by an anonymous stranger in 2016 in a parking lot to Daniels and her child. This was ultimately what led her to speak about the encounter with Trump, lest her family or she herself be physically harmed.

 

An outcome might galvanize the always tenuous feminist collective which the Elianas splice open, often. In “Full Disclosure” and in her testimony, Daniels refers – over and over- to her coworkers- other strippers- as “girls”, no matter how old. There's truth in that too. The Club owners are called men, generally, a reminder of who holds power in the world- those with money or masculinity. Both have been tools to re-assert that power, in the Trump trial, to silence the truth about sexual exploitation under the guise of principled indignation, and they continue to be reasons why Women Don't Tell, but - not for Stephanie aka “Stormy” Daniels- now.

A Citizen's Guide to Freedom

From Susan J. Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 03:58

The parades and camaraderie of the Fourth of July celebrate freedom.

This nation-wide celebration doesn't mean that the freedoms we have can’t be corrupted. Just this week, the Supreme Court eliminated laws originally intended to prevent states from interfering with the right to vote that has been broadly criticized as a corruption of our freedom to vote. What are the freedoms and rights of citizens?

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The parades and camaraderie of the Fourth of July celebrate freedom
This nation-wide celebration doesn't mean that the freedoms we have can’t  be corrupted. Just this week, the Supreme Court eliminated laws originally intended to prevent states from interfering with the right to vote that was broadly criticized as a corruption of our freedom to vote. 
What  are the freedoms and rights of citizens?
 -Freedom of speech, association and assembly. Freedom of the press, and freedom of religion supported by the separation of church and state.
 -The right to equal protection under the law: equal treatment regardless of race, religion  or national origin.
 -Right to due process: fair treatment  by the government whenever the loss of your liberty or property is at stake.
 -Right to privacy: freedom from unwarranted government intrusion into your personal or private affairs.
 
Our  government and political infrastructure exist to uphold those civil liberties, including , freedom of speech.  When  citizens peaceably assemble to exercise freedom of speech, government officials or employees or elected politicians   who limit or threaten or intimidate or harass citizens  through “the court of public opinion” from exercising that basic right, are potentially corrupting that freedom. 
In my state, the Governor made comments recently that very crassly and almost pornographically defamed a legislator. While he was criticized as offensive, not one legislator called for his resignation. He was exercising his freedom of speech, albeit offensively.
Another citizen, at a public hearing criticized an elected  government official for a practice that intimidated constituents and through intimidation threatened their right to participate in this democracy.  Government  employees, political insiders and legislators orchestrated a media campaign demanding the citizen resign from a volunteer position within the political structure unless the citizen could provide "proof" of the practice, even though a small group of them had already been told what the proof  was
Freedom's infrastructure is  the government, political parties, elected politicians . That infrastructure exists to protect our  freedom not for self-gain or  to be on the team that wins with a hope of further self-gain down the road. In our country, it is ultimately our Constitution that holds that infrastructure to a higher standard if it falters in its own protection of freedom.
Chinese  Nobel Peace prize winner Liu Xiabo is serving an 11 year jail term for putting  a petition on the Internet, called "Charter 08". It is an eloquent  and wistful re-statement of the principles and freedoms of our very own Constitution.  Liu Xiabo writes "We should end the practice of viewing words as crimes." He says freedom of speech fundamentally prevents the corruption of freedom through the government infrastructure because when you have it, you can complain about the government  publicly.  On the Fourth of July, reading  Charter 08 might bring the celebration of freedom not corrupted a little closer to home. 

The Sixty Second Moral Inquiry: A Woman of Her Word

From Susan J. Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | :59

The Sixty Second Moral Inquiry:A Woman of Her Word

Moral inquiry means asking questions about what is the right thing to do. So, the sixty second moral inquiry for today is: As a woman continues the long difficult climb from making seventy something cents an hour for every dollar men make, can she still be a "woman of her word"? Must she make compromises in order to make what a man make?

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The Sixty Second Moral Inquiry:
A Woman of Her Word
-Susan Cook-
Moral inquiry means asking questions about what is the right thing to do. So, the sixty second moral inquiry for today is: As a woman continues the long difficult climb from making seventy something cents an hour for every  dollar men make, can she still be a "woman of her word"? Must she make compromises in order to make what a man makes, in things like, telling the truth, personal integrity, reliability. There's respect for the dignity of  others, making sure information you share is accurate, and of course speaking in a way that honors the position she holds, not using language that's offensive or false or insulting. Yes, it is unjust that women in this country earn seventy something cents for every dollar a man makes, but will she be able to keep ethical integrity as she levels the paying field? Be a woman of her word?

The Sixty Second Moral Inquiry: How You Can Tell If a Government Is Becoming Corrupt

From Susan J. Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 01:02

Remember the sixty second moral inquiry asks questions about what is the right thing to do. Today, we ask "How can you tell If a government is becoming corrupt? Let us ponder Illinois, the political corruption hotspot. Let us imagine that each now jailed politician stood and said loud and clear, "I only have one rule and that is if you have to cry, go outside." And several at the meeting jumped up and said, "No. You have the rules in the Bill of Rights, in Civil liberties, in the Constitution, Federal and State laws. Are you following those rules?" Which no one asked or did. So, what are questions of moral inquiry when it comes to government corruption?

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             The Sixty Second Moral Inquiry: How  Can You Tell If A Government is Becoming Corrupt?
                                                          -Susan Cook-
Today's sixty second moral inquiry asks, how do you know when a government or its leaders are corrupt or becoming corrupt? Let us ponder Illinois, the political corruption hotspot. Let us imagine that , each now jailed politician stood and said loud and clear, "I only have one rule and that is if you have to cry, go outside." And several at the meeting jumped up and said, "No. You have the rules in the Bill of Rights, in  Civil liberties, in  the Constitution, Federal and State laws. Are you following those rules?" Which no one asked or did. So,  government corruption questions?  Do the politicians and their government employees  put winning elections to keep their own jobs ahead of every other ethic? Telling the truth? Respecting constituents? Honoring human dignity and fairness in the legislative process?  Is information distorted or kept secret?  Is bribery, the money kind or “you do this for me/I’ll do that for you” accepted? If someone asks these questions, does the asker become targeted as "the problem"? 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Sixty Second Moral Inquiry: How Do We Know What Human Rights Are?

From Susan J. Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 01:00

Sometmes exploring what is right means finding the right question to ask. Today's Sixty Second Moral Inquiry asks the question: how do we know what human rights are.

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The Sixty Second Moral Inquiry: How Do We Know What Human Rights Are?
-Susan Cook-
Today's Sixty Second Moral Inquiry: How do we know what human rights are? No, we don't begin by asking is it liquid, solid or a gas or are they written only in a book. So we ask: Will the fundamental dignity of the person be compromised? Will the basic view that all beings deserve respect even the ones you don't like or disagree with or feel better than be tossed aside? Is basic respect for the person’s integrity at stake? Will the person not even be given an opportunity to voice the view or tell the account of events but rather be left off the email list or the Facebook message or the tweet or the letter to the editor? Even if the person lives in a little teeny country nobody cares about, are there things happening to that person that neglect respect, dignity, integrity of body or soul you ignore and refuse to include under the term “human rights”? 

A Citizen's Guide to Civility

From Susan J. Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 02:36

To understand what civility is these days in times of tweets, smart phones, blogs and Facebook, we first have to look at "uncivil" and how "uncivil" comes to be.

There are three ways :
There's uncivil by you, yourself; uncivil by Chief of Staff or staff and Uncivil by Lawyer.

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A Citizen's Guide to Civility
-Susan Cook-
To understand what civility is these days in times of tweets, smart phones, blogs and Facebook, we first have to look at "uncivil" and how "uncivil"  comes to be.
There are three ways :
There's uncivil by  you, yourself, saying something offensiveness. No, we're not talking about the truth here, we're talking about descriptive terms about a person or situation that are offensiveness,  words you would be uncomfortable explaining the meaning of to- say- a child under ten. 
Then there's "Uncivil by Chief of Staff or Staff". "Uncivil by Chief of Staff or Staff"  means you don't say or do it yourself. Your Chief of Staff or Staff do it for you.   Your Chief of Staff or Staff call their contact and "Voila", whatever humiliating, degrading thing you want put in the newspaper or said or done, is done. Did I say blindly loyal contact? Oh yeah, blindly loyal contact. This can be pulled off with such detached but entitled derision that no one will ever know it was you, that say, caused the  target of the humiliation or derision who maybe even suffered a stroke afterwards to become permanently disabled.  You will never have to say "Good job!" to your Staff or Chief of Staff. All you have to do is re-hire them over and over, as if you didn't know.
Then there's "Uncivil by lawyer". "Uncivil by lawyer" means you hire lawyers to do it for you. You know how the justice system works here. If someone has to hire a lawyer, they have to have the money to pay the lawyer otherwise you win and thereby have success by having your "Uncivil  by lawyer" mudslinging, shall we say, completed.
"Uncivil", "Uncivil by Chief of Staff or Staff", and "Uncivil by lawyer" mean that if you ever decide you want to seek higher office, you cannot run on a platform with "Civility" as a plank because, surprise, surprise, that plank will not hold you up because it is worn, chewed up, the wood is rotten and about to give way. That's how we know what civility really is.

A Citizen's Guide to What to Eat During a Government Shutdown

From Susan J. Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 04:02

Citizens are being reminded these days of everything they don't have control over. Any nutritionist will tell you that the one thing you always have control over is the food you put into your mouth. Times like these require food with substance and comfort.You would be surprised at the comfort and substance found in the grocery store (as long there were not federal dollars involved in getting it there because of the You-Know-What.) A Citizen's Guide is here today about what to eat during a government shutdown.

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A Citizen's Guide to What To Eat During A Government Shutdown
-Susan Cook-
 
Well, citizens are being reminded these days of everything they don't have control over. Any nutritionist will tell you that the one thing  you always have control over is the food you put into your mouth. Times like this require food with substance and comfort.You would be surprised at the comfort and substance found in the grocery store (as long there were not federal dollars involved in getting it there because of the You-Know-What.)
Some suggestions:
Believe it or not, wild boar, organically fed, no pesticides or antibiotics, is right there in the freezer section. A little more expensive than hamburger but far more satisfying.
Moving down to the fish section, you can shop both locally and nationally if you choose the Crappie- an abundant fresh water fish. Just to make sure, if you shop alphabetically, that you find the Crappie, it is spelled C-R-A-P-P-I-E. Again C-R-A-P-P-I-E. Like what you vote for, sometimes how things are spelled is not how they sound or what you actually get.
Still in the mood to shop local, you could try some of the tender, locally caught trout. Innocent. Easy to fool, easy to catch.  Or bass, well-intentioned, dominant but well-intentioned. Salmon, always virtuous, even the farm-raised. Spelled just almost like it sounds. What you see (or voted for) is what you get. 
Moving over to Produce, ripe and ready for storage for future use or current consumption, the Squash which contain thousands of something the government has no control over, units of Vitamin A which as you remember helps vision, seeing from A to B, B to C, the Big Picture, the forest and the trees. Plus it has a pro-active taste and feel.
Of course, there's dessert waiting to be decided. Well, rescued with no help from You-Know-Who are Sno-balls whose company went under but came back- thank goodness because it would never happen now during the You-Know-What. A Sno-ball, pink, covered in coconut over devil's food cake, has marsh mellow inside. Sno-balls may not be loaded with vitamins but they are substantive now because they are symbolic. When the marsh mellows Sno-balls are made from  are rolled over each other and then covered with the devil's food and the pink stuff and the coconut ( which is the food of gorillas) what is in the center has little to do with what's on the outside. The marsh mellows that began the Sno-ball have nothing to do with the potentially gooey mess on the outside. But there they are. Be careful eating these. Too much swallowed too rapidly can get stuck in the throat and could choke you.

Who Rules The World and Why It Matters

From Susan J. Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 06:00

Boys' State is an experiment in Democracy that a select group of high school boys attend in Maine this week. We can hope they will learn about the dangers of the cooption of the democratic process. The current administration leaves us all wondering what do they do down there in Washington, sometimes. Using political party membership as a sledgehammer to force agreement just one questionable technique. A democratic process stolen by a small number of Senators or Representatives or Presidential executive order - those who want their opinion to count more than anyone else's matters enormously.
This incident described happened about 12 years ago but it raises some of the same questions about the Democratic process the new administration does . So we re-visit: Who Rules the World and Why It Matters.

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Who Rules the World and Why It Matters
-Susan Cook
Some summers ago, I had the opportunity to swing on a hammock with my two young grandnephews, one five and the other a summer away from turning 4. They had gathered up from the sandpits two or three Power Rangers, two R2-D2s and several 3 inch tall good and bad guys and placed them in the hammock's webbing so we could all ride together.
After a moment or two, the five year old leaned back in the hammock's arch and gazed up at the canopy of oak leaves. he asked "Who rules the world?"
With the Power Rangers, the R2-D2s, the good and bad guys up on the hammock with us, I sensed the gravity of his question,. I asked, "Well, who do you think rules the world?"
"Queens and kings and presidents and the news," he said.
On a warm day, to listen to the honest musings of a five year old about the world is to be reminded that everyone's opinion matters, that we all have a responsibility to protect this opinion sharing, to protect what matters.
How does he know that already? Does he know how intensely kings, queens,, presidents and the "news" go about trying to rule the world? More than all the Power Rangers, R2-D 2s, the good guys and the bad guys combined, let alone what happens when Darth Vader rises out of the sand pile to once more have a go of it?
This brought to mind the firing of Maine's "Humble Farmer," Robert Skoglund by Maine Public Broadcasting."Humble". as his friends call him, was fired because he ventured, one sentence at a time, to share his honest musings about the way the world works, mixed into his extraordinary selection of our American musical treasure, jazz.
Why does this firing matter? Why has the American Association Against Censorship and hundreds of "Humble farmer" radio listeners protested, first to the Maine Public Broadcasting Board of trustees, then to Governor Baldacci and the Legislature and later to a Federal Communications Commission? Why have 60 legislators voiced their protest about the firing?
If the "news" is ruled by just a small group of people, say, a Public Radio Board of Trustees who have given big donation- of, say, more than $160,000 to kings, queens or presidents- it means their opinions count more than those of everyone else.
Thos of us who can't donate that much money will have our opinions left out. It means a "public radio" that pretends to be open and diverse is not, because the only opinions that really matter are those of the wealthy, white donors who are appointed to the Board by Republican politicians who received their donations.
That is not diversity. That is personal influence peddling that somebody has bought.
It leaves out the opinions of everybody else: the poor, people of color, of different ethnicity and culture, single parents, whose who won't earn $160,000 in their entire lives. And yes, it leaves out the 5 year-olds too or at least their first advocates whom in Maine are often working two or three jobs just to support their families.
There are places in Maine where there no cell phone service, no cable, no high-speed Internet access and very poor television reception. The only free radio and television programs are available on Maine Public Broadcasting.
When the rest of us are left out, the "news" that is ruling the world becomes very distorted. What is entertaining in their opinion may not reflect our opinion at all. What we thought was free and open, becomes something sold to a rich person.
What five year olds have taught me- that everybody's opinion matters- gets sold to a wealthy donor who - even five year-olds know- just might be using it to rule the world.
That's why the firing of the "Humble Farmer" matters.
And that's why a democracy that is not stolen by a small number of Senators or Representatives who want their opinion to count more than anyone else's matters and why a government shutdown because of it should never ever happen again.

A Congressional Guide to Ending Gridlock

From Susan J. Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 03:26

Having survived the most recent episode of Gridlock by the skin of the Nation's teeth, we beyond the Beltway need to put our collective relational conscience together to find a way to eliminate gridlock in Congress.

Any practicing psychotherapist knows that the language you use can be the basis for interpersonal remediation because the heart and mind may follow the words that are used. This is what we're going to be talking about today: new rules for the language Congress uses when they talk about each other.

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A Congressional Guide to Ending Gridlock
-Susan Cook-
Having survived the most recent episode of Gridlock by the skin of the Nation's teeth, we beyond the Beltway need to put our collective relational conscience together to find a way to eliminate gridlock in Congress.
Any practicing psychotherapist knows that the language you use can be the basis for interpersonal remediation because the heart and mind may follow the words that are used. This is what we're going to be talking about today. Congress is a grand example of the heart and mind not being the leader in defining what is said because  Washington DC is filled with spin-shaping wordsmiths who have not looked at the guiding ethical principles behind government since 9th grade civics class. Just listen to the things they write  about the other party. The spinners follow one rule: Sound like you're right and the other side is wrong. Then they give the words to Nancy Pelosi and John Boehner who say them. 
Here is rule number one to follow to eliminate Gridlock in Congress. Rule number one  just requires a little bite inhibition, to borrow from the dog training world. 
The Republicans cannot under any circumstances say the word Democrat or the plural form Democrats AND the Democrats cannot under any circumstances mention the word Republican or Republicans. 
Here's the principle:
Each party or the spokesperson gets to be the expert on what their party thinks or feels or wants. No Mind reading about the other party thinks, feels or wants. The person  might have observations about what the other party thinks or feels but those are only observations. So if someone has an observation they’d like to make about the other party, the  way the observation is said is this" "It seems like Mr. Boehner wants..." or "It seems like Ms. Pelosi wants..." but ultimately Ms. Pelosi is the expert on what her party thinks, feels or wants and Mr. Boehner is the expert on what his party thinks, feels or wants. No mind-reading of the other party's thinking or actions - ever.
As we have all witnessed in the past weeks, each party gets very very very irritated when the spinners and the unethical public relations at staff start talking like they are the expert on what the other party thinks or feels.
From here on out, these are the communication rules for Congress. It also goes for Independents. Oh and there's one other big rule. No talking about the past.
We are almost out of time. 

Keeping Nelson Mandela

From Susan J. Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 02:54

After Nelson Mandela was freed from the life sentence he was serving in prison, he often spoke about refusing bitterness toward his captors. But he vowed he would never forget the cost of apartheid and its entitled derision of others. When he began that life sentence, in 1964, Winnie Mandela, his young bride, wrote "part of my soul went with him." Mandela's life though has shown us how to keep our souls and how to keep our souls free and that's what we will keep and keep and keep from Nelson Mandela.

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                                                            Keeping  Nelson Mandela
                                                                     -Susan Cook-
Nelson Mandela was sentenced to life in prison in 1964  by a court in South Africa. He and several of his political comrades in a group called Umkhonto, were convicted of attempting to sabotage Bantu administration offices and other symbols of apartheid, the  systematic exclusion of people of color from fair and equal participation in life in South Africa.
He remained in isolation  as a prisoner on Robben Island, 7 miles out to sea from Cape Town,  for over 20 years. In 1985, " President Botha announced that “his government would consider Nelson Mandela's release on the condition that he gave a commitment that he would not 'make himself guilty of planning, instigating or committing acts of violence for the furtherance of political objectives."
Nelson Mandela had never endorsed any kind of violence to achieve his ideals, to end the Entitled Derision called apartheid. He refused Botha's offer, instead calling on him "to dismantle apartheid, free all political prisoners, and guarantee free political activity so that people may decide who will govern them." "Only free men negotiate," Mandela said. He knew he wasn't free. 
He was not released from prison until much later. The Government-endorsement of the entitled derision that Apartheid made did not end until much later. 
After its end, Nelson Mandela often spoke about refusing bitterness toward his captors. But  he vowed he would never forget the cost of apartheid and its entitled derision.  When every social convention, every elected official, every public medium holds up the false mirror of entitled derision to justify itself, Mandela's life teaches that what succeeds is what we accept. We are all responsible for stepping outside our own false mirrors. 
When he began his life prison sentence in 1964,  Winnie Mandela was his young bride. She  wrote  in her autobiography that when he went to jail "part of my soul went with him."  Mandela's life though has shown us how to keep our souls and how to keep our souls free and that's what we will keep and keep and keep from Nelson Mandela. 

Mean-spirited Is A Political Issue

From Susan J. Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 03:13

The mid-term elections are almost upon us. Now that Obama care is working, what political issues might be nearby? What will help us make good choices among Republicans, Democrats and those trendy Independents? What issue cuts across the political landscape and party lines, not already written into party platforms or any independent's desperate attempt to sketch a silhouette starkly differentiating themselves from their partisan opponents?
Well, how about whether the candidate is or has been mean spirited in carrying out their political agenda?

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Mean-spirited is a Political Issue
-Susan Cook-
The mid-term elections are almost upon us. Now that Obama care is working, what political issues might be nearby? What will help us make good choices among Republicans, Democrats and those trendy Independents? What issue cuts across the political landscape and party lines, not already written into party platforms or any independent'sdesperate attempt to sketch a silhouette starkly differentiating themselves from their partisan opponents?
Well, how about whether the candidate is or has been mean spirited in carrying out their political agenda? You know, refusing to compromise even if the entire roster of federal employees and the services they offer must be suspended because the budget can't be passed? 
And there are other examples. The country is world-weary of politicians-
-calling the President a liar
-calling other politicians murderers
-disregarding the needs of millions for health care and a way to pay for it
-treating their opponents in a demeaning way, for example, hiring videographers to track and invade the privacy of other elected politicians so as to "embarrass" them 
-ignoring how their own business activities with human rights violating countries like China, as if passively doing business with a human rights violating country and not taking a stand against their policies doesn't collude with human rights violations?
A candidate told me one time to "bring it on" after I asked him about his business dealing with the Chinese and his acceptance of the Chinese track record for human rights violations.
In my state we watched one of our few never mean-spirited political candidates be accused over and over of causing the state's problems.
All of the above are a mean-spirited approach to the political process. None represent respect for humankind or respect for the responsibilities of elected positions. They come from a place of entitled derision that some politicians give themselves permission to indulge in.
The country is tired of it. In these midterm elections, if the voter’s slogan is "Mean-spirited? Not my candidate" maybe Gridlock in Congress and State government, will become not a wish list item but reality. Already got a candidate who has never been mean-spirited in political life? Send that politician to Congress or better yet, to your state capitol. Then you’ll be able to watch the News knowing you did your part. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ponypicture_small

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

Speaking Truth To Power in the Kingdom Called Home

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

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

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

No. It was to tell the truth.

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

Speaking Truth To Power in the Kingdom Called Home

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

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

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

No. It was to tell the truth.

Breathing_small

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

The Abuse of the Bully Pulpit Department

From Susan J. Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 03:30

Just before the Olympics, the country if not the world received, from a bully pulpit, a message from my state's junior United States senator. On television, Angus King said he wouldn't send any of his family members to the Sochi Olympics because he feared the threat of terrorist activities there. This pronouncement came not too long after another one from him in which he called members of Congress who opposed the Affordable Care Act "murderers".

The "bully pulpit" these days, Twitter, Facebook, the Internet, and good old television, radio and newspapers has very grave significance. Any psychological projection of a US Senator's fear as if his experience must be the world’s- a world awaiting this event undermines trust.
Any abuse of the bully pulpit is not responsible leadership.

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Just before the Olympics, the country if not the world received, from a bully pulpit, a message from my state's junior United States senator. On television, Angus King said he wouldn't send any of his family members to the Sochi Olympics because he feared the threat of terrorist activities there. This pronouncement came not too long after another one from him in which he called members of Congress who opposed the Affordable Care Act  "murderers". This junior Senator is also a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee whose members you would think recognize that strong language- inflames from a bully pulpit.
The "bully pulpit" these days, Twitter, Facebook, the Internet, and good old television, radio and newspapers has very grave significance. Any psychological projection of a US Senator's fear as if his experience must be the world’s- a world awaiting this event undermines trust.
He abused the bully pulpit.
Abuse of the bully pulpit through armchair exaggeration and projection, knowing there is an international audience at hand is not responsible leadership. 
My state's Governor every two weeks or so profanely misuses language. 
Governor LePage's abuse of the bully pulpit is dismissed as a lapse into "street talk", leftover from a rough childhood rather than a window into a man still very very angry at those "welfare cheaters" who abandoned him as a child and those in the current  legislature who won't join him in going after those abandoners. 
To what do we attribute the abuse of the bully pulpit by Angus King? Hasn't quite figured out yet "how the Senate works" (as he promised to do)? Caught in projecting his exaggerated belief in the importance of his world view? 
Leadership means forging trust, not undermining it. Yes, "paranoid personality disorder has been removed from the new "Diagnostic and Statistical Mental Disorders, Edition V" but that doesn't make this junior US senator "the new normal" in projecting his view onto the world.
One final example of "abuse of the bully pulpit". When government leadership works well, it is a wonder to behold. I recently got scammed through a major online- ticket seller. I contacted the Consumer Protection Division at my state's Attorney General Office. Many, many capable people took it seriously and the scammer heard it. When I received the letter confirming that, I was very disappointed to see the letterhead did not have a single name of any of the other staff- who made it happen, nor was it signed by any of them. There was one name- one- on the letterhead- that of the Attorney General. That my friend is yet one more abuse of the bully pulpit because one person doesn‘t ever make it happen, nor should they, no matter what the bully pulpit.

A Citizen's Guide to Limiting the Influence of the Internet and the Digital Age

From Susan J. Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 03:03

Are you concerned about your child emailing too much? Are you concerned about the effect on a child's spine of a head bent over a gaming system for hours on end? Are you concerned about the constant checking and re-checking of text messages or people who don't talk to each other anymore, just text?

Parents- any parent- has the skill to combat this proliferation of the Internet and the Digital Age. First, you say, "Give me your phone, please."

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A Citizen's Guide to Limiting the Influence of the Internet and the Digital Age
Are you concerned about your child emailing too much? Are you concerned about the effect on a child's spine of a head bent over a gaming system for hours on end? Are you concerned about the constant checking and re-checking of text messages or people who don't talk to each other anymore, just text? 
Parents- any parent- has the skill to combat this proliferation of the Internet and the Digital Age. First, you say, "Give me your phone, please." If the child buries it in the seat cushion or throws the body over it, the parent says, "If you don't give it to me by the time I count to ten, you will not (pick one) 1) go to your friend's house after school 2) go to the movie on Saturday or the sleepover or the dance, etc. etc., etc.
If the child still doesn't give you the phone, you say "Please, give me the phone." You reach for the phone and take it. And then, without giving thought to whether you are the perfect parent  raising the perfect child to have a perfect life and yes, we know, be famous, you use a skill that parents have developed through evolution (ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny, for the scientific-minded), highly adapted to  cultural norms. You hide it. This parental skill has reliably kept culturally necessary skills intact, specifically, belief in Santa Claus, the tooth fairy and the Easter Bunny and yes, sometimes, God.
Now, hiding comes up because there are parents who say “If I take the phone or the laptop my child will find it and use it anyway.”
There is another extremely important option to consider. Pre-requisite to this parents cannot- cannot be fixed on their own internet imprint- hoping with that same skill mentioned above that they will go viral and be digitally important.
This last option is to cancel the Internet access at your home or disable it. You give yourself permission to blissfully acknowledge that this is a piece of cultural technology not hard-wired into human beings- and thus, as is said here in Maine, once you use it up, then you make do, and then you do without. And you certainly can do that in the place called home and leave it to the cultural institutions- schools, libraries, Congress and coffee shops to keep it there for you. 

A Citizen's Guide to Passion and Political Gamesmanship in Democracies

From Susan J. Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 06:47

The protesters in Ukraine are showing us on a very public stage that criticism free from harassment and ridicule of the actions of public elected officials is or should be what a democracy allows. The protesters in Ukraine, those who we memorialize for their passion and those who stand and testify through their actions remind us that what we have in this country is always up for grabs- if not from foreign threat but from each other. We really do not know how democracy sustains itself here. Speaking up is dismissed as “passion”. Passion is the code word for somebody who doesn’t know that the preferred approach is Political gamesmanship even as it erodes- day in, day out, as we see in Congress and state governments the democracy we live in.

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A Citizen's Guide to Passion and Political Gamesmanship
-Susan Cook-
In 2011, a Congressional Re-districting hearing was held in Maine. The public was asked to testify about a proposed plan to shift 350,000 voters from one Congressional District to another, a plan clearly intended to create a majority of registered Republican voters in one district.
And this is what I said:
The plan to shift 350,000 citizens from one Congressional district to another represents a disregard for constituents right to participate in this Democracy and indeed disregard for democracy itself. This is more of a disturbing trend we have seen of inflated partisanship at the cost of fairness and balance, more disregard for the voice of citizens.
Other examples are the recent passage to eliminate same day voter registration making it far more difficult for citizens to vote, a concern  I have heard throughout the collection of signatures to give participants in our democracy a chance to be heard on their desire for same day registration.
The most disturbing example is the fact that the [then] President of the Maine Senate records constituents' phone calls- without their consent and indeed without even announcing... that the call will be recorded. The consequence? Intimidation of constituents so they dare not call.
This re-districting proposal is yet another effort to intimidate  voters, to say, we don't like how you vote so we are going to force you to vote for someone else.
Sound familiar? Sound like democracy disregarded? You bet. Like Ukraine, like any other country where democracy is not respected- where the consequence of voting is imposition of all possible obstacles- like the elimination of Congressional districts to suit the party in power.
Do I have to say it? Shame on you for trying to move 350,000 voters because you don't like the way they voted. Shame on lawmakers who record constituents' phone calls to intimidate them and make them fearful of voicing their views. Democracy deserves our best not manipulation. The people here who speak against moving 350,000 citizens to accommodate your manufactured district deserve far, far better.
Fast forward to February of 2014. Upwards of 200 protesters have been killed by Ukrainian police at the Independence Square protest site in Kiev because of their ongoing protest of President Victor Yanokovitch and his efforts to ally Ukraine with Vladimir Putin’s Russia . Yanokovitch has steadfastly refused to follow his promise to ally Ukraine with the European Union.  Upwards of 200 protesters have been killed, protesters who- yes - with passion- no vast political tactics and gamesmanship- who have  very clearly rejected the Putin alliance Yanokovitch proposes.
It is not very often we see passion taking the lead over political gamesmanship or rather the two working hand-in-hand. It is not very often that democratic protest is thwarted on the world stage- in such a public way.  More often, another country’s problem with maintaining democracy is their problem. Political gamesmanship is chosen over principle, ethics and values.
We  have arrived at the “Who Wants to be a Millionaire” question in this very brief commentary. Here it is, a multiple choice:
which statement in my 2011 testimony grew cries of “scurrilous”,  “a personal attack“, “what planet is she on?”,  demands of “Proof! Proof!“, “A Tactic without strategy” and indeed a petition sent to the local newspaper editor by our party go-alongs demanding my resignation from volunteer political office?  Was it- renunciation of efforts to make it harder for voters to register? Was it- disregard for constituents’ right to participate in democracy? Was it  the statement that in Ukraine  if they don’t like who you vote for they will give you someone else to vote fo- that a plan moving 350,000 voters in a state with only 2 congressional districts is kind of like that? 
Give up?  The statement that was called scurrilous, a “personal attack” was the criticism of the elected public official not his private life- his approach to public duties. The protesters in Ukraine are showing us on a very public stage that criticism  free from harassment and ridicule of the actions of public elected officials is  or should be what a democracy allows. The protesters in Ukraine, those who we memorialize for their passion and those  who stand and testify through their actions remind us that what we have in this country is always up for grabs- if not  from foreign threat but from each other. We really do not know how democracy sustains itself here. Speaking up is  dismissed as  “passion”. Passion is the code word for somebody who doesn’t know that the preferred approach is Political gamesmanship even as it erodes- day in, day out, as we see in Congress and state governments the democracy we live in. 

Letter from New Jersey: Civil Liberties New Jersey-style

From Susan J. Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 03:50

Coming through the transom today, a letter from New Jersey to share. Civil Liberties: New Jersey-style!! How are they taken? Oh, I guess they mean Civil Liberties -the noun..

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Letter from New Jersey: Civil Liberties: New Jersey-style
-Susan Cook-
Today, we have a Letter from New Jersey to share. 
“My name is Bridget Ann and out of all 50 states in the United States I've decided to move to Maine!!  I’ve decided to move from New Jersey because I am really tired of how um. immature the political process is there. I used to have a big office in the State House right near very very important politicians there and they thought I was excellent but the press has been doing some very bad things down there. And they're trying to blame me! Just to get it out of the way, there was a problem with the roads and they had to- the people who run the roads- had to close some lanes on the highway and they were trying to blame me!! Just because I said in an email that we needed some lanes closed there because of safety!! I thought it was a very good idea-immunization against a bigger problem with the roads I mean.
And they are trying to blame me for  the hours and hours of traffic jams! I mean "Duh!". They have to close lanes- you get traffic! Get over it!  I'll just tell you that I hope that mayor down there where those traffic jams are gets blamed for that because he deserved it. My boss has done more for him than anyone in the country to help him get elected and he said he isn't supporting my boss. That mayor was not going to support my boss's re-election! So I think he could go live some place else because that is very New Jersey.  It's just too bad that he didn't like the traffic problems. It's his own fault. He deserved it. NO I am done with things like calling newspapers anonymously or having my proxies do it to try and prove what a bad mayor he is. I am in a way really glad he had those traffic jams because they are far more important in elections than articles in the newspaper calling him names. He deserved it but I didn't' do it. If we could figure out what his wife's married name was in her last marriage maybe we could prove what a lousy mayor he really is.  Really the worst part is now my name is in the newspaper and 99% of the people in New Jersey didn't know who I am and now they will! How am I going to get a job like that again? I am really really worried that now people will know what I do and I didn't make those traffic jams. I didn't. Honest. When I am in Maine I will be very careful to make sure only my boss knows who I am and only he has his name in the newspaper and not me. That's the biggest problem with that- that they traced to me! I believe in civil liberties.
I love lobster and everything and maybe I could get a job in the state house there and maybe the people in Maine are not as immature as the people in New Jersey so they would understand how something could happen miles and miles away  from my office in the State House that doesn't have anything to do with me. That man deserved it. And maybe the public will know he's not that great. It's called immunization. Maybe I could get a job where I could make a lot of money. They are doing very very important things with wind there and I'd love a job with that and I could make millions of dollars in that kind of a job. It would be a different field completely. I have a couple names of people to contact- of course I don't know them on a first name basis yet. Maybe someone in the State House could introduce me. Or  maybe a job with the political parties but I kind of already do that- just at the other end- of the phone I mean. You would think what happened with the traffic problems was a crime or illegal or something like that!  They're so immature in New Jersey they're calling it corruption. I bet they wouldn't call it that in Maine. “

A Citizen's Guide to the Civil Liberty Called Freedom of the Press

From Susan J. Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 05:36

The civil liberties of the Constitution are wholesome, pure, and good. They sometimes require holding two ideas in the mind at the same time, not easy some days. And they can be exploited. Freedom of the press, our reliable civil liberties vacuum for the unseemly and dirty then placed on public display can be exploited very easily. The exploitation is non-partisan, can come from either side because civil liberties are non-partisan.

Even the venerable newspaper editor Abe Rosenthal at the even more venerable New York Times distorted facts about the iconic example of urban social decay, the Kitty Genovese murder, by claiming that more than a dozen passive bystanders listened for a very long time to her screams and did not call the police. In fact, there were only two, who thought it was a domestic dispute, a man beating a woman, which was not then and yes even to this day is often not- considered an entirely atrocious act calling for police intervention.

Here in Maine, what does the civil liberty "freedom of the press" mean in the wake of revelations that the upper echelons of state government with held and then shredded public information about the rating system for giving out "Healthy Maine Partnership" fund. Shall we soon expect some chest-thumping about which party civil liberties truly belong to?

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A Citizen's Guide to the Civil Liberty called Freedom of the Press
                               -Susan Cook-
The civil liberties of the Constitution are wholesome, pure, and good. They sometimes require holding two ideas in the mind at the same time, not easy some days. And they can be exploited. Freedom of the press, our reliable civil liberties vacuum for the unseemly and dirty then placed on public display can be exploited very easily. The exploitation is non-partisan, can come from either side because civil liberties are non-partisan.
Even the venerable newspaper editor Abe Rosenthal at the even more venerable New York Times distorted facts about the iconic example of urban social decay, the Kitty Genovese murder, by claiming that more than a dozen passive bystanders listened for a very long time to her screams and did not call the police. In fact, there were only two, who thought it was a domestic dispute, a man beating a woman, which was not then and yes even to this day is often not- considered an entirely atrocious act calling for police intervention. The public bearing witness to degradation of a woman is still often fair game. 
Here in Maine, what does the civil liberty "freedom of the press" mean in the wake of revelations that the upper echelons of state government with held and then shredded public information about the rating system for giving out "Healthy Maine Partnership" funds, you got it, money. Shall we soon expect some chest-thumping about which party civil liberties truly belong to?
With holding the public facts, sitting on them, or shredding them, is exploiting freedom of the press because public facts go out to the press. If there was no difference between truth and fiction, freedom of the press might not uphold democracy as it does. Not sit on the facts is a good place to begin to protect it.  There is plenty of room behind freedom of the press to create fake negative press. This isn't fake traffic jams, New Jersey-style "civil liberties". At least there, y had the good sense to not rehire the exploiters. No, it's fake negative press proxy-style. There is plenty of room behind the civil liberty called "freedom of the press" to send complete falsehoods to the press,  generating fake buzz, using strong, inappropriate words to deliberately distort.  There is plenty of room to believe that communication means selective distortion sent to the media for the sake of the buzz.
And the civil liberty called freedom of the press offers quite good camouflage to protect you from being discovered- until- yes, often times it's because of freedom of the press- the truth is told. 
So how do we protect freedom of the press from shredders and deliberate distorters? How do we select for the complex ability to hold two ideas in the mind at the same time? For example that freedom of press means the message goes out AND that fake proxies, selective, "sitting on" or shredding or destroying key information or "facts" violate the civil liberty called freedom of the press.  Period. Civil liberties are non-partisan. When someone tries to claim that civil liberties belong to one political party more than another, another complex problem of holding of two ideas in the mind at the same time comes up. While one party is busy sending false proxies out to the media, at the expense of the civil liberty called freedom of the press, the other party may just be acting with the decency we expect from partisans who also uphold civil liberties. The other party might be the bystanders who say "Back off. Enough. You are violating civil liberties."  If  the partisan chest-thumping begins about the top government officials distorting facts or shredding them, here in Maine, "the other party does it too" is nobody's good reason for violating the civil liberty called freedom of the press.  Civil liberties are non-partisan. And exploiting them on either side is an equal "attack" on democracy.

A Citizen's Guide to Gunnel Grabbing in American Politics

From Susan J. Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 06:03

Expert canoe paddlers know that a predictable sign that swimming is imminent when the canoe starts to tip in rough water is the grabbing of the canoe's gunnels by the resident paddlers. "Swimming" is the euphemism for what occupants do in the water after the canoe tips over. The gunnels are the railings that hold the canoe together. More experienced paddlers know that there's a far better chance of staying afloat if the paddler holds firmly to the paddle and leans in the opposite direction of the tipping.

If you are hearing an extremely helpful metaphor for understanding the political process in this country, you are thinking clearly.
The gunnel grabbers in political life are never the candidates or elected officials themselves. "Gunnel grabber" is a delegated position taken on by the Directors of new media or communications or the chiefs of staff or director of some other important activity to control how that the office holder or candidate is presented to the public or their fellow "team players" in the legislature or Congress.

Understanding some of the historical problems with gunnel grabbing in American politics just might help us understand how things get, well, turned on their sides in government and what might help righ them.

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Expert canoe paddlers know that a predictable sign that swimming is imminent when the canoe starts to tip in rough water is the grabbing of the canoe's gunnells by the resident paddlers. "Swimming" is the euphemism for what occupants do in the water after the canoe tips over.  The gunnels are the railings that hold the canoe together. More experienced paddlers know that there's a far better chance of staying afloat if the paddler holds firmly to the paddle and leans in the opposite direction of the tipping.
If you are hearing an extremely helpful metaphor for understanding the political process in this country, you are thinking clearly.
The gunnel grabbers in political life are never the candidates or elected officials themselves. "Gunnel grabber" is a delegated position taken on by the Directors of new media or communications or the chiefs of staff or director of some other important activity to control how that the office holder or candidate is presented to the public or their fellow "team players" in the legislature or Congress. 
If the metaphor still isn't clear, think Karl Rove, gunnel grabber for former President  George W. Bush or Matthew Gagnon, former Director of New Media for Maine's Senator Susan Collins he who in the virtual world writes the website "As Maine Goes", now overseeing the Maine Republican party’s website. (See his August 2011 “asmainegoes” website offerings for his gunnel grabbing on his party's behalf.)  They are the Congressional Chiefs of staff, the Peter Chandlers of Congress. Gunnel grabbers are not limited to political parties.  Even Maine's independent US senator Angus King has his gunnel grabber, Chief of Staff Kay Ryan. Lest we forget, Governor Chris Christie's gunnel grabber Bridget Anne Kelly. 
Gunnel grabbers are staff who when the canoe hits rough rapids  or becomes unbalanced in still water and starts to tip, turn to political gamesmanship tactics which takes precedence over all else. In desperation, they grab the gunnels which- as expert paddlers tell us- often precedes an unwelcome swim. The gunnel grabbers don't like to draw attention to themselves but hey, if they think the canoe's going over, they grab whatever they can. In less frantic moments, when what intelligence is there prevails, the tactics are less extreme. Now, the issue of whether the “elected“ or the candidate know what the gunnel grab actually does is less important than the fact that it’s the elected’s or candidate’s  judgment which brings the person on staff in the first place.  That’s who ultimately assesses the canoe paddler’s approach.
And what might go in the water with the canoe when the gunnel grabber grabs? In the political process in Congress or Legislatures or during a heated campaign? 
What might very well go in the water with the soon-destined to be swimmer and the canoe? 
Civil liberties, the Constitution and criminal or civil law can go right in the water with them. Remember the Watergate plumbers and that now 42 year old burglary of the Democratic National Party headquarters in the Watergate complex in Washington, DC  which led all the way back to gunnell grabbers Erhlichman and Haldeman? That was gunnel grabbing in the extreme, and all for the sake of political gamesmanship. 
Those gunnel grabbers were White House chiefs of staff  for a nervous up-for-re-election President Richard Nixon. The burglary led to his resignation. Americans  would not tolerate throwing the Constitution, Civil Liberties and the right of citizens to participate in our democracy free of harassment and intimidation  in the water.
We should not tolerate gunnel grabbers in politics who think tossing civil liberties, the Constitution and the right to participate in democracy without harassment are all part of political gamesmanship. Gunnel grabbers in politics, remember,  are paid employees, part of their desperation when the canoe starts tipping. In fact, they are just not good paddlers who‘ve been hired for jobs that at the ultimate test, they cannot do well.
Let us encourage our elected officials and candidates for office to hire the good paddlers who when the rough water only take themselves in and turn to that basic phylogenetic skill, swimming ability, to stay afloat.

Telling the Truth With Twigs and Baling Wire

From Susan J. Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 06:50

I am a great admirer of bird nests and those who build them. They make them with twigs, string, down. You find them sometimes nestled inside the angle a piece of twisted baling wire makes found in a pasture or barn. You can see when you find one that it's labor intensive. I heard someone say recently that she collected bird nests but "only ones that had made it through the winter." Of course, that means that bird - if she made it through the winter-who comes back to look for the nest will have to start all over again.

Telling the truth is like that. There are those who build it from twigs and baling wire and no matter how hard someone tries to say that it's critical for survival, somebody will come along and take it down and you have to start all over again.

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Telling the Truth with Twigs and Baling Wire
-Susan Cook-
I am a great admirer of bird nests and those who build them. They make them with twigs, string, down. You find them  sometimes nestled inside the angle a piece of twisted baling wire makes found in a pasture or barn. You can see when you find one that it's labor intensive. I heard someone say recently that she collected bird nests but "only ones that had made it through the winter." Of course, that means that bird - if she made it through the winter-who comes back to look for the nest will have to start all over again.
Telling the truth is like that. There are those who build it from twigs and baling wire and no matter how hard someone tries to say that it's critical for survival, somebody will come along and take it down and you have to start all over again.
I heard a performance called "The Thinking Heart" by 2 Maine poets and a cellist,  created from the diary of Etty Hillesum, the young Dutch writer who died at Auschwitz-Birkenau at the age of 29 but left behind her work, first published as "An Interrupted Life" and now in a longer unexpurgated volume. Their performance in a small room at the library was stunning, the words, the music of the cellist, each performer's heart called in as the dramaturge for a woman who died in 1943. She, no longer there, their performance is the sound of one hand clapping. It is telling the truth with twigs and baling wire as Etty Hillesum had done with paper and pen. Her diaries are the only way we know now what happened there. As a member of the Jewish Council, she was privileged by the Nazis to travel back and forth from Amsterdam to the "holding camp" where Jews were held before they were sent to the death camp. She was doing good for evil not incidental to her own survival. She died too.
She makes observations about the politics of power and wonders aloud why the allies didn't bomb the railroad tracks, knowing full well that the Nazis were able to transport Jews to concentration camps only because the railroad tracks were intact.  Of course, the railroad owners were the wealthy. Always and eternally there is someone who chooses to see something as less important and does not listen to hear or see  what the big picture might be or maybe it's just self- interest taking priority.  There were industrialists who didn't,  Schindler for one.  But still, you have to ask, how none acknowledged the entitled derision of the Jews and the extremely obvious deportation - by railroad, not bus or horse-drawn wagon. Why were only people with access to twigs and  baling wire able to telling the truth?  Why didn't those with access to the large machinery of public knowledge come forth and declare a very simple observation "Jews are being transported to concentration camps on the railroad." Why?
The machinery of public knowledge, for telling of the truth can be corrupted too.  Who would think that wide scale corruption of the truth- which remains the best  reference point for humanity's survival for what to do or not do- could be sold - for a paycheck- to those who will promote with no ethics or values attached- personal agenda?
We don't need to travel too far out of this country or state to find individuals perfectly willing to do that. In this day and age they are not government employees sneaking behind enemy lines. They are Communication employees who have mastered the railroad technology of our day, the Internet.  Our distinguished Senators and Congressional Representatives,  our Governors and paid political strategists all have their Directors of New Media Communications, their web designers, their pinetreepolitics.com and asmainegoes.com websites to distort or defame the truth. On the government dollar, at the convenience or whim of the power player, the "distinguished" US Senators  or government official or employee ever vigilant of their own interest ready to do what will with the truth.  They  are entitled to use government funds to manipulate the railroad of our time, the Internet, to do what they will with the truth. Most of us are left with twigs and baling wire, with no  way of knowing whether some greedy voyeur is going to come and take the truth away. 
The people who made the Constitution and our Civil Liberties in the first place only had access to  twigs and baling wire: the voice, word, the written statement, the pen, the pencil, the parchment, their mind, the heart and the five senses. Maybe those documents are the reason the myriad of abuses  of truth and human integrity we see in this country get tripped up sometimes. Maybe those documents are the bird who places the nest beyond human reach or Etty Hillesum throwing one last postcard off the final train that somebody mails. They are, years later, three people in a small library bringing back to life, the truth, the sound of one hand clapping.  

A Citizen's Guide to Entitled Derision

From Susan J. Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 07:04

When politicians talk about "working across the aisle", they talk about it as if they are endorsing a great ethic. But working across the aisle is not an ethic. It's a carpentry essential. Its absence contributes to a structural failure of the institutional structure . We witness how badly the legislative process in Congress now sags.

But if working across the aisle isn’t an ethic, where are the real ethics in contemporary politics? When did entitled derision - the disrespectful messaging politicians daily speak- written for them by their Communications Directors and Directors of New Media- replace an ethic of respect?

Of course you might ask "What's wrong with entitled derision?" “Doesn‘t it“, as I heard one party hack say, a law school student nodding her head in agreement- "depend on what they did." Entitled derision is - after all- the belief that you are entitled to demean, insult or degrade the other because of what the person believes, says, does or votes. Distinguished candidates, senators and representatives using the language their Communication Directors and Directors of New Media write for them do it. Just taking part in the democratic process, in someone else’s view, justifies entitled derision and justifies making the candidate or the other legislator a target.

We see it in state, local and national government and politics. At all levels. We have also seen it in Northern Ireland, in Cambodia, in Tibet, in Vietnam, at Abu Grabh, and yes we saw it in Nazi Germany because someone convinced someone else the insulted, demeaned, derided "deserved" it. Entitled derision.

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A Citizen's Guide to Entitled Derision
-Susan Cook-
When politicians talk about "working across the aisle", they talk about it as if they are endorsing a great ethic.  But working across the aisle is not an ethic. It's a carpentry essential.  Its absence contributes to a structural failure of the institutional structure . We witness how badly  the legislative process in Congress now sags. 
But if  working across the aisle isn’t an ethic, where are the real ethics in contemporary politics?  When did entitled derision - the disrespectful messaging politicians daily  speak- written for them by their Communications Directors and Directors of New Media- replace an ethic of respect?
Of course you might ask "What's wrong with entitled derision?" “Doesn‘t it“, as I heard one party hack say, a law school student nodding her head in agreement- "depend on what they did." Entitled derision is - after all- the belief that you are entitled to demean, insult or degrade the other because of  what the person believes, says, does or votes.   Distinguished candidates, senators and representatives using the language their Communication Directors and Directors of New Media write for them do it. Just taking part in the democratic process, in someone else’s view, justifies entitled derision and justifies making the candidate or the other legislator a target. 
We see it in state, local and national government and politics. At all levels. We have also seen it in Northern Ireland, in Cambodia, in Tibet, in Vietnam, at Abu Grabh, and yes we saw it in Nazi Germany because someone convinced someone else the insulted, demeaned, derided "deserved" it.  Entitled derision.
Entitled derision sits on  continuum. I’ve  listened to the weekly radio addresses that the "opposing parties" in my state’s government back when they were broadcast on Saturday mornings before the sun rises. The  entitled derision from the Governor or the "legislator of the Day", words  their “messaging" staff write for them, is abundant. Who they direct it toward varies. One morning the State Senator giving the address said  "studies have shown that domestic violence victims are more comfortable disclosing to a doctor than a counselor " or other domestic violence worker.  I have written and published about 
domestic violence so  I know  empirical studies show race and social class strongly influence who is or is not believed and thus identified when a patient tells a health care professional about abuse. So there were no studies. Rather, that week, a State Senator used her ‘entitled derision’ to demean domestic violence workers.
The entitled derision we see locally is of course widespread among national political candidates. This is not the roller coaster of politics. It is a continuum that leads to a place of no ethics in government service whatsoever. It is a train ride that at its far end leads to Cambodia, Northern Ireland and the concentration camps of Germany in World War II.  It is entitled derision.
The Third Reich was very very good at engaging and working their local political arms. They didn't control what happened locally by instilling fear of a distant abstract "power". They chose carefully at the local level, "messaged  carefully", to their local leaders. They chose individuals to empower who thirsted for power by association with some higher up. They turned to those local people who were hoping for some personal gain, a job, a moment with a big wig, an invitation to a special event. They relied on them to carry out the entitled derision for them, to degrade, to stigmatize others or to give an air of "acceptability" to what they were doing: locally-sourced derision using imported "messages" from a distant government.
During World War II, in Amsterdam, the Nazis created a Jewish Council selecting a "staff" of 60 Jews and giving them job titles. Etty Hillesum, the Dutch writer whose book "An Interrupted Life" documents her life  before her death at Auchwitz-Berkenau was given a job in the Cultural Affairs Department of the Jewish Council. The Council was the air of "legitimacy" the Nazis gave to the deportation of Jews and the absence of ethical consideration of what was being done. The strategy was to place the local mouse  in a pot of water, the temperature  raised one degree at a time  until it boiled.
If you claim not to recognize entitled derision in contemporary politics you are not telling the truth. Passively accepting entitled derision  in politics threatens  that some day we’ll stop asking why when atrocities are committed- because entitled derision - insult by insult- relies on the belief that the person or group derided deserves it. Of course, no one ever does.  “Working across the aisle” isn’t an "ethic". It’s a carpentry essential. Entitled derision pulls out each  nail - insult by insult- and will - over time-  take the fragile building of the Democratic Process and human rights down, once and for all.

Big Fish, Small Pond; Small Fish, Big Pond: A Citizen's Guide to Conscience

From Susan J. Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 06:50

At a jazz performance, the lady next to me and I struck up a conversation. During World War II, she, a Czechoslovakian, and her family were exiled to Latvia. They were sent to an American-occupied section of Germany at war's end, and lived in Displaced Persons Camps for six years. "Then we came to America", she said. She, her husband and their daughter were there listening to the daughter's boyfriend play saxophone in a jazz quintet. She was, I knew, a woman who knows what it is to be a small fish in the very large pond called the world.
Dutifully, as mothers in every pond since the beginning of time have done, she took a sip of her daughter's just purchased martini. Turning in my direction, the mother grimaced as if she had just tasted 1000 proof alcohol retrieved from an ancient civilization where it was a fire substitute. Here was the mother as the forever big fish in the small pond in which her adult daughter still swam in which no martini eludes the mother's discriminating tongue to see how strong the drink.
These are the life experiences of which conscience is made, if we remember them: that we are always small fish in very big ponds and large fish in the very small pond of our home, our lives, our communities, our quotidian routines. It is the tension between keeping both in mind at the same time, the remembering the two- going back and forth as we live- that makes conscience available but also elusive to us all.

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Big Fish, Small Pond; Small Fish, Big Pond: A Citizen's Guide to Conscience
                                           -Susan Cook-
At a jazz performance, the lady next to me and I struck up a conversation. During World War II, she, a Czechoslovakian, and her family were exiled to Latvia. They were sent to an American-occupied section of Germany at war's end, and lived in Displaced Persons Camps for six years. "Then we came to America", she said. She, her husband and their daughter were there listening to the daughter's boyfriend play saxophone in a jazz quintet. She was, I knew, a woman who knows what it is to be a small fish in the very large pond called the world. 
Dutifully, as mothers in every pond since the beginning of time have done, she took a sip of her daughter's just purchased martini. Turning in my direction, the mother grimaced as if she had just tasted 1000 proof alcohol retrieved from an ancient civilization where it was a fire substitute. Here was the mother as the forever big fish in the small pond in which her adult daughter still swam in which no martini eludes the mother's discriminating tongue to see how strong the drink.
These are the life experiences of which conscience is made, if we remember them: that we are always small fish in very big ponds and large fish in the very small pond of our home, our lives, our communities, our quotidian routines. It is the tension between keeping both in mind at the same time, the remembering the two- going back and forth as we live- that makes conscience available but also elusive to us all.
To be in a small pond is to know, if we are lucky, compassion that comes from the indelible ink of human concern, the mother taking one sip of her daughter's martini.
And when we are small fish in big ponds, as we always are, conscience brings the indelible imprint of compassion, the do-unto-others-as-you-would-have-them-do-unto-you, and on and on. The inability to do that is what distinguishes having a conscience from not having one at all.
It is extremely difficult to hold both in mind. In the time of the World Wide Web, we all have access to a big pond, at times, but that doesn't mean we grasp what that means. A small fish can have big fish consequences. Someone called it small power. But one man posting directions for making a noose is big fish power over the suicidal adolescent who follows them. 
The small fish misusing and exploiting the word “attack” to describe a public criticism that then signals and places the criticizer on the terrorist watch list of the FBI and National Security Agency is no conscience- small fish not knowing there is a big pond that the internet provides access to - to the wrong people. 
The big fish/small fish; big pond/small pond distinction isn’t about vanity, narcissism or inflated self importance or even about small fish clamoring to be heard. Having a conscience means the struggle to know (or remind yourself) you are and will always be both, both forms, both places at different times.
We have many distinguished office holders who forget that they are both- who abuse the bully pulpit - their big fish status and big fish privilege in ways that have a profound impact on the small fish of the world. The runner in some African country preparing for the Olympics who hear that an American politician fears the security preparations for the event so won't send his family. The big fish American politician who hires a Director of New Media who abuses the World Wide Web to demean critics. The small fish who carry out their personal agendas-without conscience- to keep their own jobs. History is written by the big and the small. 
Not everyone has the privilege of knowing they are both. Sometimes the events of the time make it impossible to ignore. When I was a 17 year old university freshman, I joined the nationwide student moratorium criticizing in protest the American bombing of Cambodia and the shooting of 4 Kent State students protesting the Vietnam War.  I spent my days writing letters to small Maine newspapers saying that the moratorium was a “question of conscience” because we could not continue to attend classes while thousands of soldiers (almost 50,000 at that point) died in an unfair, unjust war that was never approved by the American public. 
The first boy my mother allowed me to go to the movies with, him driving his Ford LTD, died in that war, plucked off our local street corner by the Marine recruiter next to our ice cream shop hangout.  I already knew there was a big pond, in my small fish way
I knew then conscience was a big word, not to be thrown around by political office-holders looking for a brand. I don’t think I ever heard Richard Nixon use that word. The small fish thrown into the big pond, who became a big fish, big power not soft, who never quite put aside his small fish priorities.

My Bi-partisan Family: A Citizen's Guide

From Susan J. Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 05:19

I have a bi -partisan family. Maybe you do too. It makes understanding politics all the more difficult because sometimes people don’t agree. When there's a policy at the state level of government or something comes up the pike from Washington, DC where all those distinguished office-holders are in Congress, there's always the possibility that someone won 't like it, in the family, I mean. Sometimes it's not just that someone in the family doesn't like a political policy or a plan. Sometimes it makes the person feel bad.The details, I mean. In a bi-partisan family, maybe the details one person misses, are the ones someone else in the family is paying attention to and maybe that’s the good thing about a bi-partisan family. They keep each other honest. A lot of people in this country think politicians have a long long way before they keep each other as honest as a bi-partisan family will.

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The Bi-partisan Family: A Citizen’s Guide

-Susan Cook-

I have a bi -partisan family. Maybe you do too. It makes understanding politics all the more difficult because sometimes people don’t agree. When there's a policy at the state level of government or something comes up the pike from Washington, DC where all those distinguished office-holders are in Congress, there's always the possibility that someone won 't like it, in the family, I mean. Sometimes it's not just that someone in the family doesn't like a political policy or a plan. Sometimes it makes the person feel bad.

Like maybe they live down in New Jersey and the mom is late picking up the child from daycare because she gets caught in gridlock. Maybe the child starts crying and starts getting nervous and the child starts worrying that something happened to Mom and that's why the parent isn't there yet to pick up the child. Maybe couple weeks after that the child wakes up in the middle of the night from a nightmare he’s had about the day the parent didn't show up to daycare on time. Then the parent finds out the reason all that gridlock was there because somebody had a political agenda and threw up some orange to make one lane of traffic where there was no reason on earth why there couldn't be two lanes. Then the parent finds out that it's a certain political party that’s responsible for that. Now, that parent may decide- since the child isn't of voting age- that the political party will never get a vote from that Mom again.

But then the grandmother finds out and the Mom tells her about the boy waking up and having a bad dream about waiting and waiting at daycare and the grandmother feels angry too because she - well, you know how grandparents are about grandchildren. They don’t want anything to ever make them feel bad ever. So the grandmother feels hurt for the grandchild and she might have been the most loyal Republican in the world and she will never let her pencil go near a Republican name on the ballot because her grandchild suffered because of a political trick. It doesn’t even have to be a big political trick. It can be just a little one and the grandmother is done.

Now, it could be a Democrat’s trick or a Republican’s trick or even an Independent who is playing out some kind of political vendetta that has nothing to do with good government or democracy. It has to do with the smallness that forgets about the small, the children in daycare waiting for their parent to come get them. If you have a bi-partisan family and something makes the grandfather feel bad, say, then it also may make the uncle feel bad and then because the uncle feels bad, it might hurt the nephew who feels bad because his father feels bad and then pretty soon, because they’re bi-partisan, nobody in the family can pretend that it’s only one party that does nasty things because they watch one party do it to someone on the other party and then they watch the other party do it to someone in the other party or to the Independent.

One day, let’s say, one of the uncles says, “Oh that other party does terrible things. My political party would never do that.” And the niece says, “Oh yes they do. Look what they did to your wife.” And the uncle doesn’t say a word, because he knows it’s true. Then one day, nobody in the bi-partisan family can get anybody to be active in politics anymore because they know either side would leave the child at the daycare and they’ve seen it happen. Details, details details! In a bi-partisan family, maybe the details one person misses, are the ones someone else in the family is paying attention to and maybe that’s the good thing about a bi-partisan family. They keep each other honest. A lot of people in this country think politicians have a long long way before they keep each other as honest as a bi-partisan family will.

Sonnet for Gorbachev

From Susan J. Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | :57

The vision of Gorbachev now is destroyed by Vladimir Putin. A sonnet will remind us of what Gorbachev made possible and what is now lost by Putin's polarization.

Sonnetforvladimirputinphoto1_small

Sonnet for Gorbachev
In Independence Square that day, her face
held in his hand, they kissed. Back then, detente
protected them, his arm around her waist, 
that year, that day. Cold War memories still haunt
them, when love was impossible, above 
all, she without him, he without her, caught 
in diplomacy. But then Gorbachev
imagined a boy, a girl and love. Arms ought
to be for holding, international 
relations, so Gorbachev created
detente. That day, with things more rational,
in the square, love was reciprocated. 
Putin would like to end such caressing,
love his nemesis, countries confessing. 

Sonnet for Gorbachev

From Susan J. Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | :57

The vision of Gorbachev now is destroyed by Vladimir Putin. A sonnet will remind us of what Gorbachev made possible and what is now lost by Putin's polarization.

Sonnetforvladimirputinphoto1_small

Sonnet for Gorbachev
In Independence Square that day, her face
held in his hand, they kissed. Back then, detente
protected them, his arm around her waist, 
that year, that day. Cold War memories still haunt
them, when love was impossible, above 
all, she without him, he without her, caught 
in diplomacy. But then Gorbachev
imagined a boy, a girl and love. Arms ought
to be for holding, international 
relations, so Gorbachev created
detente. That day, with things more rational,
in the square, love was reciprocated. 
Putin would like to end such caressing,
love his nemesis, countries confessing. 

My 500 Pound Gorilla: A Citizen's Guide

From Susan J. Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 04:11

I watched a program the other night about a 500 pound gorilla, or maybe it was a monkey whose owner taught him sign language. Whatever. I am beginning to think that maybe it was the gorilla who taught the owner to sign. That gorilla, all grown up- would move his finger an inch off his massive thigh- and that owner would coo and delight with immediate recognition. “Oh, that’s his sign when he’s whispering- kind of like at a cocktail party when you tell someone something from across the room so no one else will know.“ I would prefer a gorilla- any day- his place or mine- who was more straightforward. Or maybe- since I don’t know any gorillas personally- people who are straightforward.

This reminds of many things in life, but since the political season is upon us let’s start there. We have become a populace that will fill in the rest of the sentence, thought, public policy and legislative document for any gorilla. The gorilla gestures “gun control”, we fill in the sentence. The gorilla says “pro-life”, we fill in the rest. The gorilla says “fiscal irresponsibility”, we know what he means. I take this opportunity to remind you, we don’t know what the gorilla actually thinks. This is worse than sound bites. This is human beings reading gorilla’s minds.

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My 500 pound Gorilla- A Citizen’s Guide
-Susan Cook-
I watched a program the other night about a 500 pound gorilla, or maybe it was a  monkey whose owner taught him sign language. Whatever. I am beginning to think that maybe it was the gorilla who taught the owner to sign.  That gorilla, all grown up- would move his finger an inch off his massive thigh- and that owner would coo and delight with immediate recognition. “Oh, that’s his sign when he’s whispering- kind of like at a cocktail party when you tell someone something from across the room so no one else will know.“ I would prefer a gorilla- any day- his place or mine- who was more straightforward. 
Or maybe- since I don’t know any gorillas personally-  people who are straightforward. 
This reminds of many things in life, but since the political season is upon us let’s start there.  We have become a populace that will fill in the rest of the sentence, thought, public policy and legislative document for any gorilla. The gorilla gestures “gun control”, we fill in the sentence. The gorilla says “pro-life”, we fill in the rest. The gorilla says “fiscal irresponsibility”, we know what he means. I take this opportunity to remind you, we don’t know what the gorilla actually thinks. This is worse than  sound bites. This is human beings reading gorilla’s minds. Cooing excitedly when the 500 pound gorilla tosses out a small gesture is mind reading.  It is not a “sign” of anything  other than that the gorilla tapped his thigh. I don’t mean to be cynical but clear communication does not rely on mind reading, channeling or crossed fingers. I’d love to know what it means when the 500 pound gorilla crosses his fingers.  It’s one good thing you can say about the legal profession has over  the rest of the world- at least they require details. 
What is it with 500 pound gorillas  who have managed to captivate our belief systems with one gesture that we seize upon as a sign of- what- liberal, conservative, pro-, con-, NRA, non-NRA, Obama care disaster, Obama care miracle? And remember this gorilla throwing out signs never wrote for the New York Times, Fox news or PBS  or made a movie. But he’s got people thinking he just might- and this 
500 pound gorilla keeps on keeping on- a little sign here, one little  tap on the thigh there. I am not calling the gorilla a liar. But let is return to whatever more the highly evolved actions - the moral imperative to keep the lawn mowed-  and demand from the gorilla such that if there comes a day when it’s just me and the Gorilla  who have to fill in the blanks or the legislative policy or the contract , I’ll know what I was thinking even if the gorilla comes up blank. And I’ll leave the meeting knowing what I know and the gorilla can go back to tapping his thigh and I am not going to be there reading  the “signs”  as indicative of anything other than that I have been watching a 500 pound gorilla-  a very nice, genial well-funded gorilla with deep deep pockets- but it’s still a gorilla tapping- hey- maybe it was a mosquito.  

My 500 Pound Gorilla: A Citizen's Guide

From Susan J. Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 04:11

I watched a program the other night about a 500 pound gorilla, or maybe it was a monkey whose owner taught him sign language. Whatever. I am beginning to think that maybe it was the gorilla who taught the owner to sign. That gorilla, all grown up- would move his finger an inch off his massive thigh- and that owner would coo and delight with immediate recognition. “Oh, that’s his sign when he’s whispering- kind of like at a cocktail party when you tell someone something from across the room so no one else will know.“ I would prefer a gorilla- any day- his place or mine- who was more straightforward. Or maybe- since I don’t know any gorillas personally- people who are straightforward.

This reminds of many things in life, but since the political season is upon us let’s start there. We have become a populace that will fill in the rest of the sentence, thought, public policy and legislative document for any gorilla. The gorilla gestures “gun control”, we fill in the sentence. The gorilla says “pro-life”, we fill in the rest. The gorilla says “fiscal irresponsibility”, we know what he means. I take this opportunity to remind you, we don’t know what the gorilla actually thinks. This is worse than sound bites. This is human beings reading gorilla’s minds.

0725144516_small

My 500 pound Gorilla- A Citizen’s Guide
-Susan Cook-
I watched a program the other night about a 500 pound gorilla, or maybe it was a  monkey whose owner taught him sign language. Whatever. I am beginning to think that maybe it was the gorilla who taught the owner to sign.  That gorilla, all grown up- would move his finger an inch off his massive thigh- and that owner would coo and delight with immediate recognition. “Oh, that’s his sign when he’s whispering- kind of like at a cocktail party when you tell someone something from across the room so no one else will know.“ I would prefer a gorilla- any day- his place or mine- who was more straightforward. 
Or maybe- since I don’t know any gorillas personally-  people who are straightforward. 
This reminds of many things in life, but since the political season is upon us let’s start there.  We have become a populace that will fill in the rest of the sentence, thought, public policy and legislative document for any gorilla. The gorilla gestures “gun control”, we fill in the sentence. The gorilla says “pro-life”, we fill in the rest. The gorilla says “fiscal irresponsibility”, we know what he means. I take this opportunity to remind you, we don’t know what the gorilla actually thinks. This is worse than  sound bites. This is human beings reading gorilla’s minds. Cooing excitedly when the 500 pound gorilla tosses out a small gesture is mind reading.  It is not a “sign” of anything  other than that the gorilla tapped his thigh. I don’t mean to be cynical but clear communication does not rely on mind reading, channeling or crossed fingers. I’d love to know what it means when the 500 pound gorilla crosses his fingers.  It’s one good thing you can say about the legal profession has over  the rest of the world- at least they require details. 
What is it with 500 pound gorillas  who have managed to captivate our belief systems with one gesture that we seize upon as a sign of- what- liberal, conservative, pro-, con-, NRA, non-NRA, Obama care disaster, Obama care miracle? And remember this gorilla throwing out signs never wrote for the New York Times, Fox news or PBS  or made a movie. But he’s got people thinking he just might- and this 
500 pound gorilla keeps on keeping on- a little sign here, one little  tap on the thigh there. I am not calling the gorilla a liar. But let is return to whatever more the highly evolved actions - the moral imperative to keep the lawn mowed-  and demand from the gorilla such that if there comes a day when it’s just me and the Gorilla  who have to fill in the blanks or the legislative policy or the contract , I’ll know what I was thinking even if the gorilla comes up blank. And I’ll leave the meeting knowing what I know and the gorilla can go back to tapping his thigh and I am not going to be there reading  the “signs”  as indicative of anything other than that I have been watching a 500 pound gorilla-  a very nice, genial well-funded gorilla with deep deep pockets- but it’s still a gorilla tapping- hey- maybe it was a mosquito.  

The Problem with Internet Search Engines: A Citizen's Guide

From Susan J. Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 06:37

Internet search engines have no way of taking context into consideration. The closest Google has come is to hone the search by user’s zip code, which is none of their business anyway. They have not, and probably won’t ever, come up with an algorithm able to take into account all the contextual features of the above scenario that would make the results as useful or irrelevant as possible. We have no way of knowing absolutely what is like for another person in their context but being a good observer of context and sorting through its relevance to our thinking is probably one of the things that has brought us to the top of the food chain. Thus this Citizen's Guide.

Breathing_small

The Problem with Search Engines: A Citizen’s Guide
-Susan Cook-
I was with my niece recently when she stepped out of the truck onto the curb and suddenly made an X-generation exclamation indicating something unexpected had happened. I said “What’s wrong?” “I stepped on something sharp.” At this point, she had her ankle curved to one side so she could look at the bottom of her flip-flop. Using her pincer grasp, she pulled a slightly curved pushpin that had stuck in its bottom. “Great,” she said, “Now I’m going to get tetanus. ” 
“This was on the floor of your truck,” she said, me having failed to hazard-proof the vehicle before picking her up.   
Us not living in a country where Ebola or Typhus await, I tried to reassure her that any pushpin on the passenger side of my truck would have gone directly from its bacteria-free plastic Staples packaging to the truck floor without first going through a river in Benares. The spray can of anti-bacterial first-aid that I also happened to have on hand only seemed to heighten her fears. “The damage is already done plus this expired 3 months ago, “ she said, with an ever-sharpening edge in her voice that implied she was getting to what her mother (my older sister) had been telling her since childhood about the condition of the vehicles of her aunt (me). “I hope my tetanus shots are up-to-date.”  
My appeasement wasn’t working so I tried something else.  “Why don’t you look up ‘tetanus’ on your I-phone?”
At that moment, that was probably not the best thing she could do because of the problem with Internet search engines. They have no way of taking context into consideration. The closest Google has come is to hone the search by user’s zip code, which is none of their business anyway. They have not, and probably won’t ever, come up with an algorithm able to take into account all the contextual features of the above scenario that would make the results as useful or irrelevant as possible. We have no way of knowing absolutely what is like for another person in their context but being a good observer of context and sorting through its relevance to our thinking is probably one of the things that has brought us to the top of the food chain. If we focused on the same things as someone in a context completely different than our own, our fight/flight skills would never evolve to tell us what we need to know to make the best of things (a.k.a. survival).
I remember writing about all the things children weren’t doing when they watched television to help them grow. Let us think about the important skills in reading context (first of all, that it’s important) that we don’t exercise when we use our search engines instead of our own fight/flight tools. There is color, size, shape. There is hearing, smelling, touching, tasting, seeing. There is the weather. There is the irrelevance of data from a sample of 10,000 pushpin sticks receivers, when we have an “N of One” before us. There is the curiosity that an N of One prompts.
Another example of what happen when context is disregarded took place in rural Maine. There is an ongoing controversy about the re-introduction of alewives (a migratory salt-to-fresh water fish) into the upper reaches of a river that the local fishermen maintain has never been their habitat because of the underwater topography which has natural barriers to their progression upriver. They have witnessed and worry that introduction of this non-native species to the upper reaches will destroy the economically valuable Bass population. Very worried.
I had a conversation with the constituency advocate of a national environmental non-governmental organization that made this re-introduction a legislative priority, despite the arguments against it from those who fish there. He has never seen the upper river’s underwater topography there let alone fished it everyday. But he will give you Internet numbers. “Oh, yeah, what was it they were worried about?” he asked. “Oh, yeah, the Bass.”
Shall we settle on the observations of the people who fish the upriver water bodies everyday -the context- or the former congressional aide whose got good Internet numbers? What do we lose when we disregard context- the real place, what really happens, the real fish numbers going down or up?  Our fight-flight signals?  An immune system that can’t figure out what to look out for?   Everything - the context- all the details- will never ever be on the Internet. Everything we individually know from being in a certain context will never come up on a search engine. Where will our context  recognition skills be?  Gone the way of the telephone book, the analog clock? How to find your way when alas the I-phone is busted, the Internet service provider unavailable, no matter how hard you search? By the way, don’t forgot how to ride a horse.

The Problem with Internet Search Engines: A Citizen's Guide

From Susan J. Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 06:37

Internet search engines have no way of taking context into consideration. The closest Google has come is to hone the search by user’s zip code, which is none of their business anyway. They have not, and probably won’t ever, come up with an algorithm able to take into account all the contextual features of the above scenario that would make the results as useful or irrelevant as possible. We have no way of knowing absolutely what is like for another person in their context but being a good observer of context and sorting through its relevance to our thinking is probably one of the things that has brought us to the top of the food chain. Thus this Citizen's Guide.

Breathing_small

The Problem with Search Engines: A Citizen’s Guide
-Susan Cook-
I was with my niece recently when she stepped out of the truck onto the curb and suddenly made an X-generation exclamation indicating something unexpected had happened. I said “What’s wrong?” “I stepped on something sharp.” At this point, she had her ankle curved to one side so she could look at the bottom of her flip-flop. Using her pincer grasp, she pulled a slightly curved pushpin that had stuck in its bottom. “Great,” she said, “Now I’m going to get tetanus. ” 
“This was on the floor of your truck,” she said, me having failed to hazard-proof the vehicle before picking her up.   
Us not living in a country where Ebola or Typhus await, I tried to reassure her that any pushpin on the passenger side of my truck would have gone directly from its bacteria-free plastic Staples packaging to the truck floor without first going through a river in Benares. The spray can of anti-bacterial first-aid that I also happened to have on hand only seemed to heighten her fears. “The damage is already done plus this expired 3 months ago, “ she said, with an ever-sharpening edge in her voice that implied she was getting to what her mother (my older sister) had been telling her since childhood about the condition of the vehicles of her aunt (me). “I hope my tetanus shots are up-to-date.”  
My appeasement wasn’t working so I tried something else.  “Why don’t you look up ‘tetanus’ on your I-phone?”
At that moment, that was probably not the best thing she could do because of the problem with Internet search engines. They have no way of taking context into consideration. The closest Google has come is to hone the search by user’s zip code, which is none of their business anyway. They have not, and probably won’t ever, come up with an algorithm able to take into account all the contextual features of the above scenario that would make the results as useful or irrelevant as possible. We have no way of knowing absolutely what is like for another person in their context but being a good observer of context and sorting through its relevance to our thinking is probably one of the things that has brought us to the top of the food chain. If we focused on the same things as someone in a context completely different than our own, our fight/flight skills would never evolve to tell us what we need to know to make the best of things (a.k.a. survival).
I remember writing about all the things children weren’t doing when they watched television to help them grow. Let us think about the important skills in reading context (first of all, that it’s important) that we don’t exercise when we use our search engines instead of our own fight/flight tools. There is color, size, shape. There is hearing, smelling, touching, tasting, seeing. There is the weather. There is the irrelevance of data from a sample of 10,000 pushpin sticks receivers, when we have an “N of One” before us. There is the curiosity that an N of One prompts.
Another example of what happen when context is disregarded took place in rural Maine. There is an ongoing controversy about the re-introduction of alewives (a migratory salt-to-fresh water fish) into the upper reaches of a river that the local fishermen maintain has never been their habitat because of the underwater topography which has natural barriers to their progression upriver. They have witnessed and worry that introduction of this non-native species to the upper reaches will destroy the economically valuable Bass population. Very worried.
I had a conversation with the constituency advocate of a national environmental non-governmental organization that made this re-introduction a legislative priority, despite the arguments against it from those who fish there. He has never seen the upper river’s underwater topography there let alone fished it everyday. But he will give you Internet numbers. “Oh, yeah, what was it they were worried about?” he asked. “Oh, yeah, the Bass.”
Shall we settle on the observations of the people who fish the upriver water bodies everyday -the context- or the former congressional aide whose got good Internet numbers? What do we lose when we disregard context- the real place, what really happens, the real fish numbers going down or up?  Our fight-flight signals?  An immune system that can’t figure out what to look out for?   Everything - the context- all the details- will never ever be on the Internet. Everything we individually know from being in a certain context will never come up on a search engine. Where will our context  recognition skills be?  Gone the way of the telephone book, the analog clock? How to find your way when alas the I-phone is busted, the Internet service provider unavailable, no matter how hard you search? By the way, don’t forgot how to ride a horse.

A Citizen's Guide to Silence

From Susan J. Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 10:07

Legislative ethics exist to put the brakes on political gamesmanship- whether it’s trading votes to pass a bill, get a fat salaried new Federal job, or for financial gain, all placed ahead of making good governance. But they didn’t work in this case. Congress is at its lowest public approval rating ever. Congressional candidates flaunt “working across the aisle” as a goal. But really they mean “political gamesmanship.” This is not a mystery buried right next to the Gnostic Gospels beside the Tigris River. Just read the daily newspaper.

What is the price of political gamesmanship by legislators and Congressional Representatives and Senators? Five years ago, I - one person- tried to engage legislators in finding proof that a rural asphalt plant would harm the migratory bird population- and the environment because of the noise and pollutants it creates. Let us- now 5 years later - go the migratory bird site. It does not take many years before migrating birds go elsewhere or die because they can‘t find another place. Birds must hear each other to breed and survive. This is why the music of birdsong evolved. It kept them alive. Without them, and citizens who can voice their concern, there is silence. Here is one citizen's guide to that silence.

Easternphoebe7312012_small

A Citizen’s Guide to Silence
Just five years ago, I woke up to hear industrial- size noise, out in the woods where a factory to create such noise had never before been. The noise was louder than I’d ever heard outside a city. But this was a rural pristine place, a  destination for migratory birds. My first thought was for the birds. It was far too noisy for them.  My next thought was to call the local legislator and ask for help with this environmental problem.
You would think that legislators know each voter has one vote cast one vote at a time. But I don’t think they do. Maybe this legislator didn’t like people bothering him at home by calling. The local populace had been intimidated away from calling a long time.  
In my state, there are “Legislative Ethics”, the morays of being a legislator, kind of a “What To Do When A Constituent Asks You To Address A Legislative Issue” booklet. ”Do not  intimidate the constituent” is implicit and actually explicit in these ethics. Do not do anything to make the constituent think or believe or feel that it is unacceptable to call, write, ask or seek relief through the legislative process. 
These legislative ethics might as well be ancient Gnostic gospels written on pretty much illegible papyrus left  by the Tigris River. I don’t think many legislators read them. When I tried to present the issue of a factory (an asphalt plant inside a gravel pit) that had multiple exemptions from the Department of Environmental Protection for violations of  air, water, noise, federal marsh protection, I received either no reply or a reply months later. The Mining Coordinator 300 hundred miles away who approved the factory called 6 months later. He had never- never been to the destination migratory bird site he approved for destruction. 
The DEP field visitor told me  he had been there many times and only later told the local newspaper he hadn’t been there at all. 
The area DEP coordinator was “indignant” that I complained at all.  The DEP commissioner did nothing. The environmental advocacy group director did not reply.
When I brought up the asphalt factory in the gravel pit to the Chair of the Committee overseeing Natural Resources, the legislator said “Well, that won’t make me popular with the gravel pit owners.” 
Two years later, after multiple times saying in many venues and  2 different public hearings that the legislator intimidated constituents from voicing their complaints and taking part in the legislative process through his lets-just-say  “telephone” approach,  I once again- out loud- said that constituents were being intimidated. Many of the other legislators’ eyebrows  raised so high stuck to the napes of their necks.  How could she say such a thing? At a legislative hearing?  That a legislator is intimidating constituents so they have no safe way to protest ? 
Now before I raise the ancient Gnostic gospel- I mean the Legislative Ethics- that make intimidation of constituents a concern, please find a good solid chair with a strong back and strong arm rests, this so you won’t fall off it.
The other legislators decided to publicly demand that I give “proof” that the legislator was using techniques when constituents called that intimidated them . Nobody demanded proof from the out-of-state multi-million dollar asphalt plant owner, or from the statewide mining coordinator or from the Department of Environmental coordinator or field rep or commissioner that the environment was being harmed but, they demanded proof from me that this public office holder was intimidating constituents. The other legislators contacted  editorial page writers to publicly demand that I give proof. They knew full well the whole thing started because I raised an environmental issue that I hoped would be addressed in the   Legislature.
So the editorials or shall I say “Intimidate-orials” ran quoting the legislators demanding my “proof”. I did not get out the ancient Legislative Ethics or ask my friends to share their experience of  intimidation.   I said nothing because I told the truth.
Some of these legislators even got the idea that the next best place to ply their governing gifts is- hang onto that chair- Congress.
Legislative ethics exist to put the brakes on political gamesmanship- whether it’s trading votes to pass a bill, get a fat federal job, or for  financial gain placed ahead of making good governance. But they didn’t work in this case.
Congress is at its lowest public approval rating ever. Congressional candidates flaunt “working across the aisle” as a goal. But really they mean “political gamesmanship.” This is not a mystery buried beside the Tigris River. Just read the daily newspaper.
What is the price of political gamesmanship by legislators and Congressional Representatives and Senators?  Let us- now 5 years later go the migratory bird site. It does not take many years before migrating birds go elsewhere or die because they can‘t find another place. Birds must hear each other to breed and survive. This  is why the music of birdsong evolved. It kept them alive. 
There is no longer an early morning cacophony of bird songs in the woods there that used to be so loud - with windows open- alarm clocks weren’t necessary. There are no loons on the lake. The migratory bird population is not very visible or audible .  
Five years later, that’s the way it is. This aside from the changes in the nearby lake’s ground water table that a hydro-geologist could identify, the emission of toxic heavy metals into the air and water, the damage to marsh life .
I tried very hard to find a legislator who would ask for proof that the environment wouldn’t be damaged, that the 4 jobs created and the multi-million dollar out-of-state company that built it were not more important than political gamesmanship.  That - without a second thought- recognized how intimidation of constituents shuts down voice. But instead the public message was do not- do not- criticize how legislators play their gamesmanship or we will take you out and publicly demand proof so all your young just-learning-about-civics relatives see it in newspaper editorials-  along with the rest of the citizenry. The message to citizens ? Take part in the legislative process and we’ll intimidate you too.
Five years later, what has happened ? The long view? Less and less trust that the public’s voice is more important than political gamesmanship by legislators in Congress or at home.  That  'proof' of no environmental impact from an asphalt plant owner or the DEP is of low priority. That citizen intimidation is just political gamesmanship. And no bird songs or sounds That is also called silence. 

A Citizen's Guide to Silence

From Susan J. Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 10:07

Legislative ethics exist to put the brakes on political gamesmanship- whether it’s trading votes to pass a bill, get a fat salaried new Federal job, or for financial gain, all placed ahead of making good governance. But they didn’t work in this case. Congress is at its lowest public approval rating ever. Congressional candidates flaunt “working across the aisle” as a goal. But really they mean “political gamesmanship.” This is not a mystery buried right next to the Gnostic Gospels beside the Tigris River. Just read the daily newspaper.

What is the price of political gamesmanship by legislators and Congressional Representatives and Senators? Five years ago, I - one person- tried to engage legislators in finding proof that a rural asphalt plant would harm the migratory bird population- and the environment because of the noise and pollutants it creates. Let us- now 5 years later - go the migratory bird site. It does not take many years before migrating birds go elsewhere or die because they can‘t find another place. Birds must hear each other to breed and survive. This is why the music of birdsong evolved. It kept them alive. Without them, and citizens who can voice their concern, there is silence. Here is one citizen's guide to that silence.

Easternphoebe7312012_small

A Citizen’s Guide to Silence
Just five years ago, I woke up to hear industrial- size noise, out in the woods where a factory to create such noise had never before been. The noise was louder than I’d ever heard outside a city. But this was a rural pristine place, a  destination for migratory birds. My first thought was for the birds. It was far too noisy for them.  My next thought was to call the local legislator and ask for help with this environmental problem.
You would think that legislators know each voter has one vote cast one vote at a time. But I don’t think they do. Maybe this legislator didn’t like people bothering him at home by calling. The local populace had been intimidated away from calling a long time.  
In my state, there are “Legislative Ethics”, the morays of being a legislator, kind of a “What To Do When A Constituent Asks You To Address A Legislative Issue” booklet. ”Do not  intimidate the constituent” is implicit and actually explicit in these ethics. Do not do anything to make the constituent think or believe or feel that it is unacceptable to call, write, ask or seek relief through the legislative process. 
These legislative ethics might as well be ancient Gnostic gospels written on pretty much illegible papyrus left  by the Tigris River. I don’t think many legislators read them. When I tried to present the issue of a factory (an asphalt plant inside a gravel pit) that had multiple exemptions from the Department of Environmental Protection for violations of  air, water, noise, federal marsh protection, I received either no reply or a reply months later. The Mining Coordinator 300 hundred miles away who approved the factory called 6 months later. He had never- never been to the destination migratory bird site he approved for destruction. 
The DEP field visitor told me  he had been there many times and only later told the local newspaper he hadn’t been there at all. 
The area DEP coordinator was “indignant” that I complained at all.  The DEP commissioner did nothing. The environmental advocacy group director did not reply.
When I brought up the asphalt factory in the gravel pit to the Chair of the Committee overseeing Natural Resources, the legislator said “Well, that won’t make me popular with the gravel pit owners.” 
Two years later, after multiple times saying in many venues and  2 different public hearings that the legislator intimidated constituents from voicing their complaints and taking part in the legislative process through his lets-just-say  “telephone” approach,  I once again- out loud- said that constituents were being intimidated. Many of the other legislators’ eyebrows  raised so high stuck to the napes of their necks.  How could she say such a thing? At a legislative hearing?  That a legislator is intimidating constituents so they have no safe way to protest ? 
Now before I raise the ancient Gnostic gospel- I mean the Legislative Ethics- that make intimidation of constituents a concern, please find a good solid chair with a strong back and strong arm rests, this so you won’t fall off it.
The other legislators decided to publicly demand that I give “proof” that the legislator was using techniques when constituents called that intimidated them . Nobody demanded proof from the out-of-state multi-million dollar asphalt plant owner, or from the statewide mining coordinator or from the Department of Environmental coordinator or field rep or commissioner that the environment was being harmed but, they demanded proof from me that this public office holder was intimidating constituents. The other legislators contacted  editorial page writers to publicly demand that I give proof. They knew full well the whole thing started because I raised an environmental issue that I hoped would be addressed in the   Legislature.
So the editorials or shall I say “Intimidate-orials” ran quoting the legislators demanding my “proof”. I did not get out the ancient Legislative Ethics or ask my friends to share their experience of  intimidation.   I said nothing because I told the truth.
Some of these legislators even got the idea that the next best place to ply their governing gifts is- hang onto that chair- Congress.
Legislative ethics exist to put the brakes on political gamesmanship- whether it’s trading votes to pass a bill, get a fat federal job, or for  financial gain placed ahead of making good governance. But they didn’t work in this case.
Congress is at its lowest public approval rating ever. Congressional candidates flaunt “working across the aisle” as a goal. But really they mean “political gamesmanship.” This is not a mystery buried beside the Tigris River. Just read the daily newspaper.
What is the price of political gamesmanship by legislators and Congressional Representatives and Senators?  Let us- now 5 years later go the migratory bird site. It does not take many years before migrating birds go elsewhere or die because they can‘t find another place. Birds must hear each other to breed and survive. This  is why the music of birdsong evolved. It kept them alive. 
There is no longer an early morning cacophony of bird songs in the woods there that used to be so loud - with windows open- alarm clocks weren’t necessary. There are no loons on the lake. The migratory bird population is not very visible or audible .  
Five years later, that’s the way it is. This aside from the changes in the nearby lake’s ground water table that a hydro-geologist could identify, the emission of toxic heavy metals into the air and water, the damage to marsh life .
I tried very hard to find a legislator who would ask for proof that the environment wouldn’t be damaged, that the 4 jobs created and the multi-million dollar out-of-state company that built it were not more important than political gamesmanship.  That - without a second thought- recognized how intimidation of constituents shuts down voice. But instead the public message was do not- do not- criticize how legislators play their gamesmanship or we will take you out and publicly demand proof so all your young just-learning-about-civics relatives see it in newspaper editorials-  along with the rest of the citizenry. The message to citizens ? Take part in the legislative process and we’ll intimidate you too.
Five years later, what has happened ? The long view? Less and less trust that the public’s voice is more important than political gamesmanship by legislators in Congress or at home.  That  'proof' of no environmental impact from an asphalt plant owner or the DEP is of low priority. That citizen intimidation is just political gamesmanship. And no bird songs or sounds That is also called silence. 

A Citizen's Guide to Silence

From Susan J. Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 10:07

Legislative ethics exist to put the brakes on political gamesmanship- whether it’s trading votes to pass a bill, get a fat salaried new Federal job, or for financial gain, all placed ahead of making good governance. But they didn’t work in this case. Congress is at its lowest public approval rating ever. Congressional candidates flaunt “working across the aisle” as a goal. But really they mean “political gamesmanship.” This is not a mystery buried right next to the Gnostic Gospels beside the Tigris River. Just read the daily newspaper.

What is the price of political gamesmanship by legislators and Congressional Representatives and Senators? Five years ago, I - one person- tried to engage legislators in finding proof that a rural asphalt plant would harm the migratory bird population- and the environment because of the noise and pollutants it creates. Let us- now 5 years later - go the migratory bird site. It does not take many years before migrating birds go elsewhere or die because they can‘t find another place. Birds must hear each other to breed and survive. This is why the music of birdsong evolved. It kept them alive. Without them, and citizens who can voice their concern, there is silence. Here is one citizen's guide to that silence.

Easternphoebe7312012_small

A Citizen’s Guide to Silence
Just five years ago, I woke up to hear industrial- size noise, out in the woods where a factory to create such noise had never before been. The noise was louder than I’d ever heard outside a city. But this was a rural pristine place, a  destination for migratory birds. My first thought was for the birds. It was far too noisy for them.  My next thought was to call the local legislator and ask for help with this environmental problem.
You would think that legislators know each voter has one vote cast one vote at a time. But I don’t think they do. Maybe this legislator didn’t like people bothering him at home by calling. The local populace had been intimidated away from calling a long time.  
In my state, there are “Legislative Ethics”, the morays of being a legislator, kind of a “What To Do When A Constituent Asks You To Address A Legislative Issue” booklet. ”Do not  intimidate the constituent” is implicit and actually explicit in these ethics. Do not do anything to make the constituent think or believe or feel that it is unacceptable to call, write, ask or seek relief through the legislative process. 
These legislative ethics might as well be ancient Gnostic gospels written on pretty much illegible papyrus left  by the Tigris River. I don’t think many legislators read them. When I tried to present the issue of a factory (an asphalt plant inside a gravel pit) that had multiple exemptions from the Department of Environmental Protection for violations of  air, water, noise, federal marsh protection, I received either no reply or a reply months later. The Mining Coordinator 300 hundred miles away who approved the factory called 6 months later. He had never- never been to the destination migratory bird site he approved for destruction. 
The DEP field visitor told me  he had been there many times and only later told the local newspaper he hadn’t been there at all. 
The area DEP coordinator was “indignant” that I complained at all.  The DEP commissioner did nothing. The environmental advocacy group director did not reply.
When I brought up the asphalt factory in the gravel pit to the Chair of the Committee overseeing Natural Resources, the legislator said “Well, that won’t make me popular with the gravel pit owners.” 
Two years later, after multiple times saying in many venues and  2 different public hearings that the legislator intimidated constituents from voicing their complaints and taking part in the legislative process through his lets-just-say  “telephone” approach,  I once again- out loud- said that constituents were being intimidated. Many of the other legislators’ eyebrows  raised so high stuck to the napes of their necks.  How could she say such a thing? At a legislative hearing?  That a legislator is intimidating constituents so they have no safe way to protest ? 
Now before I raise the ancient Gnostic gospel- I mean the Legislative Ethics- that make intimidation of constituents a concern, please find a good solid chair with a strong back and strong arm rests, this so you won’t fall off it.
The other legislators decided to publicly demand that I give “proof” that the legislator was using techniques when constituents called that intimidated them . Nobody demanded proof from the out-of-state multi-million dollar asphalt plant owner, or from the statewide mining coordinator or from the Department of Environmental coordinator or field rep or commissioner that the environment was being harmed but, they demanded proof from me that this public office holder was intimidating constituents. The other legislators contacted  editorial page writers to publicly demand that I give proof. They knew full well the whole thing started because I raised an environmental issue that I hoped would be addressed in the   Legislature.
So the editorials or shall I say “Intimidate-orials” ran quoting the legislators demanding my “proof”. I did not get out the ancient Legislative Ethics or ask my friends to share their experience of  intimidation.   I said nothing because I told the truth.
Some of these legislators even got the idea that the next best place to ply their governing gifts is- hang onto that chair- Congress.
Legislative ethics exist to put the brakes on political gamesmanship- whether it’s trading votes to pass a bill, get a fat federal job, or for  financial gain placed ahead of making good governance. But they didn’t work in this case.
Congress is at its lowest public approval rating ever. Congressional candidates flaunt “working across the aisle” as a goal. But really they mean “political gamesmanship.” This is not a mystery buried beside the Tigris River. Just read the daily newspaper.
What is the price of political gamesmanship by legislators and Congressional Representatives and Senators?  Let us- now 5 years later go the migratory bird site. It does not take many years before migrating birds go elsewhere or die because they can‘t find another place. Birds must hear each other to breed and survive. This  is why the music of birdsong evolved. It kept them alive. 
There is no longer an early morning cacophony of bird songs in the woods there that used to be so loud - with windows open- alarm clocks weren’t necessary. There are no loons on the lake. The migratory bird population is not very visible or audible .  
Five years later, that’s the way it is. This aside from the changes in the nearby lake’s ground water table that a hydro-geologist could identify, the emission of toxic heavy metals into the air and water, the damage to marsh life .
I tried very hard to find a legislator who would ask for proof that the environment wouldn’t be damaged, that the 4 jobs created and the multi-million dollar out-of-state company that built it were not more important than political gamesmanship.  That - without a second thought- recognized how intimidation of constituents shuts down voice. But instead the public message was do not- do not- criticize how legislators play their gamesmanship or we will take you out and publicly demand proof so all your young just-learning-about-civics relatives see it in newspaper editorials-  along with the rest of the citizenry. The message to citizens ? Take part in the legislative process and we’ll intimidate you too.
Five years later, what has happened ? The long view? Less and less trust that the public’s voice is more important than political gamesmanship by legislators in Congress or at home.  That  'proof' of no environmental impact from an asphalt plant owner or the DEP is of low priority. That citizen intimidation is just political gamesmanship. And no bird songs or sounds That is also called silence. 

A Citizen's Guide to the Shallow and Inconsiderate in American Public Political Discourse

From Susan J. Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 04:21

The public officials and the political candidates who shape public discourse through the impulsive and shallow convey far more about their ethics than any policy platform could. When their messaging offends and its shallowness is revealed, recognizing it is a first step in returning some level of trust in public officials and political process. Come to think of it, the shallow, the quick, the inconsiderate may have a lot to do with the depletion of trust in our government structures that we currently live with. Thus, this citizen's guide.

Breathing_small

A Citizen’s Guide to the Shallow and Inconsiderate in Public Political Discourse
-Susan Cook-
We all know the shallow and inconsiderate in American public political discourse when we hear it . It’s not a sound bite. It is a choice of words, a comment or retort made by a public official or candidate for office, either spontaneously or  because someone is trying to satisfy the media’s demand for reply. There are many column inches to fill with the quick, shallow and inconsiderate utterances by public officials or candidates for two reasons: an abundance and a deprivation in American political discourse. There is an abundance of entitlement to fill  the public’s appetite with whatever thoughtless impulsiveness pops into mind. There is a deprivation of careful, considered , um, thinking about the issue at hand in favor of impulsive thoughtlessness that pops into their minds. Either of these can pinch hit for the other and deliver the quick, shallow and inconsiderate.  
After the recent devastating gun related tragedies in this country, sensitivity in using words about gun use is a priority. After the Aurora, Colorado shootings, the Newtown, Connecticut massacre,  the Ferguson, Missouri shooting of an unarmed African-American and indeed any of the episodes of gun related devastation, public political figures using the quick and shallow about guns to grasp for the cute sound bite is entitled and uniquely lacking in consideration.
Use of guns, not to provide food for the family table or protection is far far different from random “shoot first, aim later” gun violence. There is no redeeming value in it. 
 In my state, the current Governor’s “gaffes” are, in fact, offensive abuses of the power of the office as an ethical center of political discourse. We see the same disregard for public office as an ethical center in the messaging of candidates for public office. One political party accused  the other political party’s candidate of causing the loss of jobs. The accusation was  met with  a message completely insensitive to random gun violence. The message the candidate came up with? “[The other party] has reached a whole new level of hypocrisy proving that they’re running a ‘shoot first- aim later’ campaign.” (Portland Press Herald,  August 22, 2014, p. B4”)   Remember? Shooting first, aiming later is not just word play but real devastation. There are ethical standards in this society in which, even if everyone starts shooting at the same time, conscience insists we find out where the bullets came from.
The public officials and the political candidates who shape public discourse through the impulsive and shallow convey far more about their ethics than any policy platform could. When their messaging offends and its shallowness is revealed, recognizing it is a first step in returning some level of trust in public officials and political process. Come to think of it, the shallow, the quick, the inconsiderate may have a lot to do with the depletion of trust in our government structures that we currently live with.

What the Truth Costs : A Citizen's Guide

From Susan J. Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 04:23

The cost of the truth is not tied to inflation. It’s tied to tolerance, inversely. The more tolerance that exists, the lower the price paid for the truth. In places where there is little tolerance, the price of the truth is very, very high, impossibly high at times. Witness the beheading of James Foley and Stephen Sotloff, whose exclusive purpose was to bear witness to the truth where it lives. The truth can be our moral antidote, a medicine, the vitamin that- yes, keeps us alive and human.

The truth remains very, very powerful. It can be exploited, spun, distorted and taken away . No truth is self-evident . These fallen journalists were its witness and prover, its protector, its deeply aggrieved mourner because someone was trying to diminish it and yes, we too are all of things.

Breathing_small

What the Truth Costs: A Citizen’s Guide
-Susan Cook-
The cost of the truth is not tied to inflation. It’s tied to tolerance, inversely. The more tolerance that exists, the lower the price paid for the truth. In places where there is little tolerance, the price of the truth is very, very high, impossibly high at times. Witness the beheading of James Foley and Stephen Sotloff, whose exclusive purpose was to bear witness to the truth where it lives. Nazi death camps would not have been tolerated if there were journalists who could bear witness to what happened in them. There would not be thousands of children whose history of molestation by religious clergy was kept secret if there were journalists bear witness. Yes, there are many many examples of loss, exploitation, tragedy that would have been avoided or made less harmful by journalists telling others about them. Yes, there are shades of gray.  Yes, sometimes it is personal. The truth is an antidote to inhumanity but it is only an antidote if it is valued.  
Creating a culture, a conversation, an organization, a context, even a family in which telling the truth is available to everyone or given a chance to surface  is extremely difficult. We see liberties taken with the truth  words create every single day. When politicians hire spokespersons, they don’t hire the one who is best at telling the truth. They hire the best spinner, the one who will distort until everyone in the room has spinning nystagmus. I heard  a politician (and a lawyer) call a gross spinner  brilliant one time. How is it that this culture has forgotten that it is very very easy to lie? How is it that the liar and the distorter are more highly valued in Congress and political circles than the person who says this is what happened, this is what it‘s like. I heard a politician  talking about raising the minimum wage and complaining that the other politicians wouldn’t accept nine  dollars and something an hour “to compromise”  instead of the ten dollars and something  cents that other legislators want since that’s the truth about what it needs to be to cover costs of living. She wanted the other politicians to  compromise the truth. We are a culture in which politicians tout compromise in Congress as valuable but really what they value is no one noticing when they compromise the truth.
Former President Bill Clinton is still seen favorably by the American public, despite his very public lying. He then very publicly demonstrated  that the truth would be his personal antidote not to everything but  to the offensive. The truth can be our moral medicine, the vitamin that- yes, if it’s ten something per hour that is a living wage- not nine - keeps us alive and human. 
The animalistic killing of these journalists reminds us that the truth remains very, very powerful. It can be exploited, spun, distorted and taken away . No truth is self-evident . These fallen journalists were its witness and prover, its protector, its deeply aggrieved mourner because someone was trying to  diminish it and yes,  we too are all of those things. 

Crossing Wide Water, My Brother the Sailor

From Susan J. Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 03:07

My now 86 year old brother , is still, and has been his whole life, a sailor. His boat “Significant Other”, a J-24 racing yacht will carry two. But, when he races, he is the captain and the boat carries five. He and the boat have sailed many times in many places where, yes, the water is wide. At 77, he and the crew of the “Significant Other” competed in the J-24 World Racing Championships in the waters off Newport, Rhode Island. He has always been a sailor, even when his body prevented it. I rooted for him then, as I do now crossing wide, probably rough water, to some finish line, in his boat , his “Significant Other”.

Russellsailingjune1999_001_small My now 86 year old brother , is still, and has been his whole life, a sailor. His boat “Significant Other”, a J-24 racing yacht will carry two. But, when he races, he is the captain and the boat carries five. He and the boat have sailed many times in many places where, yes, the water is wide. At 77, he and the crew of the “Significant Other” competed in the J-24 World Racing Championships in the waters off Newport, Rhode Island. He has always been a sailor, even when his body prevented it. I rooted for him then, as I do now crossing wide, probably rough water, to some finish line, in his boat , his “Significant Other”.

Crossing Wide Water, My Brother the Sailor

From Susan J. Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 03:07

My now 86 year old brother , is still, and has been his whole life, a sailor. His boat “Significant Other”, a J-24 racing yacht will carry two. But, when he races, he is the captain and the boat carries five. He and the boat have sailed many times in many places where, yes, the water is wide. At 77, he and the crew of the “Significant Other” competed in the J-24 World Racing Championships in the waters off Newport, Rhode Island. He has always been a sailor, even when his body prevented it. I rooted for him then, as I do now crossing wide, probably rough water, to some finish line, in his boat , his “Significant Other”.

Russellsailingjune1999_001_small My now 86 year old brother , is still, and has been his whole life, a sailor. His boat “Significant Other”, a J-24 racing yacht will carry two. But, when he races, he is the captain and the boat carries five. He and the boat have sailed many times in many places where, yes, the water is wide. At 77, he and the crew of the “Significant Other” competed in the J-24 World Racing Championships in the waters off Newport, Rhode Island. He has always been a sailor, even when his body prevented it. I rooted for him then, as I do now crossing wide, probably rough water, to some finish line, in his boat , his “Significant Other”.

What the Truth Costs: A Citizen's Guide

From Susan J. Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 04:23

The truth can be our moral antidote, our moral medicine, the vitamin that- yes, if someone is trying to tell us that nine dollars and something is a living wage when it's really ten dollars and something that is a living wage- keeps us alive and human.

The recent deaths of journalists James Foley and Stephen Sotloff reminds us that the truth remains very, very powerful. It can be exploited, spun, distorted and taken away . No truth is self-evident . These fallen journalists were its witness and prover, its protector, its deeply aggrieved mourner because someone was trying to diminish it and yes, we too are all of things.

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What the Truth Costs: A Citizen’s Guide
-Susan Cook-
The cost of the truth is not tied to inflation. It’s tied to tolerance, inversely. The more tolerance that exists, the lower the price paid for the truth. In places where there is little tolerance, the price of the truth is very, very high, impossibly high at times. Witness the beheading of James Foley and Stephen Sotloff, whose exclusive purpose was to bear witness to the truth where it lives. Nazi death camps would not have been tolerated if there were journalists who could bear witness to what happened in them. There would not be thousands of children whose history of molestation by religious clergy was kept secret if there were journalists bear witness. Yes, there are many many examples of loss, exploitation, tragedy that would have been avoided or made less harmful by journalists telling others about them. Yes, there are shades of gray.  Yes, sometimes it is personal. The truth is an antidote to inhumanity but it is only an antidote if it is valued.  
Creating a culture, a conversation, an organization, a context, even a family in which telling the truth is available to everyone or given a chance to surface  is extremely difficult. We see liberties taken with the truth  words create every single day. When politicians hire spokespersons, they don’t hire the one who is best at telling the truth. They hire the best spinner, the one who will distort until everyone in the room has spinning nystagmus. I heard  a politician (and a lawyer) call a gross spinner  brilliant one time. How is it that this culture has forgotten that it is very very easy to lie? How is it that the liar and the distorter are more highly valued in Congress and political circles than the person who says this is what happened, this is what it‘s like. I heard a politician  talking about raising the minimum wage and complaining that the other politicians wouldn’t accept nine  dollars and something an hour “to compromise”  instead of the ten dollars and something  cents that other legislators want since that’s the truth about what it needs to be to cover costs of living. She wanted the other politicians to  compromise the truth. We are a culture in which politicians tout compromise in Congress as valuable but really what they value is no one noticing when they compromise the truth.
Former President Bill Clinton is still seen favorably by the American public, despite his very public lying. He then very publicly demonstrated  that the truth would be his personal antidote not to everything but  to the offensive. The truth can be our moral medicine, the vitamin that- yes, if it’s ten something per hour that is a living wage- not nine - keeps us alive and human. 
The animalistic killing of these journalists reminds us that the truth remains very, very powerful. It can be exploited, spun, distorted and taken away . No truth is self-evident . These fallen journalists were its witness and prover, its protector, its deeply aggrieved mourner because someone was trying to  diminish it and yes,  we too are all of things. 

A Citizen's Guide to the Difference Between the Truth and "Gotcha" in "Gotcha politics"

From Susan J. Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 04:45

If Woodward and Bernstein and Ben Bradlee had gone for the “gotcha” instead of the truth, the cost would have been the truth. The integrity that Watergate returned to American politics might never happened. There’s no “gotcha” in that. That’s history and the story of the disappearance of candidates with integrity who fall by the wayside because of a Director of New Media, short-sighted journalist or political party operative who are best versed in the “gotcha” and not in the integrity that the truth bring. Let' us pay a little more attention to the difference between the truth and the “gotcha” in “gotcha” politics.

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A Citizens’ Guide to the Difference Between the Truth and “Gotcha Politics”
Recently, a Maine newspaper published an article  reporting that  a legislative candidate  who wrote on the occupation line “physician” and signed  her name  with an MD after it was  “not licensed as a Physician in the state of Maine”.  Even “Ask.com"   clarifies  that graduating from medical school allows the person the designation “physician” and  an MD after her name even  if she does not  choose to become or remain licensed.  
This individual is not  currently licensed in Maine but graduated from a reputable medical school, completed an internship and a residency. There are thousands of retired MDs in Maine who have retired and are not or have never been licensed here or have had their licenses not renewed because of an illness or disability but would still say their occupation is “Physician”  and use MD after their name. who would  not claim to be “licensed physicians”. After all, taking the Hippocratic Oath  implies, but doesn’t insure, integrity. 
After several exchanges, the journalist  refused to acknowledge that the candidate was not “purporting” to be an MD physician but actually  had earned that designation. Or that writing next to “Occupation”, “physician “ is substantially different than publicly claiming to be employed  as a licensed physician. She refused to publish my public rebuttal . The journalist appeared to be playing  “Gotcha” politics. 
“Gotcha politics “are those where political party caucus directors  or political parties  pay “as much as they have to” to do background checks on or track and videotape candidates, opponents or other  suspected  decriers of their agenda so , you know, if there’s a “gotcha” moment, they’ll be the first to get it.  At times, they’ll even join forces with the “other” party to amp up the “gotcha”.   All toward the end of  meeting political goals, “throwing out” or “throwing in”  or  for paid staffers, keeping their jobs.
“Gotcha politics” grab the nefarious  meaning from a fact before they even know the facts.  There are political writers everywhere who live for the “gotcha“. “A  rambling, slurring..lunatic” the New Media Director on the payroll of a prominent Senator  wrote about a woman testifying at a public hearing, none of which as true. 
In the days of Watergate,  the late  Ben Bradlee, the editor of the Washington Post, and the  two young reporters  Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein uncovered the truth about the presidency of Richard Nixon  and resisted the  “gotcha” political moment.  There was no leaping to the chase scene in the reporting with a “gotcha agenda“. The truth unfolded over time that, yes,  the presidency of Richard Nixon was brimming with a completely  inappropriate intermingling of political financing and  government responsibility.
If  Woodward and Bernstein and Ben Bradlee had gone for the “gotcha” instead of the truth, the cost would have been the truth.  The integrity that Watergate returned to American politics  might never happened. There’s no “gotcha” in that. That’s history and the story of the disappearance of candidates with integrity who fall by the wayside because of  a Director of New Media,  short-sighted journalist  or political party operative who are best versed in the “gotcha” and not in the integrity that the truth bring. That’s the difference between the truth and the “gotcha” in “gotcha politics".

A Citizen's Guide to the "Fear of Gotcha" in American Political Life

From Susan J. Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 06:04

In the 1950’s and 1960’s American citizens and the stalwart among them who were brave enough to run for political office had to learn to live with the “red scare”. The “red scare” was a manufactured and sometimes elaborately embellished accusation that a politician or a citizen was a communist. In a word that meant “horrible” and willing to sacrifice every liberty and freedom we enjoyed. These days, “red scare-ing” has been replaced in political life by “gotcha” and “fear of gotcha” ”Gotcha” you may remember is the “fruit” of the intensive effort in politics to identify -hey, in the information age, “information” about a candidate or officeholder or political operative that can be cast as dirty, nefarious, some tiny window into the heart of darkness that beats inside an individual previously seen as pure and good who also happens to be in or running for office or working for someone who is. Usually, the “gotcha” obtained has nothing to do with or is irrelevant to the tasks or dignity and respect involved in holding political office.

Red-scare-ing changed the political landscape and turned political life into far more of a looking over one’s shoulder activity than was necessary or productive or useful on the taxpayer’s dollar. These days “gotcha” or rather “fear of gotcha” threatens to do the same thing- if it has not already.
What remains most important is how the officeholders do the job, their respect for this democracy and their constituents and their ability to resist the temptations of power- i.e. the abuse of it.

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A Citizen’s Guide to  “Fear of Gotcha” in American Political Life
-Susan Cook-
In the 1950’s and 1960’s  American citizens and the stalwart among them who were brave enough to run for political office had to learn with to live with the “red scare”. The “red scare” was a manufactured and sometimes elaborately embellished accusation that a politician or a citizen was a communist. In a word  that meant “horrible” and willing to sacrifice every liberty and freedom we enjoyed. The close ally of red-scare-ing was that the person was a spy for the communists.  The culmination, perhaps, of this red scare-ing  were the televised “McCarthy hearings in which the viewing public was brought in  on the fear-mongering to watch American citizens be questioned during Senate hearings as to their “red-ness” by Senator Joseph McCarthy. 
These days, “red scare-ing” has been replaced in political life by “gotcha” and  “fear of gotcha” ”Gotcha” you may remember  is the “fruit” of the intensive effort in politics to identify -hey, in the information age, “information” about a candidate or officeholder or political operative that can be cast as dirty, nefarious, some tiny window into the heart of darkness that beats inside an individual previously seen as  pure and good who also happens to be in or running for office or working for someone who is. Usually, the “gotcha”  obtained has nothing to do  with or is irrelevant to the tasks or dignity and respect involved in holding political office.
Red-scare-ing changed the political landscape and turned political life into far more of a looking over one’s shoulder activity than was necessary or productive or useful  on the  taxpayer’s  dollar. These days  “gotcha” or rather “fear of gotcha” threatens to do the same thing- if it has not already. Politicians, elected or running are not terrorists. But  the prevalence of “fear of gotcha” would lead one to think they are- hearkening back to another day they are communists.
What remains most important is how the officeholders do the job, their respect for this democracy and their constituents and their ability to resist the temptations of power- i.e. the abuse of it.
But “fear of gotcha”  and preemptive gotcha has probably distracted  and diverted more or as much money and attention from the real business of holding office than  well- the “red scare-ing” did in the 50’s. 
The disturbing reality is no one’s complaining about the pursuer of the “gotcha“. No one’s complaining that the inalienable truths of office holding are put on the back burner because staffers are busy trying to find  “gotcha”- information spun in a nefarious way. Fear of gotcha is the accepted mindless mindset.  As a matter of fact, there is even an air of entitlement to the production of “fear of gotcha” After all, the “gotcha” information producer is…producing.. Um.. What…um.  Yeah, what does “fear of gotcha” produce? Well , it undermines community- Who can you trust-  it infuses politics with suspicion and yes maliciousness, entitlement to hate or strongly dislike, just because somebody got involved with the political process and  became the target of someone else’s “gotcha”. In other words, it does nothing but create more fear of gotcha. 
Putting an end to fear of gotcha means stepping up and doing something unusual in American politics which might just stop the corrupting influence of fear of gotcha. And what would that be? First of all, don’t pay staff  to do it or do it yourself. Second,  re-direct re-direct  back to the truth about the character and skills politicians need to be good officeholders  who don’t abuse power . If politicians sign onto that and do it, fear of gotcha might become like red-scare-ing : a historical artifact, quaint, legal, but completely obsolete . 

A Sonnet for Negative Ads

From Susan J. Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | :57

Sometimes, there is an ineffable quality to the offensiveness of negative campaign ads. We turn here to the sonnet to express deep concern about negative political ads. Thus, for this 2014 Election Campaign season, "A Sonnet for Negative Ads".

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Sonnet for Negative Ads
-Susan Cook-
The ads have turned negative trying to
win votes. They imply it’s Godzilla now
running for office, a gorilla who 
loves big fat liberal doctrines.  Don’t ask how
he says it. Apparently he’s signing.
He’s now been discovered, his cover’s been
blown. He’s taking your tax dollars, mining
social security, this with a  win 
on Tuesday if he's succeeded, deceived
you into thinking he’s really human,
stands on two legs, counting votes he’s  received.
Voters beware! Gorillas are looming.
Out, out with the negative! You’re the real louse,
harming all creatures including the mouse.
 

Referendums on Arrogance- A Citizen's Guide

From Susan J. Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 05:14

In politics, arrogance can be hired, purchased or -in volunteer organizations- a gratuity that comes with volunteer labor.- or elected. In Maine , the incumbent Governor who was re-elected on Tuesday certainly had very public moments of arrogance. But voters decided - on Tuesday-alongside their bond referendums- who had less arrogance. They decided he had less- 48 to 44%.

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In my state, there will be vast humming and hah-ing and ahem-ing about the  failure of millions of dollars spent by Democrats to elect a Governor, a 2nd CD House of Representatives member, to keep the State Senate majority and the previously  solid majority in the Maine House. So  exactly what referendum did the millions spent convince voters to pass? It was a referendum on arrogance.
Not the arrogance of  big ostentatious displays of wealth or aloof elitism. We don’t really have that here in Maine. Let us not forget the down-to-earth unpretentious  humanitarian care of the late physician and philanthropist Richard Rockefeller and  of course, you-know-who’s husband. 
No, this referendum was about the arrogance  communicated in 140 characters, sound bites, face book entries and video-tape, when available. 
Maine legislature members seem to have forgotten that while they were busy trying to read, grasp and vote on bills, their activities were televised every evening on public broadcasting. So, when a representative sheepishly presented a bill to give the attorney general (instead of the Executive branch) the power to set the salaries of Assistant Attorney Generals, we all could watch it  and other bills in the evening.  
They seem to forget that their campaign for office was ongoing and summarized on twitter feeds  by the State House Communications staff in 140 characters. On those State House  twitter feeds, negativity, the contemptuous dismissive, lack of consideration for the other side’s view are common.  That’s the campaigning that was being done for legislators while they were busy doing other things. “Bad CEO” one tweet’s hash tag.
Which arrogance? The kind in the decision by the Democrats to hire an expensive videographer to follow the Governor around so they would have “proof” if he made a  gaffe.  No political party “owns“ civil liberties. The Governor stood up for his right to be free from intrusive surveillance.  He refused to meet with Legislative leaders until they stopped. Then more arrogance in the Senate President’s offer to “break bread” with the Governor and his wife to sort things out- as if the insult from the videotaping was just a matter of filling tummies. Even the solidly anti-Lepage-ists found the video-taped surveillance over-reaching.  It didn’t matter whose Democratic frontal lobe the idea came from. Every single Democratic legislator carried a chip of that arrogance on the shoulder  by their silent acceptance. 
Then there was the violation of the ancient Stonehenge-era ritual of never, ever taking sides in a Democratic party primary because the rules that the party grass roots spend hours and hours making regulate fairness. The rule was ignored in the 2nd Congressional primary race and probably was paid for in the loss of Democratic base voters. 
Words from Washington were also tinged with arrogance- in their disregard for substance, sensitivity and respect.
The day after the Aurora Colorado tragedy one Congressional chief-of-staff posted: “I just got a pedicure!”  Many, many Americans sent the day, night, weeks ahead  praying. After the Newtowne school tragedy, one Congressman publicly pronounced that he  didn’t think it was time to talk about gun control.
Entitlement to arrogance can be hired, purchased or -in volunteer organizations- a gratuity that comes with volunteer labor.  Did the incumbent Governor who was re-elected have arrogant moments? He certainly did.  But voters decided - on Tuesday-alongside their bond referendums- who had less arrogance. They decided he had less- 48 to 44%. 

The Sixty Second Moral Inquiry: How Can You Tell When Political and Moral Ground Are Too Different From Each Other?

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

With the election season over, the next phase of elected politics has settled on our plates like a bowl of jello. How can you tell when the age-old moral question “What is right or wrong- civil liberties-style-?” is still high on the legislative agenda? When it’s camouflaged under a political party claim “You are us and we are you and…“ thus leaving you to complete in your own mind the sentence the party wants you to fill in without you first asking “How so?“

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The Sixty-Second Moral Inquiry:  How can you tell when political and moral ground are too dofferent from each other? 
 
 Today’s Sixty-Second moral inquiry asks ”How can you tell when political ground is so different from moral ground that they can no l onger be in the same legislative caucus room?”  The next phase of elected politics has settled on our plates like a bowl of jello. How can you tell when the age-old moral question “What is right or wrong- civil  liberties-style-?” is still high on the legislative agenda? When it’s camouflaged under a political party claim  “You are us and we are you  and…“ thus leaving you to complete in your own mind the sentence the party wants you to fill in without you first asking “How so?“ When all the cry  “We need to be on the same team” is just a way to stop anyone from asking questions that might lead them to discover they don‘t want to be because the team does not ask “Is this right or morally wrong?“

The Sixty Second Moral Inquiry: What's Wrong With Targeting Individuals?

From Susan J. Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 01:40

In many parts of the world, torture, harassment and persecution are used to target individuals who criticize , believe, have secrets or religions (like Tibetan Buddhism by the Chinese ) disliked by those in power. It happens everywhere even in this country. Thus the Sixty Second Moral Inquiry asks: What’s wrong with targeting individuals because of what the individual criticizes or believes?

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The Sixty Second Moral Inquiry: What’s Wrong with Targeting Individuals?
Torture,  harassment and persecution are used to target individuals who  criticize , believe, have secrets  or religions (like Tibetan Buddhism by the Chinese )  disliked by those in power.  Thus the  Sixty Second Moral Inquiry asks:  What’s wrong with targeting individuals  because of what the individual  criticizes or believes? Not convicted criminals but individuals ?  What is dehumanizing about demanding people do and think what you tell them to, or suffer physically ,  psychologically or be held up for public humiliation in the media? Doesn’t the consequence of targeting  start with the entitlement to target the individual in the first place ? Just because one party or executive  or government has power today,  if the entitlement and permission to target an individual is there doesn’t that  mean that tomorrow  if the power shifts that individual  could be you  unless the utmost priority is treating the individual with dignity and respect  also known as human rights? 

The Sixty Second Moral Inquiry: What's Wrong With Targeting Individuals?

From Susan J. Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 01:40

In many parts of the world, torture, harassment and persecution are used to target individuals who criticize , believe, have secrets or religions (like Tibetan Buddhism by the Chinese ) disliked by those in power. It happens everywhere even in this country. Thus the Sixty Second Moral Inquiry asks: What’s wrong with targeting individuals because of what the individual criticizes or believes?

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The Sixty Second Moral Inquiry: What’s Wrong with Targeting Individuals?
Torture,  harassment and persecution are used to target individuals who  criticize , believe, have secrets  or religions (like Tibetan Buddhism by the Chinese )  disliked by those in power.  Thus the  Sixty Second Moral Inquiry asks:  What’s wrong with targeting individuals  because of what the individual  criticizes or believes? Not convicted criminals but individuals ?  What is dehumanizing about demanding people do and think what you tell them to, or suffer physically ,  psychologically or be held up for public humiliation in the media? Doesn’t the consequence of targeting  start with the entitlement to target the individual in the first place ? Just because one party or executive  or government has power today,  if the entitlement and permission to target an individual is there doesn’t that  mean that tomorrow  if the power shifts that individual  could be you  unless the utmost priority is treating the individual with dignity and respect  also known as human rights? 

The Sixty Second Moral Inquiry: What's Wrong With Targeting Individuals?

From Susan J. Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 01:40

In many parts of the world, torture, harassment and persecution are used to target individuals who criticize , believe, have secrets or religions (like Tibetan Buddhism by the Chinese ) disliked by those in power. It happens everywhere even in this country. Thus the Sixty Second Moral Inquiry asks: What’s wrong with targeting individuals because of what the individual criticizes or believes?

Jesuischarlie2_small

The Sixty Second Moral Inquiry: What’s Wrong with Targeting Individuals?
Torture,  harassment and persecution are used to target individuals who  criticize , believe, have secrets  or religions (like Tibetan Buddhism by the Chinese )  disliked by those in power.  Thus the  Sixty Second Moral Inquiry asks:  What’s wrong with targeting individuals  because of what the individual  criticizes or believes? Not convicted criminals but individuals ?  What is dehumanizing about demanding people do and think what you tell them to, or suffer physically ,  psychologically or be held up for public humiliation in the media? Doesn’t the consequence of targeting  start with the entitlement to target the individual in the first place ? Just because one party or executive  or government has power today,  if the entitlement and permission to target an individual is there doesn’t that  mean that tomorrow  if the power shifts that individual  could be you  unless the utmost priority is treating the individual with dignity and respect  also known as human rights? 

A Citizen's Guide to the Surgical Inoperability of Self-interest from the Political Body

From Susan J. Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 07:04

The Supreme Court of the United States has decided that Arizona’s 2000 law which created an Independent Commission to determine Congressional Re-districting boundaries is constitutional. Arizona ‘s Legislature wanted it the old way: elected legislators deciding who would be in the pool of voters who elect them by defining the boundaries of voting districts.

The attorneys for the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission argued that returning redistricting to the legislature would be “the loss of the last great hope for addressing partisan gerrymandering.” The attorneys who wanted re-districting to return to the Legislature wrote that “Plenty of options remain for addressing partisan gerrymandering with the ultimate backstop being the ability to vote the gerrymanderers out.” The last great hope in this case is that respect for constituents- citizens- not the injured Arizona Legislature- is what the Supreme Court would protect and they did.

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A Citizen’s Guide to the Surgical Inoperability of Self-interest from the Political Body 
 
The Supreme Court of the United States has decided that Arizona’s 2000 law which created an Independent Commission to determine Congressional Re-districting boundaries  is constitutional. It took a task in running elections away from the Arizona State Legislature. Arizona ‘s  Legislature wanted it  the old way: elected legislators deciding who  would be in the pool of voters who elect them by defining the boundaries of districts.  
The attorneys for the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission argued , among all their other legal arguments,  that returning redistricting to the legislature  would be “the loss of the last great hope for addressing partisan gerrymandering.”  The attorneys who wanted re-districting  to return to the Legislature wrote that “Plenty of options remain for addressing partisan gerrymandering with the ultimate backstop being the ability to vote the gerrymanderers out.” 
The  big question here is: “Is Partisan self-interest surgically inoperable from the partisan political body ?” In Maine, in 2011,  the decision-making of the Re-districting Commission  answered that question with a resounding Yes. 
There are only 2 congressional districts in Maine which makes it easier and more transparent when a redistricting proposal deliberately shifts a district majority for partisan self-serving.  In 2011, the “Republican” commission members suggested a plan to give the Second Congressional District a Republican majority, which happened to equal the number of votes by which the Republican candidate for that Congressional seat lost in  the previous election. 
I confess hear to inadvertently throwing  bait into the constituent feeding frenzy by testifying before the Committee that their efforts to control were like telling the populace, “We didn’t like who you voted for last time so we’re going to give you someone else to vote for”, particularly since their manipulations would move the sitting Congressional Representative for the First Congressional District out of her own district.  This being an international  tactic used by non-democracies.  I chastised  them for disregarding constituents- in  bills to remove same day voter registration- and by electing a Senate President who recorded constituent phone calls intimidating  anyone who thought they  had a legislator to call about legislative matters.  Because I held a minor party officer,  any defense of constituents was suspect. 
Hell hath no fury or dirty behind the scenes activities than a legislator, political operative or  communications director who fears a job loss. If her party gets voted out of office.  “Scurrilious!” “If she can’t give us proof, she has to resign”, the Republicans sputtered. But sniffing some deal making opportunities the Democrats joined in - forgetting that they simultaneously were sending a message to constituents that they were not the most important issue at stake in re-districting.  “She is of no use  to anyone if she can’t prove it.” I was not about to add more targeted bait by disclosing that a Republican forty year friend  had warned me- to protect me-  about calling a certain legislator about a local source of environmental contamination.  
But alas- there is no constituent more important to a politician than him or herself - caught gerrymandering -or criticized- or a party staffer who might lose a job.  Political plums were handed out- one fat salaried federal job for the Commission Chair who had joined in the cry of scurrilious. Which leads me to the serendipitous CAT scan of how Redistricting Commissions really work that this event  revealed. Aside and apart from how the Supreme Court rules on the Arizona  State Legislature vs. the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission case. There is no surgical instrument known to remove the inoperable mass called  self-serving political interest. I waited before I called one of the Democratic legislators who publicly editorialized that I should resign from my volunteer party office if I couldn’t  give proof  for my remarks.  Speed dialing, I said “Do you think I should resign? “ “No“, the legislator said. “You know my proof was corroborated by a respected Republican, don’t you?”. “Yes, I know.”  I didn’t  say “Then why waste the ink, time, public trust  and flagrant libel of me if that you didn’t think I should resign.” Yes, please answer for yourself this question : for the political capital which is cashed in for self-interest at a time of the politician’s choosing. The fury of the gerrymanderer caught gerrymandered is a case study  for the medical annals of what is really going on inside the political body. There are very few constituents in there.
Partisanship as inoperably tied to political self-interest has stayed with me though, after this reality CAT scan of  both kinds of  political bodies because it  showed that  vote grabbing is far more important than regard for constituents.  Thus,  the  last great hope in this case is that respect for constituents- citizens-  not the injured Arizona Legislature- is what the Supreme Court would protect.  And they did.

The Sixty Second Moral Inquiry: What's Wrong With Politicians Placing Political Gamesmanship Above Honoring the Public Trust?

From Susan J. Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 01:19

The Sixty Second Moral Inquiry asks questions about what is right and what is wrong. Today's Sixty Second Moral Inquiry asks what is wrong with politicians placing political gamesmanship above honoring the public's trust? When did political gamesmanship become more important to Senators, Congressional representatives and state legislators than respecting the public trust? Is it wrong, as Gallup polls tell us has happened, to destroy the public trust just so the “politicians” will be winner of the day at political gamesmanship?

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The Sixty Second Moral Inquiry: What’s wrong with politicians placing political gamesmanship above honoring the public’s trust?
-Susan Cook-

 
Today’s sixty- second moral inquiry asks what is wrong with politicians in Congress and  state legislatures  placing  political gamesmanship above upholding the public trust?  What’s wrong with the Senate President or the Speaker of the House telling legislators or  Senators and Congressional representatives they have to  vote the way the leadership tells them. What’s wrong with politicians deciding to deceive the public and undermine trust by going along with what their Caucus wants instead of remembering that the public voted them into office because the public  wants them to be trustworthy? When did political gamesmanship become more important to legislators than respecting the public trust?  Is it wrong , as Gallup polls tell us has happened, to destroy the public trust just so the “politician” be winner of the day at political  gamesmanship? 

A Citizen's Guide to Tailoring Moral Outrage

From Susan J. Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 05:38

I read a column in which the author tried to express what I’m guessing is her moral outrage. I am all for expressing moral outrage. At least it puts it on the table for a free speech kind of discussion. Thinly masked hatred or an incendiary invitation to violence is hate speech and hate speech is hate speech . Expression of moral outrage used for hatred defeats the purpose. The writer linked a congressional representative’s boycott of Prime Minister Netanyahu speech to a joint session of Congress to shunning of Elie Weisel, the author of a twentieth century indictment of the Holocaust who attended the talk and then to pro-choice health policy, abortion, and the Holocaust.

What shapes this kind of moral outrage ?How do we distinguish it from moral outrage never updated by the day-to-day awareness of the moral emotions, shame and empathy? Hatred driven actions -those locked into political policy and the political gamesmanship that goes along with it become hypocrisy- the gap between moral outrage and what actually happens. Expressions of moral outrage that become political hypocrisy tap into a very shameful truth in this country- broad disgust with the political process and complete lack of trust by the public in voting - which some see as our only opportunity to tailor some of that outrage.

The piece excluded any mention of the violence of Israel, how children are treated pre-natally, after birth, or during childhood, in utero, in daycare, in their mothers’ arms, at the grocery store, the fact that Elie Weisel’s attendance at the talk was maybe not out of agreement with everything Netanyahu says but -true progenitor of moral outrage that he is- Weisel’s effort to update his own. To be true to intention, moral outrage needs daily updating.

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A Citizen’s Guide to Tailoring Moral Outrage
-Susan Cook-
 
When I was 15, my Aunt gave me a Singer sewing machine that she saved long and diligently to buy. I still have it and use it. It has never broken.  She gave me a privilege I wouldn’t have without it: the privilege to tailor.  She taught me there is pride in tailoring - something  humanity has always known. 
 
Moral outrage is one of things we humans tailor.  You could spend years studying the developmental origins of moral outrage. How it gets tailored by the person - in degree or presence- is influenced by many things- before birth and after. Trauma during childhood , psychological cruelty, witnessing violence, and experiencing  physical violence play a role.  Moral emotions like shame, empathy and love enter . Pre-natal development  tampered with by drugs , alcohol and malnutrition that change neurological and physical development all have an influence. Abandonment and warehousing of children in multiple poorly supervised  foster home placements play a role. And this only the beginning of the tailoring of moral outrage. 
 
Newspapers daily display how moral outrage is tailored these days. I read a column in which the author tried to express what I’m guessing is  her moral outrage. I am all for expressing moral outrage. At least it puts it on the table for a free speech kind of discussion. Thinly masked hatred or an incendiary invitation to violence is hate speech and hate speech is hate speech . Expression of moral outrage used for hatred defeats the purpose.  The writer linked a congressional representative’s boycott of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s speech to a joint session of Congress to shunning of Elie Weisel, the author of a twentieth century indictment of the Holocaust who attended the talk  and then to pro-choice health policy, abortion, and the Holocaust. 
 
The piece excluded any mention of the  violence of Israel,  how children  are treated pre-natally, after birth,  or during childhood,  in utero, in daycare, in their mothers’ arms, at the grocery store, the fact that Elie Weisel’s attendance at the talk was maybe not out of agreement with everything Netanyahu says but -true progenitor of moral outrage that he is- Weisel’s effort to update his own. To be true to intention, moral outrage needs daily updating. 
 
Moral outrage never updated by the  day-to-day awareness of the moral emotions, shame and empathy and  hatred driven actions-  but  locked into political policy and the political gamesmanship that goes along with it becomes hypocrisy.- the gap between moral outrage and what actually happens.  Expressions of moral outrage that become political hypocrisy tap into a very shameful truth in this country- broad disgust with the political process and complete lack of trust by the public in voting - which some see as our only opportunity to tailor some of that outrage.
 
In my state,  18 to 25 year olds- protectors of moral outrage for future generations- are denied access to government health care- for themselves or pre-natally, at birth and after- or for their children.  There is political hypocrisy  in denying anyone affordable health care this is where moral outrage gets torqued beyond recognition, to lower the state budget or because of money making  profit-driven insurance companies that continue to pay management millions in compensation each year. The obvious exclusions of concern for breathing beings is extensive. Pretending that just because you have signed on to one party or another you  and are thus by association driven by moral emotions- not hatred- and are worthy of the public trust., becomes hypocrisy too. That signing on threatens to send moral outrage the way of public trust in voting-  with a commensurate decline in voicing it . That  interrupts a fundamental  age-old protector of humanity  in this country in very large irreversible ways.

A Citizen's Guide to Political Gamesmanship and Environmental Contamination

From Susan J. Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 07:50

Winning is the short view of Political gamesmanship.Fake news creation is part and parcel of it. Environmental contamination is the long view when environmental policy is on the table. In many environmental policy decisions, the environment takes a back seat to the political gamesmanship at play, including creation of fake news. Recently 2 examples of environmental issues tainted by fake news in Maine showed up.

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Pennamaquann Lake is the largest watershed in Washington County. In 2009, an out-of-state construction company, with no Department of Environmental Protection regulation set up an asphalt plant in the center of a gravel "mining" operation. Gravel pits, by geologic definition sit over water aquifers. Asphalt plants emit, by industrial definition, arsenic, mercury, lead and other heavy metal toxins. Asphalt plants also smell and are extremely loud, thus, migratory songbirds which, by definition, make and hear songs to survive, suffer in their presence.  The Department of Environmental Protection exempts gravel pits that have not expanded more than 10 acres since 1970 from regulation. This is an environmental loophole.
It does not matter if the gravel pit, which holds the asphalt plant, which by definition needs gravel to make asphalt, sits across from wetlands, is near federally-protected wildlife preserves, violates a local comprehensive plan, or is a destination for rare, endangered wildlife, all of which apply to the gravel pit on Pennamaquann. There is no DEP oversight. 
The environmental contamination of natural resources that go along with an asphalt plants' construction are not exempt from the other loophole that can rise in regulation.  Political Gamesmanship. 
Political gamesmanship is the trading of votes,  support for an issue, jobs or  advocacy for personal gain or election or re-election to a position by those you are trying to gain favor with- who can be any one who can help you secure the vote or the job or the personal gain. It can include citizens. It also can limited to the insiders in the political world. Please don't tell me this comes as a surprise.
Like environmental contamination, it can be a toxin producing process, with no oversight. In political structures, the state legislature, Congress, the organization of political parties, those who have a vote or those who have gained enough influence are those who provide oversight of the political gamesmanship that may be taking place. 
Let's say, one of the political gamesmanship players, a legislator, has effectively silenced those "voters" by intimidation, for example, allowing the common knowledge to prevail that if citizens call to complain about an issue, their calls will be recorded.  That'll stop the complaining or at least the phone calls, so if let's say a citizen ignorant of the "common knowledge" calls, the legislator can say "No one else called me", and thus justify not doing anything.
Let's say, one of the political gamesmanship players decides to sit on facts or information so they can better use the situation for their own gain, a job, for example or election to a position by those insiders. That’s a very effective political gamesmanship technique for disregarding the complainer's "vote" or voice. And yes, use the opportunity for personal gain if for no other reason to demonstrate, my, my, my, what a good political gamesmanship player you are. 
The asphalt plant, on the edge of Pennamaquann Lake, the largest watershed in Washington County, emitting toxins, including arsenic, which is scientifically linked to bladder cancer, which is the most prevalent kind of cancer in Maine, continues to contaminate.
At every turn, political gamesmanship has stopped action. (See: www.birdsnotlane.com)
Gravel pits and asphalt plant construction fall to one decision-maker ultimately in Maine- one- the state mining Coordinator.  The Mining Coordinator who automatically approved the Pennamaquann Lake asphalt plant has never been there.
The Political Gamesmanship that has stalled any action on Pennamaquann Lake could be called a missed opportunity to prevent environmental damage at a new mining site proposed by the Irving Corporation in Aroostock County.
Rural, pristine parts of the state, like Aroostock County where the "open-pit mining" project at Bald Mountain is proposed depend on local citizens to speak up. There are many ways to intimidate citizens in rural areas. One way is by demanding “proof“ for any statements they make. The person you disagree with may be the person  who could help you fix a flat tire on a remote  rural road. Taking a stand against an industrial project that promises economic development means taking a stand against your neighbor who doesn't have a job. Rural citizens rely on the honest non-gamesmanship of representatives. 
The Bald Mountain open-pit mining project will be reviewed t a legislative hearing in a few weeks. This project is  just as vulnerable to political gamesmanship as any other environmental threat.  The drainage into water aquifers and water sources from that mine will eventually acidify, thus contaminate the Fish River, Eagle Lake and major water supplies there, with the ancillary cost to wildlife and tourism. Eventually. "Eventually", by definition, means our children's children's children; our nephew's children's children and on and on. 
Political gamesmanship has already come to play in the environmental  contamination that Bald Mountain promises. Election, re-election and jobs not for citizens but for the insiders are  already on the table. Whether they will remain true to their job definitions, which by definition means respecting constituents, to not demand “proof“ but respect commitment to the environment, we don’t know. The card in any Political gamesmanship player's pocket is to attack the credibility of the complainer. That is up to each and every one of us to refuse. Winning is the short view of Political gamesmanship. Environmental contamination is the long view.

Where D'ya Get That Hatred?

From Susan J. Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 06:13

Great affirmation of human purpose is the victory for those who watch the runners and wheelchairs racers come in at the Boston Marathon. They are all in it together because they chose to race. The world grieves the terrorization of that event. They question the "radicalization" of two brothers- the older maybe blocking the younger’s escape route for any hesitation the younger might have had.

Where did all that hatred come from?

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                 -Where D'ya  Get That Hatred?-
 
Great affirmation of human purpose is the victory for those who watch  the runners and wheelchairs racers come in at the Boston Marathon. They are all in it together because they chose  to race. The  world grieves the terrorization of that event. They  question the "radicalization" of two brothers- the older maybe blocking the younger’s escape route for any  hesitation the younger might have had.
Where did all that hatred come from? 
We hope that hatred is an anomaly. The deeply embedded desire to protect accompanies a sense of being part of each other,  community, a family, that anonymous collaboration called humanity. The depth of the desire to protect  our own, in this case, anonymous humanity  approaching the finish line at the Boston Marathon- is  as deep as our sense of  belonging to it, a sense of belonging to the group we will protect, be it ourselves or something bigger than that. 
Hatred may seep into  any tiny fracture in that sense  of belonging  and spread it apart as quickly as a  rock chip turns a windshield into a spider's web of glass  that cannot be repaired and will shatter. We don’t know for sure when the tiny chip of glass the rock took out will spread into a  web of fragility. We only know it happens. No one knows what breaks apart that sense of belonging. We know a little about how among babies and children it never catches in the first place but not a lot else.
But who among us would be the first to claim that they’ve never tampered with someone else's sense of belonging, tried to make them an outsider, like they didn't belong in this group or anywhere, that they were of no use to anyone? Once that sense of belonging cracks open, once what seemed like a solid expanse of glass begins to crack, there is no putting it back together, there is no sense of belonging anywhere. This  dead 26 yr old bomber said,  "I don't have any American friends". 
Where were the hints that the 26 year old was a violent man? His previous conviction on domestic assault and battery did not bring  this green card holder to the attention of Immigration and Custom Enforcement officials perhaps because domestic assault did not raise the attention of Immigration  authorities who would place him in a Detention facility. 
Any violent act raises the question of where the hatred comes from. But the larger the crack in the glass the greater the need for  self-justification. 
I read an Editorial,  presented to the public anonymously as they always are, that began  by publicly beseeching a woman to reveal the source of "corroboration" for a statement she had made at a public hearing  indicating that an elected official recorded constituents' phone calls.  The Editorial which derided this as an "antic", described her as "of no use to anyone" unless she yielded to this  public rhetorical pistol held to her head that she state  the supporting evidence.  The Editorial, inflammatory, was an invitation to animosity if not hatred toward  a woman who had made, in the spirit of free speech,  the claim that constituents were not being respected.
In this country, enrollment in a political party is a public and conspicuous gesture of belonging; the hostile derision of  those parties toward each other a media feast.  The justification for the hostility is that each one’s is better to belong to.  The source of the Editorial was not the political party of the politician the woman had criticized, but important spokespeople from her own political party, who already had been told that the corroboration came from a person of the "other" party. The important spokespeople, one of whom, sought election with support from both political parties,  felt that a grand tool of  political victory had been discovered: the ancient technique of  fomenting animosity if not hatred toward the same person or group.  They called it working across the aisle. 
Who would know where that  tiny pebble that started the crack that shattered the whole span of glass came from? Who would ever suspect that the hostility would be fostered by  someone sharing a sense of belonging to the same group, a political party?
A sense of belonging to what?  Which group? Humanity?  The human race?  Why would  anyone use  animosity toward another who shared a sense of belonging with them,  hoping others would keep the secret, be deceived  into  thinking the hatred  really came from  the other political party and hey, political parties do that all the time?!
This is time for reflection in this country in the glass now shattered. How do we recognize where hatred comes from? How do we  know how someone who shares a sense of belonging of say, being an American, could set that aside and engage in an act of hatred toward their own, hoping they would succeed in the deception, that no one would suspect them because, hey, they're all part of the same group?  That all that hatred came from somebody somewhere else?  Let us continue to ask that question: Where d’ya get that hatred? 

"I Wonder Whose Pocket She's In" (The song and dance genre): A Lyrical Tribute to Corporate Influence on Elected Officials

From Susan J. Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 05:46

Well, in my state we have a remarkable example of corporations having their way with state legislators to pass a bill that- in the long run did nothing but pay the corporation millions in cashed-in tax breaks. And the two legislators (one from each party) who sponsored the bill got nothing but $16,000 in donations to their personal PACS. This has sparked wonder and awe and inspired a lyrical tribute "I Wonder Whose Pocket She's In" which can be sung to the melody of the 1909 hit song "I Wonder Who's Kissing Her Now", if you like a good song instead of a bracing lyrical poem.

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Well, in my state, we have a remarkable example of corporations having their way with state legislators  to pass a bill that- in the long run- did nothing to solve the problem the bill was supposed to solve. 
Thanks to the investigative reporting of the Maine Sunday Telegram, we know that in 2011 our legislature passed an investment opportunity bill to encourage investors to put their money into low-income communities. All is good.  The problem is, the legislature passed the bill without any requirement that the money the corporation invested (in exchange for tax breaks  equal to 39% of the total investment)  actually be spent on the community  it was supposed to help. And worse- if the corporation didn’t pay any taxes in the state- they could just cash in that 39% of the money they invested for real real dollars.  Thus, a corporate investment which looked like 40 million dollars on paper for a failing Maine paper company ended up with the investors getting 16 million dollars in cashed-in tax breaks, millions to pay off other debts, $8 million for the investment corporation, $500,000 to lawyers and brokers, and a ripe  $16,000 to the two legislative leaders (one from each party)  who sponsored it.  
Why a complex bill was passed without the due diligence that the public trusts legislators to have- is an unknown. We only know the 2 sponsors of the legislation received about 16 thousand dollars for their PACs for sponsoring it and pressuring their colleagues to vote for it.. 
I mean, really only 16 thousand for the two legislators- when millions were being passed from investor to investor?
This sparks wonder which here inspires verse- well, song, if you’re a singer because the verse can also be sung to  the melody from the 1909 song  “I Wonder Who’s Kissing Her Now.” (Check it out on You Tube!)
And so our verse asks  “I Wonder Whose Pocket She’s In”
I Wonder Whose Pocket She’s In
(to the tune of I Wonder Who’s Kissing Her Now)
I wonder whose pocket he’s in
Now that she’s left office again.
I  suppose that the guys 
whose pockets he  lined 
Still like the paydays 
his decisions inspired.
Electeds aren’t paid all that much
and you know campaigns cost as much
as a lawyers’  down payment
When they’re hired by the complainant
Who’s discovered a problem that the laws
Should have solved.
Campaign contributions go into  remission
When the Federal Election Commission
Puts the numbers online
In a font called  Tiny Fine
And they’re alphanumerically
listed  in rhyme. 
You know  I’m just kidding with that.
You just have to know where they’re at
I mean the descriptor
Of the name of the sister
Of the corporate custodian who works 
weekends sometimes. 
And there on line eight thousand ten
She’s managed to give him again
The monetary limit
For a candidate who’s in it
For the long haul and knows 
his big pay day won’t come…
Til’ he opts to not seek again
The office where he used his pen
To put into place  
the gravy and baste 
the fat critter that some 
Corporation has raised.
Their regulatory dismays 
Resemble a  purgatory in ways
Their  projects go on  hold.
Til the owners grow old
And cannot  recall
The best number to call…
To tweak the one they have  elected 
Who waits at his desk .He’s rejected
a number of bills 
his donors s want killed.
But never when
picturing James, George or Ben.
Which now brings us back to our question
About an elected’s  intention
When citizens call 
and encounter a wall
And the call’s  placed on hold
til  the elected’s  gone home. 
So now he’s back home. Has he been offered
A  job that will top off his coffers.
And soon he can request
the suit lawyers  like best
at Brooks Brothers with  pockets
that won’t cramp his knees or their sockets. 
I wonder whose pocket he’s in
Now that he has  left office again.
I  suppose that the guys 
whose pockets he  lined 
Still like the paydays 
his decisions inspired….

Reading Water, Seeing Fish: The Alewive Controversy

From Susan J. Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 04:40

The strident opponents of a rapid, unregulated re-introduction of alewives to the St. Croix believe that at one important juncture in the river, the topography has been such that alewives have never been able to swim further up the river. Any prospect of passage was exacerbated by the stinking stench and chemical debris of a paper mill located upstream of this topographical barrier whose pollutants all made their way seaward. They maintain that these factors have kept alewives out of the upper reaches such that they have never been native to the watershed. Re-introduction of alewives means that they will provide competition for a more highly valued fish- the small-mouth bass- who lure many to fish in the lakes spewing off of the St. Croix, in particular, West Grand Lake. The people making this argument earn their living by guiding these occasional fishermen who come to the area just for that reason, to fish. The strident are the fishing guides who spend their entire working days reading the water of lakes and rivers, and seeing the fish that lie just beneath them.

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Reading Water, Seeing Fish
-Susan Cook-
The controversy over re-introducing alewives, a small but tasty fish,  into the St. Croix River and adjacent lakes is about to re-surface here in Maine with the hearings on two bills with two very different approaches to correcting the depletion of alewives in this watershed. Some say this seafaring species of fish who always return to their home stretch of river to spawn in the spring were never native to the upper St. Croix in the first place. Where there are no spawning alewives, the question becomes: is it human-made tampering that led to their depletion which can be undone once the human-tapering is undone or topographical and natural boundaries that prevented the fish from ever being there in the first place?  Alewives are important because like the grass roots in politics, these fish are food for the big guys, cod and other breadwinners, for one. The theory is that alewives have been depleted because of the lack of spawning grounds; the impoverished alewive population  has led to the decline of  dominance in ocean populations of the big ones kind of like politics. 
Who takes what side in this debate reveals as much about how environmentalists and others come to think they know what they know as it does about the many sides of the issue. 
The strident opponents of a rapid, unregulated  re-introduction of  alewives to the St. Croix  believe that at one important juncture in the river, the topography has been such that alewives have never been able to swim further up the river. Any prospect  of passage was  exacerbated by the stinking stench and chemical debris of a paper mill located upstream of this topographical barrier whose pollutants all made  their way seaward. They maintain that these factors have kept alewives out of the upper reaches  such that they have never been native to the watershed. Re-introduction of alewives means that they will provide competition for a more highly valued fish- the small-mouth bass- who lure many to fish in the lakes spewing off of the St. Croix, in particular, West Grand Lake. The people making this argument earn their living by guiding these occasional fishermen who come to the area just for that reason, to fish. The strident are the fishing guides who spend their entire working days reading the water of lakes and rivers, and seeing the fish that lie  just beneath them. It is how the fishing guides catch them.
They are not relying on the "Action Alerts" from well-intended environmental advocacy group who call upon   scientists who have never actually witnessed the water they claim to read or mastered the  art of seeing fish below the surface. It takes a practiced eye and more than one of these  guides read water with an eye like an eagle.
Their eyes come from years of reading the water. They are not in the middle of Augusta, in the middle of the State or the middle of the Legislative hearing room reading talking points.
Vanity, being right and talking the party line because it’s there has never made good policy.  The fishing guides might be wrong. In Grand Lake Stream, their collective 200 plus years of reading these waters and seeing fish below them might have made, what's the word, a little territorial. They will the first to suffer if the bass population suffers a major decline because the alewives have grabbed the food supply.   Those who thought it was a good idea out of vanity or otherwise, who could not tell the difference between a small-mouth or big-mouth bass, a crappie or a trout, will never know the difference until they read about it the newspaper.

Reading Water, Seeing Fish: The Alewive Controversy

From Susan J. Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 04:40

The strident opponents of a rapid, unregulated re-introduction of alewives to the St. Croix believe that at one important juncture in the river, the topography has been such that alewives have never been able to swim further up the river. Any prospect of passage was exacerbated by the stinking stench and chemical debris of a paper mill located upstream of this topographical barrier whose pollutants all made their way seaward. They maintain that these factors have kept alewives out of the upper reaches such that they have never been native to the watershed. Re-introduction of alewives means that they will provide competition for a more highly valued fish- the small-mouth bass- who lure many to fish in the lakes spewing off of the St. Croix, in particular, West Grand Lake. The people making this argument earn their living by guiding these occasional fishermen who come to the area just for that reason, to fish. The strident are the fishing guides who spend their entire working days reading the water of lakes and rivers, and seeing the fish that lie just beneath them.

Fish6bclient_small

Reading Water, Seeing Fish
-Susan Cook-
The controversy over re-introducing alewives, a small but tasty fish,  into the St. Croix River and adjacent lakes is about to re-surface here in Maine with the hearings on two bills with two very different approaches to correcting the depletion of alewives in this watershed. Some say this seafaring species of fish who always return to their home stretch of river to spawn in the spring were never native to the upper St. Croix in the first place. Where there are no spawning alewives, the question becomes: is it human-made tampering that led to their depletion which can be undone once the human-tapering is undone or topographical and natural boundaries that prevented the fish from ever being there in the first place?  Alewives are important because like the grass roots in politics, these fish are food for the big guys, cod and other breadwinners, for one. The theory is that alewives have been depleted because of the lack of spawning grounds; the impoverished alewive population  has led to the decline of  dominance in ocean populations of the big ones kind of like politics. 
Who takes what side in this debate reveals as much about how environmentalists and others come to think they know what they know as it does about the many sides of the issue. 
The strident opponents of a rapid, unregulated  re-introduction of  alewives to the St. Croix  believe that at one important juncture in the river, the topography has been such that alewives have never been able to swim further up the river. Any prospect  of passage was  exacerbated by the stinking stench and chemical debris of a paper mill located upstream of this topographical barrier whose pollutants all made  their way seaward. They maintain that these factors have kept alewives out of the upper reaches  such that they have never been native to the watershed. Re-introduction of alewives means that they will provide competition for a more highly valued fish- the small-mouth bass- who lure many to fish in the lakes spewing off of the St. Croix, in particular, West Grand Lake. The people making this argument earn their living by guiding these occasional fishermen who come to the area just for that reason, to fish. The strident are the fishing guides who spend their entire working days reading the water of lakes and rivers, and seeing the fish that lie  just beneath them. It is how the fishing guides catch them.
They are not relying on the "Action Alerts" from well-intended environmental advocacy group who call upon   scientists who have never actually witnessed the water they claim to read or mastered the  art of seeing fish below the surface. It takes a practiced eye and more than one of these  guides read water with an eye like an eagle.
Their eyes come from years of reading the water. They are not in the middle of Augusta, in the middle of the State or the middle of the Legislative hearing room reading talking points.
Vanity, being right and talking the party line because it’s there has never made good policy.  The fishing guides might be wrong. In Grand Lake Stream, their collective 200 plus years of reading these waters and seeing fish below them might have made, what's the word, a little territorial. They will the first to suffer if the bass population suffers a major decline because the alewives have grabbed the food supply.   Those who thought it was a good idea out of vanity or otherwise, who could not tell the difference between a small-mouth or big-mouth bass, a crappie or a trout, will never know the difference until they read about it the newspaper.

In the Department of Poetic Justice (The song and dance genre): All I Want Is My Debt Deferred

From Susan J. Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 03:23

Well, in my state the Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting published a lengthy article about a veteran lawmaker who is strongly supporting a bill to allow copper and zinc mining in pristine rural parts of the state by the brother company of a firm that has forgiven a debt of about $150,000 that the legislator owed the company. In our Department of Poetic Justice (and Poetic Reckoning) we today offer this poem "All I Want Is My Debt Deferred" which can be sung to the tune of "Wouldn't it be loverly" from "My Fair Lady" from The Great American Wrongbook.

Gravelpit2011_small Well, in my state the Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting published a lengthy article about a veteran lawmaker who is strongly supporting a bill to allow copper and zinc mining in pristine rural parts of the state by the brother company of a firm that has forgiven a debt of about $150,000 that he owed the company. In our poetic justice department, we  today offer this poem "All I Want Is My Debt Deferred"  which can be sung to the tune of  "Wouldn't it be loverly" from "My Fair Lady".

“All I want is my debt deferred”
-Susan Cook-
(to the tune of “Wouldn’t it be loverly” from “My Fair Lady”
All I want is my debt deferred
Way up north where I keep my word. 
I don’t down in Augusta.
Forgiving debt is not a crime. 

All I want is my gas bills paid
Irving’s lawyers get off my case.
So I can sleep more calmly.
No, it isn’t bribery.

All I want is a nice new mine
on Bald Mountain. It’s not that fine
an example of  forest. Mining
isn’t larceny.

All I want is the bill to pass.
You know, I like my trout, my bass.
Copper and arsenic in streams
might help other species last. 

I can’t help it if Irving Oil
bought up forests in my home towns7
and what they really want is
me to have my gas station.

What I mean is when I retire
I’ll go home and sit by the fire
And Irving does not want me
worried about unpaid bills.


All they want is Bald Mountain mines,
No one goes there, just porcupines
And moose and deer and beavers.
Jobs are my priority.

As you know, I am not corrupt.
You know I’m not one who will erupt
in public or in meetings, except 
when you’re accusing me.

It’s just that what I really want
is a mine out in my back lot.
I mean Aroostock County.
That’s where my gas station is.

I do not commit larceny,
embezzlement or bribery
I have a private business. 
That is none of your business.

Irving can’t help it if I made
public office my second trade
When I’m not selling gas,
donuts, soda, or Gator-ade.

As I’ve said, I am not a crook.
Ethically, I go by the book.
I wrote it long ago when 
I was Speaker of the House.

Let’s not go there. What Irving wants
is a mine. That is not a crime.
Forgiving debt is kind. And  
all I have to say is it’s lover-ly.
 

The Conscience of Anonymity:Naming Native American Artists

From Susan J. Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 05:25

I went to an exhibit of Native American basketry recently- made by Maine Penobscots and Passamaquoddies. The reception was as polished as any other art exhibit opening- except in one respect . None of the artists whose work was displayed were named. No brass plate. No calligraphy on an ivory placard. The artists- all of whom- were Maine Indians -were anonymous. With the exception of the one Indian artist whose talk explained the origin and lineage of the art of basket making, none were named- no birth date- no home town- no tribal affiliation. At an exhibit intended to warmly acknowledge, they were excluded by being made anonymous. What is it that lingers when gifted artists of a brilliant tradition are not given the recognition any artist in any art gallery or museum in the country is given- a name? The consequence of cultural anonymity is often indifference . Immigrants arriving at Ellis Island given different names as they left, Jews with their identity papers taken as they board a train, young men first targeted because of race . Making people anonymous makes it easier to hurt them.

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The Conscience of Anonymity: Naming Native American Artists
-Susan Cook- 
I went to a reception for an exhibit of baskets made by Maine Penobscots and Passamaquoddies recently. Made from ash and sweet grass, some cedar, these baskets  held - and hold- belongings - treasures and the more mundane necessities of the day-to-day, made from the near-at-hand in the natural world- into the necessary, into beauty,  strength woven from thin slats of ash ,  gifts made from the freely available.
The reception was as polished as any other art exhibit opening- except in one respect .  None of the artists whose work was displayed were named. No brass plate. No calligraphy on an ivory placard.  The artists- all of whom- were Maine Indians -were anonymous. With the exception of the one Indian artist whose talk  explained the origin and lineage of the art of basket making, none were named- no birth date- no home town- no tribal affiliation. At an exhibit intended to warmly acknowledge, they were excluded by being made anonymous.




Native American Indians have so often been anonymous to popular culture, except through stereotype.   The ones history gives names to are those who fought back- and died- or the ones who provided some indispensable service to white men.   Most are anonymous. Not in the graveyards of tribal reservations. I remember walking through one, at Peter Dana Point,   in Maine, one time, and reading  the names- of Indian men whose dates of death subtracted from their dates of birth- for many- meant they died at age 45, 38, 49.  By 2000 the average age of death among  Native American Indians in Maine was 60.  The average age of death among whites in Maine was 74.1 years then. Now in 2012, for whites it is 79.  (https://www1.maine.gov/dhhs/mecdc/files/nar/nar.htm)
I found no current life expectancy data for Maine Native Americans.  I wonder if the 14 year difference still exists.
People having and holding each other and their own cultures is a value-  not one always afforded by life. Living life means people may be lost to each through  death, broken relationships,  conflict . There are many Native  Americans lost to each other because names were changed after adoption or foster care or orphanage placement.  Several people in my family- myself included- bear hauntingly similar physical  appearance to Canadian Micmacs at the end of the nineteenth and early twentieth century.  Some forward thinking Canadian photographers captured their images and named them, so  now they’re available for me to compare with  contemporary photos. My paternal grandmother was adopted by a white family in the 1860’s  at age 3 when her mother died of smallpox. If she was, if my grandmother, my father, all of my family carry that Indian lineage, I don’t know. We have their names, nothing like our own.  I am deeply grateful they were all named. It is a place to start. And yes, I admit that a little of my dismay at seeing no names next to the baskets exhibited came from knowing  I wouldn’t be able to wonder if maybe the artist was a distant relative.
What is it that  lingers when gifted artists of a brilliant tradition are not given the recognition any artist in any art gallery or museum in the country is  given- a name?  The consequence of cultural anonymity is often indifference . Immigrants arriving at Ellis Island given different names as they left,  Jews with their identity papers taken as they board a train, young men first targeted because of race . Making people anonymous makes it easier to hurt them.  I wonder if that consequence  has  made its mark in the national conscience, the one summoned on holidays, like Memorial Day, or the one we privately guard  in our thoughts before we fall asleep at night or wake too early to rise.  We take from each other the wealth that precedes us- in  art, culture, in the sense of belonging and protection that biological connection offers, when even in honoring art- a name is left out- the simplest  cultural tool, the first joining of people  to each other and all that’s come before. 

All the Things There Are to Fear: Giving Asylum Seekers Basic Necessities

From Susan J. Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 04:50

In 1948, the United Nations said seeking asylum is a basic right to seek protection from government persecution. In my state, there is now a controversy because the Governor says he does not want funds for the basic necessities of asylum seekers to be in the state budget. Our biggest fear is a big budget, he and the state legislators say, who voted against giving food and shelter to asylum seekers.

In this country we sometime forget all the things there are to fear in this world. We have forgotten the fear from a government that with no explanation detains, persecutes and murders. We have forgotten the fear of government that comes to your home at night and threatens you with the disappearance of family because you disagree with policies or because you are targeted by race, religion, ethnicity We are at risk of losing our fear of the loss of human rights. The Representatives, Senators and the Governor say provision of asylum to protect fundamental human rights costs too much. When a budget is more important than the sustenance of Asylum that gives people a place to go if they fear genocide, we should all be filled with deep apprehension

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All The Things There Are To Fear
In 1948, the United Nations  acknowledged Asylum as a powerful prescription against the Holocaust because many of its victims had no place to go to escape the Third Reich’s persecution. Thus the UN  Universal Declaration of Human Rights in  Article 14, identifies the right to seek asylum  from government persecution, as a human right. 
The world took its time recognizing the enormous human swath the hatred of the Holocaust cut The reality that asylum was a prescription against future persecution and genocide gained traction quickly. 
“Asylum” is  a prescription to heal from and prevent government persecution, including genocide. . In my state, there is now a controversy because the Governor does not want to provide basic necessities to asylum seekers waiting for asylum. Asylum has become a   “budget problem”. 
To be granted asylum in this country, asylum seekers  are examined and evaluated by physicians and psychologists who document medical and psychological evidence of wounds suffered from past persecution. They document proof the applicant will suffer again at the hands of their own government. Applicants cannot work for  six months after applying. 
Asylum seekers  who’ve come to Maine have been persecuted, jailed, physically maimed, harassed, and  sexually assaulted by government-affiliates in their native countries. Many are survivors of the  1994 Rwandan genocide  when 800,000 Tutsis were murdered over 100 days. Many have seen family members disappear with no explanation. They remain at risk  if they return to their countries for further persecution and government detention in country’s far far different than the one we live in.  I say this based on my observations as  a volunteer evaluator for the  Asylum Network whose affidavits  are submitted as part of the asylum seeker’s application.  Asylum seekers make application for asylum because they have lived with paralyzing fear without government protection and indeed at the hands of their government.  
Our biggest fear should be a big budget the Governor says, along with the Maine Representatives and  Senators  who voted against giving shelter and basic necessities to  Asylum seekers. 
 In this country we sometime forget all the things there are to fear in this  world. We have forgotten the fear from  a government that with no explanation detains, persecutes and murders. We have forgotten the fear of government that comes to your home at night and threatens you with the disappearance of family  because you disagree with policies  or because you are targeted by race, religion, ethnicity We are at risk of losing our fear of the loss of human rights. The  Representatives, Senators  and the Governor say provision of asylum to protect fundamental human rights  costs too much. When a budget is  more important than the sustenance of Asylum that gives people a place to go if they fear genocide, we should all be filled with deep apprehension.

Harper Lee' s American Mirror

From Susan J. Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 04:07

Twenty four hours or so have passed since a portrait of the older Atticus Finch as a bigot, complaining about the integration of “Negroes” into the culture, has been given to us by Harper Lee in the newly published "Go Set a Watchman". She has given us a mirror of the struggle to sustain and protect deep compassion, that is, in many, many ways a uniquely American mirror.To Kill a Mockingbird could not have been published when it was in many other countries. And in another country, or culture- maybe this Atticus Finch in Go Set a Watchman wouldn’t have stung quite as much - because the good one is no longer purely good. But so many people here feeling the sting- recognizing that is part of this country too. We all are the watchman in our own way.

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Harper Lee’s American Mirror
-Susan Cook
Twenty four hours or so have passed since a portrait of the older  Atticus Finch as a bigot, complaining about the integration of “Negroes” into the culture, has been given to us by Harper Lee.  She has given us  a mirror of the struggle to sustain and protect deep compassion, that is, in many , many ways an American mirror.
We long for the good one to be the good one and the bad one to be the bad one. Deep compassion like that of the  father of the 8 year old boy who died at the finish line of the Boston Marathon is rare and very difficult to sustain. He said  his  family did not want the death penalty  for the bomber . The child’s father said the bomber chose hate in his actions. The death penalty is about hate. The child’s father said  “We chose love. We choose kindness. We choose peace.” And that is what makes us different from him.
Sometimes the bad one cannot be sacrificed because if you sacrifice the bad one, compassion and love are also sacrificed. Harper Lee’s mirror in Go Set a Watchman tells us sometimes the good one is not all good and the bad one is not all bad and not worthy of compassion.
It is far easier to kill the mockingbird than to tolerate its imitation - mirroring- and yes- being fooled- over and over- because you cannot tell if it is what it really is- which  bird the real one- which one not.  The truth saves us from that or saves our trust in what we hear and see. And so, as an older man, the truer Atticus Finch is not who we thought he was- or not completely.  He is a portrait of the difficulty of sustaining compassion. It is not  impossible- an eight year’s old grieving father shows that- but difficult, taxed out of us by an intrusive culture  or media or a political system that insists- and will lie if it has to- that good ones are good and bad ones are bad. 
There are many examples of  us being fooled, compassion lost when we thought it would be, there,  the good one being the bad one , the bad one turning out to be a delusional schizophrenic - who maybe was never asked about his delusional fixation- guns- if he had guns, where he kept them, where he bought them and why he wanted them.  And sometimes, the good one being inexplicably mean, greedy, completely ignoring the stark cruelty of what’s been done, running fast and furiously away from any mirror someone might hold up. 
Harper Lee’s mirror is an American mirror- though.  To Kill a Mockingbird could not have been published when it was in many other countries. And in another country, or culture-  maybe this Atticus Finch in Go Set a Watchman wouldn’t have stung quite as much - because the good one is no longer purely good.  But so many people here feeling the sting- recognizing that is part of this country too. We all are the watchman in our own way.

"It's Not What You're Given, It's What You Do With What You Get: An Antidote to Donald Trump World"

From Susan J. Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 05:57

Recently, two Washington Post reporters looked at how human beings are valued in Donald Trump world, now, and as he turned the $200000 his father gave him into billions. The values of Trump world are very different from a rural state like Maine where deer, beavers, fish, rare endangered wildlife , serene forests, trucks that work, no traffic and enduring cold, long winters well have special value. There are Maine virtuosos who celebrate the values of rural life. Listening to them is an antidote, to the queasy feeling left in the stomach by the lip-smacking exclusionary greed of Donald Trump world.

"It's not what you're given. It's what you do with what you get," the bootstrapping virtuoso blues singer, Pat Pepin, sings. She riffs about free Wal-mart’ overnight parking for campers and RVs , and cherishes her “long-haul trucker”. Another virtuoso is Robert Skoglund, The humble Farmer, whose oldtime jazz radio program is now making its way into New York City radio air waves. Humble’s program was removed from Maine public radio for - I guess you could call it - political insubordination - for criticizing the Iraq War. Humble has all the qualities necessary for a Donald Trump world antidote because humble really does value money, not quantity, but every breathing atom and neutron and ounce of chemical valence on its surface.

We hope his listeners will drink deeply of this antidote, the radio detox- for the money culture-the Donald Trump world that’s forgotten that $.99 can be far far better quality than several billion because, as Pat Pepin sings, it isn’t what you’re given. It’ s what you do with what you get.

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"It's Not What You'reGiven, Its What You Do With Wat You Get: An Antidote to Donald Trump World""
-Susan Cook-

Two Washington Post reporters recently looked at how human beings are valued in Donald Trump world, now and as he carried on while turning the first $200000 his father gave him into billions.

In Donald Trump world, quantity of money takes precedence over quality of money . Thus the welfare tenants of his New York apartments and Mexican immigrants are devalued because they don’t have any money. If he allowed welfare tenants into his apartments, Trump said , “there would be a massive fleeing from the city, not only our tenants but the community as a whole.“ In Donald Trump world, people shouldn‘t get caught. Thus, he said Senator John McCain is not a hero because, as Trump said, he likes people who don’t get caught. The measure of the man is his money, no matter how he got it; the woman, her physical appearance, no matter the cost in self-devaluation or sexual exploitation. After all, he told the reporters, as a young man, he dated often. “These were beautiful women. but many of them couldn’t carry on a normal conversation.“ One might ask, why then seek their company, because in Trump world, the true measure of success is not getting caught -without physical attractiveness, money or by the atrocities of war, or I suppose, a good lie.

The values of Trump world are very different from a  rural state like Maine where deer, beavers, fish, rare endangered wildlife , serene forests, trucks that work, no traffic and enduring cold, long winters well have special value. There are Maine virtuosos who celebrate the values of rural life. Listening to them is an antidote, to the queasy feeling left in the stomach by the lip-smacking exclusionary greed of Donald Trump world.

“It’s not what you’re given, it’s what you do with what you get” Maine’s bootstrapping virtuoso blues singer, Pat Pepin sings. She riffs about free Wal-mart’ overnight parking for campers and RVs and cherishes her “long-haul trucker” who’s in it for the “long haul” Another Maine virtuoso is Robert Skoglund, The humble Farmer, whose oldtime jazz radio program was removed from Maine public radio for - I guess you could call it - political insubordination - for criticizing the Iraq War. Like Donald Trump world, “humble” values money, every breathing atom and neutron and ounce of chemical valence on its surface, but he goes for quality. On his early American jazz program, humble, immodestly complains about how expensive Goodwill stores have become- what with shirts that used to cost $.99 now going for over seven dollars. And his gustatory taste well satisfied by a can of spaghetti uncooked. Eaten. And then there is his trademark reference to his wife Marsha as “the almost perfect woman” which - raised the hackles of our assertiveness trained Maine feminists who assumed his remarks were drawn from the one to ten scale of physical attractiveness of Donald Trump world. And yes, Donald Trump regaled the days when he observed several “well-known super models” in a fast-track New York night club engaging in let’s say- physical actions on a bench in the center of the room “each one with a different guy”. But, no, “humble” wasn’t referring to a Donald Trump world one to ten rating. When finally asked what would make his wife perfect, humble said, “If I was 19.“

And thus an 80 something man valuing a woman in the same way Adam and Eve did is an antidote to the Donald Trump world, which is not exactly like the garden of Eden- even if he was only watching.

Recently, The humble Farmer has announced that his radio show is indeed bound for the New York City radio waves. On WFDU at 89.1FM . There we hope his listeners will drink deeply of this antidote, the public radio detox- for the money culture-the Donald Trump world that’s forgotten that $.99 can be far far better quality than several billion because as Pat Pepin sings, it isn’t what you’re given. It’ s what you do with what you get.

"It's Not What You're Given, It's What You Do With What You Get: An Antidote to Donald Trump World"

From Susan J. Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 05:57

Recently, two Washington Post reporters looked at how human beings are valued in Donald Trump world, now, and as he turned the $200000 his father gave him into billions. The values of Trump world are very different from a rural state like Maine where deer, beavers, fish, rare endangered wildlife , serene forests, trucks that work, no traffic and enduring cold, long winters well have special value. There are Maine virtuosos who celebrate the values of rural life. Listening to them is an antidote, to the queasy feeling left in the stomach by the lip-smacking exclusionary greed of Donald Trump world.

"It's not what you're given. It's what you do with what you get," the bootstrapping virtuoso blues singer, Pat Pepin, sings. She riffs about free Wal-mart’ overnight parking for campers and RVs , and cherishes her “long-haul trucker”. Another virtuoso is Robert Skoglund, The humble Farmer, whose oldtime jazz radio program is now making its way into New York City radio air waves. Humble’s program was removed from Maine public radio for - I guess you could call it - political insubordination - for criticizing the Iraq War. Humble has all the qualities necessary for a Donald Trump world antidote because humble really does value money, not quantity, but every breathing atom and neutron and ounce of chemical valence on its surface.

We hope his listeners will drink deeply of this antidote, the radio detox- for the money culture-the Donald Trump world that’s forgotten that $.99 can be far far better quality than several billion because, as Pat Pepin sings, it isn’t what you’re given. It’ s what you do with what you get.

Breathing_small


"It's Not What You'reGiven, Its What You Do With Wat You Get: An Antidote to Donald Trump World""
-Susan Cook-

Two Washington Post reporters recently looked at how human beings are valued in Donald Trump world, now and as he carried on while turning the first $200000 his father gave him into billions.

In Donald Trump world, quantity of money takes precedence over quality of money . Thus the welfare tenants of his New York apartments and Mexican immigrants are devalued because they don’t have any money. If he allowed welfare tenants into his apartments, Trump said , “there would be a massive fleeing from the city, not only our tenants but the community as a whole.“ In Donald Trump world, people shouldn‘t get caught. Thus, he said Senator John McCain is not a hero because, as Trump said, he likes people who don’t get caught. The measure of the man is his money, no matter how he got it; the woman, her physical appearance, no matter the cost in self-devaluation or sexual exploitation. After all, he told the reporters, as a young man, he dated often. “These were beautiful women. but many of them couldn’t carry on a normal conversation.“ One might ask, why then seek their company, because in Trump world, the true measure of success is not getting caught -without physical attractiveness, money or by the atrocities of war, or I suppose, a good lie.

The values of Trump world are very different from a  rural state like Maine where deer, beavers, fish, rare endangered wildlife , serene forests, trucks that work, no traffic and enduring cold, long winters well have special value. There are Maine virtuosos who celebrate the values of rural life. Listening to them is an antidote, to the queasy feeling left in the stomach by the lip-smacking exclusionary greed of Donald Trump world.

“It’s not what you’re given, it’s what you do with what you get” Maine’s bootstrapping virtuoso blues singer, Pat Pepin sings. She riffs about free Wal-mart’ overnight parking for campers and RVs and cherishes her “long-haul trucker” who’s in it for the “long haul” Another Maine virtuoso is Robert Skoglund, The humble Farmer, whose oldtime jazz radio program was removed from Maine public radio for - I guess you could call it - political insubordination - for criticizing the Iraq War. Like Donald Trump world, “humble” values money, every breathing atom and neutron and ounce of chemical valence on its surface, but he goes for quality. On his early American jazz program, humble, immodestly complains about how expensive Goodwill stores have become- what with shirts that used to cost $.99 now going for over seven dollars. And his gustatory taste well satisfied by a can of spaghetti uncooked. Eaten. And then there is his trademark reference to his wife Marsha as “the almost perfect woman” which - raised the hackles of our assertiveness trained Maine feminists who assumed his remarks were drawn from the one to ten scale of physical attractiveness of Donald Trump world. And yes, Donald Trump regaled the days when he observed several “well-known super models” in a fast-track New York night club engaging in let’s say- physical actions on a bench in the center of the room “each one with a different guy”. But, no, “humble” wasn’t referring to a Donald Trump world one to ten rating. When finally asked what would make his wife perfect, humble said, “If I was 19.“

And thus an 80 something man valuing a woman in the same way Adam and Eve did is an antidote to the Donald Trump world, which is not exactly like the garden of Eden- even if he was only watching.

Recently, The humble Farmer has announced that his radio show is indeed bound for the New York City radio waves. On WFDU at 89.1FM . There we hope his listeners will drink deeply of this antidote, the public radio detox- for the money culture-the Donald Trump world that’s forgotten that $.99 can be far far better quality than several billion because as Pat Pepin sings, it isn’t what you’re given. It’ s what you do with what you get.

Carrying Stuff Up Mt. Everest: Spirituality and Job Definitions

From Susan J. Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 04:13

A Town Clerk in Kentucky has refused to give out a marriage license to a gay couple, risking jail time, because the two of them marrying “does not fit God’s definition of marriage“, which presumes that there are job definitions , including for civil and government jobs, that go along with her religious beliefs.

Now, we can get out our Constitutions and re-visit the part that separates the power of the church from the power of the state. But then there’s the issue of separating the individual’s perception of their own power from the government job they do- in this case a town clerk whose whole beating spiritual heart has infused her job, or visa- versa. But politicians and government officials do that all the time and never get called out on it because they neatly avoid public displays of how much their own beliefs infuse their perception of their personal power- thus the job they do- the communication directors adding a tone of derision and insult against someone who does something she doesn’t like, the government lawyer giving out favors to someone who will return the favor later on. Town Clerks do the nitty-gritty of daily life so when one of them confuses her personal power - in this case- a heart laden with spiritual belief- with a paying job- well, the abuse of power becomes more obvious. But, this particular form of the abuse of power likely happens far more often than we notice.

This all came to mind when I told my grand-nephew I'm a Buddhist and then said "You probably don't know what a Buddhist is." "Yes, I do. They help people carry stuff up Mt. Everest." Thus a need for clarification between the personal power spirituality brings and infusing one's work with it.

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"Carrying Stuff Up Mount Everest: Spirituality and Job Definitions"

 

I was driving with my 13 year old grand-nephew the other day when he picked up a little Buddha I have on my dashboard.

“Where did you get this?“, he asked.

“Somebody gave it to me.” I said. “I’m a Buddhist.”

“You are? I didn’t know that,” he said.

I said, “You probably don’t know what a Buddhist is.”

“Yes, I do. They help people carry stuff up Mt. Everest.”

For just a minute, I wanted to say yes, a part of me self-serving, imagining, someday, Buddhism might give me an in- to go and sit in a nice little nylon folding chair and watch these powerful, remarkably muscular Sherpas helping wealthy foreigners accomplish something. One never hears the Sherpas trying to lift a little turbo charge of power from their role as they do their work: allowing wealthy foreigners to stand atop Mt. Everest as if they did it all by themselves.

“No, those are Nepali Sherpas. They live in Nepal. They might be Buddhists but that’s not what all Buddhists do. The Buddha was a very very nice guy who tried to care. “

This brings to mind the Town Clerk in Kentucky who refused to give out a marriage license to a gay couple, risking jail time, because the two of them marrying “does not fit God’s definition of marriage“, which presumes that there are job definitions , including for civil and government jobs, that go along with her religious beliefs.

Now, we can get out our Constitutions and re-visit the part that separates the power of the church from the power of the state. But then there’s the issue of separating the individual’s perception of their own power from the government job they do- in this case a town clerk whose whole beating spiritual heart has infused her job, or visa- versa. But politicians and government officials do that all the time and never get called out on it because they neatly avoid public displays of how much their own beliefs infuse their perception of their personal power- thus the job they do- the communication directors adding a tone of derision and insult against someone who does something she doesn’t like, the government lawyer giving out favors to someone who will return the favor later on. Town Clerks do the nitty-gritty- of daily life so when one of them confuses her personal power - in this case- a heart laden with spiritual belief- with a paying job- well, the abuse of power becomes more obvious. But, this particular form of the abuse of power likely happens far more often than we notice.

If Nepali Sherpas- with their spiritually-laden hearts- this time with Buddhism - abused that power in doing their job-there would probably be many non-compassionate foreigners, disrespectful of the environment and others, carrying their own stuff, or not going up Mt. Everest at all. If we were better at recognizing that kind of abuse of power among our government staffers and officials, we might end up with government at all levels that’s more respectful of others or less likely to abuse power when they feel slighted because someone else does not equate their personal sense of slighting with climbing the Mountain or having a Mountain to admire at all.

The Nutritional Requirements of Hatred: Food Stamps and Reproductive Rights

From Susan J. Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 04:32

In my state the Governor has decided that any childless adult who owns more than $5000 in cash or leisure vehicle assets cannot receive food stamps. Who he is targeting is difficult to say. Many pregnant women in this state eat because they receive food stamps. Previously, he has made every effort to drive away asylum seekers who cannot work for six months after applying for asylum. Then there are the elderly, the disabled, the unemployed, and unemployed women who then become pregnant. This Governor refusing to allow any single pregnant woman who has put away more than $5000 in assets from keeping it, if she wants to feed herself and her unborn child is a withholding that is yet another example of hatred, now accepted as a political fuse in this country. If you read what a pregnant woman needs to eat- to bath the baby- once born- in love and health, you'll see that the nutritional requirements of hatred are not enough and never have been.

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The Nutritional Requirements of Hatred: Food Stamps and Reproductive Rights

 

In my state the Governor has decided that any childless adult who owns more than $5000 in cash or leisure vehicle assets cannot receive food stamps. Who he is targeting is difficult to say. Many pregnant women in this state eat because they receive food stamps. Previously, he has made every effort to drive asylum seekers who cannot work for six months after applying for asylum, away. Then there are the elderly, the disabled, the unemployed, unemployed women who then become pregnant.

Actions that withhold can carry as much hatred as any other. But this policy is yet another example of the permission politicians in our country have to infuse policy discourse with hatred. Many of this Governor’s actions have gone hand in hand with hatred - public shaming by insisting people have photos on their food stamp cards- and now a kind of public strip search - If a childless person has more than $5000 worth of anything this Governor will make the person remove it or lose food stamps.

But hatred is now a nationally accepted political fuse, can come from both the far right and far left. To see hatred in political discourse, one does not need to travel too much farther - in my state- than the weekly free community newspapers . In one local free community newspaper, there is one columnist who every time she writes about abortion and reproductive control, laces her remarks with accusatory, demeaning , insulting a hateful tone. Then there are the protesters jeering and insulting women entering Planned Parenthood clinics. Hatred fused by what another human being is afraid to do, cannot do, or refuses to do is now accepted as just another part of the political discussion around reproductive rights and pregnancy.

Of course, when political debate about reproductive rights and abortion is laced with hatred its louder message to childbearing age women is that the prospect of the birth of a child is not  bathed in love and nurturance. Women have always been the target of whatever hatred has existed around unwanted pregnancy- shaming, physical abuse, anonymous sequestering until a child is born only to lose any identity connected with the child after birth. In fact recognition of hatred around unwanted pregnancy since Margaret Sanger’s time (and before) has always been a driving force behind the Reproductive Rights and Choice movement.

All that hatred attached to reproductive rights does nothing to address unwanted pregnancy as a social problem that must be addressed. Which brings us back to this Governor refusing to allow any single pregnant woman who has put away more than $5000 in assets from keeping it, if she wants to feed herself and her unborn child. If that withholding doesn’t make clear how hatred is now accepted as a political fuse, then please get out your Human Development books and read what a pregnant woman needs to eat- to bath the baby- once born- in love of health. The nutritional requirements of hatred are not enough and never have been.

The Nutritional Requirements of Hatred: Food Stamps and Reproductive Rights

From Susan J. Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 04:32

In my state the Governor has decided that any childless adult who owns more than $5000 in cash or leisure vehicle assets cannot receive food stamps. Who he is targeting is difficult to say. Many pregnant women in this state eat because they receive food stamps. Previously, he has made every effort to drive away asylum seekers who cannot work for six months after applying for asylum. Then there are the elderly, the disabled, the unemployed, and unemployed women who then become pregnant. This Governor refusing to allow any single pregnant woman who has put away more than $5000 in assets from keeping it, if she wants to feed herself and her unborn child is a withholding that is yet another example of hatred, now accepted as a political fuse in this country. If you read what a pregnant woman needs to eat- to bath the baby- once born- in love and health, you'll see that the nutritional requirements of hatred are not enough and never have been.

Breathing_small

The Nutritional Requirements of Hatred: Food Stamps and Reproductive Rights

 

In my state the Governor has decided that any childless adult who owns more than $5000 in cash or leisure vehicle assets cannot receive food stamps. Who he is targeting is difficult to say. Many pregnant women in this state eat because they receive food stamps. Previously, he has made every effort to drive asylum seekers who cannot work for six months after applying for asylum, away. Then there are the elderly, the disabled, the unemployed, unemployed women who then become pregnant.

Actions that withhold can carry as much hatred as any other. But this policy is yet another example of the permission politicians in our country have to infuse policy discourse with hatred. Many of this Governor’s actions have gone hand in hand with hatred - public shaming by insisting people have photos on their food stamp cards- and now a kind of public strip search - If a childless person has more than $5000 worth of anything this Governor will make the person remove it or lose food stamps.

But hatred is now a nationally accepted political fuse, can come from both the far right and far left. To see hatred in political discourse, one does not need to travel too much farther - in my state- than the weekly free community newspapers . In one local free community newspaper, there is one columnist who every time she writes about abortion and reproductive control, laces her remarks with accusatory, demeaning , insulting a hateful tone. Then there are the protesters jeering and insulting women entering Planned Parenthood clinics. Hatred fused by what another human being is afraid to do, cannot do, or refuses to do is now accepted as just another part of the political discussion around reproductive rights and pregnancy.

Of course, when political debate about reproductive rights and abortion is laced with hatred its louder message to childbearing age women is that the prospect of the birth of a child is not  bathed in love and nurturance. Women have always been the target of whatever hatred has existed around unwanted pregnancy- shaming, physical abuse, anonymous sequestering until a child is born only to lose any identity connected with the child after birth. In fact recognition of hatred around unwanted pregnancy since Margaret Sanger’s time (and before) has always been a driving force behind the Reproductive Rights and Choice movement.

All that hatred attached to reproductive rights does nothing to address unwanted pregnancy as a social problem that must be addressed. Which brings us back to this Governor refusing to allow any single pregnant woman who has put away more than $5000 in assets from keeping it, if she wants to feed herself and her unborn child. If that withholding doesn’t make clear how hatred is now accepted as a political fuse, then please get out your Human Development books and read what a pregnant woman needs to eat- to bath the baby- once born- in love of health. The nutritional requirements of hatred are not enough and never have been.

Disguising Hatred- The ACLU Lawsuit Against Torture

From Susan J. Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 04:10

The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a lawsuit against two psychologists who developed a program to pair torture with interrogation of “suspected” terrorists held in the CIA’s Afghanistan prison, code named COBALT. The psychologist defendants created practices that intricately examined every aspect of human suffering , then made a program to pair torture with interrogation.The practice of Psychology is premised on compassion, not hatred. The discovery of human tools to sustain compassion in the face of atrocity, is one of its accomplishments. The ethics of the field are, as always, a work in progress because the actions human beings come up with to deny compassion and manifest hatred change all the time .The violations cited by the ACLU suggest that the professional guilds of psychology have not been vigilant or vociferous enough in rejecting exploitation of psychology’s mantle to mask political intentions. Hatred manifests differently all the time. And there is no question that finding sustenance for compassion in time of great violation is very difficult to do. But hatred disguised as compassion is still hatred. I am a psychologist who provides intervention. If psychology and its professional guilds cannot provide sustenance for compassion- in the face of great human atrocities- then we should all just go home and get different jobs. Because understanding why people disguise hatred is an ethical use of psychology. Making up and selling techniques up to do it is not anything other than more hatred.

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Disguising Hatred- The ACLU Lawsuit Against Torture

-Susan Cook-

 

The practice of Psychology is premised on compassion, not hatred. The discovery of human tools to sustain compassion in the face of atrocity, is one of its accomplishments. The ethics of the field are, as always, a work in progress because the actions human beings come up with to deny compassion and manifest hatred change all the time . Internet harassment, for example, is not a kind of hatred we witnessed 20 years ago. The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a lawsuit against two psychologists who developed a program to pair torture with interrogation of “suspected” terrorists held in the CIA’s Afghanistan prison, code named COBALT, during the post-911 terrorist vendetta.

The psychologist defendants created practices that intricately examined every aspect of human suffering , then made a program to pair torture with interrogation, waterboarding, for example, an experience in which the victim is lead to believe he will drown. The CIA spent 81 million dollars to fund these atrocities to extort “truth” from the 3 plaintiffs in the ACLU case, detained at COBALT. All 3, Suleiman Abdullah Salam, Mohamed Ahmed Ben Soud and Gul Rahman (who died because of the hypothermia caused by the torture), were later proven to have no affiliation with Al -Qa’ida.

Psychology has always

The atrocities described are like those of any setting where war , prejudice and indifference are seen as justification for suppression of compassion. The activities explicitly violate the American Psychological Association Ethics Code which mandates respect for others, non-discrimination, avoidance of harm, or misuse of influence , avoidance of exploitive relationships, research competently conducted with due concern for the dignity and welfare of participants and then there is the larger mandate to first do no harm. Psychological inquiry and intervention is completely undermined by any subversion of the intent to understand human beings for the betterment of all. Martin Seligman the psychologist who developed the theory of learned helplessness did so to grasp how people become dis-empowered. The CIA psychologists

exploited the term to claim that science justified their cruel tactics to make prisoners completely powerless.

The violations cited by the ACLU suggest that the professional guilds of psychology have not been vigilant or vociferous enough in rejecting exploitation of psychology’s mantle to mask political intentions. Hatred manifests differently all the time. And there is no question that finding sustenance for compassion in time of great violation is very difficult to do. But hatred disguised as compassion is still hatred. I am a psychologist who provides intervention. If psychology and its professional guilds cannot provide sustenance for compassion- in the face of great human atrocities- then we should all just go home and get different jobs. Because understanding why people disguise hatred is an ethical use of psychology. Making up and selling techniques up to do it is not anything other than more hatred.

Disguising Hatred- The ACLU Lawsuit Against Torture

From Susan J. Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 04:10

The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a lawsuit against two psychologists who developed a program to pair torture with interrogation of “suspected” terrorists held in the CIA’s Afghanistan prison, code named COBALT. The psychologist defendants created practices that intricately examined every aspect of human suffering , then made a program to pair torture with interrogation.The practice of Psychology is premised on compassion, not hatred. The discovery of human tools to sustain compassion in the face of atrocity, is one of its accomplishments. The ethics of the field are, as always, a work in progress because the actions human beings come up with to deny compassion and manifest hatred change all the time .The violations cited by the ACLU suggest that the professional guilds of psychology have not been vigilant or vociferous enough in rejecting exploitation of psychology’s mantle to mask political intentions. Hatred manifests differently all the time. And there is no question that finding sustenance for compassion in time of great violation is very difficult to do. But hatred disguised as compassion is still hatred. I am a psychologist who provides intervention. If psychology and its professional guilds cannot provide sustenance for compassion- in the face of great human atrocities- then we should all just go home and get different jobs. Because understanding why people disguise hatred is an ethical use of psychology. Making up and selling techniques up to do it is not anything other than more hatred.

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Disguising Hatred- The ACLU Lawsuit Against Torture

-Susan Cook-

 

The practice of Psychology is premised on compassion, not hatred. The discovery of human tools to sustain compassion in the face of atrocity, is one of its accomplishments. The ethics of the field are, as always, a work in progress because the actions human beings come up with to deny compassion and manifest hatred change all the time . Internet harassment, for example, is not a kind of hatred we witnessed 20 years ago. The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a lawsuit against two psychologists who developed a program to pair torture with interrogation of “suspected” terrorists held in the CIA’s Afghanistan prison, code named COBALT, during the post-911 terrorist vendetta.

The psychologist defendants created practices that intricately examined every aspect of human suffering , then made a program to pair torture with interrogation, waterboarding, for example, an experience in which the victim is lead to believe he will drown. The CIA spent 81 million dollars to fund these atrocities to extort “truth” from the 3 plaintiffs in the ACLU case, detained at COBALT. All 3, Suleiman Abdullah Salam, Mohamed Ahmed Ben Soud and Gul Rahman (who died because of the hypothermia caused by the torture), were later proven to have no affiliation with Al -Qa’ida.

Psychology has always

The atrocities described are like those of any setting where war , prejudice and indifference are seen as justification for suppression of compassion. The activities explicitly violate the American Psychological Association Ethics Code which mandates respect for others, non-discrimination, avoidance of harm, or misuse of influence , avoidance of exploitive relationships, research competently conducted with due concern for the dignity and welfare of participants and then there is the larger mandate to first do no harm. Psychological inquiry and intervention is completely undermined by any subversion of the intent to understand human beings for the betterment of all. Martin Seligman the psychologist who developed the theory of learned helplessness did so to grasp how people become dis-empowered. The CIA psychologists

exploited the term to claim that science justified their cruel tactics to make prisoners completely powerless.

The violations cited by the ACLU suggest that the professional guilds of psychology have not been vigilant or vociferous enough in rejecting exploitation of psychology’s mantle to mask political intentions. Hatred manifests differently all the time. And there is no question that finding sustenance for compassion in time of great violation is very difficult to do. But hatred disguised as compassion is still hatred. I am a psychologist who provides intervention. If psychology and its professional guilds cannot provide sustenance for compassion- in the face of great human atrocities- then we should all just go home and get different jobs. Because understanding why people disguise hatred is an ethical use of psychology. Making up and selling techniques up to do it is not anything other than more hatred.

Clean Elections and the Credibility of History

From Susan J. Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 05:44

Clean elections protect constituent rights so wealthy individuals or self-serving personal interests or six-figure job candidates don’t exploit the election process - and constituents- to influence elections.This month, on Election Day, voters in Maine will vote on a Clean Elections referendum to fund campaigns of legislative candidates.

If those now speaking out about Clean Elections, don’t understand how clean elections protect civil liberties or are communicating out of both sides of the mouth, by disrespecting constituents while making up cute phrases about clean elections, well, that ‘s the historical track record- spoken , written, and available on-line. That does not add credibility to arguments for clean elections and all we're left with to understand why constituents are or are not respected by clean elections legislation is history- which it turns out- is often the most credible of all.

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Clean Elections- the Credibility of History

A Clean Elections referendum to fund campaigns of candidates for public office will be on Maine ballots this month. Both sides have spokespeople who some years back led a fierce negative media campaign against a constituent criticizing a legislator for disrespect of constituents. Spokespeople whose track records don’t respect constituents in the first place doesn’t legitimize clean elections.

On August 23, 2011, I testified before Maine’s Congressional Re-districting Commission. There were big stakes. The chair of the Redistricting Committee was up for a six figure politically appointed job as head of the Small Business Administration New England Region. The ousted Democratic attorney general wanted a Democrat legislative majority the next year to re-elect her. The Legislature’s partisan staffers and the Chief of Staff for the Second District Congressional District wanted to keep their jobs. None of them wanted districts redrawn so Republican voters held majorities. The usual gerrymandering of redistricting was replaced by fat salary jobmandering.

There was little or no focus on constituents.

My testimony protested the Republican proposal to move the first congressional representative out of her own district and Maine’s climate of disregard for constituents - a referendum to eliminate same-day voter registration and a State Senate President who recorded constituents calling him.

Civil liberties protect critics of public officials from being deemed enemies of the state. All the government-paid job seekers and holders became angry that my “irritation” of the Republican party leader might make the other side less cooperative or create election losses two years later. The party chair gave permission to coordinate a negative media campaign against me for criticizing the legislator. I was defending constituents.

In 2015, a Clean Elections referendum is here. Supporters say this is not welfare for legislators but fairness for constituents. But the spokesperson for clean elections supporters, Liz Reinholt told the media following my 2011 testimony that I had no proof for my criticism of the legislator, circulated high-tech like that my testimony was an ‘antic‘. Now, she never asked me about my proof- an important Republican warning me that calling the aforesaid legislator about local environmental pollution would result in a recorded phone call- after- I already made that observation. Freedom of the press is helpless to protect civil liberties if the media is not told the truth.

Then there’s the new spokesperson for the Maine Heritage Foundation. On August 23, 2011, still on Senator Susan Collins’ payroll but just two weeks after leaving his job as her Director of New Media, Matthew Gagnon wrote on his website Pinetreepolitics.com, a series of lies, slandering me about my two minutes of testimony defending constituents. ’She’s a lunatic’ he wrote on his blog. ’Rambling, slurring’… he wrote about my testimony defending constituents on his website. Lies. Not a word from him about constituent respect.

Last week, the Maine Sunday Telegram quoted Matthew Gagnon as complaining that Clean Election supporters are hypocrites because they take money from the outside sources the referendum will forbid.

The problem here is not hypocrisy- the problem is no respect for constituents and the civil liberties that aim to protect them- the right to criticize government officials without enduring harassment or public slander as an enemy of the state. Mr. Gagnon’s record of constituent disrespect when constituents exercise civil liberties is there for the reading.

Clean elections protect constituent rights so wealthy individuals or self-serving personal interests or six-figure job candidates don’t exploit the election process - and constituents. But targeting government critics because someone wants the fat government salaried job does what clean elections are supposed to prevent. It exploits constituents one person at a time.

If those now speaking about Clean Elections, don’t understand how clean elections protect civil liberties or are communicating out of both sides of the mouth, by disrespecting constituents while making up cute phrases about clean elections, well, that ‘s the track record- spoken , written, and available on-line. That is history which is often the most credible of all.

 

The Hand of Governor LePage and Maine's Heroin Epidemic

From Susan J. Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 04:47

Over 100 people have died from heroin and fentanyl-laced drug overdoses this year, in Maine. Maine’s governor says he will call in the National Guard to deal with the heroin problem by December 10 if whoever he thinks could do something doesn’t do it by then. What does the Governor think the National Guard will do ? Impose marshall law? Strip search anyone who looks high or take a urine sample right then and there and arrest them? Break into homes and steal clothing to check for drug or other residue? Search cars at the York toll booth?

Surely he is not thinking of funding substance abuse prevention and treatment. He refused all federal funding for healthcare for low income young adults over 18. He eliminated funding for almost all the drug detox centers. There’s only one left in Maine’s largest city, Portland and one up north somewhere .He severely cut funding for in-patient substance abuse treatment.- so there is little or none of that either. And out-patient treatment- well, since health care coverage is not available to those over 18 who are un or underemployed, listlessly trying to find their way out of severe emotional disorders or apathy, paid a minimum wage they can‘t live on, who someone convinces can recreationally use heroin and live to tell- - there are no services available to them- unless they pay for it themselves on minimum wage jobs. Right-wing ideology in hand, this Governor refused to support the Affordable Healthcare Act provision that makes health care available to the most vulnerable young low-income adults. And the hand healthcare providers offer to prevent substance abuse in the first place is held back, at every turn.

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The Hand of Governor Lepage and Maine’s Heroin Epidemic

Over 100 people have died from heroin and fentanyl-laced drug overdoses this year, in Maine. Maine’s governor says he will call in the National Guard to deal with the heroin problem by December 10 if whoever he thinks could do something doesn’t do it by then. What does the Governor think the National Guard will do ? Impose marshall law? Strip search anyone who looks high or take a urine sample right then and there and arrest them? Break into homes and steal clothing to check for drug or other residue? Search cars at the York toll booth?

Surely he is not thinking of funding substance abuse prevention and treatment. He refused all federal funding for healthcare for low income young adults over 18. He eliminated funding for almost all the drug detox centers. There’s only one left in Maine’s largest city, Portland and one up north somewhere .He severely cut funding for in-patient substance abuse treatment.- so there is little or none of that either. And out-patient treatment- well, since health care coverage is not available to those over 18 who are un or underemployed, listlessly trying to find their way out of severe emotional disorders or apathy, paid a minimum wage they can‘t live on, who someone convinces can recreationally use heroin and live to tell- - there are no services available to them- unless they pay for it themselves on minimum wage jobs. Right-wing ideology in hand, this Governor refused to support the Affordable Healthcare Act provision that makes health care available to the most vulnerable young low-income adults.

Healthy people don’t use heroin or fentanyl-laced heroin. But many people are not healthy- for many different reasons. I sit in the psychotherapist’s chair across from the anxious, angry, depressed, hopeless, traumatized, suicidal or homicidal where I see people not yet using heroin but at risk of the delusion they’ll be snapped out of suffering quickly if they do. What brings unhealthy people to health is sometimes love or God. After arrest, sometimes it’s incarceration. Healthcare and then a lifestyle to sustain health can stop addiction, after detoxification and inpatient or outpatient substance abuse treatment.

LePage’s refusal to fund health care also comes with hideous obfuscation for mental health care providers seeking authorization for care. The out-of-state company APS Healthcare is paid millions of dollars by this administration to make it as difficult as possible for providers to receive authorization for Medicaid payment. APS Healthcare directs providers to a website optimistically called ‘qualityhealthcareforme.com’ for providers to obtain Medicaid prior authorization for treatment. The website does not exist. To access the legitimate website, careconnectionme.apshealthcare.com, providers submit a 10 page application before receiving login ids and passwords, then wait for days only to reach an antiquated website that can’t process the latest version of Internet Explorer. The hand of the right wing now sabotages healthcare by using internet technology to prevent website access required for Medicaid healthcare prior authorization.

Maine now holds in hand the rewards of everything Governor Lepage has done to deny healthcare for low income people age 19 and older. The reward is sicker young people vulnerable to heroin addiction that the outstretched hand offered by health care might prevent in the first place. It is the hand of Maine families who now bury those dead from drug overdose, having graves dug or ashes spread, a cost they cover themselves.

In the Department of Poetic Justice (and Reckoning): 'To an Itsy Bitsy Spider'

From Susan J. Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 02:50

In the Department of Poetic Justice (and Reckoning), The River Is Wide offers a poem that could be sung to the tune from a tune in the public domain, of course, The Itsy Bitsy Spider. With lyrics for the Great American Wrongbook, "To an Itsy Bitsy Spider" is a reflection.

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In the Department of Poetic Justice (and reckoning) with lyrics for the Great American Wrongbook

To an Itsy Bitsy Spider

-Susan Cook-

 

To an Itsy Bitsy Spider

 

The itsy bitsy spider went up the water spout.

Once he was up there no one could get him out.

So they chose him for governor. Now they’re sorry Itsy sits

up there cause the itsy bitsy spider keeps having little fits.

The itsy bitsy spider doesn’t like the income tax

He had an itsy fitsy when his bill could not get passed

So the itsy bitsy spider went looking for revenge

And itsy said he’ll never sign another bill again.

The itsy bitsy spider wanted to reduce

The government budget. Itsy doesn’t have no use

For asylum seekers coming here who’d  like to be

like the itsy-bitsy spider, enjoying liberty.

The itsy bitsy spider forgot it’s not just him

creating legislation. Itsy doesn’t seem to know

he’s not the most important legislator who's around, so

he vetoes everything and tells them no, no, no, no no.

The itsy bitsy spider seems like he's inflated

his own self- importance which is a little over-rated.

It’s a problem that is treated with some sure de-levitators.

That is heading to the State House to deal with Legislators.

The itsy bitsy spider can have a real hard time.

Just like Nikita Khrushchev sometimes you think he’ll pound

his sneaker on the table when he gets very mad. Whoops!

That’s the part we fantasized. Has itsy had past lives?

The itsy bitsy spider did not come out of nowhere.

His message is so simple. You wonder where he found

the voters who believed him. Voters sometimes can be the sucker

now they’re left to try and find a way to impeach… the itsy bitsy spider!

…went up the water spout...


 

The Sixty Second Moral Inquiry: Where Is the "Good" Donald Trump?

From Susan J. Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 01:22

This civil liberty loving country listens with astonishment to Donald Trump, ignore religious freedom and propose that no Muslims be allowed into this country until our representatives figure out what the heck is going on. Today’s Sixty Second Moral Inquiry asks, whither the good Donald Trump?

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The Sixty Second Moral Inquiry

Where Is the Good Donald Trump?

 

This civil liberty loving country listens with astonishment to Donald Trump, ignore religious freedom and propose that no Muslims be allowed into this country until our representatives figure out what the heck is going on. Today’s Sixty Second Moral Inquiry asks, whither the good Donald Trump?

Was it when he was a young buff real estate agent ready to spend his 200,000 dollars to purge New York City of unsightly low-rent buildings, visiting Club 57 , the good Donald Trump watching- not taking part- merely watching beautiful top models engaging in physical action on benches in the middle of the room? Was it when he gave a member of a religious minority a chance to make big money ? Was the last time Donald Trump described as good- not just good- but the best good--when his second bride-to-be Marla proclaimed- much as Donald Trump does now about other things- that Mr. Trump was not just good- but the best she had ever known at a physical action similar we presume to the one he witnessed as a younger man? Is this whither the ‘good’ - the Presidential Donald Trump?

The Happiness of the Human Family and Its Familiar Enemy

From Susan J. Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 04:45

All happy families are alike, each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way, Tolstoi wrote as the first sentence in Anna Karenina. The epitaph he chose to precede it , though, is from the Bible, Romans 12 verse 19. ‘Vengeance is mine. I will repayeth, saith the lord.’ There is no family that quite fits Tolstoi’s juxtaposition of these two observations as well as our very large human family because the variations humans find to reap unhappiness in their own deliberate vengeful acts against others seems endless. We witnessed this most recently in San Bernandino.

But we have seen these cold deliberate acts disregarding human connection before. They are not new. Remembering might help us acknowledge this couple’s deliberate creation of unhappiness is a familiar enemy of the human family- vengeance- in the same family that Tolstoi said so casually and yes, sometimes, monotonously carries out its happiness.

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The Happiness of the Human Family and Its Familiar Enemy

-Susan Cook-

 

All happy families are alike, each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way, Tolstoi wrote as the first sentence in Anna Karenina. The epitaph he chose to precede it , though, is from the Bible, Romans 12 verse 19. ‘Vengeance is mine. I will repayeth, saith the lord.’ There is no family that quite fits Tolstoi’s juxtaposition of these two observations as well as our very large human family because the variations humans find to reap unhappiness in their own deliberate vengeful acts against others seems endless. We witnessed this most recently in San Bernandino.

But we have seen these cold deliberate acts disregarding human connection before. They are not new. Remembering might help us acknowledge this couple’s deliberate creation of unhappiness is a familiar enemy of the human family- vengeance- in the same family that Tolstoi said so casually and yes, sometimes, monotonously carries out its happiness.

Please remember the murder by hooded Ku Klux Klansmen of a quiet civil rights supporter Emmet Till in the 1960‘s America. Please remember the Holodomar, Stalin’s deliberate starvation of millions of Ukrainians in the rich fertile farmlands of Ukraine in the 1930’s. Please remember the Nazi Doctors who willingly used concentration camp prisoners as human subjects in cruel sadistic medical experiments. Please remember the Rwanadan genocide in which one million Tutsis were murdered in 100 days by the Hutu majority. There are many many examples of cold indifference to the human consequence of deliberately created unhappiness.

A peculiarity of the San Bernadino massacre is that parents of a six month old girl carried it out, deliberately disregarding their connection to her. That peculiarity of the perpetrators might even raise the question of whether the parents alleged motivator Isis, carries such force as to untie one of the human family’s most primitive instincts, to bond with and protect a child.

We, after all, worry about the abandonment of a six month old, who by the time they left her that morning would have developed the stranger wariness that attachment brings and now, in her six month old way, knows in her typically human family way, that the most familiar faces, those of her parents, have not come back. These odd parents, concerned enough about the continuity of their membership in the human family to leave a descendant have now out of their vengeance left her alone. One wonders if they were becoming so attached to her and she to them that thoughts of leaving her were becoming- as they do- intolerable- thus pushing them to act soon, before the enormous power that six-month old babies attached to their parents have to keep them close thus rendering parents powerless and unable to tolerate abandoning the child. A six month old’s need for others and their need for the six month old is one of the places the human heart can not withstand pressure no matter where it comes from to leave someone behind. The bond is too powerful.

The vengeance of Isis and these terrorists has been seen before . But it has not yet succeeded in undoing the wistfulness of a six month old looking for her lost connection or our acknowledgment of that distress. That, may be, after all what keeps the effortless unfolding of unremarkable happiness in the human family in the first place, a sensibility no vengeance has ever succeeded in doing away with.

Sonnet for President Obama's Tear

From Susan J. Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 01:11

First published on the eve of Martin Luther King Day , we turn to our preferred form of political expression, the sonnet, to acknowledge the compassion President Obama has brought to the Presidency. Today, we offer a "Sonnet for President Obama's Tear''.

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Sonnet for President Obama’s Tear

Susan Cook

 

His tear is for every person lost since

illegal guns became more, much, so much

more available. How do you convince

the NRA these dead are  theirs too? Touch

the darkness of those who will not ever

know who their guns took, experience

wretched calculations of forever’s

duration, time with no end, grief re-sensed.

They calculate abstractly the time passed

for those whose children died, who are not here.

We only know one madman’s moment lasts

lifetimes when we can’t bear Obama’s tear.

Obama’s tear tells what must be retold.

Compassion’s time is for whom the bell tolls.

In The Department of Poetic Justice (The song and dance genre): "Donald J. Trump"

From Susan J. Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 02:46

In Today's Department of Poetic Justice, The River Is Wide offers a musical tribute to 'Donald J. Trump' to the tune of 'Seventy Six Trombones'. from that all-American treasure Broadway. Sing it if you're in the mood for song. Say it if you feel like no one is telling the truth.

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In the Department of Poetic Justice

‘Donald J. Trump’

To the tune of ‘Seventy Six Trombones’

A Musical Tribute
 from Susan Cook

 

Donald J. Trump says he doesn’t want to see

Anymore Muslims come to his country.

He wants to know what the hell is really going on

Since he thought that there was nothing wrong.

Donald J. Trump has now found his perfect mate.

A different circumstance, she could have had a date

With that old New York Stallion that used to go a-tailing

Twenty-something clones of Sarah Palin.

Donald J. Trump does not like scenarios

Where he’s disempowered , is not allowed to blow

Up and explode if he’s confronted with the truth

That he’s got no idea and doesn’t know

How Donald J. Trump would get terrorists to stop

Since militants hide before you can kick their ass

What Donald J. Trump has not said but

What he’s planning on is he’ll call a New York City cop.

Donald J. Trump does not like to plan ahead

He is a man of action who’ll act instead

Like the extensive record of Donald J. Trump

Placing his head adjacent to his rump.

Which Donald J. Trump thinks is such a special feat

For someone who won’t do yoga and likes to eat

It means he can still perform like when he was back in heaven

Watching models BLANK at New York’s Club Fifty Seven.


Donald J. Trump is not dating currently. Decadent

He won’t be. He’s running for President

Which brings up a favorite topic

That Hillary ignores ,’When did she realize Bill had a taste for..


Donald J. Trump will tell Hillary what side is up.

Donald J. Trump has been there. He lapped it up.

Whenever his wives found out, he took the only decent course.

He said ‘Sue me. Where is my divorce.’


Donald J. Trump thinks he thinks presidentially.

He is excited. Coincidentally,

He is adopting a son to tell what Presidents should know.

His name is Mayor Bill Diblasio.


Donald J. Trump wants America to know

He has admired Muslims especially when they go

marry another woman and do not have to hire

a lawyer just because Donald J. Trump was feeling bored and tired.

In The Department of Poetic Justice (with lyrics for The Great American Wrongbook): "Donald J. Trump- The Evangelical Version" (The song and dance genre)

From Susan J. Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 02:59

In Today's Department of Poetic Justice (and The Great American Wrongbook), "Donald J. Trump- The Evangelical Version" which could be sung to the tune from "Seventy Six Trombones" from that Broadway treasure 'The Music Man' . Remember the story? A man goes to River City, Iowa where he intends to slam-dunk the town into giving him their most valuable asset to buy uniforms for a grand blustery band but abscond with the money before forming the band. Or you can just read the words silently to yourself.

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In the Department of Poetic Justice (and Reckoning) and for The Great American Wrongbook
‘Donald J. Trump- The Evangelical Version’
To the tune of ‘Seventy Six Trombones’
A Musical Tribute


Donald J. Trump is a Presbyterian
because he believes God thinks they’re superian.
God’s second preference is like Mr. Falwell
knows is to be an Evangelical.


Evangelist thinking’s slightly different
than Donald J. Trump’s. They think it’s significant
That their daughters are pure which has a special kind of meaning
Which Donald J. Trump finds a little Muslim-ish and boring.

Of course that does not mean Mr. Falwell can’t
have admiration for those religious rants
Donald J. Trump gets into . The man’s got fire and brim
which Mr. Falwell finds exciting when they’re about women

That Donald J. Trump has dated. They were temporary
while he contemplated entering seminary,
a thought he abandoned when he learned they had a rule
he could not bring his hairdresser along too.

Donald J. Trump left out biographically
His religious predilections and his fantasies
And now that he's planning on becoming President
He wants America to see his deep ambivalence

When Donald J. Trump ignored his religiousness
Mr. Falwell knows things God  would never bless
Of course, after he victimized those models by watching them as they were getting LA____
Donald J. Trump now says went he outside afterwards and he prayed.

At least that’s what Donald J. Trump will surely tell
Evangelicals. They don’t vote for Presidents who are headed straight for hell.
Security cameras did not exist at Studio Fifty Four
And Evangelicals could not even get in the door.

But America should not hold its collective breath
to find out if Donald J. Trump has now actually confessed
To religious propensities like getting down and praying
At Studio Fifty Four .You don’t suppose he was doing a little master…

Donald J. Trump hopes praises from Evangelicals
will give him their vote,and save him from being sent to hell
Coincidentally, he might rename his tower "Nobis Deus"
capturing Italian votes as well.

The Sixty Second Moral Inquiry:What's the Difference Between the Political Candidate as Demigogue and the Political Candidate as Demigod?

From Susan J. Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 01:21

Today’s Sixty Second Moral Inquiry asks :As politicians one-up each other, what’s the difference between the candidate as demagogue- who openly appeals to popular passions and the demi-god -the candidate who implies right-hand access to God?

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The Sixty Second Moral Inquiry : What is the Difference Between the Political Candidate as Demagogue and the Politica Candidate as Demi-god

 

-Susan Cook-

Today’s Sixty Second Moral Inquiry asks : As politicians one-up each other, what’s the difference between the candidate as demagogue- who openly appeals to popular passions and the demi-god -the candidate implying right-hand access to God?

Does the candidate claim God’s direct influence on their candidacy- saying the candidate will be the best President of the United States God ever created- as if God creates with one eye on the ballot box? Does the candidate exaggerate events in their own lives by affiliating them with God’s intervention- for example- the timing or place of either their own birth or that of offspring - like the influence God had on Jesus being born in Bethlehem? Does the candidate promise direct policy-making by God in the Presidential cabinet - through the federal executive branch that is the demi-god President -elect . Or is the candidate a strongly spiritual human being but one who does not imply direct electrical stimulation of the brain from God like a demi-god would?

Civil Liberties for Sexists: The Purity Ball and Prostitution Laws

From Susan J. Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 03:45

Recently, a man convicted of aiding the prostitution of a young woman who was exploited by over 150 men, was given a 3 week sentence. This sentence from a female judge, on her toes not to appear you-know-what, invites men to pimp. Like the right wing conservative Family Research Council director who promotes "Purity Balls" where fathers sign virginity protection clauses with their daughters, the pimp's sentence devalues women's sexuality and their worth. Women, with all their glorious advancement, are still there for the dirtying, still there for male credibility to prevail when big decisions must be made, that is defining what a women is really worth and whether she can credibly make her own decisions, about her body or anything else.

For many women, in the world, in this country and in this state, their worth still lies not when they lean in, but when they lean back.

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Civil Liberties for Sexists: 
The Purity Ball and Prostitution Laws
There is such a thing as a "Purity Ball", an event where fathers sign a pledge to protect their daughters' virginity and then throw a  tuxedo/fancy ball gown event to announce it, tuxedo/fancy ball gown events being a grand way to exclude, discriminate and promenade superiority. A field director for the extreme right-wing conservative Christian group Family Research  Council, is a  Purity Ball promoter. The How-To Purity Ball packet costs $90. According to the New York Times, 3 of the man's daughters have written a book called "Pure Women".
Before you begin to swell with humanitarian, card-carrying ACLU  pride because you immediately recognize a sexist double- standard, put down your copy of the Bill of Rights. Remember? The amendment to bar discrimination based on gender failed to be ratified. 
The double standard for men and women reverberates, if not  thrives, in the legal system, or at least in the case referred to here. There are pure women and there are dirty women and men the most eligible to determine who fits which designation and who will carry a label or consequence for the "dirtying", or a better word, the "traumatizing". Please bear in mind that the childhood sexual abuse of females by men is estimated to effect 2 in 5 women. A  signature psychological consequence for  the victim is a sense of being irreparably made "dirty".
Here in Maine, Mark Strong the pimp who financially supported and viewed through a webcam in his office,  over 150 men sexually exploiting a young woman, was given a jail sentence of less than 3 weeks for his promotion of prostitution. 
The newspapers speculate that the young woman, who was sexually exploited by over 150 men, who was physically and emotionally traumatized by being penetrated over 150 times, has now struck a plea bargain. She will spend close to 1 year in jail,  because there are also  the absolutely non-negotiable income tax evasion charges.
This is what Mr. Strong's sentence from a female judge, on her toes not to appear you-know-what,  means. It is an open invitation to men to pimp. It is a confirmation of what groups like the extreme right wing conservative Family Research Council endorse, all be it from the other end of the "sexuality and women’s value “ continuum.
Women, with all their glorious advancement in the work place and six figure salaries and opportunity to compete with men in every arena, are still there for the dirtying, still there for male credibility  to prevail when big decisions must be made, that is defining what a women is really worth and whether she can credibly make her own decisions, about her body or anything else.
For many women, in the world, in this country and in this state, their worth still lies not when they lean in, but when they lean back.

Where Have All the Women Gone: Forgetting How She Got to Where She's Gotten

From Susan J. Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 05:03

Riding on the train to the Democratic National Convention one year, I had the good fortune to talk with a former president of N.O.W. For young twenty-something women, that stands for the National Organization for Women, the 1970’s political machine that galvanized women’s rights. As we talked, I mentioned my state’s US Senate race and my support for the bright, articulate, ethical woman on the ballot- and that her opposition- a wealthy independent former Governor -would be difficult to overcome.

‘It’s ok, though,’ she said. ‘If he wins, he’ll vote with the Democrats.’

We now come to 2016 and Hillary Clinton ‘s womanhood threatened with invisibility in her 2016 Presidential race. In New Hampshire, she came in second by 20 points, losing to a kindly liberal 70-something man. Where have all the women gone- Is the grand opportunity to validate women like never before by electing an ethical woman as President an after thought?

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Where Have All the Women Have Gone: Forgotting How She Got to Where She's Gotten

-Susan Cook-

 

Riding on the train to the Democratic National Convention one year, I had the good fortune to talk with a former president of N.O.W. For young twenty-something women, that stands for the National Organization for Women, the 1970’s political machine that galvanized women’s rights. As we talked, I mentioned my state’s US Senate race and my support for the bright, articulate, ethical woman on the ballot- and that her opposition- a wealthy independent former Governor -would be difficult to overcome.

‘It’s ok, though,’ she said. ‘If he wins, he’ll vote with the Democrats.’

At that point, my inner 108,000 prostrations - Buddhist-style- to a former President of an organization that I see as giving women opportunity beyond the kitchen- and the bedroom- went on hold.

That the honest, skilled, ethical candidate is a woman was not a minor matter. Let alone that she was running against a former Governor who had profited financially- or seen the opportunity to profit - at every turn- from his public service. The media had scrupulously avoided any mention of the turning-his-own-dollar decisions he had made. So I later did-. In a lengthy- but accurate re-write to a familiar patriotic tune whose refrain I changed to ‘Oh Beautiful for Spacious Me‘. The lyrics recalled the former male Governor purchasing a waterfront property at bargain basement prices after the state agreed to sell it to him. The song spoke of his receipt of TARP funds - he a multi-millionaire- for his wind power business,. Then there was the memorable money the state of Maine paid for improvements to his primary residence because he didn’t want to live in the official Governor’s residence. The media put all that on the back burner. And the fact that my candidate was an ethical, not-a-go-along-to -get- along- self-serving woman, was put of course on the back seat too- and casually by a former President of NOW.

We now come to 2016 and Hillary Clinton ‘s womanhood threatened with invisibility in her 2016 Presidential race. In New Hampshire, she came in second by 20 points, losing to a kindly liberal 70-something man. Where have all the women gone- Is the grand opportunity to validate women like never before by electing an ethical woman as President an after thought?

Who is doing the invalidating? Not men. ‘Don’t diss her because she’s a girl’ may be one of the enduring NOW lessons. That leaves one other gender- female. The ones who are ignoring Hillary’s womanhood - appear to be young females. Most of them voted for the 70-something genial progressive male. So maybe it’s because Hillary has downplayed her womanhood herself in achievement after achievement. Or maybe it’s because- as any woman who lives in this time knows- yes- women turn on each other. Sisterhood is not equivalent to unconditional loyalty. All the passive aggressive techniques are the fallback- the ones women used to survive prior to NOW. You know what passive aggression is- anonymous, behind-the-scenes, almost invisible- but aggressive actions- undermining, smearing, stealing reputation and the golden apple- of course- credibility. The ancient code words for woman as threat- readily recognizable to men- controlling, aggressive and of course- flighty and unpredictable are there in a pinch.

The voice and stature women have now was not easily acquired. Like non-cancer producing birth control , affordable, it took years and tears and years. Election of an ethical woman President would not be a minor accomplishment- it would turn the validation N.O.W sought into an accomplishment never seen before.

Apple and The 15 Year old's Myopic World View

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

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

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

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

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

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Apple and The Fifteen Year Old ‘s Myopic World View

-Susan Cook-

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Apple and The 15 Year old's Myopic World View

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

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

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

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

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

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Apple and The Fifteen Year Old ‘s Myopic World View

-Susan Cook-

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Susan Cook-

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

A Citizen's Guide to the Odds of Irresponsibility: Get Thee to A Racetrack

From Susan J. Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 05:17

I was reading the New York Times article about the last batch of the 30000 emails released that Hillary Clinton received on her private server- while Secretary of State. Out of the 30,000, four ‘prompted intensified scrutiny of the emails for classified information and a referral to the F.B.I. for a review of the handling of classified information by Mrs. Clinton, her aides and state department officials when she was Secretary of State. ‘ Some of the information in those 4 emails out of 30,000 was classified as ‘secret’ not ’top secret’ - the higher classification. Four out of 30,00. Now, in addition to that four, none were marked as classified when they were sent- and only have subsequently been upgraded to a higher level of security by those doing the investigating.

Reading that 4 out of 30,000 emails had some ‘secret’ information and knowing race tracks in this country are struggling to survive financially what with internet gambling and all- my first thought was ‘Send those investigator folk to the horse racing track’. ‘Let us build up the coffers of the small seasonal race tracks across the country because anybody who is going to go with 4 out of 30,000 as an indication of a larger pattern of irresponsible behavior handling state department emails better have a big fat government pension to fall back on because they are going to be wasting a lot of money at the track. Which is how these race tracks thrive. They would be perfectly comfortable with a horse with 50 to 1 odds.
I wondered what the odds are of haphazard handling secret material if it’s happened 4 out of 30,000 times. I’d like you to sit down now because it might help you out with some of the other odds I’m going to give you.

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A Citizen’s Guide to the  Odds Of Irresponsibility : Get Thee to A Racetrack

-Susan Cook-

 

Thinking ahead to the Kentucky Derby and who’ll win- maybe a woman- I mean a filly and maybe a female jockey atop her or a female atop a colt or a gelding - I was reminded about the odds of picking the right horse in that race. If there are 20 horses in the field- the odds are 1 in 20 or .05. You have to know more than just the odds because if all you have to go on are odds of 1 in 20, you probably won’t pick a winner, even though in 2009 ’Mine that Bird’ won with odds of 50 to 1, or .02, he a gelding - 3 year old stay-home-on-Friday night kind of horse.

I was reading the New York Times article about the last batch of the 30000 emails released that Hillary Clinton received on her private server- while Secretary of State. Out of the 30,000, 4 - ‘prompted intensified scrutiny of the emails for classified information and a referral to the F.B.I. for a review of the handling of classified information by Mrs. Clinton, her aides and state department officials when she was Secretary of State. ‘ Some of the information in those 4 emails out of 30,000 was classified as ‘secret’ not ’top secret’ - the higher classification. Four out of 30,00. Now, in addition to that four, none were marked as classified when they were sent- and only have subsequently been upgraded to a higher level of security by those doing the investigating.

Reading that 4 out of 30,000 emails had some ‘secret’ information and knowing race tracks in this country are struggling to survive financially what with internet gambling and all- my first thought was ‘Send those investigator folk to the horse racing track’. ‘Let us build up the coffers of the small seasonal race tracks across the country because anybody who is going to go with 4 out of 30,000 as an indication of a larger pattern of irresponsible behavior handling state department emails better have a big fat government pension to fall back on because they are going to be wasting a lot of money at the track. Which is how these race tracks thrive. They would be perfectly comfortable with a horse with 50 to 1 odds.

I wondered what the odds are of haphazard handling secret material if it’s happened 4 out of 30,000 times. I’d like you to sit down now because it might help you out with some of the other odds I’m going to give you.

The odds of living to be 100 are .4 - point 4 out of 100 percent or .004.

Let us go to the odds of picking six right numbers in a lottery when you can choose from 1 to 44 and one number out of the 44 is eliminated as soon as you pick it (just like the You-Know-What) -

For the first number- the odds are .022

For the second number- .0232

For the third number- .0238 lower because now you’re picking from 42 numbers.

For the fourth number- the odds are .0243

For the fifth number- .025

For the sixth number- .0256.

The odds you’ll pick all 6 are over one in 5 billion. Sounds like the kind of odds those raising red flags about Secretary of State Hillary Clinton track record on handling ‘secret’ material would go for . Because the odds created when you find 4 emails out of 30,000 which contain ‘secret’ material in those emails are .00013. Point zero, zero, zero one three.

Get thee to the race track and save those little small race tracks if you think those are odds worthy of the big bill taxpayers foot for the investigation. Of course, numbers do not predict the future. Probability and odds are a guess. Think ‘Mine That Bird’. Getting back to the Kentucky Derby, ‘Mine That Bird’ was ridden by Calvin Borel- who knows the Churchill Downs race track better than - I’ll just say it- Hillary Clinton knows the flaws in the security of the government computer system. Which is probably why she got the private server in the first place.

For those who don’t like numbers, it’s simple. Get thee to a race track if you are a retiring government secret discoverer but make sure you know who the rider is.

A Musical Tribute to the 2016 Presidential Primaries: "Tonight" (The song and dance genre)

From Susan J. Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 01:22

The River Is Wide today offers a musical tribute to the 2016 Republican primaries to the tune of "Tonight" from the Broadway musical "West Side Story." The tribute is called '"Tonight".

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‘Tonight- A Musical Tribute to the 2016 Republican Pirmaries’

To the tune of ‘Tonight’ from West Side Story

-Susan Cook-

Tonight, tonight,

won’t be just any night.

Tonight we will be hearing

more news.

Voters don’t want

a President named Cruz

or Rubio politically,

who can’t tie their shoes.

At least, it seems

that way when voters

see the screws

now coming loose

When Rubio or Cruz

Tell them the truth

On what it is they’ d do

As president, what they’d choose.

If they can win.

But anyway they lose,

wondering what

Jesus would do.

Instead, they bring

Mitt Romney back

to soothe

them in his familiar voice

So similar to

An information

-ad

for laxatives

to re---move

You-Know-Who,

toooooo-night.

Republicanese and Democratese- A Citizen's Guide to Your Hostility Curriculum

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

Seventy thousand Google responses to ''Republicans Refuse'' or 37000 responses to ''Democrats Refuse'' say Donald Trump is not the first to bring hostile opposition into Presidential politics. We have been trained to hear it by politicians who thought it made them sound strong. Instead it sounds hostile. And has given some permission to act with hostility. ‘Yes’ in Republicanese or Democratese is translated ''Donald Trumpese''. Google ‘Trump Refuses‘ 481,000 choices come up but at least he‘s not pretending to govern down in Washington.

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Republicanese and Democratese- A Citizen's Guide to Your Training In Hearing Hostility

-Susan Cook-

 

Maybe it’s time for the Republicans and Democrats to drop their astonishment at the hostility within the Presidential primary race. The public, after all, has honed their auditory and emotional chops for hearing hostility by listening to a language called Republicanese. If you Google ‘Republicans Refuse’ 70,200 choices come up. Do Senate and House Republicans think the public doesn’t hear the hostility and not like it before they choose their favorite Presidential candidate. Yes, there’s Democratese too. But Google ‘Democrats Refuse’ and for some reason you come up with 37,900 choices. Sounds like more on one side than another to me

I quote here from several news outlets to sample some ‘Refusing’ Republicanese that has trained the public to not like hostile oppositional Washington politicians.

There’s the Supreme Court Nominee process.

In a swift statement designed to warn Barack Obama against even nominating a replacement, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) pledged to sit on his hands for the remaining 11 months of the president's term.

In Republicanese this means ‘I refuse.‘

And then there’s this 3 years ago-

‘After finally passing the Senate’s bill to narrowly avoid the fiscal cliff Republicans put an end to the do-nothing 112th Congress by refusing to hold a vote on Hurricane Sandy disaster.’

Then there’s refusing to talk

With the U.S. government teetering on the brink of partial shutdown, congressional Republicans vowed Sunday to keep using an otherwise routine federal funding bill to try to attack the president's health-care law. 'I refuse even to talk,'" said Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who led a 21-hour broadside against allowing the temporary funding bill ..of Obamacare.

Then there’s lead contaminated water.

Senate Democrats have blocked an…energy bill after majority Republicans rejected hundreds of millions of dollars in emergency federal aid to Flint, to fix and replace the city's lead-contaminated pipes.

Next refusing to pass equal pay for women

President Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act, the first sweeping gender pay equity law, in 1963... June 5, all Senate Republicans voted against the Paycheck Fairness Act as one.

Then there’s refusing each other

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas …refused to call Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., a "true conservative" …when he was asked about the race for Speaker of the House…

And then of course immigration.

Ted Cruz adamantly rejects what he calls “amnesty” pushed by Marco Rubio as part of the bill passed by the Senate in 2013 that would have opened up a pathway to citizenship for some …immigrants .

Refusing veterans benefits

Senate Republicans have blocked a Democratic bill that would enrich health, education and job-training programs for the nation's 22 million veterans.

Seventy thousand Google responses to Republicans Refuse or 37000 Democrats Refuse says Donald Trump is not the first to bring hostile opposition into Presidential politics. We have been trained to hear it by politicians who thought it made them sound strong to us. Instead it sounds hostile. And has given some permission to act with hostility. ‘Yes’ in Republicanese or Democratese is pronounced Donald Trumpese-. Google ‘Trump Refuses‘ 481,000 choices come up but at least he‘s not pretending to govern down in Washington..

A Hackle o' Meter in Every Home, A Not-Politically Fit bit On Every Wrist

From Susan J. Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 03:19

Elected officials or politicians aspiring to be elected officials say things that would register on our Hackle o’ meters and our Politically Unfit Bits- if someone would just invent these tools. Our Hackle o’ meters would go up because well, our hackles would go up. And our Politically Unfit bits would practically fall off our wrists because of all the calculations of political unfitness they’d be making.

I am not taking about You-Know-Who. I think You-Know-Who, for some people, raises adrenaline by stimulating the amygdala- the part of the brain which raises adrenaline and fight-or-flight hormones because something feels dangerous. Dr. Joseph Ledoux , a neuroscientist says the path signals take to the amygdala is fast and spontaneous, thus he calls it the Low Road. We also respond to danger, he says, by signals sent to the Frontal Cortex when we sense danger but those signals are slower so he calls that path the High Road.
A Hackle O’ Meter or a Politically Unfit Bit works very differently. Both work from subtle, subtle visual and auditory cues. And they might be good for the country.

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A Hackle o’ meter In Every Home; A Not Politically Fit Bit On Every Wrist

-Susan Cook-

 

Elected officials or politicians aspiring to be elected officials say things that would register on our Hackle o’ meters and our Politically Unfit Bits- if someone would just invent these tools. Our Hackle o’ meters would go up because well, our hackles would go up. And our Politically Unfit bits would practically fall off our wrists because of all the calculations of political unfitness they’d be making.

I am not taking about You-Know-Who. I think You-Know-Who, for some people, raises adrenaline by stimulating the amygdala- the part of the brain which raises adrenaline and fight-or-flight hormones because something feels dangerous. Dr. Joseph Ledoux , a neuroscientist says the path signals take to the amygdala is fast and spontaneous, thus he calls it the Low Road. We also respond to danger, he says, by signals sent to the Frontal Cortex when we sense danger but those signals are slower so he calls that path the High Road. So when we listen to You Know Who, your amygdala might get revved up and you turn off the television, radio or click ‘Power Shutdown’ on the PC. If your Frontal Lobes start firing, you just say ‘I am not voting for him.’

A Hackle O’ Meter or a Politically Unfit Bit works very differently. Both work from subtle, subtle visual and auditory cues. We Observe Mitch McConnell for the 450th time say he will not give President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee the time of day. We see the visual image of his clamped shut jaw, creating a glacier of pale skin beneath that jaw. I hope he has a sense of humor because really, landscape metaphors work best. I am not saying the man is dangerous ala’ Gorilla walking into your living room. But he may well get your Hackle o’ Meter going and if you had a Not-Politically Fitbit, it might fall off your wrist with its calculations going wild.

Now, there are Democrats who effect Hackle o’ Meters and Non-Politically Fit Bit. Some of the ones in my state register so strongly on the Non-Politically Fit Bit, I had to take mine off.

If only someone would invent these tools. It would be good for the country. Someone could slip one on Mitch McConnell’s wrist or one of the Politically Unfit Bit high registerers in my state and very gradually- it’s better to go slow- the Hackle o’Meters and the Politically Unfit Bits would convince them. Not their job to undo the US Constitution, not their job to use Internet Bullying to trade votes with Republicans, no amnesia about policy positions and no blocking duly nominated Supreme Court nominees.

In the Department of Poetic Justice 'L-I-M-B-O' A Tribute to a Fictional Radio Host (The song and dance genre)

From Susan J. Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 03:25

From the Department of Poetic Justice, here at The River Is Wide , we offer an original composition, titled 'LIMBO'. There is such confusion and frenzy in Presidential politics right now. It's time to turn to the comfort of an old familiar tune, BINGO, with new words, composed as a musical tribute to a fictional radio host named 'Rushton Limbo' . Here is the poetic and lyrical song called 'LIMBO'.

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L-I-M-B-O-

A Musical Tribute to Rushton Limbo, a fictional Radio Host

To the tune of the song ‘BINGO’

 

-Susan Cook-

 

There was a guy named Donald Trump. He’s now a big problem.

He says he is Republican but really he’s a DEM.

Oh, L-I-M-B-O, L-I-M-B-O, L-I-M-B-O, Limbo is my name.

Mitt Romney said Trump has small hands just like the Democrats

Your pockets Donald Trump will pick and tax and tax and tax.

Oh, L-I-M-B-O, L-I-M-B-O, L-I-M-B-O, Limbo is my name.

Mitt is a Mormon, kind of like an Evangelical. Mitt didn’t know picked

pockets anatomically related to the Donald’s …

Oh, L-I-M-B-O, L-I-M-B-O, L-I-M-B-O, Limbo is my name.

I’m feeling rather horrified . Republicans steal my negativity

My radio shows’ copyright. They’re using it for free.

Oh, L-I-M-B-O, L-I-M-B-O, L-I-M-B-O, Limbo is my name.

What’s his name from Ohio, Ted Cruz and Rubio, did not use proper logic like I do on radio.

If Donald Trump can do it, I can run for President, broadcast from the White House since I’ll be the resident.

Oh, L-I-M-B-O, L-I-M-B-O, L-I-M-B-O, Limbo is my name.

I have a simple strategy. It is my campaign trick. To get me to the White House I will win come thin or thick.

Save us from Bill and Hillary. Right wing the Republic. My promise is to ban debate about the Donald’s ..

Oh, L-I-M-B-O, L-I-M-B-O, L-I-M-B-O, Limbo ‘s where I remain.

I never thought anatomy was Presidential news and actually I hated Bill and Hilary as well.

Now we have Republicans who bring it up again. They think it is essential for the votes they’ll need to win.

Oh, L-I-M-B-O, L-I-M-B-O, L-I-M-B-O, Limbo ‘s where I remain.

Republicans compare these thing. Why couldn’t they keep still.

Instead we lost our biggest condemnation to vote against Hillary and Bill.

Oh, L-I-M-B-O, L-I-M-B-O, L-I-M-B-O, Limbo ‘is my new name.

Sexism at the Five-and-Dime: Discrediting Women for a Dollar or A Dime

From Susan J. Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 05:42

In my state, this week, leaping off the lower right hand corner of the Front Page of the state’s largest newspaper was this “Educator who won one million dollars denies stealing $14.99 blouse“.

One of the state’s most gifted educators who against many, many odds started her own successful school, has written textbook ‘best-sellers’ on teaching children the literary arts went to the local expanded Five and Dime store to return a blouse. Having done so, the sales associate told her to go to the clothing rack and take another one to replace the one she returned. She did.

End of the story? No. The security personnel, who were watching, saw her take the replacement and put it in her bag. Immediately alerted, the ‘guard’ called the local police chief who came over and watched the store’s security camera and, unable to identify the woman in the film, placed the picture on the department’s Facebook page. Within an hour, the gifted educator called the police department and explained the situation. End of story? Believe her? No. She was charged with a misdemeanor crime and given a court date. The exchange with the clerk who took the returned item was not on the camera. End of story? No. The Portland Press Herald deemed it worthy of Front Page lower right hand corner announcement.

The school spokesperson said it is a misunderstanding.

Why does this “misunderstanding” not get resolved by the woman who just received a one million dollar prize presenting her proof that she was not shoplifting a $14.99 blouse? The story tells us - once again- that sexism is alive and when a woman’s credibility is questioned the first and primary place the media, this culture, lawyers and yes, many women go, is that her proof is not good enough and there just might possible be something wrong with her to have committed whatever it is she committed.

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Sexism at the Five and Dime: Discrediting Women For a Dollar or a Dime

-Susan Cook

 

In my state, this week, leaping off the lower right hand corner of the Front Page of the state’s largest newspaper was this “Educator who won one million dollars denies stealing $14.99 blouse“.

Whew. Front Page. Lower right hand corner. One of the state’s most gifted educators who against many, many odds started her own successful school, has written textbook ‘best-sellers’ on teaching children the literary arts went to the local expanded Five and Dime store to return a blouse. Having done so, the sales associate told her to go to the clothing rack and take another one to replace the one she returned. She did.

End of the story?. No. The security personnel, who were watching, saw her take the replacement and put it in her bag. Immediately alerted, the ‘guard’ called the local police chief who came over and watched the store’s security camera and, unable to identify the woman in the film, placed the picture on the department’s Facebook page. Within an hour, the gifted educator called the police department and explained the situation. End of story? Believe her? No. She was charged with a misdemeanor crime and given a court date. The exchange with the clerk who took the returned item was not on the camera. End of story? No. The Portland Press Herald deemed it worthy of Front Page lower right hand corner announcement.

The school spokesperson said it is a misunderstanding.

Why does this “misunderstanding” not get resolved by the woman who just received a one million dollar prize presenting her proof that she was not shoplifting a $14.99 blouse?

Because sexism is alive and when a woman’s credibility is questioned the first and primary place the media, this culture, lawyers and yes, many women go, is that her proof is not good enough and there just might possible be something wrong with her to have committed whatever it is she committed. No filter. No impulse control. Under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Suffering from a deep irreversible character disorder that must have showed up earlier in life. Or maybe she - you know women- spent the one million already.

Please bear in mind that even a woman claiming sexist treatment since men were made more aware of sexism thanks to the Gloria Steinems of the world- is also often considered suspect . Her proof is not good enough. She is making excuses. Thus a misdemeanor charge which should not have been placed in the first place is made. Because her proof was disregarded- readily available- but disregarded -despite all the evidence in the world- in this case literally- that her character, exceptional intelligence and gifts and reputation are sterling. And why discredit her proof without even questioning the recklessness of the police chief charging her? Because she is a woman and the reputation on the line is that of a man or men who failed to ask if the practice in this store was followed. “Go get another one from the rack“ the clerk says.

What might be left to do? Well, I suppose a civil liberties numb lawyer now as prosecutor could do whatever could be done to tarnish her reputation further by investigating deeply to see if this remarkably gifted educator had some hidden character flaw or secret substance abuse problem rearing ugly blemishes now as shoplifting. Or maybe the man whose reputation is on the line could hire a communications person- a new young one who knows Twitter and New Media to tarnish her further. Or dig around in the community. Outlandish? Unheard of for a man whose unethical if not criminal activity because his reputation is on the line would go to such lengths? No. Because sexism is alive and well, and the first ‘read’ of this situation will not be - repeat not be- to question the man’s credibility. The suspect is a woman. And even a Senator- even the girl ones- remain oblivious to the corrupting influence of that particular variation of sexism. The proof is right there on the front page of the biggest newspaper in the state. If you care to read it.

It's Not What You're Given, It's What You Do: A Parenting Guide to Understanding Presidentialism

From Susan J. Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 04:52

Human Growth and Development textbooks may be the ‘go to’ reference to explain ‘what the hell is going on’ as the new Republican opponent apparent, Mr. Trump has said, in his newest Presidential race.

You may remember from your Human Growth and Development class the different kinds of parenting power and decision-making that Gerald Lesser, Diana Baumrind, Carolyn Newberger and others have identified. There’s the egalitarian parent’s power- the child has more influence in decision-making than the parent. Then there’s the democratic parent’s approach to power- decisions are made collaboratively. Finally, entering the room via the gold escalators, just to remind you who brings the bacon home, there’s the absolute authoritarian parent- What Dad says goes. Dad makes all the decisions. If Dad says we’re building a wall, we’re building a wall. Dad divys out praise or shame or warmth depending on whether Dad thinks you need it. Dad’s power, after all, controls the resources- financial, emotional and physical . If Dad thinks public humiliation and shaming is in order- well, this is just what Dad has to do. He doesn‘t have to apologize for injustice, crudeness or even the psychological violence of what he says or does. He is Dad.

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Dad Donald- A Parenting Guide to the 2016 Presidential Race

-Susan Cook-

Human Growth and Development textbooks may be the ‘go to’ reference to explain ‘what the hell is going on’ as the new Republican opponent apparent, Mr. Trump has said, in this 2016 Presidential race.

You may remember from your Human Growth and Development class the different kinds of parenting power and decision-making that Gerald Lesser, Diana Baumrind, Carolyn Newberger and others have identified. There’s the egalitarian parent’s power- the child has more influence in decision-making than the parent. Then there’s the democratic parent’s approach to power- decisions are made collaboratively. Finally, entering the room via the gold escalators, just to remind you who brings the bacon home, there’s the absolute authoritarian parent- What Dad says goes. Dad makes all the decisions. If Dad says we’re building a wall, we’re building a wall. Dad divys out praise or shame or warmth depending on whether Dad thinks you need it. Dad’s power, after all, controls the resources- financial, emotional and physical . If Dad thinks public humiliation and shaming is in order- well, this is just what Dad has to do. He doesn‘t have to apologize for injustice, crudeness or even the psychological violence of what he says or does. He is Dad.

In this and many cultures , The Dad persona- and the person assuming it- is given broad license to do what Dad will. Parenting is an innate, developmentally and culturally defined mindset. I wrote an entire Masters’ Thesis about its intricacies. When someone subtly or overtly begins to play ‘the parental power card’ and exercise parental power over you, it’s hard to immediately recognize because - well, we all there at one time. None of us become our own parents- or parents ourselves- until we grow up or had to. Which is part of the reason it has been so hard to hear what Mr. Trump has been doing. He will parent us, or treat us and the problems of this country as if is he were the authoritarian parent yielding his absolute power like authoritarian parents do. And those of us who never rebelled - whether our parents liked it or not- and became our own parents can really be kowtowed. A turning point in human development is telling Dad- up front- “You can’t tell me what to do. “ Or some variation of questioning Dad’s omniscience. That power shift forever more changes human development.

This is Donald Dad Trump. He doles out humiliation as needed- he threatens to take the car keys or build a wall- and once he comes down the gold escalator- Dad built that-you know-he will tell Mr. Cruz he’s smart. He will tell Reince Pribus what a big boy he is doing his job as Republican Party chair. And on and on.

Great dads are a wonder to behold. My father was a great father. He held leadership positions of influence. He was the President of the Automobile Dealers Association in the state I grew up in the 1950’s- the automobile’s heyday. He knew parenting is also about knowing what you don’t know- and respecting that every child- every child- has something to teach a parent about how to be a parent. And to be President you have to listen to the economist , the defense and state department , the Supreme Court, and the Congress children. And I do not believe Dad Donald gets that not doing that is the end of the house of Dad Donald’s power. Many a three year old has told a shocked parent, ‘You’re not the boss of me.‘ Dad Donald doesn’t remember that .

The Nepal Earthquake and An American Mothers Day Dime

From Susan J. Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 05:55

Not long before the earthquake in Nepal, I drove by yet another SUV with the bumper sticker “No child left a dime.” Then, as now, I am reminded again of the deceitfulness of that slogan. It is simply not true that we do not have enough money in this country to take care of people and it is certainly not true that it will bankrupt us.

But, the slogan brings to mind how enormous a United States dime is in Nepal. I know this because for some time, I sponsored Buddhist’s child education, I never for one single minute thought it was some grand act of generosity because I knew it wasn’t. Money is very very easy to come by in my country for many, many people and a dime-is almost negligible. I will tell you that the waves of appreciation from Sonam, the boy, who’s now an adult, and the drawings of the yaks, the prayer flags, the stupas (a Buddhist monument), the lotuses, he’s sent me over the years put my American Buddhist teaching that it’s not about me to the maximum test. On Mothers Day, it tells me there are many ways to mother.

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The Nepal Earthquake and an American Mothers Day Dime
-Susan Cook-
Not long before the earthquake in Nepal, I drove by yet another SUV with the bumper sticker “No child left a dime.”Then, as now,  I am reminded of the deceitfulness of that slogan. It is simply not true that we do not have enough money in this country to take care of people and it is certainly not true that it will bankrupt us.
But, the slogan brings  to mind how enormous a United States dime is in Nepal. In my state, Maine, many Maine Buddhists, myself included, know just how far a US dime goes to feed, cloth, shelter  and educate children and adults in Nepal. We have  had the good fortune to be taught by Thrangu Rinpoche, a genial seventy-something  modern Tibetan Buddhist meditation master  who visited to teach here for 12 years. Buddhism teaches how to generate human compassion and put on hold Me, Me and Me. 
After fleeing Tibet in the 1950’s, Thrangu Rinpoche built his religious centers in the Kathmandu valley. They have  become survival centers of sorts for Dharma teachings. There, monastics  practice Tibetan Buddhism. At a Kathmandu private school, Buddhist children from the northwestern Himalayas in Nepal whose families are ethnically Tibetan  are educated in the Buddhist ritual and liturgy. 
In the wake of the Nepal earthquake, the school in Boudanath, the monastic retreat center at Namo Buddha close to the epicenter , the nunnery in Swyambunath and the Thrangu Rinpoche Monastery in Tibet have been severely damaged or destroyed. Google Earth gives you a good idea of what these places looked like before the earthquake. 
Many Buddhists in Maine have done exactly as I have  and sponsored a child’s education or the care of a nun or monk. The sponsoring has taught us  it takes a very small amount of American money to change a life in Nepal. The cost of one SUV’s 3000-mile oil change, here, keeps a child fed, clothed, sheltered and taught at Thrangu Rinpoche’s school for one month. After the earthquake, the economy of scale- as it’s called- remains the same. It has taken and will of course continue to take much, much, much more money. 
In sponsoring a Buddhist’s child education, I never for one single minute thought it was some grand act of generosity because I knew it wasn’t. Money is very very easy to come by in my country for many, many people and a dime- to get back to the bumper sticker- is almost negligible. I will tell you that the waves of appreciation from Sonam, the boy, who’s now an adult, and the drawings of the yaks, the prayer flags, the stupas (a Buddhist monument), the lotuses, he’s sent me over the years put my American Buddhist teaching that it’s not about me to the test.  Then there are his letters.


Dear Susan Cook,
Tashi Delek! Hi!  …My percentage is 61-82%. In this year, I had participated in dance competition and also in football team… I have got lots of friend as well as learned many things till now. This is all because of you. I will never forget you in my life. I will pray for your long life. Your loving son, Sonam. Always keep smile.
As he became a teenager: 
My motivation is to become a successful man where I want to make feel proud [of] my dear Mom, help some sufferers overcome the needy ones it is facing, where I do achieve  in category of science field where there is lack of health facilities and not proper knowledge of health in my village.
And, writing about what he missed most about his village:
I always remember my first and most beautiful day when the water fall were falling from the between of two snowcapped mountains and beside them the beautiful garden which is full of different flowers with the farmers working in the fields.
I do not know where Sonam is now- if he is in his village or is a monastic in a dharma center or elsewhere. I do know that an American dime- to get back to the bumper sticker- is very very valuable in Nepal. And we all know, we have more and more and then billions more after that to go around. And we know that after giving, there will be plenty dimes left over after that for Americans.

Like Power for Children: Presidential Politics for the Smallest

From Susan J. Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 03:14

In a Presidential primary that taxes our belief that the purpose of government is to benefit our lives, I remember legislation that Hillary Clinton master-minded, rarely mentioned now, archived away in the Federal Register, that has made an extraordinary contribution to the well-being of some of us. The legislation gave that eel-like entity generically referred to as power, to one of society’s most disempowered groups: children in the foster care system. There were no lobbyists or special interest groups beating down anyone’s door to defeat or to create legislation like this. Those most effected by it were parents who had sometimes, in truth, and sometimes, only through the careless inaccurate judgment of others, been found to be inadequate in doing that job that always has openings: raising children.Hillary Clinton pushed for something for these children that countless bureaucrats and politicians didn’t even notice was missing- power. No not the elite stuff Presidential candidates usually savor, but it was like power for children and that is close enough for me.

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Like Power for Children

By Susan Cook

In a Presidential primary that taxes our belief that the purpose of government is to benefit our lives, I remember legislation that Hillary Clinton master-minded, rarely mentioned now, archived away in the Federal Register, that has made an extraordinary contribution to the well-being of some of us. The legislation gave that eel-like entity generically referred to as power, to one of society’s most disempowered groups: children in the foster care system. There were no lobbyists or special interest groups beating down anyone’s door to defeat or to create legislation like this. Those most effected by it were parents who had sometimes, in truth, and sometimes, only through the careless inaccurate judgment of others, been found to be inadequate in doing that job that always has openings: raising children.

Hillary had the foresight, hindsight and insight to stand behind legislation that finally held state government accountable for the haphazard system that allows children to languish in the foster care system- for years- before they are given safe, loving permanent families.

It is like power for children.

The Child Protective system is a safety net that fails miserably when a foster child in a system in which caretakers come and go loses the belief that just one, or maybe 2 or 3 people care more about this child than anyone else in the world and will be there. The childhood myth- that caretakers never leave- sustains all of us until we can make it on our own. It feeds the core of our emotional stability like no other.

Hillary Clinton pushed for something for these children that countless bureaucrats and politicians didn’t even notice was missing- power. She prioritized passing legislation to end the practice of abandonment of children to the foster care system by biological parents who ignored their responsibility to heal their damaged lives so they could safely bring their children back home.

In this presidential campaign, I remember the Hillary Clinton who once approached power as something to be given away. Maybe what she did wasn’t exactly like the prestigious seizing of power that some Presidential candidates dream (or the rest of us have nightmares about) , but her advocacy was like power for children, and that is close enough for me.

Longing for a Poem, Getting MPBN Numbers Instead

From Susan J. Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 07:35

I hope you’re in the mood for some numbers. Or at least I hope you’re not in the mood for a poem. In Maine, the daily poem we all could feast on for FREE when Garrison Keillor’s The Writers Almanac was aired at 9:00 am on weekdays, 6:00 am on weekends is gone. It has been moved to NOT FREE Maine Classical Radio, an HD radio venture that doe not reach the far parts of this very rural state, is not available in used cars or cars with low tech radios and is only available to those with high speed internet access. In rural Maine that is a wished for acquisition. Cable access is still not available in many places in this rural state. All the ways, The Writer’s Almanac is now available, to Mainers, cost money. They are not free.

Maine Public Broadcasting Network seems to have forgotten what somebody wrote as their mission statement on their 2014 990 form, the poetically named “Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax”.

‘Maine Public Broadcasting is Maine’s premier independent media resource serving the entirety of Maine..”

And on page 2, ‘MPBN is the only statewide Public Media service providing local and national content on the Radio, Television and Online to Maine residents, free of charge.”

Thus The Writer’s Almanac is no longer available to the ‘entirety’ of the state nor is it free of charge.

Now, I, along with many others, have asked MPBN to place the 5 minute program back on Maine Pubic Radio- their transmitter tower based service. And they have not. One has to ask why? Somebody doesn’t think 5 minutes about important historical events, lives of creative people and others doesn’t fit with the new ‘talk’ format MPBN is striving for? Somebody tired of the poems, not sure what they do for humanity anyway?

Ah let us soothe our souls by perusing the 2014 MPBN 990 tax return, to make the ineffable, um effable- like a good poem does.

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Longing for a Poem, Getting Numbers Instead
-Susan Cook-
I hope you’re in the mood for some numbers. Or at least I hope you’re not in the mood for a poem. In Maine, the daily poem we all could feast on for FREE  when Garrison Keillor’s The Writers Almanac was aired at 9:00 am on weekdays, 6:00 am on weekends is gone. It has been moved to NOT FREE Maine Classical Radio, an HD  radio venture that doe not reach the far parts of this very rural state, is not available in used cars or cars with low  tech radios and is only available to those with high speed internet access. In rural Maine that is a wished for acquisition. Cable access is still not available in many places in this rural state. All the ways,  The Writer’s Almanac is now  available, to Mainers,  cost money. They are not free.
Maine Public Broadcasting Network seems to have forgotten what somebody wrote as their mission  statement on their 2014 990 form, the  poetically named “Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax”. 
‘Maine Public Broadcasting  is Maine’s premier independent media resource serving the entirety of Maine..”
And on page 2, ‘MPBN is the only statewide Public Media service providing local and national content on the Radio, Television and Online to Maine residents, free of charge.”
Thus The Writer’s Almanac is no longer available to the ‘entirety’ of the state nor is it free of charge.
Now, I, along with many others, have asked MPBN to place the 5 minute program back on Maine Pubic Radio- their transmitter tower based service. And they have not.  One has to ask why? Somebody doesn’t think 5 minutes about important historical events, lives of creative people and others doesn’t fit with the new ‘talk’ format MPBN is striving for? Somebody tired of the poems, not sure what they do for humanity anyway?
Ah let us soothe our souls by perusing the 2014 MPBN  990 tax return, to make the ineffable, um effable- like a good poem does.
Let us note on  page 2, Schedule A which tells us - no onomatopoeia here- 97.7% of ‘gifts, grants, contributions, membership fees are from the public.  For a 2014 total of 11 million, 747 thousand, and 311 dollars.  Over the last 5 years, those donations equal  58 million, 662 thousand and 322 dollars.
The memorable phrase that pops into my mind is ‘Why don’t they listen to us?” ‘Metaphor here- What could be more important than NOT biting the hand that feeds you?
To plumb the depths of this complexity we must stare dark and dreary like at the rest of the numbers on the 990.
Well, I suppose we could proffer that protecting the salaries, wages and compensation  which equaled 5 million, twenty five thousand dollars on this 990 is high on  their list of priorities.  The four person management team  are paid 602667 dollars to make these big decisions. That‘s 214,000 dollars for Mr Vogelzang, the President and CEO, 139,000 for the Senior Vice President  Alexander Maxwell , 138,000 for Claire Hannan the other Vice president and  110,000 for Charles Beck, the Director of Programming. So surely, they’d like to keep the 11 million in donations coming. Even if it's in rural Aroostock and Washington Counties, where HD radio is not widely available to most people, places where  the median salary is $38,000 and the poverty level is at about 18 percent for Washington County, thirty seven thousand median salary in Aroostock with 20% there living in poverty.
They’d like those people to donate too and you know what. I bet they have. But for some strange reason that does not influence the MPBN 602,000 dollar management foursome when it comes  t o keeping programming free and available to the entire state like the now familiar 990 form.says
What could be behind this decision to shift the The Writer’s Almanac? Well, the usual way MPBN is broadcast is through transmission towers. You may remember a few years back when the then  MPBN management  planned to shut the Washngton County transmitter off, thinking cable must have gotten to Washington County. It hadn’t. They changed their mind. But the transmission towers are expensive- about as expensive as the 602,000 dollar management foursome. The 990 form falters slightly here in that “Electricity and Towers’ are on one line and maintenance  and repair are on another but suffice it to say the two lines together total 616201 dollars.
The 990 shows it is expensive to run a radio and television network.  MPBN has  to pay an out-of-state company called Blackbaud in South Carolina 229285  dollars a year just for their membership- you know who that is-  database management. And 154720 dollars to a Minnesota company to print direct mail pieces. I guess there’s no company in Washington County or Aroostock County they could find  to do that.
But the 602,000 MPBN management foursome still- would like their donations. And did I mention have listeners sit quietly by when the 602,000 dollar foursome decides to limit their access to free public radio , take a free five minute radio program  and make it only available to those who can pay for the new technology.
I said  I hope you are in the mood for numbers because numbers it is, big ones that  the MPBN 602,000 four person management had in mind when they took The Writer’s Almanac off free public radio. Decreasing reliance on those bothersome transmission towers which have made public broadcasting in Maine  a special gift for a very long time. But the big  numbers the 602,000 foursome had in mind were their own. I wish them poetry instead.

Big Fish, Small Pond; Small Fish, Big Pond: An American Conscience and a Vietnam Remembrance

From Susan J. Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 07:06

History is written by the Big and the Small. "The Vietnam War" documentary has reminded us that. The Moving Wall, a half scale version of the smooth black granite Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC which names the 58228 who died in that war, chronologically, from the first in 1959 to the last in 1975 does too. It came to Maine last year. I found my first date’s name- John Leo Murdock, who had just turned 20 when he died. I found his name just days after President Obama visited Vietnam and lifted the decades old arms embargo there. We are friends now, in other words.

I knew long ago that conscience was a big word, not to be thrown around by political office-holders looking for a brand, a legacy. I think President Obama was sincere in his hope to earn us moral lessons from that war. He too, like my first date ‘Jack ’Mad’ Murdock - my mother didn’t know that was his nickname- was once a small fish thrown into the big pond. Obama became a big fish, big power not small, who never quite put aside his small fish priorities which may be what sustains our conscience after all.

I just know I wish I had kissed ‘Mad’ more than once.

Jackmadmurdoch_small

Big Fish, Small Pond; Small Pond, Big Fish: An American Conscience and A Vietnam Remembrance
-Susan Cook-
At a jazz performance, the lady next to me and I struck up a conversation. During World War II, she, a Czechoslovakian, and her family were exiled to Latvia. They were sent to an American-occupied section of Germany at war's end, and lived in Displaced Persons Camps for six years. "Then we came to America", she said. She, her husband and their daughter were there listening to the daughter's boyfriend play saxophone in a jazz quintet. She was, I knew, a woman who knows what it is to be a small fish in the very large pond called the world.
Dutifully, as mothers in every pond since the beginning of time have done, she took a sip of her daughter's just purchased martini. Turning in my direction, the mother grimaced as if she had just tasted 1000 proof alcohol retrieved from an ancient civilization where it was a fire substitute. Here was the mother as the forever big fish in the small pond in which her adult daughter still swam in which no martini eludes the mother's discriminating tongue to see how strong the drink.
These are the life experiences of which conscience is made, if we remember them: that we are always small fish in very big ponds and large fish in the very small pond of our home, our lives, our communities, our quotidian routines. It is the tension between keeping both in mind at the same time, the remembering the two- going back and forth as we live- that makes conscience available but also elusive to us all.
To be in a small pond is to know, if we are lucky, compassion that comes from the indelible ink of human concern, the mother taking one sip of her daughter's martini.
And when we are small fish in big ponds, as we always are, conscience brings the indelible imprint of compassion, the do-unto-others-as-you-would-have-them-do-unto-you, and on and on. The inability to do that is what distinguishes having a conscience from not having one at all.
It is extremely difficult to hold both in mind.  A small fish can have big fish consequences. Someone called it small power.
We have many distinguished office holders who forget that they are both- who abuse the bully pulpit - their big fish status and big fish privilege in ways that have a profound impact on the small fish of the world. The big fish American politician acting very much like it all- the whole democratic process - is his pond now.  The small fish who carry out their personal agendas-without conscience- to keep their own jobs. History is written by the big and the small.
Not everyone has the privilege of knowing they are both. Sometimes the events of the time make it impossible to ignore. When I was a 17 year old university freshman, I joined the nationwide student moratorium in protest of the American bombing of Cambodia and the shooting of 4 Kent State students protesting the Vietnam War.  I spent my days writing letters to small Maine newspapers saying that the moratorium was a “question of conscience” because we could not continue to attend classes while thousands of soldiers (almost 50,000 at that point) died in an unfair, unjust war that was never approved by the American public. I know I didn’t know what conscience really meant. I did know that the first boy my mother allowed me to go to the movies with, him driving his 1967 Ford LTD, died in that war, plucked off our local street corner by the Marine recruiter next to our ice cream shop hangout. He died in Vietnam on June 21, 1969, the first day of summer.  So I did know there was a big pond, in my small fish way.
I was reminded of that when The Moving Wall, a half scale version of the smooth black granite Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC  which names the 58228  who died in that war, chronologically, from the first in 1959 to the last in 1975, came to Maine.  I found my first date’s name- John Leo Murdock,  who had just turned 20 when he died, found his name just days after President Obama visited Vietnam and lifted the decades old arms embargo there. We are friends now, in other words.
I knew long ago that conscience was a big word, not to be thrown around by political office-holders looking for a brand, a legacy. I think President Obama was sincere in his hope to earn us moral lessons from that war. He too, like my first date ‘Jack ’Mad’ Murdock - my mother didn’t know that was his nickname- was once a small fish thrown into the big pond. Obama  became a big fish, big power not small, who never quite put aside his small fish priorities which may be what sustains our conscience after all.
I wish I had kissed ‘Mad’ more than once.

The Cheap Shot in American Politics- A Citizen's Guide

From Susan J. Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 04:26

We live in extremely violent times. Words can provoke aggression, insult and personal harm very quickly. Politicians spend much time trying to reassure us that they will protect our enormous bodily and psychological fragility with their policies and bravado. But the Cheap Shot gives it all away. And Bernie Sanders has quickly joined the fray- filling his pockets as best he can with what he hopes is political capital.

Then there’s, Donald Trump, who has used every form of cheap shot making known to polarize the electorate- i.e. ‘earn’ votes. He has nationalized cheap shot taking like we have never seen before. It kind of takes your breath away because there used to be a baseline assumption that overt disrespect was not silently accepted as kind of a political asthma we just had to get used to. It’s hard to find a one word slur he has not used to reduce his critics to objects- implying they are not worthy of any respect at all. ‘Pocahontas’ he called a tenured Harvard Law School Professor and United States Senator. As if the anonymity that word cast on Native American women for generations was deserved- they worthy of no mark of distinction or individuality for us to know who they are.
I am making a larger call is for us to stop the Cheap Shot making that now plagues American politics. Cheap shots always say more about the politician who makes them than they do about the person it’s tossed toward whether you are the Bernie Sanders supporter screaming them out at Hillary rallies or Sanders banking on the good will of American liberals to cover him while his rhetoric becomes increasingly hostile. Or Donald Trump banking on the limited attention span of the angry and cash strapped to ignore that the hostility he speaks of is generated by himself.
#Stopthecheapshots I say. Now.

Breathing_small

The Cheap Shot in American Politics: A Citizen’s Guide
-Susan Cook-
There’s a Maine office holder who I’ve privately given  a new last name. It’s ‘Cheap Shot.’ If the opportunity arises to take a Cheat Shot, this one will take it. You can call it verbal abuse, an abuse of another person’s attention, the public’s attention or the bully pulpit. Or an abuse of power. Or call it what it is-  a Cheap Shot when really the matter at hand is the responsibility of holding office- not using words to grab what you can of respect for other people.
Then there’s Bernie Sanders, gloating and baiting in the wake of the report calling Hillary Clinton’s use of a personal computer server to receive 30000 emails- none of which were identified as classified when they were sent- four- four of which have been classified subsequently.
The biggest revelation out of this non-scandal may be that Bernie Sanders takes Cheap Shots. It’s certainly true that Bernie’s supporters and the Republican Party are doing what they can to dig a deeper and deeper trench hoping it will not be them who falls in it come  November. There’s a good chance it won’t be Hillary.
I have never heard Hillary Clinton take a Cheap Shot. Even in the worst of her family’s very public, political times, she hasn’t done it. She’s tried to keep the facts straight- or at least find them.
We live in extremely violent times. Words can provoke aggression,  insult and personal harm  very quickly. Politicians  spend much time trying to reassure us that they will protect our enormous bodily and psychological fragility with their policies and bravado. But the Cheap Shot gives it all away. And Bernie Sanders has quickly joined the fray- filling his pockets as best he can with what he hopes is political capital.
Then there’s, Donald Trump, who has used every form of cheap shot making known to polarize the electorate- i.e. ‘earn’ votes. He has nationalized cheap shot taking like we have never seen before. It kind of takes your breath away because there used to be a baseline assumption that overt disrespect was not silently accepted as kind of a political  asthma we  just had to get used to.  It’s hard to find a one word slur he has not used to reduce his critics to objects- implying they are not worthy of any respect at all. ‘Pocahontas’ he called a tenured Harvard Law School Professor and United States Senator. As if the anonymity that word cast on Native American women for generations was deserved- they worthy of no  mark of distinction or individuality for us to know who they are.
It is tempting to call him  a stupid racist. That would be using cheap shots of course. I  am making a larger call is for us to stop the Cheap Shot making that now plagues American politics. Cheap shots always say more about the politician who makes them than they do about the person it’s tossed toward whether you are the Bernie Sanders supporter screaming them out at Hillary rallies or Sanders banking on the good will of American liberals to cover him while his rhetoric becomes increasingly hostile. Or  Donald Trump banking  on the limited attention span of the angry and cash strapped to ignore that the hostility he speaks of  is generated by himself.
#Stopthecheapshots I say. Now.

Who Rules Public Radio and Who Really Matters: A Bigger Ruler

From Susan J. Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 07:16

Maine Public Broadcasting Network has made the perplexing decision to segregate music and poetry to a separate pay-to-hear HD radio service called Maine Classical Radio under the guise of Maine Public Radio making itself a new ‘talk format‘. That is, talk they like. Still keeping