Friday, December 30, 2011

Obama Re-Election Campaign: Stop Shooting Yourself in the Foot

Dear Obama Re-election Committee and Democratic National Committee...yes I mean YOU!

For months you have been sending me daily emails begging for money accompanied by a dire warning of the desperate consequences if I don’t, i.e. Obama will not be re-elected and the country will be turned over to a hopelessly backward Republican.  Sometimes I receive two or three such dire warning emails a day, which is WAY too many.  The time between these warning stimuli and the dire consequence (Obama loses the election to Mitt (Mr. 1%) Romney, or shudder Gingrich, is much too long for the warnings to be very effective.  As a consequence, each morning I always delete your email warnings without reading them, and ignore them entirely. Really.  I do that each morning, honestly, and hardly feel guilty at all. I try to feel guilty, but that too has extinguished.  I know you are right, of course, about the importance of supporting Obama’s re-election, but that doesn’t matter because nature takes its inevitable course regardless of your flawless logic.  The following principles are fairly simple and scientifically very well established and you can probably understand them, even if you're a bunch of aspiring lawyer-politicians:

1. Habituation Occurs:  An initial increase in an elicited response followed by a decline of the elicited behavior with repeated presentation of the eliciting stimulus.

2. Extinction Occurs:  Repeated presentation of a conditioned eliciting stimulus without an aversive stimulus following it, hence the eliciting stimulus eventually loses it’s power to elicit a response.

Corollary: Speed of habituation or extinction is greater with the more frequently the eliciting stimulus is presented and nothing aversive happens.  The point is that by sending your supporters daily emails begging for money, you are teaching us to ignore you, and believe me, that is what more and more of us are doing.  Not good.

The moral of the story, if you keep sending your supporters daily warning emails begging for money, none of us will pay any attention to them any longer and your war chest will plateau, and you won’t have enough money for the re-election campaign when you really need it. L
 Solution:  Develop an intermittent positive reinforcement strategy so that with each passing month before the election next November, donors randomly receive a prize. You have already used this approach using dinner with Obama as a reward for campaign donations.  For example, at first one out of every 10 donors randomly receives a photo and paw-print from Bo, then after a couple months one out of every 5 donors receives an autographed photo of Michelle, Malia or Sasha.  Over the last two months every donor would receive a signed photo of the Prez shooting a jump shot.  
You get the idea.  The big prize randomly would be selected from everyone who donated over the year before the election...  a trip to Washington to attend the inaugural and hang out shooting a few hoops with guess who?  Cool, huh?

Monday, December 26, 2011

The Occupy Movement and The Social Contract

The leaders* of the Occupy Movement have failed in the first instance to accept the most basic principles of Rousseau’s Social Contract,“The social treaty has for its end the preservation of the contracting parties. He who wills the end wills the means also, and the means must involve some risks, and even some losses”(Book 2, Section 5).

They seem inexplicably accepting of their repeated losses imposed by public authorities in the various cities where they are protesting, and have not succeeded in recruiting broad support from the American people.  Their nihilistic insistence on equivocality has had a stultifying effect.  They have failed to clearly articulate their ends, and as a consequence have failed to enunciate the means to achieve their vaguely expressed goals. By repeated insisting to reporters and other members of the press that they have stated their goals clearly, which they have utterly failed to do, does not make it so.  No one really cares about their altercations with cops over where their tents can be pitched.  That is why the repeated, totally unacceptable brutal use of force, including pepper spraying elderly defenseless fellow protesters, and beatings of defenseless people by police officers, has garnered only passing expressions of outrage from the American people.  The Occupy groups are seen primarily as protesting state authority, not specifically advocating for specific widely agreed upon economic and social goals. They have utterly failed in expressing what specifically they hope to achieve or how.

Kalle Lasn
Micah White
Expressing their protest within a self-serving anarchic framework has counterproductive and contributing to the lack of practical concrete steps toward solutions to our political and economic crisis. By focusing their anger at governmental authority and hierarchical organization, the very democratic structures that are embedded within the US Constitution designed to solve such problems, they actively impede solutions.   Everyone knows they are incensed by economic inequality, the housing crisis and unemployment.  Most Americans share their concerns.  Righting those wrongs within our democratic institutions requires adopting political strategies that will address those inequities, not rejecting such methods.  They offer no solutions, only persistent complaints.  Indeed, when opportunities to adopt clear objectives and political means that will reach those goals, they have repeatedly rejected them.
 The United States is now less than a year from its national election that will have profound effects on our future.  There is time to harness the broad discontent of the American people, upon which the Occupy Movement has cast light, for which they have earned justifiable credit. It is time responsible progressive political leaders step in and translate the grumbling and railing of the Occupy Movement into clear, achievable political goals, and specific strategies for achieving them, that will garner support broadly within the American people.
·       * Paradoxically, all anarchist movements (that have been based on rejection of hierarchical organization with clear leaders), have all been lead by strong charismatic individuals, such as Josiah Warren, Henry David Thoreau and Lucy Parsons.  The current Occupy Movement was started by Kalle Lasn, an Estonian Canadian Co-Founder, Co-Publisher, & Art Director of Adbusters magazine; former filmmaker & documentarian, PBS and the Canadian National Film Board and Micah M. White a senior editor at the magazine Adbusters and a writer for the UK's The Guardian. White is the only American creator of the original idea for the Occupy protests. They have become the Rock Stars of the anarchist movement, and their claim that the movement is leaderless is absurdly disingenuous. Regrettably, the leadership is incompetent, leading the well-intentioned people on the street into one dysfunctional mishap after another. 

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

December 25th Happy Birthday

Birthdays of many noteworthy people are celebrated on December 25,th including scientist Isaac Newton, actor Humphrey Bogart and musician Kid Ory.  Though Jesus of Nazareth’s year of birth is believed by biblical scholars to have been January 6, 361 AD, his birthday has been celebrated on January 25th since the 5th century AD when Pope Leo I officially inaugurated the practice.
 Another Jewish child was born on December 25th, less famous, but important to some of us, nonetheless. Anna (Anneke) Bianca Kohnke was born on December 25, 1941 in Hilversum, the Netherlands.

Leni and Day-Old Anneke
 Nearly 30 years later Anneke became my wife. As readers of this blog will know, her parents were killed in Auschwitz, Poland September 21, 1943.  When blonde-haired blue-eyed Anneke with her “Dutch Boy” haircut arrived at 1900 Riverside Drive in New York July 16, 1946, her little friends in the building where she lived, most of whom were Jewish with dark hair and brown eyes, decided among themselves that she must have been a gift from Jesus, because of her appearance and her birth on December 25th.
Anneke's Passport Photo 1946
 She was 5-1/2 years old and extremely thin and had bruising from severe malnutrition during the Dutch Hongerwinter of 1944-5, during which so many Dutch people died of starvation. She was suffering from Rickets. During her first months in America, Anneke’s aunt Greta Herzfeld Leyens, got up in the middle of the night to prepare complete meals for the ravenous little girl who awakened crying of hunger.  Fortunately she is unable to remember any of that.
 \Sixty-five years ago, Wednesday, December 25th 1946 Anneke experienced her first Christmas in America.  The New Yorker that week featured a cover painting of a traditional snowy Christmas scene with a family arriving at Grandma’s house.  She and Greta would have listened to “Winter Wonderland” by Perry Como on their wooden table-top radio while preparing holiday cookies.  The New York Times carried a story that day, that the mysterious GI, “Kilroy” who scrawled his name on walls all over Europe during WWII was a real person, James J. Kilroy, a factory worker in Quincy MA who wrote his name on machined items he inspected, “Kilroy was here,” which apparently was how the tradition began. 
 It would be the first Christmas since she was 18 months old that Anneke would have a family.  On Christmas 1946, her birthday, there would have been few gifts, unlike today, and since the family was Jewish, no Christmas tree or lavish giving of presents was part of the tradition. The event was really about enjoyment of family. She would have received a doll and a book, and perhaps a toy from Uncle Erich.  Like most other Americans, they almost certainly listened to President Harry Truman’s Christmas greeting broadcasted via radio, asking Americans to “strive with undaunted faith and courage to achieve in the present some measure of that unity with which the Nation’s sons and the sons of our allies went forth to win the war,” after the National Community Christmas Tree celebration.
1947 Christmas Card
 In the afternoon of Christmas day, Anneke, and her little friends, Joan and Carol Singer would have gone outdoors to play until their mother’s called them for dinner. Christmas day was clear and breezy, a few degrees above freezing temperature, great weather for games in Fort Tryon Park.  Anneke had dinner with her uncle Erich, whom she called “Daddy,” and her aunt Greta, “Mummy.”  If Anneke’s aunt Greta was like other recent immigrants, she most likely prepared a traditional German Christmas dinner, chicken soup with spaetzle, roast goose with apple sauce, Brussels-sprouts, creamed potatoes, freshly browned butter buns and pie.  Greta likely prepared a scrumptious plum pudding she had learned to make while an immigrant in England during the early years of the War. It’s also very likely Greta or her friend Eva Singer also made Lebkuchen, delicious Christmas cookies for a treat with milk or coffee in the evening. After dinner they would have retreated to the small living room of their apartment in Inwood, and listened to ABC Philco Radio Time with Skitch Henderson and the Charioteers, and Great Gildersleeve comedy show, and tried to understand the broad humor of their new homeland.

That Christmas evening when Anneke went to bed, she would have taken her new doll to bed with her and fallen asleep without diving for cover when a car backfired out doors, reminding her of bombing not far from their house in Voorburg, Netherlands where she had been hidden. It was a time to appreciate that her hunger and protracted fear for her life, were actually over and a new life had really begun with her very own family.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Promoting Democracy in the U.S.: Seeking Support of the United Nations

The official position of the United States government over the past three administrations has been to promote democracy throughout the world.  The US has ratified the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. 
Article 21 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states:
(1) Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country, directly or through freely chosen representatives.
2) Everyone has the right of equal access to public service in his country.
(3) The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret vote or by equivalent free voting procedures.

It is commendable the US government advocates for these Universal Human Rights in Cuba, Russia, Egypt, Libya, Syria and Iran, but it would be even better, if our government also advocated for the same principles within our own country.

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder’s Local Government and School District Fiscal Accountability Act declares that any city or district “in financial emergency,” as he has defined that term, appoint an emergency manager (at county, city, district or township level) and give that person the power to control budgets, sell off assets, bypass city councils and boards of education, take over school systems, de-certify public unions, and even to dissolve the city itself as an entity. It explicit vacates democratically elected governments, essentially amounting to voter disenfranchisement.  While we are accustomed to such events in former totalitarian states and developing countries, such a flagrant attack on democracy in the US is shocking and the American Administration has been stunningly silent. 

Article 25 states, Every citizen shall have the right and the opportunity, without any of the distinctions mentioned in article 2 and without unreasonable restrictions:
To take part in the conduct of public affairs, directly or through freely chosen representatives;
• To vote and to be elected at genuine periodic elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret ballot, guaranteeing the free expression of the will of the electors; To have access, on general terms of equality, to public service in his country.”

Under Rick Synder’s Emergency Manager Law, future public elections will be controlled by Republican partisans he appoints to regulate access to voting.  There is every indication access to voting will be dramatically restricted for racial minorities, elderly citizens, college students, and people with disabilities.  As a consequence, the resulting vote counts will not represent the will of the people.

The United States Constitution, 14th Amendment states, “1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” The 15th Amendment states: “1. The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.”  The populations in the cities currently under the provisions of Snyder’s “Emergency” law or which are in line for such control, include over half of the African American United States Citizens in Michigan, the vast majority of whom are likely to vote for Barrack Obama.

Scott Walker, the Governor of Wisconsin and his radical supporters in the legislature have pushed through a law that violates other provisions of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, claiming that any group of four or more Wisconsin citizens who are inside the state capitol building must have a permit from Walker to be there and to petition their elected officials.

Article 21 Universal Declaration of Human Rights   The right of peaceful assembly shall be recognized. No restrictions may be placed on the exercise of this right other than those imposed in conformity with the law and which are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security or public safety, public order, the protection of public health or morals or the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.

Walker claims four veterans, parents of children with disabilities, business lobbyists or school teachers who come to see their state legislators about a legislative issue, must have his permission to do so, on the grounds that they represent a risk to public safety, public order or protection of the morals of the citizens of Wisconsin!

The First Amendment to the US Constitution states: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

Article 22 Universal Declaration of Human Rights:  Everyone shall have the right to freedom of association with others, including the right to form and join trade unions for the protection of his interests.
Scott Walker, Rick Snyder and Governor Kasich in Ohio and their cronies in their respective legislatures passed laws seriously restricting public trade unions, clearly in violation of these very basic principles.

 Why are President Obama and Attorney General Holder silent on these critically important attacks contravening the US Constitution & Universal Declaration of Human Rights?   Where is their leadership at this critical juncture in our nation? Their silence is deafening.

Assistance from the President of the United Nations Human Rights Council, the Honorable Laura Dupuy Lasserre, is hereby being sought to investigate and take necessary action to intervene in the growing anti-democratic actions in the United States of America that are undermining our democracy. Such an investigation should have full support of US Ambassador Susan Rice, since our own government is failing to fulfill its obligations.