Bad word, bad word

My wonderfully efficient and effective Administrative Assistant for many years was the epitome of customer service. She had better customer service instincts than many consultants both internally with colleagues and externally with clients. She was also a very devout woman and you would never hear a curse word cross her lips.

Yet, she would get angry from time to time like we all do. So, if she was really annoyed with some mix-up or maltreatment, I would hear her say “bad word, bad word.” That was her way of cursing. No four letter expletives, just the same two words repeated twice. Very few of us can live up to that kind of exemplar.

Many who follow this blog know I do not give much credence to name-calling or labels. It weakens the argument of the user, as they tend to be shortcuts to defamation of another person or group. I do my best to avoid them, but of course, I do mess up. Yet, I try to focus on the deceitful words or actions than call the espouser a liar. I also try to avoid using those bad words in print, maybe using asterisks are the infamous acronym of BS.

What continues to trouble me is with social media so pervasive and the managers of such tools like the one (Facebook) which is getting scrutiny in Congress as we speak, we have entered into a post-truth society. The truth continues to have to work hard to keep its head above the surface. A social media expert said this weekend misinformation is six times more likely to be read and routed than the truth. And, that company who denies they know this is not being very forthcoming so says a whistleblower. Ads are how they make money, so the more read posts make more money for them.

I have used this example many times but Vladimir Putin’s early career was in disinformation for the KGB. Today, as the leader of Russia, stories by former TV producers and media people speak of Putin having a very active role in various communication channels. But, this does not surprise me because of the controlling nature of the country.

It is troubling the former US president is a huge fan of Putin’s. Though, what bothers me most is not the former president has a penchant for using untruths to tell a story he wants to tell. Based on his well-documented history, I expected these actions. What bothers me most are those acting like sycophants and rationalizers to grease the skids for the untruthful narrative and provide air cover for such stories.

It should not take so much political courage to stand up and call out the untruthful stories. Yet, it does. The folks who do get vilified and even receive death threats. And, they know this going in and still call the lying out. The folks could have been past supporters, but get ostracized for saying even the simplest of things that contradict the untruthful narrative.

So, many staff and public servants have been removed for daring to call out the untruthful behavior. That should speak volumes, but simply is not getting inside the communication channels of those who really need to hear it. This is where the rationalizing is used to sand around the edges of a bad story or deny its truth.

It truly makes you want to curse. Bad word, bad word. So, now that I feel better, what can we do? Reach out to legislators who do the right thing and thank them. Reach out to them with concerns, as well, but do your best to avoid name calling and labelling. Write comments to others like you would want to receive them – focus on brief, civil discourse. And, listen to people, not to respond, but to understand. If there is a place where you can find agreement, even on the smallest of issues, start there.

Here are a few themes to bear in mind:

-we need legislators to focus more on passing needed legislation than trying to score victories. Focus on doing your job, not keeping your job.

-we need legislators to focus on the truth more than they are doing. You owe it to us. Governing is hard enough with the facts – when people use lies, it is nigh impossible.

-when an incumbent or former incumbent denigrates the office or our country through his or her actions, the party to which he or she belongs should not try to cover up such action. The party should be leading the effort to right wrongful behavior.

On this latter point, there are many examples where entities failed to heed this advice and paid for it with damaged relationships, tarnished brands and the loss of huge sums of money – think the Catholic Church, the US Olympic Gymnastics Team, the Boys Scouts of American, Enron, Adelphia, Tyco International, The PTL Club, etc. for both financial fraud or sexual assault convictions and claims.

So, instead of bad word, bad word, we should be able to say good job, good job for those who do the right thing..

It is all about the money

People want your money. Some want it through legitimate marketing means doing a good job for as many customers as possible. Some embellish their story overselling their wares with terms like “new and improved.” And, there are those who do anything to get your money lying, cheating, causing fear, extorting, etc. I will stop of short of people who steal it outright. It is the category above thief that concerns me given their reach.

John Oliver on his show “Last Week Tonight,” offers some of the best reporting on subjects as he focuses his comedic lens at the hypocrisy and inanity. He did an excellent piece on con artists disguised as televangelists as they artfully and persistently bilk their followers under the guise of a “prosperity ministry.” The only people getting rich is the one talking not the many listening.

Yet, his show this past Sunday night illuminated me to another con artist bilking people for money – none other than Alex Jones of Infowars. I am well aware of Jones’ inane and provocative conspiracy stories – Sandy Hook shooting being a hoax as one of his more famous ones. What I did not know is how Jones uses his show to raise money for his main cause – his own wealth. And, with 6 million followers, he does quite nicely.

Oliver illustrated the number of high margin products offered as sidebar commercials on Jones’ four hour show. Oliver showed examples where certain products peddled by Jones could be bought for 1/10 the price. Plus, Jones uses a so-called medical expert, with purported numerous degrees, including one from MIT, to help him sell his medicinal wares. As Oliver pointed out, the expert has no such degrees.

A great example of Jones’ selling style illustrated by Oliver demonstrates how it works. Jones went on a long rant about how the government was making us all gay by putting feminine hormones in the water system. So, the next day after raising alarm, Jones pitched a water purification system that will rid your water of all unwanted chemicals and hormones. He scares you first, then he sells you a cure or a solution.

So, in addition to being a conspiracy crazed shock jock, at the heart of the show is another description of what Alex Jones is all about. As demonstrated by Oliver, Jones is an astute con artist.

You can’t talk to anyone

One of the unfortunate traits of a narcissistic or abusive spouse is to control the victim. It is not uncommon for the abuser to get angry when the victim talks with anyone and attempt to limit those discussions.

I find it telling that our new President is muzzling several of his agencies. This is denied by his press secretary, but there is evidence that pressure is occurring to not release information in press releases and social media.  The one I am most concerned with is his ordering people at the EPA not to speak or release any information for an indefinite time.

The presumed rationale is they may continue to follow science and try to educate, govern and help and not be in keeping with his fossil fuel focus. It is not different from President George W. Bush and Governors Scott Walker and Rick Scott from trying to hamstring discussion or papers dealing with climate change.

I fear this is a continuation of his desire to control the messages. It is a key part of disinformation campaigns. To combat this, we need to demand the truth from this President. We need to demand that scientists not be hamstrung for political reasons.

To be frank, if he wants his Presidency to be legitimized, he can start by telling the truth. He can also encourage the free flow of discussion. Limiting it is prima facie evidence that his own arguments should be questioned more.

It takes more than a sickle to hack like this

The CIA and now FBI have our President-elect and his supporters with their dress over their head based on their strongly held concerns that Russia attempted to influence our election in favor of the President-elect, hacking not with a sickle but something more high tech. I had a friend who would use this analogy to describe someone’s frustration based on his daughter’s example of getting madder and madder with her inability to get her dress off over her head.

The President-elect and his supporters have condemned this story as unproven and having no impact on the election. The line of attack most used by Trump and his PR people is that there is no evidence of hacked machines, conveniently ignoring the fact that the influence is more to do with what happened before the voting took place.

Trump and his PR folks also blame the liberal media and leaders, which seem to have converged as a composite evil entity. They are in cahoots against this victimized truthful man his supporters imply. And, if so important, why did the President wait until Clinton lost to bring this up his supporters say? The last statement has been said often, but also been confirmed as false as the evidence exists that proves the President-elect is being untruthful. He is saying don’t believe your own eyes and ears, believe me alone.

As for the former claim that story is being made up by the composite liberal enemy, there are several key Republican senators, including Senators Mitch McConnell. Marco Rubio, John McCain and Lindsay Graham among others, who have said this must be investigated. I have not heard the word liberal used to define these senators. And, as an Independent voter who cares about our country’s governance, I agree with these Senators.

The truth needs to be discovered as these are serious claims made by our intelligence community that must take their job seriously. We need to think of this as if the President was named John Smith and came from the ABC Party. We cannot have Russia or anyone hacking anything to influence our elections, period.

I have also seen editorialists say with conviction that this did not have any impact on the election because it did not change votes. The latter claim is unknown as I have seen security experts discuss back in July that impacting certain machines in select districts was doable and someone was pinging the machines looking for weaknesses. But, the larger issue is more clear to me as I have feared Russian involvement when I first saw reports that pointed fingers at them beginning in July.

One candidate, his team and the press got to read daily feeds of emails from a key staffer of the other candidate. They also got to read emails from larger dumps of hacked data from the other candidate’s political party. That did not seem fair then and as Senator Marco Rubio said in October, this is not right as it could be us (the GOP) the next time. My guess is the RNC emails would have been more entertaining with such infighting and angst over their candidate.

But, let me be as frank as possible. To say that reading your opponents’ emails did not have any impact on the election is a false statement. This is akin to a football coach reading key planning remarks (along with the media) made by the other team’s coaches. It had to have an impact, especially in light of fake news and biased news sources that were like rabid dogs looking to exploit information. And, given the word email becoming a leaky faucet when used with the word Clinton, more meaning was conveyed with each new daily talking point eroding her consideration drip by drip.

One final point should be noted. If the Russians did hack RNC and other emails, what assurances does our President-elect have that those emails won’t be used against him if he happens to do something that the Putin does not like. Putin is a KGB trained agent and it was not surprising to learn that he has a hand in disinformation efforts. If you do not believe this, note a senior newscaster from a Russian American News television network resigned on the air because she was being told what to say by Putin.