How Diversity Makes Us Smarter

Being around people who are different from us makes us more creative, more diligent and harder-working

Credit: Edel Rodriguez

IN BRIEF

  • Decades of research by organizational scientists, psychologists, sociologists, economists and demographers show that socially diverse groups (that is, those with a diversity of race, ethnicity, gender and sexual orientation) are more innovative than homogeneous groups.
  • It seems obvious that a group of people with diverse individual expertise would be better than a homogeneous group at solving complex, nonroutine problems. It is less obvious that social diversity should work in the same way—yet the science shows that it does.
  • This is not only because people with different backgrounds bring new information. Simply interacting with individuals who are different forces group members to prepare better, to anticipate alternative viewpoints and to expect that reaching consensus will take effort.

The first thing to acknowledge about diversity is that it can be difficult. In the U.S., where the dialogue of inclusion is relatively advanced, even the mention of the word “diversity” can lead to anxiety and conflict. Supreme Court justices disagree on the virtues of diversity and the means for achieving it. Corporations spend billions of dollars to attract and manage diversity both internally and externally, yet they still face discrimination lawsuits, and the leadership ranks of the business world remain predominantly white and male.

CONTINUED:

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/how-diversity-makes-us-smarter/

Trump’s Agenda Is a Threat to Protections the LGBTQ Community Has Spent Decades Fighting For

The incoming administration is already targeting laws protecting basic civil rights.

Photo Credit: Ted Eytan / Flickr

Many are called but few are chosen during any presidential transition. That’s why it’s illuminating to consider who Donald Trump has chosen from the parade of possibilities for his transition team and senior administration appointments so far— and what they may portend for LGBTQ people.

The Christian Right, with few exceptions, backed the Trump ticket, with over 80 percent of White evangelicals voting for him, and now they’re being rewarded with traditional forms of political patronage. They’re scoring major appointments and have won a say in personnel and policy decisions on a scale far surpassing anything seen since the movement first arrived in Washington with the Reagan administration in 1980.

Since Trump himself has never held the kinds of values or displayed the kind of personal behavior prized by conservative Christians—and barely passes as any kind of a Christian at all—he and his backers needed a theological rationale for the Christian Right’s support. They found justification in biblical examples of God-anointed leaders who were ungodly themselves but who nevertheless delivered for God’s people. Christian Right leaders presented Trump in this way, it was broadly accepted by their followers, and Trump is now evidently making good on the deal.

Let’s look first at two early warnings from which all the rest flows.

The first is an important campaign promise affecting LGBTQ people. In November 2016, Trump told 60 Minutes that he was “fine” with gay marriage; at the Republican National Convention he described himself as “a supporter” of the LGBTQ community, and said he considers marriage equality a “settled” matter. But none of those statements amount to promises to LGBTQ people, to whom he is sending mixed messages He has also promised the Christian Right he would consider appointing justices who would overturn Obergefell v. Hodges, the decision that guarantees same-sex couples the right to marry.

Secondly, Trump has also positioned himself in the camp of establishing dangerously broad religious exemptions from all laws aimed at ensuring LGBTQ civil rights. He promised he would sign the First Amendment Defense Act (FADA) if it reached his desk. FADA, which was first introduced in 2015 and now has substantial support in both houses of Congress, would legalize discrimination in the name of “religious belief or moral conviction,” requiring nothing more than someone’s say so. The scope of the Act appears to primarily affect government departments and agencies, and federal contractors and grantees, including entities that may require federal accreditation or licensing, such as universities and hospitals. And maybe more.

Under FADA, denial of service could take many forms beyond matters of wedding cakes, flowers, and photographers, to include allowing hospitals to refuse treatment to LGBTQ people (or their children), businesses to refuse health benefits to a same-sex partner, and child welfare workers to keep a child in foster care as opposed to placing them with a loving and qualified same-sex couple. If that’s not enough, FADA exempts non-profit organizations and businesses from non-discrimination standards. The proposal’s implications go well beyond issues of direct discrimination. FADA might allow federal employees to refuse being involved in processing federal benefits and rights claims to which they conscientiously object, such as any involving married same-sex couples. The bill exempts “any person regardless of religious affiliation, including corporations and other entities regardless of for-profit or nonprofit status” from following non-discrimination codes on the basis of religious beliefs.

If this is the benchmark approach to policy (regardless of the immediate future of the legislation itself) the federal government will be leading efforts to reverse historic gains of recent decades—attacking the basis for LGBTQ freedom and the dignity and rights of everyone else for whom a religious justification for denying service can be made.

But there’s more.

Trump’s selection of Mike Pence as his vice president was a transformational moment in the campaign, and arguably in American history. Pence may be best known for his theocratic political identity, proudly explaining at the 2010 Values Voter Summit in 2010, for example, that he is “a Christian, a conservative, and a Republican, in that order.” Donald Trump, via his son Donald Jr., reportedly called an aide to his first choice for veep, Governor John Kasich of Ohio, and told him that a president Trump would put Kasich in charge of both foreign and domestic policy, while the president himself would be in charge of “making America great again.” Pence hasn’t said whether he got the same deal, but his role as chair of the transition team suggests that he is already among the most powerful vice presidents in American history.

This does not bode well.

Pence’s tenure as governor of Indiana was marked by his signing a version of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, a law that would make discrimination against same-sex couples legally defensible. Pence signed the Act in the company of his state’s Christian Right leadership, marking him as a movement leader himself. Following national outcry, the legislature passed an amendment that explicitly stated that such discrimination was not the intent of the law.

Unsurprisingly, given both Trump and Pence’s history and views, much of the Christian Right agenda, particularly with regards to anything that affects LGBTQ people, will probably come wrapped in the flag of religious freedom. Some leading indicators of the direction the administration will take in this regard are visible in the transition team that’s proposing staff for the new administration and the appointments and nominations that have resulted from their work so far.

Ken Blackwell heads domestic issues for the transition team. A longtime Christian Right pol from Ohio, he is Senior Fellow for Human Rights and Constitutional Governance at the Family Research Council, the leading Christian Right lobby in Washington, D.C. Blackwell also serves on the board of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, a Christian Right legal group that promotes religion based exemptions from the law.

Ed Meese leads the transition team for the Office of Management and Budget. He is one of the architects of FADA and served as Attorney General in the Reagan administration. He is joined by Kay Cole James, the former dean of the Pat Robertson School of Government at Regent University and a former head of the federal Office of Personnel Management. These figures know how the federal government works and how to ensure their people are well represented among the 4,000 positions that need to be filled in the West Wing of the White House, and throughout the federal government over the course of the Trump administration and beyond.

Ken Klukowski serves on the part of the transition team focusing on executive authority, responsible for “protecting constitutional rights.” He is the senior counsel for the Texas-based First Liberty Institute (formerly the Liberty Institute), a leading Christian Right legal group focused on religious exemptions from the law, especially LGBTQ rights. He is also the senior legal editor for Breitbart News.

Dr. Ben Carson is one of twelve vice-chairs of the transition team and Trump’s nominee for Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Carson is a Christian Right leader and anti-LGBTQ ideologue known for harsh rhetoric in support of his beliefs. Carson has associated being LGBTQ with polygamy, pedophilia, and bestiality. He thinks that transgender people are “the height of absurdity” and he claims that marriage equality is a Marxist plot that may lead the country to go the way of the Roman Empire. He has characterized the kind of public housing he would oversee at HUD as “communism” and as Secretary he could undermine if not reverse the Obama administration’s efforts to curb discrimination against LGBTQ people in housing.

Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) is a vice-chair of the transition team and Trump’s nominee for Attorney General. A senior member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sessions is also a co-sponsor of FADA. The Huffington Postheadlined an article about his nomination, “Pick Any LGBTQ Rights Issue. Jeff Sessions Has Voted Against It.” His Senate chief of staff, Rick Dearborn, is the executive director of the transition team.

Rep. Tom Price (R-GA) is nominated to be Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Price’s House voting record received a 0% rating from the Human Rights Campaign. He is a co-sponsor of FADA and supports a constitutional amendment to overturn Obergefell v. Hodges.

Betsy DeVos, Trump’s nominee for Secretary of Education, is a longtime financier of Christian Right projects, particularly in the area of school privatization. Politico reports that DeVos has said her work in education is intended to “advance God’s kingdom.” She and her family, heirs to the Amway corporate fortune, have a long record of underwriting Christian Right and anti-LGBTQ projects and organizations for the same reason. They have donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to organizations that believe in “conversion therapy”; they are major backers of Focus on the Family, whose founder, James Dobson, called the battle against LGBTQ rights a “second civil war.” (Liberty University president Jerry Falwell Jr., who steadfastly supported Trump through the campaign, was Trump’s first choice for secretary. Falwell said he declined in order to attend to other obligations.)

President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team and top level appointments should be taken as clear indicators of the direction of the Trump administration with regard to the dignity and civil rights of LGBTQ people. And if past is prologue, what Mr. Trump says may not be nearly as important as what he does. Continued vigilance regarding what his appointees do in his name will be vital.

 

Frederick Clarkson is a senior fellow at Political Research Associates and a member of the Public Eye editorial board. He is the editor of Dispatches from the Religious Left: The Future of Faith and Politics in America, and the author of Eternal Hostility: The Struggle Between Theocracy and Democracy.

http://www.alternet.org/lgbtq/trumps-agenda-threat-protections-lgbtq-community-has-spent-decades-fighting?akid=15112.265072.qavF5g&rd=1&src=newsletter1070542&t=8

Farewell Obummer, Hello Golden Showers

There’s been a few hot topics this week, from Obama’s final speech as president to the amusing allegations of Donald’s pee fetish.

Let’s start with Obama. The era of hope and change most certainly ended with a whimper. Not much has changed and we don’t have much to hope for either.

Over the last eight years income disparity increased in the US (despite White House claims to the contrary), real wages plunged, and while productivity increased, hourly pay didn’t budge much. America’s obtuse wars in the Middle East rage on, and our country’s drone program is operating at full tilt. Obama also extended many of the nation’s most egregious energy policies.

In fact, Obama celebrated America’s biggest oil boom in decades. How’s that for battling climate change?

This isn’t to say we won’t be missing Obama for the next four years (if Trump’s presidency lasts that long, we’ll get to that in a moment), but that doesn’t negate the fact that Obama was a huge disappointment.

Cornel West put it best this week for The Guardian:

“A few of us begged and pleaded with Obama to break with the Wall Street priorities and bail out Main Street. But he followed the advice of his ‘smart’ neoliberal advisers to bail out Wall Street. In March 2009, Obama met with Wall Street leaders. He proclaimed: I stand between you and the pitchforks. I am on your side and I will protect you, he promised them. And not one Wall Street criminal executive went to jail…

Obama’s lack of courage to confront Wall Street criminals and his lapse of character in ordering drone strikes unintentionally led to rightwing populist revolts at home and ugly Islamic fascist rebellions in the Middle East. And as deporter-in-chief – nearly 2.5 million immigrants were deported under his watch – Obama policies prefigure Trump’s barbaric plans.”

Facts are facts no matter how you want to sugarcoat them. Obama has been pissing in the wind for eight years now and progressives have little to be happy about.

Speaking of piss, how about Trump and those Russian call girls?

Buzzfeed’s release of the now infamous dossier, which was put together by former MI6 agent Christopher Steele, an executive at a private intel company called Orbis Business Intelligence, has caused quite an uproar. Steele is respected in the intel community, having played a role in gathering info about corruption within FIFA, the global soccer organization. Much debate has swirled around the journalistic ethics of Buzzfeed’s decision to publish the uncorroborated account of Trump hiring prostitutes to piss on the bed the Obamas slept in at the Ritz-Carlton’s presidential suite in Moscow.

Trump has called the whole thing fake news, but it is news nonetheless. Steele was likely paid a bundle of cash to put together the report, which had more to do with Trump’s alleged ties to Russia than golden showers.

According to the New York Times, the origins of the report date back to September 2015 when a wealthy Republican donor hired Fusion GPS, an opposition research outfit headed by Glenn Simpson, an ex-journalist for the Wall Street Journal, to dig up dirt on The Donald. When Trump won the Republican nomination, this wealthy donor ended his support of Simpson’s work, but it was later picked up by backers of the Hillary Clinton campaign. At this point Steele was hired by Simpson to look into Trump’s Russia connections. According to the New York Times:

“Mr. Simpson hired Mr. Steele, a former British intelligence officer with whom he had worked before. Mr. Steele, in his early 50s, had served undercover in Moscow in the early 1990s and later was the top expert on Russia at the London headquarters of Britain’s spy service, MI6. When he stepped down in 2009, he started his own commercial intelligence firm, Orbis Business Intelligence.

The former journalist and the former spy, according to people who know them, had similarly dark views of President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, a former K.G.B. officer, and the varied tactics he and his intelligence operatives used to smear, blackmail or bribe their targets.

As a former spy who had carried out espionage inside Russia, Mr. Steele was in no position to travel to Moscow to study Mr. Trump’s connections there. Instead, he hired native Russian speakers to call informants inside Russia and made surreptitious contact with his own connections in the country as well.”

Steele’s report laid out two different Russian operations, the first was an alleged effort by the Russian government to entangle and influence Trump with compromising information, like a video of The Donald with prostitutes in Moscow. In the second operation, Steele alleged, among other things, that Trump surrogates, including his lawyer Michael Cohen, met with Russian officials in Prague to discuss the hack at the DNC. Cohen strongly denied the meeting ever took place, noting on Twitter that he’d never even been to Prague. Steele’s intel, factual or not, floated around Washington circles for months leading up to the election, with David Corn at Mother Jones being the only reporter to write about the allegations, minus the salacious pee party. The New York Times also reports that the FBI was investigating Trump’s ties to Russia in the early fall. So while Hillary’s email scandal was being investigated so too was Trump, yet only one investigation was making any headlines.

Of course, the pee story and Trump’s alleged ties to Russia are almost too good to be true, which means they probably are not. Nevertheless, truth was never the dossier’s objective. A story, or an intel report for that matter, doesn’t have to be factual to cause damage – just like the Washington Post‘s absurd allegations that publications like CounterPunch are purveyors of Russian propaganda.

If there is one thing to take away from Goldengate it should be that the intelligence community has a myriad of ways to fuck with you. They are masters of the “leak” and we can expect more to come. Steele’s report is likely the tip of the golden iceberg. As Senator Chuck Schumer told Rachel Maddow this week, “Let me tell you: You take on the intelligence community — they have six ways from Sunday at getting back at you.”

It’s probably the truest and most obvious statement Chuckie has ever made. Trump, who still has a week before he moves his throne into the White House, is busy sharpening his knives for a battle with the intelligence community. The problem for Trump is the spooks don’t bring knives to a gunfight.

It may well be a depressing four years ahead, but at least nobody said it won’t be entertaining.

JOSHUA FRANK is managing editor of CounterPunch. His most recent book is Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, co-edited with Jeffrey St. Clair and published by AK Press. He can be reached at joshua@counterpunch.org. You can follow him on Twitter @joshua__frank

COUNTERPUNCH 

The Chicago kidnapping isn’t about Black Lives Matter. It’s about the violence faced by people with disabilities

Mindless violence and hideous cruelty against the disabled has to be condemned by all Americans whenever it occurs

Don’t let racists fool you: The Chicago kidnapping isn’t about Black Lives Matter. It’s about the violence faced by people with disabilities
(Credit: Mila May via Shutterstock/Salon)

A brutal crime in Chicago shocked the nation earlier this week after four teenagers kidnapped an 18-year-old student and tormented him over Facebook Live — punching him, kicking him, and tearing off his clothing while he screamed for help. What made the crime a front page story, however, isn’t that it was live-streamed over social media: The perpetrators — Jordan Hill, Tesfaye Cooper, Brittany Covington, and Tanishia Covington — invoked the name of the president-elect during the attack. “F**k Trump!” the assailants yelled. “F**k white people!”

Since video of the attack went viral, racists have used the footage as evidence of the scourge of black-on-white crime, a phenomenon white nationalist leaders say the media ignored.

Richard Spencer, an alt-right leader infamously referred to as the “dapper white nationalist” in a Mother Jones story published earlier this year, used the incident as a marketing tool in a series of tweets published Wednesday. “This isn’t even the first instance of terrorism against whites by anti-Trump #blacklivesmatter supporters in Chicago,” Spencer wrote, adding later in the day:

“Remember the #BLMKidnapping every time some journalist lies about my white advocacy organization and calls it a hate group.”

In the latter tweet, Spencer refers to a hashtag that trended after the attack, one that attempted to pin the violence on Black Lives Matter, the national network of advocates for racial equality. Deray McKesson, a Baltimore-based activist who has become one of the faces of the BLM movement, tweeted: “It goes without saying that the actions being branded by the far-right as the ‘BLM Kidnapping’ have nothing to do w/ the movement.”

While white nationalists use the incident to stoke fears of black people targeting innocent whites, the truth is that hate crimes against white people are relatively rare. 2012 statistics from the Federal Bureau of Investigations show that of the 3,467 hate crimes reported to police that year, 66.2 percent were motivated by racial animus against black people. This is despite the fact that African-Americans make up just 13.3 percent of the U.S. population, according to 2015 statistics from the Census Bureau. Meanwhile, just 22 percent of bias attacks were anti-white.

Instead, this incident is a reminder of the violence that people with disabilities experience in everyday life. The young student, whose name has not been published in the press to protect the privacy of his family, has an intellectual disability, which means that his brain processes information differently than the rest of ours. He was a classmate of Jordan Hill, who invited him over for a “slumber party.”

People with disabilities aren’t often the targets of hate crimes. FBI data shows that just over one percent of people who suffer a bias attack have a mental or physical impairment. Instead this population, which totals over 63 million Americans, is more likely to be the victim of other types of crimes — including rape.

According to the Washington Coalition of Sexual Assault Programs, 80 percent of women with a disability report being assaulted by a friend, family member, or a stranger. That also includes 30 percent of disabled men. Many of these crimes take place in their youth. The WCSAP claims that male adolescents with a hearing impairment are five times more likely than their peers to be a rape survivor. Young girls who are deaf or otherwise hard of hearing are twice as likely to be sexually assaulted as girls who aren’t hearing impaired.

When dealing with police, those with disabilities often face a lot of the same struggles that non-white people do, subject to extraordinary, disproportionate harm. A 2016 report from the  Ruderman Family Foundation showed that differently abled persons make up between a third to one half of all people killed by law enforcement every year.

Robert Ethan Saylor, a 26-year-old with Down syndrome, was called “Ethan” by his family. He went to see the Kathryn Bigelow film “Zero Dark Thirty,” which details the hunt and capture of Osama Bin Laden, with his caretaker on Jan. 12, 2013. After seeing the movie, Saylor decided he wanted to watch it again and went back into the theater, despite the fact that he hadn’t purchased a ticket. Although his caretaker warned police, who were called to the scene to remove him from the theater, that Saylor would “freak out” if touched, he was dragged out of the facility as he yelled for help.

“Mommy!” the young man screamed. “It hurt! Call my mom.”

Saylor, whose mother was just five minutes away from the scene of the accident, would die of asphyxiation in the struggle with police. As the young man was thrown to the floor and handcuffed, the cartilage in his throat fractured. His siblings remember Saylor as someone who looked up to law enforcement officials as role models, collecting cop badges and other police paraphernalia.

Saylor’s case, which might remind you of Eric Garner, the man suffocated by police officers as he protested that he couldn’t breathe, is one of many.

There’s Antonio Love, a deaf man who was pepper sprayed and tasered by police in the bathroom of a Dollar General in 2009 because he couldn’t hear the command by police to come of the facility. Ernest Griglen, who is diabetic, was brutally beaten by police in 2008 who thought he was driving drunk. At the time of his beating, Griglen was experiencing insulin shock. Six years later, Natasha McKenna, who was schizophrenic, was stripped naked and tasered four times in her cell because she wouldn’t come out of her cell. As she died, she protested, “You promised you wouldn’t kill me.”

In fact, many of the cases of police brutality you’ve heard about in the media intersect with disability in crucial ways. Sandra Bland, who was removed from her vehicle and tossed to the ground following a routine traffic stop in 2015, had a history of depression. The 28-year-old was later found hanged in her jail cell. Laquan McDonald, a Chicago teen whose death made national headlines after being gunned down by a white cop in 2014, had a learning disability, as well as post-traumatic stress disorder.

These aspects of police violence are rarely reported on, but these details are crucial and often make the difference between life and death. Garner, a Staten Island man who was selling cigarettes on the street when he was assaulted by police, was asthmatic.

As The Daily Beast’s Elizabeth Heideman reports, police do receive training on how to respond to people with disabilities, but that education is limited. Law enforcement officials are instructed to issue simple, clear commands in order to prevent difficult situations from escalating further, like “Get on the ground!” and “Drop that!” But those instructions wouldn’t have helped Love, because he wouldn’t have been able to understand them. This training needs to be expanded in a way that recognizes the unique challenges the community faces and how to handle them.

This attack isn’t about what people like Spencer want you to believe it is. White supremacists hope to use this incident to stoke the flames of racial hate, but it’s about a society that lacks compassion for people with disabilities and a nation that still doesn’t know how to address it. Too many differently abled people are assaulted, hurt, and killed every year, and their stories rarely become trending topics. It’s time to start telling them.

 

SALON

47% of Jobs Will Disappear in the next 25 Years

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British Musicians. Ms. Dynamite. Getty Images.

The Trump campaign ran on bringing jobs back to American shores, although mechanization has been the biggest reason for manufacturing jobs’ disappearance. Similar losses have led to populist movements in several other countries. But instead of a pro-job growth future, economists across the board predict further losses as AI, robotics, and other technologies continue to be ushered in. What is up for debate is how quickly this is likely to occur.

Now, an expert at the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania is ringing the alarm bells. According to Art Bilger, venture capitalist and board member at the business school, all the developed nations on earth will see job loss rates of up to 47% within the next 25 years, according to a recent Oxford study. “No government is prepared,”The Economist reports. These include blue and white collar jobs. So far, the loss has been restricted to the blue collar variety, particularly in manufacturing.

To combat “structural unemployment” and the terrible blow it is bound to deal the American people, Bilger has formed a nonprofit called Working Nation, whose mission it is to warn the public and to help make plans to safeguard them from this worrisome trend. Not only is the entire concept of employment about to change in a dramatic fashion, the trend is irreversible. The venture capitalist called on corporations, academia, government, and nonprofits to cooperate in modernizing our workforce.

To be clear, mechanization has always cost us jobs. The mechanical loom for instance put weavers out of business. But it’s also created jobs. Mechanics had to keep the machines going, machinists had to make parts for them, and workers had to attend to them, and so on. A lot of times those in one profession could pivot to another. At the beginning of the 20thcentury for instance, automobiles were putting blacksmiths out of business. Who needed horseshoes anymore? But they soon became mechanics. And who was better suited?

A Toyota plant, Japan. Manufacturing is almost fully automated today and so many other jobs are not far behind.

Not so with this new trend. Unemployment today is significant in most developed nations and it’s only going to get worse. By 2034, just a few decades, mid-level jobs will be by and large obsolete. So far the benefits have only gone to the ultra-wealthy, the top 1%. This coming technological revolution is set to wipe out what looks to be the entire middle class. Not only will computers be able to perform tasks more cheaply than people, they’ll be more efficient too.

Accountants, doctors, lawyers, teachers, bureaucrats, and financial analysts beware: your jobs are not safe. According to The Economist, computers will be able to analyze and compare reams of data to make financial decisions or medical ones. There will be less of a chance of fraud or misdiagnosis, and the process will be more efficient. Not only are these folks in trouble, such a trend is likely to freeze salaries for those who remain employed, while income gaps only increase in size. You can imagine what this will do to politics and social stability.

Mechanization and computerization cannot cease. You can’t put the genie back in the bottle. And everyone must have it, eventually. The mindset is this: other countries would use such technology to gain a competitive advantage and therefore we must adopt it. Eventually, new tech startups and other business might absorb those who have been displaced. But the pace is sure to move far too slowly to avoid a major catastrophe.

According to Bilger, the problem has been going on for a long time. Take into account the longevity we are enjoying nowadays and the US’s broken education system and the problem is compounded. One proposed solution is a universal basic income doled out by the government, a sort of baseline one would receive for survival. After that, re-education programs could help people find new pursuits. Others would want to start businesses or take part in creative enterprises. It could even be a time of the flowering of humanity, when instead of chasing the almighty dollar, people would able to pursue their true passions.

On a recent radio program, Bilger talked about retooling the education system in its entirety, including adding classes that are sure to transfer into the skills workers need for the jobs that will be there. He also discussed the need to retrain middle-aged workers so that they can participate in the economy, rather than be left behind. Bilger said that “projects are being developed for that.” Though he admits that many middle-aged workers are resistant to reentering the classroom, Bilger says it’s necessary. What’s more, they are looking at ways of making the classroom experience more dynamic, such as using augmented reality for retraining purposes, as well as to reinvent K-12 education. But such plans are in the seminal stages.

Widespread internships and apprenticeships are also on the agenda. Today, the problem, as some contend, is not that there aren’t enough jobs, but that there aren’t enough skilled workers to fill the positions that are available. Bilger seems to think that this problem will only grow more substantial.

But would those who drive for a living, say long haul truckers and cab drivers, really find a place in the new economy with retraining, once self-driving vehicles become pervasive? No one really knows. Like any major shift in society, there are likely to be winners and losers. This pivot point contains the seeds for a pragmatic utopia, or complete social upheaval, but is likely to fall somewhere between.

Bilger ended the interview saying, “What would our society be like with 25%, 30% or 35% unemployment? … I don’t know how you afford that, but even if you could afford it, there’s still the question of, what do people do with themselves? Having a purpose in life is, I think, an important piece of the stability of a society.”

 

 

Americans’ Political ‘Psychotic Break’

People have discovered that their sense of self is in some significant way false.

Photo Credit: a katz / Shutterstock.com

Stripped of the false realities of democracy, legitimate media authorities, and American exceptionalism, U.S. society is having a “psychotic break” of sorts. What many Americans have previously believed to be “reality” is disintegrating.

Science provides us with no monolithic explanation for what is commonly called a psychotic break, but for some people who have lived this experience, they describe their sense of who they’ve believed themselves to be as disintegrating in a massive way, a discovery that their sense of self is in some way false. This experience can be overwhelming, emotionally and cognitively, and can propel them into an altered state.

Every so often, the American societal-political veil lifts, and what was clear to George Carlin and other cynical nonvoters is difficult to deny even for voters skilled at denial. In the 2016 presidential selection/election process, the veil lifted, making it difficult even for previously trusting Americans to continue to believe that they lived in a democracy that provides them with a choice and a say, and made it difficult to continue to believe in the legitimacy of mainstream media. Even for those skilled in denial, it has become difficult to believe in the American exceptionalism that their nation is immune from what other nations are not immune from: a con man taking power by exploiting a sense of victimization—a reality that is now difficult to deny even for a growing number of betrayed Trump voters.

Before getting to the disintegration for Sanders and Trump supporters, first some of the unsettling blows that have made it difficult for millions of Americans in general to deny that they had a false sense of their societal-political reality:

* The chronic tension of the lesser-of-two evils choice, which had previously produced “democracy dissonance” for some Americans, was ratcheted up considerably in 2016, expanding the number of Americans incredulous that they lived in a democracy that provided choice and say. In 2016, the dislike for the Republican and Democrat candidates reached historic unfavorable levels, with Trump’s July 2016 unfavorable polls average at 57% (favorable at 36%) and Clinton’s July 2016 unfavorable polls average at 56% (favorable at 38%). Perhaps unfavorable levels for both candidates need to hit 70% for that variable alone to result in a psychotic break, but this wasn’t the only assault on many Americans’ “societal-political sense of self.”

* The “loser” of the presidential election received nearly 3 million more votes than the “winner.” Of course, for some Americans who believe they live in a democracy that provides them with a choice and a say, perhaps the “loser” needs to have to have 10 million more votes than the “winner” for their psychotic break.

* The day before the 2016 election, mainstream media were close to certain that Hillary Clinton would win (New York Times 85%; CNN, 91%; Huffington Post, 98%). This prognostication failure has further shattered what was left of trust for mainstream media authorities.

While science provides us with no monolithic explanation for a psychotic break, one trigger explanation that resonates with some people who have had this experience is a horrific “double-bind.” An example of such a double bind: A sexually abused child is told by the family member abuser: “It’s now too late for you to escape, because I will deny it and nobody will believe you”; and the child is left with the choice between continuing the sexual abuse or denouncing the abuser, an action the child believes will result in the child being accused by family of lying and/or the child held responsible for destroying the family. And so this unresolvable dilemma overwhelms the child.

The lesser-of-two-evils choice—especially when the two choices are both extremely evil—is a double bind of sorts.

Bernie Sanders put his 12 million primary voters and other supporters in a double-bind. For Sanders supporters, Hillary Clinton epitomized what they despised. Clinton has been: heavily supported by Wall Street and arms dealers; repeatedly pro-war from Iraq to Libya; a friend and admirer of Henry Kissinger, who for Sanders supporters is one of the greatest war criminals in world history; a former board member of the anti-labor union Wal-Mart Board of Directors; a co-sponsor of the Flag-Protection Act of 2005, which included prison terms for those who destroy the flag; and has had an otherwise despicable and untrustworthy history for progressives.

Bernie Sanders’ choice was to either support someone that his supporters despise and distrust or don’t support Clinton and Trump wins, and the Democratic Party and its media operatives politically assassinate Sanders as was done with Ralph Nader post-2000 election. Sanders’ public reaction was to choose what he had many reasons to believe was a false reality—that Clinton was not going to betray her new-found progressivism. Given Clinton’s history, Sanders had good reason to believe that Clinton as president would likely betray campaign progressive promises and simply blame failure on the Republicans. But rather than choosing Nader’s path, Sanders suppressed the reality of Clinton, and asked his supporters to do the same.

Many Sanders supporters could not shed the reality of Hillary Clinton’s anti-progressive history and that the Democratic Party establishment had sabotaged Sanders (who the polls had shown had a much better chance than Clinton of beating Trump); and these supporters lost faith in both Sanders and the electoral process and did not vote—a political-self psychotic break of sorts for people who had ardently believed in voting.

Other Sanders supporters followed Sanders’ direction and voted for Clinton, only to find themselves now assaulted by the reality that Sanders had instructed them to support a corrupt political process that resulted in Trump winning anyway.

How about Trump supporters? Millions of Trump supporters, even before his inauguration, began having their political-self psychotic break, recognizing that they had been “played,” that Trump had no intention of keeping his campaign promises, and used them to gain power and attention.

A major issue for Trump supporters was “crony capitalism,” but even before Trump was inaugurated, he orchestrated the Carrier deal of tax breaks for jobs, which was so obviously a betrayal that even Sara Palin decried it calling it “crony capitalism.”

That has not been Trump’s only pre-inauguration betrayal.

Trump repeatedly promised to “drain the swamp.” The epitome of the “swamp” is the revolving door between the U.S. government and Goldman Sachs, yet Trump’s nominees for his administration include former Goldman Sachs employees Steve Mnuchin for Treasury Secretary and Gary Cohn for National Economic Council. It’s now become increasingly clear that Trump appears to be well on his way to creating the most putrid swamp ever, as he nominated for cabinet positions six of his top donors, as well as several establishment politicians (for example, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s wife Elaine Chao as Transportation Secretary; 20-year U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions for Attorney General, and others).

Trump promised his supporters an “anti-politician,” and they received a caricature of a politician who didn’t even wait until he was inaugurated to betray his promises.

For the patriotic “Make America Great Again” Trump supporters who have believed their entire lives that Russia is America’s enemy and that the CIA protects Americans from “commies and terrorists,” what do they do with the reality that Trump has made war on the CIA and has befriended Russia, who the CIA reports actively worked for Trump’s election?

From Trump’s history, it is not likely that these mind-blowing assaults on what was once considered “conservatism” and “patriotism” will end.

Among Trump’s approximately 63 million voters, some now claim that the most passionate rallying cry of every Trump rally—“lock her up”—was just theater, and that they are unbothered that almost immediately after the election, Trump stated that he is not going to prosecute Clinton. Their focus is only on the financial promises that Trump—who they believe to be a “warrior businessman”—will grow the GDP at a fantastic rate, and that this along with deregulation and corporate tax breaks will result in a return of high-paying jobs. For this group, the future holds another likely shock. Should corporations accrue more cash, recent history has shown us that they do not hire more workers at higher salaries but instead spend this cash on stock buybacks.

What happens post-psychotic break?

The individual psychotic break and resulting altered state, from the outside, is a frightening frenzy of beliefs, speech, and behavior that makes no sense. But to those experiencing it, there can be an array of new ideas—some which they ultimately reject as delusional (e.g., no, they can’t fly) but some not delusional (e.g., yes, they have been traumatized by authorities who have lied to them).

On an individual level, psychotic breaks routinely go two ways. If one is lucky and has support, one can emerge from this altered state with greater clarity of one’s true self. But if one is unlucky and fear and unsafety sabotages this process, one can become permanently labeled as “seriously mentally ill.”

So, with America’s societal-political psychotic break, it is quite possible that a few more million people will emerge with George Carlin-like clarity about the truth of the American sham democratic political system—a truth borne out by studies such as “Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens” (see video of findings) that validate Carlin’s observation that no matter whether Republicans or Democrats in charge, average Americans have no fucking influence on government policy.

Or, this societal-political “psychotic break” can result in further deterioration, further “social-political illness,” transforming the United States from “friendly fascism” and bullshit hypocrisy about democracy to violent, boot-in-your-face fascism where truth tellers in the tradition of George Carlin are driven underground, way underground.

 

For people with mental illness Carrie Fisher was a queen

I have nothing to say on Fisher’s performance as Leia. Leia I know only as a pop culture icon, a Halloween costume; two plaited doughnuts and a Friends episode. I know she means a lot to a lot of people, however. I know kids who grew up in the 70s adored her; I know fans paid thousands for cosplays and meet-and-greets and that the instalment of the franchise in cinemas now has her digitised presence. Tributes from her fellow cast and crew members have poured forth.

But Leia wasn’t the Fisher I held close. The first time I encountered her, the big brown eyes and the flared nostrils and that husk’n’cackle, was in 2006, watching The Secret Life of the Manic Depressive. Stephen Fry visits a manic Fisher at home. I didn’t recognise her but I recognised the mania. Who was this woman? Immediately I fell down a YouTube rabbit hole of interviews and performances. Hour passed. My eyes went wet with laughing, then dried with tiredness, and the black outside turned grey and flat. I crawled into bed and felt somehow changed. Somehow, and it might sound trite but who cares – she’d say it as it was – less alone.

Carrie Fisher
 Carrie Fisher in 1980. Photograph: Express/Getty Images

Fisher always spoke about addiction and mental illness straight up: “I am mentally ill. I can say that. I am not ashamed of that. I survived that. I am still surviving it, but bring it on.” Fisher was saying these things years before the rest of us; before celebrity as advocacy; before think pieces; before people were awarded with actual awards for it (she has an hilarious bit on being named Bipolar Woman of the Year).

We saw her at her best but she showed us the workings out too.

Her creative writing about mental illness was brilliant. There aren’t many people who can write it well; who can peel back the truth of it and get to the rawness and somehow make it soft, or at least, make it not as raw, touchable; but she did.

Often Fisher made it funny too, which is an even greater gift. Her 2008 memoir Wishful Drinking – what a title, what cover artwork – is a great example (“No matter how I go, I want it reported that I drowned in moonlight, strangled by my own bra”). Her 1987 semi-autobiographical novel, Postcards from the Edge, detailed time in rehab. Her second memoir, the Princess Diarist, revealed her affair with Harrison Ford, writing of her feelings for him (“at least five, sometimes as many as seven”).

I read an interview this week in which the British prime minister, Theresa May – stay with me – said she had “never had a female role model”. Bizarre. I’ve lost three of mine this year alone: Victoria Wood, Caroline Aherne and now Carrie Fisher. Because Fisher was a female role model for me. She pushed back last year against insidious sexism (“stop debating whether I aged well”). She was a woman with mental illness who refused to be painted as an hysteric, a histrionic; sexist archetypes beloved by the early psychoanalyst set. She was successful not because of a gold bikini or because of famous parents but because of smarts and talent and, yes, beauty, and wit and determination and kindness.

She crackled with life on this planet, in this galaxy. One of the things she would say to reassure those with mental illness was: “you can lead a normal life, whatever that is”. Hers was an extraordinary one.

https://www.theguardian.com/culture/commentisfree/2016/dec/28/carrie-fisher-bipolar-dies-mental-illness-princess-leia