The Presidents and the Press – a Contentious Relationship

By Hank Boerner

The relationship between the President of the United States of America and the free press of our nation is very often a contentious one. Print me good news, and spare me the bad is often the wish of the nation’s leader (and we should include this as views of corporate CEOs and others not sitting at the Resolute Desk at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue).

As the Founding Fathers debated the future government of our country, and shaped our Constitution and Bill of Rights, the man who would become POTUS #3 — Thomas Jefferson of Virginia, observed: “The basis of our governments being the opinion of the People, the very first object should be to keep that right; and were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter…”

Of course, even President Jefferson (serving 1801-1809) had his issues with the press of his day. And that has been a constant tone for most-if-not-all of our heads of states for yea, these many decades back to the time of our Founding Fathers and Mothers.

The man credited with creating the modern presidency, President Theodore Roosevelt (#25, serving 1901-1909) was a writer himself, a prodigious book author and magazine contributor, and he used the technology of the day (the printed press) to get his points across to friends, allies and enemies.

Behold, The Muckrakers!

Five years into his presidency, and beginning the second year of his second term, the Crusader-in-Chief (fiercely battling monopolies, Big Business, fraudulent food and drugs, and more) delivered a speech in which he targeted the media of the nation.

This was April 1906, as “TR” celebrated the setting of the cornerstone of the Cannon Office Building up on Capitol Hill. President Roosevelt famously termed his position as the nation’s highest office holder as having possession of the “Bully Pulpit” — bully at the time meaning something of celebration and victory rather than today’s popular meaning as a bully picking on the vulnerable.

And so from the Bully Pulpit, TR held forth, targeting the media of the day who (he charged) made up stories and dug and dug for “dirt.” These, he said, were the “muckers with rakes,” a takeoff of the description in the Pilgrim’s Progress (a late-1600s Christian allegory by English author John Bunyan). The allegorical “muckrakers” were (men) who looked down at the bottom of the bay, rake in hand, tackling the muck at the bottom.

Sounding eerily reminiscent of January 2016 and the lively dialogue going on about the President and The Press and their relationship: These men (TR charged) were selling newspapers and attacking mean and women and society should not flinch from seeing what is vile and debasing. Wow!

The journalists of the day were mostly delighted by this! They began to call themselves muckrakers (the term comes down to us today) and their ranks grew as these investigative writers poured out magazine articles and books.

You may know some of their names and certainly know of their works: Ida Tarbell, and her crusades that led to the breakup of the monopolistic Standard Oil (the Rockefeller interests); Lincoln Steffens (also taking on Big Oil interests); Jacob Riis (a Danish immigrant and chronicler of the fate of poor immigrants in New York City); S.S. McClure (an immigrant), publisher of the populist magazine of the day, McClure’s. And, Ray Stannard Baker, Edith Wharton, Finley Peter Dooley. Later came such muckrakers as the legendary I.F. Stone, the nemesis of president-after-president.

And even later (more recent, that is) successors to their legacy include the CBS team of “60 Minutes“‘ the writers at Mother Jones; at The Nation; at The Progressive; of Rolling Stone (like Matt Taibbi).

Master of The Media – Especially The Radio

One of the Masters-of-the-Media residing in the White House was the sixth cousin of Theodore Roosevelt, the four-term President Franklin D. Roosevelt (1933-1945).

There’s an important point to make here: the media covering the White House has leveraged the technology of the day to communicate the news (and opinion) to the masses. And so have presidents.

President Donald Trump’s expert use of social media (call it “citizen publishing” to be correct) is a parallel to the expert use of “The Radio” by #33, President Franklin Roosevelt.

Upon taking office, FDR delivered his first “Fireside Chat” from the White House (the media applied the name soon after).

On March 12, 1933 he spoke to the nation on :”the Radio,” — the nation was deep into the crisis of the Great Depression (with one-of-four households having no income). He began….”My friends, I want to talk for a few minutes with the People of the United States about banking…” (He was declaring a “bank holiday,” a wonderful phrase about shutting every bank in the US to determine which ones could open later with solid finances to protect customers.)

Keeping the Words Flowing from the Chief

FDR would deliver some 30 chats (the number is disputed with some saying 27 or 28 is more accurate). He spoke to the nation during war time, when his administration was taking steps to address this or that crisis of the day, such as why we had to be the Arsenal of Democracy to save democracy around the world, and more. Commercial radio was created in 1924, so “The Radio” was as new to FDR as Twitter is to President Trump.

And press conferences — FDR would gather “the boys” around his desk to chat about this and that. Some 337 press conferences in his first term and more in the second term.

Earlier in the 20th Century, President Teddy Roosevelt used the media of his day — especially mass readership magazines. (He himself often wrote for “Century,” the influential thought leadership mag of the day.)

Press Freedoms – Guaranteed

It’s January 23rd today (in the glorious year 2017, approaching 229 years since that day in June 1788 when our beloved and very durable U.S. Constitution went into effect with the vote of the ninth state, New Hampshire).

The very first Amendment, we all have to remember, was this: Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press…

And so, these many years on since the first president assumed the office (George Washington, April 1789 in New York City, then the capital), the to-and-fro of the media-White House relationship continues in time-honored tradition of each party!

And so back to President Thomas Jefferson, who long after leaving office observed publicly: “The only security of all is in a free press. The force of public opinion cannot be resisted when permitted freely to be expressed. The agitation it produces must be submitted to. It is necessary, to keep the waters pure.”

And privately he complained to a successor, President James Monroe (#5): “”From forty years’ experience of the wretched guess-work of the newspapers of what is not done in open daylight, and of their falsehood even as to that, I rarely think them worth reading, and almost never worth notice…”

In composing this, I thought about the communicators-in-chief and their origins. New York is considered to be the Media Capital of the nation. And Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt and now President Donald J. Trump — all New Yorkers. Maybe it’s something in the water here….

Let that be the last word for today!

# # #

If you want to hear a magnificent orator addressing the nation, tune in to President Franklin Roosevelt’s radio speeches, courtesy of his library at Hyde Park, New York. Link: http://www.fdrlibrary.marist.edu/archives/collections/utterancesfdr.html

FDR’s “Chats” are here: http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/fireside.php

Teddy Roosevelt’s famous speech launching the Muckrakers movement is interesting: The Man With the Muck Rake: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/features/primary-resources/tr-muckrake/

 

 

We March Again Today to Honor Dr. King

On this day each year we celebrate the life and considerable contributions to the American society of The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Next year it will be 50 years that we lost this great American pastor, civil rights leader, thought leader, and conscience of the nation.

This year as we celebrate his life and contributions we also think about what he might be preaching in a Sunday sermon, or speaking about in the halls of power, about the state of racial relations.

Could he have imagined the day when an African-American could serve eight years as President of these United States of America? I think so.

Could have imagined the frequent “showdowns” between people of color and police officers? Yes, but judging by his calls for nonviolent protest and for peace and harmony for the nation, he would be greatly disappointed that in some instances we have not moved far from the 1960s…his prime years as the nation’s leading civil rights advocate.

As we await the ceremonies — and protests — scheduled for January 20th in the nation’s capital, I think back to a day in 1963 (August 28) when Dr. King and the era’s civil rights leadership called for a public demonstration and 250,000 people showed up, including many white citizens showing their support.

On the great mall, those gathered heard the “I Have a Dream” speech from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. They also heard the voices of prominent entertainers, as we are hearing today, in support of the appeal for justice and harmony. (Harry Belafonte, Sidney Poitier, Bob Dylan, now a Nobel Laureate, and Joan Baez, among them).

“Now is the time,” Dr. King proclaimed. Time to make justice reality for all of God’s children. Time to make real the promises of democracy. Time to rise to the solid rock of brotherhood (out of the quicksands of racial injustice).

Across the nation today tens of thousands marched again, in Dr. King’s memory and both mourn his loss and celebrate his life.

May we keep in mind the power of the People when they march for righteous reasons. When they protest against injustice.  In March 1965, peaceful marchers going from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, were beaten by troopers and police.

The young civil rights leader and mentee and colleague of Dr.King, John Lewis, now a distinguished Member of the U.S. Congress, among them, still weak from his beating. A week later President Lyndon Johnson announces that his Civil Rights bill is on the way to the Congress. And Federal troops were in Alabama to protect the marchers this time — and 1,000+ clergy flocked to Selma to join the march. And as we said, the courageous young Lewis was back on his feet after his beating by troopers and marching with his brothers and sisters in the call for voting rights..

Today in Miami, Florida, Congressman Lewis delivered a powerful reminiscence of the day he was clubbed on the bridge over the small river at the start of the first march from Selma.  He is among those still among us from the early days of the civil rights movement (along with the Reverend Jesse Jackson.)

* * * * * * * *

The Reverend Martin Luther King, Sr. was the pastor of the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia. In 1960, his son, The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. joined him as co-pastor. This was his important home pulpit as he traveled the nation and the world (receiving the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts) speaking truth to power.

Congressman John Lewis, representing the great city of Atlanta in the U.S. House of Representatives for many years now, is today a member of that historic church.  He remains a greatly-respected civil rights icon. And he is as outspoken today as he was as a teenager in the Deep South questioning the racism of the day.

Love is better than hate was his important message for us today.

Jan 2017 – As We Await the Arrival of the New President…

by Hank Boerner

As we await the arrival of our new president and vice president, cabinet members, and  welcome the new members of House and Senate in the 115th Congress …

All eyes will on this nation’s capital on Friday, January 20th as a new President of the United States is sworn into office in the peaceful transfer of power that marks one of remarkable and unique qualities of this great nation. #46 in the long line of Chief Executives and Commander-in-Chiefs will be Donald J. Trump of New York.

We’ll say our (temporary) goodbye’s to President Barack H. Obama and depending on our point-of-view, this will be in the spirit of “thank you and well done” with tears in our eyes — or something quite different!

There was great excitement and expectation when Barack Obama was sworn in on January 20, 2009. His was expected to be a transformative presidency for many reasons. The nation was reeling from a series of interconnected critical issues that seriously impact many, many of our citizens. Some of those issues remain to be addressed and resolved (if at all possible).

And so back in November 2008, soon after the election results were clear and we could think about what was ahead under the new administration, and a new (Democrat-controlled) U.S. Congress, I thought about the promise of an earlier age, with a new president at the helm, and the progressive movement that was coming into full flower. At that time, a Republican was in the White House.

With discussions about our country being left/right, liberal/conservative, a 50/50 divide in America and so on, it’s worth looking again here in January 2017 at the past for lessons for the future — looking again at the Progressive Movement and the many benefits that we all derived from that era.

Here (below) is my original commentary back in 2008 just after that November election and the results were known: A “transformational” chief executive officer was coming to the White House in January 2009.

Ah, I’m thinking today, and so here we are again, with another tumultuous presidential election behind us and another transformational head-of-state coming in January 2017.

What kind of chief executive officer will President-elect Donald J. Trump be? What kind of transformation might he bring about? What can we expect from the 115th Congress, now convened and announcing bold moves? Will we move left or right — progressive or regressive? Backward, forward, in progress terms?

What lessons should we take forward from the past, in the Progressive Era for application in this 21st Century — if not to be taking literally, then as wonderful inspiration for doing the right thing for all Americans!

* * * * * * * *

WHO WERE THE PROGRESSIVES – WHAT CAUSES DID THEY ADVOCATE? AND, ABOUT THEIR ENDURING, POSITIVE IMPACT ON THE AMERICAN WAY OF LIFE…
originally posted November 14, 2008 by Hank Boerner

During the 2008 primary campaign season at one point U.S. Senator Hillary Clintonwas asked about her political leanings — wasn’t she a true liberal as charged by the Right?. Her reply resonated with a number of people: I am a Modern Progressive, she told the interviewer.

That got me thinking – so what’s wrong with being a progressive…isn’t it the fundamental drive of the American Dream to make “progress” and be all that we can be, to borrow from the great US Army marketing slogan…as a society…and as individuals?

As we consider how (liberal) or (left-leaning) or (middle-of the road) the incoming [Obama Administration] and factions of the new (114th) Congress might be, I’d like to put the question in the context of my belief that we are likely at the moment of dramatic societal change.

This is shaping up to be one of the fundamental, once-in-a-generation shift of American politics and culture – from the dominance of right-leaning (more conservative) politics of the 1980s (and things cultural) to the center-left … and maybe even more left than that.

The perilous state of the economy has a lot to with this – consider the several millions of manufacturing and related industrial jobs lost in the US in recent years; the ongoing chaos in the capital markets.

The seizing up of banking and business, government and commercial credit markets; the consequences of our military affairs (wars in Iraq and Afghanistan going on longer than the years this nation fought in all of WW II).

The erosion of all-white dominance of institutions; the increase in the nation’s non-white populations; the foreclosures that are mounting month-over-month in too many neighborhoods (10,000 US homes-per-day are now being foreclosed!).

The growing wealth and income gaps as the middle and lower economic rungs become ever more slippery for American families …as the wealthy get wealthier-still…and more issues than that to address!

Where does Modern Progressivism fit into these issues?

The era’s “Robber Barons” — wealthy interests and strong men who monopolized and controlled the railroads, Wall Street institutions, banking, large corporate enterprises, and numerous monopolies, a/k/a the “Trusts” — were under fire for their practices and ways of doing business.

At many levels of society there was growing displeasure about business monopolies, price-fixing and other practices of the big businesses of the era.
Common factory workplace conditions for many Americans were about the same as [those] social investors today criticize certain US companies for condoning far off in their overseas supply chain.

When one of the era’s Robber Barons’ companies took a strike in Homestead, Pennsylvania, owner Andrew Carnegie took a trip to the British Isles while his hired strikebreakers, the Pinkertons — who with the looking away of local and state officials, savagely attacked the workers, injuring many and killing nine.

Union leaders were charged with murder and treason. The company broke the back of the movement workers to organize and the early concept of collective bargaining. Such was the state of labor-management (or “owner”) relations as the new Progressive Movement began.

This was the ending of the “Gilded Age” (described by author Mark Twain in his book of that name), delightful times for the elites and the wealthy and super-wealthy. (And as he penned this, Mark Twain was living an era full of business and political corruption. For many in big business firms, working conditions were more like those in Charles Dickens’ novels, such as Ebenezer Scrooge (the owner) and Bob Cratchit (his employee), in the scene from that Christmas Eve in “A Christmas Carol.”

TR: Enter the President as Chief Crusader

As the progressive thinkers in the American society reacted to conditions that they believed had to be changed for the nation to fulfill its promise of social and economic equality, in the White House, an [seemingly] unlikely champion took center stage to dramatically change the way things were: Ambitious, young, action-oriented, and very bright, Teddy Roosevelt had been governor of New York, and was elected William McKinley’s VP in 1900, mostly to get him out of the way of the Republican big bosses.

He had too many radical thoughts about upsetting the system that benefit the wealthy ownership class. Upon the assassination of President McKinley, “TR” became President of the United States (September 14, 1901). Throughout most of his presidency he was a dogged, committed crusader — especially against corruption in both the public sector and the private sector.

In the era of giant corporate enterprises rapidly (and rapaciously) consolidating power and influence on a scale never seen before, President Roosevelt and the Progressive Movement provided a very effective counterbalance.

Seeing threats to the American Democracy and the unique capitalistic system of the USA if things weren’t changed, TR took action and the progressive movement grew to support the concepts advanced.

He was an unlikely leader of reform of the system because Teddy was born into the wealthy class and easily could have been an elitist leader. He used what he called “the Bully Pulpit” of his presidency to rally support for change. (“Bully” in those days was a cheering call — bully for you!)

Through the pressure building – especially from the population below, and broadening media coverage – eventually blew the lid off the American Society, and the reforms flowed forth over two decades:

Consumer Protection – advocates drove adoption of the landmark Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906 (resulting in today’s FDA protections; many of today’s food supply protections; regulation of medicines, and more).

Protection of Workers – workers got the right to organize; the 8-hour workday became the norm; there was protection of worker health (such as in the coal industry where many suffered from black lung disease); unsafe factory conditions began to be eliminated.

Child Labor was controlled – eliminating tiny children working alongside adults in industrial facilities.

Urban Residents began to be protected – reforms of the day began eliminating crowded tenement housing, which often led to sickness, including widespread tuberculosis; water supplies were regulated and protected, probably the greatest single factor in health advances in the early 20th Century.

Education – Progressives encouraged wider access to education for children, especially in the cities, to eliminate crime and the cycle of poverty, and to begin to build a larger, more educated middle class. Citizens were to be broadly educated in public school systems.

Political Corruption Battles – included direct election of member of the US Senate; encouraging closed (secret) ballot elections; addressing the power of political bosses in the big cities; addressing voter fraud.

Progressives addressed the root causes of poverty – especially urban poverty, with millions of immigrants flowing to port cities, and then crowding in to work in the steadily expanding universe of factories. The plight of immigrants were top-of-mind for progressives, including encouraging immigrants to move out of over-crowded cities, and address their health, job, education, and other social needs.

The Progressives’ work protected your parents, grandparents, even great-grandparents!

Protecting the Nation’s Natural Resources – President Teddy Roosevelt was in the lead here, setting aside about 100,000 acres a day for the future generations throughout his two terms! He created sanctuaries and reserves of various kinds by executive order. (The National Park System would come about a few years after he left office, in one of the Progressive Movement’s finest moments.)

Treatment of the Nation’s Veterans – encouraging health care for veterans, and pensions for military retirees

Encouraging Fair TaxationSpreading the Burden – the adoption of a progressive / fair tax system (the personal income tax came during the Progressive Era; before that, the primary means of support the federal government included tariffs on goods.)

Encouraging Social and Economic Justice – addressing the situations of Native Americans, and tens of millions of immigrants pouring into the USA – your ancestors and mine!

Regulating Industry – curbing the runaway power of large corporations; curbing large business monopolies in key sectors; first President Roosevelt and then successor William Howard Taft led the battle to break up large industrial trusts, such as the Sugar Trust, Steel Trust, Beef Trust, and the Oil Trust (the Rockefellers’ sprawling Standard Oil Empire was broken into individual operating companies — today’s Exxon, Mobil etc..)

Progressivism – A Broad Societal Movement

Note that what we’re describing here was in ways a political movement, yes, but the progressives were not necessarily organized only as a political party movement (such as “the Democratic Platform”).

This was a society-wide, mostly national social movement at many levels of the culture working to make America a better place…a kinder and more caring society…and more inclusive society…yes, a society which encouraged the spreading of wealth beyond the handful of powerful elites who commanded the apportioning of capital, the means of industrial production, and the transport and distribution systems necessary for truly national commerce.

* * * * * * * *

A combination of forces brought progressivism to the center of American life: as author A.J. Scopino, Jr. writes:
“…Historians agree that in the first two decades of the 20th Century [reformers] employed a scientific approach when addressing social problems, No longer content to accept and explain the miseries of life through fatalism or sheer luck, progressives were eager to utilize new tools, strategies, methods, and discoveries of new academic disciplines (especially sociology), to correct social maladjustment.

“Examining workers’ wages, living expenses, housing conditions, family size, working conditions, diets, and other data, progressive reformers studied, analyzed, and then offered measures to correct inequity and insure social justice…

“As firm believers in the American democratic process and in American institutions, reformers called on the government to legislate against political, social and economic wrong doing…”

* * * * * * * *
And the Progressives wielded mighty clubs – the era’s hot new media such as mass circulation magazines, as well as daily newspapers (New York City had a half dozen or more dailies) were their communication outlets.

This was the time of the muckrakers – whose words were eagerly awaited as the uncovered corruption in business and government. Today’s “60 Minutes” on the CBS Network  continues the tradition begun a century ago by Ida Tarbell (nemesis of Standard Oil), Upton Sinclair (whose novel about big oil was recently made into the movie, “There Will Be Blood,” starring Daniel Day Lewis), writer Lincoln Steffens, and others.

The progressives brought about a better country with their reforms. Their work was instrumental, I believe, in creating the conditions that led to the rise of the middle class – the engine of our GDP (2/3 of the US economy). Millions of Americans were the beneficiaries of the progressive thinking of 100 years ago.

* * * * * * * *

Of course, conditions are different in 2008 and 2009, aren’t they? OK, let’s admit we’ve made tremendous progress as a society since the early 1900s. Thank the progressives for that.

The problems and challenges and issues of our age will be addressed in different ways, it appears, after January 20, 2009.

The early 20th Century progressives were united by a number of forces. Based on what I have been seeing in recent months – one example was the Barack Obama campaign fervor – this Millennium Generation, approaching positions of influence and power – may revive the spirit of the early Progressive Movement, especially if they unite to bring about important changes.

Stay Tuned to the shift taking place in public opinion, the shift from right-to-center or even center-left, and the drive for a better quality of life in this great nation. We may be on the verge of something really exciting – with expanding (not contracting) opportunity for most Americans! The best that our nation can be…may be just ahead of us.

Your thoughts?

(for more details on the Progressive Movement, read “The Progressive Movement, 1900-1917,” by A.J. Scopino, Jr; 1996m Discovery Enterprises Ltd.)

Photo: Crowded cities: The original Progressive Movement came together more than a century ago.  Under conditions that include several sounding a bit familiar in 2008.  Immigrants were flooding into the US (the late-1800’s waves came from Italy, Eastern Europe, Russia, and other lands) and many of the recent arrivals were living in terrible conditions as they landed and remained in the crowding cities.

The Cyber Attacks on America — Today, Identifying Russian Civilian and Military Intelligence Players as the Culprits

December 29 2016

FBI, Homeland Security, the Director of National Intelligence, the White House — speaking out today on the issues.  The pros and cons are vigorously debated!

by Hank Boerner

The headlines roared forth today:  President Barack Obama’s Administration announcing sanctions on Russian interests — President-Elect Donald Trump saying he’s not so sure the Russians were involved.  Prominent Republican U.S. Senators (John McCain and Lindsay Graham) demanding action against Russia.  Back and forth it went all day and on into the nightly news and the chattering cable class.  Russian leadership immediately chimed in promising retribution for any U.S. action taken against their country.

So what is going on?  We’ll see a flood of comments here in the U.S. (pro and con, certain and questioning) on this and that and whatever, about the Russians hacking, whether that affected the recent election outcome, who thinks they did and who thinks they did not…and on and on.

Take a deep breath.  For context, let’s begin with the official announcements from the U.S. government agencies on the front lines of the attack/defense/retribution. (I know, I know — not everyone will trust the official government explanations!)  To the extent that you trust government agencies and leaders of those entities, at least understand what it is that they are saying on the record.  And what information they put forth to support their opinions.

The President today authorized actions in response to the Russian government’s “…aggressive harassment of U.S. officials and cyber operations aimed at the U.S. election in 2016…”

The President-elect has been communicating (in various ways as is his style) that he is not so sure that it was the Russian government.

Some people are not getting past these conflicting views to get to the rest of the story. (We do know that President-elect Donald Trump apparently bristles at any mention of less-than-a-triumph-for-him-at-the-ballot-box — just watch the tweeting. So the idea that there was outside influence could undermine the confidence in his win – not good.

The White House today emphatically said the cyber intrusions — yes, attacks — were intended to attempt to influence the 2016 election (the main story the media picks up on).  AND they were intended to erode faith in U.S. democratic institutions; and, undermine confidence in the institutions of the U.S. government.  That part should make every American anxious — and angry — and give pause to think about the consequences of this, if true — no matter their political and personal beliefs (left/right, liberal/conservative, Democrat/Republican, etc.)

The Obama Administration is taking action in response, and what we know at least publicly tonight is:

  • Nine Russian entities and individuals are now officially sanctioned. These are the two Russian intelligence services (GRU and FSB); four officers of the GRU; and three “companies” providing support to the GRU.
  • The U.S. Treasury Department identified two Russians who used cyber-enabled means to steal funds and personal identifications.
  • The U.S. State Department designated two Russian compounds (in New York and Maryland) used by Russian intelligence agencies, ordering them shut overnight and entrance barred to Russians.
  • 35 individuals identified as Russian intelligence operatives are declared persona non grata – they are accused of violating their diplomatic duties and must leave the U.S. (and cannot enter if they are out of the country).  The individuals are in the Washington, D.C. Russian embassy and the San Francisco Consulate.  They have to be out of the U.S. (with their families) in 72 hours.
  • The U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Bureau of Investigation released de-classified technical information on Russia’s civil and military intelligence services cyber activity to help American network managers identify, detect and disrupt Russia’s global campaign of malicious cyber attacks.
  • The Obama Administration will deliver a report to the U.S. Congress soon detailing the Russian efforts to interfere in the November presidential election and what the Russians have done in past elections.  This should create more headlines (and cable chatter) as it lands on Capitol Hill.
  • The White House pointedly reminded us today that President Obama, back in April 2015 — long before the 2016 election — signed an Executive Order (#13964) creating a new authority for the U.S. government to more effectively respond to Russian (and others’) cyber threats.  This enabled the U.S. government to harm or compromise the abilities of “entities” attacking the U.S. — this could be via a distributed-denial-of-service (“DDOS”), for example.
  • And, the U.S. government could cause a significant misappropriation of funds or economic resources, trade secrets, personal identifiers, or financial information for commercial or competitive advantage or private financial gain.  Watch this!  There’s three weeks to go in the tenure of President Obama.The FBI and the Department of Homeland Security today issued a “white bulletin” (publicly available information) on “Grizzly Steppe” (Russian Malicious Cyber Activity).  The 13-page document is a “Joint Analysis Report” (JAR) that says this:  Russian civilian and military intelligence services (“RIS”) have been attacking the U.S. government, private sector entities, political entities (the Democratic Party), and attempted to interfere with the presidential election.

Think about this:  Attacked / hacked in the USA:  critical infrastructure entities; think tanks; universities; political organizations; corporations in the private sector.

Today’s document provides detailed information for American network security managers to protect their systems. Watch out for “Energetic Bear,” “Fancy Bear,” “Grey Cloud,” “HammerDuke,” “Tiny Baron,” “SEADADDY,” “WaterBug” — and many more Russian operators in your IT systems!

As for the election season attacks, the U.S. government officially confirms that two different “RIS” actors penetrated the Democratic National Committee systems.  They were identified as “APT 29” and “APT 28” — Advanced Persistent Threats.  The successful attacks started in summer 2015 and continued into spring 2016. The attacks are detailed in the JAR — you can read it (it’s publicly available) here: https://www.us-cert.gov/sites/default/files/publications/JAR_16-20296.pdf

And to make sure the American public understands the Federal government’s position on the Russian attacks, the FBI, Homeland Security (DHS) and the Office of Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) said the following:  The intelligence community is confident that the Russian Government directed the recent compromises of e-mails from U.S. persons and institutions, and that the disclosures of alleged hacked e-mails on sites like DCLeaks.com and WikiLeaks are consistent with the Russian-directed efforts.

Government officials said this activity by Russian intelligence services is part of a decade-long campaign of cyber-enabled operations directed at the U.S. government and its citizens.

As we know, a great deal of information — such as analysis and forensics — related to Russian government activity has been published by private sector security companies.  The U.S. government today confirms that the Russian Government conducted many of these activities as reported by the private sector firms over the recent months. (The U.S. government says the attacks have been going on for a decade or more.)

And so, the U.S. government is now arming computer network defenders with tools to identify, detect and disrupt Russian cyber activities that can do harm.

Over the coming days there will be lots of back and forth on who did what / or didn’t / or who should be tracked down and punished / or “we should move on and forget all this talk about the election, etc. 

Remember that Executive Order 13694: It was issued in April 2015 and updated (amended) today by the President.  This is an Executive Order Taking Additional Steps to Address The National Emergency With Respect to Malicious Cyber-Enabled Activities.

The update adds entities and individuals to the “Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons (SDN List). Russian individuals are named as well as these Russian entities:

  • The FSB / Federal Security Service of Russia
  • The Main Intelligence Directorate
  • Special Technology Center/St. Petersburg
  • Zorsecurity / Esage Lab / Tsor Security
  • ANO PO KSI — The Autonomous Noncommercial Organization of Professional Association of Designers of Data Processing Systems

Stay Tuned:  Watch the rollout of the activities authorized by the Executive Order — including naming names and related personal financial information that could roil Moscow, depending on the details to be released.

There’s still more than 20 days to go for President Barack Obama to order action. Silent or announced.

You can read the Executive Order update here at the U.S. Department of the Treasury: https://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/sanctions/OFAC-Enforcement/Pages/20161229.aspx

 

 

 

 

America – The Great Melting Pot – The Crucible

America – The Great Melting Pot – the “Crucible” of Humankind

A commentary by Hank Boerner

At least until recently, many of us took pride in the idea that our great United States of America was “a melting pot,” where immigrants from many nations, of varying religious and ethnic backgrounds, could figuratively “come ashore” as many of our ancestors did via Ellis Island in New York Harbor.

Lately, listening to the presidential and congressional campaigns and now the post-campaign rhetoric, the “Golden Door” of America (as attributed by numerous writers to the essence of our Statue of Liberty astride the gateway) is in danger of being sealed up and replaced by the promised wall along the 2,000-mile border between Mexico and the U.S.A.  (As one author told us of the door, “…it is the entrance into liberty and freedom from oppression that is the promise of America, a land, a people, a way of life…”

You might recall the words of poet Emma Lazarus, firmly inscribed on the base of the statue:  “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free…” (“The New Colossus,” 1883.)

I grew up in New York, and have lived and worked here most of my life, with brief interludes in Washington, D.C. and Florida.  Riding on the city subway system most days, it is clear that at least in this bustling urban center, we here are still an example of the melting pot.

Where did this concept come from?  “The Melting Pot” was the title of a 1908 play by Israel Zangwill; it depicts the life of a Jewish-Russian immigrant family that survived an early-1900s pogrom in the Old Country and escaped to safety in America. The play was staged in Washington, D.C., and then-President Teddy Roosevelt (#26, a Republican) was in the White House and attended the debut performance.  (TR was born in New York City and lived most of his life in the Empire State.)

From this stage drama came the familiar phrase, “Melting Pot” to describe America…the “glory of America, where all races and nations come to labour and look forward…”  In the play, author Zangwill has his hero, David, write a musical symphony, “The Crucible,” with the dream of ethnicity disappearing in America.

In the early-1900s theatrical work, the phrase “Melting Pot” quickly gained in popularity to describe the American immigrant experience.

Thinking about this recently, I consulted the National Geographic (NG) magazine, mid-1914 issue, published just as the Old World (Europe, Near East) plunged into the worst armed conflict ever — the Great War, now known to many of us as World War One (which began in summer 1914).  One consequence of WW I for America would be that immigration to our shores would slow to a trickle.  That was a dramatic societal change when we consider what preceded the war.

In 1914, NG reported, one-in-seven people in the U.S.A. were born outside of our borders (13-and-a half-million), equal to the population of Belgium and The Netherlands combined, or Norway/Sweden/Denmark/Switzerland combined. (Of course, all of those nations were the former homelands of millions of new Americans.)

The magazine writers tantalized the readers with lively descriptions:  We had more Germans than the City of Berlin; enough Irish to populate four Dublins; enough Italians to populate three Romes.

Immigration Pushing Westward

The American civil war between the north and south states involved 23 slavery-free states and five border states supporting the Union and 11 states of the south forming the Confederacy.  That five-year long war that killed 600,000 Americans ended in April 1865.  In May of that same year, the transcontinental railroad was completed, linking America’s east and west coasts, and cementing our notion of “Manifest Destiny.”

Europeans (primarily) poured into these once again-United States of America — some staying in coastal cities, many more flowing westward.  The Erie Canal helped to move goods and people westward through the Great Lakes.  Railroads began to criss-cross states, old and new.  Vast agricultural lands were settled (Iowa, Minnesota, Kansas, Illinois, Oklahoma, and on and on).

As the swelling American population began moving from farm-to-city to work in the factories of the new Industrial Age, many more immigrants poured into the cities.  Five million-plus arrived on our shores between 1900 and 1910 (when Teddy Roosevelt was in the White House).  Actually, eight-and-a-half million arrived, but three million-plus turned around and returned to their home country.

The American Dream was sought by those “huddled masses” from: Germany, Russia, Ireland, Italy, Canada, Austria, England, Sweden, Hungary, Norway, Scotland, Mexico, Denmark, Finland, Switzerland, Netherlands, France, Greece, Wales, Japan, Turkey-in-Asia, Portugal, China, Belgium, the Atlantic Islands, Cuba, Bulgaria, Australia, the many nations in South America, Montenegro, Newfoundland, India, Serbia, all of Africa, Luxemburg, Pacific Islands, and Central American nations.  In that descending order of origins — the German-born in the lead.  Perhaps your ancestors are included in the tidal wave of people that reached our shores before WW I.

But even in the early-1900s there was a slowing of certain nationalities — notably, Germans and Irish.  But those earlier waves of immigrants were having families, and so by 1914 there were 19 million people whose parent or parents were foreign born.  And so an astounding 32 million of our citizens — one third of the total population — was either foreign-born or children of first generation immigrants who were foreign-born.

Stats Tell a Story

The earliest reliable statistics tracking immigrants to the U.S. are from 1820 forward.  In 1887, there were almost 500,000 new arrivees.  As the 19th Century turned to the 20th, the one million mark was reached (in 1905); heading toward 1914, the flow had reached 1.2 million — and then dramatically declined to 100,000 by 1918. The Great Migration to our shores was ending.

In 2016 we are a nation of three-plus times the population of those years (100 million then / 324 million today).

And the migration of the legally-admitted today is …. still about one million (2014 data).

What About The Un-Documented Among Us

The issue that irks many Americans, as evidenced in the political campaigns, is the presence of the “illegal or undocumented or illegally-admitted ” non-US citizens” among us.  That could be as many as 11 million (but dropping), according to The Washington Post  story earlier this year, citing the data of the Center for Migration Studies (of course, it’s a New York-based think tank.)  Trending Down: illegal immigration from Mexico and Central America with sharper declines from South America and Europe.

Today’s Immigrant Population

With changes in American law, “immigrants” today include such classifications as those who are lawful residents; tourists, students and workers admitted on a temporary basis; those who apply for asylum or refugee status; and the “naturalized” of the foreign-born.

The Immigration and Naturalization Act governs immigration policy.  There is a limit  set of 675,000 permanent immigrants allowed per year (with some allowance for close family members).  Non-citizens are also allowed on a temporary basis.

Our public policy accommodates family-based immigration; employment -based immigration; and, permanent immigration. There are country ceilings (limits).  And allowance for certain refugees and asylees, and vulnerable populations (think: today’s Syrians, Iraqis, etc.) The latter totals just 85,000 per year.

There is a Diversity Visa Program. Remember the German and Irish and Italian flows more than a century ago? They are not coming in such numbers now, so the Immigration Act of 1990 created a system of allowing immigrants from low-number countries to immigrate to the U.S. — about 55,000 persons per year.

Remember the excitement about President Obama’sDreamers,” a program designed for immigrants who might become eligible for citizenship? There are about 1.8 million eligible, including many who are between 15 and 30 years of age.  The Dreamers are mostly young, of various ages up to 30 and are those brought here as children by their parents entering the country without permission (“illegally” here in popular rhetoric). Half of the Dreamers live in California and Texas; New York has 89,000; Florida, 106,000.  About half are female.  Seven-out-of-10 came from Mexico.  They anxiously await the changes that may take place in public policy when President Obama leaves office.

As We Await the Trump Administration

All of this is interesting to say the least for us to think about, as we await the Trump Administration and the 115th Congress coming to Washington — with immigration reform high on the agenda.

One element of the running conversation on immigration is that of the Muslim population. Should those applying to come here who are of the Muslim faith be denied admittance if they come from certain majority-Muslim nations?  Should Muslim citizens (and non-citizens) among us be required to register and a special database kept (their whereabouts, activities, and so on to be tracked and charted)?

We had somewhat of the same question raised a century ago, back in that 1914 era, when people of German origins comprised a very large part of the American population. (Donald J. Trump’s grandfather among them).  If America went to war with the Kaiser’s Germany, the discussion of the day was, would the German-Americans / or / American-Germans be trusted in the U.S. military?  Would they fight their cousins on European battle fields?

 Loyalty of New Citizens

This was an important question.  The American ambassador to Germany at the time, James W. Gerard, delivered a speech on the subject in April 1918 – a few months before we went to war with Germany.

The German-Americans embraced their new nation’s cause unconditionally, he told the German leadership. And he warned them of what would happen to any German-American who betrayed America.  The German foreign minister had told the ambassador that [Germany] had 500,000 “German reservists” in America who would rise in arms against the United States if our country made any move against Germany.

So, the ambassador said in his comments:  America would have 500,001 lampposts in where the “reservists” would be hanging the day after they tried to rise.  And if there were any German-Americans who were so ungrateful for the benefits they received that they are still for the Kaiser (the German leader) there is only one thing to do.  Give them back their wooden shoes and the rags they landed in, and ship them back to the Fatherland.

And for good measure he added:  “I have traveled over all the United States — through the Alleghenies, the Catskills, the Rockies (etc.).  And in all these mountains, there is no animal that bites and kicks and squeals and scratches, that would bite and squeal and scratch equal to a  German-American, if you commenced to tie him up and told him that he was on his way back to the Kaiser [and the former homeland].”

The Question Arose Again in 1941-42

The question was again raised in 1941 as the military-led Empire of Japan attacked the U.S. military bases in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii and declared war on the U.S. (and we immediately declared war on Japan).  In what is now acknowledged by many to be a shameful period in American history, Japanese-Americans (“Nisei”) were rounded up and sent to internment camps — up to 120,000 men, women and children.

But the young men joined the military to fight for their country, the United States of America. More than 30,000 Nisei served in the U.S. Army, a good number fighting bravely as members of the 442nd Infantry Regiment, one of the most decorated units in all of U.S. military history.  While they fought in Italy, the young Boy Scouts back in the internment camps in the U.S. conducted memorial services for the fallen.

The Nisei were Americans first in the 1940s, as were the German-Americans before them in the early 1900s.  Oh, and the Nisei soldiers were among those liberating Jews at the Nazi slave camps, including Dachau.  Wonder what they were thinking as they remembered the fate of their families back home in western U.S. internment camps.

About America, the Melting Pot, America, the Crucible

The originator of the “Melting Pot” and “The Crucible,” Israel Zangwill was a British-born teacher, author and playwright (1864-1926) who was an ardent supporter of 19th Century “Zionism.”  While championing a Jewish homeland, he had strong thoughts about America.  Look at the words his character says in the famous play:

“America is God’s crucible, the great Melting-Pot where all the races of Europe are melting and reforming!  Here you stand, good folk, think I, when I see them at Ellis Island, here you stand in your 50 groups with your 50 languages and histories, and your 50 blood hatreds and rivalries.

“But you won’t be like that, brothers, for these are the fires of God you’ve come to — these are the fires of God.  A fig for your feuds and vendettas!  Germans and Frenchmen, Irishmen and Englishmen, Jews and Russians. Into the Crucible with you all!  God is making the American.

“The real American has not yet arrived.  He is only in the Crucible, I tell you.  He will be the fusion of all races, the common superman.”

 Lessons for 2017

What are the lessons of all of this for we Americans in the last weeks of the year 2016 — and looking into what might happen in 2017?   When the first European explorers reached the North American shores, the land was sparsely settled — estimates range from 7 to 18 million indigenous peoples were here.  America as we know it is an immigrant nation.

Of course, every nation must be able to secure its boundaries, its borders.  We are a nation of laws, based on our wonderful Constitution and Bill of Rights as foundation, and it is not unreasonable to expect that people arriving here will do so within the framework of the law — “legally,” if you please.

The questions to be addressed going forward are:  (1) what should our legal immigration policies be? (2) What do we do — humanely — about those that did not follow the rules but now live among us?  (3)  What do we do about asylees and refugees who want to come to our country?  (4)  What do we do about citizens born here, and protected by our Constitution, if their parents came without permission when they were children?  (5) What should our conversation be about immigrants and immigration and so on, so that those we welcome here….feel welcomed!

Stay Tuned — the answers should be coming in early-2017.

* * * * * * * *

Check out The Washington Post story about illegal immigration at: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/federal-eye/wp/2016/01/20/u-s-illegal-immigrant-population-falls-below-11-million-continuing-nearly-decade-long-decline-report-says/

About author Israel Zangwill:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Israel_Zangwill

More background on “The Crucible” and playwright: “American Crucible:  Race and Nation in the 20th Century” by Gary Gerstle (published by Princeton University Press, 2001).

I’ve commented in this blog about immigration and the wonder of our Immigrant Nation — see my Thanksgiving 2014 post:  http://www.hankboerner.com/staytuned/happy-thanksgiving-tomorrow-yes-it-will-be-heres-my-why/

Just The Facts, Ma’am, Said Detective Joe Friday. The Dragnet Cop Should Be Around Today…

by Hank Boerner – August 11, 2016

The brilliant presidential advisors and later, U.S. Senator from New York, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, said it best: Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but not their own facts.”

As I watch the current presidential campaign, the good Senator’s comments come to mind. So do the comments of Detective Sergeant Joe Friday on Dragnet (radio and TV) about “facts.” (“Just the facts, ma’am,” he would say.)

Too often, it seems, facts and fiction became intertwined and inseparable in the running commentary of the 2016 presidential election.

Let’s look at some economic facts in the hope that he American voting public can be better informed when watching the television news reports or attending a political rally.

Let’s start with these exciting facts for investors: Today as I write this (August 11) the three major stock market indexes all reached all-time highs, simultaneously. The last time that happened was 1999 – 17 years ago.

Today the most followed market stock market indexes stand at:

  • Dow Jones Industrial: 18,613
    S&P 500: 2,185
    NASDAQ: 5,228

Where were we on January 20, 2009, as the new president was being sworn in? (Recall that was the time of the financial markets meltdown and investment portfolios were heading to 40% losses.)

  • Dow Jones Industrial: 7,949
    S&P 500: 805
    NASDAQ: 1,140

This week’s market news is pretty encouraging for 401-k and IRA owners, eh?

Let’s look briefly at national unemployment rates:

  • July 2016: 4.9 per cent
    January 2009: 7.8% (would rise to 9.9% by December)

The web platform Politifact (published by the Tampa Bay Times in Florida) provided a scoreboard of the economy under President Barack Obama in June 2012 as he neared the end of his first term.

Fact: Overall inflation was 4.3% in 2008 / “Zero” was at in 2009

In the months leading up to the start of the Obama Presidency in January 2009, layoffs were peaking and the number of jobs lost — according to the U.S. Department of Labor — exceeded an estimated 7 million jobs…going, going gone as the Great Recession took the national economy into the abyss.

In December 2008 the U.S. Department of Labor described the situation this way: “…unemployment rose to 7.2% (from 6.8% the prior month); employment [fell that month] by 524,000; 1.9 million jobs were lost in the last four months of 2008; job losses were large and widespread across major industry sectors.”

There were 2.6 million jobs lost just in the year 2008 alone (fact source is CNN Money). The job losses in the U.S.A. were astronomical as the stock market cratered in 2008 and into 2009.

Consider: In September 2008: some 400,000-plus jobs were gone. In November 2008: 800,000 jobs lost. Layoffs continued into 2009, into the early months of the new administration in Washington (April 2009: almost 700,000 jobs disappeared).

Think of the ripple effect — if one industrial job was lost, economists’ rule of thumb was that three or four or more other jobs were disappearing, too.

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities reported on August 10, 2016: Employers have added nearly 200,000 jobs each month since early 2010. (Remember: early in 2009 Congress passed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.)

After going deep into non-growth GDP territory in 2008, 2009 and toward 2010, we moved back into positive growth in 2010 and pretty much stayed there until today.

Check out the interesting charts at: http://www.cbpp.org/research/economy/chart-book-the-legacy-of-the-great-recession.

Last month — July 2016 — the country added 255,000 jobs.

Whether you believe the White House records or not, in March 2016 that was the source for this set of data:  The private sector had added 14.4 million jobs over 73 straight months of job growth.

There was not all good news of course, and you can check out the full report with its data and charts here: https://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2016/04/01/employment-situation-march

Look at the job gains as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor this year (2016) alone:

January:168,000
February: 233,00
March: 186,000
April: 144,000
May: 234,000
June almost 300,000
July: 255,000

And let’s not remove from our memory the preservation of an important industry employing hundreds of thousands of men and women in this country: vehicle manufacturing and marketing. Politifact noted (September 2012) that employment for car makers and their suppliers was up 250,000 jobs from 2009, with sales rising for Ford (13%), Chrysler (14%) and General Motors (10%) in 2011.

That’s a long way from 2008: GM out of cash to pay bills, Chrysler reeling as well; Ford in better shape financially having mortgaged literally all of its assets just before the financial meltdown on Wall Street. (The New York Times, November 27, 2006 — USD$19 billion as factories, equipment, offices, patents, trademarks, ownership in Volvo and other businesses were mortgaged.)

The rescue of the auto industry began under the presidency of George W. Bush, using TARP funds in his last months in office (fact), and continued under the presidency of Barack Obama. The heart of U.S. industrial power, the auto & truck manufacturing industry, was rescued by the Federal government with U.S. taxpayer money — which has been paid back for the most part. And jobs were protected.

“Make America Great Again,” the apparently trademarked slogan for the 2016 campaign (should we put a “TM” or “patent pending” or “R” here?), does have a certain resonance. In economic reality terms, however, it does not reflect the true condition of the economy after eight years of the current occupant of the White House. (He-whose-name-may-not-be-mentioned-in-certain-circles. OK, it’s Barack Obama.)

We as voters are entitled to the facts – -not fear mongering, not the offering up of misleading “facts” or the rhetoric of provocateurs. Having facts we can make better informed decisions as part of our civic responsibility — that is, when we enter the voting booth.

This probably comes across as a partisan commentary, favoring one side or the other. My intention is to present facts — the word descending down to our time from the ancient Latin, meaning “…the thing that is done, the thing known to be true…” vs. factitious, descending as well from Latin “…imagined, made up, artificial, not real or genuine…”

As fictional detective Joe Friday used to say on the popular television series “Dragnet”: “…just the facts, ma’am, just the facts…”

Or in the expression of this era…just sayin’.

“Values” And Political Candidates — How to Evaluate What You See and Hear This Election Season

 

by Hank Boerner

Back in May, as the primary season was in full roar, the two main contenders were steadily emerging in the leader position —  Donald Trump and Secretary Hillary Clinton. Tonight the two square off at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York (about 20 miles east of Manhattan).

Are you tuning in? Estimates are that perhaps 100 million people will be watching on broadcast, cable and social media. We are along, long way from the first televised presidential debate, between Senator John Kennedy and VP Richard Nixon. That was a very polite and real debate, with issues front and center and the two contenders exchanging compliments (about the other).

The two contenders today are absolute opposites and lightning rods in their own right  for serious criticism — and at the same time heaped with praise by their fiercely fervent followers.  So how do we cut through the bombast and probably the insults and barbs and snide-ery to take the true measure of each of the contenders?

For sure, both are intelligent, strong-minder, powerful personalities who first names are front-of-mind in every corner of our country.

Back in May, as the two contenders were moving ahead in the polling, I shared thoughts on how to judge the “values” of the Republican and Democratic front-runner.

Update: Here is my May 2016 commentary — hope that it is helpful for you.

The nation is being perceived at home and abroad perceived as being deeply divided on many issues. Labels abound — signifying “I’m right/you are wrong” on many issues.

Labels:  Right-Left. Liberal-Conservative. New York City & Hollywood and the rest of the USA. The One Percent and the rest of us (the 99%).  Republican-Democrat, or at least by the labels of what that used to mean.

Look at the messages: Put up a big wall (a beautiful wall, 60-feet tall with a beautiful door) to keep “them” out vs. a more liberal immigration policy. No Muslims allowed vs. we cannot discriminate and the basis of religious or ethnic origin. (Remember that powerful First Amendment!) Tear up NAFTA vs. those advocating for free trade polices. Free tuition – for all in public universities. No more student loans. Vs everyone should pay their own way.

And on and on and on. If you own stock in ABC-TV (that is, in parent Walt Disney Company stock, the corporate owner)– or perhaps CNN (parent Time Warner) — or MSNBC (Comcast) or Fox (News Corp), you should be pleased. The ad campaign dollars have been flowing in and the best is yet to come in the general election cycle.

If you are the “average” American (whatever definition that is today), and you are trying to decide who to vote for, perhaps volunteer for, maybe click the payment button on the candidate web site to send money…well, you are not alone if you are anxious, confused, angry, disappointed, disgusted, hopeful, and more.

So I will briefly share some of my coaching techniques here that may help you to better evaluate “who” is deserving of your support and vote. (And DO vote this November; a lot is at stake!).

“The Rhetoric” — Not a Bad Word

We often toss around the term, “rhetoric” (as in, oh, that’s just political rhetoric) but the concept is very important. Here’s why.

Over the years in my professional life, and even in my personal dealings with leadership (when I volunteer to do so), my coaching for speech-making and more effective campaigning goes back about many centuries, to Ancient Greece and in the years of  300’s B.C.

We owe thanks to Ancient Greece for introducing us the first western concept of democracy. Think Demos in Ancient  Greece  the People. Greece was a direct form (not representative form) of democracy.  Rhetoric was as a system devised by the wise men to help the citizens (and not everyone was one) to understand politics and politicking (Polity, derived from the Greek word for citizen…politics should be all about the work of citizens in governing themselves in the democracy. )

The perfecter of the system of rhetoric was the great teacher,  Aristotle, He was born about 384 B.C. and died at age 62 in 322 B.C. He is credited with greatly influencing western philosophy, Islam and Judaism, and many philosophers and deep thinkers who would follow.

Aristotle is often credited with being the first tue scientist; creator of “logic” as we know it; was one of the most honored citizens and teachers of his time.

The important teaching relevant to this essay is about rhetoric  —  in the the Ancient Greek, the making of magnificent orator, a teacher. Here are brief highlights of what my partners  and I  adopted in our leadership coaching from the Aristotle’s teachings on rhetoric.  Aristotle believed there were three means of persuasion in the democracy:  reason, character and emotion.  These are all on display in 2016 in the U.S.A.

Ethics and Values Come First

First — consider ethos – from this our modern day term ” ethics” has descended. It’s about the values of the orator. What are his/her personal values, beliefs, actions, ethical behaviors? They are on display in the speaker up there on the podium, derived in great measure from the actions (walking the talk) as well as the pronouncements.

Second — consider pathos — from this we get modern day sympathy, empathy. It is about the connection with the audience (“hearer,” receiver of the oration]. Is the speaker connecting with the audience? Are they feeling connected with him/her?  Do they share values?  Do you share the values of the candidate(s) that you prefer in 2016?

Third — consider logos — the word from the Ancient Greek. We think of “logo” in terms of the familiar corporate branding but it means more. It is the word/words — the signs — coming from the speaker to the audience.  And other signals, some silent. (Doe she look you in the eye?  Does he seem uncomfortable up there?  Do you have a feeling that what the speaker is saying isn’t ringing true with you?)

Putting It All Together

So simply put, does the orator (1) demonstrate the values that the audience appreciates, agrees with, shares with the speaker? Is the speaker connecting with the audience in powerful ways? (The best of our preachers know well how to do this on Sunday mornings.) And are the words coming forth (the logos) resonating…creating empathy…”ringing true” with those listening?

This is the system of persuasive rhetoric. And in the end, if all this works, we achieve mythos…a powerful, memorable, moving story that will ripple out way beyond that immediate audience. In the Ancient Greek, it was about a teaching a fable. But we clearly remember childhood fables, don’t we? The turtle and the hare. Jack and the Beanstalk. LIttle Red Riding Hood and “grandma” Wolf.

And the mythos created by a candidate is very powerful. Think of President Ronald Reagan — the Great Communicator. President Theodor RooseveltSpeak Softly and Carry the Big Stick.  President Franklin RooseveltWe Have Nothing to Fear But Fear Itself!  President John KennedyAsk Not What Your Country Can Do For You!  These logos became the enduring legacy of many presidents.

And so whether conscious or not of the power of the system of rhetoric, we the listeners will no doubt be making up our minds on candidates in 2016 based on their rhetoric. The two front runners now — Donald Trump and Secretary Hillary Clinton — have mastered rhetoric, whether by conscious means or not.  You like them or not based on the system of rhetoric I’ve just set out for your use.

I am writing this summary for you, dear friend and voter, not the candidates. They have their own advisors. I’m sharing this so that you can watch and listen to the candidates and the campaigns as these unfold, and put the ethos-pathos-logos together and see if the mythos (story) adds up and matches your own story. (Every one of our lives and those of our loved ones, near and departed, is a story, right?  A story we tell over and over in various ways.}

It may be that you have to hold your nose or avert your eyes and cast your vote. Or, happily, a candidate may really touch you and their mythos resonates.

So far, the two political party outsiders — Senator Bernie Sanders and The Donald — have done a really good job of creating their stories, mostly anti-establishment, anti-status quo. Their rhetoric is resonating with enthusiastic, cheering audiences.

What are your issues? What keeps you up at night? What are your daily worries? Think about the ethos — the values of the candidate(s) — and think hard: do they match your feelings about key issues, etc.?

Having coached corporate executives, public officials, heads of activist organizations, and others in the Aristotlean method of the rhetoric, I must listen to the candidates through this lens. And so can you.

And, (sigh) since we are a very divided nation on so many issues, I am finding it challenging to nail down the mythos that most appeals to me. I think that many Americans are in the same boat.

As my colleague and friend Larry Checco (a brilliant essayist) writes, this year it’s not about political party anymore — it’s about COUNTRY! in this election cycle.  You can see his essay at:

And the 40% of the electorate that is reputed to be “independent” of party label or affiliation will be the determining factor in November.

When you hear “rhetoric,” keep in mind now that it is an ancient yet very powerful system to motivate you, the voter.  Use this guide in evaluating who should get your very precious gift in November – your vote!

Good luck to us all!

 

Personal footnote: My growin’ up hometown is Hempstead, New York (and semi-rural East Hempstead). How great it is for this hometown boy to see Hometown Hempstead and Hofstra University in the headlines ’round the clock!

Candidate Bernie Says – Free College Tuition — The Appeal is to….Seniors?

by Hank Boerner – May 2, 2016

Feel the Bern” — and many younger voters or would-be voters like what they hear and see when Senator Bernie Sanders called for “free tuition” to public colleges and universities. So what’s not to like if you seek a higher education and get your ticket stamped to enter the world-of-work with credentials and a solid education? Without a great debt burden?

The total student debt outstanding in the USA now exceeds $1 trillion. The debt-burdened can get relief in federal bankruptcy court from most of what they owe — but not student loans debt. These follow you to the grave! Seriously.

Bloomberg Business News magazine had a focus on this in the December 27, 2015 issue: “Hey, Pops, My Student Loans Are Due.” Now you would think that meant a young adult was letting Mom and Dad know the rent owed for living at home in the basement apartment was not coming forth. No. This is something very different. And something that may be really resonating with the Bern’s message.

You see, the story was about the escalating student debt of the SENIOR population! According to the non-partisan [federal] government’s Government Accountability Office (GAO), the education-related loans owned by those over 65 years of age totaled $2.8 billion in 2005 — and grew to $18.2 billion in 2013 (the latest data available). This was their own and their offsprings’ education and related school expenses.

In 2013, says the GAO, 155,000 seniors lost part of their Social Security payments to government seizure to repay student loans. (the government can also grab your tax return money to repay loans.)

More than half of the student loans owed by those over 75 years of age were in default. Talk about student loan debt follow to the graveyard.

To get debt relief (almost impossible, expert say) seniors would have to prove that without relief their life is hopeless.

One borrower profiled by Bloomberg BW writer Natalie Kitroeff was Robert Murphy of Canton, Massachusetts. his story sounds like it could be that of many other Americans in the middle class who “did all the right things” and got shafted in the end. (Which makes The Bern’s arguments ring true with so many other people of all ages, not just the young.)

He was educated, served as CEO of a manufacturing company, encouraged his kids to pursue a college education, signed up for loans (Parent PLUS loans that are federally-assured), and lived well. And then. His company moved overseas (sound familiar, out there in manufacturing-land, USA?). He lost his job and then his house. and owes Uncle Sam $250,000. Which he cannot pay.

And so — free tuition at public colleges and universities sure sounds like a really good deal for students of ALL ages, doesn’t it! If Mr. Murphy or his wife (a teacher’s aide) want to go back to school to prepare for another career, Senator Saunders’ message sounds like it fits their situation.

And so it is not just the young who are responding with enthusiasm to The Bern’s messages.

And The Donald’s message — I will bring back American manufacturing jobs — is very appealing as well.

This is an interesting presidential campaign for parsing out issues (and messages about issues) that are really resonating with voters (at least in primary season).

Watch the seniors (remember they vote in great numbers) and the call for (1) free college tuition, and (2) bringing middle class, higher paying jobs in manufacturing back to the American nation. The realities may be elsewhere (who pays for all of this public largesse and how to actually yank back the millions of jobs that moved out of the USA?).

Next time you hear Senator Sanders repeat (again, yes, again) the call for free tuition — think through how many older Americans may be struggling under the burden of student loan debt, incurred for themselves and for their children. Something following you to the graveyard sounds awful scary!

Thanksgiving Day 2015 – The National Holiday to Pause and Acknowledge

by Hank Boerner

Thanksgiving Day in America, 2015  – we have many blessing to acknowledge and give thanks for…on this 152 year old national holiday…

At the White House, Washington, D.C. – October 3, 1863. This was a very troubling time in the life of the nation. Three months earlier, on a battlefield in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, the armies of the divided nation, north and south, clashed in a bloody and grim battle, with the loss of more than 50,000 men (dead, wounded, missing).

Soon after, in just two-minutes time, our 16th CEO — President Abraham Lincoln — would deliver his famous “Gettysburg Address,” summing up the past, present and future promise of the United States of America…all that in just 272 words. Now, on that October 3rd some 152 years ago, a longer worded proclamation would be issued: the Proclamation of Thanksgiving.

A news magazine editor, Sarah Josepha Hale, wrote to Mr. Lincoln in September 1863 urging him to “have a day of our annual Thanksgiving made a National and fixed Union festival.” The future course of the Union was not assured in Fall 1863, as seven states of the south in 1861 had declared their intention to leave the Union of [then] 33 states and to create their own government– the Confederacy. The bloody Civil War between the Union and the Confederation was on — and 600,000 Americans would lose their lives over the course of the four year war.

As a message of hope in dark days, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national day of Thanksgiving. The year, he wrote, “…has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. In the midst of a civil war, of unequaled magnitude and severity, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of war…”

The President implored the “interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it…the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility, and Union. “ He ordered the nation to “set apart and observe the last Thursday of November as a day of Thanksgiving and praise…”

And so for the American nation, the tradition began, of a proclaimed day of pause, for giving thanks for all of the blessings that we as Americans enjoy (and often take for granted).  The holiday persists as an important “custom and tradition” in the words of the editor who wrote to Mr. Lincoln.

President Lincoln’s words should strike a familiar chord today for many of us. These are troubled times around the world. There is civil strife in many parts of the world, and wars of “great severity” being waged, with disastrous results for combatants and affected civilians. There is great “dis-harmony” in American politics, in our public sector, in the popular culture, in our news & commentary in media, and there is a serious inability in many spheres of the American society to “get along.”

President Lincoln sounded positive notes in issuing the Proclamation, enumerating many reasons for being thankful — including for “our continuing freedoms and the great abundance of the American nation.” The Proclamation looks forward to the day of a re-united United States of America. He called on “Americans to have a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwellith in the Heavens…and commend to His tender care all widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife…”

The President ended with: “…[we] fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and union.”
And so the order to set aside the last Thursday of November for the national holiday of Thanksgiving.

We were then a nation of 34 million; today we are ten times that population (320 million), the sweeping spaces of our continent from sea-to-shining-sea filled with immigrants, refugees and their many descendants. The spirit of Thanksgiving endures, embraced enthusiastically by generation of strangers coming to our shores.

But Thanksgiving, alas, is not appropriately honored  everywhere in he American nation. And that for me is troubling.

We are inundated with ads on TV and in newspapers this week beckoning us to come to retail stores — or even car dealerships! — in the early hours on Thanksgiving morning. (Or at any time during that holiday that was intended to be set aside for pause and celebration.) I think we should ask ourselves — do we really need to shop ’till we drop on this important national holiday?

I believe that Thanksgiving is day of celebration with important origins — a holiday created in a time when the future of the nation was in doubt…when there were great sacrifices made to preserve this very unique Union. Dark days, indeed — and the Thanksgiving holiday gave the American People hope for the future and pause to think about the unique nature of the Union created just two generations earlier.

The Union held of course, and in the years after the end of battles on American soil, tens of millions of immigrants would flee troubled lands and seek security, safety, freedom and opportunity in the abundance of the U.S.A. They and their descendants enthusiastically embraced the concept of Thanksgiving in America — and gave thanks for being “free” in this nation.

As I thought about this, my attention was called to very different ads with a more sensible approach (I think).  Where we live, here in suburban Long Island, New York, there are two family businesses that over the years have achieved local, regional and even national prominence for their quality of goods offered, the efficiency of operations, for the care and friendliness of their associates, and for the responsibility demonstrated for the communities they serve. I call them out here for their position on the Thanksgiving holiday.  Consider this:

King Kullen Supermarkets — one of the very first of the self-service supermarkets of the modern era in the USA, continuing to be operated today by the Cullen and Kennedy families. Their advertisement in Newsday this week stated the following:

“Giving Thanks — Giving Back is a Family Tradition at King Kullen.” The ad goes on to describe the tradition of giving back that began in the depths of the Great Depression, when the first store opened in Jamaica, NY. The chain’s stores are operating in limited hours for necessities on Thanksgiving Day so that employees can celebrate with their families.

P.C. Richard & Son – a very successful appliance and electronics store founded in 1909 and still operated today by the Richard family (into the third, fourth and fifth generation now). PC Richard’s advertising message is for sure, blunt and to the point:

“Save Thanksgiving. Honor Thanksgiving Day…a True American Holiday.”

Management explains: “Our 2,735 Employees Wish You a Very Healthy, Happy Thanksgiving…a Day for the Celebration of Families, Friends and Loved Ones.”

And this: “It is our opinion that retailers who choose to open on Thanksgiving show no respect to their employees and families, and are in total disrespect of family values in the United States of America. Keep Family First!”

And I think…on this Thanksgiving Day, the men and women in the Armed Forces of the USA are again on the battlefield, as they were in 1863. The nation is again divided, not in armed conflict, thankfully, but in divided in ideology, on social issues, politically, and on important cultural issues. As we were 152 years ago. Some of the same issues prevail, unresolved, ever-debated.

The P.C. Richard message rings true for me — as you see, I am disappointed by the distortions in the national Thanksgiving holiday created major retail chains that stay open and deny their employees the opportunity to be with family around the table of Thanksgiving. (It doesn’t help that financial market players talk on CNBC this week about the importance of staying open on Thanksgiving to help the retailers’ top and bottom lines. That is a variation on “Wall Street vs. Main Street” rhetoric.)

But there is good news to report: on this Thanksgiving Eve  A growing number of America’s major retailers are pledging to close on Thanksgiving so that their employees can be with family.

The names include Nordstrom, Costco, Bed Bath & Beyond, BJs, Burlington, TJ Maxx, Marshalls, Home Goods, Raymour & Flanigan, Staples, Pier I Imports, Petco, Petsmart, Sam’s Club, Barnes & Noble…and more. Kudos to them!

The actions of the managements of these companies bring to mind President Lincoln’s words: “…I do invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, those at sea and those sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise…”

Remember – there is always Black Friday to shop – when everyone is open.

To all my family, friends, colleagues – I wish you a most Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours. We have much to be thankful for this year, despite the issues that swirl around us. It’s a great time to be alive in this great Union…preserved with the blood and treasure of so many young men and women in too many wars since 1865 and the end of the tragic Civil War.

The complete list of stores pledging to close on Thanksgiving Day is at: http://www.theblackfriday.com/stores-closed-on-thanksgiving-day.php

The Lincoln Thanksgiving Proclamation is at: http://www.abrahamlincolnonline.org/lincoln/speeches/thanks.htm

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