Acceptance is Embracing YOUR Reality

Acceptance is not embracing “reality”, it’s embracing “your reality.”

In her April 26, blog post, psychologist Robin Chancer writes great advice about coping emotionally with Trump. But she oversimplifies a bit. She probably does this on purpose, but to me it creates two serious mistakes.

The sin of optimism

She wrote that optimism in bad times is bad, because we’ll be frequently, and seriously disappointed by all the bad stuff that’s happening.

What she didn’t say was that optimism is often a veneer over denial and resignation.

These are ways of avoiding not just the truths that seem to hurt, but many others as well. Some of these are important truths needed for effectively dealing with the problem. Some of these are vital higher truths.

The main “higher truth” is that, as humans, we err. All of our thinking is approximate. By denying what seems bad, we’re denying a truth we don’t like. So we’re both pretending it’s really true, and then hiding it away so we can’t see that it’s actually just our opinion, our interpretation.

Then our denial makes us latch onto a positive truth, for hope. For many, this means getting out of politics. Of course, this is the worst thing we can do- politics needs our voices and certainly our votes in the next primary and general elections.

For others, this means joining the political fight. That’s good, but we’ve then committed to the truth being that we need to fight. Don’t get me wrong- fighting is good. But it’s politics-as-usual. Yes, it’ll probably be a great boon in the next election, but it’s still the same politics-as-usual that got us into the fight.

What’s being covered up is that these positive and negative are what’s possible. Actually, much, much more is possible.

No one need suffer

Robin talks about “radical acceptance.

“How can I just accept these things? They are not okay!” Remember that acceptance is not condoning. To accept is not to say,“This is okay.” It is to say, This is what is.

The problem with this definition of “radical acceptance” is that again, people are fooled into thinking they’re accepting what exists. At best, they’re accepting the part of it they can see. Actually, they’re accepting the way they think things are.

This is reflected in an a passage where she quotes Marsha Linehan:

“The path out of hell is through misery.”

While dramatic, this is inaccurate. There is a big difference between pain and misery. It’s often very difficult to see the difference because we get wrapped up in the drama. Misery is a form of suffering. And suffering has been said to be “the human condition.” Yet Buddhism teaches that suffering is due to the ego, the attachment to the meanings that occur to us.

Really, the path out of hell is through pain. When you find yourself suffering, let it go.

Even better, mostly what people call “hell” isn’t real hell. Americans had real consequences when the Trump executive orders about immigration stopped many people from coming back into the country. There were real delays and real expenses. There was even physical pain from not being able to get to medications or return and take care of loved ones in pain.

But suffering was optional. Yes, upsets and misery are normal, but they’re truly optional.

Accept YOUR reality, not THE reality

Here is my correction:

To accept is not to say,“This is okay.” It is to say, “This is my reality.”

First, this is simply more accurate. Trump’s weird tweets continue. If your reality is that they’re abhorrent, then that’s your reality. It’s not mine. To me, we shouldn’t get upset that a mentally ill president is posting weird tweets. We should expect them and laugh. If you want to pretend to be angry to impress people, that’s your choice. If you want to suffer, that’s your choice, too. I don’t.

And I DO have emotional reactions to them. But I accept them as my emotional reactions. They’re part of an emotional reality my brain creates. By accepting that, I get to have a choice of whether to suffer or not. I usually return very quickly to a mentally ill president posting weird tweets.

Acceptance opens up new possibilities

The higher truth is that we are humans with limited ability to understand. Throughout the eons, a few of us have created new possibilities that have allowed humanity to make great strides. What’s possible is always much greater than what we know.

By accepting, “This is my reality,” we are left open to other possibilities outside of our reality.

Robin wrote: It simply means coming to terms with what is, and with what we cannot control.” Again, that’s wrong.

Better is: It simply means coming to terms with what seems to exist, and with what we think we cannot control.”

For instance, about politics, we can exert much more control than we know: There are lots of political groups with millions of people. If a fraction of those gave a few dollars to PeopleCount, we could begin to control politics in a mere 4-8 months.

You’re welcome to feel optimistic. But don’t let that stop you from signing up, donating, and getting your friends to do the same.

PeopleCount’s main challenges are two. First, I’m working on it part-time and largely alone. At times I have a person or two tries to help for a few hours per week. What I need is to be able to work on it full-time (that means funding) plus hire a couple of full-time people (more funding).

Second, people are resigned. Some of them turn to optimism as well. Almost everyone believes their own thoughts- “politics is broken”, “politics can’t be fixed,” “all we can do is fight harder.” This prevents most people from even being able to see what PeopleCount offers…

Acceptance: This is how it really seems to me- the reality I should not deny.

Clearly, almost all of America sees no way out of this political fiasco until after the 2018 election, and no way out of Trump’s reign till 2020. We should accept that. At the same time, there are viable solutions for making huge changes much sooner.

Don’t make a healing act of acceptance make you think you see the real truth. Accept that much more is possible than you know. Even wondrous things.

American Heroism, No Saving Officer Ryan

Recognizing heroism always helps a speech. But I object to Trump’s exploitation of the death of Chief Special Warfare Officer William “Ryan” Owens. And I object to Trump’s lie- the mission returned no actionable intelligence.

Was Owens a hero? Yes. He prepared tirelessly and plunged into a dangerous mission and gave his life. His parents are heroically dealing with his loss and their grief.

Truly heroic Americans

The true heroes are all the men and women who’ve died in the Middle East escapades that Bush needlessly started. Their families heroically go on, bearing the sadness. And their comrades are heroes, many struggling to heal deep physical wounds. And those with and without physical wounds who bravely keep on, bearing the grief of the loss of so many, plus their PTSD and depression. And their guilt. As heroes, they feel guilty for being human, unable to save their comrades from harm. Many heal, but many can not. Meanwhile the lure of drugs gives many heavier burdens. I salute the heroism of all of their families who struggle to help them as well as withhold help at times so they can help themselves.

Non-American heroism

Plus the heroism of the millions in the Middle East in countries that have been destabilized and had many of their own killed or injured by the violence. They, too, struggle with heartache and PTSD, but without our Veterans Administration and hospitals. Many have no haven of a peaceful homeland in which to heal.

For many, it began when their husbands, brothers and fathers were thrust into unemployment when the US dismissed the Iraqi police and army. And then it exploded in the civil war that rash act unleashed. Many were tortured by Americans and humiliated as well. Some of those created Isis as their last hope. Since then, many saw their sons and daughters lured into Isis, only to have them abused and enslaved and lure others.

Plus many of the same in Africa, where the militants have spread. Bush’s escapades spread us too thin to effectively help in many parts of the world. Especially, it stopped us from being able to take a positive initiative to stem the spread of radicalism.

Heroic and generous hosts

And the millions in Europe, the Middle East and Africa that have opened their countries and communities to many of the refugees. Some of these refugees, displaced from their cultures, have reacted with violence to the new cultures in which they were placed. Especially young men whose cultures prepared them to be strong workers and parents in their homelands, not displaced, unemployed refugees in a distant land.

The sin of pride

Bush’s big mistake was a sin, pride. Pride is often considered to be the worst of the seven deadly sins. He acted in ignorance. He forsake responsibility and gave power to people similarly arrogant and ill-informed, people smart but without wisdom, without ethics at their cores.

And this is Trump’s mistake. Unlike Bush, Trump has an excuse. His cognitive deficits, his narcissism, prevent him both from being truthful, humble or even realizing how prideful he is.

And it’s the Republican mistake. Instead of working with Obama for 8 years, they vilified and opposed him. They sacrificed ethics for a chance at power. And now they have it, on the coattails of a disabled, unaccountable ogre in a position that’s far, far above him.

One thing is certain. This incompetent leadership will make our lives replete with opportunities for heroism.

Are Democrats Better at War?

In my job building a new way for Americans to communicate politically, I often need to be non-partisan. It’s often challenging. To be non-partisan, I need see that my own opinions arise from my point of view, rather than from truth. One of the ways I do this is by seeing the falseness of generalizations. Recently I ran into an assertion that Democrats were better at war.

I read this interesting piece from David Brin from 2012 on how Democrats and Republicans wage war:

One of these retired flag officers told me: Democrats admit they don’t know anything about military matters. They consult, they ask questions, they listen.

He added, “Republican presidents all assume they’re some mix of John Wayne and Patton. Plans are for nerds. Caution is for wimps.

My initial feeling was that the article is wrong in its generalization.

It says Clinton made a small mistake at the beginning of his presidency, learned from it, and then was careful and successful. Obama has been careful and successful from the start. And Bush made huge blunders for years before finally turning Iraq over to the military, resulting in a third of our deficit, a half million lives lost, and the continuing destabilization of the whole region.

But are Democrats really better at war?

So does that mean that Democrats were better than Republicans at war? As far as I know, Bush senior, a Republican, did fine at it. He had the discretion to not overthrow Saddam Hussein, foreseeing all of the problems that Bush junior did not. And before that, while Reagan (R) seemed like a cowboy in the Iran-Contra affair, I think Nixon (R) and Johnson (D) made very similar mistakes about the Viet Nam war.

It simply means that a person who’s willing to proceed cautiously, listen to experts, exercise judgement and learn from his/her mistakes is probably going to be better at war. That’s regardless of political affiliation. And it probably means they’ll be better at all aspects of governing they bring these skills to.

Have the parties changed?

But I’ve found myself agreeing with many others that the parties have changed over time. Republicans have catered to a base that values emotions, belief and philosophy more and thoughtfulness less. This population is more susceptible to the emotional propaganda from right-wing media. And they are alienated by both political-correctness and scientific facts.

The leadership has similarly changed. John McCain chose the inarticulate Sarah Palin as his running mate. Romney and Ryan seemed more thoughtful in 2012. But Trump’s current stupidity, contradictions and childish temperament are obvious, but many Republicans are swept away by his confidence and self-righteous anger.


So perhaps since Bill Clinton was president, Democrats in the White House have been better at war than Republicans. But I think we should emphasize and value the traits that make this true. Perhaps one day soon, the Republican party will value wisdom and judgement again.

Progressives have Challenges

History can be seen as a long struggle to make progress, as a battle between progressives and regressives. In the previous post, we saw how regressives are driven by a dislike of change, or a greed for what’s working for them. In this, we’ll look at the challenges facing progressives. And perhaps they can achieve more by a change of marketing.

Progressives accept the way things are. They are simply trying to see how to keep the progress we’ve made and still enable people to have better lives. They face challenges.

Many people find change hard to fathom

Progressive solutions aren’t easy to understand in terms of yesterday’s culture. Whether ending slavery or giving women equality, these were tough concepts for many people in their day. For two thousand years Christianity inculcated most westerners with the acceptance of slavery and the subservience, even ownership, of women.

One way of looking at this is that a person’s notion of the world can’t stand change. If you change something, it disturbs the world. The notion that “women are equal” makes the whole biblical history wrong. Maybe it was okay for Abraham to have multiple wives, but only if they both agreed. Did they? Did they have a choice? What does it say about Solomon’s thousand wives and concubines?

Many people can’t stand cognitive dissonance. Either the Bible is true or fiction. And many people believe it’s true. They don’t realize the fluidity of world views and that a lot of good and evil is defined by humans. Killing a friend out of anger may always be wrong, but owning your spouse was once right and is now wrong. That’s a challenge for many.

My point is that a lot of people are uncomfortable with thinking. So they don’t want to do any more of it. They don’t want to revisit what they’ve known to be true.

The lure of philosophy

And often, progressives get caught up in philosophy instead of solutions. They may even fight against each other. Like the “small government” or”states rights” progressives who end up siding with regressives.

Another example is the libertarians who confuse the usefulness of motivation and competition with the notion of an ideal “free market”. They often think government can’t be efficient if it’s a monopoly. So they work to eliminate it instead of figuring out how to motivate it or provide competition for parts of it.

Or the socialists who oppose capitalism when they really object to the abuses of capitalism due to inheritance, abuse of corporations and the tax system. Inequality isn’t bad, but huge inequality is, especially when it leaves many people destitute and suffering.

Progressives handicap themselves in marketing

The biggest handicap for progressives is self-imposed, in marketing. Progressives often market solutions to problems instead of pictures of a better future.

Giving women equal rights sounded horrific to many. But allowing women the freedom to work safely and be paid fairly sounds great.

Giving rights to homosexuals and transexuals sounds weird! But it’d be great to let people express themselves and their sexuality without fear of bullying, ostracism or shame.

Getting rid of coal for heat and electricity and getting rid of gas for cars sounds dreadful. But it sounds great to build up our green energy production, create jobs, become energy independent and end funding of radical-muslim countries.

Stopping climate change seems hard and expensive. But restoring the environment of the 1900’s seems wonderful.

Similarly, fixing politics sounds impossible. But it’ll be great to have our politicians to be truly accountable to citizens. If this kind of political accountability is appealing to you, please add your email address to our mailing list.

Regressives dislike Change or are Greedy

History can be seen as a long struggle to make progress. It can be viewed as a battle between progressives and regressives. A regressive is someone who wants to keep the status quo or “return” to a simpler time.

Regressives come in two flavors.

There are two kinds of regressives. The first are people who can’t accept the world the way it is. They live in old, simpler stories and want to minimize or evern reverse change. The second are people who are prospering. They want the world to stay as it is now, even glue it to its current state so their prosperity is assured or grows.

Can’t accept change

Many people can’t accept the world as it is because they have low intelligence. Trump supporters are a great example. They are angry about Hillary’s supposed lies, yet ignore Donald’s obvious ones. They accuse Hillary of crimes she’s been proven innocent of, but ignore Trumps bankruptcy’s and lthe many times he’s been sued. They even ignore the current allegations of bribery and tax violations with his foundation. Plus there are the allegations that Trump is a rapist including of minors, and his diagnoses of being narcissistic and a sociopath.

These people look to a warped view of a “great” past. They easily commit the sin of pride. Many have pride in America, ignoring Bush’s lies that started the Iraq War and its huge costs in money and misery and the huge evil it created in ISIS. They ignore the America that lost the Viet Nam war (which was also started with a lie). Many ignore that America is racist, obviously in the practices of slavery and in butchering native Americans. And blatantly racist in the 1940’s in locking up Japanese Americans, and in the 1960’s fighting about jim crow laws.

Many of them idealize a simpler past. Why was it simpler? Maybe only because they were younger and had simpler thoughts. Plus, knowledge has appeared to blossom over the last 20 years as people have used the web to publish, search and communicate more easily.

And many of these people have been listening to Republicans tell them how horrible America is and how liberals are a threat. They’re worse off economically as tax laws favor moving more money to the corporations and the wealthy, while they’ve believed their party line that it’s due to central government and high taxes.

The desire for nostalgia does not lead to solutions

The world of the past led to today’s problems. We can’t expel half of our citizens to reclaim the days when there was still plenty of desirable property to homestead. Nor can we go back to pre-World War II days when fewer women wanted to work, nor the 1950’s when manual-labor jobs paid well. Not even to the 1960’s when homosexuals and transvestites kept to the shadows so rigidly religious people could pretend they didn’t exist.

America’s founders laid the path to “All people are created equal,” though they were not wise enough to say it. In their little world, about 1/100th the size of America today, they had no notion of cars or phones, much less television, airplanes, computers, nuclear or solar energy, or even America spanning the continent.

In particular, we can’t return to the days before science. The Earth is not flat. Creationism and trickle-down economics are childish fantasies. And the planet is warming. Denial and impractical desires may be winning formulas for many Republican candidates, but they don’t help us design our future.

Greedy regressives

The second kind are the greedy. These are led by the wealthy. This includes those that inherited the base of their wealth, and those newly wealthy from business.

Some are insecure and want to protect their wealth. Many feel entitled to a decadent lifestyle paid for by their previously-earned money working for them. Others want to multiply their wealth no matter what the cost to society. These are people in industries that protect future oil, gas and coal profits with climate change denial, steal tax money by controlling congress and elections, and try to get society to eliminate business risk by passing the TPP.

For these people, morality is expendable. Newt Gingrich lies on purpose. An example is his claim that “the truth” is all about what people believe, rather than the facts. And he’s been spreading lies for years that keep Republicans in power, like the lies about Hillary.

A better life means going forward

We can’t go back. As we’ve seen with our society, prejudice and bigotry lead to oppression, hate and backlash. As we’ve seen with the environment, unrestrained industry leads to pollution and global warming.

And it’d help to accept the facts. Rather than stick to naive slogans, we need to accept what we’ve learned. For instance in our economy, trickle-down economics just makes the rich richer and the debt greater.

To create a better life, we must go forward. We must accept the world the way it is now, and build on it to create the world we want. We must progress. The next article will be about the challenges facing progressives.

How You Listen is the Most Important part of Communication

In a Facebook post, someone added a quote about the power of words.  In an article yesterday, I said that words had no power at all. The real power comes from how you listen. The author of the post disagreed. He said that this takes responsibility away from the speaker.

Communication isn’t just the speaker’s responsibility

Being responsible for how you listen takes no responsibility away from the speaker. The speaker’s job is to provide good stuff to listen to. The speaker is 100% responsible for the communication and its delivery.

The listener is also 100% responsible for the communication. The listener is 100% responsible for being receptive and getting value out of it. The listener is responsible for how it lands. You can shirk that responsibility, sure. Or you can try to master it. In fact, if you get good at taking responsibility for your listening, you’ll be amazed at what you begin to hear.

Another myth is that the responsibility is 50/50. Do you know how, in a marriage, 50/50 doesn’t work? It’s true in communication, too. Being half-listening rarely works well. Often it doesn’t work at all.

Listen for value from a lousy speech

There are many great speakers. And some not-so-great. And some are lousy. But a responsible listener can get a ton out of even a not-so-great speaker or speech. This is one tool a manager or CEO can use to make a poor company become great. People may not be communicating well, but good managers can hear what they need. I’ve heard stories of how one VC found a great company that many others turned down. And stories of how a good business heard valuable feedback from customers that other companies were deaf to.

It pertains to encouragement, too. Listen for people’s contribution and then acknowledge it. Listen for what kind of feedback or belief or tolerance or connection or help or training an employee is looking (or listening) for. Tune in to what’s stressing them and relieve that.

“The speaker is responsible” is a myth from the age of television

Thinking the responsibility for communication is all, or even mostly, on the speaker is a common fallacy. It looks like that because the speaker is moving the most and is easy to judge. And we’re used to being entertained by TV and movies and now videos. There’s tons of stuff to criticize. But if you’re listening in order to judge, you’re not listening openly. You’re not listening for possibility or something new.

Granted, this is a different way of thinking than is usual for our culture. Especially in politics, the usual subject of this blog, we’re ready to hear blame or assign blame at every moment. We have deep-seated feelings about people and who’s at fault and our brains are ready to attack or defend in a moment.

You can be responsible for how you listen, for your whole experience

Try to be responsible for having all those triggers and for believing them. When your mind is triggered and produces an angry thought, try to react like your mind was triggered rather than something external is to blame for making you angry. Sure, none of us wants to think the negativity is coming from us. But all minds do that. Your experience can be your own choice.

I’m committed to being responsible for my own thoughts and my own listening. It’s often hard. Maybe some different kinds of minds simply can’t do it- I can’t know… I know my life is much better because of it. And I’ve seen many others do this and value it.

Negative thoughts come up like there’s really negative stuff out there. People seem to be stupid, close-minded and limited. But then I listen for something positive, and it’s there, too.

Maybe I’m more sensitive to this stuff because PeopleCount is communicating a counter-cultural truth. It’s a truth about political accountability that our culture is blind to. It takes exceptional listening that few have been able to bring without coaching. And that’s okay.

Words are not Powerful

Adam Smith put a quote on his Facebook page:

Words are singularly the most powerful force available to humanity. We can choose to use this force constructively with words of encouragement, or destructively using words of despair. Words have energy and power with the ability to help, to heal, to hinder, to hurt, to harm, to humiliate and to humble. – Yehuda Berg

And then he added a link to an article he wrote about the power of encouragement.

The article was good. But the quote above it was mistaken.

If you’re read my blog, you know I have a solution for our political problems. It came from distinguishing “political accountability” and real accountability. There’s incredible power in distinguishing. So let’s use it on words.

I don’t mean to criticize Yehuda Berg. The quote is fine. And its effect on people is good. But words aren’t powerful. There’s even more power to be gained if we find where the real power is coming from.

Words are not powerful

Words are actually powerless. Write them down. If no one sees them, they’re powerless. Yes, they sometimes seem to have a little power from the act of writing them and then seeing what you wrote. But it’s just a little.

So is it that they’re heard? No- if my dog hears them, they’re also powerless. Read the Declaration of Independence to him. There’s no power in hearing the words. Or read it to someone who knows no English. Again, the words have no power.

But if you show the written words to someone who reads English, they might have some power. And if you speak them over the phone, with intonation and expression, they could have more. And if you are face-to-face with someone, they have even more power. Why do the same words have different power not just for different people, but with different modes of delivery? It’s not the words.

It’s the listening

It’s the listening that gives them power. And most people listen better when they listen than when they read. And most people listen even better when you’re with them and expressive.

If you listen to something with the attitude “I already know this stuff”, you’ll probably get little out of it. Listen with “There’s some kind of gold here” and the words will have much more effect. People have the power.

What if the listener doesn’t make the words powerful?

Adam’s article was about words of encouragement. Have you ever encouraged someone, but your words had no effect?

  • How was the person listening to you?
  • Who are you to them that they listen to you like that?
  • Who did you want to be?
  • What happened that there’s a difference?

It’s tough to know what’s happening with someone else. How about with you?

Have you ever heard words of praise or encouragement that made little difference to you? How were you listening?

What if you determine the power of the words you hear?

What if you were the cause of how powerful other people’s words seem?

Let’s do an experiment. Read this page like there’s a wonderful new idea here. Real gold. Can you listen in a way that makes those words powerful?

Power comes from you, both the power of words and the power in politics. And if you’re silent, others’ voices will seem more powerful.

Similarly, our political system has almost no way for you to exert power. And in this system, most of us are listening like we’re powerless. We make it true. Support a small change that’ll make you, and other citizens, politically powerful.

Trump is a Willing Partner with the Devil

Not too long ago, Trump implied that someone should shoot Hillary to stop her from appointing Supreme Court justices. On another site, one user defended this remark, saying:

Trump hasn’t said anything out loud that hasn’t been hinted at, whispered and talked around by countless others in the Tea-publi-con party over the past several decades.

Bring evil to the surface

I agree. And that’s why I believe it’s good that Trump is running. It’s good to air this evil. While it was underground, it just circulated among the weak-minded. In the public sphere, we can add good and thoughtful perspectives. Even wisdom. They’ll hear bits of it and finally have a little choice.

Trump is doing America a great service. Newt Gingrich and Roger Ailes nurtured a great evil in seeking power and money at all costs. They sacrificed morality, including truth, honesty, decency, and civility. They built a culture that trains people not to question lies. They built a culture of hatred and anger, a force dividing and weakening America. Instead of this mostly circulating among right-wing extremists who justify it, Trump has elevated it to center stage.

In this election, evil is competing for dominance. And it has a chance of winning. We can’t even rely on our usual trust in a father figure to save us. Up against this evil is a woman who has been maligned in every way imaginable. They’ve been cultivating this hatred of her for a long time. It has even corrupted many who are outside their party. And they’re partnering with bigotry, sexism, homophobia and xenophobia.

The Devil’s place in Trump’s campaign

Assume for a moment that the Devil is real. Pope Francis says, the Devil draws us into negativity, cynicism, and meanness of spirit– essential elements of Trump’s campaign. Couple with this two of the seven deadly sins. Their pride lets them judge based solely on their feelings, just as Trump’s pride let’s him brag about his “greatness”. And Trump fuels their anger, aims it at critics, even entertains with it and shares thoughts of violence.

This election seems to be about Trump. But behind that, it’s about the forces of negativity, evil, and poor judgement. And while some may say that it’s about frustration with “the system,” Republican strategists have been obstructing the system for a long time, fueling people’s frustration instead of advocating positive changes that could make a difference.

The ends don’t justify the means

I’ve heard a few people justify voting for Trump because he says he’ll clean up immigration, protect American interests, create jobs, and make America win. I see little correlation between what he says and his campaign’s policy positions. Nor do I see in his character what he’ll need to support legislation through Congress. But even if I saw a hope of him doing good for America, the ends don’t justify us embracing evil.

A vote for Trump is a vote to condone evil. He violates civility, promotes negativity and meanness, and is willing to ridicule critics. A vote for Trump is a vote to nurture hatred and provoke anger. Let’s not allow our desperation for greatness entice us to partner with the Devil.

If PeopleCount can manage to launch, we’ll definitely let you vote on some of the issues Trump has raised. Whether or not we begin to hold our officials accountable, let’s elect someone who’s committed in both words as well as actions in having America be on the side of good.

Free Market Ideology Perverts Democracy

Professor Jason Stanley wrote an interesting essay on how America’s free market ideology perverts democracy. A coarse summary of his essay might be this: Americans mistake “free market” competition for freedom. Even in politics, we’re out-competed by wealthy corporations. But we don’t complain because we think that’s freedom. He says:

Free market ideology uses democratic vocabulary as propaganda, obscuring a non-democratic reality. 

It’s an interesting article. You’re welcome to share your thoughts about it in the comment sections.

But the very last sentence is off the mark:

Voters are using the proper tool – elections – to make their concerns heard. Will anyone listen?

That’s like saying neanderthals used the proper tools, rocks, to sharpen sticks. Just because that’s the only tool they had doesn’t mean it’s a very good one, or the “proper” one.

Do you feel expressed by voting?

Do you feel like the election makes your voice heard? I don’t. There are good candidates I can’t vote for because only a Democrat or Republican can win. And a vote for a candidate certainly doesn’t express my position on ten different opinions.

Are you one of those people who thinks America should have a larger military budget? Or a much smaller one? How will you make that desire heard in the upcoming election? Of course, you won’t.

Elections don’t make our voices heard.

Voters can’t use elections to make their concerns heard. That’s like sitting down in a restaurant with a huge buffet with tons of scrumptious foods. Two waiters come over to bring you your food. You’re not allowed to say anything, just to point and choose which of the waiters will go fill a plate for you.

Except it’s worse than that. Waiter A likes to give lots of sweets. Waiter B likes you to eat healthy. What we’re going to do is have everyone at the table vote on which waiter will serve everyone. That’s how you get to express yourself in elections. That doesn’t make our concerns heard.

Elections can only work if the person elected forgets about his or her party and not only tries to represent all the people, but succeeds. Given the control of our politics by the wealthy, there’s not even a chance of that happening. Even if they try, we’re not coherently expressing ourselves, so at best they could only try.

What if we had a real way to express ourselves politically? And what if it was part of a system that delivered true accountability to citizens?

Please join us in creating this. Please add your name to our announcement list and donate a few dollars.

Comparing Sports to Politics, for Integrity and Accountability

In this article we’re going to continue the first one, comparing political campaigns and the election to sports.

Sports: The competition IS the work

One difference: When sports players are competing, they’re working. This single-focus helps the players stay true to their quest. 

A politician’s real work starts when the competition is over. And good representation is useless without winning, so after the contest politicians are working as much to prepare for the next competition and they do on representation. So if winning conflicts with representing us well, what do you expect to happen?

Sports: The rules and goals are clear

Another difference: In basketball, the rules are clear. The goals are clear. 

In politics, what are the rules? How can a politician win? What earns points? Clearly winning the election is important. But once the competition is over, it’s all muddy. Is the goal “serving the people?” Or maybe “representing our true interests.” Or “crafting good bills and compromises” and “supporting good solutions?” How do we measure those? Do we even measure them? In a system where there’s no real accountability and the goals and rules are muddy, you wouldn’t expect to find either good performance or integrity. Maybe we shouldn’t be surprised that those are missing in Congress.

Sports: The teams are clear

And on a sports team, everyone on the team is coordinating for the effort to be successful.

Getting something passed in Congress is like herding cats. Imagine playing basketball on a playground where there are 12 different hoops. You get the ball close to hoop and then your teammate runs the ball to another hoop. Or he and a guy from the opposing team work together to get the ball to a different hoop. It’s a weird game.


A player’s responsibilities are clear. And they perform in full view of a huge audience. And cameras! There are even referees!

What does my representative do? I don’t know. Congress seems stuck and needs a new culture, new expectations, new rules. I don’t hear her talking about those things. But she doesn’t say much. I can go to her website and read nice things, but no specific promises.


A player is accountable to the coach and the team owner. They guide the player. Or they can sit down and decide together what they want and how to achieve it. The coach and the owners have expectations. They ask: What happened? And they get answers. The player gives promises. The opinions of the coach and team owner matter. And they can fire the player.

My representative is not actually accountable to me. I can help hire or fire her once every two years. I can’t guide her. I certainly have no way to expect results, like a boss can. I can’t judge her and reward her with a grade, like a teacher does to a student. She’s not accountable to me. Or really, to anyone, though she certainly tries to be.

Worse, she IS accountable to the party. And she is probably accountable to her big donors. She’s a well-liked incumbent so there’s really no competition. Plus she has plenty of funds in her war chest.

What we need is a new game

In the next article, we’ll see we just need a new game. Some new rules could easily make Congress more functional. In the meantime, please add your email address to our announcement list.