Incentive To Listen

Pay attention the next time there is a crisis.  Try to identify the elements of cause and effect.  Regardless of whether the crisis is interpersonal or international in scope, odds are good that broken communication gave crisis the opportunity.  Effective communication requires effective listening; the cause of most broken communication is ineffective listening.  Why are we such poor listeners?  Few people actually know how to listen effectively because few people learn how.  While teachers and parents may tell students to listen, they do not teach them how.  A directive to “LISTEN!” is no more instructive than an order given to “READ!”   The reason that schools do not teach effective listening skills is, perhaps, not immediately obvious.  Consider, though, that where there is a deficit of interest and poor performance there is often a lack of incentive.  Where is the incentive to listen?  Where are the role models of excellent listeners? Everyone, it seems, has something to say.  Too many have more than a mouth-full.  But where are cultural icons who make listening so sexy and cool that teenagers dream of becoming the ‘most awesome listener’ on the block?   Until we as a society recalibrate our value system to prioritize listening with quantifiable incentive, we will continue on the path of a civilization in decline.

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The polls are now closed… In Memoriam. Susie Roff

Hadley Roff, Nancy Pelosi and Susie Roff

Hadley, Nancy and Susie

June 8, 201o

Today is election day and its not OK that Susie is not here.   Susie Roff is to life what Cal Ripken Jr. is to baseball.  She shows up.  Period.  If Susie Roff is absent on election day, I can say with certainty that something has gone terribly wrong.

When I step outside of the garage beneath the Roff residence at precisely 7:00 AM to announce that “the polls are now open”,  I try to pretend that everything is business as usual at Precinct 3218.  Composure is a trait to cultivate for days like today.  Election day, for a poll-inspector such as myself,  is a long  day on public display.  There are dozens of critical tasks with narrow, non-negotiable terms for insuring the integrity of our democratic process.  With errors and emotions impermissible, a typically low voter turnout cast the hours as long and morose as the afternoon shadows on this first Tuesday in June.  I could take a cue from the voters and simply go through the motions, which is as normal as a normal  job requires.  Susie always sees through any airs of normalcy.  Susie would snap “Drop the act!” –  or some equally terse emphatic  – and then proceed to put you at perfect ease with her wide warm smile and easy banter.  Being any way other than yourself is an option ONLY when Susie is not present. In her absence, simply breathing feels awkward.

As polling commences,  Precinct 3218 plays host to a dual procession of voters and ghost.  This attendant stream is a steady reminder of  the vacancy Susie Roff leaves behind.  It is also a reminder that these are all cameo appearances.  No one is here that long.

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Something That Works, Meant To Last

Cliches, those trite oversimplifications of complex human conditions, are usually born of a desire to convey some  elemental truth. Perhaps no oversimplification speaks to our circumstances as a civilization better than ‘information is power’.  Economic imperialism, much like territorial imperialism,  requires control not only of information, but also of its shadow – misinformation. Conventional wisdom says that information is the ideological currency of freedom and choice, and that misinformation a tool of totalitarianism, fascism, communism and every other ‘repressive-form-of -government-ism’.  Yet in so much as absolute power corrupts absolutely,  information can become an oppressive shadow, while misinformation becomes pinpoints of truth in the darkness. Where there is substance there is spin; if there is access there is censorship.  Freedom of choice atrophies if not exercised.  And just because there is perception of choice doesn’t mean that there is one.  Truth takes no sides – we do.

Some century and a half ago Karl Marx said that “Religion is the opiate of the masses.” It would be difficult to find another instance in the history of the world where a metaphor would produce such tumultuous impact.  At the turn of the millennium, Rex Taylor Smith said:

“Media is the methamphetamine of the masses.”

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Exposing the Census Conspiracy

At a time when millions of Americans are considering how to most effectively resist what seems like government intrusion into most every aspect of their lives, employees of the federal government are knocking at the door to collect personal information.

Citizens and non-citizens alike, ‘the feds’ want the names of each person staying at the address, regardless of whether the individual actually lives there or merely surfs the couch.  To consider a household questionnaire complete, the federal government will walk away from your front door with a profile of each person that includes date of birth, ethnic and racial designations.  They will also ask the way in which each person listed is related to each of the others.  Thus, a skeptic nation raises its collective eyebrow when this stranger at the door, speaking on behalf of The United States of America, gives every assurance that the confidentiality of  the information they collect is under the strict protection of Title 13 of the U.S. Code.  You are not alone if you find these assurances, made on behalf of the federal government, incredulous.  Calling themselves patriots, scores of Americans prepare to stand against this intrusion by the U.S. federal government, which they perceive as indicative of tyranny and repression, by refusing to participate in the 2010 Census.  While this is an idea that certainly resonates with many of the federal government’s detractors, clearly, it is an ill-considered position, an ill-advised action.  As an act of civil defiance, failure to provide basic identifying  information and demography to the U.S. Census Bureau is convenient and risk free,  though a questionable tactic in defense of personal freedom. Continue reading


Sorry about the bogus invite to the bogus event I apparently have just sent all of you.  It was not really my intention to send BS as bulk email, nor to become the unwitting tool of a deceptive social networking launch strategy.  But I took my eye off the ball and I was hoodwinked.  I apologize for the lapse.

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Useful Infographics

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Its RESPECT, stupid…

Remember when there was a de facto threshold of civil conduct in this country?  I am fairly certain that most of you were raised as I was raised (especially since at least a couple of you reading this actually did raise me!), instilled with the belief that regardless of political ideology or how much one may detest the sitting President of the U.S., there was a line that was not crossed.  Threats, whether explicit or implicit, against the lives of the President (or for that matter any elected official) and/or his family were not just unacceptable, but were outside the perimeter of what even the most incorrigible, felonious element of a civilized, democratic society tolerates.  You just did not go there.  The level of contempt for those who did was on par with that which we reserve exclusively for terrorist, and those who commit treason.  It was categorically not tolerated.  So now consider that there those using Biblical scripture to administer a campaign of dissent suggesting that President Barack Obama be assassinated (follow the link below).  From all appearances,  this is something we are prepared to tolerate.  To do so not only sets a dangerous precedent, but in fact is a  major concession in the  ‘war on terror’, in that it appropriates the type of conduct and tactic favored by the militant forces of Islamic Jihad.  And it is because I do not believe that we should set about legislating conduct or further encroaching on the right to free speech that I am forwarding this to many of you. ‘Back in the day,’ –  to use the colloquial prepositional slang de jour for “back in the days when I was growing up and before the world got really screwed up”  – we didn’t need laws or regulation to check such behavior and attitudes.  It was a critical mass of shared value among the citizenry that kept deplorable behavior in check.  And though it is unlikely that we will change how many adults conduct themselves, we should rise to the challenge of ensuring that the next generation comes of age with the quality of respect for the offices, institutions and Constitution of the United States that you and I did.

Thank you for your consideration of this matter.

“Christian” Jihadist?