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Leadership

TODAY IN THE NEWS by Oliver DeMille

May 6th, 2019 // 6:44 am @

I. Today in the News

There is so much going on in the news these days–big events that have major potential to influence the future of our nation and freedom. Unfortunately, almost all the news is reported with strong partisan leanings. The slant and spin are frequently overwhelming.

To respond, I’ve decided to do a several-times-a-week news post that steps away from current partisan spin and addresses the big news of the day from the perspective of the U.S. Constitution and the viewpoint of the American Founding. It will give readers a different way to look at things several times a week. I’ll try to keep these brief and to the point, just a few paragraphs per post. I hope you will comment and share so this can influence people…

Here’s the first post:

Friday, May 9, 2109

The Democrat-led investigative committees of the House of Representatives are threatening to force the Attorney General of the United States and other Administration officials to testify, even to the point of contempt charges and sending the House Sergeant of Arms to arrest and detain them until they comply. Many Democrats (and left-leaning mainstream media) claim they have this power (though it hasn’t been used in nearly 80 years), while most Republicans argue that this would violate the Constitution with the Legislative Branch usurping duties held by both the Executive and Judiciary. Founding Father St. George Tucker wrote about this same threat in 1803 and outlined 6 specific ways this action would violate the Constitution; his list sides with the 2019 Republican view (The Founders’ Constitution, vol. 2, pp. 311-313.) So–no surprise–there’s a partisan split on the topic.

But let’s look at this from a third perspective. Speaking ironically: wouldn’t it be great if the House did it and made it stick?

Before you answer…think about it. On the one hand, the Democrats are wrong about this on Constitutional grounds, so that would be bad. And in an ideal world, that should be the end of the discussion.

But on the other hand (again, speaking ironically), wouldn’t it be nice to see the House of Representatives actually do something to check another branch of government? This is hugely important.

The Framers gave the House the biggest check of all–the power over the purse strings, meaning control of all money spent by the federal government–because the House members are the federal officials most easily removed and replaced by the voters. The Framers wanted the people, the voting public, to have the biggest voice in the federal government, and the only direct voice they gave the people was through the House.

But the House hasn’t used its purse strings to check the Court or the Executive Branch in big, meaningful ways for many decades. Executive Agencies and the Courts have gotten away with numerous unconstitutional actions because the House has been weak. Indeed, where the Framers wanted the House to have the most power of all the entities in the federal government, today the House is the weakest.

Not good.

To the current threat of the House apprehending and jailing uncooperative government officials: If the House followed through on this threat, it would create a precedent that the House can arrest and jail members of the other branches who aren’t obeying the law. Not the ideal system of checks and balances, to say the least; but might it actually be better than the House (and the people) having basically no power at all over the other two branches?

If we’re going to violate the Constitution routinely, this violation would at least be a path that gives more power to the people. Right now, given current news of the day, this seems bad to conservatives; but they would have loved it when Eric Holder ran “Fast and Furious” and the House could just arrest and jail him.

Yes, this sounds a bit wild; but given the current lack of House power, you could make a case that this is a step in the right direction.

Yeah, of course

Ideally the House would just fulfill its Constitutionally-defined duties and use finances to check the Executive and Judiciary. If the House isn’t going to follow the Constitution, and the voters aren’t either, then is allowing the House to have some little power to check the other two branches a lesser evil?

What do you think? Whatever you decide, this kind of considering each branch’s options is exactly the way the Founding generation would have thought about it. Today, far too often, Americans simply accept whatever the media, party leaders, or experts say, without thinking about the issue from all angles like the regular citizens did in early America.

Which is worse: a House that has no power versus the Executive Agencies and Courts (allowing them to run rampant), or a House that can arrest government officials who are violating the Constitution? Sometimes the House would get it wrong, but the alternative is that the Executive Agencies and Courts act with almost unlimited power and impunity.

Where do you stand on this?

Please comment and share….


II. Free Enterprise is Better than Socialism or Capitalism

“It is no crime to be ignorant of economics, which is, after all, a specialized discipline and one that most people consider to be a ‘dismal science.’

But it is totally irresponsible to have a loud and vociferous opinion on economic subjects while remaining in this state of ignorance.”
—Murray Rothbard

THERE is a battle raging for the future of America. And, by extension, this battle impacts the prospects for freedom around the world. Indeed, if the great system of freedom initiated by the Declaration of Independence and established by the U.S. Constitution is lost in the United States, it will likely take centuries before real freedom regains its current levels of influence in the world.

This is the great struggle of our generation, but sadly the center point of this contest is unclear to most people. Only a relative few understand what is actually going on behind the scenes.

In fact, this battle for our future hinges on two main questions.

The first question is:

Will Socialism or Free Enterprise be the leading economic system of the 21st Century?

Get Oliver’s newest e-book: Free Enterprise vs. Capitalism and Socialism at 20% off using coupon code “NEWS-19”

Category : Aristocracy &Blog &Citizenship &Community &Constitution &Culture &Current Events &Economics &Generations &Government &History &Information Age &Leadership &Liberty &Politics &Statesmanship

Don’t Miss This Book!

April 15th, 2019 // 9:44 am @

A Note from Oliver DeMille…


Summer – 1985 or 1986: I couldn’t believe it. I found myself holding my breath. Hanging on every word, page after page, waiting to see if freedom would be lost forever… Could they fix it? Or was it too far gone? And how could they get back their freedoms if they waited any longer?


I was a teenager at the time, and I had no idea that I would eventually dedicate much of my adult life to studying and promoting freedom, and the great principles upon which freedom is based.

But I don’t think I would have become a serious student or promoter of freedom without reading two books – both of which made me fall head-over-heels in love with freedom, and inserted deeply into my heart and mind why it matters.

The two books were The Alliance by Gerald Lund and The Making of America by [the man who later became my personal mentor] Cleon Skousen, and they changed my life. I truly came to love freedom as I read them during one hot summer in the family home where I grew up.

The Battle for our Youth

Today I look around at the rising generation – over 50% of whom (in the United States) say they like socialism. I look at the lack of interest in freedom among so many young people, and I worry about the future. After all the blood and tears that the Founders, pioneers and so many soldiers paid for our freedoms, why can’t everyone see how important this is? We can’t remain free if the youth don’t care about it, or if they think socialism is a better path. But just caring about freedom isn’t enough. We need the younger generation to truly fall in love with freedom.

Nothing else will prepare them to be the kind of people who stand up for freedom and right and make sure it isn’t lost.

I’m writing today to highly recommend a new book that I believe will have the same kind of impact on those who read it – inspiring them to fall deeply in love with freedom. Or, if they already care about freedom, as many do, to love and cherish it even more.

The book is Intelligence, written by Eliza DeMille Robinson, my daughter and mentee during over 20 years of personalized homeschool mentoring.

This is a dystopian novel, with real answers for the real world – plus a bit of an epic on the future of freedom, and a truly excellent read. I smile as I review it, seeing the years of study in history, leadership, freedom, government, literature, classics, science and other books with discussions!

I see all that she discovered – we discovered together – now poured into the plot and characters. The book depicts a near-future world torn apart by the battle between freedom and socialism, and paints a realistic and challenging picture of where we may be heading in our modern society if the conveyor-belt system of education keeps expanding at its current pace!

It speaks directly to people today, both those in the rising generations and their parents. It is a powerful message for this time, our specific time, in history.

TJEd is proud to promote this important new book, because we consider Intelligence a must-read for anyone who loves freedom, great education, and sees the increase in value and need for Leadership Education in our world today.

Eliza has been writing and rewriting this book for five years, and I have watched it develop from a good idea into a solid story by a student, then into an excellent book in its own right–and, during the last year, into a truly great book with an important message for everyone in our current generation.

It’s exciting to now see it published. I think this book is especially powerful for today’s youth, to help them value freedom, love learning at an even deeper level, and actually fall in love with freedom–something that is increasingly and tragically rare in the rising generation.

This is a great book, a life-changing book! We are proud to promote it to everyone who cares about the direction modern education is too often taking many families and our world, and all who care about the freedoms that are being lost almost daily.

Don’t miss this great book – for youth, for parents, and the whole family. The time for such a story is now, while we can still make a difference for freedom.

Prepare to be inspired…


January 2019: I realize that once again I’m holding my breath, caught up in the intensity of the story. This feels just like it did back then. I inhale deeply as I turn the page; then as I read about dear Brianna’s decision, the tears come. Then the sobs; my mind is reeling. I keep thinking: freedom is worth it. So worth it. I wipe away the tears and keep reading…

What are readers saying?

“A dystopian novel worthy of sitting beside titles like The Hunger Games and The Giver, Intelligence tells a story that is crucial to our rising generation. Excellent for teens and adults, its deep and plentiful messages remind readers about the impact of our current decisions on our future, providing hours of discussion time after just a single chapter!”

~Jonathan D. Martin, 14yo TJEd High student

“I’m a huge fan of dystopian fiction. Intelligence goes even a step above and beyond what we have read in current fiction. It not only has an original and intriguing plot, but it illustrates true principles to keep our country free. This is must read for my teens! Robinson is a captivating author. I look forward to reading much more of her work!”

~Toni Nelson

“Deeply thought provoking, couldn’t put it down, then couldn’t wait to discuss it with friends and family! So much here: what a personal life mission looks like, how it is discovered; the basic premise of freedom on all levels from national/governmental to individual/personal; sacrifice and what is worth the sacrifice; what is good, what is evil and what determines that all wrapped up in a captivating, moving storyline. ”

~Sarah Teichert

“More than anything, Intelligence, By Eliza DeMille Robinson, whet my palate for more! In this first book, you get a thrilling journey through the souls of unique and interesting individuals as they discover what is worth fighting and sacrificing for. The individual, the collective, the very state of the world hangs in the balance as the dedicated few battle for freedom, truth, and all that is right and worthy in the world. It’s a bit dystopian, a bit sci-fi, a bit coming of age, a bit a hero’s tale, a bit treatise on the future of the human race! The world Eliza builds will all ring a bit disturbingly true and you’ll come to take a moment to search your soul as the characters search theirs and find their true calling and power as individuals.”

~Lisa Paul

Excellent for gifting, book clubs, and family discussion! Purchase your copies today!

Category : Blog &Book Reviews &Culture &Education &Featured &Government &History &Leadership &Liberty &Mission &Politics &Statesmanship

The Jefferson-Madison Debates: What Are We NOT Teaching Today’s Youth?

February 27th, 2019 // 8:04 am @

THE MISSING TOPIC IN MODERN EDUCATION

What Was Lost

I thought he was convinced, but then he leaned forward in his chair and shook his head. He wasn’t officially my student, but we’d had a number of mentoring discussions in recent months, and I knew from experience that he was about to say something deep.

“It’s frustrating that so many people in my generation like socialism,” he said. “But I don’t think they really understand it. They just dislike all the political division and fighting, and Bernie Sanders seemed like a third alternative.”

I nodded.

“Besides,” he continued, “I’m not actually a Millennial.”

“You’re not?” I asked…

“I’m Gen Z,” he said before I could finish. “Born after 9/11.”

I pondered that.

“We’re different from Millennials.” He paused. “A lot different.”

I could see this was really important to him. “In what ways?” I asked.

He could tell I wasn’t really buying it, and he grinned. “Well, we’re similar in a lot of ways too, I guess…” He pursed his bottom lip and cocked his head slightly to one side. “But I don’t think that’s our fault. I think the bad traits that are blamed on Millennials and Gen Z aren’t really caused by us.”

I was shaking my head at this point, so he raised his voice a bit.

“No. Seriously. This is real. You guys just don’t get it…”

“Get what?”

He sighed. “Okay, you’re not wrong. But you’re not right, either. It goes deeper than pointing out the weaknesses of Millennials. We’ve bought into some things we shouldn’t, but I blame most of it on Boomers and Gen X, on our parents and the other adults in our lives. Your generation trained us to be this way.”

My skepticism must have showed.

“Look…” he said. He was getting a bit frustrated, but he calmed himself and smiled. I could tell he had given this a lot of thought.

“Here’s the deal,” he looked at me intently. “Your generation cared a lot about raising kids. Maybe too much. They don’t call you ‘Helicopter Parents’ for nothing. But in all your hovering as parents, your generation missed something. Something big.”

I waited, not sure what to expect.

“Your generation of parents taught my generation to be good people. And you taught us to aim for success in our schooling and careers. But you didn’t teach us to be strong.”

He said the last sentence slowly, with emphasis on the words “didn’t” and “strong.” I was surprised by his words. After considering them for a moment, I realized I was hearing something important.

Making Snow

“Huh…. You might be right,” I said slowly.

“In fact, you actually avoided teaching us to be strong—in a lot of ways. If we had a chance to face a problem or struggle on our own, you jumped in and offered help. Or just told us what to do. Or told us not to worry about it, and then you took care of it.” He kept talking, without pausing: “If something seemed hard for us, you told us to drop it or avoid it. If you didn’t think we could handle it, you didn’t even let us try…

“Of course, there are exceptions. Rare parents who did it differently. Unique teachers, coaches or others who pushed us. But they are the exceptions, not the rule. “And for every demanding coach or hard teacher who pushed us there are twenty parents protecting us from those same people, telling us we don’t have listen to them or do what they say. Every time I had a demanding youth leader or coach, almost all the other adults in my life undermined them. Most kids in my generation have a habit of just ignoring anything hard—they know their parents will back them and help them get out of hard things. So they hardly ever push themselves. Why should they—when the adults are always telling them the easy way is better?”

He stopped to take a breath, but I didn’t have anything to say. I was nodding by this point, surprised at his intensity, and also the wisdom of his observations.

“You know how many adults act worried when I tell them I like martial arts, and football? And try to talk me into quitting? Also, I’ve learned never to mention that I might want to serve in the military when I’m older. That gets most adults really angry at me—like serving your country is the stupidest choice anyone could ever make…”

He cocked his head again. “Which is strange, because those same people act super patriotic when the flag is mentioned, or in church meetings around the Fourth of July. I’ve noticed that a lot of them fly flags in front of their yard. It’s weird.”

I sighed, a bit overwhelmed by his onslaught. Important thoughts, these.

“What did you say my generation teaches well, versus poorly?” I asked. I wanted to make sure I remembered it correctly.

“You’ve taught us to be good, and to seek career success. But you don’t teach us to be strong. In fact, most of the time you teach us to be weak.”

“Wow…”

He frowned. “And your generation has the audacity to point out how weak my generation is, and mock us for things like participation trophies. I mean, most of us want real trophies, at least at first. It’s the adults who told us that participation trophies are better. You teach us to be weak, you refuse to let us do hard things that build strength, and you warn us against doing anything really hard or risky in life, then you call us Snowflakes!” His shook his head in disgust.

“Okay,” I responded. “I get it. You’re making a lot of sense.” I laughed: “But calling your generation ‘Phone Zombies’, or ‘Selfie Addicts’, like some people do, is pretty accurate, right?”

He laughed with me. Then he said: “But you guys aren’t the best with phones either. Like, why does your generation answer the phone by saying ‘hello’ and acting like you don’t know who’s calling? You have the name of the caller right on your screen!”

I laughed. I had never noticed that before.

He knit his brow. “It’s basically the same thing, really. It’s pretending. Why do Boomers and Gen X pretend so much? You pretend you don’t know who is calling on the phone, but it gets worse. You pretend to know the answers, and you pretend you know so much better than us. But you don’t, not really. We didn’t elect Clinton, Obama, or Trump or Bush. You guys did that. Why?

Opposite Lessons

I laughed again. “Good question. I don’t know if I have a good answer though. But…you don’t like any of them? I thought a lot of Millennials liked Obama?”

“Not me. But then Gen Z is different politically than most Millennials, and I’m unique even for Gen Z.”

“How are you different?”

“Easy—my parents taught me to be strong, not weak. That makes me different from a lot of people my age.”

“How did they do it?” I asked.

“My parents? Well, they did it with little things, mostly. Like…the time a sixth grader was picking on my little sister, and shoving her, and I told him to stop. He told me no, and kept shoving her. I was only in the third grade, and my sister was a first grader, but when the bigger kid didn’t stop I hit him right in the nose. Hard. He was twice my size, but I couldn’t just stand there and watch him hurt my sister.”

“What happened?”“I got in trouble, and got lectured about how nobody should ever hit anyone no matter what. I asked the principal if that applied to U.S. soldiers fighting Hitler, and he didn’t like it. He called my mom and she promised she’d read me the riot act. When I got home, my mom asked what happened. I told her everything, and when I was done she told me I did the right thing. My dad said he’d never been prouder of me in my whole life.”

“Wow,” I said. “What did the principal think of that?” “Nothing. They told me to tell him I was sorry and wouldn’t do it again. But to stop the big kid anyway if he kept picking on my sister. I asked about the principal’s threat to kick me out of school, and my parents laughed. ‘You don’t need school to learn,’ my mom said. So I kept a close eye on that kid.”

“Did he pick on your little sister again?”

“No. The boy got in big trouble. Not for picking on my sister, but for getting in a fight with me.”

“Oh, he hit you back?”

“No. He just got hit, and fell down. That’s all he did. But his parents called that a fight and grounded him.”

“Maybe the parents didn’t like that he was shoving a little first grader, and that’s why they grounded him.”

He thought about that. “Maybe. That’s not what he said, though. He said it was for fighting with me, even though all he did was fall down and cry. Either way, the boy learned the lesson to never get in a fight cause you’ll get grounded, and I learned the lesson to stand up for what’s right. We learned opposite lessons.”

“You think that made the bigger boy weaker in life?”

“No idea. We moved away a year later. But he was bullying a little kid, so maybe he needed to learn to be smarter and nicer, not stronger. But what I realized from that event is that most adults don’t want us to be strong. Some do, but most don’t. I’ve seen a lot of other examples of this through the years.”

“Like what?”

Rules and Exceptions

“Well, the biggest example is found just by comparing the way people online talk about Millennials with what my generation is taught almost every day in school. Almost every criticism of Millennials comes from following the exact same lessons we’re taught to obey in school. If we act the way our teachers tell us we’re called “good students” when we’re in school, but if we act that same way once we’re out in the workforce we’re called ‘Snowflakes,’ ‘flaky,’ ‘uncommitted,’ and things like that. It’s annoying.”

“Yeah,” I nodded again. “Makes sense. You’re told over and over not to rock the boat, so you learn to be…I’m not sure what the right word is…”

“Mediocre?” he asked, “Passive? Weak? Unfocused.”

“Okay. Is that what you think?”

“We’re the Mediocre Generation,” he nodded. “But hey, how could we be anything else? We’re told over and over that you aren’t a good person if you go after the achievement trophy by beating the other team. We’re supposed to make sure everyone does just as well as we do, even if that means losing or not trying very hard.”

“But in sports…”

“Like I said before,” he interrupted, “there are exceptions, like sports, the military, or…well, I can’t think of anything else. But only a few people get to be in competitive sports. Most of us just play sports in gym class, and it’s never about winning, always about trying less so nobody looks bad. We’re taught to relax and never try hard in anything. Never show up anyone else. Just stay in the middle of the group. Then, when we get in the workforce we’re called slackers, lacking ambition, not leaders. It’s trash. The double standard is trash.”

“Is that why you like martial arts, because you get to really do your best?”

“Yes, and no,” he answered. “In most martial arts classes, it’s the very same. I’ve had lots of martial arts teachers, because we moved a lot, but only one of them really taught us to be strong, to actually fight, to test our moves in real combat. The other classes were a lot of theory, very little actual fighting, or learning to fight. Then I got a teacher who let us get bloody, literally, because he wanted us to actually be good at what we were learning. Lots of parents pulled their kids out of the class after just one or two visits, but that teacher taught me so much more than all the other teachers combined.”

“So, you think parents should let their kids get bloody noses and bruised faces more often?”

He laughed. “That’s the kind of thing adults say when they’re going to the extreme, when they want to feel good about raising weak kids rather than letting their kid do hard things. As if those are the only two options. That’s a straw man argument.”

“But, let’s just be honest,” he continued, “If you want to be good at self defense, you’re going to have to learn to actually defend yourself. And yes, that means getting hit sometimes, enough to become good at the skill. The same thing is true in math, or history. I’m amazed at the wimpy assignments a lot of kids get in their classes. If they don’t really study, they don’t learn very much. If their studies aren’t really hard, their education ends up being pretty weak.”

The Road Less Traveled

I nodded. “Any other ways your parents taught you to be strong?”

“A lot of ways… Example was one of the most important.”

“What example did they give you?”

“Well, they built a business. They both started as employees, but early on they decided to start a business, and that made a huge difference.”

“How so?”

“Building a successful business is about as hard as anything. It’s way harder than being an employee, in most cases. I watched my parents through the lean years, building, building, sacrificing. Always sure the benefits would eventually come, but working so hard for almost no pay, year after year. By the time success really came, I was almost grown up. But I watched them struggle and keep going. Building a business from scratch is an amazing thing. It was incredibly hard, and the family members all participated in making it work. I used to be so amazed at how much extra time other dads had to spend with their kids, and how much extra money they seemed to have.

“My dad’s extra time and money all went right back into the business. And it was amazing. We all learned so much. Watching my parents do really hard things, and eventually succeed, made me realize that I can do it too. I remember teachers in school talking about how hard entrepreneurship is, and how all the students should choose an easier path and be an employee. But those teachers aren’t nearly as impressive or successful as my parents. And they don’t make nearly as much money. So I followed the harder path whenever I could. Easy isn’t the goal. It just makes you weak. Strong is so much better.”

“You’re kind of a philosopher, aren’t you?” I asked.

“Not really. But I was homeschooled during my high school years, so I learned to think about things. Not just cram for tests, or try to look good with my grades, like they wanted me to in public school. I want to really understand the things I study, but that means digging deep. Hard, serious study brings real learning. The rest is trash.”

I laughed. “So if the world homeschooled, we’d all be better off?”

“No, that’s not what I’m saying. My point is entirely different. If the world did really, really hard education, we’d be way better off. Seriously! But so many of your generation keeps telling people my age to do easy stuff—as if that’s really going to help them. Like I said, if it’s easy education, it’s mostly trash. Regardless of home school, public school, or any other kind of school. Easy is usually trash. If it’s hard, it’s more likely worth doing.”

The Problem We Missed

“You’re in college now; so do you find it harder than before?”

“Well, my classmates nearly all say it’s a lot harder than high school. But I find it easier in one way, and harder in another. The material is easy. I study a couple of hours a day, or less, and I’ve gotten mostly straight A’s all year. It’s so much easier than my teen years in homeschool. But it’s hard in a way that’s really frustrating—there is a lot of busy work that teaches me nothing, but I have to do it and show my work. I can get the right answer within thirty seconds, but I have to take 5 or 10 minutes to show the work. Ridiculous. It’s not learning, it’s rote busywork. I think the purpose is to give students something to do to prove they’re working. But it gets in the way of real learning. Too much of it is a waste of time.”

“Maybe they’re trying to make it hard for you! You said you wanted hard.”

He didn’t smile at my joke. In fact, he frowned. “Rote isn’t the same thing as hard. Rote is a cop-out. It seems hard, but you’re not actually learning much, if anything. Real ‘hard’ is way better, because you actually improve your knowledge, your skills, your ability to think and apply what you learn. Easy is the opposite of hard, but in another way rote is also the opposite of hard.”

“Interesting. Do you think college is making the same mistake you said most Boomers and Gen Xers have been making with their kids—teaching today’s youth to be good people and succeed in a career, but not to be strong? Or is it different at the college level?”

“It’s different, because they are teaching you to focus on your career, and they hardly mention being good people. That part is basically gone at the college level. But they still aren’t teaching us to be strong. It’s just as weak as in elementary and high school.”

“Really?”

“Really,” he doubled down. “The focus on career is so strong that nothing else seems to matter. They just don’t have time for being good, or becoming strong. They teach classes on ethics and legal responsibilities, but these are about the career, not actually about being good people.”

“Why do you think being strong is so important? Do you actually believe we need to teach it to all young people?”

He looked at me like I had three heads.

“Okay,” he said, “I’ll bite. If you’re not strong, you’re not actually going to be all that good in life. Not really. Not when it counts. Being truly good takes serious strength. And if you’re not strong you’re also not going to be really successful—in your career, or in your family and relationships, or in reaching your own personal goals. All of these things are hard. Those who make these things work have to struggle and overcome challenges. They face problems and roadblocks and sometimes enemies or opponents. If they aren’t strong, they don’t succeed.

“And they’ll never improve the world much. If fixing the world’s problems were easy, they’d have been solved a long time ago. My generation needs to be strong. Weakness is our biggest weakness, and being strong is our biggest need.”

Getting Started

I nodded, impressed. “You’re a unique young man,” I mused.

He took this as an affront. “Not really. There are a lot more of us than you might think. But we don’t just have to learn to become strong, like all young people did in history, we also have to unlearn all the weakness and trash the older generations have fed us…”

He sighed. “Like I said, it’s not simple. We’re kids. We want to believe what adults tell us. When we figure out that a lot of it is wrong…that makes it frustrating. It’s disappointing. And it isn’t simple to know which things to believe and which are just making us weak.”

“Which things are trash,” I said.

He smiled.

So did I. Then I said: “Next time you call I’m going to answer my phone by saying your name, not pretending I don’t know who is on the line.”

He laughed. “Good choice.”

“I don’t know why we do that…habit I guess.” I shook my head slowly. “In my day, we really didn’t know who was on the line when the phone rang.” I paused. Then: “My generation wants things to be easy, too,” I told him. “We wish we could skip everything hard. It’s not just you guys.”

“But youth have to be taught to be strong while we’re young,” he responded. “I’ve noticed that the older you get before you learn to be strong, the harder it is, and the more people try to avoid it. Parents don’t help their kids when they make things easy.”

“Really?” I pushed back. “Two year olds? Four year olds? We should have them all running marathons?”

“There you go again, making your point with an extreme example.”

I grinned. “Okay, at what age should it be hard?”

He pondered. “Well…at the age that the hard thing makes the kid strong. Some things won’t make a two-year-old strong, but will make a ten-year-old strong. There are things at all ages that will help, or hurt. But most importantly we need a different way of doing things with teens. That’s where most of the damage is done right now.”

I looked at him with quizzical eyes. “What do you need to do right now in your life that is really hard and will make you stronger, that you’re not doing yet?”

“Ah…” he relaxed and leaned back in his chair. “Now you’re mentoring me. That’s great. Thank you. Let me think about that question…”

Part II

What does each young person you mentor or parent right now need this week, or month, in his or her life, to become stronger in the right ways?

*For more on this topic and ways to educate young people for strength, get the book Hero Education, by Oliver DeMille. Available here >>

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The Jefferson-Madison Debates: How to Get the Real News in 2019

February 6th, 2019 // 12:06 pm @

by Oliver DeMille

Part I

Since the night of the 2016 U.S. presidential election, the rules concerning media have changed.

Before this watershed event, a person could get a decent understanding of what is going on each week by consuming three pairs of news products:

(1) a liberal and also a conservative nightly news program or Sunday morning weekly show,

(2) a regular liberal and also conservative newspaper or magazine, and

(3) at least one or two non-typical news sources that include different perspectives (e.g. The Economist, providing a British view outside U.S. Republican/Democrat thinking; Foreign Affairs, a peer-reviewed journal presenting scholarly perspectives on major world trends and issues; and/or a business or cultural publication that addresses news but mainly emphasizes how current events impact the economy and society, such as Fortune, Forbes, The Atlantic, Harper’s, or Vital Speeches of the Day. A number of publications fit this third description, including my favorite, The Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy.)

Today, sadly, this formula won’t help most citizens understand what is actually happening in our nation. The mainstream media has become almost exclusively partisan, and conservative news outlets, even those striving to be objective, seem to spend most of their resources and energy rebutting mainstream stories. This intense, and often angry, debate between Left and Right media has been good for certain corporations, but not very friendly to truth. The media is mostly agenda now, with far less journalism than in earlier decades.

So how does a citizen keep a close eye on current events? Yes, you can apply the old formula, by reading The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal every day, but in this digital age the e-media has moved on by the time old-style readers can digest what almost always amounts to “yesterday’s headlines.” The issues people are talking about are more current (to the hour), more edgy, and almost always tainted with partisan spin.

“The facts, ma’am, just the facts,” is no longer a reality in most venues. Also gone to the dustbin of history is the sensible viewpoint described here: “Tell us what happened, and let us draw our own conclusions about what it means. Report the news. We’ll weigh it, consider, and apply what we’ve learned as needed.” These are now mostly sentiments of a bygone era.

In the same vein, “We are journalists; trust us…” is a ridiculous statement that never held much sway. Americans in the 1950s and 1960s largely trusted the news precisely because journalists didn’t expect people to “just trust them”. These same journalists would have laughed off a criticism of “fake news” precisely because the quality of their work wasn’t anything close to fake. The suggestion of “fake” would have made them smile. Today, in contrast, it scares them.

Why? Because agenda news isn’t journalism.

Talking Heads

We have, as mentioned, entered a new era of media. This trend is based on more than the hordes of niche media consumers who frequent only one news outlet that mainly agrees with their own politics, be it mainstream or conservative, broadcast or online, and seldom if ever compare what other news providers are saying. It’s deeper than whether you love Jim Acosta’s “integrity and grit” or dislike his “rude partisan rants”. It also goes way beyond Fox versus MSNBC debates, or whether you love Rachel Maddow, Ben Shapiro, or even Steven Pinker versus Jordan Petersen.

The problem, the real crux of the issue, is that a lot of Americans would still like a simple, balanced, focused-on-the-facts source of news and current events, something they can trust to tell them both sides, and a third or fourth side where applicable, while treating them like adults who think for themselves and don’t need experts to hold their hand and tell them what to think. Foreign Affairs still does this most of the time, as does The Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy and others like Foreign Policy and Harvard Business Review, but these don’t usually address the daily or even weekly news. They can add a lot to whatever our daily source of news is, but they don’t take its place.

The bad news is that there is no single source we can go to for such news anymore. The good news is that there is a solution. But like a lot of other things in the postmodern age, it requires us to look at things very differently. Specifically: it’s no longer what news source we use to stay abreast of current events; now the focus has shifted to how we read, listen to, or watch the news.

What exactly does this mean? Put simply, the best way to get the most out of the news in our time, to really see through the widespread partisan spin and understand what’s going on in the world, is to call the media’s bluff. We have to stop thinking of the news as media—objective news or fake news—and start seeing it for what it really is: entertainment.

That’s right. The news is entertainment. Merely entertainment. Period.

Twenty years ago this would have been a criticism of those providing the news, but that’s not what I intend here. I am not suggesting that because the news has become entertainment it has lost its value, or turned worthless and untrustworthy. That might be the first thought that comes when you accept that news is now largely entertainment, with only a tiny bit of journalism sprinkled in. But that’s not what I’m saying.

The Good Ol’ Days

We can pine for the old ways—the time when “journalists were journalists” and trust was natural and simple. But this is like telling our kids that when we were young we walked to school everyday barefoot in the snow, uphill both ways. It just doesn’t apply anymore, even if it was ever true. If you’re looking for unbiased, or at least mostly objective media, free of spin, partiality, or partisanship, you’re going to struggle.

Even the journalists who try, who work hard to meet old-style journalistic standards every day, are impacted by the reality that the partisan agenda of many media outlets is itself news, and when one column or broadcast skews the facts, or even presents them truthfully but not transparently, even the most objective newsperson is going to need to show this news—and in passing along the story, and responding to it, even as an attempt to set things straight and focus on the facts, it becomes part of the partisan debate.

This is the tough new reality. If a report is fake, those pointing out its flaws become part of the other side. If, on the other hand, a report is not fake, those showing this are openly at odds with the side that disagrees. Avoiding the battle is akin to going off the air, or stopping the presses. Every story is now part of an agenda, for or against.

So, again, how can the citizen who just wants to know the facts be sure he is getting them? The solution is counterintuitive. If you look for the facts, “just the facts”, you’ll get bombarded by both sides, and you still won’t know which set of facts is most accurate about specific details. This is one reason so many people today simply pick a side and limit their news consumption to one or two sources—those they already agree with, in most cases.

But to really get the most from the news, try a totally different approach. Step back, relax, and stop going the news for facts. Instead, start seeing news as entertainment. They want you to watch, because they want two things. The increased ratings they get when more people tune in. And, just as important, to convince you that their set of facts is the right one. The best one. The one you should trust. Ratings and power, ratings and influence ratings and marketshare, ratings and product sales—this is the new media.

If you’re trying to get the truth, this can be frustrating. But if you’re there to enjoy the entertainment, it can be a lot of fun—and quite informational in the process. It’s enjoyable to see two sports teams fight each other for victory. If you’re too emotionally tied to one team, the game won’t be nearly as fun unless they crush the other side (which means that most of the time you’ll be disappointed). It’s fun to see opposing racehorses push each other around the final turn.  But if you’re emotionally connected to one winner, most races lose their joy. It’s fun to watch dueling news reports unfold and reveal which was right. Of course, this only works if you let it. It won’t be fun if you agitate about who is right versus wrong, or who is ruining our country versus bravely sharing the real news. If you get caught in that mousetrap, it’s painful, and confusing.

But if you watch the duel for fun, and pay close attention to the details and who scores more truth today versus tomorrow, which news show gets the most right versus the most wrong, it can be really enjoyable. And, amazingly, you’ll learn a lot in the process—a lot more than the other people in your city, or nation, who love one source of news and hate the other channels, or who are convinced it’s mostly “fake news” or, alternatively, that hardly any “fake news” is really happening.

Nothing News Under the Sun

People on both sides, by limiting who they’ll listen to and closing their minds to different viewpoints, tend to get more wrong than right. Those who are too emotionally connected to one side, against the other, frequently get in the way of their own common sense—they are easily led this way and that, by a news media that is actually now a branch of entertainment.

Only those who openly see that it’s all entertainment, and treat it according, are able to glean a lot of value from the news, and at the same time recognize its glaring limitations and blind spots. People who watch the news for entertainment naturally turn on their analytical and creative brains; thus they understand a lot about what’s really going on. They start “reading between the lines.” And they are much more likely to notice gaps in the media coverage that demand more research and consideration.

The blind followers—on both sides—are too busy being swayed by the latest broadcast, polls, “crisis”, or post. The relaxed thinkers, who knowingly watch the news media as entertainment, learn what the two sides of the political battle are thinking and doing on any given day/night, and they simultaneously have the creative (not emotionally driven) space to see that there are other things, often more important things, happening. They see the news as one little part of the big picture, which means they are watching the big picture—not caught in today’s agenda.

In our current world, watching the news as entertainment is highly valuable. Watching it as journalism is naïve and usually debilitating.

That’s the rub.

And you probably already knew that.

Part II

Let’s apply this on a deeper, and more important level, “the big picture”, so to speak. The ruling elite don’t like it when serious competitors try to rise to their level of power. For example, when Joe Kennedy declared war on the elite establishment and tried to reduce their hold on things, elites fought back. Kennedy’s son, John, was shot in the conflict—assassinated, they say, by a lone gunman. Almost two decades later another man tried to accomplish the same goal—return real power in the United States from ruling elites to the people. Same goal. Similar agenda by a U.S. president bucking behind-the-scenes power, and the same result. Reagan was also shot by a lone gunman.

If you want to be sure your friends think you have extreme political views, tell them this is part of a conspiracy. If, on the other hand, you want to believe the mainstream media, you’ll chalk these parallel historical events up to pure coincidence. The pattern is clear: take on the elite powers; refuse to back down when they use media, academia, and their own experts to discredit your project; and then get shut down by some surprising, unplanned, random event that seems totally unrelated to those in power, to those who directly benefit the most from what happens.

That’s the American history we teach in U.S. schools every year.

Enter Donald Trump. He has openly taken the first two steps in this process. Does this mean Step 3 is coming—some sort of major event that shuts down his project to unseat America’s ruling elite? If so, what do elites have in mind? A Special Counsel probe that finds something truly treasonous and brings an end to a presidency? An economic shock that drastically deflates the economy—like during the Hoover era? A RINO Republican Congress that successfully impeaches a sitting president? Or something else? Possibly an international event that changes everything, something unthinkable like an EMP or foreign use of a biological weapon that impacts the U.S., major devaluation of the dollar, or a sudden debilitating rise in oil prices?

The reality remains to be seen—“to happen or not to happen, that is the question”. But one thing is clear: the ruling elite (in both parties) aren’t happy with Trump. A number of people, and no doubt various groups as well, are brainstorming and planning for significant change. In some way. And soon. Do I know what it is? Not at all. Can you or I guess? Probably not. It will likely be surprising, when it comes. If it comes. But one thing is certain: whatever is coming, few people in the media know about it, and the main focus of the news media is to distract people from what’s ahead—not warn them or help them prepare. The new media is agenda-driven entertainment — not deep wisdom.

Next

To prep the populace for the next crisis would defeat the main objective, which is to get as many people as possible to turn to elites for succor when crises arise.

Here is another certainty: almost nobody who is caught in the emotional daily sway of either media—mainstream or alternative—is giving this much, if any, thought. They are too focused on “the crisis of the day”, a powerful tool of media that almost never fails to get good ratings.

In other words, the only people who clearly see that some serious crisis (or series of smaller crises that build on each other) is coming, soon, and that it will take the nation in new directions that increase the influence of elites, or decrease their influence if Trump (or another outsider) wins the next skirmish, are those who watch the news as entertainment.

Watching the media and getting caught in today’s latest stress won’t help—you, or anyone. Trusting the media, or taking it at face value, won’t help either. This is entertainment, not journalism.

What will help? Simple: watch the media and see the ruling elite and Trump fight. See the tug-of-war as they strategize and clash, rebuild or refocus. Lose a point, win a point. Bluster, regroup, fight again. If you’re relaxed, and watching the media to witness an epic battle between the two main sides, each seeking control, you’ll learn a lot about what’s actually happening. It’s high drama.

Otherwise, you’ll think the daily crisis is actually the news. It’s not. It’s just the 24-hour-cycle contest for ratings, and the power that comes from agenda-loyal customers. But in each daily crisis there is a thread, part of an overall pattern, a back and forth brawl between the elites and their current opponents.

Like I said, it’s fun, or at least interesting, if you know what you’re watching.

Part III

“But what’s happening in our nation, and around the world, is so important.”

“Well, yes. That’s true. But what does that have to do with the corporate-run news?”

“Everything!”

“Wrong. It has almost nothing to do with the news, except that the deep importance of what is happening here and around the world is a powerful incentive to get people to watch. But the news itself isn’t about truth. It should be, one can argue. But it’s not. It’s about ratings and agenda. It’s about keeping the listeners tuned in, and loyal (so they’ll keep tuning in every day); once loyal, it’s about corralling them for political impact. But to make this work consistently, it has to be supremely entertaining. Otherwise, other media outlets out-entertain and get the ratings, not to mention most of the clicks.”

“But that’s so cynical.”

“And so true.”

This is our world now. It’s the “new normal,” as President Obama called it (though he had a flailing economy, not the media, specifically in mind). The problem is that most consumers of news media haven’t yet realized that it’s now just entertainment. As such, if we’re not too emotionally tied to the specifics each night, the news can very effectively teach us lessons because we watch and think about what we see–not directly, but by analogy, symbol and metaphor. There are a lot of useful lessons in entertainment; we can learn so much from plays, good novels, movies, sit coms, and news.

Or, more to the point, we learn best by watching the news like any other TV show, and then really thinking about what we watch—applying our best analytical, creative, and independent thinking to what the various “characters” in the big battle for our nation portray. It’s a very effective way to really understand what’s going on. Yes, of course, we also need to dig deeper, read up on events and issues well beyond what the daily news offers. Unless we go deeper, we’ll be starved for wisdom on a news diet of shallow.

But once we’re digging deeper, the daily fare will become interesting again, full of hints and innuendo that spur us to deeper investigation, rather than emotional spin that sways us like sheep. “Shutting down the government—so bad. The poor federal workers, and the plight of their families.” Or, in the view of the other half of the nation: “So good—long overdue. Shut it down more often. It’s too big anyway. Maybe this is the way to finally prune it back to the right size.” Whatever your perspective, on this or any other major issue, both sides are mostly extreme now. “A border wall is essential”, or “A border wall is evil”.

If we get trapped in this emotional tug-of-war, the news is both superficial and misleading. If we step back and admit that it’s mostly entertainment, and take it seriously as entertainment, a whole new view opens up. We start to see.

Also, it becomes fun. At least, it’s a lot more fun than tearing one’s hair out trying to make sense of the totally different messages (about the very same event) on Fox and CNN. Not that fun is the only goal. At some point we need to do something about what’s going on in the world, especially here at home in our own nation. This is the most important thing we can do. But when we let the media guide us, day in and day out, because we think they’re sharing truth when in fact they’re fully committed to agenda and ratings, then we end up doing mostly nothing. Or we do the wrong things.

Behind the Curtain

The first action in doing the right things is to really understand what’s going on. To do this in the current media environment, we must see behind the curtain and realize that it’s mostly bells and whistles now, mostly spin. All entertainment. But entertainment with an agenda.

Once we’ve made this leap, to the point that we can enjoy the entertaining debate, smile as the plot develops, and call the show what it is, a show, then we can naturally stop getting trapped by the emotion or swayed by the lead characters. We can watch the background, look for subtext and nuances, consider the goals of the directors and producers, and start getting a feel for what the media outlets are actually trying to create.

This is insider thinking, and very few people engage it. If you learn to call the media’s bluff, to treat it as entertainment because that’s what it actually is, and keep watching—but with a deeper viewpoint—you’ll soon begin seeing the real drama, backstage. When this occurs, you’ll be thinking at a whole new level, and instead of media sway you’ll experience a lot more independent thinking about what’s really happening and what needs to change.

That’s the goal. In truth, the only really good media is the kind where the consumer is skeptical, studies more deeply than most people do nowadays, sees all the main sides of the issue, and draws his/her own conclusions. Any media that effectively encourages this, on purpose or by accident, is a conduit to truth. Ironically, in our time, the more our current media turns to entertainment, for ratings and furthering their agendas, the more people are catching on. And, as a result, more people are digging a lot deeper.

This is a great development. We’ve still got a ways to go, but the modern media is doing us an unintended favor by driving more and more people to their own thinking and personal research for real answers. It wasn’t uncommon twenty years ago for most people to trust the media mostly at face value, accepting its words as truth and its anchors as “wise men”. That era is also gone, and it’s about time. If current trends in media continue, it won’t be long until a lot of the nation is reading, digging, researching, analyzing and writing a lot more—at much higher and deeper levels than we’ve seen since the advent of radio, and then television. This is a powerful development.

ACTION ITEMS

But what can we do?

First Action: Forget institutional news as a communicator of truth. It’s entertainment. It’s a show. Have fun with it. Watch it—yes! But forget the way it’s trying to make you feel and what it’s trying to make you think. Instead, compare and contrast, laugh at it, grin at how ridiculous a story is. Take notes—see which outlets and shows end up being mostly wrong, and mostly right. Watch it closely. Like entertainment—that latest episode of your favorite show, where you don’t want to miss anything. Night after night.

Second Action: As you do more of Action One, begin to read more, watch less. Research more, jump to conclusions less. Be more skeptical. Dig way below the surface reports. As you gain expertise on things, write more. Share your findings. Write about truth, not ratings or agenda. Start looking for others who do the same and follow their work.

Third Action: Eventually, as your expertise grows, write a pamphlet. Or, I guess, given our time in history, an e-pamphlet. A report. Blog it. Share it with others. Your voice of truth is important. At least you’ll be aiming for truth. As this approach spreads to more people, reliance on institutional media—funded and dominated by elites—may well go the way of payphones. Replaced by a better approach. It will at least diminish the level of modern reliance on the wrong kind of media. Technology is well positioned to support this change.

Note that this shift is already happening. But you can’t take advantage of it unless you see the corporate news as entertainment and only really trust news that you have personally researched in depth, digging into all sides and going deep.

Funny thing: this is how people in the American founding era approached news. It’s part of what made them such a freedom-loving people. They mistrusted the “official” news from any source, and they studied things out in depth themselves.

As you become the kind of person who deeply studies issues and current events that matter to you, searching for the real truth, and then sharing it with others, you’ll naturally gain more skill in seeing what’s really going on in the world. You’ll learn to effectively see behind the curtain, past the curtain, to read between the lines. You’ll learn how to watch the news and quickly figure out what’s going on, and then research and find out the specifics. Much of the typical news will appear increasingly ridiculous to you—and to others who adopt this approach.

The recent fall of centralized elite media to something less than journalism is at first glance a great national crisis, but if regular people use this situation as a catalyst to end their dependence on media corporations and instead search out the truth of current events for themselves, we’ll naturally witness a significant rebirth of liberty. This is the real power of grassroots. If the corporations won’t give us media focused on truth, we can go find it on our own. Nowadays we must do this, if we want to actually know what’s happening.

By the way, the three actions listed above are exactly what the American Founding generations did in a world where Britain controlled most of the important media. A rebirth of bottom-up news media focused on truth is a good thing for freedom. Indeed, it’s a necessity. Led by each individual.

But this only works for you if you make the change, personally. The corporations and the government won’t do it for you, as much as they want to and as hard as they’re trying.

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The Jefferson-Madison Debates: The End of Elite Credibility?

January 31st, 2019 // 11:45 am @

Thinking is Key

I recently read an excellent article that really gets to the heart of our new era—where elites in government, media, business and culture have lost much of their credibility, as the masses have lost trust in their motives and words. This is a a big shift. I don’t agree with everything in the article, but it really makes the reader think deeply about this truly important topic. It explains the Trump era, and how it is drastically changing our world, as well as anything I’ve read. This article is worth reading closely, and I hope you’ll really thinking about what it says. Here’s the link:
https://www.theguardian.com/news/2018/nov/29/why-we-stopped-trusting-elites-the-new-populism

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