The Bernie Madoff Syndrome: How Grover Norquist Did What He Did by Rick London

    

 Whether we admit it or not, to a certain extent we all played “the popularity game” in junior high and high school.

     Hopefully, by the time most of us got to college, we were humbled by the fact that the world was much bigger than the walls of our tiny lower education walls, and there would always be someone stronger, richer, cuter, smarter, more talented, etc.

     And that’s a powerful lesson.  Unfortunately and obviously, not all of us grew out of it.

     Bernie Madoff was able to pull off what he did by using “The High School Popularity System”.   If you remember, the way it worked was to find someone in your grade (or higher) who was more popular than you.  You befriended them, and basically held them hostage.  If your other friends were nice, you made the introduction and the recommendation.  If they weren’t nice, they were banned from your “in group for life” or in the case of high school “until you graduated”.

      Oddly enough, as strange as it may sound, a great many never grew out of that adolescent game.  In fact all those who donated money to Bernie Madoff knew that he was “friends” with Steven Spielberg and a host of other Hollywood icons. Maybe, just maybe if they donated enough to his charities, they too, could finally get the best revenge that they never got enough of in their youth “popularity”, or to which it is referred in adulthood “money, power etc etc yawn”.

      As strange as it may sound, this is the exact model of Grover Norquist.  He drew up a simple pledge that he knew would appeal to the wealthiest in the country (no new taxes).  But something went wrong.  The more savvy among the wealthiest such as Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, Walmart Political Super Pac and others, saw through his little game.  Though the Walton kids continued to give money to the GOP (after their candidate Jon Huntsmann lost, the Walmart SuperPac for the first time ever gave more to Democrats than Republicans this election term).  Why?  You tell me. 

      But the Congresspersons who signed it did not.  They felt by signing the pledge, they could then go back to their constituents and say, “Listen, vote for me and I can get you in with some mighty fancy people through this guru named Grover Norquist” (though I doubt they even mentioned his name as they wanted credit for pulling off this magic.)

      The Congresspersons also knew this would appeal to the wealthiest in their own district, giving them yet more leverage in their own districts by offering them untold millions in tax loopholes.

       After the smoke settled, and people realized the little high school game Bernie Madoff was playing to lure his contributors, he went to prison.  As the political dust settled and voters figured out that Norquist couldn’t guarantee a damned thing except that he was willing to “Pledge An Allegiance” to the wealthiest of this country, not to the flag (and for which it stands) decided to move to the Independent Party, or just go ahead and vote for President Obama.  They’d played the game in high school, and many were way too old and smart to play it in adulthood.  

       Besides, such pledges were always temporary and subject to human behavior, moods, health and a million other things.

      There’s a lesson here.  Vote for a candidate who will do the best for the entire country. When the entire country is healthy, so is everyone. 

      Consider that Bill Gates and Warren Buffett didn’t buy into the strange little high school GOP ploy. In fact even WalMart with all its flaws, didn’t either.  And if you’re smart (and now out of high school), neither should you.

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Rick London is a writer/designer/cartoonist living in the Ouachita Mountains of Arkansas with his wife Lee Hiller-London who is a popular nature photographer and has a blog Hike Our Planet.   London f0unded the Internet’s #1 offbeat cartoons & funny gifts Londons Times Cartoons in 1997.

 

 

 

America The Divided by Rick London

      Those who know me well, know I don’t judge a person by his/her politics, religion, race or any other petty nonsense.  I try my best not to judge anyone but the times I miss the mark, I just judge on character. And that’s okay. It’s not perfect but it’s human.   I learn to not only tolerate but celebrate differences of opinion.

    If everyone believed, voted or acted like me, we’d live in a very boring world (and my wife thinks “probably a bit immature one too”) I’m sure.  Most my posts are intended to be humorous. Occasionally I will create something I see as “a truth”; and test it here. Sometimes it ruffles feathers and that’s a good thing. I never personally attack anyone who visits my page.  I invite social discourse, disagreements are fine and if they play by polite rules of conduct, I don’t care what their philosophy is.  They are welcome to stay and debate until they are out of breath if they are enjoying it.

       I do not post it to be YOUR truth, I post it to see if you recognize anything in it that rings true to you also. If you don’t, it does not anger me in the least. If you do, I smile a bit.  Today I posted what I saw on several Osama Bin Laden videos and “his vision for America” when he was alive.  It appears 9/11 but was step one in a series of steps to “divide America” so that it would “implode from within”.  It would (hopefully) cause huge financial burden. It did; bigger than he ever imagined as we almost immediately went to war; where he wasn’t…in Iraq.

     But his evil instincts were correct. GW Bush bought right into them as did so many of us (me included; so I was not preaching from a high horse). But I’ve seen, researched and know enough now to know what he wanted. To create a far left and far right; so far apart (especially fiscally), that America would be the Un-United States Of America.  I tried far left and far right and saw the never-ending battle of pushing the other side further into their corner, and they pushing me further into mine.

      Then it occurred to me “the middle is where the fence is”; and there is no mending fences unless one is brave enough to move to the middle (they can stay Republican or Democrat or Liberal or Conservative) but drop the knee-jerk extremism that Bin Laden so much prayed for (and even joked about in his cave interview with Peter Bergen); and many of his solo videos (and audios).  I will now always be a centrist who loves America (all of America). I will not judge on accidents of birth, status, or any other ridiculous notion.  America is a very special country. Don’t believe it? Just read the Constitution. Do you think I could do what I do in any other country?  Not even close.

       Our brilliant Constitution guarantees that I can, and (ask my wife Lee) some of the most powerful lawyers in the country have tried to make me stop (on more than one occasion): the same lawyers who have tried to make SNL stop, Mad Magazine, and other barometers that remind us if we are still living in a free nation (or not).  When they are gone,  so are we (at least a free America).  Most of us don’t think of satire or parody that way.  But The Fair Use Act speaks of its importance.

        I don’t care for whom you vote. That’s your business. I would never go to your page and tell you how very wrong you are if you named a candidate for whom I did not care.  I would hope you would be mature enough to share the same respect.  However, I don’t necessarily want you to vote for my candidate.   He might not be for you.  Yours might not be for me. Never try to bully me into voting for yours; you can be assured I will give the same respect.  All I ask of you is to consider what Osama Bin Laden’s biggst dream for us was. A divided America.  And so far, he’s getting his way.  Let’s get less extreme in our views, whether left or right; otherwise,  Mitt Romney is right; his death is really no big deal to be celebrated…..his dream lives on.  Finally, Thank God for our U.S. Military; and we are particularly thinking of the US Navy Team 6 who took out the most evil man on the planet, the man who killed so many of our innocents and did a very successful job of dividing our nation. Now its our job to fix our nation.  We can never ever let him have his way, even in death…especially in death.  There is a tendency to kill the messenger.

       I encourage you to watch his videos on YouTube and you will see what I mean.  It’s not me you’re angry at. You are as angry at him as I am; as he created the environment to make a far left and far right exist, fight each other to the point where they each was/is the target enemy whether it is black, white, gay, straight, Muslim, Jew, Christian, Bhuddist, Wiccan, Republican, Democrat, Liberal, Conservative and any other label people use to justify their differences.  

     The bottom line is that we’ve been taught over the years by well-meaninged teachers, parents, ministers, tv talking heads etc. that those who believed, voted, acted etc. different than us “were the enemy”. Nothing could be further than the truth.  But changing that is easier said than done.  We’ve been indoctrinated to believe that; and, it is not the case. 

      It may (as psychologists call it for many of us) take behavior modification.  That could mean therapy. It might mean simply changing your mind. It may take research.  It will take what it takes, but let’s do what it takes, so that Bin Laden does not get his way. 

     I have gotten to the point where I know that the person who votes differently than me is not my enemy.  The person who has a different faith or belief or philosophy than me is not my enemy. I know that a person who competes with me doing the same kind of business is not my enemy.  The irritable irrational weird uncle or relative is not my enemy.  Al Queida is my enemy because I am an American, like you, and they want to kill me, and you.  Those other people simply may be irritated at me, or you and that’s fine.  There’s a big difference.  Work on yourself as I am working on myself. I continue to head toward the center because that is where the fence that needs mending is.  And together, left, right, liberal, conservative, gay, straight, black, white, etc etc etc. working TOGETHER in a democracy that our Constitution provides is unbeatable.  In fact, even in “this imperfect union” if we begin to mend the fences that Al Queida almost successfully severed, that is perfect enough for me. It will be a process and there will be bumps.  I am okay with that.

     Nobody has to change what they are, in fact please don’t change what/who you are. That is sacred and to be cherished.  You are one of God’s children. But in some ways for America to work again, we may all have to change how we think and act; and not as dramatically as one thinks. Simply recognizing extremism from the far left and far right as it comes our way, and not fight back, simply let them know that sanity exists in the middle. In fact, those in the middle who accept everyone (and they have every right to stay left or right if they do not want to be part of the solution) and we can accept that. Not everyone is going to be a part of the solution. Life is not perfect nor do we live in a perfect world. But I truly believe there are enough good people out there who are sick of what we have seen over the past decade or so, the extremes (who are out for themselves, not the betterment or future of America) and its okay if they don’t to participate in the rebuilding of America.  What is important is that we do.

      Let’s no longer justify our differences by labeling each other and/or demonizing another human being who thinks or believes different than you or me as Bin Laden so desperately wanted and came so close with his evil but clever manipulative power to make happen.  Lets celebrate our same-nesses on this one year anniversary of our brave Navy Seals turning him into a rancid piece of sushi.  Goodbye to bad garbage. It’s time for America to heal.  Be a part of the solution, and I’ll do my best to do the same.  Thanks all….and I mean ALL. You are our neighbors and friends. And that’s enough for us.

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Rick London is a freelance writer, songwriter, designer, and cartoonist who lives and loves America and lives in the glorious Ouachita Mountains of Arkansas with his wife nature photographer Lee Hiller-London.  They are both active in environmental, animal, children and veteran causes.  Rick founded Google’s #1 ranked offbeat cartoons in 1997 and Google’s number one offbeat cartoon gifts in 2006. His wife runs the popular nature wildlife blog HikeOurPlanet.com and LeeHillerDesigns.com. London recently launched his cartoons on funny hoodies at his PlanetHoodie.com shop. Follow them on Twitter @RickLondon & @LeeHillerLondon  Rick London’s facebook fan page is http://www.Facebook.Com/LTCartoons.