Category Archives: Society

What draws ‘lone wolves’ to the Islamic State?

The recent attack on a bike path in lower Manhattan once again compels us to ask: Why do people pledge allegiance to the Islamic State?

Sayfullo Saipov, the suspect in the attack, isn’t a devout Muslim. He cursed and came late to prayers, according to acquaintances who talked to The New York Times. So why would he want to be a martyr?

As a professor of modern Middle Eastern history, I have spent the majority of my professional life studying the region, its culture, society and politics. In recent years, I have researched and written about IS and its terrorist activities. While other experts and I have long looked at how radicalization occurs, some new ideas are emerging.

Of lone wolves, flaming bananas and machismo

Like this recent attack in New York, many IS attacks around the globe are carried out by individuals the media have dubbed “lone wolves” – that is, freelancers who act without the direct knowledge of the IS leadership. To avoid glamorizing them, the RAND Corporation prefers the term “flaming bananas.”

There are two theories as to why these individuals pledge allegiance to the group. The first is that they get “radicalized.”

Radicalization refers to a step-by-step process whereby individuals become increasingly susceptible to jihadi ideas. First, they cut themselves off from social networks such as family, which provide them with support and a conventional value system. They then immerse themselves in a radical religious counterculture. They might do this on their own, or a jihadi recruiter might bring them into the fold. Either way, the result is the same.

Some observers claim IS propaganda plays a key role in recruitment. Rather than presenting a religious rationale for the group’s actions, IS propaganda tends to focus on the violence the group perpetrates. IS has even released a video game based on Grand Theft Auto 5 in which, rather than stealing cars and battling the police, the player destroys advancing personnel carriers and shoots enemy soldiers.

Perhaps, then, the radicalization model is wrong or not universally applicable. Perhaps there’s something other than religious zealotry at play.

Consider the widely reported story of two would-be jihadists who, before they left Birmingham, U.K., for Syria, ordered “Islam for Dummies” and “The Koran for Dummies” to fill the gaps in their knowledge.

Newspaper stories time and again puzzle over the problem of how it happens that individuals who go on to join IS were found in bars, even gay bars, or had Western girlfriends and smoked and drank almost up to the time they committed some act of violence for the group. The most common explanation is that their dissolute lifestyle was a cover.

After the driver of a truck ran down and killed 84 people in Nice, France, for example, the French interior minister was at a loss to explain how someone who drank during Ramadan – which had ended a week and a half before – could have radicalized so quickly.

Former French President Francois Hollande in Paris in September 2016 at a memorial service for victims killed by terrorism in France.
AP Photo/Michael Euler

A number of experts have argued that the radicalization model should be replaced by, or supplemented with, a different model.

Rather than joining a radically different religious counterculture, individuals are attracted to IS, these experts argue, because its actions reaffirm the cultural values of those who are marginalized, or those who exhibit what psychiatrists call “anti-social personality disorders.”

Could it be that IS volunteers are drawn to a value system that asserts an aggressive machismo, disparages steady work and sustains the impulse for immediate gratification? Could it be that they are attracted to a culture that promotes redemption through violence, loyalty, patriarchal values, thrill-seeking to the point of martyrdom and the diminution of women to objects of pleasure?

The ConversationIn this reading, IS more closely resembles the sort of street gang with which many of its Western and Westernized enlistees are familiar than its more austere competitor, al-Qaida.

James L. Gelvin, Professor of Modern Middle Eastern History, University of California, Los Angeles

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.


After 2016: The Trump Landslide

The narrative in the U.S. press has been that Donald Trump, arguably the most divisive major party candidate for President in American history, can’t win the general election. How does someone win the Presidency when the story in the polls says that he’s going to lose every major demographic group except white males?

Until the last week, the only question appeared to be “how big will Hillary Clinton’s victory be?” Now, suddenly, polls that have the two head-to-head. Even with the latest polls, Nate Silver, one of the great masters of polls and statistics, still gives Clinton a 2/3rds chance1 to win the Presidency.

But, one chart in the most recent PEW survey2 tells a very different story. If there are two groups most clearly identified with the opposite sides of the American Culture Wars,7 they are white evangelicals (aka the “religious right”) and the religiously unaffiliated (what PEW calls the “nones”).

The Republican party has been explicitly targeting what came to be called the Religious Right3 since before most Americans were born. In parallel, Nixon’s Southern Strategy4 targeted white southerners who rejected changes that were driven by the civil rights movement. There was significant cross-over between those two group and the two appeals effectively merged into the Republican party’s appeal to white evangelical voters.

Overall, it had a large impact on American religion. Significant numbers of American Christians disagreed with the politics that were pulled into their Churches and the resulting ways the interpretation of scripture changed. They felt shut out and tended to move across the aisle and/or out of those churches or church entirely and became part of the “nones” group.

While the Republic Party has increasingly focused on a specific vision of and for America, the Democratic Party has become the party of everyone else. The “nones” group was both drawn to and pulled in by the Democratic Party.

Getting back to ground zero in the American Culture Wars, how do these two groups –white evangelicals and nones– feel about the two major candidates? Pew turned the results of their survey into a graph:

Trump and Clinto Support among Evangelicals and Nonces
Trump and Clinton Support among Evangelicals and Nones – PEW, 13 July 2016

The headline, Trump support among white evangelical voters on par with Romney in 2012; Clinton support among religious ‘nones’ on par with Obama, says nothing has changed. There’s nothing see, it’s all status quo. The obvious conclusion is that Clinton (like Obama) is going to win. But, that’s not what the numbers in the chart actually show. Compared to their predecessors, Trump’s support is five points higher while Clinton’s is one point lower.

Of course, polls have many problems. The biggest one is that opinions don’t vote. People who, like those who are motivated, get to the polls vote. As an aside, that’s basically why most elections tend to favor the views of older voters: older voters have had more time to form their opinions so those opinions tend to be stronger so those voters tend to be more motivated.

The chart doesn’t say anything about age but it does say something about motivation. Looking at the motivated votes (the ones who “strongly support” their candidate), the number of white evangelicals who strongly support Trump is 10 points (roughly 40%) higher. Clinton’s strong support among the non-religiously affiliated is actually ten points (roughly 40%) lower.

While these groups are not identical with the respective parties, they are a useful map of a very strong divide in the U.S. and the country’s party structure. What that motivational factor is telling us is that if the election was held today, Trump would probably win. While, the numbers are far from exact and they don’t account for many things, many of the things the numbers don’t account for will actually amplify his victory.

One significant factor they don’t account for is the white nationalists who believe Trump is wink-wink nod-noding them, that he’s their guy5. In fact, members of this group have probably never felt like their was a candidate who understood them or represented their views. To actually have a say in an election? This group’s motivation to vote is off the proverbial chart.

More broadly, events and the news narrative is going to increase this gap. Clinton continues to be forced to look backwards to address issues like email scandals. Trump continues to get to run with weekly and daily stories –five police dead in Dallas shooting, truck used in attack that kills more than 80 in Nice, France, attempted military coup in Turkey, three police dead in Baton Rouge6that cater to his strong guy, win at any cost, image.

By November, it’ll be landslide territory, Trump’s party will probably have control of both houses of Congress and the chattering classes are going to sputter what’d we miss, how’d that happen again.


The study2 notes that the most common reason white evangelical supported Trump was “beating Clinton.” Part of the problem for Clinton is a collapse of alternatives. She, and the Democratic party, don’t really have a coherent alternative vision for the future. Some people used to say there wasn’t any real difference between Republicans and Democrats. It is more accurate to say that Democrats were striving (to steal a Republican line) for a kindler, gentler version of the Republican’s vision.

Both sides of the American political aisle are trapped in the world of neoliberalism and neoconservatism. Neoliberalism, in particular, is the water that most people on both sides of the American political aisle swim in. However, just as the Keynesian approach reached it’s limit in early ’70s and the world shifted to Mises and Hayek, today neoliberalism has reached it’s limits but there is no alternative.

Keynes, Mises and Hayek built their economic theories in the era of manufacturing. While manufacturing still exists, for decades computers and software have driven our world and its economic growth. That post-manufacturing era is now closing. Sales of computers and software have been dropping for years. Technology is fading into the fabric of life with most of the actual horsepower existing out in the cloud, plugged into via throw-away smart phones and tablets. The gadgets we encounter in person are, to a large degree, non-functional without an internet connection because the real magic happens somewhere else out of our reach.

This decoupling is mirrored in the world of business. A chat bot gets people out of traffic tickets and law firms have begun to hire Ross, an IBM artificially intelligent lawyer. Businesses are actually in the process of decoupling profits from human labor and traditional investment.

While the world is entering it’s second new major economic eras after manufacturing, people still largely battle under the banners of the ghosts of Keynes and Hayek. The theories were built around factories when a factory is now a 3D printer that can sit on a desk.

For Clinton, when I say there’s a collapse of alternatives, the problem is that all the policy wonkiness in the world will never speak to people unless there’s a vision to unify it. For Trump, on the other hand, it is actually to his advantage that there is no current intellectual vision upon which to base his appeal. The complaints about problems with his policy ideas, the words coming out of his mouth, the what-evers don’t matter because in a world where all the theories are so out-of-date, there’s nothing to stop him from painting whatever picture he wants.


1. Nate Silver’s forecast is updated frequently. His forecast is a 66.7% chance of Clinton victory versus a  33.3% of Trump victory as of Friday 15 July 2016 at 15:14pm Mountain. Five Thirty Eight, “Who will win the presidency?”:

2. Pew Research Center, “Evangelicals Rally to Trump, Religious ‘Nones’ Back Clinton.” (13 July, 2016):

3. One short personal account: Brian Zahnd, “The Jesus Revolution” (1 July 2016):

4. Volumes have been written on Nixon’s Southern Strategy including, perhaps most famously Alexander Lamis’ 1984 book The Two-Party South, based in part on an interview he conducted with legendary Republican figure, Lee Atwater that can be found embedded in Rick Perlstein’s “Exclusive: Lee Atwater’s Infamous 1981 Interview on the Southern Strategy,” The Nation (13 November 2012).

5. Nicholas Confesore, “For Whites Sensing Decline, Donald Trump Unleashes Words of Resistance”, The New York Times (13 July 2016):

6. Four major events that occurred in eight days: a gun man killed 5 police in Dallas, Texas, USA (7 July), a man in Nice, France drove a truck into a Bastille Day celebration (14 July), a portion of the military attempted a coup in Turkey (15 July) and between final edits, three more police shot in Baton Rouge, LA (17 July). Each was notable. To find a US event comparable to the Dallas shooting, one has to go back to the mass evictions of farmers during the American dust bowl. The attack in France is the first major instance of an attack against a soft target (effectively making anything and everywhere a target). Turkey is a member of NATO, acts as major forward base for operations against Islamic State (formerly ISIL) as well as one of the major checkpoints in western minds against Russian aggression ala the invasion of Crimea. Baton Rouge is notable for multiple reasons including the fact that the US flag is flying at half staff around the country because of multiple horrific events. It’s easy to suspect we may be entering a period where the days when the US flag is not at half staff are the notable ones.

7. (American) Culture Wars is a term coined by Professor James Davison Hunter for the conflict between traditionalist/conservative and liberal/progressive views of the meaning of America. Culture Wars: The Struggle to Define America (1991)

Note: there are no new citations in the Coda section at this time because I’ll be digging in deeper on everything that would normally be cited in another piece.


Things a Dad should never have to do

It’s three and a half hours past midnight and I’m awake.

I’m not groggy. I’m not on some writer’s tear or some prayer binge or obsessively cleaning. I don’t want to be awake but I saw one cryptic tweet about a video and I clicked and prodded and poked until I saw the latest video.

A women, with a four year old child in the backseat, was live-streaming her boyfriend dieing. She was calmly explaining what had happened while a policeman’s shaking gun was still pointed at her boyfriend’s blood covered body.

Screenshot from 2016-07-07 05:35:22Most of what was coming out of his mouth was the f-word, again and again and again. A police officer is trained to be calm, rational, in control of themselves as well as the situation. This cop’s hands were shaking and oh-I-screwed-up profanity was pouring out of his mouth. He wasn’t even thinking. Or he would’ve, at least, screamed for an ambulance. And then he realized she was recording and started screaming “I told him not to reach for it. I told him to get his hand off it” and she calmly corrects, “You told him to get his ID, sir, and his drivers license. Oh my god, please don’t tell me he’s dead.”

At the beginning of the video, she’s talking to her boyfriend and the live stream, “Stay with me. We got pulled over for a busted tail light in the back and he’s covered … they killed my boyfriend. He’s licensed to carry. He was trying to get out his ID and his wallet out his pocket and he let the officer know that he had a firearm and he was reaching for his wallet and the officer just shot him in his arm.”

At that point, the officer says “Ma’am, keep your hands where they are.” and she calmly replies “I am sir, no worries.” and then the officer yells the f-word.

She continues, “He just got his arm shot off. We got pulled over on Larpenteur.”

The office saysI told him not to reach for it! I told him to get his hand up” and she calmly corrects him “He had. You told him to get his ID, sir, his driver’s license. Please don’t tell me he’s dead.” and the officer yells the f-word again.

A moment later, the officer repeats “Keep your hands where they are” and she, again, responds “Yes I will, sir. I will keep my hands where they are. Please don’t tell me that he’s gone. Please don’t tell me that he’s gone. Please officer, don’t tell me that you just did this to him. You shot four bullets into him, sir. He was just getting his license and registration, sir.”

Shortly afterwards they order her out of the car and you can her child screaming and another officer hand-cuffs her with “You’re just being detained Mam until we can sort this out.”

As what is happening sinks in, she breaks down and starts going round and round in this prayer where she keeps asking G*d to save him that he’s never been in trouble, not in a gang, works for a school.

Several minutes more into the video and you still hear that cop screaming the f-word.


One person on Twitter checked the school’s website and, yes, he was the cafeteria supervisor at J.J. Hill Montessori Magnet School in St. Paul where they knew him as Phil. I imagine the kids calling him Mr. Phil. And what do you say to when a first grader asks “Where’s Mr. Phil?” Who’s going to tell them that the police killed Mr. Phil?

Phil’s full name was Philando Castile. He would’ve turned 33 tomorrow. Maybe he was going celebrated with his girlfriend, Lavisha Reynolds, and her 4-year-old daughter Diamond. Instead Diamond has already seen a murder from a few feet away.

And I’m up. It’s now more than four hours past midnight. Why am I still up? There have been four shootings like this in 72 hours. Four men dead. I’ve watched two men killed and what I see is “officers who are clearly emotional, fearful, & unfit to handle a weapon.” And, this isn’t news any more. This should not happen. And it isn’t news. And I’m up.


I’m up because this shouldn’t happen. I’m up because I learned the whole sordid multi-millenium back story from a professor born in Africa. I’m up because I shouldn’t need to be white to be safe. I’m up because I’m not sure that’s even true any more. I’m up because I’ve seen cops here in Colorado Springs who had some crew cut white guy’s face crammed into the pavement of a Target. I’m up because, even though I’m white, I’ve been pulled over a block from home for being the wrong color. I’m up because I had a cop tear my car apart because my hair was too long. I’m up because no one should die this way and everyone can.

I’m up because it’s not news and, it’s gotten so bad that my white privilege is no longer enough to guarantee I won’t be the next guy whose face gets planted in the pavement or shot by a cop.

I’m up because it’s wrong that I just had to watch a female black police officer defending this murder because 11, 12, 13 year old kids have guns. I’m up because I’ve looked into the faces of 11, 12, 13 year old kids who had already served serious time. I’m up because we think the answer to being afraid is to have a big gun and shoot first. I’m up because none of that justifies murdering an innocent man.

I’m up because Philando Castile and Alton Sterling should not be dead.


I once lived in Dallas. When I first moved there, someone was posing as a police officer (in full uniform driving what looked exactly like a squad car) and pulling women over and raping them. I knew before my daughter was born that when she started driving, I was going to get to warn her that if a police car tries to pull her over, she has to wait until she gets to a well lighted area with people around before she stops.

Tonight, I realized that it may be the only reason Lavisha Reynolds and Diamond are alive is because Lavisha started streaming what happened.

My daughter enters High School in a few months. When she starts going on dates, there will be another rule: if  the police pull you over, start live streaming. And I’ll have to explain why.

And I’m up because I have to teach my daughter how to survive in a land of nightly extra-judicial killings.

No Dad should have have to do this.


In ten minutes, it’ll be five hours past midnight. And I’m up because Philandro’s parents are going to have to bury a son.

No Dad should have to do this.

No Mom should have to do this.

No one should have to do this.



The Great Stock Market Crash of 2016 – part 2

The day before US markets opened this year, I was talking to my wife and I said the US Economy will crash and then Donald Trump will be elected. I’m not sure what went through her head but her face said I love you but, honey, please. Almost everyone still viewed Donald Trump’s chances candidacy as being more than one of those weird blips as crazy. Almost everyone viewed the US economy as fundamentally sound.

The new day, the first day of trading for the US markets, was brutal and things stayed brutal for a while. The VIX (uncertainty index) was frighteningly high. Oil and oil companies took a beating. The news out of China was ugly.

But, things seemed to settle down. The professionals kept saying, meh, it’s going to be fine. But, when you dug into the numbers things were, at best, weak.

Unemployment has been low but hiring has been week and people have kept exiting the workforce. The monsters –Apple, Facebook, Amazon, Google and Microsoft– have been hiring but everywhere else it’s been hold the line or let people go. Economic growth has been edging towards stagnant. And the US Markets have been shuffling sideways for about a year. I’m not the only one who’s been seeing this. For instance, Goldman Sachs announced a few days ago that investors were exiting the market in droves. The only real demand for stocks right now has been companies doing buy-backs; and even that has been dropping off.

This morning, I traded tweets with an economist (Steffen Christensen, @Wikisteff) after he tweeted “I just realized that the current and recent US output gap suggests a recession is imminent”. For historical reasons, I’ve been expecting the market to crash in October but Brexit appears to be this crash’s Lehman Brothers moment.

Tonight, by the time I checked the vote for Brexit only about 25% were reporting. The yes votes were winning with over 51%. And the yes votes stayed above that to the bitter end. Somewhere around 50%, it was all but mathematically impossible for the “no” votes to overtake the lead the “yes” camp had. And, at around 60-70% of the vote counted, even the very careful BBC was forced to call uncle and admit it that #Brexit was going to pass.

Long before the BBC called it, the “oh no they really are going to #Brexit” hit the Asian stock markets, the pound went into free fall (reaching a 31 year low last time I checked) and gold went north with a vengence. As I write this, the DAX is down 8%, The FTSE100 is down 9%, the Nikkei 225 is off 7% and and the broadest US stock market composite, the S&P 500, is down 5%.

I’ve been planning to write this piece for months. The S&P 500 was going to be my illustration. The S&P 500 is just an average of the stock prices of a big basket of US stocks (where “500” is just the number of companies represented).

If you look at a chart of the S&P 500, you’ll see a blue line representing the price. That number jumps around a lot. So, a lot of traders will average that number over a long period of time. The pink and red line are long-term averages. If the stock price is a car slowing down and speeding up in traffic, the long-term averages really tell you the car’s basic momentum. Get rid of the annoyance of stop lights and traffic jams and that average gives you a really good idea of how fast you’re getting somewhere. And those numbers have been going flat: they’ve been converging on about 1845 for some time.

That really isn’t surprising because they are just an average. If you squint at the blue line, it’s been basically been doing the same thing. For almost two years, it’s been going up and down a lot and it always ends up basically where it started.

In essence the stock market has been moving sideways; it’s been stalled and settling down to 1845.

Technical traders will sometimes talk about ‘support’. That’s short hand for finding the last two, ideally three, low points. For the S&P, they’re February 11, August 25 and October 15, 2014. On those dates, the S&P 500 has been almost identical: 1825-1867. Support is important because that’s essentially what buyers thinks of as the low value of the market. Every time it’s hit one of those support numbers, people have rushed into buy and the price of stocks has bone back up.

Any decent technical trader reading what I just wrote will point out what’s obvious to them: if the price goes below both of those numbers, especially if the volume drops (whoops… that was the Goldman Sachs report), people will run for the hills because they have no idea where it’s going to stop. While it may bounce a time or two as some people “bargain shop”, the price basically keeps going south.

If you zoom out, you’ll see that the last time, the US stock markets went into free fall (in 2007), they went from a bit over 1500 to under 800. The S&P 500 keep dropping for eighteen months and lost almost half of it’s value. And once it started dropping the bad news in other areas snowballed. The US financial industry nearly collapsed. Two US car companies and multiple major banks had to be, essentially, bought by the Federal government. And the list could go on for pages.

The drop before that (the one straddling 9/11) was almost identical. The S&P dropped from a bit under 1500 to a bit over 800. The drop took (wait for it) eighteen months and took out many of the early internet startups and decimated much of the telecom sector.

The current magic 1825-1867 range is only about a 170 point drop (8%) from thursday’s close. When I sat down to write this, overnight trading already had the S&P down by 5%. There’s a good chance that the US stock markets will open down by 8%. Tomorrow is very likely going to be an absolute blood bath on stock markets around the world and, if the last two US economic crashes are any indication, the stock markets will continue to drop until over a year into Donald Trump’s presidency.

And, besides the fact I’ve seen Donald Trump’s Presidency coming (oh the joy of being a prophet), the basic fact of life in US presidential politics is that whatever party holds the Presidency when the economy crashes gets murdered come November. And that makes a certain amount of sense because a party’s candidate is carrying the mantle of the policies of the party’s time in the Presidency. In this case, Hillary Clinton has been explicitly running on Barrack Obama’s record in the White House. In the public’s mind, that record on economics was just nuked.

When I talk about After 2016 being a fundamentally different world, the US Economic crash and the Donald Trump presidency are, unfortunately, just the beginning. Over the coming days and weeks and months, I will continue to flesh out what “After 2016” looks like. I just wish I’d done my job, turned into the wind and began sharing that sooner.


Note: Originally released around a bit before midnight Mountain on 23 June 2016. Line editing completed an hour later. Thanks to Steffen Christensen (@Wikisteff), for the some of the information cited. And, any blame for mistakes, etc., lies squarely on my shoulders. Suggestions welcome and comments remain open for a week.


Learning from the mistakes of Facebook

If you search any search engine –Google, Bing, DuckDuckGo, etc– for Plano Facebook, you’ll get various random pages for the city of Plano Texas and a news story that broke nationally today:

A Texas man stabbed his girlfriend to death and posted photos of her nude, dead, bloody body on his Facebook page. Her mother saw the pictures and called 911. Other relatives contacted Facebook and asked the social media giant to remove the pictures. Facebook left the pictures up for roughly 36 hours before finally removing them.

Let me repeat that.

A woman’s daughter was brutally murdered and Facebook couldn’t be bothered to take the pictures of the body down for 36 hours.

Let me repeat that.

Facebook left pictures of a young woman’s naked murdered bloody body up for the mother, the family and the world to see for 36 hours AFTER they found out.


I have a daughter entering High School. I can’t imagine getting calls and emails and txts for 36 hours along the lines of “uhm… I don’t know how to put this but uhm… do you daughter is dead and there are pictures of her uhm… body uhm… like uhm… without clothes uhm..” for 36 hours. See your pictures of your child’s dead bloody naked body is bad enough.


Facebook’s official response is that they didn’t realize, at first, that the pictures were a violation of their Terms of Service.

Excuse me? How does anyone with a bit of empathy not know the right thing to do in a case as clear-cut as this. No one should have to dig through Terms of Service or Corporate Policy books to navigate a situation like this. This is not a Terms of Service issue. It’s an issue of basic humanity.

If I had been the person at Facebook who got this request, I would’ve told them how sorry I was for what happened. I would’ve told them how sorry I was those pictures were there for their family and the entire world to see. I would’ve made sure she understood that I, personally, wasn’t going to stop until the pictures were removed.  I would’ve made sure she had my personal cellphone number.

And I would’ve gotten out of my chair, gone to my supervisor and stood there until my supervisor removed all of them. If my supervisor didn’t have the authority, I would’ve gone to the next person up the chain. And I would’ve kept going up the chain until the pictures were down. If mysteriously, I had gotten all the way to the Zuckerberg and he tried to have me thrown out of the building with orders to shoot my butt if I tried to re-enter the building, I would’ve walked right back in and dared them to shoot me.


I’ve seen companies who don’t know how to admit they blew it and they let people twist in the wind. Weirdly, even when I’ve tried to explain to them how to handle these situations in the future, all I hear is excuses. There’s no sense of “oh… we did blow that… how did you say we could do better?” I’m pretty clear about what a company or organization needs to do in the middle of a Crisis. It’s knowledge I’ve picked up by osmosis simply by having a Father who spent his entire working life in Public Relations, handling Crisis Communication and saving Generals from committing professional harikiri when things blew up at places like the US Air Force Academy, NORAD Cheyenne Mountain (yes the War Games General was based on the jerk who ran the Mountain at the time) and SAC Omaha. He literally, wrote the book on ethics for the Public Relations Society of America.

When I called him and told him what Facebook had done and his reaction was “Oh my god”.


In 1982, a twelve year-old child died of cyanide poisoning after taking Extra-Strength Tylenol capsules. Cyanide-laced Tylenol capsules killed six more people in quick succession.

Johnson & Johnson took responsibility and focused on doing the right thing. They sent warnings to hospitals and distributors, halted both production and advertising and, within a week, recalled all 31 million bottles worth (worth a third of a billion dollars at today’s prices), ran an ad campaign to warn the public and offered to exchange all Tylenol capsules that people had purchased.

And they figured out how it happened. Someone had simply bought bottles of Tylenol, opened the tops to poison them and then returned to put the tainted bottles back on store shelves. And they made sure it would never happened again by making changes in manufacturing and so on. But, the most important change they made was one that meant people didn’t have to take their word on it: every bottle of the re-introduced product had the then revolutionary tamper-proof seal. How do you know someone hasn’t tampered with a bottle of Tylenol: the seal isn’t broken.


In the world of public relations, he Tylenol case is, literally, the text book example of how to handle a crisis, including how to do Crisis Communications right. So far, Zuckerberg and Facebook’s handling of their crisis fails at every point. And, out here, people can close their accounts and walk away. Getting people in the door original is expensive (ask anyone who knows retail customer development) but getting them back after they walk away is brutal. And investors know ads don’t sell if no one is there to see them.


Thus it Begins: The Great Stock Market Crash of 2016

What you’re reading is the introduction to a book I knew I was supposed about where the U.S. and the world is headed. I’ve know I had to write it since the fall and to say it scared me as an understatement. By December I was at least willing to start telling people around me, including my wife key elements of the book including that the US economy will crash and that Donald Trump will be President of the United States. Neither is a guess: this is what will happen.

On January 3rd, I told my wife the key elements again. The only thing that changed was that the order had reversed and finalized. I told her:

This year, the US Economy will crash and then Donald Trump will be elected President.

The next day, the U.S. markets opened and had their biggest initial drop on an opening day since 1932. That (1932) is the year the U.S. Great Depress began for real. And I finally went out on the line in public by tweeting the news with the hashtag #ThusItBegins.

Tomorrow morning, the markets will open for the third week of the year. The press will continue to fret, wave their hands and mostly say it’s psychological and things will stabilize soon. Unemployment is down. Fundamentals are solid. Blah. Blah. Blah. Just a few things to sort out. But things won’t. We’re past that point.

We’re at the beginning of the Great Stock Market Crash of 2016. The stock market crash is just the opening salvo of a brutal shift in the world that will be much larger, deeper and nastier than just another recession.


And I honestly don’t want to write this book. It’s not because I’m shy about writing about dark subjects or the darkness in subjects. It’s because I’m saying G*d has told me to write it. While I once had a reviewer call me a prophet, he merely meant as someone who warns. He certainly didn’t think G*d was around and sending people out to describe what’s happening.

Why in the world would I do such a crazy stunt? I wasn’t raised in any faith. In my Bachelors (Physics) and Graduate (Humanities) work, G*d was basically ignored other than the occasional ridicule from, usually, another student. The professors for the most part didn’t waste their time on the subject. They assumed the whole faith thing was a left-over from the pre-rational world.

To say that G*d told me to be a prophet is to immediately be regarded by most people I know as, at least, slightly unhinged. Even most of the American Christian world assumes that miracles and prophets stopped a long time ago.

But, here I am. Since this book got dropped in my life, I’ve waited again and again for confirmations because it still sounds crazy to me. And I’ve tested things I’ve gotten again and again and I’ve had confirmations that are unlikely in the extreme.


I’d describe my plans for this book but that assumes I’ve got one. Back to I’m supposed to have been writing this for a while. Beyond a few scribbled notes, this book will appear basically as I write it. This blog entry is the initial “Introduction” and will bundled up shortly as the initial release of the book via PDF on this website. Later I’ll make it available on Amazon.


This document has been saved as a pdf and can be downloaded:


Happy Day formerly known as Columbus Day

In Grad School, we talked about Old Dead White Guys. It was short hand for the fact that the vast majority of books that we read were by  white males who were distinctly older when the author’s picture was taken and who, by the time most people read them, were dead. They were typically from the upper reaches of society in terms of wealth, power or connections. There’s an older more direct way to put it: the victors write the history.

There are many problems with this. Even the proverbial Capitalist Pig would pick up on the obvious: white males just are not that big a slice of humanity. There’s a reality gap here… Business opportunity! Everyone else missed it! Woot! And he would then rush off to plan his conglomerate’s next subsidiary.

In less greedy terms, the brilliance of the vast majority of humanity has, until relatively recently, been effectively invisible. When I went to school, the old story was still holding on: the heroic Christopher Columbus and the ensuing wars to defend white settlers against attacks by Indians. Christopher Columbus was the proto-American who raised a fortune in royal venture capital and came in peace to the new world and, before his company tragically failed, hosted the world’s first series of international trade exhibitions at the Spanish Court.

That story changes significantly when you look at from the other side. When Europeans arrived, governments and countries had existed in the Americas for more than a Millennia. The Americans connected the continent with trade routes: international trade, particularly in luxury items, was old hat. The same thing is clear in religion, astronomy and so on through many areas: the Americas developed societies and cultures comparable to those in every other part of the world.

Those who followed Columbus invaded, conquered and destroyed hundreds of countries; destroyed much of the knowledge and thought discovered and developed over millennia by those original Americans; and through disease and warfare killed almost all of the original Americans.

Because we now talk about both sides of the story of Europeans arriving in America, it’s certainly become unfashionable to celebrate Christopher Columbus. He’s come to symbolize what happens when we only care about the story the victors tell, how we forget the rest. It’s said that those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it. What happened in the Americas, is not some cultural equivalent of evolution through survival of the fittest. It’s the forgetting of art, thought, belief and very lives of the vanquished. There is no better way to guarantee history will not be known than to disappear it and destroy it. We discovered another part of our collective soul and then systematically destroyed it.

Christopher Columbus lead Europe into the Americas and we made him into the ultimate Old Dead White Guy. We even named a day after him. Perhaps, instead of forgetting him, we should remember him. He is the beginning of one the greatest examples of what we loose when everyone but the victor is disappeared, destroyed and forgotten.

Christopher Columbus is the ultimate accidental anti-hero. Instead of forgetting him from the holidays, we could tweak the name of the holiday. We need to a bit of anti-memorium and a hint of anti-lesson. We could do that just by adding to the name: Columbus was an Old Dead White Guy Day.