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Michael Ostrolenk: Conservative Activist Using Transpartisan Approach to Build Bridges

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My guest today is Michael Ostrolenk, a licensed psychotherapist and conservative activist. Welcome to OpEdNews, Michael. You moderated a panel of conservatives at the September Washington Whistleblower Assembly, which was part of the National Whistleblower Conference.  That was an eye-opener for me. We tend to think of whistleblower protection (and everything else these days, for that matter) in partisan terms. Is that a big mistake?

photo credit:  Jennifer Salan

Joan, yes, it is a mistake to make whistle-blowing a partisan issue.   Most issues are in fact transpartisan in nature and only require a more thorough analysis in order to see the broader dimension.   Conservatives, generally speaking, tend to think about policy issues from a few distinct but inter-related perspectives including from a cost benefit analysis, constitutionality/rule of law and national security.  All three of those perspectives connect clearly with the issue of whistle-blowing.   The common reframe is that whistle-blowing protects against waste, fraud and abuse.   

Fiscal conservatism as an operating philosophy demands attention to wasteful government programs and should seek to protect and promote mechanisms which protect taxpayers from having their money wasted.  Fraud is similar in that its a violation of law and should be pursued vigorously as a means of protecting the rule of law and tax payer interests.  Both waste and fraud also play into the interest to protect U.S. national security in that the federal government  has limited resources and it must  spend taxpayer money  wisely or they may miss the real threat while chasing down fantasies and false leads.  

Whistle-blowing, or the  threat of it, can also act as a prophylactic  against abuse of power.  Or can act as a disinfectant after the fact by bringing to light the malfeasance.

We live in highly polarized times. You co-founded and direct the Liberty Coalition, a transpartisan organization. What does that mean exactly?  How does it play out in real life?

I define transpartisan in four ways which include coalitions, decision making processes, mapping the body politic and techno-economic transitions.  For the sake of the discussion around whistle-blowing and other public policy issues, I will limit my thoughts to coalition building.  There are two basic ways that transpartisan coalitions have emerged at last in the past 10 years, if not longer.  

One is a general consensus on a set of policies based on principles.  Libertarians, conservatives, liberals and progressives come together in support of a particular policy position such as in support of medical privacy or Patriot Act Reform, or health freedom or transparency at the Federal Reserve. They are driven to a consensus by basic principles such as privacy, transparency, choice or a specific constitutional right such as due process.   
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The second type of coalition is one in which there is consensus on the ends sought but not necessarily an agreement on the 'why'.  My favorite example is the transpartisan coalition the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons helped coordinate in Texas against the H1N1 vaccine mandate.   There were progressive groups who opposed the mandate since they say it was corporate welfare.  There were social conservative groups who opposed it since they say it was promoting sexual intercourse. There were good government groups who opposed it since they were concerned with lack of transparency in the decision making process to mandate the vaccines. 

There were also medical groups who were concerned about the lack of good science supporting their safety as well as more libertarian groups who oppose all mandates from the government.   No one group had to be convinced of the other's arguments i.e. the 'why'.  They all came together in search of the same ends, i.e. end the mandate.  Both types of coalition efforts are quite useful and necessary in order to help policy move beyond the two-party consensus that supports most state activities.

Sounds good and pragmatic to me. What did you hope to accomplish at the National Whistleblower Conference?

My intention at the whistleblower conference was both to give and promote the conservative voice on the issue.  It's extremely important for the center-right to realize that supporting whistle-blower protections especially in the national security realm is vital to America's economic and security interests.  Fiscal conservatism, constitutionalism and pro-defense stances require conservatives to not only support but to champion whistle-blowers.

So how are you doing with that - in terms of convincing conservatives to champion the cause of whistleblowers?

Pete Sepp at NTU [National Taxpayers Union] created a conservative coalition letter which has been a great tool for educating center-right groups on the issue.  We've also been speaking at various conservative meetings as well as bringing conservative groups to the Hill to meet with members and their staff.

How's that going?

It's going quite well... we are now gaining more and more conservative support for the general concept of the need to really protect whistleblowers, especially those in the national security agencies.  

Good to hear. You're a psychotherapist and an activist. You take a more holistic approach to health that has spilled over into your activism. Would you care to talk about your practice a bit?

As a therapist and personal development coach, I've used and use a more integral or integrative approach to my work.  In practice, I look at the whole person in the context of their environment.  When I say "whole person," I mean the body, mind and spirit.   When it comes to the 'body" (really hard to separate it all, but necessary in order to discuss) I help my clients work toward their optimal physical functioning.  That would include analysis of a client's diet, nutrition, exercise (or lack thereof), sleep habits, breathing, etc.  It's very important to have a good physical foundation in order to maximize one's mental and spiritual well-being.  

When it comes the mind, I teach clients how to manage their mental and emotional selves by first developing their awareness.  I teach them how not to be reactive to their own internal processes.  Management also means developing the ability to be more "playful" with one's  thoughts and feelings as well as  become aware of one's capabilities; to be reflective and non-reactive to other people's thoughts and feelings.

When I refer to the "spirit," I define it in several ways based on an amalgamation of different philosophies and traditions.  It can mean one's operating philosophy and value system(s) or what drives them in life to move beyond their own self-created limitations or the limitations created by social consensus. It can also be developing  the 'witness' to their own body/mind processes.

All of this is done in the context of one's environment which has a few meanings.  A few ways I use the word "environment" include the culture and subcultures which informs individuals world-views, the physical environment which has an effect on their health and well-being  and their social life i.e. various networks of people they interact with including friends, family, and co-workers.  

Sounds good, Michael. Anything you'd like to add before we wrap this up?

The 'environment' especially in its socio-culture meaning is key in that it's important to find a community of practice where one has the support and encouragement necessary to solidify the changes one seeks in their lives.

 It's refreshing to find and talk about common concerns rather than always dwelling on what separates us from one another.  Thanks so much for talking with me, Michael. I enjoyed this immensely.

Ostrolenk's website:
Twitter: mostrolenk 
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Liberty Coalition website:

Joan Brunwasser is a co-founder of Citizens for Election Reform (CER) which since 2005 existed for the sole purpose of raising the public awareness of the critical need for election reform. Our goal: to restore fair, accurate, transparent, secure elections where votes are cast in private and counted in public. Because the problems with electronic (computerized) voting systems include a lack of (more...)

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In September, I attended this conference. Michael ... by Joan Brunwasser on Wednesday, Nov 9, 2011 at 6:31:15 PM