21st Century

You’ll Koch on This – Chapter 1

Reading time – 29 seconds  .  .  .

The Koch brothers and other big bucks boys sponsored a pension reform seminar and invited lots of judges to attend. It was all about how we will “reform” our pension system for public workers, given the enormous “unfunded liability” held by most states. What that means is that we agreed to provide pensions for these people, often in lieu of pay raises, but we didn’t put away money into a pension pot from which we could draw later. Well, it’s “later” right now and many states are in trouble.

There is lots of weaselly pension fixing language being tossed about, like the suggestion of Amy Moynahan, University of Minnesota law professor. that, “.  .  .  changes to future pension accruals should be legally permissible absent clear and unambiguous evidence that the legislature intended to create a contract.” That is to say, states can unilaterally ditch their obligations via courtroom sleight of hand to make it look like there was no contract with public workers.

No contract? Really? Those state legislatures were just spit balling what they might do later on for workers and now don’t they have to keep their word?

Now, why would the Koch brothers care about the fate of public pensions and the future of public workers so much that they would be a major sponsor of a conference where they invite judges before whom such cases may be brought? I don’t suppose that there might be tax consequences to such cases that might affect the Kochs. Naw, couldn’t be that. Surely it couldn’t be about large corporations in the private sector and their unfunded pension programs that these corporations still don’t want to fund. For sure it isn’t about any desire to build relationships with judges who will hear their inevitable lawsuits.  Right?

No, not right.

More on this kind of craziness in Chapter 2. Watch this space.

Meanwhile, watch this video. Opposition to the Koch’s and the rest of the Big Bucks Boys who are despoiling our Constitution and stealing our democracy is growing. All it takes is you and me and a few million of our friends. Then they can’t stop us.

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Ed. note:  There is much in America that needs fixing and we are on a path to continually fail to make things better.  It is my goal to make a difference – perhaps to be a catalyst for things to get better.  That is the reason for these posts.  To accomplish the goal requires reaching many thousands of people and a robust dialogue.  Please help by passing this along and encouraging others to do the same.  Thanks.  JA

 

Copyright 2018 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Where Is That Leader?

Reading time – 1 minute, 13 seconds  .  .  . 

My friend Dr. Mardy Grothe writes a weekly blog focused on words, literature and philosophy. He is a beacon of mental light in contemporary America’s dark ocean of reptilian brain distaste of learning, the arts, science and ordinary sense.

Last week his post included several quotes that speak to our present condition.  For example,

“It is the certainty that they possess the truth that makes men cruel.” Anatole France

That, indeed, is a key driver of our national and international challenges, as various factions declare their absolute hold on the truth and righteousness. Naturally, that leaves many of us outside the in crowd and we are judged as bad, wrong, godless, evil, unpatriotic and various other negative adjectives.  That effectively produces lots of dead bodies, both metaphorically and literally.

Here’s another Anatole France quote:

“In its majestic equality, the law forbids rich and poor alike to sleep under bridges, beg in the streets, and steal loaves of bread.”

We live in an America where some are protected from infancy from having to sleep under bridges or beg in the streets. Here, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness favor those who are born with it and the opportunities for the rest of the people are being incrementally eliminated both legislatively and by a regressive Supreme Court.

Human nature is impatient with aimlessness and we soon find actions that feed our passion. And we either have the adventure of a vision that inspires us or we resort to eating one another like too many rats in a small space. And right now there seem to be a lot of hungry rats gnawing on our national vitality.

On May 25, 1961 President John Kennedy addressed a joint session of Congress and challenged America, saying,

“I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal before this decade is out of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the Earth.”

His vision inspired a nation. He showed us the contrast between what had been and what could be and we put our shoulders to that task. We shared in the satisfaction of doing something meaningful and in the pride in accomplishment. And in that national effort we changed America and forged new global technologies that serve all mankind yet today.

We need a daring vision for our time and that vision will inspire us for a generation. The vision that is worthy of us will begin to release our certainties over our absolute beliefs, we will start to level our economic playing field and unleash the power and creativity that now lies dormant. And it will begin to still the voices of the complainers, the liars and the thieves of our spirit.

Now, where is that leader?

You can subscribe to Dr. Mardy Grothe’s Sunday blog by sending a blank email to [email protected]

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Ed. note:  There is much in America that needs fixing and we are on a path to continually fail to make things better.  It is my goal to make a difference – perhaps to be a catalyst for things to get better.  That is the reason for these posts.  To accomplish the goal requires reaching many thousands of people and a robust dialogue.  Please help by passing this along and encouraging others to do the same.  Thanks.  JA

Copyright 2018 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

The Almost Perfect Dumb-pocalypse

Reading time – 54 seconds  .  .  .

For decades we have had a most efficient, self-reinforcing cycle in our politics of incrementally allowing more and more money into our political infrastructure. As we did that, the Big Money Interests gained incrementally more influence over our laws, our bureaucracy and our courts to drive ever-larger piles of cash into the hands of those same Big Money Interests. That has made it easier for them to throw even more cash into the political infrastructure, which has driven more legislation and correspondingly more cash to the Big Money Interests.

That cycle is the destruction of our democracy (origin: Greek “demos” – the people; “kratia” – power, rule), because it takes power away from the people. The Big  Money Interests simply focus on themselves and all that cash and they lubricate the machinery of elections and government for their hand-picked politicians, so our politicians do the bidding of the Big Money Interests. That means that our legislators are not focused on the needs of ordinary Americans, so our problems have become worse.

Maybe you think that the murders at Fort Hood and Sandy Hook Elementary School are problems.

Maybe you think that your spouse being unable to secure full time employment is a problem.

Maybe you think that oil spills and toxic fracking chemicals leaked into our fresh water supplies is a problem.

Maybe you think that preventing Americans from voting is a problem.

You’re right – those are problems. And our Big Money influenced politics is the reason these issues continue to get worse.

The Citizens United case allowed unlimited and undisclosed corporate and individual money to flood our election process. Now the McCutcheon decision has unleashed nearly unlimited personal funds for direct campaign contributions, so we have The Almost Perfect Dumb-pocalypse. All that is needed to make it The Perfect Dumb-pocalypse is another airhead Supreme Court decision that takes the stops off the maximum donation to a single candidate in a single election.

Coke bottle glassesBut that may not happen, because our Supreme Court thinks that unlimited donations to a single candidate might look like bribery. Actually, it’s the only thing the Court thinks of as political bribery. Maybe we should give new eyeglasses to those on the 5 side of all those democracy killing, hope and trust destroying 5-4 decisions so that the Supremes can begin to see reality more clearly.

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Ed. note:  There is much in America that needs fixing and we are on a path to continually fail to make things better.  It is my goal to make a difference – perhaps to be a catalyst for things to get better.  That is the reason for these posts.  To accomplish the goal requires reaching many thousands of people and a robust dialogue.  Please help by passing this along and encouraging others to do the same.  Thanks.  JA

Copyright 2018 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

A Modest Proposal

a-modest-proposalReading time: 68 seconds  .  .  .

There was a time when we Americans believed in the strength, resiliency and the fortitude of each of us. We took responsibility for ourselves and didn’t look to others to solve our problems. We were proud and independent.

Then things started to go awry.

The Sixteenth Amendment (ratified in 1913) authorized a federal income tax and that was the beginning of a non-stop grab at the wallets of honest Americans. Then the Great Depression came along and offered the perfect opportunity for bleeding heart liberals to suck dry the wealth of we self-reliant Americans. The feds used pictures of people in breadlines to increase taxes on hard working Americans and give it to poor people. Then there was an Old Age tax, as though anyone needed the government to tell them to put something away for a rainy day.  And the government gave money to widows and orphans and anybody with a sob story. And then it started paying for people’s medical care. And public television. And support for opera. Opera!

Things have gone way too far and government has stuck its nose into everybody’s business, so it’s time to turn things around, to go back to what made this country great.

It’s time to eliminate all government programs except for national defense. Correspondingly, we’ll eliminate all the taxes we collect for all those giveaway programs and instead allow strong, resilient, independent Americans to stand proud again. All those lazy people who have had their hands in the pockets of the rest of us can deal with the consequences of their decisions.

Getting the government out of where it doesn’t belong will be easy. For example, meat producers that make foods that kill people with salmonella will lose their customers, so the market will take care of policing that. Who needs the USDA? Same thing with medicines – the market will police that, too, so who needs the FDA?

There are lots of benefits to doing this, like the way we’ll end the population problems of our inner cities because those people won’t have food or medical care. And fewer people means lower oil consumption so we will end our dependence on foreign oil. Illegal immigration will end, because those lawbreakers would starve if they came here. And those other countries to which we are currently sending foreign aid can just take care of themselves and stop expecting us to be responsible for them.

Really, now, this just isn’t that difficult a problem to solve. A simple and modest proposal like this should slip right through our Congress.

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Ed. note:  There is much in America that needs fixing and we are on a path to continually fail to make things better.  It is my goal to make a difference – perhaps to be a catalyst for things to get better.  That is the reason for these posts.  To accomplish the goal requires reaching many thousands of people and a robust dialogue.  Please help by passing this along and encouraging others to do the same.  Thanks.  JA

Copyright 2018 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Stupi-geddon

When you elect politicians who focus solely on staying elected, they curry favor with rich people.

When politicians curry favor with rich people, they get lots of money.

When politicians get lots of money, they do really stupid stuff.

When politicians do really stupid stuff, the people suffer and America becomes weaker.

When the people suffer and America becomes weaker, we have Stupi-geddon.

When we have Stupi-geddon, government belongs to the highest bidders.

When government belongs to the highest bidders, we’ve lost America.

Don’t lose America.

Vote for politicians who will amend the Constitution to allow for regulation of money in politics.

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Ed. note:  There is much in America that needs fixing and we are on a path to continually fail to make things better.  It is my goal to make a difference – perhaps to be a catalyst for things to get better.  That is the reason for these posts.  To accomplish the goal requires reaching many thousands of people and a robust dialogue.  Please help by passing this along and encouraging others to do the same.  Thanks.  JA

Copyright 2018 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

How Can We Reach Them?

Just back from presenting a Money, Politics & Democracy program in downstate Illinois and the same thing became obvious once again.

My program is always well received, yet most of the people who turn out for events like mine are already believers.  And while their attending gives me the opportunity to provide motivation for their taking action to make a difference and begin to change the terrible influence of big money on our politics and our democracy, we’re not reaching enough new people.  And if we are to change the trajectory of America and get it to match our vision of what America can be, we have to reach an enormous number of new people.

This is not a Republican or Democrat issue, nor is it radical left or radical right.  It is an American issue and dealing with it properly will require a lot of Americans.  What can we do so that people get the unvarnished truth of what is going on and why it is happening?  Once they know, they invariably want to create change and the necessary steps are right in front of us.  All we need is for a lot of us to move in that direction.

How can we reach those who don’t yet know?

One of the ways is for you to ask those you know to have a look at this blog series, to subscribe and to comment on the blogs.  Go ahead and do that.

Beyond that, what ideas do you have?  Jot them in the Comments section below and help us all to figure this out.

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Ed. note:  There is much in America that needs fixing and we are on a path to continually fail to make things better.  It is my goal to make a difference – perhaps to be a catalyst for things to get better.  That is the reason for these posts.  To accomplish the goal requires reaching many thousands of people and a robust dialogue.  Please help by passing this along and encouraging others to do the same.  Thanks.  JA

Copyright 2018 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Propaganda

Editorial note: Before anyone goes hyperbolic, imagining that this is a comparison of anyone today to the Nazis, get that it isn’t.  The issue is propaganda, and you need to be clear about what that means to you.

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I recently visited the Field Museum in Chicago to see the exhibit, “State of Deception: The Power of Nazi Propaganda.” It is a special production of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington and this visit was my second time reviewing the material.  I came away with a shocking realization.

The Nazis were early masters of manipulation through words and images and they managed to cow an entire nation into support of or, at the very least, indifference to their aggression and brutality.  The exhibit is about how they went about messaging that.

First, some basics about propaganda from the exhibit.

Propaganda:
 
  •      –  Uses truths, half-truths or lies
  •      –  Omits information selectively
  •      –  Simplifies complex issues or ideas
  •      –  Plays on emotions
  •      –  Advertises a cause
  •      –  Attacks opponents
  •      –  Targets [tailors its message to individual] desired audiences

A fine point about the propaganda of attacking opponents is the accusation that opponents are the ones doing the terrible things that the propagandist attempts to create.  For example, the Nazis falsely accused the Jews of trying to gain world domination.  They claimed that the German people were the poor victims of this fictitious attempt, leaving Germany the only option of all-out war to stop the takeover.  Bear in mind that this claim was made while  Hitler was leading Germany in a quest to dominate the world for 1,000 years (“Deutschland Uber Alles”).  That kind of claim allowed citizens to feel justified in supporting German atrocities.  That is to say, the propaganda of attacking the opponent  by accusation worked.

In response to President Obama’s State of the Union address this year, Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) made a quick reply, emphasizing the need for jobs for Americans.  There is truth to that claim.  However, in the same breath he accused the President of being ineffective at creating the conditions to promote jobs, asking the question, “Where are the jobs, Mr. President?”

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) gave the formal Tea Party response to the President’s speech and asked exactly the same question, “Where are the jobs, Mr. President?”  Interesting, that they used exactly the same words.  I wonder how that happened.

Now, that’s pretty good propaganda, accusing their opponent, President Obama, of poor performance regarding job creation.  There’s just one thing: President Obama has promoted job creation with ideas for infrastructure work, hiring incentives and several jobs bills.  Nearly every one has been shot down by – guess who – John Boehner and Rand Paul using the propaganda of attacking opponents by accusation.

President Obama has repeatedly promoted comprehensive immigration reform.  When that wasn’t possible he proposed bite-sized pieces (e.g. The Dream Act).  Now Republican leadership is blaming the President for the lack of immigration reform, this even as John Boehner has blocked any action on this issue yet again.  Once again, the propaganda of attacking opponents by accusation rears its ugly head.

In Nazi Germany propaganda helped to incrementally take away rights, property, freedom and the lives of the “undesirables,” the Jews, the Communists, the gypsies and others.  Hmmm, incrementally taking away rights  .  .  .  that sounds disturbingly familiar.

Republican state legislatures and governors are crusading to create voter ID laws in over 30 states.  They claim that their purpose is to stop the epidemic of voter fraud that plagues and pollutes our elections.  And they say that people have to show ID to get on an airplane, so why not when they vote?

They have successfully created a boogeyman for we good people to fear and hate, those who are cheating our voting system. That plays effectively on our emotions.  And that propaganda uses half-truths and lies quite effectively.  But let’s look at the truth.

Investigation after investigation has shown that voter fraud is infinitesimal, bordering on non-existent.

Of course, it is true that we all have to show a government issued picture ID to get on an airplane.  On the other hand, air travel is not a Constitutionally guaranteed right.  Voting is.  The comparison is nothing more than the propaganda of selective information and playing on emotions.

Clearly, voter suppression laws are being attempted for reasons other than to stop non-existent voter fraud.  And it has been amply demonstrated that such laws will overwhelmingly restrict the voting of poor people, minorities, the young and the elderly, all of whom but the elderly vote mostly for Democrats.

Now who do you suppose would benefit from restricting voting as these Republican controlled legislatures are attempting to do?

Actually, that’s the kind of question to ask about any of these and dozens of other propaganda-laced issues.  As always, stick to the advice of Deep Throat: “Follow the money” to find out who  benefits.

And dig through the layers, because stopping at identifying the politicians who benefit from such manipulation gives the big kahunas a free pass.  Ask who doles out cash to those legislative beneficiaries?  What do they get out of rigging the system by manipulating you with propaganda?  And to whom do those people answer and how do they benefit from the half-truths and lies?

My shocking realization following the museum visit was about how pervasive propaganda is, how it has become slicker over the years but the basics haven’t changed.  Don’t imagine for a moment that propaganda became a thing of the past with the demise of Nazi Germany and later of the Soviet Union.  It’s being played on you every day.

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Ed. note:  There is much in America that needs fixing and we are on a path to continually fail to make things better.  It is my goal to make a difference – perhaps to be a catalyst for things to get better.  That is the reason for these posts.  To accomplish the goal requires reaching many thousands of people and a robust dialogue.  Please help by passing this along and encouraging others to do the same.  Thanks.  JA

Copyright 2018 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Imagine . . .

Conjuring the precise and slow voice, the deliberate and accurate words, the syllables sounding as though passed through a long, reedy pipe, comes the voice of of Carl Sagan  .  .  .

“Imagine, if you will, an alternate universe with billions and billions of galaxies, each containing billions of stars.  Around one of those stars can be found an Earth-like planet.  This planet is populated by people who see what is really before them, who analyze without predetermined judgment and who follow the path of evidence wherever it may lead.  They have the remarkable self-restraint and mindfulness both to refrain from bombastic rhetoric based upon fantasy and instead speak directly to issues.

“Imagine further that those who listen do so, too, for the single purpose of understanding, for clarity and learning, for greater knowledge.  And when the listeners then speak, their purpose, like that which came before, is an effort to further understand truth and reality.

“And they work together to make things better for all.”

Huh?  Wha  .  .  .  oh, it’s my alarm clock.

What an odd dream I had.

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Ed. note:  There is much in America that needs fixing and we are on a path to continually fail to make things better.  It is my goal to make a difference perhaps to be a catalyst – for things to get better.  That is the reason for these posts.  To accomplish the goal requires reaching many thousands of people and a robust dialogue.  Please help by passing this along and encouraging others to do the same.  Thanks.  JA

Copyright 2018 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

This Is For You If You’re Unemployed

On January 20, 2009, the night of President Obama’s inauguration, Mitch McConnell, John Boehner, Eric Cantor, Paul Ryan and others met for a late dinner at a posh DC restaurant.  They weren’t there to eat.

They were there to plot their strategy following the Obama mandate and it took them just minutes to decide how to move forward.  Their number one objective, as stated repeatedly by McConnell and others since that date was to ensure that Barack Obama was a one-term president.  To that end, their strategy was to block anything that the new president proposed even if he proposed programs that Republicans believed in or had introduced themselves.  They planned to make a political eunuch of the leader of the free world.

And that strategy, like every strategy, has had consequences.  One consequence is that we do not have universal background checks for gun sales, even though 90% of we Americans want them.  Another is that the Congress has spent enormous time and energy fighting healthcare reform the likes of which Republicans had promoted for decades and which a Republican governor instituted in Massachusetts.  Still another is that the Congress has blocked every program that would create an economic environment that would produce new jobs.  If you are unemployed, there is a good chance that the Republican power strategy is the reason.

The Republicans have filibustered in the Senate over 200 times and thus have abolished majority rule and prevented progress in that chamber.  John Boehner has refused to bring nearly any bill to the floor of the House that would improve employment opportunities and has even blocked help for the unemployed (read: hungry and dispirited).  Effectively, the Republicans in Congress have held hostage all American workers in order to stymie President Obama and make him look wimpy so that Republicans could regain the White House in the next election.  We’re five years into that self-immolation policy with a net effect that there isn’t a Republican in the White House and over 7% of our people who want a job cannot find one.  Approximately the same percentage of Americans are vastly underemployed, either in position or because they could only secure part-time work.

Some say that Republican intransigence on unemployment and their gleeful withholding of food stamps from poor children indicates a lack of compassion, but that isn’t the problem.  They care about the suffering of Americans.  But they care about themselves and having more power far more.

If you are unemployed, the accountability lies with the Republicans in Congress for holding you hostage for the purpose of their own self-aggrandizement.  Clearly, they believe that they are more important than you.  If you vote them back into office – any office – in November, you will have proven that you agree with them.

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Ed. note:  There is much in America that needs fixing and we are on a path to continually fail to make things better.  It is my goal to make a difference – perhaps to be a catalyst for things to get better.  That is the reason for these posts.  To accomplish the goal requires reaching many thousands of people and a robust dialogue.  Please help by passing this along and encouraging others to do the same.  Thanks.  JA

Copyright 2018 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

EXTRA! EXTRA! READ ALL ABOUT IT! (while you still can)

The Trans Pacific Partnership (“TPP”) has a name that sounds all friendly and cozy.  Shockingly, it is exactly that – friendly and cozy, but only to the huge money power brokers.  It is not nearly as friendly and cozy to you.  In fact, you’re about to get knifed in the back.

Here is a link to a website with information about what it could mean.  The appearance of this site is a bit bombastic, but the facts are there and you won’t like any of them.

TPP is an international trade agreement that is nearing completion of negotiations.  It blatantly circumvents our Constitutional checks and balances and even our sovereignty.  It will affect food safety, job off-shoring, financial regulation and more.  And, as bad as that sounds, it isn’t the worst.

The worst is that this is being negotiated in secret.  Not even our Congress knows what is going on.  And the “worse” story gets even worse from there.

Our Congress is being asked to “Fast-Track” the TPP when it is up for a vote.  What that means is that our Congress, the folks who are supposed to scratch chins and deliberate before taking action, will be asked to approve the TPP WITHOUT EVEN READING IT!

If you think your representative and senators ought to have the details first, as well as the time to consider and debate the merits of such a potentially cataclysmic piece of legislation before voting on it, then you better take action to defeat Fast-Track RIGHT NOW.  Here is how you do it.

If you are a social network user, please join the “Stop Fast Track Now Thunderclap” immediately.
If you can make a phone call to your member of Congress, click here.
If you prefer to send an email, use this letter as a starting point and contact your Representative via this link.

  • Does this sound hyperbolic?  Well, that’s exactly how you’ll feel when your job gets shipped away, the banksters get away with more fraud and phony foreclosures, and we’ve locked ourselves into an agreement where we need the approval of 17 other countries in order to protect you and the rest of our citizens.
  • Take action now.
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    Ed. note:  There is much in America that needs fixing and we are on a path to continually fail to make things better.  It is my goal to make a difference – perhaps to be a catalyst for things to get better.  That is the reason for these posts.  To accomplish the goal requires reaching many thousands of people and a robust dialogue.  Please help by passing this along and encouraging others to do the same.  Thanks.  JA

Copyright 2018 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

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