21st Century

The Meaning of Duck

Branding and marketing genius Bruce Terkel (pronounced “tur-KELL”) has a most interesting and insightful blog focused on – guess what? – branding and marketing.  This one arrived amidst the turmoil, travail and truculence surrounding the harebrained, hateful and hurtful things said about gays and blacks by Phil Robertson, one of the pseudo-mountain men of the A&E show Duck Dynasty.  Perhaps you’ve heard the wild-eyed, histrionic rants in support of this icon of idiocy.  Perhaps you’ve read the painful prose postulated by civil libertarians.  Perhaps you’re sick of this incident of ignorance and want it to go away.

And it will, just as soon as the next sensational event, stupid remark or manufactured emergency arrives to distract us.  But do this.

Read Terkel’s piece to the end to accurately understand his message.  Then apply the principle to our politics.  The meaning of duck is that the branding and marketing of our politics is manipulating you.  Decide for yourself what that is doing to America.

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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.

I Get It – At Last

Why would senators and congressmen intentionally force the United States to the brink of financial disaster?

Why would legislators drive us to default on our national debt and tell us that default will be a good thing?

Why would billionaires fund grass roots organizations that have their members wave Confederate flags and spout hateful lies?

Why would Bible thumping go on everywhere, such that no speech can end without invoking God?

Why would otherwise sensible people in Kansas, Texas and elsewhere deny verified facts and long proven theories and instead be promoting science as seen through the eyes of relatively ignorant people of thousands of years ago?

Why has congress been gridlocked for so long?

The answers to those questions and more can be found by taking a step back from vilifying the (insert your own epithet here) extremists and railing at the stupid things they say and do.  Instead of thinking they are (re-insert your epithet here) irrational, assume that they are sensible and determined warriors fighting for their desired goal.  What would their goal be?

That is the answer I found in reading Deborah Caldwell’s article in the Huffington Post.  The insanity of current events disappeared with the clarity that hordes of powerful people want to eliminate our government and put in its place a Christian theocracy.

Doubt that?  First read Caldwell’s article.  Follow through to the links she provides.  Then test it all with your experience of hearing Ron Paul tell us he wants to eliminate government support of public education (what would that leave for our children?) and Grover Norquist wanting to shrink the government so that it can be drowned in a bathtub (what would take its place?).  Test it against Michele Bachmann glorying in the coming end times that will be hastened by the destruction of our American structure.  Don’t dismiss that just because Bachmann says crazy things most of the time, because there are thousands – perhaps hundreds of thousands – of Americans who agree with her and 50 of them are in congress right now and they are destroying our government.

I had long thought that they did that because they got off on the power trip and the attention they received that fed their self-promotion.  I had thought that the people in the streets spouting radical stuff were just venting their anger and hoping that finally someone was listening to them and that for a brief moment they had a little bit of control.  I may have been right, but that is not the big story.

The big story is that there is a huge number of Americans who want this country to be a Christian theocracy.  They will say and do anything to make that happen and they care not at all about the destruction they will cause to America and the world with their fundamentalist, literal interpretation zeal.  They think that our Founders wanted America to be that way, this in spite of the fact that the Founders specifically designed the Constitution to prevent America from being a theocracy and they wrote about the importance of that extensively.  And that perfectly captures the denial of reality that goes on for our current day extremists.

Now imagine if the zealots had all the power, that the only law of the land was the Christian Bible and that those in charge believed in a literal interpretation of the Bible.  America would look a lot like fundamentalist, theocratic Iran.  Get ready for public stonings.

Are you scared yet?

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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.

Droning On

I recall seeing the first drones.  Unmanned aircraft.  I’m a pilot and thought the technology was nifty.  I also admired the surveillance capabilities of those things.  Protect the troops without endangering AWACs and helo crews.  Find the bad guys.  Like that.

Then we started using these things to kill people at weddings.

Now my friend and futurist David Houle has pointed out that Grumman has a programmable 330-pound robot.  This thing is cool and can trek where no man has gone before or ever should go and has capabilities no human will ever have.  Major geek factor.

They also have a surveillance “bat” airborne drone – also a major cool and high geek factor item.  While watching the video I couldn’t help but notice how its superb surveillance eye was able to find a human “target”.  That is the label Grumman pasted on some guy walking on an airport tarmac.

We truly do have the capability to make a weapon out of anything, perhaps even a lampshade.  It’s just what the fertile minds of our war materiel contractors, the military and our secret CIA army dream up to do with that stuff that scares me, because the power and the decisions seem to be unbridled and even unchecked.

The NSA is supposed to get warrants for its spying, but it often doesn’t.  The CIA is prohibited by law from engaging in activities within the US, but it does so all the time.  The FBI is legally limited in its spying efforts, but it reads your email without a warrant, even going beyond the lawless powers of the so-called Patriot Act.  Now we have a programmable 330 pound robot that “they” will be able to program to do whatever they want it to do.  Look for a knock at your door soon.  And have a nice day.

For David Houle’s comments on privacy, have a look at his new e-Book, Is Privacy Dead?.

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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.

George Orwell Was an Optimist

The NSA is spying on everyone and there is no privacy.  The government lies about who it spies on, the things they look at and who has access to all that information.  Although the NSA is minimally limited by law in what its spooks can do without a warrant from a FISA court, even then they routinely ignore the requirements of the law and instead spy with impunity on anyone and anything they like.  When the NSA does go to court for a warrant, only the government’s case is presented – there is no challenge to its claims – so  the FISA court approves NSA requests more than 99% of the time.  And there is next to no congressional oversight exercised over the FISA court, much less over the NSA.  Nobody is watching the watchers.

We enacted laws to protect whistle blowers, because we want to encourage citizens to call out wrong-doing and wrong-doers.  Then we routinely shame and humiliate the whistle blowers, calling them traitors, spies and quite a few other names that would be expected if they came from a 12-year-old brat on a playground.  We also end the careers and prosecute those same whistle blowers, this in order to discourage others from blowing whistles, lest actual wrongdoing be cast in sunlight and we expose the nefarious behavior of legislators and bureaucrats.

It may be comforting to say, “I obey the laws so I don’t care about the ubiquitous snooping,” but that myopic and self-focused attitude is, well, myopic and self-focused, even to the point of self-destruction.  Today they may be coming for the neighbor whom you don’t care about, but they will be at your door tomorrow and you will be presumed guilty.  Not officially, of course.  It’s just the way things will happen.  Who will stand up for you?

Shift for a moment to something that may seem to be a separate topic.  I promise that it is not.

I’ve been saying for years that we still haven’t learned all the lessons of our war in Vietnam.  We intruded there on someone else’s civil war, arguably on the wrong side, and stayed involved for almost ten years, leaving the imprint on US history of this being the first war we lost.  The stated reason for our intrusion was a lie – fighting the Communists there instead of in Kansas – and we further excused our invasion by claiming an attack on a US Navy ship, but that attack never happened.  The war took over 58,000 American lives and well over a million Vietnamese lives.

The one lesson of the war in Vietnam that politicians did learn is that they could not wage dishonest wars by means of a military draft.  That was made clear by mass demonstrations during that vastly unpopular war.  So, the draft is gone, replaced now by a volunteer military supplemented by civilian “contractors.”  That word does not mean plumbers and carpenters.  It means mercenary armies and ours are accountable to no one and they kill with impunity.

Fast forward to 2003 when we inserted ourselves into Iraq for two lies – non-existent WMD’s and Saddam’s non-existent ties to al Qaeda – and we stayed there nearly nine years.  That took over 4,500 American lives and hundreds of thousands of Iraqi lives.  It also teed up an Iraq civil war that continues today with no end in sight.  The killing goes on.

There was just a handful of al Qaeda terrorists who attacked America.  In order to bring them to justice “dead or alive” we sent battalions of our troops to Afghanistan to wage war on that entire country in 2001.  As of this writing, we’re still making war there, with tens of thousands of people dead – nobody has a clue exactly how many – and over 4,000 “on our side” dead.  It is not clear if the US will win this war, since the goals have shifted repeatedly.  The original goal was the elimination of al Qaeda.  Then it shifted to the removal of the Taliban from power in Afghanistan. Neither of those goals will be fully met.  In fact, it is not clear what will be achieved.  However, it is clear that we will have a very long term involvement there, well past the oft-declared 2014 “end of combat operations” date.

  • What these three wars have in common are:
  1. Each was started under false pretenses – i.e., lies.  Not mistakes.  Lies.
  2. The goal posts were in constant motion.
  3. A lot of troops were wounded or killed without ever knowing what they had served.
  4. A lot of civilian contractors became extremely wealthy.
  5. A lot of politicians won office and stayed there thanks to contributions from wealthy war materiel contractors.
  • The real question is why all of that happens and that “why” is the connector between unbridled spying and endless war.  It is about pills.

We as a people have accepted that the solution to our problems can be found in a pill.  The biggest selling pharmaceuticals in America are psychotropics – Zoloft, Ambien and the rest.  We are, to some degree, a continent of zombies.  We cope by means of decreased sensitivity to what goes on around us.  That’s good for Big Pharma.  Not so good for the rest of us.

“Pill,” of course, is a placeholder for all the ways we disengage, tune out.  It includes the vague assumption that someone else will step up and handle the situation or that our little contribution won’t make a difference, a key rationalization for why only 37% of eligible voters will show up to vote on November 4, 2014.

We as a people have been fed such a torrential river of lies, false innuendo, public stupidity and hollow promises for so long that we no longer believe in our government and we have dropped out.  Indeed, public trust in government is at 19% and falling.  We don’t engage with the things that fail to poke through the tough barrier of our own narrow vision.  That lets those in power get away with making laws that promote terrible things, breaking laws on a whim and without consequences and with waging dishonest wars for decades.  We are treated with sleight of hand so that we do not focus on the official unpatriotic actions and instead are exhorted with disingenuous pleas to “support our troops,” as though that is the only worthy test of patriotism. 

If you and I don’t all drop back in soon, all of that will continue until you have no privacy, no freedom and no safety at all.

George Orwell was an optimist.

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

It Is Time

Kennedy MotorcadeIt has been 50 years, so the shock is gone, of course.  The grief has passed for some and lingered for others, but the sense of loss remains palpable for most of us who remember.  It was a loss of hope and of innocence for an entire generation and the blinding of a dream of something lofty.

All of us of a certain age remember where we were and what we were doing when we learned what had happened.  We stayed glued to the the tube for days and our vocabulary was irrevocably altered by that day.  Indeed, the term “grassy knoll” now means only one place on Earth.  “School book depository” is a term for use solely in Dallas, Texas.

The initial furor ended and we were left with a permanent itch we cannot scratch.  We crave the satisfaction of full explanation, of the ascribing of responsibility and of the meting of consequences to all guilty ones.  Even after 50 years that simply has not happened.

The Warren Commission was designed to soothe the nation with a simple explanation.  And it was a fine investigative body, except for its complete incompetence, its refusal to admit crucial evidence and testimony and the predetermined conclusion it carefully crafted.  We Americans know a snow job when we’re in one and we resent being treated as simpletons.  We want answers.

There remain so many critical questions.  For example, if the whole thing was done by a lone gunman, how did a mediocre marksman manage to accurately fire three shots in four seconds, something even the best marksmen are unable to do with that model rifle?

Here is another.  Acoustics engineers have studied audio records of those seconds of American history and developed various theories to explain the contradictory statements from people who were on the scene.  They examined echoes from the surrounding buildings and some concluded that all sounds of gunfire came from one place.  That is unconvincing to people who were in Dealey Plaza that day and who heard a shot and turned toward the sound by the fence bordering the plaza and saw a puff of smoke as from a firearm.

The result of all the official soothing, disingenuous explanations and denial has been a terrible addition to the loss of innocence of a generation.  That addition is a loss of trust in government itself.  Even now 61% of Americans distrust official explanations and instead believe there was some sort of conspiracy to kill President Kennedy, that an ideological loser would not have been able to do this on his own.  Note that the 61% includes Americans who had not yet been born when the murder happened, so they are immune from the trauma of that moment and in a position to be clearer of mind about this entire chapter of our history.

One of the last actions of the Warren Commission was the sealing of evidence brought to the commission but which was shielded from the public.  We were told that it would be unsealed and made public in 50 years.  Well, that is where we find ourselves today.  It is time to unseal and deliver the rest of the information to us and let the chips fall where they may.

Our distrust of government, borne of the Kennedy assassination whitewash, has been fueled through the intervening years by an ongoing parade of lies and disinformation from our government.  Our current DC dysfunction continues that, in part because so many of us have dropped out, wishing a pox on all their houses.  That dropping out allows the crazy people to expand the debilitation of government and that actually exacerbates the very thing we loathe.

It is time for we Americans – and especially those who remember – to drop back in.

It is time to end our willful apathy, cynicism and disinterest and take the bold step of reinvesting ourselves in our country.

It is time for us to again be moved as we were that day in 1961, to pick ourselves up and,

“Ask not what your country can do for you.  Ask what you can do for your country.”

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

If It Isn’t a Perfect 10 . . .

Look, it’s as plain as can be that the Affordable Care Act – Obamacare – was flawed from the start.   Whatever your political views, the act focuses on payment, not medical care itself.  And it doesn’t cover everyone.  Besides, the stupid website doesn’t work.  Just de-fund it, already.

And while I’m thinking of it, our interstate highways are pretty beaten up.  De-fund those, too.

Education.  Now, that’s a mess.  Our kids are way behind most of the industrialized world in science and math, so the only sensible thing to do is to just dump the system we’re using.  Perhaps funding based on real estate property taxes made sense a long time ago.  Maybe, maybe not.  But that funding mechanism isn’t preparing kids for today, much less for tomorrow.  And we’re not hiring and retaining the best teachers, either, as too many are on the “Three Years and Out” plan.  No, this isn’t working well enough to continue to throw money at it, so just pull the plug.

The Postal Service doesn’t get any money from the government, unless some bureaucrat wants to mail a letter, so we don’t have to worry about that.  But the people running it ought to be re-thinking their whole model.  One stamp sends a letter to the remotest places in the U.S. every day.  That’s crazy.  Maybe congress should increase the requirement for their pension put-away to cover people who won’t be born for another 50 years.  That would put the pressure on them to pull the plug.

And those spiffs to alternative energy companies – what’s up with that?  Those technologies only supply 2% of our energy needs, which is way too little to make a real difference.  No point in encouraging that, so we should just de-fund those loony subsidies.

What the heck is the government doing in the home mortgage industry?  Everyone knows that Reagan was right about government being the problem.  We should just let the free market do its magic.  The FHA falls well short of doing things right all the time.  Adios, FHA.  And pay no attention to those too-big-to-fail bank derivatives that nobody understands.  Let the free market work there, too, except if those guys crash and burn again and then government will be the safety net.  Everything has an exception, right?

Medical R & D – now, that’s a real problem.  We keep throwing money that way, but where is that cure for cancer?  Have you seen it?  Neither have I.  Now, that’s a really dark hole into which we throw cash all the time, but that’s a system that never delivers like it should.  De-fund that bad boy, too.

Back to Obamacare for a second.  The website is so bad that it’s embarrassing.  And President Obama did that, “If you like it you can keep it” thing, which turned out not to be true for everyone.  Those are two more good reasons for trashing the entire program.  Okay, really just one more, since I mentioned the website earlier.  But it’s that bad, though, so it should be beaten up twice.  Maybe continuously.

There are so many programs that we fund that work at sub-optimal levels.  If we are to make good choices about what to do with our scarce resources (i.e. what’s in our collective wallet), then here is the bar that must be cleared:  If it isn’t perfect, de-fund it.

There.  That was easy.

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

Jax Fablz: Where Bees Go

There were hives.  Lots of hives.  They were all over the Federation of Bee Hives.

The drones worked hard, collecting pollen and bringing it back to the hives and the queens would look upon their work and say that it was good.  But both the queens and the drones of the southern hives had too much to do and the summers were so hot and humid that they needed help.

Then one day a ship arrived with African bees.  The southern bees cheered and bought the African bees, queens, drones and all.  The African bees were made to labor for the southern bees who forced them to work very hard.  They weren’t paid for their work, and were given only enough to eat to stay alive.  The African queen bees gave birth to baby bees and they were owned by the local bees, as well, so the free bee labor pool grew and grew, but the African bees suffered and were very unhappy.

One day a group of northern queen bees told the southern queen bees that what they were doing to the African bees was terrible and that they had to stop.  The southern bees did not like being told what they could and could not do and became very angry.  They said, “We have hive rights!”

Well, the talk became angrier and angrier and hatred grew.  The southern bee queens and drones insisted that they needed the free African bee labor so that they could become even richer.  At last they said they had had enough of northern bee judgments and northern bee demands on them.   With that, they left the Federation of Bee Hives.

That caused a bee civil war and over 600,000 bees died in the fighting.  The Federation was saved and the African bees were freed, but there wasn’t a single bee anywhere who didn’t feel the pain and sorrow of loss of their fellow bees.  All of the bees vowed that such a thing would never happen again.

The years passed and the southern bee queens and drones gave way to new generations of bees.  No bee then alive had a memory of the terrible suffering of that war of long ago and not a single bee could remember the vow their ancestors had made.  Still, they carried with them the stories of how their bee ancestors were told what they could not do.  That kept a fire of resentment buzzing in their bee hearts.

They also carried a disdain for the African bees still in their midst.  Like their southern bee ancestors, they liked to think they were better than the African bees, so they did things to keep the African bees down.  The southern bees liked the feelings of power and control that gave them.  But little by little the northern bees put a stop to many of the bad things that were being done to the African bees.  That served to amplify the buzzing of the southern bees over how much they disliked being told what they could and could not do.

Finally, one day the southern queen bee of the largest southern bee hive spoke up.  She had no memory of the awful suffering of the past, or at least she acted that way, because she hinted that perhaps her hive should secede from the Federation of Bee Hives.  She was very pretty, but most bees knew that she was nothing but a pollen head.  Still, she had tapped in to the southern bee feelings of resentment, a resentment nurtured by generations of bees that liked to see themselves as victims and blame other bees for their suffering.

Then more southern bees began to speak of what they called “the good old days” when the southern bee hives left the Federation.  Like the pretty queen bee who had spoken up, they refused to acknowledge the terrible suffering that all bees had endured because of that bee civil war of long ago.  They paraded in funny bee hats and old southern bee war uniforms.  They waved the flag of those old days of hive secession and buzzed with pride.  Indeed, there were quite a few southern bees who became so puffed up with feelings of their power of resentment that their hairy bodies and especially their heads became quite swollen.

One day one of the swollen head southern bee drones said that he would stand for office to represent his hive in the Federation of Bee Hives.  If he were to win his election he would have to swear an oath of allegiance with his bee leg on the Bee Bible, promising to protect and defend the Constitution of the Federation of Bee Hives.  But he had openly declared that he was a member of a group calling for the southern hives to secede from the Federation again.

And no bee had any idea what had happened to bee integrity or even common bee sense.  They only knew that they were trapped in a downward spiral of bee fear and bee hate.

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Moral:  Both the anger of victim-hood and the pride of self-righteousness lead to the same dark place. – JA

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

Another Shot In The Foot

The recent government shutdown over a stupid power play by right wing extremists, along with their threat to cause the United States to default on its debt, were more than just political theater and more even than a showdown episode.  It was an exercise in self-destruction.

Yes, it was destructive to the Republican Party.  On the other hand, the Republicans stopped being true conservatives at least 35 years ago and instead have focused on transferring wealth to the already rich from all the rest of us, ensuring our prisons are full of chronically voiceless people and starting unnecessary wars.  So, who really cares if the Republican Party is in self-immolation mode?  Just let them burn to the ground and perhaps some sane voices will emerge from the ashes.

The self-destruction you need to pay attention to is that of the United States of America.  We have threatened the entire world with financial catastrophe.  We have demonstrated repeatedly that our primary goal is national dysfunction.  We have marginalized the majority of Americans.  We have dramatically expanded the ranks of our poor.  We have declared that we don’t want to fund the education of our children.  And we do want to arrest and torture people without so much as charging them with a crime and then keep them imprisoned endlessly.  All of this stands in stark contrast to the values we say we believe in like truth, justice, democracy, fairness, opportunity and other worthwhile attributes.

Given that contrast, what do you suppose the people in the rest of the world think when they hear the happy words but see the not-so-happy deeds?  Surely, our mixed messages pull the rug from under their trust and confidence in us.  Don’t imagine that is a small thing.

Trust is the cornerstone of relationship and we are in continuous relationship with a global society.  For many decades the standard of world trade has been the American dollar.  It is the symbol of global influence enhanced not just by military might, but also by trust and confidence in our values and our dependability.  Once those things are gone, the money of some other country will step in and be the global standard and the United States will be a second tier country.

We are in a headlong rush to hand over world leadership to China, led with daring forcefulness by crazy Americans who tell the world that the United States cannot be trusted.  They do that by paralyzing our government and threatening creditors with our default and those exercises are scheduled for a replay in the middle of January.

For more on the American Brand and the crazy messages we give the world, review Bruce Terkel’s blog here.  Then comment below with your ideas about how to stop us from repeatedly shooting ourselves in the foot.

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

This Just In

ExtraOctober 15, 2013 – Washington DC

In a joint press conference called late yesterday by Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) and Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), accompanied by Republican House Whip Eric Cantor (R-VA) and Reince Pribus, Chairman of the RNC, it was announced that President Ronald Reagan will no longer be the beating heart of the Republican Party.

For decades the idol of conservatives and the touchstone for everything on the political right, Reagan has been summarily rejected as unfit to hold that lofty position any longer.  Boehner explained to a stunned crowd of reporters and hangers-on that this has been coming for a while.  “The last straw was the realization that President Reagan would not have gambled with America’s national and international integrity by threatening to refuse to raise the debt ceiling,” said Boehner.  “Today everyone knows that we can just stiff whoever we want in order to get everything we want.   I mean, debt ceiling?  Get serious.”

“President Reagan had the stodgy attitude of days long gone,” McConnell added.  “That dog won’t hunt in today’s world.”

Not to be outdone at the microphone, Congressman Cantor invoked the new Tea Party mantra first voiced by Congressman Michele Bachmann (R-MN), saying that a default on our debt wouldn’t be a big problem because, “We have plenty of money coming in.”  Cantor continued, “President Reagan just didn’t understand today’s world and we will no longer invoke his name with every exhale.”  He paused and added in a quiet, contemplative tone, “It will be an adjustment for all of us”

In the closing moments of the press conference Chairman Pribus took to the microphone and said, “I just want to make sure that you have a clear and accurate context for this.  All of America’s problems can be traced to one source – the Democrats.  Sadly, they forced on America a president who wasn’t even born in this country and he has single-handedly shut down the federal government.”

The conference ended with no questions allowed and with no indication of who the new beating heart of all Republicans will be.  However, a possible hint came from Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), who was standing nearby, wearing a tri-corner hat and being cheered by Sarah Palin who winked and screeched, “You betcha.”

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

What Do You Want?

Uncle Sam What Do You WantA fundamental question in all negotiations is, “What do you want?”  Of course, there are other questions each party must answer but everything hinges on knowing what you want.  Absent that, all negotiations are just exercises in defeating the other guy for no clear purpose other than the opportunity to do a little chest beating.  Not much good happens from that.

Indeed, On Thursday Congressman Marlin Stutzman (R-IN) said of the government shutdown, “We’re not going to be disrespected.  We have to get something out of this.  And I don’t know what that even is.”  And, in fact, nothing good came from that, except for Stutzman’s hand getting slapped by other Tea Party  people for making them all look stupid.

The answer to the “What do you want?” question for each side in our ongoing DC dysfunction is “government.”  The Democrats want government to be an active agent in society.  The Republicans continue to follow the slick campaign quip of Ronald Reagan, “Government is the problem.”  That is to say, what Republicans want is to do away with nearly all government.  To that point, Grover Norquist has told us that he wants to reduce government in size such that he can “drown it in a bathtub.”  And, due to 2010 redistricting, the Republican extremists have managed to shut down much of the federal government and have threatened to default on the nation’s debt in pursuit of their government destruction goal.  Apparently, nothing is sacred to them in their quest – not even our national honor nor the world economy.

This is not a situation where each party is equally to blame for the mess we’re in.  This is the result of a few dozen radicals holding the United States and the world economy hostage.

The question for all the rest of us is, “What do you want?”  If you want to terminate all the things you have come to expect from government, then the extremists’ view and their Machiavellian methods are for you.

On the other hand, what you want might include the protections that only a functioning government can provide, things like meat inspection, careful review of drugs before they’re used on your children, air traffic control so that the airplane on which Granny is riding doesn’t go bump in the night with another airplane, ensuring that our kids get an education for success both today and tomorrow, building and maintaining our bridges and interstate highways, all national security functions, funding the research work at the National Institutes of Health so that when you get sick there is medical help for you and so many other important functions.  If that is what you want, then it just might be a good idea to contact your representative and senators in Congress and tell them to shape up, especially if one of them is a Tea Party zealot with his/her gun pointed at Uncle Sam (aka you).

As always, the behavior you tolerate is the behavior you get.

One more time:  What do you want?

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

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