21st Century

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.


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.

The Greater Good – Part 2 of 2

Situation RoomBooks have been booked and blogs have been blogged.  Pundits have pundited and liars have lied.  The consensus seems to be that the invasion of Iraq was about oil.  Clearly, it wasn’t about WMD’s or Saddam’s non-existent links to al Qaeda.  So, let’s play with the oil theory.

We are now in the Situation Room.  Seated around the table are President George W. Bush, Vice-President Dick Cheney, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of State Colin Powell, National Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice and the head of the CIA, George Tenet.  The topic is global energy stability and U.S. national security.  The concern is that Saddam is a loose cannon with the second largest known reserves of oil on the planet and he could upset world order.

President Bush declares, “This is about Amer-ka and we have to focus on the greater good.  Besides, I don’t like that guy.”

Rumsfeld raises his hand.  “You’re right, Mr. President.  If Saddam gets any more unpredictable the world oil markets could become crazy and force major disruptions to our national well-being and even threaten our future economic and political stability.  We must devise a plan to protect us from the ‘known unknown’ outcomes.

“We’ll invade Iraq,” snarls Cheney.  “It’s simple, plus it will be quick and easy.  We’ll just apply massive force, topple Saddam’s regime and install a new U.S.-friendly leader.”

Rumsfeld lights up upon hearing Cheney’s idea, “Our soldiers will be greeted by Iraqi citizens tossing flowers to them.  Best of all, the war will only last a few weeks and will cost just $300 million.  And, get this:  we can pay for it with Iraqi oil.”  There are big, self-satisfied smiles all around the table.

President Bush is really getting into it now and says, “That’s a great stratergy, Dick.  Oil market confidence’ll soar, we’ll have a continuing supply of cheap oil and the Amer-kn way ‘a life and our national secur-ty will be assured.  Plus, we can make ’em into a democracy just like us.  It’s all ’bout the greater good, get it?  And don’t you just love simple solutions to complex problems?”  Everyone at the table agrees with the boss.

“But wait,” Rice says.  “We can’t just tell the world that we’re going to invade Iraq because we want their oil.  We have to come up with a cover story for the invasion.”  That is when they begin to craft a lie about the smoking gun being a mushroom cloud.  And, because this conversation happens just months after 9/11, the tie between secular Saddam and Islamist al Qaeda is fabricated and, voila!  An American hunger for retribution is served by providing the lynch mob with someone to lynch.

George Tenet has been quietly scheming as he listens and can no longer contain himself.  “We can get real creative here.  We’ll make up a story about yellow cake from Nigeria, telling everyone that Saddam is making the yellow cake into weapons grade uranium. We’ll tell everyone that Joe Wilson is a liar and we’ll out his wife, Valerie Plame.  How ’bout you handle that, Dick?”  Cheney grunts.

“Oh, wait!” continues Tenet.  “I just thought of the best part.  You known those flimsy little aluminum tubes we found in that abandoned trailer in the desert?”  A few heads nod affirmatively.  “This is great.  We’ll tell everyone that Saddam’s going to pack his enriched uranium into them.  Hey, Colin – how ’bout you spout that one at the UN?”  Powell looks at Tenet, then to Bush, his brow furrowed.

“Look, Colin,” continues Tenet, “We’ve got the intel and we can spin it any way we want.  We can make it sit up and bark, if that sells the program.  It’ll be a slam-dunk.”  Powell acquiesces.

Cheney blurts, “We’ll probably take some heat for this, but we can sidetrack criticism by doing some illegal stuff.  We’ll call it legal and then we’ll stonewall critics by saying, ‘So?’  This is a no-brainer.”   Cheney snarls again.

Let’s leave that imaginary meeting and scratch our own heads about “the greater good” and other paths that might have served it.

If the issue was fossil fuel energy, we could have pursued a path like the one we’re on now, poking more holes into the ground in America and in different ways than ever before.  In fact, we are now extracting more fossil fuels domestically than at any time in our history.  Our dependence on foreign supplies has dropped from 60% a few years ago to 36% now and none of that domestic extraction cost the life or limb of any military personnel, nor did it cost the U.S. Treasury even a buck.  And we didn’t become even more hated throughout the Muslim world as a result of finding our own oil.

If the bigger picture of energy (i.e. beyond just burning more hydrocarbons) and its impact on national welfare and security were the issue, there is far more that we could have done.  We could have elected to take some of the billions we spent on war materiel, resources and personnel and instead put that into research and development of alternative, renewable energy sources, as well as a better battery for electric automobiles.  Indeed, just imagine what we could have accomplished with 12 years of well-funded research and Yankee ingenuity.

There is a lot of craziness that can be rationalized using the words “the greater good”.  Too often the only participants in discussions about the greater good are those with a limited or bizarre imagination, capable only of short-term thinking and with a vested interest in the outcome.

There are wacko-birds in congress right now who think that the greater good will be served by the United States of America, the bedrock upon which the world economy rests, defaulting on its debt.  Never mind the global catastrophes that will be visited upon us.  Ignore the massive economic depression that will put tens of millions of Americans out of work.  Just take it on faith that the crazies wearing the propeller hats of the Tea Party, the new American terrorists, understand “the greater good”.

But once again those controlling power have a limited and bizarre imagination capable only of short-term thinking and with a vested interest in the outcome.

We need better than that.

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

Deliberative Leadership

FDRGiven the current impassioned debate surrounding Syria’s use of chemical weapons, the implications of US military action and President Obama’s handling of the situation, this is a good time to revisit a lesson from World War II.

Look at the chart below (click here for a sharper image) that details war deaths.

WW II Deaths

Just to make the central point clear, here in tabular form and focused solely on military deaths, is the same information:

Russia                9 -14,000,000

China                  3 – 4,000,000

Yugoslavia          446,000

United States      417,000

United Kingdom  384,000

Romania              300,000

Hungary               300,000

Poland                 240,000

France                 217,000

The numbers for France, Poland and several other countries would be much higher had they not been overrun within days, making formal military confrontation minimal.

Although the US was a major player in what were essentially two wars waged concurrently, the number of US military deaths, while tragic, was relatively low.  For that we can thank President Roosevelt.

A great deal of the US participation in the European war was through the supply of war materiel to other countries.  Indeed, both wars had been ongoing for years before the US became involved.  Looking at the numbers above, it is apparent that we did a lot of arms supplying and proportionately far less bleeding than many of the other combatants.

That was Roosevelt’s genius in action.  He was deliberative.  No rash decisions.  Everything well thought out.  He thought about both the intended and the unintended consequences.  There are a lot of soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen who survived that decade thanks to Roosevelt’s thorough and rigorous thinking, and that is the lesson.

The next time you hear someone whining about President Obama’s “dithering,” about his taking time to think instead of taking immediate action, about him being too “professorial,” be sure to hear that for what it is.  It is the sound of a chest thumping, “shoot first and ask questions later” pea brain without the capacity or good sense to think before doing irreparable harm.  You’ll find that you’re listening to someone without the capacity to hold more than one thimble-sized thought in his head at once, which is exactly the kind of mental limitation that gets America in trouble, like in Iraq and Afghanistan.

We tried shallow thinking for most of the past 32 years and almost without exception it has backfired.  We need leaders who have the good sense to adjust when circumstances change.  We need thoughtfulness in our leadership performed by someone with the capacity to hold several complex ideas in mind at the same time.

Deliberative leadership.  Celebrate that, America.

Note to obstructionists:  Stop whining about people being smart.  It’s a lot more valuable than people being dumb.

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

Why There Is So Much Push-Back

Bush Lies

* * *  Special Friday Edition  * * *

Lyndon Johnson had what was termed by the press a “credibility gap”.  You have to factor into your understanding of that term that this was two generations ago when the press was loathe to use the word “liar” and there was still some respect for the office of the President.  Johnson played fast and loose with facts and managed to get us deeply entrenched in a war that was not ours but which eventually killed over 58,000 Americans.  That ignited a profound distrust of government that persists to this day.

Richard Nixon told us that he was not a crook, even as he obstructed justice, another nail in the coffin of trust in government and politicians.

The Gipper played on the strongly held public distrust of government, telling us that government wasn’t the solution to the problem, but that government is the problem.  That was an effective campaign slogan.  During that campaign he also told us that we had to reduce government spending, debt and taxes.  Once he became President, he dramatically increased all three.

Bill Clinton told us that he didn’t have sex with “that woman, Ms. Lewinsky,” but of course he did.

The Big Cahuna of lying to Americans, though, is George W. Bush.  He lied us into two wars, the enormous consequences of which cannot yet be fully calculated and which will be felt in this country for generations.

Look at the chart above – I know it’s too small to read within this post, so click on it to view it with its source material and read the entire piece.  It tells the story of the Bush administration’s lies, deceit and even its internal back stabbing to jam the American military into Iraq under false pretenses.

We know now that Bush didn’t let facts and truth get in the way of what he said and did.  We know that he and his team knew they were presenting lies to congress and the American people.  Thousands of Americans are now dead and eight times that many bear wounds, all of which were sustained because of Bush’s lies.  Our standing in the world, especially the middle-east, is severely damaged due to Bush’s heavy handed dishonesty. This is well beyond the frequent indictments of Bush’s intelligence; this is about entrenched governmental dishonesty and that sorry episode continues to shake our confidence in government and our participation in foreign affairs to this day.

Whatever your belief about action that America should take in response to the repeated use of sarin gas by the government of Bashar al-Assad in Syria, just understand that your skepticism of governmental claims and projections of outcomes of proposed actions is well founded.  On the other hand, your entrenched distrust of government may well unbalance your thinking.

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


VoicesEighty percent of Americans who know of the over-reaching, legislation-from-the-bench Supreme Court decision in the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission case – the one that ensured unlimited money influencing our politics – want it reversed.  That number varies by just a handful of percentage points, depending on respondents’ political views.  This issue is the venue where ultra-left tree huggers and hair-on-fire Tea Party members can join hands, sing Kumbaya and wave Don’t Tread On Me flags, all at the same time.  The trick in getting action on this is to expand the number of Americans who know about the CU decision so that we can exert sufficient pressure on lawmakers to pass the 28th Amendment to the Constitution to get big money out of our political process.

It was to that educational purpose that I crafted the Money, Politics and Democracy program that I have been delivering to various local groups for the better part of a year.  I delivered it last week to a fledgling group in DuPage and Will Counties who care enough about this issue to leave their front porches on a lovely summer evening and sit in a hot meeting room in order to learn.

Be clear that I have another motive in my talk.  It is to motivate people to take action.  And it is to that point that I direct you to an essay by Jesmyn Ward in today’s New York Times entitled A Cold Current.  Her story is about racism, the devaluing of people by “othering” and how we react to that.  There is a parallel to her story in today’s economically punitive America.

Think about the America you believe in, the one you want to leave to your children and grandchildren.  Look deep into your notion of The American Dream.  You better think about it, because we are crafting the America we will bequeath to your descendents right now.  It is just possible that the dream that you hold dear for your dear ones and yourself is a different dream than that dreamed by the leaders of our pharmaceutical industry, our energy barons, the fabulously wealthy individuals – the 1%.  That is because those people are exactly like everyone else in this sense:  We all act in what we believe to be our best interests.

I don’t even remotely imagine that the Koch brothers arise every day with sights on the evil they might do or the mischief they can create for most Americans.  As the titans of Big Pharma spent $390 per second fighting Obamacare, they weren’t doing it to ensure that our healthcare system remains the worst among industrialized nations.  Neither do the leaders of the American Petroleum Institute air its television ads with the pretty blonde in a black pants suit in order to create more super-hurricanes like Katrina and Sandy so that more Americans might suffer and die.  They do those things because it is in their financial best interests to do what they do, so they spend the big money to make their voices heard.  It is all about the voices.

So, rather than putting your effort into demonizing the big bucks class in America, your energy needs to be focused on making your voice heard.  Let go of any notion of instant gratification, because this is a long term push.  Just understand this:  If you don’t make your voice heard, people with a very different dream for America from the one you believe in will have their voices heard, because they will be the only ones talking.

Now go read Jesmyn Ward’s piece.  Read it first for her message about racism.  Then read it again and substitute “classism” and you’ll understand.

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

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