Accountability

Keep Heart

Oh no ThinkerReading time – 46 seconds  .  .  .

We Americans have a short little attention span.

Does anyone remember the terrible floods in the desert country of Oman in June or the floods in Los Angeles 3 weeks ago or the students who were killed at Umpqua Community College in Oregon just last month?

Our news is currently obsessed with terrorism in Europe and Africa and with Syrian women and children refugees (have a look at this for a fresh perspective) who might come to America and kill you. We see talking heads speculating endlessly over things about which they have no facts. Experts rattle on as though oracles of the gods, while relatives of victims and witnesses to terrorism are interviewed in bouts of heart-tugging pandering for the cameras.

The good news is that this will pass. It will happen just as soon as the next sensational awful thing happens. The even better news is that the political stupid stuff that’s being sprayed in toxic levels over the current events will also start to abate, but the political pandering will have made its mark.

Ben Carson’s support has dropped 40% because people are at last realizing that he is clueless. Support for the circus barker with the strange hair has gone up because he is sucking up to people’s need for security with his inane pronouncements. And Ted Cruz sounds ever more like the idiot that he is not and ever more like the manipulator that he most surely is.

So much certainty and so little wisdom is vying for our attention. What’s a thinking person to do?

Keep your eye on the ball: The mother lode of our political and governmental dysfunction is the big money influence on our elections and lobbying practices. Fix that and the rest of our challenges will be handled promptly and well.

So, keep heart and work hard to elect a Congress – your senators and congressman/woman – that will reform our criminal campaign finance system. And work extra hard to elect a president who will appoint Supreme Court justices who aren’t wacko righties bent on creating an oligarchy and subverting your rights.

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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.

ACTION STEP: Please offer your comments below and pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe.  Thanks!  JA

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

Issues Separation Anxiety Disorder

Issues Separation Anxiety Disorder - a Republican affliction

Issues Separation Anxiety Disorder – a Republican affliction

Reading time – 77 seconds  .  .  .

I heard a comedian explaining that there are two kinds of people in the world: those who laugh and those who make people laugh. Hard to argue with that.

And it turns out that there are always two kinds of people in the world. For cabbies it’s people who drive and people who need a ride. For children it’s kids who are fun to play with and kids who aren’t.

My view, too, is that there are two kinds of people in the world: people who divide people into two groups and those who don’t. And that is the most important difference we’re being shown by the presidential candidates.

The Republicans – every one of them – are dividing us into two kinds of people:

  • – We good Americans and immigrants who are taking our jobs.
  • – The makers and the takers.
  • – The straights and the gays.
  • – Those who know that military solutions are best and the weak-knee wimps.
  • – We good Americans and the terrible government.
  • – The gun-toters and those who would take their guns from them.
  • – The Christians and all those who are wrong.
  • – Good Americans and the “lame stream media.”
  • – The cops and the Black Lives Matter people who incite the murdering of cops.

In all these cases Republicans tell us that the cause of the problems of the first group is all those in the second group. No need here for personal responsibility or even good sense. As Church Lady would say, “How convenient.”

At the last Republican debate, divisions like these and attacks on those in the “other” group are all we heard. Okay, that’s not entirely true. We also heard about taxation plans based on math with rounding errors in the negative trillions of dollars, but which would put trickle-down economics on steroids, thus accelerating the transfer of all money in this country to 158 families.

In contrast, at the Democratic debates we heard about bringing us together:

  • – Healthcare for all Americans as a right.
  • – Economy-stimulating infrastructure rebuilding that will create millions of good paying jobs.
  • – Ending income inequality so that everyone benefits from a growing economy.
  • – Ending our corrupt election finance system and driving special interests out of control of government.
  • – Common sense gun safety laws so that we begin to end our self-inflicted, ongoing massacre of innocents.
  • – A shift from fossil fuels to renewable sources of energy so that we don’t all die on an uninhabitable planet.

This list could be much longer, but you get the idea. It’s about all of us, not a dividing of us.

Again, and with a few extra words this time, there are two kinds of people in the world: those who try to manipulate us with fear and hate in order to divide us from one another; and those who don’t.

The key is this: Fearful, angry people are motivated, so they vote. They may vote in self-destructive ways, but they show up on election day and vote. People who aren’t fearful and angry aren’t as motivated, so they don’t bother to vote. That distinction is exactly what led to a Tea Party wacko getting elected governor of Kentucky last week.

The Republicans are affected with Issues Separation Anxiety Disorder (dividing us over mostly bogus issues) which they spread to unaware Americans via media contact. The acronym is ISAD, and I assure you that I am sad over this debasement of America.

There are two kinds of people in this world: Those who vote and get what they think they want; and those who don’t vote and are willing victims of the manipulators who divide 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.

ACTION STEP: Please offer your comments below and pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe.  Thanks!  JA

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

Those Feel-Good Commercials

Reading time – 88 seconds  .  .  . 

Perhaps you’ve seen some of the General Electric (GE) television ads with a lovely feel-good messages .  .  .

My mom makes trains that are friends with trees."

“My mom makes trains that are friends with trees.”

 

.  .  .  like the cute little girl who tells us that her mom makes trains that are friends with trees.

 

 

 

 

"I'll be writing software for planes, trains and hospitals"

“I’ll be writing software for planes, trains and hospitals”

 

.  .  .  and the software engineer who won’t work on trains, but who will write software so that planes, trains and even hospitals can work better.

 

 

 

Pick up the hammer

“Go ahead – pick it up”

 

.  .  .  and that same software engineer whose dad challenges him to pick up his grandfather’s sledge hammer and he doesn’t and maybe he can’t, but his mom says it’s okay because he’s going to change the world.

 

GE is spending a lot of money to air those commercials, yet they aren’t trying to sell you anything. Not a microwave oven, nor a ballistic submarine nor a nuclear power plant or any of the many things that GE makes. Why would they spend that money?

Perhaps the target market is young, talented people they want to hire. That makes sense in light of the fierce competition for smart, creative people, especially in the high tech sector.

Or perhaps it’s to burnish GE’s public image, as it has taken a bit of a beating over the past few years due to its avoidance of paying income GE's 10 Years of Negligible Total FITtaxes and its pitifully small share of tax paid as an American company. Just take a look at this chart (right – full article here) from the Citizens for Tax Justice.

From 2002 – 2011 GE made a cumulative profit of over $80 billion and paid just $1.467 billion in Federal income tax. Business lobbying groups like to say that America can’t compete in the global market place with our 35% top corporate rate, but GE has paid an effective rate of just 1.8% on its $80 billion in profit. Note, too, that the figures in red on the chart indicate years when GE got tax rebates from prior years’ taxes, even though they made billions in profit in those years. Got a problem with that?

Here’s the thing: GE is playing by the rules. No one appears to be suggesting that the people running GE have broken any law with their tax avoidance schemes; they’ve just gamed the system. That system was created by our legislators – it’s only administered by the IRS – which is to say that our legislators made a system that GE could game to its very lucrative benefit and to the detriment of our country.

In a well-referenced 2013 article, the Huffington Post reported that GE had $108 billion in profit squirreled away offshore specifically for the purpose of avoiding paying Federal income tax on that money. Of course, they aren’t alone, as HuffPost reports,

Sixty big U.S. companies analyzed by the Wall Street Journal kept on average more than 40 percent of their annual profits overseas last year.”

That kind of thing is made possible by corporate lobbying. Again singling out GE about their lobbying activity:

According to the report, GE lobbyists made contact with lawmakers or their staffs at least 863 times over a two-year period between 2011 and 2013 to argue for the loophole, known as the “active financing exemption.” [emphasis added}

Estimates are that there is a cumulative $2 trillion of un-taxed American companies’ profit hidden offshore and that’s pretty ugly stuff to those of us who pay all of our taxes (meaning just about all of we non-corporate entities – i.e. small businesses and individuals).

Note, too, that GE gave over $1.8 million to politicians in campaign contributions in the 2014 election cycle. Do you suppose that might help GE get additional legislation that allows them to game the system more and pay even less tax?

As this kind of information arrives in public view it’s a black eye for corporations like GE, so those companies have to launch PR campaigns so that we won’t think they’re the creeps they really are.

Clearly, the message is that you will need hundreds of lobbyists to twist the arms of legislators and the cash for very large campaign contributions so that you, too, can pay almost no Federal income tax. You say you don’t have the millions of dollars that would cost, the almost limitless wells of cash that the big corporations have? Too bad for you.

On the other hand, as you watch those television commercials, don’t you just feel all warm and fuzzy about GE? Maybe not anymore.

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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.

ACTION STEP: Please offer your comments below and pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe.  Thanks!  JA

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

Somebody Please Tell Me

Obama - Afganistan drawdown

October 15, 2015 – President Obama announcing he will keep U.S. troops in Afghanistan through the end of his term in office

Reading time – 69 seconds  .  .  .

We were told by President Bush that we should invade Iraq because Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and because he was in cahoots with al Qaeda in the 9/11 attack. Besides, Saddam was a bad guy. Okay, at least he got the bad guy thing right. So we attacked a nation that had done us no harm. In fact, they had been our ally just 20 years earlier.

Before that we invaded Afghanistan. At the time I thought about the British, who tried to subdue that country (1839-1842) and were humiliated, with thousands of British killed. A hundred years later the Soviets tried to subdue Afghanistan and gave up after ten years of frustration, death and enormous expense. How is it that our leaders didn’t see the pattern? How is it that they still don’t?

We were told the invasion of Afghanistan was to go after (i.e. kill) the al Qaeda members hiding there, plus to deny al Qaeda safe haven – as though preventing their use of that geography would somehow prevent any further al Qaeda training for attacks on America. Then the purpose was somehow stretched to include driving the Taliban out of Afghanistan, or at least removing them from power. We weren’t given much of a reason for the stretch; the goal posts were just moved to include waging war against people who had not attacked us. It was the same song as with Iraq a couple of years later, including that they had been our ally just a few years earlier.

Afghanistan is a country that has never had a strong central government and which was mostly a bunch of tribal clans within Afghanistan’s geographical borders. Oddly, after deciding that we were going to drive the Taliban from power we once again adjusted our purpose for making war there to include planting a national democracy. What could possibly go wrong with that? Oh wait – that’s exactly where and how we failed in Iraq.

President Obama campaigned in 2007-2008 promising to end the war in Iraq. At least most of our troops were withdrawn, but we left behind the chaos that the world continues to deal with now. Then we were going to have all of our troops out of Afghanistan by the end of 2014. That didn’t happen and now the President has informed us that not only will at least 5,500 troops remain in Afghanistan through the end of his second term in office, but that he will be leaving the entire mess for the next president.

What remains perfectly opaque is the reason that the U.S. should have any troops in Afghanistan. What is the compelling national security purpose of putting our troops at risk, such that some number of them will be killed and about 8 times as many will be wounded? How are we better off by intervening in that country, killing some of its people and continuing to be the chief recruiter for yet more angry Islamists to want to attack the U.S.? What is the return on our investment of trillions of dollars?

Somebody please tell me why we should continue to be at war in Afghanistan.

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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.

ACTION STEP: Please offer your comments below and pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe.  Thanks!  JA

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

Roseburg, OR and Manipulation

Reading time – 65 seconds  .  .  .

President Obama went to Roseburg, OR to express condolences to the families, friends and their fellow citizens for their losses due to the murderous campus rampage of a killer at their community college. He went to meet privately with families of victims and the surviving victims to let them know of his care and to say that he and the American people were holding those hurting people in our hearts. In light of that, who could voice a complaint?

It turned out that hundreds of people found something to complain about. They came with “OBAMA GO HOME” signs. They came with their disdain and their loaded guns to greet him at the airport. They came with the message that he can’t take their guns. Other than their flagrant disrespect for a man bringing condolences to grieving people, they also came with their perfect ignorance.

The NRA has done a masterful job of propagandizing* gun rights, using the last 7 years to make people believe that President Obama is going to take their guns from them. That would be reasonable if not for the fact (and this is an ACTUAL fact) that President Obama has never spoken a word publicly that could remotely be understood to believe that he wants to do anything of the sort.

He has spoken repeatedly about sensible gun safety laws, like universal background checks so that Crazy Pete down the block can’t legally buy an AK-47 assault rifle. He’s never suggest that you should not be able to own a gun.

He has spoken repeatedly about keeping guns out of the hands of convicted violent felons. Unless that describes you, that sensible proposal would never affect you.

There is no perfect American solution for preventing all gun deaths. There are many solutions for preventing some of them. Should you find yourself a potential target of an angry young white guy who can’t get a date and who is carrying a lifetime of rage and an assault rifle with a huge clip of bullets, that moment might change your mind about access to guns and a partial solution will look pretty good to you.

The one thing that the NRA is supremely good at is propaganda. They wrap themselves up in red, white and blue, proclaim all sorts of sanctimonious, nonsensical blather about rights that has nothing to do with our Constitution and its spokesmen use that to inflame unknowing patriotic people to hate the government. They get people tied up six different ways from Sunday with a proud “Don’t tread on me” appeal to their, “You can’t tell me what to do!” passion and incite them threaten violence upon others.

The NRA has convinced well meaning, independent minded people that the government not only oppresses them now, but that their guns are their only defense against a tyrannical government. The massive sale of firearms and ammunition to citizens that comes of that phony threat creates lots of profit for the firearms industry and they pass some of their millions to their lobbyist, the NRA, to twist the arms of our legislators to their violence enabling desires. That is to say, the NRA’s self-serving manipulation creates a false and impassioned us-them conflict, all for the unnamed purpose of greed.

The downside to that is the sad and tragic list of Americans, over 406,000 since 2001, dead by gun violence.

The good news for the Roseburg protesters is that our Constitution gives people the right to protest (another ACTUAL fact). The bad news is that they have been grievously manipulated to believe that the Constitution is intended to allow everyone – even the crazy and the violent felons – the right to own and use any weapon they want, leaving us all at risk.

Do you believe that a partial solution is a good idea? Then support, campaign and vote for legislators who have the same good sense as you.

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*Josef Goebbels, Hitler’s diabolically brilliant chief of propaganda, created a road map for manipulation of public opinion, his Principles of Propaganda. Here are a few that you may find rather similar to the NRA’s actions:

6. To be perceived, propaganda must evoke the interest of an audience and must be transmitted through an attention-getting communications medium.

14 Propaganda must label events and people with distinctive phrases or slogans.

16. Propaganda to the home front must create an optimum anxiety level.

18. Propaganda must facilitate the displacement of aggression by specifying the targets for hatred.

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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.

ACTION STEP: Please offer your comments below and pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe.  Thanks!  JA

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

Vice

Reading time – 67 seconds  .  .  .

Happy Columbus Day, as we celebrate some guy who found an island over 500 years ago and we have no clue about the reason we remember and celebrate, a reason which has been lost for over 100 years. It’s just another day off work for some. So, the message today is, “Who cares?” Read on.

The vices of the rich and great are mistaken for errors,
and those of the poor and lowly for crimes.
– Marguerite Gardiner (Lady Blessington)*

And so we jail young black men for possession of a small amount of marijuana, but we allow government torturers to go unindicted.

Banking swindlers foreclosed fraudulently on the home mortgages of millions of Americans, forcing them onto the street and nobody went to jail for fraud or conspiracy. At the same time our legislators cut funds for food stamps that took food from the mouths of millions of kids, as those legislators congratulated themselves on their fiscal prudence. None was held to account for the empty stomachs of poor kids.

Goldman Sachs aggressively and fraudulently sold collateralized debt obligations (“CDOs”) to its clients, while at the same time dumping their own holdings because they knew those CDOs were worthless. No one went to jail for their SEC violations, fraud or conspiracy. They just got a slap on the wrist. Gotta wonder if the absence of Goldman asses in federal prison has something to do with the revolving door between Goldman and the FED.

Adding the $600 billion given to the Pentagon annually to the hundreds of billions thrown at the NSA and the rest, our annual defense spending is about $1.5 trillion, which supports our state of perpetual war, often on the wrong side of other peoples’ conflicts. That’s very profitable for the war matériel manufacturers, for so-called contractors (read: mercenaries) and others. It’s homicidal for people underneath our drone-launched rockets. Clearly, the profiteers care more about their profits than the lives of those they kill, yet no one is held to account.

Our leaders lied us into wars (think: Viet Nam and Iraq), nothing good came of it for the people of those countries or for the US, monstrous bad things happened and none of our leaders has been held accountable for the lying that resulted in millions slaughtered. Then a guy in New York got busted for selling cigarettes illegally, cops strangled him to death and no one called paramedics or attempted to resuscitate him. They just got put on administrative leave for a while. Makes me wonder: Black lives matter, but to whom?

We keep our privately run prisons full of people guilty of not much (sometimes guilty of nothing at all) because it’s profitable for our prison industry and helpful to “tough on crime” politicians. At the same time, the rich and powerful torturers, defrauders and even murderers go free.

Sadly, accountability is applied in inverse proportion to wealth and power.

So, many of the rich and powerful get away with their vice, largely because the laws are made by the rich and powerful; the rest of us are subject to the law. It’s that way in most places, so in this respect, America isn’t exceptional.

But we could be.

So, who cares? If we don’t care enough, things are certain to get worse.

*Thanks to MG for the quote.

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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.

ACTION STEP: Please offer your comments below and pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe.  Thanks!  JA

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

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