Behavior

Voices

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.

Morale, Knees and Common Elements

Obese Airline PassengerI was on a United Airlines flight from Chicago to San Diego and somewhere over the Rockies I just couldn’t sit any longer, so I took a stroll to the galley at the back of the plane.  Half-squats, twisting and tugging this way and that restored circulation, and I felt considerably better.

This happened about a year after the first United Airlines bankruptcy filing, so after my physical contortions I struck up a conversation with a flight attendant.  I asked about morale, now that all the employees had taken a 20% blow to their wallets.  She rolled her eyes and said, “Not good.”

She continued, telling me that the CEO had just taken a multimillion dollar bonus, while none of the employees had received back pay, nor restoration of pay rates, both of which had been promised.  That pretty much killed any “we’re in this together” spirit.  Employee give-a-damn level was down here, she reported, with an ankle level gesture and a glare that could laser cut her CEO’s investment statements.

I travel quiet a bit, delivering workshops and keynote presentations all over the United States and Canada, so I have the opportunity for lots of, shall we say, airplane adventures.  Some are influenced by airline employees whom I encounter directly, like that flight attendant.  Some of those adventures are influenced by airline employees whom I will never meet but whose work products affect me on every flight.

For example, when I cannot get a preferred seat as a perk of my frequent flyer status, I sit in aluminum tube steerage.  I’m not a big guy, but I do want half of the elbow rests and 100% of my seat width.  Both of those are compromised when a 370 pound seatmate shows up.  Fully 15% of my seat back is occupied by his shoulder and the armrest has disappeared into a sea of flesh.  I have lots of stories about trips with interesting seatmates.  They encompass all the senses and are not uniformly pleasant.

It is well known that we Americans are an overweight bunch.  So, while the FAA standard human being weighs 170 pounds, that number is exactly that – a standard – meaning some people weigh lots more than that.  The seat designers know that, but they engineer the seating in their planes as though we all weigh 170 pounds, which gets me buried by my over-sized seatmate.  The designers also engineer leg room as though we were all no taller than 5’8″, which makes my greatest fear of flying that the guy sitting in front of me will recline his seat back and smash my knees.  Memo to commercial airliner design people: Some of us are taller than your standard and some of us are wider and that impacts lots of people.

Here is the connection between flight attendants’ low morale, portly seatmates and the knee crushing machine: These conditions continue because we tolerate them.  The flight attendants continue to work for less and the flying public continues to reward the airlines for stuffing us into insufficient space.  That is to say, corporate management does what it does because it can.

It is exactly the same with our government and our politics.  The NSA is snooping on you and will continue to do so because you allow it.  Congress acts as though confrontation and stagnation were virtues.  They do that because we tolerate their behavior by electing those who create the confrontation and stagnation.  The NRA strong-arms congress and everything is voted as they like and not as you like.  That happens because we elected the fools who would do that and we will continue to get exactly the same kinds of results as long as we tolerate it.

“The two most common elements in the universe are hydrogen and stupidity,” advises Harlan Ellison.  We have to be smarter than the people who do the things we don’t want them to do and strong enough to stop tolerating their behavior.

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

Bankruptcy

Jailed-protesters-vs-jailed-bankers-editorial-cartoon-300x228No, not that kind.

This is about political bankruptcy.  It is about a Republican Party that doesn’t make decisions based on fact and, in fact, ignores fact and instead creates fatuous fantasies.  It is a party that brought us a president who doesn’t read, who ignores facts and who makes decisions based on gut hunches.  No, I didn’t make that up.  It is what President George W. Bush told us about the way he makes decisions And, yes, he had the “football” and could have pushed the button to send nuclear missiles to annihilate millions based solely on his “gut hunch.”

This is a party that is legally bankrupt, as it seeks to institutionalize discrimination with a Constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage.  This is a party that is legally bankrupt as state house after state house finds diabolical ways to prohibit from voting American citizens who are not white or who are poor.

This is a party that is morally bankrupt, as it chants the same mantra year after year, that it is all about jobs, jobs, jobs, but every opportunity to stimulate job growth has been filibustered by Republicans on the floor of the Senate or voted down by the Republican dominated House.  Okay, there was one bill – the veterans jobs legislation – but the Republicans had to be shamed into passing it.

But let’s be fair.  The Democrats took over in 2009 and have steadfastly refused to prosecute Wall Street bankers who defrauded the public with their swamp of mortgage derivatives.  The same Justice Department has refused to prosecute bankers for their millions of fraudulent home mortgage foreclosures.  This is the same Democratic Party that refused to create legislation to prevent another round of “too big to fail” and, guess what, once again the banks are too big to fail.

This is the Democratic administration that has refused to prosecute the prior administration for its blatant lawbreaking by torturing prisoners and for illegal detention.  And it is the same party and administration that has expanded the war in Afghanistan, a war that plainly cannot be won.  History would have told President Bush that fact before he commanded an invasion, but he would have had to have read a history book to know that.

This is a war with ever-morphing goals, no strategy for success, with a continuing supply of dead bodies and an economic cost that will eventually reach $4 to 6 trillion dollars And this is a war that President Obama has continued and expanded, notwithstanding his pledge to end American military involvement by the end of next year.  How many more dead Americans will we have created between now and then?  Would you like to be the last soldier or marine to die for that unholy cause?

The far righties hold dear a deep distrust of government.  They are right to do that, because they continue to champion and elect untrustworthy legislators.

The far lefties are never happy because government continues to eviscerate the values and rights they hold dear.  But they sit on their recliners on election day or fail to jump through the hoops necessary to register to vote or they just drop out entirely and complain loudly.

We get the government we deserve – or do we deserve the government we get?  Either way, we’ll continue to get what we are getting now until we require better.  Until then, you can expect a government in the pocket of corporations and fabulously wealthy people who crave money and power above all else.  They are the ones who pull the strings of the Marionette America and bringing to us our national bankruptcy.  We are the ones who tolerate that.

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

The American Disease

We have an advanced case of The Stupids.

This disease can be contracted by constant exposure to public officials saying and doing idiotic things.  It results in eventual Stupids fatigue, marked by lack of reaction to outrageous behavior.  Here are some common causes of this nationally debilitating disease.

  1. Bible-thumping zealots tell us that 9/11 happened as God’s punishment for our nation’s sins.  They say we deserved it.
  2. Deeply repressed homophobes wail in their self-righteousness and tell us how we should live our lives, as they thump bibles from atop their moral superiority.  Then we find out that they are homosexuals.  Worse, we tolerate their hypocrisy because later they “repent.”  Same for governors who hike the Appalachian Trail – in Argentina – and serial cheats who run the Christian Coalition.
  3. Fools blabber constantly about rape, somehow inventing a concept of “legitimate rape,” with its implication that some rapes are not real rapes.  We are left to guess at what that means, but it sounds like they think some rape victims were “asking for it” and don’t deserve to be seen as victims of criminal assault and battery.  Other fools tell us that in the case of pregnancy due to rape, “A woman’s body can shut that down.”
  4. Michele Bachmann can’t figure out in which state Paul Revere made his historic ride, or distinguish between John Wayne and John Wayne Gacy, yet she got re-elected.
  5. Our elected officials have kept us in a near-constant state of war for over 30 years – some argue that the number is 60 – and we tolerate the dead kids and the dead economy.
  6. Richard Nixon declared his resistance to exiting the war in Viet Nam saying, “I’m not going to be the first American president to lose a war.” (October, 1969)  So, 45,000 more American men and women were killed before America inevitably lost that war.  That set the stage perfectly for all politicians to make every issue about themselves and their welfare and not about the welfare of America and Americans.
  7. John Boehner wants to lock up IRS people before an investigation is even attempted or charges filed.
  8. Chuck Grassley still thinks that, “They’re gonna pull the plug on Granny” and nobody calls him on his lie.
  9. Rand Paul still thinks that we should not aid hurricane victims.
  10. Paul Ryan still tells us that privatizing Medicare is not privatizing Medicare and half the country believes him.
  11. We now have two Governor Ultrasounds, as the Republican legislature of Wisconsin and its Governor, Scott Walker, have joined Governor Bob McDonnell of Virginia and have decided that they know better about medical care than a woman’s doctor, so they require a vaginal ultrasound before any abortion.  And the OB/GYN has to read a statement to the patient that forces the doctor to lie to his/her patient.  Then the patient gets to pay for all that fraud.
  12. The gun bill failed, even though 90% of Americans wanted it to pass.   Perhaps a cover reason for it can be found in the bazillion amendments to the bill, most of which have nothing to do with firearms and many of which are stupid on their face.  And once again Americans have tolerated their elected representatives caving in to the NRA.
  13. Global warming deniers base their claims on complete bunk and the corporate run media, in its fair and balanced way, continues to let them air their views.  Worse, we’ve done next to nothing to deal with the looming danger that global warming will bring, largely driven by our voracious appetite for burning fossil fuels and our corresponding willingness to enrich the oil companies at the expense of planet Earth and its inhabitants.
  14. Congress actually passed a law that protects Monsanto from prosecution if its genetically modified seeds prove to harm or kill people.  This is the same congress that bemoans lack of accountability in our education system.
  15. We continue to pull money out of education, even though our future national welfare depends upon our kids being educated and prepared to compete.

We are distracted by these circuses and, clearly, this barely scratches the surface of the idiotic stuff that has been going on for so long.  Here is the key:

Re-read Number 6.  It is all about the self-interest of the politicians to advance their careers.  In order to do that they need big money.  To get big money, they have to do the bidding of people who have big money, meaning extremely wealthy individuals and corporations.  When they do that bidding, they are working for the monied interests, not for the interests of America and Americans.  That keeps us from dealing with our very real issues, like global warming, for example, because the oil, coal and gas industry people want to ensure the continuation of their gravy train.  Same logic for guns, healthcare and the lot.

We cannot change human nature and politicians will always look out for their own best interests.  So, until we deal with big money in politics, not much will get better.  Not any time soon.  Not until disaster strikes.  Maybe not even then.  Think:  Sandy Hook Elementary School followed by the failed gun bill, that failure being courtesy of threats to lawmakers from the NRA.

Most of us don’t feel disaster until it is in our faces and it becomes personal.  That is simple human nature at work and it is why, for example, we fail to stand up to the big money bullies who would allow an assault rifle in the hands of the fool next door.

Have you stood in a line for eight hours to vote?  Hundreds of thousands of Americans have had to do that and that is disaster.  Has a vaginal ultrasound been forced on you or someone close to you?  That is disaster.  Have you felt the bottomless depth of pain over children being gunned down?  That is disaster.  Does it bother you that you might be targeted by the NSA? It should, because that is a disaster.

The America you believe in is being stolen from you bit by bit, and it will be gone unless you and I disengage from the boob tube and the rest of the distractions that gobble our time, energy and attention and we at last speak up.  Speak up to get big money out of politics.  Everything turns on that.

The Stupids is a curable disease and you and I hold the cure.

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

Nothing To See Here

Nothing to see here 2

A Roundup of the Ridiculous

The IRS investigated several 501(c)4 organizations.  We grant these businesses tax exempt status because they, “.  .  .  operate exclusively for social welfare.”  That’s great, except the outfits in question were spending nearly all of their money for political attack advertising.  Darrell Issa (R-CA), Chairman of the House Mandate On Reproducing Obviously Nuitty ScandalMania (“MORONS”) Committee, thinks there is a problem because the IRS was doing its job.  More, his own investigation has completely exonerated the White House, but he has refused to release those testimonies and he has continued to implicate the Administration in this scandal that does not actually exist.

On the other hand, the IRS got caught spending taxpayer money in what can reasonably be described as irresponsible, stunningly stupid ways.  Good that the fools got caught.  Great that Congressman Trey Gowdy (R-SC) reamed them publicly on the deeply personal implications of their actions.

Antony Weiner is running for mayor of New York.  This is political comedy at its finest.

Speaker of the House John Boehner wants officials jailed and the Attorney General impeached over the AP cell phone records issue.  He demanded that even before anything had happened other than wild accusations.  How do you suppose he would define “due process?”

Benghazi is still in the news, as Obama opponents struggle to alchemize nothing into horrific political scandal.

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) has announced that she won’t be running for re-election.  She declared in no uncertain terms that her decision has nothing to do with her having just squeaked out a win in 2012 (by 0.8%), her being behind in polling in her district for the 2014 race or that she and her election campaign are under federal investigation for fiddling with funds and other no-no stuff.

Sen. Saxby Chamliss (R-GA), a member of the Senate Armed Services committee, explained away a big problem in the military by saying to the top brass testifying before his committee, “The young folks coming in to each of your services are anywhere from 17 to 22 or 23. Gee whiz, the hormone level created by nature sets in place the possibility for these types of things [rapes] to occur.”  So, according to Senator Explain-Away-Rape, the assault that is rape is just a youthful hormone thing, not the brutal, demeaning and destructive act of aggression that people who actually have information about such things know it to be.  Bear in mind that Chambliss, who was of draft age during the Vietnam War but who never served in the military, is the same guy who won his senate seat by questioning the patriotism of Max Cleland, his senate seat opponent and a Vietnam War triple amputee.

Rahm Emanuel is closing 49 public schools in Chicago, this being a gift, in that he won’t be closing five more.  This was done in the face of clear and consistent data that shows that the single most powerful driver of academic success and its follow-on, life success, is student preparedness created during pre-K, kindergarten, first and second grades.

The gun bill failed in congress due to Republican manipulation of the process and a bunch of legislators who lack the starch in their spines to stand up to the NRA, but that’s old news.  The new news is that we’ve killed over 30 people per day with guns since then.  News flash for tough, “cold, dead hands” guys:  Those people who were shot dead are all still dead and will remain dead, including those little kids murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary School.  There is nothing theoretical about gun violence and failing to take action assures a continuation of the killing of our children.

“Safety is at the heart of everything we do,” says the British Petroleum spokesperson wearing a hardhat and narrating the currently running, feel-good PR commercial.  Actually, the record clearly shows that not to be true.   From 2007 – 2010 two of BP’s refineries accounted for 97% of all flagrant refinery violations.  BP has been convicted of three environmental crimes, including felonies in both Alaska and Texas.  There were dozens of safety violations at the Deepwater Horizon oil platform, including disabling emergency alarms just weeks before the rig exploded, killing eleven men (no bodies recovered) and dumping four million gallons of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico.  Then they dumped hundreds of thousands of gallons of toxic, potentially carcinogenic dispersant onto the oil so that we wouldn’t be able to see the mess they had made.  After all, out of sight is out of mind and maybe they would be able to limit the cost of their irresponsibility through such chicanery.  Which they did.  “Safety at the heart of everything they do?”  Really?  It is short term profit that is at the heart of everything BP does, safety be damned.  Oh, and how about some gulf shrimp for dinner tonight?

Mitt and Ann Romney announced they are planning to rejoin the national dialog, perhaps as “severely conservative” voices or possibly to give a progress report on the construction of their car elevator.  Surely, they can’t think that after all the gaffs, the 47% elitist attitude and the rest that they have something to offer Americans or even Republican candidates.  Oh, wait, they probably do think that.

Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ), America’s most unpopular senator, tells us that it was wrong when Richard Nixon used the IRS to target his political opponents and it is just as wrong for Barack Obama to do that.  Of course, he conveniently fails to give any specifics and instead damns with that vague accusation.  It is reminiscent of half-governor Sarah Palin during her “Obama is un-American” campaign following her 2008 election loss that she screeched, “It isn’t wrong to love your country.”  Damning by vague accusation.  Here is a heads up for Sen. Flake:  Unlike President Obama, Richard Nixon was guilty of multiple felony violations of law.  Are you able to understand that distinction?  (Am I now damning Flake by vague accusation?)

Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), who voted against the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, as well as the Paycheck Fairness Act, said that women, “.  .  .  don’t want” equal pay laws.  Surely, that will come as a surprise to the millions of women who are paid a fraction of what their male co-workers are paid for doing the same job.

It is just a couple of ordinary political weeks in America.  Our problems expand and our elected officials make sure that they don’t get solved.  But we do get continuous political posturing and accusations, manipulation of facts and a never ending string of stupid stuff that, strangely, we voted for.

Nothing to see here.  Move along.

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What do you think?
Keep the conversation going by adding your comments below and passing this along to three friends.
That’s how things get better.

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

Melting Pot?

Melting PotSince the first immigrants arrived this has always been a Euro-centric place.  Surely that’s understandable, since it was Europeans who were the primary immigrants for a very long time.  Of course, after a while we started importing Africans to be our slaves, but there was no need to change our orientation, since Africans weren’t considered full human beings.  Some time later people began to arrive from Asia, Mexico and Central America, but the Euro-centrics were the huge majority of the population and continued to be the powerful, the culture controllers.

The Euro-centrics were something else. too: they were mostly Protestant.  The Founders and most of the immigrants and most of their descendants where Protestant, so that has been the dominant religious orientation from the start.  That the Founders inscribed freedom of religion into the Constitution (“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof: .  .  .  “) had no impact on that, so white, European Protestants have been the dominant force in America.

In the early 1960’s I overheard a conversation between two men.  One was saying with obvious concern, perhaps anger, that Ernie Banks, the Chicago Cubs star, had purchased a house a couple of blocks from where he – the speaker – was living.  This was in Chicago, a starkly divided city of neighborhoods where Poles, Italians, blacks, Jews and others pretty much stayed in their own area.  It was birds of a feather flocking together for safety.  And here was good ol’ Ernie, a black man, purchasing a house in a white area.  So, I asked what seemed to me to be an obvious question: “Are you going to picket his house with your neighbors, or ask for an autograph?”

My question wasn’t received well, as you might imagine, as my irreverent attempt at humor was a poke in the eye to this fellow’s quite serious, “He’s not like us and I don’t like him and don’t want him living down the street from my children” attitude.  His ignorance led to fear, which led to hate.  He was not alone in his behavior, nor has that ever been unusual.

Seema Jilani wrote a stunning and deeply disturbing piece for the Huffington Post about American racism today.  Read this piece with the knowledge that your sense of right and wrong, fairness and even simple courtesy are at risk of feeling violated.  And know that hers is similar to the day-to-day experience of millions of non-white or non-Protestant Americans.  If you’re feeling really courageous, do a gut check on your own prejudices.  Unless you’re somehow immune to the messages that bombard you daily to fear what is different from you, stoked continuously by political manipulators, you may find something there.

We humans do reasonably well with what is known to us and typically fear what is not known.  It’s a survival instinct and it worked well when our ancestors were living in caves and every day brought existential threat.

Almost on our doorstep is something that is not known – what American life will be like when white Protestants are a diminishing minority, incrementally losing power and control.  Just imagine all that racism reversed – shoe on the other foot, so to speak – and having to endure the slicing and bleeding of discrimination a hundred times a day just to function in every day life.

Did you say that you just want to be tolerated by those who are different from you?  No, you did not say that.  Nobody wants to be tolerated.  Other than Dick Cheney, we all want acceptance.  Toleration, by definition, suggests that others are willing to hold their noses in your presence, as though that is somehow better than beating you up.

So I’ll tell you what: I won’t tolerate you and you can stop trying to tolerate me.  Let’s instead pull a Rodney King: “Can we all just get along?”  King didn’t live long enough to see that happen.  We haven’t yet either, but perhaps we can do something about it now.

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

It Ain’t Easy – And Their Mothers

ImmigrationBefore you decide that those who see the immigration issue quite differently from the way you see it as having brains operating at sub-optimal levels, consider a few things.

First, let’s be clear that the issue is about non-citizens who are in America without the legal right to be here.  Many of them are people who arrived with a valid visa and stayed beyond the expiration of their documentation.  Some arrived without the legal right to do so.  Likely, there are other descriptors for these folks, but all share an important characteristic: They broke the law.

It doesn’t matter if they did it with that intention before entering America or things changed once they were here and they did not want to or could not leave.  All of those are simply stories of explanation and they do not change the fact that they broke the law.

There is a substantial imperative from our sense of right and wrong that wrongdoing deserves consequences.  Our sense of right and wrong is offended when a wrongdoer gets away with it.  Doubt that?  Consider your feelings about the Goldman Sachs creeps who promoted worthless mortgage backed securities to their clients while at the same time dumping their own holdings of those securities.  That’s called fraud, but not one of those guys has been prosecuted.  One more time: How do you feel when wrongdoers get away with it?

Of course, our immigration issue isn’t that simple.  If the estimates are correct we have somewhere in the vicinity of 12 million people here without permission.  Catching, prosecuting and deporting that many people is simply not do-able – that’s a limit of logistics.  Sure, we can make a show of it, but that would be substantively meaningless.

The 14th Amendment to the Constitution says that people who are born in America are American citizens, regardless of the nationality of their parents.  What will we do with the Made-In-America children of our non-citizens?  We tried to take a step forward on that with The Dream Act, but the knuckle-draging, fanged droolers in Congress shot it down.  Do we prosecute and deport the parents, leaving their minor children to be wards of the state?  Do we deport the kids, too, even though they are American citizens?

The people who are here illegally are paying Social Security tax, Medicare fees, sales taxes, real estate taxes and they help to support our communities in many ways.  They contribute to society as friends and neighbors and many of them do jobs that you won’t do, but which need to be done. That complicates things.

But what about the people who have been standing in line for a long time, following the rules to become naturalized Americans?  How could it be fair to them to allow those who broke the law to have the same opportunity and to be in line with them?  It seems that there are a lot of balls to juggle to arrive at a solution that is fair and reasonable to everyone.

And there is one more aspect to consider – it’s found in the mirror.

We have all been complicit in allowing people to be here illegally because we have liked and benefited from the low skill jobs that get done because there have been people here we could exploit.  We haven’t prosecuted employers for knowingly employing those folks and paying them poorly.  We’ve made stabs at requiring employers to verify the right to work of employee candidates but at the same time we have prevented employers from being able to access the information necessary to know whether they are complying with the law.  We have consistently refused to dedicate the necessary resources to stop people from entering this country illegally.  To put all the blame and consequences onto those here illegally is hypocrisy.

There is a good chance that Congress will either find a compromise that satisfies nobody and frustrates everybody or it will do its now-familiar polarization dance, with the knuckle-dragging, fanged droolers once again trying to sound like tough, patriotic Americans, but succeeding only in preventing us from solving our problem.  Whatever we decide to do and whatever your point of view on this issue, just get that immigration is a lot like many other issues, in that it is more complex than we’d like it to be and a simple black-and-white analysis is willfully blind and of no value.

Okay, this is switching topics – slightly – but it may help to understand the black-and-white types in our midst.

That “no value” part of a simple black-and-white analysis is true, unless you’re up for re-election.  Then doing whack-a-brain stupid stuff like casting a polarized vote that goes against the will of the American people may get you lots of special interest campaign cash.  Think about that the next time some American flag pin wearing legislator googles their eyes and proudly froths out dingbat stuff.  How proud their mothers must be.

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

Special Ice Cream Edition

bjlogoWhatever your issue, budget, debt, global warming, immigration, guns, healthcare, civil rights or any other topic, the reason things aren’t getting better is because of something that controls your issue: Money.  Big money.  Big money that influences elections, politicians and distorts the will of the people into the will of the very few enormously wealthy people.  For more on that, take a look at Larry Lessig’s TED talk.

Should you doubt that big money influence is preventing the will of the people (that’s you) from being done, just recall the recent vote on background checks prior to gun ownership.  Have you ever seen an issue in the United States where 90% of the people were in agreement?  That’s highly unusual and one would expect those who represent us to get the message and vote accordingly.  Didn’t happen that way.  Enough of our politicians flagrantly voted against our wishes because of big money influence and they caused the wrong result.

The Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream guys have something to say about that.  You can read about it here on the CNN Opinion blog.  They explain it better than I do.

Just because those gun money politicians defeated the sensible gun ownership background check that you wanted doesn’t mean that they can defeat everything that we want.  We Money StampAmericans are united in opposition to big money buying our elections and our country.  So, get off your Barcalounger, get a stamp here and get the message out so that next year we will elect candidates who will begin to make things right.

Is this issue important to you?  Comment below and then email this to 3 friends.

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

For Purist Lefties and Windshields

WindshieldI’m surely talking to myself here, but this just might fit for others, too. JA

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The Radical Right provides enough material in a single sentence of extremism than can be corrected in a 750-word response.  I’ve heard as many as three fictional facts in a single short sentence.  Let them go on for two minutes and it’s such a dizzying array of fantasy that it’s impossible to know where to begin to correct the falsities.  Those guys know how to spray incendiary, divisive and destructive language.  They’re really good at demanding that everything be decided their way and insisting that that they never make mistakes.

For example, don’t you just hate it when the far righties tell us how safe George W. Bush kept us?  Try telling that to the kids whose mother or father was crushed to death in the collapse of the World Trade Center buildings.

Those far righties want to end Medicare and Social Security and they have concocted fatuous, misleading names for the programs they designed to do just that.  Then they have had the gall to tell us that they don’t want to end those programs.

When 20 little kids were gunned down in Newtown, CT the far righties made sure that we didn’t do anything to begin to limit access to the kinds of weapons that make it easy for violent people to do such things.  They insist with self-righteous fervor that they have the one true interpretation of the Second Amendment and they ignore the demands of the rest of us, as they pursue campaign cash to support their careers.

So we call these people crazy.  They are hateful and mean.  They are dishonest in sixteen different ways.  Our guts snarl and our spittle flies as we yell at our windshields.

To pull a Columbo, there’s just one more thing.

What is it that you were saying as President Obama worked toward compromise with congressional Republicans during all those iterations of budget and debt issues?  What was it you were saying as he failed to press for universal health care?  Now he’s offered chained CPI as a negotiating chip.  I’ll bet you had serious juice about those issues and your words for him might have sounded a lot like your comments about crazy righties.

Obama let the Republicans kill his jobs bill, even as they were telling us it was all about jobs, jobs, jobs.  You pilloried the Republicans, but did you also lambast Obama for his lack of leadership on the issue?

How many times did you wail that Obama gave up his negotiating leverage by caving in at the beginning of discussions with Republicans?  It seems that President Obama just won’t be the absolutist leftie some want him to be.  Maybe you’ve sprayed a coating on the inside of your windshield over that.

We can keep strolling down the path of all the ways Obama and the Democrats have failed – surely that has happened.  Yet here’s the key point:  governing is compromising and nobody gets all of what they want all of the time.

The Radical Righties have done a really good job of strong-arming America for over a decade.  Their demand that everything be decided in the far righty way is incomprehensible to many; just get that a similar demand from the far left is just as incomprehensible.

For those who get off on anger, who feel powerful by living in their disparagement of anything and anyone who disagrees with them, I have a news flash:  You are a lot like those whom you pillory.

Fight for what you believe in.  Oppose what you disagree with.  Just don’t be so certain that you have the one and only true vision of what is best, lest you become a yet another ideological roadblock and put the inside of still more windshields at risk.

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

An Island of Clarity

As a student of human behavior I have been trying to understand the craziness that is our social and political culture.  So many blatantly false things have been said with great earnestness and an odd assumption of integrity.  The absolutist behavior and mean spiritedness displayed for years has been confounding and dismaying.  What’s going on?

I feel as though I am incrementally getting a handle on our collective dysfunction, yet I’ve wanted a social scientist, someone who actually studies such things and does experiments and collects statistics – you know, science stuff leading to actual facts – to help me with this.

Happily, my pal Brian Muldoon and I were exchanging some emails following one of my essays and he pointed me to a Bill Moyers interview of Jonathan Haidt.  This is the guy I’ve been looking for.  I mean, I’ve wondered how two people can look at the same thing and have such different interpretations and reactions to it.  Turns out, they’re not looking at the same thing and Haidt explains that and lots of other things.

I invite you to watch the interview.  HIs book was released this week and I’ve just started reading it.  It’s a page turner for behavioral geeks like me.  More about that another time.

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

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