It Isn’t About The Message

Here are some comments made by political pundits following the election.

“The Republicans will have to change their messaging if they are going to appeal to Latinos.”

“Mitt Romney had to pivot to the center in order to attract independents.”

“Republican candidates have to stop saying things like, ’A woman’s body has a way of shutting that down [in cases of rape],’ and ‘[Pregnancy from rape] is God’s plan.’”

All that “how to win elections” talk is completely misguided, wrong-headed and even dishonest.  It seems to say that all that matters is winning an election and, therefore, that manipulation of the message and of voters is what is important.

To which I say, “Nuh-uh.”  What is important is not the verbal pivot to the center, the crafted messaging and avoiding making stupid, physiologically erroneous statements.  All that pivoting and messaging is about attempting to fool people.  It is the beliefs and the values of the candidates as indicators of what they would do that is important and however you dress up those rape related statements, it’s clear what these goofballs would do.  Fixing their words to be more palatable would leave them just as radical.

Mitt Romney has shown his true value to America, that of being a finely honed example of dis-ingenuousness.  John Huntsman called him, “a perfectly lubricated weather vane,” and that makes him useful and instructive about this messaging business.

Romney was “severely conservative” during the primaries, telling far righties what they wanted to hear.  If the principles he espoused at that time are his core principles, then what are we to make of the opposite views he declared during the general election campaign?  He pointed his messaging weather vane in whatever direction he figured might be to the liking of his then-current audience, even lying about his previous statements, leaving us to wonder what his actual principles (other than getting elected) might be on issues like abortion, healthcare, the auto industry bailout, Libya, a date certain for our troops to leave Afghanistan and so many others.  That left us clueless about what he might do if elected.

The abandoning of his prior, polarized positions and then claiming a moderate middle left President Obama apparently perplexed and nearly speechless during the first debate.  If you weren’t perplexed by Romney’s pivots to moderate positions, perhaps instead you felt insulted by his apparent lack of respect for your intelligence, as though he assumed you lacked memory function.

Now that the Republicans have lost big, the hand-wringing over Latino voters has begun in earnest and the talk is all about the messaging that will be needed to attract them for the next election.  All of that misses the point.  What is important isn’t the messaging; it’s the meaning.

MESSAGE TO FUTURE POLITICAL CANDIDATES:  You need to understand that Latinos don’t care much about what you say about immigration reform; they care about what you would do about immigration reform.  They don’t care any more than any other Americans how you flap your lips about Medicare and Social Security; they care about what you would do about those programs.  What can they count on from you?  If you’re all about the hot air of your messaging, then all you are is a manipulator and Latinos are as good as any of us in sniffing you out.

This election was about many things, including voter disenfranchisement backlash, big money influence and the price to be paid for lying to Americans.  All that pivoting and crafted messaging and biological stupid stuff gets seen for what it is, sooner or later.

So, it turns out that Lincoln was right: You can fool some of the people all of the time and all of the people some of the time, but you can’t fool all of the people all of the time.  Eventually, they will figure out who and what you are.  You may have had your way with them for a while, but if you have been dishonest with the American people they will swat you like they would an annoying housefly and flick you away.

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

Making Sense

So much is ethically wrong and even economically nonsensical.  I fight every day to keep my thinking out of the weeds, hoping to see the bigger picture and very occasionally I succeed.  There are so many battles in this seemingly disappearing experiment in democracy and so many people are suffering with little relief in sight, even for the lofty ideals to which we say we aspire.  Here are some examples of that.

Nicholas Kristof has a compelling piece in the New York Times about health and health care and the decisions we make.  Economically, it makes little sense to pay over a half a million dollars to treat disease instead of just the few dollars that are required for routine screenings.  Ethically, it makes no sense to let our citizens suffer and die because of economically driven poor choices (no medical insurance) or because of a profound lack of resources that prohibits routine health care.  The system that makes that necessary is entirely about the greed of those whose hands are on the rudder

The second half of the 1960’s was an era of radical change and it was played out in part in drug experimentation.  That flamboyant display of anti-establishment nose-thumbing resulted in draconian laws and mandatory sentencing like the “three strikes” rule that sent our young to prison for having a joint.  The establishment surely showed its muscle by trashing the lives of hundreds of thousands of Americans for their youthful dalliances.  It also cost billions of dollars to prosecute and incarcerate the offenders, forcing our legal establishment to divert limited resources away from nabbing the really bad guys.  What do you think about the ethics and economics of that?

On November 6 voters in Washington, Colorado and Oregon will vote on whether to legalize recreational marijuana.  That is far less odd, given the historical record, than that today’s establishment folks are in favor of legalization.  And even that is less odd than that the illegal suppliers of pot are against legalization because it will slash their profits.  Timothy Egan’s piece details this, and at root it’s all about simple human greed.

It is said that money is the root of all evil, but I don’t think that’s quite right.  It is simply the tool we use for our human instincts to focus first and foremost on ourselves, to do what we see as in our own best interests.  Frequently, human interpretations of that self-interest are quite short-sighted.  No, it’s actually nearly always short-sighted, and it leads us down a path of self-destruction.  Even the super-educated, self-protected wealthy 1% aren’t immune and they and we are sowing the seeds of our own demise because of our shortsightedness.  Chrystia Freeland has written a compelling article about this and Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson’s book Why Nations Fail gives even greater clarity.

Self-destruction is ethically absurd and economically nonsensical, yet our leaders – at least the people we so often promote and elect – seem welded to taking us down that path.  They lie to us by telling us that a voucher system isn’t a voucher system, that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction, that (baby boomers will get this) we have to stop the scourge of Communism right there in Viet Nam so that we don’t have to fight them in Kansas, that we were winning that war, that Romney will cut taxes 20% but that his scheme won’t be a $5 trillion deficit, that the rich people are the job creators and the list goes on and on.  To understand why they say such things, obey Deep Throat’s dictum: “Follow the money.”  Yet so many of us believe the lies (or, at least, we don’t challenge them), largely because we are focused on our own concerns, just trying to make life work.  But that is short-sighted and ultimately does ethical and economic damage to ourselves.

We’re not going to change human nature; each of us will continue to do what we perceive to be in our own best interests.  What we can do is to look up now and then, get out of the weeds and recognized that tomorrow will come.  And when it does, we will live in the consequences of today’s decisions.

What are the ethics and economics you want?  Look up.  See that tomorrow is on its way and that we do not have to continue on a path of craziness.  Then speak up.  If you don’t make your voice heard, people who want a very different America from the America you want will be heard, because they will be the only ones talking.

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


My friend Pat Murray is one of the clearest thinkers I know in the areas of group and individual behavior and I have learned some valuable lessons from him.  See if this pairing of one statement plus two questions from Pat’s work stimulates your motivation innards.

YOU GET WHAT YOU TOLERATE – Children teach us this every day.  A major part of their job is to push the envelope to find out where the edges of acceptability are.  Those edges are often defined by some sort of pain, like physical pain as a result of attempting to defy the laws of physics while riding a bicycle or from adult displeasure over an inappropriate childhood behavior.

So it is with politics.  Our politicians will push the envelope and keep on pushing until we tell them they’ve gone too far by punishing them with our phone calls, letters and emails of displeasure and, eventually, with election defeat.  The key point is that if you tolerate their behavior, they will not only continue it but they will keep on pushing that envelope to an extreme until you actively refuse to tolerate what they are doing.   Passivity and apathy on your part will result in ever more outrageous behavior on their part.  You get what you tolerate.

WHAT DO YOU STAND FOR? – Are you clear about what you stand for, what you believe in down to your bedrock, the absolutely most-not-be-violated ideals you will never compromise?  Tagging on to that question, motivational speaker Les Brown likes to say that you have to know what you stand for or you’ll fall for anything.

There are people in all areas of our lives who want to sell us something, who want to bend us to their way in order to help them to create a world that serves them.  Some of these people are quite comfortable lying to us, misleading us with flagrant, fatuous falsehoods (my alliteration for today) and many of them have very loud megaphones.  They feed us a spoonful of verifiable fact to gain our trust and then go off into their stream of dishonesty.  Unless you know what you stand for, you can be manipulated easily by these people and become a pawn to serve them while they do harm to you and everyone else in the process.  What do you stand for?

KNOW YOUR INTOLERABLES – Yes, I know that “intolerables” isn’t a word you can find in the dictionary, but you understood its meaning immediately. What is on your list of things that you will not put up with?  What are the absolutely no-go items?  Lying, cheating, stealing, dishonoring the sacred, cruelty, abandoning the helpless, disloyalty?  When you make your list, be sure to do a gut check so that you don’t write hollow platitudes, because that doesn’t serve you.  Rather, write what is actually true for you.

For example, you may find abridging the rights of fellow citizens to be intolerable, but do you believe in it so strongly that you’ll fight anyone who tries to silence those with whom you passionately disagree?  Do you believe in the rights of citizenship with such passion that you’ll stand up publicly for those whose voting rights are being stolen right now?  Do you believe in civil rights so strongly that you’ll speak out against the anti-Muslim fever that is both marginalizing and killing some Americans?  Speaking of killing, it may be an intolerable for you, but do you make an exception for those who kill abortion doctors?  Know your intolerables.

It is true that those are under-the-skin questions likely to provoke.  Are you agitated enough to take action?  A good starting place is to make two lists: HERE IS WHAT I STAND FOR and THESE ARE MY INTOLERABLES.  Your lists probably won’t be very long, but they will have great power for you.  And when you’re done, you’ll stop falling for anything and instead will be prepared to stop tolerating all that envelope pushing that violates what you believe in.  You might even exercise your citizenship by speaking out to make things better.

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

National Despair

There’s no point in waving arms, getting red in the face and snapping at the annoying tweaks that are sent only to distract and manipulate us.  If we’re to understand what is behind our national despair we need to focus on the core issue that keeps us stuck in a morass of helplessness and prevents us from the exceptionalism we’re capable of creating.

Perhaps you believe that doing the right thing is the right thing to do.  If so, this may fit for you:

I despair over the paralysis of America caused by the people who are supposed to be our leaders but who, instead, feather their own nest and ensure that their system is self-sustaining, much to the detriment of the rest of us.

I despair over the abdication of the regulatory muscle that could have prevented the banking-driven recession that has hurt so many Americans and has undermined the American brand throughout the world.

I despair over the abdication of the rule of law, like claiming that torture isn’t torture, like leading us into an unprovoked war and, every bit as damaging, by the near-complete failure of Congress and the press to do their jobs to prevent all that.

I despair over the public hatred and lies that are repeated by those in leadership positions and by ordinary, angry Americans as well, spreading the venom that has come to be tolerated and even believed by a distracted public.

I despair over angry young men who take handguns, rifles and automatic weapons to movie theaters and schools and kill innocents randomly, this while the NRA tells us that guns don’t kill and that assault weapons with 100 round drums must be legal and, by all means, let’s have 34 round magazines for those Glock semi-automatics.

I despair when the meteorologists tell us that we can expect this year’s drought to be repeated for years to come and, at the same time, people we’ve elected to be our leaders blatantly lie to us and declare that global warming doesn’t exist.

I despair when a congressman or senator shouts bigoted remarks at others and, worse, when those remarks aren’t rebuked by colleagues, the press and the public.

It’s true that we’ve always had haters and liars and that we’ve always had leaders who have twisted the truth because it serves them (and not America) well.   We have always had fools and bullies.

But it seems that the American train has jumped the track over the past 30 years, that dishonesty has become the purpose and dysfunction the goal.  For example, Ronald Reagan told us this about the Panama Canal:  “We bought it, we paid for it, we built it and we intend to keep it!”  That was a huge applause line, right up until the day he gave it away.

George H.W. Bush told us over and over, “Read my lips: No new taxes.”  Then he raised taxes.

Bill Clinton told us, “I did not have sex with that woman – Ms. Lewinski,” but, well, you know.

Now Mitt Romney is twisting himself every way imaginable to tell us that he’s always been against all those things he was always for.

And these are our leaders.

In any relationship, each has a part in the situation, so ultimately, it boils down to what we – you and I, our neighbors, your goofy brother-in-law, the retired couple down the street and everyone who works at the businesses in your town – have agreed to settle for.  We have let self-serving dishonesty penetrate our leadership as we simply went about our lives with myopic focus.  The lack of public integrity is so common now that we barely lift an eyebrow when we hear the next whopper.  It’s what we expect.  And that is the real poison of despair.

There is a glimmer of hope, though, that holds promise for us.  We can cure our national despair and it is so simple, so easy and so obvious.  We have the power to change everything and it is in our hands right now.

All we have to do is to stop settling.  All we have to do is to stop tolerating the intolerable.  All we have to do is to demand truth and call out the liars.

It’s time.

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

Mitt Romney Can’t and Neither Can Bob Dold

Yes, of course Mitt Romney is smart.  He’s cunning and he’s been enormously successful.  He’s persistent and focused and undaunted by challenge.

Yet Mitt Romney can’t seem to say anything that is true.  He can’t seem to say anything that doesn’t contradict his own words and actions.  And he can’t seem to say anything that has detailed substance.  He simply can’t.

We just had a family reunion, with its predictable mix of political views, but the most significant ones came from family members who are sick of hearing stupid political fantasy displace fact, sick of leaders who don’t lead and sick of our eunuch government.  Mostly, they are sick of politicians sounding like ten-year-olds on a playground calling others ugly names, vying to see who can say the meanest thing and, thus, become the biggest jerk on the playground.

Mitt Romney is now the most visible contestant in that game to be the biggest jerk.  He makes up so much fantasy-as-politics and the outpouring of his lies is so voluminous that many Americans, like some of my family members, more than anything just want him to go away and have pledged to refuse to vote in November.  Such is the effect of the screeching drone of political dumbspeak that floods our news.  That is dangerous, because it serves the radical dumbspeak droners so well and abandons all the rest of America.

We in the Illinois Tenth Congressional District have elected moderates for some time.  For a dozen years Mark Kirk was our representative.  The good people of Illinois then elected him to the senate and he was replaced in the House by Stepford wife, Bob Dold.  Each is soft spoken.  Each appears to be compassionate.

Except neither of them is a moderate.  Each of them votes in near-lockstep with the Republican fringe crazies.  They support the big money ruling class and mask their bigotry with their moderate demeanor.

By November 6 Dold will have asked for your vote dozens of times.  He will have attempted to justify that by telling you that he is fighting to save your Medicare, but he will somehow forget to tell you that he has twice voted for Paul Ryan’s Medicare Ruination Plan.  He will tell you that he’s all about jobs, jobs, jobs, but he won’t remind you that he voted against every job creating bill except the one for veterans and that he had to be shamed into voting for that.

All of that is to say that Bob Dold is no moderate.  He’s a right wing crazy in a pleasant looking package, just like Mitt Romney.  Don’t be fooled by appearances.  Judge him by what he has done and you’ll want him to disappear.  That would be best because neither one of them can do anything you want them to do.

The point is that anyone dropping out of the process only serves to keep the radical playground jerks in place and assure that they continue flooding your news with lies and salacious innuendo.  You can stop that by getting past your disgust over the political dumbspeak and showing up to vote in November.

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


A good friend sent a long response to my recent political essay, taking issue with my comments about what is being said publicly regarding the inclusion of contraceptive care in the health insurance plans of church owned institutions (not the churches themselves).  He and I view things quite differently and the way he explained our differences is significant.

He offered his views in concrete detail and concluded his remarks by wishing that I would “  .  .  .  check [my] thinking in light of [my] experiences.”  He wrote, “I know you have the depth, but apparently not the will – and I wonder why.”

There is a weighty assumption in his comment that I harbor a willful insistence on blindness.  I suppose that’s better than his telling me that I’m too stupid to get it, but a willful blindness?  Why the personal attack?

In another section of his comments he asks if I am, “  .  .  .  so corrupted by the left that [I] cannot look at an issue objectively  .  .  .  “  Of course, the answer to that is no, I can’t look at an issue objectively, any more than anyone else can.  What is more troubling is his notion that I have been corrupted, this view apparently springing from my not seeing things his way.  Through some magical transition, the discussion jumped from the issue of contraceptive care to a personal attack – a charge of corruption.

The admonition to avoid discussing either politics or religion in social discourse exists as a warning based upon limitations of the control we have of our own behavior and the consequences we unwittingly engineer.  Perhaps the weight of the admonition should be squared when both politics and religion are included in a single conversation.  Very often such conversations drift into personal attack, like the comments from my friend and often it gets far worse than his broadsides to me.

To get a finger hold of understanding about this, I consulted The Heart of Conflict, a most accessible text on dealing with conflict.  It was written by my friend Brian Muldoon, who has years of experience working to help people resolve their legal and personal conflicts.  Here’s a piece of what he has to say:

“There are many kinds of intractable differences, but virtually all of them can be reduced to threats against identity  .  .  . “

“When we breach that boundary between what is me and what is not, when my innermost chamber is threatened, the powerful instincts of the survivor are invoked.  At all costs, we defend the “self” .  .  .  Because we humans derive our identity more from our consciousness (who we think we are or imagine ourselves to be) than from our physical form .  .  .  we will fight harder for our ideas than for our actual corporeal survival.”

Muldoon is telling us that we humans have a set of bedrock beliefs that we use to define ourselves and they give us a sense of solidity in a shifting and sometimes dangerous world.  Our religious foundation is key among these bedrock beliefs and our safety is anchored in that bedrock.  When anything comes along that appears to be different, that threatens to shake our bedrock, we sense the threat to our identity, we man the battlements immediately and, “  .  .  .  we will fight harder for our political and religious ideas than for our actual corporeal survival” (added italicized words mine – JA).

That’s how we get religious extremists willing to blow themselves up in a crowded market.  That’s why it’s so difficult to talk about politics and religion with those whose bedrock beliefs seem to be different from our own.  That’s why my friend and I won’t be having any more discussions about politics as we enjoy our occasional lunch together.  Our friendship, after all, is more important than our political differences.

Yet we have a country of 300 million people, each having their own notions of bedrock, many lobbing personal attack bombs on those whom they see as both different from themselves and, consequently, wrong.  Somehow we have to find a way to deal with our quite substantial national challenges, even with our existing bedrock differences.  How will we do that?

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

For Righties

You say you’re a strict constitutionalist and you believe deeply in the principles of that marvelous document.  Let’s have a look at that

Of course, you’re a firm believer in freedom of speech.  Yet, did you howl in protest when the Republican Party set up “free speech zones” far away from their 2008 convention in Minneapolis and prevented any display of dissent that might become visible to convention attendees or television cameras?  How about when Mayor Rahm Emanuel attempted to stifle protests around the then-upcoming NATO and G-20 conferences this year with his “Sit Down and Shut Up” law?  I thought all of America was a free speech zone and so did you.  “Free speech zones,” indeed

Of course you believe in freedom of religion as outlined in the Bill of Rights, but do you tolerate those who insist that America must be governed according to their interpretation of the Christian Bible?  That religious turf grabbing has the practical effect of establishing a national religion and marginalizing anyone who is not a Christian in their mold.  And did you hit the Send button to communicate with your representatives in Congress about your disgust with the anti-Muslim hatred that now is masquerading as patriotism?  Freedom of religion also means freedom from religion or from any particular religion.

The second amendment was crafted to ensure that immediately following our revolutionary days civilians could quickly be conscripted into an army in case the British invaded again.  The second amendment wasn’t and isn’t about the right to own an unlimited stockpile of weapons of war.  Since you probably don’t think the British are going to invade any time soon, why exactly do you think you’re guaranteed the right to own those assault weapons?  Charleton Heston’s “cold dead hands,” testosterone-filled declaration may give you a dark side thrill of self-righteousness and cause your blood to boil, but your weapons cache is far more likely to make some innocent person’s blood spill.

If you’re a strict constitutionalist, are you taking action to stop Republican state legislatures from stealing the right to vote from millions of our fellow Americans?  You should be in the front lines fighting that unconstitutional threat to our democracy.

The framers of the Constitution had a well-founded and deep seated distrust of excess power in a few hands.  So, as a strict constitutionalist, you must be outraged over fabulously wealthy people stealing our elections from you and our fellow Americans.  What action are you taking to counter that theft of democracy?

If you’re a strong supporter of our military, you probably thank soldiers for their service and perhaps you attend parades in their honor.  But did you scream at George W. Bush and Donald Rumsfeld when they sent our soldiers into battle without personnel and vehicle armor, leaving them vulnerable to being blown to bits or left with debilitating brain injuries from roadside bombs?  Are you sending checks to the VA so that we provide the after-action medical help our injured military people need, rather than making them wait a year for medical help?

Surely, you’re marching in protest against the war in Afghanistan, where most of our military deaths are due to bullets fired by the very Afghan security forces our soldiers are training.  Part of “provide for the common defense” – that’s from the Preamble to the Constitution – means protecting our military people from pointless conflicts that produce little more than dead soldiers.

The Constitution that you hold as sacred is just as sacred to the rest of us, so here’s my proposition for you:  Take a break from waving flags and slinging epithets and start taking action to protect the Constitution.   It is long past time that we stop the outrageous screeching that serves only to make us feel powerful for a moment and instead start honoring our duties as Americans.  That’s where the real power of the Constitution lies.

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

The Common Wisdom

We all know that the country is center-right.  Perhaps it’s there as a result of a pendulum swing from the socially farther left pendulum of the 60’s and the politicians and pundits now like to tell us we’re center-right almost as throw-away line.  Or maybe people just keep saying that and have done so for such a long time that we’ve come to believe it, but repetition doesn’t make the claim accurate.  Take a look at just a few issues before us.

Jobs – About 306 million of we 307 million Americans want the government to take energetic action to ramp up the economy and create jobs.  The noise from the far right is the only thing that is making it seem like there is huge opposition to that.  As a nation, we are left of center now on jobs.

Voting rights – Americans believe overwhelmingly that all of us over the age of 18, with the possible exception of convicted felons, should vote.  That’s pretty much smack dab in the center, not center-right.  On the other hand, there are Republican strategists who have openly stated that the only people they want to vote are those who will vote Republican.

In the 2010 election many states voted far right legislators into office and they have enacted laws they have fraudulently proclaimed are to protect us from a blight of voting fraud.  The thing is that voting fraud almost never happens – not even in Chicago.  These laws serve solely as an obstacle to voting for young people, the elderly, the poor and those in minorities who tend to vote overwhelmingly Democratic.  Let’s see, righty R’s preventing D’s from voting.  Hmmm.

Immigration – Most of us believe that if people do something wrong that they should bear the consequences.  And most of us believe that children of illegal immigrants, born in this country and who have broken no laws should not bear those consequences.  Righties don’t want to pass the Dream Act and they are completely out of step with the majority of Americans.  The R’s continue to oppose it because they’re afraid they’ll get “primaried” in the next election by a fanatic on the lunatic right fringe.  That keeps them disconnected from everyone but the aforementioned lunatic right fringe.

This issue is complex, but as a nation we’re pretty much in the center.

Taxes on the wealthy – Depending on the week and the poll, anywhere between 62 – 80% of Americans favor increased taxes on the rich.  Only the righties who signed Grover Norquist’s pledge to never raise taxes, along with some already wealthy people are opposed to that.  That is to say, the country is center-left on this issue.

Contraception – Do you really need an explanation about this?  Even 98% of Catholic women have used some form of birth control and only some fundamentalist righties have a problem with it.  It’s just that a few of them have very loud voices.  We Americans are far left in favor of contraception.

Women’s choice – The majority of Americans continue to be pro-choice, although by a smaller margin now than in past decades.  In part that’s because of the loss of institutional memory of how things used to be before Roe v. Wade.  It wasn’t pretty.  We are center-left on this.

Global warming – It’s not just all the environmental scientists; most Americans believe that the Earth is getting warmer and that mankind’s activities like burning fossil fuels is contributing to it.  The only question is why anyone denies that.  To find the answer, follow the money.  It’s way on the right.  (Ref: “And another thing” below)

Social Security & Medicare – These are the two most popular programs ever created by the federal government and America is far left on them.  Only the righties want to abolish or privatize them.

Note to budget hawk absolutist righties: We made a contract with the American people, who pre-paid for these services and we must keep our word.  I know you’ll understand that.

Education – The righties want to abolish the Department of Education at both the federal and state levels.  They are starving schools of funds, so teachers, administrators and janitors are being laid off.  School maintenance and improvement projects are being halted and the disparity between the education of our poor children and the rich kids who get to go to elite schools continues to widen.  Our children are suffering, their future becomes bleaker every day we fail them and we are putting the future of America in peril.

Americans don’t like this.  They want their children to be educated and think public education is a very good thing.  The righties are completely out of sync with America on this.  This country is way left on education.

Healthcare – Most Americans want the government to do more to fix it.  All that is standing in the way is the resistance borne of the hundreds of billions of dollars being collected every year by the medical insurance companies, big pharma, big hospitals and a few others.  We’ve tried letting the market fix this.  That has resulted in our having the most expensive healthcare in the world, while at the same time we’re getting just middling results.  Only the far righties with megaphones attached to their faces think that continuing to let the free market work is the solution.  We want affordable healthcare and are at least center-left on this issue.

The list can go on until sunrise.  Those saying that we are a center-right nation have either bought into the Big Lie or think they will benefit by making you believe it.

It turns out that the common wisdom isn’t so common, nor is it so very wise after all.


And another thing .  .  .

Have you seen the TV commercials with the pleasant looking blonde lady in a black pants suit talking about American energy?  She tells us how plentiful it is and all we have to do is go get it.  As an example, she walks across a map of the lower 48 and tells us about, ”  .  .  . tapping Canadian oil sands for U.S. consumers.”  Sounds great.

Except the plan for the Canadian oil sands crude is to transport that heaviest, dirtiest crude oil with the greatest global warming footprint via the XL Pipeline to our gulf coast for exporting to other nations.  I need for them to explain once again how that stuff is for U.S. consumers because I’m not seeing how exporting it makes it for us.

One last comment: That ad and the others like it are sponsored by the American Petroleum Industry, the promotional organization of Big Oil.  Just so you know.

“We move through life like a man in a rowboat, looking back even as we move forward.” – William Landay

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

Meals and Deals

You’re sitting at a window table of a delightful restaurant with a companion who is both interesting and interested and the conversation is engaging.  Your waiter brings your food and drink at just the right times and everything is delicious and so satisfying that you don’t even notice your growing sense of contentment.  Your belly is full and all is right in your world.

You glance to your right through the window and notice a man looking into the restaurant.  His clothes are in poor condition, he has a plastic bag slung over his shoulder and his back is hunched as he peers through the glass.  He looks hungry, but that is something that is difficult for you to understand, because you are anything but hungry.  Indeed, empathy – feeling what another person feels – is very difficult when you are feeling the opposite and it’s almost impossible to imagine a homeless person’s feeling of hunger in that moment when you have just completed your meal.

So it is for the 1%-ers and their political pawns.  Their lives are working quite well, they are more than content and, hard as some might try, there is not even a remote chance that they can feel what the members of a family feel as Mom and Dad lose their jobs, one because of a plant closure and the other to a layoff because business is depressed.  It’s impossible for the 1%-ers and their political pawns to have even a remote understanding of the powerful feelings of the members of that family as they lose their house to foreclosure.

And when Mom and Dad join the local Occupy march, it is so easy for the 1%-ers and their political pawns to dismiss them as rabble, as lazy people and to blame them for their circumstances.  According to Herman Cain, if Mom and Dad aren’t employed or rich it’s their own fault.

But here’s the thing: Mom and Dad played by the rules.  They stayed in school and got an education.  They got jobs and worked hard, paid their taxes, coached their kids’ soccer teams and went to their holiday pageants.  They followed the American playbook, page by page, doing the right things and doing things right.  And now they have lost everything and are wondering what happened to the dream they were promised.

The answer, of course, is that it was stolen from them by the big money interests who purchased their way into power and influence and who then rigged the game.  They changed the playbook and didn’t tell anyone that they were gambling with the welfare of the entire world.  They didn’t care about consequences because they would get their payday whether their bets paid off or lost, since all the rest of us would bail them out of their failed bets.  They were confident of that bailout because they had a gun to the head of every one of us.

So much has crashed and burned and so many millions of people are suffering that it is a wonder that their cries aren’t heard.  Yet what is happening instead is as predictable as the tides.  Those 1%-ers and their political pawns aren’t even able to hear the cries of hunger of the millions because the rich have always just finished that metaphorical meal.  Furthermore, they don’t want their world challenged or changed because it works so well for them, so they have their local muscle brutalize demonstrators, as though tear gas, nightsticks and rubber bullets might somehow make the challenge to the rich go away.

But they won’t.  Swatting at symptoms never makes the root cause disappear.

The root cause is an unanswered human need for fairness.  Until the game gets un-rigged and the promises kept there will be people in the streets and nearly everywhere else with the simmering anger of having played by the rules and in return gotten screwed.

There are consequences to treating people that way.  1%-ers and political pawns beware: You may not like what’s coming.  Just know that you set it up to happen this way, whether you’re simply unable or, worse, callously unwilling to understand the hunger of the people.

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

Lemmings and Leaders

It’s a common belief that those cute little lemmings follow one another over a cliff and are dashed on the rocks below to their instant demise.  In point of fact, lemmings aren’t particularly smart, but they do have enough innate mental ability not to follow their pals over a cliff and commit suicide.  That is a most useful point.

Mark Kirk has held his job as congressman from the 10th District for 10 years.  For eight of those years he just did what he was told to do by Republican leadership and voted for every Republican spending bill.  He helped to doubled the national debt, adding more to it than all previous administrations combined, from George Washington to Bill Clinton, this because Kirk was a follower.

When the issue of war, any nation’s gravest question, came before him, Mark Kirk asked not a single question in session.  He didn’t require any substantiation.  He didn’t offer any skepticism or even appear to raise an eyebrow.  He just voted in lock step with the rest of the Republicans for the wrong war, taking us over the metaphorical cliff.  He was a suicidal follower.

Here’s another, more dire way to see this.  Mark Kirk lied about his military experience, claiming he had been in combat.  He wasn’t.  Then he sent our troops over to Iraq to be maimed and killed in combat without so much as a moment of hesitation for their welfare.  That mortal hypocrisy has killed over 4,000 of our men and women, all because he wouldn’t stand up and lead.  Instead, he followed his Republican masters.

My notion is that we elect people to represent us and to be leaders for us.  Kirk cannot be a leader, though, if all he does is keep his head down and follow, just doing what he is told to do.

We need our leaders to be bolder than that and, certainly, they need to be at least as smart as lemmings and not follow anyone over a cliff.  It’s time to fire the follower because of his total lack of leadership.  It’s time to make Alexi Giannoulias our next senator.

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

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