Big thinking

Change?

Professor Alan King

Professor Alan King

Reading time – 21 seconds  .  .  .

Alan King was a brilliant comedian. He brought sophistication to the discussion of street level life and backed it with his mostly undisclosed intellectualism, as he poked a stick in the eye of human foolishness.

We are faced today with great challenges and it’s plain to see that they are of this day. These are modern problems demanding answers, right? Well, yes and no.

Have a look at some instruction about the 1980s middle-east from Alan King. Once again we see that:

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Thanks to FA for pointing out the Alan King tutorial.

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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.

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

Occam’s Razor Flipped

Paul Ryan - Hayfield

Paul Ryan, Managing Partner Hayfield Financial – New York

Reading time – 57 seconds  .  .  .  NOW IN VIDEO!

Ed. note: Be sure to read the P.S. at the end – it’s not in the video.

What you don’t know about Paul Ryan – no, not that one – the other one – the main guy at Hayfield Financial in New York – is that he is a Wall Street guy who supports Bernie Sanders. And Sanders is the guy who wants to bust up the Wall Street Banks and tax hedge fund managers at the same rates you’re taxed. Seems like a strange pairing. Oddly, Ryan is not the only financial guy backing Bernie.

Ryan was interviewed on NPR’s Here and Now on November 30 and he talked about the complex products and transactions that go on every day in the black box that is Wall Street. Ryan is a smart guy, with a degree in economics from Harvard and a law degree from Fordham University, but he says he can’t make any sense of the crazy stuff that Goldman Sachs and others are doing. In describing his view, he invoked a paraphrasing of Occam’s Razor:

That which is the simplest is the most likely explanation.

He followed that with his criticism of Wall Street:

That which is most complex is probably fraudulent.

I had to check myself before celebrating Ryan’s validation. But after all, credit default swaps are so convoluted and cynical that not even really smart people fully understand them, perhaps not even the sociopath who invented them.

Just before the 2008 meltdown Goldman Sachs was enthusiastically promoting collateralized debt obligations to its clients, selling them at a blistering pace as though they were magic beans going to a gullible Jack (not me). At the same time, Goldman was dumping its own holdings of those worthless things. What was it that Ryan said?

That which is most complex is probably fraudulent.

I’m still looking for the perp walk of the criminals who brought down our economy and cost you and me trillions of dollars. I still want exposed the creeps who twisted political arms to make legal what was illegal, who got permission to imply morality for what is clearly immoral and who believe with supreme, egotistical confidence that their pursuit of greed is all that matters.

Perhaps this Paul Ryan reassures us that there are some in the world of big financial dealings who possess some integrity and good sense. That’s hopeful.

And maybe, just maybe, Bernie Sanders has some good ideas.

Maybe, just maybe, we can get past the stupid, bully-on-a-playground mentality of politics to look at substance and elect someone who will lead the way to restore sanity to American politics and the American economy.

And maybe, just maybe, it’s your job to see that that happens. It’s time to get to work.

P.S. While our politics are surely crazy and not what our founders intended them to be, there are some who offer us reminders to keep us focused. Please have a look at this video of 500 high school kids in Kentucky (be patient, as it may load slowly). Turn up your computer speakers and take it in. Feel the timeless message that Francis Scott Key intended for those boys on the battlements of Fort McHenry in Baltimore Harbor in 1814, as they were withstanding the brutal British naval bombardment.

Those soldiers did that for us. What is our obligation to those who will come after 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.

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.

Imagine

apollo11Reading time – 2 minutes 31 seconds  .  .  .

It was 1961 when President Kennedy proposed – challenged us, really – to send a man to the moon and bring him safely back to Earth by the end of the decade. It was a daring choice. At the time we didn’t have propulsion technology for the job. Not just the propulsion itself, the rocket engines, but the technology to construct the massive engines that would be needed. We didn’t have the metallurgy or computing capability that would be required and didn’t even know how we would provide food for astronauts on a lunar journey. We just had a bunch of people with slide rules, most doing things that had nothing to do with NASA and who weren’t prepared for such an enormous, complicated and dangerous endeavor.

And on July 20, 1969 Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong put their footprints on the dust of the moon, as Michael Collins circled above in the command module. Imagine that.

Now we are faced with a far bigger challenge and we don’t have a choice on this one. The climate of the Earth is heating rapidly, perhaps as part of a natural cycle, but this time it is exaggerated because of human activity, largely driven by the burning of fossil fuels. The heating of the planet is making each successive year the hottest on record and it is already creating disasters of storms and drought. Sarah Palin, most of the Republican presidential candidates and the rest of the ostrich community may refuse to see that, but, as John Adams was fond of saying, facts are stubborn things. Things are getting worse regardless of whether the ostriches acknowledge that fact. Further, doing nothing about global warming is inherently self-defeating.

And that is a major driver of why Governor Jerry Brown (D-CA) is promoting a bill to slash carbon emissions in California 50% by 2030 and 80% by 2050, based on a 1990 emission levels baseline. He is being opposed by Republicans and some moderate Democrats in the California legislature who represent economically suffering districts in central California and who fear the impact on their communities and perhaps on their political careers.

He is also opposed by the Western States Petroleum Association, which is airing fear mongering ads on television projecting awful things that they say will happen if this legislation is passed. All of this is detailed in a New York Times article which captures well the mindset of this organization, which at its core is designed to protect the profit of its fossil fuel selling member companies. The president of the association, Catherine Reheis-Boyd, is quoted:

“I can’t figure out any other way to reach a 50% reduction in that [time] frame without doing some pretty dramatic measures. If it isn’t gas rationing, what is it?”

“We think there should be a lot more detail and it should be articulated pretty clearly about how one thinks they are going to be about this super-aggressive mandate.”

And that’s it. Ms. Reheis-Boyd can’t figure it out. It’s simply beyond her; therefore, the legislators of California should scuttle Brown’s proposal. And she needs all the details before anything is done, so nothing should be done. It’s all about her and her limited abilities, so make this legislation go away, she tells us.

Compare that to President Kennedy’s challenge to America, when nobody had a clue how to do what he proposed, yet we proceeded anyway, figured it out and succeeded.

Here’s a piece of Human Being 101: Change always involves moving from what is known to some unknown future where we don’t know what the consequences may be. Change feels scary and is always resisted.

Here’s a piece of Albert Einstein: Insanity is doing the same things and expecting different results.

Here’s a piece of observation: When a group of 10 people are presented with a new idea, 8 will immediately explain all the reasons why it cannot be done. One will sit quietly with a deer in the headlights face. After all the naysayers have calmed down a little, the 10th will offer an idea for how to start.

We Americans are fond of seeing ourselves as can-do and proudly announce to ourselves and to the world our American exceptionalism. We have done wondrous things that have benefited not only ourselves, but the entire world and we continue to have the natural and human resources to do so much more. What is puzzling is how people with a big public voice can extol the wonders of our American exceptionalism and at the same time tell us how we can’t do anything about global warming. It is further puzzling that our fossil fuel industries, having such enormous resources, are doing nothing to create the new energy technologies that will be required when we run out of oil within the next 100 years. Where is the exceptionalism in that?

It is time to stop resisting change that is inevitable and to imagine a healthy, sustainable energy superstructure. It is time to imagine a planet that can sustain the billions of us who don’t want to die in a climate catastrophe.

To Ms. Reheis-Boyd, Sarah Palin and all the others with myopic vision or who willfully blind themselves: Stop resisting and instead, imagine.

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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.

The Question

Pope Francis arriving in US - CBS News

Pope Francis arriving in US – CBS News photo

Reading time – 72 seconds  .  .  .

Pope Francis is visiting the United States this week and there is a question that begs an answer. Here are the facts.

  • By the time his visit is complete he will have been received at the White House and will have visited the homeless.
  • He will have addressed both a joint session of Congress and the United Nations.
  • He will have said mass multiple times for well over a million people, doing so both in English and in Spanish and he will have visited the birthplace of American democracy in Philadelphia.
  • He will have been serenaded by both Andrea Bocelli and Aretha Franklin and he will have visited prisoners in the Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility.
  • He will have gone on parade through Washington DC and Central Park in New York and hundreds of thousands of Americans will have seen him.

Not all the people who show up to see the pope will be Catholic. They are not all there to pay homage to their religious leader, yet they come by the hundreds of thousands. They inconvenience themselves, standing and waiting for hours, often in profound discomfort – some overnight – just to catch a glimpse of him.

The question is: Why do people do that?

The answer: hope.

You don’t have to be a Catholic to want a piece of what this pope represents. You just have to have a hunger for something that you can’t seem to find, something that gnaws at you and creates a hollow spot within that is frustrated for something substantial.

We’ve come to a time in America and in much of the rest of the world when our challenges seem overwhelming, when cooperation has been displaced by crude hostility. Neither our politicians nor those in Great Britain, Israel, Greece and many other countries seem to be able to carry on a civil conversation, much less solve problems.

We are far more than weary of the selfish, greedy posturing of politicians, lobbyists, and of slick marketing lies. We are far more than weary of self-destructive denials of reality and the rejection of learning. We are far more than weary of being marginalized and of seeing the hopes for our children crushed under the heel of brutes. Little wonder we feel nearly hopeless.

Pope Francis arrived in America with a message. It isn’t one of proselytizing or bible-thumping and, in fact, other than the masses he will say, his message isn’t particularly religious.

Even without saying a word his message is one of hope. It is a message we hunger to hear. It is a message we want our leaders to hear and act upon.

We need hope for a better tomorrow. It is the only way forward and every one of us knows that in our bones.

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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.

Coming Together for Survival

http://bit.ly/1ORt5Yu

copy/paste into your browser: http://bit.ly/1ORt5Yu

Reading time – 41 seconds  .   .    .

A while back we had some assurance that there wouldn’t be a nuclear war with the Soviets. It was called “mutually assured destruction” – acronym MAD – and, not surprisingly, the Soviets wanted to continue to live as much as we did. That calculus for the prevention of nuclear war fails completely, though, when those on the other side long to be martyrs. It’s like threatening a suicide bomber with capital punishment. It just doesn’t work.

That makes mandatory the continuing prevention of a nuclear capable Iran and it will take the best efforts the world can muster to accomplish that. We need people in Congress who will keep their eye on the ball. Otherwise, global warming, income inequality and the rest of the American political battlefields will become less than incidental.

Brad Schneider published an essay in The Times of Israel that speaks to this issue. His level-headed attitude and call for a coming together isn’t just sensible: it will be critical for survival. You can trust that people living just few hundred miles from Iran, which has repeatedly called for the destruction of Israel, are quite clear about that and intent on ensuring that Iran never has a nuclear weapon. And America – we – referred to as “The great Satan” by the Ayatollahs – are next on Iran’s hit list. See what I mean about survival?

Have a look at what Illinois 10th Congressional candidate Schneider has to say and see what you think.

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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.

Get Up

William McNary - Justice Project 2015

William McNary at the Justice Project 2015

Reading time – 47 seconds  .  .  .

“Democracy is a verb.”

That’s what William McNary told us, speaking on July 26, 2015 on the Winnetka, IL Village Green at the 2015 Justice Day event. It was 50 years to the day since Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke to 10,000 people gathered in that same place for the North Shore Summer Project – 1965. The imperative to be vigilant in the fight for civil rights remains and will do so for a long time.

Think about that as you listen to the Republican presidential aspirants at the CNN debate on Wednesday, September 16. What kind of future for the American people do they envision and what will they do to create it? Do they appeal to our better angels or do they take the lazy route to a nomination by stoking anger, fear and hatred? Do they enlighten us or do they dumb us down?

Let your own vision for America, for an American Dream that you want to live and to leave to your children and grandchildren, guide your thinking. And for the sake of you, your children and your grandchildren, get up and get active.

Get up and get active, because we cannot afford more never-ending wars or more American children living in poverty (1 in 6 do now), more gun massacres and more Americans forced into bankruptcy because of catastrophic medical expenses. We cannot afford more American students unable to compete with their Asian rivals because of archaic, out-of-date and unequal education, or a planet ready to assault itself and us with acts that won’t be of God, but of us. And we cannot afford the more than 2.4 million incarcerated Americans, more than any other nation – ever.

Make your voice heard – for example, right here on this post in the “What do you think?” section below.

Pass a link to this blog to three others and insist that they subscribe and comment – that they get up and get active – because you and a lot of other people are counting on them.

Democracy is a verb. Get up.

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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.

Candidate Don Quixote

Miguel de Cerrvantes

Miguel de Cerrvantes

Reading time – 44 seconds  .  .  .

Miguel de Cervantes told the tale of Don Quixote, an old man, perhaps with dementia, who did things that looked crazy to more able-brained observers. In a peasant hag he saw a lady – his lady – a woman of the highest order and worthy of his adoration and of his defense of her honor. She was inspiration to his knightly duty.

To him, the flea-bitten mule he rode was a great and noble steed and he tilted at windmills, seeing instead dragons that must be slain to protect the people. These and more are metaphors for the dignity, honor and duty to do what is right, not because of an expected reward, but simply because it is the right thing to do. It was, for Don Quixote, an honor and an imperative, irrespective of the scoffing and judgments of others or the cost to himself. Don Quixote stands as a fine and lasting metaphor for a life of service and it is a primary reason for the enduring popularity of Cervantes’ tale.

To our candidates for public office at all levels of government:

If you cannot see the duty of service in the way of Don Quixote, if you cannot do what is right simply because it is right, regardless of what is in it for you – some reward of power or money or fame that you imagine should be yours – then you are unfit to hold office. If you are not in service of what is right you haven’t the stuff to be a leader of the people. Stand down before you confuse and degrade things still more.

I want to know who is stepping up to do what is right.

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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.

You’re So Smart

Sen. Martin Heinrich, (D-NM)

Sen. Martin Heinrich, (D-NM)

Reading time – 9 (not a typo) seconds  .  .  .

The time is growing short for Congress to figure this out. Happily, you can help.

This is your time to be the smartest kid in class, the first in your neighborhood, the person in the know.

About the Iran deal.

Everything you need is right here, oddly in New Mexico.

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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.

If I Agreed With You

http://www.zazzle.com.au/if_i_agreed_with_you_wed_both_be_wrong_t_shirts-235415623791821038

http://www.zazzle.com.au/

Reading time – 16 seconds  .  .  .

Frequent business travel offers many opportunities to learn.

For example, I saw a guy wearing this T-shirt at O’Hare Airport last week. It pretty well defines our national attitude toward open-mindedness, eagerness to learn, tolerance of change and even to creativity.

How’s that working for us?

If it isn’t working well, what can you do to help to change things for the better? Try this notion.

My pal Ozzie Gontang likes to say, “None of us is as smart as all of us.” As you can see, he’s a pretty smart guy. He’s wise.

So, what you can do about all that closed-mindedness in America is to be open-minded. Go ahead – I promise that just listening to people with whom you disagree won’t damage you or compromise your integrity. And for one brief shining moment America will be the better for your effort.

Then, after listening to those people with different thinking than yours, you still have the opportunity to call them an idiot and things will be back to what passes for normal in America.

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Ed. note: There is much in America that needs fixing and we are on a path to continually fail to make things better. It is my goal to make a difference – perhaps to be a catalyst for things to get better. That is the reason for these posts. To accomplish the goal requires reaching many thousands of people and a robust dialogue.

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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