Big thinking

O’, The Irony!

Irony

Reading time – 111 seconds  .  .  .

In my Money, Politics & Democracy presentations I’m careful to avoid any of the demonizing of individuals that is sadly so common in our politics. Instead, I focus on the dysfunctional system that forces good people to compromise themselves. The engine of that is the insanely high cost to run a political campaign, driven primarily by the crazy high cost of television advertising.

Over $10 million was spent in the Illinois 10th Congressional District race of 2012. That was for one House seat for just two years and represents only the money spent by the campaigns. Between Elizabeth Warren and Scott Brown over $80 million was spent for that Massachusetts Senate seat. In 2012 over $2 billion was spent in the presidential race and over $10 billion was spent in total for all federal elections.

The message in that is that to get elected and stay elected, people have to do fundraising continuously. As much as 50% of politicians’ time in office is spent grubbing for dollars for the next election. Further, small contributions won’t get the job done, so they have to suck up to the big bucks donors. And that leaves them beholden to those big funders.

SuperPACs are funded by already crazy wealthy people and corporations. They spend their money primarily on negative television advertising and, generally speaking, it is pretty effective. The result is that our democracy is held hostage to the big funders of political campaigns and SuperPACs.

The only way to change that and reclaim democracy – rule by [all] the people – is to enact a 28th Amendment to the Constitution that will do two things: first, allow for the regulation of money in our politics; second, make it clear that corporations are not people, nor should they necessarily have all of the rights of people and that the rights of corporations may be outlined and limited by government. The only way that amendment will get passed is for us to elect legislators who will make that happen.

Senator Tom Udall (D – NM) has proposed such an amendment and expects that there will be a vote in the Senate. Of course, we don’t know whether it will pass with the necessary 2/3 majority – it might – but prospects for it to even be put up for a vote in the House seem dim, considering the obstacle mentality of House leadership. Clearly, it will require a bunch of reformer types to be in Congress to get this done. That is where Lawrence Lessig comes in.

Lessig is one of the clearest thinkers about the issue of big money stealing our democracy and I recommend any of his YouTube (here’s one) or TED (here’s one) videos. Now, though, he has identified that to make change it is necessary to play the political game and get a little dirty, to wallow in some of the same mud we want to eliminate in order to effect reform. O’, the irony of that!

To that end – to get big money out of our politics – he is organizing a SuperPAC to help to elect reformer types who will get that amendment to happen. Take a look at his video about this and watch all 5 minutes – see what you think of what he is doing.

I strongly recommend giving your full consideration to the dreadful state of our democracy – which is just this side of a full oligarchy (rule by the wealthy few) – and then take appropriate action. Just thinking about this issue isn’t enough. We – you and I – must take action.

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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.  Please help by passing this along and encouraging others to do the same.  Thanks.  JA

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

Where Is That Leader?

Reading time – 1 minute, 13 seconds  .  .  . 

My friend Dr. Mardy Grothe writes a weekly blog focused on words, literature and philosophy. He is a beacon of mental light in contemporary America’s dark ocean of reptilian brain distaste of learning, the arts, science and ordinary sense.

Last week his post included several quotes that speak to our present condition.  For example,

“It is the certainty that they possess the truth that makes men cruel.” Anatole France

That, indeed, is a key driver of our national and international challenges, as various factions declare their absolute hold on the truth and righteousness. Naturally, that leaves many of us outside the in crowd and we are judged as bad, wrong, godless, evil, unpatriotic and various other negative adjectives.  That effectively produces lots of dead bodies, both metaphorically and literally.

Here’s another Anatole France quote:

“In its majestic equality, the law forbids rich and poor alike to sleep under bridges, beg in the streets, and steal loaves of bread.”

We live in an America where some are protected from infancy from having to sleep under bridges or beg in the streets. Here, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness favor those who are born with it and the opportunities for the rest of the people are being incrementally eliminated both legislatively and by a regressive Supreme Court.

Human nature is impatient with aimlessness and we soon find actions that feed our passion. And we either have the adventure of a vision that inspires us or we resort to eating one another like too many rats in a small space. And right now there seem to be a lot of hungry rats gnawing on our national vitality.

On May 25, 1961 President John Kennedy addressed a joint session of Congress and challenged America, saying,

“I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal before this decade is out of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the Earth.”

His vision inspired a nation. He showed us the contrast between what had been and what could be and we put our shoulders to that task. We shared in the satisfaction of doing something meaningful and in the pride in accomplishment. And in that national effort we changed America and forged new global technologies that serve all mankind yet today.

We need a daring vision for our time and that vision will inspire us for a generation. The vision that is worthy of us will begin to release our certainties over our absolute beliefs, we will start to level our economic playing field and unleash the power and creativity that now lies dormant. And it will begin to still the voices of the complainers, the liars and the thieves of our spirit.

Now, where is that leader?

You can subscribe to Dr. Mardy Grothe’s Sunday blog by sending a blank email to [email protected]

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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.  Please help by passing this along and encouraging others to do the same.  Thanks.  JA

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

Elephants

Reading time: 64 seconds  .  .  .

A guy is walking down the sidewalk when he spots his friend Ralph standing at the corner. He notices that Ralph is snapping his fingers.

“Hey, Ralph,” he says.  “What’s with the finger snapping?”

“I’m keeping the elephants away.”

“Ralph,” the guy says, “there aren’t any elephants around here.”

Ralph looks at him and calmly says, “See? It’s working.”

That, of course, was a knee-slapper back in 4th grade, but the behavior lives on, just as though there is always a direct cause and effect as well as good sense to our actions. But it ain’t necessarily so.

The Tea Party types think that threatening national default on America’s debt will reduce government spending.  There is absolutely no connectivity between the two, but they continue to snap their fingers for that.

President Reagan sold the nation “supply-side,” aka “trickle-down” economics. The idea was that enriching already rich people and corporations would create a “trickle-down” of wealth to all other Americans. That trickle has never even been a drip and that experiment in what President George H.W. Bush called “voodoo economics” has failed miserably. Nevertheless, there are self-labeled conservatives who continue to snap their fingers for that ongoing catastrophe as though it is good for everyone. Side note: There is nothing conservative either in that policy or in that behavior.

We have people telling us that Benghazi is a scandal and that the IRS doing its job of ensuring that not-for-profits play by the rules is a scandal. They tell us that killing the Jobs Bill was best for producing jobs. They say that additional sanctions are needed against Iran, even though the Iranians at last are playing by interim rules designed to lead to a non-nuclear Iran and additional sanctions would violate the agreement that led to the present negotiations. Finger snappers all.

Snap away, you guys living in Fantasy Land, where cause and effect are magically found in your vaporous thinking. Just get that there won’t be any elephants, regardless of what you do with your fingers.

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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.  Please help by passing this along and encouraging others to do the same.  Thanks.  JA

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

Imagine . . .

Conjuring the precise and slow voice, the deliberate and accurate words, the syllables sounding as though passed through a long, reedy pipe, comes the voice of of Carl Sagan  .  .  .

“Imagine, if you will, an alternate universe with billions and billions of galaxies, each containing billions of stars.  Around one of those stars can be found an Earth-like planet.  This planet is populated by people who see what is really before them, who analyze without predetermined judgment and who follow the path of evidence wherever it may lead.  They have the remarkable self-restraint and mindfulness both to refrain from bombastic rhetoric based upon fantasy and instead speak directly to issues.

“Imagine further that those who listen do so, too, for the single purpose of understanding, for clarity and learning, for greater knowledge.  And when the listeners then speak, their purpose, like that which came before, is an effort to further understand truth and reality.

“And they work together to make things better for all.”

Huh?  Wha  .  .  .  oh, it’s my alarm clock.

What an odd dream I had.

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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.  Please help by passing this along and encouraging others to do the same.  Thanks.  JA

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

EXTRA! EXTRA! READ ALL ABOUT IT! (while you still can)

The Trans Pacific Partnership (“TPP”) has a name that sounds all friendly and cozy.  Shockingly, it is exactly that – friendly and cozy, but only to the huge money power brokers.  It is not nearly as friendly and cozy to you.  In fact, you’re about to get knifed in the back.

Here is a link to a website with information about what it could mean.  The appearance of this site is a bit bombastic, but the facts are there and you won’t like any of them.

TPP is an international trade agreement that is nearing completion of negotiations.  It blatantly circumvents our Constitutional checks and balances and even our sovereignty.  It will affect food safety, job off-shoring, financial regulation and more.  And, as bad as that sounds, it isn’t the worst.

The worst is that this is being negotiated in secret.  Not even our Congress knows what is going on.  And the “worse” story gets even worse from there.

Our Congress is being asked to “Fast-Track” the TPP when it is up for a vote.  What that means is that our Congress, the folks who are supposed to scratch chins and deliberate before taking action, will be asked to approve the TPP WITHOUT EVEN READING IT!

If you think your representative and senators ought to have the details first, as well as the time to consider and debate the merits of such a potentially cataclysmic piece of legislation before voting on it, then you better take action to defeat Fast-Track RIGHT NOW.  Here is how you do it.

If you are a social network user, please join the “Stop Fast Track Now Thunderclap” immediately.
If you can make a phone call to your member of Congress, click here.
If you prefer to send an email, use this letter as a starting point and contact your Representative via this link.

  • Does this sound hyperbolic?  Well, that’s exactly how you’ll feel when your job gets shipped away, the banksters get away with more fraud and phony foreclosures, and we’ve locked ourselves into an agreement where we need the approval of 17 other countries in order to protect you and the rest of our citizens.
  • Take action now.
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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.  Please help by passing this along and encouraging others to do the same.  Thanks.  JA

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

The Greater Good – Part 2 of 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We need better than that.

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

Deliberative Leadership

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

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

WW II Deaths

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

Russia                9 -14,000,000

China                  3 – 4,000,000

Yugoslavia          446,000

United States      417,000

United Kingdom  384,000

Romania              300,000

Hungary               300,000

Poland                 240,000

France                 217,000

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

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

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

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

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

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

Deliberative leadership.  Celebrate that, America.

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

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

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.

A New American Award

"Reitender Urzwerg" kleinstes Lebewesen der WeltNanoarchaeum Equitans Virus
The smallest known organism

 

There are scientists who feel that viruses are not the smallest organisms because they lack a cellular structure.  Others believe that this condition is not disqualifying and it is this group of scientists whose views are invoked for this noteworthy recognition, The Virus Trophy.

Our nation has been poorly served by many of our leaders.  They have engaged in debates over issues designed solely to distract and polarize us.  They have refused to do the work to create the actions our nation truly needs and have instead concentrated their efforts on what serves themselves.  In short, they have focused on making us small at a time when we desperately need big thinking.

Our country wasn’t built on small thinking or by small men and women.  It was built by leaders who were giants and by the American people who worked hard, looked after one another, sacrificed and did the right thing.  There was a shared belief in doing whatever it took.  We built a country.

Now we find our leaders telling us all of the things that we cannot do.  They teach us to lie and to be hypocritical, to diminish one another and to defeat ourselves by rejecting learning and science.  They tell us to be afraid of one another.

They say stupid things, like telling us that the way to stop the killing of 33,000 of us every year with guns is for more people to be packing heat.  Actually, we tried that.  It was called the Wild West and a lot of innocent people got killed, until at last we figured out that it was counterproductive to safety for angry people to be running around with loaded guns.  Of course, more people having guns serves the gun manufacturers quite well and it serves those who receive campaign contributions from them, too, but it’s small, selfish thinking.

And so it is  .  .  .

– for bible thumping haters of all stripes

– for social program haters who lie to us

– for those who tell us that austerity will lead to prosperity, this in the face of well known economic principles that make it clear that austerity leads to contraction of the economy and poverty for the people

– for self-serving fools who tell us to “Drill, baby, drill” when doing that is a certain trip to climate catastrophe.

It’s time to stop thinking small.

We need to rebuild America so that our bridges are strong and safe.  We need to rebuild America so that we transmit electricity with minimal losses of the power that we generate with renewable resources.  We need to embrace all Americans, even those who are different from ourselves, both because our diversity is our strength and because it’s the right thing to do.  We need to reaffirm that our true international power cannot be found in unnecessary, punitive wars, but in the strength of our influence, the juggernaut of our culture and the power of our economy.  We need to stop pretending that we can kill our way to security and instead take action to make friends.  We need to deal with the displacement that will occur when we stop building unwanted and unneeded weaponry and repurpose those skilled workers for building 21st century America.

It’s time to think big.

That is why the first awarding of The Virus Trophy goes to Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell.  He has spent over four, small-thinking years focused on just one thing:  “To make sure that Barack Obama is a one-term president.”

Oddly, I had thought that a senator’s job was to represent the people of his/her state and to provide leadership to move America forward.  I had thought that the oath of office required our leaders to support and defend the Constitution of the United States.  For McConnell, though, those things seem to have been secondary at best.

There are other stupid, distracting, small-minded things that he has focused his energy upon in order to un-focus us from what is truly important and to keep us small.  Most of his energy has gone into opposing anything that President Obama promoted, regardless of the devastating effect of his actions on America and Americans.  All of that in the aggregate is what demonstrates McConnell’s true smallness and the richness of his deserving of the first Virus Trophy.  Congratulations, Senator McConnell.  However, you’re too small for America, so please take your award and go away in 2014.

Perhaps you’d like to extend your congratulations to Senator McConnell for winning this smallest of awards.  You can do that here And be sure to pass this along to the Kentucky voters you know – so that they know.

 

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

Other Than Your Mother

President Obama laid out offers to curb government spending two years ago by declaring that he is open to discussions around cuts to Medicare and Medicaid, much to the dismay of most Democrats and to left-of-center Americans of all colors.  The programs have been on the table, yet Republicans have been complaining since then that the President has not offered a single spending cut.  John Boehner, speaking out of the far right side of his mouth, has repeatedly declared this to be so, as has Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell.  Weren’t they in those very same negotiating meetings that they both attended at the White House?

Their denials of reality are a mini-example of the Republican Big Lie strategy.  They repeat a falsehood enough times that people begin to believe that it is true.  Even the rank and file Republicans in congress have come to believe that the “no spending cuts on the table” lie is true.  Many of them have not heard directly from their leaders about the doings in those negotiating meetings with the President and apparently they don’t read newspapers or watch the news on TV, either.

That does not change reality, though, and if you live in a fact-based world where 2 + 2 = 4 and up and down are not the same things, you’ll recognize the Big Lie for what it is.  Boehner and McConnell protestations notwithstanding, President Obama really did lay two big ones on the table two years ago.

Related to that is a recent comment by failed presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who said, “What we’ve seen is a – the president out campaigning to the American people, doing rallies around the country, flying around the country and berating Republicans and blaming and pointing.”

That’s an update of the attempt to diminish Obama by John McCain and Sarah Palin during the 2008 presidential campaign.  They blasted him for giving great speeches at big rallies.  That is what Saxby Chambliss (R. GA) did to Max Cleland (D, GA, Ret.), when he questioned Cleland’s patriotism during the 2002 senate campaign. Cleland lost both legs and an arm in Viet Nam, while Chambliss was getting deferments from military service and partying in civilian life, but that didn’t stop Chambliss from his dishonest attacks.

Similar to Chambliss, George W. Bush attacked the patriotism of John McCain during the 2000 Republican primary and that of John Kerry in the 2004 general election.  I guess he is sensitive over the cushy fun he had flying jets around Texas and doing a lot of drinking with his buddies while those other guys were out risking their lives for their country.

The ploy is to attack a rival’s strength, to diminish his advantages by accusation.  That is what Romney, McCain, Chambliss and Bush did and it is exactly what Republican leaders and other Republican mouthpieces have been doing to President Obama all along.  Now Obama is making his case to the American people and is succeeding, so the congressional Republican mouthpieces are attacking him, accusing him of failure and saying that he should be in DC schmoozing them, the same people who deny reality.

Obama, they say, should be having Republicans over to the White House for movie night.  He should be phoning them directly, each and every one of them, so that they feel important.  Then they wouldn’t claim that they don’t know about the budget cuts he’s placed on the table because they would have heard about them directly from the President.  But President Obama did not reached out to each and every one of them personally and their feelings were hurt.

But now he’s taken them out to dinner at a nice restaurant.  They feel special.  Now they’re all puffed up with self-importance.

Well, here’s a news flash for Republican legislators: Other than your mother, nobody cares if your feelings were hurt.  We didn’t send you to Washington so that you would be stroked and told how important you are or so that you would be patted on the head and made to feel special.  We hired you to do a job and that job does not include paralyzing the United States of America and it does not include undermining international trust in our country.  Get over yourself.  We’re not here for you – you’re there for us.

Are your feelings hurt?  Do you feel like you haven’t received enough special attention?  We don’t care.  Not a bit.  Come to think of it, your mother likes her Medicare and she probably doesn’t care, either.

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

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