Campaign Contributions

What If It’s Worse?

Reading time  – 61 seconds; Viewing time  – 2:08  .  .  .

Hanion’s Razor: “Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity, but don’t rule out malice”. Robert J. Hanion

I’m going around the country and presenting my program, Money, Politics & Democracy: You Aren’t Getting What You Want, and I never get push-back from audiences. Mostly, they tell me that they appreciated my program, that I did a great job and that they didn’t realize things were as awful as they are.

While I appreciate the kudos, I’m mostly struck by their realization of how they personally are being affected by our pay-to-play politics and that they are just beginning to get it. This morning I got chills, as it dawned on me,

What if it’s worse than I thought and I’m just beginning to get it? What if all I’ve been seeing is the tip of the iceberg of our legalized system of political bribery?

What I know is that freshman legislators are instructed by the RNC and the DNC to spend 4 hours a day dialing for dollars and another hour or two daily pressing the flesh of big donors.

What I know is that industries that invest a lot of money in our legislators get favored in our laws and regulations.

What I know is that you and I are not getting:

  • – the gun safety legislation we want
  • – the legislation to deal with global warming that we want
  • – the healthcare service delivery and outcomes we want
  • – the student debt reform we want
  • – the job training and job growth we want
  • – the reform of our prison-industrial complex that we want
  • – the voting rights we want
  • – the lead-free drinking water we want

And that’s just a small sampling of the list of things that we Americans overwhelmingly want and are not getting. It’s all because our pay-to-play politics makes otherwise good people in Congress vote contrary to the desires of we the people.

Vote for the reformers.

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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.

YOUR ACTION STEPS: 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.

Stop Obsessing About the How

Reading time – 61 seconds; Viewing time – 2:54  .  .  .

Bernie Sanders is telling us that he wants Americans to have universal health care – single payer. He is challenged by those on the left, the center and the right, asking how he’s going to get that done.

Donald Trump tells us he’s going to deport 11 million undocumented residents now in the U.S. The math for that works out to 7,534 people to be deported every day of a 4-year presidential term. How will he do that?

Ted Cruz has a plan to completely re-make the federal tax system. It would reduce the income of the government by $8.6 trillion over a decade. At the same time, he plans to dramatically increase money for the Defense Department and the National Security apparatus. The math simply doesn’t come anywhere near to working, so how will he do that?

Marco Rubio disapproves of increasing the national debt limit, but he doesn’t explain how the United States will avoid default on existing debt without raising the limit. By what magic will we not become a deadbeat nation?

Hillary Clinton has accepted many millions of dollars from big money influencers, including the fossil fuel industry, big Pharma and big banks. How will she lead without being influenced by those massive campaign contributions and the money sure to arrive for the purpose of funding her second term?

Here’s the point: You’ll never get a satisfactory answer to “How?” from any of the candidates. Nobody can tell you how a Democrat as president will get what they want through a Republican Congress. Nobody can tell you how an absolutist Republican president would accomplish his absolutist ends with the filibuster alive and well in the Senate.

All you can get is an idea of what these people believe in and the direction they would take the United States if they could take it some place. Decide for yourself if their values and ideas match yours (or if they are totally cuckoo bird) and stop fretting about the “How?” stuff, because most of what is promised during a campaign will never be done.

And VOTE. Illinois, Florida, Ohio, Missouri and North Carolina primary elections are on Tuesday, March 15. Show up and VOTE.

Here’s some happy news: If you’re an Illinois resident and are not already registered to vote, you can register on election day. Yes, we have same-day registration now, so bring a few forms of ID, like your drivers license, passport, student ID, credit card, utility bill with your name on it – you only need one, but bring more just in case. Show up at your poling place and you’ll be able to register and VOTE right then and there.

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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.

YOUR ACTION STEPS: 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.

Stupidity – a Reminder

Reading time – 77 seconds; Viewing time – 3:18  .  .  .

Ed. note: This post was originally published in summer, 2015, but this is the start of our primaries and it’s time to pay attention and take action.

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Said Harlan Ellison, “The most common elements in the universe are hydrogen and stupidity.” That is cynical and harsh, yes, but there surely is an element of truth to be found in that statement. Let me offer a simple syllogism:

Doing self-destructive things is stupid.

We Americans are doing self-destructive things.

Therefore, we Americans are stupid.

Perhaps your mind is instantly pushing back on that condemnation. Fair enough, yet here is a short, off-the-top-of-my-head list to make my case:

  1. We are largely ignoring the threat of climate warming that shows us every day that the planet is going to hard boil us. Evidence of our folly: We subsidize fossil fuel industries and pay scant lip service to non-carbon based energy sources, all of which makes things worse.
  2. After nearly forty years of failure, we still practice the same supply-side, trickle down economics that has forced millions of Americans into poverty. Worse, we keep electing the same self-serving politicians who perpetuate this reverse Robin Hood of ensuring the stuffing of the pockets of the wealthy and subsistence and hopelessness for the masses.
  3. We have waged roughly 50 years of near-continuous war, largely because we have tolerated a spineless Congress that abdicates its responsibility and caves to the war profiteers.
  4. We have allowed our state governments to abdicate their financial responsibilities for the deferred pay owed to state workers. That may put millions into retirement age peril by denying them the pensions they earned.
  5. The First Amendment gives us freedom of speech and that includes the right to lobby Congress. However, we have allowed huge corporations not to just speak, but to control our laws and regulations. That has given us more guns and murders per capita than any other western nation, crops that are designed primarily to resist ever-greater applications of toxic pesticides, rather than delivering safe, nutritious food  – the list could go on and on.
  6. We have passively allowed the need for huge amounts of money to control our elections so that now we hear more about campaign fund raising than we hear from candidates about their proposals for the betterment of America.

All of that and more goes on because we fail to show up on election day. That’s self-destructive. stupid.

Your primary election is coming up soon – here’s a link to a primary election calendar. Find yours and put it on your personal calendar. Do it now.

The general election for all of us is on Tuesday, November 8, 2016. Put that date on your calendar now, too.

Then VOTE! Can’t find a great candidate? Then pick the least bad one, because failing to vote isn’t an act of rebellion: it’s surrender.

Failing to vote is, well, stupid. And you’re too smart to do that. So, show up and vote.

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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.

This Is My Country

Edmund Burke, 1723 - 1792. MP and supporter of the American Revolution

Edmund Burke, 1723 – 1792. MP and strong supporter of the American Revolution

Reading time – 3.5 minutes; viewing time – 8:15  .  .  .

Necessary preface:

Je Suis Paris

In solidarity with the people of France in this terrible moment

This offering has been scheduled for quite a while and has been pushed back until today because of more pressing issues. Now we have a most pressing issue, the unholy slaughter of innocents in Paris on Friday night. Almost oddly, that makes this essay more urgent, because one of the reasonable, if self-destructive, reactions to a threat is the surrender of liberty in the frantic search for security. Recall that Hitler came to power via a free, democratic election.

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One thing worth noting about reality is how stubborn it is: denial doesn’t change it; wishing away the unpleasant parts doesn’t disappear them. Little children playing peek-a-boo cover their eyes so that they cannot see you. What is notable is that their momentary inability to see you causes them to believe that you’re actually not there. They fail to recognize the reality – the you that remains even when they don’t see. Reality. It’s stubborn.

Almost precisely eleven years ago Rev. Davidson Loehr of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Austin, TX published an essay entitled Living Under Fascism. I urge you to click through and read it but caution you to first be sure that you are brave enough to face reality. Your courage to look won’t change reality. It will, however, change you.

In his essay, Loehr quotes a scholarly political science work, writing,

In an essay coyly titled “Fascism Anyone?,” [click here to download the PDF] Dr. Lawrence Britt, a political scientist, identifies social and political agendas common to fascist regimes. His comparisons of Hitler, Mussolini, Franco, Suharto, and Pinochet yielded this list of 14 “identifying characteristics of fascism.” .  .  .  See how familiar they sound.

1. Powerful and Continuing Nationalism

Fascist regimes tend to make constant use of patriotic mottos [sic], slogans, symbols, songs, and other paraphernalia. Flags are seen everywhere, as are flag symbols on clothing and in public displays.

2. Disdain for the Recognition of Human Rights 

Because of fear of enemies and the need for security, the people in fascist regimes are persuaded that human rights can be ignored in certain cases because of “need.” The people tend to look the other way or even approve of torture, summary executions, assassinations, long incarcerations of prisoners, etc.

3. Identification of Enemies/Scapegoats as a Unifying Cause

The people are rallied into a unifying patriotic frenzy over the need to eliminate a perceived common threat or foe: racial, ethnic or religious minorities; liberals; communists; socialists, terrorists, etc.

4. Supremacy of the Military

Even when there are widespread domestic problems, the military is given a disproportionate amount of government funding, and the domestic agenda is neglected. Soldiers and military service are glamorized.

5. Rampant Sexism

The governments of fascist nations tend to be almost exclusively male-dominated. Under fascist regimes, traditional gender roles are made more rigid. Opposition to abortion is high, as is homophobia and anti-gay legislation and national policy.

6. Controlled Mass Media

Sometimes the media are directly controlled by the government, but in other cases, the media are indirectly controlled by government regulation, or sympathetic media spokespeople and executives. Censorship, especially in war time, is very common.

7. Obsession with National Security

Fear is used as a motivational tool by the government over the masses.

8. Religion and Government are Intertwined

Governments in fascist nations tend to use the most common religion in the nation as a tool to manipulate public opinion. Religious rhetoric and terminology is common from government leaders, even when the major tenets of the religion are diametrically opposed to the government’s policies or actions.

9. Corporate Power is Protected

The industrial and business aristocracy of a fascist nation often are the ones who put the government leaders into power, creating a mutually beneficial business/government relationship and power elite.

10. Labor Power is Suppressed

Because the organizing power of labor is the only real threat to a fascist government, labor unions are either eliminated entirely, or are severely suppressed.

11. Disdain for Intellectuals and the Arts

Fascist nations tend to promote and tolerate open hostility to higher education, and academia. It is not uncommon for professors and other academics to be censored or even arrested. Free expression in the arts is openly attacked, and governments often refuse to fund the arts.

12. Obsession with Crime and Punishment

Under fascist regimes, the police are given almost limitless power to enforce laws. The people are often willing to overlook police abuses and even forego civil liberties in the name of patriotism. There is often a national police force with virtually unlimited power in fascist nations

13. Rampant Cronyism and Corruption

Fascist regimes almost always are governed by groups of friends and associates who appoint each other to government positions and use governmental power and authority to protect their friends from accountability. It is not uncommon in fascist regimes for national resources and even treasures to be appropriated or even outright stolen by government leaders.

14. Fraudulent Elections

Sometimes elections in fascist nations are a complete sham. Other times elections are manipulated by smear campaigns against or even assassination of opposition candidates, use of legislation to control voting numbers or political district boundaries, and manipulation of the media. Fascist nations also typically use their judiciaries to manipulate or control elections.

This list will be familiar to students of political science. But it should be familiar to students of religion as well, for much of it mirrors the social and political agenda of religious fundamentalisms worldwide. It is both accurate and helpful for us to understand fundamentalism as religious fascism, and fascism as political fundamentalism. They both come from very primitive parts of us that have always been the default setting of our species: amity toward our in-group, enmity toward out-groups, hierarchical deference to alpha male figures, a powerful identification with our territory, and so forth. It is that brutal default setting that all civilizations have tried to raise us above, but it is always a fragile thing, civilization, and has to be achieved over and over and over again.

Consider Britt’s challenge: See how familiar these things sound. Has the creep of fascism by our political creeps given you the creeps? Not yet? Well, uncover your eyes, because pretending that this scourge is not here hasn’t, doesn’t and won’t make it go away.

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil

is for good men to do nothing.

Edmund Burke

This is my country. And yours. And it needs us to stand up and speak up.Flag with Clouds

 

That’s why there’s a flag right here.

Thanks go to JL for pointing out Loehr’s essay.

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

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

 

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

Issues Separation Anxiety Disorder – v2.0

Issues Separation Anxiety Disorder - a Republican affliction

Issues Separation Anxiety Disorder – a Republican affliction

Reading time – 70 seconds  .  .  .

Boyhood pal Frank Levy offered a comment to last Sunday’s blog, Issues Separation Anxiety Disorder, focused on how Republicans work to divide Americans. His question is worthy of consideration and comment. Here is what he wrote:

I don’t have a comment, only a question – what is it about the 158 richest families in America that the Republicans feel they must build their entire economic policy around what they think these people want? I get that they help them win elections every 4 years, but in reality these families provide nothing of substance to individual Republicans, their friends, or their families.

In order to address Frank’s question, let’s separate Americans into two groups: politicians plus very wealthy people; and regular, non-super wealthy Americans.

For politicians and very wealthy people there is a plain and simple, very powerful system in place. Elections are hideously expensive, making the groveling for money from people who have lots of 220px-Serpiente_alquimicait consume 50% of the time and energy of politicians. The largess of those money baggers makes politicians beholden to them, so politicians do their bidding. The donors get regulations and legislation they want to maximizes their profits, laws like those that: cripple the regulatory power of the EPA, allowing ever greater air, water and land pollution; severely limits the ability of consumers to sue corporations for the harm they cause; and the absence of limitations of who should be able to own firearms, allowing for the continuation of our national massacre. The wealthy people then use a little of their enlarged stash of cash to fund the campaigns of their next hand-picked politicians. It’s a toxic cycle of life thing. But, of course, you knew all that.

The second group of people is composed of ordinary, non-wealthy Americans. The question that puzzles so many is why these folks vote against their own interests – that’s Frank’s question. There are many answers and, interestingly, numerous studies have shown that large numbers of Americans identify with very wealthy people and believe that they will be in their ranks some day. While that clearly is not going to happen for nearly any ordinary American, those aspirations provide powerful blinders and people act irrationally – i.e., against their own interests.

The larger reason, though, for Americans voting for those who, ”  .  .  .  provide nothing of substance to individual Republicans, their friends, or their families,” is what I detailed in the preceding blog. Republicans appeal to hate and fear and that drives people to the polls to vote for those who stimulate them with their “scare ’em and save ’em” tactic. That kind of manipulation is used to sell underarm deodorant, security systems, investment services and, yes, politicians.

Listen to the words of consumer commercials (ignore the visuals) and you’ll hear the appeal to fear. Listen to a Republican running for office and you’ll hear the same thing.

So, to answer Frank’s question, there are three powerful responses that lapdog politicians running for office create as they manipulate ordinary Americans with their calls to hate and fear and get them to vote against their own interests.

First, the politicians tell those angry people that they’re right. That’s very gratifying. This has the additional benefit of letting voters feel a bit in control, this in stark contrast to their ongoing sense of powerlessness in their lives.

Second, voters get to vent their frustrations. That feels good.

Third, and most powerful, most persuasive, they imply a promise of freedom from fear. That they never deliver is quite beside the point. That the lapdog politicians stoke fear and hatred in order to get elected – courtesy of the financial muscle of their big donors – is the point.

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

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

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

Those Feel-Good Commercials

Reading time – 88 seconds  .  .  . 

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

My mom makes trains that are friends with trees."

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

 

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

 

 

 

 

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

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

 

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

 

 

 

Pick up the hammer

“Go ahead – pick it up”

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Letter to the Editor, Chicago Tribune

Chicago Tribune MastheadReading time – 52 seconds .  .  .

A recent poll showed that 96% of Americans deplore the influence of big money on our politics and want that changed. But that hasn’t happened and that big money is the mother lode that drives our national dysfunction.

After 20 little kids and 6 teachers were gunned down at Sandy Hook Elementary school nearly three years ago, 90% of all Americans and 80% of National Rifle Association members wanted universal background checks for all sales of firearms. We didn’t get what we wanted. The big money interests blocked the will of the American people.

Jeb Bush has raised over $114 million (“Jeb Bush, super PAC raise” July 9) and a Hillary Clinton fundraiser in Chicago cost $2,700 per seat (“Major donor to Obama, Emanuel to host Hillary Clinton fundraiser” July 21). Once they and other candidates receive these enormous sums, they are beholden to the wealthy who contributed and the candidates ignore the voices of regular Americans.

That’s why we don’t have laws to help small businesses and it is why our health care system caters to powerful insurance companies. It’s why we haven’t undertaken a critical updating of our education system and it’s why we wait for bridges to collapse and kill people before repairing our crumbling infrastructure. The list of serious problems ignored by Congress is long and ugly and our corrupt campaign finance system drives nearly all of them.

I’ve spoken to groups that span our political spectrum about our legalized bribery system that gives wealthy special interests an advantage and opens the door to corruption. Not once has anyone voiced any push-back. This is a bipartisan issue. We the People want reform.

As an Eisenhower Republican, my vote in 2016 will go to whichever candidates come out in support of fundamental election reform that truly puts government back in the hands of the people. In the 10th Congressional District, that rules out Robert Dold.

All candidates can show that they are serious about this issue by supporting the Government by the People Act (H.R.20). This bipartisan bill (with 160 cosponsors) will create a voluntary system of tax rebates and other incentives for small donors to have more of a voice in elections, including public financing of our elections. I hope the candidates campaign on this reform bill to ensure politicians are accountable to voters rather than catering only to a well connected few.

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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.

Stupidity

Image generated by Ghostscript (device=ppmraw)

Image of a galaxy, courtesy of Hubble

Reading time – 57 seconds  .  .  .

Said Harlan Ellison, “The most common elements in the universe are hydrogen and stupidity.” That is cynical and harsh, yes, but there surely is an element of truth to be found in that statement. Let me offer a simple syllogism:

Doing self-destructive things is stupid

Many Americans are doing self-destructive things

Therefore, many Americans are doing stupid things

Perhaps your mind is instantly pushing back on that condemnation. Fair enough, yet here is a short, off-the-top-of-my-head list to make my case:

  1. We are largely ignoring the threat of climate warming that shows us every day that the planet is going to hard boil us. Evidence of our folly: In the face of the globally warmest years we’ve ever recorded, we continue to subsidize fossil fuel industries and provide next to no support for non-carbon based energy sources.
  2. After nearly forty years of failure, we still practice the same supply-side, trickle down economics that has financially stagnated most middle-class Americans and has forced millions into poverty.
  3. We have waged about 50 years of near-continuous war, largely because we have tolerated a spineless Congress that both abdicates its responsibility and knuckles under to what President Eisenhower labeled the military-industrial complex.
  4. We have allowed our state governments to abandon their financial obligations (that’s “obligations” as in: “duty-bound”) for deferred pay to state workers, an act of irresponsibility that may put millions into retirement age peril.
  5. We have allowed huge corporations not only the First Amendment right to speak, but to control our laws and regulations. That has given us more guns and murders per capita than any other western nation, crops that are designed primarily to resist ever-greater applications of toxic pesticides, rather than delivering safe, nutritious food and so many more examples of the undermining of safety, good sense and democracy.
  6. We have allowed candidates’ need for huge amounts of money to control our elections. Example: notice how press coverage of campaigns focuses more on campaign fund raising than on candidate policy proposals for the betterment of America.

All of that and more goes on because half to two-thirds of us fail to show up on election day. That’s self-destructive. That’s stupid.

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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.

Despicable Dick

 One Man Against the WorldReading time – 49 seconds  .  .  .

I just finished reading Tim Weiner’s well written, well resourced and thoughtful new book One Man Against the World. Inside the front flap of the book jacket the headline for the teaser reads, “The riveting story of a dramatic and disastrous Presidency.” Few who remember or who have studied the sordid story of Richard M. Nixon would quibble with either the book title or the jacket headline.

Richard Nixon was, if anything, a polarizing figure and an easy man to dislike and distrust, in large measure because he disliked and distrusted nearly everyone, especially those who weren’t exactly like him. Neither conventional morality nor Constitutional law were limits he honored and he was able to self-justify nearly anything in pursuit of establishing a heroic place in world history for himself. His self-centered focus allowed for the deaths of tens of thousands more of our military in Vietnam and cost the lives of hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese, Cambodians and Laotians.

Perhaps that self-focus sounds a bit familiar, akin to so many of our current politicians who don’t let facts or good sense get in the way of what they say and do in pursuit of their self-promotion; who never leave campaign contribution checks on the table, regardless of the soul-compromising embedded in those checks and the harm their sell-out will cause to America and Americans; who cannot seem to see past the next election to recognize the dangers they are visiting upon our children and grandchildren.

It is an age-old question as to whether the end justifies the means. Perhaps in absolute terms, as in avoiding nuclear war, it does. Absent such end-of-the-world choices, though, it probably does not. Yet it is with such an absolutist mentality that our politicians continue to attempt to justify their reprehensible actions, like torture and never-ending, undeclared war.

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose. – Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr
“The more things change, the more they stay the same.”

Interestingly, there is something we can do about such people and their despicable acts.

We can VOTE!

“Freedom without responsibility is chaos.” Rod Steiger

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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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