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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 2019 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 2019 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 2019 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Watch This


TPP-Fast-Track-Congress-400x209Reading Time – 27 seconds  .  .  .

The call to action last week was to defeat the fast track bill, which would  have eliminated congressional oversight from a major trade deal. In case you are a President Obama supporter and think that he should have had free reign on such matters, think for just a moment how you would feel if that same power were vested in President George W. Bush. Bad idea.

This TPP issue isn’t over, though, because while fast track has been removed from consideration, it can be reintroduced and more arm twisting of legislators can be done. Even more to the point, though, is the Trans Pacific Partnership treaty itself. It represents a horrid abdication of American sovereignty and a turnover of trade power to lobbyists from big international corporations. Is that really what you want to see happen?

This bill is just one more iteration of big money influencing our politics and corrupting our democracy all for the benefit of – guess who? – the big money people. It is called plutocracy or corporatocracy – rule by the corporations. That means this is no longer a democracy – rule by the people – and you lose.

You can roll over and play dead so that your children will become chattel for the corporations or you can stand up to this abuse. There is no middle ground. You are either fighting for the America you believe in or you are ceding America to the rich.

Watch this space for a call to action as we get closer to voting on TPP. Then take a stand. Meanwhile, watch this.

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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 2019 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

501c(4) Organizations and You


IRS BuildingReading time – 59 seconds  .  .  .

There is a really good reason why we give tax exempt status to charitable institutions: we as a nation have decided that we want to ease the way for organizations whose sole purpose is to do good for our needy and make it attractive for citizens to support these organizations.

There is a really good reason why most of our educational institutions are not taxed: we as a nation have decided that education is a really good thing and we want to support and encourage the education of our kids.

There are museums, hospitals and many more kinds of organizations that are tax exempt because their sole purpose is to do good for all of us. Our laws are structured to protect that do-gooding and they are strictly enforced, right? Turns out, not so much.

For example, Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS is a 501c(4) organization, so by IRS definition its raison d’être is to operate exclusively for the promotion of social welfare. But Crossroads GPS spent nearly $71 million “electioneering” during the 2012 general election cycle. That’s money that was spent primarily on negative TV and radio ads designed to trash opponents of candidates whom Rove’s contributors supported. What seems to be missing from their actions is any social welfare, even as Crossroads GPS is exempt from federal tax.

And that’s just Rove’s 501c(4). There are many more 501(c) organizations enjoying tax avoidance benefits, all the while flaunting the law. And the story gets worse.

Donors to 501c(4) organizations can remain anonymous. That means that you and I don’t know who is contributing millions of dollars to these secret organizations and using their money to construct a government that is, let’s say, “friendly” to them.

All of that comes to us courtesy of the lame-brained Supreme Court decision that was crammed by Chief Justice John Roberts into a case that had nothing to do with political contributions, expenditures by non-profit organizations or public do-gooding. The distorted finding of the Citizens United case legitimized rule by the rich and remains one of the most democracy killing actions in U.S. history.

How’s that working for you?

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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 2019 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

What Has Changed?


VIetnam War picReading time – 77 seconds  .  .  .

America’s military involvement in Vietnam began by sending a few advisers, this just a few years after the end of the Korean conflict (read: undeclared war). We all know how that war ramped up and cost the lives of over 58,000 Americans and untold numbers of Vietnamese. Actually, it’s still killing and maiming people, due to violently re-discovered landmines and the long term consequences of aerial applications of the toxic, carcinogenic defoliant, Agent Orange.

Since then we’ve sent our men and women to undeclared wars in Kosovo, Grenada, Kuwait, Iraq, Afghanistan – where else? We’ve engaged in near-constant war for so long that most Americans now living will be unable to identify more than a small period of time when we weren’t at war, this in spite of the complete absence of the ability to rationally justify most of those wars on the basis of real facts (in contrast to hawkish fantasy facts).

Our men and women are always in harm’s way. That glib term means that others are shooting at them, trying to kill them and sometimes succeeding. When that happens, a piece of the rest of us dies, too. Some of us feel it deeply; others refuse to acknowledge the reality and become ever more inured to it and apathetic, thereby enabling the next war.

As our troops were engaged in the unnecessary George W. Bush/Dick Cheney wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, I penned the poem below. On this Memorial Day when we remember our military dead, consider how much lasting good those wars have done for America and the world. Then consider who has benefited – that is to say, follow the money.

Be sure to attend the Memorial Day ceremonies in your town. It matters that you show up.

    Where Did the Sixties Go?

Well, some of us were lucky then,
Some not so lucky, went to war
And some of them came back in bags
And we died just a little more.

America was torn apart,
As war drained drafted blood away.
With no draft now the howls are gone,
And men die just the same today.

What's happened to us all since then?
Have we become what we protested?
We got our houses, made our cash
And made the choices we elected.

Yet we're the leaders now, the ones
Who  move and shake and set the sails.
How can it be the ship of state
Seems once again steered on to fail?

The things we knew were wrong back then
Are still as wrong, can't make them fly.
And doing more won't make them right,
Nor twisting truth to justify.

That credibility gap is here.
We know when we are being snowed.
Perhaps we're just too cushy now,
To protest all the lies we're told.

We humans are the only ones
To rationalize, to sing false songs,
Or need to do it to protect
Our fragile selves from being wrong.

Well, some of us are lucky now,
Some not so lucky, gone to war.
And some of them come back in bags,
And we die just a little more.

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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 2019 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Get Government Out of Our Lives


ChaffetzReading time – 47 seconds  .  .  .

On April 15 Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) proposed H.R. 1563, a bill that would require federal workers to certify that their tax records aren’t delinquent, this under threat of dismissal. Chaffetz wants to make sure that those hoards of federal employee tax evaders with debt so large and so delinquent that, ”  .  .  .   [it] may be collected by the Secretary [of the Treasury] by levy or by a proceeding in court,” are brought out of the shadows and put in stocks in the public square. Alright, Jason. You are one tough dude!

And his bill flies in the face of workers’ rights to keep their tax records private and wholly ignores the fact that another department of government – the Treasury – is already monitoring and collecting delinquent taxes. Chaffetz’s bill appears to duplicate efforts, burden citizens, violate rights and is punitive. So, why would he introduce such apparently lame brain legislation that appears to run counter to the Republican “less government” mantra?

It turns out that, “.  .  .  the bill’s requirements apply to employees of the executive and legislative branches, as well as to those in the U.S. Postal Service and the Postal Regulatory Commission.” Hmmm, the U.S. Postal Service is included. Could that be a clue?

Just a few years ago our insightful and ever-vigilant Congress drafted a bill that requires the Postal Service to amass billions of dollars to ensure the pensions of postal workers. It projects the need so many decades into the future that the U.S. Postal Service is putting away retirement funds for workers who have not yet been born. That bill was designed to burden the Postal Service with such a crushing load of debt that it would become bankrupt; then the Republicans’ favorite free marketers could privatize it, cut services, raise rates and make lots of money.

Chaffetz’s bill is just another Republican effort to drive the privatization of all of our government functions in order to enrich their pals. Any time you want to understand this kind of stupid stuff, just follow the money.

And here’s the kicker: The rate of tax delinquency of postal workers is less than half that of the general public. These are solid citizens paying their fair share, but Jason Chaffetz, resolute soldier in the Republican war on government (this primarily for the benefit of rich people), wants to use government muscle to double up on efforts to humiliate and penalize these people.

Jason, your mother must be very proud.

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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 2019 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Piñatas


Ed. note: Please help – see the note below and pass this along so that we make the kind of difference that needs to be made. America thanks you.

Reading time – 41 seconds  .  .  .

There they stand, the hopeful – hopeless? – wielders of sticks, lurching and whacking at the piñatas of political issues, wishing that their mighty blows will crack open and let drop at their feet an action figure costume. They believe that costume will grant them unlimited power and control and that the Oval Office will magically be theirs.

Say hello to today’s pretenders to the throne in 2016. And pay special attention to their ultra-crafty remaking of themselves, frequently in perfect contradiction (“to say against”) of other intentionally misleading, ultra-crafty things they’ve said to some different audience. Perhaps they believe that recording devices have not yet been invented. More likely, though, they believe we are too ignorant, lazy or stupid to notice. But notice we will, as the fact checkers have their way and the action figure costumes fall apart, revealing the disingenuous self-promoter beneath who doesn’t want to serve, but only to denigrate, bully and line others’ pockets with cash at your expense.

The whacking at piñatas would be humorous and entertaining, were it not for the destruction it causes.

The key as you endure the inane political rhetoric of this hyper-extended (make that “never-ending”) election season is that nearly all of the blather is about the self-serving candidates, never about you nor about America except in some childish idealistic or apocalyptically frightening way. Our job is to find one who speaks to our circumstances and to the betterment of America. If you and I fail in this we will be kicking The Dream to the gutter for a sackful of nothing and relegating America to suffer a self-deluded figurehead and all the abandonment of the American people that implies.

Get up and get active.

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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 offering your comments, as well as by passing this along and encouraging others to subscribe and do the same.  Thanks.  JA


Copyright 2019 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Poison Pills


Reading time 49 seconds  .  .  .  .

We the People paid for all the losses (and far more) from the big banks having gambled with government guaranteed funds and plunged us into a recession from which we may never fully recover. Of course, we are wanting to ensure that such a thing will never happen again, so naturally our legislators, those in the People’s House whom we elected to represent us, are out front leading the battle to protect against funding the banks’ gambling addiction, right? Any governmental protection for those banks from their gambling losses would be a legislative poison pill to our representatives because they represent you, right?

Wrong and wrong. The House of Representatives passed a budget bill that ensures that you foot the bill the next time Jamie Dimon, CEO of JP Morgan Chase, gambles and loses.

And don’t think that it’s just those corrupt, bought-by-big-business Republicans ensuring a banking free pass. 57 Democrats voted for that idiotic budget, too. That’s how deep Big Money reptilian fangs are embedded into the neck of your country.

The four biggest banks handle 90% of all derivative action, so this damnable banking amendment to the budget is not designed to protect the thousands of mom and pop banks in America. This amendment is solely for the benefit of those four hideously large special boys who are too big to fail and which we ensured with wimpy Dodd-Frank legislation will continue to be too big to fail.

Too many of our legislators are focused on their own short term self-interest and that is inextricably tied to the interests of Big Money. Unless you’re a member of that club, a majority of our legislators don’t hear a word you’re saying. And that should be a poison pill for you.

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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 offering your comments, as well as by passing this along and encouraging others to subscribe and do the same.  Thanks.  JA


Copyright 2019 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

I Just Want You To Know . . .


Reading time – 57 seconds  .  .  . 

The Forbes 400 was recently posted and we are told that the 400 richest people in America are worth about $2.29 trillion. That is more than the bottom 150 million Americans combined, or about half of all Americans. And that $2.29 trillion is up 13 5% over last year. Your wealth increased 13.5% over the last 12 months, too, right? Let’s look at this another way.

The television and radio ads that end with a candidate saying, “I’m [CANDIDATE NAME] and I approved this message,” are paid for by the candidate. If you don’t hear those words – and that accounts for the vast majority of the ads that are pumped into your head – the ad was funded by outside money through PACs, Super PACs and 501(c)4 organizations.

These outside money message manipulators have already spent over $390 million in this election cycle to twist your brain and, more important, twist the brains of low information voters. What that means is that people who aren’t tuned into politics and are just going about their lives are hearing misleading, false, disingenuous, just-this-side-of-outright-fraudulent messages and they don’t know it, so they get manipulated. They aren’t aware that they are voting against their own best interests. What you know is that they are voting against your interests and against your vision of what America should be.

About those outside money groups – 94% of the money they spend to twist voters’ brains comes from just 200 fabulously wealthy people and corporations. Now, why would these rich people contribute all that money?

Because doing so means that they keep on getting richer. They get what they want, but you don’t get what you want. You don’t get gun safety legislation, a climate bill so we stop hard boiling our planet, legislation that would create good paying jobs, healthcare reform, student loan reform and issues all the way down to pothole repair.

If that isn’t okay with you, you better do something about it. You better vote on November 4 for people who will legislate for reform. You better bring your disengaged neighbor and your crazy brother-in-law to the polls with you. You better volunteer at a call center to remind voters to show up and vote.

The big money people have a really big megaphone and they know how to use it. That means that we small money people have to band together and collectively overpower the big megaphone people to make your American dream possible for you and your kids. Watch this.

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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 offering your comments, as well as by passing this along and encouraging others to subscribe and do the same.  Thanks.  JA


Copyright 2019 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

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