Energy

Reality

Reading time – 4:46; Viewing time – 7:03  .  .  .

My pal John Calia comments now and again on these posts and he recently declared me to be a far left liberal. “Not so!” I protested, and proceeded to show him a bunch of my views on issues about which the vast majority of Americans agree. For example,

We want sensible gun safety legislation.

We want big money out of our politics.

The wealthy should pay their fair share – and it’s more than they’re paying now.

We oppose privatization of Social Security.

The Earth is warming at a dramatic pace and humans are a key driver of that. We need a climate moon shot if we’re to be able to live in what are now our coastal cities.

Russia is not our friend and we must take action to protect our democracy.

Stop lying to us about “trickle-down economics.” We’ve seen this movie over and over for 40 years and we know how it ends, and it’s not well for almost all of us. Instead of the same old stupid stuff, do something that actually helps the lower 99%, like,

Pass an infrastructure bill to rebuild America.

No more unnecessary wars – and stop the ones we’re in.

There is lots more, but my notions seem to coincide with middlin’ views, methinks. John challenged me to take the quiz on the Pew Research site, so I did. Lo and behold, they say I’m a Solid Liberal, along with 15% of the American public. That’s far left, not centrist. I could look for a second opinion, but that feels more like a desperate attempt to prove I’m right, rather than just accepting reality. My friend Ozzie sensibly instructs, “Reality always wins. Our job is to get in touch with it.” Inconvenient, perhaps, but he’s right.

Annoyingly, there is a lot about our current reality that plagues us and we better get in touch with it. You know about the reality of the Trump craziness that pits Americans against one another and focuses on outrage and petty victimization, while creating roadblocks to accomplishing anything to deal with our vexing problems.

At the same time, though, Trump enjoys huge support from ordinary Americans, irrespective of his terrible job performance rating (that’s down to 36.9%). That support leads to Congressional spinelessness, Senators McCain, Corker and Flake notwithstanding. Indeed, the legislators in Congress who live in scandalously gerrymandered districts keep getting reelected in spite of our disdain for Congress (now with just a 13% approval rating). They don’t fear a challenge from the other party, but are terrified at being primaried from the right by an angry extremist candidate. That’s because we’re living in the era of Extended Middle Finger America. Indeed, as Victor Davis Hanson wrote in the National Review, ”  .  .  .  Trump is a symptom of widespread disgust  .  .  . What created him was furor at a smug, entrenched Republican political establishment.”

Arguably, this anger at the establishment began long ago with the assassination of President Kennedy and the Warren Commission’s apparent whitewash of an investigation. It was abetted by the lies of Lyndon Johnson about the war in Vietnam and the lies and crimes of Richard Nixon and the resignation over corruption charges of his Vice-President. It surely was helped along by Bill Clinton’s – let’s call them dalliances.

Our anger was nurtured by Ronald Reagan, who told us that the 9 most feared words in America are, “I’m from the government and I’m here to help.” He told us that, “Government is the problem.” He repeatedly encouraged us to be angry at our government. Actually, we had some solid reasons to be angry.

When the I-35W bridge collapsed in Minneapolis we were delivered a very clear heads-up that we have infrastructure problems, yet precious little has been done in the intervening 10 years to protect the American people and ensure our solid presence in the world. In contrast, former third-world countries are modernizing at a ferocious pace, leaving us less competitive in this global economy. That’s a huge trust killer for us, just as our refusal to fix our education system and governmental infighting to prevent poor people from receiving good healthcare undercut our belief in our systems.

Gasoline was poured on the flames of anger at government by Newt Gingrich’s madness in rabidly attacking Bill Clinton on everything and shutting down the government; then George W. Bush and Dick Cheney lied us into two unnecessary wars. It was worsened by John Boehner telling us that it was all about “jobs, jobs, jobs” and yet opposing every attempt to create legislation that would encourage job growth. The furies were angered still further by a Republican Congress that was solely focused on ensuring that Obama had no wins, instead of looking out for the American people.

The worst thing, though, is the ongoing drumbeat of how awful our government is, including blatant lies by legislators and by polarized commentary by the likes of Breitbart, Rush Limbaugh and Alex Jones. That has led to a very angry citizenry. And that has led to the election of a president who is incrementally tearing down the very things that make this country work. Somehow, his supporters, otherwise good, solid folks, are so angry that they are willing to ignore Trump’s awfuls. They have and continue to be prepared to elect representatives and senators who spew vitriol.

All of that is backward looking. What will we do about it?

I don’t have the answers, but I’m confident that what is called for is inspired and inspiring leadership in a new direction. We need a Lincoln to call upon our better angels. And we need insightful ideas that are offered in inspiring ways. Who will do that?

It’s self-defeating to live in, “.  .  . the sublime relief of deferred responsibility, the soft, violence of willful ignorance,” as phrased by Lindy West in a marvelous piece in the New York Times. Her reference was to the normalization of the hate of the alt-right, but the phrase works well for all of our current reality.

Back to my friend, Ozzie. The companion piece to “Reality always wins” is this:

If you want to know the future, create it.

What is the future reality you want? The time to start creating it is now.

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

YOUR ACTION STEPS: Offer your comments below and pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe and engage.  Thanks!

Copyright 2017 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Figure It Out

Reading time – 3:57; Viewing time – 6:38  .  .  .

We have yet another edition of the interpretation game, “I think what the President meant was  .  .  .” His “fire and fury” ad lib has spawned no end of pols, politicians and pundits pretending they can get into the President’s very unusual brain and interpret his most recent inane statement, trying to make rational sense of Trump’s irrationality. Listen for the interpretation game words following his next tweet designed to take the focus off the investigation into his possible collusion with the election hacking Russians. Those who take the bait and respond to his 140-character stupid stuff will use the exact words, “I think what the President meant was  .  .  .” That’s the moment you’ll know that listening further is a waste of your life.

It’s so sad that the President of the United States requires so much interpretation and guesswork in order to have any hope of understanding his meaning. Actually, it’s far worse than that. Be sure to read through to the last section of this post for the existential implications.

Thom Hartmann recently asked a question on his radio show, inquiring of callers whom they would prefer as President, Donald Trump or Mike Pence. In this era of expected impeachment, that was a thought provoking question and some interesting views emerged. Here’s my short list:

Donald Trump:

He is a non-stop chaos creator and his actions are dangerous for us and for the world.

Trump’s dalliances with non-reality are an impediment to solving our national problems.

Under the spell of Stephen Bannon, Trump is working to “bring the establishment crashing down,” which means he wants to eliminate much of what we think of as good things, like education, the environment, healthcare, our fundamental functions of government, the press and more.

There is a danger that we’ll become weary of Trump’s crazy and destructive behavior and stop paying attention. That’s when the really bad stuff will happen.

Trump is incompetent enough to start a nuclear war.

Mike Pence:

He’s a serial liar.

Pence wants to make the United States of America a Christian theocracy. Forget about whether you like the idea; it’s unconstitutional. And you better hope he isn’t an Armageddon crazy.

When Pence was Governor of Indiana he was proud to discriminate against the LGBTQ community as though doing so were somehow constitutional. He is holy unhinged.

I have no basis for saying this, but I think it’s possible that Pence has enough competence to avoid nuclear war. But that’s just a guess.

What all of that and more means is that neither Trump nor Pence is a good choice. Still, impeachment will happen before January 20, 2019 (my best guess) – or Trump will resign so that he can declare he’s a victim, proceed to demonize his detractors with scathing tweets and otherwise lie constantly and have his signature temper tantrums.

On the other hand, should Trump somehow escape the Mueller noose, he may run again in 2020 and will obliterate Pence the same way he did “Little Marco”, “Low energy Jeb” and “Lyin’ Ted”. Try these for Trumpian slime-names:

“Plastic Pence”

“Boring Mike”

“Do nothing Mike”

“Back-stabbin’ Mike”

“Drop the Mike”

It’s unlikely you’ll actually have to choose between Trump and Pence. Nevertheless, weigh in with your view of these very flawed characters in the Comments section below. Which one would you prefer in the West Wing? Note that “Choice E, None of the above” is not an option for this exercise.

In Other News  .  .  .

The healthcare craziness in Congress has quieted, but the issue is not settled. To understand where We The People see this, have a look at the Kaiser Family Foundation tracking poll of August 11, 2017. Here’s one of the charts from this most interesting report.There is much to learn from the poll and this chart highlights one of the key points. Note the resistance among Trump supporters to making the ACA work. It’s that consistent 30-something percent of Americans who back Trump no matter how wacky, insulting or dishonest his behavior. Meanwhile, a significant majority of Americans now like the ACA and want its weak points fixed.

Congress: Do you hear us?

And finally  .  .  .

President Trump has flexed his ego muscles by threatening Kim Jung-un and North Korea. He’s done that using inflammatory, belligerent language much like a schoolyard bully. Trump never backs down, regardless of how obvious it is that what he has done is counterproductive or dishonest, so instead of finding a way for diplomacy to work, he has instead suggested that his threats may have been, of all things, too mild. All of his chest thumping has been done in the total absence of any direct diplomacy. There are no talks underway with North Korean officials. We have no means of dialogue with them. We don’t even have an ambassador to South Korea because Trump has refused to appoint one.

The President’s in-your-face behavior is happening in this context of no possibility for diplomacy, which leaves few choices to Kim Jung-un. Trump has backed him into a corner where if he caves in to Trump’s threats, he will lose face on the international stage. He just may feel that there is more honor and ego protecting in striking out militarily and causing millions to die, rather than to cave in to the American tough talker. All those deaths will occur because of Trump’s self-imposed limitation that our only international negotiating tool is military force.

And Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who refuses to recruit a full and capable diplomatic team, tells us to sleep well. Good luck with that.

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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: Offer your comments below and pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe and engage.  Thanks!  JA

Copyright 2017 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Plumbing

Reading time – 1:34; Viewing time – 2:23  .  .  .

During a recent visit to my dentist I stopped in the men’s room and found a – let’s call it “interesting” – wall sign. Honestly, I have never heard of sensitive plumbing. I mean, isn’t it just a bunch of sturdy pipes? Does the plumbing in a commercial building have feelings? Does it become upset if something that doesn’t belong there gets introduced to its innards? Is anxiety triggered just beyond the next pipe fitting by a careless user? What are we to make of this new age accommodation to the emotions of plumbing?

Well, nothing, of course. But it brought to mind the crude and cruel behavior of those in the White House and Congress and how they seem to view the American people. Perhaps they haven’t seen this sign and don’t realize that the American people, for all our strength and rugged individualism, for all our can-do spirit, have certain sensitivities. There are some things that just don’t go down well.

For example, we’re sensitive to the healthcare needs of one another and we don’t want people thrown under the plumbing just because they aren’t wealthy. We’re sensitive to the thousands who are killed by gun violence every year, so we really want sensible gun laws to protect our dear ones. We’re sensitive to the outrageous tsunami of money heaped into our politics by extremely wealthy people in a pay-to-play scheme – it’s corroding our democracy. We’re sensitive to the inability of those we send to Washington to accomplish much more than naming a post office. We’re sensitive to our rapidly heating planet and fear for the future of our kids and grand kids. And we’re sensitive to the declining standard of living for about 90% of us.

Click me – then sign up to learn more about the Summit for righties, lefties and indies

Tell you what let’s do. Copy the picture above and paste it into an email to your senators, congressperson and to President Trump. Tell them you’re a sensitive American and you want them to solve the vexing problems we face and for them to stop the stupid stuff. Let them know that if they don’t, they’ll be the ones introduced to the plumbing in 2018.

Apologies to all for my tasteless metaphor.

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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: Offer your comments below and pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe and engage.  Thanks!  JA

Copyright 2017 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Harry Potter and What We Are

Reading time – 2:40; Viewing time – 3:44  .  .  .

  • “It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.” J.K. Rowling, from Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secrets.

Let’s imagine that Rowling has offered a valuable insight – that it’s our choices that show who we truly are – and consider these points:

  1. Donald Trump has refused to say anything to suggest that he fully agrees with his 17 national security agencies that the Russians hacked not just Hillary Clinton’s and John Podesta’s emails, but also sought to affect our national election. He has compounded that by offering no leadership to counter this ongoing invasion of America by a foreign adversary. He’s dismantling our cyber security oversight and has had more friendly involvement with covertly hostile Russian officials than he’s had with anyone else.
  2. Trump brought top Russian officials into the Oval Office, this in the absence of an American translator. While there he passed top secret espionage information to them, which put Israeli intelligence people in peril.
  3. Trump met for an hour at the G20 dinner with Vladimir Putin. The only other participant in the conversation was Putin’s translator. That means that Trump doesn’t know what was relayed from him to Putin, nor can he know what Putin actually said.
  4. Rex Tillerson is incrementally dismantling the State Department. You know, the people who conduct U.S. diplomacy.
  5. Betsy DeVos is working to dismantle public education.
  6. Scott Pruitt is dismantling the EPA, including the Clean Water Act. Drink up.
  7. I don’t know what Rick Perry is doing to the Department of Energy, about which he knows next to nothing. What we can be sure of is that he wants to eliminate the department, this according to his “Oops!” moment at a Republican debate in 2016.
  8. Trump and the Republicans pound the blatantly false drum beat that Obamacare is dead. Now Trump wants to eliminate it, provide nothing to replace it and leave millions of Americans – 1 in 10 of us – adrift with no access to medical care but the emergency room.
  9. Trump continues to blow off our allies and cozy up to Putin. This is particularly vexing because the Republicans have spent decades telling us that they are the muscular protectors of America against the bad Russians and that the Democrats are weak-kneed and can’t be counted on to stand up to the bad guys. Now, though, the Republicans seem to have Kryptonite strapped to them and they’re mute about Trump’s “love-the-Russians” behavior.
  10. The Onion had a touching and troubling take on what we’re doing about immigration. Watch it here.
  11. Now we hear that Trump is investigating presidential pardons for his staff, his family and for himself, even though nobody has officially been charged with a crime. He’s also working to discredit the Special Counsel and his team and has threatened to fire Robert Mueller. All we’ve heard has come from eyebrow raising pundits. We’ve heard nothing from members of the President’s party. Where is the outrage?

There’s more, of course. The point is that our choices – our actions – declare what we are, just as J.K. Rowling said. What are we saying about who we are?

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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: Offer your comments below and pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe and engage.  Thanks!  JA

Copyright 2017 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

The Platform is a 4-Letter Word – Part 2

Reading time – 6:20; Viewing time – 9:38  .  .  .

This is the continuation of my notions of a national platform begun in the last post. It’s necessary to make an addendum to point #5 regarding healthcare.

Memo to Lawmakers: Only 20% of Americans approve of the job Congress is doing and that number hasn’t varied by more than a few percentage points since 2006. The disapproval rating of Congress stands at 74%, meaning that 3 out of 4 Americans think you’re doing a really lousy job. You really should feel terrible about that. Here’s what you need to know.

A big piece of the public disapproval of you is due to your making back room deals – sleaze behind closed doors – like what the Republican senators have done with their cruel healthcare plan that keeps millions of Americans from getting healthcare at all. That’s why We the People don’t approve of you.

All you have to do is to craft something that provides healthcare for everyone and do your deliberation in public, opening the process to comments from actual American people who will be impacted by what you do. This is not complicated and you really can do this.

Memo to Republicans in Congress: We the People know that your American Health Care Act (“AHCA”) isn’t really about healthcare. It’s about giving an $800 billion cash windfall to already rich people. Can you be any more disingenuous? Shame on you.

8. George W. Bush may go down in history as our worst president because he started two unnecessary wars which are likely to continue for decades. Donald Trump is trying to one-up him by tweaking the nose of an infantile nuclear dictator, thumbing his nose at our strongest allies, buddying up to Vladimir Putin and refusing to endorse Article 5 of the NATO charter.

Memo to lawmakers: You already know that only Congress has the power to declare war. Put on your big boy/girl pants, take a stand and fulfill your obligation. We don’t need perpetual war initiated by autocrats.

Economic teaching moment: War robs us of huge amounts of money – trillions of dollars. The cost of every bullet or rocket that’s fired is lost forever; in contrast, the money spent in America, on America gets recycled nearly perpetually to the benefit of all of us.

Mortality teaching moment: Our military people who get killed in our unnecessary wars really don’t come home and resume their lives. They’re dead and if you didn’t stand against our unnecessary wars, it’s your fault. Do you support our military? Then stop sending our people off to die for no good reason.

9. If Trump gets his way we’re going to de-fund the National Institutes of Health, the EPA and gut our diplomatic corps. so we’ll cut spending on cancer research, let our air and water get polluted again and make the military our only foreign affairs tool, all to save less than a couple of percent of our budget.

Memo to lawmakers: Really?!!! Please wake up and tell us you’re not that self-defeating. Put on those big boy/girl pants and take a stand for America.

10. Stephen Bannon wants to tear down our established order and so far Trump seems to be his puppet in charge of dismantling what makes the American government work. At the same time Trump is collapsing the international coalition that has kept us strong and safe for 100 years, while at the same time sucking up to vicious autocrats around the world. Using duck logic, this looks, walks and quacks like a duck that is in the process of the self-immolation of America.

Memo to lawmakers: Get a grip on reality, stop this un-American president and put our government back together. Note that once again this will require that you put on your big boy/girl pants.

11. Fossil fuel is on the way out because we’re choking on its exhaust and the planet is warming at a staggering rate that will cook us all. We need clean energy, not more oil extracted from ecologically perilous places.

Memo to lawmakers: You’ll be okay without Big Oil and Big Gas campaign contributions – I promise. So, stop the idiocy of, “I’m not a scientist, so I don’t know about global warming.” Craft legislation that will drive a complete transformation of our energy infrastructure – a moon shot – like solar collectors on all roofs, solar farms, wind energy, tide energy, a new smart grid and all the rest. If you don’t care enough about your grandchildren to do this, then do it for mine.

12. 100 years ago graduating from 8th grade was a fine accomplishment and enough education for someone to get a good job with good pay. A few decades later a high school diploma was needed for a good job, so we made high school tuition-free for our kids. The world has changed and even more education is needed today. Right now there are 6 million jobs going wanting, many because employers can’t find people with the education required for those jobs.

Memo to lawmakers: Make state college education tuition-free. And find a way to get past property taxes being the primary funding for our schools, because this antiquated system leaves kids in poor areas unable to get a good education. That sentences them to a sub-standard life and robs us all of their contributions to a better America. And stop the efforts to privatize education because that isn’t the answer, even if big donors want you to believe it is. Yes, all of this will have tax implications, just as the switch to tuition-free high school did. Figure it out.

13. Russia is not our friend. Russia is an opponent and, considering their ongoing cyber attack on the U.S. and our allies, they may be considered our enemy. Failing to vigorously oppose their behavior and impose penalties on them is ineptitude in the extreme and possibly treason. It’s true that the Executive branch conducts American foreign policy. It’s also true that both the House and Senate are investigating Russian hacking and possible collusion from within. The problem is that those investigations are cumbersome and glacially slow, which means that the president has plenty of time to undermine American security.

Memo to lawmakers: I really don’t care how much money the president owes to Russian interests or the pictures they may have of him or any other pressures Putin can put on Trump. I don’t care about Trump’s notion of making friends with Russia. They are antithetical to our beliefs, our way of life and our safety. Find a way to stop the foreign policy disasters that Trump is creating.

14. It’s absurd to be able to say this, but we are living in a world where millions actually believe in alternative facts and fake news. Surprise, Donald Trump didn’t invent it. This has been going on for a long time. The concept of shame for one’s despicable actions like lying no longer seems to exist and people are prepared to dismiss provable facts. Indeed, millions regularly dismiss reality because they have been told by self-serving types that others are lying to them. That itself is a lie, but it’s crafty stuff for those wanting power and for whom integrity isn’t high on their list of personal attributes.

Memo to lawmakers: Are you lying or misleading the public? Stop it. Stop manipulating to get control of the Supreme Court. Stop telling Americans that it’s all about jobs, jobs, jobs and then doing nothing to stimulate job growth. Stop saying we’ll have better healthcare at a much lower cost when you can’t deliver either one. Stop telling the American people that those who report on you are liars when they report on your dalliances. Stop claiming your programs won’t privatize Social Security and Medicare when that’s exactly what they will do. Stop creating enemies like the press just to gain popular support for you, because now the truth has become an enemy and that is corroding our society. One last time: Put on your big boy/girl pants and tell the truth.

Final memo to lawmakers: What I’ve outlined in this post and the one prior is what Americans want. This isn’t fringe stuff, but doing this won’t be easy. In fact, it will be hard. There are competing interests and some are legitimate and quite valuable, with the exception, of course, of the issue of lying. Nevertheless, everything is either a negotiation and a compromise or it is stagnation through polarization. It’s your choice. Choose well, especially when it’s hard.

Unavoidably, our solutions come down to a 4-letter word: WORK. Roll up your shirt/blouse sleeves and get to work. Not the hateful, in-your-face behavior that we see so often or the misleading, hyperbolic idiocy that dominates the news, but work that’s focused on a better America and improving the lives of all Americans. If you can’t do that, just resign, because otherwise We the People will be sending you home real soon.

Get to work.

Copyright 2017 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

The Platform is a 4-Letter Word – Part 1

Reading time – 6:40; Viewing time – 9:54  .  .  .

This post was created in the days just before the shooting of Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) and the injuring of 5 others at a baseball practice. Clearly, the shooter had problems; yet that event has put into stark relief the extent of our political polarization, the frustrations of the American people and the extremism that some of our leaders have helped to deepen, all of which underline the points that follow.

DC is crazy and everyone knows it’s crazy. The president thinks everything is all about him and that his job is a popularity contest won by appealing to extremists. Many of those in Congress think their job about is serving special interests. The Republicans who speak loudly are anchored in the primordial Reagan ooze as though there is something holy about continuing to do what has never worked. Democrats don’t seem to be able to do much other than be against Trump and Republican extremism.

Meanwhile, We the People think it’s about America and Americans. That leaves it to us to be sane about the future of America, so here are the first seven of my Platform Points in bite-size portions. The key is that the vast majority of Americans are in line with these notions and our solution comes down to a 4-letter word. Note that my more aggressive comments are for the folks with big, extremist megaphones and not for the reasonable legislators who only want to make things better for everyone.

1. A minimum of 78% of Americans believe that big money infects and distorts our democracy and they want that changed. They want a We the People Amendment that negates the craziness of Buckley v. Valeo, Citizens United, McCutcheon v. F.E.C. and the rest of the enabling decisions and legislation that allow the rich to buy America and impoverish the rest of us. Said another way, Americans want Congress to prevent the buying of Congress so that instead we can have an actual representative democracy.

Memo to Lawmakers: I understand that the present system requires you to grub for donations and seek the big buck donors. In fact, the system is the problem. In order to stop that, vote for the We the People Amendment to the Constitution. Get on the side of Americans, on the right side of history and end your begging for dollars. You’ll be glad you did it, because you know you hate begging for cash.

2. Just before the vote on the 2008 legislation that created Medicare Part D, Representative Billy Tauzin (R-LA) inserted an amendment into the legislation that prohibited the U.S. government, the largest purchaser of meds in the world, from negotiating with the pharmaceutical companies for better pricing. That sure was good for Big Pharma. Billy Tauzin didn’t run for re-election that year, preferring instead to go to work for PhRMA, the lobbying organization of Big Pharma. They gave him a pay increase to $2 million per year.

Memo to lawmakers: We the People are angry about the revolving door between Congress and lobbying. Clean up this sleaziness. Make the Tauzin behavior illegal. And change the Part D law so we can negotiate better pricing with Big Pharma.

3. Until a few years ago when the NRA went on a campaign to change the meaning of the Second Amendment, we all knew that violent offenders and those not mentally stable shouldn’t have firearms. We still know that, but now over half of all deaths by firearms are suicide (also here) and many of those are our returning vets. A gun within arm’s reach makes suicide and homicide real easy and we have to wonder if that shooter at the Republican baseball practice would have taken any action at all if he were not able to obtain an AR-15 assault rifle. Over 80% of Americans want sensible gun safety legislation, including a huge majority of NRA members.

Memo to lawmakers: NRA campaign contributions are nice, but you’ll be okay without them. And the “cold, dead hands” mantra may bring about a satisfying testosterone rush, but it’s killing Americans. Pass sensible gun safety legislation.

4. The FDA has dragged feet for years on an Obama era requirement that restaurants display calorie counts on restaurant meals. “Now the FDA has indefinitely postponed the implementation of the rule which would require food manufacturers to list added sugars along with more visible calorie counts and clearer serving sizes.” They’ve also refused to require labeling that would let us know if a food product contained genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Why doesn’t the government want us to know what we’re eating?

Memo to lawmakers: You already know the answer to the question: It’s the Big Food lobby. They fear that if we consumers know the crap they put in their products that they’ll sell less of it to us, so they “incentivize” lawmakers and agencies to stall disclosure laws. This isn’t a key issue, but it is another case of Big Money buying our government in large and small ways, getting what it wants at the expense of We the People. Labeling changes cost next to nothing. Make them do it.

5. The American people don’t want bickering over how many millions of us should be shut out of healthcare by the various idiotic proposals being considered. By a significant margin, we want Medicare for all, universal healthcare, single payer – call it what you will. The statistics show that Medicare costs about 25% less than care that is provided through private healthcare insurance – that’s for equivalent healthcare procedures and outcomes. The cost differential is largely due to the overhead costs of private insurers, like marketing, sales expense and really high pay for their C-level executives. Switching to single payer will make a significant dent in our bloated spending for healthcare and will save individual Americans a lot of money.

Memo to lawmakers: Yes, it’s true that single payer will put out of business many of the private healthcare insurance companies that make lovely campaign contributions. The buggy whip makers had a similar challenge 100 years ago when something better came along. Those formerly making buggy whips figured out how to get along; so will our healthcare insurance folks today. Single payer is what Americans want, so your choices, lawmakers, are to continue to do the stupid dance over this issue (now being done in secret to jam it through the Senate) or you can get on the right side of history.

6. Trickle down economics never trickles down. It was factually wrong when it was proposed and it has consistently failed for nearly 40 years. Supply side stimulus doesn’t grow businesses; demand does, but demand isn’t stimulated by the upside down economics of trickle down. Let’s be specific about what actually happens: Giving more money to rich people with the expectation that they will expand their businesses and hire lots of Americans and pay good wages doesn’t happen. Making this worse is that because their personal wants and needs were already met before any tax windfall, rich people don’t spend the new trickle down money, so we don’t get a boost to the economy. Instead, overwhelmingly, rich folks have put their trickle down money into their investments so that nearly all reward has gone to them. The rest of us have stagnated.

Memo to lawmakers: Stop the dishonest schemes that only enrich the wealthy, like Bush’s tax cuts, Trump’s one-page “tax plan” and the disingenuous AHCA which would give huge tax breaks to rich people, funded by refusing healthcare entirely to 23 million Americans. The tax breaks will not redound to the rest of us, as history shows. Come up with a progressive tax plan that makes sense for all. And don’t ever again say “trickle-down” or “supply side” or we’ll know you’re lying.

7. Everyone knows that our infrastructure is failing. We have 55,000 bridges that need substantial repair or complete replacement. Our roads need a huge amount work. Our airports and trains are second rate compared to most of the industrialized world. The water and sewer pipes in all our major cities are over 100 years old. In short, there is a long list of what needs to be done if we are to remain the world leader.

Memo to lawmakers: Stop whining that the Obama Recovery Act (the “stimulus”) didn’t work. The spending you authorized was about half of what was needed for all those “shovel-ready” projects; then you gave half of it to rich people in the form of tax breaks that, once again, didn’t trickle down. The stimulus plan could have worked and our bridges would have been safer by now, but in your mania to ensure that Obama had no wins you submarined it. America is falling apart and you finger pointers with a big megaphone are a key reason why. Cut the crap and pass a major infrastructure plan.

This is the end of Part 1 of the Platform. You’ll find Part 2 in the next post and it will include the unveiling of that key 4-letter word.

Copyright 2017 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

The Answer

Reading time – 3:21; Viewing time – 5:17  .  .  .

We questioned with bi-partisan wonder whether we could appear to the world any dumber than when George W. Bush was  president, as he declared, “Rarely is the question asked, ‘Is our children learning?‘” He was the “decider” (#7 in the text; and watch the video at the bottom) and the one who inappropriately gave German Chancellor Angela Merkel an unrequested back rub. He is the war president who wanted to be a war president but then claimed he didn’t want to be a war president. He confused our allies all over the world.

al Qaeda attacked us on 9/11, so we sent our special forces after them. We cornered the bad guys at Tora Bora. Then Bush gave orders that allowed them to get way. Then we attacked Afghanistan. Then we attacked the Taliban, neither of which attacked America at all. Then we attacked Iraq and unraveled the entire middle east. Could it get any dumber or any worse?

Then Barack Obama came along and neither Republican nor Democrat worried that he would say or do dumb things, embarrass the United States and undermine world order. He restored our diplomatic corps and told the world that America was ready to lead once again. There is plenty of room to disagree with his policies, but nobody thought he would do something dumb and compromise America’s place in the world or its safety.

Text Message to President Trump

Now we’re living in the Donald Trump world of chaos. He has insulted our allies around the world and given comfort to our most dangerous adversary. He has tweaked the nose of a nuclear dictator and now Trump has cynically reneged on the United States’ commitment to the Paris Climate Accord. He has done that even as the world’s largest polluter, China, is focusing on clean energy and an end to burning coal. Why are we relying on China to show us the way and be the technology leader in energy? To make China great again?

In a stunning article in The Atlantic, David Frum, no lefty flag-waver himself, issued a brutal assault on Donald Trump’s world leadership.

“Perhaps the most terrifying thing about the Trump presidency is the way even its most worldly figures, in words composed for them by its deepest thinkers, have re-imagined the United States in the image of their own chief: selfish, isolated, brutish, domineering, and driven by immediate appetites rather than ideals or even longer-term interests.”

Frum finishes,

“Under the slogan of restoring American greatness, they are destroying it. Promising readers that they want to “restore confidence in American leadership,” they instead threaten and bluster in ways that may persuade partners that America has ceased to be the leader they once respected—but an unpredictable and dangerous force in world affairs, itself to be contained and deterred by new coalitions of ex-friends.”

We now have the answer to whether things could get dumber or worse following Bush. They could and they have.

Which brings us to the political manipulation of healthcare.

Morning Rounds, published by The Boston Globe, is a daily compendium of what’s going on in the healthcare industry. It’s a freebie publication and I recommend it to you if you want to keep your finger on the pulse of healthcare in America. Subscribe here.

On May 31st Megan Thielking wrote:

“Senate GOP leaders are still working away on a new draft repeal and replace plan, and a new poll out this morning gives lawmakers an idea of what the public would like to see happen. Roughly one-quarter of the public wants to see the Senate make minor tweaks to the AHCA, with another quarter saying they’d like to see big changes, according to the new Kaiser Family Foundation poll. Another 30 percent say they don’t want to see the Senate pass the bill at all. The chief concerns among those who don’t like the AHCA as-is: the cost of health care, the ability to get and keep insurance, and the quality of care they’re able to receive.”

I’ll add that 23 million Americans are terrified they’ll have no healthcare at all.

Last and on a more hopeful note, Cubs president Theo Epstein gave the commencement address at his alma mater, Yale, this year. Referencing the moving message of Chicago Cub Jason Hayward in the locker room during a rain delay late in the 7th game of the 2016 World Series, Epstein offered this to the graduates:

“And, finally, when things go really, really wrong — and then when it rains on top of everything else — I ask you to choose to keep your heads up and come together, to connect, and to rally around one another, especially those who need it the most. It is likely to uplift you all.”

Words to live by in these challenging times.

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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: Offer your comments below and pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe and engage.  Thanks!  JA

.

Copyright 2017 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

From the Beach – v 1.0

Reading time – 3:05; Viewing time – 4:49  .  .  .

Comments from reality for our legislators:

We know.

And you know, too.

And we know you know.

And you know that we know that you know.

So, how come you’re saying stupid stuff? How come you’re lying and pretending to be ignorant?

Last Saturday saw the world marching for science, which shouldn’t have been necessary, because it’s kind of like marching for air. I mean, who isn’t in favor of air? Like air, why wouldn’t everyone be in favor of science? It’s done things like enabled the eradication of smallpox everywhere and we’re this close to eradicating polio – there are only 5 reported cases worldwide this year. Science has brought the entire world to unprecedented levels of prosperity. Who wouldn’t support disciplines that help us so much?

You already know that 97% of the world’s climate scientists proclaim loudly and clearly that the Earth is warming at an extremely rapid rate toward extremely dangerous consequences. You also know that the studies done by the remaining 3% of climate scientists were funded largely by – guess who? – the fossil fuel industries.

Donald Trump insists that global warming is a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese. Many Senators and Representatives (mostly with an R by their name) outright deny that global warming is happening, or they admit that the planet is warming but they deny human behavior is making things worse. They simply refuse to see what they don’t want to see and that’s the extent of their ostrich insight.

Why would they do that?

Why would they consign their own children and grandchildren to the devastation of ever-more severe hurricanes, and famine, the kind that’s sweeping across Africa right now? It’s already beginning to be seen in America, because increased heat and reduced rainfall are baking our agricultural lands. Why would they risk the political and cultural perils of the mass emigrations that have already begun? Why would they allow Miami, New York, Los Angeles and the rest of our coastal cities to become Atlantis?  It’s about short-term thinking and self-serving priorities.

We get it, because all we have to do to understand is to follow the money.

So, to those very same short-term thinking, self-serving politicians, just get this: We know. And we know that you know. We see you and we will remember all of it on the date of your next election.

We know.

Now a little definition clarity

From the Merriam-Webster Dictionary: Entitlement – “A right to benefits specified especially by law or contract.”

The word “entitlement” has long been used to describe government programs that deliver benefits to our citizens, like Social Security and Medicare. The political right has done a marvelous job of shifting the simple obligatory meaning of the word to include a connotation of “freebies given to the undeserving.” Arguments abound over the sustainability of these programs, but the wrongness now slathered on the entitlement concept resides primarily within the haves who vilify the have-nots, the self-described makers portraying themselves as being fleeced by the takers.

Our contract law stems from English Common Law, so we’re steeped in many hundreds of years of belief and agreement that when we make a deal we have to keep our part of the bargain. A deal is a deal, so let’s define this properly.

Our governmental entitlement programs carry with them a contract to deliver the agreed upon benefits to the people. They don’t include options for Paul Ryan to offshore the obligation to private sellers so they can make a buck. So, to our legislators: figure out the funding challenge. And don’t fix this by dumping the heavy load onto the backs of poor people, because they’re entitled.

Bonus Selection

I’ve long wondered what it would take – what outrages were necessary – to motivate people to stand up and demand better. It seems we’ve found out.

Public dissent in the form of mass protests have become frequent and very vocal and the combined voices are having significant impact. A common chant of the crowds is:

  • “Show me what democracy looks like.”
  • answered by,
  • “This is what democracy looks like.”

The “this” in the response is the people in the streets standing up for what they believe in and demanding better.

That leads us to the current post of my friend Mardy Grothe. He is one of a small handful of Yoda-like people in my life, none of whom is short, green or has pointed ears. They simply are wise.

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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: Offer your comments below and pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe and engage.  Thanks!  JA

Copyright 2017 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Danger – There’s Bad Stuff Coming

New York Times, April 9, 1944

New York Times, April 9, 1944. Click the graphic to download the full article as it appeared.

Reading time – 2:55; Viewing time – 5:35  .  .  .

We need a good and optimistic start for the new year. That message is for next week. Let’s first establish in a blinding flash of the obvious and in a compelling way why we need that good and optimistic start.

You don’t need a pundit, a pol or a blogger to tell you that American institutions are at risk and look shaky. There is bad stuff staring us in the face in so many venues and there is a chance you’ve wondered how bad it can get. The answer is, very bad. Here are some examples.

Under the ultra-thin, see-through veil of ensuring decorum, Paul Ryan, Speaker of the House and beloved Republican brainiac, the proposer of changes to Medicare and Social Security that he says don’t privatize those programs, except they really do, has proposed banning live streaming and photos from the floor of the House. This comes as a knee-jerk reaction to Republicans having been sucker punched by Democrats who demanded an up or down vote on universal registration of sales of firearms. Ryan ignored them and they responded witih a sit-in. Ryan tried to quash the event by closing the House session, which turned off the CSPAN cameras, but smart phone live streaming foiled his attempt at abridging free speech. Now Ryan and Republican hissy-fitters want to further restrict speech by fining Democrats and perhaps telling their mommies on them. Start thinking about abridgement of rights and be clear that practice will extend to your rights.

President Elect Trump notoriously retweeted hate group tweets and offered mealy mouthed responses to calls that he repudiate hate groups. During his campaign rallies he repeatedly called for protesters to be beaten up and demeaned them as though they were sub-human. He continues to refuse to repudiate hate groups and has brought Steve Bannon, alt-right hater of all things not white and anyone not worshiping male dominance, to be his chief strategist. Oh, and he wants to deport 11 million Hispanics and register Muslims. Start thinking discrimination and scapegoating.

Trump has hired lunatic fringe Mike Flynn to be his National Security Advisor. This is the same Mike Flynn who retweets phony stories and conspiracy crap, one example of which motivated North Carolina resident Edgar Welch to drive from his home to DC to invade a pizza parlor, believing he was rescuing sexually abused children from the basement. He believed that because Mike Flynn brainlessly retweeted the bogus story. The good news is that the bullets Welch fired into the floor of the pizza restaurant didn’t hurt anyone. The bad news is that Mike Flynn, the fool who didn’t have the sense not to retweet this blatantly false story, is and will be advising the new president on when and where to use America’s military might, including nuclear weapons. Start thinking about military adventurism giving rise to horrific catastrophes.

There are many more examples of the democracy killing efforts underfoot, including Trump’s ridiculing and criticizing of the press so that you won’t find credence in reports from investigative journalists who report on Trumpian malfeasance.

To bring this to a focus, let’s check in with President Franklin Roosevelt’s Vice-President, Henry Wallace. He knew something about the harm that authoritarian regimes do to democracy and the world and has agreed to speak to you from his day and explain this fully and clearly. Click here to download a PDF copy of his comments as originally published in the New York Times on April 9, 1944. Click here to download a highlighted, easier to read version. Read it, especially the highlighted parts and you just may see a parallel between then and now and you’ll begin to realize just how bad the bad stuff we’re facing really is.

No one knows who said it first, but it’s often attributed to Sinclair Lewis:

When fascism comes to America it will be wrapped in a flag and carrying a cross.

appoint-merrick-garland

Click me and sign the petition – because you can fight fascism right now.

Fascism? In America? Do the reading. Do an online search of fascism in America. The alarm rang a while ago, the snooze button is broken from our banging on it, hoping the alarm would go away and we all have to wake up.

I’ve heard it said and am beginning to believe that we are one or two ISIS-related terrorist attacks in America away from Mr. Extremist, everything in the false language of unearned greatness President Trump declaring martial law and suspending civil liberties. Just look at those he surrounds himself with, consider his absolutist, power-grabbing, self-congratulating nature, factor in his pathologically thin skin and the retaliatory abuse he heaps on innocent people. This just doesn’t look good for our nation.

If you had already caught a glimpse of this you likely have wondered what can be done and who will stand up to the bullies. Start with this: It’s up to us.

In addition, both some help and some hope are on the way and will be in the next post. Stay tuned.

Meanwhile, it’s your turn now – in the Comments section below.

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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: Offer your comments below and pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe and engage.  Thanks!  JA

Copyright 2017 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

ptsd2Reading time – 3:46; Viewing time – 6:44  – longer than most, still respectful of your time  .  .  .

NOTE: Email addresses listed in the prior blog have been repaired. If that kept you from taking action, please make your voice heard right now – tomorrow is too late.

Let’s see what we have now for Trump administration picks to run our country – just a little taste test. Note that the first three do not require Senate confirmation. We’re stuck with them.

Steve Bannon is Trump’s Chief Strategist. Bannon is the former chairman of Breitbart News, an Alt-Right (i.e. White Supremacist, hate mongering, lying) website of – dare I say it? – scum bucket fake news stories and attacks. And this guy will have the President’s ear full time. What could possibly go wrong? Late addition: Click here and scroll down to section IV to learn about Bannon’s possibly treasonous activities that would invite Russia into the White House.

Rience Priebus, former head of the Republican National Committee with an exceptionally fluid connection to facts and reality, has been named as Trump’s Chief of Staff. That means that Priebus will largely be in charge of who and what comes before the President of the United States. What could possibly go wrong?

Michael Flynn has been named Trump’s National Security Advisor. Flynn is the guy who was fired from the Defense Intelligence Agency for his flamboyant and fatuous notions and ways. He had the astoundingly poor judgment to retweet anti-Semitic comments and to tweet fake news 16 times in the last few months. He even had the complete lack of sense and absence of good judgment to tweet baseless, brainless nonsense about non-existent Hillary emails, supposedly connecting her with money laundering and sex crimes with children (the so-called “Pizzagate”). With Flynn as the nation’s National Security Advisor, what could possibly go wrong?

Jeff Sessions is Trump’s nominee for Attorney General. This is the same Jeff Sessions who was rejected for a federal judgeship a few years back because he’s a racist and a segregationist. As a senator from Alabama, he’s opposed nearly every piece of immigration legislation that’s come before him. The AG is the one in charge of deciding which cases will be prosecuted – that is to say, which laws will be enforced. With a segregationist and anti-immigrant in charge of our civil rights laws, again, what could possibly go wrong?

Scott Pruitt to head the E.P.A. is a noteworthy choice. As the Oklahoma Attorney General he sued the E.P.A. repeatedly and berated it, saying it was anti-energy. He dislikes E.P.A. regulations – you know, those pesky things that, for example, keep corporations from polluting our water – and he is a de facto climate warming denier. With those bona fides at the head of the agency, what could possibly go wrong?

Dr. Ben Carson is Trump’s pick to head the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Carson has repeatedly declared that he has no experience in running anything other than a neurosurgery. While his doctoring skills may be fine, they don’t qualify him to run any agency of government at any level. He’s clueless. So, what could possibly go wrong there?

Retired General James Mattis is Trump’s pick for Defense Secretary. Most acknowledge that Mattis is a capable fellow, but he retired only three years ago from the military and our laws require that he be separated from the military for at least seven years to hold such a position (it used to be ten years). Oddly, Trump seems to believe that flaunting the law is okay (go figure). But the seven year limitation is there for a reason – so that we maintain civilian control over our military. Conservatives should be all over this as a flagrant attempt to violate the law and Mattis should go find something to do that is both useful and legal. Otherwise, we will have codified lawbreaking. What could possibly go wrong from that?

Betsy DeVos is Trump’s nominee to be Education Secretary. This is the same Betsy DeVos who wants to reform education to “advance God’s kingdom” and wants to use “school choice” to do that. Be clear that school choice means vouchers of public money doled out to spend on kids’ education in private religious schools. So much for separation of church and state. There’s way more to DeVos’ lunacy, but the key here is that she is an opponent of public education, a religious zealot who wants to run this country according to the laws of the Bible (are you ready to stone adulterers?) and she’s Trump’s pick for Education Secretary. What could possibly go wrong?

Saving the most insane for last, Rex Tillerson, CEO of Exxon/Mobil, is the nominee for Secretary of State. He proudly signed a $500 billion deal with Vladimir Putin and his government’s 70% share of Russia’s state oil company to drill in the Arctic and the Gulf of Mexico. Tillerson was awarded Russia’s BFF (Best Friends Forever) award by Putin himself. Everyone agrees that national defense, the security of our nation, is the primary job of the federal government. How is this guy, who cozies up to our key adversary, going to look out for America’s national security interests? Oh, and by the way, Trump wants John Bolton to be Tillerson’s sidekick. That’s the same John Bolton who thinks we should nuke Iran and insists to this day that Saddam Husein had the weapons of mass destruction that reality has proven never existed. With Tillerson and Bolton at the Department of State, what could possibly go wrong?

There are more nominations we can examine (including a nominee for Treasury Secretary who’s direct from Goldman Sachs, a woman to head the Small Business Administration who’s a reality TV mogul, heading World Wrestling Entertainment, a Labor Secretary who opposes overtime pay and is anti-labor, an Energy Secretary who wants to eliminate the Department of Energy – the list goes on) but the point is clear.

Trump promised to drain the swamp, but instead has brought before us establishment types and billionaires who are blatantly at odds with the agencies they would lead. Given the power in their hands, each would worsen the condition of ordinary (read: not billionaire) Americans. There is nothing that can be done to excise those who do not require Senate approval; that swamp will remain polluted. For all the rest,

senators-stop

Otherwise, we will, indeed, find out exactly what could go wrong.

  • ————————————-

    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: Offer your comments below and pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe and engage.  Thanks!  JA

Copyright 2017 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

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