Freedom

You Know This, But Still . . .


Reading time -41 seconds  .  .  .

Thomas Jefferson told us that,

An enlightened citizenry is indispensable for the proper functioning of a republic. Self-government is not possible unless the citizens are educated sufficiently to enable them to exercise oversight.”

That means that we must educate the next generation so they can do their job. It means that we must stay informed about what is going on so we can do our job. It means that it is our job to “exercise oversight,” to monitor and enforce accountability. Now is the right time to do that. Of course, “now” is always the right time for accountability, but my reference here is about this week.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014  is election day. If you have not already voted, show up on Tuesday. Polls are open roughly 6:00AM – 7:00PM in most states. It is time to hold accountable those who have or would represent us and govern us. And because our politics is so broken, because big money influence is so pervasive and corrosive, our job right now is to elect those who would reform our crazy system. Many have already committed to reform.

Vote for the reformers. Here’s a link to find some.

If no candidate in a race where you vote has already declared that s/he is committed to reform, vote for the person most likely to be a reformer.

Vote for the reformers.

Nothing ls likely to get appreciably better until we get election reform. Your part is to send off to Washington and your state capitol the folks who will make that happen. Then hold them accountable.

Did I mention something about voting on Tuesday? Here’s a caution: DO NOT go to the polls alone. Bring your neighbor who needs a ride or who hasn’t been actively interested. Pick up your crazy brother-in-law on the way. Make sure your significant other does the same thing.

A while back you either took a civics class or citizenship was taught in another class. You had to pass a Constitution test in order to graduate, so I know that you know that it is both your right and your duty to vote. Do it this Tuesday.

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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.

Mass Resignation


Reading time – 57 seconds  .  .  . 

Three more high school children are dead and three more are in critical condition because a handgun was easy to obtain and was the preferred method of dispute resolution for yet another hurt/angry American.

In the first year following the murders of 20 little kids and 7 teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT, over 12,000* Americans were killed by guns.  There have been 87 school shootings since then. That number does not include things like random drive by shootings on the south side of Chicago. It solely considers kids bringing heat to school and shooting fellow students. Kids making dead kids – lots of dead kids – and hoards of emotionally scarred souls dealing with that horror as a lifelong legacy.

Of course, there are also crimes of passion, as spouses settle their grievances with whatever might be handy, like the Glock in the closet. Youngsters play with daddy’s toy and one puts a bullet through the head of his brother. And so many distraught people end their pain fast, all because guns are easy to get, even by people who should never have a firearm.

Had enough of the madness? According to Mark Glaze of CNN, “74% of NRA members and 87% of non-NRA gun owners believe all gun buyers should get a criminal background check.” Glaze wrote further, “A CBS/New York Times poll released on January 17 found 93% of those living in households with gun owners and 85% in households with NRA members support background checks.” Both NRA members and other American gun owners have seen enough dead kids and have had enough of the madness.

So, how come the NRA opposes universal background checks? It’s because the organization doesn’t represent gun owners. The NRA is the lobbying arm of the gun manufacturers. Those folks don’t want universal background checks because that might mean that they would sell slightly fewer guns. That’s more important to them than the lives of our kids.

So, when there was to be a vote in Congress for universal background checks, the NRA spent millions of its dollars threatening and cajoling legislators desperate for campaign cash, demanding them to reject universal background checks. The result is that the big money gun manufacturers got what they wanted, but you didn’t.

Getting the big money out of our politics is the real solution to that, but it’s going to take a while for you and I to bring that about. For now, the best thing is for NRA members to renounce their membership en masse.

Are you an NRA member? Quit the organization that has never represented you. Turn your back on the organization that turns its back on your kids. Stop giving your money to people who don’t care that six more kids just got shot, two of them are dead and that one of them could have been your 14 year old daughter.

Now, pass this blog along to the gun owners you know.

* This is a rough number based on gun deaths reported by media. The generally accepted total is over 30,000 Americans dead from guns per year. Every year.

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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.

Confession


Reading time – 111 seconds  .  .  .  

I wasn’t a 60s radical. I wasn’t even politically conscious. In fact, I was essentially out to lunch regarding social and political issues. I missed the marches, the sit-ins, the banners, the demands for change, the chanting in front of the White House. Even Woodstock passed me by. “Clueless” was pretty much my M. O.

That produced unintended consequences, as choices always do. One of them was related to the Viet Nam War in ways that I could not have predicted.

President Lyndon Johnson had raised the deployment of American troops to that country to over half a million by the time I was a senior in college, with my 2S draft deferment on really short, shaky legs. I came home on winter break from college to have a most serious talk with my father. He was a WW II veteran and a hater of war, with a rock solid sense of responsibility of service to America. I inherited that sense of service from him and I knew I had a duty to serve, especially at a time of war, a time of national need.

On the other hand, that war was an abomination from the start. It was, in fact, being fought by the North Vietnamese first against the French and then against American troops by people trying to liberate their country from outside aggressors. That is to say, they wanted to be free and we were on the wrong side of that David and Goliath story, and my sense of morality and justice would not let me participate.

That produced a tug-of-war between duty to serve and duty to morality and it is what brought me to that discussion with my father. For the first time in my life I did not know right from wrong, so I asked him what was the right thing for me to do. In my mind’s eye I can still see him walking up to me and putting his hand on my shoulder and saying, “You’ll have to figure that out for yourself.”

That wasn’t the answer I wanted, yet it surely was the right answer and I thank him to this day for the wisdom he offered me with his words and for giving me the space and the imperative to grow up.

I did not serve due to a medical technicality, but the avoidance of service left a hollow place in me that should have been filled by service to America. That has stayed with me for decades and it is the unintended consequence of my choices.

Things have changed and I’ve grown up just a little more and have found a way to serve my country. It is through these blogs and the discussions they spawn. It is through my presentations of Money, Politics & Democracy: You Aren’t Getting What You Want* to groups around the country. Its purpose is to educate and motivate Americans to action in order to change what is happening, as big money and corporations having he same rights as people continue to muscle our country away from us.

Perhaps you remember the scene in Star Wars where Obi Wan and Luke are talking and a hologram of Princes Leia pops out of R2D2. She implores Obi Wan to help her home planet of Alderaan and she finishes by saying, “Help us, Obi Wan. You’re our only hope.”

Obi Wan then says to Luke, “We must go to Alderaan.” Luke protests, listing his reasons and excuses to avoid going, to which Obi Wan replies, “But, Luke, she needs our help.” That was all the reason Obi Wan needed.

America needs our help right how. She has enormous problems that grow greater each day and the dream of Madison and Jefferson, Lincoln and King and the millions of refugees from other countries – your ancestors – is in peril.

Perhaps you were and have been politically active. Perhaps you were disengaged, as I was. Regardless, the imperative of service remains and its call is in the air right now.

You are Obi Wan and America is Princess Leia: Help us Obi Wan. You’re our only hope.

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* Invite me to present to your group. I promise an hour and fifteen minutes that will educate, entertain and, if all goes well, motivate people to service. Besides, the program is a freebie. That’s my service to country, my give-back, my pay-it-forward to a country that has been so very good to me. Please help me to serve, Obi Wan.

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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.

What We Need


Granny DReading time – 126 seconds  .  .  .

Doris Haddock is not a well known name, but you might know her as Granny D. She saw clearly the corrupting influence of big money in our politics and on our country and determined to do something about it. To draw attention to this issue she set out on a 3,200 mile walk across America, from California all the way to Washington DC. When she began this brave journey on January 1, 1999 she was 88 years old. When she completed it on February 29, 2000 she was 90.

Granny D saw something that ever-more Americans are seeing, that our democracy is in grave danger due to the dishonesty and inequality inherent in our present election system. Whatever issue is of greatest importance to you, be it global warming, gun safety, human rights, international trade, voting rights, immigration, fracking or any of the vexing challenges before this nation, big money in our politics is the mother of the dysfunction that prevents solutions from being implemented and allows things to steadily get worse.

We have massive unemployment and, every bit as bad, massive under-employment. We have brilliant people who cannot find a job. Perhaps that is an issue that you don’t deeply feel just now, but when your knees go bad, you will wish that some truly gifted person had been working in a lab and had found a way to re-grow the cartilage in your joints. When you contract cancer, as so many of us will, you will wish that one of our people with a head full of amazing potential had been able to get the education that might have led to a cure. When your adult children are living in your basement, burdened by overwhelming school debt and without a chance for a job, you will wish that our politicians did more than tell us that it’s all about jobs, jobs, jobs. You’ll wish they had done something about it.

Both Pew Research and the Gallup Organization have done polling on how we Americans feel about our government. The staggering truth is that 81 of every 100 Americans does not trust our government. In recent years one of the biggest trust killers has been the growing economic disparity between the rich and all the rest of us and that is aggravated largely by money-driven political actions and inaction.

Elections are insanely expensive, largely due to the cost of television and radio advertising. The 2012 presidential contest alone cost $2.1 billion. The senate contest in Massachusetts between Elizabeth Warren and Scott Brown cost $77 million and the current senatorial contest in Kentucky looks like it will cost over $100 million. About 75% of that money will come from outside the state, meaning that the decision on the next senator from Kentucky will be driven largely by very rich people who don’t even live in Kentucky but who want to ensure a senate that does their bidding.

Don’t imagine that all politicians are dishonest because that simply is not true. On the other hand, it is impossible to raise enough money to mount a serious campaign in most federal elections if money is raised solely through small contributions from local citizens. That leaves candidates having to solicit large contributions from big donors. Another way to say that is that the system requires that anyone who wants to serve must put themselves in a position of becoming beholden to rich benefactors. And that is the problem.

In a study done by Larry Bartels of the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, it was found that only wealthy constituents gain the ear of their elected officials. Nobody is listening to the rest of us, so rich people get what they want and everyone else goes wanting.

A study done by Gilens and Page found exactly the same thing about policy making. And these studies have proven with research what every American has known for decades. The problem is that the situation continues to become worse and is bringing us to an America that almost none of us wants.

People in power rarely give up their power unless they have no alternative – that’s just human nature. They have engineered a system that keeps people afraid of speaking up for fear of losing what little they have managed to secure for themselves. But while part-time work at minimum wage and with no benefits can be tolerated for a while, there will come a time when the patience of the American people will run out, when people simply won’t have it any longer. We the people will let the politicians know that if they want to serve, they must serve us.

If 81% of us don’t trust our government, that is not a partisan issue. If 90% of us believe that there is way too much money sloshing around our political system, that is not a partisan issue. If for many years nearly all the economic gains have gone to the richest 1% of Americans, that is not a partisan issue. We really are all on the same side of this.

It is time to wake up. It is time to stop ridiculing the Occupy Wall Street crowd just because they don’t have a formal hierarchy and a central organization. It is time to stop ridiculing Tea Party people just because some of them are flamboyant. The words may sound different, but the demands of those two very different groups are remarkably similar regarding money in politics. It is time to unite as Americans, left, center and right.

Granny D was correct: When we solve the big money problem, we’ll be ready to solve all the rest. And that is what 99% of Americans want.

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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.

When You Ain’t Got Nothin’


VIDEO NEWS FLASH!

Mike Papantonio is the host of Ring Of Fire Radio, along with Bobby Kennedy and Sam Seder.  He was the main speaker at a recent event and I was honored to be asked to do a short presentation to set the tone for the day and to introduce Mike. You can watch that program here.

And Mike’s wonderful presentation is online. He is a master and I urge you to have a look – watch it here.

Now, on to this week’s post.

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Reading time – 66 seconds  .  .  .

Bob Dylan’s Like A Rolling Stone hit the charts in 1965 and quickly became a classic. One line in the song is,

“When you ain’t got nothin’ you got nothin’ to lose.”

And, of course, that’s true. If you’re at the bottom, there is no downside risk to nearly anything. Now let’s flip that around.

People who have amassed lots of wealth and who have before them the opportunity for even greater wealth have everything at risk. Or, paraphrasing Dylan’s words, when you have everything, you have everything to lose. It’s human nature to want to protect what we have, so the more one has at risk, the more fiercely one will resist change and fight to protect all that one has accumulated.

And now you know why the 1% maintains a stranglehold on the status quo. Now you know why America’s vexing challenges never get met, why you don’t get what you want and why prospects for your children and grandchildren look so bleak.

All that fierce status quo protecting is going to require a great force in order to change it. Yet if things are to get better, if our problems are to be solved and if the future is to be the way you envision it for your children and grandchildren, the status quo will have to change. But what do you think we can do about it?

Hint: Anthropologist Margaret Mead gave us the answer:

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

You just might be one of those thoughtful, committed citizens who will change the world. In fact, here is something you can do TODAY.

CRITICAL HEADS-UP: Tonight at 7:30PM EDT there is an important online screening and discussion (yes, you can watch in your jammies) of the 30-minute movie LEAKED: The Internet Must Go. If you want tLeakedo find out what net neutrality means, if you think the internet should not be a tool solely for the benefit of the wealthy, sign up, show up and tweet up tonight.

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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.

You Aren’t Getting What You Want & Snowballs


Reading time – 91 seconds  .  .  . 

Last month the Senate rejected a bill that would have allowed for the refinancing of our over $1 trillion of student debt in order to take advantage of today’s low interest rates. Elizabeth Warren commented about that saying, “With this vote we show the American people who we work for in the United States Senate: billionaires or students,” And they did show us. Clearly, the 56 senators who voted nay are working for billionaires and – dare I say it? – bankers, and you and/or your kid are not getting what you want. Welcome to perpetual debt, not what you want.

We still do not have universal background checks prior to gun sales, even though 90% of Americans want that.

We still have the highest cost medical care in the world and the highest rate of infant mortality, as well as the highest rate of death from ischemic heart disease among 17 high income countries. Yes, you want the best healthcare in the world and, no, you are not getting it.

This post could be filled with critical American issues (climate warming, infrastructure crumbling, voter suppression, continuous war, children living in poverty and hunger, etc.) but the fundamental point is that we Americans are clear about what we want and our elected officials are instead delivering only to the wealthy 1%, leaving the rest of us to fight for scraps while in clear view of a rapidly collapsing American dream.

The cure for all of that is to get big money out of our politics so that our elected officials can focus on meeting the needs of Americans, instead of being beholden to the wealthy and having to do their bidding.

To that end, I am delivering a program I crafted, entitled Money, Politics & Democracy: You Aren’t Getting What You Want and presenting it wherever I can. It is well received and accomplishes its purposes of educating people about what is going on and providing motivation to get out of that La-Z-Boy and drive change. ACTION STEP: Invite me to present to your group.

Yet my program is not nearly enough. Creating the momentum for reform will require the voices of millions of our friends. The good news is that we’re getting more and more to join this chorus.

MoveToAmend.org is one of many organizations that is reaching hundreds of thousands of Americans. ACTION STEP: Go to their website and sign the petition.

Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) has a bill in the Senate calling for an amendment to the Constitution, the purpose of which is the kind of reform we need. No, it is not perfect. No, it probably won’t even be brought to the floor of the House for a vote. Yes, it is an important step in the right direction, so: ACTION STEP: Find your senators here (use the search box in the top right corner) and call their offices. Talk to the nice staffer there and tell them that you want your senator to co-sponsor Udall’s bill and then vote aye when it is up for a vote.

Larry Lessig is doing something about getting those mountains of cash out of our politics. He has formed a SuperPAC, the purpose of which is to eliminate SuperPACs. ACTION STEP: Go to his website and kick in a couple of bucks to put a stop sign in the faces of Karl Rove, the Koch brothers and the other Billy Billionaires who are disfiguring America.

BTW – See how easy it is for you to make a difference? Keep doing it.

What else can we do? What else can I do? What ideas do you have to keep this snowball of public demand for reform rolling on, gaining size and gaining speed?

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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 do the same.  Thanks.  JA


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

Father Flannigan in Texas


Skip LeveThis is a guest essay from reader Frank Levy of Houston, TX. It was submitted as a comment to an earlier post, Father Flannigan, Your CEO and the Supreme Court, and was deemed too important to bury at the bottom of the Comments section. It is offered here for your consideration and comment.

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In Texas we are very accustomed to the “Father Flannigan phenomenon,” and much worse. Not only do we have the usual school day, pre-game, and government pre-meeting prayer, the state Republican Party primary ballot includes a statement that reads, “America is a Christian country, and Texas is a Christian state.” Voters get to agree or disagree. The “initiative” carries by over 95% every 4 years.

It is fundamentalist Christian beliefs like this that are part and parcel of the religious civil war going on across the country. The Hobby Lobby decision is but one of the skirmishes in this religious civil war.

The Hobby Lobby decision by the “Fab 5” – the 5 Catholic men on the Court – is deeply disingenuous and sharply at odds with American law and legal precedent, and imposes very real long-term negative impacts on American democracy and on Americans who believe in real freedom of religion.

On the subject of the disingenuous nature of the Hobby Lobby suit and decision – as Stephanie Mencimer noted in Mother Jones in March 2014, “a neglected aspect of the Hobby Lobby case is the fact that Hobby Lobby’s self-professed belief appeared out of nowhere just in time for them to file suit. The company admits in its complaint that until it considered filing the suit in 2012 its generous health insurance plan actually covered Plan B and Ella (though not IUDs). The burden of this coverage was apparently so insignificant that God and Hobby Lobby executives never noticed it until the mandate became a political issue.”

It should also be noted that Hobby Lobby owners held significant investments in the companies that manufactured the exact abortifacients and birth control products that were the basis of the law suit.

In short, Hobby Lobby’s “deeply held beliefs” claims are transparently bogus — as well as being scientifically invalid, since none of the methods involved are abortifacients, as Hobby Lobby claims.

In Hobby Lobby the Court handed corporations religious rights for the first time in history. As Norm Ornstein points out in the National Journal, “For the majority on the Roberts Court, through a series of rulings that favor corporations over labor or other interests, it is clear that corporations are king, superior to individual Americans — with all the special treatment in taxes and protection from legal liability that are unavailable to us individuals, and now all the extra benefits that come with individual citizenship.”

The Hobby Lobby decision also lends support to the Christian Right’s (they are neither) efforts in the new religious civil war to create a Christian theocracy in America, and to further their erroneous claims that their religious rights are being suppressed, or even outlawed.

Led by the dominion theology of the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR), those seeking the creation of America as an evangelical Christian nation seek to block any and all legislation that promotes real equality, as well as seeking to block legislation that opposes discrimination based on gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or race, especially in the areas of voting rights, access to health care, birth control and abortion and marriage, among others. These self-proclaimed Christians also oppose social programs like food stamps, Medicaid, unemployment insurance, and Social Security, this based on their proclaimed religious beliefs.

These new religious warriors want an America built on their repressive and narrow understanding of Christian theology. As researcher Rachel Tabachnick explains: “Instead of escaping the Earth (in the Rapture) prior to the turmoil of the end times, they [the NAR] teach that believers will defeat evil by taking dominion, or control, over all sectors of society and government, resulting in mass conversions to their brand of charismatic evangelicalism and a Christian utopia or ‘Kingdom’ on Earth.”

Their favorite, and most powerful lie used to gather fellow warriors is their lament that their religious rights are being eliminated or oppressed. A. Jay Michaelson writes in, ”Redefining Religious Liberty: The Covert Campaign Against Civil Rights” published by Political Research Associates in March, 2013, “While the religious liberty debate is a growing front in the ongoing culture wars, it is actually an old argument re-purposed for a new context. In the postwar era, the Christian Right defended racial segregation, school prayer, public religious displays and other religious practices that infringed on the liberties of others by claiming that restrictions on such public acts infringed upon their religious liberty. Then as now, the Christian Right turned anti-discrimination arguments on their heads: instead of African Americans being discriminated against by segregated Christian universities, the universities were being discriminated against by not being allowed to exclude them; instead of public prayers oppressing religious minorities, Christians are being oppressed by not being able to offer them.

In the “religious liberty” framework, the Christian Right attacks access to contraception, access to abortion, same-sex marriage, and anti-discrimination laws—not on moral grounds (e.g., that contraception is morally wrong or that LGBTQ rights violate “family values”) but because they allegedly impinge upon the religious freedoms of others (e.g., by forcing employers to violate their religion by providing contraception coverage).

In fact, there is not a single “religious liberty” claim made by the Christian Right that does not involve abridging someone else’s rights.

When any religious group tries to impose its beliefs on others we ought to be afraid and strenuously oppose such efforts. We need to be extremely vigilant in opposing any effort by one group to impose its beliefs on anyone else, no matter how light or innocent that imposition might be claimed to be. If you don’t want your religious beliefs questioned, then don’t impose them on others. When push comes to shove, real religious freedom can be just as simple as that.

I wonder how the Court would have voted if the Hobby Lobby suit had been filed by a Muslim, or Jewish, or Buddhist, or Hindu owned business instead of the Christian owned Hobby Lobby.

Frank Levy, M.A., MFA. is Director of Outreach Resources, which provides consulting services to local and statewide disaster and public health preparedness and response agencies and to non-profit agencies engaged in improving the lives of the most vulnerable and at-risk residents. Frank currently lives in hiding from the thought police in Tom “the Exterminator” DeLay’s Congressional district outside Houston, TX.

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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 do the same.  Thanks.  JA


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

Father Flannigan, Your CEO and the Supreme Court


Prayer Meeting

Town Board meeting, Greece, NY, June, 2013. Photo, Bloomberg News

Reading time – 79 seconds

“And now Father Flannigan will lead us in an invocation that will be meaningful and appropriate for all of us.” With that the head coach of our public high school varsity football team opened the season kick-off meeting for parents and team members on that warm August evening in 1963. Father Flannigan stepped up to the microphone and in his deep baritone voice said, “We pray together  .  .  .” and he invoked and intoned for a couple of agonizingly long minutes, at last ending with, “This we pray in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost.”

My father and I looked at each other with a “Huh?” expression. Father Flannigan’s invocation was something other than appropriate for us. Indeed, it was inappropriate for any non-Christian and even some Christians. So much for “appropriate for all of us.”

The First Amendment to the Constitution tells us, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” Of course, our public high school was and is a government institution and Father Flannigan’s very specifically Christian Catholic words were part of an official school function. His prayer – indeed, any prayer –  was not appropriate for the occasion, as it clearly expressed religious favoritism, the very thing the Pilgrims left Europe to escape. That tacit favoritism is what “prohibits the free exercise thereof” of any religion other than the one mentioned and it also prevents the free exercise of no religion. And today’s Supreme Court, that interpreter of the Constitution and the intent of the Framers, can’t seem to figure that out.

They ruled in a 5-4 decision on May 5, 2014 that governmental meetings may include Christian prayer. The picture above shows members of the town board in Greece, NY bowing their heads in prayer at the start of their meeting in June, 2013. They were the plaintiffs in this lawsuit seeking effectively to establish a government sanctioned religion – Christianity – for their town. That would necessarily mean a concurrent prohibition of the free exercise of any other religion. In the past the Court has ruled that prayer in public schools isn’t kosher (had to throw that in), primarily because the school children are effectively captive and cannot escape the drubbing of another’s version of religion. And it is the “captive” part that, for this court, is the critical issue, rather than the “Congress shall make no law  .  .  .” part. Apparently, the Greece, NY town board members and other meeting attendees are not captive, which means that government sponsored Christianity – specifically Christianity – is okay, this according to 5 male, Roman Catholic members of this Supreme Court who ruled as such.

This is a companion piece to the fundamentalist surge that, for example, makes idiot Alabama Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore declare that the First Amendment only protects Christians.

So, go ahead, Father Flannigan, and offer prayers in church and in your Sunday School classes and in your parochial school. Those are expressly for that purpose and your prayers are appropriate there. But keep your benedictions out of our government, our public institutions and our laws. They aren’t appropriate there, regardless of the wrong-headed decisions of our inappropriate Supreme Court.

The next step toward theocracy just happened, as those same 5 all male, Republican, Roman Catholic old guys decided in the Hobby Lobby case that employers can cite their religion as sufficient reason for withholding insurance coverage for birth control from their employees. Surely the next step will be a Christian Science CEO claiming he doesn’t have to supply medical insurance for his employees at all and those same 5 Justices will go along with that First Amendment tarnishing, protection destroying foolishness, too.

There are quite a few million Americans – including many religious leaders –  who believe there really is supposed to be a separation of “church and state” and a freedom from anyone else’s religion. If only the Supreme Court could figure out this simple concept.

One last thing: As you can see, the righty majority five keep legislating from the bench, this time by warping the First Amendment. How come we’re not hearing a howl from conservatives about 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. Please help by offering your comments, as well as by passing this along and encouraging others to do the same.  Thanks.  JA


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

When They Pry . . .


ConstitutionReading time – 89 seconds

Amendment I – Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

 

But the Supreme Court ruled that the city of Greece, NY may conduct Christian prayers during their meetings. That sounds a lot like establishing a religion.

And George W. Bush and the Republican National Committee set up “free speech zones” during their convention in 2004, making for lots of areas where there was complete abridgment of freedom of speech and the people were not being allowed to peaceably assemble. At the same time reporters were getting clubbed by police in Minneapolis, which made freedom of the press not so free.

Amendment II – A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

The most curious interpretation of that belongs to the NRA and other Second Amendment thumpers. They conveniently ignore the first 13 words and focuse solely on keeping and bearing arms and not the reason for arms ownership.

When that amendment was passed there was national security concern that there might be a second British invasion, and they weren’t thinking about The Beatles. There was neither a standing American army nor the means to finance one, so citizens had to be able to leap into service in a Militia on a moment’s notice and be ready to fight; hence, the right to “keep and bear arms.” It was never about private citizens protecting themselves from the United States government. And today we have a Militia – our National Guard and standing army – so there is no national security need for the people to “keep and bear arms.”

Amendment IV – The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Is this really confusing to the NSA?

Amendment VI – In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him, to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence [sic].

We are still holding over 100 men at Guantanamo, none of whom has ever been formally accused of a crime. None has had a day in court. All have been there for years. So much for a “speedy” trial.

Amendment VIII – Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

What part of “cruel and unusual punishment” did George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and John Yoo, DOJ “Torture Memo” author, not understand about water boarding? Our own laws call water boarding torture, as do the Geneva Conventions.

I’m traveling around the country delivering Money, Politics & Democracy presentations because there are big money influencers and big political forces who have and want to continue to shred the Constitution. Well, they can have it to shred when they pry my cold, dead hands from the tattered remnants of it.

Are you with me?

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


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

What Your Bloodhound Knows


Reading time – 77 seconds  .  .  .

In a most accessible essay entitled The Umwelt, David Eagleman gives perspective to a 1909 concept of Jakob von Uexkull explaining the varied perceptions different animals have to their environmental signals. Snakes, for example, are practically blind to what humans see, but they have amazing vision in the infrared portion of the electromagnetic spectrum where we can’t see a thing. Were we without special scientific equipment, we would never know that it exists. In fact, we are only able to see about one ten-trillionth of the electromagnetic spectrum, so limited are we. And we go about our daily lives largely ignorant of even the possibility of so much more to be seen.

And that is the point.

Cliven Bundy is a cattle rancher in Nevada who has refused to pay his bill for grazing rights on public lands for over two decades. By definition, he is a cheat and a thief. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) at last decided that enough was enough and sent some people to confiscate his cattle. They were met by an army of angry white supremacist radicals equipped with automatic weapons and threatening to kill the BLM people. Interestingly, those belligerents brought their women and children and placed them in front of themselves so that if there were a firefight, the BLM folks would wind up shooting innocents. Such is the courage and integrity of Bundy’s extremist pals.

(Side note: If the Black Panthers had greeted law enforcement officials that way in the 1960s, how would they have been treated? Actually, we know the answer to that question, as do the survivors of the Cook County state’s attorney’s police raid that killed Fred Hampton and Mark Clark in their beds. But, of course that doesn’t matter any more, as the Supreme Court has recently assured us that ours is a post-racial society, where, “The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.” – Chief Justice John Roberts. Gosh, that sounds easy – let’s all just do it.)

“The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.”
Read more at //www.philly.com/philly/education/Has_the_Supreme_Court_ended_affirmative_action_at_the_college_level.html#Xg7uUszwidafvzHS.99
“The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.”
Read more at //www.philly.com/philly/education/Has_the_Supreme_Court_ended_affirmative_action_at_the_college_level.html#Xg7uUszwidafvzHS.99
“The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.”
Read more at //www.philly.com/philly/education/Has_the_Supreme_Court_ended_affirmative_action_at_the_college_level.html#Xg7uUszwidafvzHS.99

On April 24, 2014 Bundy held a news conference and reiterated that he doesn’t believe that the U.S. government even exists. Furthermore, he told the attending reporters and his sycophants about “The Negro” on welfare and wondered aloud if blacks were better off being slaves picking cotton. Oddly, that brings us back to Eagleman’s essay – by way of your dog.

The olfactory capability of a bloodhound is a thousand times more powerful than that of a human being. We humans recognize the smell of fresh baked bread, the delight of a rose and the odor of a freshly relieved skunk and it would be common for us to assume that we know all of what is available to be smelled. But if your bloodhound had the intellectual capability for such an analysis, he would laugh at us for that.

Back to Cliven Bundy. He is certain that he knows the truth. He is not just an extremist; he is an absolutist. He knows. Yet to borrow from Eagleman’s essay, what if Bundy and his white supremacist buddies, ”  .  .  .  could be infused with the proper intellectual humility that comes from appreciating the amount unseen?” Bundy and his blind army of hate haven’t a clue what resides outside their bigoted view and your bloodhound would laugh at them for their ignorance.

There are a lot of people in positions of power and there are also many in other positions that provide them with a very loud megaphone, like Sean Hannity at FoxNews. Even with their severely limited vision, myopic as Bundy’s army, they are certain that they know the truth. What if they could be infused with that intellectual humility and they could acknowledge that there might be more in the universe than the tiny slice they know? What if all of of the absolutists could?

Yeah, I know. That’s just too crazy a dream.

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


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

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