Freedom

Droning On


I recall seeing the first drones.  Unmanned aircraft.  I’m a pilot and thought the technology was nifty.  I also admired the surveillance capabilities of those things.  Protect the troops without endangering AWACs and helo crews.  Find the bad guys.  Like that.

Then we started using these things to kill people at weddings.

Now my friend and futurist David Houle has pointed out that Grumman has a programmable 330-pound robot.  This thing is cool and can trek where no man has gone before or ever should go and has capabilities no human will ever have.  Major geek factor.

They also have a surveillance “bat” airborne drone – also a major cool and high geek factor item.  While watching the video I couldn’t help but notice how its superb surveillance eye was able to find a human “target”.  That is the label Grumman pasted on some guy walking on an airport tarmac.

We truly do have the capability to make a weapon out of anything, perhaps even a lampshade.  It’s just what the fertile minds of our war materiel contractors, the military and our secret CIA army dream up to do with that stuff that scares me, because the power and the decisions seem to be unbridled and even unchecked.

The NSA is supposed to get warrants for its spying, but it often doesn’t.  The CIA is prohibited by law from engaging in activities within the US, but it does so all the time.  The FBI is legally limited in its spying efforts, but it reads your email without a warrant, even going beyond the lawless powers of the so-called Patriot Act.  Now we have a programmable 330 pound robot that “they” will be able to program to do whatever they want it to do.  Look for a knock at your door soon.  And have a nice day.

For David Houle’s comments on privacy, have a look at his new e-Book, Is Privacy Dead?.

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


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

George Orwell Was an Optimist


The NSA is spying on everyone and there is no privacy.  The government lies about who it spies on, the things they look at and who has access to all that information.  Although the NSA is minimally limited by law in what its spooks can do without a warrant from a FISA court, even then they routinely ignore the requirements of the law and instead spy with impunity on anyone and anything they like.  When the NSA does go to court for a warrant, only the government’s case is presented – there is no challenge to its claims – so  the FISA court approves NSA requests more than 99% of the time.  And there is next to no congressional oversight exercised over the FISA court, much less over the NSA.  Nobody is watching the watchers.

We enacted laws to protect whistle blowers, because we want to encourage citizens to call out wrong-doing and wrong-doers.  Then we routinely shame and humiliate the whistle blowers, calling them traitors, spies and quite a few other names that would be expected if they came from a 12-year-old brat on a playground.  We also end the careers and prosecute those same whistle blowers, this in order to discourage others from blowing whistles, lest actual wrongdoing be cast in sunlight and we expose the nefarious behavior of legislators and bureaucrats.

It may be comforting to say, “I obey the laws so I don’t care about the ubiquitous snooping,” but that myopic and self-focused attitude is, well, myopic and self-focused, even to the point of self-destruction.  Today they may be coming for the neighbor whom you don’t care about, but they will be at your door tomorrow and you will be presumed guilty.  Not officially, of course.  It’s just the way things will happen.  Who will stand up for you?

Shift for a moment to something that may seem to be a separate topic.  I promise that it is not.

I’ve been saying for years that we still haven’t learned all the lessons of our war in Vietnam.  We intruded there on someone else’s civil war, arguably on the wrong side, and stayed involved for almost ten years, leaving the imprint on US history of this being the first war we lost.  The stated reason for our intrusion was a lie – fighting the Communists there instead of in Kansas – and we further excused our invasion by claiming an attack on a US Navy ship, but that attack never happened.  The war took over 58,000 American lives and well over a million Vietnamese lives.

The one lesson of the war in Vietnam that politicians did learn is that they could not wage dishonest wars by means of a military draft.  That was made clear by mass demonstrations during that vastly unpopular war.  So, the draft is gone, replaced now by a volunteer military supplemented by civilian “contractors.”  That word does not mean plumbers and carpenters.  It means mercenary armies and ours are accountable to no one and they kill with impunity.

Fast forward to 2003 when we inserted ourselves into Iraq for two lies – non-existent WMD’s and Saddam’s non-existent ties to al Qaeda – and we stayed there nearly nine years.  That took over 4,500 American lives and hundreds of thousands of Iraqi lives.  It also teed up an Iraq civil war that continues today with no end in sight.  The killing goes on.

There was just a handful of al Qaeda terrorists who attacked America.  In order to bring them to justice “dead or alive” we sent battalions of our troops to Afghanistan to wage war on that entire country in 2001.  As of this writing, we’re still making war there, with tens of thousands of people dead – nobody has a clue exactly how many – and over 4,000 “on our side” dead.  It is not clear if the US will win this war, since the goals have shifted repeatedly.  The original goal was the elimination of al Qaeda.  Then it shifted to the removal of the Taliban from power in Afghanistan. Neither of those goals will be fully met.  In fact, it is not clear what will be achieved.  However, it is clear that we will have a very long term involvement there, well past the oft-declared 2014 “end of combat operations” date.

  • What these three wars have in common are:
  1. Each was started under false pretenses – i.e., lies.  Not mistakes.  Lies.
  2. The goal posts were in constant motion.
  3. A lot of troops were wounded or killed without ever knowing what they had served.
  4. A lot of civilian contractors became extremely wealthy.
  5. A lot of politicians won office and stayed there thanks to contributions from wealthy war materiel contractors.
  • The real question is why all of that happens and that “why” is the connector between unbridled spying and endless war.  It is about pills.

We as a people have accepted that the solution to our problems can be found in a pill.  The biggest selling pharmaceuticals in America are psychotropics – Zoloft, Ambien and the rest.  We are, to some degree, a continent of zombies.  We cope by means of decreased sensitivity to what goes on around us.  That’s good for Big Pharma.  Not so good for the rest of us.

“Pill,” of course, is a placeholder for all the ways we disengage, tune out.  It includes the vague assumption that someone else will step up and handle the situation or that our little contribution won’t make a difference, a key rationalization for why only 37% of eligible voters will show up to vote on November 4, 2014.

We as a people have been fed such a torrential river of lies, false innuendo, public stupidity and hollow promises for so long that we no longer believe in our government and we have dropped out.  Indeed, public trust in government is at 19% and falling.  We don’t engage with the things that fail to poke through the tough barrier of our own narrow vision.  That lets those in power get away with making laws that promote terrible things, breaking laws on a whim and without consequences and with waging dishonest wars for decades.  We are treated with sleight of hand so that we do not focus on the official unpatriotic actions and instead are exhorted with disingenuous pleas to “support our troops,” as though that is the only worthy test of patriotism. 

If you and I don’t all drop back in soon, all of that will continue until you have no privacy, no freedom and no safety at all.

George Orwell was an optimist.


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

It Isn’t About a Website


HealthCare-GovIt is a great and comforting validation that people with large megaphones and big mouths have focused on the ailing website of the Affordable Care Act.  They show us that naked self-promotion of individual and collective stupidity lives on in perpetuity.

Opponents of Obamacare wail and wring hands over the website.  That dysfunctional site alone is reason enough to kill the entire program, they tell us.  And it is evidence and proof of the folly and unconstitutional core of the entire Act, they insist.  In their claimed clairvoyance they bray over what is in the heads of those who led us to such evil, although how they got into others’ heads is not explained.  And now they have fixated their mean spirited, laser beam of antagonism on the website.

I must have been absent from class when they explained that the main purpose of reforming healthcare in America was a website.  That is similar to the day I missed class when they explained all about death panels.

Full disclosure: I have not read all 2,500 pages of the Affordable Care Act, so I may be misinformed.

But my understanding is that the Act is designed to remove limitations on coverage for healthcare, this in order to promote better medical care for Americans.  I thought it was to stop insurance companies from collecting premiums and then refusing to pay for the medical care that was supposed to be covered.  I thought it was to make it so that poor people stopped using the emergency ward at their closest hospital for their primary care and instead steer themselves to primary care physicians.  That is supposed to help catch medical issues earlier in order to promote better health and to lower overall healthcare costs for everyone.

It has been my understanding that Obamacare really isn’t about medical decisions.  It is about how we fund medical care and all the changes for the better that will bring.  There are no specific medical procedures that are prescribed or prohibited by the Act.  That is between you and your doctor.

All of that is in place, with or without a facile website.

The ACA website and phone center will be incrementally improved in an ongoing program, just as such things are for most endeavors.  So, while the current website is operating at a sub-optimal level, it is quite beside the point.  That is, it’s beside the point for all of us except for the self-promoting political hystericals, locked in their rending of garments and feigned woe.  What a bummer it will be for them when the website is fixed.  They will have to find some other phantom horribleness over which to go all googly-eyed.


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

Jax Fablz: Where Bees Go


There were hives.  Lots of hives.  They were all over the Federation of Bee Hives.

The drones worked hard, collecting pollen and bringing it back to the hives and the queens would look upon their work and say that it was good.  But both the queens and the drones of the southern hives had too much to do and the summers were so hot and humid that they needed help.

Then one day a ship arrived with African bees.  The southern bees cheered and bought the African bees, queens, drones and all.  The African bees were made to labor for the southern bees who forced them to work very hard.  They weren’t paid for their work, and were given only enough to eat to stay alive.  The African queen bees gave birth to baby bees and they were owned by the local bees, as well, so the free bee labor pool grew and grew, but the African bees suffered and were very unhappy.

One day a group of northern queen bees told the southern queen bees that what they were doing to the African bees was terrible and that they had to stop.  The southern bees did not like being told what they could and could not do and became very angry.  They said, “We have hive rights!”

Well, the talk became angrier and angrier and hatred grew.  The southern bee queens and drones insisted that they needed the free African bee labor so that they could become even richer.  At last they said they had had enough of northern bee judgments and northern bee demands on them.   With that, they left the Federation of Bee Hives.

That caused a bee civil war and over 600,000 bees died in the fighting.  The Federation was saved and the African bees were freed, but there wasn’t a single bee anywhere who didn’t feel the pain and sorrow of loss of their fellow bees.  All of the bees vowed that such a thing would never happen again.

The years passed and the southern bee queens and drones gave way to new generations of bees.  No bee then alive had a memory of the terrible suffering of that war of long ago and not a single bee could remember the vow their ancestors had made.  Still, they carried with them the stories of how their bee ancestors were told what they could not do.  That kept a fire of resentment buzzing in their bee hearts.

They also carried a disdain for the African bees still in their midst.  Like their southern bee ancestors, they liked to think they were better than the African bees, so they did things to keep the African bees down.  The southern bees liked the feelings of power and control that gave them.  But little by little the northern bees put a stop to many of the bad things that were being done to the African bees.  That served to amplify the buzzing of the southern bees over how much they disliked being told what they could and could not do.

Finally, one day the southern queen bee of the largest southern bee hive spoke up.  She had no memory of the awful suffering of the past, or at least she acted that way, because she hinted that perhaps her hive should secede from the Federation of Bee Hives.  She was very pretty, but most bees knew that she was nothing but a pollen head.  Still, she had tapped in to the southern bee feelings of resentment, a resentment nurtured by generations of bees that liked to see themselves as victims and blame other bees for their suffering.

Then more southern bees began to speak of what they called “the good old days” when the southern bee hives left the Federation.  Like the pretty queen bee who had spoken up, they refused to acknowledge the terrible suffering that all bees had endured because of that bee civil war of long ago.  They paraded in funny bee hats and old southern bee war uniforms.  They waved the flag of those old days of hive secession and buzzed with pride.  Indeed, there were quite a few southern bees who became so puffed up with feelings of their power of resentment that their hairy bodies and especially their heads became quite swollen.

One day one of the swollen head southern bee drones said that he would stand for office to represent his hive in the Federation of Bee Hives.  If he were to win his election he would have to swear an oath of allegiance with his bee leg on the Bee Bible, promising to protect and defend the Constitution of the Federation of Bee Hives.  But he had openly declared that he was a member of a group calling for the southern hives to secede from the Federation again.

And no bee had any idea what had happened to bee integrity or even common bee sense.  They only knew that they were trapped in a downward spiral of bee fear and bee hate.

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Moral:  Both the anger of victim-hood and the pride of self-righteousness lead to the same dark place. – JA


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

Are You Ready?


CialisBoomers are the ones who were told, “Don’t trust anyone over 30,” (thank you, Jerry Rubin), the ones who were going to change the world and who most certainly were never going to get old.  But now we are past the point where we can refuse to trust anyone over 30, we did change the world but many of us still refuse to get old.  That has created a billion dollar industry of erection sustaining drugs for old stud wanna-bees.

The next time you see a Cialis commercial on television take a good look at the happy couples.  Of course they are happy, as the commercials imply that they are so hormonal that they are having sex whenever the wind blows.

Notice, too, that everyone is good looking.  We viewers subliminally hope that Cialis will deliver that benefit, too.  And there is something else.  The women are all at least 15 years younger than the men.  Little surprise there, since the drug hucksters are selling a return-to-youth fantasy to old guys.

Let’s see, he’s a “senior” who refuses to acknowledge time, wants to be the young stud he never was, so he pairs himself with a young, nubile, willing kitten (yeah, that’ll work) who smiles at him with just a hint of lust in her eyes – and he’s ready!  All of this comes at just seven bucks per thrill pill.

Yup, we watch the commercials and we fall for the fantasy.  Somehow, the pleasant and desirable images and the smooth sound of the voice-over, go down easily and we accept the whole package.  Actually, though, it is nothing but a manipulation of you and me for the profit of the pharmaceutical corporations selling us dreams in a pill.

It works the same way in the political arena.  Radicals and rich guys are trying to separate you from your cash and your power with slick commercials, images and slogans, and even a chest-thumping testosterone rush, all for their own benefit, not yours.  Maybe instead of mindlessly absorbing the fictions we’re fed we should get in touch reality before the American plutocratic coup is complete.

It is the right moment right now.  Are you ready?

WARNING: If you go blind, lose your hearing or die, stop taking Cialis immediately – it will be too late for you.  Correspondingly, if you lose your democracy, it will be too late for all of us.


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

Predicting The Future


Sarin Cannisters* * * Special Tuesday Edition * * *

The word “Anschluss” became well known in 1936 as Hitler’s Germany annexed Austria.  Two years later the next newly familiar name was the Sudetenland, the predominantly German speaking part of Czechoslovakia.  Hitler’s pact with England’s Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain paved the way for the rest of Czechoslovakia to fall into German hands and in 1939 Poland fell to the Nazis in just a few days.  Then in 1940 Hitler incrementally overran Denmark, Norway, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and it wasn’t looking too good for the Brits at that point.  All this took place with the world pretty much watching from the sidelines as though people expected something different to happen after each country fell to the German blitzkrieg (another word that became well known then).

On September 8, 1974 newly ascended President Gerald Ford issued a “full, free and absolute pardon” for “  .  .  .  all offenses against the United States which he, Richard Nixon, has committed or may have committed or taken part in .  .  .  ”  Many were the conspiracy theories about a supposed pact with the devil that spawned a Ford presidency and a pardon for an American who had not yet even been indicted for a crime but whose guilt was obvious.  Nevertheless, the pardon stood and, other than having to resign from office, Nixon got away with his lawbreaking.

1985 was a fine year for labyrinthine presidential dealing, as President Reagan and his team negotiated a three-way swap of arms to Iranians and sent money from the arms transactions to the Contras in Nicaragua.  The arms going to the Iranians were supposed to buy goodwill, such that the Iranian government would exert influence to get 7 American hostages released from their imprisonment at the hands of the Army of the Guardians of the Iranian Revolution (Hezbollah).  The U.S. sale of arms to the Iranians was a violation of the then-current arms embargo on Iran.  Providing money to the Contras in Nicaragua was in direct violation of the Boland Amendment.

Interestingly, of those indicted for their parts in this nefarious scheme, a handful received a sentence of a short term on parole.  A few went to prison for a little while and of those, nearly all were pardoned by President George H. W. Bush, himself a key player in the conspiracy but who never had to answer for his lawbreaking.  President Reagan was clearly responsible for the entire illegal operation but he was never charged with anything other than poor oversight of his national security team.  That is to say, he got away with it.

In the waning days of George W. Bush’s second term the major U.S. financial institutions began to fail under the weight of the house of cards they themselves had allowed to be erected and Bush told us we had to act immediately to rescue them because they were “too big to fail.”  We sent trillions of dollars their way and, even as fraud had plainly been committed, no criminal indictments were issued against the perps.  Those same financial institutions are now far larger than they were when they were “too big to fail” and their smoke-and-mirrors investment schemes continue.

Bush also lied the U.S. into two wars and compounded his lawlessness by authorizing the torture of hundreds of prisoners, an act that is in violation of the Geneva Conventions and others, as well as a clear violation of United States law.  Not a single person involved in that lawbreaking was indicted for anything and the Obama administration has made clear that it will not prosecute.  All of the lawbreakers have gotten away with their crimes.

There is an ongoing pattern of crime at the highest levels that continues to go unpunished.  What is significant about that is the certainty that bad behavior unpunished is a guarantee of more bad behavior in the future and that is exactly what has happened.  Let’s take this knowledge to the present crisis.

It is clear that Bashar al-Assad has no compunction about killing over 100,000 of his countrymen, nor has he any concern over using weapons of mass destruction, like sarin gas (stockpiles pictured above).  Failing to punish that behavior will ensure that Bashar al-Assad will do more of the same or worse in the days to come.  And the story is even bigger than that.

We are facing an upcoming nuclear arms threat from Iran.  So, too, and likely more immediately, is Israel facing that threat, given that the Iranians have sworn to wipe Israel from the map.  We have told the Iranians that they must abandon their development of nuclear weapons and comply with international agreements to halt the spread of nuclear weapons.  We have been clear that failure on their part to comply will be seen as a threat to the United States, which will compel us to take direct action against that threat.

But are our threats of action against Iran believable if we fail to confront the use of weapons of mass destruction in Syria?

The world sat on its hands as Hitler incrementally annexed most of Europe.  In the United States we allowed Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush and Barack Obama to break major laws with impunity or fail to prosecute those who did.  Each of those then-current issues and failures to act ensured the next wrongdoing.

The pattern and the message are unmistakable:  The behavior we tolerate is the behavior we are certain to get over and over.  But now the toleration of bad behavior could lead to worldwide catastrophe.


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

Slogans


WizardAt the National Speakers Association convention earlier this year, Bruce Terkel delivered a powerful keynote presentation on marketing.  During that speech he explained that President Obama’s 2008 slogan “Yes we can” was the second best marketing slogan ever.  It is positive, it is inclusive and it is enabling.  Sadly, Republicans utilize a different slogan strategy.

Tom Coburn (R–OK), Ted Kruz (R-AZ), Michele Bachmann (R-Mars) and a bunch more Republicans want President Obama impeached.  They offer no high crimes or misdemeanors of which they think he is guilty.  They just want the sentence carried out without bothering with an indictment or conviction.  Their slogan seems to be, “Say anything to marginalize him.”

Paul Ryan continues to promote his Republican budget – only it isn’t a budget.  It is a plan to privatize nearly all of government.  This is just another example of Republicans putting lipstick on a pig and telling us it isn’t a pig, like the original Patriot Act that actually was unpatriotic and like Operation Iraqi Freedom that didn’t free the Iraqis but did chain us to perpetual war.  Their sleight-of-hand slogan is, “Fooling you with a lying label.”

I wrote here recently that the Republicans got nuthin’ because they propose nothing that will benefit America or Americans, other than the billionaires to whom they are indentured.  They lambasted President Obama at every opportunity regarding a budget.  Then Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Tanning Salon) presented the 2010 Republican budget that had no numbers in the entire document other than page numbers.  (Accounting note: If there are no numbers, it can’t be a budget.)  On the infrequent occasions that congress does manage to pass legislation to make things better, like the Dodd-Frank bill, Republicans immediately start the process to dismantle it piece by piece.  This slogan is obvious:  “Whatever it is, we’re against it even if we used to be for it.”

The House did pass a farm bill.  It gives Big Agri-Business multi-billions of dollars.  That same bill eliminates support for food stamps.  One in six American children lives in poverty – it is double that number for people of color – and The House intends to take the food out of the mouths of those kids.  The slogan: “Starvation makes children more self-reliant.”

Two of three poling places in North Carolina are being closed, leaving local college students with obstacles nearly impossible to overcome in order to vote.  A pregnant woman in Kansas, victim of a brutal rape, cannot do anything about it.  The school teachers in Wisconsin, who have sacrificed pay over and over in exchange for the promise of an adequate pension when they retire, are now having their pensions stolen from them.  None of that is an accident.

The Republicans are so bereft of offerings that they are putting the majority of their effort into stopping Americans from voting in order to win elections and cram through legislation to produce results like the examples above.  If they can’t stop people from voting, they use district gerrymandering to make votes inconsequential.  For example, Texas is 45% white but the Republican controlled state legislature has ensured that 70% of the districts are white Republican, thus marginalizing people of color.

Perhaps this kind of Constitutional blasphemy has not permeated your world yet.  Just understand this:  it will.  Right now they are coming after people of color, poor people, first time voters, the elderly and the infirmed.  After that it will be another group, then another, because a power hungry minority will never have enough control to satisfy themselves. Look to history and you will see the repeated story of incremental loss of rights concurrent with the rise of totalitarianism.  That is what voter suppression accomplishes, so “Coup by disenfranchisement” is the Republican slogan.

“You know, I would have at least some respect for the Republicans who pass these laws if they would just come clean and admit they are trying to keep everyone but old white guys from voting like it used to be in the good old days.  But instead, they make up stuff.”

Gaylard French of Waxahachie, TX
The Dallas Morning News
Letters to the Editor, August 18, 2013

We can sit back and pretend that our country is not being stolen from us, but sooner or later we’re going to have a very bad day.  The Republican slogan for that is, to quote Dick Cheney, “So?”

Bruce Terkel was asked the obvious question by a member of the audience at the close of his keynote to the National Speakers Association convention.  “If ‘Yes we can’ is the second best marketing slogan ever, what is the best one?”  Terkel didn’t miss a beat, replying, “See your doctor for an erection lasting longer than four hours.”

Are we that easy to manipulate – with just a slogan?


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

Bankruptcy


Jailed-protesters-vs-jailed-bankers-editorial-cartoon-300x228No, not that kind.

This is about political bankruptcy.  It is about a Republican Party that doesn’t make decisions based on fact and, in fact, ignores fact and instead creates fatuous fantasies.  It is a party that brought us a president who doesn’t read, who ignores facts and who makes decisions based on gut hunches.  No, I didn’t make that up.  It is what President George W. Bush told us about the way he makes decisions And, yes, he had the “football” and could have pushed the button to send nuclear missiles to annihilate millions based solely on his “gut hunch.”

This is a party that is legally bankrupt, as it seeks to institutionalize discrimination with a Constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage.  This is a party that is legally bankrupt as state house after state house finds diabolical ways to prohibit from voting American citizens who are not white or who are poor.

This is a party that is morally bankrupt, as it chants the same mantra year after year, that it is all about jobs, jobs, jobs, but every opportunity to stimulate job growth has been filibustered by Republicans on the floor of the Senate or voted down by the Republican dominated House.  Okay, there was one bill – the veterans jobs legislation – but the Republicans had to be shamed into passing it.

But let’s be fair.  The Democrats took over in 2009 and have steadfastly refused to prosecute Wall Street bankers who defrauded the public with their swamp of mortgage derivatives.  The same Justice Department has refused to prosecute bankers for their millions of fraudulent home mortgage foreclosures.  This is the same Democratic Party that refused to create legislation to prevent another round of “too big to fail” and, guess what, once again the banks are too big to fail.

This is the Democratic administration that has refused to prosecute the prior administration for its blatant lawbreaking by torturing prisoners and for illegal detention.  And it is the same party and administration that has expanded the war in Afghanistan, a war that plainly cannot be won.  History would have told President Bush that fact before he commanded an invasion, but he would have had to have read a history book to know that.

This is a war with ever-morphing goals, no strategy for success, with a continuing supply of dead bodies and an economic cost that will eventually reach $4 to 6 trillion dollars And this is a war that President Obama has continued and expanded, notwithstanding his pledge to end American military involvement by the end of next year.  How many more dead Americans will we have created between now and then?  Would you like to be the last soldier or marine to die for that unholy cause?

The far righties hold dear a deep distrust of government.  They are right to do that, because they continue to champion and elect untrustworthy legislators.

The far lefties are never happy because government continues to eviscerate the values and rights they hold dear.  But they sit on their recliners on election day or fail to jump through the hoops necessary to register to vote or they just drop out entirely and complain loudly.

We get the government we deserve – or do we deserve the government we get?  Either way, we’ll continue to get what we are getting now until we require better.  Until then, you can expect a government in the pocket of corporations and fabulously wealthy people who crave money and power above all else.  They are the ones who pull the strings of the Marionette America and bringing to us our national bankruptcy.  We are the ones who tolerate that.


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

Are You an Old, Rich White Guy?


Rich white guyPollution is an ordinary part of manufacturing.  For example, those shiny, chrome plated gizmos like your ballpoint pen and the reflectors of the tail lights of your car are bathed in toxic chrome when they are made and they drip chrome into the water that rinses them.  Capturing that residual chrome is much more expensive than just flushing it down the drain, so chrome platers don’t much like EPA regulations that make them install expensive waste water treatment facilities.  Those who own and run other companies subject to EPA regulations feel pretty much the same way.

Come to think of it, lots of companies don’t much care for OSHA, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, either.  That government bureau makes companies do expensive things, like install safety devices that prevent people from being decapitated or electrocuted or having their hands chopped off in manufacturing machinery.  OSHA requires construction companies to ensure that their employee wear hard hats so that their heads don’t get sliced or crushed.  All of that costs money that companies don’t like to spend.

Those pesky state legislatures have passed laws that require that your children be in child safety seats and that you be belted in and air bagged.  All of that costs money that car manufacturers don’t like spending.

Old, rich white guys like the Koch brothers and Sheldon Adelson and others who own the companies that we force to spend extra money in order to protect all of us want to do away with lots of government driven protection.  They want that precisely because that protection costs old, rich white guys money.  Indeed, over the years the car companies resisted pollution controls, safety glass, turn signals, safety belts and more because those things cost money.  If you’d like to know more about the thinking of such people, those who seek money and power over all else, have a look at the words of Vice President Henry A. Wallace, Franklin Roosevelt’s number two from 1941 – 1945.  He wrote a blistering Op-Ed for the New York Times on April 9, 1944 focused on American Fascism, the blending of government and business. You will likely find that the description in his essay is stunningly and disturbingly similar to our socio-political circumstances today, including the lying, the cheating, the demonizing and, worst of all, greed masquerading as patriotism.  The bulk of that comes from old, rich white guys.  You can find Wallace’s article here and here.

The old, rich white guys are thankful that elections are so expensive that candidates have to continuously grub for cash, especially big pots of it, because then those who are elected become indebted to those old, rich white guys.  That stimulates those politicians to take every measure possible to thwart legislation that might be good for most Americans who are not old, rich white guys.

Those politicians do things like make it harder for non-rich, non-white Americans to vote, because doing so keeps the old, rich white guys in power and in the money and that keeps the politicians well funded and in office.  The flow is so pleasingly circular.  Our national history is replete with egregious examples of voter suppression and the current voter ID laws about to be enacted in Texas, North Carolina and Ohio are the newest.  Those laws will disenfranchise millions of non-rich , non-white Americans and will have the effect of being the final nail in the coffin of democracy.  Hail to the John Roberts Supreme Court for enabling those voter suppression laws through its democracy killing decision in the Citizens United v. FEC case.  That completed the task of ensuring that old, rich white guys control all the money and all the power, a task started with naked hypocrisy by Ronald Reagan in 1981.

In the not-too-distant future history may be written with deference to the old, rich white guys – after all, history is always written by the victors.  But the multitudes who live in subsistence because of the loss of American democracy will not stay there willingly.

The fight for freedom and liberty is never ending and we are at a tipping point in America right now.

Are you an old, rich white guy?  If so, things are working quite well for you and you like the path we’re on.  On the other hand, if you are not an old, rich white guy you will care deeply about this far sooner than you might imagine.  When it starts to pinch, you will squeak and you will fight back.  What do you suppose it will look like when 310 million Americans who are not old, rich white guys are doing that?  I fear for us, because we always seem to wait too long to act and we have always been a violent society.


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

The American Disease


We have an advanced case of The Stupids.

This disease can be contracted by constant exposure to public officials saying and doing idiotic things.  It results in eventual Stupids fatigue, marked by lack of reaction to outrageous behavior.  Here are some common causes of this nationally debilitating disease.

  1. Bible-thumping zealots tell us that 9/11 happened as God’s punishment for our nation’s sins.  They say we deserved it.
  2. Deeply repressed homophobes wail in their self-righteousness and tell us how we should live our lives, as they thump bibles from atop their moral superiority.  Then we find out that they are homosexuals.  Worse, we tolerate their hypocrisy because later they “repent.”  Same for governors who hike the Appalachian Trail – in Argentina – and serial cheats who run the Christian Coalition.
  3. Fools blabber constantly about rape, somehow inventing a concept of “legitimate rape,” with its implication that some rapes are not real rapes.  We are left to guess at what that means, but it sounds like they think some rape victims were “asking for it” and don’t deserve to be seen as victims of criminal assault and battery.  Other fools tell us that in the case of pregnancy due to rape, “A woman’s body can shut that down.”
  4. Michele Bachmann can’t figure out in which state Paul Revere made his historic ride, or distinguish between John Wayne and John Wayne Gacy, yet she got re-elected.
  5. Our elected officials have kept us in a near-constant state of war for over 30 years – some argue that the number is 60 – and we tolerate the dead kids and the dead economy.
  6. Richard Nixon declared his resistance to exiting the war in Viet Nam saying, “I’m not going to be the first American president to lose a war.” (October, 1969)  So, 45,000 more American men and women were killed before America inevitably lost that war.  That set the stage perfectly for all politicians to make every issue about themselves and their welfare and not about the welfare of America and Americans.
  7. John Boehner wants to lock up IRS people before an investigation is even attempted or charges filed.
  8. Chuck Grassley still thinks that, “They’re gonna pull the plug on Granny” and nobody calls him on his lie.
  9. Rand Paul still thinks that we should not aid hurricane victims.
  10. Paul Ryan still tells us that privatizing Medicare is not privatizing Medicare and half the country believes him.
  11. We now have two Governor Ultrasounds, as the Republican legislature of Wisconsin and its Governor, Scott Walker, have joined Governor Bob McDonnell of Virginia and have decided that they know better about medical care than a woman’s doctor, so they require a vaginal ultrasound before any abortion.  And the OB/GYN has to read a statement to the patient that forces the doctor to lie to his/her patient.  Then the patient gets to pay for all that fraud.
  12. The gun bill failed, even though 90% of Americans wanted it to pass.   Perhaps a cover reason for it can be found in the bazillion amendments to the bill, most of which have nothing to do with firearms and many of which are stupid on their face.  And once again Americans have tolerated their elected representatives caving in to the NRA.
  13. Global warming deniers base their claims on complete bunk and the corporate run media, in its fair and balanced way, continues to let them air their views.  Worse, we’ve done next to nothing to deal with the looming danger that global warming will bring, largely driven by our voracious appetite for burning fossil fuels and our corresponding willingness to enrich the oil companies at the expense of planet Earth and its inhabitants.
  14. Congress actually passed a law that protects Monsanto from prosecution if its genetically modified seeds prove to harm or kill people.  This is the same congress that bemoans lack of accountability in our education system.
  15. We continue to pull money out of education, even though our future national welfare depends upon our kids being educated and prepared to compete.

We are distracted by these circuses and, clearly, this barely scratches the surface of the idiotic stuff that has been going on for so long.  Here is the key:

Re-read Number 6.  It is all about the self-interest of the politicians to advance their careers.  In order to do that they need big money.  To get big money, they have to do the bidding of people who have big money, meaning extremely wealthy individuals and corporations.  When they do that bidding, they are working for the monied interests, not for the interests of America and Americans.  That keeps us from dealing with our very real issues, like global warming, for example, because the oil, coal and gas industry people want to ensure the continuation of their gravy train.  Same logic for guns, healthcare and the lot.

We cannot change human nature and politicians will always look out for their own best interests.  So, until we deal with big money in politics, not much will get better.  Not any time soon.  Not until disaster strikes.  Maybe not even then.  Think:  Sandy Hook Elementary School followed by the failed gun bill, that failure being courtesy of threats to lawmakers from the NRA.

Most of us don’t feel disaster until it is in our faces and it becomes personal.  That is simple human nature at work and it is why, for example, we fail to stand up to the big money bullies who would allow an assault rifle in the hands of the fool next door.

Have you stood in a line for eight hours to vote?  Hundreds of thousands of Americans have had to do that and that is disaster.  Has a vaginal ultrasound been forced on you or someone close to you?  That is disaster.  Have you felt the bottomless depth of pain over children being gunned down?  That is disaster.  Does it bother you that you might be targeted by the NSA? It should, because that is a disaster.

The America you believe in is being stolen from you bit by bit, and it will be gone unless you and I disengage from the boob tube and the rest of the distractions that gobble our time, energy and attention and we at last speak up.  Speak up to get big money out of politics.  Everything turns on that.

The Stupids is a curable disease and you and I hold the cure.


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

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