Guns

Einstein

Reading time – 1:24  .  . .

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.Albert Einstein

I don’t know if Einstein actually said that, but I’m confident he believed it. In any scientific experiment, consistently providing the same string of inputs generates a consistently identical set of outputs. The same is true of ordinary human endeavors.

On the morning of November 6, 2017 the agencies investigating our most recent mass murder, this in Sutherland Springs, Texas, held a press briefing which included comments from a woman who lives in that horribly assaulted town. She said that what we – all of us – can do is to pray for the survivors and to support them with money donations to either of a couple of funds just established in support of the people in that community.

I’m not an expert on the subject of whether prayers offered by people around the country will provide help to the brutalized survivors. Surely, we like to think that they will. We have an innate need to help others who are suffering, so praying will at the very least serve that, as well as help to deal with this assault on our collective sense of loss of safety in the world.

What she did not address is anything that might help the next sanctuary full of church goers, or the next audience at a movie theater or concert, or the next group of children walking home from school in a dangerous inner city neighborhood, or the people on a popular bike and jogging path in a city, or the next holiday lunch gathering of coworkers, or people enjoying a nightclub, or college students walking across campus, or workers at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, or kids at a suburban high school, or a schoolroom full of first graders.

If we fail to change anything, we are assured of the same outcomes over and over. We’d be insane to expect anything different. We’ve seen this movie, we’ve lived it and thousands have died from it. We know it will never end unless we do something different.

The immediate defensive crouch assumed by the obstructionists to taking action is that there is no perfect solution to our self-inflicted savagery and no one thing will make all the difference.

It’s time to stop hiding behind that excuse for inaction.


The Onion puts light on our self-induced helplessness here.

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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.

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.

What’s the Number?

Reading time – 1:52  .  .  .

Click the image to review the complete article in MarketWatch

That’s right – we kill ourselves with shocking regularity, but that really isn’t the most salient point. Rather, it’s that all but the last two were done by red-blooded Americans who were not Islamist extremists. They were Americans who were either mentally impaired or seeking revenge. So much for the hysteria about Muslim terrorists and prohibiting the immigration of Muslims as a safety measure.

And be clear that this savaging, this brutality to innocents, is facilitated by the absurdly easy access to weapons of war. These massacres have nothing to do with the rights of hunters and sportsmen or the appropriate firearms for them.

After Sandy Hook President Obama shed tears with us over the murders of 20 little kids and 7 teachers, their bodies riddled with bullets from a perfectly legal assault rifle. He pushed for gun safety laws then, but nothing got better. I guess the gun lobby people were proud to have done their jobs so well.

Here’s a simple list of what the overwhelming majority of Americans want. This should be easy.

  • – Universal background checks before the sale of any firearm
  • – A ban on military assault rifles
  • – A ban on large capacity magazines
  • – A ban on automatic weapons
  • – A ban on silencers

Like I said, this should be easy, but it isn’t. It’s yet another example of why we have to get big money out of our politics. Note that Sarah Huckabee Sanders said today that this isn’t the time to politicize “the gun issue.” She’s wrong. Dead wrong. So let’s make our voices heard.

Tonight or in the next few days, show up in your town for the demonstration for sensible gun safety laws – it will be easy to find one nearby. There’s a demonstration in front of the new Dick’s Sporting Goods on Skokie Blvd. in Northbrook at 7:00PM tonight.

Then call (much more powerful than writing or emailing) your Representative and Senators and tell them you want sensible gun safety laws. Links to their phone numbers are in blue – use the search function at the top of the linked page.

And tell your legislators you want them to support the We the People AmendmentH.J.Res 48 –  to get big money out of our politics so that America isn’t run by lobbyists.

How many dead Americans will it take for us to overpower the gun lobby? What’s the number?

Get up and get active right now. Our kids, friends, family and neighbors are counting on us.

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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.

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.

Not Knowing

Reading time – 4:15; Viewing time – 6:10  .  .  .

It takes time to sort through the chaos and begin to see what is truly there. George Will at last did exactly that and explained it in his column of May 3rd, when he wrote of President Trump, ”  . .  .  the dangerous thing is that he does not know what it is to know something.”

We humans are profoundly uncomfortable with not knowing. We make up stories in a nanosecond to fill voids in our understandings and you’ll find yourself doing it many times a day if you know what to look for. For example:

  • You’re driving down the highway when the car in the next lane suddenly swerves into your lane, cutting you off. There’s a good chance you’ll be yelling something like, “Idiot!” just as though you actually know something about the other driver’s mental limitations. But it’s just your fantasy.
  • or
  • Your high school age kid has a curfew of midnight and it’s 1:15AM. She’s not home and there’s been no phone call. Do you think, “Gosh, I’ll bet she’s having a great time at the party”? Not a chance. You’re reaching for your phone and wondering where to call first, the police or the hospital. Either way, you’ve made up a story.

We all make up stories because we’re more comfortable with our fictions than with not knowing. And so it is with trying to understand Donald Trump’s behavior.

Dozens of mental health professionals have weighed in, finding him wanting of certain higher brain functions and social skills. We’ve called Trump many names in an effort to explain what drives his detached-from-reality, self-serving, cruel and sometimes questionably legal behavior, but George Will seems to have identified something that leans against the heart of the matter. Trump really doesn’t know what it is to know something. He just makes stuff up.

Be clear that what drives Trump’s disability is far less important than limiting him so that in his inability to actually know something he doesn’t permanently damage what’s important.

Which brings us to Trump’s obvious attempts to obstruct justice.

  1. He fired U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara of the Southern District of New York as he was investigating possible wrong-doing by Trump’s HHS Secretary Tom Price, as well as Trump’s primary flag-waver, Fox News. Further, Bharara had jurisdiction over Trump Tower in New York.
  2. He finagled Rep. Devin Nunez (R – Political Suicide) into making a fool of himself and, in the process, neutering the House Intelligence Committee’s efforts to investigate Trump’s possible conspiracy with the Russians to turn the presidential election his way.
  3. He fired Sally Yates, Acting Attorney General, when she both refused to defend Trump’s clearly unconstitutional Muslim ban and she warned Trump of Mike Flynn setting himself up for blackmail by the Russians. That would imply a link to Trump. Clearly, Yates had to go.
  4. And now, just as James Comey had gone to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein asking for additional resources for the expanding investigation into Trump’s possible conspiracy with the Russians, Trump fired him*, giving a clumsy and implausible justification for the sacking (click here for the documentation).
  5. Furthermore, don’t forget Trump’s continuing attack on the Fourth Estate, the people of the press, who are the watchdogs to keep government accountable. He viciously and baselessly attacks the press at every opportunity in order to undermine your confidence in them when they report negative things about him.

Are you seeing a pattern here?

Donald Trump neutralizes anyone who starts to get close to the truth about him. That ought to shiver your timbers; it surely shivers those of our democracy.

As for the challenges of reporting on Trump, have a look at what Russian reporter Alexey Kovalev had to say about covering Trump’s bromance idol Putin and see if anything sounds familiar. This is what it’s like covering lying, manipulative autocrats.

Not knowing causes us to make up stories to fill in the blanks and it’s all too easy to focus on doing that, but making up stories is insufficient if we’re to have a democracy. We need an independent investigation of Trump and his cronies now. Go to Rep. Jerry Nadler’s (R-NY) page for MoveOn.org and sign the petition calling for exactly that. Here’s why.

Last week I attended a meeting hosted by Rep Brad Schneider (D-IL) focusing on gun violence in the U.S. There I asked a question about what it will take to get a gun safety bill onto the floor of the House and Senate for an up-or-down vote so we can hold our legislators accountable. He said it would take two things. First, it will take new leadership. That makes sense, since it’s the leader of each chamber of Congress who decides what bills will come to the floor. Second, he said it will take the power of the people. We must make our voices heard.

That happens when millions of us speak up – our power is in our numbers – and it’s why you’re going to sign Jerry Nadler’s petition. Go ahead, do it now. Then call your senators and representative, telling them to pdemand an independent prosecutor.

Breaking news .  .  . CLICK ME

Not knowing isn’t an option – because you know.

In an interview with Lester Holt on May 11, President Trump characterized James Comey as a “showboat” and “grand-stander.” Is it possible that Trump fired Comey, in part, because he was getting too much attention and Trump wants it all for himself? No, that isn’t snark and I’m not kidding. I’m wondering if that’s part of the motivation for firing Comey for this attention craving president.

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

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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.

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

Have We Forgotten?

Reading time – 2:23; Viewing time – 3:14  .  .  .

If you scratch at the story of nearly any American you won’t have to go very deep – usually no more than 4 or 5 generations back – to find immigrants. And those immigrants not so many years back were not royalty. They weren’t moneyed elite. They weren’t the connected and the powerful.

Elizabeth Warren was right when she said that our business leaders, our entrepreneurs, didn’t build it themselves. They got their education because we all funded it. They’re able to find skilled new employees today for the same reason. Their supplies and their goods go to and from their shops on roads we all paid for and their toilets flush because we all got together and decided to build sanitation facilities. The list of the facets of infrastructure, education, incentives and opportunities no one person built is far too long to list. The point is that we support one another and none of us makes it on his/her own.

Back to your ancestors – they didn’t make it alone either. They didn’t pull themselves up by their bootstraps; someone gave them a job. Or someone gave them credit to buy a pushcart and fill it with apples. Let that stand as a metaphor for however your far-better circumstances came about.

At the Passover Seders just concluded around the world a message near the end of the service reminds us that the longing and search for freedom is never-ending and that it is the responsibility of each of us to do our part to bring about freedom for all. Jesus said “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 25:40). The imperative across religions is remarkably consistent: It is our duty to care for the poor and the stranger.

We are in this world and this life together and irrespective of anyone’s sense of rugged individualism, we are interdependent. We are all called upon to care for one another – we are, indeed, our brother’s keeper. Have we forgotten that and where we came from?

The next time you hear someone denigrating “those others” as though they are different from and less than “us”, and chest thumping over keeping refugee mothers and babies and bedraggled girls and boys and men from our shores, or ripping mothers and fathers from their children, or refusing to pay a living wage to laborers, or threatening to limit services to the widow or the pregnant teen across town, or blocking anything that might mitigate the slaughter of our people by handguns  – the victims are mostly poor people, like your ancestors – give some thought to the imperatives that come to us through the millennia.

We are cautioned at the Passover Seder: “Remember, you were slaves in the land of Egypt.” That isn’t some metaphorical or impersonal “you;” it means you. It’s where you came from, exactly as it is for the poor and the strangers among us now. Have we forgotten?

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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.

Values Bankruptcy Machine

Reading time – 3:09; viewing time – 4:58  .  .  .

There are conservatives who espouse worthwhile conservative ideas; however, not even one of those ideas includes Trumpian behavior, like:

Cabinet picks and agency bosses who are determined to take down everything in their control

A secretary of state with financial ties to our most dangerous adversary

Treating immigrants cruelly

Insulting our closest allies

Mocking the disabled and selling out the disenfranchised

Mocking our war dead and our war heroes

Trashing the regulations that ensure safe, clean air and water

Refusing science and demeaning learning and wisdom

Calling for our most dangerous adversary to hack our elections

Repeatedly attacking the judiciary, our intelligence community and the press

Lying – not being mistaken or misdirecting – lying 78% of the time


You’ll never hear a true conservative support an idea or policy that includes Congressional actions, like:

Allowing mentally unstable citizens to own guns

Refusing to vet a Democratic president’s nominee for the Supreme Court

Allowing internet service providers to sell your personal information

Claiming to be pro-life but advocating for the death penalty

Voting against anything a Democratic president supported solely to prevent him from having a win and regardless of the cost to our country

Somehow “conservative” and “Republican” have come to mean ensuring that the maximum amount of money flows to rich people, including our congressmen and senators. Those labels mean that all regulations must be eliminated, no matter how many West Virginia rivers get polluted or towns destroyed or our planet hard boiled. Every obstacle to greater wealth and power must be removed for the benefit of the wealthy and they leave it for others to pay the price with yet more suffering. Nothing else seems to matter to them. Today’s Republicans have made their party into a values bankruptcy machine.

Talkin’ ’bout you, Republican!

I have conservative friends – people who are true conservatives, not just those who assume the label for their own benefit – who abhor what today’s Republicans have done to their party and are doing to our country and who are disgusted by the lack of Republican will to stand up to this tyrant president. Such patriotic folks really do exist – actually, there are a few are in Congress.

I want center-right Republicans to stand up and be counted. The time for head down silence doesn’t exist. I want them to speak for what really is conservative, not the hateful, unpatriotic stuff we’ve suffered since Newt Gingrich, in a self-important hissy fit, shut down the government in the 90s.

Do you know centrist Republicans? Tell them to stand up, to speak up and to run for office. Our country needs them now more than ever.

In Other News

Former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn has asked for immunity from prosecution in exchange for his testimony before the House and Senate Intelligence Committees and the FBI. President Trump has weighed in on Flynn’s bargaining, tweeting,

The thing is, when you hunt for witches, sometimes you find a witch. And if there’s a witch discovered in this hunt, their actions won’t be found to be of the magic wand, fairy tale type; they will be found to be treasonous.

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Finally, I send many thanks to the good folks at the Universalist Unitarian Church in Evanston for your wonderful hospitality at our meeting last week where I presented Money, Politics & Democracy: You Aren’t Getting What You Want. I’m grateful for your insightful questions and comments and enthusiastic engagement.

We need to spread the word so we can reclaim our democracy. If you’re connected to a group of concerned citizens who will benefit by learning about the enormous and corrosive effect big money has on our politics and our democracy and who want to know what we can do about it, call or drop me a note. I’ll do a presentation for your group – freebie. I don’t want money. All I want to do is to save democracy for our children and grandchildren. They’re counting on us.

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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 Spineless Ones

Reading time – 3:51; Viewing time – 6:13  .  .  .

This is the sad tale of The Spineless Ones, those who simply cannot stand up for what they know to be right and instead selfishly cave in to others, whom they allow to be far too influential in their careers.

The members of the House voted 235-180 and the Senate voted 57-43 to eliminate the prohibition of mentally unstable people from being able to purchase firearms. Essentially, they’ve said that your sociopathic Uncle Alfonse, who is mentally unable to care for himself and has violent hallucinations, may now own an arsenal of guns and ammunition.


 

Said Dan Gross, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence,

“Make no mistake, this vote was really about deepening the gun industry’s customer pool, at the expense of those in danger of hurting themselves or others.

The repeal of the prohibition was spearheaded in the Senate by Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA). He is the same Chuck Grassley who fought Obamacare with the stirring words of a warrior for truth and integrity, saying, “They’re going to pull the plug on Granny.” He declared that lie as part of the Republican brain dead opposition to anything Obama, this episode of which was a fight against non-existent “death panels” he insisted were built into the Affordable Care Act. In this week’s victory for more homicides, his next act of courage, Grassley declared that the prohibition against the ownership of guns by the mentally disabled unfairly stigmatizes these people. UNFAIRLY STIGMATIZES THESE PEOPLE!

Is this nonsense making your eyes go all googly? Does Grassley’s Orwellian logic of people who are mentally disabled being stigmatized because they can’t own a Bushmaster assault rifle mash up your brain cells? It should.

This is yet another case of big money lobbying distorting our rights, our freedom, our safety and our common sense. It is exactly why I deliver keynotes entitled, Money, Politics and Democracy: You Aren’t Getting What You Want (here’s a link to a 15-minute sample video). If we don’t fix this, the next time you walk past your neighbor’s door you may be greeted by that poor soul who suffers from dementia but has in his hands a Glock semi-automatic fitted with a silencer. He might not shoot you then, but he’ll still be next door tonight – with his gun. Sleep well.

And get me booked to present to your group before Grassley and the other Spineless Ones do yet more damage to America.

President Trump’s press conference of February 16 was yet another supreme exhibition of self-congratulation and self-admiration, reaffirming multiple times what the electoral college count was and how awful Hillary is, and an unrelenting attack on the press, supported by absolutely no specifics or facts. That is to say, it was standard Trump and added very little to our political or governmental knowledge.

From The Globe and Mail, January 31 and February 15, 2017. Thanks to our Canadian friends for putting this into perspective. Thanks to PW for sending the link. CLICK ME

What he did say was that in talking with the Russians after the election and before the inauguration, Michael Flynn was doing his job. Trump said that  he did not direct Flynn to talk with them about the easing of sanctions, but that he would have, had he given Flynn marching orders. Just to be clear, Flynn’s advising the Russians about Trump lifting sanctions once in office, this done while President Obama was still in office, was and is an illegal act, arguably treason. And President Trump tells us that he would have advised Flynn to do that very thing.

I’m past asking questions, like why would Trump do such a thing or even say such a thing, because his why doesn’t matter. What does matter is that he has once more demonstrated his complete lack of respect for the law. What do you think we the people should do about that?

We’ll be watching to see how The Spineless Ones deal with the apparent treason that has rocked our democracy. Do they have what it takes to stand up for what they know is right, or will they cave in yet again, this time to an infant tyrant’s delusions of grandeur and lawlessness? Watch this space.

In Other News

This is from a stunning letter to the editor of the New York Times, February 13, 2017 from two mental health professionals. It was published before the Trump rant-and-rage press conference of February 16:

Mr. Trump’s speech and actions demonstrate an inability to tolerate views different from his own, leading to rage reactions. His words and behavior suggest a profound inability to empathize. Individuals with these traits distort reality to suit their psychological state, attacking facts and those who convey them (journalists, scientists).

In a powerful leader, these attacks are likely to increase, as his personal myth of greatness appears to be confirmed. We believe that the grave emotional instability indicated by Mr. Trump’s speech and actions makes him incapable of serving safely as president.

  • Lance Dodes
  • Joseph Schachter
  • Beverly Hills, CA

Finally, I just returned from a town hall meeting with Rep. Brad Schneider (D-IL 10th). Hundreds of highly energized citizens packed every meeting room in the library to capacity and he stayed overtime to answer questions. Does your representative show up for town halls and answer questions? Does your representative both enter and exit using the front door, or is s/he weaseling out the back so they don’t have to face you?

Key point: Rep. Schneider made it clear that his focus is to uphold the oath he took to protect and defend the Constitution, not partisan extremism. Can your representative say the same thing? Or is s/he a tool of their party, one of The Spineless Ones?

  • ————————————
  • 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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