Manipulation

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. Steven 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.

Nixon Again?

Reading time – 2:45; Viewing time – 3:46  .  .  .

Crude alert: This post contains a little crudeness near the end. Sensitive readers should squint while reading those parts.

Parents are cautioned to separate the person from the deed, such that when little Johnny kicks the dog he’s not a bad boy. It’s just that he did a bad thing. It’s important that we don’t crush his budding self-esteem by giving him any “You’re not an okay person” message that would carry into adult life and at last cause him to be a doormat for others or a “hit you back first” abuser or a milquetoast failure.

And so it is with our president. It’s important that we don’t label him with personality damaging, ego bruising labels. For example:

He wasn’t a liar, thief and cheat when he repeatedly refused to pay his contractors; he just did a bad thing. Repeatedly.

He’s not a sexual abuser and misogynist; he just crudely brags about abusing women and publicly demeans them. Those are bad things, too.

It’s important that we not call him a traitor; we should at least wait for the FBI report about his conspiring with the Russians and then be gentle and say that perhaps he did some questionable things.

Again, it’s important that we not call him a traitor; he just publicly pinpointed two of our ultra-stealth nuclear submarines, so we should offer positive correction. And too bad for the crews of those subs and our entire military.

He’s not a liar; he just uses special math for his budget that he calls balanced but which adds $2 trillion to our debt. We’ll get him a math tutor.

He’s not a liar; he’s just a little misguided about his promised healthcare plan that will be better and cheaper but instead is a scheme to send billions of dollars to rich people by preventing tens of millions of Americans from having any healthcare at all. Just a little oops. Anyone could make that mistake.

You already know that this list could be very, very long, but in each instance it’s important that we describe the act and not demean the person, right?

Oh, screw that. Trump is a cruel, amoral cheat and liar, a betrayer of the first order (just ask the Israelis) and without any qualities required of a president or even a satisfactory human being. He’s a back-stabber of friends and allies and a supplicant to tyrants and murderers.

CLICK HERE for more information (PDF)

Honestly, I don’t care a bit if Trump’s fragile ego gets bruised. I just want him out of power so that he can’t hurt America or Americans like you and me. I want him in a place that’s safe, say, Danbury Federal Correctional Institution or the New York State Psychiatric Institute. Either one. And for a really long time.

Back in the Vietnam War days when Richard Nixon was president there were lots of protests against the war and against the president who continued it because as he said, “I’m not going down in history as the first American President who lost a war.” That is to say, it was all about Nixon’s self-image, which was far more important to him than the lives of the additional 28,000 men and women who would die because of his self-obsession. A sign commonly found at street protests then read, “Dick Nixon before he dicks you.”

And now we have another president who is similarly all about himself. You and I better stay clear about that and take action before this president dicks us all.

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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.

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.

What Ails Us – v2.0

Reading time – 1:49; Viewing time – 2:32  .  .  .

Just back from the Tax March-Chicago and there’s much to report. Pics are in the blog – I think you’ll enjoy the signage (use your browser’s zoom function to zoom in and read the signs) – but the key is the meaning of it all.

This march was one of many across the nation on this Tax Day, April 15 and the marches were promoted for the purpose of demanding that Donald Trump release his tax returns. Nobody expects that he’ll turn them over because hundreds of thousands of Americans turned out across the country to make the demand, but it was important that we demand and keep on demanding.

There are so many ways Trump has proven to be disingenuous, manipulative, dishonest and incompetent that it is extremely difficult to have any trust in him. Further, the FBI and committees of both houses of Congress are investigating his ties to Russia because he may have colluded with them to swing the presidential election to himself. That’s treason.

Congressional Job Approval, through 2016, Gallup Organization

And truly, it isn’t just Trump. We have so many reasons to distrust our government and we have responded to ongoing polls about how we feel about it, like Gallup’s (left), which says that 81 of every 100 Americans doesn’t trust our government. In my Money, Politics & Democracy: You Aren’t Getting What You Want presentations I show the graph that’s attached to this blog and then ask attendees how we can possibly have a democracy when our distrust in our own government is so awful. I’ve yet to hear an answer to my question.

And that’s the main point. The tsunami of money in our politics, our lying president, a senator holding a snowball as he speaks on the floor of the Senate and claiming that the snowball is proof that climate warming is a hoax, legislators promising to take health care from 24 million more Americans, and all the rest have eroded our trust in government and we feel betrayed. The reason we feel betrayed is because in reality, we have been.

And that’s what the marches and rallies are all about. There’s only so much betrayal we’ll put up with. There’s only so much scorn from our elected officials that we’ll tolerate. Then we push back. Hard.

So, to paraphrase Shakespeare, “Hell hath no fury like Americans scorned.” Politicians, you’ve been warned.

Bonus Section

Trump claiming things are a mess may serve him by making it look as if he’s avoiding responsibility (in reality, he can’t) and if something gets a bit better that may make him look to be heroic to some people. You know there’s a “but” coming: BUT like so much of what Trump says, his claims are lies. Baseless, fatuous lies designed only to buff his TV reality show image. Read John Pavlovitz’s clarifying piece, No, Mr. Trump, America Is Not a Mess.

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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.

Leading By Reaction

Reading time – 4:13; Viewing time – 6:26  .  .  .

There was a lot of talk about President Obama’s “red line” regarding Syria’s use of chemical weapons against its own civilians in 2013. Obama was and continues to be scorched by conservatives for having taken no action. What is so conveniently forgotten is that at the time there was a great deal of complaining about an “imperial presidency,” about presidents taking the country to war without the required consent of Congress. So, Obama went to Congress and asked for an official authorization for the use of force in Syria. Big surprise: the Republican majority Congress refused to even bring it up for a vote.

Now, President Trump is faced with his first foreign crisis, created by President Bashar al-Assad of Syria having yet again attacked his own citizens with sarin gas. Strangely, Trump has done a turnaround from his repeated warnings to Obama in 2013 to avoid any entanglement with Syria. Trump’s cautions followed Assad having just attacked his people with sarin gas. We saw the horrific pictures then and Trump was adamant that Obama not take action. Now, Trump is all about taking action, although nothing substantive has changed on the ground since 2013. President Trump, the “don’t touch Syria” guy,  launched 59 Tomahawk missiles into the al Shayrat Airfield near Homs, Syria on April 6. The attack was only symbolic, in that it won’t significantly change Assad’s military advantage or the Syrian civil war.

The fundamental of decision making is to start by declaring a vision of a better tomorrow – the “why” you do what you do. Once that is articulated, the next step is to identify what you will do to create that vision – that’s the strategy, the “what” stuff. Last is to decide on the tactics – the “how” you will do the “what” stuff.

Somebody please tell me what Trump’s vision is. No, not the marketing slogans he spouts endlessly, but the vision. What is the better tomorrow he wants to create?

Okay, that’s too hard, so let’s go to the strategies. What are Trump’s strategies? C’mon, name just one.

Okay, that’s too hard, too, so let’s name a tactic. Oh, right, he launched Tomahawk missiles in reaction to Assad’s reprehensible behavior, with Trump claiming he was deeply changed by what he saw, which as noted, was essentially, exactly what he saw in 2013 when he wasn’t deeply moved by what he saw and he advised President Obama not to interfere in Syria. Those Tomahawk missiles were launched in direct conflict with Trump’s own policy view and that of his chief strategist, Steve Bannon. “It’s America First,” they tell us, so what does a foreign civil war in the Middle East have to do with us and why should we get involved? Also, what strategy does the tactic of firing missiles serve? Betcha you can’t name one.

Try this: Trump has had failure after failure since he assumed office. He has been found to be woefully lacking as a leader and his approval rating has been in free fall. Now, instead of leading, he has become merely reactionary to external events and has fired off missiles at a Syrian airfield, an act which will change not very much in that civil war and which leads to nothing because it’s connected to nothing. Nevertheless, he will claim that the Tomahawk missile attack is proof that he is a strong leader. Listen for that at a Sean Spicer press briefing soon – maybe already.

Future events may show that attacking the al Shayrat Airfield was the right thing to do to prevent further attacks on Syrians by chemical weapons, barrel bombs and other munitions. It may become clear that this attack was necessary to protect American troops in the area and to prevent transfer of chemical weapons to third parties who might use them in the U.S. The world might prove to be overwhelmingly in favor of taking action against the atrocities Assad creates. However, it is sadly most likely that Trump’s decision to deploy our weapons was actually done to help Donald Trump rally domestic support for himself and to prop up his miserable approval rating.

As the Syrian people continue to suffer, they are still banned by this president from coming to this country for refuge from that awful war, even as Trump has puffed himself up on Tomahawk missiles.

In other news

“Morning Joe” on MSNBC, April 5, 2017

Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) made quite a name for himself in 2015 by trying to scuttle the Iran nuclear deal our diplomats were working hard to create. He wrote a letter (download a PDF of it here) and got 46 of his Republican senator pals to sign it and sent it off to the leaders of Iran. The letter essentially gave a lesson about our Constitution to the Iranians, with the clear implication that they should not trust those in the American administration with whom they were negotiating.

“The Lead, with Jake Tapper” on CNN, March 20, 2017

Our national history is that partisan disputes have always stopped at the water’s edge. Only the president negotiates with foreign powers and we stand united relative to the rest of the world. Undermining the President as Cotton did could easily be described as treason.

That’s why it’s so odd to see Cotton being interviewed so frequently on cable news shows now, as though he is an honest broker. Someone please tell me why any American should listen to him.

Finally, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell claimed throughout 2016 that he wouldn’t give a hearing to President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee because presidents never nominate to the Court in their last year in office. Of course, McConnell was right – except for Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower and more (read more about it here). Now McConnell has used the so-called nuclear option to break a filibuster and the Senate permanently so he could jam his preferred candidate onto the Court.

And some wonder why the public’s trust in government is around 19%.

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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.

Sir Isaac Newton and You

Reading time – 3:51 seconds; Viewing time – 5:57  .  .  .

The press is under attack, and rightly so, according to Donald Trump. He has let us know in no uncertain terms and repeatedly that those in “the media” are dishonest – so dishonest – they lie. I’m guessing that “he’s been hearing” that most are devil worshipers with unpatriotic foreign stuff in their attics. I’m sure he’s hearing that “people are saying” they may not be real Americans. Some might be black. Or Muslim. Or both black and Muslim. Bad. Sad.

President Lying-78%-of-the-Time has a penchant for falsehood. Trump’s integrity outages may have been of relatively small consequence during the campaign (except, of course, to rally attendees who got beaten up at his direction), but his dishonesty has huge consequences on the national and international stage now that he’s the president.

You need to read the Los Angeles Times 4-part editorial series The Problem With Trump. These  essays provide a level-headed and shocking analysis of what’s really going on – it’s big and everything we hold dear is at risk.

Trump’s dishonesty is happening during an era of vitriolic, polarized politics, especially in Congress, which makes constraining the worst of Trump’s lunacies next to impossible. In large measure, that is what puts everything at risk.

I’ve written several times about looming fascism in America (click on Fascism in the Categories list to the right) because of the bully in the White House and the extremists in Congress. I have seen nothing to mollify my concerns. While I don’t know if Trump is even capable of planning such a thing, I’m confident that Steve Bannon and Jared Kushner are capable of that and their influence only grows. And, no, don’t imagine for an instant that because Kushner is Jewish that he’s not capable of driving our nation to fascism. Not Nazism; fascism.

From How I Became an American by Yascha Mounk:

“Like Mr. Trump, democratically elected dictators have often believed that they don’t owe political consideration to the minorities they vilify. And, like Mr. Trump, they have often claimed that all those who challenge their rule – independent judges, critical journalists – are enemies of the people. For anybody who has studied how democracies die, the president’s dark rhetoric sounds familiar.”

Read the Los Angeles Times pieces – all 4 editorials. Now let’s connect this to a broader reality.

In a stunning piece by David Roberts for Vox.com entitled Donald Trump and the Rise of Tribal Epistemology*, Roberts lays bare the erosion of our institutions that were designed to provide the foundation upon which our society is built. He’s talking about truth, science, democratic systems and a clarity of the difference between right-doing and wrong-doing. He’s talking about the very things Trump and Bannon want to take down. And they’re not alone in their efforts toward destruction; witness how the right wing has,

  • Rejected the consensus of the world’s scientists on climate change
  • With a Democrat in the White House, the Republicans filibustered every bill
  • House Republicans routinely threaten the solvency of the country by refusing to raise the debt ceiling
  • The Senate refused to even have hearings on Obama’s Supreme Court nominee
  • Republicans united behind a serial swindler and self-confessed sexual predator – what happened to their spine?

Roberts’ piece specifically focuses on journalism and what it can do in this post-truth, post-fact, post-norms era. He writes,

“At a deeper level, healthy journalism relies on the basic institutions and norms of liberal democracy – on transpartisan authorities capable of establishing a common bedrock of facts and rules. As we’ve seen in other democracies around the world that succumb to autocracy (think Russia, Hungary, Turkey, Venezuela), the decline in institutions is both cause and consequence of authoritarianism.”

So, chicken or egg first? It really doesn’t matter if nothing is solidly reliable.

Sir Isaac Newton

Recall your 8th grade science class, where you learned about Sir Isaac Newton and his Laws of Motions, the first of which (paraphrased) was, “A body in motion tends to stay in motion unless acted upon by an outside force.” Your teacher may have demonstrated that law with a thrown ball, which would have carried out to the most distant reaches of the universe, but for that pesky gravity thing, the immediate outside force. Gravity changed the trajectory of the ball and made it accelerate in an arc toward the center of the Earth. Yes, I know that’s more science than you were looking for in a political commentary, but perhaps you remember some of that – surely you remember that Law of Motion, and that’s the main point.

Unaffected by an outside force, everything keeps going on its trajectory, and that’s true of politics, as well. So, if there is a different future that you want to see than the one we’re headed toward, there better be some force acting upon it.

YOU’RE THAT FORCE!

Get off the couch and get on the streets. Protest. Resist. Recruit. Call, text and write to your congressperson and senators. Show up at their doors. Join with others at MoveToAmend.org, CommonCause.org, Represent.US, Mayday.US and kick in a few bucks to save your democracy.

GET A POLITICAL BULLHORN AND MAKE YOUR VOICE HEARD!

*Epistemology – The theory of knowledge, especially with regard to its methods, validity and scope. Epistemology is the investigation of what distinguishes justified belief from opinion.

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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.

Trump and Putin

Reading time – 2:42; Viewing time – 3:46  .  .  .

Thomas Edsall has done it again. He’s helped us to understand the Trump thing, answering questions that seem so very perplexing.

I referred to Edsall last month to help us to understand why people voted for Donald Trump. No, they aren’t all racists and no, they aren’t all stupid and no, they didn’t vote against their own interests – at least, not all of them. This time he’s helping us to understand the possible Trump-Putin connection in his essay What Does Vladimir Putin See in Donald Trump? and the answers are chilling.

We know that Putin has an evil thing for Hillary Clinton, so he’d want anyone running against her to win just for that reason, but there’s way more. Putin is all about power grab. At the very least he wants to be able to stand toe-to-toe against the United States and exert his influence throughout the former Soviet bloc countries and perhaps even dominate Europe. To do that requires a stooge in the White House to undermine America’s power in the world, a stooge who would:

”  .  .  .  weaken the West’s desirability, credibility and moral authority.”

”  .  .  .  undermine NATO’s unity”

”  .  .  .  [be eager to have] direct and indirect links to a profoundly corrupt and violent foreign dictator, whose policies he admires, whose advisers he shares and whose slogans he uses.”

Regarding those slogans, “Trump unquestioningly repeated slogans and conspiracy theories [like] – ‘Obama invented ISIS’ and ‘Hillary will start World War III’ – lifted from Sputnik, the Russian propaganda website.”

[and who would be malleable] “Trump’s susceptibility to praise has made him vulnerable to manipulation.”

There’s more – way more – and all of it says that you ought to be very worried, because this human model of sociopathy looks to be in the process of selling out our democracy.

I have warned of the coming of fascism to America and have specifically advised that we’re only one terrorist attack away from Trump declaring martial law (here and here and here and here). While I’m sure that sounds paranoid and hyperbolic to some, I invite you to watch Yale history Professor Timothy Snyder on Bill Maher’s program on March 24, 2017 and you’ll see what I mean. For a better understanding of Professor Snyder’s message, click here.

The lyrics of Do You Hear The People Sing grow louder.

In Other News

What about that Muslim ban and the refusal of refugees? It’s easy to lose sight of the issue, now that a couple of courts have put the hammer to implementing this draconian, cruel executive order, and what with the blizzard of Trumpian lunacy that assaults us daily. But the teachers and staff at the Niles Township High School District 219 in Skokie, IL haven’t forgotten and they sent a message to their students. You must watch it and take in their message to the kids.

Now imagine if we as a country and as directed by Executive Order were that caring and kind to the strangers among us – you know, like the way every major religion in the world instructs us. Go ahead: imagine.

And finally, I’ll be presenting Money, Politics & Democracy: You Aren’t Getting What You Want at the Unitarian Church of Evanston, 1330 Ridge Avenue this Wednesday, March 29 at 7:00PM. Come join 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.

Bus Daydream

Reading time – 2:44; Viewing time – 3:46  .  .  .

In anticipation of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s visit to the U.S. and her discussions with President Donald Trump I was struck with a BFOTO (blinding flash of the obvious), that Merkel is in a unique position – that’s “unique” as in: she’s the only one who can do it – and I started to daydream.

The dream began with the clarity that Merkel presides over the strongest economy within a 2000 mile radius – maybe further. She grew up in Soviet communist East Germany, so she has no false illusions about life in a totalitarian regime. And her having come of age in post-WW II Germany means that Merkel has a solid understanding of the horrible consequences of a country electing a charismatic, sociopathic leader. She knows what happens when the people don’t stand up to a tyrant.

So, I dreamed that all of that and more put Merkel in the unique position to stand up to Trump, to refuse to put up with his vacuous diatribes. I dreamed that she ignored Trump’s fatuous claims and scoffed at his baseless bragging. I dreamed that she talked with him on an equal footing about NATO and pushed back on his blinders-in-place foreign policy nonsense and told him to listen to his generals, who tell him to expand, not contract our diplomatic corps, instead of expecting that we can bomb the world into Trump’s cartoon vision of trade arrangements that work for him.

My daydream was about Angela Merkel telling Donald Trump where the bus stops. It was about Merkel speaking to the world, imploring us to stop this self-important manipulator before it’s too late. She’s the only world leader who can do that.

Then my daydream ended and I realized once again that we the people are standing up to this tyrant and will continue to stand up and tell Donald Trump where the bus stops.

In Other News

President Trump and the Republican leaders in Congress have proposed a new healthcare bill that is so dramatically flawed that almost nobody likes it. I heard it said on the NPR show Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me that this Republican healthcare plan could be labeled like the album of rapper 50 Cent, “Get Rich or Die Tryin’.”

Trump and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan have promised unspecified additional legislation at a later date to fix this hollowed out program, which is lovely if you like pie in the sky. Now they say they’re open to adjustments and amendments, this in hopes of being able to squeak the bill through the House.

But the bill will send hundreds of billions of dollars to already wealthy people at the cost of cutting over 50 million Americans out of health insurance altogether and it will impoverish millions more.

Some of us want to help our mostly wealthy legislators to feel what that’s like. We want them to walk in the shoes of, say, a 60-year-old making $25,000 per year whose health insurance cost will balloon to devour over half of their income. Here’s how you can help these disconnected legislators feel the pain.

Sign the Change.org petition calling for removing healthcare subsidies for members of Congress and their families. See how they like that.

There are nearly 600,000 signatures on this petition already and it’s heading for a million, so be sure to post the link to the petition on your FaceBook page.

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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.

BOHICA

Reading time – 3:45; Viewing time – 6:41  .  .  .

Critical Action Step – just 4 minutes completion time

This is about dealing with the mother lode of our political dysfunction, so first things first. Click here and read the short, clear text of the proposed 28th Amendment to the Constitution – the We The People Amendment. It’s designed to stop corporate and big money control of your government. Then click here and send the MoveToAmend message to your representative to co-sponsor this vitally important legislation.

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It was just five years ago – maybe you remember when Darrell Issa (R-CA) was chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and he held hearings on the Affordable Care Act requirement to offer birth control as part of the ACA. That the hearings took place is anything but remarkable. What is noteworthy is that Issa refused to call any women as witnesses. Not one. And, no, Sandra Fluke did not testify for Issa’s committee. He refused her, this at the same time Rush Limbaugh was calling her a whore. That no women were included in discussions about birth control is outrageous for at least three reasons:

  1. The birth control in question is entirely that which applies to women. The ACA did not contemplate covering vasectomies. Clearly, women have standing in this discussion.
  2. Because women carry most of the burden of birth control, their views offer insight that men simply cannot provide.
  3. Women represent more than 50% of the American population. When you figure out why over half the citizens of the U.S. should be ignored, be sure to let me know.

That’s just the way today’s Republicans roll and it’s continuing today in House Resolution 610, which they label as a two-parter:

  1. The Choices in Education Act of 2017
  2. The No Hungry Kids Act

What could be bad about choices and well fed kids?

Well, it turns out that this bill is actually designed to do exactly the opposite of the claims its title suggests, so here is a more accurate moniker: the Screw the Constitution and Let the Kids Eat Crap Republican Initiative of 2017.

There are two problems with this legislation. The first is that “choices” means that this is a voucher program that will give public funds (that means your money) to private schools you just might not want to directly support. It also means that your money will go to parents who home school their kids, too. Public money will be diverted from our public education system (the school in your neighborhood) to make these “choices” possible.

Be clear that many of these private schools are parochial. And overwhelmingly, people who home school their kids do so to integrate their religion into basic education. So, to sum that up, the House Resolution is designed to send your money to the pockets of owners of for-profit schools and to religious institutions, while at the same time starving our public schools to death. Good-bye to public education and good-bye to separation of church and state.

The second part of House Resolution 610 removes the requirement that food being offered to kids in school be nutritious, like fruits, vegetables and low fat protein. Instead, the schools that your money will go to will be allowed to stuff any kind of cheap crap down our kids’ throats. This should be a boon to the sugar and saturated fat industries. Really, though, kids don’t make campaign contributions, so who cares about them anyway?

The most egregious part of this is that President Trump, Vice President Pence and Education Secretary Betsy De Vos held a so-called listening session with 10 representatives from the field of education. Only two represented public education full time. It’s the same warped thing that Darrell Issa did regarding birth control.

All of which is to say that the Republican method for investigating any topic and providing solutions to our significant challenges is to decide in advance the outcome they want and then make a sham of the entire process of investigation and sound decision making, to which I say, BOHICA – “Bend over, here it comes again.”

Watch the short video What is HR 610 and How Will It Affect Education? Then follow the simple instructions in the video. At stake is the Constitution and the future of our kids. They shouldn’t be forced to eat crap. Metaphorically, neither should you.

In Other News

What if the blizzard of organizations vying for your attention, action and money could be aggregated under an umbrella that can connect you where you want to be connected and which can help your organization achieve far greater reach?

And what if you want to be better informed without totally disrupting your life?

Say good-bye to the what-ifs, because if you live in the Chicago area your solution is at hand. Come to the information-packed United for Democracy Now meeting on March 25 at 1:00PM and get it all – here’s a link to the FaceBook page. Then just click the GOING button so we reserve space for you and your friends who will accompany you. There’s no cost to attend the meeting, you won’t be hit on for anything and you’ll have a way to get your organization way better connected. Plus, you’ll walk out better informed by the wonderful presenters, who will talk about:

An overview of what’s really happening – like about small business, the ACA and more.

Healthcare – betcha you want to get a handle on what’s really going on and what can be done.

The tar sands oil pipeline – coming soon to an Illinois near you. These things only leak sometimes.

The craziness is unremitting and, as David Corn said, you can’t fact check crazy. But we can be better informed, so this is the meeting you want to attend. And you just might leave a bit more hopeful. Wouldn’t that be refreshing!

BTW: I’m the MC for this meeting – come say hello. I’ll look for you.

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

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.

Guest Essay: What Ails Us

Reading time – 5:55  .  .  .

David Norman is a truly gifted executive coach and a good friend. He is also an erudite cynic, although he doesn’t use the word “erudite” to describe himself. Of course, that’s misplaced humility, because he’s an informed and insightful guy. And as you’ll see, he does use the word “cynic” to describe himself and does so quite deliberately.

He is a careful analyst of reality and has offered the essay that follows. Read his comments with your best critical thinking, because this is a challenge that we are going to have to face. To quote Gene Kranz, Mission Director of the imperiled Apollo XIII flight, “Failure is not an option.”

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First, and as a backdrop, I see myself as a cynic, at least in George Bernard Shaw’s estimation: “The power of accurate observation is called cynicism by those who don’t have it” (The World). It is from this perspective that I opine.

Well known is:

In 1920, H.L. Mencken wrote in the Baltimore Sun, “Civilization, in fact, grows more and more maudlin and hysterical; especially under democracy it tends to degenerate into a mere combat of crazes; the whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, most of them imaginary. The Presidency tends, year by year, to go to such men. As democracy is perfected, the office represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. We move toward a lofty ideal. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.” 

This was quite prescient, especially considering it was written some 96 years ago.

Lesser known, but often being quoted following Trump’s election:

In this 1985 book, Amusing Ourselves to Death, Neil Postman critically examines TV and how, in his basic thesis, it has negatively affected the level of public discourse. In the foreword, Postman examines two dystopian visions, Orwell, in 1984, and Huxley, in Brave New World, who depicted a population too amused by distractions to realize that they had been made powerless. In Chapter 9, “Reach Out and Elect Someone,” Postman examines how political elections have simply become a battle of advertisements, in which candidates develop images meant to work in the same way that commercials do, by offering an abstract image of what the public feels it lacks. “As a result, people no longer vote what is best for them, but rather vote what they are told they lack in their lives” [emphasis added]. Postman ends his work with “The Huxleyan Warning,” in which he returns to the basic premise that Aldous Huxley was right; i.e., that we are too amused by distractions to realize we have been made powerless (excerpts from here).

Amusing Ourselves to Death was published 32 years ago.

One Other Major Influence:

Ronald Reagan, in 1987, eliminated the FCC’s Fairness Doctrine that required the holders of broadcast licenses both to present controversial issues of public importance and to do so in a manner that was honest, equitable and balanced. The doctrine did not require equal time for opposing views but required that contrasting viewpoints be presented.

It is not a coincidence that Fox News was started nine years later by Roger Ailes, ex-media consultant for Reagan, Nixon, and others.

Putting it Together:

The U.S. Population, as a whole, has become desensitized and avoids asking piercing, thought-provoking questions, choosing instead to be led (by the nose ring, as it were) by a TV “talking head” of their preference, one or more who support our limited world view (yet, interestingly enough, we don’t even realize that “our world view” is limited!). We listen, we accept and believe. As a population, we can’t parse actual reality from “reality TV.” Not only do we not turn against TV, we actually become further hijacked by “technologies” (as Postman describes TV, even before social media, et.al.) and worship the words. Facts or alternative facts; it really doesn’t matter. “It” was said on TV; therefore, it is perceived as the truth.

[Quick sidebar: (1) Last year in my role as an executive coach, one business owner stated outright to me, “I hate my wife.” While shocked at the force and brevity of the statement, I asked several open-ended questions to get at the substance. In short, his wife, a stay-at-home-mom, would watch Fox News all day, live in her social media tribes into the late hours and “come to bed angry” every night. (2) Almost five weeks later, another business owner, in our coaching session, said, “I hate my wife .  .  .”  Identical reasons as stated above. Note: Two different wives!  But what a coincidence from a small population, my client base. And how illustrative of our TV-guided mounting anger.]

So, What Does This All Mean Now?

We should not have been surprised by the election results, but we (read that as, my wife and I) were shocked.

My contention and belief is simple: as a population we are not doing any critical thinking. Note that The Texas GOP, in their 2012 platform, “opposed the teaching of Higher Order Thinking (HOTS) .  .  .” We wouldn’t want our citizenry asking critical questions, would we? Yet people are not incapable of learning; many simply refuse to be informed – a willing and perhaps gleeful ignorance, if you will. I do believe, as does Postman, that we have dumbed-down American citizenry to a point that “they” (the ubiquitous, “they”) sit slack jawed, empty-minded in front of the TV believing that (1) Survivor is real, and, (2) listening to those “talking heads” who support their limited view of the world, thereby simply amplifying the noise and static in their heads and anger in their gut.

If, however, you are willing to learn and be informed, and have critical thinking skills (and, apparently, not associated with the Texas GOP), then you could not have mentally transposed Trump’s pre-election rhetoric and proven, egregious behavior into a possibility of him being successful as president. In the run-up to the election I simply dismissed his election as a non-plausible circumstance – it simply couldn’t happen in the U.S., I said multiple times out loud, “Don’t worry, I have more faith in our population.” Yikes! Yet, the signs were in front of me/us all the time, and was I ever fooled.

In summary, and to paraphrase Postman, we have dumbed-down ourselves to death, and have doomed ourselves to have an Orange-Marmoset-On-Head-In-Chief (OMOHIC), armed with Twitter as a megaphone, encouraged by White Supremacists (Bannon and Miller) as earwigs and backed up by three generals as Next-Line-in-Charge.

This is the fire under the boiling cauldron of today’s politics.

Throw into this cauldron an evil witches brew of a public that is increasingly vengeful, fragmented, scared, voiceless and hateful (as not only encouraged by, but also condoned by our OMOHIC). Flavor the mixture with a heavy dose of legislative and, to a certain degree, judiciary dysfunction. What possibly could go wrong?

How could this cauldron of acidic, epic ingredients not boil over into national and/or international conflict?

What’s your answer that question?

“Toute nation a le gouvernement qu’elle mérite.” Joseph de Maistre

Tighten your seat belt; this will be quite a ride!

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Ed. comments:

Following the French Revolution, Joseph de Maistre told us over 200 years ago:

“Toute nation a le gouvernement qu’elle mérite.”

“Every nation gets the government it deserves.”

What government do we in America deserve? Have we done the work of citizenship that is required for a representative democracy to function well for the people? As you’ve seen, our guest essayist suggests we have not. Roger Cohen agrees.

I entitled this offering What Ails Us because it is insufficient to swat at the symptoms of our dysfunction; we must deal with what is causing our national ailing. Don’t imagine for even a moment that Donald Trump is what ails us. He is a symptom, an unavoidable outcome of what we Americans together have put in motion. Figuring this out and repairing it will require critical thinking from everyone, including citizens of Texas, and especially including you. Share your best thinking below.

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

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

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

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