Patriotism

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.

Should I Run?

Reading time – 1:47; Viewing time – 3:01 .  .  .

I spent a year investigating running for Congress in 2011-2012 and decided against doing so because of all the begging for money that’s required to run for and stay in office. Since that time I’ve focused my efforts to make a difference into keynote presentations about how big money is stealing our democracy, as well as offering this series of posts. With the 2018 election just 17 months away and our election cycle now a perpetual thing, it’s time for me to reconsider.

Should I decide to proceed, I certainly want to do what works, so I’ve started to craft my campaign platform. Here’s my thinking to date:

  1. Legalize these words:
    1. Best words
    2. I alone
    3. Wall
    4. Believe me
    5. Lock her up
    6. Russia
    7. Crooked Hillary
    8. Little Marco
    9. Low energy Jeb
    10. Let me tell you, folks
  2. Repeal the law of climate change
  3. Taxes for rich people cut in half
  4. 100% protection from self-immolation via tweets
  5. Comprehensive healthcare for all rich people
  6. Detention camps for Muslims
  7. Shut down all newspapers and develop electronic muzzles for cable news and online anything
  8. Forget baseball: Make lying our official national pastime and impose penalties for telling the truth
  9. A new National Secrets Act that rewards the passing of top secret information to adversaries
  10. A full roll on every TP holder

That last item, of course, is more than because it’s a nice thing, like legally requiring all shopping carts to track straight. The real reason is because Special Counsel Robert Mueller is just starting to crank up his investigation and by the time he’s done it’s likely we’ll all be pretty sick over what’s been done in our name, so we’re going to need that tenth item.

Let me know what else you think should be in my platform in order to win.

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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.

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.

Love Thy Who?

Reading time – 3:43; Viewing time – 5:41  .  .  .

At an evening meeting on April 20th the discussion drifted to the issue of our political divide. The characterization of Trump voters included words like moron, racist, ignorant and a few other choice descriptors. The demonizing fell from lips as easily as rain from the sky – or manure from a barnyard animal – my protestations notwithstanding.

It’s just a guess on my part, but I don’t think character assassinations will be anything but destructive, this in a time when more than ever we need to come together to solve perhaps the largest accumulation of Gordian knot challenges we have faced.

Our vexing political divide is the focus of this post.

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Ezra Klein and Alvin Chang did a report on the issue of political identity – our political divide – for Vox entitled “Political identity is fair game for hatred”: how Republicans and Democrats discriminate. They found what you already know to be true, that we politically polarized Americans seem to be unable even to talk with our neighbors who hold political views different from our own. People are even selecting where they will live based upon whether the neighbors are politically aligned with them. And woe be to a daughter or son who marries someone with membership in the other political party.

The dysfunction we see among politicians is exaggerated because we tend to elect zealots; however, we’re not doing a very good job ourselves of even tolerating our “other party” neighbors, much less loving them. Indeed, we seem to be in an age where “other-ing” is not just accepted, but is encouraged.

In my pal Brian Muldoon’s book, The Heart of Conflict, he identifies what he sees as the fundamental reason people are so often unable to talk about differing religious beliefs without the conversation devolving into conflict. He says that it’s because any challenge to our fundamental beliefs challenges our sense of identity and that shakes our tectonic plates, so we go into fight-or-flight mode the same way our caveman ancestors treated threatening saber tooth tigers.

It appears that our political views have reached the same kind of base-of-the-skull level. As Klein and Chang write in their article, “  .  .  . rising political polarization was showing something more fundamental than political disagreement – it was tracking the transformation of party affiliation into a form of personal identity that reached into almost every aspect of our lives.”

It seems to me that invites fight-or-flight into arenas where there are no actual mortal threats; nevertheless, we treat ordinary opinions – like political differences – in the same life-or-death manner we do religious differences.

In the face of this we’re told to love our (“different from me”) neighbors. That’s a tough assignment for we human beings.

Nevertheless, that is the assignment. Should we fail to complete the assignment and get a great grade, our democracy will be at mortal risk. We better figure out how to do something other than fighting or fleeing.

In other news

House Joint Resolution 48 is what we need. It’s what I’ve been calling for in my presentations to groups all over the country since that dark January day in 2010. This is a cure for the deepest ailment of our democracy.

HJR 48 is a bill to reverse the tsunami of corporate and fat cat cash in our politics that was unleashed by the disastrous Citizens United decision. The bill currently has 23 cosponsors; that’s where you come in.

Call your representative now and request that s/he cosponsor this critically important bill. Do this even if your representative is already a cosponsor – they need your support for this.

To find your rep’s phone number, go to www.House.gov and enter your zip code in the box in the top-right corner of the page. Then pick up your phone, dial it and tell the nice staffer who answers that you are a constituent and you want your rep to cosponsor HJR 48.

Do it now, and we’ll slay this mother of our political dysfunction.

Finally, we have a whole new level of stupid coming from Washington. From The Root:

Paul Reickhoff

According to the Military Times, House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Phil Roe (R-Tenn.) has drafted legislation that would charge soldiers $100 a month for access to the GI Bill. The bill would deduct a total of $2,400 from each soldier’s paycheck to make them eligible.

“Pushing this GI Bill tax proposal on troops in a time of war is political cowardice,” said Paul Reickhoff, CEO of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America “Some politicians would rather make backroom deals than raise taxes or find other ways to support our troops as bombs continue to fall overseas.”

Let’s see, the geniuses in DC want to send our young off to fight and die for the oil we have to stop using if we’re to avoid hard boiling the planet, and also in order to fill monstrous political egos. As a way to say thanks, our legislators want to tax our troops.

Yes, really.

Bonus Section

Watch this Vox piece for clarity about cable news manipulation and the advancement of “alternative facts.”

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

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

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

What 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.

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.

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.

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.

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