Personhood

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.

Action Alert – TODAY!

Senate LogoReading time – 19 seconds .  .  .

Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) has sponsored a bill to amend the Constitution and has 37 co-sponsors. His bill will overturn corporate rights and begin to get democracy killing big money out of our politics and start us on the road to solving the complex problems that are keeping you from getting what you want. The bill is in committee and is scheduled for debate and a vote on the language of the bill on Wednesday, June 18. The members of the committee need your voice to ensure that they offer an amendment to the full senate that actually makes for positive change we need.

Go to the MoveToAmend.org website here and just follow the instructions. Fast and simple. Make some calls, per their instructions.

I know the frustration and reasonable belief that this won’t change anything, but I assure you that doing nothing is certain not to make things better. So set aside your skepticism for just a few minutes and do this now, because you want this mess of stagnation fixed for you, for your children and for your grandchildren.

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

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

R2D2 And You

A few days after one of my Money, Politics and Democracy presentations, an attendee wrote to me, saying,

“After asking you a question at the DUUC presentation, I went home and began re-reading the Constitution, thinking that the Supreme Court decision re: Citizens United basically indicated that corporations were persons and therefore were entitled to freedom of speech.  I got as far as Article 1 Section 2 [paragraph 2]: ‘No person shall be a Representative .  .  .’ and thought, ‘No corporation could be elected a Representative,’ so how can those esteemed justices equate corporations with persons?  Surely, the Founding Fathers didn’t envision corporations as persons, so those strict constructionist justices violated their own philosophy and stretched the applicability of the amendment to make it possible to rule in favor of corporations.”

It seems an absurd stretch to extend all the rights of human beings to inanimate objects, in this case called “artificial persons” – that seems to be some kind of a legalistic term for corporations – but that is what the court did.

My view is that money is not speech, but instead, quite obviously, is property.  The view of the Supreme Court is that money is the equivalent of speech and, therefore, cannot be regulated.  While I don’t care for their interpretation, at least a  thin case can be made for that equivalency.  For example, it will cost me money to make a documentary based on my Money, Politics and Democracy presentation.  Given that my presentation is an exercise in free speech, the money spent to produce the documentary has some rough equivalency to free speech.  That is a stretch, but, as I said, at least a thin case can be made.

Not so much with rights for “artificial persons”.  In fact, I can make the case that a robot is an “artificial person”, but it is pretty difficult to envision extending all the rights and protections of citizenship to R2D2 or your Roomba robotic vacuum cleaner.

It seems to me that a strict constructionist would see that, strictly speaking, only people are people and that only people are given rights and privileges by the Constitution, a document which makes no mention whatsoever of corporations or “artificial persons”.  Yet somehow we find ourselves with five justices of the Supreme Court who can’t tell the difference between people and robots.

Strangely, an amendment originally designed to protect the then-freed former slaves has now given way to protection of corporations just as though they were flesh and blood human beings.  It seems that for today’s Supreme Court, the 14th Amendment has been lengthened by an additional sentence, such that it now reads:

“No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.  All of the foregoing shall apply equally and without limit to any corporation or institution of any kind or any inanimate object.“ (text in bold italics mine – JA)

And if that is true, then the 1st Amendment protection of free speech applies equally to those same corporations, institutions and inanimate objects.  Just imagine how repugnant the post-Civil War congress of 1868 would find that.

And things may get worse.

In the McCutcheon v. FEC case now before the Supreme Court the plaintiff seeks to remove all limits to political contributions.  Should those five justices continue to fail to understand consequences and continue to be unable to make simple differentiations that are readily apparent to most of us, then our politicians and our government will go to the highest bidder and the sale of our American democracy will be complete.

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News Bulletin from AT News
Dateline: Washington DC

 
The Washington Redskins are changing their name because of all the hatred, violence, and hostility associated with that word.
From now on they will be known simply as the Redskins.

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

Voices

VoicesEighty percent of Americans who know of the over-reaching, legislation-from-the-bench Supreme Court decision in the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission case – the one that ensured unlimited money influencing our politics – want it reversed.  That number varies by just a handful of percentage points, depending on respondents’ political views.  This issue is the venue where ultra-left tree huggers and hair-on-fire Tea Party members can join hands, sing Kumbaya and wave Don’t Tread On Me flags, all at the same time.  The trick in getting action on this is to expand the number of Americans who know about the CU decision so that we can exert sufficient pressure on lawmakers to pass the 28th Amendment to the Constitution to get big money out of our political process.

It was to that educational purpose that I crafted the Money, Politics and Democracy program that I have been delivering to various local groups for the better part of a year.  I delivered it last week to a fledgling group in DuPage and Will Counties who care enough about this issue to leave their front porches on a lovely summer evening and sit in a hot meeting room in order to learn.

Be clear that I have another motive in my talk.  It is to motivate people to take action.  And it is to that point that I direct you to an essay by Jesmyn Ward in today’s New York Times entitled A Cold Current.  Her story is about racism, the devaluing of people by “othering” and how we react to that.  There is a parallel to her story in today’s economically punitive America.

Think about the America you believe in, the one you want to leave to your children and grandchildren.  Look deep into your notion of The American Dream.  You better think about it, because we are crafting the America we will bequeath to your descendents right now.  It is just possible that the dream that you hold dear for your dear ones and yourself is a different dream than that dreamed by the leaders of our pharmaceutical industry, our energy barons, the fabulously wealthy individuals – the 1%.  That is because those people are exactly like everyone else in this sense:  We all act in what we believe to be our best interests.

I don’t even remotely imagine that the Koch brothers arise every day with sights on the evil they might do or the mischief they can create for most Americans.  As the titans of Big Pharma spent $390 per second fighting Obamacare, they weren’t doing it to ensure that our healthcare system remains the worst among industrialized nations.  Neither do the leaders of the American Petroleum Institute air its television ads with the pretty blonde in a black pants suit in order to create more super-hurricanes like Katrina and Sandy so that more Americans might suffer and die.  They do those things because it is in their financial best interests to do what they do, so they spend the big money to make their voices heard.  It is all about the voices.

So, rather than putting your effort into demonizing the big bucks class in America, your energy needs to be focused on making your voice heard.  Let go of any notion of instant gratification, because this is a long term push.  Just understand this:  If you don’t make your voice heard, people with a very different dream for America from the one you believe in will have their voices heard, because they will be the only ones talking.

Now go read Jesmyn Ward’s piece.  Read it first for her message about racism.  Then read it again and substitute “classism” and you’ll understand.

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

Crunch Time For Illinois Residents

Uncle Sam Wants YouThere are times that require that we stand up and say what we stand for.  This is one of those times in Illinois.

I’ve written extensively about big money being the mother lode driving the dysfunction in our politics and this is a critical time for doing something about that.

We are very close to Illinois becoming the 15th State to pass a formal resolution to demand the overturn of Citizens United, the Supreme Court decision that is eating at the core of our democracy.

With the help of so many Illinoisans, Senate Joint Resolution 0027 (SRJ0027) passed both the Illinois State Senate and the Illinois House Judiciary Committee and is on the way to the floor of the House for a vote.  We need only one more vote to pass the resolution and send a powerful message to Congress that we want our America back.  With your help, we’ll be able to start solving our very large challenges, like getting Congress to pass meaningful gun legislation, as 90% of Americans want.

Please call your Illinois state representative (not your state senator) and ask him/her to VOTE YES ON SJR0027 when it comes up for a floor vote, which may happen in the next 24 hours.

If you don’t know who your state representative is:

In Cook County, go to: http://www.cookcountyclerk.com/elections/deo/Pages/default.aspx and input your address (number, street name and zip only). Then scroll down to the Illinois House of Representatives section to find contact information for your representative.

In Lake County, http://www.lakecountyil.gov/IWantTo/Find/Maps/Pages/ClosetoHome.aspx.  Follow the 4-step process to find contact information for your representative.

THEN PICK UP THE PHONE AND TELL THEM YOU WANT YOUR REPRESENTATIVE TO VOTE YES ON SRJ0027.

Thanks for all you  do!

“If someone like you doesn’t care a whole lot,
nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”  – Dr. Seuss

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

A Special Kind of Nuts

th_mixednutl

North Carolina’s recently introduced House Joint Resolution 494 tells us that, “.  .  .  each state is sovereign and may independently determine how the state may make laws respecting an establishment of religion .  .  . ,” and that, “.  .  . the North Carolina General Assembly does not recognize federal court rulings which prohibit and otherwise regulate the State of North Carolina, its public schools, or any political subdivisions of the State from making laws respecting an establishment of religion.”  It seems that the state of North Carolina may soon be free of that pesky First Amendment, right up until the time that the Supreme Court of the United States lets them know in a 9 – 0 decision that they are a special kind of nuts.  That will be the end of a legal process that will have cost the state of North Carolina millions of dollars over a brainless political ploy.

Elsewhere, the good citizens of North Dakota will have the scientifically interesting prospect of voting on a new amendment to their state constitution in November, 2014.  The science connection exists because their duly elected state legislators just voted to place on that ballot a referendum for a state amendment that would declare that a human egg penetrated by a sperm is a human being immediately upon their connecting and it has all the unalienable rights of citizenship.  It’s called the “personhood amendment” to their state constitution.

Not to be outdone, the braniacs in the state legislature of Kansas have overwhelmingly passed a bill that declares human life to begin “at fertilization.”  Further, the Kansas legislation will proscribe the information that doctors must provide to pregnant women and to those who might become pregnant, apparently believing that the politicians know more about medicine than do the physicians.

Note that Kansas is the home of the State Board of Education that a few years ago declared that evolution is just a theory.  The board mandated the teaching of “intelligent design,” which is creationism in a different wrapper.  I haven’t checked their genealogical charts, but I suspect that those Kansas Board of Education members are related through unhealthy intermarriage to the geniuses in North Carolina who think it’s okay for them to establish a state religion.

The most poignant part of the current “personhood” effort in Kansas was provided by State Senator Steve Fitzgerald (R – Leavenworth), who is quoted as saying, “The human is a magnificent piece of work at all stages of development .  .  .“  Who could argue with that?

The problem, of course, is the stage of development we’re talking about.  It appears that the Republican legislatures of those states and those of about 13 others doing similar things had their development arrested around the Pleistocene era, about the time the first human beings scratched on the walls of caves.

Senator Fitzgerald, you and your fellow mental luddites in governments all around America are, indeed, a piece of work, a special kind of nuts.

After the 9/11 attack we heard demands from the Muslim extremist world for a return to the fundamentals of Islam, as they understood them.  These are the same principles that punish petty theft by hacking off a hand of the perp and which make women the property of men.  We decried their backward demands as an attempt to return to primitive, dark ages ways.  Yet here we are in America doing the same kind of regression.

It falls to those of us who think that science and learning are good things and who accept actual, fact-based reality to figure out what is behind this national rush to primitive thinking and then to redirect America to a sane path.  So, you better help others remember the current insanity when it’s time to vote in November, 2014 and 2016.  If you let these primitive deniers of reality off the hook, things will get worse.

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

It’s The System, Stupid

There was a small article in the September 25, 2011 edition of the New York Times reporting on demonstrations that are continuing around Wall Street.  The piece was in a corner of page 18 and was short and bland.  The protest was happening in Manhattan and arguably was a major event in the home city to The New York Times, yet the newspaper barely mentioned it and this apparently self-inflicted self-blinding was happening throughout our national media, as mention of the demonstrations was rare.  That is in stark contrast to how extensive the coverage might have been had this been a Tea Party demonstration, given our national obsession with the radical right, and this vacuum of attention is significant.

The Citizens United v. FEC case, decided last year by a radical Supreme Court, has effectively made American politics exponentially more beholden to corporate influence, since we are now informed that corporations are people and have the same rights as those of us made of flesh and blood, especially the right to contribute boxcars of money to political campaigns.  Of course, only corporations have the means to fill those boxcars, so America is now one giant step closer to becoming a de facto corporatocracy instead of a democracy and that is ominous, indeed, for actual human beings.

W. Edwards Deming taught quality in manufacturing to the Japanese after WW II (after American titans of industry ignored him) and, to offer just one example of the result, the Toyota Camry has been the most popular sedan in America for decades.  One of Deming’s most important lessons is that when there is a problem, we should look first not to the individuals involved, but to the system that drives individual behavior.  That is precisely where we should look to remedy our political paralysis and the obsessive quest for dumb in Washington.

Our political campaigns are hideously expensive, so much so that our politicians and would-be politicians have to spend about half their time both during campaigns and while in office just raising money, which means that they are set up to be at the mercy of the donors of big bucks.  No matter if every legislator inside the Beltway is an Eagle Scout or its equivalent, they cannot afford to stop searching for their mother lode of cash if they are to achieve office and stay there.  That is simply how our system functions.

The most significant reason for our hideously expensive political campaigns is the cost of advertising on television, with cable companies and other major news and entertainment media outlets.  They, of course, are corporations and serve their own interests.  Should we do anything to curtail political spending with them, those media outlets would be financially harmed, so it’s not in their interests to change the system.  Perhaps that’s why you’ve seen so little coverage of those Wall Street protests to do exactly that – change the system.

To state the obvious, corporations have more money than individual citizens.  That results in the voices of the corporations being far louder than all the rest of us can shout.  Some of the loudest voices come from Wall Street.  That’s why those thousands of people are on the streets of so many cities all around this country, “occupying Wall Street.”

If we are to have a democracy in America we cannot have corporatocracy – the two are mutually exclusive.  And if we don’t change the system, the future is both certain and very dark for Americans.

There are people who are going about finding ways to change the system and ensure our democracy and you can find an excellent review at this web site, and also at www.MoveToAmend.org.

You can also sign Dylan Ratigan’s petition to change campaign funding at:

Just understand that your choice is to live in a participatory democracy or to be a serf to the corporations.  The good news is that you still get to choose.  The bad news is that the clock is ticking.

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

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