Science

Eye Opening

Reading time – 3:13; Viewing time – 5:30  .  .  .

I’m still trying to figure this out and I think I’m making progress. Reality keeps telling me that I better hurry it up.

Why did people vote for Donald Trump even when he promised to do things that would harm them?

It’s easy to dismiss such people as ignorant or stupid. It’s also both factually inaccurate and counterproductive. First, nobody wakes up on election day and decides to do something harmful to themselves. We all act in what we perceive to be our best interests and feel we have good, sensible reasons to back that up. Second, if you want to encourage someone to see things in a different way, starting with, “You’re stupid,” probably won’t be useful, so a different approach is called for. In very short order that is going to become critically important. Stay with me to see why.

Sarah Kliff wrote a most interesting article in Vox entitled Why Obamacare enrollees voted for Trump. The sub-head is “In Whitley County, Kentucky, the uninsured rate declined 60 percent under Obamacare. So why did 82 percent of voters there support Donald Trump?” Good question.

The short answer comes from a woman living in the area who signed up thousands of people for Obamacare and then voted for Trump. Interviewed by Kliff, she said, “I found with Trump, he says a lot of stuff. I just think all politicians promise you everything and then we’ll see. It’s like when you get married — ‘Oh, honey, I won’t do this, oh, honey, I won’t do that.’” Kliff later reports, “I kept hearing informed voters, who had watched the election closely, say they did hear the promise of repeal [of Obamacare] but simply felt Trump couldn’t repeal a law that had done so much good for them. In fact, some of the people I talked to hope that one of the more divisive pieces of the law — Medicaid expansion — might become even more robust, offering more of the working poor a chance at the same coverage the very poor receive.”

In other words, they heard Trump’s message that he would repeal Obamacare and simply didn’t believe it. Here’s another example.

Watch the “Bernie Sanders in Trump Country” discussion that was aired on Chris Hayes’ program on MSNBC on December 12 and pay special attention to the panel members. They consistently expressed the same views as Kliff’s interviewees in Kentucky. They just figured that Trump was saying what he needed to say to get elected and, once elected, would do whatever these people viewed as the right thing, even when the right thing was in conflict with what Trump said he would do.

Before you slip into smug mode, wondering what kind of fools these people might be, consider what you expected from Barack Obama in 2008. There’s a good chance that you imagined that he would consistently do the right thing. Later it’s possible you were disappointed in him for failing your right thing test.

There’s a psychological term for hearing what we want to hear and dismissing as insignificant what we don’t want to hear. It’s called confirmation bias and we are all subject to our own version of self-delusion powered by that bias.

Here’s the bottom line to this: Be slow to ridicule Trump voters as stupid or ignorant or racist (yes, clearly some of the really loud ones are that). All that most of them were doing in this past election was being human. And they will respond to you a lot better when they realize that you respect them. In fact, that may be the key both to understanding what happened in this election and, more important, the key to a better future for you and our democracy.

Millions of voters have buyer’s remorse right now because they really voted against establishment Hillary, not for Trump. And they got Trump and now they are horrified. It’s time to respectfully invite them to join you and others to do something to stop the extremist agenda of the oligarchs and generals who are about to take the reins of power.

Not convinced that’s happening? Go here and here and click through the links there to learn what this open season of American hatred looks like. And as you do that, recognize that this brutality is sanctioned from the top. Protections you take for granted are on the edge of being eliminated by Presidential cabinet appointments, people who are dedicated to eliminating the agencies they will lead, the ones that now provide those protections you take for granted.

There is extreme danger on the very near horizon and we better make our voices heard. And we better reach the millions of Americans who voted for Trump and are now horrified so that they make their voices heard along with ours.

On a livestream on the 19th there was a critical clarity that was offered: Love doesn’t trump hate; Organizing trumps hate. As I have written repeatedly, if things are to change for the better, we’ll actually have to do something.

So, now that you see the looming danger and understand Trump voters a little better, get up, get involved and get organized – while we still can.

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

What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

ptsd2Reading time – 3:46; Viewing time – 6:44  – longer than most, still respectful of your time  .  .  .

NOTE: Email addresses listed in the prior blog have been repaired. If that kept you from taking action, please make your voice heard right now – tomorrow is too late.

Let’s see what we have now for Trump administration picks to run our country – just a little taste test. Note that the first three do not require Senate confirmation. We’re stuck with them.

Steve Bannon is Trump’s Chief Strategist. Bannon is the former chairman of Breitbart News, an Alt-Right (i.e. White Supremacist, hate mongering, lying) website of – dare I say it? – scum bucket fake news stories and attacks. And this guy will have the President’s ear full time. What could possibly go wrong? Late addition: Click here and scroll down to section IV to learn about Bannon’s possibly treasonous activities that would invite Russia into the White House.

Rience Priebus, former head of the Republican National Committee with an exceptionally fluid connection to facts and reality, has been named as Trump’s Chief of Staff. That means that Priebus will largely be in charge of who and what comes before the President of the United States. What could possibly go wrong?

Michael Flynn has been named Trump’s National Security Advisor. Flynn is the guy who was fired from the Defense Intelligence Agency for his flamboyant and fatuous notions and ways. He had the astoundingly poor judgment to retweet anti-Semitic comments and to tweet fake news 16 times in the last few months. He even had the complete lack of sense and absence of good judgment to tweet baseless, brainless nonsense about non-existent Hillary emails, supposedly connecting her with money laundering and sex crimes with children (the so-called “Pizzagate”). With Flynn as the nation’s National Security Advisor, what could possibly go wrong?

Jeff Sessions is Trump’s nominee for Attorney General. This is the same Jeff Sessions who was rejected for a federal judgeship a few years back because he’s a racist and a segregationist. As a senator from Alabama, he’s opposed nearly every piece of immigration legislation that’s come before him. The AG is the one in charge of deciding which cases will be prosecuted – that is to say, which laws will be enforced. With a segregationist and anti-immigrant in charge of our civil rights laws, again, what could possibly go wrong?

Scott Pruitt to head the E.P.A. is a noteworthy choice. As the Oklahoma Attorney General he sued the E.P.A. repeatedly and berated it, saying it was anti-energy. He dislikes E.P.A. regulations – you know, those pesky things that, for example, keep corporations from polluting our water – and he is a de facto climate warming denier. With those bona fides at the head of the agency, what could possibly go wrong?

Dr. Ben Carson is Trump’s pick to head the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Carson has repeatedly declared that he has no experience in running anything other than a neurosurgery. While his doctoring skills may be fine, they don’t qualify him to run any agency of government at any level. He’s clueless. So, what could possibly go wrong there?

Retired General James Mattis is Trump’s pick for Defense Secretary. Most acknowledge that Mattis is a capable fellow, but he retired only three years ago from the military and our laws require that he be separated from the military for at least seven years to hold such a position (it used to be ten years). Oddly, Trump seems to believe that flaunting the law is okay (go figure). But the seven year limitation is there for a reason – so that we maintain civilian control over our military. Conservatives should be all over this as a flagrant attempt to violate the law and Mattis should go find something to do that is both useful and legal. Otherwise, we will have codified lawbreaking. What could possibly go wrong from that?

Betsy DeVos is Trump’s nominee to be Education Secretary. This is the same Betsy DeVos who wants to reform education to “advance God’s kingdom” and wants to use “school choice” to do that. Be clear that school choice means vouchers of public money doled out to spend on kids’ education in private religious schools. So much for separation of church and state. There’s way more to DeVos’ lunacy, but the key here is that she is an opponent of public education, a religious zealot who wants to run this country according to the laws of the Bible (are you ready to stone adulterers?) and she’s Trump’s pick for Education Secretary. What could possibly go wrong?

Saving the most insane for last, Rex Tillerson, CEO of Exxon/Mobil, is the nominee for Secretary of State. He proudly signed a $500 billion deal with Vladimir Putin and his government’s 70% share of Russia’s state oil company to drill in the Arctic and the Gulf of Mexico. Tillerson was awarded Russia’s BFF (Best Friends Forever) award by Putin himself. Everyone agrees that national defense, the security of our nation, is the primary job of the federal government. How is this guy, who cozies up to our key adversary, going to look out for America’s national security interests? Oh, and by the way, Trump wants John Bolton to be Tillerson’s sidekick. That’s the same John Bolton who thinks we should nuke Iran and insists to this day that Saddam Husein had the weapons of mass destruction that reality has proven never existed. With Tillerson and Bolton at the Department of State, what could possibly go wrong?

There are more nominations we can examine (including a nominee for Treasury Secretary who’s direct from Goldman Sachs, a woman to head the Small Business Administration who’s a reality TV mogul, heading World Wrestling Entertainment, a Labor Secretary who opposes overtime pay and is anti-labor, an Energy Secretary who wants to eliminate the Department of Energy – the list goes on) but the point is clear.

Trump promised to drain the swamp, but instead has brought before us establishment types and billionaires who are blatantly at odds with the agencies they would lead. Given the power in their hands, each would worsen the condition of ordinary (read: not billionaire) Americans. There is nothing that can be done to excise those who do not require Senate approval; that swamp will remain polluted. For all the rest,

senators-stop

Otherwise, we will, indeed, find out exactly what could go wrong.

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

Some Answers and a Pinch

Reading time – 2:15; Viewing time – 3:23  .  .  .

In the midst of your shock, grief and whatever else you felt following the 2016 general election, perhaps you questioned what you can do to mitigate the damage that is likely to be done, based upon the pledges of cruelty and the crushing of our culture of diversity that Trump promised during the election campaign. It turns out there’s plenty you can do and it’s critical that you do it.

Let’s start here: In a statement from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum just days after the election, they wrote, “The Holocaust didn’t start with killings; it began with words.” With the election season over and Donald Trump preparing to be the next President, the haters feel emboldened to lash out with horrific words and actions, so let’s first consider what you can do about that.

Download The Southern Poverty Law Center’s excellent guide, Ten Ways to Fight Hate because the really bad stuff is already happening. For yet more evidence, here’s a list of some of what was chronicled on just the first day following the election and here is an ongoing chronicling of hate acts from around the country. This is the kind of stuff that makes it mandatory to read the SPLC’s guide and take action. And there is more to do.

Download and read Rep. Jerry Nadler’s (D-NY) essay, How We Resist Trump and His Extreme Agenda. It is the job of our elected officials to represent us and they need the muscle of our support in order to be effective. He makes clear what is at stake and offers specific actions you can take.

Watch John Oliver’s final show of the season and review his recommendations for action (beginning about 18:25 in his program). A linked summary of his suggestions of support plus others (courtesy of SG, BW and DH)  is listed below to help you to focus on supporting what you believe in.

Women’s Health: Planned Parenthood

Reproductive Rights: Center For Reproductive Rights

Feminist issues: National Organization For Women and, edgier, Bitch Media

Global Warming: National Resources Defense Council and This Spaceship Earth

Environment: The Environmental Defense Fund and Sierra Club

Victims of terrorism: International Refugee Assistance Project

Race issues: NAACP Legal Defense Fund

Gender issues: The Trevor Project for LGBTQ Youth and Human Rights Campaign for LGBTQ

Hispanic issues: The Mexican American Legal Defense Fund

Freedom of the press: Subscribe to the New York Times or the Washington Post or your local newspaper; donate to ProPublica

Civil rights: American Civil Liberties Union

Immigration issues: Get your city council to make your town a sanctuary city.

General: Write to your Representative and Senators with your views – often. They count the clicks, calls and letters and that influences their voting. Go to www.senate.gov and www.house.gov for contact information.

Get it? As John Oliver says, it isn’t enough to nod heads in agreement with those in your bubble. You actually have to do something to protect what you hold dear. Here’s a little clarity about what that means.

Our Special Forces are composed of some of the most highly trained and physically fit people in the world. They are pushed beyond any limits they thought they had or might reasonably recognize. When one of them is at the point of exhaustion and tells his team he can’t go on, the response is, “So what?” Exhaustion doesn’t matter for these people because there is a critical mission which must be completed successfully.

It’s hard. Perhaps it hurts. Maybe doing yet more seems impossible. Yet all of that doesn’t matter, because of the imperative of the mission.

We need to be clear that we are at that same point right now.

dante-inferno-moral-crisisWe have a critical mission to protect America from those who would harm her. People will suffer unless we step up and do what must be done. And then do it again and again.

Take action even if it’s hard. Give your money even if it pinches a bit. This is a long term mission – it will take years to do this – so accept that pinch as a confirmation that you are doing your part to do the right thing for this critical mission.

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

I Got It Wrong

Declaration of IndependenceReading time – 2:39; Viewing time – 4:08  .  .  .

I’ve long lamented the lack of a clear vision for America from our leaders and our candidates. They promote various programs, laws and policies but never seem to connect them to a clear statement about the kind of country we want, effectively swatting at symptoms with a ready, fire, aim methodology, which has brought us to our current condition.

Then it came to me. It’s right there in the Declaration of Independence:

We hold these truths to be self-evident:

That all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; that, to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed;

And it’s in the Preamble to the Constitution:

We the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect Union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity  .  .  .

It’s the whole thing. The Big Picture. The reason. The why. It isn’t a slick campaign bumper sticker slogan, like “Shining city on a hill” or “Morning in America,” so those passages from long ago take a bit more effort to remember and they aren’t neatly organized into a single, focus-grouped focal point, but instead have a number of points. Still, the intent is pretty clear. Our problem seems to lie in the wrong-headed efforts that do not lead to that intent.

For example, the Glass-Steagall Act was passed in 1933 as a barrier to bank failure in order to prevent another Great Depression. One of its provisions prohibited any combination of business practices from among three financial functions that included commercial banking (home mortgages, savings accounts, etc.), speculative investment banking and the insurance business. That worked pretty well until 1999 when the Newt Gingrich Congress sent a bill to President Bill Clinton that repealed Glass-Steagall and he signed it into law. That led to things like collateralized debt obligations, derivatives and a number of other financial products that pretty much nobody understood, not even the smart guys. It was Las Vegas style gambling with your money but without your consent and you never even held the dice. The result was the 2008-2009 economic meltdown that nearly crippled the entire world economy. The removal of the Glass-Steagall restrictions did, indeed promote the general welfare, but only for already rich people. It didn’t promote the general welfare of the country or of most of its people. It was classic congressional action that was absent of focus on the vision.

Another example is our election system that puts candidates on their knees begging for campaign contributions from, say, the NRA. That does a great job of promoting the general welfare of the gun industry, but it most assuredly doesn’t insure domestic tranquility.

Billions of dollars of subsidies go to the fossil fuel industries each year and that is great for the welfare of those companies. But the subsidized use of their products is starting to cause the streets of Miami Beach to flood. It’s causing severe storms in some areas of the world and drought in others and is slowly but at an increasing pace choking the planet. Without question that is an assault on our unalienable right to life, yet we continue the subsidies and fail to promote an all-hands-on-deck sustainable energy strategy that would support our citizens’ right to life.

So, I got it wrong. There most surely is a vision. We just have a remarkable facility for losing focus on it.

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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: Please offer your comments below and pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe.  Thanks!  JA

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

National Courage

 Source: http://www.worldometers.info/world-population/

World Population – Source: http://www.worldometers.info/world-population/

Reading time – 2:10 – Viewing time – 5:29  .  .  . 

When there were just one billion people (about 1804), this planet was able to tolerate a lot of abuse in various forms of pollution, including fouling of lakes and rivers, putting toxic gasses into the air and dumping nasty materials into the ground. The ratio of humans to planet was just too great for us to have lasting, significant impact.

As we now approach eight billion people, the ratio is vastly different and human impact on the Earth is both obvious and threatening. That leaves us just two options for actions to save ourselves from substantial danger.

First, we can take steps to reduce the pollution that we create and perhaps even reverse some of it. That will take a united and sustained global effort if we are to avert wars over fresh water and food. It is hoped that such an effort has been started with the accords developed at the Paris Climate Conference in December, 2015, attended by 195 nations. The fundamental agreement is that each nation is to devise its own plan. What is needed, of course, is for all to follow through both with plans and with actions.

The second thing we can do is to cause world population to stabilize and then decrease, because obviously, with fewer people we will have a reduced impact on the planet. Accomplishing that is the trick.

Jonathan Swift offered us direction on that with his 1729 offering to ease the burden of the poor in Ireland by selling their children as food, this in his powerful work, A Modest Proposal. What could be simpler and have the twofer advantage of both decreasing the population and helping with food shortages?

With that clear and compelling logic in mind, I suggest that we are already on a similar journey and offer these examples:

Let’s face the facts.

We stubbornly refuse to change our lifestyle habits and that’s good, because that helps to solve our population problem.

Interestingly, there are now more homicides by firearms each year than deaths due to car crashes. Part of that is due to the safety systems now built into our cars, like seat belts, air bags, ABS brakes, traction control and newer features like frontal crash protection. There is even some braniac’s invention of a system to keep your car in its lane, even when you’re distracted by texting something that’s so important that it can’t wait for you to stop the car.

Unfortunately, all of those automobile safety features run counter to our desired reduction of the population, so some serious consideration should be given to abandoning all of them and bringing back the days when holiday weekends were marked by tallying the hundreds of fatal car crashes across the nation.

For the gun part of this issue, it’s time to stop pretending that background checks, fingerprint ID and trigger locks are good things. It’s time for a national return to both open and concealed carry, with all adult citizens being required to carry a loaded gun. That will bring us back to the days of the Old West and we will be able to settle our differences quickly and help to reduce over-population and pollution all at the same time.

As for the suicides of military veterans, we may have to become better at this, as there are roughly 21.8 million vets in America, so the 22 suicides per day probably won’t have sufficient impact to make a dent on our over-population problem. Perhaps we can entirely eliminate PTSD treatment for returning vets and also string out medical attention for war-related injuries even longer.

Source: “NIH Research Funding Rebounds in President’s FY 2016 Budget”, by, Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology

Finally, and perhaps obviously, it’s time to end our mania over disease treatment and prevention. Infectious diseases have the same potential today to solve a great many of our population challenges as they did during the bubonic plague in medieval Europe and the influenza epidemic in the early 20th century. Sadly, we have recently taken a step in a counterproductive direction.

As you can see from the dashed light blue line on the chart on the right, we have wisely been reducing funding  for the National Institutes of Health for 13 years. Just this year, though, in a wrong-headed move, the President increased funding just slightly. That will have the long term effect of increasing our population and pollution problems. What could he have been thinking?

Clearly, there are things we can do to increase our death rate and achieve our goals. All we need is our national gift for innovation and the courage to rededicate ourselves to continue on our path.

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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: Please offer your comments below and pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe.  Thanks!  JA

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

Stupidity – a Reminder

Reading time – 77 seconds; Viewing time – 3:18  .  .  .

Ed. note: This post was originally published in summer, 2015, but this is the start of our primaries and it’s time to pay attention and take action.

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Said Harlan Ellison, “The most common elements in the universe are hydrogen and stupidity.” That is cynical and harsh, yes, but there surely is an element of truth to be found in that statement. Let me offer a simple syllogism:

Doing self-destructive things is stupid.

We Americans are doing self-destructive things.

Therefore, we Americans are stupid.

Perhaps your mind is instantly pushing back on that condemnation. Fair enough, yet here is a short, off-the-top-of-my-head list to make my case:

  1. We are largely ignoring the threat of climate warming that shows us every day that the planet is going to hard boil us. Evidence of our folly: We subsidize fossil fuel industries and pay scant lip service to non-carbon based energy sources, all of which makes things worse.
  2. After nearly forty years of failure, we still practice the same supply-side, trickle down economics that has forced millions of Americans into poverty. Worse, we keep electing the same self-serving politicians who perpetuate this reverse Robin Hood of ensuring the stuffing of the pockets of the wealthy and subsistence and hopelessness for the masses.
  3. We have waged roughly 50 years of near-continuous war, largely because we have tolerated a spineless Congress that abdicates its responsibility and caves to the war profiteers.
  4. We have allowed our state governments to abdicate their financial responsibilities for the deferred pay owed to state workers. That may put millions into retirement age peril by denying them the pensions they earned.
  5. The First Amendment gives us freedom of speech and that includes the right to lobby Congress. However, we have allowed huge corporations not to just speak, but to control our laws and regulations. That has given us more guns and murders per capita than any other western nation, crops that are designed primarily to resist ever-greater applications of toxic pesticides, rather than delivering safe, nutritious food  – the list could go on and on.
  6. We have passively allowed the need for huge amounts of money to control our elections so that now we hear more about campaign fund raising than we hear from candidates about their proposals for the betterment of America.

All of that and more goes on because we fail to show up on election day. That’s self-destructive. stupid.

Your primary election is coming up soon – here’s a link to a primary election calendar. Find yours and put it on your personal calendar. Do it now.

The general election for all of us is on Tuesday, November 8, 2016. Put that date on your calendar now, too.

Then VOTE! Can’t find a great candidate? Then pick the least bad one, because failing to vote isn’t an act of rebellion: it’s surrender.

Failing to vote is, well, stupid. And you’re too smart to do that. So, show up and vote.

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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.

ACTION STEP: Please offer your comments below and pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe.  Thanks!  JA

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

What Should We Do?

Reading time – 121 upsetting seconds  .  .  .

WARNING: People are being murdered, but you might not care. Have a look at this and you’ll understand. Then come back here for an eye-opener.

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I’m a curious guy, so when a horrific event unfolds, one of my first reactions is to wonder what’s behind the event, pushing it to its terrible end. It’s the “Why?” question we all ask when yet another killer snuffs out the lives of innocent people. It turns out that some smart people with the resources for research have looked into this question extensively and it’s pretty easy to get information.

For example, in a summary article on sott.net they report,

Nearly every mass shooting incident in the last twenty years, and multiple other instances of suicide and isolated shootings all share one thing in common, and it’s not the weapons used.

The overwhelming evidence suggests the single largest common factor in all of these incidents is that all of the perpetrators were either actively taking powerful psychotropic drugs or had been at some point in the immediate past before they committed their crimes. [emphasis added]

Most shooters are male, in their teens to early 20s and they are on drugs – prescription drugs, legally prescribed and obtained. Some side effects of these SSRI drugs (Selective Serotonin Re-Uptake Inhibitors ), like Zoloft, Ritalin and Prozac, are suicidal tendencies and violence.

We are a drug-taking society and we carry the expectation that a pill will solve our problems. This from AntidepressantAdverseReactions.com,

In addition to depression, SSRIs are marketed for Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (“OCD”), Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (“PTSD”), Social Anxiety Disorder (“SAD”) and Pre-Menstrual Dysphoric Disorder (“PMDD”) and Panic Disorder.

See? Just take a pill and all those nasty symptoms go away.

And we’re taking ever more of these drugs. In a 2014 Scientific American article, they wrote,

Antidepressant use among Americans is skyrocketing. Adults in the U.S. consumed four times more antidepressants in the late 2000s than they did in the early 1990s. As the third most frequently taken medication in the U.S., researchers estimate that 8 to 10 percent of the population is taking an antidepressant.

We throw pharmaceuticals at ourselves willingly – we like quick fixes – and sometimes we do so inappropriately. Just do a search on “SSRI overprescription” and read any article (here’s one from Psychology Today and here’s one from the American Psychological Association) and you’ll see that’s true. But the story is worse than that.

The pharmaceutical companies actively, enthusiastically and artfully tell the happy tale of how their products make life better. They are far less prone to put out front the downsides, the side effects. In fact, they go out of their way to soft-peddle and sometimes suppress them. (Same deal: just do a search on “suppression of SSRI side effects” and read any article – here’s one.) The pharmaceutical companies make a profit of over $6,000,000,000 per year on SSRIs; little wonder they don’t want to tell us the risks of violence from giving acting-out little Johnny some pills.

But then Johnny grabs the legally purchased guns from dad’s house and goes to the movie theater or the local school and kills a bunch of people, then himself. And we’re all shocked and surprised.

In a 2013 study commissioned by the U.S. Department of Justice, they found what you’ve felt all along, that things are getting worse, that there are more and more mass shootings. Here’s a chart of 160 active shooting incidents by year where 3 or more people (not counting the shooter) were killed:

Blair, J. Pete, and Schweit, Katherine W. (2014). A Study of Active Shooter Incidents, 2000 - 2013. Texas State University and Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Department of Justice, Washington D.C. 2014

Blair, J. Pete, and Schweit, Katherine W. (2014). A Study of
Active Shooter Incidents, 2000 – 2013. Texas State University and Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Department of
Justice, Washington D.C. 2014

As you can see, you were right: there really are more and more mass shootings.

To be sure, some people have a medical need for pharmaceuticals. But perhaps we’ve taken the lazy way, throwing pills at symptoms instead of dealing with root causes, and in the process, and likely unknowingly, invited increasing horrors upon ourselves.

Surely, gun safety has to consider the mental stability and competence of those who want guns. At the same time, we don’t have to invite greater mental instability by so often feeding our kids and young adults the very drugs that make them suicidal and violent. Maybe a pill isn’t always the answer. Maybe we should be directly dealing with mental health issues. Good idea, right?

There’s a problem with that: we’ve dramatically reduced the resources we deploy to deal with mental health. From a 2013 Forbes magazine article,

From 2009 to 2011, states cut mental health budgets by a combined $4 billion- the largest single combined reduction to mental health spending since de-institutionalization in the 1970s.

Ronald Reagan championed the curtailing of the “welfare state” and he cut funding for a slew of social programs, among them resources for treating mental illness. From Sociology.org,sidebar

.  .  .  Ronald Reagan pursued a policy toward the treatment of mental illness that satisfied special interest groups and the demands of the business community, but failed to address the issue: the treatment of mental illness.

What are the special interests and business community that were satisfied by Reagan’s policy? The pharmaceutical industry at every level. For those folks, doing anything that drives the sale of more meds is good for business. The real needs of people with mental illness just isn’t their problem.

So, now that we have an undisputed, ever-increasing series of mass shootings, as well a clarity about what’s causing so many of them, what do you think we should do: give more pills with potentially lethal side effects in order to mask symptoms; or treat the real mental health issues of our people? Consider your answer to that question in the context of sending your kids off to school and wondering if their going to class will be a life-threatening act.

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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.

ACTION STEP: Please offer your comments below and pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe.  Thanks!  JA

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

Imagine

apollo11Reading time – 2 minutes 31 seconds  .  .  .

It was 1961 when President Kennedy proposed – challenged us, really – to send a man to the moon and bring him safely back to Earth by the end of the decade. It was a daring choice. At the time we didn’t have propulsion technology for the job. Not just the propulsion itself, the rocket engines, but the technology to construct the massive engines that would be needed. We didn’t have the metallurgy or computing capability that would be required and didn’t even know how we would provide food for astronauts on a lunar journey. We just had a bunch of people with slide rules, most doing things that had nothing to do with NASA and who weren’t prepared for such an enormous, complicated and dangerous endeavor.

And on July 20, 1969 Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong put their footprints on the dust of the moon, as Michael Collins circled above in the command module. Imagine that.

Now we are faced with a far bigger challenge and we don’t have a choice on this one. The climate of the Earth is heating rapidly, perhaps as part of a natural cycle, but this time it is exaggerated because of human activity, largely driven by the burning of fossil fuels. The heating of the planet is making each successive year the hottest on record and it is already creating disasters of storms and drought. Sarah Palin, most of the Republican presidential candidates and the rest of the ostrich community may refuse to see that, but, as John Adams was fond of saying, facts are stubborn things. Things are getting worse regardless of whether the ostriches acknowledge that fact. Further, doing nothing about global warming is inherently self-defeating.

And that is a major driver of why Governor Jerry Brown (D-CA) is promoting a bill to slash carbon emissions in California 50% by 2030 and 80% by 2050, based on a 1990 emission levels baseline. He is being opposed by Republicans and some moderate Democrats in the California legislature who represent economically suffering districts in central California and who fear the impact on their communities and perhaps on their political careers.

He is also opposed by the Western States Petroleum Association, which is airing fear mongering ads on television projecting awful things that they say will happen if this legislation is passed. All of this is detailed in a New York Times article which captures well the mindset of this organization, which at its core is designed to protect the profit of its fossil fuel selling member companies. The president of the association, Catherine Reheis-Boyd, is quoted:

“I can’t figure out any other way to reach a 50% reduction in that [time] frame without doing some pretty dramatic measures. If it isn’t gas rationing, what is it?”

“We think there should be a lot more detail and it should be articulated pretty clearly about how one thinks they are going to be about this super-aggressive mandate.”

And that’s it. Ms. Reheis-Boyd can’t figure it out. It’s simply beyond her; therefore, the legislators of California should scuttle Brown’s proposal. And she needs all the details before anything is done, so nothing should be done. It’s all about her and her limited abilities, so make this legislation go away, she tells us.

Compare that to President Kennedy’s challenge to America, when nobody had a clue how to do what he proposed, yet we proceeded anyway, figured it out and succeeded.

Here’s a piece of Human Being 101: Change always involves moving from what is known to some unknown future where we don’t know what the consequences may be. Change feels scary and is always resisted.

Here’s a piece of Albert Einstein: Insanity is doing the same things and expecting different results.

Here’s a piece of observation: When a group of 10 people are presented with a new idea, 8 will immediately explain all the reasons why it cannot be done. One will sit quietly with a deer in the headlights face. After all the naysayers have calmed down a little, the 10th will offer an idea for how to start.

We Americans are fond of seeing ourselves as can-do and proudly announce to ourselves and to the world our American exceptionalism. We have done wondrous things that have benefited not only ourselves, but the entire world and we continue to have the natural and human resources to do so much more. What is puzzling is how people with a big public voice can extol the wonders of our American exceptionalism and at the same time tell us how we can’t do anything about global warming. It is further puzzling that our fossil fuel industries, having such enormous resources, are doing nothing to create the new energy technologies that will be required when we run out of oil within the next 100 years. Where is the exceptionalism in that?

It is time to stop resisting change that is inevitable and to imagine a healthy, sustainable energy superstructure. It is time to imagine a planet that can sustain the billions of us who don’t want to die in a climate catastrophe.

To Ms. Reheis-Boyd, Sarah Palin and all the others with myopic vision or who willfully blind themselves: Stop resisting and instead, imagine.

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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.

ACTION STEP: Please offer your comments below and pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe.  Thanks!  JA

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

The Question

Pope Francis arriving in US - CBS News

Pope Francis arriving in US – CBS News photo

Reading time – 72 seconds  .  .  .

Pope Francis is visiting the United States this week and there is a question that begs an answer. Here are the facts.

  • By the time his visit is complete he will have been received at the White House and will have visited the homeless.
  • He will have addressed both a joint session of Congress and the United Nations.
  • He will have said mass multiple times for well over a million people, doing so both in English and in Spanish and he will have visited the birthplace of American democracy in Philadelphia.
  • He will have been serenaded by both Andrea Bocelli and Aretha Franklin and he will have visited prisoners in the Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility.
  • He will have gone on parade through Washington DC and Central Park in New York and hundreds of thousands of Americans will have seen him.

Not all the people who show up to see the pope will be Catholic. They are not all there to pay homage to their religious leader, yet they come by the hundreds of thousands. They inconvenience themselves, standing and waiting for hours, often in profound discomfort – some overnight – just to catch a glimpse of him.

The question is: Why do people do that?

The answer: hope.

You don’t have to be a Catholic to want a piece of what this pope represents. You just have to have a hunger for something that you can’t seem to find, something that gnaws at you and creates a hollow spot within that is frustrated for something substantial.

We’ve come to a time in America and in much of the rest of the world when our challenges seem overwhelming, when cooperation has been displaced by crude hostility. Neither our politicians nor those in Great Britain, Israel, Greece and many other countries seem to be able to carry on a civil conversation, much less solve problems.

We are far more than weary of the selfish, greedy posturing of politicians, lobbyists, and of slick marketing lies. We are far more than weary of self-destructive denials of reality and the rejection of learning. We are far more than weary of being marginalized and of seeing the hopes for our children crushed under the heel of brutes. Little wonder we feel nearly hopeless.

Pope Francis arrived in America with a message. It isn’t one of proselytizing or bible-thumping and, in fact, other than the masses he will say, his message isn’t particularly religious.

Even without saying a word his message is one of hope. It is a message we hunger to hear. It is a message we want our leaders to hear and act upon.

We need hope for a better tomorrow. It is the only way forward and every one of us knows that in our bones.

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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.

ACTION STEP: Please offer your comments below and pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe.  Thanks!  JA

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

News Flash

mayologoReading time – 43 seconds  .  .  .

Caution: The following is satire. Sensitive readers should close their eyes and chant, “I can’t see you, I can’t see you.”

September 17, 2015 – Rochester, MN

In a stunning announcement at their press conference today, doctors and neurological scientists at The Mayo Clinic released the results of a study that has been ongoing for 69 years. Their findings have already rocked the worlds of neurology and brain science.

Drs. Robert L. Barlodz and Sharon C. Korlowski explained that it has long been considered an absolute truth in the scientific community that the greatly expanded neocortex – the frontal lobe of the human brain – is the logic and analytical center, the locus of consciousness and that its presence is the primary reason for the intelligence and capability differences between humans and all other species. They said that a great many studies have been conducted by scientific and medical institutions throughout the world and all have indicated that this is true, as have the observed results of large numbers of people with traumatic brain injuries. Indeed, it has been believed that in the absence of full capability of that part of the brain, even the appearance of normal functioning would be impossible. Today’s announcement changed that.

It was revealed by Drs. Barlodz and Korlowski that due to a congenital anomaly – a birth defect – Donald Trump has no neocortex.

After making their shocking announcement, the neuro-scientists said that in their intensive study they had observed that Trump appeared to to have accommodated this major brain defect and at times displays certain neocortex-like functions, although these have been labeled pseudo-brain activities and, clearly, they have no logical content. Dr. Korlowski reported that they are hoping that continuing investigation will help them to better understand Trump’s aberrant behavior.

Dr. Barlodz closed the press conference by saying that should they be able to observe the making of any sense at all by the subject individual, it would be quite surprising.

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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.

ACTION STEP: Please offer your comments below and pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe.  Thanks!  JA

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

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