Vision

Intolerables – Redux

Reading time – 2:55; Viewing time – 5:24  .  .  .

A couple of months ago I wrote about the concept of intolerables – that which is intolerable to you and you’d fight it to the death. It’s critically important for each of us to know our intolerables, because they bring sharp focus to our North Star. As motivational speaker Les Brown makes clear, “You have to know what you stand for, or you’ll fall for anything.”

Trump tax plan to benefit the wealthy. CLICK ME

Amazingly, trickle-down, “voodoo economics,” is once again being shoved up our noses, this time by President Trump with his new tax plan (have a look at the 1-page “plan” here). He tells us that he’ll boldly reduce the top corporate rate from 35% to a miserly 15%. Further, he assures us that there’s no need to end any special interest loopholes. That’s because our economy will have a veritable explosion of growth. And the growth will be such a win – you’ll be sick of winning! – and companies will make so much more money that even at the new reduced tax rate, tax collections by the government will stay as they are. His magical thinking plan will be revenue neutral! Note that that’s what Sam Brownback, governor of Kansas, promised Kansans 5 years ago. Instead, he’s driven his state into recession and borrowed from the state pension system just to stay afloat.

The best part of Trump’s plan, he tells us, is that the taxes saved will put so much extra cash into the tills of corporations that they will immediately start a hiring frenzy. JOBS! So many jobs you’ll be sick of jobs and there will be so much joy that CEOs and marketing executives and janitors will skip and sing merrily in the streets, hand in brotherly hand. There’s just one thing: reduced taxes don’t create jobs. Increased demand is what creates jobs and Trump’s plan won’t increase demand. I guess we can forget about the singing and dancing in the streets.

In order to get we rubes to go along with his cockamamie plan he’s going to buy us off by slightly reducing and simplifying our personal taxes. Of course, those tax reductions will apply to Trump, too, but with lots more digits to the left of the decimal point for him than for you. In fact, applying his new scheme to the one Trump tax return we’ve seen would put over $30 MILLION into Trump’s pocket in that one year alone. It’s a zombie tax plan, according to Forbes. Trump figures you won’t notice his self-aggrandizement because he thinks you’re dumb enough to be happy with a couple more bucks in your jeans.

George W. Bush pulled that same “buying your support” crap by sending you just a few hundred bucks as he put billions into the pockets of billionaires with his first tax cut. He, too, told us the government revenue shortfall would be made up through economic expansion and the extra taxes that growth would generate. How’d that work out for us? Mmmm  .  .  .  not so well.

Bush even had the gall to pull that tax reduction trick a second time, even though we were at war and we were spending money like a drunken politician. He’s the first president in our history to take us to war and reduce taxes at the same time, instead of raising taxes to cover the cost of his war. We’ll be paying for his fiscal stupidity for a hundred years.

“. . . major major conflict with North Korea” CLICK ME

Trump wants to cut taxes, build national infrastructure, build the damn wall, cut taxes (yes, I know I already said that), rattle sabres at North Korea, fire $30 million worth of missiles at Syria, do who knows what with his bromance buddy Putin, eliminate regulations and, of course, cut taxes. And it’s all being planned by his Goldman Sachs buddies. What could possibly go wrong for middle class and poor Americans?

Ronald Reagan started this trickle-down idiocy in our government nearly 4 decades ago and it has never worked. Let me repeat: It has never worked. Benefits from lower taxes never trickled down. If you were poor, you became poorer. If you were middle class, you stagnated. All that money poured instead into the pockets of CEOs and shareholders who stuffed that cash into their investment portfolios. All the job growth we experienced over the years can be attributed to other factors, like the technology boom of the 1990s and the stimulus program of 2009, neither of which was a trickle down gimmick.

I told you in that earlier post that one of my intolerables is lying, like Paul Ryan telling us that his plans for Social Security and Medicare won’t privatize those programs – except that’s exactly what his plans would do. Trump is now telling the same lie to us that Reagan and the rest of the free market radicals have lied to us about since 1980.

Is that intolerable? We have to know, or we’ll fall for it again. Are we that dumb?

Both Mark Twain and Benjamin Disraeli liked to say, “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.” How would you categorize trickle-down economics? How would you categorize nearly anything Donald Trump says?

In other news

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Big doings in Elgin, IL next Sunday. Come join us as our presenters give us the inside skinny on healthcare, the Canadian pipeline planned to go through Illinois and Money, Politics and Democracy: You Aren’t Getting What You Want. The sessions are free, open to the public and offer you an opportunity to learn without any of the all-too-common Washington spin. Join us.

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

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

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

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.

Bus Daydream

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

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

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

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

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

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

In Other News

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Guest Essay: What Ails Us

Reading time – 5:55  .  .  .

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

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

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

Well known is:

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

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

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

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

Amusing Ourselves to Death was published 32 years ago.

One Other Major Influence:

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

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

Putting it Together:

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

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

So, What Does This All Mean Now?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What’s your answer that question?

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

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

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Ed. comments:

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

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

“Every nation gets the government it deserves.”

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

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

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

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

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

Worthy of You

Reading time – 1:22; Viewing time – 2:30  .  .  .

When one of us is victimized, we are all victimized.

Is it alright that some of us are being diminished? We better figure out really fast that everyone is somewhere on the list of those who will be diminished sooner or later unless something powerful happens.

You must take action. You must get up and speak out.

Black lives matter. Brown lives matter. White lives matter. All lives matter. And we all better be demanding that. Otherwise, nobody’s life matters.

There are people who would take from you whatever you hold dear. The only way to stop that is to stand up for what you believe in.

Are you dispirited? That’s not enough.

Are you sad? That’s not enough.

Are you enraged? That’s not enough.

You must take action. You must get up and speak out.

Sometimes the threats we face are right in our faces and they are easy to see and easy to fight. Sometimes they’re hard to see, like global warming, but they’re here just the same. And they will harm you and the people you love unless you do something to stop them.

You must take action. You must get up and speak out.

Do you care? That’s not enough.

“I’m no longer Accepting what I cannot change . . . I’m changing the things I cannot Accept!” Chicago Women’s March, January 21, 2017

Do you worry? That’s not enough.

You must demand the world you hope to see.

You must vote.

You must demonstrate.

You must protest what you know is wrong.

You must take action. You must get up and speak out.

Are you smart and clever? That’s not enough.

Do you want better? That’s not enough.

You must take action. You must get up and speak out.

It’s hard work. It is full of disappointment and frustration. But you already know that nothing that is worthy of you is easy to achieve.

You must take action. You must get up and speak out.

Do this.

And this.

Your children and grandchildren are counting on you. So take action. Get up and speak out because that is worthy of you.

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

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

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

Hiding In Plain Sight

Reading time 3:02; Viewing time – 4:38  .  .  .

In Ronald Radosh’s essay in the Daily Beast last August, recounting his conversation with Steve Bannon shortly after Bannon become CEO of Trump’s presidential campaign, he wrote:

Then we had a long talk about his approach to politics. He never called himself a “populist” or an “American nationalist,” as so many think of him today. “I’m a Leninist,” Bannon proudly proclaimed.

Shocked, I asked him what he meant.

Lenin,” he answered, “wanted to destroy the state, and that’s my goal too. I want to bring everything crashing down, and destroy all of today’s establishment.” [emphasis mine]

As recently as February 23, 2017 at the Conservative Political Action Conference, Bannon declared the top three priorities of this administration, one of which is “deconstruction of the administrative state.”

Perhaps you have significant dissatisfaction with “today’s establishment,” the “administrative state.” I surely do – but do you really want to bring it all “crashing down“? Apparently, Steve Bannon does.

Whatever Bannon’s reasons for his desire for national anarchy and chaos, no matter his rationale for destroying the American firmament, if Bannon has his way, a lot of people are going to get hurt, and I don’t mean the gold plated set; I mean ordinary Americans for whom their country will no longer work, and you just might be one of those people.

Here’s the scary part: Bannon has the president’s ear in everything, including national security and nuclear weapons. Consider that the president has a loose affiliation with facts and reality and has demonstrated with his Muslim Ban Executive Order that he has a ready-fire-aim mentality. Plus, he has the unique ability to contradict himself three times in a single sentence, so it’s not at all clear if he has any firm convictions. And Steve “burn-it-down” Bannon has this malleable-fact president’s ear on all issues.

What could possibly go wrong?

If your goal were to “destroy all of today’s establishment,” your first steps would be to take power away from whatever might challenge you. That is to say, you’d want to undermine public confidence in the very establishment you want to destroy.

For example, you might attack our intelligence communities by comparing them to Nazis. That way when the CIA, FBI and NSA present incontrovertible proof of Trump conspiring with the Russians to hack and steal the election, Americans won’t believe them.

You would continuously vilify reporters, newspapers and broadcast, cable and online news organizations so that when their investigative journalists uncover the blackmail that Putin has on Trump, people won’t believe the actual, reality-based facts those organizations bring to them.

You would have your Attorney General attack freedom of the press by subpoenaing a journalist who simply reported on the Malheur Natural Wildlife Refuge occupation case for Oregon Public Broadcasting.

And you would work to delegitimize the courts and our judges by attacking Judge Gonzalo Curiel and by calling Judge James Robart a “so-called judge” and blaming any future terrorist attacks in the U.S. on Robart. Likely, you’d also attack the United States Court of Appeals for the 9th District with a threat of “see you in court,” which arguably is a dumb thing to say, since the Court of Appeals is a court, plus Trump had already lost his case. Nevertheless, the drumbeat of attacking and undermining our institutions goes on.

I’ve speculated in these essays (here and here and here) about what Trump really wants and more than once have suggested that Trump is looking for an excuse to declare martial law, much the way George W. Bush came to the White House looking for an excuse to invade Iraq. I have supposed that Trump’s true objective has been to make himself a de facto dictator. That may be accurate, but what is hiding in plain sight is that Trump and the evil angel constantly whispering into his ear want to bring America crashing down. They are engineering revolution that will kill our democracy.

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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 If There’s a Reason?

Reading time – 1:54; Viewing time – 3:12  .  .  .

Candidate Trump carried on an unrelenting war on the “dishonest press.” He declared that they are all liars, that they can’t be trusted. Now, as president, he has made the stunning pronouncement that the press is the enemy of the American people. Note that’s the same message V.I. Lenin delivered in establishing communism in Russia. All of Trump’s claims are true, he admonishes, except, of course, for those few who report favorably about him.

Clearly, there are some in the press who have an agenda other than simply reporting the news and calling out that behavior has some merit. On the other hand, that describes only a very small percentage of reporters (can you name even one?) and certainly doesn’t describe those from major outlets, like The New York Times, CNN, The Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal. Still, Trump has pummeled those and others with a continuous blistering attack of vague, vitriolic accusations.

But what if there is more to this than Trump’s mental pathology? What if there are practical explanations for his fusillades? Let’s see if we can conjure what those might be. I have two to offer.

First, this is a time of populist anger at anything that might fall into the category of “establishment,” so attacking such things as the mainstream press both gives voice to the anger of the people and establishes Trump as one of the people. Really, how else would a farmer in Nebraska be able to identify with a gold-plated elitist from New York? That’s a powerful ploy, powerful enough to get him elected.

Second, and this is the truly pernicious one, imagine what is to come. There already has been a great deal of reporting on Trump’s business activities and the specter of conflict of interest and perhaps outright law breaking is more than a shadow on the horizon. To expect further revelations from determined investigative journalists is realistic and Trump won’t like that reporting. His only defenses will be to lie about it and to attack the reporters. If journalists are held in low enough esteem by then (and the national approval rating of the press is currently about the same as that of Congress), he may be able to get the people to ignore or even oppose adverse accusations about him. He may be able to yet again portray himself as an innocent victim of a dishonest press. Without that Fourth Estate to protect us, he may be able to spark a populist uprising against Congress itself. Who knows what will happen from that?

What’s your notion of why Trump maintains the drumbeat of attack on the press? Enter it in the Comments section below so we can think about this together.

As a corollary to this question, you must read Bret Stephens’ comments delivered at the Daniel Pearl Memorial Lecture at the University of California, Los Angeles (here in print and here in video, which includes additional discussion). In this age of “alternative facts” and the mind numbing acceptance of what should be found abhorrent, Stephens will restore your belief in integrity and make you believe that it still lives.

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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.

We Need a Fix

Reading time – 5:15; Viewing time – 10:46  .  .  .

We’re politically polarized to an extreme not seen since the Civil War. We’re in debt to a level that most people cannot even comprehend and we have no plan to make things better. We have the highest cost of medical care in the world and only fair results compared to other industrialized countries. Congress is perpetually locked in a battle for stagnation and our infrastructure is crumbling. We wring hands over the hard-boiling of our planet and steadfastly not only refuse to make things better, we actually do things that make things worse. We honor our military people but continue to get them killed for dishonest reasons in perpetual wars. And we are angry all the time.

I’m a card-carrying member of the Baby Boomers, lodged in the leading edge of that group. I grew up in the late 1940s and 1950s, which was itself a rather odd time. We had won the war and America had the only fully functioning industrial economy in the world. Being number one was a pretty easy thing to do and we dominated the world economy and expanded our belief in American exceptionalism as the natural order of things.

We were steeped in the culture of stability, of conformity and of reverence for authority – after all, that had worked. Then Elvis wore his hair long and wiggled his hips and the Greatest Generation didn’t like that. The electric guitar put an end to big bands and music changed to something that was called everything but music by anyone who was part of the establishment and that rocked the boat even more. And we sent our military people to Vietnam and suddenly everything changed.

We were raised with the expectation that all men had an obligation to serve at least two years in the military, but the military was being sent to do something that was simply unacceptable to those who would be drafted. It was a war we were lied into (ref: the phony Gulf of Tonkin attack), a war that was never declared by a cowardly Congress and a war that eventually cost the lives of over 58,000 American men and women before we left that country.

Even larger were the lies President Johnson told us. We were told by the press that he had a “credibility gap.” That was polite speak for saying that he lied. We’re only now getting to the point where the press is willing to name it directly when a president lies – odd that it took so long. But lie he did.

So did Richard Nixon, who told us he had a secret plan to end the war, but instead was driven to continue it because, in his words, he refused to be, “the first American President to lose a war.” The plain translation of that is that his reputation as a winning war president was more important to him than the lives of the 28,000 military personnel who died while he was in office and continuing that war.

And, of course, there was Watergate. Yes, our president really was a crook, and our sense of trust ratcheted down even further.

Gerald Ford should have been a calm respite from the torrent of deceit coming from Washington, but then he pardoned Nixon for crimes he committed or might have committed. So not only did Nixon betray our trust, but the next guy in the Oval Office ensured that he got away with it. What happened to the notion of penalties for doing wrong? We couldn’t even trust those who were sent to restore our trust.

Jimmy Carter may be best known for having been the leader who couldn’t lead our 52 citizen hostages out of Iran. We trust our leaders to keep us safe, but he was unable to find a way to do that.

Ronald Reagan brought us the glamour of a Hollywood actor, with all the performance chops that implies. He told us it was morning in America and that this country was the shining city on the hill. He promised smaller government and then he tripled the size of our debt.

And he was in charge of the masterly deceitful Iran-Contra affair, which broke multiple laws. And he got away with it. His operatives barely got a slap on the wrist. How could we trust our justice system after that?

George H. W .Bush told us over and over, “Read my lips: No new taxes.” Then the burden of his and Reagan’s spending caught up with him and he had to raise taxes. Who can you believe?

Then the Clinton era began, bringing with it things we simply had not seen before. Even before Clinton first sat down in the Oval Office the Republicans started smearing him with immorality-laced charges. Ken Starr spent millions of dollars looking for Clintonian malfeasance and couldn’t find a single example. But that didn’t stop the accusers in Congress, who continue that drumbeat to this day.

Once Newt Gingrich became Speaker of the House he managed to stop Congress and the government from functioning at all. He was trying to strong-arm Clinton, but instead strong-armed the country. That was before Gingrich was found to have illegally used a tax-exempt organization for political purposes and provided false information to the House Ethics Committee. He was forced to resign. So much for trust in Congress.

And, of course, Bill Clinton assured us that he, “didn’t have sex with that woman – Ms. Lewinsky.” But he did, regardless of what the meaning of “is” is.

Then we got George W. Bush. He refused to listen to the experts and 9/11 happened. His spin-meisters then spent the next seven years telling us how Bush had kept America safe. Go to the 9/11 Memorial in New York and repeat that phrase as you walk around the reflecting pools and read the engraved names of the 2,996 people who died there on that day when Bush was keeping America safe.

Bush lied us into two wars that continue in one form or another and have destabilized an entire region of the world, killing hundreds of thousands of people and displacing millions more and with no end in sight. He was all about deregulation and lower taxes (especially for those already wealthy). The wars were put on the national credit card, making this the first time our country went to war and refused to pay for it, leaving us with trillions of dollars of debt, an amount that continues to grow.

And Bush presided over the largest crash of our economy since 1929. Presidents are supposed to have the best experts advising them about what to do to avoid catastrophe, but Bush utterly failed to protect America or Americans. At the end of his presidency over 700,000 Americans were losing their jobs every month.

The banking industry had managed to make itself doomed to collapse thanks to brainless deregulation and in the process harmed a lot of people, including the thousands of Americans whose home mortgages were foreclosed, many illegally. The entire banking industry showed itself to be untrustworthy.

The entire mess – the loss of employment for millions of Americans, the foreclosures, the banking collapse Bush poured money into and his two wars – fell into Barack Obama’s lap.

We needed a national stimulus to get the economy going, but the Republicans had dedicated themselves to making job one, “Making sure that Barack Obama is a one-term president.” That is to say, America and Americans came second.

So, the stimulus was half the size it needed to be and Republicans made sure that one-third of the money wound up in the pockets of wealthy people rather than stimulating the economy. Then they blamed Obama for a stimulus plan that failed.

In fact, they blamed Obama for everything. They opposed bills that they themselves had offered prior to Obama taking office, once Obama supported them. They opposed a healthcare plan that the very conservative Heritage Foundation and Republicans had been proposing for decades. All of the blaming and demonizing put yet more stress on Americans’ trust in our institutions, trust which was further eroded by yet another Congressionally led governmental shutdown, this time over whether we would pay our debts. How could anyone trust when we threaten to default?

The Supreme Court is supposed to be the arbiter of disputes and laws and keep us in line with the Constitution, but in 2010 Chief Justice John Roberts contorted the Citizens United case into something that was not in contest and produced the legalization of big money influence of our elections and our government. With that, all three branches of government were plainly untrustworthy.

Now we have a president who makes baseless attacks on the press, calling them the most dishonest people in the world, so now trust in the press is in question.

The list of examples of trust killing events could be many times the length of this list, but the point is that we have repeatedly been lied to, undermined, betrayed, robbed, our rights have been stolen and our needs ignored, our standard of living is dropping, the rich get richer and the number of our poor expands. And that is why:

  • Everyone knows the system is rigged
  • Over 40% of our citizens don’t bother to vote
  • We’re a nation of apathetic, disinterested citizens
  • We’re a nation of angry people
  • We are politically polarized and haven’t a clue how to have a conversation with one another

Our toxic symptoms have come about through our decades-long decline in trust in our institutions and that loss of trust is because of the untrustworthy things our leaders have done. Failing to fix that will be catastrophic for all of us. The challenge before us right now is to figure out how to do that and then get to work.

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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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