campaign contributions

General Kelly Won’t Save Us

Be sure to read this to the end, lest the bright, shiny objects distract your view.

Reading time – 2:47; Viewing time – 4:25  .  .  .

General Kelly gave a heartfelt and impassioned presentation this week, invoking the death of his son in the line of duty. And he talked about what happens to the bodies of our fallen, as they are returned home for burial with honor. (Sidenote: Watch Kevin Bacon in the movie Taking Chance here or via your favorite online provider for a better understanding of how we honor our young men and women who have died in the line of duty.) Kelly’s presentation was all very patriotic, very heroic and astonishingly cynical.

For General Kelly to have used the sad death of his son and our empathy for the general to cover for the despicable attitude of disrespect shown by the President to a grieving widow is a profound assault on everything that smacks of decency.

I, and likely you, offer our condolences and caring to General Kelly for his profound loss. We care about him both as a father who has lost a son and a soldier who has lost one of his own. That stands, regardless of what he has done to cover for our amoral President. And it doesn’t excuse it.

General Kelly is now in the politics business. It is both our right and our duty as citizens to question what he says and does. That has become especially important now that he has formally joined the ranks of the Trump Prevaricators, an unholy club including Sean Spicer, Sarah Huckabee-Sanders, Steve Mnuchin and others for whom verifiable, obvious truth carries no meaning. Let go of your hope that General Kelly will save us from Trump’s lunacy. That just isn’t going to happen.

It’s easy to get sucked into railing about the distortions, fantastical idiocies and outright lies of Trump and his fawning servants, but it would be a terrible mistake to do that.

You’re correct in seeing all the Trump craziness as craziness, but it’s actually far worse than that. Read Tom Friedman’s piece to better understand the strategy-less operations of this White House – make that of Trump – that leads to such staggeringly inappropriate – and at times self-destructive – behavior. Note that the “self” in the self-destructive behavior is you and me and America.

Next up in your government’s screw-you game is the long awaited tax reform bill that is actually a tax cut program for the fabulously wealthy. The Senate Republicans have barely managed to jam through a tax bill and toss it over the transom to the House to start the process of creating the detail of the next enrichment program for the rich. As usual it’s presented as a boon to working people and no, the Rs would never propose a bill that would primarily benefit already wealthy people and large corporations.

Except that what we know about this new iteration of dishonesty from Paul Ryan and the others owned by big special interests is that their plan will do exactly the opposite of what they claim it will do. In fact, it will strip a trillion-and-a-half dollars from Medicare and Medicaid – that means from you and me and from poor people – and deliver it to the super-rich in the form of tax breaks. Read Paul Krugman’s description and you’ll understand what rubes the Republicans apparently think we all are.

Here’s the key.

While all of these things and more are substantive, while issues of great importance and lasting impact are at stake, all of it pales in comparison to the Russian hacking and influencing of our election. And even that might be secondary to Trump and his team of bandits conspiring with the Russians to steal the election. That will be bigger if it’s true, because then we will know that we have lost America.

General Kelly won’t save us from our rot from within. That job is up to all of us.

So don’t allow yourself to be distracted by Trump’s bright, shiny and outrageous objects. Keep your eyes focused on the truth of what really happened.

————————————

Ed. note: There is much in America that needs fixing and we’re on a path to continually fail to make things better. It’s my goal to make a difference – perhaps to be a catalyst for things to get better. That’s 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!

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

Our Turn

Reading time – 2:18; Viewing time – 3:02  .  .  .

I observed an incremental shift toward authoritarianism during the Bush years. The John’s – Bolton and Ashcroft – scared me as much as Cheney did. I didn’t see that kind of power shift during the Obama years, although I could have been misled by his intelligence and his reasonable manner.

Now, though, we have a Destroyer-in-Chief, who is incrementally doing sociopath Steve Bannon’s work of eliminating anything that smacks of what we used to call “the establishment.” You know, the systems that promote the general welfare and the rest. Many of the Presidential Cabinet heads are dedicated to eliminating their departments (like DeVos, Price, Perry and Pruitt) and many of the rest are headed by diabolical or drone types (like Mnuchin, Carson and Zincke). Most of what I read from progressives and centrists about the actions of these powerful people is in opposition to the things they’re doing, like allowing oil drilling in the arctic refuge, cutting support for public education and food for poor children and eliminating regulations that prevent industrial pollution. While all of that opposition is important, I’m much more interested in what happens after the infrastructure take-down.

That is to say, what does all the trashing of the established order create? What will fill the vacuum? The answer that keeps coming up is fascism, autocracy, dictatorship. Pick a word that is in direct opposition to democracy and it will do.

When I met with some activists against fascism shortly before Trump took office I agreed with them in principle, but their notions seemed a bit wing-nutty extremist to me and I wasn’t ready to sign on. Now, though, the evidence has continued to accumulate and the picture is becoming clearer that we are on the road to the end of our democracy. That has fueled the change in my thinking.

Have a look at this poster about fascism. It was created during the Bush/Cheney years and is frighteningly accurate today.

If you really want to be informed, click through to the links accompanying the poster and read more. Then let us know how you’re feeling about democracy’s chances.

We must continue to protect our fragile experiment in democracy, because the work will never be done. The Founders thought it was pretty well done in 1789 when the Constitution was ratified, but in the 1950s Joe McCarthy got away with trashing the Constitution until some courageous people found their spine and stopped him.

Today Big Money has bought our democracy and the system hasn’t produced leaders with the spine to stop it yet. Reality is telling us every day that very bad things are happening and we need people to step up. It’s our turn now.

LATE ADDITIONS
  1. Go to http://www.RefuseFascism.org/.
  2. The Washington Post ran ran a story today entitled “When democracies are under attack, it’s time to rein in executive power.” Here are a couple of quotes from the piece:

”  . .  .  democracies erode not from military intervention or revolutions, but from the expansion and abuse of power by elected leaders.”
“.  .  .  political constraints are the strongest and most consistent predictors of democratic survival.”

“”We find that limiting executive power both lowers the stakes of elections and protects vulnerable minority groups from abuses of power.”

Read the piece.

————————————

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!

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

What’s the Number?

Reading time – 1:52  .  .  .

Click the image to review the complete article in MarketWatch

That’s right – we kill ourselves with shocking regularity, but that really isn’t the most salient point. Rather, it’s that all but the last two were done by red-blooded Americans who were not Islamist extremists. They were Americans who were either mentally impaired or seeking revenge. So much for the hysteria about Muslim terrorists and prohibiting the immigration of Muslims as a safety measure.

And be clear that this savaging, this brutality to innocents, is facilitated by the absurdly easy access to weapons of war. These massacres have nothing to do with the rights of hunters and sportsmen or the appropriate firearms for them.

After Sandy Hook President Obama shed tears with us over the murders of 20 little kids and 7 teachers, their bodies riddled with bullets from a perfectly legal assault rifle. He pushed for gun safety laws then, but nothing got better. I guess the gun lobby people were proud to have done their jobs so well.

Here’s a simple list of what the overwhelming majority of Americans want. This should be easy.

  • – Universal background checks before the sale of any firearm
  • – A ban on military assault rifles
  • – A ban on large capacity magazines
  • – A ban on automatic weapons
  • – A ban on silencers

Like I said, this should be easy, but it isn’t. It’s yet another example of why we have to get big money out of our politics. Note that Sarah Huckabee Sanders said today that this isn’t the time to politicize “the gun issue.” She’s wrong. Dead wrong. So let’s make our voices heard.

Tonight or in the next few days, show up in your town for the demonstration for sensible gun safety laws – it will be easy to find one nearby. There’s a demonstration in front of the new Dick’s Sporting Goods on Skokie Blvd. in Northbrook at 7:00PM tonight.

Then call (much more powerful than writing or emailing) your Representative and Senators and tell them you want sensible gun safety laws. Links to their phone numbers are in blue – use the search function at the top of the linked page.

And tell your legislators you want them to support the We the People AmendmentH.J.Res 48 –  to get big money out of our politics so that America isn’t run by lobbyists.

How many dead Americans will it take for us to overpower the gun lobby? What’s the number?

Get up and get active right now. Our kids, friends, family and neighbors are counting on us.

————————————

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.

The Platform is a 4-Letter Word – Part 2

Reading time – 6:20; Viewing time – 9:38  .  .  .

This is the continuation of my notions of a national platform begun in the last post. It’s necessary to make an addendum to point #5 regarding healthcare.

Memo to Lawmakers: Only 20% of Americans approve of the job Congress is doing and that number hasn’t varied by more than a few percentage points since 2006. The disapproval rating of Congress stands at 74%, meaning that 3 out of 4 Americans think you’re doing a really lousy job. You really should feel terrible about that. Here’s what you need to know.

A big piece of the public disapproval of you is due to your making back room deals – sleaze behind closed doors – like what the Republican senators have done with their cruel healthcare plan that keeps millions of Americans from getting healthcare at all. That’s why We the People don’t approve of you.

All you have to do is to craft something that provides healthcare for everyone and do your deliberation in public, opening the process to comments from actual American people who will be impacted by what you do. This is not complicated and you really can do this.

Memo to Republicans in Congress: We the People know that your American Health Care Act (“AHCA”) isn’t really about healthcare. It’s about giving an $800 billion cash windfall to already rich people. Can you be any more disingenuous? Shame on you.

8. George W. Bush may go down in history as our worst president because he started two unnecessary wars which are likely to continue for decades. Donald Trump is trying to one-up him by tweaking the nose of an infantile nuclear dictator, thumbing his nose at our strongest allies, buddying up to Vladimir Putin and refusing to endorse Article 5 of the NATO charter.

Memo to lawmakers: You already know that only Congress has the power to declare war. Put on your big boy/girl pants, take a stand and fulfill your obligation. We don’t need perpetual war initiated by autocrats.

Economic teaching moment: War robs us of huge amounts of money – trillions of dollars. The cost of every bullet or rocket that’s fired is lost forever; in contrast, the money spent in America, on America gets recycled nearly perpetually to the benefit of all of us.

Mortality teaching moment: Our military people who get killed in our unnecessary wars really don’t come home and resume their lives. They’re dead and if you didn’t stand against our unnecessary wars, it’s your fault. Do you support our military? Then stop sending our people off to die for no good reason.

9. If Trump gets his way we’re going to de-fund the National Institutes of Health, the EPA and gut our diplomatic corps. so we’ll cut spending on cancer research, let our air and water get polluted again and make the military our only foreign affairs tool, all to save less than a couple of percent of our budget.

Memo to lawmakers: Really?!!! Please wake up and tell us you’re not that self-defeating. Put on those big boy/girl pants and take a stand for America.

10. Stephen Bannon wants to tear down our established order and so far Trump seems to be his puppet in charge of dismantling what makes the American government work. At the same time Trump is collapsing the international coalition that has kept us strong and safe for 100 years, while at the same time sucking up to vicious autocrats around the world. Using duck logic, this looks, walks and quacks like a duck that is in the process of the self-immolation of America.

Memo to lawmakers: Get a grip on reality, stop this un-American president and put our government back together. Note that once again this will require that you put on your big boy/girl pants.

11. Fossil fuel is on the way out because we’re choking on its exhaust and the planet is warming at a staggering rate that will cook us all. We need clean energy, not more oil extracted from ecologically perilous places.

Memo to lawmakers: You’ll be okay without Big Oil and Big Gas campaign contributions – I promise. So, stop the idiocy of, “I’m not a scientist, so I don’t know about global warming.” Craft legislation that will drive a complete transformation of our energy infrastructure – a moon shot – like solar collectors on all roofs, solar farms, wind energy, tide energy, a new smart grid and all the rest. If you don’t care enough about your grandchildren to do this, then do it for mine.

12. 100 years ago graduating from 8th grade was a fine accomplishment and enough education for someone to get a good job with good pay. A few decades later a high school diploma was needed for a good job, so we made high school tuition-free for our kids. The world has changed and even more education is needed today. Right now there are 6 million jobs going wanting, many because employers can’t find people with the education required for those jobs.

Memo to lawmakers: Make state college education tuition-free. And find a way to get past property taxes being the primary funding for our schools, because this antiquated system leaves kids in poor areas unable to get a good education. That sentences them to a sub-standard life and robs us all of their contributions to a better America. And stop the efforts to privatize education because that isn’t the answer, even if big donors want you to believe it is. Yes, all of this will have tax implications, just as the switch to tuition-free high school did. Figure it out.

13. Russia is not our friend. Russia is an opponent and, considering their ongoing cyber attack on the U.S. and our allies, they may be considered our enemy. Failing to vigorously oppose their behavior and impose penalties on them is ineptitude in the extreme and possibly treason. It’s true that the Executive branch conducts American foreign policy. It’s also true that both the House and Senate are investigating Russian hacking and possible collusion from within. The problem is that those investigations are cumbersome and glacially slow, which means that the president has plenty of time to undermine American security.

Memo to lawmakers: I really don’t care how much money the president owes to Russian interests or the pictures they may have of him or any other pressures Putin can put on Trump. I don’t care about Trump’s notion of making friends with Russia. They are antithetical to our beliefs, our way of life and our safety. Find a way to stop the foreign policy disasters that Trump is creating.

14. It’s absurd to be able to say this, but we are living in a world where millions actually believe in alternative facts and fake news. Surprise, Donald Trump didn’t invent it. This has been going on for a long time. The concept of shame for one’s despicable actions like lying no longer seems to exist and people are prepared to dismiss provable facts. Indeed, millions regularly dismiss reality because they have been told by self-serving types that others are lying to them. That itself is a lie, but it’s crafty stuff for those wanting power and for whom integrity isn’t high on their list of personal attributes.

Memo to lawmakers: Are you lying or misleading the public? Stop it. Stop manipulating to get control of the Supreme Court. Stop telling Americans that it’s all about jobs, jobs, jobs and then doing nothing to stimulate job growth. Stop saying we’ll have better healthcare at a much lower cost when you can’t deliver either one. Stop telling the American people that those who report on you are liars when they report on your dalliances. Stop claiming your programs won’t privatize Social Security and Medicare when that’s exactly what they will do. Stop creating enemies like the press just to gain popular support for you, because now the truth has become an enemy and that is corroding our society. One last time: Put on your big boy/girl pants and tell the truth.

Final memo to lawmakers: What I’ve outlined in this post and the one prior is what Americans want. This isn’t fringe stuff, but doing this won’t be easy. In fact, it will be hard. There are competing interests and some are legitimate and quite valuable, with the exception, of course, of the issue of lying. Nevertheless, everything is either a negotiation and a compromise or it is stagnation through polarization. It’s your choice. Choose well, especially when it’s hard.

Unavoidably, our solutions come down to a 4-letter word: WORK. Roll up your shirt/blouse sleeves and get to work. Not the hateful, in-your-face behavior that we see so often or the misleading, hyperbolic idiocy that dominates the news, but work that’s focused on a better America and improving the lives of all Americans. If you can’t do that, just resign, because otherwise We the People will be sending you home real soon.

Get to work.

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

The Platform is a 4-Letter Word – Part 1

Reading time – 6:40; Viewing time – 9:54  .  .  .

This post was created in the days just before the shooting of Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) and the injuring of 5 others at a baseball practice. Clearly, the shooter had problems; yet that event has put into stark relief the extent of our political polarization, the frustrations of the American people and the extremism that some of our leaders have helped to deepen, all of which underline the points that follow.

DC is crazy and everyone knows it’s crazy. The president thinks everything is all about him and that his job is a popularity contest won by appealing to extremists. Many of those in Congress think their job about is serving special interests. The Republicans who speak loudly are anchored in the primordial Reagan ooze as though there is something holy about continuing to do what has never worked. Democrats don’t seem to be able to do much other than be against Trump and Republican extremism.

Meanwhile, We the People think it’s about America and Americans. That leaves it to us to be sane about the future of America, so here are the first seven of my Platform Points in bite-size portions. The key is that the vast majority of Americans are in line with these notions and our solution comes down to a 4-letter word. Note that my more aggressive comments are for the folks with big, extremist megaphones and not for the reasonable legislators who only want to make things better for everyone.

1. A minimum of 78% of Americans believe that big money infects and distorts our democracy and they want that changed. They want a We the People Amendment that negates the craziness of Buckley v. Valeo, Citizens United, McCutcheon v. F.E.C. and the rest of the enabling decisions and legislation that allow the rich to buy America and impoverish the rest of us. Said another way, Americans want Congress to prevent the buying of Congress so that instead we can have an actual representative democracy.

Memo to Lawmakers: I understand that the present system requires you to grub for donations and seek the big buck donors. In fact, the system is the problem. In order to stop that, vote for the We the People Amendment to the Constitution. Get on the side of Americans, on the right side of history and end your begging for dollars. You’ll be glad you did it, because you know you hate begging for cash.

2. Just before the vote on the 2008 legislation that created Medicare Part D, Representative Billy Tauzin (R-LA) inserted an amendment into the legislation that prohibited the U.S. government, the largest purchaser of meds in the world, from negotiating with the pharmaceutical companies for better pricing. That sure was good for Big Pharma. Billy Tauzin didn’t run for re-election that year, preferring instead to go to work for PhRMA, the lobbying organization of Big Pharma. They gave him a pay increase to $2 million per year.

Memo to lawmakers: We the People are angry about the revolving door between Congress and lobbying. Clean up this sleaziness. Make the Tauzin behavior illegal. And change the Part D law so we can negotiate better pricing with Big Pharma.

3. Until a few years ago when the NRA went on a campaign to change the meaning of the Second Amendment, we all knew that violent offenders and those not mentally stable shouldn’t have firearms. We still know that, but now over half of all deaths by firearms are suicide (also here) and many of those are our returning vets. A gun within arm’s reach makes suicide and homicide real easy and we have to wonder if that shooter at the Republican baseball practice would have taken any action at all if he were not able to obtain an AR-15 assault rifle. Over 80% of Americans want sensible gun safety legislation, including a huge majority of NRA members.

Memo to lawmakers: NRA campaign contributions are nice, but you’ll be okay without them. And the “cold, dead hands” mantra may bring about a satisfying testosterone rush, but it’s killing Americans. Pass sensible gun safety legislation.

4. The FDA has dragged feet for years on an Obama era requirement that restaurants display calorie counts on restaurant meals. “Now the FDA has indefinitely postponed the implementation of the rule which would require food manufacturers to list added sugars along with more visible calorie counts and clearer serving sizes.” They’ve also refused to require labeling that would let us know if a food product contained genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Why doesn’t the government want us to know what we’re eating?

Memo to lawmakers: You already know the answer to the question: It’s the Big Food lobby. They fear that if we consumers know the crap they put in their products that they’ll sell less of it to us, so they “incentivize” lawmakers and agencies to stall disclosure laws. This isn’t a key issue, but it is another case of Big Money buying our government in large and small ways, getting what it wants at the expense of We the People. Labeling changes cost next to nothing. Make them do it.

5. The American people don’t want bickering over how many millions of us should be shut out of healthcare by the various idiotic proposals being considered. By a significant margin, we want Medicare for all, universal healthcare, single payer – call it what you will. The statistics show that Medicare costs about 25% less than care that is provided through private healthcare insurance – that’s for equivalent healthcare procedures and outcomes. The cost differential is largely due to the overhead costs of private insurers, like marketing, sales expense and really high pay for their C-level executives. Switching to single payer will make a significant dent in our bloated spending for healthcare and will save individual Americans a lot of money.

Memo to lawmakers: Yes, it’s true that single payer will put out of business many of the private healthcare insurance companies that make lovely campaign contributions. The buggy whip makers had a similar challenge 100 years ago when something better came along. Those formerly making buggy whips figured out how to get along; so will our healthcare insurance folks today. Single payer is what Americans want, so your choices, lawmakers, are to continue to do the stupid dance over this issue (now being done in secret to jam it through the Senate) or you can get on the right side of history.

6. Trickle down economics never trickles down. It was factually wrong when it was proposed and it has consistently failed for nearly 40 years. Supply side stimulus doesn’t grow businesses; demand does, but demand isn’t stimulated by the upside down economics of trickle down. Let’s be specific about what actually happens: Giving more money to rich people with the expectation that they will expand their businesses and hire lots of Americans and pay good wages doesn’t happen. Making this worse is that because their personal wants and needs were already met before any tax windfall, rich people don’t spend the new trickle down money, so we don’t get a boost to the economy. Instead, overwhelmingly, rich folks have put their trickle down money into their investments so that nearly all reward has gone to them. The rest of us have stagnated.

Memo to lawmakers: Stop the dishonest schemes that only enrich the wealthy, like Bush’s tax cuts, Trump’s one-page “tax plan” and the disingenuous AHCA which would give huge tax breaks to rich people, funded by refusing healthcare entirely to 23 million Americans. The tax breaks will not redound to the rest of us, as history shows. Come up with a progressive tax plan that makes sense for all. And don’t ever again say “trickle-down” or “supply side” or we’ll know you’re lying.

7. Everyone knows that our infrastructure is failing. We have 55,000 bridges that need substantial repair or complete replacement. Our roads need a huge amount work. Our airports and trains are second rate compared to most of the industrialized world. The water and sewer pipes in all our major cities are over 100 years old. In short, there is a long list of what needs to be done if we are to remain the world leader.

Memo to lawmakers: Stop whining that the Obama Recovery Act (the “stimulus”) didn’t work. The spending you authorized was about half of what was needed for all those “shovel-ready” projects; then you gave half of it to rich people in the form of tax breaks that, once again, didn’t trickle down. The stimulus plan could have worked and our bridges would have been safer by now, but in your mania to ensure that Obama had no wins you submarined it. America is falling apart and you finger pointers with a big megaphone are a key reason why. Cut the crap and pass a major infrastructure plan.

This is the end of Part 1 of the Platform. You’ll find Part 2 in the next post and it will include the unveiling of that key 4-letter word.

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

Love Thy Who?

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

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

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

Our vexing political divide is the focus of this post.

———————————

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In other news

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

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

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

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

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

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

Paul Reickhoff

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

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

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

Yes, really.

Bonus Section

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

————————————

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.

————————————-

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

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

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

Trump Debate Bingo

Reading time – 87 seconds; Viewing time – 2:42  .  .  .

In a snappy article in the New York Times cleverly entitled, A Week of Whoppers From Donald Trump, authors Maggie Haberman and Alexander Burns list a single week’s “.  .  .  blizzard of [Trump’s] falsehoods, exaggerations and outright lies  .  .  .” and then debunk them.

After reading the piece it occurred to me that watching the September 26 debate would be more fun if I were to keep track of the false innuendo and bovine fecal matter that dribbles from Trump’s lips  .  .  .  just to record his prevarication score in Bingo-like fashion  .  .  .  to identify which lies he told the most times in just one 90-minute period.

Given that he was to be just one of the two debate participants, he would be limited to about 45 minutes of blatant deceit possibility, minus the time moderator Lester Holt might use for posing questions and suppressing audience reaction. Surely, not even Donald the Deceiver could rack up a high score in so little time, right?

Wrong.

In a debate where I found Donald Trump to be especially incoherent and non-specific, here are the top scoring Trump untruthables according to our crack CYA News staff:

  1. I was against going into the war in Iraq. He said something like that 4 times. Hard to tell because of his meandering, incoherent rhetoric. He said it other ways, too, which if added to the blatant denials of the truth brings the total to about 8 whoppers.
  2. Our African-American communities are absolutely in the worst shape they’ve ever been in before. He said some form of that approximately two times – sort of. Again, it’s hard to nail this down due to the Trump verbal blizzard of non-sequiturs.
  3. Lots of whoppers vying for third place, like:
    1. ISIS is in more and more places.
    2. I’m all for NATO.
    3. The Iran agreement is one of the great giveaways of all time.
    4. We lose on everything.
    5. “Stop and frisk” wasn’t found to be unconstitutional.

Perhaps things seem hopeless and you feel your sense of dignity and even your sanity assaulted by the Trump blasts of political dishonesty. Well, take heart – there is hope!

Have a look at the newest offering from the Represent.us folks. After watching their highly encouraging video, click through to their website. Then maybe even do something to make things better. I mean, really, that shouldn’t be too hard, since the bar is set so low.

DIRTY STINKING LIES BONUS SECTION:

David Leonhardt heads the New York Times Daily Opinion report and published the following summary of Deceitful Donald’s excursions from reality. There is no link to this in the newspaper, as this material was only offered as the lead article in the email to subscribers immediately following the September 26, 2016 debate.

Dear Times Reader,
He lied about the loan his father once gave him.
He lied about his company’s bankruptcies.
He lied about his federal financial-disclosure forms.
He lied about his endorsements.
He lied about “stop and frisk.”
He lied about “birtherism.”
He lied about New York.
He lied about Michigan and Ohio.
He lied about Palm Beach, Fla.
He lied about Janet Yellen and the Federal Reserve.
He lied about the trade deficit.
He lied about Hillary Clinton’s tax plan.
He lied about her child-care plan.
He lied about China devaluing its currency.
He lied about Mexico having the world’s largest factories.
He lied about the United States’s nuclear arsenal.
He lied about NATO’s budget.
He lied about NATO’s terrorism policy.
He lied about ISIS.
He lied about his past position on the Iraq War.
He lied about his past position on the national debt.
He lied about his past position on climate change.
He lied about calling pregnancy an “inconvenience” for employers.
He lied about calling women “pigs.”
He lied about calling women “dogs.
He lied about calling women “slobs.”
So… who won the debate?
You can sign up for this daily newsletter, containing commentary and links to The Times’s full daily Opinion report, here.
David Leonhardt
Op-Ed Columnist

————————————-

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 and engage.  Thanks!  JA

Copyright 2017 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.

————————————-

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

Antonio Davon Brown

Gay_flag.svgReading time – 2:44; Viewing time – 5:04  .  .  .

At the vigil on the Northbrook Village Green there were rainbow flags draped over the gazebo railings, but the vigil wasn’t about gays.

The officiants were from a dozen different faiths, but the vigil wasn’t about religion.

The attendees held candles, but the vigil wasn’t about primitive lights.

In the final analysis, the vigil was about reaffirming our common humanity. We need that reaffirmation, because we are too often battered by attempts to destroy our common humanity.

Prayers were offered to stand together and to remember, honor and stand for those cut down by angry violence, and for all of us – not just those gathered on a spring evening in the park, but for all people everywhere – to live in peace and love.  And I assure you that doing so, living for that day of peace and love, is not enough.

Waiting for that day will only get us more of what we are getting right now, over 80 U.S. homicides per day by firearm. We have more than twice as many mass shootings per year than the next 4 countries combined. Vigils won’t stop the next homicide. But vigils can propel us off our passive backsides and into action and that is the only thing that will begin to stop the carnage.

90% of Americans want universal background checks for the sale of any firearm and 80% of NRA members want that, too. Why isn’t that the law of the land? The vast majority of Americans want assault rifles banned entirely, but anybody with enough cash can buy one in minutes. Why is that?  Following the massacre in Orlando, there is now pressure to create legislation to prevent anyone on a terrorist watch list from buying firearms. That effort required nearly 15 hours of filibustering by Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) just to enable a discussion of the topic. Why do so many congressmen and senators block any gun safety measures from becoming law? What is the reason for all the push-back against what Americans want?

The answer is the money of the NRA. Without it, many members of Congress would have trouble funding their reelection campaigns, so they take money from the NRA and then do its bidding to enhance sales of firearms for the companies of the firearms industry, the true masters of the NRA. That makes it possible for an angry young man to purchase an AR-15, a handgun and lots of ammunition and then kill 49 people and wound another 53 in an Orlando night club. Here is the translation of that into simple truth:

The senators and congressmen who make themselves beholden to the NRA care more about their political careers than they do about more than one hundred casualties in just one night in Orlando, or the holiday partiers in San Bernadino, or 20 little kids and 6 teachers killed in Sandy Hook, or the people in a church in Charleston, or the movie goers who went to see the new Batman movie in Aurora or the kids at Columbine High School. These legislators care more about their political careers than they do about the brutal deaths of over 30,000 Americans every year. And if you are the next victim of an angry young man who decides to shoot up the theater you’re attending, these legislators really don’t care. Not about you.

And that won’t change just because we held candles during the vigil in the Village Green Park. Our silence will only enable the next massacre. That will only start to change when you get up and make your voice heard. So, get up. Get active. Get heard.

Go to www.PeacefulCommunities.org and sign the petition. Attend a rally. Get up. Get active. Get heard.

Go to the websites for the Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence and People For a Safer Society and take the action steps. Get up. Get active. Get heard.

Antonio Davon Brown

Antonio Davon Brown

Captain Antonio Davon Brown was a down-to-earth guy, according to the Orlando Sentinel. He was a 2008 graduate of Florida A&M University and had been deployed in Kuwait. He and I did not know one another and now that he has been murdered in the Pulse Nightclub in Orland, FL, we will never know one another. That he was there suggests that he liked to have a good time. He might have been gay – or perhaps he just liked hanging out with friends and the loud, upbeat music and some drinks.

Captain Brown was not a statistic. He was a real person who lived and loved and hoped, just like you and I do. He was only able to do that for 30 years. Just 30 years, because in America, buying an AR-15 is as easy as buying a gallon of milk.

Get up. Get active. Get heard. Right here, right now.

————————————-

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

1 2 3 6  Scroll to top