corporate influence

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. Steven 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.

Should I Run?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From the Beach – v 1.0

Reading time – 3:05; Viewing time – 4:49  .  .  .

Comments from reality for our legislators:

We know.

And you know, too.

And we know you know.

And you know that we know that you know.

So, how come you’re saying stupid stuff? How come you’re lying and pretending to be ignorant?

Last Saturday saw the world marching for science, which shouldn’t have been necessary, because it’s kind of like marching for air. I mean, who isn’t in favor of air? Like air, why wouldn’t everyone be in favor of science? It’s done things like enabled the eradication of smallpox everywhere and we’re this close to eradicating polio – there are only 5 reported cases worldwide this year. Science has brought the entire world to unprecedented levels of prosperity. Who wouldn’t support disciplines that help us so much?

You already know that 97% of the world’s climate scientists proclaim loudly and clearly that the Earth is warming at an extremely rapid rate toward extremely dangerous consequences. You also know that the studies done by the remaining 3% of climate scientists were funded largely by – guess who? – the fossil fuel industries.

Donald Trump insists that global warming is a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese. Many Senators and Representatives (mostly with an R by their name) outright deny that global warming is happening, or they admit that the planet is warming but they deny human behavior is making things worse. They simply refuse to see what they don’t want to see and that’s the extent of their ostrich insight.

Why would they do that?

Why would they consign their own children and grandchildren to the devastation of ever-more severe hurricanes, and famine, the kind that’s sweeping across Africa right now? It’s already beginning to be seen in America, because increased heat and reduced rainfall are baking our agricultural lands. Why would they risk the political and cultural perils of the mass emigrations that have already begun? Why would they allow Miami, New York, Los Angeles and the rest of our coastal cities to become Atlantis?  It’s about short-term thinking and self-serving priorities.

We get it, because all we have to do to understand is to follow the money.

So, to those very same short-term thinking, self-serving politicians, just get this: We know. And we know that you know. We see you and we will remember all of it on the date of your next election.

We know.

Now a little definition clarity

From the Merriam-Webster Dictionary: Entitlement – “A right to benefits specified especially by law or contract.”

The word “entitlement” has long been used to describe government programs that deliver benefits to our citizens, like Social Security and Medicare. The political right has done a marvelous job of shifting the simple obligatory meaning of the word to include a connotation of “freebies given to the undeserving.” Arguments abound over the sustainability of these programs, but the wrongness now slathered on the entitlement concept resides primarily within the haves who vilify the have-nots, the self-described makers portraying themselves as being fleeced by the takers.

Our contract law stems from English Common Law, so we’re steeped in many hundreds of years of belief and agreement that when we make a deal we have to keep our part of the bargain. A deal is a deal, so let’s define this properly.

Our governmental entitlement programs carry with them a contract to deliver the agreed upon benefits to the people. They don’t include options for Paul Ryan to offshore the obligation to private sellers so they can make a buck. So, to our legislators: figure out the funding challenge. And don’t fix this by dumping the heavy load onto the backs of poor people, because they’re entitled.

Bonus Selection

I’ve long wondered what it would take – what outrages were necessary – to motivate people to stand up and demand better. It seems we’ve found out.

Public dissent in the form of mass protests have become frequent and very vocal and the combined voices are having significant impact. A common chant of the crowds is:

  • “Show me what democracy looks like.”
  • answered by,
  • “This is what democracy looks like.”

The “this” in the response is the people in the streets standing up for what they believe in and demanding better.

That leads us to the current post of my friend Mardy Grothe. He is one of a small handful of Yoda-like people in my life, none of whom is short, green or has pointed ears. They simply are wise.

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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.

Love Thy Who?

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

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

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

Our vexing political divide is the focus of this post.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In other news

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

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

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

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

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

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

Paul Reickhoff

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

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

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

Yes, really.

Bonus Section

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

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

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

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

What Ails Us – v2.0

Reading time – 1:49; Viewing time – 2:32  .  .  .

Just back from the Tax March-Chicago and there’s much to report. Pics are in the blog – I think you’ll enjoy the signage (use your browser’s zoom function to zoom in and read the signs) – but the key is the meaning of it all.

This march was one of many across the nation on this Tax Day, April 15 and the marches were promoted for the purpose of demanding that Donald Trump release his tax returns. Nobody expects that he’ll turn them over because hundreds of thousands of Americans turned out across the country to make the demand, but it was important that we demand and keep on demanding.

There are so many ways Trump has proven to be disingenuous, manipulative, dishonest and incompetent that it is extremely difficult to have any trust in him. Further, the FBI and committees of both houses of Congress are investigating his ties to Russia because he may have colluded with them to swing the presidential election to himself. That’s treason.

Congressional Job Approval, through 2016, Gallup Organization

And truly, it isn’t just Trump. We have so many reasons to distrust our government and we have responded to ongoing polls about how we feel about it, like Gallup’s (left), which says that 81 of every 100 Americans doesn’t trust our government. In my Money, Politics & Democracy: You Aren’t Getting What You Want presentations I show the graph that’s attached to this blog and then ask attendees how we can possibly have a democracy when our distrust in our own government is so awful. I’ve yet to hear an answer to my question.

And that’s the main point. The tsunami of money in our politics, our lying president, a senator holding a snowball as he speaks on the floor of the Senate and claiming that the snowball is proof that climate warming is a hoax, legislators promising to take health care from 24 million more Americans, and all the rest have eroded our trust in government and we feel betrayed. The reason we feel betrayed is because in reality, we have been.

And that’s what the marches and rallies are all about. There’s only so much betrayal we’ll put up with. There’s only so much scorn from our elected officials that we’ll tolerate. Then we push back. Hard.

So, to paraphrase Shakespeare, “Hell hath no fury like Americans scorned.” Politicians, you’ve been warned.

Bonus Section

Trump claiming things are a mess may serve him by making it look as if he’s avoiding responsibility (in reality, he can’t) and if something gets a bit better that may make him look to be heroic to some people. You know there’s a “but” coming: BUT like so much of what Trump says, his claims are lies. Baseless, fatuous lies designed only to buff his TV reality show image. Read John Pavlovitz’s clarifying piece, No, Mr. Trump, America Is Not a Mess.

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

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

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

BOHICA

Reading time – 3:45; Viewing time – 6:41  .  .  .

Critical Action Step – just 4 minutes completion time

This is about dealing with the mother lode of our political dysfunction, so first things first. Click here and read the short, clear text of the proposed 28th Amendment to the Constitution – the We The People Amendment. It’s designed to stop corporate and big money control of your government. Then click here and send the MoveToAmend message to your representative to co-sponsor this vitally important legislation.

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It was just five years ago – maybe you remember when Darrell Issa (R-CA) was chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and he held hearings on the Affordable Care Act requirement to offer birth control as part of the ACA. That the hearings took place is anything but remarkable. What is noteworthy is that Issa refused to call any women as witnesses. Not one. And, no, Sandra Fluke did not testify for Issa’s committee. He refused her, this at the same time Rush Limbaugh was calling her a whore. That no women were included in discussions about birth control is outrageous for at least three reasons:

  1. The birth control in question is entirely that which applies to women. The ACA did not contemplate covering vasectomies. Clearly, women have standing in this discussion.
  2. Because women carry most of the burden of birth control, their views offer insight that men simply cannot provide.
  3. Women represent more than 50% of the American population. When you figure out why over half the citizens of the U.S. should be ignored, be sure to let me know.

That’s just the way today’s Republicans roll and it’s continuing today in House Resolution 610, which they label as a two-parter:

  1. The Choices in Education Act of 2017
  2. The No Hungry Kids Act

What could be bad about choices and well fed kids?

Well, it turns out that this bill is actually designed to do exactly the opposite of the claims its title suggests, so here is a more accurate moniker: the Screw the Constitution and Let the Kids Eat Crap Republican Initiative of 2017.

There are two problems with this legislation. The first is that “choices” means that this is a voucher program that will give public funds (that means your money) to private schools you just might not want to directly support. It also means that your money will go to parents who home school their kids, too. Public money will be diverted from our public education system (the school in your neighborhood) to make these “choices” possible.

Be clear that many of these private schools are parochial. And overwhelmingly, people who home school their kids do so to integrate their religion into basic education. So, to sum that up, the House Resolution is designed to send your money to the pockets of owners of for-profit schools and to religious institutions, while at the same time starving our public schools to death. Good-bye to public education and good-bye to separation of church and state.

The second part of House Resolution 610 removes the requirement that food being offered to kids in school be nutritious, like fruits, vegetables and low fat protein. Instead, the schools that your money will go to will be allowed to stuff any kind of cheap crap down our kids’ throats. This should be a boon to the sugar and saturated fat industries. Really, though, kids don’t make campaign contributions, so who cares about them anyway?

The most egregious part of this is that President Trump, Vice President Pence and Education Secretary Betsy De Vos held a so-called listening session with 10 representatives from the field of education. Only two represented public education full time. It’s the same warped thing that Darrell Issa did regarding birth control.

All of which is to say that the Republican method for investigating any topic and providing solutions to our significant challenges is to decide in advance the outcome they want and then make a sham of the entire process of investigation and sound decision making, to which I say, BOHICA – “Bend over, here it comes again.”

Watch the short video What is HR 610 and How Will It Affect Education? Then follow the simple instructions in the video. At stake is the Constitution and the future of our kids. They shouldn’t be forced to eat crap. Metaphorically, neither should you.

In Other News

What if the blizzard of organizations vying for your attention, action and money could be aggregated under an umbrella that can connect you where you want to be connected and which can help your organization achieve far greater reach?

And what if you want to be better informed without totally disrupting your life?

Say good-bye to the what-ifs, because if you live in the Chicago area your solution is at hand. Come to the information-packed United for Democracy Now meeting on March 25 at 1:00PM and get it all – here’s a link to the FaceBook page. Then just click the GOING button so we reserve space for you and your friends who will accompany you. There’s no cost to attend the meeting, you won’t be hit on for anything and you’ll have a way to get your organization way better connected. Plus, you’ll walk out better informed by the wonderful presenters, who will talk about:

An overview of what’s really happening – like about small business, the ACA and more.

Healthcare – betcha you want to get a handle on what’s really going on and what can be done.

The tar sands oil pipeline – coming soon to an Illinois near you. These things only leak sometimes.

The craziness is unremitting and, as David Corn said, you can’t fact check crazy. But we can be better informed, so this is the meeting you want to attend. And you just might leave a bit more hopeful. Wouldn’t that be refreshing!

BTW: I’m the MC for this meeting – come say hello. I’ll look for 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.

  • ————————————
  • 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.

I Got It Wrong

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

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

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

We hold these truths to be self-evident:

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

And it’s in the Preamble to the Constitution:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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