guns

Plumbing

Reading time – 1:34; Viewing time – 2:23  .  .  .

During a recent visit to my dentist I stopped in the men’s room and found a – let’s call it “interesting” – wall sign. Honestly, I have never heard of sensitive plumbing. I mean, isn’t it just a bunch of sturdy pipes? Does the plumbing in a commercial building have feelings? Does it become upset if something that doesn’t belong there gets introduced to its innards? Is anxiety triggered just beyond the next pipe fitting by a careless user? What are we to make of this new age accommodation to the emotions of plumbing?

Well, nothing, of course. But it brought to mind the crude and cruel behavior of those in the White House and Congress and how they seem to view the American people. Perhaps they haven’t seen this sign and don’t realize that the American people, for all our strength and rugged individualism, for all our can-do spirit, have certain sensitivities. There are some things that just don’t go down well.

For example, we’re sensitive to the healthcare needs of one another and we don’t want people thrown under the plumbing just because they aren’t wealthy. We’re sensitive to the thousands who are killed by gun violence every year, so we really want sensible gun laws to protect our dear ones. We’re sensitive to the outrageous tsunami of money heaped into our politics by extremely wealthy people in a pay-to-play scheme – it’s corroding our democracy. We’re sensitive to the inability of those we send to Washington to accomplish much more than naming a post office. We’re sensitive to our rapidly heating planet and fear for the future of our kids and grand kids. And we’re sensitive to the declining standard of living for about 90% of us.

Click me – then sign up to learn more about the Summit for righties, lefties and indies

Tell you what let’s do. Copy the picture above and paste it into an email to your senators, congressperson and to President Trump. Tell them you’re a sensitive American and you want them to solve the vexing problems we face and for them to stop the stupid stuff. Let them know that if they don’t, they’ll be the ones introduced to the plumbing in 2018.

Apologies to all for my tasteless metaphor.

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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.

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.

Not Knowing

Reading time – 4:15; Viewing time – 6:10  .  .  .

It takes time to sort through the chaos and begin to see what is truly there. George Will at last did exactly that and explained it in his column of May 3rd, when he wrote of President Trump, ”  . .  .  the dangerous thing is that he does not know what it is to know something.”

We humans are profoundly uncomfortable with not knowing. We make up stories in a nanosecond to fill voids in our understandings and you’ll find yourself doing it many times a day if you know what to look for. For example:

  • You’re driving down the highway when the car in the next lane suddenly swerves into your lane, cutting you off. There’s a good chance you’ll be yelling something like, “Idiot!” just as though you actually know something about the other driver’s mental limitations. But it’s just your fantasy.
  • or
  • Your high school age kid has a curfew of midnight and it’s 1:15AM. She’s not home and there’s been no phone call. Do you think, “Gosh, I’ll bet she’s having a great time at the party”? Not a chance. You’re reaching for your phone and wondering where to call first, the police or the hospital. Either way, you’ve made up a story.

We all make up stories because we’re more comfortable with our fictions than with not knowing. And so it is with trying to understand Donald Trump’s behavior.

Dozens of mental health professionals have weighed in, finding him wanting of certain higher brain functions and social skills. We’ve called Trump many names in an effort to explain what drives his detached-from-reality, self-serving, cruel and sometimes questionably legal behavior, but George Will seems to have identified something that leans against the heart of the matter. Trump really doesn’t know what it is to know something. He just makes stuff up.

Be clear that what drives Trump’s disability is far less important than limiting him so that in his inability to actually know something he doesn’t permanently damage what’s important.

Which brings us to Trump’s obvious attempts to obstruct justice.

  1. He fired U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara of the Southern District of New York as he was investigating possible wrong-doing by Trump’s HHS Secretary Tom Price, as well as Trump’s primary flag-waver, Fox News. Further, Bharara had jurisdiction over Trump Tower in New York.
  2. He finagled Rep. Devin Nunez (R – Political Suicide) into making a fool of himself and, in the process, neutering the House Intelligence Committee’s efforts to investigate Trump’s possible conspiracy with the Russians to turn the presidential election his way.
  3. He fired Sally Yates, Acting Attorney General, when she both refused to defend Trump’s clearly unconstitutional Muslim ban and she warned Trump of Mike Flynn setting himself up for blackmail by the Russians. That would imply a link to Trump. Clearly, Yates had to go.
  4. And now, just as James Comey had gone to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein asking for additional resources for the expanding investigation into Trump’s possible conspiracy with the Russians, Trump fired him*, giving a clumsy and implausible justification for the sacking (click here for the documentation).
  5. Furthermore, don’t forget Trump’s continuing attack on the Fourth Estate, the people of the press, who are the watchdogs to keep government accountable. He viciously and baselessly attacks the press at every opportunity in order to undermine your confidence in them when they report negative things about him.

Are you seeing a pattern here?

Donald Trump neutralizes anyone who starts to get close to the truth about him. That ought to shiver your timbers; it surely shivers those of our democracy.

As for the challenges of reporting on Trump, have a look at what Russian reporter Alexey Kovalev had to say about covering Trump’s bromance idol Putin and see if anything sounds familiar. This is what it’s like covering lying, manipulative autocrats.

Not knowing causes us to make up stories to fill in the blanks and it’s all too easy to focus on doing that, but making up stories is insufficient if we’re to have a democracy. We need an independent investigation of Trump and his cronies now. Go to Rep. Jerry Nadler’s (R-NY) page for MoveOn.org and sign the petition calling for exactly that. Here’s why.

Last week I attended a meeting hosted by Rep Brad Schneider (D-IL) focusing on gun violence in the U.S. There I asked a question about what it will take to get a gun safety bill onto the floor of the House and Senate for an up-or-down vote so we can hold our legislators accountable. He said it would take two things. First, it will take new leadership. That makes sense, since it’s the leader of each chamber of Congress who decides what bills will come to the floor. Second, he said it will take the power of the people. We must make our voices heard.

That happens when millions of us speak up – our power is in our numbers – and it’s why you’re going to sign Jerry Nadler’s petition. Go ahead, do it now. Then call your senators and representative, telling them to pdemand an independent prosecutor.

Breaking news .  .  . CLICK ME

Not knowing isn’t an option – because you know.

In an interview with Lester Holt on May 11, President Trump characterized James Comey as a “showboat” and “grand-stander.” Is it possible that Trump fired Comey, in part, because he was getting too much attention and Trump wants it all for himself? No, that isn’t snark and I’m not kidding. I’m wondering if that’s part of the motivation for firing Comey for this attention craving president.

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

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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.

Have We Forgotten?

Reading time – 2:23; Viewing time – 3:14  .  .  .

If you scratch at the story of nearly any American you won’t have to go very deep – usually no more than 4 or 5 generations back – to find immigrants. And those immigrants not so many years back were not royalty. They weren’t moneyed elite. They weren’t the connected and the powerful.

Elizabeth Warren was right when she said that our business leaders, our entrepreneurs, didn’t build it themselves. They got their education because we all funded it. They’re able to find skilled new employees today for the same reason. Their supplies and their goods go to and from their shops on roads we all paid for and their toilets flush because we all got together and decided to build sanitation facilities. The list of the facets of infrastructure, education, incentives and opportunities no one person built is far too long to list. The point is that we support one another and none of us makes it on his/her own.

Back to your ancestors – they didn’t make it alone either. They didn’t pull themselves up by their bootstraps; someone gave them a job. Or someone gave them credit to buy a pushcart and fill it with apples. Let that stand as a metaphor for however your far-better circumstances came about.

At the Passover Seders just concluded around the world a message near the end of the service reminds us that the longing and search for freedom is never-ending and that it is the responsibility of each of us to do our part to bring about freedom for all. Jesus said “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 25:40). The imperative across religions is remarkably consistent: It is our duty to care for the poor and the stranger.

We are in this world and this life together and irrespective of anyone’s sense of rugged individualism, we are interdependent. We are all called upon to care for one another – we are, indeed, our brother’s keeper. Have we forgotten that and where we came from?

The next time you hear someone denigrating “those others” as though they are different from and less than “us”, and chest thumping over keeping refugee mothers and babies and bedraggled girls and boys and men from our shores, or ripping mothers and fathers from their children, or refusing to pay a living wage to laborers, or threatening to limit services to the widow or the pregnant teen across town, or blocking anything that might mitigate the slaughter of our people by handguns  – the victims are mostly poor people, like your ancestors – give some thought to the imperatives that come to us through the millennia.

We are cautioned at the Passover Seder: “Remember, you were slaves in the land of Egypt.” That isn’t some metaphorical or impersonal “you;” it means you. It’s where you came from, exactly as it is for the poor and the strangers among us now. Have we forgotten?

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

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

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

The Spineless Ones

Reading time – 3:51; Viewing time – 6:13  .  .  .

This is the sad tale of The Spineless Ones, those who simply cannot stand up for what they know to be right and instead selfishly cave in to others, whom they allow to be far too influential in their careers.

The members of the House voted 235-180 and the Senate voted 57-43 to eliminate the prohibition of mentally unstable people from being able to purchase firearms. Essentially, they’ve said that your sociopathic Uncle Alfonse, who is mentally unable to care for himself and has violent hallucinations, may now own an arsenal of guns and ammunition.


 

Said Dan Gross, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence,

“Make no mistake, this vote was really about deepening the gun industry’s customer pool, at the expense of those in danger of hurting themselves or others.

The repeal of the prohibition was spearheaded in the Senate by Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA). He is the same Chuck Grassley who fought Obamacare with the stirring words of a warrior for truth and integrity, saying, “They’re going to pull the plug on Granny.” He declared that lie as part of the Republican brain dead opposition to anything Obama, this episode of which was a fight against non-existent “death panels” he insisted were built into the Affordable Care Act. In this week’s victory for more homicides, his next act of courage, Grassley declared that the prohibition against the ownership of guns by the mentally disabled unfairly stigmatizes these people. UNFAIRLY STIGMATIZES THESE PEOPLE!

Is this nonsense making your eyes go all googly? Does Grassley’s Orwellian logic of people who are mentally disabled being stigmatized because they can’t own a Bushmaster assault rifle mash up your brain cells? It should.

This is yet another case of big money lobbying distorting our rights, our freedom, our safety and our common sense. It is exactly why I deliver keynotes entitled, Money, Politics and Democracy: You Aren’t Getting What You Want (here’s a link to a 15-minute sample video). If we don’t fix this, the next time you walk past your neighbor’s door you may be greeted by that poor soul who suffers from dementia but has in his hands a Glock semi-automatic fitted with a silencer. He might not shoot you then, but he’ll still be next door tonight – with his gun. Sleep well.

And get me booked to present to your group before Grassley and the other Spineless Ones do yet more damage to America.

President Trump’s press conference of February 16 was yet another supreme exhibition of self-congratulation and self-admiration, reaffirming multiple times what the electoral college count was and how awful Hillary is, and an unrelenting attack on the press, supported by absolutely no specifics or facts. That is to say, it was standard Trump and added very little to our political or governmental knowledge.

From The Globe and Mail, January 31 and February 15, 2017. Thanks to our Canadian friends for putting this into perspective. Thanks to PW for sending the link. CLICK ME

What he did say was that in talking with the Russians after the election and before the inauguration, Michael Flynn was doing his job. Trump said that  he did not direct Flynn to talk with them about the easing of sanctions, but that he would have, had he given Flynn marching orders. Just to be clear, Flynn’s advising the Russians about Trump lifting sanctions once in office, this done while President Obama was still in office, was and is an illegal act, arguably treason. And President Trump tells us that he would have advised Flynn to do that very thing.

I’m past asking questions, like why would Trump do such a thing or even say such a thing, because his why doesn’t matter. What does matter is that he has once more demonstrated his complete lack of respect for the law. What do you think we the people should do about that?

We’ll be watching to see how The Spineless Ones deal with the apparent treason that has rocked our democracy. Do they have what it takes to stand up for what they know is right, or will they cave in yet again, this time to an infant tyrant’s delusions of grandeur and lawlessness? Watch this space.

In Other News

This is from a stunning letter to the editor of the New York Times, February 13, 2017 from two mental health professionals. It was published before the Trump rant-and-rage press conference of February 16:

Mr. Trump’s speech and actions demonstrate an inability to tolerate views different from his own, leading to rage reactions. His words and behavior suggest a profound inability to empathize. Individuals with these traits distort reality to suit their psychological state, attacking facts and those who convey them (journalists, scientists).

In a powerful leader, these attacks are likely to increase, as his personal myth of greatness appears to be confirmed. We believe that the grave emotional instability indicated by Mr. Trump’s speech and actions makes him incapable of serving safely as president.

  • Lance Dodes
  • Joseph Schachter
  • Beverly Hills, CA

Finally, I just returned from a town hall meeting with Rep. Brad Schneider (D-IL 10th). Hundreds of highly energized citizens packed every meeting room in the library to capacity and he stayed overtime to answer questions. Does your representative show up for town halls and answer questions? Does your representative both enter and exit using the front door, or is s/he weaseling out the back so they don’t have to face you?

Key point: Rep. Schneider made it clear that his focus is to uphold the oath he took to protect and defend the Constitution, not partisan extremism. Can your representative say the same thing? Or is s/he a tool of their party, one of The Spineless Ones?

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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.

They Aren’t Voting Against Their Interests

Reading time – 2:27 seconds; Viewing time – 4:01  .  .  .

Admit it: You’ve wondered many times why so many people vote against their own interests. Perhaps you’ve included some character assassination adjectives into your question now and then. Well, the simple answer is that nobody is voting against themselves. We all vote for what we feel is most important to us and that isn’t always as obvious as we might imagine it to be.

In a most clear and enlightening article in the New York Times, The Peculiar Populism of Donald Trump, Thomas B. Edsall cites the work of Ronald Inglehart and Pippa Norris published by the Harvard Kennedy School. The piece makes clear the massive cultural changes that have significantly and negatively impacted millions of people, such that what they care about most and what they deeply fear have shifted, and so has the voting behavior of these people.

Here are some excerpts from the conclusion of Inglehart and Norris’ original work:

“Less educated and older citizens, especially white men, who were once the privileged majority culture in Western societies, resent being told that traditional values are ‘politically incorrect’ if they have come to feel that they are being marginalized within their own countries. As cultures have shifted, a tipping point appears to have occurred.”

“.  .  .  the rise of populist parties reflects, above all, a reaction against a wide range of rapid cultural changes that seem to be eroding the basic values and customs of Western societies.”

“.  .  .  it would be a mistake to attribute the rise of populism directly to economic inequality alone. Psychological factors seem to play a more important role.”

Read the Times piece and it’s likely, you’ll come away with a better understanding of what happened in the last election and you just might find a bit of compassion for “those people.” If you’re feeling ambitious, read the original research.

Just get that we need a heaping majority of citizens to demand better if we are to stop the insanity of killing our democracy and instead create a more perfect union. How we communicate with one another is and will be critical.

Also review No, people really aren’t turning away from democracy and How to stop arguing and actually change someone’s mind on social media.

In Other News

The Republicans in Congress want to do away with restrictions to severely mentally ill people owning firearms. At the same time, Governor Rauner of Illinois wants to make silencers legal. What could possibly go wrong?

From the Chicago Tribune editorial on February 4, addressing National Security Advisor Mike Flynn having warned the Iranians that they have been put “on notice” following their test of a ballistic missile:

“Putting Iran ‘on notice’ sounds like Dean Wormer’s menacing but vague ‘double secret probation’ from the 1978 movie Animal House.”

Just for fun, have a look at what the countries of Europe are saying to President Trump and his Inauguration Day declaration of America First. This started in the Netherlands and offerings are continuing to be posted from more countries. Just click on any flag, sit back and enjoy. Thanks go to LR for pointing out this site.

And finally  .  .  .

Action Alert!

Many people want to stop wringing hands and actually DO something to make things better. Perhaps that describes you. Easy. Go to https://dailyaction.org/ and sign up for the Action Alerts. You’ll receive a short daily text on what needs your attention and the necessary links and phone numbers. It will even dial your phone for you. Saddle up!

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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.

The Question

Reading time – 1:56; Viewing time – 3:48  .  .  .

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No email link is available, so copy/paste [email protected] into an email and say you’ll be there.

I’ve been in dialogue with a small group of smart people, many of whom read and contribute to this series. They have offered great clarity and insight and have pushed me to refine what I now see as the key question of our time. The question I pose is in service of something much larger and which requires naming in order for the question to make full sense. It is about our acute political polarization and how we can bring people together so that we have the muscle to demand the change – the democracy – our country needs.

Over most of the decades of my adult life I have seen what looks to me to be an incremental loss of democracy in America, with the people losing power and an elite few gaining it. Most Americans are centrists, but most of our elected officials are either partisan zealots or they cower before the zealots, resulting in governmental outcomes we the people don’t want and helping to polarize our citizenry. For example, 80% of Americans want universal background checks on sales of firearms and a ban on assault weapons, but the legislative extremists and the powerful, well funded lobbying groups ensure that there is never even a vote on the issue. There are many other examples of how we the people (as in democracy = “rule by the people”) are not getting what we want, all of which is to say that democracy has been sorely compromised.

What requires naming for The Question to make full sense is that we must save our democracy. Perhaps you prefer “restore” our democracy. Either way, just stopping the thieves is insufficient.

So, my question is:

How can we politically polarized Americans find a way to talk with one another, not scream past one another, and come together in the common cause of democracy?

Just asking the question unmasks me as the 60s idealist I remain, but I believe that it is the question we must answer in order to change our course. I went out on a limb with my article ringing the alarm of fascism staring us in the face and I expect substantial push-back. So, too, did those ringing the alarm in Mussolini’s Italy, in Hitler’s Germany, in Stalin’s Russia and in Pol Pot’s Cambodia (yes, I know those last two were communists – the same democracy robbing principles hold) and many other places where authoritarians ruled. The danger usually isn’t obvious when change is made incrementally, but now you need only look at the cabinet and advisor picks of our President Elect, match that with his extremist promises, flagrant lies, pathological need to be powerful, his thin skin and cruelty, his obvious contempt for our laws and the Constitution and you should be able to see the fascist freight train at the other end of the tunnel barreling down on us.

It is possible that you don’t and won’t share my view of the dire future we face if we sit back and let others make our decisions for us. That’s okay, because you likely share my view that we have lost key elements of democracy and that we have to re-secure them or we will lose all.

Abraham Lincoln said it best: “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” We must stand together – righties, centrists and lefties –  if we are to restore our democracy.

So, back to my question:

How can we politically polarized Americans find a way to talk with one another, not scream past one another, and come together in the common cause of 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.

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.

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.

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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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