integrity

The Right Way to Turn Left

My drivers-ed teacher taught the standard Illinois Rules Of the Road protocol and instilled solid habits in we fledgling motorists.  She even gave each of us a one-time lesson in stick-shift driving.  Because the school’s cars were all automatics, she graciously – perhaps foolishly – volunteered her Ford Thunderbird.  If that car were around today, I’m sure the clutch would still bear the scars of my awkward footwork.

One of my teacher’s lessons concerned the right way to turn left.  She explained that the rules were set up to maximize the flow of traffic and benefit everyone.  She told us that waiting for oncoming traffic to clear, with your car remaining even with the stop light meant that only one car would be able to turn left when the light changed to yellow and oncoming traffic stopped.  Instead, she had us pull to the center of the intersection so that we could clear the area quickly on the yellow light and allow a couple more cars to turn left behind us before the light turned red.

Today, I see lots of people who don’t do what my drivers-ed teacher taught us to do.  Not surprisingly, that results in exactly what my teacher predicted – everyone else has to wait.

Another way to see that is that when people only look after their own needs, others suffer.  That sounds a lot like today’s politics.  I wrote about that last week in a slightly snarky piece called Hollering.

This time, though, it’s specifically about the effects on others of those people only looking out for themselves – and those effects are always negative.  An example is the crazy-easy way it is to circumvent our pathetic little protections against the wrong person getting their hands on an assault rifle and thousands of rounds of ammunition.  The consequences for others are often lethal.

Another example is the fundamentally fraudulent, proven false for over 35 years, supply side economics.  It is the practice of stacking the deck in favor of those who already have lots, with the phony promise that somehow benefits will “trickle down” to the little people.  That hasn’t work out well for most “little people”.

In contrast, when we all play together and play by rules designed to benefit everyone, we’re all better off.  Look at Medicare as an example.  The only people who don’t like Medicare are the providers who are prevented from over-charging – nobody who is on Medicare doesn’t like it.  The same goes for Social Security.  And public education.  And protecting the environment.  Sure, there are people who have to put some effort and some cash into doing the right things, but we’re all better off for that.  Indeed, since the EPA started its efforts in 1970, the Cuyahoga River in Cleveland hasn’t caught fire – not even once.  Lake Michigan is clean and safe for swimming.  And the air no longer stings the eyes and throats of people in Los Angeles.

When we all play by rules that help us all, we are all better off.  Just like when we turn left the right way.

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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.  Please help by passing this along and encouraging others to do the same.  Thanks.  JA

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

Hollering

Caution: Contains snark!  Children, as well as adults who act like children, should proceed with caution.

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When Wayne LaPierre became executive vice-president of the NRA he shed his bookish ways and made himself into the out-front, out-there, inflammatory voice of the gun manufacturers’ lobby.  His misleading assertions and fabrications of “facts” and his only partial view of the Constitution (interested in only the last 13 words of the Second Amendment and abandoning the rest) show us that he is just another of America’s pretenders to reality, our public delusionals.  It isn’t that Wayne and I disagree; it’s that we are working toward vastly different goals, as he is all about Wayne and I am not.

When Keith Olbermann had his program on MSNBC he would periodically quote Sarah Palin, catching her in yet another Palin otherworldly moment.  His disgust for her would erupt by concluding his piece, saying, “That woman is an idiot!

I have the utmost regard for Olbermann’s intelligence, but he is wrong about Palin.  She is no idiot.  In fact, it is arguable that she is a genius.

Olbermann reacted to her blatantly false statements, her inflammatory rhetoric and dingbat mistakes as though she were all about being a reality based politician, but that is not what Sarah Palin was or is about.  Sarah is all about promoting Sarah and she will say and do anything that advances her.  That is where her genius lies.  And lies and lies.  She is very good at that.  It isn’t that she and I disagree.  It’s that Sarah is all about Sarah and I am not.

In a television interview five years ago, Rush Limbaugh gave himself up as being all about himself, exactly as Sarah Palin is all about herself, when he confessed, “I am doing my show for ratings. I want the largest audience I can get because that’s how I can charge the highest advertising ratings – rates. Which means what else do I want? Money.”

Silly you, you probably thought Limbaugh believes the drivel that comes out of his mouth.  Not so.  What he believes is that if he can tweak enough people, if he can draw out the worst that is in some of us, his ratings will go up and he will get more money.  So, it isn’t that Rush and I disagree.  It’s that he is all about Rush and I am not.

The same goes for Ted Cruz (Mr. “Green Eggs and Ham”), Michele Bachmann (Ms. “The Civil War started in New Hampshire”, the John Wayne/John Wayne Gacy oops and the rest), Rience Pribus (who can’t tell the difference between the scandal that is the George Washington Bridge fiasco and the sad but non-scandal Benghazi incident).  They are all about themselves and I am not at all about them.

I’m all about America and Americans.  I know that we can be way better than the quagmire of today’s America and the only thing standing in our way is the swarm of self-serving people with big megaphones.

It isn’t that we disagree with Palin and the rest.  It’s that they are all about them and we most certainly are not.  And we have far more voices than those public delusionals and can drown out their nonsense.  We just need to holler all together.

The two most common elements in the universe are hydrogen and stupidity. Harlan Ellison.

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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.  Please help by passing this along and encouraging others to do the same.  Thanks.  JA

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

Imagine . . .

Conjuring the precise and slow voice, the deliberate and accurate words, the syllables sounding as though passed through a long, reedy pipe, comes the voice of of Carl Sagan  .  .  .

“Imagine, if you will, an alternate universe with billions and billions of galaxies, each containing billions of stars.  Around one of those stars can be found an Earth-like planet.  This planet is populated by people who see what is really before them, who analyze without predetermined judgment and who follow the path of evidence wherever it may lead.  They have the remarkable self-restraint and mindfulness both to refrain from bombastic rhetoric based upon fantasy and instead speak directly to issues.

“Imagine further that those who listen do so, too, for the single purpose of understanding, for clarity and learning, for greater knowledge.  And when the listeners then speak, their purpose, like that which came before, is an effort to further understand truth and reality.

“And they work together to make things better for all.”

Huh?  Wha  .  .  .  oh, it’s my alarm clock.

What an odd dream I had.

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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.  Please help by passing this along and encouraging others to do the same.  Thanks.  JA

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

This Is For You If You’re Unemployed

On January 20, 2009, the night of President Obama’s inauguration, Mitch McConnell, John Boehner, Eric Cantor, Paul Ryan and others met for a late dinner at a posh DC restaurant.  They weren’t there to eat.

They were there to plot their strategy following the Obama mandate and it took them just minutes to decide how to move forward.  Their number one objective, as stated repeatedly by McConnell and others since that date was to ensure that Barack Obama was a one-term president.  To that end, their strategy was to block anything that the new president proposed even if he proposed programs that Republicans believed in or had introduced themselves.  They planned to make a political eunuch of the leader of the free world.

And that strategy, like every strategy, has had consequences.  One consequence is that we do not have universal background checks for gun sales, even though 90% of we Americans want them.  Another is that the Congress has spent enormous time and energy fighting healthcare reform the likes of which Republicans had promoted for decades and which a Republican governor instituted in Massachusetts.  Still another is that the Congress has blocked every program that would create an economic environment that would produce new jobs.  If you are unemployed, there is a good chance that the Republican power strategy is the reason.

The Republicans have filibustered in the Senate over 200 times and thus have abolished majority rule and prevented progress in that chamber.  John Boehner has refused to bring nearly any bill to the floor of the House that would improve employment opportunities and has even blocked help for the unemployed (read: hungry and dispirited).  Effectively, the Republicans in Congress have held hostage all American workers in order to stymie President Obama and make him look wimpy so that Republicans could regain the White House in the next election.  We’re five years into that self-immolation policy with a net effect that there isn’t a Republican in the White House and over 7% of our people who want a job cannot find one.  Approximately the same percentage of Americans are vastly underemployed, either in position or because they could only secure part-time work.

Some say that Republican intransigence on unemployment and their gleeful withholding of food stamps from poor children indicates a lack of compassion, but that isn’t the problem.  They care about the suffering of Americans.  But they care about themselves and having more power far more.

If you are unemployed, the accountability lies with the Republicans in Congress for holding you hostage for the purpose of their own self-aggrandizement.  Clearly, they believe that they are more important than you.  If you vote them back into office – any office – in November, you will have proven that you agree with them.

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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.  Please help by passing this along and encouraging others to do the same.  Thanks.  JA

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

A Little Self-Disclosure

I didn’t make a new year’s resolution.  Not this year, nor any other year, with the exception of several years when I was young, heard about the practice and went along because that’s what I thought everyone did.  Within hours of making each one, though, I could no longer identify what the resolution had been.  Apparently, I was not particularly resolute in my resolutions and dropped the practice immediately as something unimportant to me.

Further, I have a lifetime of suffering from the debilitating condition, BSO Syndrome.  That’s “Bright, Shiny Objects.”  I’m easily distracted by something flashy, new or attractive.  It’s a bit like a puppy in the park chasing a leaf, then spotting another being blown by the wind and now chasing that one, then another.  Indeed, in that sense I am an advertiser’s dream target, watching the attractive visuals of the pharmaceutical product commercial and completely missing the voice-over disclosing in a soft, non-threatening tone that users of the product have suffered uncontrolled bleeding, blindness, insomnia, death and worse.

That doesn’t mean that I cannot concentrate and remain focused, although it does mean that I am unable to do so and play music in the background, because I would just wind up listening to the music.  So, I have had to find ways to stay focused and on track in order to produce the desired results.  That is critical, because some issues are so important that they require us to persist in remaining concentrated on them; otherwise, there will be dire consequences.

The Great Powerful People of America see themselves as rich and becoming richer and as controlling ever more of the world and they need to distract all of us from that reality in order for them to succeed.  So, they put before us all manner of distractions, like talking heads spouting idiotic, fatuous things to tweak our senses and infuriate us so that our passion is reactive to their sideshow, instead of remaining focused on the core issue of the Great Powerful People of America taking over our country.  They smile and shake our hands as they pick our pockets, and when someone at last has the sudden clarity that his pockets have been empty for the longest time, they smack him down and tell the world that they are doing the best thing for him, lest he become accustomed to having the opportunity for some change in the pocket of his jeans.

And they get away with all of that because they continually buy our politics and our government.

I am not alone in my BSO Syndrome.  We are a nation of distractables at a time when we face daunting challenges and an entrenched power base that does not want to relinquish its power with even the slightest of compromise.  That small base of enormously powerful people is holding nearly all the cards, even the life or death card.  Against that, what can one person do?

Read Gabby Giffords essay, offered on the anniversary of her having been shot in the head by a very well armed lunatic, and you’ll find out.  Something good is happening.  It takes determination, concentration and focus and the belief that one person can make a difference.  She is and she will.

I’m committed to fighting and changing the insane big money death grip on our country and, in consequence, help to restore our democracy.  There are many other worthy issues vying for my attention, but my BSO Syndrome isn’t powerful enough to distract me from this mother of all dysfunction in our government.

One person can make a difference.  I’m in.  How about 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.  Please help by passing this along and encouraging others to do the same.  Thanks.  JA

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

Neighbors and Lives

Pope Francis was famously approached by a non-believer and told him, “We must meet one another doing good.”  That is to say, what matters most is not a professed belief, but instead it is about how we live our lives.

Those of a certain age and others who actually read their history book in high school know about Dr. Martin Luther King’s I Have a Dream speech.  He delivered it to several hundred thousand Americans gathered on the National Mall before the Lincoln Memorial on August 28, 1963 in what became known as The March On Washington.  What is less well known is that others spoke on that day, at that event, among them Rabbi Joachim Prinz, who spoke in his own way to the very same thing about which Pope Francis instructed us more recently.  Rabbi Prinz said, “‘Neighbor’ is not a geographic term.  It is a moral concept.”

Neighbor, he believed, is not restricted to the people who live next door, across the street or down the block.  It is about how we treat those people, of course, and we typically treat them better than we treat others, simply because we know them and have some level of personal relationship with them.  But Prinz told us that neighbor is a moral concept and not limited to those whom we know personally.  We must meet one another doing good.  It is about how we live our lives.

We live in an age when so many powerful people inveigh against connection, who use their power to separate us, to demonize those “others,” the ones we don’t know, and to take away their rights and even their tools for self-sufficiency.  They tell us that wealth, health and even nutrition – everything – is a zero-sum game, where others advancing will somehow diminish you.  Theirs is a dark and false religion that serves to frighten and divide us and ultimately to impoverish us.  But life with others is not a zero-sum game.

What if Pope Francis and Rabbi Prinz are right?  What if those “others” are our neighbors?  What if we have a moral connection to them, perhaps a moral obligation in how we treat them?  What if we were to meet one another doing good?  It is about how we live our lives.

Christmas is just behind us and surely it was a day when the stories of long ago were repeated from pulpits all across the land.  But what of the messages?  Were they perhaps less about scriptural belief and more about how we live our lives?  In fact, that is all we can control.  And those stories told every year really are all about how we might live our lives throughout the entire journey.  That is what matters.

We are faced with challenges that seem to be more vexing with each passing day and solving them becomes more difficult with each of us who gives up in frustration and no longer yells back at the television or the radio or the newspaper over injustice done to some of our neighbors.  A sense of powerlessness grips us, as those in power continue to self-serve, all the while labeling their infidelity in manipulative, patriotic sounding terms.  We’ve been made to feel afraid and no longer consider our extended neighbors, so we disconnect and hunker down and things get worse.  Even so, what is important is how we live our lives.

It is about whether we pick up the trash in the park and put it in a waste can.  None of us will get a merit badge for that, nor will someone come to pat us on the head and tell us how good we are.  On the other hand, we will have changed ourselves for the better and even changed the world with such a simple act.  Let that be a place holder for any act of doing good, doing what needs to be done and meeting one another there.  It is about how we live our lives.

Each day presents us with another 24 hours to use – to live – as we choose.  If Rabbi Prinz was right, that neighbor is a moral concept, and if we were to remain mindful of that, which of our choices might be different?  If Pope Francis is right, that we must meet one another doing good, then our choices matter not only to the people we are and to the people we will become, but they matter enduringly to those we touch as well, including our children and their children.

We are, indeed, neighbors, and we must meet one another doing good.  It is all about how we live our lives.

What if that applied to our politics?  Things might be better.

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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.  Please help by passing this along and encouraging others to do the same.  Thanks.  JA

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

No, Mr. Godburn, They Are Not

Mark R. Godburn, an antiquarian bookseller in North Canaan, CT, wrote a letter to the editor that was published in the December 8, 2013 New York Times, along with responses from several readers.  Mr. Godburn cautions us that, “Relying on one source, or even on several sources with the same bias, will leave you with only part of the story.”  He seems to be saying that we need to consider both (perhaps all) views in order to see the full landscape.  Fair enough.

“That’s why the much maligned right-wing media is just as important as the so-called mainstream press,” he tells us.   He then launches into a series of Fox vs. MSNBC, right vs. left comparisons that leave me – let me say this so that it is suitable for more sensitive readers – waving my arms in the air and screaming, “What the BLEEP are you talking about?!!”

First correction: MSNBC is anything but the mainstream media.  Look to ABC, NBC, CBS and PBS for that in television.

Next, Mr. Godburn looks at the IRS tax exempt and Benghazi stories.  He reports accurately that Fox obsessed on these, looking for smoking guns.  There weren’t any.  Indeed, the real story was that the IRS was actually doing its job of ensuring that we don’t give tax exempt status to organizations that do not meet their criteria for it.  He further reports that the, “.  .  .  mainstream press was determined to take the Obama administration’s word for it that it did nothing wrong in either case.”  Really?  In all the reading, watching and listening I did I didn’t hear such a thing from anyone in the center or on the left.  I did hear comments that we should wait until the evidence is in before making a judgment.  Come to think of it, that’s a very “fair and balanced” approach.  It was absent from the coverage on Fox.

Mr. Godburn begins to close his argument by letting us know that, “.  .  .  not every story or point of view [should] receive equal weight, but that every valid position [should] receive equal respect.”  Agreed.  “Thus the pro-life position should be treated with the same validity as pro-choice;”  Okay there.  And, “.  .  .  small-government conservatives with the same respect as tax-and-spend liberals  .  .  .”

Whoa there, cowboy.  Did you say “small-government conservatives”?  Like our last three conservative Republican presidents, Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush and George W. Bush?  The guys who, each in his turn, both grossly expanded government and ran up the biggest debt in world history?

It appears that Mr. Godburn’s thinking and certainly his vocabulary have been polluted by right-wing propaganda, rather than steered by the facts, and it shows in his use of the label “tax-and-spend liberals.”  That is a term favored by Ronald Reagan to demonize opponents on the left, even as he raised taxes and spent the US into enormous debt.  Somehow those facts never make it into the discussion on Fox.

And that’s the thing: the facts.  Mr. Godburn is right, that there is room for right, left and center positions.  There is a valid and important discussion to be had, for example, about differing views on Obamacare.  But the right continually pollutes any discussion with lies, false innuendo and propaganda labeling.  We simply can’t have Chuck Grassley, Sarah Palin and the rest telling us that, “They’re gonna pull the plug on Granny” and also have a meaningful exchange of reality-based ideas. There are not and never were “death panels,” even though Fox News continues to use that term.

We cannot evaluate President Obama’s job performance in the presence of righties obsessing on “birther” idiocy.

We cannot have a reasonable conversation about women’s health in the presence of Rush Limbaugh’s ongoing, filthy and dishonest rant about Sondra Fluke, nor can we discuss the same issue in Congress when not a single woman is called to testify before a Darryl Issa (R-CA) controlled House committee.

We cannot have meaningful dialogue or even maintain our democracy when Fox and its extremist equivalents elsewhere perform their googly-eyed and hyperbolic demand that we constrict voting rights because of a baseless and fraudulent claim of voting rights abuse.

There is plenty of room to disagree with views and positions espoused by hosts on MSNBC; however, I have yet to hear anyone there spew lies.  And that’s the difference that applies to Mr. Godburn’s letter to the editor.

So, Mr. Godburn, don’t compare Fox News and its equivalents in the various media with anyone else.  They don’t even represent conservative views.  They simply lie.  And distort.  And obsess.  And manipulate.

Clearly, you think that Fox News and MSNBC are equivalents.  No, Mr. Godburn, they are not.

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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.  Please help by passing this along and encouraging others to do the same.  Thanks.  JA

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

I Get It – At Last

Why would senators and congressmen intentionally force the United States to the brink of financial disaster?

Why would legislators drive us to default on our national debt and tell us that default will be a good thing?

Why would billionaires fund grass roots organizations that have their members wave Confederate flags and spout hateful lies?

Why would Bible thumping go on everywhere, such that no speech can end without invoking God?

Why would otherwise sensible people in Kansas, Texas and elsewhere deny verified facts and long proven theories and instead be promoting science as seen through the eyes of relatively ignorant people of thousands of years ago?

Why has congress been gridlocked for so long?

The answers to those questions and more can be found by taking a step back from vilifying the (insert your own epithet here) extremists and railing at the stupid things they say and do.  Instead of thinking they are (re-insert your epithet here) irrational, assume that they are sensible and determined warriors fighting for their desired goal.  What would their goal be?

That is the answer I found in reading Deborah Caldwell’s article in the Huffington Post.  The insanity of current events disappeared with the clarity that hordes of powerful people want to eliminate our government and put in its place a Christian theocracy.

Doubt that?  First read Caldwell’s article.  Follow through to the links she provides.  Then test it all with your experience of hearing Ron Paul tell us he wants to eliminate government support of public education (what would that leave for our children?) and Grover Norquist wanting to shrink the government so that it can be drowned in a bathtub (what would take its place?).  Test it against Michele Bachmann glorying in the coming end times that will be hastened by the destruction of our American structure.  Don’t dismiss that just because Bachmann says crazy things most of the time, because there are thousands – perhaps hundreds of thousands – of Americans who agree with her and 50 of them are in congress right now and they are destroying our government.

I had long thought that they did that because they got off on the power trip and the attention they received that fed their self-promotion.  I had thought that the people in the streets spouting radical stuff were just venting their anger and hoping that finally someone was listening to them and that for a brief moment they had a little bit of control.  I may have been right, but that is not the big story.

The big story is that there is a huge number of Americans who want this country to be a Christian theocracy.  They will say and do anything to make that happen and they care not at all about the destruction they will cause to America and the world with their fundamentalist, literal interpretation zeal.  They think that our Founders wanted America to be that way, this in spite of the fact that the Founders specifically designed the Constitution to prevent America from being a theocracy and they wrote about the importance of that extensively.  And that perfectly captures the denial of reality that goes on for our current day extremists.

Now imagine if the zealots had all the power, that the only law of the land was the Christian Bible and that those in charge believed in a literal interpretation of the Bible.  America would look a lot like fundamentalist, theocratic Iran.  Get ready for public stonings.

Are you scared yet?

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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.  Please help by passing this along and encouraging others to do the same.  Thanks.  JA

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

Droning On

I recall seeing the first drones.  Unmanned aircraft.  I’m a pilot and thought the technology was nifty.  I also admired the surveillance capabilities of those things.  Protect the troops without endangering AWACs and helo crews.  Find the bad guys.  Like that.

Then we started using these things to kill people at weddings.

Now my friend and futurist David Houle has pointed out that Grumman has a programmable 330-pound robot.  This thing is cool and can trek where no man has gone before or ever should go and has capabilities no human will ever have.  Major geek factor.

They also have a surveillance “bat” airborne drone – also a major cool and high geek factor item.  While watching the video I couldn’t help but notice how its superb surveillance eye was able to find a human “target”.  That is the label Grumman pasted on some guy walking on an airport tarmac.

We truly do have the capability to make a weapon out of anything, perhaps even a lampshade.  It’s just what the fertile minds of our war materiel contractors, the military and our secret CIA army dream up to do with that stuff that scares me, because the power and the decisions seem to be unbridled and even unchecked.

The NSA is supposed to get warrants for its spying, but it often doesn’t.  The CIA is prohibited by law from engaging in activities within the US, but it does so all the time.  The FBI is legally limited in its spying efforts, but it reads your email without a warrant, even going beyond the lawless powers of the so-called Patriot Act.  Now we have a programmable 330 pound robot that “they” will be able to program to do whatever they want it to do.  Look for a knock at your door soon.  And have a nice day.

For David Houle’s comments on privacy, have a look at his new e-Book, Is Privacy Dead?.

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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.  Please help by passing this along and encouraging others to do the same.  Thanks.  JA

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

George Orwell Was an Optimist

The NSA is spying on everyone and there is no privacy.  The government lies about who it spies on, the things they look at and who has access to all that information.  Although the NSA is minimally limited by law in what its spooks can do without a warrant from a FISA court, even then they routinely ignore the requirements of the law and instead spy with impunity on anyone and anything they like.  When the NSA does go to court for a warrant, only the government’s case is presented – there is no challenge to its claims – so  the FISA court approves NSA requests more than 99% of the time.  And there is next to no congressional oversight exercised over the FISA court, much less over the NSA.  Nobody is watching the watchers.

We enacted laws to protect whistle blowers, because we want to encourage citizens to call out wrong-doing and wrong-doers.  Then we routinely shame and humiliate the whistle blowers, calling them traitors, spies and quite a few other names that would be expected if they came from a 12-year-old brat on a playground.  We also end the careers and prosecute those same whistle blowers, this in order to discourage others from blowing whistles, lest actual wrongdoing be cast in sunlight and we expose the nefarious behavior of legislators and bureaucrats.

It may be comforting to say, “I obey the laws so I don’t care about the ubiquitous snooping,” but that myopic and self-focused attitude is, well, myopic and self-focused, even to the point of self-destruction.  Today they may be coming for the neighbor whom you don’t care about, but they will be at your door tomorrow and you will be presumed guilty.  Not officially, of course.  It’s just the way things will happen.  Who will stand up for you?

Shift for a moment to something that may seem to be a separate topic.  I promise that it is not.

I’ve been saying for years that we still haven’t learned all the lessons of our war in Vietnam.  We intruded there on someone else’s civil war, arguably on the wrong side, and stayed involved for almost ten years, leaving the imprint on US history of this being the first war we lost.  The stated reason for our intrusion was a lie – fighting the Communists there instead of in Kansas – and we further excused our invasion by claiming an attack on a US Navy ship, but that attack never happened.  The war took over 58,000 American lives and well over a million Vietnamese lives.

The one lesson of the war in Vietnam that politicians did learn is that they could not wage dishonest wars by means of a military draft.  That was made clear by mass demonstrations during that vastly unpopular war.  So, the draft is gone, replaced now by a volunteer military supplemented by civilian “contractors.”  That word does not mean plumbers and carpenters.  It means mercenary armies and ours are accountable to no one and they kill with impunity.

Fast forward to 2003 when we inserted ourselves into Iraq for two lies – non-existent WMD’s and Saddam’s non-existent ties to al Qaeda – and we stayed there nearly nine years.  That took over 4,500 American lives and hundreds of thousands of Iraqi lives.  It also teed up an Iraq civil war that continues today with no end in sight.  The killing goes on.

There was just a handful of al Qaeda terrorists who attacked America.  In order to bring them to justice “dead or alive” we sent battalions of our troops to Afghanistan to wage war on that entire country in 2001.  As of this writing, we’re still making war there, with tens of thousands of people dead – nobody has a clue exactly how many – and over 4,000 “on our side” dead.  It is not clear if the US will win this war, since the goals have shifted repeatedly.  The original goal was the elimination of al Qaeda.  Then it shifted to the removal of the Taliban from power in Afghanistan. Neither of those goals will be fully met.  In fact, it is not clear what will be achieved.  However, it is clear that we will have a very long term involvement there, well past the oft-declared 2014 “end of combat operations” date.

  • What these three wars have in common are:
  1. Each was started under false pretenses – i.e., lies.  Not mistakes.  Lies.
  2. The goal posts were in constant motion.
  3. A lot of troops were wounded or killed without ever knowing what they had served.
  4. A lot of civilian contractors became extremely wealthy.
  5. A lot of politicians won office and stayed there thanks to contributions from wealthy war materiel contractors.
  • The real question is why all of that happens and that “why” is the connector between unbridled spying and endless war.  It is about pills.

We as a people have accepted that the solution to our problems can be found in a pill.  The biggest selling pharmaceuticals in America are psychotropics – Zoloft, Ambien and the rest.  We are, to some degree, a continent of zombies.  We cope by means of decreased sensitivity to what goes on around us.  That’s good for Big Pharma.  Not so good for the rest of us.

“Pill,” of course, is a placeholder for all the ways we disengage, tune out.  It includes the vague assumption that someone else will step up and handle the situation or that our little contribution won’t make a difference, a key rationalization for why only 37% of eligible voters will show up to vote on November 4, 2014.

We as a people have been fed such a torrential river of lies, false innuendo, public stupidity and hollow promises for so long that we no longer believe in our government and we have dropped out.  Indeed, public trust in government is at 19% and falling.  We don’t engage with the things that fail to poke through the tough barrier of our own narrow vision.  That lets those in power get away with making laws that promote terrible things, breaking laws on a whim and without consequences and with waging dishonest wars for decades.  We are treated with sleight of hand so that we do not focus on the official unpatriotic actions and instead are exhorted with disingenuous pleas to “support our troops,” as though that is the only worthy test of patriotism. 

If you and I don’t all drop back in soon, all of that will continue until you have no privacy, no freedom and no safety at all.

George Orwell was an optimist.

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

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