leadership

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.

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.

It Isn’t About a Website

HealthCare-GovIt is a great and comforting validation that people with large megaphones and big mouths have focused on the ailing website of the Affordable Care Act.  They show us that naked self-promotion of individual and collective stupidity lives on in perpetuity.

Opponents of Obamacare wail and wring hands over the website.  That dysfunctional site alone is reason enough to kill the entire program, they tell us.  And it is evidence and proof of the folly and unconstitutional core of the entire Act, they insist.  In their claimed clairvoyance they bray over what is in the heads of those who led us to such evil, although how they got into others’ heads is not explained.  And now they have fixated their mean spirited, laser beam of antagonism on the website.

I must have been absent from class when they explained that the main purpose of reforming healthcare in America was a website.  That is similar to the day I missed class when they explained all about death panels.

Full disclosure: I have not read all 2,500 pages of the Affordable Care Act, so I may be misinformed.

But my understanding is that the Act is designed to remove limitations on coverage for healthcare, this in order to promote better medical care for Americans.  I thought it was to stop insurance companies from collecting premiums and then refusing to pay for the medical care that was supposed to be covered.  I thought it was to make it so that poor people stopped using the emergency ward at their closest hospital for their primary care and instead steer themselves to primary care physicians.  That is supposed to help catch medical issues earlier in order to promote better health and to lower overall healthcare costs for everyone.

It has been my understanding that Obamacare really isn’t about medical decisions.  It is about how we fund medical care and all the changes for the better that will bring.  There are no specific medical procedures that are prescribed or prohibited by the Act.  That is between you and your doctor.

All of that is in place, with or without a facile website.

The ACA website and phone center will be incrementally improved in an ongoing program, just as such things are for most endeavors.  So, while the current website is operating at a sub-optimal level, it is quite beside the point.  That is, it’s beside the point for all of us except for the self-promoting political hystericals, locked in their rending of garments and feigned woe.  What a bummer it will be for them when the website is fixed.  They will have to find some other phantom horribleness over which to go all googly-eyed.

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

It Is Time

Kennedy MotorcadeIt has been 50 years, so the shock is gone, of course.  The grief has passed for some and lingered for others, but the sense of loss remains palpable for most of us who remember.  It was a loss of hope and of innocence for an entire generation and the blinding of a dream of something lofty.

All of us of a certain age remember where we were and what we were doing when we learned what had happened.  We stayed glued to the the tube for days and our vocabulary was irrevocably altered by that day.  Indeed, the term “grassy knoll” now means only one place on Earth.  “School book depository” is a term for use solely in Dallas, Texas.

The initial furor ended and we were left with a permanent itch we cannot scratch.  We crave the satisfaction of full explanation, of the ascribing of responsibility and of the meting of consequences to all guilty ones.  Even after 50 years that simply has not happened.

The Warren Commission was designed to soothe the nation with a simple explanation.  And it was a fine investigative body, except for its complete incompetence, its refusal to admit crucial evidence and testimony and the predetermined conclusion it carefully crafted.  We Americans know a snow job when we’re in one and we resent being treated as simpletons.  We want answers.

There remain so many critical questions.  For example, if the whole thing was done by a lone gunman, how did a mediocre marksman manage to accurately fire three shots in four seconds, something even the best marksmen are unable to do with that model rifle?

Here is another.  Acoustics engineers have studied audio records of those seconds of American history and developed various theories to explain the contradictory statements from people who were on the scene.  They examined echoes from the surrounding buildings and some concluded that all sounds of gunfire came from one place.  That is unconvincing to people who were in Dealey Plaza that day and who heard a shot and turned toward the sound by the fence bordering the plaza and saw a puff of smoke as from a firearm.

The result of all the official soothing, disingenuous explanations and denial has been a terrible addition to the loss of innocence of a generation.  That addition is a loss of trust in government itself.  Even now 61% of Americans distrust official explanations and instead believe there was some sort of conspiracy to kill President Kennedy, that an ideological loser would not have been able to do this on his own.  Note that the 61% includes Americans who had not yet been born when the murder happened, so they are immune from the trauma of that moment and in a position to be clearer of mind about this entire chapter of our history.

One of the last actions of the Warren Commission was the sealing of evidence brought to the commission but which was shielded from the public.  We were told that it would be unsealed and made public in 50 years.  Well, that is where we find ourselves today.  It is time to unseal and deliver the rest of the information to us and let the chips fall where they may.

Our distrust of government, borne of the Kennedy assassination whitewash, has been fueled through the intervening years by an ongoing parade of lies and disinformation from our government.  Our current DC dysfunction continues that, in part because so many of us have dropped out, wishing a pox on all their houses.  That dropping out allows the crazy people to expand the debilitation of government and that actually exacerbates the very thing we loathe.

It is time for we Americans – and especially those who remember – to drop back in.

It is time to end our willful apathy, cynicism and disinterest and take the bold step of reinvesting ourselves in our country.

It is time for us to again be moved as we were that day in 1961, to pick ourselves up and,

“Ask not what your country can do for you.  Ask what you can do for your country.”

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

Another Shot In The Foot

The recent government shutdown over a stupid power play by right wing extremists, along with their threat to cause the United States to default on its debt, were more than just political theater and more even than a showdown episode.  It was an exercise in self-destruction.

Yes, it was destructive to the Republican Party.  On the other hand, the Republicans stopped being true conservatives at least 35 years ago and instead have focused on transferring wealth to the already rich from all the rest of us, ensuring our prisons are full of chronically voiceless people and starting unnecessary wars.  So, who really cares if the Republican Party is in self-immolation mode?  Just let them burn to the ground and perhaps some sane voices will emerge from the ashes.

The self-destruction you need to pay attention to is that of the United States of America.  We have threatened the entire world with financial catastrophe.  We have demonstrated repeatedly that our primary goal is national dysfunction.  We have marginalized the majority of Americans.  We have dramatically expanded the ranks of our poor.  We have declared that we don’t want to fund the education of our children.  And we do want to arrest and torture people without so much as charging them with a crime and then keep them imprisoned endlessly.  All of this stands in stark contrast to the values we say we believe in like truth, justice, democracy, fairness, opportunity and other worthwhile attributes.

Given that contrast, what do you suppose the people in the rest of the world think when they hear the happy words but see the not-so-happy deeds?  Surely, our mixed messages pull the rug from under their trust and confidence in us.  Don’t imagine that is a small thing.

Trust is the cornerstone of relationship and we are in continuous relationship with a global society.  For many decades the standard of world trade has been the American dollar.  It is the symbol of global influence enhanced not just by military might, but also by trust and confidence in our values and our dependability.  Once those things are gone, the money of some other country will step in and be the global standard and the United States will be a second tier country.

We are in a headlong rush to hand over world leadership to China, led with daring forcefulness by crazy Americans who tell the world that the United States cannot be trusted.  They do that by paralyzing our government and threatening creditors with our default and those exercises are scheduled for a replay in the middle of January.

For more on the American Brand and the crazy messages we give the world, review Bruce Terkel’s blog here.  Then comment below with your ideas about how to stop us from repeatedly shooting ourselves in the foot.

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

The RNC Has . . .

izzy_santaIzzy Santa, RNC Hispanic Communications Director as seen on MSNBC Weekends with Alex Witt, July 27, 2013.

Here is a shortened and pretty accurate transcription of dialogue:

Witt:  The president indicated that there are Republicans who agree with him in private.  Is that true?

Santa:  The President’s programs have failed and Democrats are abandoning him.

Witt:  In talking about Obamacare, the President said that the Republicans can’t just be against; they have to be for something.  What are the Republicans for?

Santa:  Obamacare has failed.

Witt:  How do you think the President’s immigration plan will work for Hispanics?

Santa:  The President’s immigration plan is a complete failure.  (Ed. Note: There is no plan in place yet, so nothing has failed except the passage of the bill.  It is bottled up in the Republican controlled House.)

Witt:  Another question.

Santa:  Attack Obama, blah, blah, blah.

Here are the observed RNC Rules, as consistently obeyed by Michael Steele when he was RNC chairman, Rience Pribus, current RNC chairman and Izzy Santa:

  1. Always attack President Obama and Democrats.
  2. Never answer a question or offer anything creative, new, constructive.
  3. Always attack President Obama and Democrats.

Memo to RNC:  That’s all ya got?  Ya got nuthin’.

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

Morale, Knees and Common Elements

Obese Airline PassengerI was on a United Airlines flight from Chicago to San Diego and somewhere over the Rockies I just couldn’t sit any longer, so I took a stroll to the galley at the back of the plane.  Half-squats, twisting and tugging this way and that restored circulation, and I felt considerably better.

This happened about a year after the first United Airlines bankruptcy filing, so after my physical contortions I struck up a conversation with a flight attendant.  I asked about morale, now that all the employees had taken a 20% blow to their wallets.  She rolled her eyes and said, “Not good.”

She continued, telling me that the CEO had just taken a multimillion dollar bonus, while none of the employees had received back pay, nor restoration of pay rates, both of which had been promised.  That pretty much killed any “we’re in this together” spirit.  Employee give-a-damn level was down here, she reported, with an ankle level gesture and a glare that could laser cut her CEO’s investment statements.

I travel quiet a bit, delivering workshops and keynote presentations all over the United States and Canada, so I have the opportunity for lots of, shall we say, airplane adventures.  Some are influenced by airline employees whom I encounter directly, like that flight attendant.  Some of those adventures are influenced by airline employees whom I will never meet but whose work products affect me on every flight.

For example, when I cannot get a preferred seat as a perk of my frequent flyer status, I sit in aluminum tube steerage.  I’m not a big guy, but I do want half of the elbow rests and 100% of my seat width.  Both of those are compromised when a 370 pound seatmate shows up.  Fully 15% of my seat back is occupied by his shoulder and the armrest has disappeared into a sea of flesh.  I have lots of stories about trips with interesting seatmates.  They encompass all the senses and are not uniformly pleasant.

It is well known that we Americans are an overweight bunch.  So, while the FAA standard human being weighs 170 pounds, that number is exactly that – a standard – meaning some people weigh lots more than that.  The seat designers know that, but they engineer the seating in their planes as though we all weigh 170 pounds, which gets me buried by my over-sized seatmate.  The designers also engineer leg room as though we were all no taller than 5’8″, which makes my greatest fear of flying that the guy sitting in front of me will recline his seat back and smash my knees.  Memo to commercial airliner design people: Some of us are taller than your standard and some of us are wider and that impacts lots of people.

Here is the connection between flight attendants’ low morale, portly seatmates and the knee crushing machine: These conditions continue because we tolerate them.  The flight attendants continue to work for less and the flying public continues to reward the airlines for stuffing us into insufficient space.  That is to say, corporate management does what it does because it can.

It is exactly the same with our government and our politics.  The NSA is snooping on you and will continue to do so because you allow it.  Congress acts as though confrontation and stagnation were virtues.  They do that because we tolerate their behavior by electing those who create the confrontation and stagnation.  The NRA strong-arms congress and everything is voted as they like and not as you like.  That happens because we elected the fools who would do that and we will continue to get exactly the same kinds of results as long as we tolerate it.

“The two most common elements in the universe are hydrogen and stupidity,” advises Harlan Ellison.  We have to be smarter than the people who do the things we don’t want them to do and strong enough to stop tolerating their behavior.

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

Making Sense

So much is ethically wrong and even economically nonsensical.  I fight every day to keep my thinking out of the weeds, hoping to see the bigger picture and very occasionally I succeed.  There are so many battles in this seemingly disappearing experiment in democracy and so many people are suffering with little relief in sight, even for the lofty ideals to which we say we aspire.  Here are some examples of that.

Nicholas Kristof has a compelling piece in the New York Times about health and health care and the decisions we make.  Economically, it makes little sense to pay over a half a million dollars to treat disease instead of just the few dollars that are required for routine screenings.  Ethically, it makes no sense to let our citizens suffer and die because of economically driven poor choices (no medical insurance) or because of a profound lack of resources that prohibits routine health care.  The system that makes that necessary is entirely about the greed of those whose hands are on the rudder

The second half of the 1960’s was an era of radical change and it was played out in part in drug experimentation.  That flamboyant display of anti-establishment nose-thumbing resulted in draconian laws and mandatory sentencing like the “three strikes” rule that sent our young to prison for having a joint.  The establishment surely showed its muscle by trashing the lives of hundreds of thousands of Americans for their youthful dalliances.  It also cost billions of dollars to prosecute and incarcerate the offenders, forcing our legal establishment to divert limited resources away from nabbing the really bad guys.  What do you think about the ethics and economics of that?

On November 6 voters in Washington, Colorado and Oregon will vote on whether to legalize recreational marijuana.  That is far less odd, given the historical record, than that today’s establishment folks are in favor of legalization.  And even that is less odd than that the illegal suppliers of pot are against legalization because it will slash their profits.  Timothy Egan’s piece details this, and at root it’s all about simple human greed.

It is said that money is the root of all evil, but I don’t think that’s quite right.  It is simply the tool we use for our human instincts to focus first and foremost on ourselves, to do what we see as in our own best interests.  Frequently, human interpretations of that self-interest are quite short-sighted.  No, it’s actually nearly always short-sighted, and it leads us down a path of self-destruction.  Even the super-educated, self-protected wealthy 1% aren’t immune and they and we are sowing the seeds of our own demise because of our shortsightedness.  Chrystia Freeland has written a compelling article about this and Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson’s book Why Nations Fail gives even greater clarity.

Self-destruction is ethically absurd and economically nonsensical, yet our leaders – at least the people we so often promote and elect – seem welded to taking us down that path.  They lie to us by telling us that a voucher system isn’t a voucher system, that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction, that (baby boomers will get this) we have to stop the scourge of Communism right there in Viet Nam so that we don’t have to fight them in Kansas, that we were winning that war, that Romney will cut taxes 20% but that his scheme won’t be a $5 trillion deficit, that the rich people are the job creators and the list goes on and on.  To understand why they say such things, obey Deep Throat’s dictum: “Follow the money.”  Yet so many of us believe the lies (or, at least, we don’t challenge them), largely because we are focused on our own concerns, just trying to make life work.  But that is short-sighted and ultimately does ethical and economic damage to ourselves.

We’re not going to change human nature; each of us will continue to do what we perceive to be in our own best interests.  What we can do is to look up now and then, get out of the weeds and recognized that tomorrow will come.  And when it does, we will live in the consequences of today’s decisions.

What are the ethics and economics you want?  Look up.  See that tomorrow is on its way and that we do not have to continue on a path of craziness.  Then speak up.  If you don’t make your voice heard, people who want a very different America from the America you want will be heard, because they will be the only ones talking.

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

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