leadership

Guest Essay: What Ails Us

Reading time – 5:55  .  .  .

David Norman is a truly gifted executive coach and a good friend. He is also an erudite cynic, although he doesn’t use the word “erudite” to describe himself. Of course, that’s misplaced humility, because he’s an informed and insightful guy. And as you’ll see, he does use the word “cynic” to describe himself and does so quite deliberately.

He is a careful analyst of reality and has offered the essay that follows. Read his comments with your best critical thinking, because this is a challenge that we are going to have to face. To quote Gene Kranz, Mission Director of the imperiled Apollo XIII flight, “Failure is not an option.”

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First, and as a backdrop, I see myself as a cynic, at least in George Bernard Shaw’s estimation: “The power of accurate observation is called cynicism by those who don’t have it” (The World). It is from this perspective that I opine.

Well known is:

In 1920, H.L. Mencken wrote in the Baltimore Sun, “Civilization, in fact, grows more and more maudlin and hysterical; especially under democracy it tends to degenerate into a mere combat of crazes; the whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, most of them imaginary. The Presidency tends, year by year, to go to such men. As democracy is perfected, the office represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. We move toward a lofty ideal. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.” 

This was quite prescient, especially considering it was written some 96 years ago.

Lesser known, but often being quoted following Trump’s election:

In this 1985 book, Amusing Ourselves to Death, Neil Postman critically examines TV and how, in his basic thesis, it has negatively affected the level of public discourse. In the foreword, Postman examines two dystopian visions, Orwell, in 1984, and Huxley, in Brave New World, who depicted a population too amused by distractions to realize that they had been made powerless. In Chapter 9, “Reach Out and Elect Someone,” Postman examines how political elections have simply become a battle of advertisements, in which candidates develop images meant to work in the same way that commercials do, by offering an abstract image of what the public feels it lacks. “As a result, people no longer vote what is best for them, but rather vote what they are told they lack in their lives” [emphasis added]. Postman ends his work with “The Huxleyan Warning,” in which he returns to the basic premise that Aldous Huxley was right; i.e., that we are too amused by distractions to realize we have been made powerless (excerpts from here).

Amusing Ourselves to Death was published 32 years ago.

One Other Major Influence:

Ronald Reagan, in 1987, eliminated the FCC’s Fairness Doctrine that required the holders of broadcast licenses both to present controversial issues of public importance and to do so in a manner that was honest, equitable and balanced. The doctrine did not require equal time for opposing views but required that contrasting viewpoints be presented.

It is not a coincidence that Fox News was started nine years later by Roger Ailes, ex-media consultant for Reagan, Nixon, and others.

Putting it Together:

The U.S. Population, as a whole, has become desensitized and avoids asking piercing, thought-provoking questions, choosing instead to be led (by the nose ring, as it were) by a TV “talking head” of their preference, one or more who support our limited world view (yet, interestingly enough, we don’t even realize that “our world view” is limited!). We listen, we accept and believe. As a population, we can’t parse actual reality from “reality TV.” Not only do we not turn against TV, we actually become further hijacked by “technologies” (as Postman describes TV, even before social media, et.al.) and worship the words. Facts or alternative facts; it really doesn’t matter. “It” was said on TV; therefore, it is perceived as the truth.

[Quick sidebar: (1) Last year in my role as an executive coach, one business owner stated outright to me, “I hate my wife.” While shocked at the force and brevity of the statement, I asked several open-ended questions to get at the substance. In short, his wife, a stay-at-home-mom, would watch Fox News all day, live in her social media tribes into the late hours and “come to bed angry” every night. (2) Almost five weeks later, another business owner, in our coaching session, said, “I hate my wife .  .  .”  Identical reasons as stated above. Note: Two different wives!  But what a coincidence from a small population, my client base. And how illustrative of our TV-guided mounting anger.]

So, What Does This All Mean Now?

We should not have been surprised by the election results, but we (read that as, my wife and I) were shocked.

My contention and belief is simple: as a population we are not doing any critical thinking. Note that The Texas GOP, in their 2012 platform, “opposed the teaching of Higher Order Thinking (HOTS) .  .  .” We wouldn’t want our citizenry asking critical questions, would we? Yet people are not incapable of learning; many simply refuse to be informed – a willing and perhaps gleeful ignorance, if you will. I do believe, as does Postman, that we have dumbed-down American citizenry to a point that “they” (the ubiquitous, “they”) sit slack jawed, empty-minded in front of the TV believing that (1) Survivor is real, and, (2) listening to those “talking heads” who support their limited view of the world, thereby simply amplifying the noise and static in their heads and anger in their gut.

If, however, you are willing to learn and be informed, and have critical thinking skills (and, apparently, not associated with the Texas GOP), then you could not have mentally transposed Trump’s pre-election rhetoric and proven, egregious behavior into a possibility of him being successful as president. In the run-up to the election I simply dismissed his election as a non-plausible circumstance – it simply couldn’t happen in the U.S., I said multiple times out loud, “Don’t worry, I have more faith in our population.” Yikes! Yet, the signs were in front of me/us all the time, and was I ever fooled.

In summary, and to paraphrase Postman, we have dumbed-down ourselves to death, and have doomed ourselves to have an Orange-Marmoset-On-Head-In-Chief (OMOHIC), armed with Twitter as a megaphone, encouraged by White Supremacists (Bannon and Miller) as earwigs and backed up by three generals as Next-Line-in-Charge.

This is the fire under the boiling cauldron of today’s politics.

Throw into this cauldron an evil witches brew of a public that is increasingly vengeful, fragmented, scared, voiceless and hateful (as not only encouraged by, but also condoned by our OMOHIC). Flavor the mixture with a heavy dose of legislative and, to a certain degree, judiciary dysfunction. What possibly could go wrong?

How could this cauldron of acidic, epic ingredients not boil over into national and/or international conflict?

What’s your answer that question?

“Toute nation a le gouvernement qu’elle mérite.” Joseph de Maistre

Tighten your seat belt; this will be quite a ride!

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Ed. comments:

Following the French Revolution, Joseph de Maistre told us over 200 years ago:

“Toute nation a le gouvernement qu’elle mérite.”

“Every nation gets the government it deserves.”

What government do we in America deserve? Have we done the work of citizenship that is required for a representative democracy to function well for the people? As you’ve seen, our guest essayist suggests we have not. Roger Cohen agrees.

I entitled this offering What Ails Us because it is insufficient to swat at the symptoms of our dysfunction; we must deal with what is causing our national ailing. Don’t imagine for even a moment that Donald Trump is what ails us. He is a symptom, an unavoidable outcome of what we Americans together have put in motion. Figuring this out and repairing it will require critical thinking from everyone, including citizens of Texas, and especially including you. Share your best thinking below.

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

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

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

Hiding In Plain Sight

Reading time 3:02; Viewing time – 4:38  .  .  .

In Ronald Radosh’s essay in the Daily Beast last August, recounting his conversation with Steve Bannon shortly after Bannon become CEO of Trump’s presidential campaign, he wrote:

Then we had a long talk about his approach to politics. He never called himself a “populist” or an “American nationalist,” as so many think of him today. “I’m a Leninist,” Bannon proudly proclaimed.

Shocked, I asked him what he meant.

Lenin,” he answered, “wanted to destroy the state, and that’s my goal too. I want to bring everything crashing down, and destroy all of today’s establishment.” [emphasis mine]

As recently as February 23, 2017 at the Conservative Political Action Conference, Bannon declared the top three priorities of this administration, one of which is “deconstruction of the administrative state.”

Perhaps you have significant dissatisfaction with “today’s establishment,” the “administrative state.” I surely do – but do you really want to bring it all “crashing down“? Apparently, Steve Bannon does.

Whatever Bannon’s reasons for his desire for national anarchy and chaos, no matter his rationale for destroying the American firmament, if Bannon has his way, a lot of people are going to get hurt, and I don’t mean the gold plated set; I mean ordinary Americans for whom their country will no longer work, and you just might be one of those people.

Here’s the scary part: Bannon has the president’s ear in everything, including national security and nuclear weapons. Consider that the president has a loose affiliation with facts and reality and has demonstrated with his Muslim Ban Executive Order that he has a ready-fire-aim mentality. Plus, he has the unique ability to contradict himself three times in a single sentence, so it’s not at all clear if he has any firm convictions. And Steve “burn-it-down” Bannon has this malleable-fact president’s ear on all issues.

What could possibly go wrong?

If your goal were to “destroy all of today’s establishment,” your first steps would be to take power away from whatever might challenge you. That is to say, you’d want to undermine public confidence in the very establishment you want to destroy.

For example, you might attack our intelligence communities by comparing them to Nazis. That way when the CIA, FBI and NSA present incontrovertible proof of Trump conspiring with the Russians to hack and steal the election, Americans won’t believe them.

You would continuously vilify reporters, newspapers and broadcast, cable and online news organizations so that when their investigative journalists uncover the blackmail that Putin has on Trump, people won’t believe the actual, reality-based facts those organizations bring to them.

You would have your Attorney General attack freedom of the press by subpoenaing a journalist who simply reported on the Malheur Natural Wildlife Refuge occupation case for Oregon Public Broadcasting.

And you would work to delegitimize the courts and our judges by attacking Judge Gonzalo Curiel and by calling Judge James Robart a “so-called judge” and blaming any future terrorist attacks in the U.S. on Robart. Likely, you’d also attack the United States Court of Appeals for the 9th District with a threat of “see you in court,” which arguably is a dumb thing to say, since the Court of Appeals is a court, plus Trump had already lost his case. Nevertheless, the drumbeat of attacking and undermining our institutions goes on.

I’ve speculated in these essays (here and here and here) about what Trump really wants and more than once have suggested that Trump is looking for an excuse to declare martial law, much the way George W. Bush came to the White House looking for an excuse to invade Iraq. I have supposed that Trump’s true objective has been to make himself a de facto dictator. That may be accurate, but what is hiding in plain sight is that Trump and the evil angel constantly whispering into his ear want to bring America crashing down. They are engineering revolution that will kill our democracy.

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

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

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

What If There’s a Reason?

Reading time – 1:54; Viewing time – 3:12  .  .  .

Candidate Trump carried on an unrelenting war on the “dishonest press.” He declared that they are all liars, that they can’t be trusted. Now, as president, he has made the stunning pronouncement that the press is the enemy of the American people. Note that’s the same message V.I. Lenin delivered in establishing communism in Russia. All of Trump’s claims are true, he admonishes, except, of course, for those few who report favorably about him.

Clearly, there are some in the press who have an agenda other than simply reporting the news and calling out that behavior has some merit. On the other hand, that describes only a very small percentage of reporters (can you name even one?) and certainly doesn’t describe those from major outlets, like The New York Times, CNN, The Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal. Still, Trump has pummeled those and others with a continuous blistering attack of vague, vitriolic accusations.

But what if there is more to this than Trump’s mental pathology? What if there are practical explanations for his fusillades? Let’s see if we can conjure what those might be. I have two to offer.

First, this is a time of populist anger at anything that might fall into the category of “establishment,” so attacking such things as the mainstream press both gives voice to the anger of the people and establishes Trump as one of the people. Really, how else would a farmer in Nebraska be able to identify with a gold-plated elitist from New York? That’s a powerful ploy, powerful enough to get him elected.

Second, and this is the truly pernicious one, imagine what is to come. There already has been a great deal of reporting on Trump’s business activities and the specter of conflict of interest and perhaps outright law breaking is more than a shadow on the horizon. To expect further revelations from determined investigative journalists is realistic and Trump won’t like that reporting. His only defenses will be to lie about it and to attack the reporters. If journalists are held in low enough esteem by then (and the national approval rating of the press is currently about the same as that of Congress), he may be able to get the people to ignore or even oppose adverse accusations about him. He may be able to yet again portray himself as an innocent victim of a dishonest press. Without that Fourth Estate to protect us, he may be able to spark a populist uprising against Congress itself. Who knows what will happen from that?

What’s your notion of why Trump maintains the drumbeat of attack on the press? Enter it in the Comments section below so we can think about this together.

As a corollary to this question, you must read Bret Stephens’ comments delivered at the Daniel Pearl Memorial Lecture at the University of California, Los Angeles (here in print and here in video, which includes additional discussion). In this age of “alternative facts” and the mind numbing acceptance of what should be found abhorrent, Stephens will restore your belief in integrity and make you believe that it still lives.

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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.

Decency

Reading time – 1:46; Viewing time – 3:20  .  .  .

Joseph Welch, Chief Counsel to the U.S. Army,
June 9, 1954

June 9, 1954 was a remarkable day in American history.

Alcoholic, lying Sen. Joseph McCarthy (R-WI) had taken center stage in 1950 when he spoke for five hours on the floor of the Senate, making wild accusations of communists in the State Department and denigrating homosexuals. He used his position as chairman of the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations to make yet more wild, unsubstantiated claims that eventually ruined the lives of countless innocent Americans.

On that June date, though, Joseph Welch, chief counsel to the U.S. Army, which was under investigation by McCarthy’s sub-committee for supposed communist ties, called out McCarthy with words that instantly became memorable for their truth-to-power courage. “Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?” Watch it here on YouTube at roughly 1:12 of the clip.

McCarthy’s lying, his false innuendos, sweeping, accusatory generalizations and his intentional dividing of Americans from one another, all solely to promote himself, had finally caught up with him. From the official Senate record of that disgraceful man,

Overnight, McCarthy’s immense national popularity evaporated. Censured by his Senate colleagues, ostracized by his party, and ignored by the press, McCarthy died three years later, 48 years old and a broken man.

We’re living now with another tyrant who uses the same tactics. He has already hurt many people and is in the process of hurting many more. The blue collar Americans he promised to help are and will be ignored by the billionaire buddies in his cabinet. The laws and regulations we’ve put in place over the years to protect us from the harm caused by bullying, shortsightedness, excessive greed and impropriety are already being swept away. He is attempting to crush the Constitution under his gold plated heel and put our future at risk, so that we will once again be subject to the failings of the past.

Had I the opportunity, I would ask President Trump, “Have you no sense of decency, sir?” but I already know the answer. So do you.

So, here’s a question to ponder: Why does Donald Trump hate America and Americans?

Taken one step further, why does Donald Trump hate babies and people who are suffering? Why is he so ready to hate anyone? Whatever the answers, they impact you. Have a look at Keith Olbermann’s 3-minute piece on that.

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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.

Intolerables

Reading time – 1:04; Viewing time – 2:39  .  .  .

What are your intolerables? The concept was offered at a leadership workshop years ago by friend P.M. It’s a corollary to motivational speaker Les Brown saying, “You have to know what you stand for, or you’ll fall for anything.” Gotta love the gospel rhythm of that.

Intolerables are, well, what you will not tolerate. Under no circumstances are such things acceptable and you will fight them to the death if necessary. Someone doing harm to your children is an example.

I don’t mean things like poor service in a restaurant or an iPhone that repeatedly misbehaves because, while you don’t like those things, you will not fight them to the death. I do mean the serious stuff – your short list.

Here are three from my list:

People intentionally doing harm to others, especially those I love

Disloyalty – I dislike enemies, but I hate those guilty of treason even more

Lying – especially the self-serving kind

To illustrate, Bullying falls under the first example of doing harm to others. President Trump’s growing list of unconstitutional edicts goes under the Disloyalty label. And Paul Ryan falsely claiming his plan doesn’t privatize Social Security and Medicare – it really does – belongs in the Lying category.

Andrew Harnik/AP/File

My misbehaving iPhone doesn’t show up anywhere, because it’s just a nuisance.

There are millions rallying under the banner Resist!, which suggests some intolerables have been breached. what are they? Absent that clarity, each of us may, in Les Brown’s words, fall for anything.

What won’t you stand for? What would you fight to the death? If you haven’t done an exercise like this, I enthusiastically recommend it. Then offer one or two of yours in the Comments section below.

In Other News

She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted.

Have you ever wondered about the views of Evangelical Christians, marveling at their curious blend of judgment and exclusion of “others” who don’t check all their restrictive boxes, all this along with claims of being true Christians? Read this piece from Pastor John Pavlovitz for some clarity about this hypocrisy. Note, too, the wonderful picture heading his most recent blog post (left). I don’t think this was Elizabeth Warren at a young age, but it could have been.

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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.

A.G. Jeff Sessions’ First Duty: Indict Jeff Sessions

Reading time – 0:49 .  .  .

NOTE: This is not snark.

Read Evelyn Turner’s recounting of Alabama history with Jefferson Beauregard Sessions in a position of power, which he used to subjugate black Alabamans.

Now read Coretta Scott King’s letter to Sen. Strom Thurmond, chair of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary in 1986, which was then considering the nomination of Sessions to serve as a federal judge. They rejected him for cause.

Finally, look at the Slate account of Sessions’ history of legally and ethically questionable behavior.

Now, call your Republican senators (also Joe Manchin, D-WV, the only Democrat to vote for Sessions). It’s too late for them to grow a spine, do the right thing and reject the nomination of this morally bankrupt racist to be Attorney General and Sessions won’t indict himself. But senators can put him “on notice.”

Go to www.Senate.gov, click on the drop-down in the top, right corner, select your state and click GO in the light blue box to the right. The next page will give you the name and phone numbers of your senators.

Call them and tell them how disappointed you are with them because of their vote for Sessions. Tell them you’ll be watching for them to put Sessions “on notice” and you’ll remember all of this quite well when they’re up for re-election.

Telephone hint: If the line is busy, it’s okay. That’s what the redial button is for. Use 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: Offer your comments below and pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe and engage.  Thanks!  JA

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

We Need a Fix

Reading time – 5:15; Viewing time – 10:46  .  .  .

We’re politically polarized to an extreme not seen since the Civil War. We’re in debt to a level that most people cannot even comprehend and we have no plan to make things better. We have the highest cost of medical care in the world and only fair results compared to other industrialized countries. Congress is perpetually locked in a battle for stagnation and our infrastructure is crumbling. We wring hands over the hard-boiling of our planet and steadfastly not only refuse to make things better, we actually do things that make things worse. We honor our military people but continue to get them killed for dishonest reasons in perpetual wars. And we are angry all the time.

I’m a card-carrying member of the Baby Boomers, lodged in the leading edge of that group. I grew up in the late 1940s and 1950s, which was itself a rather odd time. We had won the war and America had the only fully functioning industrial economy in the world. Being number one was a pretty easy thing to do and we dominated the world economy and expanded our belief in American exceptionalism as the natural order of things.

We were steeped in the culture of stability, of conformity and of reverence for authority – after all, that had worked. Then Elvis wore his hair long and wiggled his hips and the Greatest Generation didn’t like that. The electric guitar put an end to big bands and music changed to something that was called everything but music by anyone who was part of the establishment and that rocked the boat even more. And we sent our military people to Vietnam and suddenly everything changed.

We were raised with the expectation that all men had an obligation to serve at least two years in the military, but the military was being sent to do something that was simply unacceptable to those who would be drafted. It was a war we were lied into (ref: the phony Gulf of Tonkin attack), a war that was never declared by a cowardly Congress and a war that eventually cost the lives of over 58,000 American men and women before we left that country.

Even larger were the lies President Johnson told us. We were told by the press that he had a “credibility gap.” That was polite speak for saying that he lied. We’re only now getting to the point where the press is willing to name it directly when a president lies – odd that it took so long. But lie he did.

So did Richard Nixon, who told us he had a secret plan to end the war, but instead was driven to continue it because, in his words, he refused to be, “the first American President to lose a war.” The plain translation of that is that his reputation as a winning war president was more important to him than the lives of the 28,000 military personnel who died while he was in office and continuing that war.

And, of course, there was Watergate. Yes, our president really was a crook, and our sense of trust ratcheted down even further.

Gerald Ford should have been a calm respite from the torrent of deceit coming from Washington, but then he pardoned Nixon for crimes he committed or might have committed. So not only did Nixon betray our trust, but the next guy in the Oval Office ensured that he got away with it. What happened to the notion of penalties for doing wrong? We couldn’t even trust those who were sent to restore our trust.

Jimmy Carter may be best known for having been the leader who couldn’t lead our 52 citizen hostages out of Iran. We trust our leaders to keep us safe, but he was unable to find a way to do that.

Ronald Reagan brought us the glamour of a Hollywood actor, with all the performance chops that implies. He told us it was morning in America and that this country was the shining city on the hill. He promised smaller government and then he tripled the size of our debt.

And he was in charge of the masterly deceitful Iran-Contra affair, which broke multiple laws. And he got away with it. His operatives barely got a slap on the wrist. How could we trust our justice system after that?

George H. W .Bush told us over and over, “Read my lips: No new taxes.” Then the burden of his and Reagan’s spending caught up with him and he had to raise taxes. Who can you believe?

Then the Clinton era began, bringing with it things we simply had not seen before. Even before Clinton first sat down in the Oval Office the Republicans started smearing him with immorality-laced charges. Ken Starr spent millions of dollars looking for Clintonian malfeasance and couldn’t find a single example. But that didn’t stop the accusers in Congress, who continue that drumbeat to this day.

Once Newt Gingrich became Speaker of the House he managed to stop Congress and the government from functioning at all. He was trying to strong-arm Clinton, but instead strong-armed the country. That was before Gingrich was found to have illegally used a tax-exempt organization for political purposes and provided false information to the House Ethics Committee. He was forced to resign. So much for trust in Congress.

And, of course, Bill Clinton assured us that he, “didn’t have sex with that woman – Ms. Lewinsky.” But he did, regardless of what the meaning of “is” is.

Then we got George W. Bush. He refused to listen to the experts and 9/11 happened. His spin-meisters then spent the next seven years telling us how Bush had kept America safe. Go to the 9/11 Memorial in New York and repeat that phrase as you walk around the reflecting pools and read the engraved names of the 2,996 people who died there on that day when Bush was keeping America safe.

Bush lied us into two wars that continue in one form or another and have destabilized an entire region of the world, killing hundreds of thousands of people and displacing millions more and with no end in sight. He was all about deregulation and lower taxes (especially for those already wealthy). The wars were put on the national credit card, making this the first time our country went to war and refused to pay for it, leaving us with trillions of dollars of debt, an amount that continues to grow.

And Bush presided over the largest crash of our economy since 1929. Presidents are supposed to have the best experts advising them about what to do to avoid catastrophe, but Bush utterly failed to protect America or Americans. At the end of his presidency over 700,000 Americans were losing their jobs every month.

The banking industry had managed to make itself doomed to collapse thanks to brainless deregulation and in the process harmed a lot of people, including the thousands of Americans whose home mortgages were foreclosed, many illegally. The entire banking industry showed itself to be untrustworthy.

The entire mess – the loss of employment for millions of Americans, the foreclosures, the banking collapse Bush poured money into and his two wars – fell into Barack Obama’s lap.

We needed a national stimulus to get the economy going, but the Republicans had dedicated themselves to making job one, “Making sure that Barack Obama is a one-term president.” That is to say, America and Americans came second.

So, the stimulus was half the size it needed to be and Republicans made sure that one-third of the money wound up in the pockets of wealthy people rather than stimulating the economy. Then they blamed Obama for a stimulus plan that failed.

In fact, they blamed Obama for everything. They opposed bills that they themselves had offered prior to Obama taking office, once Obama supported them. They opposed a healthcare plan that the very conservative Heritage Foundation and Republicans had been proposing for decades. All of the blaming and demonizing put yet more stress on Americans’ trust in our institutions, trust which was further eroded by yet another Congressionally led governmental shutdown, this time over whether we would pay our debts. How could anyone trust when we threaten to default?

The Supreme Court is supposed to be the arbiter of disputes and laws and keep us in line with the Constitution, but in 2010 Chief Justice John Roberts contorted the Citizens United case into something that was not in contest and produced the legalization of big money influence of our elections and our government. With that, all three branches of government were plainly untrustworthy.

Now we have a president who makes baseless attacks on the press, calling them the most dishonest people in the world, so now trust in the press is in question.

The list of examples of trust killing events could be many times the length of this list, but the point is that we have repeatedly been lied to, undermined, betrayed, robbed, our rights have been stolen and our needs ignored, our standard of living is dropping, the rich get richer and the number of our poor expands. And that is why:

  • Everyone knows the system is rigged
  • Over 40% of our citizens don’t bother to vote
  • We’re a nation of apathetic, disinterested citizens
  • We’re a nation of angry people
  • We are politically polarized and haven’t a clue how to have a conversation with one another

Our toxic symptoms have come about through our decades-long decline in trust in our institutions and that loss of trust is because of the untrustworthy things our leaders have done. Failing to fix that will be catastrophic for all of us. The challenge before us right now is to figure out how to do that and then get to work.

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

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

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

Herbie

Reading time – 1:47; Viewing time – 3:45  .  .  .

NOTE: WordPress is the utility I use to craft and offer these posts and it has gone mad. It is misbehaving in strange and limiting ways, which accounts for why this post is late, why there isn’t much in the way of pics in this offering, as well as why there may be typos, irregularities and writing that looks like something from my iPhone, whicno-place-forh often prints whatever comes into its silicon brain.

We were proud and humbled to participate in the Women’s March in Chicago on January 21, along with 250,000 others locally (they had been expecting just 20,000) and 3,500,000 people around the world. It’s curious that so many non-Americans were so interested – invested, really – that they would give up a day to demonstrate over what is happening here.

yes-we-canThere are reasons why so many demonstrated, so get this: We must stand up and be counted. Then we must do it again. And again and again. We must make our voices heard. Our elected officials must feel the hot breath of our collective voices so that they ignore us at the peril of loss of their jobs.

Get this, too: This (the marches) is what democracy looks like when people see tyranny on the way. Look for more pictures of the Chicago march as soon as WordPress fully comes to its senses.

On to today’s (Sunday’s, really) opinion piece.

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the-goalIn Eliyahu Goldratt’s book The Goal the author depicts a troop of Boy Scouts on a long march. One of the boys – Herbie – is overweight and soon has to slow down, unable to keep up with the rest of the boys. Given that the boys must stay together, the entire troop can march no faster than the speed which Herbie can maintain. That is to say, Herbie is the primary constraint for the troop of Boy Scouts that precludes completing their march and going for a swim sooner.

Thus, Goldratt introduces the Theory of Constraints. It’s a most useful scientific approach to problem solving, finding root causes and optimum solutions, strategic planning and more based upon identifying and dealing with the lowest performing factor. And, entertainingly, analysis and planning can be done with a pen, a pad of sticky notes and a wall.

I participated in a two week course to learn to do this kind of analysis along with a half-dozen colleagues several years ago and came away with an elegant plan for my business and several profound revelations, one of which is that I’m more of a big picture guy and not so much a detail guy. That was both useful and painful to realize. Nevertheless, I learned that whatever the endeavor, there is always a Herbie, a constraint that prohibits further improvement and it is the pinch point that must be dealt with first if things are to get better.

That leads me to wonder what our national Herbie is right now. You may be tempted to say it’s Donald Trump, but that might be both of little value and factually incorrect, because something put Donald Trump into the White House. Something created the political polarization in which we live and something created the problems we refuse to deal with. It is the key challenge to us in moving forward.

If you agree that we are well short of where we could and should be, I offer this question to you: What is our national Herbie? What is the key constraint that prevents us from having a healthy democracy? Give this some thought and pen your ideas in the Comments section below.

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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.

Most People

Reading time – 1:29 seconds; Viewing time – 2:31  .  .  .

womens-march

See indented paragraph below for instructions.

“Most people prefer a problem they can’t solve to a solution they don’t like.”

So says Dr. Lee Thayer, an expert in the fields of leadership and communication. He has much to teach those who would lead, especially those who would consciously lead their own lives. That necessarily translates to leading organizations and even countries. The point here is about how we lead our lives in the face of what appears to be very dangerous.

The radical right has pursued an extremist agenda for decades and it has infiltrated all aspects of American life. It has its claws in education, in radio and television, in energy, in the halls of Congress, and now a radical has assembled a vigilante group of moneyed extremists to run the executive branch of government. It’s enough to spin any centrist in circles. Worse, it makes solutions look overwhelming and unattractive enough to freeze people into inertia.

So, the first step is decide to move.

It’s hard for anyone to leave the ease and familiarity of our comfort zones to confront those who would oppress. It’s far easier to give in to believing that the problem cannot be solved than to take action on the solution we don’t like because of the very hard work that will be required.

And yet that is what we must do. We do not have the luxury of simply sitting on the sofa and complaining about what is so very wrong and cannot be fixed. We cannot just hurl curses at what we imagine we are powerless to change, because the consequences of only hurling those curses may be catastrophic. If we squint our eyes we will see that the solutions really are preferable to believing this is a problem we can’t solve. Start with this.

Go to www.WomensMarch.com, click on the “The March” tab at the top, then “Sister Marches” in the dropdown to find a march in your city – there are marches all over the country. Then bring 5 people with you to the march on January 21.

You don’t have to be a woman to attend. All that’s required is to have had a mother – that includes most of us. This is about everybody’s rights.

It isn’t enough to simply believe. You have to stand up. Because this isn’t a problem you can’t solve. The solution is to stand up for what you believe in. Prefer that!

I’ll be looking for you at The March on the 21st.

Doubts? Read this.

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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.

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