lies

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

Slogans

WizardAt the National Speakers Association convention earlier this year, Bruce Terkel delivered a powerful keynote presentation on marketing.  During that speech he explained that President Obama’s 2008 slogan “Yes we can” was the second best marketing slogan ever.  It is positive, it is inclusive and it is enabling.  Sadly, Republicans utilize a different slogan strategy.

Tom Coburn (R–OK), Ted Kruz (R-AZ), Michele Bachmann (R-Mars) and a bunch more Republicans want President Obama impeached.  They offer no high crimes or misdemeanors of which they think he is guilty.  They just want the sentence carried out without bothering with an indictment or conviction.  Their slogan seems to be, “Say anything to marginalize him.”

Paul Ryan continues to promote his Republican budget – only it isn’t a budget.  It is a plan to privatize nearly all of government.  This is just another example of Republicans putting lipstick on a pig and telling us it isn’t a pig, like the original Patriot Act that actually was unpatriotic and like Operation Iraqi Freedom that didn’t free the Iraqis but did chain us to perpetual war.  Their sleight-of-hand slogan is, “Fooling you with a lying label.”

I wrote here recently that the Republicans got nuthin’ because they propose nothing that will benefit America or Americans, other than the billionaires to whom they are indentured.  They lambasted President Obama at every opportunity regarding a budget.  Then Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Tanning Salon) presented the 2010 Republican budget that had no numbers in the entire document other than page numbers.  (Accounting note: If there are no numbers, it can’t be a budget.)  On the infrequent occasions that congress does manage to pass legislation to make things better, like the Dodd-Frank bill, Republicans immediately start the process to dismantle it piece by piece.  This slogan is obvious:  “Whatever it is, we’re against it even if we used to be for it.”

The House did pass a farm bill.  It gives Big Agri-Business multi-billions of dollars.  That same bill eliminates support for food stamps.  One in six American children lives in poverty – it is double that number for people of color – and The House intends to take the food out of the mouths of those kids.  The slogan: “Starvation makes children more self-reliant.”

Two of three poling places in North Carolina are being closed, leaving local college students with obstacles nearly impossible to overcome in order to vote.  A pregnant woman in Kansas, victim of a brutal rape, cannot do anything about it.  The school teachers in Wisconsin, who have sacrificed pay over and over in exchange for the promise of an adequate pension when they retire, are now having their pensions stolen from them.  None of that is an accident.

The Republicans are so bereft of offerings that they are putting the majority of their effort into stopping Americans from voting in order to win elections and cram through legislation to produce results like the examples above.  If they can’t stop people from voting, they use district gerrymandering to make votes inconsequential.  For example, Texas is 45% white but the Republican controlled state legislature has ensured that 70% of the districts are white Republican, thus marginalizing people of color.

Perhaps this kind of Constitutional blasphemy has not permeated your world yet.  Just understand this:  it will.  Right now they are coming after people of color, poor people, first time voters, the elderly and the infirmed.  After that it will be another group, then another, because a power hungry minority will never have enough control to satisfy themselves. Look to history and you will see the repeated story of incremental loss of rights concurrent with the rise of totalitarianism.  That is what voter suppression accomplishes, so “Coup by disenfranchisement” is the Republican slogan.

“You know, I would have at least some respect for the Republicans who pass these laws if they would just come clean and admit they are trying to keep everyone but old white guys from voting like it used to be in the good old days.  But instead, they make up stuff.”

Gaylard French of Waxahachie, TX
The Dallas Morning News
Letters to the Editor, August 18, 2013

We can sit back and pretend that our country is not being stolen from us, but sooner or later we’re going to have a very bad day.  The Republican slogan for that is, to quote Dick Cheney, “So?”

Bruce Terkel was asked the obvious question by a member of the audience at the close of his keynote to the National Speakers Association convention.  “If ‘Yes we can’ is the second best marketing slogan ever, what is the best one?”  Terkel didn’t miss a beat, replying, “See your doctor for an erection lasting longer than four hours.”

Are we that easy to manipulate – with just a slogan?

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

Bankruptcy

Jailed-protesters-vs-jailed-bankers-editorial-cartoon-300x228No, not that kind.

This is about political bankruptcy.  It is about a Republican Party that doesn’t make decisions based on fact and, in fact, ignores fact and instead creates fatuous fantasies.  It is a party that brought us a president who doesn’t read, who ignores facts and who makes decisions based on gut hunches.  No, I didn’t make that up.  It is what President George W. Bush told us about the way he makes decisions And, yes, he had the “football” and could have pushed the button to send nuclear missiles to annihilate millions based solely on his “gut hunch.”

This is a party that is legally bankrupt, as it seeks to institutionalize discrimination with a Constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage.  This is a party that is legally bankrupt as state house after state house finds diabolical ways to prohibit from voting American citizens who are not white or who are poor.

This is a party that is morally bankrupt, as it chants the same mantra year after year, that it is all about jobs, jobs, jobs, but every opportunity to stimulate job growth has been filibustered by Republicans on the floor of the Senate or voted down by the Republican dominated House.  Okay, there was one bill – the veterans jobs legislation – but the Republicans had to be shamed into passing it.

But let’s be fair.  The Democrats took over in 2009 and have steadfastly refused to prosecute Wall Street bankers who defrauded the public with their swamp of mortgage derivatives.  The same Justice Department has refused to prosecute bankers for their millions of fraudulent home mortgage foreclosures.  This is the same Democratic Party that refused to create legislation to prevent another round of “too big to fail” and, guess what, once again the banks are too big to fail.

This is the Democratic administration that has refused to prosecute the prior administration for its blatant lawbreaking by torturing prisoners and for illegal detention.  And it is the same party and administration that has expanded the war in Afghanistan, a war that plainly cannot be won.  History would have told President Bush that fact before he commanded an invasion, but he would have had to have read a history book to know that.

This is a war with ever-morphing goals, no strategy for success, with a continuing supply of dead bodies and an economic cost that will eventually reach $4 to 6 trillion dollars And this is a war that President Obama has continued and expanded, notwithstanding his pledge to end American military involvement by the end of next year.  How many more dead Americans will we have created between now and then?  Would you like to be the last soldier or marine to die for that unholy cause?

The far righties hold dear a deep distrust of government.  They are right to do that, because they continue to champion and elect untrustworthy legislators.

The far lefties are never happy because government continues to eviscerate the values and rights they hold dear.  But they sit on their recliners on election day or fail to jump through the hoops necessary to register to vote or they just drop out entirely and complain loudly.

We get the government we deserve – or do we deserve the government we get?  Either way, we’ll continue to get what we are getting now until we require better.  Until then, you can expect a government in the pocket of corporations and fabulously wealthy people who crave money and power above all else.  They are the ones who pull the strings of the Marionette America and bringing to us our national bankruptcy.  We are the ones who tolerate that.

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

Murray-isms

My friend Pat Murray is one of the clearest thinkers I know in the areas of group and individual behavior and I have learned some valuable lessons from him.  See if this pairing of one statement plus two questions from Pat’s work stimulates your motivation innards.

YOU GET WHAT YOU TOLERATE – Children teach us this every day.  A major part of their job is to push the envelope to find out where the edges of acceptability are.  Those edges are often defined by some sort of pain, like physical pain as a result of attempting to defy the laws of physics while riding a bicycle or from adult displeasure over an inappropriate childhood behavior.

So it is with politics.  Our politicians will push the envelope and keep on pushing until we tell them they’ve gone too far by punishing them with our phone calls, letters and emails of displeasure and, eventually, with election defeat.  The key point is that if you tolerate their behavior, they will not only continue it but they will keep on pushing that envelope to an extreme until you actively refuse to tolerate what they are doing.   Passivity and apathy on your part will result in ever more outrageous behavior on their part.  You get what you tolerate.

WHAT DO YOU STAND FOR? – Are you clear about what you stand for, what you believe in down to your bedrock, the absolutely most-not-be-violated ideals you will never compromise?  Tagging on to that question, motivational speaker Les Brown likes to say that you have to know what you stand for or you’ll fall for anything.

There are people in all areas of our lives who want to sell us something, who want to bend us to their way in order to help them to create a world that serves them.  Some of these people are quite comfortable lying to us, misleading us with flagrant, fatuous falsehoods (my alliteration for today) and many of them have very loud megaphones.  They feed us a spoonful of verifiable fact to gain our trust and then go off into their stream of dishonesty.  Unless you know what you stand for, you can be manipulated easily by these people and become a pawn to serve them while they do harm to you and everyone else in the process.  What do you stand for?

KNOW YOUR INTOLERABLES – Yes, I know that “intolerables” isn’t a word you can find in the dictionary, but you understood its meaning immediately. What is on your list of things that you will not put up with?  What are the absolutely no-go items?  Lying, cheating, stealing, dishonoring the sacred, cruelty, abandoning the helpless, disloyalty?  When you make your list, be sure to do a gut check so that you don’t write hollow platitudes, because that doesn’t serve you.  Rather, write what is actually true for you.

For example, you may find abridging the rights of fellow citizens to be intolerable, but do you believe in it so strongly that you’ll fight anyone who tries to silence those with whom you passionately disagree?  Do you believe in the rights of citizenship with such passion that you’ll stand up publicly for those whose voting rights are being stolen right now?  Do you believe in civil rights so strongly that you’ll speak out against the anti-Muslim fever that is both marginalizing and killing some Americans?  Speaking of killing, it may be an intolerable for you, but do you make an exception for those who kill abortion doctors?  Know your intolerables.

It is true that those are under-the-skin questions likely to provoke.  Are you agitated enough to take action?  A good starting place is to make two lists: HERE IS WHAT I STAND FOR and THESE ARE MY INTOLERABLES.  Your lists probably won’t be very long, but they will have great power for you.  And when you’re done, you’ll stop falling for anything and instead will be prepared to stop tolerating all that envelope pushing that violates what you believe in.  You might even exercise your citizenship by speaking out to make things better.

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

Mitt Romney Can’t and Neither Can Bob Dold

Yes, of course Mitt Romney is smart.  He’s cunning and he’s been enormously successful.  He’s persistent and focused and undaunted by challenge.

Yet Mitt Romney can’t seem to say anything that is true.  He can’t seem to say anything that doesn’t contradict his own words and actions.  And he can’t seem to say anything that has detailed substance.  He simply can’t.

We just had a family reunion, with its predictable mix of political views, but the most significant ones came from family members who are sick of hearing stupid political fantasy displace fact, sick of leaders who don’t lead and sick of our eunuch government.  Mostly, they are sick of politicians sounding like ten-year-olds on a playground calling others ugly names, vying to see who can say the meanest thing and, thus, become the biggest jerk on the playground.

Mitt Romney is now the most visible contestant in that game to be the biggest jerk.  He makes up so much fantasy-as-politics and the outpouring of his lies is so voluminous that many Americans, like some of my family members, more than anything just want him to go away and have pledged to refuse to vote in November.  Such is the effect of the screeching drone of political dumbspeak that floods our news.  That is dangerous, because it serves the radical dumbspeak droners so well and abandons all the rest of America.

We in the Illinois Tenth Congressional District have elected moderates for some time.  For a dozen years Mark Kirk was our representative.  The good people of Illinois then elected him to the senate and he was replaced in the House by Stepford wife, Bob Dold.  Each is soft spoken.  Each appears to be compassionate.

Except neither of them is a moderate.  Each of them votes in near-lockstep with the Republican fringe crazies.  They support the big money ruling class and mask their bigotry with their moderate demeanor.

By November 6 Dold will have asked for your vote dozens of times.  He will have attempted to justify that by telling you that he is fighting to save your Medicare, but he will somehow forget to tell you that he has twice voted for Paul Ryan’s Medicare Ruination Plan.  He will tell you that he’s all about jobs, jobs, jobs, but he won’t remind you that he voted against every job creating bill except the one for veterans and that he had to be shamed into voting for that.

All of that is to say that Bob Dold is no moderate.  He’s a right wing crazy in a pleasant looking package, just like Mitt Romney.  Don’t be fooled by appearances.  Judge him by what he has done and you’ll want him to disappear.  That would be best because neither one of them can do anything you want them to do.

The point is that anyone dropping out of the process only serves to keep the radical playground jerks in place and assure that they continue flooding your news with lies and salacious innuendo.  You can stop that by getting past your disgust over the political dumbspeak and showing up to vote in November.

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

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