lies

From the Beach – v 1.0

Reading time – 3:05; Viewing time – 4:49  .  .  .

Comments from reality for our legislators:

We know.

And you know, too.

And we know you know.

And you know that we know that you know.

So, how come you’re saying stupid stuff? How come you’re lying and pretending to be ignorant?

Last Saturday saw the world marching for science, which shouldn’t have been necessary, because it’s kind of like marching for air. I mean, who isn’t in favor of air? Like air, why wouldn’t everyone be in favor of science? It’s done things like enabled the eradication of smallpox everywhere and we’re this close to eradicating polio – there are only 5 reported cases worldwide this year. Science has brought the entire world to unprecedented levels of prosperity. Who wouldn’t support disciplines that help us so much?

You already know that 97% of the world’s climate scientists proclaim loudly and clearly that the Earth is warming at an extremely rapid rate toward extremely dangerous consequences. You also know that the studies done by the remaining 3% of climate scientists were funded largely by – guess who? – the fossil fuel industries.

Donald Trump insists that global warming is a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese. Many Senators and Representatives (mostly with an R by their name) outright deny that global warming is happening, or they admit that the planet is warming but they deny human behavior is making things worse. They simply refuse to see what they don’t want to see and that’s the extent of their ostrich insight.

Why would they do that?

Why would they consign their own children and grandchildren to the devastation of ever-more severe hurricanes, and famine, the kind that’s sweeping across Africa right now? It’s already beginning to be seen in America, because increased heat and reduced rainfall are baking our agricultural lands. Why would they risk the political and cultural perils of the mass emigrations that have already begun? Why would they allow Miami, New York, Los Angeles and the rest of our coastal cities to become Atlantis?  It’s about short-term thinking and self-serving priorities.

We get it, because all we have to do to understand is to follow the money.

So, to those very same short-term thinking, self-serving politicians, just get this: We know. And we know that you know. We see you and we will remember all of it on the date of your next election.

We know.

Now a little definition clarity

From the Merriam-Webster Dictionary: Entitlement – “A right to benefits specified especially by law or contract.”

The word “entitlement” has long been used to describe government programs that deliver benefits to our citizens, like Social Security and Medicare. The political right has done a marvelous job of shifting the simple obligatory meaning of the word to include a connotation of “freebies given to the undeserving.” Arguments abound over the sustainability of these programs, but the wrongness now slathered on the entitlement concept resides primarily within the haves who vilify the have-nots, the self-described makers portraying themselves as being fleeced by the takers.

Our contract law stems from English Common Law, so we’re steeped in many hundreds of years of belief and agreement that when we make a deal we have to keep our part of the bargain. A deal is a deal, so let’s define this properly.

Our governmental entitlement programs carry with them a contract to deliver the agreed upon benefits to the people. They don’t include options for Paul Ryan to offshore the obligation to private sellers so they can make a buck. So, to our legislators: figure out the funding challenge. And don’t fix this by dumping the heavy load onto the backs of poor people, because they’re entitled.

Bonus Selection

I’ve long wondered what it would take – what outrages were necessary – to motivate people to stand up and demand better. It seems we’ve found out.

Public dissent in the form of mass protests have become frequent and very vocal and the combined voices are having significant impact. A common chant of the crowds is:

  • “Show me what democracy looks like.”
  • answered by,
  • “This is what democracy looks like.”

The “this” in the response is the people in the streets standing up for what they believe in and demanding better.

That leads us to the current post of my friend Mardy Grothe. He is one of a small handful of Yoda-like people in my life, none of whom is short, green or has pointed ears. They simply are wise.

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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 Ails Us – v2.0

Reading time – 1:49; Viewing time – 2:32  .  .  .

Just back from the Tax March-Chicago and there’s much to report. Pics are in the blog – I think you’ll enjoy the signage (use your browser’s zoom function to zoom in and read the signs) – but the key is the meaning of it all.

This march was one of many across the nation on this Tax Day, April 15 and the marches were promoted for the purpose of demanding that Donald Trump release his tax returns. Nobody expects that he’ll turn them over because hundreds of thousands of Americans turned out across the country to make the demand, but it was important that we demand and keep on demanding.

There are so many ways Trump has proven to be disingenuous, manipulative, dishonest and incompetent that it is extremely difficult to have any trust in him. Further, the FBI and committees of both houses of Congress are investigating his ties to Russia because he may have colluded with them to swing the presidential election to himself. That’s treason.

Congressional Job Approval, through 2016, Gallup Organization

And truly, it isn’t just Trump. We have so many reasons to distrust our government and we have responded to ongoing polls about how we feel about it, like Gallup’s (left), which says that 81 of every 100 Americans doesn’t trust our government. In my Money, Politics & Democracy: You Aren’t Getting What You Want presentations I show the graph that’s attached to this blog and then ask attendees how we can possibly have a democracy when our distrust in our own government is so awful. I’ve yet to hear an answer to my question.

And that’s the main point. The tsunami of money in our politics, our lying president, a senator holding a snowball as he speaks on the floor of the Senate and claiming that the snowball is proof that climate warming is a hoax, legislators promising to take health care from 24 million more Americans, and all the rest have eroded our trust in government and we feel betrayed. The reason we feel betrayed is because in reality, we have been.

And that’s what the marches and rallies are all about. There’s only so much betrayal we’ll put up with. There’s only so much scorn from our elected officials that we’ll tolerate. Then we push back. Hard.

So, to paraphrase Shakespeare, “Hell hath no fury like Americans scorned.” Politicians, you’ve been warned.

Bonus Section

Trump claiming things are a mess may serve him by making it look as if he’s avoiding responsibility (in reality, he can’t) and if something gets a bit better that may make him look to be heroic to some people. You know there’s a “but” coming: BUT like so much of what Trump says, his claims are lies. Baseless, fatuous lies designed only to buff his TV reality show image. Read John Pavlovitz’s clarifying piece, No, Mr. Trump, America Is Not a Mess.

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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.

Leading By Reaction

Reading time – 4:13; Viewing time – 6:26  .  .  .

There was a lot of talk about President Obama’s “red line” regarding Syria’s use of chemical weapons against its own civilians in 2013. Obama was and continues to be scorched by conservatives for having taken no action. What is so conveniently forgotten is that at the time there was a great deal of complaining about an “imperial presidency,” about presidents taking the country to war without the required consent of Congress. So, Obama went to Congress and asked for an official authorization for the use of force in Syria. Big surprise: the Republican majority Congress refused to even bring it up for a vote.

Now, President Trump is faced with his first foreign crisis, created by President Bashar al-Assad of Syria having yet again attacked his own citizens with sarin gas. Strangely, Trump has done a turnaround from his repeated warnings to Obama in 2013 to avoid any entanglement with Syria. Trump’s cautions followed Assad having just attacked his people with sarin gas. We saw the horrific pictures then and Trump was adamant that Obama not take action. Now, Trump is all about taking action, although nothing substantive has changed on the ground since 2013. President Trump, the “don’t touch Syria” guy,  launched 59 Tomahawk missiles into the al Shayrat Airfield near Homs, Syria on April 6. The attack was only symbolic, in that it won’t significantly change Assad’s military advantage or the Syrian civil war.

The fundamental of decision making is to start by declaring a vision of a better tomorrow – the “why” you do what you do. Once that is articulated, the next step is to identify what you will do to create that vision – that’s the strategy, the “what” stuff. Last is to decide on the tactics – the “how” you will do the “what” stuff.

Somebody please tell me what Trump’s vision is. No, not the marketing slogans he spouts endlessly, but the vision. What is the better tomorrow he wants to create?

Okay, that’s too hard, so let’s go to the strategies. What are Trump’s strategies? C’mon, name just one.

Okay, that’s too hard, too, so let’s name a tactic. Oh, right, he launched Tomahawk missiles in reaction to Assad’s reprehensible behavior, with Trump claiming he was deeply changed by what he saw, which as noted, was essentially, exactly what he saw in 2013 when he wasn’t deeply moved by what he saw and he advised President Obama not to interfere in Syria. Those Tomahawk missiles were launched in direct conflict with Trump’s own policy view and that of his chief strategist, Steve Bannon. “It’s America First,” they tell us, so what does a foreign civil war in the Middle East have to do with us and why should we get involved? Also, what strategy does the tactic of firing missiles serve? Betcha you can’t name one.

Try this: Trump has had failure after failure since he assumed office. He has been found to be woefully lacking as a leader and his approval rating has been in free fall. Now, instead of leading, he has become merely reactionary to external events and has fired off missiles at a Syrian airfield, an act which will change not very much in that civil war and which leads to nothing because it’s connected to nothing. Nevertheless, he will claim that the Tomahawk missile attack is proof that he is a strong leader. Listen for that at a Sean Spicer press briefing soon – maybe already.

Future events may show that attacking the al Shayrat Airfield was the right thing to do to prevent further attacks on Syrians by chemical weapons, barrel bombs and other munitions. It may become clear that this attack was necessary to protect American troops in the area and to prevent transfer of chemical weapons to third parties who might use them in the U.S. The world might prove to be overwhelmingly in favor of taking action against the atrocities Assad creates. However, it is sadly most likely that Trump’s decision to deploy our weapons was actually done to help Donald Trump rally domestic support for himself and to prop up his miserable approval rating.

As the Syrian people continue to suffer, they are still banned by this president from coming to this country for refuge from that awful war, even as Trump has puffed himself up on Tomahawk missiles.

In other news

“Morning Joe” on MSNBC, April 5, 2017

Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) made quite a name for himself in 2015 by trying to scuttle the Iran nuclear deal our diplomats were working hard to create. He wrote a letter (download a PDF of it here) and got 46 of his Republican senator pals to sign it and sent it off to the leaders of Iran. The letter essentially gave a lesson about our Constitution to the Iranians, with the clear implication that they should not trust those in the American administration with whom they were negotiating.

“The Lead, with Jake Tapper” on CNN, March 20, 2017

Our national history is that partisan disputes have always stopped at the water’s edge. Only the president negotiates with foreign powers and we stand united relative to the rest of the world. Undermining the President as Cotton did could easily be described as treason.

That’s why it’s so odd to see Cotton being interviewed so frequently on cable news shows now, as though he is an honest broker. Someone please tell me why any American should listen to him.

Finally, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell claimed throughout 2016 that he wouldn’t give a hearing to President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee because presidents never nominate to the Court in their last year in office. Of course, McConnell was right – except for Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower and more (read more about it here). Now McConnell has used the so-called nuclear option to break a filibuster and the Senate permanently so he could jam his preferred candidate onto the Court.

And some wonder why the public’s trust in government is around 19%.

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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.

Sir Isaac Newton and You

Reading time – 3:51 seconds; Viewing time – 5:57  .  .  .

The press is under attack, and rightly so, according to Donald Trump. He has let us know in no uncertain terms and repeatedly that those in “the media” are dishonest – so dishonest – they lie. I’m guessing that “he’s been hearing” that most are devil worshipers with unpatriotic foreign stuff in their attics. I’m sure he’s hearing that “people are saying” they may not be real Americans. Some might be black. Or Muslim. Or both black and Muslim. Bad. Sad.

President Lying-78%-of-the-Time has a penchant for falsehood. Trump’s integrity outages may have been of relatively small consequence during the campaign (except, of course, to rally attendees who got beaten up at his direction), but his dishonesty has huge consequences on the national and international stage now that he’s the president.

You need to read the Los Angeles Times 4-part editorial series The Problem With Trump. These  essays provide a level-headed and shocking analysis of what’s really going on – it’s big and everything we hold dear is at risk.

Trump’s dishonesty is happening during an era of vitriolic, polarized politics, especially in Congress, which makes constraining the worst of Trump’s lunacies next to impossible. In large measure, that is what puts everything at risk.

I’ve written several times about looming fascism in America (click on Fascism in the Categories list to the right) because of the bully in the White House and the extremists in Congress. I have seen nothing to mollify my concerns. While I don’t know if Trump is even capable of planning such a thing, I’m confident that Steve Bannon and Jared Kushner are capable of that and their influence only grows. And, no, don’t imagine for an instant that because Kushner is Jewish that he’s not capable of driving our nation to fascism. Not Nazism; fascism.

From How I Became an American by Yascha Mounk:

“Like Mr. Trump, democratically elected dictators have often believed that they don’t owe political consideration to the minorities they vilify. And, like Mr. Trump, they have often claimed that all those who challenge their rule – independent judges, critical journalists – are enemies of the people. For anybody who has studied how democracies die, the president’s dark rhetoric sounds familiar.”

Read the Los Angeles Times pieces – all 4 editorials. Now let’s connect this to a broader reality.

In a stunning piece by David Roberts for Vox.com entitled Donald Trump and the Rise of Tribal Epistemology*, Roberts lays bare the erosion of our institutions that were designed to provide the foundation upon which our society is built. He’s talking about truth, science, democratic systems and a clarity of the difference between right-doing and wrong-doing. He’s talking about the very things Trump and Bannon want to take down. And they’re not alone in their efforts toward destruction; witness how the right wing has,

  • Rejected the consensus of the world’s scientists on climate change
  • With a Democrat in the White House, the Republicans filibustered every bill
  • House Republicans routinely threaten the solvency of the country by refusing to raise the debt ceiling
  • The Senate refused to even have hearings on Obama’s Supreme Court nominee
  • Republicans united behind a serial swindler and self-confessed sexual predator – what happened to their spine?

Roberts’ piece specifically focuses on journalism and what it can do in this post-truth, post-fact, post-norms era. He writes,

“At a deeper level, healthy journalism relies on the basic institutions and norms of liberal democracy – on transpartisan authorities capable of establishing a common bedrock of facts and rules. As we’ve seen in other democracies around the world that succumb to autocracy (think Russia, Hungary, Turkey, Venezuela), the decline in institutions is both cause and consequence of authoritarianism.”

So, chicken or egg first? It really doesn’t matter if nothing is solidly reliable.

Sir Isaac Newton

Recall your 8th grade science class, where you learned about Sir Isaac Newton and his Laws of Motions, the first of which (paraphrased) was, “A body in motion tends to stay in motion unless acted upon by an outside force.” Your teacher may have demonstrated that law with a thrown ball, which would have carried out to the most distant reaches of the universe, but for that pesky gravity thing, the immediate outside force. Gravity changed the trajectory of the ball and made it accelerate in an arc toward the center of the Earth. Yes, I know that’s more science than you were looking for in a political commentary, but perhaps you remember some of that – surely you remember that Law of Motion, and that’s the main point.

Unaffected by an outside force, everything keeps going on its trajectory, and that’s true of politics, as well. So, if there is a different future that you want to see than the one we’re headed toward, there better be some force acting upon it.

YOU’RE THAT FORCE!

Get off the couch and get on the streets. Protest. Resist. Recruit. Call, text and write to your congressperson and senators. Show up at their doors. Join with others at MoveToAmend.org, CommonCause.org, Represent.US, Mayday.US and kick in a few bucks to save your democracy.

GET A POLITICAL BULLHORN AND MAKE YOUR VOICE HEARD!

*Epistemology – The theory of knowledge, especially with regard to its methods, validity and scope. Epistemology is the investigation of what distinguishes justified belief from opinion.

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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.

Values Bankruptcy Machine

Reading time – 3:09; viewing time – 4:58  .  .  .

There are conservatives who espouse worthwhile conservative ideas; however, not even one of those ideas includes Trumpian behavior, like:

Cabinet picks and agency bosses who are determined to take down everything in their control

A secretary of state with financial ties to our most dangerous adversary

Treating immigrants cruelly

Insulting our closest allies

Mocking the disabled and selling out the disenfranchised

Mocking our war dead and our war heroes

Trashing the regulations that ensure safe, clean air and water

Refusing science and demeaning learning and wisdom

Calling for our most dangerous adversary to hack our elections

Repeatedly attacking the judiciary, our intelligence community and the press

Lying – not being mistaken or misdirecting – lying 78% of the time


You’ll never hear a true conservative support an idea or policy that includes Congressional actions, like:

Allowing mentally unstable citizens to own guns

Refusing to vet a Democratic president’s nominee for the Supreme Court

Allowing internet service providers to sell your personal information

Claiming to be pro-life but advocating for the death penalty

Voting against anything a Democratic president supported solely to prevent him from having a win and regardless of the cost to our country

Somehow “conservative” and “Republican” have come to mean ensuring that the maximum amount of money flows to rich people, including our congressmen and senators. Those labels mean that all regulations must be eliminated, no matter how many West Virginia rivers get polluted or towns destroyed or our planet hard boiled. Every obstacle to greater wealth and power must be removed for the benefit of the wealthy and they leave it for others to pay the price with yet more suffering. Nothing else seems to matter to them. Today’s Republicans have made their party into a values bankruptcy machine.

Talkin’ ’bout you, Republican!

I have conservative friends – people who are true conservatives, not just those who assume the label for their own benefit – who abhor what today’s Republicans have done to their party and are doing to our country and who are disgusted by the lack of Republican will to stand up to this tyrant president. Such patriotic folks really do exist – actually, there are a few are in Congress.

I want center-right Republicans to stand up and be counted. The time for head down silence doesn’t exist. I want them to speak for what really is conservative, not the hateful, unpatriotic stuff we’ve suffered since Newt Gingrich, in a self-important hissy fit, shut down the government in the 90s.

Do you know centrist Republicans? Tell them to stand up, to speak up and to run for office. Our country needs them now more than ever.

In Other News

Former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn has asked for immunity from prosecution in exchange for his testimony before the House and Senate Intelligence Committees and the FBI. President Trump has weighed in on Flynn’s bargaining, tweeting,

The thing is, when you hunt for witches, sometimes you find a witch. And if there’s a witch discovered in this hunt, their actions won’t be found to be of the magic wand, fairy tale type; they will be found to be treasonous.

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Finally, I send many thanks to the good folks at the Universalist Unitarian Church in Evanston for your wonderful hospitality at our meeting last week where I presented Money, Politics & Democracy: You Aren’t Getting What You Want. I’m grateful for your insightful questions and comments and enthusiastic engagement.

We need to spread the word so we can reclaim our democracy. If you’re connected to a group of concerned citizens who will benefit by learning about the enormous and corrosive effect big money has on our politics and our democracy and who want to know what we can do about it, call or drop me a note. I’ll do a presentation for your group – freebie. I don’t want money. All I want to do is to save democracy for our children and grandchildren. They’re counting on us.

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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.

Busted Link

HBO pulled links to Bill  Maher’s program of 3/24/17 not long after Sunday’s post went live, so when you clicked the link, instead of a video you got a metaphorical bowling ball dropped on the floor. To extend the metaphor, here’s a resetting of the pins.

This is a link to a clip that’s available now without you having to give HBO your personal information and a credit card. The audio is a bit funky but it’s passable. Listen for the content. I’ve transcribed the discussion and you can download a PDF of a lightly edited version (a little less humor) by clicking on this link:

Professor-Timothy-Snyder-on-Bill-Maher

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REMINDER:

I’ll be presenting Money, Politics & Democracy: You Aren’t Getting What You Want at the Evanston Unitarian Church, 1330 Ridge starting at 7:00PM on Wednesday, March 29. This topic is critical to our democracy and the flood of big money into our politics is the mother lode of our national dysfunction. Come join us for the discussion and bring two friends, because they need to know, too.

 

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

Trump and Putin

Reading time – 2:42; Viewing time – 3:46  .  .  .

Thomas Edsall has done it again. He’s helped us to understand the Trump thing, answering questions that seem so very perplexing.

I referred to Edsall last month to help us to understand why people voted for Donald Trump. No, they aren’t all racists and no, they aren’t all stupid and no, they didn’t vote against their own interests – at least, not all of them. This time he’s helping us to understand the possible Trump-Putin connection in his essay What Does Vladimir Putin See in Donald Trump? and the answers are chilling.

We know that Putin has an evil thing for Hillary Clinton, so he’d want anyone running against her to win just for that reason, but there’s way more. Putin is all about power grab. At the very least he wants to be able to stand toe-to-toe against the United States and exert his influence throughout the former Soviet bloc countries and perhaps even dominate Europe. To do that requires a stooge in the White House to undermine America’s power in the world, a stooge who would:

”  .  .  .  weaken the West’s desirability, credibility and moral authority.”

”  .  .  .  undermine NATO’s unity”

”  .  .  .  [be eager to have] direct and indirect links to a profoundly corrupt and violent foreign dictator, whose policies he admires, whose advisers he shares and whose slogans he uses.”

Regarding those slogans, “Trump unquestioningly repeated slogans and conspiracy theories [like] – ‘Obama invented ISIS’ and ‘Hillary will start World War III’ – lifted from Sputnik, the Russian propaganda website.”

[and who would be malleable] “Trump’s susceptibility to praise has made him vulnerable to manipulation.”

There’s more – way more – and all of it says that you ought to be very worried, because this human model of sociopathy looks to be in the process of selling out our democracy.

I have warned of the coming of fascism to America and have specifically advised that we’re only one terrorist attack away from Trump declaring martial law (here and here and here and here). While I’m sure that sounds paranoid and hyperbolic to some, I invite you to watch Yale history Professor Timothy Snyder on Bill Maher’s program on March 24, 2017 and you’ll see what I mean. For a better understanding of Professor Snyder’s message, click here.

The lyrics of Do You Hear The People Sing grow louder.

In Other News

What about that Muslim ban and the refusal of refugees? It’s easy to lose sight of the issue, now that a couple of courts have put the hammer to implementing this draconian, cruel executive order, and what with the blizzard of Trumpian lunacy that assaults us daily. But the teachers and staff at the Niles Township High School District 219 in Skokie, IL haven’t forgotten and they sent a message to their students. You must watch it and take in their message to the kids.

Now imagine if we as a country and as directed by Executive Order were that caring and kind to the strangers among us – you know, like the way every major religion in the world instructs us. Go ahead: imagine.

And finally, I’ll be presenting Money, Politics & Democracy: You Aren’t Getting What You Want at the Unitarian Church of Evanston, 1330 Ridge Avenue this Wednesday, March 29 at 7:00PM. Come join us.

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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.

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.

  • ————————————
  • 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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